23 FEBRUARY 1861, Page 20


the Poetical Works of Gerald Massey, the son of the canal boatman in Herts, and himself successively silk-mill worker, errand-boy, and journalist, will, be welcomed by the less fastidious readers of poetry. Those who sympathize with fine feelings and delicate susceptibilities, who delight in profuse imagery and florid diction, will assuredly find much in this volume which they will re- gard, and which in some sense they will rightly regard, as poetry. But those who demand imaginative conception, who require, first, that the poet have something to sing, and then that he sing it with purity, simplicity, and proportion, will not find here the poetry which they seek. Mr. Massey is not an original writer. He is scarcely la copyist indeed, but he reproduces, perhaps unconsciously, the im- pressions which the poetry he admires have left on his sensitive nature. In the very first page of -his book we read— "When Danag-earth bares all her charms,

And gives the God her perfect flower—"

surely an echo of a line in The Princess "Now lies the Earth all Dame to the stars." In fact, the whole of the "Ballad of Babe Christabil," 'from which these verses are taken, perpetually suggests its great precursor, the In Memoriam of Tennyson, which we cannot but regard as, in this instance, the immediate source of inspiration to

Mr. lkiinssey's muse. We are far, however, from saying that this very not instinct with beautiful thoughts and fancies clothed in mus language. For instance— •

" When Beauty walks in bravest dress, And, fed with April's mellow showers, The earth laughs out with sweet May-flowers, That flush for very happiness ; "And Puck his web of wonder weaves 0' nights, and nooks of greening gloom Are rich with violets that bloom In the cool dark of dewy leaves."

In this last verse the picturesque expression of "greening gloom" would be more admired if . it did not remindof the 'greening gleam" of 'one of Mr. Tennyson's fine psalm's. ,And a little belo*, Mr. Gerald'a "Song like a spirit sits i! the trees" is too like the greater "The lark became a sightless song" for us to feel satisfied that it is not a resetting of the same thought.

Perhaps Mr. Massey's best poem is that which idealizes a sad ex- perience, "The Mother's Idol .Broken." It is graceful and touching; and once at least nobly pathetic.

"This is a.curl of our poor Splendid's ' hair

A sunny burst of rare and ripe young gold," .

is a true and natural introduction to the " babe-ivondeiings and little tender ways," to "the wee wax face that gradually withdrew and darkened into the great cloud of death," to the' three words Of human speech

"One for her mother, one for me, and one

The Poetical Works of Gerald Massey. A new' edition with illustrations. Pub- lished by Routledge, Warne, and Routledge.

She crowed with for the fields and open heaven. That last she sighed with a sweet farewell pathos A minute ere she left the house of life, To come for kisses never any more.

. . . . . . . .

And there our darling lay in coflined calm: Beyond the breakers and the moaning now 1 And o'er her flowed the white eternal peace: The breathing miracle into silence pmsed: Never to stretch wee hands, with her dear smile As soft as light-fall on unfolding flowers: Never to wake us crying in the night: Our little hindering thing for ever gone, In tearful quiet now we might toil on. All dim the living lustres motion makes! No life-dew in the sweet cups of her eyes, Nought there of our poor "Splendid" but her brow."

We doubt if Mr. Massey has written anything better than Mat. His " Craigbrook Castle" is often musical, and is prodigally fanciful. Fancy indeed is his most prominent attribute. The third section of the poem last mentioned contains a succession of mental corusca- tions that dazzle, rather than delight, "the wondering eyes of men." Of Mr. Massey's political poems we say nothing. He does not value them highly himself, retaining them only "as memorials of the past,. as one Might keep some worn-out garment because he had passed through the furnace in it." One or two of his rhyming com- positions are slightly humorous, that for example about the lion who "shook his incredulous head, and wagged his dubious tail" There is one, too, on England and an illustrious living personage, which, without going the whole way with the sarcastic poet, we can read with some degree of satisfaction. It begins-

" There was a poor old Woman once, a daughter of our nation, Before the Devil's portrait stood in ignorant adoration. You're bowing down to Satan, Ma'am,' said some Spectator civil, 'Ali Sir, it's best to be polite, for we may go to the Devil,'

Bow, bow, bow, We may go to the Devil, so it's just as well to bow."

The edition of Mr. Gerald Massey's poems from which we are now quoting contains a biographic sketch, which is not without interest, and the poet's own preface to the third issue of "Babe Christabel." This poem, as now published, thus appears for the fourth time—a proof of the author's popularity. If we admire his productions less than others, it is that our standard is higher than that of others. Let Mr. Massey write more slowly, take more pains with his versifi- cation, be less with Queep Mab, and dwell more among the great central facts of human life, with its perennial joys and griefs, and we shall not be backward to recognize his superiority. But let us have no more "stars and flowers," no more "Titanpulses" and "purple rondures." The highest poetry can afford to dress plainly.