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TO A BILLOW.
(From the American Review.) A MORTO AT ROME.
BY THE AUTHOR OF NOTES BY THE ROAD.
Child of the mighty deep!
Heaving thy snowy crest, Forever in thy sportive glee,
On the ocean's changeful breast.
Say, whither dost thou roam,
Oh wild and restless wave,To the distant shores of sunny climes,
Or the secret ocean-cave?
Hast thou swept the coral strand
Of India's far-off shore, Or joined thy voice with a giant's power,
To Scylla's mighty roar!
Hast thou borne within thy breast,
The bright and sparkling gem, Whose brilliant hue might lustre cast
O'er a monarch's diadem?
Or laved the coral boughs
Of the ocean-caveros brightOr curled in the heaps of mouldering bones
With which the deeps are white ?
Perchance then, sportive wave,
Thou hast swept in rippling play Some beautiful and unknown shore,
Some island far away,-
-I am sitting in my little room on the Corso.
The Corso, you know, is the principal street of Rome : nothing like Broadway or Regent street, but narrow and long-gay enough in the sunshine, and gayer than the gayest in the Carnival, but dreadfully dreary at night.
Tall palaces, with iron grated windows, flanked with brown, dusty cherubs, rise up here and there; and between them, are gray and dirty shops, with balconies above them. The pavement is rough, and a narrow side-walk-the only side-walk in Rome-stretches along, under the eaves of the houses and under the shadow of the palaces. Sometimes the little side-walk has a creditable breadth, so that four may walk abreast; then, where some cumbrous old house leans out of the line, the sidewalk is narrowed to a foot breadth, and you would have to step into a door-way, to let a lady pass.
The house I lived in, crowded out into the street, in just this awkward way, and I could step from the door stone straight into the carriage-track. And at the Carnival time, (I have done it often) I could drop a handful of Confetti from my balcony straight down upon the bare necks of the riding girls; and they would look up, half angry-half smiling, and shake their little fingers at me, in a way so prettily threatening, that I would Aling my best flowers at them.
Well-I am sitling in my room on that very Corso-have finished my evening cigar, and the clock at Monte Citorio has struck three times after the Ave Maria. It is dark; a few sticks from the Albanian hills are burning smokily on the hearth, and my landlady is arranging the curtains, when
the quick ear of little Cesare detects the hoarse music of a death-chant, and he comes running in, crying Un Morto,-un Morto!
Directly we go through into my bed-room, that looks upon the Corso, and opening the windows, see the great train approaching from far down the dark and narrow street. We are in the third story, and hear windows opening below us, and in the dim old palace opposite, and on either side. And we
see heads thrust out of the houses down the street, standing out in bold relief against the red torchlight of the moving and mournful train. Below, dim figures are gathering each side the street to look at the solemn spectacle.
The hoarse chant comes louder and louder, and half dies in the night air, and breaks out again with new and deep bitterness.
Now, the first torch-light shines plainly on faces in the windows, and on kneeling women in the streets.
Where joys and beauties dwell,
Which elsewhere have no birth, A home of light and loveliness,
The fairy-land of earth.
Hast thou wandered 'mid the halls
Now desolate and lone, Which once resounded joyously
To music's thrilling tone ?
Oh wild and restless wave
Child of the mighty deep! What are the hidden mysteries
That in its bosom sleep?
What life, what forms of light,
Are in its depths concealed, What secrets strange and terrible
Ne'er to the eye revealed ?
Come back from ocean, come!
Oh fancy wild and free!
First, come old retainers of the dead one, bear-Icept a little gust of the night air catches up the ing long, blazing torches. Then comes a com- hoarse sound, and brings it back with a fearful dis. pany of priests, two by two, bare-headed, and tinctness. every second one with a lighted torch, and all “ It is a priest," say I to my landlady, as she chanting
closes the window. Next, is a brotherhood of friars, in brown cloaks, “No, Signor—a young man, never married, and with sandaled feet—they too bare-beaded, and the so by virtue of his condition, given the robes of red light streaming full upon their grizzled heads. the priest-hood." They add their heavy, guttural voices to the chant “So I," says the pretty Enrica, “if I should and pass slowly on.
die, would be dressed in white, and have flowers Then comes another company of priests, in white scattered over my body, and be followed by the muslin capes and black robes and black
nuns as sisters." ing books in their hands, wide open, and lit up “A long way off may it be," said I. plainly, by the torches of churchly servitors, who She took my hand in hers and pressed it. march beside them; and from the books, the priests An Italian girl does not fear to talk of death; chant loud and solemnly.
and we were talking of it still, as we walked Now the music is greatest, and the friars take back-my hand still in hers, and sat down by the up the dismal notes, from the white-caped priests; blaze of the alder sticks brought from the Albaand the priests before, catch them from the brown- nian hills. robed friars, and mournfully the sound rises up between the tall buildings—into the blue night sky, that lies between Heaven and Rome.
“ Vede-vede," says Cesare ; and in the blaze of the red torch-fire, comes the bier, borne on the necks of stout friars—and on the bier, the body of the dead man, habited like a priest. Heavy plumes
EXCERPTA. of black, wave at each corner of the bier. Hist! says my landlady. The body is just
In Sir Thomas Bodley's Remains is a curious letter to under us. Enrica crosses herself-her smile is
Lord Bacon, in which Sir Thomas remonstrates with Bafor the moment gone. Cesare's boy-face is grown
con on his new mode of philosophising. Sir Edward Coke suddenly earnest. He could see the pale, youthful features of the Instauratio, and James I. declared, that “like God's pow
wrote some miserable, but bitter verses on a copy of the dead man. The glaring flambeaux sent their flaunt
er it surpassed all understanding." ing streams of unearthly light over the face of the sleeper. A thousand eyes were looking on him, There is a curious work by the emperor Julian entitled and his face, careless of them all, was turned up "The Misopogon, or The Antiochian, the Enemy of the straight towards the stars.
Beard.” It is a reply to some lampoons of the AntiochiStill rises the chant, and companies of priests ans on the beard of the monarch. follow the bier, like those who had gone before.
Plato compares Socrates to the gallipots of the Athenian Friars in brown cloaks, and prelates, and carme
apothecaries which were painted on the outside with the lites come after-all with torches.
figures of apes and owls, but contained within a precious Two by two-their voices growing hoarse—they
balm. tramp and chant.
For a while the voices cease, and you can hear Goldoni, in his drama of Torquata Tassso, thus contrasts the rustling of their robes and their foot-falls, as the poet's writings and conversation : if your ear was to the earth. Then the chant rises
Ammiro il suo talenta, gradisco; carmi suoi; again, as they glide on in a wavy, shining line, and Ma piacer non trove a conversar con lui. rolls back over the death-train, like the howling of a wind in winter.
Gibbon observes that some singular errors have been ocAs they pass, the faces vanish from the windows. casioned by the use of the word mil. in MSS., which is an The kneeling women upon the pavement, rise, abreviation for soldiers as well as for thousands. mindful of the paroxysm of Life once more. The Milton in Paradise Lost has this passage-groups in the door-ways scatter. But their low voices do not drown the voices of the host of mourn
Inexorably, and the torturing hour ers, and their ghost-like music.
Calls us to penance. I look long upon the blazing bier, trailing under the deep shadows of the Roman palaces, and at the
Gray in his Ode to Adversity has the followingstream of torches, winding like a glittering scaled Thou tamer of the human breast, serpent.
Whose iron scourge, and torturing hour The notes grow more and more indistinct, ex- The bad affright.
-when the scourge
hearing in this rail-road age-it is equally true, HOFFMAN'S POEMS.* A REVIEW. that our mission is yet but imperfectly appreciated,
that it is but the “ radical tendencies” of the age, What is the Poet?—what is Poetry?: questions, (destructive as they are to all incentives for the to us, of high and solemn import. The developments higher destiny awaiting us,) which seem so reproof the last few years have given something to solve ductive, so closely entwined with every hope which the problem, something to enable both friends and dares to look beyond the turmoil of the present foes to their influence to meet on definite, tangible hour. True, the mellowed fragrance of antiquity ground. The Poet, in olden time, was the politi- has not yet embalmed the memories which purify cal guide, the inciter to heroic devotion for country a nation's yearnings while they shrine a nation's and female protection; the attendant on every fes- history,—but there is another, a higher faith, which, tal occasion in old baronial castle; the companion while reverently gazing into the past, finds its fullof the knightly spirit at home, as on the battle-field est inspiration in this, the age of progress, the his clarion-voice was ever the first note of victori- age of action. Heretofore, as now, from the abous conflict.
sorbing strifes of the busy world we have found The Poet, now, is one whose spirit must com- a few meek spirits retiring to commune with namone with the Past-must “shake hands,” (as it ture, or to seek a more intimate acquaintance in were,) with the present, and live for the future. their own hearts, with this mystical thing we call In his own pure lines, retracing and mirroring life. Some few have arisen, even in the periforth for the inspection of future years, those shades od of our national troubles,-in the roar of the of action and sublimities of suffering which his Revolution, and the mighty upheavings of human spirit hath pointed out to him. He is the Priest society which marked its coming and hastened its of Nature—abstractiog from her richly-filled tem- progress,
,—some few who improved the hastily. ples the elements of natural beauty, it is his to add snatched hour of relief from physical toil and mento these the sublime dispensations of the age for tal anxiety, and stirred their souls to " build the which he lives—the eloquent teachings of his own lofty rhyme.” It is the agitation of the social elemission. Not to the battle-field, nor the cabinets ments produced by war alone, which stimulates of princes are the strains of the bard confined. the poetical spirit, which breathes more exquisitely They reach through all, and actuate all, the sim- in one the feelings thrilling through the mass, and ple peasant as well as mail-clad hero. They in-affords scope for their development. It is immedividualize the feelings of the bard, but, not less diately preceding or subseqnent to some great conrepresenting the promptings of social effort, ihey flice that we find the evolution of the true poetic chain the attention and enthrall the feelings of the spirit, vast in its energy and rapid in its scintilla
tions. But they were few ;-and, to a polished Poetry, we are told, is the language of exquisite ear, their effusions, (though not destitute of spirit feeling—the essence of intensified thought. Po- and a condensation wherein few words were wastetry, rather, is the language of Effort—the repre-ed with the strong Saxon tone pervading them,) sentation, the embodiment of action, both in the seem little worthy of praise for eloquence or taste. world of matter and mind. Sharing largely in the Of measure almost nothing was known;—the feats vivifying energy of the bold, aspiring spirit, it of arms, the lays of love, and the high endeavor wreathes a fresher luxuriance round the flowers of for fame, either in “ Hall of State,” or by the Pen, present expectation for present elevation. It is found few Campbells or Longfellows to consecrate both subjective and objective,-corporeal in form, their triumphs. spiritual in essence. We are fast approximating to
From these slight prefatory allusions we shall more intimate acquaintance with its homogeneous- not be thought to pass over a very great chasm by ness, its vitality in both particulars. Poetry, in its returning to the poetry of a later period. While highest sense, is the impersonation of the yearn- too much stiffness of expression—too much imitaings of the inner life. While the shadows of our tion, were the natural appendages to the Ballads as history come out from Memory's depths, she throws well as the works of a more aspiring character, a halo over every dim-remembered scene of
(such as Barlow's “Columbiad,” the "Fredoniad,"
passion or of feeling ;-but in the hour of gladness, &c.,) the reproach of English Reviewers, (at least retiring to those “deep fountains” never insealed great part of it,) was somewhat merited. For,-except by the touch of sweet-soothing Nature, her despite the occasional rising of a star in the literstrains can be but faint—but faintly chiming in ary hemisphere which traced a higher path in the with the lays of pleasure.
True as it is, that he fields of intellect than European poets had attempionly who now speaks to the people to persuade ed—which held up the misgovernment of a prince them of their better traits, can hope to gain even a
as the bane of a generous people, and lashed the
crimes of both through the pen of the ballad-wriSongs and other Poems, by C. F. Hoffman. 5th Ed. ter, or the Improvisatrice, there were few who complete. New York. Harper & Brothers.
could emancipate themselves from subjection 10
English models and dependence on antique foole-rents were idle-to guide and direct them requires ries. They found it no easy task 10 lure their such a combination of enthusiasm, knowledge and spirits to a height whence the breathings of "un- discretion as rarely discloses itself to our view. written poësy" should charm to newer views--to Poetry for the million will be the great characterhigher conceptions of the value, the majesty of in- istic, the land-mark of this age when its years give dividual effort--to have their verse expressive of place to another century ; and knowledge for the their faith in the beauty of human virtuemto make mass now thrills the watchword of the nineteenth it the type, the manifestation of their aspirations century. Nor will it be forgotten that the virulence for a richer harvest of intellectual strength and of faction, the truckling to a so-styled "expediency," energy than had yet rewarded them. In fine, the and flattery of the ignorance of "the masses" poetry--if such it might be called--of those days which so often disgrace the political campaigns of was practical, was domestic, was jejune, was me- our country and dare to take the specious guise diocre.
of patriotism, have shrouded the developments of But another war had closed; and from this peri- the last few years in mourning. In spite of the od, [1815,] as indicating the more extensive diffusion baser lust for gold, a few of our publishers have of the best works of continental genius, we date the "cast" the better literature of the day "upon the growth and prevalence of a more earnest love for waters, and we shall " find” its fruits “after many the true ideal of poetry. Avoiding the strife of days.” Some of the volumes issued allure us by warring hosts, the courts of kings and the foibles their splendor and beauty, some by their careful of cabinets, our American mind then first began to editing, and most of them amaze us by their cheapevolve the better features so long slumbering--it ness. Spreading over the length and breadth of became Americanized; it learned to appreciate the land are these volumes, which cost their authe lessons of self-reliance impressed upon it by thors years of toil and nights of suffering; which the events of the national struggle--it learned to were sent out from musty convents, and the dun. turn a watching eye to the struggles of long endu- geon, to give token that their writers were yet ring humanity in every land, as well as to commune alive, although by the malice of Kings and priests with waving woods and placid lakes and sun-em- living but for an after immortality. The past and browned rocks, those sentinels of antiquity, which the present are laid under contribution, and the were the refuge of hunted freemen. While not matchless plays of Shakspeare, ranged side by side destitute of the precision and strength strongly with the glowing songs of Scott, are sold for a characteristic of its predecessor, it became distin- shilling : while the son of poverty, (struggling guished for elegance, uniqueness, vigorous expres- through the tide of adverse fortune,) finds in each sion and naïvete. It spake to the people ; and, re- a ready stimulant to the guerdon of intellectual flecting as much as before the tone of popular feel. renown. Fertilizing the popular mind, and stimu. ing, elevated the aims of the people by infusing lating the popular zeal for ‘rising' above their presinto them much of the true conservative spirit; ent station which has been said by a learned writhe reverence for those perfect models in Art and ter* to be the main feature of the individual among Letters which every age had carefully transmitted the American people,—are many of these volumes to its successors—which now can scarcely contend with which the day-laborer and the retired scholar with the fanaticism of the day. What they lacked are equally wont to solace their hours of cessation was, a greater number of poets--a more facile from toil, their times of quiet communing with the means of communicating with their fellow-poets mighty minds of the Present and the Past, their in Europe, a more ready appreciation by their fel- hours devoted to improvement by reflection. Knowlow-countrymen, and more self-confidence, both in ledge, then, has here become popular-universalstyle and purpose, for their works and themselves. limitless and unceasing in its diffusion; furnished All this we have supplied, and more than supplied to the poor and the rich, it has been—it shall be the The village journal--the fashionable periodical, the principal “ factor” in American civilization. grave Review and the book-press are teeming with From these incidental references to the tendenthe effusions of thousands, who in number, if not cies of our country and age the enthusiastic mind in energy, may be called legion. The packet and will readily recur to the Future, bright as it is with steamship are annihilating the distance which sep- the foreshadowed vigor and beauty of a better era. arates us from the shores of our father-land ; and it is the Ballad-Poetry of a nation which most the booksellers of our large cities are flooding the clearly reflects the tone of national feeling, -most land with the poems of our best writers in former harmoniously evolves the aspiration for popular days as well as those of “rising genius." Eheu, equality, most beautifully embodies the finer shades helluo fugar librorum! We are overburdened with of national thought. It is our ballad-poetry, which, the crowds of volumes which our publishers week- cheapest in its form, is most rapidly permeating ly, daily send forth, through the thousand channels the mass ; most rapidly bringing forth fruit, which, of national intercourse, to gladden, inform and strengthen the national mind. To resist these cur- • De Tocqueville, Democratiè dans l'Amerique.
for better or worse, will not leave slight traces to and aims we have animadverted. Unpretending impress the destinies of the future. Among all in appearance, we much doubt whether they have the viler literature (?) which the press throws among not in them somewhat of the true beauty of poetry, us, we have an extensive and well-circulated if a pure, devoted love of country, and susceptiselection of useful works, both prose and po- bility to the teachings of nature, of the true hisetry; works which, appealing to the perfect mod. toric spirit, which, reverently gazing through the els of the past for their rhythm and standard of records of the past, finds its better yearnings irreexpression, are becoming expounders of the more pressibly swelling up to meet the future, which respiritualized yearnings of the age, of the mass, of gards the present as but the stepping-stone to a the world; which strive to lead us to those benefits loftier height, (where bloom the undiscovered flowwhere the dust of centuries is swept away beneathers of genius,) and becomes not altogether absorbthe trumpet-blast of civilization, to lure us from ed in its cares and duties,-if these be worthy of these rain aspirings for wealth, and show us some the name of patriotism. The poet, chanting his thing more substantial, more true, more spiritual. vesper-song to the memory of high-souled men and As an evidence, an auxiliary to this improving tone vanished years, is here. What thrilling pleasure of sentiment we hail every collection of poems, which does he enjoy when thus gazing on the face of Naunstained by meretricious ornament, and undefaced ture in her loveliest, wildest moods! Or if by the by mawkish sentiment are light in their structure, silvery Hudson, or gazing on the placid lake where and yet graceful and vigorous, although fugitive. Champlain's waters gush in calm sublimity, is there Fugitive in form alone; for their spirit shall out- no strength of mind imparted—no pure outgushlast the frail monuments of physical beauty, if it ings of those feelings which poets seek, and often be the realization of individual triumph over suffer-seek in vain ? Here life has seen its pure imagining and afliction ; of personal endeavor, of hope ings more than realized, and the poet becomes in despondency, and rational exultation in the glare somewhat alive to the promptings of that spirit of prosperity ; if it be capable of passing from these which blends both nature and truth in its clearest realizations of human energy, in its most godlike de- manitestations, with religious energy and the love velopments, to the features of nature that strength of his country and kind. en and illuminate them if it be the record of the Mr. Hoffman has divided his poems into "Songs," nobler feelings of our meekly-suffering nature seek - " Early Miscellanies,” “ The Vigil of Faith,” ing their consolation in nature ; going from the in- (which we are inclined to fix upon as the gem of ward heart of man to the great heart of nature, the volume,) and “ Occasional Poems.” One thing, and if, by consequence, it perpetually renews the we believe, made certain by the fugitive pieces of ties that bind us to the good of all ages who have this collection, (fugitive in the sense above illusbeen most eager to seek for her distinctions. So trated,) that Mr. Hoffman does best when yielding far, then, only is poetry efficient as it moves along himself to the moulding of Nature's plastic hand, with and among the people, so far valuable either and following the promptings of his own wayward as the exponent of their virtues, or the inspiration spirit. On the banks of the Hudson, and among of their efforts.
the recesses of his native mountains, his lyre is Reluctantly abandoning the farther considera- strong to a more sweetly-murmuring strain than tion of these sentiments, we now approach the vol- in the city's crowded walks. The “ wind-tone” of ome before us. Epics and dramas we have had, - softly-breathing forests and upland vale finds its but it is rarely that a volume of songs greets us truest echo in his heart when climbing over his fawhich would justify the misjudging confidence of vorite - Adirondach mountains," or, in careless their author by the reception given to it among the huntsman-garb, wandering near the shore of Linbeiter informed classes of the country : which were denmere, or bright Champlain. He has “written fit for a more permanent shrine than the columns much,” and, (with the exception of the Anacreonof the newspaper in which they first appeared. lics, which, forming a considerable part of the colOur best ballad-writers rarely have ventured to lection, will bardly heighten the favorable imprescollect and republish the transient effusions they sions derived from his more lengihed and polished had hardly found time to search after and revise. productions) “ written it well.” He has mirrored But much of them (on this very account) have gone the high traits of character and native nobleness of into irretrievable oblivion-have left their impress, spirit which marked our aborigines, and has given bat faint and transient as the brief-lived periodical voice to his inner promptings of reverence for the in which they were presented to the world. nature so triumphant even in its degradation, a
The thoughtful reader will not chide us for so nature whose more prominent characteristics are long delaying our notice of Mr. Hoffman's Po- but invigorated even by the ruin of her chosen ems. Poems they are, though blushing under the children. He has wreathed the “ immortal bays” modest title of “ Songs.” Poetry, because they of poetry with the soft, spirit-stirring names which, disclose their parentage from that faithful, earnest, to all of us, have not lost their beauty in the rush traly-conservative spirit upon whose prevalence of a money-getting, rail-road age : which are still