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CHARLES HENRY PHELPS.

169

CHAR

CHARLES HENRY PHELPS.

HARLES HENRY PHELPS, born in Stockton, Cal., January 1, 1853, is distinguished among our younger poets as one of the few who write too little. Or shall we say, rather, that he belongs with the rare wise ones who write just enough, and, instead of tiring us, inspire a wish for more? It may well be that Mr. Phelps is to be congratulated on his inheritance of practicality, on the restraining current of his blood running back, on both the father's and the mother's side, even to the staunch base of Plymouth Rock. I, for one, am more than half committed to the suspicion that he is quietly reading a lesson in propriety to some of us less fortunate in temperament by not pulling his stops till sure that there is a good tune behind. This much is certain, in his opinion, man can not live by song alone. The wholly bird life is not the ideal of the man who, having received the degree of LL. B. from the Harvard Law School in 1874, has since wandered from the straight path of law only for a short flight of song, or, as a pastime during the brief period of two years, to play the not over-relaxing role of a successful editor. From 1880 to 1882, Mr. Phelps edited The Californian, now the Overland Monthly. In looking over the file of this magazine for 1882, I find no acknowledgment of a more poetic contribution from his pen than an article entitled "Shall Foreigners Vote?" but probably certain nimble airs, wandering unclaimed, could be traced back to their source in the besetting Plymouth Rock reticence.

The term of editorial deviation served, our author forsook the poppied fields of his nativity for a prosperous law practice in the metropolis. It was during the editorial by-play period, I believe, that the little volume of poetry, "California Vines," found its way into the light. Though a most modest announcement of a new poet, its reception was cordial enough to rouse the ordinary soul of indifference to more ambitious effort. Some opinion of the merits of the little book may be formed from the selections here made, which, it is believed, will prove inviting all the long way from so natural, light and human a poem as the "Orchids" to that bit of daring ghastliness, "Mojave Desert." I can not close this rough sketch without saying that, if we tear out Mr. Phelp's prose, we cut his literary gift in two in the middle. Those readers of the Atlantic Monthly, who recall the appeal in the case of Shylock vs. Antonio, published in April, 1886, will second me in this opinion; while those favored now and then with a characteristic epistle from this all-around

writer, will readily admit that there is a dash halfand-half of Cowper and Papa Pepys in the sturdy Plymouth strain. J. V. C.

MOJAVE DESERT.

THE ghastly face of the accusing moon
Glares like a death-face thro' the haggard night;
By day the swoll'n, malignant sun doth blight
And shrivel with curses the unpregnant dune;
While gaunt and grim, at midnight and at noon,
With wide swirl spreading famine and affright,
A formless horror drives in frenzied flight

The maniac coursers of the dread simoom. Man born of woman, pause and give thou heed What time thou cross that direful chariot's path;

For mortal lungs there pant and find scant

breath.

And thirst doth rage, and veins do crack nor bleed, And mad delirium a season hath,

And last-too late-white, bony-fingered death.

AT THE ORCHID SHOW.

I WENT to the show of orchids,
I was told it was quite the thing,
But as I sauntered among them

I sighed for the breath of spring;
The flowers were choice and exotic,
I could see by the Latinized bills;
But my vagrant thoughts kept wandering
To my far California hills.

And, in the place of the pampered darlings,
Each ticketed in its jar,
Rose a golden glory of poppies

And a saintly nemophila;
And, lo! the delicious whisper

Of the mischievous western breeze, As it carried the forest gossip

To the listening redwood trees. And naught in that pent-up building Quite banished the subtle sense That my spirit was somehow roving

And reaping wild recompense; And even the voices of children

Blent into my dream to recall My own little maid so far away, The daintiest blossom of all.

SONG OF THE MONTHS.
MAY.

TIME enough, time enough,
Hoary old pate,
Love must have rhyme enough,
Kisses can't wait;

Fame is ahead for us,

Work-by and by

Meanwhile lips red for us

Dare us to try;

Time enough, time enough,

Years are so long,

Love must have rhyme enough, Youth must have song.

AUGUST.

Power enough, power enough,

Manhood is here,

Crowd but this hour enough,

Conquest is near.

When the to-morrow breaks,
Wealth mine shall be,
Then care nor sorrow takes
Tribute from me;

I shall have power enough,
All that I ask

Is one brief hour, enough
Unto my task.

NOVEMBER.

Rest enough, rest enough,

Age tires of toil

Life has not zest enough
For its turmoil.

Time is all yesterdays,

In its great deep

Age knows the best are days

Given to sleep.

Death, thou sweet guest, enough

Is thy repose,

I shall have rest enough Under the snows.

UNDER THE STARS.

THE day is not for thought, but deeds,
And one who dreams at midday needs-
He needs the throbbing pulse which acts,
The will which changes dreams to facts;
He needs to know both right and wrong;
He needs to know men weak and strong;
To learn to think with healthful mind,
With creed as broad as human kind;
He needs to feel that toil is great,
The architect of every fate.

But day is only half our lives,
And he half lives who always strives,
Who takes no survey of the field,

Who plants, but never plans the yield.
Go forth at night by peaceful seas,
And catch their wondrous melodies;

Go forth and hear the tide of fate Which pulses through the Golden Gate, While far to seaward breaks the moan Of billows on sad Farallon.

There yield thyself unto the spell,
And let thy soul uplift and dwell
Beneath the searching, silent stars
That pierce like silver scimitars.
Then in the unimpassioned night
Thy soul shall feel diviner light,
Shall sit entranced as one who hears
The surging anthem of the spheres,
There dream of things of high estate,
Of deathless deeds which make men great,
Of burning words which flame like fire
And rouse a nation's deep desire,

Of noble thoughts which glorify,

Of fame and immortality.

O, it is grand to dream,—to play

With inspiration,-disarray

The mind so it may cleave the sea

Of thought, with godlike poise, soul free! Like him who saw new worlds in space, Thy finer vision now shall trace

A hint of higher mysteries,

A glimpse of possibilities

Which lie like undiscovered spheres

Within diviner atmospheres.
Thy mind shall hold a broader plan,
Thy heart confess a truer man;
And day, no more a weary round
Of toiling hours, of jarring sound,
Shall come to thee with new intent,
Thy time of grand accomplishment.

AT THE SUMMIT.

Nor to the southern savanna

That pants for the clasp of the sea, Nor yet to the peaks of Montana,

White-mitered in chastity

But here, O, my fair Sierra,

I come like a child to thy breast, Confessing my heart's bitter error, Lamenting its burning unrest.

Here only, O, marvelous mountains, Sublime, serene and unmoved,

I drink a new faith from thy fountains And feel my forebodings unproved. The stars are nearer and kinder,

The air seems clearer to sight, And worlds that await but the finder Are faint on the verge of the night.

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1. EDGAR JONES.

Far down, unaware of this glory,
The buried earth lies at my feet-
Shall I take them this balm salvatory?

Will they know it is healing and sweet?
Or will they pronounce this a vision,
And me but a coiner of dreams
Deserving their wiser derision,

Their jests and significant gleams?

What matters how plodders shall take it?
The grandeur of truth must be sung;
And the sneering of fools shall not shake it,
Where once its accents have rung.

And builder, and singer, and dreamer

Shall dream, and shall sing, and shall build, For the world will forget the vain schemer When the mission of these is fulfilled.

THE MAID OF ST. HELENA.
ACROSS the long, vine-covered land
She gazed, with lifted, shading hand.
Behind were hillsides, purple, brown;
Before were vineyards sloping down;
While northward rose, through golden mist,
St. Helen's mount of amethyst.

But forest, vine and mountain height
Were less divinely benedight
Than she who so serenely stood

To gaze on mountain, vine and wood.
Her presence breathed in sweet excess
The fragrance of rare loveliness—

A simple beauty in her face,
And in her form a simple grace.

She was so perfect and so fair,
So like a vision, and so rare,

The air that touched her seemed to me
To thrill with trembling ecstasy.
Spell-bound, for fear she might not stay,
I stood afar in sweet dismay.

At last, she sang some olden song,

I did not know its tale of wrong;

I only knew the oriole's note
Grew garrulous within its throat-

It seemed so shameful birds should sing
To silence so divine a thing.

She faded, singing, from my sight,
A dream of beauty and delight;
And I, with unconsenting will,
Retraced my footsteps down the hill.

I.

I. EDGAR JONES.

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EDGAR JONES was born at Liverpool, England, coming to this country with his parents when but eight years old. They settled upon a farm in Oneida county, N. Y., and there their son was brought up, working hard upon the farm in summer, going to the country school in winter, and studying in the evenings to gain that knowledge for which such youths hunger and strive.

At fifteen he became a telegrapher and, taking a position in Missouri during the last year of the war, enlisted there and became a boy soldier in the Union Army. Some years later, having distinguished himself by tact and remarkable courage in dealing with turbulent Indian tribes, he became a commander of Texan Rangers, and was distinguished for the cool courage and dogged determination with which he hunted down and killed or dispersed the desperadoes, who in robber gangs then infested the Mexican frontier. Later he became a journalist, and has served as chief editor or editorial writer upon some of the leading newspapers, winning high rank among them. He has also owned several journals, and was as successful in business management as in the higher field of editorial work. He early became a contributor to periodicals, and for years has ranked high as a poet. Mr. Jones has traveled extensively, especially in Central and South America and Mexico, and for years his career was one of adventure, full of stirring events. He lived in the South for a time, and it was here I first met him, at first as his political foe, deeply prejudiced against him as a Northern man outspoken in his views. We at once wrote to places in which he had lived, hoping to find something against him, but found that everywhere he had been highly esteemed, a leader in church and society, one of whom even his political enemies spoke well. His genial nature, manliness, powers as a writer and public speaker, and withal his unfailing kindliness were upon us, and we became his firm friends.

In western Maryland and at Washington and the South, as well as in other cities in which he has. lived, his friends were the leaders in literature and society, while they and he corresponded with and were the friends of such men as Longfellow and Holland, who valued his work. I have heard both speak in high terms of him.

Some years ago he became proprietor of a leading Indianapolis newspaper, but for a year or two has lived at Muskegon, Michigan, being editor of the leading paper in that city. He has always been a religious man, an active worker in Sunday

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