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Other Books of Verse
seems to have lost its appeal to-day? But here is a thing that surely moves us—Winds in the Marshes, with its sweep of freshness; also these lines:
So walks the wonder up and down,
In spite of “it does,” “it doth,” and such archaic phrasing, which mar much of this poet's best work, such lines as–
When you, white flower of my life,
and others of like fragrance, make atonement. The book leaves an impression of beauty and sincerity, and of power to catch and hold the dream. A. F.
The Christmas Trail and Other Poems, by Shirley Harvey. Privately printed. The Christmas Trail is a little book of college verse by a likable boy. The campus at night, tobacco, the crying melancholy of youth, speculations on death—these fill the pages. Yet there is an occasional lift to something beyond, and a humorous felicity of phrase that give good promise for the future. This for instance:
SPECIAL EDITIONS AND TFAN SLATIONS
The Sonnets of Shakespeare, Variorum Edition, edited by
is’”—here we quote doubly—“‘something sad about working over a vexed problem and getting in the end only nega
Special Editions and Translations
3 x 3
tive results. But all the materials for treating every vexed point are present; so the reader may struggle for himself: the editor has “listened to all the schools of intepretation without having become a proselyte of any.” A new era for the study of the Sonnets opened with the examination of the French poets of the half-century preceding Shakespeare. Mr. Alden is somewhat influenced—as who would not be?—by Lee's French Renaissance in England, with its demonstration that most of the matter and manner in vogue during the Elizabethan sonnet-craze comes straight from Ronsard and his mates of the Pléiade, particularly Jodelle and Du Bellay. In these men we find the impassioned appeals to a high-born patron, the warning that youthful beauty will perish utterly unless it propagate itself; the promise of enduring fame through poetical celebration, and even the denunciation of a false mistress of dark complexion. The consequent view that the Sonnets were written in a kind of competitive following of a lyrical fashion of the Renaissance has naturally been bolstered up by the scientifically-minded Germans—by Wolff, for example. But even here our editor saves himself. Such critics, he feels, are “too little disposed to realize the extent to which an artificial form may express a real experience and be saturated by personal feeling.” And here, it may be, is the way out. Shakespeare happened to be a great poet; and a great poet cannot keep up a mere literary exercise through an hundred and fifty-four sonnets. Grant that he began as the follower of a rather trivial and shallow convention: the instrument in hand presently showed itself worthy of better and deeper use. Say that our poet, with much in his heart and much on his mind, and possibly something on his conscience, began by splashing and frolicking idly with others on the edge of the vast sea: the waves beckoned, the waters became deeper and wilder, and soon he was involved, chindeep or more, in a desperate life-struggle with real and rending passion—a struggle that, later, made possible Hamlet and Lear and brought him through, saved, to the reconciling amenities of The Tempest. Those who have lived in the Sonnets most deeply will not incline to accept any mechanistic or fictional or mystical mode of accounting for them. The present volume, a high credit both to editor and publishers, must necessarily become part of every library whose owner accepts Shakespeare as Shakespeare and seeks to understand him. H. B. F. The Song of Roland, translated by Leonard Bacon. Yale University Press. To the two hundred and ninety-two laisses of this ancient literary monument Mr. Bacon adds, by interpolation, a considerable number drawn conscientiously from other sources than the Oxford text. Let us proceed at once to Laisse cxxxv, in which Roland blows his first blast:
The mighty horn Count Roland hath put his lips unto.
- ... This is a fair sample of the style, which can hardly be
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said to start a new era in the translation of old epics. The translator “feels certain that a work like the Song of Roland is susceptible of many interpretations.” Hence, despite the existence of “several excellent versions in prose and verse,” he “has not hesitated to attempt one of his own.” The effort shows much faithful industry, but not every reader will feel that it was rewarded. H. B. F.
Madonna Diamora, A Play in Verse, by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, translated from the German by Harriet Betty Boas. Richard G. Badger. On the enveloping paper cover of this play, we read: "Madonna Dianora is Pelléas and Mélisande set to music.” Why mar at the outset a book deserving of praise and confidence? In the first place, Pelléas and Mélisande is in itself the very essence of tone. In the second place, it needs no musical setting other than the exquisite gold of Debussy's opera. In the third place, how can one play be the musical setting of another play? The translator, has brought feeling and art into her English rendering. The play alternates prose and blank verse. To go back to the suggestion of Pelléas and Mélisande—as a rule the Germans are matter-of-fact even in their love and romance, therefore Hofmannsthal's work, strong though it be, lacks the elusive, I might say, the stealthy, quality of Maeterlinck's. And how different is Dianora from our shrinking little Mélisande!—Dianora, who could, even when seized by the intense horror of approaching death, exult in flinging at her husband truth upon truth of her sin!