Old and New Masters eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 226 pages of information about Old and New Masters.

  Winds of the world, give answer!  They are whimpering to and fro—­
  And what should they know of England who only England know? 
  The poor little street-bred people, that vapour, and fume, and brag,
  They are lifting their heads in the stillness, to yelp at the English flag!

Mr. Kipling is a good judge of yelping.

The truth is, Mr. Kipling has put the worst of his genius into his poetry.  His verses have brazen “go” and lively colour and something of the music of travel; but they are too illiberal, too snappish, too knowing, to afford deep or permanent pleasure to the human spirit.

XXVII

MR. THOMAS HARDY

1.  HIS GENIUS AS A POET

Mr. Thomas Hardy, in the opinion of some, is greater as a poet than as a novelist.  That is one of the mild heresies in which the amateur of letters loves to indulge.  It has about as much truth in it as the statement that Milton was greater as a controversialist than as a poet, or that Lamb’s plays are better than his essays.  Mr. Hardy has undoubtedly made an original contribution to the poetry of his time.  But he has given us no verse that more than hints at the height and depth of the tragic vision which is expressed in Jude the Obscure.  He is not by temperament a singer.  His music is a still small voice unevenly matched against his consciousness of midnight and storm.  It is a flutter of wings in the rain over a tomb.  His sense of beauty is frail and midge-like compared with his sense of everlasting frustration.  The conceptions in his novels are infinitely more poetic than the conceptions in his verse.  In Tess and Jude destiny presides with something of the grandeur of the ancient gods.  Except in The Dynasts and a few of the lyrics, there is none of this brooding majesty in his verse.  And even in The Dynasts, majestic as the scheme of it is, there seems to me to be more creative imagination in the prose passages than in the poetry.

Truth to tell, Mr. Hardy is neither sufficiently articulate nor sufficiently fastidious to be a great poet.  He does not express life easily in beautiful words or in images.  There is scarcely a magical image in the hundred or so poems in the book of his selected verse.  Thus he writes in I Found Her Out There of one who:—­

          would sigh at the tale
    Of sunk Lyonesse
    As a wind-tugged tress
    Flapped her cheek like a flail.

There could not be an uglier and more prosaic exaggeration than is contained in the image in the last line.  And prose intrudes in the choice of words as well as in images.  Take, for example, the use of the word “domiciled” in the passage in the same poem about—­

          that western sea,
    As it swells and sobs,
    Where she once domiciled.

There are infelicities of the same kind in the first verse of the poem called At an Inn:—­

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Old and New Masters from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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