1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ebenezer Elliott

Thomas Carlyle, in "Corn-Law Rhymes" Edinburgh Review 55 (July 1832) 339.



If the whole welkin hang over-cast in dizzly dinginess, the feeblest light-gleam, or speck of blue, cannot pass unheeded. The Works of this Corn-Law Rhymer we might liken rather to some little fraction of a rainbow: hues of joy and harmony, painted out of troublous tears. No round full bow, indeed; gloriously spanning the Heavens; shone on by the full sun; and, with seven-striped, gold-crimson border (as is in some sort the office of Poetry) dividing Black from Brilliant: not such; alas, still far from it! Yet, in very truth, a little prismatic blush, glowing genuine among the wet clouds; which proceeds, if you will, from a sun cloud-hidden, yet indicated that a sun does shine, and above vapours, a whole azure vault and celestian firmament stretch serene. Strange as it may seem, it is nevertheless true, that here we have once more got sight of a Book calling itself Poetry, yet which actually is a kind of Book, and no empty pasteboard Case, and simulacrum or "ghost-defunct" of a Book, such as is too often palmed on the world, and handed over Booksellers' counters, with a demand of real money for it, as if it too were a reality. The speaker here is of that singular class, who have something to say; whereby, though delivering himself in verse, and in these days, he does not deliver himself wholly in jargon, but articulately, and with a certain degree of meaning, that has been believed, and therefore is again believable.