Poems, 1908-1919/the Book of Modern British Verse

by JohnDrinkwater (12mo, xii+208 pp. $2.00). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1919.
edited by W. S. Braithwaite. Boston: Small, Maynard & Co. 1919. 12mo, xxii+270 pp. $2.00.
MR. DRINKWATER’S poems are the songs of a quiet mind. He never strains. He feels confident that ‘ a friendly few ’ will turn aside from ‘the turbulence’ and give him his due. So may they. His inspiration comes largely from the country-side: —
Great hills that fold above the sea,
Ecstatic airs, and sparkling skies,
Sing out your words to master me,
Make me immoderately wise.
He reminds you of Wordsworth, yet is less pretentious. Like Herrick and Drummond, he can sing gently of the English dawn; it comes to his window, ‘the scythes are wet with dew.’ He does not feel that he must be stentorian in order to be profound: —
The clock is calling five o’clock
And none so pretty brings her flock.
The poems of possibly fifty writers are contained in The Book of Modern British Verse. They belong to an age which protested against Victorian artificiality, which would be matter-offact. One may suspect, therefore, that it was dreaded by some that their verse would become brutal, and boastful about cities, inventions, and progress. On the contrary, especially of late, there is a gentleness and humility in English poetry, a love of country roads such as those of Cloonagh which, Miss Gove (p. 124) says, go rambling through the heart. Really this volume seems far nearer Merrie England than poets seemed to be going. Possibly the Irish poems in the collection help this impression.
No one can forget that this volume has the shadow of the war above it. Some of its songs are, like the whistled tunes of those who march to battle, not about war. Others speak of it, but never boastfully. The courage of battle swells in Julian Grenfell’s ‘Into Battle’ (p. 156). The summons to fight on comes in such a tender poem as McCrae’s ‘In Flanders Fields’ (p. 182). The home thought of the English soldier is as simple as Ford Madox Hueffer’s refrain: —
But I’m with you up at Wyndcroft
Over Tintern on the Wye.
The most martial poem in the volume is ‘Lepanto,’ by Mr. G. K. Chesterton, which has a magnificent march to it: —
Don Juan of Austria is going to the war.
D. S.