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Two were sitting in Sorrow's shadow;
Two are there in the graveyard lying
So young were we that when we kiss'd
To watch the dawning of a maiden smile
In those young days, what though we kiss'd,
Did hope assist,
'T was but as hope helps in a morning dream, When things scarce seem.
But now, O Love! when'er we kiss
(Be dumb, my thought!)
The joy by her kiss brought
Yet more doth miss.
O love! thou wast sufficient in young days
O Love-Desire! renew the kiss
Whom now we miss:
Thee, Hymen,-Love no more enough for us Grown curious.
IN vain! in vain! I must refuse
In vain thy love-ripe lips, thy arms
S ONE who has "influenced those who have influenced the world," Mr. Theodore Watts's place in contemporary letters is admittedly unique. Within the space of a few weeks, the second and most important volume of Dante Rossetti's poems (Ballads and Sonnets) and one of the most notable volumes of Mr. Swinburne's ("Tristram of Lyonesse") were dedicated to him in terms of affectionate admiration such as are not often surpassed, and about the same time his own birthday sonnet to Lord Tennyson showed how intimate was his friendship with the venerable poet of whom we are all proud-Englishmen and Americans alike. Mr. Hall Caine, in his "Recollections of Rossetti," says, "Throughout the period of my acquaintance with Rossetti he seemed to me to be always peculiarly, and, if I may be permitted to say so without offence, strangely liable to Mr. Watts's influence in his critical estimates." And then he goes on to tell how Rossetti shrank from printing an additional stanza to his poem "Cloud Confines" which he himself approved and Mr. Watts did not; because "in a question of gain or loss to a poem I feel that Watts must be right." Mr. Joseph Knight, also, in his pleasant monograph on the same poet, quotes a letter from him in which he defends a certain addition to "Sister Helen" on the ground that it "has quite secured Watts's suffrage." The widespread curiosity about Mr. Watts and his work is therefore quite inevitable. But all those who read the following extracts will, I think, agree with Mr. Stedman, that profoundly as he has influenced others his own individuality has remained inviolable. As a critic he has no doubt shown himself to be familiar enough with the work of his contemporaries; and yet, as far as his own verses show, he might never have read a line of any living poet except Tennyson.
Though moving now at the very center of art and poetry, Mr. Watts's early surroundings seem to have been scientific rather than literary. According to the biography of his father in Mr. Norris's "History of St. Ives," that gentleman was a lawyer who had a passion for natural science, and who, down to his death in his 76th year, was writing papers on scientific subjects. In pre-Darwinian days and afterwards, a well known figure in the scientific circles of London, Mr. Watts, senior, was an active member of many learned societies, and among the founders of several. Therefore the people who in his boyhood were known to the subject of this notice were not
the great poets with whom his name is now associated, but geologists and geographers such as Murchison, Lyell and Livingstone. This accounts for the intimate knowledge of the processes of nature which has often been commented on in connection with his poetry, and also for the frequent allusions in his prose writings to the latest scientific researches. Although it was as a brilliant conversationalist in circles more or less scientific that he first attracted attention, his desk was even then "choke-full of songs, sonnets, and such wares." And soon, at his chambers in St. Clements Danes where he used to give those receptions which have become almost classic account of the people who congregated there, poets and literary men began to preponderate over all others. And suddenly he appeared as a writer of passionate verse and also as a literary critic-the chief literary critic of the Examiner. For Rossetti had read his sonnets and would not rest till he saw them in type, while Professor Minto (then editor of the Examiner) had heard him review books in talk and would not rest till he induced his friend to review books in print.' It became evident at once that a new voice was speaking both in poetry and prose, and Mr. Watts was immediately invited to write in the Athenæum. Before a year had passed he became the chief poetical and literary critic on that journal and has remained so ever since. It is here, and in the ninth edition of the " Encyclopædia Britannica," that his voice is heard at its strongest, though he has written in other publications, such as Mr. Humphrey Ward's "English Poets," The Nineteenth Century, "Chamber's Encyclopædia," and the Academy. On what he calls the Renascence of Wonder-his definition, now permanently accepted, of the neo-Romantic movement-he has written in his article on Rossetti in the "Encyclopædia Britannica" with more learning and more authority than any one else. But it was his treatise on "Poetry" in the same work that gave him, who had never published a book, a European reputation. As a reviewer said of this now celebrated essay, it contains enough suggestive matter to make the reputation of a dozen critics."
It is, however, as a poet I have especially to speak of him here. Rossetti said, "He is a fine critic because he was first a finer poet," and Mr. Swinburne has affirmed that in the sonnet he has no surviving equal; and, although something must be discounted from the criticism of a house-mate and constant associate, it might be perilous to challenge the dictum. In one of the extracts from Mr. Watts's poems hereinafter given ("The Son
net's Voice"), he expounds for the first time his now well known theory of the flow and ebb of the octave and sestet of a certain form of the sonnet, though he has always, both by practice and precept, indicated that this form is but one variety of the Petrarcan sonnet and not necessarily the best. The longest poem he has yet printed is "The Armada," and it bids fair to become the most famous. This poem is too long to be given here, but the "Ode to Mother Carey's Chicken" (Mr. Rider Haggard's favorite poem, which he has publicly singled out as one of the three poems which have "touched and influenced him above all others") is of manageable length.
I have contented myself mainly by giving the opinions of other writers upon Mr. Watts and his work, because, from an intimate friend, warmth of praise may be easily misunderstood; otherwise I could have wished to have spoken freely of the charm and versatility of his conversation and of his personal kindliness always corrected and balanced by his unflinching honesty in criticising the literary work of even his closest friends,— an honesty so great in its desire for truth, as to overleap and even to be unconscious of that excessive though false courtesy which sometimes renders difficult, or even impossible, the expression of genuine opinion among men of letters as to each others' productions. H. T. M. B.
ODE TO MOTHER CAREY'S CHICKEN.
(On seeing a storm-petrel on a cottage wall and releasing it.) GAZE not at me, my poor unhappy bird;
That sorrow is more than human in thine eye; Too deep already is my spirit stirred
To see thee here, child of the sea and sky, Cooped in a cage with food thou canst not eat, Thy "snow-flake" soiled, and soiled those conquering feet,
That walked the billows, while thy "Sweet-sweetsweet"
Proclaimed the tempest nigh.
Bird whom I welcomed while the sailors cursed,
Friend whom I blessed wherever keels may roam, Prince of my childish dreams, whom mermaids nursed
In purple of billows-silver of ocean-foam, Abashed I stand before the mighty grief That quells all other: Sorrow's king and chief : — To ride the wind and hold the sea in fief,
Then find a cage for home!