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Friend, or stranger kind, or lover,
Ah, fulfil a last behest,
Let me rest
Where the wide-winged hawk doth hover!
It is not possible to quote further here, or it might be shown how the playful humour of the Ballade is illustrated in two poems in the Scottish dialect (though it may be worth while to remind Mr. Lang that slee' and Tam' are not necessarily East Fifeshire for 'sly and Tom' respectively), and how classical, scholastic, and ecclesiastical matters all come in for a share of lively and suggestive attention. There is manifest throughout a wealth of romance and a strong vitality, sufficient to show that, like Mr. Gosse, the author of 'Ballades in Blue China' may soon challenge the attention with work remarkable not only for its form but for its massive substance as well. Meantime, his reward is in the inevitable response to the suggestive Vos plaudite of his sprightly measures.
Dr. Gordon Hake, on the contrary, is not one that will instantly tickle the wayward fancy, or that will (in the conventional terms of the concert room) invariably bring down the house.' Dr. Hake is not a master of sudden and rapturous effects; he challenges trains of association and meditative gravity, rather than quick sympathetic zeal or emotional impulse. His work is imaginative rather than fanciful. With bold and steady outlook he gazes into the mystic realms of speculation, and presently gives the result of the inspection in strong, nervous, and elevated language, graced and enriched at times with imagery at once stately and appropriate. Strong originality of conception, massive dignity and solidity of execution, an evident and easy mastery of large issues, and a command of illustrative material at once unusual and effective-these are characteristics of a true and lofty poetic soul. The successive portions of the Vision of Michael Angelo, in Dr. Hake's volume 'New Symbols,' would alone prove that he possesses in a very high degree these genuine poetical qualities. The picture of 'Twilight' may be given :
He gazes till upon
those marble heights
Twilight seems sitting on a rocky scroll
Immerged within the purpling of her soul.
Beneath her shoulder nod the depths below
And soon shall sleep those struggling lids surprise!
Her brows bend lower, dropping as they throw
An evening shadow down the precipice.
Or take from the same volume, as a fine specimen of descriptive dramatic realism, this passage in Ecce Homo,' in which the man who received his sight is represented as looking into the future. At a stage in his transition from darkness to light—
Sudden, as if the distant air
Stripped the blue curtain from the skies,
When, as with far-off voice, he cries-
From brows that are throbbing of anguish within,-
As a cross on His quivering shoulders they place.
'Neath its burden He sinks while they mock Him, they urge Him,
They are lifting Him, bruising Him, piercing Him, nailing Him
See, the sun hides his head, see the vapour envailing Him,
The conception and execution of such poems-also in 'New Symbols' -as 'The Snake Charmer,' 'Pythagoras,' The Birth of Venus,' and 'The Double Soul,' are equally remarkable for a certain calm, selfconscious dignity and ease, and a penetrative insight into the probabilities of human destiny and the significant symbolism of Nature. To Dr. Hake there is a meaning in what is about him, in addition to and apart from its present and ordinary function or purpose. His continual effort is to penetrate, in order if possible to grasp this remote and real meaning—this inner truth of things divested of the outer husk or protecting garment. Nor is his transcendentalism ever so thin as to shade off into the intangible essence or quality known as mysticism. True poets, in his own words (uttered in the introductory poem to 'Legends of the Morrow'), are continually soliciting the 'Angel of Nature,' who as persistently denies them the full enjoyment they desire.
They join her in the hymn of morn,
And, 'mid the echoes of a past,
With her call on the day unborn
To come without a night at last,
To deepen from earth's shifting shoal,
But at times there may come, and do come, moments of clearer vision, of rapt inspiration, when the individual soul, as it were, communes face to face with Nature, and even catches glimpses of, it may be, but the skirts of the garment of the great Unseen! These are the times of great refreshing, of new beginnings, and fresh vital energies, when the whole being emerges from under the potent spell with a deepened consciousness of individual importance and individual responsibility. Thenceforward there is the sharp contrast between spiritual insight and the darkened vision of the unimaginative onlooker. It is in the setting of such sudden gleams into the vista of things
such flashes of revelation as Mr. Browning also occasionally depictsthat we get some of Dr. Hake's best poems. It is the leading motive of such remarkable studies (in 'Legends of the Morrow '), as 'Saba,' The Palmist,' The Soul Painter,' and 'New Souls.' One is not surprised, for instance, that any mortal painter should fail to catch all that is expressed and implied in this :
There comes a maid in light, half-playful pace,
One is rather prepared to find that the soul-painter is baffled, and haunted, and well-nigh in the very depths of despair, when the same maid again crosses his path, and this time there is an electric sparkle of mutual affinities. The painter, in the intensity of his devotion to his work, had impaired his health and lost his eyesight, and now the maid was attracted to him and gave him her sympathy and her angelic services.
Her tones are sweet as waters when they sing,
There doth she watch his love, her watch unknown,
Her soul that breathes from those devoted lips
The work is done,-and in an evening sky
His heart's last rapture while it covets death.
As being transcripts of such moods of rapturous elevation, such burning moments of supreme climax, Dr. Hake has given his new poems the collective title of 'Maiden Ecstasy.' Here we have a group of girls depicted from a thoroughly original standpoint, and with great delicacy and clearness of introspection, and firmness and intensity of realistic grasp. In their own way these legends of women are as remarkable and striking as previous Legende' or 'Dream,' now classic in the language. Worthy readers of Dr. Hake will understand what the quality of these studies is like, when they are told
that here there is the matured development of that fine observing power, that remarkable penetrative sympathetic insight, that easy sway of a rich contemplative mood, conjoined with rhythmic beauty and stately suggestive imagery, which have one and all characterised the poet's successive works. No reader of 'Parables and Tales,' with any sense at all of the serene beauty and deep meaning of poems like 'The Blind Boy,'' Old Souls,' and 'The Poet,' will be surprised at the position taken by Dr. Hake with his latest volume. There is in the touching poem of 'The Blind Boy' a stanza with a haunting melody and a precision and beauty of symbolism which seems fairly characteristic of the poet's own attitude. The boy is by the sea-side with his sister, and is striving to realise the light:
The waves with mingling echoes fall;
So, too, the poet strives with the mysteries of life—with its romance and its pathos, its tender sweetness and its tragic passion-and then tells his tale with the significance of which he is capable. Thus in 'Maiden Ecstasy' the lights and shades vary with the theme and the mood, though there is under all circumstances a deep sense of the grave solemnity of life and death, and a consequent seriousness of manner and tone. Appreciative humour, too, as close followers will note, is not impossible to the poet, and it may be detected peeping now and then, with gracious and unobtrusive twinkle, from behind the sage and staid deportment. Still Dr. Hake is pre-eminently philosophical, and his attitude, like Wordsworth's, is essentially contemplative.
Every separate number of Maiden Ecstasy' is a careful and elaborately finished entity. They take a wide range and illustrate extreme varieties of spiritual energy and effluence. In some the charm is one of revelation and bright exaltation of spirit; in others there is the tenderness and the tragic pathos of disappointment and great emotion; while there are several that constitute impressive narrative studies of deep and sifting yet gracious experience. One and all attest singular patience and skill in the following of psychological detail, great success in grappling with grave and even (as in the Actress') terrible issues, and singular concentration and selfcommand. Take the following from The Lost Angel' as a specimen of effective description reached by very simple yet ingenious combinations:-
She springs to maidenhood
As a bright arrow skyward darts,
And, while she learns o'er earnest thoughts to brood,
Things that have life without its cares,
The enticing flower, the water's coaxing speech,
And, not yet sad, a serious morrow teach.
Consider, again, the extreme tenderness-the utterances that come as from bated breath and with brimming eyes-of these stanzas descriptive of The Heart-Broken':
Cold is she in the gust
Whose vulture-sweep whirls o'er her lover's mound;
Every poem is so thoroughly worked, all the parts so well fitted together and so interdependent, that quotation is difficult. But no account of them would be complete without the statement that the climax is in every instance finely reached, and the close done with great artistic skill and restraint. This suggests, moreover, the further statement that hasty readers may not improbably condemn the poet's apparent abruptness and consequent obscurity. Such a criticism is quite possible, in these days of quick reading, and in the present case it is to be met with the assertion that it is always of more consequence to get into a train of thought than to depend for the writer's meaning upon the mere lucidity of his speech. Dr. Hake's language is well adapted to his meaning, but his thought is so compact that the leading thread, as it were, must never be lost sight of. In this way, one speedily comes to appreciate the author's grasp of his catastrophe and the thorough and satisfying close of his study. As an example of effective climax, take this of "The Visionary,' whose enthusiasm had led her to feel that she was looking into Paradise through the sunlight :
While yet her spirit climbed the dizzy height
Step after step into eternal day,
Her eyes seemed watchful of the guiding light
When, resting in the solemn vault of night,