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But, heterogeneous as the English is proportion of our written vocabulary, in its vocabulary, it is, with one im- either directly, or through the Romance portant exception, Gothic in its structure. languages. From Spanish and Italian An incredibly large proportion of our not much illustration is to be obtained, stock of familiar colloquial words is of but French is highly important, both beSaxon origin. The life of our tongue cause we have borrowed a large number yet lies in the Saxon part. The Latin of wofds directly from it, and because, is dead matter, a foreign element scarcely in its earlier forms, as exemplified in more akin to the organic frame-work of Froissart and other old writers, it had the language, than the glass eye and the much influence on the structure of our wooden leg of the veteran soldier are to modern English. But it is to the cognate the osseous, muscular, and nervous tis- languages of Scandinavia, Germany, and sues, whose place they have usurped, the low countries, and more particularly and it is a striking proof of the imperish- to the Anglo-Saxon and the sister dialect, able vitality of the Saxon stock, that it the Old Northern or Icelandic, that we has borne up and incorporated, if not must look for the most important lights, assimilated, the mass of alien words, which analogy can shed upon the structhat monkish superstition, Gallo-Norman ture, composition, and history of our oppression, scholastic pedantry, and the native tongue. Among the living Teucaprice of fashion, have engrafted upon it. tonic dialects, the Flattdeutsch or Low
That we have gained in copiousness German, among the Scandinavian, the and variety of speech, by the abundant Danish, offer the most striking affinities mixture of foreign vocables, is not to be to the English, and are therefore of great denied, but we have purchased our stock value, as sources of illustration, both in of Latin words, at the expense of nearly etymology and syntax. But a knowthe whole Gothic power of improvement ledge of the earlier forms and more fun. from our own resources by means of damental analogies of our tongue must derivation and composition. This is the be sought in the Anglo-Saxon and Iceexception to which we above alluded, landic. The poverty of Anglo-Saxon ann it may well be doubted, whether any literature and its inacessibility (the low advantages arising from the increase of state of philological learning in England our vocabulary, by borrowing from the having hitherto prevented the general Latin, have not been too dearly pur- publication and thorough elucidation of chased.
its extant remains), make it much less Again, then, we inquire, what are the available for the purposes of the English languages which prefer the strongest student than the Icelandic, which, though claims to the attention of the student of very closely allied to the Anglo-Saxon, English etymology and grammar? The is a far more copious, refined, and cultiGreek, in addition to the reasons which vated speech, and moreover, possesses an we have already mentioned, will richly extensive literature, enriched, particularrepay the labor of its acquirement, byly in the historical department, by some its direct share in the formation of a of the finest compositions, which adorn numerous class of English words, but the literature of modern Europe. With still more by its demonstrable, though not the view of recommending the study of obvious affinity to the primitive sources
this noble tongue, we propose to give of our ancient Anglo-saxon tongue. The some account of its structure, and a hisLatin, vague, poor, and unphilosophical torical sketch of the origin, progress, and as it is, is nevertheless indispensable, decline of its literature, but these we because it has furnished a very large must reserve for another article.
in English, are much more frequently forms of inflexion and ending, such as ation, ition, ity, ily, ness, like the Greek ouevos to which we have alluded, and others, and, therefore, being less multiform, are more easily remembered thon the ever changing variety of initial syllables.
A REMARK of Horace Walpole, (that Masque, and his vigorous political satires, most acute judge of the niceties of litera. are comparatively unknown. Thousands ture), is set down in the Walpoliana, on have read, or sung, or heard sung, Young this very topic, and which, indeed, had Lochinvar, for the hundreds who have suggested the following illustrations of read Marmion. And Moore is the poet his criticism. He speaks of writers, who, of the parlor, for the Melodies he has like certain plants, flower but once- written, while his Lalla Rookh is read whose poetic genius bloomed early, for as a critical duty, and by way of task. a single time, and never again put forth a According to a classification like the bud. These writers, in poetry, resemble above, these certain verse-makers would single-speech Hamilton in oratory, (the rank very high among the minor Poets, concidence furnishes the excuse of the whose standing is low among the mascaption), and ever remain a source of liter- ter Bards. ary curiosity-a problem not to be readily As to the philosophy of the matter, we solved on ordinary premises. It is one confess it inexplicable. Why one who of the most curious of all literary curi- has once succeeded, should not do equal. osities, and yet we do not remember that ly well again, many causes may be D'Israeli has devoted a paper to the sub- assigned; yet, not one of them carry ject, nor even made any reference to it, sufficient weight to settle the question dean omission quite unaccountable in him, terminately. The various reasons are as it falls naturally within his province. sufficiently plausible, yet may be easily
A beautiful Anthology might be collected set aside on further reflection. Sheer infrom the writings of poets, who have ex- dolence ! cries one ; timidity, exclaims hausted themselves, as it were, in a single another; want of leisure, reasons a third ; effort; caught but a single glance of the rather, want of power, adds a fourth ; divinity; but once felt the god.' In a perhaps, all together, liberally concludes supplement to this exquisite bouquet, a fifth. richer than that of Ellis or Longfellow, Some persons seem to regard these though they come very near to the ideal writers-as some old dogmatist called we speak of, might be included the few Goldsmith-inspired idiots, who have, by fine short poems, of those who have chance, hit upon a new thought or view, written long works of mediocre or per- which they want skill and training to fol. haps even doubtful standing. A few deli- low up—as delicious harmonies may cate morceaux of Southey will be pre- float into the mind of one, who is ignoserved by an affectionate race of readers, rant of the science of sweet sounds. whose benevolence even cannot prevent In truth, the fact is as wonderful as the utter oblivion of his unwieldy epical that would be (of which we are ignorant, attempts. Even Gay, who wrote well if it has ever happened), of a painter who always, has been immortalized by his had finished but one good picture in the Ballads and Fables, rather than by his course of his life—who had caught for a Trivia.
single time, the cordial and kindly aspect Another class, still, beside the writers of Nature—who, once only, had gained of one or more choice short poems, and power to interpret the soul, speaking in the writers of long and dull insipid pro. The face. Who ever heard, or read of, or ductions, is that of the great writers who saw, the single celebrated production of have written much, and of whose works, a sculptor, or musical composer, or archi. even when equally fine, the shortest are tect, who had anything of a desirable the best known, merely because they are reputation ? We do not speak of the brief. Thus, Dryden's Alexander's Feast clever things done by ingenious amais know to many, from being met with teurs, but of single Works (not Plays as in all the ordinary selections and elegant Ben Jonson used to distinguish), executed extracts, while his no less admirable ro- by professional artists. mantic tales from Boccaccio and Chaucer, Yet as matters of literary and personal his delightful Fables, Epistles to Old- history, that was really the case, of the ham, and Congreve, and Kneller, (on authors of the Burial of Sir John Moore, which Pope could only refine), Secular and the Ode to the Cuckoo. Wolfe wrote
two or three other fine things in verse than the fruit of settled indination) vanish and prose, yet nothing comparable to this as men grow older. How many young masterpiece. Logan is known only by poets have settled down into middle aged the ode we refer to. The Braes of Yar- prose men ; how many airy romancers row enshrine the memory of Hamilton of become converted into matter of fact Bangour, and have led greater bards to critics. Religion, in some instances, the scene, to offer up their tributes, still teaches (falsely, we conceive,) the sin of inferior to the first. "Why, is this all we all but devotional strains : unquestionahave of these delicate poets? With such bly, when pure and noble, the highest fancy, such feeling, a taste so refined, a kind of verse, but not the only allowable versification so graceful, how happens it form. In this case, too, where piety is we hear no more strains from these night- perverted, the praises of men appear so ingales of a night? Not wholly so be. worthless and unsatisfactory, that the sotted, as to be careless of fame; rather, bard relinquishes the exercise of his diso far from that, as, in the case of Wolfe, vine gift (in a wrong spirit) before men, to be sensitively alive to generous praise that he may offer up his praises, pure and and to noble action; and, as to Logan, unalloyed, with angels and the blessed, we believe he, too, was a clergyman, a to the Almighty Giver of the glorious faretired scholar, and man of pure taste. culty itself, (among innumerable blessBoth were, (if we recollect aright,) in- ings.) valids, constitutionally feeble, and bence Various pursuits, too, warp the imagiincapable of long flights of fancy or close nation from poetical flights and confine study. They had leisure-poetic im- the studies that arise from fancy and pulses could not have been wanting, for taste to a narrow circle, if not consign subjects and occasions never wholly fail them over to“ dumb forgetfulness a prey.” the Muse: the admiration of friends, we Three great lawyers have been made out may conclude, was theirs. A single ob- of tolerable poets, who might have ranked stacle, only remains, and that furnishes among the first of the third rank, the Dii probably the occasion or reason of their Minores of our idolatry-Blackstone, Sir silence-a fastidious taste, like Camp- Wm. Jones, and Lord Thurlow; judgbell's, who was said to be frightened by ships and bishoprics o'llige the holders the shadow of his fame, that could not and occupants of these stations to hide, be satisfied with anything short of per- sometimes, a rare and peculiar talent. fection, which it failed to realize. Genu- Yet some bishops have been wits, as ine modesty, and a sensitive temperament, Earle and Corbet: though too frequently were leading traits (we presume, of the office stultifies the head, while it hardcourse), of the writers. These held their ens the heart. We have heard of many hand and restrained the otherwise willing capital story-tellers and mimics converted pen. The same reasons will not seem to into dignified judges, and, indeed,“as grave excuse the short poems of Raleigh and as a judge,” generally means as stupid. Wotton, who feared no critical tribunals; Without any farther attempt at unwhose minds were braced by manly ravelling the causes of this literary pheaction, who united all characters and nomenon, we will at once ng totalents and accomplishments, who with gether the following notices of writers of learning and (at some period) leisure and the kind we have undertaken to describe, fancy and power, have left a very few without pretending (from the nature of and very brief copies of verse, worthy of the case an almost impossible thing) to being printed in letters of gold. They produce all who deserve mention. On were not men, like their later brother the contrary, we can promise to quote bards, to entertain a feeling of despair at only a few, as we write from memory ever again equalling the fine things they and without the means of extending had accomplished early in life. In them, our list. therefore, it is but fair to suppose, that To commence with two court poets of the poetic bore a slight proportion to the the age of Charles II., when the mob of political and scholastic and business- gentlemen who write with ease" first apcharacters, which rendered them famous. peared. Denham, the fashionable poet
The minds of men change; their aims of his day, now ranks as such in the vary at different epochs. They entertain select collections, mainly on the strength different views of life, of action, of am- of his Cooper's Hill. Dorset, one of the bition. Many youthful tastes (the ac- most delightful and accomplished characcompaniment of animal spirits, rather ters of that court of wits and gallants, is
best known in poetical history by his such as the delicate flowers that blossom ballad, said to have been written at sea in the poetic gardens of Carew, Herrick, during the first Dutch war, 1665, the King, Vaughan, Lovelace, &c. We had night before the engagement. He has written thus far, when we met with Long. penned a couple of delightful songs or fellow's Waif, a delicate and tasteful so, but his poetical claims rest chielly on anthology. But we think it might be the ballad. Pomfrets “ Choice” stands vastly improved by such an editor as the quite alone; the single popular poem of writer of the article on Henry Vaughan," its author, an agreeable, pleasant piece who out of that poet has made extracts, of versification, presenting the ideal of a tiner than the poem Mr. Longfellow has quiet, comfortable, retired literary life. selected, and has written about this poet Świft's version of Horace's lines is more and his contemporaries in a charming Horatian, but less English. Cowley and manner, that would have added much to Norris, who both translated the philo- the attraction of the little volume. The sophic picture of Seneca,* of a similar
Waif” should have included a galaxy strain, are more philosophic and high of rare old poems: the later writers are toned, but do not approach so closely the sufficiently well known. more equal current of daily life. Leigh Certain of the noble old prose writers, Hunt has praised Pomfret, and somewhere, to be ranked, by the production of one fine we think, directly imitated “ Choice," poem-if by no other claim--by title of adding to the verse a grace of his own. courtesy, among poets, ought not to be Dr. Johnson passed upon him no more omitted, as Bunyan, in the pithy, sententhan a just eulogium. ' To the masculine tious lines prefixed to his“ Pilgrim;” Burmoralist and the agreeable essayist we ton's fine versified abstract of his rare bow, in deference to their united judgment. * Anatomy;" and Walton's “ Angler's John Phillips is famous for his celebrated Wish.” These are “rarely delicate,” as burlesque of Milton, (the “Splendid Shil. Walton says of Marlow and Raleigh's ling”), but we can recollect no other poem delicious verses, “ better than the strong of his of any thing like equal merit. Par- lines now in vogue in this critical age." nell's Hermit is his chef d'æuvre. Many In one department of verse, that of who know him as a poet, know nothing Hymns and the versified Psalms of Daof his verses to his wife, and one or two vid, some writers are classic from having other short pieces, almost equally fine. produced one or two admirable pieces of Blair's “Grave" (the resting place of Mor- the kind: in this class come Addison, tality) has made him immortal. Green's Pope, Young, Ken, Cowper, Heber, Wot“Spleen,” and Dyer's “ Grongar Hill;" po- ton, Watts. ems excellent in their different styles of Many writers, of very considerable manly satire and picturesque description, pretensions, have succeeded in one long are, we believe, the only works of these poem, but are not generally known by authors that have escaped oblivion. As any second production of equal value. writers of single poems, we may, by a of this class the best instances are Young, forced construction, “compel to come in in his “ Night Thoughts”-hard reading, certain of the old Dramatists, and though except in detached passages; Akenside's they do not properly rank under this “Pleasures of Imagination,” (with all his head, we may be glad to eke out our list pomp of philosophic speculation and elabby such delights of the Muses as the no- orate fancy, very heavy, for these very ble Dirge in Webster's terrible tragedy, reasons.) `All the Pleasures, by the way, Shirley's fine stanzas, and scattered songs, of Memory and Hope, beside, in these “ fancies,” and good-nights, that occur in long general poems, are far from pleasant the rare old comedies and tragedies : from reading; Churchill, whose local and temGammer Gurton's Needle, that can boast porary satires are forgotten and give place the first and one of the best drinking to his “Rosciad,”a monumentof his sense, songs in the language, down to, and half acuteness, and happy satire-a gallery through, the
age of Elizabeth, the age of of theatrical portraits hit off with the Marlow and his contemporaries, just pre- justness and vivacity of Pope, and formvious to the golden era of the Shakspe- ing a capital supplement to Colley Cibber's rian drama. Many of the minor poets, collection; Allan Ramsay's“Gentle Shepwhether gay or religious, of the seven- herd,” that Arcadian pastoral; Garth, in teenth century, have left sparkling gems, his “Dispensary,” an author in whom the
• Ex. Thyeste, Act II. Chorus.
† Arcturus, Vol. I.
man and humorist was more than a erty, though its poetical value we forget, match for the poet; Somerville,“ Chase,” was the best paid copy of verses ever pretty fair verse for a sporting country printed here and exceedingly popular. gentleman; and Armstrong’s “ Art of Pre- Tom Paine wrote some clever lines, called serving Health,” a sensible essay that the “ Castle in the Air,” (?) with some might as well have been written in prose. stinging satire in it; and previous to eiThe same criticism may be applied to ther, and much better than both put togethGarth and Somerville.
er, the spirited “ Indian Burial Ground," Among general readers the Hudibras which Longfellow has lately recovered, of Butler is eagerly perused by all who and whence Campbell borrowed a line or delight in the version of sense, wit, and two, (a common trick with him). But learning, all devoted to the cause and end our best fugitive poetry has been written of wholesome satire; yet the other sharp by prose writers. Irving's delicious lines, satires of the same writer are, virtually, the Dull Lecture, illustrating, or illusunknown. And the Seasons of Thomp- trated by, (we know not which,) a capson, by no means his best poem, is uni- ital picture of Stuart Newton; and his versally read, while very few ever think classic verses to the Passaic River, as of glancing at the delightful “ Castle of graceful and picturesque as that winding Indolence,” of which he was both creator stream. A noble poem on Alaric, by and master.
governor Everett; some fine versions Then again, certain fine poems are con- from the German, by the Hon. Alexander tinually quoted, not as the sole efforts, Everett ; three or four admirable pieces but as the masterpieces of their authors, by John Waters; the two last addressed quite to the exclusion of any other works to ladies, printed in the American newsof theirs; the selection, for instance, of paper, some six or seven years ago. such fine poems as the Ode to the Pas- Nicholas Biddle wrote some very agreeasions, and the Elegy in a Country Church- ble jeux d'esprit and vers de société. A yard, in works on elocution, with which lively epistle of this kind, appeared in every schoolboy is familiar, has thrown the weekly New Mirror last summer. A the other equally fine pieces by the same noble poem, “ The Days of my Youth authors, comparatively into the shade. and of my_ Age contrasted,” by the Hon. Shenstone's Schoolmistress comes within St. Geo. Tucker, of Virginia, has been the same category; but after all the going the rounds of the papers for a fame of the poet depends on it alone. year past. Can no printed book or ma. The ballad of Jemmy Dawson is not su- gazine show us more of the author ? perior to many that have been consigned We often ask ourselves this question, to obscurity ; while the Pastoral Ballad, with regard to many other authors, with with a certain vein of tenderness, does out ever receiving a satisfactory answer not rank much above Hammond's strain, Very many such we still remain in utter (once called the English Ovid,) which has ignorance of, in common with the readbeen long since, and not unjustly, forgtten. ing public, and this fact must account
A delicate volume might be made up for our omissions. When we think of of single-piece poems of English and the stupid long poems, with which the American poets of this century. In Eng- world has been deluged for years past, lish poetical literature, Mrs. Southey's and recollect how many exquisite brief Pauper's Death-Bed, Noel's Pauper's pieces are lost merely by their brevity, Funeral, delicate verses of Darley, Mont- as a jewel is hidden in a pile of common gomery's Grave, &c., &c.
stones, we often wish that a critical poOur American Parnassus entertains lice, consisting of one judge of fine taste, many occupants, who can prefer but a two of good judgment, and three sharp single claim (or two) for possession. critical scholars, might be continually The following are all of the gems we kept up, to pound all stray poetical cattle; can, at present, recall. The famous song or, at least, to advertise where they might of R. T. Paine, entitled Adams and Lib- be found.