Legends and Lyrics,
by Rev. Arthur Wentworth Eaton.  New York:
White & Allen.
Eaton’s volume of poems, though published in New
York, belongs properly to Canada. The author is
a Canadian, though living in the United States,
and the subject matter is almost wholly Canadian.
Both in matter and in spirit, these poems take
their origin from those favored Acadian regions
which had already proved themselves fertile in
inspiration. From faithful critics on all sides
the cry has been going up of late years that poetry
was too much given over to the worship of form,—that
our singers were in danger of becoming mere intricate
weavers of words. The cry is one of needed warning,
and cannot be too pertinaciously reiterated. In
a vast deal of contemporary work one feels that
the initial impulse has come less from a need
of giving utterance to some vivid emotion or high
idea than from an idle itch for experimenting
in bizarre verse-forms. I am keenly alive to the
fact that this experimenting in verse-forms has
its value. It gives faculty, it opens one’s eyes
to the defects of his technique, it helps one
to realize how flexible our language may become;
but, like all experimenting, it is perilous by
reason of its fascinations. And often it happens
that the writer who at first thought only of how
he might best achieve a fine poem, gradually lowers
his aim to the accomplishment of a delicate piece
of verbal filagree that can be ticketed Rondeau,
or Ballade, and judged as such mainly.
Eaton’s book is of interest to all lovers of song,
because it serves as an indication of a return
to simplicity. These verses are direct, unstrained,
natural, and always simple in form and motive.
There is much easy melody, much tenderness of
mood, much faithful and effective discription.
The poet’s gift is not a mighty and compellingly
one, but it is very true and refreshing one.
the Acadian Legends, Mr. Eaton may be said
to revive that pleasant art that has long been
in disuse, the art of telling a not very striking
story in verse, and adding an evasive grace which
persuades one that the tale was worth the telling.
The opening poem, "The Naming of the Gaspereau,"
is a case in point, in spite of what may almost
be called the philological outrage of the incident,
which gives the poem its title. The other poems
in this section are not open to any such blame,
but few of them quite attain the same unconscious
grace. The "Lyrics" have a wider range
of theme, as might be expected; but they do not
very greatly in tone. They are human and wholesome,
almost without exception, and possess that attribute
of improving on close acquaintance. The following
quotations will give a taste of the quality of
this little volume, whose unobtrusive beauties
are likely to be overlooked by the hasty reader:
tide came up as the sun went down,
And the river was full to
its very brim,
And a little boat crept up to the town
On the muddy wave, in the
But that little boat with its reed-like oar
Brought news to the town that
made it weep,
And the people were never as gay as before,
And they never slept so sound
News of a wreck that the boatman had seen
Off in the bay, in a fierce,
Common enough, such things, I ween,
Yet women cried and the men
Strange that a little boat could bring
Tidings to plunge a town in
Strange how often some small thing
May shatter and shiver the
hope of years.
O, none but the angel with silver wings
That broods o’er the river
and guards the town,
Heeds half of the woe each evening brings,
As the tide comes up, and
the sun goes down.
are two stanzas from "Foundry Fires:"
the mass time’s fiery forges
At your eager feet have hurled,
Centuries of toil must follow
Ere ye shape a perfect world;
Yet with clanking, clanking, clinking,
Strike the iron, shape the
Science is indeed the beginning,
Thought in its lusty youth.
O ye forgemen of the nations,
Keep the world’s great fires
Let the sparks fly from your anvils
All along the roads of night;
Clanking, clinking, never shrinking,
Work till stars fade and the
Of a wider faith and knowledge
In the radiant East is born."
BETTER TO HAVE LOVED.
better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all."
better to love, though the heart be broken,
Than to sit alone from passion
Never to have a sign or token
Of the life that deepest lies
‘Twere better to love, though peace should never
Softly climb to thy soul again,
Than to live the blinded life forever
Of barren- hearted, loveless
‘Twere better far that the gates, in shadow,
Of heaven, should once have
come to view
Than that thou till death, from thy dull meadow,
Shouldst never have seen the
pearl and blue."