Literature and National Policy.
New York: JOHN F. TROW, 50 GREENE STREET, (FOR THE PROPRIETORS.)
ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by JOHN F. TROW, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
INDEX TO VOLUME V.
AEnone; a Tale of Slave Life in Rome, 287, 385, 500, 619
American Finances and Resources. By Hon. Robert J. Walker, 40, 249, 324, 489
An Army: Its Organization and Movements. By Lieut.-Col. C. W. Tolles, A. Q. M., 707
An Hour in the Gallery of the National Academy of Design—Thirty-ninth Annual Exhibition, 684
An Indian Love-Song. By Edwin R. Johnson, 361
Aphorisms. By Rev. Asa Colton, 413, 450, 482, 595, 680, 706
A Pair of Stockings. From the Army, 597
Aspiro—A Fable, 158
A Summer's Night. From the Polish of Count S. Krasinski, translated by Prof. Podbielski, 543
A Tragedy of Error, 204
A Universal Language. By S. P. Andrews, 595
A Vigil with St. Louis. By E. Fonton, 70
Benedict of Nursla, and the Order of the Benedictines. By Rev. Ph. Schaff, 451
Buckle, Draper, and a Science of History. By Edward B. Freeland, 161
Carl Friedrich Neumann, the German Historian of our Country. By Professor Andrew Ten Brook, 295
Clouds. By Mrs. Martha Walker Cook, 265
Diary of Frances Krasinska; or, Life in Poland during the 18th Century, 27, 180
Dr. Fox's Prescription. By E. R. Johnson, 717
Editor's Table, 118, 245, 354, 487, 605, 721
English and American Taxation. By Egbert Hurd, 405
Ernest Renan's Theory. By Hugh Miller Thompson, 609
'Feed My Lambs,' 663
Glorious! By L. G. W., 459
Hannah Thurston, 456
Hints to the American Farmer, 584
Jefferson Davis and Repudiation of Arkansas Bonds. By Hon. Robert J. Walker, 478
Language a Type of the Universe. By Stephen Pearl Andrews, 691
Lies, and How to Kill Them. By Hugh Miller Thompson, 437
Literary Notices, 116, 243, 362, 483, 601, 719
Madagascar. By W. H. Whitmore, 65
Music a Science. By Lucia D. Pychowska, 575
National Friendships, 239
North and South. By Charles Wm. Butler, 241
'Nos Amis les Cosaques.' By M. Heilprin, 216
'Our Article,' 20
Our Domestic Relations; or, How to Treat the Rebel States. By Charles Russell, 511
Our Government and the Blacks. By William H. Kimball, 431
Out of Prison. By Kate Putnam, 436
Palmer, the American Sculptor. By L. J. Bigelow, 258
Petroleum. By Rev. S. M. Eaton, 187
Reason, Rhyme, and Rhythm. Compiled and written by Mrs. Martha Walker Cook, 14
Retrospective. By Rev. Dr. Henry, 1
Sir Charles Lyell on the Antiquity of Man. By a Presbyterian Clergyman, 369
Sketches of American Life and Scenery. By Lucia D. Pychowska, 9, 270, 425
Sleeping. By Hugh Miller Thompson, 716
Temptation. From the Polish of Count Sigismund Krasinski, 53
The Andes. By William G. Dix, 229
The Angels of War, 203
The Conscription Act of March 3d, 1864. By L. M. Haverstik, 110
The Decline of England. By S. J. Bayard, 48
The Development of American Architecture. By A. W. Colgate, 466
The Dove. By Mrs. Martha Walker Cook, 625
The English Press. By Nicholas Rowe, London, 100, 139, 564
The Great American Crisis. By Stephen P. Andrews, 87, 300
The Great Lakes to St. Paul. By Robert Dodge, 397
The Great Struggle, 34
The House in the Lane. By Miss Virginia Townsend, 573
The Isle of Springs. By Rev. C. C. Starbuck, 461
The Issues of the War. By John Stahl Patterson, Quarter-master Sergeant, 20th Ohio Battery, 287
The Lessons of the Wood. By George W. Bungay, 26
The Love Lucifer. By S. Leavitt, 319, 414
The March of Life. By Clarence Frederick Buhler, 649
The Mechanical Tendency in Modern Society. By John A. French, 351
The Mississippi River and its Peculiarities. By De B. R. Keim, 629
The Mound Builder. By January Searle, 517
The Red Man's Plea, 160
The Treasury Report and Mr. Sec'y Chase. By Hon. Frederick P. Stanton, 151
The Unkind Word, 690
The War a Contest for Ideas. By Henry Everett Russell, 578
The Wild Azalea. By E. W. C., 596
The Young Author's Dream. By Edwin R. Johnson, 395
Thistle-Down. By Frances Lamartine, 318
Thomas De Quincey and His Writings. By L. W. Spring, 650
Thomas Jefferson, as Seen in the Light of 1863. By J. Sheldon, 129
Thought. By Virginia Vaughan, 577
Union Not to be Maintained by Force. By Hon. Frederick P. Stanton, 73
Was He Successful? By Richard B. Kimball, 80, 221, 341, 445
LITERATURE AND NATIONAL POLICY.
VOL. V.—JANUARY, 1864.—No. I.
Time makes many dark things clear, and often in a wonderfully short and decisive way. So we said hopefully two years and more ago in regard to one of the unsolved problems which then pressed on the minds of thoughtful men—how, namely, it was to fare with slavery in the progress and sequel of the war. The history of our national struggle has illustrated the truth and justified the hope. Time has quite nearly solved that problem and some others almost equally perplexing. The stream of historical causes has borne the nation onward on the bosom of its inevitable flow, until we can now almost see clear through to the end; at any rate, we have reached a point where we can look backward and forward with perhaps greater advantage than at any former period. What changes of opinion have been wrought! How many doubts resolved! How many fears dispelled! How many old prejudices and preconceived notions have been abandoned! How many vexed questions put at rest! How many things have safely got an established place among accepted and almost generally acceptable facts, which were once matters of loyal foreboding and of disloyal denunciation! No man of good sense and loyalty now doubts the rightfulness and wisdom of depriving the rebels of the aid derived from their slaves, and making them an element of strength on our side; while the fact that the enfranchised slaves make good soldiers, is put beyond question by an amenability to military discipline and a bravery in battle not surpassed by any troops in the world.
HAS THE WAR GONE SLOWLY?
The work of subduing the rebellion has gone slowly as compared with the impatient demands of an indignant people at the outset; but not slowly if you consider the vast theatre of the war, the immense extent of the lines of military operations, and the prodigious advantages possessed by the rebels at the beginning—partly advantages such as always attend the first outbreak of a revolutionary conspiracy long matured in secret against an unsuspecting and unprepared Government, and partly the extraordinary and peculiar advantages that accrued to them from the traitorous complicity of Buchanan's Administration, through which the conspirators were enabled to rob the national treasury, strip the Government of arms, and possess themselves of national forts, arsenals, and munitions of war, before the conflict began.
NOT TOO SLOW—WHY? SLAVERY.
But either way the war has not gone too slowly with reference to its great end—the establishment of a durable peace. If the rebellion had been crushed at once by overwhelming force, it would have been crushed only to break out anew. Slavery would have been left unimpaired, and that would inevitably have entailed another conflict in no long time. In the interest of slavery the rebels have drawn the sword; let slavery perish by the sword. In the interest of slavery they have attempted to overthrow the National Government and to dismember the national domain; let slavery be overthrown to maintain the Government and to preserve the integrity of the nation. Let the cause of the war perish with the war. Not until slavery is extinguished can there be a lasting peace; for not until then can the conditions of true national unity begin to exist. What wise and good man would wish to save it from extinction? It is as incompatible with the highest prosperity of the South as it is with a true national union between the South and the North. Once extinguished, there will be a thousand-fold increase in every element of Southern welfare, economical, social, and moral; and possibilities of national wealth and strength, greatness and glory, above every nation on the globe, will be established. Let slavery go down. Let us rejoice that in the progress and sequel of this war, it must and will go down.
Looking back, we can now see that much that was trying to the patience of the loyal masses of the North in the early stages of the war, has only served to make it more certain that what ought to be will be. Time has done justice to the idiotic policy of fighting the rebellion with one hand and with the other upholding the institution that constituted at once its motive and its strength. Time has brought policy and justice to shake hands together at the right moment on the same road, and made that respectable and acceptable as a military necessity which was once repudiated as a fanaticism. Time has brought out the President's Emancipation Proclamation, and established it on a firm basis in the judgment and consent of all wise and true loyal men, North and South—to the great discomfiture of sundry politicians—the utterances of some of whom not long ago can be no otherwise taken than as the revelation and despairing death wail of disconcerted schemes. Strange that men whose whole lives have been passed in forecasting public opinion for their political uses, should have rushed upon the thick bosses of the great shield of the public will, which begirts the President and his Emancipation Proclamation;—for certainly all the railing at radicalism, which we heard in certain quarters last summer, was in fact nothing but the expression of disappointment and chagrin at the emancipation policy of the President, and that too at a time when that policy had come to be accepted by the great body of the loyal people of the nation (including all the eminent Southern loyalists), as not only indispensable to the national salvation, but desirable in every view. Strange that at such a time, and among those once active and influential in the formation of the Republican party—a party born of the roused spirit of resistance to slavery aggressions—there should have been found a single person unable to discern and to accept the inevitable logic of events which was to make the extinction of slavery the only wise, practicable, and truly loyal stand point. Strange that any Republican should be disposed to put a stop to the 'irrepressible conflict.' It was too late in the day to attempt the organization of a great, victorious Conservative party by splitting up the old organizations. The old organizations may fall to pieces. It is best, perhaps, they should—but not to form a Conservative party. Conservatism is not now to the popular taste. It means nothing but the saving of slavery, and the great body of the loyal people now feel absolved from all obligation to save it; they do not care to have it saved; and the vaticinations of those prophets of evil who predicted disaster and ruin to the national cause from the emancipation policy of the Government excite no consternation in the loyal heart of the nation.
In a review of the conduct of the war, how little reason appears for regret and how much for satisfaction in regard to all the great measures of the Government!
THE FINANCIAL SYSTEM.
The successful working of the financial system has demonstrated the wisdom of its principles. Instead of following the old wretched way of throwing an immense amount of stocks into market at a sacrifice of fifteen to thirty per cent., the Government has got all the money it wanted at half or a little more than half the usual rate of interest. It would have been better if the currency had been made to consist wholly of United States legal-tender notes, fundable in six per cent., bonds—with a proper provision for the interest and for a sinking fund.
But the financial system adopted is a matter of satisfaction, apart from its admirable success in furnishing the Government with the means to carry on the war: it is the inauguration of sounder principles on currency than have heretofore prevailed, which, if unfolded and carried legitimately out, will give the country the best currency in the world—perfectly secured, uniform in value at every point, and liable to no disastrous expansions and contractions. The notion that any great industrial, manufacturing, and commercial nation can conduct its business—any more than it can carry on a great war—with a specie currency alone, is indeed exploded; but the notion that a paper currency to be safe must be based on specie, still prevails—although the currency furnished by the thousands of banks scattered throughout the country has never been really based upon the actual possession of specie to the extent of more than one fifth of the amount in circulation. It may be the doctrine will never come to prevail that a specie basis in whole or in part is no more indispensable to a sound and safe paper currency than an exclusive specie currency is possible or desirable in a country like this. It may be that the people will never come to believe that a legal-tender paper currency, issued exclusively by the National Government—based upon the credit of the nation, constituting a lien upon all the property of the country, and proportioned in amount of issue to the needs of the people for it as an instrument of exchange—would, for all home uses, possess in full perfection the nature, functions, and powers of money. It is a subject we do not propose to discuss. It is enough now to say that the notes of the United States, fundable in national six per cent. bonds, and drawing interest as they do semi-annually in gold, must be admitted by everybody to be as safe a currency as the banks as a whole have ever supplied, and to possess other advantages which make them incomparably a better currency than that of local banks.
The high price to which gold has been carried by gambling speculators, is not to be taken as indicating a proportionate want of confidence in the success of the national cause and in the intrinsic value of the national securities. It indicates nothing of the sort—at any rate, whatever it may be taken to indicate, it is none the less true that United States six per cent. bonds were from the first eagerly sought for and taken as investments at the rate of a million a day—faster indeed than the Government could at first supply them; with a constantly augmenting demand, until in the last week of October thirty-six millions were disposed of—leaving only one hundred and fifty millions unsold, which will doubtless all be taken before this paper is published. Comment on this is entirely needless.
OUR FOREIGN RELATIONS.
In the conduct of our foreign relations, certain official declarations in the early part of the war on the policy and purpose of Government in carrying it on, are to be regretted as gratuitous and unfortunate. It is to be regretted also that the capture of the Trent and the seizure of Mason and Slidell was not at once disavowed as being contrary to our doctrine on neutral rights, and the rebel emissaries surrendered without waiting for reclamation on the part of the British Government; or, if it was thought best to await that reclamation as containing a virtual concession of our doctrine, it would have been better—more dignified and effective—if the reply had been limited to a simple statement that the surrender was necessitated by the principles always maintained by our Government, and not by a reclamation which the British Government, by its own construction of public law and by its own practice, was not entitled to make, but which being made, might now, it was to be hoped, be taken as an abandonment in the future of the ground heretofore maintained by that Government.
CONCESSION OF BELLIGERENT RIGHTS TO THE REBELS.
There has been some dissatisfaction with the conduct of our official communications with Great Britain and France respecting the question on belligerent rights and neutral obligations which the rebellion has raised. But there are points of no inconsiderable difficulty and delicacy involved in these questions, which a great many people, in their natural displeasure against the English and French, have failed to consider. Our Government deserves the credit of having consulted the interests without compromising the dignity of the nation. Admitting the conduct of the British and French Governments in recognizing the rebels as belligerents to be as unfriendly and as unrequired by the obligations of public law as it is generally held to be among us, that would not make it right or wise for our Government to depart from the tone of moderation. We can no more make it a matter for official complaint and demand against these Governments, than we could the unfriendly tone of many of their newspapers and Parliamentary orators. We might say to them: We take it as unkindly in you to do as you have done; but if they will continue to do so, we have nothing for it but to submit. Even if we could have afforded it, we could not rightly have gone to war with them for doing what we ourselves—through the necessity of our circumstances—have been compelled in effect to do, and what they, though not forced by any such necessity, had yet a right—and in their own opinion were obliged—by public law to do. We could not have made it a cause of war, and therefore it would have been worse than idle to indulge in a style of official representation which means war if it means anything.
THE REBEL CRUISERS.
The question of the rebel cruisers on the high seas is a question by itself. The anger excited among us by the injuries we have suffered from these vessels is not strange; nor is it strange that our anger should beget a disposition to quarrel with Great Britain and France for conceding the rights of lawful belligerents to the perpetrators of such atrocities. The rebels have no courts of admiralty, carry their prizes to no ports, submit them to no lawful adjudication—but capture, plunder, and burn private vessels in mid ocean. Such proceedings by the laws of nations are undoubtedly piratical in their nature. We have a right so to hold and declare. We may think that Great Britain and France are bound so to hold and declare. But what then? Should they have ordered their men of war to cruise against these rebel cruisers or to capture every one which they might chance to encounter, and to send them home for trial? We may think they were bound in vindication of public law to do so; but could we make their not doing so a matter of formal complaint and a cause of war? There are a number of things to be well considered before any one should permit himself to quarrel with our Government for not quarrelling with Great Britain and France on this matter.
BRITISH VIOLATION OF NEUTRAL OBLIGATIONS.
But the conduct of the British Government in allowing her ports to be made the basis of these nefarious operations—in permitting vessels of whose character and purpose there could be no doubt to be built in her ports—not to be delivered in any Confederate port, but in effect armed and manned from her ports to go immediately to cruise against our commerce on the high seas—is an outrageous violation of the obligations of neutrals, for which that Government may justly be held responsible. It is a responsibility which no technical pleading about the insufficiency of British laws, either in matter of prohibition or rules of evidence, can avoid. Great Britain is bound to have laws and rules of evidence which will enable her effectually to discharge her neutral obligations; whether she has or not, does not alter her responsibility to us. Her conduct may rightfully be made a matter of official complaint, and of war too—if satisfaction and reparation be refused. It is a case in which our rights and dignity are concerned; and it is to be presumed that our Government will not fail to vindicate them.
LEGISLATION—THE CONFISCATION LAW.
The action of Congress has in everything been nobly patriotic in spirit, and in nearly everything it has wisely and adequately met the exigencies of the crisis.
But we are compelled to hold the Confiscation Act, in the form in which it was passed, as a mistake. If the clause of the Constitution prohibiting 'attainder of treason to work forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted,' be necessarily applicable to the Confiscation Act, it seems to us impossible to avoid the conclusion that the act is unconstitutional. So far as the language of the prohibition is decisive of anything, it must be taken to include all sorts of property, real as well as personal—the term forfeiture certainly having that extent of application in the old English law and practice, from which the framers of our Constitution took it, and there is nothing elsewhere in the Constitution or in its history to warrant any other construction. So the Congress of 1790 understood it in the act declaring the punishment of treason and some other high crimes. As to the perpetuity of forfeiture, it seems equally necessary to hold that it is prohibited by the clause of the Constitution in question. Such is undeniably the first and obvious meaning of the terms. It has been argued indeed that it was not the intention of the framers of the Constitution to prohibit perpetual forfeiture of property from being 'declared' by Congress, but only to prohibit 'attainder of treason' from 'working' of itself that effect by necessary consequence—as it did under the Common Law of England. It has also been argued that the constitutional restriction does not relate to perpetuity of forfeiture, but only requires that the forfeiture or act of alienation take place, have effect, and be accomplished 'during the life of the person attainted,' and not after his death.
But this reasoning is more subtile than satisfactory. A fair consideration of the subject leaves little room for doubt that the framers of the Constitution had in view and intended to prohibit everything which under the old English common law followed upon 'attainder of treason'—to prohibit forfeiture in perpetuity of property of every sort, no less than 'bills of attainder,' 'corruption of blood,' and barbarities of punishment, such as disembowelling, quartering, etc.
If therefore the constitutional restriction on forfeiture apply to the Confiscation Law, it makes the law unconstitutional, in so far as it enacts the perpetual forfeiture of the personal estate of rebels; and the discrimination made in regard to their real estate does not save the constitutionality of the act.
If, therefore, the Confiscation Law is to be held as constitutional, it can be so, as it seems to us, only on the ground that it does not fall within the scope of the constitutional prohibition in question. This ground may be maintained by asserting that the constitutional prohibition of perpetual forfeiture applies only to cases of 'attainder of treason,' that is, according to Blackstone, of 'judgment of death for treason,' and that cases under this act are not such; that the limitations applicable to ordinary judicial proceedings against traitors are not applicable here; that the Confiscation Act seizes the property of rebels not in their quality of criminals, but of public enemies; that it is not an act for the punishment of treason, but for weakening and subduing an armed rebellion, and securing indemnification for the costs and damages it has entailed—in short, not a penal statute, but a war measure; and that the Constitution which gives Congress the right to make war for the suppression of the rebellion, and to subject the lives of rebels to the laws of war, gives it the right to subject their property also to the same laws—putting both out of the protection of the ordinary laws; and finally that all the objects aimed at by the measure are legitimated by the principles of public law.
If these views can be sustained, it follows that Congress was justified not only in enacting the perpetual confiscation of the personal property of rebels, but need not, and should not, have passed the explanatory clause prohibiting 'forfeiture of real estate beyond the natural life' of the rebel. So far as weakening the rebellion, indemnifying the nation for costs and damages, or the rights and interests of the heirs of rebels, are concerned, there is no reason in justice or in policy for the discrimination made between personal and real estate; if it is right and wise to take the one in perpetuity, it is equally so to take the other. In our judgment, it is right and wise to do both.
MILITARY ADMINISTRATION—NO ARMY OF RESERVE.
In looking over the war, we can all now see a very great error in the military administration—the neglect, namely, to provide and keep up a proper reserved force. It is the grand mistake of the war. Two years and a half of war, and no army of reserve! Eighteen months ago, a force of reserve of at least two hundred thousand men should have been formed. It could probably then have been formed of volunteers. From it, vacancies made in the armies in the field by battle, disease, or expiration of time of service, could have been filled with drilled and disciplined soldiers, and reinforcements drawn to meet any special exigency. The victory of Gettysburgh might have resulted in the total destruction of Lee's army before he could recross the Potomac; and Rosecrans might have been strengthened without weakening the Army of the Potomac or any other. Whether the cost of forming and keeping up such a force of reserve would have greatly exceeded the cost of the recent draft, we do not pretend to know. We are inclined to think it would not. But that is a question of little moment. Money wisely spent is well spent: money unwisely saved is ill saved. With such a force, the recent draft might not have been necessary—at all events there would have been no necessity for suspending active military operations in Virginia, and awaiting the slow completion of the draft, at a moment when, large additions to the forces in the field were precisely the one thing needful. The army of reserve would at once have supplied disciplined soldiers, and their places in the camps of instruction and reserve could have been filled with the new conscripts as fast as they were collected.
CONSOLATION—ENFORCEMENT OF THE DRAFT IN NEW YORK.
But grave as the error is which we have signalized, there is something that might well console us for greater misfortunes than it has entailed, and which gives us another illustration of the truth that God and Time often work for us better than we for ourselves, and out of our errors bring good that we could not forecast.
It would not be wise to assert that the not having such a reserved force necessitated the recent draft, and thereby occasioned the horrible outbreak in New York. But if it may even be safely suggested as possibly true, the successful enforcement of the draft becomes all the more a matter for boundless joy and congratulation. Important as its enforcement throughout the country was as a means of filling up the ranks of our armies, the outbreak in New York made it a thousand times more important as the only adequate assertion of the supremacy of national law.
There can be no doubt as to the nature, origin, and purpose of that outbreak. It was the result of a long-prepared traitorous conspiracy in the interest of the rebels. The enforcement of the draft against mob violence instigated by treason, was indispensable not only to the successful prosecution of the war against the rebels of the South, but to the maintenance of the supreme authority and power of the National Government, and of the foundations of social order at the North. Not to have enforced it might have insured the triumph of the rebellion and the independence of the South; it certainly would have rendered the North no longer a country fit for any decent man to live in. Such and so great was the significance of the crisis. The responsibility of the Administration was immense. The President met it nobly. He took care that a sufficient military force—not under the control of Governor Seymour, but of a well-tried patriot—was present in New York. He carried out the draft there and everywhere else. He crushed the schemes and hopes of the traitorous conspirators—more guilty than the rebels in arms-and gave a demonstration of the strength of the National Government, as grand in its majesty as it was indispensable to the national salvation in this crisis and to its security in all future time. The Government has triumphed in the quiet majesty of its irresistible force over factious and traitorous opposition at the North, springing from treasonable sympathy with the rebels, or, from what, in a crisis like this, is equally wicked, the selfishness of party spirit, preferring party to country. More than this, it has triumphed over the dangerous and destructive notions on State sovereignty, which traitors and partisans have dared invoke. It is impossible to overestimate the importance for the present and for the future of this victorious assertion of the supremacy of the National Government.
In a review, then, of this gigantic struggle, we have every reason to be content and confident—no reason to bate one jot of heart or hope. The triumph over Northern treason, achieved by the force of the Government, has been followed by a moral triumph at the polls, no less grand in its significance. The country is not oppressed by the stupendous expenses of the war. The money is all spent at home. It stimulates the productive industry of the country, and the nation is all the time growing rich. The rebels have been disastrously repulsed in two attempts at invasion, and do not hold one inch of Northern soil. One third of the States claimed by them at the outset, are gone from them forever: Maryland, Missouri, Kentucky, are securely in the Union; Virginia we have cut in two—nearly one half of its territory, by the will of its inhabitants, now constituting a loyal member of the Union as the new State of West Virginia—while of its eastern half we securely hold its coast, harbors, and fortresses, and a considerable number of its counties. Tennessee is ours, and cannot, we think, be wrenched away. We have New Orleans, and the uncontrolled possession of the Mississippi river—cutting the territory of the rebels in two, destroying their communications, and giving us a considerable portion of the States bordering that river. In North Carolina and South Carolina we have a hold, from which it will be hard to drive us. On the Atlantic and Gulf coast nearly every fortress is in our possession; there is not a port which is not possessed by us, or else so blockaded that (except in the peculiar case of Wilmington) it is a hazardous affair for any vessel to attempt going in or coming out; and the rebels are utterly unable to raise the blockade of a single port. In fine, they have lost more than one third of their territory forever, and of the remaining portion there is not one considerable subdivision over which in some part the flag of the Union does not securely wave. What title to recognition as an independent power can the Confederate rebels present to the neutral powers of the world?
SKETCHES OF AMERICAN LIFE AND SCENERY.
While American tourists are delightedly visiting and minutely describing the most hidden recesses of beauty among the mountains, plains, seas, lakes, and rivers of Europe, there are, close within their reach, innumerable spots well worthy of consideration, and hitherto entirely unknown to the great mass of pleasure and scenery seeking travellers. These fair but hidden gems have become of the more importance that the grand struggle convulsing our country has rendered foreign travel difficult, even when advisable, and has roused within our people a love for their own land, a pride in its loveliness, much more rarely felt before the attempt to dismember and ruin it had awakened dormant patriotism and completed the severance between the recent province and the historically renowned mother country. American painters are worthily illustrating American life and landscape; American poets, and no less poetical prose writers, are singing the forests, skies, flowers, and birds of their native land; and the inquisitive traveller should surely not fail to add his humbler mite in the way of discovery and description. The following sketches are founded upon actual observation, and the delineations of scenery and manners therein contained are strictly in accordance with the personal experience of the author.
I.—A SUMMER EXCURSION.
'All very well,' said Aunt Sarah; 'I have no doubt the excursion would be charming; but who will accompany you?'
'We do not require an escort; we can take care of each other,'
'Can it be that you, Lucy, a staid married woman of thirty-six, and you, Elsie, a demure young girl of twenty, are suddenly about to enter the ranks of the strong minded?'
'Why, dear aunt,' said Lucy D——, 'you would not have us weak minded, would you? I think I heard you say no longer ago than yesterday that half the domestic miseries in this world were due to the weak nerves and feeble intellects of poorly educated women.'
'True; but the technical expression, 'strong minded,' does not mean strong in mind—rather the contrary.'
'In other words, strong minded means weak minded, is that it, auntie?' laughed Elsie.
'I see, Aunt Sarah,' said Lucy, 'we shall be forced to call upon you for that most difficult of tasks, a definition. What is meant by the term, 'strong-minded woman'?'
'A monster,' replied Mrs. Sarah Grundy, 'who lectures, speaks in public, wants women to vote, to wear men's garments; in a word, one who would like to upset religion, social life, and the world in general.'
'Well,' dear auntie, 'we surely do not purpose committing any of these enormities; our intentions simply embrace a short excursion of some forty miles in search of fine scenery, health, and a little amusement. We have no confidence in our power to influence the public, even if we thought we had aught to say which they do not already know; we do not see that voting has a very beneficial effect upon men, witness election days; as for their garments, they are too hideously ungraceful for us to covet; in faith, we are of the most orthodox; we confess, we do think social life needs sundry reforms, more charity and forbearance, less detraction and ostentation, etc., etc.; and as for the world in general, we think it very beautiful, and only wish to overlook some few additional miles of its lovely mountains, lakes, and streams.'
'Well, well, girls, young people always can talk faster than old ones; but do you really think it safe for you to venture without escort? You do not even know the name of the place which you wish to visit; you have been informed that on the summit of yonder mountain is a lake, said to be picturesque; but of its cognomen, and of the proper means to reach it, you are utterly ignorant. You will have to ask questions of all sorts of people.'
'Suppose we do—being women, we will certainly in America receive civil answers.'
'But if some person unknown to you should speak to you?'
'Little danger, dear aunt, of dread unknowns, if we comport ourselves properly; I have travelled much in all kinds of public conveyances, and never yet have been improperly addressed. Did you ever have an adventure of the sort'?
'Once only,' replied Aunt Sarah, 'and then the fault was my own. I was young and giddy; Cousin Nancy was with me, and we were in a rail-car. In a near seat sat a very good-looking young man; Nancy looked toward him once or twice and, meeting his eye, began to giggle: I foolishly joined her; thus encouraged, our young gentleman opened a conversation. Nancy laughed immoderately; but I, being a few years older, soon controlled my silly giggling; and by the tone of my reply speedily silenced our would-be admirer. He turned his back upon us, and, so far as I know, in less than five minutes had forgotten our very existence.'
'Decidedly a case in our favor! And if the boat should blow up, or the car roll down an embankment, in what would we be benefited by the fact of having an escort also to be scalded or have his head broken?'
'Ye maun even then gang your ain gait. I wish you a pleasant journey and a safe return.'
'Thank you, auntie, and you will not call us strong minded?'
'Certainly not, unless I find you merit the appellation.'
The little trunk was soon packed, and one fine July morning the two travellers set off in search of the beautiful lake, whose name is not to be found in the guide books. They knew it was to be looked for in a sharp and peculiar dent in the Shawangunk mountain, which dent, so far as they could judge from the hills near their dwelling on the northern slope of the Highlands, must be nearly opposite Poughkeepsie. Neither map nor gazetteer could they procure; the neighbors could give them no information, and they were forced to proceed with only the above-mentioned meagre stock of knowledge.
The first stage was of five miles, in a carriage to Newburg, where they took the day boat for Albany. Our novices felt more or less anxiety regarding the fidelity of the porter intrusted with their two small articles of baggage; but said articles appearing somewhat late, though still in season, and being duly marked for Poughkeepsie, the first question asked was as to the existence of such a place as New Paltz Landing, opposite the above-named city, and the facilities for crossing the river. None of those in authority knew certainly of a ferry, but supposed it highly probable. The wharf at Poughkeepsie was suggested as a proper place to obtain information; and, once there, our travellers soon found themselves in the hands of an intelligent contraband, who promised to place them safely on the desired ferry boat. As they neared the dock, a great rock, with an upset wagon for foreground, furnished an encouraging picture for two lone lady tourists. The boat proved neat and comfortable, and here again inquiries were made. The very polite captain had heard of a lake on the Shawangunk mountain, but knew neither its name nor exact location. He advised them to have their baggage sent to the little inn at the landing, where they might dine and await a stage expected to pass in about an hour on its way to New Paltz, a village nine miles west of the river. At the inn they fancied they must certainly learn something definite regarding the final object of their undertaking. A large map of Ulster county hung in the sitting room, and gave promise of some decided information. Unfortunately, it was not of a recent edition: a nameless lake on the Shawangunk mountain, about five miles from New Paltz, seemed to be the object of their search; but the landlord, who had heard of a lake in that direction, could not tell how it was to be reached, or whether shelter could there be found in any decent tenement; his impression was that there had been a public house on top of the mountain, but that it had recently been destroyed by fire. Certainties were evidently still unattainable.
Finally, the stage arrived—a vehicle drawn by two horses, and intended to seat four persons. In it were already two ladies, with bags and bundles, two trunks, a champagne basket, numberless packages, and about fifty bottles of soda water, laid in among the straw covering the bottom of the accommodating conveyance. The driver, a good-natured, intelligent man, gave our travellers his bench, and arranged a seat for himself and the champagne basket on a sort of shelf overhanging the tails of the horses. At the top of the first hill is the village of Houstonville, where they stopped at the post office to leave the mail, and where two ladies appeared as claimants for seats in the stage. The driver at first demurred; but, finding the ladies persistent, he drew forth a board, and, fastening it at either end to a perpendicular prop, constructed a third bench, on which the two new passengers took their places.
The stage was by this time more than well packed; but ere long the process of lightening up commenced, as first the champagne basket, then packages, bundles, and newspapers, were left at various dwellings along the roadside. One novelty especially striking was the wayside post office, consisting of a box on a pole, intended to contain the daily newspaper therein thrust to await the coming of the owners.
Of course the driver was plied with numerous questions regarding the thus far nameless lake. He had been up the Shawangunk mountain fishing, but that was years before; there was a lake, but he had never heard any name given to it; he had understood a house had been built since his last visit; but he did not know if it was intended to accommodate visitors during the night. Of one thing, however, he was quite certain, and that was, the impossibility of finding a horse in New Paltz to take the ladies up that evening. The inns had none to let; there were no livery stables, and his own pair were too greatly fatigued by their twenty-mile drive to venture up so steep an ascent; but he thought a conveyance might be found for the following morning. The views along the road were charming; and the sharp, jagged crest known as Paltz Point, overhung the well-cultivated rolling valley beneath, giving a fair promise of an extended and characteristic view.
The inn, to which the travellers were driven, proved very neat and comfortable. It was a new edifice, with an accommodating landlord and landlady, the latter of which personages seemed quite mystified by the advent of two lorn ladies in search of an unknown lake. In the entry hung a new map of Ulster county, on which appeared a lake nestling under the cliffs of Paltz Point, but still without a name. Paltz Point!—that must be the very jagged pile of rock visible from the Cornwall hills, and the lake at its foot more than probably the object of the journey.
The landlord was quite positive as to the existence of a house, but doubted its capacity in regard to sleeping accommodations; he also corroborated the testimony of the driver respecting the difficulty of obtaining a vehicle, every horse being engaged haying. The ladies announced that, as the distance was only six miles, it could be walked, in case this difficulty proved insuperable. An individual at the tea table proposed that the travellers should be taken up some time in the middle of the night, that the horse might return by six o'clock in the morning; but this suggestion was unanimously frowned down. The chief reason for requiring a horse and wagon lay in the little trunk, which, as it contained the painting box of our Elsie, who thought the lake and vicinity might offer some picturesque studies, could not possibly be left behind. After tea, a walk was taken, and the vicinage of New Paltz duly inspected. The Wallkill, here a quiet stream, runs through rich, green meadows, bordered by the noble range of the Catskills and the singular, broken ridges of the Shawangunk. The sun set clear, casting pale gold streams of light over the meadows, and leaving a long, lingering, rosy twilight. The young art-student drank in beauty with every breath. The cows were driven home; the ducks came slowly up out of the stream, and all the winged creatures went to roost. Night came, and repose was welcome after the pleasures and fatigues of the day's journey.
At eight the following morning, a steady black pony, with a light open wagon, appeared at the door; and by ten o'clock the travellers reached the mountain top. Their steed showed marvellous endurance in the way of slow pacing down steep hills, which they afterward found had been acquired in leading sad trains of mourners to the modest graveyards, wherein rest the earthly remains of the peaceful dwellers in this pastoral vale. The first four or five miles of road were excellent, but the last one or two so rough and stony, that they were quite willing to walk. On top of the mountain stands a little inn, commanding a magnificent view in several directions. As they neared the end of their journey, they rejoiced to see a white house gleaming through the trees, and promising food and shelter. The sound of coming wheels brought out the land-lady, who gave the travellers a hearty welcome, and assured them of her ability to harbor them for the night. The end was accomplished—the goal reached! And what a goal! Nowhere among all the beautiful scenery in the Middle and Eastern States is there a spot more characteristic and interesting than Paltz Point, and the lake that lies under its shadow—that lake, whose name was a mystery, even to the inmates of the house built upon its brink. Its waters are clear, and of a deep green hue; its depth is said to be great, and its rocky shores rise in perpendicular cliffs of from ten to two hundred feet. The highest point stands three or four hundred feet above the surface of the water; but in that part the cliffs are no longer perpendicular. The length of the lake is about a mile, and the width perhaps half that distance. The rocks are gray sandstone or quartz conglomerate, making the cliffsides, except where covered by black lichens, of a glittering white. On one side, the rocks rise in steep, precipitous masses, while on the other they are shattered into every imaginable form. The clefts are deep and narrow, great hemlocks rise from the bottoms of the fissures, and the vast masses of fallen or split rock lie piled and cloven, confusedly tossed about, gigantic memorials of the great convulsion that in days long gone by heaped up the long ridge of the Shawangunk, and shattered its northern dip into such majestic and fantastic cliffs. The deepest and wildest chasm is filled by the weird, green lake. Straying along the tops of the precipices bordering the water, our travellers beheld lovely vistas of the far-away country, north, south, east, or west, stealing in through rocky or leafy openings. An easy ascent of about half a mile leads to the summit of the Point. Blueberries were ripe, and beguiled the pair into many a moment's dallying by the wayside. Not until they reached the very top were they quite sure they had after all found the place they came to seek; but one view down the jagged line of the Shawangunk, convinced our Elsie that no other spot could have furnished the sketch seen in the studio, where she had been advised to seek 'the lake on the Shawangunk mountain.'
The view from Paltz Point is magical. The long line of the Catskills sweeps boldly across the near northern horizon. Nowhere do those mountains seem so majestic, or their forms so broken and beautiful; nearer are the Olive mountains, beyond which flows the Esopus. Rondout creek, the Wallkill, and the Hudson, water the fertile vales lying among the hills. To the south stretches the line of the Shawangunk toward the Delaware river, and on the extreme southern and southeastern horizon rise the Highlands, with the river gap, the rifted sides of the Storm King, the Beacons, the great broad shoulders of Schunemunk;—even the white buildings on the plain at West Point may be seen glittering in the afternoon sun. A clear atmosphere is needed for the full enjoyment of the view, as the panorama is so vast that even a slight haze obscures many of the more interesting distant objects. And what words could describe the jutting headlands—wild, broken lines of white cliffs stretching to the southward, deep chasms, steep, forest-clad mountains, green or blue as distance, sunshine, or shadow may decree, and the tranquil green lake, smiling as a deep, strong and cheerful spirit amid the ruins of a shattered, wasted life? As our travellers gazed, they thanked God that His world was so beautiful, and wondered if even Aunt Sarah would not be willing to run the risk of being thought strong minded to see so fair a corner of it.
The moon that night rose late; and the air was chill as the sisters stood on a rock waiting until its rays should silver the placid waves. Overhead ran a strange, broad, coruscating band of magnetic light, meteors flashed down the sky, a solitary loon sent a wild, despairing cry athwart the lake, and for the first time did our travellers feel they were alone, eighteen hundred feet above the Hudson, far away from other human habitation. A truly feminine shudder ran through their hearts, as they turned toward the house and betook them to the cells appropriated to their use. The following day they were driven down the mountain by the owner (not the keeper) of the little inn beside the lake. He was one of nature's own gentlemen; tall,—six feet, perhaps,—gray haired, blue eyed, with every feature well cut, and with the most honest expression ever beaming through a human countenance. The hearts of the sisters warmed toward him, and never were they more willing to acknowledge the solidarity of the race, the great fact of the brotherhood of all humanity.
Cornwall once again safely reached, and the outlines of the journey duly sketched, Aunt Sarah's first question was: 'Well, and what is the name of this famous lake?'
The travellers were forced to confess the ill success of their efforts in discovering the proper appellation of that exquisite gem, and it was not until many months later that, when visiting an exhibition of paintings, they found their new friend accurately portrayed under the name of—Mogunk Lake.
REASON, RHYME, AND RHYTHM.
'All arts are one, howe'er distributed they stand, Verse, tone, shape, color, form, are fingers on one hand.'
PREFACE TO VOLUME SECOND.
Our first volume having been devoted to the Reason or Theory of Art in general, it is our intention in the second, Rhyme and Rhythm, to bring these comprehensive thoughts to a focus, and concentrate their light upon the art of Versification. Indeed, this volume is to be considered as a manual of poetic Rhythm. Practical rules are given for its construction and criticism; simple solutions offered of its apparent irregularities and anomalies; and examples of sufficient length are quoted from the best poets to afford just ideas of the scope and power of the measure under consideration. The numerous citations given under their appropriate metrical heads are intended not only to assist the student in the analysis of verse, but to aid him in the choice of forms in accordance with his subject, in case he should himself wish to create Poems.
By its extrication from the entanglement of quantity and syllabic accent, under which it has been almost buried, an effort has been made to simplify the study of Rhythm: by tracing its origin and characteristics, and by the citation of poems in which its power and beauty are conspicuous, we have endeavored to render the subject one of vivid interest.
What is Rhythm? The best definition of this perplexing word has been given by the grand old Bohemian composer Tomaschek:
'The order perceptible in a succession of sounds recurring in determinate portions of Time, which portions of Time are more distinctly marked for the ear through the accentuation of certain determinate parts, constitutes Rhythm.
Rhythm has been surrounded with so much mystery, has been the subject of so much learned debate and research, has called forth so many quartos and folios, that few know what a familiar thing it is, how closely it everywhere surrounds us, how constantly it beats within us. For the pulsations of the heart are rhythmical, and the measured throbs of life register in music every moment of our passing existence on the bosom of Time. And when life manifests itself to the senses through the medium of time, time being to the ear what space is to the eye, the Order of its pulsations is Rhythm. Strange relation between our own marvellous being and the march of time, for its mystic rhythm beats in tune with every feeling that sweeps over the heart, forever singing its primeval chant at the very core of our existence! The law of Rhythm is the law of mortal life: the constant recurrence of new effort sinking but to recover itself in accurately proportioned rest, rising ever again in new exertion, to sink again in ever new repose:
'And our hearts, though true and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave.'
This low music of the heart never ceases until stilled by the touch of death, when the spirit, led by God, enters upon the waveless ocean of an immeasurable eternity, where past and future meet in the eternal present. Time with its rhythmic measures is then no more. The necessity of 'effort and rest,' 'exertion and repose,' will exist no longer. What the fuller music of that higher life is to be, 'it has not yet entered into the heart of man to conceive.' But if the very imperfection of our being has been rendered so full of charm to us in the order and proportion with which it records its law, 'effort and repose,' 'life and death'—what may we not expect when this mortal shall have put on immortality? We should think of this when that saddest of human sounds, 'it beats no more; it measures time no longer'—knells upon our ear the silence of the throbbing, passionate heart.
Nor is inanimate nature without the quickening breath of Rhythm. It cadences the dash of the wave, chimes in the flash of the oar, patters in the drops of rain, whispers in the murmurings of the forest leaves, leaps in the dash of the torrent, wails through the sighing of the restless winds, and booms in the claps and crashes of heaven's thunders.
Only through succession do we arrive at the idea of time, and through a continual being and ceasing to be are its steppings made sensible to us. It is thus literally true, as sung by the Poet, that 'we take no note of Time but from its loss.' Happy are we if so used that it may mark our eternal progress.
There is but little mystery in the art of keeping time, since we may at once gather a correct notion of it from the vibrations of the pulse, or from our manner of walking. If we listen to the sound of our own step, we find it equal and regular, corresponding with what is termed common time in music. Probably the time in which we walk is governed by the action of the heart, and those who step alike have pulses beating in the same time. To walk faster than this gives the sensation of hurry; to walk slower, that of loitering. The mere recurrence of sounds at regular intervals by no means constitutes the properties of musical time; accent is necessary to parcel them out into those portions which Rhythm and the ear approve. If we listen to the trotting of a horse or the tread of our own feet, we cannot but notice that each alternate step is louder than the other—by which we throw the sounds into the order of common time. But if we listen to the amble or canter of a horse, we hear every third step to be louder than the other two, owing to the first and third foot striking the ground together. This regularity throws the sounds, into the order of triple time. To one or other of these descriptions may be referred every sort of time.
There is a sympathetic power in measured time which has not yet received the attention it deserves. It has been found that in a watchmaker's shop the timepieces or clocks connected with the same wall or shelf have such a sympathetic effect in keeping time, that they stop those which beat in irregular time; and if any are at rest, set agoing those which beat accurately. What wonder then that the living, soldiers, artisans, such as smiths, paviors, etc., who work in unison with the pulse, should acquire habits of keeping time with the greatest correctness.
Rhythm not only measures the footfall of the pedestrian, but exerts a sympathetic power, so that if two are walking together, they feel its spell, and unconsciously fall into the same step, not aware that they are thus conforming to a Unity always engendered by the Order regulating rhythmical motion. It is this entrancing sense of unity which wings the feet of the dancers, and enables them to endure with delight a degree of physical exertion which, without it, would be utterly exhausting. The following extract from the Atlantic Monthly, of July, 1858, is so much to our purpose, that we place it before the reader:
'The sailor does not lack for singing. He sings at certain parts of his work;—indeed, he must sing, if he would work. On vessels of war, the drum and fife or boatswain's whistle furnish the necessary movement-regulator. There, where the strength of one or two hundred men can be applied to one and the same effort, the labor is not intermittent, but continuous. The men form on either side of the rope to be hauled, and walk away with it like firemen marching with their engine. When the headmost pair bring up at the stern or bow, they part, and the two streams flow back to the starting point, outside the following files. Thus in this perpetual 'follow-my-leader' way the work is done, with more precision and steadiness than in the merchant service. Merchantmen are invariably manned with the least possible number, and often go to sea short-handed, even according to the parsimonious calculations of their owners. The only way the heavier work can be done at all is by each man doing his utmost at the same moment. This is regulated by the song. And here is the true singing of the deep sea. It is not recreation; it is an essential part of the work. It mastheads the topsail yards, on making sail; it starts the anchor from the domestic or foreign mud; it 'rides down the main tack with a will;' it breaks out and takes on board a cargo; it keeps the pumps (the ship's, not the sailor's) going. A good voice and a new and stirring chorus are worth an extra man. And there is plenty of need of both.
'I remember well one black night in the mid-Atlantic, when we were beating up against a stiff breeze, coming on deck near midnight, just as the ship was put about. When a ship is tacking, the tacks and sheets (ropes which confine the clews or lower corners of the sails) are let run, in order that the yards may be swung round to meet the altered position of the ship. They must then be hauled taut again, and belayed, or secured, in order to keep the sails in their place and to prevent them from shaking. When the ship's head comes up in the wind, the sail is for a moment or two edgewise to it, and then is the nice moment, as soon as the headsails fairly fill, when the mainyard and the yards above it can be swung readily, and the tacks and sheets hauled in. If the crew are too few in number, or too slow at their work, and the sails get fairly filled on the new tack, it is a fatiguing piece of work enough to 'board' the tacks and sheets, as it is called. You are pulling at one end of the rope—but the gale is tugging at the other. The advantages of lungs are all against you, and perhaps the only thing to be done is to put the helm down a little, and set the sails shaking again before they can be trimmed properly. It was just at such a time that I came on deck, as above mentioned. Being near eight bells, the watch on deck had been not over spry; and the consequence was that our big maincourse was slatting and flying out overhead with a might that shook the ship from stem to stern. The flaps of the mad canvas were like successive thumps of a giant's fist upon a mighty drum. The sheets were jerking at the belaying pins, the blocks rattling in sharp snappings like castanets. You could hear the hiss and seething of the sea alongside, and see it flash by in sudden white patches of phosphorescent foam, while all over head was black with the flying scud. The English second mate was stamping with vexation, and, with all his h's misplaced, storming at the men: ''An'somely the weather mainbrace—'an'somely, I tell you!—'Alf a dozen of you clap on to the main sheet here—down with 'im!—D'y'see 'ere's hall like a midshipman's bag—heverythink huppermost and nothing 'andy. 'Aul 'im in, Hi say!' But the sail wouldn't come, though. All the most forcible expressions of the Commination Service were liberally bestowed on the watch. 'Give us the song, men!' sang out the mate, at last—'pull with a will!—together men!—haltogether now!'—And then a cracked, melancholy voice struck up this chant:
'Oh, the bowline, bully, bully bowline, Oh, the bowline, bowline, HAUL!'
At the last word every man threw his whole strength into the pull—all singing it in chorus, with a quick, explosive sound. And so, jump by jump, the sheet was at last hauled taut.'
It would be well if the philanthropist and utilitarian would stoop to examine these primeval but neglected facts, for there is no doubt that under the healthful and delicious spell of Rhythm a far steadier and greater amount of labor would be cheerfully and happily endured by the working classes. The continuous but rhythmed croon of the negro when at work, the yo-heave-o of the sailor straining at the cordage, the rowing songs of the oarsman, etc., etc., are all suggestive of what might be effected by judicious effort in this direction. But man, ever wiser than his Maker, neglects the intuitions of nature. Rendered conceited by a false education, and heartless by a constant craving for gold, he scorns the simple but deep intuitions which are his surest guide to civilization, health, and cheerfulness. There can be no doubt that the physical exercise so distasteful to the pale inhabitants of our cities, yet so essential for the preservation of health and life, might be rendered delightful and invigorating through the neglected powers of rhythmical motion. Like Michal, the proud daughter of Saul, who despised King David in her haughty heart when 'she saw him dancing with all his might before the Lord,' we scorn the simple and innocent delights of our nature, and, like Michal, we too are bitterly punished for our mistaken pride of intellect, for, neglecting the rhythmical requisitions of the body, we injure the mind, and may deprave the heart. Virtuously, purely, and judiciously applied to the amusements and artistic culture of a people, we are convinced the power of Rhythm would banish much of that craving for false excitement, for drinks and narcotics, an indulgence in which exerts so fatal an influence over the character and spiritual progress of a nation. It is surely not astonishing that Rhythm should be so pleasant to the senses, when we consider that the laws of order and unity by which it is regulated are the proper aliment of the soul.
Strange pedantries have grown out of the neglect of music as a practical pervading element in modern education. We should endeavor to reform this fault; we should use this powerful engine of healing nature to remove from us the reproach of being merely a shopkeeping and money-making people.
The wildest savage is not insensible to Rhythm. It fires his spirit in the war dance and battle chant, soothes him in the monotonous hum of the pow-wow, and softens him in naive love songs. It is the heart of music, and it can be proved that low and vulgar rhythms have a debasing effect upon the character of a people. 'Let me write the songs of a people,' said a great thinker, 'and I care not who makes its laws:'—if he included the tunes, there was no exaggeration in his thought. Alas! a meretricious age scorns and neglects the true, because it is always simple in its sublimity, and, striving to banish God from His own creation, would also banish nature and joy from the heart! A pedantic age loves all that is pretentious, glaring, and assuming; and Rhythm stoops to rock the cradle of the newborn infant; to soothe the negro in the rice swamp or cotton field; to shape into beauty the national and patriotic songs of a laborious but contented peasantry, as among the Sclaves—but what cares the age for the happiness of the race? 'Put money in thy purse,' is its consolation and lesson for humanity.
The beat of the healthful heart is in unison with the feelings of the hour. Agitation makes it fitful and broken, excitement accelerates, and sorrow retards it. And this fact should be the model for all poetical and musical rhythm.
To show how readily we associate feelings with different orders of sound, let us suppose we are passing the night somewhere, where a stranger, utterly unknown to us, occupies a room from which we can hear the sound of his footsteps. Suppose that through the tranquil hours of the night we hear his measured tread falling in equally accented and monotonous spondees, it is certain that a quick imagination will at once associate this deliberate tread with the state of mind in the unknown from which it will believe it to proceed, and will immediately suggest that the stranger is maturing some great design of heavy import to his future peace.
Should the character of the spondaic tread suddenly change, should the footsteps become rapid, eager, and broken, we look upon the term of meditation and doubt as over, the resolve as definitely fixed, and the unknown as restlessly longing for the hour of its fulfilment.
When we hear steps resembling dactyls, anapaests, and choriambs thrown hurriedly together, broken by irregular pauses, we begin to build a whole romance on the steps of the stranger; we infer from them moments of grave deliberation; the languor consequent upon overwrought thought; renewed effort; resolve; alternations of passion; hope struggling with despair; until all at last seems merged in impatient longing for the hour of anticipated victory.
Nor has the imagination been alone in its strange workings; it has whispered, as it always does, its secrets to the heart, and succeeded in arousing its ever-ready affections, so that we cannot help feeling a degree of interest in the unknown, whose emotions we have followed through the night, reading their history in his alternating footsteps: for sounds impress themselves immediately upon the feelings, exciting, not abstract or antagonistic thought, but uniting humanity in concrete feeling. (See vol. i.)
As the imagination necessarily associates different feelings with different orders of Rhythm, it is the task of the Poet to select those in the closest conformity with the emotions he is struggling to excite. It is positively certain that we not only naturally and intuitively associate distinctive feelings with different orders of rhythmical sounds, but that varied emotions are awakened by them. Some rhythms inspire calmness, some sublime and stately courage, some energy and aggressive force, some stir the spirit to the most daring deeds, some, as in our maddening Tarantulas, produce a restless excitement through the whole nervous system, some excite mere joyousness, some whisper love through every fibre of the heart, and some lead us in their holy calm and unbroken order to the throne of God. Why is this? We need not look in the region of the understanding for the philosophy of that which is to be found only in the living tide of basic emotions. The pleasure we receive from Rhythm is a feeling. Alternate accentuation and non-accentuation are facts in the living organism of the universe; this may be expressed, not explained. There is an order in the living succession of musical sounds or poetic emotions, which order is expressed by the words 'equality and proportion.' These things are. What more can be said? Do comparisons help us? the waves in the eternal ocean of vitality—the shuttle strokes of the ever-moving loom of creation! Let us take it as it is, and rejoice in it. We cannot tell you why we live—let us be glad that our life is music through every heart-throb!
Rhythm is a species of natural but inarticulate language, in which the thought is never disengaged from the feeling; in language its aim should be to awaken the feeling properly attached to the thought it modulates; it should be the tune of the thought of the Poet. To write a love song in alexandrines, an idyl in hexameters, would be to incarnate the shy spirit of a girl in the brawny frame of a Hercules, to incase the loving soul of a Juliet in a gauntleted Minerva. Genius and deep sympathy with human nature can alone guide the Poet aright in this delicate and difficult path; it lies too near the core of our unconscious being to be susceptible of the trim regularity of rule—he must trust his own intuitions while he studies with care what has already been successfully done by our best poets. We may however remark in passing that if the rhythm be abruptly broken without a corresponding break in the flow of thought or feeling, the reader will be confused, because the outward form has fallen into contradiction with its inner soul, and he discerns the opposition, and knows not with which to sympathize. Such contrarieties argue want of power or want of freedom in the poet, who should never suffer the clanking of his rhythmical chains to be heard. Such causeless breaks proceed from want of truth to the subject, and prove a lack of the careful rendering of love in the author. The poet must listen to the naive voice of nature as he moulds his rhythms, for the ingenious and elaborate constructions of the intellect alone will never touch the heart. Rhythm may proceed with regularity, yet that regularity be so relieved from monotony and so modified in its actual effects, that however regular may be the structure of parts, what is composed of them may be infinitely various. Milton's exquisite poem, 'Comus,' is an example of perfect rhythm with ceaseless intricacy and great variety. It would indeed be a fatal mistake to suppose that proportion cannot be susceptible of great variety, since the whole meaning of the term has reference to the adjustment and proportional correspondence of variable properties.
The appreciation of rhythm is universal, pertaining to no region, race, nor era, in especial. Even those who have never thought about it, feel order to be the law of life and happiness, and in the marking of the proportioned flow of time and the regular accentuation of its determinate portions find a perpetual source of healthful pleasure.
If we will but think of it, we will be astonished how many ideas already analyzed we may find exhibited through rhythm. We may have: similarity, variety, identity, repetition, adaptation, symmetry, proportion, fitness, melody, harmony, order, and unity; in addition to the varied feelings of which it becomes the symbolic utterance. The Greeks placed rhythms in the hands of a god, thus testifying to their knowledge of their range and power.
Wordsworth asserts that
'More pathetic situations and sentiments, that is, those which have a greater proportion of pain connected with them, may be endured in metrical compositions than in prose.'
The reason of this seems to be that the bright beams forever raying from the Divine Sun of unity and order, shine through the measured beat of the rhythm, and are always felt as life and peace, even when their golden light is broken by the wild and drifting clouds of human woe, or seen athwart the surging and blinding mists of mortal anguish.
Rhythm lurks in the inmost heart of language, accenting our words that their enunciation may be clear and distinct; lengthening and shortening the time of our syllables that they may be expressive, emotional, and musical. Let the orator as well as the poet study its capabilities; it has more power over the sympathies of the masses than the most labored thought.
Although through the quantitive arrangement and determinate accentuation of syllabic sound, rhythm may be exquisitely manifested through language, yet in music alone does it attain its full power and wonderful complexity. For the tones are not thoughts, but feelings, and yield themselves implicitly to the loving hand which would reunite them and form them into higher unities. These passionate tones, always seeking for and surging into each other, are plastic pearls on the string of rhythm, whose proportions may be indefinitely varied at the will of the fond hand which would wreathe them into strands of symmetrical beauty; while words, the vehicles of antagonistic thought, frequently refuse to conform to the requisitions of feeling, are often obstinate and wilful, will not be remodelled, and hard, in their self-sufficiency, refuse to bear any stamp save that of their known and fixed value. Like irregular beads of uncut coral, they protrude their individualities in jagged spikes and unsightly thorns, breaking often the unity of the whole, and painfully wounding the sense of order.
The true poet overcomes these difficulties. When, in the hands of a master, they are forced to bend under the onward and impetuous sweep of the passionate rhythm, compelled to sing the tune of the overpowering emotions—the chords of the spirit quiver in response. The heart recognizes the organic law of its own life: the constant recurrence of new effort sinking but to recover itself in accurately proportioned rest, rising again in ever-renewed exertion, to sink again in ever-new repose; feeling seems clothing itself with living form, while the divine attribute, Order, marks for the ear, as it links in mystic Unity, the flying footsteps of that forever invisible element by which all mortal being is conditioned and limited: TIME!
'There is no architect Can build as the Muse can; She is skilful to select Materials for her plan.
'She lays her beams in music, In music every one, To the cadence of the whirling world Which dances round the sun.
'That so they shall not be displaced By lapses or by wars, But for the love of happy souls Outlive the newest stars.' EMERSON.
'John,' said I to my husband, as he came home from business, and settled into an armchair for half an hour's rest before dinner, 'I think of writing an article for THE CONTINENTAL MONTHLY.'
'Humph!' said my husband.
Now 'humph' bears different interpretations; it may argue assent, indifference, disgust, disapprobation—in all cases it is aggressive; but this 'humph' seemed to be a combination of at least three of the above-mentioned frames of mind.
Natural indignation was about taking full possession of me, but reflection stepped in, and I preserved a discreet silence. The truth is, no man should be assailed by a new idea before he has dined, and I, having had three years' opportunity of studying man nature, met my deserts when the above answer was given. So I still looked amiable, and behaved very prettily till dinner was over, and then John, having subsided into dressing gown, slippers, easy chair, and good nature, I remarked again:
'John, I think of writing an article for THE CONTINENTAL MONTHLY.'
'How shall you begin it?' said he.
'Well, I haven't exactly settled on a beginning yet, but—'
'Exactly! I supposed so!' remarked this barbarian.
Unfortunately, he knew my weak point, for hadn't he been allowed to see a desk full of magnificent middles, only wanting a beginning and an end, and a publisher, and some readers, to place me in the front ranks of our modern essayists, side by side with 'Spare Hours,' and the 'Country Parson,' and 'Gail Hamilton?'
The fact is, I have always been brimming over with brilliant ideas on all sorts of subjects, which never would arrange themselves or be arranged under any given head, but presented a series of remarkable literary fragments, jotted down on stray bits of paper, in old account books and diaries, and even, on one or two occasions, when seized by a sudden inspiration, on a smooth stone, taken from the brook, a fair sheet of birch bark, and the front of a pew in a white-painted country church. Having been subject to these inspirational attacks for many years, I had decided to take them in hand, and, if they must come, derive some benefit from them. An idea suggested itself. Claude Lorraine, it is said, never put the figures in his landscapes, but left that work for some brother artist. Now I could bring together material for an article; the inspiration, the picturing should be mine, but John should put in the figures. In other words, he should polish it, write the introduction and the finis, and send it out to the public, as the work of 'my wife and I.'
Then a question occurred: how should we divide the honors, supposing such an article should really find its way into print? Would there not be material for a standard quarrel in the fact that neither could claim sole proprietorship? What would be John's sensation, should any one say to him: 'Mr. ——, I have just been reading your wife's last article; capital thing!' and, vice versa, imagine the same thing said of me. Could I preserve amiability under such circumstances, and would not the result be, a divorce in a year, and a furious lawsuit as to the ownership of the copyright? John certainly is magnanimous, I thought, but no one cares for divided honors, and there is that middle-aged relation of his, with a figure like a vinegar cruet, and a voice as acid as its contents, who never comes here for a day without doing her best to set us by the ears, and who, in the beginning of our married life, when we did not understand each other quite so well as now, sometimes succeeded, to her intense satisfaction.
How she would go about among all the friends and relations, pulling the poor articles to pieces, giving all the fine bits to John and the rubbish to me, and hinting generally that my pretensions to authorship were all very well, but that every one knew John did the work and I looked out for the credit.
Here I paused. I had been successfully engaged in the pursuit of trouble, and had conjured up so irritating a picture, that actually a small tear had left its source, and was running over the bridge of my nose!
'John,' I said, 'notwithstanding that I never did know how to begin anything in an effective way, I am still determined to write, and you must help me.'
Then I opened my heart to him, and told him my plan, and the imagined tribulation it had given me in the last ten minutes.
'There are too many writers already, Helen,' he said; 'every man who cannot see his way clear through life—every woman who fancies herself misunderstood and unappreciated, worries out a book or poem or a set of essays, to picture their individual wrongs and sufferings, and bores every publisher of every magazine and paper of which they have ever heard, till he is tormented into printing, or dies of manuscript on the brain. I tell you, Helen, we do our share in aggravating the people we meet daily, without tormenting an innocent man, 'who never did us any harm;' and I for one, don't want an extra sin on my conscience. Moreover, I am afraid it would spoil you, should you happen to succeed. Have you forgotten your old friend Angelina Hobbs? One article ruined her for life. Until that poem got into print and was favorably noticed, she was as sensible as ordinary girls, and never imagined herself a genius. Since then, there is not an 'ism' in America that she has not taken up and run into the ground; I have met her in every stage, from the coat and pantaloons of the Bloomer ten years ago to the hoopless old maid I saw yesterday going into Dodworth's Hall with the last spiritual paper and a spirit photograph in her hand. Not a literary man or woman do I know, who has not some crotchet in his or her brain, and who does not in some way violate the harmonies of life at least once an hour. Be content as you are: be satisfied to live without seeing yourself in THE CONTINENTAL MONTHLY, or any other monthly under the sun!'
'John,' I said, 'I am surprised, I am astonished at the view you take of the case. I don't desire that publishers should be tormented into their graves; and if they are all as fat and rosy as the two we met the other day, I think you can dismiss all fears on that score. Moreover, I believe the world to be better for every book that is written, however insignificant it may be. The days of the corsairs and giaours, romantic robbers, and devout murderers, are over: our young ladies and our servant girls see no fascination in the pages of 'Fatherless Fanny,' 'The Foundling,' or 'The Mysteries of Slabtown.' Arthur's stories and ten thousand others of the same class have taken their place, and commonplace as they may often be, have brought a healthier influence into action. No book written with an honest heart is lost; no poem or essay, however poor, fails to reach some mark. The printed page that to you or me looks so barren and poor, may carry to some soul a message of healing; may to some eyes have the light of heaven about it. And to how many aimless lives, writing has given a purpose which otherwise never might have entered it! John, I believe in writing, and this baby shall be taught to put his ideas into shape as soon as he is taught anything! I never wish him to settle down in the belief that he is a genius and can live on the fact; but he shall write if he can, and publish too, if any one will do it for him. If not, we will have a private printing press of our own, and get up an original library for our descendants.'
'A genuine woman's answer,' said John; 'only one point in it touching upon my argument.' Here the baby opened his blue eyes wide. 'There!' said John; 'just for the present your life has a purpose, and we can dispense with writing, at least till that fellow is asleep again. When you have disposed of him, we will find out how many aims it is necessary for one woman to have, and what arrangement of them it is best to make.'
The baby stayed awake obstinately, but I was reconciled to the fact, for our discussion might have become hot, and the writing ended for that evening quite as effectually as the baby had done it.
Night came again, and this time John opened the subject, by placing before me a large package of foolscap, and a new gold pen.
'I have brought some paper for you to spoil, Helen,' he said, 'for I foresaw how it would end. Do your best, and I will do mine in the matter of beginnings. I cannot write easily, you know, but I can suggest and dictate, when you wish it; and you have been my amanuensis for a year and more, so it will all seem very natural.'
He looked down, as he spoke, at the scarred right hand and its missing fingers, carried away eighteen months before by a rebel bullet, and a little shade passed over his face.
'No, John,' I said, 'don't look there now; look at my two hands waiting to do the work of that, and tell me if two are not better than one. We will write an article which shall astonish the critics, and bring letters from all the magazines, begging us to become special contributors at once; and we will not quarrel as to who shall have the glory, but make it a joint matter. And now I am ready to begin, and propose to speak upon a subject which I wonder greatly no one has taken up in detail before. Your words last evening brought out some dormant ideas. 'We do our share in aggravating the people we meet daily,' you said, and I have been reflecting upon the matter ever since, till now I am prepared to give my opinions to the world.'
So saying, I arranged the table properly, took out some sheets of the smooth, white paper, filled my pen, and waited for the dawning of an idea. To which it came first, I shall not tell you. The results are before you: which part is John's, which mine, you will never learn from us. It will be of no avail for you to write to the editors, for they don't know either, and will not be told. It will be a useful exercise for you to dissect the article, and set apart the masculine from the feminine portions. The critics will for once be quite at a loss how to abuse it, probably. I foresee a general distraction in the minds of our readers, and already hear ourselves classed as among one of the trials which I select as the title of 'Our Article.'
SOME OF THE AGGRAVATIONS OF LIVING.
Two thirds of life in the aggregate are made up of aggravations. They begin with our beginning, and only cease with our ending; perhaps, if good Calvinists speak the truth, not even then, for, according to their belief, the souls in torment look always upon the blessed in heaven, and this surely is the most horrible species of aggravation ever devised by man or fiend.
From the time when the air first fills the lungs and the infant screams at the new sensation, to the day when fingers press down the resisting lids and straighten the stiffening limbs, we are forced to meet and to bear all manner of aggravations in nine tenths of our daily life.
Has it ever occurred to any of you what an amount of unnecessary suffering an infant endures, and have you ever watched the operations it undergoes daily, with reference to the confirming of this fact? If not, an inexhaustible field of inquiry lies open before you, and after a week's observation of bandages rolled till the flesh actually squeaks—of pins stuck in and left, where you know they will prick—of smotherings in blankets and garrotings with bibs—of trottings for the wind and poundings for the stomach ache—of wakings up to show to visitors, and puttings to sleep when sleep is at the other end of the land of Nod, and will not be induced to come under any circumstances—of rockings and tossings—of boiling catnip tea and smooth horrible castor oil poured down the unsuspecting throat—after a week of such observations, I say, you will decide with me that the baby's life is only a series of aggravations, and feel astonished the bills of infant mortality do not double and treble.
As years round out the little life, the hands, reaching out to the tree of knowledge, find themselves pushed back on all sides. The dearest wishes are made light of, the most earnest desires slighted, the most sacred thoughts ridiculed, till one marvels that men can grow up anything but devils. In the path where Gail Hamilton's feet have trod I need not follow, for she has told us what these 'Happiest Days' are, in better words than my pen can find. It warmed my heart as I read her protest against the platitudes concerning childhood and its various imagined delights. Mentally I shook hands, for she expressed my ideas so fully, that the notes I had long ago jotted down upon the subject I committed at once to the flames, satisfied I never could do any better, and might possibly do very much worse.
I believe that the major part of sour-tempered, perversely wrong-headed, and unhappily disposed people, of hot-headed fanatics, victims to one idea, of once noble souls who sink themselves in sensuality, and so go down to death, and of all the sad cases one hears and reads of day after day and year after year, are made so through unceasing aggravation at the most impressible time of life. Do any of you who may be my readers know of half a dozen happy families in your circle of friends and acquaintance? Do you know of half a dozen where boys prefer home and their sisters to the streets, or where girls do not court the most uninviting boy in preference to their own brothers?
One would almost imagine spite had been the feeling implanted in all homes, as they look at the private pinch exchanged between John and James, the face made by Mary at which Martha cries and is slapped by way of adjusting matters, and the general refusal of requests made to father and mother, whether reasonable or not. My own childhood was moderately happy, and yet I recall now the sense of burning indignation I sometimes suffered at wrongs done me, which the child's sense of justice told me were wrongs, and which I now know to have been so. Children are themselves one of the aggravations of living, but it is because we do not know how to treat them. I look for a time when every father shall be just, every mother reasonable as well as loving; when children shall neither be flogged up the way of life as in times past, or coaxed up with sugarplums as in times present, but, seeing with clear eyes the straight path, shall walk in it with joy, and finish their course with rejoicing.
Another aggravation, and not a minor one either it strikes me, is the summary way in which youth is put down by middle-aged and aged people. Youthful emotions are 'bosh and twaddle,' youthful ideas, 'crude, sir, very crude!' and youthful attempts to be and to do something in the world frowned at, as if action of any sort, save inaction, before forty, were an outrage on humanity, and an insult to the Creator.
How fares it with young professional men during the first ten years of their career? They hope and wait, doubt and wait, curse and wait, labor to wait, and in the mean time a wheezing old lawyer, with no more enthusiasm than a brickbat, takes the cases which Justice, if she were not blind, would have sent to his starving younger brethren, and pockets fat fees, a tenth of which would have lifted loads from many a heavy heart. An old family physician, an old minister, an old lawyer, are excellent in their way, and have a variety of pleasant associations with them, which it is impossible to pass over to the young aspirant who steps in to take their place; yet because Dr. Jones, aged sixty-eight, carried us safely through the measles, does it follow that Dr. Smith, aged twenty-eight, cannot do the same for our children?
Because for thirty years the Rev. Dr. Holdfast has preached upon election, and justification by faith, is the Rev. Dr. Holeman to be set down as presumptuously progressive, because he suggests works as a test of the faith we profess, and ventures to speak of God, not as the stern Deity who commands us all to be afraid of Him, and who drops lost souls into the pit with a calm satisfaction, but as the loving Father of the world, who wills that all men should come to the knowledge of His truth.
It is well for the old to give us their experience, well for the young to listen, but every man and every woman lives a life of their own, which the widest experience cannot touch at all points. No two natures have ever been nor ever can be exactly alike; no rules of the past can form the present in the same mould. Girls and boys, young men and women, must 'see the folly' for themselves, and all the advice and warning of all the ancestors under heaven cannot prevent it. Therefore, O middle-aged aunt, or white-haired grandparent, aggravate by unceasing advice, if you will, but be not aggravated if it isn't taken. Reflect as to how fully you availed yourself of the experience of your grandparents when you were young, and then make your demands accordingly. Tell the young the story of your life as a story, and they will listen and mayhap profit; give it as advice, and you shall see them keep as far off as circumstances will admit. It is my fixed belief that until the people in the world have learned how to hold their tongues, it will be entirely useless to read Dr. Cumming; believe in the Great Tribulation as much as you please, for it is about us all day long, but don't look out for the Millennium, which I think will consist entirely in people's minding their own business.