Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

ly new aspect to the flames. The whole change was instantly re-painted in the river, and on the forests. So strange, so inconceivable, was the effect, taking into view the surprise, the hour, and the nearness of the spectacle—distant little more than the third of a mile,-and so magnificent was the illumination of the green of the earth and the trees—the crimson of the river, the whiteness of the sky, and the long moss in the forests in the distance, that it required but little effort of the imagination to suppose one's self in the centre of a world on fire !

But while I viewed and analysed the grand and imposing scene, I bethought myself how differently it would appear on the following morning, when the bright sun should bave robbed the scene of its enchantment. I could not but hear the cries of the sufferers, and the crowds striving to · arrest the flames; and reflect how many persons would be only enlightened by the morning sun, to see clearly the ruins of their all. This reflection of itself was sufficient to dispel all the magic of the magnificent illusion that surrounded me, and to present the scene, beheld through this perspective, in all the sad reality of truth and nature. T. F.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

• No hostility between nations affects the Arts.'—So said the old maxim--but it has rarely been found a truism. They who feel it, feel also the virtue which dictated the aphorism. Men whose object is to enlighten the notions or exalt the judgment,--,-(the least ambition) to refine the tastes of others—men who feel that this object is dearer to them than a petty and vain ambition-feel also, that all who labor in the same cause, are united with them in a friendship which exists in one climate as in another—in a republic or in a despotism—these are the best cosmopolites—the truest citizens of the world.

II.

It is a sight of gratification and pride to behold a laborer in the vineyard of letters, escaping from the envy-the jealousy-the rivalry—the leaven of all uncharitableness—with which literary intercourse is so often polluted. The writers of England bave been tardy in their justice not only to the progress, circumstances, and customs of America, but to her intellectual offspring ; and the time is not remote,-nay, has already dawned,— when, in this regard, the Spirit of Change wields his wand, and finds obedience to his prerogatives.

III.

The competent American littérateur has a glorious career before him. So much is there in that magnificent country, hitherto undescrib

ed and unexpressed, in manners, scenery, morals,—that all may be wells, from which he may be the first to drink. Yet, it cannot be expectedfor it has passed to a proverb, that escape from persecution and detraction, can never and no where be the lot of literature,—that there will not be many instances, even in America, where every attempt, on the part of gifted writers, (and young writers especially, who are commonly regarded with eyes of invidious jaundice by the elders, whose waning reputations they may through industry either supplant or explode) will be rendered an uneasy struggle, and sometimes almost a curse, by the envy of those who deny approval, while blind to success; and the affected disdain of those who exaggerate demerit. Yet these obstacles warm the spirit of honest ambition, and enhance its inevitable conquests.

IV.

There is a charm in writing, for the pure and intelligent Young, worth all the plaudits of sinister or hypocritical wisdom. At a certain age, and while the writings that please have a gloss of novelty about them, hiding the blemishes that may afterwards be discovered as their characteristics—then it is, that the young convert their approbation into glowing enthusiasm. An author benefits in a wide and most pleasing range of public opinion, by this natural and common disposition in the young; and the only cloud ever thrown athwart the rays of pleasure, thus saluting his spirit

, is flung from the thought that they who are thus moved by the movings of his own mind, may come in a few years to look upon his pages with hearts less ardent in their sympathies, and with altered eyes, that have acquired additional keenness by looking longer upon the world.

An author, who has a just confidence in his attainments and powers, who knows that his mind is imperishable, and capable of making daily additions to its own strength—is always more desirous of seeing the censures, (if not mere abuse,) than the praises of those who aspire to judge him; and any suggestions or admonitions thus bestowed, are seldom disregarded. But if he is to profit by criticism, the motive must be known to him. It is by no ineans natural to take the advice of an enemy. When the critic enters his department of literature, in the false guise of urbanity and candor, merely to conceal an incapable and huckstering soul,—he only awakens for himself the irrevocable contempt of the

very mind that he would gall or subdue ;-since that mind, under such circumstances invariably rises above its detractor, and leaves him exposed in the same creaking gibbet that he had prepared for the object of his fear or his envy. Seldom, indeed, is it, that injustice fails to be seen through, or that the policy of interested condemnation escapes undetected. They first produce the excitements, then furnish the triumphs, of Genius.

39

BOOTS:

A SLIPSHODICAL LYRIC.

THE watch hath bawl'delevin,'-and the moon
Walks through the evening heaven like a queen,
Raining soft influences on lovers' minds,-
While I, with fragrant and serene cigar
Prest satisfactorily betwixt my lips,
Am lounging in that Traveller's Paradise,
Hight bar-room in the vulgate,-looking round,
With honest speculation in mine eye
In quest of food for thought. By Jove, 'tis here:
I have't; in yonder huge and gloomy pile
Of travellers' boots, is inspiration hid.
Come, bustle, honest Muse, and help me sing,
In fanciful disportings on the theme, -
Till from this scented tube departs the fire,
And all its ashes slumber on my lyre.
Time was, when boots were not—when graceful feet
Of men and women, unrestricted, prest
Their mother earth'denuded. Then, suddenly,
The Greek and Roman sandal came in vogue :
August Athena's streets, to soles of cork,
Trod by philosophers, and stoics,- Jews,
Cretes and Arabians,-echoed as they trode, -
And e'en the solemn groves of Academe,
Beheld the feet that bore a master mind
'Neath Plato's lofty and impressive brow,
Press the gay sandal on the olive leaves,
Which autumn winds had shaken to the ground.
In Rome, the tribune, lictor, senator,
Proconsul, headsman, and centurion,
The graceful sandal wore. Apostles, too,
Did patronize the article. The light
Which burst on Peter's dungeon, as he lay
Hedged in by soldiers at the midnight hour,
Was scattered from an angel's odorous wing,
And on the prisoner's chains and sandals streamed :
The first fell off-the latter he did don,
And walked abroad in freedom. And in sooth,
Where'er the Greek or Roman power had sway,
The sandal, with its dainty tie, became
The fashionable thing.

At last, boots came;
But how, or when, it boots not now to tell,
Save that they did adrene ; and through all time
Since their first origin, have kept their state,
Circling the calves of youth, and the slim shanks
Of weak and trembling age. Of various name,
Their titles I invoke not-for I know
Their number numberless; nor eke of style,
Of Wellington, Suwarrow, tasselled, laced,
Civil, or military; seven-leagued,
Or Chinese kinds, diminished, have I time
To dwell on at this present,-nor need tell
How since their date, their fabricators swarm,
St. Crispin's followers are every where :
In France, the cordonnier,-in England, named
Knights of th' enwaxed end. The race is large,
And keep their azure Mondays,-festivals
Of old renown, with wassail and with song.
My present business doth not lie with these-
But rather to discourse, as in me lies,
About this pile of boots before mine eyes.

It seems to rise, as if its apex strove
To reach that constellation, Bootes y'clept,
To which Arcturus clings. But I demand
My fancy from the stars, to help me here.
There stands a scurvy pair, with tops of red,
Sore wasted at the heel, and slim at toe.
The straps are broken ; and the owner's mind
And dispositions, thus to me exposed,
Are clear, as if I knew him. He's a young
And hair-brained biped-has a sprawling foot,
But sain would be genteel,' and so has cased
His pedal adjuncts in a narrow space,
By much too small for comfort. When he draws
Those boots upon his legs at morn, he chases,
And stamps the floor, and vents the spiteful •d -n,'
Because they will not on. When in the street,
He hath a rapid gait, and stalks abroad,
On politics or business, with an air,
As if a nation's cares were on his mind,
Heavy as Atlas' load. Be sure, that man
Loves, eats, and drinks, and all his acts performs
In the Cambyses' vein.
Adjacent riseth, with the look of eld,
A pair of fair tops, -and, to Fancy's eye,
Their owner stands beside them. He is one
Now near the turn of sixty, and his hair
Is powdered, white as snow-wreathes--and his cane
Is headed o'er with gold. Whene'er he treads,
The spotless dust on broadcloth collar falls,-
And as he walks the street, full many a hat
Is touched to do him reverence. Ai his board
The choicest wines are found, that, quick and warm,
Ascend them to the brain. He readeth loud
The liturgy o' Sundays,---while the priest
Whenas he glanceth tow'rds his cushioned pew,
Bethinks him of that layman's sumptuous fare.
I like not that next pair-a clumsy mass
Of ill-conditioned leather. To a boor,
A walking porker, do I quickly trace
Their certain ownership. What sprawling heels !
And holes are cut anigh the spreading toes,
As if the ponderous feet in that wide space
Had still been cabined, cribbed,' and wanted room,-
Or else, that doleful crops of pedal maize,
Called by the vulgar corns, had flourished there.
I see the wearer plainly. Large of form,
He moves abroad like stern Rhinoceros
Or Behemoth in the ocean; or, to rise
In metaphor, like old Sam. Johnson's form
Wending along Cheapside. In public haunts
He of his self-deportment takes no heed,
And spitteth evermore. His lips are scaled
And juicy, like wind-beparched mouth
Of ichthyophagous Kamschatkadale ;-and oft
With three sheets in the wind, in upper tier
Midst mirthful Cyprians, he puts his feet
Over the box's front, and leaning back,
Guffaws and swears, like privateer at sea,
Until the pitlings from beneath, exclaim,
• Boots !' i Trollope !' and he straightway draws them in.

My fragrant tubo is out--and objects swim
Like coming dreams before my drowsy eyes :
Yot one more pair of boots, ere I retire,

I fain, in thoughiful mood, would scrutinize.
A dapper pair, yet gaudy not, but neat,
As if they needed neither brush nor shine,
For marks of both they bear. He who inserts
His understanding in them, comes to town
A merchant, trafficking and getting gain :
He hath a wife and pleasant babes at home,
To whom the squeak of those familiar soles
Is like to heavenly music. That wife delights,
What time she sweetly plies her evening care,'
To hear that squeak, and see the infant smile,
Tilted on parent knee. He lives and trades
In a fair village, “throned by the West,'
Embowered in trees, and reached by rural roads,
All variously diverging, where in throngs
The wealthy farmers come. He leads the choir
At church, and sets the quaint, old-fashioned tune-
The pitch-pipe blows, and is, in all respects
The magnate of the village.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

It was the lot of that wonderful person, Caspar Hauser, to be emancipated and tamed among a people every way disposed to note all the peculiarities of a mind permitted almost to reach maturity, before it had received the impress of a single effort at training it. This training was then undertaken by instructors, excited by an enthusiasm of curiosity to trace the first manifestations of his mind under its new series of impulses. Of course, we have in his case most impressive chapters upon the influence of the magnificent universe—the green earth, the sun and moon in the blue heavens, and the grandeur of the starry hosts, when first shown to him. We have a novel and most striking history of mind under the first impressions of external nature, and the first lights of instruction.

The annexed brief and unpretending narrative lays no claim to virtues of this sort. Wild Bill, it is true, was thrown among a people humane and civilized; but they were pressed by numberless and imperious necessities, incident to a new settlement in the wilderness. Their condition was too full of labor, care, and danger, to admit of the exercise of curiosity. Thus they were less disposed to mark the first move

« ForrigeFortsett »