25 SEPTEMBER 1936, Page 32

Evanescent Blues

ms of People. By Edgar Lee Masters. (Appleton. 10s. 6d;), BHGAR,LEE 11ItsrEns was born at Garnett, Kansas, in 1888, add hisefiisi. book of verses 'appeared' in f8913. His immense popularity in America, however, dates from the publication of the Spoon 'River Antholcigy hi lois. The sketches 'Cif small-town life included in that book were intended, the author said, " to analyse society, to satirise society, to tell a story, to expose the machinery of life, to present a working. nipdel of the big world," and, furthermore, to show " our sorrows and hopes, our religious failures, successes and visions, our poor little lives, rounded by sleep, in language. and figures emotionally tuned to bring all of us closer together in understanding and affection."

Since then, Mr. Maiters has published: a dozen books fie, and his aim and method have remained unchanged: Indus new book the' ate-ricreinswhi& tell of heroic figures it'll-American history—De Soto, Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Lawrence of the Chelstipeake7,but:most of them deal with ?he unheroic ordinary man and woman—Bill Schultz, Flic:d itartpy's., boy, . Torn Barnbn4sitk.. (who did the -mine), andtlari' o used to be Lily

Burke). Most of these poems express an easy, early twentieth-century bar-parlour tolerance of the weaknesses and follies of humanity, and a regret for the good old days " when drinks went round and laughter and bits of verse," and men were hard-up but untroubled by traffic-cops and •

big business andithe , Certainly Mr.' Mastere can "tell. al story -and-. sketch of character, and those are achievements rare in English poetry today, but his style is unredeemed by any rprecision of phrase or rhythm, and a •is .enti■,rened- only by a 'few poetical

adjectives and some distorted syntax : evanescent blues and ethereal mirrorings ned Unto: Aloud- to.eloud. now her. vision Sears ed him with light, and found him and he answered Opening. through eyes the labyrinth-to his-passion."

These evanescent blues are, however, rare : more often:

Mr. Masters succeeds> in -his desire to use commonplace' language ." emotionally- tuned " : " But,they.killed Crockettwith death that desiccates,. And gradually stifles thought and tongue, This town was one of many among The wide United States." • • Mr. Masters has indeed very little use for verbal Skill : he sees less than' a Kipling or a Lindsay or a Masefield, and he speaks lesS vividly than a costermonger or a 'buS7driver. He tells people something' they .Want to -be -told, not some- thing that they will' find .'but liter to be right, and he is popular "because it, is not neeessary to have any feeling for

the poetic qualitieajof words in order to appreciate hil poems.