Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/428

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growth—higher thought, finer workmanship, and, surest test of advancement, condensation in expression. Compare his first volume of poems with his last, and mark the wonderful growth of thirteen years. Had he been granted twenty years more of life, with the leisure which he had well earned and hoped to enjoy, it is no partial praise to say that he might have attained the foremost place in the literature of America, if not of the world.

His growth was perceptible year by year—almost day by day. But he was hampered by the daily cares of his professional life. He had no leisure for calm thought or continuous work. That he should have achieved so much, under such conditions, is the highest proof of the great possibilities that lay behind, awaiting but time and opportunity for perfect development. He disdained the dilletante's work in letters, the elaborate polishing of trifles which he satirizes in his "Art Master," as "carving of cherry-stones." He always held the thought far above the language in which it might be clothed. Yet he has given evidence in a score of perfect songs, of his ability to handle rhyme, rhythm, and melody with a masterly skill.

To the kindness of his sister, Mrs. Merry, of Liverpool, England, I am indebted for a copy of his first poetical effort, written when he was eleven years old. Its subject was the death of Frederick Lucas, the great-hearted English friend of Ireland. Very crude and childish, yet not without a suggestion of originality, are the eight lines of this ambitious elegy:

He is gone, he is gone, to a world more serene
Than the one in which our most true friend has been.
He is pale as the swan, he is cold as the wave,
And his honored head lies low in the deep, hollow grave.

His death has caused sorrow throughout our green isle,
For now he is gone, he'll no more on us smile.
And now is his poor brow as cold as the lead.
Because our beloved Frederick Lucas is dead.

It is a far cry from this to "Wendell Phillips"; but