155. (Christopher Smart)

Who are the major poets who have not excelled in something that might be called “light verse”? Even Wordsworth, the least funny of major poets, has his “We Are Seven” and “Expostulation and Reply,” which possess the strengths and effects of light verse; and Milton has his sonnet on the Cambridge mail-carrier, not to mention the playful syntax in Book 4 of Paradise Lost. If I … Continue reading 155. (Christopher Smart)

153. (Charles Sanders Peirce)

He has almost no interest in the field of aesthetics, and though his theory of semiotics might be thought most germane to the study of literature, it is not necessarily most germane to what is most literary in Peirce. I’m hardly an expert on the great American philosopher, but as I read his essays not for the first time, but for what feels like the … Continue reading 153. (Charles Sanders Peirce)

152. (Wallace Stevens)

When you start out with a feeling of alienation—from an unspoken, blank, or meaningless past—from a mass of others, or even single others, in the present–or from a future defined by a fraudulent and thin promise—the risks are either cynical withdrawal, refusing to believe that the estrangement can be overcome, or else sentimentality, the insistence that a momentary, blazing common feeling be allowed to outshine … Continue reading 152. (Wallace Stevens)

150. (Cao Xueqin)

This morning, I deleted, for the first time, one of the posts on this blog, the most recent, on Marguerite Yourcenar. Then, meandering through Easter Sunday with a book, I finally finished, somewhat exhausted, the second volume in Cao Xueqin’s The Story of the Stone.  It’s an extraordinary novel, in five volumes, not only like Proust because it spans thousands of pages, but because of the … Continue reading 150. (Cao Xueqin)

149. (Robert Lowell)

“Self-accusation,” writes Geoffrey Hill, “is the life-blood of Romanticism.” For a long time, I thought Lowell a late-Romantic, working back, through the reaction of modernism, to the lessons of the early nineteenth-century.  That is not right. Lowell does accuse himself, but whereas, in Hill’s view, self-accusation guards Romanticism against its own excesses, Lowell accuses himself for another end.  Forgiveness is his great subject and it … Continue reading 149. (Robert Lowell)