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And filling the eye of the passer by,
An eye without lashes, a mind with no thought
So lovely, so soft, so graceful, so good,
Birds sung at your birth, and youth leaped to see;
Woe, woe to the spent and withering leaves !
one of a forest
I too am a leaf, -
The wide Forest laughs, and crushes me carelessly
Circlets and curves and veinlets and stems
Must bow to the sweep of the merciless hour.
ENTERTAINMENTS OF THE PAST WINTER.
WHAT Would the Puritan fathers say, if they could see our bill of fare here in Boston for the winter? The concerts, the opera dancing, which have taken place of their hundred-headed sermons, how would they endure? How the endless disquisitions wherever a few can be gathered together, on every branch of human learning, every folly of human speculation? Yet, perhaps, they have elsewhere already learnt what these changes are calculated to teach; that their action, noble as it was, exhibited but one side of nature, and was but a reaction. That the desire for amusement, no less than instruction, is irrepressible in the human breast; that the love of the beautiful, for its own sake simply, is no more to be stifled than the propensity of the earth to put forth flowers in spring; and that the Power, which, in its life and love, lavishes such loveliness around us, meant that all beings able to receive and feel should, with recreative energy, keep up the pulse of life and sing the joy it is to be, to grow.
Their fulness of faith and uncompromising spirit show but faint sparks among us now, yet the prejudices with which these were connected from the circumstances of the time, still cast their shadows over us. The poetical side of existence, (and here I do not speak of poetry in its import or ethical significance, but in its essential being, as a recreative spirit that sings to sing, and models for the sake of drawing from the clay the elements of beauty,) the poetical side of existence is tolerated rather than revered, and the lovers of beauty are regarded rather as frivolous voluptuaries than the consecrated servants of the divine Urania. Such is the tendency of the general mind. There is indeed, an under current more and more powerful every day; but the æsthetic side has not yet found an advocate of sufficiently commanding eloquence to give it due place in the councils of the people. But, as this feeling ripens, it will form to itself an appropriate language.
We have been tempted to regret that the better part of the community should have been induced to look so coldly on theatrical exhibitions. No doubt these have been made the instrument of pollution and injury, as has been repre
sented. Still, means of amusement like these, accessible, pliant, various, will never be dispensed with in a city where natural causes must create the class who wish such entertainments for their leisure hours. Till men shall carry Shakspeare and Moliere within their own minds, they will wish to see their works represented. To those in whom life is still faint, and who yet have leisure to feel their need of being enlivened, the stimulus of genius is necessary, and, if they do not find this, they will take refuge in mere variety, such as the buffoon and juggler can offer, and thus their tastes be corrupted each day by the means that ought to exalt and refine them. The Shakspearean drama cannot now be sustained in Boston; but amusements a lower order can, to which the youth who were to be protected by frowning down the theatre go and find entertainment which produces none of the good effects that would be received from a noble performance, with all the injury that has been so much deprecated.
The genius of the time might not favor the enterprise, for in other countries, where the stage is maintained at that point from which it can bestow a genial and elevating benefit, this is done by the private patronage of the most cultivated classes, and oftentimes by the favor of a single person, who has the advantage of being at once a man of taste and a prince, yet we cannot but feel that an enlarged view of human nature would rather have dictated to men of wisdom and philanthropy, to form themselves into committees of direction for the theatre, than to use their influence to put it down without providing something to take its place more fully than the lecture room. There is, however, not so much reason to regret this, as the drama seems dead, and the histrionic art is dying with it. The last centuries carried this to a glorious height, but Garrick, Kemble, Talma, Kean are gone.
"The great depart; And none rise up to take their vacant seats."
At least none who are the peers of the departed. Now, an inclination for the art seems to be the impression left by a great past, and even Miss Kemble, Miss Tree, and Macready are too ill-seconded, and address audiences too unprepared, fully to possess or enjoy the exercise of their
great powers. Now and then appears a wonder, as Mademoiselle Rachel in France lately, worthy to deck again the ancient drama with its diadem and train, but it is said by those who have seen her, that the scene sinks the moment she leaves the stage, and the fustian and farce are seen of an entertainment no longer congenial with the character of those who witness it.
The drama blossomed out in Germany, like other productions of the last century there, a genuine growth. The need of lofty sentiment and a free, widely ranging existence spoke there unreproved. On the stage was seen faithfully represented the attainment, still more, the longing of the popular mind. Upon the stage a Carlos could meet a Posa, and the iron hand of Goetz receive the clasp of the modern Arminius. But the black eagles have shrieked into silence these great voices, for the drama cannot live where man cannot walk in the freedom of a hero. That sense of individual greatness which, in Greece, poured its wine through the life blood of whole races, which consecrated the involuntary crimes of Edipus, and made possible the simple grandeur of Antigone, filling the stage with God-like forms which no spectator felt to be necessarily mere ideals, which made the shadow of Shakspeare's Talbot more commanding than the substance of the hero of one of Knowles's dramas, and gave the buskins of Corneille a legalized dignity, where is it now? Man believes in the race, but not in his fellow, and religious thinkers separate thought from action. No man is important enough to fill the scene and sustain the feeling; let us read novels in our sleepy hours, but never hope, in the society of our contemporaries, to see before us a Prometheus, or a Cid realizing the hope, nay, the belief of all present.
No; the drama is not for us, and vainly do young geniuses pilfer and filter all history and romance for heroes; vainly break up their soliloquies into speeches to be recited by various persons, or cramp into a five act lameness, the random expressions of modern life. It cannot be. Let them ask themselves, Do the men walk and talk before them so in their solitary hours? Did these forms advance from the green solitudes of the wood, or the dark corners of the chamber, and give themselves to the bard as delegates from the Muse of the age? Did you, as you walked the
streets meet the demand for these beings from every restless, eager eye? Not so. Then let be the dead form of a traditional drama. Life is living, though this be dead. Wait the form that grows from the spirit of the time.
Life is living, and art, European art, lives in the opera and ballet. For us we have nothing of our own, for the same reason that in literature, a few pale buds is all that we yet can boast of native growth, because we have no national character of sufficient fulness and simplicity to demand it. There is nothing particular to be said, as yet, but everything to be done and observed. Why should we be babbling? let us see, let us help the plant to grow; when it is once grown, then paint it, then describe it. We earn our brown bread, but we beg our cake; yet we want some, for we are children still.
If New England thinks, it is about money, social reform, and theology. If she has a way of speaking peculiarly her own, it is the lecture. But the lecture, though of such banyan growth among us, seems not to bespeak any deep or permanent tendency. Intellectual curiosity and sharpness are the natural traits of a colony overrun with things to be done, to be seen, to be known from a parent country possessing a rich and accumulating treasure from centuries of civilized life. Lectures upon every possible topic are the short business way taken by a business people to find out what there is to be known, but to know in such ways cannot be hoped, unless the suggestions thus received are followed up by private study, thought, conversation. This, no doubt, is done in some degree, but chiefly by the young, not yet immersed in the stream of things. Let any one listen in an omnibus, or at a boarding house, to the conversation suggested by last night's lecture, see the composure with which the greatest blunders and most unfounded assertions are heard and assented to, and he will be well convinced how little the subject has occupied the minds of the smart and curious audience, and feel less admiration at the air of devout attention which pervades an Odeon assembly. Not that it is unmeaning, something they learn; but it is to be feared just enough to satisfy, not stimulate the mind. It is an entertainment which leaves the hearer too passive. One that appealed to the emotions would enter far more deeply and pervasively into the life, than these