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On some elm-shaded street,
Can we go on? Yes, with Wordsworth, who has Intimations, And who may have bestowed on him Long streamers of supernal—or infernal—glory; Or with Kant, who has Innate Ideas, And who may well have packed the baby full Of pre-accumulated notions and experiences; Or with Galton, who cracks up Heredity, And who may have presented a complete outfit Of traits passed on from linked forefathers; Or with Taine, who comes out strongly for Environment, And who perhaps decreed our babe should be Entirely what Surroundings made him. Modern opinion and current fashion May favor this last notion still.
Thus our new-born hero came at once Within a range of influences and waiting opportunities Which caused his Life to follow As easily and inevitably As a corollary upon a theorem proved— As naturally as some prepotent cloud, Careering through the littered heavens, Helps weave strange, disconcerting patterns on earth's fields.
H’m Are we not all clouds together?—
Henry B. Fuller .
} HE air is full of prophecies these days. # Through the war the spirit of man is to be reborn, we are told; the costly red fertilizer, so lavishly poured out, is to enrich the soil 2-8 of the new era, so that souls will grow to nobler stature than is possible from the dry and weedy sod of peace. Materialism and individualism are to be swept away, and society is to unite for the common good, is to organize and function with complete precision and with elimination of waste, so that the rate of its progress will be to the past as a racing automobile is to the mail-coach of our fathers or the ox-cart of our grandfathers. The arts are to share in this rebirth, we are led to hope. A new purpose will consecrate our poets, painters, musicians, architects; a new glamour will glorify their dreams. They will be caught up by the vast world-encompassing current, and carried along with irresistible force toward a goal of unimaginable splendor. The human race thus far has groped in the dark—divided, confined, chained. Now it is just awaking, rising, casting off its shackles. Freed by this war, all but federated by its sacrificial agonies, men and nations are just about to begin their militant march toward the common goal of a universal state organized for joy and beauty through mutual service and universal brotherhood.
It may be that we should hear some such music as that in the New-Year chimes. For the men in the trenches, for the maimed, the dying, the bereaved, it is perhaps the only adequate consolation—this hope that out of their blooddrenched earth will spring a more glorious world. But one can not help wondering whether the prophets are not led by the modern speed mania to apply to things of the spirit material laws.
What will be the effect—will it be creative or destructive—of all this vast energizing of the race, upon those men and women of genius who must, in the future as the past, be its leaders? Humanity can not move faster or further than its greatest souls: will the great souls of the new era have a chance to develop to full power through a childhood and youth geared up to the highest tension strain? and will they find room for free and adequate action of brain and muscle in the pushing, surging, driven world of the new ideal, designed to ignore, and so obliterate, all power which it can not immediately use? And how will the artists of the future live through the universal roar and rush, and find the quiet place and hour to dream in and grow wise?
Much brooding on these questions seemed to take form and substance at the first Chicago production of Intolerance, D. W. Griffith's prodigious new movie which Vachel Lindsay—a movie fan who has written a book on the new art— calls the most wonderful and idealistic and mystical of all
The New Era
photo-dramas, the climax of cinema achievement. What was it to me, who, not being a movie fan, brought a fresh mind to the contemplation of this climactic, amazing phenomenon?
What was it?—it was a reductio ad absurdum of the speedmania; it was an insanely de-vitalizing and de-energizing spectacle which jumbled up, in one indigestible mixture, the fall of Babylon, a modern execution, the Crucifixion and the massacre of St. Bartholomew. It ran these four “parallel stories” together at three-second intervals for three hours, making thirty-six hundred jerks from one story to another, thirty-six hundred leaps for each agitated human brain. The process was so athletic for at least one of the audience that the three crosses, the imposing Babylonian walls, Catherine de Medici, and the modern trains and motors (these last on a mad chase to save the virtuous hero from the scaffold) were all plunging together down into the abyss, not only that evening but for two three nights thereafter in the form of nightmare.
Is this the art of the future? Will there be any consecutiveness, any coherence, in the life which it expresses? any creative power in the minds which it spirals like a whirlwind? Will the new era be an age of perpetual motion, with the cinema—audaciously, sublimely efficient—reeling off art and literature?
In that case what will become of poetry—and PoETRYP It is with some perturbation of spirit that we salute the new age, and wish our readers a Happy New Year.