Miscellaneous Reviews of Massey

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AUGUST, 1851.



THE author of the following is an English workingman, not yet in his twenty-fourth year.  They evince a very creditable amount of poetic genius.

Heaven hath its crown of stars, the earth
    Her glory-robe of flowers;
The grand old Woods have music,
    Green leaves, and silver showers;
The birds have homes where honey blooms
    In beauty bend above;
High yearning hearts their rainbow dream,
    And we, wife! we have love.

There's sorrow for the suffering poor
    On Misery's bosom nurst,
Rich robes for ragged souls, and crowns
    For branded brows Cain-cursed;
But cherubim, with clasping wings,
    Ever above us be,
And happiest of God's happy things,
    There's love for you and me.

We walk not with the jeweled great,
    Where Love's dear name is sold;
Yet we have wealth we would not give
    For all their world of gold.
We revel not in corn or wine,
    Yet have we from above,
Manna divine; then we'll not pine,
    Do we not live and love?

Thy lips, that kiss till death, have turned
    Life's water into wine;
The sweet life melting thro' thy looks
    Hath made my life divine;
All Love's dear promise hath been kept
    Since thou to me wert given 
A ladder for my soul to climb
    And summer high in heaven.

I know, dear heart! in our bright lot
    May mingle tears and sorrow;
Well, Love's glad rainbow's built from tears
    To-day, with smiles to-morrow;
The sunshine from our sky may die,
    The greenness from life's tree;
But ever, 'mid the scathe and storm,
    Thy nest shall sheltered be!

I see thee! Ararat of my life,
    Thou smil'st the waves above;
Thou hail'st me Victor in the strife,
    And beckon'st me with love!
The world may never know, dear heart,
    Half what I've found in thee!
But, though naught to the world, dear heart,
    Thou'rt all the world to me!

From the Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News,

21st January 1853.

TRING - Two lectures have been delivered in mesmerism, on the evenings of Friday and Monday, in the Commercial Hall, by Mr Massey, now resident in London, but being a native of Tring, was known to the majority of the audience.  The statement in the bills was, that Mrs Massey possessed the faculty of introvision, or seeing with the eyelids closed, and this drew together two such audiences as have never been seen in the Commercial Hall before.  On the second evening the doors were besieged, long before the time of opening.  The first lecture was principally devoted to mesmerism; its history and utility as a sanative art.  Then followed some interesting experiments on Mrs Massey, the clairvoyante [sic], who had previously been thrown into a mesmeric sleep.  The experiments commenced by her reading from any and every book or paper given to her from the audience, with her eyes effectively covered by the hands of anyone who could hold them in not too rough a manner.  The handbills contained a request that the spectators "would provide themselves with their own papers for the clairvoyante to read, in order to prevent the supposition or collusion or deception, and in all cases the print is legible."  Now although some very small type was handed to Mrs Massey, scarcely and instance occurred where she refused, but on the contrary, read to the perfect satisfaction and astonishment of the majority of her auditors.  The first evening concluded with some experiments in phrenomesmerism and catalepsy.

During the time elapsing between the first and second lecture scepticism was on the alert, and many of those who were most satisfied with what their eyes beheld and hands felt, on the Friday evening, were persuaded that it was a mere trick, and prevailed upon others to think so; imagining the clairvoyante, like themselves, read by looking between the hands before her.  At length Monday evening arrived when the whole affair was to be exploded like the imposition recorded in Chambers Journal, of Jan 8th.  The lecturer upon this occasion entered into an explanation of clairvoyance and ordinary somnambulism, relating a few annecdotes in connection therewith.  The conclusion of the lecture was the time selected for the first blow in the shape of sundry questions and propositions put to Mr Massey, all of which were fairly answered.  Then came the clairvoyante's turn to be tested, who passed most successful; reading everything that was given her, although two hands and once four were placed over her eyes.  Even with this, one gentleman was not satisfied, nor would he be, unless allowed to hold the eyelids down in a manner proposed by himself; when he had arranged his fingers a card was handed to Mrs Massey, who laid it upon her forehead, who read it aloud to the satisfaction of the unbeliever.  It is only fair to state, that every means that could be thought of was adopted in the endeavour to disconcert the youthful pair, and prove them imposters in the word and deed.  After giving some hearty cheers, the majority left the hall well pleased with what they had beheld.




    J.C. DERBY has brought out an edition of Poems and Ballads by GERALD MASSEY, a recent English poet, who has sprung from the obscurest depths of poverty into the enjoyment of a wide celebrity.  Massey is now but a little more than twenty-six years of age.........

    The present collection contains several pieces of a similar stamp, most of which were inspired by the French Revolution of 1848.  His poems, generally, however, are devoted to the celebration of conjugal love.  The family hearth is his favorite altar of inspiration.  His soul revels in the contemplation of sensuous beauty, and is made drunk with its soft enchantments.  He deals not largely in the expressions of tender sentiment which usually take up so much space in amatory poetry, but is dazzled and absorbed by the spectacle of breathing loveliness in a form of flesh and blood.  His language has an almost Oriental luxuriance, teeming with images and illustrations from the richest sources of the universe, and often too intensely colored to please a refined natural taste.  Some of his smaller and less ambitious pieces have the most in them of the subtle essence of poetry, and are frequently clothed in a diction of sweet and delicate beauty.  Few will call in question the claims of Gerald Massey to genuine poetical fire and imagination; but as few will maintain that he can hold a place among England’s great poets without a severe course of pruning, study, and self-discipline. 


DECEMBER, 1854, TO MAY, 1855


    THE Russian War has called forth several volumes of new poetry.  Among them is one by GERALD MASSEY, entitled War Waits, which exhibits the characteristic inequalities of that versatile but uncertain genius.  It is thus spoken of by a leading critical journal: “Gerald Massey’s descriptions of the scenes and events of the war are spirited, but at the same time so crude and irregular that they can not have more than a passing interest.  Vigor without refinement, and genius without taste, will never achieve enduring success in poetry, though it is the fashion of the literary criticism of the day to depreciate and despise art in composition.  So much flattery has been heaped on some of the young poets who have lately appeared that, we fear they will give little heed to the warnings and counsels of a severer taste.  Time will test the real worth of works now inordinately praised.  Of the poetry that passes under our review very small is the proportion that will live among our standard literature; and this is not from want of genius and feeling, but of art and labor in composition."


 A Magazine of Literature, Science and Art,

Vol X - July 1857 - No LV

Editorial Notes - Literature.

    Gerald Massey is introduced in blue and gold by Ticknor & Fields.  When he appeared in plain muslin, in his earlier days, we expressed our opinion of him at some length.  He is evidently a man of warm feeling and a sensuous fancy, but we do not find great poetry in his hand some volume.  It is still, to us, a mixture of Tennyson and Ebenezer Elliott; although so eminent a man as Landor alludes to Homer and Shakespeare, in speaking of Massey.  The feeling is, beyond a question, strong and real; but the expression of it is, equally beyond doubt, determined by that of other men.  Unpleasantly often there is an affectation of intensity, which, with so much genuine ardor, is entirely unnecessary.



Boston, July 1857

1. Poems. By CHARLES SWAIN. Boston: Whittemore, Niles, and Hall. 1857. l6mo. pp. 304.
2. The Poetical Works of GERALD MASSEY. Boston: Ticknor and Fields. 1857. l6mo. pp. 301.

    IT is a unique feature of our times, that, of the English and American poets who hold the first place in the universal esteem, and who are the inspired exponents of their age, the greater part are in active, busy, care-cumbered life, — Bryant, the editor of a daily paper; Sprague, a high-priest in the temple to which access was of old peremptorily forbidden to the dwellers upon Parnassus; Swain and Massey, bound down from early boyhood to engrossing and grovelling toil.  Charles Swain was apprenticed to a dyer at fifteen, and at twenty-nine became, and still is, an engraver.  His poems are distinguished by smooth and easy versification, pure, gentle, and devout thought, and the appropriation — the secretion, we might say, by a faculty peculiarly his — of ornament and imagery from scenes and incidents of common life which to an ordinary mind could suggest no poetical association.  The ethical beauty of his verses constitutes with us their highest charm.  There is hardly a piece which does not embody some precept of personal or social duty.  Contentment, cheerfulness, mutual forbearance and helpfulness, kind construction, charitable judgment, pity for the erring, compassion for the poor, — these are among the lessons which, with a frequent sameness of thought, yet with an always fresh flow from the vein of an affluent fancy, are perpetually reappearing in the delightful little volume in blue and gold, which, we are glad to see, has been published on this side of the Atlantic with his concurrence, and in part for his benefit.

    In a similar style of mechanical execution we have the poems of Gerald Massey, pre-eminently the poet of the people.  He was born.........     His first poems bear date at a very early period of his life in London.  His versification is not so smooth as Swain’s; but it is full of vigor, and surcharged with the fire equally of poetic enthusiasm and of indignation at the social inequalities and wrongs under which he has suffered so intensely.  In many of his poems there is a Titanic strength; in some of them, an unsurpassed beauty both of thought and diction.  His mastery of the resources of his native tongue is amazing.  Notwithstanding the seeming meagreness of his culture, he has at his free command a very wide range of imagery, as well that derived from books, and, one hardly knows how, from nature, as that which bears the birth-mark no less than the coinage-stamp of his own genius.  He is but twenty-nine years of age, and should his growth for the next ten years equal that of the last ten, we cannot easily say how high a place he may reach, and hold for all coming time, in the catalogue of the British poets.


Vol. VIII. July to January, 1857, New York

An extract from....


.......the verse of Gerald Massey and others does not meet our test of poetry. It is too crude and too strenuous, and is mostly conveyed in ill-chosen formulas —galloping dreary modes of metre.  Then those inexperienced folk praise labour and glorify it—a melancholy perversion of time poetic idea; for labour has been, and is now, worse than ever, the misery of men, whether building pyramids, canals, or crystal palaces, tilling the ground of others, or bleaching their own blood in factories. It is generally the effort of the many to support the luxury of the few; and generous poetry has nothing to do with such a debasing, demoralizing thing.  We maintain the most orthodox ideas of that same labour.  Regarding the whole of that uneasy” Storm and Stress” brotherhood, one would be very apt to think that those wild libertines of the muse were trying to revenge themselves, more or less fantastically, on the age which is so apparently out of joint, and which furnishes them with no worthier inspirations—playing mad fantasias and capriccios en the chords, jangling, twangling, and brangling spitefully, making peevish sport of the metres, and hurling their notions with a gesticulating wilfulness at the hearts of all the world about them —reminding us of old Stonyhurst’s translation of Virgil—his “riff-raff roaring and thwick-thwack thurlerie bouncing.”

    Altogether, their sympathy with the world seems as slight as their knowledge of it; and this appears when they attempt a common theme, such as the common order of minds may be interested in.


May 5th, 1866



Shakspeare's Sonnets, never before interpreted. His private Friends identified; together with a recorded Likeness of himself.   By Gerald Massey. (Longman.)

Many students of Shakspeare's Sonnets hold the opinion that they are for the most part poetical reflections of certain incidents and feelings an the life of the poet himself, or possibly in some cases in the lives and fortunes of his patrons and friends.  Mr. Gerald Massey is of this number.  He believes that the Sonnets—of which Steevens declared, "that the strongest Act of Parliament which could be framed would fail to compel readers into their service," but which a far more genial critic, Mr. Dyce, pronounces superior to all others in our language, with the exception of those by Milton—may be divided into two distinct, though allied series.  In the first, Shakspeare writing in his own character, addresses Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, encouraging him to marry, praising his personal beauty and promising immortality; while many of the, sonnets are written by him in the character of the Earl, and addressed to his mistress, Elizabeth Vernon; others, again, being the passionate utterings at Elizabeth Vernon's jealousy of the Earl and Lady Rich.  The second division of the Sonnets Mr. Massey holds to be written dramatically by Shakspeare, in the character of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke; while his name was William Herbert: that he is the "W. H." of the dedication—that these latter Sonnets were written to express Herbert's passion far Lady Rich.  Southampton, according to Mr. Massey had presented to Herbert the book which Elizabeth Vernon had given hint for the poet to write in, and which contained most of their sonnets; and then Herbert became ambitious of having sonnets by Shakspeare devoted to himself and his passion.

Mr. Massey supports these and many other curious theories with considerable ingenuity; and displays in the course or his arguments an intimate acquaintance with the Sonnets and other writings of Shakspeare, a thorough knowledge of the world in which he lived, and of the contemporaries by whom he was surrounded.  He pleads, and eloquently, his cause, with an earnestness which convinces us of his own conviction that it is the truth, and nothing but the truth, which he is advancing; but in spite of this eloquence, learning, and ingenuity, we feel assured that, after a full consideration of the evidence adduced, there is but one verdict at which any dispassionate jury could arrive—a verdict of Not Proven.



MAY 5, 1866.


Shakspeare's Sonnets and his Private Friends.
By Gerald Massey (Longmans, Green, and Co.)

St. Jerome was probably a better man as well as a better Latin scholar than most of his contemporaries, yet even he is reported to have lost his temper over the pages of Persius, and to have thrown the work of the satirist  whose difficulties were not to be surmounted into the fire with the petulant remark, "Burn, then, since you will not be understood."  Steevens was very likely prompted by a similar feeling when he scoffed at Shakspeare's sonnets.  Nevertheless, there can be little doubt but that if Shakspeare's fame rested only upon his sonnets his memory would not be held in veneration as it is.  When Lord Verisopht admitted that Shakspeare was "a clayver man," his Lordship's mind (if he had one) reverted, one would say, rather to the dramas than to the sonnets of the poet.  And so nine tenths of ordinary readers know little or nothing of Shakspeare's poems and sonnets.  Even of those who consider themselves intimately acquainted with Shakspeare's works five sixths are familiar only with the plays.  Even Charles Lamb and Mr. Dyce have given no satisfactory explanation of the sonnets.  The sonnets have been pronounced to be autobiographical, to be objectlessly fanciful, to be darkly symbolical.  Mr. Massey, for excellent reasons, declares each of the three theories to be unsatisfactory and unsupportable.  He himself has proposed a fourth, and has maintained it with so much learning, argument, and ingenuity, that he has made, not only a formidable volume, so far as size is concerned, but also a case upon which they alone who have  devoted many years of their lives to the study of Shakspeare, his sonnets, his friends, and his times are competent to deliver a decisive opinion.  To us, Mr. Massey appears to have established his theory far more completely than most theories which rest to a considerable extent upon conjecture, probability and the internal evidence of writings can be established.  His position is, that hitherto the sonnets have never been interpreted—that is, they have been misinterpreted—and commentators have been grievously mislead by the inscription on the edition published in 1609.  The words of the inscription, "To the onlie begetter of these isuing sonnets Mr. W. H.," have led men astray.  Mr. W. H. is William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke; he is the "onlie begetter" simply in the sense of the "only obtainer;" he got the sonnets and gave them to Thomas Thorpe to publish.  Mr. Massey gives credit to Mr. Dyce for having offered in general terms the best clue to the meaning and method of the sonnets.  "The wisest readers," he says (p. 445) "have been content to rest with Mr. Dyce in his declaration that, after repeated perusals, he was convinced that the greater number of them was composed in an assumed character, on different subjects, and at different times, for the amusement, and probably at the suggestion of, the author's intimate associates.  And, having cracked the nut, as I think, we find this to be the very kernel of it; only my theory unmasks the characters assumed, unfolds the nature of the various subjects, traces the different times at which they were composed, and identifies those intimate associates of Shakspeare who supplied both suggestion and subjects for his sonnets."  Mr. Massey, therefore, divides the sonnets into two series, the Southampton and the Herbert, the former written to and for and at the suggestion of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton; the latter similarly inspired, and in some instances actually indited, by William Herbert, afterwards Earl of Pembroke.  Hence arises a subdivision into personal sonnets, when Shakspeare addresses the Earl of Southampton, his lady-love, Elizabeth Vernon, her dangerous cousin, Lady Rich, and William Herbert, who has conceived a passion for Lady Rich, are supposed to pour forth utterances in their own persons.  That Mr. Massey has been daring and even sometimes arbitrary, will undoubtedly be asserted; but that he pleads his cause with great ingenuity, and that he has brought immense research to bear upon his labours, is undeniably.  His theory, moreover, has the advantage of vindicating Shakspeare's moral character, although many of the arguments he adduces to prove the absurdity of proving Shakspeare guilty of certain wickednesses are not altogether convincing.  How indignant was David against the man who had no pity upon the possessor of the one-eyed ewe-lamb! and how reconcilable is it with experience that the banker who is robbing the widow and the fatherless should make a point of reading prayers to his clerks!  Concede, by all means, that Shakspeare was no lecher; but not otherwise (p. 210) "he would be a base lecher cloaking himself in demur morality."  However, let the volume itself be read—it certainly deserves very close attention; and if it do not convince the reader, it will raise in him a feeling of admiration for the author's self-confidence and triumphant self-assurance.  The author's theory of course necessitates some rearrangement; but he makes little or no difficulty of it.  The work also rendered necessary certain biographical sketches, which will be found highly interesting, and, though it did not render necessary, it gave an opportunity for, certain emendation, explanations, &c., which will affect different minds in different ways.  There are persons, for instance, who would go cheerfully to the stake rather then admit the solution (p. 471) given of the old Nurse's puzzle about Romeo, rosemary, and something else which does not begin with an R.  And other matters there are (including a "re-touched portrait of Shakspeare and some "scandal against Queen Elizabeth") in the volume which must now be left to Shakspearean "experts" and an "enlightened public."






SEPTEMBER 1, 1866, TO DECEMBER 15, 1866.

GERALD MASSEY, who came before the world a few years ago as a poet, and made a far deeper and more favorable impression than Alfred Tennyson did with his first book, and even with his second, has, it is said, become a confirmed “spiritualist,” and even a meejum.  He has published no poetry for a long time; but he has recently published an enormous octavo volume of 600 pages, in which he pretends to have solved the hitherto sealed mystery of Shakespeare’s sonnets.  He declares, and even perhaps believes, that every notion in this ponderous and wearisome volume was directly revealed to him by the spirit of Shakespeare!  All those who have read it, including the Shakespearian scholars, seem to think that it must have had some such origin; for it leaves the question just where Shakespeare left it when he was upon the earth.  Gerald Massey devoted his pen to the joys of wedded love. He wrote with charming freshness and genuine feeling—with real, although not high, inspiration.  His origin was very humble, and his success seems to have turned his head.  ‘Tis a sad pity.  We could have better spared a better man.




DECEMBER, 1869, TO MAY, 1870.

Editor's Literary Record.

GERALD MASSEY'S new poem, A Tale of Eternity (Fields, Osgood, and Co.), possesses a certain weird, ghostly, and even ghastly power.  Some of its sentences epitomize a world of philosophy in a few words. But there are few readers who will care to follow Mr. Massey any further than to the edge of the spirit laud; and we think the most morbid devourers of ghost-stories will tire of the excursion before it is finished.  The shorter pieces are much pleasanter reading, and some of the sacred lyrics are fine. But they are not buoyant enough to carry the load which the opening poem imposes upon them.


A Tale of Eternity and other Poems.  By Gerald Massey.  Strahan and Co.

It is greatly to be regretted that the publishers of so remarkable a volume should have issued Mr. Gerald Massey's new poem in this particular form, and at this particular time—as a quarto volume, that is to say, and as a work, making its appearance simultaneously with the "Holy Grail," by the Poet Laureate.  And it is regrettable, for this reason, that we very much fear lest many may be repelled by the unusual size of the book, while many others may overlook the fact of its publication at all, because of having their attention, in regard to new poetry, pre-occupied by the all-absorbing popularity of Mr. Tennyson.  Everything considered, we may state at once, and without any hesitation, that we regard this "Tale of Eternity," by Gerald Massey, as the most remarkable of all his productions.  It is for him what "Aurora Leigh" was for Mrs. Browning—the poet's undoubted masterpiece.  For weird power, at once in thought and in language, it is beyond what we had regarded as within the range of Mr. Massey's capacity.  Not that we thought lightly of his capabilities, but that their scope is here shown to be at once higher, deeper, and broader than we had conjectured.  It should be premised that, here and there, throughout the poem, there is a touch of the grotesque, and that at intervals the tone of the work verges even towards the blasphemous.  But, as might be said of the blasphemies placed in the mouth of Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost, or in those of Byron's Cain, or in those of Goethe's Mephistopheles—it is completely and absolutely in character.  For the chief among the interlocutors in the Poem under notice is the lost and demoniac soul of one who has been a murderer.  In the delineation of this "Most Miserable"—in the mere preparation for that delineation—in the whole of these terrible and soul-enthralling utterances, Gerald Massey has here evidenced a wealth of vocabulary and a force of imagination far beyond the reach of any mere versifier—in fact, only by possibility at the command of a true poet.  Better than any words of praise that we might accord to him will be the visible justification of what we have here said by means of illustrative quotation.  At the very outset of the "Tale of Eternity," the dreamer, who is relating it, to us, at the dead of the night, starts out of his sleep affrighted—

"At times a noise an tho' a dungeon door
 Had grated, with set teeth, against the floor:
 A ring of iron on the stones; a sound
 As if of granite into powder ground;
 A pickaxe and a spade at work! sad sighs
 As of a wave that sobs and faints and dies.
 And then a shudder of the house; a scrawl
 As tho' a knife scored letters in the wall.
 About the room a gush and gurgle wont,
 As if the water-pipe got sudden vent:
 Drop after drop, I heard it plop, and ping,
 Into some vessel, with metallic ring.
 Yet, on these very nights there was no rain
 And then, betwixt the ear's suspense and strain,
 A faint voice crying, in the air or brain."

Afterwards, he continues—

"What does the darkness mutter?  Is it Death
 That makes the light burn bluer with his breath?
 Was that a creaking of the stair? a Rat
 Nibbling the wainscot? did a flittering Bat
 Flap at the window?  Floors will crack for sure,
 But may not unseen feet be on the floor?
 Spirits stand rapping at Life's outer gate,
 And, it we dare not open, will they wait?
 Was that the Death-Watch ticking in the wall?
 One's hair—alive—begins to coldly crawl.
 Is there some Whispering Gallery of the ear,
 In which the other world we overhear?
 The very Mirror is a doorway, thro'
 Whose dark another face may look at you!
 It haunts you, gliding as the Moonbeams glide,
 Like waters wan that counsel suicide."

Then it is, there comes the dreadful apparition—

"There lived another Form within the room,
 Suddenly, strange and horrible, as rise
 The Torturers that stare in dying eyes;
 Or, as the Serpent—ere a leaf be stirred—
 Looks thro' the dark on some bewildered bird:
 A face in which the life has burned away
 To cinders of the soul and ashes gray:
 The forehead furrowed with a sombre frown
 That seemed the image, in shadow, of Death's crown;
 His look a map of misery that told
 How all the under-world in blackness rolled.
 A human face in hideous eclipse;
 No lustre in the hair, no life on lips;
 The faintest gleam of corpse-light, lurid, wan,
 Showed me the lying likeness of a Man!
 The old soiled lining of some mortal dress:
 A Spirit sorely stained with earthiness."

On the revelation by the lost spirit of the deed for which it in suffering—the dreamer, who is relating it all to us, cries out through the horror of the midnight darkness—

"Then came the liquid gurgle and the ring
 Metallic, with the heavy plop and ping,
 Heavier than largest water-drops that fall
 From melting icicles on house-eaves tall.
 I knew them now; this resurrection night
 Sounds were translated into things of sight.
 These were the innocent drops a father shed.
 They had the weight of blood, full heavy as lead.
 And now again I felt the grinding sound
 O' the grating door; the digging underground
 The shudders of the house; the sighs and moans;
 The ring of iron dropped upon the stones;
 The cloudy presence groping near; the quake
 Of walls that vibrate with the parting shake;
 Then the relief.  As they who stoop with dread,
 While the Simoom goes withering overhead
 Like iron red-hot, look up and breathe at last,
 So felt I when that thing of Night had passed."

The same weird, grisly, eerie, eldritch horror runs through the whole current of the narrative.  One is conscious throughout that it is a lost spirit who is addressing us, the grim and abhorred ghost of a cruel and most despicable murderer.  Towards the close of the poem the argument rises into a somewhat clearer, certainly into a less lurid atmosphere—but one to the last clouded, and misted over with the hazy influence of what is called spiritualism.  To orthodoxy in his belief, the poet can certainly enter no claim whatever.  Revelation, he interprets, according to his own, no doubt, conscientious judgment.  With his theology, however, we have nothing whatever to do here in the columns of a newspaper.  Our commendations are solely directed to the results of his labours, not as a theologian, but purely and simply as a man of letters—as a contributor to our modern poetical literature.  Regarded exclusively in that light, this latest fruit of those labours cannot but be pronounced in many ways very remarkable.  A poem has often, before now, been spoken of as a gem.  Were we so to designate this new poem of Gerald Massey's we could not add in regard to it, however, that it is "one entire and perfect Chrysolite."  For, to our mind, it has many a noticeable flaw.  Blemishes of thought and of expression there are that we would gladly see eliminated in some revised edition of the work in a more popular form.  "I must believe in ghosts," says the poet, one while,

                                     "lying awake
With them o' nights, when flesh will pimple and quake."

Surely a phrase intensely and essentially unpoetical. Again, at another moment, the Murderous Apparition exclaims—

"Lo!  I am he, the gloomy sneak, who did
 The deed of darkness, fancying all was hid."

The author in his own person ejaculates elsewhere—

"I think Heaven will not shut for evermore
 Without a knocker left upon the door."

Yearning at least for melody of rhyme, what possibly can be said in defence of one who couples—

"On the great ocean of Almighty Power
 No scope, to take the life-stream from our shore?"

When, at the very close of the second instalment of the poem, the despairing spectra of the murderer cries out in an agony—

"Would that the Mighty One would spit on me,
 And wipe the blot from His eternity!"—

the utterance comes less as an outrage to good taste than as an outrage against Omnipotence.  The work is full of power, however, and is in many parts the effusion of a true poet.  Among the miscellaneous contents, which are wonderfully various, there an hymns and lyrics, there are songs "and other brevities"—there are the outpourings of patriotism as in "England," or of loyalty, as in "A Royal Wedding Chime"—there is homage for "Albert the Good"—there is appreciative admiration for William Makepeace Thackeray.  In the last mentioned we cannot but think that the evidences of affection are rather overdone—as where the eulogist of W. M. Thackeray exclaims—

"We listened to his voice, as some true Wife,
     Upon her Husband's breast may lean her head,
     While many things in her dispraise are said
 By Him; but, she leans closer, life to life,

 For, while the covert words sound on above,
     Their other, deeper meaning she divines;
     She hears the heart; knows its masonic signs
 And nestles in a bosom large with love."

Or, again, where at the close he is apostrophised—

"Soft, O beloved! be your early Rest," &c.

Thackeray would have been the first to resent this over-tenderness.  So indubitably would he, that we could not for the life of us help recalling to mind as we read this panegyric, so effusive in its terms of endearment, the incident of the Jack Tar, who, either upon his arrival or his departure, while going the round of a family circle with a kiss to each of the children—on being threatened with a similar salutation from an adult brother-in-law, bawled out, "Vast heaving, you lubber!'—following up the exclamation with the grip of a manly hand.  Here and there, we are at fault as to the actual meaning of Gerald Massey in the strange words drawn into the vortex of his vocabulary, as where—in the sorrowful little poem called "The White Child"—he exclaims,

"O mothers of children three!
 Two of them blight of blee."

What blee may be (beyond a rhyme), being an insoluble mystery to ourselves—possibly, it occurs to us, a provincialism*.  Tenderly beautiful, however, are all his verses about children.  Fondling a child in the loving arms of his nurse, he is at these moments always seen at his very best—his whole nature being opened to the recognition of the truth in regard to children, that—

"Trailing clouds of glory do they come
 From God, who is their home!"

Seldom has a young poet of the large promise of Gerald Massey more fully justified, than he himself has done in the present instance, the reputation won by him at a bound when he first adopted literature as his profession.  In this "Tale of Eternity" it in no extravagance to any that—

"The Poet's eye, in a fine phrenzy rolling,
 Glances from Heaven to Earth, from Earth to Heaven."

In his religious creed he may find but few sympathisers, but in the recognition of his unquestionable genius as a poet, none but the purblind cynics of criticism will do otherwise than yield him the full and cordial admiration to which he is, according to our view, most certainly entitled.

* Ed.  In Webster's Dictionary— 'Complexion; colour; hue; likeness; form'.


No. 2215, APR. 9, 1870

A Tale of Eternity; and other Poems.

By Gerald Massey. (Strahan.)

To a casual or indolent reader, 'A Tale of Eternity' will not, we imagine, prove attractive; and it may be avowed that at first we were ourselves puzzled by it.  The plot is of the slightest texture; its theme is remote from ordinary human interests; the whole story occasionally drags; and more than once we fancied ourselves on the border-land of the grotesque.  But the author's previous achievements are a warning against hasty judgment and more attentive consideration produced on us a favourable impression of the poem.  Its merits undoubtedly compensate its defects.  It is higher in aim, broader in scope and contains passages of more sustained power than any former production by the same pen.  In 'A Tale of Eternity,' Mr. Massey has travelled beyond the regions of sense, and had sojourn in the nether world.  The theories of Swedenborg, Böhmen and others of the illuminati have apparently been utilized by him, and he shows an extensive acquaintance with the results of modern science.  Mr. Massey has in this, his latest work, evidently striven with earnestness to embody the unseen—to recover ground from the invisible.  Phantoms and dark secrets are revealed to us, and sounds hitherto unheard have been translated into things of sight.  Opinions, will vary as to the value of the poem; but there will be no disagreement about the value of the poetry.  We have neither time to comment on the philosophy which underlies the poem, nor space adequately to represent its theories by quotation.  We must content ourselves with giving a descriptive passage:—

It was about mid-spring, when suddenly
The rear of beaten winter turned in ire,
And there was battle fierce of Frost and Fire.
The birds stopped singing; all the golden flame
O' the Sun went out; the cattle homeward came.
With a forerunning shiver rusht the breeze,
And, in the Woods, the husht and listening trees,
That had been standing deathly-dark and still,
Wind-whitened sprang, with every leaf athrill.
I watched the anguisht clouds go hurrying by,
Rackt with the rending spirit of prophecy:
Like Pythonesses in the pangs, they tost
And writhed in shadowy semblance of the Lost:
They met, they darted death, they reared, they roared
And down the torrent of the tempest poured!
Thro' heaven's windows the blue lightnings gleamed,
And like a fractured pane the sky was seamed:
Hailstones made winter on the whitened ground,
And for two hours the thunder warrayed round.
And then I heard the Thrush begin again,
With his more liquid warble after rain.

Although from the prominence given to it and the evident care bestowed upon it, composition, ' A Tale of Eternity ' is, obviously, to be regarded as the most important production in the volume, the succeeding poems will, for the majority of Mr. Massey's readers, have deeper and more abiding interest.  The first of these—an in memoriam tribute, in blank verse, to the late Earl Brownlow— is picturesque, charged with tender feeling, and full of passionate thought. ' Carmina Nuptialia ,' pitched in a different key, is a series of poems, moulded in various measures, in which is narrated

The story of all stories, sweet and old;
Sweetest to lovers the last time 'tis told.

Among these we must particularize 'A Wayside Whisper' and ' The Serenade'; and we cannot refrain from quoting the following love epigram, entitled ' Arguing in a Circle':—

When first my true Love crown'd me with her smile,
Methought that heaven encircled me the while!
When first my true Love to mine arms was given,
Ah, then methought that I encircled Heaven.

This is followed by ' An Orphan Family's Christmas'—an old story pathetically told—and by 'A Poet's Love-Letter,' in which we find the following description of a woodland scene, where sun and shadow meet:—

The sylvan world's old royalties around,
With all their summer beauty newly crown'd:
Broad beeches, that have caught alive the swirl
O' the wind-wave, shaped it in their branches' curl;
Proud oaks, from head to foot all feudal yet;
And whispering pines, that have in worship met,—
Their delicate Gothic sharp against the shine
Of sunset heaven's honeyed hyaline—
As dark and still and plumed as is the Hearse
Of day's departed glory are those Firs
When Venus, glowing in the Lift above,
Laughs down on lovers with the eye of Love,
Luminous in her loveliness, as though
The Goddess' self were coming from the glow.

We are pleased to find, from the same poem, that Mr. Massey has abandoned his early declamatory style, and acquired a sweeter and deeper tone in his treatment of social and political subjects.

' A Poet's Love-Letter' completes the first part of the volume.  The remainder is composed of hymns and other lyrics, and occasional poems, all characterized by that hearty and happy manner which has secured for Mr. Massey his wide and well-earned popularity.

Vol. 3, 1881.

A Preface to, with Extracts from, a Book of the Beginnings.
By GERALD MASSEY.  London: Williams and Norgate.

WE have here specimens of a work which, if the author's contentions can be maintained, is likely to effect a grave modification in anthropology, not to speak of philology, mythology, and other studies more remote from our ordinary subjects.  Hence we venture to say that it deserves a calm and serious examination at the hands of competent judges.  To make of such a book a mere peg upon which to hang jests far from "sage-born" is a mistake much to be regretted.

    Mr. Massey holds that Inner Africa—some region to the South of Egypt—is the cradle of civilisation and of language, and not Chaldæ, India, China, or the highlands of Central Asia.  He considers that the Sanskrit and Prakrit languages are comparatively moderns.  The "Aryan hypothesis," or, as one of his correspondents terms it, the "Indo-Germanic nuisance," he sets aside.  He treats sun-worship, and consequently the solar myth, as posterior to moon-worship and star-worship.  He goes farther back than the "roots from which Prof. Max Müller and his school seek to derive language.  Now we make no claims to authority as a philology, but when weighing in the balance, and finding wanting, Prof. Müller's alleged distinction between man and the lower animals, we felt compelled to say that it would be necessary to go much farther back than he has done.  The most intimate knowledge of the composition, flow, and quantity of the water of the Thames and its tributaries does not enable us to dogmatise on the vapours from which such waters have been condensed, or on the currents which have wafted them hither.  When Prof. Max Müller, in his reply to Prof. Huxley's laudation of the new Birmingham College, sought—on the "nothing like leather" principle—to argue that things could not be rightly studied without a previous training in words, we, who hold that there is nothing in words beyond what their generally ignorant framers put into them, could only sigh at the illusion.  We felt convinced that words would yet be thrust down to their true level as the mere "counters of wise men."  It seems to us that Mr. Massey is operating in this direction.  He writes—"Such supposed roots as Pâ, Tâ, and Mâ, in Sanscrit are not roots at all, i.e., not primary, but reduced forms of earlier words found with their ideographic determinatives in the hieroglyphics, and with the roots vanishes the rootage."  "The thing we most need to know at present is not what was the 'inward mental phase' that corresponded to the so-called 'roots' as the germs of human speech, but what are the outward and visible types by which the early men represented their thoughts to the best of their ability."  "The types in which the earlier thinkers thinged their thoughts are recoverable."  Thing and think!  The connection is suggestive.

    Concerning the validity of Mr. Massey's speculations we can form no decisive opinion from the mere fragments of his work before us.  The criticism which we should suggest would first and foremost involve an inquiry how far the origin of mankind and of civilisation in Africa agree with known facts and laws, geological and biological.  We may provisionally declare that equatorial Africa is a very likely place for the origin of mankind, and here, accordingly, geological research should be pressed forward.

    We salute Mr. Massey as a fellow Evolutionist, though knowing nothing of him save what we glean from these pages, and we trust his views will meet with that impartial scrutiny which, we are sure, is all he demands.

Vol. V. July 1883, pp. 414-418

The Natural Genesis.  By GERALD MASSEY. Vol. I.

WE have here the first volume of a bulky work, the importance will which is fully proportionate to its extent.  Our readers will perceive that we give no publisher's name.  Our excuse must be that none is given in the copy which has been forwarded to us.  We can merely give the address of the printers : R. Clay, Sons, and Taylor, Bread Street Hill, Queen Victoria Street, E.C.

    But what is the subject of the book?  Mr. Massey is an independent thinker, a heretic.  After prolonged and laborious enquiry he rejects certain modern theories as to the origin of civilisation and the formation of language.  He is no believer in the "Aryan hypothesis."  He contends that the transition from the bestial to the lowest human condition took place not in Central Asia or Northern India, but in the interior of Africa, and that the stream of culture flowed along the Valley of the Nile.  He shows that language is derived not from abstract roots, but from signs and symbolic actions far antecedent.  He does away with the notions of a civilisation springing up suddenly or miraculously communicated to man, and of a language rich and complete in its very origin.  For the first time, perhaps, we have inquires into primitive philology, mythology, and the early history of our species untainted by the preconceived notion of an absolute and qualitative distinction between man and the lower animals.  The author's results are in strict accord with those which modern naturalists have reached by totally different processes.  We do not hesitate to say that if the substance of this work could be presented in a condensed form, freed as much as possible from "scaffolding," it would form a valuable—almost necessary—companion to Darwin's "Descent of Man," the one work complementing and supporting the other.

    We must, however, remark that much remains to be done before Mr. Massey's labours can be presented in such a form.  At present there is neither title-page, index, table of contents, preface, nor introductory chapter.  Only the leisurely and conscientious reader, or the candid reviewer, will succeed in fairly grasping Mr. Massey's current of thought; this the rather because the conclusions reached will be, to many, grievously unwelcome.

    We find here successively discussed the natural genesis of the Kamite typology, the typology of primitive customs, the typology of the two truths, the typology of numbers, the typology of primordial onomatopœia and aboriginal African sounds, the typology of the mythical serpent or dragon, the typology of the mythical mount, the tree, the cross, and the four corners, and the typology of the mythical great mother, the two sisters, the twins, the triads, trinity, and tetrad.

    As a specimen of the author's method of conducting this great inquiry we make certain extracts from the chapter on the typology of onomatopœia.  Mr. Massey writes:—"The Aryanists have laboured to set the great pyramid of language on its apex in Asia instead of on its base in Africa, where we have now to seek for the veriest beginnings.  My appeal is made to anthropologists, ethnologists, and evolutionists, not to mere philologists limited to the Aryan area, who, as non-evolutionists, have laid fast hold at the wrong end of things.

    "The Inner African languages prove that words had earlier forms than those which have become the 'roots' of the Aryanists.  Max Müller has said that in the Sanskrit word Asu, which denotes the vital breath, the original meaning of the root 'As' has been preserved."  He writes:—"As, in order to give rise to such a noun as asu, must have meant to breathe; then to live; then to exist; and it must have passed through all these stages before it could have been used as the abstract auxiliary verb which we find not only in Sanskrit, but in all the Aryan languages.  Unless this one derivative, Asu, life, had been preserved in Sanskrit, it would have been impossible to guess the original material meaning of the root As, to be."  Mr. Massey replies "The African languages show that asu, to breathe, is not a primary of speech; no vowel is primary in the earliest formation of words.  In Egyptian ses is to breathe, and in Africa beyond: zuzu has the same meaning in the Nupe, Esitako, Gugu Basa tongues; zuezui in the Param, yisie in the Kupa, and zo in the Ebe."

    He continues—"it has been asked how did Da (Sanskrit) come to mean giving?  Professor Noire holds that primitive man said accidentally Da.  And here we have a 'root' of language!  But da is only a worn-down form of word found in Sanskrit.  It is the Egyptian , to give and take, and also a gift.  The full word is Tat, and it belongs to the stage of mere duplicated words and gesture-signs.  It is written as the hand, which is the Tat ideograph; English daddle for the fist, ntata for the hand in the Meto and Matatan, and tata in the Igu tongue.  Long before the abstract idea of giving was conveyed by da or , the tat was presented in gesture-language with the offering, or in the act of offering. . . . Language certainly did not originate with the 'roots' of the Aryanists, which are the worn-down forms of earlier words.  It did not begin with 'abstract roots,' nor with dictionary words at all, but with things, objects, gesture-signs, and involuntary sounds."  We may here remark that the very term "root" conveys an analogy fatal to its advocates.  The plant does not originate with the root, but with the seed, and puts out the root subsequently.

    Elsewhere, as a further explanation of his meaning, the author says:—"That which we can talk, say, and write was first enacted, and the most primitive customs were the sole records of such acting by men who performed those things that could not otherwise have been memorised.  These customs had their origin in gesture-language; they constitute the drama of dumb humanity, and volumes might be filled in showing the (to us) unnatural-looking results of an origin that was quite natural."

    The following passage refers to a recent blunder into which philologists tumbled blindly:—"Comparative philology, working with words in their later phase, divorced from things is responsible for the false inference that until recent times, later than those of the Veda, the Avesta, the Hebrew, and Homeric writings, men were deficient in the perception of colour; that there was, in fact, a condition of Miopœia answering to their insanity of Mythopœia.  Geiger has even affirmed that the language-maker must have been blue-blind.  Max Muller has affirmed that the blue heaven does not appear in the Vedas, the Avesta, or the Old Testament.  It is true that language did not commence by naming those mere appearances of things in which the comparative mythologists take such inordinate delight.  Many early languages have no word for blue as a colour, and yet blue as a thing may be found in them."  Thus the Egyptian name for blue is khesbet, i.e., lazulite.  It may in one sense be considered a digression, but we cannot help pointing out the utterly fallacious character of the inference that because a certain race of men had no distinct, definite word for a colour, they were therefore incapable of distinguishing such colour.  We find that insects recognise and remember colours.  Are we to suppose that they have, therefore, a nomenclature for colours?  We highly specialised men of civilised Europe and America can distinguish and carry in our memory hundreds of odours, pleasant or offensive.  Yet our names for them are few indeed, and so vague and indefinite, that we once heard a man speak of a "heavy sweet smell, like dung."  He was not joking.  It is much the same with flavours.  Here, also, Mr. Massey very justly says—"Power of perceiving qualities and distinguishing things does not depend on the possession of words to express shades of difference.  Sweet could be distinguished from bitter when the one was only expressed by the mouth watering and a smack of gustativeness; the other by spitting, with the accompaniment of an interjection of repugnance. . . .  The early men thought in things and images where we think in words, or think we think."  Leibnitz said that the writing of the Chinese might seem to have been invented by a deaf person, its formation being so near to that of gesture-signs addressed to the eye.  The oldest Chinese characters, two hundred in number, are called Siang-Hing,—that is images or ideographic representations.  Elsewhere the author remarks—"Verbs would be first enacted before they were uttered in what we could recognise as speech.  A pair of feet Going is the sign of the verb to Go, and Going pourtrayed in several forms preceded any abstract verb for to Go."

    Turning reluctantly from the section on the typology of language, which must ultimately give comparative philology a new departure and a more rational character, we briefly glance at the author's labours in other, though kindred, directions.  In his exposition of the genesis of the Kamite typology, Mr. Massey says that the unwritten, esoteric teaching of the Gnosis, the Kabalah, the inner mysteries, was concealed, not on account of its profundity, but because of its primitiveness.  "It is not the ancient legends that lie; the creators of these did not deal falsely with us.  The falsehood is solely the result of ignorantly mistaking mythology for revelation and historical truth.  They did not teach geology in the ancient mysteries.  The Christian world assumed that they did, and therefore it was found in opposition to scientific geology."

    The following passage is very significant:—"The religious ritual of the moderns is crowded like a kitchen-midden with the refuse relics of customs that were once natural, and are now clung to as if they were supernatural in their efficacy, because their origin is unknown.  Such customs are like those rudimentary organs of animals which Nature has suppressed and superseded, and which only tell of uses long since passed away."

    Commenting on the custom of salutation by rubbing noses together, as common among not a few savage tribes, Mr. Massey reminds us that it "goes back to the animal mode of salutation by smelling."  In this direction he has done good service in connecting the language and customs of animals with those of man.

    Reluctantly breaking off our survey of this remarkable book, we can merely hope that what we have said may at least excite the curiosity of the reader, and lead him to inquire for himself.  We would, indeed, bespeak for Mr. Massey's work the earnest attention of Evolutionists.  To us it seems that he is turning the only position of importance still held by our opponents, and that his movement, if properly followed up, will be decisive.


Fifth Series No, 2043, — Boston
August 18, 1883

An extract from....

 Half A Century Of Literary Life

The stirring times of the French Revolution of 1848, and of the Crimean War a few years later, gave impulse to much lyrical work, and several young poets burst into song.  Amongst these are especially notable Sydney Dobell, Alexander Smith — both since dead, both full of the highest promise; the latter early giving up devotion to the Muse in consequence of the bitterly hostile and unfair criticism to which he was subjected by some jealous brother of the pen — and Gerald Massey, who still lives and writes, though unhappily he gives his old admirers no more of those sweet love-poems which won him fame thirty years ago, and one, or more, of which is to be found in nearly every standard selection from our best poetry.


No. 2931, December 29, 1883.

MR. MASSEY'S new work, The Natural Genesis, 2 vols. (Williams & Norgate), is described by its author as the "second part of 'A Book of the Beginnings,' containing an attempt to recover and reconstitute the lost origines of the myths and mysteries, types and symbols, religion and language, with Egypt for the mouthpiece and Africa as the birthplace."  What we said about the first part of the 'Book' must be repeated about its continuation.  The work is one that implies enormous labour.  Mr. Massey has contrived to amass an immense amount of materials, and the collection must always have a value for the anthropologist.  It is true that the materials are not always sifted with the necessary care, and that good and bad authorities are mixed together without distinction.  But the mere accumulation of them is not without its uses.  When, however, we come to the object for which the accumulation has been made and the method employed in interpreting them, we must beg leave to question the value of the result, even at the risk of being ranked among those reviewers who are not "prepared by their previous education to understand the book."  We certainly do not understand how a method can be called scientific which consists in comparing words, of some of which the history is unknown, while sufficient is known about others by students of the languages to which they belong to teach us that their present forms and meanings are alike different from those they had only a few centuries ago.  Mr. Massey seems to imagine that language has stood still since the time when, according to his ideas, it was first invented in Africa.  To compare words used in the nineteenth century with words found in another part of the globe a few millenniums ago is like comparing a horse or a man with a reptile or an ascidian without taking notice of the intermediate forms.  Such a comparison would, no doubt, lead to some startling conclusions, but it is not likely to make converts to the doctrine of evolution.

The Brooklyn Eagle
10 February, 1884.


    Innumerable and diverse as are the opinions and readings of Shakespeare's dramas, they are far exceeded in the same kind by Shakespeare's sonnets.  Unable, naturally and properly, to frame any notion of the man from his plays, we hasten with a month's mind to his sonnets in hope to get at the wonder of his personality.  We think we have attained it at the first reading; but repeated readings involve us in doubt, often compelling the admission that the more we learn the less we know.  The mistake of most of us is that we accept the outward form as representative, as veritable even, and we are led, therefore, into errors that baffle correction.  The sonnets, understood personally, as they usually are, contradict the little we know of the poet's life, and increase instead of diminishing the mystery of the individual.  Understood dramatically in their entirety, or symbolically as some commentators claim they should be, does not help the matter.  It should seem that they would be interpreted—so Gerald Massey insists—both personally and dramatically; and whatever may be thought of his view, elaborately set forth in "The Secret Drama of Shakspeare's Sonnets Unfolded, with the Characters Identified," its great ingenuity, its verisimilitude, can hardly be gainsaid.  If a single opinion of a simple lover of Shakespeare be worth anything, I may frankly say that the sonnets were to me always more or less enigmatic in respect to the author's identity with them, until I read Massey's book.  This is very rare, since the edition was limited to 100 copies, for subscribers alone (there are, I think, but three or four copies in the Republic).  Consequently I have supposed that a synopsis might be interesting to the many who could not gain access to the work itself.  I have forborne, in the main, to express any judgement of my own, preferring to convey Massey's ideas, without his language, as clearly and compactly as limited space will allow.

    So many literary folk have taken turns at the sonnets, especially in the last fifty or sixty years, illuminating them with darkness rather than light, explaining them opaquely by far fetched theories, that Massey's generally direct, lucid method appears exceptional.  The ordinary tendency has been, is still, to look upon the sonnets as autobiographic, which, were they so, would show the mastermind of the world in such a light that we might wish they had never been written.

    There is abundant internal evidence that the bulk of the sonnets were the poet's early work; and they certainly have the characteristics of his youthful composition.  The greater portion were not addressed to William Herbert, as has been declared, but to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, Shakspeare's intimate friend, his generous patron.  Sonnet XXVI. thus opens:

"Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
 Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit,
 To thee I send this written embassage,
 To witness duty, not to show my wit"—

proving that this was before the singer had appeared in print.  He is too modest to address his patron in a public declaration.  He is willing to wait.

    The Earl belonged to the flower of England's chivalry.  Though a gallant soldier, he was denied the scope he needed, by the ill-will of Elizabeth, whom he more than offended by his impetuosity and independence of spirit.  At first he was a prime favourite of the Queen, thereby exciting the jealousy of the Earl of Essex, who, like most courtiers of the time, affected to be fond of Elizabeth in order to flatter her egregious vanity, and so win her weak side.

Junius Henri Browne.

[Ed. — See Massey's later (1888) edition, 'The Secret Drama of Shakspeare's Sonnets'.

June 18, 1886.


    The coming Election, the most important of modern times, has evoked a lyrical cry from GERALD MASSEY; and the Poet of the People utters the voice of the People.

    He asks very significantly respecting the Union:—

Shall the tie that is binding us be but a tether—
    Nought but a fetter uniting our lands?
All the world waits for your answer, whether
    We govern by hand-cuffs or clasping of hands."

    And, again, the question is put most pointedly, with the reply for refrain:—

"Peace! do you say? or, war to the knife?
 Sentence of death? or, freedom for life?
 Is the bloody Vendetta to whiten away
 As Dawn dispurples into day?
    Vote for the Liberation Laws,
    The Grand Old Man, and the Great New Cause!

The self-styled "Unionists" are thus addressed:—

"You talk of Union?    Why, each word
 Is felt as bludgeon-sounds are heard,
 When brute wife-beaters once more try
 With blows to weld their wedding-tie!"

"You prophecy the coming wave
 Will be our dear old England's grave,
 Because you lack the strength of limb
 And length of breath enough to swim!
 You fear for self!—no fear for her!—
 And fear's a craven counsellor.
 You may go under; she will ride
 The deluge that drowns you—our high-tide."

And in the lines following, we reach the true heart of the whole matter:—

"Henceforth we must have government,
 Not by Coercion, but Consent.
 Right shall be done at last to all,
 Even though the ancient heavens fall,
 On which our Childhood hung its trust.
 New heavens will rise from their old dust
 To loftier height, with larger span
 And ampler space for grown-up man."

The essence of a host of leading articles is expressed in a few lines of verse like that, with a power unapproachable in prose.

    In the picture of the "Primrose Dame," there are some strokes of grim humour:—

"She only asks to be mounted astride
 The British Lion,—thinks she can guide
    And the rampant animal tame,
 If he will only give her his trust;
 If he will only go down in the dust
    To carry the Primrose Dame."

The following lines are too terribly true: there's nothing grimmer in Hood:—

"She sheddeth her fragrance around you in showers;
 It was wrung from the lives of our human flowers,
     Without thought of shame or blame;
 And the rose of health, that was ruthlessly torn
 From the children's cheeks, is wantonly worn
     In the robes of the Primrose Dame."

Enthusiastic supporters of Home Rule and Mr. Gladstone, whose Radicalism ripens with age, will be glad to make use of these Lyrics for the coming Election, and to preserve them afterwards. The titles are:—       

"The Grand Old Man."
"The Self-styled Unionists."
"The Grand Old Man and the Great New Cause."
"The Vision."
"The Primrose Dame."

Sold by JAMES BURNS, Publisher, 15, Southampton Row, London. Price twopence per copy.


A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art and Politics

Volume LXV - Issue 391- No. CCCXCI, Boston, May 1890

An extract from.....

The Easter Hare, by Katharine Hillard

.......the hare-myth has come over to America not only in the shape of the confectioners’ Easter hares, but also in the very curious superstition among the Negroes as to the efficacy as a talisman of the left hind-foot of a graveyard rabbit killed in the dark of the moon.  In an article by Mr. Gerald Massey (1 Lucifer, vol. I. p. 6. London. See also his Natural Genesis) — to whom I gratefully acknowledge my obligations — on the subject of such a talisman, said to have been presented by an old negro to President Cleveland during his electioneering tour of 1888, Mr. Massey very plainly shows that the two myths have the same origin.  The rabbit, identical with the hare in symbolism, is here equivalent to the Lord of Light and Conqueror of Darkness, in, or as, the new moon. In the hieroglyphics, the khepsh, leg or hind-quarter, is the ideographic also of Typhon, or personified evil; the left side intensifying the idea.  Therefore the left hind-foot of the graveyard rabbit stood for the last quarter or end of the moon, a symbol of the conquered Typhon, or Principle of Evil, to be worn in triumph, like a fox’s brush, as a token of resurrection, or renewal, or general good fortune.  The killing in the dark of the moon is simply a duplication of the victory over evil and death, a sort of symbological tautology, as it were.  As a type of renewal, it was especially suitable as a gift to a President seeking re-election, but in this case, as in the proverbial “dry time,” all signs appeared to fail.  It is a singular coincidence, and shows the universality of ancient symbols, that in England the luckiest of all lucky horseshoes, says Mr. Massey, is the shoe from the left hind-foot of a mare.

An extract from.......






After William Morris the northern strain that we have been listening for in the English poets seems feeble and not worth noting.  Nevertheless, it must be remarked that in the harp of a thousand strings that wakes to music under the bard's hands, there is a sweep which thrills to the ancient traditions of the Northland. Now and then the poet reaches for these strings, and gladdens us with some reminiscence of....

    old, unhappy, far-off things
And battles long ago.

As had already been intimated, the table of contents in a present-day volume of poetry is very apt to show an Old Norse title.  Thus Robert Lord Lytton's Poems Historical and Characteristic (London, 1877) reveals among the poems on European, Oriental, classic and mediaeval subjects, "The Death of Earl Hacon," a strong piece inspired by an incident in Heimskringla.  In Robert Buchanan's multifarious versifying occurs this title: "Balder the Beautiful, A Song of Divine Death," but only the title is Old Norse; nothing in the poem suggests that origin except a notion or two of the end of all things.  "Hakon" is the title of a short virile piece more nearly of the Norse spirit.  Sidney Dobell's drama Balder has only the title to suggest the Icelandic, but Gerald Massey has the true ring in a number of lyrics, with themes drawn from the records of Norway's relations with England.  In "The Norseman" there is a trumpet strain that recalls the best of the border-ballads; there is also a truthfulness of portraiture that argues a poet's, intuition in Gerald Massey, if not an acquaintance with the sagas:

The Norseman's King must stand up tall,
If he would be head over all;
Mainmast of Battle! when the plain
Is miry-red with bloody rain!
And grip his weapon for the fight,
Until his knuckles grin tooth-white,
The banner-staff he bears is best
If double handful for the rest:
    When "follow me" cries the Norseman.

He knows the gentler side of Old Norse character, too, a side which, as we have seen, was not suspected till Carlyle came:

He hides at heart of his rough life,
A world of sweetness for the Wife;
From his rude breast a Babe may press
Soft milk of human tenderness,—
Make his eyes water, his heart dance,
And sunrise in his countenance:
In merriest mood his ale he quaffs
By firelight, and with jolly heart laughs
    The blithe, great-hearted Norseman.

The poem "Old King Hake," is as strikingly true in characterization as the preceding. In half a dozen strophes Massey has told a whole saga, and has found time, too, to describe "an iron hero of Norse mould."  How miserable a personage is the Italian that flits through Browning's pages when contrasted with this hero:

When angry, out the blood would start
    With old King Hake;
Not sneak in dark caves of the heart,
    Where curls the snake,
And secret Murder's hiss is heard
    Ere the deed be done:
He wove no web of wile and word;
    He bore with none.
When sharp within its sheath asleep
    Lay his good sword,
He held it royal work to keep
    His kingly word.
A man of valour, bloody and wild,
    In Viking need;
And yet of firelight feeling mild
    As honey-mead.

Another poem, "The Banner-Bearer of King Olaf," pictures the strong fighter in a death he rejoiced to die.  It is a good poem of the class that nerves men to die for the flag, and it has the Old Norse spirit.  These poems are all from Massey's volume My Lyrical Life (London, 1889).

A glance at the other poems in Gerald Massey's volumes shows that like Morris, and like Kingsley, and like Carlyle, the poet was a workman eager to do for the workman.  Is it not suggestive that these men found themselves drawn to Old Norse character and life?  The Icelandic republic cherished character as the highest quality of citizenship, and put few or no social obstacles in the way of its achievement.  The literature inspired by that life reveals a fellowship among the members of that republic that is the envy of social reformers of the present day.  Morris makes one of the personages in The Story of the Glittering Plain (Chap. I) say these words:  "And as for Lord, I knew not this word, for here dwell we the Sons of the Raven in good fellowship, with our wives that we have wedded, and our mothers who have borne us, and our sisters who serve us."  Almost may this description serve for Iceland in its golden age, and so it is no wonder that the socialist, the priest, and the philosopher of our own disjointed times go back to the sagas for ideals to serve their countrymen.

We have no other poets to mention by name in connection with this Old Norse influence, although doubtless a search through the countless volumes that the presses drop into a cold and uncaring world would reveal other poems with Scandinavian themes.  We close this section of our investigation with the remark already made, that, in the tables of titles in volumes of contemporary verse, acknowledgment to Old Norse poetry and prose are not the rarity they once were, and in poems of any kind allusions to the same sources are very common.