The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

Category: James Gates Percival

“Spirit of May” by James Gates Percival

Spirit of May
James Gates Percival
From the United States Literary Gazette, Volume 4; May 1, 1826, pp. 109-111

Welcome, thrice welcome, Spirit of May!
Blessings be round thy airy way;
Come, with thy train of rainbow hues,
Of hovering clouds and falling dews,—
Come to our garden beds and bowers,
And cover them over with leaves and flowers.
Already the summer bird is there,
And he sings aloud to the warm, warm air;
There he carols strong and free,
And his song and his joy are all for thee.

Come, when the sparkling rivers run,
Full and bright, to the gladdening sun;
Come, when the grass and springing corn
In their newest and tenderest green are born;
When budding woods and tufted hills
Wake to the music of foaming rills,
As they rush from their fountains deep and strong,
And in calm and in sunshine roll along;
Come, when the soft and winning air
Tells us a quickening life is there.

Come to our bosoms, Spirit of May!
We would not be sad, when the earth is gay;
Wake, in the heart that is newly strung,
The love that dwells with the fair and young;
Give, to their full and speaking eyes,
Visions, that glitter like sunset skies;
Waft them with quick and favouring gales,
Filling with music their glancing sails;
Theirs be a flight o’er a summer sea,
Where nothing of cloud or storm can be.

And give us, who long have bode the storm,
To feel for a moment our spirits warm;
Let the hopes, that once were a world of light,
Look out from our sorrows serene and bright,
Like stars that come forth on the midnight air,
When the cloud has passed and the sky is fair;
Give us awhile to forget our cares,
And be light as thy own enlivening airs;
Let feelings of childhood awake like flowers,
When they open to catch the falling showers.

Come from thy palace, Spirit of May!
Where flowers ever blossom and fountains play!
Bring with thee Plenty’s brimming horn,
And the tears of evening and dews of morn;
Build thy throne in the clear, blue air,
And Earth shall be bright, and Heaven be fair,
And the winds, that rushed from the rolling cloud,
And lifted their voices and called aloud,
Shall sink to a softer and mellower tone,
Like gales from a happy island blown.

Then the sea shall glow in its darkest bed,
And life shall revisit the mountain head;
And the valley shall laugh, and the forest ring,
For Joy shall be out on his glittering wing;
And the old shall praise[*], and the young shall stare,
As they hear his voice in the sunny air;
Glad shall their hearts and their spirits be,
When they know he is sent to tell of thee,—
To tell them, the Queen of Love and May
Is now on her bright, triumphal way.

[*] Note: in Percival’s Clio, Volume III, “pause” is in place of “praise.”

“AIR,—’S Patrick’s Day” by James Gates Percival

AIR,—‘S. Patrick’s Day.
James Gates Percival
From The Life and Letters of James Gates Percival by J. H. Ward, pp. 447-448

I.
Hail to the morning, when first he ascended,
The Jewel of Erin, the Saint and the Sage,—
O, long may the rays of his glory be blended,
In harmony clear, on the poet’s page.
Long may the sainted Patrick bless us,
Long as the flowers of Erin smile.
True-hearted Irishmen ever shall follow him,—
Ever pure prayers from warm bosoms shall hallow him,—
Praises resound through each consecrate pile;
And O, may his spirit awake to redress us,
And rescue from tyrants our sacred isle.

II.
Hark to the voice, that through Connaught resounded,
Aloft from her mountain so high and so green!
It spake,—through that gem, by the bright ocean bounded,
No venomous creature again was seen.
Roses and shamrocks filled each valley,
Green waved the oak above each hill:
Health, in each eye, sparkled clear as the fountain;
Pure was each kiss, as the dew of the mountain;
Swelled every bosom with joy, to its fill,—
But O, he forgot, with his trusty shillelagh,
To crush that foul hydra, the worm of the still.

III.
Hark to the voice, that, through Erin resounding,
Awakens the spirits of freemen again!
It calls, and the hearts of old Ireland are bounding,—
As they beat, snap the steel links of slavery’s chain!
Millions there wake to pride and glory,—
Think of their sires, the strong and free!
Millions, too, warm with a patriot’s devotion,
Send their fond wishes across the wide ocean,
Erin! O beautiful Erin! to thee;
For O, thou art rescued, and ever in story,
Thy Patrick and Matthew united shall be.

“Awake, My Lyre” by James Gates Percival

Awake, My Lyre
By James Gates Percival
From The Dream of a Day, and Other Poems by James Gates Percival, pp. 168-169

AWAKE, my lyre, awake!
Breathe aloud the choral strain;
From thy heavy slumber break;
Wake to life and joy again.

Hark! how on thy trembling strings
Songs of hope and love rebound;
Brushed as by an angel’s wings,
How the vocal chords resound.

Now thy long deep sleep has flown;
Spirit burns along thy wire:
How the swelling peals roll on,
Full, instinct with living fire.

O! be silent never more;
Soar to day’s eternal blue;
Through the solemn midnight pour
Notes that fall like starry dew.

As on eagle’s pinions, take
High to heaven thy sweep again;
Light and music o’er us shake,
Like a shower of golden rain—
Awake, my lyre, awake!
Breathe aloud the choral strain.

“Lecture Extraordinary on Nosology” by James Gates Percival

Thanks to the resourceful Life and Letters of James Gates Percival by Julius H. Ward, I am able to place a new, humorous article by Percival before the public (new in that it has most likely not seen the light of day since its publication in this book). Before jumping into the satirical article, there are a few terms/names I want to go over briefly in case they seem unfamiliar to any readers.

Nosology is the classification of diseases based on their symptoms—at least, this is the concept that Percival would have been familiar with by 1833. In the case of Percival’s article, he discourses the term in a humorous, punny manner. Please note especially the chart that he provides.

Phrenology is the study of the skull. This was incredibly popular during the 1800s and was used to determine, examine, and interpret the mental faculties of asylum patients, for example. This article, provided by Encyclopædia Brittanica, beautifully describes and discusses the pseudo-science. Near the end of the article, you will find a list of the “meanings” of different areas of the skull and brain. Writers like Edgar Allan Poe were interested in this science during its heyday, and Poe was known to critique other writers by commenting on their phrenological composition, probably to their great dismay. Here, Percival sardonically exclaims that “nosology…is the true phrenology.” It may be surmised that Percival saw through the baffling and flawed pseudo-science, thus dismissing two physical and mental health practices ahead of his contemporaries.

John Neal (b. 1793—d. 1876) was a 19th century author, editor, poet, and artist, known for his turbulent, aggressive, petulant, temperamental, and eccentric personality. As a writer, he was criticized by his contemporaries for being inconsistent, tangental, and erratic in his novels. This is indicated in the footnote written by Percival at the end of this essay, likening Neal to the “accidental organ,” which is “Rubification” (which means to “make red”). He goes on to describe Neal as an “eagle,” which flies waveringly and bumps into many obstacles, unable to control its flight path. Percival does not seem to esteem Neal as either a writer or a person.

“Lecture Extraordinary on Nosology”
By James Gates Percival
Published anonymously in the Daily Herald of August 17, 1833

“LECTURE EXTRAORDINARY ON NOSOLoGY.

“Tickets not Transferable!

“Gentlemen! the nose is the most prominent feature in this bill.

‘Ο Νους κατ’ àληθες φρένες
‘The nose is the true seat of mind.’

And, therefore, gentlemen, nosology, or the science of the nose, is the true phrenology.
“He who knows his nose foreknows; for he knows that which is before him. Therefore nosology is the surest guide to conduct.
“Whatever progress an individual may make, his nose is always in advance. But society is only a congeries of individuals,—consequently its nose is always in advance, therefore its proper guide.
“The nose, rightly understood, will most assuredly work wonders in the cause of improvement; for it is always going ahead, always first in every undertaking, always soonest at the goal.
“The ancients did not neglect the nose. Look at their busts and statues! What magnification and abduction in Jove! What insinuation and elongation in the Apollo (εκηβολος)! Then nous (intellect) was surely the nose; gnosis (knowledge), noses; and Minos, my nose. Well might the great judge, when regarding this most prominent member of his judgment-seat, exclaim,—’My nose! Ecce Homo!
“Gentlemen! here is a bad nose,—a very bad nose. What intussusception, what potation, and, as a necessary consequence, alas! what rubification! But I have seen such noses, ah! yes, many such noses! Beware of them! They are bad noses,—very bad noses, I assure you!
“Gentlemen! when you choose your partners for life, look out for the nose. Beware of too great penetration and Romanotion, if you would not be henpecked by the one or butted by the other. O yes,—look out for the nose.
“Do not, I pray you, consider me by any means irreverent, if I say that nosology will prove highly favorable to the cause of religion. This is indeed an awful subject, and I would not touch it on slight grounds; but I sincerely believe that what I say is true,—nosology will prove highly favorable to the cause of religion! Does not the nose stand forth like a watchman on the walls of Zion, on the lookout for all assailants; and when our faces are directed upwards in devotion, does not the nose ascend the highest, and most especially tend heavenwards?
“Nosology, too, has a very important bearing on the great law of descent; that law, which, like the lever of Archimedes, will lift the world. Is not the nose the chief seat of all defluxions, and what are defluxions but a flowing down by the great law of descent? Who shall gainsay it?
“This system of nosology was first concocted by Dr. Schnorr; then perfected by Dr. Shnieser; and is now being retailed by your humble servant at command, Dr. Schaefer,—all from the promontory of noses; all genuine descendants of the Man with the Nose.
“But, mark me, gentlemen! nosology is being retailed free gratis. The citizens of New Haven need not therefore fear, that some eight or nine hundred dollars will thereby escape from their pockets within a few weeks. Dr. Schaefer does not shave, whatever his name would seem to indicate.
“Nosology is a manly science. It stands out in the open light. It does not conceal itself behind scratches and periwigs; nor does, like certain false teachers, mentioned by St. Paul, go about rom house to house, leading astray silly women. 
“Finally, gentlemen! you may rest assured that nosology will not quietly submit to insult. Noli me tangere! Who ever endured a tweak of the nose? It will know how to take vengeance. As Jupiter metamorphosed the inhospitable Lycians into frogs, so its contemners will suddenly find themselves βαρβαρóφωυοι!
“Gentlemen, permit me to exhibit to you a nosological table, in which all the organs are exactly localized. Such of you as are desirous of a copy will be furnished by your humble servant on the most reasonable terms; and I would advise you all to procure a copy, especially for my advantage.

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*This is a satirical sally in another vein.
“John Neal is edifying the public, in his Yankee, with his usual free-and-easy remarks on all our literary characters, and that, too, without seeming to care where or how he hits. We believe Neal has talents, but not enough to authorize him to assume such a dictatorship over authors. He has no genius, or if he has, it has run wild without curb or rein. Genius should be capable of continued and lofty enthusiasm. It should fix upon the sun, and soar to it by one long and steady flight. It should imitate the strong-eyed

img_0949

eagle. Neal may be an eagle, but he is an eagle with his eyes put out, soaring, sinking, dashing, fluttering, now up, now down, now here, now there, criss-cross, every way.

img_0950

“We will now consider this sketch on a perpendicular plane, to accommodate it to the eagle; but only reduce it to a horizontal plane, and it will suit a figure perhaps more applicable to his excellency, namely, that of an owl lost in the sunshine, driving after all the little sparrows, and all the little sparrows chirping after him; bumping against a stump, thumping against a hemlock, knocking against a rail fence, and last of all, we fear, beating his brains out against the breast of a bold eagle. To speak our mind freely, we think the Yankee, with all its boldness and cleverness, is the most egregious piece of humbug that was ever put off upon a gullible public.

“A. B. C.”

“Life: An Allegory” by James Gates Percival

Here we have a sampling of Percival’s prose work! Feel free to comment below if you have thoughts on what his allegory might be. Mum’s the word on my own analysis. I’ll just leave it here for your pleasure and contemplation.

Life: An Allegory
James Gates Percival
From the Knickerbocker, Volume 7, January, 1836, pg. 48.

IT is now morning. Still and glassy lies the lake, within its green and dew-sprent shores. Light mist hangs around, like a skiëy veil, and only reveals the uncertain outlines of woods and hills. The warm vernal air is just stirring in the valleys, but has not yet ruffled the water’s mirror. Turns the eye upward, the misty vault opens into the calm, clear heavens, over which there seems suffused a genial spirit’s breath. Far distant on the horizon flash out the gilded and reddening peaks, and from yonder crown of snow, a sudden radiance announces the risen sun. Now in the east stream the golden rays through the soft blue vapor. The breeze freshens, and comes loaded with fragrance from the woods. A faint, dark curl sweeps over the water; the mist rolls up, lifts itself above meadow and hill, and in gathered folds hangs light around the mountains. Away on the level lake, till it meets the sky, silvery gleams the sheeted wave, sprinkled with changeful stars, as the ever-rising breeze breaks it in ripples. Now the pennon, that hung loose around the mast, rises and fitfully floats. We spread the sail, and casting off from the shore, glide out with cheerful hearts on our voyage. Before us widens the lake; rock after rock receding back on either hand, and opening between, still bays, hung round with sparkling woods, or leading through green meadow vistas to blue sunny hills.

——

IT is now noon. In the middle lake speeds the bark over light glancing waves. Dark opens down the clear depth. White toss the crests of foam, and as the sail stoops to the steady wind, swift flies the parted water round the prow, and rushing pours behind the stern. The distant shores glow bright in the sun, that alone in the heaven looks unveiled with vivifying goodness over the earth. How high and broad swells the sky! The agitated lake tosses like a wide field of snowy blossoms. Sweep after sweep of the long-retiring shores; hill gleaming over hill, up to the shadowy mountains; and over these, Alpine needles, shooting pearly white into the boundless azure—all lie still and happy under the ever-smiling sun.

——

AND now it is evening. The sun is sinking behind the dark mountains, and clouds scattered far in the east, float soft in rosy light. The sun is now hidden, and strong and wide sweeps up its golden flame, like the holy blaze of a funeral pile. The breeze slackens, the waves subside in slumber, and slowly the bark steers into its sheltering bay. Long shadows stretch from hill to valley, fall like dark curtains on the lake, and a solemn, subdued serenity broods, like a protecting spirit, over the hushed and quiet earth. Only the far summits yet retain their brightness. Faint blushes stain the eternal snows, recalling the first dawning roses, like the memory of early joys in the tranquil moments of departing age. These, too, fade; but the evening star looks bright from the blue infinite, and like the herald of a better world, leads us softly to our haven.