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bard of old might not have intoned these words over a singing lyre:
"It may be on a quiet mountain-top, Or in a valley folded among hills,
You take your path, and often you will stop
To hear the pleasant chatter of the rills, The piping of a wind in branches green, The murmuring of a widely lifted spray As long boughs swing;
And hear the twittering
Of drowsy birds when the great sun is
Climbing the steep horizon to the day."
I had often been told that poetry should be recited in an ordinary speaking voice. I should like the people who say that to hear A.E. He does not recite. He chants in a low, gentle monotone that sounds like the rippling of water over stones. When he speaks, everything vanishes but his voice, and that for all the world might be coming from some rocky altar in an ancient land. While that voice goes on, you are more than ever certain that A.E. is not of this century, but belongs to the years when mystic rites were performed on stone columns under open skies.
A.E. went on:
"It is not in poetry alone that Ireland is being reborn. It is in the drama as well. One of the most hopeful signs of the literary movement is the success its playwrights are having. Yeats, St. John Ervine, Lennox Robinson, are perhaps the three foremost in the poetic group. Ireland as yet has no novelist. That will come in the future, I am sure. Strangely enough, Strangely enough, the steps of modern literary history in Ireland have been poet, playwright, with the third to come-novelist. Our poets have become playwrights; I am certain our playwrights will be
come novelists. You ask whether that is the usual evolution of the novelist. I do not know. I can only speak for Ireland. That is what is happening here."
I asked A.E. what he thought of American poetry. I wonder whether what he said will be as startling to the readers of this as it was to me.
"Your American poets are very good. They have a real feeling for poetry. I like your Walt Whitman, I like your Emerson; I used to like your Poe when I was younger, but not so much to-day. The mechanical effort of his verse grates on my ear. The repetition of 'bells, bells, bells' seems artificial and unreal."
Walt Whitman, Emerson, and Poe. This, then, was the American trilogy of poets known to the Irish. I pressed the point. I asked A.E. definitely did he not think we had any good modern poets.
"Yes," he repeated. "Most assuredly I think Whitman, Emerson, and Poe loom large as men of strength."
It suddenly came to me that I should have remembered, perhaps, that, compared with a tradition of centuries, men who have died within the last fifty years might well be considered modern. Nevertheless, it seemed to me that surely some of our living poets were doing work that was fine and that A.E. might know of them. I asked him the question point blank.
"Oh, that," he answered. "Ah, yes; most assuredly. I have seen some of the poetry in your magazines, and it is very good. It shows fine promise. I do not remember the names, but the poetic feeling is there, especially in the younger people. I cannot say the same for your older
living poets. Not believing that vers libre as such is a form of poetry, I can not like your Amy Lowell. Not agreeing that the workman or the drunkard is a subject for poetry, I can not like your Edgar Lee Masters. "Those, I think, are the only ones I know by name of your contemporary poets. And here, perhaps, I might make one criticism of American poetry of the kind written by these people. Much of it is perfect in technic, but lacking in feeling. It is woven entirely out of the brain and not at all of the soul.
It is an example of efficient workmanship, but it is not a spontaneous outburst of genius. I might admire a poem of that kind within four walls; I could not enjoy it in the fields. It does not call to the beauty within me; it calls to the craftsman. That is not poetry.
"Greatly akin to that is my criticism of your subject matter. You write about the workman and machines and mills. You seem to lose the depth and the glory of the wonders of creation. The fault may be with me, I confess. I see no beauty in a Pennell etching of a smoke-stack; I see much that is wonderful and stirring in a Corot.
This criticism is not meant to be unkind; it is simply that you are different, and I do not understand. Perhaps the difference lies in the fact that America is young and Ireland is beautifully old. You have mechanical endeavor; we have suffering and tradition. Who is to say which has touched the fount of poetry? One can only hazard an opinion, and that opinion must needs be governed by prejudice.'
Susan Mitchell, who had tactfully absented herself for an hour, now returned. A.E. bade me good-by and returned to his work, the editing of his magazine, the outside cover of which was emblazoned with the words, "Butter, Cheese, Eggs." "The Irish Homestead" is the official organ of the Irish Agricultural Organization Society, or, more simply, the farmers' coöperative movement in Ireland. It is A.E., the foremost Irish economist, who publishes that. A look into its pages gives not a few glimpses of A.E. the poet, the painter, and the mystic. When, five minutes later, I took my leave of Susan Mitchell, he was absentmindedly chasing his manuscript across the uneven course taken by his temperamental blotter.
The Man They Pitied
By M. L. C. PICKTHALL
HE room was a very comfortable one. It looked out on a pleasant garden. Butterflies, emblems of souls, sometimes rose from the flowers and fluttered about the windows. But these were screened by strong, neat netting, so the butterflies could n't get in, but the scent of sprinkled grass and mignonette could.
Everything in the room was rigidly neat. A brass ash-tray containing three half-smoked cigarettes exactly balanced the clock on the shelf. On a small table in one window was a half-finished piece of wood-carving. On a desk in the other window was a half-written letter. It was also so still that at first one would have taken it to be empty.
At a large table in the middle of the room, however, an old man was sitting. He sat quite motionless, holding between his two feeble, slender hands an hour-glass. He never removed his attention from the thread of red sand trickling from bulb to bulb, nor did he ever let it run entirely through before he reversed the bulbs.
The door was a few inches ajar. Outside it, in the next room, sat a young man and a girl. With impatient, yet pitiful, eyes, they watched the man inside while he watched the hour-glass.
Musa had found the horse at the appointed place, and now was in the
saddle, waiting. He had not moved for an hour, or changed his eastward stare through the light that flooded the desert like an intolerable, bright sea. Rising out of this sea were bare hills the color of baked brick. Above them he could just discern the deeper-red walls of a naked city, so burned with light that at this hour even the lewdness was fired out of it, and it lay on the red height like a wanton's bones.
Behind Musa an old Roman arch rose from the sands, the solitary memorial of a strong colony. It gave a narrow strip of black shade. Musa sat so that this shade lay across his horse's loins. He himself, wrapped in a thin camel's-wool burnoose, was in sun. The horse was of a strange sand-color, bay mixed with cream. Man and horse seemed so penetrated with the desert light that without the shadow on the beast's loins, without Musa's dark, sinewy hands on the reins, they would have been invisible.
For an hour the ribbon of shade, which was all Rome had left to give, narrowed. Then Musa saw what he had expected to see. A single black dot detached itself from the hills where the city was, and came imperceptibly toward him.
Another hour the shade narrowed. Musa could now see the black dot to be a horseman galloping furiously, as Ibrahim's messengers were used to go. He wore a white burnoose, and was jaw
bound like a corpse. In front of him, on the saddle, was a dark shape. This, too, Musa had expected. He He sat quite still, waiting. He did not go to meet the other. He had been told to stand by the arch, and he stood. So Ibrahim's orders were obeyed.
The white rider galloped up to the Roman arch, drew rein before it in a storm of sand. His horse was a black and hard-breathing, but with a dry skin. Musa thought his own better.
The man in white unbound his jaw and spat out dust; then he said hoarsely:
"In the service of God."
"And of Ibrahim, the sheik," answered Musa at once.
He rode forward out of the arch, and the other paced to meet him. When When knee touched knee and the horses were alongside, they embraced gravely. Then the stranger raised the shape that he had carried, and gave it into Musa's hands. It was a woman, swathed from feet to head in dark, blue veils.
unveiled her, with the words of Ibrahim, 'As this woman is shamed before you, so am I shamed in the faces of the tribes.' The young men were gathering the horses before I left. It was a strong word." He coughed again. "Now I will rest. The word is with you, Brother."
The stranger in white dismounted, eased his horse of the saddle, and led it to the shade of the arch. Then he dropped down beside it and slept. Musa was already galloping furiously westward, carrying the word of Ibrahim.
The sun stood high now, and it was like riding through fire. No, it was like sharing the flight of a bird through flames. Musa was happy. He had been chosen for this stage for his strength and endurance, just as the horse had been chosen. He had never ridden such a horse. Back in his hawk-head he began to make verses about it:
Allah unloose thee, beautiful one.
Musa accepted her weight easily, If my breath were white barley, I would
and stowed her on his own saddle. The other coughed out more sand, saying:
"You have the sheik's orders, Brother?"
"The orders of Ibrahim," assented Musa, courteously, "are the golden. slippers on the feet of favor"; but in his heart was a spark of anger that the uncourteous word should have been used to him. "And you, Brother?"
"Yesterday at this hour I received her from a man on a white stallion at the Well of Seventy Palms. I rode with her to the city." He moved his head toward the city on the eastern hills. "At the time of water-drawing I entered, and in the market-place I
spread it before thee on a cloth of bright green.
I would tan my skin to make thee a soft
So that another might ride thee to vic
Having made his song, he sang it in a high, crooning falsetto. Allah! what a horse! If it had n't been for the weight on the saddle before him, he would have ridden himself and the horse dead with delight.
The desert broke into shallow ways, with outcropping red rock on which the flying feet of the horse briefly sounded. Here and there, in the rocky sides of the ways, were red tombs, with pillared entrances. These were older than