Poems of Arthur O'Shaughnessy

Poems of Arthur O'Shaughnessy

Poems of Arthur O'Shaughnessy

Poems of Arthur O'Shaughnessy

Excerpt

Once, a long time ago, when American poetry meant Longfellow and Poe and Lowell (the elder), or at the latest Lanier, and when a first reading of the great and latterly despised Victorians was an enchantment, a gust of delight, another young haunter of the purlieus of Parnassus and myself discovered a poem which began:

We are the music makers
And we are the dreamers of dreams.

(The week before, our find had been Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach": mostly those were red-letter days.) The author's name was new to us. It was Arthur W. E. O'Shaughnessy. Then, as the precious volume through which we were browsing happened to be Palgrave'sGolden Treasury,we hastened to take to our hearts "The Fountain of Tears,John the Baptist, and Song of Palms." From that hour Arthur O'Shaughnessy was, for us, of the immortals.

Our enthusiasm started us on a search for anything and everything by him or about him -- efforts almost entirely unrewarded. Even Ward's English Poets -- that amber for riflers of the honeyed heights -- added but one page to our scanty store of information, though that one was from the usually judicious and always charming pen of Mr. Edmund Gosse. He summarized for us aptly and justly O'Shaughnessy's genius, named what he considered his five best pieces (three of which are in my judgment among his least successful attempts), and observed that his poetic vein was thin and soon exhausted, his earliest volume having most of it and his last none of it. Years afterwards I found that last volume and read it with a doubt that Mr. Gosse had done as much, for it contains such typical and lovely examples of the very vein praised by him as "Silences," "If She But Knew," and . . .

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