Page images

cond's pendulum in different latitudes, furnished in part by M. Mathieu ; then, the · Description et usage du Comparateur,' an instrument designed for the purpose of measuring and comparing distances, such as the metre, accurately, but which will be of no use to those who are acquainted with the ingenious means employed by Mr. Bird, in determining the length of toises, &c.;* and, lastly, an ingenious and scientific method of determining the orbits of comets, by M. Laplace. This article, peculiarly interesting so soon after our evening's skies have been decorated by the most splendid comet which has been seen here for more than a century, has, we observe, found its way into one of our philosophical journals.

In conclusion, we are presented with a treatise on nautical astronomy, abridged from a former piece by M. de Rossel.' This treatise, which occupies 250 pages, is, with the exception of a

neat formulæ and useful tables by Borda and others, nearly as unscientific as the well-known production of Mr. Hamilton Moore; and an author must be reduced to wretched shifts before he could congratulate himself and his readers, as M. Biot does, on its insertion.

We have now reached the end of our analysis ; and if it should be thought that we have extended our remarks too far, we must beg our readers to recollect that we have been sketching the contents of nearly 1800 pages; the joint labour of a dozen of the most celebrated men in France. We have no time to dwell minutely upon the disadvantages attending M. Biot's method of employing sometimes the centesimal, at others, the sexigesimal division of the circle; or those which arise from his frequently transcribing results from Laplace's 'Mécanique Céleste,' without sufficiently developing the principles on which they depend. Altogether, however, the work contains much that is valuable; and we regret sincerely that from a desire to swell out his treatise to undue dimensions, and an obvious unwillingness to do justice to our countrymen, he should have compelled us to blend so much censure with our cominendation.

* See Philosoph. Transac. vol. Iviii; or New Abridgment, vol. xii. pa. 577.


Art. VIII. Portugal. A Poem ; in Two Parts. By Lord George

Nugent Grenville. London, Longman, &c. 4to. pp. 120. 1812. OUR poets seem resolved not to resign to our soldiers all the

laurels of the Peninsula. Though we have not thought fit to introduce to our readers many of those modern Tyrtæi, we have not been inattentive observers of the tuneful campaign which has been prosecuted with almost as much vigour as the actual warfare.

However deficient these effusions may be in poetical merit, (and they are, in general, lamentably so,) they are not without a value of another kind : if they be not calculated to excite the public feeling, they may at least be admitted as some evidence of it. They furnish an humble testimony of the popularity of the cause of the Peninsula, and of the revived military pride of this country. You shall better discover,' Lord Bacon somewhere says, how the wind blows by throwing up a straw than by casting up a stone.'

If, for this reason, we have regarded with complacency, even the weakest efforts of the muses militant, it will readily be believed, that we heard with great satisfaction the first rumours of the work before us : they were on many accounts calculated to excite no ordinary expectations. A younger branch, it was said, of a noble family (whose political opinions on the subject of the peninsular contest are notoriously hostile to our own) was, during a residence of some months in Portugal and Spain, so affected by the evidence of facts, as to have abjured the tenets of his House, professed himself a convert to the general opinion, and produced an ample and tuneful recantation.

What precise degree of credit should be attached to these rumours we cannot take upon us to say. Twice, with the most patient attention, have we read every line of this poem, and twice have we risen froin the perusal, 'perplexed in the extreme.'

Lord George Nugent Grenville has, it is certain, published a poem under the title of Portugal; but though the stream of verse is sufficiently smooth, it is so prodigiously deep that our plummets have, in very few places indeed, been able to find the bottom; and, notwithstanding much intense study, we frankly confess, that had it not been for some extraneous assistance, which shall be hereafter gratefully noticed, we could not have ventured to offer any opinion on the inerit of a work, which we could by no means flatter ourselves that we had duly comprehended.

The darkness is indeed so coinplete and uninterrupted, that we, at once, perceived that it was not produced by an involuntary confusion of ideas, but must have arisen from a regular and systematic design, formed on mature consideration, and executed with the most nebulous felicity. At first we suspected that this obscurity might K 4


have been somewhat too freely admitted as a source of the sublimes but this could only have dimmed particular passages. Then it occurred to us that the noble author had collected all the fragments of all the exercises which he had formerly sung in the academic bowers of Brazen-nose, and that we had here the disjecti membra poetæ' hastily put together; but this, too, appeared to be an untenable hypothesis ; for though it would explain much of the incoherence, it could not account for the total absence of light under which the whole appears to labour.

Another solution of the difficulty remains, and we are inclined to believe that it may be the true one.

The author


under circumstances of peculiar delicacy--his feelings are at variance with those of his relatives, and what candour urges him to speak, the partialities of private kindness make him desirous of concealing. Appreciating, therefore, as we sincerely do, the painful struggle in which he was involved, we are inclined not merely to excuse, but almost to admire the dutiful confusion and pious obscurity in which he has buried his contending feelings.

But 'this mighty maze' is not, as we have already hinted, without a plan;' and it is but justice to Lord George Nugent Grenville, to say, that he himself provides us with the clue, by prefixing a kind of preface raisonné to the whole, a detached argument to each of the parts, and explanatory notes to individual passages.

From all these sources we learn that his lordship has actually been (as rumor stated) in Portugal, and that the outline of his poem was suggested by a walk, which, one fine evening, he took in that country. Of these circumstances we entreat the reader not to lose sight; for we confess, that in the keenness of appetite with which we opened the book, we proceeded at once to the poetry, and had actually read it through without guessing at these, and other facts, which we afterwards gleaned from the several commentaries, and the knowledge of which rendered our second perusal much more easy and delightful. The

poem opens with an address to Portugal, spoken by his lordship on the rock of Cintra, about sun-set, on an autuṁnal evening in 1810, in which he tells her that our feelings of enthusiasm,

when faery hands have wrought

Those ruddiest hues by poet Fancy taught,' should not indispose us towards the consideration of the cause of Portugal in all its bearings, the character of its assertors, with reference to its worse, as well as its better properties'--and having thus clearly explained his moral sensations, he proceeds to a description of the scenery around him, which, we believe, for strength of


[ocr errors]

touch, brilliancy of colouring, and novelty of conception, has not been exceeded since the days of Della Crusca.

"I turned where Tejo's glimmering stream,
In melting distance owned the dubious beam;
Lisbon shone fair, beneath the lively glow,
Spread to its parting glance her breast of snow.
And, as her faery form she forward bowed,
Woke the soft slumbers of her native flood,
While her white summits mocked the rude command

Of the dark hills that fence her distant strand.'--p.8. Who is there that does not feel as if he saw Lisbon? What accuracy, what simplicity, what truth of delineation! The breast of snow, the fairy form, the gentle inclination forward, the playful naïveté with which she disturbs the slumbers of her native flood, &c. are circumstances all admirably chosen and highly characteristic, But even this beautiful picture is exceeded by that of Belem Castle.

the embattled head
Of towery Belem in the radiance played,
From fretted minaret or antique spire,
Welcomed the farewell glance of living fire,
And smiled to view its turret's dazzling pride,

In pictured lustre deck the answering tide.'-p.9. We entreat our readers to admire the head of Belem playing in the radiance; and though we cannot much commend the hospitality which welcomes a farewel, we are agreeably surprized at the complacent smile of the old castle at seeing itself in the water; a vanity the more excusable, as we apprehend that he never did see himself in the answering tide' before, or since that memorable evening.'

The convent of N. S. da Penha next engages his lordship's attention, and gives occasion to a strain of invective, in which, with equal novelty and truth, he attacks the “Tiger superstition,' and shows that convents were originally built and are still maintained. by 'feudal frenzy' and 'regal rapine,' for the purposes of shrouded murder,' 'trembling guilt,' and 'dark remorse.

An ordinary poet would, at the moment when Lord George wrote, have seen in Portugal the stains of more recent blood than that which superstition had shed; he would have seen, raging far and wide, flames which the torch of bigotry had not lighted; and he might have deplored desolation not caused by the blighting shade of the convent. The conflagration of towns—the devastation of whole provinces--the massacre of half a people were before his eyes;

but these unhappily were real and recent scenes, and Lord George's


poetry is too refined and subtilized for actual existence. In the quiet seclusion and religious shades of N. S. da Penha, which the English army covered from profanation, he was at leisure to remember all the enormities of the 'tyrant superstition, and to forget the tender mercies of Massena's invasion.

Through the next seven pages the author proceeds in a high strain of poetry, of which we humbly confess we can give the reader no other account than, that we find in The Argument the following passage.

* The performance of the duties of religion by no means necessarily, or inseparably connected with the artificial gloom inspired by the seclusion of the cloister.'

* The divine Being perhaps to be worshipped with feelings of a more exalted devotion in his works, as displayed in an extensive prospect.'

If we could have found the corresponding lines in the poem, we should quote them, but we have really found it impossible to select from the seven pages any passage which was capable of bearing this or any other meaning. There is indeed something, which to our understanding, is like a shipwreck, but as the argument says nothing of any such event, it is possible that we may have mistaken the description of some part of the cloister' for it; and lest we should mislead the reader, we leave the choice to his unbiassed judgment.

But whatever this passage be intended to represent, we are not, we hope, mistaken in selecting the following lines as the description of an atheist,' which the argument states as occurring in this part of the poem:

And thou poor hopeless wretch! if such there live,'--
Too wise to feel, too haughty to believe,
Poor worshipper of something undefined,
The wreck of genius, twilight of the mind,
That seeks high born above the sons of men,
To pierce those sbades unsought by mortal ken,
And catch the unearthy sounds of yonder sphere,

Which crowding angels tremble while they hear.'-p. 23. Of this picture (which is evidently intended as a pendant to the portrait of superstition,) we have certainly never seen the original; of what immediately follows we have indeed some recollection.

• Are these thy triumphs, this thy proudest aim,
This, that first taught thy raptured flight to soar
As the wild wanderings of some feverish hour
Far above nature's calm and peaceful bound,
To pause and hover o'er a dark profound,
Where e'en conjecture ends, in the deep gloom
Of doubt and death-


« PreviousContinue »