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"Because," continued the Frenchman, "I am going to die very soon, in three minutes." He yawned as if the subject bored him. "You're a nut!" the scrub-woman offered good-naturedly.
Outside a horn sounded impatiently. It blew spasmodically fifteen times then ceased with an abruptness that was almost startling. In the distance an elevated rattled.
"Listen," said the Frenchman, turning around in his position on the sill, “what would you do if I jumped from this window, you and Blackie over there?"
The scrub-woman grinned. "I'd think yuh was a dummed fool, and he would do nuthin', just hum a little song about yuh, perhaps." She pointed indifferently toward the Hindu who was cleaning a platter. "Look at him! He wouldn't care if the city were blown up." She laughed hoarsely, and in his place behind the counter the Hindu dreamed over his work and sang softly to himself about the great country he had loved once, and of the hero, Razalu. The Frenchman laughed.
"You are right," he said. "None of you would care a bit."
"Yuh would mess things nastily," suggested the scrub-woman in an amused tone. She shoved her mop against the wall, and took up a duster.
And the Frenchman answered, "I will mess someone too, when I fall on him, squash him prettily, hey?"
"Sure, that would be sweet!"
Again the Frenchman turned and peered out of the window. His eyes were strangely fixed, his muscles seemed strangely tense. "I shall jump upon him," he mused, "as soon as he comes out.”
Seconds passed. The scrub-woman began working on the floor under another table. The Hindu finished his platter and took up another one. Someone was shouting shrilly in the street below.
Suddenly the little Frenchman straightened perceptibly. The pupils of his eyes dilated. He seemed about to spring. The Hindu stopped humming, his platter in mid-air, and looked at him stupidly. The scrub-woman was working with an ardour, paying no attention. Nearby and above her the gray cat slept. A moment fled in which something seemed in the balance, some tension of exquisite fragility, some highly romantic resolve that tottered on
the brink of disclosure. Then, all at once, the Frenchman settled back, and with a slight shrug of his shoulders withdrew his head. "Non," he said, "what would be the use?" He swung his body to the floor, and moving across to the doorway went out.
Carlos C. Drake.
To-day I found an uncut page
Red-golden mystery might throng.
J. A. Thomas.
Pictures of the Floating World. By Amy Lowell. (The Macmillan Co.)
Modern poetry, especially in its impressionist and imagist phases, is the poetry of sensation. But it is subjective rather than purely physical sensation. It is feeling that has become thought. As a result, the modern poem is in the nature of a delicate psychological problem. The new bard must ruthlessly pin down and dissect his or her writhing emotions, staining them with brilliant pigments the better to study them. In this most recent volume of Miss Lowell, the author has contrived to catch the most fleeting impressions of a hypersensitive spirit, and put them down in an exquisite series of dainty Japanese prints and brilliant miniatures. Polyphonic prose, her own discovery and favorite medium, is conspicuous by its absence, as are the longer poems to which its use is practically restricted-which is perhaps just as well. In only one case do we recall its use-in the little poem called spectacles. The first part of the book is taken up by a series of gem-like trifles, called “Lacquer Prints," in the Japanese manner, followed by a similar group of "Chinoiseries." In them, sensation is refined until there is almost none left-until we begin to long to cry out for respite, for something more substantial on which to pin our feeling, on some stronger work, such as, for instance, "Sea-Blue and Blood-Red" in Can Grande's Castle, which gives promise of what we have yet to see, a "great" poem from Amy Lowell's pen. For none of these trifles, however perfect in expression, have, or pretend to have, any of the essential elements of greatness. There is no substance, no elevation, no power. And their author has abundantly shown that she potentially has that power. In these "Pictures," we see her in idle mood, dawdling with words, and with impression. She dawdles too much. Such an impressionistic tour de force as "Gargoyles" hovers perilously nigh to obsurdity. The entire book is a biography of
the senses, and there is more than sensation in our lives, the metaphysical idealists to the contrary notwithstanding.
The "Lacquer Prints" are an unending temptation to quotation. We content ourselves with two-complete poems both:
A wise man,
Watching the stars pass across the sky,
In the upper air the fireflies move more slowly.
OUTSIDE A GATE.
On the floor of the empty palanquin
And now let us be thankful for the refreshing wind that is Masefield.
J. A. T.
The Moon and Sixpense, by W. Somerset Maugham. (George H. Doran Co.)
Like most good writers, Mr. Maugham has taken a subject larger than himself, and after giving us as much of it as he can, leaves the rest to our imagination. If we accept his premise that Charles Strickland is a genius, and the general proposition that all geniuses are eccentric, we must not feel dismayed when he follows his hero through inexplicable happenings, and then shoulders all blame and explanation on poor, overworked "genius." At times he throws out some tantalizing hints and guesses, which make us wish that he would probe deeper into the workings of his hero's mind. This feeling comes to a climax when Strickland leaves Paris for Marseilles; thereafter, we are let down from our intense hatred and equally intense incomprehension of the man by glimpses-literally "cut-backs"—of the last few years of his life. In them he exhibits his great passion-"and the passion that held Strickland was a passion to create beauty”—as being slowly and painfully brought under control by the works of his hands. When, at last, he had created a masterpiece, a thing of beauty, he died.
The story is told in a broken, abrupt manner, disconcerting at first; it develops too much like events in real life to flow smoothly
along as most novels do. The characters are grotesques-distorted shadows on a moving, uneven background. The minor ones are types, not individuals; the major characters are tremendously caricatured exaggerations of two or three qualities: Strickland is all genius and selfishness; Stroeve, all sympathy and ridiculousness; Mrs. Strickland, the personification of an ordinary upper class Englishwoman. Like the war portraits of Orpen, they are all left unfinished.
A meticulous critic can find errors of several kinds in the book —typographical, grammatical, errors of taste. He can also claim, and rightly, that it is an unpleasant story of an unpleasant person. Yet its sincerity and realism holds us unerringly to the end, and then, and not till then, does it flash on us that Charles Strickland, besides being a genius, was a man.
W. R. Marvin, Jr.