I hope I shan't disgust you by saying that I miss the spirited start of Sonnet I in your
present version, though of course it elucidates the sense. Moreover the first line now seems of
a Browningian ruggedness rather, and suggests a very rutty carriage-road. Also (alas!) I miss
the original plan of bringing Burns and ourselves in contact in the last line. This seems a
Top only stayed a few days here, but is coming back. He has kept a diary in Iceland, but not
for publication, and his stories (as far as I have heard) are not so funny as I hoped. The best
is to the effect that Faulkner and Magnusson, at one hospitable mansion which they visited, had
their breeches deferentially removed by the lady of the house on retiring to refresh themselves
and prepare for dinner! Of this national custom they had heard before starting, but it was only
actually observed on this occasion. I do not know how Topsy escaped, and he was silent on that
point, but I should think most likely the evident imminence of a defensive bootjack flying
through the air may have caused his kind hostess to think twice about this time honoured
tradition in his case. He seems to have been much the best traveller of the four, though he
declares now that he feels no yearning towards a second experience of the same kind. One day he
was here, he went for a day's fishing in our punt, the chief result of which was a
I inscribed as follows—
- Enter Poet, moored in a punt,
- And Jacks and Tenches exeunt.
and this seemed to be the course of events.
My poem [i.e.,
a comic side, Scotus, or at least not an intentional one:
indeed it is so consumedly tragic that I have been obliged to modify the intended course of the
catastrophe, to avoid an unmanageable heaping up of the agony. I have made a complete prose
version beforehand, and so get on with it easily, and shall finish I hope before leaving here.
I hope it is a good thing, but there is so much incident that it is necessarily much more of a
regular narrative poem than is usual with me, and thus lacks the incisive concentration of such
a piece as
I have had to make three Parts of it, though the whole will not, I hope now, exceed 150
five-line stanzas. I shall be glad to make it less if possible, as this I think should be the
great aim of all poetry which has not absolutely epic proportions, nor should these be
undertaken at all if avoidable.
Your suggestion about chiaro-scuro engraving is one I should like to talk over. Two things
sent me by Norton from Italy, and which I have stuck on my bedroom wall here, are I think of
that class, done some one hundred years ago perhaps. They are from Veronese and Tintoret,
painters whom I have got to think simply detestable without their colour and handling. The
Veronese is by an engraver named Jackson - the Tintoret I suppose to be Italian. I presume the
line part in such work is wood-engraving is it not? This at once calls in a hand not one's own,
and I must confess the general effect seems to me wanting in depth and colour, though it might
conceivably include both perhaps.
I am delighted to hear of the progress of the Nativity subject, from which I shall expect
real results - and surprised to hear that the Burns picture has actually been accomplished.
Howell is at Northend I believe, and has actually got his
father with him at
last I hear! The Tadémas will be lucky if they get the
Rainy Day, which
however is rather an ominous wedding present. The
Portfolio you asked after
is not worth sending I think. It contains an article on Mason by Colvin, one on Unprofessional
Taste by Laurenny, one on Children in Italian and English Design by Colvin, and one on London
Churches by Champneys. If these tempt you I'll send it.
With love to Miss Boyd, of whose work you tell me not, I am
D. G. R.
P.S. Discontent again! I think the “and” before “lo!” in line 12 Sonnet 2, is wanted. Could
it not run:
- Of stream and hopper's hushed; and lo! this one &c.