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A Soldier Poet

Je sens, comme un fantôme,

Derrière moi,
Un homme

Plus grand que moi
Et qui pèse sur mes épaules;
Et puis derrière, un autre;
Et puis, derrière celui-lä
D'autres hommes échelonnés;
Et puis, toujours plus grands, des géants en sommeil
Qui de moins en moins éclairés
Par le soleil,

Se reculent dans l'ombre :
Mes ancêtres depuis les premiers temps du monde.

This will make you want to go on. The poet sees, now before him, others, small at first, then smaller, dwindling to smaller still, and others, ever others, who are his son and his son's sons. They fall asleep in the past or plunge into the future, till at last there is but one existing conscious being —himself. As in the foregoing quotation, throughout his poems Le Roy uses rhyme. Danse des Globes is beautiful with sounding language, though it may contain a few misapplied pictures. We like to accept this invitation at the outset: “Let us ascend into the oak-trees, the oak-trees, balmy as houses, by the twisted stairway of branches; let us ascend in the whiteness of evening, let us gather on the flat roofs of evening, as gathered the herds of Chaldea.” And behold, we find ourselves amid the rolling and crackling of worlds:

Et nous, ainsi que des pâtres de la Chaldée,
Nous regardons danser, nous écoutons la danse
Des globes,
La pluie des globes autour de la terre,
Fille endormie qui réve parmi l’azur,
En tremblant, d'une folle chute!

Le Roy has written poems not contained in this volume. I have seen some of his trench poems, and they all reflect the strength and sincerity of one who really knows. In La Chair et l'Acier, which was printed in the New Republic for June 10, 1916, the poet draws a striking contrast. He describes the days when a young man felt pleasure and pride in his muscles, as he trod the smooth pavements of Paris, or swam in pleasant waters, not yet conscious of the frailty of his own body; and then he pictures the days of a bombardment. Now at last he apprehends flesh, flesh that could once shiver luxuriously at a beautiful strain of music, or thrill with delight at some dear memory. He describes with the bold truth of an artist in words the pitiless steel as it cuts with monstrous ease into lithe, white, adolescent flesh:

Jeunes corps confiants jadis
Sur le bitume de Paris.

But even lovelier is this poem, which we quote entire, as it will be new to our readers, having been printed only in an extremely limited edition of a rough little trench paper:


Des pétales jeunes, frèles, lisses,
Pleuvent sur un coin d'ombre du tennis.
Dans une allée, les jeunes filles ont oublié
Leurs chapeaux de jardin.

Vous nous génez, les fusains,
Nous qui jouons au croquet,
Vétus de bleu, soldats français.

Dans ce printemps très clair ou le canon s'entend,
Nous sommes lä, dans ce printemps,

A Soldier Poet

Jouant ensemble
(Et l'azur tremble),
Nous sommes là, jouant ensemble,
L'employé du Crédit Lyonnais,
Le tourneur et le professeur,
Le carreleur
Le mécano et le typo,
Les deux petits merlans
Et moi aussi, dans ce printemps.

Les minutes pleuvent lentement
Comme les jeunes pétales blancs,
Comme les bombes à l'horizon.

Et c'est ainsi que va le temps
Plus précieux que les autres temps,
Celui qu'il faudrait arrêter
Pour l'écouter et pour le voir passer de près,
Non parce qu'un coeur à jamais
Pleurera sa fuite
Comme en son vieux parc Olympio
Ou Lamartine au bord de l'eau,
Mais parce qu'au bruit lointain des obus qui se cassent,
Ardente, étonnante, rapide,
L'histoire du monde se passe.

Jean Le Roy's work shows us what fine flowers are lifting their loveliness to the scythe of war. A. F.


Mushrooms : a Book of Free Forms, by Alfred Kreymborg. John Marshall Co., Ltd., New York. An insinuating, meddlesome, quizzical, inquiring spirit ; sometimes a clown, oftener a wit, now and then a lyric poet— such is the author of this book. He trips about cheerfully among life's little incongruities ; laughs at you and me and progress and prejudice and dreams; says "I told you so !'' with an air, as if after a double somersault in the circus ring ; grows wistful, even tender, with emotions always genuine even though not too deep for momentary tears. And always, whatever his mood, whatever his subject or purpose, he is, as becomes the harlequin-philosopher, entertaining. Mr. Kreymborg's “free forms” suit his temperament, and

they accompany his thought fitly, with the delicate aplomb of a ukulele. As a rule they are extremely staccato, a movement that tires if one reads too many, though usually any incipient yawn turns into a smile. Who could resist the deftness of this bit of consummate wit—an epigram called Life?

I met four guinea-hens today,

Creaking like pulleys.

“A crrk,” said one: “A crrk,” said two; “A crrk,” said three; “A crrk,” said four. I agree with you cheerfully, ladies. And here is another from the same laughing philosopher: Tiny boy, staring at me with eyes like toy balloons: That broom is much bigger than you— put it down.

You won’t 2
Then don't put it down.

And I should like to quote also the divertingly true I am four monkeys; but that is already almost famous. Are these poetry? Why not? Did not Horace write satires long ago, and successfully “put them over” with the Romans—yes, and with sober-minded professors of Latin

A Staccato Poet

even to our own day? Are these not as much poetry as Pope's diffuse and ingeniously rhymed satirical skits, which were gulped down, though with wry faces, by the “wits and beaux” of that “Augustan age”? Is there no room for satire in modern poetic art? “Because thou art virtuous, shall there be no more cakes and ale?” I own it doth amaze me to hear some critics solemnly reading the law against Messrs. Kreymborg, Eliot, Pound, and others whenever they indulge in contemporary satire. As if the muse must always march grandly to heroic tunes, or dance to approved classic measures, and never while away a more intimate hour, to steps of her own devising, among our own hidden and cherished frailties! These poets are witty in a modern fashion. They give us satirical verse of a kind more fit for our telegraphic age than Horace's sententious periods or Pope's ingenious couplets; but verse as well entitled to be called poetry as theirs in this kind. I do not mean that Mr. Kreymborg is always a satirist. Even in his most serious moods, however, he keeps his light touch-and-go manner and his telegraphic, almost telescopic, style. His “free forms” are not always so good a fit for the serious as for the whimsical mood; their rhythms become as obvious in their way as certain familiar hymns are in theirs. But sometimes he does a thing worthy of that overused adjective, exquisite, like this wistful Dance:

Moon dance,
You were not to blame.
Nor you,
lovely white moth.
But I saw you together.

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