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rate itself into something broader; and his best compositions are not the ones which have been the most industriously spread before us. Yet his wit was nearly perennial. In the absence, too, of any grand epic or laborious rhyme, we are prepared to assert that he was a true poet; we mean in the application of the broadest sense. For it is a degraded sense which transfers the title from the original of some grand idea to the mere mechanic of some regular structure. Give but the power to express, and the conception may take what form you will, yet it shall be called a poem. It may have the shape of an epic or be written in lowliest prose; be carved in marble, painted on the canvass, touch the heart with the simplicity of a ballad,
or with the inwoven harmony of deeper schools. The title is deserved, whether the work be small and unique, or complicate and of grand proportion: Gray's Elegy or Paradise Lost.
Hood has several times, within a few years, been called great; a phrase used not inconsiderately nor in vain, though in a sense quite aside from the common. He had humanity, which might be considered a first requisite. The finest fancies are not so much from the contact of intellect as the congeniality of hearts. Love is always the best creator. Though the bleak vista convey to it no image, it fashions for itself a new heaven and a new earth. Hood's genius began to open and develop itself in the warmth of an affectionate nature. It was all the cherishing which he received. He was not a 'spoiled child.' His hardy flowers struggled upward through the snows. The object of his noblest developments were the sufferings of the needy. If his song ever became fervent, or his reputation sure, it was when he depicted wretchedness in such guise that luxury must blush for shame. A man must first have a heart to be a true poet. Like the Chourineur, in Sue's Romance, he is prepared for the exercise of his faculties, and his first offerings will be given to the benefactor who assured him of the fact. It is the secret of Wordsworth's slow and glorious triumph, that he considered nothing mean, nothing contemptible, if it were linked with Humanity. What lies at the bottom of the reputation of that distinguished poet who wrote Nicholas Nickleby ? These men have known how to estimate the unnoticed tear at a costly value, even as the representative of a weight of grief. With a sympathy which drew him in like manner into communion with his fellow-men, Hood's inventive genius began to work. His mind was already full of images and combinations. It was of the nature of a spring, which giving cannot impoverish, but adds a fiercer zest and a peculiar flavor. To be forced or predetermined is death to most men's efforts; for inspiration comes rarely, and arises out of junctures which are occasional, and cannot be contrived of a man's providence. But out of the ever-present occasion he snatched his hints with marvellous quickness. Every individual point of time was good as an era. Such an one can with difficulty be hackneyed. He could write for his bread and his genius not be discouraged. Its very bread was the want of it. This quickness of conception and abundance is a mark of genius, as a tropical voluptuousness bears witness to the fuller presence of the sun. It was one of the bitternesses of Hood's dying, to be conscious of all the wealth and apparatus of his mind. If utterance were merely a relief from oppression there was a pang in being utterly precluded. But one may also mourn over the noble thoughts to which he never can give a bold and palpable being. To be full of the lights and tints of a noble picture, and never be able to throw a shadow on the canvass; to be eloquent of heart, yet dumb, and attuned to a sweet accord in every sympathy; to look for the last time on the beautiful universe of God; these fragments of the imagination are in effect ruins. That which has not yet been, is mourned over as that which has been lost.
The writings of this author bear witness to a great invention. No man ever said so many good things;' which being his by parentage, resemblance and affection, might in all propriety be entitled · Hood's Own.' Others have been employed a life-time in collecting the sayings of many which have not equalled the diversified exuberance of one. His works literally sparkle all over like frostwork in the sun. Nor is the general splendor greater than the beauty of the individual gems. Some, it is true, have an inferior or false light, but serve to set off those of an undisputed value. His thoughts were, like Horace's, curiously happy; and their curiosity consisted in their being the ipsa verba correspondent with the idea. The thought itself being fetched from a far distance, as if by a charm, the seldom-called-for, overjoyed word left its place in the vocabulary, and hastened to a happy union. The right elements must have been present, for the contagion of happiness spread. The broad tokens of approbation were too immediate to be other than the spontaneous tribute of intrinsic worth. You could not bear the good things to pass away with the subsidence of the first smile, but caused them to reäppear, and pass in review, as a boy permits sweet morsels to linger and loiter on his tongue. • Hood's Own' were not for an Areopagite judgment, to be held off and scrutinized with a calm, implacable mind, and pronounced upon in due season.
Your judge seaped the barrier of all principles; the statement and verdict went together. No more difference than between the hit and the flash. It is to deny wit or pathos with slow arguments, if smiles and tears have broke out already in advance. It is a mistake to suppose
that the greater part of Hood's merit consists in verbal quibbles and happiness of that nature. These served his turn; never he theirs. What came in his way
he levelled at with a keen eye, but he did not thrash the bushes. Hood made
did not make Hood. Indeed he redeemed this art, the history of which, with those who have acquired infamy by it, might fill a new paper in the next edition of the · Encyclopædia Britannica.' Cicero set forth some bad pretensions. Horace could not prostitute the Latin language to any thing so infra dig. Ovid's attempt, as he set forward to the town of Tomi, was so bad that it is. good, and so good that it evanesced in utterance, and cannot now be told. Tero began by amusing himself in this way, and at last became hardened to what bloody work! It is said that a subject of Queen Zenobia was charged with perpetrating a thing of this kind, and she consulted her prime minister Longinus, who deemed him worthy of death. This is nearly the history of the art down to Quid rides. Then it took a new start, and by force of that very sneer set every body
puns, but puns
• The very
riding it (some few de-riding) as a hobby. Then the great Dr. Johnson, by a single burst of dogmatism, overwhelmed it with contempt. A few stragglers kept up the succession; the Prince, Beau Brummel, and bis surrounding wits, brought to light a few novelties, and the last Apollo, Canning, in this way sometimes relaxed his bow. The Latin punio and English punish are similarly derived; and another Punicum bellum we hope the world will never again witness. A mere verbal pun, like the above, is the baldest invention; it only lies in the coincidence of sound. A better kind is that which arises out of a coincidence in thought or comparison. Hood's worst perpetrations (if any can be called even bad) are but the wayside talk by which he beguiles the time until he conducts you to something beautiful. Mark his words in that somewhat melancholy Inaugural written in his last illness, wherein he recommends a cheerful philosophy: “How else could I have converted a serious illness into a comic wellness? By what other agency could I have transported myself, as a cockney would say, from Dullage to Grinage? It was far from a practical joke to be laid up in ordinary in a foreign land, under the care of physicians quite as much abroad as myself with the case. Indeed, the shades of the gloaming were stealing over my prospect; but I resolved that, like the sun, so long as my day lasted I would look on the bright side of every thing. The raven croaked, but I persuaded myself that it was the nightingale. There was the smell of the mould, but I remembered that it nourished the violets.' And what says he of his own person? fingers, so aristocratically slender, that now hold the pen, hint plainly of the ills that flesh is heir to. My coats have become great-coats, my pantaloons are turned into trowsers, and by a worse bargain than Peter Schlemihl's, I seem to have retained ту
shadow and sold
substance. In short, as happens to prematurely old port wine, I am of a bad color, with very little body.' ...But the best fence against care is a · Ha! ha! Let your lungs crow like chanticleer,' and as like a gamecock as possible. Smiles are tolerated by the very pinks of politeness ; and a laugh is but the full-blown flower of which a smile is the bud."
Grotesqueness, for the most part, is looked on by a Janus-face; outward plaudits are in proportion to the inward silence and contempt. But here are trifles which lead you not to turn away from the harlequin, but to come up and grasp the hand of the man. What the cynic would sneer at is the irrepressible freshness of a heart glad as a child, who leaps and laughs on his way to those hard tasks which he will presently turn into a pleasure. Better is the luxury which bears trimming, than the beggary which cannot be supplied. The great Shakspeare, when he has accomplished the triumph of some of his noblest parts, sports through a variety of scenes with a careless assurance, as if he had the right. We say that the beautiful is expressed by the general action as well by the set phrase. True genius shows in this way the symptoms of its perpetual youth:
γαρ φροντις ουκ αλγειν φιλει. . Thus much may be said of The Comic Annual,' and those many good things,' trifles which are not trifles, since they arise out of and
are sure to reach the kindly heart. We put stress on something beside this. Our author has wrought out some creations of small bulk, but of grand conception. We speak of them as fraught with the same expression as the Dying Gladiator at Rome. He has represented the People, as one body, in the throes of that suffering which has so long racked the frame, the big muscle of English labor swelled to the utmost tension, a picture of gigantic agony. We have not the work at hand, nor have we seen it for a year; but carry a distinct impression of its energy, with scarce the remembrance of a word. We know that it was the picture of a man, a something gaunt and terrible in the boldness of outline, asserting in sepulchral monotone a right to live by virtue of hard labor, betwixt “the day-light and dark.' To conceive a clear image of man's distress is to put one in another's stead, and to follow afar off the grandest example on record. The poor cannot speak; or, could he, there would be nothing so convincing as the coldness of his hearth-side and the silent eloquence of his despair. That would present only an instance; but the poet can embody a universal suffering, and excite an active pity over the whole realm. The majesty of art is proudly vindicated, and no theme has grander elements than the convulsive struggling of the Poor. If all who have a reputation to gain in literature would do as much for this class as Thomas Hood! His very smiles are nothing but the light of heaven beautifully shining through his tears. There is no antagonism; dew and sunshine sparkle together on the same leaf. It is the union of nature. A beam shed on a globule reflects a little world of gorgeous scenery, and a heart must be brim-full to mirror the more perfect images of joy. Does not Hood's Song of the Shirt,' with his other writings, illustrate this? Can one chirrup like the grasshopper, to which Anacreon has written his Ode, without being similarly fed? We find that the realms of mirth and pathos are, for the most part, ruled over by the same potentates. He who could go into so fantastic a discourse upon buttons' indited Le Fevre's tender story, and that Tale of a Prisoner, of which the burden is : Disguise thyself as thou wilt, still, Slavery, still thou art a bitter draught; and though thousands in all ages have been made to drink of thee, thou art no less bitter on that account.'
An •Ode to Melancholy' is before us, which, had the author written nothing else, would have entitled him to the name of poet. It is a master-piece of artful contrivance, whereby the rhyme and rhythm are 80 arranged, by an inflection of exquisite melody, as to accord with the fitful changing, sighs, and whimpering of a half sick heart. The rise and falling are beautiful as a wind-harp's; the vibrations of the dying note almost impalpably fine. Rather we might compare the effect of it to a day in April
. First a gleam of sunshine driven away by hurrying clouds; then a short gusty sobbing, with a few rain-drops; then a wrestling of opposite winds, and eddying of the dry leaves; and, without any great violence, fickle and changeful throughout :
OH, clasp me, sweet, whilst thou art mine,
As frightened PROSERPINE let fall
Now let us with a spell invoke
* All things are touched with melancholy,
Much as our author has written, he has perhaps suggested more, and so fulfilled the idea which we had conceived of a high creative faculty. There is no end of the lights and reflections of a true work ; with the first inspiration breathed into it there is the inherent principle of a new life. Every thing grand in art is a conception begotten from something previously grand. If we see bridges, battlements and gorgeous scenery among the accidental coals of a winter's hearth, each according to his degree of fancy, what a temple of beauty may be built, like magic, by intenser scrutiny into the fires of Genius! That is after all a dead work which does not so expand the mind of the beholder as to carry it somewhat beyond the circumference of itself. In how small a compass may be clasped the works of Shakspeare; yet how illimitably does he carry us beyond the sphere to which his scenes are restricted! What 'spirits' does he conjure from the 'vasty deep!' Every great man is his debtor; and this forms part of immortality. The parent lives in his latest progeny.
In conclusion, we believe that the writings of Hood are not doomed to perish ; they are too nearly allied to the spirit of that humanity which he loved. We may say of him, in his own words at the grave of Elia:' However much of him has departed, there is still more of him that cannot die; for as long as humanity endures and man holds fellowship with man, his spirit will still be extant.' We will add that he has left behind him à name transcending even that of a poet : The FRIEND OF THE POOR.