- Verse Pleasant and Unpleasant. A review of Georgian Poetry, 1916-1917, ed. Edward Marsh; and Wheels: A Second Cycle, ed. Edith Sitwell
- The Johns Hopkins University Press and Faber & Faber Ltd
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[ 679 Verse Pleasant and Unpleasant A review of Georgian Poetry, 1916-1917, ed. Edward Marsh (London: The Poetry Bookshop, 1917). Pp. [vi] + 3-181. Wheels: A Second Cycle, ed. Edith Sitwell (Oxford: B. H. Blackwell, 1917). Pp. viii + 9-117.1 The Egoist, 5 (Mar 1918) 43-44 Verse stands in constant need of what Samuel Butler calls a cross.2 The serious writer of verse must be prepared to cross himself with the best verse of other languages and the best prose of all languages. In Georgian poetry there is almost no crossing visible; it is inbred. It has developed a technique and a set of emotions all of its own. In the present volume there are exceptions ; Mr. Squire’s “Lily of Malud” rises from the mud with a good deal of sweat and blood, but is an original and rather impressive poem which deservesbettercompany.3 Mostoftheauthors(includingthefreshrecruits) are truer to type. Mr. Stephens’ “A Visit” has a kind of odd humour which must be pleasing to the adept, but is unintelligible to anyone who has not substituted Georgian emotions for human ones.4 There are, of course, differences between the writers: Mr. Stephens’ syntax is not quite the same as Mr. Drinkwater’s, and still more different from Mr. Turner’s.5 What nearly all the writers have in common is the quality of pleasantness. There are two varieties of pleasantness: (1) The insidiously didactic, or Wordsworthian (a rainbow and a cuckoo’s song); (2) the decorative, playful or solemn, minorKeatsian , too happy, happy brook, or lucent sirops.6 In either variety, the Georgians caress everything they touch; Mr. Monro does it far better than the others, and more intelligently; The Egoist has praised the volume (Strange Meetings) from which the selections in this anthology are taken.7 Another variety of the pleasant, by the way, is the unpleasant (sc. Rupert Brooke on sea-sickness, and Masefield on various subjects).8 I cannot see the resemblance to Tennyson which people often remark in Georgian poetry. I do not care to pose as a champion of Tennyson, and Mr. Chesterton’s approval makes one uneasy about him.9 But Tennyson was careful in his syntax; and, moreover, his adjectives usually have a definite 1918: Journalism 680 ] meaning; perhaps often an uninteresting meaning; still, each word is treated with proper respect. And Tennyson had a brain (a large dull brain like a farmhouse clock) which saved him from triviality. The subject given (airy fairy Lilian), he took it lightly,10 but as a serious study in technique. Mr. Stephens takes a trivial subject ponderously; only the technique is without seriousness. And the bell rings loud, and the Railway whistles urgently. So I stared at the night, and she Stared back solemnly at me.11 Tennyson to the Rev. Frederick Denison Maurice is better than Mr. Sassoon to Mr. Graves.12 Mr. Sassoon has a talent for satire, but for political rather than literary satire. Mr. Turner is not very happy in his adjectives. He weakens one of them by a superlative (“frieze on whitest marble”); his silence is naked, pure, grave, and unbroken; and he is at no pains to avoid sibilants: giant, breathless palms, Azaleas, clematis and vines, Whose quietness great Trees becalms . . .13 Mr. Squire slips in, referring to a house as a “mean edifice.”14 Mr. Nichols effects a rhetorical balance: Whose voice would mock me in the mourning bell, Whose face would greet me in hell’s fiery way.15 Mr. Graves has a hale and hearty daintiness. Mr. Gibson asks, “we, how shall we . . .” etc.16 Messrs. Baring and Asquith, in war poems, both employ the word “oriflamme.”17 Mr. Drinkwater says, “Hist!” Mr. Freeman has some power, and his “Stone Trees,” if it were condensed, would be a striking image.18 Wheels is a more serious book.19 It is not Mr. S. P. B. Mais’s sort of poetry at all; these are not the good boys of the Sixth Form.20 The book as a whole has a dilettante effect, refreshing after the schoolroom. The authors are certainly conscious of the fact that literature exists in other languages than their own. While the Georgians have the appearance of ignorance, the Cyclists have a little the air of smattering. Instead of rainbows, cuckoos, daffodils, [ 681 Verse Pleasant and Unpleasant and timid hares, they give us garden-gods, guitars and mandolins, Lancret rather than Watteau, though they seem to have thrown Pierrot overboard...