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with her beauty, and grace, and gentleness, and fulness of feeling, and depth of affection, and blushes of purity, and the tones and looks which only a mother's heart can inspire, these are all poetical. It is not true that the poet paints a life which does not exist. He only extracts and concentrates, as it were, life's ethereal essence, arrests and condenses its volatile fragrance, brings together its scattered beauties, and prolongs its more refined but evanescent joys. And in this he does well; for it is good to feel that life is not wholly usurped by cares for subsistence and physical gratifications, but admits, in measures which may be indefinitely enlarged, sentiments and delights worthy of a higher being. This power of poetry to refine our views of life and happiness, is more and more needed as society advances. It is needed to withstand the encroachments of heartless and artificial manners, which make civilization so tame and uninteresting. It is needed to counteract the tendency of physical science, which, being now sought, not as formerly, for intellectual gratification, but for multiplying bodily comforts, requires a new development of imagination, taste, and poetry, to preserve men from sinking into an earthly, material, Epicurean life.
We should not fulfil our duty were we not to say one word on what has been justly celebrated the harmony of Milton's versification. His numbers have the prime charm of expressiveness. They vary with, and answer to, the depth, or tenderness, or sublimity of his conceptions, and hold intimate alliance with the soul. Like Michael Angelo, in whose hands the marble was said to be flexible, he bends our language, which foreigners reproach with hardness, into whatever forms the subject demands. All the treasures of sweet and solemn sound are at his command. Words, harsh and discordant in the writings of less gifted men, flow through his poetry in a full stream of harmony. This power over language is not to be ascribed to Milton's musical ear. It belongs to the soul. It is a gift or exercise of genius, which has power to impress itself on whatever it touches, and finds or frames, in sounds, motions, and material forms, correspondences and harmonies with its own fervid thoughts and feelings.
We close our remarks on Milton's poetry with observing, that it is characterized by seriousness. Great and various as are its merits, it does not discover all the variety of genius which we find in Shakespeare, whose imagination revelled equally in regions of mirth, beauty, and terror, now evoking spectres, now sporting with fairies, and now ascending the highest heaven of invention.” Milton was
cast on times too solemn and eventful, was called to take part in transactions too perilous, and had too perpetual need of the presence of high thoughts and motives, to indulge himself in light and gay creations, even had his genius been more flexible and sportive. But Milton's poetry, though habitually serious, is always healthful, and bright, and vigorous. It has no gloom. He took no pleasure in drawing dark pictures of life ; for he knew by experience that there is a power in the soul to transmute calamity into an occasion and nutriment of moral power and triumphant virtue. We find nowhere in his writings that whining sensibility and exaggeration of morbid feeling which makes so much of modern poetry effeminating. If he is not gay, he is not spirit-broken. His L'Allegro proves that he understood thoroughly the bright and joyous aspects of nature ; and in his Penseroso, where he was tempted to accumulate images of gloom, we learn that the saddest views which he took of creation are such as inspire only pensive musing or lofty contemplation..
It is objected to his prose writings, that the style is difficult and obscure, abounding in involutions, transpositions, and Latinisms; that his protracted sentences exhaust and weary the mind, and too often yield it no better recompense than confused and indistinct perceptions. We mean not to deny that these charges have some grounds; but they seem to us much exaggerated ; and, when we consider that the difficulties of Milton's style have almost sealed up his prose writings, we cannot but lament the fastidiousness and effeminacy of modern readers. We know that simplicity and perspicuity are important qualities of style ; but there are vastly nobler and more important ones, such as energy and richness, and in these Milton is not surpassed. The best style is not that which puts the reader most easily and in the shortest time in possession of a writer's naked thoughts, but that which is the truest image of a great intellect, which conveys fully and carries farthest into other souls the conceptions and feelings of a profound and lofty spirit. To be universally intelligible is not the highest merit. A great mind cannot, without injurious constraint, shrink itself to the grasp of common passive readers. Its natural movement is free, bold, and majestic, and it ought not to be required to part with these attributes that the multitude may keep pace with it. A full mind will naturally overflow in long sentences, and, in the moment of inspiration, when thick-coming thoughts and images crowd upon it, will often pour them forth in a splendid confusion, dazzling to common readers, but kindling to congenial spirits. There are writings which are clear through their shallowness. We must not expect in the ocean the transparency of the calm inland stream. For ourselves, we love what is called easy reading perhaps too well, especially in our hours of relaxation; but we love, too, to have our faculties tasked by master spirits. We delight in long sentences, in which a great truth, instead of being broken up into numerous periods, is spread out in its full proportions, is irradiated with variety of illustration and imagery, is set forth in a splendid affluence of language, and flows like a full stream, with a majestic harmony which fills at once the ear and the soul. Such sentences are worthy and noble manifestations of a great and far-looking mind, which grasps at once vast fields of thought, just as the natural eye takes in, at a moment, wide prospects of grandeur and beauty. We would not, indeed, have all compositions of this character. Let abundant provision be made for the common intellect. Let such writers as Addison an honored
“bring down philosophy from heaven to earth.” But let inspired genius fulfil its higher function of lifting the prepared mind from earth to heaven. Impose upon it no strict laws, for it is its own best law. Let it speak in its own language, in tones which suit its own ear. Let it not lay aside its natural port, or dwarf itself that it may be comprehended by the surrounding multitude. If not understood and relished now, let it place a generous confidence in other ages, and utter oracles which futurity will expound.
Danie! Webster was born in Salisbury, N. H., January 18, 1782. His early education was obtained in district schools, under great difficulties. At the age of fourteen he was sent to Phillips Academy, in Exeter, N. H., but remained only a year, on account of the poverty of the family. He pursued his studies under the care of a clergyman in a neighboring town, and entered Dartmouth College in 1797. He finished his course with credit, having acquired a tolerable knowledge of the classical languages, as well as of history and Eng. lish literature. He was the foremost man of his class, though not the highest in academic rank. He was preceptor of an academy in Fryeburg, Me., for a short time, and then commenced the study of law in his native town. He completed his preliminary legal education in the office of Christopher Gore, in Boston, was admitted to the bar in 1805, and, returning to New Hampshire, commenced practice in Boscawen, and afterwards in Portsmouth. He took a prominent place in his profession at once, and in 1812 was elected a member of Congress. In 1816 he declined a re-election, and removed to Boston. For seven years he devoted himself to his profession, and soon established his reputation as the ablest advocate in the United States. It was in this period that he distinguished himself in the famous case of Dartmouth College against the usurpations of the New Hampshire legislature. Nor was his intellectual activity confined to legal discussions: the two hundredth anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims (1820) gave him an opportunity such as few orators have had, and
his genius illustrated the themes it suggested in sentences that are as immortal as the memory of the event.
In 1822 he was elected a representative in Congress from the Boston district, in which place he remained until, in 1828, he was chosen a senator.
He continued to represent the state in the Senate for twelve years, when he was appointed secretary of state by President Harrison. During these eighteen years of public life his fame was steadily rising, spreading, deepening, until he was no longer the favorite of Boston merely, but was everywhere acknowledged the foremost of constitutional lawyers and of parliamentary debaters, and without a peer in the higher fields of classic and patriotic oratory. The oration at the laying of the corner-stone of Bunker Hill Monument in 1825, the euiogy upon Adams and Jefferson in 1326, the speech upon the trial of the murderers of Stephen White, and the reply to Hayne, of South Carolina, in the debate upon “nullification,” in 1830, are beyond parallel in this century. Eloquence, we are told, is no longer fashionable in England: but it has been nearly a hundred years since that country has witnessed such a magnificent display from any of its public men as this generation remembers in the many great efforts of Webster.
In 1845 he returned to the Senate, and remained in that position until 1850, when he was appointed secretary of state by President Fillmore. He resigned his office in the summer of 1852, on account of failing health, and retired to his country-seat in Marshfield, where he died October 24 of the same year.
Mr. Webster and his friends had considered, with some reason, that his talents and services entitled him to the nomination of his party for the presidency. His claims were pressed strongly at the national convention of the Whig party, in 1848, but he was set aside that his party might avail itself of the military reputation of General Taylor. In 1850 he made a speech in favor of the Compromise measures, including the Fugitive Slave Law, which had the effect of alienating many of his warmest friends throughout the northern states, and was the commencement of a fierce controversy that embittered the remainder of his life. In 1852 the Whig National Convention again set him aside, and nominated General Scott for president; and it was noticeable that the members from the southern states, for whose interests M1. Webster had sacrificed so much, hardly gave him the poor compliment of a single vote. It did not need this instance, however, to assure us that there is no sentiment of gratitude in politics.
The intellect of Mr. Webster had a firm basis of common sense. His grasp of facts, and his
power of arranging them in argument, was prodigious. In abstract reasoning he was not so strong; it was when his feet were planted upon the earth that he showed his power. His imagination re-enforced and illuminated his reason ; his conceptions and his figurative illustrations often approached the sublime ; but he had little of the fancy and few of the graces that adorn the decorous speech of an inferior order of men. His style was the natural expression of his great thoughts; it was based on good models, but it was imitated from no master, and it is itself beyond the reach of imitation. No rhetorician could forge a characteristic Websterian sentence, any more than he could palm off a fabricated Shakspearian line. The conceptions of the orator, like those of the poet, are cast into their enduring forms while red hot. His delivery was in perfect keeping with what he had to utter - full of majesty, and fitted less to please than to command. His manner had a wonderful impressiveness, that reminded us of the saying (attributed to Emerson) that it makes a vast difference in the force of a sentence whether there is a man behind it or no.
This man, so highly endowed, sent into the world with such a form, such a face, such a presence, would have appeared to be the consummate flowering of our race ; and we must lament that he could not see, as we now see, how exalted was his position as a man of genius, and how little lustre his name could receive from any official title.
In the light of the tremendous events of the last ten years, the history of the attempts at conciliation, previous to 1860, is full of instruction. The topic belongs to the historian and the moralist, rather than to the literary critic; but some mention of it could not be omitted in any fair view of Webster's career as a public man. Let us be thankful for the grand works he has left, and rejoice that, in spite of some errors, cruelly expiated, we find in his character so much that is worthy of admiration. His works were published, with a memoir by Edward Everett, in six volumes. Two volumes of his correspondence have been published since ; also a biography, in one volume, by George T. Curtis.
ADDRESS TO THE SURVIVORS OF THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL.
VENERABLE men : You have come down to us from a former generation. Heaven has bounteously lengthened out your lives that you might behold this joyous day. You are now where you stood fifty years ago this very hour, with your brothers and your neighbors, shoulder to shoulder in the strife of your country. Behold how altered! The same heavens are indeed over your heads; the same ocean rolls at your feet; but all else, how changed! You hear now no roar of hostile cannon ; you see no mixed volumes of smoke and flame rising from burning Charlestown. The ground strewed with the dead and the dying ; the impetuous charge; the steady and successful repulse; the loud call to repeated assault; the summoning of all that is manly to repeated resistance; a thousand bosoms freely and fearlessly bared in an instant to whatever of terror there may be in war and death, — all these you have witnessed, but you witness them no more. All is peace. The heights of yonder metropolis, its towers and roofs, which you then saw filled with wives, and children, and countrymen in distress and terror, and looking with unutterable emotions for the issue of the combat, have presented you to-day with the sight of its whole happy population, come out to welcome and greet you with a universal jubilee. Yonder proud ships, by a felicity of position appropriately lying at the foot of this mount, and seeming fondly to cling around it, are not means of annoyance to you, but your country's own means of distinction and defence. All is peace; and God has granted you this sight of your country's happiness ere you slumber in the grave for
He has allowed you to behold and to partake the reward of your patriotic toils, and he has allowed us, your sons and countrymen, to meet you here, and, in the name of the present generation, in the name of your country, in the name of liberty, to thank you.
But, alas ! you are not all here. Time and the sword have thinned your ranks. Prescott, Putnam, Stark, Brooks, Read, Pomeroy, Bridge ! our eyes seek for you in vain amidst this broken band. You are gathered to your fathers, and live only to your country in her grateful remembrance, and your own bright example. But let us not too much grieve that you have met the common fate of men.