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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

William Alexander (1824–1911)

THE RIGHT REV. WILLIAM ALEXANDER, D.D. D.C.L., Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, was born at Londonderry on the 13th of April, 1824. He was educated at Tunbridge School, and at Exeter and Brasenose Colleges, Oxford, where he graduated with classical honours in 1847. He won the sacred poem prize in 18— with his poem “The Death of Jacob,” and was appointed to recite the congratulatory ode to Lord Derby on his installation as Chancellor in the Sheldonian Theatre in 18—. He competed unsuccessfully for the chair of Poetry at Oxford in 1867. Having held several appointments, he was nominated to the Deanery of Emly in 1864, and appointed Bishop of Derry and Raphoe in 1867. He was select preacher at Oxford 1870–2 and 1882, Cambridge 1872–92, Dublin 1879. He was also Bampton lecturer 1876.

Dr. Alexander’s poetic work is comprised in the volume “St. Augustine’s Holiday and other Poems,” published in 1887. His verse is picturesque, and shows a love of Nature as she reveals herself to spiritual insight. Even the more illusive aspects of natural phenomena, the changes that pass the ordinary eye without observation, are full of spiritual significance to the poet’s mind, and these subtleties of observation he seems able, by a corresponding delicacy of treatment, to recall and perpetuate. “A Sea Gleam” and “Very Far Away” will evidence this. A love of the legend and some power of narrative are shown in the title poem and others of the volume, but the delicacy of perception and touch already referred to forms perhaps the chief charm of the poet’s verse.