Immagini della pagina

Yale Discovers Blake

we must remember that both of these poets show the same tendency (to a lesser degree) as Blake's work: they present rather a succession of scenes, than a closely connected whole. We must remember also that Blake composed his work in about as many days as it took Dante and Goethe years to do theirs, and then laid this rough draft aside, never to return to it, except as a quarry whence materials for both Jerusalem and Milton were obtained. These later works were written for a special purpose. Blake by this time had passed middle age. Oppressed by poverty, stung by taunts of madness, abandoned by his friends, Blake was anxious to vindicate his position as an artist and a prophet. Both Milton and Jerusalem are attempts to convert the public to Blake's theory of the universe, and like all such self-conscious attempts, there is more thumping of the pulpit, more expostulation, more detailed exposition, more symbolism, than poetry. Not that Jerusalem, in particular, does not contain much magnificent poetry. But the whole scheme is unpoetic, with its divisions into four chapters, addressed respectively to the Public, the Jews, the Deists, and the Christians; and with its elaborate and somewhat wearisomely iterated attempt to prove that England is the spiritual Jerusalem, or regenerator of the nations—an attempt carried out through an extended and complicated symbolism of cities and states that taxes mind and memory to the breaking point. After Jerusalem, Blake was silent. Nothing proves the deep sanity of the man, as well as his heroism, better than the fact that he concluded after all that his deeper message was not for his day, and set himself again to art, with what glorious results everyone who has seen the illustrations to Job and Dante can testify. When will the lovers of poetry and the students of Blake be given an adequate and a cheap edition of Vala—Blake's masterpiece? It is a disgrace to England and to America that nothing of the sort has been attempted. Blake is not a poet who appears to advantage in selections. It is to Professor Pierce's credit that he has given us rather longer blocks of Wala and Jerusalem than we so far have been accustomed to. But his volume, beautiful in typography, binding . and paper as it is, is published at a price (two dollars) which sets it beyond the reach of the ordinary buyer. The recent Oxford Edition, priced at fifty cents, is in some ways more complete and more satisfying for the beginner. Meantime there is the great Ellis-Yeats edition, as well as the late Ellis edition, both of which are now out of print and unobtainable. And in both of these the text, notably of Wala, is disfigured by emendations. Vala may be only a rough draft, but we want to read it as Blake left it. Let us hope that Professor Pierce will so far succeed with his venture that he will venture further and will give us the one complete poem of William Blake that, even in its rough and incomplete state, comes nearest to being a masterpiece bf - e epic poetry John Goula Fletch r\

Claudel in English


The Tidings Brought to Mary, by Paul Claudel, translated by Louise Morgan Sill. Yale Univ. Press.

This poet—this adventurer—goes through life with his mind and emotions burning. The flame lights up places darker than the night, and before it solid things melt. The earth and the grain and the flower which it bears, the cow which gives us milk, the good daughter and the bad daughter —all are a congealed mystic breath, and one thing is as simple and as wonderful as another.

The bad daughter!—the poet's treatment of her is startling. It seems as if this Frenchman was the first human being to discover the truth which seems so evident after it is brought before one: that the human heart—the mystic piece of live struggling flesh—is of more importance than sin and virtue; that sin and virtue are, as compared to this real, live thing, a sort of external soil which might be washed off. Not even Tolstoi, who through all his life groped for this truth, reached this extreme tolerance, realized it so clearly. We catch a glimpse of this now and then in W. D. Howells, but not without some shade of snobbishness—it is the fine, lady-like heart that matters. Thomas Hardy and George Moore (in Esther Waters) have felt this, but only for the flesh-life of the woman.

To this reviewer, at least, it appears that the poet's use of miracles is not so strained as it seems superficially. The resurrection of the child is dramatically genuine and truthful; even Ibsen would not have hesitated to use it. It shows a dramatic intensity which is breath-taking.

The language is modelled partly on the prophets and partly on the modern vers-librists, and even in the translation, which is excellent, its beauty is evident, as these extracts show:

“The sky is beautiful:” but this is a beautiful thing too and even worthy of God— The heart of a man that can be filled, leaving no part empty.

Do not turn from me that face

There are enough angels to serve the mass in heaven.
Or this bit of dialogue between an old man and his wife,

before he starts on his pilgrimage: >

Anne Vercos. The yes which will separate us now, very low,
As round as the oui that formerly made us one.
His Wife (speaking very low). Yes, Anne.

With his fire, perhaps this author carries also a faint cloud; but who would begrudge him this cloud, in which his

sensitive soul dwells as in a beautiful garden? - Max Michelson


The Great White Wall, by William Rose Benét. Yale Univ. Press. The heroic narrative in verse, in which anthropomorphic gods and brawny heroes stride through countless cantos of hexameter, is necessarily out of vogue in these days of staccato short-stories in vers libre and pithy etchings that reduce a life to an epigram. Yet there is something in us that goes Cathay Again

behind the vogue, that escapes now and again from the stern censorship of our intellect and revels with a childlike glee in fierce bearded heroes with glittering swords, in lovely maidens in distress, in the color and gleam and swing of a crisp narrative in decorative verse. And as for the Arabian Nights, in whatever form we find them, it will be a mercifully long day before we lose our delight in them.

All these elements William Rose Benét has gathered together into a really enchanting tale in his latest book, The Great White Wall. He has called for his enchantment on all the ancient sources, on Kublai Kahn, on ancient Cathay, on Persia and India and Arabia; but the enchantment remains authentic, and Mr. Benét is at his happiest in evoking it. The lines are everywhere agleam with color, as in these, from the description of the army of Timur the Terrible on the march:

Pheasant feather and peacock plume from many a marching headdress glitters. Bows on backs, a crowd of archers bronzely swings along as one. Herds of antelope, goat, and nihlgao straggle along the armies' fringes. Mimics, sorcerers, and buffoons in parti-colored costumes pass. Dancing girls with golden anklets trip in the desert dust that singes. High upheld above their bearers, banners stream from poles of brass. Over all the embroidered arms of Samarcand, the City Splendid: Lion and Sun and Three Great Circles, threefold realms that

signify, Blaze on a banner of gold brocade. And, densely by his troops attended, Odmar, leading the Avant-guard, to a blare of terrible horns goes by.

« IndietroContinua »