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War and Womanhood

Sapphics, with intervening short lines like sobs of children? and Men Have Wings at Last? and the lovely Cradle Song?

The following stanzas, from Woman-vigil, suggest the questioning of the modern woman, as this poet divines her:

What new pride, you of the ceaseless vigil,

Knocks at your heart? Or what far folly of questing

Stirs you now, between the loom and the cradle?—
Woman unresting !

Mind of the moon is yours; her song and her strangeness:

Singing, spinning—even as her earth-born daughters

Spin and sing; yet laying her strong commandment
Over the waters.

(The echoes died
Around the hour.
Back flew the doves,
Back to the tower.
The house lay dark
In sleep, within.
The Shadow turned, to spin.)

Agnes Lee Freer

TRANSLATIONS

The Epic Songs of Russia, translated by Isabel F. Hapgood. Scribner's. Has Russia ever created anything original? Turgeniev doubted it; he even suspected that Russia's claim to the invention of the samovar was unfounded. I think it was Brandes' remark that Russia's only originality consisted in her being the least original of all other countries. The most patriotic Russian will not deny that his is the arch-borrowing nation, but he will ascribe this feature to the inherent broadness of the Russian mind. That vast plain, open on all sides to foreign invasions, resembles a palm, invitingly outstretched to the universe in quest of new ideas; in Russia's political order, in her religion and art, you can trace the influences of all races and civilizations, from the Scandinavian-GermanicLatin-Byzantine—in the occident, to the Hindu-TartarPersian-Chinese—in the orient. One must bear in mind one essential thing, however: all those various influences have become Russianized—i. e., intensified, broadened; in a word, universalized.

This universalism—or, if you wish, eclecticism—is most obviously evident in the Russian epic songs which are to this day sung by the illiterate inhabitants of the marshy provinces north of Petrograd. Russian folk-lore, orally transmitted from generation to generation (not until the middle of the nineteenth century were those songs put into writing), bears the stamp of European and Asiatic mythologies, and yet it is most characteristically Russian in its prevailing motives. The Norse sagas, transported by the Varangian princes in the ninth century, mingled with native Slavic and Finnish mythology, merged later with the Byzantine Christianity superimposed on the still vigorous local Paganism, absorbed various Asiatic motives imported by the Tartar hordes, and so forth. The fact that the Tartar invaders had held Russia for three centuries is accountable for a considerable Asiatic strain in the Russian genius. Grattez le Russe. . .

Translations

As I said, the motives of the epic songs are characteristically Russian. The earth, or more literally——the soil, is frequently anthropomorphized; the heroes (bogatyr—hero, and polianitza—heroine) possess the features of all Aryan folk-heroes plus the peculiarly Russian Hamletism, abandon, naïveté, and anarchic religiousness. An ordinary bylina (epic song) is trochaic with a dactylic ending, of five or six feet, which may be lengthened to seven or contracted to four; it is chanted to a simple, yet fugitive, recitative.

Miss Isabel F. Hapgood has conscientiously and lovingly translated some of the most characteristic bylini into excellent English prose. The first edition appeared in 1886; it is permissible to hope that the new edition, of 1916, will arouse more interest and appreciation than that of thirty years ago. Alexander S. Kaun

Songs of Ukraina, with Ruthenian Poems, translated by Florence Randal Livesay. J. M. Dent & Sons, London, and E. P. Dutton & Co., New York. POETRY has published many of these peasant songs, and we can only emphasize here their extreme beauty. Since The Bard of the Dimbovitza, over twenty years ago, first made us aware of the poetry hidden in the folk-lore of eastern Europe, our ears have been opened to this vibrant music, and Mrs. Livesay’s book is one of the most intimate of all. Like the translators of that earlier collection, this Canadian poet has caught the feeling of the songs sung to her, in this case, by immigrants in Winnipeg; and she has been skilful enough to give the very pulse of it in many of her English versions. An introduction by Paul Crath and a note by the translator set the scene for these poems, which are grouped under Cossack Songs, Wedding Songs, Robber Songs, songs pagan, historical, etc., and simple Folk Songs. We should like to quote a number, but, as space is lacking, we must refer the reader to our files—or, better still, to the book. H. M.

Women’s Eyes, by Arthur William Ryder. A. M. Robertson, San Francisco. This is a quaint little volume of short classical Hindu poems, mostly by Bhartrihari, the greatest of Hindu lyricists. The translation is by William Arthur Ryder, professor of Sanskrit at the University of California, and is done with an engaging dry humor in unusually clean-cut English. A little book to buy and cherish. The title poem is by King Bhartrihari, who “lived most royally” fifteen hundred years ago.

The world is full of women's eyes,
Defiant, filled with shy surprise,
Demure, a little overfree,
Or simply sparkling roguishly;
It seems a gorgeous lily-bed,
Whichever way I turn my head.

NOTES

All but one of the poets represented in this number live, or have lived, in the wilder West of the United States or British Columbia. They have derived their interpretations of tribal folk-poetry either from direct contact with the tribes themselves, or from love of their art, their rhythms, and sympathy with their ideas.

POETRY: A Mag a z in e of Verse

Dr. Frank S. Gordon, born in 1877 at Branchville, New Jersey, has lived much in our Southwest and in Mexico since his graduation from the medical college of New York University. He has begun only recently to write verse, being moved thereto chiefly, he says, by a study of aboriginal music. He writes of “the variety and freedom of Indian rhythm,” and illustrates his poems with very beautiful and original decorative water-color drawings, whose motives, both of color and form, are derived from aboriginal art and from the stark growths of the desert. Dr. Gordon, who now lives in Blairstown, New Jersey, has written also poems on Mexican motives, and lyric poems more or less interpretative of civilized life. But it seemed advisable that he should appear first with a group chosen entirely from the aboriginal poems. “I want to do my little bit,” he writes, “for a vanishing and noble race.” In The Tom-tom an aged warrior is beating out once more the rhythms of his life—living over his loves, dreams, battles, and the tragedy of his race. Tirawa is the name of his deity. Sa-a Narai is a chant which aims “to reflect fairly accurately the Indian's outlook upon life,” and which is “characteristic in its opening and close, and in its rhythm full of repetition.” Mrs. Mary Austin's work in prose places her among the most sympathetic interpreters of our western country, with its varied and picturesque life. She has published only one book in verse— Fires (University of Wisconsin Press), a play which has been given very effectively by amateurs out-of-doors in Madison, Wis., and Carmel, Cal. Alice Corbin (Mrs. William P. Henderson), who has been from the first an associate editor of PoETRY, is now staying for a time in New Mexico. Miss Constance Lindsay Skinner has appeared several times in PoETRY with poems on aboriginal motives. Her inspiration was derived in youth during much travel among the tribes of British Columbia. The only exception to the wild-western quality of this number is Mr. Edward Eastaway, an English poet now in the trenches, whose appearance in PoETRY had to be immediate, lest the next issue of Georgian Verse should have the honor of introducing him. Mr. Travis Hoke, whose brief poems we printed last month, is no longer “a mystery” to the editor. In fact, he is revealed as associate editor of The Dial and still a resident of Chicago.

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