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“The fruits of earth are beautiful—flowers and fruits,
to boot! We must kill each other.”
“Then let us strive, if you will, but only in peace;
“If death settles all, why then either fight or strive?
John Gould Fletcher | ---. . .
HE holiday festivities are close upon us— ; Christmas, with its multiform invitation to worldliness confusing and obliterating its G : spiritual significance; the New Year, with its }_A.Ş. c §§ hope of fresh life through the cold, its gleam of sunshine over snow : both set with full dramatic intensity against the world's super-activities of peace and war. As they approach in a glorious and confusing riot, the eighteenth century seems a satisfactory age to live in— some Jane-Austen village of narrow boundaries and prim ideals. The weaver and cobbler down the little street, bread and meat in the neighboring farms, splendor in the squire's mansion, and religion in the little old church whose bell pealed out a welcome on Sundays. The vast world lumbering in and out once or twice a week in the stagecoach from London, so many leagues away; bringing ideas in the Lovers' Annual or the Gentleman's Magazine. An orderly, finished world, with a definite social system in which one kept one's place, and a neat little round of duties and pleasures patterned against a pearl-gray background of leisure. Instead of that, behold me—almost any me—in this particularly distracting season. We will pass over my particular business of editing a magazine—almost any business nowadays brings mail from the ends of the earth, a queer sense of intimacy with the antipodes! To me—almost any me—comes this autumn the election; and to the feminine me, in these parts, the exceeding great thrill of casting her first vote for president—the climax of soulful communings and quarrellings in the newly opened field. And after the quiet ballot in an alcove comes the swift rolling-in of states, like vast billows, through a stormy night of searchlights, tin horns, steam whistles and caterwauling crowds; and then the backwater tides of doubt for hours and days. And through the clamor of politics sounds the call of the arts: the Art Institute opens new galleries—much more spacious than our magazine-gallery for poets—in which hundreds of painters and sculptors, from Maine to Oregon, speak for beauty with still voices, stretch out invisible hands appealing for recognition. And the new Arts Club hits us between the eyes by contrasting Sargent with Henry Dearth, the latest old with the newest new. Blow on blow is struck, ringing bell on bell. Then there are the plays. Curtains rising everywhere: on Mrs. Warren's Profession and Medea, on Henry VIII and Justice—sermons, all of them, however they may conceal or betray it. And a French company—straight from Paris—is playing Le Misanthrope and Sans-Gêne. And little local companies are experimenting delicately—with Ben Hecht's dark Dregs, and Kenneth Goodman's gay harlequinade, The Wonder-hat, and with Maxwell Bodenheim's fine brief tragedy of the cosmos, Brown, in which the process of life is symbolized by colors, personified as women who
Then and Now
dance out the cycle of creation and sink into the embrace of brown darkness at last. Also the call of music will not be denied—the orchestra, the recitals, the choral concerts. And the opera unrolls its gilded scroll—a mediaeval mummer using all the arts to pattern gorgeously the extravagant melodrama of his emotion. The clubs, philanthropies, civic activities—these also are insistent demands, not to be denied. Into this clamor of many voices, this ringing of many bells, comes the questioner. Suddenly our occidental civilization—the modern organization of society, of The Nation, for selfish ends; for greed, whose weapon is violence— is challenged by the Bengali poet and sage, Rabindranath Tagore, who now wears the international crown decreed to him since he first befriended us with his presence, and this magazine with his poems, four years ago. Something in his quiet dignity makes our over-activity seem absurd. Will there be any power left for life if we heed so many calls, try to follow so many paths? In his lecture, What Is Art?, Mr. Tagore—or rather, Sir Rabindranath—was at the opposite pole from Tolstoi. Art is life's surplusage, her excess of joy, which she returns in beauty to her creator; essentially an act of rapture, of worship. And the tall Hindu, as he uttered his dithyrambic finale, was unconsciously an illustration of his theme—the ideal poet whose art has been one long devotion, springing from excess of concentrated spiritual life; the ideal poet of the orient, moreover, whose very presence is a widewinged benediction of peace. How many of our poets have learned the secret? What is it to me that I am fed, clothed and sheltered by a million hands in all the ends of the earth, and informed of the world's news by a million minds? What is it to me that I am speeded around the world in motors and steamers and trains, and through still larger domains in art and talk and books? The point is, do these things magnify life or obliterate it? How shall I live in and through, by and with, above and beyond, all these? H. M.
The other day Mr. Max Eastman, editor of The Masses, stepped out of his own back door and into the front door of The New Republic to say what he had to say about Lazy Werse and those who write it. He couldn't, of course, have said it at home, without violating the laws of hospitality.
We sympathize with Mr. Eastman. . -
It is high time that a critic objected to vers libre, not on the score of rhythm—a phase of the subject endlessly debatable, but on the score of style, and for a few moments it looked as if Mr. Eastman were about to prove the one exception who would establish the intelligence of the tribe. But alas, no. Mr. Eastman compares “the new dilute variety of prosy poetry which is watering the country” to journalism—a comparison obviously insulting to the latter. For while journalism, generally speaking, may not be literature,