« PreviousContinue »
courage fails not. The rising of the sun reveals the opposing armies drawn up, and already in motion. Shield and helmet and spear glitter in the sunlight with dazzling radiance. The signal is given, and the very war-cries you can almost hear, as they ring through the air. And when the battle is won, Froissart leads us to the banquet, that we may look upon the kind attentions of the victor to the vanquished, and learn to love the generous-hearted knights. We know of no picture-writing like his.
But let no one imagine that all portions of these “ Chronicles” are alike interesting Parts seem to have been written when Froissart was tired and sick of his work. At such times he loses his power of description, his simplicity degenerates into old woman's prattle, and he mopes along at a wearisome rate. I am sorry for him who takes the book and begins to read at such a place. He will inevitably throw the book down, and wonder at the folly of the admirers of Froissart. Often too he is wearisome from very prolixity. In an exciting description of a siege or a battle, he breaks in with a long account of a petty quarrel between two knights, or with a still longer account of the ghosts that haunt the country. Yet even in the dullest portions of the book, there are spots over which one loves to linger, and with pain tears himself away.
In the beginning of the third volume, Froissart describes his journey from Carcasonne to Orthes, in the south of France, which, as a portrait of the manners of that age, is worth the whole book besides. "In the morning of a fine summer's day, accompanied by a knight who, “in his lord's war, right worthy had shone,” started from Carcasonne for the castle of the Count De Foix. Their way was over the sunny plains and vine-clad hills of Languedoc, by beautiful rivers and deep forests. They passed castles, ennobled by a thousand chivalrous deeds, through villages, whose inhabitants spoke the sweet language of the minstrels, through dark ravines haunted by evil spirits, and by fields glistening with the ripening corn. How would Chaucer have rejoiced to have been with them, and to have seen the pleasant sights they saw! But on that day he looked only on the bare walls of a prison, and the sunlight that streamed through his grated window was the only thing to remind him of the bright world without. For six days they traveled together, beguiling the way by pleasant conversation, and on the seventh reached Orthes. Froissart immediately became one of the household of the Count De Foix, remaining with him twelve weeks. The Count lived in almost royal magnificence, and his court was thronged by the bravest knights and the fairest ladies in Gascony. Every day from his gate five florins in small coin were distributed to the poor, while within his house
“It snowed of meat and drink." After dinner, which lasted till four o'clock, the knights and squires strolled about the castle, “conversing of arms and amours;" and during the long winter evenings, Froissart read (excepting the Count, probably the only one who could read) to them from a book of love-songs. They
supped at midnight, and thus ended the day. “I would willingly like to talk of the establishment of the gallant Count De Foix,” as did Froissart, of the Christmas festivities and the feast of Saint Nicholas, and above every thing else, of the spirit with whom the Count was in league; but time fails. Go, reader, and enjoy the book for thyself; thou wilt never begrudge the hours thou mayest spend over the glowing pages of Froissart.
SHREDS AND PATCHES.
A word in your ear, good Reader ! We have once more pulled out our“ tailor's drawer,” with the design of selecting a few bits and remnants; and with a generosity unusual to the thread-and-needle brotherhood, we give them to our customers, “gratis." We give you rather a plentiful sprinkling of quotations in these pages, in order to be in keeping with the profession; for a tailor, who don't “cabbage,” is a decided anomaly, and deserves to be kicked out of the fraternity. Authorship and tailor-ship are much alike in this respect; and there ought to be a general sympathy between the two professions. We have said nothing out of disrespect to that useful and honorable portion of the community, who fulfill half of the divine command, and clothe us that they may feed themselves ; oh, no! we are very cautious about this, for we are under particular obligations to some of them, and would not for the world have them take any thing personal from us. (Don't utter that expressive and doleful groan; for we never attempted a pun before in our life, and of a verity, we execrate the practice.) Should you think, as a friend of ours once remarked of a distinguished sermon delivered not a thousand miles from this place, that the “ quotations are the best part of it,” you ought to be thankful that we have not occupied the whole space with our own inferior language. So give us some little portion of your gratitude for this, if for nothing else.
If we ever conceived an affection for a man by reading his works, it has been while perusing the delightful productions of Hood. Tom Hood! thou wast a glorious fellow-every inch of thee. The acquaintance of Coleridge and Cary and Allan Cunningham ; thou wast “ the noblest Roman of them all!” The social and intimate companion of the “delicate-minded and large-hearted Charles Lamb;" thou wast a congenial spirit for so great a soul! No one can read the works of Lamb and Hood, without perceiving a striking resemblance between the two men. Both seem to have been cast in the same mould, and stamped with the same noble traits of character. The similarity extends to their early education and pursuits. Both were without the advantages
of an university education. Both were early immured in the countingroom; but day-books, and ledgers, and long columns of figures, would not satisfy souls of such a nature as theirs. They had too little of the groveling and gain-greedy element in their composition for that. Both were so reserved when meeting with strangers, that at their first introduction, though they spent hours together, they could not get at all acquainted with each other. Both, too, were ardent and wholesouled in their friendships, when they were once formed. Both loved a social hour; and both were inveterate punsters. Lamb was old enough to be Hood's father ; but their attachment was like the fervid and enthusiastic friendship of youth, before it has been chilled and withered by long contact with a cold and heartless world. Both possessed a fountain within the breast, bubbling up and overflowing with love and good will to their fellow-men. Both had a heart "to feel for others' woes." This tender feeling, this generous sympathy for suffering wherever it might exist, is strikingly displayed in most of their writings.
We have nothing to say of Hood's comicalities; for every one knows them, and every one has shaken his sides over them, till his inner man was most seriously discomposed. But we wonder that a man, so much the prey of ill health, could preserve such a cheerful flow of spirits; and, while pain was racking and torturing every fibre of his frame, make “ the million” ready to burst with laughter. Ay, he tells us, that in spite of his “ blue-and-yellow visage and attenuated figure," he laughed himself at the "Grotesques, and Arabesques, and droll Picturesques,” which his “Good Genius conjured up” at his bidding. Ye who are wont to brood over your little real or fancied ills; who imagine a trifling pain is surely and speedily to be followed by the pang of dissolution; who think when a little choked that you hear the death-rattle in your throat, and stick to the belief that disease has fastened on your vitals, and will “ na gang awa;” go and learn of Tom Hood. Consider his “ ways and be wise." Take a lesson or two in his “ Cheerful Philosophy.” Away with the old wrinkled and ill-visaged hag of melancholy! One jolly roar of laughter will frighten off a whole troop of blue devils, as quickly as doth the crowing of the cock, the ghosts that glide about a church-yard.
As a poet, Hood is far superior to Lamb. His poems are not of the highest class, but they are such as will be felt and loved. Some of them abound in what many would call low conceits; but his conceits always give pleasure rather than disgust. There are others entirely free from this fault, though fault we can hardly deem it in him; and we believe there is nothing more simple, natural, and truthful in our language, than some of his smaller poems. They are the transcripts of the feelings of bis own heart, and his was a heart for all to love. Read his “ Retrospective Review," and that other tender little poem, in which he so naturally calls up the scenes of early life. One verse of them is worth a volume of poems we could mention, though the author is ranked high among poets. Many of our much admired poems, are nothing but the graceful form and the beautiful drapery of poetry, without the living embodiment. Without a particle of soul, they captivate and charm with mere outside. We hate these poems that you can't feel as you read. They may glitter and sparkle, while destitute of warmth and feeling. The moonbeams, trembling on the waters when gently ruffled by the breeze, are beautisul, but yet cold. A pleasant, mirthful poem, too, such as many of Hood's—which show his own good nature, and make his readers good natured also—is better than all the morose and misanıhropic productions of a thousand Byrons, though fiery inspiration urge the pen, and genius leave its impress on every page.
That vein of exquisite feeling, running through all Hood's more serious pieces, makes us love the man. He saw men in want and wretchedness on every side, without having his sensibilities deadened or weakened in the least, as the constant sight of misery is apt to render them. Some of the noblest efforts of his pen were made in behalf of the injured and suffering lower classes of his land. For the poor be cherished a deep and earnest compassion; the images of squalid indigence, of wasted and sorrow-stricken parents and starving children, were often in his mind. For the rich he felt no envy ; unless, perchance, that he might be able to relieve the miseries of the unfortunate, and pour the balm of joy into wounds which grief and want had made. Would Heaven that more such men might be found among his countrymen! Would Heaven that, while his heart has ceased to throb with pity, and is crumbling to its native dust, a thousand breasts might catch the same spirit, and glow with the same kindly feeling, the same warm benevolence, that beams through the character and writings of Thomas Hood!
It is very fashionable to cry down the American taste for the fine arts, and to say we have done nothing in them. What folly of misrepresentation ! Setting aside the works of Inman and the “Great Moral Painting," we have half our books thickly interspersed with specimens, and almost every monthly magazine is embellished with three or four of them. Our genius for the fine arts is a sort of Yankee, universal genius. Our versatility is boundless. We make up in quantity, what we lack in quality. We have just seen a specimen in one of the numbers of a magazine lately published in a neighboring city, which is decidedly unique. It is a representation of Yale College; and the way it is represented is curious-quite so. In the first place, you have College street running strait along in front, and having the Medical College at “tother end.” So far, so good. But the College buildings, like the school-boy's barn behind the house, are almost all drawn behind the trees; of which, by the way,
there are hardly enough given to make so extensive a shading. All you can see are the steeples, and a little portion of North Middle. In that chaste and elegant structure, the windows of the lower story are represented as about forty feet above the surface of the ground. Such an arrangement might be quite convenient for the Freshmen who occupy the rooms, especially during their first few weeks' residence in this goodly “ City of Elms;" but the picture does not precisely correspond with the reality. A buxom looking damsel (we can make nothing else out of the figure) is leaning quite comfortably with both elbows on the fence in front of the College yard; and seems to be looking wistfully up to the windows of South College, (where they should be, we mean,) as if to catch a glimpse of some one. Now we don't know but ladies sometimes do this, but we must say we never saw any of them in that position. The most prominent figure in the foreground is a coal cart, often seen, we admit; but this one is peculiarly “sui generis.” It is of the usual shape, and has a man in it; but it don't seem to have any way of getting along. There are several animals standing before it in beautiful irregularity, it is true ; but they don't appear to be attached to it in any way, and look for all the world like the pictures of Persian goats in the old Geographies. There are many other beauties in this "uncommonly elegant embellishments," as a paper in the same city has styled the engravings of the magazine.
Speaking of Geographies reminds us of another extensive dep ment of our fine arts. We mean that of our pictorial school books. Here we are what is called “great.” Dear old well-thumbed Geography; how did we use to study thy pictures ! There were negroes hoeing cotton, and negroes dancing hornpipes. There were German ladies ploughing, Dutch ladies smoking, Swedish ladies tripping it merrily round the May-pole, and pretty damsels of the “sunny south” of France, with baskets of grapes upon their heads. There were the voluptuous beauties of Circassia, offered for sale to the highest bidder; and there was the picture of a Calmuck wedding, where the lady, well mounted, dashes off at full speed, and the suitor is obliged to overtake her before she can be his.
“The maid rides first in the four-footed strife,
Although it catching a Tartar.” Don't say, too, that we have done nothing with the chisel. There is the “star-born” eagle, on the front of a much-admired edifice in an eastern city, bearing a striking resemblance to a goose with the neck slighty driven in. Go into any old country church-yard, and study the figures chiseled on slate and sand-stone, (marble we had almost said ;) admire the beautiful little cherubs, with plump round faces like that of a Dutch baby, and wings like those of a bat, saving the claws. Chaste and exquisite figures, only equaled by the quaint and beautiful epitaphs now and then seen beneath you! By-the-by, we happened to be perusing an old volume of the Knickerbocker the other day, (that pleasantest of all our pleasant reading,) when we fell in with an epitaph taken from a stone in the old burial-ground of this city. The stone was "dedicated to the memory of a Mr. and Mrs. Jones, the sonin-law and daughter of Governor Eaton.” It ran thus :