17 APRIL 1880, Page 14

B 00 K S.


"THE poems in this volume," says Mr. Mallock, in his preface, "with but one or two exceptions, were written between my

seventeenth and my twentieth year. A few months ago, I had no thought that I should ever be thus drawing them from their privacy, but a certain number of friends who have seen them in manuscript tell me that they have taken some interest in them, and that, were they published, others might do so likewise."

No doubt many who read them will take some interest in them. The present reviewer takes a good deal. But is that sufficient reason for their publication, and for their publication now, when

Mr. Mallock has done better work than anything here con - tained,—when a mere work of promise has no longer much

value as coming from him, and when yet he has not done enough to make it a matter of biographical interest to study the earlier stages of the talent which has fascinated us by its latest fruits. We are inclined to think the publication a mistake. That the poems, coming from a young man under twenty, were poems of promise, no good critic will deny. They would have been of considerable interest, as the poems of a boy.

They may have considerable interest at some future stage of Mr. Mallock's career, as the first evidences he gave of a literary vigour which may perhaps be destined to bear more remarkable fruit. But coming when they do, they rather disappoint than delight us. They contain nothing that is in itself highly original and memorable, though they contain much which would have excited the hope that the author was capable of producing what is original and memorable, if Mr. Mallock had published nothing else, and had published these when they were still his best productions. As it is, they add little or nothing to the promise of the author of The New Republic, and indeed rather suggest that he values these productions of his early youth more highly than a mature judgment should have valued them. If they are not signs of better poems to come, they are valuable only as contributing to a knowledge of the man. And the time for the public to desire knowledge of that kind concerning the writer of one very brilliant squib, and one book that states a very important argument with much initial power, fading away towards the close into considerable weakness, is not yet come.

What these poems show is considerable skill in description, a cer- tain subtlety and delicacy of touch, and considering the age of the author, a remarkable grace and finish of expression, which one does not expect to find in writings so youthful. What one misses is any marked imaginative grasp and any bold or original mode of feeling or thinking, marking the writer as one likely to strike out new tracks of expression. Sometimes we have thought in reading the book that Mr. Mallock's species of talent—for that there is a vein of genuine talent, no one can doubt—tends rather to make

• Poems. By William Muni' Mallock. London: Chatto and Windns.

him a considerable writer of what are called "society verses," than of the higher sort of poems. And when we say this, we are not in the least insensible to the fancy—sometimes the wild fancy—and sweetness and melody discoverable in these young verses. For we maintain that to the making of even society verses of any real mark, there should go a good deal of fancy— even of wild fancy—or else the whole business is certain to turn out only too monotonous and tame. Mr. Mallock's: most perfect verses certainly indicate much power in this. direction,—indicate, that is, a lightness, airiness, and tender- ness of touch which, while certainly essential to the succem of verses touching on the superficial aspects of social feeling, redeem such verses from the utter conventionality into which they too often fall. The following, for instance," On the Death of a Pet Dog," seems to us the perfection of the lighter kind of pathos :—

" Where are you now, little wandering Life, that so faithfully dwelt with us, Played with us, fed with us, felt with us, Years we grew fonder and fonder in ?

You, who but yesterday sprang to us, Are we for ever bereft of you ?

And is this all that is left of you,— One little grave, and a pang to us ? "

And the following verses, too, called, "Alter et Idem," are- touched off with a grace and finish one would never expect of a boy of eighteen :— " This day, in this same place, we met last year,

And Absence, the omnipotent severer, Since then on thee and me bath worked his will ; I would, toy last year's love, as thou stand'st here, My last year's love, I would I loved thee still!

Does not this place seem strange to thee and me— This fresh cool wash and whisper of the sea, We knew so well together ? Oh, how strange ! All's out of tune now—jars discordantly.

This old known place, I would it, too, would change t How miserably the same those cliffs of grey ! And see—a boat again, too, in the bay !

And yon lone sea-girt grey rock, sunset-lit With those same tints we two admired that day!

My last year's love, haat thou forgotten it ?

And thon—ah ! wherefore art thou still so fair ? Why are thy smiles still just so what they were, - Save that for me they speak not any love ? Why bast thou still that same bright golden hair, Now I have no share in the praise thereof ?

I may not call you now what I did then.

Your lips and smiles are cold and alien.

Those times and these—how like! how wide apart !

I have lost what I shall never learn again.

I have forgotten the by-ways of your heart."

When we select these poems,—and we might add much of the same kind,—as the best in the book, we are fully aware that we are not selecting those poems which indicate the highest or widest display of fancy. For example, in the fine lines- calla "A Boy's Dream," there is much more of what-would rightly be called poetical feeling than in either of these pieces. But then,.

besides that these lines are very like echoes of various other poems, echoes such as would reverberate from a sensitive- boy's imagination, they really have no central point or conception at all, nothing to leave a determinate impression.

on the imagination, as the two we have just quoted certainly have. Take the following passages,—remarkable passages; cer- tainly, for the composition of a boy not yet turned seventeen,, but yet mere flights of fancy, and nothing more :—

" 3fy spirit's plumes expand, and a mute wind Lifts them, and I am floated far away

From this dull world of loveless men and blind, Close wedded to their clay, Into new realms of buried mystery, Whose secret gates some sudden hand unbars, Where the wild beauties of old ages lie, Looked down upon by stars.

Strange sounds and musical are on the gales,

Of tongues long mute ; and lo ! beneath my eyes, Sweep carven prows, and shadowy glimmering sails Of ancient argosies ;

And triremes with the measured 'flash of oars, And foam-wan plumes, and breastplates hinainous,. And calm-eyed pilots, helming toward the shores Of leaguered Pergamus.

My soul goes forth aver the isles of fame,

White temples, and dark frondage ; panting seas That wash with wavering hinge of liquid flame, The, sacred Cyclades:

Now once again the startled stars behold

Wan throngs of faces turned towards the skies.; Phantoms adoring phantom gods, in old Hypesthral sanctuaries,

That stand mid lawns, for ages long unknown, Islanded in the deep heart of forest-seas, And resonant ever with the low lore moan Of Hamaduades.

Rising o'er billowy mountain-lands unknown, Wrecks of faint light strewn on a shadowy sea, The aching moon looks down upon the lone Caucasian Calvary ; And peering, pale over pale mountain snows, On the worn watcher and the cruel chain, Carves on the livid marble of his brows Keen hieroglyphs of pain.

He lieth there, calm, beautiful, and bound, Walled by vast crags and roofed by fretted skies.

What anguish speaks in that pure gaze profound Of star-ward, earnest eyes !

But what is here—this darker prison-place-

These friends with muffled faces and held breath ? And what is this—this one unearthly face—

This hemlock-draught of death ?

Ah see, he lifts the elixir to his lips, And, like the moon unclouding by degrees, Breaks from the dimness of terrene eclipse The soul of Socrates !"

There is a mixture here of reminiscences of various poems of Tennyson's, and of one of Mr. Morris, the author of Songs .4of Two Worlds; but except that-the poem shows how well the boy's fancy had worked out for him many of the theories of -which he read, there is hardly anything that strikes a light in the poem. More vivid, perhaps, is the fragment of an =finished drama on the old Virgilian subject of the severance of Aneas from Dido. There is a note of power, per- haps, in the description of 2Eneas waking up from the dreams of peace with Dido to a sense of the stormier and loftier destiny before him, which we hardly find elsewhere in this volume ; but even so, this is a mere fragment of a fragment,—not only a fragment of a drama, but a fragment of that particular frag-

=ent in the drama -which should have adequately delineated the stirrings of sympathy with storm, in the bosom of a man in many aspects peaceful and affectionate, but impelled by the restless impulses of some far-off-reaching, constructive ambi- tion to wrestle with great foes :—

[Scene, the same. Time, iowanis morning. A storm rising. MERCURY meanwhile has been troubling the mind of 2ENEAS with thoughts of Italy, and his destined work there.] not you look on me ? Ah! what means this— Your pale, changed face ? And why so wistfully

Goes ever to the seaward your wan gaze ?

What strange thoughts stir you now ?

igneas.— My memories

Rise like a storm and stir me. In mine ears Harsh shrieks and hollow rumour of armour and arms -Sound like a dream, and windy manes and plumes Of horses and of heroes waver and toss Dreamlike and dim ; and all the plains of Troy Move once again with clouds of battle-dust That meet like thunder-clonde, and through the dark I see the javelins lighten, and I hear The round shields boom like timbrels, mid the shouts Of fighting men and falling. Hark ! the wind Rises, and wheeling voices of the air

Sing in our ears, and ever sweep to sea—

'The sea where no land is, nor any home But storm, and calm, and freedom. Storm—ay, storm !

I feel it, it will come, it is in my hair—

The sweet, wild, infant storm. Ah me ! my love, Do not you feel the wild wind in your hair ?

What? Are my words wild, too. What is it I say ?

What have my memories to do with storm ?

_Ah, I have seen— Have I not made my nest, As the white, wandering, homeless sea-bird does,

On the storms and wide free places of man's life— Battle, and wreck, and rein? Have I not been

Nursling of many storms ? Ah me ! that night Wherein my eyes were opened, and I saw, Staring aghast, where all the towers of Troy

Loomed high like dreams above the fiery clouds—

Suddenly saw how all the quivering haze Was fall of stalking Presences, that went

Tall as the towers, and breasting drifts of flame—

The cloudy immortal forms of ruining gods !

And there, far off, remote from all the rest, Prankt on the topmost crag of masonry, Was one—a lonely terror in the night, Shining, who held in hand a shield that shone, And who a burning nimbus round her hair Wore like a meteor, and who looked with eyes That did out-stare the furnace. My blood froze. 'Tees Pallas' self. I knew her. This was she.

I knew the scaly arms of oyanos ;

I knew the grey gleam of the owl-like eyes ;

I knew the end was come ; and down from heaven I knew the night had fallen, a snare of doom ; And under it our god-built Pergamus- One darkness ruddy with a thousand fires.

The latter part is a fine rendering of,— " Apparent dime fades, inimicaque Troiao Numina magna Deal:a,"

though it has not the grand terseness of the original; but the finest touch in the passage,—perhaps, in the whole volume,—is in the lines,— "Storm,—ay, storm !

I feel it, it will come, it is in my hair— The sweet, wild, infant storm."

That last line only a true poet could have written, but there are many poets capable of single lines of poetry and incapable of complete poems ; and for anything this volume shows us, Mr. Mallock may be among the number. Certainly, we do not think that it will add to his reputation, though it will not detract from it. Perhaps it may be too hastily mistaken for evidence that these poems of his earlier years have had no worthy successors, in poems written since he has become known for other qualities in the world of literature. We know not how this may be. But the volume, taken alone, certainly give us the impression of a mind of much more poetic fancy and delicacy, than of poetic originality or vigour.