Thursday, 26 September 2013

Anthology 12

Talking of feminine line-endings, here is a charming little lyric (titled as a Song) by the Rev. R.W. Dixon, Victorian churchman and poet.Charming, and seasonal too - the first lines came into my head the other day while looking at just such a half-yellowed willow.
  Richard Watson Dixon,  an early associate of the Pre-Raphaelites, was ordained in 1858 and spent the rest of his life in the bosom of the C of E and his fitful muse. It was not until 1883 that he attracted serious literary attention, when his epic Mano: A Poetical History of the Time of the Close of the Tenth Century: Concerning the Adventures of a Norman Knight: Which Fell Part in Normandy Part in Italy: In Four Books attracted high praise from Swinburne. It was written entirely in terza rima - a tribute to Dixon's industry and technical skill if nothing else. His magnum opus was his (prose) History of the Church of England from the Abolition of the Roman Jurisdiction - eight hefty volumes covering the years 1529 to 1570.
  When Tennyson died in 1892, Dixon was briefly considered as the next Poet Laureate. However, Lord Salisbury - intending a joke on the literary establishment - manoeuvred his man, Alfred Austin, into the post. Widely regarded as the worst Poet Laureate ever (yes - worse than Andrew Motion!), Austin is remembered for the notorious lines on a health crisis in the life of the Prince of Wales: 'Across the wires the electric message came: He is no better, he is much the same' - though, oddly, there's no documentary evidence that Austin wrote them.
  Here is Dixon's Song -

The feathers of the willow
Are half of them grown yellow
  Above the swelling stream;
And ragged are the bushes,
And rusty now the rushes,
  And wild the clouded gleam.
The thistle now is older,
His stalk begins to moulder,
  His head is white as snow;
The branches all are barer,
The linnet’s song is rarer,
  The robin pipeth now.

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