« PreviousContinue »
The description of a mock, (Indian,) fight, in the Third Canto, is sprightly, graphic and forcible; and the simile in the first two lines, like all our author's figures, is American.
Or, doubling, when the oozy ground
Yielded beneath the slightest foot, Like bunted foxes when the hound
And hunter are in hot pursuit. The red-breast, perched in arbor green, Sad minstrel of the quiet scene, While hymning, for the dying sun, Strains like a broken-hearted one, Raised not her motiled wing to fly, As swept those silent warriors by. The wood-cock, in his moist retreat, Heard not the falling of their feet; On his dark roost the gray owl slept ; Time with his drum the partridge kept; Nor left the deer his watering place, So hushed, so noiseless was their pace."
The poem contains several daguerreotype sketches of Indian character, which are as correct, we think, as any which have yet been taken with
Where red men are introduced, they look really like red men. We are not mistaken, we feel that we are in the presence of savages. The features and the movements are those of no other race of beings. There is a vividness and fulness in the pictures, which is the result of the most careful observation. Yonnondio could not have been written by one who had not seen Indians ; nay, more, by one who had not associated with them, and studied the most delicate shades of their character. It could have been written no where else than in America; and much of its marked and peculiar beauty would have been lost by composing it elsewhere than in the Genesee Valley. Some of the characteristics of the scenery of this Valley are painted, and are found in the most beautiful passages in the volume. Here is one :
“Like Cougar, mad with taste of blood,
A warrior darted from the throng, While the dim arches of the wood
Rang with their gathering song, High overhead his hatchet raised, While lightning from his eye-ball blazed, Then buried in the solid oak Its glittering blade with rending stroke. Changed was the scene from measure slow,
To frantic leap and deasening yell, And on imaginary foe
A hundred weapons fell, Till hacked and splintered to the ground, In fragments lay the post around. “Wild and more wild the tumult grew Amid the crazed, demoniac crew; Knives flashed, and man to man opposed ; Dark forms in mimic combat closed ; Upwhirled in clouds the summer dust; Quick blows were aimed, and furious thrust; With face convulsed the fallen gasped, And murderous hands the scalp-lock grasped; Some from the swathing board cut loose With seeming hate, the swart pappoose, Then raised it, struggling, by the heel, And pointed at its throat the steel; While others on the trampled ground, Limbs of the frantic mother bound, And her shrill cry with laughter drowned. Feigned was base flight and hold advance ; Poised was the long, bone-headed lance ; Stout arms the heavy war club swayed ; Elastic bows sharp twanging made; And mocked, with modulated tone, Was victor shout and dying groan."
“ Treading upon the grassy sod
Before her darkly lay :
“ The grizzly wolf was on the tramp
To gain the covert of his lair;
As if they asked her errand there.
Mr. Hosmer is successful in taking other than Indian photographs. His likeness of De Grei, a conspicuous character in the poem, exhibits descriptive powers of a high order. The reader will find it on pages 74-5.
In picturing natural scenery, Mr. Hosmer is excelled by few of our poets except Bryant and Street. Yonnondio contains-what the former once called his “ Themes for Song,"-a gallery of pictures. Almost every inch of ground described, has been trodden by the poet, and surveyed with a painter's eye. Indeed, we have heard the author remark, that much of the poem was composed on the very spot where the scenes are laid. Hence they are true to nature in the strictest sense.
The longest and loveliest of those sketches of natural scenery
is contained in the First Canto : but a shorter passage from the Fourth will serve our purpose :
“The devious way on which they marched
Set firmly in the watery mould.
On thine own image brooding placidly,
And o'er the unwrinkling image of the sky.
This chilly heart almost stands still to listen Long-bladed flag and clustering reeds,
Intensely, while the stir of woods sequestered,
The dirge of hermit waters fill my ear,
Perchance till now by man heard never. Here, Sad objects to poetic eye!
Nor human steps, nor tongues have chased away Like monarchs by the ballle-blast
The lingerings of His presence, who was here Assailed and overthrown at last,
To pile this scene of solitude sublime,
His plastic hand passed hollow o'er these hills; Lay rotting in their barky mail,
His finger traced this channel, and his breath Indifferent to sun and gale.
First woke among the leaves this whispering. Deep hollows in the miry clay,
All is so fresh, untouched, unchanged, that I Marked where their roots orice spread away, Feel awe-struck in this valley onesplored, Now mixed with many a rugged mound,
As tho' I were profanely venturing
In one of Nature's chambers, whence her sire By the wild rushing hurricane."
Had just gone forth? It will be seen that our author is a close student
In ulter solitude of Nature. The following extract shows that his How audible is nature's moral voice! studies have not been confined to her external beau- Far from the drowning hum of man, it swells ties, which he elsewhere so admirably portrays :- As waterfalls, by day unnoted, roar “The blue lipped wave stole up the beach,
Clear in the listening night. And face to face Its red polluted sand to bleach;
With Nature, lone, I feel like the left child, Breathing a low and whispered moan,
Whom none are nigh to charm away his fears A sad, mysterious undertone,
of haunted darkness. In upon itselt As if it bore a heart, and sighed
Shrinks my humbled soul.
Everlasting hills! of a minor character. Mr. Hosmer is sometimes Where sits Eternity, to note the change unfortunate in the selection of a word, and gives of things below,-ye patriarchal oaks unimportant adjectives too conspicuous a place Crowding up your steep amphitheatre, among the rhymes. Such faults, however, are not Shade leaned on shade; and looking down on these, common, neither are they glaring. The author, Ye queenly pines, how vain man's Litle seems, who is young, will discover them as his judgment Of lord of earth, as in your ranks I stand, ripens; and purged of these, Yonnondio, which is Nature's inanimate nobilily! a truly American poem, will be likely to receive a
Wast thou alone in God's eye when he sketched happy immortality.
This scene, poor man? Why for a thousand somJ. CLEMENT.
mers, Buffalo, New York.
Now first to me revealed, have flowers recluse
Eyed by the wild goat vainly ? Or why wastes
This fairy streamlet's loveliness, that starts The sun at noon ne'er dropt a short glance in
All foam and murmur from its tilted bed, A dimmer dell. Around the mountains crowd,
Where rocked the white swan dimly seen 'mid As if, with side by side, they strove to shield,
whiteness? From every breeze, this drowsy pool wherein
Then, like a snake coiled in the midst, it spreads They watch the downward phantoms of themselves. An unstirred lake, the mountain's mirror-then, Blue heaven from cliff to cliff low-arching lies
Like a snake starting, steals away beyond. A narrow dome, where the down-gazing eagle,
Or why to roof it, rose this colonnade, O'erpassing hears no echo of her scream,
So echoing and long, of sycamores, Ere her wide wings are gone.—Here let me rest. Whose smooth trunks high and white might bring
to mind, A weary, mazy way, that lonely swan
By moonshine seen, the columned skeleton Hath wildered me, beneath o'erarching shades, Of some old city? Yonder sun-lit eagle, Fading away like a melted snow-wreath,—then In rings majestic setiling to her nest, Glimpsing adown the stream a wreath new fallen. Alone hath watched a thousand eves like this Now may I watch thee on the broader sheet, Die on the mountains.
Spirit of love and life,
Of this book we may truly quote the old remark, I feel, yea know, that joy is no sole boon that what is good is not new, and what is new is Of breathing things, for Thou art everywhere. not good. That is, the good in it consists of vaThat stirring wild flower drinks the breeze, me- rious quotations, which every reader of poetry thinks,
knows by heart. The new in it is composed of With gust no less than human infancy
his own trifling editions, and sundry excerpts, only Of new life hath. Hills swelling to the skies, not already known, because not worth knowing. Do ye not love to breathe Eve's rosy air,
But, to begin with the beginning, we must first And bathe in Heaven? Gnarled monarchs of the consider his introductory " Essay in answer to the wood,
question, "What is Poetry?'” A-tip-toe on your foothold difficult,
Perhaps no point has been more often discussed, One o'er the other, can ye look sheer down or with less satisfactory result, than the essential In this ravine profound and tingle not
attributes of poetry.
Each man who has taken it With a sense like sublimity ?
up, has arrived at a different conclusion, and has
We When the clouds
succeeded in convincing no one but himself. Of deep, portentous red, curled round these cliffs, have not self-sufficiency enough to enter on a quesShall spread a canopy of storm ere morning,
lion which involves so much speculation, and which Monntains, will ye not to the jarring thunder
presents itself in so many thousand aspects. He Thrill in your hearts of stone, with gladness fierce, who shall forn a definition of poetry, which shall Of warrior sort, as ye by flash-light see
embrace it in its infinite variety and vastness, and Each other leaping out of darkness, and
yet be applicable to its numberless minute points, Your forests tossing their Briarean arms?
will be worthy of all honor. Perhaps Shelley, in
his unrivalled “ Defence of Poetry," has succeedJ. S. A.
ed better than any of his predecessors. Like a true poet, he has taken hold of the question in its most catholic aspect, and considers it, not as tied
down by the bonds of mere pen and ink, but as it IMAGINATION AND FANCY; exists in the world, influencing man unconsciously,
and manifesting itself in the beautiful and sublime, BY LEIGH HUNT.*
whether produced by human or natural agency.
It rises spontaneously and is seen everywhere ; and This is emphatically an age of book-making. No he whose spirit is most alive to its power, whether one can look at the stream of volumes so uninter-in man or the meanest flower, is a poet. But this ruptedly pouring from the press, without being broad and comprehensive view of the subject has struck at the very few which display thought or escaped the puny grasp of Leigh Hunt, and he has originality, or which will survive the lapse of twenty restricted it to its most limited sense.
We quote years. Of the prevailing art of book-manufactu- the opening sentence of his essay as embodying his ring, now so thoroughly understood, and so exten- opinions, and as a specimen of his inartistic and sively practised, the book before us is an excellent slip-shod prose : specimen. Our friend, Leigh Hunt, is an old and experienced journeyman at the trade ; a man of all “ Poetry, strictly and artistically so called, that work, ready to turn his hand to any job promising which is more or less shared by all the world, but
is to say, considered not merely as poetic feeling, adequate remuneration. He has served a long and
as the operation of that feeling, such as we see it faithful apprenticeship to it, passing through all the in the poet's book, is the utterance of a passion for gradations, and now, after forty-five years of as- truth, beauty, and power, embodying and illustrasiduous authorship, we have the pleasure of meet-iing its illustrations by imagination and fancy, and ing him again with all his jauntiness, spruceness, modulating its language on the principle of variety egotism, and cockneyism almost as rampant and
in uniformity.” conspicuous on the verge of sixty as at sixteen.
He thus not only restricts poetry to the expresIf he lives, we predict that his will be a “green sion of a sense of the beautiful on paper, but limits old age,” in more senses of the word than were that to cases where it is in verse. Thus, on page dreamed of in the philosophy of old Adam, for he 24, he proceeds : seems to retain his juvenile freshness and blue-coat boyishness, in a manner quite remarkable to a spec- “With regard to the principle of Variety in Unitator.
formity, by which verse ought to be modulated, and
one-ness of impression diversely produced, (whal * Imagination and Fancy; or, Selections from the Eng. does this mean ?) it has been contended by some, Jish Poets, illustrative of those first requisites of their Art. that Poetry need not be written in verse at all; that With markings of the best passages, critical Notices of the prose is as good a medium, provided poetry be conWriters, and an Essay in answer to the Question, "What veyed through it; and that to think otherwise, is to is Poetry?" By Leigh Hunt,
confound letter with spirit, or form with essence.
But the opinion is a prosaical mistake. Fitness, not Fuller's “Holy Wars" a poem? To descend and unfitness for song, or metrical excitement, just to more modern instances, is there no poetry in Eumake all the difference between a poetical and gene Aram, or Zanoni, though Bulwer has never prosaical subject; and the reason why verse is ne- been able to write decent verse? We have said cessary to the form of poetry, is, that the perfection of poetical spirit demands it; that the circle of en- nothing of the grandest of all poetry—that of the thusiasın, beauty, and power, is incomplete with Scriptures, though Hunt endeavors to get round it, out it. I do not mean to say that a poet can never feeling the untenability of his position, by saying, show himself a poet in prose ; but that, being one, that in the original it is written in verse.
If so, his desire and necessity will be to write in verse ; and that, if he were enabled to do so, he would not,
translation without metre, should have evaporated and could not, deserve his title. Every poet, then, all its poetry. But to take a broader ground, are is a versifier; every fine poet, an excellent one; they alone poets who write ? When we listen to a and he is the best whose verse exhibits the greatest spirit-stirring or melting piece of music, do we not amount of strength, sweetness, straightforwardness, feel that its creator was a poet. When we gaze unsuperfluousness, variety, and one-ness."
on one of Huntingdon's pictures, where the artist The distinction our author draws between poeti- has transferred the visions of his glowing soul to cal and prosaical subjects, is much more apparent canvass, do we not read therein an unsong poem, than real. Every different individual will have a
and confess him a poet who conceived it? Is it different scale for such admeasurement; and the not the same with sculpture, though the unmalleahigher faculty a poet possesses, the more subjects bility of the materials renders its manifestations less he will subdue beneath his power.
Look at the visible, and its full projection more uncertain ? universal grasp of Shakespeare, and observe how And, after feeling and experiencing all this, shall many things he has rendered redolent of beauty,
we agree with one who comes, like Hunt, and tells which a meaner mind would have cast aside as ut.
us that “No good can come out of Nazareth," no terly unfit for "song or metrical excitement.” It poetry can come except from pen, ink and paper ! varies, too, with every age; and what is regarded
Another of Mr. Hunt's texts may perhaps be as the end and aim of poetry by one generation, is
worth commenting onscouted at and held up to ridicule by the succeed- “ Verse is to the true poet no clog. It is idly ing. Pope is now regarded to have made a grand called a trammel and a difficulty. It is a help. It mistake in all the subjects selected by him as wor-springs from the same enthusiasm as the rest of thy his Muse, and our friend Hunt, himself, never his impulses, and is necessary to their satisfaction lets slip an opportunity of ridiculing him; yet he dition of rushing upward is a clog 10 fire, or than
and effect. Verse is no more a clog than the conwas the Magnus Apollo of the eighteenth century, the roundness and order of the globe we live on, is and his themes were long considered the only ones a clog to the freedom and variety that abound within suitable for poetry. When the “ Lay of the Last its sphere." Minstrel" appeared, the Edinburg Reviewers, while
It will here be seen that Mr. Hunt regards verse according to Scott a full meed of praise, entreated him to abandon such subjects, and take up some-lit cannot exist. If this is the case, we may
as the natural consequent of poetry, without which thing more worthy of him ; and not long afterwards, what system of versification is it which springs Byron, in his English Bards,” reproached him for wasting his genius over a series of " black let
naturally from poetry? Is the old Hebraic the true ter ballads."
one, or the stately classical metre, or the complex
and involved Norse and Icelandic, the rough and Mr. Hunt is even less happy in his assertion, that they alone are poets who can wield the pen, and abrupt Saxon, or the modern flowing and rhyming " build the lofty verse,” and that poetry is not to be stanzas ? Surely some one of these must be the found outside of the confines of verse.
genuine one, for they cannot all be as necessary to ine poet, whose chief fault is that he has left so poetry as spericity to the globe, or rising upwards
to flame. few evidences of his genius, has said
But it is not worth while to trouble our
selves much to fathom Mr. Huni's meaning, since “Sum sangis ar writt bot nevir sung."
he contradicts himself within a few pages. SpeakAnd much poetry is there which can never be sung, ing of the octosyllabic measure, the most pleasing and yet which makes its way to the heart with an in the language when properly managed, he says: appeal that cannot be mistaken. Is not the old
“It has been advocated, in opposition to the he. classical mythology in itself poetical, even depri- roic measure, on the ground that ten syllables lead ved of the strength of Homer, or the sweetness of a man into epithets and other superfluities, while Ovid? Is not Plato a poet, ay! a lofty one, though eight syllables convert him into a sensible and pithy he scarce wrote fifty lines in verse ? Is not Livy's gentleman. But the heroic measure laughs at it. history a poem, a prose epic? Can we read any
So far from compressing, it converts one line into of Bacon's writings, or hear of his walking bare- two, and sacrifices everything to the quick and imheaded in the rain, in order that he "might feel
portunate return of the rhyme.” the universe," without confessing him a poet? Is This is a singularly candid confession of the utter
fallacy of his previous assertion, that verse so far | Looks on himself as the most unresponded to and from being a clog, was a help to the poet.
unaccountably ill-osed bad temper in Tuscany; After speaking thus at length on the essence and rages at every word and look she gives another;
and fills the house with miseries, which, because attributes of poetry, our author proceeds to give us
they ease himself, and his vile spleen, he thinks her his opinions on the requisites of versification. If our bound to suffer." readers know anything of Leigh Hunt, they are no doubt aware that these are somewhat peculiar; and It must not be thought that we put this to a test he here advocates them, with all his vigor, for the 100 severe. The ancient MSS. were written with twentieth time. His principal canon is an utter even the words run together, and yet they are poecontempt for smoothness, or attention to the metre. try still; and no one could for a moment bewilder A line that runs evenly on, with the accents falling himself among the Miltonic cadences. Are we, in, and chiming with the longs and shorts, he seems then, to listen to a man lecturing gravely and critito consider unworthy of a poet. It must have two or ically on the most delicate and minute points of three redundant syllables or misaccentuations to poetry and versification, who will present to the render it palatable. “ Smoothness," says he, " is world, as good sense, lines so filled with elisions, a thing so little to be regarded for its own sake, redundancies inversions, and inelegant expressions, and indeed so worthless in poetry, but for some taste and, with all this, so rough and unmelodious ? of sweetness, that I have not thought it necessary to mention it by itself.” But, discarding rhyme, “ And, shall we own such judgment? no !-as soon which is unnecessary, smoothness is the principal Seek roses in December,-ice in June, and distinguishing difference between verse and Hope constancy in wind, or corn in chaff, prose,-the essential of versification, for prose can Believe a woman, or an epitaph, have melody and sweetness almost to as great a Or any other thing that's false.” degree as verse. According to our author, however, versification is the essential of poetry. There- Leaving this subject, Mr. Hunt proceeds to speak fore, by discarding smoothness, he proves satisfac- at length on sweetness, accent, harmony, and other torily that prose and poetry are the same thing. accessories of poetry. Some of his remarks, To do bim justice, he acts up to his precepts; he though not novel, are good, though he is far too practises as he preaches, and his writings, if taken apt to over-refine, which is not singular, seeing at the standard at present accorded them, bear him that he has been writing on these subjects for thirty out in the conclusion that verse and prose are iden-years, and naturally pushes them too far. In his tical. Unfortunately, we have near us at the mo- admiration of his favorites, especially Coleridge, ment no volume of his poetry to quote from, but he is determined 10 see no fault in them, and finds we extract the first passage given in Griswold's beauties in their very lapses of thought and ex“ Poets of England.” It is one of the choice por- pression. tions of the “Legend of Florence,” Hunt's best He then goes on to advise and counsel the young production, and regarded by his admirers as a work and timid reader, who wishes to ascertain " What for immortality, krñuá te is àci. We write the lines is the quickest way of knowing bad poets from as prose, premising that in the original they are good, the best poets from the next best, and so on?" given as blank verse-blank enough Heaven knows; The only plan, he gravely answers, is to read and and we defy any one to break it up into its original study attentively the various poets, and then see
It is a labored description of one of the what are liked. The unfortunate questioner here principal characters.
finds himself placed, by his quizzical preceptor, in
the position of the learned Monsieur Jourdan, who "In all, except a heart, and a black shade of su. had been speaking prose all his life without knowperstition, he is man enough! Has a bold blood, large brain, and liberal hand, as far as the purse goes; albeit he likes the going abroad to be blown
Having now discoursed at considerable length about with trumpets. Nay, I won't swear that he on the preliminary essay, we will proceed to exdoes not love his wife, as well as a man of no sortamine the body of the work. of affection, nor any domestic tenderness can do The general idea of the book is good. It was a
He highly approves her virtues, talents, beau- happy thought to present to the reader the passaly; thinks her the sweetest woman in all Florence, partly, because she is,-partly, because she is his ges in England's poets, most remarkable for fancy own, and glorifies his choice; and therefore he and imagination ; but it was attended with difficuldoes her the honor of making her the representa- lies as to the bounds to be made, very few extracts live and epitome of all he values, - public reputa- could be selected displaying imagination unmixed tion, private obedience, delighted fondness, grale with other faculties, and, where once other claims ful return for his unamiableness, love without bounds,--in short, for his self love ; and as she finds to admiration are admitted, it would be difficult 10 it difficult, poor soul! to pay such reasonable de- say “ thus far shalt thou go.” Mr. Hunt has not mands at sight with the whole treasure of her heart always been fortunate in his selection. We also and smiles, the gentleman takes pity on-himself!'object to the plan of marking and italicising the