網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

FRANCES SARGENT OSGOOD.

It is very seldom that a woman of any real genius has so great a facility of throwing her fancies into shape as Mrs. Osgood. Had her utterance been more difficult she would have written better. Mrs. Hemans was an example of how much fine poetry is weakened by that elegant clothing of satin which she could so easily throw over her children. The very opening poem of the American poetess is a striking instance. It reminds us of a weak translation of some of Anacreon's odes by Thomas Moore.

"Love, no more with that soul of fire
Sweep the strings and sound the lyre;
All too wild the sad refrain,
When thy touch awakes the strain.
Thou henceforth must veil thy face,
With its blush of childish grace,
Still thy sweet entrancing tone,
Fold thy wings and weep alone!"

The idea is here positively so weakened by amplification that we can hardly be said to recognise one in the whole eight lines. What can be done in that number of verses every reader of Goldsmith can tell—

"When lovely woman stoops to folly."

The lady whom we thus criticise tells us what she can perform in a small compass, when she pleases—

"Lyre! amid whose chords my soul,
Lulled, enchanted, proudly stole,
Folly, vanity, and mirth,
Long have turned thy tones to earth,
I will tarfe thee hushed and holy,
Changed in heart, and sad and lowly,
Into Nature's mother's heart,
There I'll lay thee down to rest."

This species of verse is very captivating. It seems as though it were the same that Pope said—" Lord, Fanny spins a thousand such a day." To be closely written it is perhaps more difficult than any in the language. Lord Byron was one of the few that could wield the Anacreontic rhythm with much effect.

In her " Spirit of Poetry" there is a great tenderness and a deep yearning after the undefined.

"Leave me not yet! leave me not cold and lonely,

Thou dear ideal of my pining heart!
Thou art the friend—the beautiful—the only

Whom I would keep, though all the world depart!
Thou that dost veil the frailest flower with glory,

Spirit of light, and loveliness, and truth,

Thou that didst tell me a sweet fairy story,

Of the dim future, in my wistful youth."

There are, however, far too many lines in this poem; nevertheless there is a tine vein of impassioned feeling throughout.

In "Ermengardes Awakening" there are many stanzas of great beauty.

"And the proud woman thrilled to its false glory,
And when the murmur of her own true soul
Told in low lute tones love's impassioned story

She dreamed that music from the statue stole,
And knelt adoring at the silent shrine,
Her own divinity had made divine.

* * * * * *

"Like Egypt's queen in her imperial play,

She in abandonment more wildly sweet t

Melted the pearl of her pure life away,

And poured the rich libation at its feet;
And in exulting rapture dreamed the smile
That should have answered in its eye the while."

This stanza is full of woman's best thought:

"And in her desolate agony she cast

Her form beside love's shivered treasure there,
And cried,' Oh, God! my life of life is past,

And I am left alone with my despair!'
Hark, from the lute one low, melodious sigh,
Thrilled to her heart a sad yet sweet reply!"

In her "Eurydice" there are lines so full of passionate feeling that we seem to be sharing the thought of something between man and woman:

"Now soft and low a prelude sweet springs,
As if a prisoned angel, pleading there

For life and love, were fettered 'neath the strings,

And poured his passionate soul upon the air.
Anon it clangs with wild, exultant swell,
Till the full paean peals triumphantly through hell."

In the verses to Queen Victoria on her way to Guildhall, we noticed that yearning after the glitter of the old despotism which is so marked a feature in the upper classes of American society. Turkey carpets, brilliant furniture, and crowded balls, insensibly undermine that republican independence so indispensable to the welfare of the American people.

Sometimes she endeavors to mix up instruction with song, as in "Laborare est Orare," but she is not successful in these attempts.

"' Labor is worship,'—the robin is singing:
'Labor is worship,'—the wild bee is singing:
Listen that eloquent whisper upspringing,
Speaks to thy soul from out nature's great heart."

The greatest attempt Mrs. Osgood has made is in her "Fragments of an Unfinished Story." Here we have a poem of nearly four hundred lines in blank verse, which we have been told by the authoresses themselves is the most difficult of all for a lady to write. One can easily comprehend this; the delicate feminine nature is carried along by her musical sympathies, and there is something too independent in a verse which leans not on rhyme for support.

The commencement contains a very startling creed, which we suppose few are ready to give faith to.

"A friend! are you a friend? No, by my soul,
Since you dare breathe the shadow of a doubt
That I am true as truth. Since you give not
Unto my briefest look—my gayest word,
My faintest change of cheek, my softest touch,
Most sportive, causeless smile, or low-breathed sigh-
Nay, to my voice's lightest modulation,
Though imperceptible to all but you;
If you give not to these, unquestioning,
A limitless faith, the faith you give to heaven—
I will not call you friend."

It is a pity the fair writer had not put this idea into half the space. She has wiredrawn the sentiment till we lose its form altogether. Every line obliterates a part of the image instead of completing it.

"Deny me faith—that poor yet priceless boon,
And you deny the very soul of love!"

Here we have the whole summed up in a concise manner, which we wish she would more frequently employ. She well

"What though a thousand seeming proofs condemn me?
If my calm image smile not dear through all,
Serene and without shadow on your heart!
Nay, if the very vapors that would visit it,
Part not illumined by its presence pure,
As round night's tranquil queen the clouds divide,
Then rend it from that heart!"

We recognise in every page that tendency to sacrifice sense to sound—the thought to the melody. This, we are aware, is a

« 上一頁繼續 »