Like keen-drawn threads of
ink dropped into a glass
Of water, which curl and relax and soften and pass.
The Ode: In a Restaurant is perhaps the summit of Mr. Squire’s writing as a poet at odds with himself, a poet who floats above the obscene and dull realities of every day, “like a draggled seagull over dreary flats of mud.” He has already escaped into bluer levels in the poem, On a friend Recently Dead, written in the same or the following year. Here he ceases to be a poet floating and bumping against a ceiling. He is now ranging the heaven of the emancipated poets. Even when he writes of the common and prosaic things he now charges them with significance for the emotions. He is no longer a satirist and philosopher, but a lover. How well he conjures up the picture of the room in which his friend used to sit and talk:—
Here in this room, not long before the end,
Here in this very room six months ago
You poised your foot and joked and chuckled so.
Beyond the window shook the ash-tree bough,
You saw books, pictures, as I see them now.
The sofa then was blue, the telephone
Listened upon the desk and softly shone
Even as now the fire-irons in the grate,
And the little brass pendulum swung, a seal of fate
Stamping the minutes; and the curtains on window and door
Just moved in the air; and on the dark boards of the floor
These same discreetly-coloured rugs were lying ...
And then you never had a thought of dying.
How much richer, too, by this time Mr. Squire’s imagery has become! His observation is both exact and imaginative when he notes how—
the frail ash-tree
With a soft sharpness like a fall of mounded grain.
Elsewhere in the same poem Mr. Squire has given us a fine new image of the brevity of man’s life:—
And I, I see myself as one
of a heap of stones,
Wetted a moment to life as the flying wave goes over.
It was not, however, till The Lily of Malud appeared that readers of poetry in general realized that Mr. Squire was a poet of the imagination even more than of the intellect. This is a flower that has blossomed out of the vast swamps of the anthropologists. It is the song of the ritual of initiation. Mr. Squire’s power in the sphere both of the grotesque and of lovely imagery is revealed in the triumphant close of this poem:—
And the surly thick-lipped
men, as they sit about their huts
Making drums out of guts, grunting gruffly now and then,
Carving sticks of ivory, stretching shields of wrinkled skin,
Smoothing sinister and thin squatting gods of ebony,
Chip and grunt and do not see.