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short, as an introductory work, it is one of the best we have seen, for the purpose for which it is designed. It is particularly adapted for children commencing the study of French, and we take pleasure in recommending it accordingly.
1. The Maid of Sałcony, or Who is the Traitor, an Opera in three acts,
founded on historical events, in the Life of Frederick the Second of Prussia, related by Miss Edgeworth, Zimmerman, Latrobe, and
other writers. By GEORGE P. MORRIS. 2. Poems by GEORGE P.
with a memoir of the author. Seventeenth edition. New York: Charles Scribner.
Popularity discovers itself in a thousand forms; or, perhaps, it would be more correct, in this case, to call it admiration. Thus, many choose their daily song from Morris; others quote him, or recite his longer pieces; while a third class write to editors to wonder why they have not noticed his new edition. The last is the only feature in the case we have to do with at present. We cannot deny that we have been tardy, but we had no intention of denying ourselves the pleasure of having a chat about the additions made in the “blue and gold” edition. We have long been intending, also, to review the author's “Maid of Saxony,” feeling that it contains many a veritable gem; but there is nothing one is more cautious in giving his impressions of, than what he adınires most. The fear of not doing justice to it makes him hesitate-procrastinate-wait till he can bestow more thought upon it, and meantime the years, as well the months and quarters, pass by. This might be regarded as a satisfactory apology, if, in the end, due amends could be made; but how often does it happen that it is those very tasks, deferred so often, until all the circumstances are favorable to give them suitable consideration, that have to be disposed of most unsatisfactorily, when further delay becomes tiresome—nay, subjects us to feelings akin to remorse!. This we must admit to be our position in the present instance. We know that we should have complied earlier with the wishes of our readers—especially those of the ladies. We cannot give them a deaf ear any longer; and yet the amount of time we can bestow on the task, most agreeable as it is, bears but a slight proportion, indeed, to the importance it possesses in our estimation.
For the latter reason, we might have waited a little longer; but, knowing that the author has recently been suffering much from ill health, we should warmly congratulate ourselves, if anything we said could have the effect of cheering him in the least in his struggle against age and its infirmities. Our readers are aware that we never shrink from passing censure where we feel it is deserved. There is no author, ancient or modern, for whom our admiration, however great, is such as to render us blind to his faults; nor do we hold that even Homer himself is faultless. But we deem it by no means an essential part of our duty to say all we might, that is disagreeable, of faults which, if such they may be called at all, are as the chaff is to the wheat, when compared to the beauties and excellencies from which they are inseparable, as the thorn is from the rose. We do not envy the feelings of the critic who would give pain to one that has cheered the hearts of hundreds of thousands, as Morris certainly has done by his songs, by reminding him, with needless asperity, that there are occasional defects in his poems. If we ought to respect the gray hairs, even of those whose ideas do not extend beyond their daily task, how much greater should be our respect for those of the gifted—especially of the song-writer-him who is said to beguile the moon from her orbit, nay, to delight the gods themselves !
" Carmina vel coelo possunt deducere lunam,
Ducite ab urbe domum, mea carmina, ducite Daphnim !” It must not, however, be inferred from all this, that we are about to consider Morris as a great poet. We have no intention of comparing him to Byron, Wordsworth, Cowper, Longfellow, Tennyson, or Bryant-much less to Dryden, Pope, Butler, or Gay: But it is not on the score of genius, or merit that we refrain from doing so; this would be unjust; we avoid the comparison simply because the mission of our author is entirely different from that of any of those mentioned. In short, it is as a songwriter we have to regard Morris; and in this character there are only three to whom he can be compared, namely, Burns, Moore, and Beranger. And, in instituting a comparison between him and any of the tuneful trio, we must remember that each of them had great advantages over the American bard. It has been well said that a country, whose history is brief, has but little resources for lyrical poetry. In time, as well as in space, “distance lends enchantment to the view."
That tradition forms a valuable element in the ballad poetry of all nations possessed of such a treasure, is too well known to need any proof. And this is more particularly the case, when the tradition is associated with the wrongs of a people; for the sweetest songs are those most deeply tinged with melancholy. Burns and Moore had abundant materials of this kind to work upon; and need we say that the minstrel of France had no lack of those sentiments which tyranny and oppression are sure to awaken in the most thoughtless minds. The French, indeed, are a gay and cheerful people-probably the happiest in the world. But they, too, have their moments of seriousness; perhaps of none others may it be more truly said, that they grieve while they laugh. At all events, their story has much in it that is gloomy and sad. That they have felt this themselves, is sufficiently evident from the terrible retribution which, more than once,
they have wreaked on the heads of their oppressors. It is not necessary to read Sismondi, Michelet, Guizot, or Thiers, in order to prove it.
The story is told by Beranger, in his chansons, more truly and pathetically than in all their histories. It would be superfluous to remind our readers of the griefs which Moore and Burns had only to give sạitable expression to, in order to secure the sympathies of all generous minds. Still more superfluous would it be, to trace those griefs in their songs; or to show how much they are everywhere pervaded by a feeling of sadness; for who is not acquainted with the “tuneful tears” of Burns and Moore? It is otherwise, however, with Beranger. Generally as the French language is understood by the educated of our countrymen, and much as the French minstrel is admired by the privileged few, we fear that there are many, even of our own readers, who have never read the most soul-stirring of his effusions. And, in turning to any of these, it is ten to one but we find that they have derived most of their pathos from oppression in some formy Nor do the songs of Petrarch form an exception to the rule. His best, too, are plaintive and sad. It is but of secondary consideration in what form the sadness finds expression, or what is its immediate canse. Thus, for example, in Gay's “Black-eyed Susan," love is the burden of the song, though the cause of the heroine's grief is the impressment of her lover. Several of the love songs of Beranger derive their chief interest from a similar state of things; and the finest odes addressed by Petrarch to his beloved Laura breathe an exalted patriotism. Nowhere is he more tender or pathetic than he is in lamenting that political condition of his country which makes the poor little better than the slaves of the rich. Nay, even in his address to her summer haunt, the prevailing sentiment is affectionate sorrow-a sorrow that alternates between his beloved mistress and his beloved country. Although there is almost the anguish of hopeless despair in this famous ode, its melody.is such, that we do not hesitate to transcribe a stanza or two, placing beside them best translation within our reach.
Alla Fontana di Valchiusa: Can
zone di Francesco Petrarca.
Chiare, fresche, et dolci acque,
Ove le belle membra
(Con sospir mi rimembra), A lei di far al bel fianco colonna,
Herba e fior che la gonna
Aer sacro sereno,
Date udientia insieme
Petrarch's Address to the Summer
Haunt of Donna Laura.
Within thy wave her fairy bath to choose !
Whose branches she loved best
To shade her hour of rest-
To her sweet bosom lent
Fragrance and ornament-
Cool grove ! sequestered grot!
Here in this lovely spot-
S'egli e pur mio destino
Il cielo in cio s'adopra
Corpo frà voi ricopra,
La morte sia men cruda
Si questa speme porto,
Che lo spirito lasso
Ne in più tranquilla fossa,
If soon my earthly woes
Must slumber in the tomb,
Must soon in sorrow close ;
Close by the margin lay.
My cold and lifeless clay,
My soul I And when the fear
of dissolution near, And doubts shall overwhelm, A ray of comfort round
My dying couch shall hover,
If some kind hand will cover
The American bard, on the contrary, can hardly be said to have any tradition from which to draw inspiration. The romance in American history, if there is any in it except in connection with the red man, is of too modern growth; and the story of the red man, although sufficiently interesting in prose, has failed to satisfy the European mind in the form of poetry. Not, indeed, but incidents in Indian life have formed the groundwork of many a fine poem; and we need not go farther for an instance, than the volume now before us. All are acquainted with the heroic gener · osity of Pocahontas, in saving the life of Captain Smith at the peril of her own; but perhaps it is not equally known that no poet has turned that memorable event to more. happy account than has Morris, in the four brief stanzas which we here transcribe, as our first extract from his Poems:
“ The Chieftain's Daughter. Upon the barren sand
Then shook the warriors of the shade, A single captive stood ;
Like leaves on aspen limb-
Subdued by that heroic maid
Who breathed a prayer for bim.
"Unbind him !' gasped the chiefThe chieftain's daughter knelt in tears,
Obey our king's decree !
He kissed away her tears of grief,
And set the captive free. " Above his head in air
'Tis ever thus, when, in life's storm, The savage war-club swung :
Hope's star to man grows dim,
An angel kneels in woman's form,
And breathes a prayer for him.”
Rock-bound on ocean's rim :
- pp. 78-9.
But we must return to “The Maid of Saxony; or, Who is the Traitor," if only to make a few brief observations, which may give those who have not read it, or seen it performed, an idea of its character. To analyze the plot, and note the historical incidents on which it is founded, would lead us too far, and leave us no room for extracts; and our design, on the present occasion, is much more to allow the author's lyrics to speak for themselves, and vindicate their popularity, than to offer any criticisms upon them.
While examining the opera which bears the above title, we were not surprised to learn that, when it was first performed at the Park Theatrein this city, it had a run of many nights. Nor was it forgotten, after
this. It was often played in public and private, until the rage for Italian opera became such, that the best English operas became a drug in the market--not excepting the famous pieces of Sheridan and Gay. The music of The Maid of Saxony was by the well known Charles E. Horn, who composed a number of popular airs to Moore's Melodies, and who furnished the music for many other favorite operas. The principal dramatis persona are Frederick II., King of Prussia; Count Laņiska, a Pole, his aid-de-camp; Baron Altenberg, Attorney-General; the Judge of the Court; the Burgomaster; Wedgewood, an English traveller; and Sophia Mansfield, the Maid of Saxony, &c. But it is to the songs much more than to the characters, or the structure of the piece, we would direct the attention of our readers. True, they are not so well finished, nor are they by any means so popular, as the author's detached songs; but several of them are characterized by great beauty, vivacity, and sweetness. This is particularly true of the soldier's song at the opening of the second scene of the first act, which we quote.
16 The life for me is a soldier's life!
" A soldier's life is the life for me! The roll of the battle drum ;
With that what glories come! - The brilliant array, the bearing high,
The notes of the spirit-stirring fife, The piumed warriors' tramp;
The roll of the battle-drum " The streaming banners that flout the sky,
--Pp. 259-60. The gleaming pomp of the camp.
This may remind the admirers of French minstrelsy of a very popular song, descriptive of Gallic chivalry and heroism, the first two stanzas of which run thus:
“La Carrière Militaire.
Ouvrir les portes à deux battans
C'est tout au plus s'ils sont contens ;
Mais c'est tout de même-
Il faut qu'on nous aime-
Ran, tan, plan!
Ou bien qu'on fassa semblant.
Puis quand vient le clair de lune Celui de tant de gens qui ne font rien !
Chacun choisit sa chacune,
En qualité de conquérant. " Vainqueurs entrons-nous dans une ville ?
Ran, tan, plan!
Ah, le bel état," &c. Nous viennent, d'une façon fort civile,
Another song in the Maid of Saxony, of a similar character, which is well worth quoting, is the dnet by Count and Karl, especially as it is very applicable to the present time :
“ Duet-Count and Karl. 16 'Tis a soldier's rigid duty
" Soldiers who have ne'er retreated, Orders strictly to obey ;
Beauty's tear will sure beguile;
Hearts that armies ne'er defeated,
Love can conquer with a smile.
Who would strive to live in story,
Did not woman's hand prepare
Amaranthine wreaths of glory
Which the valiant proudly wear !"