Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub
[ocr errors]

new.

observed in every work of the plastic arts. The statue is then beautiful when it begins to be incomprehensible, when it is passing out of criticism and can no longer be defined by compass and measur. ing wand, but demands an active imagination to go with it and to say what it is in the act of doing. The god or hero of the sculptor is always represented in a transition from that which is representable to the senses, to that which is not. Then first it ceases to be a stone. The same remark holds of painting. And of poetry the success is not attained when it lulls and satisfies, but when it astonishes and fires us with new endeavors after the unattainable. Concerning it Landor inquires “ whether it is not to be referred to some purer state of sensation and existence."

So must it be with personal beauty which love worships. Then first it is charming and itself when it dissatisfies us with any end; when it becomes a story without an end; when it suggests gleams and visions and not earthly satisfactions; when it seems

“ too bright and good, For human nature's daily food;" when it makes the beholder feel his unworthiness; when he cannot feel his right to it, though he were Cæsar; he cannot feel more right to it than to the firmament and the splendors of a sunset.

Hence arose the saying, “If I love you, what is that to you?” We say so, because we feel that what we love is not in your will, but above it. It is che radiance of you and not you. It is that which you know not in yourself and can never know.

This agrees well with that high philosophy of beauty which the ancient writers delight in; for they said that the soul of man, embodied here on earth, went roaming up and down in quest of that other world of his own, out of which it came into this, but was soon stupefied oy the light of the natural sun, and unable to see any other objects than those of this world, which are but shadows of real things. Therefore the deity sends the glory of youth before the soul, that it may avail itself of beautiful bodies as aids to its recollection of the celestial good and fair; and the man beholding such a person in the female sex runs to her and finds the highest joy in contemplating the form, movement and intelligence of this person, because it suggests to him the presence of that which indeed is within the beauty, and the cause of the beauty.

If, however, from too much conversing with material objects, the soul was gross, and misplaced its satisfaction in the body, it reaped nothing but sorrow; body being unable to fulfil the promise which beauty holds out; but if, accepting the hint of these visions and suggestions which beauty makes to his mind, the soul passes through the body and fails to admira strukes of character, and the lovers contemplate one another in their discourses and their actions, then they pass to the true palace of beauls, more and more inflame their love of it, and

by this love extinguishing the base affection, as the sun puts out the fire by chining on the hearth, they become pure and hallowed. By conversation with that which is itself excellent, magnanimous, lowly, and just, the lover comes to a warmer love of these nobilities, and a quicker apprehension of them. Then he passes from loving them in one to loving them in all, and so is the one beautiful soul only the door through which he enters to the society of all true and pure souls. In the particular society of his mate he attains a clearer sight of any spot, any taint which her beauty has contracted from this world, and is able to point it out, and this with mutual joy that they are now able, without offence, to indicate blemishes and hindrances in each other, and give to each all help and comfort in curing the same. And, beholding in many souls the traits of the divine beauty, and separating in each soul that which is divine from the taint which it has contracted in the world, the lover ascends to the highest beauty, to the love and knowledge of the Divinity, by steps on this ladder of created souls.

Somewhat like this have the truly wise told us of love in all ages. The doctrine is not old, nor is it

If Plato, Plutarch and Apuleius taught it, so have Petrarch, Angelo and Milton. It awaits a truer unfolding in opposition and rebuke to that subterranean prudence which presides at marriages with words that take hold of the upper world, whilst one eye is eternally boring down into the cellar; so that its gravest discourse has ever a slight savor of hams and powdering-tubs. Worst, when the snout of this sensualism intrudes into the education of young women, and withers the hope and affection of human nature by teaching that marriage signifies nothing but a* housewife's thrift, and that woman's life has no other aim.

But this dream of love, though beautiful, is only one scene in our play. In the procession of the soul from within outward, it enlarges its circles ever, like the pebble thrown into the pond, or the light proceeding from an orb. The rays of the soul alight first on things nearest, on every utensil and toy, on nurses and domestics, on the house and yard and passengers, on the circle of household acquaintance, on politics and geography and history. But by the necessity of our constitution things are ever grouping themselves according to higher or more interior laws. Neighborhood, size, numbers, habits, persons, lose by degrees their power over Cause and effect, real affinities, the longing for harmony between the soul and the circumstance, the high, progressive, idealizing instinct, these predominate later, and ever the step backward from the higher to the lower relations is impossible. Thus even love, which is the deification of per-ons, must become more impersonal every day. Of this at first it gives no hint. Little think the youth and maiden who are glancing at each other across crowded rooms with eyes so full of mutual intelligence,--of the precious fruit long

us.

“The person love does to 118 fit, Like manna, has the taste of all in it."

hereafter to proceed from this new, quite external stimulus. The work of vegetation begins first in the irritability of the bark and leaf-buds. From exchang. ing glances, they advance to acts of courtesy, of gallantry, then to fiery passion, to plighting troth and marriage. Passion beholds its object as a perfect unit. The soul is wholly embodied, and the body is wholly ensouled. “Her pure and eloquent blood

Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought,

That one might almost say her body thought." Romeo, if dead, should be cut up into little stars to make the heavens fine. Life, with this pair, has no other aim, asks no more, than Juliet,—than Ro. meo. Night, day, studies, talents, kingdoms, religion, are all contained in this form full of soul, in this soul which is all form. The lovers delight in endearments, in avowals of love, in comparisons of their regards. When alone, they solace themselves with the remembered image of the other. Does that other see the same star; the same melting cloud, read the same book, feel the same emotion, that now delight me? They try and weigh their affections, and adding up all costly advantages, friends, oppor. tunities, properties, exult in discovering that willingly, joyfully, they would give all as a ransom for the beautiful, the beloved head, not one hair of which shall be harmed. But the lot of humanity is on these children. Danger, sorrow and pain arrive to them as to all. Love prays. It makes covenants with Eternal Power in behalf of this dear mate. The union which is thus affected and which adds a new

alue to every atom in nature, for it transmutes every thread throughout the whole web of relation into a golden ray, and bathes the soul in a new and sweeter element, is yet a temporary state

Not always can flowers, pearls, poetry, protestations, nor even home in another heart, content the awful soul that dweils in clay. It arouses itself at last from these endearments, as toys, and puts on the harness and aspires to vast and universal aims. The soul which is in the soul of each, craving for a perfect beatitude, detects incongruities, defects and disproportion in the behavior of the other. Hence arise surprise, expostulation and pain. Yet that which drew them to each other was signs of loveliness, signs of virtue; and these virtues are there, however eclipsed. They appear and reappear and continue to attract; but the regard changes, quits the sign and attaches to the substance. This repairs the wounded affection. Meantime, as life wears on, it proves a game of permutation and combination of all possible positions of the parties, to extort all the resources of each and acquaint each with the whole strength and weakness of the other. For, it is the nature and end of this relation, that they should represent the human race to each other. All that is in the world, which is or ought to be known, is cunningly wrought into the texture of man, of woman.

The world rolls: The circumstances vary every hour All the angels that inhabit this temple of the body appear at the windows, and all the gnomes and vices also. By all the virtues they are united. If there be virtue, all the vices are known as such; they confess and fee. Their once flaming regard is sobered by time in either breast, and losing in violence what it gains in extent, it becomes a thorough good understanding. They resign each other with. out complaint to the good offices which man and woman are severally appointed to discharge in time, and exchange the passion which once could not lose sight of its object, for a cheerful, disengaged further. ance, whether present or absent, of each other's designs. At last they discover that all which at first drew them together,—those once sacred features, that magical play of charms.-was deciduous, had a prospective end, like the scaffolding b. which the house was built; and the purification of the intellect and the heart from year to year is the real marriage, foreseen and prepared from the first, and wholly above their consciousness. Looking at these aims with which two persons, a man and a woman, so variously and correlatively gifted, are shut up in one house to spend in the nuptial society forty or fifty years, I do not wonder at the emphasis with which the heart prophesies this crisis from early infancy, at the profuse beauty with which the instincts deck the nuptial bower, and nature and intellect and art emulate each other in the gifts and the melody they bring to the epithalamium.

Thus are we put in training for a love which knows not sex, nor person, nor partiality, but which seeketh virtue and wisdom everywhere, to the end of increasing virtue and wisdom. We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state. But we are often made to feel that our affections are but tents of a night. Though slowly and with pain, the objects of the affections change, as the objects of thought do. There are moments when the affections rule and absorb the man and make his happiness dependent on a person or persons. But in health the mind is presently seen again,-its overarching vault, bright with galaxies of immutable lights, and the warm loves and fears that swept over us as clouds must lose their finite character and blend with God, to attain their own perfection. But we need not fear that we can lose anything by the progress of the soul. The soul may be trusted to the end. That which is so beautiful and attractive as these relations, must be succeeded and supplanted only by what is more beautiful, and so on forever.

TEMPTATION.–Arbitrary power is the natural object of temptation to a prince ; as wine or women to a young fellow, or a bribe to a judge, or avarice to old age, or vanity to a woman.-Swift.

THANATOPSIS.

WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT.

So shalt thou rest-and what if thou withdraw
Unheeded by the living—and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favorite phantom: yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their enjoyments, and shall come,
And make their bed with thee. As the long train;
Of ages glide away, the sons of men,
The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron, and maid,
And the sweet babe, and the gray-headed man,-
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side,
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, that moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry slave at night,
Scourged to the dungeon, but sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

To him who in the love of nature holds, Communion with her visible forms, she speaks A various language; for his gayer hours She has a voice of gladness, and a smile And eloquence of beauty, and she glides Into his darker musings, with a mild And healing sympathy, that steals away Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts Of the last bitter hour come like a blight Over thy spirit, and sad images Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall, And breathless darkness, and the narrow house, Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;Go forth, under the open sky, and list To nature's teachings, while from all aroundEarth and her waters, and the depths of air,Comes a still voice-Yet a few days, and thee The all-beholding sun shall see no more In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground, Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears, Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again, And, lost each human trace, surrendering up Thine individual being, shalt thou go To mix forever with the elements, To be a brother to the insensible rock And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould. Yet not to thine eternal resting-place Shalt thou retire alone-nor couldst thou wish Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down With patriarchs of the infant world-with kings, The powerful of the earth—the wise, the good, Fair zorms, and hoary seers of ages past, All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun,-the vales Stretching in pensive quietness between; The venerable woods-rivers that move In majesty, and the complaining brooks That make the meadows green; and, poured round all, Old ocean's gray and melancholy waste, Are but the solemn decorations all Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun, The planets, all the infinite host of heaven, Are shining on the sad abodes of death, Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread The globe are but a handful to the tribes That slumber in its bosom. Take the wings Or morning-and the Barcan desert pierce, Or lose thyself in the continuous woods Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound, Save his own dashings-yet—the dead are there; And millions in those solitudes, since first The flight of years began, have laid them down In their last sleep-the dead reign there alone.

Whither, 'midst falling dew, While glow the heavens with the last steps of day Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue

Thy solitary way!

Vainly the fowler's eye
Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,
As, darkly painted on the crimson sky,

Thy figure floats along.

Seek'st thou the plashy brink
Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,
Or where the rocking billows rise and sink

On the chafed ocean side?

There is a power whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast,-
The desert and illimitable air,

Lone wandering, but not lost.

All day thy wings have fanned,
At that far height, the cold thin atmosphere,
Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,

Though the dark night is near.

And soon that toil shall end;
Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest,
And scream among thy fellows; reeds shal' bend,

Soon, o'er thy sheltered nest.

Thou’rt gone, the abyss of heaven
Hath swallowed up thy form; yet, on my heart
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given,

And shall not soon depart.

SONNET-MIDSUMMER

WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT.

So three doors off the chaise was stayed,

Where they did all get in;
Six precious souls, and all agog

To dash through thick and thin.

Smack went the whip, 'round went the wheels,

Were never folks so glad;
The stones did rattle underneath,

As if Cheapside were mad.

A power is on the earth and in the air,

From which the vital spirit shrinks afraid,

And shelters him, in nooks of deepest shade, From the hot steam and from the fiery glare. Look forth upon the earth-her thousand plants

Are smitten, even the dark sun-loving maize

Faints in the field beneath the torrid blaze; The herd beside the shaded fountain pants; For life is driven from all the landscape brown;

The bird has sought his tree, the snake his den,

The trout floats dead in the hot stream and men Drop by the sun-stroke in the populous town; As if the Day of Fire had dawned and sent Its deadly breath into the firmanent.

John Gilpin at his horse's side

Seized fast the flowing mane, And up he got, in haste to ride,

But soon came down again;

For saddle-tree scarce reached had he,

His journey to begin, When, turning round his head, he saw

Three customers come in.

JOHN GILPIN,

WM. COWPER.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

John Gilpin was a citizen

Of credit and renown,
A train band captain eke was he

Of famous London town.
John Gilpin's spouse said to her dear:

•Though wedded we have been These twice ten tedious years, yet we

No holiday have seen. “To-morrow is our wedding-day,

And we will then repair Unto the Bell at Edmonton

All in a chaise and pair.
• My sister, and my sister's child,

Myself and children three,
Will fill the chaise; so you must ride

On horseback after we.'
He soon replied: 'I do admire

Of womankind but one,
And you are she, my dearest dear;

Therefore it shall be done. • I am a linen-draper bold,

As all the world doth know,
And my good friend the calender

Will lend his horse to go.'
Quoth Mrs. Gilpin: 'That's well said;

And for that wine is dear,
We will be furnished with our own,

Which is both bright and clear.'
John Gilpin kissed his loving wife;

O'erjoyed was he to find
That, though on pleasure she was bent,

She had a frugal mind.
The morning came, the chaise was brought,

But yet was not allowed
To drive up to the door, lest all

Should say that she was proud.

Each bottle had a curling ear,

Through which the belt he drew, And hung a bottle on each side,

To make his balance true.

Then over all, that he might be

Equipped from top to toe, His long red cloak, well brushed and neai,

He manfully did throw.

Now see him mounted once again

Upon his nimble steed, Full slowly pacing o'er the stones

With caution and good heed. But finding soon a smoother road

Beneath his well shod feet, The snorting beast began to trot,

Which galled him in his seat. So, 'Fair and softly,' John he cried,

But John he cried in vain; That trot became a galop soon,

In spite of curb and rein.

[ocr errors]

So stooping down, as needs he must

•Stop, stop, John Gilpin-Here's the house Who cannot stoop upright,

They all at once did cry: He grasps the mane with both his hands,

«The dinner waits, and we are tired! And eke with all his might.

Said Gilpin: 'So am I! His horse, which never in that sort

But yet his horse was not a whit Had handled been before,

Inclined to tarry there; What thing upon his back had got

For why his owner had a house Did wonder more and more.

Full ten miles off, at Ware. Away went Gilpin, neck or nought;

So like an arrow swift he flew, Away went hat and wig;

Shot by an archer strong; He little dreamt, when he set out,

So did he fly-which brings me to Of running such a rig.

The middle of my song. The wind did blow, the cloak did fly,

Away went Gilpin out of breath, Like streamer long and gay,

And sore against his will, Till, loop and button failing both,

Till at his friend's the calender's At last it few away.

His horse at last stood still. Then might all people well discern

The calender, amazed to see The bottles he had slung;

His neighbor in such trim, A bottle swinging at each side,

Laid down his pipe, flew to the gate, As hath been said or sung.

And thus accosted him: The dogs did bark, the children screamed,

"What news? what news ? your tidings tell; Up flew the windows all;

Tell me you must and shallAnd every soul cried out: Well done!

Say, why bareheaded you are come, As loud as he could bawl.

Or why you come at all?'' Away went Gilpin—who but he?

Now Gilpin had a pleasant wit, His fame soon spread around;

And loved a timely joke; He carries weight! he rides a race!

And thus unto the calender 'Tis for a thousand pound!

In merry guise he spoke: And still, as fast as he drew near,

"I came because your horse would come; ! 'Twas wonderful to view

And, if I well forebode, How in a trice the turnpike-men

My hat and wig will soon be hereTheir gates wide open threw.

. They are upon the road.' And now, as he went bowing down

The calender, right glad to find His reeking head full low,

His friend in merry pin, The bottles twain behind his back

Returned him not a single word, Were shattered at a blow.

But to the house went in; Down ran the wine into the road,

Whence straight he came with hat and w:g, Most piteous to be seen,

A wig that flowed behind, Which made his horse's flanks to smoke,

A hat not much the worse for wear, As they had basted been.

Each comely in its kind. But still he seemed to carry weight,

He held them up, and in his turn With leathern girdle braced;

Thus shewed his ready wit: For all might see the bottle necks

'My head is twice as big as yours, Still dangling at his waist.

They therefore need must fit. Thus all through merry Islington

•But let me scrape the dirt away These gambols he did play,

That hangs upon your face; Until he came unto the wash

And stop and eat, for well you may Of Edmonton so gay.

Be in a hungry case.' And there he threw the wash about

Said John: 'It is my wedding day, On both sides of the way,

And all the world would stare, Just like unto a trundling mop,

It wise should dine at Edmonton, Or a wild goose at play.

And I soould dine at Ware. At Edmonton, his loving wife

So turning to his horse, he said: From the balcony spied

I am in haste to dine; Her tender husband, wondering inuch

'Twas for your pleasure you came here, To see how he did ride.

You shall go back for mine.'

a

« ПредишнаНапред »