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HERE AND THERE
By Louis Untermeyer
HE title is not intended as a reviewer's shrug at being confronted with six wholly unrelated volumes, but to indicate the geographical even more than the technical disparity in their authors. Mrs. Tietjens is the only local representative, and patriotism as well as place aux dames leads me to turn first to her. But it is a dubious courtesy. All the gallantry in the world cannot keep me from feeling that "Profiles from Home" is an exceedingly inept offering. It is poor enough on its own account; coming from Mrs. Tietjens it is disheartening. Mrs. Tietjens's poetry, it appears, has come down a steady series of descending levels. "Profiles from China” (1917), her first
book, remains her best. "Body and Raiment", published two years later, is far less interesting, the bright moments being the very early ones. In "Profiles from Home" the poet strikes a plane so low as to seem incredible. She attempts, by sketches in free verse, to do for these States what her first volume did for China. But the results are the very opposite; the conceptions are feeble, the execution less than inadequate. This "etching" from Chicago is typical:
Once in a while there is a gleam of poetic color, once in a while a sardonic incision. But for the greater part, the commentary is as flat as the satire is superficial. "Now at last", trumpets the jacket, "Mrs. Tietjens gives us the book for which her admirers have long been waiting." Out of respect for the author of "Profiles from China", I murmur "God forbid!"
Of the remaining five volumes, four hail from England. The least pretentious is Laurence Binyon's booklet: a charming two colored limited edition of nine poems from the Japanese. Mr. Binyon commits the error of adding rhymes to his "adaptations", and the
result is less Japanese than Georgian. For example, a fragment supposed to be by "Gotokudaiji no Sadaijin" is rendered thus:
Thrilled, I turned my gaze,
Beams her silence from the empty sky.
It needs no Amy Lowell or Arthur Waley to tell us that this is as far from the land of the chrysanthemum as Piccadilly. If Mr. Binyon's other work did not convince me he was incapable of anything so low, I would say that here the white haired singer was pulling both of the reader's legs.
It is with the utmost modesty that the sensitive critic of "Attitudes" makes his début as a poet. Even the paper jacket (or dust cover, as Mr. Muir's compatriots call it) is an appropriate dove grey. At first one is disappointed. One looks and looks in vain for that mixture of audacious gaiety and volatile illumination which makes Muir's essays so brilliant and distinctive. But it is not long before the reader discovers other qualities which amply compensate for the lack of the familiar ones. There is an unusual if unobtrusive power of vision in these "First Poems". The author is particularly successful in summoning and holding the dream atmosphere: the "Ballad of Eternal Life", in spite of its faint overtones of Hofmannsthal, is an almost freezing evocation of that nebulous state between consciousness and nightmare. Almost as arresting is the Scotch paraphrase, the "Ballad of a Flood", a lively pendant to Irwin Russell's Negro variation on the same theme. And, among the shorter poems, "Childhood", "Grass", and "The Enchanted Prince" attain something of the clarity which philosophic poetry strives for but so seldom attains.
Whatever Mr. Muir chooses to be in future, such performances, and particularly the "Ballad of Eternal Life", prove him now no mere poetic personality but succinctly a poet.
Two Sitwells next. Neither of them is The Sitwell. That title must be reserved for Edith Sitwell, the originator of one of the most piquant idioms in contemporary poetry. Of the two brothers, Osbert (author of "Triple Fugue") is the more lavish, Sacheverell is the more particular. Osbert is concerned with the ironies of life; Sacheverell is rooted in the subtleties of art. One likes Osbert better for what he feels; one cares more for the way Sacheverell expresses his slighter but finer grained æstheticisms. Together, they furnish not so much a contrast as a complement; against Osbert's savage analyses of Mrs. Freudenthal and her auction bridge world (modeled after T. S. Eliot) Sacheverell pits the cool elegance of the Venus of Bolsover Castle; to the angry denunciations in the section entitled "Sing Praises" (from "Out of the Flame") the youngest Sitwell adds the metaphysical delicacies of "Doctor Donne and Gargantua". To get the full flavor of either volume the reader should have both.
The last of this group, in spite of the American production of one of his plays, is even more foreign to these states. I hope I shall not be accused of a plot to destroy the National Security League when I state that the best of these six poets is both a German and a Communist. "The Swallow-Book" is a translation of Ernst Toller's most recent work "Das Schwalbenbuch", a sequence of free verse soliloquies occasioned by the nesting of two swallows in his cell, during the young poet's five year incarceration in the fortress of Niederschoenenfeld. As a creative
work the little book is alternately poignant, vindictive, lyrical, strepitant, resigned, and altogether moving. As a translation, it is only fair. Ashley Dukes is a sympathetic but not an inspired adapter. His English is full of inversions not present in the original; he seems to prefer the worn literary word to the living one. For example, Mr. Dukes translates "dressiert" as "entamed", whereas "trained" is not only a simpler but a more exact rendering; "Verlassenheit" might, as Mr. Dukes puts it, be translated as "forsakenness", but the more direct as well as the more fluent equivalent would be "abandonment"; nor is there any reason for making the natural sentence "Nirgends blueht das Wunder" into so stilted a phrase as "Nowhere blossoms Miracle". For the rich quality of Toller's emotion not less than his language, the reader will have to forsake a few of his prejudices and read the author of "Masse Mensch" in his own tongue.
Profiles from Home. By Eunice Tietjens. Alfred A. Knopf.
Little Poems from the Japanese. Rendered into English verse by Laurence Binyon. Privately printed at the Swan Press: Leeds.
First Poems. By Edwin Muir. B. W.
Out of the Flame. By Osbert Sitwell.
AN INCOMPLETE BOSWELL By Gamaliel Bradford
T is not possible to recommend M.
his quick surprises of wit, his sudden and astonishing candor, his persistent sensuality, but he is not all there. It reminds one of the Goncourts' portrayal of Sainte-Beuve in their Journal, a distasteful though indispensable record of a side of the man, but wofully inadequate and incomplete. And, as Jules Lemaître said of this record of the Goncourts, one is forced to the conclusion that the recorder did not understand.
The sexual side of France's diversified life, the side which undoubtedly makes much of the attraction of his books, is amply developed in these pages, even though the translator is forced to dispense with some of the more highly colored chapters of the original. Again one thinks of the sordid old age of Sainte-Beuve; and his remark about the "burden of sadness that afflicts those who have abused the sources of life" finds its striking parallel in the cry of France when Brousson holds him up as the model of a happy life: "Enough, enough! Ah, if you could read in my soul, you would be terrified.' He takes my hands in his, and his are trembling and feverish. He looks me in the eyes. His are full of tears. His face is haggard. sighs: "There is not in all the universe a creature more unhappy than I. People think me happy. I have never been happy for one day, not for a single hour.'
Again, we see fully France's skepticism, his utter disbelief in any God, in any future, in a spiritual ideal of any kind whatsoever. Or, in another field, we get most interesting glimpses of his methods of composition and literary work.
What get, or get most
I Brousson's book heartily to lovers meagrely, is what some of us have
of Anatole France. The old man is there, with his wide interest in life,
loved most in all France's books. We do not get his infinite tenderness, his
broad and kindly tolerance, his sympathy with all phases of human suffering and human effort and human hope. It is these things that make the essential charm of Silvestre Bonnard, of Jérôme Coignard, of Monsieur Bergeret. And again, there disappears in this record that indefinable, inexplicable grace which invests all France's work and makes him indisputably one of the greatest writers of his age. No doubt this quality must largely disappear in any translation; but then the question arises
why translate? Mr. Pollock's work is well done; but its very excellence serves only to show the hopelessness of the attempt. The last fine touch of perfection, the charm in Quintilian's exquisite phrase apicibus verborum ligata, is lost by the medium
fill old Danaus's cask. And yet if there is some compensation to our hard labor, it is in the approval and sympathy of such readers as you seem to be, and in those friendly words coming from afar and which seem doubly precious coming from stranger. I am unhappily very little acquainted with English and American literature safe Shakespeare whom I worshipp. I think him the greatest among the great. I shall be happy, dear sir, if ever you come to Paris, if you will call on me. Till then believe me
Very truly yours,
Anatole France Himself, A Boswellian Record. By his secretary Jean Jacques Brousson. Translated by John Pollock. J. B. Lippincott Company.
TAKING SPORT SERIOUSLY By T. R. Coward
true sportsman why he is
of transference, till the impatient, and what will the answer
reader wonders whether it ever existed. Therefore I say that these pages, entertaining and piquant as many of them are, do not give us the real Anatole France, or give us only a piece of him.
It is possible that readers of THE BOOKMAN and lovers of France may be interested in the following unpublished letter, written over thirty years ago, in response to an outpouring of youthful enthusiasm. The letter was written in English and shows France's admirable command of the language, in spite of little slips, like the pretty Gallicism "safe Shakspeare". The glimpse of France's methods of composition in connection with "Le Lys Rouge" and of his Shakespeare worship is of peculiar interest.
You have written to me so kindly that I will not leave your letter unanswered, though just now I have hardly time for anything. I am taken up by a novel which ought to have come out in today's "Revue de Paris" and which will be finished I know not when. We poor authors are condemned to a mysterious and somewhat bewildering task, and often we feel as though we had to
be? "I like it. I can't resist the competitive urge." And no matter what he says, if he be a true sportsman, it will boil down to this. Charles Wright Gray has compiled an anthology of contemporary short stories, "The Sporting Spirit", which conveniently clinches the point. Seventeen stories make up the book, concerning sports which run alphabetically from automobile racing to track, including even one on mountaineering.
George D. Abraham, in his little book "First Steps to Climbing", proves his argument to us that mountain climbing "is the finest sport in the world and justifiable a thousand times Danger to life and limb is its only drawback." But then that is true, more or less, of almost every sport. The advantage of mountain climbing, over all others, apparently, is that nature, because so great an opponent, makes for precisely this reason so much more satisfying a victim of prowess.
A less terrifying manifestation of nature than an Alpine peak, yet one which offers a real satisfaction in the conquering, is the woodland. With the With the utmost determination we shall refrain from invidious comparisons with Horace Kephart, whose great Work (it simply must be capitalized) remains standard in spite of many rival works on the subject. Nevertheless, Warren H. Miller, in "Camping Out", has written a book as valuable and stimulating as a good seed catalogue is to an amateur gardener; which is to say, it is full of expert and practicable counsel, except that this is leavened with bits of informal narrative.
"A Handbook of the Outdoors", by Earle Amos Brooks, is a manual for leaders of juvenile camping expeditions, with good ideas on play, instruction, and religious development. As to what constitutes the aristocracy of camperdom, there is some dispute. Semi-permanent group camps are admittedly middle class. But is the lone hiker of the aristocracy, or is it the inhabitant of a palatial lodge? F. E. Brimmer, in "Camps - Log Cabins, Lodges and Clubhouses", gives one a chance to see how comfortable one can be during the period of retreat from the city to hunt or fish. He gives valuable chapters on rustic furniture construction and camp layout.
Those who are content to take their competition with nature in the form of an ocean voyage will find in "The Steamer Book" by Edward Valentine Mitchell an enlightening and amusing companion. It is a medley of nautical information conveyed simply and understandably, of sea verse, and of sea tales.
Fred G. Shaw, in "The Science of Fly Fishing for Trout", makes contagious his enthusiasm for the trout as
a personal opponent. This is a thoughtful and scholarly book, well written with the assurance which comes from long experience and certain knowledge. Edward Ringwood Hewitt differs from Mr. Shaw. His enthusiasm is for salmon; he calls his book "Secrets of the Salmon". Being an inventor, he brings his professional methods to bear moving pictures, mathematical formulæ, and statistical tables; with the result that, "I can safely say where there are salmon. . . . I can always raise a number each day."
T. E. Jones's "Track and Field" is an excellent handbook by an expert. Full details are given for training and performing in the recognized events, and past records are noted. An interesting item brought to light is that John Paul Jones, the great Cornell runner, ran the fastest final quarter ever run in the mile when he made his intercollegiate record, doing the distance in 582/5 seconds, a truly marvelous performance. It is our belief that if Jones had continued running after college he would have proved the finest miler of all time, not excepting the great Nurmi.
The Sporting Spirit. By Charles Wright
Camping Out. By Warren H. Miller. D.
A Handbook of the Outdoors. By Earle Amos Brooks. George H. Doran Company.
Camps - - Log Cabins, Lodges and Clubhouses. By F. E. Brimmer. D. Appleton and Company.
The Steamer Book. By Edwin Valentine Mitchell. Dodd, Mead and Company. The Science of Fly Fishing for Trout. By Fred G. Shaw, F.G.S. Charles Scribner's Sons.
Secrets of the Salmon. By Edward Ringwood Hewitt. Charles Scribner's Sons. Track and Field. By T. E. Jones. Charles Scribner's Sons.