Page images


Thus many Englishmen of talent have produced uncommonly spirited and original imitations of the writers of the time of Elizabeth, while a rich specimen of Rabelais' racy, burlesque, and vigorous fun, has risen


under the title of a History of New York. Would that the subject of the book had been such as to admit of the introduction of something like that high though hidden philosophy, and those occasional bursts of severe, earnest eloquence, which stamp immortality on the writings of that wonderful man. We are not acquainted with Irving ; but in our mind's eye we can at this moment see the sly, sweet-humored smile that must have been on his face when he wrote that inimitable story of his dream in the reading-room of the British Library, (itself the perfection of Pantagruelism,) and thought of Diedrich Knickerbocker — and of Monsieur Alcofribas, Quintessential Abstractor, and Historian of the very Horrific Life of the Great Gargantua, Father of Pantagruel. May the honor which he has conferred

upon his native state be returned upon him ten-fold, and his name long be celebrated among American literati, as the first one who revealed to us the beauties of those old writers whom he has so earnestly and eloquently praised !

But even this sort of imitation is hurtful. When poetry begins to grow up in the mind of some one whose lot it is to live in an uncultivated

age and nation, it is to him no matter of show and vanity, but rather a secret pleasure, which he himself does not comprehend hidden treasure - a joy in which the stranger intermeddleth not. His mind is absorbed in the delightful pursuit — his feelings are aroused, and his very language becomes a constant vehicle for high, passionate thoughts, to a strange music chanted.' The face of nature, as seen in his wanderings, aids the prevailing emotion, and gives it a medium of imagery wherewith to express itself. For the credulity of a poetic mind always acts most strongly, when art and society are both far distant. Who could find in a frequented harbor, or a millpond, any incitement to belief in the old fables of inermaids or waternymphs ? But let the reader, on some calm summer's day, travel through the unfrequented woods to some distant lake, imbedded in the forest ; let him stand on the beach, where the tracks show that the deer has lately come to drink, and look on the deep, silent sheet of water, surrounded by the silvery stems of the tall birches which fringe the water's edge, like the feathers in the coronal of a savage prince, while the taller hemlocks thrust up their dark-green tops behind them, as if striving to peep into the crystal mirror — shadowing it all, except where, at one extremity, the sand-bars gleam whitely through the slight ripple, which tells that there is an opening, though you see none, beyond that little point of underwood.' Look again on the scene, devoid of living objects, except that bird, which, while your eye was turned, flitted noiselessly in between the stems of the trees, and now sits silent upon that point of rock which shoots up in the midst of the calm, deep water, and see if, almost unknowingly, you do not breathe forth, in a suppressed voice, your inyocation to the genius of the place :

- Sabrina fair,
Listen where thou art sitting,
Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,


In twisted wreaths of lilies knitting,

The loose plaits of thy amber-dropping hair.' Such is the influence of nature upon the minds of a rude nation. And in the city, scope is still afforded to the fancy. The constant explosion of fierce passions, where laws are weak, and a police is unknown, the distinctions of dress and manners, which'a high state of civilization tends to abolish, and the rude magnificence every where seen, all tend to form a soil favorable to the produce of the imagination, which grows up unchecked and untrammelled. If the poet is but of respectable talents, his writings fall to the ground. But if he is one of those master-spirits, who are not contrary to, but above law, every thing helps him on, and his productions take place in that rank of superiority which none can expect to rival. Such, with one noble exception, has been the origin of all those wonderful and immortal writings which stand at the head of poetry. The Iliad and the Odyssey, the Inferno and Paradise Lost

the Canterbury Tales and the Faëry Queen - Hamlet and Othello. In fact, so difficult is it to cultivate the taste without dulling the imagination, that scarcely is there to be found an instance of a great poet who was a man of deep learning and extended literary acquirements, except in Milton, the force of whose mind was such, that a panoply which would have crushed any less gigantic imagination, was to him nothing but a light ornament. In this view of the case, it is curious to notice how the taste and the talents of true poets almost always differ, and how generally they are fondest of those writings which are most different from their own. Milton preferred the gentle and tender Euripides, to all the other poets of Greece. Byron admired Pope; and Coleridge, the most sedate, metaphysical, and enthusiastic writer of our days, loved best to peruse the joyous, free-hearted Chaucer, or the wild, rich, extravagant merriment of Beaumont and Fletcher. Thus their genius in a degree escaped the influence of models - an influence which elevates what would without it be bad, and debases the powers of nobler minds making first-rate productions scarce, and deluging the world with that inferior class of poetry which good authority affirms to be alike hateful to gods, men, and book-sellers which is not good enough to delight in, and yet rather too good to lose.

It is highly probable that America will never produce a rival to those five or six whom universal taste ranks as the masters of poetry. We may safely leave those to lament at this, who rail at utilitarianism, and bring forth lachrymose fustian about a threatened attempt to dig down Parnassus to macadamize the roads with. They may rest assured that few will attempt to apply so soft a material to such a purpose.

They may be left to their lamentations that the age of chivalry has gone, along with the lawlessness and brutality which were the causes of instituting that grand fraternity of regulators -- to lament that liberality of ideas has usurped the place which courtesy of manners so uselessly filled - and to weep for the signs which indicate that there is some hope that honesty will, in time, sit in the seat of honor. Meanwhile, the man of sense and calmness, who does not ask for contradictory excellencies, as he

to mourn

reflects on the long and brilliant list of statesmen and orators which we may fairly expect to adorn our national name, will not probably be inconsolable in his grief, that the grave, reflective manliness of mind which we may justly claim, will not easily admit of any great proficiency in what is the aimless, though beautiful and improving pursuit of a nation's childhood.

B. F. G.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

What though some flowers have 'scaped the tempest's wrath ?

Daily they droop by nature's swift decay;
What ihough the setting sun still lights my path?

Morn's dewy freshness long hath passed away;
Oh! give me back life's newly-budded flowers !
Let me once more inhale the breath of morning's hours !


My youth! - my youth !-oh, give me back my youth!

Not the unfurrowed brow and blooming cheek —
But childhood's sunny thoughts, its perfect truth,

And youth's unworldly feelings -- these I seek!
Oh! who could e'er be sinless and yet sage?

Would that I might forget Time's dark and blotted page!
Brooklyn, (L. I.,) 1836.

E. C. E.

[blocks in formation]


I am fond of contemplating those characters who flourished in the days of our pilgrim forefathers; and I think I have found much instruction in reading their lives. They are seldom spoken of in these days; and time, though it has not covered them with oblivion, has at least thrown a twilight over their names, that mellows their faults, and hides their many virtues. I have perused the simple history of Capt. Miles Standish, the Washington of Plymouth Colony, who grappled with the dark sons of the forest, and knew all their cunning and hypocrisy. I have read of his giant strength, unfaltering courage, sagacious mind, and of the great repute in which he was held by the little flock over whose lives he stood the noble guardian. But there are few who could inform us where his silent dust now reposes

- what spot his remains hallow: and this is another proof of the hollow reality of fame, when the bestowers, as well as the recipients of it, are gathered to their fathers.

I have this evening been thinking of Sir William Phips, who, toward the close of the seventeenth century, was appointed Governor of New-England. As there are many circumstances connected with his life which I do not remember to have seen in the late histories of our country, a slight sketch of it

may prove

uninteresting to the reader.

Sir William Phips was born on the 2d day of February, 1640, at a poor plantation on the river Kennebeck, being one of the most eastern settlements of New England. His mother had no less than twenty-six children, twenty-one of whom were sons, William being the youngest of the number. His father, John Phips, formerly of Bristol, (England) was a gunsmith. At his death, he left this boy with his mother, who employed himself in the capacity of shepherd, until he was eighteen years of age. About this time, he became restless for great enterprises ; and, judging from his subsequent career, was of a rather roving and romantic turn of mind. There was, as he expressed himself, a conviction about him, “that he w born to greater matters. It appears, that he bound himself apprentice to a ship-carpenter for four years, during which period he became master of the trade. He then proceeded to Boston, then the chief town of New-England, at which place he learned to read and write. He must have been, at this time, twenty-two years of age. Here he married the widow of Mr. John Huil, and daughter of Capt. Roger Spencer, who was rather a fashionable lady, for the times.

William Phips pursued his business for some time; but afterward became extremely anxious to search for certain Spanish wrecks which were reported to have sunk near the Bahamas, and to have contained immense quantities of silver and gold bars, with plate, pearls, jewels, etc. The first attempt was unsuccessful; yet still the passion haunted him, and he immediately prepared himself with a crew, to make a second voyage. This was accomplished by his asking for the command of a king's ship, (which was granted,)


called the Algier Rose, with eighteen guns, and ninety-five men. Year after year he followed his exploring expeditions, but with ill success; and his crew, growing weary of the unsuccessful enterprise, began to complain and mutiny. They approached him on the quarter-deck, with drawn swords in their hands, and commanded him to fly to the southern seas, and commence a life of piracy. Captain Phips was entirely unarmed; yet it is said that alone, and by his giant strength, he rushed among them, prostrating some and intimidating others, until he finally quelled them, and restored peace and good order on board his vessel.

On another occasion, while his ship lay at a desolate Spanish island, from which they had a bridge to the shore, the whole of the crew, except eight or ten, numbering near one hundred men, left the ship for the purpose, as they avowed, of diverting themselves amidst the cool breezes of the forest. It appears, however, that they immediately formed themselves into a ring, and resolved to seize the captain and his friends, and leave them to perish in the wilderness, while they hurried away to the south seas to commence a piratical career. But ascertaining that a carpenter must attend the enterprise, they despatched a messenger to inform him of the necessity of his presence. When he arrived, the articles of confederation were shown him, and the consequence explained, if he refused to subscribe to it. The carpenter, with much importunity, prevailed on them for a half an hour's time to consider the matter, and returned to the vessel, with a spy placed over him. While attending to his duty, he feigned himself attacked with a sudden fit of cholic, and ran for medicine and relief. Here he explained the conspiracy to the captain, as briefly as possible, who commanded him to return, sign the articles, and leave him to arrange the sequel. The few friends around the captain pledged themselves to stand or fall by him, and the first operation was to protect the provisions which were on shore, covered by a tent. The guns were silently drawn and turned the bridge pulled up that ran to the shore - and the former brought to bear on every side of the tent. By this time, the army of rebels came out of the woods, and soon saw such a change of circumstances, as to cause them to cry out, 'We are betrayed ! The stern voice of Phips was heard, 'Stand off, ye wretches, at your peril !' Great confusion ensued; and when he signified his resolve to abandon them to the desolation which they had purposed for him, their hearts sank within them. The provisions were taken on board, under cover of the guns : they began now more acutely to feel their situation, and at last fell on their knees, praying for mercy, and declaring that they had no charge to bring against him, save his refusal to flee to the southern seas, and engage in their piratical expedition. After much penitence, they were received on board, but were immediately secured, and on arriving at Jamaica, discharged.

Shipping another crew, he proceeded to Hispaniola, where he ascertained by a very old Spaniard the spot where the wreck lay; but he was unsuccessful, and returned to England.

Again he set sail for the fishing ground,' which was 'well baited,' as he termed it, with a ship and a tender, and arriving at Port de la Plata, constructed a stout canoe of cotton-tree, manned with ten oars ;


[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »