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about Stephen Phillips, or Wendell
Phillips, or Philip of Macedon. If you It was useless to contend against want something up-to-date, and that Tomlinson, and our search for literary tests your intelligence, you must take novelties went on. But after a while up the last thing of Sidney Philip. It the club began to feel the retarding is n't written for the kindergarten class. force of the law of diminishing returns. Sidney Philip does n't waste words. There came a faint suspicion that poets His style has no adipose deposit or who took pains not to imitate their connective tissue. He's an artist in predecessors might yet imitate one an- words and does n't waste his material. other. People who are living in the He's a post-futurist as much as any same generation, and writing for the thing. He Alings his nouns and verbs at same public, cannot escape a certain you, and then it's “Catch as catch taint of sameness.
can.” The words mean something to When my turn came to present a new Sidney Philip. If they don't mean any candidate for the Hall of Fame I racked thing to you he does n't care. He's not my brain in vain to find some one suf- writing for Main Street. He can take ficiently different to satisfy the exigent the dictionary just as it stands, and taste of our little society.
make poetry out of it. It's great stuff As a refuge from my anxieties I took for those who can appreciate it. Yet I up a well-preserved copy of Sir Philip suppose there are not a dozen persons Sidney's Countess of Pembroke's Arca- in this part of the country who know dia. I had ventured a number of times who Sidney Philip is. That's what into the Arcadia, but had always lost comes of living in a country given over my way in the labyrinth. But this time to common schools, and the Volstead I skipped the prose and picked out Sir Act. It is n't conducive to art. Let me Philip's curious experiments in verse. read you a bit from Sidney Philip's last
With wits sharpened by the tuition of volume, and see what you can make Tomlinson, I realized that here was of it. something that would delight our club by its daring modernity. The chances
'Virtue, beauty and speech did strike, wound,
charm were that they would never look into
My heart, eyes, ears, with wonder, love, delight the Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia. First, second, last did bind, enforce, and arm It would be against their principles. His works, shows, suits, with wit, grace and vows. So I made a few extracts from the
Thus honor, liking, trust, much far and deep, less regular poems of Sir Philip Sidney
Held pierced possessed my judgment, sense and and presented them to the club for consideration.
Till wrong, contempt, deceit did grow, steal, *You know Sidney Philip, of course? creep Some of the members looked eagerly
Bands, favor faith, to break, defile and kill,
Then grief, unkindness, proof, took, kindled, anxious, as much as to say that they taught, knew him quite well but had forgotten Well grounded, noble, due, spite, rage, disdain, his name. Tomlinson was inclined to But Ah; alas; (in vain) my mind, sight, thought be scornful. 'Phillips'? he said. 'He's
Doth him, his face, his words, leave, shun, refrain
For no thing, time, place can lose, quench, ease, of the past generation. He edited the
Mine own, embraced, sought, knot, fire, disease. Poetry Review away back in 1910. He was writing at the beginning of the ‘Now poetry like that is not milk for century. His work is old stuff.' babes. It is strong meat for strong
'Nonsense,' I said. “I'm not talking men. You must masticate it. Take the
words, one by one, and let each make Sidney Philip. He does n't care a rap its individual impression on your for the commonplace middle classes. sensitized imagination. Then turn your For him it's either the high planets or mind into a motion-picture machine, the worm, the climbing mouse, or the and run the film through rapidly. Heavenly Tiger. He does n't care which Then see what you've got. When you it is, so that it's the real thing. This is do it several times, you'll begin to ap- an age of extremes, and Sidney Philip is preciate Sidney Philip. He tells us how its prophet. It is the age of the soaring that poem of his came to be written airman or the crushed strap-hanger in in this elusive style. It is supposed to the subway car. be written and sung by a young lady Sometimes Sidney Philip uses the who was very temperamental. “The familiar forms of versification just to verses," says Sidney Philip in his quaint show his mastery of the medium, but way, “were with some art curiously even then he manifests the post-war written to enwrap her secret and res- mood of rebellion against things as they olute woes.” By confining herself to a are, and even against things as they list of disconnected nouns she was able ought to be. He has all the charming to sing her secret and keep it too. The perversity of untrammeled genius. general public could not guess what it Nothing that he can think of satisfies was all about, but to her lover the de- him. He insists on being consciously tached substantives were exquisitely pathological. meaningful. “The quintessence of each
'Like those sick folks, in whom strange humors word distilled down into his inmost
Can taste no sweets, the sour only please, “That's a good suggestion for study,' So to my mind while passions daily grow, said Tomlinson. 'Let's take the words
Joys strangers seem, I cannot bide their show,
Nor brook all else but well acquainted woe. as they come and do some distilling.
Bitter griefs taste best, pain is my ease, It's time for us to get results.'
Sick to the death, still loving my disease. 'But don't think,' I said, 'that all his work is like that. He's as much at
‘Could any thing express more home in prose as in poetry. But when
penetratingly the mood of our presenthe does write poetry, he is careful
‘But when Sidney Philip writes as an not to say anything in an obvious manner. He wants to keep you guess
imagist, he never allows his emotion to
intrude. Each image is clear cut and ing. He keeps you on the jump. Thus apropos of nothing in particular he
unrelated. There are no entangling al
liances with moral ideas. It's pure art. says,
Take this. ‘Ah; that I do not conceive, to the Heaven where a mouse climbs.
'O sweet woods the delight of solitariness; Then may I hope to achieve grace of a O how well do I like your solitariness; Heavenly Tiger.
Yet dear soil, if a soul closed in a mansion
As sweet as violets, fair as a lily is, ‘The more you repeat those lines,
Straight as a cedar, a voice strains the canary the more of a mystery they become. birds Then follows swiftly, —
Whose shade doth safely hold, danger avoideth
her. 'O sweet, on a wretch wilt thou be revenged, Shall such high planets tend to the loss of 'What exquisite art! The first two
lines strike that note of childish in'These sudden contrasts between the nocence which our best poets use as a high and the low are characteristic of foil to their perfect sophistication.
'O sweet woods the delight of solitariness; There's something of the Wild West in O how well do I like your solitariness.
that young poet. He's the kind that 'It's just the kind of poetry a child would shoot up the town. of eleven would write. It's a class by
“Yes,” I said, “and you'd like his itself. It puts you in the right frame of titles. There's nothing commonplace mind for what is to follow. Then the or obvious about them. They don't images come thick and fast, the dear give you a hint as to what he is writing soil, and the mansion, the violet, and he mansion, the violet, and
about.“The Quiddity”;“Superlinary”; the lily.
“Charms and Knots.” He ties up his "Then comes a line that gives you words in a knot, and then lets you untie pause, and tests the quality of your
the knot if you can.' imagination.
"That's good,' said Tomlinson. 'Let's
begin with the “Quiddity," and see ""Straight as a cedar, a voice strains the what we can make of it.' canary birds."
'I think we had better leave that for «« Straight as a cedar” is clear the next time, I said. Quiddities will enough. Anyone could think of that. keep. But what do you make of “a voice George Herbert's brother, Lord strains the canary birds”? You were n't Herbert of Cherbury, gave much pleasexpecting that? Sidney Philip does n't ure as a daring innovator. explain. There's something exquisitely ‘Here is a little thing of a new man cryptic in the phrasing. There is a named Cherbury, which I think you faint suggestion of Chinese influence. will like. It begins: — I should like to try it on a Mandarin
‘Within an open sea of gold, and get his reaction.'
A bark of ivory one day I saw 'It sounds good to me,' said Tomlin- Which striking with its oars did seem to draw son. “It reminds me of that line of Toward a fair coast.' T. S. Eliot, we had such a time over.'
“That sounds significant,' said Tom'His soul stretched tight across the skies. linson. 'You remember that it took us a
“Yes; but significant of what?'
“Why it's significant of what it's whole evening to work that out. Finding that Sir Philip Sidney under
about. By the way, what's the title of
it?' a slight disguise could satisfy the demands of the club for ultra modernism,
“The poem is entitled, “A vision I ventured further into the fashionable
of a lady combing her hair." literature of the Elizabethan and Jaco
“Oh, I get it. The curled sea of gold
is her hair; the bark of ivory is her bean periods. I introduced George Herbert by read
comb, and the oars, are the teeth of the ing the opening lines of Artillerie.
comb. That's quite an idea.' ‘As I one evening sat before my cell, Methought a starre did shoot into my lap, I rose and shook my clothes, as knowing well That from small fires comes oft no small mishap.'
By keeping in the byways of English
literature, I think I could have come “That's new to me,' said Tomlinson, down to the present day, and provided 'a star shooting into your lap while you novelties for the club without awakenare sitting before your cell, so that you ing suspicion, but after a while Tomlinhave to get up and shake your clothes. son became critical. It is just possible
that he became a little jealous, and things with the detached eye of an feared that I was setting a pace that he artist. He does n't mind when the could n't keep up with. .
cobbler breaks up the furniture — it One day he said, “Your selection of is n't Alf's furniture. It's hard on new authors of the imagist and sym Sally, but then she does n't come into bolist school is very stimulating, but the picture except incidentally. I'm afraid the club is getting a little 'Just see how naturally the cobbler soft. We have n't had enough rough expresses himself. “I coom like a bull stuff lately. There must be some new loose at a fair,” he says. He just lets writers in Oklahoma that you missed. himself go. He's a genuine caveman. We'd like something large and virile,
'Once of a frosty night I slither'd an' hurted my and under-worldly, something with the
huck lid off.'
An' I coomed neck-an'-crop soometimes slaäpe Instigated by his earnestness, I down i' the squad an the muck: thought I would make a sudden jump into Tennyson, and see what happened.
“Now a conventional poet with a Every one in the club despised Tenny
standardized mind would have deson, who was a synonym for sweetness
scribed the battle as a fist fight; someand all the other childish things we had
thing rather fine and Dempsey-like. put away. I should not have ventured
But Tenterton is a realist and he knew on ‘May Day,' or 'Locksley Hall.'
that the tailor would n't fight according *Come into the Garden, Maud' would LComhanto hobe Garden, Meist
would to the rules of the ring. have been the signal for a riot. But there was a Darkest Tennyson 'He scrawmed an' scratted my faëce like a cat,
and it maäde 'er so mad which might be unknown to Tomlinson.
That Sally she turned a tongue-banger and So I said, 'Have you ever come across
raäted me, “Sottin thy braäins The Northern Cobbler by Alf Tenterton? Guzzlin' an's oakin' an' smoakin' an' hawmin' If you are looking for some one who is about i' the laänes, realistic Alf's the boy. He's a man's
Soa sow-droonk that tha doesn't touch thy'at to man. He gives you poetry with a kick.
the Squire.” He does n't care a rap for politeness or “Then follows a strong line: prettiness. He does n't aim to please. He aims to shock, and he hits the bull's 'An' I loook'd cock-eyed at my noase an' I seed
I'm a-gittin' o' fire. eye every time.
*How Tennyson would gasp if he ‘You see there the conscience of the could see how the new generation faces literary craftsman. There's no squeamlife. You might say it outfaces life. ishness. If there was anything to
“The hero of the poem is a regular old smash the cobbler smashed it. If there soak. He gets drunk every night, and was anything to kick he kicked it. kicks his wife and breaks the furniture, Tenterton's business was to set it all and all that sort of thing. But Tenter. down just as it occurred. The poem is ton does n't lay it up against him. He authentic. makes you see all the while that the 'As for Sally, we see her just as she cobbler is n't a bad fellow at heart. It's was, sloppy in her draggle-tailed gown. just his way of working off his inferiority complexes. It's a heap better "An' the babby's faäce wurn't washed an' the
'ole 'ouse hupside down. than having a lot of Puritanical suppressions and taboos. Tenterton is up ‘Of course the cobbler felt bad after on psychology, and then he looks at his spree:
which me, Havebbler b
‘Like a graät num-cumpus I blubbered away o' in paradoxes which he clothes in lanthe bed,
guage so demure that the undiscerning Weant niver do it naw moor, and Sally loookt up an' she said,
public accepts them as truisms. But “... thou 'art laike the rest o’the men beneath the demureness there is a Thou 'll goa sniffin' about the tap till thou does sardonic spirit that laughs bitterly it ageën.
and vanishes. There is a subtle irony Theer 's thy hennemy, man, an' I knaws it and
which masquerades as commonplace. knaws thee sa well That if thou seeas'im an'smells 'im tha 'll follow The humor is so dry, that it seems to him slick into hell." :
belong to the permanently arid belt.
Then there are sudden sublimities for “That's a strong line,' said Tomlin- those who like such things. It's like son. ““Slick into hell!” Tenterton is a being in an aeroplane. One minute you little too rough for the Atlantic Monthly are running along the ground, and then crowd, but he'll be heard from. He suddenly you are off into the sky. strikes out from the shoulder. You 'Let me read you these lines on seacan't keep that kind of fellow down.' weed:
Then the talk fell naturally into selfcongratulations over our freedom from "The sea-wort floating on the waves, or rolled up
high along the shore, the old Tennysonian conventions.
Ye counted useless and vile, heaping on it names
of contempt; Yet it hath triumphed gloriously, and man has
been humbled in his ignorance. I think I should have established my
For health is in the freshness of its savor, and it
cumbereth the beach with its wealth position as a fearless explorer of the wild
Comforting the tossings of pain with its violetfrontier of modern literature if it had tinctured essence, not been for an unlucky association of And by its humbler ashes enriching the proud. ideas. While Tennyson was delighting the cultured Victorian public, Martin
“There's what I call an intriguing Farquhar Tupper was enjoying the
kind of poetry. Some of it you can rewards of the best seller. The mem
understand. You have seen the seabers of the club were accustomed to
weed heaped up on the beach, and you use his name as a term of reproach, but
may have sufficient agricultural knowlit was not likely that they had looked
edge to be aware that its ashes have into the Proverbial Philosophy.
value as a fertilizer, or as the writer As there was a ruder Tennyson who cleverly puts it, alluding to the Cap would delight the admirer of the
of the Cod farmer, “by its humbler ashes encaveman in literature, why should riching the proud." You Visualize the there not be an esoteric Tupper to re
re humble seaweed, and the proud farmer. ward the lover of the wilfully obscure?
‘But what do you make of the I introduced a new author who should previous liner be nameless. 'He is just trying out his
*Comforting the tossings of pain with its violetinstrument, but he shows promise. He tinctured essence.' is a rebel not only against all literary traditions, but also against all previous I read the line slowly, watching the and all contemporary rebels. He scorns reaction of the club members. ordinary verse patterns, yet he uses “This line,' I said, 'is intriguing. We them as it suits his purpose. He takes all recognize its beauty. “Violetover the whole field of knowledge by tinctured essence,”contrasts poignantly right of eminent domain. He delights with “the tossings of pain."