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We had come to somewhat the same opinion with Apollo before we fell in with this passage, which does not occur until very near the end of the present volume, j Only we would not put the case quite so: broadly as Mr. Lowell, with droll candour, ] puts it against himself. His poetry has some true and admirable qualities; but he is a little too fond of drilling and exhorting us previous to that march to the last new Jeru-1 salem. He is a thorough New Englander,' filled to the eyes with the old Puritan enthusiasm in matters of principle, though with a breadth of intellectual vision aud a warmth of human sympathy which the Puritans neither knew nor would have sanctioned, and which place him in thorough alliance with nineteenth century feeling. He is appassionato hater of slavery, and, in days long preceding the outbreak of the civil war, threw himself fiercely into the ranks of, those who opposed the policy of the Southern section of the Union. The Fugitive Slave Law moved him to a very tempest of wrath, and the Mexican war of 1845-6-7; — which was unquestionably brought about and supported, in the main, by the Democratic party — gave occasion to what must, after all, be regarded as the chief production of his genius, the first series of the " Biglow Papers." Without entering into political considerations, which in this part of our Journal would be out of place, it must be admitted that the moral tone of Mr. Lowell's writings on these subjects is lofty and noble. He sees clearly the enormous guilt of slavery; perhaps does not see with equal I clearness the great difficulties that lie in the way of suddenly undoing an old and transmitted wrong; sets up the severest j standard of abstract right, and flames indignation on his countrymen for not at once accepting it as the measures of their daily life. His sympathies are with humanity in the general, and with the poor and lowly and suffering in the particular. His politics re-' solve themselves into the simple element of right—perhaps impracticably so, since progress is often compelled to adapt its pace to compromises;'his religion is something more than a creed, or a decent observance, or a suit for Sunday wear, and goes straight to the everlasting truths of love and reverence and mysterious awe. All this is excellent, and it is peculiarly comforting to find so much devotion to first principles of right in a country where party politics have a more than usual tendency to degenerate into a vulgar wrangle. But the excess of morality necessarily results in atone of didactism, which, as Lowell himself remarks
through the lips of Apollo, mixes too much of the preacher with the singer. Even when not writing about slavery or the Mexican war, the author of the " Biglow Papers " is rather prone to instruct his readers. We see this in his poem on " Prometheus," the moral of which is the sameas that in Shelley's magnificent drama, but which is wearisome in its direct inculcation of goodness, and its reproofs of tyrannous power. So, in telling the lovely old Greek legend of Rhceeus and the Hamadryad — and exquisitely telling it too — Mr. Lowell cannot let us off, or rather cannot let us begiu, without a little sermonizing. The same thing occurs in various other places; and it is only when he abandons this vein that we see what beautiful and sufficing things he can produce. His early poems, like those of most writers, are weak and vague, wanting in concentration and purpose; even the " Legend of Brittany," published in 1844, is rather too sugary and sentimental, though containing (especially towards the close) some very touching passages. But many of the minor ]<oems are excellent, and we like Mr. Lowell all the better for infusing into his verse the spirit of New World scenery and life, instead of simply reproducing the stock figures of European poetry. His picture of an "Indian Summer" is full ot glow and fervour: —
,: What visionary tints the year puts on When falling leaves falter through motionless air Or numbly cling and shiver to be gone! How slammer the low Hats and pastures bare, As with her nectar Hebe Autumn tills The bowl between me and those distant hills! And smiles anil shakes abroad her misty, tremulous hair!
How fuse and mix, with what unfclt degrees, Clasped by the faint horizon's languid arms,
Each into each, the hazy distances! The softened season all the landsca]>e charm's;
Those hills, my native village that embay,
In waves of dreamier purple roll away, And floating in mirage seem all the glimmer111"; farms.
Far distant sounds the hidden chickadee Close at my side; far distant sounds the leaves; The fields seem fields of dream, where Memory Wartders like gleaning Ruth; and as the sheaves Of wheat and barley wavered in the eye Of Boaz as the maiden's glow went by, So tremble and seem remote all things the sense receives.
The cock's shrill trump that tells of scattered corn, Passed breezily on by all his flapping mates, Faint and more faint, from barn to barn is borne Southward, perhaps to far Magellan's Straits; Dimly I catch the throb of distant Hails; Silently over head the henhawk sails, With watchful, measuring eye, and for his . quarry waits.
The sobered robin, hunger-silent now, Seeks cedar-berries blue, his autumn cheer;
Thesqurirel on the shingly shagbark's Iwugh, Now saws, now lists with downward eye and enr, Then drops his nut, and, with n chipping
bound, Whisks to his winding fastness underground; The clouds like swans drift down the streaming atmosphere.
O'er yon bare knoll the pointed cedar-shadows Drowse on the crisp, gray moss; the ploughman's call Creeps faint as smoke from black, fresh-furrowed meadows; The single crow a single caw lets fall; And all around me every bush and tree Says Autumn's here, and Winter soon will be, Who snows his soft, white sleep and silence over all."
But Mr. Lowell is at no time more delightful than when, setting aside his exhortations, he talks to us in the language of wit and pleasantry. His " Fable for Critics " is full of humour and fancy. It is a " session" of American poets, after the fashion of Suckling's celebrated review of the wits and rhymsters of Charles II.'s age; but in metre and general style — in the mingling of humour and sentiment —in the dance of animal spirits, and sometimes in the very trick of the phraseology — it is more like Leigh Hunt's sparkling and airy productions, " The Feast of the Poets," and " The Feast of the Violets." He writes a preface, apparently in prose, but really in verse, in which, after referring to his adverse critics, he breaks out into a piece of hearty good humour and enjoyment. We will restore his sham prose to its true poetical form: —
"Now I shall not crush them, since, indeed, for that matter,
No prfcssnrc I know of could render them flatter;
Nor wither, nor scorch them — no action of fire
Could make either them or their articles drier;
Nor waste time in putting them down — I am
thinking Not their own self-inflation will keep them from
sinking; For there's this contradiction about the whole
bevy — Though without the least weight, they are awfully heavy. No, my dear honest bore, surdo fabulam narrus. They are no more to me than a rat is the arras. I can walk with the Doctor, get facts from the
Don, Or draw out tho Lambish quintessence of
John, And feel nothing more than a half-comic sorrow To think that they all will be lying to-morrow Tossed carelessly up on the waste-paper shelves, And forgotten by all but their half-dozen selves. Once snug in my attic, my fire in a roar, I leave the whole pack of them outside the
door. With Hakluyt or Purchas I wander away' To the black northern seas or barbaric Cathay; Get fou with O'Shanter, and sober me then With that builder of hrick-kilnish dramas, rare
Ben; Snuff Herbert, as holy as a flower on a grave; With Fletcher wax tender, o'er Chapman grow
With Marlowe or Kyde take a fine poet-rave;
again, Down by mystical Browne's Jacob's-ladder like
brain, To that spiritual Pepys (Cotton's version) Montaigne; Find a new depth in Wordsworth, undreamed
of before, — That divinely-inspired, wise, deep, tender,
grand — bore. Or, out of my study, the scholar thrown off, Nature holds up her shield 'gainst the sneer and
the scotf; The landscape, for ever consoling and kind, Pours her wine and her oil on the smarts of tho
mind. The waterfall, scattering its vanishing gems; The tall grove of hemlocks, with moss on their
stems. Like plashes of sunlight; the pond in the
woods, Where no foot but mine and the bittern's intrude; These are all my kind neighbours, and leave
me no wish To say aught to you all, my poor critics, but
— pish! I have buried the hatched; I am twisting an
allumctte Out of one of you now, and relighting my calumet. In your private capacities, come when yon
please; I will give you my hand and a fresh pipe apiece."
p" Mr. Be'eton has done well in producing this cheap edition of a very pleasant collection of poems. It is to be regretted, how
ever, that the press was not better corrected. The book contains many errors, some of them destructive of metre and sense.
From The Honolulu Friend. A FIERY FOUNTAIN.
This eruption commenced near the summit of the mountain and only five or six miles south-east of the eruption in 1843. For two days, this summit-crater sent down its burning floods along the north-eastern slope of the mountain; then suddenly the valve closed and the great furnace apparently ceased blast. After thirty-six hours the fusia was seen bursting out of the eastern side of the mountain, about midway from the top to the base. It would seem that the summit lava had found a subterranean tunntl for half the way down the mountain, when coming to a weak point or meeting with some obstruction, it burst up vertically, sending a column of incandescent fusia, a thousand feet high into the air. This fire-jet was about one hundred feet in diameter, and it waa sustained for twenty days and nights, varying in hight from 500 to 1,000 feet. The disgorgement from the mountain side was often with terrific explosions which shook the hills, and with detonations which were heard for forty miles. This column of liquid fire was an object of surpassing brilliancy, of intense and .awful grandeur. As the jet issued from the awful orifice it was at white heat. As it ascended higher and higher it reddened like fresh blood, deepening its color until, in its descent, much of it assumed the color of clotted gore. In a few days it had raised a cone some three hundred feet high around the burning orifice, and, as the showers of burning minerals fell in livid torrents upon the cone, it became one vast heap of glowing coals, flashing and quivering with restless action, and sending out the heat of ten thousand furnaces in intense blast. The struggles in disgorging the fiery masses, the upward rush of the column, the force which raised it a thousand vertical feet, and the continuous falling back of thousands of tons of mineral fusia into the burning throat of the crater and over a cone of glowing minerals, one mile in circumference, was a sight to inspire awo and terror, attended with explosive shocks which seemed to rend the mural ribs of the mountain and sounds to wake the dead and startle the spirits in Hades. From this fountain a river of fire went rushing and leaping down the mountain with amazing velocity, filling up basins and ravines, dashing over precipices and exploding
rocks until it reached the forests at the base of the mountain, where it burnt its fiery way, consuming the jungle, evaporating the wa er of the streams and pools, cutting down the trees and sending up clouds of smoke and steam in murky columns or fleecy wreaths to heaven.
All Eastern Hawaii was a sheen of light, and our night was turned into day. So great was the illumination at night that one could read without a lamp, and labor, travelling and recreation might go on as in the day time. Mariners at sea saw the light at two hundred miles distance. It was a pyrotechnical display more magnificent and marvelous than was ever made by an enrthly monarch. In the day time the atmosphere, fur thousands of square miles, would be filled with a murky haze, through which the sunbeams shed a pale and sickly light. Smoke, steam, gases, ashes, cinders — furnace and capillary or filamentous vitrifactions called .Pele's hair — floated in the air, sometimes spreading out like a fan, sometimes careering in swift currents upon the wind, or gyrating in ever changing colors in the fitful breezes. The point from which the fire fountain issued is 10,000 feet above the level of the sea, thus making the igneous pillar a distinct object of observation along the whole eastern coast of Hawaii.
During the eruption the writer made an excursion fp its source. After three days of hard struggle in the jungle and over fields, ridges and hills of bristling scoria, he arrived near sunset at the scene of action. All night long he stood as near to the glowing pillar as the vehement heat would allow, listening to the startling explosions and the awful roar of the molten column as it rushed upwards a thousand feet and fell back in a fiery avalanche which made the mountain tremble. It was such a scene as few mortals ever witnessed. There was no sleep for the spectator. The fierce, red glare, the subterranean mutterings and stragglings, the rapid explosions of gases, the rush and roar, the sudden and startling hursts as of crashing thunder — all, all were awe-inspiring, and all combined to render the scene one of indescribable brilliancy and of terrible sublimity. The river of fire from this fountain flowed about thirty-five miles, and stopped within ten miles of Hilo. Had the fountain played twenty days longer it would, probably, have reached the shore.
■ From The Dublin University Magazine. PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY. HIS LIFE AND CHARACTER.
It is a lamentable thing to see youth cut off in the flower of its physical vigour, and it is, if anything, more lamentable to see the first mantling pride of maturity relentlessly laid low; but the most lamentable of all spectacles is that of a man stricken down in the meridian of life, when moral and intellectual maturity is alone attained — when the errors of youth are finished — the fever of that wild season subsiding, and the character emerging stronger, better, and more hopeful. Such, we shall endeavour to show, was the case with the subject of the present essay, and in this fact lies the secret of much of the misrepresentation which has been published concerning him. He has been extolled to the skies by those who were naturally devoted to him as a divine poet; accredited by those who were under the spell of his personal fascination with the possession of every domestic virtue — nay, even claimed as a believer by friends, who, at the sacrifice of truth, would willingly rescue his name from apostasy; whilst, on the other hand, wanton detractors and bigoted purists have declared his poetry to be without meaning or genius, and his life to have been void of all purity or religions feeling. It will be our earnest endeavour to eliminate the truth from these contradictory statements, which, we think, lies, as usual, between the two extremes; for we shall find upon examination that, whilst he was not a divine poet, in the usual acceptation of the term, yet his poetry had in it many and marked evidences of genius; that his domestic life, though characterized by much tenderness of affection, was. not faultless, since he drove his deserted wife to drown herself, through his open and wanton adultery; and as regards his religious belief, though, it is futile to endeavour to twist his creed into anything like Christianity, yet it contained the germ of a' fruit which was, unfortunately, never to be matured. In our estimate of his character, therefore, we shall take into consideration this promise of better things, which was budding forth in his intellectual and moral nature, when he met his untimely death; cut off just as the sky began to brighten, the clouds to clear away, and the sun to shine forth in its glory.
Shelley has been unfortunate in his biographers. There have been memorials, and remains, and anecdotes published concerning him, but the only work which pretends
to the completeness of a biography — and it ends in its pretension — is that of Mr. Hogg, his friend and fellow-student, who, with pardonable partiality, never loses an opportunity of showing what a great man Shelley was, nor with unpardonable egotism, how much greater man he was than Shelley. His work would have been more appropriately styled the "Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson Hogg, with incidents from the life of one Shelley." It appears to have been used as an opportunity for describing his own appearance, views, and prejudices — of telling us what he said, did, and advised— of ridiculing the Welch, whom he visited, whose national character he has blackened, but whose hospitality and old port he condescends to admire — to vent his unreasonable, but harmless, hatred of Irishmen, and his contempt for Scotchmen —to vilify Oxford, and more especially University College, which, if his description be true, must have been little better than a common tap-room — to abuse Bulwer Lvtton, for whom he wrote articles on Shelley and who, rashly venturing to make a few corrections, fell foul of Mr. Hogg, who publishes a letter from Sir Bulwer Lytton, which, compared with his own style of remonstrance, justifies the reproof and cold contempt which he received from the hands of the Editor of Colburn. On one occasion he met Sydney Smith, whom he declares to be "a noisy, impudent, shallow clerical jester," but does not tell us what Sydney Smith said to him. However, this gentleman's version of his friend's life is useful, inasmuch as it contains many of Shelley's letters, and descriptions of little peculiarities which came under his observation during his long and close friendship with the poet. From this work, and the various other recollections and reminiscences — more especially from the excellent papers of Mr. Peacocke, in Preiser's Magazine — it it may be possible to gather something like the true version of Shelley's story; though, in using all these materials, great allowance is to bo made for prejudices and predilections on the part of those who gave them to the world under the influence of the personal recollections of their subject.
In estimating the position of a poet in these latter days, it is difficult to settle what should be the criterion of excellence. It has long been the delusion of the world, that an approach to any of the great models was a sufficient criterion — not a slavish approach, which would be only an imitation, but an approach in spirit, vision, and conception. But if the accepted models are condemned,
then what are we to do for a new criterion? We are driven to these remarks by a criticism passed by one of those great reviews, which are supposed to form the public taste, and to provide plain men with a means of judging on these matters. The decision of the reviewer is so important that we may be pardoned for giving the matter somewhat in extenso.
In the National Review for October, 1862, there will be found a critique upon the poetry of Arthur Hugh Clough, of which we quote two specimens, and an important passage from the reviewer's opinion, in order that the reader may judge for himself: —
"He has a life small happiness that gives,
To expend his human tenderness upon less i
The second piece is as follows: —
"Where are the great, whom thou would'st
wish to praise thee? Where are the pure, whom thou would'st
choose to love thee t Where are the brave, to stand supreme above
thee — Whose high commands would cheer, whose
chiding raise thee?
Seek, seeker, in thyself; submit to find
We do not quote these two passages for the sake of the poetic description of plethora in the one, nor the bit of false philosophy in the other, but that the reader may be more able to appreciate the criticism which follows upon Mr. dough's genius: —
"When, at last, he wanted to do something, or was obliged to attempt something, he had occasionally a singular difficulty—he could not get his matter out of him. In poetry he had a further difficulty, arising, perhaps, from an over cultivated taste. He was so good a disciple of Wordsworth, lie hated so thoroughly the common sing-song metres ofSfonre and Byron, that he was apt to write what will seem to many persons to have scarcely any metre at all."
It is fortunate that we have this poetry and this criticism, as a warning to us of the awful consequences of an over cultivated taste. However, as two of our once cherished model poets are extinguished, we
must look elsewhere for a criterion by which to try the productions of Shelley. But, before doing so, we must commence with his life.
Percy Bysshe Shelley was born at Field Place, near Horsham, Sussex, on the 4th August, 1792. His father was Timothy Shelley, esq., son of Sir Bysshe Shelley, bart., then living. So that his father being a gentleman in something more than the common one-horse-gig sense, his grandfather a baronet, and himself heir to the title, we are relieved from all difficulty in introducing him to the reader on the ground of his parentage. Not that we look for such things in connection with poets, because the divine spark is more frequently dropped in the cabin than the castle, but still there is that ineradicable and praiseworthy feeling imbedded in every human heart, that it is a great blessing to have a presentable grandfather. A gentleman who has occasion to visit the library at the British Museum very often, was surprised lately at the number of pedigree hunters busily engaged in daily research, at that well known corner of the room where all the materials on the subject are kept, and upon inquiring the reason, was told that there was just now an unusual demand for pedigrees from America. Here surely is food lor reflection. Universal brotherhood is at last becoming anxious to ascertain who has the best grandfather.
Of the first ten years of the poet's life we have no account, save what can be gleaned from a few letters written by his sister Helen, and published in Mr. Hogg's biography. From these we gather one or two circumstances, trifling in themselves, but suggestive of the character which was just beginning to develops itself, and also indicative of a certain peculiar affection of mind, which may, perhaps, assist us in solving the enigma of the man. It appears that he was a most beautiful child, with delicate hands and feet, best certificates of race, soft expressive eyes, a pure white skin, and bright ringlets shading his brow. In his earliest years, his mind manifested signs of that speculative tendency, which was its marked characteristic all through life. He was very inquisitive, and fond of experiment; he used to electrify his little sistersi and was once heard teaching his infant brother to say " Devil." The divine spark soon gave signs of its existence, for before he was ten years old, he and his eldest sister had written a play between them, and without saying a word to anyone, sent it off with a letter to Matthews, who read it, and returned it, with a note to the effect that he feared