« PreviousContinue »
room nor inclination to enlarge our catalogue, even were it just. We merely wished to give our translator a hint and we doubt not he will be a more careful and severe critic of himself than we.
It would be unfair to quote the story of Francesca. It is untranslatable-but the four lines describing the approach of the two spirits are so sweet that we must copy them. It is a fine touch of artistic skill in Dante that he chooses so gentle and happy an image as that of the doves, for the contrast makes the fate of Francesca more touching.
"As wandering doves, bound homeward through the sky,
Called by desire, with wings wide open thrown, Steadily towards their pleasant dwellings fly,
Sped ever onward by their wish alone,
So, from the throng where Dido ranks, they sailed Tow'rd me through that dim atmosphere malign,' -Page 36.
"Not of myself I seek this realm forlornHe who waits yonder marshals me my road, Whom once perchance thy Guido had in scorn: My recognition thus I fully showed;
For in the pangs of that poor sinner wreaked,' And in his question plain his name I read
Suddenly starting up-What! what!' he shrieked ;
'Sayst thou," he had?" what mean ye! is he dead?
Doth heaven's dear light his eyes no longer bless?'
Perceiving how I hesitated then,
Ere I responded to his wild address, Backward he sank: nor looked he forth again.
But that proud soul who first compelled my stay, The same unalterable aspect wore;
The following is also admirably done: Moved not his neck nor turned him either way—"
"As frogs before their enemy, the snake, Quick scatt'ring through the pool in timid shoals,
On the dark ooze a huddling cluster make, I saw above a thousand ruined souls
Flying from one who passed the Stygian bog, With feet unmoistened in the sluggy wave:
Oft from his face his left hand brushed the fog Whose weight alone it seemed annoyance gave. At once the messenger of heav'n I kenned, And tow'rd my master turned, who made a sign That hushed I should remain and lowly bend; Ah me! how full he looked of scorn divine!"Page 59.
This has few touches like those of Milton's brush; there is more of the Flemish school in it.
It is natural that the translation should improve as it advances. It takes some time for the poet to get his hand in. The tenth canto is almost unexceptionable. We copy a passage. Dante is passing among the fiery tombs of the arch-heretics.
"O Tuscan! thou who com'st with gentle speech, Through hell's hot city, breathing from the earth,
Stop in this place one moment, I beseech
Thy tongue betrays the country of thy birth. Of that illustrious land I know thee sprung Which in my day perchance I somewhat vexed.'
Forth from one vault these sudden accents rung So that I trembling stood with fear perplexed, Then, as I closer to my master drew
"Turn back! what dost thou ?' he exclaimed in haste
See! Farinata rises to thy view
Now may'st behold him upward from his waist,' Full in his face already I was gazing, While his front low'red, and his proud bosom
As though even there, amid his burial blazing, The infernal realm in high disdain he held.
Hereat arose a shadow at his side:
Rub the painter's name off this picture and put it where you will it could never be mistaken. The stern apparition of Farinata; the tender interlude of Cavalcante, and his pathetic inquiry after his son, and the grim face of Farinata, immovable through the whole, are all eminently characteristic. Mark how condensed it isthe whole agony of the father is satisfied with two lines, and the effect is proportionate. It strikes like a sudden blow. Indeed one chief peculiarity of Dante, and one in which he surpasses all other poets, is his self-denial. He never lets himself be seduced by a happy chance of displaying his power. This adds wonderfully to the reality of his story. It is never Dante who speaks, but the individual character whom he happens to meet.
We think that if Mr. Parsons would enlarge his historical notes, it would make the poem more easy to the general reader. An instance occurs to us on page 62, where he illustrates an illusion to the valley of Jehosaphat by citing a parallel passage from Dryden, which does not explain it. It refers, we believe, to a Jewish superstition, that the last judgment is to be held there.
We hope that he will receive sufficient encouragement to finish what he has so worthily begun. It undoubtedly promises to be the best translation yet made. We at first felt some regret that powers which might produce a fine original poem should be expended in such an undertaking. But certainly he stands next to the great poet, who makes him intelligible and interesting to the many.
Letters from New York. By L. MARIA CHILD, Author of The Mother's Book, The Girl's Book, Philothea, History of Women, &c. New York: Charles S. Francis & Company, 252 Broadway. Boston: James Munroe & Co., Washington-street. 1843. 12mo. pp. 276.
This is quite a refreshing book in these dull latter days. Though we had read no small number of the letters of which it is composed before their collection into the present volume, thus to meet them again is but a welcome renewal of an old pleasure. Every syllable that Mrs. Child writes comes evidently so straight from her own heart-a heart overflowing with all love and tender kindliness-that it cannot fail to go as straight to that of her reader. It is truly delightful to go forth with her wherever chance may lead her steps, through all the infinite novelty which an open eye and soul will find in and about a great city, and follow her vivid description, and above all, note how beautifully she can shed the light of her own shining spirit upon all surrounding objects, till it reveals in them divine aspects and proportions else undetected by by our darker and duller sense. A great diversity of subjects, with their respected trains of thought, passes before her notice, exceedingly tempting for quotation. We are led, however, by a peculiar interest in the question to which the following extracts relate, to give to them all the space we can command:
"To-day, I cannot write of beauty; for I am sad and troubled. Heart, head, and conscience, are all in battle array against the savage customs of my time. By and by, the law of love, like oil upon the waters, will calm my surging sympathies and make the current flow more calmly, though none the less deep or strong. But to-day, do not ask me to love governor, sheriff, or constable, or any man who defends capital punishment. I ought to do it; for genuine love enfolds even murderers with its blessing. By to-morrow, I think I can remember them without bitterness; but to day, I cannot love them; on my soul, I cannot.
"We were to have had an execution yesterday; but the wretched prisoner avoided it by suicide. The gallows had been erected for several hours, and with a cool refinement of cruelty, was hoisted before the window of the condemned; the hangman was all ready to cut the cord; marshals paced back and forth, smoking and whistling; spectators were waiting patiently to see whether he would "die game." Printed circulars had been handed abroad to summon the number of witnesses required by law: You are respectfully invited to witness the execution of John C. Colt.' I trust some of them are preserved for museums Specimens should be kept, as relics of a barbarous age, for succeeding generations to wonder at. They might be hung up in a frame; and the portrait of a New Zealand Chief, picking the bones of an enemy of his tribe, would be an appropriate pendant.
This bloody insult was thrust into the hands of some citizens who carried hearts under their vests, and they threw it in tattered fragments to the dogs
and swine, as more fitting witnesses than human beings. It was cheering to those who have faith in human progress, to see how many viewed the subject in this light. But as a general thing, the very spirit of murder was rife among the dense crowd, which thronged the place of execution. blood. One man came all the way from New They were swelling with revenge, and eager for Hampshire, on purpose to witness the entertain ment; thereby showing himself a likely subject deemed themselves not treated with becoming for the gallows, whoever he may be. Women gallantry, because tickets of admittance were denied them; and I think it showed injudicious partiality; for many of them can be taught murder by as short a lesson as any man, and sustain it by arguments from Scripture, as ably as any theologian. However, they were not admitted to this edifying exhibition in the great school of public morals; and had only the slim comfort of standing outside, in a keen November wind, to catch the first toll of the bell, which would announce that a human brother had been sent struggling inmultitude stood with open watches, and strained to eternity by the hand of violence. But while the ears to catch the sound, and the marshals smoked and whistled, and the hangman walked up and that the criminal was found dead in his b-d! He down, waiting for his prey, lo! word was brought had asked one half hour alone to prepare his mind for departure; and at the end of that brief his heart. The tidings were received with fierce interval, he was found with a dagger thrust into mutterings of disappointed rage. The throng be yond the walls were furious to see him with their own eyes, to be sure that he was dead. But when the welcome news met my car, a tremendous load was taken from my heart. I had no chance to analyze right and wrong; for over all thought and feeling flowed impulsive joy, that this ing. They who had assembled to commit legaliz'Christian' community were cheated of a hanged murder, in cold blood, with strange confusion of ideas, were unmindful of their own guilt, while they talked of his suicide as a crime equal to that for which he was condemned. I am willing to leave it between him and his God. For myself, I would rather have the burden of it on my own soul, than take the guilt of those who would have executed a fellow-creature. He was driven to a fearful extremity of agony and desperation. He was precisely in the situation of a man on board a burning ship, who being compelled to face death, jumps into the waves, as the least painful mode of the two. But they, who thus drove him "to walk the plank," made cool, deliberate preparations to take life, and with inventive cruelty sought to add every bitter drop that could be added to the dreadful cup of vengeance.
"To me human life seems so sacred a thing, that its violent termination always fills me with horror, whether perpetrated by an individual or a crowd; whether done contrary to law and custom, or according to law and custom. Why John C. Colt should be condemned to an ignominious death for an act of resentment altogether unpremeditated, while men, who deliberately, and with malice aforethought, go out to murder one another for some insulting word, are judges, and senators in the land, and favorite candidates for the President's chair, is more than I can comprehend. There is, to say the least, a strange inconsistency in our customs."
"As we walked homeward, we encountered a deputy sheriff; not the most promising material, certainly, for lessons on humanity; but to him we spoke of the crowd of savage faces, and the tones of hatred, as obvious proofs of the bad influence of capital punishment. I know that,' said he; 'but I don't see how we could dispense with it. Now suppose we had fifty murderers shut up in prison for life, instead of hanging' em; and suppose there should come a revolution; what an awful thing it would be to have fifty murderers inside the
prison, to be let loose upon the community!' There is another side to that proposition,' we answered; for every criminal you execute, you make a hundred murderers outside the prison, each as dangerous as would be the one inside.' He said perhaps it was so; and went his way.
"As for the punishment and the terror of such doings, they fall most keenly on the best hearts in the community. Thousands of men, as well as women, had broken and startled sleep for several nights preceding that dreadful day. Executions always excite a universal shudder among the innocent, the humane, and the wise-hearted. It is the voice of God, crying aloud within us against the wickedness of this savage custom. Else why is it that the instinct is so universal?
"The last conversation I had with the late William Ladd made a strong impression on my mind. While he was a sea-captain, he occasionally visited Spain, and once witnessed an execution there. He said that no man, however low and despicable, would consent to perform the office of hangman; and whoever should dare to suggest such a thing to a decent man, would be likely to have his brains blown out. This feeling was so strong, and so universal, that the only way they could procure an executioner, was to offer a condemned criminal his own life, if he would consent to perform the vile and hateful office on another. Sometimes executions were postponed for months, because there was no condemned criminal to perform the office of hangman. A fee was allowed by law to the wretch who did perform it, but no one would run the risk of touching his polluted hand by giving it to him; therefore the priest threw the purse as far as possible; the odious being ran to pick it up, and hastened to escape from the shuddering execrations of all who had known him as a hangman. Even the poor animal that carried the criminal and his coffin in a cart to the foot of the gallows, was an object of universal loathing. He was cropped and marked, that he might be known as the Hangman's Donkey.' No man, however great his needs, would use this beast, either for pleasure or labor; and the peasants were so averse to having him pollute their fields with his footsteps, that when he was seen approaching, the boys hastened to open the gates, and drive him off with hisses, sticks, and stones. Thus does the human heart cry out aloud against this wicked practice!"
"The testimony from all parts of the world is invariable and conclusive, that crime diminishes in proportion to the mildness of the laws. The real danger is in having laws on the statutebook at variance with universal instincts of the human heart, and thus tempting men to continual evasion. The evasion, even of a bad law, is attended with many mischievous results; its abolition is always safe.
"In looking at Capital Punishment in its practical bearings on the operation of justice, an observing mind is at once struck with the extreme uncertainty attending it. The balance swings hither and thither, and settles, as it were, by chance. The strong instincts of the heart teach juries extreme reluctance to convict for capital offences. They will avail themselves of every loophole in the evidence, to avoid the bloody responsibility imposed upon them. In this way, undoubted criminals es cape all punishment, until society becomes alarmed for its own safety, and insists that the next victim shall be sacrificed. It was the misfortune of John C. Colt to be arrested at the time when the popular wave of indignation had been swelling higher and higher, in consequence of the impunity with which Robinson, White, and Jewell, had escaped. The wrath and jealousy which they had excited was visited upon him, and his chance for a merciful verdict was greatly diminished. The scale now turns the other way; and the next offender will probably receive very lenient treatment, though he should not have half so many extenuating circumstances in his favor.
"Another thought which forces itself upon the mind in consideration of this subject is the dan ger of convicting the innocent. Murder is a crime which must of course be committed in secret, and therefore the proof must be mainly circumstantial. This kind of evidence is in its nature so precarious, that men have learned great timidity in trusting to it. In Scotland, it led to so many terrible mistakes, that they long ago refused to convict any man of a capital offence, upon circumstantial evidence.
"A few years ago, a poor German came to New York, and took lodgings where he was allowed to do his cooking in the same room with the family. The husband and wife lived in a perpetual quarrel. One day, the German came into the kitchen with a clasp knife and a pan of potatoes, and began to prepare them for his dinner. The quarrelsome couple were in more violent altercation than usual; but he sat with his back toward them, and being ignorant of their language, felt in no danger of being involved in their disputes. But the woman, with a sudden and unexpected movement, snatched the knife from his hand, and plunged it in her husband's heart. She had sufficient presence of mind to rush into the street and scream murder. The poor foreigner, in the meanwhile, seeing the wounded man reel, sprang forward to catch him in his arms, and drew out the knife. People from the street crowded in, and found him with the dying man in his arms, the knife in his hand, and blood upon his clothes. The wicked woman swore, in the most positive terms, that he had been fighting with her husband, and had stabbed him with a knife he always carried. The unfortunate German knew too little English to understand her accusation, or to tell his own story. He was dragged off to prison, and the true state of the case made known through an interpreter; but it was not believed. Circumstantial evidence was exceedingly strong against the accused, and the real criminal swore unhesitatingly that she saw him commit the murder. He was executed, notwithstanding the most persevering efforts of his lawyer, John Anthon, Esq., whose convictions of the man's innocence were so painfully strong, that from that day to this, he has refused to have any connection with a capital case. Some years after this tragic event, the woman died, and, on her death-bed, confessed her agency in the diabolical transaction; but her poor victim could receive no benefit from this tardy repentance; society had wantonly thrown away its power to atone for the grievous wrong.
Many of my readers will doubtless recollect the tragical fate of Burton, in Missouri, on which a novel was founded, which still circulates in the libraries. A young lady, belonging to a genteel and very proud family, in Missouri, was beloved by a young man named Burton; but unfortunately, her affections were fixed on another less worthy. He left her with a tarnished reputation. She was by nature energetic and high-spirited, her family were proud, and she lived in the midst of a society which considered revenge a virtue, and named it honor. Misled by this false popular sentiment, and her own excited feelings, she resolved to repay her lover's treachery with death. But she kept her secret so well that no one suspected her purpose, though she purchased pistols, and practised with them daily. Mr. Burton gave evidence of his strong attachment by renewing his attentions when the world looked most coldly upon her. His generous kindness won her bleeding heart, but the softening influence of love did not lead her to forego the dreadful purpose she had formed. She watched for a favorable opportunity and shot her betrayer, when no one was near, to witness the horrible deed. Some little incident excited the suspicion of Burton, and he induced her to confess to him the whole transaction. It was obvious enough that suspicion would naturally fas ten upon him, the well-known lover of her who had been so deeply injured. He was arrested, but succeeded in persuading her that he was in no
danger. Circumstantial evidence was fearfully against him, and he soon saw that his chance was doubtful; but with affectionate magnanimity he
concealed this from her. He was convicted and condemned. A short time before the execution he endeavored to cut his throat; but his life was saved, for the cruel purpose of taking it away according to the cold-blooded barbarism of the law. Pale and wounded, he was hoisted to the gallows before the gaze of a Christian community.
"The guilty cause of all this was almost frantic,
when she found he had thus sacrificed himself to save her. She immediately published the whole history of her wrongs, and her revenge. Her keen sense of wounded honor was in accordance
with public sentiment, her wrongs excited indignation and compassion, and the knowledge that an 'innocent and magnanimous man had been so brutally treated, excited a general revulsion of popular feeling. No one wished for another victim, 'and she was left unpunished, save by the dreadful records of her memory.
"Few know how numerous are the cases where it has subsequently been discovered that the innocent suffered instead of the guilty. Yet one such case in an age is surely enough to make legislators pause before they cast a vote against the abolition of capital punishment.
"But many say, the Old Testament requires blood for blood. So it requires that a woman should be put to death for adultery; and men for doing work on the Sabbath; and children for cursing their parents; and 'If an ox were to push with his horn, in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death. The commands given to the Jews, in the old dispensation, do not form the basis of any legal code in Christendom. They could not form the basis of any civilized code. If one command is binding on our consciences, all are binding; for they all rest on the same authority. They who feel bound to advocate capital punishment for murder, on account of the law given to Moses, ought, for the same reason, to insist that children should be executed for striking or cursing their parents.
"It was said by them of old time, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you resist not evil.' If our eyes were lifted up,' we should see, not Moses and Elias, but Jesus only."
The Rose of Sharon; A Religious Souvenir for 1844. Edited by Miss SARAH C. EDGARTON. Boston: A. Tompkins & B. D. Mussey. 1844.
We have found ourselves beguiled into lingering much longer than we had designed over the leaves of this pretty volume-the best practical praise we could bestow. It is edited with much taste, and includes the usual variety and number of well-written contributions, of poetry and prose, to make it a very acceptable holiday gift for young people. Those which bear the name of the fair editor herself, and, especially her poems,-are among the best. The illustrations are all good, that of the "Good Resolution," capital, with the mug turned upside down on the bench before the tavern door, and the honest old hero, who, after having raised
its tempting contents of "flip" to his lips to test the force of his resolve, and then dashed them to the ground, has written and signed his temperance pledge, and is stalking off bravely and happily Both the from the bad neighborhood. drawing (by J. Liverseege) and the engraving (by W. H. Tappan,) are admirable.
Memoirs of the Life of the Rev. John Williams, Missionary to Polynesia, By EBENEZER PROUT, of Halstead. First American Edition. New York: Published by M. W. Dodd. Andover: Allen, Morrill, & Wardwell. 1843. 12mo. pp. 416.
Mr. Williams was a zealous, able, and highly successful missionary in the employment of the London Missionary Society, who lost his life in his meekly glorious vocation on the shore of the Island of Erromanga, one of the New Hebrides, on the 20th of November, 1839. We have not had time to read this record of the life which was crowned by this melancholy martyrdom; but from the few pages through which we have been able to run, we have no doubt that it is a book which will well reward the attention of the large classes of readers peculiarly interested in details of this nature. Indeed, such a volume must form an essential part in the library of Missionary literature.
A Proposal to Improve the Orthography of the English Language, by a more Systematic Formation of Words. With a Sequel of Practical Illustrations. By AUSTIN BRAYNARD. New York: Printed for the Author. 1843.
The author of this pamphlet assures the world that "the orthography of our language abounds with errors and imperfections, and can and aut to be improoved." We cannot congratulate him much on the prospect of success in his undertaking to do it. But before he proceeds further in his crusade against all the myriad anomalies which go to make up our dear and noble old vernacular what it is, and which we will consent to change as soon as we grow tired of reading what Milton and Shakspeare have written in it, we would respectfully suggest whether he ought not to present his system in a state of more perfect consistency with itself. On his own principles there is a great deal to "improove" in his own "improovements." Why, for example, when he will
have us spell snowy, "snoy," will he impose on us the trouble of writing a superfluous letter in "snoe ?"
An Oration delivered before the Colchester Educational Association. By Rev. DANIEL SHEPARD, A. M. July 4, 1843. We have read with much interest this eloquent address, of which the subject, selected most appropriately both for the day and the audience, is Popular Education. The author's mind and heart are evidently imbued with the right spirit of an American man and a Christian minister. We are wont to take great pride to ourselves in the State of New York for the liberal provision existing for this first of public duties and interests, but we quite agree with the author that the best of our common schools as yet fall far, very far short of what they ought to be. This matter should be taken up earnestly, and made the theme of exhortation and discussion in all parts of the State, in a spirit akin to that pervading the present excellent pro
Sears's New and Complete History of the Bible. E. Walker & Co., Fulton-street. So many good things have already been said of this popular work, that it seems almost supererogatory to say anything more; still, if simply in justice to the editor, who has achieved an Herculean task with evident satisfaction to the religious public, we must add our quota of praise. The wood-engravings too, which amount to some hundreds in number, are in most instances excellent; the printing is firstrate; and the superb ornaments designed and executed by Thomson of this
city-the most elaborate specimens of the kind we have yet seen-impart such an attractive splendor to its exterior, that few who catch a glimpse of the volume, will be able to resist the coveting its difficult of expiation-one to which Mr. possession-a very venial sin, and not Sears himself would doubtless very cheerfully enact the Father-confessor. The Wife of Leon, and other Poems. By
Two Sisters of the West. New York: D. Appleton & Company. Philadel phia: George S. Appleton. 1844. 12 mo. pp. 256.
The delicate modesty of the preface to this very attractive looking volume, from the outset conciliates the kindest prepossessions on the part of the reader. It consists of fugitive poems, the outpourings from time to time of the full hearts and teeming fancies of two sisters, who never dreamed of their being thus brought out from the shades of their own privacy into the broad sunlight of publicity, until the wishes of a parent, to whom nothing could be refused, overcame the repugnance of the fair young authors, and caused them to be thus given to the world. There are some beautiful poems among the number, and the whole are much above the ordinary average of the fugitive poetry floating on the surface of things of the day. They give evidence of powers capable of more; and now that the first melancholy of maiden romance has probably sighed itself out, in the many poems of that character which abound through this collection, we may look for the future redemption of the promise of this volume, in something designed for a more enduring place in literature than it aspires to challenge.
MONTHLY LITERARY BULLETIN.
Mr. W. Gilmour Simms has in progress a a "Memoir of the Life and Military Services of General J. Marion," the celebrated partizan leader of the Revolution. As a historiographer, Mr. Simms will, doubtless, exhibit that high degree of power so eminently characteristic of his numerous works of fiction. His recent "History of South Carolina," has had a prodigious sale, and been adopted as the text book for the District Schools of that state. His forthcoming volume is to be beautified by the magic pencil of Chapman, in some six or eight designs, and the work
will probably be ready for publication by the Langleys towards the close of the year. We learn Mr. S. is also engaged on an historical drama, but its epoch or locale have not transpired; it is written primarily for the purpose of developing the peculiar powers of Mr.Forrest. We observe the works of Mr. S. are in course of re-publication abroad; and as offering a premium to his celebrity, a certain bibliopole in the "Great Metropolis," recently in quest of a paternity for a batch of novelettes of unknown origin, actually was so 'cute as to avail himself of that of the author of "Yemassee."
The popularity of Mr. Norman's inter