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“ Spare them—each mouldering relic spare,
Of God's own image: let them rest,
The awful likeness was impressed."
There is more of curious thought than truth or simplicity in the following, although it has been highly praised by some critics.
“ For he was fresher from the hand
That formed of earth the human face,
In nearer kindred than our race.”
We repeat, that there is more of “fancy” than “truth” in this stanza. We do not see the natural force of Mr Bryant saying that, being born a century ago, brings us nearly related to either fire, air, earth, or water. This is, in our humble opinion, a very false species of poetry,
“ In many a flood to madness tost,
In many a storm has been his path,
* * * * * *
But we must forgive this probable error when we remember these lines.
“ The stars looked forth to teach his way,
The still earth warned him of the foe.”
To those who know the nature of a Red Indian these two lines are perfect in their portraiture. Even to us, an Englishman, we feel the force and beauty of the description, but then we confess to a long and careful study of Cooper, the best substitute for nature. While these sheets have been passing through the press, we have observed how inadequately we have expressed our admiration of this great novelist's scenes from nature. We lately met one who had been a dweller in the woods, and a roamer over the prairies of this magnificent country, and he declared that next to having been in those scenes was the study of Cooper. He concluded by declaring that Mr. Irving's description of the prairie was a mere “pic-nic” account of an amateur visit ; if we are wrong here, the American public will very properly correct us.
To return to Mr. Bryant. How gloriously the poet recovers himself, and throws his whole force into the concluding verse.
“A noble race, but they are gone,
With their old forests wide and deep,
Fields where their generations sleep.
Upon their fields our harvest waves,
Ah! let us spare at least their graves !"
We cannot resist the temptation of quoting two stanzas from “ The Lapse of Time,” merely to avow our firm conviction in the truth of the prophecy.
“ The years, that o'er each sister land,
Shall lift the country of my birth
The pride and pattern of the earth!
“ Till younger commonwealths for aid
Shall cling about her ample robe,
The crowned oppressors of the globe !"
It may be safely predicated, by any one accustomed to look philosophically at the movements of time, that it is reserved for the American republic to shield her great parent, England herself, from the assaults of the old despotisms.
From this historical glance into the future, let us turn to a pleasant page in Mr. Bryant's present. It is a short description of an American nymph.
“ Oh! fairest of the rural maids !
Thy birth was in the forest shades;
We cannot help breaking off, in this otherwise beautiful poem, to remark that unfortunate taste which compelled Mr.
Bryant to spoil the fine natural effect of his entire poem, by comparing a lady's eyelashes into herbs hanging down Narcissus-like, and admiring themselves in the “gutta serena” of her own eyes. As usual, however, he rallies, and winds up the whole poem nobly and appropriately.
“ The forest depths, by foot unprest,
The companion picture to the American maiden of Bryant is Wordsworth's beautiful verses to the English wife. A poet seldom succeeds when he praises one of his own family, but here Mrs. Wordsworth has inspired the poet of Rydal. These are well known to be addressed to his wife.
6 SHE WAS A PHANTOM.
“ She was a phantom of delight
“I saw her upon nearer view,
A spirit, yet a woman too!
And steps of virgin-liberty ;
“ And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine ;
With something of angelic light.” In our foregoing extracts we have endeavored to illustrate every opinion and observation we have made by characteristic extracts from the poet's writing. It is impossible to rise from the study of Mr. Bryant's poems without feeling more in harmony with nature and man than the spirit generally feels. We know that we have been calmly, kindly reasoned with by a good, calm, sad, Christian man, who, having no turbulence in himself, endeavors to throw the quiet mantle of his own reflective spirit over his companions.
He looks upon nature with the platonic admiration of a sage, and not with the disturbing passion of a lover; he feels towards all visible beauty more as a friend than as a wooer, and in this spirit realizes the thought of Shakspeare :