Littell's Living Age/Volume 1/Issue 1/Fitz-Greene Halleck

Littell's Living Age
Volume 1, Issue 1 : Fitz-Greene Halleck

Fitz-Greene Halleck has acquired a wider celebrity, and won it well. He is the author, amongst other things, of a noble lyric, “Marco Bozzaris.” Had he written nothing more he must have earned a high popularity; but he has written much more, equally distinguished by a refined taste and cultivated judgment. But the “Marco Bozzaris,” containing not more than a hundred lines, or thereabouts, is his master-piece. It is consecrated to the Greek chief of that name who fell in an attack on the Turkish camp at Laspi, and is, as as a whole, one of the most perfect specimens of versification we are acquainted with in American literature. We will not detract from its intrinsic claims by inquiring to what extent Mr. Halleck is indebted to the study of well-known models; for, although in this piece we catch that “stepping in music” of the rhythm which constitutes the secret charm of the “Hohenlinden,” we are glad to recognize in all his productions, apart from incidental resemblances of this kind, a knowledge as complete, as it is rare amongst his contemporaries, of the musical mysteries of his art. It is in this Mr. Halleck excels, and it is for this melodiousness of structure that his lines are admired even where their real merit is least understood. We are too much pressed in space to afford room for the whole of this poem, and are unwilling to injure its effect by an isolated passage. The chrysolite must not be broken. But here is an extract from a poem called “Red Jacket,” which will abundantly exhibit the freedom and airiness of Mr. Halleck’s versification. Red Jacket was a famous Indian chief.

Is strength a monarch’s merit? (like a whaler’s)
   Thou art as tall, as sinewy, and as strong
As earth’s first kings—the Argo’s gallant sailors
   Heroes in history, and gods in song.

Is eloquence? Her spell is thine that reaches
   The heart, and makes the wisest head its sport;
And there’s one rare, strange virtue in thy speeches,
   The secret of their mastery—they are short.

Is beauty? Thine has with thy youth departed,
   But the love-legends of thy manhood’s years,
And she who perished, young and broken-hearted,
   Are—but I rhyme for smiles and not tears.

The monarch mind—the mystery of commanding,
   The god-like power, the art Napoleon,
Of winning, fettering, moulding, wielding, banding
   The hearts of millions till they move as one;

Thou hast it. At thy bidding men have crowded
   The road to death as to a festival;
And minstrel minds, without a blush, have shrouded
   With banner-folds of glory their dark pall.

	*	*	*	*

And underneath that face like summer’s oceans,
   Its lip as moveless and its cheek as clear,
Slumbers a whirlwind of the heart’s emotions,
   Love, hatred, pride, hope, sorrow—all, save fear.

Love—for thy land, as if she were thy daughter,
   Her pipes in peace, her tomahawk in wars;
Hatred—for missionaries and cold water;
   Pride—in thy rifle-trophies and thy scars;

Hope—that thy wrongs will be by the Great Spirit
   Remembered and revenged when thou art gone;
Sorrow—that none are left thee to inherit
   Thy name, thy fame, thy passions, and thy throne.

The author of these stanzas, strange to say, is superintendent of the affairs of Mr. Astor, the capitalist, who built the great hotel in New York.