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Tangled Trees

Flow over the low hill,
Curl round
The bases of the mountain, fill
Their crevices, and stain
Their ridges green.

But the poet kept “too much mortality”:

They drove me forth. The angry trees
Roared till I tumbled lean and lewd
Out of that Paradise. The forest rose
To scourge my wavering conscience, and pursued.

But, though driven forth, he-we–cannot escape them:

How beautifully they grow,
Crowding the brink of silence everywhere !

Yet they leave their proper place—

They follow us and haunt us. We must build
Houses of wood—

and fill them with “fragments of the forest”—chairs, tables, doors, etc. Others we put to sleep under railroad tracks.

And some, some trees, before they die,
Carved and moulded small
Suddenly begin—
Oh, what a wild and windy woodland call
Out of the lips of the violin!

Such is the argument of this curiously subtle poem. Original it is, beyond question, and sometimes beautiful; but Mr. Monro's forest would be too uncanny, too sophisticated, for John Muir.

By way of moral we have a cryptic couplet at the end:

And you, be certain that you keep
Some memory of trees for sleep.

The book is a beautiful limited edition, all done by hand at the Temple Sheen Press. It has decorative wood-cuts— at least they look like old wood-cuts—by James Guthrie,

the designs a clever cross between Blake and Morris. Why

do they do these things so much better in England? H. M.


The Rocky Road to Dublin, by James Stephens. Macmillan Co. To sit down to review James Stephens is much like being asked to furnish a recipe for making star-dust, or to analyze the shivering beauty of the dawn. His work has the peculiarly Celtic quality of existing in space, completely divorced from the world as we know it. His beauty comes to us faintly, filtered through the simple words of every-day speech, which yet, as he writes them, are no longer the words we know, but subtle, delicate, shimmering things, full of gray undertones, swift flashes of silver humor and wisdom from some other world. To the many who love his work it is something beyond reason and analysis, something to be accepted joyfully, as wild flowers and meadow jarks are accepted, and loved as instinctively. This for instance, called The Secret:

I was frightened, for a wind
Crept along the grass to say

Something that was in my mind

Something that I did not know
Could be found out by the wind,

I had buried it so low
In my mind.

Stephens' Road to Dublin

Or this delectable bit, The Fur Coat:

I walked out in my Coat of Pride,
I looked about on every side,
And said the mountains should not be
Just where they were, and that the sea
Was badly placed, and that the beech
Should be an oak—and then from each
I turned in dignity as if
They were not there: I sniffed a sniff
And climbed upon my sunny shelf,
And sneezed a while, and scratched myself.

The Rocky Road to Dublin, however, in spite of its beauty, goes to prove definitely what Songs from the Clay had suggested, that Mr. Stephens is more of a poet in his prose than in his verse. In the forever inimitable Crock of Gold, one of the most fascinating books in English, and in The Demigods, although writing in prose, he is the ideal poet, tender, mystical, witty—and quite himself. In his poetry he has not yet quite found that self. He remains a little uncertain. And why, oh why, has he altered the haunting little poem Hawks, published long ago in PoETRY, to the present insufficient version?

Yet, as there can be only one Synge, so there can only be one James Stephens. Let us sing a little chant to the leprecauns in his honor! E. T.


Turns and Movies and Other Tales in Verse, by Conrad Aiken. The New Poetry Series. Houghton Mifflin Co. If Masefield and W. W. Gibson, Frost and Masters— the whole company of story-tellers in verse today—had never written, there is small doubt that Turns and Movies would prove Conrad Aiken an authentic poet. But as it is, their unquiet ghosts stalk behind his work, Gibson most prominent in this volume, Masefield in Earth Triumphant. This is the more unfortunate because Mr. Aiken has invention, vividness, compression and at times a pleasing lyric quality. His situations are real situations, swiftly told, his technique easy and effective. It is hard to say just where the authenticity seeps out, yet the total effect is that of a clever craftsman, working well in the medium of his day, yet never quite reaching to the heights. The poems in this book are unusually even in quality, and it is difficult to choose between them. Perhaps Discordants, Boardman and Coffin and one numbered simply XIII are the most successful. They are too long to quote, but the following, Duval's Birds, is typical of the volume:

The parrot, screeching, flew out into the darkness,
Circled three times above the upturned faces
With a great whir of brilliant outspread wings,
And then returned to stagger on her finger.
She bowed and smiled, eliciting applause . . .
The property man hated her dirty birds.
But it had taken years—yes, years—to train them
To shoulder flags, strike bells by tweaking strings,
Or climb sedately little flights of stairs.
When they were stubborn, she tapped them with a wand,
And her eyes glittered a little under the eyebrows.
The red one flapped and flapped on a swinging wire;
The little white ones winked round yellow eyes.


Other Books of Verse

Songs of Armageddon and Other Poems, by George Sylvester Viereck. Mitchell Kennerley. This volume is typical of the later Viereck, full of wind and words, and the lure of scented flesh. That the war poems should be propaganda, not poetry, is pardonable. Better poets than he have lost their vision of art in the hot breath of war. But that he who had in his youth one of the purest lyric gifts of our day, should come before he is forty to the feeble puerilities of the love poems in this volume, is indeed pitiful. In the grave of the flesh Mr. Viereck has buried his talent. For the rest a merciful silence is best. E. T.


The Poets' Translation Series I-VI. The Egoist, London. The translators of this series have an opportunity which most of them have neglected. H. D. is the exception. Gilbert Murray has struck at Greek scholarship and done no good to English verse. Euripides for the working-man, at a shilling the play, in the style of fifty years ago—an ideal of socialism and popular education—Greek without tears. The only result can be still greater neglect of Greek in our schools. Why study Greek when an adequate translation can always be had, cheap and easy scholarship for the busy man? There are translations for the scholar—the splendid Oxford Aristotle—but these do not pretend to be literature. And what is scholarship is an introduction and commentary for the original, what is literature is enrichment of

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