MISS ALICE BROWN has published but one volume of verse; but we live in
feelings, not in titles on a cover, and it is possible to prove
oneself a poet in one volume of verse, or in one poem thereof. When
Miss Brown some years ago paid this tribute at the toll-gate of song
by a small volume entitled _The Road to Castaly_, it created no
inconsiderable comment among lovers of poetry, and there were not
wanting those who saw in it as definite gifts as Miss Brown possesses
in fiction; but despite the generous recognition which the collection
won, she has not seen fit to follow it with others, and with the
exception of occasional poems in the magazines, it remains the sole
representation of this phase of her work. Yet within a range of
seventy pages she has gathered a stronger group of poems than might be
winnowed from several collections of some of those who cultivate verse
more assiduously. Nor is this to declare that from cover to cover of
her volume the inspired touch is everywhere manifest; doubtless the
seventy pages would have gained in strength by compression to fifty.
It is, however, to declare that within this compass there is a true
accomplishment, at which we shall look briefly.

First, then, the work has personality and magnetism, bringing one at
once into sympathetic interchange with the writer. The feeling is not
insulated by the art, but is imbued with all the warmth of speech;
there are no “wires” but the live wires of vibrant words, conducting
their current of impulse directly to the reader. One feels that Miss
Brown has written verse not as a pleasant diversion, nor yet with
painful self-scrutiny, but only when her nature demanded this form of
expression, and hence the motive shapes the mechanism, rather than the

[Illustration: Alice Brown]

Miss Brown’s poems are not primarily philosophical, not ethical to the
degree of being moralistic; but they have a subtly pervasive
spirituality, and in certain lyrics, such as “Hora Christi,” a rare
depth of religious emotion. They are records of moods: of the soul, of
passing life, of the psychic side of death, of the mutability of love,
of ecstatic surrender to nature, of loyalty to service,—in short, they
are poems of the intuitions and sympathies, and warm with personality.
Perhaps the most buoyant note in the book is that in celebration of
the joys of escape from town to country; from the thrall of
paving-stones and chimney-pots to the indesecrate seclusion of the
pines, where the springy pile of the woodland carpet gives forth a
pungent odor to the tread; and where, in Miss Brown’s delicate phrase,

the ferns waver, wakened by no wind
Save the green flickering of their blossomy mind.

To read Miss Brown’s “Morning in Camp” is to take a vacation without
stirring from one’s armchair,—a vacation by a mountain lake engirt
with pine forests, with one’s tent pitched below the “spice-budded”
firs and “shimmering birches,” guarded by

… the mountain wall
Where the first potencies of dawning fall,

and within sight of the shore where

… the water laps the land,
Encircling her with charm of silvery sand;

and where one may lie at dawn in his “tent’s white solitude,”
conscious of

… the rapt ecstatic birth
Renewed without: the mirrored sky and earth,
Married in beauty, consonant in speech,
And uttering bliss responsive each to each.

Miss Brown’s rapt poems in celebration of nature range from the
impassioned dignity of her stanzas picturing a “Sunrise on Mansfield
Mountain” to fancies so delicate that they seem to be caught in
gossamer meshes of song. The poems are somewhat inadaptable to
quotation, as several of the best, such as “Wood-Longing,” “Pan,” and
“Escape,” are written in stanzas whose exuberant impulse carries them
so far that they may not be excised midway without destroying a
climax. Upon a first reading of some of these periods they give one an
impression of being over-sustained; but the imagery is clear, and upon
a second reading one is likely to catch the infection of the lines and
be borne on with them to the reversal of his first judgment.
“Wood-Longing” thrills with the passion of

… the earth
When all the ecstasy of myriad birth
Afflicts her with a rapturous shuddering,

and celebrating escape from the thraldom of books, it demands of the

Spirit, what wilt thou dare,
Just to be one with earth and air?
To read the writing on the river bed,
And trace God’s mystical mosaic overhead?

* * * * *

O incommunicable speech!
For he who reads a book may preach
A hundred sermons from its foolish rote
And rhyme reiterant on one dull note.
But he who spends an hour within the wood
Hath fed on fairy food;
And who hath eaten of the forest fruit
Is ever mute.
Nothing may he reveal.
Nature hath set her seal
Of honor on anointed lips;
And one who daring dips
His cup within her potent brew
Hath drunk of silence too.
What doth the robin say,
And what the martial jay?
Who’ll swear the bluebird’s lilt is all of love,
Or who translate the desolation of the dove?
For even in the common speech
Of feathered fellows, each to each,
Abideth still the primal mystery,
The brooding past, the germ of life to be;
And one poor weed, upspringing to the sun,
Breeds all creation’s wonder, new begun.

“Sunrise on Mansfield Mountain,” written in fine resonant pentameter,
and building up stanza by stanza to the supreme climax of the dawn,
is, as noted above, one of the finest achievements of Miss Brown’s
volume, but one that will least bear the severing of its passages from
their place in the growing whole. It is full of notable phrases, as
that in the apostrophe,—

O changeless guardians! O ye wizard firs!

* * * * *

What breath may move ye, or what breeze invite
To odorous hot lendings of the heart?—

wherein the very pungency of the pine is infused into the words. But
more adaptable to quotation in its compactness is the lyric entitled
“Candlemas,” captivating in form and spontaneity, though no more
felicitous in fancy or rhythm than many other of her nature poems:

O hearken, all ye little weeds
That lie beneath the snow,
(So low, dear hearts, in poverty so low!)
The sun hath risen for royal deeds,
A valiant wind the vanguard leads;
Now quicken ye, lest unborn seeds
Before ye rise and blow.

O furry living things, adream
On winter’s drowsy breast,
(How rest ye there, how softly, safely rest!)
Arise and follow where a gleam
Of wizard gold unbinds the stream,
And all the woodland windings seem
With sweet expectance blest.

My birds, come back! the hollow sky
Is weary for your note.
(Sweet-throat, come back! O liquid, mellow throat!)
Ere May’s soft minions hereward fly,
Shame on ye, laggards, to deny
The brooding breast, the sun-bright eye,
The tawny, shining coat!

Mr. Archer, in his _Poets of the Younger Generation_, quotes this poem
as the gem of Miss Brown’s collection; and it certainly is a charming
lyric, but not more so to my thinking than several of an entirely
different nature, which will also in time’s trial by fire remain the
true coin. It needs a somewhat broader and deeper term, however, than
“charming” to qualify such poems as “Hora Christi,” “On Pilgrimage,”
“Seaward Bound,” “The Return,” “The Message,” “The Slanderer,”
“Lethe,” and “In Extremis,” in which life speaks a word charged with
more vital significance. “On Pilgrimage” (A. D. 1250) reveals an art
that is above praise. With only the simplest words Miss Brown has
infused into this poem the very essence of pain, of numb, bewildered
hopelessness. One feels it as a palpable atmosphere:

My love hath turned her to another mate.
(O grief too strange for tears!)
So must I make the barren earth my home;
So do I still on feeble questing roam,
An outcast from mine own unfriending gate,
Through the wan years.

My love hath rid her of my patient heart.
(Wake not, O frozen breast!)
Yet still there’s one to pour her oil and wine,
And all life’s banquet counteth most divine.
O Thou, Who also hadst in joy no part,
Give me Thy rest!

What strength have I to cleanse Thy stolen tomb,
For Christendom’s release?
Naked, at last, of hope and trust am I,
Too weak to sue for human charity.
A beggar to Thy holy shrine I come.
Grant me but peace!

And now in contrast with these exquisitely pathetic lines, to show
that the tragic side of life is not alone interpreted in Miss Brown’s
verse, and that she sees the temperamental contrasts of passion,
witness the cavalier parting of this “West-Country Lover,” to whom the
light o’ love is too fatuous a gleam to risk one’s way in following.
The dash and spirit of these lines are worthy a seventeenth-century

Then, lady, at last thou art sick of my sighing.
So long as I sue, thou wilt still be denying?
Ah, well! shall I vow then to serve thee forever,
And swear no unkindness our kinship can sever?
Nay, nay, dear my lass! here’s an end of endeavor.

Yet let no sweet ruth for my misery grieve thee.
The man who has loved knows as well how to leave thee.
The gorse is enkindled, there’s bloom on the heather,
And love is my joy, but so too is fair weather;
I still ride abroad, though we ride not together.

My horse is my mate; let the wind be my master.
Though Care may pursue, yet my hound follows faster.
The red deer’s a-tremble in coverts unbroken.
He hears the hoof-thunder; he scents the death-token.
Shall I mope at home, under vows never spoken?

The brown earth’s my book, and I ride forth to read it.
The stream runneth fast, but my will shall outspeed it.
I love thee, dear lass, but I hate the hag Sorrow.
As sun follows rain, and to-night has its morrow,
So I’ll taste of joy, though I steal, beg, or borrow!

This is as admirable a bit of nonchalance as Wither’s,

Shall I, wasting in despair,
Die because a woman’s fair?

or Suckling’s,

Why so pale and wan, fond lover,
Prithee, why so pale?

with its salient advice to the languishing adorer.

Miss Brown’s small volume is by no means lacking in variety, either in
theme or form; it is full of spontaneous music, rarely forcing the
note in any lyric inspiration. In the sonnet she is less at ease: here
one feels the effort, the mechanism; but only four sonnets are
included in the volume, which shows her to be a true critic. There are
certain poems that might, perhaps, with equal advantage have been
eliminated, such as the over-musical numbers to Dian and Endymion; but
in the main, Miss Brown has done her own blue-pencilling, and _The
Road to Castaly_, as stated in the beginning, maintains a fine and
even grade of workmanship.

In such poems as are touched to tenderness and reverence, half with
the sweetness and half with the pain of life, Miss Brown makes her
truest appeal. The fine ideality, the spiritual fealty of her nature,
as shown in her work, always relates itself to one on the human side.
It is not the fealty that shames a weaker nature by its rigid
steadfastness, but that in which one sees his own wavering strife
reflected. Her lines called “The Artisan,”[2] written since the
publication of her volume, are instinct with such feeling as comment
would profane. One can but feel, with a quick pang of sympathy, that
he, too, makes the appeal:

O God, my master God, look down and see
If I am making what Thou wouldst of me.
Fain might I lift my hands up in the air
From the defiant passion of my prayer;
Yet here they grope on this cold altar stone,
Graving the words I think I should make known.
Mine eyes are Thine. Yea, let me not forget,
Lest with unstaunchèd tears I leave them wet,
Dimming their faithful power, till they not see
Some small, plain task that might be done for Thee.
My feet, that ache for paths of flowery bloom,
Halt steadfast in the straitness of this room.
Though they may never be on errands sent,
Here shall they stay, and wait Thy full content.
And my poor heart, that doth so crave for peace,
Shall beat until Thou bid its beating cease.
So, Thou dear master God, look down and see
Whether I do Thy bidding heedfully.

These lines well illustrate the fact that true emotion is not literary
nor self-observant, and does not cast about for some rare image in
which to enshrine itself. Here is the simplest Saxon, and wholly
without ornament, yet who could be unconscious of the heart-beat of
life in the words? In her poem, “In Extremis,” one is moved by the
same intensity of feeling expressed in the litany imploring
deliverance from fear.

Of the more purely devotional poems, “Hora Christi” is perhaps the
most reverent, and instinct with delicate simplicity. It is a song of
the spirit, interpreting a mood whose springs are deep in the pain of
life, but whose hidden wells have turned to sweetness and healing. It
is not philosophically penetrative, but a tender, beautiful song warm
with sincerity of feeling:

Sweet is the time for joyous folk
Of gifts and minstrelsy;
Yet I, O lowly-hearted One,
Crave but Thy company.
On lonesome road, beset with dread,
My questing lies afar.
I have no light, save in the east
The gleaming of Thy star.

In cloistered aisles they keep to-day
Thy feast, O living Lord!
With pomp of banner, pride of song,
And stately sounding word.
Mute stand the kings of power and place,
While priests of holy mind
Dispense Thy blessed heritage
Of peace to all mankind.

I know a spot where budless twigs
Are bare above the snow,
And where sweet winter-loving birds
Flit softly to and fro;
There with the sun for altar-fire,
The earth for kneeling-place,
The gentle air for chorister,
Will I adore Thy face.

Loud, underneath the great blue sky,
My heart shall pæan sing,
The gold and myrrh of meekest love
Mine only offering.
Bliss of Thy birth shall quicken me;
And for Thy pain and dole
Tears are but vain, so I will keep
The silence of the soul.

In glancing over _The Road to Castaly_, one notes many poems that
might perhaps have represented it better than those chosen, such as
“The Return,” “The Unseen Fellowship,” “Mariners,” “Forewarned,” and
“Seaward Bound;” but sufficient have been cited to show the quality of
the volume and the sympathetic touch which Miss Brown possesses. Her
nature poems range from the most exuberant fancy to a Keats-like
richness and ripeness of phrase; and her miscellaneous verse from the
tender, reverential note of the lyric last quoted to the trenchant
scathing lines of “The Slanderer.” It is, in brief, such work as
combines feeling and distinction, and leaves one spiritually farther
on his way than it found him.

Continue Reading


MR. FREDERIC LAWRENCE KNOWLES is one of the younger poets about whose
work there is no veneer. This is not to imply that it lacks finish,
but rather that the foundation is genuine; it reflects its native
grain, and not an overlaid polish. One feels back of the work the
probity and directness that underlie all soundly conditioned
literature; for while Mr. Knowles has the poet’s passion for the
beauties of the art he essays, the primary value is always in that to
be conveyed rather than in the medium of transmission.

This sincerity is at once Mr. Knowles’ distinction and his danger. He
is so manifestly in earnest that one feels at times in his work a
certain lack of the imaginative leaven which should lighten the most
serious thought; to put it in a word, there is often an over-strenuous
note in his poetry; but were it put to a choice between this mood and
the honeyed artificialities to which one is often treated, there would
be no hesitancy in choosing the former, for

The poet is not fed on sweets;
Daily his own heart he eats,—

not morbidly, but finding within his own spirit daily manna, and
living by this aliment and not by the mere nectar of things.
Everything in life bestows this manna and daily renews it; and the
poet is he who assimilates and transmutes it to personal needs until
his thought is fed from his own heart as in Emerson’s couplet.

This is Mr. Knowles’ ideal of growth, evidenced by the eager interest
and open sympathy with which he seeks from life its elements of truth,
and from experience its developing properties. It is, of course, an
ideal beyond his present attainment, probably beyond his ultimate
attainment, gauged by absolute standards, for the “elements of truth”
are hardly to be separated from life by one magnet. They are variously
polarized, and though one may possess the divining wand that shall
disclose the nature and place of certain of them, there is no wand
polarized for all; but it is the poet’s part to pass that magnet of
truth which is his by nature over the field of life, that it may
attract therefrom its range of affinities, and this Mr. Knowles is

Before taking up his later work, however, we may glance at his matin
songs, _On Life’s Stairway_, which have many indicative notes worthy
of consideration. This volume, that called forth from John Burroughs,
Richard Henry Stoddard, Joaquin Miller, and others, such hearty
commendation, has an individuality that makes itself felt. First,
perhaps, one notes its spontaneity and the evident love of song that
is its primal impulse. The fancy is fresh and sprightly, not having
yet thought’s heavier freight; the optimism is robust, the loyalty to
one’s own time impassioned and absolute, and the democracy and
Americanism distinguishing it are of the commendable, if somewhat
grandiloquent, type belonging to youthful patriotism. Another feature
of Mr. Knowles’ work, manifest in both volumes, is that its
inspiration is from life rather than nature, which is refreshing in
view of the fact that the reverse obtains with most of the younger
poets. When, however, he comes to this theme, it is with a lightness
of touch and a pleasant charm of mood that give to the few poems of
this subject an airy delicacy and an unpremeditated note, as in these

[Illustration: Frederic Lawrence Knowles]

Nature, in thy largess, grant
I may be thy confidant!

* * * * *

Show me how dry branches throw
Such blue shadows on the snow;
Tell me how the wind can fare
On his unseen feet of air;
Show me how the spider’s loom
Weaves the fabric from her womb;
Lead me to those brooks of morn
Where a woman’s laugh is born;
Let me taste the sap that flows
Through the blushes of a rose,—
Yea, and drain the blood which runs
From the heart of dying suns;
Teach me how the butterfly
Guessed at immortality;
Let me follow up the track
Of Love’s deathless zodiac
Where Joy climbs among the spheres
Circled by her moon of tears.

In his poems upon love, Mr. Knowles touches some of his truest and
surest notes; those in the second volume have a broader and more
sympathetic appeal, and yet have not lost the confessional note which
alone gives value to the subject. They are not invariably of a more
inspired touch than are several in the first collection, such as “Lost
Knowledge,” “A Song for Simplicity,” and “Love’s Prayer;” now and
again they combine some newly minted phrase flashing with unsullied
lustre, with such as have passed from hand to hand in the dulling
commerce of language; but it is perhaps too much to demand that all
fancies shall be newly stamped with the die of imagination. One of Mr.
Knowles’ strongest poems from the group in question is entitled
“Love’s World;” but for greater brevity I shall quote instead these
charming lines which introduce the collection called _Love Triumphant_:

Helen’s lips are drifting dust,
Ilion is consumed with rust;
All the galleons of Greece
Drink the ocean’s dreamless peace;
Lost was Solomon’s purple show
Restless centuries ago;
Stately empires wax and wane—
Babylon, Barbary and Spain—
Only one thing, undefaced,
Lasts, though all the worlds lie waste
And the heavens are overturned.
—Dear, how long ago we learned!

There’s a sight that blinds the sun,
Sound that lives when sounds are done,
Music that rebukes the birds,
Language lovelier than words,
Hue and scent that shame the rose,
Wine no earthly vineyard knows,
Silence stiller than the shore
Swept by Charon’s stealthy oar,
Ocean more divinely free
Than Pacific’s boundless sea,—
Ye who love have learned it true.
—Dear, how long ago we knew!

Of this group, however, it is in the sonnet, “If Love Were Jester at
the Court of Death,” that Mr. Knowles’ most genuine inspiration has
visited him.

The conception of the sonnet is unique, and its opening line of
epigrammatic force and suggestiveness:

If Love were jester at the court of Death,
And Death the king of all, still would I pray,
“For me the motley and the bauble, yea,
Though all be vanity, as the Preacher saith,
The mirth of love be mine for one brief breath!”
Then would I kneel the monarch to obey,
And kiss that pale hand, should it spare or slay;
Since I have tasted love, what mattereth!
But if, dear God! this heart be dry as sand,
And cold as Charon’s palm holding Hell’s toll,
How worse! how worse! Scorch it with sorrow’s brand!
Haply, though dead to joy, ’t would feel _that_ coal;
Better a cross and nails through either hand,
Than Pilate’s palace and a frozen soul!

Here are originality, strength, and white heat of feeling, though the
sestett is less artistic than the octave, which holds the creative
beauty of the sonnet.

Of the lyrical poems in the second volume there are many clear of
tone, having not only a pure, enunciative quality musically, but also
color and picturesqueness, as that beginning:

With all his purple spoils upon him
Creeps back the plunderer Sea,

with its succession of pictures such as these:

O bandit, with the white-plumed horsemen,
Raiding a thousand shores,
Thy coffers crammed with spars and anchors
And wave-defeated oars!

Admirable phrasing is that of “wave-defeated oars”! But before taking
up the more strenuous side of his work, there is another lyric rich in
melody and emotion,—a lyric in which one feels the under-current of
passion. It is named, “A Song of Desire”:

Thou dreamer with the million moods,
Of restless heart like me,
Lay thy white hands against my breast
And cool its pain, O Sea!

O wanderer of the unseen paths,
Restless of heart as I,
Blow hither from thy caves of blue,
Wind of the healing sky!

O treader of the fiery way,
With passionate heart like mine,
Hold to my lips thy healthful cup
Brimmed with its blood-red wine!

O countless watchers of the night,
Of sleepless heart like me,
Pour your white beauty in my soul,
Till I grow calm as ye!

O sea, O sun, O wind and stars,
(O hungry heart that longs!)
Feed my starved lips with life, with love,
And touch my tongue with songs!

Mr. Knowles is a modern of the moderns, and his Whitmanesque
conviction that “we tally all antecedents;” that “we are the scald,
the oracle, the monk, and the knight;” that “we easily include them
and more,”—finds expression in each of his volumes, in poems ranging
from boyish fustian, at which he would now smile, to the noble lines
of “Veritas” and other poems in the later work. There are certain
subjects that hold within them percussion powder ready to explode at
the touch of a thought,—subjects which, to one’s own peculiar
temperament, seem to be provocative of a fulminant outburst whenever
one collides with them, and this is such an one to Mr. Knowles.
However, it is well to be shaken up occasionally by such detonating
lines as these:

We have sonnets enough, and songs enough,
And ballads enough, God knows!
But what we need is that cosmic stuff
Whence primitive feeling glows,

Grown, organized to the needs of rhyme
Through the old instinctive laws,
With a meaning broad as the boughs of time
And deep as the roots of cause.

It is passion and power that we need to-day,
We have grace and taste full store;
We need a man who will say his say
With a strength unguessed before:—

* * * * *

Whose lines shall glow like molten steel
From being forged in his soul,
Till the very anvil shall burn to feel
The breath of the quenchless coal!

Your dainty wordsters may cry “Uncouth!”
As they shrink from his bellows’ glow;
But the fire he fans is immortal youth,
And how should the bloodless know!

One will hardly deny that this is sound doctrine, as are the stanzas
necessarily omitted, which trace the qualifications of the bard of
to-day. Assuredly one touches the question of questions when he seeks
the cause for the apparent waning of poetic inspiration in our own
time. There is certainly no wane in the diffusion of the poetic
impulse; but the poet who is answering the great questions of the age,
speaking the indicative words of the future,—to quote Mr. Knowles,

A voice whose sagas shall live with God
When the lyres of earth are rust,—

is hardly being heard at the present hour. There are voices and voices
which proclaim truths, but the voice that enunciates Truth in its
larger utterance—as it is spoken, for example, in the words of
Browning—seems not to find expression in our day. From this the
impression has come to prevail that Art is choking virility of
utterance, and that a wholly new order of song must grow from newer
needs,—song that shall express our national masculinity, our robust
democracy, our enlarged patriotism, and our sometimes bumptious
Americanism; that labor must have its definite poet, and the “hymn to
the workman’s God” contain some different note from that hitherto
chanted. To put it in Mr. Knowles’ stirring words from another poem:

In the ink of our sweat we will find it yet,
The song that is fit for men!

And the woodsman he shall sing it,
And his axe shall mark the time;
And the bearded lips of the boatman
While his oarblades fall in rhyme;

And the man with his fist on the throttle,
And the man with his foot on the brake,
And the man who will scoff at danger
And die for a comrade’s sake;

And the Hand that wrought the Vision
With prairie and peak and stream
Shall guide the hand of the workman
And help him to trace his dream!—

Till the rugged lines grow perfect,
And round to a faultless whole;
For the West will have found her singer
When her singer has found his soul.

These are fine, swinging strophes, proclaiming the modern ideal from
Whitman to Kipling that “the song that is fit for men” must have in it
some robust timbre, some resonant fibre, unheard before; that a
sturdier race of bards must arise, “sprung from the toilers at the
bench and plough,”—that, in fine, the new America must have a more
orotund voice to sing her needs.

This has a convincing plausibility on the face of it; but do the facts
bear it out,—are virility and democracy and modernity the essential
elements of the “song that is fit for men”? If so, then Whitman, who
is the apogee of the elemental and democratic, or Kipling, whose tunes
blare in one’s ears like the horns of a band, and whose themes are
aggressively of the day and hour, would be the ideal types of the
new-day poet, and we should find the sturdy laborer and the common
folk in general coming to these sources for refreshment, inspiration,
and aid in tracing their dreams; but, on the contrary, Whitman, by a
frequent paradox of letters, is a poet for the most cultivated and
deeply reflective minds. Only such can understand and embrace his
universality, and, on the poetic side, enjoy his splendid diction and
the wave-like sweep of his rhythms. His formlessness, which was
reactive that he might come the nearer to the common heart, is one of
the chief barriers that prevent this contact. The unlettered nature,
more than all others, demands the ordered symmetry of rhythm as a
focus and aid to thought; it demands elemental beauties as well as
truths, and hence not only is Whitman ruled out by his own measure,
but Kipling also, for again it needs the broadly cultivated mind to
take at his true and at his relative value a poet like Kipling. The
common mind might be familiar with some poem of occasion, the English
laborer might be found singing “Tommy Atkins;” but Kipling’s finer
shadings would escape in the beat of his galloping tunes and in the
touch-and-go of his subjects.

If, then, Kipling, who outmoderns the moderns in singing what is
presumably a song fit for men, and if Whitman, who is as robustly,
democratically American as a poet can well be, and trumpeting ever
that note,—if these poets do not reach the typical man, if they are
not the ones to whom the stalwart laborer comes, or the busy man of
affairs, there must be a need anterior to that of which they sing;
song must spell something else besides virility, democracy,
achievement. It evidently is not the men who _do_, not the men who
_act_, that write “the song of fact” for the laborer and the great
class of our strong, sincere, common folk. They do not want the song
of fact more than do we; they have no other dream to trace than have
we. They want the primal things,—love, hope, beauty, the transforming
ideal; they want the carbon of their daily experience turned to the
crystal; and for this they go to a poet like Burns, who spoke the
universal tongue, who took the common ideals and touched them simply,
tenderly, not strenuously, to a new form at the will of his fancy. You
shall find the boatman or the woodsman knowing his Burns, often his
Shakespeare, for he is quick to grasp the human element, or his Scott,
for he loves romance, when the strident cry of a Kipling, or of a
modern idealist singing of democracy, or of the newer needs of the
laborer himself, will be wholly lost on him; and hence this note
that one is meeting so often in the recent poets seems to me to be a
false and superfluous one.

The “song that is fit for men” is _any_ song that has the essence of
truth and beauty in it, and no other _is_ fit for men, no matter where
sung. We have not evolved a new _genus homo_ by our conquest of arms;
our democracy is not changing human nature; we need virility in song,
as Mr. Knowles has said in the earlier poem quoted; we need that
“cosmic stuff whence primitive feeling glows,” but we need beauty and
spirituality to shape it. Poetry must minister first of all to the
inner life. Tennyson and Browning were not concerned with matters of
empire, or the passing issues of the day; they were occupied with the
essential things,—things of humanity and of the soul, that shall
outlast empire, democracy, or time. Heaven forefend that our bards
shall spring from a race

Unkempt, athletic, rude,
Rough as the prairies, tameless as the sea,

rather let them spring from the very ripest, richest-natured class of
men and women, not servile to custom, but having the breadth of
vision, the poise, the fine and harmonious development that flowers
from the highest cultivation, whether in the schools or in life. It
did not emasculate the work of Browning or Milton or Goethe, nor of
our own Lowell, or many another, that he had the most profound
enrichment that education and traditional culture could give him.
Originality is not crushed by cultivation, nor will native impulse go
far without it. The need is of a poet who shall divine the underlying
harmonies of life, who shall stimulate and develop the higher nature,
and disclose the alchemizing truth that shall transmute the gross ore
of experience into the fine metal of character and spiritual
beauty,—such a poet as Mr. Knowles himself may become when his
idealism shall have taken on that inner sight of the mystic which now
he shows so definitely in certain phases of his work.

He is readier in general to see life’s benign face than its malign
one, even though shapen by pain and guilt; and this brings us to the
group of poems from his new volume, _Love Triumphant_, turning upon
Sin and Remorse, and presenting an element of human passion at once
the most provocative of degradation and the most susceptible of
spiritual elevation.

Whitman approached this theme from the cosmic standpoint as he would
approach any of the universalities of life, not specifically from the
spiritual side, in its destiny-shaping effects. It is from this side
that Mr. Knowles essays its consideration, presenting chiefly the
reactive, retributive phase of guilt,—the sudden spiritual isolation
of the soul that has sinned, as if the golden doors that opened on the
world had transformed to iron bars imprisoning the soul within its
cell of memory. This sense of detachment, of having unwittingly
plucked oneself from the flowering beauty of life, of being
irrevocably cut off from sap and stem, which is the first and most
palpable phase of guilt, predominates in several of the poems. To
consider it first, then, the stanzas called “Lost” may be cited as

Night scattered gold-dust in the eyes of Earth,
My heart was blinded by the excess of stars
As, filled with youth and joy, I kept the Way.

The solitary and unweaponed Sun
Slew all the hosts of darkness with a smile,
And it was Dawn. And still I kept the Way.

The winds, those hounds that only God can leash,
Bayed on my track, and made the morning wild
With loud confusion, but I kept the Way.

The hours climbed high. Peace, where the zenith broods,
Fell, a blue feather from the wings of Heav’n.
Lo! it was Noon. And still I kept the Way.

At length one met me as my footsteps flagged,—
Within her eyes oblivion, on her lips
Delirious dreams—and I forgot the Way.

And still we wander—who knows whitherward,
Our sandals torn, in either face despair,
Passion burnt out—God! I have lost the Way!

Here is strong and vivid imagery, especially in the third stanza,

The winds, those hounds that only God can leash,

which is a bold and fine stroke not merely in its metaphorical
phrasing, but as a symbol of human passions. The entire poem is a
vivid piece of symbolism; it is, however, but one phase of the
subject, and in “One Woman” and “Sin’s Foliage” one comes again face
to face with the same phase, with that terrible memory-haunted
eidolon, the visage of one’s own defaced soul. It is in the poem
“Betrayed” that a truer perspective begins to be manifest, of which
one stanza—

Yet were his hands and conscience clean;
Some monstrous Folly rose unseen
To teach him crimes he could not mean—

introduces a truth that strikes deeper than the mere spell of
impulse,—a truth that suggests the mystery of election in crime:
whether one is wholly responsible for the choice which in a moment
becomes the pivotal event of his destiny, or whether what Maeterlinck
has called the “conniving voices that we cherish at the depths of us”
summoned the event, and impelled him inevitably toward its hazard;
and, further, whether these voices are not often the commissioned
voices, calling one thus to arouse from the somnolence of his soul. On
the morrow of the hour in which he has

… fallen from Heav’n to Hell
In one mad moment’s fateful spell,

and finds himself in the isolation of his own spirit,—consciousness
will awaken, life will be perceived, sympathy will be born, and Pain,
with the daily transfiguring face, will companion him, until in the
years he again meet Love and the other fair shapes of his destiny.
Since no one remains in the hell to which he has fallen, but by his
own choosing, Life rebukes the Art that leaves this sense of finality;
for the hour of tragedy is rather the beginning than the end, and
often so manifestly the birth of the soul into spiritual consciousness
that it may well seem that apparent sin is the mere agency of the
higher forces of the nature, the shock that displaces ignorance and
smug self-complacency and both humanizes and deifies the soul.

In other poems of the group, however, the developing power of sin, and
the remedial forces which it evokes for the renewal of the nature, are
dwelt upon, so that the poems are redeemed at the last from the
impression of hopeless finality which obtained in the earlier ones.

Few of the younger poets have a more vital and personal conviction of
spiritual things than Mr. Knowles, and its evolution is interesting to
note. There is abundant evidence in his earlier verse that he was bred
after the strictest letter of the law; but while his faith was “fixed
to form,” it was seeking “centre everywhere,” and the later volume
widens to an encompassing view worthy the vision of a poet,—the view
that finds nothing impervious to the irradiation of spirit. It is
variously sung, but most nobly, perhaps, in the following poem:

In buds upon some Aaron’s rod
The childlike ancient saw his God;
Less credulous, more believing, we
Read in the grass—Divinity.

From Horeb’s bush the Presence spoke
To earlier faiths and simpler folk;
But now each bush that sweeps our fence
Flames with the awful Immanence!

To old Zacchæus in his tree
What mattered leaves and botany?
His sycamore was but a seat
Whence he could watch that hallowed street.

But now to us each elm and pine
Is vibrant with the Voice divine,
Not only from but in the bough
Our larger creed beholds Him now.

To the true faith, bark, sap and stem
Are wonderful as Bethlehem;
No hill nor brook nor field nor herd
But mangers the incarnate Word!

* * * * *

Again we touch the healing hem
In Nazareth or Jerusalem;
We trace again those faultless years;
The cross commands our wondering tears.

Yet if to us the Spirit writes
On Morning’s manuscript and Night’s,
In gospels of the growing grain,
Epistles of the pond and plain,

In stars, in atoms, as they roll
Each tireless round its occult pole,
In wing and worm and fin and fleece,
In the wise soil’s surpassing peace,—

Thrice ingrate he whose only look
Is backward focused on the Book,
Neglectful what the Presence saith,
Though He be near as blood and breath!

The only atheist is one
Who hears no voice in wind or sun,
Believer in some primal curse,
Deaf in God’s loving universe!

Mr. Knowles has not embraced the diffusive faith that has no faith to
stay it, but is endeavoring to read the newer meaning into the older
truths, which is the present-day office of singer and seer. In the
matter of personal valor, of optimistic, intrepid mood, Mr. Knowles’
work is altogether commendable. He awaits with buoyant cheer what lies
beyond the turn o’ the road. His poem “Fear,” from the first
collection, was widely quoted at the time because of its heartening
tone, and in his new volume, “A Challenge,” “A Twofold Prayer,” and
many another sounds the same invincible note. “Laus Mortis” is a hymn
to death holding within it the truer acceptation of that natural and
therefore kindly change:

Nay, why should I fear Death,
Who gives us life, and in exchange takes breath?

He is like cordial Spring
That lifts above the soil each buried thing;

Like autumn, kind and brief—
The frost that chills the branches frees the leaf;

Like winter’s stormy hours
That spread their fleece of snow to save the flowers.

The lordliest of all things,
Life lends us only feet, Death gives us wings.

Fearing no covert thrust,
Let me walk onward, armed in valiant trust;

Dreading no unseen knife,
Across Death’s threshold step from life to life!

O all ye frightened folk,
Whether ye wear a crown or bear a yoke,

Laid in one equal bed,
When once your coverlet of grass is spread,

What daybreak need you fear?—
The Love will rule you there that guides you here!

Where Life, the sower, stands,
Scattering the ages from his swinging hands,

Thou waitest, Reaper lone,
Until the multitudinous grain hath grown.

Scythe-bearer, when Thy blade
Harvests my flesh, let me be unafraid.

God’s husbandman thou art,
In His unwithering sheaves, O bind my heart!

Mr. Knowles’ work is virile, earnest, individual, free from
affectation or imitation; modern in spirit, recognizing the
significance of to-day, and its part in the finer realization of
to-morrow; sympathetic in feeling, and spiritual in vision. Its
limitations are such as may be trusted to time, being chiefly incident
to the earnestness noted above, which now and again borders on
didacticism. Excess of conviction is, however, a safer equipment for
art than a philosophy already parting with its enthusiasms by the
tempering of life, being more likely to undergo the shaping of
experience without losing the vital part.

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“For he who standeth in the whole world’s hope
Is as a magnet; he shall draw all hearts
To be his shield, all arms to strike his blow.”

THESE words by Mr. George E. Woodberry sound the keynote to his art,
for he has set himself to disclose the immanence of beauty, of
strength; to mould the real to the ideal; and whether he fashions a
god, as in “Agathon,” or a patriot, as in “My Country,” he is
concerned only with the development of the spiritual potentialities.

He comes to life, to poetry, enriched by a scholar’s culture, but
limited by his enrichment on the creative side of his art. He is too
well possessed of the immortal melodies to trust the spontaneous notes
of his own voice, and hence his verse on its technical side lacks
variety and freedom of movement. It has all the cultivated, classical
freedom, it flows ever in pure and true numbers; but the masters sing
in its overtones, and one catches himself hearkening to them as to Mr.
Woodberry himself. In other words, those innovations of form which
strongly creative thoughts usually bring with them, are not to be
found in Mr. Woodberry’s work. He has a highly developed sense of
rhythm and tone, and very rarely is any metrical canon violated; but
the strange new music, the wild free note, that showers down as if
from upper air, and sets one’s heart a-tingling, is seldom voiced
through him. The bird is caged; and while its song is true and
beautiful, one comes soon to know its notes and the range of its

Mr. Woodberry has, however, something to say; and if he says it rather
with grace and cultivation as to form, than with any startling
surprises of artistic effect, his work in its essence, in its spirit,
is none the less creative, and upon this side its strength lies. It is
ethical and intellectual, rather than emotional, poetry. Though rising
often to an impassioned height, it is a passion of the brain, pure and
cold as a flood of moonlight. Even the songs of “Wild Eden,” and
others dealing with love, remain an abstraction; one does not get the
sense of personality, except in one or two of them, such as the lyric,
“O, Inexpressible As Sweet,” and in these few lines called “Divine

To tremble when I touch her hands,
With awe that no man understands;
To feel soft reverence arise
When, lover-sweet, I meet her eyes;
To see her beauty grow and shine
When most I feel this awe divine,—
Whate’er befall me, this is mine;
And where about the room she moves,
My spirit follows her, and loves.

But although one misses the sense of reality in the songs of love, the
ideality is for that reason the more apparent. Love that has
sublimated, taken on the rarer part, that has made a mystic
interchange with nature and with God, is celebrated in the fervid
poem, “He Ate The Laurel And Is Mad,” which marks one of the strongest
achievements in Mr. Woodberry’s work, and especially in a lyric it
contains, vibrating with a fine, compulsive melody. The lines
preceding the lyric relate the coming of Love into the heart of nature:

And instant back his longing runs
Through bud and billow, through drift and blaze,
Through thought, through prayer, the thousand ways
The spirit journeys from despair;
He sees all things that they are fair,
But feels them as the daisied sod,—
This slumbrous beauty, this light, this room,
The chrysalis and broken tomb
He cleaveth on his way to God.

[Illustration: George E. Woodberry]

Then the poem breaks into this pæan, whose music outsings its thought
when pushed to analysis; this is one of Mr. Woodberry’s metrical
exceptions that prove the rule. Here is sheer music making fine but
not extraordinary thought seem great, whereas in the majority of his
work it is the thought to which one listens rather than the melody;
but to the lyric,

I shall go singing over-seas;
“The million years of the planets increase;
All pangs of death, all cries of birth,
Are clasped at one by the heart of the earth.”

I shall go singing by tower and town:
“The thousand cities of men that crown
Empire slow-rising from horde and clan,
Are clasped at one by the heart of man.”

I shall go singing by flower and brier:
“The multitudinous stars of fire,
And man made infinite under the sod,
Are clasped at one by the heart of God.”

I shall go singing by ice and snow:
“Blow soon, dread angel, greatly blow,
Break up, ye gulfs, beneath, above,
Peal, time’s last music,—‘love, love, love!’”

Of his recent volume in which he gathers his most representative work,
“The North Shore Watch,” a threnody published some years ago, remains
one of the truest poems in sincerity and sympathy of expression,—not
only an idyl of remembered comradeship, but of the sea in its many
moods; and here one may note that of Mr. Woodberry’s references to
nature, those of the sea are incomparably the finest, and exhale an
invigorating savor of the brine. They are scattered through “The North
Shore Watch,” but because of the stately sadness of the verse are less
representative of his characteristic note than are these buoyant lines
which open the poem “Seaward”:

I will go down in my youth to the hoar sea’s infinite foam;
I will bathe in the winds of heaven; I will nest where the white
birds home;
Where the sheeted emerald glitters and drifts with bursts of snow,
In the spume of stormy mornings, I will make me ready and go;
Where under the clear west weather the violet surge is rolled,
I will strike with the sun in heaven the day-long league of gold;
Will mix with the waves, and mingle with the bloom of the sunset bar,
And toss with the tangle of moonbeams, and call to the morning star;
And wave and wing shall know me a seachild even as they,
Of the race of the great seafarers, a thousand years if a day.

These lines have the bracing ozone of the east wind; it is good to
fill one’s lungs with their freshening breath. In another sea-song,
“Homeward Bound,” an exultant, grateful hymn, Mr. Woodberry speaks of

“Through the weird, red-billowing sunset”

and of falling asleep in the “rocking dark,” and with the dawn,

Whether the purple furrow heaps the bows with dazzling spray,
Or buried in green-based masses they dip the storm-swept day,
Or the white fog ribbons o’er them, the strong ship holds her way

These are pictures in strong color, freehand records with pigment, of
which Mr. Woodberry’s sea-verse contains many duplicates. He paints
the sea as an impressionist, catching her evanescent moods. Aside from
the pictorial art of the poem from which the lines above are taken, it
thrills with the gladness that abides with one coming

Home from the lonely cities, time’s wreck, and the naked woe,
Home through the clean great waters where freemen’s pennants blow,
Home to the land men dream of, where all the nations go.

Mr. Woodberry is an American, and ever an American, whatever tribute
he may pay at longer dedicated shrines. His ode to “My Country” is an
impassioned utterance, full of ideality, and pride in things as they
are, not lacking, however, in the prophetic vision of what they shall
be. He trusts his country without reservation, recognizes her greater
commission in what has terrified many poets,—the absorption of the
Eastern isles,—and bids her be swift to yield her benefits:

O, whisper to thy clustered isles
If any rosy promise round them smiles;
O, call to every seaward promontory
If one of them, perchance, is made the cape of glory.

In technique the ode has a fine sweep and movement; it thrills with
flights of feeling, as in these lines near the close,—

And never greater love salutes thy brow
Than his, who seeks thee now.
Alien the sea and salt the foam
Where’er it bears him from his home;
And when he leaps to land,
A lover treads the strand.

The ode is somewhat marred by prolixity, and now and again by the
declamatory impulse getting the better of the creative; but granting
this it remains a fine rhapsody, redeeming the time to those who think
the days are evil, and more than ever proving Mr. Woodberry the
idealist, if not, indeed, the prophet. In the Emerson Ode, read at the
centenary in Boston, there is poem-for-occasion utterance until one
reaches the fourth division, where the rhetoric gives way to the
pensive note,

I lay the singing laurels down
Upon the silent grave,

and grows from this into a glimpsing of Emerson’s most characteristic
thought, to which Mr. Woodberry sings his own indebtedness. This
philosophical résumé has value as critical interpretation and as
tribute to whom tribute is due, but it lacks the vital spark as
poetry. Odes of this sort are no gauge of a poet’s merit, and although
Mr. Woodberry does not reveal his weakness in writing of this sort,
neither does he to any marked degree reveal his strength. It is work
of conventional creditability, reaching occasionally some flight of
pure poetry, but pervaded in general by the perfunctory note that
results from coercing the muse; and here one may interpolate the wish
that all poems-for-occasion might be “put upon the list,” for it is
certain, not only that the majority of them “never would be missed,”
but that poetry would rebound from a most inert weight if lightened of
them; nor is this in any sense personal to Mr. Woodberry, whose
“Emerson Ode” is a far stronger piece of work than are most
compositions of a similar nature. In the “Player’s Elegy,” in the ode
written for the dedication of Alumni Hall at Phillips Exeter Academy,
and in the several poems addressed to his fellow-professors at
Columbia, there are also passages of spontaneous force and beauty, and
the high motive of all must not be lost sight of, but, taken as a
whole, this group of poems could scarcely figure in an appraisal of
the individuality of his work.

It is on the spiritually philosophical side of his nature that Mr.
Woodberry makes his strongest appeal. He is not primarily a poet of
love, nor of nature, nor a melodist making music for its own sake; he
is an eager, questing follower of the ideal; proclaimer of the truth

The glamour of God hath a thousand shapes
And every one divine.

When he interprets the mystery of love, or turns to the world without,
it is the immanence of the divine that haunts him:

Over the grey leagues of ocean
The infinite yearneth alone;
The forests with wandering emotion
The thing they know not intone.

He is, indeed, the spirit’s votary, and the ultimate purport of his
message is the recognition of one’s own spirit force. His poem, “Nay,
Soul,” rebukes the weakness that looks on every side for that which is
within; the nature that, seeking props, falls by the way; or, craving
understanding, loses the strength that comes of being misunderstood.
It subtly divides the legitimate gifts of sympathy from those which
weakness demands, and reveals the impossibility of coercing life, or
love, or any good to which one’s nature is not so magnetized that it
comes to him unentreated. These are potent lines:—

Nay, Soul, thy shame forbear!
Between the earth and sky
Was never man could buy
The bread of life with prayer,
Not though his brother there
Saw him with hunger die.

His life a man may give,
But, not for deepest ruth,
Beauty, nor love, nor truth
Whereby himself doth live.
Come home, poor fugitive!
Art thou so poor, forsooth?

* * * * *

Thy heart—look thou aright!
Fear not the wild untrod,
Nor birth, nor burial sod!
Look, and in native light,
Bare as to Christ’s own sight,
Living shalt thou see God.

The dramatic poem, “Agathon,” which is builded upon the philosophy of
Plato, is perhaps the most thoughtful and thought-inciting work in the
newly collected volume. It is in no sense of the word dramatic, but
doubtless cast in this form from its wider adaptability to the
contrasts of thought. The poem is too lengthy to follow an analysis of
its philosophy, which is wrought out with subtle elaboration, smacking
too much at times of a logical demonstration, but in the main leavened
with imaginative phrase. Its poetic climax is in the apostrophe which
follows the statement that

The sweetest roamer is a boy’s young heart.

The lines form a blank-verse lyric with a rich cadence and movement:

O youngest Roamer, Hesper shuts the day,
White Hesper folded in the rose of eve;
The still cloud floats, and kissed by twilight sleeps;
The mists drop down, and near the mountain moor;
And mute the bird’s throat swells with slumber now;
And now the wild winds to their eyries cling.

* * * * *

O youngest Roamer, wonderful is joy,
The rose in bloom that out of darkness springs;
The lily folded to the wave of life,
The lotus on the stream’s dark passion borne.

* * * * *

Ah, fortunate he roams who roameth here,
Who finds the happy covert and lies down,
And hears the laughter gurgling in the fount,
And feels the dreamy light imbathe his limbs.
No more he roams, he roams no more, no more.

These lines are reminiscent of Tennyson’s “Princess” in their metrical
note, particularly in the final couplet of the first stanza, with the
“dying fall” of the cadence, bringing to mind:

Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

Mr. Woodberry’s poetic affiliation with Tennyson comes out
unmistakably in various other poems, leaving no doubt as to one of the
masters who sing in his over-tones. Here, for illustration, is a
transfusion with Tennyson’s “Tears, Idle Tears.” One stanza of the
flawless lyric reads:

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awaken’d birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

And Mr. Woodberry says:

O hidden-strange as on dew-heavy lawns
The warm dark scent of summer-fragrant dawns;
O tender as the faint sea-changes are,
When grows the flush and pales the snow-white star;
So strange, so tender, to a maid is love.

The mere fact of employing the Tennyson metre, especially when rhymed,
would not give the sense of over-assimilation of the other’s work were
it not for the marked correspondence in the diction and atmosphere,
the first line of Tennyson’s lyric being expanded into the opening
couplet of Mr. Woodberry’s stanza, and the final lines of each having
so similar a terminology. Shelley is a much more operative force in
Mr. Woodberry’s poetry than Tennyson, but rather in temperamental
kinship than in a technical way. Mr. Woodberry could scarcely fail to
have a keen sympathy with the passionate art of Shelley, who lived in
the ideal, subtilized and sublimated beyond all reach but that of
longing, but who yet set his hand and brain to the strife about him.
In his earlier work Mr. Woodberry occasionally shows the Shelley
influence in technique and theme, but not in his later verse. One can
scarcely understand his leaving in a definitive collection of his work
the poem “Love at the Door,” whose obligations to Taylor’s “Bedouin
Love Song” and Shelley’s “I arise from dreams of thee,” are about
equally distributed. Most poets have their early experiments in the
reshaping of forms and themes, but they should be edited out of
representative collections. The poem is scarcely a creditable
assimilation of the models in question, and does scant justice to Mr.
Woodberry’s later poetry, making the query more inevitable why he
should have left it in the volume, which is in the main so finished
and ripe a work. Occasionally one comes upon poems, or passages, which
a keener self-criticism would have eliminated, as the line from
“Taormina,” declaring that

Front more majestic of sea-mountains nowhere is there uplifted the
whole earth through,—

whose legitimate place is in a rhetorical textbook, as an exercise in
redundance. Mr. Woodberry is occasionally allured by his theme until
the song outruns the motive, but he rarely pads a line like this; even
poetic hyperbole has a limit.

In picturesque imagery his work is finely individualized; witness the
figurative beauty of the following lines:

The ocean, storming on the rocks,
Shepherds not there his wild, wet flocks.
The soaring ether nowhere finds
An eyrie for the wingéd winds;
Nor has yon glittering sky a charm
To hive in heaven the starry swarm;
And so thy wandering thoughts, my heart,
No home shall find; let them depart.

The two sonnets “At Gibraltar” represent, perhaps, as fine an
achievement as distinguishes Mr. Woodberry’s work. It would, indeed,
be difficult to surpass them in American literature of to-day in
strength, passion, or ideality:


England, I stand on thy imperial ground,
Not all a stranger; as thy bugles blow,
I feel within my blood old battles flow—
The blood whose ancient founts in thee are found.
Still surging dark against the Christian bound
Wide Islam presses; well its peoples know
Thy heights that watch them wandering below;
I think how Lucknow heard their gathering sound.
I turn, and meet the cruel, turbaned face.
England, ’tis sweet to be so much thy son!
I feel the conqueror in my blood and race;
Last night Trafalgar awed me, and to-day
Gibraltar wakened; hark, thy evening gun
Startles the desert over Africa!


Thou art the rock of empire, set mid-seas
Between the East and West, that God has built;
Advance thy Roman borders where thou wilt,
While run thy armies true with His decrees.
Law, justice, liberty—great gifts are these;
Watch that they spread where English blood is spilt,
Lest, mixed and sullied with his country’s guilt,
The soldier’s life-stream flow, and Heaven displease!
Two swords there are: one naked, apt to smite,
Thy blade of war; and, battle-storied, one
Rejoices in the sheath, and hides from light.
American I am; would wars were done!
Now westward, look, my country bids good-night—
Peace to the world from ports without a gun!

Whether in his travels or in the quiet of his own contemplation, the
emphasis of Mr. Woodberry’s thought is upon the noble, the essential,
the beautiful. Although not a strongly creative poet in form, he is a
highly cultivated poet, and hands on the nobler traditions of art; and
if now and then he wraps another’s “singing robe” about him, it is but
an external vesture, leaving the soul of his thought unchanged.

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