1836 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sumner Lincoln Fairfield

Isaac Clark Pray, "Sketches of American Poets: Fairfield" Prose and Verse, from the Port Folio of an Editor (1836) 28-29.



We have wondered considerably, that the poems of this author are so little known, and that their merits are so little appreciated. We turned into Cheever's Place-Book to find some of his pieces, and not a verse was there. We said to ourself, here is a determined blindness, and threw down the book, disgusted with its plan.

Fairfield exhibited his poetical mind in his early productions. There was great poetic rashness in them; but now that age has mellowed, in some degree, his taste, he writes better, and with more power. He has improved much; and this is saying what can be said of but very few.

He ascends the "spirit's ladder" "even to the starry world," and fearlessly presses toward the portals of the temple of poetry. He is encinctured by more of the hallowed fire, than any of his associates, excepting Percival, and his soul leads him on with such ardor, that he has not time for perfection. His mind is wrapt up in the enthusiastic love of his art.

He has a good portion of the spirit of ancient poetry, and with a little more simplicity, his writings would become still more popular, than they are at present.

His genius is real. It is wild to extravagance oftentimes. Like a powerful spirit, he will carry us away to sights of frightful sublimity, or will lead us through scenes of quietness and joy; but too often to the former. The progress of his genius may be likened to the, broad stream of Niagara, pouring over into the abyss which it is bewildering to behold; but where, is sent up a bright and beautiful mist, converted into a bow of beauty, and glory, and magnificence.

He is becoming daily better known, and is yet to reap the laurels of fame. The work in which he is now engaged, will be to him as precious incense; and if he continue to progress in the paths of justice and independence, a coronet of stars will mark his brow through future ages.