Puslapio vaizdai
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]



No. 4.


HENRY AUSTIN DOBSON, poet and critic, was

born at Plymouth, England, in the year 1840. He was educated at Strasburg, and his parents intended that he should become an engineer. At the age of sixteen, however, he entered the civil service.

In the autumn of 1867 Anthony Trollope, the novelist, founded a magazine called Saint Paul's (it was edited by the novelist and illustrated by J. E. Millais, R. A.); and among other new writers whom the editor then introduced to the public was Austin Dobson. Among his earliest contributions to Saint Paul's were the poems, "Une Marquise," "Avice," and "A Song of Angiola in Heaven." All are signed "A. D." The first-named (with a few slight verbal alterations) now finds a place in "Old-World Spelling;" the second appears among "Vignettes in Rhyme;" while the third is now included among the “Miscellaneous Poems." Mr. Dobson's first volume of verse was published in 1873, under the title of "Vignettes in Rhyme." It was followed by "Proverbs in Porcelain," in 1877; and "Old-World Spelling" and "At the Sign of the Lyre" succeeded at intervals.

Mr. Dobson's literary work conveniently divides itself into two well-defined groups: his contributions to the study of eighteenth-century literature, and his poetry. With the former I may, en passant, be allowed to mention his monographs on Fielding, Steele and Goldsmith. These works are noteworthy for careful research, accuracy of statement, and that finished prose style which can be attained only by the assiduous writer of verses.

In the matter of poetry, Mr. Dobson is famous as having been the first English writer to popularize the old French forms of verse; and his name will always remain associated with the ballade, the rondel, the rondeau, the villanelle and the triolet. He employs these tricky and ofttimes beautiful measures with consummate skill; and in his hands, and as written by Andrew Lang, Edmund Gosse, and other acknowledged masters, the old French

forms have been found capable of yielding a most varied and refined entertainment.

Two characteristics of Mr. Dobson's verse can scarcely fail to strike the most superficial reader. The one is his minute acquaintance with the customs and life of the eighteenth century-attained, he will modestly tell you, by diligent reading of the newspapers of the time; the other is the grace and polish displayed in every line he writes. The former could only be illustrated by reference to much of his poetry, and to many of his prose works; but the latter will make itself evident to any one who will take the trouble to read his poems. Mr. Dobson, like a true artist, works slowly. All the poetry he has written in twenty years might be compassed within the space of two moderate-sized volumes. He laments the "hurry of this time" in

one of his rondeaux :

Scant space have we for Art's delays, Whose breathless thought so briefly stays, We may not work-ah! would we might!

With slower pen.

Mr. Dobson's ballade entitled "The Prodigals" is usually looked upon as the "pioneer ballade" of our language. It is, at any rate, the first that Mr. Dobson wrote, and, in my opinion, it is the best. It is distinguished from his lighter verse by the serious purpose which underlies it, and fulfills the highest aim of poetry in being a "criticism of life." "The Cradle" is a gem which deserves to be placed at the side of Wordsworth's "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways," and Matthew Arnold's "Requiescat." "He Stands at the Kerb and Sings," exhibits both Mr. Dobson's quaint humor and his perfect mastery of that most difficult of all J. U. the French measures, the villanelle.


"The dead hand clasped a letter."
HERE in this leafy place,
Quiet he lies,

[blocks in formation]


THEY dwell in the odor of camphor,
They stand in a Sheraton shrine,
They are "warranted early editions,"
These worshipful tomes of mine.

In their creamy "Oxford vellum,"
In their redolent "crushed Levant,"
With their delicate watered linings,

They are jewels of price, I grant.

Blind-tooled and morocco-jointed,
They have Zaehnsdorf's daintiest dress,
They are graceful, attenuate, polished,
But they gather the dust, no less.

(Villanelle from my window.)

HE stands at the kerb and sings,
'Tis a doleful tune and low. .
Ah me, if I had but wings!
He bends to the coin one flings,

But he never attempts to goHe stands at the kerb, and sings.

The conjuror comes with his rings,
And the Punch-and-Judy show.
(Ah me, if I had but wings!)
They pass like all fugitive things-

They fade and they pass, but lo! He stands at the kerb and sings.

All the magic that Music brings

Is lost when he mangles it so-
Ah me, if I had but wings!

But the worst is a thought that stings!
There is nothing at hand to throw!
He stands at the kerb and sings-
Ah me, if I had but wings!


How steadfastly she'd worked at it!
How lovingly had dressed
With all her would-be mother's wit
That little rosy nest!

How lovingly she'd hung on it!
It sometimes seemed, she said,
There lay beneath its coverlet
A little sleeping head.

He came at last, the tiny guest,
Ere bleak December fled;

That rosy nest he never pressed ..
Her coffin was his bed.


ON London stones I sometimes sigh
For wider green and bluer sky;

Too oft the trembling note is drowned In this huge city's varied sound; "Pure song is country-born," I cry.

Then comes the spring; the months go by ;
The last stray swallows seaward fly;
And I-I, too, no more am found
On London stones!

In vain the woods, the fields deny
That clearer strain I fain would try;
Mine is an urban Muse, and bound
By some strange law to paven ground;
Abroad she pouts; she is not shy
On London stones.


(Ballade. Irregular.)

"PRINCES!—and you, most valorous Nobles!-and barons of all degrees! Hearken awhile to the prayer of usBeggars that come from the over-seas! Nothing we ask or of gold or fees; Hurry us not with the hounds we pray; Lo! for the surcote's hem we seize Give us―ah! give us-but Yesterday!”

"Dames most delicate, amorous!

Damosels blithe as the belted bees! Hearken awhile to the prayer of us

Beggars that come from the over-seas! Nothing we ask of the things that please; Weary are we, and worn, and gray;

Lo!-for we clutch and we clasp your kneesGive us-ah! give us-but Yesterday!"

"Damosels, dames, be piteous!”

(But the dames rode fast by the roadway trees.) "Hear us, O knights magnanimous!"

(But the knights pricked on in their panoplies.) Nothing they gat or of hope or ease,

But only to beat on the breast and say: "Life we drank to the dregs and lees; Give us ah! give us--but Yesterday!"


Youth, take heed to the prayer of these!
Many there be by the dusty way;

Many that cry to the rocks and seas:
"Give us-ah! give us-but Yesterday!"


"MORE Poets yet!" I hear him say, Arming his heavy hand to slay:

"Despite my skill and 'swashing blow' They seem to sprout where'er I go

I killed a host but yesterday!"

Slash on, O Hercules! You may.
Your task's, at best, a Hydra-fray;
And though you cut, not less will grow
More Poets yet!

Too arrogant! For who shall stay
The first blind motions of the May?
Who shall out-blot the morning glow?
Or stem the full heart's overflow?
Who? There will rise, till Time decay,
More Poets yet!


FAREWELL, Renown! Too fleeting flower,
That grows a year to last an hour;
Prize of the race's dust and heat,
Too often trodden under feet-
Why should I court your "barren dower?”

Nay; had I Dryden's angry power,
The thews of Ben, the wind of Gower,
Not less my voice should still repeat
"Farewell, Renown!"

Farewell! Because the Muses' bower
Is filled with rival brows that lower;
Because, howe'er his pipe be sweet,

The bard, that" pays," must please the street; But most... because the grapes are sour,Farewell, Renown!


WHEN Finis comes, the Book we close,
And, somewhat sadly, Fancy goes,

With backward step, from stage to stage
Of that accomplished pilgrimage . .
The thorn lies thicker than the rose!
There is so much that no one knows-
So much unreached that none suppose;
What flaws! what faults! on every page,
When Finis comes.

Still, they must pass! The swift tide flows, Though not for all the laurel grows;

Perchance in this beslandered age The worker, mainly, wins his wage; And Time will sweep both friends and foes When Finis comes!

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »