Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/164

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

but of mankind. The setting of his stories was doubly foreign—the social, as well as geographical antipodes. The dullest reader could not fail to see that the story, however fanciful it might be, bore the stamp of truth to nature, and that the teller spoke only of what he himself had seen, or felt, or been. The "Dukite Snake" might be as unreal as the phoenix; but the Bush and its inmates were taken from the life. The "Amber Whale" was redolent of the sea—nobody but a sailor-man could have given its nautical flavor and technical lore with such perfect fidelity.

These long narrative poems were not distinguished for analysis or character study. They were anything but subjective. They gave no hint of the philosophical quality which was to mark his later verse; but they were picturesque, dramatic, virile, and achieved their only purpose, that of telling a strong story in direct, forcible fashion. He had not as yet learned the finer art of pruning away extraneous matter, and presenting a powerful tale in a terse, concrete form, as he afterward could do with such a story as that of "Eensign Epps."

The "Dukite Snake "appeared in the Christmas supplement of the Boston Journal for 1871. O'Reilly wrote but once over a pseudonym. It was a short poem contributed, I think, to the Boston Traveler, and signed with the punning name "Boileau.

Shortly after the publication of the "Amber Whale" in the New York Tribune, the author received a tempting offer from Horace Greeley to join the staff of that paper. The proffered salary was large compared with that which he was then receiving; but it was met by a counter offer from the proprietor of the Pilot, which induced him, wisely, to remain where he was. He was making a reputation in the American city which was the literary center of the country. The circle of his personal friendship was large, and steadily growing. More than all, he was in a position to be of incalculable service to the cause of his native country; and it is the simplest of truths to say that this consideration would have outweighed, at any period of