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try's poets, and will not suffer his name to pass quickly from human recollection.
The chief attraction of any work of art or fancy is its naturalness. By this I do not mean mere accuracy in the delineation of material forms. “Consistency is a jewel” in the realm of the purely imaginative, no less than in the world of fact. The widest vagaries of fancy should not be devoid of method and arrangement. The writer of fiction and poetry must preserve the semblance of truth, while giving loosest reins to his imagination. It will never do to mingle all things indiscriminately, to sprinkle the snows of winter upon a summer lawn, to clothe forests with foliage in December, or link an ocean-tempest to a quiet prairie scene. Horace, who is conceded to be good authority on this subject, quaintly observes, “A man's head must not be joined to a horse's neck, nor a woman's body to the tail of a fish.” The effect of an entire poem may be marred by a single ill-conditioned sentence or infelicitous expression.
In the Culprit Fay we have a fine example of the consistency of which I have spoken. It is remarkable, first of all, for its unity. Every line forms an essential part of the poem. In this consists half its charm. The author aims to tell the story of the Culprit, bis crime, the sentence pronounced against him, his self-expiation, and the joy of his fairy companions at his triumph and restoration. He does this in a simple manner and with commendable brevity. We rise from its perusal with regret that it is so quickly finished. Yet we are conscious, upon reflection, that to have extended the story to greater length, or to have drawn out the poem indefinitely after the story was related, would have marred its beauty, and our interest would have diminished accordingly.
The poem is highly imaginative. The reader is straightway transported into fairy-land. Once only is humanity presented to his view, in the form of a beautiful maiden. This solitary representative of the Adamitic race is introduced, not as an actor in the fairy scene, but rather as an organized existence, just as a tree or flower might have been mentioned. Even this would seem to be a slight departure from the original idea of the writer, viz., a poem written without the aid of human characters. I conclude therefore that the poet had in mind rather the exclusion of the human race as prominent and important actors, than as mere animated existences. It would have been as easy to have left humanity wholly out of view, as to have excluded it from so large a portion of the poem. He might have represented the Fay as forming an attachment for a butterfly or a brilliant flower,
aturale f materia
instead of incurring the displeasure of his monarch by bestowing his love on an earthly maiden. Shall we accuse the author of wishing to conciliate the good will of his fair readers, by the seeming importance he has accorded to their sex? Did he shrewdly conjecture that the daughters of Eve would rejoice that one of their number was preferred to the nymph of the wave, or even to the sylph-queen of the clouds ? On this point I attempt no decision. Let the individual reader of the
I poem judge for himself. That he intends to represent the Fays as possessed of sensibilities and passions, similar to those that agitate the soul of man, is evident at the very outset. If any argue, therefore, that in this particular he has failed to carry out his original purpose, they claim for him a purpose, which, in my judgment, he never entertained.
The poet does not weary us by a tedious and unnecessary introduction of several cantos; but as if full of his theme, begins at once the fairy tale. The time and place are suggestive.
« 'Tis the middle watch of a summer's night,
We are prepared at once for the appearance of the Fays. We would scarcely expect them in sombre autumn or amid the snows of winter, but on a calm summer night, wben
“The winds are whist, and the owl is still, And the bat in the shelvy rock is hid,
And nought is heard on the lonely hill
But the cricket's chirp and the answer shrill
With a descriptive power that reminds one of Scott and bis charming word-pictures, he lays before us the scene of the elfin gathering. It is well chosen. The Highlands of the Hudson are everywhere wild and romantic, and in their wildest portion the poet has located the fairies' home.
"The moon looks down on old Cro'nest,
The scene to which we are thus introduced at the midnight hour, is one of grandeur and beauty. Cro’nest, on the west bank of the Hudson, rises to the height of one thousand four hundred feet, its perpendicular front of gray rock looking down upon the river. Close beside it, the rugged Storm-King guards the northern entrance into the Highlands. Breakneck mountain rises precipitously from the opposite shore, while to the south and east the Highland range stretches away in endless undulations. The Fairies would surely have evinced a lamentable want of taste, and a very indifferent perception of the beautiful, had they overlooked this charming spot. At the time our poet celebrated the exploits of the little Culprit, art bad here made but few scrawls on the fair face of nature. The spirit of progress had not paved for itself a thoroughfare along the base of these old Silurian bills. Anthony's Nose, unperforated by pick and drill, had not yet become a gateway for the iron steed that now shrieks out to it a daily salutation. Fulton's steamer had but recently clattered and groaned its way up the Rhine of America, awakening the echoes of the mountains, and disturbing the Fairies' dreams of peace.
We scarcely have time to look about us and take in the prominent feature of the scene, before the actors are introduced. With artistic skill he depicts the assembling of the king's court, the accusation of the offender, the wearisome journey to the river bank, the achievement of the purpose that led him thither, and the return. There is throughout a manifest regard for probability, an attention to symmetry and consistency, a unity and completeness which delights us.
But the author does not excel in this particular alone. Nothing can surpass the delicate fancy that originated the poem and elaborated its details. The language is always chaste and beautiful, the metre aptly varied to suit the changing character of the thought, the style easy and at times racy. Some of his descriptions are especially
. pleasing. We have room for only one or two quotations in addition to those already given. The judgment-seat of the monarch Fay is thus portrayed.
" The throne was reared upon the grass,
Hung the burnished canopy.-
Of the tulip's crimson drapery."
The passage in which he tells us of the Culprits conflict with the water-sprites, is full of life and spirit. Our sympathies are enlisted; with deepening interest we watch the progress of the unequal contest, lament his temporary defeat, and rejoice in his ultimate triumph. The launching of the tiny muscle-shell boat, also, conveys to our minds,
better than the most labored description, the diminutiveness of the little Fay. Later in the story, while in pursuit of the flying star, he comes to the palace of the sylph-queen. Then follows one of the finest passages in the poem, in which the queen is described.
“Beneath a rainbow bending bright,
The loveliest of the forms of light;
At twilight in the west afar;
And buttoned with a sparkling star.”
I have quoted thus much in order that those who have not read the poem, may gain some idea of its style and purport. It has nothing to do with the grand in human action. It does not treat of the principles that underlie society, or the eternal truths of the moral universe. It was not designed to teach lessons of virtue, or to celebrate the triumphs of genius. It must not therefore be compared with, or judged by, works differing wholly in character and intent. It is imaginative, and designed only to gratify man's love for the ideal and fanciful. As such it is a gem, whose lustre age will not dim, whose exquisite beauty time cannot destroy.
J. W. T.
Vivacity in Our College Literature.
It does, indeed, evince a spirit of extreme censoriousness, that one should have acquired the habit of finding in all the departments of College life, themes for severe criticism and complaint; but there are at the same time some departments, with reference to which criticism, and perchance even censure, is always not only our privilege, but our bounden duty. Of these departments, certainly none would seem more imperatively to demand our earnest attention than that of College Literature, since in no other respect is the character and reputation of the College so emphatically in the hands of the students in distinction from the Faculty. Realizing our responsibility, then, that we have it in our power to promote the welfare and advancement of VOL. XXVIII.
that department which is commonly regarded as the index of our mental growth, the field for the exhibition of our intellectual acqusitions, it behooves us to guard well our charge, and to be ever on the alert to detect whatever defects are creeping, or may have already crept, into the general tone of our literary taste and culture. Such a defect, and to my mind the most decided of all others, is the deficiency of animation, sprightliness, or, as we may term it, of vivacitya defect which, though it may not actually pervade our Literature, is at least too often present in it. By vivacity I do not mean that piquancy or raciness of thought and expression to be found in the upper stratum of the “Flash Literature” of the day, and which would be as much out of place in our sphere as it is essential in its own, nor again, the vigor of mere practical and sensible thought upon any and every subject which may present itself, a quality, if not wide-spread, at least not underrated among us; but I would denote by it, the one essential quality in that style of composition whose prominent characteristics are beauty of diction and originality of thought, and whose object is pleasure as well as profit, the gratification, no less than the instruction or conviction of its readers. If, then, such a style of composition, combining grace with force of expression, and originality with solidity, so to speak, of thought, should be the beau ideal of our Literature, and if, as all must admit, this beau ideal can only be attained by the presence in us of all the true spirit of literary enthusiasm, surely these questions are most pertinent—whether or not we are deficient in this enthusiasm and our Literature in vivacity; and if so, where the blame and what the remedy. To the first of this trio of questions there can be but one response, and an exercise of frankness will be the chief requisite in ascertaining it. For how many of us are so bold as to affirm that we have already reached the true standard of literary ardor, or that our productions are as a class as eminently characterized as they should be by spirit and vivacity? Furthermore, a comparison with other Literary Institutions of our country, gratifying as it might be to our pride, does not exonerate us from the charge of delinquency in this respect. On the contrary, that same pride, and surely the name and fame of our College, should make us doubly sensitive to the merest Whisper of triteness or dullness urged against our Literature. Nor have we a right to meet this charge of delinquency with the bold but false assertion, that our Literature is already characterized by a suffiient amount of the vivacity of which We speak. Meaning by that, that the “ Earnestness of sober thought," as I have heard it termed, " is quite enough to expect of the imma