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honours which should be reserved for the highest, we feel somewhat like assailing him and taking from him the crown which should be reserved for grander brows. And yet this is, perhaps, ungenerous. It may be that the management of publishers, the hyperbole of paid or undiscerning reviewers, or some accidental cause which gives a temporary interest to productions beyond what they would permanently command, have raised such an one to a place as much above his wishes as his claims, and which he would rejoice, with honourable modesty, to vacate at the approach of one worthier. We the more readily believe this of Mr. Longfellow, as one so sensible to the beauties of other writers and so largely indebted to them, must know his own comparative rank better than his readers have known it for him.
And yet so much adulation is dangerous. Mr. Longfellow, so lauded on all hands—now able to collect his poems which have circulated so widely in previous editions, and been paid for so handsomely by the handsomest annuals, in this beautiful volume, illustrated by one of the most distinguished of our younger artists -has found a flatterer in that very artist. The portrait which adorns this volume is not merely flattered or idealized, but there is an attempt at adorning it by expression thrown into the eyes with just that which the original does not possess, whether in face or mind. We have often seen faces whose usually coarse and heavy lineaments were harmonized at times into beauty by the light that rises from the soul into the eyes. The intention Nature had with regard to the face and its wearer, usually eclipsed beneath bad habits or a bad education, is then disclosed, and we see what hopes Death has in store for that soul. But here the enthusiasm thrown into the eyes only makes the rest of the face look more weak, and the idea suggested is the anomalous one of a dandy Pindar.
Such is not the case with Mr. Longfellow himself. He is never a Pindar, though he is sometimes a dandy even in the
clean and elegantly ornamented streets and trim gardens of his
But he is still more a man of cultivated taste, delicate though not deep feeling, and some, though not much, poetic force,
Mr. Longfellow has been accused of plagiarism. We have been surprised that any one should have been anxious to fasten special charges of this kind upon him, when we had supposed it so obvious that the greater part of his mental stores were derived from the works of others. He has no style of his own growing out of his own experiences and observations of nature. Nature with him, whether human or external, is always seen through the windows of literature. There are in his poems sweet and tender passages descriptive of his personal feelings, but very few show. ing him as an observer, at first hand, of the passions within, or the landscape without.
This want of the free breath of nature, this perpetual borrowing of imagery, this excessive, because superficial, culture which he has derived from an acquaintance with the elegant literature of many nations and men out of proportion to the experience of life within himself, prevent Mr. Longfellow's verses from ever being a true refreshment to ourselves. He says in one of his most graceful verses :
From the cool cisterns of the midnight air
My spirit drank repose;
From those deep cisterns flows.
Now this is just what we cannot get from Mr. Longfellow. No solitude of the mind reveals to us the deep cisterns.
Let us take, for example of what we do not like, one of his worst pieces, the Prelude to the Voices of the Night
Beneath some patriarchal tree
I lay upon the ground;
His boary arms uplifted be,
With one continuous sound.
What an unpleasant mixture of images! Such never rose ir a man's mind, as he lay on the ground and looked up to the tree above him. The true poetry for this stanza would be to give us an image of what was in the writer's mind as he lay there and
But this idea of the leaves clapping their little hands with glee is taken out of some book; or, at any rate, is a book thought, and not one that came in the place, and jars entirely with what is said of the tree uplifting its hoary arms. Then take this other stanza from a man whose mind should have grown up familiarity with the American genius loci.
Therefore at Pentecost, which brings
The Spring clothed like a bride,
I sought the woodlands wide. Musing upon many things—ay! and upon many books too, or we should have nothing of Pentecost or bishop's caps with their golden rings. For ourselves, we have not the least idea what bishop's caps are ;-are they flowers ?—or what? Truly, the schoolmaster was abroad in the woodlands that day! As to the conceit of the wings of the buds, it is a false image, because one that cannot be carried out. Such will not be found in the
poems of poets; with such the imagination is all compact, and their works are not dead mosaics, with substance inserted merely be. cause pretty, but living growths, homogeneous and satisfactory throughout.
Such instances could be adduced every where throughout the poems, depriving us of any clear pleasure from any one piece, and placing his poems beside such as those of Bryant in the same light as that of the prettiest made shell, beside those whose every line and hue tells a history of the action of winds and waves and the secrets of one class of organizations.
But, do we, therefore esteem Mr. Longfellow a wilful or conscious plagiarist ? By no means. It is his misfortune that other ( men's thoughts are so continually in his head as to overshadow his own.
The order of fine development is for the mind the same as the body, to take in just so much food as will sustain it in its exercise and assimilate with its growth. If it is so assimilatedif it becomes a part of the skin, hair and eyes of the man, it is his own, no matter whether he pick it up in the woods, or borrow from the dish of a fellow man, or receive it in the form of manna direct from Heaven. “Do you ask the genius," said Goethe, “ to give an account of what he has taken from others. As well demand of the hero an account of the beeves and loaves which have nourished him to such martial stature."
But Mr. Longfellow presents us, not with a new product in which all the old varieties are melted into a fresh form, but rather with a tastefully arranged Museum, between whose glass cases are interspersed neatly potted rose trees, geraniums and hyacinths, grown by himself with aid of in-door heat.
Still we must acquit him of being a willing or conscious plagiarist. Some objects in the collection are his own; as to the rest, he has the merit of appreciation, and a re-arrangement, not always judicious, but the result of feeling on his part.
Such works as Mr. Longfellow's we consider injurious only if allowed to usurp the place of better things. The reason of his being overrated here, is because through his works breathes the air of other lands, with whose products the public at large is but little acquainted. He will do his office, and a desirable one, of promoting a taste for the literature of these lands before his readers are aware of it. As a translator he shows the same qualities as in his own writings; what is forcible and compact he does not render adequately ; grace and sentiment he appreciates and reproduces. Twenty years hence, when he stands upon his own merits, he will rank as a writer of elegant, if not always accurate taste, of great imitative power, and occasional felicity in an original way, where his feelings are really stirred. He has touched no subject where he has not done somewhat that is pleasing, though also his poems are much marred by ambitious failings. As instances of his best manner we would mention “ The Reaper and the Flowers," " Lines to the Planet Mars," “ A Gleam of Sunshine,” and “The Village Blacksmith.” His two ballads are excellent imitations, yet in them is no spark of fire. In “Nuremberg" are charming passages. Indeed, the whole
poem is one of the happiest specimens of Mr. L.'s poetic feeling, taste and tact in making up a rosary of topics and images. Thinking it may be less known than most of the poems we will quote it. The engraving which accompanies it of the rich old architecture is a fine gloss on its contents.
NUREMBERG. In the valley of the Pegnitz, where across broad meadow lands Rise the blue Franconian mountains, Nuremberg, the ancient, stands. Quaint old town of toil and traffic-quaint old town of art and songMemories haunt thy pointed gables, like the rooks that round them throng; Memories of the Middle Ages, when the Emperors, rough and bold, Had their dwelling in thy castle, time defying, centuries old; And thy brave and thrifty burghers boasted in their uncouth rhyme, That their great imperial city stretched its hand through every clime. In the court-yard of the castle, bound with many an iron band, Stands the mighty linden, planted by Queen Cunigunda’s hand. On the square the oriel window, where in old heroic days, Sat the poet Melchior, singing Kaiser Maximilian's praise. Every where I see around me rise the wondrous world of ArtFountains wrought with richest sculpture, standing in the common mart; And above cathedral doorways, saints and bishops carved in stone, By a former age commissioned as apostles to our own. In the church of sainted Sebald sleeps enshrined his holy dust, And in bronze the Twelve Apostles guard from age to age their trust;