"Such pronouncements proved at least that a poet, who bad no friend save such as bis published poems gained for him, could count on an immediate recognition for high merits. For these tributes, and many more of like welcoming, placed him instantly out of range of the common casualties of criticism"—From the " Note on Francis Thompson " (p. xii). As the writer of the "Note?* has not attempted a critical estimate of the poetry», some of these Appreciations, forming a part of the poets life-history and even of the literary history of bis time, are here reproduced.
MR FRANCIS THOMPSON is a writer whom it is impossible that any qualified judge should deny to be a "new poet." And while most poets of his quality have usually to wait a quarter of a century or more for adequate recognition, this poet is pretty sure of a wide and immediate acknowledgement.... We find that in these poems profound thought, far-fetched splendour of imagery, and nimble-wit ted discernment of those analogies which are the roots of the poet's language, abound . . . qualities which ought to place him in the permanent ranks of fame, with Cowley and with Crashaw.... The Hound of Heaven has so great and passionate and such a metre-creating motive, that we are carried over all obstructions of the rhythmical current, and are compelled to pronounce it, at the end, one of the very few " great" odes of which the language can boast. In a lesser degree this metre-making passion prevails in the seven remarkable pieces called Love in Dian's Lap, poems of which Laura might have been proud, and Lucreti a not ashamed to have had addressed to her. The main region of Mr Thompson's poetry is the inexhaustible and hitherto almost unworked mine of Catholic philosophy. Not but that he knows better than to make his religion the direct subject of any of his poems, unless it presents itself to him as a human passion, and the most human of passions, as it does in the splendid ode just noticed, in which God's long pursuit and final conquest of the resisting soul is described in a torrent of as humanly impressive verse as was ever inspired by a natural affection. Mr Thompson places himself, by these poems, in the front rank of the pioneers of the movement which, if it be not checked, as in the history of the world it has once or twice been checked before, by premature formulation and by popular and profane perversion, must end in creating a " new heaven and a new earth."—Coventry Patmobx, in Tbe Fort" nightly Review.
IT it not only the religious ecstasy of Crash aw that they recall; for all the daringly fantastic imagery, all the love-lyrical hyperbole, all that strange mixture and artifice, of spontaneous passion and studied conceit, which were so characteristic of the age of Ceashaw, are with the same astonishing fidelity reproduced. Where, unless, perhaps, in here and there a sonnet of Rossrrn's, has this sort of sublimated enthusiasm for the bodily and spiritual beauty of womanhood found such expression as in Love in Dian't Lap between the age of the Stuarts and our own? To realize the full extent to which the religious, or semi-religious, emotions—now ecstatic, now awe-stricken—dominate and colour the entire fabric of these strange poems, they must be read throughout. In the lines To the Dead Cardinal of Westminster we see them at their subtlest; and in the very powerful piece, Tbe Hound of Heaven—a poem setting forth the pursuit of the human soul by divine grace—they are at their most intense.. •. That minority who can recognize the essentials under the accidents of poetry, and who feel that it is to poetic Form alone, and not to forms, that eternity belongs, will agree that, alike in wealth and dignity of imagination, in depth and subtlety of thought, and in magic and mastery of language, a neW poet of the first rank is to be welcomed in the author of this volume.—H. D. Traill, in Tbe Nineteenth Century,
THE first thing to be done, and by far the most important, is to recognize that we are here face to face with a poet of the first order, a man of imagination all compact, a seer and singer of rare genius. He revels indeed in " orgaic imageries," and revelry implies excess. But when excess is an excess of strength, the debauch a debauch of beauty, who can condemn or even regret it? Would we had a few more poets who could exceed in such imagery as this 1 It is no minor Caroline singer he recalls, but the Jacobean Shakespeare.—Tbe Daily Chronicle.
A VOLUME of poetry has not appeared in Queen Victoria's reign more authentic in greatness of utterance than this. In the rich and virile harmonies of his line, in strange and lovely vision, in fundamental meaning, he is possibly the first of Victorian poets, and at least is he of none the inferior.... In all sobriety do we believe him of all poets to be the most celestial in vision, the most august in faculty.... In a word, a new planet has swum into the ken of the watchers of the poetic skies. These are big words;
but we have weighed them. For there is that in Mr Francis Thompson's poetry which discourages the flamboyant appreciations of the more facile impressionist, and gives him pause in hit ready-made enthusiasms. It is patent on the first page that there is genius in this inspiration, and the great note in this utterance; but page after page reveals the rich and the strange, and the richer and the stranger in so many original moods and noble measures, that the reviewer feels the necessity of caution.... In nothing does Thompson appear more authentically a poet than in the fact that his sense of beauty is part of his religion. In this he is like Shelley, except that Shelley's sense of beauty was his religion, and lived in an atmosphere of sensuousness, a sensuousness that has little of the grosser taints of earth about it indeed, but which is still sensuousness. Therefore, Shelley wrote the glorious Epipsycbidum; therefore, Mr Thompson writes Her Portrait, the longest and greatest poem in his book; and, speaking for ourselves, we shall say at once that Epipsycbidion, long unique in the language, has at last found its parallel, perhaps its peer, in Her Portrait. Of this " Her " of Mr Thompson's we must say that she is, the significance of his book. If his sense of beauty is part of his religion, his religion is that of a rapt Catholic, to whom the very heaven, with all that therein be, is open and palpable; his is the Catholicism of profound mysticism, and of the most universal temper.... It is perfectly safe to affirm that if Mr Thompson write no other line, by this volume alone he is as secure of remembrance as any poet of the century. His vocabulary is very great.. • • Mr Thompson's first volume is no mere promise—it is itself among the great achievements of English poetry; it has reached the peak of Parnassus at a bound.