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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsBooks And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - Sea And Slaughter
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Books And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - Sea And Slaughter Post by :creditmd Category :Nonfictions Author :Arnold Bennett Date :May 2012 Read :474

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Books And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - Sea And Slaughter

(_6 July '11_)

Recent spectacular events at Court have been the cause of a considerable amount of verse, indifferent or offensive. But it is to be noticed that the poets of this realm have not been inspired by the said events. I mean such writers as W.B. Yeats, Robert Bridges, Lord Alfred Douglas, W.H. Davies. And yet I see no reason why a Coronation, even in this day of figure-heads and revolting snobbery, should not be the subject of a good poem--a poem which would not be afflicting to read, either for the lettered public or for the chief actor in the scene. However, the time for such poems has apparently not yet arrived. And meanwhile the sea-and-slaughter school have been doing an excellent work these last few weeks in demonstrating how entirely absurd the sea-and-slaughter school is. Mr. Alfred Noyes has been very prominent, not only in his native page, _Blackwood's_, but also in the _Fortnightly Review_. Mr. Noyes is, I believe, the only living versifier whose books are, in the words of an American editor, "a commercial proposition." He is by many thought to be a poet. Personally, I have always classed him with Alfred Austin, not yet having come across one single stanza of his which would fall within my definition of poetry. Here is an extract from his "A Salute from the Fleet":

_Mother, O grey sea-mother, thine is the crowning cry!_--

I am bound to interrupt the quotation here in order to vent my feelings of extreme irritation caused by the mere phrase. "O grey sea-mother." Why should this phrase drive me to fury? It does. Well, to recommence:

_Mother, O grey sea-mother, thine is the crowning cry!_
_Thine the glory for ever in the nation born of thy womb!_
_Thine is the Sword and the Shield and the shout that Salamis heard,_
_Surging in AEschylean splendour, earth-shaking acclaim!_
_Ocean-mother of England, thine is the throne of her fame!_

 

Fancy standing on the shore to-day and addressing the real sea in these words and accents! Fancy the poet doing it! The mood and the mentality are prehistoric. I would not mind Mr. Noyes putting himself lyrically into the woaded skin of our ancestors. But I do think he might have got a little nearer the mark in indicating the "throne of her fame." Because I expect Mr. Noyes knows as well as anybody that the real throne of England's fame is not in the sea at all. England's true fame springs from the few acts of national justice which she has accomplished, and from the generous impulses which as a nation she has had--as, for example, in her relations with Italy; as, for example, in the Factory Acts which prevented children from working eighteen hours a day six or seven days a week. The patriotic versifiers of this country will, if they persist, end by making the sea impossible for a plain man to sail on. I have long felt that I want never again to read anything about the sea, except the advertisements of auxiliary yawls and cutters in the _Yachting World_. I recommend these advertisements as a balm for sores caused by rhymed marine Jingoism.

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