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and jocular in turns to any extent. It is not it must never work for the retarding of the forbidden by any means to represent the onward action-for the taking us back to human figure of either sex, for these are brutedom—under penalty of being a wito the highest developments of creation, but ness against itself when the judgment this must not be done without the stamp comes, showing that it never had claiin to of unquestionable purity of mind. Art indulgence as an ennobling influence in its may be connected with religion or moral. day. So far I would dogmatize, and no ity, but this is not a necessity. Yet in further.– New Review, “the making for righteousness” of destiny
ways will be to some of us as arid as the
sands of Sahara. That the literary epoch now drawing It is, however, fortunate for the poet to a close bas been pre-eminently rich in vexed by these queries that, as far as the the production of English poetry-far poetry of England is concerned, they can richer indeed than any previous epoch, only be answered by guesses. To guess save that which is illumed by the sunlight with Dr. Hake that a great new school of of Shakespeare's name—is an article of poetry, based on that new cosmogony faith with all who nowadays love poetry, which has revolutionized the world, lies and especially with all those who write it in the womb of time, waiting to give voice themselves. But although the critics to the twentieth century, is as easy as to have not attempted to disturb that faith, guess with Carlyle, that the Englishman yet the sourest of them try to make bitter of the future will be compelled to say" ihe poet's cup of pleasure by putting in prose everything that the Englishman forth certain uncomfortable queries of the past would in verse have sung.” “ Will the twentieth century," they ask, But concerning this unknown epoch “ sustain and carry on the poetic glories whose brow is just about to appear above of the nineteenth? Will not the ever the horizon, there is a second question increasing and ever. widening channels which, to the English poet and lover of through which the intellectual energies of poetry, is of an interest only less intense the country are now being hurried lead than that I have alluded to. Supposing off into other and alien directions those that English poetry will be able to resist forces which have hitherto expressed them- and survive the colossal attacks of science selves through poetic forms! A litera- and the literature of knowledge, what will ture of power as distinguished from a liter- be the relation of England to her colonies ature of knowledge there will always be as a producer of the literature of power, (say they), but will it in the epoch before and especially of poetry, at a time when you continue to take a metrical form ?" perhaps the material leadership of the
The critics know very well how uncom- English speaking race will be challenged, fortable are such questions as these to all if not seized, by the foremost of her those to whom the enjoyment of metre, daughtersIs it likely that the twentieth and especially of rhyme, is deeper than century will sncceed, where the nineteenth any other delight--men who, if they dared centery has failed, in giving the United to confess it, could " travel from Dan to States of America a body of poetry that Beersheba," and, unless the journey were can properly be called American ? enlivened by a few songs, would say “it Those transatlantic poets who have visis all barren.”
ited England in my time have as individIf the time is really approaching when uals exercised so great a charm over their the best music to be heard along the high brother and sister singers that what they, ways of life will be the hum of the manu the Ainerican poets, wish in this matter facturer's mill, varied occasionally by the we also might wish. At the very mowhistle of the steam-engine, those high- ment when the American politicians have
passed what they call and not without and is oftener possessed in spirit with the humor) the International Copyright Act past and feudal, dressed may be in late two prominent American writers come fashions. forward.-Mr. Moncure Conway and Mr. Certainly, anyhow, the United States Walt Whitman-the one asking whether do not so far utter poetry, first-rate literthe long-expected English Variant in ature, or any of the so-called arts, to any America has at last been evolved, and lofty admiration or advantage--are not the other putting forth what he calls “the dominated or penetrated from actual interrible query- Is there, or can there ever herence or plain bent to the said poetry be, distinctively any such thing as an and arts. Other work, other needs, curAmerican national literature ?”
rent inventions, productions, have occupied According to the author of Leaves of and to-day mainly occupy them. They Grass, the “ Variant,” though at present are very 'cute and imitative and proud expressing his individuality through the can't bear being left too glaringly away medium of “petroleum and pork,” is in far behind the other high-class nationsthe future to express that individuality in and so we set up some home 'poets,' poetic art, and to express it so fully as to 'artists,' painters, musicians, literati, and put to shame all the poetry of the past ; so forth, all our own (thus claimed). which poetry of the past-whether chanted The whole matter has gone on, and exists by Homer, or written by Æschylus, Soph- to day, probably as it should have been, ocles, Shakespeare, Dante, or any other and should be ; as for the present it must -is, it seems, characterized by an " al- be. To all which we conclude and repeat most total lack of first-class power and the terrible. query : American national simple natural health.”
It will be seen literature is there distinctively any such from the following extract that he does thing, or can there ever be ?” not tell us in so many words that the new poetry is to be built on the nietrical sys It is a useless and a presumptuous thing tem of Leaves of Grass, but allows us to for a mere Englishman to attempt to exenjoy our own happy inferences on this tract a meaning from the utterances of any head.
one of those Bunsby- Apollos in whom the
transatlantic Delphi has always been so “Ensemble is the tap-root of national rich. It is only the native-born Captain
America is becoming already Cuttle that is expected to expound them. a huge world of peoples, rounded and This is fortunate for me. The word “naorbic climates, idiocrasies and geographies tion,” for instance, as used here, may
- forty-four nations curiously and irresisti- very likely have a Delphic meaning which bly blent and aggregated in ONE NATION, is as much above mere human etymology with one imperial language, and one uni- as the verbiage surrounding it is above tary set of social and legal standards over mere human grammar. Still I will not all, and (I predict) a yet-to-be National deny that the growing complexities of soLiterature. (In my mind this last, if it ciety may render it almost imperative that ever comes, is to prove grander and more some words should grow into a signifiimportant for the commonwealth than its cance both wider and looser than their politics and material wealth and trade, etymologies warrant. But is it convenvast and indispensable as these are.) ient to allow the word nation to slip away
“The great current points are perhaps from its etymological anchorage ? Of simple, after all: first, that the highest course the word is connected, not with developments of the New World and De populus but with natus, and in the old mocracy, and probably the best society of world of Europe it is, or used to be, held the civilized world all over, are to be only that no people can properly be called a reached and spinally nourished (in my nation in whose descent there is not somenotion) by a new evolutionary sense and thing at least of homogeneity. This is treatment; and, secondly, that the evo- why, as even the school books of the Old lution principle, which is the greatest law World affirm, or used to affirm, the Rothrough nature, and of course in these mans are not called the Roman nation but States, has now reached us markedly for the Roman people, Compared with a and in our literature. Modern verse gen. population built up of representatives of erally lacks quite altogether the modern, forty-four nations, as the above ex
tracts declare the Americans to be, the journalist, who, after affirming that GalRomans themselves were about as homo- veston in Texas with a population of fifty geneous as the Greeks.
thousand “cannot muster a corporal's Hence to use the word “nation" as de- sqnad of merchants of English-speaking scriptive of such a community is to give origin," declares exultingly that "the day it a meaning which is new and as unschol- of the English-speaking people in the arly as new. Etymologically the people great Southern cities is gone and will of Australasia and especially the people of never return.” If this is really so, I New Zealand are, if Mr. Walt Whitinan's wonder what becomes of Mr. Walt Whitdata as to American heterogeneity are to man's “ Ensemble,” and “the tap-root of be accepted, far more like a nation than National Literature," and what will bethe Americans can ever be. Even in come of Mr. Moncure Conway's “ English South Australia such blood as is not An- Variant” ? glo-Saxon is, after all, mainly Teutonic, As a matter of fact, however, notwiththough of course here as throughout the standing the vast immigration from Euroentire Australian continent there is the in- pean countries, it is easy to exaggerate, if evitable leaven of Celtism. In a word, not the heterogeneity of the American
facts'' embodied in the above ex- people, the potentiality for mischief intract, if they are to be accepted, would volved in that heterogeneity.
Making form an admirable refutation of the argu- every allowance for even the Irish element in favor of the possibility of the ment, the non-Teutonic and non-ScandiAmerican people ever developing into a navian blood in America will not in the nation. But writers whose quest is not long run be able to disturb the racial symthe truth but the striking must never be metry unless the Anglo-Saxon race should, taken too seriously. To talk about "a from some climatic influence as yet undisnation composed of forty-four nations" closed, lose that “prepotency of transseemed both striking and fine, and the mission” which has been its chief characpoet here had neither the knowledge nor teristic, not only from the time of the the sagacity to see how these striking and Norman Conquest, but from the semifine generalizations of his told against his mythical days of IIengist and Horsa. argument. It is interesting to observe The motive power of modern life is with what very different eyes another writer commerce, and commerce between Euro-tbe writer of some thoughtful sentences peans in the same country will bring misupon the Italian Mafiaites in New Orleans cegenation, and then the indomitable pre-reads the meaning of American betero- potency of transmission which charactergeneity. The “query” he puts is not, izes our race will, as in the past, trample * Will there ever be an American na- down every obstacle, unless, indeed, tion ?” but “ Will the United States even Humboldt should be right as to the decontinue to form an integral portion of teriorating effect of the climate of the the English-speaking world at all ?” Ar: United States upon the Anglo-Saxon type. riving at the conclusion that even so much The failure of commerce to produce mishomogeneity as the preservation of a com- cegenation in British America is the result mon language would imply is becoming not of natural laws of race, but of the not less but more problematical, he act. artificial disturbance of natural laws of ually suggests, as the only means of saving race. In order to balance one Canada the people of the United States from de- against the other (for entirely mistaken generating into a mere polyglot-amalgam political ends) William Pitt did everyof all the races of Europe, the passing of thing possible to prevent miscegenation. a law prohibiting the permanent settle- Had that miscegenation taken place, no ment of Europeans in America save under one can doubt what would have been the the condition of their undergoing a suc- effect of Anglo-Saxon prepotency of transcessful examination in the English language mission, for the climate of North America during their first two years of residence above the St. Lawrence on the east, and on American soil. In support of his the above the 49th parallel on the west, does ory that the very existence of the Ameri- not exhibit those attenuating qualities can people as a branch of the English- which attracted Humboldt's attention. speaking race is in peril—in growing peril In the United States, however, govern-he quotes some words from a Texan ment influence, so far from working
against natural laws in this respect, is cer the mother land, a period so long as to tain to work for them.
give time for the birth of a new temper, This is why I think that the American a temper born of new customs, and, if not claim to a distinct nationality may fairly of a new folk-lore, of a new modification of rest upon the same basis as that of the the old folk-lore? What was the case in other colonies of England. 'Colonies of Europe ? What was the case in Asia ? England," I say, and say it advisedly. The waters of civilization slowly trickling In the Greek sense, indeed, America is through ages upon ages on the face of the the only pure colony of England. And earth, gathered and settled, if such an although other achievements of our race- image may be allowed, in isolated lakes such, for instance, as that of building up and pools ; from which, after ages upon a colossal empire in Asia on the basis of ages, other streams went trickling slowly a handful of adventurous shop-keepers out, to gather again and settle into still who had quarrelled with their brother other lakes and pools. But has not the shop-keepers of Holland about the price time long since gone by when civilizations of pepper ; and such, again, as the build can thus be inaugurated ? It is in the ing up a congeries of wealthy states upon merest superficial sense that history, which the basis of a few shiploads of forlorn often seems to try to repeat itself, ever convicts—are exploits of a more dazzling really does so. In the deep sense it is as kind than anything we have done in true of the march of Clio as of the march America ; yet beyond doubt the chief of Nature through all the changes of time, glory of England's colonizing genius is ex- that there are " no returning footsteps." hibited by the United States. But he The truth is that the solidarity of the who would for one moment deny that modern civilizations in which we English colonies these States are, would makes the old disparate civilizations of proclaim himself to be no scholar and no Asia and Europe scarcely conceivable to student of history. Can they ever be any but systematic students of history. come anything other than English colo- The story of the growth of the modern nies? Can they ever become a nation? world is simply the record of the melting That is the question which seems to be into each other of those lakes and pools exercising the American mind at the very of civilization to which I have just alluded. moment when they ought to be asking for instance, the small feudal centres themselves the much deeper question, Can around which European society crystalthey, in face of the enormous disturbing lized after the death of Charlemagne were influences from Continental Europe which necessarily provisional merely. The seeds I have glanced at—to say nothing of of dissolution were in them from the first, those deteriorating climatic _influences and, after the suzerainties merged into which seem to have impressed Emerson as each other the growth of new nationalities deeply as they impressed Humboldt was not long in coming to an end. This hope to remain, what it should be their was so even before Science came, with chief pride to remain, colonies of the her steam and her electricity, knitting togreat mother of the English-speaking gether, if not consolidating, races that world ? But if it should be found, on were once so wide apart that each had its discussing this matter fully, that no colony own literature, more or less indigenous. inaugurated in stages of the world's his. If at the time when Goethe talked to tory so late as ours can develop into a na Eckermann about his dream of a “ worldtion, how can America ever possess that literature” the distinctions between the “ national literature” which the Interna- literatures of Europe had already become tional Copyright Act has just been passed less accentuated than theretofore, what to foster?
shall be said of those distinctions now? In order really and truly to transmute And if those varieties of national flavor a literature whose seeds have been im- which in old days demarcated one literaported, to transmute it, I mean, into a ture from another, are, in spite of the growth possessing indigenous qualities, is diversities of language, becoming modithere not something more required than fied year by year, what shall be said about what individual writers, however strong, national distinctions among people having can supply? Does there not need for a common history, a conmon blood, and such an end a long period of isolation from a common speech?
No American literary historian would than the Americans themselves, and hence affirm that any number of books written the superior gastronomic civilization” in the English language would merely be- of America can hardly be taken as a symcause they were produced on Australasian bol of independent nationality in regard or South African soil, suffice to inake an to America's stomach or America's soul. Australasian or a South African literature. With regard to Mr. Conway's allegation Where, then, is the difference between that “ on Colonial tables Englieh dishes the United States and the other English are maintained at whatever cost, while the colonies ?
additions offered by nature remain comPerhaps it may be urged that, in order paratively uncultivated ”—this is an imto discuss this subject fairly and fully, I peachment which our Canadian poets--a must do so in the light of those famous very vigorous fraternity-must answer for climatic and gastronomic theories of M. themselves. Enough for the old country Taine, upon which the high philosophical to defend as she may her own imperfect criticism of France is based. But this, gastronomic civilization—as to which Mr. I confess, is beyond me; though to deny Couway gives an anecdote that is certainly that the food a poet eats may have some- disquieting and might have modified inathing to do with the songs he sings, in terially M. Taine's views of Shakespeare's the same way that from the blackbird's art had it been brought before his notice. note may be inferred what have of late “ It is an old story,” he goes on to say, been the blackbird's dinners-cherries or “ that a delicate English lady, at her first worms-night be rash in face of Mr. dinner in an American hotel, asked for Moncure Conway's theories about what the vegetables in season and was presently he calls “ Gastronomic Civilization.' appalled by finding twenty-seven dishes
While Mr. Walt Whitman seems to around her. Her experience would hardly think that, although there is for the have been less remarkable had she called “Variant” a great future (when he does for the meats or fruits in season. come), his originality up to the present proportion of these are of American creamoment is inclined to express itself in tion; and, apart from them a number of “pork” rather than in poetry, Mr. Mon- things which abroad are luxuries of the rich, cure Conway, though he affirms that the are democratic, so to say, in America." " Variant's'' actual existence has at last I take it, however, that Mr. Moncure been discovered, admits that he, the dis- Conway is far too well equipped a writer coverer, has been guided by the fact that to maintain that, whatever may be the in the gastronomic paradise of America gastronomic superiority” of America, a there are many dishes.
new race can be inaugurated on American It is not for the well-bred Englishman soil by the mere processes of digestion, to endorse too readily theories so unpoeti- however fine. All he claims is that, from cal as those of the two American writers the assimilation of courses so many, so I have quoted, because, by doing so, the various, and so excellent, a Variant” is Englishman-bewildered by Leaves of or will be digested into birth, even as, Grass, and stifled by American anthol. according to that old Norse mythology of ogies—would be tacitly saying to the one which he is so fond,“ in the maw of the writer maximize your pork, minimize Fenris wolf” the European world is, one your poetry," and to the other writer, day, to be digested, through chaos, into ir let the motto of your
gastronomic a world that is new. If he is right the civilization' be Advance the national new-comer should of course express himstomach.'
self through a literary voice that is new. Yet when Mr. Conway tells us trium- Are there at present any signs that he is phantly that “this superior gastronomic doing so ? Are there any signs that he civilization, which will not be disputed, is likely to do so ? My concern here is is symbolical," we may, at least, be par- mainly with poetry. Ånd let me begin doned for asking him to what the symbol by reminding our friends across the Atapplies. No doubt in the Frisian lan- lantic that, as a producer of poetry, the guage one and the same word (as Carlyle position of the mother-land of England in loved to think) does duty to express both relation to America is very greatly like soul and stomach ; but then we English that held by the “Mother city'' of old in have even a greater leaven of Frisian blood relation to one of the Greek colonies.