« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
In order to solve the secrets of vegetable life and growth, we must watch the plant from its germination to its maturity, and remark, with all possible exactness, the various influences which bear upon it. We must study its nature, its relations, its changes; its relations to the soil, to the climate, to the light, to the moisture, and to its whole culture. Botany, considered as a mere form of classes and a mere catalogue of arbitrary names, is a meagre and comparatively worthless science ; but, when it involves the whole physiology of plants in all their aspects and conditions, in their growth, culture, maturity, and uses, it becomes a profound philosophy. Chemistry, likewise, must here come to our aid. In order to know what the plant needs, we must know what it is composed of; in order to learn what it obtains from the soil, we must ascertain what the soil has to yield to it ; and we must consider the condition of the plant, in reference to the condition of the soil in which it is planted. Manures, likewise, everywhere the acknowledged means of fertility, require the most exact examination. Ascertaining, by the aid of chemical inquiry, the elements of the plant, we shall at least learn something of what it requires ; ascertaining the nature of the soil, we shall see how it is suited to the plant cultivated ; and knowing the composition of the manures, we may come to understand their operations. Chemical analysis seems to offer the only means of solving these mysteries.
It bas already made distinguished advances ; but yet they can be regarded only as first steps. There are difficulties in the case, which it would be in vain to deny. All chemical analyses are necessarily destructive of the subjects to which they are applied. We cannot take the separate elements from the analysis of a plant, a manure, or a soil, and put them together again like the pieces of a dissected map. We can easily infer from a thousand facts, which chemistry has already disclosed, how much depends upon the form of combination of the most simple elements; and when we consider of what an almost infinite nuinber of permutations and combinations a few simple substances admit, we perceive difficulties in the nature of the case which must certainly very much qualify our confidence of success. They should at least check all baste in our conclusions, and disarm all severity of judgment in respect to the conclusions of others, how much soever these may differ from our own. Truth should be our great and only object. Philosophy stimulates to the pursuit of it as the most precious of all gems. Nothing should abate our zeal ; nothing should discourage our efforts in the search. Fifty years ago chemistry was hardly known as a science. Now, what triumphs has it accomplished, and what a world of wonders has it opened to our view! In its application to agriculture it presents itself as the natural solvent of its now difficult mysteries ; its whole tendency and aim, in this matter, unlike many other of its applications, is to confer unmixed good upon mankind. It discloses to our adoration more and more of those mighty operations of a beneficent Providence, by which, in an unbroken circle of dependence and subserviency, the most offensive substances are converted into all that is nutritive, delicious, and beautiful. It shows us how, by the exact and wonderful combination of a thousand subtile influences in the earth, the air, the rain, the light, the dew, daily and hourly the table of the Divine bounty is spread for all that live ; and not one of his great family is, by the master of the feast, ever sent empty away.
Art. VII. — Tragedie ed altre Poesie di ALESSANDRO Man
ZONI. Settima Edizione. Parigi. 1830. 12mo. pp. 487.
In our Number for last October, * we gave some account of Manzoni's celebrated novel, “ I Promessi Sposi.” We took no notice of the poetical performances of this most distinguished living poet of Italy, except that in a note at the close we made a slight allusion to what he had done in this his favorite department, and ventured to call his “ Ode upon Napoleon," the finest that has ever been written upon that most attractive but difficult subject. We propose at present to add a little to that allusion, and to say a very few words upon those tragedies and shorter metrical pieces, upon which his fame as a bard has been established.
The genius of Manzoni, melancholy, contemplative, tender, is specially suited to the ode, and to those subjective compositions, in which the sentiments and feelings of the
p. 337 et seq.
See North American Review, Vol. LI. pp. VOL. LIII. - No. 112.
writer himself are to be fervidly expressed. It seems to us to be essentially lyrical. Though the tragedies make the principal figure in the present volume, they rather confirm than contradict this judgment; their lyric choruses showing a marked superiority over their dialogue. Indeed, delicate as they are in their tone, beautiful as many passages and even scenes are, they are rather poems than plays. They want the compass, the variety, the fire, the deep insight into human passions, that belong to a master in this most arduous field of invention. The highest and sternest tragic elements are altogether wanting. The great goddess Force is not present. They are graceful, but not strong; statue-like, and yet not absolutely Greek. Their structure is so simple as to give scope for no ingenuity, and to adınit of no unexpected turn of incident or feeling ; and their spirit is so quiet, even when bloody things are doing, that they never stir us to the true dramatic point.
The first of these in the volume, which is the first also in the date of its composition, is “ Il Conte di Carmagnola.” It has found discontented critics in its own country, nor has it succeeded elsewhere in exciting any general applause. There is appended to it, in the volume before us, a critical commendatory notice, translated into French from Goethe's " Kunst und Alterthum.” It is doubtless there for honor's sake. But we never desire to see a colder or more hesitating way of pronouncing a eulogy. It admits that the work may not meet entirely the German taste; but says, that “considering the design of its author, we have found it interesting, and conformable to what art and nature require ; and we have at last convinced ourselves, by the most scrupulous examination, that he has accomplished, like a master, the task that he had proposed to himself.” Such a method of discovering the merits of a tragedy will seem singular enough to those, who are looking for something that can open the fountains of terror and tears. The Count di Carmagnola, a condottiero of the fifteenth century, is a sort of feudal Coriolanus. Belonging to Milan, he leads the Venetian forces victoriously against the Milanese ; and there perishes, a victim to the jealousy of the government in whose cause he had triumphed. This is literally the whole story, which contains no diversities, and can be scarcely said to have any plot. There is a chorus, however, at the close of the second act, when the two armies are about to join battle, which is indeed of a rare excellence. It wails over the miseries of war; describes the malicious joy of the stranger, as he looks down from the Alps upon the civil strifes of poor Italy; and exhorts to universal peace and brotherhood.
The second tragedy, “ Adelchi,” published two or three years afterwards, carries us back to the age of Charlemagne and the final overthrow of the Lombard power in Italy. There is certainly more interest in this than in the former work, — more of the movement and spirit of life. But there are the same defects here also. It is monotonous, feeble, undiscriminating ; wielding no dramatic energy ; reaching to no bold height. It presents us rather a succession of scenes than an artistic whole. Its characters want character. They are marked with none of those peculiarities of the race, the age, the individual heart, which the hand of the true dramatist is so quick to seize and so proud to portray. Here are scholarly Latins from the Papal Court, and rough Pagan conquerors of the Roman soil, and the haughty Frank from the other side of the mountains. But they all talk alike, and one is hardly to be known from the other in any better way than by his theatrical costume. The old Lombard King utters nothing but what is perfectly becoming. Adelchi, his colleague and son, is a knight of the days of chivalry, as full of tenderness as of valor, and sentimental as one of the wild heroes of Ossian. The Great Charles has no particular trait in him of any kind. After a series of incidents, costing no skill either to select, invent, or arrange, the heroic young prince dies upon the stage, of wounds received in a last desperate effort; and the childless Desiderius remains a captive in the hands of the Frank King.
Such is the account that we feel bound to give, in all critical honesty, of these tragedies. They enjoy neither the sober advantage of the unities, nor the higher advantage that may be gained by a noble departure from them. They neither possess the severe beauty of the classical, nor catch the wild graces of the romantic school. But our hearts already begin to reproach us for having said so much in dispraise. We are half inclined to take back a part of what has been written, as if it were unjust to so admirable a poet. But we do not mean to be unjust. Our object has been not so much to find fault, as to justify our own position at the outset, that the talent of Manzoni is peculiarly and eminently lyrical ; pot suited to the stormy passions and “sceptred pall” of “ gorgeous tragedy," and the boards of a theatre ; but delighting to pour out its generous and solemn heart in snatches of earnest melody. We would say to his muse ;
“ Come, but keep thy wonted state,
Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes."
announces a new poem called “ Italia.” This is the very subject for a pen and heart like Manzoni's. We shall look for it with unusual interest.
The “ Sacred Hymns" are five very short pieces on the Nativity, the Passion, the Resurrection, Pentecost, and the name of Mary ; conceived in the full spirit of the Roman Catholic Church, to which the poet is attached with a profound enthusiasm. “ Goethe praised them not a little,” says our preface, although he was of another Communion; while a good Catholic has been found to complain of them as being obscure.” As we are not aware that poetry belongs to any sect, we cannot think this a circumstance any way surprising, or very well worth the mentioning. We cannot help thinking, however, that the charge of obscurity is not wholly groundless; and we must confess for our own part, that we have not been able to make much out of these hymns. No one, we think, can take them up without disappointment, who has first read “ The Fifth of May”; as the fine ode on Napoleon is named, from the day of the Emperor's death.
Though we are fully conscious that all poetry, especially in its highest kinds, is essentially untranslatable, yet we have not been able to keep ourselves from attempting to present in an English dress what has been admired so much on the Continent of Europe. The following version will be found at least scrupulously exact.