26 DECEMBER 1931, Page 24

Villon and His Heirs One Hundred and One Ballades. (Cobden•Sanderson.

7s. 0d.) CERTAIN verse-forms seem to have acquired by some inalienable right the secret of perennial youth. This book is a timely reminder that this royal and ancient form has lost none of its prowess. Practised aright, the ballade is an art of pleasing circumstance. It invites the invocation of noble names (as befits its lineage). It is heraldic in pattern, but we meet its personages in an unbuttoned and even Falstaffian mood. It admits contemporaries to its august company, investing them with a histrionic definition. It spares nothing. In the hands of an adept (and none but real poets need essay its use) the triple refrain and the echoing " envoi " arc capable of infinite innuendo. The moral, prefaced so agreeably by that disarming—not to say, flattering—apostrophe, " Prince," is achieved, as all legitimate morals should be, by implication.

So much for its potentialities. This admirable collection has exploited them to the full. The book is " by several hands." That is as it should be. It lends the right air of complicity to the proceedings. And when it is added that the hands include Baring, Belloe, the two Chestertons, Bentley, J. B. Morton, H. S. Mackintosh, and Squire, little further need be said. It is worth acquiring if only for the sake of Mr. Squire's inimitable ballade of the compleat toper, with its exquisitely inebriate refrain :

" not so think as you drunk I am."

Never, surely, has the loquacity of intoxication found such apt utterance. Mr. Belloc's But where are the unanswering dead ? " is of the true lineage. But it is invidious to quote.

Most assuredly, this is a book to buy and to delight in. There is something for every palate. If demonstration were required to establish the fact that new wine need not necessarily fear an old bottle, here it is. And the vintage decanted is such a sprightly one ! But then the authors arc one and all eminently knowledgeable cellarers.

John Nash has enlivened the proceedings with a series of high-spirited thumb-nail sketches. Certainly a chance for " wise spending," if we are to be allowed to celebrate Christmas