There is one more point that perhaps is worth making. It is significant of human experience that the race instinctively demands, in most of the poetry that it cares to take along with it as permanent baggage, a certain honourable sobriety of mood. Consider Mr. Burton E. Stevenson’s great “Home Book of Verse,” that magnificent anthology which may be taken as fairly indicative of general taste in these matters. In nearly 4,000 pages of poetry only three or four hundred are cynical or satirical in temper. Humanity as a whole likes to make the best of a bad job: it grins somewhat ruefully at the bitter and the sardonic; but when it is packing its trunk for the next generation it finds most room for those poets who have somehow contrived to find beauty and not mockery in the inner sanctities of human life and passion. This thought comes to us on reading Aldous Huxley’s brilliant and hugely entertaining book of poems called “Leda.” There is no more brilliant young poet writing to-day; his title poem is nothing less than extraordinary in pagan and pictorial beauty, but as a whole the cynical and scoffish tone of carnal drollery which gives the book its appeal to the humorously inclined makes a very dubious sandal for a poet planning a long-distance run. Please note that we are not taking sides in any argument: we ourself admire Mr. Huxley’s poems enormously; but we are simply trying, clumsily, to state what seem to us some of the conditions attaching to the permanence of beauty as arranged in words.
It is not to be supposed that you have done your possible when you have read a great poem once—or ten times. A great poem is like a briar pipe—it darkens and mellows and sweetens with use. You fill it with your own glowing associations and glosses, and the strong juices seep through, staining and gilding the grain and fibre of the words.
BOOKS OF THE SEA
The National Marine League asks, What are the ten best books of the sea? Without pondering very deeply on the matter, and confining ourself to prose, we would suggest the following as our own favourites:
Typhoon, by Joseph Conrad
The Nigger of the “Narcissus,” by Joseph Conrad
The Mirror of the Sea, by Joseph Conrad
Captains Courageous, by Rudyard Kipling
The Brassbounder, by David W. Bone
Salt of the Sea, by Morley Roberts
Mr. Midshipman Easy, by Captain Marryat
The Wreck of the “Grosvenor,” by Clark Russell
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
An Ocean Tramp, by William McFee.