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[Text: Edgar Allan Poe, Review of Longfellow's Waif (part II) (A), from The Evening Mirror, January 14, 1845, p. 2, col. 4.]

LONGFELLOW'S WAIF -- A few more words for and against it. -- By far the most vivid and vigorous, if not in all respects the most commendable poem in this collection, is the "Bridge of Sighs," by Hood -- a man whose supremeness of fancy is often pardonably mistaken for imagination itself. Was ever anything on earth more full of the fantastic in pathos, the fantastic in the picturesque, the fantastic in sublimity, and the fantastic in sarcasm, than these lines which occur in the description of a woman found drowned?

Touch her not scornfully!
Think of her mournfully,
Gently and humanly --
Not of the stains of her --
All that remains of her
Now, is pure womanly.

Who was her father?
Who was her mother?
Had she a sister?
Had she a brother?
Was there a dearer one
Still, and a nearer one
Yet, than all other?

Alas, for the rarity
Of Christian charity
Under the sun!
O, it was pitiful!
Near a whole city full
Home she had none.

Where the lamps quiver
So far in the river,
With many a light
From window and casement
From garret to basement
She stood, with amazement,
Houseless by night!

The bleak wind of March
Made her tremble and shiver;
But not the dark arch
Or the black flowing river:
Mad from life's history
Glad to death's mystery
Swift to be hurled --
Anywhere, anywhere,
Out of the world!

In she plunged boldly --
No matter how coldly
The rough river ran --
Over the brink of it.
Picture it -- think of it,
Dissolute man!
Dive in it -- drink of it
Then, if you can!

These extracts, rich as they are, will convey a very fragmentary, and therefore a very feeble conception of the whole poem. Upon reading it, the first question occurring to an American who is himself a poet, will be -- "How long has this been published?" -- and if the answer be "many months," he will be lost in wonder that he has not so much as heard of it before. Our taste -- our critical feelings are in sad condition indeed, when such jewels as this are fairly made part and parcel of a volume of "waifs." "The Bridge of Sighs" should have been received all over the world at once, and with acclamation.

From the "Hymn to the Flowers," by Horace Smith, we quote only the four noble lines which conclude it:

Were I, O God! in churchless lands remaining,
Far from all teachers and from all divines,
My soul would find, in flowers of thy ordaining,
Priests, sermons, shrines.
"April" (anonymous) terminates with one of those striking, yet now and then objectionable images which are the forte of Mr. Longfellow.
But yet, behold! abrupt and loud,
Comes down the glittering rain --
The farewell of a passing cloud --
The fringes of her train.
This puts us in mind of the "Night's skirts all fringed with light from the celestial walls." The "abrupt and loud" is Homeric.

We are rejoiced to find here Lovelace's piquant lines to Althea; -- Mrs. Blackwood's "Lament of the Irish Emigrant;" and the inimitable "Kulnazatz my rein-deer.

The commencement of the "Lily of Nithsdale" is exquisite:

She's gane to dwell in Heaven, my lassie,
She's gane to dwell in Heaven!
Ye're owre pure, quo' the voice of God,
For dwelling out o' Heaven.
The owre and the o' of the two last verses, however, should be Anglicised. The Deity at least, should be supposed to speak so as to be understood -- although we are aware that a folio has been written, to demonstrate broad Scotch as the language of Adam and Eve in Paradise.

We copy in full the "Death-Bed," by Hood, first, because of its intrinsic excellence -- secondly, with the view of pointing out a parallel poem.

We watched her breathing through the night,
Her breathing soft and low,
As in her breast the wave of life
Kept heaving to and fro.

So silently we seemed to speak,
So slowly moved about,
As we had lent her half our powers
To eke her being out.

Our very hopes belied our fears;
Our fears our hopes belied;
We thought her dying when she slept,
And sleeping when she died.

For when the morn came dim and sad,
And chill with early showers,
Her quiet eye-lids closed: -- she had
Another morn than ours.

The parallel (which we copy from Mr. Griswold's large book) runs thus:

Her sufferings ended with the day,
Yet lived she at its close,
And breathed the long long night away
In statue-like repose;

But when the sun in all its state
Illumed the eastern skies,
She passed through Glory's morning gate,
And walked in paradise.

Having fairly transcribed the two poems (about the respective dates of which we knew nothing) we have only to remark, as quietly as we can, that somebody is a thief. It is well said, however, by Leigh Hunt, that really beautiful thoughts are always sure to be spoiled in the stealing: -- and if there is any spoiling in this case, it most assuredly is not upon the part of Mr. Hood.

We conclude our notes on the "Waif," with the observation that, although full of beauties, it is infected with a moral taint -- or is this a mere freak of our own fancy? We shall be pleased if it be so; -- but there does appear, in this exquisite little volume, a very careful avoidance of all American poets who may be supposed especially to interfere with the claims of Mr. Longfellow. These men Mr. Longfellow can continuously imitate ( is that the word?) and yet never even incidentally commend.

~~~ End of Text ~~~

[S:0 - EM, 1845]