Imágenes de páginas

one side, and leaves a rich, forest-clad bottom on the other, of a mile or so in breadth, you will have a pretty correct idea of the appearance of the Ohio. The banks of these rich flats are from twenty to sixty and eighty feet high ; and even these last were within a few feet of being overflowed in December, 1808.

“I now stripped with alacrity to my new avocation. The current went about two and a half miles an hour, and I added about three and a half miles more to the boat's way with my oars.

"I rowed twenty odd miles the first spell, and found I should be able lo stand it perfectly well. About an hour after night, I put up at a miserable cabin, fifty-two miles from Piitsburg, where I slept on what I supposed to be corn stalks, or something worse ; so, preferring the smooth bosom of the Ohio to this brush heap, I got up long before day, and, being under no apprehension of losing my way, I again pushed out into the stream. The landscape on each side lay in one mass of shade; but the grandeur of the projecting headlands and vanishing points, or lines, was charmingly reflected in the smooth glassy surface below. I could only discover when I was passing a clear. ing by the crowing of cocks, and now and then, in more solitary places, the big.horned owl made a most hideous hollowing, that echoed among the mountains. In this lonesome manner, with full leisure for observation and reflection, exposed to hardships all day, and hard berths all night, to storms of rain, hail, and snow—for it froze severely almost every night I persevered from the 24th of February to Sunday evening, March 17, when I moored my skiff safely in Bear Grass Creek, at the rapids of the Ohio, after a voyage of seven hundred and twenty miles. My hands suffered the most; and it will be some weeks yet before they recover their former feeling and flexibility. It would be the task of a month to detail all the particulars of my numerous excursions in every direction from the river.” This is but a short specimen of this journal. Read the whole, if you would know Wilson.

Pass we on to the year 1812. He was, in it, elected a member of the American Philosophical Society ; and in 1813 he had completed the literary materials of the eighth volume of his work. “ He now enjoyed,” Mr. Hetherington says well, “ the satisfaction of knowing that his labours had not been vain, and that the value of his work was generally appreciated; for although emanating from a republican country, there was at this period not a crowned head in Europe who had not become a subscriber to the American Ornithology.” But the end of his career was at hand. His constitution had been shook and undermined by much bodily fatigue and many mental anxieties. His genius had “o'er-informed its tenement of clay.” The dysentery—which had attacked him on his skiff-voyage down the Ohio, and which he had then vanquished by a wild-strawberry diet, at the advice of a wild Indian physi. cian-returned to the charge-and under the assault, Alexander Wilson, the Paisley Poet, and American Or. nithologist-having “ given the world assurance of a man” -laid down his head and died on the 23d of August, 1813, in the 48th year of his age.

Such is a slight sketch indeed of the life of this extraordinary and highly-gifted man-Wilson, the American Ornithologist, as he is, and will continue to be called, par eminence.

“ To-morrow for fresh fields and pastures new,"

was the inspiring feeling with which, on all his journeys, he lay down every night in the wilderness. For “ fields and pastures”- though they too abound in the New World substitute swamps and forests. He was a man of genius -and Nature and Scotland had given him an undaunted heart. The Birdery of North America, it may be said belonged to him who first in their native haunts devoted his prime of life to the study of all their kinds, and who died for Ornithology's sake. Precursor in those woods among the Winged People he had none; none that deserve to have their names written on the same page with his ; but he has a successor—as the world, old and new, must be made to know by means of Maga the Mercurial-and that successor, who is he but Audubon ?

It is only from the lips of envy or jealousy, or some other green and yellow wretch, that comparisons are odious—from the lips of rose-cheeked and bright-eyed admiration-and such is the countenance of Maga—they are odoriserous as violets. But our mode of making comparisons is as simple as it is philosophical—« Alexander Wilson and John James Audubon !” We call on them and they appear and answer to their names-yea, the one has done so from the dust-the other emerges bright from the living umbrage. But we are not the least afraid of ghosts-and Wilson is a gracious spirit. He and Audu. bon stand side by side-they grasp each other's handand during that cordial greeting all eyes may see that they are of the same stature--the crowns of their heads touch-to a hair-breadth-the mark six feet-the perfec. tion of altitude-on the standard. They are brothersand their names will go down together-for 6 they have writ their annals right”-with pen and pencil- nor will their superiors be found any where—their equals few-in all the highest haunts of ornithological science. Wilson had the happy fortune to be, with his happy genius-first in hand. But Audubon has all the natural endowments and acquired accomplishments that could alone enable a man to play the same noble game with the same success

—who came-second; and the two together have skirred the whole continent. The odds are great against the birth of a-third.


(Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 1831.)

Ours is a poetical age ; but has it produced one great poem ? Not one. If you think it has, you will perhaps favour us with the name of the author and his work. But haply you may first demand of us what we mean by a great poem ? If you do, we shan't answer you; for we deal not in reasonings, but in assertions. Reasonings are apt to be tedious and unsatisfactory; assertions are short —and if correct—which ours · always are-they carry their own demonstrations along with them-neatly folded up-and all that you have to do is to allow them to evolve themselves at their leisure in the light of truth, till they appear before you like a bright consummate flowers,” which it is pleasant to gaze on, and profitable to gather. From the commencement of our career we have flourished on assertions, while most of our contemporaries have “faded, languished, grown dim, and died,” on demonstrations. We learned this great secret from the observation and meditation of half a century ; and applying to literature the philosophy of life, we have become immortal. In vain would you search through nearly twenty decades of Maga for one specimen of an argument above an inch long; whereas in every page the most astounding assertions stare you in the face, till you are out of countenance, and shut your eyes in the sudden and insupportable effulgence of the naked truth-only to open them again with gisted ** vision on a wider revelation of earth and heaven.

We therefore repeat our assertion—that ours is a poetical age, but that it has not produced one great poem. Just look at them for a moment. There is the Pleasures of

Memory—an elegant, graceful, beautiful, pensive, and pathetic poem, which it does one's eyes good to gaze on one's ears good to listen to-one's very fingers good to touch, so smooth is the versification and the wire-wove paper. Never will the Pleasures of Memory be forgotten till the world is in its dotage. But is it a great poem? About as much so as an ant or a mole-hill, prettily grass-grown and leaf-strewn, is a mountain purple with heather and golden with woods. It is a symmetrical erection—in the shape of a cone—and the apex points heavenwards; but 'tis not a sky-piercer. You take it at a hop-and pursue your journey. Yet it endures. For the rains and the dews, and the airs and the sunshine, love the fairy knoll, and there it greens and blossoms delicately and delightfully, half a work of art and half a work of nature.

Then, there is the poetry of Crabbe. We hear it is not popular. If so, neither is human life. For of all our living poets, he has most skilfully « woven the web and woven the woof” of all his compositions with the materials of human life-homespun indeed—but though osten coarse, always strong—and though set to plain patterns, yet not unfrequently exceeding fine is the old weaver's workmanship. Ay-hold up the product of his loom between your eye and the light, and it glows and glimmers like the peacock's back or the breast of the rainbow. Sometimes it seems to be but of the “ hodden gray ;" when sunbeam or shadow smites it, and lo! it is burnished like the regal purple. But did the borough-monger ever produce a great poem? You might as well ask if he built St. Paul's.

Breathes not the man with a more poetical temperament than Bowles. No wonder that his cyes “ love all they look on,” for they possess the sacred gift of beautifying creation, by shedding over it the charm of melancholy. “ Pleasant but mournful to the soul is the memory of joys that are past”—is the text we should choose were we about to preach on his genius. No vain repinings, no idle regrets, does his spirit ever breathe over the still receding past. But time-sanctified are all the shows that arise before his pensive imagination and the common light of day, once gone, in his poetry seems to shine as if

« AnteriorContinuar »