Page:A treasury of war poetry, British and American poems of the world war, 1914-1919.djvu/34
part at least) in words of inspiring beauty, of passionate sincerity, of creative insight? But since life is whole, the artistic interpretation of life tends progressively toward unity. Poetry, says a true poet, "is, on the one hand, a spirit, animating one individual here and another there; on the other hand, in its outward manifestations, it is a collection of works produced by that spirit working in individuals." So Shelley speaks of "that great poem which all poets, like the co-operating thoughts of one great mind, have built up since the beginning of the world." And Sir William Watson writes:—
". . . 'neath the unifying sun,
In a sense, then, we do less than justice to the spirit of poetry when we assign its outward manifestations too readily to class and category, save only as the study of form and manner may require. The phrase "war poetry" is a convenient one, but war poetry, after all, may be as broadly comprehensive in its insights and occasions as poetry which has no relation to war. If it be worthy, it is the finely wrought record of a sympathetic reaction to the enkindling heroisms of war, or of an antipathetic reaction to its sorrows, its brutalities and its uglinesses. Nobly conceived and expressed as are not a few poems written by combatants, the contention that the soldier-poet must possess more authentic power as an interpreter of war than his equally endowed but non-militant fellow is, I think, without warrant. The history of war poetry does not so attest. When we respond to the epical struggles in Homer and Spenser and Milton, or follow the unfolding of the great war-pageantry of Shakespeare, or stir to the ringing music of the martial ballads; when we re-create for ourselves Drayton's Agincourt, Lovelace's incomparable lyrics to Lucasta, Collins' How Sleep the Brave, Cowper's Boadicea, Scott's Flodden Field and Bonny Dundee, Campbell's Hohenlinden, The Soldier's Dream, and The Battle of the Baltic, Tennyson's The Revenge, The Defence of Lucknow, and Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington, Browning's Cavalier Tunes and Hervé Riel, Walt Whitman's Drum-
- Sir Henry Newbolt: A New Study of English Poetry (Constable).