網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

everything we need no instructor to assure us; but as this propensity to point it out seems part of our poet's nature, we must not blame him for it. We may, however, be permitted to express our opinion, that it very greatly interferes with his immortality as a master of song. In his “ Death of Schiller," we have his method of teaching by verse very fairly set down.

« 'Tis said, when Schiller's death drew nigh,

The wish possessed his mighty mind
To wander forth wherever lie

The homes and haunts of human-kind.

“Then strayed the poet, in his dreams,

By Rome and Egypt's ancient graves ;
Went up the New World's forest streams,

Stood in the Hindoo's temple-caves;

“Walked with the Pawnee, fierce and stark,

The sallow Tartar, midst his herds,
The peering Chinese, and the dark

False Malay uttering gentle words.

“How could he rest ? even then he trod

The threshold of the world unknown;
Already, from the seat of God,

A ray upon his garments shone;

“Shone and awoke the strong desire,

For love and knowledge reached not here,
Till, freed by death, his soul of fire

Sprang to a fairer, ampler sphere.

“Then—who shall tell how deep, how bright

The abyss of glory opened round ?
How thought and feeling flowed like light,

Through ranks of being without bound ?” In his lines to the memory of William Leggett, we have a verse which gives a felicitous acconnt of the manner in which impulsive poetry should be written.

“The words of fire that from his pen

Were flung upon the fervent page,
Still move, still shake the hearts of men,

Amid a cold and coward age.”

And his power of personification at times comes out in bold and broad relief.

“Oh FREEDOM! thou art not, as poets dream,
A fair young girl, with light and delicate limbs,
And wavy tresses gushing from the cap
With which the Roman master crowned his slave
When he took off the gyves. A bearded man,
Armed to the teeth, art thou; one mailed hand
Grasps the broad shield, and one the sword; thy brow,
Glorious in beauty though it be, is scarred
With tokens of old wars; thy massive limbs
Are strong with struggling. Power at thee has launched
His bolts, and with his lightnings smitten thee;
They could not quench the life thou hast from heaven.
Merciless power has dug thy dungeon deep,
And his swart armorers, by a thousand fires,
Have forged thy chain ; yet, while he deems thee bound,
The links are shivered, and the prison walls

Fall outward; terribly thou springest forth,
As springs the flame above a burning pile,
And shoutest to the nations, who return
Thy shoutings, while the pale oppressor flies.”

In the piece entitled “Seventy-Six” there is a force of diction which rings out loud and clear.

“ What heroes from the woodland sprung,

When, through the fresh awakened land,
The thrilling cry of freedom rung,
And to the work of warfare strung

The yeoman's iron hand.

“Hills flung the cry to hills around,

And ocean-mart replied to mart,
And streams, whose springs were yet unfound,
Pealed far away the startling sound

Into the forest's heart.

“Then marched the brave from rocky steep,

From mountain river swift and cold;
The borders of the stormy deep,
The vales where gathered waters sleep,

Sent up the strong and bold,
As if the very earth again

Grew quick with God's creating breath,
And, from the sods of grove and glen,
Rose ranks of lion-hearted men

To battle to the death.

“The wife, whose babe first smiled that day,

The fair fond bride of yestereve,
And aged sire and matron grey,

Saw the loved warriors haste away,

And deemed it sin to grieve.

“ Already had the strife begun;

Already blood on Concord's plain
Along the springing grass had run.
And blood had flowed at Lexington,

Like brooks of April rain.

“ That death-stain on the vernal sward

Hallowed to freedom all the shore;
In fragments fell the yoke abhorred-
The footstep of a foreign lord

Profaned the soil no more.”

Mr. Bryant has certainly the rare merit of having written a stanza which will bear comparison with any four lines in our recollection. The thought is complete, the expression perfect. A poem of a dozen such verses would be like a row of pearls, each above a king's ransom. A sermon could be preached from such a text as the following. Let every reader commit it to heart, and when battered down by the sudden blow of a deliberate falsehood, let him repeat it to himself, and live on with unabated heart.

“ Truth crushed to earth shall rise again :

The Eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,

And dies among his worshippers."

This verse has always read to us as one of the noblest in the English language.

“ The Disinterred Warrior" is probably his best poem, considering its length.

“ Gather him to his grave again,

And solemnly and softly lay,
Beneath the verdure of the plain,

The warrior's scattered bones away."

As we regard Mr. Bryant as infinitely the most classical poet of the western world, he must pardon our objecting to the needless epithet of “ softly,in the second line of this otherwise fine verse. There is a mincing step in its sound which spoils the effect of the previous one of “solemnly.” “Solemn and soft” do not harmonize well, either in poetry or in prose. The idea is complete without. The next stanza is confirmatory of our opinion.

“Pay the deep reverence taught of old,

The homage of man's heart to Death !
Nor dare to trifle with the mould

Once hallowed by the Almighty's breath.

The soul hath quickened every part,

That remnant of a martial brow,-
Those ribs, that held the mighty heart,

That strong armstrong no longer now !"

The last verse is only a dilution of the two preceding lines. It is another proof of how frequently Bryant weakens a noble metaphor by a needless elaboration. Not content, however, with the bold, graphic force of his first expression, he elongates it till the force is considerably impaired.

« 上一頁繼續 »