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“Sit at the feet of history—through the night
years the steps of virtue she shall trace,
Or freshening rivers ran; and there forgot
“ Then waited not the murderer for the night,
But smote his brother down in the bright day,
And slew his babes. The sick, untended then,
The poet very felicitously alludes to the dark ages of history, where so great a gap of annals exists—when even tradition dies into silence—and oblivion would be complete were it not for the mouldering ruins of unknown cities.
6 Those ages have no memory—but they left
A record in the desert-columns strown
Of heaven's sweet air, nor foot of man dares tread
“ And tombs of monarchs to the clouds up-piled
But idly skill was tasked, and strength was plied,
The poet's eye then rests on Greece, and in two stanzas gives his impressions.
In the apostrophe to Rome we feel the philosophical coolness of Mr. Bryant in its full force of negativing his poetry. There is too much of the abstract. More can be gathered often from a small event than from a dry balance sheet of the result. We may call these personal traits of a nation. As an instance of the two styles of treating the subject, we will compare Mr. Bryant with Byron. One, all philosopher ; the other, all poet: we mean, of course, so far as these
“ And Rome—thy sterner, younger sister, she
Till the north broke its floodgates, and the waves
The generalization here materially interferes with the clear
ness and vividness of the effect to be produced. Let us turn to Byron, and see how he treats it.
“I see before me the Gladiator lie:
The arena swims around him—he is gone,
“ He heard it, but he heeded not-his eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away;
We are willing to admit that it is scarcely just to select a verse at random from the American, and compare it with one of the most successful efforts of the great English poet. We, however, only intend by this comparison to illustrate that we think Mr. Bryant has injured a fine subject by throwing over it too frigid a mantle of philosophy.
With respect to the origin of these celebrated verses to the Gladiator, it is stated that Byron was indebted for them to Shelley. It has been said by Leigh Hunt, that during
the time the “gloomy Childe was in daily intercourse with Shelley a very perceptible change in his poetry is visible. We throw this out as a study for the curious.
In the progress of his review of the world Mr. Bryant comes to the New World, and thus speaks :
* Late, from this western shore, that morning chased
The deep and ancient night, that threw its shroud
Amid the forest; and the bounding deer
Having thus traced the march of civilization westward, rising in the east like the sun, to travel to the west : going down perhaps there, like the physical light, to rise again in the east; the poet finishes his history by this apostrophe to his native land:
“ But thou, my country, thou shalt never fall,
Save with thy children—thy maternal care,
The date of thy deep-founded strength, or tell
be affirmed that his intention was to take a calm
general view of the ages of the world ; if so, he has perfectly succeeded as a philosopher, but failed somewhat as a poet. We may
also observe that we do not think he shines in the Spenserian stanza.
Our readers must not think, because we intend to consider this phase of his mind the first, that we are wilfully blind to his other faculties. We shall now enter into an exposition of the more agreeable and stirring parts of his nature.
The tendency to moralize is an evil when indulged in indiscriminately; and a greater one when it is superinduced. Mr. Bryant's productions are, however, so pervaded by this predisposition that it is the leading faculty of his mind. It is, indeed, his very nature. This will always give a value to his reflections over the mere artificial moralist. We feel that it is genuine thought—no make-believe-it is deep from the poet's soul. He looks on nature with a sad calmness, like Wordsworth's muse in many of his finest moods. He, however, falls short of the art shown by the author of “Netley Abbey," of hiding his intention. As we said before, Mr. Bryant labors to obtrude his design; this, with all deference to so true a poet, we think an error, either of judgment or execution. We
e give, as an instance, the commencement of the “ Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood.”
“Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs