« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
Art. XIX.-Eighteen Hundred and Twenty, a Poem. Part
First London, 1821. The design of this production will be best learned from a few sentences of the preface, which we the rather extract, as they contain an allusion, kept up indeed through many parts of the poem, to our own country.
• The title of this poem is intended to connect it with the political events of the year eighteen hundred and twenty. It has not been my object, however, to take them up in chronological order, or present them in an historical shape, but merely to allude to them in any way that appeared most suitable for relieving the monotony of a poem, essentially didactic. I shall also employ, for the same purpose, in the course of the work, should it be continued, the events of subsequent and preceding years; so that the name I have affixed to the poem is not an accurate description of the subject, but a mere title.
• The prevailing error of the last generation, in theory and practice, was an abuse of the name and principles of liberty. "The fault, or at least, one of the faults of the present, is of a contrary description, and consists in misrepresenting in theory and abusing in practice, the wholesome doctrine, that it is the duty of the people to preserve good order and submit to lawful authority. From this indisputable truth, a certain class of writers have deduced the conclusion, that it is necessary to submit to any established authority, however unlawful and unjust, or in other words, have revived the old-fashioned doctrine of passive obedience and nonresistance. They have gone, however, a step beyond the ancient partisans of divine right: and, while they deny to nations the liberty of reforming their governments, they grant to kings, not only an unlimited authority over their own subjects, but a right to reform the governments of foreign powers at pleasure. This system, however absurd, may be regarded as the one now prevailing on the continent.
It is true that these slavish principles have comparatively few partisans in England and the United States, where this poem will circulate, if at all: but I have thought that even in these countries an attempt to expose their absurdity might not be wholly useless, for the promotion of truth.
In the execution of the following attempt I have not overlooked the principle that poetry addresses itself to the imagination rather than the judgment, and have endeavored to enliven the dulness of discussion, as far as was compatible with the nature of the subject and the mediocrity of talent at my disposal. Without
pretending to vie with the living masters of the lyre, in brilliancy and romantic interest, I shall be satisfied, if the lovers of verse shall consider an inferiority of this sort as, in some degree, compensated by just views and generous feelings. Nothing, however, can expiate in poetry the sin of absolute dulness; and if the public award pronounces that I have been guilty of it, I shall certainly refrain from repeating the offence. if this attempt is received with approbation, I shall probably continue the poem to a third or fourth part.'
The foregoing extracts from the preface will sufficiently convey to our readers an idea of the spirit and principles of this poem. These it is no part of our design to discuss. The great unanimity, with which these principles in substance are embraced in our own country, would render such discussion here superfluous; and our remoteness from Europe, where they constitute the great shibboleth of the powerful parties there in array, destroys the temptation we might otherwise feel, to engage in the subject. The same cause will perhaps lead some American readers to think, that the anonymous author of Eighteen Hundred and Twenty, whom we have some suspicions to be an American, has entered into the controversy with disproportioned warmth. This is an opinion, which we are apt in this country to form with regard to the champions in the political contests of Europe; and it is happy for us, that the great warfare there waged is a matter of no more pressing interest to America. But we ought not to do injustice to either of the parties in that warfare. The conflict is one of tremendous moment. The antiquity of the prescriptions and the power and patronage of the privileged classes, that exist in virtue of them, on the one hand, with the numerical and physical strength, the commercial resources, the activity and intelligence of the mass of the people, on the other, are elements too mighty not to kindle a fearful strife. The short experience of our own country has been sufficient to teach us, that political discussions may be wrought to wonderful bitterness, even by good men. But our domestic politics, entirely controlled as they are at every moment, by the numerical majority, consisting as they chiefly do of questions of deputing offices, which on the return of short periods are resumed by the people, ought never to excite that fierceness of feeling, which grows out of the momentous struggle at which we have hinted. We know not whether this apology will be thought necessary Nero Series, No. 10.
for any of the opinions of this work: but if in any portion, or in its general spirit, it may go beyond the feeling of the American community on the subjects treated, we would suggest the foregoing explanation. The poem begins with an animated apostrophe to Spain. The following passage will serve as a specimen of this portion of the work; at the same time that it discloses interesting facts relative to that unfortunate country. • 'Tis glorious all-but what avail
The gifts of God when man their use denies ?
For Spanish profit bears its merchandise?
Its wealth of waves upon uncultured banks ?
Whose toilsome care has trimmed its cluster'd ranks?
On broken shafts, and crumbling architraves ;
The soul of freedom still abides in you ;
Ye did what freer nations could not do:
And garrisoned each town and castled height,
your base masters owned him for their lord ;
• Of pensioned ease the royal gratitude
In which endurance is the worst of crimes.' The passage which follows this, and which is intended to expose what may be called the emigrant policy lately pursued in Europe, is one of the most powerful in the poem, and one of those perhaps, for which the explanation made above will be most needed here. Our sympathies in this country are pretty generally, we think, on the side of the emigrants ; whereas, in Europe, experience has so universally found them so strongly on the side adverse to improvement, that their fortunes awaken less commiseration in the liberal party, than could be wished and indeed expected from those whose cause is in its essence the cause of humanity. The following pas
* + Arguelles was the most distinguished orator among the members of the Spanish cortes at their first organization ; and, as is well known, was honor. ed by the enthusiastic admiration of his colleagues, with the appellation of the divine. Upon the king's restoration he was brought to trial for his share in the preceding events; but by the dexterity with which he managed his defence, he disconcerted his judges so much, that they found it extremely difficult to pronounce him guilty with any regard to appearances. The king, being informed that there was some delay and embarrassment in the case, sent for the papers and wrote upon them with his own hand— Ten years labor in the gallies at Ceuta.
sage at the close of this strain, will interest our readers for the national allusion :
But why such fears? And tell me, if thou wilt,
Their names with Washington's for ever shine.? To this succeeds the part of the poem, where the political system on which it is written, is more distinctly developed, and in which the grave and philosophical strain of most of the previous portion is exchanged for a vein of temperate pleasantry. The immediate suggestion of this part of the poem was found in the speech of the emperor of Austria, to the deputies of the Hungarian aristocracy, at their meeting at Pest, in 1820. In this speech the emperor says to the Hungarians, totus mundus stULTISAT, et relictis antiquis legibus imaginarias constitutiones quærit. Vos habetis constitutionem, &c. Our author's note
is • A most gracious speech truly: and if the whole world do not immediately change their opinions and come round to his Majes