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the vast religious dissensions, the great opposing political interests, civil wars, and other ill omened visions which are so gravely announced as, “looming in the future,” by a countless host of Journalists, Essayists, and Pamphleteers.
This would be a sufficient reason, indeed, for entitling the faults of such Authors to considerable palliation ; but there are others. A traveller after a long and wearisome journey through a barren and uninteresting country, suddenly arriving at a position from whence he beholds a stupendous object of sublimity, which impresses its image on his mind with a solemn and irresistible power, is not generally induced to indulge in fastidious criticism, or disposed to dissect analytically the scene which affords him such exalted gratification. As therefore all must grant that the works which form the subject of our remarks bear strong analogy to the situation we have supposed, in their noble simplicity, sublime morality, and splendid contrast to the tiresome jargon of affectation and insipidity which has been so long, and so unceasingly ringing in our ears, there will be nothing in our abstinence from the exhibition of petty imperfections, to “make the judicious grieve;" but rather we should humbly trust, much to make them smile in an approving sense, at our consistence with our well meaning design, as expressed in a former paper, to gain for the Poets of America, collectively considered, a favourable introduction to the public. Although the Authors we have considered, and those we are about to notice, have the strongest resources in themselves, wherewith eventually to secure no limited appreciation, we all easily admit the truth of the ancient proverb, regarding the strength of early impressions, and are naturally too much aware of the courtesy due in au eminent degree to “the strange in clime” to insist upon a rigid exposure, and a severe condemnation of their smallest blemishes upon their
their first appearance among the people of this country, in a truly collective, impartial form: a source of pleasure to the indulgence in which we have every honest claim, and which we publicly declare is ours. *
A reviewer in one of the Dublin papers, disposed to question this claim of ours as set forth in the last Number of this REVIEW, supported his asseveration by referring to the New Monthly, which bore date about a twelvemonth earlier than our paper. We have perused an Article on “ American Authorship” in the New Monthly for June, 1851, and find that instead of Sir Nathaniel's title embodying a collective review “in esse,” it has only the power of doing so “ in posse," inasmuch as the
We should then respectfully commend to our readers the adoption of the old adage,
“ Be to their faults a little blind,
Be to their virtues very kind.” If metaphysical platitudes, egotistical pomposity, and an unexceptionable exhibition, and unmerciful use of all those refined and ingenious instruments of intellectual torture, which glitter coldly on the table of the critic's laboratory, are sometimes necessary, we must remember that they are more applicable to old and hardened offenders called up to the bar of indignant public opinion, than to those young aspirants to European consideration, whose genius has as yet received but little justice at our hands, and who naturally expect in the old countries of civilized Europe, generous sympathy, and kind attention, instead of bitter malevolence, and pitiless dissection. When established as a body whose merits are sufficiently acknowledged, and whose genius becomes properly respected, the American Poets may hold up their heads in this country as fearlessly as in their own, we shall then be the first to chide the artificial conceit, and to expose the wanton error ; but until then we inust beg to be excused from joining the bristling ranks, drawn up against an unoffending band, or from levello ing those ruthless javelins whose points are dipped in poison, against the breasts of ingenuous, and confiding strangers. Further, therefore, than a fair and unflinching statement of their prominent deficiencies is not the province of this paper, but to that extent we have already gone in our former notice, and in our present task we promise our readers that from the same honest course no divergence shall be perceptible.
One of the most charming peculiarities of the American Poets, is the intense devotion and admiration which they display for the magnificent scenery of their country. They almost all exhibit the liveliest delight in chaunting the gigantic natural wonders of Wood, and Earth, and Water in which it abounds, and in their incomparable descriptions of food and field there is evident the strongest power of observation, and the most
paper of which we speak is contined to the consideration of one poet Therely, and the tone of dissertation, notwithstanding the ability displayed, is so caustic and satirical, as to shut out completely, the possibility of its being considered a fair introduction to the public, of the individual whose works are submitted to analytical investigation.
plenteous "harvest of a quiet ere.” Moreover, the manner in which these fresh and beautiful ideas are expressed, are perfectly in consonance with the matter they embody, and the rythm used, possesses the exquisite changeable power of the Kaleidoscope, in adapting itself to the diverse nature of the scenic sketches which inspire the Poet's imagination. Their philosophical beauties in like manner are most remarkable, and equally as varied, as they are remarkable. For these reasons, as well as for the many other strong peculiarities common to these Poets, we are induced to conclude, that in order that we may form an adequate idea of the Poetry of the American Authors, and to the end that a taste may be acquired for becoming familiar with their works, it is absolutely necessary that quotations should be given, which by their length and fitness might exemplify their merits. One gem, no matter how brilliant, can hardly afford a just idea of a coronal which is composed of many, and if there be the smallest risk of a Poet's reputation becoming imperilled by parsimonious exemplification, it would be far better to desist altogether from commenting upon his productions, than to persevere in doing that, which bears the semblance of tampering with his celebrity. Strongly impressed with the soundness of this impression, we shall now proceed to the completion of our undertaking, and we feel a strong, though humble, assurance, that the end will prove the justice of an assumption, which is neither the result of immature reflection, or prejudiced inclination.
Whittier is a poet who reflects the magnificence of his country in the majesty of his verse, who embodies all the iron vigor, and enterprising spirit of her sons, in his nervous, ringing language; and all the bold, lofty, and free aspirations of her statesinen, in the unbending and devoted love of freedom, which breathes through his works, like the sighing of the wind through a forest of his native pine trees. Whittier is pre-eminently the American Poet; he is the bard of her solemn forests, and her princely rivers, of all that bewitching picturesque beauty of scenery, and of all the romantic, imaginative characteristics of the native Indian, which Cooper has immortalized in prose: but he possesses a requisite still more essential for a Poet, who is ambitious of becoming the exponent of his country's most cherished glories, and most exalted wishes; he is the interpreter of the spirit which characterizes and animates the people in their vast commercial achievements, unrivalled moral institutions, and also of those deep philanthropic principles, which agitate the great heart of the nation. His Poetry is often deficient in grace and terseness, it is true, but these negative imperfections are completely lost sight of in the noble simplicity, and masculine energy which it never ceases to evince. To the present generation of readers, whose mental appetites are wofully impaired by the constant supply of unintelligible matter wħich is served up to them, it is delightfully refreshing to listen to the manly tones of this delicious Poet, whose invigorating poetry, like the spray that rises on the rocks of Niagara, communicates its exhilarating essence to the spirits of the gazer. With what marvellous, and apparently superhuman power, he makes us listen to the roaring of the cataract, the singing of the forest bird, the chirp of the squirrel, or the stealthy tread of the Indian? It is seldom that Whittier enters into subjects of an abstractedly, philosophical, or purely speculative nature, but when he does, it is invariably for the purpose of demonstrating the infinite beauty of virtue, and the omnipotence of God. America rejoices in the bard who is so admirably capacitated to chaunt her glories, and to feed the lamp of her patriotism with such nourishing oil : who can so accurately direct the thunders of her wrath, and so skilfully develop her vast philanthropic desiderations.
" As rolls the river into ocean
In sable torrent wildly streaming," so rolls along the noble current of Whittier's verse, and "the lightnings” of its glories, flash upon the mind, until it becomes completely absorbed by their force and brilliancy.
Nevertheless, this Poet is still (and the compliment is a great one) a man of much greater promise, than actual performance, and should his future achievements in verse, realize the conceptions which his early works permit us to entertain, he will evidently obtain one of the first places in that temple, which his country may consecrate to those gifted children, who have devoted their genius, and their lives, to sing her praises, and extend her literary fame. But this celebrity will depend upon the fulfilment of a very important condition, which is, the utter repudiation of sectarian bitterness,-an error as much at variance with justice and enlightenment, as it is beneath the diguity of a Poet.
There is another vitally important reason for the abandonment of such a futile weapon, which more immediately concerns an American ; and if the subject of our observations sufficiently appreciates, and resolutely adopts the conduct it suggests, bis fame will be wonderfully increased. All those who understand the present state of America, will easily grant, that her future eminent position as a nation, will very much depend upon the complete cessation of that religious rancour, from whose lamentable existence the people of the United States have suffered, and are still suffering so extensively. It is therefore an incontrovertible fact, that neither Poet, Historian, Philosopher, or any other person, distinguish. ed in the various branches of literature or science, who supports a system so fatal to the interests of his country, can ever be associated with its glory : while it is equally as plain, that all great intellectual efforts which are embued with the opposite spirit, must be more firmly consolidated, and fully tenfold enhanced.
In taking up the little volume of Whittier, “The Bridal of Pennacook” is the first poem that meets the eye : it is also one of the longest, and many will consider it the best. It opens with a very animated and graceful description of the River Merrimack, and goes on to describe the scenery surrounding the wigwam of the heroine. The portrait of Passaconaway is pencilled with much art and power. Who would moet, " in desert wilds,” the awful being of whom we hear, that"Tales of him the grey squaw told,
Till the very child a-bed, When the winter night-wiud cold
Drew its bear skin over head, Pierced her blankets' thickest fold,
Shrinking from the paie lights shed And the tire burned low and small,
On the trembling wall." Yet this dreaded and mysterious being is not altogether insensible to feeling. The record of his life unfolds one chord in that iron heart, which awakens to the touch of sympathy. He loves his daughter, and "As sometimes the tempest-smitten tree So from his child the sachen drew receives
A life of Love and Hope, and felt From one small root the sap which climbs His cold and rugged nature through Its topmost spray and crowning leaves, The sultness and the warmth of her young
being melt." She is a true type of her race. "Child of the forest !-strong and free, O'er the heaped drifts of winter's moon,
Slight robed, with loosely tiowing hair, Her snow-shoes tracked the hunters way, She swam the lake or climbed the tree; And dazzling in the summer noon, Or struck tbe tlying bird in air.
The blade of her light oar threw off its
shower of spray."