Old and New Masters eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 290 pages of information about Old and New Masters.

    O, curlew, cry no more in the air,
    Or only to the waters of the West;
    Because your crying brings to my mind
    Passion-dimmed eyes and long heavy hair
    That was shaken out over my breast: 
    There is enough evil in the crying of the wind.

This passion of loss, this sense of the beloved as of something secret and far and scarcely to be attained, like the Holy Grail, is the dominant theme of the poems, even in The Song of Wandering Aengus, that poem of almost playful beauty, which tells of the “little silver trout” that became

           —­a glimmering girl
    With apple blossom in her hair,
    Who called me by my name and ran
    And faded through the brightening air.

What a sense of long pursuit, of a life’s quest, we get in the exquisite last verse—­a verse which must be among the best-known of Mr. Yeats’s writings after The Lake Isle of Innisfree and Had I the Heaven’s Embroidered Cloths:—­

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

This is the magic of fairyland again.  It seems a little distant from human passions.  It is a wonderful example, however, of Mr. Yeats’s genius for transforming passion into elfin dreams.  The emotion is at once deeper and nearer human experience in the later poem called The Folly of Being Comforted.  I have known readers who professed to find this poem obscure.  To me it seems a miracle of phrasing and portraiture.  I know no better example of the nobleness of Mr. Yeats’s verse and his incomparable music.



It is the custom when praising a Russian writer to do so at the expense of all other Russian writers.  It is as though most of us were monotheists in our devotion to authors, and could not endure to see any respect paid to the rivals of the god of the moment.  And so one year Tolstoy is laid prone as Dagon, and, another year, Turgenev.  And, no doubt, the day will come when Dostoevsky will fall from his huge eminence.

Perhaps the luckiest of all the Russian authors in this respect is Tchehov.  He is so obviously not a god.  He does not deliver messages to us from the mountain-top like Tolstoy, or reveal himself beautifully in sunset and star like Turgenev, or announce himself now in the hurricane and now in the thunderstorm like Dostoevsky.  He is a man and a medical doctor.  He pays professional visits.  We may define his genius more exactly by saying that his is a general practice.  There has, I think, never been so wonderful an examination of common people in literature as in

Project Gutenberg
Old and New Masters from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook