Cranch’s Poems.

Cranch’s Poems.

POEMS: BY CHRISTOPHER PEARSE CRANCH. Philadelphia, Carey & Hart, 1844.

  We should regret that the press of affairs has prevented an earlier notice of this little volume, if it were not that we thus gain leisure for a deliberate word, which merits claim. Among these, we should name first the close connexion borne by the Poems to the habitual life of the writer’s mind. Every cadence and inflection of the stream sets off its full and gentle undersong; the foliage is fresh, but not so profuse as to hide the structure of the tree.

  This is no common merit now, when so much verse is written from the ear, rather than the mind, when so much may be esteemed a product of joint stock in literature at large, rather than of any one mind. In this book are no mere phrases, no rhymes which the ear predicts as customary, but both thoughts and style have the healthy charms of individual life.

  This is but one of the modes in which Mr. Cranch seeks expression for the higher thoughts. At the Exhibition of the Art Union, pictures from his hand may be seen, in a kindred spirit. He has not so long been familiar with the palette as with the pen, but his pictures promise future excellence, and are very attractive, now, from the various sympathy with nature and freedom of feeling which they show. They are in harmony with this beautiful description of the Artist:

He breathed the air of realms enchanted,
He bathed in seas of dreamy light,
And seeds within his soul were planted
That bore us flowers for use too bright,
Unless it were to stay some wand’ring spirit’s flight.

With us he lived a common life,
And wore a plain, familiar name,
And meekly dared the vulgar strife
That to inferior spirits came—
Yet bore a pulse within the world could never tame.

And skies more soft than Italy’s
Their wealth of light around him spread,
And tones were his—and only his—
So sweetly floating o’er his head—
None knew at what rich feast the favored guest was fed.

They could not guess or reason why
He chose the ways of poverty;
They read no wisdom in his eye,
But scorned the holy mystery
That brooded o’er his thoughts and gave him power to see.

But all unveiled the world of Sense
An inner meaning had for him,
And Beauty loved in innocence,
Not sought in passion or in whim,
Within a soul so pure could ne’er grow dull and dim.

And in this vision did he toil,
And in this beauty lived and died,
And think not that he left his soil
By no rich tillage sanctified;
In olden times he might have been his country’s pride.

And yet may be, though he hath gone—
For spirits of so fine a mould
Lose not the glory they have won,
Their memory turns not pale and cold;
While Love lives on the lovely never can grow old.

  The following is graceful in the ‘simple grace of not too much:’

She has brought me flowers to deck my room,
Of sweetest scent and brilliancy;
She knew not that she was the while
The fairest flower of all to me.

Since her soft eyes have looked on them,
What tender beauties in them dwell,
Since her fair hands have placed them there,
Oh, how much sweeter do they smell!

Beside my ink-stand and my books
They bloom in perfume and in light;
A voice amid my lonesomeness—
A shining star amid my night.

The storm beats down upon the roof,
But in this room glide summer hours,
Since she, the fairest flower of all,
Has garlanded my heart with flowers.

  The ‘Aurora Boealis’ and ‘The Blind Seer’ are poems of true dignity. The following has the same tone, with still more sweetness:

“In a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
That brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the might waters rolling everymore.”

Tell me, brother, what are we?
Spirits bathing in the sea
Of Deity;
Half afloat and half on land,
Wishing so much to leave the strand,
Standing—gazing with devotion,
Yet afraid to trust the Ocean—
Such are we.

Wanting love and holiness
To enjoy the wave’s caress;
Wanting faith and heavenly hope,
Buoyantly to bear us up;
Yet impatient in our dwelling,
When we hear the ocean swelling,
And in every wave that rolls
We behold the happy souls
Swimming on the smiling sea,
Then we linger round the shore,
Lovers of the earth no more.

Once—‘t was in our infancy,
We were drifted by this sea,
To the coast of human birth,
To this body and this earth.
Gentle were the hands that bore
Our young spirits to the shore;
Gentle lips that bade us look
Outward from our cradle nook
To the spirit-bearing ocean
With such wonder and devotion,
As each stilly Sabbath day,
We were led a little way,
Where we saw the waters swell
Far away from inland dell,
And received with grave delight
Symbols of the Infinite;
Then our home was near the sea,
“Heaven was round our infancy;”
Night and day we heard the waves
Murmuring by us to their caves;
Floated in unconscious life,
With no later doubts at strife,
Trustful of the upholding Power
Who sustained us hour by hour.

Now we’ve wandered from the shore,
Dwelers by the sea no more;
Yet at times there comes a tone
Telling of the visions flown—
Sounding from the distant sea,
Where we left our purity;
Distant glimpses of the surge
Lure us down to Ocean’s verge;
There we stand with vague distress,
Yearning for the measureless—
By half-wakened instincts driven,
Half loving earth—half loving heaven,
Fearing to put off and swim,
Yet impelled to turn to Him
In whose life we live and move,
And whose very name is Love.
Grant me courage, Holy One,
To become indeed thy son.
And in thee, thou Parent Sea,
Live and love eternally.

  If any find in these strains a kindred note, and are induced to make acquaintance with the volume, it will be found a sincere and thoughtful companion, and more prized a year hence than now.


“Cranch’s Poems.” New-York Daily Tribune, 12 Dec. 1844, p. 1.