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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

Frederick William Orde Ward (1843–1922)

THERE have probably been few more prolific writers of verse than the Rev. F. W. Orde Ward. Under the nom-de-plume, F. Harald Williams, he published, in 1890, “’Twixt Kiss and Lip” (800 large pages of closely printed verse); in 1894, “Confessions of a Poet” (492 pages); in 1897, “Matin Bells” (550 pages); in 1899, “English Roses” (600 pages); and in 1904, “The Prisoner of Love” (400 pages), besides other volumes which need not be enumerated.

The writer has a theory that there are only three or, at most, four reasons which can justify a writer in publishing a book. The first, is that he is prepared to say something that has not been said before. The second, is that he is prepared to say something that has been said before better than it has been previously said. The third, is that some good purpose may be served by repeating something previously said, even though the saying cannot be improved upon, in which case, it should be quoted; and the fourth, is that it may be urgent that something should be repeated which cannot be improved upon, but which, from failure of memory or inaccessibility of reference, it is impossible to quote, in which case, the circumstances should be stated and the obligation indicated. If these rules were observed far fewer books would be published, but the literature which would remain would be a never-failing source of refreshment and inspiration.

Of course, the adoption of such a standard would be fatal to much that is published by most men, and all that is published by some. Had the author of these many volumes followed it, he would have found that one of his closely-printed volumes,—which would accommodate all the verse that Keats ever wrote, twice over—would have been more than sufficient for all the poetry he has produced. Absence of restraint always means redundance, and incontinence inevitably carries with it the seeds of disintegration. They do so here. “I never saw,” said a critic, in a letter written to the present writer in this connection, “a case of one of so much ability, apparently so eager to bury himself in a wilderness of his own creation.” He who may desire with loving hand to raise an enduring monument to the memory of this poet, will have to clear the ground of a mass of wordy exuberance before he can hope to find sufficient materials for his purpose.

Born on the 9th of April, 1843, Orde Ward was educated at Tonbridge School, Wadham College and Charsley Hall, Oxford. He was successively curate of St. Giles’, Oxford; Rockingham, Northants; Vicar of Pishill, and Rector of Nuffield, Henley-on-Thames.

In the preface of “The Prisoner of Love,” the poet says—“I have endeavoured to articulate in verse the most advanced religious and other truths of our time…. Whether I have succeeded or not … in supplying fresh reconciliations or suggesting other avenues of faith and feeling, I am convinced that the message of the cross remains as new as ever still, and is all the music of our lives.”