A Story of Doom, and Other Poems

By JEAN INGELOW. Boston: Roberts Brothers.
PEOPLE who remember things written as long ago as five years have a certain stiffness in their tastes which disqualifies them for the enjoyment of much contemporaneous achievement; and it is fortunate for the poets that it is the young who make reputations. Miss Ingelow’s first volume, indeed, had something in it that could please not only the inexperience of youth, for which nothing like it existed, but even the knowledge of those arrived at the interrogationpoint in life, who felt that here there was a movement toward originality in much familiar mannerism and uncertain purpose. If there was not a vast deal for enjoyment, there was a reason for hope. It was plain that the author’s gift was not a great one, but it was also clear that she had a gift. She was a little tedious and diffuse ; she was often too long in reaching a point, and sometimes she never reached it at all. But then she wrote “The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire,” and the “Songs of Seven,” and “Divided,”−none of them perfect poems, yet all very good and fresh,−and showed a true feeling for nature, and some knowledge of humanity as women see it. In this second volume, however, she abandons her maturer admirers to their fate, and seeks the favor of the young ladies and gentlemen who have begun to like verses since Mr. Tennyson’s latest poems were written, and the old balladists and modern poetical archaists ceased to be read. In fact, it is amazing to see how this author, who had a talent of her own, has contentedly buried it, and gone to counterfeiting the talents of others. The “ Story of Doom ” here given is an unusuallv dreary copy of the unrealism of Mr. Tennyson’s “ Idyls of the King,” and makes the history of Noah more than ever improbable ; while “Laurance,” mimicking all the well-known effects and smallest airs and movements of the laureate’s poems of rustic life, is scarcely to be read without laughter. “ Winstanley ” presents an incident that, if told in simple contemporary English, would have made a thrilling ballad ; but what with its quoth-he’s, brave skippers, good master mayors, ladies gay, and red suns, it is factitious, and of the library only,−it came from Percy’s “ Reliques ” and “The Ancient Mariner,” not from the poet’s heart. It seems worthy of the sentimental purpose with which it was written ; but we doubt if any child in the National School in Dorsetshire learned it by heart as his forefathers did the old ballads.
In pleasant contrast with its affectations is the beautiful little song entitled “Apprenticed,” which the author tells us is in the old English manner, but which we find full of a young feeling and tenderness belonging to all time, expressed in diction quite of our own. This, and that one of the Songs with Preludes entitled “Wedlock,” seem to us the best, if not the only, poems in the book. Miss Ingelow’s forte is not in single lines and detachable passages, and her efforts are apt to be altogether successful or unsuccessful. In the long rhyme called “Dreams that came True,” there is but one inspired line, and that is merely descriptive, −
“In eddying rings the silence seemed to flow”
round him that waked suddenly from an awful dream. There is an inglorious ease in the sarcasm, but we must express our regret that Miss Ingelow did not leave this story in the prose which she says first received it.
We suppose we need scarcely call the reader’s attention to the fact that certain faults of Miss Ingelow’s first book are exaggerated in this. The rush of half-draped figures, and the pushing and crowding of weak and unruly fancies, are too obviously unpleasant for comment. Perhaps they are most unpleasant in the Song with a Prelude which opens with the bewildering statement that
“You mooréd mackerel fleet
Hangs thick as a swarm of bees,
Or a clustering village street
Foundationless built on the seas.”