« AnteriorContinuar »
It is the same setting sun that we see and remember year after year, through summer and winter, seed-time and harvest. The moon that shines above our heads, or plays through the checkered shade, is the same moon that we used to read of in Mrs. Radcliffe's romances. We see no difference in the trees first covered with leaves in the spring. The dry reeds rustling on the side of a stream, the woods swept by the loud blast, the dark, massy foliage of autumn, the gray trunks and naked branches of the trees in winter, the sequestered copse and wide-extended heath, the glittering, sunny showers and December snows, are still the same, or accompanied with the same thoughts and feelings; there is no object, however trifling or rude, that does not in some mood or other find its way into the heart, as a link in the chain of our living being; and this it is that makes good that saying of the poet,
"To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thus Nature is a kind of universal home, and every object it presents to us, an old acquaintance with unaltered looks; for there is that consent and mutual harmony among all her works, one undivided spirit pervading them
throughout, that to him who has well acquainted himself with them, they speak always the same well-known language, striking on the heart, amidst unquiet thoughts and the tumult of the world, like the music of one's native tongue heard in some far-off country.
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
The daisy that first strikes the child's eye in trying to leap over his own shadow, is the same flower that with timid upward glance implores the grown man not to tread
it. Rousseau in one of his botanical excursions, meeting with the periwinkle, fell upon his knees, crying out: "Ah! voilà de la pervenche!' It was because he had thirty years before brought home the same flower with him in one of his rambles with Madame de Warens, near Chambéry. It struck him as the same identical little blue flower that he remembered so well, and thirty years of sorrow and bitter regret were effaced from his memory. That, or a thousand other flowers of the same name, were the same to him, to the heart and to the eye; but there was but one Madame Warens in the world, whose image was never absent from his thoughts, with whom flowers and verdure sprang up beneath his feet, and without whom all was cold and barren in Nature and in his own breast. The cuckoo, that wandering voice' that comes and goes with the spring, mocks our ears with one note from youth to age ; and the lapwing, screaming round the traveller's path, repeats forever the same sad story of Tereus and Philomel !
ON GAY, SWIFT, YOUNG, COLLINS, ETC.
SHALL in the present lecture go back to
the age of Queen Anne, and endeavour to give a cursory account of the most eminent of our poets, of whom I have not already spoken, from that period to the present.
The three principal poets among the wits of Queen Anne's reign, next to Pope, were Prior, Swift, and Gay. Parnell, though a good-natured, easy man, and a friend to poets and the Muses, was himself little more than an occasional versifier; and Arbuthnot, who had as much wit as the best of them, chose to show it in prose, and not in verse.
He had a very notable share in the immortal History of John Bull, and the inimitable and praiseworthy memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus. There has been a great deal said and written about the plagiarisms of Sterne ; but the only real plagiarism he has been guilty of (if such theft were a crime), is in taking Tristram Shandy's father
from Martin's, the elder Scriblerus. The original idea of the character- that is, of the opinionated, captious old gentleman who is pedantic, not from profession, but choice — belongs to Arbuthnot. Arbuthnot's style is distinguished from that of his contemporaries even by a greater degree of terseness and conciseness. He leaves out every superfluous word, is sparing of connecting particles and introductory phrases, uses always the simplest forms of construction, and is more a master of the idiomatic peculiarities and internal resources of the language than almost any other writer. There is a research in the choice of a plain, as well as of an ornamented or learned style; and, in fact, a great deal more. Among common English words, there may be ten expressing the same thing with different degrees of force and propriety, and only one of them the very word we want, because it is the only one that answers exactly with the idea we have in our minds. Each word in familiar use has a different set of associations and shades of meaning attached to it, and distinguished from each other by inveterate custom; and it is in having the whole of these at our command, and in knowing which to choose, as they are called for by the occasion, that the perfection of a pure conversational prose style