Last Update: Jan. 25, 2001 .Navigation:. Main Menu .. Poe's Criticisms
[Text: Edgar Allan Poe (?), Review of P. P. Cooke's Froissart Ballads and Other Poems, from Graham's Magazine, May 1847, pp. 323-324.]

[page 323, column 2, continued:]

Froissart Ballads. By Philip Pendleton Cooke. Phila.: Carey & Hart.

    This is one of the most delightful volumes which we have met with for many a day. We have long know and admired the fugitive poems of Mr. Cooke, and now heartily welcome our old favorites, with their new companions, in the beautiful dress which the publishers have given them. In the "Proem to Emily" there is an exquisite freshness which delights us exceedingly. We hardly know how to characterize the peculiar beauty of it spirit; but it sees, while reading it, as if we were dreaming in [page 324:] the delicious shade of quiet trees, and looking down upon golden valleys, wherein pass to and fro the valiant knights, stately dames, and lovely maids of the misty days of chivalry. So it seems while perusing the proem, but in the "Master of Bolton," we have the reality, and it no longer seems. This poem, while being in Mr. Cooke's peculiar and happiest vein, has about it a dash, which strikes us as Scott-like, and a spice of the "Christabel;" not in a degree, however, which could be said to amount to imitation, but evincing rather, a mind sensitive to the same romantic impressions. What could be more beautiful and graphic than the following characteristic sketch -- or rather let us say picture, which we extract from the "Master of Bolton?"

"All heard a merry signal cry,
And a swift heron, from a marsh,
Mounted with sudden scream, and harsh,
Beating the air in wild alarm.
Then hawks were cast from many an arm;
And it was a gallant sight to see
The fleet birds tower so valiantly,
Each for the vanguard challenging,
but none went forth so swift of wing --
Mounted so boldly on the wind,
As the brave bird of Jocelind.

With winnow and soar he won the height
At point above the quarry's flight,
And balanced in air, and made his stoop;
But the swift heron shunned the swoop,
And, wheeling aside, a moment stayed,
Just over the gazing cavalcade;
A wild-eyed, terror-stricken bird
The Kentish hawk had canceliered,
But now drove back upon his prey,
Ire-whetted for the fresh assay.
The lady's heart with pity filled,
The quarry's mortal dread to see,
And in her gentleness she willed
To ward its dire extremity;
With uplift hands and eager eyes,
And cheeks bereft of their rosy dyes,
'GAWEN, MY GAWEN! Come back,' she cried,
The hawk, true vassal, turned aside,
Doubtful, upon his pinions wide,
Then, like a servant of a charm,
Sank to his perch on the lady's arm,
The damsel in her loveliness,
Made lovelier by that kind distress,
Repaid the bold bird's loyalty
With gentleness of hand and eye.
That silver call, so sweet to hear,
When will it die on the master's ear?
'My Gawen -- come back!' the truth to say,
He pondered the words for many a day."

    It must be remembered that the bird had been named in honor of his former owner, the Master of Bolton, and this was he
"Who pondered the words for many a-day."
    Mark, too, a little further on, how gloriously our author reproduces the iron-rattle and fiery jostle of the tourney:
"Into the lists Sir Gawen rides,
Manful upon his charger black,"
to break a lance for his lady's sake.
"At signal of a bugle blast --
... Sharp and sudden sound,
The knights set forward, fiery fast,
... And met in middle ground; [column 2:]
Met with stern shock of man and horse,
... And din of crashing spears;
But neither champion won the course,
... They parted there like peers.
Again! again! and respite none
... Will hot Lord Siampi yield,
Swift he demands, with haughty tone,
... Renewal of the field!
Whereto, Sir Gawen urged to speak,
... Answers as haughtily,
'By God! sir knight, I nothing seek
... So much as strife with thee.'
Thus spake he, and his visor closed,
... As to his post he passed;
Again the armed men opposed
... Await the signal blast!
Sudden it came, with hearts of flame,
... The champions, at the sound,
Drove each his steed at furious speed,
... And met in middle ground.
The Frankish champion struck amain --
... Struck with a force so dire --
On Gawen's helmet, that his brain
... Streamed with a flood of fire.
But Gawen smote the knight of France,
... Full on his sturdy breast,
And driven, perforce, the trusty lance
... Through shield and corselet prest --
Crashing through steel, the weapon good,
... Lord Siampi's bosom found,
Nor broke until the sudden blood
... Gushed darkly from the wound.
Manful against the lance's force
... Lord Siampi bore him well,
And passed Sir Gawen in the course,
... All upright in his selle --
But with the gallop of his horse,
... He reeled -- and swayed -- and fell!"
    "The Mountains," "Florence Vane," the poem of "The Bards," and "Young Rosalie Lee," are exquisite gems. Altogether, this volume of "Froissart Ballads, and Other Poems," fully deserves the hearty reception, which we are glad to see so universally extended to it by the press.

[This review was attributed to Poe by T. O. Mabbott. In his notes at the University of Iowa, Mabbott says, "assigned to Poe with some reservations." On August 9, 1846, Poe wrote to Cooke, "Do not forget to send me a few personal details of yourself--such as I give in 'The N. Y. Literati'. When your book appears I propose to review it fully in Colton's 'American Review.' If you ever write to him, please suggest to him that I wish to do so. I hope to get your volume before mine goes to press--so that I may speak more fully." Shortly afterwards, Cooke wrote to Griswold, "Mr. Poe holds himself ready to review my book -- saying all that fairness will let him say in favor of it" (Cooke to Griswold, November 8, 1846). No such review appeared in The American Review, but Graham's would have been an obvious second choice for Poe. Mabbott also notes that the anonymous reviewer uses italics, a practice which was not common in Graham's at this time. This review is not mentioned by Heartman & Canny or William D. Hull.]

~~~ End of Text ~~~

[S:0 - GM, 1847]