Marjory Darrow

by Bliss Carman

Introduction by D.M.R. Bentley





"As for 'Marjory Darrow,' it's damn fine,—but don't do it again," Charles G.D. Roberts told Bliss Carman on September 26, 1892:

It is the sort of thing that, done once supremely well, as you have done it ..., is enchanting. But more in a similar line would seem like mannerism, and weaken the effect ... I wonder if I make my feeling clear in the matter! There is, however, one verbal blemish on the poem, which I think a serious one. It is in the second line. I don't like Marjory's "perfect cheek." How would "consummate gall" do instead? ... I know this is most exasperating criticism,—but that line is just the one that the Philistines would delight to worry! There is no use giving them occasion to make merry, as the line does not seem to me in any way one of your inevitable ones! (154)

Roberts was right to worry about the reception of "Marjory Darrow": after it was published in The Independent (New York) on September 1, 1892, it was reprinted in The Week (Toronto) on September 30, 1892 amid a small storm of controversy that probably accounts for the fact that Carman shied away from including it in any volume or collection of his poems. Prominent among the features of the poem that irked readers of the day were its obscure narrative and varying refrain. Largely ignored were its large debts to the poetry of the Pre-Raphaelites, especially William Morris, and to Walt Whitman, particularly "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" (and, hence or in tandem to the American nature writer John Burroughs). A discussion of the controversy and its implications can be found in D.M.R. Bentley, The Confederation Group of Canadian Poets, 1880-1897 (2004).

     The present text of "Marjory Darrow" is taken from The Independent (September 1, 1892).

Works Cited in the Introduction

Bentley, D.M.R. The Confederation Group of Canadian Poets, 1880-1897. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2004.

Roberts, Charles G.D. Collected Letters. Ed. Laurel Boone. Fredericton: Goose Lane, 1989.