Alfred H. Miles, ed. Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.
Critical and Biographical Essay by Richard le Gallienne
Graham R. Thomson (Rosamund Marriott Watson) (18601911)
PERHAPS one could hardly find a volume so typical of what cultured folk were caring for in 1889 (had been caring for for say the preceding ten years) than The Bird-Bride, a volume of Ballads and Sonnets, by Graham R. Tomson (Longmans). Weird Scots ballads after the manner just then revived by Mr. Swinburne, imitations of the Greek anthology, poems on pictures, bookish poems, vers de société in Mr. Dobsons metres, reminiscences of Herrick, ballades, rondeaus and villanelles, folk-songs, marches, translations from Provençal poets; all these common interests Mrs. Tomson managed to vivify with a touch of her own individuality.
Her title poem, dealing with a charming story of frequent occurrence, in various forms, in folk-lore, showed considerable skill and some imaginative power in the treatment of such themes. Deid Folks Ferry is also among the best of those ballads in which people say brither for brother, and blaw for blow. All the poems in the volume showed rare sensitiveness to dainty and distinguished influences, and there was not a page in it without some charm of cadence or delicately-chosen word. Perhaps it was by her sonnets (as being less open to the influences of fashion) that Mrs. Tomson was most safely to be judged a poet. In these Mrs. Tomson speaks with an accent of sincerity which all her enthusiasm for cats and first editions is unable to inspire.
Her best verses have true passion and tenderness, as well as æsthetic (sensitiveness) and artistic finish. She sometimes strikes a deep note of reflection as in The Smile of All-Wisdom, and especially in such a poem as the less sensational Two Songs, in which she so suggestively contrasts the cadence of the song of a bird and the piping of a shepherd lad.
In her second volume, A Summer Night and Other Poems (Methuen), Mrs. Tomson forsakes her bric-ô-brac and her French forms, and deals with themes of broader, commoner appeal. We feel she is singing more intimately, giving us more of what we fondly call the real self. Her themes are divided between her London garden,the cloistral seclusion of which seems deepened by the sound of wayfaring feet ever going by its wallsand the downs of the south coast. She gives us charming pictures of each, but especially charming are her London impressions; for Mrs. Tomson participates in that feeling for the poetry of towns of which we have seen a recent revival: