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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Critical and Biographical Essay by Alfred H. Miles

Aubrey de Vere (1814–1902)

THE GENERAL poetry of Mr. Aubrey de Vere is represented in Vol. IV. of The Poets and the Poetry of the Century, where it is introduced by a biographical and critical article from the pen of Mr. Mackenzie Bell. For biographical and bibliographical particulars the reader is referred to that article, while his attention is here invited to some of the religious verse which entitles Mr. de Vere to representation among the Sacred Poets.

Reverence and awe—essential characteristics of the devotional spirit—are strongly marked in Mr. de Vere’s religious verse; and short as some of his religious poems are, they seem to reproduce the very atmosphere of devotion from which they evidently sprung. Take, for example, the following lines on “The Divine Presence”:—

  • All but unutterable Name!
  • Adorable, yet awful sound!
  • Thee can the sinful-nations frame
  • Save with their foreheads to the ground?
  • Soul-searching and all-cleansing Fire;
  • To see Thy countenance were to die:
  • Yet how beyond the bound retire
  • Of Thy serene immensity?
  • Thou mov’st beside us, if the spot
  • We change—a noteless, wandering tribe;
  • The orbits of our life and thought
  • In Thee their little arcs describe.
  • In the dead calm, at cool of day,
  • We hear Thy voice, and turn, and flee:—
  • Thy love outstrips us on our way!
  • From Thee, O God, we fly—to Thee.
  • A Wordsworthian and a poet of nature, Mr. de Vere carries the devotional spirit with him among the hills and valleys of his love, and quite naturally, when most at home with nature, is nearest to nature’s God. Witness the lines on “Spring” and “Spring Thoughts,” given in the following pages. The parallels of nature and life, too, which are so perennial a source of inspiration to the poet, are tenderly present to his eyes and thoughts, as evidence the following “Lines”:—

  • The lights o’er yonder snowy range,
  • Shine yet intense, and tender;
  • Or, slowly passing, only change
  • From splendour on to splendour.
  • Before the dying eyes of day
  • Immortal visions wander;
  • Dreams prescient of a purer ray,
  • And morn spread still beyond her.
  • Lo! heavenward now those gleams expire,
  • In heavenly melancholy,
  • The barrier-mountain, peak, and spire,
  • Relinquishing them slowly.
  • Thus shine, O God! our mortal powers,
  • While grief and joy refine them—
  • And when in death they fade, be ours
  • Thus gently to resign them!