THERE is a bundle of poetic literature on our table which the nice defining of Polonius could scarcely classify, or the happy purveying of Autolycus feelingly commend. Not even our respect for the veterans, nor our tenderness for those whose trespassing is just begun, is equal to the task of finding the fit word for each; but we have selected from new and old a few volumes that have pleased us, and we hope will please our readers.
An extreme specialization of taste is noticeable in all these thin and delicately made books of verses. Each is characterized by some peculiarity of mood, some predilection for certain marked kinds of imagery, some trait of nice cultivation in this or that particular, which are possibly signs of limitation both in appreciation and faculty, but add perfectness to the work that is done. Not to attempt too much is not to fall too far short; and in temperament, in the preferences of style, and even in special culture that is often accidental, individuality finds the readiest and usually the best means of expression. In the poems 1 of Arlo Bates, for example, fantasy in its peculiar recent forms is strongly developed. It is not an occasional odd felicity of comparison that is meant, as in the pretty simile,
Like owlets half awake;”
but that spectral quality in the idea itself, of which numerous examples will recur to the memory of any one familiar with the minor literature and art of the last decade. The most pleasing instance of it from his hand is two stanzas upon the shadow-boat sailing under the keel of his own : —
What phantom in that boat may be; ”
and another, which is excellently well done, though wholly conventional, is the sketch of the sea-snake forefeeling her metempsychosis into “ woman’s form and face.” It is apparently thought by those who work out these weirdnesses that full success is not attained unless the skin is made to creep ; and in this Arlo Bates has the mercy to spare us. He does not resist the tendency of this sort of verse to mortuary subjects, and in consequence may startle some who are less habituated to the surprises of poetic necromancy than ourselves with such an antithetic stanza as this : —
We clasp with frantic strain, —
Do the unborn kiss with tears our hands,
Seeking response in vain ? ”
And in that poem in which he represents the walks of this world as filled with lamentable ghosts helplessly seeking their lost living friends, who are invisible to them, he is certainly dangerously nigh making himself uncomfortable company ; but the imagination does not take the notion seriously, even for that moment of possible belief during which alone poetry of this order has any real meaning. This abnormal mood seems to belong especially to men whose temperament is blended of the artist and the poet, and its presence is more frequently to be observed in art than in literature. In fact, it appears to have come from the former into the realm of the latter. It is only natural, therefore, to find Arlo Bates in all his verses using the eye as well as the fancy of a painter. The most spirited of his poems, On the Road to Chorrera, is a Spanish picture, and others would compose upon canvas with as fine effect certainly as they do in words. He is as pictorial, too, in descriptions as in situations. He entitles one series A SketchBook by the Sea, and two lines of an ocean view in this —
By the wind crushed from gold to gray ” —
illustrate the persistent water-color quality of his poetic landscape. But not to concentrate attention unduly upon the dominant characteristics of his work, to the exclusion of less pronounced and commoner traits which are necessary in all good poetry, there are both fine and tender sentiments, bits of thought and turns of polished phrase, to be met with in the verses, which are all of the brief, compact, clear-cut kind, whose affinities are with the Latin genius; a refined technique, a quiet tone, a touch firm to the point of being hard, belong to this style, and in these virtues Arlo Bates, if not yet made perfect, is well on in a novitiate which he can scarcely be said to be out of so long as his ear is not offended by an extra foot in the last line of a sonnet, or the lack of a foot in two lines of the first of three stanzas which are otherwise in pentameters. Except for these metrical faults, which are astonishing in a school whose art is nothing if not selfpossessed, he is capable in the mere handling of verse ; he is very direct, sparing of words, and free, to a degree unusual in æsthetic poetry, from the vices of diction.
Clinton Scollard is as markedly literary in spirit as Arlo Bates is artistic. With Reed and Lyre 2 is a title that indicates the company he keeps as well as the entertainment he offers ; he is a poets’ poet, not as master but as disciple. How many such one encounters in makers of early verse ! It belongs to those who are thus inspired to live more in the region of the mind than in that of the eye and ear. The daisy they sing of is not Chaucer’s, nor Burns’s upon the hillside; it is the daisy that blooms on Keats’s grave. But to have one’s sensibility awakened by poets, is not a great misfortune ; nor is it any discredit to a new writer of verses that one can tell what books he has been reading. Dante took pride in calling Virgil his master; and there is an aristocracy in literary ancestry, a blood of the mind, which is at once a sign of its nature and a promise of its power. If one recognizes in a volume like this the cadences of Wordsworth, the modern Homeric of Arnold’s line, and the plain democratic verse-structure of Longfellow, it is no cause of offense, nor any occasion to ring the changes on the inefficiency of imitative verse. One notes these echoes in Clinton Scollard only to observe how skillful he has become in such exercises of the student, how facile and versatile his hand is, and to suggest that he writes well enough to lay his models aside, unless he means to allow them to stiffen into the forms of his own mind. The opening piece, A Masque of March, is an elaborate though brief study in fairyland, delicate and subtle and highly wrought; it is as beautiful as frost-work on the window-pane, and it has the same fading immortality. In others of the poems, too, one feels that the important thing is their proof that the author has learned the art of composition ; and his spontaneity, fecundity, variety, the fullness and flow of his power of expression, show indubitably the possession of the literary gift. Ability to write, however, is no more than hands and feet to the poet. Mr. Scollard is at that critical point at which so many stop with being merely clever versifiers. It is a question of capacity to attend to the things of life, to have ideas about them, and to energize these ideas with poetic feeling, and to develop style. One observes with pleasure, therefore, in this volume signs of impressibility by other than bookish motives, a faculty of discerning poetic ideas in the contemporary world, and some sympathy with the large things of life. As a whole, it must be confessed that this is the poetry of idleness, as most verse always is: of vacation afternoons, of flowers in the fields, of lying in the grass, of sitting in the firelight, of hours in the library or the book-stall, of atmospheric effects. Its sentiment is refined, its taste good, its moments happily selected, its tone quiet, its execution not sparing of pains; but praise of this sort in these days does not confer distinction. It is another thing, when, in the soft lapsing of literary rhymes, one finds the poet even stating that there are railroads and steamboats in the world, though his outlooks are still retrospective : —
Were our wide plains and cloud-kissed mountains spanned; ”
and we rub our eyes when he mentions the illuminating power of electricity, though he cannot forget Jove’s former monopoly of it, before man had
To blur and dim the starry eyes of night. ”
It is true that his imagination does not operate upon these objects, but he sees them. Similarly, at the conclusion of this poem and elsewhere, he exhibits some patriotic feeling, a sense of the American land and of the hopes and the work of the new West, which take him at once out of the company of dryads and make a citizen of him. The finest poetic idea which the volume contains is that of the Arctic Circe, in which he typifies the fascination of the polar regions for the brave adventurers who are lost there under the old fable of the merciless enchantress. His choice of the sonnet form is correct, though the execution is not equal to the idea in power ; but it is a poet’s idea. In the description of how the winter storm came down on Labrador the imagination works on original facts in a like way. There is in such pieces no mistaking of the means of culture for real experience, which is the fatal error of the literary poet; and we make bold to express the hope that “ the times ” may supplant books more and more as the pabulum of this writer. It is not with reed and lyre that the poet must come among us now, if he would be reckoned flesh of our flesh, but, like other men. with axe and spade.
Mr. Adams’s venture 2 is in the realm of light comedy. He develops a humorous element for the Arthurian cycle out of the nursery rhymes which are the heroics of infancy, and by a dexterous use of the Tennysonian manner weaves the tales of Miss Muffet, The Knave of Hearts, King Cole, and half a dozen others of the unconventional chivalry of our first, age, into a kind of travesty, or episodes of a kitchen under-plot for the high-life Idyls of the King. There is a certain surprise and grotesqueness in finding those uncommonly brief epics the record of incidents in the neighborhood of Camelot and Lyonnesse, involved in the careers of the great knights of fable ; and if one has a taste for parody, or for the exaggeration and inconsequence of one delightful kind of children’s stories, he may take a passing pleasure in this soft-syllabled nonsense. In the latter half of the volume, however, Mr. Adams has attempted graver themes, and he narrates a romantic tale of Italian love, jealousy, and revenge, and a legend of Japan, with more serious poetic intention ; and he concludes with a few lyrics and sonnets. One perceives literary susceptibility in his work, and some talent for composition ; but, although a note of personal expression is now and then to be caught in his verses, the volume is hardly substantial enough to offer fair grounds for judgment. The golden lotus of Japan is an exotic, nor can conventional Italian tragedy greatly interest us; and, too, prose is quite a good enough mode of expression for Indian philosophy, and for a story of mere incident. Mr. Adams, like his friend Mr. Scollard, may gain by exchanging something of the tradition of literature for its vital spirit.
Mr. Roche’s Songs and Satires 3 are full of contemporaneity. The philanthropic, not to say socialistic, spirit specially characterizes his serious verses. He is neither æsthetic nor literary ; but he knows how to write, and he has the fire and the lift of quick, earnest, swelling emotion. It is so common for the minor poets to compose well that one begins to believe that verse offers fewer difficulties to novices than is generally thought; each of them catches the trick of measured language with seeming ease, is deft at the turns and slides of the thought in its stanzaic evolution, and learns by a little practice the rhetorical and point-making capabilities of every old combination of rhyme and metre. Mr. Roche is no exception, and his skill is exhibited in many varieties of form. It is the spirit, however, that distinguishes him among his fellows. The humanitarian and revolutionary moods, which have had but little literary expression in this country, though Swinburne has made them familiar, are the inspiration of his vital poems. New it is a song of the people who are weary of twenty centuries of the Kingdom postponed, and of world-changes that are to the poor only changes of servitude, and the lines ring hard with the iron of conviction, and, to some, sweet as the gold of truth ; next it is fifty lines of blank verse, dramatic and strenuous, concerning the life and death of the nihilist Netchaieff, and what he died for, and what Russia is ; or again it is a song of the sea, the refrain of the three lines of Aux armes, aux armes. Citoyens : —
And the third is a vengeful cry ;
Ever the same, nor other
Shall be till the seas be dry: ”
but we spare our readers the notes of the eternal storm. Mr. Roche, moreover, is not altogether a revolutionist; he writes often to express some mood of sentiment unconnected with politics, domestic or foreign, and likes to tell a story. The Corporal’s Letter is a narrative with the simple pathos, and The Flag is one with the whole-souled admiration for a gallant action, which are the birthright of Celtic poetic genius. Humor also belongs to that Muse; and in the division which Mr. Roche calls Satires, nearly one half the small volume, those who are imperturbable listeners of the Marseillaise, and care nothing whatever for poetical narrative or moods of imaginative emotion, may find good laughter. The best of these light bits of comedy, burlesques, and witty verses is The V-a-s-e, which had wide popularity when first published, some months ago ; but all the rest are readable, some are delightful nonsense, and a few are keen. This humorous portion is, too, the more successful in a literary sense, as well as likely to prove agreeable to more people ; the task is easier. This only starts the old question, Is more fortune in a lower, or less fortune in a higher, attempt better worth having? But whether Mr. Roche shall try to entertain, or to stir and lead the mind, he has excellent resources ; and if he prefers to continue his divided devotion to the mirthful and the heroic Muse, as seems to be his natural bent, it would not be a lamentable ending.
Another quality of Irish poetry is a peculiar grace and brightness of the gift of fancy. Those who possess it like to think of Ireland as the Isle of Faery. In Mrs. Piatt’s verses one is sure to find it, from old experience. The present collection 4 is a bundle of only a dozen short poems, apparently the fruit of an Irish tour. A few of these are sketches of every-day life, with the presence of children, and are executed with her familiar lightness of touch ; others are scenes of traveler’s sight-seeing; and the rest are poetic renderings of the look and spirit of the country. In nearly all there is the play of fancy. The opening piece, In Primrose Time, gives a view of Ireland in the season when
very different from the common conception of life in that land at present, and makes one think that if it could be spring there all the time trouble would be over. But remedies for Ireland (as in the case of Carlyle’s) seem to lie under a perpetual curse of impracticability. The poem is a gala out-door love-feast, full of color, with old women and milkmen and fairies. Another effective description is that of the old castle given over to the inhabitancy of the birds, with its contrast of the dead old lords of the land and the chattering flocks of “ the lords of the air,” who have succeeded to the inheritance. But the imagery of Mrs. Piatt and the typical nature of her Irish scenes are things well known ; none is better among these than the Emigrant, bound out, who is singing.
There is a more sober coloring in Mrs. Elizabeth Akers’s thought. In this volume,5 the prevailing tone is grave and subdued; and the poems in which the apprehensiveness of love finds expression, or a subject is taken from mismated love, or from love whose fruition is impossible, give an impression of sadness. In the greater part of the book, which, though small, contains a large number of pieces, the themes are from ordinary life, such as one finds in occasional poetry written by persons of sensibility, to use the old word. So long as feeling comes with the spring and remembrance with the fall, some hand will pen these verses and record the events that come between the seasons of bloom and decay, in nature’s life and in the heart’s ; and here one reads again the common human history. Of what belongs to our own time especially, the influence of philanthropy is to be observed in two poems, one of which, by way of asking whether our age is truly so humane as it thinks, contrasts the Smithfield martyrs with the poor in that district of London now, while the second reads a sharp gospel of charity to the wealthy; but these are exceptional. The aspects of nature, the sentiments of motherhood and wifehood, and in general the moods of life after it has become reflective are the material of these verses, which appeal to the experienced heart.
Mrs. Celia Thaxter’s demesne, to speak poetically, is the sea, and more particularly that portion of it which washes a long coast and around an ocean island, where there are always sails in sight, and an ever-changeful atmosphere of light, color, and cloud over all. The title-poem of the collection,6 which she has just made, The Cruise of the Mystery, is the story of a spectral slave-ship ; composed in the vein common to all the legends of the New England coast which make so large a proportion of our provincial poetry. The remainder of the volume is filled with verses various in motive and ranging through many moods of friendship, lovers’ vows, and reminiscent grief, and often bright with the local color and the familiar loveliness of the sea-coast to which she is attached. But what is peculiar to a poet is generally his best; and Celia Thaxter is never so vivid, so strong, and at the same time so fresh, with that novelty, directness, and spirit which compose the element of originality in her work, as when she is looking off from the Isles of Shoals upon the real or imagined world, or hearing the ebb of the tides on the sands. The poem Persistence is a winter scene of wonderful truth: —
far horizon’s rim,
Wasted and blurred by the bitter cold, all
ghastly and pallid and dim ; ”
and so is the November Morning, in the southwest gale, with the gulls and ships and the ocean-rock : —
Wrestle and roll and thunder. ”
These are lines written, as the critical phrase goes now, “with the eye on the object.” Her other verses have their own virtues: there are grace of thought, tenderness of feeling, and purity of faith in the poems of bereavement and sympathy, and the practiced strength and firmness of an old hand when she narrates an incident or presents a powerful emotional situation. But these are not uncommon qualities of minor poetry, and, on the other hand, the breath of nature blows more free and the thought seems more instinctive in those poems to which her love of the ocean brings some tribute. But it is no fault to tire of one’s own plot of ground, and make excursions into the common fields of poetry, when such verses as her home or love lyrics are to be gathered.
The dainty and unique volume 7 of Margaret Deland renews our marveling at the ease with which intricate and difficult forms of verse are made captive by our young men and women. The Old Garden is a lovely poem. The oldfashioned blossoms, the flagged walk, the tree and the arbor, shut in from the city street by the brick walls in a childhood seclusion that only such walls can give, and now all wildly overgrown in its neglected state, — this is a garden New Englanders all know ; and the tenderness that is thrown over it by a few scenes from the childish life that went on there, by a reminiscence of the mild face of her who tended it, and by the old sense of the continuance of nature’s life in a loved spot after the human associations that endeared it have passed away is a pathos not worked out by the skill of the pen, but caught because it is the poetic atmosphere of the place, which is, as it were, enveloped with memory. The writer has more than one exquisitely truthful line about the garden-plants of the old time still blooming on in their forgotten soil, as of the morning-glories that
and the whole scene is worked out in the most careful and realistic detail down to the money-vine and the lilacs,
The dust has settled, and white stains of mould.”
Opportunity is dexterously found even to mention those shawls laid safe away in the low attic, with their scent of cedar and lavender and rose leaves, and the shadows of the branches dancing on the sunny rafters. But of all this beautifully elaborated study, the figures of child-life are the most charming, and especially the Sabbath scene of the grape-vine arbor, with which the poem closes, where the child gazes out from it on the garden “ Sunday did deny,” and crooned her catechism or evening hymn the while. It is an idyl of New England, most natural, sweet, and full of old-time goodness and quiet and happiness ; and it is rightly framed in this old garden, luxuriant in decay, and still carrying some fragrance to the city streets with every gust of the summer wind. This brief poem deserves an attention almost disproportionate to its space in the volume, because it is by so much the most excellent. The remaining verses are composed for the most part in the metres which characterized the seventeenth century, in lyrical poetry, and by their turn of thought and style recall those writers whom, if one loves at all, he loves so much for their wisdom, ideality, and purity of spiritual feeling, or for their grace, brevity, and happy fancy in amorous expression. These poems are in both styles, and the artificial metrical forms, though tolerable only to a specially educated ear, are managed skillfully. The mode lends itself most readily to wit of the old sort, wise thought held whole and close in words ; to single ideas; to striking images and sentiments once called pretty; in short, to conceits. This is the Muse in whose service one sends a rose to his mistress and shuts a message in its petals, as many poets have done, and as is twice done here; it is the best amatory epistolary form, especially for coquetry, as may be observed in the present collection, but also for saying the most agreeable things with a certain distinction and courtliness, for it holds the literary tradition of the best breeding in that kind of diversion; in fact, it is polite, in the sense in which learning used to be polite, and it is a pleasure to see it again. The sonnet is a nobler form for love and the quatrain for thought, but few are those to whom they yield their genius. These seventeenthcentury measures are more accommodating, and slip as easily as rondeaus and triolets, when one catches the trick ; and they are as pleasing, to say the least. Certainly Margaret Deland has the knack of using them to advantage, and plays her part among the cavaliers with spirit and charm ; in the amatory lyrics her thought wins lightness and grace from the antique metres, and sometimes a true musical movement, though this is more often met with in the sacred songs. She seldom exhibits the same sort of poetic power as in the first poem; the later verses share in the fragility of their subjects, and, though they delight the literary sense, they owe this attractiveness to an old style brought back with freshness of feeling rather than to original significance. Artificiality of style oftenest indicates artificiality of mood, and both belong to imitative verse, which, as has been remarked, deserves no hard words in its first stages ; but the nature, the genuineness, the imaginative realism, of the first poem in this volume show a finer talent in this writer’s endowment. In the sacred songs at the end of the book one finds again pure simplicity and sweetness of this higher range ; and yet one must praise the lyrics that lie between, less than swallow-flights of song, for their point, wit, and literary perfection, and for many felicities which could be pointed out only by quotation.
In Nora Perry’s new volume,8 the skilled hand is at once felt, firm and sensible of power, whether the poems are songs of the seasons and ballads of the colonial time or of the common folk, or relate incidents of wooing in high life, or breathe patriotic or humane feeling or the sentiments of the soul. The range is a wide one ; but with all her susceptibility to the more evanescent tones of nature, and her faculty of catching and rendering the color of the spring in a style as flowing, if not so brilliant, as Tennyson’s last manner, and with her pathos in expressing moods of melancholy in cadences which have the musical monotone of Clough’s verses of regret, Miss Perry has a determined bent to the actual, so positive in its influence that, though it does not make a realist of her, it takes her out of the ranks of the sentimentalists. No volume in our list contains more of what is called objective art. She is interested in the life of people which has no value to her except in that she can perceive it, and she puts her perceptions into verse without any other aim than to place the scene before others as she sees it. One suspects that she uses the eye of imagination more than the bodily organ, but that is her distinction ; she is wise enough to believe that there were real things before she was born. Some of her tales may be purely mythical, possibly ; but that does not render them less objective in character. Whatever it be, contemporary or historical, fanciful or touching or heroic, the story is always well told, takes hold of the mind by some leading interest, and keeps the attention fixed on the phase of it which the writer means to impress. The Puritan maiden who beguiled the elders to let the mistletoe hang by standing under it when the governor entered, and the young wife who, after a year of wedded bliss in the colony, was homesick and beautiful enough to dare put Easter greens in the meeting-house, and the two lovers of the legend of the Christmas Gale, are in the most finished manner of the New England ballad school; and notwithstanding their foreignness, the episode of Henry of Navarre’s siege, and of the children’s sally from Naumberg on the bluff Hussite general, who gave them cherries and departed, have the same country spirit and sheer force of narrative. The Newport novelettes are more in the vein of vers de société ; but the execution is somewhat more poetical than pertains to that brilliant mode of fiction. Throughout the book, however, is this breath of the diviner air; there is great beauty and humaneness in it, and the musical quality of the verse is very high, which is a rare thing. No volume of this season is so touched and interpenetrated by the poetic spirit, and at the same time exhibits such assured mastery of art.
Mr. Carpenter’s Liber Amoris 9 is noticeable for its religious spirit, and for the picturesqueness and ideal contrasts of many of its scenes and situations. The story is the life of Brother Aurelius as he narrates it the night before his death to a watching monk, and is an illustration of the growth of an elect spirit through love. It begins with the youth of Aurelius, when he was called Dorian, and leads him through his university days at Padua, the birth of ideal friendship, his knightly days at the lists and court of love, and his pilgrimage to find his lady; and then comes the sorrowful tragedy of his friend’s treason and his bride’s death, and of the lost home and years of wandering warfare, ending in the monk’s cell, in study and contemplation, and at last in human forgive. ness of the fatal author of his early misfortunes, the false bosom-friend, who confesses his crimes to him as to a strange priest. The legend — for such it is, rather than a plot — is thus made up of the most powerful romantic elements, and the scene is laid in the midst of what is most lovely in mediævalism, in an atmosphere of sentiment, piety, and poetic beauty, rather than of mountain and valley ; but the central interest is fixed in the development of Dorian’s soul by the various forms of love in its joys and worst sorrows, and the poem, as a whole, is meant to be a sort of glorified moral lesson, or philosophy of religion, life, and the soul’s destiny reduced to essential unity in one another. The temperament of the idealist is expressed throughout. The motto is Amor omnia vincit (which, by the way, would be more agreeable to a classical ear if the poet had preserved the Virgilian order), but it is pietistic, mediæval love, not that of the tenth eclogue; and the entire work breathes the spirit of the æsthetic ritualism of our own time. The choral songs which are interspersed in the course of the narrative are strained and ineffective, and shocking to the ear to an incredible degree; but the blank verse of the narrative, though diffuse and lacking proper articulation, is fluent, at least, and at times bears up passages of exalted feeling. It must be acknowledged, however, that the work is stronger in eloquence, sentiment, and picturesqueness than in poetry.
Mr. Cranch’s place is with the elder group of poets, and one scarcely does justice to his refined verses by setting them beside the work of a younger time. In this volume10 there is a backwardlooking mood, a prevailing reminiscence of earlier days with the poet’s friends in Rome, with his brother in his Virginian boyhood, with the literary acquaintances of later life, so that one finds the book largely the expression of the personal feelings of one who feels the approach of age, and of the thoughts, moods, and occupations that belong to life’s latter days. There is much that is pleasant and cheerful in the portrayal of these things : in the sonnets that pay the dues of lifelong friendship to eminent men and to humbler associates in the struggle ; in the stanzas which rejoice in the vigorous world-life of the decades that are ending, and overflow with patriotic and philanthropic faith ; and in the poems, like Ariel and Caliban, which are artistic work, not less conscientious and effective than that of earlier days. The brief study, which gives a title to the volume, is a variation on the great drama, and discusses, but without obligation to Renan, the latter fortune of Ariel and Caliban. The airy spirit who yearns for human companionship undertakes the part of an educating providence toward the fish-like monster, and the situation thus produced typifies once more the ancient idea of the salvation of the lower by the service of the higher ; beyond stating this situation, however, the poet does not venture, and his finale, in which Ariel takes Caliban off to England, where he will find a finer country to begin life in than the vext Bermoothes, is a lame and impotent conclusion. The central idea owes more to the moral sense than to the imaginative faculty, but such an end is too purely practical even for the understanding. The lyrical drama, Ormuzd and Ahriman, with which the volume concludes, is the only other extended poem, and presents the views of the author in regard to the spiritual nature of the universe through the medium of Shelleyan choruses, voices, and hymns ; it is not unlike Bayard Taylor’s attempt in the same manner. Mr. Cranch’s briefer poems have more individuality, and in them his poetic talent is exercised upon the concrete experience of his own life with the same tone of thought and culture which has in years past characterized his writings.
It is a far cry, to borrow the current phrase, from these quiet and studious verses, with their air of the library and the autumn of a retired life, to the streets where John Boyle O’Reilly is striking the tocsin. In Bohemia is not a descriptive title for this book 11 of brawny lyrics. The mise-en-scène is not the shifty, careless life of artist and student, nor is it borrowed from Shakespeare or true geography. Erin, rather than Bohemia, is the country locality, while the city district lies in Columbia. There is great energy in the poet’s patriotism, whether its object be Ireland or America, and the true fire kindles swiftly in stanzas which, we must candidly confess, have still more of the Marseillaise in them than Mr. Roche’s. Humanity is a great word, and the face of the world offers many a glowing text to those who are its gospelers; and Mr. O’Reilly is one of the band. This is his spirit, and his poetry bears the impress of it. But apart from the general alarm which he sounds for the people to be up and doing, there are some poems which have only a literary end. One finds his art more unequal than his fervor; here and there, however, he flashes out a line which any poet might not disdain to own. Thus, at the end of the stirring incident of the death of Ensign Epps, he strikes the meaning of the sacrifices of common men into one line that rises with splendid force : —
With the scroll of a deed, with the word of a story,
Of one man’s truth and of all men’s glory ;”
or, again, in reference to the graves of the Army of the Potomac: —
The sacred record of her humblest slain,
Whose children’s children in their time shall come
To view with pride their hero-father’s tomb,
While down the ages runs the patriot line.”
Such expression as this, so direct, close, comprehensive, lifting the thought at once and easily out of the circumstance of the poem into the region of universal truth, is one of the unmistakable marks of the true gift of poetic faculty. Genuine emotion pervades the volume, and that fidelity to a leader or to an idea, which is one of the perennial sources of noble feeling, touches the writer into eloquence more than once ; the admiration for a brave deed, the natural lyric spring, and the bent for fancy, which have been already mentioned as belonging to Irish poetry, are equally to be observed : and all these qualities go to make up a book which, though defective in grace and finish, is distinguished for force, reality, and modernness, — three good words with which to end a review such as this.
- Berries of the Brier. By ARLO BATES. Boston: Roberts Brothers. 1886.↩
- With Reed and Lyre. By CLINTON SCOLLARD. Boston : D. Lothrop & Co.↩
- Post-Laureate Idyls and Other Poems. By OSCAR FAY ADAMS. Boston : D. Lothrop & Co.↩
- Songs and Satires. By JAMES JEFFREY ROCHE. Boston : Ticknor & Co. 1887.↩
- In Primrose Time. A Now Irish Garland. By SARAH M. B. PIATT. Boston and New York : Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1886.↩
- The Silver Bridge and Other Poems. By ELIZABETH AKERS. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1886.↩
- The Cruise of the Mystery and Other Poems. By CELIA THAXTER. Boston and New York : Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1886.↩
- The Old Garden and Other Verses. By MARGARET DELAND. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1886.↩
- New Songs and Ballads. By NORA PERRY. Boston : Ticknor & Co. 1887.↩
- Liber Amoris. Being the Book of Love of Brother Aurelius. By HENRY BERNARD CARPENTER. Boston: Ticknor & Co. 1887.↩
- Ariel and Caliban. With Other Poems. By CHRISTOPHER PEARSE CRANCH. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1887.↩
- In Bohemia. By JOHN BOYLE O’REILLY. Boston : The Pilot Publishing Co.↩