Page images

a poem worthy to be compared with “ The Chaunt of a Soul,” published in "The Union Magazine" for November, 1848. It is a noble composition throughout-imaginative, eloquent, full of dignity, and well sustained. It abounds in detached images of high merit--for example :

Your early splendor's gone
Like stars into a cloud withdrawn
Like music laid asleep

In dried up fountains.
Enough, I am, and shall not choose to die.
No matter what our future Fate may be,
To live, is in itself a majesty. ...
And Truth, arising from yon deep;
Is plain as a white statue on a tali, dark steep. ...

The Earth and Heaven were fair,
While only less than Gods seemed all my fellow men,
Oh, the delight—the gladness-
The sense, yet love, of madness-
The glorious choral exultations-
The far-off sounding of the banded nations-
The wings of angels in melodious sweeps
Upon the mountain's bazy steeps-
The very dead astir within their coffined deeps
The dreamy veil that wrapt the star and sod-
A swathe of purple, gold, and amethyst
And, luminous behind the billowing mist

Something that looked to my young eyes like God. I admit that the defect charged, by an envious critic, upon Bayard Taylor--the sin of excessive rhetoricianism-is, in some measure, chargeable to Wallace. He, now and then, permits enthusiasm to hurry him into bombast; but at this point he is rapidly improving; and, if not disheartened by the cowardly neglect of those who dare not praise a poetical aspirant with genius and without influence, will soon rank as one of the very noblest of American poets. In fact, he is so now.



The maiden name of MRS. LEWIS was Robinson. She is a native of Baltimore. Her family is one of the best in America. Her father was a distinguished Cuban of English and Spanish parentage, wealthy, influential, and of highly cultivated mind:-. from him, perhaps, Mrs. Lewis has inherited the melancholy temperament which so obviously predominates in her writings. Between the death of her father and her present comfortable circumstances, she has undergone many romantic and striking vicissitudes of fortune, which, of course, have not failed to enlarge her knowledge of human nature, and to develope the poetical germ which became manifest in her earliest infancy.

Mrs. Lewis is, perhaps, the best educated, if not the most accomplished of American authoresses-using the word “ accomplished" in the ordinary acceptation of that term. She is not only cultivated as respects the usual ornamental acquirements of her sex, but excels as a modern linguist, and very especially as a classical scholar; while her scientific acquisitions are of no common order. Her occasional translations from the more difficult portions of Virgil have been pronounced, by our first Professors, the best of the kind yet accomplished—a commendation which only a thorough classicist can appreciate in its full extent. Her rudimental education was received, in part, at Mrs. Willard's celebrated Academy at Troy; but she is an incessant and very ambitious student, and, in this sense, the more important part of her education may be said to have been self-attained.

In character, Mrs. Lewis is everything which can be thought desirable in woman-generous, sensitive, impulsive; enthusiastic in her admiration of Beauty and Virtue, but ardent in her scorn of wrong. The predominant trait of her disposition, as before hinted, is a certain romantic sensibility, bordering upon melancholy, or even gloom. In person, she is distinguished by the grace and dignity of her form, and the nobility of her manner. She has auburn hair, naturally curling, and expressive eyes of

dark hazel. Her portrait, by Elliot, which has attracted much attention, is most assuredly no flattering likeness, although admirable as a work of art, and conveying a forcible idea of its accomplished original, so far as regards the tout ensemble.

At an early age Miss Robinson was allied in marriage to Mr. S. D. Lewis, attorney and counsellor at law; and soon afterwards they took up their residence in Brooklyn, where they have ever since continued to reside—Mr. Lewis absorbed in the labors of his profession, as she in the pleasurable occupations connected with Literature and Art.

Her earliest efforts were made in "The Family Magazine," edited by the well-known Solomon Southwick, of Albany. Subsequently she wrote much for various periodicals—in chief part for “ The Democratic Review ;” but her first appearance before the public in volume-form, was in the “ Records of the Heart," issued by the Appleton's in 1844. The leading poems in this, are "Florence," "Zenel," " Melpomene," "Laone," "The Last Hour of Sappho," and "The Bride of Guayaquil”-all long and finished compositions. “Florence" is, perhaps, the best of the series, upon the whole—although all breathe the true poetical spirit. It is a tale of passion and wild romance, vivid, forcible, and artistical. But a faint idea, of course, can be given of such a poem by an extract; but we cannot refrain from quoting two brief passages as characteristic of the general manner and tone:

Morn is abroad; the sun is up;
The dew fills high each lily's cup;
Ten thousand flowerets springing there
Diffuse their incense through the air,
And smiling hail the morning beam :
The fawns plunge panting in the stream,
Or through the vale with light foot spring:
Insect and bird are on the wing,
And all is bright, as when in May

Young Nature holds a holiday.
Again :

The waves are smooth, the wind is calm;

Onward the golden stream is gliding
Amid the myrtle and the palm

And ilices its margin hiding.
Now sweeps it o'er the jutting shoals
In murmurs, like despairing souls,

Now deeply, softly, flows along,
Like ancient minstrel's warbling song;
Then slowly, darkly, thoughtfully,

Loses itself in the mighty sea. Among the minor poems in this collection is “The Forsaken,” so widely known and so universally admired. The popular as well as the critical voice, ranks it as the most beautiful ballad of its kind ever written.

We have read this little Poem more than twenty times, and always with increasing admiration. It is inexpressibly beautiful. No one of real feeling can peruse it without a strong inclination to tears. Its irresistible charm is its absolute truth—the unaffected naturalness of its thought. The sentiment which forms the basis of the composition, is, perhaps, at once the most universal and the most passionate of sentiments. No human being exists, over the age of fifteen, who has not, in his heart of hearts, a ready echo for all there so pathetically expressed. The essential poetry of the ideas would only be impaired by “foreign ornament." This is a case in which we should be repelled by the mere conventionalities of the Muse. We demand, for such thoughts, the most rigorous simplicity at all points. It will be observed that, strictly speaking, there is not an attempt at "imagery” in the whole poem. All is direct, terse, penetrating. In a word, nothing could be better done. The versification, while in full keeping with the general character of simplicity, has, in certain passages, a vigorous, trenchant euphony which would confer honor on the most accomplished masters of the art. We refer, especially to the lines :

and follow me to my long home

Solemn and slow. And the quatrain :

Could I but know when I am sleeping

Low in the ground,
One faithful heart would there be keeping

Watch all night round. The initial trochee here, in each instance, substituted for the 'ambus, produces, so naturally as to seem accidental, a very effeclive echo of sound to sense. The thought included in the line “And light the tomb," should be dwelt upon to be appreciated in its full extent of beauty; and the verses which I have italicized in

the last stanza, are poetry-poetry in the purest sense of that much misused word. They have power—indisputable power ; making us thrill with a sense of their weird magnificence as we read them.

After the publication of the “ Records,” Mrs. Lewis contributed more continuously to the periodicals of the day-her writings appearing chiefly in the "American Review," and the “Democratic Review,” and “Graham's Magazine.” In the autumn of 1848, Mr. G. P. Putnam published, in exquisite style, her “ Child of the Sea, and Other Poems ”-a volume which at once placed its fair authoress in the first rank of American authors. The composition which gives title to this collection is a tale of sea-adventure—of crime, passion, love and revenge-resembling, in all the nobler poetic elements, the “Corsair” of Lord Byron—from which, however, it widely differs in plot, conduct, manner, and expression. The opening lines not only give a general summary of the design, but serve well to exemplify the ruling merits of the composition :

Where blooms the myrtle and the olive flings
Its aromatic breath upon the air ;
Where the sad bird of Night forever sings
Meet anthems for the children of Despair,
Who, silently, with wild dishevelled hair,
Stray through those valleys of perpetual bloom;
Where hideous War and Murder from their lair

Stalk forth in awful and terrific gloom
Rapine and Vice disport on Glory's gilded tomb:

My fancy pensive pictures youthful Love,
Il-starred yet trustful, truthful and sublime
As ever angels chronicled above :-
The sorrowings of Beauty in her prime;
Virtue's reward; the punishment of Crime;
The dark, inscrutable decrees of Fate;
Despair untold before in prose or rhyme;

The wrong, the agony, the sleepless hate

That mad the soul and make the bosom desolate. One of the most distinguishing merits of the “Child of the Sea,” is the admirable conduct of its narrative-in which every incident has its proper position-where nothing is inconsequent or incoherent—and where, above all, the rich and vivid interest is never, for a single moment, permitted to flag. How few, even of the most accomplished and skilful of poets, are successful in

« PreviousContinue »