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poetic— which he does not find. Trollope's truth to heart. They have all of them a point of view is real and perfectly natural, public, and they always take care to provide but it is low.
amusement for their readers. Something of His parsons, whether they are bishops, theirs is always "going on somewhere." prebendaries, deans, vicars, or curates, are, This policy is sound. Fashions and tastes as a rule, the selfish men of everyday life. change, new writers may spring up, or old Their wives are more worldly and selfish ones wear out. They charm while they may, than they. What, then, is the mission of while their copy has a market value, and act the novelist—to educate or to depict? The on that most excellent proverb of making numerous readers of the popular author must their hay while the sun shines. It is well answer this.
that they should do so; and nobody's hay, Literary fame is a thing of slow growth, old or new, is sweeter in the mouth than generally. Anthony Trollope began with that of the writer whose books we have a story, historical and dull, entitled “La named. He is an artist who goes to nature Vendée,” published by Colburn in 1850. for his materials; whose puppets are flesh He had missed his mark, but he soon recti- and blood, not clothes-horses; and against fied the mistake. In 1855 he published whom the only fault we have to bring is "The Warden," being the history of the that he has, perhaps, too much “ to parsons Rev. Septimus Harding, warden of Hiram's given up, what was meant for mankind.” Hospital, in the city of Barchester. Two years later, “Barchester Towers" appeared ;
WALT WHITMAN. in 1858, “Dr. Thorne,” another story of churchmen; and in the same year, "The THE Americans have often been twitted
“ tical life. In 1859, the prolific pen of the of their own; and the answer to the accusaauthor furnished Mudie's subscribers with tion-which is questionable, after all-is that “ The Bertrams,” and an Irish story, “ The the Americans, as a nation, are yet young, Kellys and the O'Kellys.” In the next and that the development of the peculiar year (1860), “Castle Richmond” made its intellectual genius of the nation, like that of appearance; and then Thackeray invited its boundless natural resources, is only a Mr. Trollope to open the ball in the “Corn- matter of time. A man, however, has lately hill ” with a new story. This story, "Fram- sprung up among them whom his admirers ley Parsonage,” is one of his best produc-exalt as the greatest poet that ever lived, tions. It is a charming piece of genre and his opponents denounce as a literary painting in ink, and did its part in maintain- lunatic, writing, under pretence of verse, ing his reputation, if it did not add anything neither rhyme, rhythm, nor good sober prose. to it. “Orley Farm” (1862), “Rachel Ray" As in most fierce discussions, so in this con
” (1863), “The Small House at Allington," cerning the true place of Walt Whitman
) and "Can You Forgive Her?” followed in both sides are extravagantly wrong. “
Whit1864, almost together; “Miss Mackenzie" man is neither the greatest poet that ever in '65, and “The Belton Estate" in '66. lived, nor is he a raving madman. In '67, “The Last Chronicle of Barset," and Walt Whitman is peculiarly an American “The Claverings;” in '69, “ He Knew He production. His poems may be said to be was Right,” and “Phineas Finn.” “The Vicar essentially filled with an American spirit, to of Bullhampton, “Sir Harry Hotspur, of breathe the American air, and to assert the Humblethwaite,” “Ralph the Heir,” and fullest American freedom. “ The Golden Lion of Granpere," close the It is for this reason that many people on list.
this side of the Atlantic will not take the What other novelist has written as many trouble to study him as he deserves to be stories of even merit? They are all below studied. His ideas, and his manner of exthe high mark of the great writers; but all pression, jar at the first reading on our old are interesting, all show good sound art in formal notions of what poetry should be, and their manipulation. They represent a great how it should be expressed. total of work, conscientiously performed. It Browning is rugged enough, in all conseems well, in these fast times, to keep the science; and he pays a heavy penalty of
, ball rolling. Mrs. Henry Wood, Miss Brad- unpopularity for his peculiar style. While don, and Anthony Trollope have laid this Tennyson, and others of the smooth, volup
tuous, sensuous school, hold temporary sway | The account of the affair, by an American over the ears of society, the strong singers writer, is curious:of more Spartan mould must bide their time. Imagine the feelings of any idle reader
“It was about ten years ago that literary who, after having just read the Laureate's circles in and around Boston were startled "Miller's Daughter," or "Oriana,” carelessly by the tidings that Emerson—whose increduopens Walt Whitman to the following tune, lity concerning American books was known from his “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry":
to be as profound as that of Sydney Smith -had discovered an American poet. Emer
son had been for many years our literary “ Flood-tide below me! I watch you face to face: banker: paper that he had inspected, coin Clouds of the west! Sun there half an hour high! that he had rung on his counter, would pass I see you also face to face.
“On his table had been laid one day a “ Crowds of men and women, attired in the usual queerly shaped book, entitled 'Leaves of costumes, how curious you are to me!
Grass. By Walt Whitman.' There was also On the ferry-boats, the hundreds and hundreds
that cross, returning home, are more curious to in the front the portrait of a middle-aged me than you suppose;
man, in the garb of a working man. And you that shall from shore years hence are “The Concord philosopher's feelings on more to me, and more in my meditations, than perusing this book were expressed in a priyou might suppose.
vate letter to its author, which I quote from
memory : “ The impalpable sustenance of me from all things, at all hours of the day;
“At first, I rubbed my eyes, to find if this The simple, compact, well-joined scheme-my. self disintegrated, every one disintegrated, yet I greet you at the beginning of a great
new sunbeam might not be an illusion. ...
, part of the scheme; The similitudes of the past, and those of the career, which yet must have had a long future;
foreground somewhere for such a start.”” The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings--on the walk in the street,
Praise such as this from the veteran of and the passage over the river; The current rushing so swiftly, and swimming American literature is no mean recommenwith me far away;
dation. To no one of his own countrymen The others that are to follow me, the ties between -and no one before living, except Carlyle
me and them; The certainty of others—the lise, love, sight,
had Emerson previously written so forcibly. hearing of others.”
But Emerson's feeling may well be under
stood by any one who will carefully readBut this is enough to give an idea of what as they assuredly will some day be reada shock would happen to the nerves of any Whitman's poems. Emerson had long laordinary dilletante reader of poetry, and we mented, in his own nervous, vigorous fashion, candidly confess there would be some excuse that the American freeman was becoming for immediate dislike of the new poet. The “timid, imitative, tame," from listening too contrast is too startling between the smooth, long to the courtly muses of Europe." old-fashioned couplets of our orthodox Eng. And here, in this new man, unlike any man lish verse, and this wild, free, reckless voice who had ever before written or sung, whichof the fields, and the rivers, and the back
ever you like to call it, he fancied he saw woods of far Massachusetts.
a pioneer, as it were, to the Promised Land Hence, it may safely be said that it is upon of a new and distinctive American song. these first openings of his works by inquir- "It is,” said Emerson of “Leaves of Grass," ing lovers of mere pleasant, mellifluous verse “the most extraordinary piece of wit and that Walt Whitman has been condemned. wisdom that America has yet contributed." The first taste was enough; and it remained An able critic has written forcibly on the for men of broader and more philosophic genius of this first important work of Whitideas, who look upon true poetry as something more than fine words, to discover that there really was something, after all, in this “The plainness of speech in Leaves of wild poet of the prairies.
Grass' is indeed biblical. From its first The first man of any note to appreciate sentence—'I celebrate myself'—there starts this novus homo was Ralph Waldo Emerson. I forth an endless procession of the forms and
symbols of life: now funeral, now carnival; time alone can decide. But as a sort of enor, again, a masquerade of nations, cities, couragement to our readers to make a further epochs; or the elements, natural and human, acquaintance for themselves with the oracufascinating the eye with wonder or dread. lar expressions of this original genius, we will To these terrible eyes Maya surrenders- give a few specimens of what he himself, at faces, forms, skeletons are unsheathed. least, calls his poems. Here are the autographs of New York, and As a rule, Whitman eschews the old style of the prairies, savannahs, Ohio, Mississippi, of giving set titles to poems. Most of them and all powers, good and evil. There is are merely headed with the opening words much that is repulsive to the ordinary mind of the poems themselves—as, “I was looking in these things, and in the poems that really a long while,” “To get betimes in Boston express them; but, as huge reptiles help to town,” “When lilacs last in the door-yard fashion the pedestal of man-as artists find bloomed," and so on. in griffins and crouching animal forms the Mr. Rossetti, however, in his English sefundamental vitality upon which the statue lection of Whitman's poems, has appended or pillar may repose-one might not unrea- titles of his own, which, for the sake of consonably find in the wild, grotesque forms of venience, we will here adopt. Walt Whitman's chants, so instinct with life, The following, entitled "The Past–Prethe true basis of any shaft, not the dupli- sent,” is Walt Whitman in his glory: cate of any raised elsewhere, that American
“ I was looking a long while for the history of the thought is to raise."
past for myself, and for these chants—and now
I have found it. The aim, purpose, and leading principle of Whitman's productions are best explained
It is not in those paged fables in the libraries
(them I neither accept nor reject); in a letter of his own to a friend, in which It is no more in the legends than in all else: he says:
It is in the present—it is this earth to-day;
It is in democracy – in this America -- the Old “I assume that poetry in America needs World also; to be entirely recreated. On examining, with It is the life of one man or one woman to-day, the anything like deep analysis, what now pre- average man of to-day; vails in the United States, the whole mass
It is languages, social customs, literatures, arts;
It is the broad show of artificial things, ships, inaof poetical works, long and short, consist
chinery, politics, creeds, modern improvements, either of the poetry of an elegantly weak and the interchange of nations: sentimentalism, at bottom nothing but maud- All for the average man of to-day.” lin puerilities, or more or less musical verbiage, arising out of a life of depression and The following opening of “ Years of the enervation, as their result; or else that class Unperformed,” if not poetry in the hackof poetry, plays, &c., of which the founda- neyed sense of the term, is the voice of the tion is feudalism, with its ideas of lords and true prophet:ladies, its imported standard of gentility, and “ Years of the unperformed! Your horizon rises. the manners of European high life below I see it part away for more august dramas: stairs in every line and verse. . . . Instead
I see not America only-I see not only liberty's of mighty and vital breezes, proportionate
nation, but other nations embattling.
I see tremendous entrances and exits, I see new to our continent, with its powerful races of combinations, I see the solidarity of races; men, its tremendous historic events, its great I see that force advancing, with irresistible power, oceans, its mountains, and its illimitable on the world's stage. prairies, I find a few little silly fans lan
llave the old forces played their parts? Are the
acts suitable to them closed?" guidly moved by shrunken fingers." His ambition is, he continues in the same letter, “Old Ireland," of which we have not ' to give something to our literature which space for more than the first stanza, is, we will be our own; with neither foreign spirit, think, very beautiful:nor imagery, nor form, but adapted to our case, grown out of our associations, boldly “ Far hence, amid an isle of wondrous beauty, portraying the West, strengthening and in
crouching over a grave, an ancient sorrowful
mother, tensifying the national soul, and finding the
Once a queen, now lean and tattered, seated on entire fountains of its birth and growth in the ground; our own country.”
Her old white hair drooping dishevelled round
her shoulders; How far he will succeed in his purpose At her feet fallen an unused royal harp,
Long silent. She, too, long silent-mourning her but it does not follow of necessity that he is shrouded hope and heir;
not as erring a sinner as any among his flock. Of all the earth her heart most full of sorrow, be
The philosopher, like Bacon, may utter the cause most full of love."
noblest and loftiest sentiments, yet be at Of the political idea conveyed in this we the same time the “meanest of mankind.” say nothing; but as a picture, it is intensely So the poet may wake the pulses of men with human.
the purest and most God-like of truths, yet There is little rhyme throughout Whit-be by no means the most admired and reman's “poems," and perhaps, some people spected personally by those who have the may be inclined to say, little rhythm either; privilege of an acquaintance more intimate but that this arises more from Walt's disdain than the mere knowledge of his genius. For for the mechanical resources of other poets this reason, after our remarks on the poetry of than from any want of a good musical ear Walt Whitman, we give a sketch of his permay be seen from the following dirge for sonnel by one of his own countrymen, who, Abraham Lincoln, which is very touching while an enthusiastic admirer of the poet, yet
: “O captain-0 captain! our fearful trip is done
seems to speak from his heart:The ship has weathered every rock, the prize we sought is won;
“For years past,” says Dr. Douglas The port is near, the bells I hear-the people all O'Connor, of Massachusetts, in a pamphlet
exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim people in New York, in Brooklyn, in Boston,
called the “Good Gray Poet,” “thousands of and daring. But heart, heart, heart !
in New Orleans, and latterly in Washington, Leave you not the little spot have seen, even as I saw two hours ago, Where on the deck my captain lies, tallying, one might say, with the streets of Fallen cold and dead.
our American cities, and fit to have for his O captain, my captain, rise up and hear the bells; background and accessories their streaming Rise up, for you the flag is flung, for you the populations and ample and rich façades, a
bugle trills, For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths, for you powerful and venerable in appearance; large,
man of striking masculine beauty-a poet: the shores a-crowding, For you they call—the swaying mass, their eager calm, superbly formed; oftenest clad in the faces turning
careless, rough, and always picturesque cosO captain, dear father!
tume of the common people; resembling, This arm I push beneath you. It is some dream that on the deck and generally taken by strangers for, some
You've fallen cold and dead. great mechanic, or stevedore, or seaman, or My captain does not answer, his lips are pale and grand labourer of one kind or another; and still,
passing slowly in this guise, with nonchalant My father does not feel my arm-he has no pulse and haughty steps, along the pavement, with
nor will; But the ship, the ship is anchored safe, its voyage The dark sombrero he usually wears was,
the light and shadows falling around him. closed and done; From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with when I saw him just now—the day being object won.
warm-held for the moment in his hands.
upon his uncovered head-majestic, large, Fallen cold and dead.”
Homeric, and set upon his strong shoulders
with the grandeur of ancient sculpture. I We have quoted enough, we think, even
marked the countenance-serene, proud, in these brief extracts, to show that Walt cheerful, florid, grave; the brow, seamed with Whitman is more of a poet than his adverse noble wrinkles; the features, massive and critics will allow. The only excuse for their handsome, with firm blue eyes; the eyebrows opposition is, perhaps, that they have not and eyelids especially showing that fulness of yet learnt to understand the man.
arch seldom seen save in the antique busts; We confess to sharing the weakness of the flowing hair and fleecy beard, both very many who, in studying the genius and in- gray, and tempering with a look of age the tellect of a teacher of men, are anxious also youthful aspect of one who is but forty-five; to know all they can of his personal life. A the simplicity and purity of his dress, cheap preacher may charm an admiring congre- and plain, but spotless, from snowy falling gation with the most saintlike of sermons; 1 collar to burnished boot, and exhaling faint