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A Hero and Some Other Folks by William A. Quayle

Nor a biographer's sketch of the sculptor


"Grandly begin! Though thou have time But for one line, be that sublime: Not failure, but low aim, is crime."

The eaglet's failure in attempted flight teaches him to outsoar clouds. We are not so greatly concerned that we find the sources of the Nile as that we search for them. In this lie our triumph and reward.

Besides all this, may there not be a place for more of what may be named inspirational literature? Henry Van Dyke has coined a happy phrase in giving title to his delightful volume on "The Poetry of Tennyson," calling his papers "Essays in Vital Criticism." I like the thought. Literature is life, always that, in so far as literature is great; for literature tells our human story. Essayist, novelist, poet, are all doing one thing, as are sculptor, painter, architect. Of detail criticism ("dry-as-dust" criticism, to use Carlyle's term) there is much, though none too much, which work requires scholarship and painstaking, and is necessary. Malone is a requirement of Shakespearean study. But, candidly, is verbal, textual criticism the largest, truest criticism? Dust is not man, though man is dust. No geologist's biography of the marble from Carrara, nor a biographer's sketch of the sculptor, will explain the statue, nor do justice to the artist's conception. I, for one, want to feel the poet's pulse-beat, brain-beat, heart-beat. What does he mean? Let us catch this speaker's words. What

was that he said? Let me feel sure I have his meaning. We may break a poem up into bits, like pieces of branches picked up in a woodland path; but is this what the poet would have desired? He takes lexicons and changes them into literatures, begins with words, ends with poems. His art was synthetic. He was not a crab, to move backward, but a man, to move forward; and his poetry is not debris, like the broken branch, but is exquisite grace and moving music. Tears come to us naturally, like rain to summer clouds, when we have read his words. Much criticism is dry as desiccated foods, though we can not believe this is the nobler criticism, since God's growing fruit is his best fruit. A tree with climbing saps and tossing branches, fertile in shade and sweet with music, is surely fairer and truer than a dead, uprooted, prostrate, decaying trunk. This, then, would I aspire humbly to do with Shakespeare or another, to help men to his secret; for to admit men to any poet's provinces is nothing other than to introduce them

"To the island valley of Avilion, Where falls not hail nor rain nor any snow, Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns, And bowery hollows crowned with summer seas."

There is no trace of exaggeration in saying: Many people frequent theaters ostensibly for the purpose of understanding the great dramatists, and, leading thereto, seeing noted tragedians act Lear, Richard III, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and at the end of years


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