Reprint: Henry Kendall

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The first half century of Australian history produced little creative artistic work. Wentworth, when he was at Cambridge, wrote a very fine poem, in which he sounded a note of Australia's future greatness, and predicted the rise of some "Austral Shakespeare, whose living page, to nature true, may charm in every age." That poem, however, beautifully correct as it may be, lacked any emotional impulse. The first really genuine poetic piping was heard in 1845, when Charles Harpur, a native of Goulburn, the city that has just celebrated its centenary, wrote a little book of sonnets. The sixties saw the rise of Gordon and Kendall. They were two poetic stars that burst out of the literary darkness about the same time, the one in Victoria and the other in New South Wales. Brilliant as Gordon was, revealing the influence of both Swinburne and Browning, he was not so musical as Kendall, and not so subtle and humorous as Brunton Stephens, who, like the rich and delicate Essex Evans, belongs to a later period. Henry Kendall is probably the most musical of Australia's poets. It is nearly sixty years since he began to sing his brave woodland notes. His poem "To a Mountain" is Australia's   masterpiece. No other Australian poet has reached the towering heights of arcadian grandeur that Kendall trod, nor has any other poet touched our woodland scenery with the same exquisite colouring. He wrote in an age, however, when Australia had little inclination for art, and he felt the hardships occasioned by a small and always insecure income until in his later years the late Sir Henry Parkes, one of his first admirers, secured for him a position in the Government service which was both congenial and remunerative. Unfortunately Kendall did not long enjoy his ease, falling a victim to consumption in the year I882, at the age of 41 years. At different times Kendall's poems have been published in different sections in different volumes, but these have now been gathered into one very fine edition, entitled "The Poems of Henry Kendall" (Angus and Robertson, Ltd., Sydney), to which Mr. Bertram Stevens has contributed a short biographical note. The new volume contains the poems included in the three volumes published during Kendall's lifetime, those not reprinted by Kendall, but included in a collected edition of 1886, and a number of poems now printed for the first time, having been secured from the Kendall manuscripts in the Mitchell Library. The new volume contains nearly 400 pages, and although all the poems are not of the same high standard yet Kendall mostly wrote with the inspiration of the true artist, and his best pieces will certainly have an enduring place wherever English poetry is read. Our copy is through Mr. J. H. Thomson, Queen-street.

First published in The Queenslander, 6 November 1920

[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 January 25, 2012 6:56 AM.

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