TWO BOOKS OF VERSE.* Mn. RENNELL RODD began his poetical
career under the happiest auspices, and there were some of us who—in the face of depressing experience—were confident that his pro- missory-notes of song would be duly met upon maturity. But Mr. Rodd'slierformance has been, if not decrescendo, yet certainly not crescendo, and his latest volume is one that makes hopefulness as to his future achievement exceedingly difficult. All his work is technically good—indeed, as a metrical artist he has not very much to learn—but the thought is thin and monotonous. Mr. Rodd can paint neat little land- scapes, can isolate effectively minute incidents of travel,—but he could do this a good many years ago. In reading his latest verses, one does not feel that added years and enlarged ex- perience have been absorbed into his poetical life, but rather that a thin stream of song has been dammed and almost choked. Addressing an Oxford friend, "F. M. C.," Mr. Rodd writes as follows (by-the-way, we suspect the omission of a word in the seventh line) :— "Strange, is it not, old friend, that you who sit Bowered in quiet, four garden walls your world, With books and love and silence,—sails fast furled And grounded keel that hardly now will quit Its stormless haven,—you sit there and write Of human passions, of the fateful fight, Of all men suffer, dream, and do,
Denounce the false and glorify the true !
While I the wanderer, I whose journey lies In stormy passages of life and sound, I with the world's throb ever beating round,
Here, in that very stress and storm of cries,
Make songs of birds, weave lyric wreaths of flowers, Recall the spring's joy and the moonlit hours, And know that children's ways are more to me
Than all you write of and I have to see."
Now, this is really a confession of failure. The author has not been able to make his song the expression of his fuller life.
Their ancient Bardic tales are exercising a growing fascina- tion upon the minds of Irishmen. Indeed, there is to-day a revival of Celtic studies which almost amounts to a renaissance. To the influence of three writers this movement is mainly due, —Clarence Mangan and Sir Samuel Ferguson, poets ; and Mr. Standish O'Grady, historian. Among modern authors, however, it has been reserved for Mr. John Todhunter, whose latest volume is now before us, to attempt to clothe the weird Celtic romances in Celtic vesture. Mr. Todhunter has made metrical versions of each of "The Three Sorrows of Story-Telling;" but his present volume contains only his renderings of the first and third of these tales,—the second, as "longer than the others, and more epic in character," being reserved for separate publication. In these two versions, with "The Banshee" and "The Coffin-Ship," the interest of Mr. Todhunter's book mainly lies. While welcoming the renderings of the tales as honest efforts in the right direction, we are disposed, upon the whole, to rate them less highly than the two original poems which we have named. In the ease of the longer of the tales here given, "The Doom of the Children of Lir," the metre selected—a quatrain of unrhymed alexandrines—becomes, in spite of the freedom with which it is handled, a little monotonous, and at times the diction drops almost to prose. At the same time, it must be said that the story is very well told, that fine passages are not infrequent, and that now and again we feel that we are breathing the air of
• (1) The Unknown Madonna, and other Poems. By Bennett Redd. London; David Stott.—(2.) The Banshee, and other Poems. By John Todhunter. London : %wan Paul, Trench, and Co.
ancient Irish romance. "The Lamentation for the Three Sons of Turann. " impresses us as being less distinctively Celtic in character. In the two original poems with which we are dealing, and which we recognise as natural outcomes of the author's ancient studies, Mr. Todhunter has allowed himself fuller metrical freedom. The flow of the lines sways in unrestrained sympathy with the sentiment, which is sometimes melancholy, sometimes passionate,—always intensely Irish. These opening stanzas of "The Banshee" strike us as being singularly beautiful :-
"Green, in the wizard arms Of the foam-bearded Atlantic, An isle of old enchantment, A melancholy isle,
Enchanted and dreaming lies ; And there, by Shannon's flowing, In the moonlight, spectre-thin, The spectre Erin sits.
An aged desolation,
She sits by old Shannon's flowing, I mother of many children, Of children exiled and dead, In her home, with bent head, homeless, Clasping her knees she sits, Keening, keening!
And at her keene the fairy-grass Trembles on dun and barrow ; Around the foot of her ancient crosses The grave-grass shakes and the nettle swings ; In haunted glens the meadow-sweet Flings to the night wind Her mystic mournful perfume ; The sad spearmint by holy wells Breathes melancholy balm."
In "The Coffin-Ship" it appears to us that Mr. Todhunter has caught the lotus of the Irish wail as it has seldom been caught before. Take the following passage as a specimen :— "Mad, in the storm, her grey hair dank with the wind-blown
spray, Her homespun gown soaked round her, heavy with brine As her heart with tears—alone
A woman stands by the pool,
And wrings her hands, and thuds her shuddering breast With bruising blows ; then scans the face of the pool, And tosses her arms aloft, and sends through tie night A moaning heart-breaking cry : Norala ahoy ! Kathleen ahoy ! Dhrops o' me heart, come back to me ! Cushla machree Norah, come back to me ! look at me here alone ! Come back from the say, come back from that Coffin-Ship- The rats is lavin' her. Whisht ! do yous hear the wind Keenin,' keenin' ? Whisht ! Don't yous hear ? When it blows This-a-way, thro' and thro' me, the hunger le'ps in my heart. The hunger's on me for yous to-night. I want yous, I do. I'm lonely, childre', I'm lonely. Your father stuck to the soil— Why couldn't the' make short work, evict us into the say ? The Big House got him at last, the faver, the ya,lla hole, The pauper's grave ; an' me down ; and Patsy under the sod; An' Shemus—I disremimber where is he at all. Ochone, I'm lonely, childhre' I'm lonely ! Norah, don't lave me, asthore, Come to me, Kathleen, aroo ."
. . . . . . . ..... 'Oh, wather, wather ! for all you're quiet an' small, Sure you're a slip of the say—the say wid its landlord's heart That never heeds for a cry, th' ould slaughtherin' absentee, Itagin' an' roarin' beyant. Aw, whisht ! I owe you no nut, Ould clisolation ; your rint is waitin'—the Coffin-Ship, Take her this night, an' welcome ; but Christians isn't your
We are inclined to think, however, that the realism is carried a little too far. Does not the ungainly peasant brogue jar upon the artistic truth of the lonely mother's high-pitched, almost prophetic grief P At any rate, we are quite sure that when Mr. Todhunter makes the broken-hearted woman plead with the water and "blarney its heedless ear with wild words," he strikes a discordant note.