« AnteriorContinua »
fully, and is patient of the bit and of the man of genius, and very likely do not whip. But genius is always impatient want to know any more. For a divine of its harness; its wild blood makes it instinct, such as drives the goose southhard to train.
ward and the poet heavenward, is a hard Talent seems, at first, in one sense, thing to manage, and proves too strong higher than genius, — namely, that it is for many whom it possesses. It must more uniformly and absolutely submitted have been a terrible thing to have a to the will, and therefore more distinctly friend like Chatterton or Burns. And human in its character. Genius, on the here is a being who certainly has more other hand, is much more like those in- than talent, at once poet and artist in stincts which govern the admirable move- tendency, if not yet fairly developed, ments of the lower creatures, and there- a woman, too ;- and genius grafted on fore seems to have something of the low- womanhood is like to overgrow it and er or animal character. A goose flies by break its stem, as you may see a grafted a chart which the Royal Geographical fruit-tree spreading over the stock which Society could not mend. A poet, like cannot keep pace with its evolution. the goose, sails without visible landmarks I think now you know something of to unexplored regions of truth, which phi- this young person. She wants nothing losophy has yet to lay down on its atlas. but an atmosphere to expand in. Now The philosopher gets his track by obser- and then one meets with a nature for vation; the poet trusts to his inner sense, which our hard, practical New England and makes the straighter and swifter line. life is obviously utterly incompetent. It
And yet, to look at it in another light, comes up, as a Southern seed, dropped by is not even the lowest instinct more tru. accident in one of our gardens, finds itly divine than any voluntary human act self trying to grow and blow into flower done by the suggestion of reason? What among the homely roots and the hardy is a bee's architecture but an unobstruct- shrubs that surround it. There is no ed divine thought ? — what is a builder's question that certain persons who are approximative rule but an obstructed born among us find themselves many thought of the Creator, a mutilated and degrees too far north. Tropical by orimperfect copy of some absolute rule ganization, they cannot fight for life with Divine Wisdom has established, trans- our eastern and northwestern breezes mitted through a human soul as an im- without losing the color and fragrance age through clouded glass ?
into which their lives would have blosTalent is a very common family-trait; somed in the latitude of myrtles and genius belongs rather to individuals ;
oranges. Strange effects are produced just as you find one giant or one dwarf by suffering any living thing to be dein a family, but rarely a whole brood of veloped under conditions such as Naeither. Talent is often to be envied, and ture had not intended for it. A French genius very commonly to be pitied. It physiologist confined some tadpoles unstands twice the chance of the other of der water in the dark. Removed from dying in a bospital, in jail, in debt, in the natural stimulus of light, they did not bad repute. It is a perpetual insult to develop legs and arms at the proper pemediocrity; its every word is a trespass riod of their growth, and so become frogs; against somebody's vested ideas,— blas- they swelled and spread into gigantic tadphemy against somebody's O'm, or intan- poles. I have seen a hundred colossal gible private truth.
human tadpoles, - overgrown larvæ or What is the use of my weighing embryos ; nay, I am afraid we Protesout antitheses in this way, like a rhetor- tants should look on a considerable proical grocer?-You know twenty men portion of the Holy Father's one hundred of talent, who are making their way in and thirty-nine millions as spiritual larve, the world ; you may, perhaps, know one sculling about in the dark by the aid of
their caudal extremities, instead of stand- I do not know. The magnolia grows ing on their legs, and breathing by gills, and comes into full flower on Cape Ann, instead of taking the free air of heaven many degrees out of its proper region. into the lungs made to receive it. Of I was riding once along that delicious course we never try to keep young souls road between the hills and the sea, when in the tadpole state, for fear they should we passed a thicket where there seemed get a pair or two of legs by-and-by and to be a chance for finding it. In five jump out of the pool where they have minutes I had fallen on the trees in full been bred and fed! Never! Never. blossom, and filled my arms with the Never ?
sweet, resplendent flowers. I could not Now to go back to our plant. You believe I was in our cold, northern Esmay know, that, for the earlier stages of sex, which, in the dreary season when I development of almost any vegetable, pass its slate-colored, unpainted farmyou only want warmth, air, light, and houses, and huge, square, windy, 'squirewater. But by-and-by, if it is to have built “mansions,” looks as brown and unspecial complex principles as a part of its vegetating as an old rug with its patterns organization, they must be supplied by all trodden out and the colored fringe the soil;—your pears will crack, if the worn from all its border. root of the tree gets no iron,- your aspar- If the magnolia can bloom in northern agus-bed wants salt as much as you do. New England, why should not a poet or Just at the period of adolescence, the a painter come to his full growth here mind often suddenly begins to come into just as well ? Yes, but if the gorgeous flower and to set its fruit. Then it is that tree-flower is rare, and only as if by a many young natures, having exhausted freak of Nature springs up in a single the spiritual soil round them of all it con- spot among the beeches and alders, is tains of the elements they demand, wither there not as much reason to think the away, undeveloped and uncolored, unless perfumed flower of imaginative genius they are transplanted.
will find it hard to be born and harder Pray for these dear young souls! This to spread its leaves in the clear, cold atis the second natural birth ;—for I do not mosphere of our ultra-temperate zone of speak of those peculiar religious expe- humanity ? riences which form the point of transition
Take the poet. On the one hand, I in many
lives between the consciousness believe that a person with the poetical of a general relation to the Divine na- faculty finds material everywhere. The ture and a special personal relation. The grandest objects of sense and thought are litany should count a prayer for them in common to all climates and civilizations. the list of its supplications; masses should The sky, the woods, the waters, the be said for them as for souls in purga- storms, life, death, love, the hope and tory; all good Christians should remem- vision of eternity, - these are images ber them as they remember those in peril that write themselves in poetry in every through travel or sickness or in warfare. soul which has anything of the divine
I would transport this child to Rome gift. at once, if I had my will. She should On the other hand, there is such a thing ripen under an Italian sun. She should as a lean, impoverished life, in distinction walk under the frescoed vaults of palaces, from a rich and suggestive one. Which until her colors deepened to those of Ve- our common New England life might be netian beauties, and her forms were per- considered, I will not decide. But there fected into rivalry with the Greek mar- are some things I think the poet misses bles, and the east wind was out of her in our western Eden. I trust it is not soul. Has she not exhausted this lean unpatriotic to mention them in this point soil of the elements her growing nature of view, as they come before us in so requires ?
many other aspects.
There is no sufficient flavor of human
,” the smartly-painted ity in the soil out of which we grow. At pine houses, the spacious brick botel, Cantabridge, near the sea, I have once the white meeting-house, and the row of or twice picked up an Indian arrowhead youthful and leggy trees before it, are in a fresh furrow. At Canoe Meadow, exhilarating. They speak of progress, in the Berkshire Mountains, I have found and the time when there shall be a city, Indian arrowheads. So everywhere In- with a His Honor the Mayor, in the place dian arrowheads. Whether a hundred or of their trim but transient architectural a thousand years old, who knows? who growths. Pardon me, if I prefer the cares? There is no history to the red pyramids. They seem to me crystals race,- there is hardly an individual in formed from a stronger solution of huit; ;-a few instincts on legs and holding manity than the steeple of the new meeta tomahawk,—there is the Indian of all ing-house. I may be wrong, but the Titime. The story of one red ant is the ber has a voice for me, as it whispers to story of all red ants. So, the poet, in the piers of the Pons Ælius, even more trying to wing his way back through the full of meaning than my well-beloved life that has kindled, flitted, and faded Charles eddying round the piles of West along our watercourses and on our south- Boston Bridge. ern hillsides for unknown generations, Then, again, we Yankees are a kind finds nothing to breathe ; he “meets of gypsies, -a mechanical and migratory
race. A poet wants a home. He can A vast vacuity' all unawares,
dispense with an apple-parer and a reapFluttering his pennons vain, plumb down he drops
ing-machine. I feel this more for others Ten thousand fathom deep."
than for myself, for the home of my birth
and childhood has been as yet exempted But think of the Old World,—that part from the change which has invaded alof it which is the seat of ancient civiliza- most everything around it. tion! The stakes of the Britons' stock
Pardon me a short digression. ades are still standing in the bed of the To what small things our memory and Thames. The ploughman turns up an our affections attach themselves! I reold Saxon's bones, and beneath them member, when I was a child, that one of is a tessellated pavement of the time the girls planted some Star-of-Bethlehem of the Cæsars. In Italy, the works of bulbs in the southwest corner of our frontmediæval Art seem to be of yesterday, yard. Well, I left the paternal roof and — Rome, under her kings, is but an in- wandered in other lands, and learned to truding new-comer, as we contemplate think in the words of strange people. But her in the shadow of the Cyclopean walls after many years, as I looked on the little of Fiesole or Volterra. It makes a man front-yard again, it occurred to me that human to live on these old humanized there used to be some Stars-of-Bethlehem soils. He cannot help marching in step in the southwest corner.
The grass was with his kind in the rear of such a proces- tall there, and the blade of the plant is sion. They say a dead man's hand cures very much like grass, only thicker and swellings, if laid on them. There is noth- glossier. Even as Tully parted the briing like the dead cold hand of the Past ers and brambles when he hunted for to take down our tumid egotism and lead the sphere-containing cylinder that markus into the solemn flow of the life of our ed the grave of Archimedes, so did I
Rousseau came out of one of his comb the grass with my fingers for my sad self-torturing fits, as he cast his eye monumental memorial-flower. Nature on the arches of the old Roman aque- had stored my keepsake tenderly in her duct, the Pont du Gard.
bosom; the glossy, faintly streaked blades I am far from denying that there is an were there; they are there still, though attraction in a thriving railroad village. they never flower, darkened as they are
by the shade of the elms and rooted in
*** ***,” she says, and the matted turf.
tells her whole name outright. Ah! Our hearts are held down to our homes said I, when I read that first frank declaby innumerable fibres, trivial as that. I ration,— you are one of the right sort ! have just recalled; but Gulliver was fix- She was. A winged creature among closeed to the soil, you remember, by pin- clipped barn-door fowl. How tired the ning his head a hair at a time. Even poor girl was of the dull life about her,a stone with a white band crossing it, the old woman's “ skeleton hand” at the belonging to the pavement of the back- window opposite, drawing her curtains, yard, insisted on becoming one of the “Ma'am -shooing away the hens," talismans of memory.
This intussuscep- the vacuous country eyes staring at her tion of the ideas of inanimate objects, and as only country eyes can stare,-a routheir faithful storing away among the sen- tine of mechanical duties, and the soul's timents, are curiously prefigured in the half-articulated cry for sympathy, without material structure of the thinking centre an answer! Yes,-pray for her, and for itself. In the very core of the brain, in all such! Faith often cures their longthe part where Des Cartes placed the ings; but it is so hard to give a soul to soul, is a small mineral deposit, consist- heaven that has not first been trained in ing, as I have seen it in the microscope,
the fullest and sweetest human affections ! of grape-like masses of crystalline mat- Too often they fling their hearts away on ter.
unworthy objects. Too often they pine But the plants that come up every
in a secret discontent, which spreads its year in the same place, like the Stars-of- leaden cloud over the morning of their Bethlehem, of all the lesser objects, give youth. The immeasurable distance beme the liveliest home-feeling. Close to tween one of these delicate natures and our ancient gambrel-roofed house is the the
average youths among whom is like dwelling of pleasant old Neighbor Wal- to be her only choice makes one's heart
I remember the sweet honeysuckle ache. How many women are born too that I saw in flower against the wall of finely organized in sense and soul for the his house a few months ago, as long as I highway they must walk with feet unremember the sky and stars. That clump shod! Life is adjusted to the wants of the of peonies, butting their purple heads stronger sex. There are plenty of torthrough the soil every spring in just the rents to be crossed in its journey; but same circle, and by-and-by unpacking their stepping-stones are measured by
their hard balls of buds in flowers big the stride of man, and not of woman. enough to make a double handful of Women are more subject than men to leaves, has come up in just that place, atrophy of the heart. So says the great Neighbor Walrus tells me, for more years medical authority, Laennec. Incurable than I have passed on this planet. It is cases of this kind used to find their hosa rare privilege in our nomadic state to pitals in convents. We have the disease find the home of one's childhood and its in New England,— but not the hospitals. immediate neighborhood thus unchanged. I don't like to think of it. I will not beMany born poets, I am afraid, flower lieve our young Iris is going to die out poorly in song, or not at all, because in this way. Providence will find her they have been too often transplanted. some great happiness, or affliction, or
Then a good many of our race are duty, - and which would be best for her, very hard and unimaginative; - their I cannot tell. One thing is sure: the invoices have nothing caressing; their terest she takes in her little neighbor is movements are as of machinery, without getting to be more engrossing than ever. elasticity or oil. I wish it were fair to Something is the matter with him, and print a letter a young girl, about the she knows it, and I think worries herself age of our Iris, wrote a short time since. about it. VOL. IV.
I wonder sometimes how so fragile and know how to interpret, that his heart was distorted a frame has kept the fiery spirit in trouble; but then he presses his hand that inhabits it so long its tenant. He to the right side, as if there were the cenaccounts for it in his own way.
tre of his uneasiness. The air of the Old World is good for When I say difficulty about the heart, nothing,- he said, one day. - Used up, do not mean any of those sentimental Sir,— breathed over and over again. You maladies of that organ which figure more must come to this side, Sir, for an atmos- largely in romances than on the returns phere fit to breathe nowadays. Did not which furnish our Bills of Mortality. I old Josselyn say that a breath of New mean some actual change in the organ England's air is better than a sup of Old itself, which may carry him off by slow England's ale? I ought to have died and painful degrees, or strike him down when I was a boy, Sir; but I couldn't with one huge pang and only time for a die in this Boston air,--and I think I single shriek,-as when the shot broke shall have to go to New York one of through the brave Captain Nolan's breast, these days, when it's time for me to drop at the head of the Light Brigade at Balathis bundle, -or to New Orleans, where klava, and with a loud cry he dropped they have the yellow fever,—or to Phil- dead from his saddle. adelphia, where they have so many doc- I thought it only fair to say something tors.
of what I apprehended to sone who were This was some time ago; but of late entitled to be warned. The landlady's he has seemed, as I have before said, face fell when I mentioned my fears. to be ailing. An experienced eye, such Poor man!-- she said.--And will leave as I think I may call mine, can tell com- the best room empty! Hasn't he got monly whether a man is going to die, any sisters or nieces or anybody to see or not, long before he or his friends are to his things, if he should be took away? alarmed about him. I don't like it. Such a sight of cases, full of everything!
Iris has told me that the Scottish gist Never thought of his failin' so suddin. of second-sight runs in her family, and A complication of diseases, she expected. that she is afraid she has it. Those who Liver-complaint one of 'em ? are so endowed look upon a well man After this first involuntary expression and see a shroud wrapt about him. Ac- of the too natural selfish feelings, (which cording to the degree to which it cov- we must not judge very harshly, unless ers him, his death will be near or more we happen to be poor widows ourselves, remote.
It is an awful faculty; but with children to keep filled, covered, and science gives one too much like it. Luck- taught,-rents high,- beef eighteen to ily for our friends, most of us who have twenty cents per pound,)-after this first the scientific second-sight school ourselves squeak of selfishness, followed by a brief not to betray our knowledge by word or movement of curiosity, so invariable in look.
mature females, as to the nature of the Day by day, as the Little Gentleman complaint which threatens the life of a comes to the table, it seems to me that friend or any person who may happen the shadow of some approaching change to be mentioned as ill,- the worthy soul's falls darker and darker over his counte- better feelings struggled up to the sur
Nature is struggling with some- face, and she grieved for the doomed thing, and I am afraid she is under in invalid, until a tear or two came forth the wrestling-match. You do not care and found their way down a channel much, perhaps, for my particular conjec- worn for them since the early days of tures as to the nature of his difficulty. her widowhood. I should say, however, from the sudden Oh, this dreadful, dreadful business of flushes to which he is subject, and cer- being the prophet of evil! Of all the tain other marks which, as an expert, I trials which those who take charge of