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We have read the verses of Mr. Cranch, at various periods, in "the Dial,” where they always seem to have found an honorable place. This gentleman does not appear to have been deeply bitten by the mania. His labors in the cause of American transcendentalism, have never amounted to more than a laudable effort to allegorize a truism, and convert a precious common-place into something like a revelation. He writes smoothly, and could, upon a pinch, write sensibly. He possesses very creditable powers of versification, the misfortune of which is, that they seduce him into too frequent elaboration of his thoughts, until they grow too fluid for any useful purpose. His “College Lyfe" only proves that he has some knack at imitation, though his Spenserian English seems to us to suffer from the defect which left poor Chatterton open to detection,-—it is too much crowded with obsoletisms for the period of Spenser. Would the reader see how old saws and familiar commonplaces may be denuded of their simplicity, let him take the long string of apothegms which our author calls “Correspondences.” Title and matter, taken together, will give some not unseemly idea of the profound nature of modern transcendentalism, and the hopes we may reasonably entertain of what it is to do for us :
“CORRESPONDENCES.” "All things in nature are beautiful types to the soul that can read them; Nothing exists upon earth, but for unspeakable ends; Every object that speaks to the senses was meant for the spirit; Nature is but a scroll, God's hand writing thereon. Ages ago, when man was pure, ere the flood overwhelmed him, While in the image of God every soul yet lived, Every thing stood as a letter or word of a language familiar, Telling of truths which now only the angels can read. Lost to man was the key of these sacred hieroglyphics, Stolen away by sin, till by heaven restored. Now with infinite pains we here and there spell out a letter, Here and there will the sense feebly shine through the dark. When we perceive the light that breaks through the visible symbol, What exultation is ours! We the discovery have made! Yet is the meaning the same as when Adam lived sinless in Eden, Only long hidden it slept and now again is revealed.”
And so on, through twice as much more. Is this poetry—is it philosophy—is it even verse ? Is it not shockingly stupid twattle,—the idle, inane toil of a vain ambition, to convert the common-place into something expansive, something expressive-in so many words, to make a mountain of a mole-hill? We should be glad to come to any other conclusion, but we cannot.
Here is something prettier, and of less pretension. It is a tolerably fair sample of the fugitive verse with which the country is inundated. It is smooth, and harmonious, and innocent,—and there ends.
Silvering all she looks upon;
She into my window looks
Then she tells me many a tale,
Oft I gaze up in her eyes,
Now she comes to me again,
Oh! we love now mutually. About the best and most truly spirited of the verses in this volume, are the five sonnets on musical instruments, at the close. These are really clever, and should have a place here, had we not already exceeded our limits. We cannot well publish one of them, segregated from the rest, and dare not appropriate the whole. They do more, in the way of promise, for our author's future, than any thing beside in the collection.
5.--DICKENS' MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT.—The Life and Adventures of
Martin Chuzzlewit. By Chas. DICKENS,—his relatives, friends and enemies, etc. New-York: Harper & Brothers. 1844.
We cannot be said to have read this new work of Mr. Dickens. We have only dipped into it. The third number occasions, however, an interest of a new order,--a something aside from the usual social satire of our author. His satire becomes national; and, having no misgivings of thought or conscience, he begins, after a visit of six weeks, more or less, to the United States, to show up its traits and peculiarities for the
benefit of John Bull. It happens, quite as unfortunately, we think, for Mr. Dickens, as for Jonathan, that these traits and peculiarities are all of a low and loathsome character. He sees nothing—so far as his hero has gone-but vices, which are only paralleled by the unblushing impudence of their actors, and stupidities which can only be supposed possible by those who examine them through the medium of the most jaundiced hostility. It is, perhaps, still more unfortunate for Mr. Dickens, that his satire betrays less of the capacity than of the willingness to sting. The truth is—and it is a circumstance of some marvel, as it is certainly matter of some congratulation—that the institutions of the United States, and the people thereof, seem, usually, to have paralyzed the genius of the British traveller. Whether it has been that they have had some rebukings of conscience, which have made them falter, or because there was a something in the very vastness and novelty of the subject, under which they quailed, it is yet very certain, that, in all the writings devoted to this country, they have failed to preserve themselves in that altitude which they had attained by previous performances. It is very certain that this has been the case with Mr. Dickens. We fancy it would be difficult to find any body, who is prepared to say that this last labor of his pen is worthy of what fell from it before. His American Notes were sadly deficient in material of value, and in those reflections upon what he beheld, which might denote the keen observer and the thoughtful mind; and, though we take for granted, that no one ever looked to Mr. Dickens for a philosophical work, or one marked by any originality of thought or suggestion, still, we can scarce believe that his least admirer ever expected to see such a woful falling off as was the case. Touching Martin Chuzzlewit, and his experience in New-York, this remark may be made. The errors of Mr. Dickens,—his errors of judgment, his failing of genius,—may be one thing. They may be lamentable or not. As critics, we may place the finger of scorn upon them,we may hold him up as a defaulter in the world of letters,
-as untrue to his promises, -as unworthy of his former laurels. But, as Americans, the case is somewhat different. Here, we are forced to admit that, if his satire is witless, it is not unfounded,-if his sarcasm betrays his bad feeling and malignity, at least, it is not altogether undeserved by our vices. Grant that his exaggerations are gross,—they are yet based upon some degree of truth. Grant that our people, in the great cities, are not all that he describes them,—they are still too much so. Nor can we altogether salve our hurts of self-esteem by denying—we who live in an almost purely agricultural community—that the great commercial city can possibly represent us: we are constrained to admit, that the vices of the commercial communities have been growing upon us, under the stimulating and wide-spreading influence of commercial institutions.
"The trail of the serpent is over us all.”
The whole body, politic and social, is tainted by its baleful atmosphere, and though checked a little of late,-chastened somewhat of its insolence, and straitened in its prodigious strides over the land,—there is still too much reason to fear that it may soon resume its sway. Let us be watchful of this. Even the finger-pointing scorn of our enemy, may help us in this watch. Even the satire of Mr. Dickens,—only in part truthful,—may be of service in showing us how hateful and loathsome is even that little part which we acknowledge to be true.
6.— The Æneid of Virgil, by Dr. Anthon.
A hasty glance at this volume leads us to think, that the high reputation obtained by Professor Anthon, from his former works, will not be impaired by his publication of Virgil's Æneid, one of the most beautiful epic poems of antiquity. To the admirers of classical literature, it is a subject of regret, that Virgil is an author read with too little attention in many of our schools ; and the hope is anxiously entertained, that the work under consideration, on which the untiring commentator has spared no labour, so as to render it attractive to young persons, by numerous illustrations and copious notes, will produce a beneficial effect on those for whose instruction it is intended, by exciting in the classical student some degree of solicitude for the attainment, not merely of an accurate understanding of the text, but also for the acquisition of a critical acquaintance with the poetic beauties, in which the Bard of Mantua abounds. An objection frequently urged against Professor Anthon's editions of the classics, is, a temptation to indolence in students, arising from the frequency of literal translations of passages in the text, which are not of sufficient difficulty to require explanation, and which should call forth the exertions of the learner. This may be true, but, on the other hand, it will be conceded, that the number is not small of those whose course of education has been negligent and imperfect, and who may be induced, by the facilities to be found in Mr. Anthon's classics, to make an effort, at a subsequent period of life, when the value of literature is appreciated, to redeem time mis-spent at school and at college. Whatever objections may be made to Professor Anthon's commentaries, it will be acknowledged, at least by Prosodians, that the insertion of a metrical clavis is a decided improvement; the attention of the student is thereby directed to the figures of prosody, and to the numerous instances of poetic license, and of departure from the ordinary rules of Hexameter, which occur in the versification of Virgil.
We have not had an opportunity of bestowing a minute examination on the commentaries, and explanations of doubtful passages, but subscribe to the correctness of Dr. Anthon's version of a disputed passage, found in the commencement of the Æneid, (Lib. 1, v. 8,) "quo numine
læso, --- which is usually, and, we think, incorrectly translated, “what deity being offended.” The words have given rise to much commentary, and various readings. The most learned critics seem to concur in opinion that the reference is to Juno, exclusively; and under this conviction, some commentators have ventured to suggest that the reading should be "quo nomine læsa.” If the authenticity of this latter reading could be established, no room for doubt would exist. As the book will extend to another volume, the price (for these days of cheap literature,) may be considered high; but, we believe, that it is adopted by many of our most respectable schools.
7.-A Dictionary of Science, Literature, and Art: comprising the History,
Description, and Scientific Principles of every branch of Human
Edited by W. T. BRANDE, Esq., F. R. S. L. and E., etc., etc.; assisted by Joseph Cauvin, Esq. The various departments by eminent Literary and Scientific gentlemen. New-York: Published by Harper & Brothers, 82 Cliff-street. 1843. 1 vol., 8vo.,
pp. iv., 1352.
WHILE the recent system of cheap republications has been pouring over the land a deluge of trash, the Harpers have made themselves honourably conspicuous, by their attempt to convert the new engine of evil into an instrument of good. Instead of competing with the Winchesters, and others of like kidney, in the circulation of books equally detrimental to the taste, the intellect and the character of the country, they have turned their energies into another channel, and by the issuing of works of solid and real merit, have placed it in the power of every family to supply themselves with a library of good works, suffi. cient for their opportunities.
Among these valuable reprints, Brande's Encyclopedia of Science, Literature and Art, should occupy a prominent place. It fills a vacuum hitherto frequently felt, and enables the general reader to obtain, at little trouble, and less expense, a vast amount of multifarious and trustworthy information, which must formerly have been sought only from the ponderous tomes of a crowded library. A manual of this kind becomes more particularly useful in the present day, when even the purists among our writers, are continually under a necessity of recurring to technical terms for the exemplification of their views, or for greater accuracy of description. The ranks of literature have been of late years swollen to such an incredible amount, that you cannot take your seat in a rail-road car without fearing that your neighbor on the right, or the melancholy man on the left has the plague spot of authorship on him, or that the fair stranger whom you have been ogling