New Lamps for Old.


Literatur: [anonym]
Literatur: The Dial


"Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all Science." The quotation is so hackneyed that we are almost ashamed to recall it to the attention of our readers, who must have known it by heart all their lives, but there are times when the impulse to go back to first principles becomes an imperative mandate. "A frequent recurrence to the principles of civil government is absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty." These noble words of the Illinois Constitution remind us of a similar urgency of obligation in other spheres of thought than the political, and wherever the fundamentals are flouted or ignored, it behooves those who stand for sanity and the acceptance of the ripe fruits of the world's experience to rally around the old standards. The parlous times in which we live afford occasions innumerable for thus calling out the old guard, for it has become the fashion with young people to reject everything that has been tested in the alembic of reflection, and to offer us in its stead all manner of raw and fantastic imaginings. Whatever is old must perforce be outworn; whatever is new must be deserving of serious consideration just because of its novelty, and the more freakish the form of expression, the more assured the triumph.

What we are about to say is concerned mainly with the art of poetry, which accounts for the Wordsworthian text, and also for the following collocation of words descriptive of Chicago:

"Hog Butcher for the World,
 Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
 Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
 Stormy, husky, brawling,
 City of the Big Shoulders."

Here a word of explanation is needed. The typographical arrangement of this jargon creates a suspicion that it is intended to be taken as some form of poetry, and the suspicion is confirmed by the fact that it stands in the forefront of the latest issue of a futile little periodical described as "a magazine of verse." This, then, is what the coterie responsible for [232] the conduct of the magazine take to belong in the category which also includes:

"Yet once more, O ye laurels, and once more
 Ye myrtles brown, with ivy never sere,
 I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude;
 And, with forced fingers rude,
 Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year."


"The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
 The vapours weep their burthen to thje ground,
 Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
 And after many a summer dies the swan."

Well, there is poetry and poetry, and it is sometimes instructive to place the worst in juxtaposition with the best for the sake of the contrast, just as Conductor Stock recently sandwiched a composition by Schoenberg between symphonies by Beethoven and Brahms in a concert programme which he must have planned with a diabolical chuckle. One was in doubt, at the end, whether any definition of the category could possibly be framed comprehensive enough to embrace the examples; and one is equally in doubt whether the broadest definition of poetry could be made to embrace the three specimens of composition cited above, but we have to deal with the simple fact that certain persons obviously and honestly think that the characterization of Chicago blurted out in such ugly fashion may possibly have some relation to the divine art which Wordsworth defined, and Milton and Tennyson exemplified.

For our part, we deny the relation altogether. The definition which should allow admission of these chunks of inchoate observation to the sacred precincts of the muse would not be a definition of any form of art at all, for all definitions of art must say or imply that beauty is an essential aim of the worker, and there is no trace of beauty in the ragged lines we have quoted or in the whole piece of which it is the opening. It is not even doggerel, for doggerel at least admits the claims of rhythm, and this composition admits no æsthetic claim of any description, and acknowledges subordination to no kind of law. We are told that the author "left school at the age of thirteen, and worked in brickyards, railroads, Kansas wheat fields, etc.," which we can well believe. That education might have made him a poet we will concede; that these unregulated word-eruptions earn for him that title we can nowise allow. There are many ways of acquiring an education, no doubt, and the academic path is by no means the only one that leads to culture, but in these "hog-butcher" pieces there is no discernible evidence that culture has been attained. At the risk of being set upon the bad eminence of the reviewer who advised Keats to go back to his pills and ointments, we are inclined to suggest that this author would be more at home in the brickyard than on the slopes of Parnassus. We have always sympathized with Ruskin for the splenetic words about Whistler that were the occasion of the famous suit for libel, and we think that such an effusion as the one now under consideration is nothing less than an impudent affront to the poetry-loving public. If the "Ahkoond of Swat" type of verse is to be accepted as a normal form of the lyric, all the old æsthetic canons must go by the board.

The eternal law of art as of character is Goethe's

"In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister,"

and the aspirant for poetic laurels should be under bonds to accept its salutary tyranny. Any other way lies æsthetic anarchy. Mr. Yeats has recently been talking to us about the art of poetry, and his message seems to be that rhetoric must be eschewed. But rhetoric is simply the fine art of expression, nothing more nor less than that. There is splendid rhetoric and there is tawdry rhetoric; there is the rhetoric of exalted emotion and the rhetoric of conceit and fancy, but both species pay homage to some guiding principle of expression. To condemn all rhetoric off-hand is to condemn nearly all great poetry, to condemn, for example,

                                     "O here
Will I set up my everlasting rest
And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh,"

which is simply rhetoric of the most magnificent sort, for Shakespeare was the most consummate rhetorician of the modern world. The thing to do is, not to deny to rhetoric its valid claims, but to learn to distinguish its nobler from its baser forms. Mr. Yeats is quoted as saying, at a recent literary dinner in London: "One may admire Tennyson, but we cannot read him." This is a most damning confession of limitation. We hold Mr. Yeats to be a very noble poet, but he never, at his highest, achieved a passage that could match the opening verses of "Tithonus," above quoted, and if he "cannot read" such poetry, it augurs ill for the permanency of his fame, and shows his critical judgment to be well-nigh worthless.

Sir Gilbert Murray, writing the other day in "The Saturday Review," said some very wise things about the present experimental age in poetry, with its craze for novelty, its determination to be original at any cost, its strident [233] means of arresting attention, and its contempt for poetic greatness as hitherto understood. The passage is lengthy, but it is just what we need for the close of this discussion, and we reproduce it in full:

"The great difficulty that weighs on a poet at the present day is, I believe, his relation to the tradition that lies behind him. If he is the possessor of a lucky temperament or great genius he will probably never think about that relation at all. He will create what he wants to create; he will use such traditional ideas and forms as come naturally to him, and will probably love them because he happens to love poetry. But the young poet who lacks these exceptional gifts will be troubled by a thousand small devils shouting in his ear. When he likes some poem they will say, 'Pooh! That went out of fashion in 1908.' When he feels a large or high emotion they will murmur, 'For heaven's sake don't be Victorian!' When he thinks of a good story they will shiver, 'Ugh! Melodrama.' When he makes a clear or wise judgment upon life they will shriek in real alarm, 'Puritanism and the end of all things!' If, discouraged, he turns to them for guidance, then heaven help him! They will tell him to be at all costs original; to be unlike everybody else; to eschew carefully all the qualities that he finds in the good poets of the past. They will say to him privately, 'Do not try to achieve beauty. It is hard, and no one knows it when they see it. Do not try for wisdom; people do not like it. Achieve something new. We can all tell when a thing is new. The verses of the good old poets would generally scan, let yours never scan. Their stories were moving, let yours be dull. Their characters were interesting, let yours be scrupulously the reverse. They kept an eye on truth or else on ideal beauty, do you carefully avoid either. They loved poetry, do you hate it. Then as long as you are new, you will be successful, perhaps for as much as six weeks."





Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The Dial.
A Semi-Monthly Journal of Literary Criticism, Discussion, and Information.
Bd. 56, 1914, Nr. 666, 16. März, S. 231-232.


Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).

The Dial   online
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000052812
URL: https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/serial?id=thedial







Literatur: [anonym]

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.

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Køhlert, Frederik B. (Hrsg.): Chicago. A Literary History. Cambridge 2021.

Murray, Gilbert: Oxford and Cambridge Poetry. In: Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art. Bd. 117, 1914, 31. Januar, S.  137-138.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009471062

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Literatur: The Dial

Bains, Christopher: Le Paris d'Ezra Pound: utopie et exil dans les pages de The New Age et The Dial. In: Revues modernistes anglo-américaines. Lieux d'échanges, lieux d’exil. Hrsg. von Benoît Tadié. Paris 2006, S. 79-93.

Britzolakis, Christina: Making Modernism Safe for Democracy. The Dial (1920-9). In: The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines. Hrsg. von Peter Brooker u.a. Bd. 2: North America 1894-1960. Oxford 2012, S. 85-102.

Dempsey, James: The Radical and the Aesthete: Randolph Bourne, Scofield Thayer, and The Dial. In:: Revues modernistes, revues engagées: (1900-1939). Hrsg. von Hélène Aji u.a. Rennes 2011, S. 151-159.
URL: http://books.openedition.org/pur/38410

Golding, Alan: The Dial, The Little Review, and the Dialogics of Modernism. In: Little Magazines & Modernism. New Aproaches. Hrsg. Von Suzanne W. Churchill u. Adam McKible. Aldershot u.a. 2007, S. 67-81.

Joost, Nicholas: Years of Transition: The Dial, 1912-1920. Barre, Mass. 1967.

Marek, Jayne: Women Editing Modernism. Lexington 1995.

Pinkerton, Jan / Hudson, Randolph H.: Encyclopedia of the Chicago Literary Renaissance. New York 2004.



Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer