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It was a
when he fails to please. But they are mere sketches, evidently committed to paper only in the hours of relaxation, when his hand was weary of holding the chisel. hazardous undertaking to gather them from the magazines and newspapers, in which they probably first saw the light, and to send them forth to the world in this collected form as if to challenge comparison and criticism. For the most part, they are mere copies, reflections in water, of the more popular effusions of favorite contemporary poets. Mr. Read is not a conscious plagiarist ; if he had thought that a single line or image on his page was not his own, he would probably have blotted it out. But remnants and shadows of songs which he had loved appear to have haunted his memory, and to have become in a short time so incorporated with his own fancies, that he could no longer distinguish them ; so that when he comes to hammer out a poem on his own anvil, the result is a strange compound, which is neither his own property nor that of any body else. Thus, Miss Barrett's fine poem of Lady Geraldine's Courtship has given birth to Mr. Read's Christine, in which the sentiment, the leading idea, the metre, the plot, the characters, are all, mutatis mutandis, borrowed from the English exemplar. But the first few couplets show that Mr. Read sometimes mingles very pretty fancies with his illegal acquisitions. Yet we are not sure that even these fancies are his own; we have a dim recollection of having seen something very like them elsewhere. The story is " supposed to be related by a young sculptor on the hill-side, between Florence and Fesolé."
“Come, my friend, and in the silence and the shadow wrapt
apart, I will loose the golden claspings of this sacred tome, – the heart.
“By the bole of yonder cypress, under branches spread like
eaves, We will sit where wavering sunshine weaves a romance in the
“Here by gentle airs of story shall our dreaming minds be
swayed, And our spirits hang vibrating, like the sunshine with the shade." Mr. Longfellow asks bis lady-love to read to him, VOL. LXIV. - No. 135.
“ Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Through the corridors of time.” This is pretty and musical, and conveys rather a striking image ; Mr. Read thus appropriates and mars it :
“Ye mighty masters of the song sublime,
Who, phantom-like, with large unwavering eyes,
Stalk down the solemn wilderness of time.” Miss Barrett's Vision of Poels suggested to Mr. Read The Bards, supplying not only the manner and form, but many of the more striking expressions in it. As some of the stanzas are quite successfully executed, we will quote a few of them, as specimens of his best manner. “ Old Homer's song, in mighty undulations,
Comes surging, ceaseless, up the oblivious main ;
Go answering down again :-
And Tasso's sweeping round through Palestine ;
Through groves of midnight pine.
Through frozen Norway, like a herald's horn;
Away in England's morn:
"The world-wide Shakspeare - the imperial Spenser,
Whose shafts of song o'ertop the angels' seats ; -
Float the sweet dreams of Keats!
Westward the starry path of Poesy lies, -
Comes rounding up the skies." The sixth Muse on our list is that of Mr. James F. Colman. He writes in a modest and sensible tone, putting forward no offensive pretensions, and rot aiming to startle his readers by any eccentricities of thought or expression. His poems have no conspicuous merits, and no glaring faults ; and we
are quite reluctant to confess, that their only fault is that of being oppressively wearisome and dull. The patience of Job would hardly suffice for the perusal of The Island Bride, which is a narrative poem, consisting of nine mortal cantos, each containing on an average about thirty Spenserian
We have no particular complaint to make of this operose undertaking ; in Dogberry's phrase, “it is quite tolerable, and not to be endured.” His rhymes are unexceptionable, his diction good, the versification smooth and uniform, and a bountiful array of the commonplaces of poetry appears on every page. Nearly all his stanzas are quite as good as half of those the inferior half, it is true -- in the first two cantos of Childe Harold. But it is unfortunate for Mr. Colman that he has provoked this comparison, for we sadly miss the other half. He has availed himself very liberally of the license granted by Horace,
“ Verum operi longo fas est obrepere somnum"; but has quite forgotten a subsequent remark of the same critic, though it has been so often quoted, about a certain class of poets whom neither gods, men, nor booksellers will tolerate.
It is of no sort of importance what part of the poem we quote, in order to give our readers a taste of Mr. Colman's quality ; for it would be difficult to find a work of equal length so uniform in its excellence. If we had found any better stanzas than the following, we should have given them the preference for citation ; and our readers may be assured that the remainder of the poem is quite as good as this sample. We take at random the opening of the first canto, from which it will appear that the writer has been studying Byron very diligently ; it is much to his credit, that he has left out of his own work all traces of the noble bard's wickedness and misanthropy, and rather unlucky for him, that he has omitted most of the poetry along with it.
“O, surely never superstition took,
Fair Greece, more gentle lineaments than thine !
With purple petals paints the pallid stone,
"It lulled the yearnings of the human soul
Which ever would itself assimilate
Itself with immortality, and, bound To earth by earthly ties, still struggles from the ground." The minor poems at the end of the book are somewhat better ; that is, they do not leave the reader's mind in that state of languid quiescence which creeps over one after accomplishing a heavy task. There are some vigorous lines among those " suggested at the White Mountains," and some tender images and pleasing description in Summer Musings and Mater Dolorosa ; but neither of them rises so much above elegant mediocrity as to tempt us to enlarge our quotations. The Stanzas written after the Departure of an Atlantic Steamer are the best in the volume, though it is a misfortune that they remind one so plainly of Charles Sprague's glorious Shakspeare Ode ; but Mr. Colman borrows nothing.
The seventh Muse has inspired a lady, and we are of opinion that we shall best manifest our deference for the sex by passing over her effusions very hurriedly. Mrs. Browne is an Englishwoman, who can probably allege the old excuse for her appearance in public,
“ Obliged by hunger, or request of friends.” She has certainly a kind heart, and is disposed to commemorate in undying verse the virtues of some of these importunate friends, who might otherwise have remained unknown to fame. How grateful they are likely to feel for the compliment may be judged from the following stanza, taken from a little poem on the death of the Dowager Lady Powerscourt.
“She who gains a heavenly crown
Earthly honors meekly wore,
Powerscourt was the name she bore." This is quite enough. It is but a brick from the lady's edifice, but an architectural survey of it could not convey a more faithful idea of the whole structure.
Mr. Sargent has gained some reputation as a song-writer and dramatist, which is not likely to be either enhanced or diminished by the publication of his
collected poems. Some of his shorter lyrics are dashed off with great freedom and spirit, though they would suffer by comparison with the bold and fanciful strains of Barry Cornwall, after which they are evidently modelled. Many of them have been successfully wedded to music, which is a good proof of the writer's skill in numbers. Mr. Sargent's ear is quite correct, and he has a fine flow of animated versification, which, with a manly tone of genial sentiment, and occasional delicacy and tenderness, has somewhat blinded the eyes of readers to his rather meagre fancy and lack of original thought. He probably lays no claim to the higher bonors of poesy, and we are free, therefore, to give him the tribute that is really due to the simplicity and transparency of his diction, and the melody of his rhymes. He does not labor to be either imaginative or profound, and therefore never sinks into bathos or obscurity. The contents of the volume are very unequal, many of the pieces being occasional in character, and written at long intervals, - for song appears to be his amusement, and not his vocation.
We cannot say much for the dramatic fragments ; the dialogue is lively, and the conversational tone is well preserved; but these merits cannot conceal a great lack of invention, and poverty of thought. The names and garb of the personages introduced are Italian or Greek; but this theatrical disguise cannot conceal their Yankee origin, and their talk smacks of modern newspapers. Adelaide's Triumph is the most pleasing among the occasional poems; the story is an old one, but it is prettily versified, in a vein of pure sentiment, and with some pathetic effect. The Martyr of the Arena is but partially successful, and Gonello is an utter failure. There is something in the Whistlecraft and Beppo style and stanza which is very attractive to young men about town, and to poets of society ; but to imitate them is hazardous, for without an exuberance of wit and fancy, they are flatter than stale beer.
It is a pity that Miss Farley was so ill-advised as to adopt for her volume one of those coxcombical titles which the bad taste of Mr. Willis has brought into fashion. Nothing could be more inappropriate, considering the modest character of