Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/152

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more broadly on ideas such as were unquestionably and strongly held by Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell in 1862, and to arrange with the Porte for the concession to the Hellenic provinces of all that may be found reasonable. I am firmly convinced that the antagonism of interests between them and the ruling power, which many assert and assume, does not in truth exist. The condition of Turkey is bad as matters now are: what would it have been if the festering sore of the Greek revolution had been permitted to pass, by neglect, into a gangrene? I believe that suzerainty over a large range of country would then have been better for both parties, than independence in a very small one: but that either the one or the other was better than the doctrine that we have no more to do with a quarrel between the sultan and his subjects than with any other similar quarrel, and than a practice in accordance with that doctrine. Why should we be alarmed at the sound of suzerainty? It is a phrase of infinite elasticity. Even in the present Turkish empire, suzerainty exists in half-a-dozen different forms, as over Tunis, Egypt, Samos, Roumania, and Servia. What it implies is a practical self-management of all those internal affairs on which the condition of daily life depends, such as police and judiciary, with fixed terms of taxation, especially of direct and internal taxation, and with command over the levy of it. Where these points are agreed on, there is little left to quarrel about.

There is, therefore, for any who think in this way, ample ground for belief and action without reference to the position of this or that European power. But, in the minds of many, the actors have, as to the Eastern question, a larger place than the acts. To them I desire to point out that, if they think it urgently required for England, in the face of Russia, to establish an independent position and influence in the Levant, by some more enduring means than vaunting menace or mere parade, or proclaiming schemes of the most unmitigated selfishness, they have now such an opportunity as never before was offered. Of that people who still fondle in their memories the names of Canning and of Byron, there are in the Levant we may safely say four millions, on whose affections we may take a standing hold, by giving a little friendly care at this juncture to the case of the Hellenic provinces. They want, not Russian institutions, but such a freedom as we enjoy. They want for their cause an advocate who is not likely to turn into an adversary; one whose temptations lie in other quarters; who cannot (as they fondly trust) ask anything from them, or in any possible contingency, through durable opposition of sympathies or interests, inflict anything upon them.[1]

The recollections of Lord Byron have been recently revived in England by a well-meant effort. Among them there is one peculiarly noble. It is that of his chivalrous devotion to the Greek cause; a devotion, of which his unsparing munificence was far from being the most conspicuous feature. In the days which preceded the revolutionary war, when Greece lay cold and stark in her tomb, her history and her fate drew forth from him some precious utterances of immortal song: —

They fell devoted, but undying:
The very gale their names seemed sighing:
The waters murmured of their name;
The woods were peopled with their fame;
The silent pillar, lone and grey,
Claimed kindred with their sacred clay :
Their spirits wrapped the dusky mountain;
Their memory sparkled o'er the fountain:
The meanest rill, the mightiest river,
Rolled mingling with their fame forever:
Despite of every yoke she bears,
That land is glory's still and theirs.

These lines are from "The Siege of Corinth,"[2] published in 1816. More beautiful still, if more beautiful be possible, were the lines of 1813 in "The Giaour" from the image of a dead body, which began, —

So fair, so calm, so softly sealed,
The first, last look by death revealed.

And his ever-wakeful muse stood ready to greet the first effort of resuscitation. In "The Age of Bronze," written in 1823,[3] he hailed the revival thus: —

'Tis the old aspiration breathed afresh
To kindle souls within degraded flesh,
Such as repulsed the Persian from the shore
When Greece was — no! she still is Greece once more.

But Lord Byron brought to this great cause, the dawn of emancipation, for the East then all in grave-clothes, not only the enthusiasm of a poet, or the reckless daring of a rover. He treated the subject, which both shaped and absorbed the clos-

  1. In the Times of November 18, will be found a report, copied from the Kölnische Zeitung, of a conversation, held by the reporter, with General Ignatieff. The degree of reliance due to it may be a question. But the sentiments towards the Greek provinces ascribed to that diplomatist were of the cold and discouraging character, which I should have anticipated.
  2. xv.
  3. vi.