author of De Roberval has given us a companion
piece to Mr. Mair’s "Tecumseh." These
are two noble dramas, on purely Canadian themes,
and set in purely Canadian surroundings and atmosphere.
Mr. Duvar’s work is the more sprightly and sparkling,
but of a less thorough finish than Mr. Mair’s.
Both dramas should be in the hands of all Canadians
who love good literature and love their country.
story of De Roberval, as historians give it, is
faithfully adhered to in its essentials; but the
details Mr. Duvar has added to and emphasized
to give the story life-like completeness. The
interwoven love-tale of Ohnawa is, so far as we
know, fictitious. It gives occasion for some of
the choicest poetry in the drama. Mr. Duvar’s
characterizations are vivid, his speech quaint,
but terse and direct. Every page breathes a wholesome
manly spirit, and a Shakspearian geniality of
mood. Mr. Duvar never takes the part of one character
against another. He loves saint and sinner, rogue
and prude alike. He savors of the Elizabethans
and the Provencals, and like the Elizabethans
he can turn a song with exquisite ease. But, like
some of the Elizabethans, he sometimes takes sad
liberties with the blank verse line. A splendid
swing there is to the drinking song which opens
Scene VI of Act II. By a stroke of genius the
drama is brought to an end with a bit of lawless
lyric, constituting a whole scene by itself, and
conveying with a most imaginative indirectness
the fate of De Roberval’s fleet. A less subtle
poet would have drawn for us the bald horrors
of that fate,—but this is how Mr. Duvar manages
V, SCENE III.
the coast of Newfoundland. Long seas rolling
in after a storm. Mermaidens singing.
gallant fleet sailed out to sea
With the pennons streaming merrily.
the hulls the tempest lit,
And the great ships split
And the foaming fierce sea-horses
Hurled the fragments in their forces
To the ocean deeps,
Where the kraken sleeps,
men are in the ledges’ clefts,
Dead, but with motion of living guise
Their bodies are rocking there,
Monstrous sea-fish and efts
Stare at them with glassy
limbs are stirred and their hair.
O death at once and the grave,
And sorrow in passing, O cruel wave!
Let the resonant sea-caves
And the sorrowful surges sing,
For the dead men rest but restlessly.
do deep account of them,
And sing an ocean requiem
other poems contained in this volume are "The
Emigration of the Fairies"—an exquisite bit
of sustained jeu d’esprit,
in a style of which this generation has well nigh
lost the secret—and "The triumph of constancy,
a romaunt." This is a gorgeous-colored, passionately
romantic story of chivalry, white magic, and fair
women, it is told in antique fashion of speech,
and is no less interesting than poetic.
de Lys is a volume of
first-fruits, and derives its chief importance
from the richness of its promise. In it the poet
learns well the technicalities of his art; and
he displays a tendency to the objective treatment
of his themes—a tendency which augurs well for
his poetic future. In a second volume I should
expect to find much more work of the quality of
such a line as
calls the sea along the darkening shore.
are bits, here and there through the volume, of
this rare and fine poetic quality; but one feels,
for the most part, that the singer is as yet feeling
for his true voice. That the voice is that of
a genuine singer is made plain by a few poems
and a host of detached passages in this volume.
Instance this, of a sea-shell:
a lady’s hand it will snugly lie,
‘Tis as thin as a red rose-leaf,
Yet it holds the sea-gull’s sorrowing cry,
And the roar of the tide-lashed
The lines I have italicized are
imaginative in the highest sense. And the following
have that nice aptness which make sayings memorable:
happy period of my early youth!
When Love was master, Reason but
When friends seemed heroes, woman crystal truth,
Success the certain portion of the
the same poem from which I take these lines contains
an instance of what is a common fault with Mr.
Weir—an indulgence in words which are out of tune
with their surroundings. For instance—"again
the changeless stars began to peep,"
which seems to me a procedure quite unworthy of
the changeless stars. Mr. Weir tells a story with
power and pathos. "The Spirit Wife"
is a simple, delicate, and touching bit of narrative
verse, and "Dauntless" has a noble sincerity
and directness. The ballads on subjects from Canadian
history, which make up the department called "Fleurs
de Lys," are vivid and simple, but they are
too much what the author calls them in the notes,
resumes of what the
historians have said. They do not seem to have
been infused in the full flame of the author’s
imagination. They are manly and stirring, and
should be popular; but to some extent they lack
the indefinable something which "Dauntless,"
for example, possesses. The lyric called "My
Treasure" is one in which promise is already
fulfilled. It is original, dramatic, excellently
wrought and deeply suggestive. The note of human
experience is in it. Mr. Weir has few specimens
of sonnet music, but he does effective work in
this most gemlike of metrical forms. The sonnet
called "Remembrance" is wholly
admirable; and the sonnet sequence on "The
Maiden, the Wife, the Mother," certainly
shows small sign of juvenility. What simple beauty
of scene, what fervent and natural human feeling,
one finds in this sonnet called "The Wife":—
stands a cottage by a river side,
With rustic branches sloping
Amid a scene of mountain,
stream and heath.
A dainty garden, watered by the tide,
On whose calm breast the queenly lilies ride,
Is bright with many a purple
While here and there forbidden
Uprear their golden crowns with stubborn pride.
There she leans upon the little gate,
Unchanged, save that her curls,
once flowing free,
Are closely curled
upon the shapely head,
And that her eyes look forth
Hark to her sigh! "Why tarries he so late?"
But mark her smile!
She hears his well-known
Weir needs what riper years will, doubtless, bring
him— affluence of emotion and imagination, intensity,
passion. He also needs to purge his diction of
work of reviewing these four volumes of recent
Canadian poetry is well rewarded by the sense
of encouragement it has brought me. It is impossible
to overlook the vast advance which has been made,
within the last half dozen years, by Canadian
thought. In all Canadian literary effort there
is manifest a gain in culture, in breadth, in
insight, in facility. In other words, we are ripening.
At the same time, with the escape from provincialism
of diction, form and method, there is an increased
feeling for local coloring and for native themes.
We are getting more self-reliant. We are getting
more self-reliant. We are beginning to work more
in our own way, and at the same time to apply
to our work the tests of cosmopolitan standards.
Even a beginning of this sort is of deep significance.
Such a beginning of this sort is rarely made till
a people begins also to realize itself a nation.
poems of Miss Mary Morgan have less of that most
desirable Canadian flavor, are less native, in
a word—than the work of Mr. Duvar or Mr. Weir.
But they are remarkable for breadth of spirit,
for the culture and cosmopolitanism they evince.
This poet’s is an intellect that draws its sustenance
from all sources. Miss Morgan has enriched her
thought and trained herself in the technics of
her art by the admirable exercise of translation,—and
many of her translations possess a permanent value.
But her original work has more significance for
us. It is lyrical in form, and lyrical in mood.
Its defects are numerous enough—defects of unevenness,
sometimes of insufficient inspiration. There is
sometimes a lapse into the commonplace; there
is too often a lack of firmness, compactness,
condensation in the line. But on the other hand
one finds often a satisfying simplicity and completeness,
and sweetness of cadence, such as are contained
in these lines on seeing a child fall asleep:
heavy eyelids slowly droop,
The eyes grow less and less,
The last of languid glances flown
Has left but peacefulness.
‘Twas like the twilight’s mellow shades,
That, quivering o’er the snow,
Seemed lingering glimpses from the sun,
And almost loath to go.
long shalt thou refreshed awake,
Nor ever know surprise
That weariness from thee took flight
In such a strange, sweet guise.
As suddenly the Spring anew
Starts from beneath the ground,
Once more with fresh life to pursue
Its never-ending round."
poem I must quote as showing the intellectual
quality which pervades Miss Morgan’s work. Like
most Canadian singers of this day, her face is
set hopefully toward the future. Few equal her
in the confident strength of her hold upon that
healthy optimism which is sanguine without being
credulous. The following lines seem to me lofty
Reason, Wonder, Doubt,
Great warriors three!
No true soul lives without!
ye still endure
In every land—
A stalwart band
To keep the conscience pure.
the truant king
Shall crouch before
He knows the spell you bring.
Though others they appal,
might cannot subdue,
Who only rise
With clearer eyes
To wage the fight anew—
battle for the sway
And light of the new day!"
George Frederick Cameron was a lyric poet of fervor,
force, and sincerity, Canadians have begun to
realize only since his death. This is owing probably
to the fact that he spent a large part of his
life outside of Canada. It is to the loving care
of his brother, Mr. C. J. Cameron, that he owes
his effectual introduction to a Canadian audience.
Now the dead poet’s position in our literature
is secure. Fame may come but slowly to his name,
but he will be recognized as one of the most spontaneous
and genuinely lyrical of our singers. Cut off
suddenly, and in the midst of his development,
he has left, of necessity, quantities of crude,
youthful, or half-finished work; but every here
and there is a line, a stanza, a whole poem, bearing
unquestionable stamp of lyric genius. On another
occasion I hope to make a detailed and extended
study of Mr. Cameron’s genius, otherwise I should
not permit myself to touch his work at all in
such a hasty and inadequate note as this. His
intellectual drift, the sources of his inspiration,
his lyric measures, all these must go unestimated
here, and his faults must for the present rest
unnoted. I prefer to use my scant remaining space
in giving examples of his power, his swinging,
free music, his earnestness. As his work is done,
there is no immediate need of pointing out his
defects; but it is good for us to know with as
little delay as possible whatever of noble achievement
is attained among us. It helps toward the establishment
of our national self-confidence. It is an important
part of our education.
this, for grave majesty of thought and diction:—
* * *
have a faith—that life and death are one,
That each depends upon the self-same
And that the seen and unseen rivers run
To one calm sea, from one clear
have a faith—that man’s most potent mind
May cross the willow-shaded stream
I have a faith—when he has left behind
His earthly vesture on the river’s
When all his little fears are torn away,
His soul may beat a pathway through
And, disencumbered of its coward clay,
Emerge immortal on the sunnier side."
* * *
an instance of Cameron’s rich metrical music,
I will quote the lines entitled "The Way
of the World." Forming my judgment by universal
standards, and banishing scrupulously my Canadian
prejudices, and bearing in mind the need of avoiding
extravagant eulogy, and keeping my eyes wide open
to the comparative imperfection of the final stanza,
I do not hesitate to claim that in this lyric
our literature has a priceless and imperishable
THE WAY OF THE WORLD.
sneer and we laugh with the lips— the most of
Whenever a brother goes down like a weed with
We point with the finger and say—Oh, we knew it!
But see! we are better than he was, and we will
walked in the way of his will—the way of desire,
In the Appian way of his will without ever a bend;
He walked in it long, but it led him at last to
But we who are stronger will stand and endure
thoughts were all visions—all fabulous visions
Of bird and of song, and of soul which is only
His eyes looked all at the stars in the firmament,
Were fixed on the earth at our feet, so we stand
hated the sight and the sound and the sob of the
He sought for his peace in the wood and the musical
He fell, and we pity him never, and why should
Yea, why should we mourn for him, we who still
who are brave?
speak we and think not, we censure unheeding,
Unkindly and blindly we utter the words of the
We see not the goal of our brother, we see but
And sneer at his fall if he fall, and laugh at
me! the sight of the sod on the coffin-lid,
And the sound, and the sob, and the sigh of it
Ah, me! the beautiful face forever hid
By four wild walls!
hold it a matter for self-gratulation and praise
To have thrust to the dust, to have trod on a
To have ruined it there in the beauty and bloom
Very well! There is somewhere a Nemesis waiting