OF WILLIAM SHARP
P 0 E M S
BY WILLIAM SHARP
SELECTED AND ARRANGED BY
FOREWORDTHE writings of William Sharp divide themselves in the midway of his literary life into two distinct phases. The more racially imaginative phase, put forward under shelter of a pseudonym, has been gathered together in the "Fiona Macleod" Series published by Mr. Heinemann; and it seems fitting that a companion Series of writings of William Sharp, signed with his own name, should follow, and be as representative as possible, so that the two phases of his work can be compared conveniently.
As the "W. S." writings extend over a period of thirty years (the "F. M." period coincided with the last twelve years of the author's life), and comprise a wide range of subjects---poems, fiction, biographies, essays critical and reminiscent, and a mass of ephemeral work urged by the necessities of daily life---it has been somewhat difficult to determine on what basis to make a selection for the present Series. Finally, I decided to make choice from among the shorter poems, from essays and tales, to the exclusion of the longer novel and biography, and thus, moreover, to fulfil certain of his expressed wishes.
In the arrangement of these volumes I have not preserved a definite chronological order, except in that of songs and poems. I have preferred to group the contents according to their subjects: Vol. I. Poems : Vol. II. Critical Essays : Vols. III. and IV. Papers, Biographic and Reminiscent : Vol. V. Short Stories. With the exception of a few of the poems, early experimental work is unrepresented; the earliest prose work included is the essay on the sonnet written in the author's thirty-first year. In accordance with his own wishes his Life of Rossetti---considered by him as youthful and unbalanced---so his romance, The Children of To-morrow, are not reissued. Of his later novels, Wives in Exile and Silence Farm (both out of print) were written during the "Fiona Macleod" period out of a desire to strengthen the reputation of "W. S." and thus help to shield the identity of "F. M." My husband considered that Silence Farm contained his most successful effort in characterisation. Nevertheless, in it, he deliberately suppressed certain qualities natural to him, and emphasised others in order to make the style of writing as unlike that of "Fiona Macleod" as possible. Of other excluded mature works the monographs on Shelley, Browning, and Heine are available among the publications of Messrs. Walter Scott, to whom I am indebted for permission to include in this volume the ballads of "The Weird of Michael Scott," "The Death-Child," and "The Isle of Lost Dreams." The Life and Letters of Joseph Severn is out of print ; and the Progress of Art in the XIX Century is published by Messrs W. and R. Chambers.
The poems in the present volume (1879-1905) are selected from five volumes and a number of miscellaneous poems published in his own name, and not from those written over the pseudonym of "Fiona Macleod" (1893-I905). The earliest volume, The Human lnheritance (Elliot Stock, 1882) opened with a long poem in four cycles descriptive of Childhood, Youth, Manhood, and Old Age; and from it are taken "Childhood's Inheritance" "Motherhood," &c. The sonnets "Spring Wind" and "A Midsummer Hour" were included in The Sonnets of this Century (Walter Scott), as were also those "To D. G. Rossetti," to whose memory the anthology was dedicated. Earth's Voices (Elliot Stock, 1884), dedicated to Walter Pater, contained a series of lyrics--voices of the forests, rivers, winds, flowers, mountains, oceans--two long poems, "Sospitra " and "Gaspara Stampa," from which "To suffer grief is to be strong" and "Sleep" are taken. "The Record" is autobiographic, inasmuch as it was the beginning of an endeavour to relate memories of past lives that haunted the author.
Romantic Ballads (Walter Scott, 1888) was written under "the earnest conviction that a Romantic Revival is imminent in our poetic literature"; that, as he stated in the Preface, "the third great epoch of English poetic literature will be an essentially dramatic one: and its fruitage will necessarily be preceded by a blossoming of the genuinely romantic sentiment . . of the Romantic spirit--not the formal letter of Romanticism--a renascence which will be as manifest in realistic as well as in more directly imaginative prose and poetry. . . . In 'The Weird of Michael Scott' [of which two sections are herein included] I have attempted a ballad in enlarged form--that is, it is meant as a lyrical tragedy of a soul that finds the face of disastrous fate against it whithersoever it turns in the closing moment of mortal life." And he adds, "The thrill of the supernatural is so keen because it touches the most natural part of us."
The poet spent the winter and spring of 1890-91 in Rome and its environments; the immediate literary outcome thereof was a volume of unrhymed, irregular metres, printed at Tivoli, published privately that spring under the title of Sospiri di Roma and prefaced by an etched portrait of him by Sir Charles Holroyd. Concerning his use of unrhymed metre he wrote to a friend: "What can be done in Greek and German can be done in English. This has been proved, for some of Matthew Arnold's finest work is in unrhymed verse. . . . I felt that there is in verse, as in painting, a borderland for impressionism pure and simple, for the suggestion of a certain colour and emotion, a vivid actuality, which are apt to be dissipated by the effort and restrictions of rhyme. . . . In this verse you will find something of my passion for the Campagna, and of that still deeper passion and longing for the Beautiful. All that I attempt to do is to fashion anew something of the lovely vision I have seen."
"The Coming of Love" "The Untold Story," and "Dionysos in India" appeared originally in The Pagan Review (1892), the first and only number of a projected monthly review edited by "W. H. Brooks"--of which William Sharp wrote every word from cover to cover, under the pseudonyms of the Editor and the seven contributors.
Of the section of poems 1893-1905, "Hill Water" was written for the Evergreen, 1895, a quarterly issued by Patrick Geddes and Colleagues, and "Spanish Roses" is taken from A Fellow and His Wife, a novel written in collaboration with Blanche Willis Howard; the remaining poems in the last section were contributed variously to Harper's Magazine, the Century, New York Independent, Literature, Country Life, and the Pall Mall Magazine.
The Fragment entitled "Persephoneia" is the Prologue to a five-act play, begun in 1903 at Il Castello di Maniace, on Etna; and of it the complete draft, the Prologue, and half the first act only were written.
ELIZABETH A. SHARP
© 1998, 1999,
2000 copyright by Mary Ann Dobratz All Rights Reserved
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