Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 128

The Poet On Capitol Hill {Part 2)
Morton Dauwen Zabel
Mr. MacLeish's poetry has had as curious a critical history
as any serious verse of the past quarter-century. He has waged a
long battle with his traducers (though in fact he has come off
remarkably well at their hands), and following Pound's model
(there is always a model behind Mr. MacLeish's practises) has
carried on a cold feud with the critical profession. Yet the unstabie
attitude of his readers has hardly been greater than the instability
of his own style and motives. The abuses to which he has subjected
his gifts and his incredibly shabby performances of recent months
(particularly in
America Was Promises)
have pretty much re–
moved him from serious consideration, but that his is a serious
poetry can hardly be questioned. It is concerned with the major
ordeal and spiritual motives of the post-War era; it has been mod·
elled on the distinguished styles of the period. It is a poetry that
succeeded in advancing from the flimsy imitative anonymity of
(Songs for a Summer's Day,
Tower of Ivory,
into a sharp critical wit
(Streets of the Moon,
1926) and an elegiac
(New Found Land,
1930) that corrected the Swinbumian
distension and limp emotion of Mr. MacLeish's apprentice years
and justified the tactful understudy he had given to Eliot and
Pound. His poems never concealed their derivations: the style and
motivation of
The Pot of Earth
(1925) came straight out of Frazer
TheWaste Land; The Hamlet
(1928) was a deft enlargement
of the motives of "Prufrock," "Portrait of a Lady," and "The
Hollow Men";
(1932) took over the old-man theme
of "Gerontion" and mixed it with the historical and anthropologi·
cal images of Frenchmen like Apollinaire, Perse, Cendrars, Sal–
mon, and Fargue; the general effects, contrasts, historical shifts,
and colloquial structure of Pound's
were freely diluted and
made into easy reading not only in
but in the
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