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measures and sublime cadences of the Hebrew poets. The reader there. fore who is not unfamiliar with these (the most perfect vehicle certainly of poetic thought that ever existed,) may follow the modern bard with pleasure through even the most unattractive fictions of Arabian or Hindoo superstitions, descend in imagination with Thalaba to the • Domdaniel caverns,' or with Kehama to the still more dreaded realms of Padalon, the Indian Hades.
Other poets might be cited to the same effect. I might proceed to show how much would be lost to the reader of Coleridge, who could not perceive, beyond the mere beauty of imagery or of diction, how deeply his mind was imbued with the influences of modern Germany. I might instance Keats (a great but too much neglected poet) as one whose stately numbers can only strike the classic ear with the full force and measure of their majestic movement. His poem of Hyperion, Lord Byron said, might have been written for the Titans. Only one other name, however, shall I mention, yet that the greatest of them all. Is not Shakspeare, it may be urged, an instance of a poet who, as he is indebted to no school but that of nature, and drew his entire lore from the recesses of the human heart, makes no demand on his reader but for a submissive imagination, and requires no process of familiarization, no preparatory culture, no critical acumen? Does he not speak to the passions and receive his answer from the inborn and spontaneous sympathies of every bosom? Undoubtedly; the mighty strokes of nature and of genius in Shakspeare, which at one time smite the soul with terror, and at another dissolve it in pity; these terrible graces, as they have been called, sweep away the arbitrary landmarks of criticism, and leave us at the mercy of those emotions which possess the breast of the great master himself. Yet are there even in this case other beauties; sources of more quiet and enduring pleasure, which nothing can open to us but the golden key of cultivated taste; graces which rise upon our perception only after long intimacy, and which grow in our favor as they be. come more and more incorporated with the habitual associations of our minds. For whatever may have been said of the incongruities of Shakspeare, his frequent anachronisms, his reckless violation of the unities, certain it is that no poet has been more successful in the preservation of still higher and more important proprieties; no poet has spread a canvass in which the accessories, whether animate or inanimate, more uniformly and naturally sustain the leading interest. So that we know not what could be dismissed or what changed, without essentially impairing the effect of the whole.
Where, for instance, could the destinies of Macbeth have been unfolded with so much solemnity and effect, as in that region shadowing with perpetual mists, upon a throne begirt with bloody Thanes and rebellious vassals, in an age which seems to withdraw itself from our view behind the cloudy skirts of dimly-remembered centuries? Through
some of the most skilful adaptations of measure to the solemn, the terrible, and even the tender scenes of that otherwise repulsive poem, while the more attractive Thalaba has the appearance of having been cast in a mould as natural and indispensable to it as blank verse to the Paradise Lost. • The Arabesque ornaments,' as SOUTHEY himself calls them, seem as appropriate to the Arabian tale, as the ‘lofty symphonies' of the heroic measure to the nobler Christian poem.
what organs could they have announced themselves so wildly and so terribly as in the accents of the weird-sisters, at nightfall, on the blasted heath? We meet with this idea of an over-ruling fatality, again and again, in the poetry of Greece, yet it seems an alien amid the brighter images of that sunny land; and neither the Sphynx of Edipus nor the furies of Orestes strike us with half such awe as the grotesque but mysterious ministers of the fate of Macbeth.
Again: if it were our object to reproduce a picture of tenderness and love, heightened and relieved by every circumstance which could impart grace or attract sympathy, with what environment could we surround them, masterly and appropriate as that in which Shakspeare has enshrined the sad story of Romeo and Juliet ? What strange but harmonising contrasts, whether of character or situation, blending them. selves in perpetual variety, tend to produce and give poignancy to the mournful result? And where could love — love at once so passionate and so pure
find its appropriate abode, but in the scenes where Shakspeare has called it into being ; amid garden-shadows, by moonlight, underneath a sky forever blue, and where the fragrant wind is throbbing with the pulses of a sweet and invisible music ?
It will not, I trust, be thought, while thus dwelling on the benefits of mental culture in imparting to us a keener, even a new sense of the beautiful in literature, that I have been dealing with mere abstractions, or proposing some ideal cyanometer ; some instrument as useless, we may suppose, to those whose eyes are open, as that with which Humboldt and Scoresby measured the blue tints of the sky, or the varying color of the ocean-currents. The science of æsthetics has its principles, immutable and sure in their application to literature and the arts; but these there has been no attempt here to expound. The object has been to show how they may be practicably absorbed into the mind and made conducive to the pleasure and improvement of the general reader. If the attempt needed vindication, it could no where be found so well as in the words of Milton, who describes this branch of æsthetics, (though he evidently wanted a name for it*) as “that sublime art which teaches what the laws are of a true epic poem, what of a dramatic, what of a lyric, what decorum is, which is the grand master-piece to observe. This,' he adds, ' would make us soon perceive what despicable creatures our common rhymers and play-writers be, and show us what religious, what glorious and magnificent use might be made of poetry, both in divine and human things.'
Yet after all it may be said, What to us, Americans, are these laws of taste which relate only to the composition or the use of books, when nature has assigned to us the more robust and nobler task of founding states, of building cities, of bringing into activity the resources of a mighty continent ? Let older nations, which have become stationary in their progress, construct songs and raise the sepulchres of history to embalm the memory of their fathers. Let the dead bury their dead. Beside, have not foreigners assured us, in no ambiguous language and with much apparent sincerity, that our civilization is much too young to authorize the hope that we can contend with the nations of the old world in those pursuits in which they have so long held the mastery? For, as it requires the earthquake and volcano to prepare the earth for the reception of mankind, so, (on this hypothesis) it would seem necessary that society itself should have passed through a long series of moral and social convulsions before it can be suited for the development of the higher modifications of genius. And as Australia is an instance of a region which appears never to have undergone that strenuous action which was necessary to prepare it for the residence of any but the inferior orders of animated nature, so, in the opinion of these critics, the social system of the New World has not yet passed through a sufficiently diversified series of changes, to fit it for any but an inferior and incomplete degree of civilization. But they who seem to have adopted these analogies, and who pretend to deduce these consequences from the brevity of our national career, forget that it is our institutions, and not our civilization, which are recent. It is our boast, and we think it no arrogance to say so, that on this vast theatre of the New World, we have realized in some measure the hopes and aims, the fond yearnings and toilsome endeavorings of ten centuries. American civilization is but European civilization transplanted, when it could no longer unfold itself without obstruction at home, to a more favorable clime, there, as we hope, to resume its progress under institutions and circumstances which promise it a more ample and unembarrassed development. All the elements which compose the latter enter equally into the former, as all the incidents which belong to the earlier history of the one race are the common property of the other. Our customs have sprung from the same ancestral halls with theirs; our spirit was nurtured within the precincts of the same castles; our religion grew up beneath the deep and solemn shadows of the same cathedrals. Their poets are also ours. equally for us that Shakspeare lavished the treasures of his wonderful genius, and that Milton explored the secrets of the abyss,' and gave its unimagined harmonies to the language of his country. Bannockburn and Agincourt, Cressy and Poictiers, have been wet with the blood and consecrated by the prowess of our fathers. The voice which spoke a nation into being in the Declaration of American Independence had been heard before at Runnymede ; and the spirit which sustained the patriot heroes of the Revolution through its gloomiest hours, was the same which, when the curfew had extinguished the light in the English cottage, sate with the Saxon, vanquished but not submissive, by his darkened hearth. The Restoration of letters and the Reformation of the church are epochs in our annals as in those of the older continent: feu. dalism and chivalry are felt in their influence upon the manners of society, here as well as there. With what reason then can it be pretended that our civilization is too immature to warrant us even now in aiming at the highest degrees of excellence, or to afford a foundation for moral and literary culture worthy of the zeal, originality and force which we have already exhibited in our prosecution of the Useful Arts?
* The term æsthetics, (from the Greek alohnous, perception) it is almost unnecessary to say, was first applied by Baumgarten, a professor of Frankfort, to designate a branch of philosophy which should establish correct principles of criticism in relation to the beautiful. It was one of the few terms of German nomenclature which was really needed.
There is, in truth, no danger of the event but that we should be untrue to ourselves. If it were possible to suppose that we could go on in our career of external improvement, and fill this great continent with monuments of our skill and intrepidity, without carrying with us a correspondent degree of melioration in all that appertains to man's moral and intellectual being, then might the nations of the world look on with reproach, and there would be no just cause of rejoicing, even to ourselves. But let us trust that it shall not be so. Yet we must not, nor could we if we would, conceal from ourselves that the responsibility which rests upon us is commensurate with the benefits which we owe to the Past ; 'the wisdom, experience, discoveries, inventions and improvements of sixty centuries.' For it has been justly said, that there can be no more cogent motive for improving the moral estate we have in. herited, than that our legacy to posterity may exceed that which was bequeathed to us by antiquity, and that the incalculable numbers who are to come after us may not have reason to reproach us for our neglect. Let no living man then finally pass away, without having endeavored to deposite upon the altar of human advancement an offering suitable to his means and opportunities. As his efforts toward this great and glorious consummation will best embalm his memory among his fellowmortals, so may he humbly hope that they will form his surest passport to a blissful immortality.
Ever as spring departs, my heart is sad,
With the spring-flowers she died. I see her now,
And on her lips a flickering smile, that seems
When I too die, and go
Where Life is changed to Immortality.
Rehfeld, May 6, 1811. WERE it not infra. dig., I should swear like a trooper. That accursed stage-coach! it has crushed by its untimely overturn the earliest blossoms of a long-cherished hope. Why does our gracious prince tolerate such villanous roads in his dominions! Of a truth, coachmakers, blacksmiths, chirurgeons, and not unfrequently even grave. diggers, are gainers thereby. They serve moreover to draw much money into the country from tourists, who otherwise would never think of purchasing travelling carriages from us, nor would they have broken legs and arms for us to heal; and least of all, would they select our church-yards for their final resting-place. I fully appreciate these advantages; natheless it is hard that an honest Deutscher, a respectable school-master, in the very first stage of a journey, undertaken with all possible precaution on his part, should be upset and thrown from the arms of love and hope flat upon his face.
How have I deserved such a misfortune? I travel neither from ennui nor idle curiosity. The scriptural saying, 'It is not good for man to be alone,' sent me forth upon my journeyings; for in Gimpelwald, (where, as all the world knows, I officiate as third teacher in the High School,) the respectable young ladies behave very prudishly toward me, and particularly since a certain day, seem to have conspired together to knit mittens for me. Since I, for reasons sufficient, as will appear in the sequel, have determined to chronicle the events which may occur during this my journey, it is necessary that I should briefly notice that black day, which was the primary cause of my undertaking it.
The official jubilee of our worthy rector was to be celebrated with great pomp. All the distinguished men of Gimpelwald, with their wives and daughters, were invited thither, and my humble self was included. This was especially agreeable, as it afforded me the long-desired oppor