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Shetland, Orkney, nay, Britain and Ireland. Thus he early familiarised himself with the ocean, and made it a highway of conquest and commerce. It affected his imagination deeply, no doubt, but not with a sense of impervious mystery, finality, or (what is really the same thing) infinitude. Therefore he escaped in a great measure the wide-eyed melancholy of the Kelt, while his soul remained more earthbound and robust, less apt to soar away from the last headland of the material world and lose itself in the insubstantial colour-maze of the sunset.*
These reflections on the Keltic temperament in general may seem to have led us far away from Miss Hopper in particular. But they are really suggested by the sense of wide space, clear colour, wind, water, and the cool breath of flowers that comes to us from her poetry. May we not see in such verses as these, for instance, the quintessence of the Keltic spirit?
Beauty was born of the world's desire
For the wandering water, the wandering fire,
Under the arch of her hurrying feet
She has trodden a world full of bittersweet.
The blood of the violet is in her veins,
Her pulse has the passion of April rains.
Out of the heart of a satin flower
God made her eyelids in one sweet hour.
Out of the wind He made her feet
That they might be lovely, and luring, and fleet.
Out of a cloud He wove her hair,
Heavy and black with the rain held there.
What is her name? There's none that knows→
What is her pathway? None may tell,
But it climbs to heaven and it dips to hell.
Would it be pressing this theory too far to suggest that the peculiar characteristics of the Welsh people, marking them off from other branches of the Keltic stock, may be traced in part to the fact that they alone did not directly confront the Atlantic, but had land, and a very solid mass of land, to the westward of them?
The garment on her is mist and fire,
Her girdle is of the beryl-stone,
And one dark rose for her flower has grown,
Filled to the brim with the strength o' the sun,
A passionate rose, and only one.
I take the liberty of omitting the final stanza, which seems to me marred by a feeble last line.
But in everything she
There are marked inequalities in Miss Hopper's verse, flaws of technique and sometimes lapses in inspiration. Now and then she seems to force the mood instead of waiting for it to take hold of her. writes, even in what we regard as her failures, there is a certain distinction. She is never vulgar either in matter or form-never quite commonplace. Not often does she even introduce a false or artificial note, such as we find in the following stanza :
Her lips were red as strawberries,
Bare feet and brown sowed jealousies
And having kissed would kiss again.
She is more at home in the pure lyric, whether of nature or of passion, than in the lyrical ballad, though in this class of work Hugh of the Hill and Outlaws are poems of notable charm. Of her nature-poems the following is one of the most characteristic:
Dark red roses in a honeyed wind swinging,
Dark red roses in the warm wind falling,
Velvet leaf by velvet leaf, all the breathless noon;
That's the way of June.
Sweet as scarlet strawberry under wet leaves hidden,
Shedding lovely light on things forgotten, hope forbidden-
There is a true and penetrating charm in almost all Miss Hopper's love-songs. Out of a whole group of almost equal merit-A Song at Sunset, If I had been a Rose, One Way of Love, A Woman's Marriage Song, Elusion, and The Chrysoberyl-I select the last two for quotation at the end of the article, as typical specimens of the poetess's suave and harmonious lyric gift.
Some of Miss Hopper's most beautiful numbers are hard to classify-such, for instance, as The World's Desire and the poem entitled A Pagan, which contains the following exquisite stanza :
Sad sobs the sea forsaken of Aphrodite ;
Hellas and Helen are not, and the slow sands fall,
Gods that were gracious and lovely, gods that were mighty,
Though the allusion be to classical mythology, this yearning backward to the spirit-haunted universe of the "pagan suckled in a creed outworn" is eminently Keltic. True, it was Wordsworth who first gave imperishable utterance to the yearning; but who shall say how much of the Kelt there was in Wordsworth?
It is not to be denied that Miss Hopper pays the penalty of her too fertile lyric gift. One cannot hymn and re-hymn all the months of the year and all the days of the week, yet keep one's inspiration always fresh and fervid. We may apply to her that somewhat left-handed compliment of Webster to Shakespeare, and speak of her "right happy and copious industry"; but it is only just to lay the emphasis on the "happy." There is originality, sincerity, melody in all she does. She is a born singer of songs.
What would you do if I should give you roses
If I should leave my idle pretty play
If in an hour I changed from girl to woman
I'll keep my mystery and keep my lover;
You who have hung with praise and dream my name, Being mere man, would find your praise half blame, If in my soul full measure, running over,
You saw my love for you-not flowers but flame.
Men say there is a stone shines green alway
All day I hide myself in lucent green,
I cast my veil aside and bid it be,
And let Love's scarlet flood transfigure me.
I am a chrysoberyl, and the night
Is here, and I am changed. The changeless light Has touched me and transfigured; my own fire
Beacons me to the place of heart's desire.
I that was dark and dull am burning bright;
I am a chrysoberyl, and 'tis night.
A. E. HOUSMAN
DESPITE its association with Erasmus Darwin, Shropshire cannot be called, like Warwickshire or Devon, a county haunted by the Muses. On the spur of the moment, and without reference to books, I can think of only one great poem definitely associated with Shropshire-Comus, to wit, written for performance at Ludlow Castle. It is true that on Shropshire soil the doughty Sir John Falstaff slew the Hotspur of the North, after fighting a long hour by Shrewsbury clock. But this is scarcely an inherent association, native to the glebe. Falstaff could have performed the same exploit by any other clock. It was mere fortune of war that gave Shrewsbury the honour of keeping time to that immortal combat. Take it all in all, Shropshire is not one of the great literary counties of England.
But Shropshire no longer lacks its poet. Shrewsbury clock has found another place in literature, in a less delightful but still a memorable context:
There sleeps in Shrewsbury jail to-night,
Or wakes, as may betide,
A better lad, if things went right,
Than most that sleep outside.
And naked to the hangman's noose