Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

dications of a subtlety and method which supplicating, fresh inspiration from Heaven; belong only to the true analyst and orderly —such is an outline of Professor Wilson to thinker. But if the reader, who never saw the eye and ear in the winter of 1835. the professor, can gather from the syllabus Of the lectures themselves there are, alas ! in question that the moral philosophy class, but scant records. Wilson, however, seemed while presided over by Wilson, was a gen- to suggest far more than any specific teachuine metaphysical gymnasium, and if the ing to his pupils ; and one of them has been recollections of these grateful students, aided heard to say that, grand as were Wilson's by the exquisite calotype in the first rolume, lectures on the Immortality of the Soul, it will serve to supply to the imagination of was the hearing and seeing the professor strangers a tolerably lifelike representation himself that, next to the Bible, inspired him of the lecturer himself; yet the splendid with the hope of a glorious immortality for all reality cannot be reproduced. With his mankind. Mrs. Gordon alludes to a lecture on slight Geneva gown hanging loosely from his Socrates—that lecture was one of his greatbroad shoulders, he strode with short elastic est; and all who ever heard it must rememstep from his vestry to the lecture-platform, ber that fine passage which ended with the and as he turned round his wonderful coun- words : “ Socrates wrote no books, but, with tenance on his class, he seemed to fill the reverence be it spoken, like a still greater room with sunshine. From behind the mas- Name, left it to his disciples to convey to sive desk-table, on which he hurriedly de- posterity the knowledge of his teaching. posited his roll of tattered manuscript, and Socrates preached no paltry system, he then his watch, so as to be out of reach of founded no narrow sect; it was his one his large, but finely articulated hand, he great aim to bring back men from the ficseemed at once a son of Thor and of Balder, tions of system to the realities of indwelling the white sun-god. The long flowing fair truth; to pull down the towers and temples hair, the bright blue eye, now glowing with of a vain philosophy, and lay God's green light, or flashing lightning, or dashed with earth open to the sky.”. fiery dew; the broad and lofty forehead, Our limits forbid further talk of the proswelling out in the region of “ideality," and fessor in his class; and for knowledge of so intensely developed in the “ observing him at his own fireside we must leave our faculties” as to impart a semi-receding as- readers in the hands of his accomplished pect to those of “reflection” (to use the daughter. terms of phrenology); * the nose, not Greek, From his birth in Paisley in 1785 until, or Roman, or retroussé, but a well-defined after two warnings in 1840 and 1850, the compromise between the three styles, the silver cord was at last loosed in 1854, the mouth, with the finely formed upper lip, ex- story of Wilson's life is faithfully recorded. ceedingly beautiful, at once sensitive and At eighteen, after a most radiant childhood sensuous; the chin, like that of Rome's no- and happy boyhood, until his father's death, blest faces, indicating both strength and in his twelfth year, and after a successful decision, the ample throat and chest, and the student life in Glasgow, we find Wilson at mighty arm, the deep-toned voice, now Oxford a buoyant youth rejoicing in his hushed to a whisper, now musically tremu- strength, master of himself, and having a lous, and now thundering in the full diapason very handsome fortune at his disposal. But, of passion, the speaker, the while, either as explanatory, we suspect, of many of his lion-like, roaming to and fro, or intently nomadic experiences, Wilson had left his spelling out a bit of manuscript on the back heart in Glasgow with an orphan maid” of an old letter, or beating time with the there. In compliance, however, with the right hand on the desk before him, or lifting stern will of his mother, he “bade adieu forhimself up to the full height of his majestic ever” to the object of his passionate love. presence, and, with outstretched arm, look. The sacrifice was a great shock to heart and ing out at that western window, from which brain ; and, instead of wondering at much the light fell on him, as if waiting for and that he did to escape from himself, we rather

* By far the most striking and lifelike render- marvel at the amount of solid work he got we saw in a window the other day at Brighton; tion” was pronounced to be even “glori. ing of 'Wilsou's head and face we have met withi, through, and that in the end his “examina. the sculptor, a Mr. Boyby.

[ocr errors]

was.

a

66

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ous.” In the main Wilson's life was based very unmistakable manner, we would say, on sacrifice, at least to what he conceived it but yet, it was in his prose that he came to be, duty — child of impulse though he forth most truly as a poet. It was with

And again, when, through the mal- Homer, or Spencer, or Milton, or Burns, versation of a near relative, he lost all his lying beside him in that wonderful library, fortune, we find a noble power of submission so well described by Mrs. Gordon, with the in him ; for, he not only gave himself to dil- foundling "sparrow nestling in his waist igent labor on behalf of his family, now grow- coat," and probably in later years, a babying up, and largely dependent on his in- grandchild at play on the hearth-rug, and dustry, but strove to succor the “unjust when, for “ Maga,” he was about to unfold steward as well — the means of the latter the diviner meanings of 'one of the poetie having gone down in the wreck.

brotherhood that the fountains of his in Until“ his hand ceased from work,” amid spiration were broken up. It was then, when the thick coming shadows, in 1852, Wilson not at all seeking his own glory, or aiming was a really hard worker; and labored for to utter merely his own thoughts, but enBlackwood right loyally, but, as it turns out, deavoring to kindle in the soul of his read he was very indifferently remunerated. He ers a kindred enthusiasm with his own for never, in fact, was the editor of Blackwood, the thoughts of other men, that his true and was paid only for what he wrote. And power was seen. All things then became how he did write, doing at times, and amidst his — all images of peace, all symbols of ill health, too, fifty-six pages of print in a power, came crowding to his imagination, couple of days, and sometimes fifty-four long and, as Hallam justly and beautifully says, articles in the course of a single year! Could " His eloquence poured along as the rush of he have set down quietly and persistently to many waters:” But it was not only when a task, like Carlyle; could he have spread communing with the grander spirits known over months what he condensed into the to the world that the might of his sympathy strain of a few days ! But then men are revealed itself in breathing thoughts and what they are. Wilson's genius was tidal, burning words. He was ever waiting to and did not flow like a river. He could not hail the advent of any new manifestation of work by parallels and slow approaches. He genius; and who was so cordial in early flung himself at his subject when the mood recognition and in the expression of admicame like a battering-ram. We must be- ration as he ? Overdemonstrative some lieve, however, after all, that the higher class thought him; but he was always in the right, of nien do, on the whole, what they were in- and not a few were largely encouraged by tended to do; and in Wilson's case, or in the liberal and loving words of the “old man any case, it is not for us to judge, but to eloquent.” In fact, to'us it seems that Wil receive with thankfulness any treasures he son's special contribution to British literabrought to the heritage of the ages. ture lay here. Macaulay gave us the histor

In poetry technically so called, it was not ical essay; Carlyle imported something of as a creator, but as a critic, that he was the earnest prophetic fire of his own heart great. Indeed, we find in a letter to his into our periodicals. Wilson, fiercely as he friend " Delta" – Dr. Moir — that he had wrote in early Blackwoods, though nerer very accurately, and with his characteristic with the animus of Lockhart, inaugurated humility, taken the measure of his own cre- the criticism of exposition, and genial admiative power. “You have not,” he writes, ration. With what heartiness did he wel“written any one great work, and, perhaps, come Mrs. Hemans, Alford, Miss Barrett, like myself, you never will. But you have the Corn-law Rhymer, and John Sterling! written very many exquisitely beautiful poems Sterling was one of his latest admirations. which, as time rolls on, will be finding their We believe he never met him ; but, though way into the mindful hearts of thousands, only through the medium of manuscript, he and become embodied with the corpus of true had thoroughly discerned what a bright and English poetry. The character and the fame fine mind he had, and to the present writer of many of our finest writers are of this kind. be spoke of him in language almost exceedFor myself I should desire no other ;-in ing the glowing eulogy with which he greeted some manner I hope they are mine.” In a bim as “our new contributor," in Blackwood.

;

;

a

[ocr errors]

In the main, Wilson's genius was observ- “I once saw in a dream a most beautiful ing and sympathetic rather than scientific, flower, in a wide bed of flowers, all of which and his critique on genuine poetry was quite were beautiful. But this one fower was esin harmony with his unrivalled word-paint- pecially before my soul for awhile, as I adings of nature and natural objects. The au- vanced to the place where they all were thentic poem awed, or delighted him as did growing. Its character became more and the song of the lark, or the mist rising from more transcendent as I approached, and one

I Windermere, while the lake became a mir- large flower of which it consisted was lifted ror of dazzling sheen, or as did that experi- up above the rest. I then saw that it was a ence of upland storm when “ Young Kit" | light, a prismatic globe, quite steady, and was imprisoned in the dense vapor, and he burning with a purity and sweetness, and watched the young“peeseweeps” coming out almost an affectionate spirit of beauty, as if of their hiding-place, while the mother of them it were alive. I never thought of touching and he kept glowerin” at each other, un- it, although I still thought it was a flower til the bird, suspecting the storm-stead child that was growing ; and I heard a kind of might be “ Lord Eglinton's gamekeeper,” sound, faint and dim, as the echo of musical gave a loud shriek, and fled away with her glasses, seeming to proceed from the flower downy bantlings. And hence it is that his of light, and pervade the whole bank with criticisms are never pedantic. They are low spiritual music. On trying to rememthemselves poetry, and, while logically de- ber its appearance and spiritual beauty more fensible, rather implicitly than explicitly distinctly, I am unable even to reconceive give you a reason for the faith that dwelt in to myself what it was ; whether altogether the rapt expositor. At the same time he different from the other flowers, or some could both analyze and rationalize with great perfectly glorious representation of them all; subtlety and conclusiveness; and, as an il- not the queen of flowers, but the star of flowlustration in part of what we mean, we would ers, or flower-star. Now, as I did not, I refer to his letter to Wordsworth on the presume, see this shining, silent, prismatic, “Lyrical Ballads," written while he was vegetable creature, I myself created it; and still in his seventeenth year — one of the it was 'the same, but ah! how different of most striking efforts of juvenile criticism we the imaginatiou,' mingling light with leaf, have met with for many a day.

stones with roses, decaying with undecaying, Mrs. Gordon has given us some very ex- heaven with earth, and eternity with time. quisite passages from her father's writings. Yet the product was nothing startling, or We would gladly quote them all, but we like a phenomenon that urged to inquiry, must content ourselves with the following what is this ? but beheld in perfect acquiesextract from a letter to the professor's early cence in its existence as a thing intensely and unchanging friend, Dr. Alexander Blair. and delightfully beautiful, in whose percepWhat Deodati was to Milton, what Arthur tion and emotion, of whose heavenly and Hallam was to Tennyson, Alexander Blair earthly beauty my beholding spirit was satiswas to Wilson, while in Wilson's case the fied, oh ! far more than satisfied, so purer was companion of his sunny boyhood lived on to it than dew or light of this earth; yet as cerbe the revered and loved counsellor of his tainly and permanently existing as myself latest days.

“I have often seen them,” Mrs. existed, or the common flowers, themselves Gordon writes, “sitting together in the quiet most fair, that lay in usual spring assemretirement of the study, perfectly absorbed blage in a garden where human hands worked in each other's presence, like schoolboys in and mortal beings walked beneath the umthe abandonment of their love for each other, brage of perishable trees. Perhaps we see occupying one seat between them, my father and feel thus in heaven, and even the Alexwith his arm lovingly embracing the dear ander Blair, whom I loved well on earth, doctor's' shoulders, playfully pulling the may be thus proportionately loved by me in somewhat silvered locks to draw his atten- another life.” Of that we have no doubt; tion to something in the volume, spread out and, amid the music of this exquisite“ dreamon their knees, from which they were read-fugue,” we take farewell of one of whom ing." The following is the passage we refer Scotland will long be justly proud. Vale! to:

noble-hearted John Wilson !

[ocr errors]

a

From The Spectator.

Newman, for instance, the versatility of HIAWATHA IN LATIN.*

whose mental parts is truly astonishing, can This is not an age or country in which also dance upon a rope, we cannot say. But we can reasonably complain of the paucity surely, when apparently no longer satisfied of our sensations. Whether we seek new with the common impossibility of translating impressions or not, they overlake us almost Homer into English, he suddenly resolved beyond the limits of philosophic digestion. upon the translation of Hiawatha, of all Nevertheless it may be said, as, indeed, we books in the world, into Latin, we may be find, that the number and the novelty of the permitted to say, with all due admiration for sensations required to overcome the listless- his genius, that we can only compare him ness of life will vary in different individu- with those interesting and philosophic young als. Where most men are spell-bound by experimentalists who, tired of things as they the extraordinary rapidity of the events see them under ordinary circumstances, prowhich surround them, a few minds may be ceed to refresh and heighten their sensations 80 ardent, so versatile, and ethereal, as to by looking at the world, with head inverted, be unsatisfied with a progression of daily through their legs. discoveries in every branch of knowledge

Even in itself, Hiawatha was, perhaps, the almost too numerous to record, and a fre- most acrobatic experiment of modern literaquency of political and social revolution, so ture. Mr. Longfellow, when he wrote Hiafar as we yet know, historically unparalieled. watha, had fluttered over the realms of alNor can we quarrel with the preternatural most the whole of modern poetry, touching mental activity of such highly gifted persons, here, settling there, here culling, and there beyond the involuntary astonishment which sipping, and dropping milk and honey in his we may feel at their quaint feats of intel- random unlabored flight from place to place. lectual funambulism. In this respect the But poets (do angels ?) tire of common milk body throws much light upon the mind. and honey; and in the golden decline of Professor Blondin might, for aught we know, his meridian, Mr. Longfellow craved a new lead a blighted existence, but for the outlet craving, and loved a last love the passionhe has found for his exuberant daring on the até erratic love of a poetic second childhood. highest rope yet known. Boys will fly madly Very childlike is Hiawatha. The poet had up half a dozen flights of stairs, for the plucked the leaves of the old rose tree one pleasure of sliding down the banisters with by one, and peered into the old Teutonic à breathless rush, and a good thud at the heart till Teutonia seemed to pall, when he end, where your ordinary man will grumble was smitten with a desire to peep into the inwardly at the few steps he may have to innocent secrets of a virgin breast, and chose ascend in order to consult a friend on impor- the brown inarticulate bosom of the Indian tant business. Yet, on the whole, we sym

He peeped, and fell,—at her feet. pathize with the boys, and with those schol- We say nothing of the qualities of the lorer ars who refresh their fevered wits with the on this his new love errand,-devotion, like intellectual pranks. We should all be knight-errantry, genius, enthusiasm, the the better for a little more gymnastics. The many-colored prattle of passionate last Greeks of old must have drawn something loves, -all were there. But surely no loreof their unapproachable plasticity of mind sick knight, of much amatory experience, from the elasticity of their bodies; and those in quest of new delights, ever dedicated such glorious exercises which made their physical an epistle to the fairy of his dreams, or bebeauty the typical model for all future gen- sieged her ravished and astonished ear, witti erations of sculptors, must have contributed such a sweet simplicity of strange surprising something to the noble symmetry and mirac- compliments, protestations, raptures, and ulous versatility of their wits. The converse visions of visionary charms. The “

“mirage may not be true. A plastic mind may not of imaginative thought,” the prismatic argue a plastic body. Whether Professor quaintnesses, queer conceits and infantine

ingenuities, with which Mr. Longfellow in* Hiawatha rendered into Latin. By francis vested the guttural, great masculinity of the William Newman, Professor of Latin in University old Red Indian is surely the eighth wonder College, London. Walton and Maberly, Lpper

of modern poetry. Cinderella in diamonds,

a

a

a

muse.

a

Gower Street.

[ocr errors]

or a wild Highland lassie decked in purples

“Ille ridens: Ideirco (inquit) and ermine, and suddenly presented at court,

Dacotarum virginem prae ceteris

Égu mihi in connubium peto; are nothing to the plight of the Indian muse,

Ut, coalescentibus populis when she awoke to self-consciousness in the

Coalescant utrorumque vulnera.” arms of Mr. Longfellow.

withBut if Mr. Longfellow wrought a miracle “For that reason, if no other, of poetry, Mr. Newman has out-Longfel

Would I wed the fair Dacotah ;

That our tribes might be united, lowed Longfellow. The lovely chameleon

That old feuds might be forgotten, babble of Hiawatha in the loud plain tongue And old wounds be healed forever ! of conquering Rome is not more wonderful

Here, again, the Latin stands in much the than would be our nursery rhymes on the same proportion to the original as Othello's lips of Milton's Satan, or, if you please, speeches to Puck’s. Spenserian English turned into commercial

And the smoke rose slowly, slowly, Chinese. To have attempted to spin the Through the tranquil air of morning; iron bars of imperial Latin into a limp cov- First a single line of darkness, ering for Longfellow's most impalpable of

Then a denser bluer vapor," impalpabilities, is almost as towering an is rendered byattempt at intellectual Herculeanism as the “Per matutinam aëris quietem

Lente lentus surrexit fumus, bodily efforts of the Titans to scale Ether

Unum primo nigredinis filum, with the heaping up of mountains.

Tum densior caerulescens vapor," Compare for instance,

where the Latin hobbles after the ethereal “I should answer, I should tell you ;

English much like a donkey with a cannon
From the forests and the prairies,
From the land of the Ojibways,

ball at its leg ogling a lovely unapproachaFrom the land of the Dacotalis," ble thistle. Nor can it be said that Mr. with the Latin version,

Newman labored under even the usual diffi“Ego respondeo et tibi confirmo;

culties of prosody or vocabulary. For he Es silvis atque immensitatibus herbosis, has discarded all regular metre, and only E vastis Septentrionis lacubus,

consulted his own ear-while he has added E finibus O'yibbawaiarum,

many new words to the Latin language of E sedibus Dacotarum."

his own creation, expressly coined for the Do not the English lines, in their tone

present translation, such as “atror," for and rhythm, apart from the mere ideas, blackness; “procor,” to woo; “jejunare,” somehow or other involuntarily call up the to fast. But although, upon the whole, we sweet, unconscious babble of a rosy, curly- think Mr. Newman's attempt unsuccessful, pated Saxon child, shrieking and paddling we are far from wishing to convey that what in its bath, with the bees buzzing in at the he has attempted might have been better open window, and the swallows screaming done. What we think, and for reasons which in the morning sun ? But all that the Latin we lately detailed, is, that the translation suggests is a grim parody upon Cæsar's

was a Quixotic attempt to begin with, which Commentaries," or a stern lesson in military Mr. Newman was perfectly warranted in atgeography to his subalterns from some gruff tempting, if he pleased, but which, ab initio old captain of Praetorians, with the added could not possibly succeed. indefinable twang of a Franciscan monk

In conclusion, we bid Mr. Newman fare

well. We admire his talents, though we mouthing out “ Immensitatibus.” There is

rather regret that he should not apply his a military tramp, too, about the lines, like

very great powers to larger purposes. After the feet of many legions. Not that Mr. such å feat of strength on his part, we can Newman meant it—but when he touched the only laznent that there seems so little left in gong, it roared, instead of prattling. The the world likely to afford him a new sensainfantine element is absolutely lost-an ele- tion. Yet, perchance, there is one thing ment which Mr. Longfellow piqued himself left. Onc hope remains. Let Mr. Newman upon having fetched from the deepest depths only make up his mind to repair to the

Amerof the Indian bosom, but which we shrewdly late Hiawatha back into the own native

ican forests, and, having learnt Indian, transsuspect he drew from Anglo-Saxon Chris- tongue of the Indians. Then, perhaps, he tianity.

may consent to rest in peace upon the soft Again compare,

cushion of dearly earned repose.

a

« ElőzőTovább »