1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Neele

Anonymous, "Henry Neele" La Belle Assemblee S3 5 (May 1827) 199.



Mr. Neele's ideas respecting the ode, the grandest and most sublime species of poetical composition, seem to us very correct. "If," says he, "poetry is to be indeed the power of giving to 'airy nothing a local habitation and a name,' then lyric poetry is of all others that which best deserves the title. It dwells in a creation of its own; its actors are the visionary and unsubstantial train of fancy; and the compositions by which it is surrounded are

Calling shapes and beckoning shadows dire,
And airy tongues that syllable men's names.

When it descends to humanity, its intercourse is with the heart, and not with the actions of man; with its abstract feelings and passions, and not with the part which he plays on the world's great theatre. Fancy is its dominion, and the deep and abundant sources of description, allegory and sentiment, are peculiarly its own." Under this view of the ode — and a view might be taken in which its attendant difficulties would be seen in a yet stronger light — we cannot wonder at the smallness of the number of those who succeed in its composition. To publish a volume of poems, the greater part of which consisted of odes, written at the early of age from fourteen to seventeen, was a perilous step. Mr. Neele's success, however, proves that he felt his ground — that he had a knowledge of his own powers. Dr. Drake's eulogistic opinions, pronounced in his Winter Nights, upon Mr. Neele's efforts, must have been abundantly gratifying to the feelings of the youthful poet; and the correctness of those opinions has been long since established by the voice of the public.