Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 133

purpose." Is there any fundamental differences between his fif–
teen-year attack on criticism-criticism which is a normal function
of intelligence and which any mature mind learns to accept, face,
and master-and Goebbels' instructions of November 27, 1936, in
which the criticism of art, literature, music, or drama "as hitherto
exercised" was forbidden and "objective analysis and description"
were prescribed in its place? Any difference but the obvious one:
that Goebbels is in a position to see to it that all pretense of opinion
or argument on the subject may be dismissed?
The misty nobility and lulling cadences (alternating with
ranting defiance) of Mr. MacLeish's prose, its skill in giving the
reader the sensation of sinking in a quicksand of question-begging
claims and unanswerable righteousness, is one evidence of what
his contempt for critical rigor has done to his own mental proc–
esses. But another evidence, and an even starker one, appears in
his verse. It was necessary for Mr. Blackmur and every other
honest critic to admit the serious motives and lyric felicities in his
poetic output between 1927 and 1934, but the collapse of his
poetry since the latter date has been an embarrassment to every
earlier sympathizer. Elegiac and pathetic motives in poetry are at
best precarious; they do not bear endless repetition; but when
they are carried over into prophetic arrogance and metrical hot–
gospelling, when they try to cope with immediate realities and
complex public issues in terms varying from dire warning and
bardic finger-pointing to lofty efforts to chart a new age of truth
and humanitarian enlightenment, they are hound to end exactly
where Mr. MacLeish's radio plays and public speeches have ended
-in hollow strain, inflated rhetoric, and the empty heat of evangel–
ism. Mr. MacLeish has tried all possible tones of voice in his role
as public poet during the past ten years: music-hall wit in the
portentous swank in
Air Raid,
pathos in "1933" and "Pole Star for This Year," the Audenesque
cabaret style in "The German Girls," platform pastiche in
a kind of Frostian-Saroyanesque gnomery in "Colloquy
of the States,"
and finally, as a reductio ad absurdum and grand
medley of all these manners, the ghastly officious falsetto of
ica Was Promises,
a poem whose cheap effects of phrasing, line–
arrangement, and oracular vapidity are unbeatable in current
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