as a song art, an art appealing to the ear rather than the eye. The
first section of this volume is especially an effort to restore poetry
to its proper place--the audience-chamber, and take it out of the
library, the closet. In the library it has become, so far as the people
are concerned, almost a lost art, and perhaps it can be restored to the
people only through a renewal of its appeal to the ear.
I am tempted to quote from Mr. Lindsay's explanatory note which
accompanied three of these poems when they were first printed in
'Poetry'. He said:
"Mr. Yeats asked me recently in Chicago, 'What are we going to do to
restore the primitive singing of poetry?' I find what Mr. Yeats means
by 'the primitive singing of poetry' in Professor Edward Bliss Reed's
new volume on 'The English Lyric'. He says in his chapter on the
definition of the lyric: 'With the Greeks "song" was an all-embracing
term. It included the crooning of the nurse to the child... the
half-sung chant of the mower or sailor... the formal ode sung by the poet.
In all Greek lyrics, even in the choral odes, music was the handmaid of
verse.... The poet himself composed the accompaniment. Euripides was
censured because Iophon had assisted him in the musical setting of some
of his dramas.' Here is pictured a type of Greek work which survives in
American vaudeville, where every line may be two-thirds spoken and
one-third sung, the entire rendering, musical and elocutionary, depending
upon the improvising power and sure instinct of the performer.
"I respectfully submit these poems as experiments in which I endeavor to
carry this vaudeville form back towards the old Greek precedent of the
half-chanted lyric. In this case the one-third of music must be added
by the instinct of the reader. He must be Iophon. And he can easily be
Iophon if he brings to bear upon the piece what might be called the
Higher Vaudeville imagination....
"Big general contrasts between the main sections should be the rule of
the first attempts at improvising. It is the hope of the writer that
after two or three readings each line will suggest its own separate
touch of melody to the reader who has become accustomed to the cadences.
Let him read what he likes read, and sing what he likes sung."
It was during this same visit in Chicago, at 'Poetry's' banquet on the
evening of March first, 1914, that Mr. Yeats honored Mr. Lindsay by
addressing his after-dinner talk primarily to him as "a fellow
craftsman", and by saying of 'General Booth':
"This poem is stripped bare of ornament; it has an earnest simplicity, a
strange beauty, and you know Bacon said, 'There is no excellent beauty
This recognition from the distinguished Irish poet tempts me to hint at
the cosmopolitan aspects of such racily local art as Mr. Lindsay's. The
subject is too large for a merely introductory word, but the reader may
be invited to reflect upon it. If Mr. Lindsay's poetry should cross theDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>