28 NOVEMBER 1931, Page 21

Three Seizins

EAen of these three issues from the Riding-Graves press in Majorca sets the reviewer a problem, but there is no advantage to be gained by pretending that the books are anything but entirely unrelated to each other.

First, then, Miss Laura Riding. In Though Gently Miss Riding continues, and carries a stage farther, the method of prose composition which she employed a short time ago in Experts Are Puzzled. Briefly, that method is an attempt to arrive at conclusiveness, in a series of related statements, by the rigid exclusion of ambiguity or, more precisely, of all irrelevant constructions. In Experts Are Puzzled the method was applied objectively to a sequence of "stories," which became virtually parables. In Though Gently the matter is at once more personal and more abstract, and takes the form of an asseveration of faith : '• But a photograph is not to be despised. A photograph is for nothing to be said and yet to give comfort by showing, and for I ho comfort of anyone, how much there is to he said of when it comes to saying."

In effect the method is a new use, not quite of syntax (though this is involved as a corollary), but of verbal equivalents. Essentially it involves a simplification of language, a narrow- ing down of the possible meaning of words by restricting their implications. This is done partly by a circular definition of terms, partly by excluding the parallel associations and images commonly induced by the context, rhythm and •' tone " of wordS, and by using them flatly in flat logical progression. Inevitably the result is an idiom in which colour and richness have no part : a hard, spare utterance, ascetic in its dry intellectuality. But it has, too, sometl ' r of the confident attraction of a geometrical proposition, and, on occasion, an added unphilosophical conclusiveness. Miss Riding is not under any illusions as to the finality of what she is doing, as witness the poem entitled The World and I, which begins :

`• This is not exactly what 1 mean Any more than the sun is the sun.

But how to mean more closely While the sun shines so approximately ? "

Mr. Graves is more straightforward. That is to say he uses language in the accustomed manner and attempts no tricks to beguile finality out of the infinite. In this he substantiates Miss Riding's remark that " A woman's method with a material is to state only as much of it as may be stated conclusively, a man's to state as much of it as possible without regard to conclusiveness." Yet sonic of the poems in this brief collection have a certain conclusiveness ; though of a

different kind. In particular, The Foolish Senses, The Felloe'd Year and, in a more formal sense perhaps, Devilishly Disturbed, have the appearance of being records of experiences impress- ively complete and unadulterated. Elsewhere Mr. Graves is more precise and, on the whole, less significant, except in the two poems Largesse to the Poor and Ogres and Pygmies, in which he reveals, once personally, once impersonally, a

rather unexpected nostalgia. Both of these poems betray curious echoes of other poets, of Edward Thomas in the quiet unrhetorical rhythms employed, of Mr. Eliot in the attitude of mind expressed, yet both are strongly individual and could not have been written by anyone but Mr. Graves. They seem peculiarly significant at this juncture, and should have a wider dissemination than is possible in this expensive series.

But all the poems in this book have the integrity and sensi- bility characteristic of Mr. Graves' best work.

Finally Mr. Lye. Here the problem confronting the critic is not so much what? as why? The author of No Trouble presents us, in twenty-seven pages, with a series of abrupt autobiographical sketches (interrupted by a couple of fairy tales) all purely personal and of no intrinsic interest, written in a style of diarrhoetic fluidity which dispenses almost entirely • with punctuation. Periodically the revelations descend into wilful imbecility ; elsewhere they preserve a monotonous level of banality tricked out with a jaunty air of knowing profundity. Here is a sample from a piece entitled Fried Eggs and Friends : " Yes Celandine with me no ills except work. Is it your birthday or something because here's a scarf, and the design on it is life amongst the microbes, see grub-dance act of Tusalava. The only thing worth it is the transparency of the form showing the vertebrae in detail, remember the transparent fish at the aquarium ? "

Mr. Lye, presumably, knows the answer. But if he does, he refrains from affording the reluctant reader any clue to it, and leaves him no alternative but to conclude that these lucubrations were merely written because the Seizin Press was at hand to print them. Perhaps, after all, that is the