« PreviousContinue »
How subtly the imagination works on itself, none can tell. But that every poet has a madness slumbering in his nature is clear to every self-reflective man.
An appreciation of the beautiful is the first sensation of the poetical mind : that belongs to many. The power of giving that faculty an utterance is the gift of the few: those few are the poets. To Miss Fuller the flight of a flock of pigeons is a music.
“ One beautiful feature was the return of the pigeons every afternoon to their home. Every afternoon they came sweeping across the lawn, positively in clouds, and with a swiftness and softness of winged motion, more beautiful than anything of the kind I ever knew. Had I been a musician, such as Mendelssohn, I felt that I could have improvised a music quite peculiar, from the sound they made, which should have indicated all the beauty over which their wings bore them.”
To the imagination,
“ The meanest flower that blows, can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”
How often does the very loftiness of a man's nature lead to the odium of the world, as from an eminence he beholds things the crowd denies, because they cannot see so far on account of their low stature. Much of the objection that has been raised to Miss Fuller's writings has proceeded from this defect in the eyesight of the world. Occasionally that fine woman's instinct, which is a half-revelation, lets us into more of the heart than a volume of man's preaching.
“ Oh! it is a curse to woman to love first, or most.
In so doing she reverses the natural relations,
But we refer the reader to the story of Mariana, as related in this little volume; it is one of the most touching and powerfully drawn narrations we have ever met with.
Many half-truth commentators have misrepresented Miss Fuller's theory of the position of woman. We hope it is their ignorance, and not their malice, which has led to this injustice. For our own part, we cordially echo her sentiments, convinced that every day brings us nearer to the realization of her system. After some observations upon Philip Van Artevelde, she says:
6 When will this country have such a man? It is what she needs; no thin Idealist, no coarse Realist, but a man whose eye reads the heavens while his feet step firmly on the ground, and his hands are strong and dexterous for the use of human implements. A man religious, virtuous, and—sagacious; a man of universal sympathies, but self-possessed; a man who knows the region of emotion, though he is not its slave; a man to whom this world is no mere spectacle, or fleeting shadow, but a great solemn game to be played with good heed, for its stakes are of eternal value, yet who, if his own play be true, heeds not what he loses by the falsehood of others. A man who hives from the past, yet knows that its honey can but moderately avail him; whose comprehensive eye scans the present, neither infatuated by its golden lures nor chilled by its many ventures; who possesses prescience, as the wise man must, but not so far as to be driven mad to-day by the gift which discerns to-morrow. When there is such a man for America, the thought which urges her on will be expressed.”
Who can deny the following ?
“ It marks the defect in the position of woman that one like Mariana should have found reason to write thus. To a man of equal power, equal sincerity, no more!—many resources would have presented themselves. He would not have needed to seek, he would have been called by life, and not permitted to be quite wrecked through the affections only. But such women as Mariana are often lost, unless they meet some man of sufficiently great soul to prize them.”
And where is the political economist who contradicts this?
“Might the simple maxim, that honesty is the best policy, be laid to heart! Might a sense of the true aims of life elevate the tone of politics and trade, till public and private honor become identical ! Might the western man, in that crowded and exciting life which developes his faculties so fully for to-day, not forget that better part which could not be taken from him! Might the western woman take that interest and acquire that light for the education of the children, for which she alone has leisure !
“ This is indeed the great problem of the place and time. If the next generation be well prepared for their work, ambitious of good and skilful to achieve it, the children of the present settlers may be leaven enough for the mass constantly increasing by emigration. And how much is this needed where those rude foreigners can so little understand the best interests of the land they seek for bread and shelter! It would be a happiness to aid in this good work, and interweave the white and golden threads into the fate of Illinois. It would be a work worthy the devotion of any mind.”
Whatever be the subject she thinks for herself, and boldly gives her opinion, without reference to the popular feeling. We were glad to read this :
“At Detroit we stopped for half a day. This place is famous in our history, and the unjust anger at its surrender is still expressed by almost every one who passes there. I had always shared the common feelings on this subject; for the indignation at a disgrace to our arms that seemed so unnecessary, has been handed down from father to child, and few of us have taken the pains to ascertain where the blame lay. But now, upon the spot, having read all the testimony, I felt convinced that it should rest solely with the government, which, by neglecting to sustain General Hull, as he had a right to expect they would, compelled him to take this step, or sacrifice many lives, and of the defenceless inhabitants, not of soldiers, to the cruelty of a savage foe, for the sake of his reputation.
“I am a woman, and unlearned in such affairs; but, to a person with common sense and good eyesight, it is clear, when viewing the location, that, under the circumstances, he had no prospect of successful defence, and that to attempt it would have been an act of vanity, not valor.
“ I feel that I am not biased in this judgment by my personal relations, for I have always heard both sides, and, though my feelings had been moved by the picture of the old man sitting down, in the midst of his children, to a retired and despoiled old age after a life of honor and happy intercourse with the public, yet tranquil, always secure that justice must be done at last, I supposed, like others, that he deceived himself, and deserved to pay the penalty for failure to the responsibility he had undertaken. Now on the spot, I change, and, believe the country at large must, ere long, change from this opinion. And I wish to add my testimony, however trifling its weight, before it be drowned in the voice of general assent, that I may do some justice to the feelings which possessed me here and now."
In Miss Fuller's essay on “Milton” we recognise that clear bold spirit, which smiles at the timidity, too frequent, when treating on the most original men of the past.
“Mr. Griswold justly and wisely observes :— Milton is more emphatically American than any author who has lived in the United States.' He is so because in him is expressed so much of the primitive vitality of that thought from which America is born, though at present disposed to forswear her lineage in so many ways. He is the purity of Puritanism. He understood the nature of liberty, of justice—what is required for the unimpeded action of conscience—what constitutes true marriage, and the scope of a manly education. He is one of the Fathers of this Age, of that new Idea which agitates the sleep of Europe, and of which America, if awake to the design of Heaven and her own duty, would become the principal exponent. But the Father is still far beyond the understanding of his child.
“ His ideas of marriage, as expressed in the treatises on Divorce, are high and pure. He aims at a marriage of souls. If he incline too much to the prerogative of his own sex, it was from that mannishness, almost the same with boorishness, that is evident in men of the greatest and richest natures, who have never known the refining influence of happy, mutual love, as the best women evince narrowness and poverty under the same privation. In every line we see how much Milton required the benefit of the thousand decencies that daily flow' from such a relation, and how greatly he