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New Poetry And The Lingering Line
by [?]

Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the stillness surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

Is there really any loss of sharpness in the imagery here because of the rhyme and metre? Could any phrase, of any rhythm, however free, render any better and more economically the peculiar noise of a horse turning on a hard drive and starting away in the night, than “the sound of iron on stone”? The last two lines, surely, are close to perfection. A genuine new poet would probably have hunted long for a less hackneyed word than “plunging,” but though it would possibly have sharpened his final image, it would, at the same time, in all probability, have robbed it of that very vagueness sought and captured. No, the passage pictorially and emotionally is as near perfection as it is often permitted mortals to approach, and it lingers and echoes in the memory, it will not be forgotten. It has the lilt of music, the chime of tune, the immemorial loveliness of song. If the precise image, the desired emotional effect, the intellectual content can be imparted in fettered verse, and, in addition, the ancient loveliness can be retained, which the new verse lacks, can it be possible that the world will long endure to read vers libre when vers libre has done its work of bringing poets back to first-hand reality for their subjects, relating the minstrels to the spirit of their age? I cannot think so. I cannot but believe that any poetry long to endure must be memorable, in the literal sense, and that is just what the new poetry is not. Already, it seems to me from my acquaintance with under-graduates and the just-graduated, vers libre is a little the cult of the middle-aged, while youth, the future, is swinging back gladly to the fetters of metre and rhyme, and probably forgetful that the public which awaits their effort has been prepared anew for poetry by this revolt from what was stale in tradition. I believe that memorable poetry always has been, and always must be, irradiated by

The light that never was on sea or land,

which is but another way of saying that it must have elevation and the haunting mystery of beauty. The trouble is, of course, to catch this authentic radiation, instead of some pale reflection from Patmore or Rossetti. It was against the sham of second-hand mood and subject, rather than the great truth of music and loveliness, that the new poets broke into unmetrical protest. They have done a brave and needed work,–but they have produced astonishingly little quotable poetry, they have sung their way not far into the hearts of their listeners. The lingering, lovely line is not for them. No, for still,

The soul of Adonais, like a star,
Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are.