Page images


It is an old axiom, that “Good goods are speare got his death by rising from a bed of oftenest made up in small parcels.” There sickness to give Ben Jonson, Beaumont, is much of truth in it, and we are inclined to and Fletcher a "drink.” And in our own hold by it, and adopt it as one of our articles day, hadn't our philosophic friend, the Seer of faith. In a little poem, as in a little house, of Weissnichtwo, Herr Teufelsdröckh, his or in a little man, may we often find not a academic gukguk; Byron, his gin; Maginn, little domestic comfort, true spirit of inde- his whiskey; Kit North, his Glenlivet; Tom pendence, appreciation of the beautiful, and Moore, his rosy wine; Hartley Coleridge manhood.

and Poe, whatever they could get ? And Our architectural and ventilation comfort- why shouldn't we have our amontillado ? seeking friends must not suppose, however, We will have it, (when we can get it;) and * that we are going to create a revolution, or we are sure our admirers will not debar us, throw the whole brick-and-mortar world into even in thought, of what makes us "mind a barricade by writing an essay on “ Cottage our business." This hint is only thrown out Building.” Neither must our “one-small- for those who don't mind their business. head-could-carry-all-he-knew"admirers think Having said so much, we must now get they shall peruse a paper devoted to the our pen into a critical position. physiology or psychology of little men, or Short poems or lyrics, to be what they the immortalization of “Short Boys,” from ought to be, must not be mere fragments of our pen. We at present shall not enlighten the brain, but the complete, unique, and the former by intruding on their hearths, refined thought on the object or circumstance nor the latter by a cargo of small souls, but in the poet's mind. A lyric must not be the confine ourselves to a few remarks on a sub- mere head, arm, or leg of the form to be ject which is as good as life to both, especially embodied, but head, arms, trunk, legs and if the one be an unco merrie chiel," and the all-the perfect embodiment, strong in its other inhabited with a "set of right gay fel- perfection, solid in its unity. The mere lows,” meerschaums and amontillado in- capital or base will not do; we must have cluded. That subject is Songs—Lyrics— base, column, and capital, in true Doric or

Ionic simplicity. What is to be said, must A word on our morals—the meerschaums be said, --so much, and no more. The and amontillado, to wit. In this age of re- slightest word not appropriate to the object volution, it is not to be wondered at that in view destroys the effect; and no expedihalf creation smokes; and further, though ency of rhyme can make up for a verbal critically we are opposed to puffs, we find defect in a song. Their great beauty is that a genial pipe has a most barmonious their directness, their candor, their faith, effect on our cranium, and enables us to which needs no extraneous sophistry to play-we had nigh said the very -l-produce the end which the honesty of simwith the discordant volumes of sound (and plicity and straight-wordedness can alone fury) which the muses of certain scribes per- attain. Their effect may be heightened by sist in emitting A good Havana is a sort ideality or fancy, in the same manner as a of lightning-conductor from the head, and band of music cheers a marching army and the denser the clouds, be sure the more elec- idealizes its hopes and vocation. And, for tric fire they contain. As to the goblet- the same reason that we would have shot why, all poets and philosophers have had, (without court-martial) the band-master who and have, their especial nectar, and that only would strike up a dead march in an enemy's is true nectar which agrees best with the country, we would hand over to the keeper constituted being of its imbiber. Anacreon, of Blackwell's Island, without a commission Catullus, and Pindar were jolly gods. Shak- | de lunatico, the versifier who would give us

short poems.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


sixteen or sixty lines of mosaic in regular “ The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses," and syllables, and call it a song, merely because is said to have been a favorite song with King of its shortness.

Charles the Second. We don't think the The true song-writer is the greatest word-“merrie monarch” found much consolation artist. He uses, chooses, and thinks over in it for his boisterous temperament, although his assortment of words, as a doctor analyzes we are aware that this mockery of existence in his mind the component parts of the often makes the most solemn man play the prescription he is jotting down for the use fool to all appearance, and vice versâ. Our of his patient. Every word, as every drachm opinion of Charles has been much improved or grain of medicine, is chosen relatively as since the first time we read this song of to its effect on those with which it is to be Shirley's and learnt the king's appreciation used, and with which it is to act and pro- of it, and on it found one redeeming excepduce certain effects. Moreover, all this must tion to Rochester's caustic but candid charbe done, as in the doctor's case, so that no acter of his patron in wit and profligacy: mark of the process of thought shall be left

“ Here lies our mutton-eating King, visible after its completion. The song must Whose word no man relies on; have a hearty wholeness, a rich miniature

He never said a foolish thing, perfection when complete, even though every

He never did a wise one." line cost a week, as precious metals show a If he never did a wiser thing than appreciate perfect brilliancy after passing through the this song, we could respect him for that alone. refining crucible. Metaphor may be used freely, provided it does not lead to digres

DEATH'S FINAL CONQUEST. sion, which it is very likely to do on indulgence. Metaphorical allusions are rather “The glories of our birth and state pleasing, and can aid in the purpose of the

Are shadows, not substantial things;

There is no arinor against fate; song much, if delicately introduced, and at

Death lays his icy hands on kings : the proper times. Too frequently we see, in

Sceptre and crown what are given to us as “songs," an over

Must tumble down, loading of expression from the overworking

And in the dust be cqual made of this faculty, or rather from its too obliging

With the poor crooked scythe and spade. nature-ever ready to be at the service of "Some men with swords may reap the field, the poet. It is in this the abuse of the And plant fresh laurels where they kill: faculty lies, and a weak succumbing to its

But their strong nerves at last must yield; influence only tends to swathe in a wrap

They tame but one another still.

Early or late page of words the thought with which the

They stoop to fate, poet started. The song, as the sonnet, must And must give up their murmuring breath, be clear and unique in itself, and tell a story When they pale captives creep to death. simply by suggesting it. Its suggestiveness is the great aim of the song, and which is

The garlands wither on your brow,

Then boast no more your mighty deeds ; nearly as much dependent on its euphony, as Upon death's purple altar now shown in the relation of words, as its thought. See where the victor victim bleeds. Heaviness of expression will obstruct the

All heads must come

To the cold tomb; purposes of music, without which a song is intolerable. In fact, it must sing itself, by

Only the actions of the just

Smell sweet and blossom in the dust." its own very nature and construction, into the senses, as we read, even if it is not adapted That grand old lyric to a great extent to regular musical notes. Its cadences of exemplifies what we have said in reference rhythm must rise and fall in a pleasing to such compositions. It is perfect as a harmony with the thought, and be sugges-death-song. Every line is suggestive, and tive of an air, even as it is suggestive of a tale spreads itself in the mind into a wide area

a or a picture. We take the latter to be one of thought and speculation. Its art, too, is of the great, perhaps the great airn of the excellent, and reminds us forcibly of Tennylyric, that it suggest an epic.

son in our own day. We have no lame Here is a glorious moral song by old lines eking out their miserable volition by James Shirley: let us read it. It was in- soiled or worn-out wings of fancy, or forced tended for a funeral song in a play of his, I up to our sense by stilted metaphors. What


is said is crisply and strongly, because nat- | The change in the fifth line of each stanza urally, said. The expressiveness is unob- to the short line of two iambuses from the trusive, because strength is never a bully. alternating iambics and anapests of the four We know of nothing in the range of lyrical preceding is perhaps not noticed in its effect works more beautiful than the opening of by most readers, but is a movement of great this song, and its great beauty and strength strength, and aids the purpose of the poem is in its direct expressiveness :

in a remarkable manner. The shortening

of the line, or rather the dividing of a line "The glories of our birth and state

of four iambic feet into two lines of two Are shadows, not substantial things."

iambuses, makes a necessity for the quick The contrast, a power of great efficiency in recurrence of a rhyme, which in this place all classes of poetry, and of great beauty comes with marked and forcible emphasis. when well introduced, especially into the lyric order, is here very perfect; and it is

"Sceptre and crown

Must tumble down,” solely because there is no claptrap in the construction of the verse. Shirley speaks and what follows, is but an amplification of with perfect naturalness, and in that is his the line which preceded; but amplification, triumph. It is the triumph of honesty. when judiciously and dramatically done, is Shadows are called shadows, not fleeting va- one of the true and great resources of the pors of this thing or that; and substances orator, and oratory, or rather its power of are called—what would appear to some of eloquent expression, is of the most decided our dilettanti awfully prosy—substantial; need to a lyrical composition, it being always not "concentrated essences of sublimated supposed to be written for chanting. bricks," and so forth. There is no straining

"Sceptre and crown,” &c., after effect; and the fact is, we have thə whole existence of man, his birth, ambition, is an emphatic explanation of what preceded; and eminence, conveyed as strongly, truly, a burden or refrain enlarged from the premand suggestively, in twelve simple, natural ises laid down, in which some generalities words, as in the most elaborate epics or for the sake of conviction and explanation are death-verses in the English language. Poe introduced. In the other two stanzas the was right in saying, “ It is no paradox, that same construction is present. The four first the more prosaic the construction of the verse lines of every stanza make the poem comthe better.” It is a perfect truth, though plete, for they are perfect; the latter four by no means an original idea of his. In this lines are introduced to each stanza in the song of Shirley's we have a capital illustra- shape of evidence to the senses, and convey

, tion of the force of directness. How many with more minutiæ of detail what was alıeady preachers might have quoted,

said. The verbal elegance and strength of “ There is no armor against fate,”

nomenclature displayed in the composition

of this song are eloquent in their own behalf; and saved their breath and their sermons. and we will do no more than italicize some The simple line suggests—and no mind ca of them, lest our readers might argue, as pable of hearing any every-day sermon can they do of psuedo witticisms, that to need help, after reading it, thinking to itself much explanation only proves their stupidity. quicker than any other could convey—all Let us present our reader with another that can be said or writ on the subject. The song, on a different subject, though unwhole moral of the grand revolutionist and cheerful. (We have a natural, or a prachis republican equality, death and the grave, tice-made-perfect love for misfortune and upon which more rags and paper have been disappointinent.) The


which we wasted than would winding-sheet creation, are about to present is a modern one, and is given in the eight syllables:

one which we think beautiful, and favor “ Death lays his icy hands on kings."

as such. Its great beauty is its prolific sug

gestiveness. It is by "Tom Hood, that It is needless to go through it line for line; genial and dual spirit, for whom Urania the song is there, and its immense sugges- and Momus must have stood sponsors, and tiveness will shoot through the brain of every whom in love for their charge each sought reader. A word on its style. It is perfect. I to make their own, by casting with lovable


rivalry their peculiar and intense influences The “farewell” in the opening of the secover him. They succeeded in making him ond stanza is the natural consequence of a greater than either, by making him master deep affection, which, though it no longer of both. This

is entitled :

can be made apparent for its own reasons,
still lingers in the bosom of the lover. The

heart-wrung wish that “Our hands have met, but not our hearts ;

" their hands had never met”
Our hands will never meet again.
Friends if we have ever been,
Friends we cannot now remain:

is the last struggle in the heart yielding for I only know I loved you once,

ever the object it loved. By a retrospective I only know I loved in vain.

analysis of his heart, he passes through the Our hands have met, but not our hearts ; days, the hours, the objects, and little inci

Our hands will never meet again ! dents of his love, until he comes to the source “ Then farewell to heart and hand!

of all—the first meeting ; and in wild deI would our hands had never met: spair in himself leaps at that, sees it as the Even the outward form of love

Lethe fount of all his unhappiness, and most Must be resigned with SOME REGRET. Friends we still might seem to be,

naturally prays it had never been. This If I my wrong could e'er forget.

shows one of the truest phases in the life of Our hands have join’d, but not our hearts: love : it always snatches for consolation at

I would our hands had never met !" something which cannot give it. A moThe courage of sorrowful desperation is ment's thought would show its impracticamore strongly portrayed in those lines than bility, but what real lover ever was practiany we are aware of. It opens with a de- cable? Immediately follows another glance .

? termination, evidently the effect of much into the metaphysics of the heart,—the selfthought, beautifully expressed,—the con

pacifying argument that there was no real densed essence of a great effort on the part love ;” and then, as an excuse for the evi

attachment, merely the outward " form of of the deceived,—and suggests to the reader

dent weakness into which his soul-talk has all the thoughts and feelings which must have led to such a conclusion. In the third led him, finding it holds him firmer than he and fourth lines the determination is ampli- could have thought, or for the purpose of fied on with emphatic nervousness :

appearances, he adds that u Friends if we have ever been,

“Even the outward form of love

Must be resigned with some regret." Friends we cannot now remain." Then follows a hinting of the reason, the The real lover is still apparent in him. The natural sequence of the foregone expressions; allowed too much for its own rest even in

excess of love is still manifest. The heart the why, the wherefore. There has been a deep love, and a deep disappointment; there regretting its resignation, and little more is no bint at deception. The love has been would make him as open and unregardful a

devotee as ever. so deep and so earnest, that it cannot easily

He is lingering around his

love. convince itself of wrong in the object" once"

Affection is growing—is returning

He admits that beloved; will not, with the true spirit and logic of the heart, allow such a thought more “ Friends we still might seem to be ;" than a transient location in the mind. It but if they seemed, if they met, he would be only knows it “ loved in vain.". Perhaps lost; and his pride again rises supreme: the heart argues with itself that its failure was its own fault, but the break-off is indis- "If I my wrong could e'er forget ;" pensable for its own truth, its safety, which and then, in the strength of his renewed is a small concern, but more probably its injured pride,-ay, its pride, which acts on the spirit, he turns to his first thoughts of their jured pride,-ay, its pride, which acts on the hearts not joining, and concludes with an efwill: what mortal, even lover though he be, fort to think it all a dream; to go back beyond that has not pride ?—and the determination

their meeting, of separation is more intensely and sorrowfully settled in the mind than before:

“I would our hands had never met," — “Our hands will never meet again.” and live forward as though it had not been

on him.

[ocr errors]


There is a great intensity of feeling and which the interior toils and has a mechanic deep metaphysical analysis in those simple being. but beautiful lines. The knowledge of the In songs of a more vivacious, a light love human beart is wide, and no doubt presents or Bacchanalian character, where personal & phase in the existence of that of the har- peculiarities or characteristics are introduced, rowed soul of the author. Those lines cast drolleries grafted in, or witticisms discharged, over us a feeling of deep sadness, and to hear the greatest fear of failure is in diffuseness. them sung to the beautiful melody composed Earnestness through all must be the guiding for them, and which but more deeply por- star. The most ludicrous or humorous retrays the feelings of the words, makes us mel. flection, expressed in lackadaisical diffuseancholy for the night. The air, by one of ness, produces, if any, but a tithe of the effect the most gifted of living composers, William it would produce if given in an earnest and Vincent Wallace, is extremely beautiful, direct manner. It should rather startle by and one of the most exquisitely melodious its unique suddenness, like sun-light breakof modern compositions. The composer ing into a darkened room through a small seems to have caught up every feeling, to opening of the blind. It should astonish by anticipate every thought. It is really meta- its clearness, like the ring of a rifle-shot, physical melody, perfect in its expression of heard to be fully understood and then exthe determination, sorrow, and loving doubts tinct. Its magic is suggestive, and its earand reminiscences of the poet. He has caught nestness leaves no doubt but that something the poet's heart into his own, and sent it out was intended. In songs of pure affection with the raiment of deep and melancholy this curse of diffuseness is even more to be sound such as it has appealed to us in. It dreaded. The fact of the poet embodying a has never appealed in vain.

lover's thoughts leads to a multitude of feelThese two songs we have quoted are per- ings regarding the mistress sung of or sung fect of their kind, and carry out our idea of to, and it is more than probable the work of the construction of lyrical compositions. amplification and reiteration is carried to an They are direct, comprehensive, suggestive. extent which renders the performance disFrom the opening of Shirley's plaint to the gustingly flattering or weakly meaningless. It exquisite concluding couplet,

is in this emergency the true poet, as the true

general, takes the outposts, the keys to the “Only the actions of the just

whole campaign, and catches at those points Smell sweet, and blossom in the dust," which suggest his mastery over the whole

ground. He sees through the character, it shows a deep analytical insight into life, and gives the little heart-touches of expresand through cant and hypocrisy; and cast- sion which clearly set before the reader a ing off the clouds and dire vapors that hang perfect history or a perfect likeness. The over the social heaven, seeks the pure air, following verse of Moore's brings a beautiful the clear atmosphere of the soul itself; picture to our mind, and yet he has not filled catches the lightning through the cloud, and in his sketch with the slightest tint of color, brings its living truth face to face with man. but the “ smiling eyes,” and the “ hope," In Hood's poem, the unity is almost miracu- “joy,” and “light” in them lead us to the lous. In two short verses, he presents the ideal expression of an accompanying face, the whole torture of a rich and welling love under face to a form, all grace and sweetness; and disappointment. Opening with a determi- we have a gentle, lovable form before us, as nation to conquer his own feelings, he tells true as if the graceful pencil of Kenny Meaa world of woes by a few electric touches, dows or the rich color of Maclise had been short as they are rapid, but large enough to at work :admit us to his full heart-confidence; and concludes as he began, binding up as it were “Whene'er I see those smiling eyes, the kernel within the shell. The thought So full of hope, and joy, and light, he started with he ends with ; and all that As if no cloud could ever rise is said or done in the interim moves and

To dim a heav'n so purely bright,

I sigh to think how soon that brow speaks like the machinery of a watch,

In grief may lose its every ray, wheels within wheels, all within the case and And that light heart, 80 joyous now, face, for the true perfection and regularity of Almost forget it once was gay."

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »