31 JANUARY 1941, Page 23

Sagittarius Rhyming. (Cape. 58.)

IT is difficult to take a retrospective view of the war without shuddering at our political ineptitude during the preceding decade. A weaker vessel than " Sagittarius " might be tempted to cynicism, but the last thing of which this uncompromising wit could be accused is weakness. These rhymes are sometimes caustic to the point of savagery; but it is not the savagery of the cyni-:, to whom the only faith left is in the power of illusion. It is the savagery of the satirist, who believes in purification by ridicule, and in exploiting folly and bad faith not merely for the purpose of recrimination but as a horrible warning. The three sections of this book : Under the Covenant, Under the Umbrella, and Under the Weather, cover a period rich in political cowardice and public "ostrichism "; a period in which, to the mingled foreboding and delight of many, " Sagittarius " has traced a weekly moral. There is something distinctly Gilbertian in both the structure and agility of these rhymes, as well as in the paradox of events. . The wit of the parodies, ranging from Goldsmith to de la Mare, is enhanced by their neatness and fidelity. This should be an excellent bedside book, though not one that you may expect to find at Cliveden.