Frederick Goddard Tuckerman: Poems

Poetry

Momaday offers a general estimation of the poet and the poetry: "Tuckerman was a man who made herbariums. He had an eye for the minutest aspects of the world. When he wished to focus upon the veins of a leaf, or to find a metaphor for the appearance of an evergreen spine, he could do so with extraordinary skill. His poems are remarkable, point-blank descriptions of nature; they are filled with small, precise, and whole things: purring bees and vervain spikes, shives and amaryllis, wind flowers and stramony. But Tuckerman has more to recommend him than an eye and a nomenclature. His sensibilities are refined; his sensitivity is acute. His experience is pervaded by an always apparent sense of grief. He knows well the side of Man that is most vulnerable to pain, and he treats of it throughout his work with respect and compassion, often with great power and beauty.

But he was also a poet of the nineteenth century, and one who admired Tennyson above others. There is a good deal of bad writing in Tuckerman, and there are many obscurities...[the faults] occur for the most part in the longer poems, especially those of narrative character. Often they are marred by a tediousness of expression and an overwrought consistency of mood."[6]

Edmund Wilson comments on the issue of Tuckerman's obscurity: "...one of the queerest features of Tuckerman's work is his habit of alluding, not merely to characters from Biblical or classical antiquity so obscure that one cannot believe they are real till one finds them in a concordance or a classical dictionary, but also to personages who cannot be found because their names have been made up by the poet."[7]


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