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to a number of Now I am not one of muses "'''''5'''5 In A. J. M. SMITH I n 125 126 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY them on the old Ontario strand; nor am lone of those lovers of the new who have no patience with whatsoever our fathers have found of good repute. I certainly do not wish to blow frost on the idea that Canada has produced a considerable body of respectable and interesting poetry. The belief, however, which most of the standard anthologists and pontifical critics assume, suggest, and sometimes even state, namely that our "great poets" have given us a national poetic literature comparable in power and fidelity to that of England or the United States-this belief is so fantastic that no one outside Canada can be made to believe anybody really holds ·it. Here, by way of illustration, is an example, and not a particularly flagrant one, of the undiscriminating praise bestowed on our standard poets by our most influential critics. Professor Pratt rightly maintained that the true goodness of Archibald Lampman's poetry lies in its direct and sincere realization of the Canadian landscape and the Canadian atmosphere, that Lampman is essentially a nature poet, and that this is enough. But it isn't enough for the representative critic whose judgment I wish to examine. I quote from Mr William Arthur Deacon's Poteen: There is a fineness about Archibald Lampman that, coupled with an instinctive artistry, spells immortality. . .. Too much stress has always been laid upon him as a Nature poet: the phrase is so unnecessarily limiting. A quiet, serene poet, he did describe and interpret Nature more beautifully and adequately than any other has yet done, but to him man was as much a part of Nature as the autumn maples and he was seer enough to perceive the same life quickening all things: Not to be conquered by these headlong days, But to stand free; to keep the mind at brood 00 life's deep meaning, nature's altitude Of loveliness, and time's mysterious ways. A liking for Lampman is sure proof of taste io poetry. Now, however much we may admire the sentiments of the lines quoted, it is surely impossible to find in them much more than a rather sluggish movement and a succession of trite and pseudopoetic phrases-the verse, indeed, is far below the level of Lampman 's best; and that such a passage should have been selected by our critic as a touchstone of taste effectively invalidates the assertion with which he concludes. Furthermore, when he declares that Lampman has described and interpreted Nature more beautifully CANADIAN POETRY-A MINORITY REPORT 127 and than any other has Ij at least, can assume he means any other Canadian has yet done." in its context does not} however, lend any and I am left that III on ......."".......''-I.l''',H years have seemed to express in one way or a sense of uneasiness or even seems to be troubling the to our literature most is the fact and if it's 128 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY There are exceptions, of course. All the anthologies contain some good poems, though these are hopelessly outnumbered. A revision, a weeding out, a new discovery-this is the task that is waiting for an anthologist with taste and courage. There is an immediate and vital need for a revaluation of our standard poets, based upon a' careful examination of every poem, line by line and stanza by stanza. What it is useful to know is not the historical significance of a poem in the development of Canadian literature but its absolute poetic vitality. We want to know whether the poem is alive or dead. Can it speak to us in a language we recognize as that of a man, not Df a bird or a book? Can we accept it without putting half of our persDnality-the mind-to sleep? Has it ever been, or can it become again, a part of life? Very few of the pieces in the Oxford Book of Canadian Verse could survive such a scrutiny, b~t those that could would gain immeasurably...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 125-138
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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