Heppenstall And Rhys
Sebastian. By Rayner Heppenstall. (Dent, 2s. 6d) Song of the SIM. By Ernest Rhys (Dent, 2s. 6d.)
Reviewed by J. ALBAN EVANS
"The best way to review poems is to quote them," said Mr. Desmond MacCarthy recently. It is at least a laboursaving device, and, in face of Mr. Heppenstall's formidable obscurities, a convenient camouflage for the critic.
The publishers do not greatly help our blindness. Sebastian is " a long mystical poem, in which inspiration and technique move together in rhythms of a breadth and range not usual in our time." Perhaps so. But let the reader see for himself: "If that long lassitude, Colour of breath, colour of mind behind fallen eyelids, Had been drawn down in a sigh,
Had opened, to give the eyeballs ease, It would have been a day dawning and a day closing."
Yet, despite a mystical miasma that only theosophists will properly appreciate, Mr. Heppenstall conveys only too well the sense of frustration which is the root—and fruit —of his poem: " Thy song is a difficult song, Too sharp, hi the mask. and still, for thin lush habit Of speech with which I learned to suffer these things."
To most people, the short poems that precede the magnum opus will make a readier appeal. But Mr. Heppenstall must not complain if one reader, at least, feels that echoes of Gerard Hopkins (" Word, o my Single"), and an acquaintance with the lesser names of the Roman martyrology ("Sr. Anicetus, Pope and Martyr"), have no meaning apart from the faith in which a Jesuit called Hopkins lived, and for which a Pope called Anicetus shed his blood.
Mr. Rhys is troubled by no such subtleties.
"I have been a Sun-lover All my days Loving the early morning light When the first Sun-shafts are shot Level along the dewy grass
And every shining after-hour
Of crescent and decrescent rays, Till the black cloak away is cast, And day dawns above.the moody night."
His pleasant verses, all in this minor mood, are in praise of the sun, the lifegiver. They are good-natured rather than passionate, with an occasional Browning twist to give them more vitality. They include an interesting free translation of the Golden Ode of Dafydd ap Gwilym.
Messrs. Dent are to be congratulated on this excellent series. The type used is the Perpetua of Eric Gill: the paper and binding are consistently good.