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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Edith Matilda Thomas (1854–1925)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
THE POETICAL work of Edith Matilda Thomas is chiefly remarkable for its sustained literary quality. While it is never lacking in spontaneity, it always shows conscientious workmanship, and strict fidelity to a high ideal of the requirements of verse. Its subject-matter evidences a thoughtful, sensitive, and ofttimes passionate spirit in the author, governed however by that spirit of asceticism which is the distinguishing mark of the true artist. Miss Thomas’s self-restraint is commensurate with her inspiration.  1
  She was born in 1854 in Chatham, Ohio; was educated at the Normal Institute at Geneva, in the same State. While she was yet a girl, she began writing for the magazines. In 1885 she published a volume of verse entitled ‘A New-Year’s Masque,’ and in the following year a volume of prose with the title ‘The Round Year.’ Her prose is no less excellent than her verse, being always strong, simple, and direct. ‘The Round Year’ is a kind of continuous essay on the various aspects of the seasons. The author’s love of nature is not that bred in the town, through long deprivation of its refreshment. She has the intimate acquaintance with it which does not deal in generalities, but lingers with discerning affection over the beauties of certain flowers and wayside bushes, of elusive changes in the sky, of the impalpable essences of natural things felt rather than seen even with the inner eye.  2
  This friendly love for the outside world informs many of her most beautiful poems. The volumes entitled ‘Lyrics and Sonnets,’ ‘A Winter Swallow,’ ‘Fair Shadow Land,’ ‘A New-Year’s Masque,’ contain not a few of these poems of the sky and earth. In one of them, ‘Half Sight and Whole Sight,’ she expresses the spirit in which she herself looks upon the God-made world:—
  “Thou beholdest, indeed, some mystical intimate beckoning
Out of the flower’s honeyed heart, that passeth our reckoning;
          Yet when hast thou seen, or shalt see,
          With the eye of yon hovering bee?”
  3
  Miss Thomas’s poems of love and life are more remote in their spirit than her poems of nature; yet in a time of feverish erotic verse their apparent coldness is welcome. She has drunk too deep, it may be, at the fountain-head of Greek poetry to share the modern extravagance of thought and feeling. Her poems on classical subjects show no small degree of comprehension of the Greek spirit. She makes use oftenest of the sonnet and lyric forms in her poetry, handling them with delicate skill. The sense of her verse is never sacrificed to its music; and in her preservation of the fine balance between the two elements, she gives clearest evidence of the genuineness of her poetical gifts.  4
  If her later poems have not disclosed any unexpected qualities, they have maintained the fine workmanship and sure taste of her first volumes. Some admirable verse is to be found in ‘Cassia and Other Verse’ (1905), ‘The Children of Christmas’ (1908), and ‘The Guest at the Gate’ (1909). Her most recent volumes are ‘The White Messenger’ (1915) and ‘The Flower from the Ashes’ (1915).  5
 
 
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