[Editor: This review of The Australian Girl and Other Verses (by Ethel Castilla) is an extract from the “Books and Bookmen” column, published in Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic.), 11 January 1900.]
Books and Bookmen.
The Australian Girl and Other Verses is the title of a volume by Ethel Castilla (George Robertson and Co. Proprietary Limited) with a preface by Rolf Boldrewood, of which the most conspicuous merit is its brevity. Miss Castilla’s rhymes are not irreproachable, she occasionally falls into the elementary error of using her eye instead of her ear as the test of rhyme, and accordingly writes of the Australian girl that—
“Southern sun and southern air
Have kissed her cheeks, until they wear
The dainty tints that oft appear
On rosy shells.”
Nor is her geography pedantically accurate, unless perhaps it is poetic license that makes the Pacific “zone” the “great isle” of Australia, and Sydney “fairest of sea-girdled towns.” At her best Miss Castilla is pleasantly melodious, but she is not always at her best, and the little volume just published contains some lines that are harsh and unmetrical:—
“Nor has its stern power caused to fall
The beating of her dauntless heart,”
“Where Nature’s mighty power hearts closer binds
Than all the pedant’s prized fraternal creeds.”
Miss Castilla lacks a sense of humour and of proportion, or she could hardly have written of Flemington racecourse at Cup time that—
“Linked by a common emotion.
There meet on the lawn,
John Bull, splashed with spray from the ocean,
Priests shaven and shorn,
And charming with native-born graces,
Spring’s hues on their ribbon and laces,
Slim belles, whose bright, flower-like faces
Are fresh as the dawn.”
In “the face of the dead” on the theme that “not the least of Life’s ironies is that there is no earthly rapture comparable to the joy in the face of the dead,” there are incongruities from which humour would have saved the authoress. As for example the following comparison:
“The jockey is thrilled by the thunder,
Like peace after fever and fret,
That hails his great win as a wonder;
His price above rubies is set.
His face blazons forth his glad story,
Whence triumph exultant is shed,
Yet its brightness is chilled by the glory,
Of joy in the face of the dead!”
Miss Castilla appears to have a great affection for things Australian and the Australian girl according to her is a sort of admirable Crichton in petticoats. Miss Castilla is not a great poet, but she has produced some pretty little verses which with more attention to rhyme and metre she could improve upon. “An Australian Lullaby” is perhaps the most melodious of the present collection.
Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic.), 11 January 1900, p. 10