« AnteriorContinuar »
shuts it from our sight, also blots it from our memory like a dream. In travelling through a wild barren country, I can form no idea of a woody and cultivated one. It appears to me that all the world must be barren, like what I see of it. In the country we forget the town, and in town we despise the country. Beyond Hyde Park," says Sir Topling Flutter, "all is a desert." All that part of the map that we do not see before us is a blank. The world, in our conceit of it, is not much bigger than a nutshell. It is not one prospect expanded into another, county joined to county, kingdom to kingdom, lands to seas, making an image voluminous and vast ;-the mind can form no larger idea of space than the eye can take in at a single glance. The rest is a name written in a map, a calculation of arithmetic. For instance, what is the true signification of that immense mass of territory and population, known by the name of China, to us? An inch of pasteboard on a wooden globe, of no more account than a China orange! Things near us are seen of the size of life: things at a distance are diminished to the size of the understanding. We measure the universe by ourselves, and even comprehend the texture of our own being only piece-meal. In this way, however, we remember an infinity of things and places. The mind is like a mechanical instrument that plays a great variety of tunes, but it must play them in succession. One idea recalls another, but it at the same time excludes all others. In trying to renew old recollections, we cannot as it were unfold the whole web of our existence; we must pick out the single threads. So in coming to a place where we have formerly lived, and with which we have intimate associations, every one must have found that the feeling grows more vivid the nearer we approach the spot, from the mere anticipation of the actual impression: we remember circumstances, feelings, persons, faces, names, that we had not thought of for years; but for the time all the rest of the world is forgotten!-To return to the question I have quitted above.
I have no objection to go to see ruins, aqueducts, pictures, in company with a friend or a party, but rather the contrary, for the former reason reversed. They are intelligible matters, and will bear talking about. The sentiment here is not tacit, but communicable and overt. Salisbury Plain is barren of criticism, but Stonehenge will bear a discussion antiquarian, picturesque, and philosophical. In setting out on a party of pleasure, the first consideration always is where we shall go to in taking a solitary ramble, the question is what we shall meet with by the way. "The mind is its own place;" nor are we anxious to arrive at the end of our journey. I can myself do the honours indifferently well to works of art and curiosity. I once took a party to Oxford with no mean eclat-shewed them that seat of the Muses at a distance,
With glistering spires and pinnacles adorn'd❞—
descanted on the learned air that breathes from the grassy quadrangles and stone walls of halls and colleges-was at home in the Bodleian; and at Blenheim quite superseded the powdered Cicerone that attended us, and that pointed in vain with his wand to common-place beauties in
matchless pictures.-As another exception to the above reasoning, I should not feel confident in venturing on a journey in a foreign country without a companion. I should want at intervals to hear the sound of my own language. There is an involuntary antipathy in the mind of an Englishman to foreign manners and notions, that requires the assistance of social sympathy to carry it off. As the distance from home increases, this relief, which was at first a luxury, becomes a passion and an appetite. A person would almost feel stifled to find himself in the deserts of Arabia without friends and countrymen: there must be allowed to be something in the view of Athens or old Rome that claims the utterance of speech; and I own that the Pyramids are too mighty for any single contemplation. In such situations, so opposite to all one's ordinary train of ideas, one seems a species by one'sself, a limb torn off from society, unless one can meet with instant fellowship and support.-Yet I did not feel this want or craving very pressing once, when I first set my foot on the laughing shores of France. Calais was peopled with novelty and delight. The confused, busy murmur of the place was like oil and wine poured into my ears; nor did the mariners' hymn, which was sung from the top of an old crazy vessel in the harbour, as the sun went down, send an alien sound into my soul. I only breathed the air of general humanity. I walked over the vine-covered hills and gay regions of France," erect and satisfied; for the image of man was not cast down and chained to the foot of arbitrary thrones: I was at no loss for language, for that of all the great schools of painting was open to me. The whole is vanished like a shade. Pictures, heroes, glory, freedom, all are fled: nothing remains but the Bourbons and the French people!-There is undoubtedly a sensation in travelling into foreign parts that is to be had nowhere else: but it is more pleasing at the time than lasting. It is too remote from our habitual associations to be a common topic of discourse or reference, and, like a dream or another state of existence, does not piece into our daily modes of life. It is an animated but a momentary hallucination. It demands an effort to exchange our actual for our ideal identity; and to feel the pulse of our old transports revive very keenly, we must jump" all our present comforts and connexions. Our romantic and itinerant character is not to be domesticated. Dr. Johnson remarked how little foreign travel added to the facilities of conversation in those who had been abroad. In fact, the time we have spent there is both delightful and in one sense instructive; but it appears to be cut out of our substantial, downright existence, and never to join kindly on to it. We are not the same, but another, and perhaps more enviable individual, all the time we are out of our own country. We are lost to ourselves, as well as our friends. So the poet somewhat quaintly sings,
"Out of my country and myself I go."
Those who wish to forget painful thoughts, do well to absent themselves for a while from the ties and objects that recall them: but we can be said only to fulfil our destiny in the place that gave us birth. I should on this account like well enough to spend the whole of my life in travelling abroad, if I could any where borrow another life to spend afterwards at home!
A SEA-SIDE REVERIE.
How light and lovely is that parting hour,
When, swath'd in lambent gold, the autumnal sun
All that the expanding spirit might controul; To seek, in solitude, the Eternal One,
Where the wide waves their glorious vespers roll,— And muse the voiceless thought, and gaze the impassion'd soul !
The shoreward deep like molten emerald glows;
The distant burns with quivering rubies gay ;As, o'er its bower of green, the crimson'd rose
Shoots into air, and trembling drinks the day: Each keel that lordly ploughs the crashing spray
Furrows its course in foam and light behind; Around the bark careering sea-fowl play,
With sidelong wings to woo the breeze inclined; While the hoarse ship-boy's song floats mellowing on the wind. Pregnant with light some sprinkled cloudlets swell, In burning islets, o'er the illumined west,Long to retain the lingering sun's farewell,
Like the last smile of Love on Grief impress'd. Day sinks, but triumphs as it sinks, to rest,
Like Virtue lightening through the grave to Heaven :-
A world of light and music!-Many a breeze
Pants on the wave, and trembles to the shore,
And fleeting, soon as its light vows are o'er.-
In starry spheres of cloudless light and love,
Lo, the proud Mount!* whose form, in graceful sweep,
Which heaves, all foamless, round its sheltering bay!-
Roam where poetic deserts sadly smile!
Gaze here, and own-Can distant climes display
A scene more rich than yonder gorgeous pile?— Oh! ere you leave her, search your own unrivall'd Isle!
For who, with human heart, could ever roam
Through scenes and hours like these, nor prize them highHail the green land that girds his childhood's home,
And cease for brighter suns and realms to sigh?
* Mount Edgcumbe.
"Vain*-very vain "—to search a distant sky
All that can teach what Genius e'er has known,
Low sinks the sun,-and dim, o'er shore and sea,
As if its tones might fill the sun-light's room:
Weaves o'er the visible dark her mystic charms-
And with Elysian dreams the mourner's spirit warms!
List! heard ye not, amid the pausing surge,
A strange deep sound-Day's momentary dirge-
O'er powers and charms no longer fear'd or known:
'Tis hush'd: and o'er the darkening waste once more
While their far verge is blended with the sky:
And, traced in glittering fragments on the main,
Type of that bright and more than mortal chain,
ON AN INTENDED REMOVAL FROM A FAVOURITE
ADIEU, beloved and lovely home, adieu!
Thou pleasant mansion, and ye waters bright,
In summer-shine ye bloom with beauty dight,
O shades, endeared by Memory's magic power,
But Home lives not in lawn, or tree, or flower,
Where smiling friends adorn the social hour,
JOURNAL OF A TOURIST.--NO. III.
I HAVE now been in Paris several days—have traversed it in various directions, and inspected all its most celebrated structures: the result is a conviction that we saw the best of it in our first excursion; that a great deal is sacrificed for effect; and that the feelings of admiration excited by the first coup-d'ail, will not by any means be increased by a more minute acquaintance with its interior system and economy. Its luxury and magnificence are principally external; while in London these qualities exhibit themselves chiefly in the interior of buildings. Paris attains its most distinguishing feature (the lofty range and extensive plan of her houses) by a great sacrifice of domestic comfort; and we shall be less surprised at the handsome designs of the architects, if we reflect that each structure is tenanted by a little colony of its own. Such is the case in a great proportion of the most elegant erections, and the annoyances to which it subjects the inmates are neither few nor trifling. The stairs, being "open to all parties," are very often "influenced by none," so far as regards their conservation in a proper state of cleanliness, especially if the lodgers, as is very apt to be the case in Paris, keep a dog or two upon each floor.
The pavements here, though generally excellent in the centre of the street, and kept in good order by the limited traffic, the total absence of any ponderous carriages, and the imperturbability of the stones when once laid down, universally wants that indispensable article of comfort to pedestrians--a foot-pavement. Walking is not only fatiguing and distressing to the unaccustomed soles of Englishmen, but it compels them to move in perpetual discomfort, from the necessity of being everlastingly on the qui vive, and looking before and behind, and on one side, if they wish to avoid an unprofitable encounter with a fiacre or cabriolet. It is very illustrative of the different notions of comfort in the two countries, that while here, with an immediate supply of materials under their feet, they neglect to use them, in England they procure this accommodation from a great distance and at a vast expense, and with undistinguishing luxury extend it to the narrowest street and the shabbiest alleys. In Paris, probably, the disregard of a trottoir originated in that aristocratical feeling, which considered the common people as nothing; so at least Rousseau seemed to think, when he judged from our English foot-paths, that they were something, and thanked God for it. If to all these points of indisputable inferiority it be added, that the French metropolis is entirely without those extensive and handsomely planted squares that form such an embellishment to London; and that its streets, with a few exceptions, are not so long, or so wide, or so regular as ours, it may be doubted whether, upon the whole, it deserves the name of a finer city, if by that phrase we mean to indicate a greater combination of external and internal recommendations :-though it must always be conceded that the immediate purlieus of the Court present an assemblage of magnificence and beauty unrivalled in London, or perhaps in any other city. The whole country, indeed, to judge by what we have seen, exhibits traces of a long-continued, but tasteful des- . potism, which has sacrificed France to Paris, and Paris to the Court.