A Treasury of College Verse
Frederic Lawrence Knowles
Editor of “The Golden Treasury of American Songs and Lyrics,” etc.
great scholar and great teacher
whom I was once proud
to call my friend,
Frances James Child,
This little book
is gratefully inscribed.
In “Cap and Gown” you look in vain
For epic or heroic strain.
Not ours to scale the heights sublime,
Which hardly masters dare to climb;
We only sing of youth and joy,
And love,—the credo of the boy!
The gay verses which celebrate undergraduate life must not be taken too seriously. They seldom pretend to the dignity of poetry. College verse, if I understand it, is verse suited to the period and point of view of undergraduate days. Light, graceful, humorous, sparkling,—this it should be for the most part; serious sometimes, it is true,—for young men and women about to take upon themselves the responsibilities of mature life are at heart by no means frivolous, but touching the note of grief, if at all, almost as though by accident. Life is often sad enough in the after-years, and for the period of sorrow, sad verse may be in place. Happy they who have not yet traded cap and bells (never far hidden under cap and gown) for the
“Sable stole of cypress lawn.”
Happier still if they never need make such a sorry exchange.
Yes, like all sound art, college verse must, above all else, be honest. Let us not say, however, that the thoughtful moods of young men and women may not sincerely be set to the music of verse. One department in this collection bears the name “In Serious Mood,” and its sentiment rings as true as that of any other.
In looking over very many undergraduate papers, I have been struck with several facts. I will give them for what they are worth, leaving their explanation to others. First, there seems to be a general fondness for the sonnet, and a very general lack of success in writing it. Second, the French forms of light verse are exceedingly popular—particularly the rondeau, ballade, and triolet. These, more easily lending themselves to gay moods than does the sonnet, are written with much greater success. Triolets are perhaps least often, rondeaus most often, successful. Third, purely sentimental verse is little written in women’s colleges, its place being taken by poetry of nature or of reflection. Oddly enough, when it is attempted, the writer usually fancies herself the lover, and describes feminine, not masculine, beauty. College girls show possibly more maturity of reflective power than do their brothers, but they are notably weaker in the sense of humor. Fourth, amongst so much merely graceful verse, there are not wanting touches here and there of genuine poetry. I shall be disappointed if the reader does not discover many such in this little book.