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One of the privileges of working in a center of poetic influence like PoETRY is that we are constantly made aware of the ever growing and deepening love of beauty that is stirring in the American people. Through a hundred incidents, great and small, it comes to us daily. There are times when beauty, in this case the specific beauty of the written word, seems almost visibly present with us, and we can feel it spreading its slender leaves in the sun and striking strong white roots deep into the lives of the people.
This feeling has been wakened in us of late by a movement which is springing up all over the country, a movement whose results can hardly be estimated, but which may well be a harbinger of the true golden age of American poetry.
This movement goes back to the fountain head, to the schools where the new generation is being formed. Children are being taught more and more that poetry is something to be loved unquestioningly, not something to be dissected, pulled to pieces and hated. And one of the means by which this is accomplished is the giving of time in school to the writing of verse by the children. They are given pencil, paper, and the assurance that they will not be laughed at—something which all too often has not been given in the past—and no further restrictions. If the result is seldom, perhaps we should say never, really poetry, the after effects in love and appreciation of the art are incalculable. Whatever we have ourselves tried to do, even unsuccessfully, is ever after a source of keen pleasure, and the creation of an Appreciation
audience, such as these children will be in a few years, may well call forth the great American poet whose wings have not yet lifted. From all over the country indications come to us of this movement. From the High School of Pasadena has come a little printed volume of the work of the boys and girls, compiled by Miss Isabel Frazee. From a little town in the south-eastern Cumberlands in Kentucky, twenty-odd miles from a railroad, a town called Hindman, has come an account by Miss Berenice K. van Slyke of similar work in her English classes, which has produced unusually good results from these isolated, and so unsophisticated, children. At least two schools in Chicago, the Francis Parker and the Chicago Latin Schools, are doing similar work with their youngsters, and there are of course many more of whom no word has reached us. Another movement which represents a different phase of the question, but which is also sure to have wide-spread results, is the recent appointment by the General Federation of Women's Clubs, a federation which includes among its members over three million women, of a new committee on poetry. Mrs. Martha Foote Crow is chairman of this committee, which is planning a nation-wide campaign for study and appreciation of poetry among the women, The potentiality of the American people, both in the creation of poetry and in appreciation of the art, is only now beginning to be realized, and we who were among the pioneers are feeling the great joy of seeing our work advance among the people at large. E. T.
POETRY AND ORATORY
The difference between poetry and oratory is, shortly, this: The poet aims at using language in an intense way and intensity is his product, while the orator aims at using language in an exalted way and exaltation is his product. Of course there is exaltation in poetry, and there is intensity in oratory; but the poet is not seeking for exaltation and the orator is not seeking for intensity. The use of language in an exalted way, however, is always associated with the office of the poet, and so it is easy to make oratory appear as poetry—it is especially easy to make it appear as poetry when the orators deliver their addresses in verse. Pope and Byron lived in an age of great orators, and what they wrote in verse is amongst the great orations of their time:
Lo, the poor Indian whose untutored mind
That is the opening of a great oration. And in Byron's long poems we get the very gestures of the orator:
Stop! for thy tread is on an Empire's dust—
Is the spot marked by no heroic bust,
“Oratory is the thing heard, poetry is the thing overheard”—this aphorism suggests, better than a whole chapter of analysis, the difference between poetry and oratory. Oratory deals with public things; poetry deals with the secret things in the life of man. Poetry, to make use of a phrase of Turgenev's, is “the innuendo by which the soul makes known its enormous claim.” Oratory asserts the less Poetry and Oratory
enormous claim for country or for friends. We are made to feel that the poem could exist without an auditor, but we know that the oration, whether in prose or verse, could not exist without the audience.
Here is part of an oration from a volume I have been reading, Irish Oratory. The speaker, John Philpot Curran, is defending a man against whom the government has brought informers for witnesses. Curran speaks of the informer as “the wretch that is buried a man, lies till his heart has time to fester, and is then dug up a witness”; and then goes on :
Have you not seen him, after his resurrection from that tomb, after having been dug out of the region of death and corruption, make his appearance upon the table, the living image of life and death, and the supreme arbiter of both P Have you not marked when he entered, how the stormy wave of the multitude retired at his approach P Have you not marked how the human heart bowed to the supremacy of his power, in the undissembled homage of deferential horror? How his glance, like the lightning of heaven, seemed to rive the body of the accused, while his voice warned the devoted wretch of woe and death—a death which no innocence can escape, no force resist, no antidote prevent.
After reading this fine passage of oratory, I think of Curran's single poem, The Deserter's Meditation—the poem which suggested to Byron the Gaelic measure that he used in one of his best lyrics:
If sadly thinking, with spirits sinking,
To joy a stranger, a wayworn ranger,
In this song there is no audience in view and no exaltation is sought. The poem has intensity, and through the lines comes something of the secret of a life. l Padraic Colum \
Mountain Interval, by Robert Frost. Henry Holt & Co. The Great Valley, by Edgar Lee Masters. Macmillan Co. In Kipling's story of primitive men the bard becomes a thing of awe because he can “tell the tale of the tribe,” can save the tribe from engulfing oblivion by “making words run up and down in men's hearts”—words that move too grandly to be forgotten. In the final accounting perhaps this is the first function of the bard, even more his office than the setting of dreams to magic measures. These two poets, Frost and Masters, are telling the tale of the tribe, the varying tales of their separate tribes; and the simultaneous appearance of their latest books tempts one to comparison and contrast. Reading the two books as a whole, without stopping for details, one gets an overpowering impression, not only of two different individuals