Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

its few years of life it continue to be ice rizorous and impatient advocate of every kind of social reform, and the ruthless enemy of every kind of abuse. On page 13 of this first number there is a poem of five stanzas, signed John Wilson Maitlaw, an easily recomnised anagram of John William Watson. It is entitled Piets Jusce-a poet's epistle to the Vese. Taree weeks later the Argus contained another poem with the same signature, entitled Time and Tite.

Mr. Watson, whose habits of fastidious self-eriticism are illustrated by the paucity of his outfit, and by numberless incidental touches in his works, has never yet thought either of these poems worthy of republication. As to the second, his judgment may be acquiesced in. Its subject is the rather trite one of the washing away by the tide of a name inscribed on the sands, and if it had not been written by William Watson its interest would now be small. But it is well for him, as it was even for Milton and Tennyson, that he thus exercised himseli upon minor themes before the greater tasks of his life came upon him. Thus viewed, the poem has interest for us now, if only as an exercise in technique. But the first two of its seven verses are somewhat more than that:

In glimmer and gloom of a moonlitten shore

We walked while the world was asleep,
And we spoke of the passion and pulse of the wares.

And the silence and song of the deep.
And the mystical speech of yon legion of stars,

With the secrets of time in their keep.
And we talked of the poets whose songs have upreared

All beautiful shapes out of dream,
And of those who hare sung of the magical sea

Envestured in glory and gleam,
Of the sea in its languor of passionless calm

Or in rapture of tempest supreme.

The other of these two poems is in every way of better quality, and does not deserve to be discarded. As it is now not easily accessible, I transcribe it at length:

Cheer me and comfort me,

Spirit of Poesy,
Aye when I tread the long life path alone.

Fold up thy wandering wing!
Sing, to my spirit sing!
Sighing and murmuring

Every wild tone,
Gladness and sorrow and laughter and moan.

Lap me in melody,

Spirit of Poesy,
Lull me with joy-notes and dirges of dole :

Anthem or madrigal,
So it be inusical-
Music whose echo shall

Murmur and roll,
Murmur and linger and dwell in my soul.

Drowsily, dreamily,

Spirit of Poesy,
Whisper when evening descends like a dove ;

When the lorn nightingale
Sighs out her doleful tale,
With her melodious wail,

Telling the grove
All the mellifluous sorrows of love.

Sing to me lullaby,

Spirit of Poesy,
When the deep sea of sleep over me laves-

When my soul floats away,
Floats mid its ocean-spray,
Drifts till the dawning day

Lights up its caves,
Drifts on the foam of its undulant waves.

Ever my solace be,

Spirit of Poesy !
Blend with my soul-dreams by night and by day!

Star of my morn be thou !
Star of my twilight glow!
Shining as fair as now

Ever and aye,
Shining the mist and the midnight away.

What strikes one from the technical point of view, is that the metre is new and has obvious perils, but it has originality and music, and it is carried through with perfect workmanship. In the last stanza, we seem to catch the note of conscious vocation, of that inner call, which has often marked the true poet long before he has been so hailed by any popular acclaim.

Watson was now eighteen, but he published nothing further until he was two-and-twenty. The writer in the Chronicle has given us part of a short unpublished poem belonging to this interval ; it was written by the poet in a volume of Schubert's music, and I transcribe it in full for the same reasons as before :

To-day methought
(As I did listen, Schubert, to the cries
Sent up from out thy deep heart's agonies,
As from a sea with wailful winds distraught)
That thine was as an angel's sorrowing,
’Mid glimmering dreams of sad celestial grace;
Or like some soul unsphered from out the space
Of utmost Heaven, and with easeless wing
Self-doomed to wander like the wind, and sing
Of its lost glories, and lost dwelling-place.

The writer who gives us this poem points out, this time with justice, that the later sonnet, entitled Beethoven, is essentially a more perfect handling of the same theme.

O master, if immortals suffer aught
Of sadness like to ours, and in like sighs
And with like overflow of darken'd eyes
Disburden them, I know not; but methought,
What time to-day mine ear the utterance caught
Whereby in manifold melodious wise
Thy heart's unrestful infelicities
Rose like a sea with easeless winds distraught,
That thine seemed angel’s grieving, as of one
Strayed somewhere out of heaven, and uttering
Lone moan and alien wail, because he hath
Failed to remember the remounting path,
And singing, weeping, can but weep and sing
Ever, through vasts forgotten of the sun..

This brings us to the volume of 1880, published by Kegan Paul, which contains not only a dozen short pieces like that just quoted, but two others which differ, both in length and style, from anything else which has been written by Mr. Watson. The one is the Prince's Quest, and the other is Angelo; the former containing about 1,800, and the latter about 300 lines. These are both romantic narrative poems, and may be said to show us the kind of poetry which Mr. Watson would have written if he had lived in the age of the troubadours. They naturally bear a certain resemblance to the romantic narrative poems of William Morris. This was, at first, rather unfortunate for Mr. Watson, because the critics were at once inclined to label him as an engaging young imitator of William Morris. But there was one reader who saw deeper than this. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, himself a supreme artist in versification, readily discovered in the new poet many things which he could not have learned from Morris, because they were things which Morris never knew. “I do not think him derivable from Morris,” he said. “He goes straight back to Keats, with a little modification.” Nevertheless there is a good deal in the nature of the subjects, in the profusion of archaisms and quasi-archaisms, and in the leisurely diffuseness of the narrative, to suggest Morris at first sight. The plot of the Prince's Quest shows considerable invention, and it is strange that Mr. Watson should never have attempted narrative poetry since then, but so it has been.

This volume is now published, like all Mr. Watson's other works, by Mr. John Lane, at the Bodley Head, but it has a prefatory note, in which Mr. Lane says, “The author wishes me to say that, while recognising the crudity and immaturity of many things in this volume, he considers that no alteration less than radical would suffice to remove such defects, and has therefore thought fit to allow these poems--written in great part during his teens—to reappear without emendation of any kind.” It is doubtless of this volume that Mr. Watson speaks in the “Lines sent with a Volume of the Author's Poems to M. R. C.”

Tell her, that he who made thee, years ago,
By northern stream and mountain, and where blow
Great breaths from the sea-sunset, at this day
One half thy fabric fain would rase away.

Whence it would seem that much of Mr. Watson's early poetry was written during visits to the Lake district.

Four years more elapsed before Mr. Watson published his next little work entitled, Epigrams of Art, Life, and Nature. He was still domiciled in this neighbourhood; and the book was published by Mr. Walmsley, of Lord Street. Why Mr. Watson took to the writing of epigrams is not clear. His previous work had displayed many fine qualities, but certainly not that of being epigrammatic. It erred rather in the contrary direction,-in diffuseness,

« ElőzőTovább »