Part 5 out of 5
turbulent days of Florentine party strife, when he rides down Messer
Corso Donati, "the baron," and wounds him with his javelin, and then
goes into exile at Sarzana, where he sings his dying song and sends
it to his lady, "who," he says, "of her noble grace shall show thee
courtesy." All the poets were not as constant as their own lines
would have us believe. Dante reproaches the famous Cino da Pistoja
for fickleness, and the latter confesses the charge, and declares he
cannot get "free from Love's pitiless aim." Guido Cavalcanti rebukes
Dante himself for his way of life after the death of Beatrice; and
this valuable sonnet should be read in connection with the beautiful
passage in the _Purgatory_ (xxx. 55-75) where Beatrice herself
upbraids the tearful poet.
In the second part, comprising _Poets chiefly before Dante_, we have
specimens of the Sicilian school--a _canzone_ by the great Frederick,
and a sonnet by his luckless son Enzo, who died in prison at Bologna
after a confinement of nearly twenty-three years. Of more importance
are the poems of Guido Guinicelli, of which the philosophical one
entitled "Of the Gentle Heart" was a nine days' wonder, but which,
even in Rossetti's elegant version, seems cold and formal. The
most natural and pleasing pieces among much that is artificial and
conventional are a ballad and two "catches" by Sacchetti, who died
just after 1400, and properly does not belong to Dante's circle.
Mr. Rossetti's readers will, however, be grateful to him for his
delightful versions of the two catches, one "On a Fine Day," the other
"On a Wet Day," giving the experiences of a band of young girls who
have gone to spend the afternoon in the fields and are overtaken by a
Poems like these, unfortunately, are rare. The range is a limited
one--Platonic love in its conventional form, or the still more
conventional form of chivalric love, imported bodily from the
Troubadours. Scattered here and there are some noble poems; as, for
instance, the one attributed to Fazio degli Uberti on his lady's
portrait, which begins--
I look at the crisp golden-threaded hair,
Whereof, to thrall my heart, Love twists a net;
Using at times a string of pearls for bait,
And sometimes with a single rose therein.
Mr. Rossetti has performed his task in a way to deserve the warmest
praise. The difficulties he has overcome are very great, consisting
not merely of intricate rhyme and assonance, which he has faithfully
reproduced, but a text often corrupt and meaning often obscure.
He says himself in his preface that "The life-blood of rhythmical
translation is this commandment--that a good poem shall not be turned
into a bad one;" and this commandment, as far as we can see, he has
not broken in a single case, while in some instances, we are bold
enough to say, the translation is better than the original.
History of the Army of the Cumberland, its Organization,
Campaigns and Battles. Written at the request of Maj.-Gen.
George H. Thomas, chiefly from his private military journal
and other official documents furnished by him. By Thomas B.
Van Horne, U.S. Army. Illustrated with campaign and
battle maps compiled by Edward Ruger, late Superintendent
Topographical Engineer Office, Head quarters Department of the
Cumberland. 2 vols. and atlas. Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co.
It was natural that General Thomas should make choice of some one to
whom he could entrust the task of writing his military history. For
that purpose he chose Mr. T.B. Van Home, a chaplain in the regular
army, and the work, which was begun in 1865 and finished in 1872, was
subject to Thomas's own examination. The result is now, after this
long delay, presented to the public in a shape that does great credit
to the publishers, whose imprint is almost synonymous with good
workmanship. Of the literary skill, or want of it, on the part of the
author not much need be said: he is evidently zealous in his anxiety
to do honor to the memory of General Thomas, and to do justice to all
who served with him; but he is sadly lacking in the art of suitably
clothing his ideas with fitting words, and much of his elaborate
composition is badly wasted in trying to find extravagant language
for the recital of important events. In some cases, where the official
reports printed at the close of each chapter recite in simple words
the actual occurrences, the text of the book is overlaid with unusual
words and involved sentences, in which the statement of the same facts
is lost in a cloud of phraseology of a very curious and original kind.
"Primal success," "the expression of a stride," "the belligerence of
the two armies," "philosophy of the victory," "palpable co-operation,"
"the expression of an insurrection,"--these are some of the odd
inventions of the author; and for instances of passages just as odd,
but too long for citation, we refer to the description of the battle
of Shiloh--a weak imitation of Kinglake's worst style--where we
are told that "change is the prophecy of unexpected conditions."
Fortunately, the second volume is much less marred by such faults, and
the great event of Thomas's career, the battle of Nashville, is told
with clearness and in full detail.
Although Thomas is the hero of the book from the time when he took
command at Camp Dick Robinson in August of 1861, it was not till
October, 1863, which brings us to page 394 of the first volume, that
he succeeded to the command of the Army of the Cumberland, after
Rosecrans, who had followed Buell and Sherman and Anderson. Under the
other generals Thomas had served with marked ability and fidelity, and
his dealing with them is fairly reflected by the author of this work,
for he rarely criticises either of Thomas's commanding officers--for
the most part merely records the operations of the army, and puts in
most prominence Thomas's own services, just as his military journal no
doubt supplied the material. Of all that long and dreary marching and
countermarching through Kentucky and Tennessee the account is full and
clear, and we find Buell and Halleck saying that they know nothing of
any plan of campaign in the very midst of their operations. At last
with Halleck, and still more with Grant in authority, there were
movements ordered that had some relation to each other and a general
plan of operations, and then the overwhelming strength of the North
began to turn the scale. Thomas was called on by Rosecrans, as he had
been by Buell, for advice, but he was obliged to act independently
too; and then, as at Stone River, he showed an energy and a capacity
that ought to have secured his earlier promotion. At Chickamauga he
was actually left in command by Rosecrans, and while the latter
was looking for new help elsewhere, Thomas at the front saved the
shattered army and led it safely back to Chattanooga, where it
underwent its famous long siege. The measures for its relief were
planned by Rosecrans, approved by Grant, and executed by Thomas, with
large assistance from "Baldy" Smith, whose skill as an engineer was
fully attested then. When Thomas did at last succeed to the command
of the Army of the Cumberland, he showed his superiority to his
predecessors by marked improvement in his method of securing supplies,
in his use of cavalry, and in the increased efficiency of his
infantry. When Johnston, thanks to Davis's unwise interference with
the Confederate armies, gave way to Hood, the latter almost at once
gave token of his inferior skill by being defeated by the Army of the
Cumberland--by less than half of it, in fact--in an attack intended to
destroy three armies of more than five times the number of the Union
force actually engaged. Thomas was in command at this battle of
Peach-tree Creek, one of the sharpest and most significant actions
of the campaign, though no official report is found at the end of
the chapter in which it is described. The events that led up to the
victory of Nashville are always worth the telling, and the account
given in this work may be looked upon as in some respects Thomas's own
version of them. A brief chapter by Colonel Merrill of the Engineers
gives a very good description of three of the leading features of the
work done by that corps in the Army of the Cumberland. To cross great
rivers there was need of pontoon-bridges; to protect the long lines
of railroads it was necessary to provide block-houses; to go through
a country that was often a trackless forest, and always badly provided
with real high-roads, it was all-important to have maps, and to
reproduce them rapidly and plentifully. Colonel Merrill's chapter
is pithy, pointed and to the purpose, showing how well our technical
troops did their share of work, and how large and important that share
was in securing the general result. The maps are also well done, and
therefore useful in enabling a reader to follow out the details of the
Dissertations and Discussions; Political, Philosophical and
Historical. By John Stuart Mill. Vol. V. New York: Henry Holt & Co.
From Everglade to Canon with the Second Dragoons, 1836-75, Compiled by
Theo. F. Rodenbough. New York: D. Van Nostrand.
Grand'ther Baldwin's Thanksgiving, with other Ballads and Poems. By
Horatio Alger, Jr. Boston: Loring.
Shakespeare Hermeneutics; or, The Still Lion. By C.M. Ingleby, M.A.,
LL.D. London: Truebner & Co.
Minutes of the Ohio State Archaeological Convention. Columbus: Printed
for the Society by Paul & Thrall.
Strength of Beams under Transverse Loads. By Prof. W. Allan. New York:
D. Van Nostrand.
The Illustrated Catholic Family Almanac for 1876. New York: Catholic
Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1874. Washington:
Our Poetical Favorites. Second Series. By Aschel C. Kendrick. New
York: Sheldon &Co.
Camp-Life in Florida. By Charles Hallock. New York: Forest and Stream
Lectures on Art. Second Series. By H. Taine. New York: Henry Holt &
Pretty Miss Bellew. By Theo. Gift. New York: Henry Holt & Co.
Drawn from. Life. By Charles Dickens. New York: E.J. Hale & Son.
The Conquest of Europe: A Poem of the Future. By Confucius.
Cartoons. By Margaret J. Preston. Boston: Roberts Brothers.