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Olympian quality making for command. The naked face was the beginning of our dishonor. The ancients knew better, Dowie knew better, the late King Ben knew better, and the Bible, too, is against it. Why should a man make himself appear childish and effeminate and hope to maintain status? Can you blame the women and children for concluding that we are all alike, irrespective of sex or age?

But this was only the beginning of exposure, for, while it weakened the first line of defense by shearing down the men, there were still the women, who might have saved the day had not they too been betrayed by exposure. And who was it that challenged the older women to this unequal contest in pulchritude but the young and comely? When skirts started to recede from the earth, all of the older women were bound to lose social standing. They took up the gauge of battle with the young, not realizing how merciful the civilized convention of clothes is, and how much it has to do with preserving respect after a certain age. Obviously many women are too old or too different from the Greek anatomical models to qualify for the annual event at Atlantic City. But they did compete everywhere, and the public, looking them up and down and rating them by stockjudging methods rather than by distinctly human values, gave all of the blue ribbons to Youth.

In reading books and sober periodicals one learns that every explanation of present social trends or problems must include the World War as a major cause. That the post-war psychology added to adult humiliation seems reasonably clear. Whether justly or not, the young people, particularly in the colleges, were persuaded that all the statesmen dealing with the crisis of 1914 and the causes leading to it were stupid and depraved. It was not

reluctantly that they came to believe that any sophomore could have done better than Earl Grey and that, irrespective of study and experience, Youth somehow had higher morals and better judgment than the men who steered our Western civilization into disaster. All adults came under indictment. The fact of having been born forty years ago was a patent disgrace. Besides this, and more important, was the current conviction of Youth that a great deal of lying had been done by their elders. In a word, out of that awful calamity came the conclusion that the present breed of adults were not fit to run things, and the beautiful hope that they who are to follow us will do much better. They who have not tried have no failures; we who have tried and failed, what can we say? Again we have been exposed.

Add to our cup of sorrow the collapse of hero worship, the fall of the adult nobility of the past, accomplished by modern biographers sniffing the trail of mental complexes of sex, superiority, inferiority, until they have the 'great' at bay and bring them down. The illustrious who had been our symbols for the control of Youth are no more; the idols have fallen; the taboos, ceremonies, pomp, and circumstance that supported the prestige of adults have been swept away. It was not enough to expose us; those from whom we inherited the right to rule must also be brought low.

From this assault of the psychological biographers we might have fled for sanctuary to the modern church, had it not already established the enemy within the gates; for it is historically true that Youth first came to consciousness as a cult within the kindly fold of the church. Be it said that the clergy who advocated and engineered the religious autonomy of Youth were actuated by idealism and love, and,

like other uplifters, failed to foresee the main by-products of the Great Reform. Hence solemnly ordained ministers made the discovery that Youth must lead Youth in the things of the spirit. Could they not organize, talk, pray, testify, and sing according to their own genius? What mattered the small item of seven years of collegiate and seminary training, the seasoning of long service, or the sacrament of the cure of souls?

Youth performed with a vengeance; ran meetings in serio-comic style, held mammoth conventions, 'peppy' rallies with yells and contests, slang and nicknames, slogans and sidelong glances that betokened, perhaps, a horizontal interest in religious assembly quite equal to the old-time vertical one. They had their own extempore brand of meeting and began to leave the decorum of public worship to their elders. From that time the family pew was for father and mother only. The young people took up their own interpretation and uses of religion.

To be sure, a few shirt-sleeve evangelists went after them on their own terms, with now and again a boy preacher enriching the juvenility of the scene, or some beautiful female performer such as floods the Western coast with auroral splendor and the continent with spicy news; but for the most part Youth bade farewell to the old folk and adapted religion to their own fancy. At present teachers are considering a similar 'reform' in education. Then will follow, no doubt, physicians and surgeons, engineers and the hard-boiled scientists.

Gradually, and while all this was taking place, the delicate instrument of speech which serves subtly to define and preserve social order played us a mean trick. In our directness, haste, and love of equality, we had never been strict in protecting or adorning the

termini of our remarks. These symbols of English aristocracy and French nicety had never been maintained on this soil without effort and early training. Manners from below seeped upward. We made it snappy: 'Yes, sir' gave place to 'Yep' or 'Sure'; 'Good morning' became 'H'lo,' and all the little courtesies of language so rewarding to seniors everywhere and so productive of morale became Victorian. 'Applesauce' and 'So's yer old man' were the victorious banners of militant Youth. We fled.

Furthermore, not only men of letters, who now begin with the woes and failures of married persons of middle life, but entertainers, fun makers, movie lords, columnists, cartoonists, and dramatists joined in the sport of baiting Age. They gave color, din, and romantic zest to the rout. Then came the big contingent of business based on salesmanship. 'Pep' was the cardinal virtue and pep was found in Youth. Vivid suggestion, not reflective judgment, sold the public to its utmost limit, including next year's salary. Thrills beat logic all hollow. Exit the aged.

Even the State rebuffed us by revoking the parental right to educate children at home, to require of them remunerative work, to follow our own ideas of health; and, not being content to demote us, said plainly that we ourselves were incompetent and not to be trusted in selecting what we should eat or drink. Besides that, it put Youth on an equality with us as lawbreakers, adding the thrill of danger and naughtiness in youthful adventure. Prosperity also worked against us, for it telescoped the normal rate of acquiring comforts and luxuries and gave Youth everything without the prolonged effort and discipline of former times. Science, of which they learned more in high school than we did in college, banished nature lore, including the stork, and

gave them automobiles, radios, and airplanes which they could handle better than we.

Socially they conspired to put through whatever programme they desired. Parents did not confer or organize; hence they fell one by one under the combined demand for later hours, more money, more cars, more country-club affairs, and, being at the same time ambitious for the social rating of their offspring, they succumbed to the knock-down argument of 'So-and-so does it.'

For the reasons given, we, like the conquered everywhere, pay the bills

and indulge the speculation as to whether our present rulers will in turn be overthrown. How will it fare with them when their children have taken to the air, when American football teams and fans by the thousand fly to Paris or Rome for week-end games, when jazz has been perfected in the exclusive use of the erotic tom-tom, when dancing has become completely stationary, and when full dress has become nothing more than a loin cloth? Then perhaps our present rulers will join us under the juniper tree and swell the dirge which runs, 'Now when I was young

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IN 1923 there was published in London, and no doubt on your side also, a book entitled The Works of Li-Po, the Chinese Poet, 'done into English verse by Shigeyoshi Obata.' It is an interesting, even a delightful book, but it has this peculiarity, that it is not in English verse, as stated on the title-page, but in English prose. It must appear strange that an intelligent Japanese scholar, with a remarkable knowledge of the English language, should write prose under the impression that he was writing poetry.

The United States is not altogether without responsibility in this matter, for Shigeyoshi Obata, as he tells us in his preface, graduated at the University of Wisconsin. Can it be, then, that at an American university they do not

teach their students the difference between prose and verse?

If it be objected that America cannot hold herself responsible for the mistake of a foreign student, there is another case which comes nearer home: FirFlower Tablets, 'poems translated from the Chinese by Florence Ayscough, English versions by Amy Lowell.' Here, again, there is the same confusion. Both Mrs. Ayscough and Miss Lowell labored in the belief that the latter was writing verse, whereas these charming line-for-line translations are, like Shigeyoshi's, in prose.

The book, it need hardly be explained, is a collaboration. Mrs. Ayscough translated Chinese poems into English; Miss Amy Lowell's task was to fashion them into English poetry.

Mrs. Ayscough- to illustrate their ideas on this subject-mentions as

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Chinese poetry is formed out of three elements: line, rhyme, and tone. . . . The Chinese line pattern, then, is one of counted words, and these counted words are never less than three, nor more than seven, in regular verse; irregular is a different matter, as I shall explain shortly. . . . Rhyme is used exactly as we use it, at the ends of lines. Internal rhyming is common. Tone is . . . woven into a pattern of its own which again is in a more or less loose relation to rhyme.

If this be true, then the 'method' of the Chinese poet is something altogether different from the 'method' of

The scrape and rustle of a dog stretching himself 'Nostalgia.' The Chinese poet employs on a hardwood floor,

And your voice, reading — reading

to the slow ticking of an old brass clock.

"Tickets please!'

And I watch the man in front of me
Fumbling in fourteen pockets,

While the conductor balances his ticket punch
Between his fingers.

Now it is not necessary to be insensible to the charm of this little piece to see that, were it printed as prose, it would never be mistaken for verse. Thus, for example:

"Tickets please!' And I watch the man in front of me fumbling in fourteen pockets,

while the conductor balances his ticket punch between his fingers.

If, then, this is a poem, the difference between poetry and prose would depend upon the printer, which, as Euclid would say, is absurd.

Is Chinese poetry really like this? If it is, then the Chinese poets are all Oriental Walt Whitmans, and write not only without rhyme but without metre, as we of the West write prose. But there is a notable contradiction here, for Mrs. Ayscough, in her introductory essay on Chinese poetry, observes:

One of the chief differences between poetry and prose is that poetry must have a more evident pattern. The pattern of

rhyme, and he uses 'pattern,' commonly called metre, or regular rhythm. His lines have the same number of words, corresponding, no doubt, to our metrical feet. Since the Chinese language is monosyllabic, alternations of tone are employed, which correspond to our alternations of short and long syllables. There is, in fact, a metrical system, a strict prosody. There is no sanction, then, in Chinese literature for that prosodic anarchy which confuses poetry with prose.

And now let us see how Miss Amy Lowell, herself, justified her method of


It has been necessary, of course [she wrote in her preface], to acquire some knowledge of the laws of Chinese versification. . . . It was totally impossible to follow either the rhythms or the rhyme schemes of the originals. All that could be done was to let the English words fall into their natural rhythm and not attempt to handicap the exact word by introducing rhyme at all. I hold it is more important to reproduce the perfume of a poem than its metrical form, and no translation can possibly reproduce both.

Now here is a perfectly simple position: it is impossible to translate a Chinese poem into English poetry. Let us, therefore, be content with a

translation into English prose. But the question is nevertheless begged, since Miss Lowell assumed that what she calls the 'perfume' of a poem lies not in its metrical form but in its meaning.

Miss Lowell, alas, is no longer with us. Otherwise I should have proposed to her a testing experiment. Take one of the poems of her beloved Keats, say, the 'Ode to a Nightingale,' - by paraphrase strip it of rhyme and metre, and see how much of its 'perfume' remains. 'Barbarous experiment!' as Tennyson said in a similar case. As well take out the nightingale's tongue and see if it can still sing!

Here let me say what should be obvious but is often forgotten, that there is no compulsion upon anyone to use metre and rhyme. The writer, if he so desires, can go without rhyme and write blank verse, or he can go without both rhyme and metre and write prose. He can do anything he likes, and what he does will be judged, not by its adherence to or departure from any 'rule' or 'law,' but by its effect. The 'laws' of poetry are merely the technique of an art, a traditional means of giving delight. If the poet can give this delight without the technique, he is welcome to try. Walt Whitman possibly mistook what are called the laws of poetry for a relic of English feudalism, and threw them overboard as the good people of Boston threw the East India Company's tea into their harbor. But, as they lost something of 'perfume' in their tea, so Walt Whitman lost something of perfume in his poetry. As a matter of fact, although he eschewed rhyme, his best work is metrical. "Whitman,' says Professor Saintsbury, 'could and did write more or less regular metre, and his actual medium is often a plumpudding stone or conglomerate of metrical fragments.' When Whitman

wrote metrically he was a poet, although he would probably have been a better poet if he had begun by learning his job. When he wrote unmetrically he wrote prose.

I say this yielding to no one in my admiration of Whitman at his best: that best makes a thin volume, but contains some superlative things. But I cannot see, either in commerce or in literature, the rhyme or reason of wrong labels. Unfermented grape juice may be a very nice drink, but nothing is gained by calling it Château Margaux.


The Chinese poets, then, attempted something altogether different from the prosodic anarchy of some of our moderns. They laid themselves under the yoke of their prosody, not because it came down from ancient times, but because it gave to them and their readers the maximum of poetical delight. It expressed a certain rhythmic harmony which is strong and deep in human nature; and so, as their potters followed tradition in the firing and glazing of their porcelains, for the perfect works of art they could thereby achieve, the Chinese poets practised rhythm and rhyme to produce the perfect poem. There is, after all, no other defense of prosody worth making.

How, then, are we to translate the Chinese poem? If we leave out metre and rhyme we turn it, not into English poetry, but into English prose. We preserve something, the sense or the theme of the poem; but that, after all, is no more than the poet's raw material, the kaolin out of which he makes his beautiful porcelain. Let the reader experiment again by reducing any of our finest lyrical poems to its meaning in prose. What remains is usually a commonplace, a mere truism, a bird plucked of its feathers, a violin with

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