Poetry Reviews
Home Biographical Poetry The Battle-Day Woman's Wrongs Poetry Reviews The Cabinet Letters, &c. Marx on Chartism On Democracy Democracy Vindicated Site Search Main Index




London: R. Pavey, 47, Holywell Street.

To say that this serial is "one of the best and cheapest publications of the day" is to say only that which is common-place, and which is often affirmed by not very honest reviewers of not very valuable works.  In this instance the merits of the work justify the warmest commendation.  These "Poems and Notes" are of such true value that they could not be pronounced "dear" at any price.  But even in the ordinarily accepted meaning of the term "cheap," measuring the value of this periodical by mere paper and type, each number is an exceedingly good twopennyworth; and no purchaser will regret exchanging his money for so excellent a return.

    In No. 2 we reviewed the first number of this publication; Nos. 2, 3, and 4 are now before us.  Under the title of "Notes to the People," Ernest Jones is publishing most valuable contributions to Democratic Literature, in the shape of essay, history, romance, and that kind of writing known to all newspaper readers by the name of "Editorial article."  The talent is equal to the variety; and reading these "Notes" we cannot but conclude—we hasten to declare the conclusion—that ERNEST JONES is henceforth to be classed not only amongst the first of orators, but the first of writers now before the public.  We pay this tribute not the less readily that we dissent from some of his sentiments.

    From these "Notes" we have already extracted into our columns nearly the entire of the valuable article on "the Middle Class Franchise."  In the same number (of the publication under notice) there appeared two more important papers—the one examining the errors of the present co-operative movement and pointing out a remedy; the other describing the character, numbers, and resources of the Slavonic nations, recounting their history and commenting on their probable destiny.  Nos. 3 and 4 contain Letters on the Chartist Programme, written to elucidate the several points of that document, and answer the objections and mis-statements of the Press gang.  We hardly need add, that the cavillers and calumniators are replied to with crushing effect.  "The History of Florence," commenced in No. 3 and continued in No. 4, will be very attractive to young men in search of historical knowledge.  The romance entitled "The History of a Democratic Movement" is written with great power, and the continuation will be eagerly looked for.  For two reasons we abstain from giving extracts from these "Notes:"—1st. Any brief extract would very inadequately illustrate the merits of the article or articles quoted from; 2nd. We would have our readers purchase the work and possess themselves of the entire contents.  By so doing they will benefit themselves and do justice to their instructor and advocate.

    We turn to the Poems, and notwithstanding the words just written, we must take the liberty to enrich our columns with a few quotations:—

    "Beldagon Church," dedicated to the Chartists of Halifax; is a poem [full text] of much beauty, as witness the following picture of a Summer Sunday's morning:—

High the fields are waving;
Orchard fruit is blest—
Summer's merry saving
For Winter's happy rest.
O'er the clover lea
The blossom-loving bee,
Neglectful of her Maker
Tho' 'tis Sunday-morn,
Little Sabbath-breaker!
Winds her humming horn,
Where lilybell and rose
No door denying close—
Asking neither price nor pay,
Wooing what may pass that way,
To be their sweets' partaker.

Bell and book unheeding,
The quiet kine are feeding,
The birds are on the wing,
The pebbled runnels ring,
The rivers still are flowing,
The graceful corn is growing,
The frolic wind is blowing—
And yet, the world caressing,
Unwrinkled by a frown,
The blue sky sends a blessing
On all creation down.

*         *        *        *

Mistily, dreamily, steals a faint glimmer—
Hill-tops grow lighter, tho' stars become dimmer:

First a streak of grey;
Then a line of green;
Then a sea of roses
With golden isles between.

All along the dawnlit prairies
Stand the flowers, like tip-toe fairies
   Waiting for the early dew:
         As the morning
      Walks their airy muster thro,'
All the newborn blossoms christening
        With a sacrament of dew.
        And from them a flower with wings,
Their angel that watched thro' the night,
         The beautiful butterfly springs
                 To the light.

*         *        *        *

    The picture of Beldagon Church, its congregation, preacher, and sermon, make up a striking contrast; to wit—

Silks have rustled, fans have fluttered;
Sneers and compliments been uttered;
And many found, as find they ought,
In church the object that they sought;
Business finds a turn in trade;
Praise, its victim; wit, its butt;
New acquaintance have been made;
Old acquaintances been cut.

Shivering on the naked floor,
By the cold, denying door,
And where the drafty windows soar
The dust encumbered galleries o'er,
Stand the hundreds of the poor.
Those, at least, who still can wear
A coat that is not worn too bare.
For rags are never suffered there.

*         *        *        *

As the Bishop mounts the pulpit
    Sink the whispers, coughs, and hums;
And here and there a scattered sinner
    Rising in the House of God,

Shews he
Knows the

    Bishop, with a smile and nod.

The Prelate bows his cushioned knee;
Oh! the Prelate 's fat to see;
Fat the priests who minister,
Fat, each roaring chorister,
Prebendary, Deacon, Lector,
Chapter, Chanter, Vicar, Rector,
Curate, Chaplain, Dean and pastor,
Verger, Sexton, Clerk, Schoolmaster,
From mitre tall, to gold-laced hat,
Fat 's the place—and all are fat.

From the Bishop's sermon we can give only he following extract:

Brethren! profit by the lesson! see the hand that's
        stretching down
To shield the woolsack, counter, ledger, altar, mitre,
        sabre, crown!
Then be patient in Affliction! envy not the rich and
" A contrite and a broken heart" alone, shall enter at
        the gate.
You may think the rich are happy, but you little know
        the cost;
By the gain of earthly treasures are eternal treasures
For this life is short and fleeting, and they choose a
        poorer share;
Let them revel—let them triumph: they shall suffer
        doubly, there.
Your afflictions are your blessings; by disaster you are
Those are happiest who are saddest , if the searching test
        they bide.
Tears are gladder far than smiles; disease is healthier
        far than health;
Rags are warmer far than ermine; want is richer far
        than wealth;
Hunger feeds you more than plenty; strife is peace and
        peace is strife;
Loss is gain and gain is loss; life is death and death is

"The Painter of Florence," "dedicated to Julian Harney," is a magnificent poem [full text].  It opens with a description of a lordly mansion:—

There's a mansion old 'mid the hills of the west,
So old, that men know not by whom it was built;
But its pinnacles grey thro' the forest hoar
Have glimmered a thousand years and more;
And many a tale of sorrow and guilt
Would blanch the cheek, if its stones could speak
The secrets locked in its silent breast.
Its lords have been great in the olden day;
But the pride of their strength has been broken away:
They moulder unknown in their native land,
And their home has long past to a stranger-hand.

The last of the ancient line has perished, and his domains have passed to a scoundrel lawyer.

Now Devilson reaches his heart's desire,
And takes his place as a country squire
But since his origin all can trace,
Affects a pride in his origin base;
And since all in this land you may buy and sell,
Is determined to buy a good name as well:
He buys much, when he offers a five-pound reward
To the slave who'll starve longest and labour most hard
He buys more, when he bids a whole parish be fed
On an annual banquet at two pence the head;
His character's rising by rapid degrees,
Till he pays a young saint at a chapel of ease,—
When the bargain's completed as soon as began.
And he's stamped a respectable, popular man.
He's soon made Justice, and Sheriff in time;
And high, and still higher, determined to climb,
Looks around for an anchor to steady his life,
And from a poor peer buys a termagant wife.

Here are the portraits of this precious pair.

The Lady Malice is tall and thin;
Her skin is of a dusky tan,
With black hairs dotting her pointed chin;
She's like a long, lean, lanky man.
Her virtue's positively fierce;
Her sharp eyes every weakness pierce,
Sure some inherent vice to find
In every phase of human kind.

*         *        *        *

Devilson's thickset, short, and red;
Nine-tenths of the man are his paunch and head;
His hair is tufty, dense, and dark;
His small eyes flash with a cold gray spark,
Whose fitful glimmer will oft reveal
When a flinty thought strikes on his heart of steel.
He's sensual lips and a bold hook nose;
And he makes himself felt wherever he goes;
He's stern to the rich, and he's hard to the poor;
But he's many a little, low amour;
And their cost is small—for he culls them all
From the Workhouse-yard and the Servant's Hall.
So Devilson lives with his titled bride;
And the saintliest pity him more than chide;—
For they feel the full force of his married bliss!
Oh! the peerage are more than avenged in this;
Since, if he once rained an absentee race,
She tortures him endlessly, face to face.

The poet happens to visit this delectable couple.  After dinner, "the worthy host," overcome by his good feeding, falls to sleep, leaving his guest to his own thoughts.  The poet turns to the paintings, and after gazing long at "steel-clad knights and boddiced dames," and beautiful maidens, with "cherub lips and angel eyes," he turns—

To where a canvass lured my eye,
From the narrow room and the clouded sky,
Away and away, to Italy!
With its crested ripples sparkling
And its watery furrows darkling;
And its white sail like a swallow,
Darting over the hollow;
And its sun intensely bright;
And its sea intensely blue;
And its crowds of lazy nations,
With nothing on earth to do;
And its old cyclopean ruins,—
Dust of empires dead,—
Footprints of the giants,
In which the pigmies tread
And its white-domed cities tying;
With the faintest veil of haze,
Like a dream of boyhood visioned
By the light of other days. 
And its olive-leaf scarce trembling,
And its sky so pure and still;
Not a frown from earth to zenith,
Save one small cloud on the hill.
The olive-leaf scarce trembling—
The cloud so small and fair;
Just enough to say—the spirit
Of a storm is watching there!
Thro' the forest's leafy masses,
You might sea how the current ran,
As a thought in whispers passes,
Thro' the myriad tribes' of man;
And the cloud, like Jupiter's eagle,
Looking down on his old Rome,
Perched, waiting on his mountain,
Till the thunder-day shall come—
A Laurel in the foreground,
Lone and withering,
For ever stands expectant
Of its unreturning spring;
And a painter lies beneath it,
With his brush and palette near,
Catching Truth's white inspiration,
Like light in a prism clear,
And throwing it back in Fancy's
Rich-tinted atmosphere.

We have not space to follow the thread of the story, and can find room for only two or three more of the beautiful passages with which this poem abounds.

Round Florence the tempests are clouding;
        The mountains a deluge have hurled;
For the tyrants of nations are crowding
        To blot that fair light from the world.

Like vultures that sweep from the passes
        To come to the feast of the dead,
In black, heavy, motionless masses
        Their mighty battalions are spread.

'Tis eve: and the soldiers of Florence
        To meet them are marching amain;
The foe stand like Ocean awaiting
        The streamlet that glides o'er the plain.

Then the blood of the best and the bravest.
        Had poured like the rain on the sod,—
But the spirit of night stood between them,
        Proclaiming the truce of their God.

It touches the heart of the tyrant,—
        It gives him the time to repent;—
The morn on the mountain has risen!
        The hour of salvation is spent!

The multitudes break into motion,
        The trumpets are stirring the flood
An islet surrounded by ocean,
        The ranks of the citizens stood.

But the vanguard is Valour and Glory;
        The phalanx is Freedom and Right;
The leaders are Honour and Duty;
        Are they soldiers to fail in the fight?

Then, hail to thee! Florence the fearless!
        And, hail to thee! Florence the fair!
Ere the mist from the mountain has faded,
        What a triumph of arms shall be there!

Here is a great truth most charmingly expressed:—

Men counted him a dreamer:—dreams
Are but the light of clearer skies,
Too dazzling for our naked eyes;
And when we catch their Hashing beams,
We turn aside, and call them dreams!
Oh, trust me!—every truth that yet
In greatness rose and sorrow set,
That time to ripening glory nurst,
Was called an idle dream at first!

Having told the mournful yet glorious story of the Florentine painter, the poet concludes with the following reflections on the appropriation of the triumphs of Art by selfish and plundering oligarchs and plutocrats:—

And when Florence had fallen and bowed the knee
To the golden pride of the Medici,
Then princes and bishops and cardinals tore
From her temples and trophies their coveted store;
And hung on the wall
Of their selfish hall,
What was meant for the eyes and the hearts of all.

Thus past the picture from hand to hand,
Till it wandered away to a cloudy land,
And I found it lost in the barren-gloom
Of a country gentleman's dining room.

Then methought that the form 'neath the withered tree
From its blighted laurel appealed to me;
And that I could read in its earnest eyes
The spirit of thoughts like these arise:


The earth may take the body,
    Consuming what it gave:
But God said to the spirit—
    " Thou shalt not see the grave!"

Upon his canvass pages,
    The painter throws his heart:
Yet England's barbarous nobles
    Have buried living art.

Far scattered in dull mansions,
    With none to see and taste,
Its crystal springs lie hidden
    In Mammon's golden waste.

If Poets write for nations,
    Free as shines the sun,
The Painter and the Sculptor
    Have never wrought for one.

As well might Byron's Harold,
    In one dark folio kept, 
In one loan's sordid chamber
    Thro' endless years have slept.

The treasures on your panels,
    And down your galleries spread.
Are heartless robberies practised
    On the living and the dead.

Is it for this, that on one work
    My soul's whole energy I cast?
Thought! ardour! feeling! hope! and joy!
    And gave my life at last!

Go! stranger! rouse the sons of thought!
    Go! tell them far and near!
And take me! take me to the world!
    Or make the world come here!

Who will deny that at least as regards Private Picture Galleries, "Property is Robbery?"  The remedy will easily suggest itself to THE MEN OF THE FUTURE.

    The poems in No. 4 we cannot quote from at present: but from the splendid dedication addressed to the political prisoners and exiles of 1848 we must take the following brilliant paragraphs:—

FELLOW SUFFERERS,—Many of you cannot see these pages,—yet they will breathe your thoughts.  Many of you are buried living in the grasp of that power that makes continents its prisons, islands its convict cells, and seas its warders.  Some of you have fallen by my side—not the hot gallant fall underflashing steel, but the more slow—not less heroic—martyrdom of dungeon vaults.

    Still there are many who, surviving their social death, now walk abroad in political resurrection; and as my eye glances down the ranks of the returning, scarce one is found as a defaulter—scarce one has withdrawn exhausted from the field—scarce one has proved a recreant to the cause.

        *        *        *        *

    Thanks for persecution!  Prosecutions and imprisonments make the weather that ripens revolutions!  Thanks for persecution!—it winnows the chaff from the corn.  Thanks! thanks! that armed power has thrown aside the mask—mercy is folly, when treachery is spared—the peoples are cured of their mercy; and should revolution take a sterner garb than erst in '48, let tyranny reproach itself, and not blame us.  JUSTICE shall supersede her milder sister—nor merciful, nor cruel-neither the shedder of blood, nor the suicidal sentimentalist of clemency.

    Peoples! be just!—but forget to be merciful, until you are strong enough to practise mercy with safety to yourselves!  Ha! ha! they have taught us a lesson in their prisons!

 *        *        *        *

    And do you think that they have triumphed?  The privileged abortions of civilisation—pigmies of intellect and dwarfs in heart! clothed in power and pedestaled on gold! do they think to have insulted us with impunity?  Do they think the strong spirit and unswerving mind will yield to such as these?  Do they think by hiring some of our own body to divide us, that they will break our phalanx?  Do they think by stepping forward in the path of reform they will cause us to swerve one hair's breadth from our course?  Do they think their middle-class conspiracy to take the movement out of the people's hands, that they may drop it slily from their own, can blind bur eyes?  No! they should not have given us two years' time for reflection in their jails!  Did they think to drown the fire of our hearts in prison grief?  Do they now think the wrench of poverty will tear truth and resolution from our breasts!

    No! we too can preach barefoot—if needs be—like the apostles of old; and our sermon will not be the less welcome to our hearers.  No! the almighty and invincible truth is making way with hands and hearts—now with the soft tones of persuasion—now with the red arm of battle—she is mustering her forces on the Rhine, the Tiber, and the Danube; and by the hearts of our murdered brethren! her voice shall not be silent on the Thames!



The Spectator. 


The Battle-Day, and other Poems.  By Ernest Jones, of the Middle Temple, Barrister-at-law—Published by Routledge.

    THOSE who happen to be acquainted with the poetical productions of Ernest Jones must allow that they possess clearness and force, a genial perception of nature, a vigorous imagination, and a vivid poetical spirit.  Persons who expect that the great Chartist leader will infuse low Radical ideas in low Radical fashion into his verses will find themselves mistaken.

    He sometimes introduces the wretchedness of the poor and the oppression of the rich; but his language is not stronger than that of novelists or other poets upon the same theme; his examples of oppressors of the poor are rather drawn from the middle classes than the aristocracy:—

Since then, a sterile-thoughted man 
    Had lorded it o'er Leawood fair, 
Who as an errand-boy began,
    And ended as a millionnaire.

And his son by slow degrees,
    Mounted life with golden feet,—
For the son knew how to please,
    As the sire knew how to cheat.

    In fact his poetry suffers in raciness and originality from his general avoidance of passing politics.  Did he make living social subjects his themes, and treat them more from a political point of view, his poems would have greater homogeneity than many of them now possess.  Ernest Jones looks too much at the world through the glasses of other people.  He too frequently draws his general ideas, and sometimes his images from the common quarries of poetry, if not exactly from other poets.  These general materials are animated and varied by pictures fresh from life; they exhibit inventions in which fancy and thought are found together with delicate observations on nature and remarks on society; but we have not society reflected as a whole from the observations of the poet.  Incident, character, even conclusion, are too often taken from received ideas.  In fact they are conventional; though conventions enlivened by the genius of the writer.

    The poems in this volume are of two classes, narrative and occasional. In the occasional poems a few pieces are found bearing on social topics, as "Leawood Hall"—contrasting peasant sufferings at Christmas with the luxury of the millionnaire; "The Cornfield and the Factory"—painting a dark enough picture of the Manchester school in its own sphere of action.  The greater part of the miscellaneous pieces, however, refer to the usual topics of this class of poetry, modified in choice and treatment by the writer's nature.  From want of more peculiar themes they have often a common air, but they exhibit nice observation expressed in flowing verse.  This parallel between the course of a river and the career of a poet may not be perfect in its comparison, but it gives rise to some graphic description in musical metre

        Down the hill-side tripping brightly,
        O'er the pebbles tinkling lightly,
'Mid the meadows rippling merrily, the   mountain
            current goes;
        By the broken rocks careering,
        Through the desert persevering,
Flowing onward ever, ever singing as it flows.

        But oh! the darksome caves
        That swallow up the waves!
Oh! the shadow haunted forest and the sandy
            shallows wide!
        Oh! the hollow-reeded fen,
        Like the stagnant minds of men,
A desert for the silver foot of mountain-cradled

        And oh! the withered leaves
        From the fading forest-eaves,
Pressing on its forehead like the signet of decay;
        And the cold cloud's troubling tear
        On its crystal waters clear,
Like a haunting sorrow gliding down the future
            of its way.

    The narrative poems are three in number, though only two have a complete story.  Each exhibits the defect already pointed out,—the mixture of convention with actual life that appears in many of the poems of Mr. Jones.  "The Peer's Story" is not very distinctly ended; but it is the tale of an attachment between the governess and the secretary of a nobleman's house, persecuted if not blighted by the passion and treachery of the eldest son.  There are in the story vigorous sketches of Lady Caerleon, the cold, worldly woman of fashion, and her husband, the pompous, respectable, and equally worldly peer, in which traits of indivuality relieve common if not trite notions of the peerage; there are many passages of forceful delineation, and a sweet sketch of charming childhood in a little girl; but the general ideas and management are old; of the past rather than the present, or at all events frequent enough in hooks.  "The Battle Day, or the Lost Army," is a strange story of the feudal ages wherein doubt pursues the hero Lindsay to his bane and death.  He doubts his wife and alienates her affection.  He plunges into active life and rises to high command; but doubt still pursues him, and he loses a battle and his life through hesitation.  There is in this poem powerful writing, a remarkable picture of the evil effects of doubt, and the story is clearly enough told; but it has no purpose.  "The Cost of Glory" is really the description of a picture and the history of the painter, but it is relieved from monotony and commonplace by the mode of telling the tale.  The fortunes of the family, or at least the ruin of the heir in whose ancestral house the picture hangs, is told, though it is only an old story of a villanous steward versified.  The fraudulent possessor of the property, a millionnaire sprung from the gutter, is held up to ignominy and ridicule in his new position of landlord.  The house, with its stiff inhabitants and gloomy splendor is then described, as well as the picture, when the host falls asleep after dinner.  This picture has been painted under the inspiration of love, not merely to obtain a prize offered by the state of Florence, but the hand of Lenora, a maiden, whose father refuses her to the painter till he gives some token of the power to support her.  The unknown artist has labored amid alternate doubts and hopes to finish his picture; the day of decision has arrived, but the anxious candidate remains in his room, whither Lenora persuades her father to take he; but suspense overwhelms pleasure:—

—His fancy was busy again within
To think how much better his work might have
With a light brought there and a shade thrown
'Twas well that he had not the canvas near,
For the painters, then, were Despair and Fear.

But hark! a sound on the silence steals!
'Tis a shout—a shout in the distance peals!
It gathers—it deepens—it rolls this way!
" Lenora! haste to the casement—say!
'Tis finished!—but—who has won the day?"

Near and more near
Is the loud acclaim:
You could almost hear
The victorious name:
" They come! by the beat
Of their flooding feet!
Now!—now—they are reaching the end of the
The maiden's heart is fluttering wild,
And even the father arose from his seat
And stood by his child,
But incredulous smiled:
" There's a way to the left.  They will turn to
            the square."
"No! onward!—right onward!—they pause not
And the senators pass
Through the multitude's mass!
Scarce three doors off— they come! — they

The maiden has sunk from the window-side:
'Tis past a fear!—'tis past a doubt!
There's a stir within—there's a rush without—
They mount the stair—the door flies wide—
Oh! joy to the lover! and joy to the bride!
The eldest of the train advances
In his hand the garland glances;
Gold—precious, glittering to the sight;
Pledge of hopes that are still more bright,
For love is wreathed in its leaves of light!
They call him:—is their voice unheard?
He rose not as in duty bound;
He bowed not as they gathered round;
They placed the garland on his head—
He gave no thanks—he spoke no word—
But slowly sank like a drooping flower
Beneath the weight of too full a shower:
         The painter of Florence was dead!


[Home] [Biographical] [Poetry] [The Battle-Day] [Woman's Wrongs] [Poetry Reviews] [The Cabinet] [Letters, &c.] [Marx on Chartism] [On Democracy] [Democracy Vindicated] [Site Search] [Main Index]