Thomas Humphry Ward, ed. The English Poets. 18801918. Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Critical Introduction by Thomas Humphry Ward
Sir Alfred Comyn Lyall (18351911)
[Born 1835, of a family distinguished for its Indian services; educated at Eton and Haileybury; entered the Indian Civil Service, 1856; went through the Mutiny; rose rapidly, becoming ultimately Home Secretary 1873, Foreign Secretary 1878. Retired 1887, and lived in London till his death in 1911. Was Member of the India Council 18881902, and very prominent in intellectual society. Published Verses written in India, 1889, and afterwards two volumes of Asiatic Studies, dealing mainly with Oriental ideas on philosophy and religion.]
THOUGH Sir Alfred Comyn Lyalls chief claim to remembrance, other than the deep impression that he has left in the minds of his many friends, lies in his brilliant Indian administration and his masterly essays on Eastern religions, his little volume of verse ought by no means to be forgotten. It stands alone by reason of its vivid expression of Indian thought, old and new, and of its deep insight into Indian character. In form, too, the poems are admirable, though some of those written between 1864 and 1870 are a little too Swinburnian in rhythm and some of the rhymes are such as to shock the critical ear. The two poems given below are alike concerned with that problem of the ultimate meaning of the worldof Life, Death and Destinyon which Lyalls own mind, like that of his Indian mystics, was ever working. But, did space permit, it would be easy to show that he carried his researches and his meditations on this and kindred themes through other lands and other literatures. In Joab Speaketh we realize the doubts as to the justice of things which must have beset many a Hebrew warrior; in the charming story of The Monk and the Bird we have a mediæval assertion of faith rewarded; while in Pilates Wifes Dream the poet gives us a picture of the longing of a Roman woman to be saved from madness and magic, and to be free, once and for all, from the deep, perplexing, insoluble problems that were for ever vexing the soul of the East.