EXCURSIONISTS IN POETRY
Nov. 5, 1892. An Itinerary.
Besides the glorious exclusiveness of it, there is a solid advantage just now, in not being an aspirant for the Laureateship. You can go out into the wilderness for a week without troubling to leave an address. A week or so back I found with some difficulty a friend who even in his own judgment has no claim to the vacant office, and we set out together across Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Quantocks, by eccentric paths over the southern ranges of Wales to the Wye, and homewards by canoe between the autumn banks of that river. The motto of the voyage was Verlaine’s line—
“Et surtout ne parlons pas litterature”
—especially poetry. I think we felt inclined to congratulate each other after passing the Quantocks in heroic silence; but were content to read respect in each other’s eyes.
The Return to Literature.
On our way home we fell across a casual copy of the Globe newspaper, and picked up a scrap of information about the Blorenge, a mountain we had climbed three days before. It is (said the Globe) the only thing in the world that rhymes with orange. From this we inferred that the Laureate had not been elected during our wanderings, and that the Anglo-Saxon was still taking an interest in poetry. It was so.
Public Excursions in Verse.
The progress of this amusing epidemic may be traced in the Times. It started mildly and decorously with the death of a politician. The writer of Lord Sherbrooke’s obituary notice happened to remember and transcribe the rather flat epigram beginning—
“Here lie the bones
of Robert Lowe,
Where he’s gone to I don’t know....”
with Lowe’s own Latin translation of the same. At once the Times was flooded with other versions by people who remembered the lines more or less imperfectly, who had clung each to his own version since childhood, who doubted if the epigram were originally written on Lord Sherbrooke, who had seen it on an eighteenth-century tombstone in several parts of England, and so on. London Correspondents took up the game and carried it into the provincial press. Then country clergymen bustled up and tried to recall the exact rendering; while others who had never heard of the epigram waxed emulous and produced translations of their own, with the Latin of which the local compositor made sport after his kind. For weeks there continued quite a pretty rivalry among these decaying scholars.