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ings; both have the quality of the poems which follow the Preface humour. The curses are partly com were mostly written "before the pounded of robust delight, like the views just stated, with which they joy of London cabmen in repartee; have little to do, had come into my and the blessings are doubtless com head." mingled with irony. But Synge had No discussion of modern verse a savage heart. He was essentially a should omit consideration of this rewild man, and a friend of mine had markable Preface—for while it has a vision of him that seems not with. had no effect on either Mr. Yeats or out significance. He was walking in Mr. Russell—it has profoundly ina desolate part of Ireland in a bleak fluenced other Irish poets, and many storm of rain; when suddenly over that are not Irish, Mr. Masefield, for the hills came the solitary figure of example. Indeed much aggressively Synge, dressed in black, with a broad “modern" work is trying, more or hat pulled over his brows.
less successfully, to fit this theory. As a stranger and sojourner he In the advance, Synge was more walked this earth. In the midst of prophet than poet. Dublin he never mentioned politics, read no newspapers, and little con Many of the older poets, such as Villon temporary literature, not even the and Herrick and Burns, used the whole of books of his few intimate friends. their personal life as their material, and Everyone who knew him had such the verse written in this way was read by immense respect for the quality of strong men, and thieves, and deacons, not his intellect that it is almost laugh by little cliques only. Then, in the town able to think how eagerly they must writing of the eighteenth century, ordinary have awaited criticism of the books life was put into verse that was not poetry, they gave him-criticism that never and when poetry came back with Coleridge came. Yet he never seems to have and Shelley, it went into verse that was not given the impression of surliness; he always human. [This last clause shows the was not surly, he was silent. He difference between Synge and his friends, must have been the despair of diag. Yeats and Russell.] nosticians; even in his last illness, it In these days poetry is usually a flower was impossible for the doctors and of evil or good; but it is the timbre of nurses to discover how he felt, for poetry that wears most surely, and there is he would not tell. I think his burn. no timbre that has not strong roots among ing mind consumed his bodily frame. the clay and worms.
Synge wrote few poems, and they Even if we grant that exalted poetry can came at intervals during a period of be kept successful by itself, the strong sixteen or seventeen years.
Objec things in life are needed in poetry also, to tively, they are unimportant; his show that what is exalted or tender is not contributions to English literature made by feeble blood. It may almost be are his
dramas and his prose said that before verse can be human again sketches. But as revelations of his it must learn to be brutal. personality they have a deep and melancholy interest; and every word
Like Herrick, he wrote verse about of his short Preface, written in De
himself, for he knew that much biog. cember, 1908, a few months before raphy and criticism would follow his his death, is valuable. He knew he
funeral. was a dying man, and not only
ON AN ANNIVERSARY wished to collect these fugitive bits of verse, but wished to leave behind
After reading the dates in a book of Lyrics. him his theory of poetry.
With Fifteen-ninety or Sixteen-sixteen characteristic bluntness, he says that We end Cervantes, Marot, Nashe or Green:
Then Sixteen-thirteen till two score and Yeats is Ariel and A. E. is Prospero. nine,
He is the Master of the island. As a Is Crashaw’s niche, that honey-lipped divine. literary artist, he is not the equal of And so when all my little work is done either of the two men whose work They'll say I came in Eighteen-seventy-one, we have considered; but he is by all And died in Dublin. . . . What year will odds the greatest Personality. He they write
holds over his contemporaries a For my poor passage to the stall of night? spiritual sway that many a monarch
might envy. Perhaps the final tribA QUESTION
ute to him is seen in the fact that I asked if I got sick and died, would you even George Moore treats him with With my black funeral go walking too, respect. If you'd stand close to hear them talk or One reason for this predominance pray
is the man's absolute sincerity. All While I'm let down in that steep bank of those who know him regard him clay.
with reverence; and to us who know
him only through his books and his And, No, you said, for if you saw a crew friends, his sincerity is equally clear Of living idiots pressing round that new and compelling. He has done more Oak coffin-they alive, I dead beneath than any other man to make Dublin That board—you'd rave and rend them with a centre of intellectual life. His sinyour teeth.
gle force is greater than that of the
whole University. At one time his The love of brutal strength in house was kept open every Sunday Synge's work may have been partly evening, and any friend, stranger, or the projection of his sickness, just as foreigner had the right to walk in the invalid Stevenson delighted in without knocking, and take a part in the creation of powerful russians; but the conversation. A. E. used to subthe brooding on his own death is scribe to every literary journal, no quite modern, and is, I think, part of matter how obscure, that was printed the egoism that is so distinguishing in Ireland; every week he would a feature in contemporary poetry. scan the pages, hoping to discover a So many have abandoned all hope of man of promise. It was in this way a life beyond the grave, that they he “found” James Stephens, and not cling to bodily existence with almost only found him, but founded him. gluttonous passion, and are filled Many a struggling painter or poet with self-pity at the thought of their has reason to bless the gracious asown death and burial. To my mind, sistance of A. E. there is something unworthy, some It is a singular thing that the three thing childish, in all this. When a great men of modern Ireland seem child has been rebuked or punished more like disembodied spirits than by its father or mother, it plays a carnal persons. Synge always seems trump card_“You'll be sorry when to those who read his books like I am dead!” It is better for men some ghost, waking the echoes with and women to attack the daily task ironical laughter; I cannot imagine with what cheerful energy they can A. E. putting on coat and trousers; command, and let the interruption and although I once had the honour of death come when it must. If life which I gratefully remember-of a is short, it seems unwise to spend long talk with W. B. Yeats, I never so much of our time in rehearsals of felt that I was listening to a man of a tragedy that can have only one flesh and blood. It is fitting that performance.
these men had their earthly dwelling In the modern Tempest of Ireland, in a sea-girt isle, where every foot of
ground has its own superstition, and ment and in his work; it partly acwhere the constant mists are peopled counts for his strong influence. Many with unearthly figures.
writers to-day are like sheep having I do not really know what mysti- no shepherd; A. E. is a shepherd. cism is; but I know that Mr. Yeats To turn from the wailing so characand Mr. Russell are both mystics and teristic of the poets, to the books of a quite different stamp. Mr. of this high-hearted, resolute, canYeats is not insincere, but his mysti- did, cheerful man, is like coming cism is a part of his art rather than into harbour after a mad voyage. a part of his mind. He is artistically, He moves among his contemporather than intellectually, sincere. raries like a calm, able surgeon in a The mysticism of Mr. Russell is fully hospital. I suspect he has been the as intellectual as it is emotional; it recipient of many strange confesis more than his creed; it is his life. sions. His poetry has healing in its His poetry and his prose are not wings. shadowed by his mysticism, they Has any human voice ever ex. emanate from it. He does not have pressed more wisely or more tenderly to live in another world when he the reason why Our Lord was a man writes verse, and then come back to of sorrows? Why He spake to huearth when the dinner or the door manity in the language of pain, bell rings; he lives in the other rather than in the language of deworld all the time. Or rather, the light? Was it not simply because, in earth and common objects are them- talking to us, He who could speak selves part of the Universal Spirit, all languages, used our own, rather reflecting its constant activities. than that of His home country? DUST
A LEADER I heard them in their sadness say
Though your eyes with tears were blind, “The earth rebukes the thought of God; Pain upon the path you trod: We are but embers wrapped in clay,
Well we knew, the hosts behind, A little nobler than the sod."
Voice and shining of a god.
But I have touched the lips of clay,
Mother, thy rudest sod to me
And haunted by all mystery.
For your darkness was our day,
Signal fires, your pains untold,
To the mystic heart of gold.
The above poem, taken from the Naught we knew of the high land, author's first volume, Homeward: Beauty burning in its spheres; Songs by the Way, does not reflect Sorrow we could understand that homesickness of which A. E. And the mystery told in tears. speaks in his Preface. Homesickness is longing, yearning; and there is lit Something of the secret of his tle of any such quality in the work quiet strength is seen in the followof A. E. Or, if he is really home, ing two stanzas, which close his sick, he is homesick not like one who poem Apocalyptic (1916): has just left home, but more like one who is certain of his speedy return It shall be better to be bold thither. This homesickness has more Than clothed in purple in that hour; anticipation than regret; it is like The will of steel be more than gold; healthy hunger when one is assured For only what we are is power. of the next meal. For assurance is Who through the starry gate would win the prime thing in A. E.'s tempera Must be like those who walk therein.
You, who have made of earth your star, Poems with Synge's famous Preface
Cry out, indeed, for hopes made vain: counselling brutality, counselling For only those can laugh who are anything to bring poetry away from The strong Initiates of Pain,
the iridescent dreams of W. B. Yeats Who know that mighty god to be
down to the stark realities of life and Sculptor of immortality.
nature. They bear testimony to the
catholic breadth of A. E.'s sympaIt is a wonderful thing-a man living thetic appreciation, for they are as in a house in Dublin, living a life of different as may be imagined from intense, ceaseless, and extraordi
and extraordi- the spirit of mysticism. It must also narily diversified activity, travelling be confessed that their absolute on life's common way in cheerful merit as poetry is not particularly godliness, and shedding abroad to remarkable; all the more credit to the remotest corners of the earth a the discernment of A. E., who de. masculine serenity of soul.
scried behind them an original and James Stephens was not widely powerful personality. known until the year 1912, when he The influence of Synge is strong in published a novel called The Crock the second book of verses, called The of Gold; this excited many readers Hill of Vision, particularly noticein Great Britain and in America, an able in such a poem as The Brute. excitement considerably heightened Curiously enough, Songs from the by the appearance of another work Clay is more exalted in tone than of prose fiction, The Demi-Gods, in The Hill of Vision. The air is 1914; and general curiosity about the clearer and purer. But the real author became rampant.
James Stephens—the man known to speedily discovered that he was a us all through The Crock of Gold poet as well as a novelist; that three and The Demi-Gods—did not appear years before his reputation he had in verse until The Adventures of issued a slim book of verse, boldly Seumas Beg was published. In these named Insurrections, the title being charming poems we have that triple the boldest thing in it. By 1915 this combination of realism, humour, and neglected work had passed through fantasy that gave so original a flavour four editions, and during the last six to the novels. They make a valuable years he has presented to an admir- addition to child-poetry; for men, ing public four more volumes of women, angels, fairies, God and the poems, The Hill of Vision, 1912; Devil are treated with easy familiarSongs from the Clay, 1915; The Ad- ity, in practical, definite, conversaventures of Seumas Beg, 1915, and tional language. These are the best Green Branches, 1916.
fruits of his imagination in rime. A. E. believed in him from the start; and it was owing to the in
THE DEVIL'S BAG fluence of A. E. that Insurrections I saw the Devil walking down the lane took the form of a book, gratefully Behind our house. There was a heavy bag dedicated to its only begetter. Both Strapped tightly on his shoulders, and the patron and protégé must have been rain surprised by its lack of impact, and Sizzled when it hit him. He picked a rag still more surprised by the immense Up from the ground and put it in his sack, success of The Crock of Gold. The And grinned and rubbed his hands. There poems are mainly realistic, pictures was a thing of slimy city streets with slimy crea- Moving inside the bag upon his backtures crawling on the pavements. It It must have been a soul! I saw it fling is an interesting fact that they And twist about inside, and not a hole appeared the same year of Synge's Or cranny for escape. Oh, it was sad.
I cried, and shouted out, “Let out that To have a clock with weights and chains soul!”
And pendulum swinging up and down! But he turned round, and, sure, his face A dresser filled with shining delph, went mad,
Speckled and white and blue and brown! And twisted up and down, and he said “Hell!”
I could be busy all the day And ran away. ... Oh, mammy! I'm not
Clearing and sweeping hearth and floor, well.
And fixing on their shelf again
My white and blue and speckled store! In 1916 Mr. Stephens published a beautiful threnody, Green Branches, Lord Dunsany brought to public which illustrates still another side of
attention a new poet, Francis Ledhis literary powers. There is organ- widge, whose one volume, Songs of like music in these noble lines. The
the Fields, is full of promise. In sting of bitterness is drawn from
October, 1914, he enlisted in death, and sorrow changes into a
Kitchener's first army, and was killed solemn rapture.
in 1917. Ledwidge's poetry is more Padraic Colum has followed the
conventional than that of most of his suggestion of Synge, and made deep Irish contemporaries, and he is at excavations for the foundations of
his best in describing natural obhis poetry. It grows up out of the
jects. Such poems as A Rainy Day soil like a hardy plant; and while
in April, and A Twilight in Middle it cannot, in any sense of the word, March are most characteristic. But be called major work, it has a whole- occasionally he arrests the ear with some, healthy earthiness. It is realis
a deeper note. The first four lines tic in a totally different way from of the following passage, taken from the town eclogues of James Stephens; An Old Pain, might fittingly apply it is not merely in the country, it is
to a personality like that of Synge: agricultural. His most important
I hold the mind is the imprisoned soul, book is Wild Earth, published in Dublin in 1901, republished with ad
And all our aspirations are its own ditions in New York in 1916. The
Struggles and strivings for a golden goal, very smell of the earth is pungent in
That wear us out like snow men at the thaw.
And we shall make our Heaven where we such poems as The Plougher and The Drover; while his masterpiece,
have sown An Old Woman of the Roads, voices
Our purple longings. Oh! can the loved
dead draw the primeval and universal longing for the safe shelter of a home. I
Anear us when we moan, or watching wait wonder what those who believe in
Our coming in the woods where first we the abolition of private property are
The dead leaves falling in their wild hair going to do with this natural, human
wet, passion? Private property is not the result of an artificial social code
Their hands upon the fastenings of the it is the result of an instinct. The
gate? first three stanzas of this poem indi
A direct result of the spiritual incate its quality, expressing the all
fluence of A. E. is seen in the poetry but inexpressible love of women for
of Susan Mitchell. She is not an each stick of furniture and every
imitator of his manner, but she rehousehold article.
flects the mystical faith. Her little 0, to have a little house!
volume, The Living Chalice, is full To own the hearth and stool and all!
of the beauty that rises from sufferThe heaped up sods upon the fire,
ing. It is not the spirit of acquiesThe pile of turf against the wall! cence or of resignation, but rather