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To B. C.
By a dim shore where water darkening
I went beyond the tumult, hearkening
For some diviner thing.
Where the bats flew from the black elms like leaves, Over the ebon pool
Brooded the bittern's cry, as one that grieves
Lands ancient, bountiful.
I saw the fireflies shine below the wood,
Above the shallows dank,
As Uriel from some great altitude,
And now unseen along the shrouded mead
He blew a cadence on his mellow reed,
It seemed as if a line of amber fire
As if had blown a wind from ancient Tyre
He gave his luring note amid the fern;
Its enigmatic fall
Haunted the hollow dusk with golden turn
I could not know the message that he bore,
Hidden; his incommunicable lore
And as I followed far the magic player
He passed the maple wood,
And when I passed the stars had risen there,
And there was solitude.
MISS DORA SIGERSON
(MRS. CLEMENT SHORTER)
MRS. CLEMENT SHORTER'S technical accomplishment, her sense of metre and of style, do not, unfortunately, equal her inborn poetic feeling; yet her singing has an individual note which goes far to redeem its manifold imperfections of form. There is race in her work; it smacks of the soil; it is no mere imitative culture-product, but an expression of innate emotion and impulse. Mrs. Shorter has all the fanciful melancholy, the ardent spirituality, and the eeriepathetic invention of the western Kelts. The unseen world of semi-malignant elemental beings is quite as real to her as the tangible world of her five senses. Her imagination is nourished on folk-lore, and even Christian conceptions of life and death she instinctively translates into terms of that ancient and exquisite paganism which seems like a natural emanation from the green hills and rushing waters of Ireland. In another paper* I have hazarded a perhaps fanciful theory of the historical and geographical conditions which have begotten the peculiarly Keltic spirit. All the characteristics of that spirit are exemplified in Mrs. Shorter's poetry.
So great, so all-pervading, is her incuriousness of form that, wherever we approach her work, it meets us on the threshold. Let us face it, then, and have done with it.
* See p. 178.
Alike in prosody, in style, and in grammar Mrs. Shorter is apt to take disconcerting liberties. She gives us, for instance, a poem entitled The Lone of Soul, consisting of eight stanzas, seven of which are written in the following
Alone among his kind he stands alone,
Torn by the passions of his own strange heart,
This is a perfectly simple and regular stanza, which I select as a specimen for the sake of its fine third line; and all the stanzas are equally regular, except the fourth, which runs, or rather stumbles, thus:
The wedded body and the single soul,
Beside his mate he shall most mateless stand,
For ever to dream of that unseen face
For ever to sigh for that enchanted land.
Without going into technicalities, one may simply point out that the last line can with difficulty be coerced into the metrical scheme, while the third is in itself a passable enough line, but of a totally different measure from the rest of the poem. It is like a single prancing hussar placed in rank among a company of foot-soldiers. It upsets, and to no conceivable purpose, the whole order and symmetry of the poem. Take, again, the following:
Since Naois was dead, her beloved, the rose on her cheek paled with sorrow,
And laughter was dead on her lips, only tears were her own night and morrow,
Till the King a new vengeance had planned to wake her strange listlessness to life.
The incompressible trisyllable "listlessness" is as clearly out of place in this line as a pebble in a walking-shoe; but it seems to occasion Mrs. Shorter no uneasiness. The first