THE MICHIGAN QUARTERLY REVIEW
O, as with arm and hammer,
Still it is good to strive
To beat out the image whole,
To echo the shout and stammer
When full-gushed waters, alive,
Strike on the fountain's bowl
After the air of summer.
For me, the opening lines are one of the
great felicities of our time: the thing put
down with an ultimate exactness, absolutely
as it is. Perhaps the two appositives "Bronze
of the blackest shade/An element manmade" in the next stanza are a bit "written";
but "gouts of water" saves everything. Nor
do I care much for the evocative outcryand the arm and hammer image. Yet the
poem resolves itself with characteristic candor. We have come a long way in a short
I believe this poem will stay in the language: its opening alone demands immortality. Yet it exists, too, as a superb piece of observation; as a phallic poem; as a poem
about the nature of the creative act in the
no-longer young artist.
N THE last lines of this piece, we hear the
accent of the later work: a tone of resignation, an acceptance of middle age, a comment, often, on the ironies of circumstance.
Of these, I believe "Henceforth, From the
Mind" to be a masterpiece, a poem that
could be set beside the best work of the Elizabethans:
Henceforth, from the mind,
For your whole joy, just spring
Such joy as you may find
In any earthly thing,
And every time and place
Will take your thought for grace.
Henceforth, from the tongue,
From shallow speech alone,
Comes joy you thought, when young,
Would wring you to the bone,
Would pierce you to the heart
And spoil its stop and start.
Henceforward, from the shell,
Wherein you heard, and wondered
At oceans like a bell
So far from ocean sunderedA smothered sound that sleeps
Long lost within lost deeps,
Will chime you change and hours,
The shadow of increase,
Will sound you flowers
Born under troubled peaceHenceforth, henceforth
Will echo sea and earth.
And certainly, "Song," "Hommunculus," and
"Kept," at the very least, are among our best
short lyrics. We are told:
Time for the pretty clay,
Time for the straw, the wood.
The playthings of the young
Get broken in the play,
Get broken, as they should.
And, in terms of personal revelation,
"The Dream" might be regarded as a later
companion piece to "Medusa." In some of
these last poems, as "After the Persian,"
"Song for the Last Act," the rhythms, the
music, are richly modulated, highly stylized,
grave and slow. Miss Bogan is not repeating
herself, but moving into another world.
There is no lessening of her powers.
I FIND my rather simple method of "pointing out"-at which Miss Marianne Moore
is such a master-has omitted or underemphasized certain qualities in Louise Bogan's
work, and of necessity passed by remarkable
For example, the great variety and surety
of her rhythms-that clue to the energy of
the psyche. Usually the movement of the
poem is established in the very first lines, as
it should be:
If ever I render back your heart,
So long to me delight and plunder
To me, one silly task is like another
I bare the shambling tricks of lust and pride
And she is a master of texture, yet always
the line is kept firm: she does not lapse into
"sound" for the sake of sound, lest the poem
thin out into loose "incantatory" effects.
Under the thunder-dark, the cicadas resound
or the grave rhythm of
The measured blood beats out the year's delay