TO be a poet of the East, one must be a painter, using words as a
colorist uses pigment. His poem must be a picture wherein form and
detail are subjected to the values of tone and atmosphere; like the
dawn-crest of Fujiyama it must glow, it must dazzle with tints and
light. To convert the pen into an artist’s brush, the vocabulary into
a palette, is an end not to be gained by striving; it is a talent _a
priori_, a temperamental color, a temperamental art.
So vividly is this shown in the work of Mrs. Mary McNeil Fenollosa
that whereas in her Eastern poems she is every whit the artist, in her
Western, her Occidental poems, she is without special distinction.
Certain of her Western poems have a conventional, mechanical tone,
while those of the East are abrim with vitality and impulse. They were
not “reared by wan degrees;” the craftsman did not fashion them; and
although varying in charm, there are few that lack the Eastern spirit.
Mrs. Fenollosa’s bit of the Orient is Japan, where nature is ever
coquetting,—laughing in the cherry, sighing in the lotos. Nature in
the Orient is invested with a personality foreign to Western
countries, a personality reminiscent of the gods. Then, too, nature is
given a more prominent place in the poetry of the East than is love,
or any of the subjects, so infinite in variety, which engross a
Western singer; and it happens that Mrs. Fenollosa, catching this
spirit during her life in Japan, gives us chiefly nature poems in her
Eastern collection. With artist-strokes where each is sure, she
flashes this picture before us:
The day unfolds like a lotos-bloom,
Pink at the tip, and gold at the core,
Rising up swiftly through waters of gloom
That lave night’s shore;
or this vision of—
The cloud-like curve,
The loosened sheaf,
The ineffable pink of a lotos leaf.
One great charm of the imagery in Mrs. Fenollosa’s Japanese poems is
its subtlety of suggestion. The imagination has play; something is
left for the fancy of the reader, which can scarcely be said of some
of the highly wrought verse of our own country. The first lyric in the
collection hints of a score of things beyond its eight-line scope:
O let me die a singing!
O let me drown in light!
Another day is winging
Out from the nest of night.
The morning glory’s velvet eye
Brims with a jewelled bead.
To-day my soul’s a dragon-fly,
The world a swaying reed!
“To-day my soul’s a dragon-fly,”—a wingéd incarnation of liberty and
joy; “the world a swaying reed,”—a pliant thing made for my delight,
an empery of which I am the sovereign and may have my will.
[Illustration: Mary McNeil Fenollosa]
But these Japanese songs have not wholly the lighter melody; there are
those that sing of the devastation of the rice-fields after the
floods, a grim and tragic picture; and there are interpretations of
the dreams of the great bronze Buddha, looking with sad, inscrutable
eyes upon the pilgrims who, with the recurrent seasons, come creeping
to his feet like insects from the mould; and there is a story of “The
Path of Prayer,”—a Japanese superstition so human that one is glad of
a religion where sentiment overtops reason. It pictures one walking at
evening under gnarled old pines until he chances upon a hidden path
leading through a hundred gates that keep a sacred way; and as he
passes he is amazed to see along the route, springing as if from the
earth, fluttering white papers, tied
As banners pendent from a mimic wand.
The poem continues:
I wondered long; when, from the drowsy wood,
A whisper reached me, “’Tis the Path of Prayer,
Where, nightly, Kwannon walks in pitying mood,
To read the sad petitions planted there.”
Ah, simple faith! The sun was in the west;
And darkness smote with flails his quivering light.
Beside the path I knelt; and, with the rest,
My alien prayer was planted in the night.
It is to be regretted that Mrs. Fenollosa gives us so little of the
religious or mystical in Japanese thought, since no country is richer
in material of the sort, and especially as the isolated poems and
passages in which she touches upon it are all so interpretative. She
has one poem, a petition of old people at a temple, that strikes deep
root both in pathos and philosophy. Perhaps the Japanese excel all
other peoples in the reverence paid to age, and yet no excess of
consideration can supplant the melancholy of that time. The second
stanza of Mrs. Fenollosa’s poem expresses the aloofness of the old,—
For thy comfort, Lord, we pray,
Namu Amida Butsu!
In the rice-fields, day by day,
Now the strong ones comb the grain;
Once we laughed there in the rain,
Stooping low in sun and cold
For our helpless young and old;
In the rice-fields day by day,
Namu Amida Butsu!
And the last stanza is imbued with the Buddhistic resignation, the
desire to pass, to be reabsorbed, reinvested, reborn. It is
philosophical after the Karmic law, and beautiful in spirit even to a
For thy mercy, Lord, we pray,
Namu Amida Butsu!
Let the old roots waste away,
That the green may pierce the light!
Life and thought, in withered plight,
Choke the morning. Far beneath
Stirs the young blade in its sheath.
Let the old roots pass away!
Namu Amida Butsu!
This is symbolism which upon a cursory reading one might lose
entirely, thinking its import to be, let the old die and give place to
the young; whereas it is, let the old in oneself, the outworn, the
material, the inefficacious, die, and give place to the new.
That the green may pierce the light:—
that out of physical decay a regrowth of the spirit may spring; for
Stirs the young blade in its sheath:—
the soul is quickening for the upper air and making ready to burst its
detaining mould. How beautiful is the recognition that
Life and thought, in withered plight,
Choke the morning,
the young eternal self, that, having fulfilled the conditions of Karma
in its present embodiment of destiny, is obeying the resistless law
that calls it to new modes of being. It is unnecessary to be of the
Buddhistic faith to feel the spell and the beauty of its philosophy.
Mrs. Fenollosa’s gift is chiefly lyrical, although her sonnets and
descriptive poems have many passages of beauty; the picturesque in
fancy and phrasing is ever at her command, and there are few poems in
which one is not arrested by some unique expression, or bit of
imagery, as this from “An Eastern Cry”:
Beneath the maples crickets wake,
_And chip the silence, flake on flake_.
Or that in which the rain
Brimmed great magnolias up with scented wine.
Or the fir-tree stood,
With clotted plumage sagging to the land.
Or when Fujiyama seen at dawn is pictured as
A crown … self poised in mist,
and again as
A frail mirage of Paradise
Set in the quickening air.
So true in color and vision are Mrs. Fenollosa’s lyrics that one
cannot understand how in a sonnet she can be guilty of so mixed a
metaphor as this describing a “Morning On Fujisan”:
Through powdered mist of dawn-lit pearl and rose
There lifts one lotos-peak of cleaving white,
The swan-like rhapsody of dying night,
Which, softly soaring through the ether, blows
To hang there breathless….
The first two lines are unimpeachable, but when the “lotos-peak” is
amplified into a “swan-like rhapsody,” one is swept quite away from
his bearings. It is but an illustration of the effort that often goes
to the building of a sonnet and renders forced and inept what was
designed to be artistic. Mrs. Fenollosa’s sonnets, however, do not
often violate congruity, for while the sonnet is by no means her
representative form, she handles it with as much ease as do most of
the modern singers, and occasionally one comes upon her most
characteristic lines in this compass; but it is true of the sonnet
form in general, except in the hands of a thorough artist, that the
mechanism is too obvious and obscures the theme.
To know Mrs. Fenollosa at her best one must read “Miyoko San,” “Full
Moon Over Sumidagawa,” “An Eastern Cry,” “Exiled,” and this song “To a
Japanese Nightingale,” full of mystic, wistful beauty, of suggestive
spiritual grace. How delicate is its fashioning, and yet how it
defines a picture, silhouettes it against the Orient night!
Dark on the face of a low, full moon
Swayeth the tall bamboo.
No flute nor quiver of song is heard,
Though sheer on the tip a small brown bird
Sways to an inward tune.
O small brown bird, like a dusky star,
Lone on the tall bamboo,
Thou germ of the soul of a summer night,
Thou quickening core of a lost delight,
Of ecstasy born afar,
Soar out thy bliss to the tingling air,
Sing from the tall bamboo!
Loosen the long, clear, syrup note
That shimmers and throbs in thy delicate throat;
Mellow my soul’s despair!
THAT genial and delicate satirist, Miss Agnes Repplier, laments in one
of her clever essays that our modern poets incline to dwell upon the
sombre side of things, and hence contribute so little to the cheer of
life. One cannot but wonder what poetry Miss Repplier has been
reading, for our own acquaintance with the song of to-day has been so
much the opposite that it is difficult on the spur of the moment to
recall any poet of the present group in America whose work is not in
the main wholesome and heartening and who is not facing toward the
sun. To be sure, there must be the relief of shade, lest the light
glare; but they who journey to Castaly are in general cheerful
wayfarers, taking gladly the gift of the hours and rendering the Giver
a song, and among the blithest of them is Clinton Scollard, to whom
life is always smilingly envisaged, and to whom, whether spring or
autumn betide, it is still the “sweet o’ the year.”
[Illustration: Clinton Scollard]
If Mr. Scollard’s way has ever been “through dolor and dread, over
crags and morasses,” he is too much the optimist to let the fact be
known, or, better still, to recognize it as such; for we see what our
own eyes reflect from within, and it is certain that Mr. Scollard’s
outlook upon life is governed by the inherent conviction that her ways
are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace. Possibly this
conviction would have more value to the less assured nature if the
testimony of its winning were set down as a strength-giving force by
the way, as we incline in daily life to undervalue the amiability and
cheer which are matters of birthright rather than of overcoming; but
this is a standard narrow in itself and wide of the issue at stake,
which is so much cheer _per se_, whether the fortunate dower of
nature, or the alchemic result of experience; nor may one draw too
definite a line between the temperamental gift and the spiritual
acquisition, especially when the psychology of literature furnishes
the only data. It is sufficient to note the result in the work, and
its bearing upon the art which shapes it. To Mr. Scollard, then,
“Life’s enchanted cup” not only “sparkles at the brim;” but when he
lifts it to his lips a rainbow arches in its depths, and he has
communicated to his song the flash of sunshine and color sparkling in
the clearness of his own draught of life.
Mr. Scollard is almost wholly an objective poet, and by method a
painter. His palette is ever ready for the picture furnished him at
every turn, and hence his several volumes relating to the Orient,
_Lutes of Morn_, _Lyrics of the Dawn_, _Songs of Sunrise Lands_, etc.,
are perhaps truer standards by which to measure his work than any
other, illustrating as they do the pictorial side of his talent. Every
object in the Orient is a picture with its individual color and
atmosphere, but Mr. Scollard does not merely offer us a sketch in
color; the outwardly picturesque is made to interpret a phase of life,
and the spiritual contrasts in this land—where one religion or
philosophy succeeds another, bringing with it another civilization and
leaving desolate the ancient shrines—are indicated with vivid phrase,
as in these lines:
A turbaned guard keeps stolid ward by the Zion gate in the sun,
And the Paynim bows his shaven brows at the shrine of Solomon;
At the chosen altars, long, long quenched is the flame of the sacred
And the jackal has his haunt in the tomb of Hiram, King of Tyre.
Great Herod’s pride with its columned aisles is grown with the olive
And Gath and Dan are but crumbling piles, while Gaza is gateless now;
The sea on the sands of Ascalon sets hands to a mournful lyre,
And the jackal has his haunt in the tomb of Hiram, King of Tyre.
The closing stanza draws the contrast, or rather makes the spiritual
application of the poem by which “the starry fame of one holy name”
Has blazoned Bethlehem for aye the heart of the world’s desire,
While the jackal has his haunt in the tomb of Hiram, King of Tyre.
The final line of these stanzas may offer a metrical stumbling-block
until one catches the sweep of the rhythm and falls in note with the
cæsural pause after the word “tomb.” Mr. Scollard is nothing if not
lyrical, and it would be easier for the traditional camel to go
through the eye of a needle than for a captious critic to discover a
metrical falsity in his tuneful song.
But to return to the Orient, not alone the reverence for the Christian
faith speaks in these poems, but the artistic beauty in the Moslem and
other faiths has entered into them; one is stirred to sympathetic
devotion by these lines,—
From many a marble minaret
We heard the rapt muezzin’s call;
And to the prayerful cries my guide,
During each trembling interval,
With reverence serene replied,—
and finds throughout the poems the higher assurance that
The East and West are one in Allah’s grace:
Which way so’er ye turn, behold—His face!
It is difficult to choose from the several volumes portraying Oriental
life, such poems as shall best represent it, since in any direction we
shall find a picture full of color and of strange new charm: the white
mosques and minarets; the gardens of citron and pomegranate; the
bazaars, with their rare fabrics and curios; the pilgrims, dozing in
the shade of the temples; the Bedouins, riding in from the desert; the
women carrying from the springs their water-jars. We shall hear the
sunrise cry of the muezzin from the minarets; the zither and lute in
the gardens at evening; the jargon of tongues in booth and
market-place; the philosopher expounding the Koran; the lover singing
the songs of Araby. The dramatic life of that impulsive, passionate
people will be seen in such poems as the “Dancing of Suleima,” “At the
Tomb of Abel,” and “Yousef and Melhem,” and the philosophical side in
many a poem translating the precepts of the Koran into action; but it
is, after all, for the picture in which all this is set that one comes
with chief pleasure to these songs. Not only the human element of that
strangely fascinating life is incorporated in them, but all the
phenomena of nature in its swift-changing moods pass in review before
one’s eyes, particularly of the swift transitions of the desert sun,
stayed by no detaining cloud, and followed by the immediate gloom of
night. The graphic lines—
When on the desert’s rim,
In sudden, awful splendor, stood the sun—
are excelled in terse, pictorial force by the record of its setting,—
Then sudden dipped the sun.—
Nor easily forgotten are those pictures of lying in the open when the
cooling dark had fallen upon the yearning land, or upon the hills when
The night hung over Hebron all her stars,
Miraculous processional of flame,
and below from out the “purple blur” rose the minarets of the mosque
Sepulchred for centuries untold,
The bones of Isaac and of Joseph lay;
And broidered cloths of silver and of gold
Were heaped and draped o’er Abraham’s crumbled clay.
In _The Lutes of Morn_ there are two sonnets—though lyrics in effect,
so does the song prevail with Mr. Scollard—that serve hastily to
sketch a moving scene and in their touch bring to mind Paul the
chronicler. The first is “Passing Rhodes,” and contains these lines
with a biblical tang,
At day’s dim marge, hard on the shut of eve,
We rocked abreast the rugged Rhodian isle,
which tang appears in stronger flavor in the racy opening of the
Cleaving the seadrift through the starlit night,
We left the barren Patmian isle behind,
And scudding northward with a favoring wind,
Lay anigh Chios at the dawn of light.
The shore, the tree-set slopes, the rugged height,
Clear in the morning’s roseate air outlined,—
This was his birthplace who, albeit blind,
Saw tall Troy’s fall, and sang the tragic sight.
Resting within the roadstead, while the day
Grew into gradual glory, on the ear
Continuous broke the surge-song of the brine;
And as we marked it rise, or die away
To rise again, it seemed that we could hear
The swell and sweep of Homer’s mighty line.
Mr. Scollard’s musical and finely descriptive poem, “As I Came Down
From Lebanon,” has become a favorite with the readers of his verse;
but while it has great charm, it is not as strong a piece of work as
are many other of the Oriental poems, contained in his later volumes,
_The Lutes of Morn_ and _Lyrics of the Dawn_, nor as that realistic
poem, “Khamsin,” which appeared in the same collection. Here indeed is
the breath of the sirocco:
Oh, the wind from the desert blew in!
The wind from the desert blew in!
It blew from the heart of the fiery south,
From the fervid sand and the hills of drouth,
And it kissed the land with its scorching mouth;
The wind from the desert blew in!
It blasted the buds on the almond bough,
And shrivelled the fruit on the orange-tree;
The wizened dervish breathed no vow,
So weary and parched was he.
The lean muezzin could not cry;
The dogs ran mad, and bayed the sky;
The hot sun shone like a copper disk,
And prone in the shade of an obelisk
The water-carrier sank with a sigh,
For limp and dry was his water-skin;
And the wind from the desert blew in.
* * * * *
Into the cool of the mosque it crept,
Where the poor sought rest at the prophet’s shrine;
Its breath was fire to the jasmine vine;
It fevered the brow of the maid who slept,
And men grew haggard with revel of wine.
The tiny fledglings died in the nest;
The sick babe gasped at the mother’s breast.
Then a rumor rose and swelled and spread
From a tremulous whisper, faint and vague,
Till it burst in a terrible cry of dread,
_The plague! the plague! the plague!_—
Oh the wind, Khamsin,
The scourge from the desert blew in!
Of the lighter notes, upon love and kindred themes, Mr. Scollard has
many in his poems of the Orient; “The Song of the Nargileh” is of
especial charm, but unfortunately too long to quote. Very graceful,
too, is the “Twilight Song” with one of Mr. Scollard’s graphic
beginnings, but one quaint bit from _The Lutes of Morn_ is so
characteristic as showing Oriental felicity of speech that while
merely a jotting in song, and less important in an artistic sense than
many others touching upon the theme of love, I cannot refrain from
citing it instead: it is called “Greetings—Cairo.”
Upon El Muski did I meet Hassan,
Beneath arched brows his deep eyes twinkling bright,
Good dragoman (and eke good Mussulman)
And cried unto him, “May your day be white!”
“And yours, howadji!” came his swift reply,
A smile illumining the words thereof,
(All men are poets ’neath that kindling sky),
“As white as are the thoughts of her you love!”
The Oriental poems cover not only a varied range of subject, but pass
in review nearly every important city and shrine in the length and
breadth of that storied land, making poetical footnotes to one’s
history and filling his memory with pictures.
The second source of Mr. Scollard’s inspiration, doubtless the first
in point of time, is his delight in nature. Here, too, the objective
side predominates. He is footfaring, with every sense alert to see, to
hear, and to enjoy; he slips the world of men as a leash and becomes
the fetterless comrade of the vagrant things of earth. He stops to do
no philosophizing by the way,—the analogies, the laws, the evolving
purposes of nature, are rarely touched upon in his verse; nor is he
one of the poet-naturalists, intent to observe and record with
infinite fidelity the fact, with its mystic spirit of beauty. He finds
in the obvious side of nature such glamour and magic as suffice for
inspiration and delight; and it is this side which enthralls him
almost wholly. In other words, his nature vision is rather outlook
than insight, though always sympathetic in fancy and delicate in
touch. He seems to see only the gladness in the season’s phases, and
greets white-shrouded winter with all the ardor that he would bestow
upon flower-decked June.
He has one volume entitled _Footfarings_, written partly in prose and
partly in verse,—a book abrim with morning joy, and bringing with it
the aroma of wood-flowers and the minstrelsy of birds. The prose
predominates, and is worthy the pen of a poet: its imaginative grace,
its enthusiasm, and its quaint and delicate fancy impart to it all the
flavor of poetry while adhering to a crisp and racy style. Each
chapter is prefaced by a keynote of verse, such as that which conducts
one to the haunt of the trillium, where
These nun-like flowers with spotless urns,
That shine with such a snowy gloss,
Will seem, amid the suppliant ferns,
To bow above the cloistral moss.
Then Hope, her starry eyes upraised,
Will suddenly surprise you there,
And you will feel that you have gazed
On the white sanctity of prayer!
Were it within the province of this study, I should like to quote some
of Mr. Scollard’s prose from a “Woodland Walk,” “A Search for the
Lady’s Slipper,” or many another picturesque chapter. One loses
thought of print, and is for the nonce following his errant fancy
through meadow and coppice to the heart of the spicy fir-woods,
picking his way over the forest brooks, from stone to stone; following
the alluring skid-roads, latticed by new growths on either side and
arched above by interlacing green; penetrating into the tamarack
thickets at the lure of the hermit-thrush, that spirit-voice of song;
resting on a springy bed of moss and fern,—becoming, in short,
wayfellow of desire, and thrall but to his will. Mr. Scollard has also
published within the past year a book of nature verse called _The
Lyric Bough_, which contains some of his best work in this way; one of
its livelier fancies is that of “The Wind”:
O the wind is a faun in the spring-time
When the ways are green for the tread of the May;
List! hark his lay!
Whist! mark his play!
Hear how gay!
O the wind is a dove in the summer
When the ways are bright with the wash of the moon;
List! hark him tune!
Whist! mark him swoon!
Hear him croon!
O the wind is a gnome in the autumn
When the ways are brown with the leaf and burr;
Hist! mark him stir!
List! hark him whir!
Hear him chirr!
O the wind is a wolf in the winter
When the ways are white for the hornèd owl;
Hist! mark him prowl!
List! hark him howl!
Hear him growl!
One of the earlier books, _The Hills of Song_, contained a brief,
merry-toned lyric, with a cavalier note, that sung itself into the
_American Anthology_, and is perhaps as characteristic and charming a
leave-taking of this phase of Mr. Scollard’s work as one may cite:
Be ye in love with April-tide?
I’ faith, in love am I!
For now ’tis sun, and now ’tis shower,
And now ’tis frost, and now ’tis flower,
And now ’tis Laura laughing-eyed,
And now ’tis Laura shy.
Ye doubtful days, O slower glide!
Still smile and frown, O sky!
Some beauty unforeseen I trace
In every change of Laura’s face;—
Be ye in love with April-tide?
I’ faith, in love am I!
Balladry furnishes the third source of Mr. Scollard’s singing impulse.
The Oriental poems have somewhat of this phase of his work, though
more especially inclining to the narrative style; and the epic poem
“Skenandoa,” while written in a story-lyric, shows the ballad-making
qualities, which in their true note had been heard earlier in
“Taillefer the Trouvère,” and have been heard more definitely in
_Ballads of Valor and Victory_, recently written in collaboration with
Mr. Wallace Rice, and reciting the heroisms and adventures of soldier,
sailor, and explorer from Drake to Dewey.
Ballad-writing is an art calling for distinct gifts. The dramatic
element must predominate. The story first—and if this be colorless,
there is no true ballad; the verse next—and if this be flaccid, or if
it swing to the other extreme and become too strained and tense, there
is no true ballad; for the essence of ballad-writing is in the freedom
of the movement, the swing and verve with which one recounts a
picturesque story. Mr. Scollard’s contributions to the volume are sung
with spontaneity and with a virile note, and in the matter of
characterization, fixing the personality of the hero before the mind,
the work is especially strong; witness “Riding With Kilpatrick;”
“Wayne at Stony Point;” “Montgomery at Quebec;” the picture of Thomas
Macdonough at the Battle of Plattsburg Bay, or in more recent times of
“Private Blair of the Regulars,” the modern Sidney, who, dying, gave
the last draught of his canteen to his wounded fellows.
“The White November” and “The Eve of Bunker Hill” are among the best
of the ballads. The former brings with it a well-known note, but one
newly bedight with brave phrase; indeed, all the celebrated ballad
measures appear in these song stories, but well individualized in
diction and dramatic mood. They differ of course in the degree of
these qualities; some have too slight an incident to chronicle; some
might with better effect have been omitted, particularly “War in
April,” by Mr. Rice; but for this he atones by “The Minute-Men of
Northboro” and other vigorous contributions to the collection. The
ballads have the merit of structural compactness. While the necessary
portrayal of the incident renders many of the best of them too long to
quote, there are, in Mr. Scollard’s contribution to the book, few
superfluous stanzas; each plays its essential part in the development
of the story. They may not, then, be quoted without their full
complement of strophes, which debars us from citing the “White
November,” “Wayne at Stony Point,” and others mentioned as most
representative; but here is the tale of “Riding With Kilpatrick,” not
more valiant than many of the others, but celebrating a picturesque
figure. There are certain reminiscent notes of “How They Brought the
Good News from Ghent to Aix” in this galloping anapestic measure; and
its graphic opening line calls to mind that instantaneous picture, “At
Aershot, up leaped of a sudden the sun.”
Dawn peered through the pines as we dashed at the ford;
Afar the grim guns of the infantry roared;
There were miles yet of dangerous pathway to pass,
And Moseby might menace, and Stuart might mass;
But we mocked every doubt, laughing danger to scorn,
As we quaffed with a shout from the wine of the morn
Those who rode with Kilpatrick to valor were born!
How we chafed at delay! How we itched to be on!
How we yearned for the fray where the battle-reek shone!
It was _forward_, not _halt_, stirred the fire in our veins,
When our horses’ feet beat to the clink of the reins;
It was _charge_, not _retreat_, we were wonted to hear;
It was _charge_, not _retreat_, that was sweet to the ear;
Those who rode with Kilpatrick had never felt fear!
At last the word came, and troop tossed it to troop;
Two squadrons deployed with a falcon-like swoop;
While swiftly the others in echelons formed,
For there, just ahead, was the line to be stormed.
The trumpets rang out; there were guidons ablow;
The white summer sun set our sabres aglow;
Those who rode with Kilpatrick charged straight at the foe!
We swept like the whirlwind; we closed; at the shock
The sky seemed to reel and the earth seemed to rock;
Steel clashed upon steel with a deafening sound,
While a redder than rose-stain encrimsoned the ground;
If we gave back a space from the fierce pit of hell,
We were rallied again by a voice like a bell,
Those who rode with Kilpatrick rode valiantly well!
Rang sternly his orders from out of the wrack:
_Re-form there, New Yorkers! You, Harris Light, back!
Come on, men of Maine! we will conquer or fall!
Now, forward, boys, forward, and follow me, all!_
A Bayard in boldness, a Sidney in grace,
A lion to lead, and a stag-hound to chase—
Those who rode with Kilpatrick looked Death in the face!
Though brave were our foemen, they faltered and fled;
Yet that was no marvel when such as he led!
Long ago, long ago, was that desperate day!
Long ago, long ago, strove the Blue and the Gray!
Praise God that the red sun of battle is set!
That our hand-clasp is loyal and loving—and yet
Those who rode with Kilpatrick can never forget!
The Lochinvar key is also struck in the description of Kilpatrick. Mr.
Scollard sounds a less sanguinary note in most of the ballads, as that
of “The Troopers” or “King Philip’s Last Stand.”
“On the Eve of Bunker Hill,” while recording no thrilling story, has a
note of pensive beauty in its quiet description of the preparation for
battle before that memorable day, and of the prayer offered in the
presence of the soldiers, “ranged a-row” in the open night. The
initial stanza gives the setting and key:
’Twas June on the face of the earth, June with the rose’s breath,
When life is a gladsome thing, and a distant dream is death;
There was gossip of birds in the air, and the lowing of herds by the
And a sunset gleam in the sky that the heart of a man holds good;
Then the nun-like twilight came, violet-vestured and still,
And the night’s first star outshone afar on the eve of Bunker Hill.
Taking the volume throughout, it is a stirringly sung _résumé_ of all
the chief deeds in American history to which attach valor and romance,
and is not only attractive reading, but should be in the hands of
every lad as a stimulus to patriotism, and to focus in his mind, as
textbooks could never do, the exploits of the brave and the strong.
In the lyrical narrative poem, such as “Guiraut, the Troubadour,” Mr.
Scollard has one of his most characteristic vehicles. The adventures
of the singer who sought a maid in Carcassonne are, no doubt,
romantically enhanced by association of the name with that of the
hapless one who “had not been to Carcassonne;” but it is certain that
one follows the troubadour in his “russet raimentry,” drawn by his
Unto the gate of Carcassonne
(Ah, how his blithe lips smiled upon
The warded gate of Carcassonne!)
As light of foot as Love he strode;
The budding flowers along the road
Bloomed sudden, with his song for lure;
And softlier the river flowed
Before Guiraut, the troubadour.
* * * * *
Unto a keep in Carcassonne
(No sweeter voice e’er drifted on
That frowning keep in Carcassonne!)
Anon the singer drew anigh,—
but we may not follow his propitious fortunes, glimpsed but to show
the manner of their telling. The parenthetical lines, recurring in
each stanza, impart a peculiar charm to the recital, but the diction
and phrasing, while pleasant and in harmony, have no especial
distinction in themselves, and this illustrates a frequent
characteristic of Mr. Scollard’s work that the melody often carries
the charm rather than the expression or basic theme. He is primarily a
singer, he has the “lute in tune,” and the song is so spontaneous as
sometimes to outsing the motive. There is always a felicitous, and
often unique, turn of phrase and a most imaginative fancy, but one
feels in a good deal of the work a lack of acid; it is too bland to
bite as deeply as it ought. Just a bit sharper tang is needful.
The message should also inform more vitally the melody, wedding more
subtly the outer and inner grace. A poet is a teacher, whether he will
or no, and the heart should be the vital textbook of his expounding.
It is because of their deeper rooting in life, though a life foreign
to us, that the Oriental poems of Mr. Scollard have often greater
vitality than the Occidental ones, whose inspiration is found chiefly
in nature. His ballads show that he has a sympathetic insight into
character and a knowledge of human motive that would, if infused more
widely through his work, give to it a warmth of personal appeal and a
subjectivity which in many of its phases it now lacks. The golden
thread of Joy is woven so constantly into the web of his song that
those whose woof is crossed with the hempen thread of Pain are likely
to feel that he has no word for them, no hint as to the subtle
transformation by which the hempen thread may merge into the gold,
when the finished fabric hurtles from the loom. In other words, Mr.
Scollard’s work is too objective to carry with it the spiritual
meaning that it would if ingrained more deeply in the hidden life of
the soul. Along this line lies its finer development: not that it
shall lose a jot of its cheer, but that it shall constantly inform it
with a richer and deeper meaning.
ABOUT a decade ago there came from the press a demure little book clad
soberly in Quaker garb, and hight gravely and mysteriously, _Dumb In
June_. The title alone would have piqued one’s curiosity as to the
contents of the volume, but the name of the author, Richard Burton,
was already known from magazine association with most of the songs in
the newly published collection, and also as literary editor of the
“Hartford Courant,” whence his well-considered criticisms were coming
to be quoted.
There was, then, a circle of initiates into whose hands _Dumb In June_
soon made its way, and quite as unerringly, in most cases, to their
hearts, and certain of these will tell you that _Dumb In June_ still
represents him most adequately; that it has a buoyancy and lyric joy
such as less often distinguishes his later work; and this point is
well taken from the consideration of magnetic touch and disillusioned
fancy; but is it quite reasonable to demand that “the earth and every
common sight” shall continue to be “apparelled in celestial light” to
the eyes of the poet when the years have brought the sober coloring to
our own? that Art shall be winged with the glory and the dream when
Life’s wings droop to the dust? Would it be the truest art that should
communicate only this impulse? Mr. Burton has not thought so: he has
set himself to incorporate, in the life that he touches, the glory and
the dream; to lift the weight, if ever so little, from the laden
wings, and he uses his gifts to that end.
This is not an ideal that can embody itself in lightsome, dawn-fresh
songs, as those that came, unsullied of pain, inviolate in hope, from
out his nature-taught years; but it is an ideal for which one should
barter, if need be, the mere lyric joy of that earlier time. To divine
the dumb emotion, the unexpectant desire, of the man of the streets,
and to become his interpreter, is a nobler achievement than to catch
in delicate fancies the airiest thoughts of Pan. The poet who remains
merely the voice of the wood-god, or the voice of the mystic, or the
voice of the scholar dreaming and aloof, may float a song over the
treetops, but it will not be known at the hearth, which is the final
test. Not to anticipate Mr. Burton’s later ideal, however, let us
return to _Dumb In June_ and go with him upon the way of nature,
unshadowed and elate.
It is interesting to note, in studying the formative time of many
poets, that nature is the first mistress of their vows, and a less
capricious one than they shall find again; hence their fealty to her
and their ardor of surrender. Life has not yet come by, and paused to
whisper the one word that shall become the logos of the soul; truth is
still in the cosmos, the absolute, and one despairs of reducing it to
the relative as he might of detaching a pencil of light from the rays
of the sun. Nature alone represents the evolved intelligence, the
harmony, the soul of the cosmos, and its ideal made real in law;
where, then, shall one begin his quest for truth more fittingly than
at the gate of nature, where Beauty is the portress and Beauty is the
[Illustration: Richard Burton]
Mr. Burton feels the vitality, the personality, of objects in the
outer world. There is no such thing in his conception as inert matter;
it is all pulsing with life and sensibility. To him May is a
With the mood of a love-plighted lass,
and henceforth we picture her as coming blithely by with flower-filled
hands. This glimpsing of the May is from one of Mr. Burton’s later
songs, “The Quest of Summer,”—a poem full of color and atmosphere.
After deploring the spring’s withholding, it thrills to this note of
But it came,
In a garment of sensitive flame
In the west, and a royal blue sky overhead,
With exuberant breath and the bloom of all things
Having wonders and wings,
Being risen elate from the dead.
Yea, it came with a flush
Of pied flowers, and a turbulent rush
Of spring-loosened waters, and an odorous hush
At nightfall,—and then I was glad
With the gladness of one who for militant months has been sad.
The very breath of spring is in this; one inhales it as he would a
quickening aroma; it thrills him with the sensuous delight in the
color, the perfume, the warmth, of the expanding air; and what
delicate feeling for the atmospheric value of words is that which
condenses a May twilight into “an odorous hush at nightfall.” The
words “odorous hush,” in this connection, have drawn together by
magnetic attraction; substitute for them their apparent equivalents,
“perfumed silence,” “fragrant quiet,” and the atmosphere has
evaporated as breath from a glass; but an “odorous hush” conveys the
sense of that suspended hour of a spring twilight when day pauses as
if hearkening, and silence falls palpably around,—that spiritual hour
when the flowers offer up their evening sacrifice at the coming of the
Apropos of the feeling for words and their niceties of distinction as
infusing what we term atmosphere into description, it may be said in
passing that while Mr. Burton’s sense of these values which is so keen
in his prose does not always stand him in equal stead in his poetry,
it is seldom lacking in his songs of nature.
One may dip into the out-of-door verse at random and come away with a
picture; witness this “Meadow Fancy”:
In the meadows yonder the wingéd wind
Makes billows along the grain;
With their sequence swift they bring to mind
The swash of the open main,
Till I smell the pungent brine, and hear—
Mine eyes grown dim—the cry
Of the sailor lads, and feel vague fear
Of the storm-wrack in the sky.
While the metaphorical idea in these strophes is not new, they record
with freehand strokes one of those suddenly suggestive moods that
nature assumes, one of the swift similitudes she flashes before us as
with conscious delight. Mr. Burton’s nature-outlook is all open-air
vision; no office desk looms darkly behind it, as is sometimes the
case in his other verse. It is the sort of inspiration that descends
upon one when he is afoot with his vision, roaming afield with beauty.
A leaf torn hastily from a notebook serves to catch the fleeting
spell; magnetism tips the pencil; and ink and type, those dread
non-conductors of impulse, cannot retard or neutralize its current.
This is, in a word, the charm that rests upon the little volume, _Dumb
In June_, in its various subjects. It would be idle to assert that it
is as strong work as Mr. Burton has done; but it is vivid and
magnetic, and touched but lightly with the _weltschmerz_ which life is
sure to cast upon maturer work. There is pain, but it is merely
artist-pain, in the ode that gives its name to the collection.
Among the few love poems in Mr. Burton’s first volume, “The Awakening”
is one of the truest in feeling; “Values” one of the blithest and
daintiest; “Still Days and Stormy,” reminiscent of Emily Dickinson in
manner, one of the most delicate, catching in charming phrase one of
the unanalyzed moods of love. The earlier volume has also a
captivating poem in the lighter vein, that sings itself into the
memory by its lilting rhythm and graceful rhyme-scheme, as well as by
its subject. It is the story of Shakespeare’s going a-wooing “Across
the Fields to Anne”:
How often in the summer-tide,
His graver business set aside,
Has stripling Will, the thoughtful-eyed,
As to the pipe of Pan,
Stepped blithesomely with lover’s pride
Across the fields to Anne.
It must have been a merry mile,
This summer stroll by hedge and stile,
With sweet foreknowledge all the while
How sure the pathway ran
To dear delights of kiss and smile,
Across the fields to Anne.
The silly sheep that graze to-day,
I wot, they let him go his way,
Nor once looked up, as who should say:
“It is a seemly man.”
For many lads went wooing aye
Across the fields to Anne.
The oaks, they have a wiser look;
Mayhap they whispered to the brook:
“The world by him shall yet be shook,
It is in nature’s plan;
Though now he fleets like any rook
Across the fields to Anne.”
And I am sure, that on some hour
Coquetting soft ’twixt sun and shower,
He stooped and broke a daisy-flower
With heart of tiny span,
And bore it as a lover’s dower
Across the fields to Anne.
While from her cottage garden-bed
She plucked a jasmine’s goodlihede,
To scent his jerkins brown instead;
Now since that love began,
What luckier swain than he who sped
Across the fields to Anne?
_Dumb In June_ has many foregleams of the wider vision which
distinguishes Mr. Burton’s present work, as shown in his sonnet upon
the Christ-head by Angelo, in “Day Laborers,” and in that noble poem,
“Mortis Dignitas,” imbued with reverence and touched with the
simplicity of the verities. It must be appraised with the best work of
his pen, not only for its theme, but for the direct and unadorned word
and measure so integral with the thought:
Here lies a common man. His horny hands,
Crossed meekly as a maid’s upon his breast,
Show marks of toil, and by his general dress
You judge him to have been an artisan.
Doubtless, could all his life be written out,
The story would not thrill nor start a tear;
He worked, laughed, loved, and suffered in his time,
And now rests peacefully, with upturned face
Whose look belies all struggle in the past.
A homely tale; yet, trust me, I have seen
The greatest of the earth go stately by,
While shouting multitudes beset the way,
With less of awe. The gap between a king
And me, a nameless gazer in the crowd,
Seemed not so wide as that which stretches now
Betwixt us two, this dead one and myself.
Untitled, dumb, and deedless, yet he is
Transfigured by a touch from out the skies
Until he wears, with all-unconscious grace,
The strange and sudden Dignity of Death.
This is a fitting transition to _Lyrics of Brotherhood_, which,
together with his latest volume, presents the phase of Mr. Burton’s
work most representative of his feeling toward life. Any poet worthy
of the name will come at last to a vision that only his eyes can see.
Life will rise before him in a different semblance from that she
presents to another; and if Beauty has lured him on, votary to that he
might not wholly see, Life’s yearning face wears no disguise, and,
once having looked upon it with seeing eyes, it is an image not to be
effaced. There are many who look and never see,—the majority, perhaps.
Their eyes are holden by the shapes that cross the inner sight, by
hope and memory and their own ideal. They shall see only by one of
those “flashes struck from midnight” of a personal tragedy—and often
enough we gain our vision thus.
There is a penetrative insight, that of the social economist, for
example, that may possess no ray of sympathetic divination. It may
probe to the heart of a condition, correlate causes and tendencies and
divine effects, all from a scientific motive as professional as the
practice of law, and as keen and cold. One may even be an avowed
philanthropist and never come in sight of a human soul, as will the
poet who looks upon the individual not as a case to be classified and
tabulated, but as one walking step to step with him, though more
heavily, whom he may reach out and touch now and then with the
quickening hand of sympathy, and whose load he may bear bewhiles on
Such a poet is Mr. Burton, whose nature is shapen to one image with
his fellows. To him literature is not an entity to be weighed only in
the scales of beauty by the balances of Flaubert; it is to-day’s and
to-morrow’s speech. In his prose, especially, this directness is
marked; but in his poems one feels rather the inner relation with
their spirit, for the magnetism of touch is less communicative than in
the more flexible medium of prose. What is communicative, however, is
the feeling that Mr. Burton is living at the heart of things where the
fusion is taking place that makes us one. _Lyrics of Brotherhood_ is a
genuine clasp of hand to hand, nor is he dismayed by the grime of the
hand, for the primal unities are primal sanctities to him. Longing,
strife, defeat, achievement, are all interpreted to him of personal
emotion, solvent in personal sympathy.
_Lyrics of Brotherhood_ opens with a poem that redeems from odium one
opprobrious symbol as old as time. It is that catch-penny epithet,
“black sheep,” that we bandy about with such flippancy, tossing it as
loose change in a character appraisal and little recking what
truth-valuation may lie behind it. It is good to feel that the impulse
to redeem this symbol came to Mr. Burton and wrought so well within
him, for “Black Sheep” is one of his truest inspirations in feeling
From their folded mates they wander far,
Their ways seem harsh and wild;
They follow the beck of a baleful star,
Their paths are dream-beguiled.
Yet haply they sought but a wider range,
Some loftier mountain-slope,
And little recked of the country strange
Beyond the gates of hope.
And haply a bell with a luring call
Summoned their feet to tread
Midst the cruel rocks, where the deep pitfall
And the lurking snare are spread.
Maybe, in spite of their tameless days
Of outcast liberty,
They’re sick at heart for the homely ways
Where their gathered brothers be.
And oft at night, when the plains fall dark
And the hills loom large and dim,
For the Shepherd’s voice they mutely hark,
And their souls go out to him.
Meanwhile, “Black sheep! Black sheep!” we cry,
Safe in the inner fold;
And maybe they hear, and wonder why,
And marvel, out in the cold.
Throughout Mr. Burton’s work there is a warm feeling for the simple
tendernesses, the unblazoned heroisms of life; the homely joys, the
homely valors, the unknown consecrations, the unconfessed
aspirations,—in a word, for all that songless melody of the common
soul whose note we do not catch in the public clamor. There is a
tendency, however, in his later work that, from an artistic
standpoint, is carried too far,—the tendency to analogize. Everything
in life presents an analogy to him who is alert for it; and the habit
of looking for analogies and symbols and making poems thereon grows
upon one with the fatal facility of punning, upon a punster. A symbol,
or the subtler and more profound analysis that seeks the causal
relation of dissimilar things, which we term analogy, must have the
magic of revelation; it must flash upon the mind some similitude
unthought or unguessed. Emerson is the past-master of this symbolistic
magic; they bring him rubies, and they become to him souls, of
Friends to friends unknown:
Tides that should warm each neighboring life
Are locked in frozen stone.
Here is the eye of the revelator, for who, looking upon rubies, would
have seen in them what Emerson saw, and yet what a truth bides at the
heart of this symbol!
Mr. Burton has several analogies, such as “On the Line,” “North
Light,” and “Black Sheep,” quoted above, that are excellently wrought;
indeed, it is not so much the manner in which the analogy is
elaborated that one would criticise, as the frequently too-obvious
nature of it.
The danger to a poet in dropping too often into analogy is that he
will become a singer of effects, a watcher of manifestations, and
forget to look for the gleam within himself and make it the light of
his seeing. If poetry become too much a matter of observation, of
report, vitality goes from it; for imagination is stultified and
emotion quenched, and poetry at its best is a union of imagination and
emotion. Mr. Burton’s poems in the main escape this indictment, but
their danger lies along this line. His perception of identities is so
acute, his sympathy so catholic, that not only is nothing human alien
to him, but there is nothing in which he cannot find a theme for
poetry. For illustration, there is an imaginative beauty in the symbol
of the homing bird, but its artistic value is lost from over-use. Mr.
Burton has some pleasing lines upon it, reaching in the final couplet
a stronger tone, but from the nature of the case they cannot possess
any fresh suggestion; on the contrary in such lines as “Nostalgia,”
“In The Shadows,” “The First Song,” “If We Had The Time,” though less
poetic in theme, there is a personal note; one feels back of them the
great weariness, the futile yearning of life. Some of the elemental
emotion is in them, the personal appeal that is so much Mr. Burton’s
note when he does not give himself too much to things without. Even
though one use the visible event but as a sign of the spirit, as the
objective husk of the subjective truth, it is a vision which, if
over-indulged, leads at length away from the living, the creative
passion within. One philosophizes, one contemplates, but the angel
descends less often to trouble the waters within one’s own being, and
it is, after all, for this movement that one should chiefly watch.
_Message and Melody_, Mr. Burton’s latest collection, opens with
perhaps his strongest and most representative poem, “The Song of the
Unsuccessful.” It is a poem provocative of thought, and upon which
innumerable queries follow. Its opening lines utter a heresy against
modern thinking; our friends, the Christian Scientists and Mental
Scientists and Spiritual Scientists, would at once cross swords with
Mr. Burton and wage valiant conflict over the initial statement that
God has “barred” from any one the “gifts that are good to hold.”
Indeed, the entire poem would come under their indictment for the same
reason. But something would be won from the conflict; the stuff from
which thought is made is in the poem. In the mean time let us have it
before we consider it further. Here are the types marshalled before
us; we recognize them all as they appear:
We are the toilers from whom God barred
The gifts that are good to hold.
We meant full well, and we tried full hard,
And our failures were manifold.
And we are the clan of those whose kin
Were a millstone dragging them down.
Yea, we had to sweat for our brother’s sin
And lose the victor’s crown.
The seeming-able, who all but scored,
From their teeming tribe we come:
What was there wrong with us, O Lord,
That our lives were dark and dumb?
The men ten-talented, who still
Strangely missed of the goal,
Of them we are: it seems Thy will
To harrow some in soul.
We are the sinners, too, whose lust
Conquered the higher claims;
We sat us prone in the common dust,
And played at the devil’s games.
We are the hard-luck folk, who strove
Zealously, but in vain:
We lost and lost, while our comrades throve,
And still we lost again.
We are the doubles of those whose way
Was festal with fruits and flowers;
Body and brain we were sound as they,
But the prizes were not ours.
A mighty army our full ranks make;
We shake the graves as we go;
The sudden stroke and the slow heartbreak,
They both have brought us low.
And while we are laying life’s sword aside,
Spent and dishonored and sad,
Our epitaph this, when once we have died,
“The weak lie here, and the bad.”
We wonder if this can be really the close,
Life’s fever cooled by death’s trance;
And we cry, though it seem to our dearest of foes,
“God give us another chance!”
The ease of the poem, the crisp Anglo-Saxon which it uses, the
forthright stating of the case for the weaker side, and the humanity
underlying it, are admirable; and, further, from an artistic
standpoint it is a stronger piece of work than it would have been had
its philosophy chimed better with modern thinking. The unsuccessful
are speaking; their view-point and not necessarily the author’s is
presented. To have tacked on a clause additional, with a hint of the
inner laws that govern success, might have saved the philosophy from
impeachment as to falling back upon Providence; but it would have been
a decidedly false note put into the mouth of the unsuccessful. We may
say at once that
The men ten-talented who still
Strangely missed of the goal,
were the Amiels who suffered paralysis of the will to benumb them,
rather than those whom it was the will of the Creator to “harrow in
soul;” but it would scarcely be expected of the Amiels themselves to
analyze their deficiencies thus openly to the multitude. Impotence of
will, however, is not at the root of all failure; who can deny that
The clan of those whose kin
Were a millstone dragging them down;
that there are
The hard-luck folk who strove
Zealously, but in vain;
The seeming-able, who all but scored,
who put forth apparently more effort to score than did many of the
victors, but who were waylaid by some invidious circumstance, or who
failed to “grasp the skirts of happy chance” as the flying goddess
Mr. Burton’s poem is too broad to discuss in the limits of a brief
sketch; it would furnish a text for the sociologist. All the
complexities of modern conditions lie back of its plaint, which
becomes an arraignment. One feels that if God be not within the
shadow, he should at least have given Responsibility and Will surer
means of keeping watch above their own. The Omaric figure of the Wheel
“busied with despite” rises before one as a symbol of this whirling
strife where only the strongest may cling, and where the swift
revolving thing, having thrown the weakest off, makes of them a
cushion for its turning; or, in Omar’s phrase, “It speeds to grind
upon the open wound.”
This is the apparent fact; but within it as axle to the Wheel is the
law upon which it rotates, the law of individual choice. Each was
given his supreme gift; his word was whispered to him; if he failed to
hear it, or heed it, or express it in the predestined way, the flying
Wheel casts him to the void, but the law is not impeached thereby.
Outside this law, however, as spokes to the Wheel, are the innumerable
radiations of human laws and conditions, so that one may scarcely obey
the primary command of his nature if he would, and often loses sight
of it as the principle upon which his destiny is revolving. Mr.
Burton’s poem goes beyond the cold-blooded outlook upon the
unsuccessful as merely those who are cast from the Wheel, and presents
the truer view that they are by no means always the incompetents or
We are the doubles of those whose way
Was festal with fruits and flowers;
Body and brain we were sound as they,
But the prizes were not ours.
Why? Let the sociologist or the psychologist determine; in the mean
time we have the quickened sympathy that follows upon the poem.
_Message and Melody_ has a group of songs turning upon some music
theme; of these “Second Fiddle” is the most notable. “In A Theatre”
discloses a narrative vein and shows that Mr. Burton has a keen sense
of the dramatic in daily life. He has for some time been working upon
a group of narrative poems with a prologue connecting them, which are
soon to be issued, and which, judging from the fugitive examples in
his other volumes, will disclose an interesting phase of his talent.
To leave the impression of Mr. Burton’s work that is most
characteristic,—the impression of its tenderness, its sympathy, its
emphasis upon the essential things,—one can scarcely do better than
to summarize it in his own well-known lines, “The Human Touch”:
High thoughts and noble in all lands
Help me; my soul is fed by such.
But ah, the touch of lips and hands,—
The human touch!
Warm, vital, close, life’s symbols dear,—
These need I most, and now, and here.