Massey is the "Tring Peasant Boy", whose poetic productions have
recently appeared in our paper: and he now presents himself before his friends
in a book form, which contains a very modest and unassuming preface. He
says. . . .
(this publication) may be a profitless speculation; it may be a losing one; this
will be determined by the inhabitants of my native town. And to whom should I
make my first appeal; before whom should I make my debut; but them?
greatest number of these poems" he says, "were written without the
most distant thought of their ever being laid before the public - written after
the wearying hours of labour, in moments stolen from those devoted to rest. They
bear the stamp of juvenility. "
they do, certainly; but not so much of that "stamp" as we would have expected,
from the youth and inexperience of the writer. Nevertheless, the publication
quite premature - either the author or his friends have been too anxious to rush
into print, not that the chansons are destitute of genius, but chiefly because
Thomas Massey, when he grows up to be Mr Massey, and when he cultivates his mind
by more industry and study, will seek to make very many emendations, and will
feel dissatisfied with a good deal of these, his own verse. The "peasant
boy" who, without having the resources of a refined and polished education, at
his command, can rhyme together so much sweet measure, must in manhood have a
literary taste that will spurn and abhor juvenility.
are careful in noticing these poems, because our readers must not suppose that
we look upon the author as a mere ordinary versifier of nature. He has talent at
his command that can easily be turned to good account, if he brings it under
proper discipline, and which could secure for him fame among men. Nature is his
theme, just as it presents itself on a beautiful spring morning in the fields,
or at home in the lap of a mother's idolizing tenderness, or in the city among
the haunts of a broken-hearted people. He makes one attempt - and only one, we
are glad to see - to leave nature, and here he decidedly fails. We allude
to a few verses on the "Battle of Ferozepore". The sentiment is
coarse, and the phraseology vulgar. Take the first verse, which we suppose is a
call to the British forces:-
warriors and onwards, an onwards! your comrades lie bleeding,
welt'ring in gore on the blood bedrenched ground;
pale lips and glaz'd eyes for vengence are pleading,
thick flows the life from the ghastly red wound."
Christianity before our eyes this kind of thing is almost insufferable, although
it enters largely into the composition of the poets; and, indeed, it would have
been wonderful if the soul of our poetic "peasant boy" was not
slightly stained with the polluted scum of military vain-glory. Here is a purer
sentiment, and with such feelings the unassuming writer has his chiefest
when I see those fairy things -
children wandering hand in hand,
nestlings for a cherub's wings-
beauty buds from God's own land-
thrilling tears of rapture gush
passion's burnings wild,
in my heart a holy hush
wakes the wish to be a child."
philanthropic dreams of futurity are indulged in, but they are calm and
restrained. The strongest emotion is expressed in verses like these :-
then! sunward look! morn's breaking!
the rifted clouds among:
slumb'ring minds are waking,
Rapture bursts from heart and tongue.
still on! with swelling numbers,
puls'd hearts and spirits strong;
Minstrel! burst thy torpid slumbers,
Cheer them with thy sweetest song.
* * * *
then! ere these locks grow weary,
my cheek shall press the sod;
I see their day of glory,
it were to die, my God!"
might easily multiply extracts that would delight, coming as they do from such a
quarter; but we can only afford space to express a hope that the writer will
deem it his sacred duty to cultivate his judgement rigidly, for it would be a
shame to have it lost to mankind. Perhaps sober, earnest prose coming from him
would do more good to men than clinking verses. We believe that metrical poetry
belongs more to the age that is passing away than to that which is forthcoming.
We want strong things expressed in business-like sentences, and which will stick
fast to the mind when only once brought in contact with it. A good
argument, plainly expressed, is worth five thousand poetic exclamations, depend