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The city bright below; and, far away,
Sparkling in golden light, his own romantic bay.
And banners floating in the sunny air ;
And many a scene forgot, the heart will hold
Whose infant breath was drawn, or boyhood's days
Nor feel the prouder of his native land." Mr. Allston published, about ten years ago, in England, a little volume of poems, entitled —" The Sylphs of the Seasons." The style of the principal poem reminds us often of some of Gray's odes. The Sylphs are supposed severally to address the poet, and to disclose the influences which they shed upon him. Among other things, the Sylph of the Spring says, that her enchantments operated upon him
brooding o'er some forest rill,
On all was shadowed there.
That made thy heart, a willing slave,
As with an early friend." There is something very agreeable in the conclusion of the last stanza. But Mr. Allston's sonnets are perhaps as good as any of his poems. There is one upon Michael Angelo's Last Judgment; one on that exquisite group of Raffaelle, representing the three angels appearing to Abraham ;--one on the picture of Eolus, by Tibaldi, which (we mean the picture) we never could admire ;-and lastly, a sonnet on the “ Jacob's
dream” of Rembrandt. This picture, which we have often dwelt on when in the Dulwich gallery, is one of the grandest and most shadowy visions that ever visited the waking dreams of an artist. The sonnet is as follows:
“ As in that twilight superstitious age,
When all beyond the narrow grasp of mind
Our next extract is from an exceedingly pretty and graceful poem by Mr. Bryant; and is addressed “ To a Waterfowl.”
“ Whither 'midst falling dew,
“ Vainly the fowler's eye
“ Seek'st thou the plashy brink
“ There is a Power whose care
“ All day the wings have fann'd
Mr. Bryant has also written a pleasant poem, entitled“ Green River,” and another, “ Inscription for the Entrance into a Wood” (this last reminds us, as we have said, both of Wordsworth and Cowper); we shall prefer, however, to our columns the following very striking passage from a poem called “Thanatopsis."
Earth, that nourish'd thee, shall claim
We now come to the prose writers. We shall speak merely of a few of those who have contributed to general literature, leaving science and the severer studies for future consideration. Among the latter, indeed, we cannot forbear glancing at Jonathan Edwards, who, as a metaphysician, has exhibited a faculty of reasoning so remarkable as to extract admiration from all persons conversant with the subject. His Essays on “ The Will” and on “True Virtue” are in parts master-pieces of reasoning. His arguments are interwoven one with the other so completely, at times, as to defy the most envious analysis. They put us in mind of what is called “ dove-tailing" more than any thing else that we know of in logic. They are a chain of which many links are absolutely indissoluble. Of the writers first referred to, the principal are-Mr. Washington Irving, Mr.
Charles Brockden Brown, Mr. Cooper, and the author of Koningsmarke; all which gentlemen are writers of prose fiction.
By the way,-if we may be allowed for a moment to throw a backward glance upon our subject,-we may observe that, in this walk of literature, the equality of the people of the New World becomes a positive disadvantage; for however favourable it may be to enterprize and unfettered thinking, and although it may nourish bold speculation, and be not adverse to the cultivation of science; yet, we think, that it must be held utterly unfavourable to writings of this description. Much of the merit of novels depends on a diversity and developement of character; and society must be divided and split into classes, before any great variety can exist. Where people are equal, the passions will show themselves as in all other states ; but scarcely, we think, the follies : for these depend much on rank; on self-importance and servility; on wealth and poverty; and on the comparison which men make in their own minds, between their station and that of others. Something of this must of course exist in all states not absolutely savage: the lawyer and the doctor will pique themselves on being the representatives of liberal professions ; the shoe-maker will value himself on his utility; and the school-master will degenerate into a dignity almost aristocratic; but still there will be less opportunity in republics than in monarchies for the foibles to flourish. Men will have fewer opportunities of exposing themselves, and novelists will lack matter in proportion.
The merits of Mr. Washington Irving have already been so often and
so seriously insisted upon, that little remains for
That he has great merit is undoubted; and that there is a pleasant amicable vein running through his writings, we are very ready to admit. It is this last ingredient that has neutralized the sharp spirit of criticism. He is, indeed, a very agreeable writer ; but he has scarcely the power either of Charles Brockden Brown, or Mr. Cooper, or of the author of Koningsmarke. He is almost too polished for a native of the woods and savannahs : we look for something else, as the growth of the wilderness. He is not national, but English. The faded gentility of the last age can never be revived with effect: it is essentially dead. The delicate humour of Addison has betrayed many writers into an imitation of his style. He himself certainly had not too much energy, and was as assuredly deficient in imagination. His forte was a quiet humour, an unaffected pleasantry; but what was graceful in him, and touching from simplicity, becomes in most of his imitators vapid and dull. Mr. Washington Irving is, perhaps, the best of them; but we should scarcely call him a very masculine writer. His humour (which is the best part of his
us to say
genius) is neat and graceful; but his sketches of character are meagre, and his pathos is artificial and frail.
Charles Brockden Brown was the first writer of prose fiction of which America could boast. In his style, and in his treatment of subjects, he also is unquestionably English. He grounded himself upon the manner of Godwin, and followed the grand and gloomy track of that celebrated writer. Like him, Brown's object was to take a single human heart, and strip and anatomize it nerve by nerve; to cast his victim amongst appalling scenes and stirring passions; and in this he has in a great degree succeeded. But Brown had no power over character: he dealt only with events; that is to say, with sickness, and death, and peril; with hair-breadth escapes from tigers and savages; with depths, and rocks, and the boundless wilderness. The hero of his tale was merely an object set up to connect these things, or make them probable. In himself he was often little better than a phantasma or a madman. Yet, although Brown cast his stories in the same general moulds as those used by the author of Caleb Williams and St. Leon, his details of circumstances are different; and his descriptions of nature are perhaps more vivid and true. Indeed, his talent for stirring the expectation of the reader, and keeping his anxiety alive from first to last, throughout some hazardous encounter, or mysterious event, can scarely be paralleled in the history of fiction. His portraits also of American life are absolutely alarming :-they are bare, comfortless, uncivilized. We see the rafters, the coarse dress, the little hoard of corn, the poor cottage built hastily of logs; and on the outside we hear the howling of wolves and panthers, the rustling of the rattle-snake, and the quiet tramp of the murderous savages going on their way to execute some hideous revenge. We look for the walls of a town, and the poor-house, as a refuge against violence and want. It is not solely, however, in woods and huts that Brown luxuriates : he takes us often into cities, and makes us amends with fevers and assassinations for the forest wonders which we have left behind. Nothing can be more uninviting than his descriptions of American society : yet we remark that there is little of what is mean or time-serving, little of the fantastic humours, to be found in his stories; and this is so far well, though unamusing. We are told that society in the United States has altered very considerably since the time in which Brown wrote (about thirty years ago); and we can readily suppose the fact. Upon the whole, this author may be considered as one of the best writers of romantic narrative (we give up character) that the present age has produced. There is scarcely any one, indeed, who is so eloquent as he often times is; and not one who can excite such breathless