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Georgian Poetry 1920-22   By: (1871-1940)

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1920 1922



The Poetry Bookshop 35 Devonshire St. Theobalds Rd. London W.C.1



When the fourth volume of this series was published three years ago, many of the critics who had up till then, as Horace Walpole said of God, been the dearest creatures in the world to me, took another turn. Not only did they very properly disapprove my choice of poems: they went on to write as if the Editor of 'Georgian Poetry' were a kind of public functionary, like the President of the Royal Academy; and they asked again, on this assumption, very properly who was E.M. that he should bestow and withhold crowns and sceptres, and decide that this or that poet was or was not to count.

This, in the words of Pirate Smee, was 'a kind of a compliment', but it was also, to quote the same hero, 'galling'; and I have wished for an opportunity of disowning the pretension which I found attributed to me of setting up as a pundit, or a pontiff, or a Petronius Arbiter; for I have neither the sure taste, nor the exhaustive reading, nor the ample leisure which would be necessary in any such role.

The origin of these books, which is set forth in the memoir of Rupert Brooke, was simple and humble. I found, ten years ago, that there were a number of writers doing work which appeared to me extremely good, but which was narrowly known; and I thought that anyone, however unprofessional and meagrely gifted, who presented a conspectus of it in a challenging and manageable form might be doing a good turn both to the poets and to the reading public. So, I think I may claim, it proved to be. The first volume seemed to supply a want. It was eagerly bought; the continuation of the affair was at once taken so much for granted as to be almost unavoidable; and there has been no break in the demand for the successive books. If they have won for themselves any position, there is no possible reason except the pleasure they have given.

Having entered upon a course of disclamation, I should like to make a mild protest against a further charge that Georgian Poetry has merely encouraged a small clique of mutually indistinguishable poetasters to abound in their own and each other's sense or nonsense. It is natural that the poets of a generation should have points in common; but to my fond eye those who have graced these collections look as diverse as sheep to their shepherd, or the members of a Chinese family to their uncle; and if there is an allegation which I would 'deny with both hands', it is this: that an insipid sameness is the chief characteristic of an anthology which offers to name almost at random seven only out of forty (oh ominous academic number!) the work of Messrs. Abercrombie, Davies, de la Mare, Graves, Lawrence, Nichols and Squire.

The ideal 'Georgian Poetry' a book which would err neither by omission nor by inclusion, and would contain the best, and only the best poems of the best, and only the best poets of the day could only be achieved, if at all, by dint of a Royal Commission. The present volume is nothing of the kind.

I may add one word bearing on my aim in selection. Much admired modern work seems to me, in its lack of inspiration and its disregard of form, like gravy imitating lava. Its upholders may retort that much of the work which I prefer seems to them, in its lack of inspiration and its comparative finish, like tapioca imitating pearls. Either view possibly both may be right. I will only say that with an occasional exception for some piece of rebelliousness or even levity which may have taken my fancy, I have tried to choose no verse but such as in Wordsworth's phrase

The high and tender Muses shall accept With gracious smile, deliberately pleased.

There are seven new comers Messrs. Armstrong, Blunden, Hughes, Kerr, Prewett and Quennell, and Miss Sackville West. Thanks and acknowledgments are due to Messrs. Jonathan Cape, Chatto and Windus, R... Continue reading book >>

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