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be the right one. His poetry, to use his own language in the preface of one of his books, is very far from bearing “the marks of the file and burnisher.” It is, as he further says he likes to see poetry, “ in the full ebullition of feeling and fancy, foaming up with the spirit of life, and glowing with the rainbows of a glad inspiration.” This characteristic of poetry, it may be observed, however, is attended with its disadvantages, as well as its felicities. The neglect of “ the file and burnisher,” cannot be excused on the plea which the poet has set forth: for poetry ought, if possible, to be a perfect thing in letter and expression, as well as in spirit, for the sake of the memory, and the feelings also.
A considerable proportion of Dr Percival's poetry deals in the description of the visible world and the beauties of nature, or in the impressions which these objects make on his own mind: but this is done in no commonplace manner.
His delineations are in general, very happy and original, and his colors are fresh and glowing. We meet occasionally in our author with bursts of strong and genuine passion; and sometimes the softer and gentler tones of sentiment breathe in his numbers; there is also often an attempt to affect the heart by the splendor of diction merely. We could point out many overwrought representations of humarr feelings and conductdelineations much beyond life and nature, and bordering on the fictitious and extravagant. We believe nevertheless that these aberrations of taste are mostly to be attributed to the ardor of youth.
With a few readers, it is doubtless an excellence of some of Dr Percival's poetry, that it details and embodies so fully his own feelings and character: and yet these are so peculiar, and partake so largely of idiosyncrasy, that with a greater number of readers, this feature of his poetry will not be deemed an excellence. Many minds probably cannot entirely sympathise with him, in this portion of his productions. We refer to those numerous pieces, the sentiments of which are those of solitude and soliloquy—of lofty musing, and impassioned sensibility. So far, our author's compositions
are designed for a particular class, and for a chosen few, and not for that great world which requires the multiplication of books for its entertainment or instruction. But the whole of his effusions are not embraced in these remarks, since there are among them, those, which, touching the more common, yet refined, feelings of the human heart, have made their way through the bosoms of his countrymen, and are destined to descend to posterity.
The volume of Dr Percival's selected poetry consists of some 80 or 100 poems of various lengths and descriptions, from the philosophical and discursive Prometheus, to the lightest sonnets and erotics. Besides these he has since published many poems in the United States Literary Gazette, and other periodicals, which have been duly noticed in the public prints, and are highly esteemed by his countrymen; and also a poem of some length delivered by him before the Phi Beta Kappa society of Yale College at New Haven. This last has been elaborately reviewed in the North American Review. We cannot better close this notice than by subjoining some very just remarks extracted from that article. It exbibits freely and forcibly the faults of the poet, but none can better bear such an exhibition than a man of true genius.
“ We think that there is an excessive diffuseness in the style of Mr Percival. It is not sufficiently compact. It wants pith and joint ; it lacks the energy, which conciseness imparts. Everything is drawn out as far as possible, always flowing and sweet, and therefore sometimes languid and monotonous. His poetry is too much diluted. It consists too much in words, which are music to the ear, but too often send a feeble echo of the sense to the mind. There is also a superabundance of images in proportion to the thoughts; they skip about the magical scene in such numbers, that they stand in the way of one another and of the main design. He is too careless in selection; whatever occurs to him he puts down and lets it remain. He is not master of
• That last, the greatest art,--the art to blot.'
Writing, as he evidently does, from the fulness of an excited mind, upon the impulse of the moment; his thoughts crowd one another, and cannot always fall at once into their places and in the happiest expression. There will be confusion sometimes in their ranks, and want of due proportion. This can only be remedied by the free use of the pruning knifecutting down sentences, changing epithets, rejecting superfluities, expelling parentheses, and various other mechanical operations, to which a less gifted but more patient author would resort. By the neglect of this, he does the greatest injustice to his own powers. Everything wears an extemporaneous and unfinished appearance. Strength and weakness are most strangely combined, and passages of surpassing elegance and magnificence crowded in amongst slovenly and incomplete. Hence it is rare to meet with a paragraph of any length equally sustained throughout. Flaws show themselves in the most brilliant, and the reader is compelled to stop with a criticism in the midst of his admiration. Instead of giving us, like other poets, the finished work, he gives us the first rough draft; as if Phidias should have ceased laboring on his statues as soon as the marble assumed a human semblance. It is the last touches, which create perfection. It is in them that immortality lies. It is they that remove the last corruptible particles, and leave the mass indestructible. Without them, Virgil, Pope, and Milton, would have gone down to forgetfulness, and Demosthenes and Bossuet have been remembered only by tradition. But Dr Percival, through impatience of labor or some false notions, declines the necessary toil, and takes his chance of immortality in company with imperfection.
For this reason, his powers are displayed to greater advantage in particular passages and short pieces, than in any extended composition. At a single heat he may strike out a fine conception, and give it the happiest shape. But when his thoughts and pen run on through successive parts of a subject, he easily loses himself in a wilderness of words, beauti
ful and musical, bút conveying indistinct impressions, or rather conveying impressions instead of ideas; reminding us of poetry read while we are falling asleep, sweet and soothing, but presenting very shadowy images. Yet no man has more felicity in expression, or more thoroughly delights and fascinates in his peculiar passages. He has a superior delicacy and richness of imagery, together with an extraordinary affluence of language, of which he can well afford to be, as he is, lavish. It is probably a consciousness of this opulence, which betrays him so often into verbiage. He throws away images and words with a profusion which astonishes more economical men, and which would impoverish almost any one else. He may possibly afford it, yet a discreet frugality of expenditure would be far more wise ; as a simple, chastened elegance is far preferable to a wasteful display, which exhibits its whole wardrobe and furniture without selection or arrangement.
She sat beside her lover, and her hand
Fix'd in the glassy water, and with care