Зображення сторінки

their construction. If they are worth constructing, they are worth paying for. Satisfy the people, or the parties interested, on the former point, and there will be no great difficulty on the latter. It is always, in these cases, the present generation which expects to reap from them an advantage equivalent to their cost, in the development of resources, the opening of markets, and the enhancement of the value of property. Though posterity may, indeed, eventually inherit the whole, yet a regard for the benefit of posterity is very far from being the impelling motive to their construction; nor is there any reason or right in transferring to posterity, in the form of stock debt, not only the actual payment of their cost, but the entire risk of possible failure. If State governments will go on constructing works of internal improvement, instead of leaving them to the enterprise of private interest and sagacity, let them at least place this restraint upon their constant tendency to excess, by the obligation of imposing a simultaneous direct tax on the people, to the amount of their cost. There will be little danger then of any other works being undertaken, than those which may be pretty safely relied upon to defray their own cost, and which will be indeed demanded by the public interest and will of the whole people. While, when cut off from their present habitual reliance upon the State government and the State credit, the different particular sections which may desire the construction of local improvements, will have no difficulty in effecting their object, either by the private action of their principal citizens, or by combining their respective public resources for the purpose, in some mode of voluntary self-taxation, for which it would be easy to make the requisite legal provision.



On seeing a friend weeping over the remains of a lady to whom he had been for years attached - but who had afterward become united to another.

YES, moisten now with tears that face,
More cold than winter's snow;

Pour out, o'er her unconscious form,

Thy agony and wo

Not words, nor tears, nor mortal prayer,
Can wake the spirit slumbering there!

[ocr errors]

Yes, weep o'er that pale loveliness,
Upon that darkened bier —
Those pale lips closed - the light all gone


From eyes which were so dear!

She may not hear, she may not see,
How deep is now thy misery.

How through those parted years thy soul
Still kept its dream of youth,

And absence had no power to shake

Thy constancy and truth.

Then heed them not - why shouldst thou care,
That they must witness thy despair!

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]


AN American republication of MOTHERWELL, at last! Thank Heaven we are almost tempted to add. "How such a genuine literary treasure," says the writer of the Preface to the edition before us," should have so long escaped the notice of publishers, ever on the look-out for what they may appropriate and again lucratively disperse, how so rare an exotic should have been until now neglected in the daily indiscriminate transplantation of so many fruit-bearing and barren trees, of choice flowers and unsightly weeds, — is difficult to explain; but so it has been." We can only say, that having early secured a copy of the only and the small edition ever published (in Glasgow in 1832), we have half-a-dozen times advised some of our publishing houses in this city to do themselves the honor of placing their names on the title-page of a reprint; and as many times execrated the barbarism and stupidity of their reply: 'It was no doubt all very fine, but poetry was not the thing! A wonder has, however, 'come to light' - a publisher has at last been found, willing to hazard a few of his bank-notes, to place within reach of the American public one of the most exquisite volumes of poems with

Boston: William

Poems, Narrative and Lyrical, by William Motherwell.

D. Ticknor. MDCCCXLI.

VOL. X., No. XLIII.-3


which the literature of the language has been enriched within the past ten or twenty years. And we sincerely hope, that, as a just rebuke to those Baotians of the trade, who could not see in such poesy 'the thing,' the success of Mr. Ticknor's edition will 'prove the rogues they lied.'


In the year of our Lord 1836, on a warm 19th of November, delicious with all the bright blandness of the climate of Andalusia, we were sitting on the fragment of an old Roman column, overlooking the ruins of the amphitheatre of the ancient city of Italica, a few miles from Seville, in tête-à-tête with an intelligent young Scotch artist, named B, a painter, from Glasgow. He had been an attached and intimate friend of Motherwell, whose death had taken place about a year previously. Delighted to meet there an American not only familiar with the name, but fully sympathizing with his own sense of the rare beauty of his poems, he was gratifying the eager curiosity of his companion by talking of the poet's character, genius, and life. We parted at last with a promise on the part of B that on his return to Glasgow he would send us the requisite materials for a biographical sketch of Motherwell, as also some additional poems written subsequently to the date of the published volume; on the reception of which we promised to effect the publication of an American edition, the proceeds of which should be transmitted for the benefit of the wife and two children, whom he had left in such a situation as to render any relief of this nature very desirable. We never heard more from B—, and the American public has therefore remained ignorant of the new gems which had been set in the coronal of the English Muse. Whether he shared the fate of the thousands of his countrymen who visit the sunnier south, in quest of health, too late for any other purpose than to lay their bones in a foreign grave, or whether, in his professional ramblings 'in search of the picturesque,' amid the lawless confusion then prevailing in that part of Spain, our parting present of a pair of pistols proved insufficient to protect him from the dangers into which too free an indulgence of such a taste might be very likely to lead - has never reached our ears.

His "wife and children," we have said. We leave the word unerased though, unhappily, not the literal truth. The language affords no other single one, to express the relation referred to, which we can use, except those which we will not. The person alluded to was, unhappily to quote a line from an exquisite poem of his own, of which she was the subject,

[ocr errors]

"A mither, yet nae wife!"

The details of such a history should hardly be publicly paraded

in these pages, were they even in our possession. It will be sufficient to say, that it was one of those unions in which the passionate heart may vainly seek a compensation in any indulgence of an unwedded love, for a remorseful conscience and the justly unrelenting frown of society. The peculiar circumstances of the case were such as not wholly to forfeit, for the unfortunate person in question, the respect and regard of those to whom the parties and the history were known; while after the poet's death his friends seemed to feel themselves under similar obligations toward her, and the children that were all he was able to bequeath her, as would have been the just due of one in whose union the sanction of Law had hallowed the bonds of Love. No reader will distort our language into an apology for such a relation as that to which we are here compelled to refer, under any circumstances. We but repeat the impression of it, conveyed by the friend of the poet, then freshly laid to realize the sad yearnings of his own wounded and wearied spirit—

"I would that I were dreaming
Where little flowers are gleaming,

And the long green grass is streaming
O'er the gone, for ever gone!"

To allude to this circumstance is necessary, to make intelligible several of the poems of the volume which will scarcely fail the most strongly to arrest the reader's attention, and to move his heart. To do so in ungentler language than we have used, were a desecration of the grave in which is now buried whatever either of guilt or grief may in life have quickened the throbbings of the pulse which has long ceased to beat. And if any harsher spirit, fearing even to seem to excuse that for which excuse, there can be none, would rebuke what they may perhaps term a morbid and mistaken charity of judgment, we can only appeal to those who will have learned, from some of the sad and sweet contents of this exquisite volume, a kindlier sympathy with the heart of its author ;-referring the stern reprover, too, to the beautiful precept of one Scottish poet, to whose memory the world does not refuse the forgiveness we here invoke for another, who has struck, with no unworthy hand, the long silent strings of the same lyre:

"Then gently scan your brother man,
Still gentler, sister woman;

Though they may gang a kennin wrang,
To step aside is human :

One point must still be greatly dark,
The moving why they do it:
And just as lamely can ye mark,
How far perhaps they rue it."

The writer of the American preface expresses his regret that he has not been able to procure any information respecting Motherwell's personal history. He mentions simply the fact of his having been the editor of a paper at Glasgow; that he studied much the older poetry of the English language, and published a volume of selections of ballads and other choice specimens of the bygone poetic literature of Scotland and England; that he was an occasional contributor to the magazines and reviews; and that he died on the 15th October, 1835, in the thirty-seventh year of his age.

Besides the unfortunate circumstance above alluded to, there is but one other point that we have it in our power to add to this meager outline, namely, that the paper of which he was the editor, in Glasgow, was of high tory politics; a circumstance, probably, of no unimportant bearing upon the morbid and unhappy state of mind and character exhibited in his poetry. Motherwell was evidently a heart-broken man. There is a very sad impress of reality on some of these poems, in which he gives utterance to the great griefs that have desolated a strong and passionate soul. They burst from him in wailings, the more profoundly pathetic, from his own apparent efforts to suppress them-to stifle the cry of bitterness and anguish, which will force itself forth-to cover up beneath a robe of pride, of mighty endurance, and of scorn for the fleeting mockeries and shadows that throng the weary path of human life, a breast in which cancerous agonies the keenest and the deepest are fast eating their way to the last holds of vitality. Yet had he evidently a kindly and a loving heart, a reverential spirit, and a fine sympathy with the holy and beautiful soul of nature, as it would speak pleasantly and soothingly to him from the thousand spiritual influences of earth and air and sky— whether amid the sacred stillness of a "Sabbath Summer Noon," the awaking music and brightness of a " May Morn," or the sweet and solemn spell of the hour of "Midnight and Moonshine." Why, then, so desolate, so dark, and so despairing, as his gentle spirit had evidently become-from the glimpses which some of these poems open to us down into its black and bitter depths? Sharp, doubtless, the pangs which had many a time pierced it through and through; and heavy the clouds of disappointment which may have one after another piled up their masses, between his heart and that glowing glory of young hope which, to the poet's eye, in the earlier morn of life, had flushed all creation with the warm hue of its own brightness. Yet still it seems to us that these causes, many and keen as they may perhaps have been, would hardly have produced that result which is apparent

« НазадПродовжити »