« PoprzedniaDalej »
dation, but what that was we are unable to say.
In fact I once heard a hint of the kind from an officer of high rank, in a conversation with an American. His language was this - The time is perhaps not far distant, when you may have occasion for my friendship and assistance."
That the report alluc lo vas :.ot entirely groundless, may be seen by a perusal of thin folosim priraci from ! picciarsticn issucilly Christophe in January 1807. It wil be reled tät ailer the godsuction of the emrierer Des. salines in 1869, a civil war ruke out veli,een the chairs Christojile and fution, at the commencement of whicli, the latıér writi ili his adlıcrents was proscribed by the former. The proclamation in question was principally intended as an exposee of the conduct of the mulatore. After a recapitulation of a long list of crimes and enormities with which the people of colour were charged, is the following paragraph.
“ Have they (the mulattoes) not for a long time sought the destruction of the foreign merchants? No one is ignorant that Domaicq had a memorial published at Saint Mare, against the Americans with this intent.”
REVIEW-.FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
SKETCHES IN VERSE, &c. PHILADELPHIA, PRINTED BY
SMITH & MAXWELL, pp. 184.
A А ERICAN critics seem in almost all cases to have entered into a confederacy to exterminate American Poetry. If an individual has the temerity to jingle a couplet, and to avow himself descended from Americans, the offence is absolutely unpardonable, and no scourging on the part of the critic, nor submission on the part of the unfortunate author is deemed penance too severe. After the opinions, style and dialect of the author have been properly reviewed, orin more perspicuous phraseology, censured, then every misbegotten dot and comma comes in for its separate dividend of abuse. Next in the rank of dignity succeeds the type, and last of all the paper, ail to suffer reproach for the mortal sin of being in any manner auxiliary to the promulgation of American Poetry. To such an exterminating extremity has
this principle been carried, that we wonder much that the unfortunate goose has escaped, whose plumage has certainly been instrumental in the perpetration of the offence, for which, the poet, the paper-maker, the printer and his types have ail been severally convicted. European critics have been prudish cncugh in all conscience in their approbation of American literature. They have endeavoured to prove that nature degenerates on this forlorn side of the Atlantic, that every living animal, from man downwards have been degraded, that the very earth worm has lost part of its reptile dignity because it was not born in Europe. • Those honest and impartial gentlemen, while they laugh at the simplicity of the Hibernian for having denominated the sun and moon of his own country to be twice the magnitude of ours, would act a far more consistent part by admitting the fact, as it would furnish a solution of their hypothesis. American critics have, with a laudable spirit of emulation, followed, and even gone beyond a precedent so impartial. They have so far exceeded our European neighbours in abuse, that the task seems now fairly taken from their hands, and those critics, who before would have held it high treason against the republic of letters to have applauded any thing that savours of America, and stand ready on all occasions to denounce, have now been completely forestalled in their object. Proceeding on this axiom that it is morally impossible for an American to be right in his opinions, whether he follows their own or not, and resolving not to concur with us at all events, they have now undertaken to defend our literature against the reproaches of our own countrymen. It is a fact therefore, that our writers have found more leniency and hospitality even amongst this prejudiced class of men, on the other side of the Atlantic, than they have done on this. If a stranger should read some of our reviews, and not be forewarned of the offence, he would conclude, that the unhappy culprit had at least committed forgery, or some other crime equally heineous; no, it is an action by far more criminal, he has horresco referens! perpetrated poetry in open day. The punishment, which our judges have denounced, resembles in its nature the pillory, and if the culprit could be allowed what the clemency of the English common law sometimes admits, a commutation of punishment, a man of any
sensibility would giadly avail himself of such indulgence, and claim the latter as a mitigation of his sentence. While we thus, complain of conduct so deserving severe reprobation, we wish not to be enrolled in that class of critics who deal their encomiums about with such prodigality of dispensation, they may well be denominated the swabbers of panegyric Every thing American is with them, px necessitate rei, preeminently excellent. Without talents for discrimination, or sensibility to feel the beauties of a single passage they applaud, they still praise on with a gravity of countenance that beggars all description, and conceive it the most sacred duty of a critic thus to violate every principle of common sense. Writers, whose pens illuminated the centuries they lived in, are called from the repose of their tombs to resign their laurels. Praise is thus made a drug, possessing the potency and the value of those quack nostrums that so bespangle the pages of our daily papers, and immortality is promised with the same confidence and conferred with the same fidelity in both.
Avoiding these two extremes of approbation and censure, equally dishonest aid detrimental, let us have the hardihood to deliver our opinions with manly freedom and a spirit of independence becoming the dignified office we undertake. Careless of whom we please, or offend, let us act with a singleness of heart, and not barely pander those faculties that the Deity has given us for nobler purposes, to obsequious panegyric, nor by a frown as servile, repulse the timid advances of blushing Merit. If the scourge
of censure must fall, let the wound inflicted by it bear some proportion to the offence that occasioned it, and not by unnecessary torture, give colour to the charge, that predetermined malice awaited that oportunity of exercising its vengeance.
It new becomes our duty to examine a volume denominated « SKETCHES IN VERSE," the greater part of which, the editor informs us, has already appeared in the pages of this miscellany. The author modestly declares he only dallied with the Muses in those moments when the mind is too active to be idle, and too inert to solicit more arduous employment. He will suffer us, we hope, without even the suspicion of flattery, to declare that the hour so beguiled has fiown away without a stain upon its plumes,
In a frame of mind averse to laborious study, and solicitous of recreation, we were exhilirated by his pages, and find, on reflection, cause of gratulation instead of regret. The general character of the volume bears ample evidence of the truth of the author's declaration_his sportive fancy alights on every subject indiscriminately, and though full of mischief is more disposed to tickle than to wound. The style of Wordsworth is hit with such playful severity, and at the same time with such critical justice, that we much question whether the bard himself would not enjoy the joke thus cracked at his own expense.
The author has furnished us with notes perhaps in some instances too prolix considering the light and evanescent nature of his subjects; yet all abounding in shrewd propriety of remark, extensive reading, and pungency of satire equally judicious and just. He must not however be offended with us if we venture to predict that his book will neither have extended circulation nor perusal. He has only toyed with the Muses, and the locality of his subjects seems to ensure locality to the volume. If he wishes for a celebrity more extended than his book is entitled to, let him select subjects in future, more general, and exercise a portion of that poetic genius and critical acumen of which we have already discovered omens so favourable and auspicious. Durable celebrity is not formed by Fancy in her skipping and antic gambols; she must mine, explore, search, select and arrange, a task very different from the composition of a brilliant trifle.-Surely if such a store of diversified learning, ancient and modern, await the bidding of a mind “half listless, half active,” when raised and stimulated by subjects more commanding, it may attempt a loftier flight. The loungers of literature notwithstanding the flippancy of their censures, or applauses, are not characters to be courted; the breath of Fame does not reside in their nostrils. They are no further serviceable than as a species of literary echoes, and it beomes important in those who regulate the public taste to teach them to utter faithful responses. We may be singular in the notions which we entertain on such subjects, but this will not deter us from avowing them, that we are called upon by no duty rigidly to examine and canvass the propriety of a joke and
with critical precision to scrutinize the structure of its materials. It is enough for our purpose that the general impression is exhilirating; that we can take the author by the hand and laugh with him, without consulting the rules of mathematics. Nothing burlesques criticism itself more than the Saturnine gravity of its own demeanor when so employed on a volume at a time when the author himself is laughing in his sleeve, at the trouble he has occasioned. It resembles a grave doctor of divinity standing in the desk with all his paraphernalia of office, and expounding a jest book. If we have refused higher praise to this volume it is the author's own fault, and he has none to censure but himself for not puting his faculties to a sererer task, and commanding it.
THE MERRY WORLD--FOR TIIE PORT FOLIO.
Tue justly celebrated song « The Gods of the Grecks" is equally familiar to the classical and the convivial tribe. The felicity of invention, the dignity of stanza, the fertility of allusion, and the splendid imagery, which characterize this production all combine to stamp upon it a name of lyrical glory. But to the detriment of the song and the injury of Steevens, its acccomplished author, it is often printed in a garbled, and always sung in a mutilated style. We owe it to the Merry World at large, and to the rights of genius in particular to publish a correct copy of this poem in its legitimate shape.
Once the Gods of the Greeks, at ambrosial feast,
Large bowls of rich nectar were quaffing,
Homer says the celestials lov'd laughing.
This happen'd ere Chaos was fix'd into form,
While Nature disorderly lay
And Uproar embroil'd the loud fray.