Page images
PDF
EPUB

thing is, indeed, that it is such as we find it, and not that its im. perfections are numerous. It has nothing at all savouring of the little or conventional about it, for he passed at once from the merely elegant and graceful. With Young, Blair, and Cowper for his guides, his Muse strove with unwearied

wing to attain the high, severe, serene region of Milton, and he was at least successful in earnestness of purpose, in solemnity of tone, and in vigour and variety of illustration."

The following passage on "The Genius of Byron ” was greatly admired by Professor Wilson, who regarded it as the best passage in the poem :

“He touched his harp, and nations heard entranced;

As some vast river of unfailing source,
Rapid, exhaustless, deep, his numbers flowed,
And oped new fountains in the human heart.
Where Fancy halted, weary in her flight,
In other men, bis fresh as morning rose,
And soared untrodden heights, and seemed at home
Where angels bashful looked. Others, though great,
Beneath their arguments seemed struggling, whiles,
He from above descending stooped to touch
The loftiest thought, and proudly stooped, as though
It scarce deserved his verse. With Nature's self
He seemed an old acquaintance, free to jest
At will with all her glorious majesty ;
He laid his band upon the Ocean's mane,'
And played familiar with his hoary rocks ;
Stood on the Alps, stood on the Apennines,
And with the thunder talked as friend to friend;
And wove his garland of the lightning's wing,
In sportive twist the lightning's fiery wing,
Which as the footsteps of the dreadful God
Marching upon the storm in vengeance seemed.
Then turned, and with the grasshopper, who sung
His evening song beneath his feet, conversed.
Suns, moons, and stars, and clouds, his sisters were ;
Rocks, mountains, meteors, seas, and winds, and storms,
His brothers,-younger brothers, whom he scarce
As equals deemed. All passions of all men,
The wild and tame, the gentle and severe ;
All thoughts, all maxims, sacred and profane ;
All creeds, all seasons, time, eternity;
All that was hated, and all that was dear;
All that was hoped, all that was feared by man,
He tossed about as tempest-withered leaves ;
Then, smiling, looked upon the wreck he made.
With terror now he froze the cowering blood,
And now dissolved the heart in tenderness ;
Yet would not tremble, would not weep himself ;
But back into his soul retired alone,
Dark, sullen, gazing down contemptuously
On hearts and passions prostrate at his feet.
So Ocean, from the plains his waves had late

To desolation swept, retired in pride,
Exulting in the glory of his might,
And seemed to mock the ruin he had wrought.
As some fierce comet of tremendous size,
To which the stars did reverence as it passed ;
So he, through learning rare and fancy, took
His fight sublime, and on the loftiest top
Of Fame's dread mountain sat : though not soiled nor worn,
As if he from the earth bad laboured up;
But as some bird of heavenly plumage fair
He looked, which down from bigher regions came,

And perched it there, to see what lay beneath.” “Poor Pollock "-we quote again from Dr. Moir—"gave his manuscript to the press from a dying hand. That manuscript, as I have said, I had at the time the melancholy pleasure of perusing, and remember well that several of the books had been copied over for him by a female hand, on account of his increasing debility-a symptom which he vainly tried, even to the last, to conceal from himself. On the 24th of March, 1827, 'The Course of Time' was given to the world; and on the 18th of September of the same year its author was removed from it."

Such is in brief the sad record; but a few details may be given. The poem went to press January 3rd, 1827. Proof-reading and revising became thereafter an arduous labour ; and his ill-health settled into a sleepless nervousness, producing indigestion, loss of appetite, and general feverishness; but the the poem was issued May 24th, 1827. In this condition and at such a time he was called upon by the church presbytery to write a specimen of Exegesis. This he did, in Latin, on the question, “ Is the Church or Scripture the ultimate authority in matters of faith ?”. He was also required to prepare a specimen, or, as it is called, a trial” discourse prior to receiving licence as a preacher in the Secession denomination. The text given him to preach from was “His name shall endure for ever: His name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed” (Psa. lxxii. 17). His trials were “sustained,” and on May 2nd he received licence. Next day being the day of preparation for the communion (called in Scotland “the fast day'), he preached in the church of Dr. John Brown (uncle of Dr. Samuel Brown, of whom a notice recently appeared in this serial, and father of Dr. John Brown, author of "Horæ Subsecivæ," &c.). Here he met Dr. Belfrage, of Slateford, and was invited to spend a short time with him. At Slateford he preached twice on May 6th, and once on May 13th. He was destined to occupy the pulpit

In“ The Course of Time” his earthly work was consummated. That poem attracted great attention; reviewers spoke of it in connection with those of Dante and Milton.

Henry Mackenzie, author of “The Man of Feeling,” then 84 years

of
age, favoured the author with his friendship ; Thomas

Aird, the purest poetic spirit of this age, at once Dantesque and Words

no more.

worthian, gave him his heart; and other distinguished men bestowed their respect upon the sickening young poet-preacher. Death had taken good security, through his agent Disease, against his enjoying the honours of authorship long. Pollock tried successively a sea trip to Aberdeen, a change to his native air and home scenes, but his health continued to decline. Through the kindness of friends, at the head of whom as the managing spirit was Sir John Sinclair (of some of whose merits our readers have already had an account), a tour to Italy was projected, the funds being raised through Sir John's instrumentality. On passing from home through Glasgow, Pollock's fellow-students presented him with an address, congratulating him on his fame, condoling with him in his illness, and wishing God's blessing on his journey. Dr. John Brown entertained him awhile, and had his portrait taken. Dr. Belfrage afterwards became his host, and when all things were ready, on August 22nd, he, in charge of his sister, Mrs. Gilmour, sailed from Leith to London. On arriving in the metropolis they became the guests of John Pirie (Lord Mayor of London) at Camberwell. Here it was found by Dr. Gordon that he was unfit to undertake a sea voyage, and he was recommended to proceed to Southampton, which they reached by carriage on the 1st of September. They took lodgings at Shirley Common; though the utmost kindness was shown him here, he failed daily, and at last died, September 18th, 1827, before he had completed a sojourn upon earth of 29 years. He rests in the churchyard of Mill. brook, about a mile out of Southampton, and over his English grave there rises an obelisk of Peterhead granite (placed

there by his friends), bearing this inscription from the pen of Dr. Brown, “ The grave of Robert Pollock, A.M., author of The Course of Time.' His immortal poem is his monument.”

So passed away a bright spirit. He had not slackened in his Toiling Upward,” in his endeavour to rival the mighty minds of the past, to influence those among whom he lived for good to their souls, and to infuse into the future thoughts, drawn from the Book of heaven, uttered in words rendered attractive by “the beauty of holiness." Earlier than Byron and Burns he died; at an age earlier by far than that at which Dante began to write his everduring Comedy, earlier than the age at which Milton conceived the first idea of his imperishable work. These were the works of great and tried minds ; that was the work of a man who had kept himself shy from literature for a first and great attempt.” Dr. Moir, " that it should have been his last; for unquestionably it is the production of a great and original genius—a genius which, whatever were its youthful deficiencies of taste and judgment, has made itself felt wherever the English language is spoken. Let the life of Robert Pollock be to us as an example of “Toiling Upward," and may his poem become an inducement for us to aim at the ultimate reach of human ambition-"the mark of the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus our Lord ! ”

1866.

66

[ocr errors]

Pity," says

K

The Eloquence of the Month. .

THE EARL OF DERBY ON PLACE, PARTY, AND

POLITICS.

[The Right Hon. Edward Geoffrey Smith Stanley, fourteenth Earl of Derby, K.G., was born 29th March, 1799, at Knowsley Park, Lancashire. He was educated at Eton, and at Christ Church, Oxford. In 1819 he gained the Latin poem prize, the subject being “Syracuse.” He entered the House of Commons (as Lord Stanley) in 1820, having been elected member for Stockbridge, in Hampshire, a borough disfranchised by the Reform Bill of 1832. His maiden speech was not ventured upon, however, till the 30th March, 1824, when he supported the Manchester Gas Bill so well as to draw forth the laudations of Sir James Mackintosh. On the 6th May he defended the Irish Church Establishment against an attack made on it by the late Mr. Joseph Hume. After a short voyage to the United States he married, in 1825, the Hon. Emma Caroline Wilbraham, daughter of Lord Skelmersdale. In 1826 he became member for Preston, but he was ousted thence by Henry Hunt. He was then brought in for Windsor, and was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland, having served his routine apprenticeship to statesmanship as Under Secretary for the Colonies. In 1832 he was chosen for North Lancashire, and in 1833 became Chief Colonial Secretary; but in 1834 he seceded from the Whig Government of Earl Grey, in opposition to the secularization of the revenues of a large portion of the Irish Church. In the same year he was elected to the Lord Rectorship of Glasgow University. In 1841 he resumed his Colonial Secretaryship under Sir Robert Peel, and was raised, in 1845, to the Upper House as Baron Stanley of Bickerstaffe. He resigned office in 1846, when Sir R. Peel determined to repeal the Corn Laws. When his father died in 1851 he became Lord Derby. In Feb., 1852, on the resignation of Lord John Russell, the Protectionist Conservatives, of whom he was the chief, were called to power, which they retained ten months. In 1855 he was asked to form a ministry, but declined. When Lord Palmerston was defeated on the Conspiracy Bill in Feb., 1858, he was again advanced to the Premiership, which he held till Aug., 1859. He has been now called, for the third time, to the loftiest position a subject can occupy. The professed political principle on which he has recently acted has been not needlessly to thwart any existing Government, but to control its measures to constitutional ends.

He succeeded the Duke of Wellington as Chancellor of the University of Oxford. The earl is reputed the author of “ Conversations on the Parables of Christ;" and it is well known that his translation of Homer's “Iliad " is a brilliant, able, and praiseworthy version-though more oratorical than poetical. Lord Derby is a master in controversy,-is, in fact, rhetorically described as “the Rupert of debate." His phraseology is vivid, his style polished, the form of his argument trenchant, and his declamatory powers are finely aided by the handsome figure, commanding statare, attractive gestures, and exquisite as well as exquisitely managed voice of the noble Premier. He is in general perfectly self-possessed, his thoughts take the oratorial form spontaneously, and his capacity for invective (acquired in opposing O'Connell) is unequalled for power, polish, and sarcastic causticity,—though Bright's is more forcible and home-hitting. The speech we quote will probably become historical as the manifesto of the Conservative party in 1866. Impartiality claims its admission to our pages. It is more laboured and less fuent, however, than most of the earl's great orations. ]

THE EARL OF DERBY said :-My Lords, in rising again to address you from this bench as First Minister of the Crown, I assure you, in all sincerity, that I do so with no feelings of personal satisfaction or gratified ambition. I have not sought for the high honours of the post which the Queen has conferred upon me. I know the difficulties by which I am surrounded, and the almost insuperable obstacles I shall have to encounter in performing my duties. I should have been most desirous to shrink from undertaking duties which must involve, to me, personal sacrifices of ease, comfort, and perhaps of health, if I had not felt myself compelled by an imperative sense of public duty not to shrink from the task. I should have been well content to retain that position which I have held for some time-honoured with the confidence of a great and powerful party,—of a party powerful enough to exercise no inconsiderable control over the public affairs of this country, to give a wise and prudent Minister of the Liberal party a useful support, and to enable him to check, carb, and restrain the more impatient and extreme of his supporters. Such a position I have had the honour to occupy from 1859 to the death of Lord Palmerston. Nor can I help saying that it reflects the highest credit upon that great party which bas honoured me with its confidence, that. during that long period, they should have consented to hold that position-of great atility to the country, and one most honourable to themselves, but at the same time most dispiriting and most disheartening to individual ambition, that of supporting a Minister to whom they were by party ties opposed; and that during the whole of that long period their ranks should not have been thinned by defections arising out of the natural impatience of persons in political life, at their continual exclusion from the offices, honours, and emoluments which are naturally sought for by public men. I am informed that Lord Palmerston told his colleagues that it would be most imprudent to propose a Reform Bill in the first session of a Dew Parliament, because it is impossible for a Minister to feel the pulse of Parliament and of his own party so as to enable him to judge how far he might expect support in bringing forward a large measure of reform. The noble earl, I think, admitted the other day that he had miscalculated the strength of public opinion on this subject. I understood him to lay down the principle that it was not right for a Minister to propose a measure of reform unless he felt that he had support in Parliament which would enable him to carry it. The noble earl was deceived by the aspect of the general elections, and he fell into the mistake of not considering how large a measure of support was given to Lord Palmerston personally, and how much of that support might be withdrawn on the introduction of an extensive Reform Bill. I think that there was nothing more natural, if he believed that he had the requisite strength, than that the noble earl should wish to bring on a measure of parliamentary reform, with which his fame is so closely connected. Still, I cannot but think that the question was taken up hastily, considering the extreme gravity of the measure introduced. It would have satisfied all the reasonable supporters of the Government if the noble earl had announced his intention to deal, and to deal effectually, with reform in the next session of Parliament, and that would have been a far more judicious course than the one which was pursued. A bill was brought forward very imperfect in itself, and founded on very imperfect information. There was a great mistake in this, and a great miscalculation of public feeling. The House of Commons was not prepared to have forced on it a measure first introduced in a fragmentary shape, and afterwards in a more complete state, still even bearing marks of haste. Still less was it prepared to be told that unless it passed that Bill in all its most important particulars they would be considered as

« PreviousContinue »