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must be based upon action or reflec bury pilgrims. Browning's wonderful tion concerning action. It must not “Childe Roland” depends for its effect attempt detailed description, or, indeed, entirely upon the skilful use of detailed pure description in any form. Purely description. But these two poets, like descriptive poetry has not the elements Shakespere, fall foul of Mr. Waldron's of life.
statement that “ the poet attempting Now, let us see how this standard detailed description, and not merely applies to English verse. If it does suggestion, produces on the mind of not hold good with regard to recog the reader only a confused and disnized masterpieces it is, of course, tracted effect." The above instances worthless as a test for Canadian po are all of the highest type of verse, yet etry, which must always aim at the according to Mr. Waldron's theory best. A poem comes at once to the they do not constitute poetry of lasting mind as not conforming to Mr. Wald merit. ron's rules-Milton's "L'Allegro." Its Upon the same theory is based its claim on our attention is not based on author's attack on Canadian poetry, " action or reflection concerning ac “ Campbell, Carman, Lampman and tion." Moreover, it contains some Roberts,” he says,
can hardly be pernicious bits of pure description : said by the most generous to have pro
duced anything of lasting merit. The “Straight mine eye hath caught new plea
reader who can twice strain his imagiWhilst the landscape round it measures ; nation to the contemplation of their Russet lawns, and fallows gray,
painfully wrought miniatures would inWhere the nibbling flocks do stray,
deed be a curiosity.” We have seen Mountains, on whose barren breast The labouring clouds do often rest,
some of the English poetry excluded Meadows trim with daisies pied,
under Mr. Waldron's canon, and it Shallow brooks, and rivers wide ;
must be said that our poets are damned Towers and battlements it sees
in excellent company! The “vicious Bosom’d high in tufted trees.
habit of description," "this everlasting It is, in fact, a purely descriptive lyric, plague of description,” has brought and, with “Il Pensoroso,” the finest
them to such a sorry pass.
But let us of its kind in our language.
examine some of the banned poetry. cording to Mr. Waldron's theory it open Professor Roberts'
Songs of must be discarded. But Milton is not the Common Day” and come upon the the only poet who has the fatal ten following : dency. Shakespere offends in like manner when he puts a “detailed description" into the mouth of Edgar in There lies a little city leagues away King Lear :
Its wharves the green sea washes all day long “How fearful
Its busy, sun-bright wharves with sailors
song And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low!
And clamor of trade ring loud the livelong day. The crow's and choughs that wing the mid
Into the happy harbor hastening, gay Show scarce as gross as beetles ; half way
With press of snowy canvas, tall ships throng, down
The peopled streets to blithe-eyed Peace be
long, Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful
Glad housed beneath these crowding roofs of trade! Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.
grey. The fishermen that walk upon the beach
'Twas long ago this city prospered so, Appear like mice; and yon tall anchoring
For yesterday a woman died therein. bark Diminished to her cock; her cock, a buoy
Since when the wharves are idle fallen, I know, Almost too small for sight ; the murmuring
And in the streets is hushed the pleasant din ;
The thronging ships have been, the songs surge
have been ; That on the unnumbered idle pebble chafes, Cannot be heard so high.
Since yesterday it is so long ago. Chaucer describes in detail the ap
Here is detailed description, and an pearance and the dress of his Canter absence of the essential basis of "ac
THE DESERTED CITY.
tion or reflection concerning action." Under cool elm-trees floats the distant
stream, Are we to ignore the beauty and the
Moveless as air; and o'er the vast warm pathos and the power of this sonnet
earth because it does not conform to the re The fathomless daylight seems to stand and quirements of Mr. Waldron's dictum ?
dream, I open Mr. Carman's “ Low Tide on
A liquid cool elixir-all its girth
Bound with faint haze, a frail transparency, Grand Pré," and pick out at random the
Whose lucid purple barely veils and fills following stanzas from “A Northern
The utmost valleys and the thin last hills, Vigil" :
Nor mars one whit their perfect clarity,
and many a goodly thought; yet they Here by the gray north sca,
are not based on “action or reflection In the wintry heart of the wild, Comes the old dream of thee,
concerning action," and the trail of Guendolen, mistress and child.
description is over them all.
But enough of this. The truth of Threshold, mirror and hall,
the matter is that poetry cannot be Vacant and strangely aware, Wait for their soul's recall
bound in by a narrow and personal With the dumb expectant air.
definition. As Mr. Waldron remarks:
“In poetry, as in all other arts, there The windows of my room
is a wide latitude of individual freeAre dark with bitter frost, The silence aches with doom
dom." And the censorship needed by Of something loved and lost.
Canadian poetry is not that which Mr.
Waldron would impose. Come, for the years are long,
To set an arbitrary standard and And silence keeps the door When shapes and shadows throng
then to dogmatize, “ tried by these The firelit chamber floor.
tests Canadian poetry of the day fails.
Campbell, Carman, Lampman and The curtains seem to part ;
Roberts can hardly be said by the most A sound is on the stair, As if at last . . I start;
generous to have written anything of Only the wind is there.
lasting merit,” would be only amusing
were there none who might be misLo, now far on the hills
led. As it is, the article is written The crimson fumes uncurled, Where the cauldron mantles and spills
in a style which gives it an importance Another dawn on the world !
to which no claim can be laid from a
critical point of view, and a somewhat Have we here a “ weird and grotes detailed answer is necessary in order to que vagueness?" Does the chief effect show that Canadian poetry is not in so of this poem lie in its “ghostly sugges- deplorable a condition as Mr. Waldron tion of dark corners?” But fine as the would have us believe. poem is, with its lyric quality and its What is the real position of modern music and passion, it possesses no last Canadian verse ? First, let us see ing merit because it “does not base its wherein true poetry consists, and then claim to our attention on action or re we may be able to approximate the flection concerning action.” I glance value of that which is produced by at a fine thing of Mr. Campbell's, “A Canadian writers. Mr. E. C. Stedman Lake Memory ;” but it, too, is action has given a definition which is perhaps less and descriptive. I turn to Mr. as fair and broad as any that has been Lampman's “Lyrics of Earth ;” and attempted. He says: “Poetry is rhythalas ! alas ! how great the lack of mical, imaginative language, expres“poetry of lasting merit." “ April in sing the invention, taste, thought, pasthe Hills,” “Favourites of Pan,” sion and insight of the human soul.”
September,” “ An Autumn Land A moment's consideration will show scape,” though they deal adequately that this, as Mr. Stedman says, is both and artistically with scenes and fancies defensible and inclusive.
It compredear to all in our northern land, though hends the work of greatest and least; they contain pictures such as this: it includes the large utterances of the
past as well as the lesser language of torian-have been characterized by sinthe present day. Thus it is of the cere and worthy thought. The writers widest significance as regards both have had something to say, and have matter and manner. It applies equal said it imaginatively. And the more ly to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, markedly this is the case, the more Shakespere's Plays or Tennyson's real is the poetic note. “No work of Idyls; it takes in verse so different in art has real import, none endures, unthought and expression as Sidney's less the maker has something to sayMy true love hath my heart, and I have his,
some thought which he must express By just exchange one to the other given; imaginatively." I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss, In judging contemporary There never was a better bargain driven;
there are two chief difficulties to My true love hath my heart, and I have his."
be met. We are liable to err, first, Shelley's
from what Matthew Arnold calls the Lamp of earth! where'er thou movest
“personal estimate." Our personal Its dim shades are clad with brightness,
likes, our personal points of view, often And the souls of whom thou lovest Walk upon the winds with lightness
influence our opinions of poets of our Till they fail, as I am failing,
own day; we attach to their work more Dizzy, lost, yet unbewailing!
importance than it deserves, and our or Matthew Arnold's
praise is extravagant. A second dif
ficulty lies in the large poetic producThe Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's
tion of the present day. More verse shores
is written than at any other period of Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. history, and a great deal of it is worthBut now I only hear
less. Amateurish verse begets an amIts melancholy, long, with ving roar, Retreating, to the breath
ateurish audience and amateurish critiOf the night wind, down the vast edges
cism. We see bad work praised imdrear
moderately, and, from pure disgust, And naked shingles of the world. . .
we sometimes overlook the good. But A broad definition is necessary to this tendency must be avoided as carecover the field of English poetry. This fully as that which is due to the personal is afforded by Mr. Stedman's state estimate. We must have the feeling ment, and we may accept it as suffici for good work; and good work varies ent. But we have as yet no touch in degree no less than in kind. Cathostone as to the quality of poetry. For licity of taste, subject always to the this we cannot do better than quote recognized laws of art, is a canon of Mr. Stedman once more : “No work good criticism. No sane critic would of art has real import, none refuse to grant the excellence of Chaudures, unless the maker has something cer as well as Shakespere, of Dryden to say—some thought which he must as well as Tennyson, of Landor as well express imaginatively, whether to the as D. G. Rossetti; yet how diverse is eye in stone or canvas, or to the ear in the character of their work! One star music or artistic speech; this thought, differeth from another in glory, yet all this imaginative idea moving him to are stars. Breadth is essential to utterance being his creative idea, his criticism, and the best critic is he who art ideal."
has the truest appreciation of all that All the great poets have been im is good in literature. Therefore, in pelled to utterance by the stress of dealing with poetry of our own day we their imaginings. Homer, Dante, are not to damn it wholly, nor to laud Shakespere live—and will always live it to the skies in bulk; we are to dis--by virtue of having given to the world tinguish good from bad and value each something worth giving, something in its measure. that the world had need of. The great And so we come to Canadian poetry. est periods of our literature--the Eliza Let us bear in mind that the excellent bethan, the later Georgian, the Vic work which is being done must not be
decried because of its failure to attain The last dry leaf from off the tree, Shakespere's scope or Milton's sub To-night has come to breathe on me. limity. Our zeal for the good must
The wind of death, that silently not blind us to all that falls short of
Enshroudeth friend and enemy. the very highest standard. To begin as undeniably as in the work of the with, then, the basis of our poetry is leading spirits, which shows (Mr. Walsound. As a whole it possesses the
dron's remark about the “ literary essential foundation of culture. Roberts
coterie " to the contrary notwithstandhas a thorough and sympathetic know- ing) that their influence is altogether ledge of the Greek and Latin classics,
for good. And everywhere we see the which gives him sureness of epithet vigour and buoyancy of youth. and clarity of expression. Carman's
The condition of Canadian poetry, culture is gathered from half the world.
then, is, at least, not hopeless. And there is little provincialism in the It may be here said that Mr. Waldwork of Lampman and Campbell. All
ron misses altogether the human interthe leading Canadian poets have a
est which underlies a great part of thorough grasp of technique,—the
Indeed, he accuses Cana“rhythmical language" of Mr. Sted dian poetry of lacking life and interest, man-another requisite of true poetry.
and assigns a partial explanation. Their leadership is good; their work
· Want of moral enthusiasm,” he says, expresses the "invention, taste,
" of the inspiring energy of new ideas thought, feeling and insight of the
and large hopes of human progress, human soul,” and has behind it the
leaves men of talent no other course necessary thought. Take these four than to seek a false brilliancy in the poems: Campbell's “The Heart of the trickery of exaggerated description and Lakes," Lampman's “Favourites of
strained sentiment. Scott and Byron, Pan,” Roberts' “The Night Sky,” and
Shelley and Wordsworth were full of Carman's “Beyond the Gamut,” and
the new wine of the French Revoluit will at once be seen that the work of tion, and spoke as their hearts burned. Canadian poets obeys the dicta of Mr.
Tennyson reflected the minds of men Stedman.
who had seen the hopes of their fathers But we may claim more for our
fail. .... It may be that in these verse than a mere inclusion within the later days human enthusiasm has flickbounds of a general definition. We
ered out. If so, we cannot expect great may claim originality; no
poets till there be a re-kindling of new deny that having in mind “Afoot,"
ideas and new hopes of humanity." It “The Night Express," “ The Winter
is a little difficult to take this explanaLakes ” and “An Autumn Landscape.”
tion seriously ; for it means simply We may claim, for each of the leaders
that everything written by the five individuality of thought and diction ;
poets mentioned, except what was ineach has his own point of view and his
spired by “moral enthusiasm own mode of expression. We may
' large hopes of human progress,” is claim variety of subject and treatment.
worthless, is only the "trickery of exAnd last, but by no means least, we
aggerated description and strained senmay claim the right poetic note--it
timent." Farewell to the Adonais, to crops out all through Canadian verse,
the Immortality Ode! Farewell to Tenappearing, for example, in D. C.
nyson's Lyrics ! These are inspired only Scott's
by the love of truth, of beauty, of poetry.
Neither the “new wine of the French And as I followed far the magic player
Revolution,” nor moral enthusiasm, He passed the maple woodAnd when I passed the stars had risen there,
nor “large hopes of human progres ; ” And there was solitude.
“ The one remains, the many change and or in Miss Wetherald's
pass; The wind of death that softly blows
Heaven's light forever shines, earth's shadows The last warm petal from the rose,
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, the sonnet written? What is the cenStains the white radiance of Eternity
tral idea?” Until Death tramples it to fragments."
Here the Sower, unwittingly divine, or Wordsworth's
Exerts the silent forethought of his toil. “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting ;
The theme lies in these two lines. The soul that rises with us, our life's Star, A careful perusal of the poem will show Hath elsewhere had its setting
how rigidly all extraneous detail has And cometh from afar. Not in entire forgetfulness
been excluded, and how everything is And not in utter nakedness
subordinated to the single thought and But trailing clouds of glory do we come the essentially human interest of the From God, who is our home."
whole. The failure to perceive this, It is because of the absence of “new not only in the case adduced, but in ideas and new hopes of humanity much other Canadian verse, shows a that the Canadian outlook is so poor. lack of poetic judgment. *Of course, from the point of view just There is one point more which may stated, it is idle to hope for any valu be mentioned, and a very important able work so long as the development one it is: the foreign appreciation of of Canadian letters is "delayed by the Canadian verse. This is valuable, bemisdirected efforts” of Messrs. Car cause it is influenced by nothing exman, Roberts, Lampman and Camp. cept absolute merit.
cept absolute merit. Now, more than bell. But, as was said, Mr. Waldron one sound critic has given to Canadian has strangely ignored one of the dom singers the primacy among the younger inant notes of Canadian verse—the poets of the day. Mr. Carman's “ Low note of human interest. A single in Tide on Grand Pré " was most warmstance will illustrate the point. Rob ly praised in England and the United erts' fine sonnet, “The Sower" (upon States, and Le Magasine International which so critical a paper as the New speaks as follows of the work of him York Nation bestowed unstinted praise) who was the pioneer of modern Canawas cited by Mr. Waldron as a “fair
« Dans le volume de vers sample” of the poet's work and was de Charles G. D Roberts, ‘Songs of found wanting I quote in full : the Common Day,' j'aime surtout la
serie de sonnets. .. Plusieurs sont THE SOWER.
superbes de profonde émotion, d'inA brown, sad-coloured hillside, where the soil
tense énergie, de simple et sobres Fresh from the frequent harrow, deep and force; la poésie originale et essenfine,
tielle de la terre y'est exprimée avec Lies bare ; no break in the remote sky line,
une noble sincerité;” and with regard Save where a flock of pigeons streams aloft, Startled from feed in some low-lying croft,
to “Ave,” which Mr. Waldron will Or far-off spires with yellow of sunset shine ; have none of, “L'ode pour le centenAnd here the Sower, unwittingly divine, aire de la naissance de Shelley Exerts the silent forethought of his toil.
contient de très belles strophes inAlone he treads the glebe, his measured stride spirées de la nature à Tantramar. Dumb in the yielding soil; and though small La forte pensee de Roberts trouve pour joy
s'exprimer une longue admirablement Dwell in his heavy face, as spreads the blind, Pale grain from his dispensing palm aside,
nette, concise et riche.” This plodding churl grows great in his em
We can claim for our poetry the ploy ;
qualities which make the best work, Godlike he makes provision for mankind.
and that unprejudiced meed of praise Mr. Waldron blames this for weak which only good work obtains. Cananess in the climax, for the use of par dian poetry is well founded, and its ticular images, for its scanty appeal growth is healthy and sure. We have to the reader's emotion and, of course, no reason to be discouraged at the for its descriptive quality. But let the achievement of our singers or the consimple question be asked, “Why was dition of their art.
A. B. De Mille.