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" All that's good and great with thee
Works in close conspiracy;
There is nothing puling in these verses. A thorough mastery of the meaning contained in them is as good a lesson of mental logic as we need desire, and sharpens the intellect, as well as delights the poetical taste.
Mr. Emerson has, in some bold, clear lines, summed up his definition of true poetry.
“ TO MERLIN.
“ Thy trivial harp will never please,
Or fill my craving ear:
Free, peremptory, and clear.
Nor treble of piano strings,
In its mystic springs!
Must strike the chords rudely and hard,
That they may render back.
For the idle flowers I brought;
Goes home loaded with a thought.
But 'tis figured in the flowers;
But birds told it in the bowers.
Homeward brought the oxen strong ;
Which I gather in a song."
We are quite aware how seldom casual readers pause long enough over poetry to find out all its meaning; but the meaning and the power are there, and the reader, not the poet, is deficient.
Mr. Emerson's power has not its foundation in the human heart : the roots of his being are in the intellect. Consequently he is deficient in one of the two great elements of genius. That this narrows his scope is too evident to need anything beyond the mere statement.
We will give a remarkable instance of this want of power to rouse the feelings. It is some verses he has written on the death of a little child. Surely, few things. are so susceptible of pathos as this ; but mark how hard, dry, and metaphysical the poet is.
“ ON THE DEATH OF A CHILD.
“ Returned this day, the south wind searches,
But finds not the budding man;
Nature, fate, men, him seek in vain.”
An American critic well observes on this, " that the voice of lamentation is lost in a vague speculation on fate, interesting only to the intellect.” It is difficult to find a subject more capable of touching regrets than the death of a child, and still more difficult to find a poet who has so completely failed in awaking one tender memory.
We shall take advantage of this circumstance to contrast several poets under the same inspiration, and mark how different are all their moods. Nevertheless, all except Emerson have the chief weight on the human heart.
Wordsworth, in his lament for a daughter “Dead and gone,” puts the regrets of memory into an old man's mouth. Although years have passed since the blow fell, how fresh the wound still remains !
“ Our work, said I, was well begun,
Then from thy breast what thought,
So sad a sigh has brought.
“ A second time did Matthew stop,
And fixing still his eye
To me he made reply:
“ Yon cloud with that long purple cleft
Brings fresh into my mind,
Full thirty years behind.
« With rod and line I 'sued the sport,
Which that sweet season gave,
Beside my daughter's grave.
“Nine summers had she scarcely seen,
The pride of all the vale,
A very nightingale.
“ Six feet in earth my Emma lay,
And yet I loved her more,
I e'er had loved before."
And in another poem, how truly he touches the tenderest portion of the heart, when he says :
“ If there is one who need bemoan
His kindred laid in earth,
It is the man of mirth.”
We turn from this strain of pure musical pathos,
“ Bringing the tears to the dim eyes,”
to another fine burst of natural sorrow; more sorrowful, inasmuch as Byron mixed up less natural objects than Wordsworth in his laments.
“ There have been tears, and breaking hearts for thee,
And mine were nothing had I such to give;
An English poet has touched upon the same subject; as another illustration of the subject we quote it. We cannot here avoid remarking, that a very interesting volume might be made of selections from the works of the most eminent poets containing the expression of parallel feelings.
“ON A WITHERED FLOWER.
“Oh, wondrous power of thought,
This faded flower has brought,