POETRY OF PRESENT TENDS TOWARD REALISM
"NEW VERSE WILL NEVER SUPPLANT OLD FORMS"
"Poetry is the bride of science" was the expression used by Edwin Markham, famous American poet and lecturer, in a recent interview for the CRIMSON. Mr. Markham is one of our leading poets today. His well-known poem, "The Man With the Hoe", has been hailed by many as the "battlecry of the next thousand years."
The first question asked Mr. Markham was what qualities he thought constituted a real poet. "A real poet must first of all be a real man, he must be a man with ideals, noble emotions, and sensitive organisms which respond quickly to the beauties and wonders of the world. He must have a profound mind, so that he has a big philosophy of life; for every great poet is also a great philosopher, and yet he does not put his philosophy before us in the form of a Kant, a William James, or a Josiah Royce. For these men deal largely in abstract expression and make no great effort to wrap their truth in the veil of beauty. The poet, however, must deal concretely with life and must always fold his truth in the veil of beauty. A poem contains truth, but it must contain more than mere truth, it must contain the splendor that is always upon the face of truth, it must contain the beauty that is the smile upon her countenance.
"Here we touch upon the didactic in literary art. Should a poet be a teacher? Yes, he should be a teacher, but not a mere preacher, not a mere pedagogue that puts before us the mere bare bones of a philosophy. The poet may be a teacher, but he will be a teacher who instructs by the indirection of beauty, by suggestion. The poet teaches as the bobolink teaches, by leaving upon us the inspirations of beautiful harmonies, so that the soul, without knowing it is elevated and noble.
Relation of Poetry to Science
In analyzing the relation of poetry to science. Mr. Markham said. "There are two halves to the human personality; one is the intellect and the other the emotions. The intellect finds its chief expression in what is known as science and philosophy, and the emotions find a large expression through various arts with poetry standing at the head. But after man has explored the world in terms of the intellect, after he has mapped out life on the great pages of science and philosophy, still the heart of man remains unsatisfied. So man cries out, what does all this revelation of science mean to my heart, to may hopes and dreams, to my aspirations, my immortality, my eternity? The answers lie in art and especially in the melodious lips of poetry. So that poetry comes to supplement the cold intellect, and to give us the emotional meaning of existence. Certainly there is always a basis of thought in poetry, but the chief thing is the emotional vibration that is in it, the answer that contains the pathetic questions of the heart. So I am accustomed to say that the relation between poetry and science is the relation between poetry and science is the relation between man and woman, for poetry is the bride of science.
"It is clear that poetry will never perish for poetry is a revelation of not only the eternal beauty, but also of the eternal verities of the world."
Concerning the tendencies of modern poetry. Mr. Markham was optimistic. "The tendencies are all away form the pure fantastic and unreal in romanticism to what is vivid and vital in the common human life around us. The poets are taking deeper hold upon reality. Old romantic poets went to the distant and dead to find their strange beauty, but the new find a strange beauty and a tragic terror in the familiar lives of men and women in our workaday world. This might be called strong tendencies towards the democratic in literature. So strong is this tendency that I doubt whether, if Milton were living now, he would be able to stir up interest in his great epics concerning lost paradise at the beginning of the world. We seem to be inclined to hear about the destitute children in their lost paradise down on Hanover street."
Welcomes New Verse
The next question was what Mr. Markham's opinion of new verse was. "I welcome new verse," he replied emphatically, "because I always try to keep an open mind and to stand with hands open and receptive to the gifts of the future; and I welcome the new verse because it offers a new form to help us to a broader and freer expression. This new verse will never supplant the old forms, however, for those old forms contain many musical and rhetorical possibilities necessary for the expression of the deeper melodies of the spirit. But I have a grievance against nine-tenths of the new verse. To my mind this nine-tenths is not poetry but merely an oddity of expression and a grotesqueness of ideas. The test of any movement is the delivery of the goods', and nine-tenths of the new poets do not deliver the goods, they do not bring us poetry. But there is a one-tenth who have greatly enriched our treasury of poetry and to that one-tenth we owe eternal gratitude."
Mr. Markham, unlike G. K. Chesterton, is delighted with the works of Amy Lowell. "I think well of Amy Lowell," he said. "indeed, I have an admiration for her achievements. She has applied the n. w. doctrine of poetry in a way that has not destroyed the poetry of her meters. At times wonderful lines flash out of the tides of her poetry; and many of her poems have a deep and human import and have a creative and fusing spirit of a fine poetic art.
"Speaking of new poets I wish to add my humble testimony in favor of Carl Sandburg of Chicago. I look upon him as one of the most powerful poets of out time."