1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Kirke White

Anonymous, in "Poetry: Kirke White" The Ordeal [Boston] (21 January 1809) 53-54.



Of the imitators of the poetry of the NEW SCHOOL, we do not know any who has been more successful, or whose fame has been more widely extended by the adulation of panegyrick, than Mr. Henry Kirke White. His sensibility is excessive; every thing that exists under the customary state of things is wrong, and utopian schemes of unattainable felicity, of pastoral happiness, of German sentiment and feeling, are continually inspiring the imagination of his muse. He is like a number of other modern poetasters, morally mad; the pang of the punishment is alone to be considered, though the crime be ever so glaring.

The German poet is delighted with the secret sympathies of human nature, which unite hearts indissolubly, though the persons who possess them, had never before seen each other; he evinces his delight in the perfectibility of man, by palliating the crimes of the poor, and exaggerating the vices of the powerful. His feelings expand at the sight of human depravity in distress, congeal at the intimation of greatness in good fortune, and are gratified at the slips and errours committed by those who are in exalted stations.

That Mr. White has tendencies of this kind, cannot be doubted by those who are acquainted with his distempered compositions. We have subjoined one of the, together with an imitation of our own, that our readers may see not only in how ridiculous a taste it is written, but that the object of it is unworthy of the eulogies and sympathies which he lavishes upon her.

We have extracted also, for the satisfaction of our readers, an Ode on this very Mr. White, which will exhibit a specimen of the encomiums which have been most profusely and undeservedly bestowed upon his genius.

ODE.
ON THE LATE HENRY KIRKE WHITE
And is the Minstrel's voyage o'er?
And will his magick harp no more,
Mute, in the mansions of the dead,
Its strains seraphick pour?

A pilgrim in this world of woe,
Condemn'd, alas! awhile we stray,
Where bristly thorns, where briars grow,
He bade, to cheer the gloomy way,
Its heav'nly musick flow.

And oft he bade, by fame inspir'd,
Its wild notes seek the aetherial plain,
Till angels, by its musick fir'd,
Have, list'ning, caught th' ecstatick strain—
Have wonder'd and admir'd.

But now secure on happier shores,
With choirs of sainted souls he sings,
His harp th' omnipotent adores,
And from its sweet, its silver strings,
Celestial musick pours.

And tho' on earth no more he'll weave
The lay that's fraught with magick fire,
Yet oft shall Fancy hear at eve,
His now exalted, heav'nly lyre,
Its sounds Aeolian grieve.

This will be sufficient to prove the admiration which the poetaster has excited.