We are sometimes apt to think that the voices that sounded at the dawn of poetry were simple, fresher, and more natural than ours, and that the world which the early poets looked at, and through which they walked, had a kind of poetical quality of its own, and almost without changing could pass into song. The snow lies, thick now upon Olympus, and its steeped scarped sides are bleak and barren, but once, we fancy, the white feet of the Muses brushed the dew from the anemones in the morning, and at evening came Apollo to sing to the shepherds in the vale. But in this we are merely lending to other ages what we desire, or think we desire, for our own. Our historical sense is at fault. Every century that produces poetry is, so far, an artificial century, and the work that seems to us to be the most natural and simple product of its time is always, the result of the most self-conscious effort. Believe me, . . . there is no fine art without self-consciousness, and self-consciousness and the critical spirit are one. Intentions.
Two new books listed among the most recent publications of the Harvard University Press are "Robert Curthose: Duke of Normandy," by Charles Wendell David, and the second volume of Robert Withington's "English Pagenatry: an Historical Outline."
Lovers of the best fiction will be glad to hear that Frank Norris is once more in print. "The Octopus" and "The Pit" have been difficult to purchase for a number of years, and undeservedly so, for we know of no more thrilling episode in the vast litter of stories about the Stock Exchange than the "Pit," Tom Lawson's "Friday the Thirteenth," a sample of "frenzied finance," strung on a thread of romance, runs it a close second, though falling short of real literature.
Says, F. P. A.: It's a long time since Wanamaker's had "Tobogganing on Parnassus" in their sporting department, but only yesterday Brentano's had Knut Hamsun's "Hunger" in the basement, with the books on Dietetics.
In this case we think we should rank Brentano's judgment over F. P. A.'s.
But speaking of F. P. A.: A first book of verse by a contributor to "The Conning Tower" is announced by Knopf. "Morrie" is the favored one, and Franklin P. Adams is said to have had a hand in the preparation of the volume.
In the spring Houghton Mifflin will bring out a volume of poems by Miss Amy Lowell. "Legends: Tayes of People." Houghton Mifflin published Miss Lowell's first book of poems. "A Dome of Many Colored Glass," in 1912 and has now taken over the publication of the six volumes of poetry and criticisms which Miss Lowell has written between this first book and the present date and is the authorized publisher of her work.
Having got the quotation for the week off our chest, we cast about for the necessary anecdote to close with. We'd like to tell how Jonathan Swift became acquainted with the famous Dr. Arbuthnot, but prudence forbids. Here's what a contemporary of his told of Lawrence Sterne:
"Soon after Firestorm had appeared. Sterne asked a Yorkshire lady of fortune and condition whether she had read his book. I have not Mr. Sterne,' was the answer: 'and, to be plain with you. I am informed it is not proper for female perusal.' 'My dear good lady,' replied the author, 'do not be gulled by such service; the book is like your young heir there (pointing to a child of three years old, who was rolling on the carpet in his white funniest, he shows at times a good deal that is usually concealed, but it is all in perfect innocence!'"