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FRöDING, CLASSIC AND FUTURIST
Gustaf Fröding—Selected Poems, translated from the Swedish, with an Introduction by Charles Wharton Stork. Macmillan Co. It is the tragic fate of great poets of a small nation, to remain strangers to the world outside their own country. On the other hand this tends to strengthen the intimate bond beween the poet, writing in a little known language, and his reader, whose feeling of pride in the ownership of treasures open only to him, is however mingled with regret that these can. not be widely appraised at their true worth. - To a greater extent perhaps than with any other Swedish poet of rank, this is the case of Gustaf Fröding. A great universal genius, a profound thinker and philosopher, he has chosen for the expression of his personality a form which has immeasurably enriched the Swedish language in poetic beauty; but to the world at large no interpretation, worthy of the indescribable charm of his original art, has as ye been given. Mr. Charles Wharton Stork's effort to translate into English some of his more popular poems, may be the result of very good intentions and a sincere appreciation of the poet,” but it does not give us Gustaf Fröding. Any one of Robert Burns' simple little masterpieces will better serve to give an idea of the singing rhythmic perfection in his youthful songs. These are written in the dialect of his native prov
ince, Wärmland, wheh has been the birthplace of so many of Sweden's most famous writers, and holds a place in the hearts of the people like that of Normandie with the French. The close inter-action between Fröding's tragic life and his poetry becomes more manifest as his creative development broadens. Gloomy brooding, foreboding the threatening spectre of insanity, to which he at last wholly succumbed, permeates the work of his later years. It seems a pity, and shows lack of balanced judgment, that Mr. Stork, among several comparatively harmless translations, should have tried his hand at the magnificent poem A Dream of the Orient. With such a task a born poet would be put to a crucial test. Fröding always handles the subject of sex-relation with absolute and open honesty, but in none of his other poems is physical love pictured in such courageous defiance of all old hide-and-seek traditions. So humanly appealing is the natural simplicity and grandeur of the poem's conception that its frankness does not even astound. There is more promise of an adequate translator in Professor Axel Johan Upvall, of Clark College, who tried his hand at Fröding in the Poetry Journal of February, 1916. It may sound contradictory to assert that Fröding, who died in 1911, and who already in his life-time was accepted as a classic, is an exceedingly modern poet. And yet each re-reading of his works brings to me the impression that I am receiving something fresh and new. He played with rhyme and meter, with rhythm and style, stamped new words, neglected ancient and modern laws in poetry, but his form of expression is that of the masters. Svea Bernhard
The Little Review, with Ezra Pound as its spokesman, has come to the conclusion that America can no longer conduct its intellectual affairs on a monolingual basis. It proposes to print criticism of current French literature as well as English, and for a starter devotes its February number to an anthology of modern—that is, post-Gautier— French poetry.
It isn't often that one can get such an anthology at the price of a magazine, nor for that matter at any price, since the anthology fever has not hit the French publishers quite as it has the American. And Mr. Pound's selection is a little more than an anthology. In compiling it, he found that the poets and heirs who would have to be consulted for permission to reprint, were so scattered by the war that he would save time by embedding the anthology in an article. The result is a running commentary, now facetious, now important, always contradictory; as if to give the reader a number of opinions to choose from, but not allowing him to leave any poem without one.
The poems themselves make a substantial enough showing to tempt the reader into generalizations on the difference between modern poets here and in France. The explorations of the French poets seem less geographical, less external, more speculative. Au Cabaret Vert, of Rimbaud, to be sure has local color—
Depuis huit jours, j'avais déchiré mes bottines
but even so, the more characteristic explorations are found in such a poem as his Chercheuses de Poux, a very daring, very beautiful adventure into child psychology, without the sentimentalization that usually accompanies any thought about children over here; or in La Rapsode Foraine of Corbière, which explores folk religion. In general it seems as if poetry in French and English, in spite of the gradual rapprochement of the three nations since Napoleon, were never farther apart than now. With Byron and Alfred de Musset they were still within shouting distance, and so too, though by direct importation, with Swinburne and Gautier. But here are poems which would never tempt the translator. However, as Mr. Pound says, he has intentionally chosen the things that would sound freshest to us, omitting the Parnassians for instance, of whom he says we have plenty ourselves, leaving Gautier, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Verlaine, Samain, Heredia, to be read in volumes. He includes Laforgue, Corbière, Rimbaud, de Gourmont, de Régnier, Verhaeren, Tailhade, Jammes, Moréas, Spire, Vildrac, Romains —a characteristically random list. For though he has read other poets and would like very much their friendship the next time he goes to Paris, he insists that there are bad poets in French as well as in English. S. W.
Dear Editor: At last a guilty conscience brings me to my metaphorical knees. I have a confession to make.
Several years ago, when I went West, about the time of the publication of my first little book, I was happy in the thought that you had spoken a kindly word or two about it. But about that time, owing to the fact that I was living through many personal sorrows and anxieties, I ceased to write well and began to write very badly. I didn't always know it. Worse, I sent the stuff to editors. Still worse, I sent it to you. You wisely returned it. I kept on—that was worst of all. After a while you probably thought, when you did think about me, that I would never again write anything worth printing. But later, partly as the result of a wonderful trip in Oregon with my husband, which was a much needed rest and change, I began to write again, in a new vein, poems that very few people would have recognized as mine. I had had a new experience and it made new poems for me, a series of them. I wanted to send them to you and have you read them without any of the psychology of my several failures mixed into the consideration of them. So, for my own soul's sake, and not from any desire to play tricks on you, I sold you four under a pen name. The secret is likely to leak out soon, so I want you to hear from me, at once, that I am Harley Graves! Marguerite Wilkinson