no previous Next next

 image pending 219

For the Literary Magazine.

anacreon moore verus ame-

SOME ardent lovers of their
country are extremely offended with
Moore, the Anacreontic poet, for

 image pending 220

speaking contemptuously of Ameri-
ca, in his poems, lately published.
It appears to me that we cannot in-
jure our own credit and debase our
own dignity more than by allowing
the smallest regard to such provo-
cations. It is indeed imputing a
hundred times more importance to
the random censures of ignorant,
self-conceited, and vagabond travel-
ers than they deserve. As to
Moore, in particular, I never heard
of any merit he possessed beyond
that of a writer of drinking songs
and love ditties. Even his warmest
admirers say no more of him, than
that he drinks genteelly, plays well
on the piano-forte, and writes very
fine verses, and sings his own ver-
ses scientifically. Whatever dignity
some may annex to these various ac-
complishments, they certainly do
not imply any great capacity for
impartially surveying the manners
of a nation; and, instead of being
greatly hurt that such a man should
see nothing in America to interest
and admire, it would be extremely
wonderful, and truly mortifying to a
rational American, if he had met
with any thing deserving his praise.
What are the circumstances which
would possibly have interested him?
What could have claimed his res-
pect? A knowledge of his general
character, and a perusal of his
works, will tell us what. He must
have found plenty of excellent Ma-
deira; many admirers of such wri-
ters as Anacreon, Tibullus, and Se-
cundus; many who conceive the
highest human excellence to consist
in keeping up a contest of singing,
drinking, and jesting till midnight,
over a dinner table, in producing
an extemporary epigram, or quoting
a luscious description. They must
be learned; that is, they must be
able to retail sentences of Greek
and Latin in common conversation.
They must be polite; that is, they must
give suppers, and preside at them
with well adjusted elbows, a cravat
fresh from the laundress, and indefa-
tigable attention to the great man who
is their guest. They must possess a
refined taste; that is, they must be

able to select the best Madeira and
Champaigne: poetry, that is, song
writing, and music, that is, song
singing, must be the business of their
lives. Their philosophy must be
truly orthodox, and admit nothing
into her list of bona et delecta
but a sparkling glass and a hand-
some courtezan. Had Moore found
plenty of such people as these in
America, no doubt he would have
honoured us with a full share of his
approbation; and those good citi-
zens who now wince under the lash
of his satire, would probably have
escaped some of the mortifications
he has made them suffer.

I have heard of serious answer
being published to his sarcasms.
This surely is descending too low.
What answer can be made? What
is there to confute? Moore seems
merely to have described his own
impressions, and to have described
them truly. He took a hasty flight
through the country, stopping where-
ever he could find wit, wine, and a
reader of Anacreon; and as these
are scarce among us, or he did not
chance to gain access to many of
the haunts of our choice spirits, he
was of course disgusted with such
a dull, ignorant, tasteless crew, and
honestly acknowledges that he only
found himself in his proper element
in the cabin of an English frigate,
where jest, song, and the bottle are
the only resources from the tedium
of a long cruise.

He has indeed retold a few tales
of scandal, which he could not avoid
hearing, and which he probably ne-
ver heard contradicted; and to fret
and fume at such a misdemeanour as
this would be truly absurd.

The proper mode of treating the
reproaches of such a traveller is ex-
emplified in an exquisite piece of
badinage, which originally appear-
ed in a southern newspaper, and
which I beg leave to insert here.

The good people of Virginia may
remember, that some time since this
little cock-sparrow of a songster
came hopping across the Atlantic,
to sing his amours in the wilds of
America. As we had seen nothing

 image pending 221

of the kind so chirping and so light,
he was much noticed and admired,
and every one was delighted to hear
the little bird chirrup his Greek.
He could make rhymes on any and
every little thing; a nose, an eye, a
cheek, a curl, a lip, the tip of an
ear, a little fly, a flea, or a gnat's
toe-nail enchanted him. He looked
like a being born in a jelly glass,
handed round on a cake, fed on sugar
plums, and educated among the
dreams of fancy; the little spirit
could hide himself under a lady's
eye lash, and expire with delight;
in his odes he gets into a million of
scrapes, jumps from a tendril, hides
in a curl, sips from a lip, perches on
a bosom, tumbles from a tucker,
gets on the edge of many a precipice
without falling over, and to the
mouth of dreadful caverns without
tumbling in. Always singing, sighing,
and evaporating, one would think he
had a thousand souls charged from
his electric fancy, each ready to fly
without any other contact than the
atmosphere only of a Dulcinea.

America, it seems, afforded this
pretty fellow many of these visionary
delights, and he had many oppor-
tunities of dying inexpressibly at
Bermuda; but the little ingrate no
sooner gets home than he begins to
abuse us. In a note to his poems he
says, “The women of Bermuda are
not generally handsome, but they
have an affectionate langour in their
look which is interesting; they have
a pre-disposition to loving, which,
without being awakened by any par-
ticular object, diffuses itself through
the general manner, in a tone that
never fails to fascinate. The men
of the island are not very civilized,
and the old philosophers, who ima-
gined that, after this life, men would
be changed into mules, and women
into turtle doves, would find meta-
morphosis in some degree anticipat-
ed at Bermuda!” Of William and
Mary college,
that has produced so
many men great in science, particu-
larly in politics and oratory, he says,
“This college gave me but a melan-
choly idea of republican seats of
learning. The contempt for the ele-

gancles of education is no where
more grossly conspicuous than in
Virginia. The levelling system is
applied to education, and has all the
effect which its partizans could de-
sire, by producing a most extensive
equality of ignorance.” He then,
in defiance of the bishop, rails at
the morals too of the place. Of
poor Norfolk, which is the threshold
over which all travellers stumble,
he says:

“Norfolk, it must be owned, is an
unfortunate specimen of America.
The characteristics of Virginia in
general are not such as can delight
either the politician or the moralist,
and at Norfolk they are exhibited
in their least attractive form. At
the time that we arrived, the yellow
fever had not then disappeared, and
every odour that assailed us in the
streets very strongly accounted for
its visitation. It is in truth a most
disagreeable place,
and the best the
journalist or geographer can say of
it is, that it abounds in dogs, ne-
and in democrats.” If there
is no truth in these remarks of
Moore, we ought to pity him instead
of being angry with him—for he was
so near to the ground that every
odour assailed him with double ef-
fect, and he had such microscopic
eyes, that he could see worms in the
fairest face; but he could neither see
any thing large, or write on any sub-
ject that required a capacious men-
tal survey. He used to ask where
were our poets? had we any? We
had scarce a songster among us.
He was afraid to look at that terr-
ible Trumbull, with his “sword tren-
chant.” Dwight's ode voice was too
strong to whisper imbecilities to the
flaxen ear locks of ideal beauty. Bar-
low would have rolled him in one
corner of Manco Capae's white
robe, to screen his frail form from
the warring winds of the Andes; and
Humphreys would have sent him
sailing adrift in a little toy ship
to sing songs to the fishes in the
waters of his western world: but all
these adventures, Moore, from the
peculiar structure of his eyes, hap-
pily avoided, and he is still hastily

 image pending 222

flying from lip to lip with his wings
all dripping from the honey pot of
Anacreon, and his bill full of sweet-
meats for the pretty cuckoos of po-

no previous Next next