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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review 1912



We readers of the Spike, quaffers of the divine nectar, have known Mr. Church for a long time. But we have been accustomed only to Philip sober, sometimes even a little beyond our comprehension in his puritan sobriety. As he himself would put it, he was writing pueris et virginibus et professoribus, and so could not be too careful. Now, however, freed from these cramping fetters, he bursts upon us in a bright and transcendent blaze of new glory. In his latest book, bright little love lyrics, which have many of the virtues and none of the vices of page 53 the Herrick-Suckling-Lovelace school, bubble and effervesce beside quiet and deep pools of philosophic verse we know so well.

Turning over the pages at random, we are surprised that Our Church should be aware of the fact that

At Fynedun Castle the girls
Walk like a schooner's glide;
The wind that shakes their culrs
Loosening loves that hide
In filleted hair
Finds none elsewhere
Like them o'er thewold and tide.

or that

Rosalind has come to town!
All the street's a meadow,
Balconies are beeches brown
With a drowsy shadow.
And the long-drawn window panes
Are the foliage of her lanes.

Hardly have we overcome our surprise at this light play of fancy on the part of one whose accustomed haunt we suspected to he Metaphysical Thought, when we make another pleasant discovery. Mr. Church is a musician; the tone of his words blends melodiously with the sentiments they express. In his stanzas "To my dog," the verse

Underneath a stunted branch
Evermore our sleep shall be,
Waked not by the avalanche
Or the huddled revelry
Of the cataract to the sea,

has a wonderfully peaceful and soothing sound, as of sea-breakers in the distance. There is, too, something sweet about and haunting:

The rose shall lose her diadem,
The nightingale shall weep his singing,
And Love shall hear his requiem
From bells that Sorrow sets a-ringing

from "Favonius,"

page 54

In the choice of his figures Mr. Church has also been very fortunate. For instance, in the stanza beginning "Is daylight fading, Margaret?" (alas, poor Margaret, how often has that fateful rhyming facility of your last syllable made you the conjured of poets), the last two lines:

"Does Darkness gather in her net
The stars that in the sunbeams hide?"

contain a very pretty fancy.

For the thoughtful and philosophic of his readers, Mr. Church's book contains much that will interest, hold, and busy. Busy, for that branch of his work is still not lacking in a few obscurities. Mr. Church seems to grasp and put into words an idea with such rapidity that he forgets in some cases that his readers, who have not the inside information he possesses, may be at a loss to understand. Perhaps this is because Mr. Church is an optimist, and has too exalted an idea of the average intelligence. We should rather see him a pessimist, however, if that would cause him to take just a little more trouble in illuminating the few corners that are left in darkness.

Of the philosophic poems, the one that appeals most to us is one that has already appeared in these pages, the "Ode on Metaphysical Thought." The last verse of that

Some diviner, Argonaut
Of the drifting sail of thought
Shall discover all the main
We have trembled for in vain.
Under Truth's pavilion cloud
Men shall wander pure and proud,
Ear shall hearken to a word
That no sophistry hath blurred;
Time shall fold his wing behind,
Death be youth and beauty blind.
Every heart shall burdened be
With more joy than it can see

seems to be the prophecy of another Prometheus chained to his rock in the fastnesses of the Southern Alps.

page 55

The Spike being ever a joyous and bibulous, rather than a serious and sober rascal, is delighted to find that Mr. Church has a side that is merry and bright, though he has in the past not often turned it in the Spike's direction. It feels now that it could pat him jovially on the back, and even challenge him to a game of snooker. In the meantime it strongly advises all its friends to take their pipes or knitting, as the case may be, and hie them to the sunny woods with a copy of Mr. Church's I poems, for the summer weather.