Reprint: Our Australian Poets: Henry Halloran by Zadriel

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"I wish I had some of the versifying talent of Halloran," exclaimed Sir Thomas Mitchell (he was then engaged on the translation of "Camoens"). "I would make this a rhyme, not a prose transalation, as I must now call it." "Mr. Halloran?" I rather queried than said. "Yes; he is in my office. I call him our colonial Lovelace, or Davenant; but I expect he will make a name for himself." "Unless," I answered, "He might have too many sheep on a Shenstone's Leasowes. Don't you think, Sir Thomas, we have poetry enough?" "No. We never have had, nor never will have too much of the right sort. Poetry is the grand purifier of the wave of intellect which keeps seething and boiling around us. We owe more to our poets than we do to our prose writers, just as a Christian would know more of the Psalms than he would of any other portion of the Scripture." "Give me the songs of a nation and I shall know know how to rule it," said a great man, and if the more elaborate works of Campbell or Burns, or of Moore were forgotten, "Ye Mariners of England," "Scots Wha Hae," or the "Sweet Yale of Avoca," would be remembered as long as our language is spoken." Here," said an old and valued friend to me, who had been long prostrated by that terrible affliction, a nervous disorder, "here I have received more benefit from those few lines of good old quaint and pious George Herbert than I have from the Pharmacopiae. Shall I repeat them to you?" "Do."

   Who would have thought my withered soul
      Should have recovered greenness?
   It was gone quite underground, as flowers depart
      To see their mother-root, when they have blown
   Where they together all the hard weather
      Dead to the world, kept house unknown.

   And now in age again I live and write;
      I once more smell the dew and rain,
   And relish versing. Oh! my only light,
      It cannot be that I am he
   On whom thy tempests fell all night.

I have never had the pleasure of reading Mr. Halloran's poems in a collected form, nor do I even know whether they have been published; but from the different fugitive pieces of his which I have met with in the colonial newspaper press, he is a poet of no mean order; more classical, I should say, than artistic, breathing a deep spirit of refinement, which is the more remarkable as he wrote at a time when the grossest sensuality was the order of the day. Like most men who are not compelled to depend upon their pen for subsistence, there is nothing paradoxical in his effusions; there is an easy, quiet flow of gentlemanly, good humored musical rhyme, more of the Corinthian than the Doric about it, more of the urbe in rure than the rus in urbe, and, above all things, possessing the rare merit of modern poetry-- that is, of being understood. When I first saw Mr. Halloran, he was in a carriage; when I last saw him he was in a carriage; and I sincerely trust that he will ascend Parnassus in the same vehicle, and get crowned, too, as one of first who stepped boldly forward as a purifier of the public taste.

First published in The Queenslander, 10 April 1869

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 27, 2012 8:54 AM.

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