Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Mr. Copeland said, stands by himself because he seldom attempted anything new, but prefers to abide by the sane, sweet-voiced tradition of English literature. Perfection of form is his chief characteristic.
From Aldrich Mr. Copeland passed to William Watson, who was a master of criticism, and who drew his inspiration, or rather his form, for he had little inspiration, from the eighteenth century writers. His "Wordsworth's Grave" is a masterpiece of poetical criticism. Watson was not the most poetical of poets. He had poetical reflection, but little poetic infusion. He often tried to be witty, but has had little success as a humorist.
William Ernest Henley is an impressionist in poetry. He has given us many bright little glints and sketches. A characteristic of Henly is his pugnacity. He is always trying to overthrow the reputations of the men who possess them, and to build up reputations for the men who have none.
Mr. Copeland ended with Francis Thompson, a man, he said, strongly like the poets of the seventeenth century; like Donn and Carew, but above all like Crashaw. In every verse of Thompson's we see the intellect at work, and whatever he does he spiritualizes. That Thompson is not always seventeenth century is shown in his poem "Daisy," as sweet, simple and modern as anything we find in contemporary poetry.
After the lecture Mr. Copeland read several of the best things of these four poets.