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faith and trust of genuine piety. And that she was sensible to the ministrations of the beauty of Nature we may see in her lines :
Quand' io dal caro scoglio miro intorno
The volume is an Italian classic, firmly fixed as such in Italian literature as is the castled rock in the Tyrrhene Sea.
A. P. IRBY,
CONCERNING SOME OF THE · ENFANTS TROUVÉS' OF LITERATURE
I SUPPOSE that most young men, even those who appear to be merely reasonable or hopelessly commonplace, have experienced, at one time or another, some sort of sentimental or spiritual awakening, which has rendered them susceptible to the elevating influences of poetry. Religious enthusiasm, domestic affliction, or involuntary exile from the old familiar places; a sudden sense of the hollowness and mutability of earthly things—all these are calculated to encourage the poetic mood, although, where there exists any hereditary predisposition, it may be called into being by the death of a goldfish, or the escape of a favourite canary. With or without any previous training or natural capacity, however, it is particularly apt to assert itself when a chivalrous and susceptible adolescent imagines himself, for the first time, to be really in love, and when, as so often happens, he finds that the course of his passion is running anything but smooth.
Poets, as we know, have written almost exhaustively upon the subject of the affections, and those that were hopeless or unrequited have ever seemed to appeal more particularly to their sympathies. So, when the young lover, quite by accident, as may happen, turns to the pages of some great poet for solace or consolation, lo and behold, he discovers that even this choice spirit has gone through all the varied symptoms from which he is now suffering himself, and that he has described them in the very same language that he would have made use of, if only the said choice spirit had not been beforehand with him!
So many people, ever since the very beginning of the world, have been, or have imagined themselves to be, in love! About love' pure and simple,' the love of the young man for the maiden, it would seem to be very difficult to write anything that was absolutely original ; ulthough, of course, the old torments may be described in a new and appropriate sequence of words. The young lover, therefore, can revel to his heart's content in rhythmical combinations and reiterations, expressive of the state of his feelings. The swing of the metre fascinates
and enthralls him; the rhymes haunt him, even when he is asleep.
The measure of Pleasure, the measure of Glory,
In every emotional crisis and emergency of life, there is always a chance that an enthusiastic and impulsive youth may be tempted to express himself in ' numbers' without possessing any of the qualifications which are essential to the true poetic calling. The phase is an acute one ; it will soon pass off, but for the time being he feels that he is existing upon a higher plane than most of his workaday neighbours, and it is because of this rapid development and subsequent evanescence of mood that he seems to be especially marked out by destiny for what the elder D'Israeli has designated ' a man of one book.'
For this it would be hard to blame the author. Fertility is no nearer allied to strength than prodigality to riches, but yet, for all this, fertility and sterility must remain two utterly different things. From the point of view of the collector, the one book of an unsuspected poetaster may grow, with time, into something rare and strange’; a source, too, of never-ending amazement, to those who are acquainted with its author's personality. And, no doubt, when he is comfortably married and settled, and embarked in banking, brewing, stockbroking, or what not, he, too, may start at sight of the slim green or white creature of his imagination as though it were an asp or a scorpion. Sometimes, fearing lest its heterodox opinions should revolutionise the world, or else, when he thinks that its tone may be regarded as too sensuous and redolent of the 'fleshly school,' he will endeavour to strangle it, shortly after its birth, arresting its headlong course to the butterman by buying up the very limited edition at his own cost. This was what happened—a good many years ago now—to the poems of ‘Alastor,' only in that instance, unless I am mistaken, it was the lady-mother of the aspiring author who took the initiative and bought up the edition. I wonder how many persons now living would be able to tell me her name?
I have always felt that there was something particularly pathetic about the fate of these poor children of the imagination ; mere accidents as it were, resulting from a single juvenile indiscretion, whose parents are so often ashamed of having begotten them, and who will never have any brothers or sisters; and just as a compassionate mothersuperior might fold to her bosom some poor little esposito, discovered, tied up in a bundle, at the door of a foundling hospital, I have always been one of the first to give shelter and welcome to the waifs and strays that are thus cast out upon a cold world without anybody to ‘log-roll' them, or give them a word of comfort or encouragement. There they stand, safely enclosed in their comfortable bookcase, and I feel almost irresistibly impelled to write about some of them. They have shelf-mates, too, with whom I have kindly permitted them to rub shoulders (alas, with no hope of any possible contagion !), transparently anonymous, the identity but flimsily veiled, or else, wearing fearlessly the proud cognisance of their illustrious parentage : a presentation copy of The Wanderer, and of the beautiful Love-Sonnets of Proteus ; poems of the late Lord De Tabley, with those of Mr. Theodore Watts-Dunton (his splendid Ode upon the burial of Cecil Rhodes not yet incorporated with them); and to some of these treasures it will be difficult for me not to allude, seeing them thus ranged on high whenever I look upwards. As, however, the more accomplished singers here represented have already found appreciative critics far abler than I am to sound their praises, I shall endeavour to confine myself as much as possible to the study of my little nursery of foundlings.
As is so often the case, how alike they all are, at a first glance, not only in dress, but in most of their prominent features ! They have the pinched, attenuated aspect of things that have been starved, and baby-farmed, and treated ungenerously, and so take up but little room upon one's shelves; and when they do not, as often, breathe entirely of earthly passion, or are not merely weak invertebrate imitations of Rudyard Kipling, Conan Doyle, or Adam Lindsay Gordon, and others, rollicking, bacchanalian, or, it may be, patriotic, how terribly and hopelessly melancholy they are apt to be with the morbid and lugubrious despair of the later French décadents, whose felicity of expression, however, has been cruelly denied them: a form of melancholy which seems to be the almost inseparable accompaniment of intellectual youth in the age in which we are living.
Poor Maurice Rollinat with his Apparitions, his Névroses, his Spectres, and his Ténèbres, has just made his tragic final exit. But, a disciple himself, he has, like his master, Baudelaire, a numerous following in this country. In the index of the little black-bound volume of which I have already made mention, and which belongs to what I may appropriately call the death's head and cross-bones' school of poetry, I find several evidences of this. Here we have Ode to a Dead Body, The Corpse, The Suicide, &c., whilst there is something gruesome, in another book by the same author, which is evidently
derived from the loves of Les deux Poitrinaires. These volumes, however, are merely mentioned parenthetically, and must on no account be confounded with any of those that are housed in my nursery of enfants trouvés. Rather would I compare them, in the language of Le Sieur de Brantôme, to des bâtards de grande famille, the result of a mere passing flirtation with the muse, of one who has come to be a redoubtable critic and a powerful writer of the realistic school, but who has yet permitted them to bear his name upon their title-pages. Perhaps they do not pretend to be anything more than free translations, after all ?
In the beautiful sequence of poems entitled A Shropshire Lad, and which again I only venture to allude to by way of a verification, for here we are confronted with the work of a true poet, this note of latterday sadness is particularly accentuated. The genius of the author communicates it to the reader, and we lay down the volume oppressed by a sense of haunting despondency at thought of what has been so persistently and mercilessly reiterated ;
Let me mind the house of dust
and where, to quote an exquisite final verse :
Lovers lying two by two
Ask not whom they sleep beside ;
Never turns him to the bride.
By this concentration of thought upon the obvious and inevitable end of all, we are led to assume that Mr. A. E. Housman is still young. Like the traditional eels, that were said to have become used to the skinning process, the older thinkers have already realised the tragedy of Condemnation and Reprieve,' and have endeavoured to make the best of it, though to neither young nor old can the idea be altogether exhilarating. There is a Spanish proverb which says that 'Death, like the sun, should not be looked at too fixedly,' and surely its 'rapture of repose,' so beautifully described by one who was yet sufficiently infected with the melancholy of his time to write as though all the joys of earth had come to an end with his thirty-third year, is more profitable and comforting to dwell upon than
La pourriture lente et l'ennui du squelette. Even Maurice Rollinat bas admitted that there is always cremation !
Mr. A. E. Housman, however, is not to be counted amongst the 'men of one book,' and I am in hopes that so accomplished a singer will soon cease to derive his chief inspirations from the creak of the gibbet and the odour of the charnel-house. . Another young poet, whose last book I have just opened, and one who is also endowed
Vol. LVI–No. 329