POETRY.—The Morning Song : a Ninefold Praise of Love. By
John Watkins Pitchford. (Elliot Stock.)—Mr. Pitchford's verse has a certain stately march which does not ilL befit the lofty themes on which he discourses. For the subject of the poem is in fact nothing less than Creation and Redemption, a subject which does not suit the age,—not, we may believe, as having in any way lost its interest, but as having passed out of the domain of poetry. Mr. Pitchford has come too late. He would have been a not unworthy rival of the author of the "Seasons," or the author of the "Night Thoughts." This is, indeed, to take him at his best. Ho is sometimes prosaic, and seldom or never keeps up his highest flight for long, without some flagging of the wing. Here, for instance, is a passage which is equal to much that has achieved such immortality as a place in the "British Poets" can confer :— ',Unnumbered are the glts the leafy world Discloses with each slow revolving year ; Th' enamell'd pomegranate with shining grain. Or sunny apricot from Eastern lands, Where Ow, or Jai .rtes rolls its flood,
Or Persian nightingales 'mid roses sing, Wakening in breasts poetic sweeter songs ; Golden bananas, on the rocking palm The milky cocoa-nut, guavas, or pines,
Odorous of foreign malts. The colder north Carpets with at, awberries its forest glades, And o'er its tree-tors spreads the bloom of plums. Each country yields its own peculiar fruit ; The date-palm waves above the arid sand, Stirred by the dark simooru ; where moderate suns Sleep on the trellised blue Italian hills,
Or Rbinelaud, with its mystic charm of song, And antique fable, cliffs festooned with vines, Grace with their blushing honours all the land. Luscious and fragrant, cool, refreshing, sweet, Clustered or bunched amid the shadowing leaves, Gemming the ground, or crowning topmost boughs, Each fruit that forms tells of the Unseen Love "
Still, there are one or two weaknesses here. " Wakening in breasts poetic sweeter songs" is commonplace ; "Odorous of foreign marts" is really unmeaning; and "Luscious and fragrant, cool, refreshing, sweet," is distinctly bathos, especially when we come to the epithet "refreshing." We shall .give another specimen, in which the reader will, no doubt, detect similar weaknesses, though the whole is, we think, of higher quality :— " Not from the rocks sprang the poetic soul,
Ilissus, nr Castalia's charmed wave, Or the Lebethran fount, where dreams in death
Eurydice's 1 rn mate, while nightingales
Bewail him with their golden-throated songs ; The haunting presence of the pastoral muse Scattering white violets o'er the shepherd's tomb,
Bewept the fate of Daphne, early lost,
And ihrined his memory in melo•lious verse.
The grasshopper in Sicily s hot fields That chirped at noon, the browsing goat that cropped The vine's yciaug tendr.ls, or the meadow flowers, Waving their shining floss upon the wind, Caught in the amber of poetic verse Live in immortal beauty, with the love, And fresh delight of centuries long past That ne'er can die ; this testified of power Fprung not of man ; for in the breezy pines That rocked on Pindus came no other sounds Than natural echoes. Dripping water grots, And bosky dells, all interspersed with glades, Blue glimpses 'mid the bills, and shivering reeds Fringing the vagrant streams else desolate, Or clear cold springs in valleys far remote, Were but by fancy peopled, musing thought That framed a world within a visible world, Fair pleasant dreams, but dreams, and nothing more."
Mr. Pitchford will, we fear, scarcely win from the public the notice that his powers, mainly, perhaps, rhetorical, but not without some admixture of really poetic gifts, deserve.—Anima Christi. By J. S. Fletcher. (J. S. Fletcher and Co., Bradford.)—This is a poem formed somewhat after the model of " Maud." It is the history of a soul. The beginning is absolute disbelief, the product of the contra- dictions and difficulties of human life. "I believe in nothing what- ever, for life is a sham and a lie," is the first line. Still, the man is haunted by doubts, by recollections of times when he did believe something, and especially by remembrances of the dead. In the second part we see him rejoicing in the rest that he thinks he has found. A happy love has solved the problems of life for him. Still he does not believe. Then comes a terrible shock. Ho loses his wife, after five days of married life. The first result is despair ; then out of the darkness comes light. This is worked out with some power ; but the expression is sometimes extravagant and sometimes weak. The metre halts lamentably. In fact, Mr. Fletcher wants elementary training in this part of his art. Still, there is something solid in his work, which makes us hopeful of what he may do hereafter. Poems, by John Sibree (Trilbner and Co.), are dedicated by the writer to his " unknown critics," whose " indulgent notices," as he says, have led him to hope that some of his rhymes may be deemed worthy of the title which be now gives them. The greater part of the volume has, we gather, been published before. Those pieces which are new have no distinguishing mark. Whether " Unto one of the Least" is of these we do not know, but it is certainly a striking composition, superior both in conception and execution to its fellows. The story of the humble north-country artisan, to whom there comes such an experience as there came to those two travellers to Emmaus, is one that those who read it will not easily forget. Mr.
Sibree, always thoughtful and tasteful, here excels himself. Un- fortunately, the merits of the poem cannot be represented by extracts. These we must seek elsewhere
NOSCITUR IN ADVERSIS RESTS.
Across a summer sky
Birds of all hue in undistinguished shadow fly ;
Clouds blacken from the West,
Then Heaven's white peaceful Dove i3 known among the rest."
O honeyed drop, beneath Life's bitterest draught Sweet lull of eve, when gentlest breezes waft Our storm-test bark into the quiet port : Thou blest enfranchisement,—though all too short To heal the bruised breast and chafed wing, And sickneis of our soul's imprisoning Thou softest pressure of that hand uns, en Which martyrs grasp the raging flames between, Sealing the scalding founts for those who weep, —His hand, who giveth His Beloved sleep.' Say where, in cave remote or deepest mine, —Where hart thou hid thin,. urns of anodyne? Which Thou, in covert of Night's darkest hour, With stealthiest footsteps bring'st to grot or bower. But chief to Labour's ociuoh, brimful of bliss, ...Scarce kind to Care, less liberal to Ease : Breathe half thy secret in our eager ear, And we will delve and toil the live-long year, To find, perchance, some remnant of thy store, And, finding, drink our fill and weep no more."
—" Pebbles." By Michael Daccord. (Remington.)—Mr. Daccord mast polish his "pebbles," if he will allow us to make use of his metaphor, or to speak without metaphor, he must learn the element- ary principles of metre. In a stanza, taken almost at random, we find three distinct metres in the first, second, and eighth lines, and we have not found such excellence of substance as to make up for defects of form.—The Loves of Vandyck, by J. W. Gilbart- Smith (Kegan Paul, Trench, and Co.), is founded on an Italian comedy, itself giving a tradition of the passion of Vandyck for an Italian lady. The subject has not been handled, we feel bound to say, with much success. Such verses as the following,— " Sweet., in the stolen interview
Love consecrates to lovers true, That raptly unmolested kiss Which braves love's dangers for love's bliss,"
cannot pass muster even with the most indulgent critic. Mr. Gilbart- Smith is not always down on this level, but he seldom rises much above it.—Phantoms of Life, by Luther Dana Waterman (G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York), consists of verses of the purely didactic kind. They are sober and sensible, but they can scarcely claim to be poetry. When we read, for instance,— "Each soul has its high mission it must do, Or be a clog upon the cumbered aim Of those who strive, with far prophetic eye, To work the time's great purposes."
It is impossible to feel that the quasi-poetical form (itself defective —for why has the fourth line eight feet only ?) gives any dignity or attraction to the thought.—Prairie Pictures, Lilith, and other Poems. By John Cameron Grant. (Longmans.)—We have the satis- faction of seeing that these " pictures " have been produced in answer to a request, conveyed by a criticism in these columns. They are unquestionably effective, photographic, perhaps it might be said, in parts, rather than artistic ; but bright and full of colour, and enabling the reader to form conceptions of the reality, which are at least vivid. The catalogue of flowers in the " Prairie is a striking piece of word-painting. It cannot be reckoned a fault that, relying for its effect on the general impression, rather than on any particular details, it offers no suitable passages for extract. By way of contrast with this, and not without its touch of humour, is the " Prairie City." Among the other pictures, we may specially mention "Pike Pools" and " After Dark," the concluding stanza of which we will quote :- " God is in all these Worlds, and where &re God
Is, Man;—I take him in his vaster sense, Some Creature that has thought and eloquence To piaise his Maker : not that our stone and clod Builds Sirius' bulk, or that Earth's grassy sod Clothes bright Capella, but that, wandering hence If we could pass thro' all the vast immense, No single Star or Sphere would show untrod By some created thing whose life is praise ; And, sweeping onwards, countless Sun on Bun Has each its own Creation, and no rays Can further pierce than where that law bath run, For He who site beyond the flight of days Allows no waste, sees desert spot in none!"
Idylls and Lyrics of the Ohio Valley. By John James Platt. (Kegan Paul, Trench, and Co.)—Some of these poems we remember to have seen before, and to have given them hearty praise in the Spectator. Reading them again, after the lapse of some years, we do not like them less than before ; though it is, perhaps, a disappointment to find that Mr. Piatt has not made a more distinct mark in the world. Be that as it may, "The Pioneer's Chimney" and "The Mower in Ohio" (to mention two of the most striking pieces)—the first a poem of the great Westward emigration, the second a poem of the struggle between North and South—can scarcely fail to live. Mr. Piatt's best things are undoubtedly those which smell of the Western soil ; but that he does not lack the skill proprie communia dicere, witness the following :—
"ROSE AND ROOT.
(A Fable of Two Lives.) The Rose aloft in sunny air, Beloved alike by bird and bee,
Takes for the dark Root little care,.
That toils below it ceaselessly.
I put my question to the flower : ' Pride of the Summer, garden queen, Why livest thou thy little hour ? '
And the Rose answered, ' I am seen.'
I put my question to the Root- ' I mine the earth content,' it said, • A bidden miner underfoot ; I know a Rose is overhead.'"
—Fireflies. By Sydney Lever. (Remington.)—This is a volume of verse which, though possessing a certain melody and sweetness, can scarce pass the test which denies to mediocre poets the right to exist.—Cyril and Lionel, and other Poems. By Mark Andre Raffalaril. (Kegan Paul, Trench, and Co.)—As far as we can under- stand these poems (and we must own that this is not very far), they seem to belong to what has been called the " fleshly school." There is a great deal about love and the contradictions of love; but pat, for the most part, in a way that does not attract or make one anxious to discover a meaning that is certainly not obvious.