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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 Hall (1838– )

THE SOLACE of song is responsible for much verse, spiritually if not technically “made perfect through suffering.” Especially is this true of religious verse. It is the spirit of the fruit crushed in the press that gives fire and verve to the wine. When not simply didactic, religious poetry is largely religious experience in verse form, and it affects the reader in proportion as it gives definition to his own feelings with a clearness of insight and a felicity of expression he cannot himself command. On the other hand, there are poets, debarred by physical disabilities from other service, like the Rev. William Hall, whose ministry was interrupted by weakness and failure of voice, “who, passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well,” and who, turning their obstacles into means, devote their enforced leisure seriously to the composition of religious verse as a vocation, working to loosen “well springs in dry places,” that “the desert may blossom as the rose.”

Mr. Hall was born near Cork in the year 1838, and was educated at the university of his native land. Compelled to abandon public ministry in the Church, and living largely the life of a student and recluse, he adopted the ministry of verse to give expression to the thoughts, experiences, and lessons of his life. He published “The Victory of Defeat, and Other Poems” (1896); “The Way of the Kingdom, and Other Poems” (1899); “Renunciation, and Other Poems” (1902); and “Via Crucis,” a volume of selections from his former volumes, with additions (1906). “The Victory of Defeat” is based upon the story of Jacob and the Angel, and the other poems of the volume are chiefly upon Hebrew themes. “The Way of the Kingdom” volume is also largely inspired by the Hebrew poets. “Renunciation, and Other Poems” shows a freer hand, and if it does not touch a deeper note, breathes a warmer atmosphere. “Via Crucis,” which forms one of Messrs. Routledge’s Devotional Library, is a series impressed with the stamp of the Cross. This includes many of the best of the poems from former volumes, but there are other longer and more important poems which should not be over-looked. Of these, “The Victory of Defeat,” “The Redeemed City,” and “Epictetus” in the first volume, and “Forget not yet,” and “A Hymn from the Depths” in the second, may be mentioned.

It is in his longer poems that Mr. Hall’s best work is found; a fact which makes it very difficult to represent it within present limits. The selected stanzas given here may induce the further study of these. “A Bruised Reed,” and “Good Night” favourably represent the lyrics.