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This temptation to omit all the intermediate steps in the reasoning process, leaving the reader to jump from point to point as best he can, unaided, is one which appeals especially to the American mind. The English poets of the day are slower, more graceful, producing more finished results than our own, who are characterized by a more or less jerky, but always rapid, intellectual movement.
On both sides of the water, the greater minds are making a struggle to break loose from the trammels of convention, which bind them down to superficiality ; but in doing this, they escape the safeguards as well. They try so hard to awake a real sensation that they shock with their brutality. Kipling does this over and over again. His “Barrack Room Ballads" are full of lines that make one cringe and shrink from them in disgust. Among American poets, Gourand is bad, and Crane is worse. With all this abuse of verse, men are losing their reverence for it. Nonsense rhymes increase in popularity. Parodies on the noblest poetic masterpieces of the world are received with enthusiasm by persons of culture. Soon the term “funny poetry” will no longer sound incongruous. The standard of the subject matter considered worthy of metrical treatment is much lower than formerly, even in the days of Herrick and his poems on Julia's petticoat. The most frivolous, the most trivial, commonplace ideas are given expression in poetical form. The requirements for a poetical vocabulary are so lax that they have practically ceased to exist, and verses written in cockney, Bowery, or Hoosier dialect meet with a cordial and unprejudiced welcome. They are popular rather because of their dialect, than in spite of it. Besides this, there is a more unconscious degradation of poetry. The conception of earnest poets is of a more purely esthetic nature than of old. The lover of poetry is a lover of the beautiful. He appreciates the sensuous charms of melody, of cadence, of rhythmic lilt, and the connotative power of the several sounds. He enjoys the subtlety, the delicacy, the ephemeral quality of poetry. It is to him an artistic pleasure, not a vital experience.
However, some contemporary verse has the germ of truth, which is the essential of true poetry. With all his pessimism and his brutality,-yes, and his suggestiveness, too, for he has all the modern faults, -John Davidson strikes the note sometimes. In his poem called “Thirty Bob a Week," there are truths which are startling in their force and newness—in these lines, for instance :
“I mean that having children and a wife,
And notice curious items about life.”
“Thy will be done. You say it if you durst!
And feel that that's the proper thing for you.” It is consoling to know that, after all, there are many exceptions to the general decadent condition of poetry to-day, and that there is still hope for the future. We have Kipling's "Recessional” in all its grandeur ; we have William Watson's answer to it, and the exquisite little poems of Edward Rowland Sill, like dewdrops in their perfection and purity; and there is inspiration from a dozen more. Perhaps it is most encouraging of all to find that true poetry is present in the same men who have most conspicuously every contemporary failing, for we see then that the faults are not fatal ones after all, and that the spirit of poetry still lives in spite of them. No, poetry is not dead, but it needs a long, long rest. Let cultivation and polishing and refining of the form, the outer shell, be laid aside for a while. Poetry will be decadent, and will decline more and more, until men will leave it alone, will live so that their store of thought and feeling will have an opportunity to increase, and not be exhausted, as fast as it accumulates, by the constant drain of instant expression. Let expression wait, until there is too much to express !
GRACE WHITING MASON.
A HINDOO SONG
The monsoon blows in the cocoanut trees,
Blow, thou kindly monsoon.
Blow, thou friendly monsoon.
Blow, thou pitying monsoon.
SARAH LYDIA DEFOREST.
IVHEN GREEK NEETS GREEK
Lamson was lying lazily in the hammock on the broad, low veranda of the summer boarding-house, watching his rival out of his half-closed eyes. The rival, Professor Percival Lovejoy, was sitting in a small, straight-backed chair, and bent double over a pasteboard box, watching the maneuvers of an imprisoned beetle. The professor was small and thin. He had light, curly hair and a silky, pointed beard, and his mustaches curled into two delightful letter S's. A flaxen curl lay loose on his forehead.
Lamson had great contempt for the professor. It was humiliating to contend with such an apology for a man. He noticed the curl, and began to recite in slow, monotonous tones,
“ There was a little girl, and she had a little curl,
Right down in the middle of her forehead ;
And when she was bad, she was horrid.”
The professor moved uneasily in his chair and flushed deeply. He raised one of his hands and brushed the curl into place, then coughed apologetically. Lamson went on cruelly in the same slow, monotonous tone,
“ There was a little prof., and he had a little cough,
Which he used whenever he was furried ;
And when he was bad, he was horrid." “Dear me,” the professor managed to say, “you are really quite a poet, Mr. Lamson, aren't you?”
“Oh, quite a one,” Lamson said, “but not before I saw you. You inspire me." The professor got up and walked over toward the hammock.
“Mr. Lamson, I want to show you the elytra of a coleoptera ; this is such an excellent specimen. Are you interested ?”
“Not at all," Lamson said, and closed his eyes.
“Ah, but see. It is right here.” The professor leaned over him until Lamson could smell the perfumery on his handkerchief. “Just see.”
The screen door behind them slammed ; the professor jumped ; and the beetle fell with a little thud on Lamson's high, bronzed forehead.
“Don't move, don't stir, Mr. Lamson,” cried the professor, in alarm, “ I'll have him in a minute." But the beetle was fast escaping down the inside of Lamson's collar.
When the professor at length drew forth the poor little bug between his slight, tapering fingers, all life was gone. If something hadn't happened just then as it did, no one could have told but that at length the rivals would have come to blows over the dead body of the innocent little beetle. But a merry peal of laughter saved them. Professor Lovejoy turned around and saw Phyllis.
“Oh, it was terribly funny, terribly funny,” she was saying. "Mr. Lamson looked so comical, and the poor beetle was so glad to be free and crawl again, and you all were so serious about it. Oh, it was so funny !”
The professor laughed shortly. “It was funny, Miss Phyllis, wasn't it? Only I lost a very valuable specimen of a coleoptera.”
• Did you ? I'm so sorry. But still, I'll help you find another.” The professor bowed low. “ Then I'm quite repaid,” he said.
Lamson was smiling grimly and mopping the back of his neck with a large white handkerchief.
“Do I not need to be repaid also, Miss Phyllis ?” he said.
“You ?” said Phyllis. “Why, you killed the beetle, Mr. Lamson, but still we can be very forgiving. We will let Mr. Lamson go with us beetle-hunting, won't we, Professor Love
“Why, most certainly ; nothing would give us more pleasure, Mr. Lamson,” and the professor bowed low again.
Phyllis drew up a large rocker near the hammock and sat down. She was very small and delicate. There was nothing of the air of the present athletic girl about her. She did not even wear the popular masculine shoes, but dainty, thin-soled little things. Her hands were far too small for tennis or rowing, and even the simple little pink gingham, with its ruffles and Hamburg insertion, did not look durable enough for golf.
“Do you know, Mr. Lamson, what I've been doing?" she asked abruptly. “ You see that row of bottles over there on the window-sill, don't you? with the preserved bugs in them? Well, I've been naming them. The first one there, that poor little fly, is our abused Mr. Stoker, and that generous-looking spider beside him there, is his wife. That bumblebee is our fleshy landlady. The grasshopper with the sandy complexion is Professor Lovejoy, and that caterpillar that never gets excited over a thing is you. Professor Lovejoy has taught me a great deal about bugs I never knew before. I seldom become so interested in things as I have in this zoölogy."
“By the way, Miss Phyllis," the professor interrupted, “if you have not named yourself among these, allow me to." He produced a card from behind the bottles on which was pinned a beautiful butterfly, gold and yellow and black. “This is you, Miss Phyllis,-a dazzling butterfly among us other poor bugs of the earth.
“Oh, lovely!” she cried. “You are delightful, Professor."
“Miss Phyllis,” Lamson said softly, leaning forward in the hammock toward the girl, “won't you take a walk with me this morning? I've discovered a beautiful, shady spot, and I want to show it to you. I've got a magazine here, too, and we'll read; will you go ?”
“Why, yes, I'd love to,” she said. Lamson beamed with pleasure.