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“He sets a power by Susy,” said Andrew, taking fresh courage; “Don't spend nothin' either, 'cept for her. She'd orter be grateful. Ain't no one else, is they, John Lang?"
“No; they all died ten year ago. Th'old man gave up goin' on a vessel then. Said he wouldn't make no voyage s’ long 's he had Susy."
A belated customer called Andrew away to a prolonged discussion over the price of Graham flour, and silence settled down again over the cluster of black shapes by the door. One by one the men crept away, choosing times when they believed their retreat to be covered by the rustling of the trees, so obviating the awkwardness attendant on any leave-taking, agreeably to Eastbury custom. Andrew emerged from the brightness within, and looked vaguely up and down the street as if in search of some
" I'd be sorry if Susy done anything to put th' old man out. He do set sech a power by her. I'd a'most oughter go up 'n' see him.” He hesitated however, merely out of habit. The faint tinkle of his clock striking the hour decided him. “ Pooh! He'd be in bed long afore I could ever get up there. Ten o'clock, an me plannin' to make visits!” There was something ludicrous in the idea, and Andrew, chuckling solemnly, promised himself to remember the occurrence, so as to tell it the next evening. Then he turned the key in the rusty padlock and disappeared up the street, his footsteps echoing on the brick pavement.
Up at the house on Parsonage Hill the old man sat by the fire, staring at the glowing coals. He was very tired, for the day had been a long one; now and then he pressed his hand to his side. There was a weight on his heart, it seemed to him. “It's pretty steep climbin' up to the house from th' beach," he said, addressing the andirons, as if apologizing for his weakness. “I'm gittin' old, sure enough. Ain't near so smart as I was last year. But then," he hastened to add, “I'm pretty stout yet, and then,there's Susy. I'd orter be more thankful.” He leaned back and smiled, shaking his head; “Twelve hundred
pound yist’day, and a good thousand t'day. Bluefish is comin' your way, Sandy Doane!” The words seemed to run in his mind in a kind of rhyme: once he actually found himself singing them.
There came a rap at the door. “Letter for you, Sandy Doane; I d'n' know where from." The old man and took the envelope almost mechanically. A letter! He had not received one in years. He scanned the address closely, his mind leaping from one theory to another concerning the sender, but with a vague feeling of disquiet ever present which would not down. “I wish Susy was here,” he sighed, as he fumbled for his glasses; “She'd read it for me quick enough."
An hour passed, and the old man still sat by the grate; but the letter had fallen to the floor. The blaze had faded to a red glow; it cast a dim, lurid light on the tired figure in the armchair, who sat with his hand over his heart, while unchecked tears lay glistening on the withered cheeks. The room was very still. The sun rose and shone in the window through the geraniums—Susy's flower garden-waking the whole room into new life. It crept across the floor; the letter became a leaf of gold. The beam glanced for an instant on a shape in the armchair, and was gone, dancing blithely across the heatherladen dunes, until it was lost in the gloomy shadow-prison of the pine woods.
There was a gloom about the little house that struck a chill to the men's hearts as they toiled up the hill, and a dull fear came over them as they remembered what Andrew told them the evening before; they looked stealthily at one another, like guilty persons, standing huddled before the door. Andrew raised the latch and entered the lonely place, followed cautiously by the others.
Andrew looked up from a letter which he had found on the floor; his face looked old and drawn. “Men," he said very gently, “ Th' old man's gone a long voyage this time, I reckon. He kep' his promise, too. This here's his shippin' articles.” In the smoky fire-place the blaze lay dead, hidden under its pall of cold, gray ashes.
Emerson G. Taylor.
EDWARD ROWLAND SILL.
AM not a poet, I am a school teacher who occa
sionally writes verses.” Edward Rowland Sill uttered these words half in modesty, but in part to make a fine distinction between himself and the men who had adopted poetry as a profession, and therefore posed as poets. However sturdy his literary efforts while at Yale, however finished his class poem, and however mature his later compositions, he would have been the last man to claim any merit in what he had done, or to call his noblest stanzas more than “occasional verses." His own denial moreover, of any affiliation with the class of so-called poets, puts the man in a strange contrast with others gifted with poetical genius, a contrast which gives Mr. Sill the finer attitude. His motives for taking this stand seem to be justified by what he did. His poems were written for his friends rather than for publication, and if they appeared in print, oftentimes it was in an obscure periodical, or under a pseudonym. Above all, his poems were written as the expression of what he felt, and what moved his own heart. There was the pleasure of putting on paper what passed within him, even if no mortal eye should see it. Thus with his own extreme modesty, and with poems representing solely his inmost thoughts, Mr. Sill was least the man to be catalogued with poets who were eager to “secure recognition,” or ambitious to compose odes for state functions. What he did write was written with all the genuineness and intensity of his temperament. Yet this earnestness of spirit was not to sacrifice the form of his poetry, nor the beauty of his descriptions. While the form was subservient to the matter, he never relaxed to slothfulness or carelessness in workmanship. But there is something more than heartfelt effort and honest work required for the composition of real poetry; something more was necessary to create the poems which appeared under Mr. Sill's signature. There must be the true poetical nature, which shall change the 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 equip