1836 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Fitz-Greene Halleck

Isaac Clark Pray, "Sketches of American Poets: Halleck" Prose and Verse, from the Port Folio of an Editor (1836) 29-30.



This writer has very little of what may be called Miltonic fire; and since we have but one notion in respect to genuine poetry, we class him among those poets, whose only endeavors are to please. Compared with Milton, what is he? — Compared with Byron, what? Place him with Burns, is he equal. How does he appear with Coleridge, or Wordsworth, or Cowper, or Wilson, or Moir, or Hogg? With Percival how does he compare? Is the construction of his mind as poetical as that of Dana?

In comparison with these, he is insignificant, and yet only in comparison with these can his merits as a true poet be tested. If you place him with those, who, for amusement, write poetry occasionally, he towers above them — he stands high; but whether he will be esteemed highly by posterity, is a question easily answered.

He has, like others of the New York phalanx, written a very little; and that little has been well finished, so that we are pleased with his writings. We would commend them as pearls of value; but we cannot compare them with the gems of greater worth.

There is nothing which can so well give a notion of his powers, as the reading of his Alnwick Castle. He is in it, throughout the whole. Indeed, it strikes us now, that his poetry resembles a castle, not as we might imagine it to have been in the days of romance and chivalry; but as the time-worn, moss-covered relic of departed glory, glorious only in reality, as it is filled with the trophies and equipments of former times, and surrounded by beautiful objects, which are associated with many things which all love and admire.