Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

Ole Bull

Europe is about to resume the jewel she has lent us for a season, and we trust the last moments of its radiance upon ourselves will be duly valued by all who are fitted to view from the true point, which we take to be that of one's own heart.

Christopher North said in the Noctes Ambrosianæ that the world could never want a subject for discussion, since, when all others were exhausted, still would remain the question “Whether or no is Pope a poet.”1 For the present a similar dispute as to the claims of Ole Bull to the honors of genius has superseded that in the old world, and been continued among ourselves. The two parties engaged in the former controversy still maintain their places in this, those who decided that Pope was not a poet being quite sure that Ole Bull is and vice versa.

The dispute is the old one between Intellect and Feeling. With the highest geniuses these are sometimes so in harmony that all kinds of minds, all states of character are satisfied, all kinds of spirits obey one magician. But, even with genius so undeniable as those of Dante and Milton, this is not the case. Many souls meet them unmoved. In the case of such geniuses as Petrarch and Spenser, it requires an unspoiled nature, unspoiled by vice or the pedantry, either of learning or practical duty, and tenderness of heart to receive the influence. The genius of Ole Bull is sweet, brilliant, romantic and tender, not grand, severe and commanding. He may fail thoroughly to satisfy the requisitions of science, he may, at times, dally with his art and do things with the light freedom of a child, rather than the grave earnestness of a man. We do not know enough to say that it is so, but it would not surprise us from what we have felt of the nature of his mind that it should be so. But we shall ask no

____________________
1
John Wilson (1785–1854), English critic and poet, often wrote as “Christopher North” for Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, in which he also contributed to a series of imaginary conversations, “Noctes Ambrosiana”; Alexander Pope (1688–1744), English poet who championed the heroic couplet.

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