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rapid review of the history of the world? The theme is a half-inspiration of itself. Mr. Bryant, however, looks with the eye of a philosopher on the varying phases of humanity, and although we read with an attentive pleasure, we do not feel that delight which we know the subject is so admirably calculated to afford. We miss those vigorous, golden passages, which compel us to pause, and read again out of the mere enthusiasm of admiration.
We quote a few stanzas as illustrations of the manner in which our poet treats the scenes presented to his imagination.
The first we offer is a very striking one :
“ Look on this beautiful world, and read the truth
In her fair page; see, every season brings
The restless surge. Eternal Love doth keep
The critic will observe a very awkward “ doth keep.” A poet of Mr. Bryant's great powers of versification should not have sat down under this verbal defect, small as it is. We are more exacting from him, because he is one of the few American poets who have attained a classical polish.
The opening to the panorama of the past is admirably introduced :
“Sit at the feet of history—through the night
Of years the steps of virtue she shall trace,
Or freshening rivers ran; and there forgot
“ Then waited not the murderer for the night,
But smote his brother down in the bright day,
The poet very felicitously alludes to the dark ages of history, where so great a gap of annals exists—when even tradition dies into silence—and oblivion would be complete were it not for the mouldering ruins of unknown cities.
“ Those ages have no memory—but they left
A record in the desert-columns strown
Of heaven's sweet air, nor foot of man dares tread
“ And tombs of monarchs to the clouds up-piled
They perished—but the eternal tombs remain-
But idly skill was tasked, and strength was plied,
The poet's eye then rests on Greece, and in two stanzas gives his impressions.
In the apostrophe to Rome we feel the philosophical coolness of Mr. Bryant in its full force of negativing his poetry. There is too much of the abstract. More can be gathered often from a small event than from a dry balance sheet of the result. We may call these personal traits of a nation. As an instance of the two styles of treating the subject, we will compare Mr. Bryant with Byron. One, all philosopher ; the other, all poet: we 'mean, of course, so far as these views go. “And Rome-thy sterner, younger sister, she Who awed the world with her imperial frownRome drew the spirit of her race from thee, The rival of thy shame and thy renown. Yet her degenerate children sold the crown Of earth’s wide kingdoms to a line of slaves ; Guilt reigned, and woe with guilt, and plagues came down,
Till the north broke its floodgates, and the waves Whelmed the degraded race, and weltered o'er their graves.”
The generalization here materially interferes with the clearness and vividness of the effect to be produced. Let us turn to Byron, and see how he treats it.
“I see before me the Gladiator lie:
The arena swims around him-he is gone,
“He heard it, but he heeded not-his eyes
We are willing to admit that it is scarcely just to select a verse at random from the American, and compare it with one of the most successful efforts of the great English poet. We, however, only intend by this comparison to illustrate that we think Mr. Bryant has injured a fine subject by throwing over it too frigid a mantle of philosophy.
With respect to the origin of these celebrated verses to the Gladiator, it is stated that Byron was indebted for them to Shelley. It has been said by Leigh Hunt, that during
the time the “ gloomy Childe” was in daily intercourse with Shelley a very perceptible change in his poetry is visible. We throw this out as a study for the curious.
In the progress of his review of the world Mr. Bryant comes to the New World, and thus speaks : “ Late, from this western shore, that morning chased
The deep and ancient night, that threw its shroud
Amid the forest; and the bounding deer
Having thus traced the march of civilization westward, rising in the east like the sun, to travel to the west : going down perhaps there; like the physical light, to rise again in the east; the poet finishes his history by this apostrophe to his native land:
“ But thou, my country, thou shalt never fall,
Save with thy children—thy maternal care,
The date of thy deep-founded strength, or tell
It may be affirmed that his intention was to take a calm