This poem appears in a number of versions from 1847 onwards. For further details, see The Poems of Charles Harpur in Manuscript in the Mitchell Library and in Publication in the Nineteenth Century: An Analytical Finding List by Elizabeth Holt and Elizabeth Perkins (Canberra: Australian Scholarly Editions Centre, 2002).
Number seven in the sequence Poetical Studies or Rhymed Criticisms.
Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of
Alternative title:Critical Rhymes on Grey [sic]
Author's note: Previous to making the present copy of these lines, I re-read Grey [sic], with the view of finally testing their justice-and saw no reason for altering a word in them. Beyond an exquisite finish, - exquisite to fastidiousness,-and a sculpture-like art of personification, I cannot see the vaunted wonderfulness of his poetry. Nay, with all the figurative life of poetry, he seems to me to have been deficient, like Pope, of its diviner breath:- that something which we cannot describe, nor always readily apprehend; but which, if faithful to our poetical faculty, we can always miss, where it is not.
Still Grey’s [sic] productions will always be held in high scholarly esteem-and deservedly so. Their classical completeness, regarded simply as compositions, will forever secure to them a standard rank in English literature.
I speak in the text of the style of the elder English poets in comparison with that of the modern songsters of the order of Grey [sic]-and express, by implication, my preference of the former. Oh, those glorious old penmen of the Muses! Who amongst the so-called classical minors of the 'after days,' has written anything of a like kind and compass, which is at all comparable with the following epitaph by Browne, the author of Britannia's Pastorals, (though long attributed to Ben Johnson)? In every thought, in every line of it, there is all the dreamy earnestness-all the ideal abandonment of the right poetic faith; with all the simple, unforecasted, and yet sufficing harmony of real poetic passion.
Underneath this sable hearse/ Lies the subject of all verse-/ Sydney's sister, Pembroke's mother:/ Death, ere thou hast slain another/ Fair and good and learned as she,/ Time shall throw a dart at thee.// Marble piles let no man raise/ To her name for after days:/ Some good woman, born as she,/ Reading this, like Niobe/ Shall turn to marble, and become/ Both her mourner and her tomb.
That is genuinely olden. And the olden English School of Poetry is as preferable to any of our modern peculiarities, as the old English annual rose is to every other kind or varisty: robuster in form, healthier at heart, more simple and natively rosy in hue, more strongly and yet more pleasantly fragrant.
Number 5, part I in the author series Being Leaves from Charles Harpur's Wild Bee of Australia.
yThe Poetical Works of Charles HarpurCharles Harpur,
Sydney:Angus and Robertson,1984Z4595551984selected work poetry satire 'This collection represents one version of almost every poem written by Charles Harpur, with the omission of some translations and paraphrases. The verse drama, "Stalwart the Bushranger", and the fragments of the dramatic poem "King Saul" are not included. ... The collection is edited from Harpur's manuscript poems held in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, and from printed copies in colonial newspapers when no manuscript version existed.' (Preface)Sydney:Angus and Robertson,1984