REVIEWS OF The Outcast, and Other Poems (1836), by Samuel G. Goodrich

Reviews of other works by Goodrich
The New-Yorker, March 26, 1836
Knickerbocker, April 1836
American Monthly Magazine, May 1836
Christian Examiner, September 1836

The New-Yorker, 1 (March 26, 1836): 2.


The Poetry of the Age, like every thing else which it produces, is essentially practical, utilitarian. The assertion may startle the superficial, but we believe no others. We know full well that the wing of Fancy never ventured a freer flight than in the Nineteenth Century—that it has wandered at will over the face of the material and plunged with a fearless sweep into the dim recesses of the metaphysical world—that no orb has been too distant, no blossom too lowly, to attract its attention. We are not quite ignorant of the existence of such writings as those of Shelley, of Coleridge, of Wordsworth. But we reiterate in another form our remark that the age has produced scarcely one poet for Poesy’s own sake—that few have sought to thrill so much as to sway the general mind—that the greater number have aimed to enlist the feelings mainly as the nearest way to a mastery over the opinions. So completely has this become the case, that the public taste now requires its existence; and a book which ‘proves nothing,’ nor labors to do so, is at once pronounced a failure. ‘Will the century produce an epic, to take rank with the mighty works of all time?’ is often demanded.—Certainly not. There is nothing in the public taste to inspire or to welcome such a production. To the speculative spirit of our generation, it would seem destitute of end or aim. It would solve no problem—establish no theory. ‘Cui bono?’ is the motto of the age; and he who would navigate the boisterous tide of cotemporaneous popularity must sail with the current. Need we adduce here that contrasted sale of the writings which minister to the popular impulses and passions with those of a different character? Need we remark that Wordsworth’s ‘Excursion’ has barely been read on either side of the Atlantic—scarcely reaching its second edition here—while Pollock’s (sluggish) ‘Course of Time’ has overspread the country in thousands? Even blasphemy and scepticism—in general two easy roads to notoriety—have failed to render Shelley’s truly splendid creations popular: his philosophy being of the contemplative rather than the active school. Books have become but the magazines of contending parties in the mighty war of opinions of which the whole civilized world is now the theatre; and the acute instinct of necessity readily accommodates the instruments to the service which is required of them.

But not alone has the Poetry of our age assumed a new aspect: the Poet of the time present has scarce a feature—saving, we would fain hope, the inspiration—in common with his predecessors. Utilitarianism has extended its conquests even hither. The bards of the earlier school had at least one trait in common—they eschewed all lowlier usefulness and thrifty cent. per cent.—they knew nought of commissions and stocks—‘industry’ and ‘economy’ were words which found no place in their vocabulary—in fine they were good poets or good for nothing.—Far different is the spectacle presented in these our days. The votaries of the Muses are found in every avocation, in every condition of life. The man of law pens a poetical ‘declaration’ to his mistress, in default of any requisition for his services in framing the more accustomed document bearing that title; the practitioner in pills and potions perchance excites a qualmish sensation with other and more ethereal concoctions than those of ipecac and senna; the divine, too, indites his stanzas—often of themselves any thing but divine; and even editors are said to have found courage and leisure, despite the ceaseless requirements of their sadly unpoetical vocation, to construct metre not entirely unreadable. This last assertion, however, requires very strong sustaining testimony in order to its proper authentication.

—But the Outcast—we must not forget, in the wide range of our speculations, the tasteful and richly embellished volume which lies before us; and which might well deserve commendation for its exquisite finish, even though the contents were of more questionable excellence. Mr. Goodrich is widely known on this side the Atlantic by his contributions to the ‘Token;’ over which, we believe, he has exercised a parental supervision from its commencement. The substantial approbation of the public is perhaps the best evidence which could be afforded of his success in that capacity. Mr. G. is moreover a bookseller; and we rejoice to see such evidence as is here afforded of the ability of the trade to withstand any ‘strike’ of the worshipful fraternity of authors—writing their own books, should the public resolutely refuse to read any of an earlier date than the last month.—(Starvation would of course bring the men of the ‘gray goose-quill’ to terms before a second change of the moon.)—The poems in question are creditable to the author—but we will allow them to speak for themselves. Here is an extract from ‘The Outcast:’

“Nature became my idol; wood,

Wave, wilderness, I loved them all;

I loved the forest and the solitude,

That brooded o’er the waterfall.

I loved the Autumn winds that flew

Between the swaying boughs at night,

And from their whispers fondly drew

Wild woven dreams of fond delight.

I loved the stars and musing sought

To read them in their depths of blue—

My fancy spread her sail of thought,

And o’er that sea of azure flew.

Hovering in those blest paths afar,

The wheeling planets seem to trace,

My spirit found some islet-star,

And chose it for its dwelling-place.

I loved the morn, and ere the lay

Of plaintive meadow-lark began,

’Mid dewy shrubs I tore my way,

Up the wild crag where waters ran.

I listened to the babbling tide,

And thought of Childhood’s merry morn,

I listened to the bird that tried

Prelusive airs, amid the thorn.

And then I went upon my way;

Yet e’er the sunrise kissed my cheek,

I stood upon the forehead gray

Of some lo[n]e mountain’s dizzy peak.

A ruddy light was on the hill,

But shadows in the valley slept;

A white mist rested o’er the rill,

And shivering leaves with tear-drops wept.

The sun came up, and nature woke,

As from a deep and sweet repose;

From every bush soft music broke,

And blue wreaths from each chimney rose.

From the green vale that lay below,

Full many a carol met my ear;

The boy that drove the teeming cow,

And sung or whistled in his cheer;

The dog that by his master’s side,

Made the lone copse with echoes ring;

The mill that whirling in the tide,

Seemed with a droning voice to sing;

The lowing herd, the bleating flock,

And many a far off murmuring wheel;

Each sent its music up the rock,

And woke my bosom’s echoing peal.

And thus my early hours went o’er:

Each scene and sound but gave delight;

And if I grieved, ’twas like the shower,

That comes in sunshine, brief and bright.

My heart was like the summer lake,

A mirror in some valley found,

Whose depths a mimic world can make,

More beautiful than that around.

The wood, the slope, the rocky dell,

To others dear, were dearer yet

To me: for they would fondly dwell

Mirrored in memory; and set

In the deep azure of my dreams

At night, how sweet they rose to view!

How soft the echo, and the streams,

How swift their laughing murmurs flew!

And when the vision broke at morn,

The music in my charmed ear,

As of some fairy’s lingering horn,—

My native hills, how soft, how dear!

So passed my boyhood; ’twas a stream

Of frolic flow, mid Nature’s bowers;

A ray of light—a golden dream—

A morning fair—a path of flowers!”

We make room for one further and well-known effusion. It wears well, and will best please the reader who has already perused it more than once:


“ ‘Father of Lakes!’ thy waters bend

Beyond the eagle’s utmost view,

When, throned in Heaven, he sees thee send

Back to the sky its world of blue.

Boundless and deep, the forests weave

Their twilight shade thy waters o’er,

And threatening cliffs, like giants, heave

Their rugged forms along the shore.

Pale Silence, mid thy hollow caves,

With listening ear, in sadness broods;

Or startled Echo, o’er thy waves,

Sends the hoarse wolf-notes of thy woods.

Nor can the light canoes that glide

Across thy breast like things of air,

Chase from thy lone and level tide

The spell of stillness deepening there.

Yet round this waste of wood and wave,

Unheard, unseen, a spirit lives,

That breathing o’er each rock and cave,

To all, a wild, strange aspect gives.

The thunder-riven oak, that flings

Its grisly arms athwart the sky,

A sudden, startling image brings

To the lone traveller’s kindled eye.

The gnarled and braided boughs, that show

Their dim forms in the forest shade,

Like wrestling serpents seems, and throw

Fantastic horrors through the glade.

The very echoes round this shore

Have caught a strange and gibbering tone;

For they have told the war-whoop o’er,

Till the wild chorus is their own.

Wave of the wilderness, adieu!

Adieu, ye rocks, ye wilds, ye woods!

Roll on, thou element of blue,

And fill these awful solitudes!

Thou hast no tale to tell of man—

God is thy theme. Ye sounding caves!

Whisper of Him whose mighty plan

Deems as a bubble all your waves!”

We have one word of censure for our author. He writes well and seldom falters; but his ‘Dedication’ is conceived in bad taste, and besides is not poetry. We earnestly recommend the expunging process in preparing for a second edition.

* “The Outcast, and other poems: By S. G. Goodrich. Boston. Russell, Shattuck and Williams. 1836.

Knickerbocker, 7 (April 1836): 427-429. Ed. Lewis Gaylord Clark.

The Outcast, and other Poems. By S. G. Goodrich. In one vol. pp. 200. Boston: Russell, Shattuck and Williams.

In so far as mere fame is concerned, Mr. Goodrich might very well afford to leave the poetical field untrodden. Were his merits as a successful wooer of the Nine equal to the best of his contemporaries, they would not procure for him the reputation which he at present enjoys, nor a tenth part of the widely-extended and daily increasing company of admirers who hold pleasant communion with him. Peter Parley! What crowds of agreeable associations rise up with the very name!—associations that cluster around the golden period of youth, that blessed age of hope and admiration! Let it be, as we have heard it urged, we know not with how much truth, that Peter is, after all, but a clipping compiler; his books, in their way, are nonpareils, and none but a man of superior tact, ay, and of talent too, could prepare them. But let us revert to the neat little book before us.

The poems embraced in this volume, have, with one or two exceptions, already appeared in print—many of them, as we remember, in the Boston Token, or Atlantic Souvenir, of which publications Mr. Goodrich has been for a considerable period the editor. He informs us, with becoming modesty, that he has but collected into a volume what was written in moments snatched from engrossing cares, and under circumstances little propitious to a cultivation of the divine art, but which met with considerable favor in a more fugitive form. With portions of several of the longer poems, and many of the shorter ones, in this collection, we profess ourselves well pleased. We admire the happy faculty which the writer possesses of insinuating a valuable moral, in a manner both simple and instructive; and now and then too, he illustrates a thought with a striking figure, that sends the sentiment warmly home to the heart of the reader. His main excellence, however, consists in the characteristics we have indicated, and in spirit and variety, rather than in elaborate execution, or polish. It must be confessed that he sometimes exaggerates nature—that his metaphors are occasionally displeasingly mixed, and his words not always well chosen. To say nothing of a few hackneyed terms, which were old when Spenser wrote, such as ‘nature’s bowers,’ and the like, we must also object to such similes as compare the roused ocean to a scowling giant, flinging billows around him; to illustrations that represent the insensible rock as ‘thrilling with fear;’ to the evident familiarity which exists between the writer and his hand-worked friends, ‘thunder’ and ‘lightning;’ and to the occasional coupling of such rhyming words as ‘breeze’ and ‘caprice.’ The author, we hope, will not think us

p. 428

either captious or querulous. One who can write with the feeling and simplicity that mark the following passage, which we take from ‘The Outcast,’ needs little save the exercise of his better judgment to cause him to eschew such errors as we have pointed out:

‘I loved those hills, I loved the flowers,

That dashed with gems their sunny swells,

And oft I fondly dreamed for hours,

By streams within those mountain dells.

I loved the wood—each tree and leaf,

In breeze or blast to me was fair,

And if my heart was touched with grief,

I always found a solace there.

My parents slumbered in the tomb;

But thrilling thoughts of them came back,

And seemed within my breast to bloom,

As lone I ranged the forest track.

The wild flowers rose beneath my feet,

Like memories dear of those who slept,

And all around to me was sweet,

Although, perchance, I sometimes wept.

I wept, but not, oh not in sadness,

And those bright tears I would not smother,

For less they flowed in grief than gladness,

So blest the memory of my mother.

And she was linked, I know not why,

With leaves and flowers, and landscapes fair,

And all beneath the bending sky,

As if she still were with me there.

The echo bursting from the dell,

Recalled her song beside y bed,

The hill-side with its sunny swell,

Her bosom-pillow for my head.

The breathing lake at even-tide,

When o’er it fell the down of night,

Seemed the sweet heaven, which by her side,

I found in childhood’s dreams of light:

And morning, as it brightly broke,

And blessed the hills with joyous dies,

Was like her look, when first I woke,

And found her gazing in my eyes.’

We should be tempted to copy ‘The Rivulet,’ and ‘The Burial at Sea,’ but for their previous publicity. There is a pleasing vein of mingled truth and satire running through ‘The Spirit Court, or Practice and Pretence.’ Would that there were less cause for our author’s strictures upon the stage—that we were not

‘Induced to sanction what is vile and silly,

Because, forsooth, ’tis done in Picadilly.’

The theatre-going reader shall judge whether the following be not a graphic and artist-like picture:

‘The curtain rose, and bursting on the view,

From mimic bowers a form fantastic flew;

Ample above, below, with wondrous art,

Her insect waist seemed nearly cut apart.

With twinkling feet she came, and tripped along,

As if she floated on a fairy’s song:

No envious gauze her swelling bosom dims,

No prudish drapery hides her tapering limbs;

Poised on her toe, she twirling flew around,

Then upward leaped with high aërial bound—

And then—but stay! the decent muse must pause,

And drop the curtain, midst the loud applause.

The Ballet o’er, again the crashing choir,

Poured forth their volley like a muster-fire.

Not theirs the task to elevate the soul,

And banish vice by melody’s control.’

Despising simple strains that touch the heart,

They only sought to show their wond’rous art!

To draw down thunders from the shouting band,

Who most applaud what least they understand;

Or please the few, whose souls are in the ear,

Alive to sounds, but dead to music dear—

On heartless ‘execution’ ever bent,

Feeling with sense, but not with sentiment.’

p. 429

We close our extracts with a scene of oozing courage and pseudo honor:

‘Two duellists we saw, twelve yards apart,

Waiting the word to fire, with flickering heart.

Swelling they stood, and bravely sought to bear

A lofty courage in their haughty air,

While hid beneath we read the thin deceit,

And saw each breast confess the shallow cheat.

Fear of light fashion’s law, which bade them fight,

And do the law of God and man despite—

Fear of disdain, forsooth, from ladies’ lashes,

Fear of the wit from leaden brains that flashes—

Fear, and the craven hope, that luck would guide

His bullet true, and turn his foeman’s wide,—

These were the motives playing round the heart,

In either bosom—veiled with conscious art.’

The volume is embellished with three of the best engravings of The Token for the present year and some very good wood-cuts. Were it not for numerous typographical blunders, the execution of the work would be unexceptional.

American Monthly Magazine, May 1836: 519-525. Ed. Charles Fenno Hoffman & Park Benjamin.

The Outcast, and other Poems; by S. G. Goodrich. Russel, Shattuck, and Williams: Boston. pp. 200. 12mo.

“Whom the Gods love die young!”—We will venture to hazard the conjecture that the author of this volume has arrived at a premature old age; or, if his steps have not as yet declined into the vale of years, that the measure of his days will be full—yea, even to running over; for loved he cannot be, either of gods or men; and we doubt not that the context of the foregoing quotation is true, viz. “Whom the gods love not die old.” With hair all white and silvery, older than the oldest of the revolutionary patriots, or the venerable Miss Joice Heth, will this Nestor among poets exist, till he shall commingle with the earth from the simple effect of decay. The gods on Parnassus, who receive the spirits of the votaries of the muse, will reasonably defer the society of his genius as long as possible, and allow him to favor this mundane sphere with his tremendous strains, till he shall become the Methusaleh as he is now the Jubal of his time.

p. 520

From the preface we learn that these poems “were written within the last ten years, in moments snatched from engrossing cares, and under circumstances little propitious to a cultivation of intercourse with his muse!” How exceedingly kind! and what a confidence and reliance on the goodness of the public is here manifested! To give us the results of leisure hours, spent in dalliance with the muse, yet, as it appears from his own confession, not having received many of her favors! Moreover, these poems were written “to serve occasional purposes.” That they will be applied by reason to “occasional purposes,” we cannot for a moment doubt; and we ought to feel grateful to our author, who always stands ready to “serve” us with not only “second-hand articles,” but “way-side scatterings.” “These circumstances,” to employ the elegant language of the preface, “are not stated at the bar of criticism, in mitigation of punishment, should the verdict be against the writer: but as a proper confession on the part of him who brings them to market.” (It will be perceived that the author is here for a moment merged in the publisher.) “The only apologetic plea which the author ventures to offer, is, that in presenting this work to the public, he assumes no higher responsibility than that of collecting into one volume what has met with some favour in a more fugitive form, making a few additions thereto. If the public decide that their approval of what was designed to answer a transient purpose” (and which will without question be so applied) “is not to be extended to it,” (viz, to what?) “when assuming a more ambitious shape, he is content.” Is he? well, we attribute to the meagreness of our information, and the poverty of our learning, although from our situation as editors of a magazine, very assiduous observers of literature, and readers of stuff, good, bad, and indifferent—the fact, that we have till this hour remained in the dark as to the favor with which these productions have been received. We do not wonder at it, however, seeing that we are dazzled almost to blindness by the unmitigated splendor with which they have now for the first time burst in upon us. What our author calls ambitious shape, probably refers to the copper, steel, and wood engravings, with which the volume is most superbly illustrated. He certainly cannot refer to the typography or paper, both of which are poor enough. The printing is in bad taste, almost too bad from one of whom, as a former publisher, we had a right to expect better things. We must confess, however, that more of a bookseller’s tact is shown in the engravings, for they are very economically “used up;” and though we can safely assert that the verses are all new to us, we cannot say as much for the pictures, having met them all at least once before in some annual or child’s book. They are “second-hand articles;” and if the poetry should be described as such when put up at auction, they certainly would have to be knocked down as in the same lot. If we mistake not, the steel engravings are borrowed by the poet from an annual, of which he writes himself the editor—and we do not doubt it—called “The Token.” Care should have been taken to have eradicated the publisher’s name from the plates; the work is published by one house and the plates by another; Thomas Hood would say that the wood cuts might be most appositely so termed; for trees and sticks, and quantities of wood are represented to perfection. The first of these is truly sublime. The author is represented with his hat blown off his head, and his great-coat almost torn to pieces by the wind, which is crashing the forest around him at a furious rate; but our anxiety for his state is relieved by the lines underneath, which seem about as requisite for explanation as that under the Dutchman’s picture, which read, “This is a man—this, a horse!”


But to detain our readers any longer from the rich, intellectual banquet which we have in store for them, would be worse than cruel. Even as a crowd of hanging

p. 521

visitors, on a day of feasting and merriment, stand eagerly expectant for the appearance of the smoking and delicious viands, for whose reception the servants have spread the board and are rattling the plates and glasses; so attentive to our foregoing notes of preparation, has every reader awaited for “the feast of reason and the flow of soul,” the perfume whereof has but reached our nostrils afar from our author’s kitchen. Presently the reality shall appear; and let not the most sceptical and least hungry suppose that the ascending odors are deceitful; and that, like those of a certain great philosopher, the covers when lifted will display nothing but hot water. Far from it. We can show you, even at the upper end of the table, the flesh of animals which are held exceedingly rare;

“Within yon rocky chasm stoops

The stealing panther for its prey;

And where that wailing willow droops

The sliding serpent makes his way.

In that deep copse the gray wolf howls,

Dark vultures hover in the air,

Here by our path the wild cat prowls,

And near us roams the grisly bear.”

“A stealing panther,” a “sliding serpent,” a “gray wolf,” a “dark vulture,” a “wild cat,” and “a grisly bear!” If these are not enough to satisfy the ravenous appetite of Col. Nimrod Wildfire himself, then there are no snakes in Kentucky. Quite a menagerie! If these were alive now, and the author would advertise us when he would go into their cages and stir them up with a long pole, what a speculation he might make! A “real alligator” is all that is wanting to make perfect his collection of “varmint.” But we are plunging in media res—let us proceed deliberately.

Little, if any thing, is wanting to make “the Outcast, and other Poems,” perfect in all its parts. There is not only a stamped gold hasp on the outside, but a Dedication within; and what is a modern book of poems without a pretty exterior, and an invocation to the Muse or the public? After the Preface comes a square wood-cut, with what propriety we cannot tell, except that the space is just large enough to hold it. With about as much appositeness the next page is headed Dedication. Such little obscurities, however, are referrible to the sublimity and vastness of the author’s mind, which soars boldly above minute accuracies. No reason under the bright Heaven, that we can perceive, bears witness to the fitness of lugging into these dedicatory lines a comparison between our pilgrim fathers and the crusaders “Richard, Conrad, Bohemond, and Co.” except that something was necessary to be said about the Frontispiece, which represents knights in armor and on horseback. Our author’s peculiarity of epithets is the only remarkable feature in this piece. He calls the crusaders “hot crusaders;” alluding to the very warm weather in Syria. Indulging here the same love for ferocious beasts (feræ naturæ) that distinguished the verses already quoted, he writes—

“The howling panther left his grisly lair.”

We come next to “The Outcast.” The opening is truly dramatic. Scene,—the “far west,” where mountains heave, on high, thunder-riven peaks, and glaciers, glittering in the distance, are industriously weaving a sapphire curtain for the sky. Nature is introduced in frolic childhood, playing with the hills after the manner in which boys play with bubbles. Time—That dim age when the moon and sun first looked down from Heaven and “met no crushing foot of mastodon,” set on the bosom of the prairie. Outcast loquitur. The above scene and time are described by him after the manner of the ancient Cborus. He then addresses the “Stranger!”

p. 522

with an awful account of several fierce animals, in which we are reminded of David Crockett’s stories about licking a “sawagerous” panther out of his skin and grinning at a coon till he had grinned the bark off the tree on which the “crittur” was perched; and “prehaps, stranger! I can whip my weight in wild cats.” That —— Outcast, Esquire, had a pretty tough encounter may be guessed from the following horrid avowel—

“One crime hath twined with serpent coil

Around my heart its fatal fold;

And though my struggling bosom toil

To heave the monster from its hold

It will not from its victim part.

By day or night, in down (?) or dell,

Where’er I roam, still, still my heart

Is pressed by that sad serpent spell.

Aye, as the strangling boa clings

Around his prey with fatal grasp,

And as he feels each struggle, wrings

His victim with a closer clasp;

Nor yet till every pulse is dumb

And every fluttering spasm o’er,

Releases, what, in death o’ercome

Can strive or struggle now no more;

So is my wrestling spirit wrung,

By that one deep and deadly sin,

That will not, while I live, be

Sung From its sad work of woe within.”

“Sad work,” indeed! The perspiration of fright stands in big drops upon our brow as we read. Mrs. Radcliffe’s horrors are cakes and gingerbread to those of Mr. Goodrich. It occurs to us, in this place, that our author’s acquaintance with the nature and habits of those beasts usually exhibited in a Grand Caravan arises from his having once edited an edition of Buffon, and from having superintended the compilation of a work for youth of both sexes, entitled “Peter Parley’s Natural History of Animals.” (We beg leave to take this opportunity to recommend this little book to our readers as a highly valuable treatise. It may be found—neatly done up in cloth, and lettered— at all bookseller’s shops—Price 37 1/2 cents.) The degree of scientific research displayed In this wonderful poem astonishes us no less than the remarkable originality of thought and the grace of style.

The Outcast becomes vagarious. He sees several things in his travels. Shakspeare’s waves,

“curling their monstrous heads,”

are nothing to this amplification of the same idea—

“Long, long I watched the waves, whose whirls

Leaped up the rocks their brows to kiss,

And dallied with the sea-weed curls

That stooped and met, as if in bliss.”

Old Ocean is soon after rendered still more awfully sublime by being called—

“a fearful thing,

A giant with a scowling form,

Who from his bosom seemed to fling

The blackened billows to the storm.

The wailing winds in terror gushed

From the swart sky, and aeemed to lash

The foaming waves, which madly rushed

Toward the tall cliff, with headlong dash.

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Upward the glittering spray was sent,

Backward the growling surges whirled,

And splintered rocks, by lightnings rent,

Down thundering midst the waves were hurled. (!)

He, who could ever compose another syllable after having given vent to this ponderous effort, must be sheer mad with inspiration. The tempest is really more awful in description than it could have been in reality.

“Stranger! a smile is on thy brow;”

exclaims the Outcast in the thirteenth part or division of his story; meaning, thereby, an incredulous smile; for, “perhaps you count it but a dream!” No! we count it no such thing,—we would believe every word of it could we arrive at the most distant comprehension of its sense. However, as near as we can goes, he is off in Arkansas territory,

“ ‘Arkansas’ sounds, like distant dreams,

Come whispering to my practised car.”

But we hurry along—and a light breaks upon our understanding at the opening of the sixteenth part,

“Stranger! a murderer stands before thee!”

Was there ever a reward offered for his apprehension? If so, why does not the author turn an honest penny, by pointing out the hiding-place of this criminal? No— It appears that he only killed a friend in a duel; and that, stung by remorse, he is dashing furiously from place to place, utterly regardless of danger. And here tumultuously rush in our author’s favorites, the wild beasts again, helter-skelter.

“I wandered forth, I wandered far;

In dank lagoons where reptiles fed,

Where oozy swamps, with shuddering jar

Seemed shrinking from my maniac tread,

I strode at noon, I slept at night,—

The scaly lizard fled in fear,

The stealing serpent shunned my sight,

But shook his warning rattles near.

* * * * * *

The bear fled howling to his den

The wolf yarred (!) at me and his glare

Lit the dark hollows of the glen,

The startled wild horse from me flew,

Rending the rock, with clattering heel;

The panther shrunk before my view,

But woke the wood with wailing peaL

Within a cave I made my bed,

Red adders came like spectres gay—

In wild festoons above my head,

They mocked my slumber with their play.

I saw them in their horrid dyes,

Lighting the chasms dim and deep—

Like writhing yeast their gleaming eyes

All bubbling o’er the braided heap.

My mind grew dark—my gloomy breast

Was like some grisly den at night,

Where vultures startled from their rest

Steal glimmering to the cheated sight—

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Where panthers howling in their cave

Waken the ear with accents fell:

Where sighing woods and gurgling waves

Bespeak some nightmare of the dell.”

This last must be a rare species. We do not remember ever to have seen it mentioned in any work on Zoology. But to refer back to our simile of an intellectual banquet, what could a bill of fare present more attractive than one furnished in the above lines, “Festoons of adders bubbling all their gleamy eyes over a braided heap, like writhing yeast!” Frightened as were all these animals, so thrillingly described, at sight of “the Outcast,” he has not yet quite done with them; but tells us of “the moan of wolves,” “the panther’s wail,” and “the whippoorwill’s complaining song;” and afterwards we are favored with “a sky-bent eagle,” “an antelope,” “timed [sic] deer,” a “wild goat,” “the mocking-bird,” “the spider,” “buzzing insects”, of various kinds, “no toad,” another “lizard,” one more “grumbling bear,” and lastly, “a wolf.”

If we have not already said enough to inspire our readers with an unquenchable desire to read this “wild and wonderful” poem, we do not believe that further quotation would be effectual. We have designated the sublimest passages; and, having already exceeded our limits, which, except in so illustrious an instance, we could not have done, we must with deep regret merely glance at “other poems,” which shoot up like rockets into the firmament of fame. Were we to sit in calm judgment upon their merits, and, quenching the blaze of a fervent admiration, simply state a cool opinion concerning Mr. Goodrich as a poet, we should say that he seems pitifully bewildered in the realms of fancy, and enveloped in glorious obfuscation, when treading the heights of Imagination; but that when he condescends to enter into the door of common sense, and to walk in the halls of fact, his step becomes more steady and his vision almost clear. The lines to which he has given the absurd title of “The Spirit-Court of Practice and Pretence,” show that he has lucid intervals, in which he may be suffered to go at large without apprehension. We have no space for much longer quotation, but recommend tbe poem to the admirers of modern theatricals, with the following as a sample—

“The curtain rose, and, bursting on the view,

From mimic bowers a form fantastic flew,

Ample above, below, with wondrous art

Her insect waist seemed nearly cut apart.

With twinkling feet she came and tripped along,

As if she floated on a fairy’s song—

No envious gauze her swelling bosom dims

No prudish drapery hides her tapering limbs;

Poised on her toe, she twirling flew around,

Then upward leapt with high aerial bound—

And then—but stay! the decent muse must pause

And drop the curtain midst the loud applause!”

We believe it is generally understood that our poet has written hitherto under the amiable appellation of “Peter Parley;” and as a compiler of children’s books, he has, we learn, been exceedingly successful. We congratulate him upon the brilliant prospect which opens before him in the new career upon which be has now entered. Although remarkably fortunate heretofore in “the book line,” he may consider that he has now found the “open sesame” to hordes of uncounted wealth; and after the present work shall have passed through a hundredth edition, we hope the world will call to mind the excellence of our parting advice to the author; which is, that he will not suffer himself to be persuaded by injudicious friends to return to his old trade of patching up books and pictures into multifarious shapes; but, rather look-

p. 525

ing to the fame which has attended his late poetical effort, he will, regardless of all former works, like an indefatigable literary cobbler, “stick to his last.”

Christian Examiner, September 1836: 132-134. Ed. James Walker & F. W. P. Greenwood.

The Outcast, and Other Poems. By S. G. Goodrich. Boston: Russell, Shattuck, & Williams.—In the Preface to the volume before us, the author leads us to infer that he has not served a regular apprenticeship to the muses, and that he lays claim to no higher title than that of an amateur in verse. Had he indulged

p. 133

in more pretence, we should not have been disposed to find fault with him for so doing. His work is more than respectable; and, though there are some evident tokens of haste, and a few passages which betray a want of finish, yet we cannot but hail the collection as a handsome accession to this department of American literature. The leading poem in the volume, “The Outcast,” is in flowing but irregular verse, chiefly octosyllabics, and is intended to portray the workings of remorse in the mind of an individual of a noble and sensitive nature, who, actuated by notions of false honor, has in a moment of reckless excitement made himself in the eye of God and his own conscience, though not of the world, a murderer, having shot his friend in a duel. The interest of the story is well sustained, and the poem abounds in passages of genuine power, and in bursts of impassioned eloquence. The language is in one or two instances exaggerated, but never feeble. It is always rich, expressive, and harmonious. “The Spirit Court” is the title of a poem, half satirical and half didactic, in which the author has happily hit off some of the prominent follies of the day. The “Dream of Youth,” the “Fortune-Hunter,” and the lines to Lake Superior, are worthy of more than one reading. Had we room to analyze, and to find fault, we doubtless might do so; but the beauties of these poems so far counterbalance the defects, that we are inclined to be extremely lenient towards the latter, in consideration of the pleasure which the former have afforded us. We regret that we have but room for the following extract, which we select rather for its brevity than as an adequate specimen of the varied powers of the author. It also displays his turn for making nature a mirror, to reflect into the heart the beautiful images of religion.


“I hear the ocean bursting on the shore,—

What melancholy music in that roar!

What wailing voices swell upon the breeze,

What phantoms come and whisper of the seas!

Wild tales they tell of misty ages flown,

Of depths unfathomed, and of shores unknown;

Of ever toiling tides, where tempests frown,

Of trackless deeps, where God alone looks down.

And these, the legends of the speeding wave,

Come to the heart like music from the grave.

Sad is their tone, and answering deep to deep,

The soul gives back an echo to its sweep.

The forest tosses in the autumn gale,

The leaves are scattered, and they shroud the vale.

Voices are on the breeze,—and in its breath

Spirits are singing, but they sing of death.

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And who hath tuned these harps of nature? Who

Makes the deep bosom feel their music true?

Oh, God! we hear the anthem of the sea

And land,—and listen, for they speak of Thee!

They speak of Thee, and man’s predestined doom,

Yet lift the shroud that shadows o’er the tomb:

They sadden, but they soothe the troubled soul,

And strike hope’s anchor strong, though billows roll.”

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