صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

ling the American writers are to discountenance the reliance of their countrymen on English taste, and to persuade themselves that it is an act of duty to set up a national standard of their own, may be perceived in many of their works. Thus Mr. Paulding, in the advertisement to his Poem of the Backwoodsman, tells us that the object of his poem was to indicate to the youthful writers of his own country the rich poetic resources in which it abounds, as well as to call their attention home, for the means of attaining to novelty of subject, if not to originality in style and sentiment—an idea which he has afterwards embodied in verse.

Yes! the bright day is dawning, when the West No more shall crouch before old Europe's crest, When men who claim thy birth-right, Liberty! Shall burst their leading-strings, and dare be free; Nor while they boast thy blessings, trembling stand, Like dastard slaves before her, cap in hand; Cherish her old absurdities, as new,

And all her cast-off follies here renew;

[blocks in formation]

When mind at last shall break its rusty chain.
And here our chosen monarch freely reign.

It is very probable that, in that constant change of the empire both of power and intellect, which

must ever be taking place amongst the nations of the earth, the continent of America may one time become the chosen seat of both; but it must be remembered, that the same fortune which has transferred them to its shore, may lead them once again to the plains of Africa. This Columbian millenium will arrive no sooner for the strenuous attempts of the American literati to cast off the influence of British taste and example, unless the falseness of the taste and the evil of the example be first satisfactorily proved. The anomalous situation of America has placed her in a dilemma. She must either read, admire, and imitate our English writers, and thus probably remain for ages without a distinctive and national literature of her own, or she must abandon and abjure those foreign models, and thus run no inconsiderable risk of acquiring a rude and degenerate taste. The latter alternative is in general, however much they depart from it in practice, the theory of the Americans, especially of their poets. Thus Mr. Maxwell tells us, in his familiar and not very flowing lines.

And here, my friend, a question I would ask
(I think to answer it would be a task,)
Why do our bards abandon themes like these
And go three thousand miles across the seas,

To look for better with abortive pains,

And ape the English in their borrowed strains?
Yet though I scorn the imitating elf,

I own I had the folly once myself

Indeed it is scarcely possible to turn over the pages of any American poem without meeting with complaints of the want of encouragement with which native talent has to contend. The author of the Bridal of Vaumond seems to have been inclined to throw down his lyre in disgust.

Ah! why attempt the bootless reed!
Why seek the rhymer's sacred meed
In days when chivalry has fled,
Her soul, her fire, her bards are dead!
In climes remote from classic seas,
Where vainly on the hollow breeze

Echoes the fainter lay;

Where men are dull to poet's dream,
Or list perverse to every theme,

Save that their sons essay.

But though it may perhaps be admitted, that America will long continue without distinguishing herself as a country eminently poetical, yet it by no means follows that she is unlikely to make a progress in such pursuits. She possesses, and she

will doubtless continue to possess men of genius, whose productions will be alike honorable to themselves and to their country. If the writings of her poets do not bear the stamp of first-rate power and originality, yet they are many of them not only highly pleasing, from the ability which they display, but most curious, from their peculiar tone of feeling and variety of local description. To an Englishman more especially they cannot fail to be interesting, as marking the literary progress of a nation, which in spite of all jarring interests and unhappy jealousies is still bound to us by the near ties of a common ancestry, a common language, and in general of common feelings. We ought to regard the advances of the Americans in all honorable pursuits as an eldest son would watch the fortunes of a younger brother, whose interests will always be dear to him, in spite of any dissensions which may have separated them from one another. To cherish and promote the existence of feelings like these, is peculiarly the duty of the writers of both nations. Surely nothing is so strangely foreign to the true character of literature, which is one of the arts and ornaments of peace, as to foster the spirit of animosity and national antipathy, which rival nations are so apt to feel; and yet we

have seen amongst the authors of both countries men who have gladly stepped forward into this disgraceful arena, and made use of the weapons of literature, with which vice and folly alone should be attacked, for the purpose of exciting all the worst passions in the minds of their adversaries. Fair and candid criticism, however repugnant its judgments may be to the pride or opinions of others, should be, and generally is, received in the spirit in which it is given; but remarks, which are dictated by malignity, or the insolence of confident superiority, must necessarily provoke vindictive feelings. It would be well in such cases if the injured party had a sufficient sense of his own dignity to forbear a reply, especially when that reply consists in gross and indecent recrimination. It is to be hoped, however, that both the English and American authors will discover how little is to be gained by contentions like these.

It only remains to say a few words on the objects and nature of the present volume. The increasing curiosity which the English public have lately displayed regarding the productions of American literature, has induced a belief that a selection from the works of the most respectable Poets of that country would not be unacceptable on this

« السابقةمتابعة »