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did Gilbert White. Byron makes his nightingale male because “the rose,” which it serenades, is female; and Mallet, with an excess of poetical audacity, writes “ Philomela's song-his evening lay!” Another pretty fact about the nightingale-namely, that he sings seated and secret—is disregarded by Broome, who speaks of
Philomel, upborne on wings,
Through air the mournful story singing ; and even in Shelley there is a suspicion of the same error, and but a suspicion only. We read
And soon her strain
And now to the hushed ear it floats, &c., &c.
Lifts on high
Sounds overflow the listener's brain. Shelley in another place seats the nightingale in an “ivy bower,' while Keats sings of the bird as being "up-perchèd high,” Leyden as “on high;" Cowper lets it claim “the top-most bough;” Moore places it “on the high trees,” and Campbell “ in an apple tree.”
If it were not for the invariable “ melancholy" of the poets: nightingale, it would be very difficult to focus this bird's literature so as to bring it within the compass of a mere “vignette.” But, fortunately, this strain of sadness so completely pervades the poetic songster, that “mournful Philomel," and " night's solemn bird,” may be almost said to exhaust their aspects of the nightingale.
“ Her" wonderful voice is of course the main fact in their nightingale lore ; but the chief, almost their only fancy is “her” ever-present grief. Among the epithets of sadness applied to the bird are “mournful,” “plaintive," "moody," "forlorn,” “sorrowing," “melancholy; its song is "a doleful ditty," "a sad anthem," "a soft complaint,” “melodious woe," “ dear to sorrow."
Though unanimous as to the fact of melancholy, the poets are not agreed as to its cause. With some it is the remembrance of her classical wrongs, and Lucrece in her dishonoured love appeals to it for sympathy; so, too, the Passionate Pilgrim
1 This curious line is worth a moment's puzzling over.
Fie ! fie! fie ! now would she cry,
Her throat in tunes expresseth,
While grief her heart oppresseth,
For Tereus o'er her chaste will prevailing. With others it is the expression of an intolerable bereavement, and the nightingale is "lovelorn"-"The lorn nightingale mourns not her mate with such melodious pain ;” and when summer is flown on its swallow's wings "she is mute, for her false mate has fled, and has left her desolate." This fiction of the infidelity of the male bird is not purely a poetical invention, for the sexes certainly arrive, and presumably depart, in separate flights; but in the poets its adaptation is rendered absurd by“ their normal error" in making the hen bird sing.
With others it is the delicious melancholy of love. Her song is then“ an enamoured tale," "and its tones so sweetly float, that lovesick maidens sigh at every note.”
• Minstrel, what makes thy song so sad, yet sweet ? ”
Sorrow in joy, and court a thorn for pain."
The bridal bird,
Love is here ! Love is here ! Milton makes Adam awake Eve with a lover's reproach for her drowsiness :
Now is the pleasant time,
Tunes sweetest his love-laboured song. But I am not at all certain that a little ill-feeling may not be properly entertained towards a bird which comes to us when “Spring dips down her emerald urn" to see our English daffodils blow, and stays with us while “Summer fills the fields with flowers,” but flies away as soon as our holly bushes are no longer of use to it, and Autumn walks afield with rustling feet. Yet it is only in Longfellow (and this is a translation from the German) that we find expression given to this well-founded grudge :
O maiden fair! O maiden fair ! how faithless is thy bosom !
The nightingale, the nightingale, thou tak’st for thine example ;
All other poets applaud the bird as “poet of the spring,” and heralding summer with her song, the
Light-winged Dryad of the trees,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease. They thank her for “attuning her varied strain to vernal airs," " while the jolly hour leads on propitious May,” and pay court to her as “the dearling of the somer's pryde, fair Philomel," as "the summer's nightingale, thy sovereign goddesses' most dear delight.” But none reproach it for sharing the swallow's inconstancy, or call it "vagrant” and “vagabond,” as they do the cuckoo, for not staying with us. It is doubtful, indeed, whether the poets were aware that the nightingale was a summer migrant only. Waller and Carew knew it, Mrs. Hemans suspected it, but there is no evidence in the rest of the great fact of the nightingale's migration being known; while from the poets being certainly ignorant of their other great favourite, the turtle dove, and their type of “constancy,” shifting its quarters as soon as its selfish interests had been served, it is no unfair inference that they were also ignorant of the nightingale's ungrateful desertion of us.
Yet, with all their compliments, the poets, so it seems to me, do not satisfy even the poetical requirements of the actual facts, or in any measure exhaust the poetry of the natural bird. Its legendary associations are in themselves repulsive; and when we remember that it is the cock bird alone that sings, they become grotesque also. Nor are the unnatural merits imagined by the poets-that it scorns to mix its song with that of other birds, and that it alone of all songsters undertakes the task of gladdening the gloomy hours of night-so poetical as the real circumstances, the modesty that makes "the sweet queen of song” merge her surpassing melody into the general choir of nature during the hours of daylight, the dignity of selfrespect that leads it to reserve yet one anthem more in glad thankfulness for night. Milton, Keats, and Shelley are able to grasp in its full compass the exquisite significance of the parable of the nightingale, “and Night with this her solemn bird;” but it eludes most, for they are content to reverse all Nature's meaning, and to substitute their own poor poetry for hers.
A GIFT FROM EMERSON.
INGULAR circumstances, associated with a promising career over
which a dark cloud slowly fell some years ago, brought into my possession a treasured booklet, which by many would be thought unique. It is a small octavo, of something over eighty pages, neatly bound in half-calf, with the old-fashioned mottled paper over the boards, now dim and worn with much handling, and the plain white "end-papers" a little soiled and discoloured. It is the second edition of “ Observations on the Growth of the Mind" by Sampson Reed, published by Adonis Howard, School Street, Boston, in 1829. It bears the motto from Wordsworth:
So build we up the Being that we are ;
On the fly-leaf it has the fluent signature "R. W. Emerson," so clear and yet so marked by swift decision ; at the top of the title-page is written "Samuel Brown," being the signature of the distinguished Scottish chemist, who added so much to that science and passed away in the midst of his years, while he was on the verge of yet more fruitful discoveries. Emerson was much in the society of Dr. Samuel Brown during his residence in Edinburgh on his first visit to this country in 1833. Brown discerned his genius, though he had not then published any of his great works. The result of that association was a deep affection, which led to a correspondence, and to Emerson being the guest of Brown during his stay in Edinburgh on his second visit to this country in 1847-8. The better to carry forward his scientific researches, Brown had before that established himself at Portobello, near Edinburgh, consequently underneath the signature on the title-page of our little book is “Portobello, February 3, 1844." Underneath the title again, and before the name of the author, is written in Dr. Samuel Brown's neat small hand : “ The pencil marks at admirable passages are Emerson's, not mine. S. B.;" and at the foot the words, “Brought from Emerson to me by Frank Russell.” Clearly a little book with a history ; and the history suggested by these details is only symbolical of a more intimate one. Readers of Emerson will remember how at one place, speaking of gifts, he asserts that the gift is utterly worthless and external, however much it might fetch in the market, if it fail to convey something of the inner nature and life of the giver. “Let the poet bring his song," he says, “and the sailor the prize which his own daring has secured beyond the sea.” On this principle he conscientiously acted, and our little volume in a very especial sense conveys to us Emerson in his generous appreciation, his hospitable intent, as quick to receive, as glad to give, his affinity for the lofty and pure in thought and aspiration, and his desire to lead those he loved to the same founts at which he had himself drunk and been refreshed. “The pencil marks at admirable passages are Emerson's, not mine." We hardly needed to be told that, but we are glad to have it so definitively attested; for we are fain to think that this little unambitious book, by one whose name is now hardly remembered, had some share in the building up of the genius of Emerson. Evidently it found him at many points ; there are passages which we could almost have believed him to have written in earlier years, before his style was quite so formed and condensed, and before he had in this regard so completely escaped from the influence of the pulpit. At the time the little book was published Emerson was still a Unitarian minister, regarded as a good representative of a Puritan line, which had from generation to generation supplied faithful preachers of the Word. He had had some painful experiences in loss of friends and loss of health ; he had little of that kind of practical “go” and adaptability which pass for so much in the career of the popular minister. A venerable lady of those preaching days, a member of his congregation, when asked what his chief characteristic was, said, “On God's law doth he delight to meditate day and night.” The death of his first wife in 1832 was a severe blow to him; and if possible threw him still more into the habit of meditation. He fell into ill health ; the work of church and pulpit became burdensome to him ; he longed to be free of trammels and traditions, to be able to speak whatever truth might be in him to-day, and to contradict it, as he says, to-morrow, if a new truth was made clear to him. He resigned his charge in Boston parish in 1832, and, when shortly after he had to defend himself from some aspersions, he said :