We have the satisfaction to inform our friends that The Tinderbox by Philo Fillagree Junior Esqr., a part of which we announced at our last meeting, has been since completed. It is called a probationary ode, and affects the sectionary titles of the Greek ode, but the author has wilfully (as it should seem) neglected to conform to the established rules of that ancient mode of poetical composition. We are told by critics and commentators that the Greek ode was divided into three portions or stanzas, called the strophe, the antistrophe, and the epode. The strophe it is said, was sung while one half of the chorus or company of singers danced to the music from right to left, and the antistrophe was sung while the other half of the chorus danced from left to right. The strophe and antistrophe were consequently written in the same measure, and set to the same air. The epode, which was written in a different measure and set to different music, was sung by the two parties together standing in the middle of the stage. This is the substance of what we have collected from different writers on the subject of the ancient Greek ode, but in what manner the evolutions of the dance were performed from right to left, or from left to right, we have not been able clearly to comprehend. Disregarding these laws deduced from the practice of the ancients, the author of the Tinder Box commences with a few lines which we must call the prelude. He then leaps to the epode, returns to the strophe and antistrophe then to what he calls the conclusion and finish with the ode. This Pindaric proceeding we attribute to the humour, not the want of information of the author and only notice this whimsical conduct of his subject, to fix by comparison the legitimate structure of the Greek ode, in the mind of any of our auditory, who may not previously have attended to it.
We are at a loss whether to trust this curious production to make its way to the understandings of our auditory, without argument or commentary, or endeavour to develope its meaning and display its beauties. In reading it without any previous observation we scarcely think we should duly discharge our editorial duty, yet we tremble lest we should mistake its meaning and draw upon ourselves the ridicule of pretending to teach what we do not understand.
We shall therefore content ourselves with a short argument which may be of service in removing its sublime obscurity and in the language of Bayes “insinuate the plot to the boxes.”
The Prelude is a sublimely ludicrous description of a stormy night. Tinderella calls for the powers of enchantment, and commands her handmaid Rosa to bring the Tinder Box, here denominated the fatal casket &c.
Tinderella and the servant descend to the saloon, which is described with spirit and humour, as furnished with a mixture of Greek, Egyptian, and modern forms according to the fashion of the day.
Tinderella orders Rosa to set down the flint & steel & tinderbox, that she may strike a light. But first she invokes the moon under all her various names, and requests her to bring with her, her brother Phœbus, shrouded in his sky blue mantle lest his splendor should be too great for mortal sight.
The deities appear and Tinderella owns their influence and prepares to strike a light.
Then follows a history of the tinder box still denominated the golden casket and how it came into the possession of Tinderella. The flint is a piece broken from the rock by Hercules when he released Prometheus. The steel made from the mass of iron as the mallet of Thor &c. and the Tinder from the veil of Semele collected by Ino from her ashes and given to Tinderella.
The charms being perfected after another invocation to the spirits of earth, sea, and air... Tinderella attempts to strike a light, but being in a little trepidation strikes aside which calls up a tumultuous crowd of ancient critics and modern poets and critics of inferior rank denominated a puny race.
Again she strikes, and the sparks setting fire to the tinder after a decent quantity of thunder and lightning and a masque of goblins and fairies all the great poets ancient and modern pass as a pageant before the priestess. The procession is closed by Milton, and Tinderella seizing her lyre, exults in the idea of having set the world of poetry in a blaze.
From this slight analysis, our hearers will perceive that the author is possessed of much learning and poetic imagination with a considerable portion of genuine humour. They will find in this ode a profusion of ideas, sublime, picturesque, and ludicrous, not always blended in a manner the most happy.
“Across the lyre his careless hand he flings
And boldly sinks into the sounding strings”
But sometimes his hand is too careless, and we wish that he had aimed at more tuneful modulations.
We have long verses and short verses and line that are no verses at all. Yet with all this critical severity we acknowledge ourselves much delighted with his exuberance, and think that with a little labour The Tinder Box might boldly place itself by the side of the best of the much celebrated Probationary Odes.
The Tinderbox is introduced as a probationary ode but we think we recognize in it the stile and manner of one of our oldest and most respected friends.
If the author be a candidate for admission to our Society such talents need no passport but their own exemplification.
We shall commence the reading of this evening with a communication from the Chest itself, of its origin and history, on which the reverence due to that sacred repository forbids us to make any critical remarks.
This will be followed by Christmas Gambols. The Fairy’s wish. The pleasing poem of Dulce Domum, for which we are indebted to a new correspondent.
A sonnet to a lost friend — An Anacreontic. A riddle and the bill of fare of Monsieur L’Abbé de Grenthe’s Ball humourously versified, and lastly the poem on which we have so copiously adverted, the never to be forgotten Tinder Box.
We have been favoured by the liberality of our correspondents with many other poems, which must be deferred to a future evening and among them a paraphrastical translation of the verses of Goethe which we shall abstain from reading in hopes that other correspondents will be inclined to attempt the same subject.