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- POEMS - 5/52 -


places--it is a silver stream, gliding through quiet valleys, in whose waves the sweet stars are mirrored, on whose bosom the water-lilies sleep.

"Now and then there steals in a strain of sadness, like the plaint of a bereaved bird in a garden of roses; but it is a tender, not an OPPRESIVE sadness, and we know that the rainbow beauty of the verse could only be born in the wedlock of smiles and tears. In a word, his lays are not 'night and storm and darkness'--they are morning and music and sunshine.

"It were idle at this time to quote or comment upon all those songs of Morris best known and oftenest sung. It would be introducing to my readers old friends who took lodgings in their memories 'long time ago.' In reference to them, I would only remark their peculiar adaptedness to popular taste, the keen discrimination, the nice tact, or, to use one of Sir James Mackintosh's happy expressions, the 'FEELosophy' with which the poet has interlaced them with the heart-strings of a nation.

"'A Rock in the Wilderness' is an ode that any poet might be proud to own. It is much in the style of Campbell--chaste, devotional, 'beautiful exceedingly.' I know nothing of the kind more musically sweet than the serenade ''Tis now the promised hour'--the first line in especial--

'The fountains serenade the flowers, Upon their silver lute-- And nestled in their leafy bowers, The forest birds are mute.'

"Many an absent lover must have blessed our lyrist for giving voice to his own yearning affection, half sad with that delicate jealousy which is no wrong to the loved one, in the song 'When other friends are round thee.'

"'The Bacchanal'--if our language boasts a lovelier ballad than this, it has never met my eye. The story of the winning, the betraying and the breaking of a woman's heart, was never told more touchingly. 'The Dismissed' is in a peculiar vein of rich and quiet humor. I would commend it to the entire class of rejected lovers as containing the truest philosophy. 'Lines after the manner of the olden time' remind one of Sir John Suckling. They are 'sunned o'er with love'--their subject, by the way. 'I never have been false to thee' was an emanation from the FEMININE nature of the minstrel alone. Who does not believe the poet gifted with duality of soul? 'Think of me, my own beloved,' and 'Rosabel,' are the throbbings of a lover's breast, set to music; and 'One balmy summer night, Mary,' 'The heart that owns thy tyrant sway,' and 'When I was in my teens,' the distillation of the subtlest sweets lodged in the innermost cells of all flowers dedicated to love.

"I come now to my favorite, 'Where Hudson's wave;' a poem which I never read but that it glows upon my lip and heart, and leaves the air of my thoughts tremulous with musical vibrations. What a delicious gush of parental feeling! How daintily and delicately move the 'fitly chose words,' tripping along like silver sandaled fairies.

"'Land-Ho!' and the 'Western Refrain' thrill one gloriously. 'The Cottager's Welcome' would of itself carry the poet's name to the next age, and the 'Croton Ode' keep his bays green with a perpetual baptism. The last-mentioned is fresh and sparkling as its subject, and displays much of the imaginative faculty.

"'Oh, a merry life does the hunter lead,' rolled up the tenth wave of Morris-ian popularity at the West. It stirs the hunter's heart like a bugle blast--it rings out clear as a rifle-crack on a hunting morning.

"General Morris has recently published some songs, which have all the grace, melody, and touching sweetness of his earlier lays. But as these have been artistically set to music, and are yet in the first season of popularity--are lying on the pianos and 'rolling over the bright lip' of all song-dom, they call for no further mention here.

"I think I cannot better close this somewhat broken and imperfect notice, than by referring to one of the earlier songs of Morris, which, more than all others, perhaps, has endeared him to his native land. 'Home from travel' is a simple, hearty, manly embodiment of the true spirit of patriotism, a sentiment which throbs like a strong pulse beneath our poet's light and graceful verse, and needs but the inspiration of 'stirring times' to prompt to deeds of heroic valor, like the lays of the ancient bards, or the 'Chansons' of Beranger."

The biography of Morris would not be complete without a word from Willis. We have a dash of his pencil in the following letter to the editor of "Graham's Magazine":--

"My Dear Sir: To ask me for my idea of General Morris, is like asking the left hand's opinion of the dexterity of the right. I have lived so long with the 'Brigadier'--know him so intimately--worked so constantly at the same rope, and thought so little of ever separating from him (except by precedence of ferriage over the Styx), that it is hard to shove him from me to the perspective distance--hard to shut my own partial eyes, and look at him through other people's. I will try, however; and, as it is done with but one foot off from the treadmill of my ceaseless vocation, you will excuse both abruptness and brevity.

"Morris is the best-known poet of the country, by acclamation, not by criticism. He is just what poets would be if they sang, like birds, without criticism; and it is a peculiarity of his fame, that it seems as regardless of criticism, as a bird in the air. Nothing can stop a song of his. It is very easy to say that they are easy to do. They have a momentum, somehow, that it is difficult for others to give, and that speeds them to the far goal of popularity--the best proof consisting in the fact that he can, at any moment, get fifty dollars for a song unread, when the whole remainder of the American Parnassus could not sell one to the same buyer for a shilling.

"It may, or may not, be one secret of his popularity, but it is the truth--that Morris's heart is at the level of most other people's, and his poetry flows out by that door. He stands breast-high in the common stream of sympathy, and the fine oil of his poetic feeling goes from him upon an element it is its nature to float upon, and which carries it safe to other bosoms, with little need of deep diving or high flying. His sentiments are simple, honest, truthful, and familiar; his language is pure and eminently musical, and he is prodigally full of the poetry of every-day feeling. These are days when poets try experiments; and while others succeed by taking the world's breath away with flights and plunges, Morris uses his feet to walk quietly with nature. Ninety-nine people in a hundred, taken as they come in the census, would find more to admire in Morris's songs, than in the writings of any other American poet; and that is a parish in the poetical episcopate, well worthy a wise man's nurture and prizing.

"As for the man--Morris, my friend--I can hardly venture to 'burn incense on his moustache,' as the French say--write his praises under his very nose--but as far off as Philadelphia, you may pay the proper tribute to his loyal nature and manly excellencies. His personal qualities have made him universally popular; but this overflow upon the world does not impoverish him for his friends. I have outlined a true poet, and a fine fellow--fill up the picture to your liking. Yours, very truly,

"N. P. Willis."

In 1825, General Morris wrote the drama of "Briercliff," a play, in five acts, founded upon events of the American Revolution. It was performed forty nights in succession; and the manager paid him for it $3,500--a solid proof of its attractive popularity. It has never been published. Prior, and subsequent to this period, his pen was actively engaged upon various literary and dramatic works.

He wrote a number of the "Welcomes to Lafayette," and songs and ballads, which were universally popular, besides many prologues and addresses.

In 1842, he wrote an opera for Mr. C. E. Horn, called the "Maid of Saxony," which was performed fourteen nights, with great success, at the Park Theatre. The press of the city, generally, awarded to this opera the highest commendation.

From the period when General Morris commenced his career as a writer, his pen has been constantly employed in writing poems, songs, ballads, and prose sketches.

In 1840, the Appletons published an edition of his poems, beautifully illustrated by Weir & Chapman; in 1842, Paine & Burgess published his songs and ballads; and in 1853, Scribner's edition, illustrated by Weir and Darley, appeared. This last beautiful work has had an immense sale.

They were highly commended by the press throughout the country, and these and other editions have had large sales. A portion of his prose writings, under the title of "The Little Frenchman and his Water-Lots," were published by Lea & Blanchard, which edition has been followed by others, enlarged by the author.

General Morris has edited a number of works; among them are the "Atlantic Club Book," published by the Harpers; "The Song-Writers of America," by Linen & Ferin; "National Melodies," by Horn & Davis; and, in connection with Mr. Willis, "The Prose and Poetry of Europe and America," a standard work of great value.

In 1844, in connection with Mr. Willis, he established a beautiful weekly paper, called the "New Mirror," which, in consequence of the cover and engravings, was taxed by the post-office department a postage equal to the subscription price; and not being able to obtain a just reduction from Mr. Wickliffe, then post-master-general, the proprietors discontinued its publication, after a year and a half, notwithstanding it had attained a circulation of ten thousand copies.

The daily "Evening Mirror" was next commenced, and continued for one year by Morris & Willis.

A few months after withdrawing from the "Evening Mirror," General Morris began the publication of the "National Press and Home Journal;" but as many mistook its object from its name, the first part of its title was discontinued; and in November, 1846 (Mr. Willis having again joined his old friend and associate), appeared the first number of the "Home Journal," a weekly paper, published


POEMS - 5/52

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