ePub 版


THERE are a simplicity and individuality about Dana's writings, which give him the decided impress of being a man of more originality than he really possesses.

There is less reliance upon foreign sources for his subjects ; he likewise treats them in a manner of his own, which compels the reader to respect him for his intention, if he cannot applaud him for the successful result of his experiment.

We shall treat of his poems first, and then consider him as a lecturer and essayist.

He is well known to the public as the author of the “Buccaneer,” a poem of great merit, and full of fine thoughts, simply and forcibly described.

His portrait of the freebooter himself is drawn with a vigorous pencil. There is a total absence of all tawdry or adventitious embellishments in this old poet's verse, which stands out in bold relief to the artificial elegances and cuckoo-note tracks of many modern and fashionable authors.

“Twelve years are gone since Matthew Lee

Held in this isle unquestioned sway;

A dark, low, brawny man was he;

His law,— It is my way!
Beneath his thickset brows a sharp light broke

From small grey eyes: his laugh a triumph spoke.”
This is a bold Roman kind of verse, which at once tells upon
the reader. It somewhere or other strongly reminds us of
Wordsworth's opening stanza of “Rob Roy :"

“ A famous man was Robin Hood,

The English ballad-singer’s joy;
But Scotland boasts a man as good,
It is her bold Rob Roy."

* * *

And shortly after come these lines :

“ The good old rule, the simple plan,

That they shall take who have the power,

And they shall keep who can.” These coincidences are, however, unavoidable in poetry when they partake of the same peculiar nature, and many of Dana's simple, manly productions, remind us of the poet-laureate's.

The American writer dashes off with a few vigorous touches a graphic picture of the old Buccaneer.

“ Cruel of heart, and strong of arm;

Loud in his sport, and keen for spoil,
He little recked of good or harm,-

Fierce both in mirth and toil.
Yet like a dog could fawn, if need there were ;
Speak mildly when he would, or look in fear !"

Of another order in poetry, we quote some verses which

show the old poet's strength of hand in painting the sea; it is very suggestive to remark how the nature of the writer comes out in describing the same object. Byron, Cooper, and Dana, of moderns, have been successful in interesting the reader in the glorious old ocean. How differently, yet the same! The quiet simplicity of Dana is shown in these lines :

“ But when the light winds lie at rest,

And on the glassy heaving sea,
The black duck, with her glossy breast, .

Sits swinging silently.
How beautiful! no ripples break the reach,
And strong waves go noiseless up the beach.”

Observe how little the subjective part of imagination is called into play here; only one incidental allusion of a remote kind in the ejaculation, “how beautiful !" All is pure outside description, simply and faithfully rendered.

6 "T is fearful! on the broad-backed waves,

To feel them shake, and hear them roar,
Beneath, unsounded, dreadful caves,

Around, no cheerful shore.
Yet ’mid this solemn world what deeds are done!
The curse goes up, the deadly sea-fight's won.

* * * * *
The ship works hard; the sea runs high;

Their white tops flashing through the night,
Give to the eager straining eye,
A wild and shifting light.

* * *

On pale dead men, on burning cheek,

On quick, fierce eyes, brows hot and damp,
On hands that with the warm blood reek,

Shines the dim cabin lamp!

As swung the sea with heavy beat,
Below, and hear it break
With sayage roar, then pause and gather strength,
And then come tumbling in its swollen length.”

All this is literal, external painting. The two last lines are powerful; for, although the word “tumbling” is not very heroic, yet it is to a certain extent appropriately used in describing the mammoth rolling of the billows; nevertheless, there is a clumsiness about the word we do not like in connexion with the mighty ocean. There is a Titan march in the sea's movements which demands a word for itself.

“ A sound is in the Pyrenees !

Whirling and dark comes roaring down
A tide as of a thousand seas,

Sweeping both cowl and crown:
A field and vineyard, thick and red it stood,
Spain's streets and palaces are wet with blood !"

There is a sternness about this poem, indeed about all his poetry, which deducts materially from the delights we generally feel in reading strong bold verse. To a certain extent, Dana reminds us of Crabbe. He, however, as certainly excels the English poet in dignity of treatment, as he falls below bim in those minute descriptions which so frequently give to Crabbe's poems the air of condensed prose placed in lines of equal length, the two last syllables of which are forced to rhyme.

Occasionally there are touches of great beauty and tenderness, which show that the poet can bring the tear as well as move respect.

“ Too late for thee, thou young fair bride,

The lips are cold, the brow is pale,
That thou didst kiss in love and pride;

He cannot hear thy wail,
Whom thou didst lull with fondly murmured sound,
His couch is cold and lonely in the ground.
“ He fell for Spain-her Spain no more,

For he was gone who made it dear;
And she would seek some distant shore,

Away from strife and fear;
And wait amid her sorrows till the day
His voice of love should call her thence away.”

The Buccaneer persuades her to embark on board his vessel.

“ With wealth and servants she is soon aboard,
And that white steed she rode beside her lord.

“ The sun goes down upon the sea,

The shadows gather round her home;
How like a pall are ye to me,

My home how like a tomb!
O blow, ye flowers of Spain, above his head,
Ye will not blow o'er me when I am dead.”

We are perpetually reminded, by every quotation, how ill-adapted for a sustained narrative is the stanza employed by Dana for this, the longest of his poems.

« 上一頁繼續 »