Page images
PDF
EPUB

EDGAR FAWCETT.

Last year, last year, there in the sun She stood and smiled. I did not know Which was the whitest thing in June,

She, or that bush a-grow.

IN

But now; ah, now; yea, now 'tis plain! When folk be dead, how wise we be! God's boughs were black beside her snow;

Ah, now; yea, now I see!

My neighbor's bushes blow, blow, blow,
And blow about his silent door!
Ye call that white? Nay, 'tis not so;

June has been here before.

Ye cannot mock me, blossoms sweet;
I know too well your looks of yore;
My neighbor knows (yet blow, blow, blow),

June has been here before.

KEATS.

FLUTING and singing, with young locks aflow, This lad, forsooth, down the long years should

pass, With scent of blooms, with daffodils arow,

Lighting their candles in the April grass. Ah, 'tis not thus he comes to us, but sweet With youth and sorrows! When we speak his

name, Lo, the old house in the old foreign street,

His broken voice lamenting that his fame (Alack, he knew not!) passing fleet would be!

He grieves us with his melancholy eyes. Yet are all weathers sweeter for that he Did sing. Deep in the Roman

lies. How since he died the century hath sped !And they that mocked him, yea, they too are

dead.

N these days the career of the man of letters is,

as a rule, not conspicuously romantic. It is by no means of necessity lacking in episode, in heroisms, in breathless perils and escapes; but these are for the most part of the nature of psychological experiences, and lose the name of action. They may, in truth, be abundantly picturesque; but (though the public seems to think otherwise) they do not greatly concern the public, except in so far as they are revealed by their outcome in poem or novel.

If I preface these brief comments on Mr. Fawcett's work by a word or two of a more personal complexion, I would not have it appear that I intend a biographical sketch. From that admirable

Handbook of American Authors," we learn that Mr. Fawcett was born in 1847, in New York. This latter point we might be inclined to infer from the way in which Mr. Fawcett knows his New York, -from within outwards. He was a writer from childhood, but little of his 'prentice work has been let live to vex his maturity. His education was under private tutors till the age of fourteen, when he entered a New York public school. At twenty he received his degree from Columbia College.

The path of letters is a path of few primroses; but his feet were set to pursue it. Mr. Fawcett's father was an English gentleman, who, coming to America in early youth, had devoted a powerful and richly cultured intellect to the achievement of material success. His tastes and talents, however, prepared him to sympathize with the ambitions of his son, when he found the latter inexorably indifferent to the charm of a business life. Making New York life his field of fiction, Mr. Fawcett was not slow to win that popular success which is so gratifying to one's banker. His novels are pictures of New York life, vivid, and conscientiously wrought. They furnish us with an enduring series of portraits, some of which, by reason of their fidelity and biting clearness of outline, have appeared less attractive to many of Mr. Fawcett's fellowcitizens than to us at a distance whose“ withers are unwrung.” Mr. Fawcett's prose seems to me, at times, slightly artificial, but it is brilliant and effective, and most happy in the employment of unexpected epithets. Yet I have a grudge, shared by many of his sincerest admirers, against Mr. Fawcett's prose. Its production is withdrawing precious time and energy from his verse, and his fame as a novelist is temporarily overshadowing his true distinction as a poet. The following list of his works will endorse me: Poems:-“ Fantasy and Passion”(1878); “Song and Story”' ('84);

Romance and Revery" ('86). Humorous Verse:

AUGUST. No wind, no bird. The river flames like brass. On either side, smitten as with a spell Of silence, brood the fields. In the deef grass, Edging the dusty roads, lie as they fell Handsful of shriveled leaves from tree and bush. But ʼlong the orchard fence and at the gate, Thrusting their saffron torches through the hush, Wild lilies blaze, and bees hum soon and late. Rust-colored the tall straggling brier, not one Rose left. The spider sets its loom up there Close to the roots, and spins out in the sun A silken web from twig to twig. The air Is full of hot rank scents.

Upon the hill Drifts the noon's single cloud, white, glaring, still.

Is it when near grim roots that coil
Their snaky black through mellow soil ?
Or when you wrap, in woodland glooms,

The great prone-trunks, rotted red ?
Or when you dim, on somber tombs,

The requiescats of the dead ?

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Or is it when your lot is cast
In some quaint garden of the past,
On some gray crumbled basin's brim,

Where mildewed Tritons conch-shells blow, While yonder, through the poplars prim,

Looms up the turreted château?

[ocr errors]

-“The Buntling Ball" ('85); “The New King Arthur” ('85). Fiction:-“ Rutherford" ('84); “ The Adventures of a Widow" ('84); A Hopeless Case" ('81); “A Gentleman of Leisure" ('82); “An Ambitious Woman" ('84); “Tinkling Cymbals" ('84); • Social Silhouettes" ('85); “ The Confessions of Claud" ('87); “ The House at High Bridge” ('87); “Douglas Duane" ('87); “Olivia Delaplaine" ('88); “A Man's Will” ('88); “Divided Lives" ('89); “Miriam Balestier" ('89); “A Demoralizing Marriage" ('89).

I have expressed my belief that Mr. Fawcett's truer distinction is as a poet. As a novelist he shows, I think, very great talent; in his verse there is that quality transcending talent, the individual and incommunicable quality of genius. I shall never forget the enthusiasm with which I first read Fantasy and Passion.” In “Song and Story,” in “Romance and Revery," the development is on the same lines more or less clearly laid down in Fantasy and Passion." There is, on the whole, somewhat less sweetness, but we find richer thought, a more affluent imagination, a more assured and resonant rhythm. His utterance is unique and insistent. It is such as to impress itself upon later verse. The same quality is perceptible in a number of fine sonnets. There is verse in other veins in Mr. Fawcett's volumes, some of it of no less beauty, but, to my mind, of far less significance. The narrative poems,“Alan Eliot,” “The Magic Flower,” and othersare striking tales told with all the adornments of imagination, taste, and skilled workmanship. They have a wide appeal; but I think it is not in them that Mr. Fawcett's genius finds its most adequate embodiment. Rather, it seems to me, the touch of the master, potent and lasting in its influence, is revealed in such lines as found in “Maidenhair."

C. G. D, R.

Nay, loveliest are you when time weaves
Your emerald films on low dark eaves,
Above where pink porch-roses peer

And woodbines break in fragrant foam, And children laugh-and you can hear

The beatings of the heart of Home!

RARITY.

In dreams I found a wondrous land, Radiant with roses on each hand. No grasses, trees, nor shrubs were there, But roses blossoming everywhere! Great velvet-petaled blooms were these; Red millions trembled in each breeze! They swept toward the horizon's verge In many a splendid ample surge; They spread on all sides one intense Monotony of magnificence! Then suddenly, where my pathway ran, Loomed the vague presence of a man. And in his clasp, with strange delight, I saw one daisy, glimmering white! Such daisies bloom, in slender sprays, By throngs among June's meadowed ways. Yet all my soul, at this weird hour, . Leaned out to that one simple flower! For chastely, delicately fair, And better still, supremely rare, It wore a pastoral charm so sweet, This lovely lissome marguerite, That seeing it was like dear repose To me, whose whole heart loathed a rose!

TO AN ORIOLE. How falls it, oriole, thou hast come to fly In tropic splendor through our Northern sky? At some glad moment was it nature's choice To dower a scrap of sunset with a voice? Or did some orange tulip, flaked with black, In some forgotten garden, ages back, Yearning toward Heaven until its wish was heard, Desire unspeakably to be a bird ?

MOSS. STRANGE tapestry, by Nature spun On viewless looms, aloof from sun, And spread through lonely nooks and grots

Where shadows reign and leafy rest, O moss, of all your dwelling-spots,

In which one are you loveliest ?

A WHITE CAMELLIA. IMPERIAL bloom, whose every curve we see

So glacial a symmetry control, Looking, in your pale odorless apathy,

Like the one earthly flower that has no soul,

[blocks in formation]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »