Shattering the sea-tops into golden
The waves bowed down before her like blown grain.
And as she sits in Valparaiso harbour, a beautiful thing at peace under the beautiful shadow of “the mountain tower, snow to the peak,” our imagination is lifted to the hills-to where
The pointed mountain pointed at the stars,
Frozen, alert, austere.
It is a fine symbol of the aspiration of this book of men’s “might, their misery, their tragic power.” There is something essentially Christian and simple in Mr. Masefield’s presentation of life. Conscious though he is of the pain of the world—and aloof from the world though this consciousness sometimes makes him appear—he is full of an extraordinary pity and brotherliness for men. He wanders among them, not with the condescension of so many earnest writers, but with the humility almost of one of the early Franciscans. One may amuse oneself by fancying that there is something in the manner of St. Francis even in Mr. Masefield’s attitude to his little brothers the swear-words. He may not love them by nature, but he is kind to them by grace. They strike one as being the most innocent swear-words in literature.
MR. W.B. YEATS
1. HIS OWN ACCOUNT OF HIMSELF
Mr. W.B. Yeats has created, if not a new world, a new star. He is not a reporter of life as it is, to the extent that Shakespeare or Browning is. One is not quite certain that his kingdom is of the green earth. He is like a man who has seen the earth not directly but in a crystal. He has a vision of real things, but in unreal circumstances. His poetry repels many people at first because it is unlike any other poetry. They are suspicious of it as of a new sect in religion. They have been accustomed to bow in other temples. They resent the ritual, the incantations, the unearthly light and colour of the temple of this innovating high priest.
They resent, most of all, the self-consciousness of the priest himself. For Mr. Yeats’s is not a genius with natural readiness of speech. His sentences do not pour from him in stormy floods. It is as though he had to pursue and capture them one by one, like butterflies. Or, perhaps, it is that he has not been content with the simple utterance of his vision. He has reshaped and embroidered it, and has sung of passion in a mask. There are many who see in his poetry only the mask, and who are apparently blind to the passion of sorrowful ecstasy that sets The Wind Among the Reeds apart from every other book that has ever been written in English. They imagine that the book amounts to little more than the attitude of a stylist, a trifler with Celtic nomenclature and fairy legend.