« AnteriorContinuar »
tions ; feasts, wailings, markets ; a medley of all things, in a system adorned by contrarieties."
On the outside of the door Kavanagh had written the vigorous line of Dante,
“Think that To-day will never dawn again!”
that it might always serve as a salutation and memento to him as he entered. On the inside, the no less striking lines of a more modern bard,
sat the young apostle, and meditated the great design and purpose of his life, the removal of all prejudice, and uncharitableness, and persecution, and the union of all sects into one church universal. Sects themselves he would not destroy, but sectarianism ; for sects were to him only as separate converging roads, leading all to the same celestial city of peace. As he sat alone, and thought of these things, he heard the great bell boom above him, and remembered the ages
when in all Christendom there was but one Church; when bells were anointed, baptized, and prayed for, that, wheresoever those holy bells should sound, all deceits of Satan, all danger of whirlwinds, thunders, lightnings, and tempests might be driven away, - that devotion might increase in every Christian when he heard them, — and that the Lord would sanctify them with his Holy Spirit, and infuse into them the heavenly dew of the Holy Ghost. He thought of the great bell Guthlac, which an abbot of Croyland gave to his monastery, and of the six others given by his successor, musical, that, when they all rang together, as Ingulphus affirms, there was no ringing in England equal to it. As he listened, the bell seemed to breathe upon the air such clangorous sentences as,
“Lose this day loitering, 't will be the same story
heated: Begin it, and the work will be completed.”
“ Laudo Deum verum, plebem voco, congrego clerum,
Defunctos ploro, nimbum fugo, festaque honoro."
Possibly, also, at times, it interrupted his studies and meditations with other words than these. Possibly it sang into his ears, as did the bells of Varennes into the ears of Panurge, “Marry thee, marry thee, marry, marry ; if thou shouldst marry, marry, marry, thou shalt find good therein, therein, therein, so marry, marry."
From this tower of contemplation he looked down with mingled emotions of joy and sorrow on the toiling world below.
The wide prospect seemed to enlarge his sympathies and his charities; and he often thought of the words of Plato: - When we consider human life, we should view as from a high tower all things terrestrial; such as herds, armies, men employed in agriculture, in marriages, divorces, births, deaths; the tumults of courts of justice; desolate lands; various barbarous na
Once, as he sat in this retreat near noon, enjoying the silence, and the fresh air that visited him through the oval windows, his attention was arrested by a cloud of dust rolling along the road, out of which soon emerged a white horse, and then a very singular, roundshouldered, old-fashioned chaise, containing an elderly couple, both in black. What particularly struck him was the gait of the horse, who had a very disdainful fling to his hind legs. The slow equipage passed, and would have been forever forgotten, had not Kavanagh seen it again at sunset, stationary at Mr. Churchill's door, towards which he was directing his steps.
As he entered he met Mr. Churchill, just taking leave of an elderly lady and gentleman in black, whom he recognized as the travellers in the old chaise. Mr. Churchill looked a little flushed and disturbed, and bade his guests farewell with a constrained air. On seeing Kavanagh, he saluted him, and called him by name; whereupon the lady pursed up her mouth, and, after a quick glance, turned away her face; and the gentleman passed with a lofty look, in which curiosity, reproof, and pious indignation were strangely mingled. They got into the chaise, with some such feelings as Noah and his wife may be supposed to have
had on entering the ark; the whip descended upon the old horse with unusual vigor, accompanied by a jerk of the reins that caused him to say within himself, “What is the matter now?” He then moved off at his usual pace, and with that peculiar motion of the hind legs which Kavanagh had perceived in the morning:
Kavanagh found his friend not a little disturbed, and evidently by the conversation of the departed guests.
" That old gentleman,” said Mr. Churchill, " is your predecessor, Mr. Pendexter. He thinks we are in a bad way since he left us. He considers your liberality as nothing better than rank Arianism and infidelity. The fact is, the old gentleman is a little soured; the vinous fermentation in his veins is now over, and the acetous has commenced."
Kavanagh smiled, but made no answer.
“ I, of course, defended you stoutly,” continued Mr. Churchill ; " but if he goes about the village sowing such seed, there will be tares growing with the wheat.”
“I have no fears,” said Kavanagh, very quietly.
Mr. Churchill's apprehensions were not, however, groundless ; for in the course of the week it came out that doubts, surmises, and suspicions of Kavanagh's orthodoxy were springing up in many weak but worthy minds. And it was ever after observed, that, whenever that fatal, apocalyptic white horse and antediluvian chaise appeared in town, many parishioners were harassed with doubts and perplexed with theological difficulties and uncertainties.
Nevertheless, the main current of opinion was with him; and the parish showed their grateful acknowledgment of his zeal and sympathy, by requesting him to sit for his portrait to a great artist from the city, who was passing the summer months in the village for recreation, using his pencil only on rarest occasions and as a particular favor. To this martyrdom the meek Kavanagh submitted without a murmur. During the progress of this work of art he was seldom left alone; some one of his parishioners was there to enliven him ; and most frequently it was Miss Martha Amelia Hawkins, who had become very devout of late, being zealous in the Sunday School, and requesting her relative not to walk between churches any more. She took a very lively interest in the portrait, and favored with many suggestions the distinguished artist, who found it difficult to obtain an expression which would satisfy the parish, some wishing to have it grave, if not severe, and others with " Mr. Kavanagh's peculiar smile.” Kavanagh himself was quite indifferent about the matter and met his fate with Christian fortitude, in a white cravat and sacerdotal robes, with one hand hanging down from the back of his chair, and the other holding a large book with the forefinger between its leaves, reminding Mr. Churchill of Milo with his fingers in the oak. The expression of the face was exceedingly bland and resigned ; perhaps a little wanting in strength, but on the whole satisfactory to the parish. So was the artist's price; nay, it was even held by some persons to be cheap, considering the quantity of background he had put in.
MEANWHILE, things had gone on very quietly and monotonously in Mr. Churchill's family. Only one event, and that a mysterious one, had disturbed its serenity. It was the sudden disappearance of Lucy, the pretty orphan girl ; and, as the booted centipede, who had so much excited Mr. Churchill's curiosity, disappeared at the same time, there was little doubt that they had gone away together. But whither gone, and wherefore, remained a mystery.
Mr. Churchill, also, had had his profile, and those of his wife and children, taken, in a very humble style, by Mr. Bantam, whose advertisement he had noticed on his way to school nearly a year before. His own was considered the best, as a work of art. The face was cut out entirely; the collar of the coat velvet; the shirt-collar very high and white ; and the top of his head ornamented with a crest of hair turning up in front, though his own turned down, — which slight deviation from nature was explained and justified by the painter as a license allowable in art.
One evening, as he was sitting down to begin, for at least the hundredth time, the great Romance, subject of so many resolves and so much remorse, so often determined
upon but never begun, - a loud knock at the streetdoor, which stood wide open, announced a visitor. Unluckily, the study-door was likewise open; and consequently, being in full view, he found it impossible to refuse himself; nor, in fact, would he have done so, had all the doors been shut and bolted, the art of refusing one's self being at that time but imperfectly understood in Fairmeadow. Accordingly, the visitor was shown in.
He announced himself as Mr. Hathaway. Passing through the village he could not deny himself the pleasure of calling on Mr. Churchill, whom he knew by his writings in the periodicals, though not personally. He wished, , moreover, to secure the coöperation of one, already so favorably known to the literary world, in a new Magazine he was about to establish,
in order to raise the character of American literature, which, in his opinion, the existing reviews and magazines had entirely failed to accomplish. A daily increasing want of something better was felt by the public ; and the time had come for the establishment of such a periodical as he proposed. After explaining, in rather a florid and exuberant manner, his plan and prospects, he entered more at large into the subject of American literature, which it was his design to foster and patronize.
“ I think, Mr. Churchill,” said he, “that we want a national literature commensurate with our mountains and rivers, commensurate with Niagara, and the Alleghanies, and the Great Lakes!”
“ We want a national epic that shall correspond to the size of the ccuntry ; that shall be to all other epics what Banvard's Panorama of the Mississippi is to all other paintings, — the largest in the world !”
6 We want a national drama in which scope enough shall be given to our gigantic ideas, and to the unparalleled activity and progress of our people!"
· Of course.”
“ In a word, we want a national literature altogether shaggy and unshorn, that shall shake the earth, like a herd of buffaloes thundering over the prairies!”
Precisely,” interrupted Mr. Churchill; “ but excuse me! - are you not confounding things that have no analogy ? Great has a very different meaning when applied to a river, and when applied to a literature. Large and shallow may perhaps be applied to both. Literature is rather an image of the spiritual world, than of the physical, is it not ? — of the internal, rather than the external. Mountains, lakes, and rivers are, after all, only its scenery and decorations, not its substance and essence. A man will not necessarily be a great poet because he lives near a great mountain. Nor, being a poet, will he necessarily write better
poems than another, because he lives nearer Niagara."
· But, Mr. Churchill, you do not certainly mean to deny the influence of scenery on the mind ?"
• No, only to deny that it can create genius. At best it can only develop it. Switzerland has produced no extraordinary poet; nor, as far as I know, have the Andes, or the Himalaya mountains, or the Mountains of the Moon in Africa."
“ But, at all events,” urged Mr. Hathaway, " let us have our literature national. If it is not national, it is nothing."
“ On the contrary, it may be a great deal. Nationality is a good thing to a certain extent, but universality is better. All that is best in the great poets of all countries is not what is national in them, but what is universal. Their roots are in their native soil; but their branches wave in the unpatriotic air, that speaks the same language unto all men, and their leaves shine with the illimitable light that pervades all lands. Let us throw all the windows open ; let us admit the light and air on all sides, that we may look towards the four corners of the heavens, and not always in the same direction."
“ But you admit nationality to be a good thing?”
“ Yes, if not carried too far; still, I confess, it rather limits one's views of truth. I prefer what is natural. Mere nationality is often ridiculous. Every one smiles when he hears the Icelandic proverb, Iceland is the best land the sun shines upon.' Let us be natural, and we shall be national enough. Besides, our literature can be strictly national only so far as our character and modes of thought differ from those of other nations. Now, as we are very like the English, — are in fact English under a different sky, — I do not see how our literature can be very different from theirs. Westward from hand to hand we pass the lighted torch, but it was lighted at the old domestic fireside of England.” " Then
think our literature is never to be anything but an imitation of the English?”
“Not at all. It is not an imitation, but, as some one has said, a continuation.”
“ It seems to me that
you very narrow view of the subject.” "On the contrary, a very broad one.
No literature is complete until the language in which it is written is dead. We may well be proud of our task and of our position. Let us see if we can build in any way worthy of our forefathers.”
“ But I insist upon originality.”
" Yes; but without spasms and convulsions. Authors must not, like Chinese soldiers, expect to win victories by turning somersets in the air."
Well, really, the prospect from your point of view is not very brilliant. Pray, what do you think of our national literature ?”
“Simply, that a national literature is not the growth of a day. Centuries must contribute their dew and sunshine to it. Our own is growing slowly but surely, striking its roots downward, and its branches upward, as is natural; and I do not wish, for the sake of what some people call originality, to invert it, and try to make it grow with its roots in the air. And as for having it so savage and wild as you want it, I have only to say, that all literature, as well as all art, is the result of culture and intellectual refinement."
“Ah! we do not want art and refinement; we want genius, – untutored, wild, original, free."
** But, if this genius is to find any expression, it must employ art; for art is the external expression of our thoughts. Many have genius, but, wanting art, are forever dumb. The two must go together to form the great poet, painter, or sculptor.”
“ In that sense, very well.”
“ I was about to say, also, that I thought our literature would finally not be wanting in a kind of universality. As the blood of all nations is mingling with our own, so will their thoughts and feelings finally mingle in our literature. We shall draw from the Germans, tenderness; from the Spaniards, passion ; from the French, vivacity, — to mingle more and more with our English solid sense. And this will give us universality, so much to be desired."
“ If that is your way of thinking,” interrupted
the visitor, “you will like the work I am now engaged upon."
66 What is it?”
“A great national drama, the scene of which is laid in New Mexico. It is entitled Don Serafin, or the Marquis of the Seven Churches. The principal characters are Don Serafin, an old Spanish hidalgo; his daughter Deseada ; and Fra Serapion, the Curate. The play opens with Fra Serapion at breakfast; on the table a game-cock, tied by the leg, sharing his master's meal. Then follows a scene at the cockpit, where the Marquis stakes the remnant of his fortune his herds and hacienda favorite cock, and loses."
“But what do you know about cock-fighting?” demanded, rather than asked, the astonished and half-laughing schoolmaster.
“ I am not very well informed on that subject, and I was going to ask you
could not recommend some work.”
“ The only work I am aquainted with,” replied Mr. Churchill, "is the Reverend Mr. Pegge's Essay on Cock-fighting among the Ancients; and I hardly see how you could apply that to the Mexicans.”
“Why, they are a kind of ancients, you know. I certainly will hunt up the essay you mention, and see what I can do with it."
" And all I know about the matter itself,” continued Mr. Churchill, "is, that Mark Antony was a patron of the pit, and that his cocks were always beaten by Cæsar's; and that, when Themistocles the Athenian general was marching against the Persians, he halted his army to see a cock-fight, and made a speech to his soldiery, to the effect, that those animals fought, not for the gods of their country, nor for the monuments of their ancestors, nor for glory, nor for freedom, nor for their children, but only for the sake of victory. On his return to Athens, he established cock-fights in that capital. But how this is to help you in Mexico I do not see, unless you introduce Santa Anna, and compare him to Cæsar and Themistocles."
“ That is it; I will do so. It will give historic interest to the play. I thank you for the suggestion."
“ The subject is certainly very original; but
it does not strike me as particularly national.”
Prospective, you see!” said Mr. Hathaway, with a penetrating look.
“Ah, yes; I perceive you fish with a heavy sinker, — down, far down in the future, among posterity, as it were."
“ You have seized the idea. Besides, I obviate your objection, by introducing an American circus company from the United States, which enables me to bring horses on the stage and produce great scenic effect.”
" That is a bold design. The critics will be out upon you without fail."
“ Never fear that. I know the critics root and branch, - out and out, — have summered them, and wintered them, — in fact, am one of them myself. Very good fellows are the critics, are they not?”
“Oh, yes; only they have such a pleasant way of talking down upon authors. ”
"If they did not talk down upon them, they would show no superiority; and of course that would never do."
“ Nor is it to be wondered at, that authors are sometimes a little irritable. I often recall the poet in the Spanish fable, whose manuscripts were devoured by mice, till at length he put some corrosive sublimate into his ink, and was never troubled again.”
Why don't you try it yourself?” said Mr, Hathaway, rather sharply.
"Oh," answered Mr. Churchill, with a smile of humility, “ I and my writings are too insignificant. They may gnaw and welcome. I do not like to have poison about, even for such purposes.
"By the way, Mr. Churchill," said the visitor adroitly changing the subject, “ do you know Honeywell?”
“No, I do not. Who is he?”
There are so many poets now-a-days !”
“That is very strange indeed! Why, I consider Honeywell one of the finest writers in the country, — quite in the front rank of American authors. He is a real poet, and no mistake. Nature made him with her shirtsleeves rolled up."