1895 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Rodman Drake

Richard Stoddard, in "Joseph Rodman Drake" The Critic 27 (1895) 84.



Drake's poetry should not be read as if it had been written in our day, when poets are so plentiful that every versifier has their art at his finger-ends: It should be read as it was read when it was written, in the first two decades of the century, when poets were few among us, and their skill so limited and uncertain as to disconcert and irritate their readers. He had no American models whom he could study to advantage, only such rude workmen in verse as Dwight, Trumbull, and Freneau; and the only English models whom he knew, or for whom he seemed to care, were Moore and Scott. He could not have had a more manly master than Scott, though he might have found a more deliberate one, for Scott improvised father than composed. Like Scott, Drake wrote too rapidly, and too carelessly; for whatever its merits, and they are considerable, since poetic invention is one of them, and spirited metrical movement is another, The Culprit Fay is an improvisation and nothing more — an improvisation which needed much, but never had any, correction. It is charming, however, for just what it is, being one of the pillars upon which the reputation of Drake rests, the other being his lyric, The American Flag, which is still the standard sheet in our Heaven of Song. No one but a poet could have written these two poems, to remember which is to remember Joseph Rodman Drake.