The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 46. Sir Alfred Lyall
A very different poet was Sir Alfred Lyall who, both during, and after, a brilliant career in the Indian civil service, wrote verses, few but fit, in a style very much his own, though Browning must have had considerable influence on his way of poetising thought if not of framing expression for it. The spirit of the opening poem of his Verses written in India, The Old Pindaree, has inspired others to an extent much greater than its debt to earlier poets. Theology in Extremis (his other most famous poem) is of the “problem” order, the speech or meditation of an Englishman in the mutiny who, though a freethinker, will not purchase his life by uttering the Mohammedan formula. Most, however, are rather studies of Indian, than of English, nature; and the situation between the two is sometimes strikingly put, as in Badminton, the half parodied, half serious Land of Regrets and the sombre Retrospection. From one critical point of view, indicated already, one might call Sir Alfred’s poetry rather “applied” than “pure”; and, from another, it might seem the work of an exceedingly clever and scholarly man of the world rather than of a poet. It is, no doubt, essentially “occasional”—anecdotes, situations, reflections, brief characters thrown into verse-form. But there is always distinction in it, generally music, often really poetic expression of thought.