« AnteriorContinuar »
wrote his love, and fastened the note to the silken band around the messenger's neck.
Disordered by its flight, the dove flew back to Alice, who, mistaking Kavanagh's epistle for Cecilia's answer, opened and read it. It was an impulse, an ejaculation of love, every line quivering with electric fire, signed “ Arthur Kavanagh.” But in the ecstasy of her joy and wonder that her prayer for Kavanagh's love should have been answered, her eye fell, for the first time, on the superscription ; — it was “Cecilia Vaughan. ” Alice fainted. Her first act on recovering was to reseal the note, and send the bird to its proper destiny. Cecilia's answer was brief, "Come to me
! - and the magic syllables brought Kavanagh to her side.
That afternoon Cecilia went to Alice to tell her of what had happened, and accept her congratulations. In her happiness Cecilia saw not her poor friend's agony, but mistook her tears of blood for tears of joy. The snow of that winter fell on the happy home of Cecilia Vaughan and the lonely grave of Alice Archer.
The wedding did not take place till spring. And then Kavanagh and his Cecilia departed on their journey to Italy and the East. They intended to be absent one year ; they were
When they returned, they found Churchill still correcting school exercises, — his romance not yet begun, — his Obscure Martyrs yet unrecorded, though Alice Archer had perished broken-hearted under his eye. The curtain is then drawn over the actors for the present. Will it rise to unfold a sequel ?
Mr. Longfellow had the good taste to make Kavanagh's conversion to Protestantism sentimental instead of logical. It was mainly effected by the legend of a giant who wished to serve Christ, but knew not how, until he heard the voice of a child crying out, “ Plant thy staff in the ground and it shall blossom and bear fruit.” This is emblematic of active charity and willing service,—and active charity and willing service are not to be found in Catholicity; therefore Kavanagh became a Protestant! The application of the legend is akin to that of Hawkesworth's celebrated tale of the dervise, “No life pleasing to God that is not useful to man.” It is assumed that the Catholic Church is a collection of lazy monks, nuns, and hermits, and concluded that a set of creatures politically and socially useless cannot be acceptable to God. Really, it is impossible to argue this point seriously. If rational beings, knowing well that the Catholic Church saved Europe from barbarism, and reduced it from chaos to peace and order,- to something very dif- . ferent from its present condition,- knowing well that the monasteries were the model farms, the colleges, the inns, the sanctuaries of Christendom,— knowing well that Catholicity converted all Europe, and a great portion of Asia, Africa, and America, to Christianity, - if rational beings, knowing all this, and a great deal more, and having before them the Jesuit missions in North America, and Protestant exterminations in the Sandwich Islands, are still so jaundiced by prejudice as to prate of Catholic supineness and Protestant activity, we care not how soon we are complimented on our insanity.
It is extremely difficult to get Protestants to feel that the kingdom of God is not of this world, — that we are permitted to give up all and follow our Redeemer, — that we may live, not for time, but for eternity. They never will comprehend that there is still a Church that is commissioned to teach, and a body to be taught. They are incapable of perceiving that it is not every man's vocation to be a missionary ; that many of us have trouble enough to save our own souls, and have to dy all contact with the temptations of society to escape defeat. Serving man is the main thing, - their primal virtue ; pleasing God, secondary. Would to Heaven they would begin by loving and serving God with their whole souls ! They would soon discover that whatever is pleasing to God must be useful to man, individually and collectively. They refuse to see, that if every individual purifies himself, society must be pure. They shrink from believing the salvation of a single human soul of infinitely more importance than the prosperity and glory of a nation. They never suspect that the prayers offered up on Catholic altars every minute in the year may, like the prayer of the high-priest on the battle-field, avail more than armies, and preserve a people from destruction. They little believe that the fervent aspiration of some pale, feeble daughter of St. Vincent, breathed out at the foot of the cross, for her neighbour and her country, is far more useful to mankind than pyramid, aqueduct, railroad, or telegraph, and all the committees of ways and means who were ever appointed to enlighten or bewilder themselves or their constituents.
We hope we are wrong in suspecting Mr. Longfellow of insinuating that active charity and willing service are not Catholic virtues ; for he recognizes the zeal, the self-devotion, the heavenly aspirations, the human sympathies, the endless deeds
of charity,” of the Church of Christ. He seems really to have a share of Catholic feeling, – he is free from most vulgar prejudices respecting us, -- he loves to speak of the sweetly sounding Angelus, and of the bells that recalled “the ages when in all Christendom there was but one Church ; when bells were anointed, baptized, and prayed for, that, wheresoever those holy bells should sound, all danger of whirlwinds, thunders, lightnings, and tempests might be driven away.” Perhaps the legend is meant only to excite Kavanagh to action as well as meditation; still we fear pot, since, immediately afterward, the author has the heart to accuse us of “ bigotry, fanaticism, and intolerance.”
Of Mr. Longfellow the writer of this knows nothing, save from these two little volumes. His private and public life, his pursuits, his ordinary conversation and habits, his religion, his social reputation, even the bulk of his writings, are unknown to him. Before reading Evangeline, he only knew him by hearsay and these three lines :
“And our hearts, though bold and brave,
Funeral marches to the grave." But in Evangeline we fancied that we discovered that yearning after Catholicity, so conspicuous in Wordsworth, Young, Coleridge, Shelley, and Walter Scott, — a yearning that every man of genius has often felt and expressed. In Mr. Longfellow it seemed profounder, and blended with a keen relish of the beauty of Catholic life. In Kavanagh this yearning is still more conspicuous.
The symbolical meaning of Evangeline is not very evident ; it seems to be a vain pursuit of earthly happiness, never attained until the soul is consecrated to God, —- whilst, reactively, with Gabriel it represents man ever losing the happiness that pursues him, by his own impatience and want of resignation. Mr. Longfellow is German enough to conceive these double allegories.
In Kavanagh the allegory is palpable. Kavanagh is a liberal æsthetic church. He brought out of the old faith all that was boly, pure, and of good repute, and left behind all its bigotry, fanaticism, and intolerance ; he embraced the duties and responsibilities, the trials and discouragements of the ministry, with the zeal of Peter and the gentleness of John, and found a reasonable amount of temporal felicity in the eyes and arms of Cecilia Vaughan. He is a higher than the C urch of England,
higher even than Puseyism. He pines after the universality of Catholicity, - he longs for the union of all sects into one universal church, - in short, he wishes for all the truth, and grandeur, and beauty, and unity he has abandoned, without the resolution to retrace his steps and become the Catholic that he was. Is this Mr. Longfellow's case ? Is Kavanagh to have a sequel ?
The author wished to represent a fusion of Catholicity with Protestantism : - let him mix the clouds and the sun. The Church of God is not compound; it can have no union with error ; it is pure, unchangeable, complete ; the gentleness of John is hers just as well as the zeal of Peter.
We must now conlude. The faults in Kavanagh resemble those in Evangeline, — both proceeding from a severe strain after originality resulting in deformity. For instance : -- " The setting sun stretched his celestial rods of light across the level landscape, and, like the Hebrew in Egypt, smote the rivers and the brooks and the ponds, and they became as blood.” There is sublimity in that, however. But this is inexcusable: - "And on the threshold stood, with bis legs apart, like a miniature colossus, a lovely, golden boy.” But, not to multiply instances, worse than all is Mrs. Churchill showering kisses, like roses, on her husband's forehead and cheeks," as he passed beneath the triumphal archway of her arips, trying in vain to articulate, — My dearest Lilawati, what is the whole number of the geese ?"
But there are other faults from which Evangeline is free. The description of H. Adolphus Hawkins and Sally Manchester is too evidently Dickens; and though much of the imitation is successful, there is some of it singularly unhappy; Mr. Churchill's dream smacks too strongly of Hans Christian Andersen, and in many passages there is a vein of Goethe. Still, we read and remember these volumes with pleasure, and as we recall their many beauties, their brevity, and their purity, are proud in feeling that this product of our own country is so much superior to all the imported fabric of Bulwer, James, Sue, Dumas, or even the authoress of The Neighbours. It has removed our antipathy to American literature, — an antipathy generated, perhaps, by old-fashioned prejudices, and an early, exclusive, and jealous devotion to the older English writers.
We have done Mr. Longfellow great injustice in abridging his narratives, and laid a severe stress upon the patience of our readers; but we could not do otherwise. We have had two objects in view. One, to show the Catholic reader how easy it is for genius to mould the simplest elements of Catholic life into a story full of instruction and beauty, without cramming it full of inconsequent controversy and questionable theology. How easy it would be for a pious Catholic, even of inferior genius, to present a still more charming picture, and introduce portraits of niore real and solid excellence than either Evangeline or Father Felician ! No one is fit to write fiction, unless endowed with imagination; and it is the province of imagination not to convince the reason, but to attract the heart. If our religious novelists could get Protestants to feel the beauty of Catholic customs and Catholic life, they would accomplish much in thus removing a load of prejudice that impairs the proper exercise of reason. This is their legitimate sphere, and more than this they cannot effect. An acquaintance with the interior loveliness of Catholic life may remove the bigotry of Protestants, but reason, prayer, and the grace of God can alone convert them to Catholicity.
Our other object, however imperfectly pursued, has been to caution our author against the originality of extravagance and distortion ; to stimulate him to higher things, yet confine him where he is truly excellent and original, - in the delineation of pastoral simplicity, and in the masterly use of action by which the most delicate shades of thought and feeling become visible ; to protest against introducing characters, as he does over and over again in Kavanagh, merely as the media of some of the author's opinions utterly apart from the purpose of his work, -excrescences, digressions, patchwork, - matter made up and laid by long ago, - old cloth fringed with new lace.
. There is little incident in his books, we care not for that ; so much the better, though the taste of the age covets it, — but what incident there is should have regularity, proportion, and unity. We saw that all most beautiful, holy, and pure in these volumes emanated from an acquaintance, however imperfect, with Catholic life and feeling, and we had a faint hope, an earnest ambition, of inducing him to study more closely a Church to whose truth and splendor he is not insensible. Then would he discover beauty and majesty, purity and truth, far beyond a poet's conception ; then would he discover that her ornaments, her music, her painting, her statues, her aisles, and her bells, are but the offerings of piety and genius which she alone can inspire, that she is not dependent on them, but they on her, — that all that is noblest in man must surround her, because she is invested with eternal beauty, - that she cannot avoid what Protestantism