Our exchanges have of late grown more or less satirical on the subject of verses usually found in college papers of the day. They might of course have stepped over the narrow bounds which they have placed upon their sharp criticisms and have reviewed the general run of poetry which appears in the more strictly literary periodicals, but they have spared us fortunately, and only college poets were hauled over the coal. It is noticeable that those whose verses are systematically worst are most noisy in carping and cavilling at the envied superiority of their betters and in disclaiming all partisanship in favor of what they mockingly call the French jingles. There is a college in New York which does not hear "the babbling of the brooks and twittering of the birds" in the rondeaux, ballades, triolets, and emphatically expresses its disapproval of such baubles of rhyme as follows:
COLLEGE POETRY."Of all the curious things of time,
Cranky metre and cranky rhyme,
Aimless reaching for the sublime,
The worst is college poetry.
Vapid gush of a gushy miss,
Sentiments on a fan and kiss,
Vealy co-ed effusion; this
Is college paper poetry.
Pointless doggerel, misused slang,
Odes to Bacchus with beery tang,
Oh! for a club with which to bang
The author of college poetry."
This is even less palatable than much of the condemned matter, but we judge from its conclusion that it was the first effort of the fighting editor.
However these exceptions are not altogether unjustly taken. Under the worthy leadership of the Argo and Acta we have seen whole armies of our exchanges plunge into the same paths of poetry, which are now worn so bare that the tardy straggler finds nothing to reward his journeyings. The Argo has excelled, as all will agree, in these foreign and exotic forms, and has from time to time published verses highly creditable, but we scarcely dare to whisper our opinion that it has gone beyond the bounds of moderation in restricting its effusions to these peculiar forms, which inevitably fall upon the reader, because only certain turns of idea and expression are possible in them, while the simpler old fashioned straight-away measures allow all themes and all licenses of thought and subject. The majority of appropriate college themes in French metres would find themselves ill at ease when so finely gotten up and would move about in a restrained and over-careful manner. The sad smile of politeness and worn-out gallantry is substituted for substantial good-nature. Appearance is of first importance, little matters the rest.
"F. D. S." has received, we believe, the credit of having been the first writer in college papers of these peculiar forms and he deserves all the praise which has fallen to him, for he has certainly written some of the prettiest bits of this sort which have appeared this side of the Atlantic. His contributions have appeared for years in the columns of the Argo, and the Acta has quickly fallen into step with him, so that now every issue brings its load of rondeaux and ballades. This fall Mr. Sherman has tried the rondel and huitain with more or less success, although now he seems to have reached his rope's end. The following is perhaps the best thing he has put out this year:
PANSIES FOR THOUGHTS.For you these tiny flowers are cut, -
These slender-stemmed, rich purple pansies;
A thousand thoughts and tender fancies
Within their little hearts are shut.
Sweet memories of happy hours
We spent together, - dear romances, -
Like love in one of Cupid's glances,
Hide in the fragrance of these flowers.
[Acta.E. G. B. has also won a college celebrity by his verses, but he aims some what higher than is the wont of college poets. His fertile fancy has produced some very pretty lines of which a good specimen is his rendering of Banville's "Ballade of the Haunted Stream," which is, however, too long to quote. "Carl" has also written some very clever verses, but we can almost hear the crank squeak in some of his effusions. However, a tolerant kindness should be shown towards an editor of a fortnightly paper. The Argo has very well formulated its creed in the following triolet, which is only one of thousands:
COLLEGE VERSES.In college verse, both Love and Fun
Now strive for foremost place,
And though to sing we've but begun
In college verse, both Love and Fun
Close side by side in metre run. -
Ah! Cupid sly will win the race
In college verse, - now Love and Fun
Both strive for foremost place.
[Beret in Argo.Poor Cupid! if he has to achieve all the labors put upon him in the last twelve-month, he will even outshine the great Hercules. The Columbia Spectator, through disinclination, or shall we say inability, has not been so successful as the rest, although some of T. J. B.'s verses are worth the reading. The Athenaeum is in much the same position. Decke writes a great deal, in fact its verses are like its cuts, if there were fewer of them it would be better for them and for us; but what would be left of the poor thing? Pretty much what we receive in fortnightly instalments now, dry skin and bones.
Continuing our general ransacking we come to the Yale papers, the Record and Courant. We freely confess that the latter is far superior to any other Yale publication and ranks with the first college papers. It aims high in many of its verses and does not cling to parodies and slangy productions of the Record cast, which must inevitably reduce a paper to a very low state. We might signal N. L. D. as the most pleasing of the Courant's poets, although to the best of our knowledge he has written but a comparatively short time. There is a quality of polish about the work of this paper which is exceedingly pleasant, and, though it does not have the periods of brilliancy characteristic of some others, its sustained mediocrity makes it one of our best exchanges.
Our own papers are well enough known to require no remark. But it is due to the Advocate to praise its high standard of verse. Its verses, particularly those of A. M. L. and L. E. G., are of high poetic level, aiming beyond the ordinary collegian muse. We are not overpraising when we say that the "Mari Magno" in the first number this fall is the prettiest bit of verse we have met with in this review. The wonted dignified conservatism of the Advocate is as prevalent in its verses as in its editorials, and sets it off in a distinct contrast to the other papers. Among the items verses also are frequently found, capital hits, such as would form the literary matter of many another hungry journal. The Crimson, shall we say it, has deteriorated; it is not up to last year's mark, but good verses are by no means rare. It is a very noticeable fact, however, that with all the would-be poets in Harvard there are few who affect the French forms of verse so popular at Williams and less so at Columbia.
In these words we have tried to show rather how bad most college verses are than how good. There is an immense amount of sifting to be done to make up a justifiable collection, and after the next sifting how many of this collection will ever be read again? If it is necessary to offer any apology for the practice college men indulge in of writing verses, we can say that they do it for personal amusement and are wont to make their private anguish a burden to the public. At all events it is not meant to last, and is very to sure to attain its object.