Page images

in the perusal of Captain Weddell's book. In his description of the natives of Cape Horn, Tierra del Fuego and the adjoining islands, one might suppose, without any great stretch of the imagination, that we were reading Captain Parry's account of the Esquimaux on the opposite extremity of the American continent; in the former, as in those, we find the same diminutive stature, the broad full-moon face, the skin clothing,-less cumbrous from the superior warmth of the climate—the same luxury of feasting on blubber, the same weapons for slaying land and marine animals, such as slings, darts, bows and arrows, and these similarly constructed—the same faculty of imitation and mimicking whatever they see or hear; these, and other particulars, are all in accordance with what we have been told of the Esquimaux.

It is also remarkable that something of the same kind, though not quite so striking, occurs on the opposite side of the Atlantic, in the resemblance that exists between the Hottentots at the southern extremity of Africa, and the Kalmucs, the Samoyedes, and other diminutive races on the northern parts of Asiatic Siberia, all of them congenerous with the more civilized Chinese, to whom a likeness has ere now been pointed out in the stature, shape, complexion and countenance of the Hottentot; most particularly so, in that remarkable feature, the oblique and elongated eye, common to all the northern nations of Asia. The habits of the Hottentot, however, are different from those of the Asiatic nations; as they must necessarily be from the great difference, which exists in the two climates.

We may here also pause for a moment on the curious coincidence which exists at the southern extremities of the two continents of America and Africa, on both of which we find a race of pigmies in close contact with a nation of giants; for though the Patagonians are not quite so tall as Pigafetta and many of the old navigators have made them, they are undoubtedly a race of gigantic stature; while the Caffres, in close contact with the Hottentots, differ about as remarkably in shape, feature and colour, from their diminutive neighbours.

The last thing we shall remark in this unpretending little volume is the praiseworthy labour which its author appears to have bestowed, in adding new and important information to the interests of navigation, by improving the hydrography of the seas and islands at the southern extremity of America, and in detecting errors of great importance made by former navigators. These points, in-: deed, are of so much importance, as to have induced, among other considerations, the Board of Admiralty to send out an expedition,, consisting of two ships of war, for the express purpose of surveying the coasts and islands of Patagonia; and the commander


(Captain King) of course has been supplied with the best and most expensive instruments that can be made, and such as individuals cannot be expected to be supplied with. Captain Weddell, however, had three chronometers of his own, patent azimuth compasses, and such other instruments as are mostly in use by navigators; of which he appears to have known well how to avail himself. As an old and able master in the navy, he entertained a proper feeling and a just sense of the value and importance of accuracy in hydrography, and an exact knowledge of the dangers scattered over that great deep navigated by multitudes of ships, on whose safety the lives of so many thousands of our fellow-creatures depend.

Speaking of South Iceland, and the Auroras, and other islands which have no existence but on the charts, he justly observes—

'It is much to be regretted that any men should be so ill-advised as to propagate hydrographical falsehoods; and I pity those who, when they meet with an appearance that is likely to throw some light on the state of the globe, are led through pusillanimity to forego the examination of it. But the extreme reluctance I have to excite painful feelings any where, restrains me from dealing that just censure which is due to many of fellow-seamen, who, by negligence, narrow views of pecuniary interest, or timidity, have omitted many practicable investigations, the want of which continues to be felt by the nation, and more especially by merchants and ship-owners.'-p. 48.


The man

We entirely agree with him in these sentiments. who points out, in the midst of the wide ocean, a single rock unknown before, is a benefactor of the human race; not less so is he who, after careful examination, is able to decide that a rock or a shoal, laid down at random, is either misplaced or has no existence. These are discoveries that make little or no noise in the world; there is no story to tell; no romance in the narrative; it is but a rock less or more in the midst of the ocean, where thousands of the like kind exist; but that rock may have been, and may continue to be, while its place remains unascertained, the cause of destruction of many valuable lives and much property. Captain Weddell has performed many such good services; and when we consider that his voyage was a private mercantile speculation, undertaken with a view solely to profit, he is so much the more entitled to public gratitude, in having spontaneously and gratuitously devoted a considerable portion of time to hydrographical discovery of the most useful kind. We will mention only one instance. A cluster of three islands, called the Auroras, are laid down on the charts to the eastward of the Falkland Islands, in the track nearly of ships intending to double Cape Horn. Their position was supposed to have been accurately ascertained by the Atravida

Atravida Spanish ship of war, which in the year 1796 was sent expressly for that purpose from the Falkland Islands, from which they were stated to be only distant about 10° of longitude, as ascertained by three chronometers. Every body of course believed in their existence, and in the right position being assigned to them; but Captain Weddell had his doubts from not finding them in their place on the chart in a former voyage. He now, therefore, determined to look for them more narrowly; he got into their supposed latitude, which, indeed, could not be mistaken; he ran down the longitude many degrees both ways, and spent ten days in this examination; he could depend on his chronometers, and all hands were constantly on the look out; and the result was, that no such islands as the Auroras are in existence. The Spaniard, without intending to practise any deceit, had been led into the delusion, as is supposed, by three icebergs, the side of one of which was probably covered with black earth, and thus resembled a rock-like another seen in another place by Captain Weddell himself; for it is mentioned in the journal of the Atravida that the eastern extremity of one of these masses was white, and the western side very dark, across which was a snowy belt. But we are warned to stop-which we do with a hearty recommendation of Mr. Weddell's little volume to all nautical men especially, and as one that deserves to find a place on the shelf of every library that pretends to a collection of voyages and travels.

ART. IV.-Philippe-Auguste; Poëme Héroïque, en Douze Chants. Par F. A. Parseval, Membre de l'Académie Française. Paris. 1826. pp. 448.

THIS volume, the appearance of which has produced a sensation in Paris, and, what is still better, obtained for Monsieur Parseval a gold snuffbox from His Most Christian Majesty, opens with a dedication:




Then comes an 'Avis de l'Auteur,' informing us that his poem is the fruit of twenty consecutive years of assiduous labour, and that it should have remained still longer in his portfolio, but for the following consideration:

'Je ne veux point attendre que l'âge me prive d'une force nécessaire pour corriger les fautes qui me seront révélées par le grand jour de l'impression.'

With such solemnity and such modesty is a new epic introduced to the world.

M. Par

[ocr errors]

M. Parseval, far from leaving the public to form an unassisted opinion of his merits, has considerately added to his twelve cantos, as many clusters of critical notes, in which the principles of epic composition are elaborately expounded; and every passage, the audacité' of which seemed likely to startle the ignorant, is carefully defended by maxims from Boileau and precedents from Virgil. Occasionally, moreover, the herd of readers are kindly put on their guard by incidental intimations of a character yet more conclusive and unanswerable: for example—

'Ce fragment, par les lectures que j'en ai faites, a obtenu une espèce de célébrité et m'a valu beaucoup d'encouragement de la part de mes confrères.'-p. 433.

Finally, our author, reminding us in a note that

Horace, Ovide, et plusieurs poëtes antiques ont terminé leurs ouvrages par un épilogue où ils s'applaudissent de leurs succès,' opens the twelfth canto of Philippe-Auguste with an apostrophe to the Pyramids of Egypt.

Vous m'avez inspiré, superbes pyramides !

J'ai voulu, COMME VOUS, éterniser mon nom!' &c. &c.

All this is imposing enough: nor does the performance itself, on the first rapid survey of its Arguments, appear unworthy of a considerable blowing of trumpets. M. Parseval has put mankind in possession of one more unquestioned epic: divided into twelve books: having its episodes introduced exactly at the established distances, and of the most legitimate dimensions: crammed full of similes, visions, and prophecies; heroes of the most spotless magnanimity, and cowardly giants ten feet high; armour bright from hell on the one side and from heaven on the other; charms, invocations, sorcerers, demons, enchanted bowers, amorous fountains, talking trees: single combats, in which the direct interference of supernatural power enables the personage whose cause is righteous, and his valour unequalled, to triumph, and great battles of 200,000 on a side, in which the fate of the day is uniformly decided by some phenomenon in the clouds; seductions, each of which brings in the course of cantos repentance and a baby, and murders, followed as inevitably by remorse and a ghost:-in a word, all the old * materies vatum.'

There are three deities to whom M. Parseval ascribes the chief management of the affairs of Philip of France, and his rebellious vassal the count of Boulogne-for these, as our poet frequently observes, are the Æneas and Turnus of the new epic; -to wit, first his holiness the Pope, who, however, changes sides more than once in the course of the action, and appears inferior in power as well as consistency to the others: secondly, Genevieve,


the tutelary saint of Paris, and the Venus of this piece; and thirdly, Melusine, the fairy of Feudal Anarchy, who is its relentless Juno. The former of these ladies is represented throughout as claiming, receiving, and indeed most richly meriting, a degree of homage, which to read of even in an epic poem must severely wound the orthodox feelings of Dr. Doyle. She acts as completely as an independent power, and at least as effectually, as any of Jupiter's sons or daughters do in the Iliad. The other female Vindex, for whom M. Parseval's ingenuity has prepared so many knots, his Démon Féodal,' is a more original creation of the fancy. She is a somewhat Dagon-like fairy, lovely woman above the girdle, below that mark rejoicing in voluminous slimy folds en immense spirale,' equipped with a battlemented and machicolated helmet, and, moreover, with scaly armour, on which bends, fesses, cheverons, lozenges, tressures, griffins, and all the forms of heraldic decoration are set forth in endless combinations of quartering, and blazoned, secundum artem, in azure, gules, vert, sable, ermine, or, and argent. This demon of escutcheons has a whole troop of inferior immortals, crest-and-motto imps we suppose, at her command, and she maintains moreover a strict correspondence with the King of the Volcanoes, who is at all times ready to lend her his powerful co-operation. To balance this subterraneous alliance again, the tutelary saint of Paris has an old friendship with the Spirit of the Loire. He of the Volcanoes entertains the baronial devil by an eloquent lecture on Geology, in which he hints his acquiescence in the theories of Mr. Paullet Scrope, and then obliges her by shipwrecking Philip of France and all his court; while the Genius of the Loire-of whom we are informed that,

'Ses cheveux sur son corps en ondes se déroulent,

Y forment des ruisseaux qui sur ses flancs s'écoulent,
Et vont baigner les fruits, les plantes, et les fleurs
Dont sa verte ceinture entretient les couleurs'—

the active Genius of the Loire drowns, in return, the retreating army of John, King of England. The poet, charmed with the manner of this retribution, exclaims in one of his self-gratulatory and instructive notes

'La personification d'un fleuve dans la théogonie Chrétienne ne doit avoir aucun rapport avec celle d'un fleuve du Paganisme.'

[ocr errors]

He adds, J'ai cherché à vaincre cette difficulté, et j'espère que mes lecteurs m'en sauront gré;'—and we, to speak for ourselves, beg leave to assure M. Parseval that we feel extremely obliged to him for the trouble he has taken upon this occasion.

Our author appears, indeed, throughout all his notes to be

[blocks in formation]


« PreviousContinue »