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within, and intimates a capacity for a more elevated strain than could be guessed even from the beautiful Rune of the Rain ; Contentment, also, which reads at first like an anagram of some of Wordsworth's little moral poems, contains a grain of this higher quality. The earnest tone which rings through Fairhaven Bay and the Silent Tide inclines us to hope that hereafter Mr. Lathrop, in maturer verse, may find ideas deserving his charming gift of words.
Mr. Gilder tells us that the first of his sonnets is “After the Italian.” The fact is, that many of them are merely clever imitations of the poems translated by Mr. Rossetti, first published under the title of “The Early Italian · Poets,” now in a revised edition called “Dante and his Circle.” We do not know whether Mr. Gilder be acquainted with these compositions in the original or no, but strongly suspect not; we think the volume before us bears unmistakable trace of the influence of Mr. Rossetti himself, and his fellow-poets and painters. If the Riddle of Lovers, No. I., Love's Cruelty, and half a dozen more of the sonnets recall Mr. Rossetti's renderings from the Italian, Love in Wonder, the first part of The Sower, and portions of other poems suggest no less strikingly the wild-eyed, woebegone apparitions who peer through the briers and torn grasses on the canvas, stained-glass, tiles, and tapestry of the Bloomsbury brotherhood. If Mr. Gilder have not seen and copied these figures it is alarming to think how much of this allegorical extravagance there must be in the air.
But this is not the worst of it; these small, fair pages, with their pretty, fanciful woodcuts of flowers and peacock's feathers, are stained with the ferocious coarseness of the mystic-satyr school. This is one of several peculiarities in “ The New Day” which rouse a hostility unfavorable to critical calmness. Another is the selfcomplacency which presents us with the following Song :
“My love grew with the growing night,
And my love dawned with the new daylight.” A poet must indeed have a conviction of the preciousness of his lines who sets two, or even four, like these, alone in the midst of a page.
There is careful work in some of the sonnets, and the result is an occasional effect of considerable dexterity, but it is like old goldsmith's work, or ivory-carving of no high value ; even were it firstrate, it would be craft, not art. There is some good word-painting, of which the following water-color sketches are specimens :
“ A dun, bleak stretch that slants to the salt sea's gray, —
With here and there a bold, bright touch of color, -
“ But now a light is lifted in the air ;
And though the sky is shadowed, fold on fold,
The sun shines forth and the gray sea is gold.” There are a few fragments of genuine beauty in which the thought is simple, and not tormented by concetti. Of these the best are The River, and one real gem, “I count my time by times that I meet thee.”
“I count my time by times that I meet thee;
These are my yesterdays, my morrows, noons,
the wintry days are Junes. –
The volume, although its contents are not perfectly homogeneous, is called “A Poem,” and is a monument to living love ; it may
therefore seem unfair to judge it piecemeal; it is not hewn of a single block, however, but built up of many vagaries and phases, some of which are so obscurely and enigmatically expressed as to remain puzzles to the reader. If these are secrets between the lover and his mistress, the public has nothing to do with them at all; but it appears to us that they are only thoughts, feelings, and emotions, belonging to the passion itself, and there is an impertinence in trying to disguise them in strange, miming masks.
Miss Preston prefaces her collection of "Cartoons” by a sort of apology, called “The Good of It":
task my hands essay Wherewith to fill the eager day, There rises to my thought alway,
“ This hindering question, Whence the need
Of this, thy lightly-weighted deed ?
“ Amidst the thousand myriad lives
That overcrowd earth's human hives,
“ Mock meekness all! There doth not live
Any so poor but they may give,
“ Withhold the very meagrest dole
Hands can bestow, in part or whole,
“ What then ? - If one weak song of mine
Should yet prevail to bring the shine
" And for a moment seem to fling
A flash about its sun-setting, –
If this plea be accepted, it leaves very little to say about her performances, or those of anybody who may take the same ground. There is an order of poetry which gives pleasure to numbers of people who find none in Milton, Dryden, Wordsworth, or Shelley, or even in Scott, Campbell, or Moore ; if it were proscribed, it would rob life of a charm for thousands who are incapable of appreciating anything higher. But the same argument is good for the large class who tell you with some satisfaction that they do not understand your scientific composers (by whom they mean any one of standard merit, from Bach to Mendelssohn), but that nobody loves music more dearly than they do; and they do enjoy a modern ballad, or a waltz from one of Offenbach's operas, immensely, keep time to it with their head and feet, and hum or whistle it afterwards sentimentally. There are also hundreds of thousands who have no enjoyment in a good picture or engraving of any school, but rapturously admire Faith clinging to her cross, the Mother's Dream, and chrono-lithographs of bird's-nests and berries. Miss Preston's apology involves the whole question of whether a taste for what is not the best, nor even good, should be ncouraged; but as this cannot be settled by a word, we will go on
to her Cartoons. In those from the Life of the Old Masters she has taken incidents and situations of more or less interest, and treated them in the manner of Mr. Browning's Andrea del Sarto, or Fra Lippo Lippi. This manner is easily copied and often copied, but success does not lie in similarity, which a parody can achieve. The attempt to imitate Mr. Browning's best work in his best way was too ambitious. These Cartoons have neither the dramatic nor picturesque power which their form and subjects demand. In those from the “ Life of the Legends,” Miss Preston has got together a number of pretty old stories, which read pleasantly in verse ; in some of them, however, as, for instance, the death-scene of the Venerable Bede, entitled “Consummatum Est,” the task of turning prose into metre does not seem worth the trouble, however slight this may have been. The poems from the “Life of To-day” are the best in the book, and published singly, as we suppose they originally were, would produce more effect than together, which makes their sameness and tameness too evident. The tameness is not helped by the expedients of broken sentences, exclamations, and interjected conversational parentheses ; and Miss Preston should allow her readers to supply their own italics. Enforcing the emphasis by this means implies doubt, either of the intelligence of the public, or the strength of the passage so signalized.
We have turned over the Cartoons again and again in search of some poem, some verse, which should give a sense of the wholesome, agreeable flavor of the whole; they are almost all equally flowing, well-worded, easily rhymed; the difficulty is in choosing amid the unvarying commonplace of thought and expression. Miss Preston has an undeniable facility for versification ; poetic talent is not discernible in these leaves, at any
rate. It seems as if translation opened a wide and happy field for persons with her peculiar gift. A lady of her name has published a most charming version of the Provençal poem, “Mireio.” The Misses Swanwick have given noble renderings of Goethe's “Iphigenia," and some of the Greek tragedies. Remembering how few, either French, German, or classic poets, are within the reach of those who read only English, we cannot but think that Miss Preston might brighten the lives of a great many more people by devoting her pen to this service.
It would be much easier to give an abridgment of De Quincey's “Confessions of an Opium-Eater" than of the “Ship in the Desert.” The extreme difficulty of telling the story in the first instance may be gathered from several false starts which Mr. Miller himself makes. The introduction shows us a man in a slouch hat, a skin-clad trapper,
a tawny chief of Shoshones, and an Indian warrior (we do not know what four varieties these represent), all getting a horrid fright in the lonely desert of Arizona, the cause of which is never explained. But each me, just as we hope we are on the right track, we are jerked up with “Nay, nay, the tale is not of that." “ Avaunt! the tale is not of it !” “No, no, this tale is not of him.” “Arrête! the tale is not of that." Away! the tale is not of these.” “Tut, tut! the tale is not of this.” At length, at the third canto, we are told : “But this the tale," and square ourselves to attend; the narrative opens on the Missouri, with the pursuit of a boat manned by negroes, and commanded by an old white sailor, by another boat with a crew of South Sea Islanders, led by a Spaniard. In the first boat is a woman, the heroine, by default, of the story, if it be a story. Now, surely, we are fairly under way. But not too fast,
“Pursuer and pursued. And who
A bride, or not a bride ?
This side the happy hunting-ground.” Mr. Miller seems to identify this problematical beauty with another who sat in his heart one day near Rome, and loved or did not love him, for we shall not know that either, he says. We become confused. Still the old sailor and the dark-eyed woman, the tall Spaniard, the negroes, and the Caribs are the actors in this extraordinary harlequinade, the scene of which shifts all across the continent, its mountains, its midmost wilderness, to the fertile latitudes beyond. But the poet's personality and reflections are hopelessly entangled with the thread of the story; and his determination to baffle impertinent curiosity keeps us in the dark so completely that we throw down the book at the end, and wonder what it was all about.
To instance the vices of taste, versification, and grammar, wbich occur in the poem, would require a book nearly as long as itself; one or two may be quoted as curious :