At the Funeral of a Minor Poet: [One of the Bearers Soliloquizes]

WELL, yes, we liked his verses, thought them good,
Quite good, indeed ; perhaps too much technique,
Too much laborious finish, and all that.
He took such pains ! But then he scorned to write
Long odes when certain tiresome persons died,
And gave no song to cattle-shows and fairs, f
And so was not a poet of the day —
A twilight poet, groping in the dusk,
Belated, with the great ones gone ahead.
This we may say, and say it hand on heart —
Since he is dead — he had a certain touch,
A touch that’s lacking. We’ve no verse to-day,
No verse to speak of — chiefly triolets,
And smooth fantastic copies of Old French.
The mighty Zolaistic Movement now
Engrosses us ; we paint things as they are
(Or as we think they are) unflinchingly.
Eve with her foliage was over-dressed :
The rose has scent and thorn, we take the thorn ;
The truest art is to leave nothing out
Likely to prove offensive. Will it last ?
It is so hard to know what thing will last.
There’s Suckling’s lyric, fresh as yesterday,
And there’s Lovelace’s love-note to Althœa —
Too much technique, too much high finish, and yet —
They have outlasted thrones and dynasties.
These Poets are so odd ! You bury one
With all his music, in six feet of earth,
And black oblivion shrouds him : presently,
After perhaps a hundred years or so,
The world is suddenly conscious of a flower
Sprung from the mould of a forgotten grave.
’'T is said the seeds wrapt up among the balms
And hieroglyphics of Egyptian kings
Hold strange vitality, and, planted, grow
After the lapse of thrice a thousand years.
Some day — who knows ? — some unregarded note
Of our poor friend there — some sweet minor chord
That failed to lure our more accustomed ear —
May witch the fancy of an unborn age.
Who knows, since seeds have such tenacity ?
Meanwhile, he’s dead, with scantiest laurel leaf
And little of our Nineteenth Century gold.
Well, well, poor fellow ! let us bury him.
Thomas Bailey Aldrich.