Writers Little Known Among Us.

Milnes . . . Landor . . . Julius Hare.

  As several readers have expressed their pleasure in the opportunity of reading the poems of MILNES, with which we adorned a previous notice, we must copy one more, from among the “Memorials of Many Scenes.” It is not one of much poetic merit, but for its delicacy of feeling, and the living picture of a Southern moonlit night, delightful to read, especially in the frosty dullness of a Northern Spring:

LET him go down,—the gallant Sun!
His work is nobly done:
Well may He now absorb
Within his solid orb
The rays so beautiful and strong,
The rays that have been out so long
Embracing this delighted land as with a mystic song.
Let the brave Sun go down to his repose,
And though his heart be kind,
He need not mourn for those
He leaves behind;
He knows, that when his ardent throne
Is rolled beyond the vaulting sky,
The earth shall not be left alone
In darkness and perplexity.

We shall not sit in sullen sorrow
Expectant of a tardy morrow,
But there where he himself arose,
Another power shall rise,
And gracious rivalry disclose
To our reverted eyes,
Between the passing splendor and the born,
Which can the most our happy world adorn.

The light of Night shall rise,—
Not as in Northern skies,
A memory of the day, a dream
Of sunshine, something that might seem
Between a shadow and a gleam,
A mystery, a maiden
Whose spirit worn and shadow-laden
Pleasant imaginations wile
Into a visionary smile,
A novice veiled in vapory shrouds,
A timid huntress, whom the clouds
Rather pursue than shun,—
With far another mien,
Wilt thou come forth serene,
Thou full and perfect Queen,
Moon of the South! twin sister of the Sun!

Still harbored in his tent of cloth of gold
He seems thy ordered presence to await,
In his pure soul rejoicing to behold
The majesty of his successor’s state,
Saluting thy assent
With many a tender and triumphant tone
Compassed in his celestial instrument,
And harmonies of hue to other climes unknown.

He, too, who knows what melody of word
May with that visual music best accord
Why does the Bard now his homage now delay?
As in the ancient East,
The royal Minstrel-Priest
Sang to his harp that Hallelujah lay
Of the Sun-bridegroom ready for his way,
So, in the regions of the later West
This blessed even-tide,
Is there no Poet whose divine behest
Shall be to hail the bride?
A feeble voice may give an earnest sound,
And grateful hearts are measured not by power,
Therefore may I, tho’ nameless and uncrowned,
Proffer a friendly tribute to thy dower.
For on the midland Sea I sailed of old,
Leading thy line of narrow rippled light,
And saw it grow a field of frosted gold,
With every boat a Shadow in the Bright;
And many a playful fancy has been mine,
As I have watched the shapes thy glory made,
Glimpsing like starlight through the massive pine,
Or finely trellised by mimosa shade;
And now I trace each moment of thy spell,
That frees from mortal stain these Venice isles.
From eve’s rich shield to morn’s translucid shell,
From Love’s young glow to Love’s expiring smiles!

We gaze upon the faces we hold dear,
Each feature in thy rays as well defined,
As just a symbol of informing mind,
As when the noon is on them full and clear;
Yell all some wise attempted and subdued,
Not far from what to Faith’s prospective eyes
Transfigured creatures of beatitude
From earthly graves arise.

Those evenings, oh! those evenings, when with one,
Then the world’s loveliness, now wholly mine,
I stood beside the salient founts that shone
Fit frontispiece to Peter’s Roman shrine;
I knew how fair were She and They
In every bright device of day,
All happy as a lark on wing,
A singing, glistening, dancing thing,
With joy and grace they seemed to be
Of nature’s pure necessity;
But when, O holy moon! thy might
Turned all the water into light,
And each enchanted Fountain wore
Diviner beauty then before
A pillar of aspiring beams,
An ever-falling veil of gleams,—
She who in day’s most lively hour
Had something of composing power
About her mirthful lips and eyes,—
Sweet folly making others wise,—
Was vested with a sudden sense
Of great and grave intelligence,
As if in thy reflex she saw
The process of eternal law,
God’s conscious pleasure working out
Through all the Passion, Pain, and Doubt;—
And thus did She and Thou impart
Such knowledge to my listening heart,
Such sympathies as word or pen
Can never tell again!
All spirits find themselves fulfilled in Thee,
The glad have triumph and the mourning balm:
Dear God! how wondrous that a thing should be
So very glorious and so very calm!
The lover, standing on a lonely hight,
Rests his sad gaze upon the scene below,
Lapt in the trance of thy pervading glow,
Till pleasant tears obscure his pensive sight;
And in his bosom those long-smothered flames,
The scorching elements of vain desire,
Taking the nature of thy gentle fire,
Play round the heart in peace, while he exclaims,
“Surely, my love is out somewhere to-night!”

Why art thou thus companionable? Why
Do we not love thy light alone, but Thee?
Is it that though thou art so pure and high,
Thou dost not shock our senses, as they be?
That our poor eyes rest on thee, and descry
Islands of earth within thy golden sea?
Or should the root be sought
In some unconscious thought,
That thy fine presence is not more thine own
Than are our soul’s adorning splendors ours?—
Than are the energies and powers,
With which reflected light alone
Illuminates the living hours,
From our own wells of being brought,
From virtue self-infused or seed of life self-sown?
Thus with ascent more ready may we pass
From this delightful sharing of thy gifts
Up to the common Giver, Source, and Will;
And if, alas!
His daily affluent sun-light seldom lifts
To thankful ecstasy our hearts’ dull mass,
It may be that our feeble sight
Will not confront the total light,
That we may love, in nature frail,
To blend the vivid with the pale,
The dazzling with the dim:
And lo! how God, all-gracious still,
Our simplest fancies to fulfil,
Bids us, O Southern Moon, thy beauty hail,
In thee rejoicing and adoring Him.


  WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR is another writer of the class, heretofore defined, who do not address the common heart or the prophetic soul of mankind, but require a peculiar culture in the reader to be duly appreciated. But some degree of this is not so rare that his works, if republished here, could fail to find a small circle whom they could benefit, and soon create a large one.

  His books of Conversations are a magazine of refined thoughts and exact observations, expressed with the utmost terseness, elegance and force.—He boasts of being almost the only man now living who can write English, and we concede him this, as we read his pages, so entirely pure from useless phrases and circumlocutions, so faithful to the peculiar genius of the language. There is no self-indulgence, no slovenliness, the thing is clearly said and fully said, yet with a conciseness and delicacy of shade and touch, undreamed of by other writers. Yet this style is not deficient in flow; like the movements of a high-bred person, it is self-contained, easy, soft in strength not weakness. Even the bitter and rabid prejudices win a beauty from the style in which they are expressed, as ugly insects might from being encased in amber.

  For Landor has fierce prejudices, and mean prejudices too. You cannot depend, in any case, upon his justice or candor. If he is right, he is deeply right, and does admirable justice to the right. If he is wrong, he is fiercely, blindly, pedantically wrong, and angry with all that are not equally so. There is a want of equipoise and harmony in the faculties of this rare nature. He wants that which is the highest charm of the highest genius, as well as of the simplest character—perfect health. There are spots where venom rankles, distorted bones and rigid limbs. But where there are beauty and force, they are of a very high order.

  Scarce any writer bears so well the detachment of sentences and paragraphs from the page, as Landor. We have collects of these which never wear out or seem less worthy recitation, crystals of thought from the slimy cavern, unsuitable haunt for timid footsteps and visited often by the sullen roar of a cold and ruthless wave. Yet Landor’s, though a fierce, and at times a vulgar mind, is also one of the most exquisite tenderness, exalting sweetness, and capable of repose on the calmest, purest heights of life. To one who knows him well, the blemishes recede from the field of vision, the impurities filter soon and for ever from the precious draught. They are there—but, if we remember them, it is to wonder that they are still there.

  “Pericles and Aspasia” has been republished here. There is no finer modern vase, in imitation of the antique. Its beauty is a Grecian beauty.—Love and Friendship have never been painted in more lovely and dignified relations. The thousand graces of familiar fondness are shown to be compatible with intellectual intercourse the most refined. Aspasia beautifully says of Anaxagoras, as to his friendship for Pericles: “He is the golden lamp that shines upon the image I adore,” and all the figures, all the relations, are worthy to be seen by the light of such a lamp.

  What can be more charmingly graceful than the petulant sallies of the young Alcibiades, and the letters in which the childish sports of the two girls are described. The little lament after the willows of which they used to make their baskets is a poem. The little pieces in verse, interspersed through the volumes, are just what poems that spring out of daily intercourse ought to be, a little more beautiful than, but perfectly congenial with, the commonest pursuits of the day, garlands woven from the trees, beneath which the friends sat at their work. How truly they belong to ourselves! such simple graceful poems as,

“BEAUTY! thou art a wanderer on the earth,
And hast no temple in the fairest isle
Or city over-sea, where Wealth and Mirth,
And all the Graces—all the Muses, smile.

Yet these have always nursed thee, with such fond,
Such lasting love, that they have followed up
Thy steps through every land, and placed beyond
The reach of thirsty Time thy nectar-cup.

Thou art a wanderer, Beauty! like the rays
That now upon the platan, now upon
The sleepy lake, glance quick or idly gaze,
And now are manifold, and now are none.

I have called, panting, after thee, and thou
Hast turned, and looked, and said some pretty word,
Parting the hair, perhaps, upon my brow,
And telling me none ever was preferred.

In more then one bright form hast thou appeared,
In more than one sweet dialect hast spoken;
Beauty! thy spells the heart with me heard—
Grieved that they bound it, grieves me that they are broken.”

Or this, in which are expressed the feelings of Pericles on the evening of a weary day:

  “When Pericles is too grave and silent, I usually take up my harp and sing to it; for music is often acceptable to the ear when it would avoid or repose from discourse. He tells me that it not only excites the imagination, but invigorates eloquence and refreshes memory; that playing on my Harp to him is like besprinkling a tessellated pavement with odoriferous water, which brings out the images, cools the apartment, and gratifies the senses by its fragrance.

  “That instrument,” said he, “is the rod of Mercury; it calls up the spirits from below or conducts them back again to Elysium. With what ecstasy do I throb and quiver under these refreshing showers of sound.”

“Come sprinkle me soft music o’er the breast,
Bring me the varied colors into light
That now obscurely on its tablet rest,
Show me its flowers and figures fresh and bright,
Waked at thy voice and touch, again the chords
Restore what restless years had moved away,
Restore the glowing cheeks, the tender words,
Youth’s short-lived spring and Pleasure’s summer-day.”

  Perhaps these lines which represent Pericles in his private relations give a better idea of him than all that is said of his public career, though that is excellent. But the good sense and delicacy exhibited in the following simple statement could not fail to make him act wisely in public as in private.

  “History wants them (metaphors) occasionally: in oratory they are nearly as requisite as poetry; they come opportunely wherever the object is persuasion or intimidation, and no less where delight stands foremost. In writing a letter I would neither seek nor reject one; but I think, if more than one came forward, I might decline its services. If, however, it had come in unawares, I would take no trouble to send it away. But we should accustom ourselves to think always with propriety, in little things as in great, and neither be too solicitous of our dress in the house, nor negligent because we are at home. I think it as improper and indecorous to write a stupid or a silly note to you, as one in a bad hand, or on coarse paper. Familiarity ought to have another and a worse name when it relaxes in its attentiveness to please.

  Among the losses I sustained by the flight of youth, I ought to regret my vanity. I had not enough of it for a robe, but I had enough for a vest; enough to keep me warm and comfortable. Not a reminant have I now!”

  “You are prudent, and your prudence is of the best quality; instinctive delicacy.”

  “Imagination is little less strong in our later years then in our earlier. True, it alights on fewer objects, but it rests longer on them, and sees them better.”


  “O, men of Athens!” said he, calmly, “I wish it had pleased the gods that the vengeance of Diapithes had taken its first aim against me, whom you have heard so often, known so long, and trusted so implicitly. But Diapithes hath skulked from his ambush and seized upon the unsuspecting Anaxagoras, in the hope that, few knowing him, few can love him. The calculation of Diapithes is correct; they who love him are but few. They, however, who esteem and reverence him can only be numbered by him who possesses a register of all the wise and all the virtuous men of Greece.”

  See in the following another instance of his admirable powers of expression: innnumerable as worthy might be added, were there room:

  “EURIPIDES.—He has not the fine manners of Sophocles; nor the open and unreserved air, which Pericles tells me he admired so much in the soldierly and somewhat proud Eschylus; grave and taciturn like himself, unless when something pleased him, and then giving way to ebullitions and bursts of rapture and filling every one with it round about.”

  We must add this, which describes Aspasia’s way of living and growing:

“You build your nest, Aspasia, like the swallow,
Bringing a little on the bill at once,
And fixing it attentively and proudly,
And trying it, and then from your soft breast
Warming it with the inmost of the plumage.
Nests there are many, of this very year
Many the nests are, which the winds shall shake,
The rains run through, and the birds beat down;
Yours, O Aspasia! rests against the temple
Of heavenly Love, and thence inviolate,
It shall not fall this winter nor the next.”

  This was the woman worthy of the grave, the deep, the fervent, the perfect love of such a man as Pericles. Such was the woman who could call this graceful regret from Anaxagoras.

“Where are the blooms of many dyes
That used in every path to rise?
Whither are gone the lighter hours?
What leave they?—I can only send
My wisest, loveliest, latest friend
These weather-worn and formless flowers.”

  Another book of Landor’s which ought to be republished here, as a boon to minds refined, or capable of refinement, is his Pentameron. This is a series of conversations between the great Italians, Petrarch and Boccaccio. Petrarch is represented as on a visit to his friend, who is just recovering from a severe illness. The main topic of discourse is criticism on the works of Dante. This criticism is of little or no value. Landor is not only fond of riding a hobby, but of running thereon a tilt against armies of knights mounted on real live horses.—This is just such a case. The critic attempts to give new views of matters which the general sense of men appreciates far better than any one carping, sifting, prying mind can. Unsought judgments are the only genuine. Dante towers majestic above all this small work, and no one capable of knowing him could take the trouble to read through these strictures of Landor’s.

  But the fine part of the book consists in the picture given of the position and mutual relations of the persons. This is done with a power that makes them truly present to us in original beauty, yet it cannot be called dramatic power. It is the same sort of pleasure we derive from a fine drawing; we are not aided by color or moulding, yet have the secret of the whole. The descriptions of the landscape round the villa, the festival day, the story of Maria, are masterpieces; the latter is somewhat to know by heart. The two dreams of the Poets are as fine as any thing that has come from this mind; their elevated and pensive beauty raises the language in which they are written almost to the perfection of angel-speech. The two Poets are well represented, especially Boccaccio, with his gay grace, and richer, more cordial and widely ranging nature. But the fairest picture is that of the little serving-maid Assuntina. Never was saint or fairy so naturally domesticated in a kitchen, nor perfect feminine innocence, and the influence of its unconscious grace on intellect more worthily felt. All her looks, gestures, and girlish ways are full of instruction. Boccaccio well says of her,

  “I have no fear about the girl. He might as well whistle to the moon on a frosty night, and expect as reasonably her descending. She is adamant; a bright sword now first scabbarded—no breath can hang about it. A seal of beryl, of chrysolite, or ruby; to make impressions, all in good time and proper place though; and receive none—incapable, just as they, of splitting, or cracking, or flawing, or harboring dust.”


  From JULIUS HARE we have one volume modestly entitled “Guesses at Truth:” that he has often guessed aright—and his essay was well worthy the crucible no thoughtful mind would hesitate to affirm. It is a genuine kind of writing: this little book containing the result of many years’ thought and observation. Whenever any impression had come to him with peculiar force, or the workings of hidden causes had led unexpectedly to a conclusion, he has written down what came into his mind exactly; just that and no more.—Sometimes, we have only a sentence or a verse full of feeling that falls straight upon the heart, like a tear, sometimes two or three pages where there was a flow of thought, always every word is worth reading. The mind is not rich nor bold, but highly cultivated by varied and reverent intercourse with the best books and best men, independent, clear and dignified, refined and penetrating. Happy the man to whom a long life has yielded such an amount of thoughts really worth preserving and worthily set down. Life has been to him not merely a series of changes, but an upward progress, and to the next stage of being he goes, not as a beggar and a foundling, but as one to whom an earlier home has furnished a rosary, the memento of many prayers answered and an encouragement to more. In this age of book-making, got-up celebrities, and factitious action, such a book cannot be too much prized, for it contains a part of the real value of a man’s life, and by its Guesses at Truth will more exhilarate and fortify the sincere seeker, than all the philosophers with their vamped-up systems. He finds a companion in this true record who assures him that life need not be idealized to be ideal. Such books console, like private letters which grew from the occasion without second purpose.*

“Writers Little Known Among Us.” New-York Daily Tribune, 28 March 1845, p. 1.