Australian Verse [review of Poems by Agnes L. Storrie, 23 December 1899]

[Editor: A review of Poems (1899) by Agnes L. Storrie. Published in The Australasian, 23 December 1899.]

Australian Verse.*

Miss Agnes L. Storrie comes before the public with a little volume of poems which should earn her an honourable place among Australian singers. Nearly all her verses charm the ear by their melody, many show a graceful and original play of fancy, and there is a certain robustness about the writer’s treatment of her themes as well as a deftness of execution which will ensure her work popularity as it becomes better known. Readers of “The Australasian” have had various opportunities of judging Miss Storrie’s style, and will be the foremost to admit that her verse has both strength and finish. An excellent sample was one of the earliest pieces from her pen published in these columns — light in touch, admirable in idea. One or two specimen stanzas may be quoted:—

“Measure me out from the fathomless tun,
That somewhere or other you keep
In your vasty cellars, oh! wealthy one,
Twenty gallons of sleep.
Twenty gallons of balmy sleep,
Dreamless and deep and mild,
Of the excellent brand you used to keep
When I was a little child.

“Twenty gallons of slumber soft,
Of the innocent baby kind
When the angels flutter their wings aloft,
And the pillow with down is lined;
And eyelids droop over tired eyes
That never have learned to weep,
And the soul like a ship in harbour lies;
Twenty gallons of sleep.”

There are many short poems in this volume equally musical and dainty in theme. The lullaby on page 49 deserves to be bracketed with the piece just quoted as excellent in rhythm and whimsicality:—

Shut that little eye, oh!
Tuck that little drowsy head into its little nest,
Baby go to bye, oh!
Of all the pleasant things I know, sure slumber is the best.”

It must not be supposed that Miss Storrie confines herself to work merely quaint and pretty. She has a strong feeling for nature, especially nature in its Australian garb, as is attested by the introductory poem, which is an eloquent protest against the description of the bush given by Marcus Clarke in his preface to Gordon’s poems. She has also humour, displayed chiefly in some of the bush pieces; narrative power utilised in such poems as “What the Overseer Told Me;” and some promise of dramatic gift is discernible. There is a good deal of intensity, for example, in the blank verse dialogue entitled “A Trois Temps,” a passionate exchange supposed to pass between two secret lovers while they are threading the mazes of a waltz, with burning words upon their lips, studied indifference in their demeanour. The scene may be deemed impossible, but the fact that the woman is wedded and that the pair are railing against their fate as “bond-slaves of the law” gives it a true dramatic touch.

* Poems by Agnes L. Storrie.

The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.), 23 December 1899, p. 1457 (49th page of that issue)

Editor’s notes:
tun = a large cask, especially used for holding wine; more specifically applied to a unit of liquid capacity of 252 gallons (954 litres)

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