Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 130

themes. Then, however, came a new kind of falsetto eloquence–
the footless declamation employed in
(1935) and the radio–
The Fall of the
(1937) and
Air Raid
(1938). When
this culminated in
America Was Promises,
wherein Mr. MacLeish
reduced his new patriotic function to a condition of verbal inepti–
tude and moral hogwash from which the most vicious parodist
would have been charitable enough to spare him, the great public–
speech hope collapsed beyond any present hope of revival.
Quite apart from the risk of pedantry and spiritual servility
which a poet allows when he frankly imitates his betters, he faces
another danger: he sets himself up against the test of his models'
themes, experience, and integrity of motive. Imitators of Eliot are
up against something more than a successful adaptation of an
extremely personal poetic idiom and method; they match their
quality and intelligence with Eliot's complex mastery of his ideas
and experiences, his devious struggle with scruple and belief, his
subtle dramatization of the problems of the modem mind and his
personal courage in meeting their dangers. Imitators of Pound
confront an infinitely more elusive challenge: a style and method
are there to imitate (though no sensible poet can possibly believe
that he is able to conceal derivations from so obviously patented a
style) but the personal intelligence and processes of the poet are
mercurial to the point of complete intangibility. The focus of
critical intelligence is evident only by violent fits and starts; the
central line of idea or belief is either confused beyond comprehen–
sion or disappears wholly from view. Moreover, these poets are
sufficiently subtle in their imaginative and expressive skill to gain
a concession from criticism. The imaginative authority of their
style and experience is great enough to exempt them from direct
personal attack. They have arrived .at that translation of references
and perceptions which transcends the momentary or emergent grasp
of poetic certitude. They compel acceptance not as thinkers,
believers, moral guides, or philosophers, but as poets.
Mr. MacLeish aspired to their moral and political functions
when he took over their style, but he was never able to make the
style the
translator, or master of these functions. Like
Pound he aimed to express an imaginative unity in history (as
Duhamel said of Rimbaud, "to foreshorten history by violence").
Like Eliot he wanted to dramatize the modem man's search for
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