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[Text: Edgar Allan Poe (?), Review of Hoyt's A Chaunt of Life (A), from The Evening Mirror (New York), December 23, 1844, p. 4, col. 1.]


[page 4, column 1:]

A CHAUNT OF LIFE, AND OTHERS POEMS, BY REV. RALPH HOYT. -- Mr. Hoyt has put forth a small, neatly printed volume of poems, the first of a series, the chief one of which is entitled "A Chaunt of Life." Several smaller miscellaneous poems are attached to this, to be followed by prose sketches. "A Chaunt of Life" is a labored poem; and as its title indicates, of quite a reflective character. It is smooth and easy in its versification, and contains many fine passages. The author's true power, however, is seen more in his apparently lightest efforts. Nothing is more common than for men of genius to value most those things they produce with the greatest labor, while that which falls from the heart, as its natural and earnest language, seems what anybody else would say and write. Thus we can trace through these poems the current of Mr. Hoyt's feelings. One of the pieces of this collection attracted our attention, on its first appearance, last winter, in the "New Mirror," entitled "The World for sale." the editor headed it with the remark: -- "Here is a poem written on the tenth wave of feeling," and so it was, and therein lies the charm. It opens in the full passion of a half-scornfull, half-reckless, half-sorrowful heart: --
 

"THE WORLD FOR SALE!" -- hang out the sign!
Call every traveller here to me,
Who'll buy this brave estate of mine,
And set the weary prisoner free.
'Tis going -- yes, I mean to fling
The bauble from my soul away;
I'll sell it, whatsoe'er it bring --
The world at auction here to-day!"

Love, friendship, Wealth, Ambition, even the Poet's Lyre are struck off with the rapidity of a man who is anxious to be rid of his useless stock. Fame is lifted over the heads of the gaping multitude: and hear the poet auctioneer: --

"FAME! hold the brilliant meteor high!
How dazzling every gilded name!
Ye millions, no's the time to buy? --
How much for Fame? -- How much for Fame?
Hear how it thunders! Would you stand,
On high Olympus, far renowned?
Now purchase, and a world command,
And be with a world curses crowned."

All goes but the poet's Faith, Bible and God.

There is another poem in the collection, headed "SNOW." These eighteen stanzas will compare with anything of the kind ever written. One thinks of BURNS through it all. It is a description of a calm winter's morn, after a deep fall of snow during the night. The scene is in the country; and whoever has waked of a quiet, breathless morning, and looked out upon the fields all mowed under, while the white load on their bosom seems light as foam on the water, and watched the noiseless movements of the inmates of the farm house as they waded to and fro in the yielding moss, will say this poem is a perfect painting. It is difficult to give a fair impression of the piece, without quoting the whole. But how natural is the following description of the appearance of the half-buried fences, posts, logs, carts and all: --

"E'en the old posts, that hold the bars,
And the old gate,
Forgetful of their winder's wars,
And age sedate,
High capped and plumed, like white hussars,
Stand there in state.

The drifts are hanging by the rill,
The eaves, the door;
The hay-stack has become a hill --
All covered o'er --
The wagon loaded for the mill,
The night before!

Maria brings the water-pail --
But where's the well?
Like magic of a fairy tale,
Most strange to tell,
All vanished -- curb, crank, and rail --
How deep it fell!

The wood-pile, too, is playing hide --
The axe -- the log --
The kennel of that friend so tried
(The old watch-dog) --
The grindstone standing by its side,
All now incog!

The bustling cock looks out aghast,
From his high shed,
No spot to scratch him a repast! --
Up curves his head
Starts the dull hamlet, with a blast,
Then back to bed!

Nothing is omitted in the picture; even the calling of the "younger folk" to dress below, by the blazing kitchen fire, while the cottage rings with the shout of "the snow! The snow!" The buckwheat cakes, the quiet routine of farm-house duties, all are introduced in their place -- even the "old family bible" and the morning prayer; so that at the close we involuntarily say with the writer --
"So cheerful -- tranquil -- snowy fair
The WINTER MORN."
If Mr. Hoyt can paint nature like this, and in such simple language, there is no doubt but that he will have a chance to sell Fame at auction, one of these days, if he is so inclined. If we were allowed to give one word of advice, it would be -- "Look into thine own heart, and then write." The curse of authors is, they begin after a while to look on their audience, and then write. We commend this volume to the lover of true poetry, and can say, in all sincerity, if Mr. Hoyt, in his following numbers, sustains the character of this, there is no doubt of his success.


[This review is attributed to Poe, somewhat equivocally, by T. O. Mabbott in his notes at the University of Iowa, with the final comment of "Accept Oct. 66." Poe uses the same quotation, "look into thine own heart, and then write," by Sir Philip Sidney, in his review of A. C. Mowatt's comedy "Fashion" (Broadway Journal, April 4, 1845, pp. 219-220). W. D. Hull attributes the review to J. T Headley, based in part on a handwritten note in the copy of the Mirror owned by the NYPL. This note is visible on the microfilm copy Hull used, issued by the library. Hull admits that "whose the writing is I have been unable to discover" but also feels "In any event, it [the review] is clearly not Poe's; there is in the whole review nothing suggestive of him; there is nothing which can be paralleled with the review of the second volume of the series of Poems in the Broadway Journal for July 26, 1845." Hull also seems, incorrectly, to think that Poe would not have seen issues of the New Mirror. Hull was apparently unaware that Poe had personally given a full set of the three volumes of the New Mirror to Mrs. Whitman.]

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[S:0 - NYEM, 1844]