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Richard H. DANA, eminent alike as a poet and essayist, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the 15th of November, 1787. His father, Francis Dana, was minister to Russia during the Revolution, and subsequently member of the Massachusetts Convention for adopting the United States Constitution, member of Congress, and chief justice of his native State. At the age of ten, the son went to Newport, Rhode Island, the residence of his maternal grandfather, the Hon. William Ellery, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Here he remained till he entered Harvard College; on leaving which, he entered upon the study of the law. After admission to the Boston bar, he was for a time in the office of Gen. Robert Goodloe Harper, of Baltimore. Eventually, however, he concluded to return to his native town and there enter upon the practice of his profession. But he soon found it too laborious for his health and not congenial to his tastes: accordingly he gave it up, and made an arrangement with his relative, Prof. Edward T. Channing, to assist him in conducting the “North American Review,” which had then been established about two years. In 1821, he published his Idle Man, in numbers, in which were some of his most admirable tales. But the general tone of it was too high to be popular, and the publication was relinquished. His first poem, The Dying Raven, he published in 1825, in the “New York Review,” then edited by the poet Bryant. Two years after, he published The Buccaneer, and other Poems, and in 1833, his Poems and Prose Writings. His lectures on Shakspeare, which have been delivered in many cities of the Union, he has not given to the press. In 1850, Baker & Scribner published a complete edition of his Poems and Prose Writings, in two volumes." Of late years Mr. Dana has given us nothing new ; nor need he, to be secure of his immortality. He lives a life of quiet domestic retirement, his summer residence being a picturesque spot on the shores of Cape Ann, while during the winter months he lives in Boston.
The longest poem of Mr. Dana is The Buccaneer. It is a tale of piracy and murder, and of a terrible supernatural retribution. The character of the Buccaneer, Matthew Lee, is drawn in a few bold and masterly lines. Disappointed in an effort to engage in honest trade, he makes up his mind to devote his life to piracy. A young bride, whose husband has fallen in the Spanish war, seeks a passage in his ship to some distant shore. The ship is at sea. The murderer is
1 “In Mr. Dana's poetry the moral and religious element is as strongly marked as in his prose, and constitutes that indwelling power which elevates the whole to so high a sphere. Inasmuch as religious truth touches the soul so closely, affects its most hidden and secret life, and excites its profoundest and loftiest emotions, no mind which has not been moved by such truths can fully appreciate the highest products of literature or art, much less produce them.”—North American Review, January, 1851.
“We admire Mr. Dana more than any other American poet, because he has aimed not merely to please the imagination, but to rouse up the soul to a solemn consideration of its future destinies. We admire him because his poetry is full of benevolent, domestic feeling; but, more than this, because it is full of religious feeling. The fountain which gushes here has mingled with the ‘well of water springing up to everlasting life,’”—Rev. George B. Cheever.
meditating his deed of death. The fearful scene follows. How strong, distinct, and terrible is the description of the pirate's feelings, and
He cannot look on her mild eye, -
Her patient words his spirit quell.
Within that evil heart there lie
The hates and fears of hell.
His speech is short; he wears a surly brow.
There's none will hear the shriek. What fear ye now?
The workings of the soul ye fear;
Ye fear the power that goodness hath;
Ye fear the Unseen One, ever near,
Walking his ocean path.
From out the silent void there comes a cry:—
“Wengeance is mine ! Thou, murderer, too shalt die!”
Nor dread of ever-during woe,
Nor the sea's awful solitude,
Can make thee, wretch, thy crime forego.
Then, bloody hand,-to blood |
The scud is driving wildly overhead;
The stars burn dim; the ocean moans its dead.
Moan for the living, moan our sins,—
The wrath of man, more fierce than thine.
Hark! still thy waves | The work begins:
Lee makes the deadly sign.
The crew glide down like shadows. Eye and hand
Speak fearful meanings through the silent band.
They're gone. The helmsman stands alone,
And one leans idly o'er the bow.
Still as a tomb the ship keeps on ;
Nor sound nor stirring now.
Hush : harks as from the centre of the deep,
Shrieks' fiendish yells They stab them in their sleep!
The scream of rage, the groan, the strife,
The blow, the gasp, the horrid cry,
The panting, throttled prayer for life,
The dying's heaving sigh,
The murderer's curse, the dead man's fix’d, still glare,
And fear's and death's cold sweat, they all are there !
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.
Lee look'd. “They sleep so sound,” he, laughing, said,
“They’ll scarcely wake for mistress or for maid.”
A crash . They've forced the door; and then
One long, long, shrill, and piercing scream
Comes thrilling 'bove the growl of men.
'Tis hers' O God, redeem
From worse than death thy suffering, helpless child !
That dreadful shriek again,_sharp, sharp, and wild !
To look on man, and deem it strange
That he on things of earth should brood,
When all the throng’d and busy range
To her was solitude,-
Oh, this was bitterness! Death came and press'd
Her wearied lids, and brought the sick heart rest.
THE HUSBAND AND WIFE's GRAVE.
Husband and wife. No converse now ye hold,
As once ye did in your young day of love,
On its alarms, its anxious hours, delays,
Its silent meditations and glad hopes,
Its fears, impatience, quiet sympathies;
Nor do ye speak of joy assured, and bliss
Full, certain, and possess'd. Domestic cares
Call you not now together. Earnest talk
On what your children may be moves you not.
Ye lie in silence, and an awful silence;
Not like to that in which ye rested once
Most happy, silence eloquent, when heart
With heart held speech, and your mysterious frames,
Harmonious, sensitive, at every beat
Touch'd the soft notes of love.
Is this thy prison-house, thy grave, then, Love? And doth death cancel the great bond that holds Commingling spirits? Are thoughts that know no bounds, But, self-inspired, rise upward, searching out The Eternal Mind, the Father of all thought, Are they become mere tenants of a tomb :
And do our loves all perish with our frames? Do those that took their root and put forth buds,
And their soft leaves unfolded in the warmth
Of mutual hearts, grow up and live in beauty,
Then fade and fall, like fair, unconscious flowers ?
Are thoughts and passions that to the tongue give speech,
And make it send forth winning harmonies,
That to the cheek do give its living glow,
And vision in the eye the soul intense
With that for which there is no utterance,—
Are these the body's accidents —no more?—
To live in it, and, when that dies, go out
Like the burnt taper's flame?
Oh, listen, man 11
A voice within us speaks the startling word,
“Man, thou shalt never die l’’ Celestial voices
Hymn it around our souls; according harps,
By angel fingers touch'd when the mild stars
Of morning sang together, sound forth still
The song of our great immortality;
Thick-clustering orbs, and this our fair domain,
The tall, dark mountains, and the deep-toned seas,
Join in this solemn, universal song.
Oh, listen ye, our spirits; drink it in
From all the airl 'Tis in the gentle moonlight;
Is floating in day's setting glories; Night,
Wrapp'd in her sable robe, with silent step
Comes to our bed and breathes it in our ears:
Night and the dawn, bright day and thoughtful eve,
All time, all bounds, the limitless expanse, -
As one great mystic instrument, are touch'd
By an unseen, living Hand, and conscious chords
Quiver with joy in this great jubilee.
The dying hear it; and as sounds of earth
Grow dull and distant, wake their passing souls
To mingle in this heavenly harmony.
Why is is that I linger round this tomb :
What holds it? Dust that cumber'd those I mourn.
They shook it off, and laid aside earth's robes,
And put on those of light. They're gone to dwell
In love, their God's and angels'. Mutual love,
That bound them here, no longer needs a speech
For full communion; nor sensations strong,
Within the breast, their prison, strive in vain
To be set free, and meet their kind in joy.
I thank thee, Father,
That at this simple grave on which the dawn
Is breaking, emblem of that day which hath
No close, thou kindly unto my dark mind
Hast sent a sacred light, and that away
o “We scarcely know where, in the English language, we could point out a finer extract than this, of the same character. It has a softened grandeur worthy of the subject; especially in the noble paragraph commencing ‘Oh, listen, man *" -Rev. G. B. Cheev ER.
From this green hillock, whither I had come
In sorrow, thou art leading me in joy.
THE DEATH OF SIN AND THE LIFE OF HOLINESS.
Blinded by passion, man gives up his breath,
Uncall’d by God. We look, and name it death.
Mad wretch the soul hath no last sleep; the strife
To end itself but wakes intenser life
In the self-torturing spirit. Fool, give o'er 1
Hast thou once been, yet think'st to be no more?
What! life destroy itself? Oh, idlest dream,
Shaped in that emptiest thing, a doubter's scheme !
Think'st in a universal soul will merge
Thy soul, as rain-drops mingle with the surge?
Or, scarce less skeptic, sin will have an end,
And thy purged spirit with the holy blend
In joys as holy? Why a sinner now Ż
As falls the tree, so lies it. So shalt thou.
God's Book, rash doubter, holds the plain record.
Dar'st talk of hopes and doubts against that Word?
Or palter with it in a quibbling sense?
That Book shall judge thee when thou passest hence.
Then, with thy spirit from the body freed, **
Then shalt thou know, see, feel, what's life indeed.
Bursting to life, thy dominant desire
Shall upward flame, like a fierce forest fire;
Then, like a sea of fire, heave, roar, and dash,-
Roll up its lowest depths in waves, and flash
A wild disaster round, like its own woe,
Each wave cry, “Woe forever!” in its flow,
And then pass on, from far adown its path
Send back commingling sounds of woe and wrath,
Th’ indomitable Will shall know no sway;
God calls, man, hear him; quit that fearful way !
Come, listen to His voice who died to save
Lost man, and raise him from his moral grave;
From darkness show'd a path of light to heaven;
Cried, “Rise and walk: thy sins are all forgiven.”
Blest are the pure in heart. Wouldst thou be blest ? He'll cleanse thy spotted soul. Wouldst thou find rest? Around thy toils and cares he'll breathe a calm, And to thy wounded spirit lay a balm, From fear draw love, and teach thee where to seek Lost strength and grandeur, with the bow’d and meek.
Come lowly; he will help thee. Lay aside
That subtle, first of evils, human pride.
Know God, and, so, thyself; and be afraid
To call aught poor or low that he has made.
Fear naught but sin; love all but sin; and learn
In all beside 'tis wisdom to discern
His forming, his creating power, and bind
Earth, self, and brother to th' Eternal Mind.