7 OCTOBER 1882, Page 15


Tiers little volume fitly concludes the long poetical career of its author. From the beginning to the end, his work has been singularly level in merit, nor does this portion of it fall sensibly below the familiar standard. All the characteristic qualities which made him the most popular of the poets of the day are present here ; and if now and then we seem to see signs of en- feebled power and of a less scrupulous care in correction, we have, to counter-balance them, the revelations of personal feeling which give a peculiarly pathetic interest to several of the poems. It is not difficult to construct from Longfellow's works a character that, in its broad outlines at least, closely resembles the poet. His calm and equable temperament, so free from dis- turbances of passion, his wide and liberal sympathies, his large culture, may easily be seen reflected in his verse. What we have been privileged to hear of his home life has no surprises, for those who know him by his books. There never was a poet more consistent with himself ; the writer known to the world, the man known to family and friends, was so truly the same. Yet it is true, at the same time, that there are few or no strictly personal references in his poems. It is these that we find, and that have so touching an interest in the little volume before us. Five short pieces, some sixty or seventy verses, in all, are put together, under the head of Persona Poems, and form a picture of mingled shadow and light which is as interesting as any- thing of the kind in literature. Here is a sonnet, for instance, which briugs up before us with singular distinctness the old

man, as he sits in his study, and muses on what he is, and what he was

" My ]loons.

Sadly, as some old mediaeval knight

Gased at the arms he could no longer wield,—

The sword, two-handed, and the shining shield,

Suspended in the hall, and full in sight,

While secret longings for the lost delight Of tourney or adventure in the field Came over him, and tears but half concealed Trembled and fell upon his beard of white, So I behold these books upon their shelf, My ornaments and arms of other days ; Not wholly useless, though no longer used, For they remind me of my other self, Younger and stronger, and the pleasant ways

In which I walked, now clouded and confused."

There are things here, the unmelodious first line especially,

* la the Harbor. By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. London Routledge and Sous. 1882.

which the poet in his prime would scarcely have passed without correction ; but the sonnet, besides being eminently character- istic of the author, gives one phase of feeling, the half-melan- choly comparison of present and past of which even Cicero's ideal old age must be sometimes conscious. A. higher note is touched in the following :-


As one who long hath fled with panting breath Before his foe, bleeding and near to fall, I turn and sot my back against the wall, And look thee in the face, triumphant Death. I call for aid, and no one answereth ; I am alone with thee, who oonquerest all,

Yet me thy threatening form loth not appal ; For thou art but' a phantom and a wraith. Wounded and weak, sword broken at the hilt,

With armour shattered and without a shield, I stand unmoved; do with me what thou wilt ; I can resist no more, but will not yield. This is no tournament where cowards tilt ; The vanquished hero is victor in the field."

Of the other poems, perhaps the finest is the sonnet on "Pre- sident Garfield." It is needless to quote what is probably familiar to all our readers. Suffice it to say that of all the poets of America who were stirred to sing by this profoundly moving theme, none acquitted himself so well as their veteran chief. The "Poet's Calendar" is a graceful fancy, showing the months as they come in procession, with characteristic form and speech. The best of the twelve, perhaps, is March ; but as it has been frequently quoted, we shall give another as a specimen. The peculiar charm of autumn has seldom been more happily touched than in " October :"—

" My ornaments aro fruits; my garments leaves,

Woven like cloth of gold and crimson dyed ; I do not boast the harvesting of sheaves,

O'er orchards and o'er vineyards I preside. Though on the frigid Scorpion I ride, The dreamy air is full, and overflows With tender memories of the summer-tide, And mingled voices of the doves and crows."

"The Bells of San Blas " adds another to the poet's many reminiscences of travel. No man ever dealt more felicitously with the associations of the past, or appealed more effectively through them to the imagination and feeling of the multitude (for Longfellow, largely cultured as he was, was emphatically a singer of the multitude) ; and this, the last poem that he wrote, is not unworthy of his best mood. We quote the concluding stanzas :—

" 'Oh ! bring us back once more

The vanished days of yore, When the world with faith was filled ; Bring back the fervid zeal, The hearts of fire and steel The hands that believe and build.

Then from our tower again We will send over land and main Our voices of command, Like exiled kings who return To their thrones, and the people learn

That the Priest is lord of the land!'

0, Bells of San Bias, in vain Ye call back the Past again !

The Past is deaf to your prayer ; Out of the shadows of night, The world rolls into light ; It is daybreak everywhere 1"