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even down to Emmons and Marsh, and many a one of them an honor and an ornament to the land ?
Many young men, who have hearts full of enthusiasm for poetry, painting, and music, are compelled to curb their feelings, in consequence of the position in which they are placed ;' for, were their aspirations known, the verdict is sealed : 'Guilty of nonsense; never will be a man of business ; a visionary, nay, a fool. They might very possibly be discharged from the occupations by which they earn their daily bread.
We live in a strange age, when a love of the beautiful and ideal is so misnamed. Yet if one riots in the mazes of fashion, we call him a gentleman; if in the rounds of dissipation, a gay man; if be wallows in the sinks of iniquity, a wild fellow. We scarcely call an extravagance or a vice by its proper name. We mince matters too much, and give to all sorts of unworthy or criminal conduct, too light an epithet. Does not this mincing disposition show the character of the age? If people will slur over, in gentle terms, that which is vicious and wicked, need we wonder that they contemn the fine arts, which ennoble and refine, elevate and exalt? Suppose a young man, a merchant or a clerk, no matter which, devoted the time not necessarily required by business, to the pursuits of literature ? A certain class would call him worthy, industrious, studious. But in Wall-street, among those whose god is gold, if they heard it said he is worthy,' ten to one they would ask, “How much is he worth?' Industrious ? How much does it produce ? Studious ? “Ay, in nonsense, that will never bring him a cent. Every thing is calculated by the standard of money; every thing is valued by what it will bring in the market.
We are in hopes, however, that this sordid feeling is slowly passing away. We perceive a slight indication of a more bealthy tune in the community. There is already some taste and talent among the mercantile circles, although the possessor, unless he be rich, hides it, save from a chosen few. There are some merchants, who, instead of selling their souls to mammon, neglecting the education of their children, and all domestic affairs, improve their fancy, and cultivate their minds. They do not imagine that every idle hour spent, in the sordid acceptation of the term, is so much money lost; for time, with them, is not computed by dollars and cents. Time is not money.
The Mercantile and the Mechanics' Libraries are working much good honor to their founders ! - and the new generation of merchants, for they will spring from the members of these praiseworthy institutions, will in time instil a finer, purer, nobler feeling among their class. The various literary, musical, and philosophical societies, and the numerous lecturers, are all imparting athirst for knowledge, and opening the door to wisdom. We hope to see the day when ignorance will be a synonyme with vice, and when excellence in the arts will be an ornament to the character of a merchant. We might name several gentlemen among ourselves, engaged daily in the pursuit of business, who are an honor to the land. We might also refer to older times, and other countries, for illustrious examples of excellence in literature among merchants.
There is not a more certain antidote to dissipation and vice, than a
love for the fine arts. And those who say that they unfit the mind for business, assert what they cannot prove; what we most unequivocally deny. It is popular, and it is certainly most laudable, to be religious, if actuated by sincerity and faith. A large portion of the community devote much time, as well as money, to their Christian duties. Does this unfit their minds for business ? Some carry their notions to such an extreme, that they will not employ a clerk, or even take a boarder, unless he is pious; and some hold out an inducement, when in search of employment, that they belong to a religious family. Barbers, to get custom on week days, shut their shops on Sundays. Does piety unfit the mind for trade ? No one will venture so boldly as to say it does.
The mild and meek precepts of the religion of Jesus are taught in the sublimest of poetry. The prophets, inspired by God, wrote in the most poetic language man ever read. A parable in the Bible is what the poets call an episode. The Most High surely approved of poetry, else he would not have taught the world in the loftiest verse. His wisdom is delivered in language the most figurative, and illustrated by knowledge still the most occult. It is a remark often made, that from the pure fountain of Holy Writ the poets have drawn their sweetest inspiration. It is asserted, that until Wiclif published his version of the New Testament, the first in the English tongue, poetry was almost unknown in England; and when the James's Bible, that which we daily consult, appeared, a class of poets arose, the noblest, the purest, the sublimest, that England ever saw; poets, whose brilliant outpourings the world has never since equalled.
As another preventive to dissipation and vice, I would recommend young men to visit the theatre ; not to see French dancers and Italian buffoons; not to hear mock heroic melo-dramas, and vulgar farces, which, after the Restoration, the vitiated taste of Charles introduced from France; but to see comedy and tragedy, the productions of the great poets of the Elizabethan age, and those who have since emulated them. I may be told that the stage is immoral, indecent, obscene. Grant it, if you please. Who made it so? The people. It is in the people to restore the theatre to its primitive purity and decorum. Managers, to make money, must cater for the public taste ; just as merchants change the style and pattern of their merchandise, to suit the fashion of their customers, or to attract by novelty. If full boxes applauded the productions of the purest comic and tragic muse, and if empty benches stared at fustian melo-dramas, and silly farces, managers would soon discover where their interest lay, and reform it altogether. If objections be made to some gross expressions and incidents in the plays of the old dramatists, we answer, the fault was not theirs ; it was that of the age in which they lived. We may easily prune them, if necessary, though by doing so, we emasculate their noble lines. In olden days, they were plainer of speech than we are, but not less virtuous in heart. In fact, we have just reversed things; they talked, we sin. Why should the innocent be offended with mere expressions? It is knowledge that raises objections.
Again, a portion of the theatre is appropriated to a class of people whom we shall not name, and another is used to sell intoxicating
draughts. This, I willingly confess, is a serious evil, which ought to be corrected. Let the public frown upon managers who permit such things within their walls ; make it an object to them to remove the cause of this complaint; and we shall soon see it done. The people are sovereign, and must be obeyed.
If I have a religious reader, let him not start in horror at my recommendation; but let him, with unprejudiced mind, calmly weigh the whole matter. Let him take a large and liberal view of the subject, and then pronounce judgment. He who judges from a limited knowledge, or from sectarian feelings, generally arrives at most incorrect conclusions. If he assume that his rule of conduct is the standard of honor, propriety, and truth, he is, to say the least, a very weak man, and his ignorance is much to be pitied. if he only is right, whether in morals, politics or religion, how many thousands and tens of thousands are wrong! Let him ask his own heart these questions : ‘Am I right ? What does the host with whom I differ, say?' Perchance he may answer himself thus : 'I may be wrong; let me examine minutely; I am wrong.' I ask that all who differ from me in my recommendation of the theatre — and opposition arises almost invariably from religious feeling - should inquire seriously into the origin of the drama; should consider of the virtue it has inculcated, the patriotism it has enkindled, and the spirit of liberty it has animated; and then he may not deem our approval so very monstrous. Opposition to the stage, from religious zeal, is not a modern invention ; it is as old as the palmy days of Greece. The first opposition to it arose from the fact, that the poets of that land, departing from the original purity of the drama, mocked the gods, which grieved the pious, and introduced personalities that offended the rich.
Were it material to our plan, we might quote history, and prove that the drama had its origin in religion, in the festival of Bacchus. When our Saviour was upon earth, the drama existed in full health and vigor at Rome; and in his Holy Word, nothing is said against it. On the contrary, the apostle Paul has quoted from a Greek tragic poet a passage familiar to every man.* Milton is our authority, and he wrote, not for the stage, but lived at a time when puritan zeal had shut the doors of the theatres. We might prove, also, that after the revival of letters, religion re-established the drama ; that pious fathers both wrote and acted plays, to teach people the doctrines of the gospel. We might show that high mass of the present day is not unlike the drama of the ancient Greeks. Shakspeare, the poet, the undisputed poet, borrowed from Holy Writ not only some of his noblest language, but also several of his most interesting incidents. In a word, we might as soon change the nature of man, as obliterate his love for the drama. It is a part of his very existence, to love the representation of high heroic deeds, and the caricature of human folly. All people, civilized or rude, love such sights, whether their theatre be the cart of Thespis, or the forest of the Indians; or their building be like the old Globe, or the modern Park.
What cannot be overthrown, a wise people should endeavor to amend and improve. Colden, in his history of the Five Nations, says quaintly
* See I Corinthians, chap. xv., verses 32 and 33.
enough, as if he had really discovered a new truth, that the Indian dances and festivals in our own back woods, prove that a taste for the drama is inherent with man; that they show the origin of the drama. Judging from them, he argues for antiquity. The fact is, nobody disputes that the drama is as old as the formation of society. Before a theatre was built, or a play written, people had both tragic and comic representations; but like other independent democrats, they had their own taste and way in acting them. Let us cite a case at home.
A large class of people, who, from conscientious scruples, or rather religious feelings, would on no account enter a theatre, have flocked to Niblo's garden. What did they see there, but a theatre, a regular one, with stage, scenery, and all their appurtenances to boot ? Upon that stage were acted plays, exactly the same as are nightly performed at the Park, and sumetimes by part of the same actors.
What is the difference, then, between Nibio's and the Park? Why simply this, Niblo calls his a place of amusement, a garden ; the Park is called a theatre. What wonderful magic there is in a name!
Again, a celebrated vocalist appears at the Park; a certain class of people will not go near that building, much less enter within its doors. Now mark : that vocalist has finished her engagement, and is induced to give concerts at the City Hotel. All the world, that never would have heard her in the theatre, now flock to the concert-room, and are delighted to rapture, to ecstacy, with the same songs that she sung in the theatre. Does the fact, that in one instance the sweet songs are sung in a theatre, and in the other, in a concert-room, alter the character, or improve the morality, of the songs? If it be the name of the Park Theatre that causes all this horror, why then let us build a new house, and call it a saloon, a temple, or a tabernacle, but by no means a theatre: give it any name but that !
All extremes are tyrannies. He who would bar the doors of the theatre, or tear the building down, would do as manifest a wrong as the infidel, were he to shut up or demolish the churches. The one act would just be as unlawful as the other. We may resume this subject in another number.
There in dew-drops sweetly dreaming,
Wait we uill the sun goes down,
O'er the valley and the town:
And the long reeds bend and shiver,
O'er the breast of wild, deep river.
O'ER the meadow and the river,
O'er the forest and the ocean, When the stars of midnight quiver,
And the sweet winds are in motion; All night long we fairies pass,
Sipping heaven's delicious dew From the herbs and tender grass,
And the wild grapes, soft and blue. Where the crimson berry swings,
Mirrored in the sedgy fountain, Where the wild bird sweetly sings,
In the thicket on the mountain ;
On the brow of lulling billow,
Underneath cold rock and willow :
Then, from bud and closing blossom,
Tripping forth, while moonlight blesses Hill and stream, and lake's blue bosom,
And the wood-girt wildernesses :
And the lovely day is dawning,
In the crimson sheen of morning,
I E A V EN'S LESSON.
Heavey teacheth thee to mourn, thou fair young bride;
But God alone
And may such wisdom spring
Where mourning hath no place.
THE IRON FOOT-STEP.
•What may this mean, that thou, dead corse! again
Most families, I believe, have their traditionary ghost story; which, when narrated to the group that gathers round the wintry fire-side, excites, according to the age and character of the listeners, terror, sympathy, doubt, incredulity, or ridicule. Still it continues to be told, even by those who are urgent in their disavowal of belief in supernatural appearances: the story is kept alive, and recollected in after life; for the bias is a strong one of the mind, to dwell even on the shadows that pertain to that world of untried being, which approaches toward us with its slow and noiseless, but irresistible and overwhelming, movement.
I remember in my youth to have listened with my whole heart to the following remarkable incident, as one which had undoubtedly occurred a few years before in the Island of Dominica.
During a season of great mortality among the inhabitants of that island, in the year a veteran Scottish regiment was stationed upon the high bluff of land that forms one point of a crescentular bay, and overlooks the town and harbor. Inland, toward the east, a small plain extends itself; while on the west and north, which is nearest the shore, and almost overhanging it, were several long one-story buildings, hastily erected of wood, for the accommodation of the