1828 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Emma Catherine Embury

William Leggett, "Ianthe's Poetry" Philadelphia Album 3 (11 November 1828) 196.



Among the female writers who have enriched American literature with their productions, the authoress of "Guido, and other Poems" deserves prominent mention. Were we to measure the merits of our poets by assimilating them with the poets of Great Britain, we should call Ianthe the L. E. L. of this country. She is characterized by the same flow and melody of words, the same tenderness of thought and warmth of feeling, and the same richness and copiousness of imagery. The principal poem of the volume abounds with beauties of a high order, and shows that the fair author has a great command of language, both as relates to the precise and energetic expression of thought, and as the means of a harmonious and varied versification, "though smooth, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull." The following description of a beautiful maiden, Floranthe, is all that we can copy from the principal poem, — Guido:—

Yes, she was beautiful — 'twas not the glow
Of simple beauty decked her cheek and brow;
For on her lofty forehead mind had made
Its visible temple; her thick tresses strayed
Down on her neck, as if they feared to rest
On that proud brow, but loved her gentle breast;
Her eye was dark as midnight, yet as bright
As if no rear had ever dimmed its light,
Lovely as love's first dream were her sweet lips;
Sweet as the honey that the wild bee sips
On famed Hymettus, the pale, pearl-like hue
Of her soft cheek was fair as if it drew
Its tint from purity; the oval face
So like some sculptured statue's classic grace;
The nobly arching brow; the veined lid,
'Neath which the full dark eye was scarcely hid.

The volume before us consists of a number of poems besides the one from which it takes its appellation; and in these the reader will find an agreeable variety, both as to subject and versification. The style of the accomplished lady author changes with her theme, and her language lightly invests her thoughts, which shine through it, like flowers through their crystal covers, with unobstructed brilliancy and beauty. Nothing is more irksome to a reader, than to be trifled with, by his author pausing to play with words, when he should be earnestly engaged with ideas; stringing phrases together in glittering combinations, instead of shedding on his page the illumination of genius. None of this affectation belongs to Ianthe; it is easy to see that she thinks more than she speaks, and that what she speaks she feels — that her words are used as vehicles of thought, and not crowded in, like empty coaches in a funeral, to lengthen out her metrical file to respectable dimensions. Her volume is a rich garden from which we might cull many fragrant poetic blossoms and flowers, that could not fail to delight our readers. — We ought to add, that the mechanical execution is uncommonly neat, and reflects great credit on the publishers. The volume in every respect, is deserving of warm approval and extensive patronage. The author of such poetry cannot conceal herself under the shadow of a name, and Mrs. Embury may openly wear the bays that lanthe's genius has won, by effusions that would do credit to any writer.