Author: George Pope Morris

Memoir of George P. Morris.

By Horace Binney Wallace.

Bless thou thy lot; thy simple strains have led
The high-born muse to be the poor man’s guest,
And wafted on the wings of song, have sped
Their way to many a rude, unlettered breast.

— Beranger.

Morris has hung the most beautiful thoughts in the world upon hinges of [illegible]; and his songs are destined to roll over bright lips enough to form a [sonnet? illegible]. His sentiments are simple,
honest, truthful, and familiar; his language is pure and eminently musical, and he is prodigally full of the poetry of every-day living.

— Willis.

The distinction with which the name of General Morris is now associated in a permanent connection with what is least factitious or fugitive in American Art, is admitted and known; but the class of young men of letters in this country, at present, can hardly appreciate the extent to which they, and the profession to which they belong, are indebted to his animated exertions, his varied talents, his admirable resources of temper, during a period of twenty years, and at a time when the character of American literature, both at home and abroad was yet to be formed. The first great service which the literary taste of this country received, was rendered by
Dennie; a remarkable man; qualified by nature and attainments to be a leader in new circumstances; fit to take part in the formation of a national literature; as a vindicator of independence in thought,
able to establish freedom without disturbing the obligations of law; as a conservative in taste, skilful to keep the tone of the great models with which his studies were familiar, without copying their style; by both capacities successful in developing the one,
unchangeable spirit of Art, under a new form and with new effects.
In this office of field-marshal of our native forces, General
Morris succeeded him under increased advantages, in some respect with higher powers, in a different, and certainly a vastly more extended sphere of influence. The manifold and lasting benefits which, as editor of "The Mirror," General Morris conferred on art and artists of every kind, by his tact, his liberality, the superiority of his judgement, and the vigor of his abilities; by the perseverance and address with which he disciplined a corps of youthful writers,
in the presence of a constant and heavy fire from the batteries of foreign criticism; by the rare combination, so valuable in dealing with the numerous aspirants in authorship with whom his position brought him in contact; of a quick, true eye to discern in the modesty of some nameless manuscript the future promises of a power hardly yet conscious of itself; a discretion to guide by sound advice, and a generosity to aid with the most important kind of assistance; the firm and open temper which his example tended to inspire into the relations of literary men with one another throughout the land; and more than all, perhaps, by the harmony and union, of such inappreciable value, especially in the beginning of national effort, between the several sister arts of writing, music,
painting, and dramatic exhibition, which the singular variety and discursiveness of his intellectual sympathies led him constantly to maintain and vindicate; these, in the multiplicity of their operation, and the full power of their joint effect, can be perfectly understood only by those who possessed a contemporaneous knowledge of the circumstances, and who, remembering the state of things at the commencement of the period alluded to, and observing what existed at the end of it, are able to look back over the whole interval, and see to what influences and what persons the extraordinary change which has taken place, is to be referred. If,
at this moment, the literary genius of America, renewed in youth,
and quivering lie the eagle’s wings with excess of vigor, seems about to make a new flight, from a higher vantage-ground, into loftier depths of airy distance, the capacity to take that flight must, to a great degree, be ascribed to those two persons whom we have named; without whose services the brighter era which appears now to be dawning, might yet be distant and doubtful.

Besides these particulars of past effort, which ought to make his countrymen love the reputation of the subject of this notice, we regret that our limits forbid us to speak at large of those more intimate qualities of personal value, which, in our judgment, form the genuine lustre of one who, admirable for other attainments, is to be imitated in these.

To us it is an instinctive feeling that a wrong is done to the proper grandeur of our complex nature—that a violence is offered to the higher consciousness of our immortal being—whenever an intellectual quality is extolled tot he neglect of a moral one.
Moral excellence is the most real genius; and a temper to cope and calmly baffle the multitudinous assaults of the spiritual enmity of active life, is a talent which outshines all praise of mental endowments. Unhappily, the biographer of literary creators affords few occasions in which a feeling of this kind can be indulged and gratified: that sensibility of mental apprehensions which is the fame of the author, is usually attended by a susceptibility of passionate impression which is the fate of the man; and earth and sense delight to wreak their destructive vengences upon the spiritual nature of him, of whose intellectual being they are the slaves and the sport. In the present instance, we are concerned with the character—’totus, teres, atque rotundus;’ which may be looked upon,
from every side, with an equal satisfaction. Search the wide world over, and you shall not find among the literary men of any nation,
one on whom the dignity of a free and manly spirit sits with a grace more native and familiar—whose spontaneous sentiments have a truer tone of nobleness—the course of whose usual feelings is more expanded and honorable—whose acts, whether common and daily,
or deliberate and much-considered, are wont at all times to be more beautifully impressed with those marks of sincerity, of modesty, and of justice, which form the very seal of worth in conduct. Those jealousies, and littlenesses, and envyings, which prey upon the spirits of many men, as the vulture on the heart that chained
Prometheus—and whose fierce besetment they who WILL be magnanimous,
have to fight off, as one drives away the eagles from their prey,
with voice and gestures—seem never to assail him. It is the happiness of his nature to have THAT only absolute deliverance from evil which is implied in being rendered insensible to temptation.
While the duty which is laid upon us, in this paper, mainly is to open and set forth his poetic praises and claim the laurel for his literary merits; when the crown of song is to be conferred upon him, we shall interpose to beg that the chaplet may be accompanied by some mark, or some inscription which shall declare,

"This is the reward of moral excellence."

For the success of our special purpose, in this notice, which is to consider and make apparent the specific character which belongs to General Morris as a literary artist and a poetic creator,
to explain his claims to that title which the common voice of the country has given to him—of The Song-Writer of America—it would have probably been more judicious had we kept out of view the matters of which we have just spoken. It is recorded of a Grecian painter, that having completed the picture of a sleeping nymph, he added on the foreground the figure of a satyr gazing in amazement upon her beauty; but finding that the secondary form attracted universal praise, he erased it as diverting applause from that which he desired to have regarded as the principal monument of his skill. There is in this anecdote a double wisdom; the world is as little willing to yield to a twofold superiority as it is able to appreciate two distinct objects at once.

In a review of literary reputations, perhaps nothing is fitted to raise more surprise than the obvious inequality in the extend and greatness of the labors to which an equal reward of fame has been allotted. The abounding energy and picturesque variety of Homer are illustrated in eight-and-forty books: the remains of Sappho might be written on the surface of a leaf of the laurus nobilis.
Yet if the one expands before us with the magnificent extent, the diversified surface, the endless decorations of the earth itself,
the other hangs on high, like a lone, clear star—small but intense—flashing upon us through the night of ages, invested with circumstances of divinity not less unquestionable than those which attend the venerable majesty of the Ancient of Song. The rich and roseate light that shines around the name of Mimnermus, is shed from some dozen or twenty lines: the immortality of Tyrtaeus rests upon a stanza or two, which have floated to us with their precious freight, over the sea of centuries, and will float on unsubmergible by all the waves of Time. The soul of Simonides lives to us in a single couplet; but that is the very stuff of Eternity, which neither fire will assoil, nor tempest peril, nor the wrath of years impair. The Infinite has no degrees; wherever the world sees in any human being the fire of the Everlasting, it bows with equal awe, whether that fire is displayed by only an occasional flash,
or by a prolonged and diffusive blaze. There is a certain tone which, hear it when we may, and where we may, we know to be the accents of the gods; and whether its quality be shown in a single utterance, or its volume displayed in a thousand bursts of music,
we surround the band of spirits whom we there detect in their mortal disguise, with equal ceremonies of respect and worship, hailing them alike as seraphs of a brighter sphere—sons of the morning.
This is natural, and it is reasonable. Genius is not a degree of other qualities, nor is it a particular way or extent of displaying such qualities; it is a faculty by itself; it is a manner, of which we may judge with the same certainty from one exhibition, as from many. The praise of a poet, therefore, is to be determined not by the nature of the work which he undertakes, but by the kind of mastery which he shows; not by the breadth of surface over which he toils, but by the perfectness of the result which he attains.
Mr. Wordsworth has vindicated the capacity of the sonnet to be a casket of the richest gems of fame. We have no doubt that the song may give evidence of a genius which shall deserve to be ranked with the constructor of an epic. "Scorn not the SONG." We would go so far, indeed, as to say that success in the song imports,
necessarily, a more inborn and genuine gift of poetic conception,
than the same proportion of success in other less simple modes of art. There are some sorts of composition which may be wrought out of eager feeling and the foam of excited passions; and which are therefore to a large extent within the reach of earnest sensibilities and an ambitious will; others are the spontaneous outflow of the heart, to whose perfection, turbulence and effort are fatal. Of the latter kind is the song. While the ode allows of exertion and strain, what is done in it must be accomplished by native and inherent strength.

Speaking with that confidence which may not improperly be assumed by one who, having looked with some care at the foundations of the opinion which he expresses, supposes himself able, if called upon by denial, to furnish such demonstration of its truth as the nature of the matter allows of, we say that, in our judgment, there is no professed writer of songs, in this day, who has conceived the true character of this delicate and peculiar creation of art, with greater precision and justness than Mr. Morris, or been more felicitous than he in dealing with the subtle and multiform difficulties that beset its execution. It is well understood by those whose thoughts are used to be conversant with the suggestions of a deeper analysis than belongs to popular criticism, that the forms of literary art are not indefinite in number, variable in their characteristics,
or determined by the casual taste or arbitrary will of authors:
they exist in nature; they are dependent upon those fixed laws of intellectual being, of spiritual affection, and moral choice, which constitute the rationality of man. And the actual, positive merit of a poetical production—that real merit, which consists in native vitality, in inherent capacity to live—does not lie in the glitter or costliness of the decorations with which it is invested—nor in the force with which it is made to spring from the mind of its creator into the minds of others—nor yet in the scale of magnitude upon which the ideas belonging to the subject are illustrated in the work; but rather, as we suppose, obviously, and in all cases,
upon the integrity and truth with which the particular form that has been contemplated by the artist, is brought out, and the distinctness with which that one specific impression which is appropriate to it, is attained. This is the kind of excellence which we ascribe to Mr. Morris; an excellence of a lofty order; genuine, sincere, and incapable of question; more valuable in this class of composition than in any other, because both more important and more difficult.
For the song appears to us to possess a definiteness peculiarly jealous and exclusive; to be less flexible in character and to permit less variety of tone than most other classes of composition.
If a man shall say, "I will put more force into my song than your model allows, I will charge it with a greater variety of impressions,"
it is well; if he is skilful, he may make something that is very valuable. But in so far as his work is more than a song, it is not a song. In all works of Art—wherever form is concerned—excess is error.

The just notion and office of the modern song, as we think of it,
is to be the embodiment and expression, in beauty, of some one of those sentiments or thoughts, gay, moral, pensive, joyous, or melancholy, which are as natural and appropriate, in particular circumstances, or to certain occasions, as the odor to the flower;
rising at such seasons, into the minds of all classes of persons,
instinctive and unbidden, yet in obedience to some law of association which it is the gift of the poet to apprehend. Its graceful purpose is to exhibit an incident in the substance of an emotion,
to communicate wisdom in the form of sentiment; it is the refracted gleam of some wandering ray from the fair orb of moral truth, which glancing against some occurrence in common life, is surprised into a smile of quick-darting, many colored beauty; it is the airy ripple that is thrown up when the current of feeling in human hearts accidentally encounters the current of thought and bubbles forth with a gentle fret of sparkling foam. Self-evolved, almost, and obedient in its development and shaping to some inward spark of beauty which appears to possess and control its course, it might almost seem that, in the out-going loveliness of such productions,
sentiment made substantial in language, floated abroad in natural self-delivery; as that heat which is not yet flame, gives forth in blue wreaths of vaporous grace, which unfold their delicateness for a moment upon the tranquil air, and then vanish away. It is not an artificial structure built up by intellect after a model foreshaped by fancy, or foreshadowed by the instincts of the passions; it is a simple emotion, crystalled into beauty by passing for a moment through the cooler air of the mind; it is merely an effluence of creative vigor; a graceful feeling thickened into words. Its proper dwelling is in the atmosphere of the sentiments,
no the passions; it will not, indeed, repel the sympathy of deeper feelings, but knows them rather under the form of the flower that floats upon the surface of meditation, than of the deeper root that lies beneath its stream. And this is the grievous fault of nearly all Lord Byron’s melodies; that he pierces them too profoundly, and passes below the region of grace, charging his lyre with far more vehemence of passion than its slight strings are meant to bear. The beauty which belongs to this production, should be in the form of the thought rather than the fashion of the setting: that genuineness and simplicity of character which constitute almost its essence, are destroyed by any appearance of the cold artifices of construction,
palpable springs set for our admiration, whereby the beginning is obviously arranged in reference to a particular ending. This is the short-reaching power of Moore—guilty, by design, of that departure from simplicity, by which he fascinated one generation at the expense of being forgotten by another. The song, while it is general in its impression, should be particular in its occasion;
not an abstraction of the mind, but a definite feeling, special to some certain set of circumstances. Rising from out the surface of daily experience, like the watery issuings of a fountain, it throws itself upward for a moment, then descends in a soft, glittering shower to the level whence it rose. Herein resides the chief defect of Bayly’s songs; that they are too general and vague—a species of pattern songs—being embodiments of some general feeling, or reflection, but lacking that sufficient reference to some season or occurrence which would justify their appearing, and take away from them the aspect of pretension and display.

The only satisfactory method of criticism is by means of clinical lectures; and we feel regret that our limits do not suffer us—to any great degree—to illustrate what we deem the vigorous simplicity,
and genuine grace of Mr. Morris, by that mode of exposition. We must refer to a few cases, however, to show what we have been meaning in the remarks which we made above, upon the proper character of the song. The ballad of "Woodman, spare that tree"—one of those accidents of genius which, however, never happen but to consummate artists—is so familiar to every mind and heart, as to resent citation. Take, then, "My Mother’s Bible." We know of no similar production in a truer taste, in a purer style, or more distinctly marked with the character of a good school of composition. Or take "We were boys together." In manly pathos, in tenderness and truth, where shall it be excelled? "The Miniature" posses the captivating elegance of Voiture. "Where Hudson’s Wave" is a glorious burst of poetry, modulated into refinement by the hand of a master.
Where will you find a nautical song, seemingly more spontaneous in its genial outbreak, really more careful in its construction, than
"Land-ho!" How full of the joyous madness of absolute independence,
yet made harmonious by instinctive grace, is "Life in the West!"
That the same heart whose wild pulse is thrilled by the adventurous interests of the huntsman and the wanderer, can beat in unison with the gentlest truth of deep devotion, is shown in "When other
Friends are round Thee." "I love the Night" has the voluptuous elegance of the Spanish models. Were we to meet the lines "Oh, think of me!" in an anthology, we should suppose they were Suckling’s—so admirably is the tone of feeling kept down to the limit of probable sincerity—which is a characteristic that the cavalier style of courting never loses. "The Star of Love" might stand as a selected specimen of all that is most exquisite in the songs of the "Trouveurs." "The Seasons of Love" is a charming effusion of gay, yet thoughtful sentiment. The song, "I never have been false to thee," is, of itself, sufficient to establish General Morris’s fame as a great poet—as a "potens magister affectuum"—and as a literary creator of a high order. It is a thoroughly fresh and effective poem on a subject as hackneyed as the highway; it is as deep as truth itself, yet light as the movement of a dance. We had almost forgotten, what the world will never forget, the matchless softness and transparent delicacy of "Near the Lake." Those lines, of themselves, unconsciously, court "the soft promoter of the poet’s strain," and almost seem about to break into music. It is agreeable to find that, instead of being seduced into a false style by the excessive popularity which many of his songs have acquired, General
Morris’s later efforts are in a vein even more truly classic than his earlier ones, and show a decided advance, both in power and ease. "The Rock of the Pilgrims," and the "Indian Songs," are a very clear evidence of this. We would willingly go on with our references, as there are several which have equal claims with these upon our notice, but—"claudite jam rivos."

Such are some of the compositions, original in style, natural in spirit, beautiful with the charm of almost faultless execution,
which may challenge for their author the title of the lauraete of

A writer in "Howitt’s and the People’s Journal" furnishes the following sketch of General Morris and his Songs, which was copied and endorsed by the late Dr. Rufus W. Griswold, in his International

"Before us lies a heap of songs and ballads, the production of the rich fancy and warm heart of George P. Morris. Not many weeks since, at a public meeting in London, a gentleman claimed to be heard speak on the ground of his connection with the public press from the time when he was seven years of age. We will not undertake to say that General Morris ran his juvenile fingers over the chords of the lyre at so very early a period; but it is certain he tried his hand at writing for the newspapers when he was yet but a mere boy. While in his teens, he was a constant contributor to various periodicals. Many of his articles attracted notice. He began to acquire a literary reputation; and at length, in 1823, being then in his twentieth year, he became editor of the ’New York Mirror.’
This responsible post he continued to hold until the termination of the paper’s existence in 1834.

"Morris accomplished an infinity of good in the twenty years during which he wielded the editorial pen. Perhaps no other man in the United States was so well qualified for the noble task he set himself at the outset of his career as editor. American literature was in its infancy, and subject to all the weaknesses of that period.
Morris resolved to do his utmost toward forming a character for it, and looked abroad anxiously for such as could aid him in his endeavor. The ’Mirror" will ever be fondly remembered by the American literary man, for it has been the cradle of American genius.

"To him a writer in ’Graham’s Magazine’ attributes the present flourishing condition and bright prospects of transatlantic literature.
He evidently possesses a personal knowledge of General Morris, and discourses right eloquently in his praise. Nor do we think that he overrates his merits in the least. From other sources we have ourselves learned much of the genial nature of George P. Morris,
and his gigantic labors as a literary pioneer. Considering its juvenility as a nation, republican America, indeed, has been amazingly prolific of good writers. The large share Morris has had in awakening the latent talent of his countrymen, must ever be to him a high source of gratulation. And then, as an original writer,
he has won for himself a high place among literary Americans; he is,
in fact, known throughout the States as ’The Songwriter of America;’
and we have the authority of Willis for stating that ’ninety-nine people out of a hundred—take them as they come in the census—would find more to admire in Morris’s Songs than in the writings of any other American poet.’ Willis also tells us, as proof of the General’s popularity with those shrewd dollar-loving men, the publishers,
that ’he can, at any time, obtain fifty dollars for a song unread,
when the whole remainder of the American Parnassus could not sell one to the same buyer for a single shilling!’ He is the best-known poet of the country by acclamation—not by criticism.

"Morris seems to have had juster notions of what was required in a song than many who have achieved celebrity as song-writers in
England. ’The just office and notion of the modern song’ has been defined to be, the embodiment and expression in beauty of some thought or sentiment—gay, pensive, moral, or sentimental—which is as natural and appropriate in certain circumstances as the odor to the flower. Its graceful purpose is to exhibit an incident in the substance of an emotion, to communicate wisdom in the form of sentiment. A song should be the embodiment of some general feeling,
and have reference to some season or occurrence.

"It is not a difficult thing to make words rhyme; some of the most unimaginative intellects we ever knew could do so with surprising facility. It is rare to find a sentimental miss or a lackadaisical master who cannot accomplish this INTELLECTUAL feat, with the help of Walker’s Rhyming Dictionary. As for love, why, every one writes about it now-a-days. There is such an abhorrence of the simple
Saxon—such an outrageous running after outlandish phraseology—that we wonder folks are satisfied with this plain term.

"We wonder they do not seek for an equivalent in high Dutch or in low Dutch, in Hungarian, or in Hindostanee. We wish they would,
with all our heart and soul. We have no objection, provided the heart be touched, that a head should produce a little of the stuff called ’nonsense verses’—that this article should be committed to scented note-paper, and carefully sealed up with skewered hearts of amazing corpulence. God forbid that we should be thought guilty of a sneer at real affection!—far from it; such ever commands our reverence. But we do not find it in the noisy tribe of goslings green who would fain be thought of the nightingale species. Did the reader ever contemplate a child engaged in the interesting operation of sucking a lollipop?—we assure him that that act was dictated by quite as much of true sentiment as puts in action the fingers and wits of the generality of our young amatory poetasters.

"We know of none who have written more charmingly of love than George
P. Morris. Would to Apollo that our rhymsters would condescend to read carefully his poetical effusions! But they contain no straining after effect—no extravagant metaphors—no driveling conceits; and so there is little fear of their being taken as models by those gentlemen. Let the reader mark the surprising excellence of the love songs; their perfect naturalness; the quiet beauty of the similes; the fine blending of graceful thought and tender feeling which characterize them. Morris is, indeed, the poet of home joys.
None have described more eloquently the beauty and dignity of true affection—of passion based upon esteem; and his fame is certain to endure while the Anglo-Saxon woman has a hearthstone over which to repeat her most cherished household words.

"Seldom have the benign effects of the passion been more felicitously painted than in the ’Seasons of Love’; and what simple tenderness is contained in the ballad of ’We were boys together.’ Every word in that beautiful melody comes home to the heart of him whose early days have been happy. God help those in whom this poem awakens no fond remembrances!—those whose memories it does not get wandering up the stream of life, toward its source; beholding at every step the sun smiling more brightly, the heavens assuming a deeper hue,
the grass a fresher green, and the flowers a sweeter perfume. How wondrous are not its effects upon ourselves! The wrinkles have disappeared from our brow, and the years from our shoulder, and the marks of the branding-iron of experience from our heart; and again we are a careless child, gathering primroses, and chasing butterflies, and drinking spring-water from out the hollow of our hands. Around us are the hedges ’with golden gorse bright blossoming, as none blossom now-a-day.’ We have heard of death,
but we know not what it is; and the word CHANGE has no meaning for us; and summer and winter, and seed-time and harvest, has each its unutterable joys. Alas! we can never remain long in this happy dream-land. Nevertheless, we have profited greatly by the journey.
The cowslips and violets gathered by us in childhood, shall be potent in the hour of temptation; and the cap of rushes woven for us by kind hands in days gone by, shall be a surer defence than a helmet of steel in the hour of battle. No, no; we will never disgrace our antecedents.

"There is one quality in his songs to which we can not but direct attention—and this is their almost feminine purity. The propensities have had their laureates; and genius, alas! has often defiled its angel wings by contact with the sensual and the impure; but Morris has never attempted to robe vice in beauty; and as has been well remarked, his lays can bring to the cheek of purity no blush save that of pleasure."

The following letter, from the pen of Grace Greenwood, is a lady’s tribute to the genius of the poet:—

"I have read of late, with renewed pleasure and higher appreciation,
the songs and ballads of our genial-hearted countryman, Morris. I
had previously worried myself by a course of rather dry reading,
and his poetry, tender, musical, fresh, and natural, came to me like spring’s first sunshine, the song of her first birds, the breath of her first violets.

"What a contrast is this pleasant volume to the soul-racking "Festus,"
which has been one of my recent passions. That remarkable work has passages of great beauty and power, linked in unnatural marriage with much that is poor and weak. It is like a stately ruined palace,

’Mingling its marble with the dust of Rome;’

or it is like its own fabled first temple built to God, in the new earth—a multitude of gems, swallowed by an earthquake, and scattered through a world of baser matter. The soul of the reader now faints with excess of beauty, now shudders at the terrible and the revolting. the young poet’s muse at times goes like Proserpine to gather flowers, but straightway is seized by the lord of the infernal regions, and disappears in flame and darkness. The entire volume is a poetical Archipelago—isles of loveliness sprinkling a dead sea of unprofitable matter.

"It were absurd to compare the light and graceful poems of Morris with the work "Festus"—a simple Grecian arch with a stupendous
Turkish mosque—an Etruscan vase with a Gothic tower. Yet there are doubtless many who will prefer the perfect realization of modest aspirations, to grand, but ineffectual graspings after glory’s highest and most divine guerdons—a quiet walk with truth and nature, to an Icarus flight of magnificent absurdities.

"It has been said that the author of ’Long time ago’ has rung too many changes on the sentiment and passion of LOVE. Love, the inspiration of the glorious bards of old,

’Who play upon the heart as on a harp,
And make our eyes bright as we speak of them;’

’love ever-new, everlasting, fresh, and beautiful, now as when the silence of young Eden was thrilled, but scarce broken, by the voice of the first lover—a joy and a source of joy for ever.’

"I know it is much the fashion now-a-days, to hold in lordly contempt many of those sweet and holy influences which are—

’As angel hands, enclosing ours,
Leading us back to Paradisean bowers.’

"Love and liberty are fast becoming mere abstractions to the enlightened apprehension of some modern wise men. It is sad to see how soon those white-winged visitors soil their plumage and change their very nature by a mere descent into the philosophic atmosphere of such mind. One is reminded of the words of Swedenborg—’I saw a great truth let down from heaven into hell, and it THERE BECAME

"This cynical objection to the lays of our minstrel, surely never could have emanated from the heart of WOMAN. SHE is ever loyal to love—that tender and yearning principle in the bosom of the
Father, from which and by which the feminine nature was created.

"The poems of Morris are indeed like those flowers of old, born of the blood-drops which oozed from the wounded foot of the queen of love—blushing crimson to the very heart; yet there is not, to my knowledge, in the whole range of English literature, so large a collection of amatory songs in which sensualism and voluptuousness find no voice. These lays can bring to the cheek of purity no blush,
save that of pleasure—the mother may sing them to her child, the bride to her young husband.

"’Festus’ has an eloquent reply to such as hold love a theme unworthy the true bard:—

’Poets are all who love—who feel great truths,
And tell them; and the truth of truths is LOVE.’

"The muse of Morris was Poesy’s own ’summer child.’ Hope, love,
and happiness, sunny-winged fancies and golden-hued imaginings,
have nested in his heart like birds.

"His verse does not cause one to tremble and turn pale—it charms and refreshes. It does not ’posses us like a passion’—it steals upon us like a spell. It does not storm the heart like an armed host—it is like the visitation of gentle spirits,

’Coming and going with a musical lightness.’

It is not a turbulent mountain-torrent, hurling itself down rocky places—it is a silver stream, gliding through quiet valleys,
in whose waves the sweet stars are mirrored, on whose bosom the water-lilies sleep.

"Now and then there steals in a strain of sadness, like the plaint of a bereaved bird in a garden of roses; but it is a tender, not an OPPRESIVE sadness, and we know that the rainbow beauty of the verse could only be born in the wedlock of smiles and tears. In a word, his lays are not ’night and storm and darkness’—they are morning and music and sunshine.

"It were idle at this time to quote or comment upon all those songs of Morris best known and oftenest sung. It would be introducing to my readers old friends who took lodgings in their memories ’long time ago.’ In reference to them, I would only remark their peculiar adaptedness to popular taste, the keen discrimination, the nice tact, or, to use one of Sir James Mackintosh’s happy expressions,
the ’FEELosophy’ with which the poet has interlaced them with the heart-strings of a nation.

"’A Rock in the Wilderness’ is an ode that any poet might be proud to own. It is much in the style of Campbell—chaste, devotional,
’beautiful exceedingly.’ I know nothing of the kind more musically sweet than the serenade "Tis now the promised hour’—the first line in especial—

’The fountains serenade the flowers,
Upon their silver lute—
And nestled in their leafy bowers,
The forest birds are mute.’

"Many an absent lover must have blessed our lyrist for giving voice to his own yearning affection, half sad with that delicate jealousy which is no wrong to the loved one, in the song ’When other friends are round thee.’

"’The Bacchanal’—if our language boasts a lovelier ballad than this,
it has never met my eye. The story of the winning, the betraying and the breaking of a woman’s heart, was never told more touchingly.
’The Dismissed’ is in a peculiar vein of rich and quiet humor. I
would commend it to the entire class of rejected lovers as containing the truest philosophy. ’Lines after the manner of the olden time’ remind one of Sir John Suckling. They are ’sunned o’er with love’—their subject, by the way. ’I never have been false to thee’ was an emanation from the FEMININE nature of the minstrel alone. Who does not believe the poet gifted with duality of soul?
’Think of me, my own beloved,’ and ’Rosabel,’ are the throbbings of a lover’s breast, set to music; and ’One balmy summer night,
Mary,’ ’The heart that owns thy tyrant sway,’ and ’When I was in my teens,’ the distillation of the subtlest sweets lodged in the innermost cells of all flowers dedicated to love.

"I come now to my favorite, ’Where Hudson’s wave;’ a poem which
I never read but that it glows upon my lip and heart, and leaves the air of my thoughts tremulous with musical vibrations. What a delicious gush of parental feeling! How daintily and delicately move the ’fitly chose words,’ tripping along like silver sandaled fairies.

"’Land-Ho!’ and the ’Western Refrain’ thrill one gloriously. ’The
Cottager’s Welcome’ would of itself carry the poet’s name to the next age, and the ’Croton Ode’ keep his bays green with a perpetual baptism. The last-mentioned is fresh and sparkling as its subject,
and displays much of the imaginative faculty.

"’Oh, a merry life does the hunter lead,’ rolled up the tenth wave of Morris-ian popularity at the West. It stirs the hunter’s heart like a bugle blast—it rings out clear as a rifle-crack on a hunting morning.

"General Morris has recently published some songs, which have all the grace, melody, and touching sweetness of his earlier lays. But as these have been artistically set to music, and are yet in the first season of popularity—are lying on the pianos and ’rolling over the bright lip’ of all song-dom, they call for no further mention here.

"I think I cannot better close this somewhat broken and imperfect notice, than by referring to one of the earlier songs of Morris,
which, more than all others, perhaps, has endeared him to his native land. ’Home from travel’ is a simple, hearty, manly embodiment of the true spirit of patriotism, a sentiment which throbs like a strong pulse beneath our poet’s light and graceful verse, and needs but the inspiration of ’stirring times’ to prompt to deeds of heroic valor, like the lays of the ancient bards, or the ’Chansons’ of

The biography of Morris would not be complete without a word from
Willis. We have a dash of his pencil in the following letter to the editor of "Graham’s Magazine":—

"My Dear Sir: To ask me for my idea of General Morris, is like asking the left hand’s opinion of the dexterity of the right. I have lived so long with the ’Brigadier’—know him so intimately—worked so constantly at the same rope, and thought so little of ever separating from him (except by precedence of ferriage over the
Styx), that it is hard to shove him from me to the perspective distance—hard to shut my own partial eyes, and look at him through other people’s. I will try, however; and, as it is done with but one foot off from the treadmill of my ceaseless vocation, you will excuse both abruptness and brevity.

"Morris is the best-known poet of the country, by acclamation, not by criticism. He is just what poets would be if they sang, like birds, without criticism; and it is a peculiarity of his fame, that it seems as regardless of criticism, as a bird in the air. Nothing can stop a song of his. It is very easy to say that they are easy to do. They have a momentum, somehow, that it is difficult for others to give, and that speeds them to the far goal of popularity—the best proof consisting in the fact that he can, at any moment, get fifty dollars for a song unread, when the whole remainder of the American Parnassus could not sell one to the same buyer for a shilling.

"It may, or may not, be one secret of his popularity, but it is the truth—that Morris’s heart is at the level of most other people’s,
and his poetry flows out by that door. He stands breast-high in the common stream of sympathy, and the fine oil of his poetic feeling goes from him upon an element it is its nature to float upon, and which carries it safe to other bosoms, with little need of deep diving or high flying. His sentiments are simple, honest, truthful,
and familiar; his language is pure and eminently musical, and he is prodigally full of the poetry of every-day feeling. These are days when poets try experiments; and while others succeed by taking the world’s breath away with flights and plunges, Morris uses his feet to walk quietly with nature. Ninety-nine people in a hundred,
taken as they come in the census, would find more to admire in
Morris’s songs, than in the writings of any other American poet;
and that is a parish in the poetical episcopate, well worthy a wise man’s nurture and prizing.

"As for the man—Morris, my friend—I can hardly venture to ’burn incense on his moustache,’ as the French say—write his praises under his very nose—but as far off as Philadelphia, you may pay the proper tribute to his loyal nature and manly excellencies.
His personal qualities have made him universally popular; but this overflow upon the world does not impoverish him for his friends. I
have outlined a true poet, and a fine fellow—fill up the picture to your liking. Yours, very truly,

"N. P. Willis."

In 1825, General Morris wrote the drama of "Briercliff," a play,
in five acts, founded upon events of the American Revolution. It was performed forty nights in succession; and the manager paid him for it $3,500—a solid proof of its attractive popularity. It has never been published. Prior, and subsequent to this period, his pen was actively engaged upon various literary and dramatic works.

He wrote a number of the "Welcomes to Lafayette," and songs and ballads, which were universally popular, besides many prologues and addresses.

In 1842, he wrote an opera for Mr. C. E. Horn, called the "Maid of
Saxony," which was performed fourteen nights, with great success,
at the Park Theatre. The press of the city, generally, awarded to this opera the highest commendation.

From the period when General Morris commenced his career as a writer, his pen has been constantly employed in writing poems,
songs, ballads, and prose sketches.

In 1840, the Appletons published an edition of his poems, beautifully illustrated by Weir & Chapman; in 1842, Paine & Burgess published his songs and ballads; and in 1853, Scribner’s edition, illustrated by Weir and Darley, appeared. This last beautiful work has had an immense sale.

They were highly commended by the press throughout the country,
and these and other editions have had large sales. A portion of his prose writings, under the title of "The Little Frenchman and his Water-Lots," were published by Lea & Blanchard, which edition has been followed by others, enlarged by the author.

General Morris has edited a number of works; among them are the
"Atlantic Club Book," published by the Harpers; "The Song-Writers of
America," by Linen & Ferin; "National Melodies," by Horn & Davis;
and, in connection with Mr. Willis, "The Prose and Poetry of Europe and America," a standard work of great value.

In 1844, in connection with Mr. Willis, he established a beautiful weekly paper, called the "New Mirror," which, in consequence of the cover and engravings, was taxed by the post-office department a postage equal to the subscription price; and not being able to obtain a just reduction from Mr. Wickliffe, then post-master-general,
the proprietors discontinued its publication, after a year and a half, notwithstanding it had attained a circulation of ten thousand copies.

The daily "Evening Mirror" was next commenced, and continued for one year by Morris & Willis.

A few months after withdrawing from the "Evening Mirror," General
Morris began the publication of the "National Press and Home
Journal;" but as many mistook its object from its name, the first part of its title was discontinued; and in November, 1846 (Mr.
Willis having again joined his old friend and associate), appeared the first number of the "Home Journal," a weekly paper, published in New York every Saturday, which is edited with taste, spirit,
and ability, and which has a circulation of many thousand copies.

General Morris is still in the prime and vigor of life, and it is not unlikely that the public will yet have much to admire from his pen, and which will, without doubt, place him still higher in the niche of fame. His residence is chiefly at Undercliff, his country seat, on the banks of the Hudson, near Cold Spring, surrounded by the most lovely and beautiful scenery in nature, which can not fail to keep the muse alive within him, and tune the minstrel to further and still higher efforts.

Although he possesses abilities which eminently qualify him for public station, his literary taste and habits have, in spite of the strenuous solicitations of his friends, led him to prefer the retirement of private life. This, however, does not prevent his taking an active interest in all questions of public good; and the city of New York is greatly indebted to his vigorous aid for many of her most beautiful and permanent improvements.

We can not close this sketch without adverting to the following incident, which occurred in the British House of Commons:—

"Mr. Cagley, a member from Yorkshire," says the "London Times,"
"Concluded a long speech in favor of protection, by quoting the ballad of ’Woodman, spare that tree’ (which was received with applause of the whole house), the ’tree’ according to Mr. Cagley,
being the ’Constitution,’ and Sir Robert Peel the ’woodman,’ about to cut it down."

What poet could desire a more gratifying compliment to his genius?

Poems and Ballads.



Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: Poems

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Poems

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: George Pope Morris, "Memoir of George P. Morris.," Poems, ed. Callaway, Morgan, Jr., 1962- in Poems (New York: George E. Wood, 1850), Original Sources, accessed July 23, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=EL9K4NF93U3HJ53.

MLA: Morris, George Pope. "Memoir of George P. Morris." Poems, edited by Callaway, Morgan, Jr., 1962-, in Poems, New York, George E. Wood, 1850, Original Sources. 23 Jul. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=EL9K4NF93U3HJ53.

Harvard: Morris, GP, 'Memoir of George P. Morris.' in Poems, ed. . cited in 1850, Poems, George E. Wood, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 23 July 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=EL9K4NF93U3HJ53.