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MR. CHANNING'S POEMS.*
This little volume is a pledge that the was poetry for poets, and would be author need not owe any advantage to valued in proportion to the poetic taste the eminent name he wears, but is of its readers. It has given us to ready to add, to the distinction which think how much sincerity is an indisalready encircles it, the fame of poetry. pensable element of high poetry ;It is a collection chiefly of occasional that the author should give us his poems on domestic, private, and per- proper experiences, neither more nor sonal topics, with poems of sentiment less, and should tell us not what men and reflection, and one or two narra- may be supposed to feel in the presence tive pieces ; all very short, but a of a mountain or a cataract, but how skilful reader will readily detect in it was with him. The truth must be them the presence of the authentic spoken without reference to the reader gifts of music and of fancy. All or hearer, or to anything which is not critics know that in the multitude of the life of the poem itself. The writwriters one who can write English is ing shall have no foreign reference, rare : and much more rare is one who but shall be a vent and voidance of can master the keys of rhythm, and things the man has at heart. Poetry express himself naturally in verse. thus written, we shall find wholly new, The author of these poems has the latest birth of time, the last obserachieved this mastery in the easy and vation which the incarnate Spirit has novel structure of his metrical style, taken of its work. This honesty which, though often falling into the comes only by highest endowment. popular forms, as into blank verse, or Men utter follies, not because they into the common octosyllabic quatrains, prefer them, but from want of thought. keeps a new character in these old The poet is preoccupied with the forms. Meantime, many of his metres facts before him, and speaks well beare original and of singular beauty. cause the fact is too strong for him, Especially, we catch some strains of and will not allow him to babble. that peculiar lyric eloquence which That gratification this poetry will the old dramatists, and Herrick, and afford, as it is not conventional, but even Donne drew from our rugged and is stamped with truth. This veracity hissing language, which is like an ex- makes the value of the whole book; quisite nerve communicating by thrills, it is made up of the simplest expresand which we sometimes fear to be a sions of a gentle and thoughtful mind, lost art. Equally with his music, we its privatest knowledge and feeling. enjoy the activity of the fancy in these Much of it seems to be poetry of love thoughtful poems, which never keeps and sentiment, fruits of a fine, light, the beaten road, but by its beautiful gentle, happy intercourse with his invention of methods and outlets, com friends; the poet obviously and conmunicates a feeling of freedom and sciously idealizing his portraits, bepower, which the lovers of poetry will cause his interest is not in that which hear as the ringing of a wind-harp, they are in the world, but in what they
But the samples of his thought which are to his genius. And the imagery the author of this book has afforded us, has the same genuineness ; it is not few though they be, betray higher borrowed from the great poets, but, gifts than melody and fancy. There is though sometimes a little whimsical or a delicacy and refinement in this mind, surprising, is the form which the which put the reader at once at school thought clothed itself in, and which in the most agreeable of disciplines, required some courage to adopt. as it requires much culture to appre As we loitered among these Dorian hend them. Far from being popular measures, we have figured the author verses, we should rather say that this as a person of wayward habits, early
• Poems by William Ellery Channing. Boston: Little & Brown. 1843.
wisdom, and affectionate speech, with -or when he contemplates the mystea tone that is tremulous with emotion ries of humanity, the spiritual life, and like a flower in the wind; as one the spectre death, with equal depth of na
ture to their own. He pauses at birth“Who drew fine pictures on the swim- days as “the solemnest days of our ming air;
bright lives," at the marriage festival,
at the advent and the parting of hu-as one who loves
man life ;« To see the early stars, a mild sweet “ That I was father to so fair a child, train,
And that her mother smiled on me so Come out to bury the diurnal sun;"
I think of now as passing gods' estate. -who walks in the grove by the col- I am enraptured that such lot was mine,
That mine is others'. ". umns of the temple, whilst“Fanned them the softly entering, sing. With a keen sympathy with nature, he ing air;"
now mingles his sigh with that of the
melancholy autumn : —who sees Beauty passing through the 66 Summer is going,
Cold wind is blowing,
Tale of the autumn-the autumn so drear; « And dances on the sward the capering No sower is sowing, light,
No mower is mowing, And all the swinging herbs love her soft Seed is sown, harvest mown, time almost
—who stands in the breezy meadow as in his home ;
« The wind is feeling in each gentle bell, I and my flowers receive this music
Flowers are fading,
Autumn's wreath braiding,
The bees have done lading
And finished their trading,
-and in very deed leading the true and beautiful life of the flowers themselves :
“ A life well spent is like a flower
Gray clouds are flying,
Gray shades replying,
And the mother be sighing,
Filled with a beam of light,-
Some rivers flow,
Some falling snow,
With gay and laughing flowers,
The waving grain,
The spring soft rain,-
But he has not only these strains pure and untiring as the summer-wind itself, but a sterner, autumnal, and even wintry music, when he expresses his impatience of the unmeaning conventions of cities, the lowness of our social aims, and the equal paltriness of our concealment and our display, and bids the aspirant« Boom like the roaring, sunlit waterfall, Humming to infinite abysms; speak loud,
speak free !"
The poor man draws him to true sym- Those who bear up in their só generous pathy, and gives occasion to stanzas of a plain and earnest eloquence :
The beautiful ideas of matchless forms;
For were these not portrayed, our human « Like a lion at bay,
fate,Like a cold still day,
Which is to be all high, majestical, Stands the poor man here,
To grow to goodness with each coming
age, Few friends has he,
Till virtue leap and sing for joy to see And fewer they be With the turn of each year;
So noble, virtuous men,-would brief de
cay ; Who can buy him no house,
And the green, festering slime, oblivious,
haunt Who cannot carouse,
About our common fate. Oh honor them! Nor his neighbors delight;
Whose cabin is cold,
But what to all true eyes has chiefest Whose heart only shineth bright.
And what to every breast where beats a They eye him askance
heart With a feeble glance,
Framed to one beautiful emotion, to Half shake him by the hand, One sweet and natural feeling, lends a 'Tis the poor man, he
grace Hath no gold to give to me;
To all the tedious walks of common life, There are richer in the land.
This is fair woman,-woman, whose ap
plause But the sun shineth fair
Each poet sings,,woman, the beautiful. Through the blue-woven air, Not that her fairest brow, or gentlest form To the poor man's mind;
Charm us to tears; not that the smoothest His ears are all ready,
cheek, And his hearing is steady,
Where ever' rosy tints have made their As rushes the wind.
So rivet us on her ; but that she is
The subtle, delicate grace,—the inward of its fruit hath the birth;
grace, Tall waves the fragrant flower;
For words too excellent; the noble, true, He hath carved a broad stone The majesty of earth; the summer queen:
That the time may be known; In whose conceptions nothing but what's The dial telleth him the hour.
Has any right. And, O! her love for him, The birds over his head
Who does but his small part in honoring Their broad wings spread,
her; Their songs to him they sing;
Discharging a sweet office, sweeter none, The brook runs him to meet, Mother and child, friend, counsel and reAnd washeth gently his feet,
pose ; While the meadows their joys bring." Nought matches with her, nought has
leave with her The wisdom of self-trust and of gen
To highest human praise. Farewell to
him erous sentiment, and the feeling of Who reverences not with an excess sweet veneration for woman, pervades Of faith the beauteous sex; all barren he the book, and is excellently expressed Shall live a living death of mockery. in the poem entitled Reverence" :
Ah! had but words the power, what could “Asan ancestral heritagerevere All learning, and all thought. The paint Of woman! We, rude men, of violent er's fame
phrase, Is thine, whate'er thy lot, who honorest Harsh action, even in repose inwardly grace.
harsh; And need enough in this low time, when Whose lives walk blustering on high stilts, they,
removed Who seek to captivate the fleeting notes From all the purely gracious influence or heaven's sweet beauty, must despair of mother earth. To single from the host almost,
Of angel forms one only, and to her So beavy and obdurate show the hearts * Devote our deepest heart and deepest mind Of their companions. Honor kindly then Seems almost contradiction. Unto her
We owe our greatest blessings, hours of Merit in this ? Where lies it, though thy
cheer, Gay smiles, and sudden tears, and more Ring over distant lands, meeting the wind than these
Even on the extremest verge of the wide A sure perpetual love. Regard her as
world. She walks along the vast still earth; and Merit in this? Better be hurled abroad see !
On the vast whirling tide, than in thyself Before her flies a laughing troop of joys, Concentred, feed upon thy own applause. And by her side treads old experience, Thee shall the good man yield no reverWith never-failing voice admonitory;
ence; The gentle, though infallible, kind advice, But, while the idle, dissolute crowd areThe watchful care, the fine regardfulness, loud Whatever mates with what we hope to find, In voice to send thee flattery, shall rejoice All consummate in her—the summer That he has 'scaped thy fatal doom, and queen.
How humble faith in the good soul of To call past ages better than what now
things Man is enacting on life's crowded stage,
Provides amplest enjoyment. Cannot improve our worth; and for the brother, world
If the Past's counsel any honor claim Blue is the sky as ever, and the stars From thee, go read the history of those Kindle their crystal flames at soft-fallen Who a like path have trod, and see a fate
Wretched with fears, changing like leaves With the same purest lustre that the east
at noon, Worshipped. The river gently flows When the new wind sings in the white through fields
birch wood. Where the broad-leaved corn spreads out, Learn from the simple child the rule of life, and loads
And from the movements of the unconIts ear as when the Indian tilled the soil. scious tribes The dark green pine,-green in the win- of animal nature, those that bend the wing ter's cold,
Or cleave the azure lide, content to be, Still whispers meaning emblems, as of old; What the great frame provides,-freedom The cricket chirps, and the sweet, eager
and grace. birds
Thee, simple child, do the swift winds In the sad woods crowd their thick melo obey, dies;
And the white waterfalls with their bold But yet, to common eyes, life's poetry
leaps Something has faded, and the cause of this Follow thy movements. Tenderly the May be that man, no longer at the shrine light or woman kneeling with true reverence, Thee watches, girding with a zone of In spite of field, wood, river, stars and sea radiance, Goes most disconsolate. A babble now, And all the swinging herbs love thy soft A huge and wind-swelled babble, fills the steps.”
place Or that great adoration which of old
He sees the footsteps of death in all Man had for woman. In these days no parts of nature, in the sea, the fields,
the rivers, and the hills ;Is love the pith and marrow of man's fate.
- The air is full of men who once enjoyed Thou who in early years feelest awake
The healthy element;"
—and he challenges the approach of the
of him, who to thy boundless treasury is The miser's life to this seems sweet and
And yet he quickly cometh ; for to die Better to pile the glittering coin, than seek Is ever gentlest to both low and high. To overtop our brothers and our loves. Thou therefore hast humanity's respect;
They build thee tombs upon the green hill Fall off, ye garments of my misty weather, side,
Drop from my eyes, ye scales of time's And will not suffer thee the least neglect, applying; And tend thee with a desolate sad pride; Am I not godlike? meet not here together For thou art strong, o death! though A past and future infinite, defying sweetly so,
The cold, still, callous moment of to-day? And in thy lovely gentleness sleeps wo. Am I not master of the calm alway?
Would I could summon from the deep, O what are we, who swim upon this tide
deep mine, Which we call life, yet to thy kingdom Glutted with shapely jewels, glittering come?
bright, Look not upon us till we chasten pride, One echo of that splendor, call it thine, And preparation make for thy high home; And weave it in the strands of living light; And, might we ask, make measurely ap- For it is in me, and the sea smiles fair, proach,
And thitherward I rage, on whirling air. And not upon these few smooth hours encroach;
Unloose me, demons of dull care and want, I come, I come, think not I turn away! Fold round me thy gray robe! I stand Think not within your meshes vile I pant
I will not stand your slave, I am your king; to feel
For the wild liberty of an unclipt wing; The setting of my last frail earthly day;
My empire is myself, and I defy I will not pluck it off, but calmly kneel; For I am great as thou art, though not thou, The external; yes! Í rule the whole, or
die. And thought as with thee dwells upon
my brow. Ah! might I ask thee, Spirit, first to tend All music that the fullest breeze can play Upon those dear ones whom my heart In its melodious whisperings in the wood, has found,
All modulations which entrance the day And supplicate thee, that I might them and deisy a sunlight solitude ; lend
All anthems that the waves sing to the A light in their last hours, and to the Are mine for song, and yield to my deground
votion. Consign them still,—yet think me not too weak,
And mine the soft glaze of a loving eye, Come to me now, and thou shalt find me
And mine the pure shapes of the human meek,
form, Then let us live in fellowship with thee, And turn our ruddy cheeks thy kisses pale, And spells enough to make a snow-king
And mine the bitterest sorrow's witchery, And listen to thy song as minstrelsy,
warm; And still revere thee, till our hearts' throbs fail,
For an undying hope thou breathest me,Sinking within thy arms as sinks the sun
Hope which can ride the tossing, foaming Below the farthest hills, when his day's work is done."
Lady, there is a hope that all men have,
Some mercy for their faults, a grassy place Especially we are struck with his To rest in, and a flower-strown, gentle bold prayer to that unceasing river"
grave; of consciousness, “ that from the soul's Another hope which purifies our race, clear fountain swiftly pours," and the That when that fearful bourne forever past, piercing music with which he seems to They may find rest,-and rest so long to sound lower than plummet line those last. mysterious deeps, in the poem entitled “ The Poet's Hope :"
I seek it not, I ask no rest forever,
My path is onward to the farthest shores« Flying,—flying beyond all lower regions, Upbear me in your arms, unceasing river, Beyond the light called day, and night's That from ihe soul's clear fountain repose,
swiftly pours, Where the untrammelled soul, on her Motionless not, until the end is won, wind-pinions
Which now I feel hath scarcely felt the Fearlessly sweeping, defies my earthly
woes; There,—there, upon that infinitest sea, To feel, to know, to soar unlimited, Lady, thy hope, --so fair a hope, summons Mid throngs of light-winged angels