Scotsman, 9 April 1894, p. 3

It is not strange, now that a scientific Egyptology has reconstructed the history of the Pharaohs, and that tourists may easily take a holiday in Egypt, to find a sort of poetical companion for the visitor to the land of the Pyramids. Mr H. D. Rawnsley’s book fairly merits this description. “The traveller,” as Mr Rawnsley explains in a prefatory note, “is supposed to see Cairo and the neighbourhood, and then pass up the Nile to the first cataract and Philae.” The sights which he will see are such as to make him wish to be endowed with the gift of poetry that he may give voice to his emotions. This, however, is satisfactorily done for him by Mr Rawnsley. His lyrics speak out the feelings of a stranger who hears the muezzin from the house-top call, who sees the dancing dervishes spin in a holy rapture, who hears the hawkers crying in the streets of Cairo, who looks upon the monuments that form the mouldering skeleton of an empire long dead, or who turns over in his mind the memories of great Egyptians like Totmes III and Queen Hatasu, or stands at sunrise beside the Statute of Memnon. Mr Rawnsley’s poems are always sweet and fluent; and though none of them has the tremendous effect of that poem of Shelley’s on Ozymandias of Egypt which many of them suggest, the grace and sentiment of them will not only please those whose experience enables them to appreciate the local allusions, but will charm perhaps more intimately still the larger number who can visit Egypt only in imagination. The book, for a volume of poetry, is exceptionally erudite, a matter not of the first importance, but not without its value in a work with such a subject as this.

Dublin Daily Express, 13 April 1894, p. 2

Mr Rawnsley has rapidly developed into a voluminous writer. Some few years ago his sole volume of verse consisted of a collection of sonnets on the English Lakes, a book dedicated to the memory of Charles Tennyson Turner, a true poet and a distinguished critic, for he saw in Mr Rawnsley’s verse qualities which made him urge the publication of the poems which he never lived to read when issued in collected form. Since that little volume saw the light, its author has written some very spirited ballads, of which the subject is chiefly connected with the sea or coastline. These were printed from time to time in “Macmillan’s Magazine” and now form a volume in themselves. Besides these, Mr Rawnsley has written “Poems, Ballads, and Bucolics,” “Valete: Tennyson and other Memorial Poems,” and prose notes on Edward Thring and on the Nile, and he has contributed a chapter to “Wordsworthiana,” and his “Literary Associations of the Lake District” is shortly to appear. This is quite a formidable list, even exclusive of the book before us. The Nile has long ere this been celebrated in song—Leigh Hunt’s and Shelley’s sonnets produced in friendly rivalry are not very happy specimens of the manner in which such a subject might be treated, and they are, perhaps, the most important instances in which the ancient river is named in English poetry. Mr Rawnsley has dwelt with evident pleasure on every aspect of the subject, and the result is very gratifying. The theme is handled with genuine poetic feeling, and though the poems are arranged with a view to locality rather than to subject they form no mere Baedeker in verse, but a book which contains some delightful renderings of the mystery and melancholy interest which is attached to everything Egyptian. When one reads Mr. Rawnsley’s poem on the “First Call to Prayer” one hears with the poet the evening hymns—

Now high, now low, the cadence falls,
    Music of streams and summer-rhymes
    Of bees that murmur in the limes,
And far-off Alpine cattle-calls,
Seem blent with bells and silver chimes,
    In mellow mystery of sound
    That floats where mountains stand around,
From cities glad at festal times.

All that attracts the attention, gladdens the heart, or touches the imagination of travellers to Egypt has been touched on by the poet: he misses nothing. The legends and myths of this land of mystery are finely dealt with, and his workmanship is at all times worthy of his subject. The landscape is painted with a sure and truthful hand; it is always glowing with the burning brightness of the sun at noon. The contents of the book may be gathered from such titles as “Street Cries,” “The Obelisk at Heliopolis,” “Morning Mist on the Great Pyramid,” “The Mummy of Sesostris.” As a specimen of the verse we cannot do better than to give the opening sonnet entitled “A Return to Egypt.”

There is a land where Time no count can keep,
    Where works of men imperishable seem,
    Where through Death’s barren solitude doth gleam
Undying hope for them that sow and reap;
Yea, land of life, where death is but a deep
    Warm slumber, a communicable dream,
    Where from the silent grave far voices stream
If those that tell their secrets in their sleep.

Land of the palm-tree and the pyramid,
    Land of sweet waters from a mystic urn,
        Land of sure rest, where suns shine on for ever,
I left thee—in thy sands a heart was hid;
        My life, my love, were cast upon thy river,
    And, lo! to seek Osiris I return.

Sketch, 6 June 1894, p. 43

Idylls and Lyrics of the Nile is a kind of poetic itinerary, which does not prevent it from being also a book of poetry. All, save travellers, will ignore the fact that the poems are arranged rather with regard to locality than to subject, and dip and dig at random. The really good verse, though it is picturesque, has to be dug for; but it is worth a reader’s pains, for there are passages full of fine colour and melancholy fascination. In the three water-carrier poems, “Hope,” “Joy,” and “Sorrow,” will be found exquisite pictures of Egyptian domestic life, especially in the first—

Shway-shwáyah, with her lips all blue,
And chin dark-beaded with tattoo,
Takes the large water-jar in hand
And joins the river-going band.

She has reached the maturity of her fourteenth year—

And if full charged her head can bear
From the far Nile the large ‘bellas,’
She unto marriage she may pass.

In the “Joy” poem the ambition is accomplished. “Sweet Habeebeh”

l        aughs, she is a bride, those finger-tips
So red with henna tell she has a home,
And lord.