/ Michigan quarterly review: Vol. 6, No. 4
250 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 space. 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 poems. 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 or 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. Thus: Under the thunder-dark, the cicadas resound or the grave rhythm of The measured blood beats out the year's delay
Top of page Top of page