« PreviousContinue »
is still impressed upon it. He nour: suspense-a time of fierce strife and
We behold them moreover a fa- er busies itself with the contemplading race, year by year shrinking tion of mere physical facts and his. back farther into the hiding-places torical phenomena. It seeks to hold of the wilderness, as the star of civ- converse with the deeper mysteries ilization travels towards the west of our nature; it explores the inner We have far more reason to love chambers of the soul, where thought them, than they us. When we leave resides. Let not this be deemed out of view the more savage features visionary, or without some meanof their character, and dwell onlying in its application to ourselves. upon the pure and lovely-when we Though our nation is young in years, reflect upon the workings of that we are old in this maturity of mind, lofty faith, which is ever present in and advancement of thought. In the hearts of these children of the this matter we stand side by side forest—we can feel that we have with England, and for confirmation far more sympathy with their inner of what we have said above, we may life, than we may have supposed. refer to the work that is now going The Indian character too is shad. on there.
What is the poetry of owy and obscure. We have to wait Wordsworth and his contemporaries, a long time, before those heroes that but an exemplification of this clear figure in the open world, and whose and intellectual spirit? It is the poacts are recorded in books, become etry of a contemplative age, framed sufficiently romantic for the uses of for men who have turned aside from the poet. But the forest itself throws the hot pursuits of war and vain ama sufficient veil around the Indian bition. character, making it suitable for the It is almost unnecessary to point poet, without the aid of time. Two out the bearing of this argument uphundred years will not suffice to on ourselves. As the literature of throw such a curtain around the he. England has already passed in a roes of the Revolution, as the shades measure from the contemplation of of the wilderness are ever spreading mere historical phenomena, to those over its inhabitants. The point in more elevated themes which conthe history of our country, which at cern man, not as a member of a present seems most fit for the poet, particular nation, but as a thinking, is that transition state, when the Eu reasoning being, formed for happiropean and the Indian are brought ness and immortality ; so we, posside by side, each revealing the sessing the same elevated feelings, character of the other, in new and have less need of those materials stronger proportions. This was a on which the poets of an earlier time too of doubt and danger and age have labored. In short, we are
disposed to think that the great out- nation's literature, serve as resting cry that has been raised against this places for the memory, whence it country, in these particulars, is in a may survey the field around. measure unmeaning. We confess The appearance of the poem as yet little has been done, and it whose title heads our article, is an was perhaps natural that it should event of no small importance in our be so. And yet the American mind literary history. No poem of equal has not been altogether idle, nor length has for a long time appeared have we so great reason for shame among us; and we are confident as many of our own and foreign that no American poem, at all cor, writers have been disposed to think. responding to this in extent, has ever
Among the fugitive poems that appeared, bearing in itself so much have appeared during the last twen- life and energy, and such earnest of ty years, we have many that shine success. We may say in general, as gems in our infant literature, and it is modeled after the poems of that have not been surpassed by any Scott, though it contains nine inwhich have been put forth in Eng- stead of six cantos. The time och land during the same period. We cupied by the poem is long, much have seen no specimens of English longer than is common in poems of blank verse for several years, that this class. Scott's “ Marmion” fills in fineness of moulding, in ease a period of about forty days. The and gracefulness of flow, and in “Lady of the Lake" covers only beauty and strength of diction, can the space of six days, while the Lay rank above some that have appear. of the Last Minstrel” is wholly emed on this side of the water. In braced in three days and nights. lyric poetry our literature is rich. The poem before us spreads over Few finer things have ever been an extent of about two years. But composed, than some of those little when we mark the unity of the plan, morsels of song that are now circu- and reflect too that this plan in its lating among us. But it is the fate great outline is not fictitious but bis. of this kind of poetry, that it does torical, we do not see how the time not receive its due honor. It is too could well have been shortened. fragmentary. The mind is confus- In a smaller space it would have ed by the multiplicity of objects. been necessary either to have set at As in some large and beautiful gar- work a train of operations without den, we are hurried from flower to following them to their legitimate flower, until the mind becomes dis, results, or to have described results tracted amid the variety, and we re. without showing their causes. tain only a general impression of the whole the time seems to have beauty, without remembering dis. been necessarily chosen as it was. tinctly the forms in which it was em- If any one is disposed to object to this bodied. Hence it is that a nation feature of the poem, let him reflect seldom gains any reputation for lit- how undesirable it was to the au. erature from these fragmentary pro- thor-how gladly he would have ductions alone. The cultivation had it otherwise, could he have done and taste necessary to originate so without a sacrifice. It is no easy them, are not duly appeciated. It task to spread the incidents of a po, is not until they group themselves em like this over the space of two around some larger and bolder work, years, so as to leave no wide and that their position and value are felt. barren intervals. There is another There must be something that shall reason for this length of time, that of itself arrest and hold the atten. has been finely noticed in the pretion of men.
Hence a few great face. The scene is in the wilderpoems, scattered along the line of a ness, where all movements must be Vol. I.
comparatively slow. The actors ment, and describes the early dwellare at first far apart. The tribes ing place of the captive maiden. that are to be bound together by the She lived in her father's house on eloquence of Tecumseh, are living the pleasant banks of the Connectiin places widely remote from each cut. Moray, a youth of Scottish other. Time is requisite that plans descent, dwelt near her, and grew may be matured, and that the influ- up with her in love. De Vere, a ences that are to act in the closing polished knave, seeks to supplant scenes, may be drawn towards a him in his hopes, but is scorned and center and combined. We have no rejected, and vows revenge. By cause to regret that the time was reverses of fortune, to which De thus extended. This circumstance Vere is accessory, Mary's father is has afforded opportunity for rich and stripped of his possessions. Joining varied description. We have the a band of pioneers, he seeks the far wilderness in all its seasons—its West, and settles in a beautiful spot winter gloom, its springing beau. upon the banks of the Miami. Her ty, its summer glory, and its au- home, her forest life, her thoughts tumnal decay. We have the savage of Moray and of love, are all finely before us in all the circumstances of described. Moray remains for a his life-threading the primeval for- season at his home, but his thoughts ests in a night of darkness and are with Mary in the West. He storm-sleeping alone by the great takes the dress of a hunter, and lake under the clear full moon, with plunges into the forest, passes by no noise save the ceaseless stir of the Catskill mountains, traverses the waters-or musing among the fall. Mohawk, hears the roar of Niagara, ing leaves in the dreamy Indian sum- till at length he stands in sight of mer. To us, these glances into old the cottage of Mary. It is silent forests, along the far sounding lakes, and solitary. He enters, and be. and into quiet mountain dells, slum. holds three lifeless trunks. We bering in their unbroken solitude, remember the three scalps in the are among the best features of the belt of the warrior.
We return poem. We would most gladly, (did again to the boat upon the Ohio. space permit) give an abstract of The captive girl, worn with grief the entire poem. But we must con- and toil, is sleeping. Ooloora, the tent ourselves with a brief analysis brother of the warrior, of kind and of the first canto. Yet from this, generous heart, bends over her, and some idea may be gained of the fine. sings to soothe her slumbers. Sudness of plot, and the beauty and vari- denly a shot is heard from the rocky ety of incident, that mark the whole. shore, and Ooloora leaps wildly, and
The scene opens on an autumnal falls dead in the stream. Kenhataday. An Indian warrior is standing wa, the warrior, is on the point of upon the banks of the Ohio, with slaying the captive Mary in rethree scalps hanging in his belt. venge. De Vere intercedes, and He draws back under the shade of stays his hand. We leave them trees, and lies concealed until the still passing down the Ohio, cauevening. Then launching a light tiously creeping under the shade of canoe, he leads into it a grief-worn the rocks. captive girl. Two others enter with Such is the outline of the first him--one a younger brother of the canto ; and we have no fear that it warrior, the other a villainous white. will not commend itself to the read. We leave them dropping down the The moonlight scene on the Ohio in the quiet moonlight. The Ohio will linger long in many minds. poem then goes back in an episode We shall only glance at some of the to a time anterior to its commence- more important points, spread along
through the remainder of the poem. ray from Tecumseh
and Owaola, In the second canto, we have the the last meeting of Tecumseh and conversation of Tecumseh with his Omena, the battle of the Thames, brother Elswatawa the Prophet, the where Tecumseh fell, the death of motley Indian camp, the meeting De Vere, and the meeting of Moray of Mary and Moray in the camp, and Mary. We stand at last by the Moray's running for his life, and the lonely tomb of Tecumseh. prairie on fire. The third canto In this brief article we cannot un. shows us Tecumseh standing by his dertake an examination of the indifather's grave, in a lone spot upon vidual portions of this plot. Whatthe Mississippi. Thence he sets out ever minor defects there may be in upon his tour. He passes among it, no one can deny that its general the tribes dwelling upon the Mis- structure is admirable. Whoever souri and its tributary streams, turns has tried the labor of invention, south and crosses the Mississippi, knows how difficult it is to take a visits the nations on the Gulf and subject like this in its chaotic state, along the rivers flowing into it, re- and fashion it into order and perturns and crosses the great river fect consistency. Questions might again at a lower point, pushes up be raised, and probably will be, along the base of the Rocky Moun- upon the propriety of bringing the tains, and among the Black Hills, heroine into the battle of Erie, or crosses the Mississippi again near its of forcing Tecumseh to make so source, and reaches Lake Superior great a sacrifice as he did, to save in the spring. Wearied, he rests the life of Moray. It may well be himself by night upon its rocky urged in favor of the latter, that it shore, and in that unbroken soli. shows the abiding strength of an Intude the scenes of his past life rise dian's gratitude. Moray had saved before him in dreams. In the fourth the life of Omena, whom Tecumseh canto we have the battle of the Wa. loved. But as Moray need not have bash. It opens with an eulogy on been brought into such difficulties Harrison, in eight Spenserian ver. by any thing inherent in the original ses. Moray is wounded in the bat. plan, we incline to the opinion, that tle, and remains during the follow this scene should have been omitted. ing winter in the hut of a settler. The verse is mainly octosyllabic, This is described in the fifth canto. gliding occasionally into the anapesIn the same we have the beginning tic and pentameter. This change of the wanderings of Moray, in of measure has often a fine effect company with Owaola, in search of upon the ear. When the feelings Mary, and the courting scene of become enlivened by some pleasing Tecumseh and Omena. In the and happy narration, the rapid and sixth we follow Moray and Owaola dancing motion of the anapest seems through the forests and across the exactly suited to their expression. Lake. In this canto, we find the We love to feel ourselves borne story of the broken-hearted captive along as upon wings. On the other girl. The seventh carries us up to hand, when the feelings become the region lying north of Lake Su- saddened by the previous story, the perior, where Moray and Owaola more slow and solemn movement of spend the second winter. Nearly a the pentameter meets us agreeably. year and a half have now passed A fine instance of this latter change since the opening of the poem, and occurs in the sixth book, after the events are verging towards the close. mournful tale of the captive girl. The eighth canto contains the battle It fills the ear like some sweet, low of Erie. The ninth embraces the voice of consolation in the house of Indian council, the parting of Mo- mourning. A few Spenserian verses open each canto, and the whole is not be found in it a line so weak as diversified with songs.
There are some that occur in Marmion, whose fewer weak lines in the book than author has been regarded as the we might have expected, considering great master of this verse. Adoptthe youth and inexperience of the ing, moreover, that charitable style author, and yet they are not unfre- of criticism, which judges of a book quent. Some one has well remark- by its merits, rather than its defects, ed that “the faults of this book are as we judge of men after their such as belong to a young writer, death, we are but little disposed to while the excellencies are those of linger among these faults, when but few older ones." There is too there is so much around us that is much inversion of thought. The pure and excellent. In the main subject of a sentence is oftentimes then, the versification is easy, flowso wrapped up in the body of it, ing, and withal spirited and stirring. that we are at loss where to find it. But it is time that we turn to the
In some cases too the presence of book itself, and give some specie a tame and commonplace word in mens of the style and matter of the a line, degrades and stupefies the poem. The description of Moray whole. But to those who are dis- and Mary, in their early homes, posed to judge harshly of the poem when the world looked sweet befor reasons like these, we think it fore them, has a fine passage—their may safely be said, that there can- thoughts of God and the infinite.
"That wondrous world within, their being,
The mind, that can nor sleep nor die,
Like harpings of eternity,
Whispered their hearts, 'rejoice! rejoice!'” The whole episode, from which of happiness and rest. We have we have made this extract, has a before this alluded to the beautiful most happy effect upon the reader. picture presented to the mind in the It adds a powerful interest to our moonlight scene on the Ohio—the minds, to know that those whom we canoe gliding quietly along under follow through these scenes of dan- the full moon, between high rocky ger, toil, and grief, have once lived shores. The first canto closes with this quiet, happy life, dreaming only these lines.
" Warned by the shot thus hostile sent
From that primeval battlement,