Слике страница

movements of his mind are full of grace; and the most indifferent sentence which falls from his pen bas that simple elegance, which it is as difficult to define as it is easy to perceive. His level passages are never tame, and his fine ones are never superfine. His style, with matchless flexibility, rises and falls with his subject, and is alternately, easy, vivid, elevated, ornamental or picturesque, adapting itself to the dominant mood of the mind, as an instrument responds to the touch of a master's hand. His knowledge is so extensive, and the field of his allusions so wide, that the most familiar views, in passing through his hands, gather such a halo of luminous illustrations, that their likeness seems transformed, and we entertain doubts of their identity. Especially, in reading these orations, do we perceive the power which comes from an accurate knowledge of history. No man wields an historical argument with more skill; no one is more fruitful in effective historical parallels and applications. He has, in perfection, the historical eye, if we may so speak; the power of running over an epoch and seizing upon its characteristic expression, and of distinguishing the events by which that expression is most decidedly manifested. His Phi Beta Kappa oration (the one delivered at Cambridge in 1824,) is a signal instance of his success in this respect. Whatever may be thought of the soundness of its positions, no one can doubt the ability with which they are maintained, and the ingenuity and admirable rhetorical skill, with which the orator presses into his service the long record of the past, to enforce and defend them. The same remarks apply, also, to his Plymouth oration, and indeed, in a greater or less degree, to nearly all the discourses in the volume. Not only has he the comprehensive grasp and power of generalization, which are the attributes of almost all superior minds, but he has all the minute accuracy of a chronicler, understands perfectly the significance and efficacy of facts and details, and uses them with great skill and success. His picturesque narrative is one of the most striking of his accomplishments. With what vividness does he make a long procession of events pass before our eyes, as in his Lexington, Concord, and Bloody Brook addresses, marshalling every thing into its proper place, without confusion or crowding ! How agreeably he relates a familiar incident, like the anecdote of the dispersion of the London mob, in his Cambridge Fourth of July oration, (page 106 of the present volume.) With what living hues he paints a scene like that of the death-bed of Copernicus, in the Address before the Literary Societies of Amherst College, (page 576 of the volume.) In the following paragraph from the Plymouth address, with what almost painful intenseness he makes us feel the forlorn condition of the Pilgrims, on their voyage and at their landing.

“Methinks I see it now, that one solitary, adventurous vessel, the Mayflower of a forlorn hope, freighted with the prospects of a future state, and bound across the unknown sea. I behold it pursuing, with a thousand misgivings, the uncertain, the tedious voyage. Suns rise and set, and weeks and months pass, and winter surprises them on the deep, but brings them not the sight of the wished-for shore. I see them now scantily supplied with provisions, crowded almost to suffocation in their ill-stored prison, delayed by calms, pursuing a circuitous route; — and now driven in fury before the raging tempest, on the high and giddy waves. The awful voice of the storm howls through the rigging. The laboring masts seem straining from their base; the dismal sound of the pumps is heard ; — the ship leaps, as it were, madly, from billow to billow; — the ocean breaks, and settles with engulphing floods over the floating deck, and beats with deadening weight against the staggered vessel. I see them, escaped from these perils, pursuing their all but desperate undertaking, and landed at last, after a five months' passage, on the ice-clad rocks of Plymouth, weak and weary from the voyage, poorly armed, scantily provisioned, depending on the charity of their ship-master for a draft of beer on board, drinking nothing but water on shore, without shelter, — without means, surrounded by hostile tribes. Shut now the volume of history, and tell me, on any principle of human probability, what shall be the fate of this handful of adventurers. Tell me, man of military science, in how many months were they all swept off by the thirty savage tribes, enumerated within the early limits of NewEngland ? Tell me, politician, how long did this shadow of a colony, on which your conventions and treaties had not smiled, languish on the distant coast? Student of history, compare for me the baffled projects, the deserted settlements, the abandoned adventures, of other times, and find the parallel of this. it the winter's storm, beating upon the houseless heads of women and children ; was it hard labor and spare meals;

was it disease, - was it the tomahawk, - was it the deep malady of a blighted hope, a ruined enterprise, and a broken heart, aching in its last moments, at the recollection of the loved and left, beyond the sea; was it some, or all of these united, that hurried



this forsaken company to their melancholy fate? — And is it possible, that neither of these causes, that not all combined, were able to blast this bud of hope ? Is it possible, that from a beginning so feeble, so frail, so worthy, not so much of admiration as of pity, there has gone forth a progress so steady, a growth so wonderful, a reality so important, a promise yet to be fulfilled, so glorious ?" – pp. 60-62.

. We have before spoken of Mr. Everett's style ; but the beauty and power of the foregoing paragraph constrain us to resume the subject

. (It is doubtless an artificial style ; that is to say, a style formed and elaborated by assiduous care, and polished by a taste as sensitive as a blind man's touch ; and if it does not snatch a grace beyond the reach of art, it certainly snatches all that are within its reach. But, be this as it may, the skilful result contains no internal evidence of the laborious process by which it was attained, and the orator has reached the highest triumph of art, by so effectually hiding it from observation. His style appears to us a nearly perfect specimen of a rhetorical and ornamental one. Certainly, it is so, if the just definition of a good style be, proper words in proper places. He is as careful to select the right word, as a workman in Mosaic is to pick out the exact shade of color which he requires ; and it would be difficult to find an epithet which could be changed for the better. Take, for instance, the following sentence contained in the above extract.

" The laboring masts seem straining from their base; - the dismal

sound of the pumps is heard ; - the ship leaps, as it were,

, madly, from billow to billow ; the ocean breaks, and settles with engulphing floods over the floating deck, and beats, with deadening weight, against the staggered vessel.”

What speaking pictures are presented to the eye by these very words ; "the dismal sound,” “the engulphing floods, " the floating deck," "deadening weight,” is the staggered vessel”; and how impossible it would be to substitute more expressive ones in their places. Let no man underrate this minuteness of verbal criticism, as finical and unmanly. The characteristic of a good style in prose or poetry, is, that it will bear dissection. Fineness of polish is, next to indestructibleness of material, the best specific against the corroding influences of time. The beauty of Mr. Everett's style is a source of constant pleasure to his readers, even to those who are charmed by it unconsciously to themselves. His orations

abound with those delicious cadences, which thrill through the veins like a strain of fine music, and cling spontaneously to the memory. Where can we find the English language moulded into more graceful forms, than in such sentences as these?

“They do not create, they obey the Spirit of the Age; the serene and beautiful spirit, descended from the highest heaven of liberty, who laughs at our little preconceptions, and, with the breath of his mouth, sweeps before him the men and the nations, that cross his path.” — p. 25.

“Greece cries to us, by the convulsed lips of her poisoned, dying Demosthenes; and Rome pleads with us, in the mute persuasion of her mangled Tully.” — p. 37.

The sound of my native language beyond the sea, is a music to my ear, beyond the richest strains of Tuscan softness, or Castilian majesty." — p. 58.

“They come from the embattled cliffs of Abraham; they start from the heaving sods of Bunker's Hill; they gather from the blazing lines of Saratoga and Yorktown ; from the blooddyed waters of the Brandywine; from the dreary snows of Valley Forge, and all the hard fought fields of the war." - p. 101.

“No vineyards, as now, clothed our in hospitable hill-sides; no blooming orchards, as at the present day, wore the livery of Eden, and loaded the breeze with sweet odors; no rich pastures, nor waving crops, stretched beneath the eye, along the wayside, from village to village, as if Nature had been spreading her halls with a carpet, fit to be pressed by the footsteps of her descending God!” - p. 229.

“ The memory of their great men of old went before them to battle, and scattered dismay in the ranks of the barbarous foe, as he moved, like Satan in hell, with uneasy steps, over the burning soil of freedom.” — p. 402.

“Have not these future billows, on which navies are soon to be tossed, in which the great monsters of the deep will disport themselves, been borne aloft on the bosom of a fleecy cloud, chased by a breeze, — with scarce enough of substance to catch the hues of a sunbeam ; and have they not descended, sometimes indeed, in drenching rains, — but far more diffusively in dew-drops, and gentle showers, and feathery snows, over the expanse of a continent, and been gathered successively into the slender rill, the brook, the placid stream, till they grew, at last, into the mighty river, pouring down his tributary floods into the unfathomed ocean?

pp. 407, 408.

The extracts which we have made from Mr. Everett's volume, are specimens of that magnificent declamation which is one of his most obvious and striking characteristics ; but, in order to appreciate the versatility of his powers, one should read his discourses of a sober and practical cast, such as his lecture on the Workingmen's Party, his address before the Massachusetts Agricultural Society, and his speech on the subject of the Western Rail-road. In these, we shall find that the same person who can so move and thrill us when he has his singing robes and garlands about him, can put them off, and give us familiar instruction and plair, practical advice, as if he had never spurned the damp earth with his rhetorical wings. His singular power of illustration enables him to give dignity to the lowest, and interest to the driest subject, while that unerring taste, which, in his highest flights, insures him temperance and smoothness, preserves him from the unpardonable sin of being heavy, commonplace, and prosaic. The extent of his knowledge in cominon things, and his minute power of observation, are quite remarkable in one, who has spent so much time in his study, and is so familiar with books. His brilliant intellectual accomplishments, and his fine taste, rest upon a granite foundation of vigorous good.

He can meet merchants, farmers, and mechanics upon their own ground, and tell them something they did not know before. His retentive memory, and copious stores of all kinds of information, enable him to support every position by an imposing array of facts, and leave no room for that distrust, which practical men are apt to entertain of the views and opinions of scholars and thinkers. The following extract from his speech on the subject of the Western Rail-road, may be adduced as a specimen of his powers in this respect.

“But the great thing wanting to the prosperity of Massachusetts is COMMUNICATION WITH THE West. The internal commerce of this country is prodigious; and of all that part which is accessible to us, on the present system of communication, we have an ample share. With the South, we have, in our freighting and coasting trade, every thing that can be asked. With the South-West, in reference to all that part of commerce which is calculated to seek the route by sea to New Orleans, we have nothing more to desire ; — and the intercourse already established in this way, with the whole region drained by the Mississippi and its tributaries, is most extensive, various, and mutu


« ПретходнаНастави »