22 September 1866, 597-9
Though he was pleased that the unsigned Examiner article on Chastelard and Poems and Ballads was friendly, Swinburne did not entirely agree with its point of view. But in his own essay on Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal he had pointed out that the moral of a poem may be implicit; interestingly enough, Baudelaire mildly demurred at Swinburne’s defence of him, just as Swinburne did at the Examiner’s of himself.
The author of the unsigned article, Henry Morley, was a professor of English at University College and a biographer, critic, and editor.
Of Mr. Algernon C. Swinburne’s Atalanta we have said all that we need say, and what he has since published gives us nothing to unsay. He is a young poet with sterling qualities, and the outcry that has been made over his last published volume of Poems and Ballads is not very creditable to his critics. The withdrawal of that volume is an act of weakness of which any publisher who does not give himself up to the keeping of a milk-walk for the use of babes has reason to be heartily ashamed. We speak now of Mr. Swinburne’s play of Chastelard, and of this volume of Poems and Ballads. They belong to one another. There is precisely the same tone in both, the same—well, let us say it to the shallow pietists in plain words—the same scriptural lesson. Only Mr. Swinburne, at present, reads his lesson rather out of the Old Testament than out of the New. Old Testament poetry has fastened upon his imagination quite as strongly as the sublime fatalism of the old Greek dramatists. In his volume of Poems and Ballads we have whole pages finely paraphrased from Job, and from Ecclesiastes, and from David’s Psalms. Say that he declares himself in these two books the Poet of Lust. It is right to say that, it is right also to know what we mean by saying it. He sings of Lust as Sin, its portion Pain and its end Death. He paints