Imagens da página

with sufficient plainness, or sufficient profoundness, address ourselves to life, nor dare we chant our own times and social circumstance. If we filled the day with bravery, we should not shrink from celebrating it. Time and nature yield us many gifts, but not yet the timely man, the new religion, the reconciler, whom all things await. Dante's praise is, that he dared to write his autobiography in colossal cipher, or into universality. We have yet had no genius in America, with tyrannous eye, which knew the value of Our incomparable ma

terials, and saw, in the barbarism and materialism of the

times, another carnival of the same gods whose picture he so much admires in Homer; then in the middle age ; then in Calvinism. Banks and tariffs, the newspaper and caucus, Methodism and Unitarianism, are flat and dull to dull people, but rest on the same foundations of wonder as the town of Troy, and the temple of Delphos, and are as swiftly passing away. Our log-rolling, our stumps and their politics, our fisheries, our Negroes, and Indians, our boats, and our repudiations, the wrath of rogues, and the pusillanimity of honest men, the Northern trade, the Southern planting, the Western clearing, Oregon and Texas, are yet unsung. Yet America is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles the imagination, and it will not wait long for metres. If I have not found that excellent combination of gifts in my countrymen which I seek, neither could I aid myself to fix the idea of the poet by reading now and then in Chalmers's collection of five centuries of English poets. These are wits, more than poets, though there have been poets among them. But when we adhere to the ideal of the poet, we have our difficulties even with Milton and Homer. Milton is too literary, and Homer too literal and historical. But I am not wise enough for a national criticism, and must use the old largeness a little longer, to discharge my errand from the muse to the poet concerning his art. Art is the path of the creator to his work. The paths, or methods, are ideal and eternal, though few men ever see them, not the artist himself for years, or for a lifetime, unless he come into the conditions. The painter, the sculptor, the composer, the epic rhapsodist, the Orator, all partake one desire, namely, to express themselves symmetrically and abundantly, not dwarfishly and fragmentarily. They found or put themselves in certain conditions, as, the painter and sculptor before some impressive human figures; the orator, into the as

[ocr errors]

sembly of the people; and the others, in such scenes as each has found exciting to his intellect; and each presently feels the new desire. He hears a voice, he sees a beckoning. Then he is apprised, with wonder, what herds of demons hem him in. He can no more rest ; he says, with the old painter, “By God, it is in me, and must come forth of me.” He pursues a beauty, half seen, which flies before him. The poet pours out verses in every solitude. Most of the things he says are conventional, no doubt; but by and by he says something which is original and beautiful. That charms him. He would say

nothing else but such things. In our way of talking, we say,

‘That is yours, this is mine'; but the poet knows well that it

is not his ; that it is as strange and beautiful to him as to

you ; he would fain hear the like eloquence at length. Once

having tasted this immortal ichor, he cannot have enough of

it, and, as an admirable creative power exists in these intellections, it is of the last importance that these things get spoken.

What a little of all we know is said ' What drops of all the

sea of our science are baled up ! and by what accident it is

that these are exposed, when so many secrets sleep in nature

Hence the necessity of speech and song ; hence these throbs

and heart-beatings in the orator, at the door of the assembly,

to the end, namely, that thought may be ejaculated as Logos,

or Word.

Doubt not, O poet, but persist. Say, ‘It is in me, and shall.

out.' Stand there, balked and dumb, stuttering and stammer

ing, hissed and hooted, stand and strive, until, at last, rage

draw out of thee that dream-power which every night shows thee is thine own ; a power transcending all limit and privacy,

and by virtue of which a man is the conductor of the whole

river of electricity. Nothing walks, or creeps, or grows, or

exists, which must not in turn arise and walk before him as

exponent of his meaning. Comes he to that power, his genius

is no longer exhaustible. All the creatures, by pairs and by

tribes, pour into his mind as into a Noah's ark, to come forth

again to people a new world. This is like the stock of air, for

our respiration, or for the combustion of our fireplace, not a measure of gallons, but the entire atmosphere if wanted. And therefore the rich poets, as Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and

Raphael, have obviously no limits to their works, except the

limits of their lifetime, and resemble a mirror carried through the street, ready to render an image of every created thing.

O poet ! a new nobility is conferred in groves and pastures, VOL. I. 19 B B

and not in castles, or by the sword-blade, any longer. The conditions are hard, but equal. Thou shalt leave the world, and know the muse only. Thou shalt not know any longer the times, customs, graces, politics, or opinions of men, but shalt take all from the muse. For the time of towns is tolled from the world by funereal chimes, but in nature the universal hours are counted by succeeding tribes of animals and plants, and by growth of joy on joy. God wills also that thou abdicate a duplex and manifold life, and that thou be content that others speak for thee. Others shall be thy gentlemen, and shall represent all courtesy and worldly life for thee; others shall do the great and resounding actions also. Thou shalt lie close hid with nature, and canst not be afforded to the Capitol or the Exchange. The world is full of renunciations and apprenticeships, and this is thine; thou must pass for a fool, and a churl for a long season. This is the screen and sheath in which Pan has protected his well-beloved flower, and thou shalt be known only to thine own, and they shall console thee with tenderest love. And thou shalt not be able to rehearse the names of thy friends in thy verse, for an old shame before the holy ideal. And this is the reward : that the ideal shall be real to thee, and the impressions of the actual world shall fall like summer rain, copious, but not troublesome, to thy invulnerable essence. Thou shalt have the whole land for thy park and manor, the sea for thy bath and navigation, without tax and without envy ; the woods and the rivers thou shalt own ; and thou shalt possess that wherein others are only tenants and boarders. Thou true land-lord 1 sea-lord air-lord ' Wherever Snow falls, or water flows, or birds fly, wherever day and night meet in twilight, wherever the blue heaven is hung by clouds, or sown with stars, wherever are forms with transparent boundaries, wherever are outlets into celestial space, wherever is danger, and awe, and love, there is Beauty, plenteous as rain, shed for thee, and though thou shouldst walk the world over, thou shalt not be able to find a condition inopportune or ignoble.


The lords of life, the lords of life, –
I saw them pass,

In their own guise,

Like and unlike,

Portly and grim,

Use and Surprise,
Surface and Dream,
Succession swift, and spectral Wrong,
Temperament without a tongue,
And the inventor of the game
Omnipresent without name; —
Some to see, some to be guessed,
They marched from east to west:
Little man, least of all,
Among the legs of his guardians tall,
Walked about with puzzled look; —
Him by the hand dear Nature took;
Dearest Nature, strong and kind,
Whispered, ‘Darling, never mind!
To-morrow they will wear another face,
The founder thou! these are thy race!”

« AnteriorContinuar »