Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

guage of Canon Farrar, “a most just and

“Ring, bells in unreared steeples,

The joy of unborn peoples ! necessary war," establishing the unity of the

Sound, trumpets, far-off blown, republic and the principle of universal

Your triumph is my own." freedom. Whittier, a Quaker, and, of course,

In a brief sketch like this it is not possible an advocate of peace, was in great distress to dwell upon the simple incidents of the while the war continued. He had hoped poet's life. that an appeal to arms might be averted. He was one of the original and highly He would have been willing, as probably valued contributors to the Atlantic Monthly, many in the North would have been willing, and many of his best poems are to be found that the Government should pay an indem- in its pages.

The establishment of that maganity to the slave-owners. But his was not zine, the first of a high literary character to the cowardly view of war; by nature he was defend the principles of universal freedom, bold and resolute. Lowell painted him long gave him great delight. ago in some vigorous lines :

Some of his early poems, such as “Mogg "There is Whittier, whose swelling and vehement heart

Megone,” and, perhaps, “ The Bridal of PenStrains the strait-breasted drab of the Quaker apart, nacook,” remind one of Scott; but that influAnd reveals the live man, still supreme and erect, Underneath the bemummying wrappers of sect."

ence passed away, and there was developed There are many references in his poems to of thought and expression entirely his own.

from his character and experience a manner the war and to his own trying position. In some of them the man seems to be struggling duty and the spirit of primitive Christianity,

His poems are pervaded by the high sense of with the Quaker, e.g.

in which he was reared. They are in the "Wherever Freedom's vanguard goes, Where stand or fall her friends or foes,

domain of poetry what he has been in the I know the place that should be mine."

world of man. The passionate impulses which After a weary time the end of the war came, inspired so many of the songs of Burns, and and slavery was for ever destroyed : a momen

much of the verse of Byron, have never been tous fact of which the world has not felt, and breathed in a line of his. His blood was will not for centuries feel, the full significance. naturally fiery, and his feelings intense ; but The triumph of Whittier was not in the victory a sure self-control has directed him. of Northern over Southern-born men, not in

He has been equally steadfast in abstainthe downfall of the Confederacy, but in the ing from wine. For him, “wine is a mocker, establishment of right and justice. When strong drink a raging." Shielded so by printhe proclamation of freedom came he gave ciple and by discipline from the frailties and utterance to his long-pent-up feelings in a

excesses that have ruined so many generous poem of almost painful energy, fitly entitled men, but alive with the glow of love for the "Laus Deo!” It is a cry of devout gratitude beautiful in humanity, in nature, and in art, for deliverance, in simple unaffected lines, he has presented a combination of traits which could scarcely have come from

seldom united in one person.

If one could

any other living man. Later, when the conse- imagine the purity and honour of a knight, quences of the great events began to loom up the boldness of an inspired prophet, the singlewith the grandeur of mountains in the dis- hearted zeal of an apostle, an artist's deep tance, he wrote “My Triumph.” He had joy in the world of nature, the pitying heart à right to exult. For over thirty years he of a woman, and a poet's power to fuse all had devoted his life and strength to the these qualities without extinguishing humour cause, had voluntarily renounced fame, had and naturalness—in such a blending one chosen poverty, and denied himself the plea- would realise the soul of Whittier. sures which man hold dear in this life, and

Knowing his character and powers, the now his reward had come. This poem seems scenery and legends of his native valley, and to me singularly pathetic in its simplicity the history of the cause for which he toiled, and power. It is terse to baldness. The it is easy to classify and understand his poet is not thinking of melody or of fine poems. He never crossed the ocean, and phrases;

his words come as if uttered in the travelled but little out of New England; and presence of God.

his scenes are naturally located in the region “ Hail to the coming singers !

where he lived. The region is not extensive. Hail to the brave light-bringers!

There is the Merrimack River, from its sources
Forward I reach and share
All that they sing and dare.

near the White Mountains to the sea ; the “ The airs of heaven blow o'er me ;

lakes and forests haunted by Indian legends ; A glory shines before me

and the villages full of traditions of the trials of what mankind shall be,Pure, generous, brave and free.

of witches and the persecution of Quakers.

Considered as landscape, few places in the none but a poet and a believer could have
New World are more beautiful than those conceived.
Whittier has described. As specimens of

“Still waits kind Nature to impart his observation and art in scenery, readers

Her choicest gifts to such as gain

An entrance to her loving heart may look at “The Last Walk in Autumn,"

Through the sharp discipline of pain. “Summer by the Lake Side," “Melvin

• Forever from the Hand that takes Stream," ," "Our River," and others; one can

One blessing from us others fall;

And, soon or late, our Father makes hardly go amiss, as there are few poems

His perfect recompense to all!" which do not contain some strokes that testify Again : to his quick eye and sure hand. Here are a

“ Wherever through the ages rise few passages.

The altars of self-sacrifice,

Where love its arms has opened wide, “ O'er the bare woods, whose outstretched hands

- Or man for man has calmly died, Plead with the leaden heavens in vain,

I see the same white wings outspread I see, beyond the valley lands,

That hovered o'er the Master's head!
The sea's long level dim with rain.

Up from undated time they come,
The martyr souls of heathendom,

And to His cross and passion bring
Along the river's summer walk

Their fellowship of suffering. The withered tufts of asters nod,

I trace His presence in the blind And trernbles on its arid stalk

Pathetic gropings of my kind, The huar plume of the golden-rod,

In prayers from sin and sorrow wrung, And on a ground of sombre fir,

In cradle-hymns of life they sung And azure-studded juniper,

Each in its measure but a part The silver birch its buds of purple shows,

Of the unmeasured Over-eart. And scarlet berries tell where bloomed the sweet wild rose."

So welcome I from every source

The tokens of that primal Force, “ Once more, O mountains of the North, unveil

Older than heaven itself, yet new Your brows, and lay your cloudy mantles by!

Beneath whose steady impulse rolls And once more, ere the eyes that seek ye fail,

The tidal wave of human souls ; Uplift against the blue walls of the sky

Guide, comforter, and inward word,
Your mighty shapes, and let the sunshine weave

The eternal spirit of the Lord.”
Its golden net-work in your belting woods, –
Smile down in rainbows from your falling floods,

As affording a text for some remarks on And on your kingly brows at morn and eve

Whittier as a man, and on his place among Set crowns of fire! So shall my soul receive Haply the secret of your calm and strength,

New England poets, I quote a passage from Your unforgotten beauty interfuse My common life,-your glorious shapes and hues

a recent number of the Revue des Deux And sun-dropped splendours at my bidding come,

Mondes :
Loom vast through dreams, and stretch in billowy length
From the sea-level of my lowland home !"

“Fastidious people of the present day, accustomed

to works whose only defect sometimes is excessive “ We saw the slow tides go and come, The curving surf-lines lightly drawn,

cleverness, accuse Whittier of too great facility, of The grey rocks touched with tender bloom

negligence. A Quaker grafted upon a New Beneath the fresh-blown rose of dawn."

England farmer is excusable for letting some bad Here are two stanzas from “The Pine Thymes pass; but the traces of hasty work in his

case never succeed in destroying the sovereign charm Tree" (the ancient emblem in the flag of of savour and spontaneity. What will never Massachusetts), written during the war with grow old is the treasuro of his ballads, idyls, and Mexico, 1846 =

stories in verse. The idyls of Longfellow and those

of Lowell are justly admired; but there is this dif. “ Lift again the stately emblem on the Bay State's rusted ference between them and those of Whittier, that in shield,

the former the poet evidently looks down from an Give to northern winds the Pine Tree on our banner's tat

enormous intellectual and social height upon the pertered field. Sons of men who sat in council with their Bibles round the sons and things which he puts upon the stage; Whitboard,

tier, on the contrary, is of the same blood as his Answering England's royal missive with a firm 'THUS humble beroes. He has remained a peasant, rooted

SAITH THE LORD!'
Rise again for home and freedom!-Set the battle in array!-

to the soil, like a roadside fern. Not a shadow of What the fathers did of old time we their sons must do to- dilettantism. If he has not the breadth of Bryant,

the penetration of Emerson, he has something more

-he reads the soul of the people as from an open “Where's the man for Massachusetts? Where's the voice to book, and he addresses himself to the insignificant

speak her free? Where's the hand to light up bonfires from her mountains to

as well as to the learned." the sea ? Beats her Pilgrim pulse no longer? Sits she dumb in her In the first place there are no "peasants”

despair? Has she none to break the silence ? Has she none to do in Massachusetts, and never have been. Not And to plant again the Pine Tree in her banner's tattered every independent farmer, like Whittier's O my God! for one right worthy to lift up her rusted shiela, only is there equality before the law, but field!”

father, is and has been the equal of any in Religious readers will, I believe, consider the township. For all their mild ways, his expressions of faith and trust in God as the Quakers were particularly independent. the truest evidence of his inspiration. They Whittier grew up erect and unbent, straight breathe a fervent piety and in a tone which | as a sapling, and, so far from being “rooted to

day."

more

as

the soil,” he early abandoned the farm and all “Proem,” which flows like the most liquid manual labour, and from the age of about of Spenser's stanzas. But every one sees twenty-two devoted himself to a literary that he sometimes leaves a limping line or career. His ancestors, furthermore, were an imperfect rhyme, especially when he has fellow - townsmen of the ancestors of both brought out his thought strongly. One Lowell and Longfellow, the three poets being thinks of Burns's homely expressiondescended from families in Old Newbury. “ Whene'er my muse does on me glance, The ancestors of all three were honest, God

I jingle at her." fearing men; but there was no splendour Perhaps the very temperament that gave him of birth or breeding in Old Newbury, and no his dazzling conceptions made him averse to talk until late years of a Brahminical class the tedious labour of revision. in Massachusetts.

Once Lowell and Long

to the supposed fellow are distin

"peasant.” Of all guished for learn

men in our time ing as well as for

Whittier is remarkgenius; they hard

able for loftiness of every advantage,

soul. This is a disand made the best

tinguishing feature use of their time.

of his verse, and it In their verse and

is this which has prose are evidences

raised him above of their reading and

the makers of travel. But it is a

merely pretty pastruism to state that

torals, and above no training what

the singing gladiaever would have

tors and cymbalmade them poets

clashers of the rewithout native

form. For he is not genius, and the ex

chiefly a poet of the ample of Whittier

common people, exhas shown that a

cept that he does genius may blos

not repel them by som as a poet, even

foreign phrases nor outside of the uni

bewilder them with versity hot-house.

metaphysics. ExThis is not the

cepting his antitime to speak of

slavery lyrics, his relative "intellec

verse, like all high tual height," but

products of mind, the talk of "social"

demands thought inferiority is non

and attention. sense. And though

There has not been Whittier had

as yet a poet of the college training, he

common people in is not to be ex

the United States. cused for having

Still avoiding let pass some bad

comparisons as far rhymes.” Heiswell enough instructed to know as possible—which are ungracious in the lifewhen he violates the rules of assonance and of time of any of the poets under considerationprosody. He does know, and he deplores his it may be said that the chief difference between shortcomings. And they did not arise from Whittier on the one hand and Longfellow ignorance; they are the effect of his vehe- and Lowell on the other arises from the fact ment temper, of the rush and fervour of his that the latter have been cloistered scholars, ideas, of the impossibility of halting to refine while our Quaker has been in the thick of and potter when the flood of inspiration is the greatest moral contest which the world upon him. No man has a finer natural ear has seen since Luther's time. Both of the for melody, and few poets have given more scholars were heart and soul in the antidelightful specimens of it - witness his slavery movement; and Lowell, we all know,

XXVIII-3

[graphic]

no

Wohnleo kailleen

is immortal in the Yankee satire which serves the half-pathetic smile that sometimes blasted the supporters of slavery in the plays about his lips. He is often silent, North as well as in the South; but Whittier and generally reserved, since age has made alone renounced all to become the apostle him somewhat deaf, but he was never timid and bard of the cause. His devotion cost or self-conscious. him dear in honour, fame, wealth, and home The distinctive dress of the Friends appears delights; it cost him much also in the ab- to have been modified of late years. The sorption of time and energy, which, if ancient broad-brims have become obsolete. applied to study and to verse in his fresh and Whittier's costume is plain, but neat and budding years, might have surprisingly becoming; the colour deep brown or black, changed the relative rank and popularity of the velvet coat collar in shape much like the chief American poets; for while others those worn by clergymen in this country, may be more philosophic, profound, and cul- Whittier in a certain way was “canny” as tured, no one has yet appeared in the United a Scot, and in consequence there have been States (of whom the public has know- few things in his life to pique the curiosity ledge) whose native poetical genius exceeds of the lovers of ana. After the deplorable Whittier's.

scandal that followed the publication of the The description of Whittier, in the article letters of Carlyle he burned the great part of from the Revue des Deux Mondes

, rankles in his correspondence ; and he had been a most the mind of any one who has known him assiduous letter-writer. In fact it was largely as an unworthy contumely, a personal wrong. by correspondence that he carried on the His nature is delicacy itself; his taste is as work of the political anti-slavery party for refined, his perception as true, his self-respect the many years in which he gave to it his as perfect, his gravity as commanding as if he service. And this period and this service had been “born in the purple.”

will be with great difficulty set in light by With all this, he has characteristic human any future biographer. He had not the gift of traits. He has a keen sense of humour, speech, and never appeared on the platform. shown in the mobile lines of his mouth and His relations with the leading authors of in his sparkling eyes. In ordinary conver- the country have always been pleasant, and sation his soft and ungrammatical thee and he has been visited by multitudes of admirers thou are very fascinating; and when (in from all over the world. He is content to earlier days) he related a comical story, the live in very simple style at his home in gravity of phrase made it convulsing. Amesbury, and passes a good portion of each

Whittier is tall and rather spare, and in year with relatives in Danvers, not far disearly manhood and middle age was singularly tant. He generally makes a visit to Boston handsome, far more so 'than his engraved each winter. Having been almost an invalid pictures lead one to expect. In the engrav- all his life, he has shunned dinners and other ing is seen the noble dome of his head-the assemblies, and from his native reserve he graceful swell of the temples and the ideal has avoided all publicity and display. But fulness of the crown—but no art could repre- his qualities have long been known, and no sent the depth of his eyes, their softness in man living, probably, has such troops of repose, or their flashes when he was aroused. friends. A genial temper, a striking preHis complexion is quite dark, but the skin as sence, a soul without spot or flaw, a life of well as the features have the delicacy which self-devotion, a record of toil in well-doing, marks a fine organisation ; the whole visage a serene old age, an unfaltering faith, these shows_refinement, especially when one ob- | all belong to John Greenleaf Whittier.

ON BROADLAW.*

BY THE EDITOR.
“ Juvat meminisse.”

Oh joy to leave the sweltering masses,
The moorland that I love so well, Mammon-driven on grimy street,
Ridge on ridge-a sea of heather,

For streams that glide thro' nibbled grasses, Rolling up the mountain-swell.

For cushat's croon and pastoral bleat ! • Broadlaw is in Peeblesshire, near the upper reaches of the Tweed, and is the highest mountain on the mainland of

Scotland to the south of the Forth.

A BURST of glorious August weather,

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

BY ARCHIBALD GEIKIE, F.R.S.,
DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF THE GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF THE UNITED KINGDOM.

FIRST PAPER.

A ,

vividly impress the imagination of man- line, the thunder of each successive billow kind none leave so potent and abiding an and the hoarse rattle of the shingle dragged influence as Earthquakes and Volcanoes. To back by the recoiling wave, the hissing cataother manifestations of natural energies we racts of sea-water that pour back again into may become more or less accustomed, till by the angry surf, and the yeasty foam torn off degrees they lose their power over us. Å by the wind and blown in fragments away great storm, for instance, brings before us inland ? Even thoughts of sympathy for the might of the commotions which from those at sea hardly lessen the kind of painful time to time arise in the atmosphere and pleasure with which the exhibition of such trace out for themselves a path of destruc- stupendous power is beheld. tion across the surface of the land. Yet, But in an earthquake the sense of perthough we cannot but recognise its potency, sonal safety gets a rude shock or vanishes secure in the shelter of our well-built houses, altogether. The solid earth on which we we watch the progress of the storm, even have passed our lives, and to which we have with a certain degree of pleasure. Again, a instinctively trusted as an immovable foungale at sea is witnessed from the land, not dation, suddenly trembles and sways under indeed without a sense of awe, but yet with our feet. An ominous hollow groan, or a out that feeling of horror which is inspired prolonged rumble, or a grating roar seems by the possibility of personal danger. Who to rise out of the ground. And then amid can be insensible to the fascination of the the crash of falling buildings come the shrieks huge breakers as they come rolling in one and wails of the terrified inhabitants. In a

« ZurückWeiter »