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Uncheck’d, still onward through the storm it broke,
With beak directed at the vessel's centre,Then through the constant cloud of sulphurous smoke Drove, till it struck the warrior's wall of oak,
Making a gateway for the waves to enter.
Struck, and, to note the mischief done, withdrew,
And then, with all a murderer's impatience, Rush'd on again, crushing her ribs anew, Cleaving the noble hull wellnigh in two.
And on it sped its fiery imprecations.
Swift through the vessel swept the drowning swell,
With splash and rush and gulfy rise appalling, While sinking cannon rung their own loud knell. Then cried the traitor from his sulphurous cell,
“Do you surrender ?" Oh, those words were galling!
How spake our captain to his comrades then?
It was a shout from out a soul of splendor, Echoed from lofty maintop, and again Between-decks, from the lips of dying men,
“Sink, sink, boys, sink! but never say surrender!"
Down went the ship! Down-down-but never down
Her sacred flag to insolent dictator!
She sunk-thank God !-unsoil'd by foot of traitor!
Thee, -doubly great, the land's embodied will;-
Heroic chimes on Fame's immortal hill.
A decade of the years its flight has taken,
Since I beheld and pictured with my pen How yet the land on ruin's brink might waken To find her temples rudely seized and shaken
By traitorous demons in the forms of men.
And I foresaw thy coming,—even pointed
The region where the day would find its man
While Wisdom taught thee all her noblest plan.
Thy natal stars by angels' hands suspended,
A holy trine, where Faith, and Hope, and Love, – By these celestial guides art thou attended, Shedding perpetual lustre, calm and splendid,
Around thy path wherever thou dost move.
No earthly lore of any art or science
Can fill the places of these heavenly three ; Faith gives thy soul serene and fix'd reliance ; Hope to the darkest trial bids defiance ;
Love tempers all with her sublime decree.
'Tis fitting, then, these relics full of story,
Telling ancestral tales of land and sea,-
Should be consign’d, great patriot, unto thee.
Mr. Boker as a Dramatic Poet.
(EXTRACT FROM MR. MURDOCH'S LECTURES.)
THE naval conflict below New Orleans-a conflict without a parallel in the world's history—has been graphically. sketched by Mr. George H. Boker, of Philadelphia, -a writer who, until the rebellion broke out, had devoted himself entirely to dramatic and contemplative poetry, but who, when our flag was assailed, threw off his indifference to national subjects, and from that time to the present has been one of the most enthusiastic poets of the
Mr. Boker's productions, in all the forms of verse, are marked by distinguished ability, which has been fully acknowledged by the best critics both in Europe and America. His dramas have met with decided success on the stage, his “Calaynos” having passed the ordeal of London criticism, and occupied the stage of one of the leading theatres in that city for sixty consecutive nights, Mr. Phelps, the acknowledged rival of Macready, performing the principal character. It affords me pleasure to say, here, that, among several original characters which I have introduced to American audiences, “Calaynos" stands foremost in the list, both in the gratification that its study and performance have afforded me, and in the remunerative applause and treasurer's returns of its audiences, in all the principal cities of the West (my favorite field of labor), and also in my native place, Philadelphia, having acted it in that city over fifty nights.
Apart from a consideration of his versification, one of the most striking features of Mr. Boker's poetry is the naturalness of his dramatic combination and progress. His
argument is introduced, as it were, with a chord, but without further prelude; the action begins at once, and we follow, as the urchin follows the drum, not for the performer, but for the music: his feet keep time to the beat, distance and hours having no measure for eye or sense. So with Mr. Boker's ballads : his characters speak and act for a purpose, and that is to illustrate the story and express the sentiment.
Hence we follow the music, realizing the poetic idea so feelingly and entirely that the imagination triumphs over the colder elements of our nature, and we are filled with that essence to which the fairy-creation owes its origin, and at last we awake from our dream of enjoyment to find that we have been feasting on fancies, brief but beautiful. This is the effect produced on the plastic mind by true art in dramatic action. The imagery and form of expression, however elevated or grand, becomes, by the proper exercise of true talent, so natural and unobtrusive that it fits the person it is intended to illustrate as a garment, while situation and surroundings are toned into the general coloring of life. Nothing is suffered to offend the eye as unnatural in form, nor any thing so exaggerated permitted in action as to repel sense or outrage the proprieties of probability or reason. To possess intuitively, and to employ feelingly and fearlessly, this perceptive sense of the true in nature, as well as the beautiful in art, is to be a dramatist. This faculty of story-telling and of mental portrait-painting, whose productions require neither preface nor catalogue for the reader's or hearer's enlightenment, is the perfection of the “art which conceals art,” and is the foundation that underlies the whole dramatic structure, and, when combined with the wealth of ideal and intellectual beauty, is the sum and substance of dramatic power.
Ballad verse, in its effects on the emotional system, comes nearer' dramatic force than either the epic or the lyric, because it is the true vehicle of narrative. It seems to be the natural offspring of the Thespian monologue. What that ancient exhibition of poetry was to the classic drama, ballads were to the sublime and heroic verse of Shakspeare, Milton, and Byron. It is a combination of the minstrel's song and legend, and the harper's chanted narrative to which he tuned the chords of his harp, when the deeds of chivalry and the devotion of the lover arose above the hum of the banquet or the din of assembled warriors. Mr. Boker's ballads are dramas in action and character; he tells a story clearly and well; he clothes his personages in fitting garb, and causes them to move gracefully and grandly to the measure of his verse.
Having proved his capability to accomplish dramatic success, he brings thereby to his narrative poems a power and a grace which enable him, through their instrumentality, to impart the glow and fervor of chivalric homage and eulogy of the olden time to the heroic circumstance and incident of this less romantic age.
The Ballad of New Orleans.
Just as the hour was darkest,
Just between night and day,
“Get the squadrons under way.”
Not a sound but the tramp of sailors,
And the wheeling capstan's creak,
As the anchors came apeak.