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DURING the past decade there has been a remarkable renascence of poetry both in England and America. A new poetry has risen, differing from the old in particulars but like it in its attempt to express the spirit of the age and in its appeal to the popular taste of the time. The difference is not merely in form, for here we find the same rhymeschemes and the same measures. It is different not merely in its rejection of
poetic language," for poetry of any period uses a terminology which is characteristic of its respective age. It is not markedly different in its use of subjects, for at particular eras poetry turns to material which at the time seems unsuitable to verse.
This new poetry, like the old poetry, strives for a direct realization of life; it discards forms, language, and subjects that would introduce any barrier to a complete understanding of the concrete or would prevent the simple expression of the individual emotion. It has set before itself an ideal of absolute simplicity and sincerity. And here it is well to remember that the new poetry does not discard tradition, for it is aware of the fact that it is merely following the best literary tradition when it attempts to find a speech and express a mood suited to the time. The best poetry has always been written in the language of its time and even when it has adopted legends or romances of some earlier period it has always sought to use them as the skeletons for the body and spirit of the particular era.
The ultimate justification for a new poetry is to be found in the study of such masters as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Browning, and if we may find some of these more or less congenial to our modern taste, it is because the age which was reflected in their verse would have pleased us just as much or as little as their respective age. In so far as each wrote poetry of a high order, in that proportion was the poet a spokesman of his age.
It should be a source of encouragement, then, that the poetry of to-day should be “new,” that, superficially at least, it should seem to discard traditions and should seen to be different. We should not expect it or wish it to be Victorian in an un-Victorian age. As one poet has said, W. B. Yeats, who has been a strong force in the new movement,
“We were weary of all this. We wanted to get rid not only of rhetoric but of poetic diction. We tried to strip away everything that was artificial, to get a style like speech, as simple as the simplest prose, like a cry of the heart.”
With all things contemporary it is impossible to pass a final judgment. It is best to read and enjoy and be slow in saying, “ This is great and will last,” or “ This is trivial and will soon pass.”
It is inspiring to be able to select such a substantial amount of interesting verse fron so many worthy and sincere writers who are doing much to make the world a better place in which to live. It is inspiring to be able to turn the pages of this book and find this great tradition of English literature still abounding in richness and full of promise for the future. .
grow old :
RAIN-SUNKEN roof, grown green and thin Solemn the drums thrill : Death august For sparrows' nests and starlings' nests; and royal
Dishevelled eaves; unwieldy doors, Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres. Cracked rusty pump, and oaken floors There is music in the midst of desolation And idly-pencilled names and jests And a glory that shines upon our tears. Upon the posts within.
The light pales at the spider's lust, They went with songs to the battle, they The wind tangs through the shattered pane: were young,
An empty hop-poke spreads across Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and
The gaping frame to mend the loss aglow.
And keeps out sun as well as rain, They were stanch to the end against odds
Mildewed with clammy dust. uncounted, They fell with their faces to the foe. The smell of apples stored in hay
And homely cattle-cake is there.
Use and disuse have come to terms, They shall grow not old, as we that are left
The walls are hollowed out by worms, Age shall not weary them, nor the years
But men's feet keep the mid-floor bare
And free from worse decay. condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the
All merry noise of hens astir morning
Or sparrows squabbling on the roof We will remember them.
Comes to the barn's broad open door;
You hear upon the stable floor They mingle not with their laughing com- Old hungry Dapple strike his hoof, rades again;
And the blue fan-tail's whir. They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
The barn is old, and very old, They have no lot in our labour of the But not a place of spectral fear. daytime;
Cobwebs and dust and speckling sun
Come to old buildings every one.
And here you may behold
Nothing but simple wane and change; Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from Your tread will wake no ghost, your voice sight,
Will fall on silence undeterred. To the innermost heart of their own land No phantom wailing will be heard, they are known
Only the farm's blithe cheerful noise; As the stars are known to the Night;
The barn is old, not strange.
F. W. BOURDILLON
The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one; Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.
The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one; Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.
We watched the good grain rattle down,
And the awns fly in the draught; To see us both so pensive grown
The honest labourers laughed: Merry they were, because the wheat
Was clean and plump and good,
For market and for food.
And had not gat us free
Of its immensity:
Where humble harvests bring
'Tis merry winnowing.
BETWIXT two billows of the downs
The little hamlet lies, And nothing sees but the bald crowns
Of the hills, and the blue skies.
Clustering beneath the long descent
And grey slopes of the wold, The red roofs nestle, oversprent
With lichen yellow as gold.
We found it in the mid-day sun
Basking, what time of year The thrush his singing has begun,
Ere the first leaves appear.
SO SWEET LOVE SEEMED So sweet love seemed that April morn When first we kissed beside the thorn, So strangely sweet, it was not strange We thought that love could never change. But I can tell let truth be told That love will change in growing old; Though day by day is naught to see, So delicate his motions be. And in the end 'twill come to pass Quite to forget what once he was, Nor even in fancy to recall The pleasure that was all in all. His little spring, that sweet we found So deep in summer floods is drowned. I wonder, bathed in joy complete, How love so young could be so sweet.
High from his load a woodman pitched
His faggots on the stack: Knee-deep in straw the cattle twitched
Sweet hay from crib and rack:
And from the barn hard by was borne
A steady muffled din, By which we knew that threshèd corn
Was winnowing, and went in.
The sunbeams on the motey air
Streamed through the open door, And on the brown arms moving bare,
And the grain upon the floor.
BEAUTIFUL must be the mountains whence
ye come, And bright in the fruitful valleys the
Ye learn your song: Where are those starry woods? O might I
wander there, Among the flowers, which in that heavenly
Bloom the year long.
One turns the crank, one stoops to feed
The hopper, lest it lack,
One stands to hold the sack.
Nay, barren are those mountains and The veriest school spent the streams :
Of peace; and yet the fool Our song is the voice of desire, that haunts Contends that God is not our dreams,
Not God! in gardens! when the eve is A throe of the heart,
cool? Whose pining visions dim, forbidden hopes Nay, but I have a sign; profound,
'Tis very sure God walks in mine.
W. H. DAVIES
A GREAT TIME
Sweet Chance, that led my steps abroad, From these sweet-springing meads and
Beyond the town, where wild flowers bursting boughs of May
grow Dream, while the innumerable choir of day
A rainbow and a cuckoo, Lord,
How rich and great the times are now !
Know, all ye sheep
And cows, that keep
On staring that I stand so long
In grass that's wet from heavy rain IF I should die, think only this of me:
A rainbow and a cuckoo's song That there's some corner of a foreign field
May never come together again; That is for ever England. There shall be
May never come In that rich earth a richer dust con
This side the tomb. cealed : A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
EARLY SPRING Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
How sweet this morning air in spring, A body of England's, breathing English air,
When tender is the grass and wet ! Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of
I see some little leaves have not home.
Outgrown their curly childhood yet; And think, this heart, all evil shed away, And cows no longer hurry home, A pulse in the eternal hind, no less However sweet a voice cries “Come.” Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Here, with green Nature all around, Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as
While that fine bird the skylark sings; her day;
Who now in such a passion is, And laughter, learnt of friends; and He flies by it, and not his wings; gentleness,
And many a black bird, thrush, and In hearts at peace, under an English
Sing sweeter songs than I may borrow.
Oh thou fair Moon, so close and bright; A man came up to me and cried,
Come, I have eighteen hundred sheep, That cries aloud to own thy light:
And we will sail on Tuesday's tide.
will sail with me, young man, Though there are birds that sing this night These eighteen hundred sheep I take
I'll pay you fifty shillings down; With thy white beams across their
From Baltimore to Glasgow town.” throats Let my deep silence speak for me
He paid me fifty shillings down, More than for them their sweetest notes :
I sailed with eighteen hundred sheep; Who worships thee till music fails
Wesoon had cleared the harbour's mouth, Is greater than thy nightingales.
We soon were in the salt sea deep.
The first night we were out at sea
Those sheep were quiet in their mind; We have no time to stand and stare? The second night they cried with fear
They smelt no pastures in the wind. No time to stand beneath the boughs And stare as long as sheep or cows. They sniffed, poor things, for their greer. No time to see, when woods we pass,
fields, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
They cried so loud I could not sleep:
For fifty thousand shillings down
I would not sail again with sheep.
WALTER DE LA MARE
“Is there anybody there?” said the
Traveller, A poor life this if, full of care,
Knocking on the moonlit door; We have no time to stand and stare.
And his horse in the silence champed the
grasses RICH DAYS
Of the forest's ferny floor :
And a bird flew up out of the turret, WELCOME to you, rich Autumn days,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second
time; All standing arm-in-arm entwined; And gallons of sweet cider seen
"Is there anybody there?" he said. On trees in apples red and green.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill With mellow pears that cheat our teeth, Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes, Which melt that tongues may suck them Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners With cherries red, and blue-black plums, That dwelt in the lone house then
Now sweet and soft from stone to skin ; Stood listening in the quiet of the moonAnd woodnuts rich, to make us go
light Into the loveliest lanes we know.
To that voice from the world of men: