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and Ballads

by W. M. Thackeray


The Ridgewood Press

Springfield Mass.


Thackeray's Poetry

HACKERAY'S poetry seems to be little known T to readers of the present generation. Not a few who have some acquaintance with his novels are unaware, or but dimly aware, of its existence. Yet it is eminently worthy to be known. It offers some of the most genial humoristic verses of the language, and it exhibits the great prose master in an unwonted and sunny aspect. His attitude in it is such as befits a satirist and anti-sentimentalist turned poet. He puts forth his verses smilingly, yet with an impulse which yields many vigorous and many delicate strains of poetry, singing the humors touched with pathos that come lightly to his lips. His poems, not unfitly classed as society verses, have a mellower charm than most rhymes of this sort: they seem to be uttered less for worldlings and people of fashion than for serious persons in their moments of relaxation, and there is wisdom and gentle admonition in their wit. They are pitched in many keys and stir many chords of feeling. Inspirations of mirth and of wistful reminiscence: quaint Titmarshian balladries; mimetic fooleries; satires; dialectic impersonations of irresistible felicity; now and then a melody softly modulated, of rare tenderness and beauty—such are the fruits of his singing vein. Their invitation is to refreshment, to smiles and ringing hilarity. They are for the lovers of good cakes and ale and the humors of life, for men and women wisely willing to unbend and be merry in a sparkling fellowship with genius. But while many of these poems are unsurpassed in their kind, a certain number no longer, to cis-Atlantic readers, make the appeal which they may once have made to English readers. Some of them are indistinctive of the writer, or, as he himself says, of “little worth,” unless for a moral; others are too local or temporary in allusion to be still vividly interesting; a few are prevented by their matter or impulse from giving unalloyed pleasure. It would be a service to many readers to detach for them a portion of Thackeray's poetry, and to present the choicest and most surely acceptable verses by themselves. The individuality and charm of his poetical gift would thus become more readily, and perhaps more widely, apparent. The little volume here introduced is an attempt to render this service.

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