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INTRODUCTION

WHEN, more than three years ago, my talented young parishioner, Mr. Biglow, came to me and submitted to my animadversions the first of his poems which he intended to commit to the more hazardous trial of a city newspaper, it never so much as entered my imagination to conceive that his productions would ever be gathered into a fair volume, and ushered into the august presence of the reading public by myself. So little are we shortsighted mortals able to predict the event! I confess that there is to me a quite new satisfaction in being associated (though only as sleeping partner) in a book which can stand by itself in an independent unity on the shelves of libraries. For there is always this drawback from the pleasure of printing a sermon, that, whereas the queasy stomach of this generation will not bear a discourse long enough to make a separate volume, those religious and godly-minded children (those Samuels, if I may call them so) of the brain must at first lie buried in an undistinguished heap, and then get such resurrection as is vouchsafed to them, mummy-wrapped with a score of others in a cheap binding, with no other mark of distinction than the word “ Miscellaneous” printed upon the back. Far be it from me to claim any credit for the quite unexpected popularity which I am pleased to find these bucolic strains have attained unto. If I know myself, I am measurably free from the itch of vanity; yet I may be allowed to say that I was not backward

to recognize in them a certain wild, puckery, acidulous (sometimes even verging toward that point which, in our rustic phrase, is termed shut-eye) flavor, not wholly unpleasing, nor unwholesome, to palates cloyed with the sugariness of tamed and cultivated fruit. It may be, also, that some touches of my own, here and there, may have led to their wider acceptance, albeit solely from my larger experience of literature and authorship.

I was at first inclined to discourage Mr. Biglow's attempts, as knowing that the desire to poetize is one of the diseases naturally incident to adolescence, which, if the fitting remedies be not at once and with a bold hand applied, may become chronic, and render one, who might else have become in due time an ornament of the social circle, a painful object even to nearest friends and relatives. But thinking, on a further experience, that there was a germ of promise in him which required only culture and the pulling up of weeds from about it, I thought it best to set before him the acknowledged examples of English composition in verse, and leave the rest to natural emulation. With this view, I accordingly lent him some volumes of Pope and Goldsmith, to the assiduous study of which he promised to devote his evenings. Not long afterward, he brought me some verses written upon that model, a specimen of which I subjoin, having changed some phrases of less elegancy, and a few rhymes objectionable to the cultivated ear. The poem consisted of childish reminiscences, and the sketches which follow will not seem destitute of truth to those whose fortunate education began in a country village. And, first, let us hang up his charcoal portrait of the school-dame.

1 The reader curious in such matters may refer (if he can find them) to A sermon preached on the Anniversary of the Dark Day, An Artillery Election Sermon, A Discourse on the Late Eclipse, Dorcas, a Funeral Sermon on the Death of Madam Submit Tidd, Relict of the late Experience Tidd, Esq., &c., &c.

“ Propped on the marsh, a dwelling now, I see

The humble school-house of my A, B, C,
Where well-drilled urchins, each behind his tire,
Waited in ranks the wished command to fire,
Then all together, when the signal came,
Discharged their a-b abs against the dame.
Daughter of Danaus, who could daily pour
In treacherous pipkins her Pierian store,
She, mid the volleyed learning firm and calm,
Patted the furloughed ferule on her palm,
And, to our wonder, could divine at once
Who flashed the pan, and who was downright dunce.

“ There young Devotion learned to climb with ease

The gnarly limbs of Scripture family trees,
And he was most commended and admired
Who soonest to the topmost twig perspired ;
Each name was called as many various

ways
As pleased the reader's ear on different days,
So that the weather, or the ferule's stings,
Colds in the head, or fifty other things,
Transformed the helpless Hebrew thrice a week
To guttural Pequot or resounding Greek,
The vibrant accent skipping here and there,
Just as it pleased invention or despair ;
No controversial Hebraist was the Dame;
With or without the points pleased her the same ;
If any tyro found a name too tough,
And looked at her, pride furnished skill enough ;
She nerved her larynx for the desperate thing,
And cleared the five-barred syllables at a spring.

" Ah, dear old times ! there once it was my hap,

Perched on a stool, to wear the long-eared cap ;
From books degraded, there I sat at ease,
A drone, the envy of compulsory bees ;

Rewards of merit, too, full many a time,
Each with its woodcut and its moral rhyme,
And pierced half-dollars hung on ribbons gay
About my neck (to be restored next day)
I carried home, rewards as shining then
As those that deck the lifelong pains of men,
More solid than the redemanded praise
With which the world beribbons later days.

“Ah, dear old times ! how brightly ye return !

How, rubbed afresh, your phosphor traces burn !
The ramble schoolward through dewsparkling meads,
The willow-wands turned Cinderella steeds,
The impromptu pin-bent hook, the deep remorse
O’er the chance-captured minnow's inchlong corse ;
The pockets, plethoric with marbles round,
That still a space for ball and pegtop found,
Nor satiate yet, could manage to confine
Horsechestnuts, flagroot, and the kite's wound twine,
Nay, like the prophet's carpet could take in,
Enlarging still, the popgun's magazine ;
The dinner carried in the small tin pail,
Shared with some dog, whose most beseeching tail
And dripping tongue and eager ears belied
The assumed indifference of canine pride ;
The caper homeward, shortened if the cart
Of Neighbor Pomeroy, trundling from the mart,
O’ertook me, – then, translated to the seat
I praised the steed, how stanch he was and fleet,
While the bluff farmer, with superior grin,
Explained where horses should be thick, where thin,
And warned me (joke he always had in store)
To shun a beast that four white stockings wore.
What a fine natural courtesy was his !
His nod was pleasure, and his full bow bliss ;
How did bis well-thumbed hat, with ardor rapt,
Its curve decorous to each rank adapt !
How did it graduate with a courtly ease

The whole long scale of social differences,
Yet so gave each his measure running o'er,
None thought his own was less, his neighbor's more ;.
The squire was flattered, and the pauper knew
Old times acknowledged 'neath the threadbare blue !
Dropped at the corner of the embowered lane,
Whistling I wade the knee-deep leaves again,
While eager Argus, who has missed all day
The sharer of his condescending play,
Comes leaping onward with a bark elate
And boisterous tail to greet me at the gate ;
That I was true in absence to our love

Let the thick dog's-ears in my primer prove." I add only one further extract, which will possess a melancholy interest to all such as have endeavored to glean the materials of revolutionary history from the lips of aged persons, who took a part in the actual making of it, and, finding the manufacture profitable, continued the supply in an adequate proportion to the demand.

“Old Joe is gone, who saw hot Percy goad
His slow artillery up the Concord road,
A tale which grew in wonder, year by year,
As, every time he told it, Joe drew near
To the main fight, till, faded and grown gray,
The original scene to bolder tints gave way ;
Then Joe had heard the foe's scared double-quick
Beat on stove drum with one uncaptured stick,
And, ere death came the lengthening tale to lop,
Himself bad fired, and seen a red-coat drop ;
Had Joe lived long enough, that scrambling fight
Had squared more nearly with his sense of right,
And vanquished Percy, to complete the tale,

Had hammered stone for life in Concord jail.” I do not know that the foregoing extracts ought not to be called my own rather than Mr. Biglow's, as, indeed,

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