« PreviousContinue »
And I will say: Hail ancient elm of dreams, at the foot of which Byron, as a boy, indulged the caprices of his age, at the time when I was pondering on Réné in thy shade, in that same shade to which the poet subsequently repaired in his turn, to ponder on Childe Harold! Byron demanded of the cemetery which witnessed the sports of his early life an unknown grave : a fruitless prayer, which glory has not granted.
THE TWO NEW LITERARY SCHOOLS.
SOME RESEMBLANCES OF DESTINY.
SOME interest will, perhaps, be felt on remarking in future-if I am destined to have
future the coincidence presented by the two leaders of the new French and English schools, having one and the same fund of ideas, and destinies, if not manners, nearly similar : the one a peer of England, the other a peer of France; both travellers in the East, at no great distance of time from each other, but who never met. The only difference is that the life of the English poet was not mixed up with such great events as mine.
Lord Byron went to visit after me the ruins of Greece: in “ Childe Harold” he seems to embellish with his own colours the descriptions of my “ Travels." At the commencement of my pilgrimage, I introduced the farewell of Sire de Joinville to his castle : Byron, in like manner, bids adieu to his Gothic habitation. In the “
Martyrs” Eudorus sets out from Mes
senia to proceed to Rome. “ Our voyage,” he says, “was long. We saw all those promontories marked by temples or tombs. ...... We crossed the gulf of Megara. Before us was Ægina, on the right the Piræus, on the left Corinth. Those cities, of old so flourishing, exhibited only heaps of ruins. The very sailors appeared to be moved by this sight. The crowd collected upon the deck kept silence: each fixed his eyes stedfastly on those ruins; each perhaps drew from them in secret a consolation in his misfortunes, by reflecting how trifling are our own afflictions compared with those calamities which befal whole nations, and which had stretched before our eyes the corpses of those cities ...... My young companions had never heard of any other metamorphoses than those of Jupiter, and could not account for the ruins before their eyes: I, for my part, had already seated myself with the prophet on the ruins of desolate cities, and Babylon taught me what had happened to Corinth.”
Now turn to the fourth canto of Lord Byron's " Childe Harold :"
bark did skim
Along the prow, and saw all these unite
The Roman saw these tombs in his own age,
Sad wonder, and this yet surviving page
Here the English poet, as well as the French prose-writer, falls short of the letter of Sulpicius to Cicero ; but so complete a coincidence is singularly glorious for me, since I preceded the immortal bard on the shore where the same reflections occurred to both, and where we have commemorated the same ruins.
I have likewise the honour of agreeing with Lord Byron in the description of Rome. The “ Martyrs,” and my “ Letter on the Campagna of Rome," claim for me the inestimable advantage of having anticipated the inspirations of a great genius. M. de Beranger, our immortal song-writer, has inserted in the last volume of his “ Chansons ” a note, too flattering to me to be quoted entire. In adverting to the impulse which, according to him, I have given to French poetry, he says: “ The influence of the author of the • Genie du Christianisme' has been equally felt abroad, and it would, perhaps, be but just to acknowledge that the bard of Childe Harold belongs to the family of Réné *.”
* In an excellent article (Biographie Univers. Suppl.) on Lord Byron, M. Villemain has repeated the remark of M. de If it be true that “ Réné” had some influence upon the character of the single person brought forward under different names by the author of Childe Harold, Conrad, Lara, Manfred, the Giaour; if it so happened that Lord Byron has made me live with his life ; could he have had the weakness never to mention me? Am I, then, one of those fathers whom one denies when one has arrived at power? Is it possible that I can have been wholly unknown to Lord Byron, though he quotes almost all the French authors, his contemporaries ? Could it be that he never heard of me, though the English journals, like the French, rang for twenty years around him with the controversy on my works, and though the “New Times” drew a comparison between the author of the “ Genie du Christianisme” and the author of “ Childe Harold ?”
There is no nature, how highly favoured soever it may be, but has its susceptibilities, its distrusts : one is anxious to retain the sceptre; one has a
Beranger. I hope I shall be forgiven for quoting here the words which concern myself. I seek an excuse for what I here say in these pages extracted from my Memoirs: the reader will please to reckon for nothing praise bestowed through the indulgence of talent. “Some incomparable pages of · Réné,' had, it is true, exhausted this poetic character. I know not whether Byron imitated or renewed them by his genius."