Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Bliss Carman

Bliss Carman

Ask a question about 'Bliss Carman'
Start a new discussion about 'Bliss Carman'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
Bliss Carman FRSC  was a Canadian poet
Canadian poetry
- Beginnings:The earliest works of poetry, mainly written by visitors, described the new territories in optimistic terms, mainly targeted at a European audience...

  who lived most of his life in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, where he achieved international fame. He was acclaimed as Canada's poet laureate
Poet Laureate
A poet laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government and is often expected to compose poems for state occasions and other government events...

 during his later years.

In Canada Carman is classed as one of the country's Confederation Poets
Confederation Poets
"Confederation Poets" is the name given to a group of Canadian poets born in the decade of Canada's Confederation who rose to prominence in Canada in the late 1880s and 1890s. The term was coined by Canadian professor and literary critic Malcolm Ross, who applied it to four poets Charles G.D...

, a group which also included Charles G.D. Roberts
Charles G.D. Roberts
Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts, was a Canadian poet and prose writer who is known as the Father of Canadian Poetry. He was "almost the first Canadian author to obtain worldwide reputation and influence; he was also a tireless promoter and encourager of Canadian literature......

 (his cousin), Archibald Lampman
Archibald Lampman
Archibald Lampman, was a Canadian poet. "He has been described as 'the Canadian Keats;' and he is perhaps the most outstanding exponent of the Canadian school of nature poets." The Canadian Encyclopedia says that he is "generally considered the finest of Canada's late 19th-century poets in...

, and Duncan Campbell Scott
Duncan Campbell Scott
Duncan Campbell Scott was a Canadian poet and prose writer. With Charles G.D. Roberts, Bliss Carman, and Archibald Lampman, he is classed as one of Canada's Confederation Poets....

. "Of the group, Carman had the surest lyric touch and achieved the widest international recognition. But unlike others, he never attempted to secure his income by novel writing, popular journalism, or non-literary employment. He remained a poet, supplementing his art with critical commentaries on literary ideas, philosophy, and aesthetics."


He was born William Bliss Carman in Fredericton
Fredericton, New Brunswick
Fredericton is the capital of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, by virtue of the provincial parliament which sits there. An important cultural, artistic, and educational centre for the province, Fredericton is home to two universities and cultural institutions such as the Beaverbrook Art...

, in the Maritime province
The Maritime provinces, also called the Maritimes or the Canadian Maritimes, is a region of Eastern Canada consisting of three provinces, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. On the Atlantic coast, the Maritimes are a subregion of Atlantic Canada, which also includes the...

 of New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

. "Bliss" was his mother's maiden name. He was the great-grandson of United Empire Loyalists
United Empire Loyalists
The name United Empire Loyalists is an honorific given after the fact to those American Loyalists who resettled in British North America and other British Colonies as an act of fealty to King George III after the British defeat in the American Revolutionary War and prior to the Treaty of Paris...

 who fled to Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

 after the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

, settling in New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

 (then part of Nova Scotia). His literary roots run deep with an ancestry that includes a mother who was a descendant of Daniel Bliss of Concord, Massachusetts, the great-grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

. His sister married the botanist and historian William Francis Ganong
William Francis Ganong
William Francis Ganong, M.A., Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.S.C., was a Canadian botanist, historian and cartographer. His botany career was spent mainly as a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts...

. And on his mother's side he was a first cousin to Charles (later Sir Charles) G. D. Roberts.

Education and early career

Carman was educated at the Fredericton Collegiate School and the University of New Brunswick
University of New Brunswick
The University of New Brunswick is a Canadian university located in the province of New Brunswick. UNB is the oldest English language university in Canada and among the first public universities in North America. The university has two main campuses: the original campus founded in 1785 in...

 (UNB), from which he received a B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 in 1881. At the Collegiate School he came under the influence of headmaster George Robert Parkin
George Robert Parkin
Sir George Robert Parkin KCMG was a Canadian educator, imperialist, and author.Born at Parkindale near Salisbury, New Brunswick, he was a graduate from the University of New Brunswick. From 1867 to 1871, he taught at the Bathurst Grammar School...

, who gave him a love of classical literature and introduced him to the poetry of Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti was an English poet, illustrator, painter and translator. He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, and was later to be the main inspiration for a second generation of artists and writers influenced by the movement,...

 and Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica...

. His first published poem was in the UNB Monthly in 1879. He then spent a year at Oxford and the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...

 (1882–1883), but returned home to receive his M.A.
Master of Arts (postgraduate)
A Master of Arts from the Latin Magister Artium, is a type of Master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The M.A. is usually contrasted with the M.S. or M.Sc. degrees...

 from UNB in 1884.

After the death of his father in January 1885 and his mother in February 1886, Carman enrolled in Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 (1886–1887). At Harvard he moved in a literary circle that included American poet Richard Hovey
Richard Hovey
Richard Hovey was an American poet. Graduating from Dartmouth College in 1885, he is known in part for penning the school Alma Mater, Men of Dartmouth.-Biography:...

, who would become his close friend and his collaborator on the successful Vagabondia poetry series. Their circle also included Herbert Copeland and F. Holland Day, who would later form the Boston publishing firm Copeland & Day that would launch Vagabondia.

After Harvard Carman briefly returned to Canada, but was back in Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

 by February 1890. "Boston is one of the few places where my critical education and tastes could be of any use to me in earning money," he wrote. "New York and London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 are about the only other places." Unable to find employment in Boston, he moved to New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 and became literary editor of the New York Independent at the grand sum of $20/week. There he could help his Canadian friends get published, in the process "introducing Canadian poets to its readers." However, Carman was never a good fit at the semi-religious weekly, and he was summarily dismissed in 1892. "Brief stints would follow with Current Literature, Cosmopolitan
Cosmopolitan (magazine)
Cosmopolitan is an international magazine for women. It was first published in 1886 in the United States as a family magazine, was later transformed into a literary magazine and eventually became a women's magazine in the late 1960s...

, The Chap-Book
The Chap-Book
The Chap-Book was an American literary magazine between 1894 and 1898. It is often classified as one of the "little magazines" of the 1890s....

, and The Atlantic Monthly
The Atlantic Monthly
The Atlantic is an American magazine founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1857. It was created as a literary and cultural commentary magazine. It quickly achieved a national reputation, which it held for more than a century. It was important for recognizing and publishing new writers and poets,...

, but after 1895 he would be strictly a contributor to the magazines and newspapers, never an editor in any department."

To make matters worse, Carman's first book of poetry, 1893's Low Tide on Grand Pré, was not a success; no Canadian company would publish it, and the U.S. edition stiffed when its publisher went bankrupt.

Literary success

At this low point, Songs of Vagabondia, the first Hovey-Carman collaboration, was published by Copeland & Day in 1894. It was an immediate success. "No one could have been more surprised at the tremendous popularity of these care-free celebrations (the first of the three collections went through seven rapid editions) than the young authors, Richard Hovey and Bliss Carman." Songs of Vagabondia would ultimately "go through sixteen printings (ranging from 500 to 1000 copies) over the next thirty years. The three Vagabondia volumes that followed fell slightly short of that record, but each went through numerous printings. Carman and Hovey quickly found themselves with a cult following, especially among college students, who responded to the poetry’s anti-materialistic themes, its celebration of individual freedom, and its glorification of comradeship."

The success of Songs of Vagabondia prompted another Boston firm, Stone & Kimball, to reissue Low Tide... and to hire Carman as the editor of its literary journal, The Chapbook. The next year, though, the editor's job went West (with Stone & Kimball) to Chicago, while Carman opted to remain in Boston.

"In Boston in 1895, he worked on a new poetry book, Behind the Arras, which he placed with a prominent Boston publisher (Lamson, Wolffe).... He published two more books of verse with Lamson, Wolffe." He also began writing a weekly column for the Boston Evening Transcript, which ran from 1895 to 1900.

In 1896 Carman met Mary Perry King, who became the greatest and longest-lasting female influence in his life. Mrs. King became his patron: "She put pence in his purse, and food in his mouth, when he struck bottom and, what is more, she often put a song on his lips when he despaired, and helped him sell it." According to Carman's roommate, Mitchell Kennerley
Mitchell Kennerley
Mitchell Kennerley was an American publisher, born at Burslem, England. He was the manager of the New York branch of John Lane, the London publisher, from 1896 to 1900, business manager of the Smart Set in 1900-01, founded in 1901 and was editor and proprietor until 1905 of the Reader magazine,...

, "On rare occasions they had intimate relations at 10 E. 16 which they always advised me of by leaving a bunch of violets — Mary Perry's favorite flower — on the pillow of my bed." If he knew of the latter, Dr. King did not object: "He even supported her involvement in the career of Bliss Carman to the extent that the situation developed into something close to a ménage à trois
Ménage à trois
Ménage à trois is a French term which originally described a domestic arrangement in which three people having sexual relations occupy the same household – the phrase literally translates as "household of three"...

" with the Kings.

Through Mrs. King's influence Carman became an advocate of 'unitrinianism,' a philosophy which "drew on the theories of François-Alexandre-Nicolas-Chéri Delsarte
François Delsarte
François Alexandre Nicolas Chéri Delsarte was a French musician and teacher.Delsarte was born in Solesmes, Nord. He was a pupil of the Paris Conservatory, was for a time tenor singer in the Opéra Comique, and composed a few songs. However, he is chiefly known as a teacher in singing and...

 to develop a strategy of mind-body-spirit harmonization aimed at undoing the physical, psychological, and spiritual damage caused by urban modernity." This shared belief created a bond between Mrs. King and Carman but estranged him somewhat from his former friends.

In 1899 Lamson, Wolffe was taken over by the Boston firm of Small, Maynard & Co., who had also acquired the rights to Low Tide... "The rights to all Carman’s books were now held by one publisher and, in lieu of earnings, Carman took a financial stake in the company. When Small, Maynard failed in 1903, Carman lost all his assets."

Down but not out, Carman signed with another Boston company, L.C. Page, and began to churn out new work. Page published seven books of new Carman poetry between 1902 and 1905. As well, the firm released three books based on Carman's Transcript columns, and a prose work on unitrinianism, The Making of Personality, that he'd written with Mrs. King. "Page also helped Carman rescue his 'dream project,' a deluxe edition of his collected poetry to 1903.... Page acquired distribution rights with the stipulation that the book be sold privately, by subscription. The project failed; Carman was deeply disappointed and became disenchanted with Page, whose grip on Carman’s copyrights would prevent the publication of another collected edition during Carman’s lifetime."

Carman also picked up some needed cash in 1904 as editor-in-chief of the 10-volume project, The World's Best Poetry.

Later years

After 1908 Carman lived near the Kings' New Canaan, Connecticut
New Canaan, Connecticut
New Canaan is a town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States, northeast of Stamford, on the Fivemile River. The population was 19,738 according to the 2010 census.The town is one of the most affluent communities in the United States...

, estate, "Sunshine", or in the summer in a cabin near their summer home in the Catskills, "Moonshine." Between 1908 and 1920, literary taste began to shift, and his fortunes and health declined.

"Although not a political activist, Carman during the First World War was a member of the Vigilantes, who supported American entry into the conflict on the Allied
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...


By 1920, Carman was impoverished and recovering from a near-fatal attack of tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

. That year he revisited Canada and "began the first of a series of successful and relatively lucrative reading tours, discovering 'there is nothing worth talking of in book sales compared with reading.'" "'Breathless attention, crowded halls, and a strange, profound enthusiasm such as I never guessed could be,' he reported to a friend. 'And good thrifty money too. Think of it! An entirely new life for me, and I am the most surprised person in Canada.'"

Carmen was feted at "a dinner held by the newly-formed Canadian Authors’ Association at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montreal
Ritz-Carlton Montreal
The Ritz-Carlton Montréal is a 229 room luxury hotel situated at 1228 Sherbrooke Street West in Montréal, Quebec. This Montreal property is not part of the widely-known Ritz-Carlton hotel chain. It has forty-eight suites including a "Royal Suite" and a "Presidential Suite"...

 on 28 October 1921 where he was crowned Canada’s Poet Laureate with a wreath of maple leaves."

The tours of Canada continued, and by 1925 Carman had finally acquired a Canadian publisher. "McClelland & Stewart (Toronto) issued a collection of selected earlier verses and became his main publisher. They benefited from Carman's popularity and his revered position in Canadian literature, but no one could convince L.C. Page to relinquish its copyrights. An edition of collected poetry was published only after Carman’s death, due greatly to the persistence of his literary executor, Lorne Pierce
Lorne Pierce
Lorne Albert Pierce was a Canadian publisher, editor, and literary critic who published and promoted Canadian literature for more than forty years during his tenure as editor of Toronto's Ryerson Press...


During the 1920s, Carman was a member of the Halifax literary and social set, The Song Fishermen
The Song Fishermen
The Song Fishermen, or the Song Fishermen's Circle , was an informal group of poets from Atlantic Canada that included famous Canadian poets Bliss Carman and Sir Charles G.D...

. In 1927 he edited The Oxford Book of American Verse.

Carman died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 68 in New Canaan, and was cremated in New Canaan. "It took two months, and the influence of New Brunswick’s Premier
Premier of New Brunswick
The Premier of New Brunswick is the first minister for the Canadian province of New Brunswick. They are the province's head of government and de facto chief executive....

 J.B.M. Baxter and Canadian Prime Minister W.L.M. King, for Carman’s ashes to be returned to Fredericton." "His ashes were buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredericton, and a national memorial service was held at the Anglican cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral (Fredericton)
Christ Church Cathedral is the cathedral church located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, the see city. Construction on the cathedral began in 1845. It was officially opened in 1853. The "Gothic Revival" style cathedral is modelled after St. Mary's Church, Snettisham, Norfolk.G. Ernest Fairweather ...

 there." Twenty-five years later, on May 13, 1954, a scarlet maple tree was planted at his gravesite, to grant his request in his 1892 poem "The Grave-Tree":
Let me have a scarlet maple
For the grave-tree at my head,
With the quiet sun behind it,
In the years when I am dead.

Low Tide on Grand Pré

As a student at Harvard, Carman "was heavily influenced by Josiah Royce
Josiah Royce
Josiah Royce was an American objective idealist philosopher.-Life:Royce, born in Grass Valley, California, grew up in pioneer California very soon after the California Gold Rush. He received the B.A...

, whose spiritualistic idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

, combined with the transcendentalism
Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the 1830s and 1840s in the New England region of the United States as a protest against the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of the Unitarian...

 of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

, lies centrally in the background of his first major poem, "Low Tide on Grand Pré" written in the summer and winter of 1886." "Low Tide..." was published in the Spring, 1887 Atlantic Monthly, giving Carman a literary reputation while still at Harvard. It was also included in the 1889 anthology, Songs of the Great Dominion
Songs of the Great Dominion
Songs of the Great Dominion was a pioneering anthology of Canadian poetry published in 1889. The book's full title was Songs of the Great Dominion: Voices from the Forests and Waters, the Settlements and Cities of Canada. The collection was selected and edited by William Douw Lighthall of Montreal...


Literary critic Desmond Pacey considered "Low Tide..." to be "the most nearly perfect single poem to come out of Canada. It will withstand any amount of critical scrutiny."

"Low Tide..." served as the title poem for Carman's first book. “The poems in this volume have been collected with reference to their similarity of tone,” Carman wrote in his preface; a nostalgic
The term nostalgia describes a yearning for the past, often in idealized form.The word is a learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of , meaning "returning home", a Homeric word, and , meaning "pain, ache"...

 tone of pervading loss and melancholy. Three outstanding examples are "The Eavesdropper," "In Apple Time" and "Wayfaring." However, "none can equal the artistry of the title poem. What is more, although Carman would publish over thirty other volumes during his lifetime, none of them contains anything that surpasses this poem he wrote when he was barely twenty-five years old."


Carmen rose to prominence in the 1890s, a decade the poetry of which anthologist Louis Untermeyer
Louis Untermeyer
Louis Untermeyer was an American poet, anthologist, critic, and editor. He was appointed the fourteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1961.-Life and career:...

 has called marked by "a cheerless evasion, a humorous unconcern; its most representative craftsmen were, with four exceptions, the writers of light verse." The first two of those four exceptions were Richard Hovey and Bliss Carman. For Untermeyer: "The poetry of this period ... is dead because it detached itself from the world.... But ... revolt openly declared itself with the publication of Songs from Vagabondia (1894), More Songs from Vagabondia (1896), and Last Songs from Vagabondia (1900).... It was the heartiness, the gypsy jollity, the rush of high spirits, that conquered. Readers of the Vagabondia books were swept along by their speed faster than by their philosophy."

Even modernists
Modernist poetry
Modernist poetry refers to poetry written between 1890 and 1950 in the tradition of modernist literature in the English language, but the dates of the term depend upon a number of factors, including the nation of origin, the particular school in question, and the biases of the critic setting the...

 loved Vagabondia. In the "October, 1912 issue of the London Poetry Review, Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

 noted that he had 'greatly enjoyed The Songs of Vagabondia by Mr. Bliss Carman and the late Richard Hovey.'"

Carman's most famous poem from the first volume is arguably "The Joys of the Open Road." More Songs... contains "A Vagabond Song," once familiar to a generation of Canadians. "Canadian youngsters who were in grade seven anytime between the mid-1930s and the 1950s were probably exposed to ... 'A Vagabond Song' [which] appeared in The Canada Book of Prose and Verse, Book One, the school reader that was used in nearly every province" (and was edited by Lorne Pierce).
In 1912 Carman would publish Echoes from Vagabondia as a solo work. (Hovey had died in 1900). More of a remembrance book than part of the set, it has a distinct elegaic tone. It contains the lyric "The Flute of Spring."

Behind the Arras

With Behind the Arras (1895), Carman continued his practice of "bringing together poems that were 'in the same key.' Whereas Low Tide on Grand Pré is elegiacal and melancholy, Songs from Vagabondia is mostly light and jaunty, while Behind the Arras is philosophical and heavy."

"Behind the Arras" the poem is a long meditation that uses the speaker's house and its many rooms as a symbol of life and its choices. The poem does not succeed: "there are so many asides that the allegory is lost along with any point the poet hoped to make."

Ballad of Lost Haven

In keeping with the "same key" idea, Carman's Ballad of Lost Haven (1897) was a collection of poetry about the sea. Its notable poems include the macabre
In works of art, macabre is the quality of having a grim or ghastly atmosphere. Macabre works emphasize the details and symbols of death....

 sea shanty
Sea shanty
A shanty is a type of work song that was once commonly sung to accompany labor on board large merchant sailing vessels. Shanties became ubiquitous in the 19th century era of the wind-driven packet and clipper ships...

, "The Gravedigger."

By the Aurelian Wall

"By the Aurelian Wall" is Carman's elegy
In literature, an elegy is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead.-History:The Greek term elegeia originally referred to any verse written in elegiac couplets and covering a wide range of subject matter, including epitaphs for tombs...

 to John Keats
John Keats
John Keats was an English Romantic poet. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement, despite the fact that his work had been in publication for only four years before his death.Although his poems were not...

. It served as the title poem of his 1898 collection, a book of formal elegies.

In the last poem in the book, "The Grave-Tree," Carman writes about his own death.

The Pipes of Pan

"Pan, the goat-god, traditionally associated with poetry and with the fusion of the earthly and the divine, becomes Carman's organizing symbol in the five volumes issued between 1902 and 1905" under the above title. Under the influence of Mrs. King, Carman had begun to write in both prose and poetry about the ideas of 'unitrinianism,' "a strategy of mind-body-spirit harmonization aimed at undoing the physical, psychological, and spiritual damage caused by urban modernity ... therapeutic ideas [which] resulted in the five volumes of verse assembled in Pipes of Pan." The Dictionary of Canadian Biography (DCB) calls the series "a collection that contains many superb lyrics but, overall, evinces the dangers of a soporific aesthetic."

The 'superb lyrics' include the much-anthologized "The Dead Faun" from Volume I, From the Book of Myths; "From the Green Book of the Bards", the title poem of Volume II; "Lord of My Heart's Elation" from the same volume; and many of the erotic poems of Volume III, Songs of the Sea Children (such as LIX ("I loved you when the tide of prayer"). As a whole, though, the Pan series shows (perhaps more than any other work) the truth of Northrop Frye
Northrop Frye
Herman Northrop Frye, was a Canadian literary critic and literary theorist, considered one of the most influential of the 20th century....

's 1954 observation that Carman "badly needs a skillful and sympathetic selection."

Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics

There were no such problems with Carman's next book. Perhaps because of the underlying concept, Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics (1904) has a structure and unity that helps make it what has been called Carman's "finest volume of poetry."

Sappho was an Ancient Greek poet, born on the island of Lesbos. Later Greeks included her in the list of nine lyric poets. Her birth was sometime between 630 and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC, but little is known for certain about her life...

 was an Ancient Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 poet from the island of Lesbos, who was included in the Greek canon
Western canon
The term Western canon denotes a canon of books and, more broadly, music and art that have been the most important and influential in shaping Western culture. As such, it includes the "greatest works of artistic merit." Such a canon is important to the theory of educational perennialism and the...

 of nine lyric poets
Nine lyric poets
The nine lyric poets were a canon of archaic Greek composers esteemed by the scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria as worthy of critical study.They were:*Alcman of Sparta...

. Most of her poetry, which was well-known and greatly admired throughout antiquity, has been lost, but her reputation has endured, supported by the surviving fragments of some of her poems.

Carman's method, as Charles G.D. Roberts saw it in his Introduction to the book,"apparently, has been to imagine each lost lyric as discovered, and then to translate it; for the indefinable flavor of the translation is maintained throughout, though accompanied by the fluidity and freedom of purely original work." It was a daunting task, as Roberts admits: "It is as if a sculptor of to-day were to set himself, with reverence, and trained craftsmanship, and studious familiarity with the spirit, technique, and atmosphere of his subject, to restore some statues of Polyclitus
Polykleitos ; called the Elder, was a Greek sculptor in bronze of the fifth and the early 4th century BCE...

 or Praxiteles
Praxiteles of Athens, the son of Cephisodotus the Elder, was the most renowned of the Attic sculptors of the 4th century BC. He was the first to sculpt the nude female form in a life-size statue...

 of which he had but a broken arm, a foot, a knee, a finger upon which to build." Yet, on the whole, Carman succeeded.

"Written more or less contemporaneously with the love poems in Songs of the Sea Children, the Sappho reconstructions continue the amorous theme from a feminine point of view. Nevertheless, the feelings ascribed to Sappho are pure Carman in their sensitive and elegiac melancholy."

Virtually all of the lyrics are of high quality; some often-quoted are XXIII ("I loved thee, Atthis, in the long ago,"), LIV ("How soon will all my lovely days be over"), LXXIV ("If death be good"), LXXXII ("Over the roofs the honey-coloured moon")

"Next to Low Tide on Grand Pré, Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics seems to be the collection that continues to find the most favour among Carman’s critics. D.M.R. Bentley, for example, calls it 'undoubtedly one of the most attractive, engaging and satisfying works of any of the Confederation poets.'" Bentley argued that "the brief, crisp lyrics of the Sappho volume almost certainly contributed to the aesthetic and practice of Imagism
Imagism was a movement in early 20th-century Anglo-American poetry that favored precision of imagery and clear, sharp language. The Imagists rejected the sentiment and discursiveness typical of much Romantic and Victorian poetry. This was in contrast to their contemporaries, the Georgian poets,...


Later work

In his review of 1954's Selected Poems of Bliss Carman, literary critic Northrop Frye
Northrop Frye
Herman Northrop Frye, was a Canadian literary critic and literary theorist, considered one of the most influential of the 20th century....

 compared Carman and the other Confederation Poets to the Group of Seven
Group of Seven
Group of Seven can refer to:*G7 - the "Group of seven" industrially advanced nations .*Group of Seven - a group of Canadian landscape artists....

: "Like the later painters, these poets were lyrical in tone and romantic in attitude; like the painters, they sought for the most part uninhabited landscape." But Frye added: "The lyrical response to landscape is by itself, however, a kind of emotional photography, and like other forms of photography is occasional and epigrammatic.... Hence the lyric poet, after he has run his gamut of impressions, must die young, develop a more intellectualized attitude, or start repeating himself. Carman's meeting of this challenge was only partly successful."

It is true that Carman had begun to repeat himself after Sappho. "Much of Carman's writing in poetry and prose during the decade preceding World War I is as repetitive as the title of Echoes from Vagabondia (1912) intimates" says the DCB. What had made his poetry so remarkable at the beginning – that every new book was completely new – was gone.

However, Carman's career was by no means over. He "published four other collections of new poetry during his lifetime and two more were ready for publication at the time of his death: The Rough Rider, and Other Poems (1908), A Painter’s Holiday, and Other Poems (1911), April Airs (1916), Far Horizons (1925), Sanctuary (1929), and Wild Garden (1929). James Cappon’s comment on Far Horizons applies almost equally to the other five volumes: 'There is nothing new in its poetic quality which has the sweet sadness of age rehearsing old tunes with an art which is now very smooth though with less vivacity than it used to have.'"

Not only did Carman continue to write, but he continued to write fine poems: poems such as "The Old Grey Wall" (April Airs), the Wilfred Campbell-ish "Rivers of Canada" (Far Horizons), "The Ghost-yard of the Goldenrod" and "The Ships of Saint John" (Later Poems, 1926), and "The Winter Scene" (Sanctuary: The "Sunshine House" sonnets). The best of these have the same nostalgic air of melancholy and loss with which Carman began in "Low Tide...," but now even more poignant as the poet approached his own death.


In 1906 Carman received honorary degrees from UNB and McGill University
McGill University
Mohammed Fathy is a public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The university bears the name of James McGill, a prominent Montreal merchant from Glasgow, Scotland, whose bequest formed the beginning of the university...


Carman was elected a corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1925. The Society awarded him its Lorne Pierce Gold Medal in 1928.

He was awarded a medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1929.

Carman is honored by a sculpture erected on the UNB campus in 1947, which portrays him with fellow poets Sir Charles G.D. Roberts and Francis Joseph Sherman
Francis Joseph Sherman
Francis Joseph Sherman was a Canadian poet.He published a number of books of poetry during the last years of the nineteenth century, including Matins and In Memorabilia Mortis .-Life:Sherman was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, the son of Alice Maxwell Myrshall and Louis Walsh Sherman...


There is a middle school named after him in Fredericton, New Brunswick. There is also a school named after him in Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

, Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....


"Bliss Carman Heights" (an extension of the Skyline Acres subdivision) is a subdivision located in Fredericton, New Brunswick overlooking the Saint John River. It consists of Essex Street, Gloucester Crescent, Reading Street, Ascot Court, and Ascot Drive. An extension of the Bliss Carman Heights subdivision is named "Poet's Hill" and consists of Bliss Carman Drive and Poets Lane.

Poetry collections


  • Bliss Carman and Mary Perry King. Daughters of Dawn: A Lyrical Pageant of Series of Historical Scenes for Presentation With Music and Dancing. (New York: M. Kennerley, 1913).
  • Bliss Carman and Mary Perry King. Earth Deities: And Other Rhythmic Masques. (New York: M. Kennerley, 1914).

Prose collections

  • The Kinship Of Nature. Boston: L. C. Page & Company, 1904.
  • The Poetry Of Life. Boston: L. C. Page, 1905.
  • The Friendship of Art. Boston: L.C. Page, 1908. (BiblioBazaar, 2009) ISBN 978-1113542083
  • Bliss Carman and Mary Perry King. The Making of Personality. Boston: L. C. Page, 1908.
  • Talks on Poetry and Life; Being a Series of Five Lectures Delivered Before the University of Toronto, December 1925 [transcribed by Blanche Hume], 1926.
  • Bliss Carman's Scrap-Book: A Table Of Contents. Ed. Lorne Pierce. Toronto: Ryerson, 1931.
  • Letters of Bliss Carman H. Pearson Gundy ed. Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen's University Press,, 1982.


  • The World's Best Poetry (10 volumes), (Philadelphia: University Press, 1904) (Granger Book Co., 1982).
  • The Oxford Book of American Verse, 1927. (Albert & Charles Boni (U.S. Edition), 1927),
  • Bliss Carman and Lorne Pierce, Our Canadian Literature: Representative Verse, English and French, 1935.



  • "Bliss Carman's Letters To Margaret Lawrence, 1927-1929". Post-Confederation Poetry: Texts And Contexts. Ed. D.M.R. Bentley. London: Canadian Poetry P, 1995.
  • Bliss Carman : A Reappraisal. Ed. Gerald Lynch. Ottawa : University Of Ottawa Press, 1990.
  • Letters of Bliss Carman. Ed. H. Pearson Gundy. Kingston: McGill-Queen's University P, 1981.
  • Hugh McPherson. The Literary Reputation Of Bliss Carman : A Study In The Development Of Canadian Taste In Poetry. 1950.
  • Muriel Miller. Bliss Carman, A Portrait. Toronto: Ryerson, 1935.
  • Muriel Miller. Bliss Carman : Quest And Revolt. St. John's, Nfld.: Jesperson P, 1985.
  • Donald G Stephens. Bliss Carman. 1966.
  • Donald G. Stephens. The Influence Of English Poets Upon The Poetry Of Bliss Carman. 1955.
  • Margaret A. Stewart. Bliss Carman : Poet, Philosopher, Teacher. 1976.

Further reading

  • Robert Gibbs, "Voice and Persona in Carman and Roberts," in Atlantic Provinces Literature Colloquium Papers [ed. by Kenneth MacKinnon] (1977)
  • C. Nelson-McDermott. "Passionate Beauty: Carman's Sappho Poems." Canadian Poetry 27 (Fall/Winter 1990):40-45.
  • Malcolm Ross, "A Strange Aesthetic Ferment," Canadian Literature, 68-69 (Spring-Summer 1976)
  • John Robert Sorfleet, "Transcendentalist, Mystic, Evolutionary Idealist: Bliss Carman 1886-1894," in Colony and Confederation [ed. George Woodcock](1974)
  • Thomas B. Vincent, "Bliss Carman: A Life in Literary Publishing," Historical Perspectives on Canadian Publishing, McMaster.ca. Web.
  • Tracy Ware, Ed. "Arthur Symons' Reviews of Bliss Carman." Canadian Poetry 37 (Fall/Winter 1995): 100-13.
  • Terry Whalen, Canadian Writers and Their Work: Volume Two [ed. Robert Lecker, Ellen Quigley, & Jack David](1983)

External links