[Before researching a scholarly Journal Article for my blogs, I first try to find information about the author(s) of the article in order to learn about their academic and professional background and why they came to write about this particular author, work or culture. Given the fact that I only use databases of academic sources, I normally don’t have to worry about the credibility of the publication or the author(s).
When researching Arthur Dudley for this French journal article in Revue des Deux Mondes, “Poètes et Romanciers de l’Amérique du Nord: Henry W. Longfellow”(1854), however, I could not find any background information. I then looked in the publication Initials and Pseudonyms: A Dictionary of Literary Disguises and behold, there HE was—or I should say SHE was. Arthur Dudley is the pseudonym which Mme. Marie Pauline Rose (Stewart) used in publications. Mme Rose began publishing critical articles and novels under the name of Arthur Dudley at 18 years old. She also wrote under the pseudonym “Maurice Flassan”. For the purposes of this blog, I will honor her nom de plume, Arthur Dudley, however, I will use the feminine pronouns! My next frenchquest is to find out more about this fascinating author!!]
In the French article “Poètes et Romanciers de l’Amérique du Nord: Henry W. Longfellow”(1854), Arthur Dudley provides research into what makes Longfellow a superior American writer. In her study, she places a point of view in showing “ the faculties which mark this author a special place in the whole of the intellectual movement of our century”. Dudley avers that many poets get into the habit of addressing verses with sonority which deceives the reader’s ear with thoughts of prose; but this cannot be the claim from any of Longfellow’s poems. The inspiration of Longfellow’s work encompasses his intellectual gifts which are rare in the world, and especially in France. (My translation, 645).
In his essay, Dudley compares Longfellow to poets on both sides of the Atlantic-the Anglo-Saxon movement–including British and German poets, Goethe in particular. She applauds the tendencies of Longfellow, a truly superior man whom, she believes, is a hero of “reflective literature” (646). The beautiful, the sublime, the marvelous are everywhere, according to Dudley, and the meaning which serves more specially is not condemned to be confined to essays or courses in literature.
Both Goethe and Longfellow wrote poetry in the theme of God and Nature (see posts)
Dudley points out that as Europeans writers tend to invoke nature as a comforter, a refuge in fatigue or in pain. Work is the supreme law of the transatlantic thinker. In America, however, where independence is more pronounced, nature is known and loved but does not comfort in times of trouble. Dudley gives an example in that while the German poet Goethe “does not bring any wound to nature to heal, but loves her strongly and happily”, the American poet Longfellow uses nature as “a subordinate, as sources of inspiration, where the future and the past to the present”.
Dudley cites The Psalm of Life as an example. In this poem, the poetry of the present gives a strange meaning to our ears, states Dudley, and we do not conceive what the “delicate divinity” can do in such a harsh mixture. We strive to exile the “world’s broad field of battle” into the eternal azure (Psalm). The author of The Psalm appreciates that which God has given him and draws inspiration from the intensity that he puts into everything- the expression he finds will be equal to the impression that he has recured.
In March of this year, 2020, at the beginning of a world pandemic, I wrote a blog about the poem The Psalm which greatly inspired me: “Let us, then be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing/Learn to labor and to wait.” Now, in December, Longfellow’s words still inspire.[see post]
The Psalm of Life is part of Longfellow’s “Voices of the Night” which was inspired by German poets. I recently wrote a blog on a second poem from this series, “The Light of Stars”, as I saw a direct correlation with Longfellow’s inspiration by the first watch of night and the upcoming conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn “The Christmas Star” on December 21st.
One of my followers, Love and Lead, commented on this blog of a major theme that had escaped me: stoicism in the face of darkness. The author of Love and Lead stated that Longfellow “seemed to be shaking his fist at creation, determined to stand his ground in the face of injustice, wrong and harm”. This was a good observation and one that carries into Longfellow’s other poems in Voices: Hymn to the Night, The Reaper and the Flowers, The Beleaguered City (Prague), Midnight Mass for the Dying Yea, and L’Envoi. Thank you, Love and Lead.
I will close with a French translation of Longfellow’s A Psalm of Life as a tribute to the French writer, Arthur Dudley, appreciation for her insight of Longfellow from across the Atlantic!
Le Psaume de la vie by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Non, ne me dites point de votre voix dolente
Que la vie est un songe vain.
Car l’âme qui sommeille est morte
Et les choses ne sont pas, ce qu’elles semblent être.
La vie est tangible ! La vie est sérieuse!
Et la dirige n’est pas ses efforts
La terre, tu devras retourner en terre.
N’a pas été parlé de l’âme.
Pas de plaisir, et pas de chagrin,
Non, tel n’est point notre destin,
Mais la vive action, pour chaque jour
Trouvez-nous plus loin qu’aujourd’hui.
L’œuvre de l’homme est lente, et le temps fuit si vite !
Et nos cœurs, quoique solide et courageux,
Pourtant, comme des tambours étouffés, sonne
La marche du cercueil.
Alerte ! Dans le vaste champ de bataille du monde,
Au bivouac de La Vie,
Ne soyez pas obstiné !
Plutôt, soyez un héros dans le conflit!
De ton vague avenir, laisse au loin le mirage!
Laissez le passé mort enterrer ses morts!
Agissez, – agissez dans Le Présent vivant!
Cœur à l’intérieur, et espoir en Dieu!
L’histoire de grands hommes nous rappelle tous
Nous pouvons rendre nos vies sublimes,
Et, en partant, laisse-nous derrière
Empreintes de pas sur les sables du temps;
Des empreintes, peut-être, d’une autre âme
Naviguer sur le solennel de la vie,
Un frère, désespéré et naufragé,
Se sentira revivre en ses heures amères.
Soyons donc prêts à agir,
Avec un cœur pour tout destin;
Réalisant toujours, poursuivant toujours,
Aimer, travailler et à attendre
Copyright 2020 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com).
Dudley, Arthur. “Poetes et romanciers de l’amerique du nord: Henry W. Longfellow.-tendances de la poesie americaine”. Revue des Deux Mondes (1829-1971), 8, 4.