« AnteriorContinuar »
ture to discuss them, as no Muse shows herself more properly amiable than that of our author. She is not simply gentle. Her life is pure. Her walks are in quiet valleys, by cool waters, such as the Royal Minstrel sung with so much satisfaction, and so much longed for when the world went wrong with him. She hoods herself with becoming modesty, like Milton's lady, in Comus. Her passions are fe\v,and held in subjection by her sentiments. Her thoughts are pure ; her mind unsoiled by sinful desires and aims. She has lived in the gay world—such a gay world as Paris—and she has prudently fled in season from its fearful fascinations. Even while the warm blood of youth gushes tumultuously through her veins, soliciting only, and ever, the overflowing cup of intoxicating pleasures, she has quelled the rebellious impulse, dashed from her hand the beguiling beverage, turned her eyes away from the dangerous and subtle temptations of the city, and gone, hermit-like, into the solitude to pray! Her faith is warmer than her blood; her religion more precious than the wild passions and fierce phrenzies of mortal love; she seeks in solitude for the mysterious tree of redemption; she flies to the realm of silence, that she may the more easily hear the still small voice of God. There, on the wings of a pure enthusiasm, she ascends with the lark to the gates of heaven; and, while listening at the porch to the divine strains which issue from within, she answers with the humble song of a sad but loving heart, in the fond hope that her own feeble music may mingle with and swell the glorious diapason which she hears, and be commended to that Great Sense of the universal nature, which hears the tohisper of the soul as quickly as its most powerful voice, and refuses no ear to one who sings with humility, from a heart that bleeds with love!
Even so gentle, humble, soft and modest, are the strains from our author's lyre. His life, so far as we can learn, has properly illustrated the career of his Muse. We refer to our pages, last October, for a brief notice of his origin and connexions; his successful studies in the brilliant capital of France; his impressions of that gay and fashionable world; his disappointments at the hollowness of its joys; his farewell—not reluctant or lingering—to its dangerous but delicious fascinations; and his glad return to the more homely regions of his birth, in western solitudes, where he may better hearken to the voice of duty; where he may better comprehend the lessons of wisdom; where he may the more readily hear the whisper of the always-accusing conscience, and, in the practice of self-denial, become lifted to the divinest consciousness of religion. He fled from no ordinary temptations. We read of the many generous encomiums lavished upon his writings by the Parisian critics, his friends and contemporaries; and we feel how great must have been the struggle, with a young poet, to tear himself away from a world of such superior art and attraction—from circles which so highly appreciated his Muse—to bury himself in the lonely wastes of our great country. In some degree, the praises of his critics were deserved; some of them, the most eulogistic, might be explained as only the usual encouragements bestowed upon a young and inexperienced poet—a benevolent and courteous manner of introducing a Creole of Louisiana, to the conventional world of France; one of the modes of stately courtesy, such as prevails among the Spaniards, which must not be taken at the full of meaning, but with drops of allowance; but, even Spanish hyperbole may be found consistent with a very sincere respect and regard, and with a very serious and honest purpose to utter nothing but the truth.
Such, no doubt, was the meaning of the friendly French critics who gave their tributes so freely to the firstlings of our author's muse. We have seen that they could not detain his footsteps—that he fled from these pleasantly persuasive voices—sounding, almost, like those of Fame—and that he now harbours, with a Muse subdued, in a country parish of our sister State. Here, Religion prompts rather than Fame, and the songs which M. Rouquette has subsequently put forth, speak only for her inspiration. It is well that such is the case! For what voice of fame could ever, in our week-day world, beguile the most credulous into the notion that praise or pay was in readiness for the native minstrel? In our crude, transition state, hurrying evermore, and with toilet never quite made, who stops to listen to the Muse, pipe she never so prettily? Very sad is the truth, that there is a temporary retrograde in our march of progress, in almost all respects which demand the helping hand of art. Our notions of art are very little raised above those of the red men, whose places we have usurped. Our ambition is. not more elevated, and seems to be somewhat of the same character— to compass mere territory; overrun rather than conquer; possess, not keep; waste, not use to God's glory, and our own happiness and honour. Poetry, the profoundest of all the fine arts, arrests no traveller ; though the gurgle of secret waters steals up to his ear as he stops to rest, and though the cascade, wreathed in rainbows, appears over the brow of the steep beneath which he rides. He has no awakened or awakening faculties, such as knit soul and sense together, and inform with a two-fold philosophy. He prefers to chew the cud of discontent, to that of thought; to follow the bidding of his blood, in preference to that of his brain; and to take his rule in life from the daughter of the horse-leech, rather than those virgins Nine, who gather about the heights of Parnassus. His Parnassus is the placer; his Pegasus, the iron horse; his faith is in good bonds at seven per cent., or as much more as the law will allow; his religion only serves to melt the golden vessels of the sanctuary; and his hope, if he has any that looks beyond his own life, is that he may cut up like John Jacob Astor. What chance has poetry, which never knows the value of money, with such parties? Verily, the inspiration of the American Muse must be found neither in mortal pay or praise. It must be caught, as that of M. Rouquette would seem to be, from the altars of Religion. Such inspiration is self-compensation. Even the applause of the better minded and better educated, in America, is rarely bestowed upon the native poet. The very critic, who is SignorSnob—when he has to welcome the-^ foreign pretender—ductile and dulcet—changes wonderfully, in air and tone, when he has to deal with a poor brother of his own parish. Then, you see him rising rigidly, with half frown, half smile upon his visage, from the character of Signor Snob, into that of Monsieur Nil admirari, who cannot admit the possibility of any excellence, in his own day, at the creation of which he himself has never assisted.
The author of " Les Savanes," as we have said, has caught his best inspiration from religion. Not that he discourses of dogmas, and illustrates an ascetic life, by stern and sour moralities in rhyme. He is too genial of nature, and too sensitive of mood, to be included among those who sacrifice the grove wholly for the temple; and who insist, with wonderful tenacity, upon a religion in which humanity seems to be the only element rejected. But his songs are earnest as they are sweet. A pensive vein of contemplation gives them a somewhat melancholy cast, which agrees with autumnal thoughts, and those grave moods upon which faith may insist without ministering any whit to the morbid and ascetic temper. In some of his verses there are proofs of real inspiration; not, we must be understood, of an ambitious character; but genuine flights upward, leaving earth behind; while, upon the wings of the devotee, a light settles, which you then, at that moment, see no where on earth. It is the faith of the author that provides his wings, and which bears him sufficiently upward to share in this better light. It is his religion that ennobles his song, andensuresits purity. His elevation conies from this source only. Imagination, in any very conspicuous degree, we should not assign him. It is his fancy, alone, for which he is indebted to his having gained the springs of Aganippe. If he weeps, sighs, moans, or exults, there is always the evidence that the influence which moves him thus belongs to the oracles of God—waters of Siloah—airs from the brook Kedron—clouds from Gennesareth, and sunshine, which pours out, in a golden flood, over the brow of Mount Zion.
To leave the graver aspects of these verses, we may consider "Les Savanes" a work of "bonne foi" as old Montaigne hath it. It is one of the literary harvestings of our author. He has gathered up his sheafs without winnowing, and the chaff is found to mingle in with the golden grain upon the threshing floor. We could have wished that our author had winnowed and sifted more closely, before he sent forth his produce. We should then have been better pleased, and better prepared to rate the quality of his stores. But we care not to linger upon his faults—it is enough, that he is as full of them as the most malignant critic of the tribe might hope to find him; he has only committed the common error of the young poet, including in his publication those exercises in which the youthful mind rather seeks to exercise language than thought—in which he really seeks only to acquire the proper command of language, which is the necessary instrument of thought.
The frank and simple nature of M. Rouquette's Muse, readily persuades us to keep her company. We know that she will not seek always to overwhelm our souls with aston« ishment, and that she will always modestly report her discoveries. We travel with him, accordingly, with as little scruple, through the old world as well as the new. He gives us some panoramic glimpses of both. We alternate between the Indian cabin and the saloons of state; pass from the moored boat of the Choctaw, by the dark lagune, to the more gaudy and ambitious, but not more grand associations, with the active world of civilization and the mart. He succeeds, to a certain degree, in inspiring us with his own emotions, at the objects of his survey. We feel pleasure as he points out to us the broad and cultivated fields, the shores, the glassy lakes, the grassy dales, the swelling hills, the fertile and the wooded vallies. These are his favourite themes. We gaze with him over the wild forests of the Kentuckian, and take up, musingly, the strain in which he describes the picturesque in its ancient empire.
"(Test la terre de sang, aux Indians tombeaux,
Terre aux belles foWHs, aux seculaires chC-nes,
Aux bois suivis de bois, aux nvignifique scenes;
Irnposant cimitiere, oil dorment en repos
Taut do rouf/ei-tribus, et taut do blanches pcaux;
Oii I'ombre du vieux Boon, immobile nenie,
Semble eeouter, la unit, 17-ternelle harmonic,
Le inuniluro r'tcrnel ties immense* deserts,
Cos tnille bruit cont'us, ces tnillo limits divers,
C'et orgue des forfts, cot orchestra sublime.
O! l.)i«u, que seul tu tis, que seul ton souffle anime!
Quand au vaste clavier pese un seul de tes duigts,
Soudain, rouleutdans fair mi lie flots u la fuis;