« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
May one clear calm attend thee to thy close,
And prostrate tyrants bite the British chain.” We know not in what year William Livingston, born 1723, a graduate of Yale in 1741, an eminent lawyer and member of the first Congress, and the first governor of New Jersey, first made his appearance as a poet. His poem on Philosophical Solitude, has been several times reprinted; and, though it has not high poetic value, displays the tastes of a scholar, and the virtues of an upright mind.
In the fourth volume of Dodley's Miscellany, printed 1763, at page 318, we have found a poem, entitled “The Rake,” by a lady of New England. There are but twenty-seven lines of it; and, without any brilliancy, it contains very good sense.
The African, Phillis Wheatley, was certainly a prodigy. She was nearly eight years old, when she came to America, in 1761. While in the family of John Wheatley, of Boston, she wrote a volume of poems, which were published in 1773, and have since been reprinted. The volume gives no evidence of being the work of a slave; and is full of allusions to classic mythology. Phillis died in 1784, aged 31. She was, therefore, hardly twenty, when her poems were published. From a poem on Imagination, we cannot but quote six lines:
- Though winter frowns, to fancy's raptured eyes,
The fields may flourish, and gay scenes arise;
And with her flowery riches deck the plain." Of all the poets of New-England, Dr. Benjamin Church was perhaps the most celebrated at this period. His elegy on the Times was printed in 1765. The elegy on Dr. Mayhew, printed in 1766, is a very sensible, though not a powerful, performance. Of an earlier production we have given a specimen above. On the death of Whitefield, his muse was again employed in 1770. This man, who stood thus elevated above others in literary talents and taste, was, at the opening of the war, in 1775, made Physician-general of the army, having, in 1773, delivered an excellent oration on the fifth of March. But soon falling under suspicions, which, on examination, seemed well founded, he sailed, the next year, for the West Indies; and no intelligence has ever been received of the vessel in which he sailed.
We have before us a poem, published, apparently, for the first time, at Boston, in 1773, and ascribed to Dr. Samuel Mather. It is called “The Sacred Minister, a new poem, in five parts; by Aurelius Prudentius.” It is in blank verse, and without any thing of poetry but the semblance. It contains pastoral advice, vindicating the necessity of sound learning. The book is curious, as containing the sentiments of a distinguished divine on the duties of his order. Contending against forms of prayer, he says of the good minister,
“ He no crutches needs: Pinioned with faith and love, he soars aloft,
And heavenwards bears his Hock on cagle's wings.” Of Professor Devens of Princeton College, who received its first honours in 1768, and was made professor in 1771, but, unfortunately for science and his friends, lost his mind in 1774, no memorial, we believe, exists, except a paraphrase of some parts of the book of Job, an unfinished work, but giving evidence that the author possessed fine talents.
At this time, the country was already beginning to feel its importance, and to glory in its prospects. It was our design only to collect the scattered notices of such poets as wrote before the Revolution. In 1771, 'Rev. Wm. Smith, afterwards Provost of the College in Philadelphia, delivered, at Nassau Hall, a poem, on the rising glory of America. Even then, the approaching eminence of the country was apparent. We quote a few lines:
“ Daughter of Commerce, from the hoary deep,
New-York, emerging, rears her lofty domes,
Hail city, blest with liberty's fair beams,
And with the rays of mild religion blest.” A portion of the poem, from which we have just given an extract, is the work of Philip Freneau, a poet of eminent merit, whose career began, indeed, just before the American Revolution, but continued till a comparatively recent period. He might serve to form the connexion between our earlier and recent authors; but his merits are so various, that we will not enter largely upon them at this time. He is remarkable for humour and ease; he is national, and possesses a fine imagination; but is never sentimental. We esteem him one of the best of the poets whose powers were called into action by the events of our great national war.
Our task of research is concluded. It would be interesting to
continue it; to speak of the merits of Barlow, whose Muse, in some of his smaller pieces, moves with a freedom and grace, that vanish under the too great efforts at excellence in his Columbiad; of Hopkinson, whose character as a patriot is unimpeached; and who devoted the powers of his fine mind to advancing the interests and liberty of his country; of Humphreys, who was honest and patriotic; of Trumbull, who still lives the Nestor of our bards. The Muse of Mrs. Morton was prolific, and the talents which she exhibited, such as still do her honour; and Dwight, whose usefulness has been so extensive, as to need no weaklygrounded praise, has an honourable place, as an earnest and diligent advocate for all that was pure in life, and valuable in liberty.
As we approach nearer our own times, we are reminded of the talents, and premature death of Clifton, and quite recently, of the unfinished production of Eastburn and Sands. Alston, whose merits as a painter are a just cause of pride to us, is himself no novice in the kindred art of verse; Pierpont has treated sacred and national subjects with elegance and patriotic feeling; Paulding has spoken true words of the high career opened to the American bard, and has himself furnished an honourable illustration of a part of his theory. Ewing deserves to be remembered for his Reflections on Solitude; and quite recently, Brainard of Hartford, and Sprague of Boston, and Whiting of Detroit, and Pinckney of Baltimore, and Mrs. Sigourney, before known for her poetic talent as Miss Huntley, have each made contributions of value to the literary stores of the country. The best are Percival, Bryant, Halleck, and Hillhouse. Their respective merits we will not weigh against each other. Freneau is the only one among the departed, that can be compared with them.
And as to the general character of the land, it is eminently favourable to success in the various exercise of the imagination. Literature thrives but in the midst of busy scenes, where mind is brought into collision with mind, talent developed by emulation, and rewarded by golden honours and wide distinction. If our country, in its general details of business and action, is prosaic, it resembles the Israelites of old, who, themselves a heavy mass, were yet preceded by a pillar of fire. The spirit of poetry is abroad among us. It finds nutriment everywhere; it dwells in the very midst of the people; just as the most glorious natural scene in America, the Falls of Niagara, is seen from the public road that leads through a flourishing district, in the midst of a busy and thriving population.
If nature is the inspiration of the poet, we have it in all its varieties, in virgin beauty, in unparalleled sublimity. If man is the proper study of the Muse, then we demand, where is more virtue developed than in a free republic? and where is there a greater variety of individual character than here, where personal
independence is asserted and secured; where neither the laws nor the state of society can oppose the free display of character; where the social virtues are cherished in all their beauty and power; where individuals are often found, that are the very personifications of a leading passion; and where all the pure and generous sympathies of life are fostered by general prosperity?
We have as yet indeed, no national poet, no writer, who, like Homer or Milton, stands out in a strong light as a repre·sentative of humanity in its greatest perfection. But our constitution and state of society permit no talents to be inactive; they call out genius wherever it lies hid. No “ village Hamden" can here be defrauded of his rightful fame; no Milton permitted to remain mute and inglorious. Other nations have their public monuments of beauty and grandeur; we, our glorious system, which leaves no intellectual power in obscurity, which rescues merit from oblivion, and throwing open to all the entrance to the narrow road of emulation, fills it with eager aspirants, and establishing the empire of mind and intelligence, lavishes on genius the highest honours.
ART. VIII.-EGYPTIAN CHRONOLOGY. 1.-Lettres à M. le Duc de Blacas d'Aulps, relatives au Musée
Royal Egyptien de Turin. Par M. CHAMPOLLION, le jeune—Première Lettre.—Monuments Historiques, avec une Notice Chronologique de la xviii, Dynastie Egyptienne de Manéthon. Par M. CHAMPOLLION FIGEAC. Paris: Didot & Treuttel & Würtz, 1824, pp. 109. 8vo. with plates. Seconde Lettre: Suite des Monuments Historiques. Par M. CHAMPOLLION, le jeune, et Suite de la Notice Chronologique, &c. Par M. CHAMPOLLION FIGEAC. Paris: Didot & Treuttel & Würtz, 1826, pp. 169. 8vo. with a Volume of Plates in quarto; being the con
tinuation of the plates subjoined to the first letter. 2.-Observations Critiques et Archéologiques sur l'objet des
Représentations Zodiacales qui nous restent de l'Anti
quité. Par M. LETRONNE. Paris: 1824. pp. 118. 3.-Recherches sur plusieurs points de l'Astronomie Egypti
enne appliquées aux Monuments Astronomiques trouvés en Egypte. Par J. B. Biot. Paris: 1823. pp. 318.
We have, in a former Number, * laid before our readers, an account of the important discovery of Champollion the younger, and Young, by which the hieroglyphic system of the ancient Egyptians, has been shown to be almost wholly alphabetic. The works of the two Champollions, whose titles are prefixed to this article, contain the application of this discovery, to the illustration of various points of the history of that interesting people. These illustrations are the more important, as they serve to connect, compare, and verify the annals and traditions, in respect to Egypt, which have come down to us in various directions. This task they accomplish, by referring to the indisputable testimony of monuments, erected at the very era, whose inscriptions are now at last deciphered. In this way, there have been already obtained, some very curious facts; not merely in relation to the history of Egypt alone, but to its connexion with that of other nations, and more particularly to its bearing upon the historic records of the Old Testament.
* Vol. i. p. 438.
We are not of those who would confine our religious belief to a blind acquiescence in tradition, or who would reject the aid of reason, in investigating the truth of the evidences upon which our faith is founded. Satisfied that the great principles of Christian belief rest upon the basis of historic truth, we rejoice at the discovery of any methods by which this truth may be more closely scrutinized, and the records of holy writ compared with the cotemporaneous annals of nations, connected in a more or less intimate manner, with the events whose memory is therein preserved. In this point of view, no country possesses a more powerful claim upon our notice than Egypt; the cradle and nurse of that people whence the desired of nations was to spring; connected in various ways with its subsequent history ; and finally exhibiting, at the present day, a most striking fulfilment of prophecy.
The tradition of nearly all nations, traces up their origin to a single family, preserved by miraculous means from the destruction of the rest of their race in a mighty deluge. With these traditions, and the more minute and satisfactory relation of the sacred historian, the appearance of the surface of the earth corresponds in the most remarkable manner. Modern geologists have ascertained, by evidence of which no doubt can any longer be entertained, that at a period about four thousand years from the present date, the earth's surface must have been for a short time covered with water, which swept away and destroyed a variety of animals, similar in every respect to those which now inhabit our planet. From the date of this last great catastrophe that the earth has undergone, we are in consequence to commence our inquiries into the history of nations. Its epoch, however, is not to be ascertained with all the certa ty that might be desired. No profane historian gives us any authentic information in relation to this date; and the different copies and versions of the