GERALD MASSEY, THE CHARTIST
the Rev. D. Curry, D.D.
LIKE all the other productions of genius, and like genius itself, poetry is exceedingly capricious both as to the times and the conditions of its growth. Sometimes it seems to linger only along the borders of a nascent civilization; at another time it soars boldly upward in the noontide radiance of an Augustan
age; and again it gives forth its
mellow cadences among the fading beauties of an effete and decaying refinement. In their personal
favouritisms, also, the Muses are equally capricious. That they often bestow their
favours most bountifully where For tune has been most parsimonious, is true to a proverb; and yet it is certain that the genuine poetic inspiration has occasionally manifested it self where the hard hand of adversity has never prepared its way. But though the Muses do sometimes sing in the bowers of pleasure and recline on the lap of luxury, it is nevertheless quite evident that ease and excessive refinement are unfriendly to the growth and exercise of the true poetic spirit.
The love of poetry is among the universal susceptibilities of our
naturethe want of it indicates either the absence of culture or an
abnormal condition of the mind. So likewise most persons have at some period of their history offered an oblation at the shrine of the
Muses, in the form of an attempt at poetizing. A large portion of our race only breathe out their
offerings in words that perish with the uttering; and the productions of another portion are written like lines upon the sands, to be swept away
by the passing breeze. But a persistent effort to achieve a poet's renown implies, as an essential condition, that he who makes it shall have
less taste than genius. It is no matter how small a share of genius he may possess, if it
be relatively greater than his taste, he will most probably set himself up for a poet, and unlearn
his mistake only by the public verdict against him. Doubtless a too severe critical judgment a taste that could not tolerate
mediocrityhas often stifled in its birth what might have grown
to be exquisite fruits of true genius.
Much has been said and written about the injustice of critics and the severity of
but what would literature be without them? True criticism is both a liberal and a useful art. It is liberal and refined, for only cultivated minds can exercise it, and such will always appreciate
true merit. But it is especially useful since its province is to detect and
destroyor, rather, doom to destructionthe prolific broods that
false tastes and uncultivated or feeble geniuses send out upon the world of letters. It is the
winnowing fan that separates the wheat from the chaff-the mercury which gathers up the
grains of pure gold found in the mass of base materials, but rejects all else.
We ran off into the above train of reflections and remarks upon sitting down to write a notice
and critique of a volume of poems of recent date, which we deemed worthy of a passing word. "There is a new poet," exclaimed a friend of ours, whose lively appreciation of true excellence
is only equalled by the heartiness of his disgust against inanity and false taste, as we entered
his office, and sat down among his books and papers. Had he said a new planet or a new law
of physics, the announcement might have been passed over without attention; but a new poet
is, indeed, a rare bird, and must be attended to. Our friend then produced a paper-covered octodecimo volume, from which he
proceeded, to recite some specimens of verses that evidently contained sparks of the true poetic fire, and forcibly
suggested thoughts of Shakespeare and Burns.
That volume was an English copy-it had not yet been published in this
countryof "Poems and Ballads, by GERALD
MASSEY." A few months later it was republished by J. C. Derby, of New
York, "with several new poems never before published." From a copy of this issue we derive
most that we are now about to write about both the author and the book. In its American dress
the plain little volume has become a very respectable book, having grown in size to a fair
duodecimo, of fine paper, with clear typography and broad margins, and clothed in a neat muslin
covering. But the reader will, perhaps, desire to know something more of this new son of
song, as well as of his productions-a desire that we will proceed to gratify.
GERALD MASSEY is the son of a canal-boatman
of Herts, England; born in May, 1828, and is, therefore, now twenty-seven years old. The place
of his nativity was a stone hut, in the hamlet of Tring, and rented at a shilling a
roof of whichit had no ceilingwas so low
that a man could not stand erect in it. Like most of his countrymen of the same social condition, the elder Massey was without education,
being unable to write his name. The son enjoyed but little better opportunities than had been
afforded to his fatherthough a penny school in
the neighbourhood afforded the least possible advantages to those who could indulge their children
in so great luxury as the knowledge of letters. But this could be enjoyed only so long as the
child was yet too young to be capable of being put to service. At eight years old young Massey
went to the silk mill, where he worked his twelve hours daily-seeing the sun or the green earth
only by stealthy glances through the factory windows, and breathing the oily vapours
and con fined air of his prison, while his ears were perpetually stunned with the din of machinery; and
in return received a shilling per week. The burning of the factory-over which he rejoiced
like some time-worn prisoner at the destruction of the Bastilleonly transferred him to another
form of labourstraw-platting
equally toilsome, and even more unwholesome. For three years he suffered
beyond account from alternate chills and fevers, which at length settled into
the form of a tertian ague. With his own bold hand this nursling of misery
has sketched the state of things in which he spent his early days child hood it
may not be termed-and pointed, out their fearful moral tendencies:
"Ever since I can remember," he writes of himself, "I have had the aching fear of want
throbbing heart and brow. The currents of my life were early poisoned, and few, methinks,
would have passed unscathed through the scenes and circumstances in which I have
if they were as curious and precocious as I was. The child comes into the world like a new coin
with the stamp of God upon it; and in like manner as Jews sweat down sovereigns, by hustling them in a bag to get gold dust out of them,
so is the poor man's child hustled and sweated down in this bag of society to get wealth out
of it; and even as the impress of the Queen is effaced by the Jewish process, so
is the image of God worn from the heart and brow, and, day by day, the child
recedes devil-ward. I look back now with wonder, not that so few escape,
but that any escape at all, to win a nobler growth for their humanity. So
blighting are the influences which surround thousands in early life, to which I
can bear such bitter testimony."
But bad as was this state of things, its difficulties were braved and partially overcome chiefly
by the aid of the unconquerable spirit of his MOTHER. She saw to it, that while her children
were yet too young to begin the drudgery of infantile labour, they should enjoy the slender advantages of the penny school till they learned to
read their mother-tongue. This constituted the whole of Gerald Massey's school-training; and this
sufficed to open to him the gates of knowledge, into which he felt an irrepressible desire to enter. The BIBLE and BUNYANwhat
better could have been chosen?were at first his whole library:
with the contents of the first he stored his tenacious memory, while the other was devoured as
a veritable and most wonderful history. Then came Robinson Crusoe, the counterpart of the
latter; while some Wesleyan tracts served to give point and energy to the lessons of the
At fifteen years old he left his native hamlet, and came up to London, that great receptacle
and consumer of all that the country produces men not
exceptedto serve as an errand-boy. Here a new world burst upon his astonished
vision, and new facilities for the acquisition of knowledge were multiplied upon his hands. Books were now readily obtained and greedily devoured by him; and he confessed that while
in the fruition of his newly attained pleasures he first conceived the notion that life might
become a scene of real pleasurable enjoyment hitherto it had been only a struggle with want
But this happy state of affairs was of but short continuance. If it is true generally that "man
is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward," that truth is greatly intensified when applied
to the race of verse-mongers, among whom, how ever, young Massey had not yet aspired to a
place. Probably he was from the beginning of a poetic temperament. He says of himself, "I
always loved the birds and flowers, the woods and the stars; I felt delight in being alone in a
summer-wood, with song, like a spirit in the trees, and the golden sunbursts glinting through
the verdurous roof; and was conscious of a mysterious creeping of the blood, and tingling of
the nerves, when standing alone in the starry midnight, as in God's own presence-chamber."
This, indeed, has something of the sound of the material of which poetry is made; but in this
case it was not yet "married to immortal verse." The "poet-born" had not yet learned the language of his
species; but an occasion soon occurred that opened his mouth, and gave utterance to the spirit that stirred within him.
The Muses are not the only divinities whose attentions are devoted to the children of poverty
no less than to the silken sons of luxury. Especially does the winged archer-boy delight to try
his powers upon the susceptible hearts of coarsely clad youth and of uncomely and toiling maidens. What youthful heart was ever so toil-pressed and poverty stricken as to escape the soft intrusion
of the tender passion? Had such a thing been possible, one would have said that the subject
of the sketch given above must have been reduced below the point of amorous
and yet, strange to say, the boy Gerald Massey fell in love. With the awakening
of the tender passion in him came also a disposition to rhyming, and verse-making became almost his mania. Association often operates by contrasts, and accordingly the first lispings of the newly awakened
spirit in this foster-child of despair was devoted to hope. That there was crudeness both of thought
and language in his first utterings may be presumedhow
could it be otherwise?yet they found their way to the public through the columns of a country
newspaper, and at length in a collected form, in a shilling volume, issued and circulated in his native town. These were his. earliest
exercisesuseful, indeed, yet not by their intrinsic worth, but like the school-boy's copy book on which his hand is disciplined to more
excellent performances. The influence of the impression then made is plainly traceable in his
more matured productions, many of which are of an amative character.
But other influences were also at work giving shape and direction to his mind and thoughts. The petty tyrannies to which he was constantly a victim awakened in him a spirit of resistance,
which at length became the settled habit of his mind. Among the books which fell accidentally
in his way, and were devoured without discrimination, were the political writings of Paine, Volney,
and Louis Blanc; and, as a natural consequence, his mind became soured on account of his hard fate,
and his wrath awakened against the existing state of society as the cause of the evils he suffered. This drift of his mind gave a new character to his poetical effusions, and Massey became the
poet of the low and discontented poor, ranking in the very same class with Tom Hood and Barry
Cornwall. Before he had arrived at man's estate he had become deeply involved in political discussions. "Full of new thoughts," continues the sketch from which we derive most of the facts we are
stating, "and bursting with aspirations of freedom, he started, in April, 1849, a cheap journal,
written entirely by working men, entitled, 'The Spirit of Freedom;' it was full of fiery earnestness, and half of its contents were written by
himself. It cost him five situations during the period of eleven monthstwice because he was
detected burning candles far on into the night, and three times because of the tone of the opinions to which he gave utterance. The French
Revolution of 1848 having, among its other issues, kindled the zeal of the workingmen of
this country [England] in the cause of association, Gerald Massey eagerly joined
them; and he has been recently instrumental in giving some impetus to that
praiseworthy movement, the object of which is to permanently elevate the
condition of the producing classes, by advancing them to the status of
capitalists as well as labourers."
It is evident from some of his poems, though neither himself in his preface, nor the writer of
the prefixed sketch, say nothing on the subject, that this early love affair resulted in marriage. This perhaps somewhat softened the asperities of his spirit, though it could not fail to increase
the burdens of poverty and care. The scenes and events of wedded life are interwoven into
his poetry and form the material of some of his best pieces. There are also indications in some
of the later ones that his genius has wrought for him a better fortune than that to which he was
born. It is to be hoped that he may escape from the misery he so forcibly describes and deprecates, and that the change of his condition may
also exert a beneficial influence upon his character. Too often the advantages gained to
the penniless foster-child of the Muses by the efforts of his genius have served only to spoil the
promise of poetical excellence without any compensating, improvement of the man. We wait,
not without interest, to see whether Gerald Massey will add another to the sad catalogue, or
prove one honourable and honoured exception to general rule in such cases.
Having in this paper confined our remarks to our subject as a man, we propose in another to
examine his poetry, and to attempt some estimate of his character and genius; and so will
bid the reader a good-by till next month.
GERALD MASSEY'S POEMS.
Second paper by the
Rev. D. Curry, D.D.
IN a former paper we gave some account of
Gerald Massey, the new Chartist poet of Eng land. We now proceed to fulfil the promise
then made, to devote a second essay to a sketch and estimate of his productions. The poet and
the man can not be entirely distinguished, and it is but rational to expect that the every-day life
of the writer, especially of one who utters sentiments rather than opinions, will give character to
what he writes. Let it, then, be remembered that the author of the pieces now to be examined is a young man, whose earliest and succeeding recollections are almost wholly of the
dread of want, and of earnest, toilsome efforts to subsist, while his own soul was too lofty to be
entirely subdued by the things which he suffered; and so his life has been a ceaseless struggle
against his seeming destiny, and the tones of his utterances will be expected to be otherwise than
in gentle whispers and soft poetic breathings. The language of poetry is always natural, and
when Nature suffers her voice is necessarily complaining.
The condition of the lowest stratum of English society is at once the most uncomfortable and
the most hopeless. Doomed to incessant labour, the English operative has no opportunity to engage in the pleasures of the rude savage, nor the
ability to appropriate the peculiar blessings of civilization. With wants stimulated by a constant contact with luxury he has no means of
gratifying them; and though he passes his days in full view of a better state of being, he perpetually recognizes a great and impassable gulf fixed
between himself and that better state. That his thoughts should turn to the causes of his unhappiness, is as natural as that he should think at
all, and unhappily he finds these in the social system in which he liveshe discovers that the
occasions of his unhappiness are the very things which the generous soul delights to
valuethe civil and religious institutions of his country. Patriotism and zeal for the Church, as organized and maintained among us, is among the most
congenial sentiments of the human heart; but when the Church and state become leagued with
the oppressor, these sentiments assume the forms of rebellion and breathe out the language of
seeming impiety. These things are forcibly illustrated in the volume now under notice.
In his poetry Gerald Massey deals freely in
the fierce invective so characteristic of his class. Everywhere one may find traces of this bitter ness of spirit against both civil and religious oppression, and against the very names of kings and
priests, nobles and the gentry, and the rich, simply because they are what he and his class vainly de sire to become. He is an enemy of the present
state of things, and, therefore, fraternizes with radical reformers; and without renouncing the
name of a Christian, his creed is much more nearly allied to what is sometimes called "the
religion of humanity" than to the plain truths of revelation"the
faith once delivered to the saints."
His amorous pieces, of which he has many, are
not very different from most of their class. Sometimes his notes sound truly Anacreontic, reminding the reader of Burns's best productions, without his offensive lewdness of expressions and
allusions. Yet there is often a want of delicacy which sounds unpleasantly to American ears.
The usages of English society as to the use of
physiological terms differ widely from those of this country, so that what would elicit no notice
from them would not be tolerated with us. Perhaps the difference might be best adjusted by an
equal compromise. Most certainly the coarseness of the one might be improved by a large increase
of delicacy of thought and expression; and it is scarcely less evident that the exceeding fastidiousness that prevails among us might be profitably left to the sole use of boarding school misses. It is but just to add, that there is sufficient evidence that Massey never designs to utter any
indelicacyno such thing as an indecent innuendo
or double entendre ever pollutes his verses.
That man must be deeply depraved in character who can sustain the relation of a husband
and father and not be made better by them. Certainly our poet was not such a man. His
best pieces are those that relate directly to his domestic relations, with their exquisite and ennobling joys and sorrows. These are, we suspect
also, his latest productions, and, therefore, they may be received as happy indications that his
changed circumstances are producing beneficial results upon his character. But it is time to introduce the poet himself, and permit him to plead
his own cause by presenting some account of his best pieces.
We will begin with the "Ballad of Babe Christabel," the longest, and, perhaps, all things considered, the best piece in the volume. We are
not informed who Babe Christabel was, though the internal evidence seems conclusive that she
was the poet's own child. The "Ballad" is the story of her birth, life, and death, related with a
good share of poetic fervour, and mingled with beautiful sentiments and imagery. It extends to
more than three hundred lines, covering sixteen pages of the volume, and informally distributed
into eight parts or sections. The stanza in which all but one is written is peculiar consisting of
four iambic lines, of four feet each, of which the extremes and means severally rhyme
together. The effect of this strange combination of sounds is in very pleasing harmony with the vein of
thought breathed through the entire poem. The first section of ten stanzas contains a single, though
complex and varied image, that of the face of nature at the time of the birth of "Babe Christabel,"
and after, in each of the first nine stanzas, giving some images of that
beautiful season, the great event is announced in the tenth:
"It fell upon a merry May morn,
In the perfect prime of that sweet time,
When daisies whiten, woodbines climb
The dear Babe Christabel was born."
The second describes
the cottage scene on the memorable occasion just announced, and is at once
exquisite in some of its thoughts, while others are marred and almost spoiled by
the evident lack of aesthetic culture in the writer. We give one fine
"The birds were darkling in the nest,
Or bosomed in voluptuous trees;
On beds of flowers the panting breeze
Had kissed its fill and sunk to rest."
A third section of ten stanzas celebrates the royal honours that waited on
the new-born heroine of the "Ballad;" how Nature had arrayed herself in her loveliest robes for
the occasion; how the morning zephyrs kissed the little favourite, and the glancing sunlight
sent gladsome salutations, and the blushing roses peeped into the cottage windows to bid good
The course of thought in the next section takes another direction, and the
workings of the hearts of the new-made parents, in their changed circumstances
and intensified interests, are happily noted:
"The father, down in toil's mirk mine,
Turns to his wealthy world above,
Its radiance and its home of love;
And lights his life like sun-struck wine.
The mother moves with queenlier tread:
Proud swell the globes of ripe delight
Above her heart, so warm and white,
A pillow for the baby head.
A sense of glory all things took
The red rose-heart of dawn would blow,
And sundown's sumptuous pictures show
Babe-cherubs wearing their babe's look.
And round their peerless one they clung,
Like bees about a flower's wine-cup,
New thoughts and feelings blossomed up,
And hearts for very fullness sung."
The account of the child as she grew into intelligent childhood, at once frail and precocious,
is just such a one as thousands of bereaved parents have conceived, if not uttered, respecting
their own departed ones, of whom every association is intensely interesting, and whose brief and
mysterious stay on earth seems like the visits of angels.
"A spirit-look was on her face,
That shadowed a miraculous range
Of meaning, ever rich and strange,
Or lightened glory in the place.
Such mystic lore was in her eyes,
And light of other worlds than ours,
She looked as she had fed on flowers,
And drank the dews of Paradise.
O she was one of those who come
With pledged promise not to stay
Long, ere the angels let them stray
To nestle down in earthly home.
And through the windows of her eyes,
We often saw her saintly soul,
Serene, and sad, and beautiful,
Go sorrowing for lost Paradise."
Of the death scene, which is
sketched with great beauty and tenderness, we can only give a single picture:
"We sat and watched by life's dark stream,
Our love-lamp blown about the night,
With hearts that lived, as lived its light,
And died, as did its precious gleam."
But we find we are dwelling too long among these sadly-pleasing scenes, made more so, perhaps, by certain facts of personal experience. Probably, however, the number of bereaved ones
who may read this paper will not be so small as
to be passed by as unworthy of this indulgence.
The spirit of calm and pious submission distinguishes the
closing section of the "Ballad." With a few brief stanzas we dismiss this
subject. The first expresses the parent's feeling in resigning his loved
one to God who gave and had now taken away:
"With our best branch in tenderest leaf,
We've strewn the way our Lord doth come;
And ready for the harvest home,
His reapers bind our ripest sheaf."
There is a delicacy and most exquisite natural ness in the idea presented in the annexed stanzas,
descriptive of the yearnings of paternal love,
seeking for and treasuring up some memorials of
the departed. We have met with the same
thought in other places, both written and unwritten; but the genuine language of
sentiment never becomes trite:
"Her wave of life hath backward rolled
To the great ocean, on whose shore
We wander up and down, to store
Some treasures of the times of old;
And aye we seek and hunger on
For precious pearls and relics rare,
Strewn on the sands for us to wear
At heart, for love of her that's gone."
A few other pieces of less extent and inferior merit seem to be devoted to the same interesting
event with the foregoing. Of these is the one entitled, "Not Lost, but
Gone Before," of which the subject is sufficiently indicated by the title. "Little Lily Bell" is a kindred piece, in which
the infantile heroine of the song is contemplated
as still "filling all the heaven" of her parents,
who, nevertheless, admonished by foregone experience, rejoice, with trembling in their uncertain
"We tremble, lest the angel Death,
Who comes to gather flowers
For paradise, at her sweet breath,
Should fall in love with ours."
We have dwelt the longer upon these few
pieces, attracted less perhaps by their intrinsic
superiority than by their tone and the themes to
which they are devoted. We now hasten to
other matters. The amorous pieces we shall pass
over in entire silence, since they contain nothing
peculiarly worthy of remark, and the genus is
too prolific to be especially interesting. A large
portion of our author's poems embody more or
less fully his political and religious opinions and
sentiments. With him these were united and
together formed a single though complex theme
of soul-stirring interest. As a member of the labouring class of England's "free-born sons," he
saw himself, in common with his compeers, effectually enslaved by his social position, and almost hopelessly shut up to his destiny by the
iron bands of society; that is, by the state and
It is surely a venial crime-if a crime at all for such a man to be a reformer; and since the
evils against which his soul cries out in its bitterness are radicated in the institutions of the land,
he, of necessity, becomes a radical reformer. Nor
is it strange that in such a case the language of
complaint should be marked with asperity, or
that his censures should be too indiscriminate
and occasionally unjust, since oppression makes
even the wise man mad. It is often the ill-fortune of the Church to be, in appearance or in
fact, leagued with organic tyranny in the state;
and wherever this is the case, it is but reasonable
to expect that the aspirations of the soul toward
freedom will superinduce a virulence toward the
established forms of religion, which too often, by
an easy process, glides into a dislike of religion
itself. This has made the common people of
France and Germany infidels. It has effected
the, same thing among a large portion of the
British operatives, and is fostering a like spirit
among us, because the Church fails properly to
denounce the legalized oppression which exists
in an otherwise free republic.
Gerald Massey, however, is not an infidel, but
only an asserter of the godhead, even in down trodden and toil-cursed humanity. Nor is the
bitterness of complaint the only nor the chief
feature of his productions. All of his clouds
have silver linings, and from the darkest glooms
he often sees the brightest beamings of hope. He even finds a virtue in
the present evils suffered by himself and his class, and contemplates labour,
protracted and soul-crushing toil, as the agency by which they must achieve a
better destiny for themselves and their children. Theirs is, in his notion
of the matter, the martyr age, and to them is assigned the martyr's mission, to
suffer on in hope. This idea is perpetually recurring in his most spirited
pieces, and forms a kind of staple in his soul-stirring appeals to his
associates in labour and oppression. We will give a few specimens, taken
almost at random. The first is from a piece entitled, "To-day and
"Though hearts brood o'er the past, our eyes
With smiling futures glisten;
For lo. our day bursts up the skies:
Lean out your souls and listen.
The world rolls Freedom's radiant way,
And ripens with her sorrow;
Keep heart. who bears the cross to-day,
Shall wear the crown to-morrow."
In the following we have this notion presented, and the causal relation of
present suffering to future good directly stated:
"Life's glory, like the bow of heaven,
Still springeth from the cloud;
And soul ne'er soared the starry seven,
But Pain's fire-chariot rode.
They've battled best who've boldliest borne,
The kingliest kings are crowned with thorns."
The case of the Rev. Mr. Maurice, who was dismissed from a theological professorship for
heresy, would seem to be one that could awaken but little interest in the breast of a Chartist poet;
but Maurice was made to feel the hand of authority, and hence the fellowship of feeling. He
had also transgressed the authority of the Church
in his teachings, and, therefore, the untheological enemy of that Church offers
"aid and comfort" to the ejected heretic, though ignorant alike of the heresy
uttered and the orthodoxy violated. So this apparently quite foreign event
is strangely enough made the occasion of one of the poet's finest productions.
We give a single expression, yet one so full of fruitful truth that it deserves
to be set in letters of gold:
"All Savior-souls have sacrificed,
With naught but noble faith for guerdon;
And ere the world hath crowned the Christ,
The man to death hath borne the burden."
The "Welcome to Kossuth" is a spirited piece, and full of the writer's great
idea. Even now many hearts will sympathize with the feelings in which he
speaks of that exiled patriot:
"He rose like freedom's morning star,
When all was darkling, dim
We saw his glory from afar,
And fought in soul for him.
Brave Victor. how his radiant brow
King'd Freedom's host like Saul.
And in his crown of sorrow now
He's royalest heart of all."
The piece entitled "Eighteen Hundred and Forty-Eight," of eleven Spenserian stanzas, is
among the most stirring and powerful of its author's political war-blastsfull
of the spirit that distinguished that memorable year. We give one stanza,
containing a well-sustained image:
"Immortal Liberty. we see thee stand
Like Morn just stepped from heaven upon a mountain
With beautiful feet, and blessing-laden hand,
And heart that welleth Love's most living fountain.
O when wilt thou string on the People's lyre
Joy's broken chord? And on the people's brow
Set Empire's crown? Light up thy beacon fire
Within their hearts, with an undying glow,
Nor give us blood for milk, as men are drunk with now."
"The People's Advent" is in the same vein, but more hopeful, and, therefore, less bitter than
the precedingthough still its hope shines out
of darkness. The piece opens with,
"'Tis coming up the steep of Time,
And this old world is growing brighter.
We may not see its dawn sublime,
Yet high hopes make the heart throb lighter.
We may be sleeping in the grounds
When it awakes the world in wonder;
But we have felt it gathering round,
And heard its voice of living thunder,
''Tis coming; yes, 'tis coming.'"
Several other pieces, which we had marked as specially noteworthy, must be passed over entirely or noticed very briefly. Of these "The
Chivalry of Labour" is a highly spirited production, not unworthy to be classed with Burns's
"Bruce's Address." "When I come Home," is an additional memento of the writer's domestic
affections. "Onward and Sunward" is a collection of beautiful images, and the whole poem is
full of the author's favourite notion, that every thing is good except what man makes bad. "The
Three Voices" is among the most stirring as well as the most musical pieces in the volume. These
"voices" come severally from the past, the present, and the futurethe first sounds
"Drearily, drearily, drearily,"
and calls to the listeners, "Weep. weep. weep."
for the sorrows inflicted on humanity by long
years of social oppression and degradation. The
"Tearfully, tearfully, tearfully,"
calling its listeners to "Work. work. work. "
the only privilege and the only hope of the
people. But the lastthe futureis more hopeful, calling out
"Cheerily, cheerily, cheerily,"
while the burden of its song is,
"Hope, hope, hope,"
the writer being a steadfast believer in the "good time coming." The structure of the whole piece is highly artificial, and its execution evinces no
ordinary power of versification in its author. There are but few better-written poems, considered simply as to its structure, in the language
than this one.
We must condense our intended estimate of
our author as a poet into a very few words. That he possesses some real poetical ability, we
have both intimated and proved by the specimens given. We would not, however, pretend
that any thing contained in this volume ought to
entitle its author to rank as a poet among the
contributors to our literature. The work is valuable, rather from the ability which it shows the
author to possess than for its own intrinsic merit. Its properties are positive as to both its excellences and its faults; but the
latter may be cured by
increased culture, and if the poetic spirit should
not evaporate during the process, we may yet
hope to see something from the fervid mind of
Gerald Massey which will transmit his name to
future times. Should he, on the contrary, rest
upon the early renown to which he has suddenly
attained, he will soon sink into the obscurity
from which he rose; or should the caresses of the
great and learned draw him from his devotion to
the wrongs and sufferings of his own peculiar
class-the operatives of England-his latter days
will be as inglorious as his advent has been glorious. But we hope better things for him, and
for humanity by his ministry.