« PreviousContinue »
engagement, got to the brow of the hill, whence they had their first view of the Rhine. They instantly halted-not a gun was fired-not a voice heard: but they stood gazing on the river with those feelings which the events of the last fifteen years at once called up. Prince Schwartzenberg rode up to know the cause of this sudden stop; then they gave three cheers, rushed after the enemy, and drove them into the water.]
The chapel is destroyed, and the pyramid of bones diminished to a small number by the Burgundian legion in the service of France; who anxiously effaced this record of their ancestors' less successful invasions. A few still remain, notwithstanding the pains taken by the Burgundians for ages (all who passed that way removing a bone to their own country), and the less justifiable larcenies of the Swiss postilious, who carried them off to sell for knife-handles; a purpose for which the whiteness imbibed by the bleaching of years had rendered them in great request. Of these relics I Tentured to bring away as much as may have made a quarter of a hero, for which the sole excuse is, that if I had not, the next passer by might have perverted them to worse uses than the careful preservation which I intend for them.
Aventicum, near Morat, was the Roman capital of Helvetia, where Avenches now stands.
3 Julia Alpinula, a young Aventian priestess, died soon after a vain endeavour to save her father, condemned to death as a traitor by Aulus Cæcina. Her epitaph was discovered many years ago; it is thus: -“Julia Alpínula: Ilic jaceo.
By a lone wall a lonelier column rears
A gray and grief-worn aspect of old days;
Yet still with consciousness; and there it stands
When the coeval pride of human hands,
Levell'd Aventicum, hath strew'd her subject lands.
And there-oh! sweet and sacred be the name!Julia- the daughter, the devoted- -gave Her youth to heaven; her heart, beneath a claim Nearest to Heaven's, broke o'er a father's grave. Justice is sworn 'gainst tears, and hers would crave The life she lived in; but the judge was just, And then she died on him she could not save. Their tomb was simple, and without a bust, And held within their urn one mind, one heart, one dust. 9
But these are deeds which should not pass away, And names that must not wither, though the earth Forgets her empires with a just decay, [birth; The enslavers and the enslaved, their death and The high, the mountain-majesty of worth Should be, and shall, survivor of its woe, And from its immortality look forth In the sun's face, like yonder Alpine snow, 4 Imperishably pure beyond all things below.
Lake Leman woos me with its crystal face, 5 The mirror where the stars and mountains view The stillness of their aspect in each trace Its clear depth yields of their far height and hue: There is too much of man here, to look through With a fit mind the might which I behold; But soon in me shall Loneliness renew Thoughts hid, but not less cherish'd than of old, Ere mingling with the herd had penn'd me in their fold.
Infelicis patris infelix proles. De Aventis Sacerdos. Exorare patris necem non potui: Male mori in fatis ille erat. Vixi annos XXIII."-I know of no human composition so affecting as this, nor a history of deeper interest. These are the names and actions which ought not to perish, and to which we turn with a true and healthy tenderness, from the wretched and glittering detail of a confused mass of conquests and battles, with which the mind is roused for a time to a false and feverish sympathy, from whence it recurs at length with all the nausea consequent on such intoxication.
4 This is written in the eye of Mont Blanc (June 3d, 1816), which even at this distance dazzles mine. (July 20th.) I this day observed for some time the distinct reflection of Mont Blanc and Mont Argentière in the calm of the lake, which I was crossing in my boat; the distance of these mountains from their mirror is sixty miles.
5 In the exquisite lines which the poet, at this time, addressed to his sister, there is the following touching
"I did remind thee of our own dear lake.
Though much in temper; but they never clash'd:
2 ["Mr. Hobhouse and myself are just returned from a journey of lakes and mountains. We have been to the Grindelwald, and the Jungfrau, and stood on the summit of the Wengen Alp; and seen torrents of 900 feet in fall, and glaciers of all dimensions; we have heard shepherds' pipes, and avalanches, and looked on the clouds foaming up from the valleys below us like the spray of the ocean of hell. Chamouni, and that which it inherits, we saw a month ago; but, though Mont Blanc is higher, it is not equal in wildness to the Jungfrau, the Eighers, the Shreckhorn, and the Rose Glaciers." B. Letters, Sept. 1816.]
With a fresh pinion; which I feel to spring, Though young, yet waxing vigorous, as the blast Which it would cope with, on delighted wing, Spurning the clay-cold bonds which round our being cling.
And when, at length, the mind shall be all free
Feel all I see, less dazzling, but more warm?
Of which, even now, I share at times the immortal lot?
Are not the mountains, waves, and skies, a part
Is not the love of these deep in my heart
Such feelings for the hard and worldly plilegm
But this is not my theme; and I return To that which is immediate, and require Those who find contemplation in the urn, To look on One, whose dust was once all fire, A native of the land where I respire The clear air for a while- -a passing guest, Where he became a being,—whose desire Was to be glorious; 't was a foolish quest, The which to gain and keep, he sacrificed all rest.
Here the self-torturing sophist, wild Rousseau, 3
How to make madness beautiful, and cast
O'er erring deeds and thoughts a heavenly hue Of words, like sunbeams, dazzling as they past The eyes, which o'er them shed tears feelingly and fast.
3 "I have traversed all Rousseau's ground with the 'Héloïse' before me, and am struck to a degree that I cannot express with the force and accuracy of his descriptions, and the beauty of their reality. Meillerie, Clarens, and Vevay, and the Château de Chillon, are places of which I shall say little because all I could say must fall short of the impres sions they stamp."- B. Letters.]
4["It is evident that the impassioned parts of Rousseau's romance had made a deep impression upon the feelings of the noble poet. The enthusiasm expressed by Lord Byron is no small tribute to the power possessed by Jean Jacques over the passions: and, to say truth, we needed some such evidence; for, though almost ashamed to avow the truth,-still, like the barber of Midas, we must speak or die, we have never been able to feel the interest or discover the merit of this far-famed performance. That there is much eloquence in the letters we readily admit there lay Rousseau's strength. But his lovers, the celebrated St. Preux and Julie, have, from the earliest moment we have heard the tale (which we well remember), down to the present hour, totally failed to interest There might be some constitutional hardness of heart; but like Lance's pebble-hearted cur, Crab, we remained dryeyed while all wept around us. And still, on resuming the
His love was passion's essence—as a tree
In him existence, and o'erflowing teems
Along his burning page, distemper'd though it seems.
This breathed itself to life in Julic, this Invested her with all that's wild and sweet; This hallow'd, too, the memorable kiss 1 Which every morn his fever'd lip would greet, From hers, who but with friendship his would meet; But to that gentle touch, through brain and breast Flash'd the thrill'd spirit's love-devouring heat; In that absorbing sigh perchance more blest Than vulgar minds may be with all they seek possest. ?
His life was one long war with self-sought foes,
'Gainst whom he raged with fury strange and blind.
To that worst pitch of all, which wears a reasoning show.
For then he was inspired, and from him came, As from the Pythian's mystic cave of yore, Those oracles which set the world in flame, Nor ceased to burn till kingdoms were no more: Did he not this for France? which lay before Bow'd to the inborn tyranny of years? Broken and trembling to the yoke she bore, Till by the voice of him and his compeers, Roused up to too much wrath, which follows o'ergrown fears?
They made themselves a fearful monument ! The wreck of old opinions-things which grew, Breathed from the birth of time: the veil they rent, And what behind it lay, all earth shall view. But good with ill they also overthrew, Leaving but ruins, wherewith to rebuild Upon the same foundation, and renew Dungeons and thrones, which the same hour re-fill'd, As heretofore, because ambition was self-will'd.
volume, even now, we can see little in the loves of these two tiresome pedants to interest our feelings for either of them. To state our opinion in language (see Burke's Reflections) much better than our own, we are unfortunate enough to regard this far-famed history of philosophical gallantry as an unfashioned, indelicate, sour, gloomy, ferocious medley of pedantry and lewdness; of metaphysical speculations, blended with the coarsest sensuality.""SIR WALTER SCOTT.]
This refers to the account in his "Confessions" of his passion for the Comtesse d'Houdetot (the mistress of St. Lambert), and his long walk every morning, for the sake of the single kiss which was the common salutation of French acquaintance. Rousseau's description of his feelings on this occasion may be considered as the most passionate, yet not impure, description and expression of love that ever kindled into words, which, after all, must be felt, from their very
But this will not endure, nor be endured! Mankind have felt their strength, and made it felt. They might have used it better, but, allured By their new vigour, sternly have they dealt On one another; pity ceased to melt With her once natural charities. But they, Who in oppression's darkness caved had dwelt, They were not eagles, nourish'd with the day; What marvel then, at times, if they mistook their prey ?
What deep wounds ever closed without a scar?
Silence, but not submission: in his lair
Fix'd Passion holds his breath, until the hour Which shall atone for years; none need despair: It came, it cometh, and will come,- -the power To punish or forgive-in one we shall be slower.
Clear, placid Leman thy contrasted lake, With the wild world I dwelt in, is a thing Which warns me, with its stillness, to forsake Earth's troubled waters for a purer spring. This quiet sail is as a noiseless wing To waft me from distraction; once I loved Torn ocean's roar, but thy soft murmuring Sounds sweet as if a Sister's voice reproved, That I with stern delights should e'er have been so moved.
It is the hush of night, and all between
Thy margin and the mountains, dusk, yet clear,
Or chirps the grasshopper one good-night carol more;
He is an evening reveller, who makes His life an infancy, and sings his fill; At intervals, some bird from out the brakes Starts into voice a moment, then is still. There seems a floating whisper on the hill, But that is fancy, for the starlight dews All silently their tears of love instil, Weeping themselves away, till they infuse Deep into Nature's breast the spirit of her hues. 3
force, to be inadequate to the delineation: a painting can give no sufficient idea of the ocean.
2["Lord Byron's character of Rousseau is drawn with great force, great power of discrimination, and great eloquence. I know not that he says any thing which has not been said before; but what he says issues, apparently, from the recesses of his own mind. It is a little laboured, which, possibly, may be caused by the form of the stanza into which it was necessary to throw it; but it cannot be doubted that the poet felt a sympathy for the enthusiastic tenderness of Rousseau's genius, which he could not have recognised with such extreme fervour, except from a consciousness of having at least occasionally experienced similar emotions." - SIR E. BRYDGES.]
3 [During Lord Byron's stay in Switzerland, he took up his residence at the Campagne-Diodati, in the village of
Not vainly did the early Persian make His altar the high places and the peak Of earth-o'ergazing mountains 1, and thus take A fit and unwall'd temple, there to seek The Spirit, in whose honour shrines are weak, Uprear'd of human hands. Come, and compare Columns and idol-dwellings, Goth or Greek, With Nature's realms of worship, earth and air, Nor fix on fond abodes to circumscribe thy pray'r! XCII.
The sky is changed! - and such a change! Oh night,
And storm, and darkness, ye are wondrous strong, Yet lovely in your strength, as is the light
Of a dark eye in woman! Far along,
Coligny. It stands at the top of a rapidly descending vineyard; the windows commanding, one way, a noble view of the lake and of Geneva; the other, up the lake. Every even. ing, the poet embarked on the lake; and to the feelings created by these excursions we owe these delightful stanzas. Of his mode of passing a day, the following, from his Journal, is a pleasant specimen :
September 18. Called. Got up at five. Stopped at Vevay two hours. View from the churchyard superb; within it Ludlow (the regicide's) monument - black marble -long inscription; Latin, but simple. Near him Broughton (who read King Charles's sentence to Charles Stuart) is buried, with a queer and rather canting inscription. Ludlow's house shown. Walked down to the lake side; servants, carriages, saddle-horses, all set off, and left us plantés là, by some mistake. Hobhouse ran on before, and overtook them. Arrived at Clarens. Went to Chillon through scenery worthy of I know not whom; went over the castle again." Met an English party in a carriage, a lady in it fast asleep fast asleep in the most anti-narcotic spot in the world,-excellent! After a slight and short dinner, visited the Château de Clarens. Saw all worth seeing, and then descended to the Bosquet de Julie,' &c. &c.: our guide full of Rousseau, whom he is eternally confounding with St. Preux, and mixing the man and the book. Went again as far as Chillon, to revisit the little
Sky, mountains, river, winds, lake, lightnings! ye! With night, and clouds, and thunder, and a soul To make these felt and feeling, well may be Things that have made me watchful; the far roll Of your departing voices, is the knoll
Of what in me is sleepless, if I rest. 4 But where of ye, oh tempests! is the goal? Are ye like those within the human breast? Or do ye find, at length, like eagles, some high nest?
torrent from the hill behind it. The corporal who showed the wonders of Chillon was as drunk as Blucher, and (to my mind) as great a man: he was deaf also; and, thinking every one else so, roared out the legends of the castle so fearfully, that Hobhouse got out of humour. However, we saw things, from the gallows to the dungeons. Sunset reflected in the lake. Nine o'clock going to bed. Have to get up at five to-morrow."]
1 See Appendix, Note [F].
2 The thunder-storm to which these lines refer occurred on the 13th of June, 1816, at midnight. I have seen, among the Acroceraunian mountains of Chimari, several more terrible, but none more beautiful.
3" This is one of the most beautiful passages of the poem. The fierce and far delight' of a thunder-storm is here described in verse almost as vivid as its lightnings. The live thunder leaping among the rattling crags'-the voice of mountains, as if shouting to each other- the plashing of the big rain the gleaming of the wide lake, lighted like a phos. phoric sea-present a picture of sublime terror, yet of enjoyment, often attempted, but never so well. certainly never better, brought out in poetry."- SIR WALTER SCOTT.]
4 [The Journal of his Swiss tour, which Lord Byron kept
for his sister, closes with the following mournful passage:— "In the weather, for this tour, of thirteen days, I have been very fortunate-fortunate in a companion" (Mr. Hobhouse) -fortunate in our prospects, and exempt from even the little petty accidents and delays which often render journeys in a less wild country disappointing. I was disposed to be pleased. I am a lover of nature, and an admirer of beauty. I can bear fatigue, and welcome privation, and have seen some of the noblest views in the world. But in all this, the recollection of bitterness, and more especially of recent and more home desolation, which must accompany me through life, has preyed upon me here; and neither the music of the shepherd, the crashing of the avalanche, nor the torrent, the mountain, the glacier, the forest, nor the cloud, have for one moment lightened the weight upon my heart, nor enabled me to lose my own wretched identity, in the majesty, and the power, and the glory, around, above, and beneath me."]
[Stanzas XCIX. to cxv. are exquisite. They have every thing which makes a poetical picture of local and particular
Kissing his feet with murmurs; and the wood, The covert of old trees, with trunks all hoar, But light leaves, young as joy, stands where it stood, Offering to him, and his, a populous solitude,
A populous solitude of bees and birds,
And fairy-formed and many-colour'd things,
And innocently open their glad wings,
Of stirring branches, and the bud which brings The swiftest thought of beauty, here extend, Mingling, and made by Love, unto one mighty end.
He who hath loved not, here would learn that lore,
For 't is his nature to advance or die; He stands not still, but or decays, or grows Into a boundless blessing, which may vie With the immortal lights, in its eternity!
'T was not for fiction chose Rousseau this spot, Peopling it with affections; but he found
It was the scene which passion must allot To the mind's purified beings; 'twas the ground Where early Love his Psyche's zone unbound, And hallow'd it with loveliness: 'tis lone, --And wonderful, and deep, and hath a sound, And sense, and sight of sweetness; here the Rhone Hath spread himself a couch, the Alps have rear'd a throne.
Lausanne and Ferney! ye have been the abodes
They were gigantic minds, and their steep aim
Of Heaven, again assail'd, if Heaven the while On man and man's research could deign do more than smile.
scenery perfect. They exhibit a miraculous brilliancy and force of fancy; but the very fidelity causes a little constraint and labour of language. The poet seems to have been so engrossed by the attention to give vigour and fire to the imagery, that he both neglected and disdained to render himself more harmonious by diffuser words, which, while they might have improved the effect upon the ear, might have weakened the impression upon the mind. This mastery over new matter this supply of powers equal not only to an untouched subject, but that subject one of peculiar and unequalled grandeur and beauty was sufficient to occupy the strongest poetical faculties, young as the author was, without adding to it all the practical skill of the artist. The stanzas, too, on Voltaire and Gibbon are discriminative, sagacious, and just. They are among the proofs of that very great variety of talent which this Canto of Lord Byron exhibits.-SIR E. BRYDGES.] 2 See Appendix, Note [G].
3 Voltaire and Gibbon.