Page:Some soldier poets.djvu/128

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SOME SOLDIER POETS

searching his present judgments he will be constantly reconstructing hierarchies of merit, giving marks, 100 for Shakespeare's best sonnet, a duck's egg for his worst.

Mr Lascelles Abercrombie lately published The Sale of St Thomas, a fine poem. He must take up at least half-a-dozen poets and come very near the top of the class. Yet, if in The Emblems of Love, which has appeared since he seems to us to have done but little to secure that preeminence, this also should be promptly admitted.

In a definite number of stanzas Mr Herbert Trench's fine gift of a musical style becomes one with felicity of conception. It is worth while to know it, and to be jealous over a single unit more or less. This ceaseless movement and reorganisation of a man's judgment is a condition of the growth of taste, and enables him to look back on bygone admirations with the conviction that those of to-day are stronger, more definite and yield him purer delight.

But improviser and impressionist accept just what happens to be there, and, while they try to record it unaltered by reason or tendency, it dwindles for lack of the nourishment that a purpose and reconsideration would have given it. Impressionism should not be regarded as the practice of a school of painters; this bad habit is as old as Jubal, the father of all such as handle the harp and organ. Even the modern avowed and vainglorious impressionism impoverished the art not only of Whistler, but that of Meredith; nay, it had infected even such a genius as Browning, and all but justifies what Mr Santayana, perhaps the finest literary critic alive, says of him:

"Now it is in the conception of things fundamental and ultimate that Browning is weak, he is strong in the conception of things immediate. The pulse of emotion, the bobbing up of thought, the streaming of reverie—these he

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