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No. 1862, July 4th, '63

(1.) The Guardian Angel.
By Joseph Verey. (Clarke.)


'The Guardian Angel' is a dramatic poem, after the manner of the spasmodists, but in the very mildest form of that latter-day poetic eruption.  It is not so much spasmodic in expression as in its shadowy talk about invisible characters, who are pretty sure to be either epic poets or desperate criminals.  There is no lack of pleasant lines, yet they make no more lasting impression than the breeze that ripples over the water.  The author has no dramatic faculty; but if he would seize some real facts of life with a good grip of earnestness, we think he might so tell a story in verse as to win a hearing for it.  We pass that verdict after reading

THE VAGRANT AT THE CHURCH-DOOR.

For years he had not seen his native place—
For years he had not spoken to a friend—
For years he had not stood within a church;
And now he linger 'd in the dusky porch,
And watch'd the congregation, one by one,
Cheerfully enter, and devoutly bend
In silent adoration.   Many a face,
Familiar long ago, glanced toward his own—
Perhaps with wonder: for they knew him not.
And he was sadly changed, since in this spot
His happy boyhood swiftly pass'd away.

Strange fascination! Now he needs must stay;
For, in the echoes of the choir, he hears
A melody familiar to long past years
And sweet associations.  Soon his tears
Tell how the vagrant's spirit has been moved.
All that he dreamt, all that he ever loved,
All that Youth's prophecy said "might have been;"
All the grim shadows of the wasted past,
In dim procession moved before him now.

The vagrant pass'd his fingers o'er his brow,
And seemed bewilder d—crazed—until at last
The dawning of a hopeful smile was seen
Upon his face.   The music of the psalm
Died out in whispering echoes; and the voice,
In earnest accents, of the village priest,
Was heard in prayer.   Once more the vagrant glanced
Within the Church, and then he entered in.
Beneath a column's shadow sat entranced
The poor world-weary man.   A holy calm
Encompass'd him, and made his heart rejoice—
The past dissolved as though it had not been.

The service ends. The rolling organ ceased.
The verger came to where the vagrant sat
Mute as a statue.   "Come, my man," said he,
"The church is closing; take your stick and hat,
And let me shut the doors."   Then wonderingly
The verger look'd again, and muttered low,
"Poor soul!   I knew him thirty years ago—
I little thought he would come here to die."


(2.) Eiler and Helvig.
By Mrs. George Lenox-Conyngham. (Chapman & Hall.)


A Danish legend, which contains a capital illustration of Norse magnanimity, showing what a spring of tenderness there was in the stern rock of the rude Norse nature if it could only make its way to daylight.  But the story has not here found immortal setting.  This is only a poetic exercise, in the style of Pope or Byron, as was that of the Yankee who, when the floods swept his mill down the stream, sat down to do something in the above-named style, and wrote—

This here Mill's moved down the Water,
A mile and half furder nor it oughter.

—It must be admitted, however, that the present writer comes somewhat nearer to her model, as the following lines, containing the "tag" of the poem, will ensample:—

Such were the sterling Danish types of old;
And Denmark has not changed the ancient mould.
Still are her Daughters beautiful of face
Noble of heart.  Her sons are still a race
Of generous spirits; simple, brave and just;
In friendship loyal; faithful to all trust;
Zealous for truth; and resolute to stand
By Creed and King and Danish Fatherland.
Fair Helvig lived a life of peace and love;
Adored on Earth and favoured from Above;
Her people's Idol and her husband's pride.
Thus live—and long—Our Royal Danish Bride.



No. 1869, August 22nd '63

Oscar; and Autumnal Gleanings.
By J. H. R. Bayley. (Pitman.)


FOOLS, says Goëthe, are the worst kind of thieves; they rob us of time and temper.  But why should we permit the fool to rob us of our good temper?  Why not turn him to account in the literary theatre, as well as in the amphitheatre, and let him make a little amusement for us?  It is ever an incentive to mirth when the humour is unpremeditated.  We shall not hurt the sale of 'Oscar,' with such a formidable list of patrons as it has; and as for the author, he must be the last person in the world who will accept our opinion.  Nature is very pitiful and kind in all such cases, and generally makes up for the lack of one quality with a plenitude of others.

    The book opens on a portrait of the author.  He is, no doubt, acquainted with Addison's gossip concerning the curiosity of readers respecting the writer of a book.  Our author has considerately determined to gratify the weakness, and flatter this infirmity of human nature.  And a very striking portrait it is.  Of course, it was placed here to be looked at; let us look at it.  Any one would know those were the eyes of a poet, just as we might recognize a sailor, by the roll; nay, they positively bulge with impressiveness.  But when eyes roll, in photography the effect is anything but fine.  The book and portrait are dedicated to a Duke, and a long list of patrons, which includes Dukes, Duchesses, Bishops, Marquises, and Earls in abundance.  Talk of poetry not being patronized in England!  That is no longer a true bill:—it is a libel.  Talk of the decline, of poetry!  Why the fact is it must be in a rapid consumption if this sort of stuff sells.  Let us no longer hear of a dearth of poets, or of poetry being in a bad way.  Still, just for curiosity's sake, we should like to know how far a man like Mr. Dickens is a conscious and consenting patron of such trash.  Here are four pages of letters from patrons.  Amongst others there is one from the French Cabinet.  The Emperor, we learn, is not in the habit of buying his books in response to begging letters, but as Mr. Bayley is an "Illustrious Stranger" his Majesty waives his usual custom, and does not stand upon ceremony, but takes two copies—one for the Empress and one for himself.  "Bless thee, Bottom," how "thou art translated" —illustrious stranger!  A stranger, indeed, at home, and not illustrious.  At first we thought it might have been the name of Mr. Bright amongst the patrons that pleaded with the French Cabinet.  But, on second thought, we see it was the portrait that did it.  "Illustrious Stranger!" that is its natural foot-note of exclamation.  When Mason subscribed 5s. for Ann Yearsley, the Milkmaid and "Heaven-born" poet, he put down 4s. 6d. for the Milkmaid and 6d. for the "Heaven-born" genius.  So we have no doubt but that his Imperial Majesty subscribed 3s. for the portrait, and 1s. for the poetry.  Still, we shudder at what will be thought of the state of literature in England, should the Emperor's patronage tempt any other Frenchman to look into the book.

    Here is one letter from "James Harmer," dated eleven years back; it is thus introduced by Mr. Bayley: "This is the celebrated James Harmer of Weekly Dispatch notoriety, Lord Mayor popularity, and 'Old Bailey' eloquence"!  Mr. Scholefield, M.P., in his note, hopes for a speedy sale of the whole edition.  We have no such hope.  In this world interests will come into collision, and we speak in the interest of the public.

    Having cracked the shell we get at the kernel of the book, and here is rich food for fun.  The first poem is in "four cantos"; twice is it so stated in print.  But here are only two cantos; the author, like that clever youth who, at the India House Examination, wrote "time up" on nine unfinished papers in succession, could get no further than the second canto, at the end of which we are left, hot with excitement, and coolly told that the other two cantos will appear in the second edition.   The patrons will thus be let in for two copies by this little bit of double dealing.  Our author knows how to take advantage of that Machiavellian maxim, which tells us it is best to woo Fortune impetuously, because she is a woman and more easily won by a happy audacity.

    This poem, 'Oscar,' shows us that the writer's chief humour is for a tyrant.  He can "play Ercles rarely, or a part to tear a cat in."  His choice, in this case, is the late Emperor of Russia and his doings in Circassia.  The poem opens grandly; the writer, in Norval attitude, wishing to be inspired by the Powers!—

Thou Sun, ye Stars, Moon, Satellites, and spheres,
With all the fires of heaven that burn and shine!
I here invoke you, amid hopes and fears,
To swell with harmony this lyre of mine.
I would not ask at any other shrine,
Save what the Almighty rears Himself alone.

—What for?—

                       To be my guide
In these my wanderings for a wreath of bay,
And stir the mainspring of poetic pride
To move this "frail machine" thro' life's eventful tide.

    The whole of the verses form a singular compound of unmeaning blasphemy, bagman smartness, and "Brummagem" sublimity.  The touches intended to be humorous and Byronic are ghastly indeed.  Here is one:—

His oath I don't remember, but it closed with h—l.

This, again, is meant to be lively:—

Pardon me, reader, for this slight digression;
This Pegasus of mine's a flirting jade;
And tho' his form he carries little flesh on,
The thing would scarce prove prudent to be made
That curbed his course or ridiculed his aid.
So let him gallop, canter, walk, or trot,
Or revel in the light, or seek the shade,—
His views to me are immaterial what,
So on proceeds my story—I don't care one jot.

    What terror to the critic may be shadowed in the line we have italicized we know not, or what may be the views of a horse; but we can inform the author that he has been about as near to Pegasus as Burns's 'Poet Willie.'

    Mr. Bayley appears to be rather fond of "h—l," as he delicately puts it.  In some lines on Tombstones we find this choice morsel:—

Yo lie! as each one of you, head over head,
Out-Herods its fellow in praise of the dead.
To prove the assertion I'm well prepared,
As far as "old time" goes with what's declared:
In eternity were I, p'r'aps demons might tell
Me, what's chisell'd here truth's made a lie of in h—l.

—Perhaps the demons might.  Still, the poet's prospect in eternity, according to his own showing, is but a poor look-out.  Not but what he has a perfect right to speak for himself in such a matter; he should know best.  But we must protest against this sweeping assertion:—

All men are rogues, and instinct thrives by rapine!
A broad assertion, but a sterling fact.
The Crown lives on the Nation:— in its turn,
The sceptred head is rated by the courtier,
The courtier by the knave less scrupulous:
The public bilks the public:—and so down
On to the meanest beggar in the streets,
That craves in charity for very alms!
All men are rogues! without exception, all!
And he thrives most the more adept a villain.

    That is the positive philosophy with a vengeance.  The holder of such a creed may very fairly put forth the "Devil's Advertisement," as one of the pieces is called.  The Devil is here supposed to keep a pawn-shop, or, as the author elegantly phrases it, a "two-to-one."  This is the ghastly conclusion, meant to be witty.  The italics are not ours.—

We're not partikler to a shade
    What kind of articles we take in,
So that we do a slap-up trade,—
    For we are always wide awaken.

N.B.—We further state, no flaw
    Thro' any fault or mishap rises;
For over all the D—l's claw
    Is placed, whilst he divides the prizes.

And as we are so precious crammed,
    'T has to my friends far better deemed
That I should stow away the d—d,
    And they, of course,
THE UNREDEEMED.

    This again, is printed and italicized as an 'Epigram on my old friend John Steele':—

A sharper blade was never whet (wet),
    Or one that cut things better neither;
Yet never wanted to be set
    To cut a friend or brother either,

—That is the sort of thing which our author can do with premeditation.  This is an "Impromptu," on being asked what he thought of the world:—

The world's a rapid ball that rolls and rolls,
Pursued by millions of poor eager souls,
Which, when obtained, as anxious hounds do game,
Is looked on, left, and done with—just the same.

    Some of the statements are as wonderful as the above is silly.  We are told that Shakspeare caught the "Promethean flame" at a "Stratford shrine" while "whistling by his team o'er turf and fallow," and that Demosthenes used the pebbles to "clear and strengthen Nature's bane.”

    In conclusion, our author, with the utmost satisfaction over his italicized senselessness, tells us—

My Book's before you, with its plain contents
Fresh from the goose-quill.

—He has no misgiving with respect to that last word.

    He says if the young and inexperienced will only benefit from his writings, his "end is answered."  We have done what we could to benefit the "young and inexperienced" in the matter; but the author's end will certainly not be answered until, like Falstaff, he gets his "catastrophe tickled."  We should not have permitted Mr. Bayley to share our readers' leisure, were it not for the advantage, not to be despised by us, of seeing what kind of poetry is patronized by the French Cabinet, an English Bishop, four Dukes, a large number of Earls and Lords, and which Sir R. Peel thinks "very spirited" in execution.



No. 1878, October 24th '63

The Poems of George Minimus.


An advertisement tells us that Mr. George Minimus was a rather voluminous poet, who has left a good-sized box of MSS., and this pamphlet contains a printed sample of his verse.  Thus we suppose the writer, "S. S.," buries his dead past!  We find sufficient merit in the verses to make us wish the writer would set fire to the box, and go to work next time in downright earnest.  If he will do this, we shall not be surprised to find that a genuine phoenix comes forth from the conflagration.  This pamphlet contains 'Love's Folly,' which is pretty, but the writer must now have done with that, and wisely determine to play no more with the most fantastic shadows of things, or drop tears upon cobwebs to see how they will glisten in the light.  Above all, he must no longer affect quaintness, which is about the most fatal kind of sham in poetry.  Things which look natural enough in the early Italian poets may not bear imitation with us.  But for the length, we would have quoted 'A Dream.'  The following three imperfect Sonnets will serve to illustrate our remarks:

But thy dear beauty, of such worth reputed,
    Is like a meadow with this notice set—
"All who here trespass shall be prosecuted."
    While thy dear heart is like a padlocked gate,
Of this but one good shepherd has the key,—
    And none but little lambs may enter there,
Lovely and innocent—all purity,
    With tender mouths to nibble the green fare,
No beast of grosser sort may thereon feed;
    So that the greedy ox, who shies the fare,
So longs to graze upon such heavenly mead
    That he doth wish he were a lambkin spare.
So do I wish I were a baby boy—
If thereby I my lips might there employ.


__________________


They say that true love is unselfishness,
    But this, in true love's name, I do deny;
That true love seeks but others happiness,
    And not his own, but this is all a lie.
The miser grasps less eagerly his gold,
    The hungry wolf less hotly sues his prey,
Less greedy is the all-devouring mould,
    Less longs the chained wretch for liberty,
Than love to clasp unto his own dear breast
    The dearest living jewel ever given,
The loveliest creature, and the tenderest
    Of all the living creatures out of heaven.
Is it unselfish all this to require?
Love is well likened to a raging fire.


__________________


Dear lady, if thou wert a statue cold,
    Having no heart within, no ear to hear,
And yet as lovely in thy outward mould,
    I still should long that statue to be near;
Looking upon it—while it looked away,
    Speaking my utmost wit to stony ears,
Sighing upon its bosom all the day,
    Its two blank eyes blind to my many tears.
But, O! what tender joy, to see the stone,
    So spotless, pure, and so endurable,
Change from Its whiteness, and with blushes own
    That love, at last, had made it moveable.
To see those new-lit eyes move slowly round,
    And melt with tears of pleasant agony!
To hear those period lips breathe forth a sound
    That proved their darling earthly frailty.
A new Pygmalion would that statue see,
And, O! what a sculptor then would young Love be. 


(2) The Poetic Magazine.


If all the poets were to cease singing, poetry would still live on in the human heart; and if all other classes were to take no interest in poetry, we believe it would find a home and live on with the working classes.   The love of poetry has a base as broad amongst them as the reach is lofty when the passion culminates in a poet like Robert Bums.  They may only produce the weeds of poetry, but these weeds are flowers to them, and a genuine natural growth.  Here, for example, is a working man who writes and prints his own poetry, and edits the Poetic Magazine—being the Role English representative of what Schiller was at one time in Germany.  We fear there is not the slightest chance of his being remunerated for his labour—at least, not in a direct way; but the old feeling is strong, and will manifest itself, even though pent in a dingy printing-office in dirty Drury Lane.  The idea of a Poetic Magazine is a good one; and here it is not badly carried out, although the adverse circumstances and inadequate means must hinder its success.  The 'Essays on Old English Poets' by Mr. Matson, and those 'On Dante,' by Mr. Thornton Hunt, are likely to be the most attractive.  Amongst other contributors, we find the Bideford Postman, Capern, Mr. J. A. Langford, the Chevalier de Chatelain and David Wingate.  There is a notice of Robert Ripley, a working gardener, young and poor, who, living in the little hamlet of Escrick, Yorkshire, uncheered by a word of commendation, and having but small acquaintanceship with books, has written poetry of promise which makes us desire to hear more of him.  The editor's contributions are not the least noticeable' amongst the poetic contents.  Mr. Matson also furnishes various pleasant little lyrics.  Here is one:—

                            THE ROSEBUD.


We wandered out in the garden,
    The linnet sang fn the tree,
My love she spied a rosebud,
    And plucked and gave it to me.
I kissed the beautiful rosebud,
    Dear Love, that thou gavest to me,
And that summer-day in the garden,
    I gave my heart to thee.

Three days in a vase in my chamber,
    I cherished my flower with pride,
And watched with a sweet and boyish delight
    Its petals opening wide;
Until it had blossomed a queenly rose,
    And then my flower I took,
And carefully laid it between the leaves
    Of an old and saintly book.

Three years the maid did hold my heart
    In the casket of her own,
'Till the beautiful bud of passion had grown
    A fragrant rose full blown;
She drained its tender fragrance,
    And then, all, woe the day!
Unlocked the casket of her heart,
    And flung my flower away.

In the saintly book I was reading to-day,
    Forgetful awhile of my woes,
When I turned o'er a leaf, and there beheld
    A faded—withered rose;
It breathed of the past—of that summer-day
    In the garden where it grew;
And sorely I wept o'er my withered flower,
    And my heart-love withered too.


(3) Thoughts in Verse.


This book may be pronounced "remarkable" with the genuine Yankee nasal twang.  Most remarkable to think how any American can sit in Paris and fiddle so foolishly whilst his country is in flames.  This is one of the 'Thoughts in Verse'; and it has a whole page devoted to it:—"1846.  Never judge, a man's learning by the size of his library."  That is "prose and worse" indeed. Should the author cross the Channel, we would commend him to the notice of "Jack of Dover."  The reader of our old pamphlet literature will understand the hint.  To give Mr. Hornor's extra-hornorary book its full due, however, it has served to remind us that American versifiers have the advantage over ours in finding a rhyme for "blossom," as—

When de buckwheat am in blossom,
    And de cotton in de bole,
No more we hunt de possum,
    Nor de wild bee in de hole.



No. 1887, December 26th, 1863


Praeterita.
By William Lancaster. (Macmillan & Co.)


IF the lion could have modelled the statues instead of man, the old fable says the victory might have been reversed.  So, when the youthful lover strives to inform all the world that he has been jilted by some worthless girl, whose beauty was only the mirage of a desert nature,—her modesty only demurest hypocrisy,—her purity as the milk-white juice of certain poison flowers,—and her smile the subtlest and surest way of lying, we apt to think that if the young lady had the telling of the tale it would all appear very different.  In fact, these public renunciations and measureless maledictions make us take part at once with the weaker vessel.  However "silvern" may be the speech of the lover who proclaims his trouble and his heroic resolve to stand it no longer, we have no doubt that there may be something "golden" in the silence of the ladye-love, if we could only get at it.  Our sense, of common fair-play demands to hear the other side before we are cheated of our sympathy.   We hold that something, might be made of a reply to the sound-winded if broken-hearted lover in 'Locksley Hall,' who is one of the greatest types of this unchivalry with which the fair sex are treated by the unfair sex.  What proof is there that he did not make a fool of himself as much as ever his nice little cousin made of him?  How do we know that she loved him with any such passion as he painted to himself?  Of course she was fond of him in her cousinly Amy-able way, but this is an affection apt to be mistaken.  Then, with regard to his own feeling, we think he is condemned out of his own mouth; he tells us that "love is love for evermore!"  According to that dictum he could never have truly loved Amy,—for if he had, and loved for ever, surely he would have spared the poor girl those bitter taunts and useless ravings which sound so grandiose in verse.  And perhaps, after all, he was not the man of all the world to make the best of husbands for Amy, although he seems to have thought he was.  If he ever showed to the mother that spasmodic rashness of character which broke out afterwards in all sorts of terrible threats, absurd aspirations, and absolute intentions of marrying a black woman or any other woman, on any or without any colourable pretext whatever, we cannot wonder that the mother should have feared for her daughter's safety with such a frantic fellow.  There is some grandeur, however, in this lover's weakness as he rushes forth on the world like a wounded wild beast with the arrow quivering in its side.  We know that he is hit; we see him bleed, and some sympathy for him is forced from us.

    The author of 'Praeterita' is one of the latest and worst offenders in this line of sentimental business.  He is on tiff with some young lady, we know not wherefore, but he must needs call her ill names, and is satisfied with nothing less than a public repudiation.  He tells her in the most emphatic manner that he has "done with her."  We reply, very well, but you might have said it somewhat more delicately!

Ripe lips are not venom-free,
Gentle eyes, nor virgin zone.

What are we to infer from a "virgin zone" not being free from venom?  Does the writer mean that the young lady had a wasp-waist?  Richard Swiveller might have written the following lines:—

Love hath set our moist lips fast,
Kiss one kiss, the longest, last.
What tho' weeping-ripe, my girl,
          Smile thro' rainy eyes.

    Sir John Falstaff says, "Give me a cup of sack, to make mine eyes look red, that it may be thought I have wept; for I must speak in passion, and I will do it in King Cambyses' vein."  Our author, at page 30, flies to ale to keep up the liquid flow.   He talks of being in a "soaking mood," and of growing mellow with stiff strong beer.  "Will Waterproof's Monologue" is running in his brain.  He is neither waterproof nor beer-proof himself: a little of the latter would set him reeling; it would not have far to mount.  Still, we have less dislike to the moralizing over the clear "October" than to the poetic bullying of the young lady.

    Many of these pieces are faint Tennysonian reverberations.   The appeals to external nature are meant to be after the manner of 'In Memoriam.'  But it is of no use for a writer to call our attention continually to the aspects of external nature to prove by outer signs the force of an inner passion which he does not really feel.

    In 'A Wisp of Epic,' which might fully and fairly have been called a "will-o'-the-wisp," we find this new attitude and mode of speech,—

She shook her accents from her as she stood
With raised and lucent elbows,

—and this, which looks like a novelty in tooth-cleaning:—

                               Mute the smooth, pure lips
Tightened in restless workings on the pearl.

We find the nearest approach to sense, music and poetry in

                        AN INVOCATION.


Comfort my heart, then sweetness, and unveil
Those orient eyes that wore such tender pale
Of dawn, that old loves shut their stars and fail:

Dear, if thou holdest all my will in power,
Mould out the echo of this tremulous hour,
And make me strong, as thou art sweet in flower,

To crush the wrestling years beneath my knee,
And fight the crafty future craftily,
And rest at hours again a child with thee.

Take thy sweet time, invest my blood with warm,
I sleep on thy word-music, move this Charm,
Nor leave this careful world one sting to harm.

But if the author of 'Praeterita' does possess any genius for poetry, it is at present working so darkly and in such a mist of words that we may be excused for not being able to see it.



No. 1915, July 9th, 1864

Pictures of the Past.

We regret that Mr. Bradfield's love of "out-of-the-way places, out-of-the-way books, out-of-the-way lore of every kind," has not led to the production of an out-of-the-way good book in his "Pictures of the Past" (Longman & Co).  If he has really found anything worth communication to the world, he would probably tell it best in prose; but the affection for his historic books does not necessarily imply the power to paint the pictures or people them once more with life.



No. 1919, August 6th,1864

Voices from the Hearth: a collection of verses.
By Isidore G. Ascher. (Montreal, Lovell).


THE Canadas have not yet enriched the realms of poetry. One true poet they have within their borders,—Mr. D'Arcy M'Gee,—who should not altogether give up to politics that which was meant for poetry.  The principle of rebellion with him was fertile in fine, and stately verse, when he was in "ould Ireland," and we trust the strong feeling of his conservatism in his new home will yet inspire many a song.

    These "Voices" are from the hearth of a Canadian home.  The writer having won some local fame, wishes for an English verdict on his verses.  We have read his book, and conclude, as the Yankees say, to give one in his favour.  He will not startle the world for some time to come: he has not that to say which will arrest it on its busy way, nor the absolute power to compel it to lend an ear.  But he has something of a genuine lyrical vein; and, we think, a true song-faculty.  There is not much to criticize.  We must protest, however, against such Cockney rhymes as "charm" and "calm," "awe" and "for," which certainly will not bear transplanting.  He is also too careless in using such words as "vacuous" and "imbued"; these make us expect to find "fadeless" following them.  For the rest, the lyrics will speak for themselves better than we can speak for them; and we shall quote two or three with but little comment.  Here is a lively verse, in quoting which we desire our English compliments to be paid to Canadian Katie:—

                        KATIE.


The world may frown upon me,
    And care may make me sad;
But should I heed cold glances
    When Katie's looks are glad?

The withered, palsied leaflets,
    Tossed by the wind and sleet,
Might warm to life again, whene'er
    They fall at Katie's feet!

The trembling, winsome flowers,
    Are withered by the chill,
But Katie smiles upon them,
    And they are lovely still!

For Katie's laugh is music,
    And Katie's eyes are light;
And Katie's looks pursue me,
    To sanctify my night.

    The following 'Madrigal' has music in it—a touch of the quality which makes a song sing of itself:—

Open the window, darling,
        And welcome the breath of Spring,
For the spirit of Joy is abroad,
        And gladdens each sentient thing!
My heart is drear as the wintry earth
        Shrouded in bleakest night,
But thou canst banish its frosted cares,
        Spirit of Love and Light!

Open the window, darling;
        I hear the gush of a song,
That comes from the beautiful spring-time,
        Flitting, like Hope, along.
My heart is sad as an autumn morn,
        Before the winter's blight,
But thou canst scatter its sorrowful mists,
        Spirit of Joy and Light!

Open the window, darling,
        For nature's heart is glad;
There is no space on the jubilant earth
        For memories drear and sad;
Our God may temper, with shades of woe,
        The hours' silvery flight,
But thou canst cheer the drooping soul,
        Spirit of Hope and Light!

Open the window, darling;
        The air which roams abroad,
Life-giving, pure, and fragrant,
        Is surely a breath from God!
Love me with all thy sweetness,
        And cast forth into the night
The joyless thought within my soul,
        Vernal spirit of Light!

    The writer's muse is essentially of the household; and he cannot do better than continue to worship its gods, for there he is emphatically at home, as this pleasant little interior, seen by firelight, will witness:—

Betwixt the glimmer and the gloom,
    The twilight beameth tenderly
In dim rays o'er the dusky room,
    Like hope of immortality,
That o'er the earth-bound spirit falls,
And shineth through life's prison walls.

Our converse is of earthly things:
    Our little world of joys is pure,
And silvery laughter peals and rings,
    Like flute-sounds in an overture,
Swelling with sudden rise aloft,
Or toning to a cadence soft.

The firelight dances on the walls,
    In wavering streams of ruby light;
A human ray that gladly falls,
    Cheering the mellow hours of night,
While even hurrying Time does seem
To linger by the lambent gleam!

No shadow in our dear retreat,
    Nor heart-glooms, like the night-mists, rise;
Love speaketh from the laughter sweet,
    Love danceth in the sparkling eyes!
While in the radiance on the wall,
God's love, divine, seems over all!

The wrathful storm tramps wildly by
    The desert waste of snows abroad;
The keen winds rush with sullen cry,
    Like shrieks of horror on the road:
Within, the lustre of a light,
Like Israel's pillar-flame at night!

    The writer is fond of certain English lyrists, whose poetry he has read quite enough.  We can read them for ourselves, and do not appreciate Transatlantic echoes, which are apt to be so faint.  Let him close such books, and tell us how life goes with them over there, and give us the real setting of it after nature.  More life, and fuller, it is that we want, and that is just what the writer needs to make a poet of him.



No. 1933, November 12th,1864

(1) Eclogues and Monodramas
by William Lancaster.* (Macmillan & Co.)


The author of this book is one of those for whose especial behoof Mr. Tennyson has written the little allegory which tells us how the poet sowed his seed and reared what he fancied was a flower, but the critics called it a weed, and by the time the world in general had recognized that it was a flower of the true immortal tint, the thieves had stolen seed from it and grown flowers in its likeness, until it has become so common that many lookers-on regard the Tennysonian flower once more as only a weed.  Some of these imitations, says the poet, are very pretty; one of them, 'Tanhauver,' was proclaimed, though not by the Athenaeum, as worthy of the original, and some, he adds, are poor indeed.  These latter are very numerous; and, however pretty the imitation, the result is certain to be poor.  Once more we warn young rhymesters that they had better steal seed from anywhere and almost anything in literature than the Tennysonian flower.  They had better leave this "voluptuous garden-rose" and try a few thistles, to be found in the wild places of the past, and see if they can rear a flower of their own from the less-cultivated seed.  Twelve months' hard labour on the 'Heimskryngla' would do them a world of good, to be followed by six months' robust fare from our national ballads.  If they have any poetic thews, such a course would help to bring them out.  We are heartily sick of this continual feasting of our juveniles on dainties too rich for their stomachs, and then asking us to call their pukings poetry.  Mr. Lancaster is one of the worst offenders amongst recent verse-writers. His painful mimicry of the noble music; his "damnable iteration" of the well-known manner; his repetitions of tricks that we see through, in place of the old miracles that we did not see through; his flashy gilt instead of the fine gold, are almost sufficient to weary the reader into forswearing the original poetry altogether until he can get this lacquer-ware out of sight, and the monotonous drone of the sham music out of his ears.  If Mr. Lancaster have any of the true metal out of which poetry makes its current coin or singer's crown, he had better pour it into any other mould than the Tennysonian, until he can get a mould and make a manner of his own.  At present it is impossible to say which he possesses in his own right.  The pseudo-classical poems count for nothing; they are as the sheerest and most vacant echoes from an empty house raised by an outside voice.  The nearest approach to a personality in the writer may be found, perhaps, in such pieces as 'Country Philosophy,' ' The Sale at the Farm,' and, chiefly, 'James and Mary.'  In this latter poem there are signs of the observing eye with humorous twinkle in it.

[* A pen name of John Byrne Leicester Warren, 3rd Baron De Tabley (1835-95)]


(2) Tammas Bodkin; or, the Humours of a Scottish Tailor.
(Edinburgh, Menzies.)


We agree with the author of this book in thinking it would be a pity if the Scottish language should die out of all future literature. At least we would have many of its expressive words gathered up into English for current use. But the writer of 'Tammas Bodkin' is not calculated to extend a love of "braid Scotch" amongst the Southrons. His humours are not interesting. There is only one Scottish tailor whom the reading world is likely to care about; he came from Dalkeith, "Mansie Wauch"* by name.


(3) The Return of the Swallow; and other Poems
by Goodwin Barmby.*  (Simpkin, Marshall & Co.)


It is not pleasant, on putting forth one volume of poems and promising another, to be told that the first was not called for, and the second is not likely to be.  Yet some such verdict must be given in the present case. Years ago Mr. Barmby was one of those who chimed in with the Progress cant, then so popular in verse.  Those were his most lusty strains.  The politico-social preacher has not mellowed into the poet.  The voice has become still more husky, the feeling more misty, the thoughts more prosy. We are glad to note any exception, however, and we quote this one:—

                                      HER DAY.


Sweetly now she sleepeth; Dreams, be bright and fair!
Snowy breast, swell lightly; Breath, enrich the air!
Morning, gently wake her; Winds, your softest sigh!
Dews and vapours, vanish; Sunshine, fill the sky!

Beaming now in beauty;  Flowers, rise round her feet!
Grass, spring up all grateful;  Bless her footsteps fleet!
Golden noon, look on her;  Clouds, her presence flee!
Bluest heaven in her eye;  Sun, your rival see!

Meekly now she resteth;  Day, be still and pray!
Softening shadows, gather;  Flickering fancies, play!
Western skies in purple;  Glowing glory fade!
Evening star, beam o'er her, Twilight thro' thy shade!

Fondly now she sleepeth;  Love, be watch and ward!
Lilies are her eyelids;  Rose, whom no thorns guard!
Holy night, thus keep her;  Sleep, refresh her charms!
God, still sweeter make her, folded in my arms!

But Mr. Barmby is mistaken in thinking himself a pathetic man.  We fancy he must be naturally a very funny man,—none the less so because he may not be aware of it. He possesses a large fund of unconscious humour, and that is ever the most provocative of merriment.  He is funny with a serious face, which is just what Hood and Liston were.  And here the fun has an added charm through its being unintentional.  Take this view of Crinoline, for example:—

And blessed is he who 'mid the storm
Can see the skirts of angel form,
And, 'mid the stress of incidence,
Grasp the bright hem of Providence,
And wave, in battle with the world,
The banner woman has unfurled.

Now that, we think, is one of the funniest things we ever found in verse.  We had no previous conception, of course, that the "banner woman has unfurled" so widely, was one with the skirt of an angel.  The "stress of incidence" we may pass, because in that garment there is no such angle to lay hold of. But how on earth are we to fight the world with a Crinoline?  George Herwegh sang long ago that to "cold steel it must come at length,"—still we never thought it must came in this shape; also, blessed indeed are they to whom it has not been the hem, and vesture too, of improvidence.  Some of the descriptive epithets are apposite as Mr. Punch's "warbling duck."  Here is one of the

                      —milk-white steer,
Chewing the cud, with a reflective grace,
And mild, deep quietude in each fine face.

The eyes are fine, but can there be anything in nature more stupidly stolid than the face of a grazing cow?  The Scotchman was nearer the mark who considered there was some "fine confused feeding" in a sheep's head.  Mr. Barmby, we imagine, is the first man who his ever had the courage to celebrate a bonnet trimmed with "cherry-coloured ribbons" as charming, and we hope he may be the last.  His taste in dress is peculiar, but it is not poetic.  In a piece entitled the 'Music that shall be,' we are told that in the Millennium the "crow shall sing like the thrush."  We trust not.  Surely the most distraught, long-haired, visionary follower of Herr Wagner never contemplated so absurd a possibility in the music of the future.  Again, amongst the spoils of the sea our author singles out for notice "Valour's shoulder-blade, and Beauty's hip."  Hip, hip, hooray!

[* Possibly John Goodwyn Barmby, to whom the word "communism" is attributed.]


No. 2047, January 19th,1867

Ecce Homines; or, Life's Quest
Anon. (Adams & Francis.)


This little anonymous volume calls for no remark save that it is too good to ban, too commonplace to bless.  As usual, the longest poem is the poorest.  The most striking lines are three entitled 'Judas and the Dear Christ'.  Did the writer find his "life's quest" in the Church of Rome?

 



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