"From the Eastern Sea." By Yone Noguchi. London: 151 Brixton Road. 1902. 2s.
A strange little pamphlet, printed entirely on brown paper, has reached us from a Japanese poet who appears to be living in London, and who writes in English. The English is a very Eastern English, the verse is no more than rhythmical prose, but there is genuine poetic feeling struggling through, and occasionally, for a few lines together, expressing itself in a new, personal way, which seems to bring some actual message or fragrance to us from the East. "The woman whispered in the voice that roses have lost" is like a line of Mallarmé; "The lamp-lights of web-like streets bathed in opiate fogs" has all the precision of a French impressionist; both have come straight from Japan. Sometimes the impressionism becomes as violent as it can become even in Paris:
"The life of a bird was the life of a brook,
With crimson gossips and passions";
but, here even, is not a definite sensation trying to find significant words for itself? "The sweet mystery of indolence" allures this poet of half-inarticulate dreams:
"I, with lips apart,
With the large mindless eyes, stood
As one fresh from a fairy dream:
The ecstasy of the dream was not yet dry
On my face. The strangest stillness,
As exquisite as if all the winds
Were dead, surrounded me...
No sorrow of mortal heart: my sorrow
Was one given before the human sorrows
Were given me. Mortal speech died
From me: my speech was one spoken before
God bestowed on me human speech.
. . . . . . .
What a bird
Dreams in the moonlight is my dream:
What a rose sings is my song."
If Mr. Noguchi can learn the technique of English verse
as well as he has learnt to write the English language,
he will certainly not be without something to say or
sing. One piece, called "Apparition" has a kind of
achieved merit, more within limits than any of the other
pieces, in which from time to time words seem to fail
altogether, or to render but a treacherous service. But
it is through these very incoherencies that we seem to
see what is most significant in this scarcely to be
apprehended personality, which goes, like Eastern music,
right through harmony to what lies nearest silence on
the other side. In a vision of the valley of peace, the
birds are first heard singing, then "the birds did not
trouble with songs", because "angels of whitest silence"
had mingled with them; "the heard song of the winds was
melodious", but the melody increases after the winds
have ceased singing with their voices, "singing on in
voicelessness." Mr. Noguchi is perhaps trying to render
what can never be rendered, even with the best aid of
words; but his brave attempt, in a language not his own,
is full of interest.