Non-Fictional Prose

by Joseph Edmund Collins

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley


 

ORION. MR. ROBERTS' CONTRIBUTION TO SONG.*


 

A man must serve his time to every trade
Save censure: critics all are ready-made.

In olden times, say when Jeoffrey was at the head of the "Edinburgh" it was something to be a critic; now it is nothing.  In this age when writers are as numerous as the potato bug, critics may be named Legion.  He who can successfully criticize a grilse regulation or the stump speech of a county councillor, can also of course criticize a poem, and he can judge the same upon the canons of art, though he has never learnt the difference twixt a dactyl and a spondee, or learnt how to scan a line by finger or eye.  "Smartness" in writing and a natural gift of gab does well enough dealing with the smelt fishery or some other subject not bounded by the rules of art, and in such writing the illiterate penster appears to as much advantage as the scholar; but in criticizing a poem abounding in allusions to the siege of Troy or the wanderings of Ćneis, the knack of writing smart things will never supply the ignorance of the rules upon which poetry must be judged, or of the incident or incidents which may be the groundwork of the poem.  When an illiterate Yankee once visited the picture gallery at Florence, everything he saw brought forth the same exclamation "Isn't it just lovely," and when he saw the tortures of Laocoon made immortal in marble he exclaimed "O! but doesn't he feel bad!"

However we can't reform in the world, or stamp out presumption; for despite all we may say

"Fools [will] rush in where angels fear to tread."

Mr. Roberts must pardon us for our rather lengthy prologue, and now with his permission a word on the little volume before us.  First and formost it is a credit to the printers, Lippincott & Co., of Philadelphia.  The paper used is the best, the typographical appearance and the binding are to a high standard.  The book is offered for one dollar.  It contains a number of poems, many of which have appeared in Scribner, in the Canadian News—one appeared in the Fredericton Star—ballad to the Kingfisher.  The first poem, and properly the best in the book is

[Jupiter, Neptune, and Mercury were once travelling through Bśotia, and being tired and hungry late at evening went into the house of one, Hyrieus a peasant.  The peasant treated them to the best his hut afforded, not knowing they were gods; and the deities so struck with his piety promised him to give whatever asked.  He asked a son: and a few months after he dug and in the skin of a victim offered to the gods he found ORION.  He named him "Urion ab urine," the word by the corruption of a letter becoming Orion: or as Ovid says, "Perdidit antiquum littera a prima sonum."  Orion grew to be a mighty man, and it is said Diana fell in love with him.  But Śnopian king of Chios became jealous of his stature, and when the hunter asked the hand of the kings daughter, the fair Merope, the king refused conditionally, "Rid my land of wild beasts," he said, "and she shall be yours."  This Orion did, but on the evening he was to claim his bride, the king gave him intoxicating drink, and poured poison upon his eyeballs.  His eyes were destroyed, but next morning from a high mountain he looked towards the suns rising place, and the gods restored his sight.  After death he was placed in Heaven and become one of the constellations.ED. STAR.]

This beautiful poem is written in heroic versethe iambic pentameter.  The action of the poem begins on the eve when the stately Orion claimed his bride of King Chios her father.  This scene is described true to very nature by our young poet, commencing thus:

"Two mighty arms of thunder cloven rock
Stretched ever westward to the setting sun
And took into their ancient scarred embrace
A laughing valley and a crooning bay.

   *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

*   *   *   Amidst the slope
Three sacred laurels drooped their dark-green boughs,
About a high-piled altar."

It was here Śnopian swayed his sceptre o'er the "dwellers in the steep-shored Chios."  The king stood praying looking out upon the deep, and his servants prepared a sacrifice to Apollo.  The victim was—

*   *   a tawny wolf
Blood-stained, fast bound in pliant withes
*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
His red tongue lolling from his fanged jaws,
His eyes inflamed.

Meanwhile Orion appears upon the scene.  The very description of his garb and mien is enough to give our young poet a life-long reputation.

 


Rev. of "Orion," The Star, Oct. 6, 1880 [back]