must, first of all, offer sincere congratulations to
Mr. Stedman on the completion of his task. That it has
been completed with incomparable skill and catholicity
of taste, goes without saying. It was a heavy undertaking,
the two stout volumes of criticism on the English poetry
of the century, and the two volumes of illustrative
selections, still more voluminous, requiring no common
equipment for its successful termination. It demanded
patience, industry, the creative insight, the severe
critical faculty, the intuition of sympathy, and the
unwearied zeal of a devoted enthusiasm. All these qualities
Mr. Stedman possesses in happy measure, and nowhere
to-day outside of Lawrence Park, could we find this
rare combination. Let no one who cares for poetry fail
to appreciate the debt of gratitude his country owes
Mr. Stedman for this self-imposed labor carried on with
such unflagging ardor, and now brought to so happy an
a time like the present, when poetry wins but scant
regard, an undertaking like this must have been a more
or less gratuitous obligation of love. But I have the
feeling that those best fitted to appreciate such a
monument of generous toil will mingle a breath of relief
with their satisfaction on Mr. Stedman's behalf, saying
to themselves, "Ah, now he will have leisure for
the half discarded muse, for a freer expression of himself
in new poems, or perhaps in another book like 'The Nature
and Elements of Poetry.'"
here is a library in little to be thankful for; an American
Anthology, indeed; so thorough, and so much
better than any one else could have made it, that particular
criticism is forestalled, and faultfinding is reduced
to a mere difference of personal opinion. And that,
truly, is hardly criticism at all.
evidence of Mr. Stedman's thoroughness, you will find
here that admirable poem "A Portrait,"
by Miss Caroline Duer; you will find that excellent
sturdy rhyme, "The Coasters," by
Mr. Thomas F. Day; you will find Mr. John Henry Boner's
lines "On Poe's Cottage at Fordham,"
one of the most splendid and beautiful threnodies in
the English tongue; you will find many a lovely poem
which you may have treasured, and which noisy fame has
half forgotten, and many another scarcely dry from the
there seems to be omissions, that was inevitable. As
the editor himself notes in the introduction, this is
an anthology and not a treasury; the conditions of the
work have compelled him to select sparingly from the
more distinguished writers, that he may have space to
represent the great body of their less famous followers.
For myself, I miss several of Mr. James Whitcomb Riley's
companionable poems; I miss Emerson's "Two Rivers;"
I miss half a dozen of Miss Guiney's incomparable
lyrics, and two or three of Miss Gertrude Hall's. For
any one of these I could spare a good many of the poems
which I now read for the first time. However, if some
work, particularly of the younger men and women, seems
unillumined, I dare say that is only another compliment
to Mr. Stedman's boyish energy and unjaded taste.
to less imposing volumes, the books of Mr. Hardy and
Mr. Crowninshield are interesting ventures of a novelist
and a painter in a field of art hitherto untried by
them. Mr. Hardy's poems are marked by a clear spirituality,
and are embodied in a free lyrical form, with a Dantesque
severity of emotion. Two selections from the volume
are to be found in Mr. Stedman's collection. Mr. Crowninshield's
volume is made up of a hundred sonnets and a dozen short
poems. If his cadences are not always as felicitous
as his thought, it is to be remembered that facility
only comes with use. The sincerity and earnestness of
the poems are evident.
his America and Other Poems, Mr. Shadwell shows
evidences of a laudable humanitarian sentiment, which,
if not always logical, is often touched with force.
His lines "There's something in the English after
all," have a significance of their own. There is
a manliness in his pages often lacking in better poetry.
Mrs. Dorr has already won her own following, both by
her volumes of poems and her constant contributions
to the magazines. And her admirers will not be disappointed
in her latest book, with its unflagging and brave regard
of the pageant of the world. She will be found at her
best, perhaps, in "The Sanctuary Lamp,"
a narrative in blank verse.
the work of Mrs. Giltner, Mr. Peterson, and Houston
Mifflin (now piously reprinted in memory of a good man)
we have contributions to that great stream of artistic
production which must serve to water the barren wastes
of commercialism. One is apt to question the advisability
of so copious an output of literary effort as our own
day beholds; but after all it is only where artistic
interest is widespread and intelligent that we may find
hopes of further greatness.
Fields is a distinguished figure in American letters,
carrying on, as she does, the traditions of the golden
era of Boston culture. And her new volume breathes of
that time, passing too rapidly away, when familiarity
with the classic literatures was much commoner than
it is now. There is something very pleasing about her
Orpheus, with its dignity and repose. One would
not compare it with a masque of Milton's; it certainly
has none of the lyrical rush to be found in Mr. Swinburne's
work. And yet to find seriousness with a modicum of
thought in a book of current verse is enough to make
it remarkable and refreshing. A word of most unstinted
praise must be accorded to the Riverside Press for one
of the most beautiful pieces of printing of the season.
The Hidden Servants Miss Alexander has given
us a really delightful book of ballads. Very simple
they are, certainly, very artless, and not in the least
remarkable for any display of craftsmanship. But their
sweet sincerity and loving faith lend them a far rarer
value than our modern self-consciousness is often able
to attain. It will be surprising if they do not find
a wide and sympathetic audience. Miss Alexander (known
already to the world in her "Roadside Songs of
Tuscany") has gathered up about a dozen Italian
legends of the saints, folk tales, and old written stories
of the miraculous, and retold them with a na´vetÚ and
modest charm altogether lovely.
interest of another sort one takes up Miss Proctor's
New Hampshire poems. Here, too, is homely simplicity,
winning us by appeal to sentiment and love of country.
Miss Proctor enlists the sympathy of her readers in
such subjects as these: "Monadnock in October,"
"The Hills are Home," "Kearsarge,"
"Keep the Forests," "Star Island Church,"
"The Bluebird," "Merrimack River"
and "The Lost War Sloop." And she has
a straightforwardness in dealing with her themes, and
a knack of description, that carry assent with them.
This "Old Home Week" edition (as it is called),
with its attractive illustrations taken from photographs
of various New Hampshire scenes, is a book for New Englanders,
at home or away.