A Fable for Critics

by James Russell Lowell

edited by Alex Zweber Leslie


A Fable for Critics generated a sensation when it was published in 1848. It was a send-up of American literature, then still in its salad years, with all its youthful pretensions and embryonic hopes. Was there really such a thing as a distinctively American literature? James Russell Lowell, whose authorship of the poem was an open secret, was hesitant—but not so much as to pass up the opportunity to knock its leading lights down a peg.

A Fable for Critics is essentially a string of jokes at the expense of authors, including the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson. We now consider these figures deeply serious and worthy of reverence, but in 1848 the jury was still out—or at least enough so that one could still get away with saying Hawthorne was womanly and Emerson didn’t make as much sense as he thought he did.

Not that Lowell, himself a rising litterateur with his own aspirations and rivalries, could get off scot-free. Over the following months authors chimed in with all manners of takes ranging from approval to critique to parody (including a bitter clap-back from Edgar Allan Poe). All the leading magazines and then some wanted to get in on the conversation. In both its colorful content and its lively reception, A Fable for Critics provides a ringside view of the antebellum literary scene, with all its comedy, boisterousness, cliques, feuds, ephemerality, and uncertainty about its future.

For these very reasons, however, A Fable for Critics can be difficult to read almost two hundred years later. Many of the authors considered important in 1848 have slipped out of print and public memory altogether; many of the jokes are hard to identify without knowledge of the period and the classics; much of what made the poem so exciting existed not in the poem itself but the practices of reading and sharing that it engendered. Yet A Fable for Critics is also strikingly contemporary. The poem is a roast; it reads more like a twitter thread—full of slang and inside jokes, amenable to skimming, selective reading, and excerpting—than either a timeless classic or an outdated history.

The goal of this website is to make A Fable for Critics and the world from which it sprang more accessible to scholars, teachers, students, and general readers alike. A table of contents provides quick links to the authors that receive extended treatment. Reference notes on the left briefly gloss allusions with an eye to illuminating jokes. Reception notes on the right provide magazine and newspaper reviewers' assessments of the accompanying passages, with highlighting on cursor hover for the lines that those reviews excerpted (where a review referenced a specific passage without excerpting it, the assessment is included without highlighting). Publication information and original paratext, such as the first edition title page and preface, are included as well, in addition to a timeline of reviews and a notable parodic reply by one of the poem's most-mocked figures, Cornelius Mathews. These materials all played important parts in the life of the poem. Together, they not only help explain the poem but also make it more entertaining.


Amos Bronson Alcott Charles Briggs Orestes Brownson William Cullen Bryant
William Ellery Channing Lydia Maria Child James Fenimore Cooper Richard Henry Dana, Sr.
Evert Duyckinck Ralph Waldo Emerson Margaret Fuller Rufus Griswold
Fitz-Greene Halleck Nathaniel Hawthorne Oliver Wendell Holmes Washington Irving
Sylvester Judd Henry Wadsworth Longfellow James Russell Lowell Cornelius Mathews
John Neal Theodore Parker Edgar Allen Poe Henry David Thoreau
John Greenleaf Whittier Nathaniel Parker Willis

The Poem

Phoebus Apollo, Greek god of light, music, and poetry. In Ovid's Metamorphoses Cupid causes him to fall in love with the water nymph Daphne; fleeing him, she prays for help from her river god father, who turns her into a laurel tree.     Phoebus, sitting one day in a laurel-tree's shade, Knickerbocker: "Beneath its unpretending drab cover lies hid a world of polished satire, keen, subtle humor, and manly, vigorous sentiment, interspersed with touches of genuine pathos."
Was reminded of Daphne, of whom it was made,
For the god being one day too warm in his wooing,
She took to the tree to escape his pursuing;
Be the cause what it might, from his offers she shrunk,
Ginevra, newlywed in popular legend and song who died trapped in a chest while playing hide-and-go-seek. And, Ginevra-like, shut herself up in a trunk; Literary Gazette: "The Fable now starts off in measured lines; and the introduction of Apollo (who is to sit as coroner on those who have tried the laurel water or prussic acid) might do honour to the Punster Momus:"
And, though 'twas a step into which he had driven her,
He somehow or other had never forgiven her;
Her memory he nursed as a kind of a tonic,
George Gordon Byron (1788-1824), influential English romantic poet famous for his love affairs and brooding persona. His English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809) is kin to the Fable. Something bitter to chew when he'd play the Byronic, 10 Literary World: "From a loose proof sheet put in our hands, we give a specimen or two of the puns and the descriptions."
And I can't count the obstinate nymphs that he brought over
By a strange kind of smile he put on when he thought of her.
Dido, founder-queen of Carthage in Virgil's Aeneid. Her love Aeneas, having first fled the fall of Troy, leaves her to settle what will become Rome; decidedly different circumstances. 'My case is like Dido's,' he sometimes remarked; Fraser's Magazine: "Ingoldsby's rhymes will not give us a just idea of the Fable until we superadd Hook's puns; for the fabulist has a pleasant knack of making puns—outrageous and unhesitating ones—exactly of the kind to set off the general style of his verse. The sternest critic could hardly help relaxing over such a bundle of them as are contained in Apollo's lament over the 'treeification' of his Daphne."
'When I last saw my love, she was fairly embarked
In a laurel, as she thought—but (ah, how Fate mocks!)
She has found it by this time a very bad box;
Let hunters from me take this saw when they need it,—
You're not always sure of your game when you've treed it.
Just conceive such a change taking place in one's mistress!
What romance would be left?—who can flatter or kiss trees? 20
And, for mercy's sake, how could one keep up a dialogue
With a dull wooden thing that will live and will die a log,—
Not to say that the thought would forever intrude
That you've less chance to win her the more she is wood?
Ah! it went to my heart, and the memory still grieves,
To see those loved graces all taking their leaves;
Those charms beyond speech, so enchanting but now,
As they left me forever, each making its bough!
If her tongue had a tang sometimes more than was right,
Her new bark is worse than ten times her old bite.' 30

    Now, Daphne—before she was happily treeified— Harbinger: "And to her he complains of being pestered by the poets. As a specimen of the indomitable rhymester's ingenuity, we clip a paragraph from this opening, as we pass on:"
Over all other blossoms the lily had deified,
And when she expected the god on a visit
('Twas before he had made his intentions explicit),
Some buds she arranged with a vast deal of care,
To look as if artlessly twined in her hair, Fraser's Magazine: "The Fable is somewhat on the Ingoldsby model,—that is to say, a good part of its fun consists in queer rhymes, double, treble, or polysyllabic; and it has even Barham's fault—an occasional over-consciousness of effort, and calling on the reader to admire, as if the tour de force could note speak for itself: e.g.—."
Where they seemed, as he said, when he paid his addresses,
Like the day breaking through, the long night of her tresses;
So whenever he wished to be quite irresistible,
Like a man with eight trumps in his hand at a whist-table 40
(I feared me at first that the rhyme was untwistable,
Christabel (1816), unfinished narrative poem by British romantic Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) with four accents rather than regular feet. Though I might have lugged in an allusion to Cristabel),—
He would take up a lily, and gloomily look in it,
As I shall at the–––, when they cut up my book in it.

    Well, here, after all the bad rhyme I've been spinning,
I've got back at last to my story's beginning:
Sitting there, as I say, in the shade of his mistress,
Chester mysteries, a late-medieval cycle of mystery pageant-plays: short semi-amateur performances depicting biblical events. As dull as a volume of old Chester mysteries,
Or as those puzzling specimens which, in old histories,
We read of his verses—the Oracles, namely,— 50
(I wonder the Greeks should have swallowed them tamely,
For one might bet safely whatever he has to risk,
They were laid at his door by some ancient Miss Asterisk, Albion: "Quips and jokes abound plentifully; nor are they out of place, for the poem is altogether cast in a lively, playful mood. Thus in speaking of the ancient Oracles, we have this couplet applied to them,"
And so dull that the men who retailed them out-doors
Got the ill name of augurs, because they were bores,—)
First, he mused what the animal substance or herb is
Latin, beardless. Would induce a mustache, for you know he's imberbis;
Then he shuddered to think how his youthful position
Was assailed by the age of his son the physician;
At some poems he glanced, had been sent to him lately, 60
And the metre and sentiment puzzled him greatly;
Mehercle, Latin interjectory for Hercules, Greek demigod known for heroic strength. 'Mehercle! I'd make such proceeding felonious,—
Cave of Trophinius, Greek oracle; or the Cave of Nightmares. Have they all of them slept in the cave of Trophonius?
Look well to your seat, 'tis like taking an airing
Corduroy roads were made of perpendicularly-laid logs to allow transit over swampy terrain. On a corduroy road, and that out of repairing;
It leads one, 'tis true, through the primitive forest,
Grand natural features, but then one has no rest;
You just catch a glimpse of some ravishing distance,
When a jolt puts the whole of it out of existence,—
Why not use their ears, if they happen to have any?' 70
—Here the laurel leaves murmured the name of poor Daphne.

    'Oh, weep with me, Daphne,' he sighed, 'for you know it's
A terrible thing to be pestered with poets!
But, alas, she is dumb, and the proverb holds good,
She never will cry till she's out of the wood!
What wouldn't I give if I never had known of her?
'Twere a kind of relief had I something to groan over:
If I had but some letters of hers, now, to toss over,
I might turn for the nonce a Byronic philosopher,
And bewitch all the flats by bemoaning the loss of her. 80
One needs something tangible, though, to begin on,—
A loom, as it were, for the fancy to spin on;
What boots all your grist? it can never be ground
Till a breeze makes the arms of the windmill go round;
(Or, if 'tis a water-mill, alter the metaphor,
And say it won't stir, save the wheel be well wet afore,
Or lug in some stuff about water "so dreamily,"—
It is not a metaphor, though, 'tis a simile);
A lily, perhaps, would set my mill a-going,
For just at this season, I think, they are blowing. 90
Here, somebody, fetch one; not very far hence
They're in bloom by the score, 'tis but climbing a fence;
There's a poet hard by, who does nothing but fill his
Whole garden, from one end to t'other, with lilies;
A very good plan, were it not for satiety,
One longs for a weed here and there, for variety;
Though a weed is no more than a flower in disguise,
Which is seen through at once, if love give a man eyes.'

    Now there happened to be among Phoebus's followers, Knickerbocker: "The critic whom Apollo despatches to seek a lily, and who returns with a thistle, is described at length, and with great felicity. A few segregated passages will serve to indicate the humor:"
A gentleman, one of the omnivorous swallowers, 100
Who bolt every book that comes out of the press,
Without the least question of larger or less,
Whose stomachs are strong at the expense of their head,—
For reading new books is like eating new bread,
One can bear it at first, but by gradual steps he
Dyspepsy, indigestion. Is brought to death's door of a mental dyspepsy. Albion: "Of the indigestible character of new books, and the unwholesomeness of dieting on them exclusively, the author truly remarks,"
On a previous stage of existence, our Hero
Had ridden outside, with the glass below zero;
He had been, 'tis a fact you may safely rely on,
Of a very old stock a most eminent scion,— 110
A stock all fresh quacks their fierce boluses ply on,
Who stretch the new boots Earth's unwilling to try on,
Whom humbugs of all shapes and sorts keep their eye on,
Whose hair's in the mortar of every new Zion,
Who, when whistles are dear, go directly and buy one,
Who think slavery a crime that we must not say fie on,
Who hunt, if they e'er hunt at all, with the lion
(Though they hunt lions also, whenever they spy one),
Who contrive to make every good fortune a wry one,
And at last choose the hard bed of honor to die on, 120
Whose pedigree, traced to earth's earliest years,
Is longer than anything else but their ears,—
In short, he was sent into life with the wrong key,
He unlocked the door, and stept forth a poor donkey.
Though kicked and abused by his bipedal betters
Yet he filled no mean place in the kingdom of letters;
Far happier than many a literary hack,
He bore only paper-mill rags on his back
(For It makes a vast difference which side the mill
One expends on the paper his labor and skill); 130
So, when his soul waited a new transmigration,
And Destiny balanced 'twixt this and that station,
Not having much time to expend upon bothers,
Remembering he'd had some connection with authors,
And considering his four legs had grown paralytic,—
She set him on two, and he came forth a critic.

    Through his babyhood no kind of pleasure he took North American Review: "And here is a portion of the merry caricature of a born reviewer."
In any amusement but tearing a book;
For him there was no intermediate stage
From babyhood up to straight-laced middle age; 140
There were years when he didn't wear coat-tails behind,
But a boy he could never be rightly defined;
Good folk, i.e., faeries. like the Irish Good Folk, though in length scarce a span,
From the womb he came gravely, a little old man;
While other boys' trousers demanded the toil
Of the motherly fingers on all kinds of soil,
Red, yellow, brown, black, clayey, gravelly, loamy,
Viri Romæ, widely-used introductory Latin textbook. He sat in the corner and read Viri Romæ.
He never was known to unbend or to revel once
In base, marbles, hockey, or kick up the devil once; 150
He was just one of those who excite the benevolence
Of your old prigs who sound the soul's depths with a ledger,
And are on the lookout for some young men to 'edger-
cate,' as they call it, who won't be too costly,
And who'll afterward take to the ministry mostly;
Who always wear spectacles, always look bilious,
Latin, female head of hosuehold. Always keep on good terms with each mater-familias Athenaeum: "[As] this is the first time, so far as we know, that the American writers familiar to this side of the Atlantic have been passed through the satirical alembic by one of themselves,—and this, indeed, the first formal American satire that we remember,—it may be worth while to give our readers a few specimens at once of the criticism and of the satire. The poem is rambling and desultory—and less a 'Fable for Critics,' as the wrtier himself allows, than a mere unconnected 'display of rhymical trinkets.' We will borrow from these at random, then, just as we find them to our hand. The following sketch of a transatlantic critic and reviewer we cannot ourselves underwrite with the name."
Throughout the whole parish, and manage to rear
Ten boys like themselves, on four hundred a year:
Who, fulfilling in turn the same fearful conditions, 160
Either preach through their noses, or go upon missions.

    In this way our Hero got safely to college,
Where he bolted alike both his commons and knowledge;
A reading-machine, always wound up and going,
He mastered whatever was not worth the knowing,
Appeared in a gown, with black waistcoat of satin,
To spout such a Gothic oration in Latin
Marcus Tullius (Tully) Cicero (106-43 BC), Roman statesman and orator. Gothic or medieval Latin, while upholding Cicero as model rhetoric, is often derided as inferior and imitative. That Tully could never have made out a word in it
(Though himself was the model the author preferred in it),
And grasping the parchment which gave him in fee 170
A.B., bachelor's degree. All the mystic and-so-forths contained in A.B.,
He was launched (life is always compared to a sea)
With just enough learning, and skill for the using it,
To prove he'd a brain, by forever confusing it.
St. Benedict (480-543), patron of students and father of western monasticism, who forsook secular studies in Rome. So worthy St. Benedict, piously burning
With the holiest zeal against secular learning,
Latin, "Knowingly unaware and wisely ignorant he left Rome." Nesciensque scienter, as writers express it,
Indoctusque sapienter a Roma recessit.

    'Twould be endless to tell you the things that he knew,
Each a separate fact, undeniably true, 180
But with him or each other they'd nothing to do;
No power of combining, arranging, discerning,
Digested the masses he learned into learning;
There was one thing in life he had practical knowledge for
(And this, you will think, he need scarce go to college for),—
Not a deed would he do, nor a word would he utter,
Till he'd weighed its relations to plain bread and butter.
When he left Alma Mater, he practised his wits
In compiling the journals' historical bits,—
Of shops broken open, men falling in fits, 190
Great fortunes in England bequeathed to poor printers, Athenaeum: "[As] this is the first time, so far as we know, that the American writers familiar to this side of the Atlantic have been passed through the satirical alembic by one of themselves,—and this, indeed, the first formal American satire that we remember,—it may be worth while to give our readers a few specimens at once of the criticism and of the satire. The poem is rambling and desultory—and less a 'Fable for Critics,' as the wrtier himself allows, than a mere unconnected 'display of rhymical trinkets.' We will borrow from these at random, then, just as we find them to our hand. The following sketch of a transatlantic critic and reviewer we cannot ourselves underwrite with the name."
And cold spells, the coldest for many past winters,—
Then, rising by industry, knack, and address,
Got notices up for an unbiased press,
With a mind so well poised, it seemed equally made for
Applause or abuse, just which chanced to be paid for:
From this point his progress was rapid and sure,
To the post of a regular heavy reviewer.

    And here I must say he wrote excellent articles
On Hebraical points, or the force of Greek particles; 200
They filled up the space nothing else was prepared for,
And nobody read that which nobody cared for;
If any old book reached a fiftieth edition,
He could fill forty pages with safe erudition: Fraser's Magazine: "Some of his complaints, too, against the critic sound very odd; as, for instance, that [Excerpt.] Surely the very meaning of learning is that it is something which a man learns—acquires from other sources—does not originate in himself. But it is a favourite practice with Mr. Lowell's set to rail against dry learning and pedants, while at the same time there are no men more fond of showing off cheap learning than themselves: Lowell himself never loses an opportunity of bringing in a bit of Greek or Latin."
He could gauge the old books by the old set of rules,
And his very old nothings pleased very old fools;
But give him a new book, fresh out of the heart,
And you put him at sea without compass or chart,—
His blunders aspired to the rank of an art;
For his lore was engraft, something foreign that grew in him, 210
Exhausting the sap of the native and true in him,
So that when a man came with a soul that was new in him,
Carving new forms of truth out of Nature's old granite,
Urbain Le Verrier's calculations predicted Neptune's position based on irregularities observed in Uranus' orbit, leading to its 1846 discovery. New and old at their birth, like Le Verrier's planet, Knickerbocker: "The critic whom Apollo despatches to seek a lily, and who returns with a thistle, is described at length, and with great felicity. A few segregated passages will serve to indicate the humor:"
Which, to get a true judgment, themselves must create
In the soul of their critic the measure and weight,
Being rather themselves a fresh standard of grace,
To compute their own judge, and assign him his place, Eclectic Review: "We must not omit a lively description of a member of the honourable tribe to which we ourselves belong, begging our readers, however, to except ourselves from the application of the somewhat severe criticism."
Our reviewer would crawl all about it and round it,
And, reporting each circumstance just as he found it, 220
Without the least malice,—his record would be
Profoundly æsthetic as that of a flea,
William Wordsworth (1770-1850), English Romantic poet whose depiction of the Lake District earned him the title "Bard of the Lakes" and, later, some ribbing for placidity. Which, supping on Wordsworth, should print for our sakes,
Recollections of nights with the Bard of the Lakes,
Or, lodged by an Arab guide, ventured to render a
Denderah, temple complex in Upper Egypt and frequent subject of travel writing during the early 1800s Egyptomania. Comprehensive account of the ruins at Denderah. Harbinger: "The next character that appears is a type of the critic and back reviewer, which formidable hero Apollo resolves to keep near him as a terror to the persecuting poet rabble. The creature is delineated to a T, with leisurely precision. He might be the same redoubtable hero who dispatched Emerson and eight other poets at a mouthful, in the North American Review. We can afford our readers so much of the picture; the rest they must read for themselves:"

    As I said, he was never precisely unkind.
The defect in his brain was just absence of mind;
If he boasted, 'twas simply that he was self-made,
A position which I, for one, never gainsaid, 230
My respect for my Maker supposing a skill
In his works which our Hero would answer but ill;
And I trust that the mould which he used may be cracked, or he,
Phylactery, small box containing Torahic verses, worn by Jews during morning prayer. Made bold by success, may enlarge his phylactery,
And set up a kind of a man-manufactory,—
An event which I shudder to think about, seeing
That Man is a moral, accountable being.

    He meant well enough, but was still in the way,
As dunces still are, let them be where they may;
Indeed, they appear to come into existence 240
To impede other folks with their awkward assistance;
If you set up a dunce on the very North pole
All alone with himself, I believe, on my soul,
He'd manage to get betwixt somebody's shins,
And pitch him down bodily, all in his sins,
To the grave polar bears sitting round on the ice,
All shortening their grace, to be in for a slice;
Or, if he found nobody else there to pother,
Why, one of his legs would just trip up the other,
For there's nothing we read of in torture's inventions, 250
Like a well-meaning dunce, with the best of intentions.

    A terrible fellow to meet in society, Fraser's Magazine: "But though thus freely exercising his own critical powers in verse, the author is most bitter against all critics in prose, and gives us a ludicrous picture of one,"
Not the toast that he buttered was ever so dry at tea;
There he'd sit at the table and stir in his sugar,
Crouching close for a spring, all the while, like a cougar;
Be sure of your facts, of your measures and weights, Albion: "Again, he cautions you in dealing with one of your unimaginative, cool, calculating spoilers of good things in conversation or print."
Of your time,—he's as fond as an Arab of dates;
You'll be telling, perhaps, in your comical way,
Of something you've seen in the course of the day;
And, just as you're tapering out the conclusion, 260 Knickerbocker: "The critic whom Apollo despatches to seek a lily, and who returns with a thistle, is described at length, and with great felicity. A few segregated passages will serve to indicate the humor:"
You venture an ill-fated classic allusion,—
The girls have all got their laughs ready, when, whack!
The cougar comes down on your thunderstruck back!
You had left out a comma,—your Greek's put in joint,
And pointed at cost of your story's whole point.
In the course of the evening, you find chance for certain
Soft speeches to Anne, in the shade of the curtain:
You tell her your heart can be likened to one flower,
'And that, O most charming of women, 's the sunflower,
Which turns'—here a clear nasal voice, to your terror, 270
From outside the curtain, says, 'That's all an error.'
As for him, he's—no matter, he never grew tender,
Sitting after a ball, with his feet on the fender,
Shaping somebody's sweet features out of cigar smoke
(Though he'd willingly grant you that such doings are smoke);
Latin from Virgil's Aeneid 4.569-70, "varium et mutabile semper / femina" or "woman is ever fickle and changing." All women he damns with mutabile semper,
And if ever he felt something like love's distemper,
'Twas tow'rds a young lady who spoke ancient Mexican,
And assisted her father in making a lexicon;
Though I recollect hearing him get quite ferocious 280
Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), foundational theorist of international law whose "mare liberum" ("free sea") position opposed "mare closum" ("closed sea"); for this reason he was highly esteemed in the US, which advocated free neutral trade. About Mary Clausum, the mistress of Grotius,
Or something of that sort,—but, no more to bore ye
With character-painting, I'll turn to my story.

    Now, Apollo, who finds it convenient sometimes
To get his court clear of the makers of rhymes,
The genus, I think it is called, irritabile,
Every one of whom thinks himself treated most shabbily,
Latin, incurable. And nurses a—what is it?—immedicabile,
Which keeps him at boiling-point, hot for a quarrel,
As bitter as wormwood, and sourer than sorrel, 290
If any poor devil but look at a laurel;—
Apollo, I say, being sick of their rioting
(Though he sometimes acknowledged their verse had a quieting
Effect after dinner, and seemed to suggest a
Spanish, afternoon nap. Retreat to the shrine of a tranquil siesta),
Kept our Hero at hand, who, by means of a bray,
Which he gave to the life, drove the rabble away;
And if that wouldn't do, he was sure to succeed,
If he took his review out and offered to read;
Or, failing in plans of this milder description, 300
He would ask for their aid to get up a subscription,
Considering that authorship wasn't a rich craft,
Witchcraft (1846), a play by Cornelius Mathews. To print the 'American drama of Witchcraft.'
'Stay, I'll read you a scene,'—but he hardly began,
Ere Apollo shrieked 'Help!' and the authors all ran:
And once, when these purgatives acted with less spirit,
And the desperate case asked a remedy desperate,
He drew from his pocket a foolscap epistle
As calmly as if 'twere a nine-barrelled pistol,
And threatened them all with the judgment to come, 310
Of 'A wandering Star's first impressions of Rome.'
'Stop! stop!' with their hands o'er their ears, screamed the Muses,
'He may go off and murder himself, if he chooses,
'Twas a means self-defence only sanctioned his trying,
'Tis mere massacre now that the enemy's flying;
If he's forced to 't again, and we happen to be there,
Give us each a large handkerchief soaked in strong ether.'

    I called this a 'Fable for Critics;' you think it's Eclectic Review: The 'Fable' is occupied with rapid and vigorous sketches of some of the most noted American authors. These are strong together by a plot [Excerpt] the introduction to which is not a bad illustration of our author's versifying abilities."
More like a display of my rhythmical trinkets;
My plot, like an icicle's slender and slippery, 320
Every moment more slender, and likely to slip awry,
Latin, to be foolish at the appropriate place/time. And the reader unwilling in loco desipere
Is free to jump over as much of my frippery
As he fancies, and, if he's a provident skipper, he
In Homer's Odyssey, Aeolus gives Odysseus a bag containing all winds except the west to facilitate his return home to Ithaca from the Trojan War. May have like Odysseus control of the gales,
And get safe to port, ere his patience quite fails;
Moreover, although 'tis a slender return
For your toil and expense, yet my paper will burn,
And, if you have manfully struggled thus far with me,
You may e'en twist me up, and just light your cigar with me: 330
If too angry for that, you can tear me in pieces,
Latin, scattered organs/fragments, a play on bodily and literary remains. And my membra disjecta consign to the breezes,
Josias von Rantzau (1609-1650), Marshal of France who lost several body parts in the Thirty Years War and was rumored to father Louis XIV (1638-1714). A fate like great Ratzau's, whom one of those bores,
Who beflead with bad verses poor Louis Quatorze,
Describes (the first verse somehow ends with victoire),
French, scattering his members and his glory everywhere; reference obscure. As dispersant partout et ses membres et sa gloire;
Or, if I were over-desirous of earning
A repute among noodles for classical learning,
I could pick you a score of allusions, I-wis,
Greek, his teacher. As new as the jests of Didaskalos tis; 340
Better still, I could make out a good solid list
From authors recondite who do not exist,—
But that would be naughty: at least, I could twist
In Greek mythology, Medea dismembered her brother Absyrtus to distract her pursuing father. Something out of Absyrtus, or turn your inquiries
John Milton (1608-1674) implores Parliament to gather Truth in his Areopagitica (1644) as the Egyptian goddess Isis did the dismembered pieces of her lover Osiris. After Milton's prose metaphor, drawn from Osiris;
Cicero was fond of paralipsis, a rhetorical device in which a speaker emphasizes a subject by insisting with great detail that they will not. But, as Cicero says he won't say this or that
(A fetch, I must say, most transparent and flat),
After saying whate'er he could possibly think of,—
I simply will state that I pause on the brink of
A mire, ankle-deep, of deliberate confusion, 350
Made up of old jumbles of classic allusion:
So, when you were thinking yourselves to be pitied,
Just conceive how much harder your teeth you'd have gritted,
An 'twere not for the dulness I've kindly omitted.

    I'd apologize here for my many digressions.
Were it not that I'm certain to trip into fresh ones
('Tis so hard to escape if you get in their mesh once);
In Ars Poetica (19 B.C.), Horatius (or Horace) wrote that "sometimes even good Homer nods off" (I.359); he elsewhere refers to Homer as Mæonides after the place of his birth. Just reflect, if you please, how 'tis said by Horatius,
That Mæonides nods now and then, and, my gracious!
It certainly does look a little bit ominous 360
"Then answering him in reply," a stock phrase Homer used frequently because it fit dactylic hexameter. When he gets under way with ton d' apameibomenos.
(Here a something occurs which I'll just clap a rhyme to,
Greek critic famous, in writings that no longer survive, for attacking Homer. And say it myself, ere a Zoilus have time to,—
In Washington Irving's 1819 short story "Rip Van Winkle," the title character falls asleep for 20 years to find he has slept through the American Revolution. Any author a nap like Van Winkle's may take,
If he only contrive to keep readers awake,
But he'll very soon find himself laid on the shelf,
If they fall a-nodding when he nods himself.)

    Once for all, to return, and to stay, will I, nill I—
When Phoebus expressed his desire for a lily,
Our Hero, whose homoeopathic sagacity 370
With an ocean of zeal mixed his drop of capacity,
Set off for the garden as fast as the wind
(Or, to take a comparison more to my mind,
As a sound politician leaves conscience behind).
And leaped the low fence, as a party hack jumps
O'er his principles, when something else turns up trumps.

    He was gone a long time, and Apollo, meanwhile, Knickerbocker: "The following characters are drawn with a truthfulness that really makes them painfully vivid to the mind's eye:"
Went over some sonnets of his with a file,
For, of all compositions, he thought that the sonnet
Best repaid all the toil you expended upon it; 380
It should reach with one impulse the end of its course, Eclectic Review: "The sonnet has been often worse described than in these lines:"
And for one final blow collect all of its force;
Not a verse should be salient, but each one should tend
With a wave-like up-gathering to break at the end;
So, condensing the strength here, there smoothing a wry kink,
Evert Duyckinck (1816-1878), New York literary kingmaker, critic, and editor of the Literary World who introduced Melville to Hawthorne and supported the careers of Poe and Mathews. He was killing the time, when up walked Mr. D–––,
Cornelius Mathews (1817-1889), New York litterateur who advocated a national American literature and international copyright to protect American authors from cheap reprints of British authors. At a few steps behind him, a small man in glasses
Went dodging about, muttering, 'Murderers! asses!'
From out of his pocket a paper he'd take,
With a proud look of martyrdom tied to its stake, 390
And, reading a squib at himself, he'd say, 'Here I see
'Gainst American letters a bloody conspiracy,
They are all by my personal enemies written;
I must post an anonymous letter to Britain,
And show that this gall is the merest suggestion
Of spite at my zeal on the Copyright question,
For, on this side the water, 'tis prudent to pull
O'er the eyes of the public their national wool,
John Bull, personification of England. By accusing of slavish respect to John Bull
All American authors who have more or less 400
Of that anti-American humbug—success,
While in private we're always embracing the knees
Of some twopenny editor over the seas,
And licking his critical shoes, for you know 'tis
The whole aim of our lives to get one English notice;
Puffs or puffery, antebellum term for exaggerated and often nepotistic praise. Also puns on Mathews' The Career of Puffer Hopkins (1842). My American puffs I would willingly burn all
(They're all from one source, monthly, weekly, diurnal)
To get but a kick from a transmarine journal!'

    So, culling the gibes of each critical scorner
A nursery rhyme poking fun at opportunism:
Little Jack Horner    
Sat in the corner,    
Eating his Christmas pie;    
He put in his thumb,    
And pulled out a plum,    
And said, "What a good boy am I!"    
As if they were plums, and himself were Jack Horner, 410
He came cautiously on, peeping round every corner,
And into each hole where a weasel might pass in,
Expecting the knife of some critic assassin,
Who stabs to the heart with a caricature.
The Sun, New York newspaper founded in 1833 by Benjamin Day that ushered in the era of the penny press, characterized by less cultivated style and more sensationalist content. Not so bad as those daubs of the Sun, to be sure,
Play on daguerreotype, photographic process widely used in the 1840s-1850s. Yet done with a dagger-o'-type, whose vile portraits
Disperse all one's good and condense all one's poor traits.

    Apollo looked up, hearing footsteps approaching,
And slipped out of sight the new rhymes he was broaching,—
'Good day, Mr. D–––, I'm happy to meet 420 Literary World: "There is a portentous description of a well-meaning bore, probably a hit at ––– but it is so perfect a transcript of the original, whoever he is, that it really makes us uncomfortable as if we were in his presence."
With a scholar so ripe, and a critic so neat,
Grub Street, perjorative term for hack writers coined by Alexander Pope's Dunciad (1728). Who through Grub Street the soul of a gentleman carries;
What news from that suburb of London and Paris
Which latterly makes such shrill claims to monopolize
New York. The credit of being the New World's metropolis?'

    'Why, nothing of consequence, save this attack
On my friend there, behind, by some pitiful hack,
Who thinks every national author a poor one,
That isn't a copy of something that's foreign,
The American Dickens, a moniker Mathews bestowed on himself. And assaults the American Dick—'

                                                                Nay, 'tis clear 430
Damon, mythic Greek known for loyal friendship. That your Damon there's fond of a flea in his ear,
Gratis, Latin, "free of charge." And, if no one else furnished them gratis, on tick
He would buy some himself, just to hear the old click;
Why, I honestly think, if some fool in Japan
Poems on Man (1843), collection by Cornelius Mathews. Should turn up his nose at the "Poems on Man,"
(Which contain many verses as fine, by the bye,
As any that lately came under my eye,)
Your friend there by some inward instinct would know it,
Would get it translated, reprinted, and show it;
As a man might take off a high stock to exhibit 440
The autograph round his own neck of the gibbet;
Nor would let it rest so, but fire column after column, Knickerbocker: "The following characters are drawn with a truthfulness that really makes them painfully vivid to the mind's eye:"
Cato and Brutus, Roman senators who plotted to kill Caesar. Signed Cato, or Brutus, or something as solemn,
By way of displaying his critical crosses,
And tweaking that poor transatlantic proboscis,
His broadsides resulting (this last there's no doubt of)
In successively sinking the craft they're fired out of.
Now nobody knows when an author is hit,
If he have not a public hysterical fit;
Let him only keep close in his snug garret's dim ether, 450
And nobody'd think of his foes—or of him either;
If an author have any least fibre of worth in him,
Abuse would but tickle the organ of mirth in him;
All the critics on earth cannot crush with their ban
One word that's in tune with the nature of man.'

    'Well, perhaps so; meanwhile I have brought you a book,
Into which if you'll just have the goodness to look,
You may feel so delighted (when once you are through it)
As to deem it not unworth your while to review it,
And I think I can promise your thoughts, if you do, 460
Democratic Review (1839-1852), political and cultural magazine edited by John O'Sullivan and connected with Duyckinck that promoted American literature and leading authors, including Lowell, Hawthorne, and Whittier. A place in the next Democratic Review.'

    'The most thankless of gods you must surely have thought me,
For this is the forty-fourth copy you've brought me;
I have given them away, or at least I have tried,
But I've forty-two left, standing all side by side
(The man who accepted that one copy died),—
From one end of a shelf to the other they reach,
"With the author's respects" neatly written in each.
Te Deum, 4th century Christian hymn of praise used in the Divine Office. The publisher, sure, will proclaim a Te Deum,
When he hears of that order the British Museum 470
Has sent for one set of what books were first printed
In America, little or big,—for 'tis hinted
That this is the first truly tangible hope he
Has ever had raised for the sale of a copy.
I've thought very often 'twould be a good thing North American Review: "To give our readers a favorable idea of the lighter portions of this Fable, we quote the following proposition, merely leaving out of the middle of it some poor gibes against clergymen who are in favor of capital punishment."
In all public collections of books, if a wing
Were set off by itself, like the seas from the dry lands,
Marked Literature suited to desolate islands,
And filled with such books as could never be read
Save by readers of proofs, forced to do it for bread,— 480
Such books as one's wrecked on in small country taverns,
Such as hermits might mortify over in caverns,
Such as Satan, if printing had then been invented,
Job, Old Testament man who remained faithful despite experiencing extreme suffering. As the climax of woe, would to Job have presented.
Robinson Crusoe (1719), novel by Daniel Defore whose protagonist proves extremely resourceful while stranded on a desert island. Such as Crusoe might dip in, although there are few so
Outrageously cornered by fate as poor Crusoe;
And since the philanthropists just now are banging
And gibbeting all who're in favor of hanging
George Barrell Cheever, pastor and reformer who wrote Capital Punishment (1843) in support of the same. (Though Cheever has proved that the Bible and Altar
Were let down from Heaven at the end of a halter. 490
And that vital religion would dull and grow callous,
Unrefreshed, now and then, with a sniff of the gallows),—
And folks are beginning to think it looks odd,
To choke a poor scamp for the glory of God;
Virginia reel, a popular dance, as were the quadrille, waltz, and cotillon. And that He who esteems the Virginia reel
A bait to draw saints from their spiritual weal,
And regards the quadrille as a far greater knavery
Than crushing his African children with slavery,—
Since all who take part in a waltz or cotillon
Are mounted for hell on the Devil's own pillion, 500
Who, as every true orthodox Christian well knows,
Approaches the heart through the door of the toes,—
That He, I was saying, whose judgments are stored
For such as take steps in despite of his word,
Should look with delight on the agonized prancing
Of a wretch who has not the least ground for his dancing,
While the State, standing by, sings a verse from the Psalter
About offering to God on his favorite halter,
And, when the legs droop from their twitching divergence,
Sells the clothes to a Jew, and the corpse to the surgeons;— 510
Now, instead of all this, I think I can direct you all North American Review: "To give our readers a favorable idea of the lighter portions of this Fable, we quote the following proposition, merely leaving out of the middle of it some poor gibes against clergymen who are in favor of capital punishment."
To a criminal code both humane and effectual;—
I propose to shut up every doer of wrong
With these desperate books, for such term, short or long,
As, by statute in such cases made and provided,
Shall be by your wise legislators decided:
Thus: Let murderers be shut, to grow wiser and cooler,
Miss –––, Margaret Fuller (see line 1157). At hard labor for life on the works of Miss –––;
Petty thieves, kept from flagranter crimes by their fears,
Yankee Doodle (1846-1847), humor magazine styled after the much more successful English Punch (1841-1992), edited by Mathews with contributions from Duyckinck and Melville. Shall peruse Yankee Doodle a blank term of years,— 520
That American Punch, like the English, no doubt,—
Just the sugar and lemons and spirit left out.

Rufus Griswold (1815-1857), caustic yet influential anthologist of The Poets and Poetry of America (1842) and editor of Graham's Magazine (1840-1858) as well as rival of Poe.     'But stay, here comes Tityrus Griswold, and leads on
The flocks whom he first plucks alive, and then feeds on,—
A loud-cackling swarm, in whose leathers warm drest,
He goes for as perfect a—swan as the rest.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, philosopher, and poet, who resigned his Unitarian ministry in 1832 and became a central figure of New England Transcendentalism.     'There comes Emerson first, whose rich words, every one, Literary Gazette: "Suppose we take them in the way of a regimental roll-call, as a distinct and concise mode of informing English readers: Emerson."
Are like gold nails in temples to hang trophies on,
Whose prose is grand verse, while his verse, the Lord knows,
Is some of it pr––– No, 'tis not even prose; 530
I'm speaking of metres; some poems have welled
From those rare depths of soul that have ne'er been excelled;
They're not epics, but that doesn't matter a pin,
In creating, the only hard thing's to begin;
A grass-blade's no easier to make than an oak;
If you've once found the way, you've achieved the grand stroke;
In the worst of his poems are mines of rich matter,
But thrown in a heap with a crash and a clatter;
Now it is not one thing nor another alone Eclectic Review: "Of poetry, it is justly said:"
Makes a poem, but rather the general tone, 540
The something pervading, uniting the whole,
The before unconceived, unconceivable soul,
So that just in removing this trifle or that, you
Take away, as it were, a chief limb of the statue; Athenaeum: "Emerson and Cooper are more familiar figures to an English audience. Here, in our Critic's glass, is the first.—"
Roots, wood, bark, and leaves singly perfect may be,
But, clapt hodge-podge together, they don't make a tree.

    'But, to come back to Emerson (whom, by the way,
I believe we left waiting),—his is, we may say,
A Greek head on right Yankee shoulders, whose range
Olympus, home of the Greek gods; Exchange, the stock exchange of either Boston or New York. Has Olympus for one pole, for t'other the Exchange; 550
He seems, to my thinking (although I'm afraid
The comparison must, long ere this, have been made),
Plotinus (204-270), Egyptian philosopher known for ideas on metaphysical Oneness; Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), French essayist from Gascony known for skepticism and digressive style. A Plotinus-Montaigne, where the Egyptian's gold mist
And the Gascon's shrewd wit cheek-by-jowl coexist;
All admire, and yet scarcely six converts he's got
To I don't (nor they either) exactly know what;
For though he builds glorious temples, 'tis odd Model American Courier: Emerson indulges in abstractions, often intangible to any real spiritual sense, for which fault the satirist says: [Excerpt.] And thus he goes on, hitting right and left, more careful to let his lash touch a tender place, than fall upon a callosity.
He leaves never a doorway to get in a god. Eclectic Review: "His 'studies' show him competent to the filling up and finishing of admirable portraits—a Landseer's rude outline bears traces of a master's hand. If he drives his chariot dashingly along the wide and open road, he can guide it skilfully in the most thronged thoroughfare. But we promised extracts, and not disquisition. These we select, not for their superiority to others, so much as because the men described are best known to English readers. The first is Emerson, whose chief characteristics are thus admirably, though severely, hit off:"
'Tis refreshing to old-fashioned people like me
To meet such a primitive Pagan as he, 560
In whose mind all creation is duly respected
As parts of himself—just a little projected;
And who's willing to worship the stars and the sun,
A convert to—nothing but Emerson.
So perfect a balance there is in his head,
That he talks of things sometimes as if they were dead;
Life, nature, love, God, and affairs of that sort,
He looks at as merely ideas; in short,
As if they were fossils stuck round in a cabinet,
Of such vast extent that our earth's a mere dab in it; 570
Composed just as he is inclined to conjecture her,
Namely, one part pure earth, ninety-nine parts pure lecturer;
You are filled with delight at his clear demonstration,
Each figure, word, gesture, just fits the occasion,
With the quiet precision of science he'll sort 'em,
But you can't help suspecting the whole a post mortem.

    'There are persons, mole-blind to the soul's make and style, Saturday Evening Post: "We conclude with the following running comparison between Emerson and Carlyle, which is exceedingly terse and descriptive:"
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian, and satirist. Who insist on a likeness 'twixt him and Carlyle; New York Tribune: "We conclude with the following running comparison between Emerson and Carlyle, which is exceedingly terse and descriptive:"
To compare him with Plato would be vastly fairer,
Carlyle's the more burly, but E. is the rarer; 580
He sees fewer objects, but clearlier, truelier,
If C.'s as original, E.'s more peculiar;
That he's more of a man you might say of the one,
Of the other he's more of an Emerson;
In Greek mythology, Titans were gods before the Olympians, their children, overthrew them. C.'s the Titan, as shaggy of mind as of limb,—
E. the clear-eyed Olympian, rapid and slim;
The one's two thirds Norseman, the other half Greek,
Where the one's most abounding, the other's to seek;
C.'s generals require to be seen in the mass,—
E.'s specialties gain if enlarged by the glass; 590
C. gives nature and God his own fits of the blues,
And rims common-sense things with mystical hues,—
E. sits in a mystery calm and intense,
And looks coolly around him with sharp common-sense;
C. shows you how every-day matters unite
With the dim transdiurnal recesses of night,—
While E., in a plain, preternatural way,
Makes mysteries matters of mere every day;
Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), Romanticist painter who depicted the supernatural with particular attention to light and shadow. C. draws all his characters quite à la Fuseli,—
Thews, muscles, sinews, or physical attributes. Not sketching their bundles of muscles and thews illy, 600
He paints with a brush so untamed and profuse,
They seem nothing but bundles of muscles and thews;
John Flaxman (1755-1826), Neoclassicist sculptor and engraver. E. is rather like Flaxman, lines strait and severe,
And a colorless outline, but full, round, and clear;―
To the men he thinks worthy he frankly accords
The design of a white marble statue in words.
C. labors to get at the centre, and then
Take a reckoning from there of his actions and men;
E. calmly assumes the said centre as granted,
And, given himself, has whatever is wanted. 610

    'He has imitators in scores, who omit
No part of the man but his wisdom and wit,—
Who go carefully o'er the sky-blue of his brain,
And when he has skimmed it once, skim it again;
If at all they resemble him, you may be sure it is
Because their shoals mirror his mists and obscurities,
As a mud-puddle seems deep as heaven for a minute,
While a cloud that floats o'er is reflected within it.

William Ellery Channing (1818-1901), Transcendentalist poet.     'There comes–––, for instance; to see him's rare sport,
Tread in Emerson's tracks with legs painfully short; 620
How he jumps, how he strains, and gets red in the face.
To keep step with the mystagogue's natural pace!
He follows as close as a stick to a rocket,
His fingers exploring the prophet's each pocket.
Fie, for shame, brother bard; with good fruit of your own, Harbinger: "The portrait of Emerson is very clever; equally so those of one or two luckless imitators:"
Can't you let Neighbor Emerson's orchards alone?
Besides, 'tis no use, you'll not find e'en a core,—
Henry David Thoreau (187-1862), Transcendentalist essayist, naturalist, and poet. ––– has picked up all the windfalls before.
They might strip every tree, and E. never would catch 'em,
Hesperides, Greek nymphs entrusted, alongside a dragon, with guarding Hera's golden apples. His Hesperides have no rude dragon to watch 'em; 630
When they send him a dishful, and ask him to try 'em,
He never suspects how the sly rogues came by 'em;
He wonders why 'tis there are none such his trees on,
And thinks 'em the best he has tasted this season.

Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888), Transcendentalist teacher and reformer.     'Yonder, calm as a cloud, Alcott stalks in a dream,
Academe, Plato's Academy, located in a grove of olive trees dedicated to the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, whose temple was the Parthenon. And fancies himself in thy groves, Academe,
With the Parthenon nigh, and the olive-trees o'er him,
And never a fact to perplex him or bore him,
With a snug room at Plato's when night comes, to walk to,
And people from morning till midnight to talk to, 640
And from midnight till morning, nor snore in their listening;—
So he muses, his face with the joy of it glistening,
For his highest conceit of a happiest state is
Where they'd live upon acorns, and hear him talk gratis;
And indeed, I believe, no man ever talked better,—
Each sentence hangs perfectly poised to a letter;
He seems piling words, but there's royal dust hid
In the heart of each sky-piercing pyramid.
While he talks he is great, but goes out like a taper, Albion: "Of one whom he paints as a good lecturer but poor author, he thus concludes the description,"
If you shut him up closely with pen, ink, and paper; 650
Yet his fingers itch for 'em from morning till night,
And he thinks he does wrong if he don't always write;
In this, as in all things, a lamb among men,
He goes to sure death when he goes to his pen.

Orestes Brownson (1803-1876), writer and reformer affiliated with Transcendentalism prior to his 1844 conversion to Catholicism.     'Close behind him is Brownson, his mouth very full Saturday Evening Post: "A well-known reviewer and theological controversalist is thus sketched:"
Bull, a decree on Catholic teaching issued by the Pope, who until recently had been Gregory XVI. With attempting to gulp a Gregorian bull; New York Tribune: "A well-known reviewer and theological controversialist is thus sketched:"
Who contrives, spite of that, to pour out as he goes The Liberator: "We take from the new work, 'Fable for Critics,' attributed to J. R. Lowell, the following extracts:"
A stream of transparent and forcible prose; Buffalo Commercial: "But notwithstanding his random shots, our author makes some capital hits. For instance, having discharged Olcott, he says"
He shifts quite about, then proceeds to expound
That 'tis merely the earth, not himself, that turns round, 660
And wishes it clearly impressed on your mind
That the weathercock rules and not follows the wind;
Proving first, then as deftly confuting each side,
With no doctrine pleased that's not somewhere denied,
He lays the denier away on the shelf,
And then—down beside him lies gravely himself.
Rowed up Salt River, a political colloquialism for a seemingly minor accident or act of sabotage that results in defeat, based on a apocryphal story of a Democratic boatman ferrying Whig candidate Henry Clay the wrong direction on Kentucky's Salt River causing him to miss a pivotal speech. He's the Salt River boatman, who always stands willing
To convey friend or foe without charging a shilling,
And so fond of the trip that, when leisure's to spare, Literary Gazette: "[Emerson's] imitators are cuttingly handled, and Messrs. Alcott, Brownson, &c., flourish in the song. Of the last mentioned writer it is said:"
He'll row himself up, if he can't get a fare. 670
The worst of it is, that his logic's so strong,
That of two sides he commonly chooses the wrong; Southern Literary Messenger: "First, by way of showing what his intention was, we quote three accidentally accurate lines:
    But a boy | he could ne | ver be right | ly defined.
    As I said | he was ne | ver precise | ly unkind.
    But as Ci | cero says | he won't say | this or that.
Here it is clearly seen that Mr. L. intends a line of four anapests. (An anapest is a foot composed of two short syllables followed by a long.) With this observation, we will now simply copy a few of the lines which constitute the body of the poem; asking any of our readers to read them if they can;"
If there is only one, why, he'll split it in two,
And first pummel this half, then that, black and blue.
That white's white needs no proof, but it takes a deep fellow
To prove it jet-black, and that jet-black is yellow.
He offers the true faith to drink in a sieve,—
When it reaches your lips there's naught left to believe
But a few silly-(syllo-, I mean,)-gisms that squat 'em
Like tadpoles, o'erjoyed with the mud at the bottom. 680

Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867), highly successful author predominantly of sketches and travel writing as well as editor of the New York Evening Mirror and the Home Journal.     'There is Willis, all natty and jaunty and gay, Literary Gazette: "We now come to an author more familiar on this side of the world: Willis."
Who says his best things in so foppish a way, The Liberator: ["We take from the new work, 'Fable for Critics,' attributed to J. R. Lowell, the following extracts:"]
With conceits and pet phrases so thickly o'erlaying 'em,
That one hardly knows whether to thank him for saying 'em;
Over-ornament ruins both poem and prose,
Just conceive of a Muse with a ring in her nose!
His prose had a natural grace of its own, Athenaeum: "There are many other clever conceits in these pages—felicitously though flippantly conjuring up the characteristics of writers well known on this side of the Atlantic. But we must content ourselves with presenting the familiar figure of our old acquaintance, Mr. N. P. Willis.—"
And enough of it, too, if he'd let it alone;
But he twitches and jerks so, one fairly gets tired,
And is forced to forgive where one might have admired; 690
Yet whenever it slips away free and unlaced,
It runs like a stream with a musical waste,
And gurgles along with the liquidest sweep;—
'Tis not deep as a river, but who'd have it deep?
In a country where scarcely a village is found Model American Courier: "Willis is not very profound. Therefore—"
That has not its author sublime and profound, Eclectic Review: "The merits and demerits of Willis receive, we think, ample justice in this lively account of him:"
For some one to be slightly shallow's a duty,
And Willis's shallowness makes half his beauty.
His prose winds along with a blithe, gurgling error,
And reflects all of Heaven it can see in its mirror: 700
'Tis a narrowish strip, but it is not an artifice;
Phiz, facial expression. 'Tis the true out-of-doors with its genuine hearty phiz;
It is Nature herself, and there's something in that,
Since most brains reflect but the crown of a hat.
Few volumes I know to read under a tree, New York Tribune: We take a few lines, containing two good hits, from the portrait of Willis:
À l'Abri; or, The Tent Pitched (1839), a characteristic series of first-person, epistolary sketches in which Willis describes an interval as a gentleman-farmer along the Susquehannah River and muses on art, customs, and nature. More truly delightful than his A l'Abri,
With the shadows of leaves flowing over your book,
Like ripple-shades netting the bed of a brook;
With June coming softly your shoulder to look over,
Breezes waiting to turn every leaf of your book over, 710
And Nature to criticise still as you read,—
The page that bears that is a rare one indeed.

    'He's so innate a cockney, that had he been born Harbinger: "Then comes Willis 'so natty and jaunty and gay,' 'whose shallowness makes half his beauty.'"
Where plain bare-skin's the only full-dress that is worn,
He'd have given his own such an air that you'd say
Broadway, avenue in New York already known as a social and commercial center. 'T had been made by a tailor to lounge in Broadway.
His nature's a glass of champagne with the foam on 't, Literary Gazette: "We now come to an author more familiar on this side of the world: Willis."
John Fletcher (1579-1625) and Francis Beaumont (1584-1616), Jacobean dramatists and regular coauthors. As tender as Fletcher, as witty as Beaumont;
So his best things are done in the flush of the moment;
If he wait, all is spoiled; he may stir it and shake it, 720
But, the fixed air once gone, he can never re-make it.
He might be a marvel of easy delightfulness,
If he would not sometimes leave the r out of sprightfulness;
And he ought to let Scripture alone—'tis self-slaughter,
For nobody likes inspiration-and-water.
Mermaid, tavern in London where Beaumont, Fletcher, and other early modern English litterateurs including Ben Jonson, whose epitath reads "O Rare Ben Jonson" and who wrote of drinking Canary wine there in his poem "Inviting a Friend to Supper." He'd have been just the fellow to sup at the Mermaid,
Cracking jokes at rare Ben, with an eye to the barmaid,
His wit running up as Canary ran down,—
The topmost bright bubble on the wave of The Town.

Theodore Parker (1810-1860), Unitarian minister, reformer, and Transcendentalist whose advocacy of personal religion and belief that Christian traditions did not reflect the spirit of Christ's teachings put him at odds with many religious. In the medieval chanson de geste Valentin and Orson, Orson is raised wild in the woods by bears.     'Here comes Parker, the Orson of parsons, a man 730 Literary Gazette: "[Suppose we take them in the way of a regimental roll-call, as a distinct and concise mode of informing English readers:] Parker."
Whom the Church undertook to put under her ban
Socinians, Polish Reformation sect and precursors of Unitarianism who denied original sin and the divinity of Christ, thereby dissenting from most contemporaneous Protestant sects. (The Church of Socinus, I mean),—his opinions
Being So-(ultra)-cinian, they shocked the Socinians:
They believed—faith, I'm puzzled—I think I may call
Their belief a believing in nothing at all,
Or something of that sort; I know they all went
For a general union of total dissent:
He went a step farther; without cough or hem,
He frankly avowed he believed not in them;
And, before he could be jumbled up or prevented, 740
From their orthodox kind of dissent he dissented.
There was heresy here, you perceive, for the right
Of privately judging means simply that light
Has been granted to me, for deciding on you;
And in happier times, before Atheism grew,
The deed contained clauses for cooking you too:
Xerces I (518-465 BC), King of Persia, who according to Herodotus had the ocean whipped when a storm destroyed his pontoon bridges across the Dardanelles. In an equally uncertain tale, Knut (990-1035), King of Denmark, England, and Norway, who according to Henry of Huntingdon placed his throne on the shore and, when the tides came in unabated, proclaimed the powerlessness of kings beside God. Now at Xerxes and Knut we all laugh, yet our foot
With the same wave is wet that mocked Xerxes and Knut,
And we all entertain a secure private notion,
That our Thus far! will have a great weight with the ocean, 750
'Twas so with our liberal Christians: they bore
With sincerest conviction their chairs to the shore;
They brandished their worn theological birches,
Bade natural progress keep out of the Churches,
And expected the lines they had drawn to prevail
With the fast-rising tide to keep out of their pale;
Pontifical See, the jurisdiction of the Pope; also puns on Xerxes' pontoons and Knut's sea. They had formerly dammed the Pontifical See,
And the same thing, they thought, would do nicely for P.;
But he turned up his nose at their mumming and shamming,
And cared (shall I say?) not a d––– for their damming; 760
So they first read him out of their church, and next minute
Turned round and declared he had never been in it.
But the ban was too small or the man was too big,
For he recks not their bells, books, and candles a fig
(He scarce looks like a man who would stay treated shabbily,
Sophronicus, father of Socrates; Francois Rabelais (c1483-1553), Renaissance humanist and cleverly irreverent humorist much in vogue with American writers of the 1840s. Sophroniscus' son's head o'er the features of Rabelais);—
He bangs and bethwacks them,—their backs he salutes
With the whole tree of knowledge torn up by the roots;
His sermons with satire are plenteously verjuiced,
The nature of this list is more pertinent than its contents: it includes philosophers, prohpets, artists, gods, locations, celestial bodies, fictional characters, and made up names from nations and religions across Asia, Europe, and North America. And he talks in one breath of Confutzee, Cass, Zerduscht, 770
Jack Robinson, Peter the Hermit, Strap, Dathan,
Cush, Pitt (not the bottomless, that he's no faith in),
Pan, Pillicock, Shakespeare, Paul, Toots, Monsieur Tonson,
Aldebaran, Alcander, Ben Khorat, Ben Jonson,
Thoth, Richter, Joe Smith, Father Paul, Judah Monis,
Musæus, Muretus, hem,—ų Scorpionis,
Maccabee, Maccaboy, Mac—Mac—ah! Machiavelli,
Condorcet, Count d'Orsay, Conder, Say, Ganganelli,
Orion, O'Connell, the Chevalier D'O,
(See the Memoirs of Sully,) παν, the great toe 780
Of the statue of Jupiter, now made to pass
For that of Jew Peter by good Romish brass,
(You may add for yourselves, for I find it a bore,
All the names you have ever, or not, heard before,
And when you've done that—why, invent a few more).
His hearers can't tell you on Sunday beforehand,
If in that day's discourse they'll be Bibled or Koraned,
For he's seized the idea (by his martyrdom fired)
That all men (not orthodox) may be inspired;
Yet though wisdom profane with his creed he may weave in, 790
He makes it quite clear what he doesn't believe in,
While some, who decry him, think all Kingdom Come
Is a sort of a, kind of a, species of Hum,
Of which, as it were, so to speak, not a crumb
Would be left, if we didn't keep carefully mum,
And, to make a clean breast, that 'tis perfectly plain
That all kinds of wisdom are somewhat profane;
Now P.'s creed than this may be lighter or darker,
But in one thing, 'tis clear, he has faith, namely—Parker;
And this is what makes him the crowd-drawing preacher, 800
There's a background of god to each hard-working feature,
Every word that he speaks has been fierily furnaced
In the blast of a life that has struggled in earnest:
There he stands, looking more like a ploughman than priest,
If not dreadfully awkward, not graceful at least,
His gestures all downright and same, if you will,
Hobnail, slang for a rustic; drill, here, furrows. As of brown-fisted Hobnail in hoeing a drill;
But his periods fall on you, stroke after stroke,
Like the blows of a lumberer felling an oak,
You forget the man wholly, you're thankful to meet 810
With a preacher who smacks of the field and the street,
Hugh Latimer (1487-1555) and Rowland Taylor(?) (1510-1555), Anglican martyrs in the Marian Persecutions. No writings of Taylor's survive and Latimer was imprisoned multiple times. And to hear, you're not over-particular whence,
Almost Taylor's profusion, quite Latimer's sense.

Buffalo Commercial: "Mr. 'Quiz' is evidently a little partial to the 'Baystate' literati, for while Cooper is no better than James and Bryant is [Excerpt] Longfellow is a wonderfully tall forest tree, always in the richest mental blossom, Dana is a superlatively elegant Pegasus rider, Holmes is matchless for wit, Emerson 'the clear eyed Olympian,' Theodore Parker 'the Orson of parsons,' etc. etc.
William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), American Romantic poet and later editor of the New York Evening News. His early poetry in the North American Review earned him an international reputation beginning with "Thanatopsis" (1817), which is characteristically meditative and melancholic.     'There is Bryant, as quiet, as cool, and as dignified,
As a smooth, silent iceberg, that never is ignified,
Save when by reflection 'tis kindled o' nights
With a semblance of flame by the chill Northern Lights.
He may rank (Griswold says so) first bard of your nation
(There's no doubt that he stands in supreme iceolation),
Parnassus, mountain atop which the Greek Muses dwelled. Your topmost Parnassus he may set his heel on, 820 Model American Courier: "Bryant is cold, chaste, and pure in his style of writing, and this enables the satirist to produce the following piece of criticl exaggeration:"
But no warm applauses come, peal following peal on,— Literary Gazette: "[Suppose we take them in the way of a regimental roll-call, as a distinct and concise mode of informing English readers:] Bryant."
He's too smooth and too polished to hang any zeal on: Athenaeum: "Bryant has the following cold reception from our Critic:"
Unqualified merits, I'll grant, if you choose, he has 'em,
But he lacks the one merit of kindling enthusiasm;
If he stir you at all, it is just, on my soul,
Like being stirred up with the very North Pole.

Latin, "between us."     'He is very nice reading in summer, but inter
Nos, we don't want extra freezing in winter;
Take him up in the depth of July, my advice is,
When you feel an Egyptian devotion to ices. 830
But, deduct all you can, there's enough that's right good in him,
He has a true soul for field, river, and wood in him;
And his heart, in the midst of brick walls, or where'er it is,
Glows, softens, and thrills with the tenderest charities—
To you mortals that delve in this trade-ridden planet?
Berkshire Hills, low mountains in western Massachusetts where Bryant grew up.
Locofocos, Jacksonian Democratic party faction advocating low taxes and egalitarianism and opposing the national bank, monopolies, and the Tammany Hall party establishment, suppoted by Bryant's New York Evening Post. Their influence declined with Martin Van Buren's failed 1840 bid for presidential reelection.
Quivis, Latin, "whoever."
No, to old Berkshire's hills, with their limestone and granite. North American Review: "He evidently has no liking for Bryant's style of poetry, which is too calm and equable, which belongs too much to the old school, and has too much of the majesty of repose, to suit the admirers of the intense and fervid manner which is now most in vogue. The gravamen of the charge against him is, that he is more fond of depicting the various aspects of external nature, in their stillness and sublimity, than the passions of men and the woes engendered by them. It may be so; but we are quite willing to take Bryant's excuse for it in his own magnificent lines [...] for every person of taste in the country has the whole piece by heart, and in this universal popularity is the real test and seal of the poet's greatness. [...] We are now ready to hear the criticism of our poet-reviewer, without allowing his wit to dazzle our perception of the truth."
If you're one who in loco (add foco here) desipis,
You will get out of his outermost heart (as I guess) a piece;
But you'd get deeper down if you came as a precipice,
And would break the last seal of its inwardest fountain, 840
If you only could palm yourself off for a mountain.
Mr. Quivis, or somebody quite as discerning,
Some scholar who's hourly expecting his learning,
Calls B. the American Wordsworth; but Wordsworth
May be rated at more than your whole tuneful herd's worth.
No, don't be absurd, he's an excellent Bryant;
But, my friends, you'll endanger the life of your client,
By attempting to stretch him up into a giant;
If you choose to compare him, I think there are two per-
James Thomson, (1700-1748), Scottish poet who prefigured the Romantics in reflective, descriptive blank verse poems like The Seasons (1730) and The Castle of Indolence (1748); William Cowper, English Romanticist poet who wrote quotidian nature poems but became best known for The Task (1785), a long discursive blank verse poem; he also struggled with depression or insanity. -sons fit for a parallel—Thomson and Cowper;** 850 [Original footnote.]
                    **To demonstrate quickly and easily how per-
                    -versely absurd 't is to sound this name Cowper
                    As people in general call him named super,
                    I remark that he rhymes it himself with horse-trooper.
I don't mean exactly,—there's something of each,
There's T.'s love of nature, C.'s penchant to preach;
Just mix up their minds so that C.'s spice of craziness
Shall balance and neutralize T.'s turn for laziness,
And it gives you a brain cool, quite frictionless, quiet,
Whose internal police nips the buds of all riot,—
A brain like a permanent strait-jacket put on
The heart that strives vainly to burst off a button,—
A brain which, without being slow or mechanic,
Does more than a larger less drilled, more volcanic; 860
He's a Cowper condensed, with no craziness bitten, North American Review: "Are there two people in the world, who can read the preceding extracts in connection, and yet acknowledge the justice of the latter? We have not room to give the whole passage relating to Bryant, but as we have extracted the severer portion of it, we add in candor all that is said in his praise."
And the advantage that Wordsworth before him had written.

    'But, my dear little bardlings, don't prick up your ears Albion: "After complaining a little of a certain frigidity and ice-olation in Bryant he thus winds up his notice."
Nor suppose I would rank you and Bryant as peers;
If I call him an iceberg, I don't mean to say
There is nothing in that which is grand in its way;
He is almost the one of your poets that knows
How much grace, strength, and dignity lie in Repose;
If he sometimes fall short, he is too wise to mar
His thought's modest fulness by going too far; 870
'T would be well if your authors should all make a trial
Of what virtue there is in severe self-denial,
Hesoid (active between 750-650 BC), Greek poet who received a laurel staff from the Muses. And measure their writings by Hesiod's staff,
Which teaches that all has less value than half.

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), poet who often wrote in lyric and ballad forms; his subjects include his New England folk heritage, firmly-held Quaker beliefs, and unyielding abolitionist principles.     'There is Whittier, whose swelling and vehement heart Albion: "Whittier's muse criticised at length gives occasion for four of the best lines in the book."
Strains the strait-breasted drab of the Quaker apart,
And reveals the live Man, still supreme and erect,
Underneath the bemummying wrappers of sect;
There was ne'er a man born who had more of the swing Literary Gazette: "[Suppose we take them in the way of a regimental roll-call, as a distinct and concise mode of informing English readers:] Whittier."
Of the true lyric bard and all that kind of thing; 880
And his failures arise (though he seem not to know it)
From the very same cause that has made him a poet,—
A fervor of mind which knows no separation
'Twixt simple excitement and pure inspiration,
Pythoness, female oracle as at Delphi, who delivered her omens from a three-legged ritual chair or tripod. As my Pythoness erst sometimes erred from not knowing New York Tribune: The language is at times as blunt and homely as the genuine Yankee dialect, rising again to a sublime pitch of lyric enthusiasm. With the judgment which Apollo passes on the authors who are made to march in review before him, there will of course be a variety of opinions; yet they contain many true things, told with admirable point. We were somewhat at a loss what portion of the book to quote, but, opening at random, we find the following description of Whittier:
If 'twere I or mere wind through her tripod was blowing;
Let his mind once get head in its favorite direction
And the torrent of verse bursts the dams of reflection,
While, borne with the rush of the metre along,
The poet may chance to go right or go wrong, 890
Content with the whirl and delirium of song;
Then his grammar's not always correct, nor his rhymes,
And he's prone to repeat his own lyrics sometimes,
Not his best, though, for those are struck off at white-heats
When the heart in his breast like a trip-hammer beats,
And can ne'er be repeated again any more
Than they could have been carefully plotted before:
Taillefer, a minstrel who took part in the Battle of Hastings (1066), the decisive conflict in the Norman conquest of England by William I. Like old what's-his-name there at the battle of Hastings
(Who, however, gave more than mere rhythmical bastings),
Our Quaker leads off metaphorical fights 900
For reform and whatever they call human rights,
Both singing and striking in front of the war,
Thor, Germanic god of lightning and protector of mankind. And hitting his foes with the mallet of Thor;
Latin, "can this be [...] your brother's clothing?" Anne haec, one exclaims, on beholding his knocks,
George Fox (1624-1691), founder of the Quakers, who according to Carlyle made himself all-leather clothing to travel the world for evangelization. Vestis filii tui, O leather-clad Fox?
Can that be thy son, in the battle's mid din,
Preaching brotherly love and then driving it in
In the biblical Book of Samuel, the future King David as a boy defeated a giant Philistine, Goliath, by shooting a stone from his sling. To the brain of the tough old Goliath of sin,
The Castalian Spring on Mount Parnassus, where the Muses and the Oracle of Delphi dwelt, a source of poetic inspiration. With the smoothest of pebbles from Castaly's spring
Impressed on his hard moral sense with a sling? 910

    'All honor and praise to the right-hearted bard
Who was true to The Voice when such service was hard,
Who himself was so free he dared sing for the slave
When to look but a protest in silence was brave;
All honor and praise to the women and men
Who spoke out for the dumb and the down-trodden then!
It needs not to name them, already for each
I see History preparing the statue and niche;
They were harsh, but shall you be so shocked at hard words
A reversal of the exhortation of several Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 2:4, Joel 3:10, Micah 4:3). Who have beaten your pruning-hooks up into swords, 920
Whose rewards and hurrahs men are surer to gain
By the reaping of men and of women than grain?
Why should you stand aghast at their fierce wordy war, if
Debates over whether to re-institute a National Bank and whether to continue protectionist tariffs lay at the heart of 1840s politics: Whigs tended to want both Bank and Tariff while Democrats tended to oppose both. You scalp one another for Bank or for Tariff?
Your calling them cut-throats and knaves all day long
Doesn't prove that the use of hard language is wrong;
While the World's heart beats quicker to think of such men
As signed Tyranny's doom with a bloody steel-pen,
While on Fourth-of-Julys beardless orators fright one
Harmodius and Aristogeiton, lovers who assassinated Hipparchus, a tyrant of Athens. With hints at Harmodius and Aristogeiton, 930
You need not look shy at your sisters and brothers
Who stab with sharp words for the freedom of others;—
No, a wreath, twine a wreath for the loyal and true
Who, for sake of the many, dared stand with the few,
Not of blood-spattered laurel for enemies braved,
But of broad, peaceful oak-leaves for citizens saved!

Richard Henry Dana, Sr. (1787-1879), sometime lawyer, sometime lecturer, sometime fiction writer best known for the Gothic novella Paul Felton (1822); he briefly edited the North American Review and his own short-lived magazine, the Idle Man.     'Here comes Dana, abstractedly loitering along, Literary World: "For a pair of opposites, we have the sketches of Dana and Cooper: which of course are to be taken with the usual grains of allowance for satirical purposes."
Involved in a paulo-post-future of song, Literary Gazette: "[Suppose we take them in the way of a regimental roll-call, as a distinct and concise mode of informing English readers:] Dana."
Who'll be going to write what'll never be written
Till the Muse, ere he think of it, gives him the mitten,— 940
Who is so well aware of how things should be done,
That his own works displease him before they're begun,—
Who so well all that makes up good poetry knows,
That the best of his poems is written in prose;
Pegasus, winged horse in Greek mythology capable of reaching Olympus. All saddled and bridled stood Pegasus waiting, North American Review: "The sketches are drawn in a very free and bold manner, though they have the usual defect of caricatures, that the most prominent and peculiar feature is brought out in high relief, and maliciously magnified, so that the likeness is instantly recognized, though the remainder of the face is left out altogether, or so drawn as to bear no resemblance to the original. Lord Brougham is immediately known in Punch merely by the unhappy outline of his nose. The following sketch of the elder Dana has the same fault; a playful exaggeration of one point in his literary character is made to stand for a portrait of the whole man."
He was booted and spurred, but he loitered debating;
In a very grave question his soul was immersed,—
Which foot in the stirrup he ought to put first:
And, while this point and that he judicially dwelt on,
He, somehow or other, had written Paul Felton, 950
Whose beauties or faults, whichsoever you see there,
You'll allow only genius could hit upon either.
That he once was the Idle Man none will deplore,
But I fear he will never be anything more;
The ocean of song heaves and glitters before him,
The depth and the vastness and longing sweep o'er him.
He knows every breaker and shoal on the chart,
The Coast Pilot (1796), the first book of sailing charts for the North American Atlantic published in America, continually updated ever since. He has the Coast Pilot and so on by heart,
Yet he spends his whole life, like the man in the fable,
In learning to swim on his library table. 960

John Neal (1793-1876), author and gym founder famous for his rowdy, iconoclastic style, short temper, and aversion to self-editing.     'There swaggers John Neal, who has wasted in Maine Literary Gazette: "Neal. [Excerpt.] We have given the whole of this character, because the criticism is so excellent, and so applicable to hundreds of poets and pseudo-poets who struggle in the old world as well as in the new[.]"
The sinews and cords of his pugilist brain, Eclectic Review: "We cannot withhold the following sketch, which contains many hints that poets of all countries would do well to remember, nor poets only."
Who might have been poet, but that, in its stead, he Saturday Evening Post: "A cut-and-thrust little work has made its appearance in New York [...] Here is a taste of its quality:"
Preferred to believe that he was so already;
Too hasty to wait till Art's ripe fruit should drop,
He must pelt down an unripe and colicky crop;
Who took to the law, and had this sterling plea for it,
It required him to quarrel, and paid him a fee for it;
A man who's made less than he might have, because
He always has thought himself more than he was,— 970
Who, with very good natural gifts as a bard,
Broke the strings of his lyre out by striking too hard,
And cracked half the notes of a truly fine voice,
Because song drew less instant attention than noise.
Ah, men do not know how much strength is in poise,
That he goes the farthest who goes far enough, Albion: "The author might have applied to himself the couplet that he accuses some one else of forgetting."
And that all beyond that is just bother and stuff.
No vain man matures, he makes too much new wood;
His blooms are too thick for the fruit to be good;
'Tis the modest man ripens, 'tis he that achieves, 980
Just what's needed of sunshine and shade he receives;
Grapes, to mellow, require the cool dark of their leaves;
Neal wants balance; he throws his mind always too far,
Whisking out flocks of comets, but never a star;
He has so much muscle, and loves so to show it,
That he strips himself naked to prove he's a poet,
And, to show he could leap Art's wide ditch, if he tried,
Jumps clean o'er it, and into the hedge t'other side.
He has strength, but there's nothing about him in keeping; Albion: "Here is also something about John Neal, that especially takes our fancy. The author speaks of him as of one who has exhausted himself by premature efforts after fame: and adds,"
One gets surelier onward by walking than leaping; 990
He has used his own sinews himself to distress,
And had done vastly more had he done vastly less;
In letters, too soon is as bad as too late;
Could he only have waited he might have been great;
Helicon, a river in Greece which the murderers of the poet Orpheus sullied by washing in. But he plumped into Helicon up to the waist,
And muddied the stream ere he took his first taste.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), gothic and allegorical romanticist writer who, in 1848, had not yet shifted from predominantly writing short stories to novel writing; his most recent and best-received to date collection was Mosses from an Old Manse (1846).     'There is Hawthorne, with genius so shrinking and rare Literary Gazette: "[Suppose we take them in the way of a regimental roll-call, as a distinct and concise mode of informing English readers:] Hawthorne."
That you hardly at first see the strength that is there; Model American Courier: "It is a merit, however, in the author of this 'Fable,'l that he can see beauties, which is not always the case with critics and satirists; and it is but fair that we should give some of the neat and pretty things he says of one and other of our large brood of authors: [Line 1012 italicized.]"
A frame so robust, with a nature so sweet,
So earnest, so graceful, so lithe and so fleet, 1000
Is worth a descent from Olympus to meet;
'Tis as if a rough oak that for ages had stood,
With his gnarled bony branches like ribs of the wood,
Should bloom, after cycles of struggle and scathe,
With a single anemone trembly and rathe;
His strength is so tender, his wildness so meek,
That a suitable parallel sets one to seek,—
John Bunyan (1628-1688), author of the Christian allegorical poem The Pilgrim's Progress (1678); Friedrich de la Motte Fouque (1777-1843) and Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853), German Romanticists who in addition to writing novels adopted Germanic myths and fairy tales. He's a John Bunyan Fouque, a Puritan Tieck; Eclectic Review: "We have quoted enough to show that the fun and frolic of our author does not prevent his uttering truths, and great truths. His light and feathery style guides many an arrow to the vitals of his subjects. We should like to extract several more lengthy passages, but must be satisfied with a few brief sentences, which will serve a higher purpose than specimen bricks. The following 'conceit' is far from 'miserable.'"
When Nature was shaping him, clay was not granted
For making so full-sized a man as she wanted, 1010
So, to fill out her model, a little she spared
From some finer-grained stuff for a woman prepared,
And she could not have hit a more excellent plan
For making him fully and perfectly man.
The success of her scheme gave her so much delight,
John Sullivan Dwight (1813-93), leading New England music theorist-critic and Transcendentalist. That she tried it again, shortly after, in Dwight; Model American Courier: "The success of this scheme of Nature was so perfect, according to the critic, that she tried it again on Dwight; with what success, he relates—"
Only, while she was kneading and shaping the clay,
She sang to her work in her sweet childish way,
And found, when she'd put the last touch to his soul,
That the music had somehow got mixed with the whole. 1020

James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), whose voluminous output of historical novels set in America enjoyed wide popularity.     'Here's Cooper, who's written six volumes to show Literary Gazette: "Cooper. [Excerpt.] The author qualifies this severity somewhat afterwards, and praises him for not flattering national prejudices or errors in his strictures[.]"
He's as good as a lord: well, let's grant that he's so;
If a person prefer that description of praise,
Why, a coronet's certainly cheaper than bays;
But he need take no pains to convince us he's not
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), whose sensationally popular Waverly (1814) influenced many historical novelists that followed, including Cooper. (As his enemies say) the American Scott. Athenaeum: "The second [Cooper] has the following somewhat hard measure dealt to him by the American 'Fabulist.'—"
Choose any twelve men, and let C. read aloud Literary World: "For a pair of opposites, we have the sketches of Dana and Cooper: which of course are to be taken with the usual grains of allowance for satirical purposes."
That one of his novels of which he's most proud,
And I'd lay any bet that, without ever quitting
Their box, they'd be all, to a man, for acquitting. 1030
He has drawn you one character, though, that is new,
One wildflower he's plucked that is wet with the dew
Of this fresh Western world, and, the thing not to mince,
He has done naught but copy it ill ever since;
His Indians, with proper respect be it said,
Natty Bumppo, a protagonist of several Cooper novels including The Last of the Mohicans (1826) under many names, is an adept frontiersman of near-superhuman abilities who, while insisting on his whiteness, has more in common with his Native friends; many other Cooper characters bear resemblance, as does Long Tom Coffin, who dies at the end of Cooper's first novel, The Pilot (1824). Are just Natty Bumppo, daubed over with red,
And his very Long Toms are the same useful Nat,
Rigged up in duck pants and a sou'wester hat
(Though once in a Coffin, a good chance was found
To have slipped the old fellow away underground). 1040
All his other men-figures are clothes upon sticks,
French, "last shirt." The dernière chemise of a man in a fix
(As a captain besieged, when his garrison's small,
Sets up caps upon poles to be seen o'er the wall);
And the women he draws from one model don't vary.
All sappy as maples and flat as a prairie.
When a character's wanted, he goes to the task
As a cooper would do in composing a cask;
He picks out the staves, of their qualities heedful,
Just hoops them together as tight as is needful, 1050
And, if the best fortune should crown the attempt, he
Has made at the most something wooden and empty.

    'Don't suppose I would underrate Cooper's abilities;
If I thought you'd do that, I should feel very ill at ease;
The men who have given to one character life
And objective existence are not very rife;
You may number them all, both prose-writers and singers,
Without overrunning the bounds of your fingers,
And Natty won't go to oblivion quicker
Parson Abraham Adams in Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews (1742) and Dr. Charles Primrose in Oliver Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield (1766) both represent the type of the well-meaning but gullible cleric. Than Adams the parson or Primrose the vicar. 1060

    'There is one thing in Cooper I like, too, and that is
That on manners he lectures his countrymen gratis;
Not precisely so either, because, for a rarity,
He is paid for his tickets in unpopularity.
Now he may overcharge his American pictures,
But you'll grant there's a good deal of truth in his strictures;
And I honor the man who is willing to sink Literary Gazette: "The author qualifies this severity somewhat afterwards, and praises him for not flattering national prejudices or errors in his strictures:"
Half his present repute for the freedom to think,
And, when he has thought, be his cause strong or weak,
Will risk t'other half for the freedom to speak, 1070
Caring naught for what vengeance the mob has in store,
"Upper ten thousand," a phrase coined by N. P. Willis in 1844 to describe upper class growth. Let that mob be the upper ten thousand or lower.

    'There are truths you Americans need to be told, Literary Gazette: "This induces some palpable reflections on the two countries:"
And it never'll refute them to swagger and scold;
John Bull, looking o'er the Atlantic, in choler
At your aptness for trade, says you worship the dollar;
But to scorn such eye-dollar-try's what very few do,
And John goes to that church as often as you do,
No matter what John says, don't try to outcrow him,
'Tis enough to go quietly on and outgrow him; 1080
Like most fathers, Bull hates to see Number One
Displacing himself in the mind of his son,
And detests the same faults in himself he'd neglected
When he sees them again in his child's glass reflected;
To love one another you're too like by half;
If he is a bull, you're a pretty stout calf,
And tear your own pasture for naught but to show
What a nice pair of horns you're beginning to grow.

    'There are one or two things I should just like to hint,
For you don't often get the truth told you in print; 1090
The most of you (this is what strikes all beholders)
Have a mental and physical stoop in the shoulders;
Though you ought to be free as the winds and the waves,
You've the gait and the manners of runaway slaves;
Though you brag of your New World, you don't half believe in it;
And as much of the Old as is possible weave in it;
Your goddess of freedom, a tight, buxom girl,
With lips like a cherry and teeth like a pearl,
Herë, alternate anglicization of Hera, Greek goddess of marriage and family as well as wife of Zeus. With eyes bold as Herë's, and hair floating free, Athenaeum: "Here we would pause, but for the sake of one very wholesome truth which—abandoning for a moment his personal sketches—our Critic tells his countrymen—and which we have ourselves told them over and over again. The want of an American reflection in American song, so often urged by us, we are glad to see denounced by one of their own poets.—"
And full of the sun as the spray of the sea, 1100
Who can sing at a husking or romp at a shearing,
Who can trip through the forests alone without fearing,
Who can drive home the cows with a song through the grass,
Keeps glancing aside into Europe's cracked glass.
Hides her red hands in gloves, pinches up her lithe waist,
And makes herself wretched with transmarine taste;
She loses her fresh country charm when she takes
Any mirror except her own rivers and lakes.

A common complaint among literary nationalists of varying persuasions (including Mathews): without international copyright until 1891, American printers could reprint British works without paying author royalties. As such, they could profit more by doing so while offering books at lower prices, making British authors more accessible than American ones in America.     'You steal Englishmen's books and think Englishmen's thought,
The eagle became the national bird in 1782. With their salt on her tail your wild eagle is caught; 1110
Your literature suits its each whisper and motion
To what will be thought of it over the ocean;
The cast clothes of Europe your statesmanship tries
Blarney, flattery. And mumbles again the old blarneys and lies;—
Forget Europe wholly, your veins throb with blood, Buffalo Commercial: "To conclude, we give the following scrap, not so much for the advice in the first line as on account of the beauty of a subsequent line, which we have italicised [1120]. The author is acting the Mentor to those literary Talemacuses who cling to the horns of Johnny Bull:"
To which the dull current in hers is but mud:
Let her sneer, let her say your experiment fails,
In her voice there's a tremble e'en now while she rails,
And your shore will soon be in the nature of things
Covered thick with gilt drift-wood of castaway kings, 1120
The Waif: A Collection of Poems (1845), a Longfellow-edited anthology of what were called fugitive pieces (or verse), often-anonymous poems published in periodicals. Where alone, as it were in a Longfellow's Waif,
Her fugitive pieces will find themselves safe.
O my friends, thank your god, if you have one, that he
'Twixt the Old World and you set the gulf of a sea;
Be strong-backed, brown-handed, upright as your pines,
By the scale of a hemisphere shape your designs,
Be true to yourselves and this new nineteenth age,
Hiram Powers (1805-1873), the most internationally-acclaimed American sculptor of the 1840s-1850s; his female nude The Greek Slave (1844) drew commentary in press and poetry as an abolitionist symbol.
William Page (1811-1885), acclaimed American portrait painter whose subjects included Powers and Lowell, who had himself dedicated his sophomore volume of poetry, Poems (1843) to Page.
As a statue by Powers, or a picture by Page, Southern Literary Messenger: "First, by way of showing what his intention was, we quote three accidentally accurate lines:
    But a boy | he could ne | ver be right | ly defined.
    As I said | he was ne | ver precise | ly unkind.
    But as Ci | cero says | he won't say | this or that.
Here it is clearly seen that Mr. L. intends a line of four anapests. (An anapest is a foot composed of two short syllables followed by a long.) With this observation, we will now simply copy a few of the lines which constitute the body of the poem; asking any of our readers to read them if they can;"
Plough, sail, forge, build, carve, paint, make all over new,
To your own New-World instincts contrive to be true, 1130
Keep your ears open wide to the Future's first call,
Be whatever you will, but yourselves first of all,
Stand fronting the dawn on Toil's heaven-scaling peaks,
And become my new race of more practical Greeks.—
Hem! your likeness at present, I shudder to tell o't, Southern Quarterly Review: "With a single farther word, we must dismiss this performance. It is disfigured by frequent reflections upon the slave institutions of the South, some of which are exceedingly brutal, exhibiting in the author a bad, malicious heart, and a temper that scruples not at a falsehood in the expression of a prejudice. We take for granted that the Southern reader will reject with indignation every such publication, while we ocunsel the publisher to be wary in perilling his interests in lending himslf to the purposes of fanaticism and hate."
Is that you have your slaves, and the Greek had his helot.'

    Here a gentleman present, who had in his attic
More pepper than brains, shrieked, 'The man's a fanatic,
I'm a capital tailor with warm tar and feathers,
And will make him a suit that'll serve in all weathers; 1140
But we'll argue the point first, I'm willing to reason 't,
Palaver before condemnation's but decent:
So, through my humble person, Humanity begs
Of the friends of true freedom a loan of bad eggs.'
But Apollo let one such a look of his show forth
Greek, "his coming was like the night," a citation of Iliad 1.47. As when ἤϊε νυκτὶ ἐοικώς, and so forth,
And the gentleman somehow slunk out of the way,
But, as he was going, gained courage to say,—
'At slavery in the abstract my whole soul rebels,
I am as strongly opposed to 't as any one else.' 1150
'Ay, no doubt, but whenever I've happened to meet
With a wrong or a crime, it is always concrete,'
Answered Phoebus severely; then turning to us,
'The mistake of such fellows as just made the fuss
Is only in taking a great busy nation
For a part of their pitiful cotton-plantation.—
Margaret Fuller (1810-1850), journalist, critic, women's rights advocate, and Transcendentalist. She edited the latter group's journal, the Dial, wrote for the New York Tribune, and in 1845 published Woman in the Nineteenth Century in which "Miranda" appears as an alter ego sheperded by her father like the Miranda of Shakespeare's Tempest (1611). Fuller receives Lowell's harshest treatment, perhaps because, as the Southern Literary Messenger noted, she had blasted him in Papers on American Literature (1846): Lowell "is absolutely wanting in the true spirit and tone of poesy. His interest in the moral questions of the day has supplied the want of vitality in himself; his great facility at versification has enabled him to fill the ear with a copious stream of pleasant sound. But his verse is stereotyped; his thought sounds no depth, and posterity will not remember him." But there comes Miranda, Zeus! where shall I flee to? Southern Literary Messenger: "Every reader versed in our literary gossip, is at once put dessous des cartes as to the particular provocation which engendered the 'Fable.' Miss Margaret Fuller, some time ago, in a silly and conceited piece of Transcendentalism which she called an 'Essay on American Literature,' or something of that kind, had the consummate pleasantry, after selecting from the list of American poets, Cornelius Mathews and William Ellery Channing, for especial commendation, to speak of Longfellow as a booby and of Lowell as so wretched a poetaster 'as to be disgusting even to his best friends.' All this Miss Fuller said, if not in our precise words, still in words quite as much to the purpose. Why she said it, Heaven only knows—unless it was because she was Margaret Fuller, and wished to be taken for nobody else."
She has such a penchant for bothering me too!
She always keeps asking if I don't observe a
Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom and justice (syncretized with the Greek Athena) born from the head of her father Jupiter. Particular likeness 'twixt her and Minerva; 1160
She tells me my efforts in verse are quite clever;—
She's been travelling now, and will be worse than ever;
One would think, though, a sharp-sighted noter she'd be
Of all that's worth mentioning over the sea,
For a woman must surely see well, if she try,
The whole of whose being's a capital I:
She will take an old notion, and make it her own,
Sibylline, in the cryptic manner of an oracle or sibyl. By saying it o'er in her Sibylline tone,
Or persuade you 'tis something tremendously deep,
By repeating it so as to put you to sleep; 1170
And she well may defy any mortal to see through it,
When once she has mixed up her infinite me through it.
There is one thing she owns in her own single right,
It is native and genuine—namely, her spite;
Though, when acting as censor, she privately blows
A censer of vanity 'neath her own nose.'

    Here Miranda came up, and said, 'Phoebus! you know
Fuller seems to have used "infinite soul" to refer to a higher purpose and higher unity (roughly analagous to Emerson's Over-soul) in her Boston Conversations, a series of classes for women from 1839 to 1844 which Lowell's then-fiance Maria White attended. That the Infinite Soul has its infinite woe, North American Review: "Our next quotation shall be a sketch of one of the Transcendental blue-stockings, who unfortunately are so numerous in our great cities, where they infest lecture-rooms and get up aesthetical tea-parties, that no one of them has a right to say the cap was specifically intended to fit her head."
As I ought to know, having lived cheek by jowl,
Since the day I was born, with the Infinite Soul; 1180
I myself introduced, I myself, I alone,
To my Land's better life authors solely my own,
Who the sad heart of earth on their shoulders have taken,
Whose works sound a depth by Life's quiet unshaken,
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and Francis Bacon (1561-1626) exerted unsurpassed influence on English literature and the scientific method, respectively. The Baconian theory of Shakespeare authorship was not popularized for another decade. Such as Shakespeare, for instance, the Bible, and Bacon,
Not to mention my own works; Time's nadir is fleet,
And, as for myself, I'm quite out of conceit'—

    'Quite out of conceit! I'm enchanted to hear it,'
Cried Apollo aside. 'Who'd have thought she was near it?
To be sure, one is apt to exhaust those commodities 1190
One uses too fast, yet in this case as odd it is
Neptune, Roman god of the sea. As if Neptune should say to his turbots and whitings,
"I'm as much out of salt as Miranda's own writings"
(Which, as she in her own happy manner has said,
Sound a depth, for 'tis one of the functions of lead).
She often has asked me if I could not find
A place somewhere near me that suited her mind;
I know but a single one vacant, which she,
With her rare talent that way, would fit to a T.
And it would not imply any pause or cessation 1200
In the work she esteems her peculiar vocation,—
She may enter on duty to-day, if she chooses,
And remain Tiring-woman for life to the Muses.'

    Miranda meanwhile has succeeded in driving
Up into a corner, in spite of their striving,
A small flock of terrified victims, and there,
With an I-turn-the-crank-of-the-Universe air
And a tone which, at least to my fancy, appears
Not so much to be entering as boxing your ears,
Is unfolding a tale (of herself, I surmise, 1210
For 'tis dotted as thick as a peacock's with I's),
Apropos of Miranda, I'll rest on my oars
And drift through a trifling digression on bores,
Latin, "in the manner of our ancestors." For, though not wearing ear-rings in more majorum,
Our ears are kept bored just as if we still wore 'em.
There was one feudal custom worth keeping, at least,
Roasted bores made a part of each well-ordered feast,
"Ne plus ultra," Latin, something unsurpassed in its kind. And of all quiet pleasures the very ne plus
Was in hunting wild bores as the tame ones hunt us.
Archæologians, I know, who have personal fears 1220
Of this wise application of hounds and of spears,
Have tried to make out, with a zeal more than wonted,
'Twas a kind of wild swine that our ancestors hunted;
But I'll never believe that the age which has strewn
Europe o'er with cathedrals, and otherwise shown
That it knew what was what, could by chance not have known
(Spending, too, its chief time with its buff on, no doubt)
Which beast 'twould improve the world most to thin out.
I divide bores myself, in the manner of rifles, Knickerbocker: "We were especially amused, and we think our readers will be, with the author's classification of bores:"
Into two great divisions, regardless of trifles:— 1230 Literary Gazette: "Miranda is an anonyme we do not recognize, the whole of whose being's a capital I, and this tends to a clever digression on bores:"
There's your smooth-bore and screw-bore, who do not much vary
In the weight of cold lead they respectively carry.
The smooth-bore is one in whose essence the mind
Not a corner nor cranny to cling by can find;
You feel as in nightmares sometimes, when you slip
Down a steep slated roof, where there's nothing to grip;
You slide and you slide, the blank horror increases,—
You had rather by far be at once smashed to pieces;
You fancy a whirlpool below white and frothing,
And finally drop off and light upon—nothing. 1240
The screw-bore has twists in him, faint predilections
For going just wrong in the tritest directions;
When he's wrong he is flat, when he's right he can't show it,
Snooks, a comic stock character of the 1830s and 1840s loosely associated with unknowningly uninformed taste in jokes and art. He'll tell you what Snooks said about the new poet,** [Original footnote.]
                    **(If you call Snooks an owl, he will show by his looks
                    That he's morally certain you're jealous of Snooks.)
Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), influential and hugely popular English poet whose blank verse romantic comedy and gender farce The Princess (1847) met mixed reception; Fogrum, slang for an old fogey. Or how Fogrum was outraged by Tennyson's Princess;
He has spent all his spare time and intellect since his
Birth in perusing, on each art and science,
Just the books in which no one puts any reliance,
Latin, "none are wise at all times." And though nemo, we're told, horis omnibus sapit,
The rule will not fit him, however you shape it, 1250
For he has a perennial foison of sappiness;
He has just enough force to spoil half your day's happiness,
And to make him a sort of mosquito to be with,
But just not enough to dispute or agree with.

    These sketches I made (not to be too explicit)
From two honest fellows who made me a visit,
In the first part of Hudibras (1663), a mock-epic by Samuel Butler (1613-1680) satirizing Puritanism and the English Civil War, extended digressions interrupt the titular knight's comic attack on a fiddler and trained bear. And broke, like the tale of the Bear and the Fiddle,
My reflections on Halleck short off by the middle;
I sha'n't now go into the subject more deeply,
For I notice that some of my readers look sleep'ly; 1260
I will barely remark that, 'mongst civilized nations,
There's none that displays more exemplary patience
Under all sorts of boring, at all sorts of hours,
From all sorts of desperate persons, than ours.
Not to speak of our papers, our State legislatures,
And other such trials for sensitive natures,
Just look for a moment at Congress,—appalled,
My fancy shrinks back from the phantom it called;
Why, there's scarcely a member unworthy to frown
Charles Fourier (1772-1837), utopian socialist who believed that equality among workers would restore harmony to planetary energies like the aurora borealis, which would become unified and fixed like a crown upon the northern hemisphere. 'Neath what Fourier nicknames the Boreal crown; 1270
Only think what that infinite bore-pow'r could do
If applied with a utilitarian view;
Suppose, for example, we shipped it with care
To Sahara's great desert and let it bore there;
If they held one short session and did nothing else,
They'd fill the whole waste with Artesian wells.
But 'tis time now with pen phonographic to follow
Through some more of his sketches our laughing Apollo:— Literary Gazette: "We must go on with the roll-call: Franco."

Harry Franco, pseudonym of Charles Briggs (1804-1877), New York writer, journalist, and co-editor with Poe of the Broadway Journal (1845-1846); the name was adapted from the narrator of Briggs' darkly-comic sketches of the Panic of 1837, The Adventures of Harry Franco (1839). A close friend of Lowell's, A Fable for Critics developed in a series of letters to Briggs from summer 1847 to summer 1848. As Lowell wrote in a preface to a late edition: "This jeu d'esprit was extemporized, I may fairly say, so rapidly was it written, purely for my own amusement and with no thought of publication. I sent daily installments of it to a friend in New York, the late Charles F. Briggs. He urged me to let it be printed, and I at last consented to its anonymous publication."     'There comes Harry Franco, and, as he draws near, North American Review: "One or two of the most flattering portraitures in the book are of persons whom nobody ever heard of beyond the corner of the next street from that in which they live; and to make the matter worse, these are mixed up with sarcastic and depreciating sketches of bards whom, with all their faults, the whole civilized world has long since learned to admire. Judging solely from this little poem, one would get the impression that Harry Franco was somebody, and that the author of the Thanatopsis was nobody."
You find that's a smile which you took for a sneer; 1280
One half of him contradicts t'other; his wont
Is to say very sharp things and do very blunt;
His manner's as hard as his feelings are tender,
And a sortie he'll make when he means to surrender;
He's in joke half the time when he seems to be sternest,
When he seems to be joking, be sure he's in earnest;
He has common sense in a way that's uncommon,
Hates humbug and cant, loves his friends like a woman,
Builds his dislikes of cards and his friendships of oak,
Loves a prejudice better than aught but a joke, 1290
Is half upright Quaker, half downright Come-outer,
Loves Freedom too well to go stark mad about her,
Quite artless himself, is a lover of Art,
Briggs' 1846-7 letters to the New York Mirror as the self-important F. M. Pinto satirize Fuller, Mathews, Willis, William Gilmore Simms, and slavery. Shuts you out of his secrets, and into his heart,
And though not a poet, yet all must admire Literary Gazette: "We must go on with the roll-call: Poe."
In his letters of Pinto his skill on the liar.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), writer, poet, critic, and editor of the Southern Literary Messenger (1834-1864); his poem "The Raven" (1845) made him a celebrity. Barnaby Rudge (1841), less successful Charles Dickens novel whose slow-witted title character has a pet raven.     'There comes Poe, with his raven, like Barnaby Rudge, The Liberator: "The reader will by this time become raven-ous for more; so, apropos!""
Three fifths, possible allusion to the compromise in the U.S. Constitution that slaves counted as 3/5ths of a person for purposes of federal legislative representation; Poe supported slavery. Three fifths of him genius and two fifths sheer fudge, Saturday Evening Post: "The reader will by this time become raven-ous for more; so apropos!"
Who talks like a book of iambs and pentameters,
In a way to make people of common sense damn metres, 1300
Who has written some things quite the best of their kind, Model American Courier: "The estimate of Poe is correct enough."
But the heart somehow seems all squeezed out by the mind,
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), translator, professor, and widely considered in his own century to be the greatest American poet. Little Longfellow War, impish campaign conducted largely by Poe against Longfellow in early 1845 beginning with a review of the latter's Waif anthology. Poe accused Longfellow of plagiarism and self-aggrandisement. Who—But hey-day! What's this? Messieurs Mathews and Poe, Southern Literary Messenger: "To show the general manner of the Fable, we quote a portion of what he says about Mr. Poe:** [Excerpt.] We may observe here that profound ignorance on any particular topic is always sure to manifest itself by some allusion to 'common sense' as an all-sufficient instructor. So far from Mr. P's talking 'like a book' on the topic at issue, his chief purpose has been to demonstrate that there exists no book on the subject worth talking about; and 'common sense,' after all, has been the basis on which he relied, in constradistinction from the uncommon nonsense of Mr. L. and the small pedants. **We must do Mr. L. the justice to say that his book was in press before he could have seen Mr. Poe's "Rationale of Verse" published in this Magazine for November and December last."
You mustn't fling mud-balls at Longfellow so,
Does it make a man worse that his character's such
As to make his friends love him (as you think) too much?
Why, there is not a bard at this moment alive
More willing than he that his fellows should thrive;
While you are abusing him thus, even now
He would help either one of you out of a slough; 1310
You may say that he's smooth and all that till you're hoarse,
But remember that elegance also is force;
After polishing granite as much as you will,
The heart keeps its tough old persistency still;
Deduct all you can, that still keeps you at bay;
William Collins (1720-1756) and Thomas Gray (1716-1771), English Augustan poets esteemed for their pastorals and odes. Why, he'll live till men weary of Collins and Gray.
Longfellow's epic Evangeline (1847), one of his most lastingly popular poems, is in dactylic hexameter after Greek epics. I'm not over-fond of Greek metres in English,
To me rhyme's a gain, so it be not too jinglish,
And your modern hexameter verses are no more
Alexander Pope (1688-1744), English neoclassical poet and satirist whose translation of Homer into heroic couplets (Pope's own specialty) bore a necessarily loose relation to the original text. Like Greek ones than sleek Mr. Pope is like Homer; 1320
As the roar of the sea to the coo of a pigeon is,
Melesigenes, "son of Meles," a name of Homer. So, compared to your moderns, sounds old Melesigenes;
I may be too partial, the reason, perhaps, o't is
That I've heard the old blind man recite his own rhapsodies,
And my ear with that music impregnate may be,
Like the poor exiled shell with the soul of the sea,
The Austrian Strauss family, including Johann I (1804-1849) and his three sons, was synonymous with dance music in the nineteenth century. Or as one can't bear Strauss when his nature is cloven
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), German Romantic composer. To its deeps within deeps by the stroke of Beethoven;
But, set that aside, and 'tis truth that I speak,
Theocritus (300-c.260 BC), father of Greek pastoral poetry, which he too wrote in the dactylic hexameter of epic. Had Theocritus written in English, not Greek, 1330
I believe that his exquisite sense would scarce change a line
In that rare, tender, virgin-like pastoral Evangeline.
That's not ancient nor modern, its place is apart
Where time has no sway, in the realm of pure Art,
'Tis a shrine of retreat from Earth's hubbub and strife
As quiet and chaste as the author's own life.

Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880), writer, abolitionist, and civil rights advocate who wrote Philothea (1836), a romance of Ancient Greece. The name itself is a transliteration from Greek, "lover of God."     There comes Philothea, her face all aglow, North American Review: "To show what our author is capable of doing when in a more serious mood, we copy a portion of his beautiful and well-merited tribute to Mrs. Child."
She has just been dividing some poor creature's woe, National Era: "The serious and generous soul of the author is however visible through the lambent play of his fancy, a humane heart beats kindly under the light mask of his critical war-dress. The picture of Lydia Maria Child will be recognized by all who have the privilege of her acquaintance. It is as true to life as one of Stewart's portraits. We have marked with Ialics four lines which contain a strikingly just and beatiful smile."
And can't tell which pleases her most, to relieve Harbinger: "But the best thing of all is what is said of that perennial fountain of joy, genius and a true woman's kindliness, the authoress of 'Philothea.' We would gladly copy it all as a good instance of mirthfulness inspired by love; but we find our space gives out here, and we must omit the quotation[.]"
His want, or his story to hear and believe; 1340
No doubt against many deep griefs she prevails,
For her ear is the refuge of destitute tales;
She knows well that silence is sorrow's best food,
And that talking draws off from the heart its black blood,
So she'll listen with patience and let you unfold
Your bundle of rags as 'twere pure cloth of gold,
Which, indeed, it all turns to as soon as she's touched it,
And (to borrow a phrase from the nursery) muched it;
She has such a musical taste, she will go
Any distance to hear one who draws a long bow; 1350
She will swallow a wonder by mere might and main,
And thinks it Geometry's fault if she's fain
To consider things flat, inasmuch as they're plain;
Facts with her are accomplished, as Frenchmen would say—
They will prove all she wishes them to either way,—
And, as fact lies on this side or that, we must try,
If we're seeking the truth, to find where it don't lie;
I was telling her once of a marvellous aloe
That for thousands of years had looked spindling and sallow,
And, though nursed by the fruitfullest powers of mud, 1360
Had never vouchsafed e'en so much as a bud,
Till its owner remarked (as a sailor, you know,
Often will in a calm) that it never would blow,
For he wished to exhibit the plant, and designed
That its blowing should help him in raising the wind;
At last it was told him that if he should water
Its roots with the blood of his unmarried daughter
(Who was born, as her mother, a Calvinist, said,
William Law (1686-1761), Anglican priest dismissed for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the British monarch and who influenced Wesleyan, Methodist, and Calvinist reformers. With William Law's serious caul on her head),
It would blow as the obstinate breeze did when by a 1370
In Greek mythology, Artemis commanded Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia as retribution for killing a sacred deer. Like decree of her father died Iphigenia;
At first he declared he himself would be blowed
Ere his conscience with such a foul crime he would load,
But the thought, coming oft, grew less dark than before,
And he mused, as each creditor knocked at his door,
If this were but done they would dun me no more;
I told Philothea his struggles and doubts,
And how he considered the ins and the outs
Of the visions he had, and the dreadful dyspepsy,
Andrew Jackson Davis (1826-1910), American spiritualist and clairvoyant, dubbed the "Poughkeepsie Seer." How he went to the seër that lives at Po'keepsie, 1380
How the seër advised him to sleep on it first,
And to read his big volume in case of the worst,
And further advised he should pay him five dollars
For writing Hum Hum on his wristbands and collars;
Three years and ten days these dark words he had studied
When the daughter was missed, and the aloe had budded;
I told how he watched it grow large and more large,
And wondered how much for the show he should charge,—
She had listened with utter indifference to this, till
I told how it bloomed, and, discharging its pistil 1390
Eumenides or Furies, Greek goddesses of vengeance. With an aim the Eumenides dictated, shot
The botanical filicide dead on the spot;
It had blown, but he reaped not his horrible gains,
For it blew with such force as to blow out his brains,
And the crime was blown also, because on the wad,
Which was paper, was writ "Visitation of God,"
As well as a thrilling account of the deed
Which the coroner kindly allowed me to read.

    'Well, my friend took this story up just, to be sure,
As one might a poor foundling that's laid at one's door; 1400
She combed it and washed it and clothed it and fed it,
And as if 'twere her own child most tenderly bred it,
Laid the scene (of the legend, I mean) far away a-
Himalaya, mountain range in South Asia. -mong the green vales underneath Himalaya,
And by artist-like touches, laid on here and there,
Made the whole thing so touching, I frankly declare
I have read it all thrice, and, perhaps I am weak,
But I found every time there were tears on my cheek.

    'The pole, science tells us, the magnet controls, North American Review: "To show what our author is capable of doing when in a more serious mood, we copy a portion of his beautiful and well-merited tribute to Mrs. Child."
But she is a magnet to emigrant Poles, 1410 National Era: "The serious and generous soul of the author is however visible through the lambent play of his fancy, a humane heart beats kindly under the light mask of his critical war-dress. The picture of Lydia Maria Child will be recognized by all who have the privilege of her acquaintance. It is as true to life as one of Stewart's portraits. We have marked with Ialics four lines which contain a strikingly just and beatiful smile."
And folks with a mission that nobody knows
Throng thickly about her as bees round a rose;
She can fill up the carets in such, make their scope
Converge to some focus of rational hope,
And, with sympathies fresh as the morning, their gall
Can transmute into honey,—but this is not all;
Not only for those she has solace, oh say, New York Tribune: "There are beautiful images in the following extract from a deserved tribute to Mrs. Child. We wish we could copy the whole of the four pages devoted to her, but as we have not room, we take the best of them:"
Vice's desperate nursling adrift in Broadway,
Who clingest, with all that is left of thee human,
To the last slender spar from the wreck of the woman, 1420
Hast thou not found one shore where those tired drooping feet
Could reach firm mother-earth, one full heart on whose beat
The soothed head in silence reposing could hear
The chimes of far childhood throb back on the ear?
Ah, there's many a beam from the fountain of day
That, to reach us unclouded, must pass, on its way,
Through the soul of a woman, and hers is wide ope
To the influence of Heaven as the blue eyes of Hope;
Yes, a great heart is hers, one that dares to go in Model American Courier: "Of Mrs. Child he says, beautifully:"
To the prison, the slave-hut, the alleys of sin, 1430
And to bring into each, or to find there, some line
Of the never completely out-trampled divine;
If her heart at high floods swamps her brain now and then, Eclectic Review: "There is wisdom and beauty in this conception:"
'Tis but richer for that when the tide ebbs agen,
The Nile River's annual flood produced extremely fertile soil for farming in Egypt's otherwise arid climate. As, after old Nile has subsided, his plain
Overflows with a second broad deluge of grain;
What a wealth would it tiring to the narrow and sour
Could they be as a Child but for one little hour!

Washington Irving (1783-1859), one of the first American authors to achieve recognition in Europe (and thus also the U.S.), where he spent much of his life after the success of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1820), which included "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."     'What! Irving? thrice welcome, warm heart and fine brain, North American Review: "When our bard has had a little more experience as a reviewer (Heaven forefend that he should have it, however!) he will learn that a well-drawn nose is not a good full-length portrait. But to show that he can sketch with more completeness, we copy the following lines devoted to Irving, which are nearly as good as any thing in Goldsmith:"
That is, "American" Raphaels and Dantes, extraordinarily influential Italian Renaissance painter (1483-1520) and Italian poet (1265-1321), respectively. You bring back the happiest spirit from Spain, 1440 Literary Gazette: "Irving."
And the gravest sweet humor, that ever were there
Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), Spanish writer of Don Quixote (1615), a landmark in the development of the novel form. Since Cervantes met death in his gentle despair;
Nay, don't be embarrassed, nor look so beseeching,
I sha'n't run directly against my own preaching,
And, having just laughed at their Raphaels and Dantes,
Go to setting you up beside matchless Cervantes;
But allow me to speak what I honestly feel,—
Richard Steele (1672-1729) and Joseph Addison (1672-1719), friends, dramatists, and cowriters of The Spectator (1711-1712), a daily London periodical of wit and social commentary. To a true poet-heart add the fun of Dick Steele, Model American Courier: "Here is a portrait, or something of the sort, of Washington Irving, with which, as the preacher says, we will close"
Throw in all of Addison, minus the chill,
With the whole of that partnership's stock and good-will, 1450
Mix well, and while stirring, hum o'er, as a spell,
The fine old English Gentleman, simmer it well,
Sweeten just to your own private liking, then strain,
That only the finest and clearest remain,
Let it stand out of doors till a soul it receives
From the warm lazy sun loitering down through green leaves,
And you'll find a choice nature, not wholly deserving
A name either English or Yankee,—just Irving.

Latin, "let stand the shadow of his name."     'There goes,—but stet nominis umbra,—his name
You'll be glad enough, some day or other, to claim, 1460
And will all crowd about him and swear that you knew him
If some English critic should chance to review him.
Latin, "cast not before swine," from Matthew 7:6. The old porcos ante ne projiciatis
MARGARITAS, for him you have verified gratis;
Sylvester Judd (1813-1853), Unitarian minister, novelist, and Transcendentalist whose idiosyncratic Margaret: A Tale of the Real and Ideal, Blight and Bloom (1845)—part romance, part utopia, part philosophical tract—was influential among New England authors at the time. What matters his name? Why, it may be Sylvester,
Judd, Junior, or Junius, Ulysses, or Nestor,
For aught I know or care; 'tis enough that I look
On the author of "Margaret," the first Yankee book
Down East, a name for the eastern coastal region of Maine. With the soul of Down East in 't, and things farther East,
As far as the threshold of morning, at least, 1470
Where awaits the fair dawn of the simple and true,
Of the day that comes slowly to make all things new.
'T has a smack of pine woods, of bare field and bleak hill,
Mayflower, ship on which Puritan separatists known as the Pilgrims came to establish the first permanent English colony in New England. Such as only the breed of the Mayflower could till;
The Puritan's shown in it, tough to the core,
Battle of Marston Moor (1644), a major victory in the First English Civil War for the Parliamentarians, many of whom were Puritans, in which Oliver Cromwell played a key role. Agag, a biblical tyrant. Such as prayed, smiting Agag on red Marston Moor:
With an unwilling humor, half choked by the drouth
In brown hollows about the inhospitable mouth;
With a soul full of poetry, though it has qualms
About finding a happiness out of the Psalms; 1480
Full of tenderness, too, though it shrinks in the dark,
Hamadryad, a type of Greek tree nymph. Hamadryad-like, under the coarse, shaggy bark;
That sees visions, knows wrestlings of God with the Will,
And has its own Sinais and thunderings still.'

    Here, 'Forgive me, Apollo,' I cried, 'while I pour Knickerbocker: "Our extracts must close with the following noble tribute to the 'Bay State:'"
My heart out to my birthplace: O loved more and more
Bay State, nickname for Massachusetts. Dear Baystate, from whose rocky bosom thy sons
Should suck milk, strong-will-giving, brave, such as runs
Mount Greylock, highest point in Massachusetts. In the veins of old Greylock—who is it that dares Southern Literary Messenger: "First, by way of showing what his intention was, we quote three accidentally accurate lines:
    But a boy | he could ne | ver be right | ly defined.
    As I said | he was ne | ver precise | ly unkind.
    But as Ci | cero says | he won't say | this or that.
Here it is clearly seen that Mr. L. intends a line of four anapests. (An anapest is a foot composed of two short syllables followed by a long.) With this observation, we will now simply copy a few of the lines which constitute the body of the poem; asking any of our readers to read them if they can;"
Call thee pedler, a soul wrapped in bank-books and shares? 1490 Southern Quarterly Review: "We may forgive to a dutiful son the expression of an exaggerated tribute, particularly when this is a son of New England, with whom such exaggerations are habitual. But we smile, nevertheless, when we find him appropriating, as peculiar, those possessions which not only did not originate with her, but which are very far from being confined to her territory. If her claims to poetry are to be founded upon her sledge and trip hammers, her mills and machinery, she may grind verses to all eternity, but will be suffered to set no one's teeth on edge with them but her own."
It is false! She's a Poet! I see, as I write,
Along the far railroad the steam-snake glide white, Fraser's Magazine: "Much of the Boston leaven runs through it; the wise men of the East are al glorified intensely, while Bryant and Halleck are studiously depreciated."
The cataract-throb of her mill-hearts, I hear, Southern Literary Messenger: "It is a fashion among Mr. Lowell's set to affect a belief that there is no such thing as Soutern Literature. Northerners—people who have really nothing to speak of as men of letters,—are cited by the dozen and lauded by this candid critic without stint, while Legare, Simms, Longstreet, and others of equal note are passed by in contemptuous silence. Mr. L cannot carry his frail honesty of opinion even so far South as New York. All whom he praises are Bostonians."
The swift strokes of trip-hammers weary my ear,
Sledges ring upon anvils, through logs the saw screams,
Blocks swing to their place, beetles drive home the beams:—
It is songs such as these that she croons to the din
Of her fast-flying shuttles, year out and year in,
While from earth's farthest corner there comes not a breeze
But wafts her the buzz of her gold-gleaning bees: 1500
What though those horn hands have as yet found small time
For painting and sculpture and music and rhyme?
These will come in due order; the need that pressed sorest
Was to vanquish the seasons, the ocean, the forest,
To bridle and harness the rivers, the steam,
Making those whirl her mill-wheels, this tug in her team,
To vassalize old tyrant Winter, and make
Him delve surlily for her on river and lake;—
When this New World was parted, she strove not to shirk
Her lot in the heirdom, the tough, silent Work, 1510
Herakles, another name for Hercules. The hero-share ever from Herakles down
Odin, Germanic god of wisdom and war. To Odin, the Earth's iron sceptre and crown:
Yes, thou dear, noble Mother! if ever men's praise
Could be claimed for creating heroical lays,
Thou hast won it; if ever the laurel divine
Crowned the Maker and Builder, that glory is thine!
Thy songs are right epic, they tell how this rude
Rock-rib, Cape Cod; also alludes to the second creation story of Genesis, in which Eve is made with a rib from Adam. Rock-rib of our earth here was tamed and subdued;
Thou hast written them plain on the face of the planet
In brave, deathless letters of iron and granite; 1520
Thou hast printed them deep for all time; they are set
From the same runic type-fount and alphabet
With thy stout Berkshire hills and the arms of thy Bay,—
They are staves from the burly old Mayflower lay.
If the drones of the Old World, in querulous ease,
Ask thy Art and thy Letters, point proudly to these,
Or, if they deny these are Letters and Art,
Toil on with the same old invincible heart;
Thou art rearing the pedestal broad-based and grand
Whereon the fair shapes of the Artist shall stand, 1530
And creating, through labors undaunted and long,
The theme for all Sculpture and Painting and Song!

    'But my good mother Baystate wants no praise of mine,
She learned from her mother a precept divine
About something that butters no parsnips, her forte
In another direction lies, work is her sport
(Though she'll curtsey and set her cap straight, that she will,
Plymouth, colony founded by the Pilgrims; Battle of Bunker Hill (1775), early British victory in the American Civil War whose costliness nonetheless prevented the British from breaking the American seige of Boston and proved that Continental militias could contest standing armies. If you talk about Plymouth and red Bunker's hill).
Dear, notable goodwife! by this time of night,
Her hearth is swept neatly, her fire burning bright, 1540
And she sits in a chair (of home plan and make) rocking,
Musing much, all the while, as she darns on a stocking, Buffalo Commercial: "Here is a very careless exhibition of firearms. Mr. 'Quiz' is some reckless sportsman from or of Massachusetts, which he calls his 'good mother Baystate,' predicting of her that, about these times, she spends her evenings in a rocking chair."
Whether turkeys will come pretty high next Thanksgiving,
Whether flour'll be so dear, for, as sure as she's living,
Rye-and-injun, bread made with rye flour and corn meal, cheaper and more common in early New England because wheat is more difficult to grow there. She will use rye-and-injun then, whether the pig
By this time ain't got pretty tolerable big,
And whether to sell it outright will be best,
Or to smoke hams and shoulders and salt down the rest,—
At this minute, she'd swop all my verses, ah, cruel!
For the last patent stove that is saving of fuel; 1550
So I'll just let Apollo go on, for his phiz
Shows I've kept him awaiting too long as it is.'

    'If our friend, there, who seems a reporter, is done
With his burst of emotion, why, I will go on,'
Said Apollo; some smiled, and, indeed, I must own
There was something sarcastic, perhaps, in his tone;—

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894), physician, poet, and essayist who often wrote comic and occasional verse.     'There's Holmes, who is matchless among you for wit; Literary Gazette: "Holmes."
Leyden jar, an early electrostatic battery, famously used by Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). A Leyden-jar always full-charged, from which flit
The electrical tingles of hit after hit;
In long poems 'tis painful sometimes, and invites 1560
Samuel Morse completed the first long-distance telgraph line in the U.S., from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., in 1844. Operators used a telegraph key to connect and disconnect the electrical current, producing series of short or long pulses that correspond to letters. A thought of the way the new Telegraph writes, North American Review: "We have hardly left ourselves room to say a word about our old favorite, Holmes; but as he is also everybody's favorite, there is no occasion for critics to meddle with him, either to censure or to praise. He can afford to laugh at the whole reviewing fraternity. His wit is all his own, so sly and tingling, but without a drop of ill-nature in it, and never leaving a sting behind. His humor is so grotesque and queer, that it reminds one of the frolics of Puck; and deep pathos mingles with it so naturally, that when the reader's eyes are brimming with tears, he knows not whether they have their source in sorrow or in laughter. The great merits of his English style we noticed on a former occasion; for point, idiomatic propriety, and terseness, it is absolutely without a rival. Even our caustic rhyming reviewer gives him his full meed of praise in this respect."
Which pricks down its little sharp sentences spitefully
As if you got more than you'd title to rightfully,
And you find yourself hoping its wild father Lightning
Would flame in for a second and give you a fright'ning.
He has perfect sway of what I call a sham metre,
But many admire it, the English pentameter,
Thomas Campbell (1774-1844), Scottish neo-classical poet who wrote chiefly in heroic couplets. And Campbell, I think, wrote most commonly worse,
With less nerve, swing, and fire in the same kind of verse,
Nor e'er achieved aught in't so worthy of praise 1570
Holmes reflects on "La Marseillaise," the French anthem, in "Poetry: A Metrical Essay" (1836). As the tribute of Holmes to the grand Marseillaise.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), English writer and politician whose narrative poem The New Timon (1846) was at turns melodramatic and satiric. You went crazy last year over Bulwer's New Timon;—
Why, if B., to the day of his dying, should rhyme on,
Heaping verses on verses and tomes upon tomes,
He could ne'er reach the best point and vigor of Holmes.
His are just the fine hands, too, to weave you a lyric
Full of fancy, fun, feeling, or spiced with satiric
In a measure so kindly, you doubt if the toes
That are trodden upon are your own or your foes'.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), poet, founding editor of the Atlantic, and later diplomat who wrote A Fable for Critics and The Biglow Papers (1848), which used New England types and dialects to critique several contemporary political issues including slavery and the Mexican-American War.     'There is Lowell, who's striving Parnassus to climb 1580 Buffalo Commercial: "Mr. 'Quiz' is evidently a little partial to the 'Baystate' literati [...] he finds fault, however, with John Neal and Whittier, and says that Lowell is"
With a whole bale of isms tied together with rhyme, Harbinger: "Of another he speaks as one who should know: [Excerpt.] If we may trust our senses, he does seem to get on, even with the bundle; and therewith let him 'run and be glorified.'"
He might get on alone, spite of brambles and boulders,
But he can't with that bundle he has on his shoulders,
The top of the hill he will ne'er come nigh reaching
Till he learns the distinction 'twixt singing and preaching;
His lyre has some chords that would ring pretty well,
But he'd rather by half make a drum of the shell,
Methuselah, the longest-lived patriarch in the Bible. And rattle away till he's old as Methusalem, Literary Gazette: "Lowell."
At the head of a march to the last new Jerusalem.

Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790-1867), leading New York poet of the 1810s-1820s who then became secretary to John Jacob Astor. He partly styled Fanny (1819), subtitled "a Wall Street satire" of fashions and politics, on Byron's Don Juan (1819-24).     'There goes Halleck, whose Fanny's a pseudo Don Juan, 1590 Knickerbocker: "Although published anonymously, no one at all familiar with the peculiar style, the lofty line of Lowell, can for a moment doubt its authorship."
With the wickedness out that gave salt to the true one,
He's a wit, though, I hear, of the very first order,
Halleck quotes Milton's Paradise Lost, "On they move / In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood / Of flutes and soft recorders" as epigraph in "The Recorder," a satire of a city recorder who proved himself flimsy in a duel. And once made a pun on the words soft Recorder; Literary Gazette: "Halleck."
More than this, he's a very great poet, I'm told,
And has had his works published in crimson and gold,
With something they call "Illustrations," to wit,
John Gadsby Chapman (1808-1889), American painter and illustrator whose Baptism of Pocahontas (1840) hangs in the U.S. Capitol rotunda and who produced an 1846 edition of the Bible for Harpers. Like those with which Chapman obscured Holy Writ,** [Original footnote.]
                    **(Cuts rightly called wooden, as all must admit.)
Which are said to illustrate, because, as I view it,
Latin, "lucus a non lucendo," name for an illogical argument that takes opposition between two things as evidence of their being related. Servius' 4th century commentary on Virgil's Aeneid first used the phrase, literally "'grove' because not 'illuminated,'" as an etymology. Like lucus a non, they precisely don't do it;
Let a man who can write what himself understands 1600
Keep clear, if he can, of designing men's hands,
Who bury the sense, if there's any worth having,
And then very honestly call it engraving,
French, "banter." But, to quit badinage, which there isn't much wit in,
Halleck's better, I doubt not, than all he has written;
In his verse a clear glimpse you will frequently find,
If not of a great, of a fortunate mind,
Which contrives to be true to its natural loves
In a world of back-offices, ledgers, and stoves.
When his heart breaks away from the brokers and banks, 1610
And kneels in his own private shrine to give thanks,
There's a genial manliness in him that earns
Our sincerest respect (read, for instance, his "Burns"),
And we can't but regret (seek excuse where we may)
That so much of a man has been peddled away.

    'But what's that? a mass-meeting? No, there come in lots Albion: "We must make rom for the following, which may be considered as a pretty fair rebuke for the sin of inordinate puffing, to which the author appears to consider his brethren somewhat prone."
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), British Conservative Party Prime Minister and, like Bulwer and Scott, also a popular novelist. The American Bulwers, Disraelis, and Scotts, Literary Gazette: "And now we must finish with the Many:"
And in short the American everything elses,
Each charging the others with envies and jealousies;—
By the way, 'tis a fact that displays what profusions 1620
Of all kinds of greatness bless free institutions,
That while the Old World has produced barely eight
Of such poets as all men agree to call great,
And of other great characters hardly a score
(One might safely say less than that rather than more),
With you every year a whole crop is begotten,
They're as much of a staple as corn is, or cotton;
Why, there's scarcely a huddle of log-huts and shanties
That has not brought forth its own Miltons and Dantes;
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), who like Byron and Coleridge was a highly esteemed English Romantic poet. I myself know ten Byrons, one Coleridge, three Shelleys, 1630
Titian (1488-1576), Venetian Renaissance painter; Apelles (300s BC), Greek painter; Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Renaissance painter and polymath; Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Flemish Baroque painter; all of legendary skill. Two Raphaels, six Titians (I think), one Apelles,
Leonardos and Rubenses plenty as lichens,
One (but that one is plenty) American Dickens,
Charles Lamb (1775-1834), English essayist, poet, and Romanticist. A whole flock of Lambs, any number of Tennysons,—
In short, if a man has the luck to have any sons,
He may feel pretty certain that one out of twain
Will be some very great person over again.
There is one inconvenience in all this, which lies
In the fact that by contrast we estimate size,** [Original footnote.]
                    **That is in most cases we do, but not all,
                    Past a doubt, there are men who are innately small,
                    Such as Blank, who, without being 'minished a tittle,
                    Might stand for a type of the Absolute Little.
And, where there are none except Titans, great stature 1640
Is only the normal proceeding of nature.
What puff the strained sails of your praise will you furl at, if
The calmest degree that you know is superlative?
Charon, diety who ferries deceased souls to the underworld in both Greek and Roman mythology. At Rome, all whom Charon took into his wherry must,
Latin superlative suffixes, ex. fortissimus, the strongest. As a matter of course, be well issimust and errimust,
A Greek, too, could feel, while in that famous boat he tost,
Greek superlative suffixes (with added "t"s). That his friends would take care he was ιστοςt and ωτατοςt,
And formerly we, as through graveyards we past, The Liberator: "Odd words on a grave subject:"
Thought the world went from bad to worst fearfully fast;
Let us glance for a moment, 'tis well worth the pains, 1650 Albion: "We have almost got through our extracts. Here is one, not quite original, perhaps, but neatly put."
And note what an average graveyard contains;
There lie levellers levelled, duns done up themselves,
There are booksellers finally laid on their shelves,
Horizontally there lie upright politicians,
Dose-a-dose with their patients sleep faultless physicians,
There are slave-drivers quietly whipped under ground,
There bookbinders, done up in boards, are fast bound,
There card-players wait till the last trump be played,
There all the choice spirits get finally laid,
There the babe that's unborn is supplied with a berth, 1660
There men without legs get their six feet of earth,
There lawyers repose, each wrapped up in his case,
There seekers of office are sure of a place,
There defendant and plaintiff get equally cast,
There shoemakers quietly stick to the last,
There brokers at length become silent as stocks,
There stage-drivers sleep without quitting their box,
And so forth and so forth and so forth and so on,
With this kind of stuff one might endlessly go on; Albion: "We have almost got through our extracts. Here is one, not quite original, perhaps, but neatly put."
To come to the point, I may safely assert you 1670
Will find in each yard every cardinal virtue;** [Original footnote.]
                    **(And at this just conclusion will surely arrive,
                    That the goodness of earth is more dead than alive.)
Each has six truest patriots: four discoverers of ether, Southern Literary Messenger: "First, by way of showing what his intention was, we quote three accidentally accurate lines:
    But a boy | he could ne | ver be right | ly defined.
    As I said | he was ne | ver precise | ly unkind.
    But as Ci | cero says | he won't say | this or that.
Here it is clearly seen that Mr. L. intends a line of four anapests. (An anapest is a foot composed of two short syllables followed by a long.) With this observation, we will now simply copy a few of the lines which constitute the body of the poem; asking any of our readers to read them if they can;"
Who never had thought on 't nor mentioned it either;
Ten poets, the greatest who ever wrote rhyme:
Two hundred and forty first men of their time:
One person whose portrait just gave the least hint
Its original had a most horrible squint:
One critic, most (what do they call it?) reflective,
Who never had used the phrase ob- or subjective:
Numerous prominent slaveholders, such as founding father Thomas Jefferson, compelled women that they enslaved into sexual relations. Forty fathers of Freedom, of whom twenty bred 1680
Their sons for the rice-swamps, at so much a head,
Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, brothers and tribunes in the late Roman Republic assisinated by conservative senators for attempting land and poverty reform. And their daughters for—faugh! thirty mothers of Gracchi: Southern Literary Messenger: "This 'Fable for Critics'—this literary satire—this benevolent jeu d-esprit is disgraced by such passages as the following:"
Non-resistants who gave many a spiritual blackeye:
Eight true friends of their kind, one of whom was a jailer:
Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), victorious American commander in the War of 1812, Second Seminole War, and Mexican-American War; he successfully campaigned for the presidency as the Fable went to press. Four captains almost as astounding as Taylor:
Two dozen of Italy's exiles who shoot us his
Kaisership daily, stern pen-and-ink Brutuses,
Who, in Yankee back-parlors, with crucified smile,** [Original footnote.]
                    **Not forgetting their tea and their toast, though, the while.
Mount serenely their country's funereal pile:
Ninety-nine Irish heroes, ferocious rebellers 1690
'Gainst the Saxon in cis-marine garrets and cellars,
Who shake their dread fists o'er the sea and all that,—
As long as a copper drops into the hat:
Nine hundred Teutonic republicans stark
German, "fatherland." From Vaterland's battle just won—in the Park,
Who the happy profession of martyrdom take
Whenever it gives them a chance at a steak;
George Washington (1732-1799) and Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), enduringly popular American military commanders and presidents. Sixty-two second Washingtons: two or three Jacksons:
And so many everythings else that it racks one's
Poor memory too much to continue the list, 1700
Especially now they no longer exist;—
I would merely observe that you've taken to giving
The puffs that belong to the dead to the living,
And that somehow your trump-of-contemporary-doom's tones
Is tuned after old dedications and tombstones.'

    Here the critic came in and a thistle presented—** [Original footnote.]
                    **Turn back now to page—goodness only knows what,
                    And take a fresh hold on the thread of my plot.
From a frown to a smile the god's features relented,
As he stared at his envoy, who, swelling with pride,
To the god's asking look, nothing daunted, replied,—
'You're surprised, I suppose, I was absent so long, 1710
But your godship respecting the lilies was wrong;
I hunted the garden from one end to t'other,
And got no reward but vexation and bother,
Till, tossed out with weeds in a corner to wither,
This one lily I found and made haste to bring hither.'

   'Did he think I had given him a book to review?
I ought to have known what the fellow would do,'
Muttered Phoebus aside, 'for a thistle will pass
Beyond doubt for the queen of all flowers with an ass;
He has chosen in just the same way as he'd choose 1720
His specimens out of the books he reviews;
And now, as this offers an excellent text,
I'll give 'em some brief hints on criticism next.'
So, musing a moment, he turned to the crowd,
And, clearing his voice, spoke as follows aloud:—

    'My friends, in the happier days of the muse, Literary Gazette: "But the remarks are not merely smart; as far as we can judge from our acquaintance with the works and writers touched upon, they are exceedingly correct and just, showing, at the same time, critical taste and judgement and pith and humour. In a word, we pin our faith to the running and rhyming commentary of Master Quiz, as the best review of American publication which we have seen, and 'set forthin' the most entertaining manner, yet he says:"
We were luckily free from such things as reviews;
Then naught came between with its fog to make clearer
The heart of the poet to that of his hearer;
Then the poet brought heaven to the people, and they 1730
Felt that they, too, were poets in hearing his lay;
Then the poet was prophet, the past in his soul
Precreated the future, both parts of one whole;
Then for him there was nothing too great or too small,
For one natural deity sanctified all;
Then the bard owned no clipper and meter of moods
Save the spirit of silence that hovers and broods
O'er the seas and the mountains, the rivers and woods;
He asked not earth's verdict, forgetting the clods,
His soul soared and sang to an audience of gods; 1740
'Twas for them that he measured the thought and the line,
And shaped for their vision the perfect design,
With as glorious a foresight, a balance as true,
As swung out the worlds in the infinite blue;
Then a glory and greatness invested man's heart,
The universal, which now stands estranged and apart,
In the free individual moulded, was Art;
Then the forms of the Artist seemed thrilled with desire
For something as yet unattained, fuller, higher,
As once with her lips, lifted hands, and eyes listening, 1750
And her whole upward soul in her countenance glistening,
In Greek mythology, Orpheus' lament for his deceased wife Eurydice was so moving that he was allowed to retrieve her from the underworld so long as he did not look back while doing so, which he tragically did. Eurydice stood—like a beacon unfired,
Which, once touched with flame, will leap heav'nward inspired—
And waited with answering kindle to mark
The first gleam of Orpheus that pained the red Dark.
Then painting, song, sculpture did more than relieve
The need that men feel to create and believe,
And as, in all beauty, who listens with love
Hears these words oft repeated—"beyond and above,"
So these seemed to be but the visible sign 1760
Of the grasp of the soul after things more divine;
They were ladders the Artist erected to climb
O'er the narrow horizon of space and of time,
And we see there the footsteps by which men had gained
To the one rapturous glimpse of the never-attained,
As shepherds could erst sometimes trace in the sod
The last spurning print of a sky-cleaving god.

    'But now, on the poet's dis-privacied moods Literary Gazette: "But the remarks are not merely smart; as far as we can judge from our acquaintance with the works and writers touched upon, they are exceedingly correct and just, showing, at the same time, critical taste and judgement and pith and humour. In a word, we pin our faith to the running and rhyming commentary of Master Quiz, as the best review of American publication which we have seen, and 'set forthin' the most entertaining manner, yet he says:"
With do this and do that the pert critic intrudes;
While he thinks he's been barely fulfilling his duty 1770
To interpret 'twixt men and their own sense of beauty.
And has striven, while others sought honor or pelf,
To make his kind happy as he was himself,
He finds he's been guilty of horrid offences
In all kinds of moods, numbers, genders, and tenses;
"The pot calling the kettle black," an idiom for a hypocritical accusation. He's been ob and subjective, what Kettle calls Pot,
Precisely, at all events, what he ought not,
You have done this, says one judge; done that, says another;
You should have done this, grumbles one; that, says t'other;
Never mind what he touches, one shrieks out Taboo! 1780
And while he is wondering what he shall do,
Since each suggests opposite topics for song,
They all shout together you're right! and you're wrong!

    'Nature fits all her children with something to do, Albion: "We conclude with a little slap at the critics, who come in for some smart chastisement, and who certainly very often deserve it."
He who would write and can't write can surely review,
Can set up a small booth as critic and sell us his
Petty conceit and his pettier jealousies;
Francis Jeffrey (1773-1850), lawyer and editor for 26 years of the influential Edinburgh Review (1802-1929) whose critical opinions were somewhat conservative. Thus a lawyer's apprentice, just out of his teens,
Will do for the Jeffrey of six magazines;
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), English poet and critic who assembled the influential A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) and Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets (1781), a critical biography. Having read Johnson's lives of the poets half through, 1790
There's nothing on earth he's not competent to;
He reviews with as much nonchalance as he whistles,—
He goes through a book and just picks out the thistles;
It matters not whether he blame or commend,
If he's bad as a foe, he's far worse as a friend:
Let an author but write what's above his poor scope,
He goes to work gravely and twists up a rope,
And, inviting the world to see punishment done,
Hangs himself up to bleach in the wind and the sun;
'Tis delightful to see, when a man comes along 1800
Who has anything in him peculiar and strong,
Every cockboat that swims clear its fierce (pop) gundeck at him,
George Washington Peck (1817-1859), leading music critic and an editor of the American Whig Review (1844-1852). And make as he passes its ludicrous Peck at him—'

    Here Miranda came up and began, 'As to that—'
Apollo at once seized his gloves, cane, and hat,
And, seeing the place getting rapidly cleared,
I too snatched my notes and forthwith disappeared.

Paratext and Publication

Above is a reproduction of A Fable for Critics' first American edition title page. The poem was available in two bindings: paper boards at 50¢ and cloth at 63¢ (standard "affordable" book prices, roughly $16 and $20 in 2021 dollars respectively). It went through three editions of approximately 1,000 copies each: the first issued in late October, the second in late December, and the third in February. The first edition contained 78 numbered pages (including preface) and 1 page, opposite the title, of advertisements for other G. P. Putnam books including Irving's collected works.

The second and third editions contained 80 numbered pages with the addition of a second preface, plus additional pages for the original preface and, at the end of the volume, 8 pages of advertisements for other G. P. Putnam books including Poe's Eureka, a Prose Poem (1848) and works by other authors referenced in the Fable: Carlyle, Coleridge, Fouque, Goldsmith, and Lamb. The type for the second edition was reset by Leavitt, Trow & Co., printers and stereotypers at nearby 49 Ann Street, New York. Additional editions were not issued until Boston publisher Ticknor & Fields did so, from the same plates, in 1856, 1864, and 1865. The delay in British reviews (see Reviews) owes from a lack of British editions until the end of the century.

Below follows the first edition preface, reproduced in all subsequent editions. Like the poem itself, title and preface roughly follow anapestic tetrameter (two weak syllables followed by one strong, repeated four times per line).

It being the commonest mode of procedure, I premise a few candid remarks


This trifle, begun to please only myself and my own private fancy, was laid on the shelf. But some See line 1279 on Lowell and Briggs. friends, who had seen it, induced me, by dint of saying they liked it, to put it in print. That is, having come to that very conclusion, I consulted them when it could make no confusion. For, (though in the gentlest of ways,) they had hinted it was scarce worth the while, I should doubtless have printed it.

I began it, intending a Fable, a frail, slender thing, rhymeywinged, with a sting in its tail. But, by addings and alterings not previously planned,—digressions chance-hatched, like birds' eggs in the sand,—and dawdlings to suit every whimsy's demand, (always freeing the bird which I held in my hand, for the two perched, perhaps out of reach, in the tree,)—it grew by degrees to the size which you see. Variation on the folk tale of Milo of Croton, who grew stronger by carrying a calf every day as it gradually grew heavier. I was like the old woman that carried the calf, and my neighbors, like hers, no doubt, wonder and laugh, and when, my strained arms with their grown burthen full, I call it my Fable, they call it a bull.

Having scrawled at full gallop (as far as that goes) in a style that is neither good verse nor bad prose, and being a person whom nobody knows, some people will say I am rather more free with my readers than it is becoming to be, that I seem to expect them to wait on my leisure in following wherever I wander at pleasure, that, in short, I take more than a young author's lawful ease, and laugh in a queer way so like Mephistopheles, demon with whom the scholar Faust bargains his soul for knowledge in German folklore. Mephistopheles, that the public will doubt, as they grope through my rhythm, if in truth I am making fun at them or with them.

So the excellent Public is hereby assured that the sale of my book is already secured. For there is not a poet throughout the whole land, but will purchase a copy or two out of hand, in the fond expectation of being amused in it, by seeing his betters cut-up and abused in it. Now, I find, by a pretty exact calculation, there are something like ten thousand bards in the nation, of that special variety whom the Review and Magazine critics call lofty and true, and about thirty thousand Native American tribes experienced severe population decline due to Euro-American attacks, land seizure, and illnesses throughout the 1800s; Euro-American authors, however, often exaggerated and mischaracterized this fact into the self-justifying trope of the "vanishing Indian." (this tribe is increasing) of the kinds who are termed full of promise and pleasing. The Public will see by a glance at this schedule, that they cannot expect me to be over-sedulous about courting them, since it seems I have got enough fuel made sure of for boiling my pot.

As for such of our poets as find not their names mentioned once in my pages, with praises or blames, let them SEND IN THEIR CARDS, without farther DELAY, to my friend G. P. Putnam, New York publisher founded by George Putnam earlier in 1848 after dissolving an 1838 partnership with John Wiley in which he had published the first Library of American Books, edited by Duyckinck to include works by Fuller, Hawthorne, Mathews, Melville, Poe, Whittier. G. P. PUTNAM, Esquire, in Broadway, where a LIST will be kept with the strictest regard to the day and the hour of receiving the card. Then, taking them up as I chance to have time, (that is, if their names can be twisted in rhyme,) I will honestly give each his PROPER POSITION, at the rate of ONE AUTHOR to each NEW EDITION. Nineteenth-century magazines offered "club rates" discounts on multiple copies sent to the same address. Thus a PREMIUM is offered sufficiently HIGH (as the magazines say when they tell their best lie) to induce bards to CLUB their resources and buy the balance of every edition, until they have all of them fairly been run through the mill.

One word to such readers (judicious and wise) as read books with something behind the mere eyes, of whom in the country, perhaps, there are two, including myself, gentle reader, and you. All the characters sketched in this slight French, "play of spirit" or lighthearted cleverness. jeu d'esprit, though, it may be, they seem, here and there, rather free, and drawn from a Mephistophelian stand-point, are meant to be faithful, and that is the grand point, and none but an owl would feel sore at a rub from a jester who tells you, without any subterfuge, that he sits in Diogenes, Greek cynic philosopher (412-323 BC) ridiculed for embracing poverty as societal critique to the point of living in a large ceramic jar or tub. Diogenes' tub.

Reviews and Timeline

This bibliography covers all the reviews and printings of A Fable for Critics cited above, listed by date of publication with location added and authorship stipulated where probable. Many more magazine and newspaper critics quoted or commented on A Fable for Critics in the two years after Lowell published it. I included only those who offered extended evaluation or multiple excerpts.

[Duyckinck, Evert.] "New Hits at Authors." [New York, NY] Literary World 3.88 (7 Oct. 1848): 706-7. [From advance copy.]

Lowell, James Russell. A Fable for Critics. New York: G. P. Putnam, [21 Oct.] 1848.

"New Publications, etc." [New York, NY] Spirit of the Times 18.3 (4 Nov. 1848): 444.

"Notices of New Works." [New York, NY] Albion 7.45 (4 Nov. 1848): 537.

"A Fable for Critics:" Buffalo Commercial Advertiser [NY] (17 Nov. 1848): 2.

[Mathews, Cornelius.] "A Rhyming Review." [New York, NY] Literary World 3.95 (25 Nov. 1848): 855

"A Capital Satire." [Philadelphia, PA] Saturday Evening Post 28.1426 (25 Nov. 1848): 1.

[Clark, Lewis Gaylord.] "Literary Notices." [New York, NY] Knickerbocker 32.6 (Dec. 1848): 551-5.

[Reprint from the New York Tribune.] "A Fable for Critics." [Boston, MA] Littell's Living Age 19.237 (2 Dec. 1848): 423-4.

[Reprint from the Philadelphia, PA Model American Courier.] "Satirical Rhymes." Eufaula Democrat [AL] 4.28 (5 Dec. 1848): 1.

"Poetry." [Boston, MA] Liberator 18.49 (8 Dec. 1848): 196.

"Review." [New York, NY] Harbinger 8.7 (16 Dec. 1848): 55.

[Putnam issues second thousand-copy edition of A Fable for Critics in late December, as advertised in the New York Evening Post (26 Dec. 1848, pg. 2)]

"Art. VII." [Boston, MA] North American Review 68.142 (Jan. 1849): 183-203.

[Untitled.] [Washington, DC] National Era 3.6 (8 Feb. 1849): 23.

[Putnam issues third thousand-copy edition of A Fable for Critics by late February, as advertised in the New York Evening Post (23 Feb. 1849, pg. 2)]

[Poe, Edgar Allan.] "Notices of New Works." [Richmond, VA] Southern Literary Messenger 15.3 (March 1849): 189-91.

"Statistics of Poetry." [London, England] Literary Gazette" 1680 (31 March 1849): 229-31.

"Fable for Critics. New York, Putnam." [London, England] Athenaeum 1121 (21 April 1849): 405-6.

[Untitled.] [London, England] Critic 8.194 (1 May 1849): 204-5.

[Simms, William Gilmore.] "Review 4." [Charleston, SC] Southern Quarterly Review 16.31 (Oct. 1849): 239-42.

"American Poetry." [London, England] Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country. 42.247 (July 1850): 9-25.

"Art. VI.—A Fable for Critics. New York: G. P. Putnam." [London, England] Eclectic Review 28 (Nov. 1850): 586-93.

A Reply: "A Rhyming Review"

After Margaret Fuller, Cornelius Mathews was the most maligned figure in A Fable for Critics. One month after the poem's publication and seven weeks after Mathews' friend Evert Duyckinck first reviewed it in his Literary World, Mathews anonymously published a 51-line poetic response in the same magazine. "A Rhyming Review" is a parody of the satire—it follows the same rhyme and meter—as well as a satire in its own right: at times it mocks the Fable's evaluations while at others it exaggerates that poem in order to "agree" with a harsher or kinder evaluation than actually made in the original.

A clever Correspondent (F.B.) has sent us, in the style of the original, some verses on the Fable for the Critics, which may pass around with the other luminous accounts of that valuable production.

                                                        Haply you've read
"Hits at Authors," from Putnam's, a still-birth 't is said;
If not, and you'll lend me your eyes for a minute,
I'll give you an inkling of what there is in it.
Mr. Wonderful Quiz, being fond of a joke,
Hopes to get up a laugh at the verse-making folk
By the merry device of "a rub-a-dub-dub,"
Without "spirit or grace on the top of a tub."
Mr. Halleck he slimes with equivocal flattery,
Compares Wendell Holmes to a galvanic battery; 10
A mongrel of Yankee and Cockney is Irving
And Lowell he thinks not a whit more deserving;
While of "Margaret" Judd, I here as well may state,
He is only less proud than of his own "dear Bay state."
By undone Mrs. Child—strange prosopopeia!
He claims to be father to her Philothea.
On Poe he imposes the horrid infliction
Of lugging in Longfellow's prospects and diction.
He loves Harry Franco for "skill on the liar;"
But hates Mr. Cooper because he soars higher, 20
And to measure himself by a lord doth aspire.
Hermaphrodites both, Dwight and Hawthorne he fancies;
What a merry conceit to suppose them "Miss Nancies!"
John Neal is a swaggering, pugilist bully,
Who keeps clear of fight, though equipped for it fully.
At Dana he grumbles, for want of decision,
And points at his Pegasus slow, in derision.
Whittier, the quaker, he loves like a brother,
Because for reform he kicks up such a pother.
Bryant, in dignified simpleness, freezes him; 30
To call Bryant Wordsworth of all things most teases him.
Brother Parker's a bear—a rough-fisted ploughman,
In self-love and pedantry equalled by no man.
To the vast herd of dandies he Willis annexes,
Whether clad in broad-cloth or the costume of Texas
(In which nature laughs at art's tricks, and avers,
That the neatest full dress is a collar and spurs.)
Poor Brownson's shown up as a Salt River Charon,
Rowing up friends and foes, howe'er the tide may run
A babbler and Coleridge both, Alcott is painted, 40
And then called a "lamb"—shade of Elia the sainted!
A pagan is Emerson—a Plato-ish Yankee;
And Griswold the jackdaw is not worth a thank-ye.
Thus the list is completed (though the ends are reversed,
And the man I named last is the one Quiz placed first.)
With the single exception of one name alone,
Which it seems is the seed whence the volume has grown,
And its owner to laugh at, malign, and traduce,
Is the aim of our Quiz; his book's purpose and use.
Let me then say no more but that Mr. C. Mathews 50
Is the name I allude to—FIDELIUS BATHOS.


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