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Of thy divine affections rose ; white congress,
And Love which casts out fear, this was the sum of thee." We must not omit to cite an instance of the melancholy depth to be found in some parts of the series, noticing at the same time the characteristic manner in which gloom as well as cheerfulness is set forth through the medium of a beautiful artistic image:
" A WET AUTUMN.
Wax fainter, and my face grows to the grave." There is a quiet strength, we think, in all which we have quoted, without which nothing is really graceful in any high sense. Grace implies a certain elasticity, -à certain natural tendency to the erect,--and an easy, unconstrained movement within the limits of natural power; and these qualities eminently belong to Mr. Roscoe's poems. . We conclude our notice with the short piece which the editor has placed at the close of the Minor Poems, and which may fitly conclude any notice of the poet's works or life.
SYMBOLS OF VICTORY.
Yellow leaves on the ash-tree,
Soft glory in the air,
On the leaden clouds over there.
Overhung with tearful eyes
And the sudden opening skies.
A whisper in dying ears,
Shining on mortal fears.
A dying man on his pillow,
Whose white soul, fled to his face,
And stretches to Death's embrace.
Yearning, aching, and fears,
With steadfast eyes upon tears.
Of a soul divinely fair,
And Victory hung in the air.”
ART. VIII.—DE BIRAN'S PENSÉES.
The name Maine de Biran is probably unknown to the majority of even serious readers in England. Indeed, in his own country, according to his biographer, M. de Naville, "on le lit peu, et on le connaît mal." Yet no less an authority than M. Cousin has pronounced him “the greatest metaphysician by whom France has been honoured since Malebranche." The volume before us constitutes in some respects one of the most profoundly interesting and valuable delineations of the interior life and moral and spiritual progress of a man of genius with which we are acquainted. It is under this aspect exclusively that we shall consider the production issued by M. de Naville. Although a portion of the philosophical writings of Maine de Biran, in four quarto volumes, has been published, his biographer says, that “we possess but a very incomplete account of the doctrines of this philosopher.” There is some naïveté in this admission; for it is exceedingly plain from the Pensées, which extend over a space of thirty years, and of which the last were written only a few weeks before his death, that “this philosopher” himself was not much clearer in this matter than his readers. And, in fact, if it were possible to give a complete account of his views, the work we are about to notice would be wanting in that which constitutes its peculiar interest, as the selfdelineation of a man whose whole life was occupied in making and recording observations of his actual psychological experience, with a characteristic horror of any thing which was not either a spiritual fact, or an immediate and obvious deduction from it;
the consequence of course being, that the more he observed and the more he aspired towards the higher lise to which his observations led him, the farther did he become removed from that philosophical sphere which delights in logical schemes and “complete accounts," and the more did he find bimself involved in mental states and perceptions of truths which logicians will always be at a loss to make much of so long as we see as in a glass darkly."
General readers, of the most modern school, will despise Maine de Biran on principle. His life was not epic, and had, indeed, not even an aspiration towards the epic; whereas the present age, though not itself epic, unquestionably hopes to become so, and, as a preparation, has for some time past been “learning to jump and keep itself clean,” under the apostleship of Mr. Combe and Mr. Kingsley. We, however, who are either too old or not old enough to feel any very hearty enthusiasm in this rejuvenescence, confess to a lazy and perhaps emasculate liking for a class of literature of which the Psalıns of David and In Memoriam are respectively the most ancient and the most modern exemplifications. Trusting that not a few of our readers may share in our infirmity, we proceed to introduce them to Maine de Biran, only premising that our account, if rambling and formless, will all the more faithfully reflect the nature of our subject, which, indeed, scarcely admits of neatness or system in its treat
We shall first glance through M. de Naville's introduction and biographical sketch, and shall afterwards transcribe a few of the Pensées, which constitute the bulk of the book. These Pensées are taken from mental journals and memoranda of a very various and irregular character: political dissertations; relations, frequently'very minute, of daily incidents; philosophical speculations new from the brain, are mingled in these Mss. with expressions and analyses of the most secret movements of the soul. Sometimes, for long together, each day has its entry, sometimes there are gaps of many weeks.
It was necessary to select.
The extent of the original papers, their innumerable repetitions, together with a vast amount of personal and philosophically irrelevant matter, rendered them quite unfit for publication in the mass. M. de Naville proposed to himself to reproduce from these materials only what should enable him to “ exhibit the movement of the inner life of the writer, to enable the reader to apprehend, in the personal experiences of the philosopher, the origin of his metaphysical theories and his religious views, and to trace, in a word, the development of this extraordinarily sincere spirit.” M. de Naville has expressed the great source of the value and interest of this book in this last sentence. Extraordinary sincerity is
the characteristic of almost every phrase which has been written by Maine de Biran. His metaphysical remarks are always reflections of spiritual realities, never mere words, never empty methodology mistaking itself for novel and substantial thought. M. de Naville rightly says that the progress of such a mind from a faith in no realities higher than those perceived by the senses “jusqu'au moment où elle se tourne avec ardeur vers le monde invisible et les espérances éternelles, offre un spectacle d'une haute moralité;" and we quite agree with the remark with which he concludes his preface: “this book does not address itself exclusively to metaphysicians; its contents are fitted to interest all serious minds, and its form brings it within the reach of all cultivated persons.”
François Pierre Gonthier de Biran- Maine was a subsequent and extra-baptismal addition-was the son of a physician of some distinction. He was born November 29, 1766, at Bergérac. All that we know of his early youth is, that he pursued his studies at Perigueux with success, particularly in mathematies. He inherited from his parents a delicate constitution and a highly nervous temperament, which seems to have been exalted and disordered by a free indulgence in the gaieties of the Parisian life of the time, until his body became, merely through extreme sensitiveness, a very magazine of tortures to him ;not that we find any thing in the present Vie or Pensées to justify an assumption of any unusual profligacy ; but the fact of indulgence to an ordinary extent in those debaucheries, without which a youth passed in Paris would have been exceptional, is not attempted to be disguised; and this seems to have been enough to overthrow for ever the physical health of the future philosopher. We never met, beard, or read of any one so wonderfully susceptible of “skyey influences" as he seems to have been ; not only his comfort, but his affections, his intellect, and even his faith, were at the mercy of the winds, and rose or fell with the thermometer. He lived an eminent man at a time when eminence was danger; he had to undergo the risks of the Revolution ; and his position in the State, which was at certain epochs a high one, depended on the stability of parties at a period when nothing in France was stable. But matters of this sort -although he was any thing but indifferent to the honour of the world he does not think of sufficient importance to occupy his Diaries. He does certainly go out of his way now and then to record that he “has been content with himself” in his conduct during some important political crisis; he alludes to the fact of his having entered matrimonial bonds; and we discover, from certain generalities about the superior attractions of domesticity at his “terre” of Grateloup, that he had offspring:
but the incidents which he found worthy of express announcement, and to which repetition brought no diminution of interest, were the shifting of the wind from north-east to south-west, a distressing prevalence of damp, or a joyful change to dry ; and the first days of summer weather are, year by year, the subject of a sort of anniversary ode in enthusiastic and sometimes very beautiful prose;-witness the very first paragraph of his Diary:
“Grateloup, 27 mai 1794.- I have this day experienced a condition of mind too sweet, too remarkable by its rarity, to be forgotten. I walked alone some moments before the setting of the sun ; the weather was very fine ; the freshness of every object, the charm of their combination, in this brilliant time of spring,--a charm which is so palpable to the soul, but which fades in the attempt to describe it,—all that struck my senses induced in my heart I know not what sweet and sorrowful emotions. Tears stood in my eyelids. How many ravishing feelings succeeded each other! Could I but obtain permanence for such a state, what would be left to desire ? I should have obtained upon earth the joys of heaven. But an hour of this delightful peace was followed by the ordinary agitation of my life,” &c.
The extraordinary dependence of the moral nature of Maine de Biran upon corporeal conditions made the nature of the connection between soul and body an ever-present problem to him ; and though we cannot say that we think he did much towards solving it himself, he has left behind him a mass of what we may call experimental psychology, for which all future speculators in the same line will have to thank him.
Maine de Biran was fully and painfully aware at all times that his peculiar faculty was owing to defect. “When a man
“ has little life, or but a weak sense of life,” he writes, “he is naturally carried to the observation of internal phenomena. It is this which made a psychologist of me at such an early age. At another time he writes : “In health the sense of existence vanishes because it is continuous. Except when we suffer, we scarcely dream of our own being. Either disease or the habit of reflection is necessary to induce us to search into ourselves. There are few persons besides invalids who are aware of the process of existence; healthy people, even philosophers, are more occupied with the enjoyment of life than with its investigation.” Of course nothing can be more melancholy than the fate of those who have inherited or acquired the physical temperament of Maine de Biran, without high powers of reflection to make reflection fruitful. But to this extraordinary man, "se
. regarder passer" was a constant source of unselfish pleasure and profit, for there was no end to the glimpses of novel and lifeaffecting truth revealed by that well-watched panorama.