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atheists. It is reported that an English millionaire, in a discussion once with an enthusiast, who was arguing that money was a very secondary matter, and that our Saviour had a great contempt for riches, astonished the worthy Christian by boldly declaring “ that he could not deny but that Christ had held those opinions, but,” said he, “it always seemed to me that our Saviour was not sufficiently aware of the value of money." This setting Omniscience right is done by the great bulk of mankind. Every merchant does it every hour of his life. The money-changers of Threadneedle street and Wall street utter cutting sarcasms in reply to “ What shall a man receive in exchange for his soul ?" Dollars or pounds sterling, of course !
We do not wish to undervalue the practical faculties and the useful part of man's nature. We should as soon think of neglecting the body merely because the soul was of so much more importance. One is necessary to the other, to complete the human being, and in like manner poetry is as needful to the well-being of man as religion and morals are to society.
Dana well observes :
“ Society should be like the earth about us, where the beautiful, the grand, the humble, the useful, lie spread out, and running into each other; where, indeed, for the most part, so beautiful is the useful that we almost forget its uses in its beauty."
There is a general yet dignified tolerance running throughout our author's writings, which shows the liberal mind as well as poetical heart. The following is another proof of that careful working up of his modes of illustration, which shows how completely he has studied his subject. Still we miss in this well
ordered prose those touches of light which reveal more than words:
“ We are filling our hot-houses and gardens with plants of the tropics, and of the earth. We decompose air, and water, and earths. Find the dip of rocks, and mark their strata ; voyage into regions of thick-ribbed ice; travel up to the sources of strange rivers ; betake ourselves to the mountain tops, and are bustling and busy in this great huddling and overturning of everything within our reach, while the delightful mystery within us lives on unexamined and unobserved. But if the pursuit of this mystery has been neglected for objects more gainful, or of cheaper fame, it has inward satisfyings and healthful moral uses, which are found only here. We can scarcely look into the hearts of other men without seeing the workings of our own, and learning to know ourselves in studying them. This brings us nearly to each other, and in opening out like weaknesses and like virtues, teaches us forgiveness and love."
There is a sustained power of reasoning in most of Dana's prose works which insensibly produces on the reader's mind that respectful assent, which is the highest tribute a second-rate writer can receive. To the chief bards of prose composition, such as Milton, Jeremy Taylor, and their compeers, alone belongs that enthusiastic reverence which carries us along in a glow of delight.
Who can forget the first study of the Areopagitica of the former, or the Sermons of the latter ? They are epochs in the life of the mind! We take leave of Mr. Dana with a sincere respect for his talents. Both in prose and verse he has earned a right to be considered as one of the most genuine writers of America. We prefer his poetry to his prose for several reasons, but chiefly on account of its comprising the qualities of that species of composition with a higher faculty. His verse is carefully finished, and displays occasionally a vein of imagination, which, if more sustained, would place him very high in the rank of even English poets. He has less unmeaning epithets than any American poet, except Emerson, we have met with, and some of his illustrations are remarkably happy.
There is, however, a want of constructiveness in his mind which impairs his power as a narrative poet.
His prose writings are full of sound thought in sound English, and evince in every page, if not the man of an original genius or a wide range of mind, at all events one who has the sagacity to think for himself, and the honesty to write what he thinks.
FRANCES SARGENT OSGOOD.
It is very seldom that a woman of any real genius has so great a facility of throwing her fancies into shape as Mrs. Osgood. Had her utterance been more difficult she would have written better. Mrs. Hemans was an example of how much fine poetry is weakened by that elegant clothing of satin which she could so easily throw over her children. The very opening poem of the American poetess is a striking instance. It reminds us of a weak translation of some of Anacreon's odes by Thomas Moore.
“ Love, no more with that soul of fire
Sweep the strings and sound the lyre ;
The idea is here positively so weakened by amplification that we can hardly be said to recognise one in the whole eight lines. What can be done in that number of verses every reader of Goldsmith can tell
“When lovely woman stoops to folly.” The lady whom we thus criticise tells us what she can perform in a small compass, when she pleases
“ Lyre! amid whose chords my soul,
Lulled, enchanted, proudly stole,
This species of verse is very captivating. It seems as though it were the same that Pope said—“ Lord, Fanny spins a thousand such a day.” To be closely written it is perhaps more difficult than any in the language. Lord Byron was one of the few that could wield the Anacreontic rhythm with much effect.
In her “ Spirit of Poetry” there is a great tenderness and a deep yearning after the undefined. “ Leave me not yet! leave me not cold and lonely,
Thou dear ideal of my pining heart!
Whom I would keep, though all the world depart !
Spirit of light, and loveliness, and truth,
Of the dim future, in my wistful youth.”