192. (Mary Sidney)

Renaissance translations of the Psalms are maybe the closest English poetry comes to what we encounter in the religious paintings of Renaissance art: variations on standard subjects, which are exceptional in the opportunity they offer for imagining divine love, human suffering, and the alloying of the one onto the other. Keeping Renaissance religious paintings in mind when we read the Psalms might be helpful in … Continue reading 192. (Mary Sidney)

187. (Charles Williams)

When anyone remembers Charles Williams these days, it is probably for one of two reasons. Either they know of Williams through his association with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. He was a brief but dazzling member of the Inklings and features centrally in the enjoyable recent biography of that group, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip and Carol Zaleski. Otherwise, they know of Williams … Continue reading 187. (Charles Williams)

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)

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)

180. (Anna Akhmatova)

Even in translations, her poems can seem such perfect instances of lyric utterance–the anchoring “I,” the impress, profound, suffocating at times, of public on private life, the oblique swerves of desire, the mystery of occasion and the satisfaction of sufficiency, the feeling of encountering a splinter of experience in the whole of a poem, or else a fragment of a poem and a whole experience, … Continue reading 180. (Anna Akhmatova)

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)