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This poem had its origin in the fol. wait upon the goddess. The first few lowing somewhat singular custom : lines, translated into literal prose, run
It appears from the Scholiast, that the thus : “As many of ye as are the bathwomen of Argos, on a fixed day of an tenders of Pallas, go forth all, go forth. nual recurrence, were accustomed to I heard the sacred horses neighing but take the statues of Minerva and Diomed lately, and the goddess goes forth well from their places, convey them to the adorned. Haste ye now, oh ye of the river Inachus, and there bathe and purify yellow hair, haste ye, oh women of the them. It was unlawful for any male to Pelasgi. Never did Minerva lave her behold these images uncovered; the puno mighty arms before she had dashed the ishment of the transgressor being either dust from the flanks of her horses ;-no! immediate death, or a life of misery. not even then, when, bearing their arThis corresponds with the fable of Ac- mor all sprinkled with bloody dust, she tæon, who, through the resentment of came from the godless Earth-born." Diana at his unintended sight of her dis- Thus he continues, with great poetical robed, was changed into a stag, and mis- beauty both in thought and versification, erably pursued and devoured by his own for some fifty lines, describing Minerva's dogs. The poem is eminently beautiful dress in lier famous trial for the apple of -smooth, simple, and affecting. There gold and the prize of beauty, before the runs through the whole of it that air of shepherd of Ida, the ill-starred Paris.' enthusiasm of feeling, mingled with Then, after giving all males a caution plainness of language, which constitutes 'not to gaze upon the goddess, as they the great and enduring charm of all, but would avoid ruin, he enforces his caution pre-eminently of early Greek, literature. by relating to the listening maidens a The poem opens with an address and an beautiful tale, of a young man who had beexhortation in all the maids and matrons held Minerva bathing and whom her wrath of Greece to wasten and come forth to had struck blind among the mountains.
Go! Pallas ! aathe thy heavenly limbs, while I to these shall tell
Then, whilst the swelling tide of wrath was gathering in her breast,
“ What dost thou to my boy?
The mother, through the forest depths, with pitiable moans,
MISS BARRETT'S POEMS.*
BY A CONTRIBUTOR.
If we apply the Horatian requirement may not be included in the books which to poetry, and deny a place to mediocrity, treat of the evidences of natural or rethere are but two poets in England who vealed religion; but it is as great a blessing now belong to the new generation-Al- as that the sun shines or the grass grows. fred Tennyson and Miss Barrett. There This is a reflection which may appear are many others who write agreeable very simple, for it is very natural; but let verses ; accomplished men and women us fancy our privation, for a moment, if who, by the liveliness of their talents, or that unconsidered, ill-rewarded being, their cultivation and refinement, may af- the poet, together with all he brings to ford us many a delightful hour; popular us of love and knowledge, were forever echoers of popular topics; easy versifiers taken from the world. The language who reflect for us our personal opinions, that we utter would begin to lose its in the creed of politics, history, or re- harmony; we should find ourselves inligion-but the sacred name of poet ex- sensibly forgetting the mastery of that acts higher requisitions before it can be cunning instrument of speech which the rightfully appropriated. How long Ten- poets have fashioned for all the finer nyson is to remain in the ascendant," the relations of life, and talking in the jarglass of fashion and the mould of form,” gon of the market and exchange; with to be worshipped and imitated by inferior our loss of happy words the occasion writers, is a matter upon which the hopes for them would have passed away, and of some who reverence the manliness of instead of being friends and lovers by the English character and the ruggedness a thousand invisible ties which a reof the English race, and the contentment of fined imagination weaves for us, we his admirers, may differ. He is certainly should be coarse and treacherous, with no not as favorable a representative of the better impulses than desire and interest. manly character as Miss Barrett is of the Oor religion would lose faith, that imafeminine, and Miss Barrett's genius is of ginative worship of the heart, and be too subtle and elevated an order ever to driven back to stocks and stones. Our become widely popular with the people. paintings and architecture, if they were Yet with two such guests standing at the suffered to exist, would be strange and threshold of the temple in which still a idiotic; but they could not exist, for the few of the great bards of the last age sentiment that gives life to the color linger, though the music of their cunning and harmony to the building would be hands be still in the choir forever, we withdrawn, and both would fall and perneed not despair of the coming future. ish by vulgar hands. We too shall have our poets. Our lives Let us, then, hail the new poet, and with shall be illustrated by the song of the the thousand voices of the press, utter bard. Great as were the events in our the new-found fame wide over the land, fathers' lives, ours too are the gift of This generation too has a poet, though God; and in good time poets shall sing Campbell be gathered to Westminster, for us, and raise our existence from the and Burns be honored only at his monudull life of earth-worms; and we, too, ment, and Wordsworth shelter a quiet shall transruit an inheritance of genius and revered age in silence. to our sons. It would be a sad belief if Miss Barrett's new book comes to us we thought that the poets were dead, and indeed with something of the interest of that our cares were to be concluded in an American production. It is publishbuying and selling, sowing and reaping, ed simultaneously with the English ediwithout partaking
of that higher life which tion, under the care of an American authe poet teaches us to live. Heaven thor it and it has been preceded by the sends us poets. This act of Providence publication of a part of its contents, a
* A Drama of Exile, and other Poems, by Elizabeth Barrett Barrett. 2 vols. 12mo. New York : H. G. Langley, 1844.
+ Mr. Mathews, to whom Miss Barrett pays a delicate compliment in her preface, and whose volume of Poems she pronounces in another part of her volume “as remarkable in thought and manner, for a vital sinewy vigor, as the right arm of Pathfinder.”
few of the shorter poems, in the Ameri- demned, while imitators thrive. The can Magazines. These already directed great impulses in literature descend from the eyes of the public to this new star, the author, to whose sovereign height shining with a pale, steady lustre, yet the people travel slowly up, getting pargrowing intense as we look upon it, and tial glimpses by the way : critics should far unlike the brassy glare of some wan be the Mentors to warn the public of dering and much-worshipped meteors. mountebanks and pretenders, and ever
renew the flagging attention by calling “ My love and admiration have belonged it upward to the pure eminences. to the great American people, as long as I
What are we to expect in this authorhave felt prond of being an English woman, ess? How are we to receive her? We and almost as long as I have loved poetry must prepare our minds for poetry of a itself. But it is only of late that I have different school from that of Eliza Cook been admitted to the privilege of personal or Mrs. Ellis, and sharpen our eyesight gratitude to Americans, and only to-day to something of a finer texture than the that I am encouraged to offer to their warm and easily worn, though beautiful hands an American edition of a new col, and graceful, drapery of Mrs. Hemans. lection of my poems, about to be published And perhaps, with every disposition of in my own country. This edition precedes the reader io admire and enjoy, he may the English one by a step: --a step eagerly lack the peculiar studies and discipline taken, and with a spring in it of pleasure of thought and feeling to enter into the and pride--suspended, however, for a moment, that by a cordial figure 1 may kiss habits of mind of this writer, whose the soil of America, and address my thanks subtle style may always remain vague to those sons of the soil, who, if strangers and dim to the popular apprehension. and foreigners, are yet kinsmen and friends, Miss Barrett "soaring in the high region and who, if never seen, nor perhaps to be of her fancies, with her singing robes seen by eyes of mine, have already caused about her,” will be found breathing too thein io glisten by words of kindness and rare an atmosphere for those who are courtesy."
willing to look no further in a book than
for amusement. We warn the readers There is much in this sentence to wash at libraries, and the loungers at bookout the ignorance, flippancy, and con sellers' counters, against opening these tempt of British writers and travellers; volumes at random, and confidently prowho have, indeed, done themselves a nouncing upon their worth. Let them greater wrong than us, by encouraging be silent if they cannot understand. in themselves the practical infidelity and There are two methods which that ininhumanity of denying any goodness or tellectual chemist, the critic, may apply virtue to so large a portion of the human as the tests of a new work of invention, race.
the synthetic and the analytic; and Miss Barrett is of too generous, too though these different processes should richly endowed and philosophical a turn in the end verify each other, yet there of mind to favor uch injustice. She will generally be a greater apparent genconfidently turns to this much-abused erosity in the use of the former than the and ill-represented America, and pours latter. Perhaps the former should be reout before us the wealth of her mind; served only for those authors in whom and, as in all similar cases where the we have confidence of genius working heart of man deals with man, she will with perfect truth and simplicity. In such receive in return the generosity she cases we take the poet's own word, and brings with her.
proceed with him in the development of In claiming for Miss Barrett the rank his work, satisfied that while we of an original poet in English literature, pursuing genius we are following nature. we have of course implied that her mer. Here let the author teach the critic. In its, however distinct and unquestionable, the mass of works this would be evidentare of a class that requires some study ly a misapplied mode of criticism. The and preparation in the reader before he departure from any law of natural growth can fully appreciate them. This is a would soon be detected, and the reviewer condition with every new writer, how- and the author would have to part comever it may be overlooked by the mass pany. We may venture to decide dogof readers who affect to understand metre, matically at a glance upon most new cadence, and reach of thought in a mo- publications ; but we ought to beware of meut. Heucc original authors are con- treating in this way the work of genius.
The most evident characteristic of fact of a very early publication of a volMiss Barrett's poetry is its subjectivity; ume of poems, and the evidences in her but she possesses this quality in a differ- translation of Prometheus, and the volent sense from that in which it is gener- ume of the Seraphim, that she has long ally and unhappily known in modern been patiently devoted to the calm and philosophy. It is not the self-torturing diligent pursuits of learning, “in the quiet or diseased spirit of a mind recoiling from and still air of delightful studies.” She the outer world of God, man, and nature, has read Plato, Mr. Horne, in his Spirit and painfully turned upon itself. There of the Age, tells us, from beginning to is no self-willed arrogance, or spiritual end, and the Hebrew Bible from Genesis pride, or morbid consciousness, in this to Malachi. There are occasionally to high metaphysical abstraction, but a lofty be seen in a parenthesis of her prefaces, spirituality, purified from ordinary life and or by the side of a fine rhythmical line of common thoughts by the discipline of her poems, a few of these Hebrew charstudy and sorrow.
acters, which the reader passes by with
reverence. There is nothing affected or 'Till oft converse with heavenly habitants
disjointed in this. There is no impediBegins to cast a beam on the outward shape,
ment to the thought, which may indeed The unpolluted temple of the mind, And turns it by degrees to the soul's essence
pursue a subtler current to task the mind,
but never offends. How these studies 'Till all be made immortal.
were followed we may learn from certain No ordinary or grossly nurtured mind graceful revelations in these volumes, in could long sustain such topics as the con a poem commemorating some wine of Cyversation of Seraphim, or venture to por prus given to the poetess by H. S. Boyd, tray the sublimities of angels and the author of “Select Passages from the song of the morning stars. Miss Barrett Greek and others," from which she pass. has been educated by Æschylus and the es, by a very happy turn of sentiment, to Hebrew prophets.
the studies of which the fragrant draught But the prevalent trait of her mind, to is the symbol. which this pursuit of intellectual sublimity is secondary, is its truly feminine
And I think of those long mornings character. None of the diversified ac Which my Thought goes far to seek, complishments of a muse learned, culti
When, betwixt the folio's turnings, vated, various, pursuing ancient and mod
Solemn flow'd the rhythmic Greek. ern art through the works of the masters
Past the pane, the mountain spreading, of every land, and familiar with all, suf
Swept the sheep-bell's tinkling noise,
While a girlish voice was reading,fer us for a momont to be diverted from
Somewhat low for ai's and oi's! the happy gracefulness, the naturalness of movement, the easy, self-consciousness of womanhood. Learned women
Then what golden hours were for us !
While we sat together there, are notorious for becoming bold and mas
How the white vests of the chorus culine ; but there are few men who could
Seem'd to wave up a live air! bear about them so many of the rich How the cothurns trod majestic spoils of books and antiquity, without Down the deep iambic lines ! awkwardness and pedantry. The secret And the rolling anapæstic lies in this : what with most men and with Curlid, like vapor over shrines ! other women is apt to be a mere matter of acquisition, something foreign and ac Oh, our Æschylus, the thundrous ! cidental hung upon the original frame
How he drove the bolted breath work of the mind, with her, by a long and
Through the cloud, to wedge it ponderous natural process of assimilation, has be In the gnarled oak beneath. come part of the texture of the mind it
Oh, our Sophocles, the royal ! self. Milton's stern grasp of the facts
Who was born to monarch's place ;
And who made the whole world loyal, and images of poetical antiquity was not
Less by kingly power than grace. more his own, rightfully appropriated by his manly intellect, and standing out firm,
Our Euripides, the humandefinite, colossal, than is the gentler spirit With his droppings of warm tears; in which, as with a veil, this feminine And his touches of things common, mind wears the figure and countenance "Till they rose to touch the spheres ! of an Athenian sybil. Miss Barrett is Our Theocritus, our Bion, still young, but we may gather from the And our Pindar's shining goals !