Books up to date [a review of “Perdita: A Sonnet Record” by John Le Gay Brereton, 19 September 1896]

[Editor: This extract from the “Books up to date” column is a review of Perdita: A Sonnet Record, which was written anonymously by John Le Gay Brereton. Published in The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 19 September 1896.]

Books up to date

Delicacy, passion, grace, and strength. We meet with all these in “Perdita, a Sonnet Record,” a most unassuming little booklet just published by George Robertson and Co.

Why the author of these charming love-songs has published them unsigned by even an initial that might give us a clue to his identity — we judge the author to be of the male sex — is a mystery. These are no amateur warblings. A cultured mind, a pure, deep, and earnest nature, and an exquisite sensativeness breathe in every line of them.

A touch of what is meant to be humor in sonnet xxi., “The Good Angel,” jars a little under the heading named.

I mark the humor of red-girdled eyes,
And salt tears dripping from a grief-wrung nose

Borders on the grotesque, and one wonders why the author inclines to the use of the adjective “livid” in connection with the hours of gloom. But, taking them as a whole, the form and metrical expression of these poems are excellent.

The few blemishes of technique seem to be lost in the strong personality of the writer, who, we feel assured, is not young. He has loved, lived, suffered, thought; he has dreamed dreams and been disappointed. Indeed, the note of personal disappointment is the keenest of any.

We take leave of our unknown Sydney poet with a quotation, in the full certainty that somewhere in the literary world we shall meet him again:—

Lo! I who said, “The world is dark indeed,”
And knew not whether good grew more or less,
But only mumbled in my wretchedness
A sorry hope — a crust in utter need
To save myself from starving — for the meed
Of love, I said, is woe, and pleasures bless
Only the heartless — I, who sought to guess
God’s secret mocking us in flower and weed,
Now stand rejoicing; not because my youth
Rides on the wave of some glad mood, and tries
To think it leaves its griefs and follies all
Out in the deep, but now I know the truth,
Made sure for ever by my lady’s eyes —
Love’s reign is sure, his throne shall never fall.

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 19 September 1896, p. 3

Editor’s notes:
lo = (archaic) look, observe, see; an interjection used to call attention to something (especially as used in the phrase “lo and behold”)

meed = (archaic) a fitting recompense; an appropriate amount of praise, honour, or reward; a payment or reward given for work done or services rendered

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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