Reprint: Enchanted World Of Hugh McCrae

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"The Ship of Heaven," by Hugh McCrae. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney. 21/-).

Seventy years ago, in
Hugh McCrae's father's time, a trifle like this would have been served up as a pantomime, in which form it would have been a huge success, and printed -- if printed at all -- on cheap paper, unbound, and sold for a shilling at the show. It would have been sentimentally remembered for a year or two and forgotten thereafter.

Why should we be expec
ted to take "The Ship of Heaven" seriously as poetry? Certainly it is full of a whimsy flimsy Hughie McCraesiness which is delightful in a fairy-moonlight-and-spoilt-boy mood. And Mr. McCrae has a ready sense of the theatre, plays charmingly with notions, writes first-rate verse when he wants to, and has the right sense of music and mystery. But it is all so eighteen-eightyish! There would not be a hope in life of any commercial company taking on a thing like this, even if the Independent Theatre did put it on in Sydney-- with music by Alfred Hill-- and the effect was charming (it may have been).

There is a solemn aspect
to this. Mr. McCrae has his followers and they are idolaters. True, his best work has appeared, and we ought not to expect more of it. But this is a sentimental descent, and there was always too much sentimentality in his poetry. If Australian readers respond to this kind of appeal, then it means not merely that they have failed to progress in half a century or more: it means that they have regressed. For in 1880 or 1890 they would have known how to value a performance like "The Ship of Heaven."

First published in The Advertiser, 15 September 1951

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

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on November 16, 2011 9:29 PM.

Australian Bookcovers #282 - A Imaginary Life by Davif Malouf was the previous entry in this blog.

Great Australian Authors #54 - Hugh McCrae is the next entry in this blog.

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