the most interesting of the publications which appeal
to the antiquarian are the issues of old English parish
registers and constables' accounts. From these we can
to some extent construct the past, discover the manners
and customs of our forefathers, their amusements and
what they paid for them as well as other things, the
fines they were liable to and the laws to which they
had to bow. Such documents have preserved the knowledge
of local customs and traditions, and have thrown much
light upon the original application of words and phrases
which have gained a currency wider than amongst the
gossips of the district in which they first arose. One
of the latest of these books is the transcript of "The
Constable's Accounts of the Manor of Manchester,"
edited by J.P. Earwaker and published by Blackburn &
Co. of Manchester. The originals of the documents are
in the possession of the corporation of Manchester.
One of them was bequeathed to it, the other purchased
for it, and they now form part of the city archives.
It is related of a former owner of one of the manuscripts
that he saw it in a bookseller's shop, and, knowing
that he had discovered a prize, carried it off under
his arm and left a friend to arrange for the price.
From the accounts themselves we learn that the authorities
in Manchester long ago practised the art, which some
of our city corporations have brought to such perfection,
of getting rid of objectionable paupers and mendicants
by passing them into the next municipality with as great
expedition as possible. It is a question of some interest
what in the end becomes of these unfortunate individuals.
Are they passed on constantly, never resting, with a
mayor's pass always in their hands, until at last death
thrusts them out of the world with a chuckle, giving
them the passport which he never denies to anyone? But
if our city officials have retained these habits they
no longer wear the gorgeous plumage which their predecessors
wore. Beadles were the show of the town in those days,
with their utter magnificence and the importance of
their duties. Scourging offenders of all sorts—thieves,
blacklegs, idiots, beggars, dissolute persons and nondescript
vagrants—was one of their chief duties, as well
as applying the municipal tortures for scolding and
bewitching. The bellman also was a functionary of more
than ordinary importance, and on Shrove Tuesday we are
informed he had to take particular precautions against
"lifting," a practice which consisted of groups
of women catching hold of and lifting from the ground
all the men they met, and the men doing the same to
the women. We could imagine a group of these Manchester
dames descending upon and "lifting" the bellman,
bell and all, much to the alarm of municipal authority
in general and of that functionary in particular. But
the Constable's Accounts contain less pleasant items
than these, for there is, amongst other things, a small
payment for fixing the heads of two rebels, Thomas Deacon
and Thomas Sydall, upon their spires on the Exchange,
and Deacon's father, who was a non-juring clergyman,
"never passed under the Exchange without uncovering
his head." What a picture of the times that one
description calls up; the son's head on the spire, held
aloft between heaven and earth, a warning to rebels
and malefactors, and his father, with uncovered head,
Canadian reading public are not likely to meet with
anything more interesting than a new publication by
Prof. Charles G.D. Roberts, our master workman in verse.
Such an event is unfortunately too rare. In the present
case it comes to us in the brief shape of the "Ave,
an ode for the Shelley centenary." In these beautiful
and strenuous stanzas Prof. Roberts enrolls himself
in the special band of the Shelley worshippers, who
attribute to that poet a degree of divinity which I,
for one, am hardly inclined to allow. But whether the
reader be a follower of this cult or not, the beauty
and fervor of the "Ave," and the sonorous
pump of its versification, can hardly fail to possess
his imagination. The poem opens with an address to the
poet's beloved Tantramar marshes, always a theme upon
which he warms into his finest vein, and the following
stanzas will serve not only as an example of his vivid
and luxurious delight in splendid landscape and the
richness of his gift as a word-painter, but also will
indicate how he connects the Tantramar marshes with
his view of the character and fate of Shelley:—
when the orange flood came roaring in
tumbling troughs and tide-worn caves,
While red Minudie's flats were drowned with din
Chignecto's front impugned the waves,
How blithely with the refluent foam I raced
the radiant chasm, exploring
The green solemnity with boisterous haste;
My pulse of
To visit all the creeks that twist and shine
From Beausejour to utmost Tormentine.
after, when the tide was full, and stilled
A little while
the seething and the hiss,
And every tributary channel filled
To the brim
with rosy streams that swelled to kiss
The grass-roots all a-wash and goose-tongue wild
rosemary—then how well content
I was to rest me like a breathless child
To lapse and loiter till the change should come
And the great floods turn seaward, roaring home.
now, oh tranquil marshes, in your vast
vision and of dream,
Where through by every intricate vein have passed
With joy impetuous
and pain supreme
The sharp, fierce tides that chafe the shores of earth
and controlless ebb and flow,
Strangely akin you seem to him whose birth
With fiery succor to the ranks of song
Defied the ancient gates of wrath and wrong.
stanzas are an excellent specimen of Prof. Roberts'
diction, which, although at times a little heavy in
its movement and wanting in flexibility, has always
the charm of an exceedingly broad and full-vowelled
flow, with a sort of determined strenuousness of accent.
There is, moreover, the indefinable individual touch
which marks all of Prof. Roberts' best work as his own.
The following is one of two very beautiful stanzas in
which he skilfully refers to some of Shelley's greater
works as figurings of various aspects of the poet's
the last melodious in mid-heaven;
Protean shape of chainless cloud,
Pregnant with elemental fire and driven
of quivering light, and darkness loud
With tempest, yet beneficent as prayer;
wild west wind, relentless strewing
The withered leaves of custom on the air,
the wreck pursuing
O'er lovelier Arros, more imperial Romes,
The radiant visions to their viewless homes.
are other stanzas as fine as these which I would that
I had space to quote, but I shall have to content myself
with some instances of our poet's gift of descriptive
phrase-making—an art in which he is a master:—
flicker of sandpipers in from sea
In gusty flocks that puffed and fled.
and thither in the slow, soft tide,
Rolled seaward, shoreward, sands and wandering shells
And shifting weeds thy fellows.
that unroutable profound of peace,
Beyond experience of pulse and breath,
Beyond the last release of longing.
have heard from time to time of a forthcoming volume
of collected pieces by Professor Roberts, and we trust
that its publication may not be long delayed.
is rarely that we meet with good religious verse to-day.
Even in the hymnologies the gems are among the oldest.
The late Cardinal Newman's "Lead, kindly light"
is probably the most human and the greatest among modern
hymns, containing as it does in itself the whole circle
of modern faith and doubt. The poet Whittier was the
greatest hymn writer of this century, chiefly because
of his large faith in the infinite and his wide human
charity linked with a pure lyrical genius. After all,
if a writer is allowed to express an opinion, my choice
would fall on the "Te deum" as the greatest
religious hymn ever written. There is a largeness and
majesty in the style and the language that is simply
glorious, and one of the greatest punishments one can
endure is to hear this great hymn murdered by bad music
and a poor choir. It is also a prayer, and such a chant
of prayer can only be truly delivered where all is in
keeping. Among religious poems not found in rituals
Milton's superb hymn to the "Nativity" is
by all odds the greatest. In the Christmas number of
The Owl, the Ottawa college paper, there appeared a
"Christmas hymn" by Mr. Waters, whose "Water
lily" has already given him a place among Canadian
poets, though I understand he is not Canadian by birth.
This poem is no doubt one of the finest religious poems
ever written in Canada. The theology is Roman Catholic,
which fact will to a large extent prevent outsiders
from appreciating many beauties of expression. But the
literary reader cannot but realise many beautiful passages
in the poem, as the following:—
down the asphodel-flowered lawn
Of opening heaven the angels tread
With folded wings and eyes serene,
To where the ever-virgin queen
Low o'er the infant droops her head."
finest lines in the whole poem are those describing
empties heaven of all his might
within a little span."
Waters is a true poet, who without any idea of fame
has written for the pure love of his art and the enjoyment
it has given him. But nevertheless he has done work
of a quality that might easily outshine that of others
who are more ambitious for literary honors.
George Meredith is reputed to have nearly finished his
new novel, but its name has not been announced. Mr.
R.D. Blackmore is to publish his new novel as a serial
in Macmillan's Magazine. It is called "Perelycross,"
and is said to be equal in interest to Mr. Blackmore's
the author of the poem "Life," which was sent
to this department, will kindly send his address a private
opinion will be given.