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are not without splendour in the
In modern Europe there are some instances of such unions by voluntary compact, which are remarkable as having given birth to states firmly knit, and of long endurance; though not of great magnitude. Such was the Confederacy of the Cantons of Switzerland; a league, in the first
instance, of defence and deliverance, and which for centuries was as sacredly maintained, as it was heroically begun. The State of the United Provinces was such a league; giving rise to a well-cemented political community, which, on different accounts, has made itself a name among the nations of Europe. The Empire of Germany is to be considered as the most illustrious example known to us of such an union; yet its history shews that that union, as it was more extended, was less strong. But look now at that part of America which was colonized from this country, offering a magnificent instance, to be distinguished from all others, of a defensive league terminating in the establishment of a glorious confederated State. If it should be able permanently to maintain its union, (which we do not doubt,) it will shew that, in advanced civilisation, it is possible for man to effect by deliberate political prudence that object, which, in early ages, nature has accomplished by far more violent means, of which the most cruel is conquest, the establishment of extensive and well-united States.
That a great nation thus arising should have established a very different form of government indeed, "Pilfrom that under which its grim Fathers" and their ancestors had lived, was inevitable; and much modified, doubtless, must now be the original European character of the race by the influence of the spirit of all its new institutions. But its essence is the same; and the freedom enjoyed by the citizens of that young Republic is to our eyes nearly identical with that in which we have so long gloried with permitted pride under an old Monarchy. Ours may be violently destroyed by sudden revolution; theirs may by slower change be gradually subdued; but true patriots in both great lands would be equally averse, we think, to dismiss from remembrance the manner in which arose each majestic edifice of power, and fear that any other innovation than that of nature and time might prove, in the event, irremediable ruin and total overthrow.
The Americans wonder, we know, at the infatuation of our rulers; nor, devoted as they are to their
own form of government, can the more enlightened and generous among them help feeling sorrow to see the danger that threatens ours. This conviction, which they have not hesitated to confess, proves their sympathy with our love and pride in our own constitution, and that there is a community of highest feeling, in spite of the opposite nature of our politics, among the most enlightened lovers of their country, on the opposite shores of the Atlantic, on whose waters now meet in amity their saluting sails. May that amity be never broken nor disturbed; and by what other means may it be so strongly and sacredly preserved and secured, as by the mutual interchange and encouragement of all those pure and high thoughts-those "fancies chaste and noble," which genius brings to light into one common literature, eloquent in the same speech that, for so many centuries, has been made glorious by the loftiest conceptions of the greatest of the children of men? No treaties of peace so sacred as those ratified in a common tongue; and the tongue we speak, already known more widely over the world than any other, (we do not include the Chinese,) is manifestly destined to communicate Christianity to the utter most parts of the earth. 1
The treasures of our literature have been widely spread, and are every year spreading more widely over America; and theirs is winning its way among us, and indeed all over Europe. It is delightful to see how the spirit of ours is every where interfused through theirs, without overpowering that originality of thought and sentiment which must belong to the mind of a young people, but which, among those who own a common origin, is felt rather by indescribable differences in the cast and colour of the imagery employed, than discerned in any peculiar forms or moulds in which the compositions are cast.
In political, in moral, and in physical science, the Americans have done as much as could have been reasonably expected from a people earnestly engaged, with all their powers and passions, in constituting themselves into one of the great communities of civilized men. Öf every other people
VOL. XXXI. NO. CXCII.
the progress has been slow to any considerable height of power and extent of dominion; and imagination accompanying them all the way from obscurity to splendour, a literature has always grown up along with their growing strength, and sometimes its excellence has been consummate, before the character of their civil polity had been consolidated, or settled down into the steadfastness belonging to the maturity of its might. But soon as her limbs were free to move obedient to her own will alone, America was at once a great country; there are no great and distant eras in her history, all connected together by traditionary memories embalmed in the voice of song. Her poets had to succeed her statesmen, and her orators, and her warriors; and their reign is only about to begin. The records of the nation are short but bright; and their destinies must be farther unrolled by time, ere bards be born to consecrate, in lyric or epic poetry, the events imagination loves. Now, her poets must be inspired by Hope rather than by Memory, who was held of old to be Mother of the Muses. They must look forward to the future, not backward to the past; and the soul of genius from that mystic clime may be met by the airs of inspiration, True, that the history of the human race lies open before them, as before the poets of other lands; but genius always begins with its native soil, and draws from it its peculiar character. Most of Sir Walter's immortal romances regard his own country-Wordsworth could have been born only in England. His Sonnets to Liberty are all over English, though they celebrate her virtues and her triumphs in all lands; his Ecclesiastical Sonnets could only have been breathed by a spirit made holy alike by the humble calm of the chapel not much larger than a Bowderstone, like that of Wastdale, and by the lofty awe of such a cathedral as that of Salisbury, or of York Minster itself, by twilight obscurely glimmering like some mysterious mountain. Genius, in America, must keep to America, to achieve any great work. Cooper has done so, and taken his place among the most powerful of the imaginative spirits of the age. Wash
ington Irving did so in early life, and was likewise eminently successful, because intensely national. His later works are beautiful, but they are English; and the pictures they contain cannot stand beside those drawn of English scenery, character, and manners, by our great native artists, without an uncertain faintness seeming to steal over them, that impairs their effect, by giving them the air, if not of copies, of imitations. "Yet that not much;" for Washington Irving, as he thinks and feels, so does he write, more like us than we could have thought it possible an American should do, while his fine natural genius preserves in a great measure his originality, even when he deals with to him foreign themes, and treats them after an adopted fashion, that had been set by our own two most natural prose-writers, Addison and Goldsmith.
We shall ere long have other opportunities of speaking about the genius of the Americans; meanwhile, we turn our attention to the productions of Bryant, who has for a good many years been one of their most admired poets. Many of them have appeared at various times in periodical publications; and now collected together for the first time by Washington Irving, (it is delightful to see such service done by one man of genius to another,) they make a most interesting volume. "They appear to me," says the amiable editor, "to belong to the best school of English poetry, and to be entitled to rank among the highest of their class. The British public has already expressed its delight at the graphic descriptions of American scenery and wild woodland characters, contained in the works of our national novelist, Cooper. The same keen eye and just feeling for nature, the same indigenous style of thinking, and local peculiarity of imagery, which give such novelty and interest to the pages of that gifted writer, will be found to characterise this volume, condensed into a narrower compass, and sublimated into poetry."
To the American scenery and woodland characters, then, let us first of all turn; and while here we find much to. please, we must strongly express our
dissent from Mr Irving's opinion, that in such delineations Bryant is equal to Cooper. He may be as true to nature, as far as he goes; but Cooper's pictures are infinitely richer"in local peculiarity of imagery;" and in "indigenous style of thinking," too, the advantage lies with the novelist. But Bryant is never extravagant, which Cooper often is, who too frequently mars by gross exaggeration the effect of his pictures of external nature. The poet appears to be "a man of milder mood" than the romancer; and of finer taste. But there is nothing in the whole volume comparable in original power to many descriptions in the Prairie and the Spy. Neither do we approve the unconsidered praise implied in the somewhat pedantic expressions, "condensed into a narrower compass, and sublimated into poetry." None of these poems are long; but condensation is not by any means their distinguishing merit, especially of the descriptive passages; we see much simplicity, but no sublimation; and to us the chief charm of Bryant's genius consists in a tender
pensiveness, a moral melancholy, breathing over all his contemplations, dreams, and reveries, even such as in the main are glad, and giving assurance of a pure spirit, benevolent to all living creatures, and habitually pious in the felt omnipresence of the Creator. His poetry overflows with natural religion-with what Wordsworth calls the " religion of the woods."
This reverential awe of the Invisible pervades the verses entitled "Thanatopsis" and " Forest Hymn," imparting to them a sweet solemnity which must affect all thinking hearts. There is little that is original either in the imagery of the " Forest Hymn," or in its language; but the sentiment is simple, natural, and sustained; and the close is beautiful. The one idea is that "the groves were God's first temples," and might have been solemnly illustrated; but there is not a single majestical line, and the imagination, hoping to be elevated by the hymn of the high-priest, at times feels languor in the elaborate worship. This, however, is very good
In the tranquillity that thou dost love,
Passes; and yon clear spring, that 'midst its herbs
Of thy perfections. Grandeur, strength, and grace,
lieve in early manhood,) and it will be felt, perhaps, that Mr Irving rashly says that his friend's poems are entitled to " rank among the highest of their class in the best school of English Poetry." The close of the hymn, we said, is beautiful.
"Oh, from these sterner aspects of thy face
"Thanatopsis," ('tis a Greek compound, English reader,) both in conception and execution, is more original; and we quote it entire, as a
noble example of true poetical enthusiasm. It alone would establish the author's claim to the honours of genius.
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
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To be a brother to the insensible rock
Yet not to thy eternal resti couldst thou wish
Shalt thou retire alone, nor
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
* Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun
the vales, '/
Stretching in pensive quietness between a covad