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There is no coolness in the summer rain!
To welcome back the gladness of the soul!" In bidding adieu to Mr. Sargent, we greet the appearance of a writer, who differs from him in every essential characteristic, as much as it is possible for one person to differ from another. The author of the “ Ruins of Athens” is evidently a man of taste, feel. ing, fancy and imagination, and yet we are free to say that he is not destined to be a poet. The present work has been before the public some years, and if it has not made his name particularly familiar as a poet, the present republication, for it bears neither the name nor the semblance of a second edition, is not likely to increase the small acquaintance that now exists. It is composed of a num. ber of exemplifications of rhythm and metre, which have very much the air of exercises. Some will do, and others will not. Mr. Hill has courage enough, but lacks strength. He is evidently a disciple of Byron and Shelly, and all those whom the author of Philip Van Artevelde wisely classes as “the Phantastic School." These are they who behold nature by torchlight instead of daylight and starlight. They delight in the glare of strong radiance, and the gloom of deep shadow. Yet we are perhaps wrong in supposing that Mr. Hill is more an admirer of such volcanic effulgence than of the serene glories of poets like Wordsworth; for he is a thorough imitator of them all. He lays little claim to original talent, and we find even more in his avowed “Imitations,” than in other portions of his handsome, but very badly printed volume. The first long piece, " The Ruins of Athens," is in the Childe Harold stanza, and very Childe Haroldish. The second, " Titania's Banquet," is pretty, but is rather the effluence of a mind where there had been a mingling up of Shakspeare's “Midsummers' Nights' Dream," Tom Hood's “Plea of the Midsummer Fairies," and Dr. Drake's "Culprit Fay,” in a confusion somewhat perplexing. Mr. Hill is not, however, without merit conspicuous and commendable in his class. He is an excellent versifier, and chisels out his poet
ical statues with laudable assiduity. If he does not produce a Laocoon, or a Venus, it is not his fault. He is, therefore, entitled to the credit of considerable success, particularly in his descriptive pieces, imitatory of Wordsworth. He chose a good master there-much better than Tom Moore and other worthies, whose manners and dress are elsewhere assumed.
There are, nevertheless, as we have said before, displayed throughout this volume much both of taste and feeling; and it is only in the severe impartiality of criticism, adjudicating the formidable claims of a poet and his volume, to be connected with our permanent literature, that we have been compelled to use a single word of disparagement. As contributions in the magazines to our monthly anthology, as the offerings of a man of refinement and education to the enjoyments of social life, these poems would win for their amiable author all the praise and distinction of which a delicate and susceptible mind need be ambitious. We shall be willing, and even rejoiced, if the public voice, in investing him with the bays of the poet, will do more; and we cheerfully lend our aid to that great consummation of bookmaking, by copying the following excellent stanzas:
TO A FLOWER FROM THE ATHENIAN ACROPOLIS.
Frail, withered leaf! thy tints are shed
Thine odor scents a distant air;
And seems to say, “ The relic spare !"
Whose dewy sweets arrest the bee,
Yet do I turn from them to thee.
For thou wast cradled, nurtured, where
The men, whose birth was Freedom's, rose;
The bones of heroes, Gods, repose :
As met the mount my awe-struck gaze,
Bespeak the pride of former days.
Prized, in remembrance of a spot,
Whose time-worn image haunts me still;
The trophies of that glorious hill ?
But soon to perish, like the flower
The monuments of human power.
We now approach the most serious portion of our task. Mr. Rufus Dawes is a genuine poet. He has an eye, quick to distinguish the beautiful, and an ear sensitively alive to the delicate music that pervades the air, and yet comes from no visible instrument. He is much inclined to philanthropical musing, and addicted to refined abstractions. His mood is wild and speculative, yet study has imparted to him good taste. Sometimes, however, he goes sadly astray; he has done so in the book before us, and were it not for an occasional
dash of purity and brightness,
Which shows the man of sense and of politeness, we should have guessed every new poet to be the writer of “Geraldine,” before Rufus Dawes. We protest against the nondescript style therein displayed-against the unnatural blending of the bold and strong with the frail and feeble. That splendidly vicious poem, Don Juan, was, if not the first, the principal source of the popular taste for this incongruous intermixture of high and low ideas in poetry. Hostile as it is to every precept of a correct, critical taste, this style continues to find its imitators. We regret to censure Mr. Dawes as one of them. His “Athenia of Damascus,” and many of the miscellaneous effusions collected into this volume, evince his capacity for purer and better things, and make us certain that he can touch the finer chords of sentiment, and wake the deeper melodies of nature. “Geraldine," the leading production of this volume, is an exaggerated specimen of the villianous style of Don Juan. Its rhythm is the same, and the resemblance is pretty exact in all respects, save the number of lines in each stanza. Its versification is like that of Mr. Halleck's “ Fanny”-than which no equal number of verses were ever more egregiously overratedand its efforts at wit are something similar, though more vulgar and less comprehensible. "Fanny" was famously liked in its day, and the Gothamites chuckled over it, because they entered fully into the spirit of its local jokes and personal allusions. If we remember aright, there are no stanzas in it worthy of preservation, except those often quoted ones commencing
“Weehawken, in thy mountain scenery yet.”. We challenge any stranger to account for the great popularity with which it was originally attended, and which its remembrance now maintains. The author, of course, is not at fault; his object was to amuse the town, and he succeeded. He probably never dreamed that “Fanny” would be more than the belle of a single season; if her many admirers are now clamorous for her re-appear. ance, in a new attire, he is not to be reprehended for acceding to their wishes, provided they are willing to pay him roundly for the trouble of a second bringing out. No similar apology can be made for the chaperon of “Geraldine.” She makes her debut in all the pride and splendor of an elegant dress-by no means an unpretending aspirant for admiration. We are ungallant enough to pronounce the lady a fright, and to recommend her speedy consignment to the shades of quietest obscurity.
The critic can have a no more unpleasant duty to perform than one of condemnation, even where he feels perfectly indifferent to the subject of his strictures. This duty becomes peculiarly irksome when he takes up the work of an author, in whose favor he had been agreeably prepossessed, and finds nothing but stubble, where he looked for little else but flowers. Were we equally disposed, with his warmest friends, to extol Mr. Dawes' poetry, (and that we are, he has but to know us to feel assured,) we could not, if we simply regarded the author and not the public, avoid an exemplary, though brief, exposure of the gross demerits of the production which gives a name to this volume, which is made first and most distinctly to demand the reader's attention. To do this in as few words as possible, and with the fewest possible citations, shall be our earnest endeavour. The choice of metre was the author's first misfortune. It is both feeble and common, and should have been rejected on both accounts. Yet, in the opening stanzas, the author puts it to its very best use, giving it all the tone and swell of which it is susceptible. The strain first assumes tenderness, in description, and then draws near to sublimity, in invocation. Afterwards it glides off into a philosophical flourish, at the beginning and end of which a father and daughter are introduced—the first being surnamed “Wilton," and the latter christened “Geraldine."
Now the story runs that this young lady, as heroines always do in poems, falls in love with a good-for-nothing, “ne'er-do-well" sort of a scape-grace. His name is Waldron, and he loves Geraldine to distraction, as he takes pains to evince by killing a rival, and running away with an improper female, who is called Alice Acus, so as to rhyme with “ make us." Previous to this delicate piece of attention on his part, he turns pirate, a regular out-and-out Corsair, and rushes, in the maddest spirit of desperation, to sea, in a “ long, low, black-looking schooner.” Geraldine, as is becoming under the circumstances, goes into a galloping consumption, looks pale and hectic, and cries pretty much all the time because the cruel fates have separated her from her amiable admirer. Old Wilton, her papa, judiciously determines to carry his sick daughter to a warmer climate. They depart in a ship, which is of course attacked by the pirate Waldron--and the upshot of the whole matter is the indiscriminate demise, in the most horrible way, of the entire party. This rigmarole is more ridiculous in the author's verse than in our prose; it occupies, however, but a small portion of the poem, the chief part being the most irrelevant digression. Herein it resembles Don Juan most manifestly. There is a like
mingling of coarse humor and affected pathos, a similar use of slang terms and vulgar expressions, the same striving after oddity of rhyme, with equally shocking success. There are, moreover, repeated attempts at the tender, the devotional, and the sublime, which, unlike those of Don Juan, are bombastic failures.
If the following commissions are not enough to send to the tomb of the Capulets any poem by any poet, then are slang, silliness, and smut, “ tolerable, and to be endured."
“The goose that has the largest share of stuffing,"
Alphesibaus might renounce his jumps,
From four feet high to five, with some odd inches,
And save the shoe from telling where it pinches.
Blazes forever, and the bids run high,
A hundred thousand in the stocks! who'll buy?-
Poor devil that was married for his Bentons,
As there are wares, from porcelain to 'Brummagem';
And others, the museums, should you rummage 'em."
At length they heard the dipping of the oars,