Text: Edgar Allan Poe, Critical Notices, Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. II, no. 7, July 1836, 2:???-???


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ERATO.

Erato. By William D. Gallagher. No. I, Cincinnati, Josiah Drake — No. II, Cincinnati, Alexander Flash.

Many of these poems are old friends, in whose communion we have been cheered with bright hopes for the Literature of the West. Some of the pieces will be recognized by our readers, as having attained, anonymously, to an enviable reputation — among these the Wreck of the Hornet. The greater part, however, of the latter volume of Mr. Gallagher, is now, we believe, for the first time published. Mr. G. is fully a poet in the abstract sense of the word, and w ill be so hereafter in the popular meaning of the term. Even now he has done much in the latter way — much in every way. We think, moreover, we perceive in him a far more stable basis for solid and extensive reputation than we have seen in more than a very few of our countrymen. We allude not now particularly to force of expression, force of thought, or delicacy of imagination. All these essentials of the poet he possesses — but we wish to speak of care, study, and self-examination, of which this vigor and delicacy are in an inconceivable measure the result. That the versification of Mr. G.’s poem The Conqueror, is that of Southey’s Thalaba, we look upon as a good omen of ultimate success — although we regard the metre itself as unjustifiable. It is not impossible that Mr. G. has been led to attempt this rhythm by the same considerations which have had weight with Southey — whose Thalaba our author had not seen before the planning of his own poem. If so, and if Mr. Gallagher will now begin anew, in his researches about metre, where the laureate made an end, we have little doubt of his future renown.

It is not our intention to review the poems of Mr. Gallagher — nor perhaps would he thank us for so doing. They are exceedingly unequal. Long passages of the merest burlesque, and in horribly bad taste, are intermingled with those of the loftiest beauty. It seems too, that the poems before us fail invariably as entire poems, while succeeding very frequently in individual portions. But the failure of a whole cannot be shown without an analysis of that whole — and this analysis, as we have said, is beyond our intention at present. Some detached sentences, on the other hand, may be readily given; but, in equity, we must remind our readers that these sentences are selected.

The following fine lines are from The Penitent — a poem ill-conceived, ill-written, and disfigured by almost every possible blemish of manner. We presume it is one of the author’s juvenile pieces.

Remorse had furrowed his ample brow —

His cheeks were sallow and thin —

His limbs were shrivelled — his body was lank —

He had reaped the wages of sin;

And though his eyes constantly glanced about,

As if looking or watching for something without,

His mind’s eye glanced within!

Wildly his eyes still glared about,

But the eye that glared within

Was the one that saw the images

That frightened this man of sin.

From the same.

We were together: we had tarried

So off by some enchanting spot

To her familiar, and which carried

Her thoughts away — where mine were not —

That, ere she knew, the bright, chaste moon

— Not as of old, (when Time was young)

She roamed the woods, in sandal-shoon,

With bow in hand and quiver strung —

But ’mong the stars, and broad and round

The moon of man’s degenerate race,

Its way had through an opening found,

And shone full in her face!

She started then, and, looking up,

Turned on me her delicious eyes;

And I, poor fool! I dared to hope,

And met that look with sighs!

From the “Wreck of the Hornet” —

Now shrank with fear each gallant heart —

Bended was many a knee —

And the last prayer was offered up,

God of the Deep, to thee!

Muttered the angry Heavens still

And murmured still the sea —

And old and sternest hearts bowed down

God of the Deep, to Thee!

The little ballad “They told me not to love him,” has much tenderness, simplicity, and neatness of expression. We quote three of the five stanzas — the rest are equally good.

They told me not to love him!

They said he was not true;

And bade me have a care, lest I

Should do what I might me:

At first I scorn’d their warnings — for

I could not think that he

Conceal’d beneath so fair a brow,

A heart of perfidy.

 

But they fore’d me to discard him!

Yet I could not cease to love —

For our mutual vows recorded were

By angel hands above.

He left his boyhood’s home, and sought

Forgetfulness afar;

But memory stung him — and he fought,

And fell, in glorious war.

 

He dwells in Heaven now — while I

Am doom’d to this dull Earth:

O, how my sad soul longs to break

Away, and wander forth.

From star to star its course would be —

Unresting it would go,

Till we united were above,

Who severed were below.

By far the best poem we have seen from the pen of Mr. Gallagher is that entitled “August” — and it is indeed this little piece alone which would entitle him, at least now, we think, to any poetical rank above the general mass of versifiers. But the ability to write a poem such as “Hugo,” while implying a capacity for even higher and better things, speaks clearly of present power, and of an upward progress already begun Much of the beauty of the lines we mention, springs, it must be admitted, from imitation of Shelley — but we are not inclined to like them much the less on this account. We copy only the four initial stanzas. The remaining seven, although good, are injured by some inadvertences. The allusion, in stanzas six and seven, to Mr. Lee, a painter, destroys the keeping of all the latter portion of the poem.

Dust on thy mantle! dust,

Bright Summer, on thy livery of green!

A tarnish, as of rust,

Dimmeth thy brilliant sheen:

And thy young glories — leaf, and bud, and flower —

Change cometh over them with every hour.

 

Thee hath the August sun

Looked on with hot, and fierce, and brassy face:

And still and lazily run,

Scarce whispering in their pace,

The half-dried rivulets, that lately sent

A shout of gladness up, as on they went

 

Flame-like, the long mid-day —

With not so much of sweet air as hath stirr’d

The down upon the spray,

Where rests the panting bird,

Dozing away the hot and tedious noon,

With fitful twitter, sadly out of tune.

 

Seeds in the sultry air,

And gossamer web-work on the sleeping trees!

E’en the tall pines, that rear

Their plumes to catch the breeze,

The slightest breeze from the unfruitful West,

Partake the general languor, and deep rest.

 


Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - SLM, 1836] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - Criticial Notices (July 1836)