Page images

“ Till younger commonwealths for aid

Shall cling about her ample robe,
And from her frown shall shrink afraid

The crowned oppressors of the globe !"

It may be safely predicated, by any one accustomed to look philosophically at the movements of time, that it is reserved for the American republic to shield her great parent, England herself, from the assaults of the old despotisms.

From this historical glance into the future, let us turn to a pleasant page in Mr. Bryant's present. It is a short description of an American nymph.

“ Oh! fairest of the rural maids !

Thy birth was in the forest shades;
Green boughs, and glimpses of the sky,
Were all that met thy infant eye.
Thy sports—thy wanderings—when a child,
Were ever in the sylvan wild :
And all the beauty of the place
Is in thy heart, and in thy face.
The twilight of the trees and rocks
Is in the light shade of thy locks;
Thy step is in the wind that weaves
Its playful way among the leaves ;
Thine eyes are springs, in whose serene
And silent waters heaven is seen;
Their lashes are the herbs that look
On their young figures in the brook."

We cannot help breaking off, in this otherwise beautiful poem, to remark that unfortunate taste which compelled Mr.

Bryant to spoil the fine natural effect of his entire poem, by comparing a lady's eyelashes into herbs hanging down Narcissus-like, and admiring themselves in the “ gutta serena” of her own eyes. As usual, however, he rallies, and winds up the whole poem nobly and appropriately.

“ The forest depths, by foot unprest,
Are not more sinless than thy breast :
The holy peace that fills the air
Of those calm solitudes is there."

The companion picture to the American maiden of Bryant is Wordsworth's beautiful verses to the English wife. A poet seldom succeeds when he praises one of his own family, but here Mrs. Wordsworth has inspired the poet of Rydal. These are well known to be addressed to his wife.


“ She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely apparition, sent
To be a moment's ornament;
Her eyes as stars of twilight fair ;
Like twilight's, too, her dusky hair ;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful dawn;
A dancing shape, an image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and waylay.

“ I saw her upon nearer view,

A spirit, yet a woman too!
Her household motions light and free

And steps of virgin-liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,

Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.
“ And now I see with eye serene

The very pulse of the machine ;
A being breathing thoughtful breath,
A traveller between life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill ;
A perfect woman, nobly planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command:
And yet a spirit still, and bright
With something of angelic light.”

In our foregoing extracts we have endeavored to illustrate every opinion and observation we have made by characteristic extracts from the poet's writing. It is impossible to rise from the study of Mr. Bryant's poems without feeling more in harmony with nature and man than the spirit generally feels. We know that we have been calmly, kindly reasoned with by a good, calm, sad, Christian man, who, having no turbulence in himself, endeavors to throw the quiet mantle of his own reflective spirit over his companions.

He looks upon nature with the platonic admiration of a sage, and not with the disturbing passion of a lover; he feels towards all visible beauty more as a friend than as a wooer, and in this spirit realizes the thought of Shakspeare :

“Happy is your grace

That can translate the stubbornness of fortune
Into so quiet and so sweet a style !"

He looks upon the physical world as a storehouse of moral reflection, calculated to make us wiser and better men, and considers his fellow-creatures more as creatures to be reasoned into virtue and submission, than to be roused into exertion against evil, or to be tamed into the recognition of a supreme good. In a word, he finds

“ Books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything !"


The author of " Fanny” possesses many qualities calculated to make him a popular poet; he also has one or two which may, as time rolls on, peril his existence as part of the enduring national literature of America.

He has fancy, versification, a keen eye for the incongruous, and a taste for the beautiful; but against these gifts must be set off his want of earnestness. We are never certain he feels his subject; he writes about it well and wittily; and in some of his poems he displays a truthfulness and depth worthy of any poet, but the mood seems to pass away, and he becomes the Mephistophilean jester at the various passions and pursuits of the world. This is a mind which is not calculated to produce a solid impression on the public; they require a breadth and depth in the treatment of a subject which are incompatible with its nature. It requires a poet of great and varied powers, like Byron, to achieve a permanent reputation without this truthfulness of intellect; it may be said that even the author of “ Childe Harold ” has not stood the critical test. Many poets

« PreviousContinue »