« PreviousContinue »
SOME OF OUR EARLIER POETESSES,
It is among the dii minores that we discover But the wakening and the sleep of birds, a large proportion of our choicer verse. The
The dawn and shut of day, glory of these lesser singers, when at their best,
And the changes of the forest leaves,
From budding to decay. outshines all but the brightest effulgence of their superiors. Particularly in their scenic “The wilderness is still; the long, song do we repeatedly meet most glowing pas
Long sleep of ages gone,
With its unmoving presence fills sages; and it may not be amiss to here renew
These distant shades and lone; our acquaintance with certain of them. The
And changing dynasties, and thrones poetry of America does not suffer in the hands
Cast down, send hither brief of such men as Gallagher on shore, and Sar- And fainter echoes than the fall gent on the sea. For instance, the opening of
Of Autumn's faded leaf." “Miami Woods,” by the former author:
Such poets are not rare among us; their "The Autumn time is with us! Its approach song, though wasted to no great distance, Was heralded, not many days ago,
come fresh and fragrant as the very forest. But By hazy skies that veiled the brazen sun,
we have promised ourselves to devote this paAnd sea-like murmurs from the rustling corn,
per to the female poets. Maria Gowen, better And low-voiced brooks that wandered drowsily
known as Maria Brooks, and perhaps better By purpling clusters of the juicy grape, Swinging upon the vine. And now, 'tis here,
still as Maria dell' Occidente, has been dead And what a change hath passed upon the face
about thirty-five years. How many of the presOf Nature, where the waving forest spreads, ent generation are aware that this, their counThen robed in deepest green! All through the
trywoman, was pronounced by Southey to be night
“the most impassioned and imaginative of all The subtle frost hath plied its mystic art;
poetesses.” Mrs. Browning has since put Eng. And in the day the golden sun hath wrought True wonders ; and the winds of morn and even
land in a position to dispute the title with us; Have touched with magic breath the changing leaves.
but the star of our own poetess is burning still. And now, as wanders the dilating eye
Beautiful throughout her being, in soul, mind, Athwart the varied landscape, circling far,
and body, gifted with those high and mysteWhat gorgeousness, what blazonry, what pomp rious powers that so rarely take up their abode Of colors, burst upon the ravished sight!
in the flesh, Maria Brooks must be rememHere, where the maple rears its yellow crest,
bered as one of the most wondersul of AmeriA golden glory; yonder, where the oak Stands monarch of the forest, and the ash
can women. A life of sorrow is too often the Is girt with flame-like parasite, and broad
price of unusual endowments, and this sufferThe dogwood spreads beneath, a rolling field ing one paid it in full. At the age of fourteen, Of deepest crimson; and afar, where looms
she was betrothed to a Boston merchant. We The gnarlèd gum, a cloud of bloodiest red.”
have not the space to give her after history.
The reader may learn enough from these four Again, from the “Falls of a Forest Stream,” stanzas, direct from her own heart: by another Western poet. Would that the mightier never wrote after a lesser fashion: “The bard has sung, God never formed a soul
Without its own peculiar mate, to meet "O'er all there broods repose; the breeze
Its wandering half, when ripe to crown the whole Lingers as it goes past;
Bright plan of bliss, most heavenly, most complete. The squirrel's foot sounds loud among
“But thousand evil things there are that hate The leaves by Autumn cast;
To look on happiness; these hurt, impede, And the lonely bird, whose glancing wing
And, leagued with time, space, circumstance, and Flits restlessly among
fate, The boughs, stops doubtfully, and checks
Keep kindred heart from heart, to pine, and pant, The sudden burst of song.
and bleed. "And silently, year after year
"And as the dove to far Palmyra flying, Is ushered in and goes,
From where her native founts of Antioch beam,
Weary, exhausted, longing, panting, sighing,
Lights sadly at the desert's bitter stream
"So many a soul, on life's drear desert faring,
I love to hear the warbling bell,
And sunburnt peasant's wayward song.
“Drive gently on, dark muleteer,
And the light seguidilla frame,
At every close thy mistress' name.
Is penciled on the purest sky; Yumuri;” then he will be prepared to take up
Warm sleeps the bay, the air is balm,
And, soothed to langour, scarce a sigh her master-piece, “Zophiel, or the Bride of Seven.” We shall not attempt a review of this "Escapes for those I love so well, poem, a marvelous mingling of the human and
For those I've loved and left so long;
On me their fondest musings dwell, preterhuman, rich in all the colors of the Orient.
To them alone my sighs belong. Its sweep is all too wide, its passion too subtile, its language too luxurious, for any but the true “On, on, my bark! Blow, southern breeze! lover of poetry. The reader can do no better
No longer would I lingering stay; than to study it as an entirety. We glance at
"Twere better far to die with these
Than live in pleasure far away." the heroine, Egla, a Hebress, and pass on:
More familiar to American readers are the "He who beheld her hand forgot her face
writings of Elizabeth Oakes-Smith. “The SinYet in that face was all beside forgot ;
less Child” and “The Acorn” have given this And he who, as she went, beheld her pace And locks profuse, had said, “Nay, turn thee author a popularity that her other poems, though not.'
as perfect in their way, could not have secured. Placed on a banquet couch' beside the king, Passion is not the first element one meets as
'Mid many a sparkling guest, no eye forbore; one reads her little volume of verse. We the But like their darts, the warrior princes fling, rather seek such words as hight, purity, the Such looks as seem'd to pierce, and scan her o'er
command of an exalted self, with which to pictand o'er ; Nor met alone the glare of lip and eye
ure the impression received. There is certainCharms, but not rare; the gazer, stern and cool, ly power; but the fire that leaped along the Who sought but faults, nor fault or spot could spy; lines of Maria Brooks is here a calm, temper
In every limb, joint, vein, the maid was beautiful, ed light, never dazzling, but always beautiful. Save that her lip, like some bud-bursting flower, It is the halo that surrounds the philosopher,
Just scorned the bounds of symmetry, perchance, the true thinker, trasting not only to the mind, But by its rashness gained an added power, Heightening perfection to luxuriance.
but to the soul, to lead the way to truth. InBut that was only when she smiled, and when
lellectual as she is, the motto of Mrs. Smith is, Dissolved the intense expression of her eye;
"Instinct before intellect." This theory underAnd had her spirit - love first seen her then, lies the sweetness of “The Sinless Child,” and He had not doubted her mortality.”
we find it constantly recurring in all the varied
writings of this pattern authoress. Poems, esPassion is ever varying with this writer, and says, novels, all reveal the same strong reliance each change brings unexpected charm. The upon the inner sense to perceive the true and thought is always high and pure, and the dic- the beautiful. tion forcible. Mrs. Brooks lived for a considerable time in Cuba, and there wrote perhaps the
"The Infinite speaks in our silent hearts,
And draws our being to Himself, as deep better part of her poetry. There, too, she was
Calleth unto deep. He, who all thought imparts, destined to die. Her farewell to this land of
Demands the pledge, the bond of soul to keep; “dark-eyed daughters" comes to us with pecu- But reason, wandering from its fount afar, liar tenderness :
And stooping downward, breaks the subtile chain
That binds it to itself, like star to star, "Alas! I fear my native snows
And sun to sun, upward to God again.
Doubt, once confirmed, tolls the dead spirit's knell,
And man is but a clod of earth, to die
Like the poor beast that in his shambles fell —
More miserable doom than that to lie
In trembling torture, like believing ghosts,
Who, though divorced from good, bow to the Lord
of Hosts." Like fringes from a Tyrian loom. "When the white coffee blossoms swell,
The same voice is again heard in the sonnet, The fair moon full, the evening long, “Mental Solitude.” Various as are the vehicles in which the genius of this author is carried to The reader may have read the “Ministering the world, we find none more suitable than the Spirits;" if so, he is asked to read it again : sonnet. The sonnet is, naturally, less used than those forms of verse where the writer is free
“White-winged angels meet the child
On the vestibule of life, from the restraint it imposes. Genius, how
And they offer to his lips ever, has been pleased to lock it choicest treas
All that cup of mingled strife; ures in the sonnet, from Dante down. May be
Mingled drops of smiles and tears, it will, one day, again be fashionable to read it.
Human hopes, and human fears, We shall not speak so much of Mrs. Smith's Joy and sorrow, love and woe, familiar poems, preferring to ask the reader's
Which the future heart must know. attention to those somewhat neglected. None “Sad the smile the spirits wear, can fail to recognize the music of the upper air
Sad the fanning of their wings, in the sonnet of the “Wayfarers :"
As in their exceeding love
Each a cup of promise brings;
In the coming strife and care, "Earth careth for her own. The fox lies down
They have promised to be there; In her warm bosom, and it asks no more.
Bowed by weariness or grief,
They will minister relief.
"Lady, could the infant look And folds again its plume upon her breast.
In that deep and bitter cup, Ye, too, for whom her palaces arise,
All its hidden perils know, Whose Tyrian vestments sweep the kindred ground,
Would it quaff life's waters up? Whose golden chalice Ivy - Bacchus dies,
Lady, yes, for in the vase, She, kindly mother, liveth in your eyes,
Upward beams an angel face; And no strange anguish may your lives astound.
Deep and anguished though the sigh, But ye, O pale, lone watchers for the true,
There is comfort lurking nighShe knoweth not. In her ye have not found
Times of joy, and times of woe, Place for your stricken heads, wet with the midnight
Each an angel presence know." dew."
The poems of Mrs. Smith are addressed In her dramas we believe Mrs. Smith to be mainly to humanity, but Nature now and then at her hight. The student cannot but rejoice in receives a worthy tribute. A poem of Nature them. The writer does not recall one "pretty" | is selected for the closing quotation. The huline in these writings; and when it is remem
man element will intrude; and, after all, bebered that the author is a woman, the state- comes, perhaps, the prominent feature: ment assumes somewhat of importance. No sparkle, no shimmer, no butterfly grace or spin
"THE FIRST LEAF OF AUTUMN. ning of cobwebs, but sober visions from the
“I see thee fall, thou quivering leaf, of faint and yeldepths of thought. The poet looks in the face
low hue, of her fellow creatures, and puts the one ques
The first to feel the Autumn winds, that, blighting, . tion, “What does it all mean?” She is ever
o'er thee blew. searching, and the results of her inquiry are
Slow-parted from the rocking branch, I see thee
floating by, embodied in language worthy of the subject.
To brave, all desolate and lone, the bleak autumHer peculiar cast of mind is strikingly exhib
nal sky. ited in the little poem entitled “Presages :"
"Alas! the first, the yellow leaf-how sadly falls it
there, "There are who from their cradle bear
To rustle on the crispėd grass, with every chilly air ! The impress of a grief.
It tells of those that soon must drop all withered Deep, mystic eyes, and forehead fair,
from the tree, And looks that ask relief ;
And it hath waked a sadder chord in deathless
"Thou eddying leaf, away, away, there's sorrow in Wove the sad web of life.
Thou soundst the knell of sunny hours, of birds, and "And others come, the gladsome ones,
liquid dew, All shadowless and gay,
And thou dost tell how from the heart the blooms Like sweet surprise of April suns,
of hope decayOr music gone astray;
How each one lingers, loath to part, till all are swept
A charming singer is Sarah Helen Whitman.
She is filled with sweet sounds, and pours them
forth as naturally as the bird. She has not the
If it woke no thought of that starry clime
That lies on the desolate shores of Time, harmony of either of her sisters-in-song before
If it nurtured no delicate flowers to blow mentioned; but she has their melody, and more.
On the hills where the palm and the amaranth grow." Not that she is over light- she is, on the other hand, thoughtful, though we may not say pro- With all our author's cheerfulness, the melanfound. She could write the “Ballads of the choly that will overlie the life of the sweetest Fairies,” and she could also write the “Hours singer has settled upon her own. The struggle of Life.” She is a student, a genuine lover of to free herself from this shadow gave birth to her art; and what she touches she does not her finest poem, “Hours of Life." Mrs. Whitleave until it is finished. Whether her theme man is not only gifted, but learned, and in this be lofty or low, the words follow one another voyage of the soul from darkness into light, like the strokes of a bell in the interpretation erudition is admirably mated with poetic skill. of her thought. She is a lyrist. Her instru
The following few lines may prove acceptable, ment is the lyre, but she can also wake the though they convey but an imperfect idea of grander voices of the organ. The arbutus it the complete poem : self is not more delicate than her description of it:
"In the long noon-tide of my sorrow
I questioned of the eternal morrow; “There's a flower that grows by the greenwood tree,
I gazed in sullen awe In its desolate beauty, more dear to me
Far through the illimitable gloom Than all that bask in the noontide beam,
Down, deepening like the swift maelstrom, Through the long, bright summer, by forest and
The doubting soul to draw
Into eternal solitudes, Like a pure hope, nursed beneath Sorrow's wing,
Where unrelenting silence broods
Around the throne of Law.
"I questioned the dim chronicles Their breath more sweet than the faint perfume
Of ages gone before, That breathes from the bridal orange-bloom.
I listened for the triumph songs
That rang from shore to shore It is not found by the garden wall,
Where the heroes and the conquerers wrought It wreathes no brow in the festal hall,
The mighty deeds of yore, But it dwells in the depths of the shadowy wood,
Where the foot-prints of the martyrs And shines, like a star, in the solitude.
Had bathed the earth in gore, Never did numbers its name prolong,
And the war-horns of the warriors
Were heard from shore to shore."
The search is continued in the legendary haunts But with joy to its cradle the wild-bees come,
of many a land; when “wearied with man's And praise its beauty with drowsy hum, And children love, in the season of Spring,
discordant creed," the poet turns to Nature : To watch for its earliest blossoming."
"A holy light began to stream Mrs. Whitman is always happy in her poems
Athwart the cloud-rifts, like a dream
Of heaven; and lo! a pale, sweet face, of Nature, endowing them usually with a human
Of mournful grandeur and imperial graceinterest.
A face whose mystic sadness seemed to borrow
Immortal beauty from that mortal sorrow“No foliage droops o'er the woodpath now,
Looked on me, and a voice of solemn cheer No dark vines swinging from bough to bough;
Uttered its sweet evangels on my ear.
“Royally the lilies grow Or lines the lid of an Indian shell.
On the grassy leas, And a fairy light, like the firefly's glow,
Basking in the sun and dew Flickers and fades on the grass below."
Swinging in the breeze. The description is continued with like exquis
"Doth the wild fowl need a chart iteness of thought and diction; but the poem is
Through the illimitable air?
Heaven lies folded in my heart; not finished without these lines that fasten it to
Seek the truth that slumbers there the heart :
Thou art Truth's eternal heir. “Yet sad would the spring-time of Nature seem
"Let the shadows come and go, To the soul that wanders 'mid life's dark dream,
Let the stormy north wind blow, Its glory a meteor that sweeps the sky,
Death's dark valley cannot bind thee A blossom that floats on the storm-wind by,
In its dread abode ;
There the morning star shall find thee,
works thereafter attest a richness of intellectual There the living God.
and spiritual growth that is its own reward. Sin and sorrow cannot hide thee,
“Ennerslie” is a poem, come from what source Death and hell cannot divide thee From the love of God."
it may; but, from one hindered by so vital an in
firmity as that of Miss Talley, it is indeed a Many a heart dwells fondly on the memory of triumph. Not only in the weirdness of the a beautiful woman and poet, who, after com
story, but in the harmony of its numbers, it riparatively a short life, purer even than anything vals the creations of that master-artist, Edgar she had written, died at New York some thirty A. Poe. Two stanzas will suffice for illustra
tion: years ago. Mrs. Frances Sargent Osgood was a delightful writer of prose, and a poet of no
“Yet in that tower is a room ordinary power; but her writing is like a veil
From whose fretted oaken dome between us and the author, behind which sits
Weird faces peer athwart the gloom, the woman, surpassing her loftiest utterance.
And there, beside the taper's gleam,
As one that waketh in a dream,
Sits the lord of Ennerslie. "Ah! let our love be still a folded flower, A pure moss rosebud, blushing to be seen,
“Sitteth in his carved chairHoarding its balm and beauty for that hour
From his forehead, pale and fair, When souls may meet without the clay between !
Falleth down the raven hair,
Heavily-heavily; "Let not a breath of passion dare to blow
There is no color in his cheek, Its tender, timid, clinging leaves apart;
His lip is pale—he doth not speakLet not the sunbeam, with too ardent glow,
And rarely doth his footstep break Profane the dewy freshness of its heart!
The stillness of grim Ennerslie." “Ah! keep it folded like a sacred thingWith tears and smiles its bloom and fragrance
The critics are divided concerning the claim
of Mrs. Welby. Poe declares that “she has Still let the modest veil around it cling,
nearly all the imagination of Maria dell' OcciNor with rude touch its pleading sweetness curse. dente, with a more refined taste; and nearly “Be thou content as I, to know, not see
all the passion of Mrs. Norton, with a nicer The glowing life, the treasured wealth within- ear, and, what is surprising, equal art. Very To feel our spirit flower still fresh and free, few American poets are at all comparable with And guard its blush, its smile, from shame and her, in the true poetic sense.” This we believe sin!
to be the one extreme, and as far from the truth "Ah, keep it holy! Once the veil withdrawn
as the converse opinion that she is a happy Once the rose blooms--its balmy soul will fly compound of music and fancy. There was As fled of old in sadness, yet in scorn,
nothing in the life of this joyful woman to call Th' awakened god from Psyche's daring eye." up the passion that suffering awoke in the dark
ened heart of Mrs. Norton; neither could her There are many of our female poets of whom
nature have been as sensitive at the beginning. we should speak; but anything like a complete Passion and imagination do not strike us as review of this division of our subject would characteristics of Mrs. Welby's poetry; but in carry us far beyond the line allotted.
The native grace, spontaneous thought, and simSouth has furnished her quota of women illus- plicity of diction, she stands on a level with the trious in prose and verse. Susan Archer Tal- best of our authoresses. Her “Musings” is, ley, Amelia B. Welby, Catherine Anne Warfield, in our estimation, not only an excellent exAnna Peyre Dinnies, L. Virginia French, Rosahibition of the author's peculiarity of genius, Vestner Johnson-all these are bright names. but a master production of its kind. Having Miss Talley, a true descendant of the Huguenots, read this poem, the reader is at once satisfied with a nature free as the winds and waters that that the writer might accomplish much in other were the playmates of her childhood, is a writer directions. The first two and last two stanzas of decided character and merit. In one partic- must suffice for our quotation: ular, she stands alone. Early in life she lost her hearing; and yet the music of her verse is
"I wandered out one summer night, such as satisfies the most sensitive ear. Shut
'Twas when my years were few,
The wind was singing in the light, out from the world, she turned within herself,
And I was singing, too. and created a world of her own. Literature
The sunshine lay upon the hill, and the arts became daily sustenance; and her
The shadow in the vale,