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Ponkapog Papers, by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

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positively than the captain of the Pinafore said
it of himself, that he was hardly ever sick at
Imagine Byron or Shelley, who knew the
ocean in all its protean moods, piping such
thin feebleness as

The blue, the fresh, the ever free!

To do that required a man whose acquaintance
with the deep was limited to a view of it from
an upper window at Margate or Scarborough.
Even frequent dinners of turbot and whitebait
at the sign of The Ship and Turtle will not en-
able one to write sea poetry.
Considering the actual facts, there is some-
thing weird in the statement,

I 'm on the sea! I 'm on the sea!
I am where I would ever be.

The words, to be sure, are placed in the mouth
of an imagined sailor, but they are none the
less diverting. The stanza containing the distich
ends with a striking piece of realism:

If a storm should come and awake the deep,
What matter? I shall ride and sleep.

This is the course of action usually pursued
by sailors during a gale. The first or second
mate goes around and tucks them up comfort-
ably, each in his hammock, and serves them
out an extra ration of grog after the storm is
Barry Cornwall must have had an exception-
ally winning personality, for he drew to him the
friendship of men as differently constituted as
Thackeray, Carlyle, Browning, and Forster.
He was liked by the best of his time, from
Charles Lamb down to Algernon Swinburne,
who caught a glimpse of the aged poet in his
vanishing. The personal magnetism of an au-
thor does not extend far beyond the orbit of his
contemporaries. It is of the lyrist and not of
the man I am speaking here. One could wish
he had written more prose like his admirable
"Recollections of Elia."
Barry Cornwall seldom sounds a natural note,
but when he does it is extremely sweet. That
little ballad in the minor key beginning,

Touch us gently, Time!
Let us glide adown thy stream,

was written in one of his rare moments. Leigh
Hunt, though not without questionable manner-
isms, was rich in the inspiration that came but
infrequently to his friend. Hunt's verse is full
of natural felicities. He also was a bookman,
but, unlike Barry Cornwall, he generally knew
how to mint his gathered gold, and to stamp the
coinage with his own head. In "Hero and Lean-
der" there is one line which, at my valuing, is
worth any twenty stanzas that Barry Cornwall
has written:

So might they now have lived, and so have died;
The story's heart, to me, still beats against its side.

Hunt's fortunate verse about the kiss Jane
Carlyle gave him lingers on everybody's lip.
That and the rhyme of "Abou Ben Adhem and
the Angel" are spice enough to embalm a man's
memory. After all, it takes only a handful.


HOW quickly Nature takes possession of
a deserted battlefield, and goes to work
repairing the ravages of man! With invisible
magic hand she smooths the rough earthworks,
fills the rifle-pits with delicate flowers, and
wraps the splintered tree-trunks with her fluent
drapery of tendrils. Soon the whole sharp out-
line of the spot is lost in unremembering grass.
Where the deadly rifle-ball whistled through the
foliage, the robin or the thrush pipes its tremu-
lous note; and where the menacing shell de-
scribed its curve through the air, a harmless
crow flies in circles. Season after season the
gentle work goes on, healing the wounds and
rents made by the merciless enginery of war,
until at last the once hotly contested battle-
ground differs from none of its quiet surround-
ings, except, perhaps, that here the flowers take
a richer tint and the grasses a deeper emerald.
It is thus the battle lines may be obliterated
by Time, but there are left other and more last-
ing relics of the struggle. That dinted army
sabre, with a bit of faded crepe knotted at its
hilt, which hangs over the mantel-piece of the
"best room" of many a town and country house
in these States, is one; and the graven headstone
of the fallen hero is another. The old swords
will be treasured and handed down from gener-
ation to generation as priceless heirlooms, and
with them, let us trust, will be cherished the
custom of dressing with annual flowers the rest-
ing-places of those who fell during the Civil

With the tears a Land hath shed
Their graves should ever be green.

Ever their fair, true glory
Fondly should fame rehearse--
Light of legend and story,
Flower of marble and verse.

The impulse which led us to set apart a day
for decorating the graves of our soldiers sprung
from the grieved heart of the nation, and in our
own time there is little chance of the rite being
neglected. But the generations that come after
us should not allow the observance to fall into
disuse. What with us is an expression of fresh
love and sorrow, should be with them an ac-
knowledgment of an incalculable debt.
Decoration Day is the most beautiful of our
national holidays. How different from those sul-
len batteries which used to go rumbling through
our streets are the crowds of light carriages,
laden with flowers and greenery, wending their
way to the neighboring cemeteries! The grim
cannon have turned into palm branches, and the
shell and shrapnel into peach blooms. There is
no hint of war in these gay baggage trains, ex-
cept the presence of men in undress uniform,
and perhaps here and there an empty sleeve to
remind one of what has been. Year by year
that empty sleeve is less in evidence.
The observance of Decoration Day is un-
marked by that disorder and confusion common
enough with our people in their holiday moods.
The earlier sorrow has faded out of the hour,
leaving a softened solemnity. It quickly ceased
to be simply a local commemoration. While
the sequestered country churchyards and burial-
places near our great northern cities were being
hung with May garlands, the thought could not
but come to us that there were graves lying
southward above which bent a grief as tender
and sacred as our own. Invisibly we dropped
unseen flowers upon those mounds. There is a
beautiful significance in the fact that, two years
after the close of the war, the women of Colum-
bus, Mississippi, laid their offerings alike on
Northern and Southern graves. When all is
said, the great Nation has but one heart.


AS a class, literary men do not shine in con-
versation. The scintillating and playful
essayist whom you pictured to yourself as the
most genial and entertaining of companions,
turns out to be a shy and untalkable individual,
who chills you with his reticence when you
chance to meet him. The poet whose fascinating
volume you always drop into your gripsack on
your summer vacation--the poet whom you
have so long desired to know personally--is a
moody and abstracted middle-aged gentleman,
who fails to catch your name on introduction,
and seems the avatar of the commonplace. The
witty and ferocious critic whom your fancy had
painted as a literary cannibal with a morbid
appetite for tender young poets--the writer of
those caustic and scholarly reviews which you
never neglect to read--destroys the un-lifelike
portrait you had drawn by appearing before you
as a personage of slender limb and deprecat-
ing glance, who stammers and makes a painful
spectacle of himself when you ask him his
opinion of "The Glees of the Gulches," by Popo-
catepetl Jones. The slender, dark-haired novel-
ist of your imagination, with epigrammatic
points to his mustache, suddenly takes the shape
of a short, smoothly-shaven blond man, whose
conversation does not sparkle at all, and you
were on the lookout for the most brilliant of
verbal fireworks. Perhaps it is a dramatist you
have idealized. Fresh from witnessing his de-
lightful comedy of manners, you meet him face
to face only to discover that his own manners
are anything but delightful. The play and the
playwright are two very distinct entities. You
grow skeptical touching the truth of Buffon's
assertion that the style is the man himself. Who
that has encountered his favorite author in the
flesh has not sometimes been a little, if not
wholly, disappointed?
After all, is it not expecting too much to
expect a novelist to talk as cleverly as the clever
characters in his novels? Must a dramatist
necessarily go about armed to the teeth with
crisp dialogue? May not a poet be allowed to
lay aside his singing-robes and put on a con-
ventional dress-suit when he dines out? Why
is it not permissible in him to be as prosaic
and tiresome as the rest of the company? He
usually is.


A CERTAIN scientific gentleman of my
acquaintance, who has devoted years to
investigating the subject, states that he has never
come across a case of remarkable longevity un-
accompanied by the habit of early rising; from
which testimony it might be inferred that they
die early who lie abed late. But this would be
getting out at the wrong station. That the
majority of elderly persons are early risers is due
to the simple fact that they cannot sleep morn-
ings. After a man passes his fiftieth milestone
he usually awakens at dawn, and his wakeful-
ness is no credit to him. As the theorist con-
fined his observations to the aged, he easily
reached the conclusion that men live to be old
because they do not sleep late, instead of per-
ceiving that men do not sleep late because they
are old. He moreover failed to take into ac-
count the numberless young lives that have been
shortened by matutinal habits.
The intelligent reader, and no other is sup-
posable, need not be told that the early bird
aphorism is a warning and not an incentive.
The fate of the worm refutes the pretended
ethical teaching of the proverb, which assumes
to illustrate the advantage of early rising and
does so by showing how extremely dangerous
it is. I have no patience with the worm, and
when I rise with the lark I am always careful
to select a lark that has overslept himself.
The example set by this mythical bird, a myth-
ical bird so far as New England is concerned,
has wrought wide-spread mischief and discom-
fort. It is worth noting that his method of ac-
complishing these ends is directly the reverse of
that of the Caribbean insect mentioned by Laf-
cadio Hearn in his enchanting "Two Years in
the French West Indies"--a species of colossal
cricket called the wood-kid; in the creole tongue,
cabritt-bois. This ingenious pest works a sooth-
ing, sleep-compelling chant from sundown until
precisely half past four in the morning, when
it suddenly stops and by its silence awakens
everybody it has lulled into slumber with its in-
sidious croon. Mr. Hearn, with strange obtuse-
ness to the enormity of the thing, blandly re-
marks: "For thousands of early risers too poor
to own a clock, the cessation of its song is the
signal to get up." I devoutly trust that none of
the West India islands furnishing such satanic
entomological specimens will ever be annexed
to the United States. Some of our extreme ad-
vocates of territorial expansion might spend a
profitable few weeks on one of those favored
isles. A brief association with that cabritt-bois
would be likely to cool the enthusiasm of the
most ardent imperialist.
An incalculable amount of specious sentiment
has been lavished upon daybreak, chiefly by poets
who breakfasted, when they did breakfast, at
mid-day. It is charitably to be said that their
practice was better than their precept--or their
poetry. Thomson, the author of "The Castle
of Indolence," who gave birth to the depraved

Falsely luxurious, will not man awake,

was one of the laziest men of his century. He
customarily lay in bed until noon meditating
pentameters on sunrise. This creature used to
be seen in his garden of an afternoon, with both
hands in his waistcoat pockets, eating peaches
from a pendent bough. Nearly all the English
poets who at that epoch celebrated what they
called "the effulgent orb of day" were denizens
of London, where pure sunshine is unknown
eleven months out of the twelve.
In a great city there are few incentives to
early rising. What charm is there in roof-tops
and chimney-stacks to induce one to escape even
from a nightmare? What is more depressing
than a city street before the shop-windows have
lifted an eyelid, when "the very houses seem
asleep," as Wordsworth says, and nobody is
astir but the belated burglar or the milk-and-
water man or Mary washing off the front steps?
Daybreak at the seaside or up among the moun-
tains is sometimes worth while, though famil-
iarity with it breeds indifference. The man
forced by restlessness or occupation to drink the
first vintage of the morning every day of his life
has no right appreciation of the beverage, how-
ever much he may profess to relish it. It is
only your habitual late riser who takes in the
full flavor of Nature at those rare intervals when
he gets up to go a-fishing. He brings virginal
emotions and unsatiated eyes to the sparkling
freshness of earth and stream and sky. For him
--a momentary Adam--the world is newly
created. It is Eden come again, with Eve in the
similitude of a three-pound trout.
In the country, then, it is well enough occa-
sionally to dress by candle-light and assist at the
ceremony of dawn; it is well if for no other
purpose than to disarm the intolerance of the
professional early riser who, were he in a state
of perfect health, would not be the wandering
victim of insomnia, and boast of it. There are
few small things more exasperating than this
early bird with the worm of his conceit in his


IN the first volume of Miss Dickinson's poet-
ical melange is a little poem which needs
only a slight revision of the initial stanza to
entitle it to rank with some of the swallow-
flights in Heine's lyrical intermezzo. I have ten-
tatively tucked a rhyme into that opening stanza:

I taste a liquor never brewed
In vats upon the Rhine;
No tankard ever held a draught
Of alcohol like mine.

Inebriate of air am I,
And debauchee of dew,
Reeling, through endless summer days,
From inns of molten blue.

When landlords turn the drunken bee
Out of the Foxglove's door,
When butterflies renounce their drams,
I shall but drink the more!
Till seraphs swing their snowy caps
And saints to windows run,
To see the little tippler
Leaning against the sun!

Those inns of molten blue, and the disreputable
honey-gatherer who gets himself turned out-of-
doors at the sign of the Foxglove, are very
taking matters. I know of more important
things that interest me vastly less. This is one
of the ten or twelve brief pieces so nearly per-
fect in structure as almost to warrant the reader
in suspecting that Miss Dickinson's general dis-
regard of form was a deliberate affectation. The
artistic finish of the following sunset-piece
makes her usual quatrains unforgivable:

This is the land the sunset washes,
These are the banks of the Yellow Sea;
Where it rose, or whither it rushes,
These are the western mystery!

Night after night her purple traffic
Strews the landing with opal bales;
Merchantmen poise upon horizons,
Dip, and vanish with fairy sails.

The little picture has all the opaline atmosphere
of a Claude Lorraine. One instantly frames it
in one's memory. Several such bits of impres-
sionist landscape may be found in the portfolio.
It is to be said, in passing, that there are few
things in Miss Dickinson's poetry so felicitous
as Mr. Higginson's characterization of it in his
preface to the volume: "In many cases these
verses will seem to the reader like poetry
pulled up by the roots
, with rain and dew and
earth clinging to them." Possibly it might be
objected that this is not the best way to gather
either flowers or poetry.
Miss Dickinson possessed an extremely un-
conventional and bizarre mind. She was deeply
tinged by the mysticism of Blake, and strongly
influenced by the mannerism of Emerson. The
very gesture with which she tied her bonnet-
strings, preparatory to one of her nun-like
walks in her garden at Amherst, must
have had something dreamy and Emersonian
in it. She had much fancy of a quaint kind,
but only, as it appears to me, intermittent
flashes of imagination.
That Miss Dickinson's memoranda have a cer-
tain something which, for want of a more pre-
cise name, we term quality, is not to be denied.
But the incoherence and shapelessness of the
greater part of her verse are fatal. On nearly
every page one lights upon an unsupported
exquisite line or a lonely happy epithet; but a
single happy epithet or an isolated exquisite line
does not constitute a poem. What Lowell says
of Dr. Donne applies in a manner to Miss
Dickinson: "Donne is full of salient verses
that would take the rudest March winds of
criticism with their beauty, of thoughts that first
tease us like charades and then delight us with
the felicity of their solution; but these have not
saved him. He is exiled to the limbo of the
formless and the fragmentary."
Touching this question of mere technique Mr.
Ruskin has a word to say (it appears that he
said it "in his earlier and better days"), and
Mr. Higginson quotes it: "No weight, nor
mass, nor beauty of execution can outweigh one
grain or fragment of thought." This is a pro-
position to which one would cordially subscribe
if it were not so intemperately stated. A sug-
gestive commentary on Mr. Ruskin's impressive
dictum is furnished by his own volume of verse.
The substance of it is weighty enough, but the
workmanship lacks just that touch which dis-
tinguishes the artist from the bungler--the
touch which Mr. Ruskin, except when writing
prose, appears not much to have regarded either
in his later or "in his earlier and better days."
Miss Dickinson's stanzas, with their impos-
sible rhyme, their involved significance, their
interrupted flute-note of birds that have no con-
tinuous music, seem to have caught the ear of a
group of eager listeners. A shy New England
bluebird, shifting its light load of song, has for
the moment been mistaken for a stray nightingale.


I WENT to see a play the other night, one of
those good old-fashioned English comedies
that are in five acts and seem to be in fifteen.
The piece with its wrinkled conventionality, its
archaic stiffness, and obsolete code of morals,
was devoid of interest excepting as a collection
of dramatic curios. Still I managed to sit it
through. The one thing in it that held me a
pleased spectator was the graceful costume of a
certain player who looked like a fine old por-
trait--by Vandyke or Velasquez, let us say--
that had come to life and kicked off its tar-
nished frame.
I do not know at what epoch of the world's
history the scene of the play was laid; possibly
the author originally knew, but it was evident
that the actors did not, for their make-ups re-
presented quite antagonistic periods. This cir-
cumstance, however, detracted only slightly from
the special pleasure I took in the young person
called Delorme. He was not in himself inter-
esting; he was like that Major Waters in
"Pepys's Diary"--"a most amorous melan-
choly gentleman who is under a despayr in love,
which makes him bad company;" it was en-
tirely Delorme's dress.

I never saw mortal man in a dress more sen-
sible and becoming. The material was accord-
ing to Polonius's dictum, rich but not gaudy, of
some dark cherry-colored stuff with trimmings
of a deeper shade. My idea of a doublet is so
misty that I shall not venture to affirm that the
gentleman wore a doublet. It was a loose coat
of some description hanging negligently from
the shoulders and looped at the throat, showing
a tasteful arrangement of lacework below and at
the wrists. Full trousers reaching to the tops of
buckskin boots, and a low-crowned soft hat--
not a Puritan's sugar-loaf, but a picturesque
shapeless head-gear, one side jauntily fastened
up with a jewel--completed the essential por-
tions of our friend's attire. It was a costume to
walk in, to ride in, to sit in. The wearer of it
could not be awkward if he tried, and I will do
Delorme the justice to say that he put his dress
to some severe tests. But he was graceful all
the while, and made me wish that my country-
men would throw aside their present hideous
habiliments and hasten to the measuring-room
of Delorme's tailor.
In looking over the plates of an old book of
fashions we smile at the monstrous attire in
which our worthy great-grandsires saw fit to
deck themselves. Presently it will be the turn
of posterity to smile at us, for in our own way
we are no less ridiculous than were our ances-
tors in their knee-breeches, pig-tail and chapeau
de bras
. In fact we are really more absurd. If
a fashionably dressed man of to-day could catch
a single glimpse of himself through the eyes of
his descendants four or five generations re-
moved, he would have a strong impression of
being something that had escaped from some-
Whatever strides we may have made in arts
and sciences, we have made no advance in the
matter of costume. That Americans do not
tattoo themselves, and do go fully clad--I am
speaking exclusively of my own sex--is about
all that can be said in favor of our present
fashions. I wish I had the vocabulary of Herr
Teufelsdrockh with which to inveigh against
the dress-coat of our evening parties, the angu-
lar swallow-tailed coat that makes a man look
like a poor species of bird and gets him mis-
taken for the waiter. "As long as a man wears
the modern coat," says Leigh Hunt, "he has no
right to despise any dress. What snips at the
collar and lapels! What a mechanical and ridic-
ulous cut about the flaps! What buttons in front
that are never meant to button, and yet are no
ornament! And what an exquisitely absurd pair
of buttons at the back! gravely regarded, never-
theless, and thought as indispensably necessary
to every well-conditioned coat, as other bits of
metal or bone are to the bodies of savages whom
we laugh at. There is absolutely not one iota of
sense, grace, or even economy in the modern
Still more deplorable is the ceremonial hat of
the period. That a Christian can go about un-
abashed with a shiny black cylinder on his head
shows what civilization has done for us in the
way of taste in personal decoration. The scalp-
lock of an Apache brave has more style. When
an Indian squaw comes into a frontier settle-
ment the first "marked-down" article she pur-
chases is a section of stove-pipe. Her instinct
as to the eternal fitness of things tells her that
its proper place is on the skull of a barbarian.
It was while revolving these pleasing reflec-
tions in my mind, that our friend Delorme
walked across the stage in the fourth act, and
though there was nothing in the situation nor in
the text of the play to warrant it, I broke into
tremendous applause, from which I desisted
only at the scowl of an usher--an object in a
celluloid collar and a claw-hammer coat. My
solitary ovation to Master Delorme was an in-
voluntary and, I think, pardonable protest against
the male costume of our own time.


EXCEPTING on the ground that youth is
the age of vain fantasy, there is no ac-
counting for the fact that young men and young
women of poetical temperament should so fre-
quently assume to look upon an early demise
for themselves as the most desirable thing in
the world. Though one may incidentally be
tempted to agree with them in the abstract, one
cannot help wondering. That persons who are
exceptionally fortunate in their environment, and
in private do not pretend to be otherwise, should
openly announce their intention of retiring at
once into the family tomb, is a problem not
easily solved. The public has so long listened
to these funereal solos that if a few of the poets
thus impatient to be gone were to go, their de-
parture would perhaps be attended by that re-
signed speeding which the proverb invokes on
behalf of the parting guest.
The existence of at least one magazine editor
would, I know, have a shadow lifted from it.
At this writing, in a small mortuary basket
under his desk are seven or eight poems of so
gloomy a nature that he would not be able to
remain in the same room with them if he did
not suspect the integrity of their pessimism.
The ring of a false coin is not more recognizable
than that of a rhyme setting forth a simulated
The Miss Gladys who sends a poem entitled
"Forsaken," in which she addresses death as her
only friend, makes pictures in the editor's eyes.
He sees, among other dissolving views, a little
hoyden in magnificent spirits, perhaps one of
this season's social buds, with half a score of
lovers ready to pluck her from the family stem
--a rose whose countless petals are coupons. A
caramel has disagreed with her, or she would
not have written in this despondent vein. The
young man who seeks to inform the world in
eleven anaemic stanzas of terze rime that the
cup of happiness has been forever dashed from
his lip (he appears to have but one) and darkly
intimates that the end is "nigh" (rhyming af-
fably with "sigh"), will probably be engaged
a quarter of a century from now in making simi-
lar declarations. He is simply echoing some
dysthymic poet of the past--reaching out with
some other man's hat for the stray nickel of your
This morbidness seldom accompanies gen-
uine poetic gifts. The case of David Gray, the
young Scottish poet who died in 1861, is an in-
stance to the contrary. His lot was exceedingly
sad, and the failure of health just as he was on
the verge of achieving something like success
justified his profound melancholy; but that he
tuned this melancholy and played upon it, as if
it were a musical instrument, is plainly seen in
one of his sonnets.
In Monckton Milnes's (Lord Houghton's)
"Life and Letters of John Keats" it is related
that Keats, one day, on finding a stain of blood
upon his lips after coughing, said to his friend
Charles Brown: "I know the color of that blood;
it is arterial blood; I cannot be deceived. That
drop is my death-warrant. I must die." Who
that ever read the passage could forget it? David
Gray did not, for he versified the incident as
happening to himself and appropriated, as his
own, Keats's comment:

Last night, on coughing slightly with sharp pain,
There came arterial blood, and with a sigh
Of absolute grief I cried in bitter vein,
That drop is my death-warrant; I must die.

The incident was likely enough a personal
experience, but the comment should have been
placed in quotation marks. I know of few
stranger things in literature than this poet's
dramatization of another man's pathos. Even
Keats's epitaph--Here lies one whose name
was writ in water--finds an echo in David Gray's
Below lies one whose name was traced in sand.
Poor Gray was at least the better prophet.


A LIMITED edition of this little volume
of verse, which seems to me in many re-
spects unique, was issued in 1885, and has long
been out of print. The reissue of the book is
in response to the desire off certain readers who
have not forgotten the charm which William
Young's poem exercised upon them years ago,
and, finding the charm still potent, would have
others share it.
The scheme of the poem, for it is a poem
and not simply a series of unrelated lyrics, is in-
genious and original, and unfolds itself in mea-
sures at once strong and delicate. The mood of
the poet and the method of the playwright are
obvious throughout. Wishmakers' Town--a
little town situated in the no-man's-land of "The
Tempest" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
--is shown to us as it awakens, touched by the
dawn. The clangor of bells far and near calls
the townfolk to their various avocations, the
toiler to his toil, the idler to his idleness, the
miser to his gold. In swift and picturesque se-
quence the personages of the Masque pass be-
fore us. Merchants, hucksters, players, lovers,
gossips, soldiers, vagabonds, and princes crowd
the scene, and have in turn their word of poign-
ant speech. We mingle with the throng in the
streets; we hear the whir of looms and the din
of foundries, the blare of trumpets, the whisper
of lovers, the scandals of the market-place, and,
in brief, are let into all the secrets of the busy
microcosm. A contracted stage, indeed, yet
large enough for the play of many passions, as
the narrowest hearthstone may be. With the
sounding of the curfew, the town is hushed to
sleep again, and the curtain falls on this mimic
drama of life.
The charm of it all is not easily to be defined.
Perhaps if one could name it, the spell were
broken. Above the changing rhythms hangs
an atmosphere too evasive for measurement--an
atmosphere that stipulates an imaginative mood
on the part of the reader. The quality which
pleases in certain of the lyrical episodes is less
intangible. One readily explains one's liking
for so gracious a lyric as The Flower-Seller, to
select an example at random. Next to the plea-
sure that lies in the writing of such exquisite
verse is the pleasure of quoting it. I copy the
stanzas partly for my own gratification, and
partly to win the reader to "Wishmakers'
Town," not knowing better how to do it.

Myrtle, and eglantine,
For the old love and the new!
And the columbine,
With its cap and bells, for folly!
And the daffodil, for the hopes of youth! and the rue,
For melancholy!
But of all the blossoms that blow,
Fair gallants all, I charge you to win, if ye may,
This gentle guest,
Who dreams apart, in her wimple of purple and gray,
Like the blessed Virgin, with meek head bending low
Upon her breast.
For the orange flower
Ye may buy as ye will: but the violet of the wood
Is the love of maidenhood;
And he that hath worn it but once, though but for an hour,
He shall never again, though he wander by many a stream,
No, never again shall he meet with a dower that shall seem
So sweet and pure; and forever, in after years,
At the thought of its bloom, or the fragrance of its breath,
The past shall arise,
And his eyes shall be dim with tears,
And his soul shall be far in the gardens of Paradise
Though he stand in the Shambles of death.

In a different tone, but displaying the same
sureness of execution, is the cry of the lowly
folk, the wretched pawns in the great game of

Prince, and Bishop, and Knight, and Dame,
Plot, and plunder, and disagree!
O but the game is a royal game!
O but your tourneys are fair to see!

None too hopeful we found our lives;
Sore was labor from day to day;
Still we strove for our babes and wives--
Now, to the trumpet, we march away!

"Why?"--For some one hath will'd it so!
Nothing we know of the why or the where--
To swamp, or jungle, or wastes of snow--
Nothing we know, and little we care.

Give us to kill!--since this is the end
Of love and labor in Nature's plan;
Give us to kill and ravish and rend,
Yea, since this is the end of man.

States shall perish, and states be born:
Leaders, out of the throng, shall press;
Some to honor, and some to scorn:
We, that are little, shall yet be less.

Over our lines shall the vultures soar;
Hard on our flanks shall the jackals cry;
And the dead shall be as the sands of the shore;
And daily the living shall pray to die.

Nay, what matter!--When all is said,
Prince and Bishop will plunder still:
Lord and Lady must dance and wed.
Pity us, pray for us, ye that will!

It is only the fear of impinging on Mr.
Young's copyright that prevents me reprinting
the graphic ballad of The Wanderer and the
prologue of The Strollers, which reads like a page
from the prelude to some Old-World miracle
play. The setting of these things is frequently
antique, but the thought is the thought of to-
day. I think there is a new generation of
readers for such poetry as Mr. Young's. I ven-
ture the prophecy that it will not lack for them
later when the time comes for the inevitable
rearrangement of present poetic values.
The author of "Wishmakers' Town" is the
child of his period, and has not escaped the ma-
ladie du siecle
. The doubt and pessimism that
marked the end of the nineteenth century find a
voice in the bell-like strophes with which the
volume closes. It is the dramatist rather than
the poet who speaks here. The real message of
the poet to mankind is ever one of hope. Amid
the problems that perplex and discourage, it is
for him to sing

Of what the world shall be
When the years have died away.


IN default of such an admirable piece of work
as Dr. Weir Mitchell's "Hugh Wynne," I
like best those fictions which deal with king-
doms and principalities that exist only in the
mind's eye. One's knowledge of actual events
and real personages runs no serious risk of re-
ceiving shocks in this no-man's-land. Everything
that happens in an imaginary realm--in the
realm of Ruritania, for illustration--has an air
of possibility, at least a shadowy vraisemblance.
The atmosphere and local color, having an au-
thenticity of their own, are not to be challenged.
You cannot charge the writer with ignorance of
the period in which his narrative is laid, since
the period is as vague as the geography. He
walks on safe ground, eluding many of the perils
that beset the story-teller who ventures to stray
beyond the bounds of the make-believe. One
peril he cannot escape--that of misrepresenting
human nature.
The anachronisms of the average historical
novel, pretending to reflect history, are among
its minor defects. It is a thing altogether won-
derfully and fearfully made--the imbecile in-
trigue, the cast-iron characters, the plumed and
armored dialogue with its lance of gory rheto-
ric forever at charge. The stage at its worst
moments is not so unreal. Here art has broken
into smithereens the mirror which she is sup-
posed to hold up to nature.
In this romance-world somebody is always
somebody's unsuspected father, mother, or child,
deceiving every one excepting the reader. Usu-
ally the anonymous person is the hero, to whom
it is mere recreation to hold twenty swordsmen
at bay on a staircase, killing ten or twelve of
them before he escapes through a door that ever
providentially opens directly behind him. How
tired one gets of that door! The "caitiff" in
these chronicles of when knighthood was in
flower is invariably hanged from "the highest
battlement"--the second highest would not do
at all; or else he is thrown into "the deepest
dungeon of the castle"--the second deepest
dungeon was never known to be used on these
occasions. The hero habitually "cleaves" his
foeman "to the midriff," the "midriff" being
what the properly brought up hero always has
in view. A certain fictional historian of my
acquaintance makes his swashbuckler exclaim:
"My sword will [shall] kiss his midriff;" but
that is an exceptionally lofty flight of diction.
My friend's heroine dresses as a page, and in
the course of long interviews with her lover re-
mains unrecognized--a diaphanous literary in-
vention that must have been old when the Pyra-
mids were young. The heroine's small brother,
with playful archaicism called "a springald,"
puts on her skirts and things and passes him-
self off for his sister or anybody else he pleases.
In brief, there is no puerility that is not at home
in this sphere of misbegotten effort. Listen--
a priest, a princess, and a young man in woman's
clothes are on the scene:

The princess rose to her feet and
approached the priest.
"Father," she said swiftly, "this
is not the Lady Joan, my brother's
wife, but a youth marvelously like
her, who hath offered himself in
her place that she might escape. . . .
He is the Count von Loen, a lord
of Kernsburg. And I love him. We
want you to marry us now, dear
Father--now, without a moment's
delay; for if you do not they will
kill him, and I shall have to marry
Prince Wasp!"

This is from "Joan of the Sword Hand," and
if ever I read a more silly performance I have
forgotten it.


THERE is extant in the city of New York
an odd piece of bric-a-brac which I am
sometimes tempted to wish was in my own
possession. On a bracket in Edwin Booth's
bedroom at The Players--the apartment re-
mains as he left it that solemn June day ten
years ago--stands a sadly dilapidated skull
which the elder Booth, and afterward his son
Edwin, used to soliloquize over in the grave-
yard at Elsinore in the fifth act of "Hamlet."
A skull is an object that always invokes
interest more or less poignant; it always
has its pathetic story, whether told or untold;
but this skull is especially a skull "with a
In the early forties, while playing an engage-
ment somewhere in the wild West, Junius
Brutus Booth did a series of kindnesses to a
particularly undeserving fellow, the name of
him unknown to us. The man, as it seemed,
was a combination of gambler, horse-stealer,
and highwayman--in brief, a miscellaneous
desperado, and precisely the melodramatic sort
of person likely to touch the sympathies of the
half-mad player. In the course of nature or the
law, presumably the law, the adventurer bodily
disappeared one day, and soon ceased to exist
even as a reminiscence in the florid mind of his
sometime benefactor.
As the elder Booth was seated at breakfast
one morning in a hotel in Louisville, Kentucky,
a negro boy entered the room bearing a small
osier basket neatly covered with a snowy nap-
kin. It had the general appearance of a basket
of fruit or flowers sent by some admirer, and as
such it figured for a moment in Mr. Booth's
conjecture. On lifting the cloth the actor started
from the chair with a genuine expression on his
features of that terror which he was used so
marvelously to simulate as Richard III. in the
midnight tent-scene or as Macbeth when the
ghost of Banquo usurped his seat at table.
In the pretty willow-woven basket lay the
head of Booth's old pensioner, which head the
old pensioner had bequeathed in due legal form
to the tragedian, begging him henceforth to
adopt it as one of the necessary stage properties
in the fifth act of Mr. Shakespeare's tragedy
of "Hamlet.'' "Take it away, you black
imp!" thundered the actor to the equally aghast
negro boy, whose curiosity had happily not
prompted him to investigate the dark nature of
his burden.
Shortly afterward, however, the horse-stealer's
residuary legatee, recovering from the first shock
of his surprise, fell into the grim humor of the
situation, and proceeded to carry out to the
letter the testator's whimsical request. Thus it
was that the skull came to secure an engage-
ment to play the role of poor Yorick in J. B.
Booth's company of strolling players, and to
continue a while longer to glimmer behind the
footlights in the hands of his famous son.
Observing that the grave-digger in his too
eager realism was damaging the thing--the
marks of his pick and spade are visible on the
cranium--Edwin Booth presently replaced it
with a papier-mache counterfeit manufactured
in the property-room of the theatre. During
his subsequent wanderings in Australia and
California, he carefully preserved the relic,
which finally found repose on the bracket in
How often have I sat, of an afternoon, in
that front room on the fourth floor of the club-
house in Gramercy Park, watching the winter
or summer twilight gradually softening and
blurring the sharp outline of the skull until it
vanished uncannily into the gloom! Edwin
Booth had forgotten, if ever he knew, the name
of the man; but I had no need of it in order to
establish acquaintance with poor Yorick. In
this association I was conscious of a deep tinge
of sentiment on my own part, a circumstance
not without its queerness, considering how very
distant the acquaintance really was.
Possibly he was a fellow of infinite jest in his
day; he was sober enough now, and in no way
disposed to indulge in those flashes of merri-
ment "that were wont to set the table on a
roar." But I did not regret his evaporated
hilarity; I liked his more befitting genial si-
lence, and had learned to look upon his rather
open countenance with the same friendliness as
that with which I regarded the faces of less
phantasmal members of the club. He had be-
come to me a dramatic personality as distinct as
that of any of the Thespians I met in the grill-
room or the library.
Yorick's feeling in regard to me was a sub-
ject upon which I frequently speculated. There
was at intervals an alert gleam of intelligence
in those cavernous eye-sockets, as if the sudden
remembrance of some old experience had illu-
mined them. He had been a great traveler, and
had known strange vicissitudes in life; his stage
career had brought him into contact with a
varied assortment of men and women, and ex-
tended his horizon. His more peaceful profes-
sion of holding up mail-coaches on lonely roads
had surely not been without incident. It was
inconceivable that all this had left no impres-
sions. He must have had at least a faint recol-
lection of the tempestuous Junius Brutus Booth.
That Yorick had formed his estimate of me, and
probably not a flattering one, is something of
which I am strongly convinced.
At the death of Edwin Booth, poor Yorick
passed out of my personal cognizance, and now
lingers an incongruous shadow amid the mem-
ories of the precious things I lost then.
The suite of apartments formerly occupied by
Edwin Booth at The Players has been, as I have
said, kept unchanged--a shrine to which from
time to time some loving heart makes silent
pilgrimage. On a table in the centre of his
bedroom lies the book just where he laid it
down, an ivory paper-cutter marking the page
his eyes last rested upon; and in this chamber,
with its familiar pictures, pipes, and ornaments,
the skull finds its proper sanctuary. If at odd
moments I wish that by chance poor Yorick
had fallen to my care, the wish is only half-
hearted, though had that happened, I would
have given him welcome to the choicest corner
in my study and tenderly cherished him for the
sake of one who comes no more.


One that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!--King Lear.

THE material for this paper on the auto-
graph hunter, his ways and his manners,
has been drawn chiefly from experiences not
my own. My personal relations with him have
been comparatively restricted, a circumstance
to which I owe the privilege of treating the
subject with a freedom that might otherwise not
seem becoming.
No author is insensible to the compliment in-
volved in a request for his autograph, assuming
the request to come from some sincere lover of
books and bookmen. It is an affair of different
complection when he is importuned to give time
and attention to the innumerable unknown who
"collect" autographs as they would collect post-
age stamps, with no interest in the matter be-
yond the desire to accumulate as many as possi-
ble. The average autograph hunter, with his
purposeless insistence, reminds one of the queen
in Stockton's story whose fad was "the button-
holes of all nations."
In our population of eighty millions and up-
ward there are probably two hundred thousand
persons interested more or less in what is termed
the literary world. This estimate is absurdly
low, but it serves to cast a sufficient side-light
upon the situation. Now, any unit of these two
hundred thousand is likely at any moment to in-
dite a letter to some favorite novelist, historian,
poet, or what not. It will be seen, then, that
the autograph hunter is no inconsiderable per-
son. He has made it embarrassing work for the
author fortunate or unfortunate enough to be re-
garded as worth while. Every mail adds to his
reproachful pile of unanswered letters. If he
have a conscience, and no amanuensis, he quickly
finds himself tangled in the meshes of endless
and futile correspondence. Through policy,
good nature, or vanity he is apt to become facile
A certain literary collector once confessed in
print that he always studied the idiosyncrasies
of his "subject" as carefully as another sort of
collector studies the plan of the house to which
he meditates a midnight visit. We were as-
sured that with skillful preparation and adroit
approach an autograph could be extracted from
anybody. According to the revelations of the
writer, Bismarck, Queen Victoria, and Mr.
Gladstone had their respective point of easy
access--their one unfastened door or window,
metaphorically speaking. The strongest man
has his weak side.
Dr. Holmes's affability in replying to every
one who wrote to him was perhaps not a trait
characteristic of the elder group. Mr. Lowell,
for instance, was harder-hearted and rather diffi-
cult to reach. I recall one day in the library at
Elmwood. As I was taking down a volume
from the shelf a sealed letter escaped from the
pages and fluttered to my feet. I handed it to
Mr. Lowell, who glanced incuriously at the
superscription. "Oh, yes," he said, smiling,
"I know 'em by instinct." Relieved of its en-
velope, the missive turned out to be eighteen
months old, and began with the usual amusing
solecism: "As one of the most famous of
American authors I would like to possess your
Each recipient of such requests has of course
his own way of responding. Mr. Whittier used
to be obliging; Mr. Longfellow politic; Mr.
Emerson, always philosophical, dreamily con-
fiscated the postage stamps.
Time was when the collector contented him-
self with a signature on a card; but that, I am
told, no longer satisfies. He must have a letter
addressed to him personally--"on any subject
you please," as an immature scribe lately sug-
gested to an acquaintance of mine. The in-
genuous youth purposed to flourish a letter in the
faces of his less fortunate competitors, in order
to show them that he was on familiar terms with
the celebrated So-and-So. This or a kindred
motive is the spur to many a collector. The
stratagems he employs to compass his end are
inexhaustible. He drops you an off-hand note
to inquire in what year you first published your
beautiful poem entitled "A Psalm of Life." If
you are a simple soul, you hasten to assure him
that you are not the author of that poem, which
he must have confused with your "Rime of the
Ancient Mariner"--and there you are. Another
expedient is to ask if your father's middle name
was not Hierophilus. Now, your father has
probably been dead many years, and as perhaps
he was not a public man in his day, you are
naturally touched that any one should have in-
terest in him after this long flight of time. In
the innocence of your heart you reply by the
next mail that your father's middle name was
not Hierophilus, but Epaminondas--and there
you are again. It is humiliating to be caught
swinging, like a simian ancestor, on a branch
of one's genealogical tree.
Some morning you find beside your plate at
breakfast an imposing parchment with a great
gold seal in the upper left-hand corner. This
document--I am relating an actual occurrence
--announces with a flourish that you have unan-
imously been elected an honorary member of
The Kalamazoo International Literary Associa-
tion. Possibly the honor does not take away
your respiration; but you are bound by courtesy
to make an acknowledgment, and you express
your insincere thanks to the obliging secretary
of a literary organization which does not exist
anywhere on earth.
A scheme of lighter creative touch is that of
the correspondent who advises you that he is
replenishing his library and desires a detailed
list of your works, with the respective dates of
their first issue, price, style of binding, etc. A
bibliophile, you say to yourself. These inter-
rogations should of course have been addressed
to your publisher; but they are addressed to
you, with the stereotyped "thanks in advance."
The natural inference is that the correspondent,
who writes in a brisk commercial vein, wishes
to fill out his collection of your books, or, pos-
sibly, to treat himself to a complete set in full
crushed Levant. Eight or ten months later this
individual, having forgotten (or hoping you
will not remember) that he has already de-
manded a chronological list of your writings,
forwards another application couched in the
self-same words. The length of time it takes
him to "replenish" his library (with your
books) strikes you as pathetic. You cannot
control your emotions sufficiently to pen a
reply. From a purely literary point of view
this gentleman cares nothing whatever for your
holograph; from a mercantile point of view
he cares greatly and likes to obtain duplicate
specimens, which he disposes of to dealers in
such frail merchandise.
The pseudo-journalist who is engaged in
preparing a critical and biographical sketch of
you, and wants to incorporate, if possible, some
slight hitherto unnoted event in your life--a
signed photograph and a copy of your book-
plate are here in order--is also a character
which periodically appears upon the scene. In
this little Comedy of Deceptions there are as
many players as men have fancies.
A brother slave-of-the-lamp permits me to
transfer this leaf from the book of his experi-
ence: "Not long ago the postman brought me
a letter of a rather touching kind. The unknown
writer, lately a widow, and plainly a woman of
refinement, had just suffered a new affliction in
the loss of her little girl. My correspondent
asked me to copy for her ten or a dozen lines
from a poem which I had written years before
on the death of a child. The request was so
shrinkingly put, with such an appealing air of
doubt as to its being heeded, that I immediately
transcribed the entire poem, a matter of a hun-
dred lines or so, and sent it to her. I am unable
to this day to decide whether I was wholly hurt
or wholly amused when, two months afterward,
I stumbled over my manuscript, with a neat
price attached to it, in a second-hand book-
Perhaps the most distressing feature of the
whole business is the very poor health which
seems to prevail among autograph hunters. No
other class of persons in the community shows
so large a percentage of confirmed invalids.
There certainly is some mysterious connection
between incipient spinal trouble and the col-
lecting of autographs. Which superinduces the
other is a question for pathology. It is a fact
that one out of every eight applicants for a
specimen of penmanship bases his or her claim
upon the possession of some vertebral disability
which leaves him or her incapable of doing
anything but write to authors for their auto-
graph. Why this particular diversion should be
the sole resource remains undisclosed. But so
it appears to be, and the appeal to one's sympa-
thy is most direct and persuasive. Personally,
however, I have my suspicions, suspicions that
are shared by several men of letters, who have
come to regard this plea of invalidism, in the
majority of cases, as simply the variation of a
very old and familiar tune. I firmly believe
that the health of autograph hunters, as a class,
is excellent.



A LITTLE over three hundred years ago
England had given to her a poet of the
very rarest lyrical quality, but she did not dis-
cover the fact for more than a hundred and
fifty years afterward. The poet himself was
aware of the fact at once, and stated it, perhaps
not too modestly, in countless quatrains and
couplets, which were not read, or, if read, were
not much regarded at the moment. It has al-
ways been an incredulous world in this matter.
So many poets have announced their arrival,
and not arrived!
Robert Herrick was descended in a direct
line from an ancient family in Lincolnshire, the
Eyricks, a mentionable representative of which
was John Eyrick of Leicester, the poet's grand-
father, admitted freeman in 1535, and afterward
twice made mayor of the town. John Eyrick
or Heyricke--he spelled his name recklessly--
had five sons, the second of which sought a
career in London, where he became a gold-
smith, and in December, 1582, married Julian
Stone, spinster, of Bedfordshire, a sister to
Anne, Lady Soame, the wife of Sir Stephen
Soame. One of the many children of this mar-
riage was Robert Herrick.
It is the common misfortune of the poet's
biographers, though it was the poet's own great
good fortune, that the personal interviewer was
an unknown quantity at the period when Her-
rick played his part on the stage of life. Of
that performance, in its intimate aspects, we
have only the slightest record.
Robert Herrick was born in Wood street,
Cheapside, London, in 1591, and baptized at
St. Vedast's, Foster Lane, on August 24 of that
year. He had several brothers and sisters, with
whom we shall not concern ourselves. It would
be idle to add the little we know about these
persons to the little we know about Herrick
himself. He is a sufficient problem without
dragging in the rest of the family.
When the future lyrist was fifteen months old
his father, Nicholas Herrick, made his will,
and immediately fell out of an upper win-
dow. Whether or not this fall was an intended
sequence to the will, the high almoner, Dr.
Fletcher, Bishop of Bristol, promptly put in
his claim to the estate, "all goods and chattels
of suicides" becoming his by law. The cir-
cumstances were suspicious, though not conclu-
sive, and the good bishop, after long litigation,
consented to refer the case to arbitrators, who
awarded him two hundred and twenty pounds,
thus leaving the question at issue--whether or
not Herrick's death had been his own premedi-
tated act--still wrapped in its original mystery.
This singular law, which had the possible effect
of inducing high almoners to encourage suicide
among well-to-do persons of the lower and
middle classes, was afterward rescinded.
Nicholas Herrick did not leave his household
destitute, for his estate amounted to five thousand
pounds, that is to say, twenty-five thousand
pounds in to-day's money; but there were many
mouths to feed. The poet's two uncles, Robert
Herrick and William Herrick of Beaumanor,
the latter subsequently knighted <1> for his useful-
ness as jeweller and money-lender to James I.,
were appointed guardians to the children.
Young Robert appears to have attended school
in Westminster until his fifteenth year, when
he was apprenticed to Sir William, who had
learned the gentle art of goldsmith from his
nephew's father. Though Robert's indentures

<1> Dr. Grosart, in his interesting and valuable Memorial-Intro-
duction to Herrick's poems, quotes this curious item from Win-
wood's Manorials of Affairs of State: "On Easter Tuesday [1605],
one Mr. William Herrick, a goldsmith in Cheapside, was Knighted
for making a Hole in the great Diamond the King cloth wear. The
party little expected the honour, but he did his work so well as
won the King to an extraordinary liking of it."
bound him for ten years, Sir William is sup-
posed to have offered no remonstrance when he
was asked, long before that term expired, to
cancel the engagement and allow Robert to enter
Cambridge, which he did as fellow-commoner
at St. John's College. At the end of two years
he transferred himself to Trinity Hall, with a
view to economy and the pursuit of the law--
the two frequently go together. He received
his degree of B. A. in 1617, and his M. A. in
1620, having relinquished the law for the arts.
During this time he was assumed to be in
receipt of a quarterly allowance of ten pounds--
a not illiberal provision, the pound being then
five times its present value; but as the payments
were eccentric, the master of arts was in recur-
rent distress. If this money came from his own
share of his father's estate, as seems likely,
Herrick had cause for complaint; if otherwise,
the pith is taken out of his grievance.
The Iliad of his financial woes at this juncture
is told in a few chance-preserved letters written
to his "most careful uncle," as he calls that
evidently thrifty person. In one of these mono-
tonous and dreary epistles, which are signed
"R. Hearick," the writer says: "The essence
of my writing is (as heretofore) to entreat
you to paye for my use to Mr. Arthour Johnson,
bookseller, in Paule's Churchyarde, the ordi-
narie sume of tenn pounds, and that with as
much sceleritie as you maye." He also indulges
in the natural wish that his college bills "had
leaden wings and tortice feet." This was in
1617. The young man's patrimony, whatever
it may have been, had dwindled, and he con-
fesses to "many a throe and pinches of the
purse." For the moment, at least, his prospects
were not flattering.
Robert Herrick's means of livelihood, when
in 1620 he quitted the university and went up to
London, are conjectural. It is clear that he was
not without some resources, since he did not
starve to death on his wits before he discovered
a patron in the Earl of Pembroke. In the court
circle Herrick also unearthed humbler, but per-
haps not less useful, allies in the persons of
Edward Norgate, clerk of the signet, and Master
John Crofts, cup-bearer to the king. Through
the two New Year anthems, honored by the
music of Henry Lawes, his Majesty's organist
at Westminster, it is more than possible that
Herrick was brought to the personal notice of
Charles and Henrietta Maria. All this was a
promise of success, but not success itself. It
has been thought probable that Herrick may
have secured some minor office in the chapel
at Whitehall. That would accord with his sub-
sequent appointment (September, 1627,) as
chaplain to the Duke of Buckingham's unfortu-
nate expedition of the Isle of Rhe.
Precisely when Herrick was invested with
holy orders is not ascertainable. If one may
draw an inference from his poems, the life he
led meanwhile was not such as his "most care-
ful uncle" would have warmly approved. The
literary clubs and coffee-houses of the day were
open to a free-lance like young Herrick, some
of whose blithe measures, passing in manuscript
from hand to hand, had brought him faintly to
light as a poet. The Dog and the Triple Tun
were not places devoted to worship, unless it
were to the worship of "rare Ben Jonson," at
whose feet Herrick now sat, with the other
blossoming young poets of the season. He was
a faithful disciple to the end, and addressed
many loving lyrics to the master, of which not
the least graceful is His Prayer to Ben Jonson:

When I a verse shall make,
Know I have praid thee
For old religion's sake,
Saint Ben, to aide me.

Make the way smooth for me,
When I, thy Herrick,
Honouring thee, on my knee
Offer my lyric.

Candles I'll give to thee,
And a new altar;
And thou, Saint Ben, shalt be
Writ in my Psalter.

On September 30, 1629, Charles I., at the
recommending of the Earl of Exeter, presented
Herrick with the vicarage of Dean Prior, near
Totnes, in Devonshire. Here he was destined
to pass the next nineteen years of his life among
surroundings not congenial. For Herrick to be
a mile away from London stone was for Herrick
to be in exile. Even with railway and tele-
graphic interruptions from the outside world,
the dullness of a provincial English town of to-
day is something formidable. The dullness of a
sequestered English hamlet in the early part of
the seventeenth century must have been appall-
ing. One is dimly conscious of a belated throb
of sympathy for Robert Herrick. Yet, however
discontented or unhappy he may have been at
first in that lonely vicarage, the world may con-
gratulate itself on the circumstances that stranded
him there, far from the distractions of the town,
and with no other solace than his Muse, for there
it was he wrote the greater number of the poems
which were to make his fame. It is to this acci-
dental banishment to Devon that we owe the
cluster of exquisite pieces descriptive of obso-
lete rural manners and customs--the Christ-
mas masks, the Twelfth-night mummeries, the
morris-dances, and the May-day festivals.
The November following Herrick's appoint-
ment to the benefice was marked by the death
of his mother, who left him no heavier legacy
than "a ringe of twenty shillings." Perhaps
this was an understood arrangement between
them; but it is to be observed that, though Her-
rick was a spendthrift in epitaphs, he wasted no
funeral lines on Julian Herrick. In the matter
of verse he dealt generously with his family
down to the latest nephew. One of his most
charming and touching poems is entitled To
His Dying Brother, Master William Herrick,
a posthumous son. There appear to have been
two brothers named William. The younger,
who died early, is supposed to be referred to
The story of Herrick's existence at Dean Prior
is as vague and bare of detail as the rest of the
narrative. His parochial duties must have been
irksome to him, and it is to be imagined that he
wore his cassock lightly. As a preparation for
ecclesiastical life he forswore sack and poetry;
but presently he was with the Muse again, and
his farewell to sack was in a strictly Pickwickian
sense. Herrick had probably accepted the vicar-
ship as he would have accepted a lieutenancy in
a troop of horse--with an eye to present emol-
ument and future promotion. The promotion
never came, and the emolument was nearly as
scant as that of Goldsmith's parson, who con-
sidered himself "passing rich with forty pounds
a year"--a height of optimism beyond the
reach of Herrick, with his expensive town wants
and habits. But fifty pounds--the salary of his
benefice--and possible perquisites in the way
of marriage and burial fees would enable him to
live for the time being. It was better than a
possible nothing a year in London.
Herrick's religious convictions were assuredly
not deeper than those of the average layman.
Various writers have taken a different view of
the subject; but it is inconceivable that a clergy-
man with a fitting sense of his function could
have written certain of the poems which Her-
rick afterward gave to the world--those aston-
ishing epigrams upon his rustic enemies, and
those habitual bridal compliments which, among
his personal friends, must have added a terror
to matrimony. Had he written only in that vein,
the posterity which he so often invoked with
pathetic confidence would not have greatly
troubled itself about him.
It cannot positively be asserted that all the
verses in question relate to the period of his in-
cumbency, for none of his verse is dated, with
the exception of the Dialogue betwixt Horace
and Lydia. The date of some of the composi-
tions may be arrived at by induction. The re-
ligious pieces grouped under the title of Noble
Numbers distinctly associate themselves with
Dean Prior, and have little other interest. Very
few of them are "born of the royal blood."
They lack the inspiration and magic of his secu-
lar poetry, and are frequently so fantastical and
grotesque as to stir a suspicion touching the ab-
solute soundness of Herrick's mind at all times.
The lines in which the Supreme Being is as-
sured that he may read Herrick's poems with-
out taking any tincture from their sinfulness
might have been written in a retreat for the un-
balanced. "For unconscious impiety," remarks
Mr. Edmund Gosse, <1> "this rivals the famous
passage in which Robert Montgomery exhorted
God to 'pause and think.'" Elsewhere, in an
apostrophe to "Heaven," Herrick says:

Let mercy be
So kind to set me free,
And I will straight
Come in, or force the gate.

In any event, the poet did not purpose to be
left out!
Relative to the inclusion of unworthy pieces

<1> In Seventeenth-Century Studies.
and the general absence of arrangement in the
"Hesperides," Dr. Grosart advances the theory
that the printers exercised arbitrary authority on
these points. Dr. Grosart assumes that Herrick
kept the epigrams and personal tributes in
manuscript books separate from the rest of the
work, which would have made a too slender
volume by itself, and on the plea of this slender-
ness was induced to trust the two collections
to the publisher, "whereupon he or some un-
skilled subordinate proceeded to intermix these
additions with the others. That the poet him-
self had nothing to do with the arrangement or
disarrangement lies on the surface." This is an
amiable supposition, but merely a supposition.
Herrick personally placed the "copy" in the
hands of John Williams and Francis Eglesfield,
and if he were over-persuaded to allow them
to print unfit verses, and to observe no method
whatever in the contents of the book, the dis-
credit is none the less his. It is charitable to
believe that Herrick's coarseness was not the
coarseness of the man, but of the time, and that
he followed the fashion malgre lui. With re-
gard to the fairy poems, they certainly should
have been given in sequence; but if there are
careless printers, there are also authors who are
careless in the arrangement of their manuscript,
a kind of task, moreover, in which Herrick was
wholly unpractised, and might easily have made
mistakes. The "Hesperides" was his sole
Herrick was now thirty-eight years of age.
Of his personal appearance at this time we have
no description. The portrait of him prefixed to
the original edition of his works belongs to a
much later moment. Whether or not the bovine
features in Marshall's engraving are a libel on
the poet, it is to be regretted that oblivion has
not laid its erasing finger on that singularly un-
pleasant counterfeit presentment. It is interest-
ing to note that this same Marshall engraved the
head of Milton for the first collection of his mis-
cellaneous poems--the precious 1645 volume
containing Il Penseroso, Lycidas, Comus, etc.
The plate gave great offense to the serious-
minded young Milton, not only because it re-
presented him as an elderly person, but because
of certain minute figures of peasant lads and
lassies who are very indistinctly seen dancing
frivolously under the trees in the background.
Herrick had more reason to protest. The ag-
gressive face bestowed upon him by the artist
lends a tone of veracity to the tradition that the
vicar occasionally hurled the manuscript of his
sermon at the heads of his drowsy parishioners,
accompanying the missive with pregnant re-
marks. He has the aspect of one meditating
assault and battery.
To offset the picture there is much indirect
testimony to the amiability of the man, aside
from the evidence furnished by his own writ-
ings. He exhibits a fine trait in the poem on the
Bishop of Lincoln's imprisonment--a poem full
of deference and tenderness for a person who
had evidently injured the writer, probably by
opposing him in some affair of church prefer-
ment. Anthony Wood says that Herrick "be-
came much beloved by the gentry in these parts
for his florid and witty (wise) discourses." It
appears that he was fond of animals, and had a
pet spaniel called Tracy, which did not get away
without a couplet attached to him:

Now thou art dead, no eye shall ever see
For shape and service spaniell like to thee.

Among the exile's chance acquaintances was a
sparrow, whose elegy he also sings, comparing
the bird to Lesbia's sparrow, much to the latter's
disadvantage. All of Herrick's geese were swans.
On the authority of Dorothy King, the daughter
of a woman who served Herrick's successor at
Dean Prior in 1674, we are told that the poet
kept a pig, which he had taught to drink out of
a tankard--a kind of instruction he was admir-
ably qualified to impart. Dorothy was in her
ninety-ninth year when she communicated this
fact to Mr. Barron Field, the author of the
paper on Herrick published in the "Quarterly
Review" for August, 1810, and in the Boston
edition <1> of the "Hesperides" attributed to
What else do we know of the vicar? A very
favorite theme with Herrick was Herrick. Scat-
tered through his book are no fewer than twenty-
five pieces entitled On Himself, not to men-
tion numberless autobiographical hints under
other captions. They are merely hints, throw-
ing casual side-lights on his likes and dislikes,
and illuminating his vanity. A whimsical per-
sonage without any very definite outlines might
be evolved from these fragments. I picture him
as a sort of Samuel Pepys, with perhaps less
quaintness, and the poetical temperament added.
Like the prince of gossips, too, he somehow
gets at your affections. In one place Herrick

<1> The Biographical Notice prefacing this volume of The British
Poets is a remarkable production, grammatically and chronologi-
cally. On page 7 the writer speaks of Herrick as living "in habits
of intimacy" with Ben Jonson in 1648. If that was the case, Her-
rick must have taken up his quarters in Westminster Abbey, for
Jonson had been dead eleven years.
laments the threatened failure of his eyesight
(quite in what would have been Pepys's man-
ner had Pepys written verse), and in another
place he tells us of the loss of a finger. The
quatrain treating of this latter catastrophe is as
fantastic as some of Dr. Donne's concetti:

One of the five straight branches of my hand
Is lopt already, and the rest but stand
Expecting when to fall, which soon will be:
First dies the leafe, the bough next, next the tree.

With all his great show of candor Herrick really
reveals as little of himself as ever poet did. One
thing, however, is manifest--he understood and
loved music. None but a lover could have said:

The mellow touch of musick most doth wound
The soule when it doth rather sigh than sound.

Or this to Julia:

So smooth, so sweet, so silvery is thy voice,
As could they hear, the damn'd would make no noise,
But listen to thee walking in thy chamber
Melting melodious words to lutes of amber.

. . . Then let me lye
Entranc'd, and lost confusedly;
And by thy musick stricken mute,
Die, and be turn'd into a lute.

Herrick never married. His modest Devon-
shire establishment was managed by a maid-
servant named Prudence Baldwin. "Fate likes
fine names," says Lowell. That of Herrick's
maid-of-all-work was certainly a happy meeting
of gentle vowels and consonants, and has had
the good fortune to be embalmed in the amber
of what may be called a joyous little threnody:

In this little urne is laid
Prewdence Baldwin, once my maid;
From whose happy spark here let
Spring the purple violet.

Herrick addressed a number of poems to her
before her death, which seems to have deeply
touched him in his loneliness. We shall not al-
low a pleasing illusion to be disturbed by the flip-
pancy of an old writer who says that "Prue was
but indifferently qualified to be a tenth muse."
She was a faithful handmaid, and had the merit
of causing Herrick in this octave to strike a note
of sincerity not usual with him:

These summer birds did with thy master stay
The times of warmth, but then they flew away,
Leaving their poet, being now grown old,
Expos'd to all the coming winter's cold.
But thou, kind Prew, didst with my fates abide
As well the winter's as the summer's tide:
For which thy love, live with thy master here
Not two, but all the seasons of the year.

Thus much have I done for thy memory, Mis-
tress Prew!
In spite of Herrick's disparagement of Dean-
bourn, which he calls "a rude river," and
his characterization of Devon folk as "a peo-
ple currish, churlish as the seas," the fullest
and pleasantest days of his life were prob-
ably spent at Dean Prior. He was not un-
mindful meanwhile of the gathering political
storm that was to shake England to its foun-
dations. How anxiously, in his solitude, he
watched the course of events, is attested by
many of his poems. This solitude was not
without its compensation. "I confess," he

I ne'er invented such
Ennobled numbers for the presse
Than where I loath'd so much.

A man is never wholly unhappy when he is
writing verses. Herrick was firmly convinced
that each new lyric was a stone added to the
pillar of his fame, and perhaps his sense of
relief was tinged with indefinable regret when
he found himself suddenly deprived of his bene-
fice. The integrity of some of his royalistic
poems is doubtful; but he was not given the
benefit of the doubt by the Long Parliament,
which ejected the panegyrist of young Prince
Charles from the vicarage of Dean Prior, and
installed in his place the venerable John Syms,
a gentleman with pronounced Cromwellian
Herrick metaphorically snapped his fingers
at the Puritans, discarded his clerical habili-
ments, and hastened to London to pick up such
as were left of the gay-colored threads of his
old experience there. Once more he would
drink sack at the Triple Tun, once more he
would breathe the air breathed by such poets
and wits as Cotton, Denham, Shirley, Selden,
and the rest. "Yes, by Saint Anne! and gin-
ger shall be hot I' the mouth too." In the
gladness of getting back "from the dull con-
fines of the drooping west," he writes a glow-
ing apostrophe to London--that "stony step-
mother to poets." He claims to be a free-born
Roman, and is proud to find himself a citizen
again. According to his earlier biographers,
Herrick had much ado not to starve in that
same longed-for London, and fell into great
misery; but Dr. Grosart disputes this, arguing,
with justness, that Herrick's family, which was
wealthy and influential, would not have allowed
him to come to abject want. With his royal-
istic tendencies he may not have breathed quite
freely in the atmosphere of the Commonwealth,
and no doubt many tribulations fell to his lot,
but among them was not poverty.
The poet was now engaged in preparing his
works for the press, and a few weeks following
his return to London they were issued in a sin-
gle volume with the title "Hesperides; or, The
Works both Humane and Divine of Robert
Herrick, Esq."
The time was not ready for him. A new era
had dawned--the era of the commonplace.
The interval was come when Shakespeare him-
self was to lie in a kind of twilight. Herrick
was in spirit an Elizabethan, and had strayed
by chance into an artificial and prosaic age--
a sylvan singing creature alighting on an alien
planet. "He was too natural," says Mr. Pal-
grave in his Chrysomela, "too purely poetical;
he had not the learned polish, the political al-
lusion, the tone of the city, the didactic turn,
which were then and onward demanded from
poetry." Yet it is strange that a public which
had a relish for Edmund Waller should neglect
a poet who was fifty times finer than Waller
in his own specialty. What poet then, or in the
half-century that followed the Restoration, could
have written Corinna's Going a-Maying, or ap-
proached in kind the ineffable grace and perfec-
tion to be found in a score of Herrick's lyrics?
The "Hesperides" was received with chilling
indifference. None of Herrick's great contem-
poraries has left a consecrating word concerning
it. The book was not reprinted during the au-
thor's lifetime, and for more than a century after
his death Herrick was virtually unread. In 1796
the "Gentleman's Magazine" copied a few of
the poems, and two years later Dr. Nathan Drake
published in his "Literary Hours" three critical
papers on the poet, with specimens of his writ-
ings. Dr. Johnson omitted him from the "Lives
of the Poets," though space was found for half a
score of poetasters whose names are to be found
nowhere else. In 1810 Dr. Nott, a physician
of Bristol, issued a small volume of selections.
It was not until 1823 that Herrick was reprinted
in full. It remained for the taste of our own
day to multiply editions of him.
In order to set the seal to Herrick's fame, it
is now only needful that some wiseacre should
attribute the authorship of the poems to some
man who could not possibly have written a line
of them. The opportunity presents attractions
that ought to be irresistible. Excepting a hand-
ful of Herrick's college letters there is no scrap
of his manuscript extant; the men who drank
and jested with the poet at the Dog or the Triple
Tun make no reference to him; <1> and in the wide
parenthesis formed by his birth and death we
find as little tangible incident as is discover-
able in the briefer span of Shakespeare's fifty-
two years. Here is material for profundity and
Herrick's second sojourn in London covered
the period between 1648 and 1662, curing which
interim he fades from sight, excepting for the

<1> With the single exception of the writer of some verses in the
Musarum Deliciae (1656) who mentions

That old sack
Young Herrick took to entertain
The Muses in a sprightly vein.
instant when he is publishing his book. If he
engaged in further literary work there are no
evidences of it beyond one contribution to the
"Lacrymae Musarum" in 1649.
He seems to have had lodgings, for a while
at least, in St. Anne's, Westminster. With the
court in exile and the grim Roundheads seated
in the seats of the mighty, it was no longer the
merry London of his early manhood. Time and
war had thinned the ranks of friends; in the
old haunts the old familiar faces were wanting.
Ben Jonson was dead, Waller banished, and
many another comrade "in disgrace with for-
tune and men's eyes." As Herrick walked
through crowded Cheapside or along the dingy
river-bank in those years, his thought must have
turned more than once to the little vicarage in
Devonshire, and lingered tenderly.
On the accession of Charles II. a favorable
change of wind wafted Herrick back to his
former moorings at Dean Prior, the obnoxious
Syms having been turned adrift. This occurred
on August 24, 1662, the seventy-first anniver-
sary of the poet's baptism. Of Herrick's move-
ments after that, tradition does not furnish even
the shadow of an outline. The only notable
event concerning him is recorded twelve years
later in the parish register: "Robert Herrick,
vicker, was buried ye 15" day October, 1674."
He was eighty-three years old. The location of
his grave is unknown. In 1857 a monument to
his memory was erected in Dean Church. And
this is all.


THE details that have come down to us touch-
ing Herrick's private life are as meagre as if he
had been a Marlowe or a Shakespeare. But
were they as ample as could be desired they
would still be unimportant compared with the
single fact that in 1648 he gave to the world his
"Hesperides." The environments of the man
were accidental and transitory. The significant
part of him we have, and that is enduring so
long as wit, fancy, and melodious numbers hold
a charm for mankind.
A fine thing incomparably said instantly be-
comes familiar, and has henceforth a sort of
dateless excellence. Though it may have been
said three hundred years ago, it is as modern
as yesterday; though it may have been said
yesterday, it has the trick of seeming to have
been always in our keeping. This quality of
remoteness and nearness belongs, in a striking
degree, to Herrick's poems. They are as novel
to-day as they were on the lips of a choice few
of his contemporaries, who, in reading them in
their freshness, must surely have been aware
here and there of the ageless grace of old idyllic
poets dead and gone.
Herrick was the bearer of no heavy message
to the world, and such message as he had he
was apparently in no hurry to deliver. On this
point he somewhere says:

Let others to the printing presse run fast;
Since after death comes glory, I 'll not haste.

He had need of his patience, for he was long
detained on the road by many of those obstacles
that waylay poets on their journeys to the
Herrick was nearly sixty years old when he
published the "Hesperides." It was, I repeat,
no heavy message, and the bearer was left an
unconscionable time to cool his heels in the ante-
chamber. Though his pieces had been set to
music by such composers as Lawes, Ramsay,
and Laniers, and his court poems had naturally
won favor with the Cavalier party, Herrick cut
but a small figure at the side of several of his
rhyming contemporaries who are now forgotten.
It sometimes happens that the light love-song,
reaching few or no ears at its first singing, out-
lasts the seemingly more prosperous ode which,
dealing with some passing phase of thought,
social or political, gains the instant applause of
the multitude. In most cases the timely ode is
somehow apt to fade with the circumstance that
inspired it, and becomes the yesterday's edito-
rial of literature. Oblivion likes especially to
get hold of occasional poems. That makes it
hard for feeble poets laureate.
Mr. Henry James once characterized Al-
phonse Daudet as "a great little novelist."
Robert Herrick is a great little poet. The brev-
ity of his poems, for he wrote nothing de longue
, would place him among the minor
singers; his workmanship places him among
the masters. The Herricks were not a family
of goldsmiths and lapidaries for nothing. The
accurate touch of the artificer in jewels and
costly metals was one of the gifts transmitted to
Robert Herrick. Much of his work is as ex-
quisite and precise as the chasing on a dagger-
hilt by Cellini; the line has nearly always that
vine-like fluency which seems impromptu, and
is never the result of anything but austere labor.
The critic who, borrowing Milton's words,
described these carefully wrought poems as
"wood-notes wild" showed a singular lapse of
penetration. They are full of subtle simplicity.
Here we come across a stanza as severely cut as
an antique cameo--the stanza, for instance, in
which the poet speaks of his lady-love's "win-
ter face"--and there a couplet that breaks into
unfading daffodils and violets. The art, though
invisible, is always there. His amatory songs
and catches are such poetry as Orlando would
have liked to hang on the boughs in the forest
of Arden. None of the work is hastily done,
not even that portion of it we could wish had
not been done at all. Be the motive grave or
gay, it is given that faultlessness of form which
distinguishes everything in literature that has
survived its own period. There is no such thing
as "form" alone; it is only the close-grained
material that takes the highest finish. The struc-
ture of Herrick's verse, like that of Blake, is
simple to the verge of innocence. Such rhyth-
mic intricacies as those of Shelley, Tennyson,
and Swinburne he never dreamed of. But his
manner has this perfection: it fits his matter as
the cup of the acorn fits its meat.
Of passion, in the deeper sense, Herrick has
little or none. Here are no "tears from the
depth of some divine despair," no probings into
the tragic heart of man, no insight that goes
much farther than the pathos of a cowslip on a
maiden's grave. The tendrils of his verse reach
up to the light, and love the warmer side of the
garden wall. But the reader who does not de-
tect the seriousness under the lightness misreads
Herrick. Nearly all true poets have been whole-
some and joyous singers. A pessimistic poet,
like the poisonous ivy, is one of nature's sar-
casms. In his own bright pastoral way Herrick
must always remain unexcelled. His limitations
are certainly narrow, but they leave him in the

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