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lust. If he be not mad, it is certain that all the rest of the world are. To accept the poem of “Festus” as the product of a same mind, would be to declare all other literature superficial, and P. J. Bailey the most miraculously gifted of created men. Its madness is not altogether fine madness, but half comes from Parnassus and the rest from Bedlam. It is the madness of a mind unable accurately to distinguish the moral and intellectual differences of things. The interest of the poem arises from its intensity of sensibility, its affluence of fancy, and occasional power of imagination. Numerous passages might be selected of the greatest beauty and majesty. The author's insight into particular truths is often very acute, and his . command of expression seemingly despotic. He has no fear of startling his reader with a grotesque image, or a strange verbal combination, or downright bombast and buffoonery. So intense and lofty is his egotism, that he seems to think all minds will bend their tastes and their common sense to him. He ends his poem, at the age of twenty-three, with saying, “Take it, world.” He swaggers and bullies his readers into panegyric. There is no instance in English literature of so much self-exaggeration on the part of any author untrammelled by a straitjacket. The poem indicates the last result of the “Satanic School,” in the triumph of sensibility over reason. A German prince, whose taste was of the “classical” order, once said, that if he were the Almighty, and could have foreseen before creating the world that Schiller's “Robbers” would have been written in it, that alone would have prevented him from creating the world. What this gentleman would have said of Bailey's “Festus,” it would task exaggeration itself to tell.
Amidst the chaos of this work, are passages of great grandeur and beauty. The intense seriousness of the author gives to the whole a character of sincerity, which redeems it from the charge of intentional irreverence or immorality. We quote a few of Mr. Griswold's extracts from the poem, in partial illustration of its spirit and power.
FESTUS DESCRIBES HIS FRIEND.
“He had no time to study, and no place;
“I loved her, for that she was beautiful,
To all; and that she told me all her woes
“When he hath had
THE END OF LIFE.
“We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
We might easily fill up this number of our review by continuing our observation on individual poets in Mr. Griswold's volume. In what we have said, we have not aimed at any thorough criticism on the poets we have
separately considered, but we have merely thrown off such observations on their life and poetical character as were suggested by their present relation to the public, and to current codes of criticism. Of course, in so large a tract of thought and imagination, variegated by so many individualities of character, there is room for the exercise of different opinions. We are sorry if ours have been tainted with an oracular tone. The estimate formed of a poet is generally determined by the point of view from which he is surveyed. In the survey of a considerable number, there is danger that we may not shift our position with a change in the objects to be seen. Every original poet should doubtless be judged by the laws which inhere in his own writings, and not by laws evolved from other and different writings. But it is difficult to decide at exactly what point a poet becomes a law unto himself; and difficult, also, to estimate the exact value of his originality, and consequently his relative position among men of genius, after it is decided. The poetic faculty is exceedingly elastic, and all its manifestations in individuals cannot be included in a general criticism. In poems of moderate merit, we are occasionally struck with fine imaginations, which seem to give the lie to the charge of mediocrity. After a critic has most painfully elaborated his opinion of an author, any tyro can quote lines or passages which seem to conflict with it. From the extreme sensitiveness of the imagination, a poet of small original capacity sometimes catches the tone of the great authors he has read, and by blending it with what individuality of thought and feeling there is in him, often contrives to puzzle reviewers and delude readers. In a literature like that of the present century, in which sensibility and personal feeling are such prominent elements, imitators are more likely to make a respectable show than if they copied from Spenser or Pope. A few grains of fancy, whirled about in a gust of simulated passion, will often pass as poetry. Many of the deep and delicate imaginations which Wordsworth and Shelley originated have now become common property, and are reproduced in common poems. The spirit of both colors the thoughts of many poets, who, without being deficient in genius, have still looked at man and nature, not with their own eyes, but with those of the poets whose genius has conquered theirs. In this blending of minds, our object should be to discriminate between what the disciple has obtained from the master, and what he has added to the master. According to the force of being which a poet possesses, will be his resistance of influences coming from other minds. Many of the poets from whom Mr. Griswold has selected have more of the repeater than the creator. In others there is a mingling of what has grown up in their minds with what has been caught from other minds. Consequently, in reading a volume with so many claimants on our attention, it is important to keep in view the character and spirit of the originating intellects, in order rightly to dispose the others in the sliding-scale of merit. In reviewing so many poets in succession, a critic must consider their relative as well as intrinsic excellence; and in doing this he is ever liable to disappoint the admirers of each. With all abatements, however, no one can glance at Mr. Griswold's volume without being impressed with the fertility of tie present century in original poetry. There is one view in which the editor of a work like the present may be considered fortunate. Through his diligent labors