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best prose-thoughts into fanciful and impassioned rhythm, language which shall in some measure interpret the yearnings of the soul.
It is a poor defence of a man's verses to quote the praises of the public press. Such complimentary notices as appear in the newspapers have a well-defined limit in their value; their mission is to introduce new literature to those who read, and to bring to notice what has literary merit. But to cite these opinions as vouchers for an author's work, is like apologizing for certain weaknesses in the text, or like bidding defiance to the judgment of the reader. In the case of Edward Rowland Sill this is especially true. It is unnecessary to say that any man has pronounced his verses good, or beautiful, or poetical, so transparent is their excellence. They need no defence, they stand for themselves, and in themselves excel the nicest praise of critics. All that one can do is to analyze them and to appreciate their variety and charm.
The greater part of Mr. Sill's poetry is confined to two themes-the description of Nature, and the “Problem of Life." His poem entitled, “Among the Redwoods” is representative of the Nature class, and shows the writer in one of his most fanciful moods. At the close he says:
“ Listen! A deep and solemn wind on high ;
Along the sea of space to grander things.” The kindly spirit in which the poet refers to the earth in his various similes is always striking. Here he likens it to a ship sailing along serenely; then in another poem to the foster-mother of us all who
“ Yearns for us, with her great
Her dusky race above,
Throbs with its brooding love."
Turning to the poems which deal with the questions of human life, the tone of the writer changes as though he were a different man. Each verse has its own lesson and seems to come from the mind of a teacher who speaks with authority, writing from his own experience. The lessons do not impress one as didactic or sarcastic. In his “ Field Notes" he writes :
"I would give up all the mind
One does not recoil irritated at the thrust which the poet makes at city life and its conventionalities. Another writer might have railed much more loudly, yet not nearly so effectively, and at the same time, have stirred up a deep rancor in the breast of the inhabitant of the metropolis. Mr. Sill's objection to city life is but the stronger preface to bring out by contrast the nobility of his own motive, to have "the clear courage of the grass,” and to be “instinct-good.” While they are his desires, they are quite as forcible in their lesson as if he said that such should be the desires of others; and while he asks for himself, he does it with such grace and tact, that there is the strongest recommendation to all men to adopt his motives for their own.
It is from various points of view that Mr. Sill looks upon life. Now, he considers the forlorn and pitiful way in which men stumble along through it, and again he shows how determination, and loyalty to a worthy cause assure success despite the dullest tools and poorest equipment. Even the blunt weapon which a craven snapped and flung away, inspires a king's son who
“Saw the broken sword,
And saved a great cause that heroic day." But the point which Mr. Sill evidently had first in mind, and one which constantly recurs in his philosophical verses, is the necessity and value of work, work in new fields, and work which should mean the fullest and most intense effort of the laborer, in spite of opposition and ridicule. He paints in glorious colors the reformer predicting the downfall of a "stone-walled city of sin," and the inevitable result when “Down in one great roar of ruin, crash watch-tower, citadel and battlements." Again he makes his appeal for service, and calls out—" If you dare, come now with me fearless, confident, and free," believ. ing this the sweeter and more desirable existence than that of one who is “only as the rest, with Heaven's common comforts blessed.” The especial branch of labor which Mr. Sill seemed to value was that among men, where one's personality and character should be focussed upon his fellow-beings. The poet expressed this idea as coming from his own soul, in his alumni poem :
Nailing this thesis on the golden gate
Alone on earth are valuable." That Mr. Sill meant this was shown by his life as a teacher. His work as a professor of English literature was not confined to the routine of recitations and to a class book. He was rather the helper and inspirer of those who were under his instruction. His whole personality was thrown into his efforts to arouse in them a love and enthusiasm for their work. He suggested and lent ideas for others to develop, thus making himself of value in the most practical way. Nor was this association with him without its charm. He was not like an uncongenial
physician administering an effective medicine. On the contrary, Mr. Sill's influence was a combination of true genius with the warmest sympathy and geniality. His influence was greatest where his friendship was strongest. Few shared this friendship, but those who did esteem it as a precious blessing.
Mr. Sill was but forty-seven years old at the time of his death. The fact that he died at such an early age has been constantly lamented by the friends of English literature, on the ground that his genius had only begun to ripen, and that what he did write, was but the assurance of what he would have done had he lived to maturity. While all who read his verses must share this regret, a real satisfaction should be derived from the poetry he has left, in the completeness of what he did, even in his early days. None ought to feel this satisfaction more than his Alma Mater—his Alma Mater as it embraces all Yale men—for in the forty-seven years of his life, Edward Rowland Sill struck as clear and full and true a note in his poetry as has any alumnus of the University. The editor of a collection of Mr. Sill's verses has written very appropriately that "after his death, month by month, new poems under his familiar signatures appeared in the magazines, as if he went out of the sight of men, singing on the way." The poet himself has still more happily though unconsciously spoken of his own death, prophesying as it were the early end of his useful life :
“And what if then, while still the morning brightened,
Charles Cheney Hyde.
TO MOUNT HOPE.
Mountain whose rocky side
Down in thy rocky dell
As ages onward glide,
George P. Day.
“THE SOFT ANSWER."
HE mellow afternoon sunlight sifted through the
overhanging tree-tops into the shadowy roadway; beams reflected from the river struggled up through the willows and made changing mottled spots of light among the branches.
Mr. Dennis O'Hara, of Washington and Alexandria, and lately of the Albany penitentiary, stepped cautiously out of the underbrush and slipped across the road into the willows by the side of the river. He was attired in a broadly striped suit of black and white that had suffered