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Six giants held portentous dance.

His safe return

To corporal sense, by shaking off these nets
Of moonbeams from his soul.

Old memories
Slumbrously hung above the purple line


R. H. Home

Of distance, to the east, while odorously
Glistened the tear-drops of a new-fallen shower.

Sing on!

Sing on, great tempest! in the darkness sing!
Thy madness is a music that brings calm
Into my central soul ; and from its waves,
That now with joy begin to heave and gush,
The burning image of all life's desire,
Like an absorbing, fire-breathed, phantom god,
Rises and floats ! here touching on the foam,
There hovering o'er it ; ascending swift
Starwardf then sweeping down the hemisphere
Upon the lengthening javelins of the blast !

Now a sound we heard,

Like to some well-known voice in prayer ; and next
An iron clang, that seemed to break great bonds
Beneath the earth, shook us to conscious life.

It is Oblivion! In his hand though naught
Knows he of this a dusky purple flower
Droops over its tall stem. Again! ah see!
He wanders into mist and now is lost!
Within his brain what lovely realms of death
Are pictured, and what knowledge through the doors
Of his forgetfulness of all the earth
A path may gain ?

But we are positively forced to conclude. It was
our design to give Orion a careful and methodical
analysis, thus to bring clearly forth its multitudinous
beauties to the eye of the American public. Our
limits have constrained us to treat it in an imperfect


R. H. Home

and cursory manner. We have had to content our
selves chiefly with assertion, where our original pur
pose was to demonstrate. We have left unsaid a
hundred things which a well-grounded enthusiasm
would have prompted us to say. One thing, however,
we must and will say, in conclusion: Orion will be
admitted, by every man of genius, to be one of the
noblest, if not the very noblest, poetical work of the
age. Its defects are trivial and conventional, its
beauties intrinsic and supreme.


Amelia Welby

S. AMELIA WELBY has nearly all the im
agination of Maria del Occidente, with a
more refined taste; and nearly all the
passion of Mrs. Norton, with a nicer ear, and (what is
surprising) equal art. Very few American poets are
at all comparable with her in the true poetic qualities.
As for our poetesses (an absurd but necessary word),
few of them approach her.

With some modifications, this little poem would do
honor to any one living or dead :

The moon within our casement beams,
Our blue-eyed babe hath dropped to sleep,

And I have left it to its dreams
Amid the shadows deep,

To muse beside the silver tide

Whose waves are rippling at thy side.

It is a still and lovely spot

Where they have laid thee down to rest ;
The white rose and forget-me-not

Bloom sweetly on thy breast,


Amelia Welby

And birds and streams with liquid lull
Have made the stillness beautiful.

And softly thro' the forest bars

Light lovely shapes, on glossy plumes,

Float ever in, like winged stars,
Amid the purpling glooms ;

Their sweet songs, borne from tree to tree,

Thrill the light leaves with melody.

Alas ! the very path I trace,

In happier hours thy footsteps made ;
This spot was once thy resting-place ;

Within the silent shade
Thy white hand trained the fragrant bough
That drops its blossoms o'er me now.

J T was here at eve we used to rove ;

'T was here I breathed my whispered vows,
And sealed them on thy lips, my love,

Beneath the apple-boughs.
Our hearts had melted into one,
But Death undid what Love had done.

Alas ! too deep a weight of thought

Had filled thy heart in youth's sweet hour,-

It seemed with love and bliss o'erfraught ;
As fleeting passion-flower

Unfolding, neath a southern sky,

To blossom soon and soon to die.

Yet in these calm and blooming bowers,

I seem to see thee still,
Thy breath seems floating o'er the flowers,

Thy whisper on the hill ;


Amelia Welby

The clear faint starlight and the sea
Are whispering to my heart of thee.

No more thy smiles my heart rejoice,

Yet still I start to meet thine eye,
And call upon the low sweet voice

That gives me no reply,
And list within my silent door
For the light feet that come no more.

In a critical mood I would speak of these stanzas
thus : The subject was nothing of originality : a wid
ower muses by the grave of his wife. Here then
is a great demerit; for originality of theme, if not
absolutely first sought, should be sought among the
first. Nothing is more clear than this proposition;
although denied by the chlorine critics (the grass-
green). The desire of the new is an element of the
soul. The most exquisite pleasures grow dull in
repetition. A strain of music enchants. Heard a
second time it pleases. Heard a tenth, it does not
displease. We hear it a twentieth, and ask ourselves
why we admired. At the fiftieth it induces ennui, at
the hundredth, disgust.

Mrs. Welby's theme is, therefore, radically faulty
so far as originality is concerned; but of common
themes, it is one of the very best among the class
passionate, True passion is prosaic, homely. Any
strong mental emotion stimulates all the mental
faculties; thus grief the imagination; but in pro-

Amelia Welby

portion as the effect is strengthened, the cause sur
ceases. The excited fancy triumphs; the grief is
subdued, chastened, is no longer grief. In this mood
we are poetic, and it is clear that a poem now written
will be poetic in the exact ratio of its dispassion. A
passionate poem is a contradiction in terms. When
I say, then, that Mrs. Welby's stanzas are good among
the class passionate (using the term commonly and
falsely applied), I mean that her tone is properly sub
dued, and is not so much the tone of passion as of a
gentle and melancholy regret, interwoven with a pleas
ant sense of the natural loveliness surrounding the
lost in the tomb, and a memory of her human beauty
while alive. Elegiac poems should either assume
this character, or dwell purely on the beauty (moral
or physical) of the departed; or, better still, utter
the notes of triumph. I have endeavored to carry
out this latter idea in some verses which I have called

Those who object to the proposition that poetry
and passion are discordant, would cite Mrs. Welby's
poem as an instance of a passionate one. It is pre
cisely similar to the hundred others which have been
cited for like purpose. But it is not passionate ; and
for this reason (with others having regard to her fine
genius) it is poetical. The critics upon this topic dis
play an amusing ignoratio elenchL

Dismissing originality and tone, I pass to the general

Amelia Welby

handling, than which nothing could be more pure,
more natural, or more judicious. The perfect keep
ing of the various points is admirable, and the result
is entire unity of impression, or effect. The time, a
moonlight night ; the locality of the grave ; the pass
ing thither from the cottage, and the conclusion of
the theme with the return to " the silent door " ; the
babe left, meanwhile, " to its dreams " ; the " white
rose and forget-me-not " upon the breast of the en
tombed ; the " birds and streams, with liquid lull,
that makes the stillness beautiful " ; the birds whose
songs " thrill the light leaves with melody," all these
are appropriate and lovely conceptions, only quite un
original; and (be it observed) the higher order of
genius should, and will, combine the original with
that which is natural, not in the vulgar sense (or
dinary), but in the artistic sense, which has reference
to the general intention of Nature. We have this
combination well effected in the lines :

And softly through the forest bars

Light lovely shapes, on glossy plumes,

Float ever in, like winged stars,
Amid the purpling glooms,

which are, unquestionably, the finest in the poem.

The reflections suggested by the scene, commen

Alas! the very path I trace,

Amelia Welby

are, also, something more than merely natural, and
are richly ideal; especially the cause assigned for the
early death, and " the fragrant bough "

That drops its blossoms o'er me now.

The two concluding stanzas are remarkable ex
amples of common fancies rejuvenated, and ethereal-
ized by grace of expression and melody of rhythm.

The " light lovely shapes " in the third stanza (how
ever beautiful in themselves) are defective, when
viewed in reference to the " birds " of the stanza
preceding. The topic " birds " is dismissed in the
one paragraph to be resumed in the other.

" Drops," in the last line of the fourth stanza, is
improperly used in an active sense. " To drop " is a
neuter verb. An apple drops ; we let the apple fall.

The repetition (" seemed," " seem," " seems ") in
the sixth and seventh stanzas is ungraceful; so also
that of " heart," in the last line of the seventh and
the first of the eighth. The words " breathed " and
" whispered," in the second line of the fifth stanza,
have a force too nearly identical. " 'Neath," just
below, is an awkward contraction. All contrac
tions are awkward. It is no paradox, that the more
prosaic the construction of verse the better. In
versions should be dismissed. The most forcible lines
are the most direct. Mrs. Welby owes three fourths
of her power (so far as style is concerned) to her


Amelia Welby

freedom from these vulgar and particularly English
errors, elision and inversion. "O'er " is, however, too
often used by her in place of " over," and " 't was "
for "it was." We see instances here. The only
inversions, strictly speaking, are

The moon within our casement beams,

Amid the shadows deep.

The versification throughout is unusually good.
Nothing can excel

And birds and streams with liquid lull
Have made the stillness beautiful . . .

And sealed them on thy lips, my love,
Beneath the apple boughs . . .

or the whole of the concluding stanza, if we leave out
of view the unpleasant repetition of " And " at the
commencement of the third and fifth lines. " Thy
white hand trained " (see stanza the fourth) involves
four consonants, that unite with difficulty ndtr
and the harshness is rendered more apparent by the
employment of the spondee, " hand trained," in place
of an iambus. " Melody " is a feeble termination of
the third stanza's last line. The syllable " dy " is not
full enough to sustain the rhyme. All these endings,
liberty-, property, happily, and the like, however justi
fied by authority, are grossly objectionable. Upon


Amelia Welby

the whole, there are some poets in America (Bryant
and Sprague, for example) who equal Mrs. Welby in
the negative merits of that limited versification which
they chiefly affect, the iambic pentameter; but none
equal her in the richer and positive merits of rhyth
mical variety, conception, invention. They, in the
old routine, rarely err. She often surprises, and
always delights, by novel, rich, and accurate combina
tion of the ancient musical expressions.

VOL. VIII. 6. gj

Elizabeth Barrett Barrett 1

WELL-BRED man/' says Sir James
Puckle, in his Gray Cap for a Green
Head, " will never give himself the
liberty to speak ill of women." We emphasize the
" man." Setting aside, for the present, certain rare
commentators and compilers of the species, creatures
neither precisely men, women, nor Mary Wollstone-
crafts, setting these aside as unclassifiable, we may
observe that the race of critics are masculine men.
With the exception, perhaps, of Mrs. Anne Royal, we
can call to mind no female who has occupied, even
temporarily, the Zoilus throne. And this, the Salic
law, is an evil ; for the inherent chivalry of the critical
man renders it not only an unpleasant task to him
" to speak ill of a woman " (and a woman and her
book are identical), but an almost impossible task not
to laud her ad nauseam, In general, therefore, it is

1 The Drama of Exile, and Other Poems, By Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, author
of The Seraphim, and Other Poems,


Elizabeth Barrett Barrett

the unhappy lot of the authoress to be subjected,
time after time, to the downright degradation of mere
puffery. On her own side of the Atlantic, Miss Bar
rett has indeed, in one instance at least, escaped the
infliction of this lamentable contumely and wrong;
but if she had been really solicitous of its infliction
in America, she could not have adopted a more effec
tual plan than that of saying a few words about
" the great American people," in an American edition
of her work, published under the superintendence of
an American author. 1 Of the innumerable " native "
notices of the Drama of Exile f which have come under
our observation, we can call to mind not one in which
there is anything more remarkable than the critic's
dogged determination to find nothing barren, from
Beersheba to Dan. Another, in the Democratic Re
view, has proceeded so far, it is true, as to venture
a very delicate insinuation to the effect that the
poetess " will not fail to speak her mind, though it
bring upon her a bad rhyme " ; beyond this, nobody
has proceeded : and as for the elaborate paper in the
new Whig Monthly, all that anybody can say or think,

1 We are sorry to notice, in the American edition, a multitude of typographi
cal errors, many of which affect the sense, and should therefore be corrected
in a second impression, if called for. How far they are chargeable to the
London copy we are not prepared to say. " Froze," for instance, is printed
" frore." " Foregone," throughout is printed " forgone "; " Wordless " is
printed " worldless " ; " worldly," " wordly " ; " spilt," " split," etc., etc., while
transpositions, false accents, and mispunccuations abound. We indicate a
few pages on which such inadvertences are to be discovered: vol. i.: 23, 26,
37. 45. 53. 56, 80, 166, 174, 180, 183, 251; vol. ii.: 109, 114, 240, 247, 253,


Elizabeth Barrett Barrett

and all that Miss Barrett can feel respecting it is, that
it is an eulogy as well written as it is an insult well
intended. Now of all the friends of the fair author,
we doubt whether one exists with more profound,
with more enthusiastic, reverence and admiration of
her genius, than the writer of these words. And it is
for this very reason, beyond all others, that he intends
to speak of her the truth. Our chief regret is, never
theless, that the limits of this work will preclude the
possibility of our speaking this truth so fully, and so
much in detail as we could wish. By far the most
valuable criticism that we, or that any one could give,
of the volumes now lying before us, would be the
quotation of three fourths of their contents. But we
have this advantage, that the work has been long
published, and almost universally read, and thus, in
some measure, we may proceed, concisely, as if the
text of our context were an understood thing.

In her preface to this, the " American Edition " of
her late poems, Miss Barrett, speaking of the Drama
of Exile, says : " I decided on publishing it, after
considerable hesitation and doubt. Its subject rather
fastened on me than was chosen; and the form, ap
proaching the model of the Greek tragedy, shaped
itself under my hand rather by force of pleasure than
of design. But when the compositional excitement
had subsided, I felt afraid of my position. My own
object was the new and strange experience of the



nobnoJ .

tio^ tefrohteVI artt m

B moi' 1 !

Elizabeth Barrett Barren

and all that Miss Barrett can feel respecting >? is, that
it is an eulogy as well written as it is an insult well
intended, How of all the friends of the fair author,
we doubt whether one exists with more profound,
with more enthusiastic, reverence and admiration of
fe*r featoa, than the writer of these words. And it is
for this ytry reason, beyond all others, that he intends
to speak at ker the truth. Our chief regret is, never-
thele*! that the limits of this work will preclude the
possibility of our speaking this truth so fully, and so
much in detail as we could wish. By far the most
valuable criticism that M, or that any one could give,
of the volumes now Spring before us, would be the
quotation of Sfe^th Barrett,- gftflSffliPSBut we

From a painting in the National Portrait Gallery, L- >ndon
published, and almost x&i*tvrt*tty read, and thus, in
some measure, wt m*f pMMfc *eisiy. as if the
text of our context *

hi her preface to tkss, Ifer :

her late poems, HIM Barrett, *ps*imf gj the Drama
of *Jc t says: "I decide* OB pvfcfcshiiig it, after
considerable hesitation and doubt. Its subject rather
fastened on me than was chosen; and the form, ap
proaching the model of the Greek tragedy, shaped
itself under my hand rather by force of pleasure than
of design. But when the compositional excitement
had subsided, I felt afraid of my position. My own
object was the new and strange experience of the

Elizabeth Barrett Barrett

fallen Humanity, as it went forth from Paradise in
the Wilderness, with a peculiar reference to Eve's
allotted grief, which, considering that self-sacrifice be
longed to her womanhood, and the consciousness of
being the organ of the Fall to her offence, appeared to
me imperfectly apprehended hitherto, and more ex
pressible by a woman than by a man." In this abstract
announcement of the theme, it is difficult to under
stand the ground of the poet's hesitation to publish;
for the theme in itself seems admirably adapted to the
purposes of the closest drama. The poet, neverthe
less, is very properly conscious of failure, a failure
which occurs not in the general, but in the particular
conception, and which must be placed to the account
of "the model of the Greek tragedies." The Greek
tragedies had and even have high merits; but we act
wisely in now substituting for the external and typified
human sympathy of the antique Chorus a direct, in
ternal, living, and moving sympathy itself; and
although ^schylus might have done service as " a
model" to either Euripides or Sophocles, yet, were
Sophocles and Euripides in London to-day, they would
perhaps, while granting a certain formless and shadowy
grandeur, indulge a quiet smile at the shallowness and
uncouthness of that art which, in the old amphi
theatres, had beguiled them into applause of the
Oedipus at Colonos,
It would have been better for Miss Barrett, if,


Elizabeth Barrett Barrett

throwing herself independently upon her own very
extraordinary resources, and forgetting that a Greek
had ever lived, she had involved her Eve in a series
of adventures merely natural, or, if not this, of adven
tures preternatural within the limits of at least a con
ceivable relation, a relation of matter to spirit and
spirit to matter, that should have left room for some
thing like palpable action and comprehensible emo
tion, that should not have utterly precluded the
development of that womanly character which is ad
mitted as the principal object of the poem. As the case
actually stands, it is only in a few snatches of verbal
intercommunication with Adam and Lucifer that we
behold her as a woman at all. For the rest, she is a
mystical something or nothing, enwrapped in a fog of
rhapsody about the Transfiguration, and the Seed,
and the Bruising of the Heel, and other talk of a
nature that no man ever pretended to understand in
plain prose, and which, when solar-microscoped into
poetry " upon the model of the Greek drama," is about
as convincing as the Egyptian Lectures of Mr. Silk
Buckingham, about as much to any purpose under
the sun as the hi presto I conjurations of Signer Blitz.
What are we to make, for example, of dramatic collo
quy such as this ? the words are those of a Chorus
of Invisible Angels addressing Adam:

Live, work on, O Earthy!
By the Actual's tension,

Elizabeth Barrett Barrett

Speed the arrow worthy

Of a pure ascension !
From the low earth round you

Reach the heights above you :
From the stripes that wound you

Seek the loves that love you !
God's divinest burneth plain
Through the crystal diaphane

Of our loves that love you.

Now we do not mean to assert that, by excessive
" tension " of the intellect, a reader accustomed to the
cant of the transcendentalists (or of those who degrade
an ennobling philosophy by styling themselves such)
may not succeed in ferreting from the passage quoted,
and indeed from each of the thousand similar ones
throughout the book, something that shall bear the
aspect of an absolute idea; but we do mean to say,
first, that in nine cases out of ten, the thought when
dug out will be found very poorly to repay the labor of
the digging ; for it is the nature of thought in general,
as it is the nature of some ores in particular, to be
richest when most superficial. And we do mean to
say, secondly, that in nineteen cases out of twenty,
the reader will suffer the most valuable ore to remain
unmined to all eternity before he will be put to the
trouble of digging for it one inch. And we do mean
to assert, thirdly, that no reader is to be condemned
for not putting himself to the trouble of digging even
the one inch; for no writer has the right to impose


Elizabeth Barrett Barrett

any such necessity upon him. What is worth think
ing is distinctly thought; what is distinctly thought
can, and should be, distinctly expressed, or should not
be expressed at all. Nevertheless, there is no more
appropriate opportunity than the present for admitting
and maintaining at once, what has never before been
either maintained or admitted, that there is a justifiable
exception to the rule for which we contend. It is
where the design is to convey the fantastic, not the
obscure. To give the idea of the latter we need, as
in general, the most precise and definite terms, and
those who employ other terms but confound obscurity
of expression with the expression of obscurity. The
fantastic in itself, however, phantasm, may be ma
terially furthered in its development by the quaint in
phraseology, a proposition which any moralist may
examine at his leisure for himself.

The Drama of Exile opens with a very palpable
bull : " Scene, the outer side of the gate of Eden,
shut fast with clouds [a scene out of sight!] from the
depth of which revolves the sword of fire, self-moved.
A watch of innumerable angels, rank above rank,
slopes up from around it to the zenith ; and the glare
cast from their brightness and from the sword, extends
many miles into the wilderness. Adam and Eve are
seen in the distance, flying along the glare. The
angel Gabriel and Lucifer are beside the gate." These
are the " stage directions " which greet us on the


Elizabeth Barrett Barrett

threshold of the book. We complain first of the bull ;
secondly, of the blue-fire melodramatic aspect of the
revolving sword; thirdly, of the duplicate nature of
the sword, which, if steel, and sufficiently inflamed to
do service in burning, would, perhaps, have been in
no temper to cut ; and on the other hand, if sufficiently
cool to have an edge, would have accomplished little
in the way of scorching a personage so well accus
tomed to fire and brimstone, and all that, as we have
very good reason to believe Lucifer was. We cannot
help objecting, too, to the " innumerable angels," as a
force altogether disproportioned to the one enemy to
be kept out; either the self -moving sword itself, we
think, or the angel Gabriel alone, or five or six of the
" innumerable " angels, would have sufficed to keep the
Devil (or is it Adam ?) outside of the gate, which,
after all, he might not have been able to discover on
account of the clouds.

Far be it from us, however, to dwell irreverently on
matters which have venerability in the faith or in the
fancy of Miss Barrett. We allude to these niaiseries
at all, found here in the very first paragraph of her
poem, simply by way of putting in the clearest light
the mass of inconsistency and antagonism in which
her subject has inextricably involved her. She has
made allusion to Milton, and no doubt felt secure in
her theme (as a theme merely) when she considered
his Paradise Lost But even in Milton's own day,


Elizabeth Barrett Barrett

when men had the habit of believing all things, the
more nonsensical the more readily, and of worshipping
in blind acquiescence the most preposterous of im
possibilities even then there were not wanting indi
viduals who would have read the great epic with more
zest, could it have been explained to their satisfaction
how and why it was, not only that a snake quoted

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