Imagens das páginas

Trout and grayling to rise are so willing;

I dare venture to say,
"Twill be a bloody day,

And we all shall be weary of killing.

Besides this, with the exception of the late Laureate's "Brook," which held

Here and there a lusty trout,
And here and there a grayling,

it is difficult to recall even the mention of the fish in poetry. Indeed, the Muse does not as a general rule smile upon the devotees of fishing. It is surprising how little true poetry has glorified the fisherman. It is a "Gentleman of the Old School" whom Mr. Austin Dobson pictures:

But most his measured words of praise
Caressed the angler's easy ways,-
His idly meditative days,
His rustic diet.

Most latter-day verses on this subject are sufficiently worthless, except one or two lyrics of Andrew Lang's, a few of the songs of Crawhall, Stoddart, and other northern minstrels, and "The Lay of the Last Angler." The exhilarating breath of the riverside sweeps through these, and a strong love of nature for her own sake pervades them. Then angling enthusiasm irresistibly bursts forth in the true poet, for what greater temptation can assail him than to break out into verse when brought face to face with nature?—

The Quarterly Review.

Quid enim majus dare numina possunt?

If fortune enables a man, with the slimmest of rods and tackle, to master some of nature's strongest and yet most timorous creatures, it were too much to expect she should also make him a poet. Too often the poetry of anglers palpably smacks of the lamp, and of lucubrations in the study:

Quum desertis Aganippes Vallibus esuriens migraret in atria Clio.

If any one, however, would compare angling songs he may rescue a few pearls from the abundance of oyster shells in Mr. Buchan's "Musa Piscatrix." Many will sympathize in conclusion with the lines in which the graceful pen of Andrew Lang is well inspired by a love both of angling and of the familiar streams of his native land:

Nay, Spring I'd meet by Tweed or Ail, And Summer by Loch Assynt's deep, And Autumn in that lonely vale

Where wedded Avons westward sweep.

Unseen, Eurotas, southward steal,
Unknown, Alpheus, westward glide,
You never heard the ringing reel,
The music of the water side!

Though gods have walked your woods among,

Though nymphs have fled your banks along,

You speak not that familiar tongue Tweed murmurs like my cradle song.


Thou hast regained that calm august and free The communal mother keeps, who bids us roam

And play awhile at Personality,

And, wearied of the play, recalls us home.

William Knox Johnson.


A Russian, M. Pobédonostzeff, who has directed the political education of two emperors, and is now the Purveyor-General to the Holy Synod, has lately published, under the title of "Recollections of Moscow,"a number of essays on modern society and ideas. These essays have been translated both into French and German, and they were worth it. To unusual ele-, vation of thought their author unites a close and cogent logic of his own, and more than one of the pages of his recollections goes to show that mysticism is not always or necessarily at war with common sense. But this rigid, sober and single-minded man, as thorough-going in his antipathies as in his admirations, cannot admit the possibility of spots on the planets that he loves, nor that any stray beam of sunshine can ever be quenched in the night of error. In the beginning of creation light was divided from darkness. Do not attempt to reconcile them! As for chiaroscuro-there is no such thing. Good is good, and evil is evil, and the two are never mixed.

This inflexible judge condemns in a lump, all modern ideas; deploring their importation from the West, and their propagation in Russia by dangerous dreamers and stray doctrinaires, and by that "little Muscovite Countess," who makes it a point to admire everything that is said or written in France. Woe to the people who adopt such ideas! and woe-ten times woe, to the people who invented them! They are so deeply diseased that nothing short of a miracle can save them.

The physicians who merely tell us that we are ill, teach us nothing; but if M. Pobédonostzeff were more of a

• Translated for The Living Age.

philosopher he would perceive that never since the world was made has there been such a thing as a perfectly sane society; that the most prosperous and flourishing have had their maladies, and that all maladies are mortal. Nations are as liable to disease as individuals, and we pass our lives in defending ourselves against death. Our bodies are but sorry machines where invisible poisons are incessantly manufactured, and we should not live a day if, in the divine secrets of nature, room had not also been made within the organism for what the physiologists call protective agents and a certain remedial power. "The longer we study the relations between the physiological and the pathological state," once said a great medical authority, "the more clearly we see how they interpenetrate one another. We do not often need to go far afield in our search for the morbific principle. It is usually close at hand, ready to slip in the instant the organism relaxes its vigilance; whenever there is the slightest flaw in the defences which protect it against physical, chemical or infectious agencies."

Societies, like individuals, have the best of reasons for dying; and those who do die are not those who are most deeply diseased, but those who do not defend themselves, who abandon their own cause, shirk the battle and go over to the enemy.

How is the modern man to protect bimself against his maladies? M. Pobédonostzeff would say that he is positively enamored of them, and cherishes a mortal grudge against the physicians who would undertake bis cure. The modern man loves his infirmities and adores his errors. The most serious of them, the one which

engenders all the rest, is the unreasoning esteem in which he holds his own reason, and abstract ideas generally. He considers it fatal not to apply the latter to all the affairs of this world. "And yet, it is only the fool who has clear notions and decided opinions about everything. The most precious conceptions of the human mind are in the background of the picture. They hover vaguely on the horizon of consciousness. It is about these vague conceptions that lucid thoughts arise, expand and are developed. Take away this visionary background, and the only beings left in the world are geometers and intelligent animals. Even the exact sciences would lose the grandeur which comes from their occult connection with infinite truths of which we mortals get but instantaneous and occasional glimpses. Mystery is man's most precious possession, and not in vain did Plato teach that the things which we behold here below are but a feeble image of the order which exists above."

So long as man is happy, reason suffices him. But when cares, calamities and disappointments come, when happiness, and even justice fail, nothing but mystery can.calm the troubled soul. "Then the stars of his childhood and youth come out once more on high; early sensations return in all their purity, the disinterested love of kindred, parental caresses and counsels, long-forgotten lessons of reverence for duty and for God,-all which man inherits from eternity at the outset of his career, all which nourished, informed and enlightened his soul in the beginnings of life. That soul had to be plunged into midnight darkness, before the heavenly orbs could shine forth again from the depths of the past." But the modern man does not believe in the past. He believes only in the present. He despises tradition, he despises history, he despises mys


tery. It never occurs to him to interrogate the Unknown for an explication of the conscious life of souls and of societies.

The modern man reduces everything to a system,-to formulas and theses. He has replaced the old idols by new fetiches, whose impotence, if not their maleficence, is demonstrated by the experience of every day. No matter! -they are his fads, and he adores them. The modern man has constructed a theory of liberty. He has decided that the only free peoples are those whose destiny is regulated by public opinion, and that public opinion is a power only in those countries where the press is free. It is through the medium of the press that truth is revealed to governments; the press -that teeming manufactory of deliberate lies! The modern man claims the right to think for himself; he recognizes no authority save that of his own conscience, and it is usually the morning paper which teaches him what he ought to think and believe! He would blush to obey a king, and the ruler he gives himself instead is anonymous journalist whom he never saw and never will see, and whose sole qualification, perhaps, is a genius for shady affairs. "We can hear the bells ring," says the Russian proverb, "but we do not know where they are."


The modern man has invented representative government and parliamentary institutions. He lays it down as a fundamental principle that parliaments represent the interests of the people; whereas experience teaches us that they have never represented any thing except the ambition of scheming men, and the private interests of the same. The modern man has substituted for divine right the sovereignty of the people, and is pleased to believe that universal suffrage is the sincere expression of a nation's will. When

will he learn that a nation has no will of its own, that it wants only what its leaders have persuaded it to want; that it is a toy in their hands-a puppet of which they pull the strings? The modern man would have the state entirely laical, never intermeddling in affairs which pertain to the confessional. He would have civil society enfranchised from all ecclesiastical influence, and banish the priest altogether from human affairs. He cannot comprehend that it is of the essence of religion to pervade all the affairs of this world, nor that an utterly unbelieving state is devoid of all claim on the respect of men, and exercises but a shadow of authority. To pretend to govern societies by abstractions is to misunderstand the first principles of human nature, and it is thus that the modern man violates our instincts, our inclinations, all our innate proclivities. We are feeble and dependent creatures, and when we encounter force, we feel that we are in the presence of something greater than ourselves, to which we must bow the knee. We are a prey to uncertainties both of the heart and of the mind, and the force which controls renders us a great service by imposing its will on ours. We are engaged in a search for happiness, and we dread making a mistake. We want a something stronger than ourselves to choose for us, show us our way, help us to fulfil our destiny. Just so long as our hearts have not been corrupted by sophisms nor our brains obfuscated by a misty metaphysic, we readily submit to the power which appeals to us as worthy of respect; it wins our love. even, if, to an authority consecrated by time and tradition it joins a sincere care for the public weal, a reverence for right and justice, disinterestedness and a sense of proportion-in a sense the proper virtues of a ruler, and art of commandVOL. LXIX. 8


ing. "Great and sacred," says our Russian author, "is the vocation of power. Power worthy of the name inspires mankind and lends wings to his activity. It is, for us, the mirror of equity, of dignity, of energy. It is a great happiness for those who love truth and light and goodness to submit to such a power and to feel its inspired action. And it is a huge calamity to find in its place the ephemeral sway of numbers, of the majoritythe masses; and license under the guise of liberty.

M. Pobédonostzeff is obliged to admit, however that force does not always display an exact sense of proportion, nor the essential virtues and true art of 'the ruler.

"Power," he says, "sometimes forgets itself so far as to imagine that it exists for itself, and not for the service of humanity." It is hard to submit, when one is quite untrammelled, and it is a fancy that does not often take the conqueror. It is a question whether poor humanity suffers more from being weakly ruled or overruled, and, this being so, is it strange that the modern man is resolved to have, at all costs, his guarantees against the abuse of power?

Force which can command respect and exercise self-restraint is a very fine thing and it has furnished the world with some magnificent spectacles: but it cannot be relied upon. As the Emperor Alexander I. once said to Mme. de Stael, "An intelligent and beneficent despot is only a happy accident."

Doubtless our political idealism has often played us false. Doubtless it is hard to submit to the capricious tyrrany of the majority, and parliaments are hotbeds of intrigue; but, on the other hand, in countries where the majority does not rule, the intrigues of the court are often fraught with disaster. Sir Robert Walpole said,

[ocr errors]

after the death of Queen Caroline, that he should now have to rely exclusively upon Mme. de Walmoden, the King's mistress; and a publicist of the time of George IV. wrote, "The King is on our side, and, better still, so is the Marchioness of Conyngham.” Now it may well be doubted whether the rule of a Marchioness of Conyngham is any better for a people than a rule of idealists and newspaper men. Force righteously employed and absorbing the full intensity of the public interest has often proved the salvation of a people; but often, too, its only care is to render life agreeable and to furnish the distractions and amusements which it is so well able to provide. "It may very well happen," as an English statesman once remarked, "that the throne may be occupied by a fool; in which case it is well to furnish him with occupations which may prevent his doing too much harm." The conclusion at which we arrive is that all forms of government have their vices, either open or secret, and all societies their maladies. The essential thing is that the natural defences of the organism should be maintained; or, to use the language of modern medicine,-so long as the animal fluids retain their anti-toxic and bactericide properties, the case is not desperate.

"But," says M. Pobédonostzeff, "there are bacteria and bacteria; and all microbes are not equally pernicious. What proves that ours are of the most dangerous kind is that there was never so little true happiness in the world as now, nor so many seditious, rebellious and discontented souls."

The modern man began by attributing a sort of magic virtue to abstractions, to certain consecrated formulas which he expected were to transform the world, and his hopes have been shipwrecked. He gave loose rein to

his imagination; he caressed his insensate dreams, and he has only succeeded in multiplying indefinitely his own needs and desires. "Our life," says the Russian, "has become incredibly extravagant, formless and false, for the reason that there is no order or logic in our development; and because there has been a complete relaxation of discipline in our thoughts and feelings and our general moral sense. Both in public and in domestic life, simple and natural relations have given place to artificial connections, and we are learning how difficult it is to apply abstract principles to practi cal relations; self-love, once a gradual growth, now leaps, at one bound, to gigantic proportions and pervades the entire ego. Released from all restraint, this ego makes the most exorbitant pretensions, and assumes from the first the arbitrament of its own destiny." The modern man refuses to submit even to the fundamental laws of life. He believes in freedom, and he feels himself to be in servitude. He believes in equality, and he rages against the hopeless inequality of human conditions and the injustice which determines the disposition of human lots. He believes in fraternity, and he perceives that selfishness was never more rampant, that never was there such a crop of tares among classes, races and nations. The fetiches on which he relied have all betrayed him.

"Your idealogy," says our author, "in substance was to have ennobled both souls and societies. Instead, it has created fictitious needs, aroused sen. sual instincts, propagated everywhere the worship of materialism and the golden calf, produced a perfect epidemic of false and morbid pride. Malcontents are everywhere; men who have too lightly put faith in promises which have not been kept. You harangued them on the subject of their

« AnteriorContinuar »