balance between the ideal and the practical striving toward the ideal. At itsbest,this attempt to transcend time and to unite with the timeless is like theefforts of an artist who turns reality into static art. Finally,the knights giveup their attempt to reach the visionary:“Slowly the shapes of searching menand horses / Escaped him as he dreamt on that high bed”(21–22).Wilbur associates Merlin’s retreat to his dream with the decline of a civi-lization,the fall of Arthur’s kingdom,and the end of history. In tears,Arthurtells Gawen that “
[o]nce haled a sword fromstone
”(33) and is “
now no less strong
cannot dream of such a thingto do
”(34). However,the accomplishments of Camelot are commemorated inlegends and are bequeathed to succeeding generations. The quests of theknights of the Round Table may have come to an end,but their achievementshave been wrought into art,a medieval tapestry:“Their mail grew quainter asthey clopped along. / The sky became a still and woven blue”(35–36).—ISABELLA WAI,
1.In the November 12,2003,letter to Isabella Wai,Wilbur wrote:“I think I chose to spellGawain’s name ‘Gawen,’because I was used to that pronunciation from my studies in MiddleEnglish at Harvard,and didn’t want the reader to hear the name as ga-WAYNE.”
Laurel Poetry Series. New York:Dell,1959. 7–39.———. “Merlin Enthralled.”
New and Collected Poems
. San Diego:Harcourt,1988. 245–46.Zimmer,Heinrich.
The King and the Corpse:Tales of the Soul’s Conquest of Evil
.Ed. JosephCampbell. New York:Pantheon Books,1948.
O’Connor’s GOOD COUNTRY PEOPLE
Flannery O’Connor’s Southern landscapes are populated by freaks,misfits,shrewd con artists,murderers,and sometimes just plain ordinary country peo-ple. All her characters are flawed in some way—most are spiritually andmorally corrupt. However,the greatest flaws can often be found in those char-acters with physical impairments; bodily handicaps symbolize the greaterhandicaps of the intellect,the heart,or the soul. In O’Connor’s tales,the blindcannot recognize the most obvious intellectual truths,and those who are phys-ically crippled are often emotionally or spiritually crippled. In FlanneryO’Connor’s “Good Country People,”Joy-Hulga’s physical afflictions—her