Never to Be Forgotten

By Clarkson Crane

Merely the fact that George Sterling was in San Francisco made life in the city somehow better. He was a constant reminder that even here men can follow careers in which no money is to be made. He was always a generous, appealing and attractive figure, and the influence he exerted on younger poets is measureless. No one who sat with him at Bigin's or Coppa's will ever forget his thin, faun-like face, strangely and deeply lined. Opinions concerning his work may differ, but to everyone he seemed essentially an artist, careless of material things, a follower of impressions, of the indefinable, in short, of beauty.

He was a master of sound and metre. For him language existed to be wrought into musical patterns. His talent was of the ear rather than of the eye, and his poems are best when read aloud. An age too given to abstractions has little appreciation of such a man. There are lines in Sails, in To a Girl Dancing, in many of his sonnets, filled with a deep-toned melody. Rhetoric? Perhaps, but beautiful none the less.

Who cares if his ideas were shaky? Poetry lives because of deep, sensuous qualities unrelated to the intellect. One has only to read Autumn in Carmel to know that Sterling had an accent of his own, that he brought a certain haunting and melancholy note into American literature. He was a good poet, and some of his verses may survive and be included in anthologies of the future. There are very few poets now writing in America of whom one can say as much.

From Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine (1868-1935); Dec 1927; Vol LXXXV, NUMBER 12; PG 363.