I was excited to become aware of Horse Whisper Press, the imprint of Apollonia Elsted, the daughter of Jan & Crispin Elsted of Barbarian Press. Apparently Ms. Elsted has now published three books under this imprint, and the latest The Lost Island: Atlantis shows me that she has inherited the fine press craftsmanship of her parents. The quality of the typography is high (being pleasant and easy to read), the paper very nice and the illustrations by wood engraving from Peter Lazarov are wonderfully done.
The Lost Island: Atlantis is a somewhat forgotten poem from Edward Taylor Fletcher, a somewhat forgotten intellect, poet and architect/surveyor from Canada of the 1800’s. This is the first printing of The Lost Island: Atlantis in 122 years! Fletcher was a very learned man, fluent in English, French, Dutch and Portuguese. He completed the first direct to English translation from Finnish of the national epic poem on Finland (Kalevala). This paper written by Fletcher and read by him to the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec in 1863 shows his wide intellectual background and provides context around his interest in Atlantis.
Fletcher spent much of his life in Quebec, followed by retirement on the western coast of Canada. James Gifford, in his introduction to this edition, points out that Fletcher became a poet “distinctly of the West Coast during his retirement, integrating its coastal landscapes into his works.” The beginning of this poem evokes the island city of Victoria, hinting that the immediate habitat Fletcher is part of plays a large role in his visualization and writing. As Gifford states, Fletcher looked to make “sense of the ancient past by reviving it in Canada’s image or by setting it beside the ancient texts of India.”
The best way to get a flavor for Fletcher is to sample some stanzas. The following four, from various parts of the poem, resonate with me and aptly provide a sample of Fletcher’s writing.
There dwelt her aged nurse, now breathing slow
Her life away. With hand upon the latch,
The youthful queen a moment paused, to watch
The splendour of the morning, and the glow
That deepened in the East. Across the bay,
She saw the hill-tops kindling, while, below,
The valleys lay in darkness. One by one,
The small clouds caught the flame: and lo! the sun
Leaped as a giant forth, and it was day
Thereon the gods came down, and dwelt with men:
Through the dim avenues of giant tress
They walked conversing; or on peaceful seas
Sublimely trod, nor shrank from human ken.
The air was musical with song and mirth
Of vigorous, lusty life: from glade and glen
Soft clouds of incense rose: the passing hours
Seemed garlanded with amaranthine flowers;
Nor yet was pain or sorrow known on earth.
Oh joy! oh happiness! In life’s wide waste,
Are there not days whose memory remains
As of an oasis in desert plains;
A reminiscence not to be effaced
Throughout all griefs and all the after-time?
Still, through the gloom, it shines; a pharos, placed
On that far line of youth’s enchanted shore,
Where lived we, in the golden days or yore,
When life was new, and all things in their prime.
The Voice made answer, ‘Thou hast spoken well:
All things grow old and change: but Love remains.’
Again the Marut, ‘Ere our respite wanes,
Ere comes the end, and sounds the fatal knell,
Tell me, oh pitying spirit, may there be
Some rescue, some escape, for those who dwell
Beneath my scepter?’ — ‘Go thou forth alone,
Walk as a mortal through the dark Unknown;’
Replied the Voice, — ‘So shall the rest be free!’
I agree with Apollonia Elsted and James Gifford, this poem deserves to be read. It awaits you in this beautifully done edition, pleasant and comfortable to read sitting in a park, surrounded by nature, ideally sipping a nice glass of wine (perhaps Canadian Ice Wine would be apropos). I look forward to more from Ms. Elsted.
About the Edition
- Designed, Handset & Printed by Apollonia Elsted with the assistance of Jan & Crispin Elsted at Barbarian Press
- Illustrations by Peter Lazarov
- David Clifford provided the photo polymer plates of the line drawings
- Limited to 100 regular and 26 lettered deluxe copies; mine is the deluxe lettered F/26
- Bound by Alanna Simenson at Mad Hatter Bookbinding in quarter silk with printed St. Armand handmade paper over boards
- The deluxe is slipcased and accompanied by a portfolio containing a suite of the engravings
- The text paper is Zerkall Book Wove mouldmade
- Text type is 12 point Van Dijck roman & italic, with Huxley Vertical and Bembo Titling for display
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