Graham's Magazine, Vol. XXXIV, No. 5, May 1849 online

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earnest, blocks out his ground, and makes sore and steady advances; and
especially when he has occasion to defend Mr. Buchanan, his intellect is
fully aroused and on the alert—he then writes with his full vigor and
spirit, and writes well. His partner, Mr. Hamilton, is one of the most
capable business printers that we know, and every thing in his
department is marked by exactness and proficiency. The press-work of the
Pennsylvanian, on each issue, is what the magazines would call “a
specimen number.”

THE TIMES.—A jaunty, crotchetty, impudent little sheet, filled with
quibs and quirks, and a sort of laughing philosophy that shouts over
seriousness. Its editor, would, if he could, go to his own funeral
dressed in ribbons, and wearing a look of rejoicing. He has the
happiness of never seeming for a moment anxious; and you might as well
punch at a wreath of smoke with a foil, as attempt to interest him in a
serious controversy. He will answer your arguments with a pun, your
serious reasoning with a laugh, and will set ridiculously on end your
most carefully rounded sentence, and go to hacking at its grammar.
Having got you out of humor, he will decline all controversy with you,
if you cannot observe the decencies and proprieties. So that the man who
urges a controversy with Du Solle, has his anger for his pains, and is
fuming while he is chatting and laughing unconcernedly upon some other
more agreeable topic. Yet the Times has never given him scope to show
the real ability and general information he possesses. He should be in
the Ledger with Lane, he would settle the “ologies” in short metre.

THE BULLETIN.—Our only evening paper, but managed with great enterprise
and vigor. Mr. Peterson’s strong Saxon words and nervous style, combined
with his various and correct learning, make the leading articles of this
journal among the ablest that we read anywhere, and have stamped a high
value upon the leading column. There is a want of editorial tact in its
less imposing, but equally important digest of news and facts. It has
all the news, but it has it in bulk, and looks at times, with its heavy,
solid nonpareil, like a little man covered with black patches, or as if
part of the paper had gone into mourning for the absence of an itemizer.
It is always up, however, to the full requirements of the public in its
telegraphic despatches, and it _had_—what has become of him—the writer
of money articles that was most regarded here. For the rest, it affects
a very nice morality in regard to the theatres, which we do not like,
and do not pretend to understand. It is too deep for us. It _advertises_
for the theatres, but does not _notice_ them. Are they wrong, or right,
or neither? We suppose there _must_ be a nice line, which casuists who
examine morals with a microscope have detected.

G. R. G.

* * * * *

DEAR GRAHAM,—Poor Tom says, “Let not the creaking of shoes, nor the
rustling of silks, betray thy poor heart to women: keep thy hand out of
plackets, and thy pen from _lenders’ books_, and defy the foul fiend.”
Without misconstruing this text more than texts are usually
misinterpreted, I opine, that from those same “_lenders’ books_” of past
generations the current literature of our day is being manufactured. The
vast shapes of the Past have overshadowed the Present, and we are in the
umbra of the eclipse. Pray tell me if there is room left in the whole
length and breadth of the world for an epic, without trenching upon the
preëmption rights of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Tasso and Milton? Then as
regards dramatic poetry—“ahem! Shakspeare.” Wit and humor? What, after
Chaucer, Rabelais, Ben Jonson, Cervantes, Butler, Swift, Pope, Sterne,
the Spectator writers generally, Fielding and Smollet? Are there any new
Continents to be discovered? Our own Irving, to be sure, has been
cruising among beautiful summer islands, and returned with a wondrous
store of wealth—jewels and gold tissues, fragrant gums, Hesperidean
apples, painted Salvages, flowers and odorous spices, to the world
unknown before. The gentle Elia has embroidered incomparable tapestries,
and formed the school of the age. Scott gathers in his mighty arms the
banners of a hundred conquests, and for melodious versification (after
Spenser) Coleridge, Shelley and Moore, in

“Numbers moving musically,”

have filled the world with harmonies, to which no echoes answer. Who
shall sweep the strings of passion after Byron! Truly, with much
thankfulness for the kind intentions of those who have written for
Posterity, we might add that it is a pity they did not leave Posterity a
little chance to write for himself. But since it is so, let us, with due
credit, make free for a time with some of those same “lenders’ books,”
for as George Wither quaintly says—

“We are neither just nor wise,
If present mercies we despise;
Or mind not how there may be made
A thankful use of what we had.”

Room, then! for one of Dante’s Angels—

“And now there came o’er the perturbed waves,
Loud-crashing, terrible, a sound that made
Either shore tremble, as if of a wind
Impetuous, from conflicting vapors sprung,
That ’gainst some forest driving all his might.
Plucks off the branches, beats them down, and hurls
Afar; then, onward passing, proudly sweeps
His whirlwind rage, while beasts and shepherds fly.

. . . . . . . .

As frogs
Before their foe, the serpent, through the wave
Ply swiftly all, till at the ground each one
Lies on a heap; more than a thousand spirits
Destroyed, so saw I fleeing before one
Who passed with unwet feet the Stygian sound,
He, _from his face removing the gross air_,
Oft his left hand forth stretched, and seemed alone
Of that annoyance wearied. I perceived
That he was sent from heaven; and to my guide
Turned me, who signal made that I should stand
Quiet and bend to him. Ah me! _how full_
_Of noble anger seemed he_. To the gate
he came, and with his wand touched it, whereat
_Open without impediment it flew_!”

Compare this with Milton’s Raphael—

“Down thither prone in flight
He speeds, and through the vast ethereal sky
Sailed between worlds and worlds, with steady wing,
Now on the polar winds, then with quick fan
Winnows the buxom air; till within soar
Of towering eagles, to all fowls he seems
A phœnix, gazed by all, as that sole bird,
When to enshrine his reliques in the sun’s
Bright temple, to Egyptian Thebes he flies.”

Or the flight of Satan—

He scours the right hand coast, sometimes the left,
Now shaves with level wing the deep, then soars
Up to the fiery concave, towering high.
As when far off at sea a fleet descried
Hangs in the clouds, by equinoctial winds
Close sailing from Bengula, or the Isles
Of Ternate and Tidore, whence merchants bring
Their spicy drugs: they on the trading flood
Through the wide Ethiopean to the Cape
Ply, stemming nightly toward the pole. So seemed
Far off the flying fiend.”

Do you not think Dante’s angel the most spiritual? He says,

“he wore
The semblance of a man by other care
Beset, and keenly pressed, than thought of him
Who in his presence stand.”

And Milton—

“——on some great charge employed
He seemed, or fixed in cogitation deep.”

The thought here is evidently borrowed from the Italian “_lender’s

There is a strange propensity to follow these lofty flights; as when in
looking from an eminence we feel a temptation to breast the blue ether
below us. We are fairly in the wake of Satan when he

“_Shaves with level wing the deep_, then soars
UP to the fiery concave—”

And now since we are pinion-mounted, like Icarus or Daniel O’Rourke, let
us select a few more familiar specimens of flying. “Look you,” from

“Triumphant on the bosom of the storm
Glances the fire-clad eagle’s wheeling form.”

And lo! from Shelly on eagle,

“—— a winged form
On all the winds of heaven approaching ever
_Floated, dilating as it came_: the storm
Pursued it with fierce blasts and lightnings swift and warm.”

The Viking’s war-ship, from Longfellow’s Saga of the Skeleton in Armor
is a brave picture,

“As with his wings aslant,
Sails the fierce cormorant,
Seeking some rocky haunt,
With his prey laden:
So toward the open main,
Beating to sea again
Through the wild hurricane,
Bore I the maiden.”

And Dryden, in his Annus Mirabilis, hath likewise a warship that

“With roomy deck, and guns of mighty strength,
Whose low-laid mouths each mounting billow laves,
Deep in her draught, and warlike in her length,
She seems a sea-wasp flying o’er the waves.”

But of all winged things the sky-lark is the bird of the poets. Hear

“Hark! hark! the lark at heaven’s gate sings,
And Phœbus ’gins arise,
His steeds to water at those springs
On chaliced flowers that lies;
And winking May-buds begin
To ope their golden eyes:
With every thing that pretty bin,
My lady sweet, arise.”

Or this from Shelley—

“Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest,
Like a cloud of fire!
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing, still dost soar; and soaring, ever singest.

“In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O’er which clouds are brightening,
Thou dost float and run;
Like an embodied joy, whose race has just begun.
All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud,
As, when night is bare,
_From one lonely cloud_
_The moon rains out her beams and heaven it overflowed._”

Coleridge, too, in his Ancient Mariner—

“Sometimes adropping from the sky
I heard the sky-lark sing;
Sometimes all little birds that are,
Now they seemed to fill the sea and air
With their sweet jargoning!
And now ’twas like all instruments,
Now like a lonely flute;
And now it is an angel’s song,
That makes the heavens be mute.”

And Wordsworth in that beautiful couplet—

“Type of the wise, who soar, but never roam;
True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home!”

There is a sweet little bird in the description of a Summer’s morning,
by Thomas Miller, which I would fain add to this goodly company—

“A little bird now hops beside the brook,
_Peeping about like an affrighted nun_,
And ever as she drinks _doth upward look_,
Twitters and drinks again; _then seeks her cloistered nook_.”

But alas the prettiest part of it is borrowed from one of those same
“lenders’ books.” John Bunyan’s—no less. The Interpreter takes
Christiana into the “Significant Rooms,” where he shows her that “one of
the chickens went to the trough to drink, _and every time she drank she
lifted up her eyes toward heaven_. ‘See,’ said he, ‘what this little
chick doth, and learn of her to acknowledge whence your mercies come, by
receiving them with looking up,’” And now, having winged our way from
angels to John Bunyan, let us lay these same lenders’ books upon the
shelves until a future period.

Truly thine,

* * * * *


_The Salamander: Found amongst the Papers of the late Ernest
Helfenstein. Edited by E. Oakes Smith. Second Edition. New York:
George P. Putnam. 1 vol. 12mo._

Mrs. Smith has written nothing so well calculated to convey to the
majority of readers a clear sense of the richness, originality, and
elevation of her genius, as this wonderful little story. It evinces a
high degree of creative power, being an organic product of the mind,
with a central principle of life, and vital in every part. The scenery,
events and characters have all a living connection with the leading idea
of the work, and illustrate each other. The form is the ever facile and
yielding instrument of the plastic spirit within, and varies with the
variations in the story and the changes in the thought or feeling
expressed. By a felicity of nature, Mrs. Smith appears instinctively to
subordinate the material to the spiritual; and thus by making the former
simply the symbol by which she expresses the latter, she spiritualizes
matter, and makes it the living body of the soul. She vivifies and
vitalizes the form until it becomes o’er informed with spirit. Natural
objects as used by the poet, derive all their effect from being the
pictorial language of impassioned thought, the visible image being but
the embodiment to the eye of the viewless force which penetrates and
animates it; and fitly to employ objects as exponents of thoughts, a
firm, decisive grasp of spiritual realities, of something lying back of
all expression, is necessary. The moment the material predominates over
or precedes the spiritual, it becomes so much dead matter, without
significance, because without life. A great excellence of the present
story is the constant dominion exercised by the soul over or through its
forms of expression, and the physiognomical character of the style and
imagery. When we thus speak of it as pre-eminently spiritual, we of
course imply that it is thoroughly alive.

But the wonder of the book, and the quality which will give it a
permanent place in American literature, is the sure and fine audacity
with which it brings the supernaturally beautiful and the supernaturally
terrible into vital relations with human life, without any shock or jar
of the unnatural to disturb the exquisiteness of the combination; and
this is done in a manner purely original, awakening no reminiscences of
German or English supernaturalism, and giving unmistakable evidence of
being drawn from the writer’s own life and mental experience. Indeed, by
the very constitution of her mind, Mrs. Smith seems to see things in
their spiritual relations; consequently she not only looks at things and
into things, but she looks through them, and discerns the supernatural
region from which they proceed and on which they depend. This vision
into a sphere _above_ sense, is accompanied by an imagination of
sufficient force to shape what she sees into a form palpable _to_ sense,
and thus to reach the mystical elements in other minds through their
sensuous imagination. This vision and this faculty are possessed by all
high and powerful natures, and the test of the reality of the powers is
in the originality of the products. Similarity, even when it does not
approach plagiarism, indicates the intervention of another mind, and by
suggesting spectacles casts ominous conjecture on the soundness or reach
of the eyes. Now the supernatural, as it appears in this volume, is
strictly individual and peculiar, evidencing that the authoress has
herself contemplated, face to face, the spiritual truths she has

While the present story is thus eminently a work of creative
imagination, working in the region of the supernatural, and ranking
“strange combinations out of common things,” it is at the same time
intensely human, touching at every step on some affection or aspiration
of the human heart, and full of the glee and gloom of our common life.
As every thing is realized to the eye and imagination, and the vital
relation between the natural feeling and the preternatural agencies is
clearly represented, the reader is conscious of no unharmoniousness in
the general impression left on his mind by the whole work, but simply
feels as though he had been brought nearer to the life of things, and
discerned evil and good in their spiritual natures. With a power of
thought, as felicitous in its delicacy as in its strength, moral beauty
and moral deformity are both seized in their intrinsic principles, and
embodied in such a manner that the material form ceases to be the veil
and becomes the vehicle of the nature it encloses.

To the shaping imagination which this work indicates, we must add that
form or expression of the imaginative faculty, by which things
inexpressible in images are suggested by cunning verbal combinations, or
which escape in the peculiar turn of a period, or which are breathed to
the inner ear of the mind in the rhythm of a sentence. This mystical
charm, this elusive, dreamy, ever vanishing and yet ever appearing
grace, gives to the whole work a character of strangeness almost
bewitching, and produces that fine and faint intoxication of the
imagination which makes it ready to receive and accredit wonders with as
much faith as it commonly awards to possibilities. It is this quality
also which makes it impossible to convey the moral of the story in any
didactic proposition. It has a profound moral, but it is a moral which
refuses to be comprehended in an ethical axiom, being felt in the brain
and “felt along the heart.”

We have been so much engrossed by the merits of this story that we have
little space left to notice some faults. The notes should not be
retained at the bottom of the page, but should be transferred to an
appendix. Occasionally the imagination of the authoress stutters in its
sublime talk, and gives fragments of gigantic images instead of wholes.
Here and there the philosophic prevails over the imaginative, and
discourse monopolizes a sentence which should be strictly sacred to
representation. But the sweetness, the tenderness, the beauty, purity
and majesty, with which the work is so replete, hardly allow even the
critical reader to be captious; and to the uncritical, the absorbing
interest of the story would be sufficient to hide even prominent

* * * * *

_Poems. By James F. Fields. Boston: Wm. D. Ticknor & Co. 1 vol.

Book-writing and book-publishing, according to the most approved
doctrines of the division of labor, are to be kept strictly apart, and
commonly there yawns a natural gulf between the two, as wide and deep as
that which separated Lazarus and Dives. The present volume, however,
illustrates this seemingly impossible combination, the author being also
one of the publishers, and it must be confessed that the intellectual
and mechanical execution reflect credit on each other. Mr. Fields has a
mind of great flexibility and fertility, and occasionally he has
compressed within the limit of this volume a large variety of matter,
answering to the mirthful, the pathetic, the satirical, the tender, and
the impassioned. He not only does not repeat himself, but the work is
too small adequately to express the whole range of his poetic faculty.
The two longest poems in the collection are the “Post of Honor” and
“Commerce,” both of them originally pronounced before the Boston
Mercantile Library Association, and each including many topics under the
general subject. These evince a keen, shrewd eye for practical life and
character, and the satirical portions are characterized by a mingled wit
and humor unexcelled for general sharpness. “The Post of Honor” is by
far the best, and its pictures of life, both serious and mirthful, are
exceedingly vivid and true. The versification evinces a complete mastery
of the heroic couplet, in all its ease, energy and harmony of flow, and
it is spangled with fine felicities of fancy and original verbal
combinations. The passages relating to Lamb and Grey, are replete with a
quiet searching pathos, which touches the inmost nerve of sensibility.

Many of the shorter poems have already had a wide circulation through
the newspapers. “Fair Wind,” originally published in “Graham,” and “The
Dirge,” we have seen in the poetical corner of at least a hundred
journals. The new ballads and lyrics, now first published, are among the
best in the whole collection. “The Ballad of the Tempest,” the “Pair of
Antlers,” and “Common Sense,” are very brilliant and beautiful. “Life at
Niagara,” and the “Alarmed Skipper,” are good specimens of mirthful
poetry as distinguished from versified mirth. “Children in Exile,” and
“A Bridal Melody,” have an intensity of deep and sweet feeling, which
wins its way into the very core of the heart. We might refer to others
as worthy of notice as these, but we must be content with quoting one
instead of naming many, and we accordingly present our readers with a
most beautiful specimen of blank verse, addressed to Rogers:



To him who sang of Venice, and revealed
How Wealth and Glory clustered in her streets,
And poised her marble domes with wondrous skill,
We send these tributes, plundered from the sea.
These many-colored, variegated forms
Sail to our rougher shores, and rise and fall
To the deep music of the Atlantic wave.
Such spoils we capture where the rainbows drop,
Melting in ocean. Here are broideries strange,
Wrought by the sea-nymphs from their golden hair,
And wove by moonlight. Gently turn the leaf.
From narrow cells, scooped in the rocks, we take
These fairy textures, lightly moored at morn.
Down sunny slopes, outstretching to the deep,
We roam at noon, and gather shapes like these.
Note now the painted webs from verdurous isles,
Festooned and spangled in sea-caves, and say
What hues of land can rival tints like those,
Torn from the scarfs and gonfalons of kings
Who dwell beneath the waters.
Such our gift,
Culled from a margin of the western world,
And offered unto Genius in the old.

* * * * *

_Raphael; or Pages from the Book of Life at Twenty. By Alphonse
de Lamartine. New York: Harper & Brothers._

Lamartine, with many of the high qualities of genius, is deficient in
one of the most important—Common Sense. He is a fine and eloquent
singer of his own idealized and idolized self, but is gifted with very
imperfect powers of objective perception. He sees nothing as it is, but
every object is more or less a mirror of self. This is equally true
whether the object be Mont Blanc or a Paris mob. All his descriptions of
scenery, though often rising to a strain of rapturous eloquence and
beauty, are never accurate, even in an elevated poetical signification
of accuracy. Different scenes, in different climes, are all enveloped in
one atmosphere, and all stand for one tyrannizing class of emotions.
Lamartine is a sentimentalist, and no sentimentalist can celebrate any
nature but his own, or consider the universe as worth any thing in
itself. The excellence of the present volume consists in its subject
admitting of a strictly lyrical treatment, and it accordingly is full to
running over of Lamartine’s strong but narrow genius, and is resplendent
with glittering sentiment and decorative imagery. The work is not long
enough to tire by its egotism and fine writing, and is closed before
admiration has subsided from the interjection into the yawn of
satisfaction. A nature so rich as Lamartine’s might fill even a larger
book without exhausting its wealth of sentiment or thought.

* * * * *

_The Moral, Social, and Professional Duties of Attorneys and

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Online LibraryVariousGraham's Magazine, Vol. XXXIV, No. 5, May 1849 → online text (page 14 of 15)