23 SEPTEMBER 1922, Page 23



Nor long ago Mr. Harold Monro was visited by the excellent idea of putting a questionnaire to twenty-seven people (some poets, some critics, some members of the general public) as to the nature and function of poetry. The questions were these : (1) Do you think that poetry is a necessity to modern man ?

(2) What in modern life is the particular function of poetry as distinguished from other kinds of literature ? (3) Do you think there is any chance of verse being eventually displaced by prose, as narrative poetry apparently is being by tho novel, and ballads already have been by newspaper reports ?

The answers appeared in the July Chapbook.. Some extremely ingenious and directly contradictory replies were given—replies, moreover, of all degrees of naivete and sophisti- cation. Mr. Martin Armstrong, in the course of his answer to Question 1, remarks :—

"Poetry will always be a necessity to man, but the majority of men extract their poetry either directly from work or reverie, or indirectly from inferior sources such as the cinema, the penny - dreadful, or the melodrama. Those who have recourse to poetry, in the specific sense of poems, are, of course, in a minority. Whether it is better to obtain one's poetry from work and reverie or from written poems I am not at all sure."

Mr. Laurence Binyon guards an ingenious answer by the pr liminary remark that "modern man is an abstraction, whose necessities I am unacquainted with." Mr. W. H. Davies says :— "Yes, I think poetry is necessary to everybody, because it gives a new value to everything we see or do. All things are better for being seen through the eyes of a poet. No man should be allowed to have a second glass of ale or port if he does not murmur, before he drinks, Is it not beautiful "

To Question 2 Mr. T. S. Eliot replies succinctly, "Takes up less space."

This is followed by a somewhat abstract and rambling answer of my own in which I endeavour to state a theory already familiar to Spectator readers. Mr. F. S. Flint, in the course of a particularly ingenious thumbnail essay, says : "The function of poetry is what it has always been—to amuse or to inspire, or, in other words, to make men forget death or brave it."

Mr. Sturge Moore, Miss Rose Macaulay and Mr. Ford Madoz Ilueifer all reply with a good deal of vagueness. Professor Gilbert Murray writes on a postcard : "Such questions are for the leisured classes, not for overworked professors " ; while Mr. Ezra Pound is emphatic that poetry is not necessary, and neither is modern man. He follows this up, however, with a fine defence, most immoderately worded. The Head-Mistress of Lillecroft School for Girls replies in a most doubtful oracle.

She says :—

"Those girls who are more susceptible of the beauties of poetry are the most docile and least likely to cause anxiety, both now and in future life. Therefore if mankind is to progress towards a civilisation in which docility and discipline—which is the negative of the faculty of causing anxiety—form the integral inspiration; • the more poetry can throw her spell, with the more swiftness will that civilisation ensue."

What a truly terrible idea ! Thence we pass to Professor Saintsbury, who questions the questioner, and will by no means

be entrapped into any but a vague and non-committal expression of opinion. The "Plain Man's" opinion, with which the collection ends, is charming in its straightforwardness.

The other two Chapbooks which we have chosen at random are both devoted to new poetry. The August number contains some very pretty poems by Mr. Humbert Wolfe, including ingenious verses on "Thrushes." They arc a little difficult to scan, but the effort is rewarded :—

"The City Financier walks in the Gardens stiffly because of • his pride and his burdens.

The daisies looking up observe only a self- respecting curve.

The thrushes only see a flat table-land of shiny hat.

He looks importantly about him, while all the spring goes on without him."

The May volume has a pleasant poem by Miss Mabel Hart on "Saints and Jackdaws," and one by Mr. Anthony Richardson on "Liverpool Street Station." Perhaps the best of them is Miss L M.

"Hero lives Ida, stiff and staid, Soon to be a stern old maid,

Stupid, stale, and much decayed,

Past the power of human aid, In the tomb herself hath made, Where lie all the flowers that fade, All the hopes of youth, delayed, All the tunes she sang or played, All the pictures old and bad, That once made her young heart glad.

Here she lies, but do not weep For she only lies asleep."

In the last poem, called "Stepping Stones ; or, The Self-made Poet," Mr. Harold Monro returns to the charge, and amusingly abuses the carriere-ism of the current young poet. Yet Beats climbed ! If, as seems likely, Mr. Lascelles Abercrombie (among others) is right, the poet or the artist only makes one half of the arch. What wonder, then, if he goes round seeking the audience—the recipients—by whose means alone his labour can be completed ? However, be that as it may, Mr. Harold Monro's poem is very funny. Here is the first verse :—

±` How queer it is to think about my past,

Now that my Fame is won, and planned to last. Oh! my first Introduction—with what care I tied my tie and brushed my youthful hair, Washed my slim hands and polished up my Greek, Before I called upon Sir Edmund Beeke.'

Every call was a stepping-stone. The poet was shy—terribly shy ; could not wink ; was too simple to see when others winked

at him.

That all is left behind now : every stone Is pushed away. I prosperous and well known, Patting my worthy Fame upon her back, Enquire, What, dearest lady, do you lack ? ' And she replies, Oh, fondest love of mine, Ask me to luncheon ! Take me out to dine I ' Let US enjoy our life, and, while we may, Make after-dinner speeches every day ! "

The cover-designs of all three Chapbooks are charming, especially that of the July number, which is chiefly composed of a pattern of notes of interrogation.

Swaine's "Epitaph to Myself"

A. Wrr.r.rAiss-Erias.