BRYANT'S POEMS, EDITED BY WASHINGTON IRVING.
THE poems of the American poet BRYANT, are with peculiar pro- priety edited by WASHINGTON IRVING, and dedicated to SAMUEL 'ROGERS—a spirit kindred to both, as they are in some measure to each other. BRYANT is a poet of great elegance of expression, of much gentleness of feeling, and possessing an imagination of that sober. richness, which serves to spread a glow over all the objects he selects for contemplation. With this, he is not deficient in a certain swelling spirit, which responds to the more glorious tones of the lyre : but this is passion—and passion only occasionally =flashes across his composed though rather pensive genius. A sly . • • vein of humour, and a pleasant play of the fancy, are properties
not inconsistent with the meeker faculties of the poet. COWPER, the mildest of men, was a humorist; and LINING, the most flowing and equable of prose-writers, never seems more thoroughly in his element than when revelling among humorous fancies. The resem- blance of BRYANT to Ro GERS is not only in the richness of the sunset glow, which casts a warm but dying light over all his pages. BRY- ANT also belongs to that school of English poets who detest excess, who hate carelessness, who study their verse, and do not spill it merely, scattering rhyme here and prose there : he is a correct and polished writer—one who holds that there is art in poetry, as well as inspiration. He does not take words and things to make "ducks and drakes" of, as listeth an idle fancy ; but enters the temple of the Muse with feelings of devotion, and a profound respect for the worship he has chosen. This is the spirit of a man who feels he is not doing a thing for the passing hour, but takes a large view of his calling, and gives both the past and the future a place in con- nexion with his efforts. Such men improve. BRYANT is not merely a rhymester because rhyming may have been the fashion, or because he is young, or in love,—he is a poet by profession of faith ; and we are much mistaken if in the course of his career he does not give birth to something that" will not die." The poems in the volume before us have chiefly appeared in various American periodicals, and are now collected by Mr. iltAriNG. Many of them are productions of the most pleasing kind ; and are by us liked the better that there are very few not
distinguished by a national hue. None but an American, for in- stance, would or could have written the "Indian Girl's Lament."
An Indian girl was sitting where Her lover, slain in battle, slept; Her maiden veil, her own black hair, Came down o'er eyes that wept; And wildly, in her woodland tongue, This sad and simple lay she sung: "I've pulled away the shrubs that grew Too close above thy sleeping head, And broke the forest boughs that threw Their shadows o'er thy bed, That, shining from the sweet south-west, The sunbeams might rejoice thy rest., It was a weary, weary road, That led thee to the pleasant coast, Where vhou, in his serene abode, Hast met thy father's ghost ; Where everlasting autumn lies On yellow woods and sunny skies.
'Twas I the broidered mocsen made, That shod thee for that distant land; 'Twos I thy bow and arrows laid
Beside thy still cold hand—
Thy bow in many a battle bent, Thy arrows never vainly sent.
With wampun belts I crossed thy breast, And wrapped thee in the hison's hide, And laid the food that pleased thee best In plenty by thy side, And decled thee bravely, as became A warrior of illustrious name.
Thou'rt happy now, for thou hast past
The long dark journey of the grave,
And in the land of light, at last,
Bast joined the good and brave—
A mid the flushed and bairn). air, The bravest and the loveliest there.
Yet oft, thine own dear Indian maid,
Even there, thy thoughts will earthward stray—
To her who sits where thou wert laid, And weeps the hours away, Yet almost can her grief forget To think that thou dost love her yet.
And thou, by one of those still lakes That in a shining cluster lie,
On which the south wind scarcely breaks
The image of the sky, A bower tor thee and me Mist made Beneath the many-coloured shade.
And thou (lost wait and watch to meet My spirit sent to join the blest, And, wondering what detains my feet From tile bright land of rest, Dost seOm in every sound, to hear The rustling of my footsteps near."
In the same spirit is the following fragment, from a poem en- titled "The Indian's Burying-place.' it is supposed to be visited by one of the last of the "fading race"—
Time sheep are on the slopes around, The cattle in the meadows fired, And labourers turn the crumbling ground, Or drop the yellow seed; And prancing steeds, in trappings gay, Whirl the bright chariot o'er the way.
Methinks it were a nobler sight
To see these vales in woods arrayed—
Their summits in the golden light, Their trunks in grateful shade ; And herds of (leer, that bounding go, O'er rills and prostrate trees below.
And then to mark the lord of all—
The forest hero, trained to wars, Quivered and plumed, and lithe and tall,
And seamed with glorious sears—
Walk forth, amid his reign, to dare The wolf, and grapple with the bear.
This bank, in which the dead were laid, Was sacred when its soil was ours : Hither the artless Indian maid Brought wreaths of beads and flowers; And the grey chief and gifted seer Worshipped the God of thunders here.
But now the wheat is green and high
On clods that hid the warrior's breast; And scattered in the furrows lie The weapons of his rest ; And there, in the loose sand is thrown Of his large arm the mouldering bone.
Ah ! little thought the strong and brave
Who bore their lifeless chieftain forth— Or the young wife, that weeping gave
Her first-born to the earth-- That the pale race, who waste us now, Among their bones should guide the plough.
The "Hunter's Serenade" is likewise a true American poem. The "Song of Pitcaim's Island" is not national; though perhaps the simplicity and beauty of its sentiments were more likely to be infused into a Transatlantic spirit than into any other.
Come take our boy, and we will go
Before our cabin door ;
The winds shall bring us, as they blow, The murmurs of the shore;
And we will kiss his young blue eyes,
And I willsing him, as he lies, Songs that were made of yore: I'll sin.' in his delighted ear
The island-lays thou lovest to hear.
And thou, while stammering I repeat, Thy countty's tongue shall teach ; 'Tis not so soft, but for more sweet Than say own native speech; For thou no other tongue didst know, When, scarcely twenty moons ago, Upon Tahit6's beach, Thou cattiest to woo ins to be thine, With many a speaking look and sign.
I knew thy meaning—thou didst praise My eyes, my locks of jet;
Ah ! well for me they won thy gaze,—
But thine were fairer yet!
I'm glad to see my infant wear
Thy soft blue eyes and sunny hair;
Anti when my sight is met By his Iyhite brow and blooming cheek, I feel a joy I cannot speak.
Come, talk of Europe's maids with me, Whose necks and cheeks, they tell, Outshine the beauty of the sea, White foam and 'crimson shell.
I'll shape like theirs my simple dress, And bind like them each jetty tress, A sight to please thee well; And for my dusky brow will braid A bonnet like an English maid.
Come, for the soft, low sunlight calls— We lose the pleasant hours; 'Tie mealier than these cottage walls— That seat unong the flowers.
And I will learn of thee a prayer To Him who gave a home so fair,
A lot so blest as ours—
The God who made for thee and me
This sweet lone isle amid the sea.
The-poem entitled "To the Evening Wind," is full of soothing images. We extract only this natural touch of pathos—
The faint old man shall lean his silver head To feel thee ; thou shalt lass the child asleep,
And dry the moistened curls that overspread His temples, while his breath Lug grows more deep ; And they who stand about the sick man's bed Shall joy to listen to thy distant sweep,
And softly part his curtains to allow Thy visit grateful to his burning brow.
Mr. BRYANT is a student of the literature of the Peninsula ; and there occur in the volume many pleasing translations from the Spanish and Portuguese. Sometimes the poet does not translate, but only adopts the spirit of the author he is studying. " The Maid of Peru" is an admirable imitation of the Spanish Ballad.
Where olive-leaves were twinkling in every wind that blew,
There sat beneath the pleasant shade a damsel of Peru;
Betwixt the slender boughs, as they opened to the air,
Came glimpses of her ivory neck and of her glossy hair ; And sweetly rang her silver voice within that shady nook,
As from the shrubby glen is heard the sound of hidden brook.
'Tis a song of love and valour, in the noble Spanish tongue, That once upon the sunny plains of Old Castile was sung; When, from their mountain holds, on the Moorish rout below, Had rushed the Christians like a flood, and swept away the foe.
Awhile that melody is still, and then breaks forth anew A wilder rhyme, a livelier note, of freedom and Peru.
A white hand parts the branches, a lovely face looks forth, And bright dark eyes gaze steadfastly and sadly towards the north. Thou lookst in vain, sweet maiden, the sharpest sight would fail To spy a sign of human life abroad in all the vole; For the noon is coming on, and the sunbeams fiercely beat, And the silent hills and forest-tops seem reeling in the heat.
That white hand is withdrawn, that fair sad face is gone; But the music of that silver voice is flowing sweetly on, Not as of late, in cheerful tones, but mournfully and low;
A ballad of a tender maid heartbroken long ago—
Of him who died in battle, the youthful and the brave, And her who died of sorrow upon his early grave.
But see, along that mountain's slope, a fiery horseman ride; Mark his torn plume, his tarnished belt, the sabre at his side. His spurs are buried rowel deep, he rides with loosened rein, There's blood upon his charger's flank, and foam upon his mane;
He speeds towards the olive-grove, along that shaded hill—
God shield the helpless maiden there, if he should mean her ill!
And suddenly that song has ceased, and suddenly I hear A shriek sent up amid the shade—a shriek, but not of fear. For tender accents follow, and tenderer pauses speak The overflow of gladness, when words are all too weak :
" I lay my good sword at thy feet, for now Peru is free, And I am come to dwell beside the olive-grove with thee."
Of the humorous poems, or rather the quaint and pleasant satires, we prefer "The Spring in Town," and the one entitled ".To a Musquito." The latter reminds us of an exquisite little piece of folly in HABINGTON'S CaStara—"Toa Flea that had bitten Castara's hand."
Besides the poems of the description we have mentioned, there are some of a sacred kind, conceived in a fine tone of simple gran- deur. Of these, an example occurs in "No man knoweth his Sepulchre." The whole volume is, indeed, well worth the atten- tion of the lover of poetry, more especially during the present -dearth of his favourite aliment.