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REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
Poems by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Boston: "(I saw her smile.) But soon their path
Was vague in distant spheres :
The golden barriers,
And laid her face between her hands, whether Mr. Rossetti had not better have
And wept. (I heard her tears.)" painted his poems and written his pictures ;
In this poem Mr. Rossetti strives for that there is so much that is purely sensuous in
heart of pure and tender rapture which, it the former, and so much that is intellectual
seems to mediæval-minded poets, must have in the latter. But we do not suppose that
beat in the centre of the Romish mystery, those who like his work will let the ques
and he is more successful in his effort than tion mar their enjoyment of either, though Mr. Tennyson in his later yearnings, but not they will probably enjoy both in the same
so much so as the latter was when he wrote kind and degree. It seems a pity, however,
Sir Galahad. We are conscious, however, for the sake of readers who do not know any of attributing too explicit a feeling to Mr. of his pictures, that these poems should not
Rossetti's poem, which is really a series of have been illustrated by the author's hand.
mystic and devotional pictures, and scarcely We should then have had in his volume a
more exegetic than if they had actually been proof of the curious fusion of the literary and painted. Here are three of the pictures, artistic nature in him. But as it is, though which are very charming, and take you one cannot here see the poetry in the paint again and again with ravishing suggestions ing, the painting in the poetry is plain of the old religious art, but which have enough.
no great intellectual merit, and scarcely On the whole, except the sonnets, the
any independent merit at all, except a best poem is “The Blessed Damozel,” and
luxury of words, that most well-read people in this the author's characteristics are very
can nowadays command :--marked. The picture with which it opens is exactly in the spirit of a Pre-Raphael.
"And still she bowed herself and stooped
Out of the circling charm ; ite painting, with its broad and effective
Until her bosom must have made contrasts of color, — yellow, blue, and
The bar she leaned on warm, white.
And the lilies lay as if asleep
Along her bended arm. “The blessed damozel leaned out From the gold bar of Heaven;
“• Circlewise sit they, with bound locks
And foreheads garlanded ;
Into the fine cloth white like flame
Weaving the golden thread,
To fashion the birth-robes for them
Who are just born, being dead. "Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem No wrought flowers did adorn,
“«Herself shall bring us, hand in hand,
To Him round whom all souls
Kneel, the clear-ranged unnumbered heads
Bowed with their aureoles :
And angels meeting us shall sing
To their citheros and citoles.' This is the new Pre-Raphaelite, and here,
For reasons already sufficiently expressed, following, in the lines we have italicized, is
we think that, after “The Blessed Damozel," the old, as one sees it very often in the fad
and two or three other strictly pictorial ing frescos of mediæval churches. Of course
poems, the “Sonnets for Pictures" it is very beautifully and very vividly expressed ; and the whole picture is a lovely again are not to be perfectly enjoyed in them
best of Mr. Rossetti's things, though these
selves. Nevertheless, for a July day, we “She ceased.
shall never ask a distincter pleasure than we The light thrilled towards her, filled With angels in strong level flight.
get from this sonnet on Giorgione's Festa Her eyes prayed, and she smiled.
Campestre, that delicious fable, wherein a
Venetian lady and cavalier sit amidst a pas
Till her fond bird, with little turns and dips, toral landscape, and pause from their own
Piped low to her of sweet companionships.
And when he made an end, some seed took she music, to hear the piping of the enigmatical
And fed him from her tongue, which rosily person, — perhaps their embodied love and
Peeped as a piercing bud between her lips happiness, who sits confronting them, clothed in nothing but her own white love.
“And like the child in Chaucer, on whose tongue
The Blessed Mary laid, when he was dead, liness. The sonnet is this :
A grain, — who straightway praised her name in
Even so, when she, a little lightly red,
Now turned on me and laughed, I heard the throng (In the Louvre.)
Of inner voices praise her golden head." “Water, for anguish of the solstice: – nay,
Dramatic power is so closely allied to But dip the vessel slowly, - nay, but lean And hark how at its verge the wave sighs in
that of the painter, that one naturally exReluctant. Hush ! Beyond all depth away pects it in this charming colorist, - though The heat lies silent at the brink of day:
as to color, the reader will notice that he Now the hand trails upon the viol-string
gets his delight only from the positive richThat sobs, and the brown faces cease to sing, Sad with the whole of pleasure. Whither stray
ness and splendor of each hue, not at all Her eyes now, from whose mouth the slim pipes from the subjection of one color to another, creep
or their harmony. And leave it pouting, while the shadowed grass
In the poems where the color does not Is cool against her naked side? Let it be ;Say nothing now unto her lest she weep,
predominate, we see Mr. Rossetti's weak. Nor name this ever. Be it as it was, -
nesses more plainly. He has numbers of Life touching lips with Immortality.”
affectations, and they are not all his own. It is easy to choose an exquisite picture
Some of Mr. Browning's, for example, are from these poems at random, like this pretty clear in “A Last Confession," and from the “ Dante at Verona":
those of the imitation-old-ballads are the "Through leaves and trellis-work the sun
property of the trade. Of course these bal. Left the wine cool within the glass,
lads are the poorest of Mr. Rossetti's poems, They feasting where no sun could pass : and they are not fairly characteristic of him. And when the women, all as one,
Some of them are very poor indeed, and Rose up with brightened cheeks to go,
others are quite idle. It was a comely thing, we know."
It is a curious thing in a poet whose puriOr this, from “A Last Confession,” more
ty of mind and heart makes such a very perfect, more delicate even, and liker an
strong impression, that his imagination old painting :
should be so often dominated by character “I know last night
and fact which are quite other than pure. I dreamed I saw into the garden of God, Where women walked whose painted images
We think there has been more than enough I have seen with candles round them in the church. of the Fallen Woman in literature; we wish They bent this way and that, one to another,
that if she cannot be reformed, she might be Playing : and over the long golden hair Of each there floated like a ring of fire
at least policed out of sight; and we have a Which when she stooped stooped with her, and
fancy (perhaps an erroneous, perhaps a when she rose
guilty fancy) that some things, even in Rose with her. Then a breeze flew in among them, “ The House of Life,” however right they As if a window had been opened in heaven
are, had best be kept out of speech. OtherFor God to give his blessing from, before This world of ours should set : (for in my dream
wise, unless on account of the climate, it I thought our world was setting, and the sun appears that clothes and houses are a waste Flared, a spent taper ;) and beneath that gust
of substance. We do not intend to give an The rings of light quivered like forest-leaves.
unjustly broad impression of what is only a Then all the blessed maidens who were there Stood up together, as it were a voice
trait of Mr. Rossetti's poetry, after all, and That called them; and they threw their tresses back, we note it quite as much because it is phe. And smote their palms, and all laughed up at once, nomenal and not quite accountable as beFor the strong heavenly joy they had in them
cause it is objectionable. He has a painter's To hear God bless the world."
joy in beauty, and an indifference to what Or this, from the sonnets :
beauty, or whose, it is ; and his celebration “BEAUTY AND THE BIRD.
of love is chiefly sensuous, but beauty and "She fluted with her mouth as when one sips,
love are both most highly honored at their And gently waved her golden head, inclined
highest by him. Yet here and there, as in Outside his cage close to the window-blind; the sonnet “Nuptial Sleep,” we feel that
we are too few removes from Mr. Whitman's
“SUDDEN LIGHT. alarming frankness, and that it is but a step “I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell : or two from “turning aside and living with
I know the grass beyond the door, the cattle."
The sweet keen smell, In most of Mr. Rossetti's sonnets one is
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore. reminded of the best Italian sonneteers, and
“You have been mine before, of our English poets when the Italians were
How long ago I may not know : their masters. They are more mystical, But just when at that swallow's soar however, and more abundant in conceits,
Your neck turned so, than almost any other English sonnets, and
Some veil did fall, – I knew it all of yore." recall, most vividly of all, the sonnets of
And here is this poetry of the nerves still Dante's Vita Nuova. The fact is particu
more skilfully caught : larly felt in such a one as this.
This is her picture as she was : “LOVE'S BAWBLES.
It seems a thing to wonder on,
As though mine image in the glass "I stood where Love in brimming armfuls bore
Should tarry when myself am gone.
“In painting her I shrined her face Fingered and lipped and proffered the strange store:
Mid mystic trees, where light falls in And from one hand the petal and the core
Hardly at all ; a covert place Savored of sleep; and cluster and curled shoot
Where you might think to find a din Seemed from another hand like shame's salute,–
Of doubtful talk, and a live flame Gifts that I felt my cheek was blushing for.
Wandering, and many a shape whose name "At last Love bade my Lady give the same:
Not itself knoweth, and old dew, And as I looked, the dew was light thereon ;
And your own footsteps meeting you, And as I took them, at her touch they shone
And all things going as they came.” With inmost heaven-hue of the heart of flame.
But then you see he is always better as a And then Love said: 'Lo! when the hand is hers,
painter : Follies of love are love's true ministers.'"
“Watch we his steps. He comes upon
The women at their palm-playing. But the meaning is not often so plain as it
The conduits round the gardens sing is here, and there is a vexing obscurity in And meet in scoops of milk-white stone, the greater part of Mr. Rossetti's poems,
Where wearied damsels rest and hold
Their hands in the wet spurt of gold.” which some other peculiarities of his make us doubt whether it is quite worth while to Of the longer poems in the volume, after explore. We find in him a love for rank, “The Blessed Damozel,” comes, we suplush, palpitating, bleeding, and dripping pose in point of merit, the by-no-means. words, which we think does not mark the blessed damozel “ Jenny,” though we praise finest sense of expression ; and yet, when he it reluctantly. “Dante at Verona” makes has himself well under control, no one can no very impressive figure, and “The Bursay a thing more subtly, as this little poem den of Nineveh” rests heavily upon the may witness.
Have we been saying, on the whole, that “THE WOODSPURGE.
we think Mr. Rossetti no great poet? Let “The wind flapped loose, the wind was still,
us say, then, that we think him, on the whole, Shaken out dead from tree and hill : I had walked on at the wind's will,
a very pleasing one to read once at least : I sat now, for the wind was still.
whether twice, or thrice, or indefinitely, we “Between my knees my forehead was,
do not know, for we write from the first My lips, drawn in, said not Alas!
impression, and not without our modest My hair was over in the grass,
misgivings both of the praise and blame My naked ears heard the day pass.
we have bestowed. The book is a very "My eyes, wide open, had the run
- we are not sure that it Of some ten weeds to fix upon; Among those few, out of the sun,
is very genuine. Yet it has many charms, The woodspurge flowered, three cups in one. and at eighteen, if you are of one sex, or at “From perfect grief there need not be
twenty-two if of the other, you might wish Wisdom or even memory :
to be parted from it only in death. The One thing then learnt remains to me, - trouble is, you cannot always be eighteen or The woodspurge has a cup of three."
twenty-two. Here, also, is an idea, now rather com- In some respects, the comparison is a mon in literature, finely suggested :
strained and unfair one, but we feel that
Mr. Rossetti the poet is to such a poet as The best culture of the world, from the days Keats what Mr. Rossetti the painter is to of Paul down to those of Goethe, affirms an such a painter as Giorgione.
infinite distance between the Divine and human natures ; and if the distance be in
reality infinite, it of course excludes the Lecture - Room Talks : a Series of Familiar pretension of any moral or personal rela
Discourses on Themes of General Chris. tions between Creator and creature. If the tian Experience. By Henry Ward difference between God and man be one of BEECHER. New York : J. B. Ford & Co. kind altogether, and not at all one of degree,
a difference of quality and not of quantity, The purpose of Mr. Beecher's Friday. then manifestly my natural love and appreevening talks is to illustrate religious truth ciation of myself will, in proportion to its out of the depths of men's personal experi strength, only disqualify me to appreciate ence, mainly his own; and the result is a and love God, and I shall require, consevery curious book, showing how great is the quently, to be gifted with some supernatural debt which religion — in one of its most force in order to overcome this limitation. conspicuous modern forms at least — is apt This explains the distrust which Mr. Beechto owe to good animal spirits. No one's er's corpulent, not to say carnal, religiosreligious repute, we are persuaded, would ity provokes in the mind of the ultra-deattract the favorable verdict of a larger num vout. Nothing can be more unaffected or ber of people than Mr. Beecher's own. He helpless than the disgust which his performis an ardent, unaffected believer in the cre ances excite in the rival school of ecclesiastidentials of all the distinctively Protestant cal thought, which sinks religion into a mere churches, while he maintains a tolerant and ritual parade, or makes it consist in propi. friendly attitude towards the Romish com tiating the Divine obduracy by all those apmunion as well. His devotional animus is pliances of dramatic or ostentatious humil. perfectly reverential, although a highly emo ity which men use to placate earthly sovertional nature may now and then slightly eigns. The pallid traditional observances demoralize its utterances. He is never of this school contrast with his robust un. scornful towards unbelief, but patient, gen scrupulous piety, much as last year's with. tle, and persuasive in expostulation and ered leaves contrast with the fresh green of argument. He betrays no Pharisaic symp the spring; and there is no end, accordingly, toms, and evidently takes much more pleas to the misunderstanding between them, unure in the things that make for peace among til the gorgeous spring itself, with all its men than in those that make for division. vivid garniture of green, descends into the In short, Mr. Beecher is an altogether favor sere and crisp October, or consents in its able exponent of our modern religious life. turn to be a thing no longer of life but of And yet, being what he is, we are persuad memory. Such is the fate that overtakes ed that his fine qualities are mainly due to all bright things, to bud and blossom for his exceptional temperament, and imply a while with a promise of immortal fruit, nothing whatever of that subterranean or and then expire in wintry nakedness. Such supernatural leaven which the earlier faith has been the history of ritualism, such will of Christendom used to call regeneration. be the history of our modern evangelicism, Rather let us say that the regeneration out of hay to become stubble, out of living which Mr. Beecher's religious character and wood to become dead bark ; and to fancy activity attest is a regeneration of human itself still ministering to the heaven of men's nature itself, and not of any special subject faith, when in fact it is only coloring and of the nature.
enriching the earth of their imagination. This fact makes it difficult to do exact And yet Mr. Beecher is, in his way, both and ample justice to Mr. Beecher as a rep perfectly explicable and legitimately admiresentative of the actual religious movement rable, inasmuch as he representatively conof the time. For men feel an instinctive stitutes a veritable link between the old distrust of any religion which claims merely faith and the new life of Christendom. He natural sanctions. The reverence of the is neither the base grub of men's servile ritDivine name is so deep-seated in the heart ual devotion, nor yet the soaring butterfly of mankind, that men will believe anything of their emancipated scientific hopes ; he is sooner, in the long run, than that we can simply the golden chrysalis under whose love God naturally, or as we love ourselves. frail transparent envelope you see the actual
struggle going on, by which the moral con by those who make it the insatiable thirst science of mankind is becoming converted of the soul after true divine knowledge, and into æsthetic science, or living perception. treats it as a strictly private or personal He is thus and at once the grave of proph interest of man, anxious to make the best ecy and the cradle of realization. He is, possible bargain for this present world and indeed, a real changeling, now inviting, now the world to come, with One who is every repelling, sympathy; here simulating a pi way his superior, and who yet has somehow ous humility, there a truculent conceitor a controlling voice in his destiny. His self-confidence, just as the alternate needs formulas of the Divine being and character of his representative character compel him are, to be sure, very much shorn of their to do. The very great public worth of Mr. original orthodox lustre and force, from the Beecher, as it seems to us, lies in this repre- necessity of his representative position, and sentative office of his, — consists in his so present accordingly a very odd mixture of faithfully combining these divergent tenden reason and superstition, or scepticism and cies as to make him a true symbol for the dogmatism. But, on the whole, Mr. Beechtime, or real providential man, full of in er theoretically holds that the world has struction and encouragement to those who, already got all the knowledge of God that like the men of old time, still look for it needs, so that no actual revelation of his "new heavens and a new earth, wherein name to sense will ever come to fulfil — and dwelleth righteousness.” If he were a more by fulfilling supplant — the one previously satisfactory or less contradictory person than made to faith. And this he holds even he is alleged to be, — that is, if he were ca. while he is himself all the while practically pable of taking sides with either the death doing nothing else than interpreting faith by or the resurrection that is going on in his sense, or bringing spirit down to flesh. Let own unconscious entrails, -- his providen. all of our readers, then, go without misgivtial significance would at once vanish or ing to Mr. Beecher's book. It will amply subside into the measure of his intelligence, atone for all the intellectual shortcomings of which is by no means a large measure. its author. Its sense, its wit, its pathos, its
But our space is limited. We can as human friendliness, its frank abounding egosure our readers, then, that it will be difficult tism, its boisterous animal spirits, or sento find a juicier repast in the way of religious suous pride of existence, — all these things reading than is here furnished them by Mr. belong to the author himself, and will enBeecher. Mr. Beecher talks religion down dear him to multitudes. But the book reto the level of the most carnal capacity; veals something much beyond the author himand why, forsooth, should he not, if the self, in clearly foreshadowing that scientific carnal mind demands a religious consecra consciousness of the race whose rising tides tion? That it does so, that it feels the will soon submerge the highest landmarks need, even in a vehement manner, of recon of men's ancient faith, and turn the whole ciliation with God, has long been evident to earth into a broad highway of the Lord. thoughtful observers, and Mr. Beecher is Mr. Beecher is at most the friendly duck the inspired apostle exactly fitted to its exi that incubates the egg of destiny ; he is not gency. He exacts nothing from his hearer for a moment to be mistaken for the royal but a good digestion and a clean skin, with bird that lays it. à sane average morality, in order to edu. cate him upon a strict common-sense regimen into full communion with the skies. Society and Solitude. Twelve Chapters. By His disciple need intermit no business avo RALPH WALDO EMERSON. Boston : cation, nor take to his bed for an hour, nor Fields, Osgood, & Co. waste any time in puerile ascetic practices ; but, on the contrary, keep every sail bent LORD CLARENDON said of Lord Falkland, that now carries him onward to fortune or Secretary of State to Charles I., that as his to fame, and yet find himself in the end just house was within ten miles of Oxford, "the as complete as needs be in all the armor most polite and accurate men of that uni. of righteousness, and infinitely more jolly versity frequently resorted and dwelt with than any of our toilsome and tiresome ritu- him, as in a college situated in purer air ; alist nurslings has ever pretended to be. so that his house was a university in less Mr. Beecher shuns all the heights and volume, whither they came not so much for depths of religion, as religion is regarded repose as study."