Page:Some soldier poets.djvu/16

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INTRODUCTION

comparatively little attention to youngsters and their poetry. Perhaps the public attitude has changed more than young men and their work. First the turn of the century made the future seem more interesting because it had got a new name; lately these boys became heroes, defenders, creditors, and people were anxious to pay them with sympathy and understanding. This more human attitude no doubt exhilarates the poets. Manly youth during these last four years, like a Niagara, has been thundering down into an abyss and the few bubbles whose beauty floats upward are pathetically disproportionate to its volume and sound. To realise the cost of the forms of social life yet experimented in by man is to turn in horror from the past towards the future. But only by gazing steadily back can we discern what life has produced and therefore may again shape to warrant this outlay. Art and poetry, to such a steady gaze, make up perhaps half of that acceptable excuse for man's existence. Nay, more than half; for heroism, personal charm, beauty, holiness, wisdom and even knowledge live again reflected and absorbed into works of art, and only so find adequate remembrance.

POSTSCRIPT

The war is over, and I add to these studies of Soldier Poets a lecture on The Best Poetry read before the Royal Society of Literature on 27th March 1912, in hopes of balancing and completing their significance. Young poets have frequently produced perfect things, but these have rarely been of any length. Much practice and familiarity with the possibilities of words and thoughts are required in complex creations. In discovering The Best Poetry the qualities of great works must be scanned in due relation to the excellences of lyrics, and thus, perhaps, this examination of work by necessity immature may be thrown into perspective and refresh without confusing.

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