Page:Harlem Shadows (1922).djvu/21

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
xvii
Introduction

from "pot-wrestling" in a boarding-house kitchen to dining-car service on the New York and Philadelphia Express. But like all true poets, he failed to take the duty of "earning a living" very seriously. It was a matter of collecting enough money from each new job to quit for a while and live. And with each period of living a new and a more sure and beautiful song would come out of him.

The growth of beauty and sureness in these songs would be apparent if they were arranged in the order of their creation. As it is, the reader will observe occasional lapses of quality. One or two of the rhythms I confess I am not able to apprehend at all. Perhaps they will be picked up by receivers who are attuned to a different wave-length. But the quality is here in them all—the pure, clear arrow-like transference of his emotion into our breast, without any but the inevitable words—the quality that reminds us of Burns and Villon and Catullus, and all the poets that we call lyric because we love them so much. It is the quality that Keats sought to cherish when he said that "Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into the soul, and does not startle or amaze with