Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

vailing faith, which speedily drew to itself all A decisive proof that, in the tenth century, the learning and intellectual strength that re- the feudal system had become necessary, and mained in the state. The bishops and priests, was, in truth, the only social state possible, is full of life and of zeal, naturally were recurred to be found in the universality of its adoption. to in order to fill all civil situations requiring Universally, upon the cessation of barbarism, thought or information. It is wrong to re- the feudal forms were adopted. At the first proach their exercise of these powers as an moment of barbarian conquest, men saw only usurpation ; they alone were capable of exer- the triumph of chaos. All unity, all general cising them. Thus has the natural course of civilization disappeared; on all sides was seen things prescribed for all ages and countries. society falling into dissolution; and, in its The clergy alone were mentally strong and stead, arising a multitude of little, obscure, morally zealous: they became all-powerful. isolated communities. This appeared to all It is the law of the universe."--Lecture iii. 27 the contemporaries nothing short of universal 31; Civilisation Européenne.

anarchy. The poets, the chroniclers of the Nothing can be more just or important than time, viewed it as the approach of the end of these observations; and they throw a new and the world. It was, in truth, the end of the consoling light on the progress and ultimate ancient world; but the commencement of a destiny of European society. They are as new one, placed on a broad basis, and with original as they are momentous. Robertson, large means of social improvement and indiwith his honest horror of the innumerable cor- vidual happiness. ruptions which, in the time of Leo X. and Lu- “Then it was that the feudal system became ther, brought about the Reformation-Sismon- necessary, inevitable. It was the only possidi, with his natural detestation of a faith which ble means of emerging from the general chaos. had urged on the dreadful cruelties of the cru. The whole of Europe, accordingly, at the same sade of the Albigenses, and which produced time adopted it. Even those portions of sothe revocation of the edict of Nantes-have ciety which were most strangers, apparently, alike overlooked those important truths, so es- to that system, entered warmly into its spirit, sential to a right understanding of the history and were fain to share in its protection. The of modern society. They saw that the arro- crown, the church, the communities, were congance and cruelty of the Roman clergy had strained to accommodate themselves to it. produced innumerable evils in later times; The churches became suzerain or vassal; the that their venality in regard to indulgences burghs had their lords and their feuars; the and abuse of absolution had brought religion monasteries and abbeys had their feudal reitself into discredit; that the absurd and in- tainers, as well as the temporal barons. Roy. credible tenets which they still attempted to alty itself was disguised under the name of a force on mankind, had gone far to alienate the feudal superior. Everything was given in intellectual strength of modern Europe, during fief; not only lands, but certain rights flowing the last century, from their support. Seeing from them, as that of cutting wood, fisheries, this, they condemned it absolutely, for all times or the like. The church made subinfeudaand in all places. They fell into the usual tions of their casual revenues, as the dues on error of men in reasoning on former from their marriages, funerals, and baptisms." own times. They could not make “ the past The establishment of the feudal system and the future predominate over the present.” thus universally in Europe, produced one They felt the absurdity of many of the legends effect, the importance of which can hardly be which the devout Catholics received as un- exaggerated. Hitherto the mass of mankind doubted truths, and they saw no use in per- had been collected under the municipal instipetuating the belief in them; and thence they tutions which had been universal in antiquity, conceived that they must always have been in cities, or wandered in vagabond hordes equally unserviceable, forgetting that the eigh- through the country. Under the feudal system teenth was not the eighth century; and that, these men lived isolated, each in his own haduring the dark ages, violence would have bitation, at a great distance from each other. rioted without control, if, when reason was in A glance will show that this single circumabeyance, knowledge scanty, and military stance must have exercised on the character strength alone in estimation, superstition had of society, and the course of civilization, not thrown its unseen fetters over the bar- the social preponderance; the government of barian's arms. They saw that the Romish society passed at once from the towns to the clergy, during five centuries, had laboured country--private took the lead of public prostrenuously, and often with the most frightful perty-private prevailed over public life. Such cruelty, to crush independence of thought in was the first effect, and it was an effect purely matters of faith, and chain the human mind to material, of the establishment of the feudal the tenets, often absurd and erroneous, of her system. But other effects, still more material, Papal creed; and they forgot that, during five followed, of a moral kind, which have exerpreceding centuries, the Christian church had cised the most important effects on the Eulaboured as assiduously to establish the inde- ropean manners and mind. pendence of thought from physical coercion, “ The feudal proprietor established himself and had alone kept alive, during the interreg- in an isolated place, which, for his own pronum of reason, the sparks of knowledge and tection, he rendered secure. He lived there, the principles of freedom.

with his wife, his children, and a few faithful In the same liberal and enlightened spirit friends, who shared his hospitality, and conGuizot views the feudal system, the next grand tributed to his defence. Around the castle, in characteristic of modern times.

its vicinity, were established the farmers and

serfs who cultivated his domain. In the midst is a modification of the patriarchal socieiy: it of that inferior, but yet allied and protected is the family of the chief, expanded during a population, religion planted a church, and in- succession of generations, and forming a little troduced a priest. He was usually the chap- aggregation of dependents, still influenced by lain of the castle, and at the same time the the same attachments, and subjected to the curate of the village; in subsequent ages these same authority. But the feudal community two characters were separated; the village was very different. Allied at first to the clan, pastor resided beside his church. This was it was yet in many essential particulars dissithe primitive feudal society—the cradle, as it milar. There did not exist between its memwere, of the European and Christian world. bers the bond of relationship; they were not

"From this state of things necessarily arose of the same blood; they often did not speak a prodigious superiority on the part of the pos- the same language. The feudal lord belonged sessor of the fief, alike in his own eyes, and in to a foreign and conquering, his serfs to a dothe eyes of those who surrounded him. The mestic and vanquished race. Their employfeeling of individual importance, of personal ments were as various as their feelings and freedom, was the ruling principle of savage their traditions. The lord lived in his castle, life; but here a new feeling was introduced with his wife, his children, and relations: the the importance of a proprietor, of the chief serfs on the estate, of a different race, of difof a family, of a master, predominated over ferent names, toiled in the cottages around. that of an individual. From this situation This difference was prodigious-it exercised arose an immense feeling of superiority-a a most powerful effect on the domestic habits superiority peculiar to the feudal ages, and of modern Europe. It engendered the attachentirely different from any thing which had yet ments of home: it brought women into their been experienced in the world. Like the feudal proper sphere in domestic life. The little solord, the Roman patrician was the head of a ciety of freemen, who lived in the midst of an family, a master, a landlord. He was, at the alien race in the castle, were all in all to each same time, a religious magistrate, a pontiff in other. No forum or theatres were at hand, the interior of his family. He was, moreover, with their cares or their pleasures; no city a member of the municipality in which his enjoyments were a counterpoise to the pleaproperty was situated, and perhaps one of sures of country life. War and the chase the august senate, which, in name at least, still broke in, it is true, grievously at times, upon ruled the empire. But all this importance and this scene of domestic peace. But war and dignity was derived from without the patri- the chase could not last for ever; and, in the cian shared it with the other members of his long intervals of undisturbed repose, family municipality-with the corporation of which attachments formed the chief solace of life. he formed a part. The importance of the Thus it was that WOMEN acquired their parfeudal lord, again, was purely individual-he amount influence thence the manners of chiowed nothing to another; all the power he valry, and the gallantry of modern times; they njoyed emanated from himself alone. What were but an extension of the courtesy and a feeling of individual consequence must such habits of the castle. The word courtesy shows a situation have inspired-what pride, what it it was in the court of the castle that the insolence, must it have engendered in his habits it denotes were learned.”—Lecture iv. inind! Above him was no superior, of whose 13, 17; Civilisation Européenne. orders he was to be the mere interpreter or We have exhausted, perhaps, exceeded, our organ-around him were no equals. No all- limits; and we have only extracted a few of powerful municipality made his wishes bend the most striking ideas from the first hundred to its own-no superior authority exercised a pages of one of Guizot's works ex uno disce control over his wishes; he knew no bridle on omnes. The translation of them has been an his inclinations, but the limits of his power, or agreeable occupation for a few evenings; but the presence of danger.

they awake one mournful impression--the “Another consequence, hitherto not suffi- voice which uttered so many noble and enciently attended to, but of vast importance, lightened sentiments is now silent; the genius flowed from this society.

which once cast abroad light on the history of “ The patriarchal society, of which the Bible man, is lost in the vortex of present politics. and the Oriental monuments offer the model, The philosopher, the historian, are merged in was the first combination of men. The chief the statesman-the instructor of all in the goof a tribe lived with his children, his relations, vernor of one generation. Great as have been the different generations who have assembled his services, brilliant his course in the new around him. This was the situation of Abra- career into which he has been launched, it is han--of the patriarchs: it is still that of the as nothing compared to that which he has left, Arab tribes which perpetuate their manners. for the one confers present distinction, the The clan, of which remains still exist in the other immortal fame. mountains of Scotland, and the sept of Ireland,

HOMER, DANTE, AND MICHAEL ANGELO.*

ܪ

There is something inexpressibly striking, what would remain ? Petrarch spent his best it may almost be said awful, in the fame of years in restoring his verses. Tasso portrayed Homer. Three thousand years have elapsed the siege of Jerusalem, and the shock of Eusince the bard of Chios began to pour forth his rope and Asia, almost exactly as Homer had strains; and their reputation, so far from des done the contest of the same forces, on the clining, is on the increase. Successive na- same shores, two thousand five hundred years tions are employed in celebrating his works before. Milton's old age, when blind and poor, generation after generation, of men are fascia was solaced by hearing the verses recited of nated by his imagination. Discrepancies of the poet, to whose conceptions his own mighty race, of character, of institutions, of religion, spirit had been so much indebted; and Pope of age, of the world, are forgotten in the com-deemed himself fortunate in devoting his life mon worship of his genius. In this universal to the translation of the Iliad. tribute of gratitude, modern Europe vies with No writer in modern times has equalled the remote antiquity, the light Frenchman with the wide-spread fame of the Grecian bard; but it volatile Greek, the impassioned Italian with the may be doubted whether, in the realms of enthusiastic German, the sturdy Englishman thought, and in sway over the reflecting world, with the unconquerable Roman, the aspiring the influence of Dante has not been almost Russian with the proud American. Seven as considerable. Little more than five hundred cities, in ancient times, competed for the hon- years, indeed, have elapsed—not a sixth of the our of having given him birth, but seventy na- thirty centuries which have tested the strength tions have since been moulded by his produc- of the Grecian patriarch-since the immortal tions. He gave a mythology to the ancients; Florentine poured forth his divine conceptions; he has given the fine arts to the modern world. but yet there is scarcely a writer of eminence Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Juno, are still house- since that time, in works even bordering on hold words in every tongue; Vulcan is yet the imagination, in which traces of his genius are god of fire, Neptune of the ocean, Venus of not to be found. The Inferno has penetrated love. When Michael Angelo and Canova the world. If images of horror are sought strove to imbody their conceptions of heroism after, it is to his works that all the subsequent or beauty, they portrayed the heroes of the ages have turned ; if those of love and divine Iliad. Flaxman's genius was elevated to the felicity are desired, all turn to the Paradise and highest point in imbodying its events. Epic the Spirit of Beatrice. When the historians of poets, in subsequent times, have done little the French Revolution wished to convey an more than imitate his machinery, copy his idea of the utmost agonies they were called on characters, adopt his similes, and, in a few in- to portray, they contented themselves with saystances, improve upon his descriptions. Painting it equalled all that the imagination of Dante ing andustatuary, for two thousand years, have had conceived of the terrible. Sir Joshua Rey, been employed in striving to portray, by the nolds has exerted his highest genius in depictpencil or the chisel, his yet breathing concep- ing the frightful scene described by him, when tions. Language and thought itself have been Ugolino perished of hunger in the tower of moulded by the influence of his poetry. Images Pisa. Alfieri, Metastasio, Corneille, Lope de of wrath are still taken from Achilles, of pride Vega, and all the great masters of the tragic from Agamemnon, of astuteness from Ulysses, muse, have sought in his works the germs of of patriotism from Hector, of tenderness from their finest conceptions. The first of these Andromache, of age from Nestor. The gal- tragedians marked two-thirds of the Inferno and leys of Rome were, the line-of-battle ships of Paradiso as worthy of being committed to meFrance and England still are, called after his mory. Modern novelists have found in his heroes. The Agamemnon long bore the flag prolific mind the storehouse from which they of Nelson; the Ajax perished by the flames have drawn their noblest imagery, the chord by within sight of the tomb of the Telamonian which to strike the profoundest feelings of the hero, on the shores of the Hellespont; the human heart. Eighty editions of his poems Achilles was blown up at the battle of Trafal- have been published in Europe within the last gar. Alexander the Great ran round the tomb half century; and the public admiration, so of Achilles before undertaking the conquest of far from being satiated, is augmenting. Every "Asia. It was the boast of Napoleon that his scholar knows how largely Milton was indebted mother reclined on tapestry representing the to his poems for many of his most powerful heroes of the Iliad, when he was brought into images. Byron inherited, though often at the world. The greatest poets of ancient and second hand, his mantle, in many of his most modern times have spent their lives in the study moving conceptions. Schiller has imbodied of his genius or the imitation of his works. them in a noble historic mirror; and the dreams Withdraw from subsequent poetry the images, of Goethe reveal the secret influence of the mythology and characters of the Iliad, and terrible imagination which portrayed the deep

remorse and hopeless agonies of Malebolge. * Blackwood's Magazine, January, 1845.

MICHAEL ANGELO has exercised an influence

on modern art, little, if at all, inferior to that position of present reputation. But opinion is produced on the realms of thought by Homer freed from all these distạrbing, influences by and Dante. The father of Italian painting, the the lapse of time. The grave is the greatesi author of the frescoes on the Sistine Chapel, of all purifiers. Literary jealousy, interested he was, at the same time, the restorer of an- partiality, vulgar applause, exclusive favour, cient sculpture, and the intrepid architect who alike disappear before the hand of death. We placed the Pantheon in the air. Raphael con- never can be sufficiently distrustful of present fessed, that he owed to the contemplation of opinion, so largely is it directed by passion or his works his most elevated conceptions of interest. But we may rely with confidence on their divine art. Sculpture, under his original the judgment of successive generations on dehund, started from the slumber of a thousand parted eminence; for it is detached from the years, in all the freshness of youthful vigour; chief cause of present aberration. So various architecture, in subsequent times, has sought are the prejudices, so contradictory the parin vain to equal, and can never hope to sur-tialities and predilections of men, in different pass, his immortal monument in the matchless countries and ages of the world, that they dome of St. Peter's. He found painting in its never can concur through a course of ceninfancy--he left it arrived at absolute perfec- turies in one opinion, if it is not founded in tion. He first demonstrated of what that no- truth and justice. The vox populi is often little ble art is capable. In the Last Judgment he more than the vox diaboli ; but the voice of revealed its wonderful powers, exhibiting, as it ages is the voice of God. were, at one view, the whole circles of Dante's It is of more moment to consider in what Inferno-portraying with terrible fidelity the the greatness of these illustrious men really agonies of the wicked, when the last trumpet consists to what it has probably been owing shall tear the veil from their faces, and exhibit -and in what particulars they bear an anin undisguised truth that most fearful of spec- alogy to each other. tacles-a naked human heart. Casting aside, They are all three distinguished by one peperhaps with undue contempt, the adventitious culiarity, which doubtless entered largely into aid derived from finishing, colouring, and exe- their transcendent merit--they wrote in the cution, he threw the whole force of his genius infancy of civilization. Homer, as all the into the design, the expression of the features, world knows, is the oldest profane author in the drawing of the figures. There never was existence. Dante flourished about the year such a delineator of bone and muscle as 1300: he lived at a time when the English Michael Angelo. His frescoe's stand out in barons lived in rooms strewed with rushes, and bold relief from the walls of the Vatican, like few of them could sign their names. The the sculptures of Phidias from the pediment long life of Michael Angelo, extending from of the Parthenon. He was the founder of the 1474 to 1564, over ninety years, if not passed school of painting both at Rome and Florence in the infancy of civilization, was at least

that great school which, disdaining the re- passed in the childhood of the arts : before his presentation of still life, and all the subordinate time, painting was in its cradle. Cimabue had appliances of the art, devoted itself to the re- merely unfolded the first dawn of beauty at presentation of the grand and the beautiful; to Florence; and the stiff figures of Pietro Peruihe expression of passion in all its vehemence gino, which may be traced in the first works -of emotion in all its intensity. His incom- of his pupil Raphael, still attest the backward parable delineation of bones and muscles was state of the arts at Rome. This peculiarity, but a means to an end; it was the human applicable alike to all these three great men,

art, the throes of human passion, that his is very remarkable, and beyond all question master-hand laid bare. Raphael congratulated had a powerful iufluence, both in forming their himself, and thanked God that he had given peculiar character, and elevating them to the him life in the same age with that painter; and astonishing greatness which they speedily atSir Joshua Reynolds, in his last address to the tained. Academy,“reflected, not without vanity, that It gave them-what Johnson has justly his Discourses bore testimony to his admira- termed the first requisite to human greatness tion of that truly divine man, and desired that the last words he pronounced in that academy, the first known to themselves and their conand from that chair, might be the name of temporaries-who adventured on their several Michael Angelo.”*

arts; and thus they proceeded fearlessly in their The fame of these illustrious men has long great career. They had neither critics to fear, been placed beyond the reach of cavil. Criti- nor lords to flatter, nor former excellence to cism cannot reach, envy cannot detract from, imitate. They portrayed with the pencil, or emulation cannot equal them. Great present in verse, what they severally felt, undisturbed celebrity, indeed, is no guarantee for future by fear, unswayed by example, unsolicitous and enduring fame; in many cases, it is the about fame, unconscious of excellence. They reverse; but there is a wide difference between did so for the first time. Thence the freshness the judgment of the present and that of future and originality, the vigour and truth, the simages. The favour of the great, the passions plicity and raciness by which they are disof the multitude, the efforts of reviewers, the tinguished. Shakspeare owed much of his interest of booksellers, à clique of authors, a greatness to the same cause; and thence his coterie of ladies, accidental events, degrading similarity, in many respects, to these great propensities, often enter largely into the com- masters of his own or the sister arts. When

Pope asked Bentley what he thought of his * Reynolds's Discourses, No. 16, ad finem.

translation of the Iliad, the scholar replied

ܪ

« You have written a pretty book, Mr. Pope; agery or excellence, is persecuted by the cribut you must not call it Homer.” Bentley was tics. He disturbs settled ideas, endangers esright. With all its pomp of language and tablished reputation, brings forward rivals to melody of versification, its richness of imagery dominant fame. That is sufficient to render and magnificence of diction, Pope's Homer is him the enemy of all the existing rulers in the widely different from the original. He could world of taste. Even Jeffrey seriously lanot avoid it. Your “awful simplicity of the mented, in one of his first reviews of Scott's Grecian bard, his artless grandeur and unaf- poems, that he should have identified himself fected majesty," will be sought for in vain in with the unpicturesque and expiring images of the translation; but if they had appeared there, feudality, which no effort could render poetiit would have been unreadable in that age. cal. Racine's tragedies were received with Michael Angelo, in his bold conceptions, ener- such a storm of criticism as wellnigh cost the getic will, and rapid execution, bears a close sensitive author his life; and Rousseau was resemblance to the father of poetry. In both, so rudely handled by contemporary writers on the same faults, as we esteem them, are con- his first appearance, that it confirmed him in spicuous, arising from a too close imitation his morbid hatred of civilization. The vigour of nature, and a carelessness in rejecting im- of these great men, indeed, overcame the otages' or objects which are of an ordinary or stacles created by contemporary envy; but homely description. Dante was incomparably how seldom, especially in a refined age, can more learned than either: he followed Virgil genius effect such a prodigy ? how often is it in his descent to the infernal regions; and ex- crushed in the outset of its career, or turned hibits an intimate acquaintance with ancient aside into the humble and unobtrusive path of history, as well as that of the modern Italian imitation, to shun the danger with which that states, in the account of the characters he of originality is beset! meets in that scene of torment. But, in his

Milton's Paradise Lost contains many more own line he was entirely original. Homer and lines of poetic beauty than Homer's Iliad; and Virgil had, in episodes of their poems, intro- there is nothing in the latter poem of equal duced a picture of the infernal regions; but length, which will bear any comparison with nothing on the plan of Dante's Inferno had be- the exquisite picture of the primeval innocence fore been thought of in the world. With much of our First Parents in his fourth book. Neyerof the machinery of the ancients, it bears the theless, the Iliad is a more interesting poem stamp of the spiritual faith of modern times. than the Paradise Lost; and has produced and It lays bare the heart in a way unknown even will produce a much more extensive impresto Homer and Euripides. It reveals the in-sion on mankind. The reason is, that it is most man in a way which bespeaks the centu- much fuller of event, is more varied, is more ries of self-reflection in the cloister which had filled with images familiar to all mankind, and preceded it. It is the basis of all the spiritual is less lost in metaphysical or philosophical poetry of modern, as the Iliad is of all the ex-, abstractions. Homer, though the father of ternal imagery of ancient, times.

poets, was essentially dramatic; he was an In this respect there is a most grievous im- incomparable painter; and it is his dramatic pediment to genius in later, or, as we term scenes, the moving panorama of his pictures, them, more civilized times, from which, in which fascinates the world. He often speaks earlier ages, it is wholly exempt. Criticism, to the heart, and is admirable in the delineapublic opinion, the dread of ridicule--then too tion of character; but he is so, not by conveyoften crush the strongest minds. The weighting the inward feeling, but by painting with of former examples, the influence of early matchless fidelity its external symptoms, or habits, the halo of long-established reputation, putting into the mouths of his characters the force original genius from the untrodden path precise words they would have used in similar of invention into the beaten one of imitation. I circumstances in real life. Even his immortal Early talent feels itself overawed by the colos- parting of Hector and Andromache is no exsus which all the world adores; it falls down ception to this remark; he paints the scene at and worships, instead of conceiving. The dread the Scæan gate exactly as it would have ocof ridicule extinguishes originality in its birth. curred in nature, and moves us as if we had Immense is the incubus thus laid upon the seen the Trojan hero taking off his helmet to efforts of genius. It is the chief cause of the assuage the terrors of his infant son, and heard degradation of taste, the artificial style, the the lamentations of his mother at parting with want of original conception, by which the her husband. But he does not lay bare the literature of old nations is invariably dis- heart, with the terrible force of Dante, by a line tinguished. The early poet or painter who or a word. There is nothing in Homer which portrays what he feels or has seen, with no conveys so piercing an idea of misery as the anxiety but to do so powerfully and truly, is line in the Inferno, where the Florentine bard relieved of a load which crushes his subse-assigns the reason of the lamentations of the quent compeers to the earth. Mediocrity is spirits in Malebolge ever envious of genius-ordinary capacity of “Questi non hanno speranza di morte." original thought. Such envy in early times is “These have not the hope of death." There innocuous or does not exist, at least to the ex- speaks the spiritual poet; he does not paint tent which is felt as so baneful in subsequent to the eye, he does not even convey character periods. But in a refined and enlightened by the words he makes them utter; he pierces, age, its influence becomes incalculable. Who- by a single expression, at once to the heart. ever strikes out a new region of thought or Milton strove to raise earth to heaven; Hocomposition, whoever opens a fresh vein of im- mer brought down heaven to earth The latter

ܪ

« AnteriorContinuar »