Transcriber's Note: Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of this document.
MODERN BRITISH POETRY
EDITED BY LOUIS UNTERMEYER
Author of "Challenge," "Including Horace," "Modern American Poetry," etc.
HARCOURT, BRACE & COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY HARCOURT, BRACE AND HOWE, INC.
PRINTED IN THE U. S. A. BY THE QUINN & BODEN COMPANY RAHWAY, N. J.
For permission to reprint the material in this volume, the editor wishes, first of all, to acknowledge his debt to those poets whose co-operation has been of such assistance not only in finally determining upon the choice of their poems, but in collecting dates, biographical data, etc. Secondly, he wishes to thank the publishers, most of whom are holders of the copyrights. The latter indebtedness is specifically acknowledged to:
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY and A. P. WATT & SON—
For "The Return" from The Five Nations and for "An Astrologer's Song" from Rewards and Fairies by Rudyard Kipling. Thanks also are due to Mr. Kipling himself for personal permission to reprint these poems.
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY and MARTIN SECKER—
For the poem from Collected Poems by James Elroy Flecker.
E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY—
For the poems from The Old Huntsman, Counter-Attack and Picture Show by Siegfried Sassoon.
FOUR SEAS COMPANY—
For poems from War and Love by Richard Aldington and The Mountainy Singer by Seosamh MacCathmhaoil (Joseph Campbell).
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY—
For poems from Peacock Pie and The Listeners by Walter de la Mare and Poems by Edward Thomas.
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY—
For two poems from Poems, 1908-1919, by John Drinkwater, both of which are used by permission of, and by special arrangement with, Houghton Mifflin Company, the authorized publishers.
B. W. HUEBSCH—
For the selections from Chamber Music by James Joyce, Songs to Save a Soul and Before Dawn by Irene Rutherford McLeod, Amores, Look! We Have Come Through!, and New Poems by D. H. Lawrence.
ALFRED A. KNOPF—
For poems from The Collected Poems of William H. Davies, Fairies and Fusiliers by Robert Graves, The Queen of China and Other Poems by Edward Shanks, and Poems: First Series by J. C. Squire.
JOHN LANE COMPANY—
For the selections from Poems by G. K. Chesterton, Ballads and Songs by John Davidson, The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke, Admirals All by Henry Newbolt, Herod and Lyrics and Dramas by Stephen Phillips, The Hope of the World and Other Poems by William Watson, and In Cap and Bells by Owen Seaman.
THE LONDON MERCURY—
For "Going and Staying" by Thomas Hardy and "The House That Was" by Laurence Binyon.
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY—
For the selections from Fires and Borderlands and Thoroughfares by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, Poems by Ralph Hodgson, the sonnet from Good Friday and Other Poems by John Masefield, and the passage (entitled in this volume "Rounding the Horn") from "Dauber" in The Story of a Round-House by John Masefield.
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS—
For the title poem from In Flanders Fields by John McCrae.
THE POETRY BOOKSHOP (England)—
For two excerpts from Strange Meetings by Harold Monro and for the poems from the biennial anthologies, Georgian Poetry.
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS—
For the quotations from Poems by William Ernest Henley.
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY—
For the poem from Ardours and Endurances by Robert Nichols.
LONGMANS, GREEN & CO., as the representatives of B. H. BLACKWELL, of Oxford—
For a poem by Edith Sitwell from The Mother.
THOMAS HARDY (1840- ) In Time of "The Breaking of Nations" 3 Going and Staying 4 The Man He Killed 4
ROBERT BRIDGES (1844- ) Winter Nightfall 5 Nightingales 7
ARTHUR O'SHAUGHNESSY (1844-1881) Ode 8
WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY (1849-1903) Invictus 10 The Blackbird 10 A Bowl of Roses 11 Before 11 Margaritae Sorori 12
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON (1850-1894) Summer Sun 13 Winter-Time 14 Romance 15 Requiem 16
ALICE MEYNELL (1850- ) A Thrush Before Dawn 16
FIONA MACLEOD (William Sharp) (1855-1905) The Valley of Silence 18 The Vision 19
OSCAR WILDE (1856-1900) Requiescat 20 Impression du Matin 21
JOHN DAVIDSON (1857-1909) A Ballad of Hell 22 Imagination 26
WILLIAM WATSON (1858- ) Ode in May 28 Estrangement 30 Song 31
FRANCIS THOMPSON (1859-1907) Daisy 32 To Olivia 34 An Arab Love-Song 35
A. E. HOUSMAN (1859- ) Reveille 36 When I Was One-and-Twenty 37 With Rue My Heart is Laden 38 To An Athlete Dying Young 38 "Loveliest of Trees" 39
DOUGLAS HYDE (1860- ) I Shall Not Die for Thee 40
AMY LEVY (1861-1889) Epitaph 42 In the Mile End Road 42
KATHARINE TYNAN HINKSON (1861- ) Sheep and Lambs 43 All-Souls 44
OWEN SEAMAN (1861- ) To An Old Fogey 45 Thomas of the Light Heart 47
HENRY NEWBOLT (1862- ) Drake's Drum 49
ARTHUR SYMONS (1865- ) In the Wood of Finvara 50 Modern Beauty 51
WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS (1865- ) The Lake Isle of Innisfree 53 The Song of the Old Mother 53 The Cap and Bells 54 An Old Song Resung 55
RUDYARD KIPLING (1865- ) Gunga Din 57 The Return 61 The Conundrum of the Workshops 63 An Astrologer's Song 66
RICHARD LE GALLIENNE (1866- ) A Ballad of London 69 Regret 70
LIONEL JOHNSON (1867-1902) Mystic and Cavalier 71 To a Traveller 73
ERNEST DOWSON (1867-1900) To One in Bedlam 74 You Would Have Understood Me 75
"A. E." (George William Russell) (1867- ) The Great Breath 76 The Unknown God 77
STEPHEN PHILLIPS (1868-1915) Fragment from "Herod" 78 Beautiful Lie the Dead 78 A Dream 79
LAURENCE BINYON (1869- ) A Song 79 The House That Was 80
ALFRED DOUGLAS (1870- ) The Green River 81
T. STURGE MOORE (1870- ) The Dying Swan 82 Silence Sings 82
WILLIAM H. DAVIES (1870- ) Days Too Short 84 The Moon 85 The Villain 85 The Example 86
HILAIRE BELLOC (1870- ) The South Country 87
ANTHONY C. DEANE (1870- ) The Ballad of the Billycock 90 A Rustic Song 92
J. M. SYNGE (1871-1909) Beg-Innish 95 A Translation from Petrarch 96 To the Oaks of Glencree 96
NORA HOPPER CHESSON (1871-1906) A Connaught Lament 97
EVA GORE-BOOTH (1872- ) The Waves of Breffny 98 Walls 99
MOIRA O'NEILL A Broken Song 99 Beauty's a Flower 100
JOHN MCCRAE (1872-1918) In Flanders Fields 101
FORD MADOX HUEFFER (1873- ) Clair de Lune 102 There Shall Be More Joy 104
WALTER DE LA MARE (1873- ) The Listeners 106 An Epitaph 107 Tired Tim 108 Old Susan 108 Nod 109
G. K. CHESTERTON (1874- ) Lepanto 111 A Prayer in Darkness 118 The Donkey 119
WILFRID WILSON GIBSON (1878- ) Prelude 120 The Stone 121 Sight 124
JOHN MASEFIELD (1878- ) A Consecration 126 Sea-Fever 127 Rounding the Horn 128 The Choice 131 Sonnet 132
LORD DUNSANY (1878- ) Songs from an Evil Wood 133
EDWARD THOMAS (1878-1917) If I Should Ever By Chance 136 Tall Nettles 137 Fifty Faggots 137 Cock-Crow 138
SEUMAS O'SULLIVAN (1879- ) Praise 139
RALPH HODGSON Eve 140 Time, You Old Gipsy Man 142 The Birdcatcher 144 The Mystery 144
HAROLD MONRO (1879- ) The Nightingale Near the House 145 Every Thing 146 Strange Meetings 149
T. M. KETTLE (1880-1916) To My Daughter Betty, The Gift of God 150
ALFRED NOYES (1880- ) Sherwood 151 The Barrel-Organ 154 Epilogue 161
PADRAIC COLUM (1881- ) The Plougher 162 An Old Woman of the Roads 164
JOSEPH CAMPBELL (Seosamh MacCathmhaoil) (1881- ) I Am the Mountainy Singer 165 The Old Woman 166
JAMES STEPHENS (1882- ) The Shell 167 What Tomas An Buile Said In a Pub 168 To the Four Courts, Please 169
JOHN DRINKWATER (1882- ) Reciprocity 170 A Town Window 170
JAMES JOYCE (1882- ) I Hear an Army 171
J. C. SQUIRE (1884- ) A House 172
LASCELLES ABERCROMBIE (1884- ) From "Vashti" 175 Song 176
JAMES ELROY FLECKER (1884-1915) The Old Ships 178
D. H. LAWRENCE (1885- ) People 180 Piano 180
JOHN FREEMAN (1885- ) Stone Trees 181
SHANE LESLIE (1886- ) Fleet Street 183 The Pater of the Cannon 183
FRANCES CORNFORD (1886- ) Preexistence 184
ANNA WICKHAM The Singer 186 Reality 186 Song 187
SIEGFRIED SASSOON (1886- ) To Victory 189 Dreamers 190 The Rear-Guard 190 Thrushes 191 Aftermath 192
RUPERT BROOKE (1887-1915) The Great Lover 195 Dust 198 The Soldier 200
W. M. LETTS (1887- ) Grandeur 201 The Spires of Oxford 203
FRANCIS BRETT YOUNG Lochanilaun 204
F. S. FLINT London 205
EDITH SITWELL The Web of Eros 206 Interlude 207
F. W. HARVEY (1888- ) The Bugler 208
T. P. CAMERON WILSON (1889-1918) Sportsmen in Paradise 209
W. J. TURNER (1889- ) Romance 210
PATRICK MACGILL (1890) By-the-Way 211 Death and the Fairies 212
FRANCIS LEDWIDGE (1891-1917) An Evening in England 213 Evening Clouds 214
IRENE RUTHERFORD MCLEOD (1891- ) "Is Love, then, so Simple" 215 Lone Dog 215
RICHARD ALDINGTON (1892- ) Prelude 216 Images 217 At the British Museum 218
EDWARD SHANKS (1892- ) Complaint 219
OSBERT SITWELL (1892- ) The Blind Pedlar 220 Progress 221
ROBERT NICHOLS (1893- ) Nearer 222
CHARLES H. SORLEY (1895-1915) Two Sonnets 223 To Germany 225
ROBERT GRAVES (1895- ) It's a Queer Time 226 A Pinch of Salt 227 I Wonder What It Feels Like to be Drowned? 228 The Last Post 229
INDEX OF AUTHORS AND POEMS 231
The New Influences and Tendencies
Mere statistics are untrustworthy; dates are even less dependable. But, to avoid hairsplitting, what we call "modern" English literature may be said to date from about 1885. A few writers who are decidedly "of the period" are, as a matter of strict chronology, somewhat earlier. But the chief tendencies may be divided into seven periods. They are (1) The decay of Victorianism and the growth of a purely decorative art, (2) The rise and decline of the AEsthetic Philosophy, (3) The muscular influence of Henley, (4) The Celtic revival in Ireland, (5) Rudyard Kipling and the ascendency of mechanism in art, (6) John Masefield and the return of the rhymed narrative, (7) The war and the appearance of "The Georgians." It may be interesting to trace these developments in somewhat greater detail.
THE END OF VICTORIANISM
The age commonly called Victorian came to an end about 1885. It was an age distinguished by many true idealists and many false ideals. It was, in spite of its notable artists, on an entirely different level from the epoch which had preceded it. Its poetry was, in the main, not universal but parochial; its romanticism was gilt and tinsel; its realism was as cheap as its showy glass pendants, red plush, parlor chromos and antimacassars. The period was full of a pessimistic resignation (the note popularized by Fitzgerald's Omar Khayyam) and a kind of cowardice or at least a negation which, refusing to see any glamour in the actual world, turned to the Middle Ages, King Arthur, the legend of Troy—to the suave surroundings of a dream-world instead of the hard contours of actual experience.
At its worst, it was a period of smugness, of placid and pious sentimentality—epitomized by the rhymed sermons of Martin Farquhar Tupper, whose Proverbial Philosophy was devoured with all its cloying and indigestible sweetmeats by thousands. The same tendency is apparent, though far less objectionably, in the moralizing lays of Lord Thomas Macaulay, in the theatrically emotionalized verses of Robert Buchanan, Edwin Arnold and Sir Lewis Morris—even in the lesser later work of Alfred Tennyson.
And, without Tupper's emptiness or absurdities, the outworn platitudes again find their constant lover in Alfred Austin, Tennyson's successor as poet laureate. Austin brought the laureateship, which had been held by poets like Ben Jonson, Dryden, Southey and Wordsworth, to an incredibly low level; he took the thinning stream of garrulous poetic conventionality, reduced it to the merest trickle—and diluted it.
The poets of a generation before this time were fired with such ideas as freedom, a deep and burning awe of nature, an insatiable hunger for truth in all its forms and manifestations. The characteristic poets of the Victorian Era, says Max Plowman, "wrote under the dominance of churchliness, of 'sweetness and light,' and a thousand lesser theories that have not truth but comfort for their end."
The revolt against this and the tawdriness of the period had already begun; the best of Victorianism can be found not in men who were typically Victorian, but in pioneers like Browning and writers like Swinburne, Rossetti, William Morris, who were completely out of sympathy with their time.
But it was Oscar Wilde who led the men of the now famous 'nineties toward an aesthetic freedom, to champion a beauty whose existence was its "own excuse for being." Wilde's was, in the most outspoken manner, the first use of aestheticism as a slogan; the battle-cry of the group was actually the now outworn but then revolutionary "Art for Art's sake"! And, so sick were people of the shoddy ornaments and drab ugliness of the immediate past, that the slogan won. At least, temporarily.
THE RISE AND DECLINE OF THE AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY
The Yellow Book, the organ of a group of young writers and artists, appeared (1894-97), representing a reasoned and intellectual reaction, mainly suggested and influenced by the French. The group of contributors was a peculiarly mixed one with only one thing in common. And that was a conscious effort to repudiate the sugary airs and prim romantics of the Victorian Era.
Almost the first act of the "new" men was to rouse and outrage their immediate predecessors. This end-of-the-century desire to shock, which was so strong and natural an impulse, still has a place of its own—especially as an antidote, a harsh corrective. Mid-Victorian propriety and self-satisfaction crumbled under the swift and energetic audacities of the sensational younger authors and artists; the old walls fell; the public, once so apathetic to belles lettres, was more than attentive to every phase of literary experimentation. The last decade of the nineteenth century was so tolerant of novelty in art and ideas, that it would seem, says Holbrook Jackson in his penetrative summary, The Eighteen-Nineties, "as though the declining century wished to make amends for several decades of artistic monotony. It may indeed be something more than a coincidence that placed this decade at the close of a century, and fin de siecle may have been at once a swan song and a death-bed repentance."
But later on, the movement (if such it may be called), surfeited with its own excesses, fell into the mere poses of revolt; it degenerated into a half-hearted defense of artificialities.
It scarcely needed W. S. Gilbert (in Patience) or Robert Hichens (in The Green Carnation) to satirize its distorted attitudinizing. It strained itself to death; it became its own burlesque of the bizarre, an extravaganza of extravagance. "The period" (I am again quoting Holbrook Jackson) "was as certainly a period of decadence as it was a period of renaissance. The decadence was to be seen in a perverse and finicking glorification of the fine arts and mere artistic virtuosity on the one hand, and a militant commercial movement on the other.... The eroticism which became so prevalent in the verse of many of the younger poets was minor because it was little more than a pose—not because it was erotic.... It was a passing mood which gave the poetry of the hour a hothouse fragrance; a perfume faint yet unmistakable and strange."
But most of the elegant and disillusioned young men overshot their mark. Mere health reasserted itself; an inherent repressed vitality sought new channels. Arthur Symons deserted his hectic Muse, Richard Le Gallienne abandoned his preciosity, and the group began to disintegrate. The aesthetic philosophy was wearing thin; it had already begun to fray and reveal its essential shabbiness. Wilde himself possessed the three things which he said the English would never forgive—youth, power and enthusiasm. But in trying to make an exclusive cult of beauty, Wilde had also tried to make it evade actuality; he urged that art should not, in any sense, be a part of life but an escape from it. "The proper school to learn art in is not Life—but Art." And in the same essay ("The Decay of Lying") he wrote, "All bad Art comes from returning to Life and Nature, and elevating them into ideals." Elsewhere he said, "The first duty in life is to be as artificial as possible. What the second duty is no one has discovered."
Such a cynical and decadent philosophy could not go unchallenged. Its aristocratic blue-bloodedness was bound to arouse the red blood of common reality. This negative attitude received its answer in the work of that yea-sayer, W. E. Henley.
WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY
Henley repudiated this languid aestheticism; he scorned a negative art which was out of touch with the world. His was a large and sweeping affirmation. He felt that mere existence was glorious; life was coarse, difficult, often dangerous and dirty, but splendid at the heart. Art, he knew, could not be separated from the dreams and hungers of man; it could not flourish only on its own essences or technical accomplishments. To live, poetry would have to share the fears, angers, hopes and struggles of the prosaic world. And so Henley came like a swift salt breeze blowing through a perfumed and heavily-screened studio. He sang loudly (sometimes even too loudly) of the joy of living and the courage of the "unconquerable soul." He was a powerful influence not only as a poet but as a critic and editor. In the latter capacity he gathered about him such men as Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, H. G. Wells, W. B. Yeats, T. E. Brown, J. M. Barrie. None of these men were his disciples, but none of them came into contact with him without being influenced in some way by his sharp and positive personality. A pioneer and something of a prophet, he was one of the first to champion the paintings of Whistler and to proclaim the genius of the sculptor Rodin.
If at times Henley's verse is imperialistic, over-muscular and strident, his noisy moments are redeemed not only by his delicate lyrics but by his passionate enthusiasm for nobility in whatever cause it was joined. He never disdained the actual world in any of its moods—bus-drivers, hospital interiors, scrubwomen, a panting train, the squalor of London's alleys, all found a voice in his lines—and his later work contains more than a hint of the delight in science and machinery which was later to be sounded more fully in the work of Rudyard Kipling.
THE CELTIC REVIVAL AND J. M. SYNGE
In 1889, William Butler Yeats published his Wanderings of Oisin; in the same year Douglas Hyde, the scholar and folk-lorist, brought out his Book of Gaelic Stories.
The revival of Gaelic and the renascence of Irish literature may be said to date from the publication of those two books. The fundamental idea of both men and their followers was the same. It was to create a literature which would express the national consciousness of Ireland through a purely national art. They began to reflect the strange background of dreams, politics, suffering and heroism that is immortally Irish. This community of fellowship and aims is to be found in the varied but allied work of William Butler Yeats, "A. E." (George W. Russell), Moira O'Neill, Lionel Johnson, Katharine Tynan, Padraic Colum and others. The first fervor gone, a short period of dullness set in. After reanimating the old myths, surcharging the legendary heroes with a new significance, it seemed for a while that the movement would lose itself in a literary mysticism. But an increasing concern with the peasant, the migratory laborer, the tramp, followed; an interest that was something of a reaction against the influence of Yeats and his mystic otherworldliness. And, in 1904, the Celtic Revival reached its height with John Millington Synge, who was not only the greatest dramatist of the Irish Theatre, but (to quote such contrary critics as George Moore and Harold Williams) "one of the greatest dramatists who has written in English." Synge's poetry, brusque and all too small in quantity, was a minor occupation with him and yet the quality and power of it is unmistakable. Its content is never great but the raw vigor in it was to serve as a bold banner—a sort of a brilliant Jolly Roger—for the younger men of the following period. It was not only this dramatist's brief verses and his intensely musical prose but his sharp prefaces that were to exercise such an influence.
In the notable introduction to the Playboy of the Western World, Synge declared, "When I was writing The Shadow of the Glen some years ago, I got more aid than any learning could have given me from a chink in the floor of the old Wicklow house where I was staying, that let me hear what was being said by the servant girls in the kitchen. This matter is, I think, of some importance; for in countries where the imagination of the people, and the language they use, is rich and living, it is possible for a writer to be rich and copious in his words—and at the same time to give the reality which is at the root of all poetry, in a natural and comprehensive form." This quotation explains his idiom, possibly the sharpest-flavored and most vivid in modern literature.
As to Synge's poetic power, it is unquestionably greatest in his plays. In The Well of the Saints, The Playboy of the Western World and Riders to the Sea there are more poignance, beauty of form and richness of language than in any piece of dramatic writing since Elizabethan times. Yeats, when he first heard Synge's early one-act play, The Shadow of the Glen, is said to have exclaimed "Euripides." A half year later when Synge read him Riders to the Sea, Yeats again confined his enthusiasm to a single word:—"AEschylus!" Years have shown that Yeats's appreciation was not as exaggerated as many might suppose.
But although Synge's poetry was not his major concern, numbering only twenty-four original pieces and eighteen translations, it had a surprising effect upon his followers. It marked a point of departure, a reaction against both the too-polished and over-rhetorical verse of his immediate predecessors and the dehumanized mysticism of many of his associates. In that memorable preface to his Poems he wrote what was a slogan, a manifesto and at the same time a classic credo for all that we call the "new" poetry. "I have often thought," it begins, "that at the side of poetic diction, which everyone condemns, modern verse contains a great deal of poetic material, using 'poetic' in the same special sense. The poetry of exaltation will be always the highest; but when men lose their poetic feeling for ordinary life and cannot write poetry of ordinary things, their exalted poetry is likely to lose its strength of exaltation in the way that men cease to build beautiful churches when they have lost happiness in building shops.... Even if we grant that exalted poetry can be kept successfully by itself, the strong things of life are needed in poetry also, to show that what is exalted or tender is not made by feeble blood."
New tendencies are contagious. But they also disclose themselves simultaneously in places and people where there has been no point of contact. Even before Synge published his proofs of the keen poetry in everyday life, Kipling was illuminating, in a totally different manner, the wealth of poetic material in things hitherto regarded as too commonplace for poetry. Before literary England had quite recovered from its surfeit of Victorian priggishness and pre-Raphaelite delicacy, Kipling came along with high spirits and a great tide of life, sweeping all before him. An obscure Anglo-Indian journalist, the publication of his Barrack-room Ballads in 1892 brought him sudden notice. By 1895 he was internationally famous. Brushing over the pallid attempts to revive a pallid past, he rode triumphantly on a wave of buoyant and sometimes brutal joy in the present. Kipling gloried in the material world; he did more—he glorified it. He pierced the coarse exteriors of seemingly prosaic things—things like machinery, bridge-building, cockney soldiers, slang, steam, the dirty by-products of science (witness "M'Andrews Hymn" and "The Bell Buoy")—and uncovered their hidden glamour. "Romance is gone," sighed most of his contemporaries,
"... and all unseen Romance brought up the nine-fifteen."
That sentence (from his poem "The King") contains the key to the manner in which the author of The Five Nations helped to rejuvenate English verse.
Kipling, with his perception of ordinary people in terms of ordinary life, was one of the strongest links between the Wordsworth-Browning era and the latest apostles of vigor, beginning with Masefield. There are occasional and serious defects in Kipling's work—particularly in his more facile poetry; he falls into a journalistic ease that tends to turn into jingle; he is fond of a militaristic drum-banging that is as blatant as the insularity he condemns. But a burning, if sometimes too simple faith, shines through his achievements. His best work reveals an intensity that crystallizes into beauty what was originally tawdry, that lifts the vulgar and incidental to the place of the universal.
All art is a twofold revivifying—a recreation of subject and a reanimating of form. And poetry becomes perennially "new" by returning to the old—with a different consciousness, a greater awareness. In 1911, when art was again searching for novelty, John Masefield created something startling and new by going back to 1385 and The Canterbury Pilgrims. Employing both the Chaucerian model and a form similar to the practically forgotten Byronic stanza, Masefield wrote in rapid succession, The Everlasting Mercy (1911), The Widow in the Bye Street (1912), Dauber (1912), The Daffodil Fields (1913)—four astonishing rhymed narratives and four of the most remarkable poems of our generation. Expressive of every rugged phase of life, these poems, uniting old and new manners, responded to Synge's proclamation that "the strong things of life are needed in poetry also ... and it may almost be said that before verse can be human again it must be brutal."
Masefield brought back to poetry that mixture of beauty and brutality which is its most human and enduring quality. He brought back that rich and almost vulgar vividness which is the very life-blood of Chaucer, of Shakespeare, of Burns, of Villon, of Heine—and of all those who were not only great artists but great humanists. As a purely descriptive poet, he can take his place with the masters of sea and landscape. As an imaginative realist, he showed those who were stumbling from one wild eccentricity to another to thrill them, that they themselves were wilder, stranger, far more thrilling than anything in the world—or out of it. Few things in contemporary poetry are as powerful as the regeneration of Saul Kane (in The Everlasting Mercy) or the story of Dauber, the tale of a tragic sea-voyage and a dreaming youth who wanted to be a painter. The vigorous description of rounding Cape Horn in the latter poem is superbly done, a masterpiece in itself. Masefield's later volumes are quieter in tone, more measured in technique; there is an almost religious ring to many of his Shakespearian sonnets. But the swinging surge is there, a passionate strength that leaps through all his work from Salt Water Ballads (1902) to Reynard the Fox (1919).
"THE GEORGIANS" AND THE YOUNGER MEN
There is no sharp statistical line of demarcation between Masefield and the younger men. Although several of them owe much to him, most of the younger poets speak in accents of their own. W. W. Gibson had already reinforced the "return to actuality" by turning from his first preoccupation with shining knights, faultless queens, ladies in distress and all the paraphernalia of hackneyed mediaeval romances, to write about ferrymen, berry-pickers, stone-cutters, farmers, printers, circus-men, carpenters—dramatizing (though sometimes theatricalizing) the primitive emotions of uncultured and ordinary people in Livelihood, Daily Bread and Fires. This intensity had been asking new questions. It found its answers in the war; repressed emotionalism discovered a new outlet. One hears its echoes in the younger poets like Siegfried Sassoon, with his poignant and unsparing poems of conflict; in Robert Graves, who reflects it in a lighter and more fantastic vein; in James Stephens, whose wild ingenuities are redolent of the soil. And it finds its corresponding opposite in the limpid and unperturbed loveliness of Ralph Hodgson; in the ghostly magic and the nursery-rhyme whimsicality of Walter de la Mare; in the quiet and delicate lyrics of W. H. Davies. Among the others, the brilliant G. K. Chesterton, the facile Alfred Noyes, the romantic Rupert Brooke (who owes less to Masefield and his immediate predecessors than he does to the passionately intellectual Donne), the introspective D. H. Lawrence and the versatile J. C. Squire, are perhaps best known to American readers.
All of the poets mentioned in the foregoing paragraph (with the exception of Noyes) have formed themselves in a loose group called "The Georgians," and an anthology of their best work has appeared every two years since 1913. Masefield, Lascelles Abercrombie and John Drinkwater are also listed among the Georgian poets. When their first collection appeared in March, 1913, Henry Newbolt, a critic as well as poet, wrote: "These younger poets have no temptation to be false. They are not for making something 'pretty,' something up to the standard of professional patterns.... They write as grown men walk, each with his own unconscious stride and gesture.... In short, they express themselves and seem to steer without an effort between the dangers of innovation and reminiscence." The secret of this success, and for that matter, the success of the greater portion of English poetry, is not an exclusive discovery of the Georgian poets. It is their inheritance, derived from those predecessors who, "from Wordsworth and Coleridge onward, have worked for the assimilation of verse to the manner and accent of natural speech." In its adaptability no less than in its vigor, modern English poetry is true to its period—and its past.
* * * * *
This collection is obviously a companion volume to Modern American Poetry, which, in its restricted compass, attempted to act as an introduction to recent native verse. Modern British Poetry covers the same period (from about 1870 to 1920), follows the same chronological scheme, but it is more amplified and goes into far greater detail than its predecessor.
The two volumes, considered together, furnish interesting contrasts; they reveal certain similarities and certain strange differences. Broadly speaking, modern American verse is sharp, vigorously experimental; full of youth and its occasional—and natural—crudities. English verse is smoother, more matured and, molded by centuries of literature, richer in associations and surer in artistry. Where the American output is often rude, extremely varied and uncoordinated (being the expression of partly indigenous, partly naturalized and largely unassimilated ideas, emotions, and races), the English product is formulated, precise and, in spite of its fluctuations, true to its past. It goes back to traditions as old as Chaucer (witness the narratives of Masefield and Gibson) or tendencies as classic as Drayton, Herrick and Blake—as in the frank lyrics of A. E. Housman, the artless lyricism of Ralph Hodgson, the naif wonder of W. H. Davies. And if English poetry may be compared to a broad and luxuriating river (while American poetry might be described as a sudden rush of unconnected mountain torrents, valley streams and city sluices), it will be inspiring to observe how its course has been temporarily deflected in the last forty years; how it has swung away from one tendency toward another; and how, for all its bends and twists, it has lost neither its strength nor its nobility.
New York City. January, 1920.
MODERN BRITISH POETRY
Thomas Hardy was born in 1840, and has for years been famous on both sides of the Atlantic as a writer of intense and sombre novels. His Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure are possibly his best known, although his Wessex Tales and Life's Little Ironies are no less imposing.
It was not until he was almost sixty, in 1898 to be precise, that Hardy abandoned prose and challenged attention as a poet. The Dynasts, a drama of the Napoleonic Wars, is in three parts, nineteen acts and one hundred and thirty scenes, a massive and most amazing contribution to contemporary art. It is the apotheosis of Hardy the novelist. Lascelles Abercrombie calls this work, which is partly a historical play, partly a visionary drama, "the biggest and most consistent exhibition of fatalism in literature." While its powerful simplicity and tragic impressiveness overshadow his shorter poems, many of his terse lyrics reveal the same vigor and impact of a strong personality. His collected poems were published by The Macmillan Company in 1919 and reveal another phase of one of the greatest living writers of English.
IN TIME OF "THE BREAKING OF NATIONS"
Only a man harrowing clods In a slow silent walk, With an old horse that stumbles and nods Half asleep as they stalk.
Only thin smoke without flame From the heaps of couch grass: Yet this will go onward the same Though Dynasties pass.
Yonder a maid and her wight Come whispering by; War's annals will fade into night Ere their story die.
GOING AND STAYING
The moving sun-shapes on the spray, The sparkles where the brook was flowing, Pink faces, plightings, moonlit May,— These were the things we wished would stay; But they were going.
Seasons of blankness as of snow, The silent bleed of a world decaying, The moan of multitudes in woe,— These were the things we wished would go; But they were staying.
THE MAN HE KILLED
(From "The Dynasts")
"Had he and I but met By some old ancient inn, We should have sat us down to wet Right many a nipperkin!
"But ranged as infantry, And staring face to face, I shot at him as he at me, And killed him in his place.
"I shot him dead because— Because he was my foe, Just so: my foe of course he was; That's clear enough; although
"He thought he'd 'list, perhaps, Off-hand like—just as I— Was out of work—had sold his traps— No other reason why.
"Yes; quaint and curious war is! You shoot a fellow down You'd treat, if met where any bar is, Or help to half-a-crown."
Robert Bridges was born in 1844 and educated at Eton and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. After traveling extensively, he studied medicine in London and practiced until 1882. Most of his poems, like his occasional plays, are classical in tone as well as treatment. He was appointed poet laureate in 1913, following Alfred Austin. His command of the secrets of rhythm and a subtle versification give his lines a firm delicacy and beauty of pattern.
The day begins to droop,— Its course is done: But nothing tells the place Of the setting sun.
The hazy darkness deepens, And up the lane You may hear, but cannot see, The homing wain.
An engine pants and hums In the farm hard by: Its lowering smoke is lost In the lowering sky.
The soaking branches drip, And all night through The dropping will not cease In the avenue.
A tall man there in the house Must keep his chair: He knows he will never again Breathe the spring air:
His heart is worn with work; He is giddy and sick If he rise to go as far As the nearest rick:
He thinks of his morn of life, His hale, strong years; And braves as he may the night Of darkness and tears.
Beautiful must be the mountains whence ye come, And bright in the fruitful valleys the streams, wherefrom Ye learn your song: Where are those starry woods? O might I wander there, Among the flowers, which in that heavenly air Bloom the year long!
Nay, barren are those mountains and spent the streams: Our song is the voice of desire, that haunts our dreams, A throe of the heart, Whose pining visions dim, forbidden hopes profound, No dying cadence nor long sigh can sound, For all our art.
Alone, aloud in the raptured ear of men We pour our dark nocturnal secret; and then, As night is withdrawn From these sweet-springing meads and bursting boughs of May, Dream, while the innumerable choir of day Welcome the dawn.
The Irish-English singer, Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy, was born in London in 1844. He was connected, for a while, with the British Museum, and was transferred later to the Department of Natural History. His first literary success, Epic of Women (1870), promised a brilliant future for the young poet, a promise strengthened by his Music and Moonlight (1874). Always delicate in health, his hopes were dashed by periods of illness and an early death in London in 1881.
The poem here reprinted is not only O'Shaughnessy's best, but is, because of its perfect blending of music and message, one of the immortal classics of our verse.
We are the music-makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams, Wandering by lone sea-breakers, And sitting by desolate streams; World-losers and world-forsakers, On whom the pale moon gleams: Yet we are the movers and shakers Of the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties We build up the world's great cities, And out of a fabulous story We fashion an empire's glory: One man with a dream, at pleasure, Shall go forth and conquer a crown; And three with a new song's measure Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying In the buried past of the earth, Built Nineveh with our sighing, And Babel itself with our mirth; And o'erthrew them with prophesying To the old of the new world's worth; For each age is a dream that is dying, Or one that is coming to birth.
William Ernest Henley
William Ernest Henley was born in 1849 and was educated at the Grammar School of Gloucester. From childhood he was afflicted with a tuberculous disease which finally necessitated the amputation of a foot. His Hospital Verses, those vivid precursors of current free verse, were a record of the time when he was at the infirmary at Edinburgh; they are sharp with the sights, sensations, even the actual smells of the sickroom. In spite (or, more probably, because) of his continued poor health, Henley never ceased to worship strength and energy; courage and a triumphant belief in a harsh world shine out of the athletic London Voluntaries (1892) and the lightest and most musical lyrics in Hawthorn and Lavender (1898).
The bulk of Henley's poetry is not great in volume. He has himself explained the small quantity of his work in a Preface to his Poems, first published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1898. "A principal reason," he says, "is that, after spending the better part of my life in the pursuit of poetry, I found myself (about 1877) so utterly unmarketable that I had to own myself beaten in art, and to indict myself to journalism for the next ten years." Later on, he began to write again—"old dusty sheaves were dragged to light; the work of selection and correction was begun; I burned much; I found that, after all, the lyrical instinct had slept—not died."
After a brilliant and varied career (see Preface), devoted mostly to journalism, Henley died in 1903.
Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
The nightingale has a lyre of gold, The lark's is a clarion call, And the blackbird plays but a boxwood flute, But I love him best of all.
For his song is all of the joy of life, And we in the mad, spring weather, We two have listened till he sang Our hearts and lips together.
A BOWL OF ROSES
It was a bowl of roses: There in the light they lay, Languishing, glorying, glowing Their life away.
And the soul of them rose like a presence, Into me crept and grew, And filled me with something—some one— O, was it you?
Behold me waiting—waiting for the knife. A little while, and at a leap I storm The thick sweet mystery of chloroform, The drunken dark, the little death-in-life. The gods are good to me: I have no wife, No innocent child, to think of as I near The fateful minute; nothing all-too dear Unmans me for my bout of passive strife.
Yet I am tremulous and a trifle sick, And, face to face with chance, I shrink a little: My hopes are strong, my will is something weak. Here comes the basket? Thank you. I am ready But, gentlemen my porters, life is brittle: You carry Caesar and his fortunes—Steady!
A late lark twitters from the quiet skies; And from the west, Where the sun, his day's work ended, Lingers as in content, There falls on the old, grey city An influence luminous and serene, A shining peace.
The smoke ascends In a rosy-and-golden haze. The spires Shine, and are changed. In the valley Shadows rise. The lark sings on. The sun, Closing his benediction, Sinks, and the darkening air Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night— Night with her train of stars And her great gift of sleep.
So be my passing! My task accomplished and the long day done, My wages taken, and in my heart Some late lark singing, Let me be gathered to the quiet west, The sundown splendid and serene, Death.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson was born at Edinburgh in 1850. He was at first trained to be a lighthouse engineer, following the profession of his family. However, he studied law instead; was admitted to the bar in 1875; and abandoned law for literature a few years later.
Though primarily a novelist, Stevenson has left one immortal book of poetry which is equally at home in the nursery and the library: A Child's Garden of Verses (first published in 1885) is second only to Mother Goose's own collection in its lyrical simplicity and universal appeal. Underwoods (1887) and Ballads (1890) comprise his entire poetic output. As a genial essayist, he is not unworthy to be ranked with Charles Lamb. As a romancer, his fame rests securely on Kidnapped, the unfinished masterpiece, Weir of Hermiston, and that eternal classic of youth, Treasure Island.
Stevenson died after a long and dogged fight with his illness, in the Samoan Islands in 1894.
Great is the sun, and wide he goes Through empty heaven without repose; And in the blue and glowing days More thick than rain he showers his rays.
Though closer still the blinds we pull To keep the shady parlour cool, Yet he will find a chink or two To slip his golden fingers through.
The dusty attic, spider-clad, He, through the keyhole, maketh glad; And through the broken edge of tiles Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.
Meantime his golden face around He bares to all the garden ground, And sheds a warm and glittering look Among the ivy's inmost nook.
Above the hills, along the blue, Round the bright air with footing true, To please the child, to paint the rose, The gardener of the World, he goes.
Late lies the wintry sun a-bed, A frosty, fiery sleepy-head; Blinks but an hour or two; and then, A blood-red orange, sets again.
Before the stars have left the skies, At morning in the dark I rise; And shivering in my nakedness, By the cold candle, bathe and dress.
Close by the jolly fire I sit To warm my frozen bones a bit; Or with a reindeer-sled, explore The colder countries round the door.
When to go out, my nurse doth wrap Me in my comforter and cap; The cold wind burns my face, and blows Its frosty pepper up my nose.
Black are my steps on silver sod; Thick blows my frosty breath abroad; And tree and house, and hill and lake, Are frosted like a wedding-cake.
I will make you brooches and toys for your delight Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night. I will make a palace fit for you and me, Of green days in forests and blue days at sea.
I will make my kitchen, and you shall keep your room, Where white flows the river and bright blows the broom, And you shall wash your linen and keep your body white In rainfall at morning and dewfall at night.
And this shall be for music when no one else is near, The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear! That only I remember, that only you admire, Of the broad road that stretches and the roadside fire.
Under the wide and starry sky Dig the grave and let me lie: Glad did I live and gladly die, And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you 'grave for me: Here he lies where he long'd to be; Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter home from the hill.
Alice Meynell was born in London in 1850. She was educated at home and spent a great part of her childhood in Italy. She has written little, but that little is on an extremely high plane; her verses are simple, pensive and always distinguished. The best of her work is in Poems (1903).
A THRUSH BEFORE DAWN
A voice peals in this end of night A phrase of notes resembling stars, Single and spiritual notes of light. What call they at my window-bars? The South, the past, the day to be, An ancient infelicity.
Darkling, deliberate, what sings This wonderful one, alone, at peace? What wilder things than song, what things Sweeter than youth, clearer than Greece, Dearer than Italy, untold Delight, and freshness centuries old?
And first first-loves, a multitude, The exaltation of their pain; Ancestral childhood long renewed; And midnights of invisible rain; And gardens, gardens, night and day, Gardens and childhood all the way.
What Middle Ages passionate, O passionless voice! What distant bells Lodged in the hills, what palace state Illyrian! For it speaks, it tells, Without desire, without dismay, Some morrow and some yesterday.
All-natural things! But more—Whence came This yet remoter mystery? How do these starry notes proclaim A graver still divinity? This hope, this sanctity of fear? O innocent throat! O human ear!
William Sharp was born at Garthland Place, Scotland, in 1855. He wrote several volumes of biography and criticism, published a book of plays greatly influenced by Maeterlinck (Vistas) and was editor of "The Canterbury Poets" series.
His feminine alter ego, Fiona Macleod, was a far different personality. Sharp actually believed himself possessed of another spirit; under the spell of this other self, he wrote several volumes of Celtic tales, beautiful tragic romances and no little unusual poetry. Of the prose stories written by Fiona Macleod, the most barbaric and vivid are those collected in The Sin-Eater and Other Tales; the longer Pharais, A Romance of the Isles, is scarcely less unique.
In the ten years, 1882-1891, William Sharp published four volumes of rather undistinguished verse. In 1896 From the Hills of Dream appeared over the signature of Fiona Macleod; The Hour of Beauty, an even more distinctive collection, followed shortly. Both poetry and prose were always the result of two sharply differentiated moods constantly fluctuating; the emotional mood was that of Fiona Macleod, the intellectual and, it must be admitted the more arresting, was that of William Sharp.
He died in 1905.
THE VALLEY OF SILENCE
In the secret Valley of Silence No breath doth fall; No wind stirs in the branches; No bird doth call: As on a white wall A breathless lizard is still, So silence lies on the valley Breathlessly still.
In the dusk-grown heart of the valley An altar rises white: No rapt priest bends in awe Before its silent light: But sometimes a flight Of breathless words of prayer White-wing'd enclose the altar, Eddies of prayer.
In a fair place Of whin and grass, I heard feet pass Where no one was.
I saw a face Bloom like a flower— Nay, as the rainbow-shower Of a tempestuous hour.
It was not man, or woman: It was not human: But, beautiful and wild, Terribly undefiled, I knew an unborn child.
Oscar Wilde was born at Dublin, Ireland, in 1856, and even as an undergraduate at Oxford he was marked for a brilliant career. When he was a trifle over 21 years of age, he won the Newdigate Prize with his poem Ravenna.
Giving himself almost entirely to prose, he speedily became known as a writer of brilliant epigrammatic essays and even more brilliant paradoxical plays such as An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest. His aphorisms and flippancies were quoted everywhere; his fame as a wit was only surpassed by his notoriety as an aesthete. (See Preface.)
Most of his poems in prose (such as The Happy Prince, The Birthday of the Infanta and The Fisherman and His Soul) are more imaginative and richly colored than his verse; but in one long poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), he sounded his deepest, simplest and most enduring note. Prison was, in many ways, a regeneration for Wilde. It not only produced The Ballad of Reading Gaol but made possible his most poignant piece of writing, De Profundis, only a small part of which has been published. Salome, which has made the author's name a household word, was originally written in French in 1892 and later translated into English by Lord Alfred Douglas, accompanied by the famous illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley. More recently this heated drama, based on the story of Herod and Herodias, was made into an opera by Richard Strauss.
Wilde's society plays, flashing and cynical, were the forerunners of Bernard Shaw's audacious and far more searching ironies. One sees the origin of a whole school of drama in such epigrams as "The history of woman is the history of the worst form of tyranny the world has ever known: the tyranny of the weak over the strong. It is the only tyranny that lasts." Or "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."
Wilde died at Paris, November 30, 1900.
Tread lightly, she is near Under the snow, Speak gently, she can hear The daisies grow.
All her bright golden hair Tarnished with rust, She that was young and fair Fallen to dust.
Lily-like, white as snow, She hardly knew She was a woman, so Sweetly she grew.
Coffin-board, heavy stone, Lie on her breast; I vex my heart alone, She is at rest.
Peace, peace; she cannot hear Lyre or sonnet; All my life's buried here, Heap earth upon it.
IMPRESSION DU MATIN
The Thames nocturne of blue and gold Changed to a harmony in grey; A barge with ochre-coloured hay Dropt from the wharf: and chill and cold
The yellow fog came creeping down The bridges, till the houses' walls Seemed changed to shadows, and St. Paul's Loomed like a bubble o'er the town.
Then suddenly arose the clang Of waking life; the streets were stirred With country waggons; and a bird Flew to the glistening roofs and sang.
But one pale woman all alone, The daylight kissing her wan hair, Loitered beneath the gas lamps' flare, With lips of flame and heart of stone.
John Davidson was born at Barrhead, Renfrewshire, in 1857. His Ballads and Songs (1895) and New Ballads (1897) attained a sudden but too short-lived popularity, and his great promise was quenched by an apathetic public and by his own growing disillusion and despair. His sombre yet direct poetry never tired of repeating his favorite theme: "Man is but the Universe grown conscious."
Davidson died by his own hand in 1909.
A BALLAD OF HELL
'A letter from my love to-day! Oh, unexpected, dear appeal!' She struck a happy tear away, And broke the crimson seal.
'My love, there is no help on earth, No help in heaven; the dead-man's bell Must toll our wedding; our first hearth Must be the well-paved floor of hell.'
The colour died from out her face, Her eyes like ghostly candles shone; She cast dread looks about the place, Then clenched her teeth and read right on.
'I may not pass the prison door; Here must I rot from day to day, Unless I wed whom I abhor, My cousin, Blanche of Valencay.
'At midnight with my dagger keen, I'll take my life; it must be so. Meet me in hell to-night, my queen, For weal and woe.'
She laughed although her face was wan, She girded on her golden belt, She took her jewelled ivory fan, And at her glowing missal knelt.
Then rose, 'And am I mad?' she said: She broke her fan, her belt untied; With leather girt herself instead, And stuck a dagger at her side.
She waited, shuddering in her room, Till sleep had fallen on all the house. She never flinched; she faced her doom: They two must sin to keep their vows.
Then out into the night she went, And, stooping, crept by hedge and tree; Her rose-bush flung a snare of scent, And caught a happy memory.
She fell, and lay a minute's space; She tore the sward in her distress; The dewy grass refreshed her face; She rose and ran with lifted dress.
She started like a morn-caught ghost Once when the moon came out and stood To watch; the naked road she crossed, And dived into the murmuring wood.
The branches snatched her streaming cloak; A live thing shrieked; she made no stay! She hurried to the trysting-oak— Right well she knew the way.
Without a pause she bared her breast, And drove her dagger home and fell, And lay like one that takes her rest, And died and wakened up in hell.
She bathed her spirit in the flame, And near the centre took her post; From all sides to her ears there came The dreary anguish of the lost.
The devil started at her side, Comely, and tall, and black as jet. 'I am young Malespina's bride; Has he come hither yet?'
'My poppet, welcome to your bed.' 'Is Malespina here?' 'Not he! To-morrow he must wed His cousin Blanche, my dear!'
'You lie, he died with me to-night.' 'Not he! it was a plot' ... 'You lie.' 'My dear, I never lie outright.' 'We died at midnight, he and I.'
The devil went. Without a groan She, gathered up in one fierce prayer, Took root in hell's midst all alone, And waited for him there.
She dared to make herself at home Amidst the wail, the uneasy stir. The blood-stained flame that filled the dome, Scentless and silent, shrouded her.
How long she stayed I cannot tell; But when she felt his perfidy, She marched across the floor of hell; And all the damned stood up to see.
The devil stopped her at the brink: She shook him off; she cried, 'Away!' 'My dear, you have gone mad, I think.' 'I was betrayed: I will not stay.'
Across the weltering deep she ran; A stranger thing was never seen: The damned stood silent to a man; They saw the great gulf set between.
To her it seemed a meadow fair; And flowers sprang up about her feet She entered heaven; she climbed the stair And knelt down at the mercy-seat.
Seraphs and saints with one great voice Welcomed that soul that knew not fear. Amazed to find it could rejoice, Hell raised a hoarse, half-human cheer.
(From "New Year's Eve")
There is a dish to hold the sea, A brazier to contain the sun, A compass for the galaxy, A voice to wake the dead and done!
That minister of ministers, Imagination, gathers up The undiscovered Universe, Like jewels in a jasper cup.
Its flame can mingle north and south; Its accent with the thunder strive; The ruddy sentence of its mouth Can make the ancient dead alive.
The mart of power, the fount of will, The form and mould of every star, The source and bound of good and ill, The key of all the things that are,
Imagination, new and strange In every age, can turn the year; Can shift the poles and lightly change The mood of men, the world's career.
William Watson was born at Burley-in-Wharfedale, Yorkshire, August 2, 1858. He achieved his first wide success through his long and eloquent poems on Wordsworth, Shelley, and Tennyson—poems that attempted, and sometimes successfully, to combine the manners of these masters. The Hope of the World (1897) contains some of his most characteristic verse.
It was understood that he would be appointed poet laureate upon the death of Alfred Austin. But some of his radical and semi-political poems are supposed to have displeased the powers at Court, and the honor went to Robert Bridges. His best work, which is notable for its dignity and moulded imagination, may be found in Selected Poems, published in 1903 by John Lane Co.
ODE IN MAY
Let me go forth, and share The overflowing Sun With one wise friend, or one Better than wise, being fair, Where the pewit wheels and dips On heights of bracken and ling, And Earth, unto her leaflet tips, Tingles with the Spring.
What is so sweet and dear As a prosperous morn in May, The confident prime of the day, And the dauntless youth of the year, When nothing that asks for bliss, Asking aright, is denied, And half of the world a bridegroom is, And half of the world a bride?
The Song of Mingling flows, Grave, ceremonial, pure, As once, from lips that endure, The cosmic descant rose, When the temporal lord of life, Going his golden way, Had taken a wondrous maid to wife That long had said him nay.
For of old the Sun, our sire, Came wooing the mother of men, Earth, that was virginal then, Vestal fire to his fire. Silent her bosom and coy, But the strong god sued and pressed; And born of their starry nuptial joy Are all that drink of her breast.
And the triumph of him that begot, And the travail of her that bore, Behold, they are evermore As warp and weft in our lot. We are children of splendour and flame, Of shuddering, also, and tears. Magnificent out of the dust we came, And abject from the Spheres.
O bright irresistible lord, We are fruit of Earth's womb, each one, And fruit of thy loins, O Sun, Whence first was the seed outpoured. To thee as our Father we bow, Forbidden thy Father to see, Who is older and greater than thou, as thou Art greater and older than we.
Thou art but as a word of his speech, Thou art but as a wave of his hand; Thou art brief as a glitter of sand 'Twixt tide and tide on his beach; Thou art less than a spark of his fire, Or a moment's mood of his soul: Thou art lost in the notes on the lips of his choir That chant the chant of the Whole.
So, without overt breach, we fall apart, Tacitly sunder—neither you nor I Conscious of one intelligible Why, And both, from severance, winning equal smart. So, with resigned and acquiescent heart, Whene'er your name on some chance lip may lie, I seem to see an alien shade pass by, A spirit wherein I have no lot or part.
Thus may a captive, in some fortress grim, From casual speech betwixt his warders, learn That June on her triumphal progress goes Through arched and bannered woodlands; while for him She is a legend emptied of concern, And idle is the rumour of the rose.
April, April, Laugh thy girlish laughter; Then, the moment after, Weep thy girlish tears, April, that mine ears Like a lover greetest, If I tell thee, sweetest, All my hopes and fears. April, April, Laugh thy golden laughter, But, the moment after, Weep thy golden tears!
 From The Hope of the World by William Watson. Copyright, 1897, by John Lane Company. Reprinted by permission of the publishers.
 From The Hope of the World by William Watson. Copyright, 1897, by John Lane Company. Reprinted by permission of the publishers.
Born in 1859 at Preston, Francis Thompson was educated at Owen's College, Manchester. Later he tried all manner of strange ways of earning a living. He was, at various times, assistant in a boot-shop, medical student, collector for a book seller and homeless vagabond; there was a period in his life when he sold matches on the streets of London. He was discovered in terrible poverty (having given up everything except poetry and opium) by the editor of a magazine to which he had sent some verses the year before. Almost immediately thereafter he became famous. His exalted mysticism is seen at its purest in "A Fallen Yew" and "The Hound of Heaven." Coventry Patmore, the distinguished poet of an earlier period, says of the latter poem, which is unfortunately too long to quote, "It is one of the very few great odes of which our language can boast."
Thompson died, after a fragile and spasmodic life, in St. John's Wood in November, 1907.
Where the thistle lifts a purple crown Six foot out of the turf, And the harebell shakes on the windy hill— O breath of the distant surf!—
The hills look over on the South, And southward dreams the sea; And with the sea-breeze hand in hand Came innocence and she.
Where 'mid the gorse the raspberry Red for the gatherer springs; Two children did we stray and talk Wise, idle, childish things.
She listened with big-lipped surprise, Breast-deep 'mid flower and spine: Her skin was like a grape whose veins Run snow instead of wine.
She knew not those sweet words she spake, Nor knew her own sweet way; But there's never a bird, so sweet a song Thronged in whose throat all day.
Oh, there were flowers in Storrington On the turf and on the spray; But the sweetest flower on Sussex hills Was the Daisy-flower that day!
Her beauty smoothed earth's furrowed face. She gave me tokens three:— A look, a word of her winsome mouth, And a wild raspberry.
A berry red, a guileless look, A still word,—strings of sand! And yet they made my wild, wild heart Fly down to her little hand.
For standing artless as the air, And candid as the skies, She took the berries with her hand, And the love with her sweet eyes.
The fairest things have fleetest end, Their scent survives their close: But the rose's scent is bitterness To him that loved the rose.
She looked a little wistfully, Then went her sunshine way:— The sea's eye had a mist on it, And the leaves fell from the day.
She went her unremembering way, She went and left in me The pang of all the partings gone, And partings yet to be.
She left me marvelling why my soul Was sad that she was glad; At all the sadness in the sweet, The sweetness in the sad.
Still, still I seemed to see her, still Look up with soft replies, And take the berries with her hand, And the love with her lovely eyes.
Nothing begins, and nothing ends, That is not paid with moan, For we are born in other's pain, And perish in our own.
I fear to love thee, Sweet, because Love's the ambassador of loss; White flake of childhood, clinging so To my soiled raiment, thy shy snow At tenderest touch will shrink and go. Love me not, delightful child. My heart, by many snares beguiled, Has grown timorous and wild. It would fear thee not at all, Wert thou not so harmless-small. Because thy arrows, not yet dire, Are still unbarbed with destined fire, I fear thee more than hadst thou stood Full-panoplied in womanhood.
AN ARAB LOVE-SONG
The hunched camels of the night Trouble the bright And silver waters of the moon. The Maiden of the Morn will soon Through Heaven stray and sing, Star gathering.
Now while the dark about our loves is strewn, Light of my dark, blood of my heart, O come! And night will catch her breath up, and be dumb.
Leave thy father, leave thy mother And thy brother; Leave the black tents of thy tribe apart! Am I not thy father and thy brother, And thy mother? And thou—what needest with thy tribe's black tents Who hast the red pavilion of my heart?
 (Cloud-shapes observed by travellers in the East.)
A. E. Housman
A. E. Housman was born March 26, 1859, and, after a classical education, he was, for ten years, a Higher Division Clerk in H. M. Patent Office. Later in life, he became a teacher.
Housman has published only one volume of original verse, but that volume (A Shropshire Lad) is known wherever modern English poetry is read. Originally published in 1896, when Housman was almost 37, it is evident that many of these lyrics were written when the poet was much younger. Echoing the frank pessimism of Hardy and the harder cynicism of Heine, Housman struck a lighter and more buoyant note. Underneath his dark ironies, there is a rustic humor that has many subtle variations. From a melodic standpoint, A Shropshire Lad is a collection of exquisite, haunting and almost perfect songs.
Housman has been a professor of Latin since 1892 and, besides his immortal set of lyrics, has edited Juvenal and the books of Manilius.
Wake: the silver dusk returning Up the beach of darkness brims, And the ship of sunrise burning Strands upon the eastern rims.
Wake: the vaulted shadow shatters, Trampled to the floor it spanned, And the tent of night in tatters Straws the sky-pavilioned land.
Up, lad, up, 'tis late for lying: Hear the drums of morning play; Hark, the empty highways crying "Who'll beyond the hills away?"
Towns and countries woo together, Forelands beacon, belfries call; Never lad that trod on leather Lived to feast his heart with all.
Up, lad: thews that lie and cumber Sunlit pallets never thrive; Morns abed and daylight slumber Were not meant for man alive.
Clay lies still, but blood's a rover; Breath's a ware that will not keep. Up, lad: when the journey's over There'll be time enough to sleep.
WHEN I WAS ONE-AND-TWENTY
When I was one-and-twenty I heard a wise man say, "Give crowns and pounds and guineas But not your heart away; Give pearls away and rubies But keep your fancy free." But I was one-and-twenty, No use to talk to me.
When I was one-and-twenty I heard him say again, "The heart out of the bosom Was never given in vain; 'Tis paid with sighs a-plenty And sold for endless rue." And I am two-and-twenty, And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true.
WITH RUE MY HEART IS LADEN
With rue my heart is laden For golden friends I had, For many a rose-lipt maiden And many a lightfoot lad.
By brooks too broad for leaping The lightfoot boys are laid; The rose-lipt girls are sleeping In fields where roses fade.
TO AN ATHLETE DYING YOUNG
The time you won your town the race We chaired you through the market-place; Man and boy stood cheering by, And home we brought you shoulder-high.
To-day, the road all runners come, Shoulder-high we bring you home, And set you at your threshold down, Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away From fields where glory does not stay, And early though the laurel grows It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut Cannot see the record cut, And silence sounds no worse than cheers After earth has stopped the ears:
Now you will not swell the rout Of lads that wore their honours out, Runners whom renown outran And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade, The fleet foot on the sill of shade, And hold to the low lintel up The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead, And find unwithered on its curls The garland briefer than a girl's.
"LOVELIEST OF TREES"
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now Is hung with bloom along the bough, And stands about the woodland ride Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten, Twenty will not come again, And take from seventy springs a score, It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom Fifty springs are little room, About the woodlands I will go To see the cherry hung with snow.
Doctor Douglas Hyde was born in Roscommon County, Ireland in, as nearly as can be ascertained, 1860. One of the most brilliant Irish scholars of his day, he has worked indefatigably for the cause of his native letters. He has written a comprehensive history of Irish literature; has compiled, edited and translated into English the Love Songs of Connaught; is President of The Irish National Literary Society; and is the author of innumerable poems in Gaelic—far more than he ever wrote in English. His collections of Irish folk-lore and poetry were among the most notable contributions to the Celtic revival; they were (see Preface), to a large extent, responsible for it. Since 1909 he has been Professor of Modern Irish in University College, Dublin.
The poem which is here quoted is one of his many brilliant and reanimating translations. In its music and its peculiar rhyme-scheme, it reproduces the peculiar flavor as well as the meter of the West Irish original.
I SHALL NOT DIE FOR THEE
For thee, I shall not die, Woman of high fame and name; Foolish men thou mayest slay I and they are not the same.
Why should I expire For the fire of an eye, Slender waist or swan-like limb, Is't for them that I should die?
The round breasts, the fresh skin, Cheeks crimson, hair so long and rich; Indeed, indeed, I shall not die, Please God, not I, for any such.
The golden hair, the forehead thin, The chaste mien, the gracious ease, The rounded heel, the languid tone,— Fools alone find death from these.
Thy sharp wit, thy perfect calm, Thy thin palm like foam o' the sea; Thy white neck, thy blue eye, I shall not die for thee.
Woman, graceful as the swan, A wise man did nurture me. Little palm, white neck, bright eye, I shall not die for ye.
Amy Levy, a singularly gifted Jewess, was born at Clapham, in 1861. A fiery young poet, she burdened her own intensity with the sorrows of her race. She wrote one novel, Reuben Sachs, and two volumes of poetry—the more distinctive of the two being half-pathetically and half-ironically entitled A Minor Poet (1884). After several years of brooding introspection, she committed suicide in 1889 at the age of 28.
(On a commonplace person who died in bed)
This is the end of him, here he lies: The dust in his throat, the worm in his eyes, The mould in his mouth, the turf on his breast; This is the end of him, this is best. He will never lie on his couch awake, Wide-eyed, tearless, till dim daybreak. Never again will he smile and smile When his heart is breaking all the while. He will never stretch out his hands in vain Groping and groping—never again. Never ask for bread, get a stone instead, Never pretend that the stone is bread; Nor sway and sway 'twixt the false and true, Weighing and noting the long hours through. Never ache and ache with the choked-up sighs; This is the end of him, here he lies.
IN THE MILE END ROAD
How like her! But 'tis she herself, Comes up the crowded street, How little did I think, the morn, My only love to meet!
Who else that motion and that mien? Whose else that airy tread? For one strange moment I forgot My only love was dead.
Katharine Tynan Hinkson
Katharine Tynan was born at Dublin in 1861, and educated at the Convent of St. Catherine at Drogheda. She married Henry Hinkson, a lawyer and author, in 1893. Her poetry is largely actuated by religious themes, and much of her verse is devotional and yet distinctive. In New Poems (1911) she is at her best; graceful, meditative and with occasional notes of deep pathos.
SHEEP AND LAMBS
All in the April morning, April airs were abroad; The sheep with their little lambs Pass'd me by on the road.
The sheep with their little lambs Pass'd me by on the road; All in an April evening I thought on the Lamb of God.
The lambs were weary, and crying With a weak human cry; I thought on the Lamb of God Going meekly to die.
Up in the blue, blue mountains Dewy pastures are sweet: Rest for the little bodies, Rest for the little feet.
Rest for the Lamb of God Up on the hill-top green; Only a cross of shame Two stark crosses between.
All in the April evening, April airs were abroad; I saw the sheep with their lambs, And thought on the Lamb of God.
The door of Heaven is on the latch To-night, and many a one is fain To go home for one's night's watch With his love again.
Oh, where the father and mother sit There's a drift of dead leaves at the door Like pitter-patter of little feet That come no more.
Their thoughts are in the night and cold, Their tears are heavier than the clay, But who is this at the threshold So young and gay?
They are come from the land o' the young, They have forgotten how to weep; Words of comfort on the tongue, And a kiss to keep.
They sit down and they stay awhile, Kisses and comfort none shall lack; At morn they steal forth with a smile And a long look back.
One of the most delightful of English versifiers, Owen Seaman, was born in 1861. After receiving a classical education, he became Professor of Literature and began to write for Punch in 1894. In 1906 he was made editor of that internationally famous weekly, remaining in that capacity ever since. He was knighted in 1914. As a writer of light verse and as a parodist, his agile work has delighted a generation of admirers. Some of his most adroit lines may be found in his In Cap and Bells (1902) and The Battle of the Bays (1892).
TO AN OLD FOGEY
(Who Contends that Christmas is Played Out)
O frankly bald and obviously stout! And so you find that Christmas as a fete Dispassionately viewed, is getting out Of date.
The studied festal air is overdone; The humour of it grows a little thin; You fail, in fact, to gather where the fun Comes in.
Visions of very heavy meals arise That tend to make your organism shiver; Roast beef that irks, and pies that agonise The liver;
Those pies at which you annually wince, Hearing the tale how happy months will follow Proportioned to the total mass of mince You swallow.
Visions of youth whose reverence is scant, Who with the brutal verve of boyhood's prime Insist on being taken to the pant- -omime.
Of infants, sitting up extremely late, Who run you on toboggans down the stair; Or make you fetch a rug and simulate A bear.
This takes your faultless trousers at the knees, The other hurts them rather more behind; And both effect a fracture in your ease Of mind.
My good dyspeptic, this will never do; Your weary withers must be sadly wrung! Yet once I well believe that even you Were young.
Time was when you devoured, like other boys, Plum-pudding sequent on a turkey-hen; With cracker-mottos hinting of the joys Of men.
Time was when 'mid the maidens you would pull The fiery raisin with profound delight; When sprigs of mistletoe seemed beautiful And right.
Old Christmas changes not! Long, long ago He won the treasure of eternal youth; Yours is the dotage—if you want to know The truth.
Come, now, I'll cure your case, and ask no fee:— Make others' happiness this once your own; All else may pass: that joy can never be Outgrown!
THOMAS OF THE LIGHT HEART
Facing the guns, he jokes as well As any Judge upon the Bench; Between the crash of shell and shell His laughter rings along the trench; He seems immensely tickled by a Projectile while he calls a "Black Maria."
He whistles down the day-long road, And, when the chilly shadows fall And heavier hangs the weary load, Is he down-hearted? Not at all. 'Tis then he takes a light and airy View of the tedious route to Tipperary.
His songs are not exactly hymns; He never learned them in the choir; And yet they brace his dragging limbs Although they miss the sacred fire; Although his choice and cherished gems Do not include "The Watch upon the Thames."
He takes to fighting as a game; He does no talking, through his hat, Of holy missions; all the same He has his faith—be sure of that; He'll not disgrace his sporting breed, Nor play what isn't cricket. There's his creed.
 "It's a long way to Tipperary," the most popular song of the Allied armies during the World's War.
Henry Newbolt was born at Bilston in 1862. His early work was frankly imitative of Tennyson; he even attempted to add to the Arthurian legends with a drama in blank verse entitled Mordred (1895). It was not until he wrote his sea-ballads that he struck his own note. With the publication of Admirals All (1897) his fame was widespread. The popularity of his lines was due not so much to the subject-matter of Newbolt's verse as to the breeziness of his music, the solid beat of rhythm, the vigorous swing of his stanzas.
In 1898 Newbolt published The Island Race, which contains about thirty more of his buoyant songs of the sea. Besides being a poet, Newbolt has written many essays and his critical volume, A New Study of English Poetry (1917), is a collection of articles that are both analytical and alive.
Drake he's in his hammock an' a thousand mile away, (Capten, art tha sleepin' there below?) Slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay, An' dreamin' arl the time o' Plymouth Hoe. Yarnder lumes the island, yarnder lie the ships, Wi' sailor lads a-dancin' heel-an'-toe, An' the shore-lights flashin', an' the night-tide dashin' He sees et arl so plainly as he saw et long ago.
Drake he was a Devon man, an' ruled the Devon seas, (Capten, art tha sleepin' there below?), Rovin' tho' his death fell, he went wi' heart at ease, An' dreamin' arl the time o' Plymouth Hoe, "Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore, Strike et when your powder's runnin' low; If the Dons sight Devon, I'll quit the port o' Heaven, An' drum them up the Channel as we drummed them long ago."
Drake he's in his hammock till the great Armadas come, (Capten, art tha sleepin' there below?), Slung atween the round shot, listenin' for the drum, An' dreamin' arl the time o' Plymouth Hoe. Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound, Call him when ye sail to meet the foe; Where the old trade's plyin' an' the old flag flyin', They shall find him, ware an' wakin', as they found him long ago.
Born in 1865, Arthur Symons' first few publications revealed an intellectual rather than an emotional passion. Those volumes were full of the artifice of the period, but Symons's technical skill and frequent analysis often saved the poems from complete decadence. His later books are less imitative; the influence of Verlaine and Baudelaire is not so apparent; the sophistication is less cynical, the sensuousness more restrained. His various collections of essays and stories reflect the same peculiar blend of rich intellectuality and perfumed romanticism that one finds in his most characteristic poems.
Of his many volumes in prose, Spiritual Adventures (1905), while obviously influenced by Walter Pater, is by far the most original; a truly unique volume of psychological short stories. The best of his poetry up to 1902 was collected in two volumes, Poems, published by John Lane Co. The Fool of the World appeared in 1907.
IN THE WOOD OF FINVARA
I have grown tired of sorrow and human tears; Life is a dream in the night, a fear among fears, A naked runner lost in a storm of spears.
I have grown tired of rapture and love's desire; Love is a flaming heart, and its flames aspire Till they cloud the soul in the smoke of a windy fire.
I would wash the dust of the world in a soft green flood; Here between sea and sea, in the fairy wood, I have found a delicate, wave-green solitude.
Here, in the fairy wood, between sea and sea, I have heard the song of a fairy bird in a tree, And the peace that is not in the world has flown to me.
I am the torch, she saith, and what to me If the moth die of me? I am the flame Of Beauty, and I burn that all may see Beauty, and I have neither joy nor shame, But live with that clear light of perfect fire Which is to men the death of their desire.
I am Yseult and Helen, I have seen Troy burn, and the most loving knight lie dead. The world has been my mirror, time has been My breath upon the glass; and men have said, Age after age, in rapture and despair, Love's poor few words, before my image there.
I live, and am immortal; in my eyes The sorrow of the world, and on my lips The joy of life, mingle to make me wise; Yet now the day is darkened with eclipse: Who is there still lives for beauty? Still am I The torch, but where's the moth that still dares die?
William Butler Yeats
Born at Sandymount, Dublin, in 1865, the son of John B. Yeats, the Irish artist, the greater part of William Butler Yeats' childhood was spent in Sligo. Here he became imbued with the power and richness of native folk-lore; he drank in the racy quality through the quaint fairy stories and old wives' tales of the Irish peasantry. (Later he published a collection of these same stories.)
It was in the activities of a "Young Ireland" society that Yeats became identified with the new spirit; he dreamed of a national poetry that would be written in English and yet would be definitely Irish. In a few years he became one of the leaders in the Celtic revival. He worked incessantly for the cause, both as propagandist and playwright; and, though his mysticism at times seemed the product of a cult rather than a Celt, his symbolic dramas were acknowledged to be full of a haunting, other-world spirituality. (See Preface.) The Hour Glass (1904), his second volume of "Plays for an Irish Theatre," includes his best one-act dramas with the exception of his unforgettable The Land of Heart's Desire (1894). The Wind Among the Reeds (1899) contains several of his most beautiful and characteristic poems.
Others who followed Yeats have intensified the Irish drama; they have established a closer contact between the peasant and poet. No one, however, has had so great a part in the shaping of modern drama in Ireland as Yeats. His Deirdre (1907), a beautiful retelling of the great Gaelic legend, is far more dramatic than the earlier plays; it is particularly interesting to read with Synge's more idiomatic play on the same theme, Deirdre of the Sorrows.
The poems of Yeats which are quoted here reveal him in his most lyric and musical vein.
THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray, I hear it in the deep heart's core.
THE SONG OF THE OLD MOTHER
I rise in the dawn, and I kneel and blow Till the seed of the fire flicker and glow. And then I must scrub, and bake, and sweep, Till stars are beginning to blink and peep; But the young lie long and dream in their bed Of the matching of ribbons, the blue and the red, And their day goes over in idleness, And they sigh if the wind but lift up a tress. While I must work, because I am old And the seed of the fire gets feeble and cold.
THE CAP AND BELLS
A Queen was beloved by a jester, And once when the owls grew still He made his soul go upward And stand on her window sill.
In a long and straight blue garment, It talked before morn was white, And it had grown wise by thinking Of a footfall hushed and light.
But the young queen would not listen; She rose in her pale nightgown, She drew in the brightening casement And pushed the brass bolt down.
He bade his heart go to her, When the bats cried out no more, In a red and quivering garment It sang to her through the door.
The tongue of it sweet with dreaming Of a flutter of flower-like hair, But she took up her fan from the table And waved it off on the air.
'I've cap and bells,' he pondered, 'I will send them to her and die.' And as soon as the morn had whitened He left them where she went by.
She laid them upon her bosom, Under a cloud of her hair, And her red lips sang them a love song. The stars grew out of the air.
She opened her door and her window, And the heart and the soul came through, To her right hand came the red one, To her left hand came the blue.
They set up a noise like crickets, A chattering wise and sweet, And her hair was a folded flower, And the quiet of love her feet.
AN OLD SONG RESUNG
Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet; She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet. She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree; But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.
In a field by the river my love and I did stand, And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand. She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs; But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.
Born at Bombay, India, December 30, 1865, Rudyard Kipling, the author of a dozen contemporary classics, was educated in England. He returned, however, to India and took a position on the staff of "The Lahore Civil and Military Gazette," writing for the Indian press until about 1890, when he went to England, where he has lived ever since, with the exception of a short sojourn in America.
Even while he was still in India he achieved a popular as well as a literary success with his dramatic and skilful tales, sketches and ballads of Anglo-Indian life.
Soldiers Three (1888) was the first of six collections of short stories brought out in "Wheeler's Railway Library." They were followed by the far more sensitive and searching Plain Tales from the Hills, Under the Deodars and The Phantom 'Rikshaw, which contains two of the best and most convincing ghost-stories in recent literature.
These tales, however, display only one side of Kipling's extraordinary talents. As a writer of children's stories, he has few living equals. Wee Willie Winkie, which contains that stirring and heroic fragment "Drums of the Fore and Aft," is only a trifle less notable than his more obviously juvenile collections. Just-So Stories and the two Jungle Books (prose interspersed with lively rhymes) are classics for young people of all ages. Kim, the novel of a super-Mowgli grown up, is a more mature masterpiece.