Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ANYBODY'S CRITIC, by FREDERICK GODDARD TUCKERMAN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

ANYBODY'S CRITIC, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Keen, brilliant, shallow, with a ready phrase
Last Line: Spoke easily, with depreciating praise.
Subject(s): Criticism & Critics

Keen, brilliant, shallow, with a ready phrase
To fit occasion, and a happy knack
Of adaptation where he most did lack,
And witty too, and wise in several ways;
As knowing where to choose, and where to skip:
"Passwords of inspiration" on his lip,
He takes the wall, and now may well surprise
Those who remember him five lustrums back,
A ferret-headed boy with purry eyes.
Behold the Scholar now, the Judge profound!
Yet, feeling with his foot precarious ground,
He stands to fly, or with a borrowed jest
To blink the question when too closely pressed:
Reproof in praise, and friendship in his frown,
Have we not seen him, talking calmly down
On some proud spirit; letting light illapse
On him, poor votary of the book and pen?
Every way his superior, perhaps
A mighty poet before common men
Ashamed: but view our critic, mark his eye
Exhaustive, nose would snuff the violet dry
Of odour, and a brow to whelm the world.
In his right hand a written leaf is twirled.
Before, a landscape spreads, and there you see,
Skirting the sky, low scrub and topping tree.
Beside him stands a youth with bended eyes,
Waiting the word until the Master rise,
With blushing brow, less confident than cowed:
Perhaps his poem in his hand he brought;
Or a late letter from some lord of thought,
Like a rich gem, half-grudgingly he shows;
Of which a young man might full well be proud;
So cordial, sweet, and friendly to the close,
With not one vacant word of cant or chaff.
"Yes, yes," the Master says, "an autograph!
And surely to be prized, for such things sell:
And, for your poem, 'tis a clever thing."
Then turning the poor pages carelessly,
As taking in the whole with half an eye,
He said, "The worth of such 'tis hard to tell:
If Art inspire us, 'tis in vain we sing,
If love of Nature merely, 'tis not well,
And personal themes have little good or harm;
For in these bustling days, when critics swarm,
No man can stand aside without rebuke
To prate of bubbling brooks and uplands grassy;
Like the Pied Piper in the Burgelostrasse,
'Twill set the rats a-running." Then with a look,
A look that took the beauty from the grass
And dulled the blue, he let the subject pass
For other themes; glancing at, Heaven knows what,
The farm, the camp, the forum, Pitt and Burke;
And in his confidential, friendly phrase
Touched that, he knew the other valued not
Or plainly lacked, and of his life's best work
Spoke easily, with depreciating praise.

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