« PreviousContinue »
Street; a frivolous race, which is still encamped in the antique manorial halls, till the arrival of the two great modern barons, Equality and Liberty, who are preparing to dislodge them.
Walter Scott does not mould, like Richardson, upon the internal type of man: he likes rather to display the exterior of his personages.
His fantasies possess a peculiar charm----witness the portrait of the Jewess in “ Ivanhoe.”
“ Her form was exquisitely symmetrical, and was shown to advantage by a sort of eastern dress which she wore, according to the fashion of the females of her nation. Her turban of yellow silk suited well with the darkness of her complexion. The brilliancy of her eyes, the superb arch of her eyebrows, her well formed aquiline nose, her teeth as white as pearl, and the profusion of her sable tresses, which, each arranged in its own little spiral of twisted curls, fell down upon as much of a lovely neck and bosom as a simarre of the richest Persian silk, exhibiting flowers in their natural colours, embossed upon a purple ground, permitted to be visible all these constituted a combination of loveliness, which yielded not to the loveliest of the maidens who surrounded her. It is true that, of the golden and pearl-studded clasps which closed her vest from the throat to the waist, the three uppermost were left unfastened on account of the
heat, which something enlarged the prospect to which we allude. A diamond necklace, with pendants of inestimable value, were by this means also made more conspicuous. The feather of an ostrich, fastened in her turban by an agraffe set with brilliants, was another distinction of the beautiful Jewess, and gave her the look of the very bride of the Canticles."
Fontanes, that friend whose loss I shall never cease to regret, asked me one day why the women of the Jewish race are handsomer than the men, I gave him a reason at once poetical and Christian. The Jewesses, I replied, have escaped the curse which has alighted upon their fathers, their husbands, and their sons. Not a Jewess was to be seen among the crowd of priests and the rabble who insulted the Son of Man, scourged him, crowned him with thorns, and subjected him to ignominy and the agony of the cross. The women of Judea believed in the Saviour; they loved, they followed him ; they assisted him with their substance, they soothed him under afflictions. A woman at Bethany poured on his head the precious ointment which she kept in a vase of alabaster; the sinner anointed his feet with a perfumed oil, and wiped them with her hair. Christ, on his part, extended his grace and mercy to the Jewesses; he raised from the dead the son of the widow of
Nain, and Martha's brother, Lazarus; he cured Simon's mother-in-law and the woman who touched the hem of his garment; to the Samaritan woman he was a spring of living water, and a compassionate judge to the woman taken in adultery. The daughters of Jerusalem wept over him; the holy women accompanied him to Calvary, brought balm and spices, and sought him weeping at the sepulchre. “ Woman, why weepest thou ?” His first appearance after his resurrection was to Magdalen. She did not recognise him; but he said to her,
Mary!” At the sound of that voice, Magdalen's eyes were opened, and she answered, “ Master!” The reflection of some beautiful ray must have rested on the brow of the Jewesses.
Fontanes appeared satisfied with these reasons, which cannot fail to be conclusive for the learned sisters.
THE LAKE SCHOOL-POETS AMONG THE
At the same time that the novel was passing to the romantic state, poetry was undergoing a similar transformation. Cowper forsook the French school, for the purpose of reviving the national school. Burns commenced the same revolution in Scotland. After them came the restorers of ballads : Coleridge, Wordsworth, Southey, Wilson, Moore, Crabbe, Morgan, Rogers, Hogg, have brought down this species of poetry to the present day. Campbell's “Pleasures of Hope,” Moore's “ Lalla Rookh,” Rogers's “ Pleasures of Memory," have obtained extraordinary success. Several of these poets belong to what is called “the Lake School,” because they resided near the Lakes of Cumberland and Westmorland, and sometimes sang their beauties.
Campbell, Moore, Rogers, Wordsworth, Southey, Hunt, Knowles, Lord Holland, are still living for the honour of English literature : but one ought to be English born in order to appreciate the full merit of particular kinds of compositions, though it is apparent enough to the countrymen of the authors. I know not if it would be possible to translate well into French the “ Melodies” of Thomas Moore, the bard of Erin. Apply this remark to those short pieces of poetry of divers denominations, which charm the mind and the ear of an Englishman, an Irishman, a Scotchman. Burns, the lyric, whose death has been sung by Campbell, and the sailor's songster, are sons of the British soil; they could not live in their energy and their grace under any other sun. We pretend to understand Anacreon and Catullus : I am persuaded that the Attic delicacy and the Roman urbanity escape us.
England has from time to time beheld poets spring up among the working classes. Bloomfield, who was bred a shoemaker, is the author of “The Farmer's Boy;" a poem, the language of which is extremely scientific. At the present day, it is a blacksmith who shines. Vulcan was the son of Jupiter. Hogg, who is just dead, the first poet of Scotland after Burns, was a farmer.
We have also our Muses among the lower classes. I shall say nothing of the fair Cordière and Clemence of Bourges, because, in spite of their talents and their names, they were wealthy. Mas