A Fable for Critics

Original Text: 

[James Russell Lowell,] A Fable for Critics; or, Better, A Glance at a Few of our Literary Progenies from the Tub of Diogenes; a Vocal and Musical Medley. That is, a Series of Jokes by a Wonderful Quiz, 2nd edn. (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1856). Internet Archive

3For the God being one day too warm in his wooing,
4She took to the tree to escape his pursuing;
5Be the cause what it might, from his offers she shrunk,
7And, though 'twas a step into which he had driven her,
8He somehow or other had never forgiven her;
9Her memory he nursed as a kind of a tonic,
10Something bitter to chew when he'd play the Byronic,
11And I can't count the obstinate nymphs that he brought over,
12By a strange kind of smile he put on when he thought of her.
14"When I last saw my love, she was fairly embark'd;
16-- You're not always sure of your game when you've tree'd it.
17Just conceive such a change taking place in one's mistress!
18What romance would be left? -- who can flatter or kiss trees?
19And for mercy's sake, how could one keep up a dialogue
20With a dull wooden thing that will live and will die a log,--
21Not to say that the thought would forever intrude
22That you've less chance to win her the more she is wood?
23Ah! it went to my heart, and the memory still grieves,
24To see those loved graces all taking their leaves;
25Those charms beyond speech, so enchanting but now,
26As they left me forever, each making its bough!
27If her tongue had a tang sometimes more than was right,
28Her new bark is worse than ten times her old bite."
29Now, Daphne, -- before she was happily treeified, --
30Over all other flowers the lily had deified,
31And when she expected the god on a visit,
32('Twas before he had made his intentions explicit,)
33Some buds she arranged with a vast deal of care,
34To look as if artlessly twined in her hair,
35Where they seemed, as he said, when he paid his addresses,
36Like the day breaking through the long night of her tresses;
37So, whenever he wished to be quite irresistable,
39(I feared me at first that the rhyme was untwistable,
41He would take up a lily, and gloomily look in it,
42As I shall at the -----, when they cut up my book in it.
43Well, here, after all the bad rhyme I've been spinning,
44I've got back at last to my story's beginning:
45Sitting there, as I say, in the shade of his mistress,
47Or as those puzzling specimens, which, in old histories,
48We read of his verses -- the Oracles, namely --
49(I wonder the Greeks should have swallowed them tamely,
50For one might bet safely whatever he has to risk,
51They were laid at his door by some ancient Miss Asterisk,
52And so dull that the men who retailed them out-doors
53Got the ill name of 'augurs,' because they were bores,) --
54First, he mused what the animal substance or herb is
56Then he shuddered to think how his youthful position
57Was assailed by the age of his son the physician;
58At some poems he glanced, had been sent to him lately,
59And the metre and sentiment puzzled him greatly;
62Look well to your seat, 'tis like taking an airing
63On a corduroy road, and that out of repairing;
64It leads one, 'tis true, through the primitive forest,
65Grand natural features -- but, then, one has no rest;
66You just catch a glimpse of some ravishing distance,
67When a jolt puts the whole of it out of existence,
68Why not use their ears, if they happen to have any?"
69-- Here the laurel-leaves murmured the name of poor Daphne.
70"O, weep with me, Daphne," he sighed, "for you know it's
71A terrible thing to be pestered with poets!
72But, alas, she is dumb, and the proverb holds good,
73She never will cry till she's out of the wood!
74What wouldn't I give if I never had known of her?
75'Twere a kind of relief had I something to groan over;
76If I had but some letters of hers, now, to toss over,
77I might turn for the nonce a Byronic philosopher,
78And bewitch all the flats by bemoaning the loss of her.
79One needs something tangible, though, to begin on --
80A loom, as it were, for the fancy to spin on;
81What boots all your grist? it can never be ground
82Till a breeze makes the arms of the windmill go round,
83(Or, if 'tis a water-mill, alter the metaphor,
84And say it won't stir, save the wheel be well wet afore,
85Or lug in some stuff about water "so dreamily," --
86It is not a metaphor, though, 'tis a simile;)
87A lily, perhaps, would set my mill agoing,
88For just at this season, I think, they are blowing,
89Here, somebody, fetch one, not very far hence
90They're in bloom by the score, 'tis but climbing a fence;
91There's a poet hard by, who does nothing but fill his
92Whole garden, from one end to t'other, with lilies;
93A very good plan, were it not for satiety,
94One longs for a weed here and there, for variety;
95Though a weed is no more than a flower in disguise,
96Which is seen through at once, if love give a man eyes.
97Now there happened to be among Phœbus's followers,
98A gentleman, one of the omnivorous swallowers
99Who bolt every book that comes out of the press,
100Without the least question of larger or less,
101Whose stomachs are strong at the expense of their head, --
102For reading new books is like eating new bread,
103One can bear it at first, but by gradual steps he
105On a previous stage of existence, our Hero
106Had ridden outside, with the glass below zero;
107He had been, 'tis a fact you may safely rely on,
108Of a very old stock a most eminent scion, --
110Who stretch the new boots Earth's unwilling to try on,
111Whom humbugs of all shapes and sorts keep their eye on,
112Whose hair's in the mortar of every new Zion,
113Who, when whistles are dear, go directly and buy one,
114Who think slavery a crime that we must not say fie on,
115Who hunt, if they e'er hunt at all, with the lion,
116(Though they hunt lions also, whenever they spy one,)
117Who contrive to make every good fortune a wry one,
118And at last choose the hard bed of honor to die on,
119Whose pedigree traced to earth's earliest years,
120Is longer than any thing else but their ears; --
121In short, he was sent into life with the wrong key,
122He unlocked the door, and stept forth a poor donkey.
123Though kicked and abused by his bipedal betters,
124Yet he filled no mean place in the kingdom of letters;
125Far happier than many a literary hack,
126He bore only paper-mill rags on his back;
127(For it makes a vast difference which side the mill
128One expends on the paper his labor and skill;)
129So, when his soul waited a new transmigration,
130And Destiny balanced 'twixt this and that station,
131Not having much time to expend upon bothers,
132Remembering he'd had some connexion with authors,
133And considering his four legs had grown paralytic, --
134She set him on two, and he came forth a critic.
135Through his babyhood no kind of pleasure he took
136In any amusement but tearing a book;
137For him there was no intermediate stage,
138From babyhood up to straight-laced middle age;
139There were years when he didn't wear coat-tails behind,
140But a boy he could never be rightly defined;
142From the womb he came gravely, a little old man;
143While other boys' trowsers demanded the toil
144Of the motherly fingers on all kinds of soil,
145Red, yellow, brown, black, clayey, gravelly, loamy,
147He never was known to unbend or to revel once
148In base, marbles, hockey, or kick up the devil once;
149He was just one of those who excite the benevolence
150Of old prigs who sound the soul's depths with a ledger,
151And are on the look-out for some young men to "edger-
152-cate," as they call it, who won't be too costly,
153And who'll afterward take to the ministry mostly;
154Who always wear spectacles, always look bilious,
156Throughout the whole parish, and manage to rear
157Ten boys like themselves, on four hundred a year;
158Who, fulfilling in turn the same fearful conditions,
159Either preach through their noses, or go upon missions.
160In this way our hero got safely to College,
161Where he bolted alike both his commons and knowledge;
162A reading-machine, always wound up and going,
163He mastered whatever was not worth the knowing,
164Appeared in a gown, and a vest of black satin,
165To spout such a Gothic oration in Latin,
167(Though himself was the model the author preferred in it,)
168And grasping the parchment which gave him in fee,
170He was launched (life is always compared to a sea,)
171With just enough learning, and skill for the using it,
172To prove he'd a brain, by forever confusing it.
174With the holiest zeal against secular learning,
175Nesciensque scienter, as writers express it,
177'Twould be endless to tell you the things that he knew,
178All separate facts, undeniably true,
179But with him or each other they'd nothing to do;
180No power of combining, arranging, discerning,
181Digested the masses he learned into learning;
182There was one thing in life he had practical knowledge for,
183(And this, you will think, he need scarce go to college for,)
184Not a deed would he do, nor a word would he utter,
185Till he'd weighed its relations to plain bread and butter.
186When he left Alma Mater, he practised his wits
187In compiling the journals' historical bits, --
188Of shops broken open, men falling in fits,
189Great fortunes in England bequeathed to poor printers,
190And cold spells, the coldest for many past winters, --
191Then, rising by industry, knack, and address,
192Got notices up for an unbiassed press,
193With a mind so well poised, it seemed equally made for
194Applause or abuse, just which chanced to be paid for;
195From this point his progress was rapid and sure,
196To the post of a regular heavy reviewer.
197And here I must say, he wrote excellent articles
198On the Hebraic points, or the force of Greek particles,
199They filled up the space nothing else was prepared for,
200And nobody read that which nobody cared for;
201If any old book reached a fiftieth edition,
202He could fill forty pages with safe erudition;
203He could gauge the old books by the old set of rules,
204And his very old nothings pleased very old fools;
205But give him a new book, fresh out of the heart,
206And you put him at sea without compass or chart, --
207His blunders aspired to the rank of an art;
208For his lore was engraft, something foreign that grew in him,
209Exhausting the sap of the native and true in him,
210So that when a man came with a soul that was new in him,
211Carving new forms of truth out of Nature's old granite,
213Which, to get a true judgment, themselves must create
214In the soul of their critic the measure and weight,
215Being rather themselves a fresh standard of grace,
216To compute their own judge, and assign him his place,
217Our reviewer would crawl all about it and round it,
218And, reporting each circumstance just as he found it,
219Without the least malice, -- his record would be
220Profoundly æsthetic as that of a flea,
222Recollections of nights with the Bard of the Lakes,
223Or, borne by an Arab guide, ventured to render a
225As I said, he was never precisely unkind,
226The defect in his brain was mere absence of mind;
227If he boasted, 'twas simply that he was self-made,
228A position which I, for one, never gainsaid,
229My respect for my Maker supposing a skill
230In his works which our hero would answer but ill;
231And I trust that the mould which he used may be cracked, or he,
233And set up a kind of a man-manufactory,
234An event which I shudder to think about, seeing
235That Man is a moral, accountable being.
236He meant well enough, but was still in the way,
237As a dunce always is, let him be where he may;
238Indeed, they appear to come into existence
239To impede other folks with their awkward assistance;
240If you set up a dunce on the very North pole,
241All alone with himself, I believe, on my soul,
242He'd manage to get betwixt somebody's shins,
243And pitch him down bodily, all in his sins,
244To the grave polar bears sitting round on the ice,
245All shortening their grace, to be in for a slice;
246Or, if he found nobody else there to pother,
247Why, one of his legs would just trip up the other,
248For there's nothing we read of in torture's inventions,
249Like a well-meaning dunce, with the best of intentions.
250A terrible fellow to meet in society,
251Not the toast that he buttered was ever so dry at tea;
252There he'd sit at the table and stir in his sugar,
253Crouching close for a spring, all the while, like a cougar;
254Be sure of your facts, of your measures and weights,
255Of your time -- he's as fond as an Arab of dates; --
256You'll be telling, perhaps, in your comical way,
257Of something you've seen in the course of the day;
258And, just as you're tapering out the conclusion,
259You venture an ill-fated classic allusion, --
260The girls have all got their laughs ready, when, whack!
261The cougar comes down on your thunderstruck back;
262You had left out a comma, -- your Greek's put in joint,
263And pointed at cost of your story's whole point.
264In the course of the evening, you venture on certain
265Soft speeches to Anne, in shade of the curtain;
266You tell her your heart can be likened to one flower,
267"And that, oh most charming of women, 's the sunflower,
268Which turns" -- here a clear nasal voice, to your terror,
269From outside the curtain, says "that's all an error."
270As for him, he's -- no matter, he never grew tender,
271Sitting after a ball, with his feet on the fender,
272Shaping somebody's sweet features out of cigar smoke,
273(Though he'd willingly grant you that such doings are smoke;)
275And if ever he felt something like love's distemper,
276'Twas toward a young lady who spoke ancient Mexican,
277And assisted her father in making a lexicon;
278Though I recollect hearing him get quite ferocious
280Or something of that sort, -- but, no more to bore ye
281With character-painting, I'll turn to my story.
282Now, Apollo, who finds it convenient sometimes
283To get his court clear of the makers of rhymes,
285Every one of whom thinks himself treated most shabbily.
287Which keeps him at boiling-point, hot for a quarrel,
288As bitter as wormwood, and sourer than sorrel,
289If any poor devil but looks at a laurel; --
290Apollo, I say, being sick of their rioting,
291(Though he sometimes acknowledged their verse had a quieting
292Effect after dinner, and seemed to suggest a
293Retreat to the shrine of a tranquil siesta,)
294Kept our Hero at hand, who, by means of a bray,
295Which he gave to the life, drove the rabble away;
296And if that wouldn't do, he was sure to succeed,
297If he took his review out and offered to read;
298Or, failing in plans of this milder description,
299He would ask for their aid to get up a subscription,
300Considering that authorship wasn't a rich craft,
301To print the "American drama of Witchcraft."
302"Stay, I'll read you a scene," -- but he hardly began,
303Ere Apollo shrieked "Help!" and the authors all ran:
304And once, when these purgatives acted with less spirit,
305And the desperate case asked a remedy desperate,
306He drew from his pocket a foolscap epistle,
307As calmly as if 'twere a nine-barrelled pistol,
308And threatened them all with the judgment to come,
310"Stop! stop!"with their hands o'er their ears, screamed the Muses,
311"He may go off and murder himself, if he chooses,
312'Twas a means self-defence only sanctioned his trying,
313'Tis mere massacre now that the enemy's flying;
314If he's forced to 't again, and we happen to be there,
315Give us each a large handkerchief soaked in strong ether."
316I called this a "Fable for Critics;" you think it's
317More like a display of my rhythmical trinkets;
318My plot, like an icicle, 's slender and slippery,
319Every moment more slender, and likely to slip awry,
321Is free to jump over as much of my frippery
322As he fancies, and, if he's a provident skipper, he
323May have an Odyssean sway of the gales,
324And get safe into port, ere his patience all fails;
325Moreover, although 'tis a slender return
326For your toil and expense, yet my paper will burn,
327And, if you have manfully struggled thus far with me,
328You may e'en twist me up, and just light your cigar with me:
329If too angry for that, you can tear me in pieces,
333Describes, (the first verse somehow ends with victoire,)
335Or, if I were over-desirous of earning
336A repute among noodles for classical learning,
337I could pick you a score of allusions, I wis,
339Better still, I could make out a good solid list
340From recondite authors who do not exist, --
341But that would be naughty: at least, I could twist
344But, as Cicero says he won't say this or that,
345(A fetch, I must say, most transparent and flat,)
346After saying whate'er he could possibly think of, --
347I simply will state that I pause on the brink of
348A mire, ancle-deep, of deliberate confusion,
349Made up of old jumbles of classic allusion,
350So, when you were thinking yourselves to be pitied,
351Just conceive how much harder your teeth you'd have gritted,
352An 'twere not for the dulness I've kindly omitted.
353I'd apologize here for my many digressions,
354Were it not that I'm certain to trip into fresh ones,
355('Tis so hard to escape if you get in their mesh once;)
358It certainly does look a little bit ominous
360(Here a something occurs which I'll just clap a rhyme to,
363If he only contrive to keep readers awake,
364But he'll very soon find himself laid on the shelf,
365If they fall a nodding when he nods himself.)
366Once for all, to return, and to stay, will I, nill I --
367When Phœbus expressed his desire for a lily,
369With an ocean of zeal mixed his drop of capacity,
370Set off for the garden as fast as the wind,
371(Or, to take a comparison more to my mind,
372As a sound politician leaves conscience behind,)
373And leaped the low fence, as a party hack jumps
374O'er his principles, when something else turns up trumps.
375He was gone a long time, and Apollo meanwhile,
376Went over some sonnets of his with a file,
377For of all compositions, he thought that the sonnet
378Best repaid all the toil you expended upon it;
379It should reach with one impulse the end of its course,
380And for one final blow collect all of its force;
381Not a verse should be salient, but each one should tend
382With a wave-like up-gathering to burst at the end; --
383So, condensing the strength here, there smoothing a wry kink,
384He was killing the time, when up walked Mr. -----;
385At a few steps behind him, a small man in glasses,
386Went dodging about, muttering "murderers! asses!"
387From out of his pocket a paper he'd take,
388With the proud look of martyrdom tied to its stake,
389And, reading a squib at himself, he'd say, "Here I see
390'Gainst American letters a bloody conspiracy,
391They are all by my personal enemies written;
392I must post an anonymous letter to Britain,
393And show that this gall is the merest suggestion
394Of spite at my zeal on the Copyright question,
395For, on this side the water, 'tis prudent to pull
396O'er the eyes of the public their national wool,
398All American authors who have more or less
399Of that anti-American humbug -- success,
400While in private we're always embracing the knees
401Of some twopenny editor over the seas,
402And licking his critical shoes, for you know 'tis
403The whole aim of our lives to get one English 'notice';
404My American puffs I would willingly burn all,
405(They're all from one source, monthly, weekly, diurnal,)
406To get but a kick from a transmarine journal!"
407So, culling the gibes of each critical scorner
409He came cautiously on, peeping round every corner,
410And into each hole where a weasel might pass in,
411Expecting the knife of some critic assassin,
412Who stabs to the heart with a caricature,
413Not so bad as those daubs of the Sun, to be sure,
414Yet done with a dagger-o-type, whose vile portraits
415Disperse all one's good, and condense all one's poor traits.
416Apollo looked up, hearing footsteps approaching,
417And slipped out of sight the new rhymes he was broaching, --
419With a scholar so ripe, and a critic so neat,
421What news from that suburb of London and Paris
422Which latterly makes such shrill claims to monopolize
423The credit of being the New World's metropolis?"
424"Why, nothing of consequence, save this attack
425On my friend there, behind, by some pitiful hack,
426Who thinks every national author a poor one,
427That isn't a copy of something that's foreign,
428And assaults the American Dick --"
429                                   "Nay, 'tis clear
431And, if no one else furnished them gratis, on tick
432He would buy some himself, just to hear the old click;
433Why, I honestly think, if some fool in Japan
434Should turn up his nose at the 'Poems on Man,'
435Your friend there by some inward instinct would know it,
436Would get it translated, reprinted, and show it;
437As a man might take off a high stock to exhibit
438The autograph round his own neck of the gibbet;
439Nor would let it rest so, but fire column after column,
441By way of displaying his critical crosses,
443His broadsides resulting (and this there's no doubt of,)
444In successively sinking the craft they're fired out of.
445Now nobody knows when an author is hit,
446If he don't have a public hysterical fit;
447Let him only keep close in his snug garret's dim ether,
448And nobody'd think of his critics -- or him either;
449If an author have any least fibre of worth in him,
450Abuse would but tickle the organ of mirth in him,
451All the critics on earth cannot crush with their ban,
452One word that's in tune with the nature of man."
453"Well, perhaps so; meanwhile I have brought you a book,
454Into which if you'll just have the goodness to look,
455You may feel so delighted, when you have got through it,
456As to think it not unworth your while to review it,
457And I think I can promise your thoughts, if you do,
459"The most thankless of gods you must surely have tho't me,
460For this is the forty-fourth copy you've brought me,
461I have given them away, or at least I have tried,
462But I've forty-two left, standing all side by side,
463(The man who accepted that one copy, died,) --
464From one end of a shelf to the other they reach,
465'With the author's respects' neatly written in each.
467When he hears of that order the British Museum
468Has sent for one set of what books were first printed
469In America, little or big, -- for 'tis hinted
470That this is the first truly tangible hope he
471Has ever had raised for the sale of a copy.
472I've thought very often 'twould be a good thing
473In all public collections of books, if a wing
474Were set off by itself, like the seas from the dry lands,
475Marked Literature suited to desolate islands,
476And filled with such books as could never be read
477Save by readers of proofs, forced to do it for bread, --
478Such books as one's wrecked on in small country-taverns,
479Such as hermits might mortify over in caverns,
480Such as Satan, if printing had then been invented,
482Such as Crusoe might dip in, although there are few so
484And since the philanthropists just now are banging
485And gibbetting all who're in favor of hanging, --
487Were let down from Heaven at the end of a halter,
488And that vital religion would dull and grow callous,
489Unrefreshed, now and then, with a sniff of the gallows,) --
490And folks are beginning to think it looks odd,
491To choke a poor scamp for the glory of God;
492And that He who esteems the Virginia reel
493A bait to draw saints from their spiritual weal,
494And regards the quadrille as a far greater knavery
495Than crushing His African children with slavery, --
498Who, as every true orthodox Christian well knows,
499Approaches the heart through the door of the toes, --
500That He, I was saying, whose judgments are stored
501For such as take steps in despite of his word,
502Should look with delight on the agonized prancing
503Of a wretch who has not the least ground for his dancing,
504While the State, standing by, sings a verse from the Psalter
505About offering to God on his favorite halter,
506And, when the legs droop from their twitching divergence,
507Sells the clothes to a Jew, and the corpse to the surgeons; --
508Now, instead of all this, I think I can direct you all
509To a criminal code both humane and effectual; --
510I propose to shut up every doer of wrong
511With these desperate books, for such term, short or long,
512As by statute in such cases made and provided,
513Shall be by your wise legislators decided
514Thus: -- Let murderers be shut, to grow wiser and cooler,
516Petty thieves, kept from flagranter crimes by their fears,
518That American Punch, like the English, no doubt --
519Just the sugar and lemons and spirit left out.
521The flocks whom he first plucks alive, and then feeds on, --
522A loud cackling swarm, in whose feathers warm-drest,
523He goes for as perfect a -- swan, as the rest.
525Are like gold nails in temples to hang trophies on,
526Whose prose is grand verse, while his verse, the Lord knows,
527Is some of it pr---- No, 'tis not even prose;
528I'm speaking of metres; some poems have welled
529From those rare depths of soul that have ne'er been excelled;
530They're not epics, but that doesn't matter a pin,
531In creating, the only hard thing's to begin;
532A grass-blade's no easier to make than an oak,
533If you've once found the way, you've achieved the grand stroke.
534In the worst of his poems are mines of rich matter,
535But thrown in a heap with a crush and a clatter;
536Now it is not one thing nor another alone
537Makes a poem, but rather the general tone,
538The something pervading, uniting the whole,
539The before unconceived, unconceivable soul,
540So that just in removing this trifle or that, you
541Take away, as it were, a chief limb of the statue;
542Roots, wood, bark, and leaves, singly perfect may be,
543But, clapt hodge-podge together, they don't make a tree.
544"But, to come back to Emerson, (whom, by the way,
545I believe we left waiting,) -- his is, we may say,
546A Greek head on right Yankee shoulders, whose range
548He seems, to my thinking, (although I'm afraid
549The comparison must, long ere this, have been made,)
551And the Gascon's shrewd wit cheek-by-jowl co-exist;
552All admire, and yet scarcely six converts he's got
553To I don't (nor they either) exactly know what;
554For though he builds glorious temples, 'tis odd
555He leaves never a doorway to get in a god.
556'Tis refreshing to old-fashioned people like me,
557To meet such a primitive Pagan as he,
558In whose mind all creation is duly respected
559As parts of himself -- just a little projected;
560And who's willing to worship the stars and the sun,
561A convert to -- nothing but Emerson.
562So perfect a balance there is in his head,
563That he talks of things sometimes as if they were dead;
564Life, nature, love, God, and affairs of that sort,
565He looks at as merely ideas; in short,
566As if they were fossils stuck round in a cabinet,
567Of such vast extent that our earth 's a mere dab in it;
568Composed just as he is inclined to conjecture her,
569Namely, one part pure earth, ninety-nine parts pure lecturer;
570You are filled with delight at his clear demonstration,
571Each figure, word, gesture, just fits the occasion,
572With the quiet precision of science he'll sort 'em,
574"There are persons, mole-blind to the soul's make and style,
577Carlyle's the more burly, but E. is the rarer;
578He sees fewer objects, but clearlier, trulier,
579If C.'s as original, E.'s more peculiar;
580That he's more of a man you might say of the one,
581Of the other he's more of an Emerson;
582C.'s the Titan, as shaggy of mind as of limb, --
583E. the clear-eyed Olympian, rapid and slim;
584The one 's two-thirds Norseman, the other half Greek,
585Where the one's most abounding, the other's to seek;
586C.'s generals require to be seen in the mass, --
587E.'s specialties gain if enlarged by the glass;
588C. gives nature and God his own fits of the blues,
589And rims common-sense things with mystical hues, --
590E. sits in a mystery calm and intense,
591And looks coolly around him with sharp common-sense;
592C. shows you how every-day matters unite
594While E., in a plain, preternatural way,
595Makes mysteries matters of mere every day;
598But he paints with a brush so untamed and profuse,
599They seem nothing but bundles of muscles and thews;
601And a colorless outline, but full, round, and clear; --
602To the men he thinks worthy he frankly accords
603The design of a white marble statue in words.
604C. labors to get at the centre, and then
605Take a reckoning from there of his actions and men;
606E. calmly assumes the said centre as granted,
607And, given himself, has whatever is wanted.
608"He has imitators in scores, who omit
609No part of the man but his wisdom and wit, --
610Who go carefully o'er the sky-blue of his brain,
611And when he has skimmed it once, skim it again;
612If at all they resemble him, you may be sure it is
613Because their shoals mirror his mists and obscurities,
614As a mud-puddle seems deep as heaven for a minute.
615While a cloud that floats o'er is reflected within it.
616"There comes ----- , for instance; to see him 's rare sport,
617Tread in Emerson's tracks with legs painfully short;
618How he jumps, how he strains, and gets red in the face,
619To keep step with the mystagogue's natural pace!
620He follows as close as a stick to a rocket,
621His fingers exploring the prophet's each pocket.
622Fie, for shame, brother bard; with good fruit of your own,
623Can't you let neighbor Emerson's orchards alone?
624Besides, 'tis no use, you'll not find e'en a cote, --
625----- has picked up all the windfalls before.
626They might strip every tree, and E. never would catch 'em,
628When they send him a dishfull, and ask him to try 'em,
629He never suspects how the sly rogues came by 'em;
630He wonders why 'tis there are none such his trees on,
631And thinks 'em the best he has tasted this season.
635And never a fact to perplex him or bore him,
636With a snug room at Plato's, when night comes, to walk to,
637And people from morning till midnight to talk to,
638And from midnight till morning, nor snore in their listening; --
639So he muses, his face with the joy of it glistening,
640For his highest conceit of a happiest state is
641Where they'd live upon acorns, and hear him talk gratis;
642And indeed, I believe, no man ever talked better --
643Each sentence hangs perfectly poised to a letter;
644He seems piling words, but there's royal dust hid
645In the heart of each sky-piercing pyramid.
646While he talks he is great, but goes out like a taper,
647If you shut him up closely with pen, ink, and paper;
648Yet his fingers itch for 'em from morning till night,
649And he thinks he does wrong if he don't always write;
650In this, as in all things, a lamb among men,
651He goes to sure death when he goes to his pen.
654Who contrives, spite of that, to pour out as he goes
655A stream of transparent and forcible prose;
656He shifts quite about, then proceeds to expound
657That 'tis merely the earth, not himself, that turns round,
658And wishes it clearly impressed on your mind,
659That the weather-cock rules and not follows the wind;
660Proving first, then as deftly confuting each side,
661With no doctrine pleased that's not somewhere denied,
662He lays the denier away on the shelf,
663And then -- down beside him lies gravely himself.
665To convey friend or foe without charging a shilling,
666And so fond of the trip that, when leisure's to spare,
667He'll row himself up, if he can't get a fare.
668The worst of it is, that his logic's so strong,
669That of two sides he commonly chooses the wrong;
670If there is only one, why, he'll split it in two,
671And first pummel this half, then that, black and blue.
672That white's white needs no proof, but it takes a deep fellow
673To prove it jet-black, and that jet-black is yellow.
674He offers the true faith to drink in a sieve, --
675When it reaches your lips there's naught left to believe
676But a few silly- (syllo-, I mean,) -gisms that squat 'em
677Like tadpoles, o'erjoyed with the mud at the bottom.
679Who says his best things in so foppish a way,
680With conceits and pet phrases so thickly o'erlaying 'em,
681That one hardly knows whether to thank him for saying 'em;
682Over-ornament ruins both poem and prose,
683Just conceive of a muse with a ring in her nose!
684His prose had a natural grace of its own,
685And enough of it, too, if he'd let it alone;
686But he twitches and jerks so, one fairly gets tired,
687And is forced to forgive where he might have admired;
688Yet whenever it slips away free and unlaced,
689It runs like a stream with a musical waste,
690And gurgles along with the liquidest sweep; --
691'Tis not deep as a river, but who'd have it deep?
692In a country where scarcely a village is found
693That has not its author sublime and profound,
694For some one to be slightly shoal is a duty,
695And Willis's shallowness makes half his beauty.
696His prose winds along with a blithe, gurgling error,
697And reflects all of Heaven it can see in its mirror.
698'Tis a narrowish strip, but it is not an artifice, --
699'Tis the true out-of-doors with its genuine hearty phiz;
700It is Nature herself, and there's something in that,
701Since most brains reflect but the crown of a hat.
702No volume I know to read under a tree,
704With the shadows of leaves flowing over your book,
705Like ripple-shades netting the bed of a brook;
706With June coming softly your shoulder to look over,
707Breezes waiting to turn every leaf of your book over,
708And Nature to criticise still as you read, --
709The page that bears that is a rare one indeed.
711Where plain bare-skin's the only full-dress that is worn,
712He'd have given his own such an air that you'd say
714His nature's a glass of champagne with the foam on't,
716So his best things are done in the flush of the moment,
717If he wait, all is spoiled; he may stir it and shake it,
718But, the fixed air once gone, he can never re-make it.
719He might be a marvel of easy delightfulness,
720If he would not sometimes leave the r> out of sprightfulness;
721And he ought to let Scripture alone -- 'tis self-slaughter,
722For nobody likes inspiration-and-water.
724Cracking jokes at rare Ben, with an eye to the bar-maid,
726The topmost bright bubble on the wave of The Town.
728Whom the Church undertook to put under her ban, --
729(The Church of Socinus, I mean) -- his opinions
731They believed -- faith, I'm puzzled -- I think I may call
732Their belief a believing in nothing at all,
733Or something of that sort; I know they all went
734For a general union of total dissent:
735He went a step farther; without cough or hem,
736He frankly avowed he believed not in them;
737And, before he could be jumbled up or prevented,
738From their orthodox kind of dissent he dissented.
739There was heresy here, you perceive, for the right
740Of privately judging means simply that light
741Has been granted to me, for deciding on you,
742And, in happier times, before Atheism grew,
743The deed contained clauses for cooking you, too.
744Now at Xerxes and Knut we all laugh, yet our foot
746And we all entertain a sincere private notion,
747That our Thus far! will have a great weight with the ocean.
748'Twas so with our liberal Christians: they bore
749With sincerest conviction their chairs to the shore;
750They brandished their worn theological birches,
751Bade natural progress keep out of the Churches,
752And expected the lines they had drawn to prevail
753With the fast-rising tide to keep out of their pale;
754They had formerly dammed the Pontifical See,
755And the same thing, they thought, would do nicely for P.;
756But he turned up his nose at their murmuring and shamming,
757And cared (shall I say?) not a d--- for their damming;
758So they first read him out of their Church, and next minute
759Turned round and declared he had never been in it.
760But the ban was too small or the man was too big,
761For he recks not their bells, books, and candles a fig;
762(He don't look like a man who would stay treated shabbily,
764He bangs and bethwacks them, -- their backs he salutes
765With the whole tree of knowledge torn up by the roots;
766His sermons with satire are plenteously verjuiced,
767And he talks in one breath of Confutzee, Cass, Zerduscht,
768Jack Robinson, Peter the Hermit, Strap, Dathan,
769Cush, Pitt (not the bottomless, that he's no faith in,)
770Pan, Pillicock, Shakspeare, Paul, Toots, Monsieur Tonson,
771Aldebaran, Alcander, Ben Khorat, Ben Jonson,
772Thoth, Richter, Joe Smith, Father Paul, Judah Monis,
773Musæus, Muretus, hem -- μ Scorpionis,
774Maccabee, Maccaboy, Mac -- Mac -- ah! Machiavelli,
775Condorcet, Count d'Orsay, Conder, Say, Ganganelli,
776Orion, O'Connell, the Chevalier D'O,
777(Whom the great Sully speaks of,) το παν, the great toe
778Of the statue of Jupiter, now made to pass
779For that of Jew Peter by good Romish brass, --
780(You may add for yourselves, for I find it a bore,
781All the names you have ever, or not, heard before,
782And when you've done that -- why, invent a few more.)
783His hearers can't tell you on Sunday beforehand,
784If in that day's discourse they'll be Bibled or Koraned,
785For he's seized the idea (by his martyrdom fired,)
786That all men (not orthodox) may be inspired;
787Yet, though wisdom profane with his creed he may weave in,
788He makes it quite clear what he doesn't believe in,
789While some, who decry him, think all Kingdom Come
790Is a sort of a, kind of a, species of Hum,
791Of which, as it were, so to speak, not a crumb
792Would be left, if we didn't keep carefully mum,
793And, to make a clean breast, that 'tis perfectly plain
794That all kinds of wisdom are somewhat profane;
795Now P.'s creed than this may be lighter or darker,
796But in one thing, 'tis clear, he has faith, namely -- Parker;
797And this is what makes him the crowd-drawing preacher,
798There's a back-ground of god to each hard-working feature,
799Every word that he speaks has been fierily furnaced
800In the blast of a life that has struggled in earnest:
801There he stands, looking more like a ploughman than priest,
802If not dreadfully awkward, not graceful at least,
803His gestures all downright and same, if you will,
804As of brown-fisted Hobnail in hoeing a drill,
805But his periods fall on you, stroke after stroke,
806Like the blows of a lumberer felling an oak,
807You forget the man wholly, you're thankful to meet
808With a preacher who smacks of the field and the street,
809And to hear, you're not over-particular whence,
810Almost Taylor's profusion, quite Latimer's sense.
811"There is Bryant, as quiet, as cool, and as dignified,
812As a smooth, silent iceberg, that never is ignified,
813Save when by reflection 'tis kindled o' nights
814With a semblance of flame by the chill Northern Lights.
815He may rank (Griswold says so) first bard of your nation,
816(There's no doubt that he stands in supreme ice-olation,)
817Your topmost Parnassus he may set his heel on,
818But no warm applauses come, peal following peal on, --
819He's too smooth and too polished to hang any zeal on:
820Unqualified merits, I'll grant, if you choose, he has 'em,
821But he lacks the one merit of kindling enthusiasm;
822If he stir you at all, it is just, on my soul,
823Like being stirred up with the very North Pole.
824"He is very nice reading in summer, but inter
826Take him up in the depth of July, my advice is,
827When you feel an Egyptian devotion to ices.
828But, deduct all you can, there's enough that's right good in him,
829He has a true soul for field, river, and wood in him;
830And his heart, in the midst of brick walls, or where'er it is,
831Glows, softens, and thrills with the tenderest charities, --
832To you mortals that delve in this trade-ridden planet?
835You will get of his outermost heart (as I guess) a piece;
836But you'd get deeper down if you came as a precipice,
837And would break the last seal of its inwardest fountain,
838If you only could palm yourself off for a mountain.
840Some scholar who's hourly expecting his learning,
841Calls B. the American Wordsworth; but Wordsworth
842Is worth near as much as your whole tuneful herd's worth.
843No, don't be absurd, he's an excellent Bryant;
844But, my friends, you'll endanger the life of your client,
845By attempting to stretch him up into a giant:
846If you choose to compare him, I think there are two per-
848I don't mean exactly, -- there's something of each,
849There's T.'s love of nature, C.'s penchant to preach;
850Just mix up their minds so that C.'s spice of craziness
851Shall balance and neutralize T.'s turn for laziness,
852And it gives you a brain cool, quite frictionless, quiet,
853Whose internal police nips the buds of all riot, --
854A brain like a permanent strait-jacket put on
855The heart which strives vainly to burst off a button, --
856A brain which, without being slow or mechanic,
857Does more than a larger less drilled, more volcanic;
858He's a Cowper condensed, with no craziness bitten,
859And the advantage that Wordsworth before him has written.
860"But, my dear little bardlings, don't prick up your ears,
861Nor suppose I would rank you and Bryant as peers;
862If I call him an iceberg, I don't mean to say
863There is nothing in that which is grand, in its way;
864He is almost the one of your poets that knows
865How much grace, strength, and dignity lie in Repose;
866If he sometimes fall short, he is too wise to mar
867His thought's modest fulness by going too far;
868'Twould be well if your authors should all make a trial
869Of what virtue there is in severe self-denial,
871Which teaches that all has less value than half.
872"There is Whittier, whose swelling and vehement heart
873Strains the strait-breasted drab of the Quaker apart,
874And reveals the live Man, still supreme and erect
875Underneath the bemummying wrappers of sect;
876There was ne'er a man born who had more of the swing
877Of the true lyric bard and all that kind of thing;
878And his failures arise, (though perhaps he don't know it,)
879From the very same cause that has made him a poet, --
880A fervor of mind, which knows no separation .
881'Twixt simple excitement and pure inspiration,
883If 'twere I or mere wind through her tripod was blowing;
884Let his mind once get head in its favorite direction
885And the torrent of verse bursts the dams of reflection,
886While, borne with the rush of the metre along,
887The poet may chance to go right or go wrong,
888Content with the whirl and delirium of song;
889Then his grammar's not always correct, nor his rhymes,
890And he's prone to repeat his own lyrics sometimes.
891Not his best, though, for those are struck off at white-heats
892When the heart in his breast like a trip-hammer beats,
893And can ne'er be repeated again any more
894Than they could have been carefully plotted before:
896(Who, however, gave more than mere rhythmical bastings,)
897Our Quaker leads off metaphorical fights
898For reform and whatever they call human rights,
899Both singing and striking in front of the war
900And hitting his foes with the mallet of Thor;
901Anne haec, one exclaims, on beholding his knocks,
903Can that be thy son, in the battle's mid din,
904Preaching brotherly love and then driving it in
905To the brain of the tough old Goliah of sin,
907Impressed on his hard moral sense with a sling?
908"All honor and praise to the right-hearted bard
909Who was true to The Voice when such service was hard,
910Who himself was so free he dared sing for the slave
911When to look but a protest in silence was brave;
912All honor and praise to the women and men
913Who spoke out for the dumb and the down-trodden then!
914I need not to name them, already for each
915I see History preparing the statue and niche;
916They were harsh, but shall you be so shocked at hard words
917Who have beaten your pruning-hooks up into swords,
918Whose rewards and hurrahs men are surer to gain
919By the reaping of men and of women than grain?
920Why should you stand aghast at their fierce wordy war, if
921You scalp one another for Bank or for Tariff?
922You're calling them cut-throats and knaves all day long
923Don't prove that the use of hard language is wrong;
924While the World's heart beats quicker to think of such men
925As signed Tyranny's doom with a bloody steel-pen,
926While on Fourth-of-Julys beardless orators fright one
927With hints at Harmodius and Aristogeiton,
928You need not look shy at your sisters and brothers
929Who stab with sharp words for the freedom of others; --
930No, a wreath, twine a wreath for the loyal and true
931Who, for sake of the many, dared stand with the few,
932Not of blood-spattered laurel for enemies braved,
933But of broad, peaceful oak-leaves for citizens saved!
934"Here comes Dana, abstractedly loitering along,
935Involved in a paulo-post-future of song,
936Who'll be going to write what'll never be written
937Till the Muse, ere he thinks of it, gives him the mitten, --
938Who is so well aware of how things should be done,
939That his own works displease him before they're begun, --
940Who so well all that makes up good poetry knows,
941That the best of his poems is written in prose;
942All saddled and bridled stood Pegasus waiting,
943He was booted and spurred, but he loitered debating,
944In a very grave question his soul was immersed, --
945Which foot in the stirrup he ought to put first;
946And, while this point and that he judicially dwelt on,
947He, somehow or other, had written Paul Felton,
948Whose beauties or faults, whichsoever you see there,
949You'll allow only genius could hit upon either.
950That he once was the Idle Man none will deplore,
951But I fear he will never be any thing more;
952The ocean of song heaves and glitters before him,
953The depth and the vastness and longing sweep o'er him,
954He knows every breaker and shoal on the chart,
955He has the Coast Pilot and so on by heart,
956Yet he spends his whole life, like the man in the fable,
957In learning to swim on his library-table.
958"There swaggers John Neal, who has wasted in Maine
959The sinews and cords of his pugilist brain,
960Who might have been poet, but that, in its stead, he
961Preferred to believe that he was so already;
962Too hasty to wait till Art's ripe fruit should drop,
963He must pelt down an tinripe and cholicky crop;
964Who took to the law, and had this sterling plea for it,
965It required him to quarrel, and paid him a fee for it;
966A man who's made less than he might have, because
967He always has thought himself more than he was, --
968Who, with very good natural gifts as a bard,
969Broke the strings of his lyre out by striking too hard,
970And cracked half the notes of a truly fine voice,
971Because song drew less instant attention than noise.
972Ah, men do not know how much strength is in poise,
973That he goes the farthest who goes far enough,
974And that all beyond that is just bother and stuff.
975No vain man matures, he makes too much new wood;
976His blooms are too thick for the fruit to be good;
977'Tis the modest man ripens, 'tis he that achieves,
978Just what's needed of sunshine and shade he receives;
979Grapes, to mellow, require the cool dark of their leaves;
980Neal wants balance; he throws his mind always too far,
981And whisks out flocks of comets, but never a star;
982He has so much muscle, and loves so to show it,
983That he strips himself naked to prove he's a poet,
984And, to show he could leap Art's wide ditch, if he tried,
985Jumps clean o'er it, and into the hedge t'other side.
986He has strength, but there's nothing about him in keeping;
987One gets surelier onward by walking than leaping;
988He has used his own sinews himself to distress,
989And had done vastly more had he done vastly less;
990In letters, too soon is as bad as too late,
991Could he only have waited he might have been great,
992But he plumped into Helicon up to the waist,
993And muddied the stream ere he took his first taste.
994"There is Hawthorne, with genius so shrinking and rare
995That you hardly at first see the strength that is there;
996A frame so robust, with a nature so sweet,
997So earnest, so graceful, so solid, so fleet,
998Is worth a descent from Olympus to meet;
999'Tis as if a rough oak that for ages had stood,
1000With his gnarled bony branches like ribs of the wood,
1001Should bloom, after cycles of struggle and scathe,
1003His strength is so tender, his wildness so meek,
1004That a suitable parallel sets one to seek, --
1006When Nature was shaping him, clay was not granted
1007For making so full-sized a man as she wanted,
1008So, to fill out her model, a little she spared
1009From some finer-grained stuff for a woman prepared,
1010And she could not have hit a more excellent plan
1011For making him fully and perfectly man.
1012The success of her scheme gave her so much delight,
1014Only, while she was kneading and shaping the clay,
1015She sang to her work in her sweet childish way,
1016And found, when she'd put the last touch to his soul,
1017That the music had somehow got mixed with the whole.
1018"Here's Cooper, who's written six volumes to show
1019He's as good as a lord: well, let's grant that he's so;
1020If a person prefer that description of praise,
1021Why, a coronet's certainly cheaper than bays;
1022But he need take no pains to convince us he's not
1024Choose any twelve men, and let C. read aloud
1025That one of his novels of which he's most proud,
1026And I'd lay any bet that, without ever quitting
1027Their box, they'd be all, to a man, for acquitting.
1028He has drawn you one character, though, that is new,
1029One wildflower he's plucked that is wet with the dew
1030Of this fresh Western world, and, the thing not to mince,
1031He has done naught but copy it ill ever since;
1032His Indians, with proper respect be it said,
1035Rigged up in duck pants and a sou'-wester hat,
1036(Though, once in a Coffin, a good chance was found
1037To have slipt the old fellow away underground.)
1038All his other men-figures are clothes upon sticks,
1040(As a captain besieged, when his garrison's small,
1041Sets up caps upon poles to be seen o'er the wall;)
1042And the women he draws from one model don't vary,
1043All sappy as maples and flat as a prairie.
1044When a character's wanted, he goes to the task
1045As a cooper would do in composing a cask;
1046He picks out the staves, of their qualities heedful,
1047Just hoops them together as tight as is needful,
1048And, if the best fortune should crown the attempt, he
1049Has made at the most something wooden and empty.
1050"Don't suppose I would underrate Cooper's abilities,
1051If I thought you'd do that, I should feel very ill at ease;
1052The men who have given to one character life
1053And objective existence, are not very rife,
1054You may number them all, both prose-writers and singers,
1055Without overrunning the bounds of your fingers,
1056And Natty won't go to oblivion quicker
1058"There is one thing in Cooper I like, too, and that is
1059That on manners he lectures his countrymen gratis;
1060Not precisely so either, because, for a rarity,
1061He is paid for his tickets in unpopularity.
1062Now he may overcharge his American pictures,
1063But you'll grant there's a good deal of truth in his strictures
1064And I honor the man who is willing to sink
1065Half his present repute for the freedom to think,
1066And, when he has thought, be his cause strong or weak,
1067Will risk t'other half for the freedom to speak,
1068Caring naught for what vengeance the mob has in store,
1069Let that mob be the upper ten thousand or lower.
1070"There are truths you Americans need to be told,
1071And it never'll refute them to swagger and scold;
1072John Bull, looking o'er the Atlantic, in choler
1073At your aptness for trade, says you worship the dollar;
1074But to scorn such i-dollar-try's what very few do,
1075And John goes to that church as often as you do.
1076No matter what John says, don't try to outcrow him,
1077'Tis enough to go quietly on and outcrow him;
1078Like most fathers, Bull hates to see Number One
1079Displacing himself in the mind of his son,
1080And detests the same faults in himself he'd neglected
1081When he sees them again in his child's glass reflected;
1082To love one another you're too like by half.
1083If he is a bull, you're a pretty stout calf,
1084And tear your own pasture for naught but to show
1085What a nice pair of horns you're beginning to grow.
1086"There are one or two things I should just like to hint,
1087For you don't often get the truth told you in print;
1088The most of you (this is what strikes all beholders)
1089Have a mental and physical stoop in the shoulders;
1090Though you ought to be free as the winds and the waves,
1091You've the gait and the manners of runaway slaves;
1092Tho' you brag of your New World, you don't half believe in it,
1093And as much of the Old as is possible weave in it;
1094Your goddess of freedom, a tight, buxom girl,
1095With lips like a cherry and teeth like a pearl,
1096With eyes bold as Herè's, and hair floating free,
1097And full of the sun as the spray of the sea,
1098Who can sing at a husking or romp at a shearing,
1099Who can trip through the forests alone without fearing,
1100Who can drive home the cows with a song through the grass,
1101Keeps glancing aside into Europe's cracked glass,
1102Hides her red hands in gloves, pinches up her lithe waist,
1103And makes herself wretched with transmarine taste;
1104She loses her fresh country charm when she takes
1105Any mirror except her own rivers and lakes.
1107With their salt on her tail your wild eagle is caught;
1108Your literature suits its each whisper and motion
1109To what will be thought of it over the ocean;
1110The cast clothes of Europe your statesmanship tries
1111And mumbles again the old blarneys and lies; --
1112Forget Europe wholly, your veins throb with blood
1113To which the dull current in hers is but mud;
1114Let her sneer, let her say your experiment fails,
1115In her voice there's a tremble e'en now while she rails,
1116And your shore will soon be in the nature of things
1117Covered thick with gilt driftwood of runaway kings,
1119Her fugitive pieces will find themselves safe.
1120O, my friends, thank your God, if you have one, that he
1121'Twixt the Old World and you set the gulf of a sea;
1122Be strong-backed, brown-handed, upright as your pines,
1123By the scale of a hemisphere shape your designs,
1124Be true to yourselves and this new nineteenth age,
1126Plough, dig, sail, forge, build, carve, paint, make all things new,
1127To your own New-World instincts contrive to be true,
1128Keep your ears open wide to the Future's first call,
1129Be whatever you will, but yourselves first of all,
1130Stand fronting the dawn on Toil's heaven-scaling peaks,
1131And become my new race of more practical Greeks. --
1132Hem! your likeness at present, I shudder to tell o't,
1133Is that you have your slaves, and the Greek had his helot."
1134Here a gentleman present, who had in his attic
1135More pepper than brains, shrieked -- "The man's a fanatic,
1136I'm a capital tailor with warm tar and feathers,
1137And will make him a suit that'll serve in all weathers;
1138But we'll argue the point first, I'm willing to reason 't,
1139Palaver before condemnation's but decent,
1140So, through my humble person, Humanity begs
1141Of the friends of true freedom a loan of bad eggs."
1142But Apollo let one such a look of his show forth
1143As when ηιε νυχτι
1144εοιχωσ and so forth,
1145And the gentleman somehow slunk out of the way,
1146But, as he was going, gained courage to say, --
1147"At slavery in the abstract my whole soul rebels,
1148I am as strongly opposed to't as any one else."
1149"Ay, no doubt, but whenever I've happened to meet
1150With a wrong or a crime, it is always concrete,"
1151Answered Phœbus severely; then turning to us,
1152"The mistakes of such fellows as just made the fuss
1153Is only in taking a great busy nation
1154For a part of their pitiful cotton-plantation. --
1156She has such a penchant for bothering me too!
1157She always keeps asking if I don't observe a
1158Particular likeness 'twixt her and Minerva;
1159She tells me my efforts in verse are quite clever; --
1160She's been travelling now, and will be worse than ever;
1161One would think, though, a sharp-sighted noter she'd be
1162Of all that's worth mentioning over the sea,
1163For a woman must surely see well, if she try,
1164The whole of whose being's a capital I:
1165She will take an old notion, and make it her own,
1166By saying it o'er in her Sybilline tone,
1167Or persuade you 'tis something tremendously deep,
1168By repeating it so as to put you to sleep;
1169And she well may defy any mortal to see through it,
1170When once she has mixed up her infinite me through it.
1171There is one thing she owns in her own single right,
1172It is native and genuine -- namely, her spite:
1173Though, when acting as censor, she privately blows
1174A censer of vanity 'neath her own nose."
1175Here Miranda came up, and said, "Phœbus! you know
1176That the infinite Soul has its infinite woe,
1177As I ought to know, having lived cheek by jowl,
1178Since the day I was born, with the Infinite Soul;
1179I myself introduced, I myself, I alone,
1180To my Land's better life authors solely my own,
1181Who the sad heart of earth on their shoulders have taken,
1182Whose works sound a depth by Life's quiet unshaken,
1183Such as Shakspeare, for instance, the Bible, and Bacon,
1184Not to mention my own works; Time's nadir is fleet,
1185And, as for myself, I'm quite out of conceit," --
1186"Quite out of conceit! I'm enchanted to hear it,"
1187Cried Apollo aside, "Who'd have thought she was near it?
1188To be sure one is apt to exhaust those commodities
1189He uses too fast, yet in this case as odd it is
1190As if Neptune should say to his turbots and whitings,
1191'I'm as much out of salt as Miranda's own writings,'
1192(Which, as she in her own happy manner has said,
1193Sound a depth, for 'tis one of the functions of lead.)
1194She often has asked me if I could not find
1195A place somewhere near me that suited her mind;
1196I know but a single one vacant, which she,
1197With her rare talent that way, would fit to a T.
1198And it would not imply any pause or cessation
1199In the work she esteems her peculiar vocation, --
1200She may enter on duty to-day, if she chooses,
1201And remain Tiring-woman for life to the Muses."
1202(Miranda meanwhile has succeeded in driving
1203Up into a corner, in spite of their striving,
1204A small flock of terrified victims, and there,
1205With an I-turn*the-crank-of-the-Universe air
1206And a tone which, at least to my fancy, appears
1207Not so much to be entering as boxing your ears,
1208Is unfolding a tale (of herself, I surmise,)
1209For 'tis dotted as thick as a peacock's with I's.)
1210Apropos of Miranda, I'll rest on my oars
1211And drift through a trifling digression on bores,
1212For, though not wearing ear-rings in more majorum,
1213Our ears are kept bored just as if we still wore 'em.
1214There was one feudal custom worth keeping, at least,
1215Roasted bores made a part of each well-ordered feast,
1216And of all quiet pleasures the very ne plus
1217Was in hunting wild bores as the tame ones hunt us.
1218Archæologians, I know, who have personal fears
1219Of this wise application of hounds and of spears,
1220Have tried to make out, with a zeal more than wonted,
1221'Twas a kind of wild swine that our ancestors hunted;
1222But I'll never believe that the age which has strewn
1223Europe o'er with cathedrals, and otherwise shown
1224That it knew what was what, could by chance not have known,
1225(Spending, too, its chief time with its buff on, no doubt,)
1226Which beast 'twould improve the world most to thin out.
1227I divide bores myself, in the manner of rifles,
1228Into two great divisions, regardless of trifles; --
1229There's your smooth-bore and screw-bore,who do not much vary
1230In the weight of cold lead they respectively carry.
1231The smooth-bore is one in whose essence the mind
1232Not a corner nor cranny to cling by can find;
1233You feel as in nightmares sometimes, when you slip
1234Down a steep slated roof where there's nothing to grip,
1235You slide and you slide, the blank horror increases,
1236You had rather by far be at once smashed to pieces,
1237You fancy a whirlpool below white and frothing,
1238And finally drop off and light upon -- nothing.
1239The screw-bore has twists in him, faint predilections
1240For going just wrong in the tritest directions;
1241When he's wrong he is flat, when he's right he can't show it,
1243Or how Fogrum was outraged by Tennyson's Princess;
1244He has spent all his spare time and intellect since his
1245Birth in perusing, on each art and science,
1246Just the books in which no one puts any reliance,
1247And though nemo, we're told, horis omnibus sapit,
1248The rule will not fit him, however you shape it,
1249For he has a perennial foison of sappiness;
1250He has just enough force to spoil half your day's happiness,
1251And to make him a sort of mosquito to be with,
1252But just not enough to dispute or agree with.
1253These sketches I made (not to be too explicit)
1254From two honest fellows who made me a visit,
1255And broke, like the tale of the Bear and the Fiddle,
1256My reflections on Halleck short off by the middle;
1257I shall not now go into the subject more deeply,
1258For I notice that some of my readers look sleep'ly,
1259I will barely remark that, 'mongst civilized nations,
1260There's none that displays more exemplary patience
1261Under all sorts of boring, at all sorts of hours,
1262From all sorts of desperate persons, than ours.
1263Not to speak of our papers, our State legislatures,
1264And other such trials for sensitive natures,
1265Just look for a moment at Congress, -- appalled,
1266My fancy shrinks back from the phantom it called;
1267Why, there's scarcely a member unworthy to frown
1268'Neath what Fourier nicknames the Boreal crown;
1269Only think what that infinite bore-pow'r could do
1270If applied with a utilitarian view;
1271Suppose, for example, we shipped it with care
1272To Sahara's great desert and let it bore there,
1273If they held one short session and did nothing else,
1274They'd fill the whole waste with Artesian wells.
1275But 'tis time now with pen phonographic to follow
1276Through some more of his sketches our laughing Apollo: --
1277"There comes Harry Franco, and, as he draws near,
1278You find that's a smile which you took for a sneer;
1279One half of him contradicts t'other, his wont
1280Is to say very sharp things and do very blunt;
1281His manner's as hard as his feelings are tender,
1282And a sortie he'll make when he means to surrender;
1283He's in joke half the time when he seems to be sternest,
1284When he seems to be joking, be sure he's in earnest;
1285He has common sense in a way that's uncommon,
1286Hates humbug and cant, loves his friends like a woman,
1287Builds his dislikes of cards and his friendships of oak,
1288Loves a prejudice better than aught but a joke,
1289Is half upright Quaker, half downright Come-outer,
1290Loves Freedom too well to go stark mad about her,
1291Quite artless himself is a lover of Art,
1292Shuts you out of his secrets and into his heart,
1293And though not a poet, yet all must admire
1294In his letters of Pinto his skill on the liar.
1296Three-fifths of him genius and two-fifths sheer fudge,
1297Who talks like a book of iambs and pentameters,
1298In a way to make people of common-sense damn metres,
1299Who has written some things quite the best of their kind,
1300But the heart somehow seems all squeezed out by the mind,
1302You mustn't fling mud-balls at Longfellow so,
1303Does it make a man worse that his character's such
1304As to make his friends love him (as you think) too much?
1305Why, there is not a bard at this moment alive
1306More willing than he that his fellows should thrive;
1307While you are abusing him thus, even now
1308He would help either one of you out of a slough;
1309You may say that he*s smooth and all that till you're hoarse,
1310But remember that elegance also is force;
1311After polishing granite as much as you will,
1312The heart keeps its tough old persistency still;
1313Deduct all you can that still keeps you at bay, --
1315I'm not over-fond of Greek metres in English,
1316To me rhyme's a gain, so it be not too jinglish,
1317And your modern hexameter verses are no more
1318Like Greek ones than sleek Mr Pope is like Homer;
1319As the roar of the sea to the coo of a pigeon is
1321I may be too partial, the reason, perhaps, o't is
1322That I've heard the old blind man recite his own rhapsodies,
1323And my ear with that music impregnate may be,
1324Like the poor exiled shell with the soul of the sea,
1326To its deeps within deeps by the stroke of Beethoven;
1327But, set that aside, and 'tis truth that I speak,
1329I believe that his exquisite sense would scarce change a line
1331That's not ancient nor modern, its place is apart
1332Where Time has no sway, in the realm of pure Art,
1333'Tis a shrine of retreat from Earth's hubbub and strife
1334As quiet and chaste as the author's own life.
1335"There comes Philothea, her face all a-glow,
1336She has just been dividing some poor creature's woe
1337And can't tell which pleases her most, to relieve
1338His want, or his story to hear and believe;
1339No doubt against many deep griefs she prevails,
1340For her ear is the refuge of destitute tales;
1341She knows well that silence is sorrow's best food,
1342And that talking draws off from the heart its black blood,
1343So she'll listen with patience and let you unfold
1344Your bundle of rags as 'twere pure cloth of gold,
1345Which, indeed, it all turns to as soon as she's touched it,
1346And, (to borrow a phrase from the nursery,) muched it;
1347She has such a musical taste, she will go
1348Any distance to hear one who draws a long bow;
1349She will swallow a wonder by mere might and main
1350And thinks it geometry's fault if she's fain
1351To consider things flat, inasmuch as they're plain;
1352Facts with her are accomplished, as Frenchmen would say,
1353They will prove all she wishes them to -- either way,
1354And, as fact lies on this side or that, we must try,
1355If we're seeking the truth, to find where it don't lie;
1356I was telling her once of a marvellous aloe
1357That for thousands of years had looked spindling and sallow,
1358And, though nursed by the fruitfullest powers of mud,
1359Had never vouchsafed e'en so much as a bud,
1360Till its owner remarked, as a sailor, you know,
1361Often will in a calm, that it never would blow,
1362For he wished to exhibit the plant, and designed
1363That its blowing should help him in raising the wind;
1364At last it was told him that if he should water
1365Its roots with the blood of his unmarried daughter,
1366(Who was born, as her mother, a Calvinist, said,
1367With a Baxter's effectual call on her head,)
1368It would blow as the obstinate breeze did when by a
1369Like decree of her father died Iphigenia;
1370At first he declared he himself would be blowed
1371Ere his conscience with such a foul crime he would load,
1372But the thought, coming oft, grew less dark than before,
1373And he mused, as each creditor knocked at his door,
1374If this were but done they would dun me no more;
1375I told Philothea his struggles and doubts
1376And how he considered the ins and the outs
1377Of the visions he had, and the dreadful dyspepsy,
1379How the seer advised him to sleep on it first
1380And to read his big volume in case of the worst,
1381And further advised he should pay him five dollars
1382For writing Hum, Hum, on his wristbands and collars;
1383Three years and ten days these dark words he had studied
1384When the daughter was missed, and the aloe had budded;
1385I told how he watched it grow large and more large,
1386And wondered how much for the show he should charge, --
1387She had listened with utter indifference to this, till
1388I told how it bloomed, and, discharging its pistil
1389With an aim the Eumenides dictated, shot
1390The botanical filicide dead on the spot;
1391It had blown, but he reaped not his horrible gains,
1392For it blew with such force as to blow out his brains,
1393And the crime was blown also, because on the wad,
1394Which was paper, was writ 'Visitation of God,'
1395As well as a thrilling account of the deed
1396Which the coroner kindly allowed me to read.
1397"Well, my friend took this story up just, to be sure,
1398As one might a poor foundling that's laid at one's door;
1399She combed it and washed it and clothed it and fed it,
1400And as if 'twere her own child most tenderly bred it,
1401Laid the scene (of the legend, I mean,) far away a-
1402-mong the green vales underneath Himalaya,
1403And by artist-like touches, laid on here and there,
1404Made the whole thing so touching, I frankly declare
1405I have read it all thrice, and, perhaps I am weak,
1406But I found every time there were tears on my cheek.
1407The pole, science tells us, the magnet controls,
1408But she is a magnet to emigrant Poles,
1409And folks with a mission that nobody knows,
1410Throng thickly about her as bees round a rose;
1411She can fill up the carets in such, make their scope
1412Converge to some focus of rational hope,
1413And, with sympathies fresh as the morning, their gall
1414Can transmute into honey, -- but this is not all;
1415Not only for these she has solace, oh, say,
1416Vice's desperate nurseling adrift in Broadway,
1417Who clingest, with all that is left of thee human,
1418To the last slender spar from the wreck of the woman,
1419Hast thou not found one shore where those tired drooping feet
1420Could reach firm mother-earth, one full heart on whose beat
1421The soothed head in silence reposing could hear
1422The chimes of far childhood throb thick on the ear?
1423Ah, there's many a beam from the fountain of day
1424That, to reach us unclouded, must pass, on its way,
1425Through the soul of a woman, and hers is wide ope
1426To the influence of Heaven as the blue eyes of Hope;
1427Yes, a great soul is hers, one that dares to go in
1428To the prison, the slave-hut, the alleys of sin,
1429And to bring into each, or to find there, some line
1430Of the never completely out-trampled divine;
1431If her heart at high floods swamps her brain now and then,
1432'Tis but richer for that when the tide ebbs agen,
1433As, after old Nile has subsided, his plain
1434Overflows with a second broad deluge of grain;
1435What a wealth would it bring to the narrow and sour
1436Could they be as a Child but for one little hour!
1438You bring back the happiest spirit from Spain,
1439And the gravest sweet humor, that ever were there
1440Since Cervantes met death in his gentle despair;
1441Nay, don't be embarrassed, nor look so beseeching, --
1442I shan't run directly against my own preaching,
1443And, having just laughed at their Raphaels and Dantes,
1444Go to setting you up beside matchless Cervantes;
1445But allow me to speak what I honestly feel, --
1446To a true poet-heart add the fun of Dick Steele,
1447Throw in all of Addison, minus the chill,
1448With the whole of that partnership's stock and good will,
1449Mix well, and, while stirring, hum o'er, as a spell,
1450The fine old English Gentleman, simmer it well,
1451Sweeten just to your own private liking, then strain,
1452That only the finest and clearest remain,
1453Let it stand out of doors till a soul it receives
1454From the warm lazy sun loitering down through green leaves,
1455And you'll find a choice nature, not wholly deserving
1456A name either English or Yankee, -- just Irving.
1458You'll be glad enough, some day or other, to claim,
1459And will all crowd about him and swear that you knew him
1460If some English hack-critic should chance to review him;
1462MARGARITAS, for him you have verified gratis;
1463What matters his name? Why, it may be Sylvester,
1464Judd, Junior, or Junius, Ulysses, or Nestor,
1465For aught I know or care; 'tis enough that I look
1466On the author of 'Margaret,' the first Yankee book
1467With the soul of Down East in't, and things farther East,
1468As far as the threshold of morning, at least,
1469Where awaits the fair dawn of the simple and true,
1470Of the day that comes slowly to make all things new.
1471'T has a smack of pine woods, of bare field and bleak hill
1472Such as only the breed of the Mayflower could till;
1473The Puritan's shown in it, tough to the core,
1474Such as prayed, smiting Agag on red Marston moor;
1475With an unwilling humor, half-choked by the drouth
1476In brown hollows about the inhospitable mouth;
1477With a soul full of poetry, though it has qualms
1478About finding a happiness out of the Psalms;
1479Full of tenderness, too, though it shrinks in the dark,
1480Hamadryad-like, under the coarse, shaggy bark;
1481That sees visions, knows wrestlings of God with the Will,
1482And has its own Sinais and thunderings still." --
1483Here, -- "Forgive me, Apollo," I cried, "while I pour
1484My heart out to my birth-place: O, loved more and more
1485Dear Baystate, from whose rocky bosom thy sons
1486Should suck milk, strong-will-giving, brave, such as runs
1487In the veins of old Graylock, -- who is it that dares
1488Call thee pedlar, a soul wrapt in bank-books and shares?
1489It is false! She's a Poet! I see, as I write,
1490Along the far railroad the steam-snake glide white,
1491The cataract-throb of her mill-hearts I hear,
1492The swift strokes of trip-hammers weary my ear,
1493Sledges ring upon anvils, through logs the saw screams,
1494Blocks swing up to their place, beetles drive home the beams: --
1495It is songs such as these that she croons to the din
1496Of her fast-flying shuttles, year out and year in,
1497While from earth's farthest corner there comes not a breeze
1498But wafts her the buzz of her gold-gleaning bees:
1499What though those horn hands have as yet found small time
1500For painting and sculpture and music and rhyme?
1501These will come in due order, the need that pressed sorest
1502Was to vanquish the seasons, the ocean, the forest,
1503To bridle and harness the rivers, the steam,
1504Making that whirl her mill-wheels, this tug in her team,
1505To vassalize old tyrant Winter, and make
1506Him delve surlily for her on river and lake; --
1507When this New World was parted, she strove not to shirk
1508Her lot in the heirdom, the tough, silent Work,
1509The hero-share ever, from Herakles down
1510To Odin, the Earth's iron sceptre and crown;
1511Yes, thou dear, noble Mother! if ever men's praise
1512Could be claimed for creating heroical lays,
1513Thou hast won it; if ever the laurel divine
1514Crowned the Maker and Builder, that glory is thine!
1515Thy songs are right epic, they tell how this rude
1516Rock-rib of our Earth here was tamed and subdued;
1517Thou hast written them plain on the face of the planet
1518In brave, deathless letters of iron and granite;
1519Thou hast printed them deep for all time; they are set
1520From the same runic type-fount and alphabet
1521With thy stout Berkshire hills and the arms of thy Bay, --
1522They are staves from the burly old Mayflower lay.
1523If the drones of the Old World, in querulous ease,
1524Ask thy Art and thy Letters, point proudly to these,
1525Or, if they deny these are Letters and Art,
1526Toil on with the same old invincible heart;
1527Thou art rearing the pedestal broad-based and grand
1528Whereon the fair shapes of the Artist shall stand,
1529And creating, through labors undaunted and long,
1530The true theme for all Sculpture and Painting and Song!
1531"But my good mother Baystate wants no praise of mine,
1532She learned from her mother a precept divine
1533About something that butters no parsnips, her forte
1534In another direction lies, work is her sport,
1535(Though she'll curtsey and set her cap straight, that she will,
1536If you talk about Plymouth and one Bunker's hill.)
1537The dear, notable goodwife! by this time of night,
1538Her hearth is swept clean, and her fire burning bright,
1539And she sits in a chair (of home plan and make) rocking,
1540Musing much, all the while, as she darns on a stocking,
1541Whether turkeys will come pretty high next Thanksgiving,
1542Whether flour'll be so dear, for, as sure as she's living,
1543She will use rye-and-injun then, whether the pig
1544By this time ain't got pretty tolerable big,
1545And whether to sell it outright will be best,
1546Or to smoke hams and shoulders and salt down the rest, --
1547At this minute, she'd swop all my verses, ah, cruel!
1548For the last patent stove that is saving of fuel;
1549So I'll just let Apollo go on, for his phiz
1550Shows I've kept him awaiting too long as it is."
1551"If our friend, there, who seems a reporter, is through
1552With his burst of emotion, our theme we'll pursue,"
1553Said Apollo; some smiled, and, indeed, I must own
1554There was something sarcastic, perhaps, in his tone; --
1556A Leyden-jar always full-charged, from which flit
1557The electrical tingles of hit after hit;
1558In long poems 'tis painful sometimes and invites
1559A thought of the way the new Telegraph writes,
1560Which pricks down its little sharp sentences spitefully
1561As if you got more than you'd title to rightfully,
1562And if it were hoping its wild father Lightning
1563Would flame in for a second and give you a fright'ning.
1564He has perfect sway of what I call a sham metre,
1565But many admire it, the English hexameter,
1567With less nerve, swing, and fire in the same kind of verse,
1568Nor e'er achieved aught in't so, worthy of praise
1569As the tribute of Holmes to the grand Marseillaise.
1571Why, if B., to the day of his dying, should rhyme on,
1572Heaping verses on verses and tomes upon tomes,
1573He could ne'er reach the best point and vigor of Holmes.
1574His are just the fine hands, too, to weave you a lyric
1575Full of fancy, fun, feeling, or spiced with satyric
1576In so kindly a measure, that nobody knows
1577What to do but e'en join in the laugh, friends and foes.
1578"There is Lowell, who's striving Parnassus to climb
1579With a whole bale of isms tied together with rhyme,
1580He might get on alone, spite of brambles and boulders,
1581But he can't with that bundle he has on his shoulders,
1582The top of the hill he will ne'er come nigh reaching
1583Till he learns the distinction 'twixt singing and preaching;
1584His lyre has some chords that would ring pretty well,
1585But he'd rather by half make a drum of the shell,
1586And rattle away till he's old as Methusalem,
1587At the head of a march to the last New Jerusalem.
1589With the wickedness out that gave salt to the true one,
1590He's a wit, though, I hear, of the very first order,
1591And once made a pun on the words soft Recorder;
1592More than this, he's a very great poet, I'm told,
1593And has had his works published in crimson and gold,
1594With something they call "Illustrations," to wit,
1596Which are said to illustrate, because, as I view it,
1597Like lucus a non, they precisely don't do it;
1598Let a man who can write what himself understands
1599Keep clear, if he can, of designing men's hands,
1600Who bury the sense, if there's any worth having,
1601And then very honestly call it engraving.
1602But, to quit badinage, which there isn't much wit in,
1603No doubt Halleck's better than all he has written;
1604In his verse a clear glimpse you will frequently find,
1605If not of a great, of a fortunate mind,
1606Which contrives to be true to its natural loves
1607In a world of back-offices, ledgers, and stoves.
1608When his heart breaks away from the brokers and banks,
1609And kneels in its own private shrine to give thanks,
1610There's a genial manliness in him that earns
1611Our sincerest respect (read, for instance, his "Burns,")
1612And we can't but regret (seek excuse where we may)
1613That so much of a man has been peddled away.
1614"But what's that? a mass-meeting? No, there come in lots
1616And in short the American everything-elses,
1617Each charging the others with envies and jealousies; --
1618By the way, 'tis a fact that displays what profusions
1619Of all kinds of greatness bless free institutions,
1620That while the Old World has produced barely eight
1621Of such poets as all men agree to call great,
1622And of other great characters hardly a score,
1623(One might safely say less than that rather than more,)
1624With you every year a whole crop is begotten,
1625They 're as much of a staple as corn, or as cotton;
1626Why, there's scarcely a huddle of log-huts and shanties
1627That has not brought forth its own Miltons and Dantes;
1631One (but that one is plenty) American Dickens,
1633In short, if a man has the luck to have any sons,
1634He may feel pretty certain that one out of twain
1635Will be some very great person over again.
1636There is one inconvenience in all this which lies
1638And, where there are none except Titans, great stature
1639Is only a simple proceeding of nature.
1640What puff the strained sails of your praise shall you furl at, if
1641The calmest degree that you know is superlative?
1643As a matter of course, be well issimused. and errimused,
1644A Greek, too, could feel, while in that famous boat he tost,
1645That his friends would take care he was ιστοσed and
1647And formerly we, as through grave-yards we past,
1648Thought the world went from bad to worse fearfully fast;
1649Let us glance for a moment, 'tis well worth the pains,
1650And note what an average grave-yard contains;
1651There lie levellers levelled, duns done up themselves,
1652There are booksellers finally laid on their shelves,
1653Horizontally there lie upright politicians,
1654Dose-a-dose with their patients sleep faultless physicians,
1655There are slave-drivers quietly whipt under-ground,
1656There bookbinders, done up in boards, are fast bound,
1657There card-players wait till the last trump be played,
1658There all the choice spirits get finally laid,
1659There the babe that's unborn is supplied with a berth,
1660There men without legs get their six feet of earth,
1661There lawyers repose, each wrapt up in his case,
1662There seekers of office are sure of a place,
1663There defendant and plaintiff get equally cast,
1664There shoemakers quietly stick to the last,
1665There brokers at length become silent as stocks,
1666There stage-drivers sleep without quitting their box,
1667And so forth and so forth and so forth and so on,
1668With this kind of stuff one might endlessly go on;
1669To come to the point, I may safely assert you
1671Each has six truest patriots, four discoverers of ether,
1672Who never had thought on't nor mentioned it either:
1673Ten poets, the greatest who ever wrote rhyme:
1674Two hundred and forty first men of their time:
1675One person whose portrait just gave the least hint
1676Its original had a most horrible squint:
1677One critic, most (what do they call it?) reflective,
1678Who never had used the phrase ob- or subjective:
1679Forty fathers of Freedom, of whom twenty bred
1680Their sons for the rice-swamps, at so much a head,
1682Non-resistants who gave many a spiritual black-eye:
1683Eight true friends of their kind, one of whom was a jailor:
1684Four captains almost as astounding as Taylor:
1685Two dozen of Italy's exiles who shoot us his
1686Kaisership daily, stern pen-and-ink Brutuses,
1688Mount serenely their country's funereal pile:
1689Ninety-nine Irish heroes, ferocious rebellers
1691Who shake their dread fists o'er the sea and all that, --
1692As long as a copper drops into the hat:
1693Nine hundred Teutonic republicans stark
1694From Vaterland's battles just won -- in the Park,
1695Who the happy profession of martyrdom take
1696Wherever it gives them a chance at a steak:
1697Sixty-two second Washingtons: two or three Jacksons:
1698And so many everythings else that it racks one's
1699Poor memory too much to continue the list,
1700Especially now they no longer exist; --
1701I would merely observe that you've taken to giving
1702The puffs that belong to the dead to the living,
1703And that somehow your trump-of-contemporary-doom's tones
1704Is tuned after old dedications and tombstones." --
1706From a frown to a smile the god's features relented,
1707As he stared at his envoy, who, swelling with pride,
1708To the god's asking look, nothing daunted, replied,
1709"You're surprised, I suppose, I was absent so long,
1710But your godship respecting the lilies was wrong;
1711I hunted the garden from one end to t'other,
1712And got no reward but vexation and bother,
1713Till, tossed out with weeds in a corner to wither,
1714This one lily I found and made haste to bring hither."
1715"Did he think I had given him a book to review?
1716I ought to have known what the fellow would do,"
1717Muttered Phœbus aside, "for a thistle will pass
1718Beyond doubt for the queen of all flowers with an ass;
1719He has chosen in just the same way as he'd choose
1720His specimens out of the books he reviews;
1721And now, as this offers an excellent text,
1722I'll give 'em some brief hints on criticism next."
1723So, musing a moment, he turned to the crowd,
1724And, clearing his voice, spoke as follows aloud, --
1725"My friends, in the happier days of the muse,
1726We were luckily free from such things as reviews;
1727Then naught came between with its fog to make clearer
1728The heart of the poet to that of his hearer;
1729Then the poet brought heaven to the people, and they
1730Felt that they, too, were poets in hearing his lay;
1731Then the poet was prophet, the past in his soul
1732Pre-created the future, both parts of one whole;
1733Then for him there was nothing too great or too small,
1734For one natural deity sanctified all;
1735Then the bard owned no clipper and meter of moods
1736Save the spirit of silence that hovers and broods
1737O'er the seas and the mountains, the rivers and woods;
1738He asked not earth's verdict, forgetting the clods,
1739His soul soared and sang to an audience of gods;
1740'Twas for them that he measured the thought and the line,
1741And shaped for their vision the perfect design,
1742With as glorious a foresight, a balance as true,
1743As swung out the worlds in the infinite blue;
1744Then a glory and greatness invested man's heart,
1745The universal, which now stands estranged and apart,
1746In the free individual moulded, was Art;
1747Then the forms of the Artist seemed thrilled with desire
1748For something as yet unattained, fuller, higher,
1749As once with her lips, lifted hands, and eyes listening,
1750And her whole upward soul in her countenance glistening,
1751Eurydice stood -- like a beacon unfired,
1752Which, once touch'd with flame, will leap heav'nward inspired --
1753And waited with answering kindle to mark
1755Then painting, song, sculpture, did more than relieve
1756The need that men feel to create and believe,
1757And as, in all beauty, who listens with love,
1758Hears these words oft repeated -- 'beyond and above,'
1759So these seemed to be but the visible sign
1760Of the grasp of the soul after things more divine;
1761They were ladders the Artist erected to climb
1762O'er the narrow horizon of space and of time,
1763And we see there the footsteps by which men had gained
1764To the one rapturous glimpse of the never-attained,
1765As shepherds could erst sometimes trace in the sod
1766The last spurning print of a sky-cleaving god.
1767"But now, on the poet's dis-privacied moods
1768With do this and do that the pert critic intrudes;
1769While he thinks he's been barely fulfilling his duty
1770To interpret 'twixt men and their own sense of beauty,
1771And has striven, while others sought honor or pelf,
1772To make his kind happy as he was himself,
1773He finds he's been guilty of horrid offences
1774In all kinds of moods, numbers, genders, and tenses;
1776Precisely, at all events, what he ought not,
1777You have done this, says one judge; done that, says another;
1778You should have done this, grumbles one; that, says t'other;
1779Never mind what he touches, one shrieks out Taboo!
1780And while he is wondering what he shall do,
1781Since each suggests opposite topics for song,
1782They all shout together you're right! or you're wrong!
1783"Nature fits all her children with something to do,
1784He who would write and can't write, can surely review,
1785Can set up a small booth as critic and sell us his
1786Petty conceit and his pettier jealousies;
1787Thus a lawyer's apprentice, just out of his teens,
1790There's nothing on earth he's not competent to;
1791He reviews with as much nonchalance as he whistles, --
1792He goes through a book and just picks out the thistles,
1793It matters not whether he blame or commend,
1794If he's bad as a foe, he's far worse as a friend;
1795Let an author but write what's above his poor scope,
1796And he'll go to work gravely and twist up a rope,
1797And, inviting the world to see punishment done,
1798Hang himself up to bleach in the wind and the sun;
1799'Tis delightful to see, when a man comes along
1800Who has any thing in him peculiar and strong,
1801Every cockboat that swims clear its fierce (pop-) gundeck at him
1803Here Miranda came up and began, "As to that", --
1804Apollo at once seized his gloves, cane, and hat,
1805And, seeing the place getting rapidly cleared,
1806I, too, snatched my notes and forthwith disappeared.


1] Phœbus: Greek sun god. Back to Line
2] Daphne: minor river goddess, daughter of the river god Peneus,who transformed her into a laurel tree to preserve her honour when she could not escape Phœbus's lustful pursuit. Back to Line
6] Ginevra-like: "A young Italian bride, who during a game of hide-and-seek hid herself in a large trunk. The lid suddenly fell and was held fast by a spring-lock. The lady's skeleton came to light many years later when the trunk was sold and opened." (Lovell's Essays, Poems and Letters, ed. William Smith Clark II [1948]: 189). Back to Line
13] Dido: Queen of Carthage who fell in love with Aeneas and commits herself to a death by fire when he leaves her. Back to Line
15] saw: saying, truism. Back to Line
38] trumps: playing cards raised to a value higher than it normally has. Back to Line
40] Cristabel: heroine of an unfinished two-part poem by S. T. Coleridge (1816). Back to Line
46] old Chester mysteries: the late medieval Corpus Christi plays of Chester, England, so called after the crafts (or mistères) that staged them; edited by Markland James Heywood in 1818. Back to Line
55] imberbis: beardless. Back to Line
60] Mehercle!: Hercule! (mild oath). Back to Line
61] Trophonius: Greek mythic hero who stole a treasure of King Hyrieus of Boeotiaand escaped detection by disappearing forever into a cavern at Lebadaea. Back to Line
104] dyspepsy: dyspepsia, indigestion. Back to Line
109] boluses: large pills prescribed by physicians for swallowing. Back to Line
141] Irish Good Folk: the little people. Back to Line
146] Viri Romæ: a student textbook written by the American educator Ethan Allen Andrews (1787.-1858). Back to Line
155] mater-familias: woman of the household, a wife who had become a privileged member of her husband's family. Back to Line
166] Tully: Cicero (106-43 BC), Roman senator and political and philosophical writer. Back to Line
169] A. B.: Artium Baccalaureus, Latin for Bachelor of Arts. Back to Line
173] Saint Benedict: patron saint of students (ca. 480.-543). Back to Line
176] "Knowingly ignorant, as writers express it, and wiselyunlearned he departed from Rome" (Lovell's Essays, Poems and Letters, ed. William Smith Clark II [1948]: 194). Back to Line
212] Le Verrier's planet: Neptune, discovered by Urbain Le Verrier (1811-72)in 1845-46. Back to Line
221] Wordsworth: William Wordsworth (1770-1850), English pastoral epic poet. Back to Line
224] Denderah: small town on the banks of the Nile famous for its Greco-Roman temple complex. Back to Line
232] phylactery: a small leather box, "containing Hebrew texts of the Bible written on parchment, worn by Jewish males during morning prayer on all days except the sabbath and holidays, as a reminder of the obligation to keep the law" (OED). Back to Line
274] mutabile semper: "always changeable" (an allusion toVirgil's Aeneid, IV, 569-70). Back to Line
279] Mary Clausum: John Selden's Mare clausum ("closed sea"; 1635) asserted that the sea could be appropriated as territory, a position opposed by the Dutchjurist Hugo Grotius (1583-1645). Back to Line
284] irritabile: excitable. Back to Line
286] immedicabile: grudge incapable of being satisfied. Back to Line
309] Unidentified allusion. Back to Line
320] in loco desipere: to play the fool (Horace, Odes, 12:28). Back to Line
330] membra disjecta: scattered fragments. Back to Line
331] Ratzau's: small town and castle in the Czech Republic, or possibly Josias, Comte de Rantzau (1609-50), maréchal of France, who lost -- in fighting for Louis XIV -- an arm, a leg, an eye,and an ear. Back to Line
332] beflead: showered with fleas.
Louis Quatorze: Louis XIV, Louis the Great or the Sun King of France(1638-1715). Back to Line
334] "Scattering everywhere both his limbs and his glory." Back to Line
338] Didaskalos tis: a teacher. Possibly an allusion to what Socrates says in Plato's Apology:"I have never become anyone's teacher [didaskalos].But if anyone ever wanted to hear me speaking and doing my own things, whether he [tis] was younger or older, I have never begrudged it to him." Back to Line
342] Absyrtus: Medea's brother, murdered by her or Jasonwhen Absyrtus pursued her. Back to Line
343] In Areopagitica Milton asks Parliament to seek out Truth, as "Isis made for the mangl'd body of Osiris," the Egyptian god of the dead (with Isis his consort). Back to Line
356] Horatius: Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65-8 BC), the Romanpoet Horace. Back to Line
357] Mæonides: Homer, thought to come from Mæonia. Back to Line
359] ton d'apameibomenos: "him answering thus," a formula in Homer's Iliad. Back to Line
361] Zoilus: Greek grammarian, Cynic philosopher, and literary critic (ca. 400-320 BC)who attacked Homer for his mythic tales. Back to Line
362] Van Winkle's: "Rip Van Winkle," Washington Irving's short story (1819)about a man who slept for twwenty years through the American war of independence. Back to Line
368] homœopathic: a medical practice in which drugs are prescribed that induce symptoms like the disease that is being treated. Back to Line
397] John Bull: personification of the average Englishman. Back to Line
408] Jack Horner: character in the children's rhyme who sits in the corner, eating a Christmas pie,and pulling out a plum, announces what a good boy he is. Back to Line
418] Mr. -----: Evert A. Duyckinck (1816-78), critic and co-editor of the Cyclopaedia of American Literature, and a patron of Arcturus, a Journal of Books and Opinion (1840-42). Back to Line
420] Grub Street: a London street famous for its hack writers. Back to Line
430] Damon: Greek well-known for his loyal friendship-to-death for Pythias. Back to Line
440] Cato, or Brutus: Roman senators, enemies of JuliusCaesar. Back to Line
442] proboscis: long trunk-like nose. Back to Line
458] Democratic Review: a political and literary periodical with liberal principles, published 1837.-59. Back to Line
466] Te Deum: Christian hymn of praise, so called fromits opening, "Te deum laudamus." Back to Line
481] Job: the Old Testament man whose faithfulness and righteousness Jehovah tested with many misfortunes.tested Back to Line
483] Crusoe: hero of Daniel Defoe's nevel, Robinson Crusoe (1719). Back to Line
486] Cheever: the preacher George Barrell Cheever (1807-90), a Calvinist and advocate of capital punishment.. Back to Line
496] cotillion: French dance. Back to Line
497] pillion: saddle. Back to Line
515] Miss -----: Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1810-50), a transcendentalpoet and critic. Back to Line
517] Yankee Doodle: a well-known American patriotic song. Back to Line
520] Tityrus Griswold: Rufus Wilmot Griswold (1815.-57) who edited Poets and Poetry of America (1842). "Tityrus" is an ancient name associated with shepherds. Back to Line
524] Emerson: Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803.-82), American essayist and poet. Back to Line
547] Olympus: the mountain of the Greek pantheon.
the Exchange: probably the New York Stock Exchange (1817-). Back to Line
550] Plotinus-Montaigne: Plotinus (205-70), neoplatonic theologician; Michel de Montaigne (1533-92), Frenchphilosophical essayist. Back to Line
573] post mortem: autopsy, examination made after death. Back to Line
575] Carlyle: Thomas Carlyle (1795.-1881), Englishessayist and historian. Back to Line
576] Plato: classical Greek philosopher (ca. 424.-347 BC). Back to Line
593] transdiurnal: when the day is done. Back to Line
596] à la Fuseli: Henry Fuesli (1742-1825), German engraver of Shakespeare's characters and John Milton's Paradise Lost. Back to Line
597] thews: attributes. Back to Line
600] Flaxman: John Flaxman (1755-1826), illustrator of epic poems by Homer and Dante. Back to Line
627] Hesperides: the nymph "daughters of Hesperus, who were fabled to guard, with the aid of a watchful dragon, the garden in which golden apples grew in the Isles of the Blest, at the western extremity of the earth" (OED). Back to Line
632] Alcott: Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888), a transcendental philosopher.. Back to Line
633] Academe: outside the city walls of classical Athens, on the site on an olive grove, a gymnasium made famous by Plato as a philosophical centre. Back to Line
634] Parthenon: temple on the Athenian Acropolis dedicated to the goddess Athena. Back to Line
652] Brownson: Orestes Augustus Brownson (1803.-76), New Englandauthor. Back to Line
653] Gregorian bull: Brownson converted to Roman Catholicismin 1844. Back to Line
664] the Salt River boatman: an proverbial phrase ... likely what is meant is someone who misdelivers a person or causes him to lose something, e.g., anelection. See Hans Sperber and James N. Tidwell, "Words and Phrases in American Politics: Fact and Fiction about Salt River," American Speech26.4 (1951): 241-47. Back to Line
678] Willis: Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806.-67), New York poet. Back to Line
703] A l' Abri: Willis's À l'Abri; or, The Tent Pitched (1839),sketches of the Susquehanna valley in Pennsylvania. Back to Line
710] cockney: one born within the sound of the bells of Bow Church, London; "a true Londoner." Back to Line
713] Broadway: the cultural heart of New York city. Back to Line
715] Fletcher ... Beaumont: Francis Beaumont (1584-1616), and John Fletcher (1579.-1625), Jacobean dramatists who co-wrote plays. Back to Line
723] Mermaid: a famous inn at which Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and their friends drank. Back to Line
725] Canary: a light sweet wine from the Canary Islands. Back to Line
727] Parker: Edward Hazen Parker (1823-96), physician and poet. Back to Line
730] Socinians: a radical Protestant belief in God, founded on scepticism. Back to Line
745] Xerxes and Knut: ca. 482 BC, a storm destroyed two pontoon bridges that Xerxes I of Persia built at Abydos across the Dardanelles to invade Macedonia; and in revenge Xerxes had men give the waters a whipping. King Cnut (Canute) of England (-1035) had his throne placed on the sea shore and commanded the tide to stop at his feet; and when it did not, as he expected, he moralized on the weakness of human power in God's creation. Back to Line
825] inter / Nos: between ourselves. Back to Line
833] Berkshire Hills: Bryant spent his youth in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts. Back to Line
834] "You can be a fool in one place"; "loco-foco" was the name of a left-wing American political group in the 1840s supported by Bryant as editor of the New York Evening Post. Back to Line
839] Mr. Quivis: Mr. "whoever-he-is." Back to Line
847] Thomson and Cowper: James Thomson (1700-48) and William Cowper (1731-1806).
"To demonstrate quickly and easily how per-
-versely absurd 'tis to sound this name Cowper,
As people in general call him named super,
I just add that he rhymes it himself with horse-trooper. (poet's note) Back to Line
870] An allusion to line 40 of Hesiod's poem, Works and Days. Back to Line
882] Pythoness: the Pythia, prophesying priestess of the oracle at Delphi. Back to Line
895] Taillefer, the minstrel who sang the Song of Roland (and died) as he headed the Norman charge against the Anglo-Saxons at the battle of Hastings in 1066. Back to Line
902] "Is this your son's coat, or not?" (Genesis 37.32),what Joseph's brothers said to their father, Jacob, about Joseph's coat of many colours.
Fox: George Fox, founder of the Quakers, habituallywore a leather coat. Back to Line
906] Castaly's spring: spring of the muses on MountParnassus. Back to Line
1002] rathe: early. Back to Line
1005] John Bunyan: English religious writer of The Pilgrim's Progress (1628-88).
Fouqué: Friedrich Heinrich Karl, baron de la Motte-Fouqué (1777-1843), a German Romantic novelist.
Tieck: Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853), a German Romantic author. Back to Line
1013] Dwight: John Sullivan Dwight (1813-93), a Boston poet and music critic. Back to Line
1023] Scott: Sir Walter Scott. Back to Line
1033] Natty Bumpo: hero frontiersman of Cooper's novel, The Pioneers (1825). Back to Line
1034] Long Toms: Long Tom Coffin, a character in Cooper's novel The Pilot (1823). Back to Line
1039] dernier chemise: the last resort ("last shirt"). Back to Line
1057] Adams, a character in Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews (1742).
Primrose: character in Oliver Goldsmith's novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766). Back to Line
1106] You steal: international copyright law did not appear until 1891. Back to Line
1118] Longfellow edited an anthology in 1845 titledThe Waif: A Collection of Poems. Back to Line
1125] Powers: Hiram Powers (1805-73), whose nude female figure, "The Greek Slave," created a great stir in 1845.
Page: William Page (1811-85), American portrait painter. Back to Line
1155] Miranda: the American transcendentalist poet Margaret Fuller. Back to Line
1242] "If you call Snooks an owl, he will show by his looks
That he's morally certain you're jealous of Snooks." (poet's note) Back to Line
1295] Poe's poem "The Raven," and Charles Dickens' Barnaby Rudge (1841), who had a raven named Grip. Back to Line
1301] Mathews: Cornelius Mathews (1817-89), man of letters, poet, novelist, playwright, and editor. Back to Line
1314] Collins: William Collins (1720-56), English poet of the Augustan period.
Gray: Thomas Gray (1716-71), English poet famous for his "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." Back to Line
1320] Melesigenes: Homer, so-called after the river Meles,near his birthplace. Back to Line
1325] Strauss: Johann Strauss (1804-49), Viennese musician. Back to Line
1328] Theocritus: Greek pastoral poet (ca. 270- BC). Back to Line
1330] Evangeline: heroine of a poem by Longfellow. Back to Line
1378] Po'keepsie: Poughkeepsie, a town in upper New York state. Back to Line
1437] Irving: Washington Irving (1783-1859), novelist, and author of "Rip Van Winkle" and other stories. Back to Line
1457] let remain the shadow of his name. Back to Line
1461] cast not before swine. Back to Line
1555] Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-94) Back to Line
1566] Campbell: Thomas Campbell (1774-1844), Scottish poet. Back to Line
1570] New Timon: a satiric poem by Edward Bulwer, first LordLytton (1803-73), that anonymously attacked prominent figures in literature and politics. Back to Line
1588] Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790-1867), whose poem "Fanny" is a "Wall Street satire," was sometimes referredto as the American Byron -- hence the reference to "Don Juan," Byron's epic satiric poem. Back to Line
1595] "Cuts rightly called wooden, as all must admit." (poet's note). Back to Line
1615] Disraeli: Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-81), British Prime Minister and novelist.
Bulwer: Edward Bulwer, first Lord Litton.
Scott: Sir Walter Scott. Back to Line
1628] George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron (1788-1824), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), and Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822),all English poets of the Romantic period. Back to Line
1629] Raphael: Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483-1520), Italian painterand a grandmaster of Renaissance art; Tiziano Vecelli (ca. 1488-1576), or Titian;and Apelles, the renowned classical Greek painter. Back to Line
1630] Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Italian painter, inventor, and scholar.
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Flemish painter and a grandmaster of the art. Back to Line
1632] Charles Lamb (1775-1834), renowned English essayist; and Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-92), poet laureate. Back to Line
1637] "That is in most cases we do, but not all,
Past a doubt, there are men who are innately small,
Such as Blank, who, without being 'minished a tittle,
Might stand for a type of the Absolute Little." (poet's note) Back to Line
1642] Charon: ferryman who carried the dead across the river Acheron into Hades. Back to Line
1670] "And at this just conclusion will surely arrive,
That the goodness of earth is more dead than alive." (poet's note) Back to Line
1681] Gracchi: brothers Tiberius and Gaius, Roman tribunes in the late 2nd century BCwho acted to redistribute the major patrician landholdings among the plebeians. Back to Line
1687] "Not forgetting their tea and their toast, though, the while." (poet's note) Back to Line
1690] cis-marine: on this side of the sea. Back to Line
1705] "Turn back now to page goodness only knows what,
And take a fresh hold on the thread of my plot." (poet's note). Back to Line
1754] Orpheus: mythic Greek musician and poet, and prophetwho could charm all things with his music, and who tried to rescue his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld. Back to Line
1775] what Kettle calls Pot: black (thus characterizing another with a trait that belongs to oneself). Back to Line
1788] Jeffrey: Francis Jeffrey, Lord Jeffrey (1773.-1850), editorof the Edinburgh Review in London (1802-). Back to Line
1789] Johnson: Samuel Johnson, poet-lexicographer-critic of the 18th century. Back to Line
1802] Peck: playful allusion to George Washington Peck(1817-59), editor of the Boston Musical Review (1845-47). Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Data entry: Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: 
Special Copyright: 

Phœbus, sitting one day in a laurel-tree's shade, Phœbus: Greek sun god. Was reminded of Daphne, of whom it was made, Daphne: minor river goddess, daughter of the river god Peneus, who transformed her into a laurel tree to preserve her honour when she could not escape Phœbus's lustful pursuit. For the God being one day too warm in his wooing, She took to the tree to escape his pursuing; Be the cause what it might, from his offers she shrunk, And, Ginevra-like, shut herself up in a trunk; Ginevra-like: "A young Italian bride, who during a game of hide-and-seek hid herself in a large trunk. The lid suddenly fell and was held fast by a spring-lock. The lady's skeleton came to light many years later when the trunk was sold and opened." (Lovell's Essays, Poems and Letters, ed. William Smith Clark II [1948]: 189). And, though 'twas a step into which he had driven her, He somehow or other had never forgiven her; Her memory he nursed as a kind of a tonic, Something bitter to chew when he'd play the Byronic, And I can't count the obstinate nymphs that he brought over, By a strange kind of smile he put on when he thought of her. "My case is like Dido's," he sometimes remark'd, Dido: Queen of Carthage who fell in love with Aeneas and commits herself to a death by fire when he leaves her. "When I last saw my love, she was fairly embark'd; Let hunters from me take this saw when they need it, saw: saying, truism. -- You're not always sure of your game when you've tree'd it. Just conceive such a change taking place in one's mistress! What romance would be left? -- who can flatter or kiss trees? And for mercy's sake, how could one keep up a dialogue With a dull wooden thing that will live and will die a log,-- Not to say that the thought would forever intrude That you've less chance to win her the more she is wood? Ah! it went to my heart, and the memory still grieves, To see those loved graces all taking their leaves; Those charms beyond speech, so enchanting but now, As they left me forever, each making its bough! If her tongue had a tang sometimes more than was right,