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In the early days of criticism it was rare ! pursuit ; of facility—but a facility that dethat any book could pass through one edi- feats itself
, and defrauds its own coinage of tion without being made the text of a com- its legible and current stamp. It is prementary or a philippic, and authors felt eminently representative of the largest and themselves insulted if their works, which the most unproductive school of imitative poetry common people admired or censured after of the present day. And if it claim to be their own untaught fashion, were not at of no extraordinary pretensions, and if in least noticed by the higher and more privi- reality it is neither powerful nor durable, it leged oracles of letters. But as publishers' may be well to pause over it for a moment, lists expanded, the mass of reviews became as a profitable lesson for our myriad versibriefer and more superficial, passing from the fiers, whose number is surely not warranted ornate pages of quarterlies to the hurried by any special increase of the poetic elecolumns of the newspaper, and dictated quite ment amongst us. as often by personal favor or dislike as by In common with most men, we have no literary taste, until now it is quite impos- very friendly feelings toward imitation of sible to give a fair portion of impartial time any kind in literature; but for that imitation and type to any but strongly-marked and of which Mr. Mulchinock's verses may be representative specimens of current litera- taken as an exponent, we have a peculiar ture. From decisions thus arrived at, the distaste. We have little fault to find with public may extend their opinions as little or a young and inexperienced writer, who, for as widely as they please, and authors take the purpose of perfecting himself in the extheir cue with a readiness proportioned to ternals of poetry, gives his days and nights their acquiescence in critical judgment. And to that most melodious of versifiers, Pope, if an author once thought himself slighted since his is almost a necessary task, and one if he was overlooked, he should now con- from which,in these days of incorrect rhythm, sider himself fortunate if sufficiently repre- it were better no aspirant for poetic laurels sentative of good or bad to be marked out should be exempt. But we question if the by reviewers, for surely that “ bad eminence” public, for whom we would be mouthpiece, which is ever made the object of attack is have any such leniency for the writer who better than an unmolested because unno- adopts the phrases which original and poetic ticed mediocrity. There is always hope for minds have created and immortalized, and men or books whose faults are so conspic- spreads them over his own pages, as easy uous that they are singled out for special and current subterfuges behind which to animadversion.
hide his own dearth of sentiment and poetiMr. Mulchinock's poetry is representative, cal power. There is an affectation of poetibut not of originality. It is representative cal affinity about this, which is as specious as were the verses of Hoole and other close as it is insincere, and which, in addition to imitators of the rhythmical beauty of Pope; its own unworthiness, is apt to detract from or as the towering fustian of Lee and Dryden the credit of the genuine poet, whose pecuwhen they essayed to overtop threir masters, liar terms of expression are thus subjected the early English dramatists. It is repre- to the imputation of claptrap and unmeansentative of ambition—but of unwarranted ingness. Even beyond the absurdities of growth ; of emulation—but emulation of certain small philosophers, who have adopted such a nature that it uses imitated gesture the esoteric and mystical expressions of conand phrase to accomplish the object of its tinental thinkers as a clothing for their own
* The Ballads and Songs of William Pembroke Mulchinock. New-York: T. W. Strong & Co., No. 98 Nassau street.
bald and commonplace sentiments, do we easy complacency with which they are led rank in point of dishonesty and extravagance off by the imitators of these poets, and prethe effusions of that school of versifiers who eminently Mr. Mulchinock, is an attack upon have complacently taken the phrases of con- our forbearance and an affront to our notions temporary poets as their own, and used them of good sense and good poetry. What, for as capital on which to build a wide and profit- instance, can we think of such rhymings able reputation.
as the following ?It is fortunate for the true poet that the imitative versifier always overreaches him
Blending with the bright Ideal the sad Actual
and Real, self. The peculiar turns of phraseology, Till its chords shall seem to be all touched and the rhythmical dress and posturing, and the struck by viewless fingers artistic connections of sentiment, which, with Of weird spirits in the air.” as little modification as possible, the imitator
"Overlong the false Ideal would make his own, are rarely to be trans- Kept us on a weary chase ; ferred so as to preserve their original beauty, We would know not now the Real, even by the most skilful hands; and, degene
If we met it face to face." rating into mannerism by being forced upon “ In dreams she comes to me, to cherish and woo us too often, at last entirely lose their harmony and effect. It too frequently happens
The slumber is pleasure, the waking is woe, that an author who has charmed us by
Where fades the Ideal, when triumphs the Real;
I pine for young Alice of Ballinasloe.” original felicities of manner is so far carried away by success and self-praise as to give us “Oh! thou bright and blest Ideal,
Radiant vision of my dreams, too many of them in his subsequent works.
Lighting up the darksome Real But, however well we may endure the repe
With your rainbow-tinted gleams !” tition of the cloying sweetness, we have no patience for the distasteful and dispropor- Are they not simply an affectation of tionate dose of mannerism which the forth- high sentiment where there is no senticoming imitator would compel us to swallow. ment at all, and an irreverent handling of And we resent the attempted infliction with words which were never meant to be trifled as much heartiness as we would repel the with ? It requires no very great amount impertinences of a bystander, who had taken of skill to frame stanzas that shall contain upon himself to insult us from beholding these words; they are remarkably docile our forbearance under the momentary ca- in couples; and there is not a clever lad of prices of a friend.
fifteen who could not string them together Some time ago we had marked out certain with as much of the bright” and “ blest” phrases on the pages of two of our special and “darksome" as they are garnished with favoites, Tennyson and Poe, and had ven- by Mr. Mulchinock. And we do not know tured to predict in a quiet way, that the imita- why we should be called upon to admire so tors of these admirable poets would betray cheap and easy a performance—what any themselves by fastening on these peculiarities, of us could do equally well at any time. and repeating them to us ad nauseam. Two We are sorry to see Mr. Mulchinock dewords particularly had attracted our atten- pending so much for effect on the words tion as being very open to abuse, and very “Past," " Present,” and “Future," with their difficult to be used at all, except by minds of attendant adjectives, which every reader's exquisite perceptions; and indeed they had memory will readily suggest to him. What been so bandied about by shallow mystics, has just been said about the Ideal and the that men who were equal to an appreciation Real will apply to these much-abused words. of their meaning would be very cautious It requires a delicacy of taste amounting how they employed them. These words almost to genius to avoid using them in just are the Real and the Ideal; and surely no such connections as those in which they are one will say that they are to be played with employed by the mob of ordinary writers by children, or harped on in vacant hours, and speakers when they would be thought like the strings of an idle instrument. Ten- learned, sublime, and prophetic. To talk nyson and Poe had been sufficiently familiar about these three conditions of Time is to with them for our taste, and had used them run the risk of talking commonplace ambiquite enough for producing effect; but the tiously. Mr. Mulchinock has taken the risk, and we think he has been unlucky—if we | with trifling with poetic terms, when we may judge from verses like these spoken by often find him appropriating with equal Paul Flemming, the “pale" student:- recklessness the more peculiar property of
other poets. " Then like music spake he-Mary, by my love
Coleridge tells us of that ne'er can vary,
“A noise as of a hidden brook By mine eyes so wan and weary, weary watch
In the leafy month of June.” ing for thy presence, Oh, thou beautifully fair ;
This therefore is Coleridge's, and no one "By the Past whose gloom is o'er me ; by the else has any right to it. But Mr. MulchiFuture dark before me;
nock does not agree with us. By virtue of By the loved dead who implore me in sweet his poetic calling he has a right to it, and whispers from the grave-yard,
proceeds to exercise his prerogative as folTo lie down and slumber there."
lows: Or these :
“Sweeter than the streamlet rushing amid spring
flowers in their flushing In the kingdom of the Worker he shall have the highest place
Came the song of love outgushing from the lips ko hath dipt into the Future living far beyond In the leafy month of June.”
of the pale student his race: “Who hath shown his mission God-like by the
Very awkwardly done. But it requires reaches of his eye,
talent to plagiarize well. Glinting over Past and Present, lighting dim Tennyson's Locksley Hall contains this Futurity."
beautiful couplet : Part of this reminds us very forcibly of a “ Love took up the harp of Life and smote on all couplet in Tennyson's Locksley Hall
its chords with might,
Smote the chord of self, that trembling passed in "For I dipt into the Future far as human eye could
music out of sight." see, Saw the Vision of the world and all the wonder
In Mr. Mulchinock's Chant for Toilers this that would be."
is very coolly reproduced :Such coincidences, however, are common “From the chord of self-evoking music, wild but with Mr. Mulchinock. We
sweet to hear, or two others before we part company.
Fraught with mystic strange revealings to the
earnest thinker's ear." Here is a stanza quite in the prophetic style of Mævius and Bavius. It is addressed We hardly know what to style the folto “Men of Genius" :
lowing, but it certainly shows a great facility
of adaptation, if nothing more. The original Though to all your toil incessant Of the muscle and the mind,
is from Locksley Hall:Ye shall feel and find the Present
“Many a morning in the moorland did we hear In its sluggish dulness blind;
the copses ring, In the Future shall the story
And her whispers thronged my pulses with the
fulness of the spring.
“Many an evening by the waters did we watch the
stately ships, We consider this disparagement of the And our spirits rushed together at the touching times in which one lives an affectation, and
of the lips." unworthy a liberal mind. And in all candor Mr. Mulchinock thus adapts it:we must say we find far too much of it in “Many a morning by the waters of the far reMr. Mulchinock. But of this hereafter.
sounding sea, We have noticed many other instances of Have I walked in meditation, all my spirit fancy
free. this commonplace and unmeaning trifling with suggestive phrases which it is hardly “ Many a morning in the forest ere the birds began necessary to quote for the
to sing, ing that Mr. Mulchinock has brought noth
Have I sung of Freedom's advent, harping on the
bounding string.” ing more out of them than certain rhymes and cadences for which he has mainly em- But enough of mere verbal criticism; of ployed them. We shall not be accused of citations of what it is charity to style imitreating him unfairly in thuse charging him tations, which any one of moderate acquaint
ance with the best of living and late poets speak in unvarying tones of despondency will detect in greater or less abundance in and complaint, when we have every reason nearly every piece in this volume; and of to suppose him capable of enjoying the coninstances of a recklessness in the use of meta- tent which he affects to find only in others. physical and poetic terms which most read- Mr. Mulchinock’s verses are gloomy, and ers will not fail to discover and condemn. we think their gloom studied and unnecesWe have no disposition to enter upon an sary. There are very few men of education exhibition of Mr. Mulchinock’s rhythmical whose circumstances compel them to poverrors, which swarm throughout these poems erty and neglect; and when we hear such in unstinted profusion. For these, circum- men complaining of one or both of these stances may offer a partial apology. It is conditions of misery, we are apt to believe after all more of the spirit of Mr. Mulchi- that they are practising on our sympathies, nock's rhymes than of their mechanical and are either clinging to sorrow for the execution that we would complain. We melancholy pleasure it is sometimes said to should be somewhat disposed to excuse the afford, or are prating of its stings without slovenly measure and the bungling rhyme, if actually undergoing them. To the really they were the dress of really original, poetic deserving and unfortunate, the public ear is and healthy thoughts; but if we condemn seldom closed; but it is ever the case, as it the barren or the perverted sentiment, how should be, that public sympathy neither can we approve the verse in which it is goes out spontaneously nor strongly for the borne haltingly and wearily along? man who clings to a vocation for which he
We look in vain, then, through this vol- is indifferently fitted, and which, in return, ume for any traces of that genial and gener- yields him but an indifferent support, when ous sentiment which should spring sponta- other callings, equally honorable and more neously from the heart of every man, and, productive, lie open to his exertions. most of all, from the heart of the man who Need we say we have reference to profesthinks himself specially commissioned to ad- sional verse-making—to that description of dress his fellow-men through the medium of verse-making which Mr. Mulchinock cultithe feelings and the imagination. A writer vates, and which he professes to find so unof verses, in addition to the necessary quali- profitable? It must strike every one at the fications of imagination, taste, and rhythmical first glance--without lingering long over power, should have a liberal and compre- certain obtrusive facts, the large number of hensive mind, capable of overlooking cir- writers, professional and unprofessional, who cumstances and of appreciating the good clamor for admission to the columns of every qualities to be found in every man and every magazine, the immense disadvantages under thing. It is no more necessary that he which our authors labor from reproductions should be an optimist than that he should of foreign and unpaid-for literature, the explunge into the midnight of a Byronic mis- cessive cheapness at which the home market anthropy. If his disposition is like that of for reading must be supplied—that nothing nine out of ten, it is hardly needful to cau- can be more unwise than for a man of any tion him against one or the other of these other than first-rate abilities to pursue a extremes. But as Nature produces a few career in which not more than one in a hunoptimists and misanthropes, and circum- dred can hope to earn more than a bare substances many more, so we find certain poets sistence, when easier and more lucrative whose verses are naturally optimistic or mel- paths lie before him. It is unwise for this ancholy, and a greater number—of a lesser reason, setting aside all others that will ocgrade, be it said—whose verses, purport- cur at a moment's contemplation-namely, ing to be results of their own experience, that a writer on broad and comprehensive are evidently studied pictures of the utmost topics, like those of poetry, ought to be thorof cheerfulness or Timonism that can be oughly acquainted with all classes of society, evolved from the material around them. and to have such a position as to be on easy We are always suspicious of the sincerity of and intimate terms with the great man as any writer who claims to have a larger share well as the laborer or the common citizen. of happiness or misery than his fellow-men, He should possess an independence sufficient and we especially condemn the processes by to raise him above all imputation of sycowhich a writer of poetry brings himself to phancy or meanness; such an independence
as makes a man feel always light of heart, mon books, and the great works of God, besides the and above those fretting circumstances which lessons of daily life
, have been my sole teachers. assail him whose next dinner is for ever a
With these aids, if I cannot hope to match men to
whom many languages are as familiar as their own, subject of uneasy contemplation. His means whose mornings, nights, and libraries are in the pershould give him access to libraries and gal- petual presence of the arts; men whose fame is not leries; they should allow him the necessary audience on the merits of my dear mfistress Natyre,
only American but universal; I at least may claim an stimulants of travel and public amusement;/ whose beauty, like that of the gospel, though “ever in fine, having the world for his peculiar ancient,' is also “ever new.?” study, the world should be in every way open to him. To substantiate this, we must Shelley, with infinitely more genius, hut leave great authors out of view: their genius it must be owned, with less common sense, has at all times evoked fortune and worship- for he was in no want of money, talked pers, laboring at first no matter under how somewhat like this, when he boasted of his i great disadvantages. But for how many acquaintance with the Alps and the glaciers, i men of second-rate abilities and unpromising and his unsuitableness for the companions beginnings has competence prepared the ship of his fellow-Englishmen. And conseway for literary distinction ! and how many quently Shelley is read by nobody but poets. men of aspirations beyond their natural abil. He loved the people well enough, but he ities, of a thirst for fame beyond their power never learned how to write for them. He to achieve greatness, has poverty happily let his great soul go out over mountains kept back from a career in which only the and midnights, and his poems are one promost favored can run without faltering and longed rhapsody. He is a good study, but failure !
a bad model. But Mr. Mulchinock has Now it is evident that the man who, with copied his error. Speaking of himself, he out possessing sufficient ability to raise him- says: self to the first rank in literature, sits down “ All his harpings caught from nature, lakes and to gain his subsistence by writing verses,
mountains for his schools, condemns himself to seclusion from the great
Not in city smoke begotten among rod-directed
fools." world, and therefore to barrenness of sentiment and information. That many-sided So much the worse for Mr. Mulchinock. knowledge which, in the present intensity of If poets only draw their inspirations from civilization, the writer who would reach the mountains and lakes, they may be as grand popular ear must possess, he will inevitably and mystic as they please, but they may want. His writings will be capricious, one- rest content with lakes and mountains for sided, and unfair. It will be strange if they listeners. If they will ride Pegasus occado not fall into one unvarying strain, and sionally on cross-roads and in cities, and lend that strain oftener melancholy and bitter their genius to “ adorn common things," than genial and warm. Living, it may be, they will meet with the encouragement they in back streets ; surrounded by a society deserve. whose manners are at best unattractive, and We are not surprised, therefore, at the whose language breathes a harsh and disaf- tone of Mr. Mulchinock's verses, after learnfected spirit; he cannot hope to become ac- ing the circumstances under which they quainted with the ways of those who par- were composed, and the sources of inspiratake bountifully of the higher privileges of tion whence they were drawn ; especially life, and from a secure position look compre- when we see that greater men have written hensively and unrepiningly on the world vaguely, and unfairly, and bitterly, while around them. No man of this day can ap- refusing to look at all sides of life before proach to any thing like perfection in writing making it the subject of poetical philosowhose field of observation is as limited as phizing. To be shut out from the higher Mr. Mulchinock's would appear to be, from and refined amenities of life; to be conwhat he says in the preface to his poems-stantly vexed by the thought that men of an unsatisfactory apology for a very mani- inferior minds, possessing no sympathy for fest want:
the beautiful in art or nature, are spending Fyom the stimulus of elegant society, from de money without stint on useless and unelelightful leisure, or many-path'd cultivation, I have vated pleasures, which a better owner would not obtained subjects or a style. A few good com- employ in the gratification of the noblest