Rhymes and Reactions (Nov 1925)
By George Sterling
I am wondering how many of our readers have seen "Tamar," that terrific poem by Robinson Jeffers, given long reviews by James Rorty in the New York "World-Tribune", and by James Daly in "Poetry", the first edition was immediately exhausted, nor do I know how many copies came to California.
However, the good news comes that it is to be issued by Boni and Liveright as a part of Mr. Jeffers' new volume, "Roan Stallion," and those of you who have not read that unforgettable poem will now have their chance. A word of warning, though: if you are by chance so squeamish that the theme of incest is too much for you, if you are such a sensitive plant that you shrink from the hidden horrors of life, have nothing to do with "Tamar." It is the strongest and most dreadful poem that I have ever read or heard of, a mingling of such terror and beauty that for a symbol of it I am reminded of great serpents coiled around high and translucent jars of poison, gleaming with a thouand hues of witch-fire. For Mr. Jeffers has put everything into his poem, and its huge rhythms are those of the very ocean on which his tower of granite looks forth. I have not at hand Mr. Rorty's very able review, but read what James Daly has to say of it in "Poetry." It is what I should have liked to say, and can now at least echo.
"The first half of it is told so well that one hesitates to use the superlatives-which a just praise of it would require. To the lover of imagery every page will be an adventure. From the poem's store of opulent and piercing beauty one longs to quote profusely."
And again: "........a beauty and vigor and objective immediacy of praise— prolific, seemingly impremeditated, yet restrained—which I dare to think unsurpassed by any other poet writing in English to-day." Mr. Daly could quite as well have put it "unequalled." But we will let that pass.
As to "Roan Stallion," I have not yet seen it, and am somewhat in doubt as to what its effect will be on the Rev. John A. Sumner, since it uses the pasiphae theme. It is true that one can "get away with murder" in verse, and I am hoping that the book will have that much luck, for even in Moronia all things are possible, if not probable.
More good news is to the effect that Clark Ashton Smith is about to publish at Auburn, his third bonk of poems, entitled "Sandalwood." It should be out in the near future. Those of us who can appreciate the high art and exquisite imagination that Mr Smith lavishes in his work will be glad to have that book. The very fact that it will be caviar to the dullard and the humanist is a guarantee of the perdurable qualities of his poetry. Compared to most of the verse that one encounters, briefly, it is rubies among rubbish, pearls among pumpkins.
My good friend Ahashuerus Jones has been overhauling some of the less known work of the Venerable Bede, and sends me these fables as witness of his labors, promising more in the future. Bede seems to have been more modern than we imagine, though there is still in his work the necessary savor of the antique.
A man who had arrisen at an Early hour, and gone for a ramble in the Green Fields came suddenly upon a Worm. After he had Gently Prodded it with his cane, and it had gone through the Customary Rite of Turning he addressed it thus: "Hasten homeward, my little friend, for the Erly Bird is abroad in the land, and
it is written that you are his Appointed Prey."
"The Early Bird whose Pylorus closes over my Frail Farm"' replied the worm with some Acerbity, "will find himself the rheatre of Intestine Strife: for lo! I am the Worm That Dieth Not"
* * *
A traveler in a far land, espying a Noble Monument, inquired to whose memory the Great Work had been reared.
"To a certain Great and Generous robber," replied the person to whom the question had been put.
"And is it the Custom of your country," persisted he from afar, "to give such Honor to enemies of the Human Race?"
"To those only," replied the nativeborn, "who donate ten per cent of the spoils to Charitable or Educational Institutions, or for the erection of Temples to the Most High."
My country, 'tis of thee.
* * *
An ant engaged in her customary occupation of Antarctic Exploration, was disturbed in her labor by the approach of a Man, who regarded her with Expectant Looks.
"Your business?" asked the Ant.
"I am Solomon's Sluggard," replied the Man. "I came to you on his advice for Instructions."
"A Man," cried the Ant in tones of Thunder, "with seven hundred mothers-in-law, is by nature fitted to be rather the Recipient, than the Donor, of Advice."
Seizing the South Pole with her left fore-leg, she pursued him into the wilds of Equatorial Africa.
* * *
My young friend Ohdner cometh forth with plans to set up a last altar to the Bohemian spirit in a basement at (I think) 535 California Street. The candies should be lit and the incense afloat within two weeks.
I see, at least temporary success for this undertaking for prices will be low and the young are urged to "do their stuff" along the line of their respective arts, be it poetry, dancing, painting or music.
While we live, let us live. All too soon the throttling hand of Los Angeles and the hinterland are to close on the fair throat of Bohemia and they will do their work before the lights go out in Chicago and New York. These two cities will be the last to feel the twilight of the bigots, lonely flames slowly guttering down as the land is delivered to the "power of the hick, the Ku Klux and the Methodist Church.
Perhaps the younger generation will save us, but I doubt it. A goodly proportion of them are joining the Y. M. C. A.