In the water, tranquilly severing,
Three or four little plates of gold on the river:
A little motion of gold between the dark images
Of two tall posts that stand in the grey water.
A woman’s laugh and children going home.
A whispering couple, leaning over the railings,
And somewhere, a little splash as a dog goes in.
I have always known all this,
it has always been,
There is no change anywhere, nothing will ever change.
I heard a story, a crazy and tiresome myth.
Listen! Behind the twilight
a deep, low sound
Like the constant shutting of very distant doors.
Doors that are letting people
Out to some other place beyond the end of the sky.
The contrast between the beauty of the stillness of the moonlit world and the insane intrusion of the war into it has not, I think, been suggested so expressively in any other poem.
Now that these poems have been collected into a single volume it is possible to measure the author’s stature. His book will, I believe, come as a revelation to the majority of readers. A poet of original music, of an original mind, of an original imagination, Mr. Squire has now taken a secure place among the men of genius of to-day. Poems: First Series, is literary treasure so novel and so abundant that I can no longer regret, as I once did, that Mr. Squire has said farewell to the brilliant lighter-hearted moods of Steps to Parnassus and Tricks of the Trade. He has brought us gifts better even than those.
R. JOSEPH CONRAD
1. THE MAKING OF AN AUTHOR
Mr. Joseph Conrad is one of the strangest figures in literature. He has called himself “the most unliterary of writers.” He did not even begin to write till he was half-way between thirty and forty. I do not like to be more precise about the date, because there seems to be some doubt as to the year in which Mr. Conrad was born. Mr. Hugh Walpole, in his brief critical study of Mr. Conrad, gives the date as the 6th of December, 1857; the Encyclopaedia Britannica says 1856; Mr. Conrad himself declares in his reminiscences that he was “nine years old or thereabouts” in 1868, which would bring the year of his birth nearer 1859. Of one thing, however, there is no question. He grew up without any impulse to be a writer. He apparently never even wrote bad verse in his teens. Before he began to write Almayer’s Folly he “had written nothing but letters and not very many of these.” “I never,” he declares, “made a note of a fact, of an impression, or of an anecdote in my life. The ambition of being an author had never turned up among those precious imaginary existences one creates fondly for oneself in the stillness and immobility of a daydream.”