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A poem written in the English lan some of the qualities of an indigenous guage, whether produced in England or in growth. some other part of the vast English-speak But taking Fischer's definition of art, ing world, is an English poem, no more “ life in form," as being better than any and no less, and it has to be judged upon other, we must remember that, while in its own absolute merits, its own absolute poetry form is the very life itself, in prose defects.
fiction (as we see in Don Quixote, in Gil The poetry beginning with Piers Plow- Blas, in Wuthering Heights, etc.) form man and ending, up to now, with certain may be secondary to life. Indeed it is English, American, Canadian, Australian no disparagement to prose fiction to say and South African bards whose name is that its form is almost necessarily so lawlegion, is the birthright of every English- less and so loose, its literary texture is speaking man wheresoever he may have almost necessarily so homely, when combeen born—in London or in New York, pared with the opalescent texture of in Levuka or in the Falkland Islands—ex. poetry, that it only occasionally passes actly as a poem in the Greek language was into the region of essential art. And the birthright of every Greek whether doubtless it is this fact which causes every born in Athens, in Thebes, or in Sparta. writer who has once tasted the delight of Nor is there any reason why in the United working in a form where every word has States or in Canada or in Australasia or in to be the best he can find, and set in the Capeland or in Mashonaland English po- best place, to turn away from his own etic genius should not in the twentieth prose writing, however carefully knit to. century blossom as vigorously as it blos- gether, with an undefined sense of dissatissomed in the England of Shakespeare. faction and of failure. But English poetry it will be-English Colonial prose fiction, therefore, may poetry to be judged by the canons of criti- be tried by Colonial standards, and, being cism of the mother-land. In any one of found excellent, according to those standthese colonies the Shakespeare of the ards, may be absolved from trial before twentieth century may be born. But the classic tribunal of the mother-land. splendid as is the present glory of the And of course there is a kind of verse United States—splendid as is the promise which, partaking largely of the quality of of Canada, Australasia and South Africa prose, may, in like manner, be excellent, —these colonies can never produce a though departing from the classic note. Shakespeare who is not an English poet. I allude to the familiar or worldly or comic Even if England were to-morrow to be verse in which America is so rich. It is sunk under the sea the land of Shake- of the very essence of the Biglow Papers, speare and Milton and Wordsworth must and of Mr. Bret Harte's comic verses, remain the mother-land of every English- that they should be Colonial in accent. speaking poet. As this article deals These are, indeed, typically American, mainly with poetry, the prose fiction of but only because, relying as they do upon America cannot be fully discussed here. external accidents, they lie outside the Perhaps, if it could, I might be ready to world of essential art. admit that, although colonial poetry can
When the author of the Biglow Papers not depart from the classic note of the writes a Harvard Ode, he gives us a poem mother-land without becoming second- which only in its intellectual substance is rate, this need not be so emphatically American, as distinguished from English. affirmed with regard to colonial prose fic- In all artistic qualities, in everything that tion ; for it is of the very nature of novels goes to distinguish it from a prose oration, to represent through literary expression and to make it a poem, it has to be tried the husks of life as well as the kernels. by the same standard, even to the smallest
While Colonial poetry, as belonging to nuance of expression, as though it had essential art, can only depart from the been written on the shores of the Cumber. classic note of the mother-land by becom- land lakes. In short, the moment that ing deteriorated, Colonial prose literature, Colonial verse begins to pass into essenwhose first business is mainly that of re- tial art and become poetry, it loses all the flecting the external life of nature or the accidents of its Colonial origin, and must external life of man, may be so steeped stand or fall as a classic. In other words, in the Colonial atmosphere as to present to be artistic in Fischer's sense, it has to
" Let us
be as purely English as the work of Milton case, I think, on the 1st of July, 1891, or Wordsworth American poets believe when the new Copyright Act, called Inthat there is no delicate refinement of the ternational, is to come into operation. most artistic of the poets of England But could the case ever have stood otherwhich is not as perceptible to them as to wise ? Was there ever a time in the his
If they are right, as I am sure they tory of America when she could have are, how can there be a national note dis- produced an independent literature of estinguishing an American from an English sential art ? Was there ever a time when poem ? In George 11. Boker's sonnet, Americans could, with some show of reaEngland, there is in intellectual substance son, bave said to each other, an American quality, and a very noble evolve a Variant—the difficulty of doing one, but from the artistic point of view, so under the conditions of modern civilizawhere is its American accent ?
tion will be immense—but let us start a “Stand, thon great bulwark of inan's liberty! literature of our own; let us grow sprouts
Thou rock of shelter, rising from the from our own minds upon which our fuwave,
ture offspring may browse !!! And if Sole refuge to the overwearied brave there ever was a time when Americans Who planned, arose, and battled to be free might bave thus communed with themSaved the free spirit from their country's selves with a fair hope of a profitable regrave,
sult, when was it? Without affirming To rise again, and animate the slave, that a time ever did exist when a national When God shall ripen all things. Britons, American poetry might have been born,
ye Who guard the sacred ontposts, not in vain I may remind the reader that every.comHold your proud peril Freemen unde- munity has a plastic period -a period
when it is extremely sensitive, not only to Keep watch and ward ! Let battlements the impact of external impressions, but to
be piled Around your cliffs ; Aeets marshalled, till
those mysterious and spontaneous inner the main
movements of the organism which we call Sink under them; and if your courage the forces of growth. Without such
wane, Through force or fraud, look westward to have existed ; for even the now stationary
plastic periods no civilization could ever
civilization of China must have noved You can turn this poem into a Scotch from primeval babarism. When was the sonnet by carefully changing the “ man” plastic period of the American people ? into “non” and chopping off a few of Clearly it was when the colony broke away the consonants, after the fashion so dear from English rule. In material things the to the Scotchman's soul.
energy that creates and the energy that “ Stan', thou great bulwark o' mon's liberty! seizes and holds showed then an activity
Thou rock o shelter, risin' frae the wave,' which to the old world was astonishing. or you can turn it into a Dorsetshire son
If ever a national literature was to be born net by carefully studying William Barnes's this was the time. Under the conditions vocabulary and changing every s into a z, of imperfect communication which then or you can turn it into a Lincolnshire son existed, when steam-vessels and telegraph net by carefully studying the Northern cables were not, the isolation of colony Farmer. But not all your study of the from mother-land might almost be comelaborate cacography which forms so im- pared with the isolation of country from
And after a portant a part of American local color will country in ancient Europe. enable you to turn it into a serious Ameri- few years there came another war with can sonnet as distinguished from an Eng. England, which aided the isolating effect Jish one.
of distance. From the very first the II.
Americans had dreamed of their future
greatness ; from the very first they had The fine work of the poets of America an eye upon the prospective Variant. shows, not that there is any probability And what were the means they adopted in that a national poetry will ever be devel- order to produce him? oped in America, but that English poetry No doubt after securing their indepencan be enriched by English writers born dence the desire of the Colonists to beon American soil : thus will stand the come a separate nation was natural enough,
You can say,
especially after having suffered as they cal being has been repeatedly announced, had suffered from the blundering of King thongh, like that of the Catholic Queen, George and his ministers. But what it always disappointed its mother and rewere the means they adopted for securing mained behind. The critics of America this end? Well, these means, though have sometimes asked, “What shall be they may no doubt be paralleled in his- the subject of the great American epic tory for unfairness, are in the matter of when the national poet shall come to sing humor without any kind of parallel. No it ?" I think it should be the Genesis of doubt, it may be said in a general way the Variant. As the “heart-thought” of that if there is laughter in heaven the the Mahâbârata is the crafty devices of spectacle of national selfishness defeating the Kauravas in order to keep safe their its own ends at every turn must form the winnings, so the “ heart-thought” of the most exhilarating scenes of the human epic I suggest should be America's decomedy. No student of history will deny, vices, through more than a century, to that communities are, except in rare hasten her accouchement with the Variant cases, without conscience. It is not in and keep him safe. For instance, she man the individual, it is in man as massed fraternized with France-politeness forin communities that the intense selfish- bids me to say that she fawned upon ness of his nature is most notably ex France--because France was supposed to bibited. The rascal of the animated be the natural enemy of England, mimickkingdom (whose business it is to enslave ing French ways (cven to talking through every animal he does not find it profitable her nose in a vain attempt to make her to kill), though he allows his instinct for Anglo-Saxon organs catch the French wronging his fellow-man to be very much pasal), and protesting that Paris and not toned down in the intercourse of social London was the heaven that alone could life, toned down by another and a better reward her for leading a virtuous life. instinct, that of sympathy, is pitiless when she sent out a certain Noah Webster of the ameliorating effect of personal impact Connecticut, to find a new language for cannot have full play, as occurs when the expected Variant, which Noah, howcommunities are dealing with communi ever, only returned with the old words of ties. No doubt all this may be said in a the mother-land wrongly spelled. With general way of all communities. And these queer-looking words she filled her yet there was a unique qnality in the school-books, and worse, she filled these selfishness of the young American com- same books with carefully prepared mismunity after the War of Independence- representations of the old country, in order a quality which makes the story of “Free that unwitting American children should dom's Promised Land," from Washington be brought up in a permanent temper of right down to McKinley, the greatest and antagonisn
antagonism toward the people of the finest joke of Clio, whose irony, when mother-land. These school-books she she does joke, puts that of Lucian and filled with misrepresentations so impudent Swift to shame. It was a double-headed and so persistent that a foreigner looking selfishness. America desired to fill her into them must needs suppose that they limitless acres with immigrant hands to were inspired, not by a fervid desire to till them ; but, also, she desired to en- prepare for a future Variant and train him compass herself with a protective wall up in the way he should go, but by a something like that " wall of brass" with deep racial hatred. While every English which, according to Greene's play, two writer eagerly did her justice- more than famous necromancers once tried to sur- justice -in the matter of that old strugglė, round England.
she fixed it in the brains of her little Always the picture of the embryonic children that England was the home of all Variant seems to have been before ber that is cruel, ruffianly, mean, and coweyes. From the beginning of the Repub- ardly, instead of telling them that across lic down to the passing of the new Copy- the Atlantic was a great people whose right Act, America's interest in the gesta blood flowed in American no less than in tion of this problematical babe has been English veins, a people who through no as pathetic a spectacle as that of Tennyson's fault of their own, but through the blunQueen Mary in hers. For more than a dering of a stupid king and his stupid adcentury her accouchement with this mythi- visers, were long ago supposed to be at
quarrel with the people of America, but The second Prince of Peace, at quarrel with them never were. These
The great unborn defender of the Faith, and a thousand other foolish things she
Who will avenge me of mine enemies,
He comes and my star rises." did in order to surround by a brazen wall an English Variant that, as yet, was as And now, what was the measure of suc“aerial” in his essence as Queen Mary's cess won by this method of slandering the own imaginary babe.
mother country, and robbing her at the But, as I have said, there is nothing in same time? It set working a mischief in the world so short-sighted as selfishness America itself, which is as yet only in the ungorerned by conscience - nothing in bud. It is one of the causes which are the world so sure to defeat itself in the hopelessly dividing the cultivated class of end. If it is humorous to think that the America from the most prejudiced and selfish stealing of Corsica, which (poison- narrow-minded class in the civilized world ing the blood of France with Napoleon) -America's illiterate mob. For, while led on to the corruptions of the Napoleonic the whole of the masses, and the larger courts, and thence to a sterility that is portion of the bourgeois class, lacking the withdrawing her from her place in the opportunity of enlightenment which their forefront of the world—if it is humorous superiors possess, continue to accept the to think that it was the selfishness of a fantastic falsehoods they imbibed at dominant party in England that lost her school, the better classes soon begin to the American colonies—what shall we say study our contemporary literature with of the selfish desire of America to build intelligent eyes, and become filled with an around her imaginary offspring a wall of irresistible longing to visit the country brass by cheating the devil while the devil which produced it. This fact is, of was cheating her! The same smartness course, fatal to the architecture of the which compelled her to go on squeezing brazen wall the mob demands. The between the lips of her own children the hearty, smiling personage standing on sour and poisonous whey conveyed in her this side of the ** Atlantic ferry” with school-books impelled her also to go on open arms to receive the American visdespoiling her slandered mother of all the itor, is none other than the hateful John rich milk she could supply. While the Bull depicted in the school-books. school-books told the children that Eng sooner does an American reach London land was a poor effete little old island, than he finds that his mere nationality acts filled by rogues whom even Providence as a charm-acts as a letter of introdnccould only prevent being mischievous by tion into the best society where he is fitted providing that they should also be fools, to more. There are certain American she carefully stole her own mother's writers, I believe, who enlarge upon what Tennyson, Dickens, Thackeray, Reade, they call “Anglo-mania" in America, Trollope, Besant, Hardy, Black, and the but, clearly, the mania of loving-kindness rest, whose every rich and noble word between the two countries is all on one gave the lie to every slanderous word that side of the Atlantic. In London it is betthe school-books contained. She took it ter to be an American than an Englishfor granted, as Margaret Fuller well put man. Nothing is more common than to it, that, “because the United States find as a postscript appended to an inviprinted and read more books, magazines, tation to a dinner or a garden-party the and newspapers than all the rest of the persuasive words, “Some interesting world, they had really, therefore, a liter. Americans are expected.” ature." She took it for granted that the Fascinating as is the personality of Mr. literary genius of Great Britain “darting Lowell, he did not exaggerate in the
as De Tocquevile says, “ into smallest degree when he affirmed that the the forests of the New World," could cordiality of his reception here was due foster a literature that was other than to the fact of his being an American alBritish, and went on, like Tennyson's most more than to the fact of his being Mary, with her maternal pæans about a Mr. Lowell. babe that had not as yet even a sooterkin's But what about the poor homespun vulexistence :
garian left on the other side of the water ? " He hath awaked ! he hath awaked ! What about him who has never had an He stirs within the darkness!...
opportunity of unlearning the sour hatred
of the Britisher, which is considered to of Washington ; and lastly for the poor be a necessary part of American patriot- defrauded Variant who, being now fully ism ? He does not understand all this. born, demanded to be fed and fostered How should he ? He looks with suspicion upon sprouts from his native soil. For upon every prominent personage whose although the raw, untutored and untravmovements in England are recorded in elled American may be guided by mer. the American newspapers, muchas cenary motives in most things, he has still Chinainan looks upon any rumors that one sentiment or rather passion—that reach his village concerning any plenipo- hatred of England which he imbibed at tentiary foregathering with the outer bar- school. barian in Europe.
Whatsoever was generous or even apFrom this he proceeds to look with sus- proached generosity in the Bill had to be picion upon the cultivated class to which carefully neutralized before it had the rethe prominent personage belongs. And motest chance of passing, and now it is a when we remember that it is this very monument of the meanness and the greed homespun vulgarian of America under of a people who ought to be great—a whose feet the neck of American culture monument only less colossal and only less lies, we may well fear that mischief looms grotesque than the astounding McKinley
Act itself. One of the fruits of America's ill-ad There was once a certain Irishman-a vised attitude toward England is to be patriot, I believe-named Patrick Hogan, seen in the nature of the Copyright Act who, on being warned that his sow would itself. That the leading men in Ameri- certainly devour her litter as soon as they can letters, headed by Mr. Lowell, Mr. were born, said, “ Faix, an' if she does Stedman, Mr. Winter, Mr. Moncure Con- eat 'em, I'll jis lock her up in a sty by way, and others, were guided by the mo- herself." George Borrow told me this tives of scholars and gentlemen in all they story during a delightful ramble, sniffing said and did with regard to this Act, no the while, as was his wont, the summer one can doubt who has the privilege of a wind as it drew the honey-scents from the personal acquaintance with them. But gorse-flowers of Wimbledon Common. alas ! our friend the “ American patriot” – And," said he, in his quaint Norfolk could not be made to unlearn his lesson accent, although Pat, the moment she that to despoil England as well as to hate had et up the pegs, locked away the sow her, is America's sacred duty.
in another sty, he did not succeed in sav-. To suppose that a Copyright Bill such ing one." as these eminent and high-minded writers Are the Americans a little late-a cenwanted had a chance of passing, was to tury too late, say—in passing an Act to display a noble Quixotism into which but protect their literature would not the very few English authors ever passed. July after the birth of the Republic have
To proclaim that the Bill was intended been a better date for such an Act to beto do justice to the British author, who gin its work than the July of 1891 ? In, for generations has been despoiled, was— treating of America as the great modern, alas for these gentlemen !-a very poor architect of brazen walls, will history bave way of recommending it to a people to draw the same lesson from the Copy-. reared on American traditions. In order right Act as she draws from the famous to insure its passing in any form, it was plot of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay to necessary that the class that is playing build their brazen wall around England by ducks and drakes not only with the honor cheating the devil ? While the two magiof America, but with her very existence cians lay dozing and dreaming of success, as a civilized community, should be told the Brazen lead, by whose means alone that the Bill was a protective measure ; the wall could be built, exclaimed “ Time first for the working printers, paper- is ;' then after a while, “ Time was ;" makers, and binders of America ; sec- then, “ Time is past;" and finally, hurlondly for the master printers, paper- ing itself on the floor of the cell in a noise makers, and binders of America ; thirdly of thunder and a smell of sulphur, ruined for the poor defrauded authors of Ameri- the necromancers' plot altogether. By. ca, whose genius has been swamped by making men forget that in all human matcruel English invaders ever since the days ters there are the same three periods,
NEW SERIES.—VOL, LIV., No. 1, 7