Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/109

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

of its victim, I asked him why he had never published the name of the cold-blooded wretch, for the execration of humanity. He smiled and said that he did not bear the fellow any malice; that a man who would do a deed of that kind must be insane and irresponsible,—a being toward whom one could not cherish animosity. To a request that the name might be given to somebody of less magnanimous soul, he replied, "I do not know his name now; I have forgotten it." For that reason the name does not appear in these pages.

But life in the Bush was not all made up of tragedy, or even of misery. To the poet there was consolation, and almost happiness, in the glorious open air, amid the grand primeval trees, and the strange birds and beasts of the antipodes. The land about him lay at the world's threshold. Strange monsters of pre-historic form still peopled the forest, monsters of the vegetable as well as of the animal kingdom.

One incident will illustrate his love of nature, which, curiously enough, found more frequent expression in his prose than in his verse, and was still more a part of his life than of his writings. For, while he passionately loved and keenly enjoyed all the delights of communion with nature, his joy and love were personal pleasures. They formed no part of the sermon which it was his mission to preach. The text of that sermon was Humanity. To that he subordinated every impulse of mere sentiment. This long preface to a short story is excusable, because the criticism has been made, and with justice, that O'Reilly's poetry is strangely wanting in the purely descriptive element. The only long poem to which that criticism least applies is his "King of the Vasse," in which are many wonderfully strong and beautiful pictures of nature.

It happened that the road-gang with which he was working, in following the course laid out by the surveyors, came upon a magnificent tree, a giant among its fellows, the growth of centuries, towering aloft to the sky and spreading enormous arms on every side. The wealth of an