Immagini della pagina
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

HERE are times when the beauty of life seems § too keen to be borne, seasons of joy or sorrow when the chaos of people and purposes assumes processional dignity, and the babel of tongues becomes a choral song. It is as if one arthly episode from some far planet of larger spaces and years, and saw its criss-cross of lines, its blots and splashes of color, merge into a noble pattern set for the delight of gods. From that vantage-ground lost meanings become clear: the amazing effrontery of birth, life's heroic and unsatisfied search, the sudden silence of death, the tumultuous movement of generations around the niggardly fruitful earth—around a whirling ball suspended in space as by a single hair, held to its course by an incredibly delicate balance of warring forces—all these become an act of the eternal passion, a thought of the infinite consciousness, a daring flight of the universal spirit. To be a part of it all—to have lived in the solar nebula and resolved into the cloud-bound earth; to have quickened . into the beginnings of life, and spawned and struggled through experimental ages; to have groped outward through fish and beast and bird, beating against barriers, blindly denying denial, unconsciously seeking consciousness; to be born at last into a being erect and sensient, who gathers and records knowledge, who feels beauty even to


the rapture of song, the ecstasy of art, who knows himself a little and gives that little away in love, who apprehends the truth a little in poignant suffering and joy; and finally to challenge the infinite with new demands, that would make of our life an antechamber and our death a gateway, that would round out the mighty circle of existence to the remotest agony of truth:-to be a part of this colossal movement is a destiny so sublime as to be beyond the reach of deliberate thought, conceivable only in rare and sudden emotions, that come unbidden in moments of intense illumination. The mystery is not the greatness of life, but its littleness. That we, so grandly born, so mightily endowed, should grope with blind eyes and bound limbs in the dust and mire of petty desires and grievances; until we can hardly see the blue of the sky or the glory of the seasons, until we can hardly clasp our neighbor's hand or hear his voice—this is the inexplicable mystery, the blasting unreality, the bitter falsehood that underlies all the dark evils of the world. H. M.


On the evenings of November twenty-sixth and twentyninth Mr. Vachel Lindsay and Miss Eleanor Dougherty will give together at the Chicago Little Theatre, a presentation of a few of the former's poems, the poet chanting the words while the dancer interprets them. At least this will be the formula with The King of Yellow Butterflies, The Tree of Poem-games

Laughing Bells and The Potatoes' Dance. In King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and Aladdin and the Jinn the poet promises to take “a certain co-operative part in the acting, though never bringing myself forward as anything much more than the prestidigitator who brings the dove from the hat, or the ambassador between the poem and its interpreter.” In the case of these two poems the audience is expected to join in the chorus, as many audiences have done in various towns, even without Miss Dougherty to lead them. Last summer, when I saw an early rehearsal of these “poem-games,” I found the performance very beautiful and novel. This was somewhat to my surprise, because I had feared an effect of incongruity. It was a gay and delicate blending of the two arts, like dancing to music or singing with an orchestral accompaniment. For precedents one must go back to English folk games of the seventeenth century and earlier, which have died out in England, but which still survive among Carolina and Tennessee mountaineers: this according to Mr. Cecil J. Sharp, of the English Folk Dance Society and the Stratfordon-Avon School of Folk Song and Dance, who has been lecturing in this country. Recent studies of the verse-and-action games of these mountaineers have convinced him that they preserve intact English folk-games of the period of ancestral emigration to America. Mr. Lindsay would seem to be working toward a new development of this art of long ago, which he enriches by using the dance in addition to gesture, marching and posturing. Indeed, he says: “It is my hope that this work brings my verses a little nearer to the old precedents of folkdancing and folk-lore.” And it all follows the suggestion made to the Illinois poet by Mr. Yeats over two years ago— to “restore the primitive singing of poetry.” H. M.


The Great Maze and The Heart of Youth—a Poem and a Play, by Hermann Hagedorn. Macmillan Co. The long poem, in five parts, which opens this volume retells in full-swinging blank verse the old story of Agamemnon's return and death. The poet's motive in using this ancient tale seems to be a new interpretation of the character of Clytemnestra. The queen kills her husband, not because she wants to but because she doesn't want to, not because she hates him and loves Aegisthus, but because she loves him and despises Aegisthus, with whom she had dallied for years merely to pass the time and dull her longing for her royal lord. She lays down the law thus to Aegisthus:

Not fear or love or you or Agamemnon
Shall have the power to crush me or deride,
Condemn me or forgive. I will not bow;
I will not be raised up; I will not drink
Mercy from any lips. My days are mine,
And I will keep the government of them. . . .
I am the Queen. I am not moved. I move.

Mr. Hagedorn's Clytemnestra

Unwilling to accept forgiveness and reinstatement from the man whom she loves and who loves her, she uses her baser lover to kill him.

Now this may or may not be a plausible modern reading of Clytemnestra's motive. It seems to me a bit strained, a motive which might lead to suicide but hardly to murder; and in its high-sounding presentation the old sculpturesque royalty of the queen seems to disappear. I wonder, in following it, whether, in spite of the Great War, we of this twentieth century have lost our approach to, our belief in, stark and simple tragic passion like that which the elder poets, and the world in general, long granted to Clytemnestra, Orestes, Judith, Lady Macbeth, and other famous murderers of history or legend. But my chief objection to Mr. Hagedorn's idea of Clytemnestra is not any questioning of his competence, or of the truth or falsehood, the strength or weakness, of modern studies of human motives; but a deep-rooted objection to the misuse, by any modern mind, of a great typical figure to express an idea contrary to that which it has always embodied, and to which it is, in a sense, sacred.

I own to extreme impatience when a modern poet would persuade us, for example, that Judith fell in love with Holofernes, or Jael with Sisera, before she slew him. Are there not enough amorous women in ancient and modern times whom our poets may study to their hearts' content? Why should they lay violent hands on these two warrior women, long sacred in the imagination of many nations as

« IndietroContinua »