Reprint: "At Dawn and Dusk"

Mr. Victor J. Daley has given us a new volume of verse -- not a volume of new verse, for nearly all the work has been made familiar to us through various Southern papers. It is a good sign to find published within so few months of each other books such as that which Mr. Essex Evans lately gave us and Mr. Daley's collection of charming verse. They represent a distinct stage in the development of Australian literature, and are more truly characteristic of the intellect of the country as the wild and sometimes not particularly polished bush songs which for a time held the ear of young Australia. We do not intend to make comparisons between Mr. Evans and Mr. Daley, and merely couple their names because they come together naturally. In speaking of the song-makers who have gone down somewhat under the surface of things. Mr. Daley's book will be welcomed by every man and woman in Australia who can appreciate sweet thought clothed in faultless verse. So far there is nothing in the book which can lay claim to greatness, but there is in many parts of it work which has both of the qualities Matthew Arnold yearned for: "sweetness and light." Mr. Daley is a gifted and accomplished writer. His workmanship is in every way commendable. There is no occasion to despair of higher things while we have such singers. The opening poem, "Dreams," is a model of modesty. Here are the first and last lines of it:

"I have been dreaming all a summer day
Of rare and dainty poems I would write;
Love-lyrics delicate as lilac scent,
Soft idylls woven of wind, and flower, and stream,
And songs and sonnets carven in fine gold."

"I have been dreaming all a summer day
Of songs and sonnets carven in fine gold;
But all my dreams in darkness pass away;
The day is fading and the dusk is cold."

Mr. Daley need not fear that his dreams have passed away in darkness. They will be cherished in Australia in the years to be. Their charm is not of the evanescent order. Those who read the book will be particularly impressed with the beauty of "Years Ago," a very musical and very touching set of verses. They are truly "Love-lyrics delicate as lilac scent." "The Nightingale" may be similarly classed. The closing verse of it is very beautiful:
"Fades the moonlight golden-pale,
   And the bird has ceased to sing --
Ah, it was no nightingale,
   But my heart-remembering."
"A Vision of Youth" is a remarkably clever and fanciful piece of work, and so is "Neaera's Wreath." "Sixty to Sixteen" is also good, but is discounted somewhat by being so strongly reminiscent of Swinburne's song "If". "The Dead Child" is a very fine piece of work, full of genuine sentiment; and "The Martyr" is similarly commendable. In "Love-laurel" Mr. Daley lays a tribute on the tomb of Henry Kendall, which those who knew that poet's work and life history will keenly appreciate. Here is one stanza:
"Dreamer of dreams, thy songs and dreams are done.
Down where thou sleepest in earth's secret bosom
   There is no sorrow and no joy for thee,
   Who can'st not see what stars at eve there be,
Nor evermore at morn the green dawn blossom
Into the golden king-flower of the sun
   Across the golden sea."
The book, we repeat, is worthy of a place in our literature. Victor J. Daley is one of the singers Australia will remember.

* At Dawn and Dusk, By Victor J. Daley. Sydney : Angus and Robertson.)

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 30 July 1898
[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]
Note: you can read the full text of At Dawn and Dusk at The University of Sydney's SETIS Digital Resource site.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 19, 2008 8:50 AM.

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