Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Heard and repeated the sound, the signal-gun from the accidental and degrading accom. of departure !

paniments which Ah ! but with louder echoes replied the hearts characterized it. And just as there is no

even then may have of the people! Meekly, in voices subdued, the chapter was

surer means of arousing pity and forbearread from the Bible,

ance for those who have “fallen,” than to Meekly the prayer was begun, but ended in recall some touch of generosity, some 'fervent entreaty !

grace of manner, some noble inclination, Then from their houses in haste came forth some lofty impulse issuing in self-denying the Pilgrims of Plymouth,

deed, so we may say that Mr. Longfellow Men and women and children, all hurrying put in the strongest plea for the Indians down to the seashore,

by saying in effect, “ Behold the Indian Eager, with tearful eyes, to say farewell to the as he may have been in the days of his

May Flower, Homeward bound' o'er the sea, and leaving your own influence, for which you now

prime, before he became the victim of them here in the desert.

abhor and hate and punish him." In When the reader has set this faithfully writing thus, Mr. Longfellow was, as the alongside of tbe more tragic passages we poet always should be, the reconciler. To have already quoted from the " Salem see things in their ideal aspects is always Farms,” etc., he will, we think, be pre to see them on their attractive side; and pared to endorse generally what we just something is done for humanity when now said.

anything whatever is so revealed and in“Hiawatha " is, in one important re- tepreted. “ The poet bestows on every spect, the most remarkable of Mr. Long- object its fit proportions, neither more nor fellow's poems. It is unique. The sub- less. He is the arbiter of the diverse, ject was by no means promising. To the and he is the key. He is the equalizer of prosaic intellect, to the sharp and exact. his age and land. He supplies what ing common sense of the American na- wants supplying, and checks what wants tion, the Red Indian had become repel- checking. . . . He is no arguer, he is lent. Instead of the romance with which judgment. He judges not as the judge some story-tellers had surrounded him, judges, but as the sun falling around a he was simply a loafing,” drinking, un- helpless thing. As he sees the farthest, scrupulous wretch, who to the vices of he has the most faith. His thoughts are savagery had wedded some of the worst the hymns of the praise of things. The indulgences of civilized man. As Artemus presence of the greatest poet conquers ; Ward says, only too truly reflecting the not parleying or struggling, or any prenational feeling, “ Injins is pison wherever pared attempts. Now be has passed that found.” But the Indian had a past, full way, see after him ! there is not left any of its own wild beauty of song and love vestige of despair or misanthropy, or and legend; be had, therefore, a right to cunning or exclusiveness, or the ignominy existence in the imagination as well as in of a nativity, or a color; and no man the common sense. No act of Congress, thenceforward shall be degraded for ignono introduction of civilized vices that rance, or weakness, or sin. The great degraded and ruined bim, body and soul, poet hardly knows pettiness or triviality. could annihilate that. The primeval if he breathes into anything that was beAmerican forest in its true character, as fore thought small or coarse, it dilates Mr. Longfellow loved to think of it and with the grandeur and life of the unito brood over it in fancy, could not be verse." restored without glimpses of the head. And precisely on this principle has Mr. feathers, the moccasins, and the belts of Longfellow recreated the Indian, and wampum being at least caught through compelled the American people, and inthe ibickets of trees. Mr. Longfellow's deed all civilized people, to recognize his demand for the picturesque allied itself brotherhood by right of the beauty of the with his demand for truth and for human soul that once was in him. Therefore, in interest, and the forest must be peopled the true spirit of appeal to the universal with its own proper tenants. And as the instincts and longings of human nature forest existed for him through the senti- for freshness, for beauty, for poetic truth, ment that it inspired, so the Indian life he makes this introduction : existed for him only in imagination; it

Should you ask me, whence these stories? translated itself into an ideal in his mind

Whence these legends and traditions, as he dwelt upon its poetry and associa- With the odors of the forest, tions. He gives us, therefore, the typical With the dew and damp of meadows, life of the uncorrupted Indian, relieved With the curling smoke of wigwams,

66

[ocr errors]

With the rushing of great rivers,

of miraculous birth, who was sent among With their frequent repetitions,

the Indians to clear their rivers, forests, And their wild reverberations,

and fishing.grounds, and who taught them As of thunder in the mountains ? I should answer, I should tell you,

many other elevating arts, especially that “From the forests and the prairies,

of picture-writing is singularly well From the great lakes of the Northland,

fitted for its purpose. The metre has From the land of the Ojibways,

precisely the mixture of simplicity and From the land of the Dacotahs,

sweet, wild strangeness that marks the From the mountains, moors, and fenlands, matter. Whether he tells of Old NokoWhere the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah, mis, the nurse, or the visit to the old Feeds among the reeds and rushes.

arrow-maker, and Hiawatha's wooing and I repeat them as I heard them

wedding of Minnehaha, Laughing Water, From the lips of Nawadaha, The musician, the sweet singer."

or the picture of the Famine, or the White

Man's Foot, all is touched with the breath Should you ask where Nawadaha

of the forest. Found these songs, so wild and wayward, Found these legends and traditions,

Very picturesque and faithful is the acI should answer, I should tell you,

count of Hiawatha's wooing and wedding, “ In the bird's-nests of the forest,

and also of his journey homeward with In the lodges of the beaver,

Minnehaha. It certainly has all the col. In the hoof-prints of the bison,

or, all the subdued stir and glow of the In the eyry of the eagle !

forest : “ All the wild-fowl sang them to him, In the moorlands and the fenlands,

All the travelling winds went with them, In the melancholy marshes;

O'er the meadow, through the forest ; Chetowaik, the plover, sang them,

All the stars of night looked at them, Mahng, the loon, the wild-goose, Wawa,

Watched with sleepless eyes their slumber; The blue heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,

From his ambush in the oak-tree
And the grouse, the Mushkodosa !"

Peeped the squirrel, Adjidaumo,
Watched with eager eyes the lovers ;

And the rabbit, the Wabasso,
Ye who love the haunts of Nature,

Scampered from the path before them, Love the sunshine of the meadow,

Peering, peeping from his burrow, Love the shadow of the forest,

Sat erect upon his haunches, Love the wind among the branches,

Watched with curious eyes the lovers. And the rain-shower and the snow-storm,

Pleasant was the journey homeward !
And the rushing of great rivers

All the birds sang loud and sweetly
Through their palisades of pine-trees,
And the thunder in the mountains,

Songs of happiness and heart's-ease;

Sang the blue bird, the Owaissa, Whose innumerable echoes

Happy are you, Hiawatha, Flap like eagles in their eyries;

Having such a wife to love !" Listen to these wild traditions,

Sang the Opechee, the Robin, To this Song of Hiawatha !

Happy are you, Laughing Water, Ye who love a nation's legends,

Having such a noble husband.” Love the ballads of a people,

From the sky the sun benignant That like voices from afar off

Looked upon them through the branches, Call to us to pause and listen,

Saying to them, “O my children, Speak in tones so plain and childlike,

Love is sunshine, hate is shadow, Scarcely can the ear distinguish

Life is chequered shade and sunshine, Whether they are sung or spoken;

Rule by love, O Hiawatha ! !” Listen to this Indian Legend,

From the sky the moon looked at them, To this Song of Hiawatha !

Filled the lodge with mystic splendors, Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,

Whispered to them, “O my children, Who have faith in God and Nature,

Day is restless, night is quiet, Who believe, that in all ages

Man imperious, woman feeble ;
Every human heart is human,

Half is mine, although I follow ;
That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings

Rule by patience, Laughing Water !”
For the good they comprehend not,

Even here there steals in some suggestion That the feeble hands and helpless,

of the tone of regret of which we have Groping blindly in the darkness,

spoken, justifying fully what we have said Touch God's right hand in that darkness,

on that point and its bearing on LongfelAnd are lifted up and strengthened : Listen to this simple story,

low's general conceptions of life. To this Song of Hiawatha !

Finally, we must add that the departure

of Hiawatha from among his people, for The method in which Mr. Longfellow the good of his people, is touched with has told the story of Hiawatha the hero the true glamor of legend, but it is spirit

an

[ocr errors]

ualized and beautified in the light of a unblessed region, at once brings later gospel. It is here that the Puritan “ Hiawatha” into association with that sentiment, which so informs all Mr. Long-wonderful circle of legend, of which Mr. fellow's poems, comes into play in this Moncure Conway has written so interestpoem where we should least expect to find ingly in his suggestive volume titled, it :

* The Wandering Jew." It is here that Forth into the village went he,

Puritanism, with its constant sense of a Bade farewell to all the warriors,

mysterious spiritual world which lies Bade farewell to all the young men, around us, and may at any moment claim Spake persuading, spake in this wise :

us, weds with the wild instinctive religious I am going, O my people, On a long and distant journey;

longings of the savage man. Mr. Long

fellow has found for both a justification Many moons and many winters Will have come, and will have vanished,

and a home in the imagination; and has Ere I come again to see you.

made us feel that no form of life is withBut my guests I leave behind me;

out relation to other forms, that whatever Listen to their words of wisdom,

sects may do, the poet cannot absolutely Listen to the truth they tell you,

anathematize anything, but in finding its For the Master of Life hath sent them

point of universality finds also its point From the land of light and morning !” of beauty, and thus adds a new element to

On the shore stood Hiawatha, Turned and waved his hand at parting ;

our common humanity and its possibiliOn the clear and luminous water

ties of sympathetic comprehension.
Launched his birch canoe for sailing,
From the pebbles of the margin
Shoved it forth into the water :
Whispered to it, Westward ! westward !”

From The London Times. And with speed it darted forward.

AMERICAN NOVELS.
And the evening sun descending
Set the clouds on fire with redness,
Burned the broad sky, like a prairie,

SOME little time ago a writer in the Left upon the level water

American Art Review, after an elaborate One long track and trail of splendor, Down whose stream as down a river,

casting up of the present tendencies and

results of Ainerican art came to the conWestward, westward Hiawatha Sailed into the fiery sunset,

clusion that “a time is approaching when Sailed into the purple vapors,

artists native born and native bred will Sailed into the dusk of evening.

give us works of genius in every respect And the people from the margin

sprung from the soil

, and, yet approximatWatched him floating, rising, sinking, ing to or surpassing foreign works in Till the birch canoe seemed lifted

technical excellence." As far as figure. High into that sea of splendor,

painting is concerned, indeed, our critic Till it sank into the vapors

admits that this expected day of triumph Like the new moon, slowly, slowly

for a native-born Ainerican art is still far Sinking in the purple distance.

off. American figure drawing, he beAnd they said, “Farewell forever ! ” Said “Farewell, O Hiawatha !”

lieves, will not succeed in emancipating And the forests, dark and lonely,

itself from foreign ideas and foreign Moved through all their mists of darkness, models until “our artists, whether paint, Sighed, “Farewell, O Hiawatha!”

ers or sculptors, have become imbued And the waves upon the margin

with the characteristics of the mental and Rising, rippling on the pebbles,

physical race types which are being Sobbed, “Farewell, O Hiawatha !”

evolved on this continent.” And such an And the heron, the Shuh-shuh.gah, assimilative process is a slow one, conFrom her haunts among the fenlands

stantly retarded as it is by all the attracScreamed, “ Farewell, Õ Hiawatha !” Thus departed Hiawatha,

tions of Old World types and traditions. Hiawatha the Beloved,

But with regard to landscape and decoraIn the glory of the sunset,

tive art we are confidently told a time of In the purple mists of evening,

original and rapid development is apTo the regions of the home-wind,

proaching. On the whole, most observers Of the North-west wind Keewaydin, will agree that in the now flourishing and To the islands of the Blessed,

vigorous schools of American etching and To the kingdom of Ponemah,

engraving this prophecy of the American To the land of the Hereafter.

Art Review is every year finding a larger The peculiar idea of a mysterious dis- measure of fulfilment. America may be appearance into an unknown and yet not still a long way from her Meissonier, but

1

[ocr errors]

at the same time in many of her etchers | American imaginative literature, at any and engravers she now possesses men of rate, is likely to have its birth in a national independent power, whose art, originally school of novel-writing, and the stories of learnt from France or England, has been Mr. James, Mr. Howells, or Mr. Cable, passed through the crucible of American stand for the New World's chansons de feeling and American association, and has geste. come out re-made, inspired by a spirit The rise of a new school of fiction is which is neither French nor English, but not an event which in these days of litessentially and distinctively American. erary staleness should be lightly passed Instead of drawing Venice or Constanti. over. Henceforward, we begin to pernople, the etchers of Boston or New York ceive, American novels are to rank as a are beginning to find flavor and charm in fresh source of imaginative pleasure. We New England towns or Virginian woods, may well ask with some interest to what in the dreary stretches of the salt marshes, writers and to what books do we owe our or in the long lines of barges floating on new possession? What are its features the broad breast of the Hudson. The in the present and its promise for the true sentiment of the country, with all its future? In the first place, we may perpeculiarities and its native incomparable haps insist upon it that the new school features, is passing into their work, and dates from to-day, and has been planted the result is an art which, however im- by living men. Hawthorne was a great perfect, is yet spontaneous and original. writer and a powerful novelist, but in From the stage when it was a mere reiec. most respects he stood alone, conditioned tion of European schools, it has advanced only by his own personal gifts and immeto one of independence, and when we diate surroundings, nor was his genius in think of it we put it at least in a place of any sense distinctively American. His its own.

best known, although not his greatest, This conquest of an individual and novel, “ Transformation,” is steeped in special place is a turning-point in the lis- the subtlest European sentiment; his tory of a country's art. And as with art greatest book, “The Scarlet Letter," so with literature, or at least with all those deals with that earliest America which, sections of literature wbich are concerned in the midst of much that was striking with imaginative expression. The all-im. and novel, was still in spirit but an exiled portant thing is to learn to see with your Europe. Of the youth, the stir, the enorown eyes, io make the methods which mous range, the peculiar problems of others have taught you serve your own modern American life, his books show no new and home-born purposes. When the reflection, for the “ Blithedale Romance" writers of a young country have reached echoed merely the fanciful social philosothis point, those around are witnesses to phy of a few esprits d'élite, and the Amerthe birth of a literature, which, however ica of to-day finds its descriptions and its callow and immature, is still a fresh entity, theorizings equally unreal. Only on one and opens a fresh chapter in the develop- side can his work be said to survive in ment of the human mind. There are that of the younger. school of writers. many signs that at the present moment His “American Note-Books,” which are such a new literature is coming into being far too little read in England, show very in America. For although America has much the same power of delicate and yet had a few great writers, she can scarcely realistic observation which is the predombe said hitherto to have possessed a lit-inant quality of Mr. Howells's and of Mr. erature. No distinctive school of imag. James's writings. The tramping pedlar, inative composition, whether in verse or the little laughing sempstress who comes prose, has until recent years risen within to'make his wife's dresses, the travelling her bounds. Such a school, however, in surgeon-dentist, who “has given me an our opinion, is now rising. The begin- account, among other matters, of all his nings, indeed, are modest and unpretend- love affairs, which are rather curious as ing, and may easily be overlooked by illustrative of the life of a smart young those who ask for more ambitious things. country fellow in relation to the gentle Nor are they like the beginnings of any sex;" the elderly blacksmith, whose conOld World literature. Each young Euro- versation " has much strong, unlettered pean nation entered upon an independent sense, imbued with humor, as everybody's literary life through ballads and romances. talk is in New England;" the newly wedBut Western civilization has grown too ded couple, both leaning sideways against old for ballads, and its youngest children the back of the coach, perusing their must learn their lessons differently. mutual comeliness, and apparently mak

[ocr errors]

ing complimentary observations upon it to to the world he describes, he is of it heart one another; or the “underwitted old and soul, even when he is laughing at it; man,” who meets Hawthorne on his walks, the other is practically outside it. And insists on his right to shake hands with as on the whole a mood of affection is him “as a friend of mankind,” and chat. more likely to produce lasting imaginative ters to him of his dead wife, his circus- work than a mood of criticism, it is froin riding children, and the sprightly widow Mr. Howells we believe rather than from to whom he is paying foolish, balf-witted Mr. James that this new school of Americourt, - these figures and a hundred oth-can writing will receive its decisive and ers stand out from the pages of the “ Note. shaping impulse. Books” with the same frank simplicity, A recent paper in the Century, bas the same sharpness and daintiness of out- given us a pleasant account of Mr. Howline which mark the character drawing of ells and his work. He began life as a “Roderick Hudson” and “The Lady of compositor under his father, who was the the Aroostook.” But this proves no more editor and publisher of an Ohio newspathan that a certain faculty of close sub. per. During all the early years of his humorous observation is native to the life he was spending half his time on the American mind, the peculiar product per- technicalities of printing and publishing, haps of American conditions. The credit and the other half in an eager pursuit of of having first found for it a definite field books and ideas. These lives alternatel in literature, of having made it the con- filled with manual labor and mental culti. trolling force of a new kind and species vation are common in America, and their of imaginative work, belongs not to Haw. product is often a peculiar elasticity and thorne, great as he was, but to his modern originality of temperament. Mr. Howsuccessors. It was Mr. Henry James ells, as a young man, seems to have gathwho first familiarized English readers ered his impressions over a wide range of with the type of American novel we are experiences, from the homeliest upwards, discussing, and we have already named and when he began to write he came to him as the head of the school. His his task equipped with a genuinely Amer. strong analytic sense of character, his ican combination of refinement with un. contempt for the ordinary novelist's ma conventionality. His first ventures were chinery, bis delicate feeling now for the in poetry. Verse, however, was not his contrasts and now for the sympathies of true instrument, and his next attempts in human life, have taught English writers realistic prose revealed where his strength valuable lessons, which are already bear- lay. These were made in the shape of ing fruit. But as an American novelist, Italian journals and sketch-books written he is less representative, less prophetic of after his first sojourn in Italy as Amer. future development than one or two of his ican consul at Venice; for in 1861, at the contemporaries. Mr. James has perhaps age of twenty-four, he left Ohio for Bos. written too much for foreign publics, and ton, and after a short stay there the post America perceives her revenge in a cer- at Venice presented itself. The “Venetain detachment from American interests tian Sketch-Book” published in 1865 and and types which makes some of his work the admirable novel called " A Foregone rather dry and ineffective. His readers Conclusion "are proofs of the kindling and are apt to wonder whether or not Mr. ripening influence exerted upon the young James does not sometimes resent his writer by these changes of scene. But American nationality He writes of although they enriched his genius they American things and persons because he did not alter its main bent. His faculty knows them, and because they present a of shrewd, sympathetic observation posnew field of observation. His American sessed itself easily of Italian sights and girls, in spite of an abnormal capacity for characters, but through all the talk of Ve. self-analysis, are delightfully naïve and netian lagoons or Florentine streets one honest, his men are shrewd, forcible crea- feels the racy American temper, nothing tures, who make their mark upon you, but daunted by the Old World. No descripin the end a sort of subtle coldness com. tions of Venice could be, as far as they municates itself from writer to reader. go, more daintily, affectionately true than The strangenesses and crudities of Amer- those which form the setting of “ A Foreican life, which in the pages of Mr. How gone Conclusion,” but there is no surells bave the sort of charm which belongs render of individuality to the charm of to everything young and half-grown, are the island city. Mrs. Vervain, Florida, rather repellent than attractive in those and Ferris carry the atmosphere of Prove of Mr. James. The one writer belongsidence or Boston about them, even on the

a

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »