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sternation we have seen among a flock of disquieted
wild geese at the report only of a gun having gone

But is this vulgar fright, this mere animal anxiety
for the preservation of their persons, such as we
have witnessed at a theatre, when a slight alarm of
fire has been given an adequate exponent of a
supernatural terror? the way in which the finger of


God, writing judgments, would have been met by the
withered conscience? There is a human fear, and a
divine fear. The one is disturbed, restless, and bent
upon escape. The other is bowed down, effortless,
passive. When the spirit appeared before Eliphaz in
the visions of the night, and the hair of his flesh stood
up, was it in the thoughts of the Temanite to ring the
bell of his chamber, or to call up the servants? But
let us see in the text what there is to justify all this
huddle of vulgar consternation.

From the words of Daniel it appears that Belshazzar
had made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and
drank wine before the thousand. The golden and
silver vessels are gorgeously enumerated, with the
princes, the king's concubines, and his wives. Then

" In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's
hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon
the plaster of the wall of the king's palace ; and the
king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the
king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts
troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were
loosened, and his knees smote one against another."

This is the plain text. By no hint can it be other-
wise inferred, but that the appearance was solely con-
fined to the fancy of Belshazzar, that his single brain
was troubled. Not a word is spoken of its being seen
by any else there present, not even by the queen her-


self, who merely undertakes for the interpretation of
the phenomenon, as related to her, doubtless, by her
husband. The lords are simply said to be astonished ;
i. c. at the trouble and the change of countenance in
their sovereign. Even the prophet does not appear
to have seen the scroll, which the king saw. He
recalls it only, as Joseph did the Dream to the King
of Egypt. " Then was the part of the hand sent from
him [the Lord], and this writing was written." He
speaks of the phantasm as past.

Then what becomes of this needless multiplication
of the miracle? this message to a royal conscience,
singly expressed for it was said, " thy kingdom is
divided," simultaneously impressed upon the fan-
cies of a thousand courtiers, who were implied in it
neither directly nor grammatically?

But admitting the artist's own version of the story,
and that the sight was seen also by the thousand
courtiers let it have been visible to all Babylon
as the knees of Belshazzar were shaken, and his
countenance troubled, even so would the knees of
every man in Babylon, and their countenances, as of
an individual man, been troubled ; bowed, bent down,
so would they have remained, stupor-fixed, with no
thought of struggling with that inevitable judgment.

Not all that is optically possible to be seen, is to
be shown in every picture. The eye delightedly
dwells upon the brilliant individualities in a " Marriage


at Cana," by Veronese, or Titian, to the very texture
and colour of the wedding garments, the ring glitter-
ing upon the bride's fingers, the metal and fashion of
the wine pots ; for at such seasons there is leisure and
luxury to be curious. But in a " day of judgment," or
in a "day of lesser horrors, yet divine," as at the im-
pious feast of Belshazzar, the eye should see, as the
actual eye of an agent or patient in the immediate
scene would see, only in masses and indistinction.
Not only the female attire and jewelry exposed to the
critical eye of the fashion, as minutely as the dresses
in a lady's magazine, in the criticised picture, but
perhaps the curiosities of anatomical science, and
studied diversities of posture in the falling angels and
sinners of Michael Angelo, have no business in
their great subjects. There was no leisure of them.

By a wise falsification, the great masters of painting
got at their true conclusions ; by not showing the
actual appearances, that is, all that was to be seen at
any given moment by an indifferent eye, but only
what the eye might be supposed to see in the doing
or suffering of some portentous action. Suppose the
moment of the swallowing up of Pompeii. There
they were to be seen houses, columns, architectural
proportions, differences of public and private build-
ings, men and women at their standing occupations,
the diversified thousand postures, attitudes, dresses,
in some confusion truly, but physically they were


visible. But what eye saw them at that eclipsing
moment, which reduces confusion to a kind of unity,
and when the senses are upturned from their pro-
prieties, when sight and hearing are a feeling only?
A thousand years have passed, and we are at leisure
to contemplate the weaver fixed standing at his
shuttle, the baker at his oven, and to turn over with
antiquarian coolness the pots and pans of Pompeii.

" Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeah, and thou,
Moon, in the valley of Ajalon." Who, in reading
this magnificent Hebraism, in his conception, sees
aught but the heroic sun of Nun, with the out-
stretched arm, and the greater and lesser light obse-
quious? Doubtless there were to be seen hill and
dale, and chariots and horsemen, on open plain, or
winding by secret defiles, and all the circumstances
and stratagems of war. But whose eyes would have
been conscious of this array at the interposition of
the synchronic miracle? Yet in the picture of this
subject by the artist of the " Belshazzar's Feast " no
ignoble work either the marshalling and landscape
of the war is everything, the miracle sinks into an
anecdote of the day ; and the eye may " dart through
rank and file traverse " for some minutes, before it
shall discover, among his armed followers, which is
Joshua ! Not modern art alone, but ancient, where
only it is to be found if anywhere, can be detected
erring, from defect of this imaginative faculty. The


world has nothing to show of the preternatural in
painting, transcending the figure of Lazarus bursting
his grave-clothes, in the great picture at Angerstein's.
It seems a thing between two beings. A ghastly
horror at itself struggles with newly-apprehending
gratitude at second life bestowed. It cannot forget
that it was a ghost. It has hardly felt that it is a
body. It has to tell of the world of spirits. Was it
from a feeling, that the crowd of half-impassioned
by-standers, and the still more irrelevant herd of
passers-by at a distance, who have not heard or but
faintly have been told of the passing miracle, ad-
mirable as they are in design and hue for it is
a glorified work do not respond adequately to the
action that the single figure of the Lazarus has
been attributed to Michael Angelo, and the mighty
Sebastian unfairly robbed of the fame of the greater
half of the interest? Now that there were not in-
different passers-by within actual scope of the eyes
of those present at the miracle, to whom the sound
of it had but faintly, or not at all, reached, it would
be hardihood to deny; but would they see them? or
can the mind in the conception of it admit of such
unconcerning objects? can it think of them at all?
or what associating league to the imagination can
there be between the seers, and the seers not, of a
presential miracle?

Were an artist to paint upon demand a picture of


a Dryad, we will ask whether, in the present low state
of expectation, the patron would not, or ought not to
be fully satisfied with a beautiful naked figure re-
cumbent under wide-stretched oaks? Disseat those
woods, and place the same figure among fountains,
and falls of pellucid water, and you have a Naiad !
Not so in a rough print we have seen after Julio
Romano, we think for it is long since there, by
no process, with mere change of scene, could the
figure have reciprocated characters. Long, grotesque,
fantastic, yet with a grace of her own, beautiful in
convolution and distortion, linked to her connatural
tree, co -twisting with its limbs her own, till both
seemed either these, animated branches ; those,
disanimated members yet the animal and vege-
table lives sufficiently kept distinct his Dryad lay
an approximation of two natures, which to con-
ceive, it must be seen ; analogous to, not the same
with, the delicacies of Ovidian transformations.

To the lowest subjects, and, to a superficial com-
prehension, the most barren, the Great Masters gave
loftiness and fruitfulness. The large eye of genius
saw in the meanness of present objects their capa-
bilities of treatment from their relations to some grand
Past or Future. How has Raphael we must still
linger about the Vatican treated the humble craft
of the ship-builder, in his "Building of the Ark?"
It is in that scriptural series, to which we have re-


ferred, and which, judging from some fine rough old
graphic sketches of them which we possess, seem to
be of a higher and more poetic grade than even the
Cartoons. The dim of sight are the timid and the
shrinking. There is a cowardice in modern art. As
the Frenchmen, of whom Coleridge's friend made
the prophetic guess at Rome, from the beard and
horns of the Moses of Michael Angelo collected no
inferences beyond that of a He Goat and a Cornuto ;
so from this subject, of mere mechanic promise, it
would instinctively turn away, as from one incapable
of investiture with any grandeur. The dock-yards at
Woolwich would object derogatory associations. The
depot at Chatham would be the mote and the beam
in its intellectual eye. But not to the nautical prep-
arations in the ship-yards of Civita Vecchia did
Raphael look for instructions, when he imagined the
Building of the Vessel that was to be conservatory of
the wrecks of the species of drowned mankind. In
the intensity of the action, he keeps ever out of sight
the meanness of the operation. There is the Patri-
arch, in calm forethought, and with holy prescience,
giving directions. And there are his agents the
solitary but sufficient Three hewing, sawing, every
one with the might and earnestness of a Demiurgus ;
under some instinctive rather than technical guidance ;
giant-muscled; every one a Hercules, or liker to
those Vulcanian Three, that in sounding caverns


under Mongibello wrought in fire Brontes, and
black Steropes, and Pyracmon. So work the work-
men that should repair a world !

Artists again err in the confounding of poetic with
pictorial subjects. In the latter, the exterior accidents
are nearly everything, the unseen qualities as nothing.
Othello's colour the infirmities and corpulence of a
Sir John FalstafT do they haunt us perpetually in
the reading? or are they obtruded upon our concep-
tions one time for ninety-nine that we are lost in
admiration at the respective moral or intellectual
attributes of the character ? But in a picture Othello
is always a Blackamoor ; and the other only Plump
Jack. Deeply corporealised, and enchained hope-
lessly in the grovelling fetters of externality, must be
the mind, to which, in its better moments, the image
of the high-souled, high-intelligenced Quixote the
errant Star of Knighthood, made more tender by
eclipse has never presented itself, divested from
the unhallowed accompaniment of a Sancho, or a
rubblement at the heels of Rosinante. That man has
read his book by halves ; he has laughed, mistaking
his author's purport, which was tears. The artist
that pictures Quixote (and it is in this degrading
point that he is every season held up at our Exhibi-
tions) in the shallow hope of exciting mirth, would
have joined the rabble at the heels of his starved
steed. We wish not to see that counterfeited, which


we would not have wished to see in the reality. Con-
scious of the heroic inside of the noble Quixote, who,
on hearing that his withered person was passing,
would have stepped over his threshold to gaze upon
his forlorn habiliments, and the " strange bed- fellows
which misery brings a man acquainted with? " Shade
of Cervantes ! who in thy Second Part could put into
the mouth of thy Quixote those high aspirations of
a super- chivalrous gallantry, where he replies to one
of the shepherdesses, apprehensive that he would
spoil their pretty net-works, and inviting him to be
a guest with them, in accents like these : " Truly,
fairest Lady, Actaeon was not more astonished when
he saw Diana bathing herself at the fountain, than I
have been in beholding your beauty : I commend the
manner of your pastime, and thank you for your kind
offers ; and, if I may serve you, so I may be sure you
will be obeyed, you may command me : for my pro-
fession is this, To shew myself thankful, and a doer
of good to all sorts of people, especially of the rank
that your person shows you to be ; and if those nets,
as they take up but a little piece of ground, should
take up the whole world, I would seek out new worlds
to pass through, rather than break them : and (he
adds,) that you may give credit to this my exaggera-
tion, behold at least he that promiseth you this, is
Don Quixote de la Mancha, if haply this name hath,
come to your hearing." Illustrious Romancer ! were


the " fine frenzies," which possessed the brain of thy
own Quixote, a fit subject, as in this Second Part, to
be exposed to the jeers of Duennas and Serving Men ?
to be monstered, and shown up at the heartless ban-
quets of great men? Was that pitiable infirmity,
which in thy First Part misleads him, always from
wifhin, into half-ludicrous, but more than half-com-
passionable and admirable errors, not infliction enough
from heaven, that men by studied artifices must devise
and practise upon the humour, to inflame where they
should soothe it ? Why, Goneril would have blushed
to practise upon the abdicated king at this rate, and
the she-wolf Regan not have endured to play the
pranks upon his fled wits, which thou hast made thy
Quixote suffer in Duchesses' halls, and at the hands
of that unworthy nobleman.*

In the First Adventures, even, it needed all the art
of the most consummate artist in the Book way that
the world hath yet seen, to keep up in the mind of
the reader the heroic attributes of the character with-
out relaxing; so as absolutely that they shall suffer
no alloy from the debasing fellowship of the clown.
If it ever obtrudes itself as a disharmony, are we
inclined to laugh ; or not, rather, to indulge a con-
trary emotion ? Cervantes, stung, perchance, by the
relish with which his Reading Public had received

* Yet from this Second Part, our cried-up pictures are
mostly selected; the waiting-women with beards, &c.


the fooleries of the man, more to their palates than
the generosities of the master, in the sequel let his pen
run riot, lost the harmony and the balance, and sacri-
ficed a great idea to the taste of his contemporaries.
We know that in the present day the Knight has
fewer admirers than the Squire. Anticipating, what
did actually happen to him as afterwards it did to
his scarce inferior follower, the Author of " Guzman
cle Alfarache " that some less knowing hand would
prevent him by a spurious Second Part : and judging,
that it would be easier for his competitor to out-bid
him in the comicalities, than in the romance, of his
work, he abandoned his Knight, and has fairly set
up the Squire for his Hero. For what else has he
unsealed the eyes of Sancho; and instead of that
twilight state of semi -insanity the madness at
second-hand the contagion, caught from a stronger
mind infected that war between native cunning,
and hereditary deference, with which he has hitherto
accompanied his master two for a pair almost
does he substitute a downright Knave, with open
eyes, for his own ends only following a confessed
Madman; and offering at one time to lay, if not
actually laying, hands upon him ! From the moment
that Sancho loses his reverence, Don Quixote is be-
come a treatable lunatic. Our artists handle him


THE Old Year being dead, and the New Year
coming of age, which he does, by Calendar Law, as
soon as the breath is out of the old gentleman's body,
nothing would serve the young spark but. he must
give a dinner upon the occasion, to which all the
Days in the year were invited. The Festivals, whom
he deputed as his stewards, were mightily taken with
the notion. They had been engaged time out of
mind, they said, in providing mirth and good cheer
for mortals below ; and it was time they should have
a taste of their own bounty. It was stiffly debated
among them, whether the Fasts should be admitted.
Some said, the appearance of such lean, starved
guests, with their mortified faces, would pervert the
ends of the meeting. But the objection was over-
ruled by Christmas Day, who had a design upon Ash
Wednesday (as you shall hear), and a mighty desire
to see how the old Dominie would behave himself iu


his cups. Only the Vigils were requested to come
with their lanterns, to light the gentlefolks home at

All the Days came to their day. Covers were pro-
vided for three hundred and sixty-five guests at the
principal table ; with an occasional knife and fork at
the side-board for the Twenty-Ninth of February.

I should have told you, that cards of invitation had
been issued. The carriers were the Hours ; twelve
little, merry, whirligig foot-pages, as you should desire
to see, that went all round, and found out the persons
invited well enough, with the exception of Easter
Day, Shrove Tuesday, and a few such Moveables who
had lately shifted their quarters.

Well, they all met at last, foul Days, fine Days, all
sorts of Days, and a rare din they made of it. There
was nothing but, Hail ! fellow Day, well met
brother Day sister Day, only Lady Day kept a
little on the aloof, and seemed somewhat scornful.
Yet some said Twelfth Day cut her out and out, for
she came in a tiffany suit, white and gold, like a
queen on a frost-cake, all royal, glittering, and Epi-
phanous. The rest came, some in green, some in
white but old Lent and his family were not yet
out of mourning. Rainy Days came in, dripping;
and sun-shiny Days helped them to change their
stockings. Wedding Day was there in his marriage
finery, a little the worse for wear. Pay Day came


late, as he always does ; and Doomsday sent word
he might be expected.

April Fool (as my young lord's jester) took upon
himself to marshal the guests, and wild work he made
with it. It would have posed old Erra Pater to have
found out any given Day in the year, to erect a
scheme upon good Days, bad Days, were so
shuffled together, to the confounding of all sober

He had stuck the Twenty First of June next to
the Twenty Second of December, and the former
looked like a Maypole siding a marrow-bone. Ash
Wednesday got wedged in (as was concerted) be-
twixt Christmas and Lord Mayor's Days. Lord !
how he laid about him ! Nothing but barons of beef
and turkeys would go down with him to the great
greasing and detriment of his new sackcloth bib and
tucker. And still Christmas Day was at his elbow,
plying him with the wassail-bowl, till he roared, and
hiccup'd, and protested there was no faith in dried
ling, but commended it to the devil for a sour, windy,
acrimonious, censorious, hy-po-crit-crit-critical mess,
and no dish for a gentleman. Then he dipt his fist
into the middle of the great custard that stood before
his left-hand neighbour, and daubed his hungry beard
all over with it, till you would have taken him for the
Last Day in December, it so hung in icicles.

At another part of the table, Shrove Tuesday was


helping the Second of September to some cock broth,
which courtesy the latter returned with the deli-
cate thigh of a hen pheasant so there was no love
lost for that matter. The Last of Lent was spunging
upon Shrovetide's pancakes ; which April Fool per-
ceiving, told him he did well, for pancakes were
proper to a good fry-day.

In another part, a hubbub arose about the Thirtieth
of January, who, it seems, being a sour puritanic char-
acter, that thought nobody's meat good or sanctified
enough for him, had smuggled into the room a calf s
head, which he had had cooked at home for that pur-
pose, thinking to feast thereon incontinently ; but as
it lay in the dish, March manyweathers, who is a very
fine lady, and subject to the megrims, screamed out
there, was a "human head in the platter," and raved
about Herodias' daughter to that degree, that the
obnoxious viand was obliged to be removed ; nor did
she recover her stomach till she had gulped down a
Restorative, confected of Oak Apple, which the merry
Twenty Ninth of May always carries about with him
for that purpose.

The King's health * being called for after this, a
notable dispute arose between the Twelfth of August
(a zealous old Whig gentlewoman,) and the Twenty
Third of April (a new-fangled lady of the Tory
stamp,) as to which of them should have the honour

* The late King.


to propose it. August grew hot upon the matter,
affirming time out of mind the prescriptive right to
have lain with her, till her rival had basely sup-
planted her; whom she represented as little better
than a kept mistress, who went about mfine clothes,
while she (the legitimate BIRTHDAY) had scarcely a
rag, c.

April Fool, being made mediator, confirmed the
right in the strongest form of words to the appellant,
but decided for peace' sake that the exercise of it
should remain with the present possessor. At the
same time, he slyly rounded the first lady in the ear,
that an action might lie against the Crown for bi-geny.

It beginning to grow a little duskish, Candlemas
lustily bawled out for lights, which was opposed by
all the Days, who protested against burning daylight.
Then fair water was handed round in silver ewers,
and the same lady was observed to take an unusual
time in Washing herself.

May Dav, with that sweetness which is peculiar to


her, in a neat speech proposing the health of the

^/ .
founder, crowned her goblet (and by her example

the rest of the company) with garlands. This being
done, the lordly New Year from the upper end of the
table, in a cordial but somewhat lofty tone, returned
thanks. He felt proud on an occasion of meeting
so many of his worthy father's late tenants, promised
to improve their farms, and at the same time to


abate (if anything was found unreasonable) in their

At the mention of this, the four Quarter Days
involuntarily looked at each other, and smiled ;
April Fool whistled to an old tune of " New Brooms ; "
and a surly old rebel at the farther end of the table
(who was discovered to be no other than the Fifth
of November,} muttered out, distinctly enough to
be heard by the whole company, words to this effect,
that, "when the old one is gone, he is a fool that
looks for a better." Which rudeness of his, the
guests resenting, unanimously voted his expulsion ;
and the male-content was thrust out neck and heels
into the cellar, as the properest place for such a
boutefeu and firebrand as he had shown himself
to be.

Order being restored the young lord (who to
say truth, had been a little ruffled, and put beside
his oratory) in as few, and yet as obliging words as
possible, assured them of entire welcome ; and, with
a graceful turn, singling out poor Twenty ninth of
February, that had sate all this while mum- chance
at the side-board, begged to couple his health with
that of the good company before him which he
drank accordingly; observing, that he had not seen
his honest face any time these four years, with a
number of endearing expressions besides. At the
same time, removing the solitary Day from the for-


lorn seat which had been assigned him, he stationed
him at his own board, somewhere between the Greek
Calends and Latter Lammas.

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays → online text (page 27 of 32)