« ForrigeFortsæt »
hearts answers at home; and those verses repeated, copied, smuggled, elude all precautions, evade all persecutions, until they appear with open face, in full daylight, secure in the patronage of popular enthusiasm.
But, independent of the patriotic feelings, that dictated these ballads, they will pass to posterity as a fine specimen of taste and elegance. Their principal charm resides peculiarly in the style. The Italian language had, during the course of five centuries, strangely deviated from the original simplicity of the age of Dante. Antiquated by the Latinists of the fifteenth century, diluted by the prating Cinquecentisti, distracted by the raving Seicentisti, adulterated by the Gallomaniacs of the last century, cramped by the Academia della Crusca, soiled by flattery and servility, that noble language lay down overcome and prostrated, an artificial construction of empty words; cumbrous, not rich; pedantic, not correct; with none of its original beauties, except its ever-fascinating melody. The revival of Dante has admirably cooperated to restore the Italian to its native energy and simplicity. Manzoni, and his school, form a new epoch in the style, as well as in the taste, of Italian literature. Till lately, poetry, in that country, had always been a different language from prose. Nature had suggested plain constructions, art had adopted elaborate inventions; all that was simple and natural the poet rejected as vulgar. The poet never called things by their names. All objects had a name among gods, a name among mortals. Hence, an infinite number of ideas found no place in verse for want of expression, and poetry sounded like Greek to the ears of the multitude.
The romantic school have made vigorous efforts to strip Italian poetry of its tinselled frippery. They have gained vigor and purity in proportion as they have adopted ease and simplicity; they have enriched the language, by renouncing pomp and magnificence. Grossi and Berchet have their share in the good success of this fortunate innovation. The first a master of the elegiac, the second, of the lyrical style, they possess, in common, that rapid and concise fluency, that natural correspondence between thoughts and words, that make one feel, that an idea cannot have more than one expression.
In giving a short account of a few of the living poets of Italy, our object has been rather to point out what is to be ex
pected from that country, than what she can actually boast of. If we were to lay such productions by the side of the dramas of Schiller and Goethe, or of the poems of Byron and Moore, we know, the balance would not be in favor of Italy. But such a comparison would be a manifest injustice. The fortunes of Foscolo, Pellico, Mazzini, Giannone, Berchet, show how dangerous it is in that country, to raise one's head above the common level; how the doom of a martyr often awaits the success of a genius. True, Manzoni, Grossi, and a few others, have hitherto escaped uninjured; but suspicion and espionage, hovering above their heads, leave little to be envied by their brothers abroad.
Let such works be offered as a proof, that Italian literature is not dead. Classicism is dead, that ever-lifeless literature, that cultivated art for the sake of art, the corrupting luxury of an enslaved age, is dead there, as everywhere else. But Italian literature has, in the same manner, languished and revived in other periods. And it has never sunk from its glories, without rising younger and greater. The phoenix has been consumed upon her funeral pyre. Her last breath has vanished in the air with the smoke of her ashes; but the dawn breaks; the first rays of the sun are falling upon the desolate hearth; the ashes begin to heave; and from their bosom the new bird springs forth, with luxuriant plumage, displaying her bold flight, with her eyes fixed on that sun from which she derived her origin.
ART. X.-CRITICAL NOTICES.
Life and Select Discourses of the Rev. Samuel H. Stearns.
THIS volume, though diversified by no remarkable adventures, is full of interest. Mr. Stearns, whose recent death in Paris has disappointed many hopes, was a man of singular purity of character and refinement of intellect. He carried into the sacred office the most ardent zeal, the most single-hearted devotion to its severe and laborious duties. He was educated at Harvard University, where the modesty of his character and the correctness of his literary taste were highly appreciated. His feelings towards that institution, and his views of the obligations of its students, are thus expressed by his biographer.
"Mr. Stearns felt a deep interest in Harvard College. He venerated, he loved, that institution with filial affection. Painfully sensible of what he conceived to be its errors in Christian doctrine, he could not fail to appreciate its thorough course of literary and scientific studies, its numerous and superior lectures, its large and invaluable library, its intellectual and classic atmosphere, and, opinion to the contrary notwithstanding, its general standard of morality, which, it is thought, would suffer much less in comparison, with the other colleges of New England, than is sometimes imagined. He looked upon it as the noble offspring of the Pilgrims, consecrated by many a prayer to the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom, and designed by God, to afford important aid in accomplishing the destinies of the New World, and sooner or later, in rolling the wave of salvation, by a crucified Saviour, over the Old.
“July 14th, 1823, just before he graduated, he writes to a brother, who at that moment was in great doubt as to the choice of a college, but afterwards entered Harvard; 'Oh, how pleasant it would be, if ĺ might indulge the hope that - was coming here, to take my place with my books, furniture, and every little article of convenience, &c. How much more pleasure I should take in visiting this seat of learning, the first-born of our enlightened and pious forefathers, the mother of almost all their worthy posterity, the nursery of our own fathers, the object of their kindest regard, — of their warmest gratitude, of their highest veneration, of their most fervent, importunate, and acceptable prayers. God bless the sons of Harvard, and preserve our Alma Mater from the open attacks of enemies, the secret treachery of hypocritical friends, and from the baleful influence of every wrong principle to be found in her own heart.'
"Mr. Stearns was much tried while a member of college, as to the duties which he owed, relatively, to himself, to his fellow-students, and to the officers of the institution. According to sentiments of honor which prevail in every generous breast, he despised the meanness of those who seek preferment, by the wilful exposure of another's faults. At the same time, neither his self-respect, nor his principles of religion, would allow him to shield himself or his friends, by the greater meanness of equivocation and untruth. The maxim of conduct which he chose was, never to stoop, in any emergency, to falsehood, but always to save the character of his associates, when he could do it, without contravening his conscience. He reverenced, in students, as well as in citizens, that manly independence which respects itself as a being accountable chiefly to God; but he looked upon the bravadoes of assumed consequence, and the miserable ambition of notoriety in wickedness, as beneath his contempt. It was a principle with him, while a member of the university, that a college rebellion is never wise or right. If the laws of an institution, or the executors of those laws, he argued, become so oppressive that I can no longer submit to them, let me, honorably, withdraw from their authority, and seek to correct abuses and redress grievances, by such means as the members of a free community, in common enjoy. But let me not, recklessly, resist 'the powers that be,' or, without counting the cost, commence a controversy, in which order and discipline must triumph, and discomfiture and mortification to myself will certainly ensue.
"Though a member of the university, at a time of unusual commo
tion, he passed its ordeal without censure, and without injury to his morals or to his Christian character. He was known as a professor of religion, a full believer in the doctrines of the cross; as such, his sentiments were treated with delicacy, and his habits of devotion and rigid adherence to principle, with respect.". pp. 26-29.
Mr. Stearns's physical constitution was feeble, and he was able to devote only an interrupted attention to the labors of the ministry, for several years after he had completed his professional studies. At length, in 1834, his health was so far restored, and his anxiety to engage in active duties had become so great, that he consented to accept an invitation from Boston, and was settled over the Old South Church, as their pastor. The ceremonies of the ordination, are described as peculiarly interesting and affecting. The discourse was delivered by Dr. Skinner, with whom Mr. Stearns had been long and intimately associated; the consecrating prayer was offered by his predecessor Dr. Wisner; the charge was given by his venerable father, the minister of Bedford; and the right hand of fellowship, by a younger brother, who had already been several years engaged in the duties of the clerical profession. The following passage is taken from a letter addressed to his parents shortly after his ordination.
"I cannot tell with what feelings I awoke, on the morning after you left me, in the consciousness that I was an ordained minister of the gospel, the authorized and responsible pastor of a numerous flock, appointed to care for their souls. Recollections of the past, and anticipations of the future, came rolling over me in strange combinations, and waves of emotion rolled through my heart, like a sea after a storm. I rose and dressed myself, and sat down at my window to muse, in silent astonishinent, on the scene that lay before me. It was all enchantment. Directly under my eye was a wide field of the dead, covered with the monuments of generations past. There lay some of my own kindred. There lay one who was the companion of my infancy and childhood, who has often borne me in her arins, and led me to school, and amused me in my sports. There lay some of my predecessors, in the care and service of the church, Huntington and Eckley, — and I know not how many of those who were before them. The green grass was springing up among their tombs, and over their graves, in the freshness of the morning, and the dew lay upon it, and the rising sun glittered on the drops, and the tombs and thick grave-stones threw their long shadows over the dead, as if to veil them from excessive brightness. In the corner opposite, Park Street Church, where I preached my first sermon in Boston, stood in its grandeur, and lifted its tall spire into the skies. Along the outer edge, a row of lofty elms spread out their venerable branches. Then the thronged street displayed itself, and the noise of wheels and hoofs had begun, incessant for the day. And next the crowded dwellings of the city rose in massy piles. Among them, and directly opposite my window, was to be seen in modest retirement, and almost shouldered into obscurity by more recent and im
posing structures, what was probably the mansion of some great one a century ago. The towers and steeples of ten or twelve churches or meetinghouses might be discerned at a glance, and among them the spire of my own, just rising over the top of the Tremont. Beyond them lay the harbour in full display of its beauty and glory, its islands and ships, the Castle, the very spot with which is associated the most fascinating portion of the history of one of my grandfathers, the House of Industry and its companion, and near them the famous Heights of Dorchester, now included within the limits of the city. Around to the right, in one continued line, rising above all the building, were distinctly seen the hills of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Brookline. My eyes glanced over the distant and variegated scenery, and then returned, and rested on the pensive spot that lay immediately under my window. I gazed there, fixed in unremembered thought, and was lost, till the summons came for breakfast." - pp. 58, 59.
Mr. Stearns soon found that he had calculated too much on his supposed restoration to health. The duties and excitements of his office nearly prostrated the energies of his sensitive frame, and compelled him to forego them, and seek anew, in travel and repose, a renovation of spirits and strength. He visited, accordingly, many of the most interesting parts of the United States, and finally, in 1836, sailed for Europe, in company with Professor Stowe of Cincinnati. He travelled over England, Scotland, Germany, and France, and passed one winter in Italy, from which countries he addressed many agreeable letters to his family and friends. The editor has given, in the volume before us, a judicious selection from the journals which Mr. Stearns kept, of what interested him during his travels. But his constitution had been too far undermined by the advances of the most insidious and flattering of diseases, for any human means to restore it. After his return to Paris, in 1837, Mr. Stearns sunk rapidly, and died July 15th; and with him perished many high expectations of usefulness to the cause of religion and letters.
The memoir, prefixed to this volume, is written by the Rev. Mr. Stearns of Cambridgeport. It is a pleasing tribute of affection to the memory of a departed brother, and is characterized by great simplicity and natural feeling. The letters of Mr. Stearns, the subject of the memoir, give us a delightful view of his moral and religious excellence, and the delicacy of his literary taste. His journals were written midst the hurry and excitement of travel; but they abound in beautiful passages, and everywhere show the liveliest sensibility to the beauties of nature and the refinements of art. They were composed without the remotest idea of publication, and present to us, therefore, the fresh and unstudied expressions of the author's feelings, amidst the novelties of European capi