The Passing Show

Willa Cather

A few months ago a second volume of verse by Yone Noguchi made its appearance.  For some time this young Japanese has been living in a cabin on the mountainside out in Joaquin Miller's country, "where the flowers are like trees, and the trees touch with heaven," and this is the second volume of poetry he has sent into the world from his solitude.  While Noguchi is by no means a poet in the large, complicated modern sense of the word, he has more true inspiration, more melody, from within than many a greater man.  He is one of the fervid singers, who sang when poetry was a passion merely, not an art.  There is a long stretch of time between such verses as are written in the Occident today and such simple, spontaneous, unstudied songs as Yone Noguchi's.  These verses are so naive, so fragile, so entirely the children of an hour and a mood, like the songs of the unknown Hebrew poet who wrote the so-called books of Solomon.  They are conspicuously Oriental.  The hurrying of the clouds toward the western horizon, he describes as "A glorious troop / Of the unsuffering souls of gods / Marching on with battle-sound / Against the unknown Castle of Hell."

Could anything be more suggestive of a simple, joyous indulgence of the imagination, such as we find in Japanese carving or painting?  We have over-elaborated everything in the West; we have made whist so difficult that few of us can play it, wine so good that few of us can afford to drink it, poetry so difficult that few of us can read it. We must make a science even of recreation and kill all the joy of it.  But here is a poet who has not tried to be profound.  He sings because the sun shines, because the roses bloom, because there is love and laughter in the world.  He has the full measure of oriental melancholy, and that warm languor of the spirit found in lands of perpetual high noon.

"Come," says the young poet, "buy my tears, for I have sucked them from the breasts of Truth."