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regard to poetry, the rule dominates with still greater force the fiction of the day. In the extract given Albert was speaking of the poetic drama, which shares with fiction the insistent demand for realism, for the presentation not only of actual life, but the life of to-day. Only those plays, poems, tales which have the marvelous quality of universality, of perennial truth to nature, can hold their own after a brief period of popularity—ten years, our French author puts it: “Tous les dix ans, ce goût change, et les fils se moquent des belles choses qui ont ravi leurs pères." Mr. Henry M. Alden, himself a striking example, in his conduct of a great magazine, of a rare capacity to enter into the spirit of the times, enlarged upon this change de goût in his masterly summary of Magazine Writing and The New Literature; wherein the altered viewpoint, the intense realism of the present generation of the readers and inevitably—the purveyors of fiction, were subtly analyzed.
There is just now, to be sure, a certain revival of taste for the essay; and in this field, if in no other, the older writer has his
OPportunity. Let the young college graduate air, if he will, his views of men and things in the current press, the "Sunday Edition”, the “Magazine Department" of the great daily; but for mellow, serene, matured reviews of life, verified and clarified by experience, distilled from the alembic of many days, we turn to the veteran essayist. The times change, and we in them. There is little comfort in assimilating the views of an eloquent young writer, only to find him, just when we have fully convinced ourselves of the far-reaching verities of his position, taking back all he has previously laid down as law and gospel. Who, for instance, that gave himself up unreservedly to the earlier enthusiasms of Ruskin, does not ruefully remember that experience? At such a crisis of disillusionment we turn with relief to the dicta of men who have lived long enough to know their own minds, to give us deduction and ripened conclusion in place of juvenile theory. Aladdin's princess, after she had capriciously exchanged her old lamp for a new one, was soon glad enough to regain possession of the time-worn but faithful old friend who had so often opened to her the gates of fairyland.
There seems no reason, then, why authors of middle age, or
even well beyond, should not excel in contemplative writing, and in creations of poetic imagination. In both cases we are concerned not with things which are temporal, the ephemerides of the present moment, but with those that are eternal. Even in fiction, as I have said, the hand of the elderly literary workman is now and then proved not to have lost its cunning. The late Dr. Weir Mitchell and Mr. De Morgan were well known examples of the triumph of romance writers over the supposed disabilities of advanced years. There is no real reason for discouragement. The demand for pure, strong, helpful literature was never more insistent than it is to-day. There is room for all. It is the age long ago foretold by the prophet, when “your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.”
At the celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the graduation of his Class at Bowdoin our own best loved poet stood upon the platform holding his manuscript with trembling hands, his splendor of white hair overshadowing his serene forehead and the dark eyes that still blazed with the fire of youth and of noble thought, as he read the lines
Is it too late? Ah, nothing is too late
For age is opportunity no less
Willis Boyd ALLEN.
10." ette TES
WHAT IDEALS DO WE WISH TO
BY CORNELIA J. CANNON
LINCOLN once said that God loved the common man and showed it by creating so many of them. But the biologists, observing the custodians of the fleeting civilization of the day, feel there may have been an over-enthusiasm in the production of the lower grades of humanity which will bring such civilization as there is to disaster by allowing the world to be repeopled with stone-age individuals. In such a contingency mankind would have to groan through long processes of transmutation, geological eras of fluctuation up and down the scale of development, to chance again upon the level of to-day before they could advance further in the conquest of their environment and in the diverse expressions of their inner capacities.
Civilization seems to be a plant that dies easily at the top. The further the developing parts extend from the root, though they may be by just so much nearer the light, the less vigorous and capable of regeneration they seem to be. There are indeed suspicions that there exist definite limitations to the intellectual development of man, limitations which have been reached in each successive civilization which has passed into the limbo of forgotten things and which give us small hope that history can do more than repeat herself. But since man has been so bold in his interference with the workings of natural law, so persistent in his attacks on the inimical forces of nature, so unremitting in his war upon disease we are tempted to ask his twentieth century representative whether he at last is not to succeed in arresting the downfall of the civilization of which he is a part. His best capacities will surely rise to the challenge. He cannot allow America to go the way of Greece and Rome if there is anywhere within the reach of man an antidote for racial decay.
The first difficulty that confronts the savior of a threatened civilization is the disconcerting fact that the men of the more evolved types, those capable of understanding, originating and grappling with new aspects of the conquest of nature, leave few or no descendants, while the simpler types of humanity, incapable of dealing with the complexities of modern society save in subordinate activities as followers, leave large numbers of descendants of the same intellectual calibre as themselves. Of course the obvious first step is the bringing of every possible social pressure to bear upon the carriers of our better racial strains at least to perpetuate themselves. An advocacy of the segregation of the unfit and a reduced production of the less desirable types are, of course, inevitable corollaries.
Is there not, however, in lieu of the problematic success of any such programme, a possibility of so formulating and codifying the principles on which our civilization has been built up that they may be carried along as the great, determining race-tradition irrespective of the intellectual powers of the particular bearers of the racial heritage?
We have not necessarily any interest in modern industrial and social developments as such. Complex international relations, inventions, elaborations of life that require a high order of ability for their administration, are not in themselves desirable. A return to simpler methods of living, to a self-sufficing community life, would not seem a step backward, might indeed seem a very long step forward, if we could take into that less complicated environment the ideals and standards that are basic to a noble civilization. Any material conditions which give opportunity for the full development of such abilities as we have, which makes us better servants of the common good, is acceptable to the champion of democratic ideals. But there must somehow be passed on to each generation, to the brilliant and the dull alike, in a complex or a simple society, the ideals by which to live, lest the flame of the great racial tradition die down.
Homogeneous nations like the Scandinavian, the French, the English, do not need to formulate or teach the characteristics of their particular civilization. National ideals are lived and sensed through the contacts of every day. In a nation like ours, however, made up not only of individuals of very great as well as of very humble native ability, but also of representatives of every nation of the earth, of whom 16 per cent are foreign bora and over 30 per cent either foreign born or of foreign parentage, the problem takes on new difficulties. An additional complication lies in the very rapid influx of foreigners in recent years at a rate which quickly exceeded our assimilative capacity and has left us with monstrous accumulated problems of racial antagonism, industrial maladjustment, and educational responsibility which have bid fair to overwhelm us. The census of 1920 shows that of the foreign born over ten years of age in this country 3,000,000 cannot speak English and 1,650,000 cannot read or write in any language. The Army Intelligence Tests found 7 per cent of the white draft wholly illiterate and 25 per cent relatively illiterate. These figures give some idea of the magnitude of the problem of passing on American ideals to individuals to whom English words, written or spoken, convey no meaning. The acquisition of understandings through daily contact in living and doing with the older Americans is also denied our newer immigrants because of their habit of living and working in segregated groups.
We cannot wander much through our bigger cities without an uneasy consciousness that the fire under the melting pot must have markedly cooled of late years, for the pot seems full of ugly and menacing lumps, preserving all the characteristics of the veins from which the ore was originally mined and showing no evidence of even marginal fusing.
But if we set upon our great task of making fellow-citizens, co-inheritors with us, of these people whom we have allowed to come into our midst, what of our formulated and unformulated traditions, the priceless gifts of the past, must we hand on to them and teach to their children and ours in order to keep alive for humanity that which is dear to us in the democratic experiment? We shall go on as a people, either under a developing leadership to heights never yet scaled by man, or through failing leadership back to more primitive forms of society. Whichever way we turn, whatever our destination, will democracy be able to offer us ideals by which we can find our way to a fairer and happier life for all?