Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Photo Set Twenty-Five
AVID of life and love, insatiate vagabond,
With quest too furious for the graal he would have won,
He flung himself at the eternal sky, as one
Wrenching his chains but impotent to burst the bond.
Yet under the revolt, the revel, the despond,
What pools of innocence, what crystal benison!
As through a riven mist that glowers in the sun,
A stretch of God’s blue calm glassed in a virgin pond.
Prowler of obscene streets that riot reels along,
And aisles with incense numb and gardens mad with rose,
Monastic cells and dreams of dim brocaded lawns,
Death, which has set the calm of Time upon his song,
Surely upon his soul has kissed the same repose
In some fair heaven the Christ has set apart for
Richard Hovey, Verlaine, Songs from Vagabondia, Richard Hovey and Bliss Carman, 1894
Born in Normal, Illinois, in May of 1864, Richard Hovey was a poet, translator, and dramatist. A talented poet at an early age, his first volume of poetry was privately published in 1880, at the age of sixteen. He graduated from Dartmouth college in 1885; he is known for writing its official Alma Mater, “Men of Dartmouth”. He was described by many who knew him as a self-conscious man, an American Oscar Wilde in both mannerisms and clothes.
After graduation, Hovey studied art in Washington, DC, and then theology at the Central Theological Seminary in New York City; he later became a lay assistant at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Hovey relocated to Boston where he became a newspaper reporter and, in 1887, met the Canadian poet Bliss Carman, with whom he would begin a lengthy collaboration. After studying acting for a brief period to become a better playwright, Hovey wrote the first collection of his dramatic poems, “Lancelot and Guenevere: A Poem in Dramas”, which was published in 1891. Originally planned as a collection of nine plays, he only completed four volumes, one of which was the 1895 “The Marriage of Guenevere”.
Richard Hovey moved to France in the following year and met many members of the French Symbolist movement, including the French poets Paul Verlaine and Stéphane Mallarme, and the Belgian poet Maurice Masterlinck, a future Nobel Prize winner who greatly influenced Hovey’s work. Hovey and Bliss Carman were both members of the “Visionists” group, a Boston-based social group of artists and writers who shared an interest in Aestheticism, Theosophy, and the Decadent movement. Members of this group also included writer and art critic John Ruskin, poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and writer Oscar Wilde.
After becoming one of the first translators of Maurice Masterlinck’s works, completing eight plays into English, Richard Hovey collaborated with Bliss Carman on their first project together, the “Songs of Vagabondia”. Published in 1894, this collective work celebrated the carefree life of a vagabond on the road in the fictitious place called Vagabondia. The Bohemian mood of their poems of masculine comradeship and college fraternity received critical acclaim and became an immediate success; it was followed by a second volume “More Songs from Vagabondia” in 1896 and a third “Last Songs from Vagabondia”, published in 1900 after Hovey’s death.
Besides his collaborations with Bliss Carman, Hovey had a number of works published under his own name. These include the 1893 “Seaward”, an 1898 elegy on the poet Thomas William Parsons; the 1898 “Along the Trail: A Book of Lyrics”; and the 1898 “Taliesin, A Masque”, a poetic play in which the bard Taliesin and Percival, a knight of the Round Table, meet the spirit of Merlin, the Three Muses, and Hermes, and other characters. Hovey’s “To the End of the Trail” was published posthumously in 1908.
Richard Hovey lectured on Aesthetics at the Farmington School of Philosophy and, in 1888, became a lecturer at Columbia University in New York. He also, in his last years, was a Professor of English at Barnard College in New York City. He died on February 24th of 1900, at the age of thirty-five, after undergoing minor surgery.
The Richard Hovey collection, containing manuscripts, correspondence, scrapbooks, notebooks, and newspaper clippings is housed in theDartmouth Library Archives and Manuscripts.
Notes: After a large fresco painted by Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco in the Dartmouth College campus library was judged by many alumni to be too critical of the college, alumnus and illustrator Walter Beach Humphrey was allowed to paint a mural more in character with the college.
This mural was based on a drinking song written by Richard Hovey and portrays the mythical founding of the college by Eleazer Wheelock. In its first panel, he is seen pulling a five-hundred gallon of rum, and being greeted by young Native American men, whom he introduces to drunken revelry. This encounter circles the faculty dining hall and also features half-naked Native American women. In the early 1970s, the “Hovey Murals” became so controversial that they were covered over, and the room itself was closed.
An extensive article for those interested is Ezra Pound scholar Leon Surette’s “Ezra Pound, Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey” which contains the meeting of Carman and Hovey, and Pound’s recollections of them. It can be found at: https://canadianpoetry.org/volumes/vol43/surette.html
Middle Insert Image: Robert Gryden, “Richard Hovey”, Date Unknown, Engraving