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All his other men-figures are clothes upon sticks,
The dernier chemise of a man in a fix,
(As a captain besieged, when his garrison's small,
Sets up caps upon poles to be seen o'er the wall ;)
And the women he draws from one model don't vary,
All sappy as maples and flat as a prairie.
When a character's wanted, he goes to the task
As a cooper would do in composing a cask;
He picks out the staves, of their qualities heedful,
Just hoops them together as tight as is needful,
And, if the best fortune should crown the attempt, he
Has made at the most something wooden and empty.
* Don't suppose I would underrate Cooper's abilities,
If I thought you'd do that, I should feel very ill at ease;
The men who have given to one character life
And objective existence, are not very rife,
Yon may number them all, both prose-writers and singers,
Without overrunning the bounds of your fingers,
And Natty won't go to oblivion quicker
Than Adams the parson or Primrose the vicar.
• There is one thing in Cooper I like, too, and that is That on manners he lectures his countrymen gratis, Not precisely so either, because, for a rarity, He is paid for his tickets in unpopularity. Now he may overcharge his American pictures, But you'll grant there's a good deal of truth in his strictures; And I honour the man who is willing to sink Half his present repute for the freedom to think, And, when he has thought, be his cause strong or weak, Will risk tother half for the freedom to speak, Caring naught for what vengeance the mob has in store, Let that mob be the upper ten thousand or lower.
• There are truths you Americans need to be told,
And it never'll refute them to swagger and scold;
John Bull, looking o'er the Atlantic, in choler
At your aptness for trade, says you worship the dollar;
But to scorn such i-dollar-try's what very few do,
And John goes to that church as often as you do.
No matter what John says, don't try to outcrow him,
'Tis enough to go quietly on and outgrow him ;
Like most fathers, Bull hates to see Number One
Displacing himself in the mind of his son,
And detests the same faults in himself he'd neglected
When he sees them again in his child's glass reflected;
To love one another you're too like by half,
If he is a bull, you're a pretty stout calf,
And tear your own pasture for nought but to show
What a nice pair of horns you're beginning to grow.
• There are one or two things I should just like to hint,
For you don't often get the truth told you in print;
The most of you (this is what strikes all beholders)
Have a mental and physical stoop in the shoulders ;
Though you ought to be free as the winds and the waves,
You've the gait and the manners of runaway slaves ;
Tho' you brag of your New World, you don't half believe in it,
And as much of the Old as is possible weave in it;
Your goddess of freedom, a tight, buxom girl,
With lips like a cherry and teeth like a pearl,
With eyes bold as Here's, and hair floating free,
And full of the sun as the spray of the sea,
Who can sing at a husking or romp at a shearing, '.
Who can trip through the forests alone without fearing,
Who can drive home the cows with a song through the grass,
Keeps glancing aside into Europe's cracked glass,
Hides her red hands in gloves, pinches up her lithe waist,
And makes herself wretched with transmarine taste;
She loses her fresh country charm when she takes
Any mirror except her own rivers and lakes.
"You steal Englishmen's books and think Englishmen's
With their salt on her tail your wild eagle is caught
Your literature suits its each whisper and motion
To what will be thought of it over the ocean;
The cast clothes of Europe your statesmanship tries
And mumbles again the old blarneys and lies ;-
Forget Europe wholly, your veins throb with blood,
To which the dull current in hers is but mud;
Let her sneer, let her say your experiment fails,
In her voice there's a tremble e'en now while she rails,
And your shore will soon be in the nature of things
Covered thick with gilt driftwood of runaway kings,
Where alone, as it were in a Longfellow's Waif,
Her fugitive pieces will find themselves safe.
O, my friends, thank your God, if you have one, that He
'Twixt the Old World and you set the gulf of a sea ;
Be strong-backed, brown-handed, upright as your pines,
By the scale of a hemisphere shape your designs,
Be true to yourselves and this new nineteenth age,
As a statue by Powers, or a picture by Page,
Plough, sail, forge, build, carve, paint, all things make new,
Io your own New-World instincts contrive to be true;
Keep your cars open wide to the Future's first call,
Be whatever you will, but yourselves first of all;
Stand fronting the dawn on Toil's heaven-scaling peaks,
And become my new race of more practical Greeks.-
Hem! your likeness at present, I shudder to tell o't,
Is that you hare your slaves, and the Greek had his helot.'
Here a gentleman present, who had in his attic
More pepper than brains, shrieked— The man's a fanatic,
I'm a capital tailor with warm tar and feathers,
And will make him a suit that'll serve in all weathers;
But we'll argue the point first, I'm willing to reason't,
Palaver before condemnation's but decent,
So, through my humble person, Humanity begs
Of the friends of true freedom a loan of bad eggs.'
But Apollo let one such a look of his show forth
As when ήΐε νύκτι εοικως, and so forth,
And the gentleman somehow slunk out of the way,
But, as he was going, gained courage to say-
* At slavery in the abstract my whole soul rebels,
I am as strongly opposed to't as any one else.'
* Ay, no doubt, but whenever I're happened to meet
With a wrong or a crime, it is always concrete,'
Answered Phæbus severely; then turning to us,
• The mistake of such fellows as just made the fuss
Is only in taking a great busy nation
For a part of their pitiful cotton-plantation.-
But there comes Miranda, Zeus ! where shall I flee to ?
She has such a penchant for bothering me too!
She always keeps asking if I don't observe a
Particular likeness 'twixt her and Minerva ;
She tells me my efforts in verse are quite clever ;-
She's been travelling now, and will be worse than ever;
One would think, though, a sharp-sighted noter she'd be
Of all that's worth mentioning over the sea,
For a woman must surely see well, if she try,
The whole of whose being's a capital I:
She will take an old notion, and make it her own,
By saying it o'er in her Sibylline tone,
Or persuade you 'tis something tremendously deep,
By repeating it so as to put you to sleep;
And she well may defy any mortal to see through it,
When once she has mixed up her infinite me through it.
There is one thing she owns in her own single right,
It is native and genuine-namely, her spite :
Though, when acting as censor, she privately blows
A censor of vanity 'neath her own nose.'
Here Miranda came up and said, 'Phæbus ! you know
That the infinite Soul has its infinite woe,
As I ought to know, having lived cheek by jowl,
Since the day I was born, with the Infinite Soul;
I myself introduced, I myself, I alone,
Land's better life authors solely my own, Who the sad heart of earth on their shoulders have taken, Whose works sound a depth by Life's quiet unshaken, Such as Shakespeare, for instance, the Bible, and Bacon, Not to mention my own works; Time's nadir is fleet, And, as for myself, I'm quite out of conceit'
Quite out of conceit! I'm enchanted to hear it,'
Cried Apollo aside; Who'd have thought she was near it?
To be sure one is apt to exhaust those commodities
He uses too fast, yet in this case as odd it is
As if Neptune should say to his turbots and whitings,
“I'm as much out of salt as Miranda's own writings,"
(Which, as she in her own happy manner has said,
Sound a depth, for 'tis one of the functions of lead.)
She often has asked me if I could not find
A place somewhere near me that suited her mind;
I know but a single one vacant, which she,
With her rare talent that way, would fit to a T.
And it would not imply any pause or cessation
In the work she esteems her peculiar vocation-
She may enter on duty to-day, if she chooses,
And remain Tiring-woman for life to the Muses.'
(Miranda meanwhile has succeeded in driving
Up into a corner, in spite of their striving,
A small flock of terrified victims, and there,
With an I-turn-the-crank-of-the-Universe air
And a tone which, at least to my fancy, appears
Not so much to be entering as boxing your ears,
Is unfolding a tale (of herself, I surmise),
For 'tis dotted as thick as a peacock's with l’s.)
Apropos of Miranda, I'll rest on my oars
And drift through a trifling digression on bores,
L'or, though not wearing ear-rings in more majorum,
Our ears are kept bored just as if we still wore 'em
There was one feudal custom worth keeping, at least,
Roasted bores made a part of each well-ordered feast,
And of all quiet pleasures the very ne plus
Was in hunting wild bores as the tame ones hunt us.
Archæologians, I know, who have personal fears
Of this wise application of hounds and of spears,
Have tried to make out, with a zeal more than wonted,
'Twas a kind of wild swine that our ancestors hunted ;
But I'll never believe that the age which has strewn
Europe o'er with cathedrals, and otherwise shown
That it knew what was what, could by chance not have known
(Spending, too, its chief time with its buff on, no doubt),
Which beast ’twould improve the world most to thin out.
I divide bores myself, in the manner of rifles,
Into two great divisions, regardless of trifles ;-
There's your smooth-bore and screw-bore, who do not much
In the weight of cold lead they respectively carry.
The smooth-bore is one in whose essence the mind
Not a corner nor cranny to cling by can find;
You feel as in nightmares sometimes, when you slip
Down a steep slated roof where there's nothing to grip,
You slide and you slide, the blank horror increases,
You had rather by far be at once smashed to pieces,
You fancy a whirlpool below white and frothing,
And finally drop off and light upon-nothing,
The screw-bore has twists in him, faint predilections
For going just wrong in the tritest directions ;
When he's wrong he is flat, when he's right he can't show it,
He'll tell you what Snooks said about the new poet, *
Or how Fogrum was outraged by Tennyson's Princess;
He has spent all his spare time and intellect since his
Birth in perusing, on each art and science,
Just the books in which no one puts any reliance,
And though nemo, we're tol horis omnibus sapit,
The rule will not fit him, however you shape it,
For he has a perennial foison of sappiness ;
He has just enough force to spoil half your day's happiness,
And to make him a sort of mosquito to be with,
But just not enough to dispute or agree with.
These sketches I made (not to be too explicit)
From two honest fellows who made me a visit,
And broke, like the tale of the Bear and the Fiddle,
My reflections on Halleck short off by the middle;
I shall not now go into the subject more deeply,
For I notice that some of my readers look sleep'ly,
I will barely remark that, 'mongst civilised nations,
There's none that displays more exemplary patience
(If you call Snooks an owl, he will show by his looks
That he's morally certain you're jealous of Snooks.)