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Aristarchus with his accidence in his of nature's laboratory; the latter, dull hand, applying his stupid rules to the and toilsome distillations in the workshop divine lines of a Homer! The irregu- of the chemist. The ape reads Pope, and larities, at which he barks, are, for all having formed his ear to that artificial, his bleared eyes can discern, transcendent though exquisite versification, and to the beauties. It is true, the father of poets finished consonance of sounds, he begins sometimes nods, like all his children, to hammer out his verses, lame enough at and parts of his immortal epic are but first, but finally elaborated into something the stertorous breathings of his uneasy like smoothness and harmony. They slumbers. But if he sometimes nods, are, indeed grateful to the ear, at least till his commentator always sleeps. His their sameness renders them wearisome. faculties are saturated with a sleepy But as the fox said of the decorated mask: drench, which benumbs all perception. • How beautiful! what a pity it has no Such men resemble Sterne’s critic, who brains!” Yet the critical ape applauds measured the excellence of a work by its him. Read now the pages of natural length and breadth. Encumbered by a genius, polished, however, by midnight host of scholastic familiarities, they can toil, and amended by the curtailments of only judge of what is, by what has been, unsparing judgment. Let it be Virgil, or and all that transcends the established Horace, or Pope, or Gray, or Goldbounds is • heresy and schism.' An ar- smith. There you will find delicious gument which does not proceed by regu- harmony, but not delicious harmony lar syllogysms—the · barbara celarent of alone. You will also find a curious fé. logic-proves nothing for them. If the licity' of language--words exquisitely famous quibble, .It either docs rain, or it chosen, to convey chaste and elegant does not rain : but it does not rain; there. ideas. The ape reads Byron, and, borne fore, it does rain,' should prove to be an away by the wonderful genius of the argument constructed according to rule, man, he mistakes the wicked for the they will readily swallow the conclusion. witty, the strange for the original, and If a tragedy surpass the absurd unities of the frantic for the passionate. The merits time and place prescribed by the French of his idol are beyond his reach; but his critics, it is assigned to purgatory. It faults are imitable, and he resolves to may be replete with all the glories of write a poem, which shall be Byron Remind; it may impress a pathos to force divious-a new edition, with numberless tears from tyrants: no matter—it has improvements. Inspired by his • fount of violateu the laws, and is worthy of con- Castalie,' the fumes of gin-and-water, he demnation. Send it to the "Gehenna' of sends his imagination into Cloudland, tormented plays. Poor fools ! How should there to revel among incongruous metaone of ohtuse and narrow faculties, who phors, frightfuly unnatural passions, and fashions his judgment only by inflexible a rabble ront of wild, chaotic horrors. rules and forms, be able to decide on the After four weeks' painful incubation, the works of those who are a rule unto them- poor goose hatches his cantos—litile, selves. The statutes of poetry, for in- tawny, rickety monsters, limping along stance, are drawn from the works of great with their raw, rough feet; gabbling like masters, and when another great master the goslings of Babel, or hissing with arises, and developes a new shaft in the unearthly sibilations. The critic-ape feeds inexhaustible mine, common spirits are the little starvelings on puffs and softamazed and shocked at the audacity of soap; swears they are young eagles; and one who dares forsake the ways of his quotes the lines, which he has heard are poetical forefathers.
Such critics are apes themselves, and “Behold young Genius wing his eagle-flight, are fitted to criticise only the labors of Rich dew-drops shaking from his plumes their brother apes. But how different are of light.” the outpourings of a true genius from the Now turn to the wild-wood notes of dull discharges of an imitator.
The Nature's poet.
Let it be Collins, or former gush forth with all the purity and Burns, or Byron. Perhaps the rhymes fresh abundance and playful life of a dew
are not always perfect : but the lines are fed spring high up among the mountains, overflowing with melody, and march and the latter run slowly and heavily, as from wind along with exquisite grace, aud in. a low-land reservoir, loaded with slime imitable ease. Andthen the rhythmic and discolored by stagnant vapors. Or thought, the strong, bright soul, that inthe former are the fierce, mercurial fusions spires and illuminates the whole. “Ah!
but there is a false line,” says Aristar- returned he, “I am glad to find you sid. chus. A false line! It is a note stolen ing with my judgment, which, I flatter from the morning song of the “young- myself, is very correct in regard to poeeyed cherubim.
« And here is an un- try!” We once requested him to read Milpardonable hyperbole,” cries Zoilus. ton, and if he did not like it, to read it Soulless whipper-in of genius ! It is the again, and yet again; for it would assuredlanguage of a heart swollen with emo- ly prove at last the grandest intellectual tions too big for common utterance. “And banquet of which he had ever partaken. here is a violation of the unities," quoth He consented, purchased the Paradise Aristotle Secundus, and a yelping train Lost, and read it over and over of Sundays of • petit-maitre' critics assent in snarling for a number of months. The conversachorus. Your pardon, old systematizer: tion one day turning on the subject, he you are, in the main, a very sensible said, “ As for your famous John Milton, man; but Nature, the great mistress, is I think him vastly overrated. In the first. not always so precise to have correlative place, the whole tale is extremely improbaactions occur at one place, and within a ble, excepting those few facts, of which we given time. Nor are we quite convinced have Scriptural proof. Secondly, I have that a tragedy of four or six acts, and an marked above three hundred verbal inacepic of thirteen or twenty-six books, curacies or contradictions." He then might not be of unequalled power, albeit showed us his Milton, blackened with those numbers are heterodox, and find no pencil-marks from beginning to end—two countenance in the writings of the literary or three of them pointing out positive imfathers.
proprieties of grammar or sense, which We have a friend—a great stickler for had escaped us in our admiration; but literality in literature—to whom we were mostly the hypercriticisms of a stickler for one day remarking the exceeding force facts and figures. For instance, hce had and picturesque beauty of that line, in placed in his “ Index Expurgatorius,” the the corsair, we believe
following strong and beautiful express
ions—darkness visible;' honor dis“She walks the waters like a thing of life.” honorable;' •fall’n such a pernicious
Why, I hardly know,” said he: “[ height;'“and o'er the dark her silver mandon't see how a ship can be said to walk tle threw.?" For,” said the soi-disant Lon. the waters, since it has no legs, nor any ginus,“ how can darkness' be • visible;' thing resembling them. It would be where there is no light to see it with ? how much more proper to say swims!” On how can honor' be its own opposite ? another occasion we inquired his opinion how can the devil himself manage to fall of Goldsmith's Poems, which we had
a height, 'that is, to fall upward, and how found lying on his table. “A very sweet,
can the height be calleded pernicious,' fine poet, sir,” was his reply; “ but he when that quality belonged to the fall ? Or has fallen into some shocking, unpardon- bow can the meon • throw her manile over able blunders." Blunders in Gold- the dark, when, at the very moment the smith!” said we: “why, he is ranked
moon rises, there is no longer any darkamong the most correct of poets."
.” “Well, ness for her to throw her mantle over?!!” Sir, what do you think of such a line as
Thus far our excellent merchant-friend, this?
who is a very sensible man, but much
better fitted to judge of beef, tobacco, • When every rood of ground maintained and bank notes, than to pass sentence its man.'
on poets or poetry. “ Now, Sir, if you will recollect that The great Dr. Johnson seems to have four roods make an acre, and 640 acres possessed much of this hypercritical make a square mile: that consequently spirit
. He partly received it from his there are 2560 roods in a square mile; own blunt and bearish nature, and partly, and that the most dense population ever perhaps, acquired it from his lexicofound in any country does not exceed graphical labors, where the habit of fix. 300 inhabitants per square mile; you ing the exact and unalterable meanings will at once perceive the enormous ex- of all words, may have formalized and travagance of Goldsmith's statement of starched his literary taste, incapacitating the former population of England.” “ Cer- him to appreciate, because he could not detainly,” we replied : “the table of square fine, that delicate and uninterpretable measure, and the statistics of nations sense, which poets sometimes infuse into confirm your criticism.” Well, Sir,” their language. Then too, his stiff, stilted,
and grandiloquent character could not the poetic spirit, the high and noble endure anything beneath his own un- sentiments contained in any fine epic or bending dignity. For instance, in his eclogue? The doctor greatly admired, critique on that famous passage in Mac- (as who can avoid it?) the masterly beth, where the incipient murderer solilo- Bucolics of Virgil.
Did he ever say, quizes, holding dubious parley with his with a cynic growl, that rough, illiterate own darkening heart, he carps at the herdsmen in the plains of Mantua, could use of the words, dun,' and knife,' as not be supposed to have entertained such low and inappropriate, befitting a butcher polished sentiinents, or to have expressed rather than a tragedian. But it was a them in language so exquisitely chosen ? • knife,' and beside, in Shakspeare's time, Alas for the obliquity of human judg. before the Sheffield forges had made ment! Virgil and Johnson were both knives as plenty as blackberries, it is Tories. They both upheld Church probable the word was as dignified as Establishments, and the Divine Right the term “sword' now is. As for the ex.. of Kings.” Hinc illæ laudes.' John pression dun, it is pure Saxon, sanc- Milton was a stern, brave Puritan, who tioned by Milton and the best poetical wrote, as he would have fought, for the usage, and if it must be dropped because rights of universal man, and who, in it enters likewise into the vocabulary of blindness and poverty, still sang aloud, the butcher, so must we also disuse the words “sheep' and 'ox,' because they
“ With voice unchanged, have experienced the same desecration. To hoarse or mute, though fall’n on evil So also of the word • blanket,' it is quite days, as good as mantle, or curtain,' or any on evil days though fall'n, and evil tongues; other substitute, which happens now to
In darkness, and with dangers com passed be more fashionable; though it must be
And solitude.” confessed, that the entire conception of "heaven peeping through” a hole in the ‘Hinc illæ lacryme.' darkness, is very puerile on so awful an A very diverting species of criticism is occasion.
that, whereby certain nobodies,' wheBut it is where the Doctor's political ther in conversation or in print, plaster prejudices biassed his literary judgment, every thing beyond their comprehension that his critical faculties were most blunt- with indiscriminate praise, or blacken it ed, and his cathedratic decisions the most with undistinguishing censure. This is palpably unjust. Never without indig- a much safer course, than that of alter‘nation and disgust can we recall the nate approval and condemnation. The groundless condemnation passed by so latter requires some slight degree of pereminent an authority on Milton's Lyci- ception to avoid blunders palpable to all; das-a poem, which with the exception the former may pass with the groundof some ten or twelve inappropriate and lings' for the dicta of one who knows' tasteless lines, is surely, of all pastorals, Others, a little more cunning, first endeathe most “entire and perfect chrysolite;” vor to ascertain the opinion of reputed the most replete with noble pathos and judges, and then echo the decision with sweet sublimity; the most radiant with a wise shake of the head, or with vocithe beams of genius shining through the ferous volubility. It was our fortune to tears of bereaved affection. The whole meet with a unique and ludicrous sample 'gisť of the Doctor's censure lies in the of this last species of the genus Critic, supposition that it is unnatural, prepos- last summer on a trip to Washington, terous, to imagine a plain shepherd speak- D. C. It was a luscious day. In walking on subjects so lofty in a strain so ing up Pennsylvania Avenue, we engrand. Well, if it comes to that, was it countered a northern clergyman, a ripe natural for the heroes of Homer to con- scholar and a finished connoisseur, with verse so finely, and that in poetry? Is it whom we had formerly made a brief supposable that the characters in any and delightful acquaintance. On his tragedy ever spoke rhyme, or in rhythm ? arm hung a niece of his, whom he was Does not the Doctor's objection upset the accompanying on a tour for the restoramerits of his own Ione, and every other tion of her wasting health. It made our poem ever written? For, when or where heart ache to view that sweet, young have men talked poetry? And leaving face, so lovely and so sad—that soft aside the mere poetic form, when or cheek, where the hectic flush, death's where have men in conversation sustained sure precursor, had already raised its VOL. I.-NO. IV.
scarlet banner-that full-orbed eye, tle reading and some travelling through which, instead of the laughing light of the South and West.
“ Jest as you say, healthful maidenhood, shone with the Sir," returned he; "there is some exceppeculiar resplendence of the consumptive tions, to be sure ; but in general, and invalid—an intensely spiritual gaze, takin' it by and large, it is a splendid bright with the dreamy lustre of life's paintin', very splendid, very splendid, in. expiring flame. We proffered our arm to deed, Sir! Wonder what it cost ?” “I the fair and fading girl, whom we had not am not able to say, Sir,” said the clergy. seen since she was a little budding flower man with a covert smile, and a look at of scarce seven summers, and wended us, which we interpreted as a hint to our way to the Capitol with slow and draw our critic out." He then continued gentle steps. We endeavored, by play- with mischievous gravity, remarking that ful speeches, to beguile our sad compan- he thought the artist had excessively ion from the thoughts that seemed to ho- foreshortened the dress of some one of ver, like a chilling shadow, over all her the figures--we forget which. being. It was in vain.
She replied “ Ah! you're right there, exactly kindly, but briefly, and again was silent. right,” said our critical Zeuxis: “ I never We remarked to the uncle that this ap- did like to see dresses too short before,peared a literal representation of those nor behind, neither, for that matter; not charming lines of Horace:
even when it was the heighth of the fash- Dum Capitolium
ion. I used to tell my cousins down in Scandet cum tacitâ virgine Pontifex.”
Boston, that it wasn't entirely proper.
And I don't see why 'tisn't jest equally He cast on his niece a glance of anxious as bad in paintin's. Now, there was the fondness, while she with a smile more famous paintin' of · Adam and Eve,' sorrowful than tears, replied “ Forgive where the painter foreshortened the dressme, Sir, for my brief speech, and seem- es all to nothin'; and I always said 'twas ing insensibility. I am flying from the shameful, totally—and disregardless of Mighty Archer, and ever while I fly, as every thing that's jest as it orter be.” with the wounded deer in Virgil, his ar- The clergyman bit his lip to repress row is rankling in my side— hæret lateri his audible laughter, and even the sad lethalis arundo.”—(The old clergyman young lady, · with the arrow in her side, had taught her Latin in her girlhood. )smiled less mournfully: but Nosmetipsi
My thoughts will go down to the dark received the decision with a grave bow valley' and the wormy bed,' where I so of acquiescence. “It appears to me,”
• soon must follow them. But it is not on said we, looking solemnly through our death alone they dwell : to me, in dying, eye-glass, "that the painting does not posthere is a cup far bitterer than death.” sess a skillful relief of light and shade; Her uncle seemed exceedingly distressed, but perhaps it proceeds from the situand we forbore, believing she alluded to ation in which it hangs.” · Yes, Sir," one of those terrible partings “such as said Zeuxis, peering with his twinkling press the life from out young hearts.” eye through a circle formed by his thumb
At the Rotunda we paused to admire and forefinger: “you are quite right; it's the painting of “ Pocahontas.” Our the fault of the place." “ Could it not be clerical friend pointed out many beauties arranged, so that the light might fall in a and several blemishes, which our inartis- more checkered manner on this painting tic eye would never have detected. He which you justly call a splendid one?" had just bestowed an eloquent eulogy on said Nosmetipsi. “I think it might,” the execution of one of the Indian figures, quoth our connoisseur. “Congress ought when he was interrupted by a voice near to stop up every other winder-pane up us—" Don't you think, now, that that there in the Dome.” · I hope, sir," re'ere paintin' is uncommonly splendid ?” plied Nosmetipsi, “that your valuable “ Very fine, Sir, with two or three excep- suggestion will be represented to the tions,” replied the clergyman, looking proper committee." “ It seems that you round at the querist, who was a thick- are quite a judge of paintings,” continued set man of some thirty-five years, with “Wail-1 ought to be,” he replied, a narrow forehead, a little, twinkling eye, “ for I guess I've seen about every picterand features expressive, at once, of vapid gallery in the United States, and some curiosity and timorous conceit. His ginuine · Raphels,' andı • Courages,' and dress was very fine, and very ill assorted, "Dominics' among 'em." “ You, then, and his words and tones betrayed the Sir,” said Nosmetipsi,
are the very thorough-bred Yankee, modified by a lit- person, of whom I would like to inquire
how it happens, that we never see in if we could write a tale as touching as marriage-pieces, that peculiar expression that face, or that fate, we would. of countenance sometimes witnessed in After lounging a while in the Library, the face of a delicate and loving bride- we walked into the grounds west of the an expression, mingled of fearful hope Capitol, and reclined on one of the grassy and shrinking tenderness; of regret at slopes, with the main avenue of the city the severance of ties as old and dear as of “ magnificent potentialities” extending life, and timid rapture at the formation of broad and beautiful before us. While a new one, dearer in anticipation, and we lay there, gazing half-dreamingly more powerful than them all. I have through the warm and hazy air on that never seen that expression faithfully lovely hemisphere, whose plane was the transferred to the canvas. Have you, sweet, green earth, and its dome the Sir?” “ Wall,-n0,-I don't think I sweet, blue sky, our Zeuxis of the Rohave.” “We may, perhaps, sometimes see tunda walked near us, smoking and it,” said we, “in the works of very great smiling contentedly. “Ah! how are masters." • Yes, sometimes, as you say: you now? Take a cigar!” Of course very seldom, though, and only in the we accepted—who can refuse a soft splendidest kind of paintin's. The fact brown Havana from any body? The is jest as you state it, and I've often been critic lay down on the fresh, clean turf perfectly astonished jest to think on't.” us, and there we smoked and “I am glad to hear you say so," returned crtiticised, and criticised and smoked. Nosmetipsi. “Now, in this painting, The rich burlesque of the scene was the face of Pocahontas is very sweet, heightened by his exceedingly deliberate serious, and pathetic: still, I miss in the emphasis of voice, and a frequent glance, features a nameless something, a je ne directed furtively to Nosmetipsi, to assais quoi,' as the French say, made up of certain what he thought. Nosmetipsi, grief and hope, of fear and modesty and however, remained as grave as one of the love." “ You are right, Sir; perfectly regicide Roundheads. We forget much right,” said Zeuxis; there certainly is of the conversation; but the following somethin' out o' the way in the face ; specimens are strictly faithful in their but,” he asked doubtfully, “a'int the leading elements :French wrong in sayin' there ought to be Nosmetipsi. “ How many great oraany thing of the Gennessee squaw' in tors and statesmen have made the echoes it? I always thought Pocahontas was of those halls eloquent with their voices!" from Virginny.” This was excessive. Critic. “ Yes, sir. A great many great Our clerical friend laughed heartily. As statesmen-very great-very great, infor Nosmetipsi, he assumed an air of deed, sir!" N. " There is Webster, with mortified confusion, and said stammer. his iron-linked argument, and that treingly, and with a prodigious effort to mendous sarcasm, that rives and scathes blush, “ you do right, my friend to laugh like a thunderbolt. What do you think at me. I stand corrected, stranger, and of him ?”. C. “Why, sir, I've always am ashamed, to think that even the thought his argument and his sarcasm French, much more an American, like was splendid, very splendid, very splenmyself, could have blundered so grossly did, indeed, sir !” N. “Well, what do on so plain a point of our Colonial His. you think of the great Henry Clay tory.” Zeuxis, who had at first looked C. “Why, sir, he's another great, very disconcerted was
now reassured, and great man.” N. “You're right, he is. said with an exulting smile, Ah! I but is he greater than Webster ?" C. thought I could'nt be wrong; for I've Wall, now, that's hard to say. I think, read Goodrich's History of the United tho', they're pretty much of a much. States through a dozen times, I guess.” ness. What do you think?" N.“ Why, The clergyman smiled again, but, glanc. we can't measure great men like eleing at his niece, her eyes were filled with phants. But I think Clay is great unitears, and her lips quivering with an- versally---symmetrical and perfect like a guish. Our ks on a young and circle-while Webster, in perhaps a happy bride, had touched the arrow. in narrower sphere, aisy unapproachable by
girl Clay, living into a hack, and parted from uncle and “ Jest precizely what I always said. niece with a brief and sad farewell. Of You've hit it! There's Calhoun, too. her, we will only say that she died · Now ain't he a great man?” N. “A soon afterwards among her friends,-one great man, certainly. But as an orator, of them dearer than a brother-and, that he is not quite figurative enough.” C