Southey, in England; a school formed, indeed, upon the German model. The faults of both, their wild extravagance of fancy, their mawkish affectation of simplicity, the puling niaserie of many of their descriptions, the revolting, and, in some instances, monstrous character of their machinery, have been so fully exposed, and satirized with such triumphant ability, by the Edinburgh reviewers, that it would be alike superfluous and presumptuous in us, to discuss the same topics, whether for the purpose of reprehension or vindication. We ourselves are ready, in common with our Scottish brethren, to do justice to the great powers occasionally displayed, by the class of German poets to whom we allude, and their English followers, and to the signal beauties, which, blended with the most unpardonable absurdities, are to be found scattered throughout their works. We

go further, and give them credit for the creation of a new department or genus of poetry, particularly a new and delightful species of epic, which, when reduced to system, and disburthened of several unnatural incumbrances, will deserve the gratitude and admiration of the world. If it be ever brought to the degree of perfection, of which it is capable, it will open a source of moral instruction superior to the heroic epic, because conversant about what touches us much more nearly than the adventures of heroes; we mean the more familiar affections, modes, and actions of life. It may, at the same time, unite all the advantages of the lyric and descriptive walks, together with a considerable share of dramatic efficacy. The constitution of the poem of which we speak, admits of the richest pictures of external nature, the noblest dithyrambic flights, the most instructive lessons of practical morality, the most engaging and impressive exhibitions of domestic virtue, the most powerful appeals to the heart, the most interesting plot and episodes, all naturally associated, and contributing, by their combined and mutually reflected influence, to give to each other additional force and attraction.

We differ from the French translator of the Partheneid when he states, “ that the exclusion of all human

other than those of an innocent, tranquil, and virtuous character, is essential to the genius of what he properly terms the Idyllic epopee." We do not see that this is required by the true theory of the poem, but believe, on the contrary, that its perfection demands the introduction of an opposite description of actors, in order that the efficiency of contrast may be secured, and a nearer approach had to the truth of life. In all compositions, probability, or fidelity of representation, is to be aimed at, as far as it is consistent with their nature and peculiar design. In this instance, the malignant passions may be brought into action, and made to heighten the general interest, and dramatic effect of the poem, without diminishing the improvement, and gratification, the reader may derive from it. But to preserve the character of refinement and dignity, which obviously it should possess, we would banish all such licentious allusions, ludicrous images, and burlesque scenes, as those which Ariosto has admitted into his work. On this account, as well as of the incoherence of his plot, and the extravagance of his machinery, the Orlando Furioso, however admirable and delightful, cannot be ranked in the department of poetry under consideration. Nor can the three last productions of Southey (although approaching much nearer) with an action and character so remote from those of common life, and a machinery so grotesque, and, in many instances, so monstrous. We would reject, as we have intimated, all supernatural agency, and allegorical personages, in the case of an Idyllic Epopee, because they tend to deprive it of the air of probability, and are utterly superfuous, for the attainment of any of its characteristic ends.


Gesner has the merit of striking out the outline of the idyllic epic, and may well say, with Horace,

Libera per vacuum posui vestigia princeps

Non alieno meo pressa pede. Mr. Voss, Goëthe, and the author of the Partheneid, who engaged in the same career, have, in filling up the canvas, and framing very pleasing compositions, confined themselves, however, within too narrow limits in some respects, and exceeded the bounds of the true theory in others. According to our apprehension, the best model extant, is Scott's Lady of the Lake. In the hands of a judicious critic, it might serve, with respect to this new department of the epic, the purpose which the Iliad was made to answer, with regard to the old, in those of Aristotle. The absence of all preternatural agency from Scott's poem, the coherence and regular march of his enchanting fable, the immediate relation of his delineations of natural scenery, and Highland manners to that fable, the variety and discrimination with which his characters are drawn, the dramatic excellence of his situations, are features, which may be selected as indispensable for imitation, in the future, and correct composition of an idyllic epopee. At the same time, however, we would prescribe an action of a more modern date, a theatre more familiar to the mass of readers, more of moral sentiment and moral painting, than we have in the Lady of the Lake. Under these points of view, although the chef d'auvre of the kind, it is not a perfect pattern. The poem of Mr. Scott, however

deservedly popular at home, is not, we observe, noticed in the French journals. This circumstance leads us to infer, that it is unknown to the French critics. The antiquated phraseology which he has employed, will, in fact, independently of other considerations, prove a serious obstacle to its ever being at all understood, or, at least, in any degree, duly appreciated, on the continent.

The idyllic epopee may, perhaps, admit of the utmost latitude of choice, as to metre and verse; but we consider all obsolete or homely diction as incompatible with its perfection. With respect to the use of antiquated words and turns of phrase, in this or any other description of modern poems, the reviewers already mentioned, have said enough to convince the most bigotted, of its impolicy as well as absurdity. Even Dryden has given some lessons on this head, which, we might imagine, would not have been overlooked by those, who study his writings with so much assiduity, and who venerate his authority so profoundly, as the present masters of the song in England. In speaking of a similar abuse prevalent in his day, he expresses himself thus: '“ One is for raking in Chaucer (our English Ennius) for antiquated words, which are never to be revived, but when sound or significancy is wanting in the present language. But many of his deserve not redemption, any more than the crowds of men who daily die, or are slain for sixpence in a battle, merit to be restored to life, if a wish could revive them.”

The French have produced no poem of the character of the Partheneid, or of the Lady of the Lake. They are, indeed, at this moment, miserably wanting in original poetic genius. Poetry is cultivated by numbers in Paris, but every day seems to aggravate the degeneracy of the French muse.

In the recent annals of their verse, we can find nothing that is above mediocrity. We doubt much, for reasons, which it would carry us too far to detail, whether France could, at any time, have produced the idyllic epic in any perfection. Of the heroic, they have no specimen which deserves to rank with those, of other modern nations, or of the ancients. The Henriade of Voltaire has merely the forms, and none of the stamina of the epopee.

We are inclined to coincide in the sentiment advanced by the Edinburgh reviewers, in their critique on the Columbiad of Barlow,--that the season for the epic, in the style of the old school, is irrevocably past. The heroic must, we believe, be succeeded by the idyllic species. The latter will, no doubt, be perfected in theory, and wrought, hereafter, upon the incomplete inodel

which Scott has given, into the highest excellence. Of all poets living, Southey, perhaps, from the natural bent and plenitude of his genius, would be best able to execute this task. But it would be first necessary for him, to work a thorough reformation in his factitious taste and manner; to abjure his fondness for demons and enchanters; to relinquish his habits of hasty composition and oriental research; to correct and regulate the structure of his verse; to restrain his imagination within due bounds, and to prune the luxuriance of his style. It is, we think, in his power, to secure an indefeasible station in the temple of Fame, by the side of the greatest poetical worthies, whom England has produced.


Translated from the Mercure de France. There was a time, when the profession of a man of letters, was exceedingly commodious in France. Among other of the conveniences which it has now lost, it enjoyed that of considering all foreign literature, as utterly insignificant. We knew, generally, that Italy, Spain, England, and even Germany, possessed something, which the people of those countries, called their literature. Occasionally, too, some few translations assorded us a loose idea of it: but as their authors punctiliously excluded from them, whatever might prove offensive, to what was called French taste, and as all the works thus Frenchified, were still less conformable to that taste, than the originals themselves, we inferred, that all foreign works were much inferior to our own; that there was no genuine literature but in France; or, at least, that nothing which did not come from ourselves, was well worth our attention.

Afterwards, we seem to have given into the other extreme. We became passionately fond of the English, and could not translate and praise Shakspeare, without exalting him above Corneille and Racine. More recently, the Germans have had their turn. Our Tudesco-enthusiasts would wrest the sceptre from Corneille, Racine, and Voltaire, to yield it to Schiller, Goëthe, and Kotzebue: according to them, the barbarous and uncouth drama of Germany, is to be considered as the perfection and maturity, and that of France, but the infancy, of the art.

This kind of exaggeration,-a subject fitter for laughter than umbrage,-should not prevent us from doing justice to German literature. It has made great progress within the last half century, and, were poetry indebted to it, for nothing more than

the idyl, such as Gesner has given it to the world, this would be a sufficient motive for gratitude.

Gesner has ennobled and enlarged the department of the idyl. Its voice has acquired strength, without losing sweetness. Instead of a trifling pastoral scene, restricted to a few interlocutors, and circumscribed within very narrow limits of space and time, it has occupied a wider theatre, lengthened its strain, and multiplied the number of actors. It has, in a word, become a particular species of epopee, which leaves battles and heroic deeds to the great epic, and employs itself, about the most usual, and; simple actions of common life.

Germany has produced two poems of this description, the Louisa of M. Voss, and the Herman and Dorothea of M. Goëthe, both of which have been translated into French. M. Baggessen has recently added a third, which has had less success than the preceding, but which, being more skilfully rendered into our language, seems destined both to give us a better knowledge, and to make us fond, of this new department of the epic. The translator has prefixed some interesting observations to his work; but before we speak of them, let us proceed to offer an outline of the matter and plan of the poem in question.

“ An inhabitant of Switzerland, called Andros, a man of worth and simple manners, of a cultivated intellect, and an elevated character, has three daughters, no less amiable than beautiful, who are desirous of visiting the most picturesque, and curious · part, of the higher Alps, of the canton of Berne. Andros consents to the excursion, with the view, at the same time, of rendering it subservient to a particular object. Instead of conducting his daughters himself, he devolves this charge upon Norfrank, a young stranger of a noble mind, who had been, for a long time, his friend and guest, and whom he secretly designs for his sonin-law. Norfrank complies willingly, and welcomes the proposition, as an honourable mark of confidence.

“Mercury, who is introduced, as the god that presides over the vulgar interests of life, or, rather, over the blind and exclusive worship of those interests, incensed to see Norfrank, whom he detests, chosen as the guide of the sisters, in preference to an opulent Bernese, whom he particularly favours, undertakes, at first, to prevent the wished-for pilgrimage. Not succeeding in this, he engages Love to co-operate in the vengeance, which he means to take of Norfrank. Accordingly, Love inspires the youth with a violent passion for Myris, the youngest, and most engaging of the three sisters, and furnishes him with various opportunities of indulging this passion, at the expense of conscience and glory. The virtue of Norfrank is thus subjected Vol. IV.


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