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Bliss Carman: A Reappraisal by Gerald Lynch

By Gerald Lynch

The tarnished recognition of this turn-of-the-century poet is persuasively burnished anew by means of fifteen students, editors, and poets.

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Extra resources for Bliss Carman: A Reappraisal

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To his dearest Atom, Gladys Baldwin. He is Moonshine to Frederika Milne's Wayside. 35 He was christened William Bliss. And sometimes he actually uses the name of the father, as a kind of comic alter ego, or id, or astral self, which may also be a parodic imitation of W. B. Yeats. He sometimes writes about, and signs, little Monkey Willy and Willy Truly. To his friends the Fickes he signs Felipe. And to the serious Margaret Lawrence, who thinks he is a Villon, he signs Francois. Earlier, joking about his fall from poet to prosateur, the need for even King Arthur's fool to have his cakes and ale, he signs himself Dagonet.

You too might have sat here in a nook of the grass your eyes on the orange lilies by the white picket fence; imagined yourself the ephemeron swaying in the great golden heart of one of those daisies, or the white butterfly flitting over the roses (not, probably, the hurrying industrious ant on little black feet). You might have strolled to the edge of the vegetable garden, picked a handful of raspberries, cracked open a pea-pod to eat the sweet green peas raw might have looked up and heard startled 26 wings flutter above you (Ah, there's a tiny bird totally yellow— gone now) To wait patiently to hear what the silent flowers might say, daisies, bluebells, the nasturtiums around the corner, that one white shadow of a dandelion now swaying in the wind: yes, you would have enjoyed such a long afternoon, heard who-knows-what whispers may still enjoy it for all I know, your tall, stooped ghost grey-cloaked swinging open my garden gate, advancing down my walk, leaning over my shoulder to see what poem of yours I am reading.

Carman's own "Prayer in the Rose Garden," in the second issue, attempts to relate an Emersonian notion of spiritual evolution to a principle of natural order and beauty. Gilbert Parker's "There is an Orchard," in the issue of November 1, 1894, involves a similar image, incorporated into a romantic love lyric; and Archibald Lampman's "Inter Vias," of January 15, 1895, is a Poe-like withdrawal to a visionary land of supreme beauty. The Chap-Book thus offered Carman, as contributor and editor, freedom in his own poetic composition and the opportunity to bring a more comprehensive view of Canadian literature to an American audience.

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