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Her voice and his rebeck
Our limits do not permit us to make a farther selection of the smaller pieces. Besides them, the volume contains the tragedy, of which we have already spoken; some miscellaneous poems in a more sustained and elevated character; and Prometheus, a discursive and philosophical poem, in a hundred and sixty two stanzas of the Spenserian measure. This seems to us—though highly unequal—the most vigorous and powerful poetry which the volume contains. Not a few of these verses have all the dark sententiousness of Byron, clothed in an uncommonly easy versification. The following will, we think, justify the remark:
'The past is gone—it can return no more,
• And vile companions rifled, and they left
There is no hope—ten years the winds have blown>
Of early fond attachments. Like the slaves
Tears, bitter tears, that well from the heart's bleeding core.
It had one only wish—to scale the high abode,
Her tempting fiery draughts—Stop! ye are on the brink
Of mind in some low slough, and bid farewell to fame:’ &c.
The Prometheus, like most of the other pieces, breathes a
melancholy spirit too deep not to be real. We should sincerely regret that powers, so fine as Mr Percival evidently posses
ses, should want that self-consciousness, which they ought to inspire, or should feel a doubt of that public favour, they so truly deserve: and though he probably does not rely on any thing he has yet written, as giving him a fair title to the rank of a classical American poet, yet we feel no hesitation in saying, that he shares with few the gifts, which might make him one.
Art. II.—Views of Society and Manners in America; in a series of letters from that country to a friend in England, during the years 1818, 1819 and 1820. By an Englishwoman. From the first London edition, with additions and corrections by the author. 8vo, pp. 387. New York, 1821.
This work has been so extensively read in America, that a review of it, at the present time, may seem unnecessary. As it forms, however, in many respects a contrast with other works of the same class, and is distinguished for its flattering tone toward our country, it might seem a failure in respect to so courteous a foreigner, to allow her work to pass unnoticed. We cannot, at the same time, but feel ourselves under much embarrassment in speaking of it. Like all human productions, it has, of course, its imperfections ; but as American critics, it would seem a piece of rudeness to be at pains to gather up these, from the pages in which our character, manners, and institutions are so advantageously portrayed. On the other hand, our country, not to say our own poor labours, is so handsomely eulogized by tin's polite stranger, (hat we should be thought perhaps to speak under prepossession, if we were very forward in maintaining the merits of her book.
We know not, in fact, a less enviable task than that of the traveller, who undertakes to publish an account of a short visit to a foreign country, and feels at all concerned for the reception his book may meet with in that country. It is impossible in a short visit, or even in a long visit, to become so thoroughly acquainted with a country, considerably different in character from your own, as not to be constantly exposed to mistakes in detailed statements of its peculiarities. Then the traveller, who is well received, falls into some circle, which has its local or political party; he becomes imbued with their feelings, and takes up their notions, regarding them of course as better informed than himself, of what relates to their own country. In doing this, however, he will often go to great excess, and fall into much falser judgments, than even the most embittered party at home bears of its rival. He has none of that feeling of brotherhood to correct his political or sectarian creed, which unconsciously operates on the mind of those, who live in the same town, perhaps the same street, are associated in the same institutions, and worship in the same church; and who, though they call each other, in their speeches and essays, incendiaries, traitors, and hirelings, know, after all in their souls, that their neighbours are about as good people as themselves. But the foreigner is not in the way of making such allowance. He lands among us, falls into some circle, good or bad, as the case may be, hears them speak in strong terms of their party adversaries, is able to make none of that secret qualification, which the citizens of the same community make for each other amidst all their railings, and so is often led away to be-rate honest people, who are far from deserving it, especially at his hands. It is in this way, that we are led to account for the peculiar ferocity, which party politics have assumed in the hands of those active foreigners, who have from time to time found a welcome on our shores, and who have espoused our controversies with a more than native zeal. It is in this way also, that we account for the extraordinary warmth, with which the amiable author of this work speaks of a certain class of our own citizens, of whom she could know no harm, but by reports likely to be exaggerated, whose capital was not favoured with a visit from her, and who, we doubt not, contribute a fair proportion toward that class of persons, whom she would herself regard as constituting the enlightened and respectable part of the American community. We allude to passages like these :
‘There was one quarter of this great confederacy which had hitherto exhibited a lamentable deficiency of patriotism.
“The conduct of some of the New England states at the opening of the contest is not very easy to explain. That Massachusetts, who thirty years before had led the van in the army of patriots, whose cause too it was that her sister states so generously advocated, that she should suddenly so forget her former self, as to stand by, a sullen spectator of a conflict which involved the honour and national existence of the great republic, of which till now she had formed so distinguished a member, seems at once the most extraordinary and lamentable dereliction of principle to be found in the annals of nations! She appears to have been made the dupe of a party, whose name, until this time, had been respected even by the nation from whom it stood aloof, and then to have been angry because others saw this, and laughed at her cullibility.
«Among the first Federals, there were men no less respectable For their virtues than their talents ; but these had gradually fallen off from the minority, to mingle themselves with the bulk of the nation, leaving only the old tories and some disappointed politicians, to disgrace a title which patriots had worn, and under its specious mask to attempt the ruin of their country. In this, fortunately they failed; but may the lesson prove a warning not to Massachusetts only, but to each and all of these confederated states!
'I have already had occasion to observe upon the change wrought by the last war in the condition of the republic; it not only settled its place among the nations, but cemented its internal union; even those who from party ill humour had refused their concurrence with the measures of government, and their sympathy in the feelings of their fellow-citizens, were gradually warmed by the enthusiasm that surrounded them, or by the pressure of common danger, forced to make common cause. At the close of the contest, one general feeling pervaded the whole great Union. The Dame of a. party once respectable, but now disgraced by itself, became universally odious; and its members, to rise from the contempt into which they had fallen, found it advisable to declare their own conversion to the principles of popular government and federal union.' pp. 261, 262.
Now our fair traveller could not by any possibility know this to be true. She was not in America till three or four years after the period^ at which she says the parties coalesced; she did not visit New England ; nor did she even make herself, by reading, so familiar with our great political controversy, as to know even the names of the parties; else she would not have used the word Federals, the vulgarism for Federalists, and which is in about as good company in America, as oppositioners would be in England. These things being so, she could have no idea of the policy and patriotism of the Federal party, but from what she was informed by her friends here. We have no doubt they told her what they honestly believed to be true. But let us just reverse the case, and suppose that an American lady travelling in England, in preparing her journal for the press, and wishing to give a sketch of the political parties, should apply to some leading ministerial member, to kaow
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