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The Spirit's Questionings
05 07 10 112
The following pages contain the first complete collection of the Poetical Writings of the late Willis GAYLORD CLARK. The Literary Remains of this popular writer, which embraced all his prose writings and many of his poems, was yet incomplete in this latter department; some of the best of his later, and nearly all of his earliest, poetical productions, having been anavoidably omitted in that excellent and attractive volume.
It is thought that some account of the author of these pages may be acceptable to the reader. The following passages, from an article in Graham's Magazine, embrace all the essential facts in the history of its subject :
“Of the several excellent writers whose names we have placed upon our catalogue as worthy of the honor we intend to do them (a series of portraits of popular Philadelphia authors, accompanied by suitable notices of their lives and works), the first we select is that of Willis Gaylord CLARK, whose rare abilities as a poet, and whose qualities as a man, justify
this distinction. The life of a student is usually, almost necessarily, indeed, uneventful. Disinclined by habit and association, and generally unfitted by temperament, to mingle in the ruder scenes, the shocks, and conflicts, that mark the period of sterner existence, his biog. raphy furnishes but few salient points upon which an inquirer can take hold. In the little circle which his affections have gathered around him, he finds abundant sources of enjoyment and interest; and though the world without may ring with his name, be pursues his quiet and peaceful way, undisturbed by, if not insensible to, its praises. Such has been eminently the case with the subject of this notice. With feelings peculiarly fitted for social and domestic intercourse, and a heart overflowing with the warmest and most generous impulses, and a shrinking sensitiveness to obtrusive public regard, Mr. CLARK has always sought those scenes in which, while his talents found free scope,
his native modesty was unwounded, and he could exercise without restraint the loftier charities of his nature.
“Mr. CLARK was born in Otisco, a rich agricultural town in the county of Onondaga, in the state of New York. His father was a soldier in the days of the Revolution, whose valor and services won for him tributes of acknowledg. ment from the delegates of a grateful nation. He was, moreover, a man of reading and talent, fond of collecting and studying useful books, and much given to philosophical pursuits and inquiries. In his son Willis he found an apt and anxious pupil; and the judicious teachings of the father. aided by the classic inculcations of the Rev. GEORGE COLTON, a maternal relative, laid a broad and solid foundation for those acquirements which have since added grace and vigor to the outpourings of genius. At a very early age, Mr. Clark manifested poetic inclinations. Amid the glorious scenery that was outspread on every side of him, he soon began to feel the yearnings of his divine nature. The spirit that was within him, stimulated by the magnificence of these external objects, could not be repressed; and he painted the beauties of plain and mountain- of the flower-clad valley and the forest crowned bill -- of the gorgeous going down of the sun amid a profusion of dazzling tints and hues such as nowhere else accompanied his setting- of the rich and vari-colored autumnal foliage that shone in melancholy brightness — of the clear lake, whose unruffled bosom was placid as the soul of peace-in terms so glowing, and with a distinctness and force, that showed an eye so quick to perceive, and a mind so capable to appreciate, the love. liness of creation, that it at once secured to him praise and admiration. As he grew older, there was mingled with this exquisite power of description a tone of gentle solemnity, a delicate sadness of thought- a strain of seriousness such as showed a paramount desire to gather from the scenes and images reflected through his poetical faculties, useful lessons of morality. We remember very well when our attention was first drawn to his productions, and he was then but a boy, that we were impressed with the fact just mentioned; and we admired that one so young should thus address himself directly to the hearts of his readers, and stir up within them founts of tenderness and piety.
“ After completing his scholastic course, Mr. CLARK repaired to Philadelphia, whither bis reputation as a poet of much skill and a high degree of promise, had already preceded him. Soon after his arrival, under the auspices of the Rev. Dr. Ely, his patron and friend, he started a literary journal, similar in its design and character to the • Mirror' of New York. Young, inexperienced, and therefore incapable of managing the business details of this undertaking with the necessary regard to its economy, he found that the profits were disproportioned to the labor, and was soon induced to abandon it. He conducted it, however, long enough to show that his powers of writing were not confined to poetry alone, but that in various departments of prose literature, previously unattempted by him, he possessed great aptitude; and bis criticisms on books and the arts indicated a vigorous and well-disciplined taste, considerable power of analysis, just discrimination, and, above all, a generous forbearance toward all who were the subjects of his commentaries. About the time