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of God upon earth. Be my companion, my sister and spouse, O dear inspired maid! Reveal to me the celestial thought, which thou singest upon thy lyre. Supported by each other, we shall be strong enough to beat down all the errors and falsehoods of the false prophets. We will be the apostles of truth ; we will teach our corrupted and despairing brethren the joys of faithful love and the duties of families.
Helena (playing upon the lyre). Listen, O spirit of the lyre ! This is a sacred song, a rich and noble harmony ; but I hardly comprehend it, for it is a voice from the earth, and my ears have long been closed to earthly harmonies. The silver strings resound no longer, the strings of steel have become mute. Explain to me the hymn of wisdom, thou who hast descended from heaven among men !
The Spirit of the Lyre. I can no longer explain any thing to thee, O daughter of the lyre! I can only sing to thee of love. Science I have lost, I have lost it with joy ; for love is greater than knowledge, and thy soul is the universe where I would fain live, the infinite into which I would plunge. Wisdom speaks to thee of toil and duty ; wisdom speaks to thee of wisdom ; thou hast no need of wisdom, if thou hast love. O Helena ! love is the highest wisdom; virtue is in love, and the most virtuous heart is that which loves the most. Daughter of the lyre, hearken only to me; I am a living melody, I am a devouring fire. Let us sing and burn together ; let us be an altar, where flame may nourish flame ; and without mingling ourselves with the impure fires, which men kindle upon the altars of false gods, let us nourish each other, and slowly be consumed, until, exhausted with happiness, our ashes shall mingle together, illumined by the rays of the sun, which make the roses bloom, and the doves sing.
ALBERTUS (10 Helena). Alas ! thou answerest me only by a sublime song, which continually kindles in me more vast desires ; but there is no sympathy between thy song and my prayer. Quit thy lyre, O Helena ! thou hast no need of melody; thy thought is a song more harmonious than all the strings of the lyre, and virtue is the purest harmony which man can breathe forth towards God.
HELENA (touching the lyre). Answer me, O spirit ! O thou, whom I love, and who speakest the language of my spirit ! Shall our love be eternal, and shall not death break our union? It is not in the rays of the sun, it is not in the calices of roses, it is not in the breasts of doves, that I can satisfy the love, which preys upon me.
I feel it mount towards the infinite with ceaseless ardor. I can love only in the infinite ; speak to me only of the infinite and of eternity, if thou wouldst not that the last cord of my heart should break.
The Celestial Spirits. Infinite goodness, eternal love, protect the daughter of the lyre! Leave not the spark of this divine fire to become extinct in agony ! Celestial mercy, shorten the trial of the spirit, our brother, who languishes and burns upon the string of brass ! Open thy bosom to the children of the lyre, let fall the crown upon the head of the martyrs of love !” – Tome troisième, p. 229.
ART. V. - Biography and Poetical Remains of the late MARGARET MILLER DAVIDSON. By WASHINGTON IR
Philadelphia : Lea & Blanchard. 359.
Miss Sedgwick, in her biographical sketch of Lucretia Maria Davidson, contained in Sparks's “ American Biography,” quotes a production of her younger sister, Margaret, written at the age of eleven years,
“ May we be allowed to say, that the mantle of the elder sister has fallen on the younger, and that she seems to be a second impersonation of her spirit? The volume before us confirms the truth of this remark, and the resemblance between the sisters has been made complete by the early death of the younger. We find manifested in Margaret those same moral and intellectual traits which characterized her elder sister, - the same delicacy of organization, the same sensibility, the same strength of affection, and the same remarkably developed intellectual capacity. The physiologist would add that they possessed, and probably inherited, the same diseased quality of brain, which explained their precocity and made an early death almost inevitable.
The memoir by Washington Irving, is as feeling and graceful as we should naturally expect to find any thing from his pen. Much of it is supplied by the mother, Mrs. Davidson, who is evidently of the temperament of genius, and from whom her daughters derived unquestionably their peculiar physical and intellectual organization. We quote a few introductory paragraphs :
“ The reading world has long set a cherishing value on the name of Lucretia Davidson, a lovely American girl, who, after giving early promise of rare poetic excellence, was snatched from existence in the seventeenth year of her age.
An interesting biography of her, by President Morse, of the American Society of Arts, was published shortly after her death ; another has since appeared, from the classic pen of Miss Sedgwick ; and her name has derived additional celebrity in Great Britain, from an able article by Robert Southey, inserted some years since in the London Quarterly Review.
“An intimate acquaintance, in early life, with some of the relatives of Miss Davidson, had caused me, while in Europe, to read, with great interest, every thing concerning her ; when, therefore, in 1833, about a year after my return to the United States, I was told, while in New York, that Mrs. Davidson, the mother of the deceased, was in the city, and desirous of consulting me about a new edition of her daughter's works, I lost no time in waiting upon her. Her appearance corresponded with the interesting idea given of her in her daughter's biography; she was feeble and emaciated, and supported by pillows in an easy chair, but there were the lingerings of grace and beauty in her form and features, and her eye still beamed with intelligence and sensibility.
“While conversing with her on the subject of her daughter's works, I observed a young girl, apparently not more than eleven years of age, moving quietly about her ; occasionally arranging a pillow, and at the same time listening earnestly to our conversation. There was an intellectual beauty about this child, that struck me ; and that was heightened by a blushing diffidence, when Mrs. Davidson presented her to me as her daughter Margaret. Shortly afterwards, on her leaving the room, her mother, seeing that she had attracted my attention, spoke of her as having evinced the same early poetical talent that had distinguished her sister, and as evidence, showed me several copies of verses, remarkable for such a child. On further inquiry, I found that she had very nearly the same moral and physical constitution, and was prone to the same feverish excitement of the mind, and kindling of the imagination, that had acted so powerfully on the fragile frame of her sister Lucretia. I cautioned her mother, therefore, against fostering her poetic vein, and advised such studies and pursuits as would tend to strengthen her judgment, calm and regulate the sensibilities, and enlarge that common sense, which is the only safe foundation for all intellectual superstructure.
“I found Mrs. Davidson fully aware of the importance of such a course of treatment, and disposed to pursue it, but saw, at the same time, that she would have difficulty to carry it into effect ; having to contend with the additional excitement produced in the mind of this sensitive little being, by the example of her sister, and the intense enthusiasm she evinced concerning her.
“ Three years elapsed before I again saw the subject of this memoir. She was then residing with her mother, at a rural retreat in the neighbourhood of New York. The interval that had elapsed had rapidly developed the powers of her mind, and heightened the loveliness of her personi, but my apprehensions had been verified. The soul was wearing out the body. Preparations were making to take her on a tour for the benefit of her health, and her mother appeared to flatter herself, that it might prove efficacious; but when I noticed the fragile delicacy of her form, the hectic bloom of her cheek, and the almost unearthly lustre of her eye, I felt convinced that she was not long for this world; in truth, she already appeared more spiritual than mortal. We parted, and I never saw her more. Within three years afterwards, a number of manuscripts were placed in my hands, as all that was left of her. They were accompanied by copious memoranda concerning her, furnished by her mother at my request. From these I have digested and arranged the following particulars, adopting, in many places, the original manuscript, without alteration. In fact, the narrative will be found almost as illustrative of the character of the mother as of the child ; they were singularly identified in taste, feelings, and pursuits; tenderly entwined together by maternal and filial affection ; they reflected an inexpressibly touching grace and interest upon each other by this holy relationship, and, to my mind, it would be marring one of the most beautiful and affecting groups in the history of modern literature, to sunder them.” — pp. 109 – 112.
The memoir of a young girl, who died before she had reached the age of sixteen, is of course uneventful. It is little more than the record of the growth of her mind ; in this case, a most extraordinary one. It is full of melancholy interest. We see a brain of preternatural and precocious activity enclosed in a frame of extreme delicacy and susceptibility, and that the latter must very soon wear out, is obvious from the beginning to an observing eye.
And this same organization is productive of those winning and attractive traits which make the shock of separation doubly formidable to parents and friends, — gentleness, tenderness, and depth of feeling, religious sensibility, moral purity, and the beautiful impulses of genius. In such cases the conduct of parents is too apt to be injudicious and unwise, accelerating the progress which ought to be checked, and feeding the flame which ought to be quenched. How far the parents of Margaret Davidson erred in this respect does not distinctly appear in the memoir ; we fear that they formed no exception to the common rule. It is, however, very difficult to know how to deal with a child of such an organization. To repress is almost as dangerous as to stimulate. If the hunger and thirst for knowledge be not gratified, the effects upon the frame, of the wasting disappointment, become as visible and alarming as those of too ardent application. It is probable that the most judicious training would not have reared either of these extraordinary beings to womanhood. The fire of genius and susceptibility must burn, and must consume the delicate frame. It is the sad price at which such gifts are purchased. The cypress is entwined with the laurel. Let not the father of a hearty, rosy child, whose head is more occupied with hoops and dancingschools than books, envy the parents of such gifted beings as Lucretia and Margaret Davidson.
The portion of this volume, not occupied by the memoir, contains the literary productions of Margaret Davidson, consisting of an unfinished prose tale, written at the age of fifteen years, and a variety of poetical pieces. These last are certainly remarkable specimens of early ripening genius, and awaken admiration and astonishment. The following bears the date of 1831, when she was only eight years old.
TO A FLOWER.
“ The blighting hand of winter
Has laid thy glories low ; 0, where is all thy beauty ?
Where is thy freshness now ?
“ Summer has passed away,
With every smiling scene,
Assumes a mournful mien.
“ How like adversity's rude blast
Upon the helpless one,
And to oblivion gone.
" Yet winter has some beauties left,
Which cheer my heart forlorn;
Though shrouded by the storm.