The Nation (review date 11 March 1909)
SOURCE: “The Poems of Arthur Christopher Benson.” Nation 88 (11 March 1909): 256.
[In the following review, the critic praises Benson as a minor poet whose work “just misses greatness.”]
From his six books of verse, ranging in date from 1892 to 1905, Mr. Benson has selected enough for a single comfortable volume [The Poems of Arthur Christopher Benson.] He himself, we presume, would not disdain the title of minor poet, if that phrase were spoken with a friendly smile. His work is minor in the better sense that it is unpretentious, and that it is replete with conscious reminiscences. Indeed, it might almost be sufficiently characterized by calling it a mixture of Tennyson and Matthew Arnold. This derivative quality is at times annoying, especially in the lyrical poems of nature, of which there are somewhat too many in the volume. Here and there, no doubt, a line or a passage of natural description justifies itself by its first-hand vividness, as when he speaks of
… thridding the trackless hill, O'er tumbled cataracts of shapeless stones—
but for the most part he does not in this genre rise much above the level of magazine respectability. It is different in the poems of reflection. Here such echoes are an integral part of the poet's mood and an essential factor of his art.
This musing habit of one to whom all things have already been thought and felt and expressed, who sits within a magic circle of memories, too weak or too indifferent or too wise to...
(The entire section is 653 words.)