« AnteriorContinuar »
still it is more ridiculous when these human machines cover their walls with pictures, and veneer their souls with art and reading, for then the sense of parody, of affectation, and incongruity becomes to the observer painfully acute. Oh! the illiterate buyers of expensive pictures; and oh! the readers, who ‘generally prefer prose,' or ask one another, 'Are you fond of poetry?' and receive for answer, ‘Yes; most kinds except blank verse.'
Misunderstand me not, reader. I am the last man on earth to blame poor humanity for being what circumstances have made it, or to find fault with it for struggling even into false positions, so that it does struggle and fight right manfully. Not in word or in thought would I utter aught against all the brownstone houses, with imitation-stucco, 'looking-glass frame windows,' or the gimcrack upholstery, so long as they are the natural and inevitable result of that under-pressure which is continually forcing the poor man up into the millionaire. But when I see men, whose education has taught them better, flattering all these ignorants and their machine-life, praising those who live in it, telling them that they are gloriously attaining the highest aims which Man need strive for, and that Work is positively all in all; then I feel that a protest is needed against such a limited view of humanity. I feel that for the sake of the children of these workmen something must be said and done that they may not grow up into mere working-bees or mere drones. Hives are beautiful, honey is sweet, and very wonderful is all the arrangement of cells, but society is not a hive, nor are we boes. If we were, God would have suffered the world to stop short with the Middle Ages, and permitted the Church to complete the grand plan which it honestly entertained of reducing all mankind to Hindu castes, and of making every man perfectly happy in his caste. It was a grand design, and would have succeeded — had Man only been a limitable animal !
However, the restless fever of Work was created — the natural result of antecedent historical causes — and unpoetic as it was, and cheerless as it was, it demanded poetical expression, and found it, principally in a few lyrics. These adaptations to a popular demand, and to the growing national consciousness of great activity, and an equally great want of happiness, were moderate in tone, ingenious in construction; in short, they corresponded to the spirit of the age which gave them birth, and therefore must be regarded as true works of art, according to their time. They were not eminently poetic, though popularly believed to be such, for the very simple reason that no man who fills an appointed round of industrial duty in the spirit of a horse in a mill, without connecting his labor with high or genial attributes, can be said to have much in common with poetry; and it was precisely this Work for the sake of Work which the poems which enjoyed a few years ago the most popularity set forth. The public had been already partially excited into self-consciousness of their predominant characteristics by Mr. Carlyle's fine utterances on the Gospel of Labor and of Christianity as the Religion of Sorrow. In those days it was beginning to be for the first time clearly and popularly understood that LABOR was a vast rising power, in every state a tremendous force gradually acquiring political supremacy, and eventually destined, through the infinite modifications of capital, to probably overthrow the last remnants of that Middle Age which
is still, though greatly battered, the stronghold of modern society. This much was understood, and as far as it went it was very well; but more than this does not seem to have been taken up. It was not understood that Industrial Progress, as since set forth by Henry Carey, involves a harmony of all interests, that the interests of employer and employed are every year becoming more identified; that labor is blending with science, that science is slowly leading art to real wants and to Nature, and finally that as Romance, according to Warton, was a feeling unknown to classic antiquity, so we are developing out of Industry an infinitely higher feeling than was known to the Romantic age warm interest in making others and ourselves rationally happy. By-gone ages developed great individuals, the present age is developing great Ideas, and it is these Ideas which at some future period will be the world's heroes and rulers.
Mr. Carlyle is a man of great learning, intimately acquainted with the past, and consequently, like all of us, dear reader more's the pity — still steeped in 'Romance.' On him this swart and mighty Labor, unconscious of its power, burst forth giant-like, and convinced by his great love of romance -shrewd Scotchman though he be — that every thing has been done in this world by individual resolve, (and unaware that there has been such a thing as gradually coalescing interests and ideas springing out of the masses,) he went to work vigorously building up a Hero Worship, and hinting at a sociology which in its chaotic power reminds us of that Brute-Godhood of which he is so fond of speaking. Norse Jotuns and Charles the Fifth, wild singers of the ‘Marseillaise,' Frederic the Great and Danton, Dr. Johnson and Jean Paul Richter ; any thing or any body, which from Saturn down to Satan ever came tearing bravely out of the 'wild Inane' into form and work, received from him a certificate of honorable mention. Work, Labor, Action, no matter for what, so that it was only Action ; and especially if it were Action duly clad in romantic forms. There are passages in the French Revolution in which this admiration for the wild, the muscular, the ranting, and theatrical becomes positively silly. Labor was a grim Orson to be led about by the Valentine of genius; and it was because the age was wanting in heroic Valentines that Mr. Carlyle snubbed it, spat on it, called it atheistic, and every thing mean; quite unconscious that all the while poor Orson, like that other rustic Cimone of the Decameron, was gradually educating himself into something infinitely nobler than the aristocratic Valentine ever was. Strange that while Mr. Carlyle accuses America of never having produced a great idea, America is at this present day far in advance of the world in the popular development of those great ideas which are to govern the future
the ideas of fostering national industry as the great life of the state, of the harmony of interests, of the credit system as a means of rapid progress, of the introduction of the peace element into diplomacy, as suggested by Mr. Marcy; of the proper regulation of penitentiaries, and of the use of the rail-road, not merely to carry passengers from one town to another, but to create new towns, and to break up the wilderness. Mr. Carlyle is a scholar of the Past, arguing from the Past, and consequently had no idea that society would ever be regenerated, save by the old machinery of heroes, to which — despite his Clothes Philosophy, and decaying rags of symbols '— he
desired there might be attached much flaming tinsel, and many spangles, the whole to be marched about to the tunes of Marseillaises,' the “Runes of Odin,' Vivat Fredericus Rex,' and the 'Nibelungen Lied!'
According to Carlyle, the monster UTILITARIA - he calls it a monster, and dreads it like a devil — is only to be suffered to go forth, shackled by all manner of nose-rings, and chains, and ropes vide 'Sartor Resartus' - to crush old forms. Carlyle did not see, will not see, that this Utilitaria bides by no ropes and chains; and that if an elephant, (such seems to have been the matire of the simile,) it is no show-beast, going to astonish rustics at a country fair, but the tremendous incarnate Buddha, bent on redeeming the world by a new avatar, to be renewed in due time in new forms. Is not this same Utility clothing the world, feeding it and schooling it, thereby giving to it not only Carlyle's Clothes Philosophy, but all other philosophies; in short, all that knowledge which is to reäppear in progress ? Verily, labor is the great motive power of the world ; to him who will understand it, also its prophet — yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet — for it will work out its own predictions. .
And here some one may say: 'What have you then against sturdy American labor, grim and joyless though it be; or against Mr. Longfellow, or any other poet, for giving it a voice in Psalms of Life?' I most assuredly have nothing against them, any more than I have against the doctrines of the Bhagrat Geeta, or the Church of the Middle Ages, or the French Revolutions - all of which I admire. They all filled necessary places in the Past. There was even a time for Puritans to pass Blue Laws; and a still more wretched time, but still one absolutely necessary, for men to be told that
• Not enjoyment and not sorrow
Is our destined end or way,
Finds us further than to-day.' But I do hold that the day is dawning when more cheerful songs shall be sung, and man shall find that Enjoyment is our destined end and way, and that by means of it we shall find ourselves advanced infinitely further on each succeeding morrow. Having learned how sublime a thing it is to suffer and be strong,' we are now to learn how much sublimer it is to be strong without the suffering, and with fearlessness, cheerfulness, and joyousness. And I trust that I may be acquitted of any desire to ridicule a fine poem which has had, and is still having its practical uses, when I say, that the youth in 'Excelsior,' whose object was to climb to the summit of St. Bernard, or achieve the Gothard Pass, would have effected his object better had he accepted the hospitable invitation of the young lady, or of others, and waited till the next morning, when by clear sunlight, and duly refreshed, he might have gone joyfully onward and upward. Festina lenté !
We know that we can work ; nay, we know that industry is spreading at such a miraculous rate over the world, that there can be no check to it. It requires no longer Psalms of Life to keep it in grim spirits. Labor is now ready for more cheerful songs, for it is ceasing to regard itself as a curse to be
simply borne with clenched teeth, and with as little groaning as possible. The higher labor rises, the more intellectual it becomes, the more capable is it of self-support, and the more does it supply its own enthusiasm. Every year sees labor thus rising, sees hand-work supplanted by machinery and headwork; sees the mechanic becoming an artisan, and the artisan an artist. We exhort the galley-slave, in popular parlance, to 'grin and bear it,' but the workman rising in the social scale is capable of more cheerful consolation.
Few persons who have not turned over from day to day American newspapers, of town and country, can have any idea of the degree to which the pitiless resolve to 'grin and bear it,' has been cultivated; or of the amount of small poetry and literature extant, which is dedicated to setting it forth. Some European physiologist believes that the Anglo-American is gradually Indianizing; he might have urged in confirmation these stoical lyrics, whose spirit is so wonderfully like that of the songs of a red-skin at the stake.
"Now the flame rises bright, I exult in my pain,
And the son of AlkNOOMOOK shall never complain.' In fact, this song has always been a great favorite in New-England, and I now see why. But not only are there songs current of this scalping-knife and death-stake description; there are also aggravating little pine-splinters in the form of axioms. The following was at one time a great favorite with the Whip and Good school of soul-killers.
* WHAT WINS. - The nerve which never relaxes, the eye which never blenches, the thought which never wanders - these are the masters of victory.'
often the man of the nerve which never relaxes, and the eyes which never blench, etcetera, finds out in the end that when he gets the victory, he is like the one who drew the elephant. Ah! this goading an overdriven horse, this preaching of never-relaxed nerves, and never-blenched' eyes to a nation which is working itself into dyspepsia and death, is the silliest of stuff. “What wins,' indeed ! as if health and amusement, and a cultivation of the beautiful, were not absolutely necessary to man; or as if any victory were worth winning which excluded these from the economy of life. God and Nature teach us this, and we will not recognize it. There is but one element common to all the infinite processes of Nature, and that is Beauty corresponding to enjoyment. Study the heavens, it is there; take the microscope and sink to infinitesimal infusoria, it is there ; and yet man, in his miserable pride and vanity, will not admit that it is intended that he shall recognize this omnipresent element as much as any other. He, forsooth, can dispense with it! How few, how drearily few is the number of those who recognize that the truest and highest and noblest victory, which we can win in this life, is that which lifts us to health, Joyousness, and the pure, holy delights of Nature.
Ay, there will yet come a time when the whole world will stand in the sunlight, and look back upon the vanished nightmare dreams, and grim, ghastly life of the past; when the Morning Red will gleam beautifully on strong forms of men and women, who have found that beauty and health and joyousness
and earnestness in kindness and love — yes, and enthusiasm too -- are the things best worth living for. Farewell, then, to the nightmare days of dyspepsia and of weeping — 'lost Edens and buried Lenores.' In the coming time, when all the interests of employer and employed, of Capital and Labor, will be understood to be identical, as our national political economy prophesies, then there will be better times in store,
• When length of face and solemn air,
From morn to noon and night,
That all within is right;
The gracious truth abroad!
THE CORSO IN CARNIVAL TIME.
“THERE, my carnival is over! I am tired and sick of it.'
So said Joe as he rushed hurriedly into our apartment at Rome, and throwing aside his hat with its broad, black plume, began to undo his gay and handsome trappings in which he had figured in the Corso as il bel Paggio Spagnuolo. It was on Monday afternoon, the last day but one of the Carnival, and although wearied with the long-continued wild excitement of the past week, yet as the mad merriment was now waxing to its crisis, I should never have thought of yielding myself more completely to fatigue, but rather gave myself up to its strange and fascinating pleasures while they lasted. I had come in a moment to cool myself a little and to lift my mask, which, bound too tightly, hurt my face ; but I looked at Joe as he made this announcement, and proceeded to dissolve with utter amazement. What do you mean? You are not going to stop now, Joe ? it's only four o'clock !'
'It's twelve o'clock to-morrow night for me, man! I tell you I'm tired and sick of this rude and foolish sport. I've been flirting the past three days with a fine Italian girl, who stands in a balcony two or three squares down, and throws, as I pass, early flowers. She wears a mask, but without lace, and I know she is beautiful. Have you not noticed her? I should think she would have given your good-looking head a pelting.'
I? no. It 's useless trying to flirt with one of these dominoes on. There are hundreds of others like mine in the street, and a pretty girl would forget me entirely before I could pass her again, or what is worse, mistake another for me.
But finish your story.' "Well, that's easily done. We have been exchanging love-notes and tossing bon-bons, and she has showered me with this most beautiful of bouquets. I was fairly in love with the girl, and she with my Spanish mantle and feathers, I suppose. I used to have quite a scene each time I passed before her balcony, VOL. LX.