Clinton Scollard. With Reed and Lyre. 4.1 (March, 1887): 42




[Harvard Monthly 4.1 (March, 1887), 42]

WITH REED AND LYRE. By Clinton Scollard. Boston: D. Lothrop & Co.


Mr. Scollard’s muse is a china doll, dressed not so very prettily in spite of a show of prettiness. But we can not speak of her with certainty. Sometimes we wonder if she exists at all. “Ofttimes when I venture to woo her, “ says Mr. Scollard, “she flits like a sprite from my eyes, and then, if I turn to pursue her, the farther she flies.” Mr. Scollard pursues his muse too much. Often it seems as if she had flown away beyond recapture. There was a time when the muse was not at all “erratic,” when she had real followers. Now she peers into many faces, in vain. She rested in recent years, by the side of Mr. Gosse. But she found him also disappointing. Mr. Gosse’s earlier verses have a tangibility, a sanguine glow, an exquisite plasticity, that we find no trace of in Mr. Scollard’s With Reed and Lyre, although the title of this book evidently was suggested by Mr. Gosse’s On Viol and Flute.


Mr. Scollard’s verses are the natural offspring of the de Banville school, the great characteristic of which is that it makes the rhyme suggest—not the reason— the theme. This is best seen in the set forms, of which Mr. Scollard uses a number. He speaks in a sonnet of “breezes soft as blow o’er Samarcand,” forced to do so by his rhymes. Or does not Mr. Scollard know that Samarcand is a particularly hot, and sultry place? Where the forms are not set, Mr. Scollard has not even the exigencies of rhyme to suggest a theme, and he wanders off into nothingness with as great speed, although by no means with so great ease, as Mr. John Payne. Mr. Scollard’s A Masque of March is fully as good an instance of verse that has nothing to say as Mr. Payne’s Masque of Shadows. In places Mr. Scollard is quite funambelesque. By overloading the last syllable of his lines, often such weak final syllables as short adverbs, and even prepositions, he unintentionally produces an effect almost as comic as Chaucer’s Rime of Sir Thopas.


Mr. Scollard’s Gallic Bonds are really Gallic fetters. His rondeaus and villanelles have not a touch of the witchery of Mr. Dobson’s, like which they want to be. His ballades have none of the sprightliness of Mr. Lang’s, after which they seem to be fashioned. Poor Villon, “Master Villon”—would he have written the ballade Dames du Temps Jadi had he known that its offspring would be Mr. Scolard’s Where
are the Ships of Tyre!


Mr. Scollard’s jocular muse inspires him to write A Stylus, a poem that reminds us by its rhythm and tone of Mr. Longfellow’s Skeleton in Armor. An Ancestor is so jocular that it cries for a banjo accompaniment. On the whole, though, is not Mr. Scollard’s Jocosa Musa a lignea musa?