186. (Tim Vallence)

The following is a poem by Tim Vallence, a former teacher and friend. It was recently published in the journal Southerly; I reproduce it here from a manuscript. Tim Vallence died in 2016. The title is “Balliang,” the name of a locality in Victoria, Australia. . the tall breaking black silos in dark twilight like dark gapped teeth so quiet the breath of wind plays out … Continue reading 186. (Tim Vallence)

185. (David Ferry)

David Ferry’s translation of the Aeneid is an argument that the poem is not tragic, but elegiac; it is impelled by a forward urgency, to found Rome but to overcome the pain of death, suffering, and destruction as only the founding and glory of Rome can, but it is also ensnared in the refusal to let go of loss, to mourn proleptically, before the fatal blow is … Continue reading 185. (David Ferry)

184. (Andrew Marvell)

Not that the poems are about language, but they are about a mild yearning for something beyond or before civilization and the human existence that seems, to Marvell, to demand and aspire to the civilization that he would see around and through; language being a part of such an existence, and such a civilization, the poems cannot but also reflect on their own means or … Continue reading 184. (Andrew Marvell)

183. (J.R.R. Tolkien)

I don’t think it’s much use denying that Tolkien’s mythology is in some ways racist: growing from Anglo-Saxon ideologies of race prevalent in the early twentieth-century world in which he grew into consciousness. I don’t think either that it is essential that we associate his characters with any one ethnicity, that anything falls if we imagine some of the characters as he does not describe … Continue reading 183. (J.R.R. Tolkien)

181. (William Empson)

Empson’s final words on the poem “Bacchus,” a poem about drink, in one of his statements on it: “I think it sufficiently intelligible to sympathize with.” The trouble, with the poem and with Empson’s apologetic, uneasy defense, is that the relationship between intelligibility and sympathy is not as direct as this. A middle term, “understanding,” is missing, and what “understanding” requires is what Empson in … Continue reading 181. (William Empson)

178. (John Dryden)

Since both are masters of the heroic couplet, both scathing satirists, how, it might be asked, does Dryden achieve effects quite foreign to Pope? In what respects does Dryden offer something that is other than what Pope offers–something distinctly his own? To answer, consider some lines from a poem, “The Hind and the Panther” that even Dryden’s fervent admirers might concede to stretch the sympathies … Continue reading 178. (John Dryden)

177. (William Shakespeare)

A second in a series of what seem a “redundant discoveries of obvious value,” this post can claim nothing novel about Shakespeare’s sonnets, but will instead serve as a memorandum of the summer’s gradual realization of just how they tower. They had always, in my encounters with critics and devotees, either excuses for ingenious but tiresome exercises in dextrous ambiguity hunting expeditions, or else as the province … Continue reading 177. (William Shakespeare)