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The Bibelot




From The Bibelot, A Reprint of Poetry and Prose for Book Lovers, chosen in part from scarce editions and sources not generally known, Volume X, Testimonial Edition, Edited and Originally Published by Thomas B. Mosher, Portland, Maine; Wm. Wise & Co.; New York; 1904; pp. 55-57.



The Bibelot

IF one were to name two volumes of verse absolutely satisfying the demands of a lover of exquisitely modulated minor chord poetry, a well as the just expectations of the amateur of perfect book-making, he would find them united in Lionel Johnson’s Poems (1895), and his second and final collection entitled Ireland and other Poems (1897).*

Passionately attached to the land of his birth, Johnson nevertheless stands apart from the recognized leaders in the Celtic [56] revival. It is even doubtful if the practical trend of the new movement in arts and letters measurably interested this lover of inviolate purity and peace. To us he seems a dweller in some far country of white nights — a kingdom of the spirit wherein he lived and moved and had his being until the call came to fare forth upon the lonely way. It was, we are assured, always the inner vision that led him: ever the flutes of the God that he heard and obeyed.

Prefixed to our selections is a brief article contributed by Mrs. Katherine Tynan-Hinkson to the Pall Mall Gazette three days after his death, — a tenderly beautiful tribute, He died in London, October 4th, 1902, his last days clouded by alcoholic excess, recalling the sinister end of James Thomson, and, still nearer in time and matter of friendship, the dying of Ernest Dowson. The week following his decease his latest poem appeared in The Academy, and a sympathetic but anonymous writer at the same time well and fairly summed up his literary position: “He was a scholar by instinct, a poet by longing, and a critic by profession. . . . Stately, austere, mystical by turns, three themes moved him to enthusiasm: his old school, Winchester, Oxford, and Ireland. Mysticism, [57] whether Catholic or Pagan, always touched his muse to a deeper note.”

Within our narrow space it would be impossible to fully appraise or set forth Lionel Johnson’s poetry: we are thus compelled to confine our citations to his earlier volume, including as a final specimen, the lines of Walter Pater, the last he ever wrote.

And however critics speak concerning his limitations — and they were self-imposed, not thrust upon him by any alien influence, — there is a clarity of thought, a purity of diction, a lasting loveliness in almost everything he saw fit to print. As an inevitable result, such delicate craftsmanship only makes its appeal to the remnant: and, for that matter, this is true of all high and splendid verse that “ enduring stays to us.”


*   Small editions of both books were imported and offered for sale by the late firm of Copeland & Day, as issued by the London publisher, Mr. Elkin Mathews, in their original blue paper boards. Printed at the Chiswick Press they will some day come to their own as will also that fine critical study — The Art of Thomas Hardy (1894). From this work we quote the following brief passage: “It amply contents me to dream, that some gentle scholar of an hundred years hence, turning over the worn volumes upon the bookstalls yet unmade, may give his pence for my book, may read it as his leisure, and may feel kindly toward me”: — words of a personal poignancy very like what we conceived this “gentle scholar” himself to have felt while still among us — now dead before his prime.



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