1813 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Edward Smedley

Francis Hodgson, Review of Smedley, A Few Verses; The Monthly Review 70 (March 1813) 322-24.



The author of this pleasing and classical little volume is evidently a man of cultivated understanding, of considerable taste, and of much sensibility. We trust, however, that he is not really so despondent and miserable as he is here poetically represented. As to the account of his death in the preface, and the declaration that this is a posthumous work, we are too well acquainted with a species of innocent imposture that is very prevalent, to attach credit to all literary professions of a similar nature: but, be the truth what it may in the present case, the writer has no occasion to be ashamed of is compositions. He is said by his editor (or, as we conjecture, he declares himself,) to have died young; and indeed we discover many instances of incorrectness in these productions; which, as they certainly belong to a scholar, and indicate no vulgar genius, must offend in this manner solely from the hurry, carelessness, or incompletely formed taste, which are so incidental to youth. — We subjoin a few specimens in defence of our opinion, and for the amusement of our readers.

THAMES FLOWS FAR SWEETER THAN THE C LYDE.
I wish my steps were southward bent,
And turn'd again to love and Thee;
For, doom'd to this drear banishment,
How can my struggling heart be free!
I count the hours, which on their way
For ever seem condemn'd to last;
How slowly moves the coming day!
How long, how weary was the past! &c. &c.

In poems of which the style is generally polished, we feel the introduction of old or barbarous words to be as absurd as the effect which is caused by a sudden vulgarism in language escaping from the lips of a well-dressed person. "The 'birks' so fair," and the "hawthorn 'sheen,'" have nothing to do in so natural an English trifle as that which we have just quoted. An equally simple but more energetic production bears the title of "This is not Love." As one of the fairest examples of the author's talents, in our opinion, we transcribe it.

I.
You ask me why unseen I stray,
And waste the solitary day;
Why far my wandering path extends,
From mirth, and books, and home, and friends;
You tell me Love alone can bind
Such fetters round the yielding mind:
Ah! no; this heart doth know
No joys like Love.

II.
Far from the vulgar ken I fly,
To muse on Her averted eye;
I turn from friends to think how She
Has turn'd her alter'd cheek from me;
Mirth, books, and home — ah! how can these
The bosom's secret pang appease!
Go, go; I do not show
One sign of Love.

III.
It is not Love to chill and glow
Like wintry suns on beds of snow;
To chase the stifled sigh with fear;
To dry before it fall the tear;
And, last sad victory of Pride,
In smiles this inward strife to hide.
Ah! no; this cannot flow
From any Love.

IV.
'Tis Love to loosen Rapture's rein,
And dream of all that might have been;
Give Fancy's eye unbounded scope,
Outstrip the fleetest wings of hope;
Still fail, and still the course pursue,
And deem each wish of Passion true.
If so, this heart would know
A genuine Love.

V.
Mine is not Love; this breast has bled
Till every finer sense is dead:
Mine is the craving bosom's void,
The joyless heart, and unenjoy'd,
Engross'd by selfishness alone,
As weeds o'ershade the desart stone.
Ah! no; full well I know
I cannot Love.

The Latin verses at the end of the volume are said to be from the hand of a friend. They are but moderate; and in p. 63. we observe a false quantity, the second "i" in "ilicibus" being used long. We cannot admit "variare stylo;" nor approve "mitto tibi," nor "parvas saltabo choreas." This last is more like Clyde than the Thames.