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But, oh! to-day Lie all harmonious and lovely things Close to my spirit, and a while it seems As if the blue sky were enough of Heaven ! My thoughts are like tense chords that give their music At a chance breath; a thousand delicate hands Are harping on my soul! no sight, no sound, But stirs me to the keenest sense of pleasure,Be it no more than the wind's cautious tread, The swaying of a shadow, or a bough, Or a dove's flight across the silent sky. Oh, in this sunbright sabbath of the heart, How many a prayer puts on the guise of thought, An angel unconfess'd! Its rapid feet, That leave no print on memory's sands, tread not Less surely their bright path than choral hymns And litanies. I know the praise of worlds, And the soul's unvoiced homage, both arise Distinctly to His ear who hol all nature Pavilion'd by His presence; who has fashion'd With an impartial care, alike the star That keeps unpiloted its airy circle, And the sun-quicken'd germ, or the poor moss The building swallow plucks to line her nest.
A POET'S LOVE. The stag leaps free in the forest's heart,
But thy step is lighter, my love, my bride!
The plumy ferns on the mountain's side;
In the wind that stirreth the shadowy pine,
Never was voice so sweet as thine !
And thy breath astir in my floating hair;
In the deep still woods, and the sunny air ; For thou lookest down from the bending skies, And the earth is glad with thy laughing eyes.
When my heart is sad, and my pulse beats low,
Who bendeth over my noonday rest?
Laying my head to her gentle breast?
For the lightest sound of thy coming foot,
For the faintest chord of thy vine-strung lute!
GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS.
Tuis brilliant and fascinating writer, and graceful and eloquent orator, is the son of George Curtis, of Providence, Rhode Island, and was born in that city in 1824. At six years of age, he was placed at a school near Boston, and after being there five years, he returned to Providence, where he pursued his studies till he was fifteen, when his father removed to New York. Here he entered a large mercantile house; but, after remaining in it a year, he returned to his studies for two years, when, at eighteen, he joined the celebrated Association at Brook Farm, West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Here ho remained a year and a half, and then, after spending the winter in New York, being still enamored of the country, he went to Concord, Massachusetts, and lived in a farmer's family, working hard a portion of every day upon the farm, enjoying the society of Emerson, Hawthorne, and others of kindred literary tastes, and perfecting himself in various literary accomplishments.
In 1846, Mr. Curtis sailed for Europe, and after visiting, with a scholar's eye, all the Southern countries, went to Berlin, to pursue his studies, and, in 1848, matriculated at the University. After this, he travelled through Italy again, visited Sicily, Malta, and the East, and returned home in the summer of 1850. In the autumn of that year, he published the Nile Notes of a Horoadji, a great part of which was written on the Nile. In 1852, The Howadji in Syria appeared, and also Lotus-Eating, a Summer Book; and the same year be became connected with “ Putnam's Magazine," and wrote that series of brilliant satiric sketches of society called The Potiphar Papers, which were afterwards collected and published in a volume.
In the winter of 1853, Mr. Curtis entered the field as a lecturer, and was invited to lecture in different parts of the country. His success was all that bis most ardent friends could desire; for, to a most graceful and finished style, a pure taste, and a fine fancy, he adds a gracefulness of delivery that gives to all his public efforts a charm that captivates his audience. In 1854, he delivered a poem before a literary society at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. In 1856, he took a very active part in the “Fremont campaign," speaking constantly, through the summer, with great effect. Those who had the good fortune to hear any of these addresses will not soon forget them, uniting as they did the soundest argument to a chaste and brilliant oratory. In August of that year, he delivered an oration before the literary societies of Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, on The Duty of the American Scholar to Politics and the Times.
In the spring of 1856, Mr. Curtis did what it is never wise for a scholar to do,-risked all his means in mercantile business. In November of the same year, he was married to the daughter of Francis G. Shaw, eldest son of the late Robert G. Shaw, of Boston. In the spring of 1857, the house with which he was connected became embarrassed, and he was obliged to take an active part in the management of its affairs. But it was too late : the ship was too leaky; and in August, just at the beginning of the crisis, she went down with all on board. He lost his all; but, like Milton, he
“ did not bate
One jot of heart or hope," but is now nobly recovering himself with his pen and living voice.
JERUSALEM OR ROME? To any young man, or to any man in whose mind the glow of poetic feeling has not yet died into the light of common day," the first view of a famous city is one of the memorable epochs of life. Even if you go directly from common-place New York to common-sense London, you will awake in the night with a hushed feeling of awe at being in Shakspeare's city, and Milton's, and Cromwell's. More agreeable to your mood is the heavy moulding of the banqueting-room of Whitehall than the crystal splendors of the palace in the park. Because over the former the dusk of historical distance is already stealing, removing it into the romantic and ideal realm.
But more profound, because farther removed from the criticism of contemporary experience, is the interest of the Italian cities. They represent characteristic epochs of human history. Rome,
Florence, Venice, are not names merely, but ideas. They were the capitals of power that in various ways and degrees ruled the world.
Deeper still is the feeling that hallows the cities beyond Italy, -for beyond Italy are Athens and Jerusalem.
Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem,--the physical, the intellectual, and the moral, do we long doubt which is the greatest ?
The Art of Greece is still supreme. The Empire of Rome has never been rivalled. But the spirit which has inspired Art with a sentiment profounder than the Greek,—the Faith which has held sway subtler and more universal than the Roman,—are they not the spirit and the faith that make Jerusalem, El Khuds, or the holy, because they were best illustrated and taught by a life whose influence commenced there?
More cognate to ready sympathy, more appealing to the sensuous imagination, is the pomp of Imperial Rome, as, with camp-fires burning from the Baltic to the Euxine, and from farthest Euphrates to the Pillars of Hercules, its gorgeous confusion of barbaric splendor and Grecian elegance gleams athwart the past.
Fascinated by that splendor, as by auroral fires streaming through the sky,- recognising the forms of its law, its society, and its speech inherent in his own,-marking over all historic lands and submerged in African solitudes the foot-prints of its triumphant march, the young student, revering in Rome the might of his own human genius, going out to possess the earth, reaches the gates of its metropolis with an ardor that merges
Hence were hurled the thunderbolts that shook the world, and whose vibrations tremble yet. Hither comes the poet, the philosopher, the statesman, the scholar; and in no city of the world was there ever assembled so much human genius in every kind, and in every time, as in Rome.
Yet against the claims of its superb Italian rival, what has the Syrian city to show?
Not Solomon in all his glory; for Hadrian was more magnificent, if less wise. Nor the visible career of the Jews, whose empire was greatest under Solomon, but was then only a part of a later Roman province. Jerusalem does not rival Rome with the imperial pomp of its recollections, nor by its artistic achievements,
- for its only notable remains are part of the foundation of Solomon's Temple, while the most imposing ruins of Syria are the Roman relics of Palmyra and Baalbec. Nay, Romc came from Italy, and, scattering the Jews, destroyed Jerusalem.
To the myriads of men who throng whole centuries of history, -as Xerxes' army the plains of Greece,-headed by the eagle and asserting Rome, Jerusalem opposes a single figure, bearing a palm-branch, and riding upon an ass into the golden gate of the city. That palm is the magic wand which shall wave the discordant world into harmony; that golden gate is the symbol of the way which only he can enter who knows the magic of the palm. That single figure is the most eminent in history. The highest hope of Art is to reveal his beauty,—the sublimest strains of Literature are the prophecies and records of his career,—the struggle of Society is to plant itself upon the truth he taught.
In the vision of the Past, as upon an infinite battle-field, that single figure meets the might of Rome, and the skill of Greece, and the wit of Egypt, and the flame of their glory is paled before his glance. He rode in at the golden gate, and was crucified between thieves. But it is the victim which consecrates the city. In vain the heroism of the Republic and the purple splendor of the Emperor would distract imagination and give a deeper charm to Rome. The cold auroral fires stream anew to the zenith, as we sit in the starlight at the tent-door. But a planet burns through them brighter than they; and we no longer discuss which city we approach with the profoundest interest.
THE DUTY OF THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR."
Do you ask me our duty as scholars ? Gentlemen, thought, which the scholar represents, is life and liberty. There is no intellectual or moral life without liberty. Therefore, as a man must breathe and see before he can study, the scholar must have liberty, first of all; and as the American scholar is a man and has a voice in his own government, so his interest in political affairs must precede all others. He must build his house before he can live in it. He must be a perpetual inspiration of freedom in politics. He must recognise that the intelligent exercise of political rights, which is a privilege in a monarchy, is a duty in a republic. If it clash with his ease, his retirement, his taste, his study, let it clash, but let him do his duty. The course of events is incessant, and when the good deed is slighted, the bad deed is done.
Scholars, you would like to loiter in the pleasant paths of study. Every man loves his ease,,loves to please his taste. But into how many homes along this lovely valley came the news of Lexington and Bunker Hill, eighty years ago, and young men like us, studious, fond of leisure, young lovers, young husbands, young brothers, and sons, knew that they must forsake the wooded hill
From an oration delivered on Tuesday, August 5, 1856, before the Literary Societies of Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.