It is said by Ben Jonson, in his lines on Shakespeare, that
“A good poet’s made as well as born;”
and the remark is just, since due cultivation must be superadded to poetic talent before its due expansion can be obtained. Parnassus ceases to be fertile ground when labour is spared. Our modern writers of verse seem, however, to entertain a different opinion. Confiding in their genius and facility of composition, they fondly supposed that whatever they produce must be good poetry; and by being too easily pleased with themselves, they often fail to please others. Mrs. Opie’s mind is certainly imbued with the spirit of poetry, and her writings have acquired deserved reputation: but, if her muse found more difficulty in satisfying herself, she would more effectually augment her fame. Though this lady can plead the example of Old Ballads, in justification of stanzas in which, out of four lines, two only rhime to each other, such negligence is not to be tolerated in the modern poet ‘The Warrior’s Return,’ and the piece which immediately follows it, intitled ‘Julia, or the Convent of Ste. Claire,’ have the defect of not rhiming in the first and third lines of the stanzas.
On another point, also, we would mildy remonstrate with Mrs. Opie. Her legendary passion and stage-effect pathos, (if we may be allowed this expression,) appear to seduce her from the walk of true nature, and from that style of poetry which is adapted to the habits and feelings of men and women of the present day. The Warrior’s Return, here hymned, is a return from the Holy Land in the time of the Crusades, and the story is as improbable as any of those which legendary lore furnishes by dozens: but we do not so much object to its improbability as to the waste of feeling and sentiment on so remote a fiction, when a tale more appropriate to the circumstances of modern war might easily have been invented. The incidents, which Mrs. Opie’s muse delights in recording, are of the affecting kind, in which the pathos is produced by a single stroke. We exemplify (because it is short) with the
‘BALLAD, founded on fact,’
[quotes “Round youthful Henry’s restless bed”]
In the perusal of this little volume, we meet with charm rhiming to calm; with an evening walk flying; with the very prosaic expression ‘thee I beheld and fled from;’ and with the following lame couplet,
“Twas night … but still a mimic day
Shone softly forth from milky way.’
Conceiving that Mrs. Opie is capable of producing poetry of the superior kind, we are solicitous to stimulate her to vigorous exertion.