Lucile Reviewed in the Leader and Saturday Analyst (London)
Second Series, #527; (April 28, 1860), page 404.
Owen Meredith’s New Poem*
There is in the new poem by the so-named Owen Meredith, a dash, a daring, and an occasional felicity, both of thought and diction, which will undoubtedly go far to make it the chief poetical production of the season. Once get over the startling novelty of the measure, and we meet with much that is really attractive. Here we are startled with a grace or an elegance – there we are waylaid with a bold figure, simile or metaphor – in another place, a sage reflection, or a piece of worldly wisdom, an apt description or a real philosophical formula; and everywhere a life of soul and heart and mind, which certifies that a living seer is pouring his genuine prophecies through those wild and vagrant and too often careless verses, and reaching in ourselves the sacred sources of thought and feeling.
The metre, however, will be objected to. It consists of a lilt of anapestic and other feet, which will scarcely be regarded as grave enough by those who have accepted the usual heroic couplet as the most suitable vehicle for an epic argument. We can recollect, however, when the charming measure of “Christabel” was objected to on similar grounds, notwithstanding the melody that was inseparable from all Coleridgean verse. Mr. Meredith has certainly tuned his lines to his ear, and frequently given a grandeur to their swing. The variety which he has sought and found is infinite, and sometimes beautiful. He has but one fault – that he has evidently written it with too much ease, and has indulged in the facility of rhyming, and not thought of it worth his while to bestow critical revision on the false, imperfect, or too frequent. Wherever we have “world,” we are sure to have “furled” or “hurled,” though it would be hard to say what the “furling” or the “hurling” should have to do with the subject matter. Undoubtedly, the pen should have been put through such couplets. Old Spenser, in the infancy of rhyming, might take such licence; but our language has since multiplied its resources, and the indolence is unpardonable which neglects to avail itself of them.
This conception of the character of the chief person in the drama, whose good and evil sensibly influences all that is good and evil in the destinies of his associates, is a powerful one, and in its embodiment is colossal. That of the heroine is also more than an ordinary ideal, and stands out in most effective relief. They are both exponents of strength, intellectual or emotional, and have stamped the impress of their might on the burning page. Neither of them would have been proper to the ancient epic, they are too subtle, too individual; but they are precisely the characters for a modern novel, for a novel in verse, like the present. Cannot we find in this a sufficient justification why the author has rejected the usual heroic couplet, and preferred a lighter measure? It would have been unwise to have set his composition to the organ – he has chosen instead the piano for his instrument, and arranged his score accordingly. His work will suit many, and we think prove extensively popular.
*Lucile. By Owen Meredith. Chapman and Hall.
Last revised: 18 August 2020