We should not be much surprised to find that the
“Gentleman of Cambridge University” was the author of Songs
of the Spirit. There is the same delicacy of touch in
each. Archais, a woodland nymph, is beloved of Charicles, “the
darling of the dawn.” The maiden has to share the terrible doom
laid on her mother:—
I, her child, sore defiled
With evil parentage, am now (most just
Unpitying Zeus) condemned with her, I must
The hated semblance of a serpent wear.
Charicles vows to free her, and the tale goes on to
relate his visit to Aphrodite for aid, and the judgement of Zeus
which overtook him for his rashness: follows the outwitting of
the god, and the happy meeting of the lovers once more in human
form. It is essentially a tale of love—the love that craves
fulfilment; frankly pagan, but one with all Nature.
The author has sought expression for the highest form
of bodily love, and has found it without voluptuousness; his
song runs as clear and free from the pollution of sensuality as
Songs of the Spirit are free from morbidness and
dècadence. We shall look with interest for more work from
the same source.
Oxford Magazine, November 29, 1899.
“The Tale of Archais”
describes the meeting and love of Archais, daughter of Lamia and
Charicles, and the means by which, with Aphrodite’s aid, they
eventually succeeded in averting the curse of Zeus. “A
Gentleman of the University of Cambridge” wields a powerful pen,
and much of his work is exceedingly beautiful. Unfortunately,
we are unable to quote at any length, through want of space.
The two stanzas appended are from the song on page 19:
Ere the grape of joy is
With the summer and the
Ere the maidens
Gather one by one,
To the vineyard comes
No sweet rain to fresh
But the thunder rain
Rends and ruins tender
All the subtle airs are
False at dewfall, at the
Sin and sorrow,
Like a veil are drawn
Over love and all
Grey desires invade the
Love and life are but a
Woe is me! and woe is
In conclusion, as far as descriptive power and beauty of thought
are concerned, we consider that the author of “The Tale of
Archais” holds the first place among the latter-day poets. But
there are passages in the book in our opinion quite unsuitable
for the perusal of the white maiden of England, to whom it is
dedicated. We do not know whether the poet is an upholder of
“Art for Art’s sake,” which means that it is better to paint an
immoral picture well than to paint a moral picture badly. If
this is the case, we would counsel him to abandon this dangerous
fallacy, and to devote his undoubted genius to the task of
becoming a great poet in the true sense of the word. He can do
so if he will.
—Cambridge Magazine, date unknown.
‘The Tale of Archais.’ by a
Gentleman of the University of Cambridge. 1898.
(Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.) It is scarcely to be
deplored that the public shews little taste for such spurious
romanticized mythology as the author of this little book has (in
spite of his University training) dished up. Mr Swinburne
indeed set the fashion for this class of poetry, but it is a
vein which, in the nature of things, cannot be at once
extensively and successfully worked. If this is a typical
result of its working, the sooner would-be poets turn their
energies in another direction the better.
A stanza from this poem stands upon the front page of ‘Songs
of the Spirit’ (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.), by
Aleister Crowley, so that we may fairly infer an intellectual
kinship between the two authors. If so, this is unlucky for the
author of ‘Archais,’ as Mr Crowley does not reach a very high
level. His work is redolent of blood and God and kisses, sharp
swords, lilies and fire—all the furniture of mysterious
eroticism. Fortunately Cambridge, among whose sons apparently
Mr Crowley is to be numbered, has produced better poets than
him. But whatever his shortcomings, he is at least an original
observer. We suppose that the Trinity dance is the occasion
upon which he remarks of the Cam that
Foul censers, altars desecrated, blight
The corpse-lit river.
Elsewhere he sings—
So glad of life am I,
If an angel came to call me I’m sure I should not die.
Perhaps it is a pity that there is little chance of his
assurance being put to the test.
—The Cambridge Review, 2 November 1899.
This is not a very
pretty story. The passions and adventures of Charicles and
Archais are in a sickly, sensuous vein, which does not strike us
as particularly Hellenic; or if Hellenic, it is Hellenic of the
decadence. And when Zeus and Aphrodite intervene, it is in a
fashion characteristic enough of their disreputable duties, but
barely edifying. However, the “Gentleman of Cambridge,” though
he has not good taste, has a certain command of facile rhythm.
This is a fair example:
Cold is the kiss of the
stars to the sea,
The kiss of the earth to
the orient grey
That heralds the day;
Warmer the kiss of a
love that is free
As the wind of the sea,
Quick and resurgent and
Night her bright
bow-string has bended:
Fast flies her arrow
Æther it cleaves
Rapid and daring.
Ah! how it strikes as
with silver! how the
sun’s laughter is ended!
But the best thing in
the book is the last quatrain of its epilogue:
Now a stream to ford and
a stile to clamber;
Last the inn, a book,
and a quiet corner . . .
Fresh as Spring, there
kisses me on the forehead
Sleep, like a sister.
—The Academy, date unknown.
“A Gentleman of
Cambridge” has written, in “The Tale of Archais,” a volume which
will make pleasant reading for “The White Maidens of England,”
to whom it is dedicated. The writer’s technique is good; he has
a pleasant vein of fancy; but he lacks utterly originality. The
tale is an echo of Keats; the lyrics with which it is
interspersed are echoes of Mr. Swinburne, or Tennyson, and
sometime of Mr. Gilbert. These lines might be a very bad
imitation either of Mr. Swinburne or of Tennyson:
O Kill me with the
purple of Your Mouth!
And Slay me with the
Gold of Your Forehead!
And bring me with you to
the swarthy south!
And bury me in your
—The Saturday Review, date unknown.
A romance in verse,
covering eighty-nine pages, and dedicated to the white maidens
of England. The poetic merit is unequal and the lyrics have
something lacking. Zeus, too, is too great and important a god
to have “slept daintily,” and why was Robert Browning’s evil
example followed in writing Phoibos for Phoebus, and Bacchos for
Bacchus? especially as Cytherea, Cypris, and Charicles are
allowed to remain in more familiar guise.
—The Bristol Times, date unknown.
The author of this
romance in verse has been influenced apparently by the earliest
and worst manner of Keats. In its rhymes and construction, its
imagery and sentimentality, the poem is reminiscent of “Endymion;”
but one looks in vain for even a fitful glow of the poetry which
makes it possible—once in a lifetime—to read to the end of
Keat’s ’prentice work. The story also seems to have been
suggested by another of the poet’s poems. It is a version of
the Lamia legend, with, however, new modifications. A fair
youth, Charicles, loves a maiden of evil birth. Her doom it is
that when she yields to love she will change into a snake. She
yields to Charicles, and her metamorphosis is as well described
as anything in the poem:
And lo! there came to
pass the dreadful fate
Her lips had shuddered
out; her pulses bate
Their quick sweet
movement; on the ground she lies
Struggling, and rending
Heaven with her cries.
Like light, in one
convulsing pang, the snake
Leapt in the sunlight,
and its body brake
With glistening scales
that golden skin of hers.
And writhing with pure
shame, the long grass whirrs
With her sharp flight of
fury and despair.
There is no new note
here. Even the epithets are conventional; nor does the author
take to heart his master’s advice to poets to “load each line
with gold.” In an epilogue to the story, written in a rougher
metre, the author is somewhat happier.
—The Critic, date unknown.
Messrs. Kegan Paul have
issued “The Tale of Archais: a Romance in Verse by a Gentleman
of the University of Cambridge.” The author’s “Ballad of His
Tale” opens thus:
Go to the woodlands,
Or where the downs to
When autumn is in gold
Or spring is green, or
A frosty sun, or summers
Their flowers in every
And take as you would
take a friend,
This pleasant tale of
—The Glasgow Weekly Citizen, date unknown.