페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

considerably to the usefulness of the work. In a word, De la Voye's Lexicon will reduce the learner's efforts one half compared with any other help of the kind that we can name, and render the remainder in a great measure a labour of love; for it will be felt to be one of real and intelligible progression in regions of study akin, and in various senses superior, to those which new countries or strange scenes present. The discovery is beautiful, awakening, and lavishly remunerative, which a nation's mind and a nation's tongue can afford. When the student's labour is lightened and sweetened, can the teacher continue without equivalents?

ART. XXX.-Bryant's Fountain and other Poems.

A SMALL volume of the well-known American poet, containing, besides miscellaneous pieces, sundry fragments from unfinished works; the whole elegantly written, smooth, and every way skilful, if poetry be confined to an apt choice of diction, to smoothness and fluency of versification, to skilful composition, and an expert use of the thoughts and manner of other authors. But with regard to originality of mind, or even terseness and vigour of style, this transatlantic bard merits but a very limited praise. True, he often sings of subjects that are new to us, and different from any that could have occupied the poets of Britain. But then we look in vain for impressions correspondingly and adequately novel, or evidence of a genius and imagination having been bred in other than the old world. The mere exterior of things appears to have caught the eye; the essence, characteristics, and the images, as well as the language, shaped according to the deeper discovery and appreciation, being wanting. "The Fountain" illustrates Bryant's defect, at the same time that it exhibits his art and skill as a verifier; for while the history, the past, the present, and the probably future condition,of the theme is described, it is only, we think, as the fancy and the observation of an Englishman, equally skilled in the art of poetic construction, might have done, who had chanced to have his attention directed to the subject and its concomitants. All is graceful to be sure, and much there is that is obviously peculiar to the region, and to the necessities of the case. But where is the truth that is astoundingly or unmistakeably uttered for the first time, or that is so strangely beautiful and unexpectedly imposing, as can never lose its effect, if not upon your heart, at least in your recollections? We extract a sample, which depicts the progress of settlement, and which may serve as a test of Mr. Bryant's powers, taken in an original sense, as well as a test of his polished manner when viewed as an artist.

[ocr errors]

I look again a hunter's lodge is built,

With poles, and boughs, beside thy crystal well,
While the meek autumn stains the woods with gold,
And sheds his golden sunshine. To the door
The red man slowly drags the enormous bear
Slain in the chesnut thicket, or flings down
The deer from his strong shoulders. Shaggy fells
Of wolf and congar hang upon the walls.

And loud the black-eyed Indian maidens laugh,
That gather, from the rustling heaps of leaves,
The hickory's white nuts, and the dark fruit
That falls from the gray butternut's long boughs.
So centuries passed by, and still the woods
Blossomed in spring, and reddened when the year
Grew chill, and glistened in the frozen rains
Of winter; till the White man swung the axe
Beside thee-signal of a mighty change.
Then all around was heard the crash of trees,
Trembling awhile and rushing to the ground,
The low of ox, and shouts of men who fired
The brushwood, or who tore the earth with ploughs.
The grain sprang thick and tall, and hid in green
The blackened hill-side; ranks of spiky maize
Rose like a host embattled; the buck-wheat
Whitened broad acres, sweetening with its flowers
The August wind. White cottages were seen
With rose-trees at the windows; barns from which
Swelled loud and shrill the cry of Chanticleer;
Pastures were rolled and neighed the lordly horse,
And white flocks browsed and bleated. A rich turf
Of grasses brought from far o'ercrept thy bank
Spotted with the white clover. Blue-eyed girls
Brought pails, and dipped them in thy crystal pool;
And children, ruddy-cheeked and flaxen-haired,
Gathered the glistening cowslip from thy edge.

THE

MONTHLY REVIEW.

MARCH, 1843.

ART. I.

1. Rambles in Yucatan. By B. M. NORMAN.

Wiley and Putnam. 2. Life in Mexico, during a Residence of Two Years in that Country. By Madame Č. Hall.

DE LA B

Chapman and

3. Letters on South America. By J. P. and W. P. ROBERTSON, 3 vols. Murray.

We shall not seek to give any very satisfactory explanation of the circumstances which have induced us to club into one paper the three works mentioned above. Something might be said about the identity of the continent to which each and all of these volumes of sketches relate; and we might also advance a few words about the necessity of dispatching several works in one article, when they happen to have anything in common among them, at the time especially when the influx of books is large and the demands of all pressing. But, without any further preamble, we proceed to introduce those enumerated in the order given, and to back such observations as may have occurred to us, with the specimens that are deemed requisite.

Beginning, then, with the "Rambles in Yucatan," we have to remark, that Stephens's "Travels in Central America," and Bradford's "American Antiquities," have, within these few years, informed the public to a very considerable extent concerning a number of the wonderful monuments which our Rambler went to explore; they having been, in the MONTHLY REVIEW as well as in the other literary journals of the day, made the theme of speculation and description. Besides, the reading world is aware that Mr. Stephens has renewed his archæological investigations in the province of Yucatan; not merely, it is understood, with the intention to describe the remains, but with a view to the removal of the more interesting and characteristic specimens to the United States, for the formation of a museum. When referring, however, to the purpose and process of removal, NO. III. (1843) VOL. I.

BB

great limitations must be attended to; for it will require but the perusal of almost any of Mr. Norman's descriptions to convince the reader, that by far the greatest portion of the antiquities in question defy all idea of transportation.

Seeing then that the author of "Travels in Central America" is likely so soon to favour the world with an account of his renewed exploring undertakings in the regions alluded to, and considering that, both by previous study and painstaking preparation, as well as careful and prolonged research, he is a vastly more competent guide than our Rambler, it is only neeedful that we deal summarily with the pages before us.

Mr. Norman's rambles may be regarded as possessing two features, the first being that of a personal tour. Here we behold the restless and rapid American to life; one of those people who appear to think as little of undertaking extensive travels, and to inhospitable parts, as they do on a tangent, of changing the shape of their course, or of entering into any speculation which random opportunity may offer; nay, who will write a book about all that they did or saw without a moment's thought of their competency for such a task.

Whether the Rambler had any precise purpose when he started from New Orleans in 1841, and embarked for Havannah, does not distinctly appear. He seems to have intended to visit the Windward Islands; but finding that the conveyance between them and Cuba was not so frequent or good as he had imagined, he jumps into a Spanish vessel bound to Sisal in Yucatan. Soon after his arrival in that country he starts, apparently with hardly an hour's forethought, for Merida, the capital of the province; where, learning that there were other ruins than those at Palenque, which earlier travellers had elaborately described, he resolves to visit them. Accordingly, he made a rapid run to Chi-Chen; stopped for a still shorter space at those of Kabah, as he did also at Zayi; and then used all haste to examine the remains at Uxmal, which, however, have long ago been very fully described by Waldeck: the Rambles occupying somewhere about five months.

So much for the tour, which did not offer many passages in the way of personal incident. The second feature of the book is the account which it contains of the amazing ruins visited. Here again Mr. Norman does not supply us with nearly so much that is new, or at least that can be relied upon, as Mr. Stephens in the same short space of time would have gathered. As already indicated, he did not start with any preparatory knowledge or aids to forward historical and archæological investigations. The only instrument to assist him which he possessed was a compass; while, as to the method of his admeasurements, they very often were merely guess-work; the time required, the difficulty of access, and an inadequate sense of the value of many of the objects spoken of, preventing the learned and

scientific reader from placing implicit faith in the statements. To be sure, the rambler has abundauce of confidence in his own sagacity; he is a rattling go-a-head narrator, being superficial, but never tedious or dry. He appears too to have picked up, before sending his work to the press, a considerable amount of what has been said of the ruins of Yucatan, by more skilful and leisurely travellers. Still, while far from intending to mislead, his descriptions must be taken with caution, when speaking of architectural facts, or whatever either requires mathematical or artistic preparation. Certainly, we do not find in his pages more extraordinary descriptions than what have been given by preceding writers; and still less are the curious to look for such speculations as may shed any light upon the origin and the age of the marvellous transatlantic remains. They may be Etruscan, or even Antideluvian, for anything that Mr. Norman can tell or imagine. In fact, our author makes no pretension to archæological science, but writes a book of rambles over scenes that have an unusual degree of freshness, and which is, from its liveliness and unhesitating tone, well calculated to afford a few hours' pleasant and even exciting reading.

In so far as the personal tour, with its incidents of travel, is concerned, the account is informing on the superficial matters of existing life in Yucatan. Thus we have a good many notices of the exterior modes of the white or more civilised inhabitants, and also of the Indians. But the accounts of the antiquities and ruins will chiefly attract the general reader who has learnt little previously of the subject, and who may not seek for strictly accurate details. Above all, the picture and the evidences given by Mr. Norman, of the amazing amount of population which, at some remote age, must have crowded the region of America explored by him, almost staggers belief and baffles conception, although his statements in proof of this density need not, we think, be questioned, seeing that it did not require minute skill or taste to arrive at the proofs. For example, he appears to have established this fact, that within the province examined, and which is but limited with regard to extent, the ruins of more than half a dozen cities are still traceable, which must only have yielded in magnitude to the very largest in ancient times. To be sure, the remains in Central America appear to indicate a material vastness, rather than an intellectual superiority. And yet how great and peculiar must have been the artistic knowledge, as well as mechanical advancement, of a nation which has left such imperishable and magnificent works as those described! At the same time, it is to be remarked that these works were probably devoted to, or the result of, gross rites and useless displays. But we must not venture upon speculation.

We have said that Mr. Norman's instrumental aids to observation were of the most limited character. He had a compass; and this

« 이전계속 »