Reprint: A Gordon Memento: A Letter to the Editor of The Argus by John L. Menzies

Sir, - Mr. W. A. Brennan, in his article which appeared in the Magazine section of "The Argus" last Saturday on "Ashtaroth," a dramatic lyric by A. L. Gordon, a copy of which was presented to the Yorick Club by the author, sums up his analysis of it by saying the the work as a whole is undoubtedly unattractive, but that it is worth studying for the gems that are found in it. He claims that "there is probably no more interesting or graphic writing than that which is contained in the moonlight elopement of Harold and Agatha from the pursuit of Hugo as related by Agatha to the Mother Superior in the convent many years later."

Mr. Brennan then gives as an evidence of Agatha's capricious mind the closing lines of her narrative:

   See Harold the Dane, thou sayest is dead,
      Yet I weep not bitterly,
   As I fled with the Dane, so I might have fled,
      With Hugo of Normandy.

Mr. Brennan is rather harsh to Agatha, who admits in the following lines that she is not of the stuff of which heroines are made:

   I pulled the flower and shrunk from the thorn,
   Sought the Sunshine and fled from the mist,
   My sister was born to face hardship with scorn;
   I was born to be fondled and kiss'd.

"Ashtaroth" is not unattactive to lovers of Gordon, for the theme is full of action and romance, and Thora's Song and several of the other poems are among the most beautiful and musical that the poet wrote. The main faults in the lyric are, I think, its occasionally faulty versification rather than its matter.

Mr. Brennan opens up attractive ground for discussion when he says, "It would be interesting to learn where Gordon obtained his inspiration for the poem - obviously it was obtained from literature and not from personal experience." May I suggest in reply to this statement that the inspiration carne from both of these sources - first from Gordon's own life, and secondly, though this will probably surprise many of your readers, from Longfellow's "Golden Legend," the plot and construction of this well-known poem being very like that of "Ashtaroth."  

Yours, &c.,



First published in The Argus, 11 September 1937

Note: this letter was written in response to an article titled "A Gordon Momento" written by W.A. Breenan which I published here last week.

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

Project Gutenberg Australia has the full set of Gordon poems.

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