Friday, December 17, 2010

Edwin Markham’s Poem to Howard Pyle

Here is a poem by Edwin Markham:
Art
To Howard Pyle

At her light touch, behold! a voice proceeds
Out of all things to chide our sordid deeds;
A beauty breaks, a beauty ever strange,
The Changeless that is back of all the change.
Lightly it comes as when a rose would be
Takes feature yet remains a mystery.

This poem was born out of a request from Howard Pyle himself: after illustrating a deluxe edition of Markham’s The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems (Doubleday & McClure Company, 1900), Pyle asked the poet to write him “an autograph verse” which he could insert into an “especial” copy of the book. It was “especial” - and, in fact, unique - in that Pyle glued the original illustrations onto sheets of Whatman’s hot-pressed paper onto which the publisher - in part compensation for the work Pyle had done - had printed the poems. Pyle then bound the book with wooden covers and decorated them with his daughter Phoebe’s pyrography set.


Ultimately, “Art” appeared in Markham’s subsequent collection, Lincoln & Other Poems, published in 1901 by McClure, Phillips & Company - and not by Doubleday, Page & Company, the successor to Doubleday & McClure, which had dissolved even before The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems was published (although the name still appeared on the title-age and spine). A chagrined Frank Nelson Doubleday, wrote on the flyleaf of an office copy of The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems, "This edition was made to please the author and get his next book. It did neither."

And after trying to sell his unique copy of The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems, Howard Pyle - in the words of Gertrude Brinckl√© - “lost interest in it and had it torn up.”

1 comment:

Sonja N. Bohm said...

Very much a la Stops of Various Quills. I hadn't seen this version by Markham before; but then I wasn't "acquainted" with Pyle until recently either!