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Of rubies melted down:
soul of song, and its lines sparkle with reflec- stories in one aspect are ambulatory psychotions from classic ages. Even a teetotaller logical problems, rather than fresh studies might (under protest) own himself bewitched of characters conceived without favouritism, by its beauty.
with blended good and evil
, wisdom and
weakness—as God creates them. To pro“ If one bright drop is like the gem That decks a monarch's crown,
duce new types, of universal interest, is One goblet holds a diadem
given to few novelists. here have been A fig for Cæsar's blazing brow!
scarcely more than a score of such creators But, like the Egyptian queen, Bid each dissolving jewel flow
since Cadmus. My thirsty lips between.
It was with some surprise that I read “ Methinka o'er every sparkling glass
lately a lament that Dr. Holmes had not Young Eros waves his wings, And echoes o'er its dimples pass
written " a great novel”-a task which would From dead Anacreon's strings;
have been as unsuitable to him as to Dr.
Johnson or to Montaigne. It is not a ques-
tion of a greater or less talent, but of a
wholly different talent—as distinct as metaAt the dinner where the twelve original physics and portrait-painting. The same contributors of the Atlantic Monthly met, the critic complains because Holmes has not part which Holmes was to take was a matter been “in earnest” like Carlyle. While the of lively anticipation. The magazine had genius of that great writer is indisputable, I been projected for the purpose of uniting submit that one Carlyle in a generation is the literary forces of the North in favour of enough; another is impossible. That rugged universal freedom; but Holmes had no part Titan did his appointed work with fidelity. in its direction. Lowell prophesied at the But is every author to lay about him with an time that the doctor would carry off the iron flail? Is there no place for playful honours. In the first number there was an satirists of manners, for essayists who disarticle by Motley, a fine poem by Long- solve philosophy and science, who teach fellow, one by Whittier, a piece of charming truth, manliness, and courtesy by epigram, classic comedy by Lowell, a group of four and who make life beautiful with the glow striking poems by Emerson, some short of poetry? The magnolia cannot be the stories, articles on art and finance, and the oak, although unhappy critics would have a “Autocrat of the Breakfast Table." What writer be something which he is not. It is would not modern publishers give for a enough that Holmes has charmed myriads of similar combination to-day! Still, the enter- readers who might never have felt his inprise might have failed but for the imme- fluence if he had been grimly in "earnest,” diate interest awakened by the original and that he has inculcated high ideals of taste, thought and style of Holmes. The sensa- character, and living. tion was new, like that of a sixth sense. By the time Holmes had reached his The newspapers quoted from the “Auto fiftieth year he was nearing the summit of crat;" it was everywhere talked about, fame. His readers were the cultivated classes and in a short time its fame went through of the whole English-speaking world, and he the nation.
was not merely admired, his genial humour The “Autocrat” was succeeded by the had won for him universal love; his unique “Professor" and the “Poet.” The talk of personality was as dear as his writings. There the “Professor” was somewhat more ab- is not room in the limits allowed me to dwell struse, though equally interesting to culti- upon the style of the “Autocrat;" fortuvated readers. The “Poet” attacked the nately neither analysis nor eulogy is necesdogma of the endless duration of future sary. The variety of topics, the sure, swift punishment. The “Autocrat” was easily touches in treatment, the frequent gleam of superior in freshness as in popularity. imagery, and the lovely vignettes of verse,
Two novels also appeared-—"Elsie Venner" altogether form an attraction for which there and “The Guardian Angel.” They have un- are few parallels in literature. doubted merits, showing the keen thought, From the gay and jaunty verse of the the descriptive power and the play of fancy poet's youth to his strong and passionate which are so characteristic of the author, lyrics of the war there was a surprising and each has a subtle motive to which the change, and it will be interesting to trace characters and incidents are made sub- it in his life and in the course of historic servient. But Dr. Holmes is not great as events. a novelist as he is great in other things. The In his early manhood he took the world
as he found it, and did not trouble himself and reverent life of Emerson, and in that about reforms or isms. He had only good- long and stirring period there was much for humoured banter for the abolitionists, just him to learn, and something to unlearn. as he had for non-resistants and spirit-rap- Who does not learn much in forty years ? pers. When progressive people were in a For one thing, the character and mind of the ferment with the new transcendental philo-poet-philosopher were at length clearly resophy (deduced from the preaching of Chan- vealed, and the uneasy swarm of imitators ning and the essays of Emerson) and were had shrunk out of sight. And as to slavery, fascinated with the monologues of Alcott the eyes of all men had been opened. Not and the sibylline utterances of Margaret only Holmes, but the majority of well-meanFuller; when young enthusiasts, in their so- ing men, hitherto standing aloof, were taught cialistic home at Brook Farm, dreamed of by great events. Many who admitted the the near reign of human brotherhood; when wrong of slavery had believed themselves Lowell was writing “The Present Crisis," a bound to inaction by the covenants inserted in poem glowing with genius as with apostolic the Federal Constitution. Some had felt the zeal; when feebler brethren, blown upon by weight of party obligations. Some resented new winds of doctrine, imagined themselves the fierce denunciation of the Church for its spiritual and profound, and felt deep thrills indifference to a vital question of morals. in pronouncing the words Soul and Infinite But I believe more were deterred from siding with nasal solemnity, Holmes, fully master with the abolitionists by reason of their intiof himself, and holding instinctively to his mate connection with other causes. They nil admirari, trained his light batteries on were nearly all believers in woman's the new schools, and hit their eccentricities rights,” and at that time those "rights and foibles with a comic fusillade.
were chiefly to wear short hair and loose
trousers, and talk indefinitely. Everything “With uncouth words they tire their tender lungs, The same bald phrases on their hundred tongues;
established was attacked, from churches and • Ever'The Ages' in their page appear,
courts to compulsory schools and vaccina* Alway' the bedlamite is called a 'Seer.
tion. The most vivid of my recollections And O what questions asked in club-foot rhyme of forty years ago are the scenes at the antiOf Earth the tongueless, and the deaf-mute Time! Here babbling 'Insight' shouts in Nature's ears
slavery Conventions. There were cadaveHis last conundrum on the orbs and spheres;
rous men with long hair and full beards, There Self-inspection sucks its little thumb, With Whence am I?'and 'Wherefore did I come?' very unusual ornaments then, with far-away Deluded infants! will they ever know Soroe doubts must darken o'er the world below,
looks in their eyes in repose, but with feroThough all the Platos of the nursery trail
city when excited, who thought and talked Their clouds of glory' at the go-cart's tail ?”
with vigour, but who never knew when to Elsewhere in the same poem he men
stop. There was one silent and patient tions :
brother, I remember, whose silvery hair and
beard were never touched by shears, and " Poems that shuffle with superfluous legs
who in all seasons wore a suit of loose flanA blindfold minuet over addled eggs, Where all the syllables that end in éd,
nel that had once been white. There was a Like old dragoons, have cuts across the head ;
woman with an appalling voice, and yet with Essays so dark Champollion might despair To guess what mummy of a thought was there,
a strange eloquence. And there was one Where our poor English, striped with foreign phrase, Looks like a zebra in a parson's chaise." .
who always insisted on speaking out of order,
and who always had to be carried out of the Holmes was a shining mark, and the plat- hall
, struggling and shouting as she was form orators did not spare him. The “non-re-borne along by some suffering brother and sistants” were specially violent towards op a policeman. Not all the moral earnestness ponents, and some one of them drew from of Garrison, the matronly dignity of Lucretia our poe one of the most caustic satires Mott, the lovely voice and refined manners printed since Pope. Witness these closing of Lucy Stone, nor the magnificent oratory Îines of "The Moral Bully :"
of Wendell Phillips, could atone for these
sights and sounds. Lowell had written : “ Has every scarecrow, whose cachectic soul Seems fresh from Bedlam, airing on parole,
“Then to side with Truth is noble, when we share her The right to stick us with his cut-throat terms,
wretched crust, And bait his homilies with his brother worms ?”
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and 'tis prosperous to
be just." From this bellicose time it was nearly forty But to men of delicate nerves it was not years to the appearance of Holmes's admiring sharing Truth's crust that made the difficulty * From a poem before the B.K. Society, Cambridge, 1843.
so much as the other uncongenial company
at her august table. The political anti- " Flag of the heroes who left us their glory,
Borne through their battle-tields' thunder and flame, slavery men, who came later, and who won Blazoned in song and illumined in story, the triumph, had none of these uncomely Wave o'er us all who inherit their fame!
Up with our banner bright, surroundings, although at the beginning they
Sprinkled with starry light,
Bpread its fair emblems from mountain to shore, encountered as much odium.
While through the sounding sky When the first gun was fired on Fort Sum
Loud rings the Nation's cry,
UNION AND LIBERTY, ONE EVERMORE!". ter the cause of the slave and of the despised abolitionists became the cause of all. Then
The most perfect of Holmes's smaller pooms could be felt the force of the sentiment which long before had won the pitying muse of “Autocrat.” “ The Chambered Nautilus" is a
are probably those that appeared in the Longfellow, which had inspired the strains fortunate conception, wrought with exquisite of Lowell, and which had led the Quaker art. Equally striking is “Sun and Shadow," Whittier--minstrel and prophet at onceinto the thick of the strife. Then it could ations, as I saw it while the ink
was still wet
a poem which brings me delightful associbe seen that the cause of eternal justice was
the page where it was written. not to be confounded with the vagaries of half-crazed agitators who were bent on curing American poets have all paid heart-felt tri
It is interesting to notice that the chief all human ills by moral suasion and bran butes to the genius of Burns. There are bread. The thunder of cannon cleared the two of these by Holmes which are full of atmosphere. The querulous voices of sectaries were hushed.' The hearts of the loyal that they do not allow the separation of
meaning, but they are so entire in structure North throbbed as one heart. There was
stanzas for quotation. but one cry, and it was “ Union and
There is no need of dwelling upon his Liberty.” In a high sense this was a decisive period of the “One-Horse Shay,” as they are fully
comic poems, such as the logical catastrophe in the life of Holmes. From the outbreak appreciated, so much so that they have doubtof the war he took an enthusiastic part as a less led to the undervaluing of his more patriot for the preservation of the union.
serious efforts. His eldest son, now a Justice of the Supreme
“ The Iron Gate” (1880) shows that the gaCourt of Mass., went out with the volunteers as a captain, and the father's “ Hunt”
for thering shadows of age have scarcely dimmed him after a battle is well remembered by our poet's faculties. Among the brightest of readers of the Atlantic. At the time when the pieces in this volume is “My Aviary," the best and bravest of all classes were going upon the river, seen through the north
a picture of the frolics of ducks and gulls forward to form new regiments and to fill up dow of his library. “The Silent Melody" is the shattered lines of the older ones, his
a most touching dream of “the voiceless lyrics came to the souls of loyal men with
melody of age.” thrills of exultation. No man in those gloomy days could read them without tears. I have "Sweet are the lipg of all that sing often seen suppressed sobs and eyes glisten
When Nature's music breathes unsought,
But never yet could voice or string ing in tear-mist when they were sung in
So truly shape our tenderest thought
As when by life's decaying fire public assemblies. The people of these isles
Our fingers sweep the stringless lyre!” have had no such time of heart-ache, of alternate dread and solemn joy, since Waterloo. “The School Boy” is a reminiscence of his When the fate of a nation was in suspense, own boyhood, reminding us of Goldsmith's when death had claimed a member from tranquil manner. The verses "For Whittier's almost every family, and when the bitter Seventieth Birthday ” contain charming porstruggle was to be fought out, man to man, traits of Longfellow, Emerson, Lowell, and the phrases we might idly read in time of Whittier. This is a good specimen of his peace had a new and startling meaning. The witty, tender, graphic, and affectionate style words flashed in all eyes and set all hearts on of after-dinner poem, a species of verse fire. These songs of the war by Holmes will which no man (certainly of this generation) take their place with the grand and touching has equalled. ode of Lowell, and with the stately and tri- I had the pleasure of hearing him read his umphal Laus Deo / of Whittier.
poem for the Centennial Celebration of There is no American national hymn, Moore. There was a large company, and known and accepted as such, but Holmes's naturally most of them were Irishmen. He “Union and Liberty” is quite frequently was in great spirits and read the musical sung.
stanzas with singular impressiveness. The
upon the generous and excitable convives press, the attentions of the great, and the was something to be remembered. They incense of turtle soup, must be like anticigreeted every point with applause, and at patory glimpses of a superlative epitaph the end every body rose and gave a round of The recent welcome given to Holmes, howcheers—three times three. It is difficult to ever, was only natural. It was instant and cull, but these stanzas are the ones that have hearty, for the reason that his works, bedwelt in memory :
sides giving keen intellectual enjoyment,
have put him in intimate personal relations “Ah, passion can glow mid a palace's splendour;
with all readers of refined feeling. A NewThe cage does not alter the song of the bird; And the curtain of silk has known whispers as tender ton, Spinoza, or Laplace, or a grand, cold, As ever the blossoming hawthorn has heard.
and reserved poet, might attract the homage * No fear lest the step of the soft-slippered Graces
of the learned and the vague admiration of Should fright the young Loves from their warm little nest, the multitude, but he would stir the hearts For the heart of a queen,
under jewels and laces, Beats time with the pulse in the peasant girl's breast!”
of few. It would be difficult to name another
author now living whose presence would At the celebration of the two hundred and awaken such vivid and grateful recollections fiftieth anniversary of Harvard College in and call forth such a spontaneous welcome. November last, Dr. Holmes read a poem of The rare combination of qualities in Holmes considerable length, in deliberate and stately makes him a distinct if not a unique figure measure, and containing many brilliant pas- in the world of letters. There have been sages. His reference to Jonathan Edwards men as witty—though not many-and others was scarcely calculated to please ultra-Cal as acute, or as gay, pathetic, humorous, vinists ; but the religious world has moved graceful, fiery, reflective, or trenchant; but since Edwards's time, and the serenity of who, in our time at least, has united all these few guests was disturbed. The two bêtes attributes-has made them all effective in noires of Holmes are Homoeopathy and End charming verse and brilliant prose, and based less Punishment, and he never lets an oppor-all upon an understanding that might have tunity pass of giving a thrust to either. served a sage? What a marvellous intellect,
He has never been under the influence of with a faculty for every form of use, and the school of Wordsworth; and as regards resources for every contingency ! This form and method, has remained loyal to facile and changeful movement gives the eighteenth-century models. Perhaps this is charm of surprise to whatever he does. In not to be regretted, as there are others to his open and frank merriment there comes give us landscapes in verse who cannot give some wise reflection; in his poetic fancies us men. This very conservatism in regard there are hints of the highest knowledge; to models may be a guaranty of enduring and in his gravest discourse there are sudden fame, especially when their charm is still fresh gleams of wit. One may take the dimenafter the changes of a century.
sions and gauge the force of most minds, but Holmes has not produced a great number in that of Holmes there is always an unof highly-wrought poems, but upon how known plus that holds the observer in demany rests the fame of Gray, or Collins, or lighted expectation. Goldsmith? It is rash to prophesy, but I It will be a pleasure to read the author's cannot believe that poetry which sometimes account of his trip in this country which he suggests the compact and rounded elegance is writing for the Atlantic Monthly. of Horace, and sometimes the frank and Holmes lives in Beacon Street, in Boston, joyous movement of Béranger; which has somewhat west of the State House. His points of resemblance to the best art of house fronts the new and fashionable “Back Campbell, and which breathes the spirit of a Bay" district, while in the rear it commands great and proud people, is likely soon to fade a fine view of Charles River. As you enter out of memory.
you find the vestibule, reception-rooms, and Mr. Appleton, a Boston wit, said that walls of the staircase hung with pictures and “good Bostonians when they die go to engravings. There is a prevailing simplicity, Paris ;” but an exception must be made for and you feel that the house is a home, filled good authors—they will want to go to Lon- with souvenirs of affection, and not a mere don. For a successful author, full of years literary workshop. The library at the head and of honours, a pilgrimage to the ancient of the staircase is an ample room with bookcapital of his race, followed by an almost shelves ; a writing-table with papers in perroyal progress through the realm, with the fect order, an open fireplace, and a deep bow homage of universities, the applause of the window, mentioned in “My Aviary :"
“ Through my north window, in the wintry weather, - There was a swift play upon his features, a
My airy oriel on the river shore,
mobility which told of a sensitive and deliWhere late the boatman Hashed his dripping oar."
cate nature. And those features were so It is this stretch of water which Long- sharply designed, free from the adipose layers fellow saw when he “stood on the bridge at and cushions that round so many faces into midnight "—the bridge from Boston to Cam- harmonious vacuity. His smile was fascinatbridge. I used to think, on still summer ing and communicative ; you were forced to evenings as I crossed it, that the sun nowhere share his feelings. His welcome was hearty, went down in such glory as when it was and sometimes breezy; you felt it in his sinking behind Corey Hill, casting golden sympathetic hand-grasp as well as in his frank beams on that glassy expanse, while some speech. When conversation was launched white-shadowed
more schooner drifted
than fluent; with the tide
there was a fulinto the pur
ness of apt words pling haze, and
in new and prea red - shirted
destined combisailor skulled
nations; they athwart her
flowed bows, giving the
hillside brook, pro vid e ntial
now bubbling high point of
with merriment, colour.
now deep and He who saw
reflective, like Dr. Holmes
the same current twenty years ago
led into a quiet at leisure in his
pool. Poetic library will not
similes were the soon forget his
spontaneous impressions. In
flowering of his his mature man
thought; his wit hood he
detonated in epishort and slen
grams, and his der without
fancy revelled being meagre,
in the play of erect, and firm
words. His in his shoes.
courtesy, meanHis hair was
while, was abundant, if
failing; a retort som e w h at
never became a frosty; his fore
club in his hands head fair but
to brain an opponot full; his eyes
nent, nor did he bluish-grey;and
let fly the arrows his mouth as changeable as Scotch weather. | which sting and rankle. His enunciation was If in front his head seemed small, in profile clear, but rapid and resistless. Whoever heard its capacity was evident, for the horizontal him at his best came to wonder if there had measure from the eyes backward was long. ever been another man so thoroughly alive ; If the base of the brain is the seat of its mo- in whom every fibre was so fine and so tense. tive power, his should not be wanting in Time has been merciful—he was born in force. An axe that is to fell an oak must 1809—but the outward man is scarcely what have weight back of the socket.
it was twenty years ago. Still, in his beautiIn repose his clear-cut and shaven lips in- ful old age he keeps a stout heart, and is dieated firmness and prompt decision, a self- keenly alive to the intellectual and moral contained nature, well-reasoned and settled movements of our time. opinions ; but when he spoke, or was deeply
“ Call bim not old whose visionary brain interested, and when his eyes began to kindle,
Holds o'er the past its undivided reign. his mouth became wonderfully expressive.
For him in vain the envious seasons roll
Otwer Tondell Helmed.