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THE FREEMAN
93
4 April, 1923]
to time, had come to visit them, had made it quite clear
fact that so many English statesmen. and men of affairs
to her both by look and gesture that her favours would
are also mature and creative thinkers in technical fields.
be more precious to them than all knowledge of sun, moon,
At their best they seem to touch life on more sides and
and stars.“
more personally than our own countrymen, and they are
The story called The Murderer' describes the endeav¬
able to gather its fruits into the transferable terms of an
dur of a young man on a sca voyage to kill his girl, first
articulate philosophy.
through an amorcus indulgence that had been forbidden
GERTRUDE BESSE KING.
by the doctor and afterwards, when this fails, by the
direct administration of poison. His sophisticated con¬
A PERFECT VIENNESE.
sciousness of what he is about is well portrayed: When
ARTHUR SCHNITZLER has won for himself during the last
with half-closed eyes she lay yielding in his arms and
three decades a definite place among European literary
he saw on her moist forehead the bluish reflection of the
figures, and this he has achieved by no means exclusively
waves which entered through the little cabin-window, he
through his genius as a playwright. In his novels he
felt a smile rise to his lips from the deepest abysses of
has shown himself to be a writer of fine penetration wiio,
his soul.“ Finally, having acquired the necessary drugs
in spite of the fact that his work never reaches that high
at Naples, he parades the deck of the liner, meditating
level of mordant irony and imaginative robustness that
after this fashion: But at the same time, something
we have come to associate with the name of his great
stirred mysteriously in him, something like envy of the
contemporary, Anatole France, has nevertheless revealed
young woman by his side, who was destined so soon to
a striking and individual attitude towards life.
find release painlessly and unsuspectingly from all the
Mr. Theis, in his admirable introduction, would secm
confusions of life.“
to suggest that Schnitzler’s lack of intellectual vigour is
The last tale in the small volume has to do with a blind
characteristic of the work of those who have lived all
guitar-player and his brother. But the tragedies of simple,
their lives in Vienna on the Danube. For it would
lowly people do not seem to lend themselves to Schnitzler’s
appear that a certain inherent disillusionment has settled,
fastidious and peculiar genius. As one reads, one can
like a dangerous miasma, upon the spirits of all good
not help considering how much more heart-breaking would
Austrians. There is, he says, in most of them an
Guy de Maupassant’s version of the story have been, had
undercurrent of weariness, as though they belong to a
he written it. Is this because the author of The Piece
civilization which has lost its illusions and is slowly disin¬
of String'' was “a good Parisian' and not “a perfect
tegrating.“ It would be a mistake to imagine that no
Viennese“; and does the very strength as well as the weak¬
good thing can come from such a condition. In contem¬
ness of Arthur Schnitzler lie in this difference?
plating the comparative stages of different national civili¬
LzzwELyN Powys. 77
zations, it becomes apparent that a superabundance of
physical and moral energy by no means always assures
POEMS OF CHILDHOOD.
that gracious state of harmony which should be the happy
Mosr verses that attempt to record childhood are written
goal of all political effort. Tolerance and reasoned indul¬
by well-meaning and thoroughly mature adults, either in
gence is ever the attitude of the world-weary; and if
that tone of talking-down which, instead of being child¬
Schnitzler had more native power in his style, might we
like, is merely a distortion of childishness, or on a note
not have lost those urbane utterances which, when we
of highly exaggerated spontaneity and elaborate ingenu¬
come upon them in his work, give us such a lovely sense
ousness which fails to conceal sophistication. Occa¬
of liberation, as if for once the heavy hand of the hard
sionally one finds a volume which mirrors the child’s
categorical imperatives' under which we of the Western
world, in which the speech is straightforward without
world labour had been deftly lifted if not actually
being shrill or mincing, whose simplicity is neither
removed? One has the right to exploit to the completest
starched nor beribboned. Such a volume is W. B. Rands’s
extent all one’s life with all the ecstasy and all the shame
Lilliput Lyrics, and Mr. De la Mare’s “Peacock Pie,
involved'; and again, She knew that she was not onc of
1
and now Elizabeth Madox Roberts’s Under the Tree.“
those who, endowed with a frivolous nature, are permitted
Miss Roberts’s vision is clear as it is candid, and her
to drink the joys of life without hesitation.
communication is equally direct. She reproduces not only
The small volume' before us contains three stories, The
the quality of childhood but its very colours. Her verse
Shepherd’s Pipe,' The Murderer,' The Blind Geronimo
is graceful where grace commands the expression, but her
and His Brother.' The first is an allegorical tale relating
unforced naiveté allows her to be gauche whenever
the adventures of a young and beautiful lady who is
awkwardness is natural. Poems like“ The Rabbit, The
sent out into the world by her philosophical husband to
Picnic,' Mumps' and others of the same delightful genre
follow every call that comes to her. Her experiences by
will be fascinating to children for their quaint, partly fan¬
no means reconcile her to the sophisticated wisdom of
tastic but chiefly matter-of-fact inflection; and to the
her leman; for on her return she rebels against the “claw¬
mature craftsman, for the admirable economy with which
like clutch of his words' and dreads the “strong embrace
Miss Roberts has selected her sharp and illuminating
of his wisdom, even going so far as to reproach the sage
details. In the first four lines of a tiny poem she gives
astronomer in that +he knew not that only a narrow path
us unerringly a child’s consciousness—and a life-size
is granted to every human being where he can understand
portrait.
and fulfil his being.' The story contains many excellent
things, as, for example, the remark of the rich young
On Sunday morning, then he comes
To church, and everybody smells
man who is made to symbolize material power and wio
The blacking and the toilet soap
justifies the abject condition of his workers by saying
And camphor balls from Mr. Wells.
that “even under the simplest and apparently most equit¬
able circumstances, the lives of individuals were shaped
In the half-dozen more obviously poetic pictures, Miss
most deviously according to personal characteristics and
Roberts’s charm does not diminish. Particularly in poems
all manner of actions'; or the observation of the lovely
such as Christmas Morning' and The Hens'’ is an un¬
Dionysia who explains to her husband, the astronomer,
usual delicacy; the words, with the light of early wonder
that each and all of his brother scientists who, from time
shining behind them, are almost transparent.
1 The Shepherd’s Pipe and Other Stories.“ Arthur Schnitzler.
1 Under the Tree.“, Elizabeth Madox Roberts. New Vork: B. W.
The Sea Gull Library. Edited by O. F. Theis. New York: Nicholas
Huebsch. 81.50.
L. Brown. 81.50.
*