Слике страница
PDF
ePub

the nationality and patriotism of tone, and the rare poetio flavor and picturesqueness in which they abound.

“We hesitate not to declare that Edward Everett's Orations are as pure in style, as able in statement, and as authentic as expressions of popular history, feeling, and opinion, in a finished and elegant shape, as were those of Demosthenes and Cicero in their day. .f. . If a highlycultivated foreigner were to ask us to point him to any single work which would justly inform him of the spirit of our institutions and history, and at the same time afford an adequate idea of our present degree of culture, we should confidently designate these Orations.

“The great battles of the Revolution, the sufferings and principles of the early colonists, the characters of our leading statesmen, the progress of arts, sciences, and education among us-all those great interests which are characteristic to the philosopher of a nation's life-are here expounded, now by important facts, now by eloquent illustration, and again in the form of impressive and graceful comments. History, essays, descriptive sketches, biographical data, picturesque detail, and general principles, are all blent together with a tact, a distinctness, a felicity of expression, and a unity of style unexampled in this species of

writing."*

“In all that Mr. Everett does, there is a singular completeness in the execution as well as the conception. He leaves no thought ill comprehended, no sentence badly expressed. . . . His style combines purity and great richness of phrase, with that numerous rhythm which belongs to the higher forms of prose eloquence. The delicate perception by which the artist shades and tints his pictures, until the eye rests upon them with a conscious but unspeakable and inexplicable delight, is analogous to that well-trained sense of the beauties and proprieties and harmonies of speech, which guides a writer like Mr. Everett in the choice of his words, the combination of his clauses, and

* Sketch of American Literature, by H. T. Tuckerman.

the moulding of his periods into forms that dwell in the inind of the hearer for ever.

“The fine contrasts between simplicity of expression in narrative or unimpassioned passages, and the more elevated and embellished manner into which the harmoniouslyattuned spirit naturally rises in moments of inspiration, fornı one of the highest charms of a finished literary style. This charm everywhere casts its spell over the writings of Mr. Everett.

" Mr. Everett's fame as a scholar runs back even to his boyish days.' It was, however, he first Phi Beta Kappa Oration, delivered at Cambridge in 1824, that placed him before the public as one of the greatest and most accomplished orators who had ever appeared in America. The subject of this oration was The Circumstances Favorable to the Progress of Literature in America. About forty years after, Everett, now venerable in years, veteran in distinguished services, rich in public honors, and crowned with trophies from almost two hundred fields of oratory, passed, as it were, from the very rostrum, to rest. And be it said, as his highest praise, that his life, both public and private, com: ported with his faultless and noble eloquence.”*

THE PILGRIM FATHERS.

AN EXTRACT FROM A SPEECH DELIVERED ON THE 1ST OF

AUGUST, 1853. I NEED not say to this company, assembled on the shore of the haven for which so many noble hearts on that terrible voyage throbbed with sickening expectancy—that quiet haven where the Mayflower furled her tattered sails—that a greater, a noblez work was never performed by man. Truly, the opus magnumthe great work of humanivy. You bid me speak of that portion of it which devolved on the Pilgrims.

Would to Heaven I could find words to do justice even to my own poor conceptions, and still more that I could find conceptions noi far below the august reality! A mighty work of im. provement, in which (not to speak of what has been done in

* North American Review, October, 1850.

other portions of the continent) the poor, solitary Mayflower, 84 to say, has multiplied herself into the thousand vessels that bear the flag of the Union to every sea; has scattered her progeny through the land, to the number of nearly a quarter of a million for every individual in that drooping company of one hundred; and in place of the simple compact which was signed in her cabin, has exhibited to the admiration of mankind a constitution of republican government for all this growing fan.ily of prosperous States. But the work is in its infancy. It must extend throughout the length and breadth of the land, and what is not done directly by ourselves must be done by other governments and other races, by the light of our example.

The work, the work must go on. It must reach at the North to the enchanted cave of the magnet, within never

melting barriers of Arctic ice; it must bow to the lord of day on the altar: peaks of Chimborazo; it must look up and worship the Southern Cross. From the easternmost cliff on the Atlantic, that blushes in the kindling dawn, to the last promontory on the Pacific, which catches the parting kiss of the setting sun as he goes down to his pavilion of purple and gold, it must make the outgoings or the morning and evening to rejoice in the gladsome light of morals, and letters, and arts. Emperors, and kings, and parliaments—the oldest and the strongest governments in Europe-must

engage in this work in some part or other of the continent, but no part of it shall be so faithfully and successfully performed as that which was undertaken by the Pilgrim Fathers of New England, on the spot where we are now gathered.

*

*

*

*

*

There are two master ideas, greatest of the spiritual images enthroned in the mind of man-the only ideas, comparatively speaking, which deserve a name among men, springs of all the grand beneficent movements of modern times--by whose influ. ence the settlement of New England may be rationally explained. You have anticipated me, descendants of the Pilgrims: these great ideas are GoD and LIBERTY. It was these that inspired our fathers; by these that their weakness was clothed with power, that their simplicity was transmuted to wisdom; by these that the great miracle of their enterprise was wrought.

[blocks in formation]

The Pilgrims were actuated by that principle, which, as I have just said, has given the first impulse to all the great movements of the modern world—I mean profound religious faith. They had the frailties of humanity. This exalted principle itself was combined with human weakness. It was mingled with the prejudices and errors of age and country and sect; it was habitually gloomy; it was sometimes intolerant; but it was reverent, s'ncere, all-controlling. It did not influence, it possessed the soul. It steeled the heart to the delights of life; it raised the frame above bodily weakness; it enabled the humble to brave the frowns of power; it triumphed over cold and hunger, the prisov and the scaffold; it taught uneducated men to speak with persuasive fervor; it gave manly strength and courage to tender and delicate women.

[blocks in formation]

But, sir, our fathers embraced that second grand idea of civil liberty with not less fervor than the first. It was a kindred fruit of the same stock. They cherished it with a zeal not less intense and resolute. This is a topic for a volume, rather than the closing sentence of a speech. I will only say that the highest authorities in English history, Hume, Hallam, Macaulay, neither of them influenced by sympathy with the Puritans, concur in the opinion that England was indebted to them for the preservation of her liberties in that most critical period of her national existence, when the question between prerogative and law, absolute authority and constitutional government, was decided for ever.

in coming to this country, our fathers most certainly contemplated, not merely a safe retreat beyond the sea, where they could worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience, but a local government founded on popular choice. That their foresight stretched onward through the successive stages of colonial and provincial government which resulted in the establishment of a great republican confederacy, it would be extravagant to pretend. But from the primitive and venerable compact signed on the 11th of November, 1620, on board the Mayflower, while she yet nestled in the embrace of Princetown harbor, after her desolate voyage, like a weary child at even-song in its mother's arms, through every document and manifesto which bears on the question, there is a distinct indication of a purpose to establish civil government on the basis of republican equality.

In a word, Mr. President, their political code united religion and liberty, morals and law, and it differed from the wild license which breaks away from these restraints, as the well-guided rail." way engine, instinct with mechanical life, conducted by a bold, but skilful and prudent hand, and propelled in safety towards its destination, with glowing axle, along its iron grooves, differs from tie same engine when its speed is rashly urged beyond the point of safety, or when, driven by criminal recklessness or murderous neglect, it leaps madly from the track, and plunges with its crushed and shrieking train into the jaws of destruction.

THE USES OF ASTRONOMY. EXTRACT FROM A DISCOURSE DELIVERED AT THE INAUGURATION OF

DUDLEY OBSERVATORY, ALBANY, AUGUST 28, 1856. In the first place, then, we derive from the observations of the heavenly bodies, which are made at an observatory, our only adequate measure of time and our only means of comparing the time of one place with the time of another. Our artificial timekeepers - clocks, watches, and chronometers — however ingeniously contrived and admirably fabricated, are but a transcript, so to say, of the celestial motions, and would be of no value without the means of regulating them by observation. It is impossible for them under any circumstances to escape the imperfection of all machinery, the work of human hands; and the moment we remove with our timekeeper east or west, it fails us. It will keep home time alone, like the fond traveller who leaves his heart behind him. The artificial instrument is of incalculable utility, but must itself be regulated by the eternal clock-work of the skies.

This single consideration is sufficient to show how completely the daily business of life is affected and controlled by the heavenly bodies. It is they and not our main-springs, our expansion balances, and our compensation pendulums, which give us our time. To reverse the line of Pope

'Tis with our watches as our judgments; none

Go just alike, but each believes his own. But for all the kindreds and tribes and tongues of men-each upon his own meridian–from the Arctic pole to the equator, from the equator to the Antarctic pole, the eternal sun strikes twelve at noon, and the glorious constellations, far up in the everlasting belfries of the skies, chime twelve at midnight ;-twelve for the pale student over his flickering lamp, twelve amid

« ПретходнаНастави »