Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

we had

to get rid of a work that has created so much disgust while perusing it, that we should at once renounce our profession if

many such put before us. We must, however, not forget that such is the text-book of the Royal Military Academy! For what purpose is that academy instituted ? Is it not to communicate the knowledge necessary for a soldier? And in what way does a book full of absolute conundrums, or the mere trifting curiosities of arithmetic and algebra, contribute to professional learning? The matter may be hushed up :--but the book is before the world, and it is impossible to prevent the world from exercising its judgment on the question.

The Royal Military Academy is not only the oldest, but has hitherto been the most respectable military seminary in this country. It is the school by which English military education is judged of on the Continent; and upon its reputation depends the reputation for science, of the English soldier. We confess, our own feelings on this subject are very strong, and we are incessantly pained by the remarks we continually hear upon the falling-off of our country's pride. Now, with a work like Professor Christie's (which would have been scouted at Cambridge, even during his undergraduateship, nearly half a century ago) thus put forth in 1845, as a high standard of mathematical science, what kind of figure shall we cut throughout Europe? How will the French and German Professors leer over its pages,

and the members of the Institute' shrug their shoulders, as they glance through this work,—the production of the Professsor of Mathematics in the first military school of England! Our very ink blushes as we write!

We do most sincerely believe, that there has never been one single cadet commisioned from the Royal Military Academy, who would, when leaving it, have been qualified to enter the Polytechnic School ; and we have heard the same remark made by one who knew more of the real condition of the Academy than we possibly can—by a gentleman who had occupied the chair, which Professor Christie now occupies. That there are many obstacles to any improvement of that Institution, operating from without, as well as from within, we do believe ; and had we room we could point out a few very striking ones. Under its present constitution it is not only useless to the country, but it is derogatory to our national honor :-it is calculated to create reliance upon a broken reed, by leading us to believe that our military men are educated so as to fit them for scientific officers. It may be well for England, with such a system of military education, that peace should be maintained !

AN ODE TO THE QUEEN !*

This is an odd, but pregnant little volume; ambitiously, but we trust honestly addressed. It is the warmth of patriotism, we presume, or love for justice, that impels Mr. Bain, from the far North, to seek, like Jeannie Deans, the foot of the throne. Although appearing in an age when few books can expect to live, we think the present emits sparks of vitality strongly prognostic of longevity, either in the author or his product. It abounds, we would say, in mind and observation, bearing on, or aiming at topics of high import; and shows that the land of song and fiction has not yet ceased to yield its marvels of genius. Whether the premiership or laureateship is most aspired to is not clear ; in prose and verse--for Mr. Bain presents his credentials in both guises,-bold pretensions are put in for either. The Laureate, we suspect, is in most jeopardy, and has been described as an officer, rejoicing in one hundred pounds and a pipe of wine for addressing the Sovereign once in every year, and is now paid the same amount for holding his tongue. In truth, the office seems exploded, and the emoluments may follow; yet, here is a volunteer laureate (not royal, indeed, but national), who seems to show that, in proper hands, few offices would be more useful. Stepping at once into the vacant throne, and taking Europe, or rather the world, so far as we are connected with it, for his audience and his theme, he proclaims what it is and what we are, or ought to be, 'Castigatque mores, nec sinit esse feros.' Such, we take it, is the true business of a poet ; for poets are said to be the legislators of the world, and as their sentiments are, if they deserve their name, condensed and wrapt up in a form to fit them, Virum volitare per ora, they are naturally its legislators.

In the Claims of Labor,' we notice it is asked (referring to the masters of thought,' as poets are there termed), 'What is the use of wondrous gifts of language, if they are employed to enervate, and not to ennoble their hearers? What avails it to trim the lights of history, if they are made to throw no brightness on the present, or open up no tract into the future? and to employ imagination only in the service of vanity or gain, is, as if an astronomer were to use his telescope only to magnify the pot-herbs in his kitchen garden.”—That grace of language

Æra Astræa, or the Age of Justice ; an Ode to Her Most Gracious Majesty Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Australiæ et Indorum Imperatrici c, By Donald Bain. An Ode such as the Laureate should have sung!” Menzies, Edinburgh ; Smith and Elder, London. 12mo., pp. 224.

which can make even common place things beautiful, throwing robes of the purest texture into forms of all attractive loveliness -why does it not expend its genius on materials that would be worthy of the artist? The great interests of man are before it, are crying for it, can absorb all its endeavours; are, indeed, the noblest field for it; think of this, then, think what a waste of high intellectual endowments there has been in all ages, from the meanest of motives ! Surely the true poet will do something to lift the burden off his own age.'-Economists teach that, if there be a demand for any product, there will be a supply, and here we have proof: the author we have extracted implores the aid of immortal verse, and adjures its votaries to shun vain themes, and direct their genius to the great interests of man.' In the writer before us the call is bravely responded to, and Mr. Donald Bain is the coming bard that has stepped forth, with no little pretension, to fill the empty niche in the muses' temple.

In a similar spirit M. De Lamartine appeals to the historian. In his late Essay, 'On the manner of writing History for the People,' he says:

In writing history for the people, you must consider TRUTH alone.' • There are three principal views which you may take ; that of glory, that of patriotism, and that of civilization, or the morality of the acts you are about to relate. If you consider the act under the aspect of glory, you will delight a warlike nation, which has been dazzled long before it has been enlightened, and which this false glory has so often blinded as to the true value of the men and things which appeared in the horizon. If you place yourself in the exclusive point of view of its patriotism, you will excite all the enthusiasm of a people, which pleads the excuse of its safety and its greatness for its lofty egotism; and which in the feeling of its greatness and its strength has sometimes forgotten that it was not alone in Europe. But neither of these points will give you the real trnth. It is not the truth circumscribed within the limits of a nation that you ought to inculcate.What then remains ? The universal and permanent point of view, that is to say, the point of view of the morality of the actions of individuals, or of nations which you have to describe. This alone can guide the infirmity of human judgments, through the labyrnth of personal or national prejudices, opinions, passions, interests : and enable a people to say, “ This is right, this is wrong, this is great or noble ; in a word,” if you wish to form the judgment of the masses, to rescue them from the immoral doctrine of success, do what has never been done yet,-give a conscience to history. This is the work demanded for our age, and worthy of our people.'

Here then are the concurrent, and we are sure independent opinions, of some of the master minds of two of the most interesting portions of Europe-England and France. Scotland has now shown that she is not behind ; on the contrary, what these men have been recommending a Scottish poet has been doing for years; and the present poem and its appendages are the result. We may infer, therefore, that a new era of thought is opening upon us, or rather has already opened ; that while England has been unhappy, her rescue has been preparing ; and that while, the vain and unthinking of France are rushing to read the glories of 'The Consulate and the Empire, in the tinsel lustre thrown over them by Thiers, Lamartine has been reducing them to the skeleton of truth, and showing that, 'all these glories lead but to the grave' of contempt and infamy, and preparing them to hear this knell to all their foolish, fond imaginings,' from the lips of a distant poet :

• Under your Empire know ye not ye were
Robbers and Murderers on the largest scale ?
Your Jena, Friedland, Austerlitz, whate'er
Your follies name them, are a hideous tale
Of frantic villany !'-
You must no more the tainted air inhale
Of such achievements, unchastized by that

Which was their only due—the world's contempt and hate.' But we are speaking of 'An Ode to the Queen;' yes, but no more like such things in general than is 'Hyperion to a satyr. This is an ode to the Queen, and to the Queen, too, of a state declared in almost Miltonic strain

High o'er all height, the highest upon earth.' But though it consists of nearly four thousand lines, acccompanied by a preface and notes exceeding eighty pages, and says many things of her Majesty and to her Majesty, there is not one taint of that most nauseating of all things, gross flattery, and worst of all, flattery to rank. It is guiltless of all tufthunting, and, on the contrary, absorbingly devoted to the materiel interests of the state, and of mankind in general.' Many things are said that seem due to her Majesty

• Both as she is a woman and a queen ;' but they are so guarded by truth and dignity that they pleasingly relieve many other severities.

Of what then does the subject-matter really treat? It is difficult to answer this; it is a melange, and all we can aim at is to show samples of the chief components. The performance sets out with declaring

There's something rotten in the state of Denmark ;' and it adds, in the way of announcing its own business, that as

successive Ministers have seemed either unable or unwilling to suggest what is necessary to be done at present, it becomes the duty of others.'. In pursuance of this, the suggestions that appear to be necessary are made, first in clear and explicit

VOL. I.-NO. IX.

AA

1

prose, and we must add, many of them are more to our mind, and we think, when known, they will prove more to the satisfaction of the country, than some of the doings of Ministers; and next, they are given, and more fully, in verse, always clear and vigorous, and for the most part correct. It appears to us astonishing, indeed, with what clearness the author both announces and enforces his many propositions on subjects generally considered so unfit for poetry; but there they are, and if they have justice many of them will soon become household words. Certainly, we do not remember to have read anything so earnest, so long sustained, and on the whole so faultless in conception and expression, upon such subjects ; and we think this circumstance in particular must show aspirants for distinction in this department with what labor and mastery of their

sk such distinction must be sought. The thoughts are evidently the condensation of the reflections of years, this is indeed repeatedly referred to.

It is but justice to say, that the author seems quite aware of the imputed tastes of the period in which he writes; but he liberally repudiates the imputation, and assumes that the failure is in the poets and not in the public, which it must be admitted lays a severe duty on himself

. The purpose of the present author is no less than this :

[ocr errors]

Even from the steps by which we have climbed and climb,
To teach a nation's movements to all future time.'
But why in verse, 'tis said, should Byron rise,
And write again of his immortal Romo ?
He were unheeded ; verse has energies

No prose, however labored, can assume.'
And as to the rest-

' But who are in our master-spirit's room?

Repealers, Churchmen,-scandals of the time!' And he adds, with a firmness that nothing but a strong determination at achievement could justify,

• The state shall yet in pristine beauty bloom,
Reformed and chastened by the lofty rhyme

That scorns all change of taste and all effects of time.' He then proceeds to inform the Queen what is really amiss that is worth amending, whether at home or abroad; and how (in his opinion) it may be amended ; and this is really the pith of his undertaking. As we have said, we would gladly give some of the chief points raised by Mr. Bain, because they are, in our opinion, worthy of the deepest consideration.

« AnteriorContinuar »