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great reward in the knowledge that if wide recognition as a poet was denied him, his friends, Whittier, Longfellow, Stoddard, Boker, and Aldrich, knew for what he was striving and commended him in no uncertain tones.
Whittier described Taylor as one who loved old friends, old ways, and kept his boyhood's
dreams in sight.' Life was intensely interesting to Taylor. Although the zest of travel disappeared and his large experience of the ways of men had had its customary disillusioning effect, he never really lost his youthful enthusiasm. And it is touching to find in his private correspondence the repeated proofs of how inexhaustible was his fund of hope and of courage, and how quick he was to recover after real or fancied defeat.
Notwithstanding his successes, and he had his share of the good things of life, — contemporary reputation, money of his own earning, and friends,
- Bayard Taylor remains, with all his manly qualities, a somewhat pathetic figure in American letters. He led a restless and turbulent mental existence, and died the victim of ambition and overwork.
TAYLOR has been pronounced the most skilful of our metrists after Longfellow. One illustration only can be given of his interest in the mechanism of verse, and that is his poetic romance The Picture of St. John. The poem was not published until sixteen years after its first conception. Possibly its growth was a little retarded by the structural peculiarities.
The poem contains three hundred and fiftyfive eight-line stanzas (iambic pentameter) grouped into four books. The 'ottava rima' was chosen as 'better adapted for the purposes of a romantic 'epic than either the Spenserian stanza' or the 'heroic couplet.' But the question with the poet was, how to avoid the 'uniform sweetness' of a regular stanza while obtaining the 'proper compactness and strength of rhythm' which (in his belief) only a stanza could give. His device was to allow himself freedom of rhyme within the stanza, and this 'not to escape the laws which Poetry im'poses,' but rather to impose a different law in the hope that the form would 'more readily reflect the 'varying moods.' When finally the poem was fin
The Picture of St. John was begun eleven years before Worsley published his fine version of the Odyssey in Spenserian stanza.
ished Taylor found that the three hundred and fifty-five stanzas contained more than seventy ' variations in the order of rhyme.'
Only an enthusiast in the study of form would have undertaken the task of reproducing Faust in the original metres. Taylor's success was so great that his work as a translator has obscured his fame
as a poet. Doubtless so nearly perfect a version had been impossible without that wonderful grasp of the spirit of the original. But it must not be forgotten how much it owes to the years of study and practice Taylor gave to the technique of his
IN 1855 Taylor published a selection from his earlier books of verse under the title Poems of Home and Travel. By this volume and its companion, Poems of the Orient, he wished, so he said at the time, to be judged. For all his other pieces he desired 'speedy forgetfulness.'
Poems of Home and Travel shows very well the range of Taylor's art. Here are rhymed stories (The Soldier and the Pard' and 'Kubleh'), graceful settings of classic or Indian legend (Hylas' and Mon-da-Min '), together with a pretty fancy from Shakespeare (Ariel in the Cloven
Pine'). A deeper chord is struck in poems of human love and loss (The Two Visions') and in poems expressing aspiration for the ideal ('Love ' and Solitude'), or in those which voice the poet's joy in a life of action and struggle (“The 'Life of Earth' and 'Taurus'). There is an ode, 'The Harp,' lamenting the silence of song in our America where there is so much to sing. And there are yet other odes, songs, and sonnets.
Poems of the Orient is a typical volume, full of color, warmth, light, breathing the intoxication and glowing with the fantasy of that great vague region we call 'the East.' The charm of the verses is very pronounced. How much of what we relish in the volume is really the spirit of the East can best be told by one who knows both the East and the poems. Oriental lyrics and romances would be written otherwise to-day. Taylor was partly under the thrall of that roseate view of the Orient held by Thomas Moore and his contemporaries. Sir Richard Burton has popularized a more realistic conception in which love and roses are less prominent. The flavor of Poems of the Orient may be known by such pieces as 'The Temptation of 'Hassan Ben Khaled,' 'Amran's Wooing' (an Oriental version of young Lochinvar), ‘El Khalil,' 'Desert Hymn to the Sun,' and the popular 'Bedouin Song.'
The Poet's Journal, a group of twenty-nine lyrics connected by a poetic narrative and divided into
First, Second, and Third Evenings, is plainly autobiographical. Its varying moods of despair and dumb grief, followed by the stirrings of hope and ambition, and, under the influence of awakened love, the triumph of the spirit to will and to do, connect it with the most intimate passages in Taylor's life.
The Picture of St. John, an Italian romance, seems made for a popularity it somehow never attained. The worldly ambition of the artist transfigured by love, the death of the highborn girl who sacrifices wealth and pride of place for her lover, the unwitting murder of her child by his grandsire, and the redemption of the artist after months of conflict with the Power that Denies — these are elements in a work on which the poet lavished the best of his gifts.
Lars, a Scandinavian study, an idyl of the vales and fiords of Norway, illustrates Taylor's cosmopolitanism. Passionately as he loved the South, he could also exclaim with Ruth,
I do confess
I love the frank, brave habit of the folk,
And filled with angry blood.