6 July 1878/7-9
According to his biographers, Theodore Watts (later Watts-Dunton), wrote the unsigned reviews of Swinburne’s books in the Athenaeum from 1877 to 1899. In what he says of the poet’s use of alliteration and his ‘intellectual strength’ the reviewer is aiming at current critical prepossessions.
This long expected volume will not disappoint the admirers of Mr. Swinburne’s poetry. At least, it will not disappoint those who had the insight to perceive what a vast advance upon Poems and Ballads was the Songs before Sunrise. In this volume, as in that, there is the same passion for anapaestic and dactyllic rhythms, and the same mastery over them; there is the same lofty aspiration and belief in the high destiny of man, and there is the same equal balance of those forces which we call ‘intellectual’ against those forces which we ascribe to genius. For, never was there a greater mistake than the common one of supposing that, because Mr. Swinburne is not a concise writer, therefore his intellect lags behind his genius. ‘Hertha’, the ‘Hymn of Man’, and the more daring portions of Atalanta showed, to any truly critical mind, that intellectually Mr. Swinburne is second to almost none of his contemporaries.
It seems necessary, however, to digress a little in order to explain clearly what we mean; for the subject has hitherto been left untouched by the critics, though of some importance in poetic criticism.
It is obvious that English anapaestic and dactyllic verse must be