Globe, 31 July 1915, p. 8

The Mechanical Muse – Turning Out Poems of the Great War. Someone has said that no single line of real poetry ever dies. Even the gem in the mass of ineptitude is saved from the destruction that must inevitably wait upon the whole. The spheres ring sweet to many a voice without a name, to many a stave the song of which none can place. There is a lesson in this—that the poet should write only when moved by an inspiration, and not merely by his own confidence in himself as a servant to the Muse. Not only is the poet born and not made; he is a spasmodic individual, being a great singer of songs for a day or so, and then a mere man for month son end. His general mistake is that he imagines himself a poet always.

The war is now to blame. It has been a terrible temptation to our minor poets. Doubtless Canon Rawnsley would have written a poem or two when the Muses piped in his ear, and nothing more; but the rumbling of the guns was too much for him. His morning paper always bore an epic, and the evening paper a sonnet. He could not read of a Voctoria Cross won without being fired to a fine frenzy; and then a confiding publisher gave him enough rope to hang a dozen writers of rhymes.

Canon Rawnsley has first of all made the mistake of believing that the sonnet form is suited to warrior themes. Most decidedly it is not. It is the proper vehicle for Phyllis and Corydon, for frisking lambs and green leaves, but its adoption for the clash of arms and the circumstance of war as much the same effect as would the loading of a hundred-ton gun on a wagon tared for a ton. In any case, few writers nowadays can handle the sonnet form adequately. It passed with the Victorian era. It is the mould into which young ladies were taught to pour their sentimental fancies. It is the “reach-me-down” of poetry.

This is no promising introduction to a good statement, and there are many really good things in the book; but that is the fact. Canon Rawnsley at times shows a pretty trick of narrative verse, as in “A Modern Horatius”:

Ah! many deeds were done that day,
    But braver never sure was done
Than his who kept the foe at bay
    Against a thousand one.

Still do they praise in Roman song
    How Cocles fought and died of old,
Let this Horatius live as long
    His as long be told.

I imagine the Muse must have been leaning very closely over Canon Rawnsley’s shoulder when he wrote this:

“Lords and ladies all in waiting,
    Rise within your tents of green,
Spring is coming, birds are mating,
    Rise and bow before your Queen.

The sonnet to Rupert Brooke is one of the best things in the book. Here for once, is the subject suited to its treatment:

For never since upon his golden quest
    To Lemnos Jason with his Argo came
        And Orpheus sang the maidens back to
Has sweeter singer on this isle found rest
        Than he who warrior-poet died to prove
    The patriot’s inextinguishable flame.

Western Daily Press, 2 August 1915, p. 7

Under the title “The European War 1914-1915: Poems,” Canon Rawnsley publishes about a hundred and fifty short poems. They have mostly appeared in different newspapers and all owe their inspiration to various incidents of the war. Indeed, they comprise something like a history in poetry of the leading events to date. The canon is certainly dowered with the poetic gift, and he has now no lack of fit subjects for his muse. Courage is his constant theme; he sings dirges over the fallen, and is moved to indignant sorrow by the woes of the martyred, and to scorn and defiance of their insolent persecutors. Sometimes it is a trench song, sometimes a general’s praise, sometimes a V.C. story. He hails “Max, Burgomaster of Brussels,” tells about Rheims Cathedral, sings of the “Men of H.M.S. Hawke,” and lays a wreath of poesy on the grave of “2nd Lieutenant W. G. C. Gladstone, M.P.” Indeed, Canon Rawnsley bids fair to become, in England, the poet of the war. And over all his pieces there plays the light of Christian faith and hope, as becomes the poet who is also a Christian preacher.