THE presence of Mr. Carman, a Canadian singer, among a group of poets
of the States, needs no explanation; so identified is he with the
artistic life of the younger generation on this side the border that
we have come to forget his earlier allegiance, and to consider his
work, most of which has been produced here, as distinctly our own. But
while it is gratifying to feel that so much of his verse has drawn its
inspiration from nature and life as we know them, one could little
spare Mr. Carman’s first book of lyrics, _Low Tide on Grand Pré_,
which is purely Canadian—set in the air of the “blue North summer.”
It lacks as a collection the confident touch of his later work, but is
imbued with an indefinable delicacy; it withholds the uttermost word,
and its grace is that of suggestion. Especially is this true of the
initial poem, a lyric with a poignant undernote calling one back
thrice and again to learn its spell.
It has been Mr. Carman’s method to issue at intervals small volumes
containing work of a related sort; but it is open to question whether
this method of publishing, with the harmony which results from
grouping each collection under a certain key, may not have a
counterbalancing danger in the tendency toward monotony. As a matter
of fact, Mr. Carman has a wide range of subject; but unless one be
ever taking a bird’s-eye view of his work, it is likely to seem
restricted, owing to the reiterance of the same note in whatever
collection he chance to have in hand. A case in point is that
furnished by _Ballads of Lost Haven_, one of his most characteristic
and fascinating volumes, a very wizardy of sea moods, yet it has no
fewer than four poems, succeeding one another at the close of the
collection, prefiguring death under the titles of “The Shadow
Boatswain,” “The Master of the Isles,” “The Last Watch,” and
Each of these is blended of mystery, lure, and dread; each conveys the
feeling it was meant to convey; but when the four poems of similar
motive are grouped together, their force is lost. The symbols which
seem in each to rise as spontaneously from the sea as its own foam,
lose their magic when others of like import, but different phrasing,
crowd closely upon them. For illustration, the “Shadow Boatswain”
contains these fine lines:
Don’t you know the sailing orders?
It is time to put to sea,
And the stranger in the harbor
Sends a boat ashore for me.
* * * * *
That’s the Doomkeel. You may know her
By her clean run aft; and then
Don’t you hear the Shadow Boatswain
Piping to his shadow men?
And “The Master of the Isles,” immediately following, opens in this
equally picturesque, but essentially similar, manner:
There is rumor in Dark Harbor,
And the folk are all astir;
For a stranger in the offing
Draws them down to gaze at her,
In the gray of early morning,
Black against the orange streak,
Making in below the ledges,
With no colors at her peak.
[Illustration: Bliss Carman]
While each of the poems develops differently, and taken alone has a
symbolistic beauty that would fix itself in the memory, when the two
are put together and are followed by two others cognate in theme, the
lines of relief have melted into one indistinct image. This effect of
blurring from the grouping of related poems is not so apparent in any
collection as in the sea ballads, as the subject-matter of the other
volumes is more diversified and the likelihood of employing somewhat
the same imagery is therefore removed; but while Mr. Carman has a very
witchery of phrase when singing of the sea, and his words sting one
with delight like a dash of brine, one would, for that very reason,
keep the impression vivid, forceful, complete, and grudges the merging
of it into others and yet others that shall dissipate it or transform
it to an impalpable thing.
Judging them individually, it is doubtful if Mr. Carman has done
anything more representative, more imbued with his own temperament,
than these buoyant, quickening songs that freshen one as if from a
plunge in the sea, and take one to themselves as intimately. The
opening poem sets the key to the collection:
I was born for deep-sea faring;
I was bred to put to sea;
Stories of my father’s daring
Filled me at my mother’s knee.
I was sired among the surges;
I was cubbed beside the foam;
All my heart is in its verges,
And the sea wind is my home.
All my boyhood, from far vernal
Bourns of being, came to me
Dream-like, plangent, and eternal
Memories of the plunging sea.
And what a gruesome, eerie fascination is in this picture at whose
faithfulness one shudders:
Oh, the shambling sea is a sexton old,
And well his work is done.
With an equal grave for lord and knave,
He buries them every one.
Then hoy and rip, with a rolling hip,
He makes for the nearest shore;
And God, who sent him a thousand ship,
Will send him a thousand more;
But some he’ll save for a bleaching grave,
And shoulder them in to shore,—
Shoulder them in, shoulder them in,
Shoulder them in to shore.
How the swing of the lines befits the action, and how it puts on grace
in this stanza,
Oh, the ships of Greece and the ships of Tyre
Went out, and where are they?
In the port they made, they are delayed
With the ships of yesterday.
The remaining strophes tempt one beyond what he is able, especially
Oh, a loafing, idle lubber to him
Is the sexton of the town;
but we must take a glance at the ballads, at the “Nancy’s Pride,” that
On the long slow heave of a lazy sea,
To the flap of an idle sail,
* * * * *
… faded down
With her creaking boom a-swing,
Till a wind from the deep came up with a creep,
And caught her wing and wing.
* * * * *
She lifted her hull like a breasting gull
Where the rolling valleys be,
And dipped where the shining porpoises
Put ploughshares through the sea.
* * * * *
They all may home on a sleepy tide
To the sag of an idle sheet;
But it’s never again the Nancy’s Pride
That draws men down the street.
But the fishermen on the Banks, in the eerie watches of the moon,
behold this apparition:
When the light wind veers, and the white fog clears,
They see by the after rail
An unknown schooner creeping up
With mildewed spar and sail.
Her crew lean forth by the rotting shrouds,
With the Judgment in their face;
And to their mates’ “God save you!”
Have never a word of grace.
Then into the gray they sheer away,
On the awful polar tide;
And the sailors know they have seen the wraith
Of the missing Nancy’s Pride.
There have been spectral ships since visions were, but few conjured so
vividly that one may almost see the
crew lean forth by the rotting shrouds
With the Judgment in their face,
and watch them as
into the gray they sheer away
On the awful polar tide.
The poem illustrates Mr. Carman’s gift of putting atmosphere into his
work. A line may give the color, the setting, for an entire poem,—a
very simple line, as this,
With her creaking boom a-swing,
or, “To the sag of an idle sheet,” which fixes at once the impression
of a sultry, languorous air, one of those, half-veiled,
“weather-breeder” days one knows so well.
From a narrative standpoint the ballads are spirited, there is always
a story worth telling; but they are occasionally marred by Mr.
Carman’s prolixity, the besetting sin of his art. He who can crowd so
much into a line is often lacking in the faculty of its appraisal, and
frequently a crisp, telling phrase or stanza is weakened by the
accretion that gathers around it. Beauty is rarely wanting in this
accretion, but beauty that is not organic, not structurally necessary
to the theme, becomes verbiage. Walter Pater has said it all in his
fine passage: “For in truth all art does but consist in the removal of
surplusage, from the last finish of the gem-engraver blowing away the
last particle of invisible dust, back to the earliest divination of
the finished work to be, lying somewhere, according to Michael
Angelo’s fancy, in the rough-hewn block of stone.” It is not Mr.
Carman’s divination of the finished work to be that is at fault; one
feels that the subject is clearly visioned in his mind at the outset,
but that it proves in some cases too alluring to his fancy. His work
is not artificial; he is not fashioning poetic bric-à-brac to adorn
his verse; sincerity is writ large upon it; but his mood is so
compelling that he is carried on by the force of momentum, and
finding, when the impulse is spent, so much beauty left behind, he has
not the heart to destroy it.
One pardons this over-elaboration in _Ballads of Lost Haven_ because
of the likelihood of coming upon a pungent phrase, like a whiff of
kelp, that shall transform some arid spot to the blue leagues of sea;
and for such a poem as “The Ships of St. John,” with no superfluous
lines, with a calm, sabbatic beauty, one is wholly Mr. Carman’s
_Behind the Arras_ has proven a stumbling-block and rock of offence to
some of Mr. Carman’s readers, because of its recondite character. They
regard it as something esoteric that only the initiate may grasp,
whereas its mysticism is half whimsical, and requires no
superconsciousness to divine it. Mr. Carman is founding no cult; it
pleases him for the nonce to mask his thought in symbols, and there
are, alas, minds of the rectangular sort that have no use for symbols!
It is a book containing many strong poems, such as “Beyond the Gamut,”
“Exit Anima,” and “Hack and Hew,”—a book of spiritual enigmas through
which one catches hints of the open secret, ever-alluring,
ever-eluding, and follows new clews to the mystery, immanent, yet
Earth one habitat of spirit merely,
I must use as richly as I may,—
Touch environment with every sense-tip,
Drink the well and pass my wander way,—
says this sane poet who holds his gift as a tribute, whose philosophy
is to affirm and not deny:
O hand of mine and brain of mine, be yours,
While time endures,
To acquiesce and learn!
For what we best may dare and drudge and yearn,
Let soul discern.
And who through the grime and in the babel still sees and hears,
Always the flawless beauty,—always the Chord
Of the Overword,
Dominant, pleading, sure,
No truth too small to save and make endure;
No good too poor!
This is the vision that shall lighten our eyes, quicken our ears, and
restore our hope,—the vision which we expect the poet to see and to
communicate. He must make the detached and fragmentary beauty a
typical revelation; the relative must foreshadow the absolute, as the
moon’s arc reveals by its mystic rim the fulness to which it is
orbing. It is not by disregarding the tragic, the sombre, the
inexplicable, that Mr. Carman comes into his vision. Pain has more
than touched him; it has become incorporate in him. _Low Tide on Grand
Pré_ has its poignant note; _Ballads of Lost Haven_, its undertone;
_Behind the Arras_, its overtone, its sublimation.
Mr. Carman’s work is more subjective than that of many of the younger
poets without being less objective, as the Vagabondia books attest. In
one mood he is the mystic, dwelling in a speculative nebula of
thought, in another the realist concerning himself only with the
demonstrable, and hence his work discloses a wide range of affinities.
He is not a strongly constructive thinker, but intuitional in his
mental processes, and his verse demands that gift in his readers.
Without it what could one make of “The Juggler” but a poem of
delicious color and music? If its import were none other than appears
upon the face of it, it would still be admirable, but as a symbol of
the Force projecting us, it is a subtle bit of art.
Mr. Carman’s sensitiveness to values of rhythm keeps his verse free
from lapses in that direction. He never, to my memory, makes use of
the sonnet, which shows critical judgment, as the lyric is his
temperamental medium. The apogee of his art is in his diction, which
has a predestined fitness, and above all a personal quality. To quote
Pater again, he has “begotten a vocabulary faithful to the coloring of
his own spirit,” and one cannot mistake even a fragment of his verse.
Now and again one comes upon an archaic expression, as “A _weird_ is
in their song,” using the ancient noun-form, or upon such a
meaningless solecism, at least to the uninitiate, as “illumining this
_quench_ of clay,” but in general Mr. Carman does not find it
necessary to go outside the established limits of the language for
variety and force in diction. He has a genius for imagery, and
conjures the most unsullied fancies from every aspect of nature. The
Vagabondia books are abrim with them, and while there are idle lines
and padded stanzas, there are few of the poems that do not strike true
flashes here and there, few that miss of justification, while their
gay and rollicking note heartens one and bids him up and join in the
There are others in a graver key, such as Hovey’s “At the End of the
Day,” and Carman’s “The Mendicants,” and “The Marching Morrows;” and
certain lyric inspirations, such as the “Sea Gypsy,” by Hovey, and the
“Vagabond Song,” by Carman, that have not been bettered by either,
that could not well be bettered within their limits. The former has
been quoted in the study of Hovey; the latter is equally an
inspiration. Within the confines of two stanzas Mr. Carman has
suggested what volumes of nature-verse could never say. He does not
analyze it to a finish, nor let the magic slip through his fingers;
under his touch it subtilizes into atmosphere and thus communicates
There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood—
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.
The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.
There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.
Throwing aside all that is ephemeral in the Vagabondia books, all mere
boyish ebullition, there is a goodly residuum of nature-poetry of the
freshest and most unhackneyed sort. It is the blithe, objective type;
eyes and ears are its informers, and it enters into one’s mood with a
keen sense of refreshment. Who does not know the impulse that prompted
Make me over, mother April,
When the sap begins to stir!
When thy flowery hand delivers
All the mountain-prisoned rivers,
And thy great heart beats and quivers
To revive the days that were,
Make me over, mother April,
When the sap begins to stir!
The temper of the Vagabondia books is thoroughly wholesome; courage
and cheer dominate them; in short, they are good to know; and while it
is not vitally necessary to remember all they contain, one would be
distinctly the loser should he forget such poems as “Non Omnis Moriar”
or “The Deserted Inn” from _The Last Songs_.
The collection of Memorabilia, _By the Aurelian Wall_, takes its title
from the burial-place of Keats, and includes “A Seamark,” the fine
threnody on Stevenson; a thrilling eulogy of Phillips Brooks; a
spiritual, poetic visioning of Shelley under the symbol of “The White
Gull;” a Bohemian lyric to Paul Verlaine, and other things equally
well-wrought. Some of them need distilling; the poem to Shelley, in
particular, volatilizes to the vanishing-point—but what haunting
sweetness it carries with it! To be sure, Shelley is elusive, and
Matthew Arnold’s “beautiful but ineffectual angel, beating in the void
his luminous wings in vain,” has come to dominate the popular fancy in
regard to him. Mr. Carman’s poem, though touched with this mood, is
not set to it, and he has several stanzas which have in them the
essence of Shelley’s spirit,—the real Shelley, the passionate
idealist, the spent runner who, falling, handed on the torch.
The Stevenson threnody is probably the best of the elegies, as Mr.
Carman is by temperament one of the Stevenson brotherhood, and no
subject could better command him. That “intimate and magic name,” a
password to fellowship, conjures many a picture of him—
Whose courage lights the dark’ning port
Where every sea-worn sail must come.
Mr. Carman has singular power to visualize a scene; one becomes an
eye-witness of it as of this:
But I have wander-biddings now.
Far down the latitudes of sun,
An island mountain of the sea,
Piercing the green and rosy zone,
Goes up into the wondrous day.
And there the brown-limbed island men
Are bearing up for burial,
Within the sun’s departing ken,
The master of the roving kind.
And there where time will set no mark
For his irrevocable rest,
Under the spacious melting dark,
With all the nomad tented stars
About him, they have laid him down
Above the crumbling of the sea,
Beyond the turmoil of renown.
This island procession to the mountain, leaving the master to his
Under the spacious melting dark,
With all the nomad tented stars
is an artist’s picture not easily forgotten.
Mr. Carman’s three volumes in the projected “Pipes of Pan” series,
including thus far _The Book of the Myths_, _The Green Book of the
Bards_, and _The Sea Children_, make new disclosures of his talent,
and the title poem “Pipes of Pan,” is a bit of anointed vision that
would waken the dullest eyes from lethargy as to the world around
them. There is necromancy in Mr. Carman’s words when the outer world
is his theme; something of the thrill, the expectancy in the heart of
growing things, the elation of life, comes upon one as he reads the
“Pipes of Pan.” It is a nobler vision than illumined Vagabondia days,
Power out of hurt and stain
To bring beauty back again,
and showing the
Scope and purpose, hint and plan
Lurking in the Pipes of Pan,
as well as the sheer delight that we noted in Vagabondia.
It seems that every mood of every creature has been divined and
uttered, uttered with deep love, with a human relatedness that melts
the barriers between life and life, whether in man or in
All the bright, gay-colored things
Buoyed in air on balanced wings.
This relatedness, and all the molding influences of nature leading us
on from beauty to strength, are developed in Mr. Carman’s poem until
they become to us religion. We realize that at heart we are all
pantheists, and that revelation antedates the Book; that the law is
written on the leaves of roses as well as on tables of stone,—a
testament both new and old, given for our learning that we might have
The remaining poems of _The Book of the Myths_ are not the best things
Mr. Carman has done, though renewals of classic verse-forms in the
Sapphic and other metres, and often picturesque in story. “The Lost
Dryad” is the most attractive, “The Dead Faun” the least so, to my
ears; but perhaps from lack of sympathy with the subject-matter I
cannot think the collection, with the exception of the poem “Pipes of
Pan,” is of especial value. It is not to be named, still excepting the
above poem, with its companion volume, _The Green Book of the Bards_,
which contains some of the strongest work of Mr. Carman’s pen as to
subject and thought, but which has one pronounced limitation,—its
monotony of form.
The entire volume, with a sole exception, and that not marked, is
written in the conventional four-line stanza, in which so much of Mr.
Carman’s work of late has been cast. Within this compass, the
accomplishment is as varied as to theme and diction, as that of his
other work; but when one sings on and on in the same numbers, it
induces a state of mental indolence in the reader, and presupposes a
similar state in the writer. The verse goes purling musically along,
until, as running water exercises an hypnotic spell, one is hypnotized
by the mere melody of the lines, and comes to consciousness to find
that he has no notion what they are about, and must re-read them to
find out. To be sure, the poems will bear reviewing, and will make new
disclosures whenever one returns to them; but had they greater variety
as to manner, their appeal would be stronger, as the mind would be
startled to perception by unexpectedness, instead of lulled by the
same note in liquid reiterance. It is quite possible that Mr. Carman
has a principle at stake in this,—it may indeed be a reactionary
measure against over-evident mechanism, a wholesome desire for
simplicity. Now simplicity is one of the first canons of art, but
variety in metre and form is another canon by no means annulling the
first. One may have variety to the superlative degree, and never
depart from the fitness and clearness that spell simplicity.
Were _The Green Book of the Bards_ relieved by contrasts of form, it
would rank with the finest work of Mr. Carman’s pen, as the individual
poems have strong basic ideas,—such as the “Creature Catechism,” full
of pregnant thought, and speaking a vital, spiritual word as to the
mystic union of the creative Soul with the creatures of feather and
fin and fleece. The marked evolution of Mr. Carman’s philosophy of
life, as influenced by his growing identity with nature, comes out so
strongly in the “Pipes of Pan” series, and in _The Word at Saint
Kavin’s_, as almost to reveal a new individuality. He had gone out in
the light-foot, light-heart days of Vagabondia, holidaying with the
woods and winds; glad to be quit of the gyves, to drink from the
wayside spring, eat of the forest fruit, sleep ’neath the tent of
night, and dream to the rune of the pines. He had sought nature in a
mood of pagan joy; but the wayside spring had excited a thirst it
could not quench, and the forest fruit a hunger it could not allay,
and the blithe seeker of freedom and delight became at length the
anointed votary, and lingered to watch the God at work shaping life
from death, and expressing His yearning in beauty.
The mere objective delight of the earlier time has grown steadily into
the subjective identity with every manifestation of the Force that
operates within this world of wonder and beauty, from the soul of man,
shaping his ideals and creating his environment, to the butterfly
whose sun-painted wings, set afloat in the buoyant air, are upheld by
the breath of God. Coming into the finer knowledge, through long
intimacy with the earth and its multitudinous life, fulfilling itself
in joy,—Mr. Carman has come at length to
The logic of the dust,
and to shape from it a creed and law for his following, which he has
put into the mouth of Saint Kavin for expounding. The opening stanzas
of the volume give the setting and note:
Once at St. Kavin’s door
I rested. No sigh more
Of discontent escaped me from that day.
For there I overheard
A Brother of the Word
Expound the grace of poverty, and say:
Thank God for poverty
That makes and keeps us free,
And lets us go our unobtrusive way,
Glad of the sun and rain,
Upright, serene, humane,
Contented with the fortune of a day.
The poem follows simple, but no less picturesque phrase, as becomes
Saint Kavin, and is, from the technical side, quaint and artistic. On
the philosophical, it develops at first the initial thought that one
shall “keep his soul”
Joyous and sane and whole
by obeying the word
That bade the earth take form, the sea subside,
When we have laid aside
Our truculence and pride,
Craven self-seeking, turbulent self-will,—
we shall have found the boon of our ultimate striving,—room to live
and let our spirits grow, and give of their growth and higher gain to
another. Here is the giving that turns to one’s own enrichment:
And if I share my crust,
As common manhood must,
With one whose need is greater than my own,
Shall I not also give
His soul, that it may live,
Of the abundant pleasures I have known?
And so, if I have wrought,
Amassed or conceived aught
Of beauty, or intelligence or power,
It is not mine to hoard;
It stands there to afford
Its generous service simply as a flower.
The poem then broadens into a dissertation upon the complexities of
life, one’s servitude to custom and “vested wrong,” the lack of
individual courage to
Live by the truth each one of us believes,
and turns, for illustration of the nobler development and poise, back
to nature, and the evolutionary round of life through which one traces
his course and kinship. These stanzas are among the finest spoken by
the wise Brother of the Word. After citing the strength and serenity
of the fir-trees, and what a travesty upon man’s ascent it were, did
one bear himself less royally than they, he adverts to the creature
kin-fellows whose lot we have borne:
I, too, in polar night
Have hungered, gaunt and white,
Alone amid the awful silences;
And fled on gaudy fin,
When the blue tides came in,
Through coral gardens under tropic seas.
And wheresoe’er I strove,
The greater law was love,
A faith too fine to falter or mistrust;
There was no wanton greed,
Depravity of breed,
Malice nor cant nor enmity unjust.
Nay, not till I was man,
Learned I to scheme and plan
The blackest depredation on my kind,
Converting to my gain
My fellow’s need and pain
In chartered pillage, ruthless and refined.
Therefore, my friends, I say
Back to the fair sweet way
Our Mother Nature taught us long ago,—
The large primeval mood,
Leisure and amplitude,
The dignity of patience strong and slow.
Let us go in once more
By some blue mountain door,
And hold communion with the forest leaves;
Where long ago we trod
The Ghost House of the God,
Through orange dawns and amethystine eves!
Then follows a glad picturing of the allurements of this place of
return, a more thoughtful one of its requitals, and the infinitude of
care bestowed upon every task to which the Master Craftsman sets his
hand, and orbs into a vision of the soul enlarged by breathing the
freer air and by regaining therefrom her “primal ecstasy and poise.”
It traces also the soul’s commission,
To fill her purport in the ampler plan.
Altogether the Word is admirably expounded by Saint Kavin, and one is
distinctly the gainer for having rested at his door to learn not only
the grace of joyousness, but the means to that grace.
In his latest work, constructing from the “fragments” of Sappho lyrics
that should bear as close relation to the original as an imagination
imbued with the Sapphic traditions and a temperament sympathetically
Greek would enable him to do,—Mr. Carman undertook a daring task, but
one whose promise he has made good, as poetry, however near it may
approach to the imagined loveliness of those lost songs of the
Lesbian, which have served by their haunting beauty to keep vital her
memory through twenty-five centuries in which unnumbered names have
gone to oblivion.
Of the “Ode to Aphrodite,” the most complete Sapphic poem extant, many
translations and paraphrases have been made, those by Edwin Arnold,
John Addington Symonds, Ambrose Philips, Swinburne, etc., being among
the finest; and were there space it would be interesting to show by
comparison that Mr. Carman’s rendering of the Ode ranks well with the
standard already set.
Of the fragments, also, while perhaps no previous attempt has been
made to give an imaginative recast to so large a number of them, many
have been incorporated by Swinburne in his “Anactoria,” and fugitive
stanzas in the work of Rossetti, Tennyson, Byron, and others, attest
this source. To refashion them, however, after the manner, as Mr.
Roberts says in his introduction to the volume, of a sculptor
restoring a statue by Praxiteles from the mere suggestion of a hand or
a finger,—is a work of artistic imagination demanding the finest
sympathy, taste, and kinship with the theme, as well as the poet’s
touch to shape it; and while no one may pronounce upon the fidelity of
the work, beyond its Greek spirit and command of the Sapphic metres,
together with the interpretation of the original fragment, it has
great charm of phrase and atmosphere and a certain pensive beauty even
in the most impassioned stanzas, setting them to a different note from
that usually met in Sapphic paraphrases; as in these lines:
O heart of insatiable longing,
What spell, what enchantment allures thee,
Over the rim of the world
With the sails of the sea-going ships?
And when the rose petals are scattered
At dead of still noon on the grass-plot,
What means this passionate grief,—
This infinite ache of regret?
Among the most familiar of the fragments is that of the “apple
reddening upon the topmost bough,” which Rossetti has put into
charming phrase, together with its companion verse upon the wild
hyacinth; but while these lines are of haunting charm, they do not
make a complete stanza, the comparison being unknown; whereas Mr.
Carman, in recasting the fragment, has supplied a logical complement
to the lines and symmetrized them, together with their companion
illustration, to a lyric. His rendering, too, while less musical, from
being unrhymed, is picturesque and concise, each word being made to
tell as a stroke in a sketch:
Art thou the topmost apple
The gatherers could not reach,
Reddening on the bough?
Shall not I take thee?
Art thou a hyacinth blossom
The shepherds upon the hills
Have trodden into the ground?
Shall not I lift thee?
The first Rossetti stanza ends with a fantastic play upon words
explaining that, although the gatherers did not get the coveted apple,
Forgot it not, nay, but got it not, for none could get it till now,
which, although a pleasant poetical mix-up, is hardly in keeping with
the dignity of the comparison, which dignity Mr. Carman has well
Another fragment made familiar by adaptation is that to Hesperus,
expanded by Byron into one of the great passages of “Don Juan.” Mr.
Carman gives a more compact rendering and again brings the lines to
such a close as shall render them a complete lyric. They scarcely vie
in beauty with the Byron passage, which is one of the surest strokes
of his hand, but have their own charm and grace:
Hesperus, bringing together
All that the morning star scattered,—
Sheep to be folded in twilight,
Children for mothers to fondle,—
Me, too, will bring to the dearest,
Tenderest breast in all Lesbos.
The fragment, “I loved thee, Athis, in the long ago,” has been
expanded by Mr. Carman into a poem of reminiscent mood, the long,
slow-moving pentameter enhancing the effect of pensive meditation
which the lines convey. Many of the fragments are of a blither note,
having the variety which distinguishes the original.
Mr. Carman has exercised a fine restraint in his treatment of the
fragments. They are not over-ripe in diction, nor over-elaborated, and
while there is a certain atmosphere of insubstantiality about many of
them, as could scarcely fail to result from the attempt to restore, by
imagination alone, what had existence but in tradition, they justify
themselves as artistic poetry, which is the only consideration of