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- POEMS - 4/52 -


amazingly prolific of good writers. The large share Morris has had in awakening the latent talent of his countrymen, must ever be to him a high source of gratulation. And then, as an original writer, he has won for himself a high place among literary Americans; he is, in fact, known throughout the States as 'The Songwriter of America;' and we have the authority of Willis for stating that 'ninety-nine people out of a hundred--take them as they come in the census--would find more to admire in Morris's Songs than in the writings of any other American poet.' Willis also tells us, as proof of the General's popularity with those shrewd dollar-loving men, the publishers, that 'he can, at any time, obtain fifty dollars for a song unread, when the whole remainder of the American Parnassus could not sell one to the same buyer for a single shilling!' He is the best-known poet of the country by acclamation--not by criticism.

"Morris seems to have had juster notions of what was required in a song than many who have achieved celebrity as song-writers in England. 'The just office and notion of the modern song' has been defined to be, the embodiment and expression in beauty of some thought or sentiment--gay, pensive, moral, or sentimental--which is as natural and appropriate in certain circumstances as the odor to the flower. Its graceful purpose is to exhibit an incident in the substance of an emotion, to communicate wisdom in the form of sentiment. A song should be the embodiment of some general feeling, and have reference to some season or occurrence.

"It is not a difficult thing to make words rhyme; some of the most unimaginative intellects we ever knew could do so with surprising facility. It is rare to find a sentimental miss or a lackadaisical master who cannot accomplish this INTELLECTUAL feat, with the help of Walker's Rhyming Dictionary. As for love, why, every one writes about it now-a-days. There is such an abhorrence of the simple Saxon--such an outrageous running after outlandish phraseology--that we wonder folks are satisfied with this plain term.

"We wonder they do not seek for an equivalent in high Dutch or in low Dutch, in Hungarian, or in Hindostanee. We wish they would, with all our heart and soul. We have no objection, provided the heart be touched, that a head should produce a little of the stuff called 'nonsense verses'--that this article should be committed to scented note-paper, and carefully sealed up with skewered hearts of amazing corpulence. God forbid that we should be thought guilty of a sneer at real affection!--far from it; such ever commands our reverence. But we do not find it in the noisy tribe of goslings green who would fain be thought of the nightingale species. Did the reader ever contemplate a child engaged in the interesting operation of sucking a lollipop?--we assure him that that act was dictated by quite as much of true sentiment as puts in action the fingers and wits of the generality of our young amatory poetasters.

"We know of none who have written more charmingly of love than George P. Morris. Would to Apollo that our rhymsters would condescend to read carefully his poetical effusions! But they contain no straining after effect--no extravagant metaphors--no driveling conceits; and so there is little fear of their being taken as models by those gentlemen. Let the reader mark the surprising excellence of the love songs; their perfect naturalness; the quiet beauty of the similes; the fine blending of graceful thought and tender feeling which characterize them. Morris is, indeed, the poet of home joys. None have described more eloquently the beauty and dignity of true affection--of passion based upon esteem; and his fame is certain to endure while the Anglo-Saxon woman has a hearthstone over which to repeat her most cherished household words.

"Seldom have the benign effects of the passion been more felicitously painted than in the 'Seasons of Love'; and what simple tenderness is contained in the ballad of 'We were boys together.' Every word in that beautiful melody comes home to the heart of him whose early days have been happy. God help those in whom this poem awakens no fond remembrances!--those whose memories it does not get wandering up the stream of life, toward its source; beholding at every step the sun smiling more brightly, the heavens assuming a deeper hue, the grass a fresher green, and the flowers a sweeter perfume. How wondrous are not its effects upon ourselves! The wrinkles have disappeared from our brow, and the years from our shoulder, and the marks of the branding-iron of experience from our heart; and again we are a careless child, gathering primroses, and chasing butterflies, and drinking spring-water from out the hollow of our hands. Around us are the hedges 'with golden gorse bright blossoming, as none blossom now-a-day.' We have heard of death, but we know not what it is; and the word CHANGE has no meaning for us; and summer and winter, and seed-time and harvest, has each its unutterable joys. Alas! we can never remain long in this happy dream-land. Nevertheless, we have profited greatly by the journey. The cowslips and violets gathered by us in childhood, shall be potent in the hour of temptation; and the cap of rushes woven for us by kind hands in days gone by, shall be a surer defence than a helmet of steel in the hour of battle. No, no; we will never disgrace our antecedents.

"There is one quality in his songs to which we can not but direct attention--and this is their almost feminine purity. The propensities have had their laureates; and genius, alas! has often defiled its angel wings by contact with the sensual and the impure; but Morris has never attempted to robe vice in beauty; and as has been well remarked, his lays can bring to the cheek of purity no blush save that of pleasure."

The following letter, from the pen of Grace Greenwood, is a lady's tribute to the genius of the poet:--

"I have read of late, with renewed pleasure and higher appreciation, the songs and ballads of our genial-hearted countryman, Morris. I had previously worried myself by a course of rather dry reading, and his poetry, tender, musical, fresh, and natural, came to me like spring's first sunshine, the song of her first birds, the breath of her first violets.

"What a contrast is this pleasant volume to the soul-racking "Festus," which has been one of my recent passions. That remarkable work has passages of great beauty and power, linked in unnatural marriage with much that is poor and weak. It is like a stately ruined palace,

'Mingling its marble with the dust of Rome;'

or it is like its own fabled first temple built to God, in the new earth--a multitude of gems, swallowed by an earthquake, and scattered through a world of baser matter. The soul of the reader now faints with excess of beauty, now shudders at the terrible and the revolting. the young poet's muse at times goes like Proserpine to gather flowers, but straightway is seized by the lord of the infernal regions, and disappears in flame and darkness. The entire volume is a poetical Archipelago--isles of loveliness sprinkling a dead sea of unprofitable matter.

"It were absurd to compare the light and graceful poems of Morris with the work "Festus"--a simple Grecian arch with a stupendous Turkish mosque--an Etruscan vase with a Gothic tower. Yet there are doubtless many who will prefer the perfect realization of modest aspirations, to grand, but ineffectual graspings after glory's highest and most divine guerdons--a quiet walk with truth and nature, to an Icarus flight of magnificent absurdities.

"It has been said that the author of 'Long time ago' has rung too many changes on the sentiment and passion of LOVE. Love, the inspiration of the glorious bards of old,

'Who play upon the heart as on a harp, And make our eyes bright as we speak of them;'

'love ever-new, everlasting, fresh, and beautiful, now as when the silence of young Eden was thrilled, but scarce broken, by the voice of the first lover--a joy and a source of joy for ever.'

"I know it is much the fashion now-a-days, to hold in lordly contempt many of those sweet and holy influences which are--

'As angel hands, enclosing ours, Leading us back to Paradisean bowers.'

"Love and liberty are fast becoming mere abstractions to the enlightened apprehension of some modern wise men. It is sad to see how soon those white-winged visitors soil their plumage and change their very nature by a mere descent into the philosophic atmosphere of such mind. One is reminded of the words of Swedenborg--'I saw a great truth let down from heaven into hell, and it THERE BECAME A LIE.'

"This cynical objection to the lays of our minstrel, surely never could have emanated from the heart of WOMAN. SHE is ever loyal to love--that tender and yearning principle in the bosom of the Father, from which and by which the feminine nature was created.

"The poems of Morris are indeed like those flowers of old, born of the blood-drops which oozed from the wounded foot of the queen of love--blushing crimson to the very heart; yet there is not, to my knowledge, in the whole range of English literature, so large a collection of amatory songs in which sensualism and voluptuousness find no voice. These lays can bring to the cheek of purity no blush, save that of pleasure--the mother may sing them to her child, the bride to her young husband.

"'Festus' has an eloquent reply to such as hold love a theme unworthy the true bard:--

'Poets are all who love--who feel great truths, And tell them; and the truth of truths is LOVE.'

"The muse of Morris was Poesy's own 'summer child.' Hope, love, and happiness, sunny-winged fancies and golden-hued imaginings, have nested in his heart like birds.

"His verse does not cause one to tremble and turn pale--it charms and refreshes. It does not 'posses us like a passion'--it steals upon us like a spell. It does not storm the heart like an armed host--it is like the visitation of gentle spirits,

'Coming and going with a musical lightness.'

It is not a turbulent mountain-torrent, hurling itself down rocky


POEMS - 4/52

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