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    Wishmaker's Town

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    A LIMITED edition of this little volume of verse, which seems to me in many respects unique, was issued in 1885, and has long been out of print. The reissue of the book is in response to the desire off certain readers who have not forgotten the charm which William Young's poem exercised upon them years ago, and, finding the charm still potent, would have others share it.

    The scheme of the poem, for it is a poem and not simply a series of unrelated lyrics, is ingenious and original, and unfolds itself in measures at once strong and delicate. The mood of the poet and the method of the playwright are obvious throughout. Wishmakers' Town--a little town situated in the no-man's-land of "The Tempest" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream"--is shown to us as it awakens, touched by the dawn. The clangor of bells far and near calls the townfolk to their various avocations, the toiler to his toil, the idler to his idleness, the miser to his gold. In swift and picturesque sequence the personages of the Masque pass before us. Merchants, hucksters, players, lovers, gossips, soldiers, vagabonds, and princes crowd the scene, and have in turn their word of poignant speech. We mingle with the throng in the streets; we hear the whir of looms and the din of foundries, the blare of trumpets, the whisper of lovers, the scandals of the market-place, and, in brief, are let into all the secrets of the busy microcosm. A contracted stage, indeed, yet large enough for the play of many passions, as the narrowest hearthstone may be. With the sounding of the curfew, the town is hushed to sleep again, and the curtain falls on this mimic drama of life.

    The charm of it all is not easily to be defined. Perhaps if one could name it, the spell were broken. Above the changing rhythms hangs an atmosphere too evasive for measurement--an atmosphere that stipulates an imaginative mood on the part of the reader. The quality which pleases in certain of the lyrical episodes is less intangible. One readily explains one's liking for so gracious a lyric as The Flower-Seller, to select an example at random. Next to the pleasure that lies in the writing of such exquisite verse is the pleasure of quoting it. I copy the stanzas partly for my own gratification, and partly to win the reader to "Wishmakers' Town," not knowing better how to do it.

    Myrtle, and eglantine, For the old love and the new! And the columbine, With its cap and bells, for folly! And the daffodil, for the hopes of youth! and the rue, For melancholy! But of all the blossoms that blow, Fair gallants all, I charge you to win, if ye may, This gentle guest, Who dreams apart, in her wimple of purple and gray, Like the blessed Virgin, with meek head bending low Upon her breast. For the orange flower Ye may buy as ye will: but the violet of the wood Is the love of maidenhood; And he that hath worn it but once, though but for an hour, He shall never again, though he wander by many a stream, No, never again shall he meet with a dower that shall seem So sweet and pure; and forever, in after years, At the thought of its bloom, or the fragrance of its breath, The past shall arise, And his eyes shall be dim with tears, And his soul shall be far in the gardens of Paradise Though he stand in the Shambles of death.

    In a different tone, but displaying the same sureness of execution, is the cry of the lowly folk, the wretched pawns in the great game of life:

    Prince, and Bishop, and Knight, and Dame, Plot, and plunder, and disagree! O but the game is a royal game! O but your tourneys are fair to see!

    None too hopeful we found our lives; Sore was labor from day to day; Still we strove for our babes and wives-- Now, to the trumpet, we march away!

    "Why?"--For some one hath will'd it so! Nothing we know of the why or the where-- To swamp, or jungle, or wastes of snow-- Nothing we know, and little we care.

    Give us to kill!--since this is the end Of love and labor in Nature's plan; Give us to kill and ravish and rend, Yea, since this is the end of man.

    States shall perish, and states be born: Leaders, out of the throng, shall press; Some to honor, and some to scorn: We, that are little, shall yet be less.

    Over our lines shall the vultures soar; Hard on our flanks shall the jackals cry; And the dead shall be as the sands of the shore; And daily the living shall pray to die.

    Nay, what matter!--When all is said, Prince and Bishop will plunder still: Lord and Lady must dance and wed. Pity us, pray for us, ye that will!

    It is only the fear of impinging on Mr. Young's copyright that prevents me reprinting the graphic ballad of The Wanderer and the prologue of The Strollers, which reads like a page from the prelude to some Old-World miracle play. The setting of these things is frequently antique, but the thought is the thought of today. I think there is a new generation of readers for such poetry as Mr. Young's. I venture the prophecy that it will not lack for them later when the time comes for the inevitable rearrangement of present poetic values.

    The author of "Wishmakers' Town" is the child of his period, and has not escaped the maladie du siecle. The doubt and pessimism that marked the end of the nineteenth century find a voice in the bell-like strophes with which the volume closes. It is the dramatist rather than the poet who speaks here. The real message of the poet to mankind is ever one of hope. Amid the problems that perplex and discourage, it is for him to sing

    Of what the world shall be When the years have died away.
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