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facts of every day which can be easily resolved into something symbolic and mystical. But the practical side of her character was the truest and best, being disconnected from mysticism and superstition, revealing to advantage her almost superhuman energies of spirit: as witness the vast amount of reading she had digested, the many languages she understood, and the number of her correspondents—one hundred: her sincerity, her humanity, and depth and regard of friendship, her wit and drollery, and the value and advantage of her conversation.
She had an abundance of self-esteem — the demon had been busy at her birth ---- and monopolized, as by right, the attention and admiration of all to whom she was brought near; and this trait would have appeared more prominently had not its outline been softened, and a certain value given to it, by the courage and heroism with which she faced all duties and situations, and conquered her way to eminence, and a wider horizon of influence.
Margaret was no sectarian. In all her views she was eminently catholic. She endeavored, in such manner as she knew how, to follow out the higher aspirations of her soul, and willed that all should do the same. Her belief was not chained to dogmas and formulas, but embodied a continual advance and regeneration. She thought and knew that
Men can rise on stepping-stones
of their dead selves to higher things.' Her religion was emotive and spontaneous; the offspring of enthusiasm, of reverence, and of hope. 'I will not loathe sects, persuasions, systems, though I cannot abide them one moment, for I see that by most men they are still needed;' or again : ‘Let me set no limits from the past to my own soul, or to any soul.' The end and aim of her life was development - self-culture. To understand her character, this must be understood: that self-culture with her was an end, and not a weapon for ambition or display; and though this is not the highest end and aim of life, embodying at it does a “profound selfishness,' it was an end that she fervently pursued, from first to last, and an aim which thoroughly recognized the divinity and immortality of man. Hence the consistency of her experience.
And now, what is the essential idea symbolized in these volumes, in this brave, heroic life?
Clearly, the authors, the volumes, the subject, are originalities, like which nothing has appeared before, and which, in their own way, have a symbolical and typical meaning. No dumb show is here. They speak in a voice articulate and audible; a bugle-blast, echoing through the corridors of materialism, and arousing the indifference of the age into noble thought and brave action. The characters and the ideas appear mystical because they are new. The light that preludes the full-orbed glory of the sun is darkened by shadows, and thick.' We notice a fixed and unalterable purpose in this book. It is not imagination, nor fancy, nor delusion, nor paganism. These are noble characters, whose experience has been chiselled out of the stern adamant of life. The very form, fibre, and twist of the language denote masculine ideas. The thought does not struggle for expression, as in CARLYLE. It is calm and self-possessed, as in Plato. And yet, while we
acknowledge the nobility of the aim, and the greatness and serenity of many whose Credo is embodied in Transcendentalism, we profess ourselves skeptical of the means, and doubtful of the implied faith that rests in humanity. We have looked the sphinx steadily in the face, and endeavored to extort the riddle. In respect of genius and intellect, Transcendentalism is before the age, and in respect of charity and catholic good-will, the advantage adheres to its side: but in substituting self-reliance for humble dependence; in explaining away the divinity of Christ into a universal meaning; in its endeavor to scale the battlements of heaven without the ladder of ascension; in its disregard of the Bible as an authority, and in its setting at naught all the sayings of tradition, we believe it to be in direct antagonism to the age, and falling day by day into a remote and isolated position. The volumes then stand to us, at last, as an encouragement and a warning. We see how humanity, guided by its better aspirations, and faithful to its loftier impulses, arrives at a certain manly dignity, and practises a certain stoic morality, which is, perhaps, the nearest approach to Christianity ever yet attained by those who have rejected its authoritative signification. But amid all this grandeur and elevation, the crowning virtue seems to us as wanting. We miss the simplicity which dwells in the shrine of a sanctified heart, and beams like the eye of childhood from beneath the brow of manhood and old age. Its intense subjectivity does not leave room for the practice of the more obvious duties of an every-day existence. Self-consciousness is unduly developed. The affections do not bud and expand in an equal degree with the intellect; the heart is made a sacrifice upon the altar of reason; and the faith which beamed as a diadem upon LUTHER's brow, and the martyr-spirit which consumed his soul, resolves itself into a dim, far-off imitation of the original lustre, and is quenched in the icy waters of a cold intellectualism.
Poems : by ALEXANDER SMITH. In one volume: pp. 192. Boston: TICKNOR, REED, AND FIELDS.
We had seen, previous to its publication in this country by the enterprising house whence it proceeds, the most extravagant praise of this volume by several of the London literary journals, accompanied in most cases by extracts in justification of the high encomiums bestowed upon the book. We formed an impression of the work from these extracts, which a perusal of the book itself has only served to confirm. And we have no hesitation in affirming it as our belief, that it is not destined to a lasting reputation. As they say in Scotland, it is 'ower sweet to be wholesome. It is too affluent in imagery to be natural. One can see that such elaborate ornateness, such
piled-up' fanciful similes, are less the result of pent-up thoughts and poetical imaginings, that must have vent, than the far-fetched, laborious gatherings of one who selects variously and industriously the 'telling' images which have found a place in his memory rather than in his heart. Does the reader remember a work called Pollok's 'Course of Time?' How it was bepraised by the London critics (whose laudations were echoed by our own) for
its brilliant imagery, its lofty thoughts, the power of its descriptive passages, and the great beauty of its language? Who reads Pollok now? Who can remember and repeat a single passage of its inflated, stiltish, encumbered descriptions? It will be very much the same case with this volume of Mr. Smith within the brief space of five years.
Now Memory is the best of critics. To say nothing of what may happen in the course of time,' we venture to believe that even now the most extravagant admirers of Mr. Smitu cannot repeat any six consecutive lines, even from passages which they have praised so highly; and the reason is, that the composition is so crowded, that it is like recollecting the hues of a kaleidoscope to recall its beauties, numerous and striking though they may be, when taken simply. We are as far from being satisfied as the London Examiner, one of the foremost of the English critical authorities, that Mr. Smith is a poet, although we hold, with that journal, that he is 'capable of writing highly poetical things, and has at his command many of the ingredients out of which poems are made. That's it exactly : it tells the whole story.
Our contemporary of 'The Times' daily journal, in an able review of this volume of Mr. Smith, has shown, by comparative extracts, that in several instances his plagiarisms from TENNYSON are gross and palpable; and has also collated a few of the exuberances of which we have spoken :
*His worst fault is the excessive superfluity of his imagery. Almost every page contains a lavish waste of sea-imagery. Poor old Oceanus! Mr. Smith leads him a weary dance. Now he is ‘a garrulous old gray-beard ;' presently he is ‘young and passionpanting;' in the next page, he is ‘moaning like a monster pained;' anon, he is 'a weak enamored sea,' in love with some young wanton of an ísle;' then he sends up 'mad spoomings to the stars ; ', then he watches the stars in their unveiled beauty; then he gets 'white with wrath,’and strikes at the stars. There are between two and three hundred allusions to the sea, either by way of metaphor, allegory, simile, or fancy run mad, in Mr. Smith's volume. Nor does the moon fare much better. She is a widow;' she is “a swimmer;' she is setting silver on the sea;' she allows the waves to shoulder her, to obtain one of her smiles; she 'rushes like a stag;' directly afterward she is a patient sufferer, pale with pain;' presently she is 'a pale prophetess;' then she is 'a while flower in the sky;' then she is full-faced;' and in a minute afterward, she is streaming through the sky'in a frightened manner, with a pack of 'hungry clouds' at her heels. There must be at least a hundred appearances of the moon in Mr. Smith's volume. It is the same -- it is even worse — with the stars. They shout;' they are 'breathless;' they hang like fruit;' they are ‘hounds chasing a stag;' they are listening to songs;' they are hanging on the music of a nightingale;' they'pant with pas sion;' they'reel;' they tremble;' they “bleed ;' they yearn;' they are glad;' they ‘are frightened; they are ‘silent and throbbing;' they are 'golden-voiced clarions.' Mr. Smith crowds simile upon simile, and illustration upon illustration, with a lavishness that beggars description. And some of the critics have adduced this diarrhea of fancy as an evidence of his poetical genius. Alas, if he has genius, he has no judgment; for almost always are his images superfluous and inapt. "His violations of good taste are frequent and enormous. He talks of a “cataract of golden curls.' As if • a cataract of curls' were not sufficient, we have also shoals of curls.' These absurdities are so numerous that we could fill á column with them.'
Yes; and there are other objects in nature upon which Mr. Smith has rung the changes of mere words, until one scarcely knows what he really means to convey. He is a laborious collector of 'gems' which he surrounds with a setting of Scotch .cairn-gorm.'
It would be hardly fair, after all that we have said, not to permit our new poet to represent himself, by two or three extracts, in these pages; and we choose those which we believe have been the least quoted among the many
that have been presented in the reviews which we have encountered. The first is a charming inventory-picture, a quiet country-sketch of one of England's cottage-homes :'
"Wealth of all flowers grew in that garden green,
The mighty sky, with sailing sunny clouds.' After a long absence, and changed by many sad experiences and wasting thoughts, the poet stands once more in his garden, in silence and alone :
'Summer hath murmured with her leafy lips
I gather patience and severe content.' A single passage more must close our extracts. It has some of the beauties, and one or two of the faults, which characterize the imagery of our author:
"THE terror-stricken rain
And scares her with a battle's bleeding face?' We take our leave of the present volume, with the assured conviction that we shall hear again from Mr. Smith, and more to his advantage, when time shall have pruned his redundant imagination, and made him more reliant upon his heart and his judgment than upon his memory-trammelled fancy. VOL. XLII.
EDITOR'S TA BLE.
Up the River, April 20. 'I was much amused to-day by the antics of a herd of young heifers who held possession of a wheat-field, led on by the pertinacity of a little bull. His forehead was just turgescent with the coming horns, but he roared with the lusty voice of a young lion, and galloped furiously from pursuit, throwing up
the clods and waving his tail in the air. I was walking in the garden, looking with a hopeful eye upon the sprouting dock-leaves and the peeping buds of the gooseberry-bushes, when awakened from my meditations by loud bellowings, accompanied by the cry of Coofl coof!' and the angry protestations of the farmer and his boys. The field of wheat was green and tempting, presenting a solitary patch of verdure, for the hardy blade flourishes in the cold soil. It had already solicited the appetite of a street-hog, who would make his daily inroad, nudging up the bars with his strong snout, or squeezing his body underneath them through a narrow space, enough to break his bones, or tear out all the bristles on his back. Day by day the porker was driven from the field, but to the young heifers the green blade was so appetizing that they were loth to give it up. The farmer had taken down the bars, and several times, with great industry, got the cattle in a corner, when the little bull impatiently threw up his heels, rushed past the guards with irresistible violence, and immediately the whole herd broke. This process was repeated half a dozen times, until the success of the rebellion and resolute conduct of the heifers invested the affair with a degree of excitement. Sitting on a rail, I laughed at the angry farmers, and wished well to the efforts of the ring-leader bull. With what appetite the flock grazed in the field corners when the pursuers were afar off! —and on the approach of the latter, their irruption' was like that of buffaloes on the plains. It was not without great uproar, and the calling in of additional help, and repeated cries of Coof! coof!' and the exhaustion of the bucolic vocabulary, that they were got out of the enclosures, the rex gregis leaving them with a flying vault and angry toss of the head. No doubt they preferred the succulent pasture to solitary cud-chewing in the stall. Poor little bull! In a week after, a rope was fastened about his neck, passed through an iron ring in the barn-floor, and I heard his smothered bellowings as his hornless head was