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Fall outward; terribly thou springest forth,
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 yeoman's iron hand.
“Hills flung the cry to hills around,
And ocean-mart replied to mart,
Into the forest's heart.
“Then marched the brave from rocky steep,
From mountain river swift and cold;
up the strong and bold,
As if the very earth again
Grew quick with God's creating breath,
To battle to the death.
“The wife, whose babe first smiled that day,
The fair fond bride of yestereve,
Saw the loved warriors haste
away, And deemed it sin to grieve.
“ Already had the strife begun;
Already blood on Concord's plain
Like brooks of April rain.
6. That death-stain on the vernal sward
Hallowed to freedom all the shore;
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;
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,
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
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!
Once hallowed by the Almighty's breath.
“ The soul hath quickened every part,
That remnant of a martial brow,-
That strong arm-strong 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.
“ 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,
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!