THE SONGS OF OUR LAND, AND OTHER POEMS. By Mary E. Hewitt. Boston: Wm. D. Ticknor & Co.
A DUODECIMO of 155 pages, distinguished by a very refined taste in the "getting up." Since the issue, in book form, of Mr. Longfellow's "Spanish Student," we have seen no American book so exquisitely arranged throughout: the breadth of the page is, in especial, a very commendable point. If any objection could be urged, it is that, for a page of the size employed, the long primer type is a trifle too large. Even here, however, we may be mistaken: the elegance of the whole volume in itself amounts to the poetical.
It includes fifty brief compositions, the first and one of the longest of which gives title to the collection. We by no means think it, however, the best piece. Its fifth stanza is, perhaps, the only quotable passage:
"Our fathers bore from Albion's isle"Forgotten Heroes" is a poem of much beauty, and replete with a classical spirit. No little skill is evinced in the versification of the following quatrains: —
No stories of her sounding lyres —
They left the old baronial pile,
They left the harp of ringing wires.
Ours are the legends still rehearsed,
Ours are the songs that gladsome burst
By all your cot and palace fires
Each tree that in our soft wind stirs
Waves o'er our ancient sepulchres,
The sleeping ashes of our sires."
"Morning in storied Greece ! and song,We italicize what we consider the effective points of the rhythm. In the line,
Like a startling trumpet's clang,
From the olive-gatherers on the heights,
Through the wavy branches rang.
"And the peasant mother at her door,
To the babe that climbed her knee,
Sang aloud the land's heroic songs —
Sang of Thermopylae.
"Sang of Mycale, of Marathon,
Of proud Plataea's day,
Till the wakened hills, from peak to peak,
Echoed the glorious lay.
"Oh, godlike name ! oh, godlike deed !
Song borne afar on every breeze —
Ye are sounds to thrill like a battle shout.
Leonidas ! Miltiades !''
a trochee and two iambuses are employed, in very happy variation of
the three preceding lines, which are formed each of an anapaest, followed
"The Wife's Prayer," is an earnest appeal to the sense of domestic happiness against the contemptible folly of ambition. Would to Heaven that such prayers were never urged in vain !
From the " Lines written in the North of the White Mountains" we quote the first stanza: —
"Dread mountain gorge, that hast thy way,Mrs. Hewitt has evidently very warm partialities for the sea and all that concerns it. Many of the best pieces in the volume before us turn upon sea adventures, or have reference to the maritime life. "God Bless the Mariner" is, perhaps, one of the most meritorious of these compositions. It is naive and picturesque.
In gloom, the sterile hills among;
Where coldly falls the cheering ray
To light thy paths with rocks o'erhung —
Here, 'mid your wild and dark defile,
O'erawed and wonder-whelmed I stand,
And ask, is this the fearful vale
That opens on the shadowy land ?"
"God's blessing on the mariner!"Alone" is the title of some quatrains of a tone differing materially from that of the other poems. It has more of an earnest melancholy. The motto, "Seul, cherchant dans l'espace un point qui me reponde," prefaces it. The idea is a remarkably happy one. We shall be pardoned for copying the whole poem: —
A venturous life leads he —
What reck the landsmen of their toil
Who dwell upon the sea ?
"The landsman sits within his home,
His fireside bright and warm,
Nor asks how fares the mariner
All night amid the storm.
"God bless the hardy mariner!
A homely garb wears he,
And he goeth with a rolling gait,
Like a ship upon the sea.
"He hath piped the loud 'Ay, ay, sir!'
O'er the voices of the main,
Till his deep tones have the hoarseness
Of the rising hurricane.
"His seamed and honest visage
The sun and wind have tanned,
And hard as iron gauntlet
Is his broad and sinewy hand.
"But, oh ! a spirit looketh
From out his clear blue eye,
With a truthful, childlike earnestness,
Like an angel from the sky.
"A venturous life the sailor leads
Between the sky and sea —
But when the hour of dread is past,
A merrier who than he ?
He knows that by the rudder bands
Stands one well skilled to save;
For a strong hand is the steersman's
That directs him o'er the wave.''
"There lies a deep and sealed wellThe merit of this piece, however, is greatly obscured, first, by its frequent inversions, and secondly, by its rhythmical defects. The lines,
Within yon leafy forest hid,
Whose pent and lonely waters swell
Its confines chill and drear amid.
"It hears the birds on every spray
Trill forth melodious notes of love;
It feels the warm sun's seldom ray
Glance on the stone its waves above;
"And quick the gladdened waters rush
Tumultuous upward to the brink;
A seal is on their joyous gush,
And back, repressed, they coldly shrink.
"Thus in their caverned space, apart,
Closed from the eye of day they dwell —
So, prisoned deep within my heart,
The tides of quick affection swell.
"Each kindly glance, each kindly tone,
To joy its swift pulsations sway;
But none may lift the veiling stone
And give the franchised current way.
"Smite THOU the rock, whose eye alone
The hidden spring within may see,
And bid the flood, resistless one,
Flow forth, rejoicing unto Thee.''
might easily have been written, with directness,
The putting the adjective after the noun is an inexcusable
Gallicism, but the putting the preposition after the noun is not
only not a Gallicism, but is alien to all languages, and in opposition
to all the principles of language. Such things serve no other purpose than
to betray the versifier's poverty of resource. Inversions are ranked among
the poetic licenses; but the true poet will avail himself of no license
whatever that does not aid his intended effect. When an inversion occurs,
we say at once, "here the poet had not sufficient skill to make out his
line without distorting the language." Nothing so much tends to render
The rhythmical defects referred to lie not so much in deficiencies or superfluities of feet or syllables, or in discords, as in the excessive use of difficult consonants. Such a line as
is scarcely pronounceable; and this merely on account of the union of such letters as n d b, c k r, d t h, and l d l followed immediately by s h r.
is quite as bad, if not worse. In repeating it rapidly once or twice we find as much embarrassment as in the schoolboy stumbling-block about "the cat that ran up the ladder with a lump of raw liver in his mouth." While on this topic, we must express our pleasure at seeing that Mrs. Hewitt eschews the folly of elision in such words as burned, distressed — past participles and perfect tenses — which, in all cases, should be written in full, and not burn'd, distress'd, etc. In one instance she contracts traitorous into trait'rous, but this is an error.
"A Tale of Luzon," "Osceola Signing the Treaty,"
and a sonnet entitled "Cameo II," are, we think, the three finest
poems of the volume. The first has some touches of delicate fancy, and
is better versified than anything in the collection. The second is forcible,
and its conclusions epigrammatic. The third is that rara avis, a
well-constructed sonnet. We quote it by way of finale.
"HERCULES AND OMPHALE.Mrs. Hewitt has, upon the whole, given indication rather than immediate evidence of poetic power. If not discouraged, she will undoubtedly achieve, hereafter, a very desirable triumph.
"Reclined enervate on the couch of ease,
No more he pants for deeds of high emprize —
For pleasure holds in soft voluptuous ties
Enthralled, great Jove-descended Hercules.
The hand that bound the Erymanthean boar,
Hesperia's dragon slew, with bold intent —
That from his quivering side in triumph rent
The skin the Cleonzean lion wore,
Holds forth the goblet — while the Lydian queen,
Robed like a nymph, her brow enwreathed with vine,
Lifts high the amphora brimmed with rosy wine,
And pours the draught the crowned cup within.
And thus the soul, abased to sensual sway,
Its worth forsakes — its might foregoes for aye.''
[S:0 - Godeys 1846]