Vaughan’s Poems by John Brown

Story type: Essay

{Hosa esti prosphile–tauta logizesthe}.–ST. PAUL.

“What do you think of Dr. Channing, Mr. Coleridge?” said a brisk young gentleman to the mighty discourser, as he sat next him at a small tea-party. “Before entering upon that question, sir,” said Coleridge, opening upon his inquirer those ‘noticeable gray eyes,’ with a vague and placid stare, and settling himself in his seat for the night, “I must put you in possession of my views, in extenso, on the origin, progress, present condition, future likelihoods, and absolute essence of the Unitarian controversy, and especially the conclusions I have, upon the whole, come to on the great question of what may be termed the philosophy of religious difference.” In like manner, before telling our readers what we think of Henry Vaughan, the Silurist, or of “V.,” or of Henry Ellison, the Bornnatural, or of E. V. K., it would have been very pleasant (to ourselves) to have given, in extenso, our views de Re Poetica, its nature, its laws and office, its means and ends; and to have made known how much and how little we agreed on these points with such worthies as Aristotle and Plato, Horace and Richard Baxter, Petronius Arbiter and Blaise Pascal, Ulric von Huetten and Boileau, Hurdis and Hurd, Dr. Arnold and Montaigne, Harris of Salisbury and his famous uncle, Burke and “John Buncle,” Montesquieu and Sir Philip Sidney, Dr. Johnson and the two Wartons, George Gascoyne and Spenser’s friend Gabriel Harvey, Puttenham and Webbe, George Herbert and George Sand, Petrarch and Pinciano, Vida and Julius Caesar Scaliger, Pontanus and Savage Landor, Leigh Hunt and Quinctilian, or Tacitus (whichever of the two wrote the Dialogue De Oratoribus, in which there is so much of the best philosophy, criticism, and expression), Lords Bacon and Buchan and Dr. Blair, Dugald Stewart and John Dryden, Charles Lamb and Professor Wilson, Vinet of Lausanne and John Foster, Lord Jeffrey and the two brothers Hare, Drs. Fuller and South, John Milton and Dr. Drake, Dante and “Edie Ochiltree,” Wordsworth and John Bunyan, Plutarch and Winkelman, the Coleridges, Samuel, Sara, Hartley, Derwent, and Henry Nelson, Sir Egerton Bridges, Victor Cousin and “the Doctor,” George Moir and Madame de Stael, Dr. Fracastorius and Professor Keble, Martinus Scriblerus and Sir Thomas Browne, Macaulay and the Bishop of Cloyne, Collins and Gray and Sir James Mackintosh, Hazlitt and John Ruskin, Shakspeare and Jackson of Exeter, Dallas and De Quincey, and the six Taylors, Jeremy, William, Isaac, Jane, John Edward, and Henry. We would have had great pleasure in quoting what these famous women and men have written on the essence and the art of poetry, and to have shown how strangely they differ, and how as strangely at times they agree. But as it is not related at what time of the evening our brisk young gentleman got his answer regarding Dr. Channing, so it likewise remains untold what our readers have lost and gained in our not fulfilling our somewhat extensive desire.

It is with poetry as with flowers or fruits, and the delicious juices of meats and fishes, we would all rather have them, and smell them, and taste them, than hear about them. It is a good thing to know all about a lily, its scientific ins and outs, its botany, its archaeology, its aesthetics, even its anatomy and “organic radicals,” but it is a better thing to look at itself, and “consider” it how it grows–

“White, radiant, spotless, exquisitely pure.”

It is one thing to know what your peach is, that it is the fruit of a rosal exogen, and is of the nature of a true drupe, with its carpel solitary, and its style proceeding from the apex,–that its ovules are anatropal, and that its putamen separates sponte sua from the sacrocarp; to know, moreover, how many kinds of peaches and nectarines there are in the world, and how happy the Canadian pigs must be of an evening munching the downy odoriferous drupes under the trees, and what an aroma this must give to the resulting pork,[1]–it is another and a better thing to pluck the peach, and sink your teeth into its fragrant flesh. We remember only one exception to this rule. Who has ever yet tasted the roast pig of reality which came up to the roast pig of Charles Lamb? Who can forget “that young and tender suckling, under a moon old, guiltless as yet of the style, with no original speck of the amor immunditiae–the hereditary failing of the first parent, yet manifest, and which, when prepared aright, is, of all the delicacies in the mundus edibilis, the most delicate–obsoniorum facile princeps–whose fat is not fat, but an indefinable sweetness growing up toward it–the tender blossoming of fat–fat cropped in the bud–taken in the shoot–in the first innocence, the cream and quintessence of the child-pig’s yet pure food–the lean not lean, but a kind of animal manna–coelestiscibus ille angelorum–or rather shall we say, fat and lean (if it must be so) so blended and running into each other, that both together make but one ambrosial result.” But here, as elsewhere, the exception proves the rule, and even the perusal of “Original” Walker’s delicious schemes of dinners at Lovegrove’s, with flounders water-zoutched, and iced claret, would stand little chance against an invitation to a party of six to Blackwall, with “Tom Young of the Treasury” as Prime Minister.

Footnote:

[1] We are given to understand that peach-fed pork is a poor pork after all, and goes soon into decomposition. We are not sorry to know this.

Poetry is the expression of the beautiful–by words–the beautiful of the outer and of the inner world; whatever is delectable to the eye or the ear, the every sense of the body and of the soul–it presides over veras dulcedines rerum. It implies at once a vision and a faculty, a gift and an art. There must be the vivid conception of the beautiful, and its fit manifestation in numerous language. A thought may be poetical, and yet not poetry; it may be a sort of mother liquor, holding in solution the poetical element, but waiting and wanting its precipitation,–its concentration into the bright and compacted crystal. It is the very blossom and fragrancy and bloom of all human thoughts, passions, emotions, language; having for its immediate object–its very essence–pleasure and delectation rather than truth; but springing from truth, as the flower from its fixed and unseen root. To use the words of Puttenham in reference to Sir Walter Raleigh, poetry is a lofty, insolent (unusual) and passionate thing.

It is not philosophy, it is not science, it is not morality, it is not religion, any more than red is or ever can be blue or yellow, or than one thing can ever be another; but it feeds on, it glorifies and exalts, it impassionates them all. A poet will be the better of all the wisdom, and all the goodness, and all the science, and all the talent he can gather into himself, but qua poet he is a minister and an interpreter of {to kalon}, and of nothing else. Philosophy and poetry are not opposites, but neither are they convertibles. They are twin sisters;–in the words of Augustine:–“PHILOCALIA et PHILOSOPHIA prope similiter cognominatae sunt, et quasi gentiles inter se videri volunt et sunt. Quid est enim Philosophia? amor sapientiae. Quid Philocalia? amor pulchritudinis. Germanae igitur istae sunt prorsus, et eodem parente procreatae.” Fracastorius beautifully illustrates this in his “Naugerius, sive De Poetica Dialogus.” He has been dividing writers, or composers as he calls them, into historians, or those who record appearances; philosophers, who seek out causes; and poets, who perceive and express veras pulchritudines rerum, quicquid maximum et magnificum, quicquid pulcherrimum, quicquid dulcissimum; and as an example, he says, if the historian describe the ongoings of this visible universe, I am taught; if the philosopher announce the doctrine of a spiritual essence pervading and regulating all things, I admire; but if the poet take up the same theme, and sing–

“Principio caelum ac terras camposque liquentes
Lucentemque globum lunae, titaniaque astra,
Spiritus intus alit; totamque infusa per artus
Mens agitat molem et magno se corpore miscet.”

“Si inquam, eandem rem, hoc pacto referat mihi, non admirabor solum, sed adamabo: et divinum nescio quid, in animum mihi immissum existimabo.”

In the quotation which he gives, we at once detect the proper tools and cunning of the poet: fancy gives us liquentes campos, titania astra, lucentem globum lunae, and fantasy or imagination, in virtue of its royal and transmuting power, gives us intus alitinfusa per artus–and that magnificent idea, magno se corpore miscet–this is the divinum nescio quid–the proper work of the imagination–the master and specific faculty of the poet–that which makes him what he is, as the wings make a bird, and which, to borrow the noble words of the Book of Wisdom, “is more moving than motion,–is one only, and yet manifold, subtle, lively, clear, plain, quick, which cannot be letted, passing and going through all things by reason of her pureness; being one, she can do all things; and remaining in herself, she maketh all things new.”

The following is Fracastorius’ definition of a man who not only writes verses, but is by nature a poet: “Est autem ille natura poeta, qui aptus est veris rerum pulchritudinibus capi monerique; et qui per illas loqui et scribere potest;” and he gives the lines of Virgil,–

“Aut sicuti nigrum
Ilicibus crebris sacra nemus accubat umbra,”

as an instance of the poetical transformation. All that was merely actual or informative might have been given in the words sicuti nemus, but fantasy sets to work, and videte, per quas pulchritudines, nemus depinxit; addens ACCUBAT, ET NIGRUM crebris ilicibus et SACRA UMBRA! quam ob rem, recte Pontanus dicebat, finem esse poetae, apposite dicere ad admirationem, simpliciter, et per universalem bene dicendi ideam. This is what we call the beau ideal, or {kat’ exochen} the ideal–what Bacon describes as “a more ample greatness, a more exact goodness, and a more absolute variety than can be found in the nature of things, the world being in proportion inferior to the soul, and the exhibition of which doth raise and erect the mind by submitting the shows of things to the desires of the mind.” It is “the wondrous and goodly paterne” of which Spenser sings in his “Hymne in honour of Beautie:”–

“What time this world’s great Workmaister did cast
To make al things such as we now behold,
It seems that he before his eyes had plast
A goodly Paterne, to whose perfect mould
He fashioned them, as comely as he could,
That now so faire and seemly they appeare,
As nought may be amended any wheare.

“That wondrous Paterne wheresoere it bee,
Whether in earth layd up in secret store,
Or else in heaven, that no man may it see
With sinfull eyes, for feare it to deflore,
Is perfect Beautie, which all men adore–
That is the thing that giveth pleasant grace
To all things fair.

“For through infusion of celestial powre
The duller earth it quickneth with delight,
And life-full spirits privily doth powre
Through all the parts, that to the looker’s sight
They seeme to please.”

It is that “loveliness” which Mr. Ruskin calls “the signature of God on his works,” the dazzling printings of His fingers, and to the unfolding of which he has devoted, with so much of the highest philosophy and eloquence, a great part of the second volume of “Modern Painters.”

But we are as bad as Mr. Coleridge, and are defrauding our readers of their fruits and flowers, their peaches and lilies.

Henry Vaughan, “Silurist,” as he was called, from his being born in South Wales, the country of the Silures, was sprung from one of the most ancient and noble families of the Principality. Two of his ancestors, Sir Roger Vaughan and Sir David Gam, fell at Agincourt. It is said that Shakspeare visited Scethrog, the family castle in Brecknockshire; and Malone guesses that it was when there that he fell in with the word “Puck.” Near Scethrog, there is Cwn-Pooky, or Pwcca, the Goblin’s valley, which belonged to the Vaughans; and Crofton Croker gives, in his Fairy Legends, a fac-simile of a portrait, drawn by a Welsh peasant, of a Pwcca, which (whom?) he himself had seen sitting on a milestone,[2] by the roadside, in the early morning, a very unlikely personage, one would think, to say,–

“I go, I go; look how I go;
Swifter than arrow from the Tartar’s bow.”

Footnote [2]:

We confess to being considerably affected when we look at this odd little fellow, as he sits there with his innocent upturned toes, and a certain forlorn dignity and meek sadness, as of “one who once had wings.” What is he? and whence? Is he a surface or a substance? is he smooth and warm? is he glossy, like a blackberry? or has he on him “the raven down of darkness,” like an unfledged chick of night? and if we smoothed him, would he smile? Does that large eye wink? and is it a hole through to the other side? (whatever that may be;) and is that a small crescent moon of darkness swimming in its disc? or does the eye disclose a bright light from within, where his soul sits and enjoys bright day? Is he a point of admiration whose head is too heavy, or a quaver or crotchet that has lost his neighbors, and fallen out of the scale? Is he an aspiring Tadpole in search of an idea? What have been and what will be the fortunes of this our small Nigel (Nigellus)? Think of “Elia” having him sent up from the Goblin Valley, packed in wool, and finding him lively! how he and “Mary” would doat upon him, feeding him upon some celestial, unspeakable pap, “sweeter than the lids of Juno’s eyes, or Cytherea’s breath.” How the brother and sister would croon over him “with murmurs made to bless,” calling him their “tender novice” “in the first bloom of his nigritude,” their belated straggler from the “rear of darkness thin,” their little night-shade, not deadly, their infantile Will-o’-the-wisp caught before his sins, their “poor Blot,” “their innocent Blackness,” their “dim Speck.”

We can more easily imagine him as one of those Sprites–

“That do run
By the triple Hecat’s team,
From the presence of the Sun,
Following darkness like a dream.”

Henry, our poet, was born in 1621; and had a twin-brother, Thomas. Newton, his birthplace, is now a farm-house on the banks of the Usk, the scenery of which is of great beauty. The twins entered Jesus College, Oxford, in 1638. This was early in the Great Rebellion, and Charles then kept his Court at Oxford. The young Vaughans were hot Royalists; Thomas bore arms, and Henry was imprisoned. Thomas, after many perils, retired to Oxford, and devoted his life to alchemy, under the patronage of Sir Robert Murray, Secretary of State for Scotland, himself addicted to these studies. He published a number of works, with such titles as “Anthroposophia Theomagica, or a Discourse of the Nature of Man, and his State after Death, grounded on his Creator’s Proto-chemistry;” “Magia Adamica, with a full discovery of the true Coelum terrae, or the Magician’s Heavenly Chaos and the first matter of all things.”

Henry seems to have been intimate with the famous wits of his time: “Great Ben,” Cartwright, Randolph, Fletcher, etc. His first publication was in 1646:–“Poems, with the Tenth Satyre of Juvenal Englished, by Henry Vaughan, Gent.” After taking his degree in London as M. D., he settled at his birthplace, Newton, where he lived and died the doctor of the district. About this time he prepared for the press his little volume, “Olor Iscanus, the Swan of Usk,” which was afterwards published by his brother Thomas, without the poet’s consent. We are fortunate in possessing a copy of this curious volume, which is now marked in the Catalogues as “Rariss.” It contains a few original poems; some of them epistles to his friends, hit off with great vigor, wit, and humor. Speaking of the change of times, and the reign of the Roundheads, he says,–

“Here’s brotherly Ruffs and Beards, and a strange sight
Of high monumental Hats, tane at the fight
Of eighty-eight; while every Burgesse foots
The mortal Pavement in eternall boots.”

There is a line in one of the letters which strikes us as of great beauty:–

“Feed on the vocal silence of his eye.”

And there is a very clever poem Ad Amicum Foeneratorem, in defiance of his friend’s demand of repayment of a loan.

There is great beauty and delicacy of expression in these two stanzas of an epithalamium:–

“Blessings as rich and fragrant crown your heads,
As the mild heaven on roses sheds,
When at their cheeks (like pearls) they weare
The clouds that court them in a tear.

“Fresh as the houres may all your pleasures be,
And healthfull as Eternitie!
Sweet as the flowre’s first breath, and close
As th’ unseen spreadings of the Rose
When she unfolds her curtained head,
And makes her bosome the Sun’s bed!”

The translations from Ovid, Boece, and Cassimir, are excellent.

The following lines conclude an invitation to a friend:–

“Come then! and while the slow isicle hangs
At the stifle thatch, and Winter’s frosty pangs
Benumme the year, blithe as of old let us
Mid noise and war, of peace and mirth discusse.
This portion thou wert born for. Why should we
Vex at the time’s ridiculous miserie?
An age that thus hath fooled itself, and will,
Spite of thy teeth and mine, persist so still.
Let’s sit then at this fire; and, while wee steal
A revell in the Town, let others seal,
Purchase, and cheat, and who can let them pay,
Till those black deeds bring on the darksome day.
Innocent spenders wee! a better use
Shall wear out our short lease, and leave the obtuse
Rout to their husks. They and their bags at best
Have cares in earnest. Wee care for a jest!”

When about thirty years of age, he had a long and serious illness, during which his mind underwent an entire and final change on the most important of all subjects; and thenceforward he seems to have lived “soberly, righteously, and godly.”

In his Preface to the “Silex Scintillans,” he says, “The God of the spirits of all flesh hath granted me a further use of mine than I did look for in the body; and when I expected and had prepared for a message of death, then did he answer me with life; I hope to his glory, and my great advantage; that I may flourish not with leafe only, but with some fruit also.” And he speaks of himself as one of the converts of “that blessed man, Mr. George Herbert.”

Soon after, he published a little volume, called “Flores Solitudinis,” partly prose and partly verse. The prose, as Mr. Lyte justly remarks, is simple and nervous, unlike his poetry, which is occasionally deformed with the conceit of his time.

The verses entitled “St. Paulinus to his wife Theresia,” have much of the vigor and thoughtfulness and point of Cowper. In 1655, he published a second edition, or more correctly a re-issue, for it was not reprinted, of his Silex Scintillans, with a second part added. He seems not to have given anything after this to the public, during the next forty years of his life.

He was twice married, and died in 1695, aged 73, at Newton, on the banks of his beloved Usk, where he had spent his useful, blameless, and, we doubt not, happy life; living from day to day in the eye of Nature, and in his solitary rides and walks in that wild and beautiful country, finding full exercise for that fine sense of the beauty and wondrousness of all visible things, “the earth and every common sight,” the expression of which he has so worthily embodied in his poems.

In “The Retreate,” he thus expresses this passionate love of Nature–

“Happy those early dayes, when I
Shin’d in my Angell-infancy!
Before I understood this place
Appointed for my second race,
Or taught my soul to fancy ought
But a white, Celestiall thought;
When yet I had not walkt above
A mile or two from my first love,
And looking back, at that short space,
Could see a glimpse of his bright face;
When on some gilded Cloud or flowre
My gazing soul would dwell an houre,
And in those weaker glories spy
Some shadows of eternity;
Before I taught my tongue to wound
My Conscience with a sinfule sound,
Or had the black art to dispence
A sev’rall sinne to ev’ry sence,
But felt through all this fleshly dresse
Bright shootes of everlastingnesse.
O how I long to travell back,
And tread again that ancient track!
That I might once more reach that plaine,
Where first I left my glorious traine;
From whence th’ Inlightned spirit sees
That shady City of Palme trees.”

To use the words of Lord Jeffrey as applied to Shakspeare, Vaughan seems to have had in large measure and of finest quality, “that indestructible love of flowers, and odors, and dews, and clear waters, and soft airs and sounds, and bright skies, and woodland solitudes, and moonlight, which are the material elements of poetry; and that fine sense of their undefinable relation to mental emotion which is its essence and its vivifying power.”

And though what Sir Walter says of the country surgeon is too true, that he is worse fed and harder wrought than any one else in the parish, except it be his horse; still, to a man like Vaughan, to whom the love of nature and its scrutiny was a constant passion, few occupations could have furnished ampler and more exquisite manifestations of her magnificence and beauty. Many of his finest descriptions give us quite the notion of their having been composed when going his rounds on his Welsh pony among the glens and hills, and their unspeakable solitudes. Such lines as the following to a Star were probably direct from nature on some cloudless night:–

“Whatever ’tis, whose beauty here below
Attracts thee thus, and makes thee stream and flow,
And winde and curle, and wink and smile,
Shifting thy gate and guile.”

He is one of the earliest of our poets who treats external nature subjectively rather than objectively, in which he was followed by Gray (especially in his letters) and Collins and Cowper, and in some measure by Warton, until it reached its consummation, and perhaps its excess, in Wordsworth.

We shall now give our readers some specimens from the reprint of the Silex by Mr. Pickering, so admirably edited by the Rev. H. F. Lyte, himself a true poet, of whose careful life of our author we have made very free use.

THE TIMBER.

“Sure thou didst flourish once! and many Springs,
Many bright mornings, much dew, many showers
Past o’er thy head: many light Hearts and Wings,
Which now are dead, lodg’d in thy living bowers.

“And still a new succession sings and flies;
Fresh groves grow up, and their green branches shoot
Towards the old and still enduring skies;
While the low Violet thriveth at their root.

“But thou beneath the sad and heavy Line
Of death dost waste all senseless, cold and dark;
Where not so much as dreams of light may shine,
Nor any thought of greenness, leaf or bark.

“And yet, as if some deep hate and dissent,
Bred in thy growth betwixt high winds and thee,
Were still alive, thou dost great storms resent,
Before they come, and know’st how near they be.

“Else all at rest thou lyest, and the fierce breath
Of tempests can no more disturb thy ease;
But this thy strange resentment after death
Means only those who broke in life thy peace.”

This poem is founded upon the superstition that a tree which had been blown down by the wind gave signs of restlessness and anger before the coming of a storm from the quarter whence came its own fall. It seems to us full of the finest fantasy and expression.

THE WORLD.

“I saw Eternity the other night
Like a great Ring of pure and endless light,
All calm as it was bright;
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years,
Driv’n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov’d, in which the world
And all her train were hurl’d.”

There is a wonderful magnificence about this; and what a Bunyan-like reality is given to the vision by “the other night”!

MAN.

“Weighing the stedfastness and state
Of some mean things which here below reside,
Where birds like watchful Clocks the noiseless date
And Intercourse of times divide,
Where Bees at night get home and hive, and flowrs,
Early as well as late,
Rise with the Sun, and set in the same bowrs:

“I would, said I, my God would give
The staidness of these things to man! for these
To His divine appointments ever cleave,
And no new business breaks their peace;
The birds nor sow nor reap, yet sup and dine,
The flowres without clothes live,
Yet Solomon was never drest so fine.

“Man hath still either toyes or Care;
He hath no root, nor to one place is ty’d,
But ever restless and Irregular
About this Earth doth run and ride.
He knows he hath a home, but scarce knows where;
He says it is so far,
That he hath quite forgot how to go there.

“He knocks at all doors, strays and roams:
Nay hath not so much wit as some stones have,
Which in the darkest nights point to their homes
By some hid sense their Maker gave:
Man is the shuttle, to whose winding quest
And passage through these looms
God order’d motion, but ordain’d no rest.”

There is great moral force about this; its measure and words put one in mind of the majestic lines of Shirley, beginning

“The glories of our earthly state
Are shadows, not substantial things.”

COCK-CROWING.

“Father of lights! what Sunnie seed,
What glance of day hast thou confin’d
Into this bird? To all the breed
This busie Ray thou hast assign’d;
Their magnetisme works all night,
And dreams of Paradise and light.

“Their eyes watch for the morning-hue,
Their little grain expelling night
So shines and sings, as if it knew
The path unto the house of light.
It seems their candle, howe’er done,
Was tinn’d and lighted at the sunne.”

This is a conceit, but an exquisite one.

PROVIDENCE.

“Sacred and secret hand!
By whose assisting, swift command
The Angel shewd that holy Well,
Which freed poor Hagar from her fears,
And turn’d to smiles the begging tears
Of yong distressed Ishmael.”

There is something very beautiful and touching in the opening of this on Providence, and in the “yong distressed Ishmael.”

THE DAWNING.

“Ah! what time wilt thou come? when shall that crie,
The Bridegroome’s Comming! fill the sky?
Shall it in the Evening run
When our words and works are done?
Or will thy all-surprizing light
Break at midnight,
When either sleep, or some dark pleasure
Possesseth mad man without measure?
Or shall these early, fragrant hours
Unlock thy bowres?
And with their blush of light descry
Thy locks crown’d with eternitie?
Indeed, it is the only time
That with thy glory doth best chime;
All now are stirring, ev’ry field
Full hymns doth yield;
The whole Creation shakes off night,
And for thy shadow looks the light.”

This last line is full of grandeur and originality.

THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL.

“Lord, when thou didst on Sinai pitch,
And shine from Paran, when a firie Law,
Pronounc’d with thunder and thy threats, did thaw
Thy People’s hearts, when all thy weeds were rich,
And Inaccessible for light,
Terrour, and might;–
How did poore flesh, which after thou didst weare,
Then faint and fear!
Thy Chosen flock, like leafs in a high wind,
Whisper’d obedience, and their heads inclin’d.”

The idea in the last lines, we may suppose, was suggested by what Isaiah says of the effect produced on Ahaz and the men of Judah, when they heard that Rezin, king of Syria, had joined Israel against them. “And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved by the winds.”

HOLY SCRIPTURES.

“Welcome, dear book, soul’s Joy and food! The feast
Of Spirits; Heav’n extracted lyes in thee.
Thou art life’s Charter, The Dove’s spotless nest
Where souls are hatch’d unto Eternitie.

“In thee the hidden stone, the Manna lies;
Thou art the great Elixir rare and Choice;
The Key that opens to all Mysteries,
The Word in Characters, God in the Voice.”

This is very like Herbert, and not inferior to him.

In a poem having the odd mark of “�,” and which seems to have been written after the death of some dear friends, are these two stanzas, the last of which is singularly pathetic:–

“They are all gone into the world of light!
And I alone sit lingring here!
Their very memory is fair and bright,
And my sad thoughts doth clear.

“He that hath found some fledg’d bird’s nest may know
At first sight if the bird be flown;
But what fair Dell or Grove he sings in now,
That is to him unknown.”

Referring to Nicodemus visiting our Lord:–

THE NIGHT. (JOHN iii. 2.)

“Most blest believer he!
Who in that land of darkness and blinde eyes
Thy long expected healing wings could see,
When thou didst rise;
And, what can never more be done,
Did at midnight speak with the Sun!

“O who will tell me where
He found thee at that dead and silent hour?
What hallow’d solitary ground did bear
So rare a flower;
Within whose sacred leaves did lie
The fulness of the Deity?

“No mercy-seat of gold,
No dead and dusty Cherub, nor carved stone,
But his own living works, did my Lord hold
And lodge alone;
Where trees and herbs did watch and peep
And wonder, while the Jews did sleep.

“Dear night! this world’s defeat;
The stop to busie fools; care’s check and curb;
The day of Spirits; my soul’s calm retreat
Which none disturb!
Christ’s[46] progress and his prayer time;
The hours to which high Heaven doth chime.

“God’s silent, searching flight:
When my Lord’s head is filled with dew, and all
His locks are wet with the clear drops of night;
His still, soft call;
His knocking time; the soul’s dumb watch,
When spirits their Fair Kindred catch.

“Were all my loud, evil days,
Calm and unhaunted as is Thy dark Tent,
Whose peace but by some Angel’s wing or voice
Is seldom rent;
Then I in Heaven all the long year
Would keep, and never wander here.”

[46] Mark i. 35; Luke xxi. 37.

At the end he has these striking words–

“There is in God, some say,
A deep but dazzling darkness—-“

This brings to our mind the concluding sentence of Mr. Ruskin’s fifth chapter in his second volume–“The infinity of God is not mysterious, it is only unfathomable; not concealed, but incomprehensible; it is a clear infinity, the darkness of the pure, unsearchable sea.” Plato, if we rightly remember, says–“Truth is the body of God, light is His shadow.”

DEATH.

“Though since thy first sad entrance
By just Abel’s blood,
‘Tis now six thousand years well nigh,
And still thy sovereignty holds good;
Yet by none art thou understood.

“We talk and name thee with much ease,
As a tryed thing,
And every one can slight his lease,
As if it ended in a Spring,
Which shades and bowers doth rent-free bring.

“To thy dark land these heedless go,
But there was One
Who search’d it quite through to and fro,
And then, returning like the Sun,
Discover’d all that there is done.

“And since his death we throughly see
All thy dark way;
Thy shades but thin and narrow be,
Which his first looks will quickly fray:
Mists make but triumphs for the day.”

THE WATER-FALL.

“With what deep murmurs, through time’s silent stealth,
Doth thy transparent, cool and watry wealth
Here flowing fall,
And chide and call,
As if his liquid, loose Retinue staid
Lingring, and were of this steep place afraid.”

THE SHOWER.

“Waters above! Eternal springs!
The dew that silvers the Dove’s wings!
O welcome, welcome to the sad!
Give dry dust drink, drink that makes glad.
Many fair Evenings, many flowers
Sweetened with rich and gentle showers,
Have I enjoyed, and down have run
Many a fine and shining Sun;
But never, till this happy hour,
Was blest with such an evening shower!”

What a curious felicity about the repetition of “drink” in the fourth line.

“Isaac’s Marriage” is one of the best of the pieces, but is too long for insertion.

“THE RAINBOW”

has seldom been better sung:

“Still young and fine! but what is still in view
We slight as old and soil’d, though fresh and new.
How bright wert thou, when Shem’s admiring eye
Thy burnisht, flaming Arch did first descry!
When Terah, Nahor, Haran, Abram, Lot,
The youthful world’s gray fathers in one knot,
Did with intentive looks watch every hour
For thy new light, and trembled at each shower!
When thou dost shine darkness looks white and fair,
Forms turn to Musick, clouds to smiles and air:
Rain gently spends his honey-drops, and pours
Balm on the cleft earth, milk on grass and flowers.
Bright pledge of peace and Sunshine! the sure tye
Of thy Lord’s hand, the object[A] of His eye!
When I behold thee, though my light be dim,
Distant and low, I can in thine see Him
Who looks upon thee from His glorious throne,
And mindes the Covenant ‘twixt All and One.”

[Footnote A: Gen. ix. 16.]

What a knot of the gray fathers!

“Terah, Nahor, Haran, Abram, Lot!”

Our readers will see whence Campbell stole, and how he spoiled in the stealing (by omitting the word “youthful”), the well-known line in his “Rainbow”–

“How came the world’s gray fathers forth
To view the sacred sign.”

Campbell did not disdain to take this, and no one will say much against him, though it looks ill, occurring in a poem on the rainbow; but we cannot so easily forgive him for saying that “Vaughan is one of the harshest even of the inferior order of conceit, having some few scattered thoughts that meet our eye amidst his harsh pages, like wild flowers on a barren heath.”

“Rules and Lessons” is his longest and one of his best poems; but we must send our readers to the book itself, where they will find much to make them grateful to “The Silurist” and to Mr. Pickering, who has already done such good service for the best of our elder literature.

We have said little about the deep godliness, the spiritual Christianity, with which every poem is penetrated and quickened. Those who can detect and relish this best, will not be the worse pleased at our saying little about it. Vaughan’s religion is deep, lively, personal, tender, kindly, impassioned, temperate, central. His religion grows up, effloresces into the ideas and forms of poetry as naturally, as noiselessly, as beautifully as the life of the unseen seed finds its way up into the “bright consummate flower.”

* * * * *

Of “IX. Poems by V.,” we would say with the Quarterly, {baia men alla RHODA}. They combine rare excellences; the concentration, the finish, the gravity of a man’s thought, with the tenderness, the insight, the constitutional sorrowfulness of a woman’s–her purity, her passionateness, her delicate and keen sense and expression. We confess we would rather have been the author of any one of the nine poems in this little volume, than of the somewhat tremendous, absurd, raw, loud, and fuliginous “Festus,” with his many thousands of lines and his amazing reputation, his bad English, bad religion, bad philosophy, and very bad jokes–his “buttered thunder” (this is his own phrase), and his poor devil of a Lucifer–we would, we repeat (having in this our subita ac saeva indignatio run ourselves a little out of breath), as much rather keep company with “V.” than with Mr. Bailey, as we would prefer going to sea for pleasure, in a trim little yacht, with its free motions, its quiet, its cleanliness, to taking a state berth in some Fire-King steamer of one thousand horse-power, with his mighty and troublous throb, his smoke, his exasperated steam, his clangor, and fire and fury, his oils and smells.

Had we time, and were this the fit place, we could, we think, make something out of this comparison of the boat with its sail and its rudder, and the unseen, wayward, serviceable winds playing about it, inspiring it, and swaying its course,–and the iron steamer, with its machinery, its coarse energy, its noises and philosophy, its ungainly build and gait, its perilousness from within; and we think we could show how much of what Aristotle, Lord Jeffrey, Charles Lamb, or Edmund Burke would have called genuine poetry there is in the slender “V.,” and how little in the big “Festus.” We have made repeated attempts, but we cannot get through this poem. It beats us. We must want the Festus sense. Some of our best friends, with whom we generally agree on such matters, are distressed for us, and repeat long passages with great energy and apparent intelligence and satisfaction. Meanwhile, having read the six pages of public opinion at the end of the third and People’s edition, we take it for granted that it is a great performance, that, to use one of the author’s own words, there is a mighty “somethingness” about it–and we can entirely acquiesce in the quotation from The Sunday Times, that they “read it with astonishment, and closed it with bewilderment.” It would appear from these opinions, which from their intensity, variety, and number (upwards of 50), are curious signs of the times, that Mr. Bailey has not so much improved on, as happily superseded the authors of Job and Ecclesiastes, of the Divine Comedy, of Paradise Lost and Regained, of Dr. Faustus, Hamlet, and Faust, of Don Juan, the Course of Time, St. Leon, the Jolly Beggars, and the Loves of the Angels.

He is more sublime and simple than Job–more royally witty and wise, more to the quick and the point than Solomon–more picturesque, more intense, more pathetic than Dante–more Miltonic (we have no other word) than Milton–more dreadful, more curiously blasphemous, more sonorous than Marlowe–more worldly-wise and clever, and intellectually svelt than Goethe. More passionate, more eloquent, more impudent than Byron–more orthodox, more edifying, more precocious than Pollok–more absorptive and inveterate than Godwin; and more hearty and tender, more of love and manhood all compact than Burns–more gay than Moore–more {myrianous} than Shakspeare.

It may be so. We have made repeated and resolute incursions in various directions into his torrid zone, but have always come out greatly scorched and stunned and affronted. Never before did we come across such an amount of energetic and tremendous words, going “sounding on their dim and perilous way,” like a cataract at midnight–not flowing like a stream, nor leaping like a clear waterfall, but always among breakers–roaring and tearing and tempesting with a sort of transcendental din; and then what power of energizing and speaking, and philosophizing and preaching, and laughing and joking and love-making, in vacuo! As far as we can judge, and as far as we can keep our senses in such a region, it seems to us not a poem at all, hardly even poetical–but rather the materials for a poem, made up of science, religion, and love, the (very raw) materials of a structure–as if the bricks and mortar, and lath and plaster, and furniture, and fire and fuel and meat and drink, and inhabitants male and female, of a house were all mixed “through other” in one enormous imbroglio. It is a sort of fire-mist, out of which poetry, like a star, might by curdling, condensation, crystallization, have been developed, after much purging, refining, and cooling, much time and pains. Mr. Bailey is, we believe, still a young man full of energy–full, we doubt not, of great and good aims; let him read over a passage, we dare say he knows it well, in the second book of Milton on Church Government, he will there, among many other things worthy of his regard, find that “the wily subtleties and refluxes of man’s thoughts from within,” which is the haunt and main region of his song, may be “painted out and described” with “a solid and treatable smoothness.” If he paint out and describe after this manner, he may yet more than make up for this sin of his youth; and let him take our word for it and fling away nine tenths of his adjectives, and in the words of Old Shirley–

“Compose his poem clean without ’em.
A row of stately SUBSTANTIVES would march
Like Switzers, and bear all the fields before ’em;
Carry their weight; show fair, like Deeds enroll’d;
Not Writs, that are first made and after filed.
Thence first came up the title of Blank Verse;–
You know, sir, what Blank signifies;–when the sense,
First framed, is tied with adjectives like points,
Hang ‘t, ’tis pedantic vulgar poetry.
Let children, when they versify, stick here
And there, these piddling words for want of matter.
Poets write masculine numbers.”

Here are some of “V.’s” Roses–

THE GRAVE.

“I stood within the grave’s o’ershadowing vault;
Gloomy and damp it stretch’d its vast domain;
Shades were its boundary; for my strain’d eye sought
For other limit to its width in vain.

“Faint from the entrance came a daylight ray,
And distant sound of living men and things;
This, in th’ encountering darkness pass’d away,
That, took the tone in which a mourner sings.

“I lit a torch at a sepulchral lamp,
Which shot a thread of light amid the gloom;
And feebly burning ‘gainst the rolling damp,
I bore it through the regions of the tomb.

“Around me stretch’d the slumbers of the dead,
Whereof the silence ached upon my ear;
More and more noiseless did I make my tread,
And yet its echoes chill’d my heart with fear.

“The former men of every age and place,
From all their wand’rings gather’d, round me lay;
The dust of wither’d Empires did I trace,
And stood ‘mid Generations pass’d away.

“I saw whole cities, that in flood or fire,
Or famine or the plague, gave up their breath;
Whole armies whom a day beheld expire,
Swept by ten thousands to the arms of Death.

“I saw the old world’s white and wave-swept bones
A giant heap of creatures that had been;
Far and confused the broken skeletons
Lay strewn beyond mine eye’s remotest ken.

“Death’s various shrines–the Urn, the Stone, the Lamp–
Were scatter’d round, confused, amid the dead;
Symbols and Types were mould’ring in the damp,
Their shapes were waning and their meaning fled.

“Unspoken tongues, perchance in praise or woe,
Were character’d on tablets Time had swept;
And deep were half their letters hid below
The thick small dust of those they once had wept.

“No hand was here to wipe the dust away,
No reader of the writing traced beneath;
No spirit sitting by its form of clay;
No sigh nor sound from all the heaps of Death.

One place alone had ceased to hold its prey;
A form had press’d it and was there no more;
The garments of the Grave beside it lay,
Where once they wrapp’d him on the rocky floor.

He only with returning footsteps broke
Th’ eternal calm wherewith the Tomb was bound;

Among the sleeping Dead alone He woke,
And bless’d with outstretch’d hands the host around.

Well is it that such blessing hovers here,
To soothe each sad survivor of the throng,
Who haunt the portals of the solemn sphere,
And pour their woe the loaded air along.

They to the verge have follow’d what they love,
And on th’ insuperable threshold stand;
With cherish’d names its speechless calm reprove,
And stretch in the abyss their ungrasp’d hand.

“But vainly there they seek their soul’s relief,
And of th’ obdurate Grave its prey implore;
Till Death himself shall medicine their grief,
Closing their eyes by those they wept before.

“All that have died, the Earth’s whole race, repose
Where Death collects his Treasures, heap on heap;
O’er each one’s busy day, the nightshades close;
Its Actors, Sufferers, Schools, Kings, Armies–sleep.”

The lines in italics are of the highest quality, both in thought and word; the allusion to Him who by dying abolished death, seems to us wonderfully fine–sudden, simple,–it brings to our mind the lines already quoted from Vaughan:–

“But there was One
Who search’d it quite through to and fro,
And then returning like the Sun,
Discover’d all that there is done.”

What a rich line this is!

“And pour their woe the loaded air along.”

“The insuperable threshold!”

Do our readers remember the dying Corinne’s words? Je mourrais seule–au reste, ce moment se passe de secours; nos amis ne peuvent nous suivre que jusqu’au seuil de la vie. La, commencent des pensees dont le trouble et la profondeur ne sauraient se confier.

We have only space for one more–verses entitled “Heart’s-Ease.”

HEART’S-EASE.

“Oh, Heart’s-Ease, dost thou lie within that flower?
How shall I draw thee thence?–so much I need
The healing aid of thine enshrined power
To veil the past–and bid the time good speed!

“I gather it–it withers on my breast;
The heart’s-ease dies when it is laid on mine;
Methinks there is no shape by Joy possess’d,
Would better fare than thou, upon that shrine.

“Take from me things gone by–oh! change the past–
Renew the lost–restore me the decay’d,–
Bring back the days whose tide has ebb’d so fast–
Give form again to the fantastic shade!

“My hope, that never grew to certainty,–
My youth, that perish’d in its vain desire,–
My fond ambition, crush’d ere it could be
Aught save a self-consuming, wasted fire:

“Bring these anew, and set me once again
In the delusion of Life’s Infancy–
I was not happy, but I knew not then
That happy I was never doom’d to be.

“Till these things are, and powers divine descend–
Love, kindness, joy, and hope, to gild my day,
In vain the emblem leaves towards me bend,
Thy Spirit, Heart’s-Ease, is too far away!”

We would fain have given two poems entitled “Bessy” and “Youth and Age.” Everything in this little volume is select and good. Sensibility and sense in right measure and proportion and keeping, and in pure, strong classical language; no intemperance of thought or phrase. Why does not “V.” write more?

We do not very well know how to introduce our friend Mr. Ellison, “The Bornnatural,” who addresses his “Madmoments to the Light-headed of Society at large.” We feel as a father, a mother, or other near of kin would at introducing an ungainly gifted and much loved son or kinsman, who had the knack of putting his worst foot foremost, and making himself imprimis ridiculous.

There is something wrong in all awkwardness, a want of nature somewhere, and we feel affronted even still, after we have taken the Bornnatural[3] to our heart, and admire and love him, at his absurd gratuitous self-befoolment. The book is at first sight one farrago of oddities and offences–coarse foreign paper–bad printing–italics broad-cast over every page–the words run into each other in a way we are glad to say is as yet quite original, making such extraordinary monsters of words as these–beingsriddle–sunbeammotes–gooddeed–midjune– summerair–selffavor–seraphechoes–puredeedprompter–barkskeel, etc. Now we like Anglo-Saxon and the polygamous German,[4] but we like better the well of English undefiled–a well, by the by, much oftener spoken of than drawn from; but to fashion such words as these words are, is as monstrous as for a painter to compose an animal not out of the elements, but out of the entire bodies of several, of an ass, for instance, a cock and a crocodile, so as to produce an outrageous individual, with whom even a duck-billed Platypus would think twice before he fraternized–ornithorynchous and paradoxical though he be, poor fellow.

Footnotes:
[3] In his Preface he explains the title Bornnatural, as meaning “one who inherits the natural sentiments and tastes to which he was born, still artunsullied and customfree.”

[4] ex. gr.Konstantinopolitanischerdudelsackspfeifergeselle. Here is a word as long as the sea-serpent–but, like it, having a head and tail, being what lawyers call unum quid–not an up and down series of infatuated phocae, as Professor Owen somewhat insolently asserts. Here is what the Bornnatural would have made of it–

A Constantinopolitanbagpiperoutofhisapprenticeship.

And yet our Bornnatural’s two thick and closely small-printed volumes are as full of poetry as is an “impassioned grape” of its noble liquor.

He is a true poet. But he has not the art of singling his thoughts, an art as useful in composition as in husbandry, as necessary for young fancies as young turnips. Those who have seen our turnip fields in early summer, with the hoers at their work, will understand our reference. If any one wishes to read these really remarkable volumes, we would advise them to begin with “Season Changes” and “Emma, a Tale.” We give two Odes on Psyche, which are as nearly perfect as anything out of Milton or Tennyson.

The story is the well-known one of Psyche and Cupid, told at such length, and with so much beauty and pathos and picturesqueness by Apuleius, in his “Golden Ass.” Psyche is the human soul–a beautiful young woman. Cupid is spiritual, heavenly love–a comely youth. They are married, and live in perfect happiness, but by a strange decree of fate, he comes and goes unseen, tarrying only for the night; and he has told her, that if she looks on him with her bodily eye, if she tries to break through the darkness in which they dwell, then he must leave her, and forever. Her two sisters–Anger and Desire, tempt Psyche. She yields to their evil counsel, and thus it fares with her:–

ODE TO PSYCHE.

“1. Let not a sigh be breathed, or he is flown!
With tiptoe stealth she glides, and throbbing breast,
Towards the bed, like one who dares not own
Her purpose, and half shrinks, yet cannot rest
From her rash Essay: in one trembling hand
She bears a lamp, which sparkles on a sword;
In the dim light she seems a wandering dream
Of loveliness: ’tis Psyche and her Lord,
Her yet unseen, who slumbers like a beam
Of moonlight, vanishing as soon as scann’d!

“2. One Moment, and all bliss hath fled her heart,
Like windstole odours from the rosebud’s cell,
Or as the earthdashed dewdrop which no art
Can e’er replace: alas! we learn fullwell
How beautiful the Past when it is o’er,
But with scal’d eyes we hurry to the brink,
Blind as the waterfall: oh, stay thy feet,
Thou rash one, be content to know no more
Of bliss than thy heart teaches thee, nor think
The sensual eye can grasp a form more sweet–

“3. Than that which for itself the soul should chuse
For higher adoration; but in vain!
Onward she moves, and as the lamp’s faint hues
Flicker around, her charmed eyeballs strain,
For there he lies in undreamt loveliness!
Softly she steals towards him, and bends o’er
His slumberlidded eyes, as a lily droops
Faint o’er a folded rose: one caress
She would but dares not take, and as she stood,
An oildrop from the lamp fell burning sore!

“4. Thereat sleepfray’d, dreamlike the God takes Wing
And soars to his own skies, while Psyche strives
To clasp his foot, and fain thereon would cling,
But falls insensate;

* * * * *

Psyche! thou shouldst have taken that high gift
Of Love as it was meant, that mystery
Did ask thy faith, the Gods do test our worth,
And ere they grant high boons our heart would sift!

“5. Hadst thou no divine Vision of thine own?
Didst thou not see the Object of thy Love
Clothed with a Beauty to dull clay unknown?
And could not that bright Image, far above
The Reach of sere Decay, content thy Thought?
Which with its glory would have wrapp’d thee round,
To the Gravesbrink, untouched by Age or Pain!
Alas! we mar what Fancy’s Womb has brought
Forth of most beautiful, and to the Bound
Of Sense reduce the Helen of the Brain!”

What a picture! Psyche, pale with love and fear, bending in the uncertain light, over her lord, with the rich flush of health and sleep and manhood on his cheek, “as a lily droops faint o’er a folded rose!” We remember nothing anywhere finer than this.

ODE TO PSYCHE.

“1. Why stand’st thou thus at Gaze
In the faint Tapersrays,
With strained Eyeballs fixed upon that Bed?
Has he then flown away,
Lost, like a Star in Day,
Or like a Pearl in Depths unfathomed?
Alas! thou hast done very ill,
Thus with thine Eyes the Vision of thy Soul to kill!

“2. Thought’st thou that earthly Light
Could then assist thy Sight,
Or that the Limits of Reality
Could grasp Things fairer than
Imagination’s Span,
Who communes with the Angels of the Sky,
Thou graspest at the Rainbow, and
Wouldst make it as the Zone with which thy Waist is spanned.

“3. And what find’st thou in his Stead?
Only the empty Bed!

* * * * *

Thou sought’st the Earthly and therefore
The heavenly is gone, for that must ever soar!

“4. For the bright World of
Pure and boundless Love
What hast thou found? alas! a narrow room!
Put out that Light,
Restore thy Soul its Sight,
For better ’tis to dwell in outward Gloom,
Than thus, by the vile Body’s eye,
To rob the Soul of its Infinity!

“5. Love, Love has Wings, and he
Soon out of Sight will flee,
Lost in far Ether to the sensual Eye,
But the Soul’s Vision true
Can track him, yea, up to
The Presence and the Throne of the Most High:
For thence he is, and tho’ he dwell below,
To the Soul only he his genuine Form will show!”

Mr. Ellison was a boy of twenty-three when he wrote this. That, with so much command of expression and of measure, he should run waste and formless and even void, as he does in other parts of his volumes, is very mysterious and very distressing.

* * * * *

How we became possessed of the poetical Epistle from “E. V. K. to his Friend in Town,” is more easily asked than answered. We avow ourselves in the matter to have acted for once on M. Proudhon’s maxim–“La propriete c’est le vol.” We merely say, in our defence, that it is a shame in “E. V. K.,” be he who he may, to hide his talent in a napkin, or keep it for his friends alone. It is just such men and such poets as he that we most need at present, sober-minded and sound-minded and well-balanced, whose genius is subject to their judgment, and who have genius and judgment to begin with–a part of the poetical stock in trade with which many of our living writers are not largely furnished. The Epistle is obviously written quite off-hand, but it is the off-hand of a master, both as to material and workmanship. He is of the good old manly, classical school. His thoughts have settled and cleared themselves before forming into the mould of verse. They are in the style of Stewart Rose’s vers de societe, but have more of the graphic force and deep feeling and fine humor of Crabbe and Cowper in their substance, with a something of their own which is to us quite as delightful. But our readers may judge. After upbraiding, with much wit, a certain faithless town-friend for not making out his visit, he thus describes his residence:–

“Though its charms be few,
The place will please you, and may profit too;–
My house, upon the hillside built, looks down
On a neat harbor and a lively town.
Apart, ‘mid screen of trees, it stands, just where
We see the popular bustle, but not share.
Full in our front is spread a varied scene–
A royal ruin, gray, or clothed with green,
Church spires, tower, docks, streets, terraces, and trees,
Back’d by green fields, which mount by due degrees
Into brown uplands, stretching high away
To where, by silent tarns, the wild deer stray.
Below, with gentle tide, the Atlantic Sea
Laves the curved beach, and fills the cheerful quay,
Where frequent glides the sail, and dips the oar,
And smoking steamer halts with hissing roar.”

Then follows a long passage of great eloquence, truth, and wit, directed against the feverish, affected, unwholesome life in town, before which he fears

“Even he, my friend, the man whom once I knew,
Surrounded by blue women and pale men,”

has fallen a victim; and then concludes with these lines, which it would not be easy to match for everything that constitutes good poetry. As he writes he chides himself for suspecting his friend; and at that moment (it seems to have been written on Christmas day) he hears the song of a thrush, and forthwith he “bursts into a song,” as full-voiced, as native, as sweet and strong, as that of his bright-eyed feathered friend.

“But, hark that sound! the mavis! can it be?
Once more! It is. High perched on yon bare tree,
He starts the wondering winter with his trill;
Or by that sweet sun westering o’er the hill
Allured, or for he thinks melodious mirth
Due to the holy season of Christ’s birth.–
And hark! as his clear fluting fills the air,
Low broken notes and twitterings you may hear
From other emulous birds, the brakes among;
Fain would they also burst into a song;
But winter warns, and muffling up their throats,
They liquid–for the spring–preserve their notes.
O sweet preluding! having heard that strain,
How dare I lift my dissonant voice again?
Let me be still, let me enjoy the time,
Bothering myself or thee no more with rugged rhyme.”

This author must not be allowed to “muffle up his throat,” and keep his notes for some imaginary and far-off spring. He has not the excuse of the mavis. He must give us more of his own “clear fluting.” Let him, with that keen, kindly and thoughtful eye, look from his retreat, as Cowper did, upon the restless, noisy world he has left, seeing the popular bustle, not sharing it, and let his pen record in such verses as these what his understanding and his affections think and feel and his imagination informs, and we shall have something in verse not unlike the letters from Olney. There is one line which deserves to be immortalized over the cherished bins of our wine-fanciers, where repose their

“Dear prisoned spirits of the impassioned grape.”

What is good makes us think of what is better, as well, and it is to be hoped more, than of what is worse. There is no sweetness so sweet as that of a large and deep nature; there is no knowledge so good, so strengthening as that of a great mind, which is forever filling itself afresh. “Out of the eater comes forth meat; out of the strong comes forth sweetness.” Here is one of such “dulcedines verae”–the sweetness of a strong man:–

“Now came still evening on, and twilight gray
Had in her sober livery all things clad;
Silence accompany’d; for beast and bird,
They to their grassy couch, these to their nests,
Were slunk, all but the wakeful nightingale;
She all night long her amorous descant sung;
Silence was pleased: now glow’d the firmament
With living saphirs; Hesperus that led
The starry host rode brightest, till the moon,
Rising in clouded majesty, at length
Apparent queen unveil’d her peerless light,
And o’er the dark her silver mantle threw.”

Were we inclined to do anything but enjoy this and be thankful–giving ourselves up to its gentleness, informing ourselves with its quietness and beauty,–we would note the simplicity, the neutral tints, the quietness of its language, the “sober livery” in which its thoughts are clad. In the first thirty-eight words, twenty-nine are monosyllables. Then there is the gradual way in which the crowning fantasy is introduced. It comes upon us at once, and yet not wholly unexpected; it “sweetly creeps” into our “study of imagination;” it lives and moves, but it is a moving that is “delicate;” it flows in upon us incredibili lenitate. “Evening” is a matter of fact, and its stillness too–a time of the day; and “twilight” is little more. We feel the first touch of spiritual life in “her sober livery,” and bolder and deeper in “all things clad.” Still we are not deep, the real is not yet transfigured and transformed, and we are brought back into it after being told that “Silence accompanied,” by the explanatory “for,” and the bit of sweet natural history of the beasts and birds. The mind dilates and is moved, its eye detained over the picture; and then comes that rich, “thick warbled note”–“all but the wakeful nightingale;” this fills and informs the ear, making it also “of apprehension more quick,” and we are prepared now for the great idea coming “into the eye and prospect of our soul”–SILENCE WAS PLEASED! There is nothing in all poetry above this. Still evening and twilight gray are now Beings, coming on, and walking over the earth like queens, “with Silence,”

“Admiration’s speaking’st tongue,”

as their pleased companion. All is “calm and free,” and “full of life,” it is a “Holy Time.” What a picture!–what simplicity of means! what largeness and perfectness of effect!–what knowledge and love of nature! what supreme art!–what modesty and submission! what self-possession!–what plainness, what selectness of speech! “As is the height, so is the depth. The intensities must be at once opposite and equal. As the liberty, so the reverence for law. As the independence, so must be the seeing and the service, and the submission to the Supreme Will. As the ideal genius and the originality, so must be the resignation to the real world, the sympathy and the intercommunion with Nature.”–Coleridge’s Posthumous Tract “The Idea of Life.”

* * * * *

Since writing the above, our friend “E. V. K.” has shown himself curiously unaffected by “that last infirmity of noble minds,”–his “clear spirit” heeds all too little its urgent “spur.” The following sonnets are all we can pilfer from him. They are worth the stealing:–

AN ARGUMENT IN RHYME.

I.

“Things that now are beget the things to be,
As they themselves were gotten by things past;
Thou art a sire, who yesterday but wast
A child like him now prattling on thy knee;
And he in turn ere long shall offspring see.
Effects at first, seem causes at the last,
Yet only seem; when off their veil is cast,
All speak alike of mightier energy,
Received and pass’d along. The life that flows
Through space and time, bursts in a loftier source.
What’s spaced and timed is bounded, therefore shows
A power beyond, a timeless, spaceless force,
Templed in that infinitude, before
Whose light-veil’d porch men wonder and adore.

II.

“Wonder! but–for we cannot comprehend,
Dare not to doubt. Man, know thyself! and know
That, being what thou art, it must be so.
We creatures are, and it were to transcend
The limits of our being, and ascend
Above the Infinite, if we could show
All that He is and how things from Him flow.
Things and their laws by Man are grasp’d and kenn’d,
But creatures must no more; and Nature’s must
Is Reason’s choice; for could we all reveal
Of God and acts creative, doubt were just.
Were these conceivable, they were not real.
Here, ignorance man’s sphere of being suits,
‘Tis knowledge self, or of her richest fruits.

III.

“Then rest here, brother! and within the veil
Boldly thine anchor cast. What though thy boat
No shoreland sees, but undulates afloat
On soundless depths; securely fold thy sail.
Ah! not by daring prow and favoring gale
Man threads the gulfs of doubting and despond,
And gains a rest in being unbeyond,
Who roams the furthest, surest is to fail;
Knowing nor what to seek, nor how to find.
Not far but near, about us, yea within,
Lieth the infinite life. The pure in mind
Dwell in the Presence, to themselves akin;
And lo! thou sick and health-imploring soul,
He stands beside thee–touch, and thou art whole.”

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