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mode, no venerable costumes. The characters speak with the spare directness of all Mr. Robinson's characters. The narrative advances with the straightforward, doomed tread of all his tragedies. But never before has he told a story of anything like the present scope with so much lucidity or with so much simplicity of structure. Even readers accustomed to read novels only should find no difficulty in following the story. It is, of course, a novel in verse, lifted to eminence not by the fact that it is in verse, but by the fact that it is lofty and intense and concentrated beyond the reach of


The magic philter which in the old
story was the cause of the ill fated
love this poet quite leaves out, know-
ing that love is not to be attributed
to philters or explained by them.
The feudal obligation which the
legendary Tristram owes to the leg-
endary Mark has become another
thing. Tristram has merely failed
to know his own mind soon enough,
has allowed Isolt to marry Mark
without protest, and in view of the
king's jealousy and power can do
nothing but accept his exile. To
stay would mean his own death and
Isolt's lasting grief. In the Robin-
son version, Tristram comes back to
England and temporarily and sur-
reptitiously rejoins Isolt. Mark,
learning the state of Isolt's feeling
for Tristram, decides, like any civi-
lized modern man, that their love has
a right greater than his legal claim.
The death of Tristram is the work of
an officious fool who has the leg-
endary attitude. The story might
have had its scene laid in Maine or
California without any greater loss
than would have come from the sac-
rifice of names and places already
rich with poetic association. The
tragedy is universal, not traditional.
Consequently there is no historical
posturing, no antiquities of speech or an American.

If "Tristram" is not a greåt poem, no version of the legend since Gottfried von Strassburg's can be called great. If it is not a great poem, no American narrative poem can be called great. Considering the significance of the theme, the strength with which it is grasped, the skill with which the tragic drama is built up, the steady fire which burns in every line, the felicity and harmony of the language, I am led to say that this is the greatest Tristram since Gottfried. And, though ordinarily averse to superlatives in literary criticism, I bring this department to an end with a superlative. I believe that "Tristram" is the greatest poem yet written, or at least published, by

Vol 114

July 1927

No 3



A Foot-Note on Imperialism

HE ENGINES ran easily for the first time in six days, as the Narrows slid past and the baggage waited, neatly stacked, in the relinquished state-rooms. Ecstatic watchers on the deck saw tall, unlikely towers step suddenly out of the mist and group themselves into a city. But down below the anxious voices still inquired along every sounding passage for the Something Sisters and the Marchese della Cosa, as an eager Press reached out its tentacles to embrace these paragons of dance and diplomacy, the pride of our ship's company. Perhaps it found them, though I never saw the photographic record of their smiles, their feelings on returning home, impressions of the sky-line, thoughts on war-debts, censorship, the current trial, and the latest book, which are the toll exacted by the inquiring gate-keeper of the New World. One envies Christopher Columbus, to whom the sky-line, at any rate, must have presented a simpler problem. For in the somewhat uneventful landscape of Ambrose Channel the wary Genoese might well reply that

he had not noticed one, an excuse now lying far beyond the reach of the least observant mariner. So we admired it, each after his own fashion, to his appropriate reporterthe Something Sisters in duet, the Marchese with a touch of Latin fire, myself with a nervous gesture of propitiation. We admired the United States as well. True, we had not yet set foot in it. But if the ancients sacrificed to an Unknown God, why not a cautious modern?

These strange rites of initiation are among the most mysterious features of the Dark Continent. Why in the name of sane and interesting journalism is it supposed that the opinion of no one in particular (especially on matters upon which he is not qualified to have one) is likely to provide attractive reading-matter? Why does a proud continent refresh itself with the lightest thoughts of every passing stranger who passing stranger who may be pressed into its service as a momentary leader-writer and pontificates gravely to reporters upon subjects with which he is imperfectly acquainted? But I digress. The Narrows were

Copyright, 1927, by THE CENTURY Co. All rights reserved.


still sliding past. Myself, as Omar sings, did eagerly frequent young men with charming manners and the oddest choice of topic appropriate for an interview with a visiting historian. For they were gnawed with an increasing passion for opinions on foreign affairs. Politely oblivious of the fact that fate had held me captive in mid-ocean for a week, sustained upon an unrewarding diet of wireless scraps, they seemed to ache like a thirsty land in summer for a downpour of definite statements on several international questions of the utmost delicacy. Why from me, I did not stop to ask. Any taxpayer, it seems, is good enough to expound the policy of his own governmentand, for the matter of fact, of any other-in the hearing of this eager public. But cautious inquiry elicited the facts, at least, on which I was desired to comment. While I had hung, like Mohammed's coffin, between two continents, two states, it seemed, had both been doing the identical thing. One in the Old World and the other in the New had each been sending armed protection for its threatened traders. The coincidence was odd. But there, as I learned the facts, it was. For as the troop-ships drove eastward from Southampton, taking the Guards to Shanghai, the U. S. marines were trickling into Nicaragua. There was a strange resemblance between their missions, between the sailing-orders of the delight of London nurse-maids and those legendary marines, upon whose gallant heads the United States have concentrated almost all their latent militarism.

But there was a difference between the cases. There was, I learned

from the mouths of my polite informants, a whole world of difference. I had not noticed it, but they seemed quite clear about it. For it was this way. As the troopers slid down Southampton Water and nosed their way to Suez, they were propelled, it seemed, by all the crooked motives of the Old World. Kings chuckled, courtiers winked, and statesmen whispered evilly behind gnarled fingers at their going. It was (was it not?) a striking recrudescence of British imperialism-and what did I think of it? By way of answer I inquired politely for news of the U. S. marines, those eager saviors of Central America from its base interests. But the marines—ah, what a difference in their mission! As they slipped out of San Diego and turned toward Nicaragua, the sunshine was on their foreheads. For they went about the blameless business of the New World. No sinister intent, no kings, no taint of selfishness; just business of the highest character, purely disinterested and quite legitimate-not even Big Business.

The contrast was instructive; and I did my best to profit by the lesson, to get the new perspective in the clear American light. A guardsman ordered East to stand between a scared community and a resurgent China was (probably) the minion of some dark imperialistic design. Did he not wear a crown-and even a unicorn-upon his buttons? But a marine ordered south to stand in precisely the same attitude before a far less adequate enemy was, beyond all doubt and guessing, beyond even Mr. Wilson's cherished peradventure, a missionary of something immaculate. For it was unthink

able that broad-browed Washington should take the taint, the Old-World taint, of imperialism. I heard; I bowed the head; but even in this respectful posture, a haze of irreverent doubt began to rise. Was there, I wondered, some insidious form in which the creeping virus of imperialism might perhaps have entered the young veins of the New World? Marines and neutral zones, the mildly reasoned note, the monthly, weekly, daily admonition from the State Department, the treaty of perpetual friendship-were these the new technique of imperialism? Had Mr. Kellogg found a new way to commit old sins? The uneasy question rose unanswered, and I walked quickly down the gang-plank into the New World.


Imperialism is, after all, a shifting thing. Its form has varied from one century to the next and, still more widely, from one continent to the next. In its first simple form it grasped at universal domination. Rome and its imitations were the first European masters of the art. To reduce the habitable globe (or plane) to a single allegiance was the simple object of the first imperialists. One law, one senate, and one coinage seemed to be the aims of universal empire, as it was practised by the more aggressive Cæsars. The picture was inspiring; and long after Rome had crumbled from empire into papacy, it inspired the Romanizers-Charlemagne perhaps, and beyond a doubt Napoleon, that odd pastiche of Charlemagne and Augustus. That was the first and crudest form in which imperialism dawned on Europe. But even then

there were wide variations between the practice of the different continents. For while the emperor hung Paris with captured flags, Jenghis Khan heaped a pile of heads before his door. Other continents, other manners. But within the limits of these regional variations, the aims of imperialism were identical, a single authority administering all territory in sight. And in that ideal Napoleon was one with Nerva.

Europe, fragmented by the fall of Rome, and still further atomized by the Reformation, was perpetually unfriendly to this simple design, and history became a long record of resistance to ambitious projects of universal domination. It was the function, preeminently, of Great Britain to focus this temper of national independence, of anti-imperialism. The British Isles escaped at a comparatively early stage from the Roman grasp; they were an early center of insurrection from Rome's successor, the the universal church; Spain's slow encirclement of Europe and even of the world, the large design which grasped Madrid, Vienna, Brussels, North Italy, and even the Americas, was challenged by the carronades of Elizabethan seamen and foundered in the deep Hebridean waters which engulfed the great Armada; the French effort toward the same goal was foiled by Dutch William with a British army, and crumbled finally before Marlborough and the troopers who "swore terribly in Flanders" under Queen Anne; the bull-rush of Napoleon was worn down by British sea-power and took the final blow from the cool matador who waited on the ridge in front of the little village of Waterloo; and the

latest aspirant to universal empire, the hair-brained practitioner of every art but that of government who passes his days at Doorn, owes much of his solitary leisure to the British effort, which expended men, ships, and money in four years of splendid prodigality. Such, in the roughest outline, is the record of universal domination in the last fifteen centuries of Europe's history. Much has been omitted, but as the shadows of Hildebrand, of Charlemagne, of Charles V, of Louis XIV, of Napoleon flit unregarded by, one fact emerges: Europe instinctively resists a single domination. This phase, apart from its almost involuntary recrudescence in the German dream of empire, was ended in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. But in the years that followed, it found a mild successor. Resigning hopes of universal domination over the closely inhabited areas covered by the European state system, nations began to grasp the easier prize of overseas domination. In this phase Great Britain led unconsciously, as is the fashion of British thought in matters of extreme importance. In the years which followed the diminution of the first British Empire by the secession of its American colonies, a second British Empire was rapidly assembled. Much remained of its predecessorthe Canadas, India, and a rich supply of sugar islands. But in the years of European conflict which determined the defeat of the French design of universal domination, British policy reached out beyond the visible horizons of Europe and made a second empire. South Africa, Ceylon, advancing frontiers within

India itself, East Indies, unrecorded islands in every sea, observed the steady march of British control. The tendency was largely undiscovered by Europe, still interested in the checks and balances of its purely continental system. But it proceeded steadily in the years between Waterloo and 1870. Largely unconscious, it resulted from vague urge of population, of adventurous pioneers (for the Old World can show as many pioneer virtues as the New is not the New World itself a monument of Old-World pioneering?) of judicious traders in pursuit of export markets, of mere patriotism exhibited by enterprising captains, who hoisted a flag and read a proclamation of annexation in a circle of respectful natives. The process was scarcely observed by other powers, though France was stirred to emulation by a recollection of former colonial ardors and the convenient proximity of Algeria. It has been called, for want of a better name, imperialism; and it rests undoubtedly on the desire to build an empire and on a belief that the empire's law is best for all within its circle. But the ideal which prompted it is something very different from the crude ambitions of the Cæsars and their less fortunate imitators. For it partakes largely of the humbler aspirations of the exporting trader, of the desire of Manchester to clothe the heathen in a sufficiency of Manchester goods, of the doctor's and the missionary's faith in the superior virtues of his own civilization. And there is this broad distinction to be made between the imperialism of Cecil Rhodes and that of Julius Cæsar, that it flowed mainly to the empty

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