William Morton Payne (essay date 1894)
SOURCE: A review of "East and West: The Discovery of America and Other Poems", by Ernest Fenollosa, in The Dial, Vol. XVI, No. 189, May 1, 1894, pp. 272-75.
[In the following essay, Payne determines that the poet characterizes the West as masculine and the East as feminine.]
Mr. Fenollosa's [East and West: The Discovery of America, and Other Poems.] consists of two long and very ambitious poems, and a number of minor pieces. The titular poem is a sort of versified Culturgeschiehte, philosophical and mystical, in spirit not unlike Mr. Block's "El Nuevo Mundo," which we reviewed a year or so ago. In this poem, says the author, "I have endeavored to condense my experiences of two hemispheres, and my study of their history." The poem is in five parts. The first considers the early meeting of East and West, brought about by the conquests of Alexander. Then follow "The Separated East" and "The Separated West," themes of which the author has conceived in the following terms: "Eastern culture, slowly elaborated, has held to ideals whose refinement seems markedly feminine. For it social institutions are the positive harmonies of a life of brotherhood. Western culture, on the contrary, has held to ideals whose strength seems markedly masculine. For it law is the compromise of Liberty with her own excesses, while conquest, science, and industry are but parallel channels for the overflow of hungry personality. But this one-sidedness has been partly compensated by the religious life of each. The violence of the West has been softened by the feminine faith of love, renunciation, obedience, salvation from without. It is the very impersonality of her great ecclesiastical institute which offers to man a refuge from self. On the other hand, the peaceful impotence of the East has been spurred by her martial faith of spiritual knighthood, self-reliance, salvation from within. The intense individuality of her esoteric discipline upholds the fertile tranquillity of her surface. This stupendous double antithesis seems to me the most significant fact in all history. The future union of the types may thus be symbolized as a twofold marriage." In "The Present Meeting of East and West," the author deals with "the first attempts to assimilate alien ideals," which "have led to the irony of a quadruple confusion, analogous to the disruption of Alexander's conquest." But there is to be another and more intimate union, brought about in some mysterious way by the art of music, and in a manner foreshadowed in some sort by the compositions of Herr Brahms. Here, we must confess, we are unable to follow the argument. And the poem ends with a...
(The entire section is 1096 words.)