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Art. IV.

Poems, by Samuel Low. In two vo-
. 12mo. Vol. i. pp. 147.
New-York. T. & J. Swords.

THAT author is much to be
envied who not only derives
self-gratification from the exercise
of his pen in the recesses of study,
but enjoys the sweet satisfaction of
hearing hundreds acknowledge, that
they have received pleasure and
instruction from the composi-
tions of his genius. But it seems
there are some writers so careless,
or rather so diffident of acquiring
literary renown, that they are con-
tented with the retired and sponta-
neous exercise of their faculties,
without exposing themselves to the
inquisition of criticism, by coming
forward as candidates for public ap-
plause: and that man may surely be
deemed fortunate, who possesses the
art of amusing his leisure with the
elegant occupations of taste and li-
terature, without toiling to promote
the entertainment of others. The
author of the work before us appears
to have been a character of the last
description, for he tells us in his
preface, that he wrote for his own

amusement and improvement,—
but his friends, it seems, requested
a publication; and thus a volume
(the prelude of a second) comes
forth to invite the public regard,
and to solicit a station on the shelf
of the Muses. He did not, perhaps,
recollect, that good friends may
sometimes be bad critics, or that
complaisance may yield approba-
tion, while taste and judgment are
silently entering a protest against
the claim.

As the Poems appear to be no-
thing more than occasional effu-
sions, relating principally to local
incidents, and personal circumstan-
ces of the author, they can scarcely
be consider as fit subjects of sepa-
rate and regular criticism. From a
general survey of the style and
structure of the verse, we can very
readily decide on his pretensions to
poetical merit, and unless a nicer
scrutiny leads us to the discovery of
some beauties that have not yet dis-
closed themselves, we may venture
to predict that Mr. L.'s book will

“Last eternal, thro’ the length of days.”

General terms of disapprobation
may not, however, be considered
by all as decisive of the character of
the work; and they whose partiali-
ty or courtesy may incline them to
praise, will require some striking
instances of poetical deficiency be-
fore they consent to be persuaded
that the author is not one of the in-

It was the observation of the poet
Simonides, that “Poetry is a speak-
ing picture, and painting mute poe-
try.” Our author, we presume,
was no stranger to this idea—his
pictures, however, are not always
eloquent, and they sometimes speak
without melody of voice, or ele-
gance of diction. Thus, in repre-
senting the rise of our seminaries,
and the literary advancement of our

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“Another theme I now attempt to sing,
And try to stretch a more advent'rous
Our intellectual progress claims my lay,
To sing the growth of Science I assay;
Whose fruits, delectable to mental taste,
Now bless these regions, late a savage
For, lo! where thorns and thistles lately
A thousand seminaries rise to view;
And as the number grows, transporting
In literary fame advance our youth.”

A thousand seminaries springing
up at once, and usurping the terri-
tory of the thorns and thistles, may,
in the conception of some, be very
beautiful and picturesque. Such,
probably, will feel equal admiration
at the following picture—

“Hush'd be the din of arms,
Henceforth the olive's charms
Shall war preclude;
These shores a head shall own,
Unsully'd by a throne,
Our much lov'd Washington,
The great, the good!”

Every poet well knows how hard
it is to climb up the hill of Subli-
mity, and how liable are the most
cautious to tumble backwards, like
the rock of Sisyphus, into that great
gulph called the Bathos. The last
line in the following quotation evin-
ces that our bard was not proof
against the common disaster.

“Death stalks insatiate, thund'ring can-
    non roar,
And loud re-bellow from the distant
Each lab'ring ship the dire concussion
With death-fraught balls her hull con-
    vulsive reels:
Beneath the mighty shock old Ocean
And Neptune wonders what such uproar

The introduction of the spirit of
Washington into heaven, and its
coming up to its Maker and mak-
ing a bow, is neither awfully grand,
nor elegantly little.

“The heavenly minstrels loud hosannas
And his pure spirit to its Maker bring;
In God's effulgent presence, lo! he bows;
A crown of well-earn'd glory decks his

The extent of Milton's ken is
thus described; and surely the dig-
nity of the style is not below the
elevation of the idea.

“From heav'n to Tartarus profound,
Could compass vast creation round:
Eternity, infinitude,
With more than mortal eyes he view'd;
Or saw as clear as mortal cou'd.”

It seems to be the prerogative of
the poet to levy contributions on all
the departments of creation. His
despotic fancy exacts obedience
even from the elements; he imparts
to them his joys and his sorrows,
commands their sympathy, and
makes them “pipe whatever tune
he pleases.” When death robs him
of his friend, he prescribes a gene-
ral mourning through all the realms
of nature: the face of heaven is
overspread with gloom, and all the
flowers of the field droop with des-
pondence; he imposes silence on
the merry songsters of the grove,
and allows none to speak save faith-
ful Echo, whose airy voice grows
hoarse with repetition of his plaints.

Our author, not forgetful of his
privilege, has taken occasion to ex-
ercise his authority with a pretty
high hand. Hark! how nature
sighs, and the winds groan under
the tyranny of his imagination:

“Nature, convuls'd with sympathetic
Sighs sad responses to the Muse's moan;
And the loud storm expresses as it blows,
In dismal strains—the Muse's friend is

Of his talent at Elegiac compo-
sition we give a specimen:

“First thou, the instructor of those
Whom nature hath giv'n me to raise,
A life of much value didst close,
Its value transcends my weak praise.”

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“Oh! let me not, impious, repine,
That now fewer friends are my lot;
But see the hand equally thine,
Which spar'd my companions or not!”

His lines addressed to Kotzebue
exhibit a just portrait of that author,
and convey remarks that bespeak a
good portion of taste and discrimi-
nation in Mr. L. as an admirer of
the drama. When viewed, how-
ever, in a poetical light, we do not
perceive those delicate touches, and
vivid tints, that we expect of him
who ventures to handle the pencil
of the Muses. We are not thrown
into surprise by the richness of ima-
gery, nor captivated by the beauty
of expression. Of a great part of
this address, we may remark, in the
language of Dr. Johnson, “it is so
much like prose, that we scorn it
for pretending to be verse.”

If there are any passages in this
book of Poems entitled to positive
commendation, we imagine the fol-
lowing lines will have the fairest
claim to selection:

“Great is the power of Mem'ry's magic
I love of long departed joys to tell:
When thy strong arm, oh Health! the
    stripling brac'd,
And ev'ry limb with pliant action grac'd,
Oft have I clim'd the mountain's giddy
And, eagle-ey'd, beheld thy visage bright;
Thine energies before me went,
And made me mock the perilous ascent:
Swift as the rein-deer was my flight.
Sublimely bending o'er the craggy brink,
Thy power forbad th’ advent'rous youth
    to shrink,
Prompting to deeds of valour and of
Upborne by thee, he gain'd you losty
Thro’ Mem'ry's prism I there behold
    thee now;
I know thy steady, firm, majestic gait;
I see the mountain nymphs around thee
I see thy lib'ral hand among them drop
Its choicest gifts, and now I hear them
Thee patron of the forest and the vale;
But chief, thee, Goddess of the mountain

We will not deny that Mr. L.
possesses some powers of fancy,
and discovers, in several instances,
a faculty for poetical embellishment.
His compositions might appear to
some advantage in the Poet's corner
of a gazette, or acquire popularity
by choosing for their vehicle a pam-
phlet or hand-bill. But when they
embody themselves in volumes, and
march to our libraries, to “rank and
to use a military phrase, with
Gray, Goldsmith, and Campbell,
they then become the subjects of
rigid inspection, and must not pass,
unless they display the vigour of
genius, united with the correctness
of poetic discipline.

In an extensive poem, either of
the epic or didactic kind, slight de-
fects may be compensated by the
prevalence of superior beauties.
Genius diffuses a splendor that ren-
ders us almost regardless, if not in-
sensible, of incidental blemishes.
But in short occasional composi-
tions, like those of the present vo-
lume, we expect almost uniformity
of excellence; at all events, neat-
ness and elegance are indispensible:
destitute of these qualities, they will
never be favoured with a second
perusal. Some of the pieces are
correct, without point or strength;
but none of them conspicuous for
originality of idea, beauty of simile,
ingenuity of description, or harmo-
ny of verse. In their greatest efforts
they hardly show themselves above
the level of mediocrity; and it has
been declared by the bard of Venu-
sia, that

——”Mediocribus esse poetis,
Non homines, non Di, non concessere columne.

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