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Robert Herrick

I have not found the first two articles in this series on ‘Poets and Poetry’. There is an unsigned article on Cowley in the issue of 7th November, 1857, in which the author, in his introduction, suggests that this is the first in an occasional series of articles on ‘old poets’, but without more evidence it would be wrong to assign it to Robert Buchanan Jr. This is the first article Buchanan wrote about Robert Herrick. He returned to the subject the following year, with ‘A Word Or Two About Robert Herrick’ published in two parts in The Glasgow Sentinel on 1st and 15th January, 1859. Then in the December, 1859 issue of The West of Scotland Magazine and Review the new editor (Buchanan) published his own ‘Robert Herrick, Poet and Parson. II’. Finally, ‘Robert Herrick, Poet and Divine’ was published in the January 1861 edition of Temple Bar, and an edited version of this was included in Buchanan’s first book of essays, David Gray and other Essays, chiefly on poetry published in 1868.


The Glasgow Sentinel (24 July, 1858 - p.6)




POETRY is separated by a bright distinguishing line from ordinary language, inasmuch as it not only appropriates to itself the choicest forms of speech, but also the additional graces of metrical harmony. There is thus acquired a power peculiar to poetry in comparison with other compositions, for it is enabled to address itself to man’s natural susceptibility to the beauty of the regular succession of harmonious sounds, and thus music is brought into alliance. It has been frequently suggested that the most ancient poets were led to adopt a metrical form, to enable their hearers, in a barbarous age, more easily to recollect their compositions. If poetry were like the familiar rhymes employed to call the number of days in each month, the theory might be true; but, otherwise, it seems to me rather a shallow one. The truth lies deeper—in influences exercised over the heart by sound, when controlled by principles of harmony, and consequently concurrent and subsidiary to the aims of true poetry. Besides, the poet, speaking better thoughts and better feelings through the minds of men, instinctively seeks, as their appropriate garb, a better language and a better music. The pure heart of poetry needs the voice of the purest and most graceful forms of language. To this poet, Robert Herrick, English verse owes some of its musical metrical arrangements.
     In the matter of family, Robert Herrick could show a tree as ancient and as richly blazoned as any that hung in the halls of the Devonshire squires who patronised him. The original stock had been early settled in Leicestershire, asserting its descent from one Eric the Wild, who had held the Marches of Wales against the advancing conqueror. About the middle of the sixteenth century, Nicholas and William Herrick, two brothers of the race, had settled in the metropolis as goldsmiths and jewellers; and, previously or subsequently to this, Nicholas led to the hymeneal altar Julian, daughter of William Stone, of Segentroe, in Berkshire. Robert, fourth fruit of their union, came into the world in 1591, exactly twelve months ere the worthy citizen, his sire, broke his loyal neck by a fall from an upper window of his house in Cheapside. Thanks to the kind heart of their uncle, William Herrick—who had been distinguished by both Elizabeth and James, the latter of whom made him his principal jeweller, and on Easter Tuesday, 1605, bestowed upon him the honour of knighthood for his skill in piercing a certain great diamond—his numerous family were cared for comfortably. In 1615 Robert was entered a commoner of St John’s, Cambridge, and, after a lapse of three years, quitted the university with the degree of M.A. Having taken holy orders, he was in 1629 presented by Charles I. to the living of Dean’s Prior, in Devonshire. He was then in his thirty-eighth year, and without the means of independent support. But, although the certainty thus afforded him might have been agreeable enough, with feelings far from akin to pleasant he set out for the country, where, to use the words of Luce in Beaumont’s comedy, “No old charneco is, nor no anchovies, nor Maister Such-a-one to meet at the ‘Rose.’”
     Herrick describes his parishioners in much the same way as Crabbe portrayed the natives of Suffolk—among whom he was cast in early life—as “a wild amphibious race,” rude almost as “salvages,” and “churlish as the seas.” Twenty long and very dull years, no doubt, withal, passed in this sequestered locality, in which one or two rough Devonshire “squirelets” were his solitary associates. Trammelled in clerical leading strings, and yearning haply for the convivial romance of the city, we envy thee not thy nights and days, poor jovial Bob; and with a thrill of delight, indeed, we presently hear of thy ejection. In 1648 he shared the fate of the clergy who refused to take the Covenant, and was expelled from his living.
     To London Herrick immediately upon this bent his steps; and the geniality of his inspired soul taught him to bear the “whips and scorns” of Mistress Fortune with composure. The merriest of Herrick’s days had at length arrived, and, admitted to the society of the most eminent literati and wits of his day, Bob was in his element.
     O merriest assemblage!—glorious indeed in these days of moral pocket-handkerchiefs and flannel waistcoats to look upon—rich in thy Drayton, thy Carew, thy Selden, with Ben Jonson—Ben the bravest and most rare—as thy president, thy sacer vates! Supported by the wealthy Royalists here, Bob quaffed the “mighty bowl,” and “throve” in “convivial frenzy;” and, honi soit qui mal y pense, many years after in his solitary western vicarage he delighted to return in memory to these “brave translunary scenes” and “days of glorious life:”—

         “Ah, Ben!
Say how or when
         Shall we, thy guests,
Meet at those lyrick feasts
         Made at the Sun,
The Dog, the Triple Tun,—
         Where we such clusters had
As made us nobly wild, not mad.
         And yet each verse of thine
Out-did the meat, out-did the frolick wine.”

     After the Restoration, Herrick was replaced in his Devonshire living. Farewell for ever, Bob, to the noctes cœnaeque Deum! Thou art, probably, tired of canary, sack, and tavern jollities. Amid the green fields, and beneath the blue heaven, it is thine to mingle in melodious verse the glories of creation with the passions of thy merrier years. Farewell, convivial frenzy; and welcome the chaste delight of solitude and contemplation. Go! for even among the “rude salvages” and “auld warld” poetry of Dean Prior, shalt thou complete a benevolent immortality!
     With emotions akin to the most mournful, nevertheless, did Herrick bid adieu to his metropolitan haunts. But inherent in his nature lay an undoubted relish for the pleasures of a country life, and his day glided not by so wearily after all. Here lived a certain Sir Edward Giles, who had fought in the low countries for Queen Bess, and had long represented the town of Totnes in Parliament, “taking care,” says prince, “he gave to Cæsar the things which were Cæsar’s, and to the country the things which were the country’s.” His house was ever thronged with a succession of visitors—

         “My good dame she
         Bade all be free,
And drink to their heart’s desiring.”

     It was here that he found in perfection all those old ceremonies and customs, for a trace of which we should now for the most part look in vain, even in out-of-the-world Devonshire. His “Thanksgiving for his House” supplies us with a picture of his domestic condition:—

Lord, thou hast given me a cell
         Wherein to dwell;
A little house, whose humble roof
         Is weatherproof;
Under the spars of which I lie
         Both soft and dry.
Where Thou, my chamber for to ward,
         Hast set a guard
Of harmless thoughts, to watch and keep
         Me while I sleep.
Low is my porch, as is my fate,
         Both void of state;
And yet the threshold of my door
         Is worn by the poor,
Who hither come, and freely get
         Good words or meat.
Like as my parlour, so my hall,
         And kitchen small;
A little buttery, and therein
         A little bin,
Which keeps my little loaf of bread
         Unchipt, unflead
Some brittle sticks of thorn or brier
         Make me a fire,
Close by whose living coal I sit,
         And glow like it.
Lord, I confess too, when I dine,
         The pulse is Thine,
And all those other bits that be
         There placed by Thee.
The worts, the purslain, and the mess
         Of water-cress,
Which of Thy kindness Thou hast sent;
         And my content
Makes those, and my beloved beet,
         To be more sweet.
’Tis Thou that crown’st my glittering hearth
         With guiltless mirth;
And giv’st me wassail bowls to drink,
         Spiced to the brink.
Lord, ’tis Thy plenty-dropping hand
         That sows my land:
All this, and better, dost Thou send
         Me for this end:
That I should render for my part
         A thankful heart.

     Here it must have been, moreover, that his “florid and witty discourse” recommended him to the friendship and especial consideration of the west country dignities. “Robert Herrick Vicker,” says the register, “was buried the 15th day of October, 1674.” Non ubi nascor, sed ubi pascor, is Fuller’s rule for distributing his worthies, and Herrick must be contented with the mark of the Devonshire flock. His “sometime” parish may well be proud of having matured one who has obtained a lasting, though it may not be a very lofty place among the illustrious company of British poets.
     In the poetry of Herrick we meet with strains as light in their movement as fancy ever danced to; but in him we meet also with one of the genuine endowments, infinitely different, indeed, in its degrees—the faculty of imagination. It would be strangely interpreting God’s scheme in the government of the world, did we suppose this mighty power was bestowed for no other than the pitiful offices often deemed its distinctive functions. It has more precious trusts than the production of tawdry romances or sentimental novels. The very existence of imagination is a proof that it is an agency which may be improved to our good, or neglected and abused to our harm. Even if it were beyond our comprehension to conceive how it may be auxiliary to humanity, it would be no more than a simple impulse of faith to feel that, so surely as it is an element implanted in our nature, it is there to be nurtured and strengthened by thoughtful exercise. But we are not left to the strenuous effort of implicit faith; for the purposes of the endowment are manifold and multifarious. It has been well demanded, “To what end have we been endowed with the creative faculty of the imagination, which, glancing from heaven to earth, vivifies what to the eye seems lifeless, and actuates what to the eye seems torpid, combines and harmonises what to the eye seems broken and disjointed, and infuses a soul, with thought and feeling, into the multitudinous fleeting phantasmagoria of the senses? To what end have we been so richly endowed, unless—as the prime object and appointed task of the reason is to detect and apprehend the laws by which the Almighty Lawsgiver upholds and ordains the world which He has created—it be in like manner the province and duty of the imagination to employ itself diligently in perusing and studying the symbolical characters, wherewith God has engraven the revelations of his goodness on the interminable scroll of the visible universe?” Half the refutation will often be the mere discovery of its origin. There is confusion of mind on one point. I allude to the very common and superficial error of identifying poetry with verse. That verse—the melody of metre and rhyme—is the appropriate diction of true poetry (its outward garb) is perfectly true; and then it is nothing more than the outward form—it is the dress and not the body or the soul of poetry. Very far am I from entertaining those principles of criticism which recognise as poetry imaginative composition divested of metrical expression, which I deem its natural and essential form. But, then, there may be the form without the appropriate substance. The idea of poetry comprehends verse, but there may be verse without a ray of poetry; and to suppose that dexterity in versifying alone implies the endowment of a poet’s powers is much the same confusion of thought as to think that a military cloak makes a soldier or an ecclesiastical vestment a priest. Thought, whether uttered in prose or verse, may undergo no change with the change of the outward fashion. When verse is mistaken for poetry discredit is brought on the latter, because it is very well known that the making of verse looking indeed very like poetry is within the power of the shallowest intellect. It may be the merest mechanism conceivable. To place the mere versifier in the same category with the genuine poet is the gross fallacy of giving to the butterfly, the bat, and the winged insect brotherhood with the dove and the eagle. It is a false affinity, from which true imagination has always revolted. The classical student will, on a moment’s reflection, recall the feelings in this particular of more than one of the Roman satirists.
     Again, the luscious harmony of Herrick’s versification is unrivalled, and the whole is pervaded by a spirit of warm and passionate susceptibility, which, if the sterner reader will persist in calling sensual, yet it is a sensuality there so refined, there so natural, so engaging, as to look almost like innocence—her first cousin at farthest. Nevertheless, there was a natural coarseness in Herrick’s mind, which shows itself every now and then in his best verses. It has gone far to spoil his fairy poems, notwithstanding their quaint fancifulness; and I cannot help thinking that any claim of cousinhood advanced by his elfin court would certainly be disregarded by the Dartmoor “pixies,” or the Scottish “gude neighbours.” The mass of his amatory poems are not less marked by a thorough vulgarity; and yet a single “Night-piece to Julia” ought to weigh heavily on the other side. The music of the sweetness of Moore’s melodies does not surpass in modulation the verses so entitled:—

“Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee;
The shooting stars attend thee;
         And the elves also,
         Whose little eyes glow
Like the sparks of fire, befriend thee.

“No Will-o’-the-wisp mislight thee,
Nor snake or glow-worm bite thee;
         But on thy way,
         Not making a stay,
Since ghost there is none to affright thee.

“Let not the dark thee cumber;
What tho’ the moon doth slumber?
         The stars of the night
         Will lend thee their light,
Their tapers clear without number.

“Then, Julia, let me woo thee,
Thus, thus, to come unto me;
         And when I shall meet
         Thy silvery feet,
My soul I will pour into thee.”

     What, in its way, can be more pleasing than the merry moralising in what are, perhaps, his best-known lines:—

Gather the rose-buds while ye may,
     Old Time is still a-flying,
And this same flower that smiles to-day,
     To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the Sun,
     The higher he’s a getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
     And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
     When youth and blood are warmer;
But, being spent, the worse, and worst
     Time shall succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
     And while ye may go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
     You may for ever tarry.

     Among the poems of Herrick, I find two songs, happy, perhaps, as any similar efforts in the language. A sentiment was never more fancifully and beautifully expressed than when, for instance, in the spirit of true pathos, he sings his melodious lay:—


Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
You haste away so soon;
And yet the early-rising sun
Has not attained his noon:
                   Stay, stay,
         Until the hast’ning day
                   Has run
         But to the even-song;
And, having prayed together, we
         Will go with you along!

We have short time to stay as you;
We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
         As you or anything:
                   We die,
         As your hours do; and dry
         Like to the summer’s rain,
Or as the pearls of morning-dew,
         Ne’er to be found again.

     And what, for pensive moral feeling, combined with lively conceit and imagery, may equal the subjoined:—


Fair pledges of a fruitful tree,
         Why do you fall so fast?
         Your date is not so past,
But you may stay yet here awhile,
         To blush and gently smile,
                   And go at last.

What! were ye born to be
         An hour or half’s delight,
         And so to bid good-night?
’Tis pity nature brought ye forth,
         Merely to shew your worth,
                   And lose you quite.

But you are lovely leaves, where we
         May read how soon things have
         Their end, though ne’er so brave;
And after they have shewn their pride,
         Like you awhile, they glide
                   Into the grave.



Get up, get up for shame, the blooming morn
Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.
         See how Aurora throwes her fair
         Fresh-quilted colours through the air;
         Get up sweet slug-a-bed and see
         The dew-bespangling herb and tree.
Each flower has wept, and bowed toward the east,
Above an hour since, yet you not drest,
         Nay, not so much as out of bed;
         When all the birds have matins said,
         And sung their thankful hymns: ’tis sin,
         Nay, profanation, to keep in,
When as a thousand virgins on this day,
Spring sooner than the lark to fetch in May.

Rise; and put on your foliage, and be seen
To come forth, like the spring-time, fresh and green,
         And sweet as Flora. Take no care
         For jewels for your gown or hair;
         Fear not; the leaves will strew
         Gems in abundance upon you;
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept.
         Come, and receive them while the light
         Hangs on the dew-locks of the night:
         And Titan on the eastern hill
         Retires himself, or else stands still
Till you come forth. Wash, dress, be brief in praying;
Few beads are best when once we go a Maying.

Come, my Corinna, come; and, coming, mark
How each field turns a street; each street a park
         Made green, and trimmed with trees; see how
         Devotion gives each house a bough,
         Or branch; each porch, each door, ere this,
         An ark, a tabernacle is,
Made up of white thorn neatly interwove;
As if here were those shades of cooler love,
         Can such delights be in the street
         And open fields, and we not see’t?
         Come, we’ll abroad, and let’s obey
         The proclamation made for May;
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying,
But, my Corinna, let’s go a Maying.

     In examining a poet’s character, there is a consideration not to be overlooked, to wit, how far his natural endowments have been cultivated by a study of the principles of his art, as exemplified in the approved productions of his predecessors. This cultivation no one—no matter what may be his native gifts—can venture to despise; indeed, the greater his powers, the more valuable is such discipline, for it seems to chasten and to strengthen, without the peril of sterility of imitation. Every one of the greatest poets in our language, holding an independent and majestic attitude of originality, yet deemed it a worthy thing to study with a docile spirit the inspiration of the mighty bards who had gone before. To the formation of Herrick’s character this cultivation was singularly conducive. Among the plays and masks of Shakspere and Jonson did he find such exquisite snatches of lyrical melody as served for models of the highest excellence. Carew and Suckling, moreover, had preceded him. Perhaps his knowledge derived from books was no more than the casual light reading of a gentleman ordinarily accomplished; but even such habits of thought were calculated to invigorate his intellectual or imaginative faculties.
     No portrait of Herrick is known to exist. Our only knowledge of his personal appearance is derived from the engraving by Marshall, on the title-page of his “Hesperides,” and this is far from attractive. The eye alone, large and prominent, seems to mark the poet. He tells us himself, however, that he was “mop-eyed,” near-sighted, and that he had lost a finger.

                                                                                                                                               R. W. B.



Queen Victoria visited Leeds on 6th September, 1858 to open the new Town Hall. Robert Buchanan Snr. had connections with Leeds, having started a newspaper, the Leeds Express, with Lloyd Jones in December, 1857. Although that partnership was dissolved in July, 1858, Buchanan did not sell the paper until January, 1859 and the note at the end of the poem does suggest that Robert Jr. was in Leeds for the Queen’s visit.

The Glasgow Sentinel (25 September, 1858 - p.4)


WHEN Deity approved and blest
     That part of the eternal plan,
Which gave to Nature’s ample breast—
     Great gift—pure woman and true man!
When Deity in life and light
     First set this seal on Virtue’s brow,
No meaner beauty marked the night,
     And Day was fair as now.

Still roll and surge the restless years,
     Still brood the poet and the sage,
As when the Greek’s immortal tears
     Fell o’er a dead, yet deathless, age!
And, beautiful as then, the name
     Of woman crowns our inner life,
As dear to England and to fame—
     True monarch and true wife!

O strew ye, strew her path with flowers!
     Upon her forehead, in her eye,
Fair priestess of the pregnant hours,
     The Future shines like Destiny!
O true and tried! O pure and fair!
     O guerdon of the great right Hand,
Weighing the peace and the despair
     O’er the old Fatherland!

O strew her path with fears and joys!
     Purer than fair, ’tween Earth and Heaven
She moves, and in her people’s voice
     Finds thrice-told peace and gladness given.
Heart unto heart, and hand to hand,
     Our hymn unto the Pure be given,
The daughter of the grey old Land
     Who acts ’tween English hearts and Heaven!

O strew her path with orient flowers,
     O wreath her brow with love sublime—
Fair guardian of the gliding hours,
     Stern gazer in the eyes of Time!
Thus may the nation’s mighty heart
     To her in love-like worship lean,
Who, acting more than woman’s part,
     Smiles forth—true woman and true queen!

                               Leeds, 12th September.                                                   ROBT. W. BUCHANAN.



The Glasgow Sentinel (9 October, 1858 - p.2)

By HENRY W. LONGFELLOW. London: Kent and Co.

DR JOHNSON, in more than a century and a half of English literary history, beginning with Cowley and ending with Gray, found less than threescore writers in verse whom he deemed worthy of a place in his biographical collection. Though, in his own line, and in cases where partiality did not disturb his judgment, a tolerably correct arbiter of literary reputation, the doctor would find it a task onerous indeed, to persuade any well-read individual of the present day that more than half the verse-writers whose lives he has composed have any claim to the character of poets, or even of men of distinguished talents. Perhaps the account might be balanced by the admission to his list of as many names as a modern judgment of the literary celebrities of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would erase from it. We have learned to look for other qualities in those we honour with the name of poets than those which pleased the critics of Johnson’s age; or, at least, we have learned a different relative estimate of poetic gifts, and are used to flatter ourselves that ours is a truer and deeper view than the one held by our grandmothers. The result is that reputation has since that time both sunk and risen, forgotten writers have been dug up from the dust of oblivion, and others, who lived then peroravirum, in the gossip of Mrs Thale’s tea-table, and in the pages of the oracular doctor, are buried out of sight and of hearing, and silence covers them. This familiar fact of our literary history would seem to prove that, however common a certain degree of poetic faculty may be among men, the possession of this faculty in such perfection and strength, as to enable the possessor to produce genuine poems, is exceedingly rare. Why this is so, and whether the defect be one of nature or of training, an original vigour denied, or a due cultivation neglected, is a most interesting question, but one which would require us to diverge from our immediate route into phsychology and the science of education. We would merely point to the fact that poetic genius, capable of artistically manifesting itself, is, as a matter of experience, extremely rare. Yet at this moment we have ranged before us a set of volumes of American verse by not fewer than half as many authors as Johnson found poets in one hundred and fifty years, and these form but a fraction of those published in America during the past year. Not one of these volumes was published without a belief on the writer’s part that he or she was an exception to the general rule of poetic incapacity. Draw as we may upon our own candour, we cannot suppose that anybody but a lunatic at large would go to considerable expense to give the world testimony that he or she was the most despised of literary drudges—a verse maker without poetic genius.
     This is not exactly the place in which to enter into the subject of American literary progress, and moreover, the above statement furnishes its own conclusion. America is a young country, and when her grey hairs begin to appear among the brown and gold there may possibly be born to her a great poet. At present, the light-dance music of her own “go ahead” spirit must supply a solace in her quieter moments. She is very young, and has given us one or two very good poets indeed. If she does not rejoice in men of remarkable genius in this department of literature, she has at least produced some rose-cheeked, golden-haired firstlings, who might bid us dream of the autumn and harvest to come. She is a girl, light-headed and young-hearted now.
     The appearance of a fresh volume of poems by Mr Longfellow is an event to which we had a right to look forward with interest and hope. With the exception of Lowell alone, he is the only poet who seems to have any claim to the name of an original poet; and his writings are most valuable as the true and spontaneous suggestions of an imaginative American’s mind. For, with most laudable discrimination, he has, from the very commencement of his literary career, confined himself almost exclusively to the description of American scenery, the expression of American home-sympathy, and the delineation of American character.
     Theocritus or the Sicilians might have produced an idyl only half as good as this by Professor Longfellow. Yet “Miles Standish” is written in that English and German hexameter which has never been remarkably successful, which in dead Southey proved a very complete failure, and in living Kingsley is monotonous and very often unmusical. The English of to-day has no more the full round flavour of the ancient Hellenic tongue than the language of the modern Italian the sonorous profundity of the ancient Latin. All imitation of the Virgilian dactylic verse is impracticable in modern or Miltonian English. Voltaire or Racine might have exchanged the running, jingling measure of the French tragedy for English blank verse with a success fully as considerable. We should imagine that the recent attempts and failures of men who may be regarded as very good minor poets in this kind of composition will warn modern aspirants of its impracticability. Arbitrary accentuation is necessary to reduce Saxon syllables to the specified metre.
     “Miles Standish” is the little Marlborough or fighting-man of the Puritan settlers from the Mayflower—one of those hurly-burly legitimate fellows conventionally particularised as the “Pilgrim Fathers.” Iron-handed, strong headed old “foggies,” to use a pardonable vulgarism, like their own howitzers—

“Steady, straightforward, and strong, with irresistible logic
Orthodox, flashing conviction right into the heart of the heathen.”

     Like many worse individuals before and after him, Master Miles, who has buried Miss Rose, his first wife, begins to long, after all the trouble and turmoil of a fighting life, to repose in the arms of a second better half. Miss Priscilla something, the pretty girl and belle of Plymouth, comes under his especial consideration, and the staunch, straightforward soldier exclaims in a very tender strain—

                                                     “If ever
There were angels on earth as there are angels in Heaven,
Two have I seen and known; and the angel whose name is Priscilla,
Holds in my desolate life the place which the other abandoned.”

     John Alden is one of Miles Standish’s very particular acquaintances, but a man of totally different calibre. He is blest with good looks, bright eyes, and woman’s ringlets, moreover; is as young as he is handsome; and, to be brief, entertains himself a secret passion for the damsel. Poor John is thunder-struck when Standish deputes him to propose to this pretty young lady on his (Standish’s) behalf. Friendship overcomes passion, however, and Master Alden undertakes the mission. A pretty picture is drawn of the beauty in the following lines:—

Seated beside her wheel, and the carded wool like a snow-drift
Piled at her knee, her white hands feeding the ravenous spindle,
While with her foot on the treadle she guided the wheel in its motion.
Open wide on her lap lay the well-worn psalm-book of Ainsworth,
Printed in Amsterdam, the words and the music together.
Rough-hewn angular notes, like stones in the wall of a churchyard,
Darkened and overhung by the running vine of the verses.
Such was the book from whose pages she sang the old Puritan anthem,
She, the Puritan maiden, in the solitude of the forest,
Making the humble house and the modest apparel of home-spun
Beautiful with her beauty, and rich with the wealth of her being!

     Entering the house with a heavy heart, Alden delivers the message of the captain of Plymouth, and receives the following very sensible rebuke:—

“If the great captain of Plymouth is so very eager to wed me,
Why does he not come himself, and take the trouble to woo me?
If I am not worth the wooing, I surely am not worth the winning.”

     The affair proves a failure, and the friends quarrel. A false report of the death of Miles Standish being circulated shortly after this, John takes Priscilla to himself. The resuscitated and redoubtable hero is, of course, brought again upon the scene alive and well, and, much to everybody’s satisfaction, extends to the bridegroom his forgiveness. The poem winds up with the following quaint but very beautiful lines:—

Onward the bridal procession now moved to their new habitation,
Happy husband and wife, and friends conversing together.
Pleasantly murmured the brook, as they crossed the ford in the forest,
Pleased with the image that passed, like a dream of love through its bosom,
Tremulous, floating in air, o’er the depths of the azure abysses.
Down through the golden leaves the sun was pouring his splendours,
Gleaming on purple grapes, that, from branches above them suspended,
Mingled their odorous breath with the balm of the pine and the fir-tree,
Wild and sweet as the clusters that grew in the valley of Eshcol.
Like a picture it seemed of the primitive pastoral ages,
Fresh with the youth of the world, and recalling Rebecca and Isaac,
Old and yet ever new, and simple and beautiful always,
Love immortal and young in the endless succession of lovers,
So through the Plymouth woods passed onward the bridal procession.

     In one among the miscellaneous poems contained in this volume, Professor Longfellow has developed a great, and, with him, somewhat unusual faculty—suggestive power. Among the greatest poets this exists in the greatest degree; for this it is which casts over the whole face of nature the “consecration and the dream.” Shakspere is full of it. So is Gœthe. So are the epics of Coleridge. So are Wordsworth’s great odes, some of his sonnets, many of his minor pieces. So is the poetry of Mr Tennyson. And for this reason all subjective poets are invariably popular. They know the limits of human thought, and how, when it is reached, to turn the mind in upon itself. They know by their own experience the tenderest chords of the heart, and that, as with a harp, a delicate touch will make them vibrate longer and more melodiously than the rude sweep of unskilled fingers, which certainly awakens the emotions, but only to jar them together and agitate them painfully. Moreover, without suggestive power it is impossible to produce romantic feeling. We may gratify the admirer of Professor Longfellow by making an extract or two from the poem to which we allude:—


Often I think of the beautiful town
     That is seated by the sea;
Often in thought go up and down
The pleasant streets of that dear old town,
     And my youth comes back to me.
         And a verse of a Lapland song
         Is haunting my memory still:
         “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I can see the shadowy lines of its trees,
     And catch, in sudden gleams,
The sheen of the far-surrounding seas,
And islands that were in the Hesperides
     Of all my boyish dreams.
         And the burden of that old song,
         It murmurs and whispers still:
         “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I can see the breezy dome of groves,
     The shadows of Deering’s Woods;
And the friendships old and the early loves
Come back with a Sabbath sound, as of doves
     In quiet neighbourhoods.
         And the voice of that sweet old song,
         It flutters and murmurs still:
         “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

I remember the gleams and glooms that dart
     Across the schoolboy’s brain;
The song and the silence in the heart,
That in part are prophecies, and in part
     Are longings wild and vain.
         And the voice of that fitful song
         Sings on, and is never still:
         “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

There are things of which I may not speak;
     There are dreams that cannot die;
There are thoughts that make the strong heart weak
And bring a pallor into the cheek,
     And a mist before the eye.
         And the words of that fatal song
         Come over me like a chill:
         “A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

And Deering’s Woods are fresh and fair,
     And with joy that is almost pain
My heart goes back to wander there,
And among the dreams of the days that were,
     I find my lost youth again.
         And the strange and beautiful song,
         The groves are repeating it still:
         “A boy’s thoughts are the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

     Professor Longfellow, we hardly need remark, is a linguist, and in every respect an educated man. Moreover, he has gained a very great deal of indirect knowledge through the medium of books. Every one of his productions has gained something, either in form or in sentiment, from the influence of intellectual culture. The right always lies between extremes; and he possesses in an eminent degree the graceful “knack” of associating nature conveniently with art. A pure and beautiful feeling is delivered by him with a refinement and grace almost entirely suggested by learning. If there is sameness and want of variety in his mind, by spending his life in constant intercourse with nature and his fellow-men he has been enabled to express, in admirable and beautiful language, several of their more remarkable features. He very often associates things of true imaginative interest with the pure outpouring of subjective emotion. Self-meditation is said to be often the vice of modern poets; a habit of dwelling upon and fondling their mental diseases, and of making the infirmities they have encouraged by their weakness an excuse for quarrelling with the nature which God has given them, and the world in which God has placed them. But there is no humbug of this kind about Mr Longfellow. He seems to live to be good and happy, and to teach others to be good and happy with him. By him the modern rule of “ars est nescire artem” is cast aside with contempt, and the good old rule regarded. If sentimental young ladies and gentlemen like his poetry, very sensible people may also find a sensible kind of pleasure in its perusal. It is of good flavour now and then, if we knew how to appreciate its best qualities. Some cultivation of taste is required to appreciate the beauty of the following lines. In them there is nothing artificial, nothing elaborate, but they are verses which a much greater poet might have produced:—


In the Valley of the Vire
     Still is seen an ancient mill,
With its gables quaint and queer,
     And beneath the window sill,
         On the stone,
         These words alone:
“Oliver Basselin lived here.”

Far above it, on the steep,
     Ruined stands the old Chateau;
Nothing but the donjon keep
     Left for shelter or for show.
         In vacant eyes
         Stare at the skies,
Stare at the valley green and deep.

Once a convent, old and brown,
     Looked, but ah! it looks no more,
From the neighbouring hill-side down
     On the rushing and the roar
         Of the stream
         Whose sunny gleam
Cheers the little Norman town.

In that darksome mill of stone,
     To the water’s dash and din,
Careless, humble, and unknown
     Sang the poet Basselin
         Songs that fill
         That ancient mill
With a splendour of its own.

Never feeling of unrest
     Broke the pleasant dream he dreamed
Only made to be his nest,
     All the lovely valley seemed;
         No desire
         Of soaring higher
Stirred or fluttered in his breast.

True, his songs were not divine;
     Were not songs of that high art,
Which, as winds do in the pine,
     Find an answer in each breast;
         But the mirth
         Of this green earth
Laughed and revelled in the line.

From the alehouse and the inn,
     Opening on the narrow street,
Came the loud, convivial din,
     Singing and applause of feet,
         The laughing lays
         That in those days
Sang the poet Basselin.

In the castle, cased in steel,
     Knight, who fought at Agincourt,
Watched and waited, spur on heel;
     But the poet sang for sport
         Songs that rang
         Another clang,
Songs that lowlier hearts could feel.

In the convent, clad in gray,
     Sat the monks in lonely cells,
Paced the cloisters, knelt to pray,
     And the poet heard their bells;
     But his rhymes
     Found other chimes,
Nearer to the earth than they.

Gone are all the barons bold,
     Gone are all the knights and squires,
Gone the abbot stern and cold,
     And the brotherhood of friars
         Not a name
         Remains to fame;
From those mouldering days of old

But the poet’s memory here
     Of the landscape makes a part;
Like the river, swift and clear,
     Flows his song through many a heart;
         Haunting still
         That ancient mill
In the Valley of the Vire.

     In these, as in some other of the poet’s verses, we detect the advantages to be acquired by the study of good continental poetry. Beranger might have written them, in our opinion.
     On the whole, the public will look with favour upon these last efforts of the Professor’s muse. We trace nothing great in them, but they are the work of a man of some genius, and a great deal more refinement and taste. Mr Longfellow may thank the stars which made his path to learning a so very smoother one, for his present enviable place in the public estimation. Again, we cannot regard him as a man of remarkable genius. There is more of talent in his composition, which, as every schoolboy knows, is a very difficult patrimony. But he has gone into the pursuit of poetry heart and soul, and has come forth victor to a certain degree. It is impossible for any sensible person to regard him in the character of a great poet; but he is at least one of the greatest young America has produced. Understanding the mission entrusted by God to the poet, he has fulfilled its stipulations to the extent of his intellectual powers. He has instructed and made lofty the minds of one or two, without a doubt; and if he is as good an individual as he is a real poet, which we believe, he has passed through something of the fight of life, which is intellect, with honourable scars.

                                                                                                     ROBT. W. BUCHANAN.


[Note: Robert Buchanan would edit an edition of Longfellow’s ‘Poetical Works’ for Moxon & Co in 1868. Reviews of that edition are available here.]



This advert for Robert Buchanan’s second book of poetry, Mary, and Other Poems, first appeared in The Glasgow Sentinel of 9th October, 1858 and was repeated until the end of the year.

The Glasgow Sentinel (9 October, 1858 - p.8)


The Glasgow Sentinel (16 October, 1858 - p.2)

Original Poetry.

[From “Mary, and Other Poems,” a new volume in the course
of publication, by ROBERT W. BUCHANAN, author of “Love Lyrics.”]


IF I do simply sing thee, and rehearse
     Thy many charms with all my little powers,
Think that some beauty decks my humblest verse;


Think that the memory of loving hours
     Maketh regret dear as a day in June,
When all the earth is eloquent with flowers.


For O! the dear old world were out of tune,
     Did not the sighing heart of love retain
Something of that which makes poor flowers a boon.


And there is something beautiful in pain—
     When lulled by its own voice, it may become
Perfect and happy as the golden grain.


I lay this lowly wreath upon thy tomb,
     And think that it must needs be fresh and fair,
When only thou hast taught it how to bloom.


We wend together; and I sometimes dare
     To think or hope that sympathetic eyes,
Beholding through thy loveliness, shall share
Some little of the lore that made us wise
In our own bosoms’ loving mysteries.



The Glasgow Sentinel (20 November, 1858 - p.2)

(From “Mary, and other Poems,” a new volume in the course
of publication, by Robert W. Buchanan, author of “Love Lyrics).”

BEAUTY, at once the mother and the child
     Of visible things, within the woods lay praying;
Like any lamb the young Spring frisked and smiled,
     And all the wholesome hours had gone a-maying.
Joy threw her ringlets to the laughing wind;
Love with his own delightful self was straying—
Love, the wise owner of a thoughtless mind;
And larklets learnt the sage things he was saying.
Then, with my better heart, from idle noon
To eve, one lazy elbow on the grass,
I watched a train of recollections pass;
And till the night fell down, an hour too soon,
I found me still my human fortunes weighing.
But when, the beauty in her hundred eyes,
The mellow dark came wading through the dew,
I felt my life run o’er with innocent blisses;
Now said my heart:—“Take up thy grief and rise!
Give to thy present and thy past their due—
Thou could’st not hope so wisely if thou ne’er
Had’st learnt to heave a sigh or shed a tear.—
Time cannot change so calm an hour as this is!”



The Glasgow Sentinel (18 December, 1858 - p.2)

Selected Poetry.

(From “Mary, and Other Poems,” by ROBT W. BUCHANAN).

WHAT makes me gather as I go
     My wrongs about me, I would fain,
O, once beloved one, have thee know,
     It is not fear, it is not pain—
I act a better, wiser part,
     And would not have the idle sneer,
Or cast one shadow on a heart
     That once was dear.
I almost think it were enough
     If I could show thee less than wise,
That men are made of sterner stuff
     Than light that melts in ladies’ eyes.
I would not have thee note a tear,
     One sigh, but bid thee thus depart,
With not a hope, with not a fear—
     At peace with all thy better heart!



Perhaps the strangest of Robert Buchanan’s pieces in The Glasgow Sentinel of 1858 is this early foray into fiction. Mainly strange because this is a continuation of the ‘story’ and I have been unable to find the earlier part(s).

The Glasgow Sentinel (18 December, 1858 - p.7)


CONTINUATION of Jones’s story—


     When Karl returned home, he found a delicate little billet awaiting him. It ran thus:—
     “Monsieur,—I have at length discovered that you are the gentleman who resented the assault made upon me the other night.
     “Be kind enough to accept my most sincere gratitude, so far as I can express it. Although I have never seen you, except in the theatre, I feel that we are acquaintances, almost friends.
     “The pen is a difficult instrument for me to wield, and in order that you may not mistake this brief writing for an expression of feeble sentiment of obligation, I beg of you to call upon me here, No. 8 Kaiserube Place, that I may thank you more earnestly.        “BIANCA CARRAZZA.”
     A sudden tremour seized Karl on reading this note.
     His happiness seemed so near at hand—almost within his grasp—that he was fairly intoxicated with joy; and had he obeyed his first impulse, he would have flown to the danseuse, and—and—but no.
     He doubted not but she loved him. He had believed it for some time; and her seizing upon this first opportunity of seeing him, was additional proof.
     That he loved her, was only too painfully evident to him by day and night.
     Yet there was the hideous reptile of impurity coiled at her door, and the young poet stopped, lest he should be stung.
     What his friend Gustav would have designated “sweet little indiscretions,” “delicate little rose-coloured sins,” were black as Erebus to Karl, who, as the reader has already seen, was a sentimentalist of the purest school.
     Both these friends were wrong, beyond denial; for they stood at the extremes of morality, and the right always lies between extremes.
     A hundred times was Karl on the point of braving the danger, and going to see the Signora Carrazza, yet when he thought of their love, mutual and unbounded, he saw the inevitable result of their meeting must be that he should in spite of himself, after a short period be either the abandoner or the abandoned.
     The day after writing this note, Signora Carrazza sat in her boudoir, in the old baronial mansion she occupied, listlessly gazing out of the window across the spacious court, and wondering why Karl had taken no notice of her invitation.
     As she sat there, she observed that a room exactly opposite her own was being cleaned and arranged for occupancy. Trunks, books, and other articles were being brought in, and it was evident from their nature that the new tenant was a young man.
     That afternoon, while watering some camelias in the window, she again looked across, and saw in the opposite room a face which filled her with indescribable emotion.
     The new comer was Karl Ehrundlin.
     It was for this that he had waited and followed her from the theatre on the night when he had punished the ruffian at the stage-door. He dared not meet her, yet he could not live without seeing her. Thus had he discovered her habitation, and hired a lodging that commanded a view of her window.
     A cool, brief note, stating that he required no further thanks, as he was happy to have served her, was all the answer she ever received to her invitation; yet day after day, evening after evening, she saw him gazing across the court toward her windows, as if he drew life from the mere sight of her.
     His love was so evident, and it was told so unmistakeably twenty times a week by his looks and gesture, that the danseuse was at a loss to divine how he should avoid her.
     She gave him chance after chance to meet her, but as he eluded them all, she saw that he was determined, and her passion began to devour him like a secret rage.


     One morning, just a year after Karl had taken his new apartment, he missed the Signora at her window.
     She had suffered, doubtless, more tortures than you or I know of. Day by day had she stood at the casement, gazing across at her lover—longing, yearning for some sign—some expression of the affection she well knew he bore for her; yet it came not.
     She might as well have loved the Apollo Belvidere like the poor girl in the story, who was found dead at the feet of the statue.
     The public had noticed that for several months she had been growing thinner and paler than of old. Her eyes seemed deeper, and her movements more languidly graceful. Karl, too, had seen this, and he saw what no one else did—that the glances she cast towards his box, when he threw his usual bouquet, were imploringly beseeching ones.
     Her eyes seemed to plead with him for her life—to say that he was killing her, and to beg that he would spare and save her.
     Gustav Wohlmachen knew the whole story, as, indeed, did many others, except that they knew not the motive of Karl’s self-imposed misery.
     The young artist had tried his best to bring the two together, by reasoning and strategy, but had always failed.
     “Why should I meet her?” asked Karl. “I love her new, and I am happy in that love. If we came together, it would no longer be a pure sentiment, and I feel that it would be fleeting.”
     “But I seriously think that this philosophy of yours will end in taking her life!”
     “I am not to blame for that. If I love the Signora Carrazza, I most certainly love purity and virtue more.”
     “You are a monster.”
     “You wish to make me a libertine?”
     “I wish to save the life of a human being.”
     “Yes, at the expense of the honour of two.”
     “Where is the dishonour?”
     “Is it honourable to confess and consumate a passion for a woman who has a husband and a love already? I think not.”
     And so the argument generally terminated, without any change of opinion on either side.
     On the morning above mentioned, Karl watched for his lady-love for some hours, but in vain. It was the first time in the year that he had not seen her.
     In the afternoon there was a great crowd in her reception room, the windows of which were also commanded by Karl’s chamber.
     The young man had a terrible curiosity to know what was going on, but a secret dread kept him in his room. He did not even venture out in the street.
     Towards the evening, a letter was brought him. He opened it and read these words:— 
     “Karl,—I do not know the reason of your coldness. I love you enough, however, to believe that it is a good and a just one, although it has killed me. When you read this, I shall be dead, and by my own hand. I cannot live on as I have lived for a year. Adieu.
     The man who brought this note told Karl that the Carrazza had been found dead in her boudoir, leaning against the windows, as if looking out. No one knew why she had killed herself, but it was plain she had—for her hand still clasped the little jewelled stiletto, which had penetrated her boddice and made such an invidious wound in the beautiful snowy bosom.
     “Does the letter I brought explain the cause of the deed in any way?” he asked.
     “No,” said Karl, “it is merely a business affair.”

         .          .         .          .         .          .         .          .

     Gustav Wohlmachen was absent from Lieblicht when all this happened, and heard nothing of it in Paris, where he was then sojourning. When he returned, he learned the sad story, and called at once upon Karl.
     The poet was sitting at his desk, writing with a rapt, unconscious air. When Gustav spoke, he hardly noticed him, and acted so strangely that his friend thought him crazed.
     “My poor Karl,” he said, “the blow has been too heavy for you.”
     “Oh, no. I bear it well. Gustav, she often comes to me in my dreams, and I do not suffer much while I make use of this.”
     And he held up a little silver box, full of dark brown pills.
     “What is that?” asked Gustav.
     “Opium,” said Karl.

     Everybody looked serious when Jones concluded. We are not bad fellows, and have hearts of our own. Egremont broke the ice first.
     “Poor Karl!” said he, with a sort of prima donna shake, “his was an unfortunate career. I cannot help thinking, however, that he was a bit of a fool. The idea of a fellow digging his own grave is preposterous.”
     “The Carrazza comes in for a tolerable share of my consideration,” remarked Jones. “Poor thing! she was to be pitied. Venus! had I been placed in Karl Ehrundlin’s shoes. If the first sectaries had founded their Neo-Platonic republic in Lieblicht, as Sallien permitted Plotin to make the attempt at Campagna, Karl could not have acted more extraordinarily. Egremont—the eau de vie.”
     “This fellow was a Plato with the head of a La Fontaine,” observed Brown. “What a pity he was not made one of the dragons in the gardens of Hesperides, who did not permit the young to pass the gates until they could touch the fruit without spoiling it. Karl was a politician as well as a poet, take my word for it. The despotic rogue. He suspended the habeas corpus in liberty of person as well as in liberty of thought.
     I broke in here rather hotly—
     “You talk like puppies; but I own you feel as men. In my opinion Karl was a better man than our forefather Adam. Passion is quite as fleeting as Egremont’s hope of pounds, shillings, and pence. Morality is permanent, because she proceeds from immutable order. She is like a song of Ben Jonson’s—durable in one sense, and unendurable in another.”
     “Let us say no more about the matter,” broke in Jones. “I have told you my story, and Egremont must now give us a song.”
     “With the greatest pleasure,” said the chairman, “so here goes”—


The stars are looking the love I bear thee,
The flowers are breathing our secret, fairy—
Queen of the flowers and the starlight, Mary,
     Steal to my bosom, my own, my love!

The stars may shine not, the flowers may fade, dear,
The world pass by us in tears and shade, dear,
Sweet in the summer the moon has made, dear,
     Steal to my bosom, my own, my love!

Oh, the cheek of Time, it is wreathed in smiling—
The ballad of love is the sage beguiling!
Flower of flowers the flowery isle in,
     Steal to my bosom, my own, my love!

Come! in the light of affection shriven,
Dear crown, by the dearest Immortal given,
Fair as the visions we dream of Heaven,
     Steal to my bosom, my own, my love!

Fortune, fair flower maiden, smiles approving—
Roses and lilies, sweet, bless our roving!
Closer, yet closer, my loved, my loving,
     Steal to my bosom, my own, my love!

     Egremont wound up his ditty, and the clock warned us that it was time to part.
     Nay, wipe thine eyes, dear reader—we shall meet again.

                                                                                                                                   R. W. BUCHANAN.



Robert Buchanan and The Glasgow Sentinel - continued (iii)








The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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