distinctively national verse has included lesser attempts in the
Chaucerian tradition. Some of the Biglow Papers, On Lending a Punch
Bowl, and The Last Leaf4--and a few of the etchings of Emerson--are
natural and forthright utterances in that vein.
Those who try to prettify modern life and adventure, in the
manner of Masefield and Noyes, receive an immediate and impermanent reward. They have poured new wine into ancient and leaky
receptacles. And no great modern master in the other school has
arisen, though Edwin Arlington Robinson in this country has shown
the way, and with Robert Frost we turn with finality from Tennyson
and look freely about us. The future may be his. But America has not
yet been expressed. For the most part attempts at poetical utterance
have been limited, even in the hands of a man like George Sterling, to
endeavors to imitate the inimitable in sonnet and lyric.
5 We have
wished to reproduce beauty in mood and speech, but beauty is a
foreign element to our nation; there is no sincerity in our rhapsodies.
It is to Chaucer, and not to Milton, that we must turn for "freedom,
Conrad Aiken ( 1889- 1973), who had already published six volumes of poetry,
was poetry editor of Dial. In the New Republic of May 10, 1919 ( 19:58-60), he had
reviewed Louis Untermeyer The New Era in American Poetry ( 1919) and had
attacked Untermeyer for his attachment to sentimental poetry. The attachment, Aiken
said, blinded Untermeyer to the other and more promising kind of contemporary
poetry, which was analytic and oblique.
"Epilogue," Pacchiarotto and How He Worked in Distemper ( 1876).
Wordsworth, "Elegiac Stanzas Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle" ( 1805).
The Biglow Papers, two series ( 1848 and 1867) by
James Russell Lowell; and "On Lending a Punch-Bowl" ( 1848) and "The Last Leaf" ( 1833) by
Oliver Wendell Holmes .
Sterling ( 1869- 1926), poet known by
Anderson in San Francisco and probably
the model for Brissenden in
Jack London Martin Eden ( 1909), published several
volumes of poetry, the last one, Thirty-five Sonnets ( 1917), heavily influenced by Keats.
Wordsworth expostulation to Milton in "London, 1802.": " Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour. . . . And give us manners, virtue, freedom,