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AKT. V.-Yamoyden, a Tale of the Wars of King Philip, in Six
Cantos. By the late Rev. JAMES Wallis EASTBURN, A. M. and his Friend. 12mo. pp. xii. 339. Published by James Eastburn. New-York, 1820.
It is curious to observe, with what facility the vehicles of public opinion, when they find its current too strongly set in a particular direction for them to attempt to control it, can submissively conform to what they would feign consider themselves entitled to direct. This would be less remarkable, were it not, that the establishment of public journals, conducted in the main for years by the same leaders, and supplied by the same contributors, seems to imply consistency of sentiment, at least, at different periods of the existence of an individual work. But such perinanence of opinion, which would give to works of this description a high claim to the confidence of the community, whose sentiments they attempt to lead, is sought in vain, even in the best of them. On every important question, whether of religion or politics, of science or of literature, they are split into opposite parties; and each defends its own side, with a zeal that appears to spring from a hearty conviction of the soundness of the opinions it advocates, and of the strength of the cause to which it is attached. In the same journal too, an invidious memory might adduce conspicuous instances of the oracle having been forced, in the very temple, to declare those invincible,' against whom it had previously pronounced an evil omen; or towards whom it had resolved to preserve a damnatory silence. But, “life runs whirling like a chariot wheel,' a and opinions of men and of things are as mutable as events : even in the immaterial world of intellect, there is nothing stable ; and the incessant fluctuations and oppositions of sentiment, which every day's experience exhibits, carry with them to each individual the salutary privilege of giving himself the casting vote, on any subject which falls under his particular examination.
We have been led to these remarks by a sudden, although perhaps anticipated change in the disposition displayed towards the literature of our country, by a work exercising, perhaps, an authority as unquestioned, as any that has ever swayed the understandings of the reading world. It is not long since we were teased with a set of triumphant interrogations, which were intended to convict our countrymen, not only of incapacity in every walk of genius and taste, but of utter helplessness, even in relation to the vulgar arts of life. The manufacture of comfortable blankets, ag well as of sensible books, was tauntingly declared to be beyond
(a) τροχος αρματος γαρ ομα, βιοσος τρέχει κυλισβεις, -θησε.
the stretch of American faculties; and we were advised to content ourselves with foreign warmth and imported wisdom. It was natural that we should rebel under such idle tyranny. It may be said, without unbecoming exultation, that a battery, full as well placed, and as well served, as that which had been so long pouring its unresisted strength upon us, has at last compelled our trans-atlantic brethren to do us hearty, though procrastinated justice. It would be sullen in us, now, not to forget the past; especially, since, in the opinions lately pronounced of American works, (we allude particularly to the North-American Review and the Sketch Book,) they have given us practical testimonies of their repentance and reform.
It would, however, be well worth our while to consider, whether the barbarous nakedness of literature, with which they have charged us, and which is in some respects undeniable, be not owing rather to fastidiousness of taste, than to paucity of talent among us; whether, being without the advantages of the institutions and the associations, by which foreign talent has been developed, we have not affected the difficulty of being pleased, which belongs to palates already satiated with literary luxuries; whether we have not aped the airs of the connoisseur, rather than imitated the productions of the artist :-if this be so, we have the faults of our own style of criticism to correct, as well as to resist the prejudice and the injustice of foreign literary tribunals.
It is our business to nourish the stem, rather than to prune the tree; and instead of taking for ourselves the severe and haughty maxim, that “when the criminal is acquitted the judge is condemned,” we ought to say, that numberless offences should escape unwhipt from literary justice, rather than that one instance of native genius should pass from before us, without the praise for which it has toiled. If we could be brought to put the stamp of our own approbation upon our literary coin, without waiting for the image and superscription of the foreign potentates of taste, there would be more of it in the market; and we should grow richer by the liberality of our policy. If the productions of our country were cherished by ourselves, with an interest more nearly proportioned to the benefits we may derive from them, as well as to their deserts, it would oftener be in our power to silence the taunting question, "Who reads an American poem ?' A question, to which, it will be our own fault if the work before us does not furnish many a triumphant answer.
The circumstances attending the composition of the poem • Yamoyden,' are of unusual interest. One of its authors has gone to an early grave. The other has brought the best of offerings to the memory of his friend, by ushering into the world their joint production, and asserting his own and his friend's claim to be re
membered among those who have deserved well of the republic of letters. The history of the plan and progress of this poem, is succinctly related in the preface ;a and the proem and conclusion are in a style of sentiment, and expression, not nnworthy of one, who might have drunk deeply into the spirit, of the exquisite tribute of Milton to his loved Lycidas.' The incidents are, as they should be, simple; although history has given a local habitation' to the fictitious hero, the fancy of the authors has supplied him with his name.' The scene is Mount Haup; a spot to which its own romantic beauty, and the death of the warrior king, have given just celebrity. Setting aside the beautiful descriptions of scenery, with which the poem abounds, and the Indian superstitions which form its machinery, and are thoroughly wrought into its texture, the story is briefly told.—After the general defeat of the Pequots with other barbarous tribes, and the destruction of Narraganset Fort, Philip, with his followers, is lurking in the forests of Mount Haup.—He recounts to them their injuries in a powerful harangue, and rouses them to a general expression of revengeful determination, by their characteristic war-whoop ;-one of them, Agamoun, does not join the cry; and being sternly questioned by Philip, confesses that he considers all further attempts to resist
a The account prefixed to this poem, shows that it was written in separate portions, by the late Rev. Mr. Eastburn and his friend the Editor, during the winter of 1817–18, and the following spring. Mr. Eastburn was pursuing the study of divinity at Bristol, R. I. and mentioned to the Editor the project of a poetical romance, the theme of which should be the adventures of King Philip, the Sachem of Pokanoket : the plan was drawn up in conjunction. The poem was written according to the parts severally assigned ; and transmitted, reciprocally, to Bristol and New-York, in the course of correspondence. Mr. Eastburn was ordained in October, 1818 :--" Between that time and the period of his going to Accomack county, in Virginia, whence he had received an invitation to take charge of a congregation, he transcribed the two first Cantos of this Poem, with but few material variations, from the first collating copy. The labours of his ministry left him no time, even for his most delightful amusement. He had made no further progress in the correction of the work, when he returned to this city, in July, 1819. His health was then so much impaired, that writing of any kind was too great a labour. He had packed up the manuscripts, and intended to finish his second copy in Santa Cruz, whitber it was recommended to him to go, as the last resource, to recruit bis exhausted constitution. He died on the fourth day of bis passage, Dec. 2d, 1819.
“He left among his papers a great quantity of poetry, of which his part of Yamoyden' forms but a small proportion. His friends may think proper, at some future period, to make selections from his miscellaneous remains, and arrange them for publication." p. vi.
their civilized invaders, useless; and advises that they should purchase peace by submitting to their power. Philip instantly executes the summary justice of a Sachem, upon his traitorous officer; and threatens Ahauton, a leader of the same tribe, who interposes in behalf of his friend, with similar punishment ; Ahauton desists, and since he is unable to save, determines to avenge his brother warrior. The dangers, to which Philip and his tribe are exposed, requiring exclusive devotion on the part of his followers, he orders several of them, among whom is Ahauton, to remove secretly the wife and child of Yamoyden, a Nipnet chief attached to his cause, so that being free from the ties of domestic affection, he may yield himself up entirely to the hatred of their enemies and the service of his leader : this introduces two new characters of considerable interest; Fitzgerald, who, baving killed his own brother in Cromwell's wars, and having been afterwards bereaved of a beloved wife, flies in remorse and disgust of life to the wilds of America ; and Nora, his daughter, who adds another to the list of her father's woes by deserting him and following her lover, Yamoyden, to his retreat. She and her child are seized, during Yamoyden's absence, by the party commissioned by Philip ; but she is afterwards rescued by a party of Indians and settlers, among whom is her father; one of the Indians whose prisoner she had been, escapes with her child; but Abauton surrenders himself, and offers to guide the enemies of Philip to his retreat ; in order that he may accomplish his purpose, of avenging his friend Agamoun : He does so; the followers of Philip are massacred ; and he falls himself by the hand of Ahauton; the child of Yamoyden is unexpectedly delivered by Fitzgerald from being sacrificed to Hobamoqui, the evil spirit of Indian superstition : Yamoyden is killed by one of the followers of Philip, in attempting to avert a blow aimed at Fitzgerald ; and Nora, who has been an agitated spectator of the whole contest, expires on the body of Yamoyden.
We shall present our readers with a few extracts, from the body of the poem; enough to enable them to judge of some of its merits; but, we hope, not enough to prevent them from reading the poem itself, and forming for themselves a fair estimate of the claims of its authors, to the ivy wreath.'
The following passage affords a touching picture of the destitution of the barbarous lords of the soil, after the destruction of Narmaganset Fort. p. 16-18.
Stabbed in the heart of all their power,
Spring came; on blood alone intent,
Ah! happier they, who in the strife
Still bore the load of hated life,
As for a boon of mercy, crave
A transient shelter and a grave.
Until their tawny brethren gave
The persecuted race a home." The description of the spot in which Philip assembles his council, has much descriptive beauty; and it concludes with an exceedingly happy poetical conception. pp. 21, 22.
Toilworn and few and doubtful met
The regal oaks their branches fling,
Fit canopy for woodland king.