Critical Essays By Amy Lowell Essay Research

Critical Essays By Amy Lowell Essay, Research Paper WHY WE SHOULD READ POETRY WHY should one read Poetry? That seems to me a good deal like asking: Why should one eat? One eats because one has to, to support life, but every time

Critical Essays By Amy Lowell Essay, Research Paper


WHY should one read Poetry? That seems to me a good deal like

asking: Why should one eat? One eats because one has to, to support life, but every time

one sits down to dinner one does not say, ‘I must eat this meal so that I may not

die.’ On the contrary, we eat because we are hungry, and so eating appears to us as a

pleasant and desirable thing to do.

The necessity for poetry is one of the most fundamental traits of the human race. But

naturally we do not take that into account, any more than we take into account that

dinner, and the next day again, dinner, is the condition of our remaining alive. Without

poetry the soul and heart of man starves and dies. The only difference between them is

that all men know, if they turn their minds to it, that without food they would die, and

comparatively few people know that without poetry they would die.

When trying to explain anything, I usually find that the Bible, that great collection

of magnificent and varied poetry, has said it before in the best possible way. Now the

Bible says that ‘man shall not live by bread alone.’ Which, in modern words, means–cannot

live on the purely material things. It is true, he cannot, and he never does. If he did,

every bookshop would shut, every theatre would close its doors, every florist and picture

dealer would go out of business, even the baseball grounds would close. For what is

baseball but a superb epic of man’s swiftness and sureness, and his putting forth the

utmost of the sobriety and vigour that is in him in an ecstasy of vitality and movement?

And the men who watch are carried away by this ecstasy, out of themselves and the routine

of their daily lives, into a world romantic with physical force. But you object that they

don’t think of it in this way. Of course they don’t; if they did they would be poets, and

most men are not poets. But this is really what stirs them, for without it, throwing a

little ball about a field, and trying to hit it with a stick, isn’t really very

interesting. A baseball game is a sort of moving picture of what Homer wrote in his Iliad.

I do not believe there is a boy in America who would not like Butcher and Lang’s

translation of the Odyssey, if no one had ever told him it was a schoolbook.

That is what poetry really is. It is the height and quintessence of emotion, of every

sort of emotion. But it is always somebody feeling something at white heat, and it is as

vital as the description of a battle would be, told by a soldier who had been in it.

I do not wish to be misunderstood. I do not mean that every book, or every play,

contains this true poetry. Many, most, alas! are poor imitations; some are merely sordid

and vulgar. But books and plays exist because man is groping for a life beyond himself,

for a beauty he needs, and is seeking to find. And the books and plays which live are

those which satisfy this need.

Somebody once said to me that to make goodness dull was a great crime. In poetry, those

men who have written without original and vital feeling, without a flaming imagination,

have much to answer for. It is owing to them that poetry has come to mean a stupid and

insipid sort of stuff, quite remote from people’s lives, fit only for sentimental youth

and nodding old age. That sort of poetry is what is technically called ‘derivative,’ which

means that the author copies some one else’s emotion often some one else’s words, and

commonplace verses are written about flowers, and moonlight, and love, and death, by

people who would never be moved by any of these things if sincere poets had not been

writing about them from the beginning of the world. People who like to hear the things

they are used to repeated say, I That is beautiful poetry’; simple, straightforward people

say, ‘Perhaps it is. But I don’t care for poetry.’ But once in a while there comes along a

man with knowledge and courage enough to say, ‘That is not poetry at all, but insincere


Again I do not mean that all poetry can be enjoyed by everybody. People have different

tastes and different training. A man at forty seldom cares for the books which delighted

him as a boy. People stop developing at all ages. Some men never mature beyond their

teens; others go on growing and changing until old age. Because B likes a book is no

reason why A should. And we are the inheritors of so splendid a literature that there are

plenty of books for everybody, Many people enjoy Kipling’s poems who would be confused by

Keats; others delight in Burns who would be utterly without sympathy for Blake. The people

who like Tennyson do not, as a rule, care much about Walt Whitman, and the admirers of Poe

and Coleridge may find Wordsworth unattractive, and again his disciples might feel

antagonized by Rossetti and Swinburne. It does not matter, so long as one finds one’s own

sustenance. Only, the happy men who can enjoy them all are the richest. The true test of

poetry is sincerity and vitality. It is not rhyme, or metre, or subject. It is nothing in

the world but the soul of man as it really is. Carlyle’s ‘French Revolution’ is a great

epic poem; so are Trevelyan’s three volumes on ‘Garibaldi and the Italian War of

Independence.’ That they are written in prose has nothing to do with the matter. That most

poems are written rhythmically, and that rhythm has come to be the great technical fact of

poetry, was, primarily, because men under stress of emotion tend to talk in a rhythmed

speech. Read Lincoln’s ‘Address at Gettysburg’ and ‘Second Inaugural,’ and you will see.

Nothing is more foolish than to say that only such and such forms are proper to poetry.

Every form is proper to poetry, so long as it is the sincere expression of a man’s

thought. That insincere men try bizarre forms of verse to gain a personal notoriety is

true, but it seems not very difficult to distinguish them from the real artists. And so

long as men feel, and think, and have the need of expressing themselves, so long will

their modes of expression change. For expression tends to become hackneyed and

devitalized, and new methods must be found for keeping the sense of palpitant vigour.

There are signs that we are living at the beginning of a great poetic renaissance. Only

three weeks ago the ‘New York Times’ printed some remarks of Mr. Brett, the head of The

Macmillan Company, in which he said that poetry was pushing itself into the best-seller

class. And the other day a London publisher, Mr. Heinemann, announced that he should not

publish so many novels, as they were a drug on the market. England has several magazines

devoted exclusively to poetry and poetic drama. Masefield is paid enormous sums for his

work, and a little book entitled ‘The Georgian Book of Poetry,’ containing the work of

some of the younger men, which has been out barely two years, is already in its ninth

edition. Here, in America, we have ‘The Poetry Journal,’ published in Boston, and

‘Poetry,’ published in Chicago. England counts among her poets W. B. Yeats, Robert

Bridges, John Masefield, Wilfred Wilson Gibson, D. H. Lawrence, F. L. Flint, James

Stevens, Rudyard Kipling, and, although on a somewhat more popular level, Alfred Noyes.

England also boasts, as partly her own, the Bengal poet, Rabindranath Tagore, who has just

been awarded the Nobel Prize, and Ezra Pound, who, although an American by birth and

happily therefore ours to claim, lives in London. In America we have Josephine Preston

Peabody, Bliss Carman, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Anna Hempstead Branch, Hermann Hagedorn,

Grace Fallow Norton, Fanny Stearns Davis, and Nicholas Vachel Lindsay. These lists

represent poets with many differing thoughts and modes of thought, but they point to the

great vitality of poetry at the moment.

Have I answered the question? I think I have. We should read poetry because only in

that way can we know man in all his moods — in the most beautiful thoughts of his heart,

in his farthest reaches of imagination, in the tenderness of his love, in the nakedness

and awe of his soul confronted with the terror and wonder of the Universe.

Poetry and history are the textbooks to the heart of man, and poetry is at once the

most intimate and the most enduring.

from Amy Lowell, Poetry and Poets: Essays (New York: Houghton Mifflin

Company, 1930) 3-9. Previously published in Boston American, May 3, 1914.


PERHAPS there never was a time when education received so much general attention as it

does today. The world is deluged with books, pamphlets, and reviews on the subject, new

systems are continually jostling the old out of place, new methods are constantly being

applied, the very end and aim of education itself seems to change from time to time.

That the object of education should be to fit the child for life is such a trite and

well-worn saying that people smile at its commonplaceness even while they agree with its

obvious common sense. But the many ways of fitting the child, and the very various and

diverse lives that have to be fitted for, are so perplexing that it is small wonder that

curriculums multiply and still, multiply their subjects in order to keep up with the

complexity of modern existence.

More and more of late years has the old education by means of the humanities been

broken down, and instead of it we see substituted a sort of vocational training. Children

are now taught to do, where, in the older systems, they were taught to think. It is as if

we had learnt to distrust what we cannot see, to demand an immediate tangible result for

the outlay of preparation. This is perhaps largely due to our national temper. We are

always in a hurry. But does this constant haste produce the results desired? ‘Evolution,

not revolution, is the order of development,’ says Mr. Hughes, in his book on comparative

education, and education is a process requiring much time. Nature cannot be hurried; there

is no such thing as cramming possible to her methods. A congested curriculum results in

the proper assimilation of no one subject, and what can we think of a primary school,

boasting only one teacher, in which children were taught seventeen subjects, with fifteen

minutes given to each subject, as was the case some years ago in a school which came under

my observation.

No educator is so insensate as to approve of such a method, and it is just in the hope

of simplifying education that this idea of dropping the humanities has been evolved. But,

in considering the means as the end, to what are we led? What is the result of an

over-insistence upon fact, and an under-emphasis upon the development of faculties? It is

a result little realized for the most part; one which may fit in with the views of the

more extreme socialists, perhaps, but hardly in accord with those rights of the individual

which have always been America’s brightest ideal. For it is precisely the humanities which

develop individuality. A knowledge of facts does not make us men; it is the active use of

brains which does that. Whatever tends to make the brain supple and self-reliant is a

direct help to personality.

Perhaps the two qualities which more than any others go to the making of a strong

personality are character and imagination. Character means courage, and there is a great

difference between the collective courage of a mass of people all thinking the same way

and the courage of a man who cares not at all for public opinion but follows his own

chosen path unswervingly. Our national ideal as to the moral attitude is high; what the

people understand, and what they all agree about, that they will do; but it is not

so easy to find men who are willing to think and act at variance with the opinions of

their neighbours. We see this trait constantly in those people who live beyond their

Incomes; who must have this and that because their friends have it. This weakness gnaws at

the foundation of our national existence like an insidious disease. For, with all our talk

of individualism, we are among the least individual of nations. The era of machine-made

articles has swept over the land, and nowhere is its product more deteriorating than in

the machine-made types which our schools turn out.

I do not wish to be misunderstood; I do not mean that these types are poor or bad types

– on the contrary, machines work with a wonderful precision -but these types are ran in a

mould, or rather several moulds. The result is a high state of mediocrity. But there is a

danger here which we do not quite foresee. Machines are controlled by the men who make and

work them. Upon the few with the brains to create and guide, the destinies of the others

therefore depend. There has never been such a machine-made people as the Germans; and we

can see clearly to-day, as we could not some years ago, what happens to such a people when

the guiding powers are unscrupulous and wrought upon by an overweening ambition.

A democracy can only succeed through an enlightened proletariat. If character and

imagination are the essentials to a strong personality, one capable of directing itself

and not at the mercy of demagogues and fanatics, then we should leave no stones unturned

to gain this end. I think I make no unwise statement when I say that it is only in those

minds possessing but a modicum of imagination that the value of the humanities as an

educational factor is denied.

It is clearly not my purpose, in this paper, to speak of character building,

neither have I space to go into all the ways in which the faculty of imagination might be

stimulated, but there is one, and I think the most important one, the value of which is

only imperfectly understood. I mean literature, and more especially poetry, and more

especially still, contemporary poetry.

We all agree that the aim of education is to fit the child for life. But the

differences of opinion as to how that fitting is to be done are almost as many as there

are men to hold them. Again, we all agree as to the necessity of building up a strong

character, but here again we are at variance as to how this is to be done. Still, upon

these points the world is in accord; the point on which it differs radically is precisely

that of imagination. Fully a of our pedagogues cannot see that imagination is the root of

all civilization. Like love, it may very fairly be said to ‘make the world go round.’

But as it works out of sight, it is given very little credit for what it performs.

Pedagogy is being treated as a science, which would seem a start in the right

direction, were it not that true science must be exact, mathematically so, and capable of

being proved backwards. The slightest mistake in facts or reasoning throws the result

hopelessly out. Is it possible that, with all our scientific pretensions, we have

overlooked a primary link in a logical chain? Is it possible that that link is the

importance of the subconscious? Can it be said that the very lack of imagination in the

pedagogic mind is responsible for this fatal error? But let us leap to no conclusions.

Even if we think we see an end, let us not postulate upon it until we have reached it,

step by step, and have proved its existence.

Character is no new thing in the world, neither is imagination, nor, indeed, education.

Our ancestors were as much interested in these things as we are. Like us, they talked of

character and education, and, like us, they did not talk of imagination. And yet I think

it can easily be proved that their methods were more favourable to its development than

our own.

Let us forget theories for the moment and take our stand upon an unassailable truism,

namely that the object of education is to educate. Now, once more, forgetting the dusty

cobwebs of twentieth-century discussion, let us consider the old dictionary definition of

‘to educate,’ which is ‘to bring forth and form the natural faculties.’ To bring forth and

form the natural faculties, to bring out the best that the child has in him so that no

talent nor power shall be left latent, and then so to train and cultivate these talents

and powers that the child shall obtain perfect control over them, and make them of the

fullest use.

Nothing is said here about fitting the child for life. Our ancestors considered that so

obvious a fact as to need no stating, and this very reticence proves an imaginative

attitude which we seem to have lost to-day.

It might be said quite truthfully that no one was ever taught anything; that one

learned, but was not taught; that what the mind was ready for the mind received, that what

the mind was not ready for fell away and was forgotten. Therefore the true end of

education as such must be to train the mind. Another truism, you will say. Granted but how

is this same training to be done?

The last generation believed in the old classical education; they had forgotten why in

many cases, but the prejudice remained that Greek and Latin were the best training. The

reason was a perfectly valid one: Greek and Latin were hard to learn and needed brain

application, also they could not be learnt by rote; the boy had to use his mind and his

imagination, and, being accustomed to using his mind and imagination in his studies, he

brought them to bear on other things as well.

We have not dropped the old classical education entirely, but we have added many other

things to it, and in so doing have diminished the amount of time and thought given to it,

and consequently the amount of benefit to be derived from it. Of the things which we have

added, some are really good, others appear so, but the total effect does not seem so very

far in advance of the old method after all.

Our children are turned out with a smattering of many subjects, but can we say that

they are any better educated than the men and women that preceded them? Are they better

equipped for life? do they find the problems that they have to solve easier of solution?

For there is one great fault in our educational systems to-day; they teach, but they do

not train; and the one faculty without which no other can come to fruition is never really

trained at all, for we cannot deny that imagination is forced to strive against adverse

circumstances both at home and in school.

Years ago, before the education of little children was considered so important a

subject as it is now, lessons were given in certain well-defined subjects; reading,

writing, and ciphering (as it was then called) formed the staple of the school course,

supplemented by geography, Latin, and, in the case of little girls, sewing.

Dreary enough these lessons must have been, for a-b, ab, many times repeated

fails to germinate any interesting train of thought, and pot-hooks and hangers scrawled in

interminable succession with a squeaky slate pencil on a slate leave the imagination cold.

But even if the lessons themselves were not in the least alluring, this same

imagination wag stimulated by the best of all methods, by the good old-fashioned fairy

story; either told by some old nurse, or read out of enchanting books with innumerable

quaint woodcuts, so that forever after the names of certain tales were inseparably bound

up with the woodcuts in question, and to name the one was to see the other. There was no

moral hidden away in these stories, except the wholesome one that the good always

triumphed in the end; their aim was to amuse, to charm, and even sometimes to terrify, to

beguile the child along the paths of unreality into the great and beautiful world of

romance. Romance is a grasp of the ideal, an endeavour to express by symbols the great

truths of life. Wedded to rhythm, it becomes poetry. It is the striving of the soul after

the unattainable. And into this rich world the little child entered through the portals of

the fairy story, as thousands of years before the nations in their childhood had entered;

as the Nibelungen Lied, the Norse sagas, and the myths of every land are here to testify.

But to-day the fairy story is discountenanced, or if the child is beguiled into reading

a book purporting to be about a certain Jack Frost, a sprightly elf, he speedily discovers

that he is really reading a treatise on the action of frost. One child’s magazine

absolutely forbids fairy stories, and in all, information, whether given outright or

cleverly disguised as in the Jack Frost story, preponderates. This is a work-a-day world

and solid information is at a premium. So we have ‘Life in a Lighthouse,’ ‘ Careers of

Danger and Daring,’ ‘How a Big City is Lighted,’ ‘The Children’s Room at the

Smithsonian" ‘English Public Schools,’ ‘The Fairy Land of Science,’ and many more

articles and books, very informing, doubtless, but doubtless also very uninspiring.

These deal with the facts of life, and facts are most important things, but fancies are

important too, and the fancies are not much cultivated today.

It is doubtful if fancy can be cultivated directly, it is too subtle and elusive, it

must grow of itself, but conditions can be made conducive or the reverse. To be conducted

through the realms of poetry and romance by a grown-up person, as one of a class of

children all with differing needs and perceptions, at a given rate of speed, is not

conducive to such growth.

To gain the greatest amount out of a book, one must read it as inclination leads; some

parts are to be hurried over quickly, others read slowly and many times over; the mind

will take what it needs, and dwell upon it, and make it its own.

Its connotations are really what make a book of use in stimulating the imagination. As

a musical note is richer the more overtones it has, so a book is richer the more it

ramifies into trains of thought. But there must be time and space for the thought to

develop; the reader must not be interrupted by impertinent comments and alien suggestions.

We all hate the poetry we learnt in school. Why? Is it because it was in school that we

learnt it, or is it because the conditions were such that we never really learnt it at

all, the fine inner sense of it and its beauty of expression were both hidden from us?

Children never know why a thing is beautiful, but if their taste has not been perverted

they often feel that it is so. This feeling can be cultivated and improved until the time

comes when the child can know why.

There are two ways in which books stimulate the imagination; one is by beauty of

thought, the other is by beauty of form. It takes a much wiser head than a little child’s

to say why certain combinations of words are beautiful, but even a little child can feel

their charm. A story well told and a story ill told are as the poles asunder. At first one

might deny that a child could have artistic perception enough to notice the difference.

But that would be merely to confuse with technical jargon. The primary test of good

writing is really very simple. It consists in the effect produced. The well-told story

will make the child thrill with delight, its scenes will be real to him, its people his

own dear friends; the ill-told story will not keep his attention, and nothing in it will

interest him much.

For the object of writing is to produce a given effect. The writing will be good

acc9rding as the effect is produced or not. Simple actions are easily described; the old

spelling-book did not need to be possessed of much literary ability when it told us that

‘The boy is on the box,’ but it was good writing as far as it went. From that to

Shakespeare’s poetry and Pater’s prose is merely a question of degree. The effect is

infinitely more subtle, more penetrating, but the words are equally adequate, and convey

the meaning in the same succinct manner.

At first the child merely knows that this story or that story is interesting, that

certain other stories are not interesting, he does not attempt to analyse why. Later he

will make his first true criticism; he will say, ‘It does not seem real,’ or ‘Nobody would

do so.’ He has detected bad writing; his imagination refuses to give credence to what its

instinct declares not to be true. Gradually these criticisms of matter are added to by

criticisms of form, and we have ‘Nobody would talk like that.’

What makes the child think that nobody would do thus and so, or that nobody would talk

in such and such a way? Partly his knowledge of life as he has lived it, of course. Though

he has lived a very small life and his experiences have necessarily been few, yet through

the life of his imagination he has been able to live much more, he has gained a conception

of life far beyond anything that he has ever experienced.

If one can imagine oneself a child of twelve years old denuded of any knowledge or idea

of anything except what he can have known or seen in his daily life, one will at once see

how much more meagre his conceptions would be than is actually the case. Therefore what

makes the child think that this or that thing that he is reading about is false is the

knowledge that he has gained through his imagination.

The power of judgment is like water running up hill; water cannot rise higher than its

own level, and judgment cannot go beyond the experience which informs it. To be sure that

the judgment is sound, the school in which the experience is gained must be true to life.

Only the best in literature and art is this, and it is with the best in literature and art

that our children must be familiar.

There is a popular impression that so-called ‘children’s books’ are the proper reading

for children, and certainly very few children’s books can be classed as belonging to the

best in literature. But also the really great books are few in any literature, and there

is much inspiration and profit to be got from books below this highest grade. Homer,

Dante, and Shakespeare are like mountain-peaks, the horizon is wider on the heights, the

air purer and more invigorating; but literature has its byways, and shady lanes, and quiet

sequestered places as well, and because we enjoy mountain-climbing does not prove that

there is no profit to be got in rambling through these simpler paths.

Many books purporting to be written for children are very good, have become classics,

indeed; ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ ‘Through the Looking-Glass,’ George Macdonald’s ‘Princess

and the Goblin,’ and Thackeray’s ‘The Rose and the Ring’ come under this class. But the

mass of children’s books are poor, with a poverty only varying in degree. This brings us

to the question of whether children’s reading should be confined to juvenile books.

The old argument that children do not understand grown-up books is really a

groundless one. Some books written for older people are more enjoyed in childhood than

they ever will be later. Longfellow’s ‘Hiawatha’ is a good example of this, and in the

case of many people it would be true also of the novels of both Scott and Dickens.

Even in cases where the full meaning is only faintly grasped, there is often much

pleasure to be gained and consequently much profit. This is especially true of poetry.

Children are often captivated by poetry which they cannot possibly understand, and the

charm lies partly in the images it conjures up and partly in the music of the syllables;

the main purport of the poem remaining forever concealed. But who shall say that this

enjoyment in something so balanced and beautiful as a great poem has not a stimulating

effect upon the imagination?

James Russell Lowell has told us that when he was a very little boy his sister used to

read him to sleep with Spenser’s ‘Faery Queen! It was the first poem he ever heard and he

was very fond of it, but it was not until many years later that he discovered that it had

a double meaning. How much his early intimacy with Spenser and other authors of the same

class had in determining the extreme delicacy of his literary perception it is impossible

to tell, but it is certain that it was not without effect.

It is always difficult to decide how much early environment has to do with later

development, but all education is based on the belief that it has much to do with it, and

one could cite instance after instance to prove this theory.

There is a remarkable example in the case of Charlotte Bronte. Her style has great

vigour and beauty. It is exquisitely proportioned, quick, sure, and subtle. This seems

extraordinary in the daughter of a poor country clergyman, whose nominal education was got

at an inferior boarding school, whose life was passed in a little country town, only

varied by a few attempts at teaching as a governess in the country houses of richer

families, and by one year and ten months in a pension in Brussels. But when we consider

what her reading was as a child it does not seem so strange. In Mrs. Ward’s introduction

to ‘Jane Eyre,’ in the Haworth edition of Miss Bronte’s novels, is the following passage:

‘There were no children’s books at Haworth Parsonage. The children were nourished upon the

food of their elders: the Bible, Shakespeare, Addison, Johnson, Sheridan, Cowper for the

past; Scott, Byron, Southey, Wordsworth, Coleridge, "Blackwood’s Magazine,"

"Fraser’s Magazine," and Leigh Hunt for the moderns; on a constant supply of

newspapers, Whig and Tory Charlotte once said to a friend that she had taken an interest

in politics since she was five years old; on current biographies, such as Lockhart’s

"Life of Burns," Moore’s "Lives of Byron and Sheridan, Southey’s

"Nelson," Wolfe’s "Remains"; and on miscellaneous readings of old

Methodist magazines, Mrs. Rowe’s "Letters from the Dead to the Living," the

"British Essayists," collected from the "Rambler," the

"Mirror," and elsewhere, and stories from the "Lady’s Magazine." They

breathed, therefore, as far as books were concerned, a bracing and stimulating air from

the beginning. Nothing was softened or adapted for them.’

It will be objected that Charlotte Bronte was a genius, that her reading alone would

never have enabled her to write as she did. True; but even genius needs to be trained!

But what has style to do with imagination, some people will ask? Style has everything

to do with imagination. A really good style cannot exist without imagination. As the test

of good writing is in the effect produced, and the object of all writing is to produce a

given effect, so that effect must be first clear to the mind of the writer, and this

requires imagination.

The writer conceives of his idea through the power of imagination, and through the

power of imagination the idea takes form again in the reader’s mind; the vehicle of

transmission is the writer’s style. The more fully developed the imagination of both

writer and reader, and the more adequate the style, the more perfectly transmitted is the


Imagination is behind all the great things that have been said and done in the world.

All the great discoveries, all the great reforms, they have all been imagined first. Not a

poem has been written, not a sermon preached, not an invention perfected, but has been

first conceived.

And yet imagination must take a second place to-day and give room for the learning of

so-called useful things!

In a list of the books for boys and girls in a large public library near Boston,

the subjects are divided under headings. ‘Poetry’ takes up only a part of one page out of

a catalogue of twenty-nine pages; ‘Fairy Tales and Folk-Lore’ have another page, while one

page and a half is devoted to ‘Inventions and Occupations’ and one page to ‘Outdoor Life.’

Of course some of the books that come under other headings, such as ‘Famous Old Stories’

and ‘Other Countries,’ axe really good literature, but appallingly few. Leaving out those

sections devoted to ‘Younger Readers’ and ‘For Older Boys and Girls,’ that is, taking the

middle section which is especially adapted for children of the grammar-school age, I find,

out of a total of four hundred and seven books, the only ones which could be considered

good literature are Aldrich’s ‘Story of a Bad Boy,’ Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ Hughes’s

‘Tom Brown’s -’School Days,’ Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island,’ Mark Twain’s ‘The Prince and

the Pauper,’ Mary Mapes Dodge’s ‘Hans Brinker,’ Kipling’s’ Jungle Book,’ Bunyan’s

‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ ‘Don Quixote,’ Hawthorne’s ‘Wonder Book," Tanglewood Tales,’

and ‘Grandfather’s Chair,’ ‘ The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey,’ Irving’s ‘Rip Van Winkle’ and

‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,’ Malory’s ‘King Arthur,’ Shakespeare (the Ben Greet

Edition), ‘Gulliver’s Travels,’ and Marryat’s ‘Masterman Ready’ and ‘Children of the New


The poetry list is unaccountably inadequate, consisting almost entirely of individual

poems. The only volumes listed are: Longfellow’s ‘Evangeline’ and ‘Hiawatha,’ Macaulay’s

‘Lays of Ancient Rome,’ Scott’s ‘The Lady of the Lake’ and ‘Marmion,’ Stevenson’s ‘A

Child’s Garden of Verses,’ Tennyson’s ‘Idylls of the King,’ and Whittier’s ‘Snow-Bound.’

There are also collections of poetry, ten of them, of which the best are Henley’s ‘Lyra

Heroica,’ Lang’s ‘Blue Poetry Book,’ and Lucas’s ‘Book of Verses for Children.’

The fairy-tale section is even worse, and how dreary the inclusion of the word

‘Folklore’ in a catalogue intended for the use of children. Certainly, the erudite person

who made this selection never reads fairy stories for amusement. The pseudo-scientific

flavour of ‘folklore’ has intrigued him sadly, else why include Kingsley’s ‘Greek Heroes’

under ‘Fairy Tales,’ why entirely exclude Thackeray’s ‘The Rose and the Ring’ and George

Macdonald’s ‘Princess and the Goblin’ and ‘Princess and Curdie,’ these last both better

books than ‘At the Back of the North Wind,’ by the same author, which has been allowed?

What is the matter with ‘Through the Looking-Glass, since ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is here,

and here without the asterisk which tells the child that the library contains other books

by the same author. Think of growing up conversant with only half of Alice! Where are the

delightful fairy tales of Mrs. Molesworth? where are those of Perrault, of Lord Brabourne?

and why are Andrew Lang’s long series of coloured fairy books represented by only one, and

again with no asterisk? Poor little children, at the mercy of such elders as this

compiling gentleman!

The list for older boys and girls is somewhat better, and here we find ‘Through the

Looking-Glass,’ though why it should be considered too advanced for younger

readers, I cannot imagine. But the fact that this older section starts out with Miss

Addams’s ‘Twenty Years at Hull House,’ is eloquent of the attitude of the present day.

Alas for imagination, when the inclusion of such a volume in such a list is possible!

It is true, a child can have any book that the library contains by asking for it. But

the children who frequent the library most belong to the poorer classes, and their only

chance of becoming familiar with books out of school is at the Public Library. At home,

they are not surrounded with a large culture which makes the names of the great writers

household words to them. How do they know what to ask for? A catalogue tells them nothing,

and the only shelves they have access to until they are eighteen are those containing the

books in the list I have been quoting. And this is in a town famous for its educational


Probably the catalogues intended for the use of children in our large libraries would

show conditions to be less unfortunate, but I think the one I have quoted is at least


There is no education like self-education, and no stimulus to the imagination so good

as that which it gives itself when allowed to roam through the pent-up stores of the

world’s imaginings at will.

There is a class of people known to all librarians as ‘browsers.’ They wander from

shelf to shelf, now reading here, now there. Sometimes dipping into ten books in the hour,

sometimes absorbed in one for the whole day. If we look back to our childhood we shall see

how large a part ‘browsing’ had in our education. One book suggested another, and as we

finished one we knew the next that was waiting to be begun. They stretched on and on in a

delightful and never-ending vista. The joy of those hours when we sat cross-legged’ on the

floor, or perched on the top of a ladder, a new world hidden behind the covers of every

book within reach, and perfect liberty to open the covers and enter at will, can never be


We talk about ‘creating a demand for books’ among the children of the masses, and about

‘ giving them the reading habit,’ and the best way to do this is to have a well-stocked

reading-room of good books, books for grown-up people as well as for children, and let the

children have free access to the shelves. They will be found reading strange things often,

strange from the point of view of the grown-up person, that is. But in most cases their

instincts will be good guides, and they will read what is best for them.

There is too much teaching to-day.

We love and admire certain things rather inspite of what people say than because of it.

We like to compare notes with some one who enjoys the same things that we do, but the real

enjoyment was there before. Beauty cannot be proved as a mathematical problem can. If

beauty is its own excuse for being, it is also its own teacher for perceiving. Contact

with beautiful things creates a taste for the beautiful, if there is any taste to be


Not every one has a great deal of imagination, but every one has a certain amount

capable of cultivation to a greater or lesser degree, and the chief stimulaters of

imagination are the arts poetry, music, painting; the humanities as opposed to the


The boy who said that his Shakespeare class was only questioned on the notes, and so,

as the boys were pressed for time, they only read the notes, was giving the most eloquent

testimony as to the absolute unfitness of his teacher. Doubtless the teacher would have

been horrified had he known of this state of things, but his own imagination must have

been very much in need of cultivating for him not to have noticed it.

For the last two years of my school course, I attended lectures on Shakespeare by an

eminent Harvard professor. I remember those lectures very well; they made an indelible

impression. We learnt everything about the plays we studied except the things that

mattered. Not a historical allusion, not an antiquarian tit-bit, escaped us. The plays

were made mines of valueless information. Out of them we delved all sorts of stray and

curious facts which were as unimportant to Shakespeare as to us. Not once in those two

years were we bidden to notice the poetry, not once was there a single aesthetic analysis.

The plays might have been written in the baldest prose for all the eminent professor

seemed to care. They became merely ‘quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore,’ and if

what we learnt at those lectures were a criterion, might indeed have been promptly and

satisfactorily forgotten. So much time and energy had been wasted in finding out these

things, and when found out their proper goal was the bonfire.

In my own case, however, I was saved, saved from the clutches of ignorant and

unimaginative Academia, by coming across a volume in my father’s library which opened a

door that might otherwise have always remained shut. Browsing about one day, I found Leigh

Hunt’s ‘Imagination and Fancy! I did not read it, I devoured it. I read it over and over,

and then I turned to the works of the poets referred to, and tried to read them by the

light of the new aesthetic perception I had learnt from Hunt.

So engulfed in this new pursuit was 1, that I used to inveigle my schoolmates up to my

room and read them long stretches of Shelley, and Keats, and Coleridge, and Beaumont and

Fletcher. Guided by Hunt, I found a new Shakespeare, one of whom I had never dreamed, and

so the plays were saved for me, and nothing was left of the professor’s lectures except an

immense bitterness for the lost time.

I have often thought that in this book of Leigh Hunt’s we have an excellent text-book

for what should be the proper teaching of literature, and especially of poetry. Poetry is

an art, and to emphasize anything else in teaching it is to deny its true function.

The study of what is now called the ’science of aesthetics’ is a difficult one. Such a

book as Mr. Willard Huntington Wright’s ‘The Creative Will’ is immensely stimulating to

the artist, but would only be confusing to school-children, even to those of high-school

grade. But much of this volume, much of the many volumes on the subject, could be

expressed in simpler terms. Beginning by stimulating the child’s artistic perceptions in

the very primitive manner of the. child’s own reactions, an example of which I mentioned

earlier in this article, the teacher can easily inculcate certain rules and touchstones,

enlarging upon them from year to year, and in this manner lay a firm foundation for

literary understanding; for it is only through understanding that literature, and

particularly poetry, can function as a direct stimulus to imagination.

I realize perfectly that this method would put a great strain on our teachers. It is

comparatively easy to learn a series of antiquarian allusions and reel them off to a

class; to analyse an aesthetic scheme is a much more difficult matter. I was interested to

come across this very idea in an essay of Professor Dowden’s which I read lately. But,

having pointed out the difficulty, the wise professor ignored it, and proceeded to write

his paper without the inclusion of a single aesthetic preoccupation. To be sure, he

apologized for this in the preface, but the essay was published.

We see, therefore, that to permit poetry to exert its imaginative training upon youth,

a complete change must take place in the method by which it is taught. We must lay aside

the academic tricks of the trade. Our teachers and expounders must first put themselves to

school; they must desert the easy path of historical anecdote, for the difficult one of

aesthetic comprehension. They must teach their pupils what poetry is, and why it is good,

greater, greatest. They must be enthusiastic pioneers for themselves and for their

classes. They must forget the mass of criticism (most of it mischievous) grown up about

the classics, and rediscover them with delight. An excellent way to begin would be to

conduct a course upon living poets.

The most significant thing in America to-day is the popular demand for poetry. It has

grown by leaps and bounds. I read recently in a newspaper that the demand for poetry at

the training-camps was extraordinary. In the ‘Book News Monthly’ for July, is an

interesting chart showing the increase in the publication of books on poetry and the drama

since 1902. In that year, 220 such books were published in the United States; in 1916,

there were 633. More volumes of this kind were issued than of any other kind except

fiction, and fiction only exceeded by seventy-three volumes. The publication of fiction

has markedly diminished of late years. Why? Simply because poetry is really much more

vital than fiction. Once poetry had thrown off its shackles, once it had begun to speak

freely, sturdily, with the voice of its own age, it found a ready audience. Even Academia

is listening, puzzled a little perhaps, but still becoming daily more attentive. I have

had various teachers tell me sadly that the difficulty in speaking of it to a class is

that they do not know the good modem poetry from the bad, it is all so ‘different.’ What

is the matter? What has happened to the critical faculty within the walls of learning? I

am sorry to have to say it, but the answer is ‘pure laziness.’ It is so much easier to run

through a couple of volumes of somebody else’s conclusions and be guided by them, than to

form one’s own by first-hand contact with works of art. And then, too, it opens one to an

awful danger. One may be wrong! Still, the world is growing, and humanists, no more than

scientists, can afford to live in an intellectual back-water.

The humanities are not yet a dead letter; one cannot push out of place something which

is daily proving itself an emotional force of profound importance. Granted that, as

taught, they might as well go, so might science if it taught that the world was flat.

Taught as they should be, imagination might once again assert its saving power over a

materialistic world.

The printed outline of work for the English Department of one of our high schools

begins with the following sentence: ‘The primary aim during the first year is to read

works of standard authors which, while quickening the imagination and presenting a strong

element of interest, shall reinforce the History and the Latin.’ Imagination in

parenthesis, that is the attitude of education to-day! And until it is once more

considered as worthy of being the end of a sentence and the end of an endeavour, education

will not be the harmonious and nicely balanced thing that perfect development presupposes.

From Amy Lowell, Poetry and Poets: Essays (New York: Houghton Mifflin

Company, 1930) 30-58. Previously published in North American Review 206 (1917):



Review of Georgian Poetry, 1918-1919. Edited by E. M. New York:

G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

It is a profound labour to read this book. Not because, let me hastily say, there is

nothing good in it, but because it is all so dreadfully tired.

Is this the exhaustion of the war, or is it the debility of an old habit of mind

deprived of the stimulus of a new inspiration? It is an interesting question, for the

fatigue is undeniable. Here are nineteen poets, in the heyday of their creating years, and

scarcely one of them seems to have energy enough to see personally or forge a manner out

of his own, natural speech. They are all respectable poets, each knows his trade and can

turn out good enough verse on an old model, but how strangely one man’s contribution

dovetails into the next man’s! This is happily not true of all, but it is true of the

majority. Try it—for instance, who wrote this

But this shall be the end of my delight:

That you, my lovely one, shall stoop and see

Your image in the mirrored beauty there.

And did the same man write this?

And Cleopatra’s eyes, that hour they shone

The brighter for a pearl she drank to prove

How poor it was compared to her rich love:

But when I look on thee, love, thou dost give

Substance to those fine ghosts, and make them live.

Is this he again, or another?

Thy hand my hand,

Thine eyes my eyes,

All of thee

Caught and confused with me:

My hand thy hand,

My eyes thine eyes,

All of me Sunken and discovered anew in thee.

And who is responsible for this?

Dear Love, whose strength no pedantry can stir

Whether in thine iron enemies,

Or in thine own strayed follower

Bemused with subtleties and sophistries,

Now dost thou rule the garden…

If the reader will play fairly and guess a bit, I think he will find himself

sufficiently bewildered. The answer to the riddle is purely arbitrary. The book says that

Francis Brett Young is the author of the first quotation and the other names, in order,

read: W. H. Davies, John Freeman, and Edward Shanks. But, for all we can see to the

contrary, the names might be jumbled about in any order without causing the slightest

confusion in style or attitude.

The reason is quite plain, Mr. Young, Mr. Davies, Mr. Freeman, Mr. Shanks are merely

taking the place of our old friends Brown, Jones, and Robinson, or, to telescope the whole

after the manner of a composite photograph, we might name them collectively John Doe. In

other words, these gentlemen are not writing at all, it is their poetic ancestors who are

writing, they have made themselves ouija boards for the recrudescence of a dead song.

There are notable exceptions to this, I am glad to say, and I shall come to them later,

but on the whole, the book seems pale and spectre-like, haunted by the ghosts of England’s

vanished bards.

There is really no excuse for this, for even if these English poets choose to ignore

the fresh vigour of American poetry, they have Masefield in England, and Ralph Hodgson,

and Aldington, and Sassoon. It is stuff and nonsense to try and raise such echoes into the

dignity of a poetic creed as Mr. Squire and Mr. Shanks are constantly trying to do. All

literature is against them; good poets are not echoes, and never were, and that is the

long and the short of it. I am told that Mr. T. S. Eliot is having a great influence in

England and, although I am not a complete admirer of Mr. Eliot’s style, I can well believe

that he is needed in a country where Mr. Young stalks abroad mellifluously bemoaning the

duress of poethood in such a new and striking phrase as: ‘Whither, 0 my sweet mistress,

must I follow thee?’ His own words, farther on in the same poem, are more than portrait;

they are prophecy: ‘The pillared halls of Sleep echoed my ghostly tread,’

He is a wonder, this Mr. Young, I can hardly tear myself away from him. What a memory

he has, to be sure. Where have we read:

With all the joy of Spring

And morning in her eyes?

It is foolish to ask where; it would be much more sensible to put it ‘where not.’

Certainly Mi. Young challenges the spectres right smartly. He speaks of ’snow upon the

blast’ of the ‘livery of death’; his moon is quite comfortably ‘horned,’ with the

accent all nicely printed over the last syllable. But let us give him his due, his

cacophony is original. Read this aloud:

The frozen fallows glow, the black trees shaken

In a clear flood of sunlight vibrating awaken.

But we must not leave Mr. Young alone in a glorious isolation; that

would be to do him too much honour, for does not Mr. Davies speak of ‘Yon full moon,’ and

Mr. Abercrombie complacently watch while ‘The sun drew off at last his piercing fires’;

even Mr. Gibson, who is usually above such diction, permits himself to call the sea ‘the

changeless deep.’

One could go on poking fun forever—there is matter for it—but the thing is

not funny; on the contrary, it is desperately sad. They want to be poets so much, these

young men. They know they have something to say, they feel it doubtless, but they are like

men uttering words in a dream; in the cold light of day, it comes perilously near

nonsense, because it is nonsense to repeat by rote a thing which does not express one’s

thoughts. There is atrophy here; this stale stuff is not merely stale, it is pathological.

We know what these young men want to say; the strong spirits among them have told us: they

want to say how deeply they love England, how much the English countryside (the most

beautiful countryside in the world) means to them; they detest war, and long for the past

which cannot come back, and they hope fiercely for a future which, if they can, they will

see to it shall be better. But the power to set down all this has been weakened by strain.

They have not the energy to see personally, or speak with their own voices. The will to do

so is strong; the nervous strength necessary for the task (and it requires much) is


The English countryside is here, but in all the old tones and colours. Surely never

book was so swayed over by the branches of trees. Nightingales and thrushes abound, but

seldom does the poet get them alive on the page; he loves them, but he slays them, and

more’s the pity.

This is not always true. Mr. Drinkwater’s ‘Chorus from "Lincoln "’ is very

England, although not quite so fine as his ‘In Lady Street,’ which is not in this volume,

and so is Mr. de la Mare’s ‘Sunken Garden,’ and Mr. Monro’s ‘Dog’ is fully successful.

Even Mr. Davies gets himself sometimes, since he can write:

Blink with blind bats’ wings, and heaven’s bright face

Twitch with the stars that shine in thousands there.

Mr. Davies tries to be himself, and it is unfortunate that we often wish he would not.

When he describes a lark as ‘raving’ above the clouds, we feel that his vocabulary is

unwarrantably scanty, and it is nonsense to speak of the ‘merry sound of moths’ bumping on

a ceiling. ‘Merry’ — watching the tortured struggles of the poor things to get out

-merry! He tells us that he is the ‘dumb slave’ of a lady who brings ‘great bursts’ of

music out of a harpsichord; ‘deaf’ I think should be the word, for I doubt if even a Liszt

could force that frail and delicate instrument to ‘great bursts.’ Or, perish the thought,

was the lady really playing a piano, and did Mr. Davies merely think ‘harpsichord’ more


Yes, they do try, but often only to make a mess of it. When the nightingale does not

sing, Mr. Nichols observes, ‘Nor has the moon yet touched the brown bird’s throat,’ which

is mighty fine writing of a kind usually found in ‘Parlour Albums’ and ‘Gems from the

Poets for Every Day in the Year.’ Mr. Nichols has been reading the dictionary, his boughs

are ‘labyrinthine,’ the blossom of a lime tree is a ‘Hispid star of citron bloom,’ and ‘

sigils’ are burned into his heart and face. A sort of passion for the archaic seems to

have got hold of him, we have ‘flittest, profferest, blowest, renewest,’ all in four

lines. Most of these poets love ‘thees’ and ‘thous,’ that horrible second person which

everyday speech has happily got rid of. But Mr. Nichols is a good poet, only he does not

hold himself up. To speak of the trunk of a tree as ‘splitting into massy limbs’ is

excellent, but he spoils it by having the branches ‘bowered in foliage,’ and yet the man

is often full of insight. Of a squirrel, he can say: ‘He scrambled round on little

scratchy hands,’ and what could be finer than the ‘peaked and gleaming face’ of the dying

man in ‘The Sprig of Lime.’ That whole poem touches a very high mark, and sets Mr. Nichols

quite apart from the John Does.

As one glances through the four volumes of ‘Georgian Poetry,’ one cannot help wondering

on what principle they are edited. Scarcely on that of presenting all the best poetry of

the moment, it would seem, since Richard Aldington, F. S. Flint, the Sitwells, and Anna

Wickham have never been included. Mr. James Stephens, who bad been in from the beginning,

has vanished, which is a great loss; and Mr. Hodgson, who appeared in the second and third

issues, has also gone. It is understandable why Mr. Chesterton, as belonging to an older

group, has left, but Mr. Masefield, by all the laws of literary relationship, should

surely have remained. Is the editor, Mr. Marsh, sole arbiter, and if so, why? When former

contributors disappear, do they remove themselves, or are they assisted to depart? And

again, in either case, why?

It is horrible to reflect on the power of an editor. Poets, at the mercy of editorial

selection, may well tremble, reflecting on the fate of the Dutch painter Vermeer, who

vanished for nearly three hundred years from the knowledge of men because a contemporary

writer with whom he was so ill-advised as to quarrel omitted him from a list of painters

which was destined to become the textbook of future generations.

Mr. Marsh edits with well-defined prejudices, evidently, but, on the whole, he has

accomplished much, for he has brought the authors of his anthologies a wide publicity. For

those who go out, others come in. Mr. Graves, and Mr. Sassoon, who, with Mr. Squire,

appeared first in the 1916-17 anthology, are the chiefs of the newcomers. The most

powerful poem in the book is Mr. Sassoon’s ‘Repression of War Experience.’ The war made

Mr. Sassoon a poet. He needed to be torn and shaken by a great emotion; he has found this

emotion in his detestation of war. Nothing stronger than these poems, which are the

outgrowth of his suffering, has been written in England since the war ’stopped our

clocks.’ It would be hard to make a selection of them, and really it does not matter; one

side of a heart is a good deal like the other side provided it be a real flesh and blood

heart. In this case it is, and wherever you take it, you get the same sensation. There is

no rhetoric here, we are not treated to erudite expressions nor literary artifices, and

for that reason these poems, and ‘Repression’ especially, come perilously near to being

great. I say ‘perilously,’ for what is Mr. Sassoon going to do now? When was ‘Everyone

Sang’ written? Perhaps that points a new departure.

Mr. Sassoon and Mr. Graves feel so much that they can afford to joke about it. Mr.

Sassoon’s joking is a shade more bitter, more ironical. For instance, ‘What Does It

Matter?’ is a trifle harder and heavier than Mr. Graves’s ‘It’s a Queer Time,’ which

unfortunately is not in this volume. Neither is ‘I Wonder What It Feels Like to be

Drowned.’ But one cannot have all a man’s collected works in an anthology, and we have got

that fine thing, ‘A Frosty Night,’ and the possibly even finer ‘The Cupboard.’ Mr. Graves

is that delightful being among poets, a faux naif. He runs his ballad

forms hard but so far they do not fade upon the palate.

Miss Shove is a notable addition to this year’s anthology. She has originality and a

saving sense of the grotesque and macabre. ‘The New Ghost’ is excellent.

Of the original contributors, Mr. Abercrombie’s poetry is always a strange mixture of

the quick and the dead. He builds live tales on a pattern of rusty pins. The result is

according as one feels about the vexed question of subject and treatment. I confess that I

find Mr. Abercrombie worthy of respect, but dull.

Mr. Davies has ardent admirers, and I am quite aware that my making him sit as part

portrait for the highly estimable John Doe will probably cause much offence. If only Mr.

Davies would always write poems like ‘A Child’s Pet,’ would always keep to such natural

speech as that in the first four lines of ‘England,’ I would readily subtract him from the

sum total of my composite hero. But Mr. Davies has read books, and they have remained in

his mind alien and undigested. Therefore he must give his quota to John Doe, and I

regretfully beg his pardon.

Mr. de la Mare is scarcely at his best in this volume, although ‘The Sunken Garden’ is

very charming. But I cannot forgive him his last line with the false rhyme. False rhyming

is often a most happy device, but scarcely here, where there have been no other such

rhymes in the poem, and for the last line — particularly when he had a perfect rhyme in

his adjective! Clearly the sound did not trouble Mr. de la Mare’s ear, but it teases mine


Mr. Drinkwater is a poet who must be read in a certain mood. His poems do not yield all

their fragrance if they are hastily approached or violently attempted. They grow on the

reader as of something becoming conscious. They seem extraordinarily simple, by every

preconceived canon they should be dull, and behold, they are neither the one nor the

other. The best of them, that is, and two of the best are here: ‘Moonlit Apples’ and

‘Habitation,’ while ‘Chorus from "Lincoln,"’ the first half especially, is

nearly as good. What is Mr. Drinkwater’s charm? how does he escape the sensation of echo,

considering that he chooses to write in a traditional mode? To analyse it with any care

would take up too much space here; in brief, I think it lies in his utter abandonment to

his poem, in his complete sincerity in regard to it, in his straightforward,

unselfconscious love of what he is writing about. He is a quiet poet, he keeps his drama

for his plays, but his dramatic sense has taught him the secret of creating atmosphere.

‘Moonlit Apples’ is beautifully moony. But this simplicity and this atmosphere are not

accidental; they are built up with delicate touch after touch throughout the poem. One

could wish that ‘In Lady Street’ had been included and ‘Southampton Bells’ left out, but,

on the whole, his selection is one of the best in the book.

Mr. Gibson’s ‘Cakewalk’ is a good poem, and so is the first stanza of ‘Parrots’; the

latter is a complete poem by itself; the second stanza adds nothing, it even detracts

appreciably. Why must Mr. Gibson bring in his heart? the Parrots did so well without it.

Mr. Lawrence’s ‘Seven Seals’ is in his most mystical and passionate vein. The poem is

serious and exalted, but it is a pity that it should be his only contribution; it would

stand better were it companioned. As a, poet, Mr. Lawrence is rising in stature year by

year; his last volume, ‘Bay,’ is the best book of poetry, pure poetry, that he has

written, although it does not reach the startling human poignance of ‘Look! We Have Come

Through.’ It is unfair to Mr. Lawrence to be represented by one poem; the editor should

take heed and give us more of him in future.

Mr. Monro improves steadily. I have already mentioned his beautiful and exceedingly

satisfactory ‘Dog.’ I wish I had space to quote it. It is not only good poetry, but good

dog. Mr. Monro’s work is gaining in muscle. Beauty it has often had, but now there is a

firm structure under the beauty — see, for instance, ‘Man Carrying Bail.’ ‘The

Nightingale Near the House’ was a bold challenge to Fate, but Mr. Monro has come through

fairly successfully. His nightingale lives and sings, and not too reminiscently, which is

much for a modern nightingale to do.

For the newer men, Mr. Squire is a clever fellow. His criticisms, even if one disagree

with them, are always interesting. His poetry is clever too, and that is not so useful an

attribute in poetry. But he has done some good things. ‘August Moon,’ with its marvellous

description of moonlight on water, is not here (really we must quarrel with the editor for

leaving it out) but another of his best things, the ‘Sonnet,’ is. Few modern sonnets are

as good as this; the last two lines are magnificent. ‘Rivers’ begins well, with an

original and fluctuating rhythm which gives the lapsing and flowing of river to a

remarkable degree, and the slight change between the first and second stanza is well

conceived. But then he becomes tangled in his own creation, the metre stiffens into a

convention, be comes hard, unimaginative, and cold, and t poem loses itself in a long and

rather stupid catalogue.

Mr. Turner, who appears for the second time, has a nice little quality — he has his

own turns, and a very pleasant whimsical touch:

The thronged, massed, crowded multitude of leaves

Hung like dumb tongues that loll and gasp for air

gives an effect we have all seen, most vividly. ‘Tinkling like polished tin’ has the

thin sharpness of tone of a small stream, and ‘ old wives cried their wares, like queer

day owls’ is very nice. ‘Silence’ is a good poem, but the best of those here is ‘Talking

With Soldiers,’ with its refra