THE MUSE OF THE NEW CENTURY 781
send to the bookseller and buy a whole threepennyworth of poetry, of the kind that is most recommended. Some are quite content with as much as they can get for nothing, or are satisfied with reading a fragment on the paper bag from the grocer's ; that is a cheaper way, and in our busy time some regard must be paid to cheapness. The desire is felt for what we have, and that is enough ! The poetry of the future, like the music of the future, belongs to the stories of Don Quixote ; to speak about it is just like talking about voyages of discovery in Uranus.
The time is too short and valuable for the play of fancy; and if we are to speak quite sensibly, what is Poetry ? These rhymed outpourings of feelings and thoughts are merely the movements and vibrations of the nerves. All enthusiasm, joy, pain, even the material striving, are—the learned tell us—vibrations of the nerves. Each of us is— a stringed instrument.
But who touches these strings ? Who makes them vibrate and tremble ? The Spirit, the invisible divine Spirit, which lets its emotion, its feeling, sound through them, and that is understood by the other stringed instruments, so that they also sound in harmonious tones or in the strong dissonances of opposition. So it has been, and so it will be, in the progress which humanity makes in the consciousness of freedom.
Every century, every thousand years, one may say, finds in Poetry the expression of its greatness ; born in the period that is closing, it steps forward and rules in the period that is coming.
In the midst of our busy time, noisy with machinery, she is thus already born, the Muse of the New Century. We send her our greeting. Let her hear it, or read it some day, perhaps among the charcoal inscriptions we spoke of above.
The rockers of her cradle stretched from the farthest point which human foot had trod on North Polar expeditions to the utmost limit of human vision in the ' black coal-sack ' of the Polar sky. We did not hear the sound of the cradle for the clattering of machines, the whistling of railway engines, the blasting of real rocks and of the old fetters of the mind.