there be any one quality more than another in Miss Harriet
Monroe's verse which distinguishes it from that of the
American poets of her own sex it is the spirit of intense
longing for liberty, liberty of life and art, as well
as government. This spirit pervades the whole of the
drama which occupies a large portion of her new book
of poems, and throughout the lyrics and sonnets which
follow it quickens and breathes. There will always be
one or two poems in the works of every writer which
will seem to epitomize the character and aim of his
genius, and the sonnet "With a Copy of Shelley,"
seems to contain that desire for liberty, for advancement,
for truth, expressed in a characteristic manner, with
something of the intensity and rapture of the poet,
in whose volume it was written, which may be taken as
the main tendency of Miss Monroe's work. I can recall
the utterance of only one woman which is infused with
the same spirit of ideal liberty; in this quality the
work of Mrs. W.E. Hamilton King is akin to that of Harriet
Monroe. But the former writer, who is so little known,
has greater picturesqueness, a finer eye for the richness
of landscape. In common they have the fault of diffuseness,
which is noticed in Mrs. King's "The Disciples,"
and Miss Monroe's "Valeria," and in this as
well as in many other points they both resemble Mrs.
Browning. If Miss Monroe had been possessed of that
constructive ability which goes to the making of a drama
her "Valeria" would have been a splendid success.
That adjective might be applied to it with perfect truth
as it stands, for it contains some rare energetic and
imaginative writing, and is splendid as well from these
qualities as from the spirit which animates it. But
if the drama is a trifle too gigantic for Miss Monroe's
constructive power, in the sonnet she has found a form
for which she seems to have an intuition, and in which
she expresses herself with a natural force and freedom.
The sonnet is a form which will never grow old, and
which will be revivified so often as a poet with something
to say uses it, and no matter how many bad sonnets may
be written the ideal form remains. When a poet has such
a perfect feeling for the completeness and perfection
of this form as has Miss Monroe it would almost be worth
while to cultivate it alone until the outcome became
something more perfect, sweeter, with a richer and more
limpid harmony than anything which our day has seen.
When over-production is plainly the demon with which
our modern writers are possessed it would be an achievement
to cast him out and give only the best moments of one's
life to the perfecting of some sincere work. And already
Miss Monroe has produced several sonnets that are perfect.
I wish I could quote them entire instead of giving only
their titles: "To a Beautiful Lady," "On
Reading a Modern Romance," "Time's Perversity,"
"To W.S.M." The perfection of at least two
of Miss Monroe's lyrics, "Unfulfilled" and
"A Hymn," outstrips the genuine quality of
their companions and leaves them unique in the collection.
Altogether, Miss Monroe's book, which is published by
McClurg & Co. of Chicago, announces that she is
capable of perfect things, which is a sufficient distinction
in these days when form seems to be the slave of mediocrity
and not the handmaid of genius.
practice of snowshoeing is one which every man should
cultivate, wherever the conditions are favorable to
it. It is an easy, exhilarating and very thorough way
of getting exercise. The free, swinging stride, which
the use of snowshoes necessitates, has the effect of
awakening the blood in all parts of the body to a full
and natural activity. To anyone who is at all accustomed
to it, the motion seems to be an exceedingly easy and
unwearying one; and it is an undoubted fact that if
the snow is in a satisfactory condition a man can go
much farther with snowshoes, and much more swiftly without
weariness, than he can walking in the usual way upon
the travelled road.
But the supreme
charm of this delightful exercise lies in the fact that,
as in the case of imagination as compared with logic,
or the poet compared with the scientific philosopher,
the snowshoer is freed from all rules of any absolute
system of procedure. Whereas the ordinary wayfarer must
follow slowly and ploddingly the worn paths and beaten
highways, he sets all guidance at defiance, and marches
at the bidding of any whim over fields, over marshes,
down valleys, wherever he will. He crosses or follows
the level breadth of rivers, finding in them the smoothest
and freest floorway for his feet. He strides into the
depth of forests, where, but for his shoes, he would
be buried to his waist in snow. He climbs upon the treetops
and looks abroad over the world; in imagination the
monarch of all he surveys. His tracks are everywhere
but along the common road; that, like the artist-Bohemian,
he sedulously avoids.
Canadian writer whose work is continually gaining in
strength of imagination and fulness of tone is the Rev.
Frederick George Scott. We are reminded of him by a
very vigorous and interesting poem called "In Via
Mortis," in The Week for February 10th. The imagery
of this poem, the picturing of the dead and their hidden
land, and the emotions stirred within the poet's soul
by the voices and shadows of the after world are given
to us in the large and vague forms suggestive of all
indigenous northern poetry. The workmanship of the stanzas
is of a high order, and marks a continued advance upon
the quality, already in some cases fine, of such previous
work of this writer as we have seen. As a piece of writing
it would be hard to improve upon the following stanza:
know you not, great forms of giant kings,
Who held dominion
in your iron hands,
Who toyed with battles and all valorous things,
Counting yourselves as gods, when on the sands
Ye piled the earth's rock fragments in a heap,
To mark and guard the grandeur of your sleep,
And quaff the cup which death, our mother, brings."