Poems by a Little Girl

by Hilda Conkling. With Preface by Amy Lowell. New York: Frederick A, Stokes Co., 12mo, xxiv+120 pp. Portrait. $1.50.
Poems by a Little Girl, the work of Hilda Conkling, aged nine, are to be taken seriously, with no apology for the youth of the author. Hilda is as truly a poet as she is the daughter of a true poet, and is perhaps the first rhythmically coherent spokesman for her peers, the imaginative children of her own age. The simple facts about the little girl who ‘told’ these poems between the ages of four and nine, as related in Amy Lowell’s capital preface, show Hilda’s normal childhood and her sane relation to the beauty of art and nature. She is an instinctive but not wholly unconscious artist. Though the poems bubble up like gushes of a wild fountain, usually with limpid cadences instead of rhyme, they are not ’ accidental.’ Hilda thinks of herself as a ‘singer,’ for she says, —
I have found a way of thinking
To make you happy;
I have made a song and a poem
All twisted into one.
Here are no lisping numbers, no tinkling toy rhymes, but the delicate, vivid, musical imaginings of an original and unspoiled child-personality. In the delightsome garth of flowers and fairies, beasties and spirits-of-things, one meets also an unconscious wisdom; us in the strangely beautiful ’Tower and the Falcon,”Moon Doves,’‘The Field of Wonder,’and ’The Lonesome Wave,’ with its lovely last line,—
No more silvery lonesome lapping of the long wave;
for, like any true poet, Hilda feels the mystery of an inspiration beyond the reaches of her soul:
. . . happiness makes me like a great god
On the earth.
It makes me think of great things
A little girl like me
Could not know of.
She has often that whimsical unexpectedness which is the charm of a kindred spirit of her neighborhood, Emily Dickinson. She sees ’ Bed Rooster’ with a comb ’gay as a parade,’with pearl trinkets’ on his feet, ‘shouting crooked words,’ Every line of that vivid poem is quotable. So are many others. One can say of this delightful volume, as of few contemporary books of verse, that there is scarcely a poem one would spare. One of the briefest is characteristic: —
O little soldier with the golden helmet,
What are you guarding on my lawn?
You with your green gun
And your yellow beard,
Why do you stand so stiff?
There is only the grass to fight!
Greatly is it to be hoped that this publication, thus dangerously early in the career of the little poet, may be only a blest beginning. Let us pray that Hilda is a true prophetess of her poetic future when she speaks of herself: —
I am a little grape, thinking of September; I am a very small violet, thinking of May.
A. F. B.