Blind (which rhymes with "twinned") was a child refugee from the tumultuous Europe of 1848, and her brother later tried to assassinate Bismarck. She led a life of feminist politics and so on, traveled to Egypt, seems like an interesting person. Drabble writes,
Her poetry, like all poetry by once famous and neglected women, is in the process of being rediscovered.
There is a recent scholarly biography by an American academic, James Diedrick. But
It has been reproached for taking a male point of view, and Diedrick has had to defend himself against allegations of suppressing her supposed sexual orientation: see his online essay, "Queering Mathilde Blind."
All of this interested me enough to look up Blind's poems; there are a lot online these days. You can peruse a wide selection here, should you be in the mood, but here is what I swear is a representative passage:
I am athirst, but not for wine;Which leads me to ask why various academics would devote their attention to restoring the reputation of an awful poet. What does one say about this:
The drink I long for is divine,
Poured only from your eyes in mine.
I hunger, but the bread I want,
Of which my blood and brain are scant,
Is your sweet speech, for which I pant.
OH haste while roses bloom below,
Oh haste while pale and bright above
The sun and moon alternate glow,
To pluck the rose of love.
Yea, give the morning to the lark,
The nightingale its glimmering grove,
Give moonlight to the hungry dark,
But to man’s heart give love!
I suppose it depends on what you think literary scholarship is about. If you think it has something to do with proclaiming the greatest works of human imagination to the ages, Mathilde Blind hardly belongs.
But if what you are doing is a sort of social history, maybe the most mediocre of mediocrities is exactly what you should be reading. After all the Victorians wrote, published, and read tens of thousands of poems like these. Blind took on many of the commonplace themes of the day: love, motherhood, the fleeting nature of human life and happiness, the mystery beyond, etc. She could turn a wide variety of feelings into terrible verse, as in "Nuit":
The all upholding,Maybe we learn something about the age by thinking on these words, the same way you could learn something about America from bad pop songs.
The all enfolding,
The all beholding,
Most secret Night;
From whose abysses,
With wordless blisses,
The Sun’s first kisses,
Called gods to light.
And if what you want is to read about people of ambiguous sexuality, who were rumored to be involved with both women and men, fine, go ahead.
But is there something missing from this approach? Is literature something more than just what happened to be popular at some past time? Should we not care whether art is good or bad? Shouldn't literature professors be able to tell a good poem from a bad one, or is that a bit of outdated snobbery?
Me, I can't imagine devoting so much attention to a bad poet, and the notion that one of Blind's poems recently appeared in an anthology of English poetry turns my stomach. True, equally bad poems by straight men have also appeared in anthologies, but that's hardly an excuse to reprint this:
OH, beloved, come and bring
All the flowery wealth of spring!
Though the leaf be in the sere,
Icy winter creeping near;
Though the trees like mourners all
Standing at a funeral,
Black against the pallid air
Toss their wild arms in despair,
With their bald heads sadly bowed
O’er dead summer in her shroud.
Yea, though golden days be o’er,
If you enter at my door,
Spring, dear spring, will come once more.
There will break upon the night.