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may account chiefly by a reference to the very diffusive nature of his genius, and generally to his near assimilation to everything English. He is German in a different sense from that which we ascribe to Emerson. The country more than its poets influences him, although his translations of the poetry of Europe lead us to expect a varied and active principle of borrowed thought. His sight is neither feeble nor restricted, reaching from the splendor of the East to the midnight snows and frosts of the northern wolds. Yet there is a limpid glide of virtue, serene and beautiful, everywhere manifest. Longfellow dignifies and adorns charity; and both as a poet and scholar he is supreme in his modesty. He is the saunterer (in a strict sense) among the poets of the New World. His fancy is not mewed up in the backwoods or on the loamy shores of the Potomac. He is far-traveled, and in his wanderings he has divested himself of many Yankee predilections which find no favor out of the parent States. Every line he has written is silvered over with thought gleaned in the affluent realms of foreign literature. There is a finish and polish about most of his works quite unusual in contemporary productions; and the tone of his poems is unexceptionably chaste and elevated.”
Returning to England, let us briefly notice a volume of poetic stories by Robert Browning, entitled Dramatic Idyls, published in 1878. Among the legends or idyls contained in this book is the story of Pheidippides, the great runner who took to Sparta within two days the news of the Persian invasion, and who returned to the Athenian camp only to announce the jealousy and indifference of the Spartans and their unwillingness to aid in repelling the invaders from Achaian soil. “The chief point of the legend is the story that Pheidippides came upon the god Pan—the god of of Arcadian and pastoral pleasures—in the course of his race, and received from the god a promise to assist Athens in the coming struggle, and a remonstrance with the Athenians for not having hitherto paid Pan due honors.” Then there is a story of two ruffians-father and son-who lived in North England and growled and quarreled with each other until at last, in an outburst of passion, the son orders the father to leave the house.
Still the old man stood mute. So, logwise_down to floor
Then the old man opened his eyes, and in strangely humble tones begged his son to desist.
“Halbert, on such a night of a Christmas long ago,
For your own sake, not mine, soften you too! Untrod
The son relents and loosens his hold upon his father's throat, and both return silently to the room; and that night the old man breathes his last. And the son, from that time, "tottered, muttered, mumbled, till he died, perhaps found rest.” “Is there a reason in nature for these hard hearts?” O Lear, That a reason out of nature must turn them soft, seems clear!
Perhaps the finest of these idyls is the story of Ivàn Ivànovitch. It is the old Russian legend of the unnatural mother who to save herself from pursuing wolves sacrifices in succession to the ravenous animals her three children. Ivàn Ivànovitch, a peasant, learning of this fact, takes it upon himself to judge that a mother who thus violates the laws of nature and humanity is unfit to live. And he assumes also the office and duties of executioner. He commands the unhappy woman to kneel before him.
Down she sank. Solemnly
The man was scant of words as strokes. “ It had to be:
While the youngers raised the corpse, the elders trooped
They told him he was free
The only other idyl in this collection worthy of special mention is the story of Ned Bratts and his wife Tab, the wicked keepers of an inn in Bedford, who are converted by the preaching of John Bunyan and by the simple power of the Pilgrim's Progress. The following is the wife's version of the sermon which wrought in her so wonderful a change of heart:
Then all at once rose he: His brown hair burst a-spread, his eyes were suns to see: Up went his hands: “Through flesh, I reach, I read thy soul ! So may some stricken tree look blasted, bough and bole, Champed by the fire-tooth, charred without, and yet thrice bound, With dreriment about, within may life be found, A prisoned power to branch and blossom as before, Could but the gardener cleave the cloister, reach the core. Loosen the vital sap: yet where shall help be found ? Who says, 'How save it?' nor. Why cumbers it the ground ?' Woman, that tree art thou! All sloughed about with scurf, Thy stag-horns fright the sky, thy snake-roots sting the turf! Drunkenness, wantonness, theft, murder, gnash and gnarl Thine outward, case thy soul with coating like the marle Satan stamps flat upon each head beneath his hoof! And how deliver such? The strong men keep aloof, Lover and friend stand far, the mocking ones pass by, Tophet gapes wide for prey: lost soul, despair and die! What then? ‘Look unto me and be ye saved !' saith God; 'I strike the rock, outstreets the life-stream at my rod ! Be your sins scarlet, wool shall they seem like-although As crimson red, yet turn white as the driven snow!'”
A critic, writing of this volume, says: “The subjects are, as is usual with Mr. Browning, startling subjects. He not only loves to flash his weird figures upon the imagination with all the suddenness and abruptness of a magic-lantern, but to present you with a subject that takes your breath away as much by the singularity of its attitude as by the suddenness of its appearance. He rejects purposely the shading and the moral atmosphere which make the grimmest subjects seem natural when they are given in connection with all the conditions of their history and origin, for his object is to make you see the wonder of the world rather than its harmony, or the context which, partly at least, explains it. But assuming, as the critic always must assume, the poet's special bent and genius, there is nothing specially harsh in this volume, and much that is really powerful, while the harshest pictures in it are lent a touch of grandeur by the purpose which penetrates the life portrayed."*
SHORT STORIES AND JUVENILE PIECES.
In this division are numerous poetical pieces of almost every degree of merit. We can notice only a few. Some are so well known that the mere mention of their titles will recall them to the memory of every student. Such, for instance, is Wordsworth's We are Seven, the first stanza of which was written by Coleridge. The simple little story of Alice Fell is also well known. The following poems, by the same author, will repay the trouble of reading: Michael, The Brothers, The Old Cumberland Beggar, Resolution and Independence, Lucy Gray, The Two April Mornings. Some of Mrs. Hemans's poems may also be included in this division. Every schoolboy has read her little verse-story Casabianca, a production whose poetical merits are, to say the least, decidedly feeble. Mrs. Browning's Romance of the Swan's Nest is one of the most charming little pieces to be met with in our language. Among the shorter versestories of Tennyson we may mention Dora, The Miller's Daughter, The Lady of Shalott, and Lady Clare. Robert Browning's How they Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix and his Pied Piper of Hamelin are well known. So also are Longfellow's Skeleton in Armor and The Village Blacksmith; Whittier's Barefoot Boy, Maud Muller, Barbura Frietchie, Flud Ireson, and many others.
Some of the pleasantest poems of this class have been written by William and Mary Howitt. These writers, although they are by no means great poets, have shown in their works very much of the true poetic inspiration, and
* Spectator, 1879.