24 MAY 1940, Page 20

Three Versifiers and a Poet

Fisherman's Wake. By Temple Lane. (Longmans. 2s. 6d.) Speak to the Earth. By Andrew Young. (Cape. 5s.) Letter from Ireland. By Ewart Milne. (Gayfield Press. 55.)

IF the pleasure given is the criterion of poetry, one of these books easily passes the test and four as easily fail; the peculiar enjoy- ment of bad verse somewhat reduces the value of the test. To start at the bottom: Mr. Macintyre's poems are " modern in style and technique, but they are by no means open to the criti- cism of obscurity which is so often heard concerning modern poets." This means that Mr. Macintyre's occasional verbal imi- tations of a " modern " technique in no way conceal a banality of

thought which is as transparent as a vacuum:

" This meat almost as lewd as cinema stars More nude than naked—undulant Goya flesh Drawn with a dirty crayon."

Miss Lane, a very Celtic poetess, has fewer pretensions, and her verses are of the kind which anyone is justified in writing and no one justified in publishing. She has a liking for old-fashioned rhythms and for mild whimsies. " There do be Pucks the way

you go at night." Yet some readers may prefer Miss Lane's inno- cent futilities to Miss Babette Deutsch's profundities. Through the many influences which penetrate her work, of Yeats-

" Yet reading Harry Heine's spotted page You must admit a salty fluid runs When the heart's pricked "- or of Eliot—" The day unfolding like a newspaper "; through the thick veil of humanitarianism and " left-wing " sympathies,

nothing appears that is her own, that has been seen, thought, or felt for herself : perhaps this explains why Miss Deutsch is so excellent a translator and so poor a poetess. As with the two other versifiers already mentioned, words and images (all have them in profusion) are used to fill a void rather than to fix and illuminate an experience. Mr. Ewart Milne is equally ambitious; if he has rather more to say, it is because the technique and diffi- culties of his medium are themselves an experience for him, per- haps his most genuine experience, and because the isolation of being a self-conscious Irishman, "Irish in the European humanist tradition," creates a certain attitude which is consistently main- tained; but a heavy apparatus of technique, and the superficial conflicts which so easily obsess a Celt, make it difficult for him to say what he really has at heart. He would be a better writer if words came to him less easily.

The curse of a bogus modernity lies heavily on these versifier, always excepting Miss Lane. A discovery creates a style, a style declines into a fashion, a fashion into a convenient means for

covering nakedness. In comparison, the virtues and talents of Mr. Young are all the more striking. The quality of Mr. Young's poetry hardly needs emphasising; he is a genuine if minor poet, at his best when entirely concentrated on the objective world of Nature which is the source of his poetry. He sees Nature with a microscopic exact eye for detail, and his concentration on the objective image gives his poetry a significance which seems out of proportion to the effect of any single poem; while each gives the pleasure of an object seen with extreme clarity, their total conveys the sense of an almost religious respect for Nature which

sustains so concentrated a vision. GORONWY REES.