IT is rare indeed that a prize poem attains the excellence of Mr. St. John Lucas's Gallic,. The conditions of the Oxford
prize for a poem on a sacred subject make it a competition among graduates, and it is natural therefore that the work should be more mature than we find in undergraduate exercises.
Mr. Lucas has already won his spurs in poetry, and by a happy chance the subject was admirably suited to his peculiar quality. He has written a poem in which a classical grace and strength of outline are combined with a romantic and imaginative tenderness. He treats the subject as Browning might have treated it, turning a few words of Scripture into an apologue, half speculative, half dramatic; but the style is rather that of Arnold than of Browning. There is no hint of the turgid in Mr. Lucas's clear, bright phrases. Gallio, writing to his brother Seneca, recalls their youthful days when both dreamed of the wonders of Greece, and tells in biting wordit of his disillusionment when he saw the real Corinth :- " A herd Of men called Greeks, vain, unstable like sand,- A mongrel throng from Macedon and Thrace,- A barking rabble of Jews; my subjects these !"
He tells how Paul is haled before him :- "An alien face,
Vivid as thine, less wan with knowledge, gleams
Pale in the glowing amethyst of dusk,- His face that, eager as thin altar-flame Fed with crushed gems and powdered Orient herbs, Flared when his stammering speech waxed plain with love; His face, his face, beneath whose light my soul Saw herself judged, her philosophic robe Shrivelled ; her dismal weed of self-esteem Burnt in the steady flame of those great eyes.
The man was fire, all fire !"
He goes secretly to a meeting of the Christians, and hears Paul speak ; and here Mr. Lucas has put skilfully into verse the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. The Galli° of the poem is a far subtler character than the Galli° of tradi- tion, the indifferent Roman who "cared for none of those things." He is at once the proud representative of the dominant race and the earnest seeker after truth. We have no fault to find with the poetic justice of Mr. Lucas's con- ception. The poem concludes with the ecstasy of a new revelation :- "What if this were the long sought remedy For all the blind confusion of our days, Our wretched strifes, our grey and hopeless deaths, What if the dawn at last devour the dark !"
It is a fine performance, both in thought and execution. Mr. Lucas is so completely master of his craft, and shows so wise
a reticence and discrimination in his fancy, that we may well augur hopefully of his future. He has much to say, and he can say it in pure and beautiful words.
Miss Baughan's volume of New Zealand poems, Shingle- Short, is also a notable book. It is authentic Colonial work,
racy of the soil, and owing nothing to any older models or conventions. At the same time, it is indubitably poetry, full of fresh imagination, vivid pictures, and memorable phrases. The title-piece is the soliloquy of a half-witted man in his bush
* (1) Gallia the Prize Poem on a Sacred Subject, 1008. By St. John Lucas. Oxford: B. H. Blackwell. [1s.]-(2) Shingle-Short. and other Verses. By B. E. Baughan. Christchurch, N.Z. : Whitcombe and Tombs. [5a.]-(3) The Partial Law: a T,agi-Comedy. By an Unknown Author. Edited by Bertram Dobell. London : Published by the Editor. [5s. net.] -(4) Mathilde: a Play. By Adolphus Alfred Jack. London : A. Constable and Co. [3s. 6d. net.]- (9) Hildris the Queen. By Lady Margaret Sackville. Manchester: Sherratt and Hughes. [3s. fel. net..1-(6) The Masque of the Grua. By Ernest Rhys. London : Elkin Mathews. [1s. net.]-(7) Amaranthus : a Book of Little Songs. By Bernard Capes. London : T. Fisher Unwin. net.)-(8) Ballads and Lyrics of Socialism. By E. Nesbit. London : Fabian Society. [6d. net.] -(9) New Poems. By R. G. T. Coventry.. London : Elkin Mathews. [5s. net.]-(10) Mont St. Michel. and other Poems. By Rowland Thirlmere. London : G. Allen. [3s. 6d. net.]-(11) From a London Garden. By A. St. John Adcock. London: D. Nutt. [1s.]-(12) The Sweeper of the Leaves, and other Poems. By Alfred Cochrane. London: Smith, Elder, and Co. [2s. 6d. net.]-(13) Andrea, and other Poems. By Gascoigne Mackie. Oxford: B. H. Blackwell. [1s. net.]-(14) Spirit and Dust. By Rosa Mul- holland (Lady Gilbert). London : Elkin Mathews. [2s. 6d. net.] -Poems. By L. G. Bromley. Same publisher. [is. 6d. net.] -(16) Caedmon's Angel and other Poems. By Katharine Alice Murdoch. Same publisher. [Is. net.ti- (17) Moods and Melodies. By Mary E. Fullerton. Melbourne : Lothian. 9.] -(18) The Last Rubdiyat of Omar Khdyydm. By H. Justus Williams. London : Sisley's. [3s. 6d.]-(19) The Ditcan of Abu 1-Ala. By Henry Beer. lain. London : John Murray. [1s. net.]--(20) Talmudic Legends, Hymns, einaParaphrases. By Alice Lucas. London Chatto and Windt's. [Si. net.]
cabin, a new version of " Caliban upon Setebos." He makes a model of a ship, rejoices in his handiwork, is overwhelmed by its clumsiness, and laments the fate which has misshapen him. In his imperfection he lays hold on the perfection of God, and hope awakens. The whole story is told subtly and brilliantly in a dialect which is rough and strange, and yet essentially
poetic. Admirable, too, for its impressions of landscape is "Burnt Bush," and in a very different genre "Early Days"
is wholly successful. Miss Baughan can write a stirring ballad like "A Conquering Coward" and a beautiful pastoral like "The Paddock" with equal mastery. Perhaps she is too prone to rhetoric, too inclined to a vague transcendentalism, but these are faults which will disappear with time. Her work is remarkable especially for its full inspiration. There is no barren hammering at old themes, but a rush of pictures,
thoughts, emotions so copious as almost to congest the verse. A little thinning is wanted, a little restraint, to make the achievement complete. As it is, Shingle-Short seems to us almost the most notable poetry which the Empire overseas
has produced of late years.
Of the four dramas on our list, the first, The Partial Law, is an old work dating from early in the seventeenth century which has been discovered in manuscript by Mr. Bertram Dobell. The plot is that which Shakespeare used in Much Ado About Nothing, and it is interesting to compare the difference of the treatment. Its value, unlike that of Mr. Dobell's other
great discovery, is less literary than historical. We see how an uninspired writer dealt with the same subject as Shake- speare. The action goes vigorously, and the construction is certainly as good as Shakespeare's, but there is hardly a hint of poetry from start to finish. Mr. Dobell inclines to think that it has some kinship with Massinger's work, but the prosaic character of the verse seems to us to dispose of the
theory that it can be attributed to any known Elizabethan. Mr. Adolphus Jack's .7ffathilde is an exercise in the Eliza- bethan manner, and a very successful and vigorous drama. It tells of the Court of Ferrara in the sixteenth century,
of a low-born courtier who makes himself Regent and marries the Princess Mathilde, of intrigues used for so high a purpose that they scarcely smirch the character. The final scene where the Regent confesses to his wife the infamies he had gone through to win her, and, as we read Mr. Jack, shakes neither her faith nor her love, is instinct with the best dramatic quality. The blank verse moves with a stately rhythm, and in the tavern scene Mr. Jack shows that he is capable also of the comic quality of the Elizabethans. Lady Margaret Sackville's talent seems to us to lie rather in lyrical
than in dramatic poetry. Her Hildris the Queen has many beauties, but they are not those of legitimate drama. There
is no dramatic cause for the sequence of its events ; everything is fantastic, and lyrical, and dreamlike. At the same time, the book contains some beautiful lyrics and many fine passages
of descriptive verse. Mr. Ernest Rhys's The Masque of the Grail is a masque after the old free fashion, a pageant in verse full of delicate fancy and exquisite lines. Mr. Rhys
moves happily among old legends, and he has contrived to reproduce the atmosphere of romance with the minimum of stage accessories.
We turned to Mr. Bernard Capes first among the many lyric
poets whose works are before us, but we confess that we were disappointed. His Amaranthus is a collection of little songs in which the writer aims at the naïveté and poignancy of the Elizabethans and of Blake. Mr. Capes is, however, far too
sophisticated a writer to succeed in this mode. His simplicity smells of the lamp, his innocence is a pose, and his ingenuous- ness is too grotesque for art. Also he is often mannered and fantastic, and almost painful in his metaphors. Such a couplet as
"I will graft my thorny drouth With the sweet slip of thy mouth" has no beauty; and what is to be said about the first verse in
the book ?- " Shall we audit, hair by hair, Cupid's golden tresses ? Billet Venus on a genus? Play the doctrinaire
To April shepherdesses ? "
We like his children's poems best, such as "Drowzydoze," and such a piece as "Memories," where the sincerity of the feeling saves the writer from caprice. "B. Nesbit's " Ballads and Lyrics of Socialism are vigorous polemical verse, but they suffer from a monotonous rhetoric. "Slaves" and " tyrants " are epithets which come tarnished into poetry after their career on the hustings. How good the writer can be when she escapes from the bondage of conventional language is proved by the tragic little poem, "In Trouble," the "Prayer under Grey Skies," and the ballad, "The Devil's Due." Mr. IL. G. T. Coventry's New Poems show remarkable metrical accomplishment. "The Hills of Dream" reminds one of Mrs. Meynell; but such a poem as "Christ and Mary Magdalen" is original in concep- tion and finely executed. If we had to select, we should put first the little poem called "Saint Cecilia." We have only one complaint against Mr. Coventry : we do not like the phrase "violet hair." Mr. Rowland Thirlmere has also learned his trade. The great merit of his Mont St. Michel is that it is free from false rhetoric, and its defect is that both in thought and phrasing there is a certain monotony. Now and then he attains true distinction, as in the charming "Maid April." Mr. St. John Adcock's verses in From. a London Garden owe something to Henley. They are poems of the joy of the earth, of a brave and sane optimism under hardships. "The Pride of Lazarus," "The Earth-Bond," and "Love's Reason" are good examples of Mr. Adcock's best, and "A Dead Friendship" shows that he is capable also of fine reflective verse. Mr. Alfred Cochrane's The Sweeper of the Leaves is a book of light-hearted songs about things of daily life in which Praed's manner has been very happily caught. They might be described as good talk in pleasant verse, and in an age when poets tend to be very solemn Mr. Cochrane's Muse is welcome. The title-poem in Mr. Gascoigne Mackie's Andrea has some fine descriptions of mountain landscape and many happy phrases. (We exclude that odious fashion of speech, "a well-groomed Englishman," which has no business in poetry, or, indeed, anywhere.) The other pieces are thoughtful and musical.
Rosa Mulholland's " Spirit and Dust is a book of delicate decorative verse, permeated with the atmosphere which we call Celtic. It contains work which all lovers of true melody will be grateful for. We should single out especially the beautiful little song, "For Us." Mr. Bromley's Poems are best when they are most robustious. "The Rider" goes with spirit, and "A Song of the Red Deer" is a ballad with a universal appeal. Miss Katharine Murdoch's Caedmon's Angel is a version of the familiar story of which the finest part is the picture of an autumn night at the close. High praise must be given to the writer's mastery over blank verse. Her lyrics are less successful. Miss Mary Fullerton's Moods and Melodies is a volume of Australian sonnets and songs, chiefly remark- able for what they lack. They are reflective verse in the old style, without a hint of the influence of a young country. Full of technical defects and cumbered with a barren mysticism, they contain many striking lines.
The last three books on our list are concerned with Eastern poetry. Mr. Justus Williams has assumed that Omar was temporarily converted, and wrote a new Rubtliyat when be returned to his old life. We have been unable to detect any trace of merit in these limping and prosaic quatrains. A fair sample is the line :— "They suck our brains and measure it in yards."
In the "Wisdom of the East" Series Mr. Henry Baerlein has published a translation of selections from the poetry of Abu '1-Ala, a Syrian poet of the tenth century who lived just before Omar. The translation seems to us admirably done, and the creed of the poet in its hatred of orthodox religion and profound natural religiousness is curious and interesting. We have nothing but praise for Miss Alice Lucas's Talmudic Legends. Her hymns, such as the one called "Prayer," are fine devotional poetry, and her paraphrases of the Twenty-third and Ninetieth Psalms deserve to be remembered. Fine, too, is the song, "The Jewish Soldier," written in the early months of the South African War. Miss Lucas has a field before her which modern poetry has left almost untouched.