THE occasional moving of stock in open‐shelf libraries creates a sense of novelty in the reader. We experienced this recently in entering a library familiar to us where we found the Literature section had been moved and reduced in order to make space for the increase in the Applied Arts class. Further the librarian declared that there was no excessive demand for much of modern poetry, but although the library has the poems of T. S. Eliot in several copies, none was on the shelves or at the moment available. One wonders if poetry that is “modern” has been read by the majority in the past half‐century; it is an art form, often lacking substance and therefore caviare to the ordinary reader. The poets of today with such exceptions as Walter de la Mare and Alfred Noyes, neither of whom is young, have not increased their chances by their deliberate or unconscious obscurity. Even the said‐to‐be most influential of the modern, T. S. Eliot, in such a work as Ash Wednesday, topical this month of course, is completely unintelligible, in spite of the almost divine music of some of its lines, to many quite intelligent and habitual readers. Our librarian declared that readers remain for Coleridge, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Browning and even for Longfellow, in short for the real classics. This conclusion is borne out by the examination of a day's borrowings a year ago at Manchester. “Modern poetry,” its Report tells us, “seems to be departing from the range of the general reader into some esoteric mystery of its own,” and while the older classics, Browning, Chaucer, Donne and Tennyson were borrowed to the extent of four copies each, other poets were less in demand. Altogether 21 works of individual poets and 16 anthologies went out that day. A small array but, if continued through the year, it meant 11,100 works which are not a negligible number.
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