Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

20.

Unsigned review, ‘Clough’s Poems’, the Rambler

July 1849, iv, 201-5

Mr. Clough’s poems, which it is our intention principally to notice… belong to that description of poetry which to ourselves is more interesting than any other. It is an everyday observation, that in all persons, more or less, but more especially in all persons of lively and keen sensibilities, there is an inward life, in which they far more truly live, than in the external and visible one. The customs of society, the necessities of every-day duties, the hopelessness of meeting with sympathy, these and other causes conspire in giving a certain external sameness to all educated men. The devout religionist, the man of the world, and the debauchee, may unite for political or other purposes, or may meet together, if they so please, and sustain conversation on no very unequal terms. Nay, even in his domestic circle, where the Englishman especially loves to unbend, his deepest thoughts, those which are most of all the centre round which his whole life turns, are often still secrets; he cannot disclose them even if he would. But if he have the divine gift and publish poetry, —poetry, we mean, of that particular kind which is here in question, —then we begin to see his real self, stripped of disguises and conventionalities; then we learn what are those cherished and deeply enshrined objects, on which his heart and his imagination rest and are supported.

It is impossible that poetry of this nature shall be written at all, without thus unveiling the innermost thoughts. Many a man, indeed, will write a cut and dry imitation of this style, and unveil nothing except the profound unreality and sophistication of his own mind; but it requires no very deep or discerning criticism to discover such pitiful imposture, and estimate it at its proper value. We are speaking of genuine poetry, belonging to (what may be called) the autobiographical kind: and we say that it is of especial interest, because it discloses in a way peculiar to itself the inward belief and principles of a man; it shews us what he really feels as his summum bonum; it makes clear what is that standard whereby he measures himself and the world

-93-

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