The Best Poems of 1939

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Selected by Thomas MoultHARCOURT, BRACE
‘You need not be afraid,’ said Elizabeth to Jane Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, ‘that I shall encroach on your privilege of universal goodwill.’ The weakness of this book is that Mr. Moult illustrates a Jane-like absence of discrimination. It appears from his preface that he has deliberately excluded from his selection poems in which the poets deal with the problem of their immediate environment, in favor ot those in which they sing of ‘the lovelier inspiration of peace.’ This inevitably colors the book with an ‘escapist’ flavor, which the reader may, or may not, enjoy. There are some good poems in the collection, notably those by Oscar Williams, Ruthven Todd, Lilian Bowes-Lyon, W. H. Auden, and Marya Zaturenska. The rest sing ‘of the earth and the bridal of spring,’ or ‘take ship for the isles of the spirit,’ or lament man’s homelessness and loneliness. But they do it in language and rhythms which have often carried the same messages before, and they will appeal to readers who like to be reminded rather than to those who like to be stirred.