Obrázky stránek

necessarily drag in with them inharmonious elements. Often his metaphors are the merest jingle of unmeaning words. This stanza from a poem entitled "Winter" may be cited as an example of his descriptive



Wide is the arch of night, blue spangled with From wizened edge to edge of the shrivelled up earth, Where the chords of the dark are as tense as the strings of a lyre Strung by the fingers of silence ere sound had birth,


With far-off, alien echoes of morning and That reach the tuned ear of the spirit, beaten By the soundless tides of the wonder and glory


of dawn.

What image of a star-lit night is left behind by this jumble of highsounding words! The imagination comes to a full stop at these impossible comparisons, express and implied. What is meant by the chords of the night being tense? Can any one picture the strings of a lyre strung by the fingers of silence ere sound had birth? What image is awakened? It is, perhaps, hypercritical to object that the poet has made alien echoes in the distance attributes of the dark, like its tenseness. The epithet shrivelled may, possibly, be passed over, because it may express the idea which the poet had in his mind, whatever that may be. The meaning given to the word wizened by dictionaries is thin and dried. No careful writer, much less a poet of refined taste, would have forgotten its particular application, and dared to introduce. into the imposing picture which he had in hand the wizened face of an old woman. When fancy takes such flights as these it soars beyond the possibility of artistic effect.

Most readers will prefer such poems as "Unabsolved," because they deal with life and possess some strength of dramatic interest. Yet the pleasure will be greatly marred by their highsoundingness, and by the lack of deli

[blocks in formation]

her "damp earth bed," "rosy and warm," with the dreams of her child. I felt my breasts swell under my shroud! Then stole past the "graveyard wall," passed the streets to "my husband's home," climbed the chamber stairs amid the sound of sleeping persons, Like waves that break on the shores of death, paused a moment at the door, Then stole like a moon ray over the floor, and, behold, her infant lay on "a stranger arm." Crooning to the child, she carries him back to her bed, "banked with a blossoming girth," and "nestling him soft to her throbbing breast," "steals to her long, long rest," and lies with him.

[blocks in formation]

But he does not stay to dig up the grave and spread before us its shocking contents; he does not permit us to linger until our minds seize the painful suggestions of the place. There is scarcely a line of "The Mother" in which the horror is not renewed. It must be a sluggish imagination which, in the time of these eighty or ninety lines, does not grow to a full realization of this dreadful scene. It is no answer to say that the poem is to be taken in a spiritual sense, for that is

impossible, and it cannot have been the writer's intention, else why the repetition of material suggestions which force the mind into activity? If it was sought to intensify the impression of a mother's love by naming the physical conditions which attend it, it is just to say that, aside from the suggestions of the grave, the poem would still have been offensive. The physical conditions of maternity are regarded with so great reserve and delicacy that only the most veiled allusions may be made to them. Nor is it an answer to say that the disagreeableness of the poem is harmonized by such poetic expressions as, "you cannot bury a red sunbeam," or, "you cannot bury a mother in spring." Rather, the pain of the reader is increased by the violent contrast of feeling, by the effort to hold together images so opposite in their suggestions as those presented by this poem.

If the foregoing remarks be just, and they are tendered in a spirit of perfect fairness, Canadian poetry is devoid of life and interest. It is scarcely likely that these faults are altogether due to false principles of art. Want of moral enthusiasm, of the inspiring energy of new ideas and large hopes of human progress, leaves men of talent no other course than to seek a false brilliancy in the trickery of exaggerated descrip

tion and strained sentiment. Scott and Byron, Shelley and Wordsworth were full of the new wine of the French Revolution, and spoke as their hearts burned. Tennyson reflected the minds of men who had seen the hopes of their father's fail. Education has been slow to lift up the masses; Cobden did not foresee the squalor of industrialism; the ballot-box has not brought perfect freedom, nor lifted the burden of militarism. It may be that in these later days human enthusiasm has flickered out. If so, we cannot expect great poets till there be a rekindling of new ideas and new hopes of humanity.

Canadians are so eager for a na

tional literature that it is a somewhat delicate task to frankly criticise Canadian poetry. With the desire for a distinctively Canadian literature everyone must sympathize. It is possible, of course, that a national literature may rise without the corrective, or even chilling, influence of criticism. The structure may, nevertheless, be long delayed by the misdirected efforts of truly able writers. In poetry, as in all other arts, there is a wide latitude of individual freedom. But the poetry of the past, which has found a lasting place in public favour, is wide

and varied enough to justify the conclusion that the principal rules gathered from a study of it are universal, and cannot be disobeyed even by Canadian poets. It is not enough that they find a ready market for their writings to fill up the vacant pagespaces of magazines, or even that their art is the affectation or fad of a literary coterie. If they would succeed they must reach the feelings and imaginations of their readers, as the great writers of the past have done. Gordon Waldron.



EVERY true man is a founder of the future of his State;

As a stone in a cathedral he uplifts and makes it great. Every man who with his life-blood in its need has stained the


Every man who for its service all he hath and is would yield,
Every man who worketh truly that its laws be fair and right,
Every foeman of its error, every messenger of light,
Every servant of its sick, and of the children of its poor,
Every labourer on its streets, if he doth labour to endure,
Every one who will not brook in it the evil or the base
But whose soul like a pure fountain clears the river of his race,
And who sayeth ever to it: "Thou art part of human kind,
Be thou just with all the nations; large in nation-heart and


Seek from none the base advantage, be no boaster o'er the rest, But be that that with its strength, among the peoples serveth best,"

[ocr errors]

Every such one is a founder of the future of his State;
As a stone in a fair minster, by his truth it cometh great.
Yea, though all the rest were rotten, and its form come totter-
ing down,

God shall build again and of him carve the new cathedral's




With Four Illustrations by Brigden.


AJOR MACKENZIE, will you take down Miss Broadhurst?" The Major bowed, and Miss Broadhurst inclined her head with the prettiest smile in the world.

"I wondered," said she, "if I was to be inflicted upon you, or upon that strange-looking gentleman with the glasses."

"It's no infliction, I'm sure. I was just hoping that"

"Now don't perjure yourself, Major Mackenzie," said the girl.

They were standing at the bay window of a sitting room in the "Dorset," a little private hotel, where at present Mr. Graham (of James Graham & Bennet, importers, of the city) was entertaining a small houseparty in the hot August days. It overlooks one of those quiet little bays, with St. George's Channel on the horizon; and Major Mackenzie always declared that he liked the "Dorset" the best of any place on earth. It is a question if he would have. said so, had Ethel Broadhurst not been there; but the Major was a backward wooer and, so far, Ethel knew nothing of the ocean of affection that the Major held shut up in his turbulent heart.

"Who is that lady who has just come in? Do you know her?"

The Major looked to the door, and groaned inwardly.

"Yes, I know her. It's Mrs. Holler-and that's Mr. Holler coming in now," said he.

"She looks as if she might be clever, doesn't she?"

"Yes, she might be !" said the Major, dejectedly. "I don't know her as well as my friend Brock does. She used to patronize him, and Brock had to put up with it, for Holler's firm (he's a lawyer) had a good deal to do with Brock, and he wanted to stand in well. But one day she asked Billy to take Mrs. Tabley for a drive (Mrs. Tabley takes fits, or something like that), and Billy said he wasn't going to be footman to an epileptic, infirmary; and then there was a battle. To tell the truth, Mrs. Holler thinks I am her legitimate prey, because I am chummy with Brock."

"That's rather hard on you, isn't


"Yes. But you'll meet her to-night, and it's very wrong of me to prejudice you against her. Perhaps you and she will turn out the best of friends." "Perhaps," said Miss Broadhurst, doubtfully.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"The Major looked to the dcor, and groaned inwardly."

[blocks in formation]
« PředchozíPokračovat »