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was the delight of every circle where wit and urbanity were the passports of ad mission. He counted among his warm friends a number of young aspirants fo literary fame, and his table abounded with contributions for the Portfolio. It may be easily imagined, therefore, that one of his habits would not require much persuasion to exchange the labor of composition for the easier employment of selection. Hence we find that, in the whole course of his editorship of the Portfolio, ineluding a period of twelve years, there are scarcely as many original essays from his pen. In his gayety he lost the author. His cultivated taste and various reading in polite literature enabled him to produce a miscellany which obtained a wido circulation ; and he might have lived in the placid enjoyment of fame and fortune, if the finest gifts of nature could supply the want of prudence. As it was, after editing the Portfolio for eleven years, he died in absolute poverty on the 7th of January, 1812, though enough to give him a moderate competency was owing to him from subscribers who, year after year, had perused with delight the unpaidfor volumes. He was buried in the ground of St. Peter's Church, Philadelphia, whero, a few years after, a monument was placed over his grave.
It has been customary of late years to depreciate the Portfolio. This we decm unjust; and think it must be done by those who have not read its pages; for wo have no hesitation in saying that it will bear a favorable comparison with any similar contemporaneous periodical, English or American. It had not, indeed, the learning nor the variety of the Gentleman's Magazine, but that had been published nearly half a century when the Portfolio was commenced. But, by its talent, vivacity, taste, and variety, it did more, perhaps, than any other publication of that time, on this side the Atlantic, to refine the taste of the people, and to give a relish for choice reading and for literary pursuits.
“Watchman, what of the night?”—ISAIAH xxi. 11. To this query of Isaiah, the watchman replies, “ that the morning cometh, and also the night.” The brevity of this answer has left it involved in something of the obscurity of the season when it was given. I think that night, however sooty and ill-favored it may be pronounced by those who were born under a day-star, merits a more particular description. I feel peculiarly disposed to arrange some ideas in favor of this season. I know that the majority are literally blind to its merits; they must be prominent, indeed, to be discerned by the closed eyes of the snorer, who thinks that night was made for nothing but sleep. But the student and the sage are willing to believe that it was formed for higher purposes; and that it not only recruits exhausted spirits, but sometimes informs inquisitive, and amends wicked ones.
Duty, as well as inclination, urges the Lay Preacher to sermonize while others slumber. To read numerous volumes in the morning, and to observe various characters at noon, will leave but
1 Life by John E. Hall, in the “ Philadelphia Souvenir.”
little time, except the night, to digest the one or speculate upon the other. The ht, therefore, is often dedicated to composition; and while the light of the paly planets discovers at his desk the Preacher, more wan than they, he may be heard repeating, emphatically, with Dr. Young
Darkness has much divinity for me.” He is then alone, he is then at peace. No companions near but the silent volumes on his shelf; no noise abroad but the click of the village clock, or the bark of the village dog. The deacon has then smoked his sixth and lust pipe, and asks not a question more concerning Josephus or the Church. Stillness aids study, and the sermon proceeds. Such being the obligations to night, it would be ungrateful not to acknowledge them. As my watchful eyes can discern its dim beauties, my warm heart shall feel, and my prompt pen shall describe, the uses and the pleasures of the nocturnal hour.
Watchman, what of the night? I can with propriety imagine this question addressed to myself. I am a professed lucubrator, and who so well qualified to delineate the sable hours as
“ A meagre, muse-rid mope, adusi and thin”? However injuriously night is treated by the sleepy moderns, the vigilance of the ancients could not overlook its benefits and joys. In as early a record as the book of Genesis, I find that Isaac, though he devoted his assiduous days to action, reserved speculation till night. “ He went out to meditate in the field at the eventide." He chose that sad, that solemn hour, to reflect upon the virtues of a beloved and departed mother. The tumult and the glare of day suited not with the sorrow of his soul. He had lost his most amiable, most genuine friend, and his unostentatious grief was eager for privacy and shade. Sincere sorrow rarely suffers its tears to be seen. It was natural for Isaac to select a season to weep in, which should resemble “the color of his fate.” The darkness, the solemnity, the stillness of the eve were favorable to his melancholy purpose. He forsook, therefore, the bustling tents of his father, the pleasant “south country,” and "Well of Lahairoi ;" he went out and pensively meditated at the eventide.
The Grecian and Roman philosophers firmly believed that "the dead of midnight is the noon of thought.” One of them is beautifully described by the poet as soliciting knowledge from the skies, in private and nightly audience, and that neither his theme nor his nightly walks were forsaken till the sun appeared and dimmed his nobler intellectual beam.” We undoubtedly owe to the studious nights of the ancients most of their claborate and
immortal productions. Among them it was necessary that every man of letters should trim the midnight lamp. The day might be given to the forum or the circus, but the night was the season for the statesman to project his schemes and for the poet to pour his verse.
Night has likewise, with great reason, been considered in every age as the astronomer's day. Young observes, with energy,
that an undevout astronomer is mad.” The privilege of contemplating those brilliant and numerous myriads of planets which bedeck our skies is peculiar to night; and it is our duty, both as lovers of moral and natural beauty, to bless that season when we are indulged with such a gorgeous display of glittering and useful light. It must be confessed that the seclusion, calmness, and tranquillity of midnight is most friendly to serious and even airy contemplations.
I think it treason to this sable power, who holds divided empire with day, constantly to shut our eyes at her approach. To long sleep I am decidedly a foe. As it is expressed by a quaint writer, we shall all have enough of that in the grave. Those who cannot break the silence of night by vocal throat or eloquent tongue, may be permitted to disturb it by a snore.
But he, among my readers, who possesses the power of fancy and strong thought, should be vigilant as a watchman. Let him sleep abundantly for health, but sparingly for sloth. It is better, sometimes, to consult a page of philosophy than the pillow.—Lay Preacher.
JACK AND GILL: A CRITICISM.
Among critical writers, it is a common remark that the fashion of the times has often given a temporary reputation to performances of very little merit, and neglected those much more deserving of applause. I therefore rejoice that it has fallen to my lot to rescue from neglect this inimitable poem; for, whatever may be my diffidence, as I shall pursue the manner of the most eminent critics, it is scarcely possible to err. The fastidious reader will doubtless smile when he is informed that the work, thus highly praised, is a poem consisting only of four lines; but as there is no reason why a poet should be restricted in his number of verses, as it would be a very sad misfortune if every rhymer were obliged to write a long as well as a bad poem, and more particularly as these verses contain more beauties than we often find in a poem of four thousand, all objections to its brevity should
I must at the same time acknowledge that at first I doubted in what class of poetry it should be arranged. Its extreme shortness and its uncommon metre seemed to degrade it into a ballad; but its interesting subject, its unity of plan, and,
above all, its having a beginning, middle, and an end, decide its claim to the epic rank. I shall now proceed, with the candor, though not with the acuteness, of a good critic, to analyze and display its various excellencies. The opening of the poem is singularly beautiful :
Jack and Gill. The first duty of the poet is to introduce his subject; and there is no part of poetry more difficult. We are told by the great critic of antiquity that we should avoid beginning “ab ovo," but go into the business at once. Here our author is very happy; for, instead of telling us, as an ordinary writer would have done, who were the ancestors of Jack and Giil, that the grandfather of Jack was a respectable farmer, that his mother kept a tavern at the sign of the Blue Bear, and that Gill's father was a justice of the peace, (once of the quorum,) together with a catalogue of uncles and aunts, he introduces them to us at once in their proper persons.
The choice, too, of names is not unworthy of consideration. It would doubtless have contributed to the splendor of the poem to have endowed the heroes with long and sounding titles, which, by dazzling the eyes of the reader, might prevent an examination of the work itself. These adventitious ornaments are justly disregarded by our author, who, by giving us plain Jack and Gill, has disdained to rely on extrinsic support. In the very choice of appellations he is, however, judicious. Had he, for instance, called the first character John, he might have given him more dignity; but he would not so well harmonize with his neighbor, to whom, in the course of the work, it will appear he must necessarily be joined.
The personages being now seen, their situation is next to be discovered. Of this we are immediately informed in the subsequent line, when we are told
Jack and Gill
Went up a hill. Here the imagery is distinct, yet the description concise. We instantly figure to ourselves the two persons travelling up an ascent, which we may accommodate to our own ideas of declivity, barrenness, rockiness, sandiness, &c., all which, as they exercise the imagination, are beauties of a high order. The reader will pardon my presumption, if I here attempt to broach a new prin• ciple, which no critic with whom I am acquainted has ever mentioned. It is this, that poetic beauties may be divided into negatire and positive, the former consisting of mere absence of fault, the latter in the presence of excellence; the first of an inferior order, but requiring considerable critical acumen to discover them, the latter of a higher rank, but obvious to the meanest capacity. To apply the principle in this case, the poet meant to inform us that two persons were going up a hill. Now, the act of going up a hill—although Locke would pronounce it a very complex idea, comprehending person, rising ground, trees, &c. &c.-is an operation so simple as to need no description. Had the poet, therefore, told us how the two heroes went up, whether in a cart or a wagon, and entered into the thousand particulars which the subject involves, they would have been tedious, because superfluous. The omission of these little incidents, and telling us simply that they went up the hill, no matter how, is a very high negative beauty.
Having ascertained the names and conditions of the parties, the reader becomes naturally inquisitive into their employment, and wishes to know whether their occupation is worthy of them. This laudable curiosity is abundantly gratified in the succeeding lines; for
Jack and Gill
Went up a hill,
To fetch a bucket of water. Here we behold the plan gradually unfolding, a new scene opens to our view, and the description is exceedingly beautiful. We now discover their object, which we were before left to conjecture. We see the two friends, like Pylades and Orestes, assisting and cheering each other in their labors, gaily ascending the hill, eager to arrive at the summit, and to-fill their bucket. Here, too, is a new elegance. Our acute author could not but observe the necessity of machinery, which has been so much commended by critics, and admired by readers. Instead, however, of introducing a host of gods and goddesses, who might have only impeded the journey of his heroes, by the intervention of the bucket,which is, as it ought to be, simple and conducive to the progress of the poem, -he has considerably improved on the ancient plan. In the management of it, also, he has shown much judgment, by making the influence of the machinery and the subject reciprocal : for while the utensil carries on the heroes, it is itself carried on by them.
It has been objected, (for every Homer has his Zoilus,) that their employment is not sufficiently dignified for epic poetry; but, in answer to this, it must be remarked, that it was the opinion of Socrates, and many other philosophers, that beauty should be estimated by utility; and surely the purpose of the heroes must have been beneficial. They ascended the rugged mountain to draw . water; and drawing water is certainly more conducive to human happiness than drawing blood, as do the boasted heroes of the Jliad, or roving on the ocean, and invading other men's property,