Lyra Celtica Notes, cont'd
IRISH (MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY)
A.E. PAGES 87-91
From Homeward Songs by the Way (Whaley, Dublin).
This little book, published in paper covers, and apparently with every effort to avoid rather than court publicity, almost immediately attracted the notice of the few who watch contemporary poetry with scrupulously close attention. The author, who is well known in Dublin literary society, prefers to disguise his identity in public under the initials A.E., though it is no longer a secret that Mr G. W. Russell is the name of this poet-dreamer, who, like Blake, of whom he is a student and interpreter, has also a faculty of pictorial expression of a rare and distinctive kind.
WM. ALLINGHAM. (1824-1889) PAGES 92-94
Every lover of Irish poetry is familiar with "The Fairies" of the late William Allingham. He is an Irish rather than distinctively a Celtic poet in the strict sense of the word; but every now and again he strikes the genuine Celtic note, as in his well-know 'Fairies," and the little poem called the "Æolian Harp," by which he is also represented here. Much the best critical summary of his life-work is to be found in the brief memoir by Mr W. B. Yeats in Miles' Poets and Poetry of the Century, Vol. V., P. 209. Among the innumerable love songs of the Irish peasantry there are few more beautiful than Allingham's "Mary Donnelly." As Mr Yeats says, he was "the poet of little things and little moments, and neither his emotions nor his thoughts took any wide sweep over the world of Man and Nature." His"LaurenceBloomfield" is already practically forgotten; but many of the lighter and often exquisitely deft lyrics of his early life will remain in the memory of the Irish people, and one or two at least in English literature.
THOMAS BOYD. PAGE 95
So far as I know, Mr Thomas Boyd has not published any volume of verse. Some of his poems have appeared in United Ireland, among them the beautiful lines, "To the Lianhaun Shee."
EMILY BRONTE. (1818-1848.) PAGE 97
It may be as well to explain to those readers who take it for granted that Emily Brontë is to be accounted an English poet, that she was of Irish nationality and birth. The name Brontë, so familiar now through the genius of herself and her sister, was originally Prunty. Everything from her pen has a note of singular distinction; but perhaps she could hardly be more characteristically represented than by the poem called "Remembrance." The, in quantity, meagre poetic legacy of the author of Wuthering Heights is comprised (under her pseudonym, Ellis Bell) in the volume Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.
STOPFORD A. BROOKE. PAGE 98-l00
"The Earth and Man" and "Song" (from the poem called "Six Days") are from Mr Stopford Brooke's volume, Poems (Macmillan & Co.). These seem to me fairly representative of the distinctive atmosphere which Mr Brooke conveys in all his poetry. See particularly his Riquet of The Tuft (1880) and Poems (1888).
JOHN K. CASEY. PAGE 101-3
Most of Mr Casey's poems appeared above the signature "Leo." Born in 1846, the son of a peasant, his early efforts to make literature his profession were handicapped by inevitable disadvantages. In 1876 he was arrested as a Fenian conspirator, and imprisoned. This, combined with the influence of his unselfish patriotism and the popularity of many of his lyrics, gave him a recognised place in the Irish Brotherhood of Song.
GEORGE DARLEY. (1795-1846.) PAGE 104
This remarkable poet, who has so strangely lapsed from public remembrance, was in his own day greatly admired by his fellow-poets and the most discerning critics of the period. Mrs Browning, and Robert Browning still more, were deeply impressed by what is now his best known production--Sylvia: a Lyrical Drama (1836); and Alfred Tennyson was so struck by the quality of the young poet's work that he volunteered to defray the cost of publishing his verse. Lord Tennyson frequently, in conversation, alluded to George Darley as one of the "hopelessly misapprehended men"; and we have Robert Browning's own authority, says Darley's latest biographer, Mr John H. Ingram, for stating that Sylvia did much to determine the form of his own early dramas. Sylvia, again, charmed Coleridge; and in 1836, Miss Mitford, whom Mr Ingram calls a leading spirit among the literati of her day, writes: "I have just had a present of a most exquisite poem, which old Mr Carey (the translator of Dante and Pindar) thinks more highly of than any poem of the present day-'Sylvia, or The May Queen,' by George Darley. It is exquisite--something between the 'Faithful Shepherdess' and the 'Midsummer Night's Dream.'"
Darley was the eldest child of Arthur Darley, of the Scalp, County Wicklow. The poet, however, was not born there, but in Dublin, in the year 1795. While he was a child, his parents emigrated to the United States; and the boy spent the first ten years of his life at the family home in Wicklow. In due time, and subsequent to the return of his parents from America, he went through the usual scholastic routine, though he did not graduate at Trinity College, Dublin, till his twenty-fifth year--a delay in great part due to what, then and later, he considered a disastrous impediment of speech. From the loss of a scholarship to the social deprivations he underwent in London, this infirmity, he declared, was his evil fortune. His first book, The Errors of Ecstasie, was published (1822) in London, where he had settled. Needless to say, as this volume consists mainly of a dialogue between a Mystic and the Moon, the reading public remained in absolute ignorance of the new poet. His second book (1826) consisted of a series of prose tales and verses, collectively entitled - The 'Labors of Idleness; or, Seven Nights' Entertainments"--set forth as by "Guy Penseval." Three years later appeared his chief work, Sylvia. Not withstanding its divers shortcomings, some of them frankly acknowledged by the author himself, Sylvia is a creation of genuine imagination, and possesses a haunting and quite distinctive charm. Both the merits and demerits of his too often uncontrolled style are adequately indicated in the criticism of Mr Ingram - "[frequently] his wild Celtic fancy breaks its curb and carries him into clouds of metaphor as marvellous as they are musical, although often the flight ends by a hasty and undignified descent to commonplace earth." There is no commonplace, however, in his exquisite faEry verse, which, in the words of the same critic, "is among the loveliest in the language; at times is even sweeter than Drayton's, and is as fantastic as Shakespeare's own."
For ten years the poet kept silence; but in 1839 he issued his fragmentary and extraordinary Nepenthe--a poem which, with all its brilliant quality and daring richness of imagery, might well be taken as an example of the Celtic genius in extremis--so unreservedly does he give way to an uncontrolled imagination. Perhaps the best thing said about Nepenthe is in a letter from the author himself, wherein he writes:--"Does it not speak a heat of brain mentally Bacchic?"
Nothing that Darley published afterwards enhanced his reputation. Lovers of his best work, however, should read the posthumous volume of his "Poems" edited by R. and M. J. Livingstone--a rare volume, as it was printed for private circulation. It contains some of the songs from an unpublished lyrical drama called The Sea Bride; and it is from this that "Dirge," quoted at page 104 in this book, comes. In this posthumous collection also is included the following striking and characteristic lyric:--
THE FALLEN STAR.
A star is gone! a star is gone!
There is a blank in Heaven,
One of the cherub choir has done
His airy course this even.
He sat upon the orb of fire
That hung for ages there,
And lent his music to the choir
That haunts the nightly air.
But when his thousand years are passed,
With a cherubic sigh
He vanished with his car at last,
For even cherubs die!
Hear how his angel brothers mourn--
The minstrels of the spheres--
Each chiming sadly in his turn
And dropping splendid tears.
The planetary sisters all
join in the fatal song,
And weep this hapless brother's fall
Who sang with them so long.
But deepest of the choral band
The Lunar Spirit sings,
And with a bass according hand
Sweeps all her sullen strings.
From the deep chambers of the dome
Where sleepless Uriel lies,
His rude harmonic thunders come
Mingled with mighty sighs.
The thousand car-borne cherubim,
The wandering eleven,
All join to chant the dirge of him
Who fell just now from Heaven.
After a life of great intellectual activity, but of singular isolation and of misanthropic unhappiness, George Darley died in London on the 23rd of November 1846, in his fifty-first year. For further information as to the personality and writings of this strange, undeservedly neglected, but unbalanced man of genius, the reader may be referred to the delightful edition of Sylvia, with Introduction, by Mr John H. Ingram, published by Mr J. M. Dent (1892).
AUBREY DE VERE. PAGE 105-6
Mr Aubrey De Vere is one of the most scholarly poets of Ireland. All his work is informed with a high and serious spirit ; and though the bulk of it is not distinctively Celtic, either in sentiment or utterance, not even distinctively Irish, he has written some poems which are as dear to Nationalists and Celticists as is almost any other verse by contemporary poets. Mr Aubrey De Vere is the younger brother of Sir Stephen De Vere, Bart. (the translator of Horace, and himself a poet of distinction), and son of Aubrey De Vere, the poet friend of Wordsworth. He was born in 1814, and has lived most of his life, with long intervals in London and in several parts of Europe, at his birthplace, Curragh Chase, Adare, Co. Limerick. Among his most noteworthy writings are: The Waldensees (1842); The Search after Proserpine (1843); Poems (1853); The Sisters (1861); The Infant Bridal: and other Poems (1864); Irish Odes (1869); The Legends of St Patrick (1872); A1exander the Great, a poetical drama (1874); and another drama, St Thomas of Canterbury (1876); Antar and Zara: and other Poems (1877); Legends of the Saxon Saints (1879); and The Foray of Queen Meave, based upon an ancient Irish epic (1882). Since then Mr Aubrey De Vere has published a Selection of his poems and one or two books of a religious nature. His best prose work is to be found in his Essays chiefly on Poetry (1887), and Essays chiefly Literary and Ethical (1889).
FRANCIS FAHY. PAGE 107
Author of Irish Songs and Poems, published under the pseudonym " Dreolin." Mr Fahy is a member of the group of notable lyrists whose captain is Sir Samuel Ferguson.
SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. (1810-1886.) PAGE 109
This celebrated poet and archaeologist was born in Belfast. He has aptly been called a man of encyclopedic learning; but this learning did not prevent his becoming perhaps the foremost Irish poet of the Middle Victorian period. His most ambitious poetic work is Congal: an Epic Poem (1872)--a work full of lofty imagination but unfortunate in its metrical setting. His short poem, "The Forging of the Anchor," is one of the most celebrated and popular poems of our era. Even yet, the influence of his Lays of the Western Gael (1865) is consider able, and for good. "Cean Dubh Deelish (darling dark head), of which several able, and one or two good translations have been made, finds its happiest interpreter in Ferguson. How many poets and lovers have repeated these lines--
"Then put your head, darling, darling, darling,
Your darling black head my heart above;
Oh, mouth of honey, with thyme for fragrance,
Who, with heart in breast, could deny you love?"
"Molly Asthore " is also a paraphrase. The original is ascribed to a celebrated Irish Gaelic bard, Cormac O'Con.
"The Fair Hills of Holy Ireland," is familiar to Irish men and women in every part of the world.
ALFRED PERCIVAL GRAVES. PAGE 113
One of the best known names of Ireland of to-day. Mr Graves, born in Dublin in 1846, is thoroughly national, and his delightful work is perhaps as adequately typical of the Irish spirit as that of anyone man could be. His lyric faculty--or at any rate his movement, his verve--is unsurpassed by any living Irishman. These few examples of his poetical writings should win him many more readers. His first book, Songs of Killarney, was published over twenty years ago. Since then he has issued Irish Songs and Ballads,-Songs of Old Ireland, and (1880) his best known collection, Father O'Flymn : and other Irish Lyrics. Irish Songs and Airs is the title of his promised contribution to Sir Gavan Duffy's Irish Library.
GERALD GRIFFIN. (1803-1840) PAGE 121
The author of the lovely song, "Eileen Aroon" (Nellie, my Darling), was born in Limerick. His chief work is his novel, The Collegians, which has been pronounced to be "the most perfect Irish novel published." I have heard that Tennyson once "went mooning about for days," repeating with endless gusto, and with frequent expressions of a wish that he was the author of, the closing lines:--
Youth must with time decay,
Beauty must fade away
Castles are sacked in war,
Chieftains are scattered far,
Truth is a fixéd star,
NORA HOPPER. PAGE 123 ETC.
This young Irish poet made an immediate impression by her Ballads in Prose (John Lane). Both in prose and verse she displays the true Celtic note, and often the unmistakable Celtic intensity. The lovely lyrics "April in Ireland," and "The Wind among the Reeds," are from Ballads in Prose. "The Dark Man" has not hitherto appeared in print, and I am indebted to Miss Hopper for her permission to quote it here. It is, I understand, to be included in her shortly forthcoming volume, to be published by Mr John Lane.
DOUGLAS HYDE, LL.D. PAGE 126
Dr Hyde, one of the foremost living expositors of Gaelic folklore in Ireland, was born about thirty-five years ago in the Co. Roscommon, where he has since resided. He graduated at Trinity College, Dublin, after an exceptionally brilliant University career. He is now President of the Gaelic League, and one of the acknowledged leaders of the Gaelic wing of the Celtic Renascence; but from the first he was in the front rank of those who are working for the preservation of the ancient Irish language and the rescue of its beautiful fugitive literature. Although best known by his Irish Tales, taken down at first hand from the peasantry, and other Folk-collections, and his invaluable and unique The Love Songs of Connacht (Connaught), he is himself a poet of mark. (See, also, Note XI., supra.) Those who are in a position to judge declare his Gaelic poetry, which appears in the Irish Press above the signature "An Chraoibhin Aoibhinn," to be of altogether exceptional excellence. The work Dr Douglas Hyde does deserves the most cordial recognition. No man has worked more wholeheartedly, more enthusiastically, and with more far-reaching success for the cause of the Irish-Gaelic language, folk-lore, and literature, and, it may be added, the best interests of the Irish of the soil.
The songs by which he is represented in this volume are from the Love Songs of Connacht (Fisher Unwin, 1893), a book which is not only indispensable to the Celtic scholar, but should be in the hands of every lover of Celtic literature, old-time or new. All are translations, though perhaps paraphrastic rather than metaphrastic. Both in their music and in their intensity--in, also, their peculiar lyric lilt--they are distinctively West Irish. The collection from which these poems are drawn was issued as The Fourth Chapter of the Songs of Connacht. The preceding three appeared in the now defunct Nation. They were all originally written in Irish; but very wisely, or at any rate for us very fortunately, Dr Hyde interpolated translations. In these he has endeavoured to reproduce the vowel-rhymes as well as the exact metres of the original poems. We must hope to see the reprint, in like fashion, of the predecessors of this volume.
LIONEL JOHNSON. PAGE 133
Though come of a Dublin family, and otherwise Irish by descent Mr Johnson was born at Broadstairs in Kent (1867). He first became known to the reading public, as a poet, by his contributions to The Book Of the Rhymers' Club, notable for their distinction of touch. Since then Mr Johnson has published much in prose and verse, though in book form he has not, I think, produced any other prose work than his admirable study of Thomas Hardy, or any other volume of poetry than his Poems. His work is not characterised by distinctively Celtic quality, though occasionally, as in "The Red Wind" and "To Morfyd," the Celtic note makes itself audible. No doubt--to judge from internal evidence in his later writings- Mr. Johnson's poetic work, at least, will develop more and more along the line of his racial bent.
DENIS FLORENCE MACCARTHY. (1817-1882.) PAGE 135
Mr Maccarthy, who was a barrister in Dublin, and one of the main supports of the Nation, is best known by his fine translation of Calderon's Dramas. The "Lament," by which he is here represented, has always seemed to me his most haunting lyrical achievement. It is necessary to add, however, that this poem is somewhat condensed from the original--which is weakened by diffuseness. The score or so of lines beginning "As fire-flies fade," have been favourites with many poets of Maccarthy's own time and later.
JAMES CLARENCE MANGAN. (1803-1849.) PAGE 137
While it is not the case, as sometimes averred, that Mangan was, or is, to Ireland what Burns is to Scotland, it is indisputable that the claim may be made for him rather than for any other Irish poet of the Early Victorian period. In fire and energy his faculty is unsurpassed by any of his poetic countrymen, though we may dispute Sir Charles Gavan Duffy's assertion that Mangan "has not, and perhaps never had, any rival in mastery of the metrical and rhythmical resources of the English tongue." Mangan was the child of a small tradesman of Dublin, where, in 1803, he was born. From childhood, fate dealt hardly with him. Abandoned in his early boyhood, he was indebted to a relative for his education; but when, in his fifteenth year, he became a copyist in a lawyer's office, at a small pittance, his kindred discovered him and compelled him to share his meagre gains with them. For ten years thereafter he toiled in this bitter bondage. In his own words:--"I was obliged to work seven years of the ten from five in the morning, winter and summer, to eleven at night and during the three remaining years, nothing but a speciaal Providence could have saved me from suicide." No wonder that , from an early period in his life, he found relief from his misery in drink; but it was misery and unbroken ill-fortune and adversity, much more than the curse of his fatal habit, that really killed him. There is a period in his life which is a blank, "a blank into which he entered a bright-haired youth and emerged a withered and stricken man." His first chance for a happier life came with his appointment to a minor post in the University Library of Dublin, and it was during this time that most of his best work was done. His highest level is reached in his brilliant free paraphrases of German originals: Anthologia Germania (1845). His later years were darkened by the worst phases of his malady, and he died (as in most part he had lived, in misery and poverty) in Meath Hospital, in his forty-seventh year. He has written one lyric that Irishmen will always account immortal: "Dark Rosaleen "--a wild and passionate rhapsody on Ireland herself. "Dark Rosaleen," "Silk of the Kine," "The Little Black Rose," "Kathleen Ny Houlahan"--these were at one time the familiar analogues of Ireland. Of his Oriental paraphrases the most stirring is "The Karamanian Exile." Strangely enough, Mangan's Irish renderings are less happy than those poems which he based upon German and Oriental originals; but sometimes, as in the beautiful " Fair Hills of Eiré, O! " after the Irish of Donough mac Con-Mara, he has bequeathed a memorable lyric. Of poems that are strictly original, nothing seems to me more characteristic of Mangan than "The One Mystery" (see P. 142).
ROSA MULHOLLAND. PAGE 144
This accomplished prose-writer and poet was born in Belfast. Since her Vagrant Verses (1886) she has published many stories and poems, and is a regular contributor to the leading Irish periodicals. Her "Fionnula" is one of the happiest renderings of the legend of the Swan Daughters of Lir; but is too long for quotation in the text. "The Wild Geese," by which she is represented here, is eminently characteristic. Her latest poem, and one of her best, appears under the title "Under a Purple Cloud" in the autumn number of The Evergreen. It is a vision of Earth personified, and opens thus
Under a purple cloud along the west
The great brown mother lies and takes her rest,
A dark cheek on her hand, and in her eyes
The shadow of primeval mysteries.
Her tawny velvets swathe her, manifold,
Her mighty head is coifed in filmy gold,
Her youngest babe, the newly-blossomed rose
Upon her swarthy bosom feeds and grows.
With her wide darkling gaze the mother sees
Her children in their homes, the reddening trees,
Roofing wet lawns, fruit-laden lattices,
Blue mountain domes, and the grey river-seas.
THE HON. RODEN NOËL. (1834-1894.) PAGE 146
Mr Roden Noël was son of the first Earl of Gainsborougb, grandson of Lord Roden of Tullymore in Ireland, and nephew to the present Marquis of Londonderry. By birth, descent, training, and sympathy, he considered himself an Irishman: though he was half English by blood, and lived the greater part of his life in England, while his intellectual homage was largely evoked by Hellenic mythology and lore, and by Teutonic mysticism and speculation. It was this confused blending of influences which, perhaps, militated so strongly against the concentration of his brilliant abilities into long-sustained and organic creative effort. With all his shortcomings, he still remains a poet of genuine impulse and occasionally of high distinction; and some of his lyrics and ballads, of a more essentially human interest than his more ambitious work, are likely to be held in honourable remembrance. The "Lament for a Little Child " (see p. 146) has passed into literature; as, indeed, may perhaps be said of the book whence it comes: A Little Child's Monument (1881). In one of his Cornish poems he begins thus:--
"For me, true son of Erin, thou art rife,
Grand coast of Cornwall, cliff, and cave, and surge,
With glamour of the Kelt."
I do not think there is much "glamour of the Kelt" in Roden Noël's work, but it may be discerned in one or two poems in each of his volumes, and in many of his lyrics and irregular lyrical compositions there is much of Celtic intensity and dream. Few poets have written of the sea with more loving knowledge and profound sympathy; hence it is that he is represented here by one characteristic sea-poem, called "The Swimmer"--as autobiographical as anything of the kind can be. The swimmer's joy was Roden NoEl's chief physical delight. All who knew the man himself remember him as one of the personalities of his time, and as a man of individual distinction and charm. Besides the book already mentioned, his chief poetic volumes are Beatrice and Other Poems (1868); Songs of the Heights and Deeps (1885); and A Modern Faust (1888). See also the Selection from his poems published in the Canterbury Poets Series (edited, with a Critical Introduction, by Mr Robert Buchanan), and the posthumous volumes My Sea and Selected Lyrics (Elkin Mathews).
CHARLES P. O'CONOR. PAGE 158
Besides this typical Irish song, Mr O'Conor has written other winsome lyrics of the same kind. One of the best is that called " Erinn " beginning--
"O! a lovelv place is Erinn, in the summer of the year,
Roseen dbu ma Erinn."
This and "Maura Du of Ballysbannon" are from his Songs of a Life (Kentish Mercury Office, 1875).
JOHN FRANCIS O'DONNELL. PAGE 160
This pretty Spinning Song is characteristic of the always deft and generally delicate and winsome lyrical writing of Mr Francis O'Donnell.
JOHN BOYLE O'REILLY. PAGE 161
This prolific writer, often designated an Irish-American poet, through the accident of his enforced exile to, and long residence in, the United States, is inadequately represented by the brief lyric, "A White Rose"; but it is significant of his best achievement, for he is always at his happiest in brief, spontaneous lyrics, often in a Heinesque vein. John Boyle O'Reilly was born at Dowth Castle in Ireland. In his early manhood he enlisted in a hussar regiment; and it was while as a hussar that he was arrested on the charge of spreading republican principles in the ranks, and was sentenced to be shot. This sentence was commuted to twenty years of penal servitude; when the unfortunate man, victim of that disastrous as well as iniquitous tyranny which has characterised the English official attitude towards the Celtic populations, was taken to the convict settlements of Western Australia. Thence, in time, he escaped, and after hairbreadth escapes reached Philadelphia. From there he went to Boston, where he settled and in a few years, by virtue of his remarkable gifts as a poet, a prose-writer, and a brilliant journalist, became an acknowledged power in trans-Atlantic literature. A novel of his, Moondyne, is widely and deservedly celebrated. Of his poetical works, the best are Songs of the Southern Seas, Songs, Legends, and Ballads, and In Bohemia.
ARTHUR O'SHAUGHNESSY. (1844-1881.) PAGE 162
O'Shauchnessy is to be ranked as an English rather than as an Irish poet; for the national sentiment played a minor, indeed hardly a perceptible part in his poetic life. The Celtic part of him found its best expression in his translations of the Lays of Marie (particularly the difficult and extraordinary "Bisclaveret"), powerful paraphrases rather than translations. The poem by which he is represented here shows the influence of Edgar Allan Poe, but is founded upon a Celtic legend. In his early youth he was appointed to a subordinate position in the Library of the British Museum, and was afterwards promoted to the Natural History Department. His first literary success was his Epic of Women (1870), a volume of exceptional promise, which, however, was never adequately fulfilled. His Lays of France (1872) was followed by Music and Moonlight (1874) and a posthumous volume, Songs of a Worker (1881). Always delicate, his death without any breakdown surprised none of his friends. I recall that on the Saturday preceding his death, which I think was on a Wednesday, he came into the rooms of his brother-in-law, and fellow-poet and friend, Philip Bourke Marston, and asked me to come to his residence on the following Wednesday, to hear him read from the proofs of his new book. That evening he went to a theatre, came home on the top of an omnibus, caught a chill, and died before any of his friends knew that he was seriously indisposed. The best critical and biographical accounts of this charming if insubstantial poet, are to be found in Dr Garnett's memoir in Miles' Poets and Poetry of the Century, Vol. VIII, and in the biographical edition of his poems recently put forth by Mrs Louise Chandler Moulton. Of the poem here given, Dr Garnett speaks as a "miracle of melody," and as one of the pieces in which " the poet's inward nature has perhaps most clearly expreessed itself."
FANNY PARNELL. (1855-1883.) PAGE 165
A remarkable poem by a remarkable woman. Frances Isabelle Parnell was the sister of Charles Stewart Parnell, and granddaughter of Charles Stewart (from whom the great Irish patriot derived his baptismal names), the historic commander of the U.S. Frigate Constitution. Miss Parnell's poems, which always appeared above the signature of Fanny Parnell, have not yet been published collectively. She was secretary of the Ladies' Land League, and was as intensely wrought by the fervour of patriotism as was her famous brother.
T. W. ROLLESTON. PAGE 166
The sometime editor of the Dublin University Review, and one of the most valued present members of the Irish Literary Society, was born at Shinrone, King's County, in 1857. Mr Rolleston has had a cosmopolitan training since he left Trinity College, and has in particular been influenced by his long residence in Germany; but he has remained a Celtic poet and ardent Celticist through every intellectual development. While resident in Germany and in London, he wrote his Life of Lessing and his introductions to Epictetus and Plato. He is now responsibly connected with the Irish Industries Association, but is more and not less engrossed by his Celtic studies. If there were a few more poet-scholars who could translate or paraphrase so beautifully as Mr Rolleston has paraphrased the Irish of Enoch o' Gillan (see p. 166) and other poems, there would be a wider public in England for the lovely work of early Irish poetry. "The Lament of Queen Maev," given here in the Ancient Irish section, is also a translation by Mr Rolleston.
DORA SIGERSON. PAGE 167
This young and promising writer comes of poetic stock. Her sister Hester is also a writer of verse, and her father, Dr Sigerson, is one of the foremost workers in the Gaelic Revival. Miss Dora Sigerson's only published book as yet bears the modest title Verses. It is, perhaps, more significant in its promise than in its achievement; and I find nothing in it so mature as the poem by which she is represented here, taken from a recent issue of the Chap Book (Stone & Kimball, Chicago). The following line from Verses, may be given as an example of her poetic firstfruits:--
IN SOUTHERN SEAS.
In southern seas we sailed, my love and I,
In southern seas.
Death joined no chorus as the waves swept by,
No storm hid in the breeze.
Low keeled our boat until her white wings dipped half wet with spray,
And seeking gulls tossed on the passing wave laughed on our way,
The rhyme of sound, the harmony of souls--of silence too;
Your silence held my thougbts, my love, as mine of you;
The wingéd whispering wind that blew our sails was summer sweet--
I found my long-sought paradise crouched at thy feet.
In northern seas I weep alone, alone,
In winter seas.
Death's hounds are on the waves, with many moans
Death's voice comes with the breeze
My helpless boat, rocked in the wind, obeys no steadfast hand,
Her swinging helm and ashing sheet have lost my weak command;
The shrieking sea-birds seek the sheltering shore,
The writhing waves leap upward, and their hoar
Strong hands tear at the timbers of my shuddering craft.
I cry in vain, the Fates have seen and laughed,
Time and the world have stormed my summer sea--
I ate my fruit, the serpent held the tree.
DR GEORGE SIGERSON. PAGE 168
The distinguished translator and editor of The Poets and Poetry of Munster was born near Strabane, Co. Tyrone, in 1839. Much of his original work has appeared above his Irish pen-name "Erionnach"; and from first to last Dr Sigerson's name is indissolubly associated with the widereaching Celtic Renascence in Ireland.
DR JOHN TODHUNTER. PAGE 170
One of the foremost contemporary poets of Ireland, was born in Dublin in 1839, and, like so many of his literary compatriots, was educated at Trinity. He then pursued his medical studies in Paris and Vienna; returned to Dublin and practised awhile as a physician; succeeded Prof. Dowden as Professor of English Literature in Alexandria College; and, since 1875, has devoted himself exclusively to literature. Some of his lyrical pieces are known to all lovers of poetry --e.g. "The Banshee"; and for the rest he has won a distinctive place for himself by work at once varied in theme and beautiful in treatment. Though he has won deserved reputation as a playwright for the contemporary stage, as well as in the poetic drama, he seems to me to be at his best when most Celtic in feeling and expression. He is represented here, not by pieces so well known as "The Banshee" or any part of The Three Sorrows of Story-Telling, but by two typical Irish poems, and one lovely fragment (see p. 173) from Forest Songs. Personally, I consider the Love Song " given at page 170 to be one of the finest compositions of its kind in modern Celtic literature. I have regretfully refrained from quoting two other poems by Dr Todhunter, one familiar to every Irishman, "The Shan Van Vocht of '87," beginning--
There's a spirit in the air,
Says the Shan Van Vocht,
And her voice is everywhere,
Says the Shan Van Vocht;
Though her eyes be full of care,
Even as Hope's, born of Despair,
Her sweet face looks young and fair,
Says the Shan Van Vocht.--
and the other, which I think the strongest of his short lyrical poems, "Aghadoe"--of which I may give the two concluding quatrains--
I walked to Mallow town from Aghadoe, Aghadoe;
Brought his head from the gaol's gate to Aghadoe,
Then I covered him with fern, and I piled on him the cairn,
Like an Irish king he sleeps in Aghadoe.
Oh! to creep into that cairn in Aghadoe, Aghadoe!
There to rest upon his breast in Aghadoe,
Sure your dog for you could die with no truer heart than I,
Your own love, cold on your cairn, in Aghadoe.
KATHERINE TYNAN. PAGE 174
The author of Louise de la Valliére (1885), Shamrocks (1887), Ballads and Lyrics (1891), and later volumes in prose as well as verse, is one of the best known representatives of the Irish poetic fellowship. Mrs Hinkson (though best known by her maiden name) is distinctively Irish rather than Celtic, and pre-eminently a Catholicist in the spirit of her work. She has a St Francis-like love of birds and all defenceless creatures and humble things, and has a most happy lyric faculty in dealing with aspects and objects which excite her rhythmic emotion. In lyric quality and in her all-pervading sense of colour, she is, however, characteristically Celtic. Miss Tynan was born in Dublin in 1861, but since her marriage a few years ago to Mr Hinkson (himself one of the Dublin University Young Ireland men) she has resided in or near London. Some of her work has a lyric ecstasy of a kind which distinguishes it from the poetry of any other woman-writer of to-day.
CHARLES WEEKES. PAGE 179
Mr Weekes is one of the small band of Irish poet-dreamers who may be particularly associated with Mr W. B. Yeats and Mr G. W. Russell ("A. E."). His book, Reflections and Refractions, contains fine achievement as well as noteworthy promise.
WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS. PAGE 181
Born (of an Irish father, and of a Cornish mother come of a family settled in Ireland) at Sandymount, Dublin, in 1866; but early life chiefly spent in Sligo, and on the Connaught seaboard. Of late years, Mr Yeats has passed much of his time in London, but is never absent from Ireland for any long period--
". . . . for always night and day
I hear lake-water lapping with low sounds on the shore;
While I stand. on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core."
W. B. Yeats is the prince of contemporary Irish poets. While no one is more essentially Celtic, and none is more distinctively national, his poetry belongs to English literature. Mr Yeats himself would be the last man to nail his flag to the mast of parochialism in literature. He is one of the two or three absolutely poetic personalities in literature at the present moment; and in outlook, and, above all, in atmosphere, stands foremost in the younger generation. I is noteworthy that the two most convincingly poetic of all our younger poets, since the giants who (with the the exception of George Meredith, A. C. Swinburne, and with William Morris) have gone from our midst, are predominantly Celtic; W. B. Yeats and John Davidson-and note-worthy, also, that both are too wise, too clear-sighted, too poetic, in fact, to aim at being Irish or Scoto-Celtic at the expense of being English in the high and best sense of the word. This, fortunately, is consistent with being paramountly national in all else. In the world of literature there is no geography save that of the mind.
Mr Yeats' poetic work is best to be read, and perhaps best to be enjoyed, in the revised collective edition of his poems, in one volume, published recently by Mr Fisher Unwin. His first volume of verse, The Wanderings of Oisin, was published in 1889. This was followed (in 1892) by The Countess Kathleen: and Various Legends and Lyrics; The Land of Heart's Desire, and two short prose tales (in the Pseuaonym Library), John Sherman and Dhoya. Two new books are promised in 1896 (through Mr Elkin Mathews), The Shadowy Waters (a poetic play), and The Wind Among the Reeds (poems). He has also published several volumes of selected Irish tales and legendary lore; edited, in conjunction with Mr E. J. Ellis, the Works of William Blake (3 vols., 1893); and A Book Of Irish Verse (Methuen, 1895), an interesting rather than an adequately representative anthology of nationalistic Irish poetry. All that is most distinctive in Mr Yeats' own original work is to be found in his Poems (Collective Edition, in I vol., Fisher Unwin, 1895), and the prose volume entitled The Celtic Twilight (Lawrence & Bullen, 1893), one of the most fascinating prose-books by a poet published in our time.
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