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already said, is the chief clue to the solution of the present riddle. There is a tradition,-extremely well-founded, that when, from time to time, great poets have appeared, it has commonly been their fate to be for a long while overlooked and neglected by all but the finest intellects of their day; the latest instance, and one of the most notorious, being John Keats. A quarter of a century has sufficed, not to make Keats a popular poet, but to make his name and style well known to that large and ever increasing class of persons who pique themselves on the possession of literary taste. Now the appearance of any writer whose verses very closely resemble those of Keats seems, we suppose, to these persons to be a good opportunity of proving themselves to be among the select minds of the time, who know a poet when they see him. In this conclusion, however, there lurks a fallacy: the fact of the verses of such a writer being very much like the verses of Keats constitutes the greatest possible difference between that writer and Keats, who wrote verses quite unlike any one who ever lived before him,the ability to do so having constituted at once his claims to be regarded as a true poet, and the cause of his neglect.

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The parade, invariably made by these poets, of a lofty metaphysical purpose, and their abundant employment, at third or fourth hand, of a German religio-philosophic slang, are also strong recommendations to a large number of readers, who (perhaps justly) despise whatever they can understand.

In entering now upon particulars, we must premise that the foregoing censures, though characterising the class of writers in question with general truth, would, if taken without qualification, express a condemnation more absolute than is merited by any one of the more conspicuous members of that class.


The Colisseum in Ruins.

'When conquering suns Triumph'd in jubilant earth, it stood out dark With thoughts of ages; like some haughty captive

The author of The Roman' and Balder' has unmistakeable claims to whatever respect may be due to genuine poetic power wasted in the wielding of it. In The Roman,' his first work, there are many hundreds of lines of true eloquence bordering very nearly upon true poetry, and reminding us strongly of the best of the French dramatists of the classical era. The following passages are selected from many others not inferior to them; and although they are somewhat laboured and obscure, with here and there a puerile conceit, they are not without the force of true poetic diction.

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Upon his death-bed in a Christian land,

And lying, through the chant of psalm and creed,
Unshriven and stern, with peace upon his brow,
And on his lips strange gods.'

The Plains of Italy.

Rude heaps, that had been cities, clad the ground
With history; and far and near, where grass
Was greenest, and the unconscious goat browsed free,
The teeming soil was sown with desolations,

As though Time, striding o'er the field he reap'd,
Warm'd with the spoil, rich droppings for the gleaners
Threw round his harvest-way. Frieze, pedestal,
Pillars that bore through years the weight of glory
And take their rest. Tombs, arches, monuments,
Vainly set up to save a name, as though

The eternal served the perishable; urns

Which winds had emptied of their dust, but left
Full of their immortality.'


'Truth, partial to her sex, made woman free
Even of her inmost cell; but man walks round
The outer courts, and by the auspices

And divinations of the augur Reason,

Knows her chaste will, her voice and habit better,
With a sure science, more abstract and pure,
Than she who runs by instinct to her knee.'

Some of the lyrics in The Roman,' though entirely out of place, are poems of true merit, expressing as they do, lively feeling in what almost always accompanies lively feeling,- when the mechanical practice of verse has been acquired, -rhythm of sweet and novel movement. This drama, indeed, though full of constructive faults and greatly wanting in human verisimilitude, is not worse in these respects than nearly all dramas of a very modern date, and the sustained eloquence of much of the writing takes it out of the category of the spasmodic school.' It is in Balder' that Mr. Sydney Dobell puts forth his claim to rank with the first in that unhappy clique; and, strange to say, it is also in Balder' that he proves himself to be, not only a rhetorician in verse, but by nature a poet; witness the following short passages, which might do credit to any poet living:

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The Past.

'I have linger'd by the Past,

As by a death-bed, with unwonted love,
And such forgiveness as we bring to those
Who can offend no more.

His Mistress.

'My first love and my last, so far, so near,
So strong, so weak, so comprehensible
In these encircling arms, so undescribed
In any thought that shapes thee; so divine,
So softly human, that to either stretch
Extreme and farthest tether of desire,
It finds thee still.'


'Doubtless there are no ghosts;

Yet somehow it is better not to move,
Lest cold hands seize upon us from behind.'


'The secret that doth make a flower a flower,
So frames it that to bloom is to be sweet,
And to receive to give.

No soil so sterile, and no living lot

So poor but it hath somewhat still to spare
In bounteous odours. Charitable they
Who, be their having more or less, so have
That less is more than need, and more is less
Than the great heart's goodwill.'


Who wove his web

And thrust it into hell, and drew it forth
Immortal, having burned all that could burn,
And leaving only what shall still be found
Untouch'd, nor with the smell of fire upon it,
Under the final ashes of the world.'

Our readers will thank us for having culled these specimen flowers from the interminable prairie in which we have discovered them—not without difficulty; for although they grow thickly, it is scarcely until they are relieved from their untruthful and intolerably wearisome context, that they affect us with their unquestionable poetic force. We must further credit this writer for a high and just appreciation of feminine loveliness. In this he stands quite alone in the class of which he is a member; and it is with sincere delight that we turn from the degrading materialism of most modern descriptions of poetic heroines to anything so much like the antique chastity and honour as the following fragments of a picture much too elaborate to be given in full:

'Thus she who came unknown Into the stranger crowd with modest step

And eyes that rather would be ruled than rule,
Having no need of praise, nor hope of fame,
Nor conscious of dominion, did subdue
Its chaos to her nature, being divine;
And, merely present, could no less than stir
The dull and grosser essence to revolve
About her, as by instinct, and hid force
Of that well-ordered universe whereof
Its matter was a part. Herself informed
The jarring elements, till, as her sway
No outer sign enforced, no shows of power,
Nor but a golden sweet necessity

Sovereign, unseen, the subject heart gave like
Confession. Not as they confess a queen
With sudden shout, but as two friends regard
A rising star, and speak not of it while
It fills their gaze. The loud debate grew low,
What was unseemly chasten'd, and the fear
Of beauty waking her moralities

Sent through the adjusted limbs the long-forgot
Ambition to be fair. Nor sex, nor rank,
Nor age, nor chang'd condition, did absolve
Her rule, which whatsoever was remote
From sin the more saluted.

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She was much like the moon
Seen in the daytime, that by day receives
Like joy with us, but when our night is dark,
Lit by the changeless sun we cannot see,
Shineth no less. And she was like the moon,
Because the beams that brighten'd her passed o'er
Our dark heads, and we knew them not for light
Till they came back from her's; and she was like
The moon, that whatsoe'er appeared her wane
Or crescent was no loss or gain to her,
But in the changed beholder.'

That the man who is capable of writing verses so good as these, should also be capable of anything upon the whole so bad as Balder,' and England in Time of War,' is to us a mystery. Mr. Alexander Smith's Life Drama,' though it abounds. with remarkable verbal beauties, surpasses everything we have met with in its display of ignorance of that kind of reality which it is a poet's first duty to seize. Its views of human nature and society are literally such as Gaspar Hauser-the man who had been shut up in a hole in the earth from his first infancy-might have been expected to depict, had aspirations for fame induced him to set about the execution of a *Life Drama' before his eyes were become well used to the light of day. The hero, Walter, a great poet of course, though





as yet only in intention, is discovered at midnight in an antique
room. He reads aloud certain crack lines of Mr. Smith's poetry,
but, a better judge than their real author, tears them into frag-
ments as unworthy of publication. He invokes fame in that
remarkable apostrophe which we will not give our readers the
pain of perusing a second time; and immediately after spares
our breath by dubbing himself poor fool.' Soon after, the
would-be famous minstrel falls asleep in a forest. In singular
keeping with what is obviously intended to be the thoroughly
modern costume of the poem, a young lady, rushing by with a
fawn, sees him thick in the light of his own beauty,'' like
young Apollo in his golden curls.' She declares in soliloquy
her admiration of his dainty cheeks and ringlets like a girl,'
and innocently confesses that his slumber-parted lips 'twere
'sweet to kiss.' The young fellow wakes up, and entering
forthwith into confidential talk, expatiates to the strange lady
on the all-absorbing plan of a great poem; the lady declares
that the scheme is wide and daring as a comet's spoom;' and,
after appointing another solitary meeting, rushes on her way
with her fawn, which comes in for the sake of the picturesque,
like St. Peter for that of the metre. The second meeting
arrives, and the pair wander by the side of a river. Walter
veils his declaration of passion in a tale, not apprehending,
we suppose, in the charming modesty of youth, that the young
lady's conduct has been of a nature to render all disguise of his
feelings superfluous. The tale shows how a certain damsel,
whose blood had coursed through the veins of a hundred earls,
-the family honours dating, therefore, from about the time of
King Cambyses,-cast herself back on her couch in an ex-
tremely sumptuous' manner, and, having summoned her black-
amoor page to her side, talks to him of love; telling him, among
other things, how her cousin had taken the orthodox poetical
mode of declaring his affections by reciting a long tale, which
she repeats, and which had nothing in common with the said
cousin's condition except that its hero was in love; how she
had refused him; how her heart was as yet untouched, but ready
to dote on him that should leap into it with sufficient audacity;
the story says further how the lady on the couch asks the page
if he thinks her fair; how the little blackamoor, or 'cub o' the
'sun,' as Mr. Smith calls him, owned that he loved the daughter
of the hundred earls as she lay carelessly displayed' before
him; how he was turned out of the room in consequence; how
he was no sooner gone than she expressed her real willingness
to grant his utmost wishes, and pasture him on her lips until
his beard was grown.' Whether she ultimately did so is only


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