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cause they want to write. We cannot wait for our brains to grow, because of our haste to coin them into books. Moreover, men once wrote for immortality, and therefore wrote to the wise and good, knowing that they alone had immortality to bestow; but, now-a-days, men write chiefly for money, and they know well enough, that knaves and dunces have money to give quite as often as any others. Human life, too, was once a serious piece of work, and people could afford time for no reading but such as would tend to make them wiser and better; and hence authors crowded as much matter into as little space as possible. But now, since human life has become but an idle jest or farce, and people read only to have their brains tickled and time killed, or because they cannot sleep, authors of course spread as little matter over as much space as possible. And finally, men were sometime content to cast their ifts silently into the ocean of time, oping, perhaps, that they might return after many days to elevate and bless a future age. Writing for all coming time, they of course sought to dip their pens in the colors of eternal truth, and baptise their offspring in the spirit of eternal beauty. Their works, therefore, appeal to the universal mind and heart of man, and are, in a greater or less degree, trancripts of universal humanity. But now it is rare for a man to cast his gifts into any other than some puddle of popular favor, that they may quickly return to flatter or feed himself. Writing only for the pudding or o of the time, he of course adopts the language of the time, and shapes his wares to suit the dullness of those whose custom he seeks. His writings, therefore, are but a transcript of the fashions and follies of the age; they are truly nothing, like their originals, and speedily sink, along with those originals, into their essential nonentity; while the vapor-bag, upon which he sits at noon, perched aloft in conspicuous littleness, collapses, perchance, into a winding sheet for him, as soon as the cool of evening visits it. But does any one say, he dare trust his own judgment, and follow his own taste Most assuredly, then, neither his taste nor his judgment is worth a straw ; for if it were, it would tell him at once that time is a far better test of excellence, than any faculties he can possess. Moreover, it is only what is superficial, what is on a level with ourselves, that immediately takes our ap
proval, and marches off with our purse. A shallow, pretentious man, touching but the surface of the mind, acts quickly and noisily, but effects nothing ; a genuine thinker, striking at the depths of the mind, acts slowly and silently, but does up the work. e, who would raise us, must first get above us, himself; and before he can exalt us to a just appreciation and remuneration of his gifts, he will have gone to a richer and purer reward than we can bestow. The visits of the gods, we read, were never known till after their departure. While they are with us, our “eyes are holden,” that we cannot see them; and when they have opened our eyes their mission to us is discharged. He who has any true culture at all, cannot but know there is a height which he hath not reached; a glory which he hath not seen ; a beauty which he hath not felt ; and he will choose rather to visit the light, even though his ignorance should be put to shame, than to skulk in the dark, and fatten his pride by “sucking the paws of his own self-importance.” But there are other weighty reasons for cultivating an acquaintance with the literature of the past. If the present be the element in which we must live, and the material with which we must work, it would seem quite indispensable that we should know the present. But we can truly know the present only by studying the past; for “the present was born of the past.” It was there that its infancy was nursed ; that the foundations of its being were laid; and it is there, and there alone, that we can trace its pedigree and test its legitimacy—that we can study its actual developments in their rudiments and first principles. Now, the literature of an age unquestionably reveals its highest law, and affords the truest exponent of its manifold impulses and activities; it is, indeed, the very abstract and epitome of its manycolored, thousand-souled being. Every great authoris, to some extent, a synoptical expression of his age; his mind is the concentrated essence of the innumerable minds that make up its character. He is, therefore, its true spiritual plenipotentiary—the heaven-selected organ, through whom it gets its fullest and faithfulest representation. Most people seem to think it the business of history to teach us all that can or need be known of the past; but the truth is, history could not do it, if she would ; for what is history, what can she be, but one age speaking about another age But the literature of an age is the age itself, speaking for itself, and telling the tale of its own life; it is therefore a genuine autobiography of the age—an autobiography, too, that is always authentic, even when it lies; for it thereby discloses at least the fact of its own mendacity. If, then, we would trul know the present, we must study it through the past; and if we would truly know the past, we must study it in its literature. Edmund Spenser and rare old Ben Johnson will undoubtedly give us more real insight into the Elizabethan age, than all the Humes that ever have written, or ever will write. Of the manifold attractions, too, that cluster around old authors, we cannot choose but say a few words. It is constantly manifest that they wrote, not fiom mere memory or hearsay, but from inspection and actual vision. It is from the very mines they have themselves labored in, that they bring their contributions; and their intensity of thought has penetrated their gifts with the effluence of their own souls. It is this ineffable charm of sincerity, this spirit-stirring earnestness of mind—a quality so rare, and yet so priceless—that forms their crowning beauty and worth. This quality is especially characteristic of the old English poets, imparting a manly vigor and truthfulness to their pages. They seem always trying how much truth they can speak, not how finely and elegantly they can write; and therefore give us something better than mere lip-blossoms and ruffle-bosoms. From most of modern poems, we should naturally o to be but a sort of unspoken and unspeakable language done into verse; it would hardly occur to us that anything deeper than a finished euphonious tongue could be concerned in its production. Finding but the tritest meaning, or the vapidest no-meaning, disguised in the most far-fetched words and figures, and thus embroidered out into seeming dignity, we get to think that profound and original thought has no fellowship with poetry. But in the elder poets we everywhere meet with the most original, sometimes even farfetched thoughts, clothed in the simplest and commonest language; and we find, to our surprise perhaps, that poetry may be most deeply and beautifully true, without ceasing to be most truly and beautifully poetical. They i. not
learned to drive verse-making as a trade —those old poets—heaven bless them : With them poetry was the noblest utterance of humanity, and for the noblest ends; not the mere urging of a craft. Full of freshness, simplicity, and sincerity, they seem to have written from the irrepressible strugglings of thought and feeling within them. No windy mouthings, no counterfeits of emotion, no apings of passion, no maudlin sentimentalities, no starched and crimped frivolities, no vapid truisms wrapped up in bombastic novelty, are here; they had thought deeply and felt strongly, and their poetry is the simple and natural expression of what had sprung up within them; nay, they seem to have written poetry because they could not help it, and because that is the form into which deep feeling and deep thought spontaneously shape themselves. They had communed deeply and silently with the divine beauty and soul of things; and their poetry seems to have risen up ininsensibly, like the fragrance of dewsprinkled flowers, or like “new-born music from the fields of sleep.” They had studied the great permanent features of the human heart; they had conversed with nature in her loveliest and sublimest forms, and their minds mirrored forth, with all the traces of individual distinctness, the enduring spirit of her transpirations. If they were wild and irregular, it was because nature is so ; if they were regardless of the forms and etiquette of art, it was because they saw and felt the deeper worth and power of truth; and they understood too well the harmony between the enduring features of nature and the universal laws of mind, to trick out and embellish the former to suit the accidental phases of the latter. Hence the simplicity and truthfulness of their | ". as if it flowed spontaneous from the heart of nature; it is redolent as with the breath of morning; “a virtue, as of green fields and mountain breezes, dwells in it.” Their delineations of character are not mere combinations of fragments, gleaned here and there by observation, and dovetailed together in the workshop of fancy, but living unities, with qualities of their own, expanded into life by their innate vitality, and traced in all their characteristic features to their full development. In a word, they are not aggregations, but creations; not descriptions, but representations. Nor are their poemsmere collections of pickedup accidents and far-sought particulars, bundled into some definite shape, and tied together with a string of art, but enduring principles and truths, embodied in expressive forms, and speaking an appropriate language. Instead of i. abstractions, animated costumes, walking clothes-screens, and personifications of popular passion, they introduce us to real flesh and blood—living and breathing specimens of humanity, with its tears and smiles, its hopes and fears, its grovelings and aspirings: and we sympathize with their emotions, as the offspring of real individual bosoms. One more paragraph, and we have done. Good people often seem laboring under a great mistake in regard to works of fiction. They appear to think of truth as synonimous with matters of fact, and of fiction as synonimous with falsehood. Now, there is probably nothing that lies so frequently or so abominably as narratives of facts. Why, if a man wants to make any falsehood go down, he always sweetens it with some “fact which came under his own observation.” Facts, indeed, we know to be the readiest vehicle of lies in the world; and whenever one undertakes to inflict them on us, we take for granted that there is no truth in him; or that, if there be, it is not coming out this time. On the other hand, as some one has said, the purest fictions often contain more of truth than many histories and scientific theories. In a Spenser or Cervantes, for example, perhaps you shall not find a single falsehood, or a single fact; in a Gibbon or a Paley, you shall scarcely find a single fiction or a single truth. In the former all shall be true but the names; in the latter all but the names shall be false. Take, for example, Addison's Cato and Sancho Panza. Now, Cato is unquestionably a real name; nobody doubts the existence of such a man; or that he was a genuine old, eating, breathing, thinking and speaking Roman, of the staunchest and noblest make. But Addison's Cato is one of the sheerest falsehoods that ever was perpetrated; such a being never did exist, and never could exist; all the principles of human nature must be changed before his existence were ossible. Sancho Panza, on the contrary, is doubtless a fictitious name; nobody pretends that a real man ever bore that
name; but the character is a perfect form of truth; is as real as the old Roman Cato himself was, whom Addison meant to give us, but could not; wants, in short, all that Addison's Cato has, and has all that Addison's Cato wants. And thus it is, that, in the hands of an artist, a fiction becomes the truest of realities, while, in the hands of a bungler, a fact becomes the emptiest of falsehoods. Again; take Spenser's Una and Johnson's Milton. Now, Una is a mere personification of truth —one of the purest abstractions which the mind can frame, and with which, as such, we could no more sympathize, than with a triangle or an octagon. And yet, in Spenser's hands, it has turned out a fair humanity, breathing and blushing before us, like life itself. Uniting all the purity of an abstraction, with the fleshand-blood reality of an actual person, we at once revere her as truth, and feel for her as the real subject of sympathies and affections answering to our own. Here, then, is a genuine character; a Pure abstraction has come out a living person; a perfect fiction has become a perfect truth. This is the miracle that genius periorms. Milton, on the contrary, is an actual person; nay, he has stamped his individuality, as a full length portrait, on every page of his works, so that he who runs may read, provided he haye eyes. In Johnson's hands, however, he becomes a mere abstraction; no longer he, but it; or rather, a bundle of the most inconsistent and irreconcilable abstractions. You could no more mould such elements into the same living character, than you could mix fire and water, without destroying either. Here is a genuine fact turned into a perfect falsehood. This is the miracle that genius does not perform. We could multiply instances beyond either our time or the reader's patience. It is truth, in this sense, that forms the substance and the soul of all true books; and we care not what form you give it, or into what name you christen it, it is as genuine and as indestructible as the eye of God.
But we must close this article, already longer than we intended, and longer, we fear, than our readers have wished. The subject, indeed, is a long one; and should we ever finish it, it will probably be at some future time.
READER, do you know the Mocking Bird I warrant, if he is a familiar of your childhood, you have a thousand times wondered at the strange, malignant intelligence which characterizes his tyrannical supremacy over all the feathered singers. Not only is he “accepted kin of song,” but he is the pest and terror o the groves and meadows. Spiteful and subtle, he conquers in battle, or by manoeuvre, all in reach of him; and you may easily detect his favorite haunts, by the incessant din and chatter of wrath and fear he keeps up by his malicious mockery among his neighbors. From my earliest boyhood, I can remember havin been singularly impressed by the j and curious humors of this creature. Since those times of innocent wonder, I have been a wide wanderer. The prepossessions of my fancy were irresistibly attracted by the wild legend I give below. It was o to me by an old Wako warrior. On a hill-side, above an ancient village of his tribe, while we were stretched upon the grass beneath a mosshung live-oak, he related it. The moon was out, gilding with silver alchymy the shrub-crowned crests of prairie undulations—piled, as we may conceive the waves of Ocean would be—stilled by a word from heaven, while on the leap before a tempest. It was a fitting scene for such a story. Out from the dark gorges on every side around us ascended the night-song of the Mocking-Bird. The old man had listened to the rapid, gushing symphonies for some time in deep silence—then drawing a long breath, he remarked, “That is an evil bird ‘’” I begged him for an explanation, and he proceeded.
Those peculiarities, indeed, of the Indian's phraseology—those broken, pointed expressions, so condensed and meaning, and eked out continually by significant gestures—I could hardly hope to set before the reader, were I fully able to remember them; but the wild, strange fancies of the Indian mind, believing what it
dwells upon, o half conscious that it is dreaming, will be recognized in the legend, though conveyed under forms of expression altogether different. “Yahshan—the Sun”—said the old chief, pausing reverently as he uttered the name—“in his great wigwam beyond the big waters, made the first Wako He laid him in his fire-canoe, and oared his way up through the thick mists that hung everywhere. When his arm grew tired of pulling, he took him out and stretched him on his back upon a wide, dark bank, and then rowed on his path and left him. The Wako lay like the stem of an oak, still and cold. Before Yahshan entered his night-lodge in the West, a dim, hazy light had hung over him, but it only made his broad couch look blacker, for nothing that had form was to be seen. Yahshu, the Moon, and the pale squaw of Yahshan, came forth when he had gone in, and rowed her silver bark through the ugly shadows above the Wako, to watch lest the spirits that hated Yahshan should do harm to his work, which had taken him many long ages to finish. He was very proud f it, and evil spirits hated him that he had made a thing so goodly to look upon; and they drifted hideous phantom shapes across the way of Yahshu, and tried to overwhelm her light canoe, but its keen, shining prow cut through them all, and left them torn and ragged behind her. At last, they fled; for while her . Was on the mute form of the Wako, they feared to do it harm. When all were gone, and nothing that looked like mischief was to be seen, she too went in. And then they, flocking out from the deep places where they had been hid, gathered with hot finers and red eyes about the quiet Wako. e did not stir, for his senses had not yet been waked. Quick they pried open his clenched teeth, aud poured a green smoking fluid down his throat. Just then, the prow of the fire-canoe appeared parting the eastern mists, and they all fled. Yahshan came on. He looked upon his work and smiled—for he did not know that evil had been wrought—and came now in glory, riding on golden billows, scattering the chill mists that clung around the icy form—-for it was time to wake it up with life. He rolled the yellow pregnant flood upon it and the figure shivered;—again the glowing waves pass over it—the figure was convulsed—tossed its limbs about, and rolled to and fro. Its eyes were open but it saw not, its ears were open but it heard not; it was tasteless and dumb ; it smelt not, nor did it feel. Life had gone into it, and the heart beat, the pulses throbbed, the blood coursed fast, and it was wondrous strong. But what was this Being, self-fed and self-consumed, hung upon the void of midnight, hurried and driven by its own still gathering imulse through a chaos of crude matter.
hat green liquid of the Evil One now seethed in burning currents through the veins, and it dashed away, crawling, leaping, tumbling, like a madtorrent, over piled up rocks, across the dark plain, striking against hard formless things, and rebounding to rush on more swiftly, till it had left the fire-canoe and Yahshan, all astounded, far behind, and the terror of darkness was beneath and above it. But what was this to it? On 1 on —the green fire still burned within and it must go— chasms and cliffs with jagged rocks—into them, over them all. What were rough points and bruises and crashing-down steeps, and midnight, to it? There was no feeling, yet the heart leaped, the blood careered, the limbs must follow. Motion, blind motion—no control, no guide--but through and over everything, move it must . The bad spirits thronged after it, grating and clanging their scaly pinions against each other, and croaking their pleasant gibes, when suddenly there was no footing, and the headlong form pitched down, downward, whirling through the empty gloom, while all the herd of ill things laughed and slapped themselves in the prone wake behind it.
At once, with a sigh of wings, like a sharp moan of tree-harps, a shape of light shot arrowy down amidst them. They scattered, howling with affright.— It bore up the falling Wako on strong shining vans an instant, then stretching them out, subsided slowly down and laid him on a soft dark couch again. This was Ah-i-wee-o, the soul of harmonies, the good spirit of sweet sounds. She is the great queen of Spirit-Land; Yahshan
and Yahshu are her slaves; and all the lesser fire-canoes that skim in Yahshu's train obey her. She gives all life its outer being—to know and feel beyond itself:without her, life is only motion. There is no form, no law, no existence beside; for she holds and grants them each sense, and in them reveals all these. Yahshan could give life, but not content with this, he was ambitious. The formless chaos his fire-canoe sailed over must be a world of beauty : A soul dwelt in it, but that soul was passionless and barren. Yahshan had given life to many shapes, but the cold spirit had scorned them all; and yet she must be wooed to wed herself to life, that out of the glow of that embrace might spring the eternal round of thoughts made vital, clothed out of shapeless matter with symmetry. He planned an impious scheme. He would not pray the good Ah-i-wee-o for aid, but would act alone and be the great Medicine Spirit. He would frame a creature from out the subtlest elements within this chaos, so exquisite that when it came to live, confusion would be hatmonized in it, and the order of its being go forth the law of beauty and of form to all. Then that coy spirit of desolation would be won at last, and passing into its life, a royal lineage would spring forth, and procreation wake insensate matter in myriad living things, gorgeous ideals, harmoniously wrought and selfroducing forever. All these should be }. subjects, and he would rule with Yahshu this most excellent show himself . So he labored on in the dee chambers of his night-lodge throug many cycles. The work was finished. It lay in state within his golden wigwam at the East, that Yahshu and her glittering train might look upon it and wonder. Then he carried it forth; but evil spirits are wise, and though it was a mighty work, they knew it was too daring, and that Ah-i-wee-o would punish its presumption, and would not let the senses wake with life; so they poured that fearful fluid in, that fires the blood, and makes life slay itself—They say the white man has dealt with them and learned the spell of that bad magic and makes his “fire water” by it !—So when Yahshan waked up life, its power waked too; for he knew not of the craft, and it tore the glorious work from out his hands, while they flew behind and mocked him. Ah!... bent over the swooning Wako, for the life that had been so tu