« AnteriorContinua »
RECORD OF THE MONTHS.
The Zincali: or an Account of the Gypsies of Spain; with an Original Collection of their Songs and Poetry. By GEORGE BORROW. Two Volumes in one. New York: Wiley & Putnam.
OUR list of tribes in America indigenous and imported wants the Gypsies, as the Flora of the western hemisphere wants the race of heaths. But as it is all one to the urchin of six years, whether the fine toys are to be found in his father's house or across the road at his grandfather's, so we have always domesticated the Gypsey in school-boy literature from the English tales and traditions. This reprinted London book is equally sure of being read here as in England, and is a most acceptable gift to the lovers of the wild and wonderful. There are twenty or thirty pages in it of fascinating romantic attraction, and the whole book, though somewhat rudely and miscellaneously put together, is animated, and tells us what we wish to know. Mr. Borrow visited the Gypsies in Spain and elsewhere, as an agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and seems to have been commended to this employment by the rare accomplishment of a good acquaintance with the language of this singular people. How he acquired his knowledge of their speech, which seems to have opened their hearts to him, he does not inform us; and he appears to have prospered very indifferently in the religious objects of his mission; but to have really had that in his nature or education which gave him access to the gypsy gang, so that he has seen them, talked confidentially with them, and brought away something distinct enough from them.
He has given us sketches of their past and present manner of life and employments, in the different European states, collected a strange little magazine of their poetry, and added a vocabulary of their language. He has interspersed some anecdotes of life and manners, which are told with great spirit.
This book is very entertaining, and yet, out of mere love and respect to human nature, we must add that this account of the Gypsy race must be imperfect and very partial, and that the author never sees his object quite near enough. For, on the whole, the impression made by the book is dismal; the poverty, the employments, conversations, mutual behavior of the Gypsies, are dismal; the poetry is dismal. Men do not love to be dismal, and always have their own reliefs. If we take Mr. Borrow's story as final, here is a great people subsisting for cen
turies unmixed with the surrounding population, like a bare and blasted heath in the midst of smiling plenty, yet cherishing their wretchedness, by rigorous usage and tradition, as if they loved it. It is an aristocracy of rags, and suffering, and vice, yet as exclusive as the patricians of wealth and power. We infer that the picture is false; that resources and compensations exist, which are not shown us. If Gypsies are pricked, we believe they will bleed; if wretched, they will jump at the first opportunity of bettering their condition. What unmakes man is essentially incredible. The air may be loaded with fogs or with fetid gases, and continue respirable; but if it be decomposed, it can no longer sustain life. The condition of the Gypsy may be bad enough, tried by the scale of English comfort, and yet appear tolerable and pleasant to the Gypsy, who finds attractions in his out-door way of living, his freedom, and sociability, which the Agent of the Bible Society does not reckon. And we think that a traveller of another way of thinking would not find the Gypsy so void of conscience as Mr. Borrow paints him, as the differences in that particular are universally exaggerated in daily conversation. And lastly, we suspect the walls of separation between the Gypsy and the surrounding population are less firm than we are here given to understand.
Ancient Spanish Ballads, Historical and Romantic. Translated, with Notes. By J. G. Lockhart. New York: Wiley
THE enterprising publishers, Messrs. Wiley & Putnam, who have reprinted, in a plain but very neat form, Mr. Lockhart's gorgeously illustrated work, have judiciously prefixed to it, by way of introduction, a critique on the book from the Edinburgh Review, and have added at the end of the volume an analytical account, with specimens of the Romance of the Cid, from the Penny Magazine. This is done with the greatest propriety, for the Cid seems to be the proper centre of Spanish legendary poetry. The Iliad, the Nibelungen, the Cid, the Robin Hood Ballads, Frithiof's Saga, (for the last also depends for its merit on its fidelity to the legend,) are five admirable collections of early popular poetry of so many nations; and with whatever difference of form, they possess strong mutual resemblances, chiefly apparent in the spirit which they communicate to the reader, of health, vigor, cheerfulness, and good hope. In this day of reprinting and of restoration, we hope that Southey's Chronicle of the Cid, which is a kind of "Harmony of the Gospels" of the Spanish Romance, may be republished in a volume of convenient size. That is a strong book, and makes lovers and admirers of "My Cid, the Perfect one, who
was born in a fortunate hour." Its traits of heroism and bursts of simple emotion, once read, can never be forgotten; "I am not a man to be besieged; " and "God! What a glad man was the Cid on that day," and many the like words still ring in our ears. The Cortes at Toledo, where judgment was given between the Cid and his sons-in-law, is one of the strongest dramatic scenes in literature. Several of the best ballads in Mr. Lockhart's collection recite incidents of the Cid's history. The best ballad in the book is the "Count Alarcos and the Infanta Solisa," which is a meet companion for Chaucer's Griselda. The "Count Garci Perez de Vargas" is one of our favorites; and there is one called the "Bridal of Andalla," which we have long lost all power to read as a poem, since we have heard it sung by a voice so rich, and sweet, and penetrating, as to make the ballad the inalienable property of the singer.
Tecumseh; a Poem. By GEORGE H. COLTON. New York: Wiley & Putnam.
THIS pleasing summer-day story is the work of a well read, cultivated writer, with a skilful ear, and an evident admirer of Scott and Campbell. There is a metrical sweetness and calm perception of beauty spread over the poem, which declare that the poet enjoyed his own work; and the smoothness and literary finish of the cantos seem to indicate more years than it appears our author has numbered. Yet the perusal suggested that the author had written this poem in the feeling, that the delight he has experienced from Scott's effective lists of names might be reproduced in America by the enumeration of the sweet and sonorous Indian names of our waters. The success is exactly correspondent. The verses are tuneful, but are secondary; and remind the ear so much of the model, as to show that the noble aboriginal names were not suffered to make their own measures in the poet's ear, but must modulate their wild beauty to a foreign metre. They deserved better at the author's hands. We felt, also, the objection that is apt to lie against poems on new subjects by persons versed in old books, that the costume is exaggerated at the expense of the man. The most Indian thing about the Indian is surely not his moccasins, or his calumet, his wampum, or his stone hatchet, but traits of character and sagacity, skill or passion; which would be intelligible at Paris or at Pekin, and which Scipio or Sidney, Lord Clive or Colonel Crockett would be as likely to exhibit as Osceola and Black Hawk.
Twice-Told Tales. By NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE. Boston: James Munroe & Company. 1842.
EVER Since the "Gentle Boy " first announced among us the presence of his friend and observer, the author of the "Twicetold Tales" has been growing more and more dear to his readers, who now have the pleasure of seeing all the leaves they had been gathering up here and there collected in these two volumes.
It is not merely the soft grace, the playfulness, and genial human sense for the traits of individual character, that have pleased, but the perception of what is rarest in this superficial, bustling community, a great reserve of thought and strength never yet at all brought forward. Landor says, "He is not over-rich in knowledge who cannot afford to let the greater part lie fallow, and to bring forward his produce according to the season and the demand." We can seldom recur to such a passage as this with pleasure, as we turn over the leaves of a new book. But here we may. Like gleams of light on a noble tree which stands untouched and self-sufficing in its fulness of foliage on a distant hill-slope,-like slight ripples wrinkling the smooth surface, but never stirring the quiet depths of a wood-embosomed lake, these tales distantly indicate the bent of the author's mind, and the very frankness with which they impart us slight outward details and habits shows how little yet is told. He is a favorite writer for children, with whom he feels at home, as true manliness always does; and the "Twicetold Tales scarce call him out more than the little books for his acquaintance of fairy stature.
In the light of familiar letters, written with ready hand, by a friend, from the inns where he stops, in a journey through the varied world-scenes, the tales are most pleasing; but they seem to promise more, should their author ever hear a voice that truly calls upon his solitude to ope his study door.
In his second volume, "The Village Uncle," "Lily's Guest," "" Chippings with a Chisel," were new to us, and pleasing for the same reasons as former favorites from the same hand. We again admired the sweet grace of the little piece, "Footprints on the Sea-shore."
"Chippings with a Chisel," from its mild, common-sensephilosophy, and genial love of the familiar plays of life, would have waked a brotherly smile on the lips of the friend of Dr. Dry-as-dust.
It is in the studies of familiar life that there is most success. In the mere imaginative pieces, the invention is not clearly woven, far from being all compact, and seems a phantom or shadow, rather than a real growth. The men and women, too,
flicker large and unsubstantial, like "shadows from the evening firelight," seen upon the parlor wall." But this would be otherwise, probably, were the genius fully roused to its work, and initiated into its own life, so as to paint with blood-warm colors. This frigidity and thinness of design usually bespeaks a want of the deeper experiences, for which no talent at observation, no sympathies, however ready and delicate, can compenWe wait new missives from the same hand.
Biographical Stories for Children. By NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE. Tappan & Dennet, Boston.
THANKS once more to the manly and gentle spirit which has taken these fine anecdotes, which have wet the eyes or expanded the breasts of the fathers, and given them now in so pleasing a form to the children, that the fathers must needs glisten and sigh over them again. They are stories selected from the traditions concerning Benjamin West, Isaac Newton, Samuel Johnson, Oliver Cromwell, Benjamin Franklin, Queen Christina.
The Cambridge Miscellany of Mathematics, Physics, and Astronomy. April, 1842.
WE rejoice in the appearance of the first number of this Quarterly Journal, edited by Professor Peirce. Into its Mathematics we have not ventured; but the chapters on Astronomy and Physics we read with great advantage and refreshment. Especially we thank Mr. Lovering for the beautiful Essay on the internal equilibrium and motion of bodies, which is the most agreeable contribution to scientific literature which has fallen under our eye, since Sir Charles Bell's Book on the Hand, and brings to mind the clear, transparent writings of Davy and Playfair. Surely this was not written to be read in a corner, and we anticipate the best success for this new Journal.
On our table still lie not unread, although we have no room yet for general notices;
The True Messiah, or the Old and New Testament examined according to the principles of the language of nature, by G. OEGGER. A very remarkable tract. It is the Introduction of the whole work, which will be printed in like manner in two more pamphlets, if it appear to be wanted. We shall come back to this book again.
Günderode. E. P. Peabody. A translation from the German, of which so fair a specimen has already been given in the Dial, that we have not called the attention of our readers to this new publication.