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not twenty published in a year, throughout this extensive country. Newspapers indeed abound, and many a stripling is temptod to write by the facility which newspapers afford of publishing his lucubrations. As all these have the feelings, the hopes, and apprehensions of the most bulky and ponderous authors, perhaps I have been too hasty in imagining that the topic can come home to the bosoms, and have connexion with the business of few. It is probable, indeed, that in no civilized nation are books of home manufacture so rare, and authors at the same time so numerous, Each of our two hundred newspapers has several diurnal authors in its service. In some cases they amount to some scores, and perhaps it is no immoderate estimate that in America, two thousand persons are in the constant habit of writing and publishing their sentiments.
Some of these writers, though they never publish volumes, are yet infinitely copious. I could name several, who, in the course of ten years, have written and published much more than Swift, Johnson, Gibbon, or Voltaire. Their productions indeed are not precisely of the same value and durability with those of these noted personages. They may boast, however, of having many more contemporary readers and implicit followers, than cither of those great names, and if their fame be of short date, yet they may derive comfort from reflecting that it is very wide and very noisy while it lasts.
With regard to my own literary history, it is not necessary to be very communicative. I will only mention that my own experience supplies me with very cogent proofs of the difference between an author's feelings and his reader's. I was always fond of scribbling, but though I always thought it necessary to bestow this name upon my own productions, I confess I was not quite willing that other people should follow my example in this particular. I never desired, and, for a long time, was far from expecting to have the name I bestowed upon my own labours, echoed and sanctioned by others. Custom, which reconciles the prisoner to the air of his dungeon and the weight of his fetters, which makes infamy an easy burthen, and pain a tolerable companion, will reconcile an author to the name of SCRIBBLER. He will not only Listen with tranquillity to a sound, at first so opprobrious, but he will in time come cheerfully to answer to it, as to his proper name. Things, I confess, have come to such a pass with me, that I shall, henceforth, inscribe the word upon all the lucubrations which I have an apportunity of giving to the world.
The COLUMBIAD, a Poem, by Joel BARLOW, Philadelphia, C. Ege A. Conrad & Co. Quarto, pp. 470. Printed by Fry & Kammerer.
A quarto epic poem-polished by twenty years labour--is suing in all the pomp of typographical elegance from an Ameri. can press the author an American—the theme, the history of our own country! What an era in our literature! What an epoch in the history of our arts! what a subject for the reviewer!
Employed, as the critic in this country has long been, in hunt. ing down party pamphlets and boarding-school novels, fast-day sermons, and “such small deer,” it is with proud satisfaction that he at length sees his field enlarged-his subjects rise in dignity and importance. As some young knight of Arthur's Court, who, through lack of fair achievement, yet bore his shield unblazoned and his spurs ungilt, after many a tedious hour of journey, at length espied some Paynim Castle huge and rude, with “ donjon high where captives wail,” and every promise of adventure meet for knightly prowess, even so, gentle reader, with such feelings does the critic now gaze on the splendid volume before him. Proudly he turns from the detection of vulgar imposture and the ridicule of wild absurdity to meet his nobler task.
The subject of the Columbiad is national and patriotic. It was Mr. Barkow's early ambition to raise the epic song of his nationto select from her annals the most brilliant portions of American history—o wreath them into one chaplet of immortal verse, and
present the splendid offering with filial reverence to the genius of his country. Mr. B. readily perceived that “ most of the events of the revolution were so recent, so important, and so well known as to render them inflexible to the hand of fiction.
“ The poem, therefore, could not be modelled after that regu. lar epic form which the more splendid works of this kind have taken, and on which their success is supposed in a great measure to depend. The attempt would have been highly injudicious; it must have diminished and debased a series of actions which were really great in themselves, and could not be disfigured without losing their interest.” .
Hence it became necessary for the poet to look around for some interesting tale of history or fiction which might give unity and effect to the mass of unconnected facts, and thus (to borrow an image of Dr. Darwin) form a festoon of roses connecting together his series of miniature history pieces. How Mr. B. has succeeded in this part of his work, may be best judged by a slight sketch of the plot, incident and dialogue of his poem. · The poem opens with an invocation to Freedom, brief, vigorous and elegant. Columbus is then discovered in a dungeon, into which he had been thrown by the “ cold-hearted Ferdinand," where he lies lone, feverish and dejected. His “ deep-felt sor. rows burst from his breast” in 'a long lamentation over his sad fate, rather heavy and unnatural. While the hapless man is thus venting his grief,
a thundering sound
Loose oer his locks the star of evening hung,
This celestial visitor announces himself as Hesper, the guardian genius of the western hemisphere. After administering some consolation to the dejected mariner, he leads him forth to the
moitni of vision. Europe gradually recedes from their view, and the continent of America rises into sight; of the natural appearance of which in its uncultivated state, a kind of poetical birds-eye view is given.
Columbus, struck with the appearance of the natives of this noble territory, puts some philosophical queries to his celestial friend, touching the dissimilarity of the human race in different climates; to which Hesper replies with a very ingenious theory and some commonplace declamation. Mexico, Cusco and Quito now rise in gorgeous perspective. This leads to an account of the founders of the Peruvian empire, which is followed by a long tale of the exploits of the Inca, Capac, and his son Rocha, not very interesting and certainly not much to the purpose.
All Europe now appears in vision. Ximenes, Wolsey, the Me. dici, Erasmus, Luther, the Reformers, Loyola, the fury INQUISITion, and Sir Walter Raleigh successively stalk over the stage. The discoverers of America are seen setting out on their expeditions. Hesper gives a view of the colonial system and its effects on liberty and morals. Lord Delaware arrives—is received by the river-gods, one of whom salutes him with a prophetic speech. The country is rapidly cleared and settled; and a new scene of action opens. Canada, Braddock, Amherst, Wolfe, the first Congress. The giant form of the demon War strides across the continent. Then follow in rapid succession, Bunker's hill,--the death of Montgomery,~ he loss of New York, and the whole history of the revolutionary war, in which scarcely any fact or name of note is omitted. The whole of which, together with an episode or two is compressed with admirable dexterity into two books and a half, (about 1600 lines.)
After being thus rapidly whirled along, we are at length per. mitted to breathe in the eighth book; which opens with a hymn to Peace, and a eulogy of the heroes slain during the war. A long political disquisition which succeeds, is interrupted by Mount Atlas, the guardian power of Africa, roaring across the Atlantic to his brother Hesper a violent invective against • slavery and the slave. trade, which he concludes by a tremendous threat of destroying the whole American continent.
Hesper now again rolls back the tide of time, and exhibits his land in its savage state, and then points out its rapid improvement.
Fisheries-fur trade-Franklin-Rittenhouse-Godfrey's quadrant-West-Copely--Trumbull--Mrs. Wright's Wax-workM.Fingal-Dr. Dwight_Col. Humphreys. The vision is suspended. A philosophical conversation ensues, in which the Genius descants on the origin and progress of society, in the true slang of philosophy. He takės a view of the human mind in its differ. ent states of refinement, predicts the gradual but sure advancement of human science and happiness, and the establishment of perpetual peace under a universal federal system. The vision is resumed and the whole earth is exhibited in panorama. Hesper indulges himself in the wildest theories of human perfectibility. Government, Commerce, and Science are exhibited to Columbus in their highest state of perfection. A universal language is at. tained; and the splendid scene concludes with a view of a general Congress from all nations assembled to establish the political harmony of mankind.
Such is the plot which Mr. B. proudly asserts to be the best possible of which his subject would admit. Our readers will doubt. less perceive from this brief analysis, what the readers of the Columbiad may learn from a much more laborious operation, that the poem, however brilliant in it parts, must necessarily as a whole be devoid of interest.
We look, but look in vain, for that unity of fable, that regular succession of incident and vivid exhibition of varied character, which constitute the most powerful charm of a narrative poem. Mr. Barlow's work is a sort of poetical magic lantern; and while ten thousand gaudy figures dance rapidly along the wall of Columbus's dungeon, the Cenius of America kindly officiates as a showman, and informs the spectator that here he may “sce Quito's plains o'erlook their proud Peru," and there
Sage Ritterhouse with ardent eye
Lift the long tube and pierce the starry sky; · Yonder you may behold Mrs. Wright making wax-work, and a little further to the other side,
Yon meteor-mantled hill see Franklin tread,
Heaven's awful thunders rolling o'er his head; Presently a map of North America Aits before us; and then come Washington and Manco Capac, the river Delaware and Lord