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This first phase did not last long. It is not true to credit Kipling with the first use of vernacular; Dickens go no further back - had used it, and Kipling did no more than employ it with extravagance. But in dealing with modern machinery R. K. really did open a new literary field and stake out a claim that remains undisputed today. For a time he was in some danger of thinking that a machine was a story, as a man is a story; instead of a deus ex machina he was busy exalting the machine as god. That mistake did not last long, either. From dazzling or bewildering he passed on to a paramount wish to move mankind. Now the race can be moved only by emotion; (emotion is not conveyed unless the writer has himself been deeply stirred; and Kipling could not be stirred, any more than you or I, except by certain things. English soil was one of them; the pride and responsibility of race (the White Man's Burden) was another; custom, authority, discipline, reverence, fear, were others. I am sorry to use abstract terms, for these things have never presented themselves abstractly to Kipling. They have always been concrete, personal, and immediate as in that phrase, "the White Man's Burden". Katharine Fullerton Gerould, one of Kipling's most ardent admirers, would add to the list above: patriotism, love, childhood and parenthood, duty and death. But these are more abstractions and they do not mean as much as a single good Kipling story. Mrs. Gerould is
more right and far more expressive when she speaks of Kipling as having a Chaucerian or Shakespearian sense of life"life, good and bad, high and low, grave and gay". Both Kipling and Dickens are no mean inheritors of Elizabethan spaciousness.
At the close of her essay on "The Remarkable Rightness of Rudyard Kipling", Mrs. Gerould says:
All that I have meant to do is to point out that Kipling was right about preparedness, right about the Colonies, right about Germany, right about Russia, right about the Boers, right about Kitchener, right about demagogues and "labor", right about the elderly politicians, right about the decent British code, right about patriotism and the human heart right about love.
And then she seems to wonder that R. K. has been damned on every side. One would think Mrs. Gerould had never heard of a certain Aristides, styled the Just.
I am not one of those who sternly require the divorce of literature from all political and social purposes, from propaganda of every kind. If my Latin is not too rusty, the very form of the word "propaganda" - periphrastic
means something that must be spread around, the clear implication being that it will not propagate itself. Observation teaches me that anything which will not propagate itself will die anyway, no matter what the resort to artificial methods of keeping it alive. So the presence of a little, or even of a few tons, of propaganda around the place bothers me not. I will bury it, it will not bury me.
Therefore all this hate and hullabaloo over Kipling's ideas and preachments in prose and verse seems to me very silly well, I suppose it exercises lungs and glands. Let R. K. blow as hot or as cold as he likes and he can both scald and freeze with his breath - all that he preaches will flourish or
wither according to its nature. He is merely one of many chunks of good red earth in which it is planted. And like the rest of us, though more conspicuously, more intensely, he grow flowers and plants and weeds.
But as to that "rightness": it may occur to us that to have been right in a dozen years is bad chance to prove right in a hundred. I turn to Kipling's book of war verse, "The Years Between", and in some "material which may be said to be authoritative and to state clearly Mr. Kipling's own ideas in regard to this book" I find a note on the poem "The Rowers":
Originally published in the London Times in 1902 at the time when Germany wished to embroil England with the United States . noteworthy for the first use of the word "Hun".
Is this being "right"?
"The Song at Cockcrow." This poem is an expression of one view of the attitude of the Vatican in regard to Hun (sic) atrocities throughout the war.
He both is, and isn't, a poet.) If we could only recognize the distinction, he is a singer or chanter-chanteyman, as the sea would have it than a poet. He is at his best, the best easily imaginable, in such songs as "The Truce of the Bear" and "The Sons of Martha". They do well who take off their hats, who even toss them in the air, at the sound of such lines as these:
It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain, Tally, transport and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.
When he stands up like a tired man, tottering near and near;
When he stands up as pleading, in wavering, man-brute guise
When he shows as seeking quarter, with
Make ye no truce with Adam-zad · the bear that walks like a man!
Teach us the strength that cannot seek,
the children's song in "Puck of Pook's Hill".
The difference is difficult to express: Masefield is a poet in a sense that Kipling is not. Kipling is a poet in the sense that Vachel Lindsay is a poet. Neither parallel may be drawn too far. The best of Kipling was made to be kept alive on the lips of people the world over, and of course it largely is; and so is a little of the worst. Kipling's highflown efforts in serious poetry to express his feeling about the English soil are frequently lifeless, but lines flash out:
So to the land our hearts we give
And Memory, Use, and Love make live
But his best poetry is in prose, Or, if you prefer, his best prose is damaskeened with exquisite poetry. There will always be "They" and "The Brushwood Boy" and "The Jungle Books" - better than everything, perhaps, there will always be "Kim”, a Wheel of Life, a little dust, a flower, a prayer.
English Literature During the Last Half
Gods of Modern Grub Street. A. St. John
Men of Letters. Dixon Scott. DORAN.
The Kipling Index. DOUBLEDAY, PAGE.
Kipling's Country and His Neighbors.
ZINE, April 27, 1924.
THE NEW YORKER
Jazz Technique Finds Its Way into the Theatre - Bunthorne Returns to New York - Isabel Proves a Modest Violet in a Field of Passion Flowers The King of Lions Visits Manhattan - The New Society Show A Spanish Painter Does Up Some Americans.
NEW YORK after the New Year
becomes something very close to an artistic madhouse. New plays, new music, new picture exhibitions, new movies, break forth in such profusion that, if one is interested in such things, there is nothing to do but go wearily from one thing to another looking forward wistfully to the months of spring when one can have an evening or two at home. It is impossible to see and hear everything; the only policy is a selective one.
Probably no single play approaches so closely the mood of midseason New York as "Processional", the new piece by John Howard Lawson which the Theatre Guild has staged and presented so admirably. Mr. Lawson is one of our experimenters in the world of the theatre. Two years ago he was represented by "Roger Bloomer", a play which astonished and puzzled hosts of people; it might even be said that it puzzled the actors and the director, and perhaps even the author himself, for he was at that moment struggling with an idea which had not entirely freed itself from a movement in the German theatre known by the loose term of "Expressionism". In "Processional", young Mr. Lawson is free, although still a bit shaky from the struggle. He has created something new in our theatre, a thing not altogether definable because there are as yet no technical terms to define it a thing beyond
judgment because there are no standards by which to judge it.
On the day following the dress rehearsal the New Yorker encountered people who had been present on this occasion. Their comment on the piece seemed to be the same. "It's grand", they said; and when the New Yorker endeavored to find out what was meant by this, the answer was always the same, "I can't describe it, but it's grand!" And so it is. In the author's own words, he has made "an interpretation of American life in terms of jazz rhythm in which just as a jazz orchestra makes use of every instrument, so the playwright employs the various. techniques of the theatre, ranging all the way from vaudeville to tragedy".
All this is true; there are bits out of the burlesque stage, bits out of such "draymas" as "Shore Acres", and pieces of high tragedy which, emerging out of a strange confusion of sense and nonsense, suddenly grip the audience and hold it breathlessly. The plot? There is no such thing. The best idea of the plot might be obtained by reading the headlines of any sensational American newspaper from cover to cover. These, strung together, comprise the play. It is laid in the West Virginia mountains where a war between labor and capital is under way. In the play are all the national idiocies except the cross word puzzle. There is the Ku Klux Klan, the American
Security League, a real jazz band composed of striking miners, Mother's Day, and a thousand other things. It is, truly, an American play.
The cast is admirable. For the rôle of Sadie Cohen, who is jazz mad, the Guild has secured June Walker, hitherto known only in the realms of farce. In this there was a stroke of genius, for Miss Walker has a complete sense of what she is about and plays always in perfect rhythm and tempo. The part of Mrs. Flimmins, mother of the young miner who runs amuck, is a more difficult one, because out of the wild, careening stream of nonsense it calls for moments of real tragedy and passion. Blanche Frederici accomplishes this in brilliant fashion. George Abbott, a rising star, is excellent as the son, and Philip Loeb as the Jewish clothing dealer out of a Weber and Fields comedy hits exactly the proper mood. But most credit is perhaps due to Philip Moeller who took this strange piece and directed it in a fashion which gives it a real coherence and unity. "Processional" may not be the best play in New York, but at the moment it is the most interesting.
A thousand miles in the opposite direction from "Processional" lies the revival of "Patience" which the Provincetown Players have arranged on the tiny stage of their stable-theatre. There are only a dozen love sick maidens instead of twenty, because there is no room for more, and in the orchestra there are but seven pieces where there ought to be forty; but none of this makes the least difference. Crowds fight for places on the hard stiff benches of the tiny playhouse and cheer the piece as it moves on its way.
The Bunthorne of the revival is Edgar Stehli, and Grosvenor is played by Stanley Howlett. It is a long jump for these two actors from the grim stuff
"God Bless the Provincetown Players" is a prayer offered up by more than one New Yorker in a season notable for its dulness.
Quite the pleasantest, if not the most thrilling or uproarious evening of the winter, came to the New Yorker at the Empire, where Frank Reicher has staged on one bill a play called "Isabel", adapted beautifully from the German by Arthur Richman, and "Shall We Join the Ladies?", a one act play by Barrie which everyone has awaited for a long time. "Isabel" is what the New York critics have come to label a "gossamer comedy", and it is cast with just the proper people. It calls for only five players-Margaret Lawrence, Edna May Oliver, Lyonel Watts, A. P. Kaye, and Leslie Howard. It is utter nonsense, filled with absurdities which cause the audience to chuckle with great satisfaction, and it is just long enough. The last act, in which all save Isabel grow mildly tipsy over a champagne punch, is superbly funny . . . not in the boisterous sense but in a sense that warms the heart. After the alarums and excursions of "Desire Under the Elms", "What Price Glory?", "They Knew What They Wanted", and similar excellent plays, it comes as a gentle spring zephyr, cool and refreshing.
The Barrie play lasts less than a half