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ing which have survived the lapse of ages, how the principles of truth, like the “disjecta membra” of poetry, found amid the analyzed productions of every true son of the muses, are seen scattered amid all these efforts of mind, as the salt whose savor has preserved them from destruction, amid the mass of universal decay. Shakspeare lives, and will never die while our language is spoken, because his writings, more than any others, perhaps, which have ever been composed by uninspired men, strike principles of human nature which are every where developed, and acknowledged to be true. Burns will live long, for the same reason. As it has been sublimely written of one of them, “ the stream of time, which is continually wearing away the dissoluble fabrics of other poets, passes, without injury, by the adamant of these.” Cowper shall also live-long may he live !—for he has cast into the stream of his numbers the salt of moral, as well as natural truth. Milton shall flourish by his side, for the same reason. These men came forth like the Roman warriors after victory, bearing in their hands the “spolia opima” of genius, and suspending them, as imperishable mementos of their prowess, on the column of eternal truth.
The practical bearing of these principles, in their effect upon style in writing or speaking, is, we conceive, of great importance. Modified as style may be, and undoubtedly is, by other peculiar characteristics of mind, still we are confident that a correct moral theory, either expressed or implied, can have no slight influence in forming it. That man can surely never express himself clearly, strongly, and concisely, whose moral principles are not founded upon facts. He will be conscious of a weakness, which is afraid and unable to penetrate the depths of things. He will “ linger, shivering on the brink" of the great ocean of thought, and therefore his style of writing or speaking what few meditations he may have managed to scoop up from the shore, must be comparatively feeble. This is one great reason why an incorrect, imperfect religious theory, in a country, is ever followed, sooner or later, by a deterioration in strong and noble writing. The weakness which is afraid to follow on where truth leads, into regions however mysterious, is a weakness which always whimpers ere long, in a kind of morbid, unmanly sentimentalism, produced by a conviction of its own imbecility and want of moral courage. This is a strong reason for desiring that the literature of a country, especially of our own, should be in the hands of religious truth. We owe a duty to the taste of our countrymen, in this respect, which it becomes us most diligently to perform, so far as we have any ability; and which, if performed sedulously and carefully, will be sure to produce a literature noble and lasting, but above all, purifying in its effects upon the people.
Coplas de Don Jorge Manrique, translated from the Span
ish; with an Introductory Essay on the Moral and Devotional Poetry of Spain. By Henry W. Longfellow, Professor of Mod. Lang. and Lit. in Bowdoin College. Boston: Allen & Ticknor, 1833. pp. 89.
The principal poem in this little volume is the one composed by Don Jorge Manrique, on occasion of the death of his father, Rodrigo Manrique. This poet flourished in the last half of the fifteenth century. He followed, like most of the other distinguished Spanish poets, the profession of arms, and served in the Moorish wars, under his father's banners. He was mortally wounded in a skirmish, in the year 1499. Mariana, in his history of Spain, speaks of him as a youth of estimable qualities, who died young, and was thus cut off from exercising and exhibiting to the world his many virtues, and the light of his genius, which was already known to fame. We quote a few stanzas from his ode.
“I will not here invoke the throng
And, sprinkled o'er her fragrant leaves,
“ This world is but the rugged road
“ Did we but use it as we ought, This world would school each wandering thought To its high state. Faith wings the soul beyond the sky, Up to that better world on high, For which we wait. Yes-the glad messenger of love, To guide us to our home above, The Saviour came; Born amid mortal cares and fears, He suffered in this vale of tears A death of shame."
“ Monarchs, the powerful and the strong,
“Where are the high born dames, and where
"O death, no more, no more delay;
“O Thou, that for our sins didst take
“ As thus the dying warrior prayed,
And though the warrior's sun has set,
The volume concludes with two beautiful sonnets from Lope de Vega, two from Francis de Aldana, and two from Francis de Medrano.
In an introductory essay of twenty-seven pages, Mr. Longfellow describes the qualities of the Spanish devotional and moral poetry, illustrated by examples. He enters into his subject with the fine spirit of a scholar and a poet. The most prevailing characteristics of Spanish devotional poetry are warmth of imagination, and depth and sincerity of feeling. The conception is always striking and original, and when not degraded by dogmas, and the poor, puerile conceits arising from them, beautiful and sublime. Amidst all the shareful corruption of the middle ages, many a pure spirit, through heavenly-mindedness, and an ardent, though mistaken zeal, Aed from the temptations of the world, to seek in solitude and self-communion, a closer walk with God.' Of this class were the principal poets.
We doubt whether the cloisters of the middle ages exhibited so many examples of holy living as Mr. Longfellow seems to intimate ; but doubtless there were some, who, like Thomas a Kempis, shone as stars in a gloomy night, or sprung up like lilies in a stagnant pool.
We are grateful to Mr. L. for these beautiful specimens of poetry. We think he will do a great service, if he shall be the means of removing any of those unnatural prejudices, with which we regard almost every thing associated with Spain, and which, we doubt not, prevent us from taking that deep interest in her lamentable political and spiritual condition, which it becomes us, as philanthropists and as Christians, to feel. We are too apt to think that all good poetry is confined to England, and all fine criticism to Germany, and all scientific analysis to France. The labors of a few such men as Bowring, and Bryant, and Longfellow, are undeceiving us. Where are there more stately verses than these of Manrique ? Where, in uninspired song, is the Eternal One addressed in more befitting strains, than in the ode of the Russian poet, Derzhaven? Where, in the compass of poetry, can be found more delicious melodies, than in the poem beginning
" Region of life and light?”