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The Chinese Chanting of the Classics
thematic resemblance one to the other, although the details may vary infinitely, the same man singing the same poem differently at different times. The general effect of the monosyllables, each one of which is a word, is clear and nasal in quality, with the soft yet nasal ng sound of the French language much in evidence. It is interesting to think of the probable effect on an AngloSaxon audience of reciting one of our own classical lyrics, say Herrick's To Daisies, not to shut so soon, in this oriental fashion. The “closeness of the Chinese soul”, of which Carl Sandburg writes so assuredly, has decidedly its limitations.
...~" • * - - A type of criticism coming into vogue lately is of the sub
jective or pseudo-impressionist variety, imitative of the leisurely mode of the mature minds of certain distinguished French critics. But the minds of those in this country who affect the method are anything but mature—in years or in experience. Having accepted as their motto Anatole France's remark that criticism is a soul's adventures among masterpieces, it does not occur to them that it may make some difference whether the soul is, or is not, well qualified for the adventure. I often feel, when reading such criticism, as if I had been asked to take a jitney-bus sight-seeing tour through a metropolis of masterpieces—or near-masterpieces, as it may happen. With these the guide is indifferently familiar, but familiar at any cost, and their raison d'être as explained by him is somewhat vague: “On the right, ladies and gentlemen, this is in a style I do not care for. On the other hand, this on the left means much to us. This I like. This, although very beautiful in its time, is impossible today. Why? But, of course, you know!” For criticism of this type is no more exact than that. It does not “come to grips” with anything. (I have been waiting a long time to use that phrase; I have seen it in almost every article I have read for the last month!). In fact, nothing is easier than this sort of criticism, when there is no real thought back of it. It is, often, only too obviously the product of a lazy mind; a lazy mind that tries to protect itself by affecting a knowingness that covers ignorance and inertia. For it is not necessary, in this type of criticism, to have any background whatever. All criticism is, of course, subjective and personal. But it only becomes of value through the critic's attempt to relate his subjective and personal feelings to the objective qualities of the work criticised. If he does not so relate it, his personal reaction is of no value whatever. In this country we have a dire need of constructive or synthetic criticism. I do not like the term “creative criticism,” as I think it is itself partially responsible for much of the delusion concerning the value of irrelevant and unspecific criticism noted above. Criticism may not be as parasitic as the mistletoe, but it adheres to the thing criticised as tenaciously as the bud to the tree. Otherwise it is not criticism, A Jitney-bus among Masterpieces
not even creative criticism; it is something else. Pater's eulogy, for instance, of Leonardo's Mona Lisa is not criticism; it is an entirely separate literary performance, taking Mona Lisa's smile as a starting point. It is no more criticism than Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn. The urn was a perfected work of art, and propagated another work of art, as art forms are capable of doing; but no one would claim that Keats was indulging in creative criticism. However, I have no desire to indulge in an argument over this term, an argument capable of being prolonged indefinitely and never settled, like that other equally futile argument over the dividing line between prose and poetry. I merely wish to indicate that when a definite work is under consideration, as for instance in a review, constructive or synthetic criticism may not be arrived at through a shunting of the critic's responsibility for exact thought and exact expression in relation to the thing criticised. It is, rather, the direct result of these. A. C. H.
The Armenian poems which follow appear in English for the first time. They are the lamentations of a race that, in spite of five centuries of subjection, remains one of the naturally poetic peoples of the world. These poems were not written by intellectuals but by untrained men and women whose inheritance for more than two thousand years has been poetic. During the turbulent and arid periods in Armenian history, when massacres and deportation brought political anemia, the poets have endured, have been the his
torians of their race. The first poem, by a woman to her deported husband, is
probably from the early eighteenth century:
Oh, my beloved, it is a dozen years since thou art gone.
There have been women poets in Armenia, but their songs, during the last five hundred years, have been full of despair. An Armenian mother of the seventeenth century, in the following lullaby to her child, voices her own tragedy of subjection:
I sing a lullaby that in listening to
Another poem, a quatrain in its original form, is of unknown date. During the seventeenth century a group of women living in Eghine in Turkish Armenia became celebrated for the gentle lyric melancholy of their verse, and this poem is attributed to that period:
He is not dead, thy son, he is not dead,
He has gathered roses, and in pressing them against his face
In Armenia the trouvère still fills the office of publisher to many poets, and by his singing in the streets of the villages and towns gives to the people the poetry of the nation. Djivani, who died only a few years ago, sang of his wandering brotherhood:
The trouvère is a bird without wings,
Goblins and Pagodas, by John Gould Fletcher. Houghton
House, Mr. Fletcher says in his preface:
I have tried to evoke, out of the furniture and surroundings of a certain old house, definite emotions which I have had concerning them. I have tried to relate my childish terror concerning this house . . . to the aspects that called it forth.