Rhymes and Reactions (Jan 1927)
By George Sterling
I have been reading in that otherwise excellent magazine The American Parade. Dr. Danziger's article on Bierce. For some reason unknown to me Danziger has changed his name to De Castro, but by any name the paper would be in Bierce's case offensive. I regret that a journal so excellent in material selected for publication and so carefully discriminate as the Parade should allow Ambrose Bierce to be subject to such unmitigated slander.
In his peculiar whims and, as London once expressed it, his. "blackland idiocies," Bierce was alone and dominant. He would make a life-long enemy of the man who crossed him victoriously, a life-long friend of the man who scoffed him. In many phases of existence he was painfully young, desperately futile —but Bierce was never the vindictive child. He would never allow, for instance, the use of his talents by William Hearst; however much he needed money for food and lodging. Nor would he, by any stretch of the imagination, seek employment with a railroad company merely to fill his treasury and thereby find time to put the "great novel of life" between covers. Bierce was at all times a severe iconoclast, an idol wrecker. It is to his everlasting credit that he was a fine one! I may add that Ambrose was least of all interested in politics.
The lives of great men are continually subject to the regretfully inaccurate foibles of acquaintances. In this instance Bierce, the man of critical iron, suffers a few drops of ineffectual but irritating nitric acid. It is of some praise that the Overland preserves its columns for denunciation of those to whom the appreciative and critical instinct is emphatically bitter.
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Brisbane's enormous platitudes continue to be a source of delight to me. In a recent editorial he says: "The first shall be the last," according to the German philosopher. I faintly remember Arthur disrupting this very theory less than a month ago in the San Francisco Examiner. Let us hope that Brisbane remembers hereafter his daily sermons and that we shall be permitted a small measure of peace. It is to the everlasting discredit of Brisbane that three hundred and sixty-five lessons a year quite often drive-from the eminent man's memory his Good Word of Yesterday.
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Mr. C. A. A. Parker sends me his first edition of the Independent Poetry Anthology. I have read it from cover to cover;—a matter of persistent love—and through the one hundred and fifty-five pages have failed to discover one poem of outstanding merit. I am naturally wondering why a nation so blessed with natural merit and spontaneous feeling should find it necessary to resort to E. Ralph Cheyney and C. A. A. Parker, the editor and publisher of the Independent Poetry Anthology, for publication of its excellent poetry.
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Mm good friend E. Balfour sends me the following for mental digesting:
The good woman loved to be good, because every one admired her. She really was good, yet though they admired her they wanted her to become bad.
"How sad," said a Tempter, "you have never been awakened!"
"Awakened?" replied she. "I do not know what you mean."
"You will dry up and die!" said the Tempter.
"What does that mean?" asked she, and still went on tempting.
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I often wonder who it is selects the poetry, for the Literary Digest poetry page. The most simple Babbitt could not reserve a greater ignorance of beautiful poetry than this imbecile collector for the country's most elaborately circulated weekly. I notice in a recent issue a poem by the negro, Countee Cullen, that is not only pap but verbiage. Let us hope that the gentleman who is responsible for this error enlarges his reading. I, for one, regret that this national weekly permits, nay, encourages such asinine collective genius. The magazine from which Cullen's masterpiece was culled is entitled Poetic Thrills.