Art and Poetry review. Critic 1 Jun. 1850, 278.

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Art and Poetry: being Thoughts towards Nature. Conducted principally by Artists. Nos. 3 and 4. London: Dickinson and Co.

Some time since we had the occasion to direct the attention of our readers to a periodical then just issued under the modest title of The Germ. The surprise and pleasure with which we read it was, as we are informed, very generally shared by our readers upon perusing the poems we extracted from it, and it was manifest to every person of the slightest taste that the contributors were possessed of genius of a very high order, and that The Germ was not so wantonly entitled, for it abounded with the promise of a rich harvest to be anticipated from the maturity of those whose youth could accomplish so much.

But we expressed also our fear lest the very excellence of this magazine should be fatal to its success. It was too good, that is to say, too refined, and of too lofty a class, both in its art and in its poetry, to be sufficiently popular to pay even the printer’s bill. The name, too, was against it–being somewhat unintelligible to the thoughtless, and conveying to the considerate a notion of something very juvenile. Those fears were not unfounded, for it was suspended for a short time; but other journals after a while discovered and proclaimed the merit that was scattered profusely over the pages of The Germ, and thus encouraged, the enterprise has been resumed, with a change of name, which we must regard as an improvement. Art and Poetry precisely describes its character. It is wholly devoted to them, and it aims at originality in both. It is seeking out for itself new paths, in a spirit of earnestness, and with an undoubted ability, which must lead to a new era. The writers may err somewhat at first, show themselves too defiant of prescriptive rules, and mistake extravagance for originality; but this fault, inherent in youth, when, conscious of its powers, it first sets up for itself, will after a while work its own cure, and with experience will come sober action. But we cannot contemplate this young and rising school in art and literature without the most ardent anticipations of something great to grow from it, something new and worthy of our age, and we bid them God speed upon the path they have adventured.

This is a specimen of the art purposes of the writers of this magazine:–

"If, as every poet, every painter, every sculptor will acknowledge, his best and most original ideas are derived from his own times: if his great lessonings to piety, truth, charity, love, honour, honesty, gallantry, generosity, courage, are derived from the same source; why transfer them to distant periods, and make them not things of to-day? Why teach us to revere the saints of old, and not our own family-worshippers? Why to admire the lance-armed knight, and not the patience-armed hero of misfortune? Why to draw a sword we do not wear to aid an oppressed damsel, and not a purse which we do wear to rescue an erring one? Why to worship a martyred St. Agatha, and not a sick woman attending the sick?"

But our more immediate purpose here is with the poetry, of which about one-half of each number is composed. It is all beautiful; much of it is extraordinary merit, and equal to anything that any of our known poets could write, save TENNYSON, of whom the strains sometimes remind us, although they are not imitations and any sense of the word.

Very pretty is this:

SWEET DEATH

  The sweetest blossoms die.

And so it was that, going day by day

  Unto the church to praise and pray,

And crossing the green church-yard thoughtfully,

  I saw how on the graves the flowers

  Shed their fresh leaves in showers;

And how the perfume rose up to the sky

  Before it passed away.

  The youngest blossoms die.

They die, and fall, and nourish the rich earth

  From which they lately had their birth.

Sweet life: but sweeter death that passeth by,

  And is as tho’ it had not been.

  All colours turn to green:

The bright hues vanish, and the odours fly;

  The grass hath lasting worth.

  And youth and beauty die.

So be it, O my God, thou God of truth.

  Better than beauty and than youth

Are saints and angels, a glad company:

  And Thou, O Lord, our Rest and Ease,

  Are better far than these.

Why should we shrink from our fall harvest? why

  Prefer to glean with Ruth?

     "Repining" is a singularly beautiful poem, but too long for our limited space. How delicate

the sentiment of

VIOLA AND OLIVIA

When Viola, a servant of the Duke,

Of him she loved the page, went, sent by him,

To tell Olivia that great love which shook

His breast and stopt his tongue; was it a whim,

Or jealousy or fear that she must look

  Upon the face of that Olivia?

‘Tis hard to say if it were whim or fear

Or jealousy, but it was natural,

As natural as what came next, the near

Intelligence of hearts: Olivia

Loveth; her eye abused by a thin wall

  Of custom, but her spirit’s eyes were clear.

Clear? we have oft been curious to know

The after-fortunes of those lovers dear;

Having a steady faith some deed must show

That they were married souls–unmarried here–

Having an inward faith that love, called so

In verity, is of the spirit, clear

Of earth and dress and sex–it may be near

  What Viola returned Olivia?

     And here is a ballad in the truest spirit of that species of poem.

ON A WHIT-SUNDAY IN THE MONTH OF MAY.

The sun looked over the highest hills,

  And down in the vales looked he;

And sprang up blithe all things of life,

  And put forth their energy;

The flowers creeped out of their tender cups,

  And offered their dewy fee;

And rivers and rills they shimmered along

  Their winding ways to the sea;

And the little birds their morning song

  Trilled forth from every tree,

On a Whit-sunday morn in the month of May.

Lord Thomas he rose and donned his clothes;

  For he was a sleepless man:

And ever he tried to change his thoughts,

  Yet ever they one way ran.

He to catch the breeze through the apple trees,

  By the orchard paths did stray,

Till he was aware of a lady there

  Came walking adown that way:

Out gushed the song the trees among

  Then soared and sank away,

On a Whit-sunday morn in the month of May.

With eyes down-cast care-slow she came,

  Heedless of shine or shade,

Or the dewy grass that wetted her feet,

  And heavy her dress all made:

Oh trembled the song the trees among,

  And all at once was stayed,

On a Whit-sunday morn in the month of May.

Lord Thomas he was a truth-fast knight,

  And a calm-eyed man was he.

He pledged his troth to his mother’s maid

  A damsel of low degree:

He spoke her fair, he spoke her true

  And well to him listened she.

He gave her a kiss, she gave him twain

  All beneath an apple tree:

The little birds trilled, the little birds filled

  The air with their melody,

On a Whit-sunday morn in the month of May.

A goodly sight it was, I ween,

  This loving couple to see,

For he was a tall and a stately man,

  And a queenly shape had she.

With arms each laced round other’s waist,

  Through the orchard paths they tread.

With gliding pace, face mixed with face,

  Yet never a word they said:

Oh! soared the song the birds among,

  And seemed with a rapture sped,

On a Whit-sunday morn in the month of May.

The dew wet grass all through they pass,

  The orchard they compass round;

Save words like sighs and swimming eyes

  No utterance they found.

Upon his chest she leaned her breast,

  And nestled her small, small head,

And cast a look so sad, that shook

  Him all with the meaning said:

Oh hushed was the song the trees among,

  As over there sailed a gled,

On a Whit-sunday morn in the month of May.

Then forth with a faltering voice there came,

  "Ah would Lord Thomas for thee

That I were come of a lineage high,

  And not of a low degree."

Lord Thomas her lips with his fingers touched,

  And stilled her all with his ee’:

"Dear Ella! Dear Ella!" he said,

  "Beyond all my ancestry

Is this dower of thine–that precious thing,

  Dear Ella, thy purity.

Thee will I wed–lift up thy head–

  All I have I give to thee–

Yes–all that is mine is also thine–

  My lands and my ancestry."

The little birds sang and the orchard rang

  With a heavenly melody,

On a whit-sunday morn in the month of May.

Almost one half of the April number is occupied with a "Dialogue on Art," the composition of an artist whose works are well know n to the public. It was written during a period of ill health, which forbad the use of the brush, and taking his pen, he has given to the world his thoughts upon art in a paper which the Edinburgh Review, in its best days, might have been proud to possess.

We conclude with a short poem by Mr. DANTE ROSETTI [sic].

PAX VOBIS

‘Tis of the Father Hilary.

  He strove, but could not pray: so took

  The darkened stair, where his feet shook

A sad blind echo. He crept up

  Slowly. ‘Twas a chill sway of air

  That autumn noon within the stair,

Sick, dizzy, like a turning cup.

  His brain perplexed him, void and thin:

  He shut his eyes, and felt it spin;

  The obscure deafness hemmed him in.

He said: "the air is calm outside."

He leaned unto the gallery

  Where the chime keeps the night and day:

  It hurt his brain,–he could not pray.

He had his face upon the stone:

  Deep ‘twixt the narrow shafts, his eye

  Passed all the roofs unto the sky

Whose greyness the wind swept alone.

  Close by his feet he saw it shake

  With wind in pools that the rains make:

  The ripple set his eye to ache.

He said, "Calm hath its peace outside."

He stood within the mystery

  Girding God’s blessed Eucharist:

  The organ and the chant had ceased:

A few words paused against his ear,

  Said from the altar: drawn round him,

  The silence was a t rest and dim.

He could not pray. The bell shook clear

  And ceased. All was great awe,–the breath

  Of God in man, that warranteth

  Wholly the inner things of Faith.

He said: "There is the world outside.

Ghent: Church of St. Bavon.

Sure we are that not one of our readers will regret the length at which we have noticed this work.


This document was scanned/transcribed from the original source.

Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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