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of women. Smith's females are houris in a Mahometan heaven; those of Yendys are angels in the Paradise of our God. Smith's emblem of woman is a rich and luscious rose, bending to every breath of wind, and wooing every eye; that of Yendys is a star looking across gulfs of space and galaxies of splendor, to one chosen earthly lover, whose eyes alone respond to the mystic messages of the celestial bride. Smith's idea of love, though not impure, is passionate ; that of Yendys is more Platonic than Plato's own. We think that the true, the human, the poetic, and the Christian idea of love, includes and compounds the sensuous and the spiritual elements into one-a tertium quid-diviner, shall we say? because more complete than either; and which Milton and Coleridge (in his “Love") have alone of our poets adequately represented. Shelley, like Yendys, is too spiritual ; Keats, like Smith, is too sensuous. Shakspeare, we think, makes woman too much the handmaid, instead of the companion, of man: his yielding, bending shadow, not his sister and friend :
"Stronger Shakspcare felt for man alone.” Ere closing this critique, we have to mention one or two conclusions in reference to Yendys' genius, which this book has deeply impressed on our minds. First, his forte is not the drama or the lyrical poem. The lyrics in this poem are numerous, but none of them equal to Smith's " Garden and Child," or to his own “Winter Night,” in “The Roman;" none of them entirely worthy of his genius. Nor is he strikingly dramatic in the management of his scenes and situations. He should give us next, either a great prose work, developing his peculiar theory of things, in the bold, rich, and eloquent style of those articles he contributed to “The Palladium," "The Sun,” and “The Eclectic;" or he should bind himself up to the task he has already in his eye, that of constructing a great epic poem. We know no writer of the age who, if he will but clarify somewhat his style, and select some stern, high, continuous narrative for his theme, is so sure to succeed in this forsaken walk of the Titans. The poet who has coped with the Coliseum, the most magnificent production of man's art, and with Chamouni, the grandest of God's earthly works, need shrink from no topic, however lofty; nay, the loftier his theme the better.
NO. 11. -ALEXANDER SMITH.
THERE is something exceedingly sweet but solemn in the strain of thought suggested by the appearance of a new and true poet. Well is his uprise often compared to that of a new star arising in the midnight. What is he? Whence has he come? Whither is he going? And how long is he to continue to shine ? Such are questions which are alike applicable to the planet and to the poet. A new poet, like a new planet, is another proof of the continued existence of the creative energy of the “Father of Spirits." He is a new messenger and mediator between the Infinite and the race of man. Whither rising or falling, retreating or culminating, in aphelion or in perihelion, he is continually an instructor to his kind. There is never a moment when he is not seen by some one, and when to be seen is, of course, to shine. And if his mission be thoroughly accomplished, the men of future ages are permitted either to share in the shadow of his splendor, or to fill their empty urns with the relict radiance of his beams.
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever;"
so a poet, a king of beauty, is for ever a joy or a terror; a gulf of glory opening above, or an abyss of torment and mystery gaping below.
Tis verily a fearful gift that of poetic genius; and fearful, especially, through the immortality which waits upon all its genuine inspirations, whatever be their moral purpose and tendency. Thus, a Marlowe is as immortal as a Milton—a Congreve as a Goldsmith-a Byron or Burns as a Wordsworth or James Montgomery—an Edgar Poe as a Longfellow or a Lowell. Just look at the dreadful, the unquenchable, the infernal life of Poe's “ Lyrics and Tales." No one can read these without shuddering, without pity, and sorrow, and condemnation of the author, without a half-muttered murmur of inquiry at his Maker—" Why this awful anomaly in thy works ?" And yet no one can avoid reading them, and reading them again, and hanging over their lurid and lightning-blasted pages, and thinking that this wondrous being wanted only two things to have made him the master of American minds virtue and happiness. And there steals in another thought, which deepens the melancholy and eternises the interestwhat would Poe Now give to have lived another life than he did, and to have devoted his inestimable powers to other works than the convulsive preparation of such terrible trifles—such nocturne nugaras constitute his remains ? And still moro empathically, what would Swift and Byron now exchange for the liberty of suppressing their fouler and more malignant works-works which, nevertheless, a world so long as it lies in wickedness shall never willingly let die ?
Alas! it is too late ; Elpycoto, as the Greek play has it. The shaft of genius once ejaculated can be recalled no more, be it aimed at Satan or at God. And hence in our day the peculiar propriety, nay, necessity, of prefacing or winding up our praise of poetic power by such a stern caution to its possessor as this :"Be thou sure that thy word, whether that of an angel or a fiend, whether openly or secretly blasphemous, whether loyal or rebellious to the existence of a God and of his great laws, whether in favor of the alternative Despair or the alternative Revelation, the only two possible, shall endure with the endurance of earth, and shall remain on thy head either a halo of horror or a crown of glory."
Claiming, as we do, something of a paternal interest in Alexander Smith, we propose, in the remainder of this paper, first characterizing his peculiar powers, and secondly, adding to this estimate our most sincere and friendly counsel as to their future exercise.
It is a labor of love; for ever since the straggling, scratching MS., along with its accompanying letter, reached our still study, we have loved the author of the “Life Drama ;” and all the more since we met him in his quiet yet distinct, modest yet manly personality. And perhaps the opportunities of observation which have been thus afforded may qualify us for speaking with greater certainty and satisfaction, both to ourselves and others, than the majority of his critics, about the principal elements of his genius.
We may first, however, glance at some of the charges which even his friendly critics have brought against him. He has
been accused of over sensuousness. The true answer to this is to state his youth. He is only twenty-five years of age, and wrote all those parts of the poem to which objections have been made when he was two or three years younger. Every youth of genius must be sensuous; and if he write poetry, ought, in truth to his own nature, to express it there. Of course we distinguish between the sensuous and the sensual. Smith is never sensual; and his most glowing descriptions, no more than those in the “Song of Songs,” tend to excite lascivious feelings. Female beauty is a natural ob. ject of admiration, and a young poet filled with this passionate feeling, were a mere hypocrite if he did not voice it forth in verse, and, both as an artist and as an honest man, will feel himself compelled to do so. Had Wordsworth himself written poetry at that period of his life to which he afterwards so beautifully refers in the lines
"O happy time of youthful lovers,
O balmy time, in which a love-knot on a lady's brow
Seem'd fairer than the fairest star in heaven"-it had perhaps been scarcely less richly flesh-colored than the “Life Drama.” In general, however, the true poet, as he advances in his life and in his career, will become less and less sensuous in feeling and in song. Woman's form will retreat farther back in the sky of his fancy, and woman's idcal will come more prominently forward; she will “ die in the flesh, to be raised in the spirit;" and this inevitable process, through which even Moore passed, and Keats was passing at his death, shall yet be realised in Alexander Smith, if he continue to live, and his critics consent to wait. If our readers will compare Shelley's conception of woman, in his juvenile novels is Zastrozzi" and the “ Rosicrucian," with Beatrice Cenci, or the graceful imaginary female forms which play like creatures of the elements in the “Prometheus," he will find another striking instance of what we mean. In some cases, perhaps, the process may be reversed, and the young poet who began with the ideal may, in after life, descend to the real, and drown his early dream of spiritual love in sensuous admiration and desire. But these we think are rare, and are accounted for as much from physical as from mental causes.
Smith has been called an imitator, or even a plagiarist. We are not careful to answer in this matter, except by again referring to his age. All young poets are imitators. "Poetry," says Aristotle, “is imitation.” It begins with imita- · tion, and it continues in imitation, and with imitation it ends. The difference between the various stages only is, that in boyhood and early youth poets imitate other poets, and that in manhood they pass from the study of models which they may admire to error and extravagance, to that great original, which, without blame, excites an infinite and endless devotion. That Smith has read and admired, and learned of Keats, and Shelley, and Tennyson, and many others, is obvious; but it is obvious also that he has read his own heart still more closely, and has learned still more from the book of nature. Every page contains allusions to his favorite authors; but every page, too, contains evidences of a rich native vein. The man who preserves his idiosyncrasy amid much reading of the poets, is more to be praised than he who, in horror at plagiarism, draws a cordon sanitaire around himself, and refuses to cultivate acquaintance with the great classics of his age and country. A true original is often most so when he is imitating or even translating others. So Smith has marvellously improved some of the few figures he has borrowed. The objects shown are sometimes the same as in other authors, but he has cast on them the mellowing, softening, and spiritualising moonlight of his own genius.
A still more common objection is a certain monotony of figure which marks his poetry. He draws, it is said, all his imagery from the stars, the sea, the sun, and the moon. Now we think we can not only defend him in this, but deduce from it an argument in favor of the power and truth of his genius. What bad or mediocre poet could have meddled with these old objects without failure ? Nothing in general so vapid as odes to the moon, or sonnets on the sea. But Smith has lifted up his daring rod to the heavens, and extracted new and rich imagination from their unfading fires. He has once more laid a poet's hand upon the ocean's mane, and the sea has known his rider, and shaken forth a stormy poetry to his touch. Besides, his circumstances have prevented him from coming in contact habitually with aught but nature's elemen