An excerpt of a review from "The Saturday Review of Politics,
Literature, Science and Art"
THE imaginary hero of "Amoris Victima" has led a light life of
pleasure without meeting with passion, until he discovers in a
certain girl the physical type which inexorably appeals to him. She
responds in full to his advances, and his infatuation in her
survives the gratification of the senses. She, on the other hand,
is by nature fugitive, and he wakes up one morning to discover that
she has flown. At this point the poem opens, and save for the
minute event that she offers on one occasion to return, and that by
his pride, acting against his will, she is rejected, nothing
whatever happens from cover to cover. The entire volume is occupied
by analyses of the, shades of desperation, rage, desire, "futile
and dishonourable pain," which sweep over his mind, and prevent it
from being occupied by any other sensations. This obsession of the
loved and hated object is described in terms of real power, and
nowhere with more psychological insight than in
"The Rat" -
"Pain gnaws at my heart like a rat that gnaws at a beam
In the dusty dark of a ghost-frequented house;
And I dream of the days forgotten, of love the dream,
The desire of her eyes unappeased, and the peace of her brows.
"I can hear the old rat gnaw in the dark by night,
In the deep overshadowing dust that the years have cast;
He gnaws at my heart that is empty of all delight,
He stirs the dust where the feet of my dreams had passed."
Never was the grinding pain of a memory that will not be put aside
better expressed than in these almost distressingly powerful
....Coventry Pat more in an amusing passage remarks: -
"How strange a thing a lover seems
To animals that do not love "
and we are afraid that to those who are not actually suffering
from the acute phase of amatory disease which Mr. Symons so ably
diagnoses, his "Amoris Victima" will seem a little dull. We confess
that ourselves, although desirous of being intensely sympathetic,
have been conscious, as we walked beside the hero and listened to
his confidences, of an occasional tendency to put the masking hand
hurriedly to the expanding jaws. When the lover feels for a moment
a little better and notices the scenery, our attention immediately
revives, and we are grateful to his changes of metres and other
cunning literary devices which carry us over passages which it
would be rude to call tiresome, because they are so cleverly
written, but which certainly are not exhilarating. Again, the
"typical modern man" of Mr. Symons's imagination is here displayed
in the simplicity of a savage. In the two great poems which it is a
compliment to Mr. Symons to mention in connexion with his "Amoris
Victima" - "Epipsychidion" for its form, "In Memoriam " for its
matter -we shall see, if we examine them from this point of view,
that in spite of their monotony of tone, the tact of the poet has
in each case lightened the task of the reader by an infinite and
appropriate variety of detail.
But this is what the writers of the school to which Mr. Symons is
so fond of assuring us that he belongs will not attempt to do. To
give the impression is all that they deign to intend. Let us say,
at once, that the impression of the peculiar malady of amorous
physical instinct thwarted, in a man of limited intellect and
entirely neglected altruism, is given with exactitude and skill in
"Amoris Victima." To give more, or to give it otherwise, would, we
suppose, seem to Mr. Symons a concession to the commonplace. If so,
he must be content to seem a strange thing to animals that are not
passing through the precise paroxysm of disappointed passion which
he describes; and as those are the vast majority of even such human
animals as read verse, he must be satisfied with a very small,
though doubtless a highly appreciative, audience....
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