Philip, the eldest of his five sons, studied medicine, and settled in North Bridgewater, now Brockton, where his house is still standing. Philip Bryant married Silence Howard, daughter of Dr. Abiel Howard, with whom he studied medicine. One of their nine children, a son called Peter, born in the year , studied his father's profession, and succeeded to his practice.
At that time there lived in the same town a revolutionary veteran, 'stern and severe,' named Ebenezer Snell, of whom a small boy of the period, still living, informs the writer that ' all the boys of Bridgewater were dreadfully afraid,' so austere and authoritative were his manners. Five sons and two daughters were the fruit of this happy marriage, their second son being the subject of this sketch. Of these seven children but two sons survive, Arthur, and John Howard Bryant, of Illinois, who were present at the poet's funeral.
Bryant," says an editorial associate in the Evening Post, "who was a lineal descendant of Miles Standish's lieutenant, John Alden, was a woman of great force of character, which manifested itself in her dignified bear- ing, and in the unyielding quality of such convictions as she saw fit to express. Her loathing for a drunkard was equalled only by her detestation of a liar. In all her household management she displayed an energy which in- dicated, as clearly as did her physical features, the stock from which she had sprung.
Like most women in her day, her school education extended no further than the ordinary English branches, and all the knowledge she possessed, beyond that point, was the result of reading, an occupation in which she took great pleasure. Bryant," says the same authority, "is described as having been of medium height, broad-shouldered, and with a well-knit frame; he took great pride in his mus- cular strength.
His manners were uncommonly gentle and reserved, and his disposition serene, yet he was very fond of society. When not engaged in legislative matters, too, he would make it a point to attend the annual meeting of the Medical Society, which was held in Boston, and the letters written to his wife, during these intervals of recreation, breathe a spirit of the purest en- joyment. His fondness for humorous composition of all sorts, and for amusing verses in particular, was a marked trait, and, for the gratification of this taste, he was enabled to draw on the literature of two languages, having passed a part of his early life on the Isle of France, acting as surgeon of a merchant ship.
In dress the doctor was always scrupulously neat; he followed the Boston fashions, moreover, with enough care, even in his village home, to give an observer the impression that he was a city gentle- man visiting the country for a holiday jaunt. Peter Bryant's bearing, I am told by an aged man who remembers him, was the very reverse of that of his gruff father-in-law. Although reserved, he was gentle in manner, with a low soft voice, and always attired with scrupulous neatness.
While not above the height of his gifted son, he was broad-shouldered, and would some- times exhibit his great strength by lifting a barrel of cider from the ground over the wheel into a wagon. According to the account of another who knew him, he was 'pos- sessed of extensive literary and scientific acquirements, an unusually vigorous and well-disciplined mind, and an elegant and refined taste.
So he named his boy William Cullen, after Dr. Cullen, an eminent phy- sician and medical authority, whose lectures he admired, and who had died in Edinburgh only four years before. However, neither William, who was so delicate an infant that there then seemed little chance of his growing up, nor any of his brothers had any liking for the healing art, and so it turned out that Dr.
Peter Bryant had no lineal heir to his medical practice. When a little child, she taught him to repeat Watts' hymns, and, ever after, Bryant not only regarded them with affection, but in mature years often expressed admiration for Watts' poetic genius. In this connection the follow- ing article will be read with interest : — "I have liked Dr. Watts' psalms and hymns," said Mr. Bryant, "ever since the time when, scarcely three years old, I was made to repeat, with his book in my hand, and with such gestures as were prescribed to me, the psalm beginning with the words: — " ' Come, sound his praise abroad, And hymns of giory sing.
Watts' devotional poetry.
Johnson pronounced it unsatisfactory, though he admits that he 'has done better than anybody else, what nobody has done well. No compilation of hymns for the public worship of any denomination is ever made without bor- rowing largely from Dr. He has been in his grave for considerably more than a century, yet have his psalms and hymns lost none of the favour which they had when they were first used by religious assemblies, and, I believe, are even now in greater esteem than ever, notwithstanding that such poets as Doddridge, Cowper, Charles Wesley, and Heber have written devotional verses of very great merit since his time.
In what he wrote there are occasionally transgressions against good taste, as in the versification of Solomon's Song.
William Cullen Bryant
There are also some slovenly lines, and even stanzas; but there is always great fervour and profound devotion. No poet has ever expressed religious emotions with greater appropriateness. He faints and languishes for the Divine presence, he deplores the way- wardness of the human heart, he exults in the Divine favour, he is awed by the Divine ma,jesty, he looks with transport on the works of the Divine hand, he dwells with delight on the vision of a better life beyond the grave ; and all these moods of mind find full expression in his verse.
Many of his hymns seem to have been dashed off in the excitement of the moment, as if the feeling which had taken possession of him could not be satisfied without expressing itself in poetic forms. His versions of the Hebrew psalms are as remarkable, for this, as the compositions which he called hymns.
He seems to have first filled his mind with the imagery of the ancient bard, and, catching inspiration from him, flung his thought upon the page, in a form suited to the more mild and perfect dispensation of Christianity. Some of Dr. Watts' devotional verses show that he possessed imagination in a high degree. I once heard a distinguished literary gen- tleman instance the following couplet from one of Watts' hymns, as conveying to the mind images which could only occur to a poet of no common genius : — " ' Cold mountains and the midnight air Witnessed the fervour of his prayer.
And perished witli all liis army, Drowned in the Eed-Sea waves ; " Of Deborah, who mustered Her brethren long oppressed, And routed the heathen army. With a prayer for those who slew him, Forgave them as he died.
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Of the domestic discipline of these days, and of the awe in which he stood of his grandfather, under whose roof he and his parents resided, he says : — "The boys of the generation to which I belonged — that is to say, who were born in the last years of the last century or the earliest of this — were brought up under a system of discipline which put a far greater distance between parents and their children than now exists. The parents seemed to think this necessary, in order to secure obedience.
They were believers in the old maxim that familiarity breeds contempt. My own parents lived in the house with my grandfather and grand- mother on the mother's side. With my father and mother I was on much easier terms than with my grandfather. If a favour was to be asked of my grandfather it was asked with fear and trembling; the request was postponed to the last moment, and then made with hesitation and blushes and a confused utterance.
This was esteemed as much a part of the necessary furniture as the crane that hung in the kitchen fire- place, or the shovel and tongs. It sometimes happened, that the boy suffered a fate similar to that of the eagle in the fable, wounded by an arrow fledged with a feather from his own wing; in other words, the boy was made to gather the twigs intended for his own castigation. Of the visits they paid to the district schools, on which occasions the scholars were dressed in their Sunday clothes; of the examinations through which children were put on the questions in the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly of Divines; and then of the usual winding-up stereotyped address; all of which reads like an account of the good old customs prevailing in Scotland in the days of Dr.
Chalmers and Dr. Guthrie's boyhood. The influence of the clergy also, in some degree, ex- tended to the populace. Of the books to which he had access, eighty years ago, he tells us, some were excellent, and some mere trash or worse; amongst the good he names Sandford and Merton, BoUnson Crusoe, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Mrs. After thus fondly recalling and commenting on the days of his boyhood, the veteran who had been trained under such influences, finding so many things changed, and taking commendable pride in positions achieved by his former playmates, — whether as professors, founders of useful societies, missionaries, or millionaires, — in the spirit LIFE SKETCH OF WILLIAM C.
He himself has told us the books he then delighted to pore 'over. His father, a man of refined taste, who devoted much attention to the mental culture of his family, soon directed him to the books which he himself liked to read — Pope, and Gray, and Goldsmith — and his son began to echo their music. The free and happy surroundings of a rough country farm gave him physical and mental strength; while the varied and picturesque scenery of Hampshire, with its hills and dales, woods and streams, familiarized him from childhood with nature, and taught him to love her under all her varied aspects.
In his strolls as well as in his studies he profited greatly from the companionship of his father. Bryant's scientific attainments," we are told, "were not limited to an acquaintance with the phials and retorts of his laboratory. In the open fields he was equally at home; and his son, in twilight strolls along the country roads, and talks at noonday under the big trees near the homestead, drew from him those first lessons in botany which were so expanded by later research as to embrace the whole field of organic but inanimate nature.
That the mountains, woods, rivers, birds, and flowers were dear to him, and, from early days downwards, served as types wherewith to print thoughts, is very evi- dent from his constant references to the distinctive scenery of his beautiful Hampshire home, as in the fol- lowing stanzas : — "And deep were my musings in life's early blossom, 'Mid the twilight of mountain-groves wandering long : How thrilled my young veins, and how throbbed my fuU bosom.
When o'er me descended the spirit of song]! Where the kingfisher screamed, and gray precipice glistened, All breathless with awe have I gazed on the scene, " Till I felt the dark power o'er my reveries stealing From the gloom of the thicket that over me hung, And the thoughts that awoke in that rapture of feeling Were formed into verse as they rose to my tongue. The waters of Helicon never bubbled more musically than the waters of this nameless little rill. This little rill, that from the springs Of yonder grove its current brings, Plays on the slope awhile, and then Goes prattling into groves again, Oft to its warbling waters drew My little feet, when life was new.
When woods in early green were dressed, And from the chambers of the west The warmer breezes, travelling out. Breathed the new scent of flowers about. My truant steps from home would stray. Upon its grassy side to play, List the brown thrasher's vernal hymn, And crop the Aaolet on its brim, With blooming cheek and open brow.
As young and gay, sweet rill, as thou. And when the days of boyhood came, And I had grown in love with fame, Duly I sought thy banks, and tried My first rude numbers by thy side. Words cannot tell how bright and gay The scenes of life before me lay. Then glorious hopes, that now to speak Would bring the blood into my cheek, Passed o'er me ; and I wrote, on high, A name I deemed should never die. Years change thee not. Upon yon hill The tall old maples, verdant still, Yet tell, in grandeur of decay. How swift the years have passed away, Since first, a child, and half afraid, I wandered in the forest shade.
Thou, ever-joyous rivulet. The windings of tliy silver wave, And dancing to thy own wild chime, Thou laughest at the lapse of time. The same sweet sounds are in my ear My early childhood loved to hear ; As pure thy limpid waters run ; As bright they sparkle to the sun ; As fresh and thick the bending ranks Of herbs that line thy oozy banks; The violet there, in soft May dew, Comes up, as modest and as blue ; As green amid thy current's stress, Floats the scarce-rooted watercress : And the brown ground-bird, in thy glen, Still chirps as merrily as then.
Thou changest not — but I am changed Since first thy pleasant banks I ranged ; " And the grave stranger, come to see The play-place of his infancy. Has scarce a single trace of him Who sported once upon thy brim. The visions of my youth are past — Too bright, too beautiful to last. I've tried the world — it wears no more The colouring of romance it wore. Yet well has nature kept the truth She promised in my earliest youth. The radiant beauty shed abroad On all the glorious works of God, Shows freshly, to my sobered eye, Each charm it wore in days gone by.
Then dimly on my eye shall gleam The sparkle of thy dancing stream ; And faintly on my ear shall fall Thy prattling current's merry call ; Yet shalt thou flow as glad and bright As when thou met'st my infant sight. And I shall sleep — and on thy side, As ages after ages glide, Children their early sports shall try, And pass to hoary age and die. But thou, unchanged from year to year. Gaily shalt play and glitter here ; Amid young flowers and tender grass Thy endless infancy shall pass ; And, singing down thy narrow glen, Shalt mock the fading race of men.
Peter Bryant devoted mucli attention to the mental culture of his family; and, fortunately, soon recognizing the peculiar gift of his son William, he judiciously and sympathetically aided in its development. An able and skilful instructor, he kindly chastened and improved, while encouraging, the first rude efforts of his boyish c;enius.
A personal friend of the poet thus wrote of him, in — "His father, his guide in the first attempts at versification, taught him the value of correctness and compression, and enabled him to distinguish between true poetic enthusiasm and fustian. It must cease — For he is in his grave who taught my youth The art of verse, and in the bud of life Offered me to the Muses. Oh, cut off Untimely! And robs the widow — he who spreads abroad Polluted hands in mockery of prayer.
Are left to cumber earth. Some of these were in Mr. Bryant's possession, and, to quote his own words, ' show no small power of poetic expression. Howard's grandchildren. His sister Euth Bryant, who died young, left behind several meritorious poems which her nephew had read in manu- script. When Mr. Bryant was studying law, the late Judge Daniel Howard asked him from whom he inherited his poetic gift; he promptly replied, from his great- grandfather, Dr. One of the poet's surviving brothers recently said to the Avriter, 'We are all addicted, more or less, to the unprofitable business of rhyming.
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Hence, John Bigelow, in his address before the Century Club when holding a Memorial Ser- vice, in November, , the year of Bryant's death, justly said : — "No one will deny that in one respect, at Ipast, Bryant's fame was entirely unique. His Latin translations, which are usually said to have been his first appearance in print, were not executed for some time after, the interval being at least a year. Modestly, the boy continued for years studying and writing; and, to test his progress, occa- sionally sent his compositions to editors, either anony- mously or under signatures not likely to identify him.
The following lines are taken from one of his early school exercises: — " Thanks to the preacher whose discernment true. Upholds religion to the mental view ; Unfolds to us instruction's ample page, Eich with the fruits of every distant age ; Pours simj le truths, by love divine refin'd, With force resistless on the youthful mind. Thanks to the gentlemen assembled here. To see what progress we have made this year, In learning's paths, our footsteps to survey, Ajid trace our passage up the sloping way.
And thanks to Heaven, the first and best of all. The auditor of ev'ry humble call — That tho' a few have fall'n behind the rest, So much improvement has our studies blest. And since I am to serious thoughts inclined, Now to the scholars I'll address my mind ; A word or two, in which myself may bear If not a greater, yet an equal share. My comrades! Then let us tread, as lowly Jesus trod, The path that leads the sinner to his God ; Keep Heaven's bright mansions ever in our eyes, Press tow'rds the mark and seize the glorious prize. A Satire. By a Youth of Thirteen.
Boston: Printed for the Purchasers. It shows how skilfully the boy- poet had mastered the art of versification; and also indi- cates the strong and early bias of his mind towards politics, to which, as a newspaper editor, he afterwards conscientiously devoted the greater portion of his life. The monster, Vice, appears before our eyes, In naked impudence, or gay disguise. When will thy country feel — when will she think! From whose dark womb unreckon'd misery flows : Th' Embargo rages, like a sweeping wind, Fear lowers before, and famine stalks behind.
How dark the scene! For French intrigue, which wheedles to devour, Threatens to fix us in Napoleon's power; Anon within th' insatiate vortex whirl'd, Whose wide periphery involves the world. Evade the deep-laid snare! Shall we ruin court, and fall Slaves to the proud autocrator of Gaul? Poor servile thing! Who erst from Tarleton fled to Carter's cave ; Thou, who, when menac'd by perfidious Gaul, Didst prostrate to her whisker'd minion fall ; And when our cash her empty bags supply'd, Didst meanly strive the foul disgrace to hide; Go, wretch, resign the presidential chair, Disclose thy secret measures, foul or fair.
Go, search with curious eye for horned frog. Dig for huge bones, thy glory and thy theme Go, scan, Philosophist, thy. And sink supinely in her sable arms; But quit to abler hands the helm of state, Nor image ruin on thy country's fate. Lift lier black banner, spread her empire wide, And stalk triumphant with a fury's stride. She blows her brazen trump, and at the sound A motley throng, obedient, flock around ; A mist of changing hue o'er all she flings, And darkness perches on her dragon wings! And skill'd to pour conviction o'er the mind.
Oh, might some patriot rise! In a few months a second edition was called for, which was published in Boston and con- tained some additional juvenile poems, such as "The Eeward of Literary Merit," "Drought," and several poetical "Enigmas," written in ; "The Spanish Eevolution," "The Contented Ploughman," and an "Ode on the Connecticut Eiver," written in , and a "Translation from Horace" lib.
To the volume was prefixed a curious advertisement, dated February, , saying — that some doubts having been expressed as to the authorship, the printer, if required, would give the names of friends who could vouch that the poem was written by a youth of thirteen. Far in the regions of the west, On throne of adamant upraised, Bright on whose polished sides impressed, The sun's meridian splendours blazed, Columbia's Genius sat and eyed The eastern despot's dire career ; And thus with independent pride, She spoke and bade the nations hear. Thy dark, aspiring aims pursue! The blast of domination blow.
Earth's wide extended regions through! Protected by the favouring skies. And her celestial presence fills The deepening glens and spacious vales. Fresh valour nerves their willing hands, And lights with joy their glowing eyes! Then should Napoleon's haughty joride Wake on our shores the fierce affray; Grim terror lowering at his side.
Attendant on his furious way! With quick repulse, his baffled band Would seek the friendly shore in vain, Bright justice lift her red right hand, And crush them on the fatal plain. Cammington, January 8, When about fourteen years of age, he had begun the study of Latin with his uncle, the Kev. Thomas Snell, who was for sixty-four years pastor of the North Parish of Brookfield. Bryant resided for a year with him while studying. After that, at fifteen, he com- menced Greek with the Rev. Moses Hallock, of Plane- field, Massachusetts, who prepared him for college. At the end of two months young Bryant had read through the New Testament.
For his board in these days he only paid one dollar per week, Mr. Hallock insisting that it was all it cost. This same gentleman also trained Professor Wm. Whitney, of Yale College, the distinguished Sanscrit scholar; the late Rev. Woods, of Andover, and others who afterwards rose to eminence. On his grandson, Wm. Peter Bryant's drugs, which he accomplished in the garden behind the parsonage. In a letter to the Rev. Seymour, of Northampton, Mass.
William Cullen Bryant
In two calendar months from the time of beginning with the powers of the Greek alphabet I had read every book in the New Testament. The shy, sensitive, retiring student disliked and shrunk from the publicity of class duties, and was, there- fore, nothing loath to return home to escape from an enforced routine, and to be left for a time to pursue in peace the arduous courses of solitary study which he had chalked out for himself. He has, however, left it on record, that President Fitch, of Williams College, was always kind to him. It was the father's intention and hope that his son's college studies should, at a more convenient season, be resumed, if not at Williams, at Yale; but, as it turned out, his boy's class-days then ended.
Of the young student, many interesting particulars have been recorded. The late Eeverend Dr. Calvin Durfee, the historian of Williams College, stated that "Bryant did not graduate in a regular course with his class; still, long ago, by vote of the trustees of the college he was restored to his place in the class, and has been enrolled among the alumni. Barrett, one of his class-fellows, says that the circle of students all seemed to enjoy the arrival of the young stranger and poet, news of his precocious intellect having preceded him.
He had a prolific growth of dark brown hair, and I do not remember ever to have known a person in whom the progress of years made so great a difference in personal appearance as it did in the case of Mr. I met him twice, near the close of his life, at Williams College Commence- ments, and, if I had not seen pictures of him as he appeared iu old age, I would hardly have been persuaded of his identity with tlie Bryant I knew in early life. When spoken to in relation to these poetical effusions, he was reticent and modest, and, in fact, his modesty in everything was a peculiar trait of his character.
It was very difficult to obtain from him any specimens of his talent as a poet. One exercise demanded of the students was the occasional writing of a composition to be read to the tutor in presence of the class, and once Bryant, in fulfilling this requirement, read a short poem which received the decided approval of the tutor, and once he translated one of the Odes of Horace, which he showed to a few personal friends.
Those were the only examples of his poetry that I now remember of his furnishing during his college life. It may be stated here that the tutor who instructed Mr. Bryant in college was the Rev. His lessons were all well mastered, and not a single event occurred during his residence which received the least disapproval of the faculty. His name has always been held in high honour at Wil- liamstown. In , the college conferred upon him the degree of A.
Williamstown is one of the loveliest of the beautiful villages of New England, and its college has always been pre-eminently noted for its judicious and praiseworthy endeavours to promote the physical, intellectual, moral, and religious culture and well-being of its students, many of whom, occupying distinguished positions in art, science, literature, law, or in other responsible walks of life, have reflected high and merited honour on their Alma Mater.
It was in the Mission Park at Williams- town, on a green slope surrounded by maple and fir trees, where now stands a white marble monument to indicate the sacred spot and commemorate the fact, that, in , only four years before Bryant joined the college, five of the students, young men — Samuel J.
Mills, James Eichards, Harvey Loomis, Francis Le Barron Eobbins, and Byram Green — at a prayer-meeting held in the open air, in the lee of a haystack, where they had temporarily sought shelter from a thunder shower, began the movement which, in that very year , originated the American Board of Foreign Missions, of which the venerable and gifted the Eev.
Chadbourne — together with his accomplished wife, who is secretary of the Berkshire Branch of the JFoman's Board of Missions — is also true as steel to the good and time-honoured traditions of the place. The writer, a few years ago, when residing for ten months at Williamstown, near his friend. President Chadbourne, heard much in the locality about Bryant, from him.
Hopkins, Professor Eaymond, Dr. Samuel Duncan, the late Dr. Calvin Durfee, and other residents of that "happy valley; " and became quite familiar with those lovely scenes, where the young poet, in his student days, used to ramble, and to which he, then old and venerable, still occasionally returned. The surrounding mountain scenery is enchantingly beautiful. The vale of the Hoosac itself resembles a great, broad, deep, fertile, Alpine valley. In shape it is irregularly circular, from eight to ten miles across the cup from rim to rim, and with other winding valleys ai ening into it on four sides.
Two rivers — the Green and the Hoosac — flow through it; and in the centre of the great valley rise several gently undulating elevations of land. One, the most 'prominent of these, is shaped like an inverted saucer, and richly wooded, like the sur- rounding green heights. On this romantic elevation, gleaming white among the trees, stand the various college buildings, commanding magnificent views of the deep ravines immediately below, of the surrounding mountains 1 For an article, by the present writer, giving an account of The Mission Park at Williamstown— " The Birthplace of American Foreign Missions," see The Sunday at Home, Oct.
The scenery is beautiful and richly varied on every side — whether the contrasts of light and shade be seen at noon, in the slant- ing glow of the morning or evening sun, or after sunset, when a pale, silvery, subdued light gleams up, ethereally pure, from the north-western horizon, and, blending softly and imperceptibly, at length fades away into the blue of the zenith; or when beheld "beautiful exceed- ingly " under the glorious and magical effects of moon- light in " the leafy month of June. To a visitor from Europe it seems scarcely credible that, not more than about one hundred and fifty years ago, these hills and valleys were covered with dense primeval forests ; that here a few red men lived in wig- wams, and wandered by the river's brink, and that hostile Indian tribes from Canada made savage incursions on these and on the early settlers.
Now the vale is a scene of peace, and a centre of civilization; Williams College, as a seat of learning, science, and religion, having already made itself power- fully felt for good, in many places scattered over the whole habitable globe. Such were the outward aspects and surroundings of Williamstown, where the youthful Bryant dearly loved, in solitude, to wander and muse, seeing visions and dreaming dreams as to a possible future, which his great capacity for work, together with an unswerving devotion to truth and duty, afterwards enabled him to realize.
At home, Bryant, for a year, devoted himself to the classics and mathematics, in the hope of accompanying his former class-mate to Yale College; but his father, still finding that the cost would be too great, could not afford to send him; so, with the Williamstown days, Bryant's schooling ended. William 0. Bryant, son of Dr. Bryant of Cum- mington. The youthful genius was now a master.
Local tradition erroneously represents him as having composed "Thanatopsis " in his student days, while seated on a rock in a ravine situated on the outskirts of Williamstown, which rock is still pointed out to curious visitors. He may, probably, have thought of it there, and of many other things besides, as he wandered and mused, "nourishing a youth sublime;" but we have the definite authority of his own words for saying, that "Thanatopsis" was written in his eighteenth or nineteenth year, he was not certain which; it was probably the former, but, in any case, after he left college, and before he began his law studies in For some reason he did not send it, as he had sent other verses, to the Hampshire Gazette; nor did he seek, for it, publication in any form; but, laying it aside with the intention of retouching it, he would seem to have forgotten all about it.
On one occasion, we are told, the judge, finding a volume of Wordsworth in his student's hands, seriously warned liim that such reading would spoil his style! His admiration for Wordsworth was great, and on reading that poet's writings for the first time he must have felt as Keats did on first looking into Chapman's Homer, — a new planet had svrum into his ken, and he had encountered one of the memorable delights of his life.
He once told Richard H. Bryant completed his legal studies, at Bridgewater, with the Hon. William Baylies, and, in , at the age of twenty-one, was admitted to the bar at Plymouth. He opened an office at Plainfield, where he had pre- viously studied when being prepared for college, but there being little scope for practice and few clients there, in , in the month of October, when the woods were in all the glory of autumn, he turned his back upon the Hampshire hills for the adjoining county of Berkshire, and settled in Great Barrington.
There he was to pass the next nine years of his life; and there some of his well-known poems were to be written. One day, Dr.
William Cullen Bryant and Two of His Poems: "To a Waterfowl" and "Thanatopsis" | Owlcation
Peter Bryant, then a member of the legislature, in turning over the contents of a drawer at Cummington, came upon several MS. It is related, that when the father showed it in manuscript, before its publication, to a lady well quahfied to judge of its merits, simply saying, " Here are some lines that our Willie has been writing," she read the poem, raised her eyes to the father's face, and burst into tears, in which Dr.
Bryant, a somewhat reserved and silent man, was not ashamed to join. Bryant sent it, and two other of the poems, to the North American Ilmew. Eichard H.
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Dana, who was then on the committee of its management, was also greatly struck by the poems, but quite mystified as to their authorship at the time; and latterly, too, his memory was entirely at fault in sup- posing that the son had any hand whatever, either in sending the MSS. The following is the late venerable Dana's interesting account — subject to the correction we have pointed out — of what he re- members of the first publication of "Thanatopsis": — " Going into town one day while assisting E.
Channing now Professor in the North American Review , he read to me a couple of pieces of poetry which had just been sent to the Review — the ' Thanatopsis ' and ' The Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood. I remember saying also, 'The father is much the cleverer man of the two. He was anything but a 'plain business-like aspect. But with all my examination I could not discover ' Thanatopsis ' in it — the poetic phase was wanting to me. I remember going away with a feeling of mortification that I could not discover the poetic in the face of the writer of ' Thanatopsis.
We had a hearty laugh together when I told him of the physiognomical per- plexity his fanciful deception had thrown me in. Jahu De Witt Miller states that Bryant Avrote him from Cummington on August 9th, , that — "'Thanatopsis' was originally a fragment beginning at the hemistich ' Yet a few days and thee,' and closing with the hemistich 'and make their bed with thee. It -was published in the North American in September, , not , as is frequently stated. And 'tis the eternal doom of Heaven That man must view the grave wdth fear. Bryant's father to Mr. Edward T. Chan- ning, Mr. Dana's colleague in the management of the North American, with the manuscript of ' Thanatopsis,' and" the subject being similar, although the treatment is inferior and on a quite different key "the same appeared in unbroken sequence upon them.
Their separation, in the first edition of Mr. Bryant's poetical works, was simply the correction of an inadvertence. The introductory and closing lines were added in , and some change made in the passage which speaks of the ' ocean. Bryant said to me a year ago: 'The poem attracted as much attention when first published as anything I ever wrote, and the elder Dana, when he saw it, insisted that it could not have been written on this side of the Atlantic' With 'Thanatopsis' appeared the inscription for the entrance to a wood, under the title of ' A Frag- ment.
Of "Thanatopsis," Christopher North, at a later period, said, "It alone is sufficient to establish the author's claim to the honours of genius;" and Christopher was righ't, — for it has taken and retained its place in the language. Of Bryant and "Thanatopsis," Dr. In short, it afforded the key-note to his subsequent harmonies. Bryant's poetry. As if instinctively, he has habitually used good Saxon English in giving form to his poetical conceptions. He has selected words that clearly and precisely expressed his meaning, as every clear thinker may, whether in poetry or prose.
There can hardly be a greater error, than that of those who fancy that obscurity is either poetical or profound. It betrays either a poor affectation, or a weak brain that produces half-formed thoughts. Not only do Mr. Bryant's words express his meaning clearly; they express it generally with such felicity, with such discrimination of the nicest shades of thought, and with a fitness so chastely elegant, that meaning and expression seem to have been born together, and to be parts of the same unity.
His blank-verse, in sustained strength, flexibility, and sonorous sweetness, rivals the best passages of Wordsworth, and is surpassed by that of no other English poet, unless it be Milton himself. His pieces in rhyme exliibit great simplicity, as well as great variety in their measures, and a perfection of rhythmic movement that pleases even a fastidious ear. From the ' Thanatopsis ' to his latest pieces, he exhibits a high degree of constructive skill. It would be difficult to find anywhere in his pages an unpoetic word or an inhar- monious line. Wordsworth's serene and lofty genius.
He touches, he moves no man, until years have brought the philosophic mind. It comes to some early, to some late, to some not at all. That garden sweet, that lady fair, And all sweet shapes and odours there, In truth have never passed away; 'Tis we, 'tis ours, are changed; not they. For love, and beauty and delight, There is no death nor change; their might Exceeds our organs, which endure No light, being themselves obscure.
Echoes Late-born and woman-souled I dare not hope, The freshness of the elder lays, the might Of manly, modern passion shall alight Upon my Muse's lips, nor may I cope Who veiled and screened by womanhood must grope With the world's strong-armed warriors and recite The dangers, wounds, and triumphs of the fight; Twanging the full-stringed lyre through all its scope. Then again, we save, several of those national and patriotic lyrics which no one has written with more strength and delicacy, with more of conscious power, with less of vainglory.
There are other poems in this collection which we would not willingly pass over. Two we must mention, "The Ruins of Italica," a spirited translation from the Spanish of RIOJA, full of the eloquent melancholy of departed historic greatness, and an elaborate version of the entire fifth book of the Odyssey. The latter is in blank verse, and the writer tells us is an attempted improvement, in simplicity at least, upon the translation of COWPER, in which he says "almost every sentence is stiffened by some clumsy inversion, and stately phrases are used when simpler ones were at hand.
In the opening of the book, it will be remembered, Minerva calls the attention of Jupiter to the detention of Ulysses by Calypso in her enchanted island. Sovereign Jove is aroused, and sends Mercury with a message for his release. Here is the messenger on his journey. The American translator here certainly keeps his word; he gets rid of the inversions, and uses simpler language. The book, as a whole, in his version, runs very smoothly, and tempts us to wish that he would extend his labors further.
If HOMER cannot be reproduced in his original spirit in this way, of which we may despair -- for he is really untranslatable in any way -- still a very pleasing poem might be added to our literature with a satisfactory addition to Mr. There is a general stir in this direction among his brethren abroad. ALFRED TENNYSON has just published a choice specimen of the Iliad, also in blank versa, a celebrated passage of the eighth book, which, may be studied in his version for the nicety and beauty of his picked phraseology and the portion of Homeric strength infused into it.
Another, Mr. Take a single, stanza of the passage already given:. The best and rarest efforts of the best modern English authors, the most musical, eloquent passages of GRAY for instance, are in every line of HOMER; and the writer who attempts to convey an idea of him will find it necessary to exhaust the powers of our language. His style must be rich and strong, and simple, too, withal.
Infinite labor and art are yet to be expended in the effort. The volume of Mr. We mention it simply to welcome the author in the company of his brothers in renown. His book has some of his great characteristics in unabated excellence. Varied in subject, it connects the nature of the New World with the pathetic romances and stirring Northern legends of the Old.
The "Birds of Killingworth" is happy in conception and execution, and thoroughly American in its incidents. Everybody is familiar with "Paul Revere's Ride," and the episode of another, our own, revolutionary era -- "The Cumberland. There is life free from all puny conventionalisms -- of stern resolves and reckless humors -- a blast of bracing Northern air to our subdued civilization.
It is justly paraded by Mr. It is a poem of some three hundred lines, or rather a series of lyrics in varied measure, held together by a running comment in airy, rhymed iambics. The story, if such the thread of narrative may be called, is simple. The scenery of the morning is exquisitely painted:. Observe the breadth, the expanse of the landscape in the first line we have italicised, with the sense of motion in the second, wakening, hurrying into life the various objects in the third, to the resonant music of the close.
It is an art this, a feeling of melody which? The youth, that Sunday morning, was seen as he lay in his wayside bower, first by a clergyman returning with thoughts full of the gracious time from the service of his church. We listen with the congregation to. The face of the youth arrests him with. The memorial beauty of his own lost boy, and he is led to fancy him the companion of his home, brought up to the service of the altar, and succeeding him in imparting the hope of mercy to a fallen race, when this reverie is suddenly, sharply invaded by a burst of martial music:.
It is Captain Sword, with whom we are all now so familiar, who is on his way with his gallant troop; and never was warrior introduced on the scene with a happier flourish, as the old stage directions phrase it. A thousand thanks to you, bard of our younger days, for that noble soul-inspiring lyric. If years have passed over you, as erst over delightful "Fanny," and some others of us, we may say with thy favorite poet "E'en in thy ashes live thy wonted fires.
But we are delaying the reader from the warrior and his company. The description of the hero is precise and specific, yet it is sufficiently general too, and being labeled with no name, you may inscribe it with your favorite field officer. We will not quarrel with the choice if the honored favorite will but act up to the poet in the next campaign.
How gallantly and lovingly the old flag, new in the beauty of the poet's verse, floats to the breeze. This soldier is so inspiring in all he says and does, that we cannot part with him without listening, as. How sweetly the Boy in the beauty is sleeping Of life's sunny morning of hope and of youth, May his guardian angels, their watch o'er him keeping, Keep his evening and noon in the pathways o[???
Ah me! And teach him the lore of the bold and the brave; And when the war-clouds and their fierce storm o water, O'er the land that we love their outpourings shall cease, Bid him bear to her ark, from her last field of slaughter, Upon victory's wings, the green olive of Peace; And when the death-note of my bugle has sounded, And memorial tears are embalming my name, By young hearts like his may the grave be surrounded, Where i sleep my last sleep in the sunbeams of fame. He has no transcendental squeamishness on the subject.
The warrior sits enthroned in his verse in the place of honor, the embodiment of a spirit of self-sacrifice rare in modern civilization, No one ever heard of HALLECK as a member of the Peace Society, or with his mind put to sleep with any of the shallow isms of the times -- a healthy, objective man in his feelings, who takes the world as he finds it, preferring human character in its strength; capable of trifling with a sentiment in the boudoir because there is a reality at the bottom of that; but more at home with BURNS in the field, COOPER in the forest, and the aboriginal RED JACKET himself.