Abbildungen der Seite


Charles II., writes to his sovereign of ness, and a sharpness of outline in the un nommė Miltonius whose dangerous form, a good-sense and moderation in the writings had made him more infamous thought, the brisk movement, the frankthan the regicides themselves. Flau- ness that conceals nothing, the good-humor, bert patronizingly observed that Scott joviality, gauloiserie, and clearness, all

make him less of an anomaly in French decidedly had imagination, and that

literature than he is in English. In addialthough “ Pickwick ” contained some fine things, it was spoiled by its lack of desultory life, his bohemian temperament


tion, his passionate heart, his irregular and plan. These examples are chosen at careless and ever in opposition, his attitude hazard, but any one of moderately wide towards women, are all in accordance with reading might easily multiply them, the notions generally held of the French. and more pertinently. On the other He would find in France brothers, persons hand, we may set over against such of the same blood and of the same way of

of judgment Sainte-Beuve's life, companions, not to say comrades. In wonderful appreciation of Pope and England he has none, or they are less strikCowper; M. Taine's fine portrait and ing; Amid the wonder of all he is isolated, criticism of Milton ; M. Jusserand's a phenomenon having no connection with estimate of the importance of the nov- torum, by which he is explained, possesses

any one. The perfervidum ingenium Scoels of Elizabethan England; and we itself something that is French or at least may also note M. Emile Montégut's Celtic. A celebrated Scotch geologist, derecognition in a luminous passage of voted to the poetry of his native land, criticism, so long ago as 1855, of the remarked to us recently that Burns was causes that would ultimately produce more like a Frenchman than an Englishthe Robert Elsmeres and the David man. Is it necessary to hasten to add that Grieves of our own day.

we put forward no sort of claim to Burns? Since the publication of M. Angel- We only desire to make use of received lier's book we have heard much ridicule ideas on the two literatures to mark clearly of the notion that a Frenchman could the quality of a writer ; and it is one more

proof of the defects of wide general opinpossibly appreciate Burns. Even if ions on races, that they are only obtained such was the case - and we hold that, by ignoring transpositions such as these. in regard to Burns, it is far from being 80 — no one can in justice disregard M. If, then, there is any truth in these Angellier's pregnant remark, made by observations, it is not necessarily so no means in self-justification, be it great an absurdity for a Frenchman to understood, that "there is a greater devote some years of his life to the likeness between two men of different study of Burns. From one point of races and similar temperament than view, indeed, it must be more useful between two men of the same race and and intelligible to us than to those of different temperaments.” For hun- Frenchmen who are unable to read the dreds of years there was a close his- poems in the original. Let us hasten torical connection between Scotland to add that we are by no means of those and France ; there is an old saying superior minds that hold translations quoted by Shakespeare : “If that you in high contempt. Indeed we are hetwill France win, then with Scotland erodox enough to believe that it is betfirst begin ;' the nations seemed to ter to be acquainted with a literature understand one another. And there through the medium of translation than was much in the temperament of Burns not to be acquainted with it at all. But that would find an echo in the hearts of although a literal, unmetrical translaFrenchmen. As M. Angellier puts it: tion of Burns's exquisite songs, for Burns would seem better fitted to take

example, may preserve the thought his place in French literature. He forcibly

and substance, it can give no idea of reminds us of Regnier, of Villon, at times the form and melody, of the simplicity of Saint-Amant and of Olivier Basselin. and tenderness of the original. With Something of liveliness and unconstraint in the epistles, the

“ Cottar's Saturday his work, a certain robustness, a concise-Night,” and other of the descriptive


poems, the translator is in better case. nutely their aspeci and scenery. We Songs are the most untranslatable of follow Burns from Alloway to Mount things, and to love and appreciate Oliphant, and are with him at Lochlea, Burns, Heine, and Béranger at their Irvine, Mossgiel, and Mauchline. Edinproper value, we must perforce be able burgh, as it must have appeared to to read them in their native tongue. Burns on his first memorable visit after

the publication of the volume of poems I.

that made the peasant the lion of the We have no intention of attempting season, is picturesquely portrayed, with to make here any elaborate study of its manners, its customs, its intellectual Burns, either biographical or critical, society. The conversation of that so

our own account. After Scott ciety is compared with that of Paris : Douglas and Lockhart, Christopher North and Carlyle, Shairp and Steven- tional life somewhat resembling that of the

There was a highly developed conversason, such an attempt on our part would

French. But instead of gay, sparkling, be folly and presumption. We propose brilliant sentences, full of sallies and surto do nothing more than indicate the prises, instead of the vivid wit and fancy lines of M. Angellier's work.

that animated French drawing-rooms, conHis reasons for undertaking it he versation in Edinburgh was more serious states thus :

and sedate, more nearly approaching a reg

ular discussion, with as much boldness and It seemed to us that, taking into account paradox perhaps, but of a more formal turn, the place his name holds in the world, of a more dogmatic tone. Neither wit nor Burns was not sufficiently known in France. charm nor elegance were wanting, but they The few existing studies on the subject are were exercised with a kind of professional cursory; the greater number of them ap-discipline and order. The leaders of conpeared before the latest documents, many versation were not, as at Paris, bohemians of them of importance, were published. It like Rousseau, Diderot, Duclos, Galiani, seemed to us also, that even after the En-Beaumarchais ; they were judges, clergyglish biographies, of which many are ad- men, professors, lawyers, all more or less mirable, it might be possible to make wearing the dignity and the black robes of clearer some of the spiritual conjunctures a learned profession ; neither must we forof his life. That desire decided us to un- get the religious atmosphere in which this dertake this work. Doubtless also, in some society lived and moved and had its being. obscure fashion, a secret sympathy with his But granting that difference, Edinburgh original and great mind helped to urge it was certainly at that time, with Paris, the

town of Europe where the art of conver

sation was cultivated to the highest perThe murder is out, for it is that same fection, and where it formed one of the secret sympathy that lends M. Angel- elements of social life. lier's book its interest and its charm. Indulgence and a large-hearted sym- The tavern life and drinking habits pathy for the grave faults of Burns the of the Scotch capital at that period are man, clear recognition and sincere ap- vividly described, and in them M. Anpreciation of Burns the poet, give a gellier tinds some excuse for Burns's permanency and a value to a work that deplorable weakness. His travels on might so easily have been superflu- the Border and in the Highlands are

The author makes little or no followed by his meeting with Mrs. claim to the discovery of new matter, Maclehose (Clarinda); their letters and beyond the quotation of certain entries their interviews are sufficiently romanin the registers of Mauchline Church tic if somewhat unimpassioned, and the relating to the Jean Armour episode ; episode terminated, curiously enough, these, he erroneously supposes, have with Burns's marriage with Jean Arnever before appeared in any biography mour, and his settling as a farmer at of the poet. M. Angellier has made Ellisland. But farming turned out a pilgrimages to all the places in which failure, and as he had shared the profits Burns lived, and describes most mi-l of his volume of poems with his brother

on us.




Gilbert, Burns was in straits. An ap- wise and tender estimate. M. Angel. pointment in the excise was offered lier warns us that to judge a character and accepted ; to undertake such work we must, first of all, clearly recognize that must have been no small sacrifice to the history of a character, like that of an the poet, and it is to be deplored that organism or of a society, is not a clean the post presented much temptation to page, a resting-place of purity, but an excess in drinking Poverty and ill- oscillating balance of life and death, a comhealth assailed him, the farm was aban-bat of good and evil, the difficult liberation doned forever, and Burns and his of a little order from much disorder, the family finally took up their abode at mingling of the light and shadows that fill Dumfries. It was there that we get universe rolls on its course. No life, no

the years, and in the midst of which the the first practical signs of his sympathy epoch, realizes good. They fulfil their duty with the French Revolution. The par, if they gain and leave behind them some ticular way in which the event touched progress ; they are not to be judged by the Burns is well put by his French critic : point at which they stop, but by the amount

A remarkable circumstance! Here again, of road they traversed. The true verdict the uncultured obscure peasant, performing on every man is that the good counterbalhis lowly labors in the depths of Scotland, ances or lessens the evil, that one fault, was in entire sympathy with the highest nay, many faults, do not destroy a soul minds of his epoch. He possessed the su- that can point to effects towards the good ; preme gift of poets, a comprehension of the that a life is a whole, of which the general particle of eternal justice that rolls through effect, the intention, the average, so to say, human anarchy.

Like his brethren in must be taken into account. poetry, Coleridge and Wordsworth, he had And then, it is so dangerous, so prediscerned it. Their souls had also been sumptuous, to judge harshly of others. torn by the conflict between their love of How impossible a thing it is to know country and their enthusiasm in the cause of humanity. They, too, had sacrificed the for certain the springs and motives of lesser sentiment to the greater. . . . But the men's actions! In the words of with Burns the pain could not take a purely

Burns himself, intellectual form, or culminate in a deep, One point must still be greatly dark, meditative sadness, as with Wordsworth, The moving why they do it. or pour itself out in lyric passion as with

M. Angellier sums up the character Coleridge. Cultivated men make of their

of Burns so ably and so eloquently that minds a retired 'sanctuary where joys and

we cannot forbear quoting at some sorrows are far removed from actual life, a sanctuary to which they sometimes retreat

length. After stating that pride and to enjoy their pride or to conceal their dis- the passions were the mainsprings and gust. Burns had no such refuge. Actual rulers of Burns's life, he thus conlife was too close to his mind, he could not tinues : get away from it, and his thoughts found To moderate and direct such violent emoexpression in his acts. The conflict did tions, a solid moral discipline was needed. not produce in him, as in Wordsworth, a It was entirely wanting : he bad neither moral disturbance, sorrowful doubtless, but doctrine nor will. He was ever the playrestricted to the speculative view of things. thing of his passions. Ile never once turned It caused in Burns a daily irritability. on them to make head against them. He

Inexorable fate drew her meshes had no consolidation of character. His was closer round him. Tortured by disease a receptive nature, capable of energetie reand by fears for the future of his chil- action. His heart was a cross-road where dren, for with all his faults he was a the winds of all the climes passeil, met, and good father, he died before attaining fought together. The line of his life was

a broken track of a series of chances and his prime.

accidents. The incomparable vivacity of For the most part of them, Burns's actual sensation which is the great quality biographers regard him as either angel of his literary productions was the great or devil. Those who love justice and vice of his conduct. He was seized, irrecan sympathize with and pardon human sistibly carried away, by it. Emotions in weakness, will ever turn to Carlyle’s | passing through him took possession of

him. He always belonged entirely to the think of his sincerity, his straightforwardpresent, without heed of the future, some-ness, his kindness to men and beasts, his times without remembrance of the past. disdain of all meannesses, his hatred of ... His generosity only existed in its knavery, in itself an honor, his disinterestspontaneity and impulse. Prolonged or edness, his fine impulses, his lofty inspirathought-out generosity, that is, sacrifice, tion, the intense ideality necessary to keep he did not possess.

his soul above his destiny ; when we think As his personality was strong and power- that he experienced those generous sentiful, submission to the exigencies of his ments to the point that they actually were instincts and imagination often led him his intellectual life, and that so ardently into the greatest error of his life – egoism. did he feel them that his soul was a furnace He was a generous egoist, a man of disin- in which precious metals were smelted and terested tendencies but of selfish conduct. came forth jewels, we say to ourselves that He lacked forgetfulness of self, the sense, he was of the flower of mankind and of we do not say of sacrifice or even of efface- great goodness ; . . what he did not sucment of self, but of subordination of self. ceed in or what he did not undertake is He could never yield up even his most triv- nothing by the side of what he accomial and transient desires to the vital and plished. enduring interests of others. There was And who can say, that in the lives of no common measure between him and men like Burns, as in those of Rousseau, them. And that want of consideration for Byron, Musset, George Sand, if we knew others, the suffering inflicted by him on more of them in those of Shakespeare or others, is what weighs heaviest on his Molière — there may not be a profound usememory. A hermit, a Stylites, can detach fulness even in their weakness? They himself from his fellows, and live isolated fulfil a different function from those of in his cave or on his pillar. A man living Dante, Milton, and Corneille, but one in the midst of men cannot do so. And by equally indispensable. Those lives offer an reason of the influence he exercised over austere model and a noble vindication of those with whom he came in contact, duty. But the others offer perhaps more Burns could do so less than others. He human sentiments : the knowledge of the who had the objectivity of intellect that failings of the best of us, a powerlessness enabled him to create beings, had none of to refuse them pardon, and as a result the heart; in certain decisive cases he was practice of pity. How great a loss, not in almost unconscious of existences outside beauty and artistic charm, but in necessary his own. Indeed it must be said that he goodness, it would be to the soul of the sacrificed the pain and sadness of others to human race if those men had not by their his need for poetry, and nourished the fascination compelled it to feel pity for dreams of which he formed his works on their suffering !... It is to them that human tears. If we look closely, few poets humanity in part owes its compassionate are exempt from such cruelty ; perhaps few heart. . . . No one contributed more than

But they scarcely turn the pain Burns to the sacred work. Thus, in spite they create to so rare a use, or change the of the severity called up by some of his tears they cause to flow into pearls of which actions, the verdict of mankind will be they later form diadems and necklaces for merciful. those who shed them. He was the first of the line of modern poets who made love the Difficult as it is in translation and in sole occupation of their life. He was also more or less disjointed quotations to the first to make passion the excuse for his give an adequate idea of M. Angellier's bad actions ; and we are not speaking here vivacity and of his warm sympathy of literary influence or inspiration, but only with his subject, it will perhaps be of moral condition. There again le antici- patent that M. Angellier is a powerful pated Byron and the school of Continental and eloquent counsel, and that his poets who imitated him, down to Musset

point of view is psychologically interand George Sand. ... Weigh his errors, his faults, as heavily as

esting. But we are not sure that the you like, the scale containing the pure gold pleading was necessary. The poetry outbalances that containing the base lead. of Burns holds an uncontested place in Admiration increases in proportion as you the literature of the world — his songs examine his fine qualities. When you are on the lips and in the hearts of high

men are.


and low alike ; and had his life or his too well known to need repetition here. temperament been other than it was, it Great as are Béranger and Heine, is possible that art might have been Burns is greater, and to find his peers the poorer.

we must go back to the great Elizabethans.

After an elaborate disquisition on the WHILE desiring to express a sense literary origins of Burns, and on Scotof the interest and of the excellent tish popular poetry, dealing of course workmanship, to say nothing of the with the immediate poetical ancestors literary charm, of the biography, it is of Burns, Allan Ramsay and Robert perhaps the second volume of the Fergusson, M. Angellier comes to the work, consisting of a careful and elabo- wise conclusion that whatever may rate critical estimate of Burns's poetry, have been his debt to them, Burns that will give M. Angellier's book its owed more to the spectacle of life, to greatest value in the eyes of its British his own passions, to the thousand asreaders.

pects of nature, than to books. He He, at the outset, disclaims any at- then proceeds to discuss human life in tempt at scientific criticism, and by Burns, and observes with absolute way of illustration takes the opportu- truth that what chiefly strikes us in nity to point out the faults of M. reading Burns is a feeling of intense Taine's critical methods. M. Angellier and eager life, almost turbulent in its prefers the æsthetic criticism, and de- tumult and movement. His subjects clares that:

are the outcome of reality, penetrated Critics, to whatever branch of art they with the facts of real life. There is no devote themselves, are merely kneaders of repose. He was placed by destiny in a dough and distributors of the consecrated position excellently calculated to debread. It is their task to reveal the beauti- velop that particular bent of his genius. ful, to divide it into parts, to bring it within He took his happy and novel metathe reach of him who, launched in action phors fronı his daily toil, and in earning or fully taken up by labor, has no time to his bread learned his language. He seek it himself ; yet he demands it, in order described the life immediately round to give to his ambitions or his desires a him, and as in some senses a purely brilliance and a setting, or a refuge and a

national, nay, a purely local poet. A consolation.

small village is often better for the obM. Angellier divides Burns's liter- servation of men than a big city. In ary production into two classes. First, the latter, individuality becomes rapthe pieces written before his visit to idly obscured; while in the former, Edinburgh, comprising the familiar men keep their native imprint. It epistles and short descriptive poems ; must also be remembered that Burns, they are the longest of his works, were like Chaucer, Shakespeare, Bunyan, all inspired by actual occurrences, and and Dickens, among the great English make Burns the best painter of the painters of reality, received no literary manners of his country. Second, the education, had no literary ideal. Such poems written after the visit to Edin- men do not strive after literary perfecburgh, consisting mainly of songs, tion, but after truth. Burns's characrelating not to particular acts, but to ters are not, M. Angellier points out, feelings that are simple and common to poetical peasants, as in the pastorals of most. By these poems, the critic finds George Sand ; nor are they philosophic that Burns is the chief song-writer of vagabonds, as in the songs of Béranhis land, and one of the chief song- ger. writers of all lands. “It may be said The humor of Burns is characterized that each of his songs had its birth in as merry and gay, his raillery as witha melody ; music and verse were in- out ill temper; he is no moralist, but a deed born together. Carlyle's estimate purely picturesque painter like Teniers of Burns's influence as a song-writer island Ostade. In the forcibleness and

« ZurückWeiter »