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old Marquis calls a fond gaillard. By nature, by course of breeding, indeed by nation, Mirabeau has much more of bluster; a noisy, forward, unresting man. But the characteristic of Mirabeau too is veracity and sense, power of true insight, superiority of vision. The thing that he says is worth remembering. It is a flash of insight into some object or other : so do both these men speak. The same raging passions ; capable too in both of manifesting themselves as the tenderest noble affections. Wit, wild laughter, energy, directness, sincerity : these were in both. The types of the two men are not dissimilar. Burns too could have governed, debated in National Assemblies ; politicised, as few could. Alas, the courage which had to exhibit itself in capture of smuggling schooners in the Solway Frith ; in keeping silence over so much, where no good speech, but only inarticulate rage was possible : this might have bellowed forth Ushers de Brézé and the like ; and made itself visible to all men, in managing of kingdoms, in ruling of great ever
memorable epochs ! But they said to him reprovingly, his Official Superiors said, and wrote : «You are to work, not think.' Of your thinking-faculty, the greatest in this land, we have no need ; you are to gauge beer there ; for that only are you wanted. Very notable ;—and worth mentioning, though we know what is to be said and answered! As if Thought, Power of Thinking, were not, at all times, in all places and situations of the world, precisely the thing that was wanted. The fatal man, is he not always the unthinking man, the man who cannot think and see; but only grope, and hallucinate, and missee the nature of the thing he works with ? He missees it, mistakes it as we say ; takes it for one thing, and it is another thing,—and leaves him standing like a Futility there! He is the fatal man ; unutterably fatal, put in the high places of men.
-"Why complain of this ?” say some : “Strength is mournfully denied its arena; that was true from of old.” Doubtless ; and the worse for the arena, answer I! Complaining profits little ; stating of the truth may profit. That a Europe, with its French Revolution just breaking out, finds no need of a Burns except for gauging beer,-is a thing I, for one, cannot rejoice at !
Once more we have to say here, that the chief quality of
Burns is the sincerity of him. So in his Poetry, so in his Life. The Song he sings is not of fantasticalities; it is of a thing felt, really there; the prime merit of this, as of all in him, and of his Life generally, is truth. The Life of Burns is what we may call a great tragic sincerity. A sort of savage sincerity,— not cruel, far from that; but wild, wrestling naked with the truth of things. In that sense, there is something of the savage in all great men.
Hero-worship,-Odin, Burns? Well; these Men of Letters too were not without a kind of Hero-worship : but what a strange condition has that got into now ! The waiters and ostlers of Scotch inns, prying about the door, eager to catch any word that fell from Burns, were doing unconscious reverence to the Heroic. Johnson had his Boswell for worshipper. Rousseau had worshippers enough ; princes calling on him in his mean garret; the great, the beautiful doing reverence to the poor moonstruck man. For himself a most portentous contradiction; the two ends of his life not to be brought into harmony. He sits at the tables of grandees; and has to copy music for his own living. He cannot even get his music copied. “ By dint of dining out,” says he, “I run the risk of dying by starvation at home.” For his worshippers too a most questionable thing! If doing Hero-worship well or badly be the test of vital wellbeing or illbeing to a generation, can we say that these generations are very first-rate ?—And yet our heroic Men of Letters do teach, govern, are kings, priests, or what you like to call them ; intrinsically there is no preventing it by any means whatever. The world has to obey him who thinks and sees in the world. The world can alter the manner of that ; can either have it as blessed continuous summer sunshine, or as unblessed black thunder and tornado, — with unspeakable difference of profit for the world ! The manner of it is very alterable ; the matter and fact of it is not alterable by any power under the sky. Light; or, failing that, lightning : the world can take its choice. Not whether we call an Odin god, prophet, priest, or what we call him; but whether we believe the word he tells us : there it all lies. If it be a true wor we shall have to believe it ; believing it, we shall have to do it. What name or welcome we give him or it, is a point that concerns ourselves mainly. It, the new Truth, new deeper revealing of the Secret of this Universe, is verily of the nature of a message from on high; and must and will have itself obeyed. —
My last remark is on that notablest phasis of Burns's his. tory,—his visit to Edinburgh. Often it seems to me as if his demeanour there were the highest proof he gave of what a fund of worth and genuine manhood was in him. If we think of it, few heavier burdens could be laid on the strength of a man. So sudden; all common Lionism, which ruins innumerable men, was as nothing to this. It is as if Napoleon had been made a King of, not gradually, but at once from the Artillery Lieutenancy in the Regiment La Fère. Burns, still only in his twentyseventh year, is no longer even a ploughman; he is flying to the West Indies to escape disgrace and a jail. This month he is a ruined peasant, his wages seven pounds a year, and these gone from him : next month he is in the blaze of rank and beauty, handing down jewelled Duchesses to dinner ; the cynosure of all eyes! Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity. I admire much the way in which Burns met all this. Perhaps no man one could point out, was ever so sorely tried, and so little forgot himself. Tranquil, unastonished; not abashed, not inflated, neither awkwardness nor affectation : he feels that he there is the man Robert Burns ; that the rank is but the guinea-stamp;' that the celebrity is but the candle-light, which will show what man, not in the least make him a better or other man! Alas, it may readily, unless he look to it, make him a worse man; a wretched inflated windbag,-inflated till he burst, and become a dead lion ; for whom, as some one has said, there is no resurrection of the body;' worse than a living dog !- Burns is admirable here.
And yet, alas, as I have observed elsewhere, these Lionhunters were the ruin and death of Burns. It was they that rendered it impossible for him to live! They gathered round him in his Farm ; hindered his industry; no place was remote enough from them. He could not get his Lionism forgotten, honestly as he was disposed to do so. He falls into discontents, into miseries, faults; the world getting ever more desolate for him ; health, character, peace of mind all gone ;--solitary enough now. It is tragical to think of! These men came but to see him ; it was out of no sympathy with him, nor no hatred to him. They came to get a little amusement: they got their amusement ;—and the Hero's life went for it!
Richter says, in the Island of Sumatra there is a kind of Light-chafers,' large Fire-flies, which people stick upon spits, and illuminate the ways with at night. Persons of condition can thus travel with a pleasant radiance, which they much admire. Great honour to the Fire-flies ! But-|
THE HERO AS KING. CROMWELL, NAPOLEON : MODERN
[Friday, 22d May 1840.]
We come now to the last form of Heroism; that which we call Kingship. The Commander over Men; he to whose will our wills are to be subordinated, and loyally surrender themselves, and find their welfare in doing so, may be reckoned the most important of Great Men. He is practically the summary for us of all the various figures of Heroism; Priest, Teacher, whatsoever of earthly or of spiritual dignity we can fancy to reside in a man, embodies itself here, to command over us, to furnish us with constant practical teaching, to tell us for the day and hour what we are to do. He is called Rex, Regulator, Roi: our own name is still better ; King, Könning, which means Can-ning, Able-man,
Numerous considerations, pointing towards deep, questionable, and indeed unfathomable regions, present themselves here : on the most of which we must resolutely for the present forbear to speak at all. As Burke said that perhaps fair Trial by Jury was the soul of Government, and that all legislation, administration, parliamentary debating, and the rest of it, went on, in order to bring twelve impartial men into a jury-box;'so, by much stronger reason, may I say here, that the finding of your Ableman and getting him invested with the symbols of ability, with dignity, worship (worth-ship), royalty, kinghood, or whatever we call it, so that he may actually have room to guide according to his faculty of doing it,—is the business, well or ill accomplished, of all social procedure whatsoever in this