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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Bliss Carman (1861–1929)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts (1860–1943)
BLISS CARMAN was born at Fredericton, New Brunswick, on April 15th, 1861. On both sides of the house he belongs to that United Empire Loyalist stock which at the time of the American Revolution sacrificed wealth and ease to a principle, and angrily withdrew from the young republic to carve out new commonwealths in the wilds of Canada. His father was William Carman, Clerk of the Pleas, a man of influence and distinction in his Province. His mother was one of the Blisses of Fredericton, the Loyalist branch of that Connecticut family to which Emerson’s mother belonged. Mr. Carman was educated at the Collegiate School and the University of New Brunswick, both at Fredericton. He distinguished himself in classics and mathematics, took his B.A. in 1881, his M.A. in 1884, and afterwards took partial courses at Edinburgh and Harvard. He has been connected editorially with several American periodicals, the Independent and the Chap-Book among them.  1
  Mr. Carman issued his first volume of poems in 1893, when he had already won reputation as a contributor to the magazines. The volume was called ‘Low Tide on Grand Pré: a Book of Lyrics.’ It was published in New York and London, and ran quickly into a second edition. Equally successful was the volume called ‘Songs from Vagabondia,’ published in 1894 and followed by ‘More Songs from Vagabondia’ (1896) and ‘Last Songs from Vagabondia’ (1900). Many of the poems in these volumes are by Mr. Richard Hovey, whose name appears on the title-page with that of Mr. Carman. Among Mr. Carman’s later volumes are ‘Behind the Arras’ (1895); ‘Ballads of Lost Haven’ (1897); ‘The Vengeance of Noel Brassard’ (1899); ‘Pipes of Pan’ (1902–5); ‘Collected Poems’ (2 vols., 1905); ‘The Making of Personality’ (1907); ‘The Rough Rider’ (1909); ‘A Painter’s Holiday’ (1911); ‘Echoes from Vagabondia’ (1912); ‘Daughters of Dawn’ (with Mary Perry King, 1913); ‘Earth Deities’ (with the same, 1914); and as editor-in-chief ‘The World’s Best Poetry’ (1904).  2
  In that outburst of intellectual energy which has of late won for Canada a measure of recognition in the world of letters, Mr. Carman’s work has played a large part. The characteristics of the Canadian school may perhaps be defined as a certain semi-Sufiistic worship of nature, combined with freshness of vision and keenness to interpret the significance of the external world. These characteristics find intense expression in Mr. Carman’s poems. And they find expression in an utterance so new and so distinctive that its influence is already active in the verse of his contemporaries.  3
  There are two terms which apply pre-eminently to Mr. Carman. These are Lyrist and Symbolist. His note is always the lyric note. The “lyric cry” thrills all his cadences. If it be true that poetry is the rhythmical expression in words of thought fused in emotion, then in his work we are impressed by the completeness of the fusion. Every phrase is filled with lyric passion. At its best, the result is a poem which not only haunts the ear with its harmonies but at the same time makes appeal to the heart and intellect. When the result is less successful it seems sometimes as if the thought were too much diluted with words,—as if, in fact, verbal music and verbal coloring were allowed to take the place of the legitimate thought-process. Even in such cases, the verse, however nebulous in meaning, is rarely without some subtlety of technique, some charm of diction, to justify its existence. But there are poems of Mr. Carman’s, wherein what seems at first to be the obscurity of an over-attenuated thought is really an attempt to express thought in terms of pure music or pure color. In a curious and beautiful poem called ‘Beyond the Gamut’ he elaborates a theory of the oneness and interchangeability of form, sound, and color.  4
  In the matter of conception and interpretation Mr. Carman is a symbolist. This word is not used here in any restricted sense, and must be divorced from all association with the shibboleths of warring schools. The true symbolist—and all the supreme artists of the world have been in this sense symbolists—recognizes that there are truths too vast and too subtle to endure definition in scientific phrase. They elude set words; as a faint star, at the coming on of evening, eludes the eye which seeks for it directly, while unveiling itself to a side glance. Mr. Carman conveys to us, by the suggestion of thrilling color or inimitable phrase, perceptions and emotions which a more strictly defined method could never capture.  5
  In subject-matter Mr. Carman is simple and elemental. He looks at his themes curiously, often whimsically; but the themes are those of universal and eternal import,—life, love, and death, the broad aspects of the outer world, the “deep heart of man,” and the spirit that informs them all. His song is sometimes in a minor key, plangent and piercing; sometimes in a large and virile major,—as for instance when he sings the ‘War-song of Gamelba.’ To his gifts of imagination, insight, and lyric passion he adds a fine humor, the outflowing of a broad and tolerant humanity. This is well exemplified in ‘Resignation’ and ‘A More Ancient Mariner.’ His chief defects, besides the occasional obscurity already referred to, are a tendency to looseness of structure in his longer poems, and once in a while, as in parts of ‘The Silent Lodger,’ a Browningesque lapse into hardness and baldness when the effect aimed at is colloquial simplicity.  6

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