The advent of any literary work of an undergraduate is always a waited with interest and pleasure by both the college and social world. This was especially recognized when the work of Mr. Hudgens, of the class of '84, was presented to the public, and is but natural when the familiar character of the composition and the position of the author are viewed. The writer informs us in the modest preface that the poems contained in the volume were written, with the exception of two of the shorter ones, before coming to college, and this statement must dull, it would seem, the pen of the most ill-natured critic.
To attempt, however, to characterize Mr. Hudgens' poems indelibly by the utterance of a single word or by some Sphynx-like expression is as much an indication of imbecile intellect as of caustic invidiousness and of childish attempt to gain a Delphic credence. It can be done with no more justice in the present instance than that one should take a poem of Byron's lighter vein and pronounce Byron weak, or that one should call Longfellow childish because he had once allowed his Muse to play about the heartstrings of youth.
Do not be surprised that we speak in this way, for some have sought to turn over the leaves of this book in the style of the blase dilettante and brand it forever with such meaningless phrase as we have before mentioned. A careful student, however, of the work, and one who is willing to see its beauties as well as to underscore its faults, will recognize in the first poem, "Exeter," many passages that are excellent and far above the average of undergraduate effusions.
The picture of the quiet and peace of the ocean scene is a delicate piece of painting that strikes one strongly with its deep tinges of classic spirit, and makes one think of Homer. In truth, there is throughout this poem a healthiness of sentiment and grace of form that bring into only too unpleasant relief the affectation and crudity of some of the others.
His poem, "A Vision," shows an earnest sympathy and intensity of feeling, but has unfortunately many marks of artificialness that jar upon the reader but still do not affect him very strongly, inasmuch as he feels that the artificialness exists only in the phrase and not in the poetic current.
As we have before remarked, some of the shorter poems have serious faults, but they are only natural ones that experience would surely remove. In general there is a healthy imagery, a delicious freedom from that morbid, sickly perversion of aestheticism that is so much sought after by writers of rhyme at the present time. The poems are the offsprings of an unsullied imagination and of an intellect more vigorous and growing than subtle or matured; the poet thinks of something else than garden-wall or opera-box love; there comes home to him those other feelings and impulses of youth, and so he does not write only of a theme to which college poets have so long devoted their talent and occasional genius, that, despite the universality of the tender sentiment, they have made it pall upon us and caused us to hear with pleasure the other notes that come home to our hearts from "the harp-strings by nature's palm so joyous struck," to use Mr. Hudgens' own words.