In Whitman's Hand

Marginalia

About this Item

Title: Longfellow's Poets and Poetry of Europe

Creators: Walt Whitman, Anonymous

Annotation Date: After December 1, 1846

Base Document Citation: Anonymous, "Longfellow's Poets and Poetry of Europe," The American Review: A Whig Journal 4 (December 1846), 580–587.

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Transcribed from digital images of the original item.

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00705

Contributors to digital file: Lauren Grewe, Ty Alyea, and Matt Cohen


Key


Whitman's Hand | Highlighting | Paste-on | Erasure | Overwrite



[begin surface 1] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Page image: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/manuscripts/marginalia/figures/duk.00705.001.jpg]

1846.]The Poets and Poetry of Europe.581

appearance of the Minnepoesy. It would seem as it the influence of Austria had always been hostile to everything beautiful and free. From Johann Hadloub, one of the last of the Minnesingers, we take this pleasing and characteristic song. The translation is by Edgar Taylor.

"I saw yon infant in her arms caressed,
And as I gazed on her my pulse beat high:
Gently she clasped it to her snowy breast,
While I, in rapture lost, stood musing by:
Then her white hands around his neck she flung,
And pressed it to her lips, and tenderly
Kissed his fair cheek, as o'er the babe she hung.

And he, that happy infant, threw his arms
Around her neck, imprinting many a kiss;
Joying, as I would joy, to see such charms,
As though he knew how blest a lot were his.
How could I gaze on him and not repine?
'Alas!' I cried, 'would that I shared the bliss
Of that embrace, and that such joy were mine!'

———
Straight she was gone; and then that lovely child
Ran joyfully to meet my warm embrace:
Then fancy with fond thoughts my soul beguiled;—
It was herself! O dream of love and grace!
I clasped it, where her gentle hands had pressed,
I kissed each spot which bore her lips' sweet trace,
And joy the while went bounding through my breast."

Germany, like Greece, has her tales and legends of a heroic age. The Heldenbuch and the Nibelungenlied, like the Iliad and Odyssey, serve as grand repositories of ancient national traditions. Of these, the Heldenbuch is a collection of pieces by various authors, and differing widely in character and merit. The Nibelungenlied, on the other hand, is a true epic, with perfect unity of plot and action, advancing with ever-increasing interest to the bloody catastrophe in which it terminates. It is curious to survey the world which these ancient poems open to our view—definite, populous, active, teeming with life and motion. In their palace at Worms, upon the Rhine, we see the royal brothers, Günther, Ghernot, and Ghiseler the young. Round them stand their chosen blades, the champions of the Burgundian people, Dankwart, Ortwin, Volker, the fiddler-warrior, and, towering above all his peers, the fearful Von Tronek Hagen, dauntless, unscrupulous, vengeful and remorseless. Far away, in the land of the Nibelungen, situate in some undiscovered region of earth, shrouded perhaps by the mist and fog (nebel) from which its name might seem to be derived, dwells the gay and gallant Siegfried, the Achilles of this German

nebel, (fog)

Epos. To the South lies Bern, the centre of another circle of heroes, including the Lombard warriors, Dietrich, Hildebrand, Ilsan, and others, who show themselves in no wise inferior to the bravest of the Burgundians. Eastward,

Nibeleidungen leid produced 13th & 14th centuries

on the Danube, we find the pagan Etzel, or Attila, with his terrible Huns, the scourge of Western Europe. Nor ought we to omit, while enumerating the principal figures of this Epic cycle, the two queens—the Amazonian Brunhild, jealous and imperious—and Chrimhild, beautiful and gentle, but driven by repeated injuries into diabolical rancor—whose hostile collision brings about the catastrophe that desolates this heroic world.

J[illegible]Mastersinger during 15th & 16th centuries

These poems, at least in their present form, were in great part the productions of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Up to this time, the poetry of the Germans might safely challenge comparison with that of any other European nation. But the promise of its spring was not to be realized. A period followed of corruption and decline. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, flourished the Mastersingers, who made poetry a mere handicraft. Meanwhile, the vigorous minds of Germany were occupied with other matters. They had to invent the art of printing; to commence and carry on the Reformation; to fight for civil and religious freedom. The struggle for liberty

Heldenbuch —pieces by various old authors ☜

was long and doubtful. After many partial encounters came the great decisive conflict in the first half of the seventeenth century. For thirty years the torrent of war rolled hither and thither over the soil of Germany. Freedom triumphed; but the country was exhausted, physically and intellectually. It was not until the commencement of the last century that the spirit of German poetry began to revive. Things grow better by slow degrees. A period of utter barrenness is followed by a period of moderate fertility. The interval between the years 1700 and 1750 is the age of mediocrities. It is the age of Bodmer, Hagedorn, Gellert, Gleim and Ramler. But just at the middle of


[begin surface 2] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Page image: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/manuscripts/marginalia/figures/duk.00705.002.jpg]

582The Poets and Poetry of Europe.[Dec.,

the century appeared two men who were to introduce a new era in the literature

Klopstock & Lessing commenced public career 1750.

of their country. Klopstock, enthusiastic and sublime, intensely patriotic and religious, with a genius for the epic and the lyrical—Lessing, unrivaled as a critic, at once subtle and strong, discerning truth by intuitive perception, and combating error with matchless skill and success. These men were followed, in quick succession, by the great names of German poetry, Wieland, Herder, Goethe and Schiller.

From Goethe and Schiller Mr. Longfellow has taken but little; thinking, no doubt, that all readers of poetry must be familiar with authors so often talked of, and so much translated. His extracts from Goethe are introduced by a series of sketches, descriptive and critical, selected from different writers. The good-natured Gleim informs us, how he was himself reading the Musen-Almanach to a literary circle at Weimar, when "a young man, booted and spurred, in a short green shooting-jacket, thrown open," enters the room, and after listening a while, "offers to relieve him, from time to time, in reading aloud, lest he should be tired." Accordingly, he takes up the book, and at first all goes on swimmingly. "But on a sudden, it was as as if some wild and wanton devil had taken possession of the young reader, and I thought I saw the Wild Huntsman bodily before me. He read poems that had no existence in the Almanach; he broke out into all possible modes and dialects. Hexameters, iambics, doggerel verses, one after another, or blended in strange confusion, came tumbling out in torrents." He does not spare even the worthy Gleim. "But in a little fable, composed extempore in doggerel verses, he likened me, wittily enough, to a worthy and most enduring turkey-hen, that sits on a great heap of eggs of her own and other people's, and hatches them with infinite patience; but to whom it sometimes happens to have a chalk egg put under her instead of a real one; a trick at which she takes no offence."

Then we have Hauff telling how he introduced a young American to the great poet, who hastened to relieve the anxiety of his visitor by inquiring about the weather in America. "The countenance of the young man began to brighten up, the sluices of his eloquence were soon opened, and he talked about the Canadian mists, about the spring-storms of New York, and praised the umbrellas which are manufactured in Franklin-street, Philadelphia."

Bettine describes her first interview with Goethe, not omitting to mention how she threw herself upon his neck and fell asleep in his lap; conduct which scarcely accords with our ideas of feminine propriety, though to condemn it, as some have done, as if it were indecent and infamous, is wholly to mistake the character of the parties and their relation to each other.

Börne urges against Goethe the oft-repeated charge of utter want of patriotism. The defence, which the poet was accustomed to set up on his own behalf, we find in his Conversations with Eckermann. "If a poet," he says, "has employed himself during a long life in combating pernicious prejudices, overcoming narrow views, elevating the intellect, and purifying the taste of his country, what could he possibly do better than this? How could he be more patriotic?" He protests against "all intermeddling with subjects that one does not understand;" and declares that "of all intermeddling bunglers, political bunglers are to him the most odious, for their handiwork involves thousands and millions in destruction." He says farther, "that he has uniformly refused to mix himself up with party politics:" as if the subjugation of his native country by a foreign despot, and its liberation by the enthusiastic movement of the whole German people, were mere issues of party politics, to which a literary man might be wholly indifferent. The cardinal doctrine of the Goethean philosophy, that an artist may live in art alone, may hold himself aloof from the world of action, neglect the momentous questions that agitate society, refuse to take part by word or deed in the great events that are going on round him, is a doctrine which could not well be entertained by any but a cold and selfish spirit.

Menzel, in his powerful review of Goethe's personal and literary character, finds the essence of his poetry as of his life to be egotism: "not, however, the egotism of the hero and the heaven storming Titan, but only that of the Sybarite and the actor, the egotism of the passion for pleasure and the vanity of arts." This Epicurean devotion to selfish enjoyment, and indifference to the great objects of life, are well expressed in the following song, which shows at least that its author


[begin surface 3] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Page image: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/manuscripts/marginalia/figures/duk.00705.003.jpg]

1846.]The Poets and Poetry of Europe.583

could comprehend these feelings perfectly, even if he did not make them his ruling principles of acting. The translation is by J. S. Dwight.

VANITAS.

I've set my heart upon nothing, you see;
Hurrah!
And so the world goes well with me.
Hurrah!
And who has a mind to be fellow of mine,
Why, let him take hold and help me drain
These mouldy lees of wine.

I set my heart at first upon wealth;
Hurrah!
And bartered away my peace and health;
But, ah!
The slippery change went about like air;
And when I had clutched me a handful
Away it went there.

[here,


I set my heart upon woman next;
Hurrah!
For her sweet sake was oft perplexed;
But, ah!
The false one looked for a daintier lot,
The constant one wearied me out and out,
The best was not easily got.

I set my heart upon travels grand,
Hurrah!
And spurned our plain old fatherland;
But, ah!
Nought seemed to be just the thing it should,
Most comfortless beds and indifferent food,
My tastes misunderstood.

I set my heart upon sounding fame;
Hurrah!
And, lo! I'm eclipsed by some upstart's
And, ah!

[name;

When in public life I loomed quite high,
The folks that passed me would look awry;
Their very worst friend was I.

And then I set my heart upon war.
Hurrah!
We gained some battles with eclat.
Hurrah!
We troubled the foe with sword and flame,—
And some of our friends fared quite the
I lost a leg for fame.

[same.



Now I've set my heart upon nothing, you
Hurrah!

[see;

And the whole wide world belongs to me.
Hurrah!
The feast begins to run low, no doubt;
But at the old cask we'll have one good bout:
Come, drink the lees all out!

But if there are many who censure Goethe, there are more who defend him. Among these we find Heinrich Heine, lively and sarcastic, but most ingenious and able, comparing the great poet to "the oak of a hundred years, which the orthodox hated, because it had no niche with its holy image; and because the naked Dryads of Paganism were permitted there to play their witchery: which the liberals hated, because it could not serve as the tree of liberty, or at any rate as a barricade; but which the many venerated, for the very reason that it reared itself with such independent grandeur, and so graciously filled the world with its odor, while its branches, streaming magnificently toward heaven, made it appear as if stars were only the fruit of its wondrous limbs."

This criticism of Heine is followed by the short and simple, but decided testimony of Niebuhr to Goethe's indisputable superiority as a poet. Last of all comes the enthusiastic panegyric of Carlyle, whose admiration, or rather reverence for a man so opposite to his worshiper, in every leading quality in mind and heart, has always seemed to us an inexplicable phenomenon.

Equally ardent, but much more intelligible, is the devotion exhibited in Menzel's glowing eulogy of Schiller, which ushers in the selections from that poet. Perhaps no writer ever possessed in a higher degree that high prerogative of genius, the power of awakening for himself in the breasts of men the warmest feelings of love and veneration. No man who knows him, be his habits, tastes and prejudices what they may, can help sympathizing with the good people of Leipzig, as they shouted at the first representation of his Maid of Orleans, "Es lebe Friederick Schiller." Though his intellectual powers command our admiration,

Schiller ☜

it is his moral qualities, his earnestness, his purity, his elevation of character, that give him undisputed mastery over the heart. All that he has written bespeak a nature simple and honest, uncalculating, unselfish, animated by the noblest impulses, and yielding freely to their sway. His life too is in perfect harmony with his writings. It deserves to be studied, both as illustrating much in his works, that would otherwise be obscure, and also because it possesses in itself something of a tragic interest. Its opening is marked by uncommon difficulties and embarrassments: its progress exhibits in the most vivid manner the struggles of a great and earnest spirit after light and truth: and as we approach


[begin surface 4] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Page image: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/manuscripts/marginalia/figures/duk.00705.004.jpg]

584The Poets and Poetry of Europe.[Dec.,

Schiller ☞

the close, his resolute endurance under severe physical suffering, his conscientious determination to spend every energy in the service of mankind, his patient and heroic death, invest him with the dignity of a martyr.

The style of Schiller is like himself, direct, earnest and impassioned. It is the style of one, who feels that he has within him great thoughts, of vital importance

sStyle; rich heavy ornamented effort‑ style

to the welfare of society,— thoughts, which must not be trusted to a loose and careless statement, but worked out in their development with the most anxious and vigilant fidelity. His composition presents everywhere an appearance of effort, which at times renders it even heavy. Yet its movement, if somewhat tardy, is stately and majestic. Richter has described it very happily. "The perfection of pomp-prose we find in Schiller: what the utmost splendor of reflection in images, in fullness and antithesis can give, he gives. Nay, often he plays on the poetic strings with so rich and jewel-loaded a hand, that the sparkling mass disturbs, if not the playing, yet our hearing of it."

Whatever may be said (and we are far from denying that much may be said with truth) of Goethe's great breadth and variety, there can be little doubt, that, least among American readers, Schiller is now, and will long continue to be, the favorite German poet. It is, perhaps, for this very reason, that Mr. Longfellow has given us so few specimens of his works: and those even not in most instances his best productions. We have indeed the "Song of the Bell," and the "Knight Toggenburg," but we miss the "Hymn to Joy," the "Gods of Greece," the "Diver," "Thekla," and other poems which the admirers of Schiller are accustomed to regard as his masterpieces.

Goethe and Schiller have departed, and left behind them no equal. Among the most distinguished of their successors may be reckoned Tieck, Chamisso, Uhland, Schulze, Rückert, Heine, Hoffman, and Frieligrath. Of these, no one, probably, stands higher in the estimation of his countrymen, than the Swabian poet, Ludwig Uhland. His reputation rests chiefly on his lyrical writings, which are remarkable for depth of feeling and beauty of poetical expression. He has little humor. The perplexities and contrarieties of life present themselves to him, not under a ludicrous, but under a melancholy aspect. Most of his pieces breathe a spirit of serious and tender sadness: not unfrequently he rises to cheerfulness, the chastened joy of a mind accustomed to sorrow; seldom, if ever, does he give himself up to mirth and jollity. Yet in his very sadness there is something which elevates rather than depresses: it is not weak or querulous, neither has it a shade of misanthropy: it is rich in noble thoughts, and full of faith and hope and consolation. His soul is open to every impression of nature: he discerns the poetical elements which belong to the commonest situations and incidents of life. Everything which he contemplates, becomes invested in his mind with a beautiful halo of feeling and reflection. The following piece, selected almost at random, will perhaps give a better idea of its author, than could be conveyed by the most elaborate description.

THE PASSAGE.

Many a year is in its grave,
Since I crossed this restless wave;
And the evening, fair as ever,
Shines on ruin, rock and river.

Then in this same boat beside
Sat two comrades old and tried—
One with all a father's truth,
One with all the fire of youth.

One on earth in silence wrought,
And his grave in silence sought;
But the younger, brighter form
Passed in battle and in storm.

So, whene'er I turn my eye
Back upon the days gone by,
Saddening thoughts of friends come o'er me,
Friends that closed their course before me.

But what binds us, friend to friend,
But that soul with soul can blend?
Soul-like were those hours of yore;
Let us walk in soul once more.


Take, O boatman, thrice thy fee—
Take, I give it willingly;
For, invisible to thee,
Spirits twain have crossed with me.

Uhland's ballads are among the finest of his works. Two of these, "The Luck of Edenhall," and the "Black Knight," are set before us by the editor in his own very skillful and perfect versions. We cannot but hope that he will translate yet more from a poet with whose genius he has much in common, and whom he has shown himself admirably qualified to represent in our language. We extract "The Luck of Of Edenhall."


[begin surface 5] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Page image: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/manuscripts/marginalia/figures/duk.00705.005.jpg]

1846.]The Poets and Poetry of Europe.585
"Of Edenhall the youthful lord
Bids sound the festal trumpet's call;
He rises at the banquet board,
And cries, 'mid the drunken revelers all,
'Now bring me the Luck of Edenhall!'

The butler hears the words with pain—
The house's oldest seneschal—
Takes slow from its silken cloth again
The drinking-glass of crystal tall;
They call it The Luck of Edenhall!

Then said the lord, 'This glass to praise,
Fill with red wine from Portugal!'
The graybeard with trembling hand obeys;
A purple light shines over all;
It beams from the Luck of Edenhall.

Then speaks the lord, and waves it light:
'This glass of flashing crystal tall
Gave to my sires the Fountain-Sprite;
She wrote in it, If this glass doth fall,
Farewell then, O Luck of Edenhall!

''T was right a goblet the fate should be
Of the joyous race of Edenhall!
We drink deep draughts right willingly;
And willingly ring, with merry call,
Kling! klang! to the Luck of Edenhall!'

First rings it deep, and full, and mild,
Like to the song of a nightingale;
Then like the roar of a torrent wild;
Then mutters, at last, like the thunder's fall,
The glorious Luck of Edenhall.

'For its keeper, takes a race of might
The fragile goblet of crystal tall;
It has lasted longer than is right;
Kling! klang!—with a harder blow than all
Will I try the Luck of Edenhall!'

As the goblet, ringing, flies apart,
Suddenly cracks the vaulted hall;
And through the rift the flames upstart;
The guests in dust are scattered all
With the breaking Luck of Edenhall!

In storms the foe, with fire and sword!
He in the night had scaled the wall;
Slain by the sword lies the youthful lord,
But holds in his hand the crystal tall,
The shattered Luck of Edenhall.

On the morrow the butler gropes alone,
The graybeard, in the desert hall;
He seeks his lord's burnt skeleton;
He seeks in the dismal ruin's fall
The shards of the Luck of Edenhall.


'The stone wall,' saith he, 'doth fall aside;
Down must the stately columns fall;
Glass is this earth's Luck and Pride;
In atoms shall fall this earthly ball,
One day, like the Luck of Edenhall!'"

The following humorous production has for its author Hoffmann, of Fallersleben, of whom his admirer, Laube, says: "Yes, it is a German; and that too a German from Fallersleben. It is the tall Hoffmann von Fallersleben, the tall professor —a German poet through and through, and over and over."

GERMAN NATIONAL WEALTH.

Hurra! hurra! hurra! hurra!
We're off unto America!
What shall we take to our new land?
All sorts of things from every hand!
Confederation protocols;
Heaps of tax and budget-rolls;
A whole ship-load of skins, to fill
With proclamations just at will.
Or when we to the New World come,
The German will not feel at home.

Hurra! hurra! hurra! hurra!
We're off unto America!
What shall we take to our new land?
All sorts of things from every hand!
A brave supply of corporals' canes;
Of livery suits a hundred wains;
Cockades, gay caps to fill a house, and
Armorial buttons a hundred thousand.
Or when we to the New World come,
The German will not feel at home.

Hurra! hurra! hurra! hurra!
We're off unto America!
What shall we take to our new land?
All sorts of things from every hand!
Chamberlains' keys; a pile of sacks;
Books of full blood-descents in packs;
Dog-chains and sword-chains by the ton;
Of order-ribbons bales twenty-one.
Or when to the New World we come,
The German will not feel at home.

Hurra! hurra! hurra! hurra!
We're off unto America!
What shall we take to our new land?
All sorts of things from every hand!
Skull-caps, periwigs, old-world airs;
Crutches, privileges, easy-chairs;
Councillors' titles, private lists,
Nine hundred and ninety thousand chests.
Or when to the New World we come,
The German will not feel at home.


Hurra! hurra! hurra! hurra!
We're off unto America!
What shall we take to our new land?
All sorts of things from every hand!
Receipts for tax, toll, christening, wedding and funeral;
Passports and wander-books, great and small;
Plenty of rules for censors' inspections,
And just three million police-directions.
Or when to the New World we come,
The German will not feel at home.

[begin surface 6] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Page image: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/manuscripts/marginalia/figures/duk.00705.006.jpg]

586The Poets and Poetry of Europe.[Dec.,

The Dutch ☟

Not a few readers, it is to be feared, as they turn the leaves of this work, will scarce forbear a smile when their eye lights upon the heading, "Dutch Poetry." The literature of Holland, neglected in Europe, is wholly undreamed of in America. Not only do we know nothing of the poetry which the Dutch have written, but we very generally imagine them to be quite incapable of writing poetry. A busy,

bustling, thriving people, engaged from time immemorial in commerce and the arts, devoted to the pursuits of peace, and on this account indisposed to war, we have been accustomed to look upon them as eminently a prosaic people. It has seemed to us impossible that the Muses should abide on their flat and monotonous soil, where the treckschuyts move lazily along through the muddy waters of numberless canals. The unpicturesque landscape, the dense fog, the mingled din of trade and manufactures, have appeared to us inevitably fatal to the cultivation of taste and sentiment. To these prejudices, which we share with the nations of Europe, we have added others peculiar to ourselves, founded partly on the character of the Dutch population in some districts of our own country, and partly, we fear it must be admitted, on the comicohistorical romance of our illustrious Irving. The humorous exaggeration of his Diedrich Knickerbocker is, indeed, obvious enough to the dullest comprehension. Yet so vivid are his representations, such an air of reality belongs to his most whimsical absurdities, that they take fast hold on the imagination and the memory; and while we fully recognize their imaginary nature, produce upon our minds a stronger impression than the

True words about the Dutch

truth. Without intending it, nay almost in spite of ourselves, we form our ideas of Dutch habits and Dutch character from his fanciful descriptions. We can hardly hear or speak or think of a Dutchman without calling up to mental vision a short, stumpy, obese personage, with heavy face, bullet head, rolling gait, arrayed in vestments ample alike in number and dimensions, marvelously sparing of words, but prodigal of tobacco-smoke. Our minds, once preoccupied with this ludicrous image, become incapable of doing justice to the countrymen of Erasmus and Hemsterhuys, of Rubens and Van Dyk, of De Ruyter and Van Tromp, of De Witt and Barneveldt and Grotius. We forget the advanced civilization of Holland, her education and intelligence, her progress in the arts useful and ornamental, her spirit of industry and enterprise, her unconquerable love of freedom. We forget that her people, few in numbers, unused to war, unsupported by foreign aid, maintained a seventy years' struggle for their liberties against the mightiest empire of the time; that they afterwards contested with England long and gloriously the supremacy of the ocean; that their artists are inferior only to the great masters of Italy; that their scholars have been unsurpassed for genius and erudition; that their writers on international law are the acknowledged arbiters of Europe. Why should we doubt that a people who, against all disadvantages of nature and of fortune, have been able to achieve so much for themselves and for the world, may possess all the elements of poetry? Do we not find among them, in their past and their present, ardor of emotion, energy of will, loftiness of purpose, an eye to discern the beautiful, a head to understand the true, and a heart to love the good? Nor do they lack the necessary means of expression. Their language, however rude and vulgar it may sound, when spoken by rude and vulgar men, (for such must always be the speech of such men, whatever the syllables they use,) is a highly cultivated idiom, copious and flexible, the appropriate and serviceable instrument of the educated mind. A branch ot the great Teutonic stock, it stands midway between the German and the English, and may safely be pronounced inferior to neither in the most valuable qualities of a language. Its excellences have been fully proved by the numerous and able writers who have used it. Certainly, if we may judge of an author's merits by the affection and enthusiasm which he awakens, we must assign a very high rank to the poets of the Netherlands. The Dutch, far from undervaluing their poets, because they are neglected by foreigners, only cling to them with the greater attachment, as if they wished that the writer who, by using their language, has cut himself off from general and wide-spread fame, should be compensated for the sacrifice he has made by the admiration and the love of those for whose benefit he has made it.

Among the older poets of Holland the most eminent are: Cats, Hooft, Van Der Goes, and, above all, Vondel, the Coryphæus of his country's literature, celebrated as a universal genius, who tried every species of poetry, and excelled in


[begin surface 7] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Page image: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/manuscripts/marginalia/figures/duk.00705.007.jpg]

1846.]The Poets and Poetry of Europe.587

all. It must be confessed that the fragments which we have here by no means justify the reputation of their author. They might even lead us, did we not know the injustice of judging a great poet from a few translated specimens, to fall in with those who, in more recent times, have ventured to criticise Vondel with severity, and doubt or deny his preëminence.

In Holland, as in every other country of Europe, the eighteenth century was a barren age for poetry. Its close, however, was marked here, as everywhere else, by the introduction of a new order of things. Among those who took an active part in the revival of Dutch literature, the most conspicuous undoubtedly was Bilderdijk. Through a long career of authorship he was distinguished for his profound and various learning, for the voluminous extent of his productions, for his energetic independence, and for the number and the bitterness of his literary quarrels. The warmth of his feelings, and the asperity of his satire, may be well enough illustrated by these few lines, in which, speaking of the French language, he says:—


"Begone! thou bastard tongue, so base, so broken,
By human jackals and hyenas spoken;
Formed for a race of infidels, and fit
To laugh at truth and scepticize in wit!
What stammering, snivelling sounds, which scarcely dare
Through nasal channels to salute the ear,
Yet, helped by apes' grimaces and the devil,
Have ruled the world, and ruled the world for evil!"

Very different from Bilderdijk is the amiable Tollens, who still lives, at an advanced age, enjoying the honors awarded him by his admiring countrymen. As a specimen of his style, we quote the following spirited verses:—

SUMMER MORNING'S SONG.

Up, sleeper! dreamer! up! for now
There's gold upon the mountain's brow—
There's light on forests, lakes and meadows—
The dew-drops shine on floweret-bells—
The village clock of morning tells.
Up, men! out, cattle! for the dells
And dingles teem with shadow.

Up! out! o'er furrow and o'er field!
The claims of toil some moments yield
For morning's bliss, and time is fleeter
Than thought;—so out! 'tis dawning yet;
Why twilight's lovely hour forget?
For sweet though be the workman's sweat,
The wanderer's sweat is sweeter.

Up! to the fields! through shine and stour!
What hath the dull and drowsy hour
So blest as this—the glad heart leaping
To hear morn's early songs sublime?
See earth rejoicing in its prime!
The summer is the waking time,
The winter time for sleeping.
* * * * *

O, happy, who the city's noise
Can quit for nature's quiet joys,
Quit worldly sin and worldly sorrow;
No more 'midst prison-walls abide,
But in God's temple vast and wide
Pour praises every eventide,
Ask mercies every morrow!

No seraph's flaming sword hath driven
That man from Eden or from heaven,
From earth's sweet smiles and winning features;
For him, by toils and troubles tossed,
By wealth and wearying cares engrossed —
For him a paradise is lost,
But not for happy creatures.


Come—though a glance it may be—come,
Enjoy, improve; then hurry home,
For life's strong urgencies must bind us.
Yet mourn not; morn shall wake anew,
And we shall wake to bless it too.
Homewards!—the herds that shake the dew
We'll leave in peace behind us.

With Dutch poetry closes the first of the two great parts into which this work may be divided—the one, which embraces the poetry of the Teutonic languages; the second part is occupied with the literature of Southern Europe—of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, countries in which are spoken languages derived from the Latin. There are many things in this part of the book, especially under Italian poetry, which we should be glad to notice; but we have already exceeded our allotted limits, and forbear to trespass farther at present on the patience of the reader.


[begin surface 8] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Page image: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/manuscripts/marginalia/figures/duk.00705.008.jpg]

[begin hashmark section]
588Notes by the Road.[Dec.,

NOTES BY THE ROAD.—No. IV. BY CAIUS. FROM THE ELBE TO THE ZUYDER ZEE.

[We give, in this number, the last chapter which we shall probably be able to present to our readers, of the "Notes by the Road." We cannot but feel that they have gratified many, where our Magazine is read; and we believe that they will learn with pleasure that a portion of his sketches, including one or two of the chapters published in the Review, but mainly on entirely fresh ground, may soon be given to the public. For a narrative of pleasant, minute observations, written in a graceful, subdued style, slightly quaint, making the reader an easy-minded companion of the rambling traveler—a style quite new under the prevailing taste for rapid and vigorous writing—we venture to bespeak, we might say, predict, beforehand, a most favorable reception. The writer's quick-eyed observations have covered many parts of Europe; the green lanes, and by-ways, and busy thoroughfares of England—the solitary heaths and hills of Scotland—the life led in London and Paris—the quaint and simple forms of things in France and Dutch-land—the ever-great scenery of the Alps—the scenes and associations, never yet exhausted, of "remembered Italy." With such things to talk about, and a certain way of telling his story, we do not see why his should not be a "proper book."—ED. AM REV.]

CAMERON would not go with me to Bremen: so I left him at Hamburg—at dinner —at the table of the Kronprinzen Charles, on the sunny side of the Jungfernstieg. There was, it is true, a great deal to detain him in the old free city:— there was the Alster, stretching out under our chamber windows in a broad sheet, with elegant new houses flanking it, with little skiffs paddling over it, from which the music floated up to our ears at eventide; and beyond it was the belt of road, along which dashing equipages ran all day, and from which rose up out of the very edge of the water, the great wind-mill that flung the black shadows of its slouching arms, half way to the 'maiden's walk,' when the sun was riding over the tops of the gardens of Vierland. Jenny Lind was coming to sing to the Hamburgers, and Cameron had secured a seat: beside, there were two beautiful Russian girls sitting vis à vis at the table where I left him, and a Swedish bride as pretty as the picture of Poliphar's wife in the palace of Barberini at Rome. And there was a gay little Prussian girl, who could speak just enough English to enlist the sympathies of my Scotch friend, and to puzzle prodigiously her staid German Papa. I know very well, by the mischief that was in her eye, that she did not translate truly to her Papa, all the little gossip that passed between her and fun- loving Cameron, or my friend would have had, as sure as the world, a snatch of the old man's cane. Whether it was such company, or the "hung beef" that held him, Cameron would not go with me to Bremen.

I could have staid at Hamburg myself. It is a queer old city, lying just where the Elbe, coming down from the mountains of Bohemia through the wild gaps of Saxony and everlasting plains of Prussia, pours its muddy waters into a long arm of the Mer du Nord. The new city, built over the ruins of the fire is elegant, and almost Paris-like; and out of it, one wanders, before he is aware, into the narrow alleys of the old Dutch gables. And blackened cross beams, and overlapping roofs, and diamond panes, and scores of smart Dutch caps, are looking down on him as he wanders entranced. It is the strangest contrast of cities that can be seen in Europe. One hour, you are in a world that has an old age of centuries:—pavement, sideways, houses, everything old, and the smoke curling in an old-fashioned way out of monstrous chimney-stacks, into the murky sky: five minutes' walk will bring one from the midst of this into a region where all is shockingly new;—Parisian shops, with Parisian plate glass in the windows; Parisian shopkeepers, with Parisian gold in the till. The contrast was tormenting. Before the smooth cut shops that are ranged around the basin of the Alster, one could not persuade himself that he was in the quaint old Hanse town of Jew brokers, and storks' nests, that he had come to see; or when he wandered upon the quays that are lined up and down with such true Dutch-looking houses, it would seem that he was out of all reach of the splendid hotel of the Crown Prince, and the prim porter who sports his livery at the door. The

[end hashmark section]

Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.