Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

making many friends; above all, Mazzini, whose sterling efforts in behalf of Italian progress she fully considered and estimated. He has stood alone in Italy, on a sunny height, far above the stature of other men. He has fought a great fight against folly, compromise, and treason; steadfast in his convictions, and of almost miraculous energy to sustain them, is he.'

In December of 1847, MARGARET was privately espoused to GIOVANNI ANGELO OSSOLI, one of the Italian liberals, and endured with him the struggles and trials of the revolution; and on the 17th of May, 1850, amid prayers and presentiments, she embarked with her husband and child on the barque ELIZABETH, for New-York. The story of the shipwreck, the loss, and piratical brutality, has been told by a hundred pens, and is engraved on tens of hundreds of hearts. Only the dead body of the beautiful ANGELINO was rescued, of all MARGARET's treasures, from that terrible destruction, which swept her, with all the sad vicissitudes of life, into an unexpected grave, but which brought to her the glorified reality, transcending all her hopes, and but faintly typified in the highest hours of her experience.

'In person, MARGARET was rather under the middle height. She had a face and frame that would indicate fulness and tenacity of life; her complexion was fair, with strong fair hair.' She was careful and tasteful in her dress, and of lady-like self-possession. She was naturally inclined to luxury and good appearance before the world. Her temperament was predominantly what the physiologist would call nervous-sanguine. Beauty she had not; but the expressive feature, and air of mingled dignity and impulse, gave her a commanding charm. Such is the description which these volumes give of her person. She was always painfully conscientious in the performance of duties, and thought, read, and wrote much, in defiance of severe bodily pain. Of her character we have spoken much in various parts of this notice. Her life developed itself in common-sense and passionate energy; and these characteristics were always subordinated to a terrible sincerity, stern integrity, and unalterable love of justice and truth. To use her own expression:

*Through the woman's smile looks the male eye.' The poetic in temperament was strongly developed. She had quick and keen perceptions of the beautiful in nature and art, and derived great satisfaction from the contemplation of lovely forms. She was an intellectual poet, separated from the 'fine frenzy,' and wanting the large utterance of the early gods.' Hence, thought usurped the seat of melody, and her poems lacked that beautiful completeness which stamps the true work of art. Her poetry was closely allied to the BARRETT and BROWNING school, indicating the presence of an ideal, which language struggled in the attempt to convey. Writing was, to a degree, always irksome and tiresome to her, and so she relied much on better hours and moments of inspiration for the performance of this task. There was somewhat a little pagan about her: she had some faith, more or less distinct, in a fate, and in a guardian genius; her fancy, or her pride, had played with her religion. She was attracted by the problems of Mythology and Demonology, French Socialism, and all projects of reform; set a high value on sortilege, and attached importance to those events and

facts of every day which can be easily resolved into something symbolic and mystical. But the practical side of her character was the truest and best, being disconnected from mysticism and superstition, revealing to advantage her almost superhuman energies of spirit: as witness the vast amount of reading she had digested, the many languages she understood, and the number of her correspondents-one hundred: her sincerity, her humanity, and depth and regard of friendship, her wit and drollery, and the value and advantage of her conversation.

She had an abundance of self-esteem- the demon had been busy at her birth—and monopolized, as by right, the attention and admiration of all to whom she was brought near; and this trait would have appeared more prominently had not its outline been softened, and a certain value given to it, by the courage and heroism with which she faced all duties and situations, and conquered her way to eminence, and a wider horizon of influence.

MARGARET was no sectarian. In all her views she was eminently catholic. She endeavored, in such manner as she knew how, to follow out the higher aspirations of her soul, and willed that all should do the same. Her belief was not chained to dogmas and formulas, but embodied a continual advance and regeneration. She thought and knew that

Men can rise on stepping-stones

of their dead selves to higher things.' Her religion was emotive and spontaneous; the offspring of enthusiasm, of reverence, and of hope. “I will not loathe sects, persuasions, systems, though I cannot abide them one moment, for I see that by most men they are still needed;' or again: 'Let me set no limits from the past to my own soul, or to any soul.' The end and aim of her life was development --self-culture. To understand her character, this must be understood: that self-culture with her was an end, and not a weapon for ambition or display; and though this is not the highest end and aim of life, embodying at it does a ‘profound selfishness,' it was an end that she fervently pursued, from first to last, and an aim which thoroughly recognized the divinity and immortality of man. Hence the consistency of her experience.

And now, what is the essential idea symbolized in these volumes, in this brave, heroic life?

Clearly, the authors, the volumes, the subject, are originalities, like which nothing has appeared before, and which, in their own way, have a symbolical and typical meaning. No dumb show is here. They speak in a voice articulate and audible; a bugle-blast, echoing through the corridors of materialism, and arousing the indifference of the age into noble thought and brave action. The characters and the ideas appear mystical because they are new. The light that preludes the full-orbed glory of the sun is darkened by shadows, and thick.' We notice a fixed and unalterable purpose in this book. It is not imagination, nor fancy, nor delusion, nor paganism. These are noble characters, whose experience has been chiselled out of the stern adamant of life. The very form, fibre, and twist of the language denote masculine ideas. The thought does not struggle for expression, as in CARLYLE. It is calm and self-possessed, as in Plato. And yet, while we acknowledge the nobility of the aim, and the greatness and serenity of many whose Credo is embodied in Transcendentalism, we profess ourselves skeptical of the means, and doubtful of the implied faith that rests in humanity. We have looked the sphinx steadily in the face, and endeavored to extort the riddle. In respect of genius and intellect, Transcendentalism is before the age, and in respect of charity and catholic good-will, the advantage adheres to its side: but in substituting self-reliance for humble dependence; in explaining away the divinity of Christ into a universal meaning; in its endeavor to scale the battlements of heaven without the ladder of ascension; in its disregard of the Bible as an authority, and in its setting at naught all the sayings of tradition, we believe it to be in direct antagonism to the age, and falling day by day into a remote and isolated position. The volumes then stand to us, at last, as an encouragement and a warning.. We see how humanity, guided by its better aspirations, and faithful to its loftier impulses, arrives at a certain manly dignity, and practises a certain stoic morality, which is, perhaps, the nearest approach to Christianity ever yet attained by those who have rejected its authoritative signification. But amid all this grandeur and elevation, the crowning virtue seems to us as wanting. We miss the simplicity which dwells in the shrine of a sanctified heart, and beams like the eye of childhood from beneath the brow of manhood and old age. Its intense subjectivity does not leave room for the practice of the more obvious duties of an every-day existence. Self-consciousness is unduly developed. The affections do not bud and expand in an equal degree with the intellect; the heart is made a sacrifice upon the altar of reason; and the faith which beamed as a diadem upon LUTHER's brow, and the martyr-spirit which consumed his soul, resolves itself into a dim, far-off imitation of the original lustre, and is quenched in the icy waters of a cold intellectualism.

Poems : by ALEXANDER Smith. In one volume: pp. 192. Boston: TiCKNOR, REED, AND

FIELDS.

We had seen, previous to its publication in this country by the enterprising house whence it proceeds, the most extravagant praise of this volume by several of the London literary journals, accompanied in most cases by extracts in justification of the high encomiums bestowed upon the book. We formed an impression of the work from these extracts, which a perusal of the book itself has only served to confirm. And we have no hesitation in affirming it as our belief, that it is not destined to a lasting reputation. As they say in Scotland, it is 'ower sweet to be wholesome. It is too affluent in imagery to be natural. One can see that such elaborate ornateness, such 'piled-up' fanciful similes, are less the result of pent-up thoughts and poetical imaginings, that must have vent, than the far-fetched, laborious gatherings of one who selects variously and industriously the 'telling' images which have found a place in his memory rather than in his heart. Does the reader remember a work called Pollok's Course of Time?' How it was bepraised by the London critics (whose laudations were echoed by our own) for

its brilliant imagery, its lofty thoughts, the power of its descriptive passages, and the great beauty of its language? Who reads POLLOK nou? Who can remember and repeat a single passage of its inflated, stiltish, encumbered descriptions? It will be very much the same case with this volume of Mr. Smith within the brief space of five years.

Now MEMORY is the best of critics. To say nothing of what may happen in the course of time,' we venture to believe that even now the most extravagant admirers of Mr. SMITH cannot repeat any six consecutive lines, even from passages which they have praised so highly; and the reason is, that the composition is so crowded, that it is like recollecting the hues of a kaleidoscope to recall its beauties, numerous and striking though they may be, when taken simply. We are as far from being satisfied as the London Examiner, one of the foremost of the English critical authorities, that Mr. Smith is a poet, although we hold, with that journal, that he is capable of writing highly poetical things, and has at his command many of the ingredients out of which poems are made. That's it tly : it tells the whole story.

Our contemporary of 'The Times' daily journal, in an able review of this volume of Mr. SMITH, has shown, by comparative extracts, that in several instances his plagiarisms from TENNYSON are gross and palpable; and has also collated a few of the exuberances of which we have spoken :

His worst fault is the excessive superfluity of his imagery. Almost every page contains a lavish waste of sea-imagery. Poor old OCEANUS! Mr. Smith leads him a weary dance. Now he is ‘a garrulous old gray-beard;' presently he is young and passionpanting;' in the next page, he is ‘moaning like a monster pained;' anon, he is a weak enamored sea,' in love with ‘some young wanton of an isle;' then he sends up 'mad spoomings to the stars;' then he watches the stars in their unveiled beauty; then he gets white with wrath,'and strikes at the stars. There are between two and three hundred allusions to the sea, either by way of metaphor, allegory, simile, or fancy run mad, in Mr. Smith's volume. Nor does the moon fare much better. She is a widow; "she is 'a swimmer;' she is setting silver on the sea;' she allows the waves to shoulder her, to obtain one of her smiles; she ‘rushes like a stag;' directly afterward she is a patient sufferer, pale with pain;' presently she is 'a pale prophetess;' then she is 'a white flower in the sky;' then she is full-faced;' and in a minute afterward, she is streaming through the sky'in a frightened manner, with a pack of hungry clouds at her heels. There must be at least a hundred appearances of the moon in Mr. Smita's volume. It is the same -- it is even worse — with the stars. They shout;' they are

breathless;' they "hang like fruit;' they are “hounds chasing a stag;' they are listening to songs;' they are hanging on the music of a nightingale;' they'pant with passion;' they'reel; they tremble;' they bleed ;' they'yearn;' they are glad;' they ‘are frightened; they are 'silent and throbbing;' they are 'golden-voiced clarions. Mr. Smith crowds simile upon simile, and illustration upon illustration, with a lavishness that beggars description. And some of the critics have adduced this diarrhea of fancy as an evidence of his poetical genius. Alas, if he has genius, he has no judgment; for almost always are his images superfluous and inapt. His violations of good taste are frequent and enormous. He talks of a 'cataract of golden curls. As if a cataract of curls' were not sufficient, we have also 'shoals of curls.' These absurdities are so numerous that we could fill a column with them.'

Yes; and there are other objects in nature upon which Mr. Smith has rung the changes of mere words, until one scarcely knows what he really means to convey. He is a laborious collector of 'gems' which he surrounds with a setting of Scotch 'cairn-gorm.'

It would be hardly fair, after all that we have said, not to permit our new poet to represent himself, by two or three extracts, in these pages; and we choose those which we believe have been the least quoted among the many that have been presented in the reviews which we have encountered. The first is a charming inventory-picture, a quiet country-sketch of one of England's 'cottage-homes :

"Wealth of all flowers grew in that garden green,
And the old porch with

its great oaken door
Was smothered in rose-blooms, while o'er the walls
The honeysuckle clung deliciously.
Before the door there lay a plot of grass,
Snowed o'er with daisies — Hower by all beloved,
And famousest in song - and in the midst
A carved fountain stood, dried up and broken,
On which a peacock stood and sunned itself;
Beneath, two petted rabbits, snowy white,
Squatted upon the sward.
A row of poplars darkly rose behind,
Around whose tops, and the old-fashioned vanes,
White pigeons fluttered, and o'er all was bent

The mighty sky, with sailing sunny clouds.' After a long absence, and changed by many sad experiences and wasting thoughts, the poet stands once more in his garden, in silence and alone :

'Summer hath murmured with her leafy lips
Around my home, and I have heard her not;
I've missed the process of three several years,
From shaking wind-flowers to the tarnished gold
That rustles sere on Autumn's aged limbs.
I went three years ago, and now return,
As stag sore hunted a long summer-day
Creeps in the eve to its deep forest-home.

[A pause.
This is my home again! Once more I hail
The dear old gables and the creaking vanes.
It stands all flecked with shadows in the moon,
Patient, and white, and woeful. 'Tis so stil
It seems to brood upon its youthful years,
When children sported on its ringing floors,
And music trembled through its happy rooms.
'Twas here I spent my youth, as far removed
From the great heavings, hopes, and fears of man,
As unknown isle asleep in unknown seas.
Gone my pure heart, and with it happy days;
No manna falls around me from on high;
Barely from off the desert of my life

I gather patience and severe content.' A single passage more must close our extracts. It has some of the beauties, and one or two of the faults, which characterize the imagery of our author:

"The terror-stricken rain
Flings itself wildly on the window-panes,
Imploring shelter from the chasing wind.
Alas! to-night in this wide waste of streets
It beats on human limbs as well as walls!
God led Eve forth into the empty world
From Paradise. Could our great Mother come
And see her children now, what sight were worst-
A worker woke by cruel Day, the while
A kind dream feeds with sweetest phantom-bread
Him and his famished ones; or when the Wind,
With shuddering fingers, draws the veil of smoke,

And scares her with a battle's bleeding face?' We take our leave of the present volume, with the assured conviction that we shall hear again from Mr. Smith, and more to his advantage, when time shall have pruned his redundant imagination, and made him more reliant upon his heart and his judgment than upon his memory-trammelled fancy. VOL. XLII.

6

« AnteriorContinuar »