Thomas Humphry Ward, ed. The English Poets. 18801918. Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Critical Introduction by Thomas Humphry Ward
Andrew Lang (18441912)
[Born at Selkirk, 1844. Educated at the Edinburgh Academy, at St. Andrews, and at Balliol College, Oxford, whence he obtained a first class in the Final Classical Schools and a Fellowship at Merton. Settled in London; married Leonora, youngest daughter of Mr. C. T. Alleyne of Clifton, and sister of Miss S. F. Alleyne, who was associated with Evelyn Abbott in translating Dunckers History of Greece and Zellers History of Philosophy. About 1875, Lang began a long career as journalist and author, writing light leaders for the Daily News and middles for the Saturday Review, and producing a multiplicity of excellent books in verse and prose. Among the latter were several Homeric studies and translations, books on Scottish history, and others on Anthropology, including serious matters like the Origins of Religion and lighter departments like Folk-lore and Fairy Tales. His poems began with Ballads and Lyrics of Old France (1872), and after a long interval went on to Ballades in Blue China, Grass of Parnassus, and many others. He died on July 20, 1912, mourned by many friends and regretted by a multitude of readers.]
ANDREW LANG was not primarily a poet, but a writer to whom all subjects and many languages seemed to come by nature. He was equally at home in Homers Greek, in old French romances, and in many phases of modern literature; at once a serious and scientific disputant, a sound critic, a humorist, and both familiar with a score of other mens styles and master of a distinctive style of his own. Here we are only concerned with his verse, which one reads with all the greater pleasure because most of it is evidently the relaxation of a worker, almost too busy a worker, in other fields. A large number of his poems are the direct outcome of his reading and of his prose labours; for example, the volume in which he introduced English readers to the almost forgotten ballads and lyrics in which early French literature abounds, the poems in which he recast thoughts suggested by Homer and Herodotus, such as the fine Odyssey sonnet, and those which he consecrated to the heroes of his own time, Gordon above all. Lang was no politician in the party sense; his leading articles had for the most part nothing to do with politics; but he had a profound belief in national duty, a profound regard for the national honour, and a positive horror of any political faltering or paltering where that honour was at stake. Certain of his poems give an almost fierce expression to that feeling, but the large majority are lighter in subject and in touch. They are the utterances of a man steeped in the best literature of all the ages, and at the same time delighted when he could express his healthy pleasure in nature and physical exercisecricket, golf, fishingand still more when he could play upon the fancies and the foibles of his time with that humorous touch that his readers still find so attractive and so inimitable.