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Austrians were obliged to place a cordon of troops on the frontiers of Gallicia, in order to prevent the Poles, who had fallen to their lot, from escaping into Russian Poland, and seeking again that state of slavery from which they had been so recently emancipated.
A few words on the subject of Mosco, and we have done. The French have asserted that the conflagration of that capital will throw Russia back a hundred years,' and that the loss which her commerce and nobility have sustained by that event, is incalculable, from their having left every thing there in fancied security.' Now, though much distress has doubtless been occasioned to individuals by this severe visitation, we are inclined to believe that the malignity of Buonaparte will be in this as much disappointed, as in many other particulars which we have already noticed. The greater part of the internal commerce of Russia is carried on by natives, who are the travelling agents of the great mercantile houses, established at the seaports. Mosco therefore is only the occasional entrepôt of such commodities as are drawn from the distant provinces, which are not in general laid up here in any considerable quantity; and the population of the town fluctuates continually, as the artisans are accustomed, at particular periods, to travel into the country in search of employment.
On the approach of the French, such measures of precaution were taken as were thought necessary; and the greater part of the merchants' goods was sent off to Kasan, and other places of safety. It is probable, therefore, that the burning of one of the small manufacturing towns in England, would be a greater public calamity than the entire destruction which has befallen the immense city of which we are speaking; and we do not despair of seeing Mosco rise from the ashes with new splendor, when the exertions of her citizens are assisted by the donations of the opulent Russians, and by such contributions as this country can afford. We should be glad to hear that an anxiety to give new spirit to this undertaking had induced the emperor to visit Mosco at particular periods, and gratify, by so doing, the wishes of his ancient nobility, who are unwilling to resort to the modern capital. Many advantages appear likely to attend the occasional residence of the Imperial court in so central a part of the Russian dominions; and although St. Petersburg, from its situation on the Baltic, must always have the decided superiority, the reasons which induced Peter to make it the constant seat of government no longer exist; as the Swedish frontier is so much thrown back, as to put an end to all apprehension of danger from that quarter; and the naval preparations do not now require that constant and unremitting inspection which was given to them by the founder of the Russian navy.
ART. XII. Rokeby: a Poem. By Walter Scott, Esq. 4to. pp. 446. Edinburgh; Ballantyne and Co. London; Longman and Co. 1813.
BEHOLD another lay from the harp of that indefatigable minstrel who has so often provoked the censure, and extorted the admiration of his critics; and who, regardless of both, and following every impulse of his own inclination, has yet raised himself at once, and apparently with little effort, to the pinnacle of public
A poem thus recommended may be presumed to have already reached the whole circle of our readers, and we believe that all those readers will concur with us in considering Rokeby as a com position which, if it had preceded, instead of following, Marmion, and the Lady of the Lake, would have contributed, as effectually as they have done, to the establishment of Mr. Scott's high reputation. Whether, timed as it now is, it be likely to satisfy the just expectations which that reputation has excited, is a question which, perhaps, will not be decided with the same unanimity. Our own opinion is in the affirmative, but we confess that this is our revised opinion; and that when we concluded our first perusal of Rokeby, our gratification was not quite unmixed with disappointment. The reflections by which this impression has been subsequently modified shall be submitted to our readers: but as they arise out of our general view of the poem; of the interest inspired by the fable; of the masterly delineations of the characters by whose agency the plot is unraveled; and of the spirited nervous conciseness of the narrative, we must endeavour to give a faint sketch of those merits which we consider as affording a complete compensation for the instances of negligence and haste with which Mr. Scott has been often reproached; and never, perhaps, more justly than on the present occasion.
The scene of the poem is laid partly at Barnard Castle, in Yorkshire, and partly at the adjacent castles of Rokeby and Mortham, situated on the opposite banks of the Greta, near its confluence with the Tees; and the action commences with the night of the 3d of July 1644, immediately after the great battle fought between the royal and parliamentary forces on Marston Moor. This point of time was chosen (as we learn from the Advertisement) for the purpose of giving a greater degree of probability to some parts of the fable; because, during the anarchy of the civil war, the great landlords must have been compelled to resume, in their castellated mansions, a mode of life extremely analogous to that of their feudal ancestors.
Canto I. Barnard Castle is in a state of military preparation; the warder is on the alert; he darts many an anxious look over the
wild country beneath him; but the clouds, scudding rapidly over the face of the moon, confined, and presently shut out the prospect; the night becomes tempestuous, and the rain-descends in torrents. Meanwhile, Oswald Wycliffe, the lord of the castle, who had sought to calm, in sleep, the conflict of his passions, and the memory of his crimes, but had been scared from his short slumber by fantoms more frightful than those which haunted his waking conscience, lies in feverish watchfulness, gazing at the lamp, listening to every breeze, and counting the slow lapse of time announced by the castle-bell, when the trampling of a yet distant horseman, rendered audible by the morbid sensibility of his organs, suddenly arrests his attention. The sound approaches, and becomes more distinct. The warder's challenge, the clanking chains of the drawbridge, and the tumultuous cry of 'tidings from the host,' announce the arrival of a messenger. Oswald starts from his couch, orders a table to be instantly spread, and a fire to be lighted, and struggles to conceal, under the manners of placid courtesy, the agitation of his feelings..
The stranger came with heavy stride,
Then from his brows the casque he drew,
With deep impatience, tinged with fear,
And quaff the full carouze that lent
A struggle between fear and shame.'-p. 9.
The torturing suspense of Oswald excites no compassion in the breast of Bertram Risingham, (such is the name of this mysterious stranger,) who, however, whilst he artfully prolongs that suspense, contrives to gratify our curiosity respecting his own history and character, with which the whole business of the poem is closely connected. By birth a borderer, by education and taste a robber; Bertram had been in youth a moss-trooper, in manhood a buccaneer; and when circumstances, which will hereafter be explained, led Mortham to put himself at the head of these desperate men, served under that nobleman throughout his predatory campaign in South America. Robust and active beyond the usual powers of man; patient of fatigue; proof against every vicissitude of climate; insensible to fear, he attracted the notice of his commander, in whom, on his part, he admired, and reverenced, and almost loved that calm and intrepid sagacity and self-possession, which gives to great minds an irresistible ascendancy over, brutal ferocity. Thrice had he saved the life of Mortham at the risk of his own; and Mortham repaid the obligation by boundless liberality, and by the most persevering kindness. But the rapacity and arrogance of Bertram were equally insatiable. A momentary disgust was sufficient to urge him to the assassination of his patron; and it was after having, as he believed, completed his purpose, that he repaired to Oswald, with whom he had concerted the murder, and who was next heir to Mortham's possessions. To claim from this associate the treasure collected by the deceased, and deposited in the castle of Mortham, was the purpose of Bertram's journey: yet, it is not till he has long triumphed over the impatience, and repelled the indirect and insidious interrogatories of Oswald, that he condescends to tell that, during the hottest charge of the enemy he
-Fired his petronel,
And Mortham, horse and rider fell;
Bertram then requires his host to accompany him to Mortham Castle; but Oswald, equally afraid of disputing the demand, aud of trusting his person within reach of his terrible accomplice, devolves this task on his son Wilfrid; with whom, as he plays an important part in the poem, we must now become acquainted.
Wilfrid, the favourite child of his mother, to whose anxious carehe owed the preservation of his sickly existence, had, through that care, unexpectedly become the survivor of his numerous and healthy brothers, and the only hope of a father who had long regarded him with pity and contempt. To accomplish his union with Matilda, sole heiress of the knight of Rokeby, was the final object of Oswald's ambition; and Matilda had been, from her childhood, the goddess of the young man's idolatry: but
In his early years he had been a stranger to the usual playfulness of childhood; he felt not the turbulent activity of youth; but enticed by the soothing and solitary amusements of music and poetry, he gave the reins to his imagination, and fondly cherished in his breast a miserable passion, which Matilda had been too generous to encourage; and which the circumstances of the moment rendered more hopeless than ever. The knight of Rokeby had repaired to the royal standard, whilst Oswald held Barnard Castle for the Commons; with what hopes, therefore, could he offer to Matilda a hand, so avowedly at enmity with her father? But though precluded from visiting her, he may at least enjoy the privilege of watching her unseen-of tracing the solitary walk which she has trodden, or of catching a glimpse of her shadow on the distant lattice when she retires to rest. He may then return to indulge in lonely meditation ;-and he had thus returned, and had mused, for hours, over his lamp, and, still sleepless, had chaunted a lay to the declining moon, when he was surprized by the sudden appearance of his father; who, after imparting the necessary instructions, directs him to attend Bertram to Mortham Castle.
Canto II. The day had not yet dawned, when the ill-assorted pair of travellers began their journey through a country of which the scenery, as described by the poet, appears to have been scarcely less various or less fascinating than the environs of his favourite Loch Katrine. But it was in vain that the sun rose in all his majesty to gild the landscape. Wilfrid had caught, through the twi