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A Fable For Critics
by [?]


I. Emerson.

“There comes Emerson first, whose rich words, every one,
Are like gold nails in temples to hang trophies on,
Whose prose is grand verse, while his verse, the Lord knows,
Is some of it pr — No, ’tis not even prose;
I’m speaking of metres; some poems have welled
From those rare depths of soul that have ne’er been excelled;
They’re not epics, but that doesn’t matter a pin,
In creating, the only hard thing’s to begin;
A grass-blade’s no easier to make than an oak,
If you’ve once found the way you’ve achieved the grand stroke;
In the worst of his poems are mines of rich matter,
But thrown in a heap with a crash and a clatter
Now it is not one thing nor another alone
Makes a poem, but rather the general tone,
The something pervading, uniting, the whole,
The before unconceived, unconceivable soul,
So that just in removing this trifle or that, you
Take away, as it were, a chief limb of the statue;
Roots, wood, bark, and leaves, singly perfect may be,
But, clapt bodge-podge together, they don’t make a tree.

“But, to come back to Emerson, (whom by the way,
I believe we left waiting,)–his is, we may say,
A Greek head on right Yankee shoulders, whose range
Has Olympus for one pole, for t’ other the Exchange;
Life, nature, lore, God, and affairs of that sort,
He looks at as merely ideas; in short,
As if they were fossils stuck round in a cabinet,
Of such vast extent that our earth’s a mere dab in it;
Composed just as he is inclined to conjecture her,
Namely, one part pure earth, ninety-nine parts pure lecturer;
You are filled with delight at his clear demonstration,
Each figure, word, gesture, just fits the occasion,
With the quiet precision of science he’ll sort em,
But you can’t help suspecting the whole a post mortem.

II. Bryant.

“There is Bryant, as quiet, as cool, and as dignified,
As a smooth, silent iceberg, that never is ignified,
Save when by reflection ’tis kindled o’ nights,
With a semblance of flame by the chill Northern Nights.
He may rank (Griswold says so) first bard of your nation,

(There’s no doubt that he stands in supreme iceolation,)
Your topmost Parnassus he may set his heel on,
But no warm applauses come, peal following peal on–
He’s too smooth and too polished to hang any zeal on:
Unqualified merits, I’ll grant, if you choose, he has em,
But he lacks the one merit of kindling enthusiasm;
If he stir you at all, it is just, on my soul,
Like being stirred up with the very North Pole.

“He is very nice reading in summer, but inter
Nos, we don’t want extra freezing in winter;
Take him up in the depth of July, my advice is,
When you feel an Egyptian devotion to ices.
But, deduct all you can, there’s enough that’s right good in
him,
He has a true soul for field, river, and wood in him;
And his heart, in the midst of brick walls, or where’er it is,
Glows, softens, and thrills with the tenderest charities,
To you mortals that delve in this trade-ridden planet?
No, to old Berkshire’s hills, with their lime stone and
granite.

III. Whinier.

“There is Whinier, whose swelling and vehement heart
Strains the strait-breasted drab of the Quaker apart,
And reveals the live Man, still supreme and erect,
Underneath the bemummying wrappers of sect;
There was ne’er a man born who had more of the swing
Of the true lyric bard and all that kind of thing;
And his failures arise, (though perhaps he don’t know it,)
From the very same cause that has made him a poet,–
A fervor of mind which knows no separation
‘Twixt simple excitement and pure inspiration,
As my Pythoness erst sometimes erred from not knowing
If ’twere I or mere wind through her tripod was blowing;
Let his mind once get head in its favorite direction
And the torrent of verse bursts the dams of reflection,
While, borne with the rush of the metre along,
The poet may chance to go right or go wrong,
Content with the whirl and delirium of song;
Then his grammar’s not always correct, nor his rhymes,
And he’s prone to repeat his own lyrics sometimes,
Not his best, though, for those are struck off at white-heats
When the heart in his breast like a trip-hammer beats
And can ne’er be repeated again any more
Than they could have been carefully plotted before
“All honor and praise to the right-hearted bard
Who was true to The Voice when such service was hard,
Who himself was so free he dared sing for the slave
When to look but a protest in silence was brave;