An Anthology of Light Verse

An Anthology of Light Verse

An Anthology of Light Verse

An Anthology of Light Verse

Excerpt

It is hardly a matter for regret, but it may be one for surprise, that there is more good serious poetry in English than good light verse. If poets are born, light verse writers are not. No trances guide their pens: the freshness and gaiety we ask of them must be achieved through practice and drudgery. Even Calverley or Gilbert, should you imagine they were inspired, must have slowly hammered stone into fluff; and if they didn't (if the evidence proves, for example, that the lyrics from Iolanthe were composed, like Kubla Khan, in a dream) we had better hush up the fact. It would be far too misleading. Much better to believe, as is probably true, that light verse (which hasn't even a guardian Muse) is a sober, long drawn-out and tantalizing business.

Technically, of course, there is a great deal of excellent light verse. But the technical side of the matter strikes me as vastly over-emphasized. Unless the versification is accompanied by substance and mood, the result is in the long run unhappily hollow. There are ever so many people today, for instance, who are flawless technicians--clever, ingenious, resourceful; yet but little of their work proves really satisfying, and it is easy to see why. The stuff they write lacks temperament, character, charm; you merely admire it. It seldom makes you feel gayer for having read it, seldom gives you a glow, seldom is fun to reread. The best light verse must have human qualities, however madly they may have been reshuffled. Something beyond a corner of our minds must be affected--whether by sheer nonsense, which . . .

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