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rightly at things, and with their own eyes. He is a pioneer as braye, and as indomitable in clearing away obstructions to the growth of mind, as are those of the West in clearing the soil. Many a great work and many a noble deed will yet take its date from his words, and if they have the power to produce such fruit, and we affirm that they have to a high degree, who shall say this man is an opponent to Christianity? Who, indeed, but those who make that doctrine a business, and not a rule of life! We have one other phase in which we wish to present our author, and that is, as a poet. The selections we have made from his prose have already given evidence of his poetic faculty, not as a poet of passion, but of reason. x
Mr. Emerson possesses so many characteristics of genius that his want of universality is the more to be regretted; the leading feature of his mind is intensity; he is deficient in heart sympathy. Full to overflowing with intellectual appreciation, he is incapable of that embracing reception of impulses which gives to Byron so large a measure of influence and fame. Emerson is elevated, but not expansive; his flight is high, but not extensive. He has a magnificent vein of the purest gold, but it is not a mine. To vary our illustration somewhat, he is not a world, but a district; a lofty and commanding eminence we admit, but only a very small portion of the true Poet's universe. What, however, he has done is permanent, and America will always in after times be proud of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and consider him one of her noblest sons.
NATHANIEL PARKER WILLIS.
There is a want of naturalness in Mr. Willis's writings which will inevitably affect their continuance, and we have doubts whether any of his numerous prose works will remain permanent portions of Literature.
There are two descriptions of popularity which are essentially different; the first is founded on the human heart, the other is merely supported by the conventionalities of the present time. Popularity is, therefore, not a sure test; we should then first inquire what kind of popularity an author possesses before we decide upon his relative chance of immortality.
How many great celebrities have passed away? Who was so popular as Churchill in his own day? Yet he is now seldom read or quoted. His popularity was built on a figment of Human Nature, and not based on the breath of the Heart of Man. He was a satirist, and not a poet; the personal dies with the man and his victim, but the universal will live for ever. In like manner, to descend to the present day, we can come pretty near a prophetic glance into the future, by carefully selecting the characteristics of any author, and judging him by that unerring standard. We may give as an instance Mr. Thackeray, whose productions are now so generally read and lauded; the slightest glance at him will convince the critic that when the peculiar phase of society he treats on shall pass away, he will likewise go with it. It is also worthy of observation that the very fact which might in some cases preserve it becomes its destroyer. It might naturally be supposed that it would be prized as a record of the past; but it seems as though the interest died away with the thing described.
On this ground we fear that Mr. Willis will not be an enduring writer. The persiflage and piquancy of his style, which are now so enticing, will in a few years become the obscurers of his fame, just as the pertness and vivacity of the blooming girl become intolerable in the matron. Posterity demands something substantial, condensed, and truthful. It is a very close-judging critic, and all personal considerations are lost upon it. Appeals to feeling are unknown; it is the Rhadamanthus of authors. The present race, on the other hand, are too apt to overlook the solid merits of a work, and be taken by the tinsel of the outside garb; they choose beauty, grace, or accomplishment, before virtue or truth. Many honorable, noble natures sit in the judgment-seat and discourse most excellent music, but their audiences grow weary and thin away, till they themselves depart unheeded; while the dancing girl, organgrinder, tumbler, or Punch and Judy, have a ready and numerous crowd of listeners.
However much this may be deplored, it cannot be helped. The present race is not instructed by its contemporaries, but by its ancestors. The writers of the day only amuse; the living man is listened to only as long as he is entertaining or exciting; but the grave sanctifies the voice of the dead, and arrests the traveller's attention. The Siste Viator of the sepulchre is the "open sesame" to the attention of the world.
We have thought it necessary to make these preliminary remarks, lest our estimate of so popular an author as Mr. Willis should be considered harsh or unjust. It will be seen we try our American men of genius by the highest standard. It is no child's plaything that they have to bend, but the Bow of Ulysses; and we feel sure, upon a little consideration, they will consider it as a compliment rather than a detraction or reproach. We want them to be fellow-laborers with Marlow, Shakspeare, Milton, and Halley, and men of that calibre, and not the playfellows of the minnesinger and the troubadour.
To quote the verse of Watts :—
"Were I so tall as reach the pole,
It is not his popularity by which we must measure the author, but the intellect he puts forth. This is a perpetual landmark not washed away by every strong tide of opinion, always ebbing and flowing, but unmoved and visible to all.
Intellect is even more unvarying than faith. Plato, Euclid, Aristotle, and the Greek dramatists, remain undiminished, like the pyramids. Time consolidates the achievements of poetry, philosophy, and mathematics. All minds, even now, bow to the masters of thought; but the religious faith of these great men is now too childish for even the boy, and we read it now, and regard it, as a fable or an absurdity.
This fact will lead us to a better estimate of our living authors than we shall attain without keeping it fully in view. We are aware there is a certain instinct in our nature, which seems to forbid or modify any admiration of one with whom we are in the habit of frequent intercourse. Our egotism steps in and places before the brightness of their inner mind, the blinding or intercepting screen of those personal infirmities or necessities which are part and parcel of human nature, and the absence of which places a man out of the pale of humanity itself. All see and feel the palpable injustice of this mode of judging, but inevitably fall into it.
The poet felt this when he said:
"Let fame, which all hunt after in their lives,
The grave seems to be the only pedestal on which a man shows to advantage.
Mr. Willis first became popular with a class on account of his sacred poems. These are still much admired. Our first impression was with his admirers, but our more matured judgment is bound to state that they lack the very soul of sacred poetry, simplicity and earnestness. They are too elegant to be sublime, and breathe more of the perfumer's shop than the fragrant incense of the altar.
A few quotations will illustrate our meaning, and we hope establish our judgment; at all events, it will enable the reader to decide upon either our discretion or our candor.