Gordon Bottomley – 1890’s poet

Found in a copy Poems at White Nights (published in 1899 in Cecil Court, London) a contemporary review of the book. The review is unsigned but was obviously from a national daily paper as there are financial reports on the back. Gordon Bottomley is a mildly collected fin de siecle poet, of considerable talent but slight neglected -possibly because of his name which could be used as the the butt of jokes, so to speak. His first book The Mickle Drede and Other Verses was privately printed in Kendal in 1896  and is a great rarity and of some value. He attempted to destroy all of the 150 copies as he considered the work immature..The reviewer below senses dark currents in his work.

Mr. Gordon Bottomley's second volume, Poems at White Nights (At the Sign of the Unicorn), shows him still frequenting the darker woods of Faerie. One fragment in it is a dedication for some book of verses in which the receiver is bidden to read:

The dream I dreamed of England's prime,
Seeking within its outworn weed
The sweetness of that matin time.

But to no such pleasant theme does the muse address her in this volume written at "White Nights". For the most part we have simple pictures in rich half-tones of feeling or in grave symbolism. The are slight, but each has a clear artistic note, and beauty is never wanting. Sometimes the author shows an ear for the music of words not less fine than that of Mr. William Watson, his fellow-countryman, though he handles other subjects. In "A Pagan Maid," a poem of seven eight-line stanzas, instinct with charm, this musical sense has inspired alike the thought and the chosen words in a high degree. We quote the first three, not as  quite the best, but as quite sufficiently good, and making the subject plain:

The lambs are wakening on the hillside yonder;
A breaking sob is in the cuckoo's voice;
I part a tangle of springing corn asunder,
Scattering the dew, which falls mid a soft noise
Of skirts and rustling grass and rain, as onward
Over the meadows by the stream I pass
To that forgotten temple hidden downward,
Where sunshine never was,

Deep in a dim, hushed vale that none will enter,
Close to a foamless river's bloomless sedge,
In haunted woodland; while once more I venture
Past the low haze of bluebells in its edge,
Faint lyric languorous ever laugh and lighten
And stable shadows ever rise and fall
Amid the trees; my pale dew-purfled chiton
Wakes scents half mystical.

Within these waters, wan unworshipped naiads
Weed-lithely waver, swoon, and slowly cease;
Down the dense forest-aisles I heard lost dryads
Sob fitfully within their secret tress.

Not careful of exact rhyming - for we have "moan" and "gown" mated, a triplet made of "symposium," "Blossom," and "unbosom," and even "sough" used to chime with "bough" because of the similar spelling - Mr. Bottomley's art is of a kind to make melody of blank verse. As in an earlier volume, there is at least one piece that exhibits a potent sense of romance in tragedy - "At High Tide,"the story being that of a wronged woman who lures her lover to a shore from which there is no escape when the sea comes up. "A Passing of Faith" - the last protest of Set, a god of Egypt - is also a strong conception, if its brevity disappoints the imagination; and there is a notable short drama of "Marlowe's Death," which makes use of the fanciful idea that he was killed by the betrayer of a girl whom his friendship lifted into virtue. Among the sonnets we think of one, on "The Chamber Concert of Giorgione", not unworthy of Rossetti, and some others are hardly less beautiful. What has to be said by way of caution is that Mr. Bottomley's flight is unequal, so that it would probably be well for him to use a stern censorship for such play of the muse as does not please him best.

2 thoughts on “Gordon Bottomley – 1890’s poet

  1. Roger Allen

    Bottomley is probably better known through his friends. His selected correspondence with Edward Thomas and PAul Nash has been published and he edited an early (the first?) edition of Isaac Rosenberg's works.

  2. Anonymous

    "Within these waters, wan unworshipped naiads
    Weed-lithely waver, swoon, and slowly cease"
    Fabulous poet! I think you are right, he had the wrong name. Think of Franklin D. Bottomley or Winston Bottomley or in the arts Lucian Bottomley, Grayson Bottomley or in rock music Elvis Bottomley – would any of these guys have scaled such heights so named?


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