The Advance of English Poetry in the Twentieth Century
by William Lyon Phelps
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Other Yale poets are W. B. Arvine, 1903, whose book Hang Up Philosophy (1911), particularly excels in the interpretation of natural scenery; Frederick M. Clapp, 1901, whose volume On the Overland (since republished in America) was in process of printing in Bruges in 1914, when the Germans entered the old town, and smashed among other things, the St. Catherine Press. Just fifteen copies of Mr. Clapp's book had been struck off, of which I own one; Donald Jacobus, 1908, whose Poems (1914) are richly meditative; James H. Wallis, 1906, who has joined the ranks of poets with The Testament of William Windune and Other Poems (1917); Leonard Bacon, 1909, who modestly called his book, published in the year of his graduation, The Scrannel Pipe; Kenneth Band, 1914, who produced two volumes of original verse while an undergraduate; Archibald Mac Leish, 1915, whose Tower of Ivory, a collection of lyrics, appeared in 1917; Elliot Griffis, a student in the School of Music, who published in 1918 under an assumed name a volume called Rain in May; and I may close this roll-call by remarking that those who have seen his work have a staunch faith in the future of Stephen Vincent Bent. He is a younger brother of William, and is at present a Yale undergraduate. Mr. Bent was born at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on the twenty-second of July, 1898. His home is at Augusta, Georgia. Before entering college, and when he was seventeen, he published his first volume of poems, Five Men and Pompey (1915). This was followed in 1917 by another book, The Drug Shop. His best single production is the Cook prize poem, The Hemp.


I Have a Rendezvous with Death

The remarkably impressive and beautiful poem by Alan Seeger which bears the above title naturally attracted universal attention. I had supposed the idea originated with Stephen Crane, who, in his novel The Red Badge of Courage, Chapter IX, has the following paragraph:

At last they saw him stop and stand motionless. Hastening up, they perceived that his face wore an expression telling that he had at last found the place for which he had struggled. His spare figure was erect; his bloody hands were quietly at his side. He was waiting with patience for something that he had come to meet. He was at the rendezvous. They paused and stood, expectant.

But I am informed both by Professor F. N. Robinson of Harvard and by Mr. Norreys Jephson O'Conor that the probable source of the title of the poem is Irish. Professor Robinson writes me, "The Irish poem that probably suggested to Seeger the title of his Rendezvous is the Reicne Fothaid Canainne (Song of Fothad Canainne), published by Kuno Meyer in his Fianaigecht (Dublin, 1910), pp. 1-21. Seeger read the piece at one of my Celtic Conferences, and was much impressed by it. He got from it only his title and the fundamental figure of a rendezvous with Death, the Irish poem being wholly different from his in general purport. Fothad Canainne makes a tryst with the wife of Ailill Flann, but is slain in battle by Ailill on the day before the night set for the meeting. Then the spirit of Fothad (or, according to one version, his severed head) sings the reicne to the woman and declares (st. 3): 'It is blindness for one who makes a tryst to set aside the tryst with death.'"

Miss Amy Lowell, however, believes that Seeger got the idea from a French poet. Wherever he got it, I believe that he made it his own, for he used it supremely well, and it will always be associated with him.

At Harvard, Alan Seeger took the small and special course in Irish, and showed enthusiasm for this branch of study. Wishing to find out something about his undergraduate career, I wrote to a member of the Faculty, and received the following reply: "Many persons found him almost morbidly indifferent and unresponsive, and he seldom showed the full measure of his powers.... I grew to have a strong liking for him personally as well as a respect for his intellectual power. But I should never have expected him to show the robustness of either mind or body which we now know him to have possessed. He was frail and sickly in appearance, and seemed to have a temperament in keeping with his physique. It took a strong impulse to bring him out and disclose his real capacity."

There is no doubt that the war gave him this impulse, and that the poem I Have a Rendezvous with Death must be classed among the literature directly produced by the great struggle. After four years, I should put at the head of all the immense number of verses inspired by the war John Masefield's August 1914, Alan Seeger's I Have a Rendezvous with Death, and Rupert Brooke's The Soldier; and of all the poems written by men actually fighting, I should put Alan Seeger's first.

While reading these proofs, the news comes of the death of a promising young American poet, Joyce Kilmer, a sergeant in our army, who fell in France, August, 1918. He was born 6 December, 1866, was a graduate of Rutgers and Columbia, and had published a number of poems. His supreme sacrifice nobly closed a life filled with beauty in word and deed.


[Only important references are given; the mere mention of names is omitted.]

Abercrombie, D., Adams, F. P., "A. E." (G. W. Russell), personality, a sincere mystic, assurance, discovery of Stephens, influence on Susan Mitchell, Aiken, C., Andrews, C. E., From the Front, Arnold, M., poem on Wordsworth compared to Watson's, Arvine, W. B., Aumonier, S., quotation from, Austin, A.,

Bacon, L., Barker, G., production of Dynasts, remark on Shaw, Beers, H, A., Bent, S. V., Bent, W. R., Bishop, J. P., Blackwell, B. H., a publisher, Bradley, W. A., Braithwaite, W. S., his anthology, Branch, A. H., a leader, poems, education, passion, contrasted with Masters, Bridges, R., poet-laureate, his verse, Brooke, R., canonized, Gibson on, poems, letters, Howland prize, compared to De La Mare, The Soldier, Browne, T., compared to Yeats, Browning, R., concentration, Pauline, on spiritual blessings, lack of experience, self-consciousness, Christmas Eve, natural poetry, metre of One Word More, The Glove, Ogniben's remark, compared to Brooke, temperament, contrasted with Yeats, Masters compared to, Confessions, Burns, R., influence on democracy, Burton, R., Bynner, W., Byron, Lord, sales of his poems, wit compared to Watson's, common sense,

Calderon, G., remark on Chekhov, Campbell, J., Carlin, F., Carlyle, T., remark on Cromwell, Chaucer, G., effect on Masefield, Chekhov, A., centrifugal force, Clapp, F. M., Cleghorn, S. N., Coleridge, S. T., remark on poetry, Colton, A., Colum, P., Conrad, J., compared to Scott, Cooke, E. V., Corbin, A., Crane, S., Red Badge of Courage, Crashaw, R., his editor,

Davidson, J., test of poetry, Davies, M. C., Davies, W. H., Davis, F. S., De La Mare, W., homage to, poems, compared to Hawthorne, retirement, Listeners, Shakespeare portraits, Old Susan, Peacock Pie, Dodd, L. W., Donne, J., reputation, stimulant,

Drake, F., German statue to, poem by Noyes, Drinkwater, J.,

Egan, M. F., Eliot, T. S., Emerson, R. W., prophecy on poetry, Erskine, J.,

Flecker, J. E., posthumous editor of, translations, aims, Oak and Olive, religion, Jerusalem, Fletcher, J. G., Foulke, W. D., Frost, R., dedication by Thomas, poems, theories, outdoor poet, realism, tragedy, pleasure of recognition,

Garrison, T., Gibson, W. W., homage to, poems, Stonefolds, Daily Bread, Fires, Thoroughfares, war poems, Livelihood, latest work, his contribution, Gladstone, W. E., eulogy by Phillips, Glaenzer, R. B., Goethe, J. W., Flecker's translation of, poise, Grainger, P., great artist, audacities, Graves, R., Gray, T., on laureateship, compared to Hodgson, compared to Masters, Griffis, E., Griffiths, W.,

Hagedorn, H., Hardy, T., a forerunner, Dynasts, idea of God, pessimism, thought and music, Moments of Vision, Housman's likeness to, Hawthorne, N., compared to De La Mare. Henley, W. E.; compared to Thompson; paganism; lyrical power. Hodgson, R.; a recluse; love of animals; humour; compared to Alice Corbin. Hooker, B. Housman, A. E.; modernity; scholarship; likeness to Hardy; paganism and pessimism; lyrical power. Hughes, R. Hyde, D., influence.

Ibsen, H., student of the Bible.

Jacobus, D. James, H., tribute to Brooke. Johnson, R. U.

Keats, J., Phillips compared to; influence on Amy Lowell; Endymion; Amy Lowell's sonnet on. Kilmer, J. Kipling, R.; imperial laureate; Recessional; popularity; influence on soldiers; Watson's allusion to; Danny Deever.

Landor, W. S., his violence. Lawrence, D. H. Ledwidge, F. Leonard, W. E. Lewis, C. M. Lindsay, N. V.; Harriet Monroe's magazine; Booth; development; drawings; "games"; Congo, Niagara; prose; chants; geniality; Esther. Locke, W. J., his dreams. Low, B. R. C. Lowell, A. L., love of liberty. Lowell, Amy, essay on Frost; poems; training; free verse; imagism; Sword Blades; narrative skill; polyphonic prose; versatility; remark on Seeger. Lowell, P., influence on Amy.

MacDonagh, T. Mackaye, P.; stipend for poets; poems. MacLeish, A. Macterlinck, M., compared to Yeats; rhythmical prose. Markham, E. Marquis, D. Masefield, J., homage to; poems; the modern Chaucer; education; Dauber; critical power; relation to Wordsworth; Everlasting Mercy; Widow in the Bye Street; Daffodil Fields; compared to Tennyson; August, 1914; lyrics; sonnets; Rosas; novels; general contribution; Drinkwater's dedication; Aiken's relation to. Masters, E. L.; education; Spoon River; irony; love of truth; analysis; cynicism; idealism. Meredith, G., his poems. Middleton, S. Milton, J., his invocation; Piedmont sonnet. Mitchell, S. Monroe, H., her magazine; her anthology; poems. Moody, W. V. Morley, J., remarks on Irishmen and Wordsworth. Munger, R.

Neihardt, J. G. Nichols, R. Nicholson, M., poems; remark on college stories. Noyes, A., homage to; poems; education; singing power; Tramp Transfigured; his masterpiece; child imagination; sea poetry; Drake; May-Tree; new effects; war poems; optimism.

O'Conor, N. J., poems; remark on Seeger. O'Sullivan, S.

Peabody, J. P. Percy, W. A. Phillips, S.; sudden fame; education; Marpessa; realism; Gladstone; protest against Masefleld. Pierce, F. E.

Quarles, F., quoted. Quiller-Couch, A., remark on the Daffodil Fields.

Rand, K. Reedy, W. M., relation to Masters. Rice, C. Y. Riley, J. W., remark on Henley; "Riley Day"; remark on Anna Branch; a conservative. Rittenhouse, J. B. Robinson, C. R. Robinson, E. A. Robinson, F. N., remark on Seeger. Rogers, R. C.

Sandburg, C. Santayana, G. Sassoon, S. Scott, W., compared to Conrad; sales of his poems. Seeger, A.; Low's dedication; source of his poem. Service, R. W., likeness to Kipling. Shakespeare, W., compared to Wordsworth; compared to Masefleld; portraits by De La Mare; poem on by Masters. Shaw, G. B., Major Barbara. Spingarn, J., creative criticism. Squire, J. C., introduction to Flecker Stephens, J., novels; discovered by A. E.; realism; child-poetry; power of cursing. Stevenson, R. L., remark on Whitman. Stork, C. W. Swinburne, A. C., critical violence, Lindsay's likeness to; Lindsay's use of. Synge, J. M., advice from Yeats; works; versatility; bitterness; theory of poetry; autobiographical poems; thoughts on death; influence on Stephens.

Teasdale, S. Tennyson, A., continued popularity of; his invocation; compared to Hardy; early poems on death; compared to Masefield,; his memoirs; his reserve; quality of his poetry. Thomas, E. Thomas, E. M. Thompson, F., compared to Henley; religious passion; In No Strange Land; Lilium Regis; Noyes's ode to; Flecker's poem on. Trench, H.

Underwood, J. C. Untermeyer, L. Updegraff, A.

Van Dyke, H. Vaughan, H., quoted. Viel, H. K.

Wallis, J. H. Watson, W. poor start; address in America; King Alfred; Wordsworth's Grave; epigrams; How Weary is Our Heart; hymn of hate; war poems, Yellow Pansy; Byronic wit; Eloping Angels; dislike of new poetry. Weaving, W. Wells, H. G. religious position. Whitman, W. natural style; Man of War Bird; early conventionality; Stevenson's remark on; growth of reputation; Sandburg's relation. Whitney, H. H. Whitsett, W. T. Widdemer, M. Wilcox, E. W. Willcocks, M. P. remark on will. Woodberry, G. E. Wordsworth, W. compared to Shakespeare; Watson's poem on; Masefield's relations to.

Yeats, W. B. education; devotion to art; his names; love poetry; dramas; prose; mysticism; relation to Lindsay.

Younghusband, G. remark on Kipling


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