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" Mr. Longfellow liked much to examine collections of odds and ends in literature. It was a pleasure to him to chance upon some little book of poems or fiction that had been printed, forgotten, and finally brought to the light again. After the removal of our library to this city he wrote, congratulating us upon it, and expressing his best wishes for our prosperity. When visiting here in August last he passed an hour or two in our library, examining the shelves and cabinet with evident satisfaction. He presented us with the moccasins worn by the Sioux warrior, Rain-inthe-Face, who killed General Custer. They were sent to him by General Miles in acknowledgment of Longfellow's poem, The Revenge of Rain-in-the Face:'
* In that desolate land and lone,
Roar down their mountain path,
And the menace of their wrath.' They are accompanied by the photograph of the Indian chief, who has rather an amiable countenance. His name was evidently given him on account of a line of dots or raindrops on his left cheek.
“Mr. Longfellow's taste in the printing and illustration of books was superlative. The early numbers of “Outre-Mer,” printed under his personal supervision at Brunswick, are very handsome; he loved to see 'a rivulet of text running through a meadow of margin.”
The influence of Mr. Longfellow's prose writings on American literature was probably greater than is commonly acknowledged. It was powerful because peculiar. He introduced the Old World into America without ceasing to be an American, and hereby rendered a service which was not in the line or according to the genius of Irving or Hawthorne. Irving turned to excellent use the material he gathered abroad ; Hawthorne's best work was done before he went abroad at all. Bryant availed himself of the fruits of his travels. But Longfellow was cosmopolitan. This view of nationality is given in “ Kavanagh"; nationality is a good thing “ 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.” “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."
Longfellow himself practised the doctrine he preached in “ Hyperion,” “O thou poor authorling! Reach a little deeper into the human heart! Touch those strings, — touch those deeper strings, and more boldly, or the notes will die away like whispers, and no ear shall hear them, save thine own! And, to cheer thy solitary labor, remember that the secret studies of an author are the sunken piers upon which is to rest the bridge of his fame, spanning the dark waters of Oblivion. They are out of sight; but without them no superstructure can stand secure!” The writer of these words was himself a connecting bond between two worlds, the old and the new. The bridge he built united the hemispheres, and people could pass and repass from either side. He was a mediator, and on that account universal; national, of course, for the human heart embraces all lands; national, because every land furnishes themes to which the human heart responds; national, because his own land supplied material of thinking interest; but universal, because other lands had their interest also, and, being older, had longer and larger experiences ; universal, because the race covers the planet, and the heart is coextensive with it.
Wonderful is the universality of Longfellow's reach. The Jews quoted and circulated his “ Sandalphon,” “ Azrael," " The Jewish Cemetery at Newport,” “ The Legend of Rabbi Ben Levi,” “ Judas Maccabæus.” The missionary in Africa found a volume of his the surest means of communicating with his hosts, a veritable bond of sympathy. Mr. James T. Fields said, “ I have heard him quoted by an Armenian monk with a cowl, and sung at camp-meetings on the hills of New Hampshire.” No doubt it was as a poet that his influence was so widely felt, but his prose writings convey the same impression, and give the philosophy of it. He was a writer for all mankind, not for the
erature, when he wrote, and long afterwards, needed amplitude of genius.
Of late years catholicity has become suspected from its commonness. It springs, in some instances at least, from want of conviction. Mr. Longfellow had convictions, and deep ones, yet was catholic.
When it was the fashion to depreciate Thomas Carlyle, he said, “It is hardly worth while to lose our presence of mind. Let us rather profit as we may, even from this spectacle, and recognize the monarch in his masquerade. For, hooded and wrapped about with that strange and antique garb, there walks a kingly, a most royal soul, even as the Emperor Charles walked amid solemn cloisters, in a monk's cowl, a monarch still in soul.”
The following verses express this feeling of catholicity. They are entitled “ The Singers.”
“God sent his Singers upon earth
With songs of sadness and of mirth,
deep-thinking few, not for the keen students of the divine economies in human life, not for the speculating or analytical, but for the feeling multitude, to whatever faith they might be long, to whatever country they might be attached.
This is saying a great deal. It was a supreme and memorable achievement, at that time, to break through the barrier of provincial ideas, and introduce, so heartily, Europe to America, - the best of it, its romance, its beauty, its history, its store of legend and poetry, its cultivation and wealth of sentiment. It was a vast service to detect and produce the fine elements in modes of belief and observance which were held in small esteem on both sides of the water, but especially at home, in New England. The man who did this deserves all our praise, and to have done it so naturally and heartily enhances the merit.
Mr. Longfellow's constitutional healthiness of feeling gives a great charm to his writing. He is exuberant, spontaneous, overflowing, but never windy, gushing, or affected. There is nothing strained, either in his sentiment or his language. His facility of acquiring foreign tongues, his elasticity of disposition, his charm of manner, his readiness to adapt himself to circumstances, his frankness and freedom of social intercourse, all helped to make him fcel at home in strange lands. It seems to have cost him no effort to become a citizen of the world. It is clear from his books that he had his reverses, but they were not limitations, nor did they arise from any want of sympathy with the moods of those about him. He was always cordial, yet always himself. His pages suggest a large-minded as well as a warm-hearted man, with more to say, if he was moved to say it, yet so copious of resource that he must pour himself out. Even “ Kavanagh,” slight in construction as it is, shows this hospitable spirit, this broad comprehensiveness of appreciation. The touches of criticism are kindly; the estimate of character is large. The book is defective, as all his books are defective, in sharpness of delineation, but the virtue of liberality is the arer, and more than makes amends for the keenness of discrimination, the lack of which is so often complained of in his pages. Our lit
“ The first, a youth, with soul of fire,
Held in his hand a golden lyre ;
“ The second, with a bearded face,
Stood singing in the market-place,
“A gray old man, the third and last,
Sang in cathedrals dim and vast, While the majestic organ rolled Contrition from its mouths of gold.
“ And those who heard the Singers three
Disputed which the best might be ;
“But the great Master said, “I see
No best in kind, but in degree;
“ These are the three great cords of might,
So much has been said on this subject here
because criticism of Mr. Longfellow bears on this point, as if he were a marsh instead of a
No discerning reader of his prose, considering the date of its production and the circumstances under which it was composed, can fail to recognize its remarkable force, or to perceive its significance as an element in American literature. Had he never been distin
guished as a poet it would still be a mistake to pass by these remarkable volumes, “OutreMer,” “ Hyperion,” and, it may be added,
Kavanagh.” They would never have made him immortal, but they should not be forgotten, and will not be by those who are desirous of knowing the sources by which fine influences come into the American mind.
As he dash'd through birch and brake,
From the hunter fled.
MR. LONGFELLOW's poetical career may be said to have begun with his boyhood. He has himself told us of the trepidation with which he sent his first piece to a local paper, of his anxious waiting for its appearance, of his sending the same verses to another paper, of his ecstacy when they at last could be read in print. So he passed through the experience of other less eminent aspirants to poetic honors. Mr. Bryant, the capable librarian of the Maine Historical Society, who has been quoted already, said at the spring meeting of the association in 1882:
In these ancient woods so bright,
The stern warriors kept.
Where their fathers slept.
From their ancient sepulchres, Where amid the giant firs, Moaning loud, the high wind stirs,
Have the red men gone. Tow'rd the setting sun that makes Bright our western hills and lakes, Faint and few, the remnant takes
Its sad journey on.
THE COMMEMORATION AT FRYEBURG.
Where the Indian hamlet stood,
And the war-cry rose; Sudden came the straggling shot Where the sun looked on the spot That the trace of war would blot
Ere the day's faint close.
The following ode was written for the occasion by Mr. H. W. Longfellow, of Bowdoin College.
And the story of that day
Waste our liberty;
Of this jubilee. These lines are quoted at length as a pretty fair specimen of the poetry that he wrote at this period. Of the early poems, written for the most part during the author's college life, all of them before he was nineteen years old, some of which “found their way into schools and seem to have been successful," while others led “a vagabond and precarious existence in the corners of newspapers, or changed their names, and ran away to seek their fortunes beyond the sea," he afterwards collected seven of the best, at all events of the best known, and published them among his acknowledged works with such slight alterations as seemed to be called for. The rest were gathered by Mr. Richard Herne Shepherd and published by Pickering and Company of London. They may be found at length in the New York
Independent” for April 6, 1882, and in the appendix to Underwood's “ Life of Longfellow.” They appeared, for the most part, in the “United States Literary Gazette.” The titles and dates are given here.
Thanksgiving. “ When first in ancient time from Jubal's tongue.” November 15, 1824.
Autumnal Nightfall. “ Round autumn's mouldering urn.” December 1, 1824.
Italian Scenery. “Night rests in beauty on Mont Alto." December 15, 1824.
The Lunatic Girl. “ Most beautiful, most gentle." January 1, 1825. The Venetian Gondolier.
66 Here rest the weary oar." January 15, 1825. Dirge over a Nameless Grave.
“ By yon still river, where the wave.” March 15, 1825.
A Song of Savoy. “ As the dim twilight shrouds.” March 15, 1825.
The Indian Hunter. “ When the summer harvest was gathered in." May 15, 1825.
Jeckoyva. “ They made the warrior's grave beside.” August 1, 1825.
The Sea Diver. “My way is on the bright blue sea.” August 15, 1825.
Musings. "I sat by my window one night." November 15, 1825.
Song. “Where from the eye of day.” April 1, 1826.
These verses were received with favor when they first appeared. In 1831 his classmate, George B. Cheever, in “The American Commonplace Book of Poetry, with Occasional Notes,” gave Mr. Longfellow high and just praise for simplicity, sweetness, and refinement of feeling, as well as for “quiet accuracy of observation."
These early poems are remarkable as displaying the same pensiveness of sentiment that characterized his later productions. Take for example the last stanza of “ An April Day” as printed in all the editions,
“ Sweet April ! many a thought
Life's golden fruit is shed.”
“( what a glory doth this world put on
To his long resting-place without a tear."
“If thou art worn and hard beset With sorrows, that thou wouldst forget, If thou wouldst read a lesson, that will keep Thy heart from fainting and thy soul from sleep, Go to the woods and hills! No tears Dim the sweet look that Nature wears."
To the same effect one might cite “ The Spirit of Poetry.” The sadness so common to youth of both sexes will not account for this habit of musing melancholy, this mood of smiling through tears which was characteristic of the poet all his life. There was a pensive strain in his genius which, from first to last, ran through his works. He could be cheerful, at times gay,
but merriment was not natural to him.
The first translated sonnets were printed at the end of the volume called “ Voices of the
And Summer's white and folded clouds
Are glowing in the west,
And voices hail the evening-bell.
Night.” The first original sonnets were the three at the end of the "Belfry of Bruges, ” “The Evening Star," " Autumn,” “Dante." Edgar A. Poe pitched upon the lines quoted above from “ Autumn ” and “ Sunrise on the Hills” as proof positive that Longfellow stole from Bryant's “ Thanatopsis,” but the sentiment is familiar and the expression so far unlike as to force one to conclude that the later poet had made the thought his own. For the benefit of those who may wish to compare the poems which Mr. Longfellow never claimed when he collected his progeny with those he afterwards published himself, a few examples are given.
Faint is the goatherd's song,
And sighing comes the breeze: The silent river sweeps along
Amid its bending trees And the full moon shines faintly there, And music fills the evening air.
Beneath the waving firs
The tinkling cymbals sound; And as the wind the foliage stirs,
I feel the dancers bound Where the green branches, arch'd above, Bend over this fair scene of love.