English Men of Letters: Crabbe eBook

Alfred Ainger
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 219 pages of information about English Men of Letters.
adding to the circle of his admirers daily.  By the side of this fascinating prose, and still more fascinating metrical versatility, Crabbe’s resolute and plodding couplets might often seem tame and wearisome.  Indeed, at this juncture, the rhymed heroic couplet, as a vehicle for the poetry of imagination, was tottering to its fall, though it lingered for many years as the orthodox form for university prize poems, and for occasional didactic or satirical effusions.  Crabbe, very wisely, remained faithful to the metre.  For his purpose, and with his subjects and special gifts, none probably would have served him better.  For narrative largely blended with the analytical and the epigrammatic method neither the stanza nor blank-verse (had he ever mastered it) would have sufficed.  But in Crabbe’s last published volumes it was not only the metre that was to seem flat and monotonous in the presence of new proofs of the boundless capabilities of verse.  The reader would not make much progress in these volumes without discovering that the depressing incidents of life, its disasters and distresses, were still Crabbe’s prevailing theme.  John Murray in the same season published Rogers’s Human Life and Crabbe’s Tales of the Hall.  The publisher sent Crabbe a copy of the former, and he acknowledged it in a few lines as follows: 

“I am anxious that Mr. Rogers should have all the success he can desire.  I am more indebted to him than I could bear to think of, if I had not the highest esteem.  It will give me great satisfaction to find him cordially admired.  His is a favourable picture, and such he loves so do I, but men’s vices and follies come into my mind, and spoil my drawing.”

Assuredly no more striking antithesis to Crabbe’s habitual impressions of human life can be found than in the touching and often beautiful couplets of Rogers, a poet as neglected today as Crabbe.  Rogers’s picture of wedded happiness finds no parallel, I think, anywhere in the pages of his brother-poet:—­

                 “Across the threshold led,
  And every tear kissed off as soon as shed,
  His house she enters, there to be a light
  Shining within, when all without is night;
  A guardian angel o’er his life presiding,
  Doubling his pleasures, and his cares dividing! 
  How oft her eyes read his; her gentle mind
  To all his wishes, all his thoughts, inclined;
  Still subject—­ever on the watch to borrow
  Mirth of his mirth, and sorrow of his sorrow. 
  The soul of music slumbers in the shell,
  Till waked to rapture by the master’s spell;
  And feeling hearts—­touch them but rightly—­pour
  A thousand melodies unheard before.”

It may be urged that Rogers exceeds in one direction as unjustifiably as Crabbe in the opposite.  But there is room in poetry for both points of view, though the absolute—­the Shakespearian—­grasp of Human Life may be truer and more eternally convincing than either.

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English Men of Letters: Crabbe from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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