Uncollected Prose, by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tecumseh; a Poem. By George H. Colton. New York: Wiley & Putnam.

This pleasing summer-day story is the work of a well read, cultivated writer, with a skillful ear, and an evident admirer of Scott and Campbell. There is a metrical sweetness and calm perception of beauty spread over the poem, which declare that the poet enjoyed his own work; and the smoothness and literary finish of the cantos seem to indicate more years than it appears our author has numbered. Yet the perusal suggested that the author had written this poem in the feeling, that the delight he has experienced from Scott’s effective lists of names might be reproduced in America by the enumeration of the sweet and sonorous Indian names of our waters. The success is exactly correspondent. The verses are tuneful, but are secondary; and remind the ear so much of the model, as to show that the noble aboriginal names were not suffered to make their own measures in the poet’s ear, but must modulate their wild beauty to a foreign metre. They deserved better at the author’s hands. We felt, also, the objection that is apt to lie against poems on new subjects by persons versed in old books, that the costume is exaggerated at the expense of the man. The most Indian thing about the Indian is surely not his moccasins, or his calumet, his wampum, or his stone hatchet, but traits of character and sagacity, skill or passion; which would be intelligible at Paris or at Pekin, and which Scipio or Sidney, Lord Clive or Colonel Crockett would be as likely to exhibit as Osceola and Black Hawk.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37