On The Art of Reading eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 241 pages of information about On The Art of Reading.

  Whence then cometh wisdom?  And where is the place
  Understanding hath chosen, since this is the case?...

Enough!  This not only shows how that other rendering can be spoilt even to the point of burlesque by an attempt, on preconceived notions, to embellish it with metre and rhyme, but it also hints that parallel verse will actually resent and abhor such embellishment even by the most skilled hand.  Yet, I repeat, our version of “Job” is poetry undeniable.  What follows?

Why, it follows that in the course of studying it as literature we have found experimentally settled for us—­and on the side of freedom—­a dispute in which scores of eminent critics have taken sides:  a dispute revived but yesterday (if we omit the blank and devastated days of this War) by the writers and apostles of vers libres. ‘Can there be poetry without metre?’ ’Is free verse a true poetic form?’ Why, our “Book of Job” being poetry, unmistakable poetry, of course there can, to be sure it is.  These apostles are butting at an open door.  Nothing remains for them but to go and write vers libres as fine as those of “Job” in our English translation.  Or suppose even that they write as well as M. Paul Fort, they will yet be writing ancestrally, not as innovators but as renewers.  Nothing is done in literature by arguing whether or not this or that be possible or permissible.  The only way to prove it possible or permissible is to go and do it:  and then you are lucky indeed if some ancient writers have not forestalled you.


Now for another question (much argued, you will remember, a few years ago) ’Is there—­can there be—­such a thing as a Static Theatre, a Static Drama?’

Most of you (I daresay) remember M. Maeterlinck’s definition of this and his demand for it.  To summarise him roughly, he contends that the old drama—­the traditional, the conventional drama—­ lives by action; that, in Aristotle’s phrase, it represents men doing, [Greek:  prattontas], and resolves itself into a struggle of human wills—­whether against the gods, as in ancient tragedy, or against one another, as in modern.  M. Maeterlinck tells us—­

There is a tragic element in the life of every day that is far more real, far more penetrating, far more akin to the true self that is in us, than is the tragedy that lies in great adventure....  It goes beyond the determined struggle of man against man, and desire against desire; it goes beyond the eternal conflict of duty and passion.  Its province is rather to reveal to us how truly wonderful is the mere act of living, and to throw light upon the existence of the soul, self-contained in the midst of ever-restless immensities; to hush the discourse of reason and sentiment, so that above the tumult may be heard the solemn uninterrupted whisperings of man and his destiny.
To the tragic author [he goes on, later],
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On The Art of Reading from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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