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in the nature of a national disgrace that a New Zealand paper, "The
Triad," should be more alert to, and have better regular criticism
of, contemporary French publications than any American
periodical has yet had.
I had wished to give but a brief anthology[1] of French poems,
interposing no comment of my own between author and reader;
confining my criticism to selection. But that plan was not feasible.
I was indebted to MM. Davray and Valette for cordial semi-
permissions to quote the "Mercure" publications.
Certain delicate wines will not travel; they are not always the best
wines. Foreign criticism may sometimes correct the criticism du
cru. I cannot pretend to give the reader a summary of
contemporary French opinion, but certain French poets have
qualities strong enough to be perceptible to me, that is, to at least
one alien reader; certain things are translatable from one language
to another, a tale or an image will "translate"; music will,
practically, never translate; and if a work be taken abroad in the
original tongue, certain properties seem to become less apparent,
or less important. Fancy styles, questions of local "taste," lose
importance. Even though I know the overwhelming importance of
technique, technicalities in a foreign tongue cannot have for me the
importance they have to a man writing in that tongue; almost the
only technique perceptible to a foreigner is the presentation of
content as free as possible from the clutteration of dead
technicalities, fustian a la Louis XV; and from timidities of
workmanship. This is perhaps the only technique that ever matters,
the only mæstria.
Mediocre poetry is, I think, the same everywhere; there is not the
slightest need to import it; we search foreign tongues for mæstria
and for discoveries not yet revealed in the home product. The critic
of a foreign literature must know a reasonable amount of the bad
poetry of the nation he studies if he is to attain any sense of
proportion.
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