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Damon and Cupid. (John Gay)
To my Grandmother. (Frederick Locker)
HERE has hitherto, I think, been some
confusion as to the exact meaning and limitation to be given to “ Society
verse.” That dubious term has been assigned indiscriminately to everything in the way of verse that is not either broadly humorous or highly imaginative in character. It has been obvious to everybody that between such poems as Shelley's
Skylark” on the one hand, and Wolcot's “Odes” on the other, there is a great gulf fixed; and to all verse which occupies the tremendous interval the description of vers de société has been applied. It seems to me that the definition is by far too rough and ready, and by no means sufficiently accurate. There is surely a very manifest difference between such poems as Praed's “Our Ball” and Locker's 66 Hurlingham” on the one side, and Brough's “ Neighbour Nelly” and Peacock's “ Rich and Poor” on the other. Yet all four pieces are popularly included under the one description of “Society verse;" the word "Society," I suppose, being used to indicate the freedom of such pieces alike from the coarseness of unmitigated fun and the elevation of undiluted fancy.
Much would be gained, I believe, if we revised