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is the description he gives of this bold reiver.
"I simply say he was my friend," he adds—defying the world to say what it will of his dead chief—with the fervor of hot- partisanship made hotter by grief, We quote from this poem what appears to us a very remarkable description of a Mexican forest.
"How wound we through the solid wood,
And snakes—long, lithe, and beautiful,
The trees shook hands high overhead,
Birds hung and swung, green-robed and red,
Wild lilies, tall as maidens are,
How ran the monkeys through the leaves,
How quick they cast us fruits of gold,
The long days through, from blossomed trees,
There came the sweet song of sweet bees,
With chorus tones of cockatoo,
That slid his beak along the bough,
And walked and talked, and hung and swung,
In crown of gold and coat of blue—
All this warmth and glow of diction, and the almost wild force of realism in it, seems to us another proof that it is a new spring which has bubbled up with a rush in the somewhat flat and tame plains of literature in America. It is imperfect and uncertain as yet; but we cannot but hope that its maturing tide will produce worthy results.
There is another series of American ballads, recently published, which seem to demand notice, at once from their popularity and from their unlikeness to those which we have just discussed. "The Breitmann Ballads " * do not reach within a thousand miles of Bret Harte. His productions may be doggerel; but these are jargon, and throughout there is nothing in them beyond the most conventional farce and vulgar travesty of nature. The habitues of a New York lager-beer establishment may be interesting in their way, just as the people who frequent a London music-hall may be interesting; but we avow that to ourselves the pursuit of knowledge in such regions is not attractive. The renowned poem beginning " Hans Breitmann gife a barty," though, as we are told in the preface to the English edition, "these words have actually passed into a proverbial expression," proves but too clearly that the music-hall public has become a large one, and is likely to initiate a literature of its own. It has nothing really comic in it save the jargon, which provokes a laugh by the poorest means—means of which the Ethiopian minstrel has already taken full possession. Why these verses should have been honored by serious criticism as they have been, we are at a loss to discover. That the reader may judge for himself, we quote one of the very best—the description of Breitmann's return to Sherman's camp after a captivity among the Southerners. This incident is said to be a matter of fact. It was preceded by a feat which General Sherman is said with some humor to have commented on as follows:—
"Der Shinral he ootered no hymn and no psalm. But opened his lips, and he priefly say d n!"
* The Breitmann Ballads. London: Trubner & Co. 1870.
Breitmann's return happens after a captivity of three weeks, and great lamentation among his devoted followers, who at his first appearance take him for a ghost.
"Und ve looks und ve sees, und ve tremples mit tread,
For risin' all swart on de efenin' red • Vas Johannes der Breitman, der war es, bei
Coom ndm' to oosward, right shtraight to de shpot.
All mouse-still ve shtood, yet mit oopshoompin' hearts,
For he look shoost so pig as de shiant of de Hartz, TJnd I heard de Sout Deutschers say, 'Ave Morie!
Braise Gott all good shpirids py land und py sea!'
Boot Itzig of Frankfort he lift oop his nose,
For he seemed like a generalissimus drest
Und ve dinks dat de ghosdt or votever he pe, Moost have proken some panks on his vay to de sea.
'Id is he!' Und er lebt noch, he lifes, ve all say,
Der Breitman—Oldt Breitman—Hans Breitman —Herr Je!
Und ve roosh to emprace him, and shtill more ve find
Dat vlierefcr he'd peen, he'd left noding behind. In bofe of his pools dere was porte-moneys crammed,
Mit creen-packs stoof full all his haversack jammed.
In his bockets cold dollars were shinglin' deir dooms,
Mit dwo doozen votches und four dozen shpoons,
Mit goot sweed botatoes und doorkies und rice,
Dill dey findt a plantaschion mit parrels of wein. Den 'tvas ' Here's to you, Breitman, Alt Schwed'bist zurfick,
Vot teufels you makes since dis fourteen nights veek?'
Und ve holds von shtupendous und derriple shpree,
For choy dat der Breitman has got to de sea.
But in fain tid we ashk vhere der Breitman hat peen,
Vot he tid, vot he pass droo, or vot he might seen?
Vhere he kits his vine horse, or who gafe him dem woons,
Und how Brovidence plessed him mit tea pods
and shpoons? For to all of dem queeries he only reblies, If you dells me no quesdions I ashks you no lies!"
Few things could be more odd than the transition from these wild narratives of lawless life to the curious set of books which open up the feminine side of American character in its newest phase—from the '-Luck of Roaring Camp" to " Gates Ajar;" * and yet perhaps the difference is not so great as it seems. The gold-diggers, in their utter lawlessness and indifference to God and man, are touched to the very heart' by the strange and sudden coming into their rude hands of a little germ of human life, an infant wrapped in the mysterious silence and holy seclusion of babyhood. That strange sense of the unseen about and around them, which Wordsworth, in the noblest of odes, considers as an intimation of immortality, suddenly comes into the midst of the Californian camp in the form of this child, and every heart bows down to that unexplainable, irresistible power. Conventional piety, or even the purest religion in its formal shape, would probably have affected only to ridicule and profanity the band which fell prostrate before that little messenger of God. It is the same idea which struggles to get expression, through harder mediums, in the "Gates Ajar." Those gates are the gates of heaven ; and the shadowy beings of the tale, impatient of all the conventional interpretations of common religiousness, are straining on tiptoe for just such a glimmer of insight into the unseen which their baby missionary suffices to give to the unspiritual diggers. The one scene is wildly primitive, —dealing with the very elements and chaotic undeveloped forces of humanity; the other is but too much instructed, struggling to escape from the deadening of all the faculties consequent upon familiarity with sacred subjects, and to find for itself some crevice in the skies to let the glory through. The wonderful success of the "Gates Ajar" is of itself one of the most touching facts in literature. The book is not very good. It is an agonized straining after an impossibility—one of those attempts made so often by the doubting and unhappy to console themselves and strengthen their faith by means of arguments which they endeavor to give force to by saying over and over again that they are strong. The process is a
•Gates Ajar. By Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. Sampson Low & Co,
very common one; and everybody knows how often he is called upon to receive arguments of this kind—pleas for patience, encouragements to faith, and explanations of God's dealing with man—as overwhelmingly convincing, when to him they have no significance nor point at all. But the fact that there are always thousands of people (Miss Phelps's little book sold, we believe, as many as a hundred thousand copies) whose hearts are wrung by anxious longings to see, if it were ever so small a way, within those gates which are ajar indeed, but veiled by their brightness as much as any gloom could veil them— is as affecting as anything can well be. The story of "Gates Ajar" is a very simple one. It is that of a young woman in an American village—one of those little places now so well known to us, where the minister and Deacon Quirk inquire very closely into everybody's spiritual affairs, and the whole community is interested in ascertaining whether or not a sufferer bears his or her grief as he or she ought. This solitary girl receives suddenly the news of her only brother's death, and, while half crazed with grief, is driven wild altogether by the consolations addressed to her, which are made cheerful by the assurance that probably spiritualminded persons will recognize each other in heaven, and that their occupation there will be to stand up with golden harps and sing praises forever—an occupation for which poor Mary does not feel herself fitted, and which seems to her to part her forever from all her old loving intercourse with her brother. Suddenly there arises upon the scene, full of sweet and pious wisdom, a certain Aunt Winifred, who makes everything plain. "You don't suppose," cries poor Mary, struggling with her old notions and startled by a sense of profanity, though longing to accept the consolation held out «to her—"you don't suppose that people talk in heaven?"
"' I don't suppose anything else. Are we to spend ages of joy a company of mutes together? Why not talk ? *
*** I suppose we should sing; but'
"' Why not talk as well as sing? does not song involve the faculty of speech? unless you would like to make canaries of us!"
«1 Ye-es—why, yes; and you mean to say"
"' I mean to say that if there is such a thing as common-sense, you will talk with Roy as you talked with him here—only not
as you talked with him here, because there will be no trouble nor sins, no anxieties or cares, to talk about ; no ugly shade of cross words pr little quarrels to be made up, no fearful looking for of separation."
"I laid my head upon her shoulder, and could hardly speak for the comfort that she gave me.
"' Yes ; I believe we shall talk, and laugh,
and joke, and play'
"' Laugh and joke in heaven?' •"Why not?'
"' But it seems so—so—why, so wicked and irreverent, and all that, you know.'
"Just then Faith . . . laughed out like a little wave ; the sound came in at the open door, and we stopped to listen till it had rippled away.
"'There,' said her mother, 'put that child this very minute, with all her little sins forgiven, into one of our dear Lord's many mansions, and do you suppose that she would be any the less holy or less reverent for a laugh like that? I expect that you will hear some of Roy's very old jokes, see the sparkle in his eye, listen to his laughing voice lighten up the happy days as gleefully as you may choose.'
"I wonder if Roy has seen the President Aunt Winifred says she does not doubt it. She thinks that all the soldiers must have crowded up to meet him, and 'Oh,' she says, 1 what a sight to see 1'"
This is the kind of argument which restores peace and happiness to the bosom of the bereaved sister. The cheerful view of heaven here set forth is carried on to further details; and the opinion of Aunt Winifred, who confides to her pupil hef own speculations as to the kind of house she shall live in, the flowers she shall have under her windows, and the mountains and trees which shall be visible from them, in that one of the "many mansions" which shall be allotted to her, is contrasted with many other views of heaven, as held by the community of Homer, the town in which they live. One of the girls in Aunt Winifred's class at the Sundayschool, for instance, is asked, "What sort of a place she supposed heaven was going to be?"
"' Oh!' she said, with a dreary sigh, 'I never think about it when I can help it; I suppose wt shall all just stand there"
"' And you?' I asked of the next, a bright girl with snapping eyes.
"' Do you want me to talk good or tell the truth ?" she answered me. Having been given to understand that she was not expected to 'talk good' in my class, she said, with an approving decided nod, 'Well, then, I don't think it's going to be anything nice, anyhow—no, I don't! I told my last teacher so, and she looked just as shocked, and said I never should go there so long as I felt so. That made me mad, and I told her I didn't see but I should be as well off in one place as another, except for the fire.'
"A silent girl in the corner began at this point to look interested. 'I always supposed,' she said, ' that you just floated round in heaven, you know, all together—something like jujube paste /"'
Deacon Quirk's opinion is more orthodox. He is clear upon the subject of the white robes and the palm in his hand, which he expects to carry ; but, on being questioned as to how he would feel if suddenly taken from the potato-field in which he is working, and put into this heavenly existence, answers candidly that "I can't say that I shouldn't wonder a moment maybe how Abinadab would ever get those potates hoed without me" It is, however, unnecessary to pursue either the narrative or the argument. It is an argument, of course, just as little satisfactory and as easily upset—and, indeed, as contrary to the true hope of humanity, which does not really look for an easy repetition of this life in the life to come— as is the old vague theory which this book so triumphantly puts down. But our business is not with the force of the argument, but with the fact of its existence. This curious little book, full from beginning to end of such reasoning, with much less than usual of quaint village fun to enliven it, rose to the very height of popularity by reason of its subject. This throws a very strange light upon that seething continent, in which so many different elements are mingling. Miss Phelps has written two books since, both distinctly superior in point of art, but neither half so popular as her first production. Thus, by the side of the wild world of rude and carnal life, spreads this other world of eager spiritual curiosity which crowds round the gates of the unseen, eager to "gain a glimpse not afforded to the common mass; and whether it be by absorbing thought and speculation, or by intervention of spiritual help, gives itself up to the search after things invisible, the elucidation of those problems which are between God and man. The domestic school of novels everywhere, and especially in America, is always pious; but this is something more
than piety. It is spiritual exploration, the heat of spiritual adventure ; a determination to know more and see more clearly than it is given to man to see or to know.
Of the same class is a novel called "Hitherto,"* which is brimful of this strange consciousness of the unseen. It is a peculiar book—not likely, perhaps, to acquire any great popularity among soberminded people; and full of quaint vulgarities and that funny admiration for the commonest refinements of "life which crops up even in the best class of American novels, as if the writers were unaccustomed to them—which cannot possibly be the case with all. The story is of a dreamy poetical girl living in a mist of fancy, who does all but alienate from her the affections of her honest and tender-hearted husband, but who fortunately is brought at last to see the error of her ways: and of a wonderful and perfect creature called Hope Devine, who starts from a workhouse, and, through the easy stages of domestic service in a farmhouse, blossoms into an accomplished lady. This, the reader will think, is sufficiently miraculous: but it is done with a great deal of natural grace, and somehow does not seem so out of the question, on reading, as at the first glance it looks. It is, however, its spiritual side—the extraordinary pressure of the unseen everywhere, without, however, any relapse into the vulgar supernatural—which is the charm of the book. It is too long, too dreamy and meditative, and its peculiar beliefs are too much woven in with the story, to permit of quotation ; but though it is quite different from "Gates Ajar," it is an illustration of the same state of feeling. The gates are ajar, too, in Mrs. Whitney's book ; but the revelation, or fancied revelation of strange light which shines through them, concerns not the dead but the living. The whole of existence is wrapped in that veil, which gives meaning and mystery to its slightest incidents. Here is an instance of this constant reference to spiritual things, in one of the many monologues of Hope Devine :—
"It's enough to be close to things," she said; "it's only really to concern yourself with them. You haven't time to live them all and every one for youself. To know all
* Hitherto: A Story of Yesterday. By Mrs. Whitney.
about anything is to have it—the good of it. I think it's easy for the angels to be happy so—they know, you see. It's easiest of all for God. Perhaps He shows us things sometimes, and puts them away again for us, to give us by-and-by, when we are bigger; as mothers do with children's playthings that are too beautiful for them to have right off."
Hope is the seer of the book. She sees no uncanny sights,—she is no medium nor priestess of so-called spiritualism ; but she is a spiritual interpreter of that unseen which seems to press upon all the personages in the little drama with a force and nearness which demand explanation. She shuts her eyes, when a child, and sees, filling up the stories in her story-books with infinite details. "I think hard, and then I see 'em," she says; and when her matter-offact companion objects, "When you shut your eyes you ain't really there," Hope replies quickly with the most irresistible of arguments, "You can't see anything that isn't" Her dreams, her fancies, the things she wishes and hopes for, all are in a way—if not now, hereafter—if not for her, for some one else. They are part of the great invisible life of which she is but a little piece—a corner broken off. Thus this subtle spiritual sense—if we may use such a word—this consciousnesss of the unseen, embraces the visible world all round about, appearing at every chink in a suppressed yet unquenchable glow of light.
Miss Phelps's two later books have not been, as we have said, nearly so popular as the "Gates Ajar," but they are better as stories, and of a higher class in art. The little volume entitled "Hedged In" is the story of a poor little city girl, brought up among vice and wretchedness, who "fell at a very early age"—if anything could be called falling in such a condition of incipient evil as the lives of so many wretched children must begin and end in—and who struggled into a better life, and redeemed herself by indomitable energy and the help of one of those miraculous good women who are to be found in some women's books, and notably in the books of Americans. Perhaps these wonderful purities and sanctities—who are so stainless that they are above public opinion, and so courageous that they are capable of picking a beggar off the streets, and of restoring the Madalene by the process of admitting her into the society of
their own women-children—may be more common in America than elsewhere. We hope so ; yet cannot but think the writer is here drawing upon imagination rather than experience. The search of the poor little guilty and outcast girl for some means of "living honest" is, however, wonderfully pathetic. Her conviction " that there must be somewheres, and there must be folke" who will take her in and help; her dull conventional consciousness that she must have been wicked, ye* honest sense, after all, that she is not a bad girl, and that with all her heart she desires to "stay honest;" her wondering question to herself whether God has not any "folks" who would help her; and the gradual stupefying despair which closes over her,— are all most simply and truly drawn. There is no exaggeration in the picture— no high-flown remorse nor indignation. Her consience is not awake, poor child (for she is not sixteen), and yet she has a dull sense that her sufferings, and the hardness of the "folks" who turn her from their doors, are natural and to be expected. Nixy, however, is much less true when she is restored and cherished into life—when she becomes Eunice, and a very clever and accomplished young woman. Such a transformation of course may be; but there is no particular reason that we can make out for endowing a girl with a specially fine mind and sensitive feelings because she has been brought up in misery and degradation, and has had everything against her. Neither is it well to conduct her through so painful a process of training, and bring her successfully over all her trials, only to kill her at the last. This is balking the whole argument, which is intended to prove the possibility of escape and rehabilitation even for a fallen woman. Nor is it just to make a helpless victim like this the type of a fallen woman. The world is very hard and evil-judging, but it is not, at its worst, so hard yet as to keep up against a poor little girl of sixteen, without training or possibility of innocence, the stigma due to conscious impurity. It is perhaps necessary to the scrupulous whiteness of the feminine ideal that poor Nixy should be so young and ignorant that her sin is reduced to the minimun of guilt; and that, notwithstanding, she should develop into something so ethereally pure that the ghost of this sin haunting her thoughts should eventually kill her, after all its evil conse