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SOME SOLDIER POETS

Though the impulse to write that was strong, it has constantly obeyed the bridle of keen literary taste, its grace is not like that of wild life, but like that of horsemanship, and will be the more admired the more fully the difficulties overcome are appreciated. In some of these poems novelty is sought as though felicity were despaired of, yet a few are really happy. Keats believed that felicities should so chime in with the human soul as to seem known before, even though a prenatal existence had to be supposed to justify that impression. Novelties in poetry fail if merely new. Mr Yeats has of late years set the fashion of skating across ever thinner ice until it seems almost miraculous that verse is not prose. You watch the skater as the surface warps under his swift passage, and expect that in another minute he will be in it, floundering like any Walt Whitman, but this does not happen. Rhyme is not discarded, but strained; rhythms are not free, but licentious. Thomas shows this tendency in ways of his own, neither very determined nor very risky, yet sometimes annoying. These sleights of his are intended, like those of others, deftly to dazzle the most sophisticated judges, and in so far betray a greater preoccupation with manner than with matter—a fault of proportion. The creative mind considers the manner solely as the servant of the import and justness of its theme. Thomas knew life after a fashion that was not the fashion he had intended to discover it in. The passionate young man hawks for experience with his fancy, but the quarry brought to his feet is not always that at which he let his falcon fly.


"'He has robbed two clubs. The judge at Salisbury
Can't give him more than he undoubtedly
Deserves. The scoundrel! Look at his photograph!
A lady-killer! Hanging's too good by half
For such as he.' So said the stranger, one
With crimes yet undiscovered or undone.

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