Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of Festus: A Poem,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. XII: Literary Criticism - part 04 (1902), pp. 241-243


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[page 241, continued:]

FESTUS: A POEM BY PHILIP JAMES BAILEY, BARRISTER AT LAW. FIRST AMERICAN EDITION. BOSTON: BENJAMIN P. MUSSEY. FOR SALE IN NEW YORK BY REDFIELD & CO.

[Text: Broadway Journal, Sept. 6, 1845.]

THE poetical and critical world of England were, about six years ago, violently agitated (in spots) by the eruption of “Festus,” a Vesuvius-cone at least — if not an Ætna — in the literary cosmos. It is only lately, however, — within the last eight or nine months, perhaps, — that anything more than a mere rumor of the eruption has made its way to us.

This is the more strange, since “Festus” is, beyond question, a poem of the most remarkable potter, and since, in general, we are ludicrously on the alert to catch tile echoes of the British opinion in respect to even the most nonsensical books.

We shall speak of “Festus” hereafter, at length, as its peculiarities deserve. At present, we have read it only in snatches. In the meantime we may observe first, that its author is, or was, at the period of its original publication, a very young man, and secondly [page 242:] that his work has been lauded in no stinted measure, by many of the best authorities in Great Britain. Bulwer, for example, calls it “a most remarkable and magnificent production.” Mrs. Hall says, “It contains some of the most wonderful things I ever read.” Horne, the author of “Orion” (no common man and no common poem) speaks of its “unrepressed vigor of imagination” — its “splendor of great and original imagery” — its “passion of poetry.”

The design of “Festus” may be stated, in brief, as the demonstration of the necessity of Evil. We quote the concluding Sonnet, which the poet affectedly calls “L‘Envoi.”

Read this, world! He who writes is dead to thee,

But still lives in these leaves. He spake inspired:

Night and day thought came unhelped, undesired,

Like blood to his heart. The course of study he

Went through with was the soul-rack. The degree

He took was high: it was wise wretchedness.

He suffered perfectly, and gained no less

A prize than in his own torn heart to see

A few bright seeds: he sowed them — hoped them truth.

The autumn of that seed is in these pages.

God was with him, and bade old Time to the youth

Unclench his heart, and teach the book of ages.

Peace to thee, world! — farewell! — May God the Power,

And God the Love — and God the Grace be ours!

This sonnet happily conveys much of the prevalent tone of the whole poem — its imperiousness — its egotism — its energy — its daring — its ruggedness — its contempt of law in great things and small. Observe the defective rhyme in the conclusion — a straw to show the way of the wind. [page 243:]

Mr. Mussey is to be thanked for the very handsome and substantial manner in which he has issued this American edition.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Review of Festus: A Poem)