Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 134

The most unfortunate aspect of all this verse is its plea for
recognition as something timely, urgent, imperative, man-to-man,
nation-saving, and world-saving. Mr. MacLeish has apparently
never heard of Yeats's dictum to the effect that it is only when
poetry ceases being all these things, ceases being hortatory, didac–
tic, compulsory, and unanswerable, that it becomes inevitable.
America Was Promises
is a text-book in error and tastelessness.
Not merely does it make a futile attempt to convert the method of
pathos to the uses of moral exhortation; not only does it run into
the ground all the devices of the patented colon, running period,
rhetorical question, satirical capitalization, slangy Poundian tall
talk and arty Yeatsian sublimity that have already, many times,
betrayed the loose, amorphous, dream-struck pose of the poet's
attitude, all things swooning toward a great glimmering equation
of time, life, and destiny. It affects, with a familiar skill in mock
self-castigation, to repudiate Mr. MacLeish's erring self, to turn
his former allegiances into sins or lapses, to reduce the character·
istic tragic or ironical images of the Twenties to absurdity, and to
diffuse the critical intelligence or tragic recognition which those
images contain into a large, all-embracing ·prophetic sentiment:
The Aristocracy of Wealth and Talents
Withered of Wealth and Talents
Bred to sonsinlaw: insane relations:
Girls with open secrets: sailors' Galahads:
Prurient virgins with the tales to tell:
Women with dead wombs and living wishes.
The weed between the railroad tracks
Tasting of sweat: tasting of poverty:
The bitter and pure taste where the hawk hovers:
Native as the deer bone in the sand
0 my America for whom?
The synthetic hollowness of these lines is less than ever an adequate
mask for their insincerity, and they are perfectly resolved in what
follows: the name-waving Millayesque orotundity of "There is
Spain Austria Poland China Bohemia," the creaking grandeur of
"Listen! Brothers! Generation!" and of
80...,124,125,126,127,128,129,130,131,132,133 135,136,137,138,139,140,141,142,143,144,...160
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