As these promises and hopes crowded upon his mind, his meditation was disturbed by a long, low, sullen roar, which seemed to shake the ground he rested on. He started up with anguish and terror in his face. He listened. Again it came, distincter than before, with a sharper, deeper cadence. He shuddered visibly, and his face grew paler in the dim light, and large drops of sweat broke out upon his forehead. The third time it was repeated, and then all was silent. He listened long, with strained ear and eye, which seemed to pierce his dungeon walls; but he heard no more. He sunk back, and covering his face prayed in an agony. Now, too well he knew what was to be his doom. He had heard the voice of his executioner. It was the desert lion roaring for his prey. Now he remembered that in these caverns were confined the Christians reserved for martyrdom, and, in still lower cells, the wild beasts to which they were to be surrendered in the bloody amphitheatre. It is no wonder that mortal terror, for a season, took possession of the soul of the aged Christian. He shrunk with unutterable horror when he thought of the savage beast, rendered fiercer by protracted hunger; of the crowded amphitheatre, the gazing eyes, the exulting shouts, the unpitying human hearts. It was long before he could bring himself to look beyond these and upward to Him who sat enthroned on high and watched tenderly the falling sparrow. He was a Christian hero, but he was also a man. His sensitive human frame, his natural human will shuddered and revolted at the execution of this frightful doom, and it was not until hours had passed, and he had wrestled mightily in prayer, that he learned to contemplate it calmly. Then great consolations were vouchsafed him; his crown glittered bright before him; the passage to death was shown him as short, though terrible, the hereafter, long, long and glorious, even glory forever and ever. Above all he was shown the cross; and, O, how inexpressibly dear was the Lord who hung there; and how sweet was that most beautiful of all the promises, "God himself shall wipe away all tears."
It needs not to tell how his furious jailors burst in upon his solitude. How they dragged him to the arena. How, when the blindness from the intolerable sunlight had passed, he beheld the crowded rank on rank of eager spectators, and heard the shout which greeted a fresh victim. He looked upward to the clear, blue sky, where soft, lovely clouds floated here and there, and he inhaled the sweet, elastic air. There was the usual offer of reprieve, pardon, life, at the cost of a single act of idolatry. There was heard at the same instant, the savage roar of the hungry lion, now kept near in waiting for his prey. There was the shout of triumph when that last offer was refused, calmly, contemptuously. Then he quickly found himself alone in the vast arena. Other victims had been there before him. He saw the blood, hastily and slightly covered—he looked round once more; alas! there was no human eye to pity, and no hand to spare. With a bound the mighty beast was in the arena, and close upon him.
It was soon over. This was the conclusion of the day's spectacle, and plebeian and patrician Romans were on their way homeward, talking of this and that, merrily, carelessly; and the so lately crowded Amphitheatre was solitary and deserted. But the sun, with his mighty eye, looked down upon the guilty spot, and his hot beam drank up a portion of the fresh blood, and the winds of heaven sighed round it, and the clouds came and cast their shadows over it; and centuries have passed since then, and still the sun and winds and clouds have gone about it, day after day, and still the eye of God beholds, and its dumb walls and crumbling arches cry aloud for vengeance.
GAME-BIRDS OF AMERICA.—NO. X.
THE RAIL. (Rallus. LINNAEUS.)
Taken altogether, the generic characters of the several kinds of Rail may be stated to be as follows: the bill longer than the head, straight or slightly curved, compressed at the base, and cylindrical toward the tips, the upper mandible channeled, the nostrils opening longitudinally at the base of the bill in the grooves, open through and through, but in part closed with membrane; legs very stout, bare of feathers to some distance above the tarsal joints, with three long toes to the front and one to the rear, articulated on the tarsus, the front toes free or divided to their bases; the wings of mean length and rounded, the first quill being shorter than the second, and the third and fourth the longest in the wing.
The Clapper Rail, or Mud Hen, is one of the most remarkable, and like its relative, the Corncrake of England, makes its note heard all the night long. It is fourteen inches in length and eighteen in the stretch of the wings; the bill is two inches and a quarter long, slightly bent, and of a reddish-brown color; the upper part is black, and streaked with dull brown; the chin and streak over the eye are brownish-white; the fore neck and breast are reddish-brown; the flanks and vent black, with white tips to the feathers; the coverts of the wings are dark chestnut-brown, and the tail-feathers and quills dusky, without any margins; the legs are dull brown, and the irides dark red. This species is very common, during the summer, through all the latitudes of the United States, keeping near the sea-coast, as it prefers the salt marshes to the waters of the interior. It is a very noisy bird, especially during the night and before rain, which are, of course, the times when the molusca crustacea, and other small animals, upon which it feeds in the marshes, are in the greatest activity, and most easy to be obtained.
Wilson's account of the casualties to which it is exposed in the breeding season, is so graphic, that we shall in part quote it. "About the twentieth of May," he says, "they usually begin building and laying at the same time; the first egg being usually dropped in a slight cavity lined with a little dry grass pressed for the purpose, which, as the eggs increase to their usual complement, is gradually added to till it rises to the height of twelve inches or more, doubtless to secure it from the rising of the tides. Over this the long, salt grass is artfully arched, to conceal it from the view above; but this very circumstance enables the experienced egg-hunter to distinguish the spot at the distance of thirty or forty yards, though, imperceptible to a common eye. The eggs are of a pale clay color, sprinkled with small spots of dark red, and measure somewhat more than an inch and a half in length by an inch in breadth, being rather obtuse at the small end. These eggs are delicious eating, far surpassing those of the domestic hen. The height of laying is about the first of June, when the people of the neighborhood go to the marshes an egging, as it is so called. So abundant are the nests of this species, and so dexterous some persons at finding them, that one hundred dozen of eggs have been collected by one man in a day. At this time the crows, the minx, and the foxes, come in for their share, but, not content with the eggs, these last often seize and devour the parents also. The bones, feathers, wings, &c., of the poor mud hen lie in heaps by the hole of the minx, by which circumstance, however, he himself is often detected and destroyed." It seems as if the very elements were in conspiracy against these birds; they "are subject to another calamity of a more extensive kind; after the greater part of the eggs are laid there sometimes happen violent north-east tempests that drive a great sea into the bay, covering the whole marshes; so that at such times the Rail may be seen in hundreds floating over the marsh in great distress; many escape to the main land, and vast numbers perish. On an occasion of this kind I have seen, at one view, thousands in a single meadow, walking about exposed and bewildered, while the dead bodies of the females, who perished on or near their nests, were strewed along the shore. The last circumstance shows how strong the tie of maternal affection is in these birds, for, of the great number which I picked up and opened, not one male was to be found among them, all were females; such as had not yet begun to sit probably escaped. These disasters do not prevent the survivors from recommencing the work of laying and building anew; and instances have occurred in which their eggs have been twice destroyed by the sea, and yet in two weeks the nests and eggs seemed as numerous as ever. If all is well, the young are soon able to run about, which they do with great swiftness, and tread the grass and other marsh plants with wonderful dexterity. They can swim in smooth water, though they are, of course, ill able to contend with an inbreak of the sea. Swimming is a much more severe action in them, however, than in birds which have the feet webbed or lobed; though they strike powerfully, their stroke tells but little upon the water; and the rapidity of their stroke proves their distrust of that element—their feet are for the land, not for the water, and on the level ground and the leaves of floating plants, they run with astonishing rapidity."
The Virginian or Lesser Clapper Rail is scarcely distinguishable from the true Clapper, except by its reduced size; and in every part of America it appears to be a somewhat rare species. It confines itself to the fresh-water marshes, and thereby escapes many of the mishaps which befall its relative. This circumstance also has caused the people of New Jersey to bestow upon it the name of the Fresh Water Mud Hen, and renders it not unknown on the bogs and swampy grounds near the Ohio and Mississippi. Their flesh is not inferior to that of the Soree, but their diminutive size renders them little sought after as game. The Soree or Common Rail of America, than which, perhaps, none affords a more delicious repast, or more agreeable amusement, is now before us.
The natural history of the Rail, or Soree, or Coot, as it is called in the Carolinas, is involved in much mystery, the process of incubation being still more unknown than the exact places where it is effected. The general character of the Sorees is the same as that of the two other species of Rail already mentioned. They run swiftly, fly slowly, and usually with the legs hanging down, become extremely fat, prefer running to flying, and are extremely fond of concealment. In Virginia, along the shores of the James River, the inhabitants take advantage of the effect produced upon the Rail by fright much in the following fashion. A mast is erected in a light canoe, surmounted by a grate, in which is a quantity of fire. The person who manages the canoe is provided with a light paddle, and at night, about an hour before high tide, proceeds through and among the reeds. The birds stare with astonishment at the light, and as they appear, are knocked on the head with the paddle and thrown into the boat. Three negroes have been known to kill from twenty to eighty dozen in the space of three hours. The reeds attain their full growth along the shores of the Delaware in August, when the Rail resort to them in great numbers to feed upon the seeds, of which they, as well as the Rice Birds, are excessively fond. The eloquent Wilson, than whom no one could more enjoy the pleasures of Rail-shooting, thus speaks of the sport: "As you walk along the bank of the river at this period, you hear them squeaking in every direction like young puppies. If a stone be thrown among the reeds, there is a general outcry and reiterated kuk, kuk, kuk, something like that of a Guinea-fowl. Any sudden noise, or the discharge of a gun, produces the same effect. In the meantime none are to be seen, unless it be at or near high water; for, when the tide is low, they universally secrete themselves among the interstices of the reeds, and you may walk past, and even over them, where there are hundreds, without seeing a single individual. On their first arrival they are generally lean, and unfit for the table, but as the reeds ripen they rapidly fatten, and from the twentieth of September to the middle of October, are excellent, and eagerly sought after. The usual method of shooting them in this quarter of the country is as follows: The sportsman furnishes himself with a light batteau, and a stout, experienced boatman, with a pole of twelve or fifteen feet long, thickened at the lower end to prevent it from sinking too deep into the mud. About two hours or so before high-water they enter the reeds, and each takes his post, the sportsman standing in the bow ready for action, the boatman on the stern-seat pushing her steadily through the reeds. The Rail generally spring singly, as the boat advances, and at a short distance ahead, are instantly shot down, while the boatman, keeping his eye on the spot where the bird fell, directs the boat forward and picks it up as the gunner is loading. It is also the boatman's business to keep a sharp look-out, and give the word 'Mark!' when a Rail springs on either side without being observed by the sportsman, and to note the exact spot where it falls until he has picked it up; for this, once lost sight of, owing to the sameness in the appearance of the reeds, is seldom found again. In this manner the boat moves steadily through and over the reeds, the birds flushing and falling, the gunner loading and firing, while the boatman is pushing and picking up. The sport continues till an hour or two after high-water, when the shallowness of the water, and the strength and weight of the floating reeds, and also the backwardness of the game to spring as the tide decreases, oblige them to return. Several boats are sometimes within a short distance of each other, and perpetual cracking of musketry prevails along the whole reedy shores of the river. In these excursions it is not uncommon for an active and expert marksman to kill ten or twelve dozen in a tide. They are usually shot singly, though I have known five killed at one discharge of a double-barreled piece. These instances are rare. The flight of these birds among the reeds is usually low; and shelter being abundant, is rarely extended to more than fifty or one hundred yards. When winged and uninjured in their legs, they swim and dive with great rapidity, and are seldom seen to rise again. I have several times on such occasions discovered them clinging with their feet to the reeds under the water; and at other times skulking under the floating reeds with their bill just above the surface. Sometimes, when wounded, they dive, and rising under the gunwale of the boat, secrete themselves there, moving round as the boat moves until they have an opportunity of escaping unnoticed. They are feeble and delicate in every thing but the legs, which seem to possess great vigor and energy, and their bodies being so remarkably thin or compressed as to be less than an inch and a quarter through transversely, they are enabled to pass between the reeds like rats. Yet though their flight among the reeds seems feeble and fluttering, every sportsman who is acquainted with them here must have seen them occasionally rising to a considerable height, stretching out their legs behind them, and flying rapidly across the river where it is more than a mile in width."
Before concluding this article, we would say a few words in behalf of the Gallinule, called, from its resemblance to the domestic fowl, the Water Hen. In respect to manners, it is, according to Latham, a very docile bird, being easily tamed and feeding with the common poultry, scratching the ground with the foot like the latter. It will feed on many things, such as roots of plants, fruits, and grain, but will eat fish with avidity, dipping them in the water before it swallows them; will frequently stand on one leg and lift the food to its mouth with the other, like a parrot. Its flesh is exquisite in taste. This bird was famous among the ancients under the name Porphyrion, indicating the red or purple tint of its bill and feet—a far more appropriate appellation than that now vulgarly applied to it. It is known to breed in Georgia, whose thick swamps favor the concealment to which it is partial. It is extremely vigilant and shy, and cannot be shot without great difficulty. They move with grace upon the water, and run with equal facility on the ground or on the leaves of water plants.
BY J. IVES PEASE.
I love! and ah, 'tis bliss to feel My breast no longer lone and cold; To know, though Time all else should steal, The heart can never all grow old! I love! and now I live again! The world looks brighter to my eyes; There is a gladness on the plain— A newer glory in the skies.
I love! Her smile is o'er my path Like sunlight in sweet April hours: Her voice steals o'er me like the breath Of morning to half-withered flowers. I love! Ah she may never know How wild my love! I have no sigh— I have no word—nor look to show How much I'm blessed when she is nigh.
And it is well!—my hapless love May never dare to ask return— Enough that her glad smiles may move My heart—I ask not hers to burn! Ah no. 'Tis better thus to meet With equal pulse and tranquil brow— Drink, through her eyes, delirium sweet. Can madness from such fountains flow?
I know not! Dearest, still, oh still, "Look love upon me," sweet and kind!— Let thy glad thought, in music, thrill Bright witchcraft through my longing mind. I clasp thee to my breast—in dreams! Thy lips rain kisses warm and fast— And I half hate the morning beams That scare thee to thy home at last.
Thy "home!"—ah, would it ne'er had been— Thy home and mine are wide apart— The world's grim shadow glooms between— And my life lives but where thou art. Ah, dearest, we're not happy! Life Yields not the bliss 'twas meant to do: Discord might come of wrong and strife— Should sorrow spring from duty, too?
Thou art not happy, dearest, thou!— A shade has fallen on thy young years; Thou art not happy: even now Thine eyes are full of unshed tears. And this our fate? My Life!—my "world!"— Too late beloved—too rarely seen— And we, as o'er Time's tide we're hurled, Can only say "WE MIGHT HAVE BEEN!"
BY A. J. REQUIER.
In every life there is a stream Whose waters flow, Dark as the current of a dream, And seem to throw On cup and hall and summer beam A sign of wo!
In every life there is a ray That shineth still, From noon to night and night to day, Through every ill; And serves to light our solemn way Go where we will.
Oh, traveler! of that stream beware Which cannot glow; It floweth only where a snare Is lying low, To deal upon thee unaware A fatal blow.
Oh, traveler! seek that gentle ray Which constant gleams, So beautiful that none can say Like what it seems; The star predestined on thy way To throw its beams.
For in that stream of leafless shade A fiend is hid; And on thy fall his heart is laid, Thy fall amid The sinner's shriek and shroud and spade And coffin-lid.
And in that ray so pure and bright A buoyant form, Will bear thee through the darkest night Away from harm; Swift as the rainbow's graceful flight Out of the storm.
Let fate be stern—let fortune fly— Their chastening rod Strikes not the soul whose strength is high Above its clod; Thy heart may bleed to breaking nigh— But trust in God!
GEMS FROM LATE READINGS.
BY MISS ELLEN PICKERING.
"An humble appreciation of your powers might save you pain; but I doubt if your humility exceeds your knowledge. Fascinated by harmony of tone and grace of manner, you perceive not a deficiency in energy—a want of moral courage. You close your eyes against every token of an over-sensitiveness to ridicule, veiled beneath the more graceful cloak of fastidious taste. You will not understand that pride and weakness fashion a character which, however seemingly amiable in many other points, is not such as to repay the devotion of a woman's love. A strong mind will make itself known; and where all is perfect harmony, no unmodulated tone, no sudden and impulsive movement, no springing into action, there is art, and that may not be trusted—or there is over-refinement, wasted powers, a trivial mind, without a noble aim—or there is weakness, which fears ridicule—a moral cowardice: or there is mediocrity, that cannot rise above the common herd—that dares not dare—that may pass unnoted in prosperity, but whose powers rise not in adversity. Such should not be throned in woman's heart! He is not worthy woman's tender, self-denying love, whom a sneer will change—a laugh will part—he will be found wanting—he will stand aloof when the faint heart turns to him for consolation. Wo to you! wo to you, especially if you trust such. You cannot always tread on flowers; choose one who can and will smooth down a rugged path. The gilded vessel, the child's plaything, rides gayly on a glassy sea—but life is not a glassy sea; the storm must come. If you would reach the peaceful port, embark not in a summer yacht; select a ship that can abide the storm—a mind that can maintain its course—that struggles—and will conquer. Look there," he continued, for she made no reply, taking up a highly finished drawing from the table, the performance showing more pains than genius, and contrasting it with a bold, free sketch which lay beside it, "there they are exactly, the one all harmony, or insipidity as I should call it; a model of weakness—highly finished—not a stroke wanting—complete as a whole—but how poor a whole! Without the possibility of amendment, too: deficient in energy—not a bold line: and were such put in it would be out of place—it would spoil the keeping. Now look on this! A bold and vigorous outline—the work of mind, seizing the attention: soul, not manner; thought, not mechanism; it may be filled up ill, but it may also be filled up well: there is the capability of greatness: there may be faults in the petty details, but the whole will compel admiration, and not weary in the survey. This other makes me yawn. Better choose the bold, the frank, the generous, with all his faults; he may be rash, unthinking, wasting the powers whose force he knows not; but the capabilities of amendment are within him. What say you to my exordium?"
* * * * *
It is great injustice to assert that delicacy of feeling is confined to the higher ranks, and is the offspring of refinement and education; these may nourish and increase, but they cannot give it. It is innate; the child of the untutored heart; the very essence of the beautiful: chained to no climate, bounded to no rank.
We have seen the wealthy, those who thought themselves the great ones of the earth, take leave of those of fallen fortunes with undimmed eye and steady voice, as though they knew not that there was cause for sorrow, guessed not that the heart was well nigh broken, and only stayed the expression of its grief that the cold gaze might not mock it. We have seen the lowly ones of earth, lowly in station, but how high in worth! part from the same; and the lip could not speak for the heart's feeling; and the tears of the mourner, repressed before lest the cold should mock, mingled with theirs. The first passed on with stately step, and a cold offer of future service; the last plucked the only rose from the favorite tree, and placed it by the traveler's cloak with a trembling hand and quivering lip. They thought that the traveler would prize it as a memorial of a once happy home. That single rose, and its kind and delicate giver, can they ever be forgotten? If all the memories of misfortune were like that who would not be unfortunate? What feeling so endearing, so ennobling as gratitude? Even love, though it may have more of beauty and brightness, is not so generous and so pure.
* * * * *
What a glorious day! Not a heavy cloud in all the sky, only a few fleecy forms floating across the rich blue vault, and the sun shining out in all its summer splendor, as though it had never shone before, looking down for the first time on the gladsome earth, instead of having run its course unnumbered years—undimmed in lustre—unimpaired in power.
Where are the works of man? his labors of the past? The eye looks on ruin; or time hath swept away even that poor trace; and a fable or tradition alone remains. But time hath no power over the Eternal or the works of His hands—itself His slave.
Out! out! treading the green turf—lying on some flowery bank—dreaming beneath the leafy shade. Who would be pent up within four stone walls on such a day, when he could forth with the blue above and the green below, and a thousand gleesome things around? What though the walls are gilded, and the lofty ceiling fretted; the Persian carpet soft as the woodland moss; whilst the luxuries of art, the beauties of genius, lend their splendors with a gorgeous profusion? Still it is only a magnificent prison. We see but little of the blue heaven; scarcely more of the varied tints of earth. The air we breathe is close; and the heart flutters to be free, as the imprisoned butterfly on the first day of spring. Who would not rather go forth into the fresh, free air, than be a prisoner even in a gilded cage? And Nature, is she not more beautiful than Art? Doth not that beauty make the step more buoyant, and the heart more light?
How one loves a summer day with all its gentle glories its murmured music—its delicious fragrance—its warmth, gladdening, not oppressing, its soft and soothing air—its dreamy feel, its shadows and its lights—its brilliant visions and its stirring thoughts—and more, far more, its loving memories!
* * * * *
My dwelling is no lordly hall, I rule no wide domain; No bending servants wait my call, No flatterers swell my train; But roses twine around my home, Bright smiles my presence greet; The woodland wild is mine to roam, Mine Summer's odors sweet. No costly diamonds deck my hair, No cloth of gold have I; But gorgeous robes and jewels rare Stay not the sad heart's sigh. Those gems might bind an aching brow, There is no pain in mine; Red gold might win a faithless vow, And I be left to pine.
BY G. P. R. JAMES.
It may seem perhaps a paradox to say that expectation is enjoyment. Nevertheless it is so on this earth. Fruition is for heaven. With the accomplishment of every desire there is so much of disappointment mingled that it cannot be really called enjoyment, for fancy always exercises itself upon the future; and when we obtain the hard reality for which we wished, the charms with which imagination decorated it are gone. Did we but state the case to ourselves as it truly is, whenever we conceive any of the manifold desires which lead us on from step to step through life, the proposition would be totally different from that which man forever puts before his own mind, and we should take one step toward undeceiving ourselves. We continually say, "if I could attain such an object, I should be quite contented." But what man ought to say to himself is, "I believe this or that acquisition would give me happiness." He would soon find that it did not do so; and the never-ceasing recurrence of the lesson might, in the end, teach him to ask what was the source of his disappointment? Was it that other circumstances in his own fate were so altered, even while he pursued the path of endeavor, as to render attainment no longer satisfactory?—was it that the object sought was intrinsically different when attained, from that which he had reasonably believed it to be while pursuing it?—or was it that his fancy had gilded it with charms not its own, and that he had voluntarily and blindly persuaded himself that it was brighter and more excellent than it was? Perhaps the answer, yes, might be returned to all these questions; but yet I fear the chief burden of deceit would rest with imagination, and that man would ever find he had judged of the future without sufficient grounds, and had suffered desire to stimulate hope, and hope to cheat expectation. Yet, perhaps, if he would but turn back and look behind, when disappointment and success had been obtained together, he would find that the pleasures lasted in the pursuit, especially at the time when fruition was drawing nearer and nearer, would, in the sum, make up the amount of enjoyment which he had anticipated in possession.
BY JOHN G. WHITTIER.
A DREAM OF SUMMER.
Bland as the morning breath of June The south-west breezes play; And through its haze the winter noon Seems warm as summer day. The snow-plumed angel of the north Has dropped his icy spear; Again the mossy earth looks forth, Again the streams gush clear.
The fox his hill-side cell forsakes, The muskrat leaves his nook, The blue-bird in the meadow brakes Is singing with the brook. "Bear up, O Mother Nature!" cry Bird, breeze, and streamlet free, "Our winter voices prophesy Of summer days to thee!" So in the winters of the soul, By bitter blasts and drear, O'erswept, from memory's frozen pole, Will sunny days appear, Reviving Hope and Faith, they show The soul its living powers, And low beneath the winter's snow Lie gems of summer flowers.
The night is mother of the day, The winter of the spring, And ever upon old decay The greenest mosses cling; Behind the cloud the starlight lurks, Through showers the sunbeams fall; For God, who loveth all his works, Has left his Hope with all.
BY THE AUTHOR OF "GRANTLEY MANOR."
What a strange power there is in silence! How many resolutions are formed—how many sublime conquests effected during that pause, when the lips are closed, and the soul secretly feels the eye of her Maker upon her! When some of those cutting, sharp, blighting words have been spoken which send the hot indignant blood to the face and head, if those to whom they are addressed keep silence, look on with awe, for a mighty work is going on within them, and the Spirit of Evil, or their Guardian Angel, is very near to them in that hour. During that pause they have made a step toward heaven or toward hell, and an item has been scored in the book which the day of judgment shall see opened. They are the strong ones of the earth, the mighty for good or for evil, those who know how to keep silence when it is a pain and a grief to them; those who give time to their own souls, to wax strong against temptation; or to the powers of wrath, to stamp upon them their withering passage.
BY CURRER BELL.
Life, believe, is not a dream So dark as sages say; Oft a little morning rain Foretells a pleasant day. Sometimes there are clouds of gloom, But these are transient all; If the shower will make the roses bloom, O why lament its fall? Rapidly, merrily, Life's sunny hours flit by, Gratefully, cheerily, Enjoy them as they fly!
What though Death at times steps in, And calls our best away? What though sorrow seems to win, O'er hope, a heavy sway? Yet hope again elastic springs, Unconquered, though she fell: Still buoyant are her golden wings, Still strong to bear us well. Manfully, fearlessly, The day of trial bear, For gloriously, victoriously, Can courage quell despair!
REVIEW OF NEW BOOKS.
Vanity Fair, a Novel without a Hero. By W. M. Thackeray. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1 vol. 8vo.
This is one of the most striking novels of the season. It bears little resemblance in tone, spirit and object, to the other popular romances of the day. The author follows in the track of Fielding rather than Bulwer, and aims at representing the world as it is. Though his mind is not creative, it is eminently delineative, and he has succeeded in cramming into one volume a large variety of characters, each expressing one of the different forms of worldliness, and all belonging strictly to the world we live in. Though the novel thus relates exclusively to the world, and indicates a most remarkable knowledge of the selfish element in human nature, in the multitudinous modifications which that element receives from individual peculiarities, the general tone of the author himself is so far from being worldly, that it is distinguished by singular manliness, cheerfulness and generosity. There is nothing morbid, nothing of the hater or the sentimentalist in his representations. He trusts himself resolutely to the genuine emotions of the heart, but he guards himself against all superfine feelings and manufactured sentiment. His characters are so true that at first we are inclined to consider them commonplace. In their development, however, we soon find that the author is a master in his art, that without pretension and without exaggeration, he touches profound springs of thought and sentiment, and represents with a graceful decision, and in clear light, those evanescent and unconscious transpirations of character, in which a novelist's capacity is most truly exhibited.
The animating spirit of the novel is that master-piece of address and cunning, little Becky Sharp. Tact and talent never had a worthier representative than this character. She indicates the extreme point of worldly success to which these qualities will carry a person, and also the impossibility of their providing against all contingencies in life. Becky steadily rises in the world, reaches a certain height, makes one inevitable mistake, and then as steadily falls, while many of her simple companions, whom she despises as weaklings, succeed from the very simplicity with which they follow the instinctive sagacity of pure and honest feeling. Colonel Rawdon Crawley, a brainless sensualist, whom Becky marries, and in some degree reforms, but who, by having an occasional twinkle of genuine sentiment in his heart, always was her superior, is drawn both with a breadth and a nicety of touch which is rare in such delineations. The exact amount of humanity which coexists with his rascality and stupidity, is given with perfect accuracy. Sir Pitt Crawley, coarse, uneducated, sordid, quarrelsome, his small, sharp mind an epitome of vulgar shrewdness, is a personation to force laughter from the lungs of a misanthrope. Old Mr. Sedley is a most truthful representation of a broken-down merchant, conceived in the spirit of that humane humor which blends the ludicrous and the pathetic in one. Joe Sedley, the East Indian, slightly suggests Major Bagstock. He has the major's physical circumference, apoplectic turn and swell of manner, with the addition of Cockney vulgarity and cowardice. His retreat from Brussels, just before the battle of Waterloo, is described with the art of a comic Xenophan.
In the characters of George Osborne, Dobbin and Amelia, the author has succeeded admirably. They are wonderfully true to nature, and indicate even a finer power of characterization than is exhibited in the more strongly marked personages of the work.
The test of the excellence of a novel is the clearness with which its events and characters are remembered after it has been read. We think that Vanity Fair will bear this criterion. All its characters are recognized in memory as living beings, and we would refer to and quote them with as much confidence as to any of the acquaintances we hold in remembrance.
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Life, Letters and Literary Remains of John Keats. Edited by Richard Moncton Milnes. New York: Geo. P. Putnam. 1 vol. 12mo.
This book, the long promised, has at last appeared, and we must confess that, from the time expended in its preparation, we expected a more satisfactory result. The biography, though written in a style of elaborate elegance, and pleasing enough as regards cadence of period and felicity of phrase, tells little about Keats which is new, and leaves many obscure passages of his life in the same darkness in which it found them. Nothing to the purpose is told of the lady who was the object of Keats's passionate love, and who shares with consumption in being the dismal cause of his early death. Mr. Milnes points triumphantly to the new facts and private letters he has included in the volume, in proof that the common impression that Keats lacked manliness of character, is an error; but instead of proving that Keats was a strong man, he has very nearly proved that he himself is a sentimentalist. The characteristic of Keats is sensitiveness to external impressions, the characteristic of Milnes is sensitiveness to self; the page of one throngs with delicious sensations, but leaves no strong impression of character; that of the other is pervaded by a thoughtful ennui, and leaves an impression of egotistic weakness of character. Of course, Keats is the stronger man of the two, and a stronger man even than Milnes's musical sentences indicate, but still not a strong man in the strict meaning of the phrase.
The letters of Keats are exceedingly interesting, and some of them fine specimens of brilliant epistolary composition, but we think there is a general tone of languid jauntiness observable in them, which shows a certain feebleness at the heart of his being. He seems a man whom every one would desire to see placed in happy circumstances, but not one who would bear bravely up under bad circumstances. The state of his finances occupies a good portion of his letters, and it is often very pleasantly stated. As early as 1817, he speaks of receiving a note for L20, and avows his intention of destroying with it "some of the minor heads of that hydra, the dun;" to conquer which he says, the knight need have no sword or shield, but only the "Bank-note of Faith and Cash of Salvation, and set out against the monster invoking the aid of no Archimago or Urganda, but finger me the paper, light as the Sybil's leaves in Virgil, whereat the fiend skulks off with his tail between his legs. . . I think," he adds, "I could make a nice little allegorical poem, called "The Dun," where we would have the Castle of Carelessness, the Drawbridge of Credit, Sir Novelty Fashion's expedition against the City of Tailors, &c., &c." There is a good deal of this coquetry with indigence in the volume.
There is one curious letter to Reynolds, referring to Wordsworth's calling the exquisite Hymn to Pan, in "Endymion," "a pretty piece of Paganism." Keats took the words in a contemptuous sense, and wrote a letter from the feelings it excited, reminding us in its style of an essay by Emerson. We extract it as almost the best thing in the book.
Hampstead, February 3, 1818.
MY DEAR REYNOLDS,—I thank you for your dish of filberts. Would I could get a basket of them by way of dessert every day for the sum of two pence, (two sonnets on Robin Hood, sent by the two penny post.) Would we were a sort of athereal pigs, and turned loose to feed upon spiritual mast and acorns! which would be merely a squirrel and feeding upon filberts; for what is a squirrel but an airy pig, or a filbert but a sort of archangelical acorn? About the nuts being worth cracking, all I can say is, that where there are a throng of delightful images ready drawn, simplicity is the only thing. It may be said that we ought to read our contemporaries, that Wordsworth, &c., should have their due from us. But, for the sake of a few fine imaginative or domestic passages, are we to be bullied into a certain philosophy engendered in the whims of an egotist? Every man has his speculations, but every man does not brood and peacock over them till he makes a false coinage and deceives himself. Many a man can travel to the very bourne of Heaven, and yet want confidence to put down his half-seeing. Sancho will invent a journey heavenward as well as any body. We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us, and, if we do not agree, seems to put its hand into its breeches pocket. Poetry should be great and unobtrusive; a thing which enters into one's soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with its subject. How beautiful are the retired flowers! How would they lose their beauty, were they to throng into the highway, crying out "Admire me, I am a violet! Dote upon me, I am a primrose!" Modern poets differ from the Elizabethans in this; each of the moderns, like an Elector of Hanover, governs his petty state, and knows how many straws are swept daily from the causeways in all his dominions, and has a continual itching that all the housewives should have their coppers well scoured. The ancients were emperors of vast provinces; they had only heard of the remote ones, and scarcely cared to visit them. I will cut all this. I will have no more of Wordsworth or Hunt in particular. Why should we be of the tribe of Manassah, when we can wander with Esau? Why should we kick against the pricks when we can walk on roses? Why should we be owls when we can be eagles? Why be teazed with "nice-eyed wagtails," when we have in sight "the cherub Contemplation?" Why, with Wordsworth's "Matthew with a bough of wilding in his hand," when we can have Jacques "under an oak," &c.? The secret of the "bough of wilding" will run through your head faster than I can write it. Old Matthew spoke to him some years ago on some nothing, and because he happens in an evening walk to imagine the figure of the old man, he must stamp it down in black and white, and it is henceforth sacred. I don't mean to deny Wordsworth's grandeur and Hunt's merit, but I mean to say we need not be teazed with grandeur and merit when we can have them uncontaminated and unobtrusive. Let us have the old Poets and Robin Hood. Your letter and its sonnets gave me more pleasure than will the Fourth Book of "Childe Harold," and the whole of any body's life and opinions.
In return for your dish of filberts, I have gathered a few catkins. I hope they'll look pretty.
"No, those days are gone away," &c.
I hope you will like them—they are at least written in the spirit of outlawry. Here are the Mermaid lines;—
"Souls of Poets dead and gone," &c.
In the hope that these scribblings will be some amusement for you this evening, I remain, copying on the hill,
Your sincere friend and co-scribbler, JOHN KEATS.
[Footnote 2: Mr. Reynolds had enclosed Keats some Sonnets on Robin Hood, to which these fine lines are an answer.]
The reader rises from the biography of Keats with the impression that it tells one of the most melancholy stories in the history of literature. The account of his last days is beyond measure painful. The poems now published for the first time, though good enough to make a reputation, will hardly add to the fame of Keats.
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The Women of the Revolution. By Elizabeth F. Ellet. New York: Baker & Scribner. 2 vols. 12mo.
We are under obligations to Mrs. Ellet for the two volumes now before us. They are the first fruits of a large harvest. And we doubt not that the authoress will pursue the subject, and give "continuations," until something like justice shall be done to the women, the mothers, sisters, wives and sweethearts of the great and good men of our Revolution. We wish that some just appreciation of what all society owes woman could be had. We wish that some one would sit down and show how all great efforts have their origin in woman's devotion to her duty, and all great men owe their position to their mother's faithful service, and how society owes the advantages which it may possess to the plastic mind of women. In this spirit Mrs. Ellet has prepared the two volumes before us, and has by her labors added one other name to the long list that claims the gratitude of Americans. Of course when notices of one hundred and twenty-four women are crowded into two duodecimo volumes, no great extent can be allowed to the biography of any one. Yet by a judicious disposition of material, and selection of prominent places for really prominent persons, Mrs. Ellet has given enough to make her readers comprehend the character, services and position of all her heroines. It happens to us to have known something of the private life of several mentioned in the volumes, and while we recollect much that is not recorded, we are bound to confess that the character of each so far as we know is well brought out, and additional materials might serve only to sustain the opinion formed by what is offered. We regard Mrs. Ellet's work only as a prelude—a rich, delightful, prelude—but it must be followed by other performances. The work is enriched with the likenesses of several ladies whose biographies are given—one or two of these we know are correct. The others resemble what we recollect to have heard denominated good likenesses.
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Orators of the American Revolution. By E. L. Magoon. New York: Baker & Scribner. 1 vol. 12mo.
Mr. Magoon is a writer of great fluency and sensibility, who "wreaks" his thoughts upon expression. He has given us a very exciting volume, glowing with revolutionary fervor, and eloquent of revolutionary heroes. The great difficulty is that each of his orators is described in terms which a cool person might hesitate in applying to Demosthenes and Cicero. Mr. Magoon writes too much on the high-pressure principle. As we move down the Mississippi stream of his rhetoric, we are pleased with the rapidity of the motion, and the chivalrous feeling of the captain of the boat, but we look occasionally at the boiler and the engine with some fear of an explosion.
Seriously, the volume will doubtless serve its purpose of impressing a great idea of our revolutionary orators on the popular mind—to reach which mind a certain extravagance of statement and description is now considered necessary. The glowing mode of writing history and biography is, doubtless, better than the dry and dead mode, but a medium between the two, combining life and movement with accuracy and discrimination, is better still. However, we know of no book on the subject so good as the present. It can be read at one sitting, and it leaves a strong impression on the mind of the power of our great orators. Every production which forcibly conveys an idea of our historical men as living souls, as well as living names, deserves to succeed.
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Historical and Miscellaneous Questions. By Richard Mangnall. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1 vol. 12mo.
This has been one of the most successful educational books ever published. The present edition is from the eighty-fourth London edition. The sale in England has reached a hundred thousand copies. A mere glance at the book will explain its popularity. It embraces the elements of Mythology, Astronomy, Architecture, Heraldry, as well as Ancient and Modern History, and gives exactly that kind of information which every body needs. The first principles and foundations of knowledge are often imperfectly understood by persons moderately learned. Few have any system in reading or study, but cram their minds with miscellaneous matter of various kinds, without regard to arrangement, and with no clear perception of the principles of any thing. Such a book as the present is needed not only by youth, but by many men and women who would be offended at the charge of ignorance. No person can read it without some addition to his knowledge. It is got up with remarkable skill, and covers a very wide extent of erudition.
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Thrilling Incidents of the Wars of the United States: Comprising the most Striking and Remarkable Events of the Revolution, the French War, the Second War with Great Britain, and the Mexican War. With Three Hundred Engravings. By the Author of the Army and Navy of the United States. Philadelphia: Carey & Hart. 8vo.
This is a large octavo volume, filled with deeply interesting historical anecdotes, illustrated with engravings—a volume which will create a taste for the whole series of American history, while it gratifies in part a useful appetite. The work is beautifully printed and admirably got out.
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Amelia. This is one of Miss Leslie's novels, and it is worthy of that lady's fame, founded on liberal efforts to improve the heart, and make men and women better, by setting before them instances of folly and examples of virtue.
THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE MOON.—In the month of September—the night of the 12th and 13th—there was a total eclipse of the moon. Those who would know all about it—exactly what was done when the adumbration commenced, when and how long total obscuration was observable, and when exactly the satellite passed out of the shadow of her principal planet—have nothing to do but read in the almanacs the predictions and calculations of the event—for exactly to a second the whole was performed as set down by the astronomers. It was a beautiful sight for those who love to watch the phenomena of the heavens, and there was not a cloud, not a passing scud, to prevent a complete view of the whole movement, from the first stain upon the eastern limb of the moon until the whole passed off from her western side.
This eclipse of the moon is caused by that planet's passing through the shadow of the earth, projected far into space; and in proportion to the proximity of the moon is the duration of the eclipse—so that we who occupied the side of the earth to which the eclipse was visible, really saw the moon darkened by the intervention of our own shadow. How like life is this! How many thousands are daily condemned for some apparent fault, which they have indeed acquired from those who condemn. How many live and suffer in the shadow of those who sneer—and persecute while they impart the cause. How many parents, by their errors, keep the sunlight of Truth and Religion from their children, and yet condemn them for the shadow which rests upon their mind, and makes them objects of undesirable notoriety—profitless members of the social circle.
Go and inquire of that heart-broken, condemned female, why she ceased to be the light of the circle in which she was placed—and she will answer that the very beings whom she was to bless, and from whom she was to derive blessings, darkened her pathway by the interference of injudicious kindness or ill-timed severity, and she became totally eclipsed. Ask the youth who has just made shipwreck of his wealth and his fame, and he will tell you that in passing through the shadow which relatives and associates had thrown across his path, his eclipse was so long that society had no patience to await his return to light—no mercy for the obscuration which their ill-timed lenity to others had made him suffer.
But the moon on the morning of the 13th September passed out of the obscuration, and went on her course diffusing light to all, and maintaining her supremacy, in apparent size and real lustre, above all the stellar orbs. And thus it is with man. The shadow of misfortune or error, of indiscretion, is always projected across his path—he is liable with every change to suffer some obscuration, some diminution of his brightness, some eclipse of that portion bestowed on man. Let society wait—let him toil onward—let there be a little faith, a little confidence, a little hope, and he will recover all he has lost, he will emerge from the shadow that is upon him and be bright and profitable as before. In the deepest obscuration of the full, or the earthward face of the moon, when all but its bare existence seemed blotted out, the upper, heavenward surface was undimmed, and reflected all the stellar glories of the higher planets. And thus is it with man. Sorrows, disappointments, errors, wrongs, darken his way, and all that is visible to those around him seems sullied and obscure, and he is left to toil onward through the deep shadow of misery and shame—the earthward side of his heart in a total eclipse—but the heavenward portion, the cherished and the blessed, though beyond the gaze, and often beyond the comprehension of the worldly—is bathed in the holy light of heavenly influences—it knows no diminution of brightness, no darkness from earthly shadows, no dimness from worldly cares or worldly sorrow, but, turned away from the observation and uses of mankind, its phaze is one of unalterable quiet, of undimmed and shadowless lustre. Earth is not permitted to project one shadow upon its plane, while heaven and heavenly light lie beautiful and beautifying upon its surface.
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THE WOMEN OF THE SCRIPTURES.—Our booksellers are making judicious preparations for the approaching holydays, and it may be anticipated that the next "Christmas times" will afford a most varied and elegant assortment of gift books for the choice of purchasers. Among those that we have been favored with a sight of, one of the most beautiful, both in design and execution, is a volume entitled "The Women of the Scriptures," which Messrs. LINDSAY & BLAKISTON have gotten up to correspond with those favorite works "Scenes in the Life of the Saviour" and "Scenes in the Lives of the Apostles," heretofore issued by them. The new publication has been edited by the Rev. H. HASTINGS WELD, who has been well sustained by the artists, printers and binders in their several departments. The purchaser will find in this volume articles from many of the most able and popular writers in the country, and we are sure that it cannot fail to commend itself, in an eminent degree, to the favor of the public.
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Messrs. Carey & Hart are about to publish an edition of Mrs. Sigourney's poetry, to be illustrated by some of the best productions of the American burin, samples of which we have seen and admired. It is fitting that the writings of Mrs. Sigourney should be thus set out.
The same publishers have caused to be prepared for the festive season a handsome volume, of the Souvenir family, called the Ruby. A portion, indeed most of its pictorial embellishments are of the first class of engraving, and the letter-press contains poetry and prose worthy of perusal. The work is a beautiful addition to the centre-table, and will of course find favor.
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"IT IS NOT ALWAYS NIGHT."—The heart chilled by adversity or languishing in sorrow, may find consolation and peace in the thought which forms the caption of this article, and which we find so beautifully woven into the harmony of numbers by our contemporary, WILLIAM C. RICHARDS, Esq. Editor of the "Southern Literary Gazette."
It is not always night! Though darkness reign In gloomy silence o'er the slumbering earth, The hastening dawn will bring the light again, And call the glories of the day to birth! The sun withdraws awhile his blessed light, To shine again—it is not always night!
The voices of the storm may fill the sky, And Tempest sweep the earth with angry wing; But the fierce winds in gentle murmurings die, And freshened beauty to the world they bring: The after-calm is sweeter and more bright; Though storms arise, it is not always night!
The night of Nature, and the night of Storm, Are emblems both of shadows on the heart; Which fall and chill its currents quick and warm, And bid the light of peace and joy depart: A thousand shapes hath Sorrow to affright The soul of man, and shroud his hopes in night.
Yet, when the darkest, saddest hour is come, And grim Despair would seize his shrinking heart, The dawn of Hope breaks on the heavy gloom, And one by one the shadows will depart: As storm and darkness yields to calm and light, So with the heart—it is not always night!
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THE FUTURE.—By the time another number of the "Magazine" is laid before its numerous readers, the bustle and din of the presidential election will have subsided, and the people will set themselves to thinking seriously of the selection of useful and entertaining publications, to render perfect the enjoyment of the long, calm, quiet winter evenings at home. Of course, none who take "Graham's Magazine" now, will consent to deprive themselves of it for the future, especially as the new volume, commencing in January, will be rendered as attractive as means, energy, industry and application can make it. We shall soon lay before our hundred thousand readers our new Prospectus, in which will be given a bird's-eye view of the plan of our prospective operations. Nothing will be promised that we will not fully and faithfully perform; and, unrivaled as this "Magazine" has heretofore been, we intend so to improve upon it, that the new volume shall bear away the palm, and command the universal admission that it is more excellent than ever!
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CHEAP PUBLICATIONS.—In these days of cheap publications, the means of gratifying a love for reading are within the reach of all. There is an abundant supply to feed the mental appetite, and our neighbor, T. B. PETERSON, caters for the public taste with great energy and success. To the lovers of light literature it may not be amiss for us to state, that Mr. P. has published uniform editions of the works of those popular and approved writers, MRS. GREY and MISS PICKERING—ladies whose writings are always worth reading, and always convey a good moral. A late publication, "The Orphan Niece," by Miss Pickering, appears now, for the first time in this country, and is as excellent and interesting as those from the same pen with which the public are more familiar.
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[illo—finger] Were we inclined to copy one-half of the very handsome compliments bestowed upon our Magazine by our friends of the press, we could not find room to do so. We feel, however, rejoiced at and grateful for these evidences of their favor, and will strive to render ourselves yet more worthy of their commendations. The motto of "Graham's Magazine" is EXCELSIOR; and as it has hitherto stood immeasurably above all competitors in the public estimation, so shall it maintain its enviable position, and merit the success it has enjoyed.
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[illo—finger] Our engraver, WM. E. TUCKER, Esq., has in hand and will have ready for the next volume, some brilliant specimens of his art. We promise our patrons—and we do so without a single fear that our promise will not be fully redeemed—more magnificent embellishments than any literary work in the country has ever presented. This, of course, will involve an immense expenditure of money, but we never place cost in competition with the duty we owe our patrons, and our desire to merit their favor.
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[illo—finger] We expect to give, in our next number, a life-like portrait of our late correspondent and now co-editor, J. BAYARD TAYLOR. He is a modest gentleman, and may not be pleased with the idea of so public an introduction to the readers of this Magazine, but we know that he is a favorite with them, and the admirers of his articles will be gratified to see "what manner of man he is."
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WINTER FASHIONS.—Our friend Oakford knows how to cap the climax of human perfection, if we may judge from the various styles and fashions of Hats, Caps, &c., presented in his card on the cover of our "Magazine." His establishment is a favorite place of resort for all who desire to be well fitted; and they must, indeed, be hard to please, who cannot find something there to suit their fancy.
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[illo—finger] If we were inclined to be boastful, we think we might raise a high note of exultation upon the character of the present number of the "American Monthly Magazine." But, as "good wine needs no bush," we lay our offering before the public, confident that its manifest excellence will be discovered without the necessity of a word from us to point out its varied beauties. While, however, we believe, and feel assured that the public will concur in the belief, that this number is one of surpassing beauty and merit, it may not be improper to hint that the arrangements we have consummated for the future, will enable us to improve even upon our present high standard of excellence, and keep us, as ever, far, very far in advance of the most labored efforts of all contemporaries. Our course is onward, and he must bestir himself actively who would excel us.
Some archaic spellings have been retained to preserve the historicity of the book. Simple changes in punctuation have been made without comment. Obvious typos or printer's errors have been corrected without comment.