Poems and Chansons

TRING: History About Library Contact TRING: Home

Up Biography Poetry Prose Reviews News Reports Miscellanea Site Search


From. . . .

The Bucks Advertiser and
Aylesbury News,

May 8th 1847

Literary Notices

Original Poems and Chansons.
 By Thomas Massey : pp 72.  Tring, Garlick.


Thomas Massey is the "Tring Peasant Boy", whose poetic productions have recently appeared in our paper: and he now presents himself before his friends in a book form, which contains a very modest and unassuming preface.   He says. . . .

"It (this publication) may be a profitless speculation; it may be a losing one; this will be determined by the inhabitants of my native town.  And to whom should I make my first appeal; before whom should I make my debut; but them?

"The greatest number of these poems" he says, "were written without the most distant thought of their ever being laid before the public - written after the wearying hours of labour, in moments stolen from those devoted to rest.  They bear the stamp of juvenility. "

So they do, certainly; but not so much of that "stamp" as we would have expected, from the youth and inexperience of the writer.  Nevertheless, the publication quite premature - either the author or his friends have been too anxious to rush into print, not that the chansons are destitute of genius, but chiefly because Thomas Massey, when he grows up to be Mr Massey, and when he cultivates his mind by more industry and study, will seek to make very many emendations, and will feel dissatisfied with a good deal of these, his own verse.  The "peasant boy" who, without having the resources of a refined and polished education, at his command, can rhyme together so much sweet measure, must in manhood have a literary taste that will spurn and abhor juvenility.

We are careful in noticing these poems, because our readers must not suppose that we look upon the author as a mere ordinary versifier of nature.  He has talent at his command that can easily be turned to good account, if he brings it under proper discipline, and which could secure for him fame among men.  Nature is his theme, just as it presents itself on a beautiful spring morning in the fields, or at home in the lap of a mother's idolizing tenderness, or in the city among the haunts of a broken-hearted people.  He makes one attempt - and only one, we are glad to see - to leave nature, and here he decidedly fails.   We allude to a few verses on the "Battle of Ferozepore".  The sentiment is coarse, and the phraseology vulgar.  Take the first verse, which we suppose is a call to the British forces:-

"Up warriors and onwards, an onwards! your comrades lie bleeding,
 All welt'ring in gore on the blood bedrenched ground;
 Their pale lips and glaz'd eyes for vengence are pleading,
 As thick flows the life from the ghastly red wound."

With Christianity before our eyes this kind of thing is almost insufferable, although it enters largely into the composition of the poets; and, indeed, it would have been wonderful if the soul of our poetic "peasant boy" was not slightly stained with the polluted scum of military vain-glory.  Here is a purer sentiment, and with such feelings the unassuming writer has his chiefest pleasure:-

"Oft when I see those fairy things -
 Sweet children wandering hand in hand,
 Sweet nestlings for a cherub's wings-
 Pure beauty buds from God's own land-
 The thrilling tears of rapture gush
 Recoiling passion's burnings wild,
 And in my heart a holy hush
 Soft wakes the wish to be a child."

Occasionally philanthropic dreams of futurity are indulged in, but they are calm and restrained.  The strongest emotion is expressed in verses like these :-

"On, then! sunward look! morn's breaking!
 Bright the rifted clouds among:
 Weary slumb'ring minds are waking,
 Rapture bursts from heart and tongue.
"On, still on! with swelling numbers,
 High puls'd hearts and spirits strong;
 Minstrel! burst thy torpid slumbers,
 Cheer them with thy sweetest song.
                *         *         *         *
 On then! ere these locks grow weary,
 Ere my cheek shall press the sod;
 Might I see their day of glory,
 Sweet it were to die, my God!"

We might easily multiply extracts that would delight, coming as they do from such a quarter; but we can only afford space to express a hope that the writer will deem it his sacred duty to cultivate his judgement rigidly, for it would be a shame to have it lost to mankind.  Perhaps sober, earnest prose coming from him would do more good to men than clinking verses.  We believe that metrical poetry belongs more to the age that is passing away than to that which is forthcoming.  We want strong things expressed in business-like sentences, and which will stick fast to the mind when only once brought in contact with it.  A good argument, plainly expressed, is worth five thousand poetic exclamations, depend upon it.