« PreviousContinue »
he rejects in verse, if his teacher will employ susceptible of general use and employment a more simple and less ambitious medium. as any other. It is probable that the very Fortunately for the susceptibilities of the race, same class of persons who now denounce the Genius of Art, who addresses herself to its prose fiction would be equally hostile to exigencies, is of vast compass and wonderful poetry-nay, are confessedly hostile to it in flexibility. She adapts herself to all condi- its dramatic forms, and as anxious now to tions, and contrives a spell to make every exclude Shakspeare from use, as the more affection, in some degree, her own. Noth- discriminating moralist would be to suppress ing can stale her infinite variety; and, as her the prurient writings of Sue and Paul de purpose and destiny are universal conquest, Kock. Dull men, who are at the same time so she is empowered to adapt her ministry vain men, are always to be found, to whom to the condition of the individual, so that his the beautiful in art appears only like a false inner nature shall feel the touch of an influ- syren, glozing in the ears of the unwary, and ence by which his puritication may begin. beguiling the ignorant from the secure paths. It is no less within her province to render They would have the young voyager seal up classical—in other words, to make appropriate his ears to any charming but their own; and and becoming--every form of utterance and the better to accomplish this object, they exhibition which will contribute in any inea- cloak their desires with shows of exterior sure to the attainment of her vital objects. morality, and, in the accents of the holiest This is the conclusive answer to all that one- mission, promote the objects of the worst. sided class of critics, who narrow the province Perhaps there is no worse foe to purity and of the classical either to the simply pre- religion than mere dulness. The dulness scriptive, or to that one single form of ex- which compels the attention of the young, pression to which their tastes or their studies when the heart is eager to go forth and be most incline them. They overlook entirely free in the sunshine, and in the pleasant the catholic nature of art, which accommo- atmosphere of birds and flowers, in process of dates its lessons, like any other schoolmaster, time becomes a tyranny which compels men to its several classes, and is careful to insinu- to seek in secret, and consequently with some ate its wishes through a new medium, when degree of shame, that very Being who was it finds itself stubbornly resisted in the old. dispatched to earth with the most beneAs there is no more good reason why a poem ficent commission of sympathy and love. should be compassed in twelve books and If you denounce prose fiction, such as we the Spenserian stanza, than in five acts and have indicated,—a fiction which contemplates in the fashion of the drama,-so the plan of the highest objects of art, and which is susa romance in prose, in one, two, or three vol-ceptible of the noblest forms to which art umes, is not a whit less acceptable to the has ever yet given expression,-you must Genius of Classic Art, than if the same ma- equally denounce poetry and music. Its terials were wrought into heroics and tagged flexibilily, greater than either of these, is yet with the unnecessary but beautiful append- equally subject to arbitrary standards-standage of rhyme. We must insist upon this ards which exact equal obedience to certain the more, because of the lamentable bigotry principles of art, to say nothing of the laws of certain literary purists——to say nothing of of nature, inevitable in the case of all. That their ignorance in relation to this subject. its privileges are larger, does not render its Of course, we are not to be understood as exercise less proper or becoming. Its aims arguing in respect to the abuses of the may be quite as daring as those of poetry, popular novel, ---the low purposes to which its machinery as wild and wondrous, and it is put, and the inferior objects which are to employ a word the literalness of which too frequently aimed at in its composition. might almost forbid its use in this connection All forms of art, all doctrines, all faith and -as impossible and visionary. It is not less custom—the offices of religion, the purest true because of its impossibles. It is a truth privileges of love and society—are, in like in the seed, to germinate hereafter; a truth manner, subject to abuse, and not unfre- of the spiritual nature; that superior mood quently employed thus for their own dese- by which we are so imperfectly yet impresscration and defeat. Our purpose is only to ively informed, and of which, at present, we show that this particular form of fiction is have such vague and unsatisfying glimpses. quite as legitimate in its origin and quite as I Our cravings furnish sufficient arguments to establish the truthfulness of fiction, and to ever be his crimes and errors, if it be honestly prove its legitimacy as an universal element written, nothing extenuate, and nothing overof delight and desire, natural to the hopes wrought, is always a religious history. It is and to the imagination of mankind. Fic- the history of his training for another state; tion, indeed, is neither more nor less than and, whether he makes proper progress or probable truth under intenser conditions than falters by the wayside, does not impair the ordinary. It is quite as properly the organ value of the history in its influence on other of religion, one of the aids of faith, as any men. In the one case, it were a lamp to prayer
that ever ascended from bearded pa- guide; in the other, a beacon to forewarn. triarch, or any praise of the devotee that The hues of romance which it is made to ever borrowed the wings of song to cleave wear,—the purple lights and the soft attractthe vaulted roof of the temple in making ive colors which constitute its atmosphere, its way
to heaven. It has been the frequent and commend it to the heart which might language of all religions. It is employed shrink from the touch of a truth unskilfully in the form of fable, and parable, and alle applied, -do not diminish the value of the gory, by Deity himself; and no more re- moral which it brings ; do not lessen its markable specimen of romance was ever healing attributes, or take from what is wholeframed for the wondering delight and instruc- some in the sting and bitter which it employs, tion of man, than the noble drama embodied to goad the slunibering conscience into senin the Scriptures which describes the cruel sibility. Nor is this atmosphere of poetry trials of the man of Uz! We say not these unreal or unnatural. It is the very
atmosthings with irreverence, but rather with an phere which marks the progress of passionacute sense of the perfect propriety with ate youth, and serves in some degree to which man may use those divinest forms of retard the violence of the passions, when a intellect which God has given him, and more rigid morality has failed of its effect. which have never been thought indecorously Nor should it be urged against the arts of employed when celebrating the works, the fiction that, for so long a season after youth glory, and the benevolence of God. That he has passed for ever, they bring back glimpses should not degrade them to base uses, has of its better hopes—its summer fancies—its been the leading motive of this essay. skies without a cloud, and its songs without
That modern fiction should incorporate a a murmur. Romance, in fact, would seem history of mortal loves and mortal disappoint- to be the handmaid whose affections are won ments; that it should be yielded up to a by youth, that they should find a solace for homely narrative of the thousand cares and it when youth is gone. She is employed vices that vex the wayward heart, and em- to bring warmth to his bosom in age, even as bitter its perverse struggles; that it should the physical nature of the monarch-minstrel involve humiliating details of licentiousness was kept in life by fresh contact with innocent and crime; that it should portray passion in girlhood. She is the restorer to the fancy the form of its most wilful exercise, and depict of all that delicious atmosphere which hung the hopeless and various miseries which flow about the heart in youth. She brings back from its indulgence; no more lessens the to us all our first glowing and most generous propriety of its claims to minister for the conceptions ; when the soul was least selfish, good and safety, the direction and the reproof when the affections were most fond; ere of man, than do like events in the career of strife had made the one callous, or frequent David, -the man of such generous, but of defeat and disappointment had rendered the so many wild and violent impulses,—the mur- other sour and suspicions. Beheld through derer of Uriah, the ravisher of Bathsheba — her medium, there is nothing in life which is the man who erred, and suffered, and atoned, vulgar and degrading. All its fancies are as man is seldom found to do in the ordinary pure, and show as luxuriantly as they are progress of an age. There, indeed, in that bright and fresh. It is not, indeed, through sacred and startling history, do we find a the fancies and the tastes that sin assails the model romance, than which none more ter- heart. It is through the passions only, and sibly pleasing and instructive could be found in the utter absence of the fancy, and those in the whole compass of romantic fiction. tastes which the fancy usually originates, But even through the corruption springs the that wild and vicious appetites inflame the flower. The history of man on earth, what- lowlier nature, and give it an ascendency
he rejects in verse, if his teach a more simple and less am? Fortunately for the susceptil, the Genius of Art, who addr: exigencies, is of vast com/ flexibility. She adapts tions, and contrives a s affection, in some degre ing can stale her infinit purpose and destiny is so she is empowered to the condition of t). inner nature shall fe's ence by which his It is no less with classical—in other and becoming exhibition which sure to the ati. This is the couc sided class of es of the classic scriptive, or 1 pression to w most incline the catholin dates its l to its seri ate its w it finds As the should the S; in the
: sirough which
-is elevated, --ety, into a being css with love than
To the catholic Jumble are but relative jal in position, though
and aspect. The beautimire, the bright and the dark,
ils of each other-in other i system, in which variety is
not of the boundless resources ... out of his sense, also, of what the
proper exercise, the relief heation of the soul. The phioch art teaches, is the faith with
ich begins; a faith which youth .u apt to forget, in the more earthy ( manhood; but which it is the
vocation of art, as tributary to
still to re-inspire. It is in this way . Ant is always young and original. Every - con discovers in her a new aspect.
si forms, new guises, declare for her Lemacy over the monotonous and tamely neurring aspects of ordinary time. It is kausu heedless of this peculiar virtue in
la constitution of this catholic Muse, that We tind the critic of hackneyed judgment, xrown too subservient to the customary to preciate the fresh, resenting as a vice the
sumption of new phases in the very Genius ** which he has worshipped under another form.
lle seems unwilling to believe that there Lit: should be any longer a novelty in art, when set there is no longer a freshness in his own v nature.
MULCHINOCK'S POEMS. *
It is pre
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. mentary 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 their 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.
over the superior, which it is the peculiar tined to an inferior condition, through which quality of all intellectual exercises to subdue only can he rise into a better—is elevated, and to correct. These find an aliment in by his reverence and fidelity, into a being the obvious nature which renders them indif-whom we reward not less with love than ferent to, and keeps them ignorant of the with food and raiment. To the catholic prurient appetites of a morbid mood. The eye of art, high and humble are but relative aspects of nature and man are equally grate- dependencies, mutual in position, though ful to the faith which looks confidingly to differing in height and aspect. The beautiall things under the genial influence of a hope ful and the obscure, the bright and the dark, that takes its birth in the affections, and are but natural foils of each other—in other believes chiefly because it loves. And it is words, parts of a system, in which variety is precisely such a confiding nature which is not simply a proof of the boundless resources the soul and very secret of success in art. of the Creator, but of his sense, also, of what To its eye, nothing is absolutely unseemly, is essential to the proper exercise, the relief though all demands improvement, in the and the gratification of the soul. The phinatural aspects of earth and man. The losophy which art teaches, is the faith with desert is no desert, spread out and sleeping which youth begins ; a faith which youth beneath the broad, blue canopy of heaven. is but too apt to forget, in the more earthy The sea is no terror, reposing in its delicious cares of manhood; but which it is the moonlight. The forest is no region of gloom becoming vocation of art, as tributary to and exile, but one rather of refuge and of religion, still to re-inspire. It is in this way shade, when the world threatens and the that art is always young and original. Every burning sun prevails. It is by an innate generation discovers in her a new aspect. property that art is enabled to crown nature Novel forms, new guises, declare for her with an aspect of her own ;-nor inanimate supremacy over the monotonous and tamely nature only. The wild beast is stilled by, recurring aspects of ordinary time. It is and crouches beneath, a look; the reptile because heedless of this peculiar virtue in is spelled by a sound, and uncoils himself
, the constitution of this catholic Muse, that unharming, from his victim. And man him- we find the critic of hackneyed judgment, self—the savage man! He is savage, it grown too subservient to the customary to may be, but not necessarily foul or beastly appreciate the fresh, resenting as a vice the Wild, but why vicious, unless you make, or assumption of new phases in the very Genius suffer him to remain so? It is in your own which he has worshipped under another form. hands to subject him to holier and happier He seems unwilling to believe that there laws, if you will only so far sympathize with should be any longer a novelty in art, when his inferior nature, as to show him the path- there is no longer a freshness in his own way to a better promise. The serf-des- | nature.