24 JULY 1869, Page 23

Poirrav.—Mr. Alfred Bates Richards writes Medea (Chapman and Hall), a

poem of not much less than two thousand verses, on Mr. Sandys' striking picture of that subject. One is fairly overcome by such extraordinary fluency, till one begins to see how very comprehen- sive Mr. Richards' method is. The name of the great sorceress suggests any number of horrors, both in the ancient world and the modern. Madame de Brinvilliers and Wainwright were poisoners, and so have some connection with the subject; but why do we have eighty lines or BO about some atrocious Spanish marshal, who shot a child of two years old ? And why is this followed up by fifty very uncompli- mentary verses addressed to a "sallow potentate," in whom we seem to recognize a near neighbour of ours ? But the horrors must have their reliefs. Mr. Richards says to his picture, "Still silent ?—Let me change the strain."

And accordingly the strain is changed, and we have three pages and more describing a Bacchanalian rout, eic. All this is done with some power of expression and language. Perhaps we shall be not going beyond the truth when we say that if the sixty pages had been concen- trated into six they would have made up a tolerable Newdigate.--Mr„ Burnley, who writes Atonic; and other Poems (Longmans), we would in all kindness recommend to study Professor Aytoun's Firmilian. Would that the gentleman to whom he dedicates his volume, "with his clear critical judgment and wide literary knowledge," had only given him the same advice. No man, after reading Firmilian, could have written ldonia, with its heroine, who marries the lover who has jilted her, and then poisons him out of revenge, with its waiting-maid Phcebe, who talks in this style :—

" My tongue

Outsoars my prudence, or the honesty That sits upon your face makes me so fearless That my poor wits betray to you that which They meant to hide within their shrewdness,"

with its poet Aurelian, who "is heard in the wood singing," as poets are wont to be heard, Scc. It is quite worth while for Mr. Burnley to get rid of his extravagance, for he has force. Here, for instance, is some- thing with a very distinct idea in what Idonia says when she sees her revenge within reach :—

"The height I've climbed is won, but there Exists no level tract for after-days ;

The path ends in a straight-cut precipice, And, ere my laugh of triumph is all spent, I topple down."

The verse is often very rough. The particle there, for instance, in the first of thetas lines, is an intolerable ending. We must not pass without mentioning a series of pieces celled "The Factory," in which there is much less of forced and unnatural effort, and which are in all respects more satisfactory than the chief poem of the volume.---The Fountain of Youth, and other Poems, by the Rev. Herbert Todd (Provost), is a volume of verses not unpleasant to read, yet such as without some personal motive few would care to read again. If we are to make exceptions to this criticism, it would be in favour of two or three pieces where the writer has evidently painted from life. Such is the poem entitled "J. S.," the story of a little girl who with rare presence of mind contrived to avert the imminent collision of two railway trains. But, failing the rare gift of such versification as Mr. Tennyson uses in Dora, it would have been more effectively told in prose. The best lines that we can find are those from a "Hymn " :- "Oh! hands outstretched for me Upon the bitter tree,

Through all those weary hours of mortal pain, Loosen the iron bands That chain my captive hands, And set me free to save my God again.

"Oh! wounded feet, for me Nailed to th* accursed tree, Walk still before me in life's narrow way, Guide to heaven's pastures sweet My way-worn, wandering feet, In the broad road, oh'. never more to stray."

—The Cornish Ballads and other Poems of the Rev. R. S. Hawker. (James Parker.)—Nearly forty years ago Mr. Hawker wrote a ballad to suit the old Cornish refrain, "And shall Trelawney die ?" which was good enough to pass as genuine with Sir Walter Scott and Lord Macaulay. His ballads accordingly are the best things in this volume, though they are rather easy than spirited. " Mawgan of Melhuach" is, we should say, the most Vigorous of all. Mr. Hawker writes like a man of culture and taste ; in his "Quest of the Sangraal " he shows a power of expres- sion which, though it is not easy to say whether it is rhetorical or poetical, is, at any rate, considerable ; "Pompeii" is a prize poem of very small value. Some of the poems are disfigured, as we cannot but think, by a strong theological colour. The " Aishah Shekinab," for instance, written in honour of the Virgin, seems to us terribly irreverent, as when we read that "Far, far away the conscious Godhead thrilled" at every movement of the unborn child. Mr. Hawker can, indeed, be uncommonly audacious. Let any one read his note on p. 108 to see how he- can rewrite the Gospels ; or his note on p. 188, where space is defined "as. that part of God's presence which is measured out to enfold the plane- tary universe." But how planetary universe if, as he says afterwards,. the star Aleyone is the centre of space? Boldest of all, perhaps, is the, statement that "Excalibur " is a "Hebrew name signifying • champer of the steel.'" By way of a friendly parting, we will quote a few lines. where a familiar idea is well put :—

" Come then, sad river, let our footsteps blend Onward, by silent bank, and nameless stone; Our years began alike, so let them end,— We live with many men, we die alone."

—Judith and other Poems. By John Askham. (Warne.)—Mr. Ask- ham seems to share the common delusion about blank verse—that it is. easyto write. At all events, what he gives us hero is quite nerveless. and feeble. In rhyme he succeeds better, and gives little sketches of country scenes and village life, of the "gentle river Non," and the "oil grandame," with her "scores of spangled bobbins," which may fairly satisfy his Northamptonshire patrons.—Florence, a Poem (Longmans), is evidently written on the model of Don Juan. It is an odious story, told in a very flippant style, without a trace of power, humour, or pathos. No author's name appears on the title-page, and we confess to a little surprise at seeing the publishers'.