MY LYRICAL LIFE :
Poems Old and New
BY GERALD MASSEY.
IN TWO SERIES, FIVE SHILLINGS EACH.
KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH & CO., 1 PATERNOSTER SQUARE.
Extract from a review by Walter Savage Landor.
"I propose to review the works of no ordinary poet--Gerald Massey. It
appears that his station in life is obscure, and his fortune far from
prosperous. Such, also, was the condition of Keats, to whom he bears, in
many features of his genius, a marvellous resemblance, I have not the honour
(for honour I should think it) to know him personally; therefore, if I should
err in my judgment of his merits, the cause of my blindness will not be
attributed to an over-heated partiality. Here are two stanzas of exquisite
and almost unrivalled beauty……. There are thoughts and expressions here, and in
many other places, which remind us of Shakspeare in the best of his Sonnets.
In these there is nothing comparable to the four lines here below…. I am thought
to be more addicted to the Ancients than to the Moderns—wrongfully—for I have
never, since I was able to compare, preferred the best of them to Shakspeare and
Milton; and at the present time I am trying to recollect any ode, Latin or
Greek, more graceful than one in p….. There is something Oriental in these
ideas, something of Hafiz, but chastened and controlled. In the lines on
Hood—how august an exordium! and how rich and radiant the exhibition of Hood's
"In the first thirty-seven pages there are all these passages, and many more,
perhaps of equal beauty. Here is such poetry as the generous Laureate will
read with approbation; such poetry as Jeffrey would have tossed aside with
derision, and as Gifford would have torn to pieces in despair. Can anything more
or better be said of it?"
Unattributed, dated July 10TH, 1869.
"I have to thank you for your two books, which, I imagine, are not published ;
if they are, there are things in them which deserve a great deal more notice
than any which they have received. I mean particularly such things as the
passage 'In Memoriam,' from pp. 27-29 (pp. 50-2)."
Matthew Arnold, December 19th,
"On my return home I find your volume, which I am very glad to possess. I
have not yet read the main poem, but in turning over the leaves of the hook, I
have read, and with great interest, many of the shorter poems—'Cousin Winnie,'
and 'Thackeray,' in especial. I think I must have read the 'Thackeray'
somewhere or other at the time its subject died, for it seems to come back to me
like an old acquaintance. Strahan brings you out at rather a formidable
moment in conjunction with Tennyson, whose new volume calls to so many readers
and buyers. I do not myself think, however, that in this new volume of his
he proves—except for the first moment of publication—a dangerous competitor.
Ever sincerely yours...."
"DEAR MR. MASSEY,—I
rejoice in acknowledging my own debt of gratitude to you for many an encouraging
and noble thought, and expression of thought, and my conviction that your Poems
in the mass have been a helpful and precious gift to the working classes (I use
the term in its highest and widest sense) of the country; few National Services
can be greater than that which you have rendered. Believe me, gratefully
author of Philip Van Artevelde.
"I got your book at once, and had not read many pages before I saw that we had
another English Poet."
in the Sun.
"Everything considered, we may state at once, and without any hesitation, that
we regard this 'Tale of Eternity; or the Haunted Hurst,' by Gerald Massey, as
the most remarkable of all his productions. It is for him what 'Aurora
Leigh' was for Mrs. Browning—the poet's undoubted masterpiece. For weird power,
at once in thought and in language, it is beyond what we had regarded as within
the range of Mr. Massey's capacity. Seldom has a young poet of the large
promise of Gerald Massey more fully justified, than he himself has done in the
present instance, the reputation won by him at a bound when he first adopted
literature as his profession."
Thirlwall, then Bishop of St. Davids.
"It may surprise you to be told that I feel the keenest interest in your 'Cries
of '48.' "
Editor of Old English Poets.
"I am grieved beyond measure that you are wasting your magnificent faculty of
Singing on some theological problem that a German might go at, but which it is
sheer blasphemy against the gift God Almighty has given you, as one in a hundred
thousand, for you to weary brain and heart over. I protest against such
flinging away of yourself. I don't care what the thing may be, if it does
not mean SONG. My beloved brother, I would implore
you to recognize your divinely appointed work of MAKER
with, as I adjudge you, the first, tenderest, subtlest, most cunning gift
possessed by living poet."
Bagehot in the Economist.
"Mr. Gerald Massey has been so favourably introduced to the public by the
'Ballad of Babe Christabel,' and other lyrical poems, that the present volume
would probably find its way into most circles unaided by any recommendation but
that of its own merits and the success of its predecessors. Among the
longer Poems, 'The Mother's Idol Broken,' and 'Only a Dream,' are almost perfect
of their kind. The remaining ones are equally well written, and contain
lines which might appear to indicate higher flights of poetic power; but there
is a real dramatic interest in the others which always proves the surest
passport to the heart. The present volume reminds us more of the modern German
Poetry of Redwitz and Geibel than of any English Author. But we must claim for
our Countryman a healthier tone and a wiser choice of themes—more of the warm
light of common day. His descriptions of nature show a close observation of her
ways, and a delicate appreciation of her beauties. His images, however
subtle and delicately woven, are never false. In 'The Mother's Idol Broken,'
which contains some of the most beautiful and striking imagery in the volume,
the feeling is never overpowered and hidden by the working of the Imagination.
We hardly know how to choose, from it, the beauty of the Poem is so well
James Hannay in the
"'The Mother's Idol Broken' is unquestionably the gem of the book. To
speak of it as a cluster of gems would be more just. It is no unworthy
companion to 'In Memoriam.' To step aside for a moment from the ordinary
path of Criticism, let us confess ourselves of the Class for whom they have been
written, and thank the author, in the name of his fellow-mourners, for his
complete and beautiful expression of their common woe. There are many rich
Libraries and many scanty book-shelves in all the lauds where English can be
read wherein the Volume containing 'The Mother's Idol Broken' will be found side
by side with 'Dombey and Son,' and 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' for more years to come
than call be predicted."
Aird in the Dumfries
"Rejoicing in the new, free eloquence of our Poetry, disenthralled from the
artificial sing-song of Pope, we are equally ready to hail a fresh set of poets
in our own day who are pushing out on all sides for varieties of style, measure,
and form. Gerald Massey belongs to the New Choir. Pathos and love,
and a purple flush of beauty steep and colour all his song. His second
volume has all the bloom and richness of the first, and more maturity of
thought. The whole of 'The Mother's Idol Broken' is excellent, 'Lady
Laura' is full of exquisite poetry. The pieces beginning 'Czar Nicholas,'
and 'There was a poor old Woman once,' show a new view—a view of deep, quiet
sarcasm. They remind us of Beranger."
"Gerald Massey has produced another volume of Poems, which contains some of the
most beautiful things in English Literature. The entire annals of
literature afford nothing more beautiful, nothing more pathetic than 'The
Mother's Idol Broken.' Gerald Massey's 'Ballad of Inkerman' is decidedly
the finest War-Lyric ever produced."
"With all the marked individuality of original genius, Gerald Massey reminds us
more of Keats than of any other English Poet; but, with the same rare perception
of external beauty, he adds a lyrical power and a depth of feeling which Keats
did not possess. He has but to give his intellect as full scope as his
fancy and imagination, and to bestow on his Poems that elaboration and care
which high excellence demands from even the happiest geniuses, in order to
become one of the enduring lights of British Literature."
British Quarterly Review.
"The 'Tale of Eternity' is unquestionably the most remarkable of Mr. Gerald
Massey's productions, replete with fine passages, terribly weird in parts, and
showing a force of imagination such as only true poets possess. It is laden
with such wealth of language, such beauty of description, such felicities of
expression, such happy phrases and smooth alliterations, that glide past unfelt,
and such genuine poetry, that those who can trust themselves on enchanted ground
may pick up gold and diamonds.
"Mr. Massey's Poem is full of scientific allusions, and we do not detect any
mistakes. Wheatstone's electric experiments and Humboldt's earthquake
experience, Darwin's theories and Huxley's protoplasm, the structure of Saturn's
rings and the formation of the Atlantic ooze—all furnish the material for
beautiful similes; as do also the phenomena of the spectrum, of complementary
colours and the velocity of light, singing flames and sunshine stored in coal,
the earth's visibility from the planets, Parry's Arctic experience, Moncrief's
discovery for lifting cannon, the leaf-simulating Mantis, and the facts of
botany and philosophy. "
The 'Tale of Eternity,' however, constitutes but a fourth part of the volume;
and in the remaining parts we have smaller Poems, exquisite gems of
songs—musical, rippling, laughing, radiant, compact, rounded, epigrammatic.
Mr. Massey is becoming more decidedly the poet of private life. Everything
homely and healthily natural, everything heartily human, has a special charm for
him ; and his judges at last will be not [be] Critics, but Fathers and Mothers.
He writes things about children, about married life, and on death, in a fashion
that no other poet has reached. The sweetness of his verses on children,
the tenderness of his lyrics of love, the hushed sanctity of his poems of the
grave, are unsurpassed by any poet that we know. He has sung of the
home-circle before, but this time he advances to the inner sanctuary of
religious feeling. He is older now and mellower, more loving and more
religious. He has suffered, and suffering has had a sanctifying influence.
This experience has served him in writing the 'In Memoriam,' inscribed to Lady
Marian Alford, on the death of her son, Earl Brownlow, a poem full of thought,
and one which Thomas Carlyle, who does not often praise poetry, has called
“May the summer day be fair as the spring dawn is bright. We consider
these poems to be most remarkable and interesting. The love-poems,
particularly, are unusually sweet and elegant. The end of this ‘thing’
ought to be better than the ‘beginning.’”
"In him we have a genuine songster. He has the true faculty of creative
life. ....Few poems in our recent outgrowth of poetic literature are finer than
some of these. . . . Here is another poet,—and one whose story and position as a
teacher and preacher clothe him with unusual interest."
"Be the reader as Augustan in his requirements as those who are unreconciled to
Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats (and such readers of poetry still exist), he will
hardly deny the author of 'Craigcrook Castle' his letters of enrolment among the
poets. His new book is a book of the time, inasmuch as some of its highest
strains have been inspired by the war from which we have just issued, our poet
thinks, ingloriously; it is a page, too, from the book of his own life,—a page
steeped in the real tears of a great sorrow. In both we hear the earnest, sad,
passionate voice which would constrain us to stop and listen,—were the years
ever so gay,—were our own hearts ever so ignorant of yearnings for those who
will come no more. . . . If we exchange the genial open-air pictures for the
house darkened by sorrow, we shall find the music of the song grow truer,
deeper, and more impassioned. There are few more touching revelations of
Bereavement. 'The Mother's Idol Broken' is a series of death-poems, which no
mother will read without tears. In 'Glimpses of the War' will be found not
a few fiery stanzas and noble lines. Here is a dirge with a music in its
wail which reminds us of some wild national keen or coronach. Much
more—some ripe in beauty, some rich in promise—could be cited from this volume;
but the above will lead many to read it, and justify the enjoyment and the hope
we have found in the appearance of one so full of some of Poetry's most gracious
"Brave, honest, free-spoken Gerald Massey! Assuredly it is no vain
speculation to suppose that the name of such a poet will become a household word
amongst millions; that his writings will be regarded as a precious jewel amongst
their domestic treasures; that wherever the English tongue is spoken, and an
English heart beats with paternal love, or throbs for liberty, there will the
poems of Gerald Massey be received with welcome."
"His love-poetry is very pure and sweet, and frequently rivals the most genuine
strains of Burns.
"To him, indeed, we owe the sweetest songs of courtship, the merriest
marriage-ditties, and the most touching lays of child-life, that have ever been
given to the world."
"A great Poet still among us only half recognized. Gerald Massey is one of the
few genuine Poets in this England of to-day."
“In our own times the trammels of poverty have not kept down the rising strength
and indomitable vigour of Gerald Massey."
"In whatever part of the field of literature we meet him, he deserves
recognition as a writer of earnestness and ability, who has achieved success
under circumstances which, in the case of the vast majority of men, would have
involved total failure.''