Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Poem.

Enjoy this? Share it!

PAGE 3

A Fable For Critics
by [?]

VI. Poe and Longfellow.

“There comes Poe, with his raven, like Barnaby Rudge,
Three-fifths of him genius and two-fifths sheer fudge,
Who talks like a book of iambs and pentameters,
In a way to make people of common-sense damn metres,
Who has written some things quite the best of their kind,
But the heart somehow seems all squeezed out by the mind,
Who–but hey-day! What’s this? Messieurs Mathews and Poe,
You mustn’t fling mud-balls at Longfellow so,
Does it make a man worse that his character’s such
As to make his friends love him (as you thin) too much?
Why, there is not a bard at this moment alive
More willing than he that his fellows should thrive,
While you are abusing him thus, even now
He would help either one of you out of a dough;
You may say that he’s smooth and all that till you’re hoarse
But remember that elegance also is force;
After polishing granite as much as you will,
The heart keeps its tough old persistency still;
Deduct all you can that still keeps you at bay,
Why, he’ll live till men weary of Collins and Gray.

‘Tis truth that I speak
Had Theocritus written in English, not Greek,
I believe that his exquisite sense would scarce change a line
In that rare, tender, virgin-like pastoral Evangeline.
That’s not ancient nor modern, its place is apart
Where time has no sway, in the realm of pure Art,
‘Tis a shrine of retreat from Earth’s hubbub and strife
As quiet and chaste as the author’s own life.

VII. Irving.

“What! Irving? thrice welcome, warm heart and fine brain,
You bring back the happiest spirit from Spain,
And the gravest sweet humor, that ever were there
Since Cervantes met death in his gentle despair;
Nay, don’t be embarrassed, nor look so beseeching,–
I shan’t run directly against my own preaching,
And, having just laughed at their Raphaels and Dantes,
Go to setting you up beside matchless Cervantes;
But allow me to speak what I honestly feel,–
To a true poet-heart add the fun of Dick Steele,
Throw in all of Addison, minus the chill,
With the whole of that partnership’s stock and good will,
Mix well, and while stirring, hum o’er, as a spell,
The fine old English Gentleman, simmer it well,
Sweeten just to your own private liking, then strain
That only the finest and clearest remain,
Let it stand out of doors till a soul it receives
From the warm lazy sun loitering down through green leaves,
And you’ll find a choice nature, not wholly deserving
A name either English or Yankee,–just Irving.

VIII. Holmes.

“There’s Holmes, who is matchless among you for wit;
A Leyden-jar always full-charged, from which flit
The electrical tingles of hit after hit;
In long poems ’tis painful sometimes, and invites
A thought of the way the new Telegraph writes,
Which pricks down its little sharp sentences spitefully
As if you got more than you’d title to rightfully,
And you find yourself hoping its wild father Lightning
Would flame in for a second and give you fright’ning.
He has perfect sway of what I call a sham metre,
But many admire it, the English pentameter,
And Campbell, I think, wrote most commonly worse,
With less nerve, swing, and fire in the same kind of verse,
Nor e’er achieved aught in ‘t so worthy of praise
As the tribute of Holmes to the grand Marseillaise.
You went crazy last year over Bulwer’s New Timon;
Why, if B., to the day of his dying, should rhyme on,
Heaping verses on verses and tames upon tomes,
He could ne’er reach the best point and vigor of Holmes.
His are just the fine hands, too, to weave you a lyric
Full of fancy, fun, feeling, or spiced with satyric
In a measure so kindly, you doubt if the toes
That are trodden upon are your own or your foes’.