W. J. TURNER 1889 – 1947
Almost unknown in America, and read in England chiefly as a music critic, W. J. Turner has appeared in anthologies of modern verse because of one small lyric of escape, of incantation; the spell is worked not only by the faraway associations but by the very sounding of exotic syllables, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, Popocatepetl.
When I was but thirteen or so
I went into a golden land,
Took me by the hand.
My father died, my brother too,
They passed like fleeting dreams,
I stood where Popocatepetl
In the sunlight gleams.
I dimly heard the master’s voice
And boys far-off at play –
Had stolen me away
I walked in a great golden dream
To and fro from school –
The dusty streets did rule.
I walked home with a gold dark boy
And never a word I’d say;
Had taken my speech away.
I gazed entranced upon his face
Fairer than any flower –
O shining Popocatepetl,
It was thy magic hour.
The houses, people, traffic seemed
Thin fading dreams by day;
They had stolen my soul away!
Walter James Turner was born in 1889 in Melbourne, Australia, where his Father was organist in St. Paul’s Pro-Cathedral. Educated at Scotch College, Melbourne, Turner went to Europe at seventeen, studied in Germany, and travelled for almost five years through the Continent and South Africa. At twenty-seven he became music critic of The New Statesman; at thirty he wrote dramatic criticism for The London Mercury; at thirty-two he was literary editor of The Daily Herald. Before he was fifty, Turner had published two plays, a fantastic novel, seven volumes of essays, fifteen books of verse, and the best critical biographies of Berlioz and Mozart. He was planning still larger works when he died in his fifty-eighth year.