Henry Caldwell Cook



Poetry Alive


Literatur: Cook
Literatur: Poetry and Drama
Literatur: "1913"


IN religion, in philosophy, in poetry, in politics, in all the affairs of men that go far enough to require a guide, there is every now and then a revolution. The flow of human thought is subject to deep-reaching disturbance from time to time. Numerous causes co-operate to produce a periodical troubling of the waters, a welter in which the principles of all human concern are involved. At such a time faiths are transformed, new ideals set up, and the hope of millions set in another direction. Fused in the heat of active change institutions lose their character, and creeds, doctrines, and opinions are all melted and remodelled. Nothing passes scatheless through the fire, and the world as man has made it is created anew.

If this spirit of revolution could be summed up in a phrase it would be found always to represent a clearing away of encrusted dogma, a breaking from bondage grown irksome, an upsetting of the tables of authority, and a restatement of direction and aim. But, to the great joy of all true believers, the new ideals are only revivals of the old, stripped of base accretion; the new heaven and the new earth are those of the old creation, only cleansed by the flood. Your true revolutionary is only a conservative endowed with insight.

The seer brings his vision to the market-place and urges the people to destroy their city and rebuild it. They do so, but live on in these new homes, adding from time to time a coat of paint or a crust of stucco, and still calling them new until reawakened by the coming of another seer.

If all men had kept alive in them the faculty of poetry, that divine unrest, they would never be satisfied with makeshift, but would be for ever striving, ever making. But the exciting influence is always short-lived. The need of constant change and renewal as the indispensable condition, not alone of growth but of life itself, is not realised by the common gathering of men. It is the daily inspiration that is lacking; the spirit that can be tuned afresh by every new appeal of beauty. There is no strength from without, nor inward reservoir of power upon which we may draw in the hour of hurry or doubt. The manna of to-day will not be sweet to-morrow, for the love of our reliance must be new every morning.

[328] To supply this hourly stimulus is the chief function of poetry; but of poetry active, not embalmed in printed books. Poetry keeps alive the spiritual significance which informs all ceremonial observance, and reinforces that strength and hope which differentiate work from drudgery.

The present is one of those times of revolution. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and it follows that the poetry which expresses this age will be vehement, ideal, and instinct with an ardour of reform. The attention of all reformers of to-day is focused on the daily life of the people, their homes, their work, their play, and the nurture and education of the children. Hence the best poetry, ever expressive of its own time, shows a tendency to concern itself with the joys, the sorrows, and the ideals of given persons as individual members of a community.

From living writers there is still more to come in the morbid style which deals with the crime and raw vice of poor wretches brutalised by want. Poverty is a subject of the fullest sociological import, but more fit for pamphleteering, which is essentially critical and destructive, than for poetry, which is essentially creative and constructive. Again, modern social conditions make troubadour love a little difficult, so that poems of passion are on the wane, and we have long been accustomed to see on the stage, instead of romances, plays dealing with the social problems that men and women, as lovers, are faced with, such as the sin of celibacy and the difficulty of divorce.

Poetry deals with real life, but it must deal with the aim and intention of life, its aspirations and outreachings. It should have but a very small place as a chronicle of everyday occurrence with its tale of vain endeavour, or as a criticism of passing custom with its fads and eccentricities. That is more the province of Punch. Poetry must concern itself with those ideas and appearances which either inform or typify human enterprise at its highest. "Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge, the impassioned expression that is in the face of all science."

The class of poetry, then, to set before boys is that – whether ancient, medieval, or modern – which is full of the spirit which is stirring at the present day. Also the boys must themselves come forth as poets. Thus and thus only can the poetry they read have anything more than an æsthetic appeal. Poetry, the work of a maker, must itself be creative; must not stop short at impression, but originate expression; must not be magniloquent only, but magnificent as well.

[329] There is, at the Perse School, Cambridge, an aerie of children for whom I stand sponsor. They weave the stuff of their experience into plays of the northern gods, Othinn the All-wise, Thorr the Thunder-god, Tyr the God of Battles, Heimdabr the Guardian of the Rainbow Bridge, and many others of the host of Asgard. And each playboy becomes a deity by adoption.

Now here is the core of my thesis. Not one boy in a thousand has any appreciation of the value of poetry merely read in the class-room. When they make poetry themselves, and make it actively in the form of drama, it becomes for them a living thing. But it is still only an accomplishment, an ornament. It remains to turn this creative force to practical account. The boy has lifted up his eyes to the heavens; and now, to illustrate his textbooks of Heat, Light, and Sound, and of Electricity, he has the glory of the sun and the terrors of the thunderstorm. It is all very beautiful, but we do not want a breed of visionaries or æsthetes. Poetry must show in the strength of arm and not in the length of hair. Pegasus shall go into harness again – ay, and Apollo too!

Strange all this may seem, but dynamic is the word. What I really intend to have is a company of boys capable of organising themselves into a self-governing community. Here they would gain the necessary equipment for life from life itself. My little Utopia is the Play School Commonwealth, which, being a Utopia, does not yet exist.

It seems to me that we need a new centre about which to group educational effort, and for the book as the leading motive I would substitute the school itself, and for reading and writing, which is the traffic of books – play. I should endeavour to make the school supply so full an experience by means of play that, when the world with its work came along in its turn there would be no shock, but the dawn of a great realisation provoking the ecstatic outcry, "My soul, what a fine big field!" *

The intimate connection that should exist between poetry and the acts of daily life must not delay us now. Either you feel it or you don't. But let me illustrate how truly the schoolboy poet is fired with the ardour of reform. One of our senior boys, the Prologue of the Perse Players, thus voices the ideals we are striving to attain:

     Be warned, that such of you as looks
Upon the world and man only through books,
[330] And not himself; such as will never turn
His hand to toil by which to live and learn
As others do: be far from hence: he'll find
In what we bring but little to his mind
Or understanding: ours not to read, but do;
Not only dream, but make our dreams come true
In act and earnest all our days. . . .
                                                   For know,
The songs we sing, the gods that here we show,
Spring not from print and paper, but present
Our living work, our tears, our merriment,
Our new-sprung life, and thence their being hold.
Think you that they who made those gods of old
Made them of books?

Here is a stirring appeal which not only takes our daily life as subject, but rings true to the very minute. The words show that the writer is under no illusion about the function of poetry. As Prologue he has shown throughout a thorough understanding of the difficulties and defects of present-day education (not only in a vague, general sense, but in particulars), and has never ceased, both in song and exhortation, to voice just those few inspiring notes which it is the duty of poetry to hear and to echo for ever.

To-day's poetry must voice the ideals of to-day; and, since we are all out to reform the conditions under which we live together, our poetry will have, or should have, the rousing note of a clarion-call to practical sociologists, educationists, and the like. If there is much remaining to be said for the poets of elegance and artifice, at all events my observation must hold true of boy poets. Listen again to our Prologue:

                  Dream now you're far away
From the fierce roar and turmoil of to-day,
Far from this Iron Age of smoke and steam
Around; we'd give you here a spot to dream
At peace of fairer and more nobler things,
And earlier times, when the new-risen springs
Of life ran, free and undisturbed and strong,
Tall, untrod mountains and wide vales along.
    Outside the street rolls by and railways roar
Where the free fields and woods were seen before,
With flowers and birds: men in their chase for gold
Forget the nobler things they knew of old –
Forget the song and dance and all things fair
That grew and throve in that diviner air,
And with dull ears and eyes that will not see,
With clouded wits and hearts no longer free,
Must still be hastening on and make no stay,
Trampling unseen the flowers about their way.
    [331] This we would here forget, and only show
The eternal heart that still beats on below;
We would raise up once more on this our stage
Some shade, some echo of the Golden Age,
And have one spot at least where you may see
Man is he is, not as he tseems to be;
Who, though times change, though fashions rise and fall,
Lives yet unchanging and imaged through all;
Who loves and hates, grieves and rejoices still,
Just as he always did and always will;
Still swayed by passion; still, for all his light,
Meeting with gods by day and ghosts by night,
Fond of a song and eager for a fight.
    All, then, that lives, all that belongs to man,
All that is fair we take within our span;
And if such hopes, with our poor means should seem
Merely an idle or presumptuous dream,
Yet think, we pray, that he who dares not fly
May never hope to touch or gain the sky,
And that in such a flight as ours to fall
Is nobler far than not to rue at all.

To return to the thought with which we set out. Is not this indeed a breaking out, a bursting of fetters? do you not see the schoolboy "give three leaps and go on singing"? And is it not, after all, merely a harking back to the first simple things – love, hate, passion; by night a fear of the ghosts that walk, and by day the desire to be a god in the dance? Men will always accumulate impediment and feel ever and anon a longing for that artlessness, that simplicity which alone can enter the kingdom of heaven. And then once more a child is set in the midst, in the image and likeness of a god.

                                           And if to-day
That morning light seem spent or driven away
From earth; or if our stage seem small and bare
For the brave gods of old to figure there;
Yet never doubt, in all their ancient might
And ageless forms, the gods are here to-night;
For though their heaven may seem disturbed and bound,
And straitened by this hurrying changeless round,
Though vanished seem that beauty that once gave
Men's toils a glory to outlive the grave:
Yet while there's youth to see the earth and skies
With hopes undimmed and no book-wearied eyes,
To take delight in toil, still to feel strong,
To love brave deeds and do them, for so long
The gods are safe. *

[332] This perpetual opportunity has always been much insisted upon by the poets. If a man is a fool his son is, nevertheless, worth estimating for himself. There is waxing and waning, quickening and decay. At the last one can only refer any man's inquiry to himself, and if he have no faculty of renewal in himself then he is only fit to fertilise the soil for another.

Another of our schoolboy poets sings:

      Time has laid in sunlit, poppied sleep
The altars of the gods of yesterday. . . .
Yet though the gods, the weary centuries through, Have lain forgot, unheeded in their fall,
Of men, the kindly mother whom they knew
With each returning spring puts forth anew
The Acanthus o'er the fallen capital.

But one feels shame to walk in the silent place and to stand before the high seats crying out the virtues of the great, and explaining the relation of poetry to life like a guide expatiating in a museum.

Granted this awakening, granted the gods are here, what does it all amount to? Simply this. Poetry shall be creative in a double sense. We must have the outward and visible sign as well as the inward and spiritual grace:

Not only dream, but make our dreams come true
In act and earnest all our days.

As one means to this end we are setting ourselves to take up the folk tradition so happily saved from oblivion by the inspired labours of Cecil Sharp. And what is there to prevent sincere, unspoilt English children from carrying on the tradition or, at the very least, adapting it? Young men at Stratford-on-Avon in August will also tell you what we are coming to. Or you may inquire of the members of The Peasant Arts Fellowship, whose motto is in Blake's lines:

I will not cease from mental strife,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

In real life your schoolboy poet is to become no recluse, no idle visionary, no fantastic, but an energetic man of the world. But he is to make of the world a place fit to hold him. At school you will have inspired him with ideals and with the determination and ability to carry them out. Teachers and preachers hitherto have said, "Be strong, be noble, be upright"; and [333] the pupil has puffed out his chest. To-morrow they will train their pupils to toil and hardship in the play of some good they conceive. The children now growing up must, above all things, realise themselves firstly as members of a community. Our coming poets may turn their attention to the slums, but their poems will recite the nobility of spacious dwellings. The sociologist will sing no ballad of a gaol, nor will the political economist hymn the occupation of a stockbroker.

Here I speak mainly of the adult scholar, because I have spoken fully of the child-poet elsewhere. After adolescence the pupil becomes half-artist, half-citizen. As a lyric poet he is at his best away there in the garden, behind the tunnelled hedge that shields him from the highway, where men march in the dust. He does not know why we all look so intent as we trudge, or what is in those packs we carry; he will not believe that such themes as "The Cloud" and "The Skylark" have been "done already." "So has breakfast," he would answer. Among the flowers and trees let him learn, as he encounters them, to know a good thing from a bad, and to distinguish in like manner the beautiful from the ugly. There in the garden let him play all day at gods and ploughboys, and make merry songs of the clouds and the birds. And if he cries for the moon – tell him it is his if he likes to get it.



[Die Anmerkungen stehen als Fußnoten auf den in eckigen Klammern bezeichneten Seiten]

[329] * To save repetition, I must refer the reader interested in practical suggestion to Perse Playbooks, No. 3. (Heffer: Cambridge.)   zurück

[331] * From a merely technical point of view the monosyllabic style of all these lines is noteworthy.   zurück





Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

Poetry and Drama.
Jg. 1, 1913, Nr. 3, September, S. 327-333.

Gezeichnet: H. Caldwell Cook.

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).

Poetry and Drama   online
URL: https://archive.org/details/poetrydrama01monruoft   [1913]
URL: https://archive.org/details/poetrydrama02monruoft   [1914]
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011596380







Literatur: Cook

Brandmeyer, Rudolf: Poetiken der Lyrik: Von der Normpoetik zur Autorenpoetik. In: Handbuch Lyrik. Theorie, Analyse, Geschichte. Hrsg. von Dieter Lamping. 2. Aufl. Stuttgart 2016, S. 2-15.

Hibberd, Dominic: Harold Monro. Poet of the New Age. Basingstoke u.a. 2001.

Howarth, Peter: Georgian Poetry. In: T. S. Eliot in Context. Hrsg. von Jason Harding. Cambridge 2011, S. 221-230.

Levenson, Michael H.: A Genealogy of Modernism. A study of English literary doctrine 1908 – 1922. Cambridge u.a. 1984.

Martin, Meredith / Kappeler, Erin: The Georgian Poets and the Genteel Tradition. In: A Companion to Modernist Poetry. Hrsg. von David E. Chinitz u. Gail McDonald. Chichester 2014, S. 199-208.



Literatur: Poetry and Drama

Grant, Joy: Harold Monro and the Poetry Bookshop. Berkeley 1967.

Hibberd, Dominic: Harold Monro. Poet of the New Age. Basingstoke u.a. 2001.

Hibberd, Dominic: The New Poetry, Georgians and Others: The Open Window (1910–11), The Poetry Review (1912–15), Poetry and Drama (1913–14), and New Numbers (1914). In: The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines. Hrsg. von Peter Brooker u.a. Bd. 1: Britain and Ireland 1880-1955. Oxford 2009, S. 176-196.

Morrisson, Mark S.: The Public Face of Modernism. Little Magazines, Audiences, and Reception, 1905-1920. Madison, Wis. u.a. 2001.
Kap 2: Performing the Pure Voice: Poetry and Drama, Elocution, Verse Recitation, and Modernist Poetry in Prewar London (S. 54-83).

Woolmer, J. H.: The Poetry Bookshop, 1912–1935. A Bibliography. Revere, Pa 1988.



Literatur: "1913"

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Bd. 3 (1973): Manifestes et témoignages.

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Hamburger, Michael: 1912. In: Ders., Reason and Energy. Studies in German Literature. London 1957, S. 213-236.

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Illies, Florian: 1913. Der Sommer des Jahrhunderts. Frankfurt a.M. 2015 (= Fischer-TaschenBibliothek).

Jauß, Hans R.: Die Epochenschwelle von 1912: Guillaume Apollinaires 'Zone' und 'Lundi Rue Christine'. In: Ders., Studien zum Epochenwandel der ästhetischen Moderne. Frankfurt a.M. 1989 (= suhrkamp taschenbuch wissenschaft, 864), S. 216-256.

Johnson, J. Theodore: The Year 1913: An Interdisciplinary Course. In: Teaching Literature and Other Arts. Hrsg. von Jean-Pierre Barricelli u.a. New York 1990, S. 108-115.

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Kushner, Marilyn S. u.a. (Hrsg.): The Armory Show at 100. Modernism and Revolution. London 2013.

Mares, Detlev u.a. (Hrsg.): Das Jahr 1913. Aufbrüche und Krisenwahrnehmungen am Vorabend des Ersten Weltkriegs. Bielefeld 2014.

McFarland, Philip James: 1913. Reflections on a Number. In: Internationales Archiv für Sozialgeschichte der deutschen Literatur 39.1 (2014), S. 144-150.

Rabaté, Jean-Michel: 1913. The Cradle of Modernism. Malden, MA 2007.

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Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer