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May 03, 1936 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1936-05-03

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PAGE EFGHT

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

SUNDAY, MAY 3, 1936

IN THE WORLD OF BOOKS

w

M9RG1HN
His Latest Novel Imbued
With Defeatism Of
Post-War Era
SPARKENBROKE. By Charles Mor-
gan. Macmillan. $2.75.
By M. L. WILLIAMS
(Of The English Dept.)
"We were saying, George, that the
world is full of evil and suffering; a
good part of it seems to think that
our present civilization is so bad it
can't be mended, and that the whole
system~ ought to be overthrown and
built afresh. Writers in Piers's posi-
tion have a great influence. What
he said of social conditions would be
listened to. And yet this is the mom-
ent he has chosen to turn away alto-
gether from the contemporary scene
and to write of Tristan and of the
coming of the Holy Face to Lucca"!
said Rector Hardy.
And in defense of his position Lord
Sparkenbroke replied: "Even if I hate
the Bastille, why should I call upon
people tostorm it? Ifathey succeed,
it will be rebuilt in another form.
Besides, the imprisonment that men
su ffer within stone walls and iron'
bars is as nothing to the imprison-
ment that they impose upon them-
selves by their fears, their hatreds,
their false ambitions, their failures
of imagination. The only escape
from spiritual imprisonment is-?"
Sparkenbroke left his question un-
answered. Charles Morgan requires
a whole volume to formulate the an-
swer: Death is the final fulfillment
although poetic and sex fulfillments
may be brilliant but unsatisfying'
interludes in the monotony of life.
Piers Tenniel, sensitive son of a'
wilful mother (she deserted her hus-
band) struggles ineffectually against
dull environment dominated by his
half-brother Stephen and his horsey'
father. At the age of twelve he is
craftily locked within the Mound, the'
S'parkenbroke tomb, by Stephen and'
there he makes that ecstatic ac-1
quaintance with death that is for-
ever after to be the goal of his ex-
istence. The rest of his life is spent:
in seeking an experience comparable1
to that early ecstasy.
Succeeding to the lordship of}
Sparkenbroke, he marries a wealthy
girl whose function, apparently, is to
keep the estate intact that her self-
exiled husband-poet may make peri-
odic returns from Italy to the Mound1
to renew his inspiration. On one of
these returns, chance (awkwardly
handled) brings Lord Sparkenbroke

:

A

SHROPSHIRE LAD

Ma

tcLeish Is Obscure And Not
Too Successful In Latest Verse

CHARLES MORGAN
(Portrait head by Gordon Alchin)
Mr. Morgan's new novel is
"Sparkenbroke"
(Macmillan)
and Mary Leward together. With
her begins the Tristan-Iseult plotj
motif, further symbolized by Spark-
enbroke's (Morgan's) long dialogues
and monologues about the composi-
tion of an inner novel with that title.
Mary is a choice morsel of flesh and
spirit who arouses more than lechery
in Piers. Her marriage to Piers's
boyhood friend, George Hardy, makes
it possible for Mr. Morgan to indulge
in other dialogues and soliloquies on
the question of adultery, present or
future. The act of adultery is pre-
vented and the speculations finally
terminated by Sparkenbroke 's death -
fufillment in the tomb where he had
first experienced the joyous caress of
death.
War, love, and poetry: he had
sought release from life in all of them,
War, ardently wooed in 1914, brought
angina pectoris and nitrite am-
poules; love, heterogeneous sensual
consummations, brought notoriety
and cynicism; poetry, verse and fiction
composed with infinite attention to
the divine afflatus andto the niceties
of style, brought fame and obsessions.
Only death satisfied, fulfilled, com-
pleted; life was naught.
This is the tiresomely repeated'
message which, embodied in modern

1859-1 936
"We'll to the woods no more,
The laurels all are cut,
The bowers are bare of bay
That once the Muses wore;
The year draws in the day
And soon will evening shut:
The laurels all are cut,
We'll to the woods no more."
In 1885 a homesick shire boy returned from his country vacation
to the dreary routine of the London patent office. Out of a feverish
and sudden flare of intense emotion he composed a brief group of
poems, which were laid aside and forgotten for nearly eleven years.
Yesterday Alfred Edward Housman died at Cambridge, a distin-
guished Latin scholar and penetrating literary critic. But to the
world of English readers he has never turned 77; he is forever the
lonely west-country youth, dreaming back on the banks and hills of
Shropshire.
Housman is perhaps the only poet to write his epitaph a hundred
odd times. In nearly all the delicate lyrics that make up his two
slender volumes of verse comes an overtone of death, a persistent
preoccupation with the theme of transiency, the inevitable passing of
youth, of beauty, of desire and passion and ambition. The war-
sick youth, and the love-sick, as well as the lad on the gallows, from
all he draws that needle-like touch of subtle and moving poignancy.
Elegiac in their simplicity, classical in their restraint and purity of
form, yet utterly unchilled by the frost of academicism, the Shrop-
shire ballads have achieved a popularity well-nigh unequalled by any
modern poet.
Housman himself once declared, "Poetry is not the thing said
but a way of saying it." His way of saying it was the way of genius.
Ever chary of language and ornament, his verse is completely mu-
sical. Moreover he never forgets his role in the poems; to the end
he is addressing only the rustic and sturdy hearts of his own shire-
folk. One must look in Keats and Shakespeare for confreres of
the Housman ballad, that rarefied essence of a courageous if pessi.
mistic spirit.
In Shropshire the cherry trees are blooming along the woodlands
now. And if Housman's threescore years and ten are counted, one
cannot but believe that the wraith of his spirit, a lad barefoot and
carefree, still wanders along in the sunlit wind of his native country.
-D.S.G.
Professor Walter Edits Fourth
Noteworthy Collection Of Essays

PUBLIC SPEECH - Poems by Archi-
bald MacLeish. Farrar & Rine-
hart. $1.00.
By PROF. EARL L. GRIGGS
(Of The English Dept.)
Archibald MacLeish's slender vol -
ume contains some twenty poems up-
on various subjects. There is noth-
ing very distinguished or impressive
about this volume. Mr. MacLeish
seems to have considerable poetic
talent, but he prefers to write in aI
condensed style which robs his poems
of effectiveness. The experimenta-
tion with assonance and alliteration
hardly contributes the beauty for
which he is striving. Then, too, he
refuses us the convenience of punc-
tuation. Occasionally he is deliber-
ately obscure, notbecause of any
profundity of thought but by a cur-
ious lack of ordinary coherence. In
the series of love poems with which
he concludes the volume, for instance,
he has nothing significant to say, savej
to detail certain episodes to us; yet
if it were not for the titles given for
each of the poems, it would be im-
possible in many cases to know whiat
he means.
The best poem in the volume is the'
one which gives the book its title-
Public Speech. The idea is arresting
-we can claim as brothers only
those who have suffered with us orf
the battlefield, in the workshop, or in
the revolt against capitalism. Such
lines as these stick somehow in the
memory:
The solitary and unshared ex-
perience
Dies of itself like the violations
of love
Or lives on as the dead live
eerily:
The unshared and single man
must cover his
Loneliness as a girl her shame for
the way of
R[S[RVATIONS
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Life is neither by one man nor by
sufferin
Brotherhood ! No word said can
make you brotichers
Brotherhood only the brave earn
and by danger or
Harm or by hain whurt and by
no other..
fn two poems Mr. M Lct'Iish show:
that he is 'versed in I rr,Cintury lit
euature. '")over Beach-a Note to
that Poem." obvli"'y s, u from
Arnold's poem; an n I aeth the e-
tractors echoes the Carlyleque no-
tion of hero-worship.
Occasionally the voltnne is marred'
by unnecessary vulga iity. Mr. Mac-
Leish can't keels away the physical,
though to his credit it is that such
passages are merely dragged in and
are merely excrescences.
To those of us whio turni back to
Keats and Shelley, to Father Hop-
kins and A. E. Hlousmnan (who died
only last Friday Mr. MacLeish seems
second irate. He is 's t.°o be rea'ching
for something to sy There is un-
doubted sincerity in his search for
truth; but so far as Public Speech is
concerned there is a lack of signifi-
cance and only a half-realized tech-
nical mastery.

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fiction, inevitably reaches the top of ESSAY ANNUAL, 1936, edited by
the lists of best sellers. Mr. Morgan E. A. Walter. Scott, Foresman. $1.
is just one of those whom the World B alt ot ForEs
War left despairing and hopeless in By CARLTON F. WELLS
the wreckage of their world. They (O' the English Department)
have sought to rehabilitate their With the publication of Professor
mindshan soutinaorehabldtaoen-E. A. Walter's Essay Annual, 1936 this
minds and souls in a world of sensa- yearly series of the best American
tion, illusion, delusion, antiquity, oryeayseri es of ag
pure art. Theirs is a philosophy of essays very definitely comes of age.
defeatism and solipsism which is per- In 1933, the first year, the collection
meating the minds of the cult wor- anreceivedanthol considerable recognition as
shippers and the ultra-artistic today. thology doing systematically for
And their death-raptures are the the American magazine article and
more insidious when they are offered essay what had long been done by
as Byrnidiomeaticismesarke feO'Brien and others for the contempo-
as Byroic romanticism (Sparken- rary American short story. The 1934
broke lived only 36 years). and 1935 volumes proved that the
This reviewer confesses that, de - series was not to be just another pub-
spite occasional passages of superb lisher's experiment and that its posi-
prose, the novel leaves him completely tion had been substantially strength-
untouched because Mr. Morgan has ened. The present book, in some
not convinced him of the truth of his ways the most ambitious of the series,
fundamental assumption; the spirit- is also the most solidly impressive.
ual imprisonment of man. For one thing, fewer essays have'
been included, a total of thirty, andI
MAY BOOK FORECAST of these a half dozen or so are very
BEST SHORT STORIES by Ed- short. Room has thereby been made
ward O'Brien. Houghton Mifflin. for several unusually extended ar-
$2.50. titles, <such as Fortune Magazine's
GONE WITH THE WIND by Mar- informative and human-interest study
garet Mitchell. Macmillan. $2.50. of the League of Nations, Henry F.
THE OLD MAN'S COMING by Pringle's full-length portrait of Chief
Gosta Gustaf-Janson. Knopf. $3.00. Justice Hughes, and C. H. Mcllwain's
SAINT JOAN OF ARC by V. Sack- ,profoundly argued "Government by
ville-West. Doubleday Doran. $3.00. Law" A second superiority results,
____ .obe I think, from the higher average qual-
ity of the contributions. Most are
ably written, very clearly above the
facile and ephemeral writing of the
average magazine article. My im-
Genu i n e pression is that the Annual for this
year will wear better than any of its
rin! three predecessors.
ieThe essays are grouped under seven
IN THE LONG RUN heads: America and the World, People
IN THEand Places, the Arts, Science and Re-
ARE SIX TIMES ligion, Humor, the Press, and Edu-
CHEAPER cation. Of these a few chosennmore
or less at random may be noticed
briefly. Jonathan Mitchell's "Joe
Louis Never Smiles" - one of the un-
Newly arrived Selected Kab- -----
istans, Kozaks, Royal Bok- S
haras, Hamadans, Shirvans, !SENIOR CAPS
Kirmans, Runners; also 9x12 I and GOWNS

expected and notably fortunate
choices in the bcok -gives an eye-
witness account of the Baer-Louis
prize fight, but with a shrewd em-
phasis on matters that go deeper
than the immediate event. Professor
O. J. Campbell's "Twain versus Clem-
ens" heads six excellent essays on
the arts: a brilliant summing up of
Mark Twain's enduring significance,
which Professor Campbell delivered as
a lecture in Ann Arbor on a mem-
orable occasion late last fall.
One of the several articles square-
ly confronting issues especially promi-
nent in the last twelve months is Paul
Hutchinson's "Why Blame It on the
Papers?" Though written some time
before the culminating melodrama
of the Hauptmann case, it loses none
of its relevance as a criticism of
America's glaringly anti-social ad-
ministration of justice. Of the five
essays on education, the undergrad-
uate ought certainly to read at least
President Robert M. Hutchins on
"What Is a University?" and the psy-
chologist James L. Mursell on "The
Miracle of Learning."
A reader will of course almost cer-
tainly question one ,or more of the
editor's selections. For instance, I
could well spare Christian Gauss's
annoyingly superficial discussion of
why college graduates don't stay ed-
ucated. I would also note, in pass-
ing, that only a single essay, one out
of thirty, is by a woman - hardly a
fair representation. Or again, few
essays shed any light on America's
pressing economic problems, nor are
any writers included who represent
leftist tendencies in present-day
American thinking.
But Professor Walter has spread a
wide net, and from the overwhelm-
ing abundance of current periodical
essays has provided an exceptionally
readable anthology. His editing con-
stitutes an important service to the
average intelligent American who
cares at all for the well-writ(On
informative, controversial, or reflec-
tive essay.
If you are looking for an inex-
pensive graduation gift, RYTEX
Polka printed stationery will solve
your problem. It is the stationery
Only One Dollar a box. On sale
during May and June Only. Also
Visiting Cards, Hylited, 100 for $1.
Student Supply Store
1111 So. University 8688

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