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SCRIPTURAL ANTHOLOGY : OR, Biblical ILLUSTRATIONS. Designed as a Present for all Seasons. By Nathan C. Brooks, A. M. In one volume. pp. 180. Philadelphia : William MARSHALL AND COMPANY. Baltimore: BAYLY AND BURNS.
On opening this volume, the first thing which meets the eye of the reader is the "publishers' preface,' evidently written by the author, wherein the succeeding pages are spoken of, as 'blending exalted sentiment and devotional fervor with the enchantments of poetry. This modest verdict is followed by this farther declaration : 'While we must claim for our author a high degree of poetic excellence, we would by no means insist that his productions will be found superior to criticism; as they are merely the relaxation of a scholar, while laboriously engaged as superintendent of one of our largest and most respectable literary institutions. Here two or three birds are killed with one stone. Mr. Brooks is not only a poet of the first order, but he is a scholar, and moreover, preceptor of a very superior academy; and his faults as a writer are to be excused, on the ground that he is engaged in literary occupations! As we perused this advance critique and academy advertisement, we could not help calling to mind the economical inscription upon a tomb-stone in Père La Chaise, Paris: · Here lies the body of M-R —, an affectionate parent and kind husband. His disconsolate widow still keeps the shop, No.- , Rue - , where may be found, at all times, a superior assortment of gloves, hosiery, linens,' etc. But waiving the diffident introduction to the volume under notice, and bearing in mind, that while the elephant is always drawn smaller than life, a flea must be represented larger, let us pass to a few remarks upon the egg which is heralded by so much cackling.
Having read the 'Scriptural Anthology' through, (for which feat we trust to become distinguished, in like manner with that long, low, 'dark-complected’ individual, who is pointed out on a sunny day in Broadway, as 'the man who has read 'The Monnikins,') we are prepared to speak our opinion of its merits; and since we neither know, nor have ever seen, the author, we cannot be accused of being influenced in our comments by personal considerations. 'Sooner shall the surges of the sandiferous sea ignify and evaporate,' (“style is style,' and we have caught the infection) than we be justly chargeable with such disingenuous motives !
The first features of Mr. Brooks' writings, which we have to notice, are their inflation and redundance. He is ever on stilts - aiming to petrify the reader in a single stanza — and 'winnowing the air with wingéd words.' Heconceives nothing too high for him to mount; nor does he ever seem aware, in reducing his aspirations to practice, of the pressure about his heels. He tosses his splendid epithets around him, and hammers out hard sentences on the anvil of his brain, with untiring perseverance. This may be necessary, however, for the purposes of amplification,' mentioned in the publishers' preface.' He tells us how the 'opalled sun-beams' shone, and the moon-beams leaped from heaven's urn of blue;' how the sun played prompter, and 'rolled up the curtain of the world's theatre;' the winds are described as
strong-lunged heralds of the storm,' while the thunder' booms from pole to pole.' His personal similes are numerous. Take, for example, one feature. We have the ! cheek of heaven'turning pale, 'ocean's cheek,' the 'cheek of earth,'' night's starry cheek,' and the 'cheek of day;' the loud winds' seize the giant billows' Samson locks;' the veil of darkness hangs in 'foldings' over the face of earth; and there are dark 'foldings' in the tempest's robe. If a line is not sufficiently full, nothing is easier than to remedy the defect by elongating a proper name — as ‘Babylon-ia's waters,' or 'Egypt-ia's soil- after the manner of that famed university poet, who, (embodying a sentiment worthy of Mr. Brooks' attention, ) wrote:
"A man cannot make himself a poet,
No more 'n a sheep can make itself a go-at!' Subjoined are a few specimens of amplification. The first is taken from 'Abraham's Sacrifice:
• The waren neck
The tissue of the pure, transparent skin.'
Of living rays upon the slumbering earth.' The annexed is from the 'Beheading of John the Baptist.' It is a fair specimen of our author's general style and taste :
The man of blood bore in the gory head
Unto her mother.' How much better than poor prose is the following ? - always excepting the electro-magnetic simile, so unaffected and so clear. Abraham is here spoken of:
Strengthened and composed,
Of strong paternal feeling.' We must protest against reducing touching and beautiful passages of Scripture to such verse as is in this volume turned to small account, in paraphrasing the captivity of Zion, our Saviour's lamentation over Jerusalem, the melting pathos of the ' Man of Uz,' or re-painting, in lines of tedious vapidity, a scene like that of Belshazzar's feast, what time his guests gazed at the hand-writing on the wall,
"Until their thought-strained eyes dilated grew!' He must needs be largely gifted, who kindles adequately at the flame of the sacred writers. It requires something more than one who contents his ideas with the 'films and images that fly off upon his senses from the superfices of things,' to beautify, or render more poetical, some of the finest scenes recorded in Holy Writ. Our author, we are sorry to perceive, has not at all times a proper regard for the VOL. XI.
laws of mëum and tüum. He has borrowed, if not 'line upon line,' yet here a little, and there a great deal. CAMPBELL's noble line,
"And the sentinel stars set their watch in the sky,' he has metamorphosed, for instance, into
• Beneath the night-watch of the sentinel stars ;' and that admirable conceit which SHAKSPEARE puts into the mouth of Richard III.,
• And e'en the stars do wink,
As 't were with over-watcbing,' is altered to
*The pale stars grow dim with watching.' We have pencilled several other lines, equally glaring with the foregoing.
Now and then, we are struck with a few stanzas of a simple or sublime character, which convince us that were Mr. Brooks to cease altogether to write ad ostentationem, he might hope for very respectable success. Witness the following lines, which are spirited and unaffected :
The God Omnipotent, who rolled
Hymn his own vast immensity!' And that is a good simile, which describes the marks of the deluge upon high mountains
. As a momorial of the curse of sin,
Upon its giant sides.' But such passages are rare, amidst frequent trickeries of phrase, and examples of verbose bombast, and diluted thoughts, encumbered with tinsel and frippery. Our author does not lack words; and, being born of few ideas, they flow freely enough from his mind and pen; just as people come faster out of a church when it is empty, than when a crowd is at the door. Hence, it is needless to add, he is a prëeminent mannerist.
Mr. Brooks may be a scholar; he may be well versed in the Greek and Roman story; he may be a competent principal' of one of our largest and most respectable literary institutions;' but whatever his 'publishers' preface' may insinuate to the contrary, he is no poet ; and, as a volume of poetry, 'to compare his book with a bottle of small beer, would be greatly to belie that Muid.' He might, indeed, we have reason to believe - judging from his idea of the horrid, as manifested in the extract above, describing the head in a charger,' and other passages of a kindred description – concoct a melo-drama, that, in popular parlance, would 'take' well. Let him therefore study some of the higher flights of SUMNER LINCOLN FAIRFIELD, (whom he resembles, as a writer, in his worst points,) and become familiar with his night-riding incubi, Abaddon, etc., and then, being ripe for his task, write a play; call it 'The Unknown Spirit of the Mysterious Grotto, or the Immense Vacuum of the Solitude of the Desert,' or designate it by some such euphonious and mysterious title, and we will use our influence with 'Mr. George Jones, the Great American Tragedian'— par nobile fratrum ! — to take the part of the Unknown Spirit.' So shall the fame of the author of Scriptural Anthology' be fully established.
The typographical execution of the volume is creditable to the publishers; although little can be said in favor of the 'embellishments,' so ostentatiously set forth; especially the 'minor embellishments, or tail-pieces' — small, coarse wood-cuts, an inch or two square. The persevering reader will be pleased, however, with one of these, at the close of the book. It is termed in the catalogue, 'Finis !
A LOVE-TOKEN FOR CHILDREN. Designed for Sunday-School Libraries. By the Au
thor of 'The Linwoods,' 'Live and Let Live,' 'Poor Rich Man, and Rich Poor Man,' etc. In one volume. pp. 142. New-York : HARPER AND BROTHERS.
Miss Sedgwick is pursuing a literary path of usefulness and honor, with undeviating steps; and long may she live to walk therein, and to illustrate the beauty of doing good, both in her productions and by her example. Possessing a heart softened with the love of human kind, she delights to seize upon scenes and events of common life, which, when followed out, serve, in the lessons they impart, to rob adversity of its sting, and as a counterpoise against the struggles of a world. She never seems to forget, that in the humblest creature of earth, there is a soul whose genealogy is God as well as her own. Hereafter, we cannot doubt, she will enjoy the reputation of having been, prëeminently, the moral benefactress of the first nation of freemen on the globe; having sown, broad-cast, in the hearts of the youth of this republic, the seeds of humble domestic virtues, which shall yield in the future an hundred fold. Incidents of every day existence – in the selection and results of which are displayed the eye of a true artist, not less than the benevolent spirit of the philanthropist, and the heart of a Christian -- are detailed in the little book before us with the most winning simplicity, and yet with singular dramatic effect.
There are eight stories in the volume, bearing the titles of 'The Widow Ellis and her Son Willie,'' The Magic Lamp,'' Our Robins, Old Rover,''The Chain of Love,'' Mill Hill,' (in two parts,) and 'The Bantem.' Although intended for the young, there are moral truths in these unpretending little stories, which 'children of a larger growth' might imbibe, with edification and profit. We had marked passages in the first tale, and had separated a link or two from The Chain of Love,' (a' similitude' worthy of Bunyan,) to present to our readers; but all our extracts are shrunk to this little measure of quotation from Our Robins:'
"At a short distance from the village of S—, on the top of a hill, and somewhat retired and sheltered from the roadside, lives a farmer by the name of Lyman. He is an industrious, intelligent, and honest man; and though he has but a small farm, and that lying on bleak, stony hills, he has, by dint of working hard, applying his mind to his labor, and living frugally, met many losses and crosses without being cast down by them, and has always had a comfortable home for his children ; and how comfortable is the home of even the humblest New-England farmer! with plenty to satisfy the physical wants of man, with plenty to give to the few wandering poor, and plenty wherewith to welcome io his board the friend that comes to his gate. And, added io this, he has books to read, a weekly newspaper, a school for his children, a church in which to worship, and kind neighbors to take part in his joy, and gather about him in time of trouble. Such a man is sheltered from many of the wants and discontents of those that are richer than he, and secured from the wants and temptations of those that are poorer.
“Late last winter Mr. Lyman's daughter, Mrs. Bradly, returned from Ohio, a widow with ihree children. Mrs. Bradly and I were old friends. When we were young girls we went to the same district school, and we had always loved and respected one another. Neither she nor I thought it any reason why we should not, that she lived on a little farm, and in an old small house, and I in one of the best in the village; nor that she dressed in very common clothes, and that mine, being purchased in the city, were a little better and smarter than any bought in the country. It was not the bonnets and gowns we cared for, but the heads and hearts those bonnets and gowns covered.
“The very morning after Mrs. Bradly's arrival in S. -, her eldest son, Lyman, a boy ten years old, came to ask me to go and see his mother. 'Mother,' he said, ' was not very well, and wanted very much io see Miss S- So I went home with him. After walking half a mile along the road, I proposed getting over the fence and going, as we say in the country, 'cross lots.' So we got into the field, and pursued our way along the noisy little brook that, cutting Lyman's farm in two, winds its way do the hill, sometimes taking a jump of five or six feet, then murmuring over the stones, or playing round the bare roots of the old trecs, as a child fondles about its parent, and finally steals off among the powers it nourishes, the brilliant cardinals and snow-white clematis, till it mingles with the river that winds through our meadows. I would advise my young friends to choose the fields for their walks. Nature has always something in store for those who love her and seek her favors. You will be sure to see more birds in the green fields than on the roadside. Secure from the boys who may be idling along the road, ready to let fly stones at them, they rest longer on the perch, and feel more at home there. Then, as Lyman and I did, you will find many a familiar flower that, in these by-places, will look to you like the face of a friend ; and you may chance to make a new acquaintance, and in that case you will take pleasure in picking it and carrying it home, and learning its name of some one wiser than you are. Most persons are curious to know the names of men and women whom they never saw before, and never may see again. This is idle curiosity; but often in learning the common name of a flower or plant, we learn something of its character or use; bitter-sweet,' 'devil's cream-pitcher,' or 'fever-bush,' for example.
“'Yon like flowers, Lyman,' I said as he scrambled up a rock to reach some pink columbines that grew from its crevices,
""Oh, yes, indeed I do like them,' he said ; 'but I am getting these for mother; she loves flowers above all things --- all such sorts of things, he added, with a smile.
" I remember very well,' said I, “your mother loved them when she was a little girl, and she and I once aitended together some lectures on botany; that is, the science that describes plants and explains their nature.'
"Oh, I know, ma’ain,' said he, 'mother remembers all about it, and she has taught me a great deal she learned then. When we lived out in Ohio, I used to find her a great many flowers she never saw before ; but she could class them, she said, though, they seemed like strangers, and slie loved best the little fowers she had known at home, and those we used to plant about the door, and mother said she took comfort in them in the darkest times.'
" Dark times I knew my poor friend had had – much sickness, many deaths, many, many sorrows in her family, and I was thankful that she had continued to enjoy such a pleasure as flowers are to those that love them.
"As we approached Mrs. Lyman's, I looked for my friend, expecting she would come out to meet me, but I found she was not able to do so; and, when I saw her, I was struck with the thought that she would never living leave the house again. She was at first overcome at meeting me, but, after a few moments, she wiped away her tears and talked cheerfully. I hoped,' she said, 'my journey would have done me good, but I think it has been too much for me; I have so longed to get back to father's house, and to look over these hills once more; and though I am weak and sick, words can't tell how contented I feel; I sit in this chair and look out of this window, and feel as a hungry man sitting down to a full table. Look there,' she continued, pointing to a cherry-tree before the window, 'do you see that robin? ever since I can remember, every year a robin has had a nest in that tree. I used to write to father and inquire about it when I was gone; and when he wrote to me, in the season of bird-nesting, he always said something about the robins; so that this morning, when I heard the robin's note, it seemed to me like the voice of one of the family!
"Have you taught your children, Mary,' I asked, 'to love birds as well as flowers ?'
"I believe it is natural to them,''she replied ; 'bút I suppose they take more notice of them from seeing how much I love them. I have not had much to give my children, for we have had great disappointments in the new countries, and have been what are called very poor folks; so I have been more anxious to give them what little knowledge I had, and to make them feel that God has given them a portion in the birds and the flowers, his good and beautiful creation.'
"Mother always says,' said Lyman; and there, seeming to remember that I was a stranger, he pped. "What does mother always say?" I asked.
“She says we can enjoy looking out upon beautiful prospects, and smelling the flowers, and hearing the birds sing, just as much as if we could say they are mine!!!
"Well, is is not just so ? said Mrs. Lyman; 'has not our Father in heaven given his children a share in all his works ? I often think, when I look out upon the beautiful sky, the clear moon, the stars, the sunset clouds, the dawning day; when I smell the fresh woods and the perfumed air ; when I hear the birds sing, and my heart is glad, I think, after all, that there is not so much difference in the possessions of the rich and poor as some think ; 'God giveth to us all liberally, and upbraideth not."""
“Ah!' thought I, the Bible says truly, 'as a man thinketh, so is he.' Here is my friend, a widow and poor, and with a sickness that she well knows must end in death, and yet, instead of sorrowing and complaining, she is cheerful and enjoying those pleasures that all may enjoy if they will; for the kingdom of nature abounds with them. Mrs. Bradly was a disciple of Christ; this was the foundation of her peace; but, alas ! all the disciples of Christ do not cultivate her wise, cheerful, and grateful spirit.' We
e trust that this little volume will be widely circulated among our young friends as a New-Year's Gift. Surely nothing could be more appropriate, or fruitful of good lessons. True, it is not embellished with pictures, nor does it gleam in purple and gold; but it'has that within which passeth show.'