Page images
PDF
EPUB

was not inconsiderable. À still more unlooked for honour has since fallen upon our Friend Bernard. We have seen his name announced as one of a very select, though motley list of associates of a certain newly established Royal Society of Literature, in which the Quaker Poet is, if we mistake not, the only sectary thought worthy of such high association. Testimonies of respect and approbation, come from whom they may, when spontaneous, unequivocal, and disinterested, no wise man and no good man will despise ; and though an infant society like the one in question, notwithstanding its royal sanction, must for the present seek to gain honour, rather than affect to bestow it, yet, their selection of Bernard Barton as an associate, does credit to both parties : it is a homage paid to character as much as to talent, which indicates a right feeling in those who awarded it. 5. What testimonies of approbation he has met with from his own body, we know not." A prophet is not without honour, it is said, save in his own country; and sometimes, a man of letters is not without honour save among his own religious connexions. Especially, should he be more intent to serve, than to please, those with whom his principles identify him, and in so doing, should he innocently offend against any received canons of phraseology, or established habits of thinking, he must expect to be coldly praised for his best endeavours, and to be forgiven, rather than commended by his own party, for striking out into a new line of thought or of expression. We can imagine, in the present instance, that many Friends may resent having the phenomenon of a Quaker poet, or a poetical representative of Quakerism, held up so ohtrusively,---although it is quite obvious, that the innocent object of such invidious distinction is in no wise to blame, and ought not to suffer, for the manner in which his critics and admirers may express themselves. We have heard it drily remarked, that Friend Barton was not the first or the only writer of poetry in the Society. It is a fact, however, that he is the only one who has ventured to put out Quaker colours, and has succeeded in making them respected for the sake of his poetry, ' For this we honour him, and for this he deserves to be honoured, especially by his own connexions, that neither the flattering encomiums he has won from " high places," nor the neglect he may have had to complain of in other quarters, has made him change his habit or his phrase. We once saw him,-as plain and primitive in his garb, and as meek in his air, as if he had never been conversant with any other books than the Ledger and the Cash-book. And in the present volume, be will be found to have undergone no metamorphosis. There is tuore

[ocr errors]

explicit orthodoxy than many of his own sect will approve, more piety than' most of his critics will relish, more Quakerism than a mere poet would have ventured on, and better poetry than has often been found in combination with all three.

We have so fully expressed our opinion of Mr. Barton's talents on former occasions, that it will only be necessary for us in the present instance to state, that, in our judgement, this volume will amply sustain the test of comparison with his previous productions. Of one poem, indeed, which, now appears not for the first time, but which has hitherto been confined to almost private circulation, entitled “ A Day in Autumn,” we have already expressed a very favourable estimate, which we feel no disposition to retract. Next to the Ode to the Sun, which is certainly the most resplendent of Mr. Barton's productions, we are inclined to rank the poem above alluded to. Nothing is more likely than that the present volume will be judged inferior to its predecessors, and nothing was less improbable than it should really be inferior; for the attempt to elaborate rarely succeeds in making compensation for the degree of sameness which will be detected or fancied in an author's second or third volume. But we have no hesitation in pronouncing it equal in merit, and superior in interest, to “ Napoleon and other poems." Mr. Barton has decided wisely in returning to the modest duodecimo form, and in trusting to ' minor poems' altogether for the attraction of his present volume. He has evidently put forth his strength to do his best, under the impression, --we trust, a fallacious one, that these strains may be his last; nor do we perceive any declension of either vigour or simplicity as the consequence of greater care and a more cultivated taste brought to the composition. Mr. Barton apologises for the quaintness of his title : we think it a happy one, and sufficiently warranted by the circumstances under which most of the poems have been written. But the motto is a gem set in the title-page.

Dear night! this world's defeat;
The stop to busie fools; care's check and curb;
The day of Spirits ; my soul's calm retreat,
Which none disturb !'

Henry Vaughan. - We cannot do better than take as our first extract, the Ode to Night's prime minister, the Owl.

Bird of the solemn midnight hour! had it

Thy Poet's emblem be ;

If arins might be the Muses? dower, :51 His crest were found in thee :

sos

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

was not inconsiderable. À still more unlooked for honour has since fallen upon our Friend Bernard. We have seen his name announced as one of a very select, though motley list of associates of a certain newly established Royal Society of Literature, in which the Quaker Poet is, if we mistake not, the only sectary thought worthy of such high association. Testimonies of respect and approbation, come from whom they may, when spontaneous, unequivocal, and disinterested, no wise man and no good man will despise ; and though an infant society like the one in question, notwithstanding its royal sanction, must for the present seek to gain honour, rather than affect to bestow it, yet, their selection of Bernard Barton as an associate, does credit to both parties : it is a homage paid to character as much as to talent, which indicates a right feeling in those who awarded it.

What testimonies of approbation he has met with from his own body, we know not." A prophet is not without honour, it is said, save in his own country; and sometimes, a man of letters is not without honour save among his own religious connexions. Especially, should he be more intent to serve, than to please, those with whom his principles identify him, and in so doing, should he innocently offend against any received canons of phraseology, or established habits of thinking, he must expect to be coldly praised for his best endeavours, and to be forgiven, rather than commended by his own party, for striking out into a new line of thought or of expression. We can imagine, in the present instance, that many Friends may resent having the phenomenon of a Quaker poet, or a poetical representative of Quakerism, held up so ohtrusively, - although it is quite obvious, that the innocent object of such invidious distinction is in no wise to blame, and ought not to suffer, for the manner in which his critics and admirers may express themselves. We have heard it drily remarked, that Friend Barton was not the first or the only writer of poetry in the Society. It is a fact, however, that he is the only one who has ventured to put out Quaker colours, and has succeeded in making them respected for the sake of his poetry. For this we honour him, and for this he deserves to be honoured, especially by his own connexions, that neither the flattering encomiums he has won from " high places,” nor the neglect he may have had to complain of in other quarters, has made him change his habit or his phrase. We once saw him, -as plain and primitive in his garb, and as meek in his air, as if he had never been conversarit with any other books then the Ledger and the Cash-book. And in the present volume, be will be found to have undergone no metamorphosis. There is more explicit orthodoxy than many of his own sect will approve, more piety than' most of his critics will relish, more Quakerism than a mere poet would have ventured on, and better poetry than has often been found in combination with all three.

We have so fully expressed our opinion of Mr. Barton's talents on former occasions, that it will only be necessary for us in the present instance to state, that, in our judgement, this volume will amply sustain the test of comparison with bis previous productions. Of one poem, indeed, which, ow appears not for the first time, but which has hitherto been confined to almost private circulation, entitled “ A Day in Autumn,” we have already expressed a very favourable estimate, which we feel no disposition to retract. Next to the Ode to the Sun, which is certainly the most resplendent of Mr. Barton's productions, we are inclined to rank the poem above alluded to. Nothing is more likely than that the present volume will be judged inferioș to its predecessors, and nothing was less improbable than it should really be inferior; for the attempt to elaborate "rarely succeeds in making compensation for the degree of sameness which will be detected or fancied in an author's second or third volume. But we have no hesitation in pronouncing it equal in merit, and superior in interest, to “ Napoleon and other poems." Mr. Barton has decided wisely in returning to the modest duodecimo form, and in trusting to ' minor poems' altogether for the attraction of his present volume. He has evidently put forth his strength to do his best, under the impression,--we trust, a fallacious one,-that these strains may be his last; nor do we perceive any declension of either vigour or simplicity as the consequence of greater care and a more cultivated taste brought to the composition. Mr. Barton apologises for the quaintness of his title : we think it a happy one, and sufficiently warranted by the circumstances under which most of the poems have been written. But the motto is a gem set in the title-page.

• Dear night! this world's defeat;

The stop to busie fools ; care's check and curb ; oftThe day of Spirits ; my soul's calm retreat, Which none disturb !'

Henry Vaughan. We cannot do better than take as our first extract, the Ode to Night's prime minister, the Owl.

• Bird of the solemn midnight hour!

Thy Poet's emblem be; nh.

If aris might be the Muses' dower,

His crest were found in thee : en lapsen

benost

Though flippant wits thy dulness blame,
And Superstition fondly frame

Fresh omens for thy song ;-
With me thou art a favourite bird,
Of habits, hours, and haunts preferr'd

To day's more noisy throng. • Are not thy habits grave

and

sage,
Thyself beseeming well,
Like hermit's in bis hermitage,

Or nun's in convent cell ?
Secluded as an anchorite,
Thou spend'st the hours of garish light

In silence and alone :
"Twere well if nuns and hermits spent
Their days in dreams as innocent,

As thine, my bird, have flown.
• Are not the hours to thee most dear,

Those which my bosom thrill?
Evening—whose charms my spirits cheer,

And Night, more glorious still.
I love to see thee slowly glide
Along the dark.wood's leafy side,

On undulating wing,
So noiseless in thy dream-like flight,
Thou seem'st more like a phantom sprite,

Than like a living thing.
• I love to hear thy hooting cry,

At midnight's solemn hour,
On gusty breezes sweeping by,

And feel its utmost power :
From Nature's depths it seems to come,
When other oracles are dumb;

And eloquent its sound,
Asserting Night's majestic sway,
And bearing Fancy far away

To solitudes profound ;-
• To wild, secluded haunts of thine,

Which hoary eld reveres ;
To ivied turret, mould'ring shrine,

Gray with the lapse of years ;
To hollow trees by lightning scath'd ;
To cavern'd rocks, whose roots are bath'd

By some sequester'd stream;
To tangled wood, and briery brake,
Where only Echo seems awake

To answer to thy scream.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »