OLIVER HERFORD CULLS AND CLASSFIES
"Poems from Lifely edited by diver Herford. New York. The Century Company. 1923.
Oliver Herford inevitably has, or succeeds in giving the impression that he has, which is the same thing, a sort of literary Midas touch. Everything he lays his hands upon shines forth with the glisten of real gold. This touch is by no means limited to what he writes and draws himself; all he needs to do is to write a paragraph or two in introduction and the body of the book which follows even though it be anthology, obligingly puts on a golden tinge. So with his latest collection of "Poems from 'Life'". The casual reader opens at the "brighter side of humour" in introduction, mildly interested in getting at the subject matter, smiles, chuckles, and finally laughs outright,--and the poetry that follows, good, bad, and indifferent, goes down as smoothly as syrup.
But Mr. Herford himself expresses doubts as to whether after the introduction is printed there will be any space left between the covers for poetry, and it is the poetry after all that is on the dissecting table to be reviewed. But even this is simplified. There are two main tenets of faith supported by the editor in forming this collection of poetic emanations of the "Comic Idea". First; the poems are to be grouped each according to the musical instrument that best represents its particular note, and there they are classified, ready to satisfy the reader's merest subconscious mood, all the way from Lyre and lute d'amour to saxophone and piccolo. Truly a Herfordian idea. Second, that the total amount of Prose written on the subject of Poetry is vastly in excess of the amount of actual Poetry that has been composed in the same space of time; accordingly it is time to turn the tables and show the world that poetry is really much easier to write than prose.
Taking a hint from the second of these principles, it is perhaps advisable to go directly to the poetry itself. The thing does look easy, delightfully easy. And then one remembers Stephen Leacock's account of his contribution to "Punch"; how he collected some beautiful phrases from the morning's news, Dog Man of Darfur, Sultan of Kowfat, and so on, and had a poetic masterpiece envisioned,--until he sat down to find rhymes for the phrases! After all it is enough, without adding further to the preponderance of prose over poetry, to say that the Poems are admirably selected, the kind that you mentally resolved to cut out and paste in your scrap-book, and then forgot to do it.