The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Volume 3, 1892/93, pgs. 635-636
"En hoerkens ende boerkens."
Lyra Heroica: a Book of Verse for Boys. By William Ernest Henley. (David Nutt, Strand, London).--Mr. Henley has done us a real service. We cry out for books of ethics to aid us in building up the characters of our children, but heroism is morality at a white heat, so to say; given, your hero, and his morals will take care of themselves. Does the reader object,--Marlborough, Napoleon, and a host of others, great in action but not sans reproche? The answer is obvious: being goes to the making of a hero fully as much as doing, and a man is a hero on an occasion, or a hero all his life long, only in so far as he himself lives up to the greatness of the part he plays. Who would not be a hero? Certainly every little boy with a big heart chooses that and nothing else, and every little girl too; and here is the first fault we find with Mr. Henley's book--girls are every whit as heroic as boys, and we must beg a place for them in the dedication of the next edition. But let that pass; the children want to be heroes, we desire them to be heroes, and what we want is to fire them with the examples of ideal heroes, said or sung; sung, by all means, if we can get it. The extra-ordinary thing is that we have waited so long for a Lyra Heroica. Mr. Henley's motto is suggestive:
"Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife!
And we are entirely in sympathy with his object as set forth in his preface: "To set forth, as only art can, the beauty and the joy of living, the beauty and the blessedness of death, the glory of battle and adventure, the nobility of devotion to a cause, an ideal--a passion even; the dignity of resistance, the sacred quality of patriotism, that is my ambition here." The volume has one especially pleasant quality: its arrangement and its contents are, on the whole, unexpected. You are inclined to rebel, at first to find authors of the non-heroic mould drawn upon largely, and poems which at the first reading you do not find heroic--in the sense of recording an heroic action, that is to say--but you change your mind before you have made it up. The pieces which are not after your pattern leave a sort of tingling of the blood on the reading of them which convinces you that you were wrong, and that these, as well as the rest, have the stimulating and inspiring quality we should ourselves demand for the Lyra. The Birkenhead, The Death of Sohrab, Hervé Riel, The Heavy Brigade, Walt Whitman's Sea Fight, Macaulay's Horatius, Whittier's Barbara, are poems we expect to find, but it is a more delicate discrimination of the scope of heroism which gives us Lycidas, Swineburne's Oblation, Stevenson's Mother and Son, Beeching's Prayer. We cannot forbear to quote the last-named; it may be new to some of our readers, as it is to ourselves:
"God who created me
"Jesu, King and Lord,
"Spirit of Love and Truth,
Here is a hymn to find a boy whom all the hymns in the hymn-book fail to reach.
The Editor strikes the right note when he touches on the "elemental emotions" (to quote a phrase from the preface) from the simulation of which all noble actions and all heroic endurance take their rise. We cordially recommend Mr. Henley's volume to all mothers. They will find here delightful readings for the "Children's Hour."
Proofread by LNL, August, 2023
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