Слике страница
PDF
ePub
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

general, application. Of the gentleman upon whose letter they were intended as a commentary Mr. Biglow had never heard, till he saw the letter itself. The position of the satirist is oftentimes one which he would not have chosen, had the election been left to himself. In attacking bad principles, he is obliged to select some individual who has made himself their exponent, and in whom they are impersonate, to the end that what he says may not, through ambiguity, be dissipated tenues in auras. For what says Seneca ? Longum iter per præcepta, breve et efficace per exempla. A bad principle is comparatively harmless while it continues to be an abstraction, nor can the general mind comprehend it fully till it is printed in that large type which all men can read at sight, namely, the life and character, the sayings and doings, of particular persons. It is one of the cunningest fetches of Satan, that he never exposes himself directly to our arrows, but, still dodging behind this neighbor or that acquaintance, compels us to wound him through them, if at all. He holds our affections as hostages, the while he patches up a truce with our conscience.

Meanwhile, let us not forget that the aim of the true satirist is not to be severe upon persons, but only upon falsehood, and, as Truth and Falsehood start from the same point, and sometimes even go along together for a little way, his business is to follow the path of the latter after it diverges, and to show her floundering in the bog at the end of it. Truth is quite beyond the reach of satire. There is so brave a simplicity in her, that she can no more be made ridiculous than an oak or a pine. The danger of the satirist is, that continual use may deaden his sensibility to the force of language. He becomes more and more liable to strike harder than he knows or intends. He may be careful to put on his boxing-gloves, and yet forget that, the older they grow, the more plainly may the knuckles inside be felt. Moreover, in the heat of contest, the eye is insensibly drawn to the crown of victory, whose tawdry tinsel glitters through that dust of the ring which obscures Truth's wreath of simple leaves. I have sometimes thought that my young friend, Mr. Biglow, needed a monitory hand laid on his arm, - aliquid sufflaminandus erat. I have never thought it good husbandry to water the tender plants of reform with aqua fortis, yet, where so much is to do in the beds, he were a sorry gardener who should wage a whole day's war with an iron scuffle on those ill weeds that make the garden-walks of life unsightly, when a sprinkle of Attic salt will wither them up. Est ars etiam maledicendi, says Scaliger, and truly it is a hard thing to say where the graceful gentleness of the lamb merges in downright sheepishness. We may conclude with worthy and wise Dr. Fuller, that

one may be a lamb in private wrongs, but in hearing general affronts to goodness they are asses which are not lions." – H. W.]

Gineral C. is a dreffle smart man:
He's ben on all sides thet give places or

pelf; But consistency still wuz a part of his

plan, He's ben true to one party, — an' thet is himself;

So John P.

Robinson he
Sez he shall vote fer Gineral C.

Gineral C. he goes in fer the war;
He don't vally princerple more 'n an old

cud; Wut did God make us raytional creeturs fer, But glory an' gunpowder, plunder an' blood ?

So John P.

Robinson he
Sez he shall vote fer Gineral C.

We were gittin' on nicely up here to our

village, With good old idees o' wut's right an'

wut aint, We kind o' thought Christ went agin war

an' pillage, An' thet eppyletts worn't the best mark of a saint;

But John P.

Robinson he
Sez this kind othing's an exploded

idee.

a

[blocks in formation]

a

Parson Wilbur he calls all these argimunts

lies; Sez they're nothin' on airth but jest fee,

faw, fum; An' thet all this big talk of our destinies Is half on it ign’ance, an' t'other half rum;

But John P.

Robinson he
Sez it aint no sech thing; an', of course,

so must we.

own Bay State too well to do the one, and as for the other, I have myself for nigh forty years exercised, however unworthily, the function of Justice of the Peace, having been called thereto by the unsolicited kindness of that most excellent man and upright patriot, Caleb Strong. Patriæ fumus igne alieno luculentior is best qualified with this, — Ubi libertas, ibi patria. We are inhabitants of two worlds, and owe a double, but not a divided, allegiance. In virtue of our clay, this little ball of earth exacts a certain loyalty of us, while, in our capacity as spirits, we are admitted citizens of an invisible and holier fatherland. There is a patriotism of the soul whose claim absolves us from our other and terrene fealty. Our true country is that ideal realm which we represent to ourselves under the names of religion, duty, and the like. Our terrestrial organizations are but far-off approaches to so fair a model, and all they are verily traitors who resist not any attempt to divert them from this their original intendment. When, therefore, one would have us to fling up our caps and shout with the multitude, Our country, however bounded !he demands of us that we sacrifice the larger to the less, the higher to the lower, and that we yield to the imaginary claims of a few acres of soil our duty and privilege as liegemen of Truth. Our true country is bounded on the north and the south, on the east and the west, by Justice, and when she oversteps that invisible boundary-line by so much as a hair'sbreadth, she ceases to be our mother, and chooses rather to be looked upon quasi noverca. That is a hard choice when our earthly love of country calls upon us to tread one path and our duty points us to another. We must make as noble and becoming an election as did Penelope between Icarius and Ulysses. Veiling our faces, we must take silently the hand of Duty to follow her.

Shortly after the publication of the foregoing poem, there appeared some comments upon it in one of the public prints which seemed to call for animadversion. I accordingly addressed to Mr. Buckingham, of the Boston Courier, the following letter.

Parson Wilbur sez he never heerd in his life Thet th' Apostles rigged out in their

swaller-tail coats, An' marched round in front of a drum an'

a fife, To git some on 'em office, an’some on 'em votes;

But John P.

Robinson he
Sez they did n't know everythin' down

in Judee.

Wal, it's a marcy we've gut folks to tell us The rights an' the wrongs o' these mat

ters, I vow, God sends country lawyers, another wise

fellers, To start the world's team wen it gits in a slough;

Fer John P.

Robinson he
Sez the world 'll go right, ef he hollers

out Gee!

[The attentive reader will doubtless have perceived in the foregoing poem an allusion to that pernicious sentiment, - “Our country, right or wrong.' It is an abuse of language to call a certain portion of land, much more, certain personages, elevated for the time being to high station, our country. I would not sever nor loosen a single one of those ties by which we are united to the spot of our rth, nor m the respect due to the Magistrate. I love our

JAALAM, November 4, 1847. To the Editor of the Courier :

* RESPECTED SIR, – Calling at the postoffice this morning, our worthy and efficient postmaster offered for my perusal a paragraph in the Boston Morning Post of the 3d instant, wherein certain effusions of the pastoral muse are attributed to the pen of Mr. James Russell Lowell. For aught I know or can affirm to the contrary, this Mr. Lowell may be a very deserving person and a youth of parts (though I have seen verses of his which I could never rightly understand); and if he be such, he, I am certain, as well as I, would be free from any proclivity to appropriate to himself whatever of credit (or discredit) may honestly belong to another. I am confident, that, in penning these few lines, am only forestalling a disclaimer from that young gentleman, whose

by a

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

a

though, in saying this, I would not convey the impression that he is a proficient in the Latin tongue, the tongue, I might add, of a Horace and a Tully.

“Mr. B. does not employ his pen, I can safely say, for any lucre of worldly gain, or to be exalted by the carnal plaudits of men, digito monstrari, &c. He does not wait upon Providence for mercies, and in his heart mean merces. But I should esteem myself as verily deficient in my duty (who am his friend and in some unworthy sort his spiritual fidus Achates, &c.), if I did not step forward to claim for him whatever measure of applause might be assigned to him by the judicious.

"If this were a fitting occasion, I might venture here a brief dissertation touching the manner and kind of my young friend's poetry. But I dubitate whether this abstruser sort of speculation (though enlivened by some apposite instances from Aristophanes) would sufficiently interest your oppidan readers. As regards their satirical tone, and their plainness of speech, I will only say, that, in my pastoral experience, I have found that the Arch-Enemy loves nothing better than to be treated as a religious, moral, and intellectual being, and that there is no apage Sathanas ! so potent as ridicule. But it is a kind of weapon that must have a button of good-nature on the point of it.

“ The productions of Mr. B. have been stigmatized in some quarters as unpatriotic; but I can vouch that he loves his native soil with that hearty, though discriminating, attachment which springs from an intimate social intercourse of many years' standing. In the ploughing season, no one has a deeper share in the well-being of the country than he. If Dean Swift were right in saying that he who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before confers a greater benefit on the state than he who taketh a city, Mr. B. might exhibit a fairer claim to the Presidency than General Scott himself. I think that some of those disinterested lovers of the hard-handed democracy, whose fingers have never touched anything rougher than the dollars of our common country, would hesitate to compare palms with him. It would do your heart good, respected Sir, to see that young man mow. He cuts a cleaner and wider swath than any in this town.

“But it is time for me to be at my Post. It is very clear that my young friend's shot has struck the lintel, for the Post is shaken (Amos ix. 1). The editor of that paper is a strenuous advocate of the Mexican war, and a colonel, as I am given to understand. I presume, that, being necessarily absent in Mexico, he has left

journal in some less judicious hands. At any rate, the Post has been too swift on this

occasion. It could hardly have cited a more incontrovertible line from any poem than that which it has selected for animadversion, namely, – “We kind o' thought Christ went agin war an' pillage.'

“If the Post maintains the converse of this proposition, it can hardly be considered as a safe guide-post for the moral and religious portions of its party, however many other excellent qualities of a post it may be blessed with. There is a sign in London on which is painted,

- The Green Man.' It would do very well as a portrait of any individual who should support so unscriptural a thesis. As regards the language of the line in question, I am bold to say that He who readeth the hearts of men will not account any dialect unseemly which conveys a sound and pious sentiment. I could wish that such sentiments were more common, however uncouthly expressed. Saint Ambrose affirms, that veritas a quocunque (why not, then, quomodocunque ?) dicatur, a iritu sanct st. Digest also this of Baxter: The plainest words are the most profitable oratory in the weightiest matters.'

“When the paragraph in question was shown to Mr. Biglow, the only part of it which seemed to give him any dissatisfaction was that which classed him with the Whig party. He says, that, if resolutions are a nourishing kind of diet, that party must be in a very hearty and flourishing condition ; for that they have quietly eaten more good ones of their own baking than he could have conceived to be possible without repletion. He has been for some years past (I regret to say) an ardent opponent of those sound doctrines of protective policy which form so prominent a portion of the creed of that party. "I confess, that, in some discussions which I have had with him on this point in my study, he has displayed a vein of obstinacy which I had not hitherto detected in his composition. He is also (horresco referens) infected in no small measure with the peculiar notions of a print called the Liberator, whose heresies I take every proper opportunity of combating, and of which, I thank God, I have never read a single line.

“I did not see Mr. B.'s verses until they appeared in print, and there is certainly one thing in them which I consider highly improper. allude to the personal references to myself by name. To confer notoriety on an humble individual who is laboring quietly in his vocation, and who keeps his cloth as free as he can from the dust of the political arena (though ve mihi si non evangelizavero), is no doubt an indeco

The sentiments which he attributes to me I will not deny to be mine. They were embodied, though in a different form, in a discourse preached upon the last day of public fasting, and were acceptable to my entire people (of whatever political views), except the postmaster, who dissented ex officio. I observe that you sometimes ote a portion of your paper to a religious suiamary. I should be

rum.

66

well pleased to furnish a copy of my discourse wise, that General S. has invalidated his claims for insertion in this department of your instruc- by too much attention to the decencies of aptive journal.. By omitting the advertisements, parel, and the habits belonging to a gentleman. it might easily be got within the limits of a These abstruser points of statesmanship are besingle number, and I venture to insure you the yond my scope. I wonder not that successful sale of some scores of copies in this town. I military achievement should attract the admirawill cheerfully render myself responsible for tion of the multitude. Rather do I rejoice with ten.. It might possibly be advantageous to is- wonder to behold how rapidly this sentiment is sue it as an extra. But perhaps you will not losing its hold upon the popular mind. It is esteem it an object, and I will not press it. My related of Thomas Warton, the second of that offer does not spring from any weak desire of honored name who held the office of Poetry seeing my name in print; for I can enjoy this Professor at Oxford, that, when one wished to satisfaction at any time by turning to the Tri- find him, being absconded, as was his wont, ennial Catalogue of the University, where it in some obscure alehouse, he was counselled to also possesses that added emphasis of Italics traverse the city with a drum and fife, the sound with which those of my calling are distin- of which inspiring music would be sure to draw guished.

the Doctor from his retirement into the street. “I would simply add, that I continue to fit We are all more or less bitten with this martial ingenuous youth for college, and that I have insanity. Nescio qui dulcedine .:. cunctos ducit. two spacious and airy sleeping apartments at I confess to some infection of that itch myself. this moment unoccupied. Ingenuas didicisse, When I see a Brigadier-General maintaining his &c. Terms, which vary according to the circum- insecure elevation in the saddle under the severe stances of the parents, may be known on appli- fire of the training-field, and when I remember cation to me by letter, post-paid. In all cases that some military enthusiasts, through haste, the lad will be expected to fetch his own towels. inexperience, or an over-desire to lend reality This rule, Mrs. W. desires me to add, has no to those fictitious combats, will sometimes disexceptions.

charge their ramrods, I cannot but admire, Respectfully, your obedient servant, while I dcplore, the mistaken devotion of those HOMER WILBUR, A. M.

Leroic oficers. Semel insanivimus omnes. I

was myself, during the late war with Great “P. S. Perhaps the last paragraph may look

Britain, chaplain of a regiment, which was forlike an attempt to obtain the insertion of my tunately never called to active military duty. circular gratuitously. If it should appear to

I mention this circumstance with regret rather you in that light, I desire that you would erase

than pride. Had I been summoned to actual it, or charge for it at the usual rates, and deduct

warfare, I trust that I might have been strengththe amount from the proceeds in your hands

ened to bear myself after the manner of that from the sale of my discourse, when it shall be

reverend father in our New England Israel, Dr. printed. My circular is much longer and more Benjamin Colman, who, as we are told in Tuexplicit, and will be forwarded without charge rell's life of him, when the vessel in which he to any who may desire it. It has been very had taken passage for England was attacked neatly executed on a letter sheet, by a very de

by a French privateer, “ fought like a philososerving printer, who attends upon my ministry, pher and a Christian, and prayed all the and is a creditable specimen of the typographic

while he charged and fired.” As this note is art. I have one hung over my mantelpiece in already long, I shall not here enter upon a disa neat frame, where it makes a beautiful and cussion of the question, whether Christians may appropriate ornament, and balances the profile

lawfully be soldiers. I think it sufficiently eviof Mrs. W., cut with her toes by the young lady

dent, that, during the first two centuries of the born without arms.

Christian era, at least, the two professions were “H. W." esteemed incompatible. Consult Jortin on this

head. - H. W.] I have in the foregoing letter mentioned General Scott in connection with the Presidency, because I have been given to understand that

No. IV he has blown to pieces and otherwise caused to be destroyed more Mexicans than any other commander. His claim would therefore be de

REMARKS OF INCREASE D. servedly considered the strongest. Until accu

O'PHACE, ESQUIRE, rate returns of the Mexicans killed, wounded, and maimed be obtained, it will be difficult to

AT AN EXTRUMPERY CAUCUS IN STATE settle these nice points of precedence. Should

STREET, REPORTED BY it prove that any other officer has been more

MR. H. BIGmeritorious and destructive than General S.,

LOW and has thereby rendered himself more worthy of the confidence and support of the conservative [The ingenions reader will at once understand portion of our community, I shall cheerfully that no such speech as the following was ever insert his name, instead of that of General S., totidem verbis pronounced. But there are simpler in a future edition. It may be thought, like- and less guarded wits, for the satisfying of which

a

a

the people, as being their prescriptive and quite sufficient portion.

The occasion of the speech is supposed to be Mr. Palfrey's refusal to vote for the Whig candidate for the Speakership. — H. W.]

No? Hez he? He haint, though? Wut?

Voted agin him ? Ef the bird of our country could ketch him,

she'd skin him; I seem 's though I see her, with wrath in

each quill, Like a chancery lawyer, afilin' her bill, An' grindin' her talents ez sharp ez all

nater, To pounce like a writ on the back o'the

traitor. Forgive me, my friends, ef I seem to be bet, But a crisis like this must with vigor be

met; Wen an Arnold the star-spangled banner

bestains, Holl Fourth o' Julys seem to bile in my

veins.

Who ever 'd ha' thought sech a pisonous rig Would be run by a chap thet wuz chose fer

a Wig? “We knowed wut his princerples wuz 'fore

we sent him " ? Wut wuz there in them from this vote to

pervent him ? A marciful Providunce fashioned us holler O’ purpose thet we might our princerples

swaller; It can hold any quantity on 'em, the belly

can, An' bring 'em up ready fer use like the

pelican, Or more like the kangaroo, who (wich is

stranger). Puts her family into her pouch wen there 's

danger. Aint princerple precious ? then, who's

goin' to use it Wen there's resk o'some chap 's gittin' up

to abuse it? I can't tell the wy on't, but nothin' is so Ez thet princerple kind o' gits spiled by

exposure; ?

sure

1

such an explanation may be needful. For there are certain invisible lines, which as Truth successively overpasses, she becomes Untruth to one and another of us, as a large river, flowing from one kingdom into another, sometimes takes a new name, albeit the waters undergo no change, how small soever. There is, moreover, a truth of fiction more veracious than the truth of fact, as that of the Poet, which represents to us things and events as they ought to be, rather than servilely copies them as they are imperfectly imaged in the crooked and smoky glass of our mundane affairs. It is this which makes the speech of Antonius, though originally spoken in no wider a forum than the brain of Shakespeare, more historically valuable than that other which Appian has reported, by as much as the understanding of the Englishman was more comprehensive than that of the Alexandrian. Mr. Biglow, in the present instance, has only made use of a license assumed by all the historians of antiquity, who put into the mouths of various characters such words as Beem to them most fitting to the occasion and to the speaker. If it be objected that no such oration could ever have been delivered, I answer, that there are few assemblages for speechmaking which do not better deserve the title of Parliamentum Indoctorum than did the sixth Parliament of Henry the Fourth, and that men still continue to have as much faith in the Oracle of Fools as ever Pantagruel had. Howell, in his letters, recounts a merry tale of a certain ambassador of Queen Elizabeth, who, having written two letters, - one to her Majesty, and the other to his wife, directed them at crosspurposes, so that the Queen was beducked and bedeared and requested to send a change of hose, and the wife was beprincessed and otherwise unwontedly besuperlatived, till the one feared for the wits of her ambassador, and the other for those of her husband. In like manner it may be presumed that our speaker has misdirected some of his thoughts, and given to the whole theatre what he would have wished to confide only to a select auditory at the back of the curtain. For it is seldom that we can get any frank utterance from men, who address, for the most part, a Buncombe either in this world or the next. As for their audiences, it may be truly said of our people, that they enjoy one political institution in common with the ancient Athenians: I mean a certain profitless kind of ostracism, wherewith, nevertheless, they seem hitherto well enough content. For in Presidential elections, and other affairs of the sort, whereas I observe that the oysters fall to the lot of comparatively few, the shells (such as the privileges of voting as they are told to do by the ostrivori aforesaid, and of huzzaing at public meetings) are very liberally distributed among

1 The speaker is of a different mind from Tully, who, in his recently discovered tractate De Republica, tells us, Nec rero habere virtutem satis est, quasi artem aliquam, nisi utare, and from our Milton, who says: "I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, un

exercised and unbreathed, that never sallies ont and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat." - Areop. He had taken the words out of the Roman's mouth, without knowing it, and might well

« ПретходнаНастави »