« ZurückWeiter »
Ironsides," " The Steamboat," "Qui Vive," and numerous passages of “Poetry," display a lyrical fire and inspiration which should not be allowed to decay for want of care and fuel. In those poems of fancy and sentiment, where the exceeding richness and softness of his diction seem trembling on the verge of meretricious ornament, he is preserved from slipping into Della Cruscanism by the manly energy of his nature and his keen perception of the ridiculous. Those who know him only as a comic lyrist, as the libellous laurea tof chirping folly and presumptuous egotism, would be surprised at the clear sweetness and skylark thrill of his serious and sentimental compositions.
Of Willis G. Clark, Mr. Griswold writes : “ His metrical writings are all distinguished for a graceful and elegant diction, thoughts morally and poetically beautiful, and chaste and appropriate imagery.” This praise is substantiated by the extracts which follow it. There is much purity and strength of feeling in many of Mr. Clark's poems. Though not marked by much power of imagination, they are replete with fancy and sentiment, and have often a searching pathos and a mournful beauty which find their way quietly to the heart.
C. P. Cranch has worked with some success in the transcendental vein. The “Hours," “ Stanzas," " My Thoughts,” are specimens of the results of his labors. William Pitt Palmer, whose name we see occasionally flitting through the periodical world, has written a poem on “Light," in the stanza of Shelley's “Cloud,” far superior in diction and imagery to a large portion of our miscellaneous poetry. Mr. Griswold would have done well to place him in the body of the volume, instead of the appendix. He is worthy of a more prominent station than he occupies.
John Greenleaf Whittier is one of our most characteristic poets. Few excel him in warmth of temperament. Old John Dennis, the Gifford of Queen Anne's time, describes genius as caused by a furious joy and pride of soul on the conception of an extraordinary hint. Many men have their hints, without their motions of fury and pride of soul, because they want fire enough to agitate their spirits ; and these we call cold writers. Others, who have a great deal of fire, but have not excellent organs, feel the forementioned motions, without the extraordinary hints, and these we call fustian writers.” Whittier has this “furious joy “pride of soul,” even when the “ hints" are not extraordi
nary ; but he never falls into absolute rant and fustian. A common thought comes from his pen 66 rammed with life.” He seems, in some of his lyrics, to pour out his blood with his lines. There is a rush of passion in his verse, which sweeps every thing along with it.
His fancy and imagination can hardly keep pace with their fiery companion. His vehement sensibility will not allow the inventive faculties fully to complete what they may have commenced. The stormy qualities of his mind, acting at the suggestions of conscience, produce a kind of military morality which uses all the deadly arms of verbal warfare. When well intrenched in abstract right, he always assumes a hostile attitude towards the champions or practisers of abstract wrong. He aims to give his song
a rude martial tone, a blow in every thought.” His invective is merciless and undistinguishing ; he almost screams with rage and indignation. Occasionally, the extreme bitterness and fierceness of his declamation degenerate into mere shrewishness and scolding. Of late, he has somewhat pruned the rank luxuriance of his style. The “ Lines on the Death of Lucy Hooper," “Raphael,” “ Follen,” “Memories,” among the poems in his last published volume, are indications that his mind is not without subtle imagination and delicate feeling, as well as truculent strength and fierce energy.
There is much spiritual beauty in these little compositions. It is difficult to conceive how the man who can pour out such torrents of passionate feeling, and who evidently loves to see his words tipped with fire, can at the same time write such graceful and thoughtful stanzas as these :
A beautiful and happy girl
With step as soft as summer air,
Of unconfined and flowing hair :
Save thoughtful brow and ripening charms,
When sinking into Summer's arms.
Of memory at the thought of thee!
And boyhood lives again in me;
I feel its glow upon my cheek,
Its fulness of the heart is mine,
Or raised my doubtful eye to thine.
I feel thy arm within my own,
With soft brown tresses overblown.
Of moonlit wave and willowy way,
And smiles and tones more dear than they !
"And wider yet in thought and deed
Our still diverging paths incline,
The Yorkshire peasant's simple line :
And holy day and solemn psalm ;
My brethren gather, slow and calm." Whittier has the soul of a great poet, and we should not be surprised if he attained the height of excellence in his art. The faults of his mind, springing from excessive fluency and a too excitable sensibility, exaggerated as they have been by the necessities of hasty composition, have prevented him from displaying as yet the full power of his genius. It is by no means unlikely, that, when he has somewhat tamed the impetuosity of his feelings, and brooded with more quiet intensity over the large stores of poetry which lie chaotically in his nature, he may yet produce a work which will rival, and perhaps excel, the creations of his most distinguished contemporaries. He has that vigor, truthfulness, and manliness of character, — that freedom from conventional shackles, — that careless disregard of Mr. Pretty man's notion as to what constitutes the high, and Miss Betty's notion as to what constitutes the low, — that native energy and independence of nature, — which form the basis of the character of every great genius, and without which poetry is apt to be a mere echo of the drawing-room, and to idealize affectations instead of realities.
We are glad to perceive, that Mr. Griswold has done some justice to the poetical powers of Mrs. Maria Brooks, author of " Zóphiël, or the Bride of Seven.”
or the Bride of Seven." This lady has generally written under the name of Maria del Occidente. Her poems evince mental qualities, which, if they bad been employed on themes or incidents more in accordance with popular feeling than those she has chosen, would have given her the first place among American poets of her own sex. Her mind has a wider sweep, and is more poetical in its tendencies, than that of any of her female contemporaries. In fancy and passion, she has hardly been excelled by any American writer. Her mind has been well stored with knowledge, her sense of harmony is exceedingly fine, and her command of language is almost despotic. She possesses great fertility of fancy, and a luxurious sense of the beauty of outward objects. Nature to her is “an appetite and a passion.” In the description of tropical scenery, there is a delicious richness, a dreamy beauty, and a “ mazyrunning soul of harmony,” in her verse, which not only bring the scene vividly to the eye, but render it perceptible to the other senses. She has great warmth and occasional intensity of feeling, and gives it free and bold expression. Her poem of “ Zophiël,” first published in London, in 1833, is a remarkable production. It has been much praised in England, but seems to be little known in this country. By many it is still considered the work of an Englishwoman. When republished in Boston, it was hailed by most of the newspaper critics with admiring ignorance or pert stupidity. Some were astounded to find a woman of the nineteenth century evincing more knowledge of Plato and Hafiz than of Bulwer or Hannah More; others were shocked, that she should so far wander from the “ legitimate sphere of female composition, as to attempt something more than the versification of sermons, or the vivification of common-places. Though the subject is, on the whole, delicately treated, there are a few stanzas which might have been omitted with advantage to the general refinement of expression. These were darted upon by persons endowed with a sharp scent for indelicacy, and represented, with certain mysterious nods, winks, and the other signs of prudery's freemasonry, as samples of the poem ; and, accordingly, the most unjustly neglected work of genius ever No. 122.
published in the United States came near obtaining the dubious honor of circulating over the whole land as a book " which no young lady should read.” We think that Mr. Griswold's selections from “ Zóphiël,” although they cannot give a full impression of its merits, prove that it contains poetical qualities which would reflect no discredit upon poets of far greater popularity.
Mrs. E. Oakes Smith, of New York, has written a number of short poems of much beauty, purity, and spirituality. - The Sinless Child ” and “ The Acorn” manifest qualities of mind and heart, which are worthy of a more thorough development. They display much depth of feeling and afluence of fancy, and are singularly pure and sweet in their tone. “ The Sinless Child, though deficient in artistical finish, contains many passages of a high order of poetry, and is as stainless as its subject. It gives evidence, also, of a capacity for a more extended sweep over the domain of thought and emotion. Mrs. Smith is not merely a smooth and skilful versifier, indulging occasionally in a flirtation with Poetry, to while away the time, but one whose productions are true exponents of her inward life, and display the freshness and fervor which spring from individuality of character and feeling. She speaks of what she knows and of what she has felt. Her theory of morals does not seem to have come into her soul through the inlet of the ear. Her truthfulness is a prominent characteristic of her genius.
The poems of Mrs. Sigourney are very numerous and popular. According to Mr. Griswold, she has published six or seven volumes, of which the last appeared in 1841. The moral character of her writings is unexceptionable. She possesses great facility in versification, and is fluent both in thoughts and language. But much that she has written is deformed by the triteness and irregularity consequent upon hasty composition, and hardly does justice to her real powers. “Niagara," “ The Death of an Infant," " Winter,” and “Napoleon's Epitaph,” are favorable specimens of her talents.
Mrs. Child has written little verse, but the few metrical pieces which pass under her name are almost as good as her best prose. Hannah F. Gould is a name so pleasantly interwoven with pure fancies and good thoughts, that it is an unpleasant task to sift her productions, for the purpose of