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of operations, a column composed of at least one Russian armycorps, supported by numerous auxiliaries from the districts we have named, which, moving by Sophia and Uksub upon TatarBasardjik, would completely turn the line of the Balkans.
But we are too ignorant of the facts to venture upon hypotheses that may have no foundation. We cannot as yet even solve the question whether the delay of the Russians upon the Danube is brought about by causes we have already referred to, or by the indecision of their commanders. Before our next number appears events will have solved many of the questions which now perplex ART. III. — Fitz-GREENE HALLECK.
For the present we can only practise the adage of the Russians, "I sit upon the bank, and there I await the wind."
GEO. B. MCCLELLAN.
On the 15th of May the first monumental statue of an American author was unveiled in the Central Park of New York. It is not a fortunate specimen of our native art. The posture is ungraceful, the face over-conscious to the verge of ostentation, and the general character of the figure is so theatrical that few of those who knew the poet will immediately recognize him. But the question of the artistic value of the work is subordinate to that of its place as a landinark in the history of our literature. Washington Irving, born in the first year of the nation's independence, and first to represent the American people in letters throughout the world, still waits for commemoration in bronze or marble. Cooper, Poe, and Hawthorne, who, after him, have received wider fame and exercised a more distinct literary influence than any others of our departed authors, wear no honors save those bestowed upon their graves. Why should the first distinction fall upon Fitz-Greene Halleck, an author whose period of activity was so brief, whose good works are so few, and whose name has scarcely passed beyond his country's borders ?
To answer this question fairly and satisfactorily, we are obliged to consider the poet's character and personality, and the peculiar circunstances of his literary life. The latter have faded from the memory of the general public; for every great political convulsion immediately throws the Past into sudden remoteness and indistinctness, by interposing a deep chasm between it and the Present. It is quite time that a history of American Literature — if only in
its main outlines — should be written. The men who remember, clearly and intelligently, all the phenomena of our intellectual growth previous to the year 1830 are becoming few; and to them, rather than to old newspaper-files, must we turn for the best knowledge of those early days. Halleck's importance is at once perceived, if we project him against the background of his time. His position is almost that of the German poet, Gellert, — the first to sing a natural note, in a waste of dulness and imitation, and grow
ing silent as he lived to be the contemporary of far greater men. Each of his lyrics came forth like a burst of light, because the poetic atmosphere was one of level gloom. He was the American twin-brother of Campbell, to whom, as a poet, he always felt nearest, yet whom he never imitated. He was cast in an independent mould ; and it is not likely that, under other circumstances or with greater incentives to labor, his literary record would have been different in character.
The vein of poetic genius in Halleck's nature was wholly genuine, yet it was exceptionally quiet and undemonstrative. Its activity was less inherent in its substance than dependent on some external stimulus. For one who wrote so much and so fairly as a boy, his first flush of manhood and contact with life are surprisingly barren of verse. His friendship with Joseph Rodman Drake, which began about the close of the year 1813, and continued until the latter's death in 1820, was the spell which awoke his true powers, and gave him a swift and delightful fame. Drake was a born singer, — almost an improvrisatore, — whose iinaginative faculty, although of rather flimsy texture, was always rapid, joyous, and infectious. He wrote in the ardor of his first conceptions, and seems to have rarely retouched or elaborated his work. Halleck, who, I suspect, composed more slowly, resembled Drake in the unstudied ease, grace, and sweetness of his lines. Before “ The Croakers ” and “Fanny,” there was no American verse that was not either pompously solemn or coarsely farcical: hence this new fountain, wilfully casting forth its pure sparkling, capricious jets of song, was welcomer to the public than poetry can ever be again. If to readers of this day the sentiment may now and then appear conventional, or the humor dull, or the political allusions obscure, it must be remembered that Halleck was first read by a generation which had never before been refreshed by sentiment and humor and cleverness of allusion. The light abandon of his stanzas was as new as their racy local flavor. The mock American Muse seemed suddenly to have come down from her clattering cothurni, thrown away her grim Minerva-mask, and shown herself in young and breathing beauty, with the elastic step of a mountain maiden.
After Drake's death, Halleck's trip to Europe and his ardent Philhellenic sympathies prolonged his poetic activity for a time; but the ten years, from 1817 to 1827, begin and complete his season
of productiveness. Nothing that he wrote before or after that period possesses any vitality; and it is probable, in fact, that he will only be known to later generations by six poems, which I venture to name in the order of their excellence: “Marco Bozzaris,” " Burns,” “Red Jacket,” “Alnwick Castle,” “The Field of the Grounded Arms,” and “On the Death of Drake.” His “Fanny” may still be read with interest, but its original charm faded away with the surprise of its first appearance; some of the other brief lyrics and songs are unaffected, graceful, and either tender or mocking; and in a fragment of his poem on Connecticut we find these lines, which, although less sinewy and imaginative, are of the same quality as some passages in Lowell's noble patriotic Odes :
“Thy gallant men stepped steady and serene
To that war-music's stern and strong delight,
Where sabres grappled in the ocean fight;
They hunted the wolf Danger to his lair,
Six lyrics seem to be a slender basis for a poetic fame; but has Collins more ? — has even Gray more? And these six of Halleck are indisputably his own. We may find in them the measure of Scott, something of the diction of Campbell, or the free metrical cadences of Byron, yet each of these features is colored by a distinct individuality, and all are fused into a poetic substance which asserts its native quality. Since Halleck never gave his life to the service of poetry, — never made an artistic ideal of that which came to him as an unsought delight, - we may with all the more justice accept his highest performance as the true measure of his genius. He lived at a time, and in a community, which did not guess the necessity of educating the finer intellectual gifts, of training the wings which would essay loftier flights. Perhaps the recognition of this necessity, coming upon him too late, may account for the silence of his later years. His mind, although limited in
, its range of interests, was both sound and delicately organized : he was as capable of distinguishing between his own complete or partial success as any critic of his day; and the circumstance that, after writing “Marco Bozzaris," he handed the manuscript to his fellow-clerk, Mr. Embury, with the simple question, "Will this
do ?” was not, as Mr. H. T. Tuckerman asserted, an evidence of “ unconsciousness of its superior merit,” but the strongest possible proof that the author knew it would do. The poem is as far above Drake's “ American Flag” — or, indeed, any heroic lyric which up
” to that time had been written in this country - as refined gold is
above its oroid imitation. The invocation to Death has a solemn sweetness which perpetually haunts the memory: who has ever more nobly described the coming of death to the hero than in this
“Come in her crowning hour, and then
Of sky and stars to prisoned men :
To the world-seeking Genoese,
Blew o'er the Haytian seas.” Carlyle complacently calls Walter Scott "a healthy man "; yet, if we take the phrase in its best intellectual sense, it is the reverse of disparaging. In the same sense Halleck might be aptly described as a healthy poet. He certainly knew no imaginative or spiritual woes; he even seemed to be incapable of comprehending them in others. His faculty acted freely, soaring or sinking into silence at its own good-will, taking the facts of life as something inevitable, without prying into the mystery of Evil, or beating its wings bloody against that barrier of transparent adamant which separated it from so much possible Good. He never attempted to express anything higher than the principle of Manhood, and his verses sprang from the source of that principle in his own being. Poetry so virile and sincere can never wholly lose its value. Men will become weary of abstruse metaphysical problems in rhyme, will occasionally prefer the ordinary moods of life without any admixture of doubt or speculation, and, after a surfeit of alliteration and rhythmical effect, will still find pleasure in honest and unexaggerated sentiment.
I have interpreted Halleck's character as a poet by my knowledge of him as a man. My acquaintance with him, renewed at