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form that man has developed through to chaos — or to wondering babythe ages. The movement toward im- hood clutching at the moon. Fortunateagism and free verse is theoretically a ly the world is not made up of minor revolt against the prevailing literary poets trying to justify themselves by a form or forms; but the interesting thing philosophy and an art-theory adapted is that the attempt to revert to more to the range of their vision and their elementary forms has resulted at once capabilities. in a reversion to the more elementary Some exhibit of what passes for poin substance. It is an astonishing thing. etry in vers libre is almost necessary. Among a highly sophisticated people. In any school of art, of course, it is alat the heart of a more eagerly progres- ways possible to pick out contemporary sive civilization than the world has ever examples which are not representative known before, there develops in the and which may therefore falsely seem highest, most complex, and most intel- to condemn it. The lines which follow lectual of the arts, the art of literature, were quoted in an editorial in a daily a movement which encourages the inex- paper under the caption, 'This is Po perienced, the untutored, the unthink- etry. They are not my choice, but that ing to participate in that art. When, of the editorial writer who declared after centuries of hard self-tutelage, them 'worthy of a place in any antholman has come to realize that he carries ogy of English literature.' They are life forward with any certitude only by given here, therefore, as having so much relating a multitude of experiences as approach to a critical approval. fully as possible, then suddenly he

I will arise: stops, refuses to burden his mind with the business of so relating them any

I will go up into the lofty places

Apart from all man's work, and there commune longer, is content merely to look at With God and mine own soul. I will search out things, like a child, open-eyed and By lonely thought some meaning or accord open-mouthed, to report the retinal im- Or radiant sanction that may justify

The ways of life. The void and troubled world age to the brain, to transfer it to inno

· Will I renounce, to gain in solitude cent blank

paper, and lastly to impose What the world gave not sense of life's design. it on a credulous world for poetry. Hypothetically the thing is impos

As I have sufficient reasons of my sible. In fact it is exactly what has hap- own for believing, the writer of this, pened. The books are in print in ample highly skilled in verse of a better sort, proof, and the magazines are adding would probably not have written it in evidence plentifully. There is a reason free verse, if he had thought it real poin all this somewhere, inexplicable as it etry. With him it was doubtless a mere may seem, but perhaps it is safest to do chip of the workshop, not quite to be no more than hazard the guess. My thrown away, and yet not to be made guess is that the very variety in the beautiful as poetry is beautiful. Why phenomena that the human organism it is not itself poetry is a matter for is called upon to survey is too much for but a word. From beginning to end it

a the palpitant sensibilities of minor is bald commonplace, an obvious platipoets. They relax under the strain and tudinous thing, without glamour and find it easier and more in accordance without glow. It is idea without feelwith their physical, æsthetic, and men- ing, the skeleton of thought unclothed. tal limitations to take experiences one That any one should think it poetry is at a time. If we were all to do that, our part of the explanation of the currency human world would go back promptly of vers libre. There are others than the writers of free verse who are persuaded eternally curious with the philosopher, of its charm. It has a constituency. but, as it is a need as well as a wish, he

In a poem entitled “The Poet,' John is also eternally alive in his emotions Gould Fletcher, prominent among the with the religious man. His curiosity writers of the new school, has given us takes him away from himself into the what may pass for a partial picture of world, and the human vitality of his what a poet of this sort is.

interest in the world makes him quick The poet, with his big gray eyes,

to catch its glow and color. He is not Smiling, looked out of the window

willing simply to see things and live in And replied:

the procession of his own retinal chan'The wind is shifting and stirring the tree-tops, Light is oozing out of them into the white gaps of

ges. He receives impressions, but he the sky,

goes beyond that in reducing those The roofs faintly glimmer

impressions to some sort of order, in With the subtle, cold silver of the stars.'

finding a character in them, in giving This is not all of the poem, but with re- that character a touch of some quality lation to the matter at issue here it con- drawn from his own nature. This is tains the rest. The poet stands at the beautiful, he says, and this is rich and window of life and looks out. He sees wonderful, and this again is terrible. the wind in the tree-tops and the silver He so expresses a judgment, but it is of the rain in the air, but that is all. He not a judgment of the intellect alone. is simply a bit of impressionable wax It is a judgment of the personal feelings, on which the stylus of life may leave but it is a judgment of those feelings as its mark. As he stands at the window, they look upon the thing judged in its he is barely concerned about the wind large human relationships, not simply or the rain, and he does not care at in its relations to the judging mind itall whether anybody has an umbrella. self. Such judgment demands coördiHis smile is as childlike and bland' as nation of a variety of experiences. It that of Harte's 'Heathen Chinee,' and will not rest in receptivity. It is a proits guilelessness is much more genuine. cess of interpretation, and in the great

The questions which arise at once in poetry of the world such judgment goes reading this, are two. Is this the por forward as a part of the continually trait of a real poet, or is it not? Why is changing values and understanding of this the mood of poetry, or if not, why values that make up the web of life. not? In the first place, poetry is an in- Response to impressions and repretensely personal thing, but it is not per- sentation of those impressions in their sonal in this way. The real poet does original isolation are the marks of the not look upon the sun and the rain as new poetry. Response to impressions, things existing largely for the purpose correlation of those impressions into a of providing him with sensations. That connected body of phenomena, and would be to centre the world in himself. final interpretation of them as a whole The little poet does that just as any are, have been, and always will be the other little man does, but the real poet marks of the enduring in all literature, does not. Poetry is the treatment of whether poetry or prose. Failure to that portion of life, or, perhaps, that carry his work forward to interpretaportion of our human outlook upon life, tion is for any writer ultimate failure. which lies between the cold detachment Falling short of that, as the imagists do of philosophy and the warm self-inter- fall short of it, is dropping back from est of religion. The poet wants to know art into journalism. what the world is. In that wish he is It is a peculiarity of the new poetry

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that its failure in interpretation is so The other day I finished reading a complete that one poem is hardly dis- comparatively recent English novel, tinguishable from another; and, even The Man of Iron, by Richard Dehan. when they are by different writers, one It occurred to me as I put the book is not at all rememberable as distinct down that the writer had drawn into from another after twenty-four hours. the net of words that make its nearly They run together into a descriptive seven hundred pages, more of those blur, the lights of the city softening and things that touch the senses — sights, spreading, the cool green depths of the sounds, colors, odors — than would sufwoods turning to indistinct shadow, the fice several imagists for the production velvety richness of the mosses at the of a number of volumes of poetry each. roots of the trees becoming simply color And what is true of this novel is true and then grayness and then nothing in a degree of the modern novel in genUnder the influence of the same experi- eral. The difference between the novelences, one imagist's view of the world ist and the imagist is in the use that would be the same as another's. They each makes of his material. The imagare all of them no more than the me- ist presents his sensuous world in de dium for the transmission of those ex- tached bits, a flower here, a glimpse of periences, the air through which light crannied wall there, a flash of sunlight passes to the eye, sometimes clear air, on the water somewhere else. He does sometimes misty air, sometimes smoky not apply his mind to these bits at all. air, but always air, whether a breath of They simply exist, and he reports miasm over a fen or a wind blowing their existence, fully perhaps, but baldacross the hills, — always air.

ly, as might the dullest prosaist. The A sympathetic critic, recently dis- novelist, on the other hand, takes these cussing the work of Mr. Fletcher, says various aspects of his material world that he sees nature very much as the and makes them parts of an organic

‘ painter or the musician,'and in the pre- whole, something that his mind shapes, ceding sentence this critic has just de- the creation of an intelligence taking clared that for the musician or the hold of the issues of life and refusing painter 'the emotion of color or the to be subjected by them or borne under. emotion of sound' is sufficient. That is One interesting if unfortunate cona prime defect in the whole conception sequence of the development of imagupon which imagism is based. Litera- ism and free verse has been the irrupture, if it is to fulfill its function, must tion into print of a considerable body

a go beyond music and painting in the of writers who would probably be techmatter of interpretation. It must ex- nically helpless before the difficulties to hibit the life of the mind as establishing be encountered in writing real and singa value in the things presented. It ing poetry. This is a field too large for must reveal the creative intelligence as survey here, but there is illustration at dominant over the sensuous organism. hand in the work of Amy Lowell, one The weakness of imagism is that the of the foremost American representasensuous organism becomes so quickly tives of the school, loudly acclaimed in both the objective and the subjective many quarters and not to be looked upfactor in it - objective as the thing on as a barbarian breaking into the whose experiences are worth while, and sacred city through the failing vigilance subjective as that which shuts up its of the guards at the gates. Her technical experiences within itself for the apprais- mastery of her art is worth considering, al that shall be its pleasure.

since she may safely be assumed to be

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more competent than most of her kind. This is wooden metre and worse than The following lines are taken from a wooden rhyme. It makes me feel as if recent volume of hers, Sword Blades and I were looking at something akin to my Poppy Seeds, and they are abundantly first page of Chaucer and trying to instructive with regard to the technical accept some scholar's assurance that limitations which may be the negative Chaucer is musical. The language of promptings accounting in part for free verse — even if this were free verse imagism and vers libre. These lines, it is not a new language with new is to be said, are attempts in a regular quantities and new sounds. So far as form of rhymed verse.

I know, it is the English language of

everyday use, and in that language And to get it out he made great shift.

'solace' has no accent on the second The context of this line does not mat- syllable and ‘unconsciousness' no acter. Neither do the rules of rhetoric cent on the last. matter, as rules. At any time and at In the morning he selected all any stage of literary development the His perfect jacinths. One large opal — line is a bad line, almost atrociously This is pure freakishness. Addressed bad, bad with the badness of a sopho to children, such verbal distortions more versifier who has just ceased be- might be amusing rather than offening a freshman. The words are awkward sive. For the ears of adults, they are in their arrangement, they are bald, merely so many tortures. If they were prosy, and trivial in themselves, and infrequent, they might be felt to be exthey have been changed from their nat- cusable, but hardly a page is free from ural order to bring them into artificial them. The bad taste of one is not out agreement with an exigency of the of the mouth before we must swallow verse as verse. A writer who has another dose of literary rudeness that achieved even a moderate control of seems almost illiteracy. It is impossible the singing word knows better than to' to read far without realizing that techforce consciousness of the raw mechan- nical insufficiency is not an accident of ism of his art upon his reader in the the verse, but a part of its very spirit. fashion of such gaucherie as this. The consciousness of the writer here, In the library with its great north light

as in the movement in general, is cenClotilde wrought at an exquisite

tred, not in the reader, not in the Wreath of flowers

thing of which she writes, but in herFor her Book of Hours.

self. If she were more mindful of the These lines have a touch of romantic reader, she would not give him so many beauty, but the rhyming necessity of distresses, would not wish to carry him pronouncing 'exquisite' with the sound so joltingly over so rough a road, would of long i and a heavy accent on the last not be so regardless of his natural insyllable turns it all into ugliness at once. stinct for beauty. If she had a clear. Torturing words into barbarous pro- er and more devoted interest in the nunciations to make them rhyme is thing itself, the subject of her verse, torturing the reader too, and such a she would be more anxious to have it monstrous verbal perversion is enough brought before her reader unobscured to spoil the page on which it stands. by such a host of metrical entangle

ments and verbal infelicities. Till reaching the table again, her face Would bring recollection, and no solace

That egotistic self-consciousness is a Could balm his hurt till unconsciousness primary motive in the new movement Stifled him and his great distress.

appears sufficiently in the demand on the part of Mr. Ezra Pound, the self- and printed after the fashion of our appointed high priest of the coterie, latest presumption. that poets be endowed so that they

Hast thou left thy course in heaven, may escape the need of writing to Golden-haired son of the sky? please the public. The art impulse ex- The west has spread its gates; hibits itself in two forms, as expression

The bed of thy repose is there. and as communication. The musician,

The waves come to behold thy beauty,

They lift their trembling heads. sitting alone before his instrument and

They see thee lovely in thy sleep; evoking its harmonies for his own ears, They sbrink away with fear. is finding his pleasure in expression, Rest in thy shadowy cave, O sun! and with that his pleasure stops. It is a

Let thy return be in joy. quite legitimate pleasure for him, but It must be admitted that this would literature is essentially an art of com- not quite pass for the free verse of our munication. Words were invented for day, because it has a different subjecthearers, and writing for readers. They matter; but technically, in its form, it are quite futile spent in soliloquy or is its perfect match, an imitation of our in anything that approaches soliloquy. newest manner nearly two centuries The great writers have been deeply ago. It did not then become the vogue conscious of their fellows. They have of English poetry, although it found an never wished to shut themselves off in echo later in some of Byron's work. Its a little world where they could say their bombast and turgidity forbade that, tinkling say, regardless of those who but it did give an impulse toward the heard. They have always wanted to be breaking of the shackles of the classia voice and an influence. Nothing but cism then decaying. Some like consesterility can come from isolation in a

quence we can expect from this moveworld of art from which the great de- ment of our day, although we are not mands of life and the need of under- now tied to outworn forms that we standing it and interpreting it have should throw away. It will not endure been more or less excluded.

in itself. It is little more than a child's At the same time that imagism and Autter of excitement over the world vers libre as developed into an art cult that it is beginning to discover; but it are freakish and barren in themselves, is the sign in its way of a fresh kind of it is no doubt true that they are indic- interest in the variety of our modern ative of some new romantic impulses life. As they go on and develop into which will be ultimately fruitful in the vital forces in the interpretation of our way of a fuller and more vital poetry. human actualities, imagism and vers It is interesting to remember that the libre will cease to have anything more romantic movement of the eighteenth than historical importance. Even so, century had as one of its early influen- they will have stimulated a productive ces the poems of Ossian. They were the activity and will in that degree be a vers libre of their day, although with- part of the fuller poetry which triumphs out that designation they were hailed over them. That fuller poetry will be as something not so much new as old, lieve in art for life's sake, and so it will something antique, whether genuine or not be petty with self-consciousness. fraudulent, not at all as the latest and The mark of that serpent is over the most progressive innovation. This is

new poetry in all its ways, and there is how the first paragraph of the ‘Carric- no surer mark of ultimate inadequacy Thura' looks, taken out of the Ossian and decay.


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