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has girded on the armor of the Christian minister, may we not address that thrilling inquiry of the poet
" Should one of those lost souls
Art. IX.-The Poetical Works of Mrs. FELICIA HEMANS.
Philadelphia, Grigg and Elliott, 1836. Memorials of Mrs. Hemans, with illustrations of her Literary
Character from her private correspondence. By Henry F. CHORLEY. New-York. Saunders & Otley, 1836.
It is one of the beauties of Christianity, that it not only warns the soul of the future, and fits it for the life to come, but also sheds its kindly influence over the relations of the present. It is adapted to every situation and circumstance in which we may be placed. Interwoven with the best habits and dispositions of our nature, its gentle graces, like the dews of heaven, water every fertile soil. It is serious in the solemn worship of the sanctuary; it is tender and familiar in the affections of the household; it is the friendly companion amid the scenes of nature ; it is the stay of adversity, and the best comfort of prosperity: it never deserts us. Wherever man has a true source of enjoyment, it is present to sanctify and increase the happiness. Christianity embraces all the conditions of our state. It nerves the arm of the artisan at his daily labor; it strengthens the soldier in patriotism; it enlightens the studies of the philosopher; it teaches the scholar his just end and aim; it seconds the call of duty; it invigorates every faculty to its most perfect exercise. Nor does it fail the mere man of letters in his pursuit of literature, but it meets the author in his closet, and infuses into his page the real and natural interests of life. For it lays before him in the Bible, the best model of composition ever penned, and awakes in him the influence of noble precept and example. It enlarges his understanding. It shows him effects not only in themselves, but linked to a first Great Cause. It unfolds futurity, and thus gives the necessary completion to the history of man. It creates new sympathies in the kind, for it teaches that all men are brothers, and humility the corner stone of virtue. It cultivates the love of nature. "It cherishes the domestic ties, and reads a brighter memorial in the tear of affection than in the most successful effort of policy. It is spiritual, and looks to the emotions of the soul above the great acts of fortune. In fine, it embraces the very spirit of literature ; dwelling in the heart, and rendering every thought sensitive to the claims of humanity.
These remarks might be pursued; but we hasten to illustrate them by the example of Mrs. Hemans. By observing the superiority of her verse to that of the poetesses of the day, and of her later to her earlier writings, in connection with her history, we must be led to attribute the different character to the influence of religion inspiring her later poetry with a more natural interest, and fitting it for its just end-an intimacy with the religious principles of our nature.
Mrs. Hemans set out in life with all the ardor and enthusiasm of genius. She showed her individual character almost in her childhood. Her parents' residence in Wales, surrounded by lofty hills, and bordering on the ocean, brought her under poetic influences she was formed to experience and retain. Often do we find her in after life, recurring in her imagery to these scenes of her youth. Living apart from the world, her soul dwelt in a sphere of its own-weaving peculiar associations into an ideal world for its abode. She cultivated only the imagination; all her thoughts were tinged with romance. This, as her biographer remarks, has its evils as well as advantages. While she was looking on all things in a poetic light, seeing only the fanciful and romantic, separated from the gross and actual, her affections were lost to the thousand social sympathies.with mankind, which only an actual participation in their joys and sorrows, a mingling with the common routine of life, can confer. But this was destined to be remedied in the sad experiences of life, loosing one by one, these ties, and fastening them to more real objects of interest.
The poetical character of Mrs. Hemans' mind being thus early established, her muse was never silent ; but sent forth to the world a long series of works which, undergoing some curtailment—as what modern poets shall not—will be remembered with the language. Her first pieces were little more than specimens of skilful versification; as she advanced, her individual manner appeared in the truly womanlike feeling which marked her poetry. The selection of subjects, the delicacy of taste, the nice perception of beauty, the heroic ardor shown in her writings, nay, even their fluency evince the feminine nature of her mind. Her women share the grace and softness with the high-toned spirit of her disposition. In great trials they are courageous with the boldest, and where they may not do or die, they can submit with heroism. The “ Records of Woman" are a trophy for her sex ; its constancy, devotion, patriotism, and love, are commemorated in strains that should be dear to every female heart. It was reserved, however, for her later works to add to these a still nobler memorial—the strength and endurance of woman's piety.
Another of the early characteristics of Mrs. Heman's verse was its patriotic tone. Her mind clung to every trait of national character wherever it might be found. Her fine martial and and lyric “ Lays" are of “Many lands." They embrace the northern legend of “Runic rhyme" with the tradition of the south. Songs of ancient Greece awake in the stirring pages with the old English war message. The German harvest song equally with the Indian tale enlists her sympathy, while America owes her a debt of gratitude for the bold and picturesque “ Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers.”
But her attention became awakened to simpler objects. In a gay mood she could always surrender herself to an “ Hour of Romance," and live over some old dream of chivalry ; but as the pressing interests of life closed around her, she gave herself to more real though less ambitious topics. The poetry of domestic life as it appears in the excitement of joy, the calm sufferance of affliction, or the hope of hereafter, arrested her thoughts. She felt that this came home to the hearts of all ; that while other themes might attract the fancy or imagination, this was buried deep in the soul with an interest permanent as our nature. She knew that other associations of man would lose their force—the storied castle perish with the record of human glory—while this remained a part of our common humanity“ There may the bard's high themes be found
We die, we pass away :
To earth without decay.
The heart that burns, the cheek that glows,
The tear from hidden springs,
The Themes of Song.
This change in the poetry of Mrs. Hemans, caused by a devotion to real life, may in no slight degree be attributed to the study of Wordsworth. When she had once become acquainted with his works they were ever after her chosen oracles. What she says in one of her letters of the lake scenery
My spirit is too much lulled by these sweet scenes to breathe one word of sword and spear until I have bid Winandermere farewell”—may be extended to the mighty genius of the place. The poetry of Wordsworth opened to her a new being. She had before looked upon the world with an eye to the fanciful and romantic; she now saw the simple and religious. ller thoughts of the affections had been always blended with the woman's love of excitement—the interest of battle and engagement, the knightly banquet and the aged minstrel, the tilt and tourney, the masquerade, and all the ancient retinue of chivalry; now they were attempered to a kindlier feeling. Her harp had echoed to notes of glory and adventure: it was now responsive to the vibrations of the soul. She became acquainted in his
“ The still sad music of humanity” stealing gently from the heart of every human being, the simple as well as the learned, the cottager and peasant alike with the nobleman, the humblest with the most elevated. Here she found something like repose. The tempest of the passions was stayed, the airy visions of fancy were called home, and she came to learn the calm of true poetry. In her own language, her earlier works had been
“ Sad sweet fragments of a strain First notes of some yet struggling harmony, By the strong rush, the crowding joy and pain
Of many inspirations met, and held
From its true sphere." It may not be uninteresting to the reader to quote Mrs. Hemans' own words with respect to Wordsworth." Her first acquaintance with his writings is celebrated in a letter to Miss Jewsbury:
“ The inclosed lines (those • To the poet Wordsworth,') are effu. sions of deep and sincere admiration, and will give you some idea of the enjoyment, and I hope I may say, advantage, which you have been the means of imparting by so kindly entrusting me with your precious copy of Wordworth's Miscellaneous Poems. It has opened to me such a treasure of thought and feeling, that I shall always asso. ciate your name with some of my pleasantest recollections, as having introduced me to the knowledge of what I can only regret should have been so long a • Yarrow Unvisited.' I could not write to you sooner, because I wished to tell you that I had really studied these poems, and they have been the daily food of my mind ever since I borrowed them. There is hardly any scene of a happy, though serious,
domestic life, or any mood of a reflective mind, with the spirit of which some one or other of them does not beautifully harmonize. This author is the true Poet of Home, and of all the lofty feelings which have their root in the soil of home affections. His fine sonnets to liberty, and indeed all his pieces which have any reference to political interest, remind me of the spirit in which Schiller has conceived the character of William Tell-a calm, single-hearted herds. man of the hills, breaking forth into fiery and indignant eloquence, when the sanctity of his hearth is invaded.”
After this introduction, Mrs. Hemans became a student of Wordsworth, so that, at least during the later years of her life, a single day never passed without a reference to his works. It was indeed
source of pleasure to her when she lived a summer at “ The Lakes,” during part of the time an inmate at Rydal Mount. Her acquaintance with the man did not detract from the idea of his writings. Her letters of that period afford a testimony of his worth, which we willingly spread upon our pages, glad to do honor to the name of Wordsworth. She writes:
“ I am charmed with Mr. Wordsworth • There is a daily beauty in his life,' which is in such lovely harmony with his poetry, that I am thankful to have witnessed and felt it. He gives me a good deal of his society, reads to me, walks with me, leads my poney when I ride, and I begin to talk with him as with a sort of paternal friend. The whole of this morning he kindly passed in reading to me a great deal from Spenser, and afterwards his own Laodamia, my favorite • Tintern Abbey,' and many of those noble sonnets which you, like myself, enjoy so much. His reading is very peculiar, but to my ear, delightful ; slow, solemn, earnest in expression more than any I have ever heard; when he reads or recites in the open air, his deep rich tones seem to proceed from a spirit voice, and to belong to the religion of the place; they harmonize so fitly with the thrilling tones of woods and waterfalls. His expressions are often strikingly poetical : •I would not give up the mists that spiritualize our mountains for all the blue skies of Italy.'-Yesterday evening he walked beside me as I rode on a long and lovely mountain path high above Grasmere Lake: I was much interested by his showing me, carved deep into the rock as we passed, the initials of his wise's name inserted there many years ago by himself, and the dear old man, like 'Old Mortality, renews them from time to time : I could hardly help exclaiming • Esto perpetua!'”
And again :
“ You will be pleased to hear that the more I see of Mr. Wordsworth, the more I admire, and I may almost say, love him. It is delightful to see a life in such perfect harmony with all that his writings express, ' true to the kindred points of heaven and home. You may remember how much I disliked that shallow theory of Mr. Moore's,