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long intervals, extended over the last fifteen years of his life. Although the intolerance of youth still clung to me, and his tastes and opinions were sometimes so divergent from mine as to seem incredible, they were always expressed so simply and with such manly gentleness that I never ventured to dispute them. In fact, it is only by applying to my very distinct recollection of my intercourse with him the corrective of a somewhat maturer judgment, that I have reached a fairer recognition of his nature. I can see, now, to what extent his later life was an anachronism, and utterly without his power to change the fact. No gentleman of Copley's painting, stepped out of his frame into the life of our day, could have found himself more alien to our literary tastes and prevalent political views. Nay, it even seemed that Halleck's nature was an instance of what Darwin terms the "reversionary tendency," — the sudden reappearance of an original type, after a long course of variation; for he was neither republican, democratic in the ordinary sense, Protestant, nor modern. He was congenitally monarchical, feudal, knightly, Catholic, and medieval; but above all, knightly. I do not suppose that he had any curious habit of introversion, but a delicate natural instinct told him that he did not belong - or had belonged only for a short time to
– this century; and he accepted the fact as he would have accepted any fate which did not include degradation.
His features were not handsome, but the clear, mellow manliness of his expression made them seem so. His forehead, however, was nobly arched, indicating a large and well-proportioned brain, and it was balanced by a finely formed chin. He was a little under the medium height, but his erect carriage, even as an old man, and his air of natural dignity, had the effect of adding somewhat to his stature. I have never seen a man who was so simply and inevitably courteous; he was an incarnate noblesse oblige. When he was sitting to Mr. Hicks for his portrait (I think in 1855), I called several times, at the artist's request, to make his hours of service a little more endurable, by inciting him to talk. He always gave his views with the greatest frankness, yet would listen to the opposite with a most delightful tolerance. More than once, after uttering something which probably brought my surprise unconsciously into my face, he would quietly add: “I am not a republican, you must remember; I am a monarchist." I
should also have supposed him to be a Roman Catholic, from the manner in which he occasionally referred to the Church of Rome; but he expressed, in reality, the feeling of an Anglican Catholic who regretted the separation.
One day the conversation turned upon poetry, and finally led to a discussion of some modern poets. Halleck at once became interested, straightened himself in his chair, and a new glow, as if slowly evolved from within, came upon his face. “ They are still trying to define poetry,” he said. " It can be explained in a word : it's simply the opposite of reason! Reason is based on fact; and fact is not poetry. A poet has nothing to do with the facts of things, for he must continually deny them !” “Will you give me an illustration ?” I asked. Certainly,” said he; and then quoted, not from Campbell, or Byron, or Moore, as I was expecting, but these lines from Wordsworth's "Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle" :
“Armor, rusting on his walls,
On the blood of Clifford calls.
Bear me to the heart of France !'
Groan thou with our victory ! " “There !” Halleck exclaimed: "was ever anything more irrational than the lance exclaiming and the shield longing ? — but what poetry it is !” Taking his definition in that sense, of course I agreed with him; but when the conversation incidentally touched upon later authors, I preferred to disagree in silence, for the sake of hearing many curious and unfamiliar opinions. I found that he was no admirer of Tennyson, although he admitted that the latter possessed genius in a distorted form. I quoted several passages without much effect, until I happened to remember the little fragment called “The Eagle,” which Halleck had never heard :
“He clasps the crag with hookéd hands :
Ringed with the azure world he stands.” A sudden light flashed into the poet's eye. 'Ringed with the azure world,” he repeated; "yes, that's poetry !” Presently he
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continued ; “Browning seems to be becoming very popular. I had read very little of him, and that little I did not like; but I thought I must try again. So the other day I took up his last volume, and the very first line of the first poem was this: Where the quiet-colored end of evening smiles !' How can an end smile? Evening may do so, but the quiet-colored end'! The next line was: 'Miles and miles'- so that the end was not merely smiling, but it smiled miles and miles ! It was impossible for me to read any more. I see that people nowadays admire these things, and are not offended by the violations of good grammar and rhetoric, but I can't understand it!"
It has often occurred to me, since, that Halleck's feudal inclinations sprang from the partial suppression - or, at least, the imperfect development - of his æsthetic nature. With all his monarchical faith, he was a sincere and devout lover of his country, and there is no touch of disloyalty to the principles of her government in his poetry. Perhaps, also, he unconsciously exaggerated his views, since they might indirectly explain his silence to the generation for which he did not and could not sing. During the latter years of his life he was overlooked except by the circle of old friends who knew the pure integrity and nobility of his nature, and in many of whom the music of his early fame still found an echo. To these, and to a small circle of cultivated men in other parts of the country, his monument is due.
I saw him last, about the beginning of the war, on one of his visits to New York. Calling with a friend at the quiet hotel where he was wont to lodge, I found that he was ill, and would have withdrawn; but he sent down a request that we should go to his room. With unnecessary courtesy, he had risen from his bed and taken an arm-chair: he looked weak and suffering; but his kindliness and gentle grace were so perfect as to be really touching. It was impossible to detect how much effort he made to converse cheerfully; the spirit of the knightly gentleman controlled his body, and gave him a factitious ease, which I trust we did not abuse.
No great poet is ever suddenly born into an age barren of poetry. He has his forerunners as well as his successors. Our only earlier poet than Halleck is Richard H. Dana, who still lightly wears the snows of his ninety winters; but his strains are few and grave,
and they reached the public after the ringing lyrics of the former. We must count them both as forerunners of the greater names in American Literature that have since come, and the greater that may yet come. If Halleck attained an easier fame than would be possible to like achievement now, we must not forget that it was through rising so much higher than those before and beside him. For a short time he was the representative of our poetry as Irving was of our prose; and both were the prophecies of their later brethren. It is idle to speculate (although the world is very fond of so speculating) upon what might have been the result if an author had yielded to, or resisted, this or that influence. Most lives shape themselves, in spite of seeming possibilities; and they do not often fail fairly to represent the quality of the man. Taking both his literary record and the somewhat uneventful story of his modest life, we shall find no reason to diminish our offering of respect and honor to Fitz-Greene Halleck.
ART. IV. THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION.
III. The imperfections in our National Constitution, demonstrated by experience, have come near making shipwreck of the nation upon several occasions, threaten to do it again if not repaired, and should command the attention of the American people. When time has demonstrated imperfections in any system of government, the power of amendment is the only safety that government has from revolution and destruction. The capability of the British Con
. stitution for reform has repeatedly saved that government from revolution; and our fathers, perceiving this great truth, wisely provided in the Constitution for its amendment by two distinct methods.
Perhaps it might not be improper here to explain the interest I take in this question and my connection with it. I had my attention called to the defects of the electoral system some years ago, and in December, 1872, I offered the following resolution in the Senate :
“Resolved, That the Committee on Privileges and Elections be instructed to examine and report, at the next session of Congress, upon the best and most practicable mode of electing the President and VicePresident, and providing a tribunal to adjust and decide all contested questions connected therewith, with leave to sit during vacation.”
The resolution was adopted in March, 1873, and the committee met in the city of New York in September, was in deliberation for several weeks, and finally agreed on the form of an amendment to the Constitution, to be reported to the Senate at the next session. This amendment was reported in May, 1874, and is as follows:
“ Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is hereby proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several States, shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the Constitution, to wit: