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condemned without a jury, and whipt without mercy. In this state of slavery he continues many years, and at the expiration of it, he is obliged to commence an involuntary subject of some civil government; to whose authority he must submit, however ingeniously he may dispute her right, or be justly hanged for disobedience to her laws. And this is the sum total of human liberty. Perhaps it may be said, that all this may be ingenious ridicule, but cannot be intended for serious argument; to which I reply, that it is the most serious argument that can be offered, because it is derived from the works and the will of our Creator; and evidently shews, that man was never designed by him to be an independent and self-governed being, but to be trained up in a state of subordination and government in the present life, to fit him for one more perfect in another; and, if it was not a reflection too serious, I should add, that, in the numerous catalogue of human vices, there is not one which so completely disqualifies him from being a member of that celestial community, as a factious and turbulent disposition, and an impatience of controul; which frequently assumes the honourable title of the love of liberty."
He thus attempts to explode the doctrine of the tacit compact between the governors and the governed.
“ This imaginary compact is represented by some, as a formal agreement entered into by the two contracting parties, by which the latter give up part of their natural independence, in exchange for protection granted by the former; without which voluntary surrender, no one man, or body of men, could have a right to controul the actions of another; and some have gone so far as to assert, that this surrender cannot be made binding by representation, that parents cannot consent to it for their children, or nations for individuals, but that every one must give his personal concurrence, and that on this alone the constitution of every government is or ought to be founded: but all this is a ridiculous fiction, intended only to subvert all government, and let mankind loose to prey upon each other; for, in fact, no such compact ever was proposed or agreed to, no such natural independence ever possessed, and consequently can never have been given up. We hear a great deal about the constitutions of different states, by which are understood some particular modes of government, settled at some particular times, which ought to be supported with religious veneration through all succeeding ages : in some of these, the people are supposed to have a right to greater degrees of liberty than in others, having made better bargains for themselves, and given up less of their natural independence: but this, and all conclusions drawn from these premises, must be false, because the facts on which they are founded are not true; for no such constitutions, established on general consent, are any where to be found; all which, we see, are the offsprings of force or fraud, of accident, and the circumstances of the times, and must perpetually change with those circumstances : in all of them, the people have an equal right to preserve or regain their liberty, whenever they are able. But the question is not, what right they have to liberty; but, what degree of it they are capable of enjoying, without accomplishing their own destruction. In some countries this is very small, and in none can it be very great, because the depravity of human nature will not permit it. Compact is repugnant to the very nature of government; whose essence is compulsion, and which originates always from necessity, and never from choice or compact; and it is the most egregious absurdity, to reason from the supposed rights of mankind in an imaginary state of nature, a state the most unnatural, because in such a state they never did or can subsist, or were ever designed. The natural state of man is by no means a state of solitude and independence, but of society and subordination; all the effects of human art are parts of his nature, because the power of producing them is bestowed upon him by the author of it. It is as natural for men to build cities, as for birds to build nests; and to live under some kind of government, as for bees and ants; without which he can no more subsist than those social and industrious insects; nor has he either more right or power than they, to refuse his submission. But if every man was possessed of this natural independence, and had a right to surrender it on a bargain, he must have an equal right to retain it; then he has a right to chuse, whether he will purchase protection at the price of freedom, or whether he prefers liberty and plunder to safety and constraint: a large majority of mankind, who have neither property nor principles, would undoubtedly make choice of the latter, and all these might rob, and murder, and commit all manner of crimes with impunity; for, if this their claim to natural independence is well founded, they could not be justly amenable to any tribunal upon earth, and thus the world would soon become a scene of universal rapine and bloodshed. This shews into what absurdities we run, whenever we reason from speculative principles, without attending to practicability and experience: for the real truth is no more than this, every man, by the constitution of human nature, comes into the world under such a degree of authority and restraint, as is necessary for the preservation and happiness of his species and himself; this is no more left to his choice, than whether he will come into the world or not; and this obligation he carries about with him, so long as he continues in it. Hence he is bound to submit to the laws and constitution of every country in which he resides, and is justly, punishable for disobedience to them. To ask a man whether he chuses to be subject to any law or government, is to ask him, whether he chuses to be a man, or a wild beast, and wishes to be treated accordingly. So far are men from being possessed of this natural independence, on which so many systems of anarchy have been erected, that submission to authority is essential to humanity, and a principal condition on which it is bestowed : man is evidently made for society, and society cannot subsist without government, and therefore government is as much a part of human nature, as a hand, a heart, or a head; all these are frequently applied to the worst of purposes, and so is government; but it would be ridiculous from thence to argue, that we should live longer and happier without them. The Supreme Governor of the world has not determined who shall be his vicegerents, nor what forms of government shall be adopted; but he has unalterably decreed, that there shall be some; and therefore, though no particular governors can lay claim to a divine right of ruling, yet government itself is of divine institution, as much as eating, and for the same reason, because we cannot subsist without it.”
This lively little work was written at the advanced age of seventy-eight. It met with considerable attention on its appearance, and a few answers were excited by the paradoxical nature of some of its opinions. Since which time, we believe this specimen of pure and animated English has been classed with the ephemeral publications which die with the sensation they produce.
Art. VII.-Gondibert, an Heroick Poem. Written by Sir Wil
liam Davenant, 12mo. London, 1651, pp. 243.
or addreface, 'at books of hich his our sole
It is not our intention in this place to give any biographical account of the eventful life of Sir William Davenant. Our sole design is to consider the heroic fragment on which his fame as a poet chiefly depends. The two first books of it were ushered into the world by a long preface, developing the plan of the poem, which the author addressed to Mr. Hobbes; and by the answer of that philosopher, together with commendatory verses by Waller and Cowley. Its appearance excited the raillery of the wits of the day, who attacked the author in a pamphlet of satirical verses, to which he replied with equal wit and some temper.* Davenant's rejection of all supernatural machinery has given rise to a great deal of discussion and inconsistent criticism. His audacity in choosing to think for himself, and write an epic poem on a principle contrary to the ancient and approved receipt for its construction, has been treated as a high crime against the laws of Parnassus, and himself deemed worthy of banishment from its domains. It is not our wish to revive this controversy, more especially after the ample though tardy justice which has been rendered to Davenant on this subject, by an elegant critict of the present day. His 'scheme of construct
. * Mr. D’Israeli differs from all preceding critics, and considers this second publication a continuation of the satirical attack of the • Club of Wits,' the irony deriving additional bitterness from being concealed under the disguise of a pretended defence.—Quarrels of Authors, v. 2, p. 231. .
+ Miscellanies in Prose, by John Aikin, M.D. and Letitia Barbauld. ing it on the exact model of a drama, the five books being parallel to the five acts, and the cantos to the scenes, was more plausible in theory, than feasible in execution. To think of making a poem, which is in its nature essentially narrative, bear any strict resemblance to a drama, which is the converse, was a vain attempt. And the author's hope, that he had not only observed the symmetry of the drama as a whole, but exactly followed all the shadowings, happy strokes, secret graces, and even the drapery which constitute the second beauty of those compositions, may be. pronounced to have been entirely fallacious. Gondibert is framed on a rigid principle, and executed in a chaste and severe style. It is in fact too didactic, and is written with such curious and elaborate study, as not only incumbers, but in some degree hides, the progress of the story. There is a want of earnestness and vital heat about it, of
“The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind.” To compensate for this, however, there is a chivalrous spirit and grandeur in the sentiments-a deep perception of the noble and majestic qualities of human nature, and a reach of philosophical thought which is truly admirable. It might indeed, with almost as much propriety, be termed a philosophical as an epic poem.—The diction displays an extraordinary power of compressed and vigorous expression, but it is rather the result of rude strength shaping his language to his ideas by the force of will, than that comprehensive command over it which enables a writer to express his thoughts with facility and grace.-Although it possesses power, it wants flexibility,-arising probably from his extreme labour and scrupulousness to convey his sentiments with the utmost possible force and brevity; the consequence is, that he is sometimes affected and not unfrequently obscure. This defect is increased by the elegiac stanza which Davenant has selected; a choice which, notwithstanding a great master of versification has professedly followed it, we do not think judicious, nor our author's reasons for it sufficient. But on such a subject, Davenant has a right to be heard in his own words.
“I believed, it would be more pleasant to the reader, in a work of length, to give this respite or pause between every stanza (having endeavour'd that each should contain a period) than to run him out of breath with continu'd couplets. Nor doth alternate rhyme, by any lowliness of cadence, make the sound less heroick, but rather adapt it to a plain and stately composing of musick; and the brevity of the stanza renders it less subtile to the composer, and more easie to the singer; which in stilo recitativo, when the story is long, is chiefly requisite. And this was indeed (if I shall not betray vanity in my con· VOL. II. PART II.
fession) the reason that prevail'd most towards my choice of this stanza, and my division of the main work into cantos, every canto including a sufficient accomplishment of some worthy design or action; for I had so much heat (which you, sir, may call pride, since pride may be allow'd in Pegasus, if it be a praise to other horses) as to presume they might, like the works of Homer ere they were joyn’d together, and made a volume by the Athenian king, be sung at village-feasts; though not to monarchs after victory, nor to armies before battel. For so, as an inspiration of glory into the one, and of valour into the other, did Homer's spirit, long after his bodie's rest, wander in musick about Greece.”
Davenant, having nearly completed a third book during his imprisonment at Cowes Castle, in the Isle of Wight, desisted from his design, thinking it “ high time to strike sail and cast anchor, (though he had run but half his course) when at the helm he was threatened with death, who, though he can visit us but once, seems troublesome, and even in the innocent may beget such a gravity as diverts the music of verse.” The hope of fame, which he had fondly cherished, was not likely to be much encouraged by the reception of his two first books; and from his postscript, which is written in a beautiful strain, he appears to have grown less sanguine, although not altogether out of heart.
“ If thou art a malicious reader, thou wilt remember, my preface boldly confessed, that a main motive to this undertaking, was a desire of fame; and thou mayst likewise say, I may very possibly not live to enjoy it. Truly I have some years ago consider'd, that fame, like time, onely gets a reverence by long running; and that, like a river, 'tis narrowest where 'tis bred, and broadest afar off; but this concludes it not unprofitable; for he, whose writings divert men from indiscretion and vice, becomes famous, as he is an example to others' endeavours: and exemplary writers are wiser than to depend on the gratuities of this world; since the kind looks and praises of the present age, for reclaiming a few, are not mentionable with those solid rewards in heaven, for a long and continual conversion of posteritie.
“ If thou (reader) art one of those, who has been warm'd with poetick fire, I reverence thee as my judge, and whilst others tax mé with vanitie, as if the preface argued my good opinion of the work, I appeal to thy conscience, whether it be more than such a necessarie assurance, as thou hast made to thyself in like undertakings ?"
· His ardour however was damped, and he never more resumed his task “to build the lofty rhyme.” This being but the fragment of a story, it will be sufficient to give the reader a brief abstract of the main plot, so far as it is developed.
In the reign of Aribert, King of Lombardy, Prince Oswald and Duke Gondibert were the most renowned for all