It is curious that English critics, while jealously disputing Lowell's claim to rank in the highest class of poets, yet often concede to him the precise merit which does not belong to himthat of uniform and accurate execution. It may be said, on the contrary, both of his prose and verse, that his immense fertility of mind constantly led him into confused rhetoric and mixed metaphors; one bright thought or image treading on the heels of another, and either displacing or entangling it. Take, for instance, this verse from the “Ode to Happiness” :--
Wing-footed! thou abid'st with himHere Happiness is first invoked as “wingfooted” ; then her “path” is watched; then she has “high-heaped canvas” ; then she has a “face” ; then she leaves “footsteps” at every
Who asks it not; but he who hath
Watched o'er the waves thy waning path,
Shall nevermore behold returning
Thy high-heaped canvas shoreward yearning!
Thou first reveal'st to us thy face
Turned o'er the shoulder's parting grace,
A moment glimpsed, then seen no more,--
Thou whose swift footsteps we can trace
Away from every mortal door!