Thursday, January 10, 2019

"Archibald MacLeish, 1892–1982" (Poetry Foundation)

Archibald MacLeish

"Archibald MacLeish, 1892–1982" (Poetry Foundation)

The following quote, offering Conrad Aiken's view of MacLeish's accomplishments, tells us:
Aiken went on, however, to pose the unanswered question of "whether [MacLeish's] 'echoes' might not, by a future generation, be actually preferred to the things they echo." Often, in MacLeish's work, such "echoes" are a form of brilliant, purposeful parody, an additional stylistic power finally recognizable fifty postmodern years later for what it is.
This very thing may be what MacLeish is doing in "The End of the World." Interestingly, that poem is not once mentioned in this Poetry Foundation's biography of MacLeish, so let's tack it on here at the end to recall it:

"The End of the World"

Quite unexpectedly as Vasserot
The armless ambidextrian was lighting
A match between his great and second toe
And Ralph the lion was engaged in biting
The neck of Madame Sossman while the drum
Pointed, and Teeny was about to cough
In waltz-time swinging Jocko by the thumb --
Quite unexpectedly the top blew off:

And there, there overhead, there, there, hung over
Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes,
There in the starless dark the poise, the hover,
There with vast wings across the canceled skies,
There in the sudden blackness the black pall
Of nothing, nothing, nothing -- nothing at all.

Recall again the echoes of Milton in these lines, but also of the other writers whom we've been looking into.



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