forth thy leaf thou lofty plane,
and frost are safely gone;
With zephyr mild and balmy rain
comes serenely on;
Earth, air, and sun and skies combine
all that's kind and fair:—
But thou, O human heart of mine,
contain thyself, and bear.
days were brief and chill,
of March were wild and drear,
And, nearing and receding still,
would, we thought, be here.
The leaves that burst, the suns that shine,
Had, not the
less, their certain date:—
And thou, O human heart of mine,
refrain thyself, and wait.
know of no more apt quotation for the present season
than the poem of Arthur Hugh Clough printed above, "Nearing
and receding still, Spring never would we thought be
here." This has been our condition for the last
six weeks, enjoying one day of perfect weather and then
three of the north wind and bleak rains. But our leaves
and suns have had their certain date, and we are now
in the possession of summer, having had no genuine spring.
The poem is a beautiful example of Clough at his best,
with his power of comforting the spirit and his lofty
thought. Such poems are very rare, and this one is amongst
the highest achievements of lyrical poetry, where both
the form and the thought are noble and exalted, and
the art is so concealed that the poem seems frigid in
its freedom from rhetoric, its absolute plainness. But
it succeeds absolutely, and its power of comforting
and sustaining the spirit is very great. This is the
final test of the highest poetry; it may not be picturesque
of vivid with images, but it brings peace.
Assocation of American Authors just formed on the 18th
of this month has for its leading officers Thomas Wentworth
Higginson, president; Julia Ward Howe, first vice-president;
Moncure D. Conway, second vice-president; Maurice Thompson,
third vice-president; and the Board of Management will
include W.D. Howells and Charles Dudley Warner. All
the leading writers of the country have enrolled as
members, and the assocation promises to be a great success.
The main object of the society is to co-operate with
publishers in putting American literature on a better
footing. Could not such an assocation be formed in Canada?
We have many writers, and we have no assocation to bring
them together, or develop and encourage our literary
spirit. The fact that we could not organise on such
a large and successful basis as our friends across the
line should not discourage us. No class of literary
workers in the world to-day need so much encouragement
as do the Canadians. We have an up-hill fight against
a narrow spirit of local contempt at the hands of the
very class that could help us if it desired to. Therefore
Canadian writers would do well to band together on a
practical basis of a common fellow-feeling. And such
an association, if at all feasible, might be of great
benefit as a stimulus to the whole country. The artists
have their gatherings, and why should not the literary
folk do otherwise?
friend the sonneteer has been at it again. He knows
in what abhorrence I hold those persons—so exasperatingly
numerous in our time—who profane and misapply
the sonnet, and he takes a sort of inhuman delight in
torturing me with sonnets of his own composition on
all sorts of flippant and improper subjects. He came
into my room the other day with two papers in his hand.
I knew at once what that peculiar grin of malevolent
satisfaction meant. "I am going to treat you a
couple of sonnets," he said. "I am sure they
will give you pleasure," and drawing a chair to
the table he carefully spread out the first of the papers
before him and began to read as follows:
Slowly my thoughts lost hold on consciousness
waves that urge but cannot reach the shore.
and again I wakened, and once more
The wind sighed in, and with a lingering stress
Brushed the loose blinds. Out of some far recess
came a groping as of steps; a door
mice are scuffling underneath the floor.
And then, when all the house stood motionless,
dropped sharply overhead. A deep,
silence followed. Only half aware
sat and strove to waken, and fell flat.
moment after, step by step, feet
plumping softly down the attic stair;
And then I turned, and then I fell asleep.
I said, "that doesn't seem to be so bad—in
a certain sense, from a certain point of view—rather
true to life, quite picturesque in fact—but could
you not have arranged to cast your impression in some
more suitable form a little less ridiculously inapplicable
to the smallness and homeliness of your subject?"
"No I couldn't," answered my friend, fixing
me with a defiant glare. "The best way to impress
your subject on the reader is to cast it in a totally
unsuitable form. It's the contrast that does it, you
know," and he took up the other paper, and read
the following utterly artocious and impudent production:—
I stand at noon upon the heated flags
bleached crossing of two streets, and dream,
brain scarce conscious, how the hurrying stream
Of noonday passengers is done. Two bags
Stand at an open doorway piled with bags
jabber hideously. Just at their feet
half-naked child screams in the street.
A blind man yonder, a mere hunch of rags,
Keeps the scant shadow of the caves, and scowls,
his coppers. Through the open glare
an empty waggon, from whose trail
A lean dog shoots into the startled square,
revolves and soothes his hapless tail,
Piercing the noon with intermittent howls.
you have outdone yourself this time," I cried.
"You have violated every law of moral dignity and
literary decency. I prefer not to hear any more of your
so-called sonnets." My friend instead of answering
me broke out into a roar of coarse and offensive laughter.
He crushed up his papers into a couple of pellets, and,
filliping them into my face, strode rudely out of the
room. The poor fellow has talent if he would only apply
it in a serious and sensible way.
story of most exquisite touch is Barrie's "Little
Minister." There is a genuine realism running through
much of the tale, and yet when you have laid the book
down it is with the impression that Blackmore might
have written just such a romance had his environment
been a Highland Scotch instead of an English one. There
is a marked resemblance in the work of the two writers,
which is especially shown in the character of the heroine,
who is the most unreal, and yet the most fascinating
character in the book. Her strange elfin beauty, the
mystery surrounding her, her marvellous escapades, which
end all right, and, above all, her coming with a suggestiveness
of aristocratic influences and looser social culture
into the narrow environment of a small village, with
its deep-rooted religious and other prejudices, at once
suggest a similar manner of working in Blackmore. The
realism of the book is to be found in many characteristics
of the little minister and his struggle to be true to
his people and his old connections, with the realistic
background of the people themselves, who by their very
worship of his character and position threatened to
come in the way of his happiness. Mr. Barrie uses a
heroic action which is too melodramatic to be real on
the part of the minister to overcome their prejudices,
and so makes the story end happily. Of course this is
as it should be in story books, and it is this that
makes "The Little Minister" more of a romance
than a realistic picture. But we cannot help feeling
that if the drunken hero, who is the scapegoat as it
is, should have been allowed to have killed the girl
or have frightened her to death as he nearly did, and
which we fully expected to be the denouement, that Mr.
Barrie's story, while certainly painful, would have
been more in keeping with the irony of fate. He just
failed of making "The Little Minister" a picture
of sad and pathetic beauty. As it is, the story is a
strange mixture of quaint realism, and daring and fascinating
sequel to "Kidnapped," which Mr. Stevenson
is now writing, will likely appear before the close
of 1892. It will be called "David Balfour."
Mr. Stevenson is also writing a "History of Samoa,"
which he is sure to make interesting. Leaving the question
of history aside, there will be room for picturesque
writing. The chapter describing the hurricane of March,
1889, has already appeared in The National Observer.