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Philip Bourke Marston (13 August 1850 – 13 February 1887) was an English poet.



He was the son of John Westland Marston. He was born in London 13 August 1850. Philip James Bailey and Dinah Maria Mulock were his sponsors, and the most popular of the latter's short poems, "Philip, my King," is addressed to him. When only three years old he experienced the irreparable misfortune of loss of sight, occasioned by the injudicious administration of belladonna as a prophylactic against scarlet fever, aggravated, it was thought, by an accidental blow. The privation of vision was not for many years so complete as to prevent him from seeing, in his own words, "the tree-boughs waving in the wind, the pageant of sunset in the west, and the glimmer of a fire upon the hearth;" and this dim, imperfect perception must have been more stimulating to the imagination than a condition of either perfect sight or total blindness.[1]

He indulged, like Hartley Coleridge, in a consecutive series of imaginary adventures and in the reveries called up by music, for which he exhibited the usual fondness of the blind. His extraordinary gifts of verbal expression and melody were soon manifested in poems of remarkable merit for his years, and displaying a power of delineating the aspects of nature which, his affliction considered, seemed almost incomprehensible. These efforts met full recognition from the brilliant literary circle then gathered around his father, and he was intensely happy for a time in the affection of Mary Nesbit. The death of his betrothed from rapid consumption, in November 1871, absolutely prostrated him, and was the precursor of a series of calamities which might well excuse the morbid element in his views of life and nature.[1]

In 1874, a friend, Oliver Madox Brown, died after a short and entirely unforeseen illness. In 1878 he was bereaved with equal suddenness of his sister Cicely, to whom one of his most beautiful poems is addressed, and whose devotion to him was absolute. His surviving sister, Eleanor, died early in the following year; her husband, Arthur O'Shaughnessy, followed shortly. In 1882, the death of his chief poetic ally and inspirer, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was followed closely by that of another kindred spirit, James Thomson,[1] who was carried dying from his blind friend's rooms, where he had sought refuge from his latest miseries early in June of the same year.

It is not surprising that Marston's verse became sorrowful and melancholy. The idylls of flower-life, such as the early and very beautiful The Rose and the Wind, were succeeded by dreams of sleep and the repose of death. These qualities and gradations of feeling are traceable through his three published collections, Songtide (1871), All in All (1873) and Wind Voices (1883). Marston's verse was collected in 1892 by Louise Chandler Moulton, a loyal friend, and herself a poet.

In his later years he wrote short stories for Home Chimes, as well as American magazines, through the agency of Mrs. Chandler Moulton. His popularity in America far exceeded that in his own country.

The three volumes of poetry published in his lifetime, Song-Tide and other Poems (1871), All in All (1875), and Wind Voices (1883), abound with beautiful thoughts expressed in beautiful language. His short stories were collected by Mr. Sharp under the title of For a Song's Sake and other Stories (1887, 8vo).[1]



  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGarnett, Richard (1893). "Marston, Philip Bourke". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 36. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Marston, Philip Bourke". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

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