Fourth Edition

European Poets


Fourth Edition

European Poets
Volume 1
Endre Ady—Jorge Guilléen

Editor, Fourth Edition

Rosemary M. Canfield Reisman
Charleston Southern University

Salem Press
Pasadena, California Hackensack, New Jersey

Editor in Chief: Dawn P. Dawson Editorial Director: Christina J. Moose Research Supervisor: Jeffry Jensen Development Editor: Tracy Irons-Georges Research Assistant: Keli Trousdale Project Editor: Rowena Wildin Production Editor: Andrea E. Miller Manuscript Editor: Desiree Dreeuws Page Desion: James Hutson Acquisitions Editor: Mark Rehn Layout: Mary Overell Editorial Assistant: Brett S. Weisberg Photo Editor: Cynthia Breslin Beres

Cover photo: Petrarch (The Granger Collection, New York) Copyright ©1983, 1984, 1987, 1992, 2003, 2011, by Salem Press All rights in this book are reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the copyright owner except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews or in the copying of images deemed to be freely licensed or in the public domain. For information, address the publisher, Salem Press, at Some of the essays in this work, which have been updated, originally appeared in the following Salem Press publications, Critical Survey of Poetry, English Language Series (1983), Critical Survey of Poetry: Foreign Language Series (1984), Critical Survey of Poetry, Supplement (1987), Critical Survey of Poetry, English Language Series, Revised Edition, (1992; preceding volumes edited by Frank N. Magill), Critical Survey of Poetry, Second Revised Edition (2003; edited by Philip K. Jason). ∞ The paper used in these volumes conforms to the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, X39.48-1992 (R1997). Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Critical survey of poetry. — 4th ed. / editor, Rosemary M. Canfield Reisman. v. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-58765-582-1 (set : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-1-58765-756-6 (set : European poets : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-1-58765-757-3 (v. 1 : European poets : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-1-58765-758-0 (v. 2 : European poets : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-1-58765-759-7 (v. 3 : European poets : alk. paper) 1. Poetry—History and criticism—Dictionaries. 2. Poetry—Bio-bibliography. 3. Poets—Biography— Dictionaries. I. Reisman, Rosemary M. Canfield. PN1021.C7 2011 809.1'003—dc22 2010045095 First Printing

printed in the united states of america

European Poets is part of Salem Press’s greatly expanded and redesigned Critical Survey of Poetry Series. The Critical Survey of Poetry, Fourth Edition, presents profiles of major poets, with sections on other literary forms, achievements, biography, general analysis, and analysis of the poet’s most important poems or collections. Although the profiled authors may have written in other genres as well, sometimes to great acclaim, the focus of this set is on their most important works of poetry. The Critical Survey of Poetry was originally published in 1983 and 1984 in separate English- and foreign-language series, a supplement in 1987, a revised English-language series in 1992, and a combined revised series in 2003. The Fourth Edition includes all poets from the previous edition and adds 145 new ones, covering 843 writers in total. The poets covered in this set represent more than 40 countries and their poetry dates from the eighth century b.c.e. to the present. The set also offers 72 informative overviews; 20 of these essays were added for this edition, including all the literary movement essays. In addition, seven resources are provided, two of them new. More than 500 photographs and portraits of poets have been included. For the first time, the material in the Critical Survey of Poetry has been organized into five subsets by geography and essay type: a 4-volume subset on American Poets, a 3-volume subset on British, Irish, and Commonwealth Poets, a 3-volume subset on European Poets, a 1-volume subset on World Poets, and a 2-volume subset of Topical Essays. Each poet appears in only one subset. Topical Essays is organized under the categories “Poetry Around the World,” “Literary Movements,” and “Criticism and Theory.” A Cumulative Indexes volume covering all five subsets is free with purchase of more than one subset. European Poets The 3-volume European Poets contains 188 poet profiles, arranged alphabetically. For this edition, 18 new essays have been added, and 6 have been significantly updated with analysis of recently published books or poems. v Each volume begins with a list of Contents for that volume, a Complete List of Contents covering the entire subset, and a Pronunciation Key. The poet essays follow in alphabetical order, divided among the three volumes. The third volume contains the Resources section, which features three tools for interpreting and understanding poetry: “Explicating Poetry,” “Language and Linguistics,” and “Glossary of Poetical Terms.” The “Bibliography,” “Guide to Online Resources,” “Time Line,” “Major Awards,” and “Chronological List of Poets” provide guides for further research and additional information on European poets; comprehensive versions appear in Topical Essays and Cumulative Indexes. The “Guide to Online Resources” and “Time Line” were created for this edition. European Poets contains a Geographical Index of Poets; a Categorized Index of Poets, in which poets are grouped by culture or group identity, literary movement, historical period, and poetic forms and themes; and a Subject Index. The Critical Survey of Poetry Series: Master List of Contents identifies poets profiled in European Poets as well as poets profiled in other Critical Survey of Poetry subsets. The Cumulative Indexes also contains comprehensive versions of the categorized, geographical, and subject indexes. Updating the essays All parts of the essays in the previous edition were scrutinized for currency and accuracy: The authors’ latest works of poetry were added to front-matter listings, other significant publications were added to backmatter listings, new translations were added to listings for foreign-language authors, and deceased authors’ listings were rechecked for accuracy and currency. All essays’ bibliographies—lists of sources for further consultation—were revised to provide readers with the latest information. The 6 poet essays in European Poets that required updating by academic experts received similar and even fuller attention: All new publications were added to listings, then each section of text was reviewed to

Critical Survey of Poetry ensure that recently received major awards are noted, that new biographical details are incorporated for stillliving authors, and that analysis of works includes recently published books or poems. The updating experts’ names were added to essays. Those original articles identified by the editor, Rosemary M. Canfield Reisman, as not needing substantial updating were nevertheless reedited by Salem Press editors and checked for accuracy. Online access Salem Press provides access to its award-winning content both in traditional, printed form and online. Any school or library that purchases European Poets is entitled to free, complimentary access to Salem’s fully supported online version of the content. Features include a simple intuitive interface, user profile areas for students and patrons, sophisticated search functionality, and complete context, including appendixes. Access is available through a code printed on the inside cover of the first volume, and that access is unlimited and immediate. Our online customer service representatives, at (800) 221-1592, are happy to help with any questions. E-books are also available. Organization of poet essays The poet essays in European Poets vary in length, with none shorter than 2,000 words and most significantly longer. Poet essays are arranged alphabetically, under the name by which the poet is best known. The format of the essays is standardized to allow predictable and easy access to the types of information of interest to a variety of users. Each poet essay contains ready-reference top matter, including full birth and (where applicable) death data, any alternate names used by the poet, and a list of Principal Poetry, followed by the main text, which is divided into Other Literary Forms, Achievements, Biography, and Analysis. A list of Other Major Works, a Bibliography, and bylines complete the essay. • Principal poetry lists the titles of the author’s major collections of poetry in chronological order, by date of original appearance. Most of the poets in European Poets wrote in a language other than English. The foreign-language title is given in its entirely, folvi lowed by the first English publication and its date of publication, if a translation has been made. Other literary forms describes the author’s work in other genres and notes whether the author is known primarily as a poet or has achieved equal or greater fame in another genre. If the poet’s last name is unlikely to be familiar to most users, phonetic pronunciation is provided in parentheses after his or her name. A Pronunciation Key appears at the beginning of all volumes. Achievements lists honors, awards, and other tangible recognitions, as well as a summation of the writer’s influence and contributions to poetry and literature, where appropriate. Biography provides a condensed biographical sketch with vital information from birth through (if applicable) death or the author’s latest activities. Analysis presents an overview of the poet’s themes, techniques, style, and development, leading into subsections on major poetry collections, poems, or aspects of the person’s work as a poet. As an aid to students, those foreign-language titles that have not yet appeared in translation are followed by a “literal translation” in roman and lowercase letters in parentheses when these titles are mentioned in the text. If a collection of poems has been published in English, the English-language title is used in the text. Single poems that have not been translated are followed by a literal translation in parenthesis. Those that have been translated are referred to by their Englishlanguage title, although the original title, if known, is also provided. Other major works contains the poet’s principal works in other genres, listed by genre and by year of publication within each genre. If the work has been translated into English, the date and title under which it was first translated are given. Bibliography lists secondary print sources for further study, annotated to assist users in evaluating focus and usefulness. Byline notes the original contributor of the essay. If the essay was updated, the name of the most recent updater appears in a separate line and previous updaters appear with the name of the original contributor.

Publisher’s Note Appendixes The “Resources” section in volume 3 provides tools for further research and points of access to the wealth of information contained in European Poets. • Explicating Poetry identifies the basics of versification, from meter to rhyme, in an attempt to demonstrate how sound, rhythm, and image fuse to support meaning. • Language and Linguistics looks at the origins of language and at linguistics as a discipline, as well as how the features of a particular language affect the type of poetry created. • Glossary of Poetical Terms is a lexicon of more than 150 literary terms pertinent to the study of poetry. • Bibliography identifies general reference works and other secondary sources that pertain to European poets. • Guide to Online Resources, new to this edition, provides Web sites pertaining to poetry and European poets. • Time Line, new to this edition, lists major milestones and events in European poetry and literature in the order in which they occurred. • Major Awards lists the recipients of major European poetry-specific awards and general awards where applicable to poets or poetry, from inception of the award to the present day. • Chronological List of Poets lists all 188 poets covered in European Poets by year of birth, in chronological order. Indexes The Geographical Index of Poets lists all poets covered in European Poets by country or region. The Categorized Index of Poets lists the poets profiled in European Poets by culture or group identity (such as Jewish culture, gay and lesbian culture, and women poets), literary movements (such as Dadism, Modernism, Surrealist poets, and Symbolist poets), historical periods (Spanish Golden Age and Hellenistic poets), and poetic forms and themes (such as political poets, religious poetry, epics, and visionary poetry). The Critical Survey of Poetry Series: Master List of Contents lists not only the poets profiled in European Poets but also those in other subsets, allowing users to find any poet covered in the complete series. The Subject Index lists all titles, authors, subgenres, and literary movements or terms that receive substantial discussion in European Poets. Listings for profiled poets are in bold face. Acknowledgments Salem Press is grateful for the efforts of the original contributors of these essays and those of the outstanding academicians who took on the task of updating or writing new material for the set. Their names and affiliations are listed in the “Contributors” section that follows. Finally, we are indebted to our editor, Professor Rosemary M. Canfield Reisman of Charleston Southern University, for her development of the table of contents for the Critical Survey of Poetry, Fourth Edition and her advice on updating the original articles to make this comprehensive and thorough revised edition an indispensable tool for students, teachers, and general readers alike.


Claude Abraham
University of California, Davis

M. D. Birnbaum
University of California, Los Angeles

Robert Colucci
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Paul Acker
Brown University

Nicholas Birns
Eugene Lang College, The New School

Victor Contoski
University of Kansas

Robert Acker
University of Montana

Carrie Cowherd
Howard University

Franz G. Blaha
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Sidney Alexander
Virginia Commonwealth University

J. Madison Davis
Pennsylvania State College-Behrend College

András Boros-Kazai
Beloit College

Peter Baker
Southern Connecticut State University

David Bromige
Sonoma State University

Andonis Decavalles
Fairleigh Dickinson University

Lowell A. Bangerter
University of Wyoming

Joseph P. Byrne
Belmont University

Mark DeStephano
Saint Peter’s College

James John Baran
Louisiana State UniversityShreveport

Glauco Cambon
University of Connecticut

Lillian Doherty
University of Maryland

H. W. Carle
St. Joseph, Missouri

Desiree Dreeuws
Sunland, California

Stanisuaw Bara½czak
Harvard University

John Carpenter
University of Michigan

Clara Estow
University of Massachusetts

Theodore Baroody
American Psychological Foundation

Joseph Carroll
Community College of Rhode Island

Welch D. Everman
University of Maine

Jean-Pierre Barricelli
University of California, Riverside

Francisco J. Cevallos
Orono, Maine

Jack Ewing
Boise, Idaho

Enik¹ Molnár Basa
Library of Congress

Carole A. Champagne
University of Maryland-Eastern Shore

Christoph Eykman
Boston College

Fiora A. Bassanese
University of Massachusetts, Boston

Robert Faggen
Claremont McKenna College

Walton Beacham
Beacham Publishing Corp.

Luisetta Elia Chomel
University of Houston

Rodney Farnsworth
Indiana University

Todd K. Bender
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Peter Cocozzella
State University of New York at Binghamton

Thomas R. Feller
Nashville, Tennessee

Peter Bien
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

Steven E. Colburn
Largo, Florida

Daniel H. Garrison
Northwestern University


Critical Survey of Poetry Katherine Gyékényesi Gatto
Richmond Heights, Ohio

Irma M. Kashuba
Chestnut Hill College

Laurence W. Mazzeno
Alvernia College

Tasha Haas
University of Kansas

Theodore L. Kassier
University of Texas-San Antonio

Michael R. Meyers
Pfeiffer University

Donald P. Haase
Wayne State University

Jürgen Koppensteiner
University of Northern Iowa

Vasa D. Mihailovich
University of North Carolina

Steven L. Hale
Georgia Perimeter College

Philip Krummrich
University of Georgia

Leslie B. Mittleman
California State University, Long Beach

Shelley P. Haley
Howard University

Katherine C. Kurk
Northern Kentucky University

Christina J. Moose
Pasadena, California

Todd C. Hanlin
University of Arkansas

Rebecca Kuzins
Pasadena, California

C. L. Mossberg
Lycoming College

Robert Hauptman
St. Cloud State University

Norris J. Lacy
University of Kansas

Adriano Moz
Spring Hill College

Sarah Hilbert
Pasadena, California

Carolina D. Lawson
Kent State University

Károly Nagy
Middlesex County College

Ann R. Hill
Randolph-Macon Woman’s College

John M. Lee
James Madison University

Moses M. Nagy
University of Dallas

Elizabeth A. Holtze
Metropolitan State College of Denver

Raymond LePage
George Mason University

Caryn E. Neumann
Miami University of Ohio

Donald D. Hook
Trinity College

Marie-Noëlle D. Little
Clinton, New York

Evelyn S. Newlyn
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

David Harrison Horton
Patten College

John D. Lyons
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

Tracy Irons-Georges
Glendale, California

Hermine J. van Nuis
Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne

Dennis McCormick
University of Montana

Miglena Ivanova
Coastal Carolina University

Magdalena Máczy½ska
The Catholic University of America

David J. Parent
Normal, Illinois

Maura Ives
Texas A&M University

David Maisel
Wellesley, Massachusetts

John P. Pauls
Cincinnati, Ohio

Karen Jaehne
Washington, D.C.

Richard Peter Martin
Princeton University

La Verne Pauls
Cincinnati, Ohio

Juan Fernández Jiménez
Pennsylvania State University

Anne Laura Mattrella
Southeastern University

Margaret T. Peischl
Virginia Commonwealth University

Judith L. Johnston
Rider College

Richard A. Mazzara
Oakland University

Susan G. Polansky
Carnegie Mellon University


Contributors John Povey
University of California, Los Angeles

Minas Savvas
San Diego State University

Kenneth A. Stackhouse
Virginia Commonwealth University

Verbie Lovorn Prevost
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Paul J. Schwartz
Grand Forks, North Dakota

Tuula Stark
Hermosa Beach, California

Robert W. Scott
American University

Laura M. Stone
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

James Reece
University of Idaho

Roberto Severino
Georgetown University

George Thaniel
University of Toronto

Sylvie L. F. Richards
Northwest Missouri State University

Jack Shreve
Allegany Community College

Rogelio A. de la Torre
Indiana University at South Bend

Helene M. Kastinger Riley
Clemson University

Thomas J. Sienkewicz
Monmouth College

Thomas A. Van
University of Louisville

Joseph Rosenblum
Greensboro, North Carolina

Jean M. Snook
Memorial University of Newfoundland

Gordon Walters
DePauw University

Sven H. Rossel
University of Vienna

Shawncey Webb
Taylor University

Norman Roth
University of Wisconsin

Janet L. Solberg
Kalamazoo College

David Allen White
United States Naval Academy

Victor Anthony Rudowski
Clemson University

Madison U. Sowell
Brigham Young University

Michael Witkoski
University of South Carolina

Todd Samuelson
Cushing Memorial Library & Archives

Richard Spuler
Rice University

Harry Zohn
Brandeis University


Publisher’s Note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix Complete List of Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . xv Pronunciation Key . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xix Endre Ady . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Rafael Alberti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Vicente Aleixandre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Anacreon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Guillaume Apollinaire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Apollonius Rhodius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Louis Aragon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 János Arany . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Archilochus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Ludovico Ariosto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Hans Arp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Mihály Babits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 Ingeborg Bachmann . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Stanisuaw Bara½czak . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 Charles Baudelaire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80 Samuel Beckett . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 Pietro Bembo. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Gottfried Benn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107 Thomas Bernhard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112 Wolf Biermann . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119 Johannes Bobrowski . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126 Giovanni Boccaccio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131 Matteo Maria Boiardo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135 Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux . . . . . . . . . . . 138 Yves Bonnefoy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142 Bertolt Brecht . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 André Breton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157 Breyten Breytenbach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162 Pedro Calderón de la Barca Callimachus . . . . . . . . Luís de Camões . . . . . . Giosuè Carducci . . . . . . Rosalía de Castro . . . . . Catullus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170 175 180 185 190 197 xiii Constantine P. Cavafy Guido Cavalcanti. . . Paul Celan . . . . . . Luis Cernuda . . . . . René Char . . . . . . Charles d’Orléans . . Alain Chartier . . . . Christine de Pizan . . Paul Claudel . . . . . Jean Cocteau . . . . . Tristan Corbière . . . Gabriele D’Annunzio Dante . . . . . . . . . Joachim du Bellay . . Jovan Du5i6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204 210 214 220 226 230 236 240 244 253 260 264 270 289 292 299 306 313 317 323 329 335 340 345 355 362 368 377 384 391 396 405 410 415 418

Joseph von Eichendorff . . Gunnar Ekelöf . . . . . . . Paul Éluard . . . . . . . . . Odysseus Elytis . . . . . . Hans Magnus Enzensberger J. V. Foix . . . . . . . Jean Follain . . . . . Ugo Foscolo . . . . . Girolamo Fracastoro . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Federico García Lorca . . . . Garcilaso de la Vega . . . . . Théophile Gautier . . . . . . Stefan George . . . . . . . . Guido Gezelle . . . . . . . . Giuseppe Giusti . . . . . . . Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Eugen Gomringer . . . . . . Luis de Góngora y Argote . . Gottfried von Strassburg . . . Günter Grass . . . . . . . . . Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung . . . . . . Jorge Guillén . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . 424 . . . . . . . . . . 430

Volume 1
Publisher’s Note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xiii Pronunciation Key . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xix Endre Ady . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Rafael Alberti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Vicente Aleixandre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Anacreon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Guillaume Apollinaire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Apollonius Rhodius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Louis Aragon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 János Arany . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Archilochus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Ludovico Ariosto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Hans Arp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Mihály Babits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 Ingeborg Bachmann . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Stanisuaw Bara½czak . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 Charles Baudelaire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80 Samuel Beckett . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 Pietro Bembo. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Gottfried Benn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107 Thomas Bernhard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112 Wolf Biermann . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119 Johannes Bobrowski . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126 Giovanni Boccaccio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131 Matteo Maria Boiardo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135 Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux . . . . . . . . . . . 138 Yves Bonnefoy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142 Bertolt Brecht . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 André Breton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157 Breyten Breytenbach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162 Pedro Calderón de la Barca . . . . . . . . . . . 170 Callimachus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175 Luís de Camões . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180 xv Giosuè Carducci . . . Rosalía de Castro . . Catullus . . . . . . . Constantine P. Cavafy Guido Cavalcanti. . . Paul Celan . . . . . . Luis Cernuda . . . . . René Char . . . . . . Charles d’Orléans . . Alain Chartier . . . . Christine de Pizan . . Paul Claudel . . . . . Jean Cocteau . . . . . Tristan Corbière . . . Gabriele D’Annunzio Dante . . . . . . . . . Joachim du Bellay . . Jovan Du5i6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185 190 197 204 210 214 220 226 230 236 240 244 253 260 264 270 289 292 299 306 313 317 323 329 335 340 345 355 362 368 377 384 391 396 405

Joseph von Eichendorff . . Gunnar Ekelöf . . . . . . . Paul Éluard . . . . . . . . . Odysseus Elytis . . . . . . Hans Magnus Enzensberger J. V. Foix . . . . . . . Jean Follain . . . . . Ugo Foscolo . . . . . Girolamo Fracastoro . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Federico García Lorca . . . . Garcilaso de la Vega . . . . . Théophile Gautier . . . . . . Stefan George . . . . . . . . Guido Gezelle . . . . . . . . Giuseppe Giusti . . . . . . . Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Eugen Gomringer . . . . . .

Critical Survey of Poetry Luis de Góngora y Argote . . . . . . . . . . . . 410 Gottfried von Strassburg . . . . . . . . . . . . . 415 Günter Grass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 418 Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung . . . . 424 Jorge Guillén . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430

Volume 2
Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxvii Complete List of Contents . . . . . . . . . . . xxix Pronunciation Key . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxxiii Paavo Haavikko . . . . . Hartmann von Aue . . . . Piet Hein . . . . . . . . . Heinrich Heine . . . . . . Zbigniew Herbert . . . . Hesiod . . . . . . . . . . Hermann Hesse . . . . . Hugo von Hofmannsthal . Friedrich Hölderlin. . . . Miroslav Holub . . . . . Arno Holz . . . . . . . . Homer . . . . . . . . . . Horace . . . . . . . . . . Victor Hugo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 435 441 447 451 458 465 471 478 485 492 497 502 510 518 Lucan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 621 Lucretius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 627 Antonio Machado . . . François de Malherbe . Stéphane Mallarmé . . Itzik Manger . . . . . . Jorge Manrique. . . . . Alessandro Manzoni . . Marie de France . . . . Giambattista Marino . . Martial . . . . . . . . . Harry Martinson . . . . Meleager . . . . . . . . Henri Michaux . . . . . Michelangelo. . . . . . Adam Mickiewicz . . . Czesuaw Miuosz . . . . Eugenio Montale . . . . Christian Morgenstern . Eduard Mörike . . . . . Alfred de Musset. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 633 639 644 650 657 660 666 674 678 681 685 688 694 702 709 721 727 732 736

Gyula Illyés . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 528 Juan Ramón Jiménez. . Saint John of the Cross Judah ha-Levi . . . . . Juvenal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 533 539 549 553

Gérard de Nerval . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 741 Novalis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 748 Blas de Otero. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 757 Ovid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 763 Giovanni Pascoli . . . Pier Paolo Pasolini . . Cesare Pavese . . . . Miodrag Pavlovi6 . . Charles-Pierre Péguy Nikos Pentzikis . . . Saint-John Perse . . . Persius . . . . . . . . xvi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 771 776 783 786 791 797 801 806

Nikos Kazantzakis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 557 Karl Kraus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 563 Reiner Kunze. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 570 Jean de La Fontaine . . Jules Laforgue . . . . . Alphonse de Lamartine Luis de León . . . . . . Leonidas of Tarentum . Giacomo Leopardi . . . Elias Lönnrot. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 577 584 591 597 602 607 617

Complete List of Contents Fernando Pessoa . Sándor Pet¹fi. . . Petrarch . . . . . Pindar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 811 816 828 836 Poliziano . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 841 Francis Ponge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 848 Vasko Popa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 856

Volume 3
Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xli Complete List of Contents. . . . . . . . . . . . xliii Pronunciation Key . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xlvii Jacques Prévert. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 861 Sextus Propertius. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 866 Salvatore Quasimodo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 873 Miklós Radnóti. . . Pierre Reverdy . . . Rainer Maria Rilke. Arthur Rimbaud . . Yannis Ritsos. . . . Pierre de Ronsard . Tadeusz Ró/ewicz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 879 883 889 897 904 912 917 Tomas Tranströmer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1039 Tristan Tzara . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1044 Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo . . . . . . . . . . 1051 Giuseppe Ungaretti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1056 Paul Valéry . . . . . . . . . Lope de Vega Carpio . . . . Vergil . . . . . . . . . . . . Émile Verhaeren . . . . . . Paul Verlaine . . . . . . . . Alfred de Vigny. . . . . . . François Villon . . . . . . . Mihály Vörösmarty . . . . . Walther von der Vogelweide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1065 1073 1080 1089 1093 1099 1106 1112 1119

Umberto Saba . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 925 Nelly Sachs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 930 Pedro Salinas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 936 Sappho . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 941 Friedrich Schiller. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 949 George Seferis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 957 Jaroslav Seifert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 961 Antoni Suonimski . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 968 Juliusz Suowacki . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 972 Edith Södergran . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 981 Dionysios Solomos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 987 Gaspara Stampa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 993 Statius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 998 Anna Swir . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1004 Wisuawa Szymborska . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1007 Torquato Tasso Esaias Tegnér . Theocritus. . . Theognis . . . Georg Trakl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1014 1020 1023 1029 1033 xvii

Adam Wa/yk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1126 Wolfram von Eschenbach . . . . . . . . . . . 1130 Adam Zagajewski. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1137 Stefan Zweig . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1141 RESOURCES Explicating Poetry . . . . . Language and Linguistics . Glossary of Poetical Terms . Bibliography . . . . . . . . Guide to Online Resources . Time Line . . . . . . . . . . Major Awards. . . . . . . . Chronological List of Poets

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1151 1160 1172 1185 1199 1202 1205 1211

INDEXES Geographical Index of Poets . . Categorized Index of Poets . . . Critical Survey of Poetry Series: Master List of Contents . . . Subject Index . . . . . . . . . .

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To help users of the Critical Survey of Poetry pronounce unfamiliar names of profiled poets correctly, phonetic spellings using the character symbols listed below appear in parentheses immediately after the first mention of the poet’s name in the narrative text. Stressed syllables are indicated in capital letters, and syllables are separated by hyphens.

VOWEL SOUNDS Symbol Spelled (Pronounced) a answer (AN-suhr), laugh (laf), sample (SAM-puhl), that (that) ah father (FAH-thur), hospital (HAHS-pih-tuhl) aw awful (AW-fuhl), caught (kawt) ay blaze (blayz), fade (fayd), waiter (WAYT-ur), weigh (way) eh bed (behd), head (hehd), said (sehd) ee believe (bee-LEEV), cedar (SEE-dur), leader (LEED-ur), liter (LEE-tur) ew boot (bewt), lose (lewz) i buy (bi), height (hit), lie (li), surprise (sur-PRIZ) ih bitter (BIH-tur), pill (pihl) o cotton (KO-tuhn), hot (hot) oh below (bee-LOH), coat (koht), note (noht), wholesome (HOHL-suhm) oo good (good), look (look) ow couch (kowch), how (how) oy boy (boy), coin (koyn) uh about (uh-BOWT), butter (BUH-tuhr), enough (ee-NUHF), other (UH-thur)

CONSONANT SOUNDS Symbol Spelled (Pronounced) ch beach (beech), chimp (chihmp) g beg (behg), disguise (dihs-GIZ), get (geht) j digit (DIH-juht), edge (ehj), jet (jeht) k cat (kat), kitten (KIH-tuhn), hex (hehks) s cellar (SEHL-ur), save (sayv), scent (sehnt) sh champagne (sham-PAYN), issue (IH-shew), shop (shop) ur birth (burth), disturb (dihs-TURB), earth (urth), letter (LEH-tur) y useful (YEWS-fuhl), young (yuhng) z business (BIHZ-nehs), zest (zehst) zh vision (VIH-zhuhn)



Fourth Edition

European Poets

Ady, Endre

Endre Ady
Born: Érdmindszent, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Ady Endre, Romania); November 22, 1877 Died: Budapest, Hungary; January 27, 1919 Principal poetry Versek, 1899 Még egyszer, 1903 Új versek, 1906 (New Verses, 1969) Vér és arany, 1908 (Blood and Gold, 1969) Az Illés szekerén, 1909 (On Elijah’s Chariot, 1969) A minden titkok verseib¹l, 1910 (Of All Mysteries, 1969) Szeretném, ha szeretnének, 1910 (Longing for Love, 1969) A menekül¹ élet, 1912 (This Fugitive Life, 1969) A magunk szerelme, 1913 (Love of Ourselves, 1969) Ki látott engem?, 1914 (Who Sees Me?, 1969) A halottak élén, 1918 (Leading the Dead, 1969) Margita élni akar, 1921 Az utolsó hajók, 1923 (The Last Ships, 1969) Rövid dalok egyr¹l és másról, 1923 Poems of Endre Ady, 1969 (includes New Verses, Blood and Gold, On Elijah’s Chariot, Longing for Love, Of All Mysteries, This Fugitive Life, Love of Ourselves, Who Sees Me?, Leading the Dead, and The Last Ships) Other literary forms Endre Ady (O-dee) was a journalist who wrote numerous articles, reports, reviews, criticisms, essays, and short stories for the press. These were collected after his death under the titles Az új Hellász (1920; new Hellas), Levelek Párizsból (1924; letters from Paris), Párizsi noteszkönyve (1924; Paris notebook), and Ha hív az aczélhegy± ördög (1927; if the steel-tipped devil calls). In his lifetime, Ady published Vallomások és tanúlmányok (1911; confessions and studies), contain-

ing his important prose writings, both political and literary. Some of these writings are available in English translation in The Explosive Country: A Selection of Articles and Studies, 1898-1916 (1977). His collections of short stories combine subjective, personal confession with a depiction of early twentieth century Hungary. They are Sápadt emberek és történetek (1907; pale men and stories), Így is történhetik (1910; it can happen thus also), A tízmilliós Kleopátra és egyébb történetek (1910; Cleopatra of the ten millions and other stories), Új csapáson (1913; on a new track), and Muskétás tanár úr (1913; Professor Muskétás). His letters have been published in Ady Endre válogatott levelei (1956; selected letters of Endre Ady), with an introduction by Béla György. Achievements Endre Ady is one of Hungary’s greatest lyric poets. Inspired by Western European models, primarily French, he created a new lyrical style that both shocked and inspired his contemporaries. At the same time, he revitalized indigenous Hungarian literary traditions, looking back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries rather than to the example of his immediate predecessors. His topics, too, were considered revolutionary: physical passion and erotic love, political and social reform. He remained, however, within the tradition of the great nineteenth century Hungarian poets who expressed the spirit of the nation in their works. Biography Endre Ady’s heritage and birthplace had a profound influence on his poetry. His ancestry was the relatively poor nobility, or gentry, which on his mother’s side also boasted a tradition of Calvinist ministers. In the small village of Érdmindszent, he came to know the peasantry intimately, for his own family’s life differed little from theirs. His father wished him to enter the civil service, so he was educated with a view to obtaining a legal degree. The area in which Ady grew up (today Salaj, Romania) is situated in the Partium, a region  of eastern Hungary that had stormy ties to Transylvania during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when that principality had been a bulwark of Hungarian autonomy and traditions while the rest of the country was 1

Ady, Endre under Turkish or Habsburg rule. The Partium was thus doubly a frontier area in whose Calvinist and kuruc (anti-Habsburg) traditions Ady saw justification for his own rebellious, individualistic nature. He was always proud of his ancestry and considered himself much more Magyar than many of his contemporaries with more mixed ethnic backgrounds. After completing five elementary grades in his village, Ady was sent first to the Piarist school in Nagykároly, then to the Calvinist gymnasium at Zilah, which he regarded as his alma mater; he always fondly remembered his teachers there. Several of his classmates were later to become prominent among the more radical thinkers and politicians of the early years of the twentieth century. He also read voraciously, both earlier Hungarian literature and European naturalistic writers, and became acquainted with the works of Arthur Schopenhauer. After a brief period in law school in Debrecen and time spent as a legal clerk in Temesvár (Timisoara, Romania) and Zilah (Zalau), he realized  that his true vocation was in journalism. He followed this career until his death. Ady first worked in Debrecen, and in this period not only did his horizons widen, but his critical theses began to crystallize as well. “Life” and “truth” became important bywords for him, and he continued his readings: Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henrik Ibsen, Fyodor Dostoevski, and especially the late eighteenth century poet Mihály Csokonai Vitéz, a native of Debrecen. It was in Nagyvárad (today Oradea, Romania) that Ady became familiar with the life of a large city and the more cosmopolitan society it represented. He wrote for liberal papers, and for a while his political views agreed with the pro-government stance of such journals. In time, however, he became disillusioned with their reluctance to press for universal suffrage and other reforms affecting the poor and the national minorities. It was at this time that he became acquainted with Huszadik század, a progressive journal begun in 1900. The years in Nagyvárad were also important in Ady’s personal life and poetic development, for it was during this period that he met Adél Brüll, whom he was to immortalize as the Leda of his poems. This older, married woman (her married name was Diósi)—more 2

Critical Survey of Poetry experienced, more worldly, more cultured than he— was an important influence on his life. Their passionate and at times tempestuous love affair, which finally ended in 1912, is recorded in poems that were to revolutionize Hungarian love poetry. When Ady went to Paris as the foreign correspondent of his paper, Brüll was there, and his impressions of the French city were acquired under her tutelage. When he returned from the 1904 trip, he burst on the world with a new poetic style. By 1905, Ady was working in Budapest for the liberal Budapesti napló. In numerous articles, he wrote of the need for radical reforms; independence from Austria was also debated. At this time, Ady turned his attention to the social problems that were destroying the country; in both his poetry and his prose writings, he championed the disenfranchised. The important journal Nyugat was started in 1908, and Ady soon became associated with it—all the more so as his increasingly radical views did not agree with the middle-of-the-road liberalism of the Budapesti napló. When war broke out in 1914, Ady opposed Hungarian participation in the conflict, increasing his isolation from official political life. His antiwar poems were inspired by humanism and patriotism. The poor and the politically powerless suffered most heavily, Ady argued, and he believed that the war was being fought against Hungarian interests, purely for Austrian goals. During this time, Ady lived mostly in Érdmindszent and at Csucsa, the estate of Berta Boncza, whom he had met in 1914 and married the following year. Berta, the daughter of a well-to-do nobleman and prominent politician, was considerably younger than Ady; she had been attracted to him some time earlier, when she read his Blood and Gold while still in school in Switzerland. The poems written to her reflect a different mood from that of the Leda poems: The love is deeper and less intensely erotic. They project the hope that Csinszka (as Berta is called in the poems addressed to her) will preserve the thoughts and ideals of the poet. By this time, Ady was gravely ill with the syphilis that had been progressively destroying him since his Nagyvárad days. The revolution that Ady had awaited came to Hungary in October of 1918. Ady went to Budapest, where the revolutionary government celebrated him, even though he had reservations about the Socialist system.

Critical Survey of Poetry He also doubted whether the Karolyi government’s courting of the Entente powers would bring any positive results. As it turned out, his instincts were right, and the Entente did little for Hungary. Ady died in January of 1919, spared the knowledge that Hungary’s territory would be drastically reduced and that his own birthplace and home region would be awarded to Romania. Analysis Endre Ady came from the deep center of the nation, and he sought to raise the nation to a new consciousness, just as János Arany and others had done before him. Ady was an innovator because the literary and political establishment had failed to grasp the need for change. Ady’s “Hungarianness” is a central part of his work; he was intensely aware of his struggle “with Europe for Europe.” Ady never abandoned his native traditions. He built instead on folklore, the kuruc poetry of the eighteenth century, the folk-song-inspired lyrics of Mihály Csokonai Vitéz, and the revolutionary verse of the great national poet of nineteenth century Hungary, Sándor Pet¹fi. Ady also drew heavily on Hungarian Calvinism and the rich vernacular tradition of Protestant writings to create a highly personal modern style, animated by the tension between Hungarian and Western European influences. His great love poems to Leda and Csinszka, his poems on materialism and on national traditions— all incorporated European philosophies, preoccupations, and styles, reflecting the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche and Henri Bergson as well as of Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine. Today, Ady is recognized as one of the most important of the generation of writers and thinkers who transformed the intellectual life of Hungary in the first decades of the twentieth century. New Verses Ady’s first two volumes of verse, Versek (poems) and Még egyszer (once more), did not attract great interest; they were relatively insignificant collections in the traditional vein. In 1906, however, Ady’s own style emerged in New Verses. Here, he presented new subjects and new themes, new images and a fresh, new style. The emphasis in New Verses—an emphasis continued in Ady’s next three collections—was on brevity

Ady, Endre and impact: short, concise lines; short poems packed with meaning; condensed language with multiple levels of reference. Many of the early poems develop a single metaphor. A very conscious innovator, Ady prefaced New Verses with a manifesto that identifies the tension that persists throughout his oeuvre: Hungary is a nation caught at the crossroads between East and West. While proudly claiming his descent from the conquering Hungarians of the ninth century, who came through the Eastern gate, he asks if he can break in from the West with “new songs of new times.” Answering in a defiant affirmative, he states that, in spite of opposition by conservatives, these poems are “still victorious, still new and Hungarian.” Transformations After the burst of energy that characterized his style in the period from 1906 to 1909, Ady paused in midcareer to adopt a quieter style and grayer moods. His themes and concerns remained much the same, but there was a deepening of thought, and a more pessimistic note entered his poems. His concern for the fate of the country, particularly its ordinary citizens, grew as he saw policies that could only bring ruin being blindly followed by the political elite. His relationship with Brüll also cooled. After 1914, during the war years, Ady’s style underwent another transformation. His sentences became more complex as his verse became increasingly reflective, and he turned from softer, French-inspired tones to the somber and sublime style of the Bible and of sixteenth century Calvinist poetry. In this late poetry, Ady retained two themes from his earlier collection: patriotism, which broadened into humanitarianism, and love—no longer the unfulfilled and unsatisfying erotic encounters of earlier years but the deeper, more fulfilling passion of the Csinszka poems. Leda poems Ady’s poems can be organized thematically into four large groups (love, death, religion, patriotism), though there is considerable overlapping; also, some important minor themes are eventually subsumed into one or another of the major ones reflecting Ady’s intellectual development. One of Ady’s most enduring themes was romantic love. The Leda cycles, with their portrayal of destructive yet irresistible passion, reveal 3

These poems represented a break with Hungarian tradition in their emphasis on the physical aspects of love. The beloved’s eyes “always see him grand . but “the victorious wheat-kernel” will win through. The poem’s two long free-verse stanzas depict a summer Sunday in which the peace and joy of the service and of the feast (Pentecost) mingle to overwhelm the poet. where pity wins over the regretful remembrance of love. Ady’s poems to his wife.” Consummation. the struggle was a fierce one. It would be misleading. life will triumph. of sorrow. can come only in death. The riderless horse with the unclaimed saddle is always in the troop of death’s horses. dedicated to Leda. oaths” were all good fetters. Death Ady saw life and death not as opposing forces but as two components of the same force. flames. however. summer. a corpse. In “A mi násznagyunk” (“Our Best Man”). comprising four stanzas of three lines each. as “Add nekem a szemeidet” (“Give Me Your Eyes”) illustrates. as Ady suggests in the melodic “A halál lovai” (“Death’s Horsemen”). Ady suggests in “Héja nász az avaron” (“Kite-Wedding on the Loamy Earth”). . it need not be accepted passively. through the breath of autumn on a summer day. Although death comes for all people.” The act is presented as voluntary. burn. see him in a better light. from Blood and Gold. then perhaps tomorrow. . There are also love poems of great tenderness in the Leda cycles. but “He before whom they stop/ Turns pale and sits into the saddle. with the spear of Secrecy. on the other hand. Love poems The poems of 1912 to 1914 show a man in search of love. will not have carnations. Ady’s love poems. this love is found. beauty and peace” brought to his life by Berta Boncza. “Párizsban járt az ¹sz” (“Autumn Passed Through Paris”) is a beautiful evocation. are more in the tradition of Pet¹fi. Death in my heart: but my heart lives. as an image from “Leda in the Garden” suggests: “even the poppy/ pities us. They chronicle the same doubts and seek answers to the same questions. [itself] satisfied. and basil blooming on its grave. have mercy . always build.” The poem. Ady returns to this theme. and God lives. and these poems reflect a world of shared ideas. Ady found the answers and the refuge. of love. but as with John Donne. emphasize the intense desire that cannot be satisfied even in physical union. much as in Donne’s case. Religious poems To some extent. of the presence of death.” Here. Of All Mysteries The 1910 volume Of All Mysteries chronicles the waning of Ady’s love for Brüll. “A Kalota partján” (“On the Banks of the Kalota”) records the “security. and desire. repeats the title line as the first line of each stanza and follows it with two rhymed lines. exhaustions. of glory. In time. “Félig csókolt csók” (“Half-Kissed Kiss”). yet the “kisses. from New Verses. . Endre the influence of Baudelaire. In the “Love” cycle. They are more significant and generally more successful than the poems on fleeting alliances with insignificant partners. indeed. of life. The “half-kissed kiss” is a metaphor for an erotic relationship that leaves the lovers still restless for fulfillment: “tomorrow.” Nature sympathizes with them in their eternal hunger. Ady seems determined to hope in spite of disappointments. Although many of Ady’s religious poems describe his struggle to . and of death. . have a close and direct relationship to his religious verse. Ady’s God-fearing poems continue the life-death theme. Each of the six cycles in 4 Critical Survey of Poetry Of All Mysteries is devoted to a “secret”: of God. artemisia. and “Léda a kertben” (“Leda in the Garden”). This collection offers a virtual outline of Ady’s characteristic themes. forgotten on the snowy plain. In the final volumes. the poem “A türelem bilincse” (“The Fetters of Patience”) significantly refers to the “fetters” of their love in the past tense. The Decadent pose of earlier poems is shed as the poet develops a real faith in humankind that culminates in the humanism of the war poems.Ady. Beautiful Message”). in which the emotional-spiritual content is on a par with the physical. In “Hulla a búza-földön” (“Corpse on the Wheat-Field”). as is indeed suggested in the poem’s motto: “youthful All vanquished. and the eyes of his beloved draw him into a magic circle. This abb tercet in anapestic meter echoes the lyrical mood and the melody of the words as well as the expansive ideas. Their whole life was fetters. szép üzenet” (“Dismissing. to dismiss the Leda poems as purely physical: Brüll offered Ady much more than physical excitement. The farewell becomes explicit in “Elbocsátó.” yet “they kill.

Ady longs for belief in the great mystery of God. 18981916. Endre fighter for national goals betrayed by his self-serving masters to Austrian interests. Deeply influenced by Western European models. others reflect the peace of childlike faith. 1913. 1898-1916. Így is történhetik. 5 (January-March. Ady seeks rest and forgiveness and creates powerful symbols to concretize these feelings. 1910. The poem is a poignant expression of the dilemma of modern humankind. F.Critical Survey of Poetry achieve union with God. oppressed by political power plays. Hungary paid for its all-too-recent union with Austria with the loss of much of its territory and millions of its citizens. 1911. The Explosive Country: A Selection of Articles and Studies. Although Ady was a very subjective poet. Kuruc was the name applied to the supporters of Ferenc Rákóczi II. Two important early threads are the “I” poems and the “money” poems. another poem with a biblical inspiration. Unbelieving. nonfiction: Vallomások és tanúlmányok. unquestioning faith. 1924. The money poems startled readers with their “nonpoetic” theme: Ady went beyond complaints against poverty to question the role of money in society at large. the Horror. who had led a popular uprising against the Habsburgs in the eighteenth century. As such. exploiting the rich resources of the Hungarian tradition in the service of a powerfully modern vision. he creates an image of God as a man in a huge bell coat inscribed with red letters. Ha hív az aczélhegy± ördög. a Ady. A tízmilliós Kleopátra és egyébb történetek. Új csapáson. A biographical and critical study of Ady’s life and work. Foreseeing this tragedy even before the war. he cannot answer the poet’s plea for simple. The figure is kindly yet sad. Ady Endre válogatott levelei. one of the first purely personal lyric voices in Hungarian poetry. The I poems are more than personal lyrics. “Volt egy Jézus” (“There Was a Jesus”) not only testifies to a personal acceptance of Jesus Christ but also proclaims the need for all humankind to heed his teachings on peace and brotherhood. In “A Sion-hegy alatt” (“Under Mount Sion”). Bibliography Bóka.” Defeated in a war fought against Hungarian sentiments and interests. Lazlo. “Endre Ady the Poet. 1913. Az új Hellász.” New Hungarian Quarterly 3. Ady offered a poignant comment on its aftermath. He appealed. fruitlessly. concluding with the powerful line: “And we were lost. they present the speaker (the poet) as a representative of the nation. often prefaced by biblical quotations that emphasize their prophetic intentions. to the Allies “not to tread too harshly” on Hungarian hearts. he transformed what he took by the force of his genius. “A szétszóródás elött” (“Before the Diaspora”). was an appeal to humanity addressed to the victors of the war. Ady identified the kuruc with the common person everywhere. 1924. 1927. however. Cushing. Introduction to The Explosive Country: A Selection of Articles and Studies. Levelek Párizsból. scourges the nation for its sins. 1962): 83-108. G. 1956. In the war years. “Man in Inhumanity” Ady’s last poem. Párizsi noteszkönyve.” Patriotic poems Many of Ady’s poems can be classified as patriotic. 1920. it is not surprising that Ady continues to inspire poets in Hungary today. This group. Muskétás tanár úr. unites several different themes that were significant at different points in his career. transcend the personal religious quest and become pleas for the nation and for humanity. he did not break with the national tradition of committed literature. they evolve into the patriotic poems in a fairly direct line. The nation sought reform. 1910. “Ember az embertelenségben” (“Man in Inhumanity”). The poems from the cycle “Esaias könyvének margójára” (“To the Margins of the Book of Isaiah”). no. convinced that such faith will bring peace to his tormented soul. The kuruc theme An important thread in Ady’s patriotic-revolutionary poetry is the use of the kuruc theme. Thus. the kuruc is the true but disenfranchised Hungarian. In Ady’s vocabulary. ringing for the dawn Mass. 1907. 1977. in God”). for we lost ourselves. but suffered instead “War. by 5 . In “Hiszek hitetlenül Istenben” (“I Believe. Other major works short fiction: Sápadt emberek és történetek.

1924-1938. 1929 Sobre los ángeles. “Endre Ady: Six Poems. Judit. 1627 (August. N. pb. 1966 (Ben Belitt. 1935 (To See You and Not to See You. Spain. 1988) Poesías completas. 1933 Verte y no verte. was his autobiography. Béla Bartók and Turn-of-the-Century Budapest. Includes a discussion of Ady and his influence on Bartók. 1944 A la pintura. The Start of Endre Ady’s Literary Career (1903-1905). he generally languishes near the end of the list. On the other hand. Ady is one of the central figures in his collection of essays. even among the giants. 1980. 1978 Other literary forms Although Rafael Alberti (ol-BEHR-tee) established his reputation almost entirely on the basis of his poetry. Budapest: Corvina Press. Enik¹ Molnár Basa Critical Survey of Poetry Cal y canto. 2001): 100-105. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. Achievements Rafael Alberti had at once the ill luck and the singular good fortune to flourish during Spain’s second great literary boom. N. Spain. A history and critical analysis of Hungarian literature including the works of Ady. 1977. he Rafael Alberti Born: Puerto de Santa María. he was overshadowed by several of his contemporaries—in particular. N. 1945 (To Painting. he became involved in drama after emigrating to Argentina.: Hungarian Cultural Foundation. and translates six personal poems. 1929 (Concerning the Angels. The Garden and the Workshop: Essays on the Cultural History of Vienna and Budapest. particularly his political activism. he was a talented painter and supplied illustrations for some of his later volumes. 1964. Rafael Endre Ady. Princeton. 1998. _______. translator) The Owl’s Insomnia. Although Alberti’s name is likely to come up in any discussion of the famous generación del 27. 1784. 1961 Rafael Alberti: Selected Poems. 1941 Pleamar. In addition. A broad perspective on Bartók’s art grounded in the social and cultural life of turn-of-the-century Hungary. Nyerges. 1946) Poesía. October 28. 1954 (Ballads and Songs of the Parana. Land. Thomas. a work of considerable interest for the student of his poetry. 1973 Alberti tal cual. by Federico García Lorca. 1585. 1999 Principal poetry Marinero en tierra. Reményi. Joseph. A brief study of Ady’s early work. 1870) for the modern stage in 1944. no. Cushing offers some biographical insight into Ady’s life.Y.: Princeton University Press. writing plays of his own and adapting Miguel de Cervantes’ El cerco de Numancia (wr.Alberti. or Generation of ’27. 1952 Baladas y canciones del Paraná. Hanák. Péter. Nyerges gives some biographic details of Ady’s life. La arboleda perdida (1942. Buffalo. The Lost Grove. December 16. New Brunswick. Hungarian Writers and Literature. Frigyesi. 1925 La amante. Alberti’s most notable achievement in prose. with bibliography. 1997) Retornos de lo vivo lejano. Numantia: A Tragedy.J. Introduction to Poems of Endre Ady. the extraordinary atmosphere of the times did much to foster his talents.” Contemporary Review 279. 1967) Consignas.: Rutgers University Press. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1902 Died: Puerto de Santa María. 1976).J. Deals with Ady’s transition from journalism to poetry. 1927 6 . 1998. 1926 El alba del alhelí. 1940 Entre el clavel y la espada. Land briefly describes Ady’s life. 1969. Anton N. Despite his acknowledged worth.

and his nostalgia for that region pervades much of his work. Hard work and fatherhood—his daughter Aitana was born in 1941— preserved Alberti from embittered paralysis. His political ideology—Alberti was the first of his circle to embrace communism openly—led him to covet the role of “poet of the streets. and together they founded the revolutionary journal Octubre in 1934. where he lived until 1977. Biography Rafael Alberti was born near Cádiz in Andalusia. and Luis Buñuel and began seriously to write poetry. Indeed. Ultimately. as it happened. Alberti stands out as a survivor. also a writer. and throughout his long career. Alberti moved to Rome. and became a force in the burgeoning literary life of Latin America. when he was finally able to return to Spain. he never gave the impression that his obscurity stemmed from incompetence. after almost thirty-eight years in exile. many of his readers believe that he reached his peak in the late 1940’s. Alberti’s new political credo enabled him to travel extensively and to encounter writers and artists from all parts of Europe and the Americas. Salvador Dalí. which capture better than any others the poignant aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. a practicing poet of consistent excellence during six decades. Oddly enough. where Alberti devoted himself to painting in the cubist manner. as evidenced by his winning of the Cervantes Prize. Rafael Rafael Alberti (Cover/Getty Images) communism. in 1983. and Alberti’s schoolmates made him painfully aware of his inferior status. Illness forced him to retire to a sanatorium in the mountains—a stroke of luck. He won the National Prize for Marinero en tierra and thereby gained acceptance into the elite artistic circles of the day. Alberti managed to persevere after his side lost and to renew his career. Despite his wholehearted involvement in the conflict. He was welcomed by more than three hundred communists carrying red 7 . his virtuosity never faltered. the family moved to Madrid. His Marinero en tierra (sailor on dry land) won Spain’s National Prize for Literature in 1925. Personal difficulties and an increasing awareness of the plight of his country moved Alberti to embrace Alberti. In 1917. Many of his great contemporaries died in the civil war or simply lapsed into a prolonged silence. He continued to publish at an imposing rate. Alberti emerges as a constant—an enduring figure in a world of flux. took up new activities. the Spanish-speaking world’s highest literary honor. gave numerous readings. he emigrated to Argentina in 1940. he received the Lenin Prize for his political verse in 1965. In 1964. Always a difficult poet. and resumed painting. His genteel family had fallen on hard times.Critical Survey of Poetry earned acceptance and respect. After participating actively in the civil war.” but Alberti will be remembered more for his poems of exile. There. attaining some recognition. he married María Teresa León. but it was a worthy crowd. In 1930. He may occasionally have been lost in the crowd. Consistent in his adherence to communism. he began to write for the theater. and his production of poetry never slackened. then. for there he subsequently met such luminaries as García Lorca.

His deep emotions.” The notion is a tribute both to the poet and to the tradition he understood so well. Alberti changed by adding and growing. but worthy nevertheless. when most of the intellectuals of Spain were resisting General Franciso Franco and embracing communism. Alberti adapted its principles to Spanish poetry. They depend entirely on a native tradition. even within the confines of a single poem. he achieves an elegiac purity free of the obscurity and selfpity that mar his lesser works. Even his political verses are not without poetic merit—an exception. the angry poet of the streets reasserted himself in diatribes against Yankee imperialism in Latin America. Rafael Alberti proved to be a remarkably versatile poet. Alberti always kept abreast of current developments in his art—indeed. from a lung ailment. “I’m not coming with a clenched fist. always growing in his art and his thought. Although he was a natural poet with little formal training. he kept himself in the vanguard. Alberti resigned his seat after three months to devote himself to his art. and won. The youthful poet who composed marvelous lyrics persisted in the nostalgia of exile. Alberti was a poet who could grow without discarding his past. sometimes obscured by his sheer virtuosity. and moods. Alberti wrote a staggering number of excellent poems. he became a richer talent with each new phase of his creative development. in his introduction to Belitt’s translations. His massive corpus of poetry comprises a remarkable array of styles. introducing his translations collected in Selected Poems. 8 Critical Survey of Poetry Alberti’s poetry is suffused with nostalgia. The verses themselves may seem enigmatic. One of the best of them. forever the Andalusian in exile. to be sure. From first to last. the lost Andalusian had returned home. giving poetry readings instead of speeches. the sadness for things lost remains Alberti’s great theme. He became a well-respected literary figure in his last two decades in Spain. “but with an open hand. confesses that he could find no way to render these lyrics in English. and in his finest poems. but only because the modern reader is accustomed to probe so far beneath the surface. he left a hoard of pearls and sapphires—hidden at times by the rubies and the emeralds. or a lost friend. Luis Monguió. His facility of composition enabled him to shift smoothly from fixed forms to free verse.” He enjoyed a resurgence of popularity after his return and proceeded to run for the Cortes. but he would invariably break new ground in the fourth. Whether composing neomedieval lyrics. suggests that “it is far from unlikely that they are being sung in the provinces today by many in complete ignorance of their debt to Rafael Alberti. He expresses his longing in exquisite lyrics in the medieval tradition. he was ninety-six years old. Alberti was the “poet of the streets. and the young Alberti found himself a de facto member of the Generation of ’27.” he said. Alberti wrote accomplished neo-Baroque poetry. Although Alberti seems to have been happy in the mid-1920’s. When the luminaries of Spain reevaluated Luis de Góngora y Argote. Marinero en tierra The doyens of Spanish letters received Marinero en tierra with immediate enthusiasm. never by discarding and replacing. 1999. He might continue in the same vein for three volumes. Analysis Throughout his long career.Alberti. the vast trove of popular verses from Spain’s turbulent Middle Ages. or Surreal free verse. eligible to rub elbows with all the significant writers of the day. The circumstances of his life decreed that he should continually find himself longing for another time. Rafael flags as he stepped off the airliner. his early volumes glow with poignant nostalgia for the sea and the coasts of his native Andalusia. He associated with the best and brightest of his time and participated in their movements. At ease in all forms and idioms. found expression in all modes. Baroque sonnets. he always managed to be authentic. He died there on October 28. His technical skill did not allow him to stagnate: Commentators on Alberti agree in their praise of his astonishing technical mastery. when Dalí and Buñuel were introducing Surrealism in Spanish art and film. . Ben Belitt. In the vast treasure trove of twentieth century Spanish poetry.” He remained withal a genuine and unique lyric voice. Alberti’s genius is such that the poems have no savor of pedantry or preciosity. themes. one he explored more fully than any other poet of his generation. a distant place. thus.

is atypical of the collection. in modern English poetry.” a sonnet that frequently appears in anthologies. matches this exquisite simplicity and feeling for tradition. is only seven lines long and conveys an equally simple message. Suddenly. Alberti maintains his poetic control. Evoking a condition of being before time existed. To See You and Not to See You Two pivotal events in Alberti’s life helped him out of this quagmire: meeting his future wife and becoming a communist. S. while it did little to benefit his poetry. perhaps the most difficult of forms. The entire poem consists of only six brief lines. in ornate and lavish terms. Bouts of depression and a loss of faith in his former ideals drove him to abandon nostal- Alberti. Her breasts. Here. Rafael gia and to confront despair.” The sestet conceals the scorpion sting so often found in Góngora’s conclusions: Solitude. and many of the poems in Cal y canto owe much to the Baroque model.” Several of the poems offer a kind of hope. Like the T. Alberti reveals a new facet of his technical mastery. Eliot of “The Hollow Men. all the joy and tender sorrow of his early work is gone. “Amaranta. there is only one image.” however. linear. but it is a wan hope.” Concerning the Angels Concerning the Angels differs sharply from Alberti’s previous work. The beloved to whom the poem is addressed is told that the cocks are crowing. and only one point. “El ángel desengañado” (“The Angel Undeceived”) debunks the ideals of the younger Alberti. Alberti took a leading role in the Góngora tricentennial of 1927. the sailors on land. replaced by anguish and self-pity. “Pradoluengo. seeing me in nothingness/ Invented the first word. confined. even with the world withering away around him.” however. Only William Butler Yeats. Alberti mistook a sincere political commitment for an artistic imperative. Like his friend and contemporary Pablo Neruda. That single image conveys a feeling close to the hearts of those born within smell of the sea—a need unfulfilled for Alberti. As Alberti himself remarked in his autobiography.” an aubade in the same style. so evil. “this was painterly poetry—plastic. takes place in a world of clouds and moonlight: “When you.” and is urged to get up and come along. as Monguió indicates. In this poem. The revolution in content corresponds to a rebellion in form: Free verse prevails as more appropriate to the poet’s state of mind than any traditional order. as with Góngora. Alberti recaptures the tenuous delicacy of Bécquer. he eventually returned 9 . particularly in its desolate conclusion: “I’m going to sleep. Of his proletarian verse. He speaks for all seafarers who are marooned inland. particularly in his handling of the sonnet. scarcely better than despair.” “El ángel de carbón” (“Angel of Coals”) ends no less grimly: “And that octopus. the sense of the ineffable. Here. personified. at the same time finding a new way to express his own nostalgia. settles like a glowing coal between Amaranta and her lover. the beauty of Amaranta. like Neruda. one can say only that it is no worse than most political poetry.” Alberti imitates Bécquer masterfully. “Tres recuerdos del cielo” ("Three Memories of Heaven")./ No one is waiting for me. shows how completely Alberti was able to assimilate the poetics of Góngora and to adapt them to the twentieth century. a tribute to the great Romantic poet Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer. but the overall tone of the collection is negative. Alberti hints at a wealth of erotic possibilities and natural splendors. Alberti displays his affinity with Góngora in two respects: an absolute control of his idiom and an obscurity that has deprived both poets of numerous readers. profiled. The octave describes. presents the plaint of a sailor who remembers that his shirt used to puff up in the wind whenever he saw the shore. Cal y canto As noted above.Critical Survey of Poetry “Gimiendo” (“Groaning”). are polished “as with the tongue of a greyhound. “Three Memories of Heaven. provided him with a set of beliefs to fill the void within. Virtually all the other poems treat of “angels” and ultimately of a world turned to wormwood and gall. Alberti does not despair utterly. that “we need cross only river waters. for example. The meeting between the lovers. Alberti displays the subtlety and tenderness that characterize his work at its most appealing. With all the richness of the genre. love. not the sea. in the shadow:/ evil. The political commitment. for example. the very exuberance of the description disquiets the reader. constitutes a noteworthy exception to the depressing tone of the volume.

Alberti. Somehow he managed to recover and to emerge greater than ever. the death of Ignacio Sánchez Mejías in the bullring moved him to write the sonnet series that makes up To See You and Not to See You in 1935.” evoking the drama of the moment and the awful immediacy of the bull. Alberti expresses that sense of loss in terms of distance: As his friend dies in the bullring. listening to reports of World War II. Alberti captured the essence of Andalusia. The competition must have stimulated him. A poem from his first collection published outside Spain. in verse and prose. All this is not to imply conscious enmity between the two poets. The memory of the journey becomes permanently associated with the loss of the friend and thus a redoubled source of nostalgia. sounds the keynote of his renewed art: After this willful derangement. Retornos de lo vivo lejano With his return to his nostalgic leitmotif. The poet forgot neither the horrors he had seen nor his love for his homeland. The pattern. however. it probably is better than its counterpart. found himself outmatched at every turn while his friend and rival was still alive. Rafael to more personal themes. but García Lorca outdid him with the Romancero gitano (1928. Alberti reflects on the bull’s calfhood. his relationship with the poet of Granada represents an analogue to the dilemma of his literary life. García Lorca chants compellingly. although he never wholly abandoned doctrinaire verse. Alberti returns grimly to his leitmotif. mourning his slain and dispersed comrades. Alberti had cause to envy his contemporary’s fame. Retornos de lo vivo lejano . is only too familiar: Alberti. Entre el clavel y la espada (between sword and carnation). “At five in the afternoon. this harassed and necessitous grammar by whose haste I must live. He poured forth volume after volume of consistently high quality. and Alberti is lost in his shadow. A comparison of the two poems reveals the radical differences between these two superficially similar poets. Alberti reached his full potential as a poet during the 1940’s and 1950’s. No doubt García Lorca’s elegy speaks more clearly and more movingly. 10 Critical Survey of Poetry Indeed. Alberti wrote a noble and moving elegy for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías. and the virginal verb. of his profound regard for García Lorca. nostalgia. so like García Lorca in some ways. “Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías” (“Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías”). Alberti wrote exquisite medieval lyrics. García Lorca goes on to convey. García Lorca enjoys the fame. Alberti is sailing toward Romania on the Black Sea. In García Lorca’s Shadow As usual. Alberti was capable of devoting his gifts to the elegy. picking up the pieces. in muted tones. anticipates the purity of Alberti’s poetry in exile. his sense of loss. The war poems in the Alberti canon compare favorably with any on that subject. The Gypsy Ballads. including García Lorca. however. 1953). After the Spanish Civil War. not least because his lively imagination enabled him to look beyond the slaughter. but the public identified Andalusia with García Lorca. Alberti emigrated to Argentina. and his bitterness at playing a secondary role may have been reflected in Concerning the Angels. Alberti himself admired the “Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías” without reservation. the poet soon found himself across the Atlantic. Even at the height of his political activism. justly placed with its rigorous adjective. but. who was senselessly gunned down at the outset of the hostilities. “De los álamos y los sauces” (from poplar and willow) captures the plight of Alberti and his fellow exiles in but a few lines. written in Spain. because his poetry was less accessible and less dramatic in its impact. its callow charges as it grew into the engine of destruction that destroyed Sánchez Mejías. although Alberti gave many indications.” Thus. The same tragedy also inspired Federico García Lorca to compose one of the most famous poems in the Spanish language. The poem. Entre el clavel y la espada For all his faith. Another elegy deserves mention in this context. Written after news of the death of the great poet Antonio Machado. he tended to be eclipsed. The man in the poem is caught up “in the life of his distant dead and hears them in the air. let the virginal word come back to me whole and meticulous. but his rival composed such a marvelous lament that Alberti’s has been neglected.

A study of Alberti’s literary style. A biographical and historical study of the life and works of Alberti. deserves special mention. El trébol floride. the memory of hatred. pb. each in a style reminiscent of the artist’s own. Robert C. After many years. To Painting Amid the melancholy splendor of his poems of exile. Multiple Spaces: The Poetry of Rafael Alberti. the loneliness. and ends in societal crises. “Retornos de Chopin a través de unas manos ya idas” (“Returns: Chopin by Way of Hands Now Gone”) evokes some of the poet’s earliest memories of his family. alone?” Alberti.Critical Survey of Poetry (returns of the far and the living). 1942 (The Lost Grove. reflects Alberti’s self-image as a poet in exile. free-verse meditations on the primary colors. he provokes curious questions from the Argentine onlookers on the opposite bank of the river. Not so to the reader. pr. Rafael Alberti’s Poetry of the Thirties. 1 (January. Alberti’s Marinero en tierra is examined in detail. London: Tamesis Books. A critical analysis of Alberti’s poetic works. and the Alberti of the early 1920’s comes face to face with the middle-aged émigré. supported by the memory of Frédéric Chopin’s music as played by the poet’s mother. The Subject in Question: Early Contemporary Spanish Literature and Modernism. 1944. pb. may well be the finest volume of his career. Poetry of Rafael Alberti: A Visual Approach. This work examining memoirs of Communists in Spain contains a chapter on Maria Teresa León and Alberti. “Retornos del amor en una noche de verano” (“Returns: A Summer Night’s Love”) recalls in wondrous imagery the breathlessness of a time long past. Nantell. two pairs of lips. full of meaning on the surface and suggestive of unfathomed depths. as much as any single poem.C. The final question admits of no answer and in fact needs none: “What will he do there. “Ballad of the Lost Andalusian” A poem from Ballads and Songs of the Parana. Christopher. Alberti distilled a curious volume entitled To Painting. “Balada del Andaluz perdido” (“Ballad of the Lost Andalusian”). 1985. both human and inanimate. Gina. Soufas. “Marinero en tierra: Alberti’s first ‘Libro organico de poemas’?” Modern Language Review 88. pb. 2007. the poet is reunited with his brothers by an act of imagination. 11 . Salvador. 1940. The author discusses political poems that are not as memorable as his earlier works but deserve recognition for their artistic as well as social value. it tells of a wandering Andalusian who watches the olives grow “by the banks of a different river. The Crucified Mind: Rafael Alberti and the Surrealist Ethos in Spain. This study puts Alberti’s work in historical and social context by analyzing the influences from a turbulent decade in which civil war erupts. the volume reveals much about the mutual attraction of the two arts. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. For example. 2009. and poems on various painters. C. Includes bibliographic references. The collection includes sonnets on the tools of painting. Herrmann.” Sitting alone. Robert. no. Includes bibliographic references. London: Tamesis Books. In contrast to all that Alberti lost in exile. Rafael Other major works plays: El hombre deshabitado. Judith.: Catholic University of America Press. 1976). Jiménez-Fajardo. El cerco de Numancia. become a silent carnation. 2001. This is the quintessential Alberti. unrhymed couplets. D. nonfiction: La arboleda perdida. Manteiga. as they press together. London: Tamesis Books. the master craftsman and the longing man in one. Written in Red: The Communist Memoir in Spain. 1986. El adefesio. 1978. Text is in English with poems in original Spanish. Beyond its intrinsic value. what is left to be done/ on the opposite side of the river. 1930. This overview of Spanish literature and modernism contains a chapter examining the poetry of Alberti and Luis Cernuda. who understands the pathos of the riderless horses. Washington. Bibliography Gagen. Derek. 1993): 91. but he remains a mystery to them. Athens: University of Georgia Press. a book wholly devoted to his most serviceable theme. The poems are at once accessible and mysterious. painting stands as a rediscovered treasure. 1944 (adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes’ play). Havard. Written in terse. ignites a European conflagration.

which included Jorge Guillén. winning the Nobel was his only worthy achievement. All these honors recognize Aleixandre’s lifelong devotion to the production of a unified body of poetry. 1954 Mis poemas mejores. 1977 A Longing for Light: Selected Poems of Vicente Aleixandre. Examination of the importance of Spanish exile literature during and after the civil war. April 26. 1968 Poems. 1965 Retratos con nombre. 1953 Historia del corazón. Spain. 1960 Picasso. 1991 En gran noche: Últimos poemas. All other influences on the development of poetry were insignificant compared with the poet’s call to speak for his fellow humans. the Hispanic Society of America. later published in pamphlet or book form. 1979 12 . 1969 Poesía superrealista. 1932 (Swords as if Lips. 1989) La destrucción o el amor. 1944 (Shadow of Paradise. The second section of the book explores the intellectual diaspora of the civil war. 1935 (Destruction or Love: A Selection. Durham. Although influenced by André Breton and his circle. many of them later included or rewritten for his major prose work. and the Academy of Arts and Sciences of Puerto Rico. Vicente Aleixandre stated that the prize was “a response symbolic of the relation of a poet with all other men. Pedro Salinas. the Spanish American Academy of Bogotá. critical letters. 1989. and evocations of friends and literary figures. Spain. While French Surrealism is significant for its worldwide im- Vicente Aleixandre Born: Seville. Paris. 1987 El mar negro. 1991 Noche cerrada. 1998 Other literary forms Vicente Aleixandre (o-lehk-SON-dreh) published a great number of prologues. Federico García Lorca. Aleixandre was one of the central figures of Spanish Surrealism. Rafael Alberti. Shifting Ground: Spanish Civil War Exile Literature. Vicente Ugarte. N. Los encuentros (1958. 1981 Primeros poemas. 1950 (World Alone. Achievements After receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1977.” In Aleixandre’s own estimation. Philip Krummrich Updated by Carole A. and. the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Telmo. 1987) Mundo a solas. even if he denied its importance.C. 1898 Died: Madrid. December 14. 1961 En un vasto dominio.: Duke University Press. 1985 Nuevos poemas varios. 1962 Presencias. and Gerardo Diego. 1956 Poesías completas. He was a member of the Royal Spanish Academy (1949). 1982) Nacimiento último. The extent of Aleixandre’s influence is considerable. 1976 Twenty Poems. Málaga.Aleixandre. 1984 Principal poetry Ámbito. 1946 Sombra del paraíso. 1928 Espadas como labios. memoirs. however. 1965 Poemas de la consumación. as of 1972. A member of the celebrated Generation of ’27. 1976) Pasión de la tierra. 1971 Sonido de la guerra. Aleixandre also made several speeches on poetry and poets. an honorary fellow of the American Association of Spanish and Portuguese. 1974 The Caves of Night: Poems. the Spanish Surrealists developed to a great extent independently of their French counterparts. Champagne and Sarah Hilbert Critical Survey of Poetry A Bird of Paper: Poems of Vicente Aleixandre. 1935. and an analysis of Alberti’s The Lost Grove is featured prominently. the Academy of the Latin World. “the encounters”). 1972 Diálogos del conocimiento. Michael.

Biography Vicente Aleixandre Merlo was born on April 26. remaining there for seven years. dedicating himself to his poetry. and his interest in poetry was firmly established. the base for his father’s travels with the Andalusian railway network. although a great many years passed between his published collections. but he found the strict requirements for the bachelor’s degree tedious and preferred reading the books in his grandfather’s library: classical and Romantic works and detective novels. Ámbito (ambit) was published. in Seville. England. it produced a surprisingly small amount of lasting poetry. In 1911. the family moved to Madrid. where Aleixandre continued his studies at Teresiano School. and as a calm. daughter of an upper-middle-class Andalusian family. frequented the movie theater across the street from his house (he particularly liked the films of Max Linder). During the years of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). he left his teaching post to work for the railway company. After the removal of a diseased kidney in 1932. but in 1933. 1898. Aleixandre read French translations of the German Romantic writers Ludwig Tieck and Novalis. He became an assistant professor at the School of Commerce of Madrid and worked at night editing a journal of economics in which he published several articles on railroads.Critical Survey of Poetry pact on the arts. Aleixandre began to study law Aleixandre. The death of his father in 1939 brought him even closer to his sister Concepción. in Latin America—constitutes one of the richest poetic traditions of the twentieth century. resulting in three collections published between 1932 and 1935. and William Wordsworth. and diverse regions of Spain. he discovered Sigmund Freud. finishing the two programs in 1920. In 1934. especially those by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. with notable local variations. a tradition in which Aleixandre played a vital role. revealed to him the passion of his life—poetry. but when. where he attended school. Aleixandre said. the son of Cirilo Aleixandre Ballester. In contrast. In 1921. and two years later his first collection. Aleixandre’s first poems appeared in Revista de occidente (journal of the West) in 1926. and Elvira Merlo García de Pruneda. respectively. and. Happy memories of Málaga and the nearby sea appear frequently in Aleixandre’s poetry: He calls them “ciudad del paraíso” (city of paradise) and “mar del paraíso” (sea of paradise). a translation of Ricarda Huch’s Blüthezeit der Romantik. Aleixandre frequently visited the National Library. Four years after Aleixandre’s birth. France. 1899. Aleixandre’s work reflects his psychological and physiological state as vitally passionate and chronically sick. France. During the summer of 1917. he suffered an attack of renal tuberculosis. The next year. “the German Romantics”). Aleixandre’s parents moved to Seville. At the age of fifteen. a railway engineer. James Joyce. he dropped all professional and social activities. and read the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. and Switzerland. and creative man. in 1925. His poetic production was sustained over a lifetime. Aleixandre was isolated from political turmoil. Carlos Bousoño reports that during this year. and Arthur Rimbaud. as well as the Romantic world of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer. “The poet dies only when the man dies. He completed this new spiritual phase with the lyric poetry of William Shakespeare. as well as Les Romantiques allemands (1933. Spanish Surrealism—both in Spain and. reading. In 1929. Percy Bysshe Shelley. his friend Dámaso Alonso loaned him a volume by Rubén Darío. Spain. he returned to Madrid. where he read novels and drama from Spain’s Golden Age to the Generation of ’98. his poetry lives forever. Aleixandre’s mother died. although he suffered a relapse into his tubercular condition in 1932. spending much of the time in convalescence after renewed bouts of illness. he discovered the works of Antonio Machado and Juan Ramón Jiménez. and he again traveled through England. patient. In his own words. this period of his life was very productive. And then. Vicente and business administration. John Keats. a book that. and traveling with his family through Portugal. Aleixandre seems to have been very happy as a boy in Málaga. Married in Madrid. spending their summers in a cottage on the beach at Pedregalejo a few miles from the city. Aleixandre retired to Miraflores de la Sierra to convalesce.” 13 . the family moved to Málaga.

Throughout his poems. although at times it evokes a happy. rooted in the painful dynamic of Aleixandre’s own life. In his middle period. Breton defined Surrealism as a psychic automatism through which he proposed to express the real functioning of thought without control by reason and beyond all aesthetic or moral norms. for example. It can be an “unstable sea. Aleixandre uses the sea as a surface on which to project his images. vehicle for the projection of neurotic fantasies in which the poet employs symbols to convey meaning he might consciously wish to suppress. Gradually. being premortal (except to the Roman Catholic Church). as the poet attempts deliberately or otherwise to recapture an unconscious knowledge and create a unity of perception. literary. true values lost by modern civilized humans and maintained by simple sea creatures. according to which it takes on various hues. so that it became for him a symbol of youth. erotic states involving repressed 14 Critical Survey of Poetry sexuality. For Breton. His is a kind of rebellion against the middle class that hems him in. the poet is interested primarily in terrible mythic elements of nature without people. Aleixandre’s sea imagery irrationally yet imaginatively challenges the reader’s preconceptions. the sea appears 182 times. teeth. beach. although Aleixandre continues to take refuge in myth to escape the horrible realities of the day. a recurring symbol or archetype that integrates all of Aleixandre’s characteristic themes. Intrauterine life. one of Aleixandre’s most constant neurotic projections. The idea that love equals death is the leitmotif of almost all of Aleixandre’s poetry. unconscious forces account for the breast motif associated with the sea. The distinction between the subjective and the objective lost its value as the poet sought to engage in a kind of automatic writing. though not the exclusive. His early years in Málaga impressed the sea on his consciousness. His desire to return and merge with that happiness and all it represents implies his death as an individual. finding historical and telluric man and his own dialectical reality. a constant interplay between Thanatos and Eros. represents primitive. and his mother (in psychoanalytic dream interpretation. happiness. Finally. and grotesque. moon. The sea. revealing the relationship between the real and the imaginary. In addition to repressed sexuality. it is used as a central theme in sixteen poems. Aleixandre rejected the notion of automatic writing. yet he never accepted the “pure” Surrealism of Breton. which only psychoanalysis can fully reveal. he distorts and represses it so that the symbols may lend themselves to many interpretations. much as the gypsy symbolized the childhood of Federico García Lorca. and breast. equated in turn with innocence. many of them associated with the sea.Aleixandre. cultured. colors. moreover. Aleixandre’s interest in Freudian analysis made him particularly receptive to Surrealism. Indeed. in his later work. Among the 336 poems of his Poesías completas. a neurotic and somewhat limited group of fantasies recur throughout his oeuvre. politics. is easily equated with postmortal life—life before birth equals life after death.” an “imperious sea. efficient one. a catharsis comparable to psychological analysis is accomplished by Aleixandre’s poetry. the sea often symbolizes the mother). as he is absorbed by a larger unit. and decorative. the poet becomes academic. except that here the patient ministers to himself. The sea occupies a high place in Aleixandre’s poetic scale of values. The sea in Aleixandre’s poetry is pathognomonic in its psychological connotations. innocent childhood. birds. Aleixandre identifies with the public. delirious. but in his preoccupation . tongue. it appears most clearly in his recurring images of the sea. sun. Vicente Analysis In the work of Vicente Aleixandre’s first period. Aleixandre disguises the relationship between the symbol and its meaning at unconscious levels. perception and representation are products of the dissociation of a single original faculty which the eidetic image recognizes and which is to be found in the primitive and the child. realizing that he cannot remain aloof from history. ineffective rebellion into a conscious. and a variety of sensual. Often Aleixandre juxtaposes the sea with images of forest. he faces them as he recalls his family and past. and attributes. instinctive life.” and it serves as the principal. and other realities when people believe in him. and the amorous solidarity of the man and poet with all creation is complete.” or a “contained sea. he is chaotic. but he is not yet aware that to save himself from its oppression he must transform his blind.

the book sensually examines the fleeting aspects of time. views from a new perspective. Ámbito’s formal beauty. Aleixandre’s third collection. is related to the much later volume. does not know exactly what theme he will develop. The poet employs traditional ballad form instead of the free verse that he later came to use almost exclusively. petrifies it—or. composed of seven sections and eight “Nights” (including an initial and final “Night” and one “Sea”). His liberty of form allows Aleixandre to cover a variety of subjects in a dream atmosphere that hovers between sensation and thought. is an undisputed masterpiece. in its examination of reality. coals of silence (because they lack life-giving flame). Destruction or Love If Swords as if Lips. animal.” His intention was not to induce a Surrealistic trance but to create a voluntary pattern of unusual images. people must give up their limiting structures. into one substance—but to achieve fusion. Here. when Baroque formalism ruled the day. Here. Vicente fire. despite its striking images. Aleixandre’s first collection. of frustrated and desperate clamor. lacks imaginative coherence. and a final fusion with the earth will prove to be the most enduring love of all. Shadow of Paradise. Aleixandre. and joy in life reflect both Juan Ramón Jiménez and Jorge Guillén more than the later Aleixandre. Within his own boundary—the limits of his sickroom. Thus. the poet is largely descriptive and objective in a somewhat traditional way. the poet offers a visionary transfiguration of the world in flux. desire for perfection. Aleixandre’s second collection. in fifty-four poems divided into six parts. he acclaims a love without religious connotations. However. death. classic and cold at times but also warm and romantic. instinctive life. absorbing them and destroying them. The elusive imagery resembles the reverberations of a musical instrument. since the collection was composed partly during the tercentenary of Luis de Góngora y Argote. and love—themes that the poet. In this volume of youthful love. Aleixandre delicately renders his love affair with nature. which transfers to the reader. Aleixandre excludes the life beyond and salvation. although there is a faint reflection of the cosmic force. Aleixandre stresses the idea that the unity of the world includes humanity’s works and its civilization. but they remain peripheral to the primary. Swords as if Lips. Absorbed in the living unity of nature. to the effect that the poet is “a babbler. Written during his first serious illness. Ámbito. and his tenand six-syllable lines reveal his great sense of rhythm. The poetry deals with the world of the senses. and mineral. the title of the volume is intended to signify not a choice between mutually exclusive alternatives (either destruction or love) but rather an identification (as when the subtitle of a book is introduced by the word “or”). in his somewhat illogically and incoherently developed poetic structures. Destruction or Love. people can obtain love only by destroying themselves and fusing with the cosmos. he contemplates nature. a love whose equations frequently resist logical interpretation.Critical Survey of Poetry with the subconscious and his powerful. irrational imagery.” serves notice that the volume eschews conventional “meaning. Nature is everywhere. Swords as if Lips Begun in the summer of 1929. as one critic phrases it. 15 . An epigraph from Lord Byron. Ámbito Ámbito.” The work as originally presented was filled with poetic transpositions and capriciously arranged punctuation to help Aleixandre release what he considered his “interior Aleixandre. contains classical and Gongoristic forms—not unexpected at the time. concerns the central themes of life. a world of mystery and darkness whose basic fabric is erotic love. Aleixandre’s universe is a place of cosmic and human passion. and of unchained telluric forces that often prove fatal to humans. in his moment of inspiration and suffering. Perhaps love can save people from society’s mask—for love fuses all things. he introduced Surrealism to Spanish poetry. The diffuse emotion he creates in this confused and disturbed work gives rise to apparent indecision for the poet. and other signs of loss and decay suggests a desire to embrace the reality of death. In Aleixandre’s vision. indulges in the immobilization of the moment. where it found extremely fertile soil. for human love is fleeting. Swords as if Lips. pleasure in the contemplation of nature. Aleixandre’s bittersweet imagery of dead roses. while in later works he would seek to possess it and be one with it. where he lived a solitary existence—he waxed both tender and uncontrollably passionate. vegetable.

exciting combinations of anapestic lines. but without despair. The verse lines are of varying length. Here. and human solidarity. or the heavens. Aleixandre implies an awareness of the historical world. without the assurance of paradise or eternal life. nonfiction: Los encuentros. however. the moon. created a sensation among young poets even before its publication in book form. Life is death. order. in so doing. becomes all humans. 1986 (with José Luis Cano). Epistolario. Nevertheless. 16 Critical Survey of Poetry Shadow of Paradise is divided into six parts. 1943. In virgin forests. loves. Avoiding monotony in his rhythmical movements by means of this prodigality of expression. His fetish for rhythmic simplicity extends to his use of adjectives. 1958. Thus. miscellaneous: Obras completas. or perhaps imaginatively recreates the world of childhood before the horrifying and inevitable loss of innocence. small animals exist with large. man may be metal or a lion. only a dozen have a definite metric form. social love. The poet recognizes that he is aging. these animals may be virginal and innocent or terrible and destructive. the forest. Of its fifty-two poems. The tension between paradise and history is always just beneath the surface. attacks. when it finally appeared in 1944. begun in 1939 and finished in November. but through them all there are patterns of association among rhythms of different kinds. and the sea live in intimate union with elementary forces of nature. hexameters. infrequently. the sea’s fish appear to be birds. and irregular meters. and tigers. He evokes a Garden of Eden where he may find lost happiness to escape the evil world of humanity. Many underlying crosscurrents of thought and emotion can be found in this volume. the animal and the vegetable worlds constantly interact with the thoughts and feelings of the poet. ferocious beasts surround “man. pentasyllables. and beauty. it won a wide and enthusiastic readership among the literary youth of the day. lions. destroys. to be one with the heavens and the creatures of the dawn. Aleixandre returns to the innocent world of infancy. humans are defined by the dolorous round of daily experience. interrogatives. 1977 (2 volumes). Historia del corazón reveals a dramatic change in Aleixandre’s conception of humanity. Shadow of Paradise Shadow of Paradise. and an almost musical progression of scales to form a polyphonic richness. it is not necessary to live desperate. he employs gerundives experimentally. which he occasionally employs adverbially and. no longer creatures of telluric forces. the poet proclaims. a body becomes an ocean. the tiger is an elastic fire of the forest. Animals. such as the ocean. children’s literature: Vicente Aleixandre para niños. half glimpsing his salvation in an identification with nature in all its forms and thus affirming rather than denying love for all creation. In this vision of nature as a physical whole in which violence and love are complementary forces. but its central theme is the need for human solidarity and compassion for the victims of injustice. the eagle. a man. in a world where death is always present. its folly and malignity. 2002. in double or triple combination. remembers it. destructive ones: the beetle and the scorpion with the cobra. Here. Often his naked nouns convey his precise tone or mood. . 1984 (illustrated by Concha Martinez). he ends a poetic line with a verb. he sings for all humankind of fleeting time. rarely. and tender. who must also stoically face the end. Like other aspects of nature. destined to live and die. Vicente In Destruction or Love. and empathizes with his neighbor.Aleixandre. solitary lives. in which humans must play their role. Aleixandre uses exclamations. on other occasions. to a paradise beyond Original Sin and knowledge. everything attacks. In his universe of serenity. Aleixandre’s conception of poetry has changed: The poet.” who seeks fruitlessly to find himself. and the eagles resemble the ocean. Other major works short fiction: Prosas completas. including hendecasyllables. a heart becomes a mountain. Likewise. Like the mystic poets of old—who had to die in order to find eternal life—Aleixandre offers a mystic fusion or death with the sea and the maternal earth. Historia del corazón Of Aleixandre’s later collections. the most important is Historia del corazón (history of the heart). and loves everything and. foam is hair. The poet narcissistically reinvents his own reality. The limits between flora and fauna dissolve into a new unity. and destroys itself. for special effect.

2004. Later translations include The Odes of Anacreon. _______. edited by Robert Havard. and Harriet Boyer. and poetry. Includes selected poems in English translation. “Prophet. 2007.: Tamesis. 2001. N. 1982 (David A.: Catholic University of America Press. ed. Harris. Anacreon Soufas. Includes bibliography. Criticism and interpretation of Aleixandre’s addresses. A critical study of Aleixandre’s work with a biographical introduction. 1928 (Erastus Richardson.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. and Aleixandre’s Nobel Prize acceptance lecture. Critical Views on Vicente Aleixandre’s Poetry. Kessel. Other literary forms Anacreon (uh-NAK-ree-uhn) is remembered only for his poetry. Greek Lyric.Y. Criticism and interpretation of Aleixandre’s poetics.” In Contemporary Spanish Poetry: The Word and the World. Metal Butterflies and Poisonous Lights: The Language of Surrealism in Lorca. 1683. _______. eds. Achievements Included in the Alexandrine canon of nine Greek lyric poets.c. 571 b. Mazzara Anacreon Born: Teos. 1998. 1970. c. polished. Nebr.e. Turkey). The Surrealist Mode in Spanish Literature. Washington. For his complete poems in Greek. Asia Minor (now Sigacik. not posterity. short poems 17 . see Poetae Melici Graeci. Vicente Aleixandre. Died: Athens.: Bucknell University Press. Greece. 1968. Notes that the poet’s work was filled with light and sensual descriptions of what he had observed. He seems to have written no single book or collection of poems. “Light in the Eyes: Visionary Poetry in Vicente Aleixandre. 1991 (Guy Davenport. Pa. Daydí-Tolson. Information on modernism in Spanish literature provides a context for understanding Aleixandre’s works. History and criticism of Surrealism in Spanish literature. Santiago. edited by Cecile West-Settle and Sylvia Sherno. An introductory biography and critical analysis of selected works by Aleixandre. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Daniel. Lewisburg. Ilie. Murphy. Discusses Surrealism in Aleixandre’s poems. New York: Twayne.: Bilingual Press. Vicente Aleixandre: A Critical Appraisal. Derek. with bibliographical citations and index. Vicente Aleixandre’s Stream of Lyric Consciousness. D. Scotland: La Sirena. 1962 (Denys Page. index.J. Madison. Christopher. lectures.Critical Survey of Poetry Bibliography Cabrera.c. Mich. extensively annotated bibliography. Babbler: Voice and Identity in Vicente Aleixandre’s Surrealist Poetry. The first English translation of Anacreon was Anacreon Done into English out of the Original Greek. c. 2005. translator). One chapter examines the geographies of presence in the poetry of Aleixandre and Jorge Guillén. Includes bibliographic references. Medium. Also known as: Anakreon Principal poetry Anacreon composed poems for oral performance.C. Rochester. A study of Surrealism in Spanish literature. Anstruther. Richard A. The surviving fragments show that Anacreon set a high standard for sophisticated. Campbell. P.” In Companion to Spanish Surrealism. Schwartz. The Subject in Question: Early Contemporary Spanish Literature and Modernism. N. and that the poet’s blindness in the 1970’s severely affected his work. editor). Ypsilanti. 1981. including the works of Aleixandre. although it is difficult to measure his influence precisely with such fragmentary texts. translator).e. and Aleixandre. Anacreon has influenced generations of poets since classical times. Lincoln. Ionia. Fife. 490 b. and Anakreon: The Extant Fragments. translator). essays. Vicente.: Society of Spanish and Spanish-American Studies. C. Alberti. Cernuda. 1979.

c. Anacreon introduced the theme of old age into his poetry.). often combining it with his favorite themes of love and wine. Many Teans.c.. The surviving poetry suggests that Anacreon had little enthusiasm for political themes. His was a society endangered by Persian encroachments on Ionic Greece. caused by the fall of the Pisistratids. Indeed. much can be conjectured from ancient citations and. this may account for the ancient tradition that Anacreon died as a result of choking on a grape pip. first printed in 1554. often called Anacreontics. reflect his experiences there. to tutor Polycrates’ son in music and poetry. Polycrates’ political policy on Samos included a patronage of the arts that brought to the island not only Anacreon but also the West Greek poet. Although he appears to favor a combination of Glyconics and Pherecrateans in his extant verse. only a few fragments. including 18 Critical Survey of Poetry Anacreon. Although Anacreon’s love poetry was addressed primarily to young boys. 353 P. Anacreon’s poetic reputation. for example.. amorous old man. Anacreon’s style was copied by unknown Greek poets writing under his name. escaped Persian rule by fleeing to Abdera on the coast of Thrace. who. certainly grew from that time. Teos was seized by the Persian Harpagus soon after the fall of Sardis about 541 b. had a great influence on several European literary schools. Anacreon died probably about 490 b.) can be found in Anacreon’s extant fragments. known for his choral song.Anacreon written in a variety of meters. on such Italian lyric poets of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as Gabriello Chiabrera and Jacopo Vittorelli. and 426 P. his banquet poems. These poets. As he grew older. Biography Anacreon’s poetry reflects the aristocratic Greek society of the sixth century b. Anacreon. from the remains of his own poetry.e. With the fall of Polycrates about 522 b. either made free translations of the Greek Anacreonteia into their own languages or wrote original poetry in the meter and style known as Anacreontic.e.. since the ancients say that he lived past the age of eighty and that . an anaclastic Ionic dimeter to which he has given his name. to a lesser degree..e. and on the British and Irish poets Robert Herrick. William Oldys. on the French Renaissance poets Pierre de Ronsard and Rémy Belleau. Johann Gleim. Anacreon was brought to Athens by the Pisistratid Hipparchus. 522 b. and Thomas Moore. whose authentic works could still be read in Augustan Rome. except for a brief interlude in Thessaly about 512 b. fragments 391 P. may refer to this traumatic period in Anacreon’s life.. was born in the Ionian city of Teos (now Sigacik. like Polycrates. Turkey) about 571 b. He was probably most admired in antiquity for his love poems. usually called the Anacreonteia. since homoeroticism was a conventional poetic theme in his society (as in. Anacreon remained in Athens for the rest of his life. Anacreon’s personality came to be so closely associated with love and wine that long after his death he was remembered as a drunken. especially those dealing with Eros.e. Ibycus of Rhegium. It was for this type of poetry that he was best known in the aristocratic Athenian society for which he wrote. survive in the Palatine Anthology and range in date from the Alexandrine period through late Byzantine times. and his imagery and tropes. Although Anacreon remained in Samos until the death of Polycrates and is said by ancient sources to have made frequent reference to the tyrant in his poetry. Sappho’s works). he is best known for the Anacreontic meter. as well as by internal political upheavals marked by the rise and fall of antiaristocratic tyrannies. which became standardized in later poetry. he preferred to write about love and wine. The poetry of Horace and of other Roman lyric poets also shows conscious imitation of Anacreon. these spurious poems. Anacreon is better known in the modern world through the Anacreonteia than through his own works. Whatever the actual cause. Polycrates (ruled 540 to c..e. Anacreon’s Thracian period is obscure. and 419 P. The Anacreonteia.c. on such eighteenth century German poets as Friedrich von Hagedorn. this provides meager evidence for the poet’s biography. Although little is known for certain about Anacreon’s life.c.c.e. and Johann Götz. for he was at some point invited to the court of the Samian tyrant.e. only a few allusions to events in Samos (348 P. practiced a policy of art patronage under the tyranny of his brother Hippias.c. son of Scythinus. however. including 417 P.c. in which he lived.

nymphs. Although the epi19 . especially in the realm of love poetry. It was in many ways a conservative tradition. All these early lyric poets experimented with a poetic analysis of personal experience and emotion to which the late sixth century b. tracing its origins to the oral songs of the Homeric period. and produced Archilochus. Anacreon brought to this poetry not so much new emotions and feelings as the skill of a meticulous craftsman who chose his words carefully and knew when to inject exaggeration and humor for the proper effect. and depended to a great extent on stock epithets. have generally become the clichés of later generations of poets. While accepting the traditional metrical types and continuing the lyric proclivity toward self-expression and introspection.c. and Alcaeus in the seventh century b. Dionysus is described as playing on the lofty mountaintops with Eros.c. Thus.Critical Survey of Poetry he lived long enough to experience the poetry of Aeschylus. a prayer to Dionysus.. and the entreaty. Anacreon’s goal of novelty in a traditional context is demonstrated in 357 P. for the most part. and Aphrodite. especially in the Greek cities of Ionia and Aeolia. formulas. Novelty of expression is achieved by the use of new rather than stock epithets for Dionysus’s companions. beginning in the late eighth century b. striking in that it does not mention the god’s name. It restricted certain genres to specific meters. at the same time. The prayer form had early been recognized to be well suited to lyric expression.. blossomed. What is significant about Anacreon is that he strove to express these themes in new contexts and succeeded so well that the novel imagery and contexts he introduced. Sappho’s “Ode to Aphrodite” had already used the prayer poem in a love context with great success. Anacreon was heir. and Anacreon may here be following Sappho. Analysis The Greek poetic tradition in which Anacreon wrote was a particularly rich one. Anacreon Anacreon (Library of Congress) 357 P. Certainly the themes of love and wine that dominate Anacreon’s extant poetry are. Anacreon enriched Greek lyric with the novelties of a poetic experimenter who constantly sought new imagery and approaches for old themes.e. lyric poetry. distinguished by the use of the first person. such as epic to hexameter and invective to iambic. identifies Dionysus only by his habitual companions and haunts.e. and vocabulary from Homeric epic. traditional. these prayers are meant not for public ceremony but for private performance. it was a tradition that encouraged experimentation and novelty of expression. Sappho. Anacreon’s invocation. in which the deity is addressed and described.e. or the request made to the god. However.c. Anacreon’s prayer is divided into two parts: the invocation.

“be a good counselor to Cleobulus. In this piece. Anacreon’s word for “good counselor. the formality of structure and vocabulary suggests that the request is a serious one. The manipulation of the prayer form to suit a love theme is already found in Sappho. while Anacreon transfers an epithet of Dionysus. Anacreon emphasizes not his intense emotions but his artistic skill. too.” to Eros. implying that the girl rejects Anacreon because he is too old.. Anacreon’s fondness for color contrasts. the next phrase. and because they reflect another characteristic of Anacreon’s style: a fondness for color contrasts. where Anacreon finally reveals that he is actually praying to Dionysus not for some lofty request. She is from Lesbos and gapes after some “other” (female). Each line begins with Cleobulus’s name used in a different case ending and 20 Critical Survey of Poetry concludes with a different verb in the first person singular: “I love.” The grammatical trope is probably borrowed from Archilochus.” and “I gaze. which is suggested by the verbal sequence. is a successful variation on the traditional Greek theme of apple tossing (as in the story of Atalanta). Sappho maintains in her poem an intensity of emotion that is not found in Anacreon. is never used again in Greek literature. which is based on careful word study. Cleobulus is featured in several other poems.” The final. color reference is to Anacreon’s white hair. The play here is a double entendre.” “I am mad. Anacreon describes Eros’s invitation to play ball with a girl from Lesbos. colorful. but for aid in a homosexual love affair. Anacreon is thus able to achieve a vivid. she is the girl “with the motley slippers.” shows that Anacreon is not serious. 358 P. which Anacreon implies through this epithet. 725 b.” Such distance is critical to Anacreon’s poetic stance. Anacreon may here be inventing the image of Eros as the “ballplayer. and perhaps most important.” an image that was commonplace in later poets such as Apollonius and Meleager. English translation. This incompatibility of love with old age. The humor of this phrase shatters the solemn tone of the prayer and prepares for the surprise of the last two lines. who uses it in a political context. in which Nausicaa plays ball with her servant girls. but without the change in tone developed here. “I gaze at Cleobulus” suggests a distance between lover and beloved that is not evident in “I love Cleobulus. Anacreon maintains the solemnity of the prayer form here by employing standard expressions of entreaty: “I beseech you. through which Anacreon moves from mad love for Cleobulus to mere gazing at the beloved.e. his ability to control his poem through the careful selection of words. a theme repeated in Anacreon’s extant corpus. Another of Anacreon’s poems. 359 P..” sumbulus. Further.” a rich and expensive color in the ancient world.c. “goldenhaired. However. possibly derived from Homer’s Odyssey (c.” which Anacreon invents for Eros. which again shows Anacreon’s interest in form rather than emotions. and with even more effect.Anacreon thet “subduer. the concept of Eros as a tamer of men. The girl. which may not have been standard in Anacreon’s day. since both Cleobulus and sumbulus are placed at the beginning of their respective lines.” and “hear our prayer. Eros’s ball is “purple. there is some ambiguity here. 358 P. Old age. Anacreon’s descriptions of the nymphs as “blue-eyed” and Aphrodite as “rosy” are noteworthy both because these adjectives had never been applied to these deities before. In a very few words. Anacreon’s application of Archilochus’s technique to love poetry reflects a de-emphasis of emotional intensity. including 359 P. This formal invocation is followed by an equally formal entreaty.” “come kindly to us. is emphasized by the contrast of colors developed in the poem.” The climax to which the poem is leading is the specific request that the poet wants to make. This love poem is a sequence of three parallel statements about Anacreon’s relationship with Cleobulus. noted above. in . is not the only motive for the girl’s rejection of Anacreon. By adding a pun at the point when he is introducing the love theme. 1614). is evident in this poem as well. is one which becomes commonplace in later lyrics. creates a pun on Cleobulus’s name which is difficult to miss. original description of Dionysus’s world. demonstrates not only his use of special descriptive words but also his experimentation with new imagery. probably intentional. The ball playing. is described with colors. To the modern reader this situation suggests an association of the island of Lesbos with female homosexuality.. however.

as David A.” Inebriety may already have been associated with the traditional leap from the Leucadian Cliff. M.). For the first time. Once again Anacreon is more interested in his poetic expression than in his emotions. but Anacreon appears to have transposed the theme into a significant metaphor that was not there before and that has not left love poetry since. They demonstrate his consummate skill as a lyric poet who could manipulate poetic themes. Anacreon. Eros. vocabulary. may suggest that she comes from a prosperous family and can pick and choose her mates.” is also ambiguous. as well as a garland of flowers. Bowra has also suggested that this epithet is a subtle dig at Lesbos. love and wine. In 417 P. but rather a repeated occurrence. imagery. This helplessness is further stressed by the dive that the poet takes in the second line. The solemn Homeric word may simply be used. The fragment 376 P. transposed to the girl. Finally. in which the poet addresses the cupbearer. and. the poet mentions that he makes the plunge “drunk with love. where Eros is depicted as a tease. for in this poem. Ibycus.c.” indicating that this particular leap is not a suicide. and asks for water and wine. a comparison of women with mares. but on the loss of self-control caused by love. Bowra argues in Greek Lyric Poetry from Alcman to Simonides (1961) that the epithet.e. which had appeared earlier in the choral poetry of Alcman.” These few examples of the surviving fragments of Anacreon’s poetry suggest what a great loss the disappearance of his corpus has been. The poet states that the climb onto the rock is being made “again. Anacreon uses this theme in a new way. “that I may box with Eros. First. “well-established” in its sexual habits. an image appropriate to Eros’s pain-inflicting capabilities. “Bring me these things. perhaps. and even his emotions for poetic effect. The emphasis is not on the despair of unrequited love. “To be drunk with love” is certainly a comical exaggeration that suits Anacreon’s theme of loss of Anacreon self-control and that underscores his evident mastery over his poetry. “good to dwell in. who played a role of honor at Greek drinking parties. such as “stubbornly” and “think me in no way wise” and “around the limits of the course. Although derived from a standard Homeric epithet for the island. a lyric poet may be creating an entire poem out of a single metaphor.. Such a poetic distance from his emotions permits him to deal with sexual passion and with the frustrations of old age in a distinctively humorous way. tantalized by the few extant fragments. The reader of Anacreon. “female” is only grammatically understood and other nouns have been supplied. The vocabulary of the poem is a remarkable combination of words with amatory undertones. to contrast with the more playful tone of the poem as a whole.. which the Greeks mixed before drinking. shows Anacreon not creating new imagery but rather using an old image in a strikingly new fashion. that of boxing. at the same time. adds something new to the drinking song by introducing a love theme.” and of elevated epic phraseology.” The boxing metaphor is apparently an invention of Anacreon. however. for example. Anacreon also demonstrates a concern with novelty and effect. another common trapping of a Greek drinking song. who may have used it at least once more (in 346 P. such as “reins” and “mounter. and was not transformed into an infant until the Hellenistic period. Anacreon became an authoritative model for many later poets.. Campbell suggests. “hair” (feminine in Greek). who was represented as a youth in the sixth century b.Critical Survey of Poetry the text. The epithet for Lesbos. 396 P. is a tease through his use of ambiguity. Any and all of these interpretations may be correct.” he says. de21 . however. A final selection. this word is employed here with a meaning that is difficult to establish. Wine and love are also combined in 396 P. Anacreon’s poetic associate on Samos. making the homosexuality theme more uncertain and. in the context of a traditional love theme: the spurned lover’s desperate leap from the Leucadian Cliff. A playfully original and prolific innovator. C. also used the racehorse image for the lover controlled by Eros. Anacreon reverses Ibycus’s imagery by making the girl the wild mare and himself the potential rider. must appreciate the poet’s ironic position within literary tradition. 376 P. 417 P. is thus fitted by Anacreon with another apt metaphor. combines two of the poet’s favorite topics. too. 417 P. enhancing the sexual double entendre. perhaps the poet.

August 26. Hermann. The Golden Lyre: The Themes of Greek Lyric Poets. Rosenmeyer. Early Greek Monody: The History of a Poetic Type. Treats Anacreon as a major writer in the tradition of monody. 1923). athletics. Campbell. explicating individual works and exploring major themes in his corpus. 1983. O’Brien. this study provides useful insight into the ways Anacreon and his imitators have been read by later audiences. Selected poems are examined to illustrate the musical qualities of Anacreon’s poetry and highlight his technique. ed. Carefully details the critical principles used by key translators who helped shape the canon of Anacreontic poetry in published form. Felix. translated. Apollinaire collaborated on numerous plays and . Mazzeno Guillaume Apollinaire Born: Rome. politics. Guillaume spite the ravages of time. Sienkewicz Updated by Laurence W. 1964) Calligrammes.Y. Kirkwood. New York: Cambridge University Press. (1910. “the putrescent enchanter”). They are contained in the Pléiade edition. Among the most significant of his short stories and novellas are L’Enchanteur pourrissant (1909.. 1918 Also known as: Wilhelm Apollinaris. 1918 (English translation. M. Discusses the influence of Anacreon on his contemporaries and examines the way Anacreontic imitators have been discovered. John. 1975. Though concentrating on the work of scholars in only one century. Provides excellent insight into the ways Anacreon’s poetry parallels or diverges from the work of other classical lyricists. friendship. 1880 Died: Paris. 1911 (Bestiary. 1898-1913. Guillelmus Apollinaris de Kostrowitzki Principal poetry Le Bestiaire. London: Duckworth. gods and heroes. Early Greek Poetry and Philosophy. The Cambridge Companion to Greek Lyric. Guillaume Apollinaire (ah-pawlee-NEHR) wrote a number of prose works. France. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 1952 Poèmes à Lou. L’Hérésiarque et Cie. Patricia A. 1965). 1898-1913. England: Basil Blackwell. The Poet Assassinated. he remains a major figure in literature through imitation by others rather than by the weight of his own writings.: Cornell University Press. Italy. published by Henry Kahnweiler and illustrated with woodcuts by André Derain. life and death. A section on Anacreon is included in this extensive study of the development of Greek literature. November 9. 1978) Alcools: Poèmes. 1980) Il y a. N. 1974. edited by Michel Décaudin. 1956 Other literary forms Besides poetry. and Le Poète assassiné (1916. a contender for the Prix Goncourt. and describes his influence on later writers. Anacreon Redivivus: A Study of Anacreontic Translation in Mid-sixteenth Century France. Comments about Anacreon’s work are scattered throughout a book devoted to exploring Greek poets’ writing about subjects such as love. Frankel. Illustrates differences between his work and that of earlier monodists. Œuvres en prose (1977). especially the Latin poet Horace. 1925 Le Guetteur mélancolique.Apollinaire. New York: 22 Critical Survey of Poetry Cambridge University Press. 1992. This volume on Greek lyric poetry examines this type of poetry in detail and contains a chapter on Anacreon and the Anacreontea. 2009. 1913 (Alcools: Poems. Thomas J. G. Oxford. David A. 1955 Œuvres poétiques. and evaluated. Bibliography Budelmann. 1995. Ithaca. The Heresiarch and Co. and the arts. Contains a chapter on the poet’s life and work. The Poetics of Imitation: Anacreon and the Anacreontic Tradition. 1952 Tendre comme le souvenir. Also examines the concept of imitation as a poetic device in ancient poetry.

His poems often parallel the work of the painters in their spirit of simultaneity. The friend and collaborator of many important painters during the exciting years in Paris just before World War I. In this single poem. Apollinaire moved into a new perception of the world and of poetry. and Picasso. 1961). and other periodicals. Georges Braque. and others. he moved into the world of art criticism.” with its biographical. Apollinaire began associating with artists when he met Pablo Picasso in 1904. spatial and temporal relations are radically altered. Philippe Soupault. Mercure de France published his famous manifesto “L’Esprit nouveau et les poètes” (“The New Spirit and the Poets”). Apollinaire’s own works further testify to his links with painters: Bestiary was illustrated by Raoul Dufy. Apollinaire’s sense of radical discontinuity was reflected in his formal innovations. and Tristan Tzara. including Laurencin. in their subjects. along with many other articles. He frequently inspired works and portraits by artists. This ambition is evident in “Zone. Guillaume ranged to give both a visual and an auditory effect in an effort to create simultaneity. Writing at the end of the long Symbolist tradition. Maurice Vlaminck. Apollinaire went through the volume and removed all punctuation. Picabia’s 391.” a low-class caférestaurant that Apollinaire had frequented as early as 1903. which records overheard bits of conversation in a “sinistre brasserie. though less profound. Apollinaire also published a great deal of art criticism and literary criticism in journals. After 1912. is in “Lundi rue Christine” (“Monday in Christine Street”). his most startling works are the picture poems of Calligrammes. and “Les Fenêtres” (“Windows”). André Breton. geographical. Apollinaire’s was one of the first voices in French poetry to attempt to articulate the profound discontinuity and disorientation in modern society. In 1918. a device that he continued to use in most of his later works. however. such as those of Marc Chagall’s dreamworld and inverted figures. first published in the magazine SIC in 1918. His best-known individual works in these genres are two proto-Surrealist plays in verse: Les Mamelles de Tirésias (pr. Apollinaire desired to create the effect of simultaneity. such as the saltimbanques of Picasso. Apollinaire became the chef d’école. the poet leaps from his pious childhood at the Collège Saint-Charles in Monaco to the wonders of modern aviation and back to the “herds” of buses “mooing” on the streets of Paris. 1902-1918 (1960). They consist of verses ar- Apollinaire. French poetry was never the same again. the articles published before that year were collected in Peintres cubistes: Méditations esthétiques (The Cubist Painters: Aesthetic Meditations. Among them were Pierre Reverdy. a tradition very apparent in his early works. analyzed in considerable depth by Jean-Claude Chevalier in Alcools d’Apollinaire (1970). Not unrelated to this interest was Apollinaire’s tumultuous liaison with Marie Laurencin from 1907 to 1912. André Derain. as critic Francis Steegmuller has noted. newspapers. In 1913. At the same time. They are available in the Pléiade edition of Œuvres poétiques.” “Liens” (“Chains”). This collection has been translated into English as Apollinaire on Art: Essays and Reviews. pr. and Couleur du temps (the color of time. 1917. His own works appeared in the most avant-garde journals: Reverdy’s Nord-Sud. not always appreciated by the artists themselves. his works reflect hope. 1902-1918 (1972). In the world of his mature verse. frequently ecstatic. such as “Zone. Like the cubists and other modern painters who sought to go beyond the traditional boundaries of space and time. C. the leader of a new generation of poets and painters. which later appeared. edited by L. Henri Rousseau. Perhaps his most obvious achievement in simultaneity. use free verse with irregular rhyme and rhythm.Critical Survey of Poetry cinema scripts. Breunig. Immediately before the publication of Alcools. in Chroniques d’art. After 1916. after which he frequented the famous Bateau-Lavoir on the rue Ravignan with Max Jacob. a form that he falsely claimed to have invented. Achievements After Guillaume Apollinaire. Jean Cocteau. and historical discontinuity. 1944). The Breasts of Tiresias. which first appeared in the Nouvelle Revue française in 1920. 1918). in the promise of the future. and “Windows” was the introductory poem to the catalog of the Robert Delaunay exhibit in 1912. and in their moods. and Albert Birot’s 23 . His most notable poems.

is not a reproduction of the leg. he moved away from any outward adherence to religious beliefs after 1897.” “Lul. It was he who coined the word surréaliste. Guillaume Albert Wladimir Alexandre Apollinaire de Kostrowitzky was an illegitimate child. in the subconscious and the dreamworld. though intended to facilitate transportation. which he continued throughout his lifetime. even as the wheel. Alfred Jarry. This ill-fated romance and the beauty of the Rhineland inspired many of Apollinaire’s early poems. “Les Fiançailles” (“The Betrothal”). This is essentially the technique he employs in his most avantgarde poetry. and especially Picasso. and “Le Larron” (“The Thief”).” In reality. First. Apollinaire’s return to Paris coincided with the beginning of friendships with artists and writers such as André Salmon. although much of his work was in some respects traditional. imploring them to create prodigies with their imagination like modern Merlins. The most plausible supposition points to Francesco Flugi d’Aspermont. His lecture “The New Spirit and the Poets” called poets to a new prophetic vision. In it. parody. from 1890 to 1897. Guillaume SIC. The beginning of the war. The modern poet. in “The Thief. and The Breasts of Tiresias echoes poems from “Ondes” (“Waves. Apollinaire’s mysterious and involved parentage haunted the poet throughout his life. in the preface to his drama in verse The Breasts of Tiresias. This theory is based on the careful investigation of biographer Marcel Adéma. many of which—such as Le Festin d’Esope and La Revue immoraliste—were of very short duration. in their desire to revolutionize art and literature. however. Although not a French citizen until the year 1916.Apollinaire. which were later published in Alcools. His works appeared under several pseudonyms. Apollinaire indicated the path to follow in revolutionizing poetry. “À la Santé” (“At the Santé”) describes his brief stay in the prison of La Santé in Verlainian imagery. In 1899. he believed. Apollinaire conveys his message with a lighthearted tone. During the two years preceding World War I. known in Paris mostly as “Olga.” and “Tyl.” the first part of Calligrammes) such as “Zone. In 1903. The Surrealists. leaving unmistakable marks on his character and works. employing incongruous rhythms. Thus. Apollinaire was deeply marked by the false accusation that he was responsible for the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Like Victor Hugo.” he says that his “father was a sphinx and his mother a night. Like Paul Claudel.” “Montade. Although his Catholic training was to remain firmly implanted in his memory and is evident in his poetry. saw in Apollinaire their precursor. who was from a noble Italian family that included many prelates.” In 1907. his mother was a Polish adventurer of noble ancestry. 24 Critical Survey of Poetry Apollinaire received his only formal education at the Collège of Saint-Charles in Monaco and the Collège Stanislas at Cannes. and in the cinema and visual arts. and sexual imagery. he gave lectures and wrote articles on modern art and prepared Alcools for publication. the daughter of the viscountess of Milhau. an artist. Apollinaire regarded the poet as a creator. he met Marie Laurencin. A series of six poems in Alcools. where he acquired a solid grounding in religious and secular knowledge. he embraced with great en- . of which he became a staunch proponent. Others included “Louise Lalame. but it was his “esprit nouveau” that gave considerable impetus to a new form of modern poetry. Max Jacob. Biography Born in Rome on August 26.” “Le Brasier” (“The Brazier”). as tutor to Gabrielle. 1880. Gabrielle’s English governess. he served subsequent poets chiefly as a guide rather than as a model. There. he explains that an equivalent is not always an imitation. in 1914. his home for most of the next nineteen years of his life and the center and inspiration of his literary activity. he began his collaboration on many periodicals. he arrived in Paris. of which “Apollinaire” was the most significant.” His father’s identity has never been definitively ascertained. he met and fell in love with Annie Playden. must use everything for his (or her) creation: new discoveries in science. Angelique Kostrowicka. The year 1912 marked Apollinaire’s break with Laurencin and his definite espousal of modern art. was to Apollinaire a call to a mission. he made a significant trip to Germany’s Rhineland in 1901. Most of his prose and poetry was first published in such journals. Their liaison continued until 1912 and was an inspiration and a torment to both of them. whose talent Apollinaire tended to exaggerate. During this period.

He is considered a revolutionary and a destroyer. Guillaume whose sign Bestiary is written. as Apollinaire died of Spanish influenza on November 9 of the same year. “Lou” (Louise de ColignyChâtillon) and Madeleine Pagès. The fantastic abounds in Apollinaire’s works: ghosts. Wounded in the head in 1916. especially biblical. Much of Apollinaire’s early symbolism is directed toward the quest for self-knowledge. and Pharaoh. is present in several poems. He returned to the world of literature and art with numerous articles. according an almost mystical dimension to his military service. as central to Apollinaire’s works. Ancient Egypt appears in frequent references to the Nile. and a volume of poetry. Guillaume Apollinaire might be characterized as the last of the Symbolists and the first of the moderns. his choice of the name Apollinaire is a clue to his search. Apollinaire required surgery and was then discharged from the service. with its apocalyptic implications. Orpheus is also the symbol of Christ and the poet. New York) 25 . however. to whom he was briefly engaged. lectures. Calligrammes. In the Symbolist tradition. and phantoms. as found. and mythical. Many of Apollinaire’s symbols are from the realm of legend and myth. he married Jacqueline Kolb (“Ruby”). the “jolie rousse” (“pretty redhead”) of the last poem in Calligrammes. The concept of messianism and the advent of a new millennium is evident in both the early works and the war poems.Critical Survey of Poetry thusiasm his métier de soldat as an artilleryman and then as an infantryman. though she appears also as a prostitute. Robert Couffignal has analyzed Apollinaire’s religious imagery in detail and considers his comprehension of the Bible to be “a cascade of superficial weavings. In “Merlin et la vielle femme” (“Merlin and the Old Woman”). His poetry of these first two years reveals the exaltation of war and the idealization of two women. In May of 1918. Very knowledgeable in Roman Catholic doctrine from his years with the Marianists at Monaco and Cannes. Ancient mythology is the source for Orpheus. Analysis In his poetic style. two plays. The marriage was of short duration. Though it was Guillaume Apollinaire (The Granger Collection. he uses extensive biblical imagery: Christ. Rosemonde. the poet is the seer of the new kingdom. and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. the Israelites in bondage. under Apollinaire. the idealized woman of the Middle Ages. which predict a new universe. the medieval seer foreshadows Apollinaire’s vision of the future. in “La Maison des Morts” (“The House of the Dead”) and especially in the short stories. as is Hermès Trismègiste. for example. yet the bulk of his work shows a deep influence of traditional symbolism. the image of the poet himself. legendary. the Virgin Mary. diabolic characters.” Scott Bates sees the Last Judgment.

“L’Obituaire. much like the sun in “Zone. The Seine comes alive in Apollinaire’s ever-popular “Le Pont Mirabeau” (“Mirabeau Bridge”). when read aloud. to see them as caricatures of people. five in particular incarnated his violent passion and appear in his work: Playden and Laurencin in Alcools. Such themes are more overt in Apollinaire’s prose. the death of love is as important as its first manifestation. the image of mutilation is not uncommon. and the introductory poem of Alcools. with its multiple meanings of passion. with its corresponding symbolism. Apollinaire was both a lyric poet and a storyteller.” and it reads like one. like the fabulists. rearranging both lines and poems. imitating its new structures as Arthur Rimbaud did in his innovative patterns. Guillaume the name of his maternal grandfather and one of the names given to him at baptism. Apollinaire is the mal-aimé. In most cases. Apollinaire is capable of expressing tender. In particular.” Apollinaire perceives love in its erotic sense. the god of the sun. The briefest example of his use of puns is the oneline poem “Chantre” (“Singer”): “Et l’unique cordeau des trompettes marines” (“and the single string of marine trumpets”). Bates has compiled a glossary of erotic symbolism in the works of Apollinaire. and purification. the prostitutes and the clowns. one of whom smokes a cigar that the reader can almost smell. solar imagery is central to his poetry. and the mannequins in “L’Émigrant de Landor Road” (“The Emigrant from Landor Road”) are decapitated. for example.” “Lul de Faltenin” (“Lul of Faltenin”) is also typical. and in many cases he resorts to ar26 Critical Survey of Poetry cane symbolism. Thus. wistfully expressed in such nostalgic works as “L’Adieu” (“The Farewell”) and “Automne” (“Autumn”). In Calligrammes. Apollinaire’s technique often involves improvisation. idealistic love. or “horn of water. Fire seems to be his basic image. Along with love and death is death and resurrection. His work is particularly rich in flora and fauna. Cordeau. Madeleine. as in “Le Musicien de Saint-Merry” (“The Musician of Saint-Merry”). as in the seven swords in “The Song of the Poorly Loved. Indeed. “Zone” contains a catalog of birds. there are revised versions of many of his poems. Apollinaire tells stories of the modern city. he is much less the poorly beloved than the one who loves poorly. he seems to have chosen it for its reference to Apollo. and he frequently borrowed from himself. real and legendary. Because the end of love usually involved deep suffering for him. The beloved in “The Song of the Poorly Loved” has a scar on her neck. a tree.” poems that he regarded as among his best. his last was concluded by his death. which closes Calligrammes. as the title indicates. Bates argues that the violent love-death relationship between the sun and night. Lou. and he maintains a narrative flavor in his poetry. Apollinaire had a remarkable sense of humor. “Paysage” (“Landscape”). it also speaks of fir trees (in “Les Sapins”) and falling leaves. and Jacqueline in Calligrammes and in several series of poems published after his death. “Zone. and parodies. and two lovers. Of the many women whom he loved. Many of the picture poems in Calligrammes tell a story. In the lyric tradition. Apollinaire chooses the phoenix as a sign of rebirth and describes his own psychological and poetic resurrection in “The Brazier” and “The Betrothal. portrays by means of typography a house. Passion as a flame dominated Apollinaire’s life and poetry. Bestiary shows his familiarity with and affection for animals and his ability. Autumn is the season of the death of love.” ends with the words “Soleil cou coupé” (“Sun cut throat”).Apollinaire. His first three loves ended violently. as in the “Aubade chantée à Lætare un an passé” (“Aubade Sung to Lætare a Year Ago”) section of the “La Chanson du mal-aimé” (“The Song of the Poorly Loved”) and in “La Jolie Rousse” (“The Pretty Redhead”). and as he himself says. might be cor d’eau. Apollinaire peoples his verse with the forgotten and the poor. often evokes grapes and wine. is as crucial to the interpretation of Apollinaire as it is to a reading of Gérard de Nerval or Stéphane Mallarmé. Although he claims almost total spontaneity.” another version of a ma- . Alcools. “The House of the Dead” was originally a short story. and like Charles Baudelaire. with its subtle erotic allusions. displayed in frequent word-plays. indeed. Apollinaire was the author of many short stories. the poet often compares the explosion of shells to bursting buds. destruction. which for him resembles the shells bursting in the war. he writes of his emotions in images drawn from nature. burlesques.

critics have succeeded in dating many. to May. syncretism. Apollinaire’s lighthearted rhythm and obscure symbolism tend to prevent his verse from becoming offensive and convey a sense of freedom. have the right to expect after death the full knowledge of God. In 1908. Orpheus attracted wild beasts by playing on the lyre he had received from Mercury. also suggesting a D for Deplanche. nevertheless. poetry is a divine gift. They point to God and things divine: the dove. an etching by Picasso. He interprets it to mean the delta of the Nile and all the legendary and biblical symbols of ancient Egypt. The idea for the poem probably came from Picasso in 1906. and mysticism. as well as corps d’eau (“body of water”) or even cœur d’eau (“heart of water”). including the nine in the cycle “Rhénanes. which is God himself. He added the motto “J’émerveille” (“I marvel”). In “La Souris” (“The Mouse”). thus giving a fantastic aura to the work. but “Zone” and “Vendémiaire. 1898-1913. A portrait of Apollinaire. Apollinaire chose fifty-five of the many poems he had written from his eighteenth to his thirtythird year and assembled them in an order that has continued to fascinate and baffle critics. The animals represent human foibles. the poet speaks of his twenty-eight years as “mal-vécus” (“poorly spent”).” Several of these poems and some others. with woodcuts by Raoul Dufy. discovery. of the poems. other than “Rhénanes” (September. 1911).” the first and the last. and the caterpillar. They speak of poetry: the horse. and irreverent parodies. He concludes his notes by observing that poets seek nothing but perfection. it is full of self-analysis. the Sirens. in addition to the obvious sexual symbolism.” “Hunting Horns”) and from 27 .” “Annie. such as “The Song of the Poorly Loved. They range from the one-line “Chantre” to the seven-part “The Song of the Poorly Loved. displays both his best and. and subject matter. he says. Michel Décaudin says that the order in Alcools is based entirely on the aesthetic and sentimental affinities felt by the author. Apollinaire published in a journal eighteen poems under the title “La Marchande des quatre saisons ou le bestiaire moderne” (the costermonger or the modern bestiary).” “Marie. They also speak of love: the serpent. Like all Apollinaire’s early works. Bestiary Bestiary is one of the most charming and accessible of Apollinaire’s works. For Apollinaire. his worst.Critical Survey of Poetry rine trumpet.” and “Cors de chasse” (“Hunting Horns”). such as in “Les Sept Epées” (“The Seven Swords”) as well as in “The Thief. refer to Laurencin. who was then doing woodcuts of animals. When he prepared the final edition in 1911. The poems range from witty (“The Synagogue”) to nostalgic (“Autumn. the bull. According to mythology.” a poem that Bates interprets as parodying Christ. with metamorphoses. erotic puns. the publisher. Three poems. More than twenty were inspired by Apollinaire’s trip to the Rhineland in 1901. unbeknownst to him. again.” the longest in the collection.” and “The Emigrant from Landor Road. Roger Little sees in the volume a “delicious and malicious” wit. and surprise. the peacock. The poems exhibit great variety in form. in a mixture of mystical and sensual imagery. Guillaume Orpheus. These poems and an interview with her as Mrs. Most of them have regular rhyme and rhythm. He is the symbol of Gnosis and Neoplatonic Humanism and is also identified with Christ and poetry. the elephant. Very few poems have dates. “Mirabeau Bridge. The poems have several centers. tone. though not all. Apollinaire himself wrote the notes to the volume and uses as its sign a δ (the Greek letter delta) pierced by a unicorn. Poets. a slender volume published in 1913 with the subtitle Poèmes. 1902) and “At the Santé” (September.” refer to his unhappy love affair with Playden. the dove. serves as the frontispiece. Postings in 1951 by Robert Goffin and LeRoy Breunig are the only sources of information about this significant period in Apollinaire’s life. the tortoise. for example. which is sublime beauty. The burlesque found in his short stories appears in poetry as dissonance. give evidence of technical experimentation. and Orpheus himself. or their discrete dissonances. Apollinaire. 1901. though not all of those from one group appear together. he added twelve poems and replaced the merchant with Orpheus. pride in poetry. or. scattered throughout the volume. Alcools The most analyzed and the best known of Apollinaire’s works is Alcools. carnal love.

a traffic jam. The other five contain poems inspired by the war and by the poet’s love for Lou.” uses the elements recommended by Apollinaire in “The New Spirit and the Poets” yet remains anchored in the past. he devours images like a starving man. as his pun on her name in “C’est Lou qu’on la nommait” (“They Called Her Lou”) indicates. Guillaume enigmatic (“The Brazier”) to irreverent (“The Thief”). yet its importance was seen only much later. comparing them in the poem “Merveilles de la guerre” (“Wonders of War”) to constellations. called the volume a junk shop. The theme of war dominates the majority of poems in Calligrammes. He experienced exhilaration as he saw shells exploding. They became excellent vehicles for the war poems. disoriented in space and time. Cubists hailed Apollinaire as a great poet. “Vendémiaire” (the name given the month of vintage. whereas in “Waves” the reader is in unfamiliar territory. “Waves. in which he bequeaths “vast and unknown kingdoms.” the woman destined to be his wife. The war excited Apollinaire. a hymn to the glory of Paris. the omnipresent seer. instead of “Lou. frustrating quest for unity. The bizarre juxtapositions. Calligrammes is much more unified than Alcools. Calligrammes Intended as a sequel to Alcools. The city is also the central focus in the concluding poem. 1923).Apollinaire. Philippe Renaud sees the difference between Alcools and “Waves” as one of nature rather than degree. The first part. They discover many platitudes and much mediocrity but find it redeemed by what Steegmuller identifies as a spirit of freedom. Décaudin. dancers.” the window opens like an orange on Paris or in the tropics and flies on a rainbow across space and time. The poet exuberantly proclaims his immortality and omnipresence: “I am drunk from having swallowed all the universe. and he suffered greatly in the solitary trenches of France. sees the volume as a “Dionysian-Apollonian dance of life in three major symbols: fire. “la jolie rousse. “Zone” and “Vendémiaire. speaking of humankind’s eternal. In “Waves” one feels both the insecurity and the indefiniteness that can only be called modern art.” is the most innovative and was written before World War I in the frenzied stimulation of artistic activity in Paris. and the absence of punctuation provoked various responses from critics. writing in the June 15. issue of Mercure de France. They are the most attractive pieces in the book.” with great care. In his poems to Madeleine. and Marie-Jeanne Durry analyze Alcools with depth and scholarship. and a group of frightened Jewish immigrants. Even the most enigmatic poems of Alcools follow a familiar 28 Critical Survey of Poetry plan. The anthology ends serenely as he addresses Jacqueline. In “La Tête étoilée” (“The Starry Head”). where Apollinaire can see beauty in a poster. 1913. . “Chains. alcools. yet its instant leaps in space and time make it very modern. in the revolutionary calendar). or picture poems.” Apollinaire chose the beginning and concluding poems of the collection. shadow. the animator of the universe. Jacqueline. for example.” Other major works long fiction: L’Enchanteur pourrissant. as poetry was destined to be his life. His brief romance with Lou was intense and violent. and—in the final poem—his future wife. Critics have arranged them in various ways. Georges Duhamel. promising a new universe. Bates. “Zone” is overtly autobiographical in a Romantic-Symbolist ambience. This final poem is also his poetic testament. he maintains. new fires and the mystery of flowers to anyone willing to pick them. Apollinaire uses what he calls ideograms. Madeleine. the inner borrowings of lines from one poem to the next. The introductory poem. where brevity and wit are essential. Apollinaire was as dependent on love as he was on air. his wound was a crown of stars on his head. 1916 (The Poet Assassinated. Beginning with “Waves” and throughout Calligrammes. Le Poète assassiné. though not necessarily the most original. In “The Windows. It consists of six parts.” Bates sees the end of the poem as a hymn to joy reminiscent of Walt Whitman and Friedrich Nietzsche. He saw himself as the poet-hero. Critics such as Adéma. Also modern is the image of the city. It leaps from the Tower of Babel to telegraph wires in disconcerting juxtapositions. and women in childbirth. women’s hair. September 22-October 21.” the word loup (which sounds the same in French but means “wolf”) is used throughout the poem. 1909.

1965). 1952. Albany: State University of New York Press. 1987. biographical. 1972). and Apollinaire’s place in the revolutionary circles of Mexico.” Couffignal. Apollinaire.Critical Survey of Poetry short fiction: L’Hérésiarque et Cie. Included are a chronology. Matthews’s detailed discussion of Alcools focuses heavily on “L’Adieu” and “Automne malade. 1955. and selected bibliographies of both primary and secondary sources. 1918. from its roots in the poem “Le Musicien de Saint-Mercy” to its dissemination to the arts community through the unproduced pantomime “A quelle heure un train partira-t-il pour Paris?” _______.. 1986. 1997. Robert. a dual sign system used to express a simultaneity. Bibliography Adéma. Translated by Eda Mezer Levitine. Bohn. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.J. Chronicles the early artistic and critical reception of Apollinaire in Europe. Guillaume Apollinaire. Apollinaire and the Faceless Man: The Cre- Apollinaire. 1917 (The Breasts of Tiresias. miscellaneous: Œuvres complètes. and a difficulty of reading that mirrors the act of creation. 1902-1918. New York: Manchester University Press. Chapter 3. It traces his attitude toward religion from his childhood to his death. and stylistic approaches to offer an accessible point of entry into often difficult texts. Nathalie Goodisman. It emphasizes the importance to the entire world of Apollinaire’s vision of a cultural millennium propelled by science and democracy and implemented by poetry. Œuvres en prose.” “Le Brasier. Timothy. Marcel. Couleur du temps. ed. Apollinaire. New York: Grove Press. both poems and prose. Uses a variety of historical. This book offers detailed erudite analyses of Apollinaire’s major works and informed judgments on his place in French literature and in the development of art criticism. 1910 (The Heresiarch and Co. Reading Apollinaire: Theories of Poetic Language. Guillaume ation and Evolution of a Modern Motif. 1960 (Apollinaire on Art: Essays and Reviews.” which allows for a reading that may be transferred to the rest of the book. Rutherford. and Latin America. Especially interesting is the discussion of Argentina.” and “Vendémaine. 1991. 1995. 1966 (8 volumes). N. A Semiotic Analysis of Guillaume Apollinaire’s Mythology in “Alcools. plays: Les Mamelles de Tirésias.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. multiple figures in a unified composition. Casanova. notes. New York: Cambridge University Press. exported through the Ultraism of Jorge Luis Borges. Examines Apollinaire’s use of linguistic and mythological fragmentation and reordering to mold his material into an entirely new system of signs that both encompasses and surpasses the old. North America. 1961). Rev. The Aesthetics of Visual Poetry: 19141928. Scott. and Theory” offers a solid historical back29 . _______. 1902-1918. The book contains a chronology.” offers a sophisticated structural and statistical analysis of the calligrammes to demonstrate metonymy as the principal force binding the visual tropes.” reveals the lyric innovations that Apollinaire brought to visual poetry with Calligrammes: new forms. pr. a bibliographical note. Painting. pb. 1975. “Apollinaire’s Plastic Imagination. Boston: Twayne. This is a searching analysis of some of Apollinaire’s best-known works. Matthews. with the author’s comments. pr. Chroniques d’art. Translated by Denise Folliot. Bates. 1944). 1913 (The Cubist Painters: Aesthetic Meditations. Apollinaire and the International AvantGarde. new content. a twenty-six-page glossary of references. editor). Cornelius. 1989. 1977 (Michel Décaudin. Willard. whereas metaphor and metonymy occur evenly in the verbal arena. translations of ten texts. the bible of scholars researching the poet and his epoch. nonfiction: Peintres cubistes: Méditations esthétiques. Chapter 4. including “Zone. This is the prime source of biographical material.” New York: Peter Lang. and an index. “Toward a Calligrammar. Chapters give close semiotic readings of four poems: “Claire de lune. His chapter “Poetry.” “Nuit rhëane..” strictly from the Roman Catholic point of view. Traces the history of Apollinaire’s faceless man motif as a symbol of the human condition.

which fills the third book and part of the fourth. hence. Apollonius might well have been poaching on 30 . Apollonii Rhodii Principal poetry Argonautica. Steegmuller. third century b. Rhodes. 1963.e.” the author gives a year-by-year and at times even a month-by-month account of his life. since the name was a common one. Apollinaire: Poet Among the Painters. is a deliberate challenge to Callimachus’s fundamental literary principle that poems should be short. Roger. between 295 and 260 b. Other literary forms Apollonius Rhodius (ahp-uh-LOH-nee-uhs ROHdee-uhs) is credited with several works besides the Argonautica. as has been suggested. In these accounts. and the year of his death is equally uncertain. notes.e. New York: Vintage Books. and Apollonius Rhodius Born: Alexandria or Naucratis. the critical judgments fair and balanced. Died: Alexandria. his work. Achievements Apollonius Rhodius’s principal work. two appendixes. Apollonius was the son of one Silleus (or Illeus) and was born either at Alexandria or Naucratis. writings. he seems to have written a poem or group of poems called Ktiseis. “The Impresario of the Avant-garde” and “Painter-Poet.c. and in his shame and distress. employment.). It is a book of excellent stories told in good verse rather than a regular and unified epic poem. Shattuck. The Rhodians gave his book a far more favorable reception. unbiased. the student-poet produced a long poem on the Argonautic expedition. learned poems and a few highly polished epigrams and the originator of the terse and generally true dictum that a big book is a big nuisance.834 hexameter lines. but only one has survived. There are two “lives” of Apollonius. Includes a bibliography and an index.c. for it fills four lengthy books with its 5. In the two long chapters devoted to Apollinaire. translations. Apollonius’s opinions on the subject of lengthy poems were diametrically opposed to those of Callimachus and. dealing with the founding of the cities of Alexandria. Besides these. numerous photographs and illustrations.e.e. 1780) Ktiseis. in this work. heretical. A variety of other works are attributed to Apollonius. but it was not necessarily this Apollonius who wrote them. extremely well-documented. It was a complete failure. loves. and perhaps completed. an author of frigid. and speeches. Cnidos. At a youthful age. friends. he was born at Naucratis and reared in Alexandria.c. New York: Farrar. since he wrote something similar. late third century b. including Against Zenodotos (third century b.e. There he revised and polished.c. Francis. The tone is judicial. the Argonautica. and highly readable biography.. A collection of epigrams passed under his name. 1968. Biography The birth of Apollonius Rhodius is placed by scholars at various times between 295 and 260 b. which has survived in revised form. This is an exhaustive. Egypt. Rev. the literary dictator of the time. Apollonius also wrote philological works in prose. hence the surname Rhodius. and an index.c. (English translation. In fact. Egypt. third century b. both derived from an earlier biography that has been lost. Also known as: Apollonius of Rhodes. Irma M. ed. Possibly. Kashuba Updated by David Harrison Horton Critical Survey of Poetry Callimachus’s preserve. very little information about his life is available. Naucratis. He was given Rhodian citizenship. notably in the admirable recounting of the loves of Jason and Medea. Apollonius left Alexandria and settled in Rhodes.Apollonius Rhodius ground that leads directly into his examination of Calligrammes.e. Contains a preface. and Caunus. The Banquet Years.c. and its merit lies in its episodes. Straus. Apollonius lived during the reign of the Ptolemies and apparently was a pupil of Callimachus.

Apollonius must have thought such allusions gave richness and dignity to his story. he could hardly be otherwise. while the fourth tells of the dangers of the flight and the return home. The same story was known to Homer and certainly belonged in the repertory of old epic. a heroic sense of human worth and of perilous action. There were other defects as well. were refinement in diction. The stress on details.Critical Survey of Poetry was held in high esteem. Apollonius tells of the quest for the Golden Fleece and especially of Jason and Medea. Apollonius’s composition exhibits a systematic arrangement of the subject matter. but ultimately. Apollonius never forgot that he was an antiquarian and therefore he liberally garnished his poem with tidbits of erudite information. is variously distributed. The first two books describe the voyage to the land of Colchis. but it is clearly asserted by his biographer. Suidas. it seems clear that Apollonius’s quarrel with Callimachus was a crucial event in his life. This quarrel apparently arose from differences of literary aims and taste but degenerated into the bitterest sort of personal strife. Literary allusions seeped into Alexandrian poetry without poets noticing how cumbersome and distracting they were.e. and avoidance of the commonplace in subject. was too strong. indeed. erudition that often degenerated into pedantry and obscurity. one biographer reports that he followed Callimachus as head librarian there. There are references to the quarrel in the writings of both. 31 . It demanded. This is deadly not only to the flow of the narrative but also to the actual poetry. Analysis The chief characteristics of Alexandrianism. Some scholars. Callimachus may never have been head librarian at Alexandria or even the teacher of Apollonius.c.e.c. There are not enough data to determine the chronological order of the attacks and counterattacks. typical of the rejection of symmetry and the tendency to variety found elsewhere in Alexandrian poetry. It provided a splendid source of thrilling adventures and opportunities for excursions into the unknown. and was buried near his old foe. there is a passage in the third book of the Argonautica that is of a polemical nature and that stands out from the context. In the four books of his Argonautica. there are rapid transitions.c. Apollonius and Callimachus may have been near contemporaries and thus more likely to be literary opponents. deny the librarianship of Apollonius. Instead of a unified epic. and allusion. Callimachus attacks Apollonius in a passage at the end of his Hymn to Apollo (third century b. they make it tedious and pedantic. however. sentiment. how- Apollonius Rhodius ever. Indeed. and this was precisely what Apollonius lacked. there is merely a series of episodes. This traditional account of the life of Apollonius has been questioned by modern scholarship. His Jason is the faintest of phantoms. however. to show that he could indeed write an epic poem. On the part of Apollonius. the third relates the adventures leading to the winning of the Golden Fleece. Apollonius Rhodius shares some of these traits. inasmuch as Apollonius lived in the metropolitan society of Alexandria and had little idea of how to depict a hero. after the death of Callimachus. precision of form and meter. In spite of these uncertainties. but he attacks Apollonius most vociferously in the Ibis (third century b. Apollonius was faced with a rich tradition with many partly contradictory variants. Thus.). which Ovid imitated or perhaps translated in his poem of the same name. and the arguments against it are not conclusive. a literary device that varied the more straightforward episodes of epic. and he seems to have written the Argonautica out of bravado. Apollonius returned to Alexandria to a better reception. Poetry in all its forms had time and again turned to the legend of the Argonauts and the local history of the many places connected with it. The delight in learning for its own sake was an especially Alexandrian characteristic. among the oldest in Greek mythology. The Ibis has been thought to mark the termination of the feud on the curious ground that it was impossible for the abuse to go further. of which Callimachus was the leading proponent. Argonautica Not until the Hellenistic age and Apollonius’s Argonautica was there a complete epic presentation of the Thessalian or Argonautic cycle of legends. The influence of the age. He died in the late third century b. Years later.e.). but there are also passages over which Apollonius had lingered lovingly. for chronological reasons. as well as a savage epigram attacking Callimachus.

and her heart melts like dew on roses in the morn- . through a misunderstanding. and it is this which makes book 3 of the Argonautica shine more brightly than the other three. Phineus gives the Argonauts good advice for the rest of their voyage. since his dramatic economy avoids any kind of false pathos. her hard struggle between loyalty to her father’s house and passion for the handsome stranger. thus. Medea helps him in his ordeals to win the Fleece. and the Argonauts continue their voyage without him. in deep misery. her cheeks burn like fire. the meeting in the island of Ares provides a dramatic link between the description of the voyage and the winning of the Golden Fleece. is presented as a drama full of tension with the girl’s soul as the stage. The result is a delectable sojourn from which Heracles has to call his companions to action.Apollonius Rhodius Book 1 Although a proem with prayer formula is merely indicated at the beginning of book 1 and much of the preceding history is saved for later. That is followed by the initiation into the mysteries at Samothrace and the adventures in Cyzicus. As a reward. he seems to her like Sirius rising from the ocean. the Argonauts 32 Critical Survey of Poetry come upon the blind king Phineus. however. describes how a mist covers Medea’s eyes. under a curse of Aphrodite. Book 3 Book 3 starts with a new proem and portrays the events in Colchis by means of a technique that often resolves the action into parallel strands. Book 2 The story continues without a stop from book 1 to book 2. along the usual route to Colchis. This device eliminates from the narrative the greatest of the champions. When she first sees Jason. they are glad to entertain the Argonauts. First is the landing in Lemnos. Heracles seeks Hylas in the woods. The scenes of departure in Iolcus and on the beach at Pagasae are spun out in detail. a little later. however. which begins with Pollux’s boxing match with Amycus. The passage through the Symplegades after a pigeon’s test flight is depicted with dramatic power. There the Argonauts drive out the Stymphalian birds. beside whom the heroic Jason would pale by comparison. In Bithynia. Then follows the long series of stopping places and adventures on the way out. Medea’s decisive intervention is first motivated in a scene in which the goddesses Hera and Athena enjoin Aphrodite to have Eros do his work. the introductory passage offers an elaborate catalog of the Argonauts. The compositional significance of this preview is that it sums up the various minor episodes of the second half of the voyage. her knees are too weak to move. Now. Independent from this motivation. When Apollonius tells how the beautiful youth Hylas is dragged down into a pool by a nymph who has fallen in love with him. The catalog tradition of ancient epic served as its model. who. he does it very well. a barbarian king. ready-made episodes on which Apollonius elaborated successfully. where the women. Here the Argonauts give the Doliones effective help against evil giants only to become involved. and she feels rooted to the earth. and there they meet the sons of Phrixus. When. the tradition had a number of effective. Medea is still a girl. Medea’s awakening love. geographically arranged in the manner of a circumnavigation and leading from the north of Greece to the east and west and then back to the north. the predatory storm spirits who rob him of every meal or defile it. Medea will play a significant role in the events in Colchis. Apollonius is at his best when he writes of love. The winged sons of Boreas liberate him from the Harpies. not without echoes of Sappho. What engages all his powers is not Jason’s love for Medea (on which he leaves the reader uninstructed) but Medea’s love for Jason. is doing penance for some ancient offense. and the reader witnesses the nymph’s ruthless determination as she puts her arms around the boy who is stooping to get water. For the voyage up to the treacherous passage through the Symplegades. Thereafter. Aeetes’ daughter and the sister of Medea. and Apollonius. which are thought to be at the entrance to the Pontus. Their mother is Chalciope. and she falls passionately in love at first sight. The next stop on the coast of Propontis provides the setting for the Hylas episode. the light playing on his yellow hair makes her willing to tear the life out of her breast for him. since the sea-god Glaucus announces that the hero is destined to perform other deeds. have killed their husbands. in a bitterly regretted nocturnal battle with their friends. the only sojourn worthy of mention is that on the island of Ares.

Some readers find it pedantic. it should be clearly understood that the intellectual world in which this epic originated was separated from that of Homer by an immeasurable distance. two high points being the murder of Absyrtus. in the portrayal of the girl’s emotional struggles. which leads to her intervention and to the decisive talk between the two sisters. while others—and especially in recent times—are able to appreciate the truly poetical qualities of the Argonautica. The rest of book 4 describes the homeward voyage. In this part of his poem. when he receives the magic ointment. a complete divine apparatus is developed. If he really intends to desert her. and it is this quality that makes him a pioneer of the kind of poetry that deals with remote and unfamiliar themes. With Hera. but his attitude to tradition cannot have been very different from that of Callimachus. and the furrows are as filled with blood as runnels are with water. to which he rises admirably. In the first place. Jason falls on the men like a shooting star. In Apollonius. chiding him for his ingratitude. Chalciope and Medea. Apollonius’s stylos was guided both by an erudite interest in mythical tradition and by a delight in the unfading beauty of its creations. but Medea’s love and its consequences are completely imaginable without it. In these events. and destroy the armed men who spring out of them. By Apollonius’s time. which begins with a brief invocation to the Muse. presents Apollonius with his most exciting challenge. newly discovered facts and ancient mythic elements forming various and often grotesque combinations. Also. he uses similes with great frequency. the Argonauts return to Colchis. and Eros. in Apollonius this duality of motivation has resulted in separate spheres of action. inspiring faith and helpfully allying themselves with or wrathfully striking out at humankind. Medea is entirely absorbed in him. This struggle bears no resemblance to a Homeric battle. Apollonius glories in strangeness for its own sake. it progresses to the meeting of Medea and Jason. who has gone in pursuit of his sister Medea. but when he plans to return to Greece and in his callous indifference is ready to leave her behind. the gods were active everywhere. and she bursts into bitter remonstrances. sow dragon’s teeth. humankind’s actions are determined simultaneously by its own impulses and by the influence of the gods. Apollonius retains important formal elements of Homeric epic. Book 4 Book 4. One of the most enchanting aspects of mythic geography is the way the return of the Argonauts was modified as the knowledge of foreign countries and seas increased. Although in Homer. The divine plot takes place on an upper stage. unpoetic. Apollonius presents the weird scene very vividly. Developing in several stages. Apollonius’s epic has numerous qualities that de- Apollonius Rhodius pend largely on the literary and historical background of the work. Hardly anything can be said about Apollonius’s personal religious feelings. Apollonius tells one of the first surviving love stories in the world. After receiving the magic ointment from Medea. Comparisons to Homer The tremendous distance from Homer’s world is in exciting contrast with the fact that numerous and essential elements of ancient epic remain preserved. Although he is sparing with metaphors. the fierce side of her nature emerges. she invokes disaster and vengeance on him and prays that the Furies will make him homeless. capturing even the brilliant light shining from the armor and weapons. When their love is fulfilled. they claimed that their verses imbued true events with splendor and permanence. or dry. When older poets molded the history of the heroic past for their people. they were great spirits. Their free. After a series of less-thandangerous adventures. in its unearthly strangeness. the poet can be recognized much more directly than in the conversations of the Olympians. Both can be discerned in his verse. Jason must yoke firebreathing bulls. The composition of book 3 is particularly careful. the living belief had become mythology or was proceeding toward this condition. its connection with earthly happenings is neither indissoluble nor irrevocably necessary. the gods also act. Alongside this love story runs a subplot concerning Chalciope. it is convincing and complete.Critical Survey of Poetry ing. but the very nature of the great Olympian scene at the opening of book 3 reveals the ornamental character of such passages. and the marriage of Jason and Medea in the land of the Phaeacians. but. Athena. Homeric spontaneity has been restricted in Apollonius in 33 .

The characterization of Medea recalls Apollonius’s predecessor Euripides in that the effective portrayal of individual emotion is more important than a finished portrait of a character. The Eros of the celestial scenes of book 3. Ancient Epic Poetry: Homer. Md. although the term is to be taken in its broadest sense. with the awareness of their illusory nature. This is confirmed by the tremendous subsequent influence of book 3 in ancient literature.: Cornell University . Apollonius cannot be characterized concisely. especially of those which Eros brings to the human soul. although the subject matter has been expanded in many directions. Apollonius may be granted poetic ability. As a portrayer of emotions. After the long-winded description of the outward voyage. Thus Medea’s agitation and irresolution are elucidated by the image of the sun’s ray. A true Hellenist. the realm of true poetry is entered. In addition. Bibliography Albis. It has already been pointed out that his highest achievement was his description of Medea’s pangs and doubts. who in his day was a formidable god. He proved himself to be a poet of considerable importance in several passages. Apollonius’s language is largely based on that of Homer. and in this way he links his own time with the mythical past. Apollonius also shares with the rest of Hellenistic art the discovery of children. This also explains the great care he takes with motivation and establishment of cohesion.: Rowman and Littlefield. In the final analysis. Medea the lovesick girl and Medea the great sorceress could not be readily combined in one description. This is connected with another. the men’s armor flashes like fire in the morning light. Ithaca. sometimes even by means of a shifting of the meaning. third century b. as in the sailing of the Argo when the dark flood foams under the beat of the oars. Lanham. but he was not completely successful in blending the rich epic tradition with his own creation. but he was not truly a poet filled with the Muse. Apollonius devoted much of his poem to etiological matters. Poet and Audience in the “Argonautica” of Apollonius.e. which is reflected onto a wall by the ruffled surface of water. in the traditional epic. this realism is connected with the altered attitude toward myths. This does not mean that Apollonius accepted the tradition without due reflection or that he imitated it naïvely. Apollonius. Apollonius is a realist. the linguistic resources he borrowed are given new effectiveness through constant. Beye. N. found in the verse of Homer in rudimentary form. Rather. This short study of the poet’s major work concentrates on the rhetorical position of the poet relative to his audience. Illustrations of emotions by means of similes. the reader is struck by the cool objectivity with which he describes legendary events. Charles Rowan.Y. would be unthinkable. with significant attention paid to poetic performance as a point of scholarly inquiry. time and again. Successful color effects are achieved in descriptions of seascapes. His fire was too weak to fuse all the heterogeneous elements into one whole. Virgil. contrasts with the poem’s Alexandrian element. and the long wake seems like a bright path in a green meadow. but he keeps recurrent formulas to a minimum. Other major work nonfiction: Against Zenodotos. He is the epitome of the spoiled rascal who cheats his comrades at play and can be persuaded by his mother Aphrodite to perform a service only by means of an expensive present. 1996. Apollonius belongs entirely within the sphere of Hellenistic poetry. interspersing the narrative of the voyage with a wealth of such stories. Apollonius also uses stock scenes. There is also an Alexandrian element in the many descriptions of nature that. which at times sinks to the level of a learned guide34 Critical Survey of Poetry book. Albis examines the figure of the poet and the inscribed audience in the poem. fundamentally important observation.Apollonius Rhodius favor of a more direct bearing on the action. well-planned variation. have been developed by Apollonius with great skill. Robert V. has here been reduced to an ill-mannered boy. which functions as a sort of framework for the Argonautica with regard to themes and style. Hellenist influences The poet frequently accounts for contemporary customs by seeking explanations in early history. The Homeric legacy.c. and there may be much that is praiseworthy in his work.

France. Mass. 2004. 1956 Elsa. Hellenistic Poetry. Theodore.Critical Survey of Poetry Press. 1920 Le Mouvement perpétuel. Nightwalker. Hunter. Harder. and his works of this period defy classification. this work examines subjects such as Hellenistic poetry and genres such as epic poetry and includes character studies of Jason and Medea. The study offers a significantly original interpretation of the Argonautica and counters ancient critical theories characterizing Apollonius’s major work as both derivative and flawed. 1925 La Grande Gaîté. O. The “Argonautica” of Apollonius: Literary Studies. 1948 Les Yeux et la mémoire. 1963 Les Chambres. eros and the suffering of Medea. This study presents the argument that Apollonius’s major poem demonstrates a shift in the popular definition of heroism in ancient Greece. and the Ptolemaic context of the poem. As a young man. 1982 Principal poetry Feu de joie. The section on Apollonius examines his relationship to his literary patrons. An anthology of scholarly articles borrowing heavily from various literary theories. 1954 Le Roman inachevé. to which he always returned as to a first love. the role of the divine. away from the notion of the protagonist as an autonomous superhero and toward later concepts of the protagonist as a tool of fate. In addition to the exercises known as automatic writing. Louis Louis Aragon Born: Paris. Shelley P. shops. Dudley. et autres poèmes. he wrote a number of Surrealist narratives combining elements of the novel (such as description and dialogue) and the essay. 1942 En Français dans le texte. 1942 Les Yeux d’Elsa. 1969 Aux abords de Rome. 35 . James Joseph. he also produced many novels and volumes of essays. Papanghelis. Brill’s Companion to Apollonius Rhodius. December 24. 1941 Brocéliande. 1988. 1943 Le Musée grévin. This study adopts a necessarily broader view to position each of its subjects within the main currents of ancient Greek literature and culture and its impact on later Roman writers. G. Annette. Boston: Brill. Le Paysan de Paris (1926. 2005. 2d ed. 1943 La Diane française. and parks. This collection of papers from a colloquium in the Netherlands sheds light on Apollonius Rhodius’s poetic works and the Argonautic tradition. 1897 Died: Paris. 1934 Le Crève-coeur.: Peeters. 1993. he participated in the Surrealist movement. France. 2008. The Best of the Argonauts: The Redefinition of the Epic Hero in Book One of Apollonius’ “Argonautica. Beginning from Apollo: Studies in Apollonius Rhodius and the Argonautic Tradition. The most important of these.” Berkeley: University of California Press. October 3. 1931 Hourra l’Oural. New York: Clarendon Press. 1993. 1981 Les Adieux. Meyers Aragon. which had a considerable impact on his mature style in both prose and poetry. 1929 Persécuté persécuteur. and Antonios Renggkos. eds. 1960 Le Fou d’Elsa. Clauss. Hutchinson. including the Greek scholar Callimachus. and although lyric poetry was his first medium. Topics include notions of heroism. Hunter places the Argonautica within its social and intellectual context. 1982 Other literary forms Louis Aragon (ah-rah-GAWN) was one of the most prolific French authors of the twentieth century. and to the cultural milieu of ancient Alexandria. 1959 Les Poètes. 1945 Le Nouveau Crève-coeur. is a long meditation on the author’s ramblings in his native city and on the “modern sense of the mythic” inspired by its streets. Haley Updated by Michael R. and Martijn Cuypers. The discussion of Apollonius Rhodius is fairly general. Richard. 1970). New York: Cambridge University Press.

full of parentheses. is heavily interlarded with slang. although the latter tend to be more formal to both diction and rhetorical strategy. one of the leaders of the Surrealist movement. his mother. The illegitimate son of a prominent political figure. in fact. his poetry after the mid-1940’s combined elements of Romanticism and modernism. Biography Until late in life. Louis Aragon was. He was a novelist whose eye (and ear) for telling detail never dulled. Achievements Like most writers who have taken strong political stands. they became rallying cries for French patriots abroad and in occupied France. with André Breton. 1961). which contributed to its acceptance by non-Communist critics. sitting in judgment on the purity of the French language. a vital activity coextensive with living. An important characteristic of Aragon’s style that cuts across all his works of fiction and poetry is the use of spoken language as a model: His sentences reproduce the rhythms of speech. after his espousal of the Communist cause. but his style evolved in a direction of its own and cannot be identified with that of any one school. beginning with La Semaine sainte (1958. which follow the tenets of Socialist Realism.Aragon. Marguérite Toucas-Masillon. during which he wrote for an intellectual elite. especially women. This was especially true of his series of novels. when his poems played an important role in the 36 Critical Survey of Poetry French Resistance: written in traditional meters and using rhyme. especially in prose. supported them all as best she could by painting china and running a boardinghouse. been set to music by writers of popular songs. which was hailed by his fellow Communists as a masterpiece and criticized by most non-Communist reviewers as contrived and doctrinaire. it was not until his twentieth year that he heard it from his mother (at the insistence of his father. Louis Aragon was reticent about his childhood. According to his biographer. mother. and interjections. including Léo Ferré and George Brassens. Aragon sought to make his work accessible to a wider public and often succeeded. Aragon was reared as his mother’s younger brother. who wrote his first “novel” at age six (and dictated a play to his aunt before he could write). and many biographical notices erroneously describe it as idyllic. The height of his popularity was achieved in the 1940’s. This trait is true to some extent even of his essays. however. Holy Week. His nonfiction works are voluminous. (Many of Aragon’s poems have. and a great longing to be accepted as a full member of a group. show greater freedom of form and lack the explicit “message” characteristic of Socialist Realism. and his diction. His later novels. At the time of his death in 1982. a poet whose lyric gifts did not diminish with age. and two aunts) was obsessed with a concern for appearances that caused the boy considerable pain.) Beginning in the late 1950’s. Le Monde réel. Aragon was considered even by his political opponents as a leading man of letters. producing reviews and essays on politics. This longing was first satisfied by his friendship . These are historical novels dealing with the corruption of bourgeois society and the rise of Communism. He was. so that they might more easily be sung. who chose the name Aragon for his son and acted as his legal guardian. Aragon began a series of novels under the general title of Le Monde réel (1934-1944). but Aragon never applied for membership. syntactic breaks. and the visual arts for a variety of Surrealist and then Communist publications. and although as a boy he guessed much of the truth. the circumstances of Aragon’s childhood left him with an instinctive sympathy for outsiders. the object of much praise and blame that had little to do with the literary value of his work. for he was an active journalist for much of his life. in fact. during the course of his lifetime. literature. Since his maternal grandfather had also deserted the family. Louis In the 1930’s. and it is hard to imagine such an ardent advocate of commoners. who used slang liberally in his own work. Writers of lesser stature have been elected to the French Academy. Pierre Daix. writing was like breathing. Louis Andrieux. who had previously insisted on her silence). After his Surrealist period. his family (which consisted of his grandmother. For Aragon. Aragon’s work became much less overtly political. these later works incorporate an ongoing meditation on the novel as a literary form and on its relation to history and biography.

an absurdist movement founded in Zurich by Tristan Tzara. or “censor. a Paris café. which they visited together in the early 1930’s.” who became the heroes of the Resistance. she also took part with him in the French Resistance during World War II. introduced Aragon to the circle of poets and artists that was to form the nucleus of the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Politically. but as they became increasingly convinced that profound social changes were necessary to free the imagination. serving as editor of the Communist newspaper Ce Soir and completing his sixvolume novel Les Communistes (1949-1951). and essays. “We have not left each other’s side”). Breton and Aragon broke away from the Dadaists and began to pursue the interest in the subconscious. he was decorated for bravery in both world wars and wrote hymns of Aragon. the Soviet Union awarded him its highest decoration.” In 1968. he became a permanent member of the Central Committee of the French Communist Party.” which inhibited free expression of subconscious impulses. these young people at first embraced the negative impulse of Dada. Aragon was an ardent French patriot. Through the technique of automatic writing. (Indeed. his deep need to “belong” may help to account for his unswerving loyalty to the party throughout the Stalinist era. fiction. At about the same time (1928). including Aragon. Throughout his life. Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel. during the much-publicized trial of two Soviet writers. In 1954.Critical Survey of Poetry with André Breton and later by Aragon’s adherence to the Communist Party. Their aim was to unmask the moral bankruptcy of the society that had tolerated such a war.) Breton. Realizing that a philosophy of simple negation was ultimately sterile. publishing clandestine newspapers and maintaining a network of antifascist intellectuals. 37 . Aragon redoubled his activities on behalf of the Communist Party. the Surrealists were anarchists. did he venture to speak out against the notion that there could be a “criminality of opinion. In Elsa. a number of them. whom he met in 1917. “We have been together ever since” (literally. not until 1966. He was vilified by many of his fellow intellectuals in France for failing to criticize Stalin. and in 1957. As Aragon put it. some of the most ecstatic were written when the two were in their sixties. he joined with the French Communist Party as a whole in condemning the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. Aragon met the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and his sister-in-law.” who could be her husband’s intellectual and social equal while sharing with him a love in which all the couple’s aspirations were anchored. the novelist Elsa Triolet. at the Coupole. After the war. they tried to suppress the rational faculty. but he survived it and went on to write several more books in the twelve years that were left to him. Aragon found the “woman of the future. Although he followed the “party line” and tried to rationalize the Soviet pact with the Nazis. Aragon continued to produce a steady stream of poetry. joined the French Communist Party. the Lenin Peace Prize. which led them to Surrealism. describing his meeting with Elsa many years later. Elsa introduced Aragon to Soviet Russia. His wife’s death in 1970 was a terrible blow. Louis Louis Aragon (Library of Congress) praise to the French “man (and woman) in the street. Horrified by the carnage of World War I (which Aragon had observed firsthand as a medic). Aragon celebrated this love in countless poems spanning forty years.

and the pieces in Brocéliande are linked by allusions to the knights of the Arthurian cycle. Literature was not all they hoped to save. when. Many of these “chapters. This confessional impulse was reinforced and given direction in Aragon’s Surrealist period by experiments with automatic writing.” however. for even when he turned from free verse to more traditional metric forms. he is suddenly overwhelmed by the weariness and pain of old age: “The verse breaks in my hands. Thus.” which describes Aragon’s mother and aunts—whom he thought of as his sisters—dressing for a dance. he sought to renew and broaden the range of available rhymes by adopting new definitions of masculine and feminine rhyme based on pronunciation rather than on spelling. Like his relationship with his wife. allowing not only the last syllable of a line but also the first letter or letters of the following line to count as constituent elements of a rhyme. and Les Chambres (the rooms). They also expected this powerful and hitherto untapped source to fuel the human imagination for the work of social renewal. Aragon’s Resistance poems are for the most part short and self-contained. moreover. Aragon never needed to keep a journal or diary because “his work itself was his journal. in which his hopes for the future were anchored. Partly as a result of the conditions under which they were composed. Aragon began to write as a very young boy and continued writing. Le Fou d’Elsa. he never lost the stylistic freedom that automatic writing had fostered. as it had been in his youth.” Such disclaimers to the contrary.” into which he poured his eager questions and reflections on what most closely concerned him. some of which have been set to music. throughout his life. there is a remarkable unity in the corpus of his poetry.Aragon. in liberating the subconscious. a kind of epic (depicting the end of Muslim rule in Spain. and the vignette from Le Roman inachevé (the unfinished romance) beginning “Marguerite. et Marie. As critic Hubert Juin has observed. poetry remained for him. Aragon and his friends sought to break old and unjust patterns of thought and life. Aragon was never in greater control of his medium than in these poems of his old age. After the Dadaist and Surrealist periods. although Le Musée grévin (the wax museum) is a single long poem. whom Aragon saw as the symbolic counterparts of the Resistance fighters. for “rhetoric” had poisoned the social and political spheres as well. Aragon skillfully uses shifts of meter to signal changes of mood and does not hesitate to lapse into prose when occasion warrants—for example. in Le Roman inachevé. Madeleine. At the same time. nor did he become complacent about the “solution” he had found. when he wrote mainly free verse (although there are metrically regular poems even in his early collections). steadily and copiously. Within his longer sequences. a form of questioning in which he explored the world and his relation to it. a technique adapted for literary use primarily by Breton and Philippe Soupault. Aragon’s Communism was a source of pain as well as of fulfillment: the deeper his love and commitment. Aragon’s postwar collections are more unified. In fact. culminating in Elsa. Aragon turned to more traditional prosody—including rhyme—in the desire to make his verses singable. like the war poems. This unity results from stylistic as well as thematic continuities. perceptible changes in 38 Critical Survey of Poetry Aragon’s style during the course of his career. Le Fou d’Elsa is perhaps his greatest tour de force. He also applied the notion of enjambment to rhyme. his most highly structured verse has some of the qualities of stream-of-consciousness narrative. There are a variety of reasons for this. the greater his vulnerability. can stand alone as finished pieces. the Surrealistis hoped to tap their subconscious minds and so to “save literature from rhetoric” (as Juin puts it). and beginning with Les Yeux et la mémoire (eyes and memory). with the fall of Granada in 1492) made up of hundreds of . nevertheless. Louis Analysis Despite the length of Louis Aragon’s poetic career and the perceptible evolution of his style in the course of six decades. my old hands. Although Aragon repudiated the Surrealist attitude (which was basically anarchistic) when he embraced Communism as the pattern of the future. By writing quickly without revising and by resisting the impulse to edit or censor the flow of words. he managed to preserve the fluency of spoken language. good examples are the love lyrics in Le Fou d’Elsa (Elsa’s madman). There were. they might almost be described as book-length poems broken into short “chapters” of varying meters. swollen and knotted with veins.

the tense used for completed action. the epic and the elegiac. Some of the details given remain opaque because they have a private meaning that is not revealed (“Certain names are charged with a distant thunder”). diction and syntax—it is necessary to examine a few of his poems in detail. especially when the subject is separation. Thus. The Surrealist approach to imagery evolved directly out of Symbolism in its more extreme forms. “Poem to Shout in the Ruins” “Poème à crier dans les ruines” (“Poem to Shout in the Ruins”). the title suggests that neither she nor anyone else is expected to respond. the love of a woman. The overall effect. Aragon admired both Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé. he piles up verbs in the passé simple (as in “Loved Was Came Caressed”). while the inserted lyrics preserve the reduced scale proper to elegy. To appreciate the texture of Aragon’s poetry—his characteristic interweaving of image and theme. age. Like most of Aragon’s work. they are not linked in any design but remain isolated. The occasional false notes in his verse tend to be struck when he assumes the triumphalist pose of the committed Marxist. This impression results from its rhythm being that of association—the train of thought created when a person dwells on a single topic for a sustained period of time. Lord Byron) and the bleeding trees. which to a reader who knows the works of Dante suggest that poet’s “wood of the suicides. “Poem to Shout in the Ruins” conveys the almost hallucinatory power the Surrealists saw in imagery: its ability to charge ordinary things with mystery by appealing to the buried layers of the subconscious.Critical Survey of Poetry lyric pieces. later. the mode easiest to examine at close range and the most fertile for Aragon. Choosing one poem from each of the three distinct phases of his career (the Surrealist. When he speaks of his wife. his very excesses suggest a shattering sincerity. Aragon tends to alternate between two tones. it strikes the reader as more loosely organized than it actually is. the ghostly look of escaped pris39 . the process of association takes on an obsessive quality. Because the topic is unhappy love and the bitterness of rejection. Louis the resulting monologue is ostensibly addressed to the lover. then. Although many arresting images appear. although addressed to a woman. Although the poem opens with a passage that might be described as expository. and although it moves from particular details to a general observation and closes with a sort of reprise. such as “Le Bateau ivre” (“The Drunken Boat”) of Rimbaud and the Chants de Maldoror (1869) of Comte de Lautréamont. and postwar periods). “Familiar objects one by one were taking on . and the allusions to travel throughout the poem recall trips the couple had taken together. is that of an interior monologue. with whom Aragon had lived for about a year. whom Aragon had yet to meet when it was written. makes it possible to demonstrate both the continuities and the changes in his poetry during the greater part of his career. The lack of a rhetorical framework in the poem is paralleled by the absence of any central image or images. as a young man. along with some dialogue and prose commentary. The poem records the bitterness of an affair that has recently ended and from which the poet seems to have expected more than his lover did. and Le Fou d’Elsa is a perfect vehicle for both. or death. and although Aragon. all dealing with his central theme. is not addressed to Elsa.) The use of such arcane personal and literary allusions was a legacy of the Symbolist movement. reinforcing the sense of meaninglessness that has overwhelmed the speaker. Resistance. and its power stems not from any cogency of argument (the “rhetoric” rejected by the Surrealists) but from the cumulative effects of obsessive repetition. the woman involved was American heir Nancy Cunard. The grand scale of the book gives full sweep to Aragon’s epic vision of past and future regimes. such as Mazeppa’s ride (described in a poem by George Gordon. Despite its hopelessness. struck by the realization that memory implies the past tense. . As Juin has remarked. The “little rented cars” and mirrors left unclaimed in a baggage room evoke the traveling the couple did together. the poem is heavily autobiographical. All three poems are in his elegiac vein.” (Not until many years later did Aragon reveal that he had attempted suicide after the breakup with Cunard. which the speaker now sees as aimless. the speaker’s memories are evoked in a kind of litany (“I remember your shoulder/ I remember your elbow/ I remember your linen. two of the most gifted Symbolists. others seem to be literary allusions. .”).

in which the lady becomes the immediate object of the knight’s worship. however. because she will be. and constellations). of the courtly love tradition in French poetry. Taking his wife’s eyes as the point of departure. For his own part. Aragon became an atheist in his early youth and never professed any religious faith thereafter. The occasional obscurities are no longer the result of a deliberate use of private or literary allusions. . Thus. is reflected in the references to the Three Kings and the Mother of the Seven Sorrows in “Elsa’s Eyes.Aragon. Elsa is assimilated by natural forces and survives the cataclysm of the last stanza like a mysterious deity. he was impressed by the courage of Christian resisters and acquired a certain respect for the faith that sustained them in the struggle against fascism. far countries. Louis oners. the imagery of “Elsa’s Eyes” clearly indicates that on some level there is an impulse of genuine worship. but in most cases it is subordinated to the kind of associative rhythm observed in “Poem to Shout in the Ruins. the poet offers a whole array of metaphors for their blueness (sky. he continued to evoke his own deepest desires and fears in language whose occasional ambiguity reflects the ambiguity of subconscious impulses. in “Elsa’s Eyes.” The imagery of “Elsa’s Eyes” is more unified than that of the earlier poem. Repeatedly in Aragon’s postwar poetry. he tries fitfully to make a “waltz” of the poem and asks the woman to join him. Aragon began to use the vocabulary of traditional religion to extol his wife. Nevertheless. while each stanza has internal unity.” The poem also suggests. This awareness is not morbid but tragic—the painful apprehension of death in a man whose loves and hopes were lavished on mortal existence. he hungers for a real connection to a real woman. whether as a mediatrix (who shows the way to God) or as a substitute for God himself. a virtual apotheosis takes place: The “holy fool” for whom the book is named (a Muslim. cannot be said to build to this climax. the serious use of religious imagery.” Although reared a Catholic. and depth (a well. . The poem as a whole. that Aragon is not content merely to explore his subconscious. until.” Despite its prevailing tone of negation and despair. like those of a folk song or lyrical ballad. is a good example of the metrically regular pieces Aragon produced in the 1940’s (and continued to produce. Thus. ocean. the stanzas do not follow one another in a strictly necessary order. “I can say of her what I cannot say of God: She exists.” Elsa is described as the Mother of the Seven Sorrows. the poem anticipates two central themes of Aragon’s mature works: the belief that love between man and woman should be infinitely more than a source of casual gratification and the awareness of mortality (which the finality of parting suggests). a woman of flesh and blood who could serve as his partner in building the future. its power stems from the accumulation of images rather than from their arrangement. shooting stars). Elsa’s madman tells his judge. together with free verse. A relatively new departure for Aragon in this period. Whenever he was questioned on the subject. The last four stanzas are more closely linked than the preceding ones and culminate in an apocalyptic vision of Elsa’s eyes surviving the end of the world. Aragon insisted that his aim was not a deification of Elsa but the replacement of the transcendent God of traditional religions with a “real” object. brilliance (lightning. . at the same time. fear. Elsa is endowed with godlike qualities. Many of Aragon’s mature poems do exhibit such a progression (notably “Toi qui es la rose”—“You Who Are the Rose”). not a Christian) is convicted of heresy for worshiping a woman—Elsa—who will not be born for four centuries. During World War II. the opening poem in the collection of that name. In his desperate desire to prolong the liaison. in Le Fou d’Elsa. at about this time. compounded of love. It should be noted that Aragon’s Surrealist formation is still very much in evidence here. wildflowers). not only in the hallucinatory quality of his 40 Critical Survey of Poetry images but also in their obvious connection with subconscious desires and fears.” At the same time.” in spitting on “what we have loved together. however. It is particularly characteristic in that. Aragon was already writing with a wider public in mind. until the end of his life). and . however. “since something must still connect us. “Elsa’s Eyes” “Les Yeux d’Elsa” (“Elsa’s Eyes”). for example. they offer a series of related insights or observations without logical or narrative progression. an epithet of the Virgin Mary. This is partly attributable to Aragon’s rediscovery.

yet his technique is still that of association and accumulation rather than logical or rhetorical development. and in particular the eyes. they sought to lay bare what was most deeply buried in their psyches. he turned to the courtly tradition because it struck a deep chord in him. he follows in the poet’s wake. to hostile critics it may look like simple bad taste. the central image around which the poem is built. Caught up in the speaker’s own anxiety or fantasy. in some of his later work. Thus. As in “Poem to Shout in the Ruins. evoked by the poet in a kind of incantation designed to call forth the rose. and Bernard Lecherbonnier has suggested in Le Cycle d’Elsa (1974) that the circumstances of Aragon’s upbringing created in him.” while two lines later its roots are “like an insinuating hand beneath the sheets caressing the sleeping thighs of winter. but it is tempered considerably by the vulnerability of the rose. which threatens to deprive him of his wife and of his poetic voice.” short syntactic units give the impression of spoken (indeed. like God. The images that accumulate along the way.” In most of the early stanzas. the cornerstone of a just and happy (Communist) society. which only enhances her beauty. first in regard to his mother and later in regard to his wife. yet by their Aragon. stems from the contrast between his exaggerated hopes—still virtually those of a young man—and the fact of old age. not all of which are benevolent: “Your eyes are so deep that in stooping to drink/ I saw all suns reflected there/ All desperate men throw themselves there to die. or “some subterranean sickness. or literary affectation. a hint of sadness (although never of disillusionment) at the failure of Communism to fulfill its promise within his own lifetime. in this poem. What often saves Aragon from préciosité. The poignancy of “You Who Are the Rose. emphasis is laid on her grief (presumably over the effects of war). they clearly reflect Aragon’s Surrealist background. for poetry 41 . his desire to include as much of the world as possible in his design. with periodic breaks or breathing spaces marked by the one-line refrain “(de) la rose. Elsa is identified with forces of nature.” from the collection Elsa. editing was a kind of dishonesty. he ascribes it to the poet’s “epic” orientation.Critical Survey of Poetry awe. that of “Paradise regained and relost a hundred times” and that of Elsa’s eyes shining over the sea after the final “shipwreck” of the universe. by writing rapidly and not revising. freely acknowledges that a certain kind of bad taste is evident in Aragon. because Aragon saw the harmony between husband and wife as the hope of the future. like him. “You Who Are the Rose” An attitude of worship can also be seen in “You Who Are the Rose.” The use of alliteration is excessive— as when six words beginning with gr. The two fears are related.” The poem has a clear dramatic structure: The tension of waiting builds steadily. are all subordinated to this central image of flowering. but the insistence on her eyes also suggests that. There is also. From the very first stanza. It is worth noting that in France the rose has long been associated with Socialist ideals. Its tight construction makes this a somewhat uncharacteristic poem for Aragon. the speaker worries over the flowering of the rose.” Such an attitude is especially suggested by the final images of the poem. which he fears will not bloom “this year” because of frost. Hubert Juin. which precludes attention to every detail. almost breathless) language. a friendly critic. in the poet’s relation to his wife. eager to see where the train of thought will lead. the poet’s fear for his wife in “You Who Are the Rose” may be doubled by a tacit fear that the promise of Marxism will not be fulfilled. “an obsession with self-justification that permitted the myth of godas-love to crystallize around the person. of Elsa. moreover. Louis startling juxtaposition and suggestiveness. It seems more to the point to recall that for the Surrealists. is the realism of this stream-ofconsciousness technique. This helps to account for the fact that he continued to write with undiminished passion until the very end of his life. With an obsessiveness reminiscent of the earlier poem. His anguish is that of the idealist who rejects the possibility of transcendence: His “divinity” is mortal. the dormant plant is compared to “a cross contradicting the tomb. Aragon himself often referred to his wife as his conscience.appear in the space of three lines—and although this serves to emphasize the incantatory quality of the verse. drought. the reader does not stop to criticize the occasional banalities and lapses of taste. she is all-seeing.” until the miraculous flowering takes place and is welcomed with a sort of prayer.” as of so many of Aragon’s late poems.

and Malcolm Cowley. an ecstatic love poet who insists on the possibility of earthly happiness because he has tasted it himself. Poet of the French Resistance. Hungary. Les Beaux Quartiers. Les Communistes. 1854 (Toldi’s Eve. Les Beaux Quartiers. Contains a chapter on Aragon. Lewiston. Christopher. 1944 (English translation. 1947). eds. A study of Aragon’s poetic works produced between 1939 and 1945. 1856 Buda halála. short fiction: Servitude et grandeur de français.” perhaps. 1982.: Edwin Mellen Press. 1936 (Residential Quarter. 1949-1951. 1945. What is more. 1934-1944 (includes Les Cloches de Bâle. Le Paysan de Paris. Les Voyageurs de l’impériale. 1914) Murány ostroma. Blanche: Ou. 1848 Katalin. 1945. 1817 Died: Budapest. Becker. Aragon. and in the preface to an edition combining her own and her husband’s fiction. Lucille Frackman. 1958 (Holy Week. János held out the only prospect of immortality in which he believed. Sloan and Pearce. and World War II: The Pontigny Encounters at Mount Holyoke College. Les Deux Géants: Histoire parallèle des États-Unis et de l’U. 1964). 1976) Arany János összes munkái. 1988). New York: Duell. 1967. 1965. 1914) Kisebb költeményei. 5 volumes. 1959. 1962 (with André Maurois. and Aurélien. eds. Le Mentir-vrai. 1956. 1852 Toldi estéje. London: Grant & Cutler. 1921. Artists. 2006. Other major works long fiction: Anicet: Ou. Elsa Triolet and Louis Aragon: An Introduction to Their Interwoven Lives and Works. Aurélien. 1884-1885 Epics of the Hungarian Plain.S. Benfey. 1938).R. from Lenin to Khrushchev. 1974. 1961). 1936. but she has a name. Aragon: The Resistance Poems. The rose is mortal. 1928. Les Voyageurs de l’impériale.S. 1934 (The Bells of Basel. Elsa Triolet was herself a writer. 1850 Összes muvei. 1970). 1976 . An introductory biography of Triolet and Aragon and their lives together including critical analysis of their work and a bibliography. Le Monde réel. 42 Critical Survey of Poetry _______.Arany. 1971. nonfiction: Le Traité du style. 1964. 1942-1944. 1946. 1879 (Toldi’s Love. 1985. J’abats mon jeu. March 2. Aragon will probably be remembered primarily as the poet of Elsa—“Elsa’s Madman. Gustave Cohen. 1944). Entretiens avec Francis Crémieux. 1942. Écrits sur l’art moderne. 1867 Toldi szerelme. and the poet can conjure with it (as his conclusion emphasizes: “O rose who are your being and your name”).S. Pour une réalisme socialiste. 1936) Arany János összes költeményei. and Karen Remmler. 1981. Hannah. in his anguished self-disclosure—but above all as Elsa’s troubadour. Josephson. she described their mutually inspired work as the best possible memorial to their love. Hungary (now Salonta. Les Cloches de Bâle. Introduction aux littératures soviétiques. 1942 (The Century Was Young. M. L’oubli. 1935. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. 1934. 1922 (The Adventures of Telemachus. A brief critical guide to Aragon’s poetry. 1864 (The Death of King Buda. La Semaine sainte. 1882 Principal poetry Toldi. and the poetry of the Resistance.Y.S. L’Homme communiste. Louis Aragon.. 1926 (Nightwalker. Intellectuals. Includes bibliographic references. 1941). Bibliography Adereth. Théâtre/roman. Lillian Doherty János Arany Born: Nagyszalonta. N. 1851-1868 Nagyidai cigányok. 1953. Les Aventures de Télémaque. La Mise à mort. October 22. 1936). le panorama. An introductory biography of Aragon and critical analysis of selected works. Provides a general perspective on World War II literature. 1994. New York: Twayne.R. 1847 (English translation. partial translation A History of the U. Romania).

He took a leave of absence to serve as tutor in Kisujszállas for about a year. Toldi’s Love. Hungary (now Salonta. Their daughter. Arany never felt comfortable as a teacher. In 1840. was born in 1841. he accepted a position as teacher in the gymnasium at Nagykörös. his Toldi won even greater acclaim. and helped prepare Imre Madách’s Az ember tragédiája (pb. was born in 1844. he was active as an adviser and critic. who became rector at Nagyszalonta in 1842. a poet of the seventeenth century. He 43 . Juliska. In spite of his distance from the center of activity. he transferred to the gymnasium (high school) at Debrecen on a scholarship. and their son. he became a tutor at the school there. drew him into the literary world. Arany learned English to be able to read literary works in the original. For a while. In his acceptance speech. János later translated from this language as well as from German. and he Arany. Taught to read by his father. joined the larger conversation of European literature. Arany’s poem “Az elveszett alkótmany” (the lost constitution) won a literary prize.Critical Survey of Poetry Other literary forms The criticism and studies in Hungarian literature of János Arany (OR-on-ee) are in the best tradition of scholarship and remain useful. Although originally Arany had intended to give up his literary aspirations and devote his energies to building a secure future for his family. He settled in Nagyszalonta and became a teacher. In 1845. 1933) for publication. Arany. After repeated invitations by his friends to move to Budapest. however. Arany had read widely in popular Hungarian literature since his childhood and had been introduced to earlier as well as contemporary Hungarian literature at Debrecen. and he wrote a series of ballads. and began the third poem of the Toldi trilogy. and in 1851. 1821). Biography János Arany was born the last child of György Arany and Sára Megyeri in Nagyszalonta. In 1831. and other languages. In 1847. and in 1833. and in time the routine and the atmosphere of the small town depressed him. and he became increasingly involved in the literary life of the country. spent several months in hiding and lost his teaching position. the orphaned child of a lawyer. the friendship of István Szilágyi. he became secretary of the Academy of Sciences in 1865. later taking a post as notary. Arany remained in close contact with literary developments. but Szilágyi encouraged him to continue his studies of English and other foreign authors. completed Toldi’s Eve as well as several other narrative poems. particularly the traditions of the Enlightenment and of Romanticism. The notes for his lectures on Hungarian literature prepared at this time (never collected by him and published only after his death) show his sensitivity and the thorough critical and historical grasp he had of his subject. he compared the epics of Miklós Zrinyi. he left Debrecen without earning a degree. he also served as a soldier during the siege of Arad. 1862. Bánk bán (pb. Greek. On December 15. a poetic tradition— that united the best elements of native Hungarian verse. Arany finally accepted the position of director of the Kisfaludy Társaság. The Tragedy of Man. like most of his contemporaries. Romania). After the defeat of the Hungarians by the combined forces of the Austrian and Russian empires. Recognition also came his way. there were brilliant colleagues who were similarly in hiding or exile during the years of terror. At first. His translations of several of William Shakespeare’s plays and of Aristophanes’ comedies are outstanding in the history of Hungarian translations. he married Julianna Ercsey. Italian. The result was a poetry that. László. as well as in the events leading up to the Revolution of 1848. based to a large degree on folk song and folk poetry. while retaining its distinctively Hungarian character. 1858. He ran for a seat in parliament but was defeated. with the learned traditions of Western Europe. with the work of Torquato Tasso. Increasingly accepted as the unofficial laureate of Hungarian literature. the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was allowed to resume its activity after a ten-year suspension. and in 1836. Arany began his studies in 1828 at Nagyszalonta. In addition to administrative duties. He wrote a study on the Hungarian drama by József Katona. and Arany was elected a member. Achievements János Arany contributed to Hungarian literature a poetic style and language—in fact. Count Lajos Tisza employed him as a tutor.

In his last years. the Hungarian Alexandrine or twelvesyllable hexameter line rather than in the simpler qua- . which is rooted in Hungarian folklore and popular mythology— a device he borrowed from Mihály Vörösmarty and others but which Arany was to use effectively in later poems. 1920). Renaissance. Toldi was written in the old narrative meter. He built on medieval. who felt strongly that folk poetry should be the basis of the new national literary style. Although he was later to regret the unevenness and coarseness of the work. The Death of King Buda. His affinity with the folkloric tradition. His individual contribution rests above all on his knowledgeable and sensitive use of folk elements. “Az elveszett alkótmany. the poet should show not so much what is but rather its “heavenly counterpart. and his unerring sense of the forms and rhythms best suited to the Hungarian language. ennobled the genre by blending with it the qualities of the epic. and Baroque traditions. however. rendering Shakespeare. and his goals were shared by many of his contemporaries. He suggests in the conclusion that only with a widening of the franchise. Arany was laid out in state in the main chamber of the academy and was eulogized by the important critics and poets of his day. it deserves attention. Indebted to Pet¹fi’s János Vitéz (1845. learning of the competition only when the poem was well under way. János continued writing. János the Hero. He published his Prózai dolgozatai (1879. János Arany won the prize of the Kisfaludy Társaság with his mock-heroic epic. which had appeared a year earlier. continues to be recognized to this day. no less than the high-handed and illegal actions of the party in power. despite his ill health. and selections from many writers in other languages into Hungarian. It was. Ever sensitive to literary developments abroad. although he was unable to complete many projects. 1882./ For you an entire wreath must be given immediately.” “Az elveszett alkótmany” In 1845. Arguing that native themes and forms could equal the best in classical literature. He not only used native words but also explained their ap44 Critical Survey of Poetry propriateness and traced their history. Arany. His portrayal of the petty bickering between progressive and liberal political parties. in his view. He used meters based on folk song and wrote a thesis on Hungarian versification. notably Toldi’s Love. enabled him to put into practice the theories and plans of the reform movement. that established Arany’s literary reputation. In 1879. moreover. Arany’s third request for retirement was finally accepted by the academy. his ability to recognize and reject undue foreign influence while using foreign models to enrich his own work.” What Arany did was to create a folk-epic style that conveyed the life of the Hungarian Plain and the sense of history shared by the nation. His role as one of the major figures in Hungarian poetry and literary criticism. several days before the unveiling of the statue of his friend. As a teacher and critic. also a folk epic. he demonstrated this in his critical essays. the poet Sándor Pet¹fi. for it shows Arany’s use of supernatural machinery. as well as his recognition of its role in preserving Hungarian cultural traditions. was able to finish some earlier projects. nor was he the first. Aristophanes. he emphasized the need for literature to be realistic yet to avoid the excesses of naturalism. as well as a comprehensive edition of Hungarian folk literature. Arany nevertheless was responsible for innovations of his own. The major poem he worked on in this period was what he hoped would be a national epic. indicates his political concerns. a period during which Arany was active as a translator. He had the obligation to oversee the translation and publication of the complete works of Shakespeare and of Molière. “Others receive the laurel leaf by leaf. as well as a sensitive and learned molder of the language. As the enthusiastic Pet¹fi wrote. prose essays) and was increasingly involved in linguistic studies.” He had begun writing it spontaneously and with no thought of publication. that still stands by the Danube in one of the city’s old squares. Toldi It was Toldi. he enjoyed a resurgence of lyric power and. Arany died on October 22.Arany. Analysis János Arany was not the only writer engaged in the literary development of Hungary. with the inclusion of all segments of the population in the political process can Hungarian institutions fulfill their proper role. he was further able to explain and elucidate reformist goals.

He deliberately refrains from beginning his poem in medias res and filling in background through digressions and backtracking. he was to use both accented and quantitative feet to fit the form to the theme. János as he celebrates the arrival of a gift from his mother and the opportunity to earn respect and recognition. into Hungarian literature. no less than their poetry and song. while the poem’s setting was based on the realistic verse chronicle by Péter Selymes Ilosvay. its language and form are based on folk literature. Toldi emerges as a loyal. The form of Toldi is also rooted in folk poetry. and almost gives up while hiding in the swamp. In the handling of his sources and the characterization of his hero. An active language reformer. into a tightly organized poem in twelve cantos. Arany’s portrayal of Hungarian qualities. he condemned the distortion of the folk style as well as the mere aping of foreign fashions. Far from being false to the medieval setting or an oversimplification of life in Buda and the court. is not. a man of prodigious strength who won fame at the court of Lajos the Great (1342-1382). restricted to Toldi. Arany established the method he was to use in later poems. noble by birth. Arany’s hero was an actual historical personage. yet close to the peasants and servants on the farm. Arany used the traditional accented line. of the soul of the nation. moreover. gives way to anger quickly. divided by a caesura. Arany also concentrates on the hero’s emergence as the king’s champion rather than attempting to cover all his life. It echoes the patterns of Hungarian speech and. well aware of the power of native words. and variety. Arany turns Ilosvay’s sketchy tale about Miklós Toldi. the hero retains many very human qualities. in contrast. local dialect. The action of the poem covers nine days and falls into two sections: Cantos 1 through 6 relate the crime of Toldi and give the reason for his leaving home to seek the favor of the king. not restricting his ties to any one class. however.Critical Survey of Poetry train of the folk song. faithful. Like the overall concept and style of the poem. He wished to make his poetry easily understood and enjoyed by all. Idealized and simplified in some respects. even though many of the poems of this time are expressions of despair and disappointment. but all serve to illustrate the development of the hero’s character. Arany. still rich in archaic words. yet the early 1850’s was one of his richer periods. Arany captures the essence of Hungarian life in his description of the activities of the people. By projecting familiar details of the nineteenth century onto his fourteenth century setting. used these deliberately. Poetry of the 1850’s Arany was deeply affected by the failure of the War of Independence. generous. Later. who seems to be both a parasite and a tyrant on his own land. Arany is careful to motivate each action and to fit each episode into his framework. In this first epic. through an examination of Toldi’s actions as well as of his underlying motivations. In contrast to the affected. Arany. for the Hungarian Alexandrine was the traditional verse of earlier narrative poems. makes his hero representative of that which is best in the Hungarian character. Hungarian society was more unified: Distinctions of rank were not chasms. is capable of a wide range. and compassionate man who uses his great strength for good—whether working in the fields or fighting in the lists. Toldi is equally at home with the servants and at the court of the king. this projection carries Arany’s message that in the past. working or enjoying a festival. to give the epic a realism and intimacy it would otherwise have lacked. Arany was able. as Arany showed. Arany also makes him a representative of the entire nation. while cantos 7 through 12 show how this is accomplished. In the two “Voitina levelei öccséhez” (“Voitina’s Letters to His Brother”). he can rejoice with abandon Arany. treacherous György. He is despondent and brooding when disappointed. but he also sought to introduce the language of the people. In the course of a few days. a method he believed would have been incompatible with the spirit of folk poetry. as it were. whether in the fields or in the city. he embodies Arany’s political views as well. even as he himself sought the true 45 . On the other hand. he felt that the written Hungarian language could be revitalized only by absorbing the pure speech of the common person. brave. Several episodes are intertwined. He not only criticized the newly evolving political and social life but also questioned his own poetic style and creativity. Pet¹fi’s János the Hero had a fairy-tale setting.

he reinforced the unity and continuity of the nation. it provides a good example of Arany’s successful assimilation of Western European influences. Night has now completely fallen. He was familiar with German and Scottish ballads and borrowed judiciously from these as well as from the Hungarian ballads of Transylvania. in painting intimate village scenes and establishing characterizations with a deft touch. Arany describes a village evening. while remaining within the lyric sphere. he tells them stories of the war. He then moves closer to the farm to describe participants in the evening’s activities: the cow. a disabled veteran comes by. the frogs move “as if clods of earth had grown legs. and yet is made to feel like an honored guest. In “A nagyidai cigányok” (“The Gypsies of Nagyida”). also expresses Arany’s feeling that “he is no longer what he was. Ballads The ballad. and the daughter’s lost “brother” is a casualty of the war. as well as the human inhabitants. the father brings home from the fields a rabbit that the children immediately make their pet. just milked.” the bugs make a final sortie before becoming still. the ballad allowed him to explore both historical incidents and psychological tragedies and even to blend the two. A father returns from work and. the trees “nod. he gave his readers a feeling for their history. such a blending of lyric emotion and objective setting was not possible in any other form. In range. he explored the possibilities of the language and metrical variations.” No longer can he sing the hope of the future. It is interesting that this quintessentially Hungarian poem was inspired by Robert Burns’s “The Cotter’s Saturday Night. The final lines return the scene to the calm mood of the opening ones. He excelled in capturing the many moods of the life of the people. By portraying Hungarian history through words and actions with which his audience could easily identify. the frame is complete. “Családi kör” (“Family Circle”). “Rákocziné” (“Rákoczi’s Wife”) is still in the direct folk-narrative style. the inviting hearth guarded by the faithful dog. dead or in hiding from the Austrians. Arany’s earlier ballads./ The better part has left him. children listen to tales as they play or do their chores. an elegy for Pet¹fi. As the village retires for the evening. He believed that the ballad. are less elaborate than the later ones. Within this seemingly simple poem. whether on historical themes or dealing with private tragedy. achieved objectivity. In theme. and again it is through a comment here and there that the scenes are given dramatic tension. interested him throughout his life. A relatively short descriptive poem. “Leteszem a lantot” (“I Lay Down the Lute”).” Thus. János possibilities of a popular national style. now feeding its calf.Arany. The specter of the nation’s death also haunted him in “Rachel” and “Rachel siralma” (“Rachael’s Lament”).” and the bat and the owl take over their domain. “Family Circle” In his ballads and narrative poems. “Rozgonyiné” (“Roz- . illustrates this method in the compass of thirteen stanzas. Arany continued to develop the folk style and to set his stories in a real time and place. After supper. one that rivals Pet¹fi’s “Szeptember végén” (“At the End of September”) as a literary masterpiece. the playful cat. Arany also comments obliquely on Hungarian life in the 1850’s: The veteran tells tales of the War of Independence. he sought release from the disappointment and bitterness he felt at the failure of the revolution. The family drama portrayed here is universal. a form that in Arany’s hands was to reach a height unsurpassed by anyone in world literature. A young girl is ironing her Sunday clothes. In vocabulary and form. nor can he even hope for the reward of immortality. As they sit down to the evening meal. The marriageable daughter asks about “her brother. while rooted nevertheless in the Hungarian village. but it was used no less effectively in the epics and the ballads. is welcomed as a member of the family. Arany creates a little gem of realistic description in which each detail has its place and in which each seems uncontrived and follows from the preceding one as if without artifice. Arany’s attention to detail adds movement and drama to this still life. putting his tools away. prepares for supper. The father gently chides the young boy: The stranger’s story is not fiction. giving each element its due place while creating a domestic scene.” yet the comment that she 46 Critical Survey of Poetry will wait another year before marrying gives a clue that her relationship to the lost youth is something different: It would be unseemly to question a stranger about a lover.

In the three songs. Edward flees the land. the English king/ Strides on his fallow horse/ Let’s see. “Words are choked. for the nobles sit in silence. which begins with the same two lines but intensifies the contrast between conqueror and conquered in the last two: “Edward the King. all silent/ Like so many barren graves.” He inquires about rivers and land and meadows (“Did the spilt patriot blood do it good?”) and the people (“Are they happy . Arany not only depicts the fall of Buda but also suggests the fateful division of the country.” The scene thus set in the first five stanzas is developed in the next section. In “Török Bálint. but his presumption that the conquered should sing his praises: “Edward the King. Sire/ Its huts are silent. describing the triumphant march of the king. who lure the champion of the widowed queen of Lajos II and her infant son into Turkish territory. was a condemnation of the Habsburg ruler. symbolizing the united opposition of all. “The Welsh Bards” In 1857. it was not published until later (1863). Through this tale. Others are given honors by the sultan—Brother György is appointed governor—but the hero is imprisoned. for as each bard blesses the dead or curses Edward. all recognize Szondi’s heroism—but Ali will be angry if his offer is refused. sound is suspended. and the action is presented through dialogue. . . just what the worth/ of the Welsh domains. he is sent to the stake. who gradually loses his patience: All saw the battle. The ballad focuses on the complicated political maneuverings of Bálint Török and the treachery of the monk György. beset by both the Turks and the Habsburgs and forced to choose one or the other.” he recounts the treachery of the Turks./ Around him burns earth and sky/ The entire Welsh domain.” He is now fleeing a land that seems to be burning. “Szondi két apródja” (“Szondi’s Two Pages”) records the faithfulness of the pages who sing the deeds of their fallen master and refuse to leave his grave in spite of the promises and threats of the Turkish Ali. Repetition and skillful variation are used both to move the narrative along and to paint the psychological mood. which Arany had been studying for some time. then imprison the queen’s protector in Constantinople. and when Edward calls for song and toasts to celebrate his victory. the English king/ Gallops on his fallow steed. as Bálint Török did. The four-line stanza is in alternating iambic tetrameter and trimeter with an abcb rhyme scheme. when Emperor Francis Joseph made a visit to Hungary and let it be known that he wished the poets to celebrate this event. This ballad. which is not so much his conquest of the Welsh. János The ballad shows the influence of Scottish and medieval English models. yet it is only the fires of his own executioners. the rescue of King Sigismund from battle by Cicelle Rozgonyi. the God-given people/ Are so happy here. The story is told through innuendo and dialogue: how the queen was beset by both the Habsburgs and the Turks.” The silence of the land puts its stamp on the banquet Edward holds that night. Arany presents three songs. The courtiers assure him that all is well in words that echo the king’s but with an ironic twist: “The people. like the beast driven to the yoke?”). Arany wrote “A walesi bardok” (“The Welsh Bards”).Critical Survey of Poetry gonyi’s Wife”) also turns to a historical incident. and in this final section. but the emphasis is on the beauty and bravery of the lady who joins her husband in battle. Török’s plan seemingly to unite with the Turks to gain victory. to try to play off one against the other. and how—while Török was ostensibly a guest of the Turks—the Turks took the city and drove out the queen and her infant son. Arany gives the psychological retribution for the king’s crime. Interwoven with this song are the words of the Turkish messenger. Nor does he find peace at home: All noise disturbs 47 . The opening lines. are repeated with significant variations at the beginning of each new section: “Edward the King. three different ages. or. Arany. the English king/ Strides on his fallow horse/ Around him silence where’er he goes/ And a mute domain. or rather fragments of songs. three different styles are presented. The scene is set with great economy. Naturally. based on a tradition that King Edward I of England had executed five hundred bards after his conquest of Wales./ Breath is caught” as an ancient bard rises. he says. however. the suggestion that the monk betrayed him when he was invited to the Turkish camp after the victory. when the allusion was less obvious. “Török Bálint” and “Szondi’s Two Pages” The Turkish wars provided Arany with much material.

He used a variety of sources and elements: Greek and Western history and legend. leaving a token force of Székelys in Transylvania. He projected events into an earlier period. had given him the fatal dagger. The interplay of the real and the imagined is at the core of the drama. the mood of intrigue and the grand medieval setting give the poem a mysterious quality. Bende’s guards watch as he hews and slashes the air.” the protagonist’s punishment takes place in her own unbalanced mind. however. Arany develops the mood gradually. It is interesting to contrast the concentration and technical skill achieved here with the style of certain earlier ballads of sin and retribution: “A Hamis tanú” (“The False Witness”). Only the first poem. In the first poem. Arany united the archaic and the modern. who. In its form. even borrowings from the Nibelungenlied (c. the Knight Bende’s bride has been won in an unfair fight. and “Bor Vitéz. All these elements contributed to the realism of the poem. 1848). János him.Arany. folklore. was completed. for these are projections of their own guilt and thus drive them mad. Originally. Formally and stylistically. In “Éjfeli párbaj” (“Midnight Duel”). who. “Ágnes Asszony” (“The Woman Agnes”). In “Az ünneprontók” (“The Defilers of the Sabbath”) and “Hídavatas” (“Bridge Dedication”). that of the Hun conquest under the leadership of Attila. the poem presents yet another variation of the Hungarian Alexandrine: The twelve-syllable line is an accented one with a definite caesura. in which the girl suddenly goes mad with horror. and music will not drown out the curses of the Welsh banquet and the martyr-song of the five hundred. Arany broke new poetic ground in The Death of King Buda. Crime and the supernatural Crime or sin upsets the balance of nature: It is this idea that lies at the heart of these ballads and dominates the series Arany wrote in 1877. he planned a trilogy that would trace the fall of Attila and the fate of his son Csaba. In the late ballads. as indeed it is in most of these ballads. and the role of the supernatural as a manifestation of spiritual disorder is more important. In the second. and drum. epic dreams and prophecies. The Death of King Buda. but Arany did leave fragments of the other parts as well as several detailed outlines. The Toldi trilogy had not fulfilled these expectations fully. and while Arany maintains . Only the guilty see the supernatural forces. Arany tends to exploit the supernatural for its own sake. from carefree joy to the bride’s fear and the puzzling behavior of the host that forces the guests to leave. “Tetemre hívas” (“Ordeal of the Bier”) also has ancient beliefs at its core: A murdered youth begins to bleed in the presence of his lover. English translation. himself being a spirit. The climax. but Arany found the historical and legendary material too limited. achieves the surprising psychological realism of which the ballad form is capable. and he has to duel with the ghost of his slain rival on three successive nights of the wedding festivities. even killing some of them. although in “The Woman Agnes. the naïve and the sophisticated. which was reinforced by Arany’s attention to psychological conflicts. according to legend. Arany sought to create a popular national epic. had led the remnant of Attila’s forces back to their homeland. in a teasing mood. and a procession of suicides jumps from a newly built bridge. Their descendants later regained this patrimony and established the modern Hungarian state. While the narrative is relatively straightforward. “Tengeri hántás” (“Corn Husking”) and “Vörös Rébék” (“Red Barbara”) rely on folklore and superstition to create an eerie world in which human actions seem to be ruled by supernatural powers. The theme of the original settlement of Hungary would have been appropriate.” In these earlier ballads. Eastern motifs in the tales and customs of the Huns. the scene is transferred to private life. On the third night. the punishment often is more severe. a snatch of a folk song serves as the leitmotif for a tale of infidelity and murder. and the crime itself becomes the focal point. supernatural punishment is meted out to groups rather than to sinful individuals: Sunday revelers are forced by a demoniac bagpiper to perform a dance of death. for it lacked the necessary historical component in the person of the central figure. the Halloween atmosphere of cornhusking and storytelling in the fields at night provides the back48 Critical Survey of Poetry ground for a tale of illicit and tragic love. fife. In The Death of King Buda. The Death of King Buda Throughout his life. 1200. thus fulfilling the ghostly foe’s prediction that he will slay in the spirit.

They capture the mood of quiet meditation in forms that are as rich as any he had used. these late poems are about his love for his homeland (particularly the scenes of his youth on the Alföld) and the changes he had experienced over the years. two of the accented feet in each half are significantly stronger than the third. Basa. miscellaneous: Arany János hátrahagyott iratai és levelezése. as do the poet’s childhood memories and the concerns of his old age. Hungarian Literature. Alex. eds. no. Margit Island. Originally intended only for himself. written mostly in 1877. Arany was a poet who dealt with universal themes and general human problems. in which he. While the setting of his poetry reflects what he knew best.” concluding that the tale of the massacre of Welsh bards by Edward I of England is traditional rather than historically accurate. A critique of Arany’s poem “The Bards of Wales. Aristophanes vígjátékai. Whatever their point of departure. the region—and the country—will see better times. dán királyfi. ideas. 1867 (of Shakespeare’s play King John). This overview of Hungarian literature provides context on Arany’s work. both the “smaller one” and the larger nation. and emotions of his verse without an overabundance of notes and commentary. New York: Griffin House. 1880 (of Aristophanes). Other major works nonfiction: Prózai dolgozatai. In many ways. Late lyrics Arany’s late lyrics. 1879. 4 (October. too. Arany again turned to popular speech and to the Hungarian literary heritage. are characterized by introspection and a peaceful acceptance of life. once participated.Critical Survey of Poetry the hexameter. aside from the difficulty of translating his rich language. the sights. yet it gathers a variety of colors and scenes ranging from childhood games to the sunsets of old age. Bernard. His critical works and his own practice showed how native Hungarian themes and concerns could be integrated into the body of Western literature. In diction. although the couplet rhyme is maintained. Zrinyi és Tasso. F. and the sounds of the harvest.’” Slavonic and East European Review 77. The numerous footnotes show how consciously he used both popular expressions and archaic forms and how carefully he researched chronicle and legend for each detail—but also the sound reasons he had for departing from these sources in any respect. “Janos Arany and ‘The Bards of Wales. its history and life (at least through the nineteenth century) could be reconstructed from Arany’s works. János király. and T. V. 1885. the ideas come from his wide reading and perceptive studies of the Western tradition. particularly of his old age and its infirmities. Nevertheless. Arany can offer his wealth to the non-Hungarian reader as readily as he has been inspiring Hungarian readers for generations. Personal comment and a concern for his country. János disappear. Hamlet. Bibliography Adams. The occasional alliteration enhances the archaic quality of the verse. mingle naturally in these poems. Enik¹ Molnár. they are intensely personal yet reveal the same values that inform his more public poems. Brogan. Legacy Drawn almost reluctantly into a literary career. It has been said that if Hungary were suddenly to Arany. 1867 (of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet). “Vásárban” (“At the Market”) also serves as a release for the poet’s homesickness for the Hungarian Plain: A wagon from this region with its load of wheat reminds him of the activities. 1864 (of William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream). it is difficult to convey the Hungarian scenes. Arany left a legacy rich in both creative and critical works. 1999): 726-731. “A tölgyek alatt” (“Under the Oaks”) is a meditative lyric in which Arany recalls happy hours spent under oak trees in his childhood as he rests under the oaks at his retreat on St. so that the line seems shorter and closer to ballad and other meters of folk poetry. When he is approached from this comparative perspective. Princeton. moods. One reason that he is not better known abroad is that. New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. 1887-1889. he is a national poet. Preminger. The poem’s dominant mood is quiet and resigned. He also expresses the hope that after many sorrowful years. translations: A Szent-Iván éji alóm. 1993. 49 .

as well as from ancient sources that were clearly dependent for informa- Archilochus Born: Paros. 1959 (Max Treu. A history and critical study of Hungarian literature including the works of Arany. c. The view that Archilochus is an anti-Homeric poet. Includes bibliographic references. Archilochus of Paros Principal poetry Archilochos. Archilochus’s elegiac poems generally reflect the martial or hortatory themes found in other Archaic Greek elegists. but ancient admiration of Archilochus’s skilled manipulation of meter was balanced by the poet’s perhaps unjustified reputation for violent and abusive verse. can be seen in Archilochus’s surviving fragments.e. 30 b. In general. Achievements Archilochus was well known in antiquity as an innovator.c. trochaic tetrameter. 1638) of Horace.J. and not all his iambics possess the invective or satirical mood to which that meter was restricted later in the Hellenistic period. may be seen in the skilled combination of established meters in his epodes and asynartete.e. he was frequently admired by the ancients for his successful imitation of Homer. imbued with the language and especially the vocabulary of the epic tradition. Greece. and asynartete (verses consisting of two units having different rhythms).c. are becoming increasingly convinced that Archilochus’s invective poetry was part of an oral tradition of iambus.c.Archilochus N. His metrical forms include iambic trimeter. Archilochus writes mostly in an Ionic Greek. Archilochus’s “lyricism” in the modern sense of “expressing individual emotions” is much more formal and limited in scope than has heretofore been realized. elegy was not specifically associated with lament until the fifth century b. Modern scholars. New Brunswick. If this is true. including Alcaeus and Anacreon. Archilochus’s poems are unbound by any rigid restriction of particular themes to particular meters. which used stock characters and the first-person persona in a conventional way. or Greek blame poetry. Archilochus’s influence on more modern poets has been limited by the fragmentary preservation of his poetry.c. elegiac couplets.e. Although he is traditionally said to have been the inventor of iambic and epodic poetry. 640 b. N.: Rutgers University Press. Nearly all of Archilochus’s poetry is written in the first person. Also known as: Archilochos. and he has often been called the first European lyric poet. Died: Paros(?). Greece. editor) Other literary forms Archilochus (or-KIHL-uh-kuhs) is remembered only for his poetry. on both theme and vocabulary. c. Not all his elegiacs are about war. Biography A general biographical sketch of Archilochus can be drawn from the extant fragments. The poet was also the subject of several pieces in the Palatine Anthology. Archilochus’s technical innovations. possibly cultic in origin and in performance and at least as old as the epic tradition. including Tyrtaeus and Theognis. The fifth century lyric poet Pindar himself criticized Archilochus for such violence in a Pythian ode.J. Jóseph.. 1964.: Princeton University Press. 1993. especially in metrics. and Homeric influence. 680 b. Archilochus’s poetry was evidently very influential on the iambics of the Hellenistic poet Callimachus. Reményi. epodes (poems in which a longer metrical unit is followed by a shorter one). English translation. Hungarian Writers and Literature. In fact. on the satirical poems of Catullus. at least in his rejection of epic stan50 . Archilochus’s meters and style were imitated by later monodic Greek poets. is increasingly questioned today. Contains an informative section on Hungarian poetry.e. it is possible that poems in these meters were written earlier but failed to survive. Enik¹ Molnár Basa Critical Survey of Poetry dards and values. rather. and especially on the Epodes (c. however. There is a suggestion that Archilochus was the butt of some later Greek comedy.

The best-known portion of Archilochus’s poetry is concerned with his aborted engagement to Neobule. founded in the third century b.. a Parian aristocrat.. and dithyr-amb-os suggests to some modern scholars. Although Archilochus does use the firstperson persona and often provides apparent autobiographical information in his poetry. that both Archilochus’s life and his poetry reflect the history and rich Ionian tradition of Paros. Traditionally. an epic word for “rebuke” or “invective”). The suicide theme could be the result of the “killing-satire” tradition.and island-states led to frequent warfare. 51 . Archilochus is said to have been the son of Telesicles. may be derived from the invective tradition.c. The bulk of Archilochus’s extant fragments do not support the antimilitaristic sentiment that some have noted in such poems as “On My Shield. who are said to have hanged themselves as a result of the poet’s bitter attacks. however.e.c. possibly with some original cultic link with Dionysus and Demeter.e.c. The entire Neobule story has by many scholars come to be considered spurious autobiographical material. probably safe to assume that Archilochus lived during the mid-seventh century b. poem 56 D. and it is probable that both Archilochus’s father and the poet himself were involved in this venture. including Martin West. Even the dating of Archilochus is much debated. Unfortunately. too (which means “crow”). but rather sees himself as a “soldier-poet. but this name. said to have been an acquaintance of the poet’s father. Archilochus does not reject the martial world. perhaps from 680 to 640 b. against the Thracians. who gave him a lyre in exchange for the cow that his father had sent him to sell.e. nearly all the available biographical information concerning Archilochus must be qualified by its ultimate poetic source.c. despite the apparent confirmation of the tale suggested by a Hellenistic epitaph poem for the Lycambides. Euboeans. the Aegean island on which he grew up.c. especially in iambus.. Modern scholars tend to argue that many of Archilochus’s personal statements. suggests a date of either 711 or 648 b. It is. The discovery in Thasos of the late seventh century tombstone of Archilochus’s friend Glaucus (see. This etiology of Archilochus’s poetic inspiration may have been derived from the poet’s own work and is almost certainly an imitation of Hesiod’s encounter with the Muses. when colonization and intense rivalry between city. Lycambes.) makes the later period more likely for the poet’s floruit. For unknown reasons. These inscriptions were mounted in a sanctuary of Archilochus. In addition.e. agreed to a match between Neobule and Archilochus. According to tradition. and Naxians. but the evidence suggests that he was often called on to fight. Enipo. Paros organized a colony on the gold-rich island of Thasos. The poet’s reference to a full eclipse of the sun in poem 74 D. there is little that can be verified by independent sources. The tradition that Archilochus was a mercenary soldier may be a misinterpretation of his own po- Archilochus etry. and are evidence of the poet’s posthumous appeal to the inhabitants of his birthplace. Much of Archilochus’s invective poetry is directed against Lycambes and two of his daughters (the Lycambides). and a slave woman. or blame poetry.e. but this bastard status may be a fictional poetic stance (“Enipo” may be derived from enipe. inscriptions that were found on Archilochus’s native Paros and are usually called the Monumentum Archilochium. for example. In the seventh century b. The establishment of the Archilocheion sanctuary on Paros gives some confirmation of the poet’s possible cultic connections. Archilochus’s common martial themes mirror the military concerns of the Greek Archaic Age. the Archilocheion. the morphological relationship between Lyc-amb-es. the daughter of Lycambes. that Lycambes and his daughters were not historical personages but rather stock characters in a traditional iambus. It is fairly certain. Lycambes later changed his mind. He is said to have been killed in battle by a Naxian named Corax.e. are actually conventions of the genre and provide little information about the life of the poet himself.Critical Survey of Poetry tion on Archilochus’s poetry. Particularly informative are several third and first century b. Mention of both islands occurs frequently in the surviving fragments.” but rather suggest the patriotic sentiments of an Archaic Greek who knew his human weaknesses on the battlefield. both for Paros and Thasos.c.” The Monumentum Archilochium provides the mythic tale of how Archilochus as a boy met the Muses. therefore. and Neobule married someone else. i-amb-os.

” is balanced not only in sentiment but also in word order. martial sources. but the poetry itself reveals the talents of an original and unorthodox mind whose contributions to the Greek iambic and elegiac traditions are monumental.c. his “heart. In the second pair of imperative phrases. Archilochus addresses his heart in a military or nautical context. 68 D. formulaic. animated dialogues. His poetry also shows a fondness for animal fables in the tradition of Aesop. a distinctive form of poetic expression developed that lies at the beginning of the European lyric tradition. to Greek iambic. but the context is original. manner.Archilochus Analysis Archilochus’s poetry sprang from the rich oral poetic heritage of prehistoric and Archaic Greece. It is probable that the invective mood. Archilochus uses these fables. Archilochus’s poetry is filled with metaphors that are often derived from Homeric. but Archilochus’s adaptation of this epic trope to the first-person persona reveals the ability to distance oneself from one’s poetic persona.. his “On My Shield. and vivid expression of personal feelings that fill Archilochus’s poems were not inventions of the poet... There may have been a lost “lyric” tradition before Archilochus. which is really a wish for an evil voyage for a personal enemy. Address to one’s own thumos and reflection on one’s own state of mind are found in such epics as the Odyssey (c.). and lyric poetry. Although critical discussion of Archilochus’s life and poetry may never be free from the controversies occasioned by the lack of primary evidence. but rather his inheritance from the iambic and elegiac traditions. but through his personal. firstperson poetry. “don’t in victory openly gloat” and “nor in defeat at home fall in grief. and even scenes. in which the poet not only uses but also often semantically transforms Homeric words. and especially of Ionia. as brief metaphors or extended allegories. the emphasis is not so much on the contradictory imperatives “rejoice” (chaire) and “give sorrow” (aschala) or on the ob- . as if his heart is under siege or at sea: “thrown into confusion” (kuk¹mene). and lyric or firstperson expression. Interaction between the epic and lyric traditions is particularly evident in Archilochus’s poetry. 725 b.. in that it is an introspective address to the poet’s thumos.e. The biographical Archilochus may lie hidden behind the persona of his poetry. The poet’s advice to his heart is climaxed in lines 4 through 6 with a pair of parallel imperative phrases. but also by a parallel oral tradition of more personal expression that led. English translation. his unorthodox propemptikon or “bon voyage” poem (fragment 79a D. 1614). Archilochus can also be seen to use conventional themes in unconventional ways: for example. It was influenced not only by the impersonal. It forms part of a thematic group in Archilochus’s poetry on tlesmosyne or “endurance” (fragments 7 D. which Archilochus utilized in his own distinctive. is a trochaic tetrameter example of the hortatory poem usually expressed in elegiacs. Significantly. but which are abrupt and violent in their poetic context. The vocabulary is Homeric. Fragment 67a D. In 67a D. usually unorthodox. an unconventional climax.c. The exhortative theme is distinctive in 67a D. Fragment 67a D. epic tradition ending with Homer. in the Cologne Epode. beginning with Archilochus in the mid-seventh century b.” rather than to another person (such as Glaucus in 68 D.” in which he revises traditional military values. where Greek participial references to victory (nikn¹) and defeat (nikTtheis) are completed in meter and in sense by the imperative forms “gloat” (agalleo) and “grieve” (odureo). The fragments of Archilochus’s work reveal a dynamic poetry that uses the vocabulary and themes of 52 Critical Survey of Poetry the oral epic and iambic traditions to create the impression of a personal voice on which modern lyric poetry is ultimately based.). and 58 D. an ability that is essential to the lyric mode. It is especially through his unconventional use of standard words and concepts that Archilochus’s style develops its forceful and unexpected turns of thought and expression. the muchdiscussed metaphor of a woman taking a town by storm through her beauty is one example. this group is not bound to a particular meter and is composed of both elegiac and trochaic tetrameter. which has. The first pair. especially in the areas of metrical experimentation. and his seduction poetry. enough of his work survives to show his original contributions to the European poetic tradition. at least once..e.). iambic or invective poetry. “ward off” (alexou). often in unusual contexts. epithets. elegiac.

Here the poet is describing not a martial experience but an emotional one. but Archilochus sums up this concept. of Saion and exesaosa.” but eventually the word developed a secondary meaning of flux. but the underlying implication of this purchase is that Archilochus is prepared to enter battle again in the future. the importance of the shield of Achilles in Homer’s Iliad. an Ionic form of the Greek word rhuthmos. The noble value that the shield possesses in epic (for example. and Horace.. imitated this poem.” is left beside a bush where it is picked up by an enemy Saian (a Thracian). but rather placing his emphasis on the preservation of life instead of gear. Archilochus uses an even rarer form (am¹mon) of this epithet in the Cologne Epode. First. In the second line. but on the adverbial qualification of these commands at the beginning of the last line. Anacreon. Both meanings of the word may be operative in the poem and result in a paradoxical reading of the human situation: The order (rhuthmos) of human life is the constant change (rhuthmos) that Archilochus exhorts his heart to accept. which in Archaic Greek poetry was still an emotion rather than the anthropomorphic mythological figure (Cupid) of later periods. “On My Shield” “On My Shield. “at least not excessively” (mT liTn). unconventional views in an unconventional way in fragment 112 D. for the poet’s preference for a rare Homeric form of “blameless” instead of the more common epic form amumona is perhaps deliberately and comically unorthodox. The epithet am¹mTton (blameless). Fragment 112 D. by a final imperative phrase semantically charged in a striking way: “Recognize what a rhythm of order controls human life. whose military adventures clearly speak through these lines. Archilochus. “Eros pours a thick mist over the poet’s eyes. Finally. his shield. that. Fragment 67a D. as a rhipsaspis. best known in the form of the Apollonian dictum “nothing in excess” (mTden agan). ithyphallic. the contrast between loss of shield and saving of life may be underscored by the possible phonological pun. English translation. who says of his shield that he can buy a “better one” (ou kaki¹). or “shield-thrower. and iambic trimeter catalectic. The word elustheis (coiled) verbally recalls the epic scenes in which Odysseus was coiled beneath the Cyclops’s sheep and Priam at Achilles’ feet.” the 53 . Archilochus does not actually throw away his shield but rather hides it under a bush. derogatorily. 1611) is certainly undermined by Archilochus.” “deserter. The poet’s preference for saving his own life over keeping his shield (which he says he can always replace) has usually been interpreted as an outright rejection of epic. self-centered attitude. possibly.” Archilochus’s use of rhusmos. The sentiment is certainly different from the Homeric battle standard but only in emphasis. this poem was contrasted with the Spartan woman’s command to her man to return from battle “with his shield or on it. there appears to be a contrast in the poem between standard Homeric expressions and their unconventional contexts. thus demonstrates Archilochus’s original use of Homeric vocabulary and concepts as well as the hortatory mood of Greek elegy in a distinctive meter. using a combination of dactylic tetrameter. is not spurning martial values. “untarnished by arms.” that is.” and Archilochus was known. The poet’s lighthearted attitude toward the loss of his shield is reinforced in several ways. This plea for moderation in the expression of emotion was a traditional Archaic Greek sentiment. martial standards in favor of a more personal. It should be noted. On the level of language. Even in antiquity. he uses the derogatory Homeric word erret¹ (to hell with it) in an emphatic position in reference to the shield. “good fortune” (chartoisin) and “evils” (kakoisin). Archilochus also expresses personal. 750 b. The shield. in which he abandons his shield in battle. is “coiled beneath the heart” of Archilochus. but this personal theme is expressed in a vividly Homeric vocabulary: Eros (Passion). The primary meaning of this word is “measure” or “order.Critical Survey of Poetry jects of these actions.” composed of a pair of elegiac couplets. in the rest of the last line.e. however. or change. Archilochus’s act is not a frantic gesture in the midst of headlong flight but a calculated attempt to save his life Archilochus and. c. unintelligible in translation. is also significant. is Archilochus’s best-known piece. which is metrically an example of his asynartetic poems. unlike some of his later imitators. “brand-new.c. is ambiguous. used for the lost shield. including Alcaeus..” Several later poets.

The use of the matronym “daughter of Amphimedo” is good 54 Critical Survey of Poetry epic diction. which has a deathlike grasp on the poet and is depicted. Although Archilochus’s adaptation of the bucolic setting from Homer is evidenced by the fact that both poems associate sexual union with wildly blooming flowers. while her sister Neobule feels the brunt of Archilochus’s invective in her description as a withered flower (anthos d’ aperruTke). Cologne Epode A papyrus find that was published as the Cologne Epode in 1975. Only the last four lines of the woman’s speech survive. the precise nature of which has been greatly debated. The proverb. like death. into the very fiber of his vocabulary and imagery. The general background is an attempted seduction in which the woman argues against and the man for immediate physical union.” Once again epic formulas for death are applied to Eros. arguing against hasty action. is a subtle ploy on the part of the narrator to disguise his own ambitions. stylized variation of a Homeric seduction. The world of Homer is not far to seek. to an old Greek proverb. the beginning of which is lost. where Eros “steals the tender heart from his breast. This epode. Amphimedo. The bulk of the extant poem is devoted to the man’s response. The conversation is being narrated by the man. also underscores Archilochus’s fondness for the use of animal fables as exempla. a secondary meaning of the word. but the epithet “tender” (hapalas) may be intentionally ambiguous. wrestling (“seizing her”). The last reference. in both the vocabulary and themes of the Cologne Epode. The revelation in line 16 of the epode that Archilochus is probably talking to Neobule’s sister makes the issue of autobiographical experience particularly pressing. appears to pick up in the middle of a dialogue between a man and a woman. the narrator disguises his eroticism behind references to various professions: rhetoric (“answering point by point”). The final stage of this natural process is represented by the woman’s late mother. the epode is a close iambic adaption of Hera’s seduction of Zeus in the Iliad. and the phrase “I shall obey as you order” is another obvious example of Homeric phraseology. Thematically.” to the woman. the genre of personal expression and ridicule in which the poet is here operating. Archilochus has integrated this association of the woman with the fertility of nature in a more basic way. At the same time.) A similar use of dialogue within narrative is employed by Archilochus in another recent papyrus find. suggests the presence of an artificial rather than an authentic first-person persona. is most easily accessible in this English translation by John Van Sickle. “who now is covered by the mouldering earth. “weak/ feeble. Archilochus continues this unconventional use of Homeric vocabulary in the last line. but comparison of the epode to book 14 suggests that it is not so much the narration of a spontaneous and emotional event as it is an artistic. and animal husbandry (“hasty bitch. not only added forty precious lines to the corpus of Archilochus but also has greatly advanced knowledge of the poet’s epodic and invective style. The woman herself is described as “beautiful and tender” (kalT tereina). .Archilochus words “pour” (echeuen) and “mist” (achlun) both invoke epic passages where the mist of death pours over a dying warrior. The Cologne Epode. war (“reconnoitering”). hemiepes. originally Homeric. The Homeric vocabulary thus implies a vivid metaphor for Eros.” The concept and vocabulary. The narrative in the Cologne Epode demonstrates Archilochus’s skilled use of a structure well suited to the tone of Ionian iambus. “point by point. (Full intercourse and “heavy petting” are the apparent choices of interpretation. a composition of iambic trimeters. navigation or horse racing (“I’ll hold my course”). book 14.” is perhaps implied by Archilochus as a subtle transformation of the Homeric epithet into a significant expression of the poet’s helplessness in the face of violent passion. architecture (“the coping stone” and “architrave”). blind pups”). is manipulated by Archilochus here into an unorthodox and subtle metaphor arguing in favor of the masculine demand of immediate sexual gratification. Formality is especially evident in the depiction of the woman in a bucolic setting and the contrasting use of images from several Archaic Greek professions and activities in an erotic context. The poem climaxes in a narration of sexual activity. as an external rather than an internal force. The papyrus. and iambic dimeter. which is also a seduction scene. perhaps more than any other extant Archilochean fragment.

Alkman.” Journal of Hellenic Studies 118 (1998): 177-183. Rankin. Davenport. Introduction to Archilochos. Burnett. This volume provides a solid introduction to the study of the poet. Davenport. J. L. Archilochus of Peros. with an emphasis on the themes and content of his verse. Sienkewicz Updated by Michael Witkoski 55 . Mass. J. Gerber. Both were means to the same end: triumph over an adversary. P. Irwin. provides a brief but useful overview of Archilochus’s place in early Greek literature. 1977. 1980. 2007.: Harvard University Press. Burnett points out that during the time Archilochus was writing. Poems by Archilochus and Homer may have been presented during poetic competitions as suggested in a text by Heraclitus. Rankin points out that Archilochus was the “first poet in our literary tradition to use sexuality in a conscious and deliberate way as a main theme in his poetry. D. Because Davenport himself is both a creative writer and a scholar his translations tend to be more interesting than traditional. The placement of Archilochus among his contemporary poetic peers helps establish both his debt and contributions to the developing Greek poetic tradition. Thomas J. C. The question of the possible autobiographical nature of the poems remains open. Sappho. Will. Frederic.: Noyes Press. Serving also as editor. in that sense. Richardson. who also translated and illustrated the selections in this volume.e. West on His Seventieth Birthday. verbal attacks on enemies. Fiction.Critical Survey of Poetry Bibliography Bartol. Archilochus undoubtedly regarded his use of obscenity as a poet in the same way he considered his use of weapons as a warrior. and N.c. Finglass. Berkeley: University of California Press. Alcaeus. Gerber. Douglas. New York: Oxford University Press. Because few of the basic facts known about the poet have changed—and little. Elizabeth. no. Douglas has compiled a very useful volume. London: Bristol Classical Press.J.” as Burnett phrases it. An examination of the historicity of characters in Archilochus’s poetry. the combination of “Ares and the Muses. offers a learned but accessible commentary on the techniques and methods of Greek verse of the period. Park Ridge. In this and other areas. A solid essay that places Archilochus in the context of his times and his specific poetic genre. This collection of essays on ancient Greek poetry con- Archilochus tains several essays that examine Archilochus’s works and the time in which he lived. N.. As such. “Where Was Iambic Performed? Some Evidence from the Fourth Century b. and his world.c. Three Archaic Poets: Archilochus. has been added— most of the material remains useful and can complement later works on Archilochus dealing more extensively with the interpretation of his work and his poetic techniques. 1 (1992): 65. obscenity was seen not as an end in itself but as part of ritual.” Rankin’s frank discussion of Archilochus’s use of sexual themes and imagery helps the reader understand that the poet was not simply trying to shock the reader. New York: Twayne.C. Rankin is especially helpful in his discussion of the role of poetry in Greek society of the time. “Biography. H. Archilochos.” Classical Quarterly 42. Introduction to Greek Iambic Poetry from the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries B. 1969. eds. A discussion of the performance of iambic poetry in the fourth century b. Krystyna. Collard. This book also provides an evenhanded view of Archilochus’s use of obscenity in his poems. 1999. his work. in-depth review of the poet’s career and achievements. Sappho. Guy. who also provided the translations for the volume. academic efforts. Cambridge. A good. Hesperos: Studies in Ancient Greek Poetry Presented to M. 1998. Anne Pippin. pointing out that “Archilochus is the second poet of the West” (after Homer). Explores the paradoxical career of Archilochus as both a professional soldier and poet. and the Archilochaen Ainos.

1533 Principal poetry Orlando Furioso. for example. The Students. 1509. 1516. if fictitious. Ariosto was fluent in Latin (Horace became his favorite poet. but as a result of Gregorio’s departure and subsequent events. morality. along with the works of Michelangelo. 1532 (English translation. he wrote a long Latin poem in honor of the marriage of Alfonso d’Este to Lucrezia Borgia and was rewarded with a captaincy in Reggio.” written in 1533. September 8. the brother of Duke Alfonso. and its influence lasted well into the Romantic period. Ariosto. July 6. The Pretenders. one of the supreme artistic expressions of the Italian Renaissance. his supreme achievement being the long poem Orlando Furioso. became instrumental in driving the Ludovico Ariosto Born: Reggio Emilia. he never learned Greek. irony. despite the boy’s inclination toward poetry. Lena. 1528. Ludovico Critical Survey of Poetry Ariosto obsessively wrote and rewrote his epic until it became. 1591) Satire. He worked his way up to gentleman-inwaiting to Cardinal Ippolito d’Este. Leonardo da Vinci. His plays include La cassaria (pr. exerting a significant influence on his later poetic forms and style). chivalry. 1608) Cinque canti. 1975). with his taste for simple things. 1975). Biography Ludovico Ariosto was the son of Niccolo Ariosto. line of descent for the Estensi. Achievements Ludovico Ariosto was one of the greatest Italian poets. On two other occasions.. Julius. trying to tighten the relationship between Julius and the Estensi. In 1502. 1520. however. Fiercely independent as an artist. a failure that he regretted for the rest of his life. fantasy. he visited the pope. 1508. who urged him to continue writing in Latin. an experience on which he would comment bitterly in Ariosto’s Satyres. the Este family. 1547. 1566). was completed posthumously by his brother Gabriele and retitled La scolastica (pb. and La Lena (pr. 1474 Died: Ferrara (now in Italy). 1975). he went to Rome to seek the aid of Pope Julius II against Venice. 1534 (wr. Orlando Furioso captured the essence of Renaissance thought in its dynamic combination of classical form. Many writers and thinkers of the Renaissance regarded Orlando Furioso as one of the greatest works ever composed. did not fully recognize the importance of the poet who was under their care. I suppositi (pr. though setting the plays in Ferrara and using the society of that city for his plots. 1517-1525. and spread Ariosto’s name across Europe. The Coffer. following the form of the Latin comedies of Plautus and Terence and rigorously adhering to the unities of time and place. pb. In 1500. even bandits were said to hold him in awe. and style. Ariosto’s epic poem established a proud. and vassal of the duke of Ferrara. who were allied by marriage to Louis XII of France. when Gregorio left for France as the tutor of Francesco Sforza. however. Ariosto resisted and was eventually permitted to study literature with Gregorio de Spoleto. duchy of Modena (now in Italy). pb. until 1499. medieval romance. In 1484. In 1509. captain of the guard of Reggio Emilia.Ariosto. though it is little read today. 56 . pleased the court at Ferrara. Il negromante (wr. he moved to Ferrara with his ten children and set Ariosto to the study of law. 1545 Other literary forms Ludovico Ariosto (or-ee-AW-stoh) was an influential verse dramatist of his time. and Raphael. Although Ariosto’s patrons. “I studenti. he found himself preoccupied with the banal tasks of finding positions for his younger brothers and administering the estate. Niccolo was a stern father and a harsh ruler who was hated by the people of Reggio Emilia. His first poetry was in Latin and earned the praise of Pietro Bembo. and was sent on various diplomatic missions for the Este family. His dream of a simple life filled with humanistic studies was shattered. The Necromancer. His final play. 1975). Ariosto’s Satyres. preferred the vernacular and soon wrote only in Italian. Ariosto’s father died and the young man was forced to take up the management of his mother’s dowry and put aside his studies to care for his four brothers and five sisters. 1521.

Ariosto proudly said that if the cardinal had imagined he was buying a slave for a miserable seventy-five crowns a year. Leo. on his way home from a diplomatic mission in Florence. a wild area between the provinces of Modena and Lucca. who. Ariosto visited the new pope. Ludovico and diligent administrator. He had carried on a number of previous romances. sed nulli obnoxia. however. His letters to the duke from his headquarters in Castelnuovo show that. who had been his friend as a cardinal. and controlling the bandits. (The cardinal coarsely asked Ariosto where he had come up with all that foolishness. the poor health of his mother. several leading to the birth of illegitimate children. he was forced to flee over the Apennines with Duke Alfonso in order to escape the consequences of Julius’s fury. and that family hated the Estensi. sed non/ Sordida. was a Medici (son of Lorenzo de’ Medici). Virginio. Seeking a tranquil existence. he began a long romantic attachment to Alessandra Benucci. he was allowed to return to Ferrara. even after Ariosto married Alessandra. Leo X.Critical Survey of Poetry French from Italy with the League of Cambrai. In 1513. Ariosto irritated Julius so much that the pope threatened to have him tossed into the Tiber. Ariosto was irregularly paid. after three years. expecting the pope to become his patron. A year later. and though given only halfhearted support by the duke. Ariosto entered the service of Duke Alfonso and became governor of Garfagnana. It had surrendered to the Estensi. Indeed. honest. In the same year. In 1516. feuds. Ippolito. Ariosto. Ariosto proved himself a capable. and he built a small.) Ariosto was thoroughly disillusioned with his patron. There is a story of his having been captured by bandits and taken to their chieftain. claimed by the Luchesi. exacting tribute. he humbly apologized for his men’s failure to show Ariosto the respect he deserved. when Ippolito was appointed bishop of Budapest. however. Furthermore. He was constantly called on to settle squabbles. a respect not shown even by his patrons. simple house with a Latin motto on the facade: “Parva sed apta mihi. and a desire to continue with his studies and refused to accompany Ippolito to Hungary. One son. Ariosto pleaded his ill health. Ariosto bought a vineyard in the Mirasole district with money he had set aside. When the bandit leader discovered that he was addressing the author of Orlando Furioso. gave him his pension to compensate the poet only for his life-threatening duties as a diplomatic messenger and not at all for his poetry. Pisans. He had always been frugal. One critic has observed that sending the gentle Ariosto to Garfagnana could be compared to Queen Victoria sending Tennyson to subdue a rebellion in Afghanistan. parta Ludovico Ariosto (Library of Congress) 57 . and complaints and to coax one faction to make peace with another. and Florentines. so Ariosto went home empty-handed. became Ariosto’s favorite and resided with Ariosto until the old man’s death. Ariosto did his best in extraordinarily difficult circumstances and was delighted when. he was a wise ruler in meting out justice. despite his feeling of being in exile. The poet was not disappointed when the angry cardinal released him from his service and even denied him an interview. he was mistaken and could withdraw the pension. Ariosto completed his first version of Orlando Furioso and dedicated it to his unappreciative patron. born in 1509 to Orsolina Catinelli. such were the absurdities of the patronage system. he suspected.

” and “De catella puellae. Glaura. but enough for me. madrigals. and writes like Horace. Ariosto always preferred a simple existence in unpretentious surroundings. Despite Bembo’s advice. Lycoris. Written just as Charles VIII of France was about to invade Italy. it has distinctive qualities. sonnets. increasing the number of cantos from forty to forty-six. His most famous lyric poem is the sonnet “Non so s’io potro ben chiudere in rima” (I know not if I can ever close in rhyme).” “De Megilla.” “De Iulia. Most of these poems are respectable but workmanlike imitations of Petrarch and are far from Ariosto’s greatest work. such as “De puella. The poet himself showed a great deal of indifference to the scattering of lyric poems he wrote throughout his life. When this task was completed.Ariosto. though his lyrics in Italian are a great deal less sensuous than are their Latin counterparts. His preference for this type of life is apparent even in his earliest works. He also made his third revision of Orlando Furioso. of 1494. Heavily influenced by Petrarch. allegedly. Political upheavals are not worth worrying about as long as one can wander in the fields in pursuit of Lydia. capitoli. Critic Francesco De Sanctis observes that Ariosto. Ariosto would be regarded as no more than a . Ariosto’s first published Latin ode. It was translated into all the languages of Europe and imitated in all of them. he once stooped to pick up Titian’s brush. love. Orlando Furioso Were it not for his great epic poem. often in expensive illustrated formats. primarily using the poetic forms of Catullus and Horace but influenced by many classical poets as well. Ariosto preferred to write in the vernacular. including Albius Tibullus and Sextus Propertius. there are serious questions of authenticity. and superintending their performance and the construction of a theater. and the poet died of tuberculosis a year after his trip to Mantua. where he could spend his time on poetry and gardening. to whom the Estensi had become allied after abandoning the French. and poetic form. however. Phyllis. Orlando Furioso. It hardly mattered to him whether Italy was tyrannized by a French king or an Italian one: Slavery is slavery. feels. and. which caused Bembo to urge Ariosto to continue writing in Latin. thinks. and there was a rumor that he intended to crown Ariosto in a special ceremony. The posthumous success of Ariosto’s great epic was extraordinary. to none unfriendly. so that he could still collect his ecclesiastical income) and spent his time gardening. he was married to Alessandra Benucci (secretly. he traveled to Mantua to present a copy to Emperor Charles V. reading the Latin classics. This never came about. It went through 180 editions in the sixteenth century. or any other woman given a Latin pseudonym.” one immediately perceives the personality of Ariosto and the general aspiration of artists in the Renaissance to transcend ordinary events for the higher realms of art.” “De Lydia. and bought with my own money). and the physicality of kisses and embraces is replaced by worshipful comparisons of the love object with divinity and the sun. the passions become Platonic. Analysis About 1494. in 58 Critical Survey of Poetry his Latin verse. Charles appreciated the arts. Although his verse in Latin is not equal in technical skill to that of Giovanni Pontano or Pietro Bembo. but not until late in his life was he able to settle in his little house near Ferrara. He was buried in the church of San Benedetto. In the case of many poems ascribed to Ariosto. it extols the blessings of peace and love. He found no satisfaction in the complexities of court and politics and attempted to achieve classical serenity in the pleasures of nature. In these lyrics. canzones. He wrote in a number of forms: elegies. but it is good to lie under the trees gazing at Philiroe and listening to the murmur of a waterfall. Living with his son Virginio and his lame brother Gabriele. particularly its sincerity. never collecting and publishing them. Ludovico meo sed tamen aere domus” (A little house. is an Alcaic (the form most frequently employed by Horace). Ludovico Ariosto began writing poetry. Catastrophe threatens. and one eclogue. which touches on his falling in love with Alessandra in Florence on Saint John’s Day as the accession of Leo X was being celebrated. though his remains were later transferred to the Biblioteca Comunale of Ferrara. “Ad Philiroen” (“To Philiroe”). not unclean. writing comedies. for about ten years.” “De Glycere et Lycori. Despite his diplomatic career. he wrote almost exclusively in Latin.

1612-1620. Bradamante refuses to marry Ruggiero unless he converts to Christianity. as the title reveals. 750 b. Boiardo. Lucan. 1880). English translation. Boiardo intended to have the Saracen knight Ruggiero convert and marry Brada- Ariosto. Later. Most. Ariosto’s opening words. . and over a lifetime of writing and revising. English translation.c. fairies. 1614) combined.e. Matteo Maria Boiardo..e. . who used part of it for the subplot of The Taming of the Shrew (pr.c. 59 . Robert Greene wrote a play entitled The History of Orlando Furioso (pr. and Orlando Furioso left its mark on the Romantic period as well. It influenced Bernardo Tasso’s Amadigi (1560) and Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata (1581. Orlando Furioso. c. battles with infidels and dragons. John Milton made some use of the poem. 29-19 b. subplots. c. . English translation. particularly on the poetry of Lord Byron. as Charlemagne has proclaimed that only he who defeats Bradamante in combat may marry her. better known as Don Quixote de la Mancha) and Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590. The love theme of Arthurian romance assumes a dominant role. 1600). and Statius on Ariosto’s epic. pb.” Though not widely read today. The following line. and simply cataloging its characters is a major task.c. 1553): “Of the arms and the man I sing.. and William Shakespeare. It served as a model for Miguel de Cervantes’ El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha (1605. and in his hands Orlando becomes much more than a warrior battling Saracens.Critical Survey of Poetry minor poet whose lyrics influenced the French Pléiade and whose Roman-style comedies made a mark on Renaissance English drama through George Gascoigne. The Song of Roland. died in the same year the French invaded Italy.” are very close to the opening words of Vergil’s Aeneid (c. 1495. Orlando Furioso is nevertheless considered one of the masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance. out of loyalty. Some critics have therefore asserted that the poem is episodic and lacks unity. giants.. “I shall tell of the anger. English translation. 1600) derives from an episode in Ariosto’s epic.). English translation. of love and arms.e. Ludovico mante and to make them the ancestors of the Este family.e. who adapted The Pretenders for the British stage in 1566.” In fulfilling Boiardo’s intention to establish an illustrious lineage for the Estensi. of courtly chivalry. however. and. point to the story of Ruggiero and Bradamante as the central plot around which the themes revolve. so Ariosto added to them the classical tradition. however. . 1611) and Odyssey (c. 725 b.” is reminiscent of the opening of Homer’s Iliad (c. 15931594). The poem is longer than Homer’s Iliad (c. although many episodes seem to have no explicit connection with the conflicts between duty and love which constantly interfere with their relationship. 1611) and the “wrath of Achilles. agrees to fight Bradamante in disguise. 1615. Jerusalem Delivered. dwarfing the numerous romances of other writers of that period. Boiardo merged the traditions of the Arthurian romance with those of the Carolingian. and Ruggiero hesitates to do so while his lord Agramante is in danger. of courageous deeds .. 1598-1599. .” Critics have also noted the influence of Ovid. Ruggiero becomes the friend of Leo. the man Bradamante’s father had chosen to be her husband. In 1506. The epic is complex. Ariosto was also paralleling Vergil’s attempt to establish a great ancestry for Augustus Caesar. he proved himself the best Italian poet of the genre. and the rescues of fair maidens. and Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (pr.e. The History of the Valorous and Wittie Knight-Errant. who called him “the Ariosto of the north. Ariosto began Orlando Furioso to complete Boiardo’s epic. 1594). “I sing of knights and ladies. Sir Walter Scott faithfully read through Orlando Furioso every year and relished the epithet bestowed on him by Byron. 750 b.c. To summarize the story line of Orlando Furioso would take many pages. The Orlando of Boiardo’s poem is descended from the hero of the Carolingian epic Chanson de Roland (twelfth century. In the latter part of the poem. and his Ruggiero remains Muslim and unmarried. 1596). strange people and islands. Don Quixote of the Mancha. the fiery rage of young Agramante their king . . however. with supernatural events. 1823) of the Homer of Ferrara. Many critics have commented that the title of Ariosto’s epic echoes Seneca’s Hercules furens (first century c. is one of the great works of the Renaissance. As his predecessor had integrated the Carolingian and Arthurian traditions. Ariosto’s great poem began with his desire to complete the Orlando innamorato (1483.

and that the poem manages to maintain any coherence at all. corruption in the Church and court is exposed. and the dangers of ambition are shown in an Aesop-like . so Ariosto synthesized the essence of the Renaissance. Besides being unified by its major plots.e. that he once walked halfway to Modena before remembering that he was still in his slippers. Orlando goes mad— God’s punishment for abandoning the Christian armies—and rampages naked across France. Rodomonte. Art was his faith. Despite the title of the poem. so that he can transport them to Orlando. The poet did not live to see the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. religion. for example. Just as Dante had captured the essence of the end of the Middle Ages. as Satire (translated into English as Ariosto’s Satyres). but because of his state. He rescues a woman from being sacrificed to a monster. is testimony to Ariosto’s genius. It is said. He stumbles across Angelica as she is about to set sail. Few works of art in any age have been created with the intensity that Ariosto brought to Orlando Furioso. for example. there are many tales concerning Ariosto’s absentmindedness while composing the epic. Besides recounting the difficulties that Ruggiero and Bradamante must overcome in order to establish the Este line. the poem is unified by its warning to Christendom that its internecine troubles can only increase the Islamic threat. four years before Ariosto’s death. Ariosto took the role of the artist very seriously. encountering various adventures along the way but always one step behind her. considering its myriad characters and supernatural intrusions. Astolfo recovers his own senses and puts Orlando’s in a jar. when the siege of Vienna was abandoned. the satires are autobiographical and use his personal experiences and observations to make larger moral generalizations. however. Ariosto sustains the suspension of disbelief by deft use of details. Orlando swims across the Strait of Gibraltar to Africa and does not recover his senses until another madman. while Christians squabbled among themselves. calls Ruggiero an apostate. Many critics argue that Orlando Furioso is unified primarily by its style and tone rather than by its plot. and throughout his life. and patriotism were secondary. With fantastic episodes occurring in every canto. blaspheming on its way to Hell. daughter of the emperor of Cathay. As De Sanctis points out. which ended the Ottoman threat to Europe. After Angelica flees Paris. The writer’s need for independence is expressed. As his satires prove. a flying horse. the Turks seemed to be growing in power. morality. and they fight a duel. where all the things humankind has lost are collected. Orlando searches the world for her. The Turkish ad60 Critical Survey of Poetry vance into Europe was stopped only in 1529.c. Ludovico Leo. Written to friends and relatives such as Bembo and Ariosto’s brothers Alessandro and Galazio.). these poems reveal much of what is known of Ariosto’s personality. The range of Ariosto’s imagination is enormous. in typical Renaissance style. Midway through the epic. This brief outline of the action of Orlando Furioso can give only a partial idea of the epic’s complexity. Restored. his story seems secondary to that of Ruggiero. As Ruggiero and Bradamante are being married. Astolfo. and Angelica sails out of the poem. imbuing scenes with the texture of familiar reality. because of the real people and situations mentioned in them. The poem ends with Rodomonte’s condemned soul. a Muslim African king.Ariosto. travels with Saint John in Elijah’s chariot of fire to the Moon. merging classical form with medieval romance and balancing the ironic detachment of a poetic craftsman with an earthy sense of reality. He avoids the bombast and overt rhetorical flourishes that damage the style of so many epic poems of the period. driven to madness by his love for Angelica. Ariosto’s incessant reworking of the poem shows his artistic obsession with finding the ideal form for his creation. Orlando Furioso tells the story of Orlando. the knight devotes himself to the Christian cause and kills Agramante and several others in battles at Bizerta and Lipadusa. who has been sent to destroy the court of Charlemagne. asks Charlemagne to give his rights over her to Ruggiero (yet another act of selfless friendship and chivalry). they do not recognize each other. modeled after Horace’s Sermones (35 b. Ariosto wrote seven verse epistles in tercets. however. Satire Between 1517 and 1525. like a knight of the Round Table in quest of the Holy Grail. just after Ruggiero has lifted Angelica off the same island by means of the hippogriff. Published posthumously.

Contains brief bibliographies for each chapter and two indexes.: Princeton University Press. 1547. Daniel. Tempe. “Ariosto and the Prophetic Moment. 1975). Eric Nicholson (early theatrical adaptations). This invisible interior world.J. N. wr. N. Ariosto often seems to be using the satires as a device to release his pent-up frustrations with a world that will not leave him alone. helps readers understand the times in which he wrote. Clare. Carroll. the satires do tell a reader much about the atmosphere of the Italian Renaissance. The Students. Also contains chapters on lyrics. the satires lack the aristocratic sophistication of Horace and often seem rambling and coarse.” Princeton. 1556. Griffin.. Wiggins suggests that their complex inner lives are universal human types. 1519 (completed by Gabriele Ariosto as La scolastica. Boston: Twayne. Ascoli’s close reading of Orlando Furioso uncovers Ariosto’s “poetics of concord and discord.: MRTS.” the evasion of historical crises. Katherine Hoffmann (his juxtaposition of honor and avarice in the criticism of courtly society). Brand. 1975). satires. Il negromante. 1974. lyrics. Robert. Albert R. Agreeing with Galileo’s early comments on the psychological consistency of Ariosto’s characters and his exact knowledge of human nature. pb. 1986. The Comedies of Ariosto. Proclaiming a Classic: The Canonization of “Orlando Furioso. and two indexes. Finucci (the problematic masculinity of Jocondo and Astolfo). 1997. 1508. ed.C. Good introductory work on Ariosto. no. 1509 (The Pretenders. Instead of offering incisive observations on human weakness and foolishness. La Lena. satires. Collection of six articles on Orlando Furioso by Ronald Martinez (Rinaldo’s journey as epic and romance). Frequently witty.. pr. accomplished through the imagery of circle.: Princeton University Press. Emphasizes the opposition of love and war. Wiggins. 1991. and completed by Virginio Ariosto as L’imperfetta. notes.” MLN 116. The poem is envisioned as “a miniature animated cosmos. Bibliography Ascoli. N. Ariosto. I suppositi. Princeton. Finucci. 1975. 1975). I studenti. wheel. beginning with a chapter on his life and ending with a survey of criticism. and Constance Jordan (the woman warrior Bradamante). at odds with an exterior world of folly and 61 . especially the obsessive scrambling for power among noble families. Renaissance Transactions: Ariosto and Tasso. and a thematic analysis of Orlando Furioso. The Necromancer. 1974.” Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.: Duke University Press. and his unhappiness at being separated from his family by his patrons’ business. P. 1528 (Lena. MacPhail. Other poems express Ariosto’s regrets at not having completed his education. The “Orlando Furioso”: A Stoic Comedy. his views on marriage. pr. which looks at the historical context of Ariosto’s epic poem. Eric. Studies sixteenth century reception of the poem and how readers determined its literary value. Contains full chapters on life. 1520. This essay. pr. pb. Daniel Javitch (Ariosto’s use of arms and love). Ludovico Ariosto. Nevertheless.J. Javitch. Analyzes the poem’s stoic view of harmony through a dialectic of contradictory meanings (wisdom through madness. Figures in Ariosto’s Tapestry: Character and Design in the “Orlando Furioso. and dramas while concentrating on a thematic study of Orlando Furioso. Ludovico juxtaposition of excess and restraint) and the balance of the poem’s structure. An excellent overview of Ariosto’s life and works. 1999. Valeria.” an organism ordered yet changing. 1529 (wr. Argues that the unity of the poem rests on man’s inability to accept the will of fortune in a world beyond his limited comprehension. his love for the simple life.Critical Survey of Poetry fable of a pumpkin that climbs a pear tree. 2001): 30-53. 1 (January. 1566). 1530 (The Coffer. Contains chronology. Ludovico Ariosto: A Preface to the “Orlando Furioso. Ariosto’s Bitter Harmony: Crisis and Evasion in the Italian Renaissance. pb. and tondo. ring. Durham. 1987. dramas. pr. and the relationship of this “text of crisis” to others of the genre.” Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. c. C. 1975). pr. Ariz. Peter De Sa. selected bibliography with brief annotations. Other major works plays: La cassaria.

As a literary artist. a collection that helps clarify the aesthetic values that influenced his own work as a plastic artist. Hugo Ball. _______. he is now recognized as an important and original contributor to the twentieth century literary avant-garde. 1974 Other literary forms In addition to his large body of poetry. Although his reputation as a plastic artist overshadowed his work as a poet during his lifetime. Essays. A bilingual text. 1939 Rire de coquille. Essais. a collection of short stories. Arp was one of the earliest and most enthusiastic supporters of the Dada movement. 1887 Died: Basel. The Satires of Ludovico Ariosto: A Renaissance Autobiography. 1903-1939. using the Italian original edited by Cesare Segre with Wiggins’ clear prose translations on the facing page. Argues that the narrator of the satires is an idealized poet courtier in typical situations rather than a factual mirror of Ariosto himself. 1966 (as Jean Arp. Richard Hülsenbeck. 1953 Auf einem Bein. 1963 L’Ange et la rose. Athens: Ohio University Press. Byrne Critical Survey of Poetry Worte mit und ohne Anker. 1957 (as Jean Arp) 62 . J. June 7. France). Arp also wrote about his fellow artists in Onze peintres vus par Arp (1949). Hans Arp (orpt) wrote a substantial number of lyrical and polemical essays. 19201965.Arp. 1955 Unsern ta{guml}lichen Traum. 1955 Le Voilier dans la forêt. 1965 (as Jean Arp) Logbuch des Traumkapitäns. 1930 Des taches dans le vide. Excellent index and notes for each chapter. Madison Davis Updated by Joseph P. 1938 Muscheln und Schirme. 1966 Also known as: Jean Arp Principal poetry Die Wolkenpumpe. 1937 Sciure de gamme. Hans depravity. 1946 (as Jean Arp) On My Way: Poetry and Essays. Together with Tristan Tzara. 1966 (as Jean Arp) Gedichte. Memories. which began in Zurich in February of 1916. Suggests that the satires share similarities with Orlando Furioso: the theme of illusion and reality. 1939-1957. the Brunswick Hans Arp Born: Strassburg. short novels written in collaboration with the Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro. 1944 Le Siège de l’air. 1920 Der Pyramidenrock. 1948 Auch das ist nur eine Wolke: Aus dem Jahren. 1960 (as Jean Arp) Sinnende Flammen. September 16. Switzerland. Achievements Hans Arp actually has two reputations: one as a sculptor and painter of long-standing international fame. 1965 Jours effeuillés: Poèmes. 1959 Vers le blanc infini. 1953 Wortraüme und schwarze Sterne. These essays are collected in On My Way and Dreams and Projects (1952). the other as a poet. Arp is best known for his association with Dada and Surrealism. Marcel Janco. 1920 bis 1950. the ironic humor. 1951 Beharte Herzen. and the UNESCO Secretariat Building. 1972) Le Soleil recerclé. is a major theme of the work. in which the metaphysical basis of his thought is given its clearest and most systematic expression. 1924 Weisst du schwarzt du. and the use of a dramatic persona as narrator. Germany (now Strasbourg. 1957 Mondsand. Souvenirs. Each satire is placed in biographical and historical context with its own separate preface and notes. 1912-1947. and Emmy Hennings. and Tres inmensas novelas (1935). In the 1950’s and 1960’s he erected sculptures for Harvard University. Arp on Arp: Poems. 1974 Three Painter Poets. the University of Caracas. Arp also published two works of fiction: Le Blanc aux pieds de nègre (1945). 1976. Könige vor der Sintflut. 1961 Gedichte.

on the eastern shore of Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. Like most of his earliest poetry. Biography Hans Arp. however. the Alsace-Lorraine being at the time under German annexation.” was unfortunately mislaid by the publisher to whom it was sent. to which it presently belongs. two important developments occurred. and taught. This mingled French and German heritage was also reflected in Arp’s home and social environment. Hans Hans Arp (©Hollaend/Keystone/CORBIS) man did appear the same year. and Shepherd’s Clouds (1953). Arp began to develop the personal aesthetic he called concrete art. Muse’s Amphora (1959). which was a product of the history of this region. In 1954. a manuscript volume of poems. having served his artistic apprenticeship at various academies. a dialect of different derivation from the standard German used in education and for official business. Arp. In 1909. was born in Strasbourg on September 16. Alsace-Lorraine. Arp recalled. He also finished cement steles and walls for the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel. Isolated from the influences of the academies and their avant-garde faddishness. including Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. he called himself Hans Arp. With his friends he spoke the Alsatian vernacular. In the five years Arp spent at Weggis. In the state-operated primary and secondary schools he attended. he called himself Jean Arp. who operated a cigar and cigarette factory in Strasbourg. he won the international prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale. moved with his family to Weggis. At the time of his birth. He visited Paris for the first time. French was spoken. the region in which Strasbourg lies. About 1904. when he wrote in French. standard High German was used. This manuscript. like himself. he became acquainted with other artists who. Arp’s involvement with the plastic arts began in earnest. in standard High German. however. although only two years later he had completed. helps to account for the confusion concerning his Christian name. 1887. were also pursuing personal aesthetics independent of the Paris academies. belonged to Germany. and Bonn University Library. Chinese Shadow (1947). although culturally it was tied to France. In addition to these achievements. which was to influence the entire course of his career. also known as Jean Arp. when he was only fifteen. Three poems by Arp in Ger- Arp. when he wrote in German. At home. neither name was a pseudonym—the change was made simply for convenience. His father. Arp is best known for sculptures such as Owl’s Dream (1936). his equal ease with both French and German. During this period. 63 . His mother. Arp exhibited his work with some of these artists. entitled “Logbuch. was of Danish descent. In addition. Arp’s bilingualism.Critical Survey of Poetry Technische Hochschule. in Das Neue Magazin. it was written in the Alsatian dialect. as one shifts from speaking one language to the other according to the language of the auditor. As Arp explained it. was of French descent. Arp’s first published poem appeared in 1902. and for the next five years he studied art not only at Strasbourg but also in Weimar and Paris. Josephine Köberlé Arp. Pierre Guillaume Arp. In his view.

often translating originals from one language into the other. Arp published poetry in both French and German. Sophie Taeuber. not abstract representations of already existing forms. Analysis Hans Arp was one of the founding members of the Dada movement. later managing to reach Zurich. while away from home. Arp’s first poem written directly in French was published in 1933. in 1942. 1943. Hans In 1914. his comments on these collages have often been linked to the Surrealist technique of automatic writing. was “to destroy the reasonable deceptions of man. To rectify modern humanity’s mistaken view of its place in the universe.” truly “concrete” art. as does “Kaspar ist Tot” (“Kaspar Is Dead”). he visited the United States. and that were to bring him international acclaim as a sculptor. he persuaded the authorities at the German consulate that he was mentally ill.” Unlike the earlier geometric productions of his abstract period. In the remaining seven years of his life. On June 7. which had a broad impact on both art and literature in the early twentieth century. and Egypt. as well as the increasing demand for exhibitions of his plastic works.Arp. 64 Critical Survey of Poetry In 1940. Arp’s growing fame as an important modern sculptor. and in the process frequently introducing substantial changes. After the war. these reliefs and woodcuts were composed of asymmetrical curvilinear and bimorphic forms. Arp said. which met regularly at the Cabaret Voltaire. appeared in 1937. in the Surrealists’ journal Le Surréalisme au service de la révolution. as Arp later explained. Because his German money was suddenly valueless in France. Italy. however. and his first collection of poems in French. The Dada use of humor to reorient humanity’s attitude toward the world was followed by Arp in these poems. and in 1926. allowed him to travel widely. In 1921. Des taches dans le vide (splotches in space). During this period. he settled permanently in the Paris suburb of Meudon. in neutral Switzerland. In November of 1915. Arp produced bas-relief sculptures and woodcuts reflecting the developing aesthetic that he termed “concrete art. producing a great number of poems in German that were collected in Die Wolkenpumpe. Arp married Marguerite Hagenbach. After the demise of Dada in 1924. he promptly returned to neutral Zurich. who had been a friend of Taeuber in Zurich and had long admired Arp’s work. Arp returned to Paris only to discover that war had been declared. Its aim. To avoid the draft. at an exhibition of his work with his friend and fellow artist Otto Van Rees. the Arps fled south from Paris to Grasse to escape the German occupation. and Weisst du schwartz du. Arp offered the notion of a con- . Dada’s principal target was humanity’s overestimation of reason.” Dada’s critique of modern humanity. Arp exhibited the abstract collages and tapestries that are the earliest examples of his work extant.” to expose “the fragility of life and human works” through the use of Dadaist humor. and together they collaborated on cut-paper collages and other plastic works. Arp also began to create the free-form sculptures that he called concretions. Some of his most moving poems are beautiful evocations of Taeuber’s transforming influence on his life. “direct creations. Arp’s own work is one of the best testaments to this fact. Arp married Taeuber. Arp also returned to writing poetry. From this time on. Die Wolkenpumpe (the cloud pump). Arp formed an increasingly close association with the Surrealist movement. At this time. he met his future wife. they were. sending Arp into a deep depression that lingered for many years. in Basel. At this time. in southern Switzerland. It was there that Taeuber met with an accidental death on January 13. Israel. Greece. In 1959. and his German citizenship unwelcome. was not entirely destructive. In 1916. In Zurich. Mexico. 1966. an artist who was a native of Zurich. Arp and Hagenbach spent part of the year at their home in Meudon and the remainder at a second home near Locarno. Der Pyramidenrock. Arp died at the age of seventy-eight. despite the commonly held belief that it was a totally negative response to the world. where he began to develop his decidedly personal “Arpian humor. with the outbreak of World War II. date from this period. Arp and Taeuber participated in the activities of the newly formed Dada group. which would reveal “the natural and unreasonable order” of things. Jordan. He also began to experiment with a new type of “torn-paper” collage. perhaps the most famous of all Dada poems. The poems of Arp’s first collection.

. the eternal. the sublime—sustains and nourishes humanity. Hans alas alas our good kaspar is dead. Arp uses humor in his work to destroy “the reasonable deceptions of man. the sublime with the mundane. and elements of both are often present in a single work. Investing a subhuman creature with the proud vanity of rational humanity creates an ironic situation reminiscent of the fable. “Ich bin ein Pferd” (in French as “Je suis un cheval” and translated into English as “I Am a Horse”). Arp’s conception of humor is connected with his metaphysical philosophy. from the work of other Dada and Surrealist poets: his highly personal humor and the metaphysical philosophy that underlies all his mature work.” It seems as if some golden age has passed: The link between humanity and nature has been broken by the death of Kaspar. the speaker resumes his lament. are you a star now or a chain of water . As the poem begins. He has ceased to be human and has thus been liberated from the tragic condition of temporal consciousness that the speaker still suffers. 65 . and “every seat is occupied by a lady with a man on her lap”—a most unpleasant sight to the snobbish. . to identify him with nature. but this time it seems even more selfconscious. with a lament for the dead. uncivilized impulse. and it includes a note of facetiousness: “alas Arp. which seem superhuman in character: “who will conceal the burning banner in the cloud’s pigtail now . At this realization. .” which lead him to believe that he is “the summit of creation. humor and metaphysics are not mutually exclusive. which aims to restore the lost balance of forces in humans. the equine speaker is riding in a crowded passenger train. after he and his wife moved to the Paris suburb of Meudon in 1926. A good example of this is the early poem “Kaspar Is Dead. Arp frequently participated in Surrealist activities and contributed to their publications. who resembles Jonathan Swift’s Houyhnhnms. the eternal with the transitory.” It was through his participation in the Dada group that Arp became acquainted with the Paris Surrealists. . his feeling of superiority relative to the weakwilled humans with whom he shares the compartment. and impulsively—much to the disgust of the dignified horse. . maintaining his proud composure.” “Kaspar Is Dead” In Arp’s view then. socially respectable horse. . That which comes from above—the celestial. at the end of the poem. wanting to be suckled.” The poem is written in the form of an elegy.” In the second half of the poem. even such a heroic figure as Kaspar. and all the human passengers “eat nonstop. However. who observes the action from a detached perspective. Arp’s humor achieves its effect by combining opposites: the celestial with the terrestrial. the detachment of the speaker. it is the human beings who behave instinctively. wherever he is and in whatever form. the speaker turns to more generalized metaphysical speculation: “into what shape has your great wonderful soul migrated. among others. while that which comes from below—the terrestrial. the horse alone resists this primitive. . in which talking animals are used to satirize particular forms of human folly. who will entice the idyllic deer out of the petrified bag . Thus. the compartment is unbearably hot. It is not humankind itself that is under attack but humanity’s vain rationality. The poem then proceeds to describe the remarkable accomplishments of the deceased. Kaspar can no longer reestablish for humankind the broken link between itself and nature. who will blow the noses of ships umbrellas beekeepers ozone-spindles and bone the pyramids. In addition to being crowded. “I Am a Horse” One of Arp’s most successful attacks on the reasonable deceptions of humanity is a poem of his early maturity. . however. The speaker of the poem is a reasoning horse. or an udder of black light?” He despairs once again at the realization that. . His intention was “to save man from the most dangerous of follies: vanity . to simplify the life of man . as is customary in the genre. it cannot rely on anyone or anything else to do this for it. Two important characteristics of Arp’s poetry distinguish it. the mundane—confuses and intoxicates humanity. In this poem. The speaker concludes with resignation that it is humanity itself that is obligated to reestablish a proper relationship with nature. and it begins. unbuttoning the women’s bodices and clutching their breasts.Critical Survey of Poetry crete art that could transform both humankind and the world. however. the transitory. goodness gracious me kaspar is dead.” When the men suddenly begin to whine. emotionally. .

censure nor obligation. Rex W. the reorientation of human values that Arp had been seeking.” Through the agency of a reasoning horse. Collected French Writings. In this poem. imaginative elegy written after the death of Arp’s friend and fellow artist. Arp devoted a substantial portion of his mature work to communicating. When the poem begins. 1963-1984 (3 volumes). The first was the period of isolation he spent at Weggis. the eternal realm of unbounded space above. Arp had already described this state of blissful eternal existence in a much earlier poem entitled “Il chante il chante” (“He Sings He Sings”). New York: Viking. which gave him the opportunity to cast aside the aesthetic of abstraction and formulate his theory of concrete art. Biographical and critical introduction to Arp’s artwork and poetry. and Idealist. not mourning. This clear. Translated by Joachim Neugroschel. Theo van Doesburg. with many photographs of his artwork. Fauchereau. A short introduction to Arp’s life and art. “In Space” Arp’s metaphysical beliefs. The soul. Jean Arp. This introductory essay is an excellent summary of Arp’s life and work. freed from the physical body. 1972. 1945. in the fetal position—which is also the crouch he assumes in order to leap into space. 1935 (with Vicente Huidobro). miscellaneous: Gesammelte Gedichte. Hugo Ball. in poetic images and symbols. Hans is revealed as a mere pose that disguises the same basic impulses behind the mask of rationality. . Jean. Last. nonfiction: Onze peintres vus par Arp. for when he neighs loudly. Doesburg now knows neither honor nor dishonor. the soul of Arp’s beloved friend—after having sojourned for a time in the transitory material world below—is preparing to leap out into the unknown. Marcel. Introduction to Arp on Arp: Poems. he associated it with two particular experiences. Translated by Enid York. 1949. not an exile. Arp’s worldview eludes these categories. and lyrical poet. Neoplatonic. Romantic. it is personal and intuitive in character. New York: Twayne. The second experience was his meeting Sophie Taeuber. New York: Grove Press. his distinctive metaphysical philosophy. he dwells blissfully alone. 1960. Serge. whose work and life expressed in an intuitive way. When Arp spoke about the formation of his worldview. imaginative. 1974. 66 Critical Survey of Poetry Refusing to see this death as a loss. thorough study of the three major Germanspeaking poets of the Dada movement helps to dispel the mistaken notion that it was mostly a French phenomenon after the Zurich period ended. “hnnnnn. the Above. which has been called variously Platonic. Arp focuses on the freedom his friend is now able to enjoy for the first time. Hans Arp. Memories. in an eternal realm of light. Essays. appeared with increasing frequency in his poetry in the years following Taeuber’s death. not critical and systematic. 1973. Arp’s worldview Arp’s work consists of more than attacks on the reasonable deceptions of humanity and satires of his vain pride. Translated by Kenneth Lyons. 1988. a moving. Hans Arp. transformed into poetic images and symbols. Dreams and Projects.” he thinks proudly of “the six buttons of sex appeal” on his chest—“nicely aligned like the shiny buttons of a uniform. German Dadaist Literature: Kurt Schwitters. death is treated as cause for celebration. and the rest of the book consists of English translations of his collected French poetry and prose. 1952. This is reinforced by the fact that he enters space. Jean. as he is joyously liberated from the demands of others. Contains useful chronologies and succinct bibliographies. free from self-consciousness. Bibliography Cathelin. New York: Rizzoli. short fiction: Le Blanc aux pieds de nègre. by Jean Arp. realizes that death is a return home. It is in later poems such as “In Space” that Arp reached the height of his powers as a highly distinctive. One of the best of these metaphysical poems is “Dans le vide” (“In Space”). Other major works long fiction: Tres inmensas novelas.Arp. Arp presents a Dadaist fable which exposes the foolish vanity and isolation that has resulted from humanity’s overestimation of its greatest creation—reason.

Lemoine. 1997. Makes the criticism of Arp’s poetry. Translated by David Britt. Poet and Artist. The second half consists of translations of many of his German poems. Colburn 67 . “Jean Arp. 1987. Richter. Includes bibliography. Dada: Art and Anti-Art. Dada. 1989. Mass. “Sense and Non-Sense in the Poetry of Jean Hans Arp.” Dada/Surrealism 7 (1977): 109-120. Introduction to Dadaism with biographical information on Arp and other artists. Rimbach. Armine Kotin. Serge. Arp.Critical Survey of Poetry _______. The Dada Painters and Poets. Explores the important symbiotic relationship between Arp’s poetry and his visual art. Motherwell. ed.” German Quarterly 37 (1963): 152-163. 1969. Argues that Arp is at root a religious poet and that the lack of reference to reality in his work is an attempt to come closer to God. Hans.: Harvard University Press. Steven E. Guenther C. New York: Universe Books. Hans 2d ed. A collection of texts and illustrations by Arp and others in the Dada movement with a critical bibliography by Bernard Karpel. Cambridge. Translated by Charles Lynn Clark. accessible to an English-speaking audience. Hans Arp: The Poet of Dadaism. London: Wolff. Includes bibliographical references and index. New York: Thames & Hudson. Mortimer. A historical and biographical account of Dada by one of the artists involved in the movement. Robert. most of which has been published in German.

a Hungarian Buddenbrooks in which embezzlers. 1941 Principal poetry Levelek Irisz koszorújából. 1963 21 poems = 21 vers.Critical Survey of Poetry B Mihály Babits Born: Szekszárd. Hungary. Edgar Allan Poe. susceptible wives. 1940 Hátrahagyott versei. Elza pilóta vagy a tökéletes társadalom (1933. Equally familiar with the history of European and Hungarian culture. he exercised great refining.” embodied the modern synthesis of the Hungarian spirit with the great European values. The novel Timár Virgil fia (1922. His short novel A gólyakalfia (1916. and Charles Baudelaire. which took its topic as well as its title from Julien Benda’s La Trahison des clercs (1927). in part to satisfy his curiosity. November 26. Babits wrote essays on topics ranging from Henri Bergson and Friedrich Nietzsche to folk literature. house of cards) offers a repulsive picture of modern Budapest and its corrupting influence on human character. The Nightmare. the lyric poet of “restless classicism. he developed into one of the most significant modern Hungarian translators. the son of Virgil Timár) is closer to the author’s own experiences. The impressionistic ease of Babits’s early translations was replaced by a disciplined striving for precision and faithfulness. stylistically elegant. and the literary struggles of his own times. though somewhat anemic utopian novel that takes place in “the fortysecond year of the next war. Babits’s translating activities began as mere philological excursions into other literatures. 1911 Recitativ. 1916 Pávatollak: M±fordítások. an obituary-like tableau of his own generation.” and which is graced by an emphasis on two lasting human values: peace and decency. as it deals with the life of a teacher-priest whose conflict with the urban world ends in tragic isolation. while Kártyavár (1923. Mihály Babits (BOB-ihts) was also among the outstanding essayists of modern Hungary. Elza the pilot. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In time. and encouraging influence on his contemporaries and on younger generations of writers as well. Babits’s novels and short stories are marked by the lyrical approach to prose characteristic of his generation. particularly with notions concerning dreams and split personalities. It should be mentioned among the lasting contributions of Babits that. Especially revealing of his attitude toward the responsibility of creative artists is his 1928 essay. Babits’s best novel is Halálfiai (1927. Achievements Mihály Babits. Babits’s awareness of the intellectual and artistic ferment of the twentieth century is evidenced by the numerous reviews and critical essays he published. August 4. with a range that included classical Greek drama and medieval Latin verse as well as the works of Dante. 1988 Other literary forms Although best known for his lyric poetry. and representatives of the emerging urban bourgeoisie are masterfully presented. when he won the San Remo Prize from the Italian government for his translation of . as the curator of the Baumgarten Foundation and as the editor of the journal Nyugat. the formal and contextual problems of literature from Homer to the moderns. hátha megjön a tél is!. 1883 Died: Budapest. however. 1959 Összegy±jtött versei. William Shakespeare. 1966) is heavily garlanded with the Freudian 68 trappings of the period. 1941 Vlogatott m±vei. Oscar Wilde. 1920 Jónás könyve. His only major award came in 1940. and his novels and short stories were important expressions of the Hungarian intellectuals’ search for their place in a changing society. or the perfect society) is a witty. small-town curmudgeons. Az írástudók árulása (the treason of the intellectuals). George Meredith. Hungary. and in part to assist him in finding his own voice. moderating. the condemned). 1909 Herceg.

The nationalist press of the period attacked him. During the last years of his life. In 1921. The Divine Comedy. even though the short-lived Republic of Councils appointed him professor of world literature at the University of Budapest. While his humanistic orientation and moral stand remained consistent throughout his life. and among his best friends he could count Dezs¹ Kosztolányi and Gyula Juhász. Standing on the ground of a humanism that was declared anachronistic and unrealistic by many of his contemporaries. and one of his poems. During the years preceding World War I. As the revolution was quickly taken over by Hungary’s handful of Bolsheviks. 69 . after the ancient Roman territory) as his home region. the marginal nature of his background. After receiving his diploma in 1906. presented him with a weighty dilemma: His liberal erudition made him break with the provincialism of the late nineteenth century and urged him to lead his culture toward an acceptance of Western European trends. He was opposed to the war from its beginning. “Fortissimo. and in one of the workers’ districts of Budapest. During his school years. His poems were first published in 1902. majoring in Hungarian and Latin. but by that time his position as one of the central figures in Hungarian cultural life was established. but his innate idealism made him lean toward conservatism and reinforced his view of literature as an “elite function. however. He died of cancer in 1941. he was one of the chief contributors to the new literary journal Babits. who were also to become outstanding poets. he remained active. Babits welcomed the Revolution of 1918. which had as its aim the aiding of impoverished young writers and artists. read voraciously to acquire a broad European background. In 1940. and by 1908. he was able to communicate only with the aid of his “talking notebooks. Although decidedly apolitical. in Fogaras (Transylvania). a circuit judge. 1320. later cancer of the larynx. The 1930’s brought a series of painful and destructive illnesses to Babits: first polyarthritis. Babits defended the cultural values he considered timeless. During his declining years. The frail man underwent dangerous operations that proved to be only half successful. His acceptance of this position was harshly criticized in certain quarters during the subsequent years of counterrevolutionary backlash. and began to translate the classics. 3 volumes. he was awarded the San Remo Prize by the Italian government for his translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy and subsequently he was elected a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. he began to write poetry. as he preferred to call it. combined with the events of his times. in one of the most picturesque parts of Hungary. seeing in it the end of Hungary’s participation in the war and the birth of a national republic. he published several volumes of poetry. His writings represent the highest level of urban liberalism in Hungarian literature. they entertained many of the country’s best writers and poets. In 1927. His experimentation with form and his meticulous craftsmanship enabled him to become one of the most accomplished masters of Hungarian literature. 1802). Babits married Ilona Tanner. His father.Critical Survey of Poetry Dante’s La divina commedia (c. Biography Mihály Babits was born the only son of an intellectual Roman Catholic family. was assigned to Budapest and the city of Pécs before he died in 1898. who (under the name Sophie Török) was herself an accomplished poet. however. he became disappointed and aloof. Mihály Nyugat. Babits taught in high schools in Szeged. Babits became a living cultural symbol in his country: He dared to produce intellectual writings in an age when the cult of spontaneous life-energy was approaching its peak and young geniuses openly raged against the artistic validity of intellect. This meant not only that his financial situation improved but also that he became perhaps the preeminent literary arbiter in the country— a role that was confirmed when he became the editor of Nyugat. and his pacifism became ever more outspoken.” independent of any social utility. against all onslaughts. he studied at the University of Budapest. Thus. young Babits became acquainted with various parts of Hungary but always considered Transdanubia (or. from Right and Left alike. At their summer home. Babits was appointed curator of the prestigious Baumgarten Foundation.” provoked the confiscation of the journal in which it appeared. Pannonia. From 1901.” In spite of his illnesses.

Levelek Irisz koszorújából (leaves from Iris’s wreath) and Herceg. in one of his poems. World War I The years of World War I brought significant changes in Babits’s poetry. After he claimed. they are meant to express the atmosphere and the emotional content of the poetic text. hátha megjön a tél is! (prince. even at the risk of becoming isolated. His stance as a craftsman was consciously chosen to distinguish himself from the multitude of spontaneous and pseudospontaneous versifiers. Babits’s poems are always thoughtful. their zigzagging speed or ponderous pace. The poet’s touch makes the rather ponderous Hungarian words dance in exciting configurations. arranged so that the reader is forced to read the lines rapidly. Despite his experimental playfulness. Another notable trait of Babits’s youthful poetry is its playful richness and variety of tone. in the tradition of Hungarian populism. not merely in his themes and images but also in his approach to literature. and his internal conflict between thought and action.Babits. and a superstitious. but this was scarcely manifested in writings of social or political content. almost mystical Weltangst. The poet refuses to reveal his feverish inner turmoil. His sentences. the sentences in Babits’s verse have a larger function than simply conveying the idea: With their solidity or elusive airiness. that he would rather shed blood for the little finger of his beloved than for any flag or cause. at times. for he led a quiet. relied on the anecdotal retelling of subjective experiences—and the pathos of the neoRomantics. contain poems representing the best of Hungarian fin de siècle aestheticism and secessionist tendencies. The most frequent object of his early poetry is a cultural experience treated in an intellectualized manner. the poet crammed them with colorful and unusual words. If they are to yield their full meaning. Babits’s verse can be read in a number of ways. while the poet’s active pacifism also forced him to discontinue his flirtation with irrationalism. somewhat like those of the English sonneteers. the almost total exclusion of reality. though.” resulting from the purity of his soul: While he recoiled 70 Critical Survey of Poetry from the touch of the vulgar. He hides behind a number of veils: now a scene from Hindu mythology. it can be viewed as an expression of “preventive guilt. the adoration of the past. now a figure of the Roman Silver Age. Babits remained immune to the radical fervor that infected many of his contemporaries. Perhaps more than any of his Hungarian predecessors. almost ascetic life. without relaxing his intellectual excitement. what if the winter comes?). There was a perceptible conflict between the young poet and the culture of Hungary under a dual monarchy. dissatisfaction. therefore. many ways of looking at human existence. his painful loneliness. The overwhelming presence of subjective elements. many styles. Endre Ady. “The cool glitter of classical contemplation” is gone from the poems written during this period. often philosophical. he was at the same time attracted by it. not only because of the virtuoso arrangement of rhyme and rhythm but also because of the shimmering sound and sense of every word within the lines. the nationalistic press of the period attacked him sharply. There are also powerful streaks of Satanism and sin consciousness in his poetry. rather. Babits maintained a strong connection with the fine arts. remain among the weightiest in Hungarian literature. As in the work of his great contemporary. they are also among the most eloquent expressions of the fin de siècle’s characteristic moods: nostalgia. Mihály Analysis The first volumes of the young Mihály Babits. the sentences have to be broken down and dissolved. now an episode from modern life—many worlds. his own feelings appear only indirectly and in a highly generalized form. militant. This did not stop the poet from repeating his cry for peace: “Let it end!” The signs pointing toward a great social upheaval in Hungary filled him with hope and enthusiasm: “The world is not . and an emphatic cultivation of Nietzschean individualism are all indicative of Babits’s desire to evade having to deal with the present. Babits rejected both the lyrical approach of his contemporaries—who. This strain in Babits’s work is not attributable to the poet’s personal experience. Babits considered himself one of the last descendants of the great Hungarian poets of the nineteenth century and refused to bow to the “vulgar” democratism of his age. The style is now simpler and closer to everyday experience. but his desire for peace was passionate and.

. nonfiction: Az írástudók árulása. miscellaneous: Összegy±jtött munkái. Europe has experienced years of mindless horror: Let the age of reason come forth! Other major works long fiction: A gólyakalfia. The craftsman gave up strict rhyme and rhythm and assumed the freer style of expressionism. a message he often conveyed with the resignation of a wounded combatant. At the same time. and as the curator of the prestigious Baumgarten Foundation. of Nyugat. he remained uncompromising in upholding the highest artistic standards. 1927. 1966). He began to revise his views but had no time to complete this task. 1978 (2 volumes). Jónás könyve With Europe shifting toward the right and the ascent of fascism. he was enthusiastic about the rise of a socially and politically active neopopulist trend in Hungarian literature. it faithfully serves that which it cannot comprehend. 1923. New York: Griffon House. A historical overview 71 . foreboding new horrors for his continent. and vulgar—which had made him lose faith in the Bolshevik experiment—was turned against the rising tide of another ideological madness. . Elza pilóta vagy a tökéletes társadalom. and by the frequent get-togethers with a small circle of friends) cannot be classified as a frightened retreat. The form of Babits’s poetry now changed. low-grade. there were anticapitalist pieces among his poems (“The Mice of Babylon”) and. 1920. Hungarian Literature. ed.” Nevertheless. translation: Dante Romédiája. a confessional allegory on the biblical theme. because he could never become a vitalist. His condemnation of anything cheap. while his sentences became more puritanical. In stating his conviction that it is “better not to understand one’s age and to be left behind” (repeated later as “noble souls do not pay obeisance to their immediate environments”). Danulmányok. Babits put a distance between himself and public affairs during the post-World War I decades. In Jónás könyve (the book of Jonah).” Postwar changes In words as well as deeds. Enik¹ Molnár. it became obvious that he viewed the events of 1919 (the “mud and blood of the revolution. “Fence in your property!” was his ars poetica. Even his hitherto dormant nationalism was aroused. Timár Virgil fia. Kártyavár. 1933. . He became more aware of the dominance of concrete experience. which interested him only as “a threatening force. Babits remained consistent with his elitist conception of art. including prose and poetry). and he refused to treat literature as a social force. however. Esszék. one must see and create!” Soon. is perhaps best summed up in these lines from one of his essays: I still believe in human reason. however. He was forced to take sides for moral and intellectual reasons. 1913. Hope in the passing of the chaos permeates his writings after 1919. later editor. illness and suffering—which are the topics of several late works in Babits’s oeuvre—sapped his energy during his final years. or as a propaganda tool. Babits’s withdrawal into the shell of love (as represented by his 1921 marriage. Mihály and freedom of the human spirit over matter.Critical Survey of Poetry a plaything! Here. even Babits found it impossible to remain aloof. I am still convinced that. 1922. and in several poems he eloquently pleaded the cause of his nation. which may seriously interfere with my life. and. 1923.” in the words of a Hungarian historian) with increasing apprehension. as far as it reaches. 1993. 1916 (The Nightmare. 1937-1939 (collected works. 1939 (of Dante’s Divine Comedy). Halálfiai. in a characteristically bitter image. Babits appears chastened and repentant of his earlier idealism and aloofness: “The wicked find their cronies among the silent!” The most eloquent testimony of the poet. As the spiritual leader. realizing that the age of fin de siècle individualism was ended. almost democratic in their spareness. 1928. he compares political ideologies to “slowacting poisons. Bibliography Basa. and that the poem will not suffer but improve if it is constructed by human intellect (as long as the Owner watches over the Architect!). he sought to preserve his islandlike independence and remain aloof from politics. The main motive of his poems remains the primacy Babits. and registered this with sad resignation.

A critical and historical overview of Hungarian literature. At the same time. Lengyel. Achievements Ingeborg Bachmann attracted and fascinated readers and critics alike during her short life and has continued to do so since her untimely death in 1973. succeeding in a world traditionally dominated by men. The older generation of readers. a cosmopolite from a provincial town in Austria. dry poems in the manner of the older Brecht. a writer—sensuous yet intellectual. She was praised by critics as a librettist of great talent. The Oxford History of Hungarian Literature from the Earliest Times to the Present. ed. Friedrich Hölderlin. András Boros-Kazai Critical Survey of Poetry and Der junge Lord (pb. writing the librettos for his operas Der Prinz von Homburg (pb. 1960. still shrouded in mystery. New York: Oxford University Press. 2006 Other literary forms In addition to her poetry. of all things. Essays. Lóránt. who had already become a legend of sorts. A brief critical study of the poetic works of Babits. Includes bibliographic references and an index. “A Poet’s Place: Mihály Babits.” New Hungarian Quarterly 24. 1973 Principal poetry Die gestundete Zeit. Much of her prose concerns the role of women in search of their own identity. Rev.” World Literature Today 63. Bachmann’s work has been praised as great and pure poetry. Ingeborg that provides some background to the life and work of Babits. June 25. followed in turn by a story about her in Der Spiegel. Hörspiel. Includes bibliographic references. Balázs. 1983). Bachmann also collaborated with the composer Hans Werner Henze. while the younger critics welcomed her linguistic experiments. In a period when Germans were busy reconstructing their country and Ingeborg Bachmann Born: Klagenfurt. In his poetry. After her appearance in 1952 at a meeting of Gruppe 47 (group 47). however. 1981 In the Storm of Roses: Selected Poems. 1926 Died: Rome. 1986 Songs in Flight: The Collected Poems of Ingeborg Bachmann. 1967). The Young Milford. 1953 Anrufung des grossen Bären. “Mihály Babits.” It was. mainly because of their themes that Bachmann’s poems struck the nerve of their time. Ingeborg Bachmann (BOK-mon) published two radio plays. 1994 Darkness Spoken: The Collected Poems. after her death. Babits reflects the introspective uneasiness of the modern man and his attempts to find meaning in a meaningless life. appreciated her classical German. three volumes of short stories. controlled as they were. 1964 Werke: In 4 Bänden. Joseph. her colleagues Günter Grass. Remenyi. justifying almost any interpretation. an influential circle of postwar writers. no. Uwe Johnson. 1956 Gedichte. Bachmann. 2 (Spring. Italy. and what Demetz has called her “hard. Bachmann could never rid herself of her image as a beautiful blond who had become. and Max Frisch began writing about her. October 17. 90 (Summer.Bachmann. Austria. Czigány. 1986. reared on Hölderlin and Georg Trakl. and Rainer Maria Rilke. the critic Peter Demetz has charged that her verse is marred by a “gauche combination of high polish and utterly sentimental Kitsch. When. no.” and her metaphors have been labeled vague. Erzählungen. gained increasing recognition as a significant figure in postwar German literature. and a novel. Germany’s masscirculation newsmagazine (similar to Time magazine). the prince of Homburg) 72 . have attracted at least as much attention as her work. 1978 Die Gedichte. Bachmann’s appeal derived from a happy fusion of traditional and modern elements. 1989): 186. and she has been compared with such towering figures of German poetry as Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock. Bachmann’s other publications include essays in which she discusses her poetic theory. 1965. It cannot be denied that Bachmann’s personality and her life.

After the success of her first two books of poetry. are such signals. provided the background for the American setting of her highly successful radio play. Der gute Gott von Manhattan (1958. Although Bachmann’s poems must be understood as products of their time and seen in their historical and cultural context. she gave her first reading at a meeting of Gruppe 47. with tired flanks. In 1950. halfbared teeth stands threateningly in the sky. however. Graz. they have universal and timeless appeal. when Adolf Hitler annexed Austria and the German army triumphantly marched into Klagenfurt with most of her countryfolk applauding enthusiastically. . she attempts to remind her readers that the end of time is near—the titles of her first two volumes. she sent out warning signals of approaching doom. residing in Rome for many years. Bachmann was the first guest lecturer in poetics at the University of Frankfurt. She was awarded many of the important literary prizes of her time. and the unique poetic quality of her language will continue to capture the imagination of readers. 73 . her collected works were published in four volumes by Piper Verlag in Munich. In 1952. Bachmann died in 1973. Five years later. . the capital city of Austria’s southernmost province. grows visible on the horizon”. including the Great Austrian State Prize in 1968. Ingeborg Ingeborg Bachmann (Courtesy. . she traveled to London and Paris. Bachmann’s childhood and youth were not particularly happy. If the fictional account of Jugend in einer österreichischen Stadt (1961. at the invitation of Harvard University. . Bachmann exuberantly announces her readiness for life: “Nothing more beautiful under the sun than to be under the sun. . Otherwise. Die gestundete Zeit (borrowed time) and Anrufung des grossen Bären (evocation of the great bear). Biography The daughter of a schoolteacher. youth in an Austrian town) is any indication. She does mention the traumatic days of March. now recalled. very little is known about Bachmann’s life before the age of twentythree. 1938.” In the same breath. and the sharp. From 1959 to 1960. she was a Bachmann. R. Ingeborg Bachmann grew up in her native Klagenfurt. Bachmann initially studied law but soon took up philosophy at the universities of Innsbruck. and Vienna. Bachmann chose to take up the life of a freelance writer. The tenth anniversary of her death sparked renewed interest in Bachmann and was the occasion for many symposia throughout the world on her work.” Bachmann’s combination of apocalyptic vision and lyrical affirmation compelled the attention of her generation. following a somewhat mysterious fire in her Rome residence. she received her doctorate with a dissertation on the critical reception of Martin Heidegger’s existential philosophy. The poems in these collections clearly define the situation: “Borrowed time.Critical Survey of Poetry enjoying the fresh fruits of the so-called economic miracle. For two years. Perhaps this accounts for her reticence concerning that period of her life. In 1950 and 1951. Her visit to the United States in 1955. Piper) member of the editorial staff of Radio Rot-Weiss-Rot. Carinthia. the good god of Manhattan). Bachmann’s existential concern. the American-sponsored radio station in Vienna. In imploring tones. the “creature of cloudlike fur . her warnings not to succumb to comfortable adjustment.

“Early Noon” This intention is clear in “Früher Mittag” (“Early Noon”). there are numerous references to Germany’s recent past.Bachmann.” Fragments of a song by Franz Schubert and a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. is a beheaded angel. Indeed. In this poem. cherished treasures of German musical and literary heritage. cold. “Lieder auf der Flucht” (“Songs in Flight”). In it. and yesterday’s hangmen drink from the golden goblet of Goethe’s “Der König in Thule”—who. her pessimism was earned by experience and reflected a concrete historical situation.” for example. was “faithful unto the grave. Bachmann tells her readers solemnly that “the great cargo of the summer” is ready to be sent off and that they must all accept the inevitable end. Even in Bachmann’s love poems. provoking visions of Germany as a Siberian labor camp. perhaps the most persuasive reading is that of Hans Egon Holthusen. had their civil rights and privileges restored. 74 Critical Survey of Poetry Such imagery must be related to Bachmann’s worldview. “Early Noon” clearly demonstrates that Bachmann did not wish to retreat into a realm of private memories or to hide behind fairy tales. she wanted her poems to be understood as a reaction to the unprecedented horrors of World War II. and shadow abound in Bachmann’s verse. Die gestundete Zeit Bachmann’s “dark” or “negative” images are ciphers for what Holthusen calls her “elegiac” consciousness (in contrast to her “panegyric” consciousness. for Germany. Having been offered a platter on which is displayed the German heart. Bachmann conjures up Fyodor Dostoevski’s Zapiski iz myortvogo doma (1861-1862. departure and death as her prevalent themes. who sees two basic attitudes reflected in Bachmann’s poetry. one soon discovers that Bachmann has a very private mythological system and that most of her images have meaning only within that system. these quotations sound like parodies. Die gestundete Zeit. After all. one also discovers an entirely different set of images: warmth. there are repeated images of snow. it seems safe to say that Ingeborg Bachmann stays well within the conventions of poetry. Nor is her message novel. Bachmann’s poetry constitutes a “manual for farewells. One must agree with his diagnosis that there is a tension between hope and despair or joy and anguish in the fabric of nearly every poem by Bachmann. “Fall ab. and reflects on what he finds: Germany’s misuse of idealism and its efforts to disguise the past with what George Schoolfield has called the “simple heartiness of the beer-garden. of the aesthetic component of the German mind. The House of the Dead. such as the impossibility of communication between lovers. a major poem of Bachmann’s first collection. 1881). Many critics have attempted to decode Bachmann’s verse. loyalty was a key word with which many of Hitler’s henchmen defended their actions. Bachmann herself protested frequently against the mere culinary enjoyment of her poetry. are interspersed with Bachmann’s lines reminding the reader. with all the old jailers still in power—a not-sosubtle reminder that many of Germany’s war criminals went free. In their context. Rather. one must know. Although there are those who see her poems as reflections of a blurry Weltschmerz trimmed in beautiful language. summer. if one is to believe the ominous title of her first collection of poems. The titles of many of her poems are ciphers of farewell: “Ausfahrt” (“Departure”). evokes a winter landscape. Heart”). looks inside. and even. however. sunlight. Bachmann’s lyrical traveler opens the heart.” The message could not be lost on the German (or Austrian) reader of the poem. or barren landscape represent restricting elements in life. in the poem. Images of ice. Ingeborg Analysis With love and joy. in some cases. after all. and cold. On the contrary. Time is only borrowed. Particularly in her first volume. Images of night. it should be mentioned here . life is imaged as a quest for a path laid between ice skeletons. all too painfully. the end of the world has been proclaimed many times before in poetry. darkness. Although all these images may look conventional at first glance. Bachmann frequently writes about the coldness of time. snow. “Das Spiel ist aus” (“The Game Is Over”). The poem “Curriculum Vitae. as reflected in her “positive” imagery). plant growth. again enjoyed positions of power.” as George Schoolfield has put it. ice. Later in the poem. Herz” (“Fall Away. as some critics have charged. ice. On closer inspection.

The poem “Nebelland” (“Fog Land”).” Once again. knowing full well that he would destroy them and their flock. The bear could still crush all cones. The mighty old bear is about to break loose and destroy all those shepherds. and the earth itself becomes a pinecone with which he plays. They may find personal pleasures by traveling to the most exotic lands.Critical Survey of Poetry that even many of her love poems are not as private as they may at first appear. “Where Germany’s soil blackens the sky. so that he will not let the beast loose. In “Early Noon. in book form in 1905. representatives of humankind who have. should not be regarded as mere ornamentation but rather as integral elements in a “complex totality operating on the outer boundaries of meaning. It has been anthologized many times and has provoked numerous interpretations.” “Autumn Maneuvers” Many of the poems in Bachmann’s first collection read—in the apt formulation of George Schoolfield— like a vade mecum of instruction for dealing with a brief phase of European history. the bear becomes a symbolic bear.” Again. the imagery of this poem and its symbols.” an echo of the famous last sentence of Wittgenstein’s “Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung” (1921.” questions the effectiveness of the poetic word. The poem concludes with these words: “The unutterable. is set in the winter.” Bachmann clings to the hope that the unspeakable may still be said. all worlds that have fallen from the trees of the universe. 1952).” As Schoolfield explains. an individual is shown as being incapable of communication and falling into silence. it suggests many parallels with contemporary history. better known by the bilingual German and English edition title of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.” Silence. “your beloved. Although her poems can be related to their historical situation. A warning follows in the last two stanzas: Contribute to the church and keep the blind man (who shows the bear at carnivals) happy. symbols of despair and desolation. 1961) can be heard: “What one cannot speak of. which rises to her wandering hair. strictly speaking. pb. Hugo von Hofmannsthal. In the second stanza. in his celebrated Brief des Lord Chandos (pb. It should be pointed out that Bachmann’s skeptical attitude toward language reflects an Austrian tradition whose roots lie in the linguistic and philosophical dilemmas of the turn of the century. Communication is no longer possible. In it. “unutterable” is an abstract noun with two implications. invoked him. the Fall of Man. rolling it between the trees. “sinks into the sand. The speaker is being driven away by ice floes. is shown as a victim of the modern age. testing it between his teeth. Bachmann. Unspeakable crimes and unutterable beauty come to mind. and beyond these connotations lies a hint that there are problems the complexity of which defies expression. a political poet. Attempting to discover the limits of human understanding. “the cloud searches for words and fills the crater with silence. expressed his despair at the ineffectiveness of poetic language. One such poem is “Herbst- Bachmann. Biblical parallels suggest themselves here: the story of the Last Judgment. and grabbing it with his paws—all this symbolizing humanity’s precarious position. Her methodological approach to language was based on her study of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. thus bringing about their predicament. .” she writes. too. Ingeborg manöver” (“Autumn Maneuvers”). the image of a shaggy bear blends with that of the Ursa Major of the stars. . Bachmann addresses German readers of the 1950’s. maliciously or mischievously. goes over the land: it is already noon. “Borrowed Time” Another such poem is “Die gestundete Zeit” (“Borrowed Time”). for example. . Love. one must keep silent about. The lost lover is seen as a fish. When time actually does run out and appears on the horizon. as “Ein Brief” in 1902. 75 . choking her into silence and finding her mortal. but they will still be afflicted by twinges of guilt—guilt that they will not be able to dispel by claiming that they are not at home. 1922. In the first stanza. drawn from nature. Letter of Lord Chandos. willing to part after each embrace. the ultimate vanishing point of a poem? In “Early Morning. gently uttered. “Evocation of the Great Bear” One of Bachmann’s best-known poems is “Anrufung des grossen Bären” (“Evocation of the Great Bear”). Bachmann was not. in “Early Noon.” Bachmann writes. In spite of its fairytale-like introduction and atmosphere.

J. Riverside. 1955. miscellaneous: Last Living Words: The Ingeborg Bachmann Reader. Grundmann. Other major works long fiction: Malina. ed. 1982. Provides analysis of Bachmann’s poetry and major themes in her writing. 76 . 1970. Ihr Worte!” (“not one more death-prone word. A collection of critical essays on Bachmann in German with a section of essays in English. The Split Scene of Reading. The few poems that Bachmann wrote after 1956 and published in various magazines all revolve around her doubts about the validity of poetic language. Includes an extensive bibliography. 2004. Ingeborg In the final analysis.Bachmann. she made heavy demands on herself. 1961. Calif. Gölz. The value of poetry Bachmann’s entire oeuvre can be interpreted as a transformation of inner conflict into art. the issues of Germany’s dark historical past as well as the universal problems of modern humanity has secured for her a permanent position among the great poets of German literature. titled “Ihr Worte. 1961 (The Thirtieth Year. The first biography of Bachmann in English offers interpretation of her poetry.: Ariadne Press. eds. Germany: Röhrig. we grow on it. 1995. 1964). The Young Milford. Ezergailis.” ends with two ambiguous lines that are indicative of her crisis: “Kein Sterbenswort. Critical analysis of prose by Bachmann and other authors. Karen. Hilary. and prose. 1989). short fiction: Das dreissigste Jahr. 1972 (Three Paths to the Lake. Inta. which becomes more distant the closer we get. N. A brief introduction to Bachmann’s work. radio plays. Demetz. Her readiness to confront. Brown. New York: Peter Lang. using exemplary lyric language. we look toward a goal. Understanding Ingeborg Bachmann. such as death. critical writings. Bibliography Achberger. pb. Critical Survey of Poetry Der junge Lord. In this speech. Sabine I. Brokoph-Mauch. Woman Writers: The Divided Self. This collection of essays was partly the result of a 1996 symposium on Bachmann. and her work likewise demands much from her readers. 1998. 1967).: Humanities Press. Peter. 2007. radio plays: Die Zikaden. 2005. no single interpretation is possible. Simultan: Neue Erzählungen. As such. Landmarks in German Women’s Writing. 1995. you words!”). plays: Der Prinz von Homburg. eds. Gudrun. Gisela. “Ingeborg Bachmann. 1989). Jugend in einer österreichischen Stadt. Criticism and interpretation of Bachmann and Franz Kafka’s writing with an emphasis on the influence of Jacques Derrida and Friedrich Nietzsche. 1965 (libretto. New York: Pegasus. The total effect of Bachmann’s symbolic vocabulary in this poem is to leave the reader in doubt about its exact meaning. In the end. librettos. The final poem of her collection Anrufung des grossen Bären. and she virtually gave up poetry. Includes bibliographic references.” In Postwar German Literature: A Critical Introduction. the latter prevailed. Ingeborg Bachmann: Neue Richtungen in der Forschung? Ingbert. Achberger is a leading critic and has published a number of articles on Bachmann. Brinker-Gabler. Bonn. She vacillates between a firm belief in the eternal value of poetry and poetic language and a sense of its ultimate futility. 1958. In a speech of thanks to the donors of an award she received. Bachmann spoke in the following terms of the function of the poet: We extend our possibilities in the interplay between the impossible and the possible. and Annette Daigger. This work on prominent German women writers contains a chapter on Bachmann that analyzes her work and life. 1971 (English translation. Bachmann has been called a poet-thinker. pb. If We Had the Word: Ingeborg Bachmann. and Markus Zisselsberger. It is important for us to create this tension. Bachmann expresses a certain ambivalence about the role of the poet. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press. Germany: H. Der gute Gott von Manhattan. Views and Reviews. 1960 (libretto). Atlantic Highlands.

1978 (translated by Frank Kujawinski) Under My Own Roof: Verses for a New Apartment. in 1995. StanisUaw Other literary forms Though Stanisuaw Bara½czak (bo-RA-zhok) is principally known in his native Poland as a poet.” A translation of his book-length investigation of the writing of fellow Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert. are collected in Breathing Under Water and Other East European Essays (1990). 1998 Wiersze zebrane. where he remained as a student. He has also translated a large amount of English-language poetry into Polish to great acclaim. and Ingeborg Bachmann. with his cotranslator Cavanagh. His poetry collection Chirurgiczna precyzja: Elegie i piosenki z lat. Achievements Stanisuaw Bara½czak received the Kokcielski Foundation Prize in 1972. Sara. Several of his essays. “The Poetry of Ingeborg Bachmann: A Primeval Impulse in the Modern Wasteland. he may be best known for his translations of the 1996 Nobel Prize-winning poet Wisuawa Szymborska with his frequent collaborator Clare Cavanagh. 1968 Jednym tchem. he has played a significant role in introducing Polish poetry to a wide English-speaking audience through his tireless translations and criticism. 1978 Where Did I Wake Up? The Poetry of Stanisuaw Bara½czak. 2006. Adam Mickiewicz University. Poland. Cemetery of the Murdered Daughters: Feminism. their translation of the poetry of Szymborska. Cavanagh has acknowledged him as “perhaps the most gifted and prolific translator from English in the history of Polish literature. zmòczenia i kniegu. Lyon. the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation Literary Award in 1980. 1990 Podró/ zimowa: Wiersze do muzyki Franza Schuberta. 19861988. following in the path of his predecessor Czesuaw Miuosz. studying Polish at Adam Mickiewicz University. 1977 Sztuczne oddychanie. 2006 . surgical precision) won the influential Nike Literary Award (1999) for being the best book published in Poland in 1998. which predominantly explore Eastern European writers and life under censorship. Biography Stanisuaw Bara½czak was born in 1946 in Pozna½. History. he is also a prolific translator and essayist. 1995-1997 (1998. 1968-1988. November 13. 1975-1976. 1986 Widokówka z tego kwiata: I inne rymy z lat. Uciekinier z Utopii: O poezji Zbigniewa Herberta (1984. 1981 Wiersze prawie zebrane. 1987) was published by Harvard University Press. 1994 Zimy i podró/e. 1988 The Weight of the Body: Selected Poems. 1997 Chirurgiczna precyzja: Elegie i piosenki z lat. 1946 Principal poetry Koretka twarzy. 1989 (translated by Bara½czak et al. 1964): 206-215. /e to niesuuszne: Wiersze z lat. of the 1996 PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize for View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems (1995). He also received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989 and a medal for meritorious service from his alma mater. 1995-1997. His first collection of 77 StanisUaw Bara«czak Born: Pozna½. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. 1972 Ja wiem. 1981-1986. Jürgen Koppensteiner Bara«czak. An analysis that relies on feminist criticism while at the same time positioning the works of Bachmann in their historical context.Critical Survey of Poetry Lennox. A Fugitive from Utopia: The Poetry of Zbigniew Herbert. and the Terrence Des Prés Prize in 1989.) 159 wierszy. A critical analysis of selected poems by Bachmann. In addition. 1980 (translated by Kujawinski) Tryptyk z betonu. He is the recipient. James K. 1970 Dziennik poranny: Wiersze 1967-1971. In the English-speaking world.” German Life and Letters 17 (April. 1981 Atlantyda i inne wiersze z lat.

” In Bara½czak’s poems. Auden. though he never separated the two impulses in his work and intellectual development. 1944-1946). Once he gained the degree in 1969. though some collections of his translations into Polish appeared in domestic publication. a group that solidified the connections between workers and intellectuals and would be instrumental in the foundation of the Polish trade union Solidarity. 4. who not only voice an outward-pointing condemnation of the falsifications perpetrated by the state in all aspects of life. the topical political poem is insufficiently complex because it fails to grapple with the problematic form of the poem’s transmission: the language that has been contaminated by the very uses it argues against. 1823. the loss of his teaching position. The act of reading a poem. appeared in 1968. The latter title refers to the riots in March of 1968. where he ultimately became the Alfred Jurzykowski Professor of Polish Language and Literature. in 1974. Bara½czak’s translations from English to Polish and vice versa proliferated at a remarkable rate. Gerard Manley Hopkins. Analysis One of the primary concerns of Stanisuaw Bara½czak’s early poetry is the perversion of language perpetrated by government systems. was the hallmark” of his generation of Polish poets. he began writing poetry in part to “restor[e] the original weight to the overabused words. known as the New Wave or Generation of ’68. 78 Critical Survey of Poetry Emily Dickinson. in 1980. Though Bara½czak’s position at Adam Mickiewicz University was reinstated in 1980. He has translated into Polish the works of poets as diverse as William Shakespeare. allows the poet to return a measure of the complexity of language stripped of its ideological uses. Koretka twarzy (proofreading the face). but also incorporate the self-recrimination of an individual who considers himself to be implicated in the same world he criticizes. in 1977. Adam Mickiewicz. 1925. as students protested the suppression of a performance of Dziady (parts 2. “The perfidy of modern totalitarianism. the English Metaphysicals. According to Bara½czak. partially through the language on which he relies. Szymborska.Bara«czak. 1832. Forefathers’ Eve.” The poet can effect the restoration of objective reality by attempting to point to the distinction between the distorted speech of official discourse and normal speech. editor. . parts 2. and Seamus Heaney. as Bara½czak was pursuing his master’s degree. Robert Frost. largely because of the political impact of the Solidarity movement. he began teaching Polish literature at the university. Bara½czak’s activity as a poet. H. Bara½czak was unable to publish his writing through official channels. After his departure from Poland. 4. he published in underground (samizdat) editions and through Polish émigré publishers. a classic verse drama by the Polish national poet. Bara½czak was instrumental in editing unauthorized literary journals such as Zapis and. Bara½czak has noted in interviews that he prefers to be considered a public poet. Though his work has frequently been called political. he was elevated to the position of assistant professor. . which seek to manipulate reality through ideologically charged “newspeak. or the context of the poem to counteract the currents of official language. this restoration is often achieved as the poem’s speakers voice bureaucratic constructions and clichés. minor alterations.D. These political activities led to the official blacklisting of Bara½czak’s works and. As Bara½czak notes in his introduction to The Weight of the Body. and 3. In 1976. instead. in addition. and 3. and various postwar poets. then use repetition. through the social interaction of the reader and poet. he has translated into English and anthologized the works of Polish poets such as Jan Kochanowski. it is not political poetry in the sense of being a topical response to current situations and injustices. after receiving his Ph. notably in France. he immigrated to the United States in 1981 to take a position at Harvard University. and critic were complemented by his leadership in political movements of the time. Although his work contains a component of social commitment.” writes . Cavanagh notes that its “fusion of poetry and politics . W.. with the unruly power of language and all its irrepressible contradictions. During this period. StanisUaw poetry. became a founding member of KOR (the Committee for the Defense of Workers). Part of the complexity of Bara½czak’s poems arises in the self-scrutiny of their speakers.

in fact.” The only suitable response to the cataclysmic power of the hurricane.” For example. who “. language spoiled and misused .” The Weight of the Body The poems of The Weight of the Body are divided into two sections. StanisUaw of officers from the secret police to the visitation of the Magi on Epiphany. which forces its users to become party to the manipulations of the state—is also recognized as being among the most linguistically resourceful poets of his generation./ is it Nhu or Ngu. .” which “fill the room with a fragrance like incense. . .” to “. simply to “write his poems well.” It is notable that a poet so concerned with language—its official degradation. . The complex elaboration of his versification is matched by involved. This is. At times.” which introduces the dry tonalities of bureaucratic speech to the poem and also serves both to point to the irony of brutal suppression being characterized and diminished by such language and to heighten the reality of the exile’s disengagement from “facts on the ground.Critical Survey of Poetry Bara½czak. though it is impossible to forget “. because she was blond.” for example. Being bound by countless rules immobilizes the author and sterilizes his expression only if he does not have much to say in the first place. by involving the victim in the process of victimization. often presented through unexpected motifs. .” Perhaps the most profound. written in response to General Wojciech Jaruzelski’s imposing of martial law in an effort to suppress the Solidarity movement—contains the recurring phrase “according to unconfirmed reports. argues Bara½czak. which operates on the ground belonging to its antagonists. of political speeches. Although this quality may be most pronounced in his later work. things like that. of posters. “lies precisely in the fact that it imperceptibly blurs the difference between the oppressors and the oppressed. . our pasts and futures which have been crossed out/ so many times. In an essay about prison letters composed in response to totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century. . A better solution./ the nuns were willing to hide her . compares the arrival Bara«czak. . what’s his name. imaginative patterning of images and conceits. Bara½czak notes that “the chief wonder of art is that it thrives on overcoming difficulties. the poem suggests. In a larger sense. means by which this blurring occurs is through propaganda. . and difficult to observe. “After Gloria Was Gone” is set during the aftermath of Hurricane Gloria and describes the banding together of the speaker’s neighbors—each of whom appears to be a first-generation transplant. is banding together in a community. from Mrs. “the most interesting thing was not pure language but ‘dirty’ language. This complexity of image and concept emphasizes one of the essential qualities of Bara½czak’s writing: Its emphasis on human interaction and experience leads to its ability to be simultaneously con79 .” Many of the poems in the second section of the book are preoccupied with questions of what Bara½czak calls “the invisible craft of exile” in the poem “Setting the Hand Brake. . pain and bodily inadequacy are connected with interrogation or torture. Bara½czak’s poetry is characterized by his virtuosic use of intricate poetic forms. corresponding to Bara½czak’s writing life in Poland and in the United States. . as the speaker—responding to his inevitable arrest with surprising detachment—muses about the “gold of their watches” and the “smoke from their cigarettes. . is for the poet to heighten and emphasize the vitality of the language he uses—or.” The reason that the superficially political poem is insufficient is that it does not interrogate the language of its dissent. . which also serve as an analogue to the body politic that is being diagnosed. the new neighbor. . however. .” Another common metaphor running through the collection involves the depiction of the failing body. which taints all language and caused Bara½czak to note that for the New Wave poets. it is evident in his earliest collections as well.” Although some of the poems respond to political events. these occurrences point to the despair an individual feels as an inherent part of the self betrays the rest. . The first section of “The Restoration of Order”—a poetic sequence begun in December of 1981. even these poems are equally concerned with qualities of language. . the essence of all poetry. as he puts it. Aaron. . which give the impression of a searching. that of mass media. “The Three Magi. Many of the early poems focus on the qualities of life under suppression. flexible intellect struggling through impediments to create a finished thought of monumental stability and beauty. .

” In Living in Translation: Polish 80 Critical Survey of Poetry Writers in America. political and metaphysical. Œuvres . or whatever is eternal.Baudelaire. “The Art of Losing: Polish Poetry and Translation. Artificial Paradises. and L’Art romantique (1868). and the need of a metaphysical dimension in political writing. the role of translation in his creative development. New York: Rodopi. Baudelaire also published translations of several volumes of the prose works of Edgar Allan Poe. no. Artful Dodge 12-13 (1985): 56-64. Ksiazki najgorsze. of Szymborska). “Eschatological Imagery in the Early Verse of Stanisuaw Bara½czak. Charles S. “A Conversation with Stanisuaw Bara½czak. has influenced his poetry and incorporated new forms and voices into the tradition of Polish verse. 1996). 1973. 2002 Other literary forms Collections of essays by Charles Baudelaire (bohduh-LEHR) on literature. 2006 (with Cavanagh. also known as Paris Spleen. Etyka i poetyka. Tablica z macondo: Osiemnascie prob wytlumaczenia. 1984 (A Fugitive from Utopia: The Poetry of Zbigniew Herbert. Poems New and Collected. written after his immigration to the United States. Clare. Cavanagh analyzes several of Bara½czak’s poems. 1981. Charles crete and allusive. 1867 Principal poetry Les Fleurs du mal. Poems in Prose. Bibliography Bara½czak. 1931) Les Épaves. Contains a brief essay on Bara½czak examining his life and works. of Wisuawa Szymborska). Kraszewski. 1995 (with Cavanagh. Steven. art. 1957-1997.” Interview by Daniel Bourne. View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems. 1979. Vol. 1947) Complete Poems. France. 1970-1995. 1990. “What political writing needs now is some sort of metaphysical dimension—not only the interest in horizontal or sociopolitical structures but also in some vertical dimension. In discussing her philosophy and practice of translating. ed. According to the poet. 2003. 2001. together and separately. The most convenient edition of most of his works is the Pléiade edition. 1987). _______. the universe. 1857. 1821 Died: Paris. 1991 (edited and translated with Clare Cavanagh). tracing ways in which their work translating. 1998 (with Cavanagh. which connects humanity with God. 1861. aesthetics. “Setting the Handbrake: Baranczak’s Poetics of Displacement. 1 (2001): 43-61. and drugs appeared under the titles Les Paradis artificiels (1860. a “distinct poetics of displacement” is visible in both his early and later poetry. Poezja i duch uogolnienia: Wybor esejow. 1869 (also known as Le Spleen de Paris.” Partisan Review 70. Monologue of a Dog: New Poems. 1995 (with Seamus Heaney. Cavanagh argues that while many critics perceive a gap between Bara½czak’s politically engaged early work and his later “metaphysical” poetry. The poet treats issues of political suppression and censorship. Todd Samuelson Charles Baudelaire Born: Paris. 2 (2003): 245-254. Cavanagh. 1996. po co i diaczego sie pisze. no. August 31. Stanisuaw. France. Curiositiés esthétiques (1868). 1869. Twentieth-Century Eastern European Writers: Third Series. 1990. edited by Halina Stephan. Breathing Under Water and Other East European Essays. Detroit: Gale Group. 232 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Uciekinier z Utopii: O poezji Zbigniewa Herberta. Serafin. April 9. of Szymborska). An article exploring the apocalyptic language and imagery used by Bara½czak from 1968 to 1980. 1975-1980. translations: Spoiling Cannibals’ Fun: Polish Poetry of the Last Two Decades of Communist Rule.” Polish Review 46. 1866 Petits Poèmes en prose. 1868 (Flowers of Evil. of Jan Kochanowski).” Other major works nonfiction: Ironia i harmonia. Laments. 1905.

By 1845. even if that reality was unpleasant or bizarre. The life of ease of the young literary dandy lasted only two years. More intermittently.” In 1848. however. and his aggressive use of material drawn from the prosaic side of life have had a lasting success and influence. and his hatred of the bourgeoisie prevented him from siding with the conservatives. once embarked. He constantly sought. in both literature and painting. as a painter. religious. who attempted suicide the following year. Achievements Although Charles Baudelaire is sometimes grouped with the Symbolists. He seems to have had few serious disputes with his stepfather until after obtaining the baccalauréat in Baudelaire. and the Italian neorealist cinema have claimed descent from his work. including Charles Sainte-Beuve. He won prizes in Latin verse composition (one of the poems in Flowers of Evil is in Latin). he worked on the administrative staff of the French senate. Baudelaire was friendly. Petrus Borel (the Wolf-man). and the poet was fined. under the title “Les Lesbiennes. Biography Charles Pierre Baudelaire was born in Paris on April 9. It is probably fair. a movement that constituted itself more than a decade after his death. His love of order. or rather his aspiration to order and hatred of disorder. Dadaism. he claimed to be working on a volume called “Les Limbes. the collection provoked a scandal that led to the prosecution of the poet and the publisher. Jacques Aupick. for he attended seminary and became a priest before the Revolution. Baudelaire’s mother. Charles 1839. As an adolescent. The choice of schools permitted Baudelaire to be near his mother as the Aupick household moved in response to the officer’s promotions. Théophile Gautier. he himself neither belonged to nor founded a school. she remarried when her son was six years old. 1961). Joseph-François Baudelaire. his suggestive understatement of the metaphoric sense of his images. After the Revolution. Disapproving of the young man’s friends and conduct. Victor Hugo. Well connected. especially Eugène Delacroix and Constantin Guys. His father. first in Lyons. he broke with the Aupicks and lived prodigally on the money he inherited from his father. Baudelaire was already announcing a forthcoming volume of poetry. kept him from fitting into the revolutionary cause. Caroline ArchenbautDefayis. Baudelaire was widely acquainted with important Romantic authors. This deprivation of his full personal freedom had a devastating effect on Baudelaire. and studious. was a career military officer who had Baudelaire placed in a series of boarding schools. but Baudelaire. staffing the barricades in the 1848 Revolution and distributing political tracts. in 1855. the now successful general became progressively the object of Baudelaire’s dislike and even hatred. having left the priesthood. Théodore de Banville. to designate him as one of the earliest exponents of modernism. When Baudelaire reached legal majority in 1842.” Finally. His corrosive irony. works that expressed a beauty specific to the reality of the moment. Movements as diverse as Symbolism. Widowed. at the age of fifteen. When it appeared in 1857. and Champfleury. Gérard de Nerval. he became preceptor to the children of the duke of Choiseul-Praslin and. actually occupy twice as many pages in the complete works as his literary criticism. The death of General Aupick a few months before the appearance of Flowers of Evil led Baudelaire to a 81 .Critical Survey of Poetry complètes (1868-1870. His essays on expositions and on individual artists. he apparently resolved to write copiously and seriously. when the child was nine. the general sent him on a long boat trip toward India. however. Baudelaire’s stepfather. especially L’Artiste and Le Corsaire-Satan. however. was thirty-four years younger than his father. contributing to various reviews. was personally acquainted with Enlightenment figures such as Condorcet and Cabanis. he settled on the title Flowers of Evil. Upon his recovery. Six of the poems were suppressed. edited by Yves Le Dantec and Claude Pichois. and then in Paris. was of modest origin but well educated. for the Aupicks had Baudelaire placed under conservatorship in 1844 on the grounds that he was incapable of managing his money. refused to go farther than Mauritius. Baudelaire was involved in the political life of his day. 1821. After that. He was also close to the active painters of his day and spent much of his time in their studios.

social commitment and alienation from society—all categories through which the Romantic poets had expressed their conception of literary art. in which the second and fourth verses of one stanza become the first and third of the following fourverse unit. something Baudelaire expressed as “conscience [or consciousness] in the midst of evil. 1869. Baudelaire often used the highly restrictive “fixed forms” with their set repetition of certain verses. had broken down many restrictions on subjects that could be treated in poetry. and for those poets of the twentieth century who conceived of their work as primarily individual and not social. Baudelaire was stricken with partial paralysis and became aphasic. In his verse. He died in Paris after more than a year of suffering. which existed before him but achieved status as a major form principally through Paris Spleen. he wrote poetry based on the ugliness of urban life and drew an intense beauty from the prosaic and the un82 . Such forms were common among the Romantics. Charles Critical Survey of Poetry speakable. living within his means and avoiding debts. Although major Romantics.Baudelaire. Poe subsequently came to be a major influence on Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Valéry and even played a role in contemporary French psychoanalysis. but Baudelaire’s combination of this formal perfection with surprising and even shocking subjects produces a dissonant and unforgettable music. Baudelaire went further. Baudelaire did not introduce a fundamentally new aesthetic principle but made important changes in the proportions of idealism and realism. In 1866. Baudelaire thus avoids the pitfalls of the school of art for art’s sake. Although many Romantics suggest a transcendent redemptive quality in art. typical of Hugo or Alfred de Vigny. which he denounced for its exclusive attachment to surface beauty. a spiritual enlightenment that gives readers a kind of religious or social pathway to liberation. flickers occasionally through Baudelaire’s work. choosing such topics as crime.” Baudelaire thus prepared the way for the Decadent poets. disease. formal beauty and attention to ideas. while visiting Brussels. his work announced something new and difficult to describe. In terms of poetic form. Baudelaire’s major innovation was undoubtedly in the prose poem. it is significant that Baudelaire introduced Edgar Allan Poe to the French. but it generally yields to an image of the poet as a sensitive and marginal individual whose only superiority to his contemporaries is his consciousness of his corruption and decadence. Although he never succeeded in putting his life in what he called order. such as the pantoum. Analysis Although Charles Baudelaire was close to the major Romantic artists and poets. suggesting that all hope is in the moment of artistic insight and not in the real future. and prostitution as his points of departure. Flowers of Evil Baudelaire insisted that Flowers of Evil should be read as a structured whole and not as a random collec- Charles Baudelaire (Library of Congress) reconciliation with his mother. including Hugo. More than most Romantics. Baudelaire tantalizes the reader with religious hope but then pulls it away. In this regard. his attempt to heal his rift with his respectable middle-class origins may explain the increasingly Christian and even Catholic orientation of his ideas in the last decade of his life. The image of the poet as prophet or spiritually superior dreamer.

passions. not Hermes but Satan Trismegistus (three-times great).” In religious verse. which he names only three stanzas later in the conclusion: boredom (ennui). even abject. rather. is an aes- Baudelaire. described two stanzas later as the magician.” and “Révolte” (“Rebellion”)—only to end in death. first to recognize a common weakness and. titled “Spleen et idéal” (“Spleen and Ideal”). Clearly.” These works of art are great because of their representative quality and for the tension between their beauty and the suffering on which they are based. desires. “Beacons” The largest part of Flowers of Evil evokes a struggle against boredom through the artistic use of the ugliness of everyday life and ordinary. to repent. Rembrandt. In the very first poem of the book.” but this drug is not offered upward as incense to the Deity. The purpose of art is ambiguous in this conclusion. Whatever one may think about the authority of such claims. “Au lecteur” (“To the Reader”). my brother!” This strange poem. in stanza 7.” and then calls the reader “Hypocritical reader. as the greatest of vices. Te Deum. “A Carcass” The paradoxical search for an art that draws its beauty from ugliness and suffering appears in a spectacular way in another of the early poems of Flowers of Evil. Humankind’s art is called a “divine opium. including Peter Paul Rubens. and Michelangelo. The poem “Les Phares” (“Beacons”) is an enumeration of eight great painters. Baudelaire’s particular delight in the shocking combination of refined form with a crude and repugnant subject is 83 . a major theme is the uncovering of humanity’s own contradictions. In the poem’s striking concluding lines. error. lists sins that humanity would commit if people had the courage (such as rape. and crimes: all the aspects of life and fantasy that the respectable middle class hides. the visual beauty of the paintings alluded to is not their primary characteristic in “Beacons. borrowing so much of its vocabulary and rhetoric from the tradition of religious exhortation. It is. In the historical context of French Romanticism. seen itself as a form of escape from the disappointments or boredom of this world. Baudelaire does make an avowal of similarity but calls for an aesthetic rather than an ethical response. second.” The last three stanzas seem at first to point to a religious purpose in this art that depicts a swarming. the address to the reader as a brother is part of a call. Building toward what will apparently be a crescendo of vice. “To the Reader” Throughout Flowers of Evil.” Over this humanity presides the Devil. and evil (in the earliest section) through the exploration of various kinds of intoxication or escape—glimpsed in the sections “Le Vin” (“Wine”). sin. not as a celebration of human greatness but as a testimony to human sentiment and sensation. poisoning. this vision of art serves at least to set Baudelaire apart from the partisans of art for art’s sake. the poet finishes the sentence with an independent clause containing a remarkable simile: “We feed our nice remorse./ As beggars nourish their lice. the six major divisions of the book. does not choose between good and evil. a vice that “could swallow the world in a yawn. titled “Une Charogne” (“A Carcass”). a movement that Baudelaire himself called the plastic school. eighty-five poems. Rubens is described. suffering. it promotes a third term into what is usually a simple dilemma: Boredom. for it is the best testimony to human dignity but is destined to die at the edge of God’s eternity. Charles thetic concept that replaces traditional moral concepts of evil as that which must be avoided at all costs. stabbing. “Flowers of Evil. predominantly in the negative. nightmare-ridden humanity. Baudelaire establishes an unusual relationship with his public. and ending with the six poems of “La Mort” (“Death”). blasphemy. hypocrisies.Critical Survey of Poetry tion of verse. Baudelaire claims that the reader knows this “delicate monster. and arson) and then points to a still greater vice. an opium for human hearts. Baudelaire. my likeness. The poem begins with a list of vices—stupidity. seem to outline a thematic and perhaps even chronological passage from aspirations toward a transcendence of pain. who turns the rich metal of the will into vapor like an alchemist working backward. and stinginess—but instead of reproaching humanity and urging the reader to reform. beginning with the longest section. for example. as a “Pillow of fresh flesh where one cannot love” and Rembrandt as a “sad hospital full of murmuring. for Baudelaire uses terms from religion: malediction. Instead.

He also recalls. eaten by organisms of decomposition. one summer morning. proclaims the immortality of his poetry (“I have kept the form and divine essence/ Of my decomposed loves”) in contrast to the fleshly mortality of his “soul. The next eight stanzas continue to tell about the discovery of this cadaver in a tone that alternates. while the second and fourth lines are rhyming octosyllables. The poem’s opening stanza illustrates the way in which a tension is created between contrasting tones. however. names the object: a “foul carcass. This reverie is broken off in the ninth stanza by the return to the supposed summer morning scene and the recollection that a dog was waiting for the couple to leave so that he could get the “meat. This division imposes a rhythm that heightens the contrast between refined gentleness and sickening sensations.” his beloved. the speaker’s drift continues from a purely aesthetic contemplation of the object to a comparison of the carcass to an artist’s preliminary sketch in the artist’s memory.” This contrast leads toward the final stanza in which Baudelaire. One reason Baudelaire objected to this position was that he himself possessed a deeply tormented Christian character. even rather sadistically delighting in the soul’s weakness. for they depart from the scene. which parallels the transition from the first half of the stanza to the somewhat startling second half. The speaker’s reaction is represented as quite different.” he still continues to refer to her as “my angel and my passion.” Although there is a certain ambiguity about the significance of the term (it could represent a division of the self into two parts. even in this section (a form of envoi. Not only does this comparison permit the poet to find beauty in ugliness.” The discovery occurs as the speaker and his soul are coming around a bend in the path (détour).” The last three stanzas are quite different. who preferred to assume the posture of outright return to pre-Christian belief by denying historical evolution. Charles noticeable in the very organization of the stanzas. showing that classical themes can be presented in a thoroughly modern way. He could not imagine a simple return to classical “innocence. and look forward to the future of the speaker’s beloved “soul. His way of using the tradition sets him apart from those Romantics he called the pagan school. he compares the sounds coming from the carcass. sometimes within stanzas and sometimes from one stanza to the next. There are twelve units of four lines each: The first and third lines of each stanza are rhyming Alexandrines (twelve-syllable lines). mild summer morning. In the tenth stanza. but it also permits him to pay homage to the bucolic poetry of the Renaissance (ex84 Critical Survey of Poetry emplified in such poems as Joachim du Bellay’s “D’un vanneur de blé aux vents” (“From a Winnower to the Winds”). the poem is a monologue addressed to a person or character whom the speaker calls “my soul. In the following stanza. described by some as Jansenist (that is. It is impossible to assert that this conclusion is a straightforward poetic doctrine. it is clear that “A Carcass” represents Baudelaire’s reworking of traditional texts from classical and Renaissance tradition. However. after having cast the “soul” in the paradoxical role of decomposition.” foreseeing the time when she will be like that carcass. of a carcass lying near a pathway. The first two lines are addressed to the soul in terms that allow one to expect some pretty image. however. a traditional closing message to the addressee of a poem). to flowing water and wind and to the sound of grain being winnowed. again recalling the poetry of the French Renaissance. while the next two lines (“The stench was so strong that you thought you would faint on the grass”) take a distinctly human point of view. the poet’s “soul” assumes the role of a woman to whom he speaks in words of endearment.” Baudelaire also had an . as belonging to the most severe. is exercising a final irony toward his own poetry. much closer to that attributed to the sky. In any case. The fourth stanza starts with a presentation of the point of view of the sky witnessing the “blossoming” of the carcass as if it were a flower. Perhaps the poet. which is in the past. and ascetic form of seventeenth and eighteenth century French Catholicism). a common Baudelairean theme). penetrated by the sense of sin and guilt. In stanza 7.Baudelaire. As a whole. The end of the second Alexandrine. pessimistic. something that would fit the context of a beautiful. between a distant aesthetic contemplation and a crude and immediate repulsion. the discovery. where the speaker declares “You will be like this filth. the alteration of tone continues.

are usually associated with memory. and the conquered. and the poet to include an African woman exiled in a northern climate. Epirus. of the conquered . the swan. like two other poems in the section “Tableaux parisiens” (“Parisian Pictures”). the swan has vanished and the old carrousel has been changed into the new. the Trojan Hector’s widow. Baudelaire explains the multiple analogy that had been left implicit in the first part. In calling the work of the neopagans “a disgusting and useless pastiche. captives. for exiles “Suck at the breast of Sorrow as if she were a good wolf. “The Swan” also shares the vision of suffering as a defining characteristic of life. one of seven and the other of six stanzas. Rome) to produce a thoroughly modern poetic idiom. he exclaims. . the moment when the speaker saw the swan. There is a decidedly epic quality to this expansion of the analogy to include vast numbers of modern exiles. of still others!”).” This image is a way of tying in the Roman epic of Romulus and Remus while emphasizing the voluntary or consoling aspect of pain and suffering.Critical Survey of Poetry acute sense of the passage of time and of historical change. 85 . to Hugo. Returning to the present (the first part had been composed of three chronological layers: the legendary past of Andromache. The many components of this epic analogy. Each of the three has an immovable memory on the inside—the speaker compares his to rocks— which cannot match the mutable outside world. Monuments. sailors. Furthermore. “Paris changes! but nothing in my melancholy/ Has moved!” Baudelaire. in the temporal organization of the poem. In the first section. the speaker begins by addressing the legendary figure Andromache. a deep believer in the historical movement of poetry. for the “lying” Simoïs was a replica in Epirus of the small river that once flowed at the foot of the walls of Troy. more subtly and pathetically. Charles What had seemed in the first part to be a comparison only between the widow and the swan now includes the speaker. The chronological layering of the text has the same function as the simile. It can never replace the Simoïs but can only remind Andromache of the discrepancy between past and present. like the palace of the Louvre near which the menagerie stood. the changes in Paris. her captors had constructed this imitation. most of which seems merely to tell of an event in the speaker’s own life. They are meant to last longer than individuals. composed of monumental constructions of carved stone. an event without apparent connection with Andromache. Between the time he saw the swan and the time of the creation of the poem. he says. are reminiscent of the multiple symbolic figures (the artists) of “Beacons. “The Swan” The poignancy that Baudelaire achieves with such an approach can be seen in his “Le Cygne” (“The Swan”). Baudelaire has thus united a commonplace of certain Romantic poets (the indifference of nature to humankind’s suffering) with a classical poetry of cities (Troy. In the second part of the poem. The allusion to Andromache is now clearer. Here. give the city an ironic and metaphoric significance. has been made pregnant by the thought of the “lying Simoïs swelled by your tears. The Parisian speaker’s memory. The conclusion of “The Swan” continues the interplay of literary allusion. dedicated. believe in long poems. stretching from Andromache to the suggestively open-ended last line (“Of captives. and the approximate present in which he recollects the swan).” This allusion to the legends of Troy is the key to understanding the rest of the first part of the poem. Baudelaire did not. A swan had escaped from its cage and was bathing its wings in the dust of a gutter. . for it opens still further the analogy involving Andromache. and he seems here to be condensing the grandeur of the epic into the brevity of the personal lyric. captive in the city of Epirus. unlike many Romantics. however. This dissonance between mind and world is expressed not only in the image of the swan but also. described by Baudelaire as “lying” because it is not only false but also actively and disappointingly deceitful. In an attempt to make the widow happier. He was walking across the new Carrousel Square when he recalled a menagerie that once stood on that spot.” he was implicitly drawing attention to his own use of antiquity in a resolutely modernist manner.” With this latter poem. the city represents change. “The Swan” is divided into two numbered parts. one that did not copy the ancients but assimilated their ideas into a representation of the reality of modern life.

When asked later what they discovered. In “The Cake. “I am the wound and the knife!/ I am the blow and the cheek!” In the poem immediately following. he discovers two children playing on opposite sides of a fence.” unleashing a fratricidal war for its possession. Baudelaire specifies the metaphoric meaning much less in the prose poems than in his verse. he declares in part. is then described metaphorically as a “Well of truth. of its deprivation. 1869. In “Heautontimoroumenos” (a Greek term for “the executioner of oneself. “Le Voyage” (“The Trip”). and entrapment.” a traveler finds himself in a country where his plain bread is called “cake. characterization. Hell or Heaven.” pain must be the outcome of self-examination in this “well of truth” because the inward discovery is the sentiment of a fall from a higher state. the speaker declares himself a “dissonance in the divine symphony” on account of the irony that eats away at him. “The Trip” is a kind of summary in dialogue of Flowers of Evil. after briefly tracing the fall of an ideal being from Heaven into Hell.” borrowed from a comedy of Terence). even at the price of horror. Working back from this tension. have greater means to establish a situation for the poetic speaker and to accumulate aspects of life that seem “realistic” but serve ultimately to reveal figurative meanings in the most ordinary surroundings. the section called “Death. an “irreparable” decadence.” is a reminder of this perpetual quest for new discovery. and setting typical of fiction in the realist or naturalist vein. there is a tension here between the claim to total clarity and the image of the well. It is a living rat. for the latter promises depths that can never be coextensive with the mirroring surface. In fact. darkness. Baudelaire dramatically alters the situation of the poetic speaker so that he is not a representative of dissatisfaction with the world but an amazed spectator of the subjectivity of desire.” the fence between the children is referred to as a symbolic barrier. clear and black/ Where a pale star trembles. addressed in the last two stanzas as a ship’s captain. a process sometimes called “correspondences” after the title of one of Baudelaire’s verse poems.” “Wine. Paris Spleen. Frequently. and the rat is described as a toy drawn from life itself. beginning with the childlike hope of 86 Critical Survey of Poetry discovery in the exploration of the real world. knowledge is stressed more than the pain that is so fiercely displayed in “Heautontimoroumenos. In “Le Joujou du pauvre” (“The Poor Child’s Plaything”). as in “Le Gâteau” (“The Cake”). that difference/ Into the depth of the Unknown to find something new!” Here the preoccupation with boredom as supreme evil in “To the Reader” appears coupled with the themes of knowledge and discovery that constitute much of the other sections. The prose pieces.Baudelaire. “L’Irrémédiable” (“The Irreparable”). which itself results from an unresolvable tension between the aspirations of the heart and the outside world. here. ostensibly a mirror but actually an incomplete reflection because it can capture only actions and not intentions. The lucidity toward which the poem tends will never be complete. However. one can see that the whole poem is full of terms for depth. “An oasis of horror in a desert of boredom!” The only hope is in death itself. Then. however. the travelers say that no city they discovered was ever as interesting as the cities they imagined in the shapes of clouds. . Charles Suffering Suffering. each looking at the other. for consciousness can only discover the extent. One child is rich and has a meticulously crafted doll while the other holds his toy in a little cage. “The Trip” The concluding note of Flowers of Evil. Baudelaire evokes a “Somber and clear tête-à-tête/ A heart become its own mirror!” This division of the self into two sides.” Although. Baudelaire always suggests a larger significance that makes the scene or incident figurative. He alone holds out a balm for people’s boredom. Paris Spleen. is based on the concept of depth that had already appeared in “The Irreparable”: “Plunge into the deeps of the abyss. is thematically similar to Flowers of Evil. is a frequent theme in Flowers of Evil and is linked to learning and self-awareness. apparently infinite.” the world of human sin is sketched out as a monotonous mirror in which humankind sees its own image.” and “Rebellion. inflicted on others or on oneself. the last stanza of the concluding poem. In the most remarkable stanza. in passages that seem to recall the “Parisian Pictures. In “The Poor Child’s Plaything. 1869 Baudelaire’s collection of prose poems. Although these texts include elements of diction.

The Mirror of Art. Baudelaire and the Aesthetics of Bad Faith. 1864 (of Poe’s short stories). Curiositiés esthétiques. based on drawing beauty from those aspects of life that are most repulsive. Sees these prose poems as hybrid works that set themselves up for comparison with the novel as much as with lyric poetry.. 1952. 1869 and Flowers of Evil as major works and pays much attention to Baudelaire’s theories of art. Margery A. Baudelaire’s World. and Other Prose Writings. and as finding both beauty and spiritual revelations within the dark side of modernity. 1864 (of Poe’s poem). Susan. Baudelaire on Poe. 1935 Poems in English. 1961 Collected Poems in English and French. Lyons Samuel Beckett Born: Foxrock.” Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. Lloyd. Eureka. Lois Boe. Mon cœur mis à nu. 1977 87 . Essays represent a variety of critical perspectives. 1856 (of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories). 1955. April 13. 1961.” Also examines the nature of Baudelaire’s symbolism. also as Artificial Paradises. 1869 that validates its reassessment as a work that rivals the success of Flowers of Evil. William J. 1868. 1965. New York: Twayne.: Cornell University Press. 1971. Bibliography Blood. appreciative. 1858 (of Poe’s novel). The Painter of Modern Life. Other major works long fiction: La Fanfarlo. 1951. 1992. 1989 Principal poetry Whoroscope. Leakey. near Dublin. Beaudelaire as Literary Critic: Selected Essays. with particular attention to the sociopolitical context in which the poems were written. and Other Essays. 1993. Ireland. 1997. Evans. miscellaneous: Œuvres complètes. Ithaca. scholarly introduction to the poems. Nouvelles Histoires extraordinaires.Critical Survey of Poetry One can. Calif. December 22. Study of Paris Spleen.” New York: Cambridge University Press. Samuel Hyslop. Includes a chronology and bibliography. John D. Rosemary. A biography of the poet that examines the world in which he lived. easily view the rat as a synecdoche for Baudelaire’s aesthetic. 1964. Baudelaire and Intertextuality. Stanford. 1887 (My Heart Laid Bare. 1930 Echo’s Bones and Other Precipitates. L’Art romantique. Beckett.: Stanford University Press. F. Thorough. 1868-1870. Aventures d’Arthur Gordon Pym. Collection of sixteen essays on Flowers of Evil. France. 1868. Jungian. N. and the analysis may be theoretical or textual. 2002. Detailed analysis of the poetry. Examines the role of Baudelaire in the history of modernism and the development of the modernist consciousness. 1996). ed. Intimate Journals. especially its relationship to Baudelaire’s writings on caricature and the problem of its “secret architecture. Art in Paris. sociopolitical. with the purpose of giving students a clear. W. Discusses Paris Spleen. and thoughtful introduction to Flowers of Evil. Thompson. 1927.Y. 1964. 1860 (partial translation as Artificial Paradises: On Hashish and Wine as a Means of Expanding Individuality. 1845-1862: Salons and Other Exhibitions. however. 1950). My Heart Laid Bare. New York: Cambridge University Press. Baudelaire: “Les Fleurs du mal. 1957. 1997. Sees Baudelaire as transforming his emotional torment into aesthetic form. including feminist. 1847. 1906 Died: Paris. The Letters of Baudelaire. nonfiction: Les Paradis artificiels. Charles Baudelaire Revisited. Includes a detailed discussion of individual poems and a bibliography. Each essay selects one particular poem for detailed discussion. translations: Histoires extraordinaires. and structuralist. Histoires grotesques et sérieuses. Useful and uncomplicated general introduction to the life and work of Baudelaire. 1992. 1857 (of Poe’s short stories). Understanding “Les Fleurs du mal.

Beckett explored almost every literary form. is masterful. The modernists of the early twentieth century—James Joyce. but his best-known translation is of Guillaume Apollinaire’s “Zone” (1972). separating it from life. 1981). How It Is. and others—were stunned by the absurdity of their world. 1958). creating an art for its own sake.. pb. This difficult theatrical work met with astounding success on stages throughout the world. these works for the mass media tapped new possibilities and pointed out new directions for younger writers. English translation. His early fiction. including the trilogy of Molloy (1951.. Virginia Woolf. Marcel Proust. writing on the fiction of James Joyce and Marcel Proust and on the paintings of his longtime friend Bram van Velde. was written originally in English. even though it was as a poet that he began his writing career. and they believed that the order of reality was a fiction. From the beginning. have extended the possibilities of live theater. Alain Bosquet. 1958). the award only confirmed what critics and readers had known for some time: that he is one of the most important literary figures of the late twentieth century.. and it is still Beckett’s best-known and most-discussed piece. The modernists lacked the faith of their forebears. to name only a few. H. music by John Beckett. postmodernism. but their orderly vision of reality no longer seemed to apply to life in the early twentieth century.Beckett. W. the collection of stories More Pricks than Kicks (1934) and the novels Murphy (1938) and Watt (1953). Beckett’s greatest strength was as an innovator. Auden. “Fin de partie. and Comment c’est (1961. 1955). Paul Éluard. pb. but his best-known fiction. In response to their doubts. Endgame: A Play in One Act. and with good reason.” suivi de “Acte sans paroles” (pr. Other works for the stage. Like the novels and the plays. including Robert Pinget. In fact. done in the 1930’s but lost for many years and rediscovered and published for the first time only in the 1977 Collected Poems in English and French. they had experienced the chaos of the modern world with its potential for global war and the destruction of civilization. writing in English and in French. 1957. Followed by Act Without Words: A Mime for One Player. writing prose works that do not seem to fit easily into traditional categories but instead extend the possibilities of contemporary fiction and have had a profound influence on the writers who have followed him. and Sebastien Chamfort from the French and An Anthology of Mexican Poetry (1958) from the Spanish. In addition to translating his own works. His English version of Arthur Rimbaud’s “Le Bateau ivre” (The Drunken Boat).” Achievements When the Swedish Academy selected Samuel Beckett to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969. and L’Innommable (1953. These writers trusted in language to create . and political meanings. The Unnamable. His Collected Shorter Plays was published in 1984. 1956). Samuel Other literary forms Samuel Beckett is far better known for his fiction and plays than for his poetry. Malone Dies. Beckett also wrote the screenplay for the short movie Film (1965). a long poem that addresses many of Beckett’s own themes and opens with a line that could well characterize Beckett’s efforts in all forms: “In the end you are weary of this ancient world. Previous generations had filled that world with philosophical. 1954). most people think of En attendant Godot (pb. produced and directed by Alan Schneider and starring Buster Keaton. The Lost Ones. 1958). Few authors in the history of literature have attracted as much critical attention as Beckett. he has translated those of other writers. and Words and Music (1962). Malone meurt (1951. pb. 88 Critical Survey of Poetry Early in his career. 1967). Never content to restrict himself to a single medium. that life was unknowable. they turned literature in on itself. 1964) and Le Dèpeupleur (1971. Beckett also showed that he was a brilliant critic of the arts. and when his name is mentioned.. and television scripts such as Eh Joe (1966. religious. Cascando (1963). pb. and Rockaby (pr. 1952. 1972) were written and published originally in French. Beckett was also a writer of plays. 1961). he is both an important figure in his own right and a transitional thinker whose writings mark the end of modernism and the beginning of a new sensibility. Krapp’s Last Tape (pr. Waiting for Godot. Beckett demonstrated that radio and television can serve as vehicles for serious drama with radio plays such as All That Fall (1957). Happy Days (pr. Dis Joe.

the world of the human voice. Human beings are human beings not because they can give meaning to the world or because they can retreat into aesthetics but because they can recognize that their world is meaningless and that their lives are leading them only toward death. The modernists rejected this idea of imitation. Biography Samuel Barclay Beckett grew up in a suburb of Dublin.Critical Survey of Poetry new meanings. He attended Trinity College in Dublin. although Joyce could revel in the possibilities and textures of the written word. so that it is 89 . and his poems to the barest elements. his plays. art imitated the world beyond the human mind. ran errands for the Irish master. For the next five years. foredoomed to failure. a Protestant in a Catholic country and therefore something of an exile in his own land. and Italian. It was in Paris that Beckett died in 1989. It would be difficult to overestimate the effect that Joyce had on Beckett’s life and work. and a separate. He taught for two terms at Campbell College in Belfast and then. As such. Beckett also experienced this sense of absurdity and meaninglessness in the modern world. He worked on a translation of Joyce’s “Anna Livia Plurabelle” into French. Instead. his art reflects the inner world. French. regardless of the world beyond the scope of the arts. It was during this tenure that he met his countryman James Joyce. he reduced his fictions. the younger Irishman was an intimate member of Joyce’s inner circle. It is a necessary failure that never manages to link the inner mind to outer reality. Beckett was the first thinker of the postmodern age. he could not even muster faith in his art or in language. convinced that he could not sur- Beckett. who recommended exile for artists. Ireland. and in 1937. art never succeeds. In the premodern era. but in 1932. There were probably many reasons for Beckett’s self-imposed exile and for his decision to write in a language not his by birth. Joyce thought a great deal of Beckett. For Beckett. Lucia. but unlike his modernist predecessors. the only world human beings can ever really experience. As a young man. Beckett returned to Ireland to teach four terms at Trinity College. where he lectured in English at the ècole Normale Supèrieure. at the age of eighty-three. traveled to Paris. yet they must continue to live and strive. he wandered through Europe. he left the teaching profession for good. in 1928. Thus. he tried to rejoin art and life in his own way. artistic human universe. took dictation for his friend. and throughout his career. and so did Beckett. and even attracted the romantic interest of Joyce’s daughter. Samuel Samuel Beckett (©The Nobel Foundation) vive as a writer in academe. he settled in Paris permanently. after much consideration and anguish. wrote a critical study of Joyce’s writings. As a philosopher of failure. where he discovered his talent for languages and studied English. Beckett could not. art is an exercise in courage. For the premodernists. Instead. art succeeded only on its own terms. new knowledge. and Beckett looked on Joyce as a consummate master. like human life itself. art was successful if it depicted some truth about the world. In the late 1930’s. Apparently. For the modernists. but surely one reason was the influence of Joyce.

but he was also a great destroyer of the philosophies of the past. He and his contemporaries initiated a new age in Western civilization. time that eats up a man’s life and leads only to death. Joyce’s influence began to weaken. is about time as the great destroyer. and published in book form by Hours Press after winning a prize offered by the publisher for the best poem on the subject of time. because he chose to keep this early work intact in the subsequent collections of his poetry. which the young Beckett knew well—so well. . the time of his own life was destroying him. without them. and a closer reading shows that the sequence of memories is not random at all but associative. however. heavily textured prose. the notes are almost as interesting as the poem itself.Beckett. the seventeenth century French philosopher. reduced to the barest elements—is the antithesis of Joyce’s rich. it is not at all obvious that this is a 90 Critical Survey of Poetry poem about time. in his own mind. about various events in his life. in fact. 1922-1931). the founder of modern philosophy and the opponent of Aristotelian scholasticism. In the closing section. Whoroscope Whoroscope is an important poem not only because it marked Beckett’s official entry into the literary world but also because it introduced the basic themes that continued to occupy him as a writer and thinker. and in many ways. that this poem is about the lifetime of a particular man. Ironically. Whoroscope. written originally in English. Samuel possible he decided to write in French to avoid the language that. punning. In fact. and. a book-length study of this French masterwork. his life is flashing before his eyes. however. which include all the works discussed here. In the early poetry. Analysis Whoroscope was Samuel Beckett’s first major publication. Descartes was a great builder. As Beckett grew older and developed as a writer. In fact. It is important to remember. In many ways. Descartes. in so doing. Beckett also rejected Joyce’s “Irishness” in favor of characters and settings without specific nationality or history. in fact. but it is also obvious that Beckett has learned a great deal from Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927. mathematician. the poem is very much about time—the time of a man’s life and the attempt to recapture lost time in the instant before time runs out. who directed Western thought into the era of science and rationalism. In a sense. Beckett himself recognized this fact. at the publisher’s request. and the poem is so full of obscure allusions to his life and times that. Beckett pays tribute to other great thinkers such as Galileo and Francis Bacon.” He devoted his life to the development of a new system of thought. Poems in English and Collected Poems in English and French. Clearly. It is a long poem. it is unlikely that the average reader would even recognize Descartes as the speaker. Like Beckett himself. while Descartes was destroying his predecessors. each a memory leading to the next—not in chronological order but in the order dictated by Descartes’s subjective thought process. Descartes rambles on. The first-person narrator of the work is René Descartes. Beckett’s later style—spare. that in 1931 he published Proust. Joyce had all but exhausted. without rhyme or regular meter. and in his poem. but the influence of Joyce is also apparent in the punning title and in the body of the text. then. apparently at random. The structure of the piece is open. but. he speaks with pride of “throwing/ Jesuits out of the skylight. Beckett added a page and a half of notes to the ninety-eight-line piece. and there is good reason for Beckett’s choice of this philosopher as his narrator. he also undermined the Aristotelian metaphysics that had served as the basis of European philosophy for centuries. The Joycean influence in Descartes’s stream-of-consciousness narrative is evident. flat. The poem shows the influence of the French surrealists in its associative juxtaposition of images. He is trying to grasp the fullness of time at the moment of his death. On first reading. Whoroscope is quite unlike the author’s later writings. Descartes was a transitional figure. and in the poem. the influence of Joyce and Ireland is still strong. it was in his poems that Beckett first began to work through Joyce’s voice and to discover his own. From the opening line. and scientist. Remembrance of Things Past. it becomes clear that the philosopher is on his deathbed and that his ramblings are the result of illness and fever. without respect for chronology or even historical accuracy. and.

Descartes is dying before he has even really lived. moment by moment. but they must also live and think and speak. . regardless of whether one is innocent or guilty. With this knowledge. but he has always coupled these themes with another: the necessity of going on. untitled poem. he even knew of two young men who had allowed themselves to die simply because their horoscopes had predicted death for them. of death as a necessary function of birth. Beckett explains that Descartes liked his morning omelette to be made from eggs that had been hatched from eight to ten days—that is. Beckett points out that Descartes kept his birthday a secret so that no astrologer could cast his horoscope. as Descartes does. Again in the notes. as a human being. Descartes devoted his life to trying to understand the outer world. and like the fledgling in the egg. which is always dying. In his notes to the poem.” and in Whoroscope. therefore I am”) trapped him within his own subjectivity. As with all human beings. and generations of later philosophers have tried to understand how one can move from the certainty of the cogito to the world beyond which is not oneself. humans must die. The philosopher was opposed to such mysticism. and there is nothing that can stop or even delay this process.” Rahab was a biblical harlot mentioned in La divina commedia (c. and yet it restricts thinkers to 91 . which will live on after them and which. and they must also live in the outer world. Samuel For Beckett. but the very foundation of his thought. then as begging for another chance at a life he has never managed to understand. places the narrative within Descartes’s inner mind. simply because that is the way things are. Each person’s life cancels itself. runs through the poem in the form of a recurring motif. As Beckett writes in a later. he depicts Descartes first as angry. who forced the aging philosopher to call on her at five o’clock each morning although he had been in the habit of staying in bed until midday all his life. The Divine Comedy. the dictum Cogito. not only because it was unscientific but also because he felt that many people let their entire lives be dictated by astrology. They must live in their own inner world. is the fulcrum of modern Western philosophy. His “whoroscope” is her prediction of his inevitable end. the fictional Descartes refers to Queen Christina as “Rahab of the snows. In the poem.” Humans are born to die. and so it would seem that the queen is the “whore” of the title. even to the last possible instant.Critical Survey of Poetry This is one of the key themes of Beckett’s work: the fact that death comes to all living things. . the egg is the symbol of the fetus conceived only to die. The very structure of the poem. the Joycean pun of the title becomes clear. How rich she smells. its brief span of life lived out in the instant between nonexistence and nonexistence. but it is the outer world that is leading him to inevitable death. Queen Christina. The time of the egg is the time of the philosopher as well. he must. For Beckett. 1320. of raging against the inevitable. This change in his routine. who is attending to Descartes in his last moments. has cast Descartes’s death. and yet. he is dying for no purpose.” he insists that human beings must “keep on the move/ keep on the move. cursing his fate. a “second/ starless inscrutable hour. which was present from the moment of his birth. coupled with the northern weather. the harlot. This theme of the inevitability of death. which follows the philosopher’s associative thinking. without reason. is not theirs. eggs in which the embryo was partially developed. ergo sum (“I think. 1802) of Dante (whom Beckett has called the only poet). though in the end it moves to the outer world. the single point of certainty in the Cartesian philosophy of doubt. Time and again in the poem he asks about his morning eggs: “How long did she womb it. losing time from the moment of conception. therefore. the feathery one? . 3 volumes. of refusing to accept humanity’s fate. In his inner world. humanity lives “the space of a door/ that opens and shuts. This theme of the conflict between the inner and the outer worlds that runs through Beckett’s later work is present in Whoroscope as well. they are dying even in the womb. to “Christina the ripper” and to her court physician./ this abortion of a fledgling!” Beckett. Weulles. The cogito. Beckett explored the themes of the inevitability of death and the meaninglessness of life time and again in his works. In the poem “Serena III. The historical Descartes died while in the service of Queen Christina of Sweden. without justice. led to his final illness.” There is no reason for him to go on. Descartes is alive and reliving his past.

it is impossible for humanity to come to know the world beyond the skull. and throughout the poem he has contact with others. The connection between Ovid’s tale and Beckett’s theme of love is clear. under . like Beckett himself and like the narrators of most of these poems. Of course. and as futile. Francine. In the poem.” “the stillborn evening.. Humans are human only insofar as they know that failure is inevitable and yet keep going in spite of that knowledge.” figments of the imagination that lose all sense of reality in the face of “the banner of meat bleeding. The work “Enueg I” draws its title from the traditional Provençal lament or complaint. for a human being. often. from the story of Echo. he rages against what he knows to be true as his own blood forms a “clot of anger.” There is no romance in Beckett’s lament. this certainty seems truer to the philosopher than his own cogito. courage is the courage to fail. The Descartes of the poem states the Augustinian dictum as “Fallor. an entire society lives and passes away within a huge white dome. who. and. but the story of Echo also provides the poet with two of his favorite images: the inevitability of death and the survival of the voice.” He knows that he thinks and. and that love is the source of human pain but also of human life.” “the tattered sky like an ink of pestilence”) and that he cannot forget his beloved or the fate of their love. like a claw. and as might be expected. who also sought a single point of certainty in a world in which everything was open to question and found that the only thing he could be sure of was that he could be deceived. the only life he can know. only the all-encompassing awareness of mortality. pretending that it is not.e. but he does not know why. but the outer world remains “inscrutable. 8 c. as important as the quest for meaning. In the short novel The Lost Ones. The title of the collection comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (c. to fail. love is another of humankind’s basic needs./ his stump caught up horribly. with a small boy and “a wearish old man. Knowing that love is impossible.” For Beckett. Samuel their own inner worlds. humanity loves. like the rest of life. Love and romance are like “the silk of the seas and the arctic flowers/ that do not exist. In the poem. of loss. At the moment of death. and also because the troubadours were usually wanderers and exiles. that he is. if not now. English translation. The implication is that love always ends. these signs of death are not really present in the outer world. He wants to know the truth and to speak it. Echo’s Bones and Other Precipitates: the theme of the impossibility of love in the face of absurdity and death. the characters Hamm and Clov live within a skull-like structure. and. like Descartes. For Beckett.” an archetypal Beckett character. 92 Critical Survey of Poetry The poems of Echo’s Bones and Other Precipitates differ from Whoroscope not only because they focus on love but also because the narrator is not a fictional version of a historical character but the author himself. after being spurned by Narcissus. however. Hamm is blind. necessary and frightening. Echo’s Bones and Other Precipitates Another important Beckett theme surfaces only briefly in Whoroscope but becomes the main focus of the author’s second collection of poems. who died of scarlet fever at the age of six. in his poem “The Vulture.” The narrator keeps moving. lets herself wither away until only her bones and voice remain. but the cogito cannot lead him to knowledge of the outer world. a skull. Descartes can know his inner world.Beckett. and Clov can see the world only through two eyelike windows that restrict his vision. He finds that the world is full of images of death (“a dying barge. in the philosopher’s memory of a little cross-eyed girl who was his childhood playmate and who reminds him of his only daughter. traveling in a wide circle. to what Beckett calls. therefore. then later. 1567). “scuttling along between a crutch and a stick. ergo sum!” (“I am deceived. he mentions Saint Augustine. and. In the play Endgame. the narrator leaves the nursing home where his beloved is dying of tuberculosis (“Exeo in a spasm/ tired of my darling’s red sputum”) and wanders through Dublin. they reflect the narrator’s inner life.” “the sky/ of my skull. love is both essential and hopeless. which Beckett knew well and which attracted him no doubt because they were songs of love and. it is a complaint of love. that very world in which people must live and die. The Descartes poem touched on the theme only briefly. therefore I am”). Most of the titles and forms of the poems in this collection are based on the songs of the troubadours. To be a human is to be deceived. In Whoroscope.

“Sanies I” is also modeled on a Provençal form. the “main verb” comes at the end of the sentence.” These meetings show the continuing possibility of human contact.” The reality beyond the inner 93 . He is “tired now hair ebbing gums ebb- Beckett. the child who is born with a caul is born to good luck. refusing to make the mistake his parents made by bringing another being into the world. he recalls his birth and longs for that sweet oblivion of the womb: “Ah to be back in the caul now with no trusts/ no fingers no spoilt love. and he says that he is “müüüüüüüde now. If “Sanies I” is about nonexistence in the womb (the Cartesian egg). the title is derived from a Latin term meaning “morbid discharge. he is “bound for home like a good boy.” It is a by-product of living and dying.” The German “müde” means “tired. “I see main verb at last/ her whom alone in the accusative/ I have dismounted to love. Even better. “taken by the maggots for what they are. a tomb. but “at the faint sound so brief/ it is gone. and therefore need not. a “precipitate. however. Like the narrator of “Enueg I. the title poem of the collection brings these two notions together. the narrator sends the girl away (“get along with you now”). There are no obscure allusions. and according to folklore.” a reference to the womb. the reader finds that the author’s voice has changed. even in a dying world. but this is an “asylum under my tread. no matter how strongly he might feel the need to do so. like Echo’s voice.” he is prepared for love again. and he describes himself as “a Ritter.” a shelter underground. to have avoided “trusts” and “spoilt loves. smoking. writing is such a discharge. as a result. The poem tries to reach that “something” in the only way it can. the narrator is both tired and bored. “The caul” to which the narrator would like to return is a fetal membrane covering the head. although his key themes remain. “the gantelope of sense and nonsense.” but the extended “ü” sound also gives a sense of boredom. he sees his beloved waiting for him. “Something There” Leaping ahead four decades to “Something There. but it is also that which remains. Like later Beckett protagonists.” Only now. those in the tomb are beyond the confusions and pains of living now that they have run the gauntlet of life. The words may be only a “morbid discharge.Critical Survey of Poetry his breech.” In German. however. Like those in the womb.” a German knight. and. but circular movement is still movement. flat and prosaic. He has been wandering for a long time.” a poem composed in 1974. Samuel ing ebbing home. a residue. are also moving in circles. Clearly.” This is a key passage. and even the old man. no Joycean puns. without love or dreams and without the need to keep striving. he rides a bicycle. Of course. The implication here. crippled and in pain. through words. and if “Enueg I” is about nonexistence in the tomb. The title of the poem. “Echo’s Bones” is a short lyric that restates Beckett’s key themes in capsule form.” but.” For Beckett. the narrator no longer has the option of not being born. Here the lines are short and direct. in this case. and in this sentence that word is “love. is a reminder that something more than bone remains: the voice. though perhaps the only kind of hero who remains in the postmodern age: the hero who keeps moving. travel on a bicycle as the narrator does. therefore. a somewhat ironic hero. and indeed.” Thinking about home and his parents. in death.” and what they are is fleshless bone. like the narrator. they survive.” and this contrast of inner and outer worlds returns the reader to Whoroscope and to the Cartesian dilemma of subjectivity that cannot reach beyond itself. is that the best of luck is never to have been born at all and. like Echo’s voice. for his speech is full of Germanic terms. Although one cannot return to the peace of the womb.” German slang for “lady-killer.” and one without fingers cannot. therefore. one can at least refuse to pass on the curse of life to another. an essential element in most of Beckett’s work. despite his “spoilt loves. they also make clear the need for going on even in the face of futility. The unborn child also has “no fingers. and.” It would seem that.” and yet he approaches his hometown like a “Stürmer. The first word of the poem is “asylum. apparently in Germany. Perhaps the others.” the narrator of “Sanies I” is a wanderer in the process of completing a circle.” those exercises in futility.” At the last moment. does not give up. The “something there” of the title is “something outside/ the head. however. does not remain motionless. are they free to be themselves. he is returning home to Ireland after traveling in Europe. one without fingers cannot write.

Four Novellas. The Essential Samuel Beckett: An Illustrated Biography. Act Without Words II. New York: Longman. L’Innommable. Company.. Re: Joyce’n Beckett. 1986. 1952 (Waiting for Godot. Quad. Le Dépeupleur. A collection of criticism of Beckett’s works. pb. “I can’t go on. raging against the inevitability of silence. plays: En attendant Godot. pb. pb. but he did so beautifully. Enoch. pr. 1958 (Octavio Paz. 1979. 1981 (Ill Seen Ill Said. with the nameless. 1951 (English translation. Beckett sings the praises of those who say. Although Beckett was often reluctant to talk about himself. teleplays: Eh Joe. also known as For to Yet Again. and Other Novellas. Bibliography and index. screenplay: Film. Shades. 1958. 1991.. The criticism of the specific texts is often limited. 1934. Company.. 1974. 1953. nonfiction: Proust. Mercier et Camier. pb. 1976. Cascando. it is important to remember that he was influenced greatly by the medieval theologians who argued that truth. pb. 1962 (music by John Beckett). 1953 (The Unnamable. 1965 (one scene. 1981. A Piece of Monologue. 1992. pr. 1955 (Stories and Texts for Nothing. eds.. 1951 (Malone Dies.” pr. 1977. pb.. “Fin de partie. 1972). editors). Happy Days. in the end. short fiction: More Pricks than Kicks. Tryst.” 1958). and although humanity cannot reach beyond its inner self to comprehend the “something outside/ the head. Complete Dramatic Works. pb. 1978. 1963 (music by Marcel Mihalovici). 1958).” suivi de “Acte sans paroles.Beckett. Reprint. 1972. Ohio Impromptu. Jennifer. Not I. 1965. 2000. pr. Phyllis. 1929-1940. New York: Thames & Hudson. Samuel Beckett. Samuel Beckett: A Biography. Cronin. New York: Fordham University Press. First Love. Rockaby. Eleutheria. by describing what it is not. Malone meurt. 1967). pr. pb. 1967). A general biography of Beckett that provides information on how his life affected his works. 1938. pr.” Followed by “Act Without Words: A Mime for One Player. Footfalls. and the sign of its failure is language. translation: An Anthology of Mexican Poetry. . 1981. The inner world is not life. 1981).. 1964). Deirdre. Molloy. 1967).. pb. Words and Music. It is true that he wrote about the curse of life. Bibliography Bair. pr. pr. editor). pb. 1957 (music by John Beckett. 1993. he cooperated with Bair. 1959. Ends and Odds. 1976. 1967. 1947-1966. The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Vol. 1964). pr. 2003.. 1961 (How It Is. but Bair is very good at putting the work in conjunction with Beckett’s very odd life.. 1980. pr. Watt. 1976 (Richard Seaver. most helpful version of his life in print. eds. 1981. 1995. 1966 (Dis Joe.. 1974). formless. New York: Simon & Schuster. Collected Short Prose. Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist. 1960 94 Critical Survey of Poetry (one-act mime). 1971 (The Lost Ones. Come and Go: Dramaticule. and Kate Ince. Catastrophe. the voice that always remains. 1955). No’s Knife: Prose. 1968. Birkett. One can argue that Beckett’s view of existence is largely negative. 1976. 1956). 1982. 1984. 1976). 1976 (Fizzles. describes only the inner world. and to know his life is to understand his art. 1980). Anthony. I’ll Go On: A Selection from Samuel Beckett’s Work. pr. 1976. and Other Shorts. and Ed Jewinski. miscellaneous: I Can’t Go On. editor). That Time. It is the fullest. pr. pb. The beauty of his work is the beauty of the human will to live in the face of death. faceless narrator of The Unnamable. and so language. Play.. 1. 1976. pb. Samuel mind disappears as soon as the words of the mind try to grasp it. 1954). Carey. 2009 (Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck. pr. Pour finir encore et autres foirades. Mal vu mal dit. pr. 1931. Brater.” still it must try to do so. is beyond positive statement and that humankind can know the truth only in the negative. Nouvelles et textes pour rien. 1963 (English translation. I’ll go on. “Endgame: A Play in One Act. 1957. 1983. Worstward Ho.” Other major works long fiction: Murphy. pb. pb. Comment c’est. English translation. Plays. 1961. 1970 (Mercier and Camier. in the person of God. pb. Krapp’s Last Tape. 1983. which becomes something like a womb and a tomb in the midst of life. Embers. This collection of essays examines the relationship between Joyce and Beckett. Beckett seems to have taken the same approach. However. 1977 (also known as The Expelled. radio plays: All That Fall.

partial translation in Terrible Tales: Spanish. Dublin: Dublin Stationery Office. Outstanding among these works are the newspaper letters published under the heading Cartas desde mi celda (1864. a well-known commentator on Beckett. Knowlson. Spain. was completed. 1836 Died: Madrid. 1924) and the prologue to the book La Soledad (1861) by his friend Augusto Ferrán. McDonald. 1996. better known as The Rhymes. Bécquer expresses his ideas about love. Samuel Beckett: The Life and the Work. that which germinates in the soul like an electric spark. they reveal a taste for the macabre. Letters to an Unknown Woman. 1871 (Poems. describing his involvement in the Paris literary scene. 1898) Other literary forms Although the fame of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (BEHK-ur) rests mainly on his only volume of poetry. he was also a notable prose writer. Bécquer demonstrated his talent at an early age with the publication of Historia de los templos de España (1857. Achievements Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer achieved fame only after his death. above all. . 1994. 1996. Leyendas (1858-1864. brief. In these “letters. Everman Bécquer. Pattie. Syracuse. James. and his overall literary career. February 17. .” Bécquer’s most celebrated prose works were his more than twenty legends. detailed notes. In these works. poetry.Critical Survey of Poetry New York: HarperCollins. 1924). Pilling. Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett.Y. Ronan. In his prologue to Ferrán’s book. Although in his last years he was beginning 95 Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer Born: Seville. Kenner. A comprehensive reference work that provides considerable information about the life and works of Beckett. . New York: Cambridge University Press. Bibliography and index. December 22. also in Romantic Legends of Spain. Welch D. . A general biography of Beckett that looks at his literary works. his response to winning the Nobel Prize. 1891. A comprehensive biography with much new material. and bibliography. Gustavo Adolfo The Rhymes. The Cambridge Companion to Beckett. Bécquer categorizes his own poetic production as the kind that is “natural. places Beckett in the Irish tradition and assesses his part in the movement of experimental literature. New York: Routledge. A fully documented and detailed biography of Beckett. Hugh. where the author had gone to seek relief for his failing health. Also of great importance among Bécquer’s prose works are the four Cartas literarias a una mujer (18601861. N. 1891. David. The themes of these prose tales do not differ substantially from those of the tales in verse typical of the Romantic movement in Spain and throughout Europe. and exotic lore. an ambitious project of which only the first volume.: Syracuse University Press. revealing himself to be a religious man who is both aware of the problems of his surroundings and sensitive to the legends and traditions he hears from shepherds and rovers in the northeast of Spain. 2000. What differentiates Bécquer’s legends from the verse narratives and plays of the Duque de Rivas and José Zorrilla y Moral is their greater emphasis on the mysterious. Kenner. They were written from Veruela’s monastery in Aragón. Spain. 1996. Reader’s Guide to Samuel Beckett. 1870 Principal poetry Rimas. New York: Simon & Schuster. touches the feelings with a word and flees. literature in general. a study of the churches of Toledo. a history of Spain’s temples).” Bécquer pours out his moral biography. ed. The Complete Critical Guide to Samuel Beckett. the uncanny. Posterity has recognized the greater value of a variety of prose works that appeared in Madrid’s newspapers and magazines during Bécquer’s lifetime. Bibliography and indexes. and the supernatural. 1909). A reference volume that combines biographical information with critical analysis of Beckett’s literary works. From My Cell. dry. 2005. John. medieval settings. and.

no Spanish poem has touched as many hearts or has been recited and memorized as often as “Rime of the Swallows” and no poet has surpassed Bécquer’s influence on Hispanic poetry. Bécquer obtained an insignificant position as a public servant. his father died. leaving Bécquer and his seven brothers to the responsibility of their surviving relatives. when the third edition of his poems was published. in the south of Spain. the sickness that would take him to an early grave. 1615. he found even less in Madrid. he worked in collaboration with various friends.Bécquer. Bécquer was acknowledged as an important poet. and when he could no longer pay rent in the boardinghouse of Doña Soledad. he also contributed to a number of Madrid’s newspapers and magazines. Don Quixote of the Mancha. Bécquer’s recognition as a poet began with the publication of The Rhymes one year after his death. groups. Indeed. It was decided that Bécquer should take up his late father’s profession. unsuccessfully. where he always had economic difficulties and where he was soon diagnosed as having tuberculosis. While under the care of his mother’s uncle. his interest in literature had continued to grow. and poetic generations that have come after Bécquer in Hispanic literature have been indebted. turning out translations from French and writing original dramas and zarzuelas (musicals). and he even tried. Bécquer decided. she inspired many of the entries in The Rhymes. he went to live with his godmother. a beautiful girl who later became an opera singer. it was the . and his fame was spreading throughout the Hispanic world. after Miguel de Cervantes’s El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha (1605. largely hackwork. Bécquer began to study at the Colegio de San Telmo in Seville to become a sea pilot. a painter. During his early years in Madrid. but he was soon fired. in the same year. Needing to find another source of income. the son of José María Domínguez Insausti. she generously allowed him to continue residing there anyway. 1836. Doña Manuela Monchay. Although the direct line of the name had ended with the poet’s great-grandmother. Don Juan de Vargas. only a handful of his poems were published during his lifetime. It was at this time that Bécquer experienced his first health crisis. All the movements. In 1859. after being caught during working hours drawing a picture of William Shakespeare’s Ophelia. If in Seville Bécquer had found little happiness. his verse has achieved both critical acclaim and an extraordinary popular appeal. These activities neither produced sufficient income for a comfortable life nor contributed to Bécquer’s fame. he was virtually unknown as a poet. the whole family was still known as the Bécquers. 1612-1620. The History of the Valorous and Wittie Knight-Errant. Bécquer also studied painting with his uncle Joaquín Domínguez Bécquer. When this school was closed a short time later. in 1854—against his godmother’s advice—to go to Madrid and seek his fortune as a writer. although Bécquer’s love for this girl was unrequited. since his works were often published without his name. Bécquer’s reputation has grown steadily. The surname Bécquer had come to Spain from Flanders during the seventeenth century as Becker. directly or indirectly. to found some new ones. Gustavo Adolfo to be recognized as a good journalist and an excellent prose writer. Biography Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer was born in Seville. and he began to study painting at the 96 Critical Survey of Poetry school of the Sevillian artist Antonio Cabral Bajarano. Bécquer quickly ran out of the little money he had brought from Seville. and some were not even produced. and four years later his mother also died. In the year 1858. By 1881. In those days. It is said that. Bécquer began to publish his “legends” in the newspapers of Madrid. and Joaquina Bastida Vargas. Since the poet’s death. One month before young Bécquer turned five. better known as Don Quixote de la Mancha). and when his uncle expressed doubts about Bécquer’s potential to become a great artist. where he developed his preference for Horace and for the Spanish Romantic Zorrilla and where he became fond of literary studies in general. on February 17. a poem later included in The Rhymes was published under the title “Imitación de Byron” (“Imitation of Byron”). These pieces for the stage. to his innovations. Bécquer devoted his free time to reading in his godmother’s library. no literary work has had as many editions in Spanish as Bécquer’s The Rhymes. did not command good payment. he met Julia Espín. Nevertheless. Since that time.

thoughts. he went to live with his brother Valeriano in Toledo. his friend appointed a committee to publish his works. his doctor’s daughter. the poet’s health declined. whose impact on Bécquer is universally acknowledged. and Anastasius Grün (pseudonym of Anton Alexander. but a change in the government caused him to lose the job a year later. A year later. 1870. It should be noted that the great majority of his poems are very short. are those included in The Rhymes. where he was appointed editor in 1870. mirroring the poet’s in97 . Soon. they all returned to Madrid. Soon. and sounds.Critical Survey of Poetry first of fifteen of The Rhymes that appeared in Madrid periodicals during Bécquer’s lifetime. where he worked until 1868. critics have pointed out a wide variety of other influences. when the revolution that dethroned Isabella II took place. ethereal inwardness. lacking exotic and high-sounding words. Valeriano died. José María de Larrea. for a total of seventy-nine. came with his two children to live in Madrid and soon moved in with the poet and his wife. In 1860. In addition. After Bécquer’s death. a notable painter. Gustavo Adolfo Analysis The poems that made Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer famous. Nature appears in his poems impressionistically. The discovery and publication of other poems raised the number to ninety-four. Throughout his married life. The Rhymes consisted of seventy-six untitled poems as well as the previously published prose works. almost all juvenilia and not of high quality. and he uses a minimum of rhetorical techniques. Friedrich Schiller. Bécquer’s language is elegant but simple. and he prefers assonance to rhyme. count of Auersperg) and the Spanish poets Eulogio Florentino Sanz (the translator of Heine into Spanish). containing three more poems. In that same year. The single most important influence on Bécquer’s poetry was Heinrich Heine. where his father-in-law had a house. the vibration of air. The most important characteristics of Bécquer’s poetry are its simplicity and its suggestive. In the same year. and his friend Ferrán. however. Valeriano. He was appointed to a higher civil-service position with a better salary. during which the artist would paint typical local scenes while the writer would take notes for his own works or would write articles for newspapers. where he supposedly wrote the last poems for The Rhymes. and he died on December 22. On several occasions. Bécquer and his brother Valeriano took long trips to various parts of Spain. his verse lines are generally short as well. the marriage would eventually produce two sons. and that make up practically his entire production. clouds. where he wrote the letters in From My Cell. The committee collected his prose works that had appeared in the periodicals of Madrid and published them with the seventy-six poems from the manuscript of The Rhymes. Bécquer. Nevertheless. but later it was proved that many of the new poems actually had been written by Bécquer’s contemporaries or had been fraudulently attributed to him. murmurs. His preference for suggestion rather than explicit statement is reflected in his frequent use of incorporeal motifs such as waves of light. Anecdotes are absent from his poetry. and Bécquer resumed his journalistic work for the newspaper La ilustración de Madrid. the poet and his wife spent several periods near Soria. Only eight or ten other poems have been found. Bécquer began publishing Letters to an Unknown Woman in serial form and met Casta Esteban Navarro. and almost immediately Bécquer’s wife repentantly returned to live with him and their children. Bécquer spent eight months living in the monastery of Veruela. except for some extremely short ones that are indispensable to the communication of emotions. Taking his two children. In September of that year. ranging from Lord Byron and Edgar Allan Poe to the German poets Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Bécquer separated from his wife. When Bécquer’s friends published the first edition of his works in 1871. one year after his death. The year 1864 marked a change in Bécquer’s life. Bécquer’s brother. Bécquer’s poetic genius was so powerful that he was capable of fusing these influences with that of the popular Andalusian tradition to create his own distinctive style. This first edition of Bécquer’s works was published in 1871. whom Bécquer married the following year. at the age of thirty-four. Between 1863 and 1864. yet another change in the government resulted in his reappointment to the job. Another manuscript of the collection was later found.

Bécquer employs a series of similes to define himself both as a poet and as a human being. In the final poems in the sequence. with few exceptions. also typical of Symbolism. In the first of these two poems. Bécquer says that he would like to express the “gigantic and strange hymnal” that he knows. and Arthur Rimbaud. a wave. Paul Verlaine. made frequent allusions to music and struggled to make his language as musical as possible. Bécquer had to reconstruct the collection from memory. Above all.” In poem 5. of which the familiar physical world is an imperfect representation. and so on.” as “the unknown stair/ that connects . and perfect world. In the first poem in The Rhymes. with the clouds. The Rhymes In the manuscript of The Rhymes. Bécquer focuses his attention on the poet per se. It is speculated that in the new copy. Nevertheless. the third./ with words that are at the same time/ sighs and laughs. as for the Symbolists. In any case. the exaggerated sensitivity. For him. described as an “unknown essence. the waking of a star.” Throughout the poem. place Bécquer as a precursor of the Symbolist movement. it can be seen that Bécquer conceived of the possibility of the correspondence of sensations. saying in the last stanza that he is crossing the world “by accident. gives the collection a “plot. the poet must rely on suggestion and evocative symbolism. the blue of the sea. a dry leaf. absolute. Bécquer portrays the poet as a vase containing the poetic spirit. the majority of the poems appear in the order in which the poet remembered them. Finally. there is an ideal. celebration of love gives way to disillusionment with the beloved. Feelings cannot be expressed with exact and precise words. trying to explain what it means to be a poet and to describe the intimate nature of the poetic spirit. however.” In these lines.” Early poems in the sequence reflect the enthusiasm of a young poet who seeks to explain the mystery of his art and who discovers the mysterious connections between poetry and love. The above-mentioned characteristics. he has been considered a late Romantic. indeed. To suggest the narrow limits of humans’ control over their own destiny. The most widely accepted critical opinion is that. significant not for itself but only for the impressions of a higher reality that it conveys. interspersed with those newly created. as well as others. the centering of the world on the subjectivity of the poet— all typical of the Romantic movement. In later poems. of poems dealing with anguish and death. The sequence imposed on the poems. For Bécquer. He identifies it in another series of beautiful similes in which the objects of comparison are almost always immaterial and vague. Bécquer imagines himself to be an arrow. of poems expressing disillusionment with love. and miserly language.” a “mysterious perfume. of poems dealing with love. a note from a lute. Included in the first group are poems 1 through 8— except for poem 6 (a pathetic description of Shakespeare’s Ophelia)—and poem 21. having lost the original manuscript (which he gave to a friend for publication right before the revolution of 1868). emotions or feelings are the true object of poetry. Bécquer is an eminently subjective poet who uses his poetry to express his inner feelings with almost complete indifference to the objective reality of the world.” “without thinking/ where I am coming from nor where/ my steps will take me. it is easy to observe the cult of the individual. the poet is increasingly preoccupied with death. Bécquer. Bécquer tries to determine the nature of that spirit. and the fourth. the poems collected in The Rhymes can be divided into four sequential groups. justifiably or not. and a ray of light. when Bécquer’s friends decided to 98 Critical Survey of Poetry publish his works. the second. like the Symbolists. placing them in the order in which they have appeared in all their subsequent publications. they seem to follow no logical order at all. and to a certain extent this classification is correct. Thus. The first group consists of poems that consider the poet per se and the nature of poetry. colors and notes. adding some new poems. In Bécquer’s poetry. these characteristics appear in Bécquer in conjunction with others that typify the Symbolism of Stéphane Mallarmé. This poem introduces an important idea in Bécquer’s poetics: Poetry is the marvelous reduction of ideas and feelings to words and verbal forms. the poems do not follow a chronological order. they rearranged the poems. In poems 2 and 5. Traditionally. by “taming the rebel. The poetic spirit is described as the “bridge that crosses the abyss. and to represent his interior world. Gustavo Adolfo terior drama.Bécquer.

which at times leads him to insinuate that women are valuable only for their physical beauty. 1320.” The second group of poems. In a typical series of incorporeal images. “a vague ghost made of mist and light. In almost all the remaining poems of the second group. Bécquer realizes that love and the beloved for whom he searches are ideal entities of an absolute perfection and beauty that cannot exist in tangible reality. Then comes an unreal girl.” Finally./ she is so beautiful!” The most interesting and intense poems of this third 99 . who is incapable of loving him. In poem 18. and sparkling shine of the coplas (ballads) from the Andalusian region. “What is poetry?” with the simple statement.” and he feels that they irresistibly attract him. Poems 9 and 10 show the universality of love. except for 21 (already placed in the first group) and 26 (which is closely related to the poems in the third group). come you!” In poem 15. and the latter describes how everything is transformed when love passes by. one brunette and the other blond. her intelligence is of no concern to him. Some of the poems in this group have the charm. the ideal and sublime love of the poet has decayed.” and the poet runs madly after her.” “two ideas born at the same time.” The beloved becomes corporeal in only a few poems of the second group. but of love as a superior and absolute feeling. one notes the identification of poetry with feelings and the insistence that feelings cannot be explained but can be communicated only emotionally. Poem 1 declares that poetry is “a hymn” that cannot be confined by words and that the poet can communicate fully only with his beloved. The former attempts to present all of nature as loving. the poet sees “two eyes. “but . and poem 19. crying “Oh come. Here again. includes poems 9 through 29. nothing else.” “two streams of vapor” that join to form only “one white cloud. in poem 39. Among them are poem 12. In poem 14. yours.” Similarly. brevity. includes poems 30 through 51 as well as poem 26. those expressing disillusionment with love. poem 13 (the first of Bécquer’s poems to have appeared in a newspaper. since “what she does not say. Some of these poems can be considered as a series of gallant phrases forming beautiful madrigals appropriate for address to young ladies. disenchantment. In poems 11 and 15. in this second group.” incorporeal and intangible. In the first of these two poems. These same notions lie behind the succinct affirmation of poem 21. “after a shadow/ after the fervent daughter/ of a vision. Bécquer appears as the poet of love. addressed to a girl who has the purity of a white lily. immediately. repeated by countless lovers of the Hispanic world since it was first published: Bécquer answers his beloved’s question. . and sorrow.” and as “the invisible/ ring that holds together/ the world of forms with the world of ideas.” “two notes that the hand pulls at the same time from the lute. to which he answers no. the entire physical woman appears “fatigued by the dancing” and “leaning on my arm. as long as she stays quiet. composed for a blue-eyed girl.” and in poem 29. written to a green-eyed girl. only to end up stressing his preference for physical beauty by saying. In Bécquer. ending in failure and producing great disappointment. . 1802) when suddenly they turn their heads at the same time: “our eyes met/ and a kiss was heard. those dealing with love. will always be of greater value/ than what any other woman could tell me. Bécquer says that his and his beloved’s souls are “two red tongues of fire” that reunite and “form only one flame. the poet shows his preference for this ethereal figure. sorrow produces only a fine irony. two girls appear. the poet and his beloved are reading the episode of Paolo and Francesca in Dante’s La divina commedia (c. Bécquer speaks scornfully of feminine inconstancy in a few poems. Although in these poems Bécquer continues talking about love. Gustavo Adolfo ideal beloved is a “curled ribbon of light foam.” The third group of poems in The Rhymes.” and “two echoes that fuse with one another. there is a poem that expresses the realization of love. titled “Imitation of Byron”).” The remaining poems of the first group attempt to explain the mystery of poetry. the poet faces the fact that she is “stupid. the poet enumerates the character flaws of a woman. the Bécquer. and each in turn asks the poet if it is she for whom he is looking. In poem 34.” Bécquer resolves this conflict by saying that.Critical Survey of Poetry heaven and earth. “Poetry is you. but without the note of sarcasm characteristic of Heine. after describing in detail the beauty of a woman. The Divine Comedy. among these are poems 17 and 20.” a “sonorous rumor/ of a golden harp.

he concedes that “the fervent words of love/ will sound again in your ears. When the poet asks himself about his origin and his end in poem 66.” In poem 74. they are pervaded by a haunting lyricism.” At the same time.” but not “those that learned our names. In general. Bécquer again describes the funeral of a woman and expresses his own wish to rest from the struggles of life: “oh what love so quiet that of death/ what sleep so calm that of the sepulchre. the “Rime of the Swallows. The Infinite Passion: Being the Celebrated “Rimas” and the “Letters to an Unknown Woman. Collected Poems (Rimas). . Robert. the ocean and the rock. less charged with emotional intensity. in which the poet expresses his gratitude. 1924). describes the moment when “a loyal friend” tells the poet a piece of “news” not mentioned in the poem. 1857. also in Romantic Legends of Spain. Cartas desde mi celda. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. . In poem 74. he ends his expression of radical loneliness by affirming that his grave will be “where forgetfulness lives.” “those .” “those . with an informative introduction by the translator. he 100 Critical Survey of Poetry hears a voice calling him in his sleep. Translated by Michael Smith. 1909). Some of them also seem to be the most autobiographical.” The next poem.” Other major works short fiction: Leyendas. In each instance. One of the most famous poems ever written in Spanish is poem 53. 1995.” In poem 71. Letters to an Unknown Woman./ and then I understood why one kills. and at the spectacle of death his soul is filled with “a fervent desire”: “as the abyss attracts. although the impression given by the poems of The Rhymes is that all of them were the result of experiences lived by their author.Bécquer. repeating at the end of each stanza. England: Shearsman Books.” The fourth and last group of poems in The Rhymes. how lonely stay the dead!” The same experience may have inspired poem 74. nonfiction: Historia de los templos de España. “it could not be. The poem expresses the brevity and the irreversibility of life and the unique value of every experience. 1993. . Legends. miscellaneous: Obras. Bibliography Bécquer. that mystery/ was dragging me towards itself. will not return!” He acknowledges that there will be flowers again on the honeysuckle tree. and Poems. This bilingual work is a modern translation of The Rhymes. Letters to an Unknown Woman. 1891.” but “as I have loved you. the beautiful girl and the haughty man. and From My Cell). “my God. . . but not “those decorated with dew/ whose drops we used to see trembling. “then I understood why one cries. 1864 (From My Cell. partial translation in Terrible Tales: Spanish. Bynum.” which has been read and memorized by one generation after another.” 1924 (includes Rimas. . 1924). would seem rather prosaic if the author had not earlier shown the intensity of his sorrow by saying. Its three brief stanzas present the poet and his beloved as opposing forces: the hurricane and the tower. Cartas literarias a una mujer. those preoccupied with anguish and death. Legends and Letters. 2007. 1858-1864 (serial. includes poems 52 through 76. which is also the longest in the book. 1907. number 42. Havard. Tales. although it could refer to another woman. will not return!” Finally. From Romanticism to Surrealism: . the conclusion is the desolate phrase. do not deceive yourself/ nobody will love you like that! The last poems in the collection are dominated by the theme of death. the poems of this group seem to be more detached from autobiographical experience. it seems that he sees a dead woman. Interpretation of Bécquer’s work with an introduction to Romanticism and an extensive bibliography. Exeter. The Romantic Imagination in the Works of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer. Brant. Poem 41 appears to allude to the incompatibility between Bécquer and his wife. . Bécquer describes the funeral of a girl. Perhaps for this very reason. which concludes the volume. B. The poet admits that the “dark swallows will return. 1860-1861 (serial. and he concludes that “somebody/ whom I loved has died!” In another of his most famous poems. Gustavo Adolfo. the angels that are engraved on the door seem to speak to him: “the threshold of this door only God trespasses. The last lines. Gustavo Adolfo group are those in which the poet expresses his sorrow at the failure of his love. 1871.

and Veronica Gambara. Vittoria Colonna. or of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Girolamo Benivieni. the relationship of Marsilio Ficino and Guido Cavalcanti. The Italian of Gli Asolani is indeed a new classic language. Totowa. and both friend and literary mentor to Gaspara Stampa. January 18. among many others. Bellini and Titian painted portraits of him. the revised Petrarchanism. his prose is modeled on the classicizing prose of Giovanni Boccaccio. Jonathan. he was dubbed the foster father of the Italian language. Ruin and Restitution: Reinterpreting Romanticism in Spain. Bembo did not fail to partake of the best his era had to offer. as if its author had been writing in Latin. Tenn. Pietro fifty years. 1530 Carmina. 2005 (Mary P.: Barnes & Noble. Includes bibliographic references. also known as De Urbini ducibus). Ludovico Ariosto. and Panfilo Sasso (who stressed the obvious and inferior elements of Petrarch’s poetry rather than its deeper and less readily imitable perfections) could be judged as inferior. May 20. and Ariosto. and Epistolae familiares libri VII (1552). and the Rome of Pope Leo X. Bembo restored Petrarchanism to its original luster and form by providing an unmistakably elegant standard by which the excesses of such conceitful poets as Il Chariteo.” PMLA 106 (October. Rogelio A. N. Nashville. but he could judge better than others who and which elements were worthiest of imitation. Mayhew. 1547 Principal poetry Gli Asolani. 1729 Lyric Poetry. Chatfield. 1470 Died: Rome (now in Italy). many of which presented literary criticism.: Vanderbilt University Press. and the lapidary stylistics of Bembo from Gli Asolani. If readers did not become familiar with the Neoplatonism. the Venice of Aldus Manutius. Discusses the skepticism of Bécquer and other poets regarding the capacity of language to convey the poets’ experiences. De Guidobaldo liber (1530. Philip W. He was a friend of Lucrezia Borgia. 1997. Brief biography and critical analysis of Spanish poets of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. “Jorge Guillén and the Insufficiency of Poetic Language. wrote sonnets to him. 1533 Opere. editor and translator) Other literary forms Pietro Bembo (BEHM-boh) wrote a range of nonfiction titles. and authors whose names are more familiar than his sent him their manuscripts for corrections and improvements. Colonna. Antonio Tebaldeo. Prose della volgar lingua (1525). As his poetry is modeled after Petrarch. The prose style of Gli Asolani is equally elegant. 1988. Desiderius Erasmus. The literary dictator of Italy for more than . 1991). and Pietro Aretino. Raphael. Bembo is credited with having heterosexualized the concept of Platonic love. they read the 101 Pietro Bembo Born: Venice (now in Italy). de la Torre Bembo. 1507 Rime. The Neoplatonic idealism that inspired Bembo and his style of balanced moderation determined an important pattern in the Renaissance poetry of several countries until the early Baroque. Isabella d’Este. English translation.J. 1954) Rime per festa carnascialesca. Serafino Aquilano. De imitatione (1514). Platonic love was not love between the sexes but a philosophical idea based on heroic friendship. Poliziano. Giangiorgio Trissino. Bembo was always an imitator. including De Aetna (1496). He wrote two of the most famous essays of his century and the best Petrarchan verse. for example. 1505 (includes poems and prose. He lived in the Florence of Lorenzo de’ Medici. Silver. Examines Bécquer and Luis Cernuda and their works in terms of Romanticism.Critical Survey of Poetry Seven Spanish Poets. and what was so called by the Neoplatonists was still essentially the same as. For the ancient Greeks. Achievements The influence of Pietro Bembo on his contemporaries and on the Italian language far outstripped his talent as a writer.

who is present in all the dialogues of The Book of the Courtier. and his name was subsequently associated with all the characteristics that Castiglione attributed to him. While Castiglione uses some of the same arguments that are advanced in Gli Asolani. and the various steps by which sensual love for a woman is finally transformed into spiritual love for God. The Divine Comedy. Biography Pietro Bembo. and visitors. which. Bembo’s father went to Ferrara as Venetian coruler and took Pietro with him. published some twenty years before The Book of the Courtier. as well as the first Aldine copy of La divina commedia (c. 1561). 1802). 1976). Gottfried calls the raillery and worldliness apparent in Gli Asolani. where he helped the printer Aldus Manutius form a learned academy and. hoping to acquaint him at long last with affairs of state. There he became intimate with Jacopo Sadoleto and Ercole Strozzi. Proud of the boy’s facility with languages. Even in Gli Asolani. The fact remains. however. earthly love are more convincing than Lavinello’s shorter Platonic resolution of the problem in book 3. prepared for him the text of Petrarch’s Rerum vulgarium fragmenta (1470. When Duke Ercole’s son and heir Alfonso married Lucrezia Borgia in 1502. Octava rima. Bembo became friendly with her as well. The Book of the Courtier. also known as Canzoniere. The fifty Rime per festa carnascialesca that he composed for the Carnival at Urbino in 1507 (reworked by the Spaniard Juan Boscán in his own long poem. Latin. he studied philosophy at Padua under Pietro Pomponazzi. witty and learned. published under the title Terza rima in 1502. and the comma in modern printing. he also adds material that makes Bembo more Platonic than he appears in his own works. and it was to Bembo that he gave the most distinguished role in the dialogue to discourse on the nature of Platonic love. Bembo was in his prime when he moved to Urbino in 1506. and literary brilliance and which included such figures as the dramatist Bernardo Bibbiena. in 1501. a member of 102 Critical Survey of Poetry Ficino’s Academy. Elisabetta Gonzaga. omitting certain stanzas whose licentiousness was unsuited to Spanish taste) urge Duchess Isabella Gonzaga and her sister-inlaw Emilia Pia not to deny themselves the joys of love and are anything but Platonic. the distinction between the worlds of sense and intellect. Bembo returned to Venice. his father sent him to Messina to study under Constantine Lascaris in 1492. the son of Venetian vice doge and senator Bernardo Bembo and his wife. a writer of verse in three languages (Italian. for whom Bembo would later intercede to save him from condemnation by the Lateran Council. and sundry other poets. 1320. took him to Florence when he was eight years old. Bembo accompanied Giuliano de’ Medici . Elena Morosina. Bembo acquired a more thorough knowledge of Tuscan than would have otherwise been possible. It was this refined circle that Castiglione idealized in The Book of the Courtier. Giuliano de’ Medici. that without Bembo. On leaving Ferrara. Ottaviano Fregoso (later doge of Genoa). and Gismondo’s eulogy of. Despite what his American translator Rudolph B. musicians. Bembo. and Greek). years of intense study that he fondly remembered all his life. assumes a leading role when the Duchess asks him to expound on what kind of love is appropriate for a courtier. the finer art of Castiglione might never have emerged. Louis of Canossa (later papal nuncio to France). rivaled Ferrara in social. was born in Venice in 1470. Perhaps Bembo at the age of fifty-eight simply allowed himself to appear more Platonic than he had been in his earlier years. Bembo stayed in Sicily for two years. and was appreciated by Duke Ercole of Ferrara. Rhymes. indeed. the period. Bembo waxes almost mystical as he defines the Neoplatonic doctrine of love for Castiglione. he was a member of the court circle of Urbino. a work of deeper insight than Bembo’s. under Duke Guidobaldo Montefeltro and his wife.Bembo. He speaks of the divine origin of beauty. In 1512. Bembo’s Platonism in Gli Asolani is more literary than philosophical. Pietro words put into his mouth in the fourth book of Baldassar Castiglione’s Il libro del cortegiano (1528. Tall and handsome. because his father. Later. Perottino’s attack on. Bembo and Aldus are credited with establishing the use of the apostrophe. In 1498. Until 1511. and there developed between the two of them a deep friendship that may or may not have been Platonic. artistic.

where he moved in 1543. You’ve Set Me All Afire”) from Gli Asolani. Among Italian poets. and with him. During these last years of life. his greatest disciple was Giovanni Della Casa. In 1530. Pietro Pietro Bembo (The Granger Collection. The position afforded Bembo the opportunity to display his greatest talent. . and was much concerned with the education of their three children. Olimpia Morata wrote the following words for him in Greek: “Bembo is no more. Bembo moved back to Rome. wearied after nearly thirty years of continual court life. a post he shared with his old friend and fellow student Sadoleto. librarian of St. harried by illness. the banker Agostino Chigi. and later. Cicero seems to have passed away a second time into the dark shadows.” Analysis Pietro Bembo’s poems were borrowed. and Elena. He was buried in the Church of the Minerva between Popes Leo X and Clement VII. and Bembo left the Vatican to spend most of the next year between Venice and Padua. He dies. Bembo was precisely the man to make Leo’s life more agreeable by flattering his superficial tastes and by directing the faculties of his highly cultured mind to frivolous. whom he had met in Rome in 1513 when she was barely sixteen (his ecclesiastical responsibilities and aspirations had precluded marriage). In 1519. passed after his death to Urbino and thence to the Vatican). After the death of his beloved Morosina in August. his name was found on the list of suspects of the Roman Inquisition. . particularly rich in the works of the Provençal poets and Petrarch. and when Giuliano’s brother became Pope Leo X in 1513. he was given the bishopric of Gubbio. Sir Thomas Wyatt paraphrased “Voi me poneste in foco” (“Lady. Pope Paul III made him a cardinal in 1539. 1535. he was given the rich see of Bergamo. and Bibbiena had all died in 1520). New York) in the reforming views of Cardinal Pole and Vittoria Colonna at Viterbo—so much so that after his death. and clearly plagiarized by subsequent generations of European writers. In March of 1544. he was appointed historiographer of the Venetian Republic. Mark’s. but he never moved there. he resigned his secretaryship and retired to his villa Noniamo near Padua. disappears the splendid genius of eloquence. In England. succeeding Andreas Navigero. Bembo’s debt-ridden father died. if intellectual. Torquato. Bembo seems to have taken great interest Bembo. composing papal documents and letters in very polished Latin. and Thomas Lodge included translations from Bembo in his Phillis with 103 . and following the example of Horace and Vergil in appreciating the charms of country life. He was living with Morosina (Ambrogia della Torre). In 1544. There. amusements. and depressed by the deaths of many of his good friends in Rome the previous year (Raphael. It was also during these papal years that Bembo was most aggressively Ciceronian in his controversy with Poliziano and Erasmus. he entertained himself collecting manuscripts (his library. In 1541. where he lived until his death in 1547 after a fall from his horse. Bembo embraced a more austere life. gave up his classical interests. In April. and devoted himself to scriptural and patristic readings. Bembo was given duties as Leo’s secretary. translated. experimenting with horticulture. representing it as his own work. when he was sixty-nine years of age. . 1521. Lucilio.Critical Survey of Poetry to Rome.

Ariosto gave Bembo a permanent tribute in the body of his masterpiece: I see Pietro Bembo here. his views prevailed. Him who our pure and dulcet speech set free From the base vulgar usage. “De sacro cineri flores. 1521. and Bembo’s poem “Quand’io penso al martire” (“Madrigal”) found its way into no less a work than Miguel de Cervantes’s El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha (1605. a Neopolitan. Bembo wrote the treatise between 1497 and 1502. Sabinetta. their works had been composed in Latin and translated anonymously by Tuscan scribes. retains its freshness even for the modern reader. Actually. and revising verb forms. Ariosto attempted to bring his Italian closer to the precepts of Bembo by doubling consonants. and Perottino counters that it is bad with an argument that occupies the entire first book. Ariosto announced his intention of coming to 104 Critical Survey of Poetry Padua to consult him on stylistic matters. and their ladies. Pietro the Tragical Complaynt of Elstred (1593). The canzonets do not qualify as madrigals. In a letter to Bembo dated February 23. “Quand’io penso al martire. the former queen of Cyprus. but in Italian Poets of the Renaissance (1971). and one double sestina) interspersed in the text. to write his highly successful Arcadia (1504) in Tuscan that the precedent of the Tuscan dialect as a vehicle for non-Tuscan writers was set. undertook a massive revision of Orlando Furioso (1516. who spent time in Italy in the 1520’s and became acquainted with Bembo. Ariosto. Don Quixote of the Mancha. 1531. 1532. Because the principles of scansion are the same in Italian as in Spanish. and the influence of his prescriptive attitude on the subsequent development of Italian literature can hardly be exaggerated. and Berenice. whereupon Perottino recites a list of love’s casualties (Pyramus and Thisbe. which also served as the poetic inspiration of Robert Browning. Tarquin) and supports his argument by singing songs of his own composition. and made clear By his example what it ought to be. He had observed that the majority of older exemplary writers were native Tuscans. and Lavinello.” The treatise takes its name from the Castello d’Asolo.Bembo. In the wake of Sannazzaro. 1612-1620. and published it in 1505. for example. 1591) after the appearance of Bembo’s Prose della volgar lingua. Perottino’s tale of sighs and wretchedness is also punctuated with questions on punning etymologies. even by Bembo’s own broad definition in Prose della volgar lingua. Gismondo maintains that it is good. lo before impure s). and the picture of the six novices. better known as Don Quixote de la Mancha). Praises of the Asolan circle run through the work. The discussion revolves around the question of whether love is a good or a bad thing. 1615. Gli Asolani Gli Asolani is a treatise on love in three books. Boscán. Berenice refuses to accept his conclusion. Perottino.” the title “Madrigal. English translation. Bembo did not see himself as a pacesetter. Lisa. Spanish poets such as Bartolomé de Torres Naharro. Murrha and Byblis. canzonets. The History of the Valorous and Wittie KnightErrant. Here Maro/ in Muse Sincerus neighbors as in tomb”) was copied on Edmund Spenser’s tomb in Westminster Abbey. Joseph Tusiani nevertheless gives to one of them. musa proximus ut tumulo” (“give to the sacred ashes flowers. with a dedication to Lucrezia Borgia. It was not until the decision of Jacopo Sannazzaro. introduced Petrarchan imagery in Portugal and ultimately influenced the style of Luis de Camões. Gismondo. in the mountains north of Venice. sauntering through shade and sunlight under the vines of a leafy pergola or seated on the grass listening to a deftly stroked lute. The three principal speakers are three young Venetian gentlemen. modifying his use of the article (il for el. As a native Venetian and an affiliate of the papal court who endorsed the Florentine dialect. belonging to Caterina Cornaro. Hic ille Maroni/ Syncerus. who made it the scene of Pippa Passes (pb. The epitaph Bembo wrote for Jacopo Sannazzaro. 1841) and finished there the collection of lyrics titled Asolando (1889). with sixteen poems (canzones. Bembo proclaimed the preeminence of fourteenth century Tuscan. but he mistakenly considered himself the successor of such non-Tuscan writers as Pietro de Crescenzi and Guido delle Colonne of Messina. all members of the court under fictitious names. Francisco de Sá de Miranda. recast the work in 1503 and 1504. and Luis de Léon were especially avid imitators of Bembo’s verse. Medea. such as the relationship of amare (“to love”) .

written probably in 1538. From Petrarch. Love is the search for beauty. on the whole the work holds little appeal for the modern reader. 1504. nor does Bembo. In the canzonet “Non si vedrà giammai stanca né sazia” (oh love. indeed. he is so happy to be relieved of his first burden that he feels like living again. are called Jove). Bembo’s most famous sonnet. In another. these themes did not particularly interest Bembo. which derives from good proportion. is a catalog of his lady’s attributes that ends with a line taken almost verbatim from Petrarch: “Grazie. that love is evil if it is love of an evil object and evil as well if it is unworthy love of a good object. which Perottino recites in a voice “which would move stones. On the third afternoon. In “Signor. Although some of its individual passages are beautiful. Bembo derived the first and second books and the first half of the third book. which may be due to the earlier date of its composition (1510). Rime The poetry in Rime is thoroughly Petrarchan in form (sonnets. donna (“lady”) and danno (“damage”).” the poet admits that he is not as angry at the lady who caused his discomfort as he is at Love and at himself for allowing himself to be in Love’s thrall. the reader is impressed with the familiarity that Bembo affects in order to bargain for his salvation. There is some religious poetry among his sonnets. the queen and some other guests join the six. Gismondo thanks Love for leading him to seek the skies and for giving his speech a sweet music. regret for allowing oneself to be caught by love). di cui questo bel sol è raggio” (oh sun. but until then he had blithely accumulated ecclesiastical benefits without in the least renouncing earthly pleasures. try to relate it to practical problems. che per giovar si chiama Giove” (Lord. while the hermit’s conversation is mainly from Dante.” is “Quand’io penso al martire. once facing death. but it still lacks originality by modern standards. the hermit tells Lavinello. arguing that love can be good if it is worthy love of a good object. ch’a poche il ciel largo destina” (“Graces that on few women heaven freely bestows”). quella pietà. compatibility. beauty that is divine and immortal.” “Lady.” which traces how the lover is forced by Love to stand before the sea of bitterness. written in 1528. If love is to be good. despite the Neoplatonic label attached to Bembo. Bembo wrote to the duchess of Urbino on March 20. Gismondo refutes the arguments of Perottino. my lord. “Crin d’oro crespo” (“A Curly Hair of Gold”). ballate). except in the second book. imagery (love as the impious lord. Gli Asolani has little that is original. He is supposed to have undergone a conversion after the death of Morosina. of whom this beautiful sun is a glimmer). canzones. the ivory hands). translated by Tusiani as “Madrigal. the song of birds expressive of the pain of love). physical or mental. phrasing (eyes brighter than the sun. the lover as the ship battered by the storm.” and to keep his soul safe from the injuries of the world. and harmony of the various elements. faint and forworn this pen). the calming smile. Pietro he. where. that mercy which bound you). Halfway through Lavinello’s argument and after he recites three poems. a charming abstraction shining in its distant and rarefied air. In “Signor. and Lavinello assumes a conciliatory position between Perottino and Gismondo. that the thought of heavenly things had never occupied him much and did not occupy him then at all. It is to Love that the poet owes his happy life and his pure and joyous thoughts. lamentation for the ruthlessness of love. it must arise from true beauty. “O Sol. is a grace. All in all. giovani (“young men”) and giovano (“they help”). Bembo makes no attempt to develop an independent philosophy apart from Ficino’s theory of Platonism. While Petrarch was keenly and painfully aware of both the transitory nature of human existence and the profane power of love to deflect people from their true devotion to God. only a few tidbits are borrowed from Platonic theory. Bembo’s poetry demonstrates a more refined taste than that of earlier imitators of Petrarch. he introduces a conversation he claims to have had with a hermit that morning. che ti constrinse” (Lord. You’ve Set Me All Afire. “to sweep away the ancient fog. concluding that love is not only good but also the source of all that is good in life. who for your help. regarding it as a thing beautiful in itself. but it is rather facile. and content (the request to God for the power to resist love. In book 2. One of the poems he recites. and beauty.Critical Survey of Poetry and amaro (“bitter”). he plays flippantly on the simi105 . In his sonnet. he asks God to look on his soul.

whose death in 1494 followed close on that of his patron. 1535. Galesus. as the epigraph explains.” The influence of Bembo was so strong that an entire half century (1500-1550) is designated by many critics 106 Critical Survey of Poetry as the Bembist period. and he also wrote epitaphs in Latin for many of his contemporaries. Maximus? Change place with me:/ Gladly I’d bear such infidelity. breaking his heartstrings in the middle of his sighs. England: Clarendon Press.Y. Prose della volgar lingua. Pietro Bembo: Lover. who.” Two elegiac poems. In “Bembo and the Classicist Tradition. who died at the age of thirty-two in 1503. in opposi- . and contemporary women poets. and his precepts commanded a vigorous authority long after his death. the poet. “Priapus” and “Faunus ad nympheum flumen. Examines the life of Bembo. Lorenzo de Medici. the boy does not apologize but rather runs to clasp the neck of his angry master. Latin poems Bembo also wrote Latin poetry. 1999. 1514. 1505 (includes prose and poetry. such as to celebrate the birth of a friend’s son or to celebrate the exploits of an unidentified “conqueror of Naples.” Anthony Oldcorn sketches the broad influence of Bembo on the likes of Michelangelo. 1496. 1995. 1525. The final chapter outlines the 1512 literary dispute between Bembo and Pico della Mirandola. De Guidobaldo liber. 1548-1553 (4 volumes). Presents Bembo’s establishment of bembismo and the debate it sparked. his multiple roles. and “Adunque m’hai tu pur. The Cambridge History of Italian Literature. Linguist. In “Ove romita e stanca si sedea” (where tired and alone she sat). New York: Cambridge University Press. 1954). N. in sul fiorire” (“On the Death of His Brother”) was penned in memory of his brother Carlo. Torquato Tasso. Lettere. 1530 (also known as De Urbini ducibus). 1552. De imitatione. 2007). Rerum Venetarum historiae libri XII. like a thief burning with hope and fear. 1960 (prose and poetry). Occasional poems Bembo wrote many occasional poems. he refurbished the Petrarchan tradition. unlike so many of his Petrarchan exercises.” He had a knack for converting an ordinary incident into a subtle vignette. 1551 (History of Venice. Maximus. whose beautiful eyes gave such delight) is one of his many sonnets on the death of his mistress Morosina.” about a boy. they do not lack spontaneous emotion. Della Casa. eds. Epistolae familiares libri VII.Bembo. Bembo concludes: “Still doubting. and his literary works. While it is true that his influence on literature was out of proportion to the value of his literary output. McLaughlin. Pietro larity of the verb giovare (“to help”) and the name of the pagan deity Giove (Jove). is a great man in Rome and may possibly represent Pope Leo X himself.: McGill-Queen’s University Press. di cui begli occhi alto diletto” (lady. Prose e rime di Pietro Bembo. and he was instrumental in the spread of Neoplatonism. 2004. and dubs him in the last line as “master of the Ausonian [Italian] lyre. When Maximus is confronted with the boy’s misdeed. Martin L. Oxford. Peter. His support of the vernacular as the equal of Latin. Kidwell. De Virgilii Culice et Terentii fabulis. As a poet. raining kisses on him. Cardinal. 1530. and his support of the Florentine dialect over competing dialects. his masterpiece in elegiac meter is “De Galeso et Maximo. Carol. and Lino Pertile. such as Gaspara Stampa. surprises his beloved as she is lost in thought and perhaps even talking to herself. His hexameter poem “Benacus” is a description of Lago di Garda. who wrongs his master. She is mildly upset that he has seen her so absorbed. His elegies on the death of persons dear to him are counted among his best poems. and he is possessed by tenderness to have seen her so. determined in no small way the course of Italian literature. miscellaneous: Gli Asolani. Bembo tells how death struck him while he wept. Ithaca.” are remarkable for their pagan approach to morality. English translation. Bembo inspired a fierce loyalty in his contemporaries. Epistolarum Leonis X nomine scriptarum libri XVI. “Donna. Literary Imitation in the Italian Renaissance: The Theory and Practice of Literary Imitation from Dante to Bembo. Bibliography Brand. Other major works nonfiction: De Aetna. McLaughlin examines Bembo’s defense of strict Ciceronian formalism. In his epitaph for Poliziano.

Raffini. chronological treatment of Bembo’s life and major works with an emphasis on his impact on contemporary poets and scholars. Mass. 1956 Primal Vision. 1936 Gedichte. 2002). Ernest H. and a theoretical treatise. Nesca A. Achievements No other German poet exemplifies as fully as Gottfried Benn the emergence of the modern tradition within postwar German literature. Platonism is treated but lightly. Wilkins’s short chapter on Bembo places him squarely in the tumultuous years of the early sixteenth century. 1998.Critical Survey of Poetry tion to eclectic or syncretic developments in Latin or the vernacular. A History of Italian Literature. 1949 Fragmente. 1943 . 1927 Ausgewählte Gedichte. May 2. Robb. und andere Gedichte. Aesthetic. 1958 Gedichte aus dem Nachlass. 1956 Principal poetry Morgue. 1951 Destillationen. Christine. Gehirne (1916. most notably a collection of novellas. his autobiography. 1972). His life and major works are discussed chronologically. As such. the exemplary representation of the intellectual and spiritual condition of his times. the essay Goethe und die Naturwissenschaften (1949. For years prior to this time. London: Allen & Unwin. Probleme der Lyrik (1951. 1911-1936. Indeed. Goethe and the natural sciences). 1998 Other literary forms Gottfried Benn (behn) was primarily a poet. and Political Approaches in Renaissance Platonism. 1948 Trunkene Flut. Wilkins. Neoplatonism in the Italian Renaissance. Roman des Phänotyp (1944. August 7. Gedichte und Fragmente aus dem Nachlass. He was the “phenotype” of his age—that is. but he did write some significant works in other genres. that Benn achieved fame. 1925 Spaltung. His radical aesthetic as well as his political affiliations have made Benn a controversial figure. Baldassare Castiglione: Philosophical. 1972 Sämtliche Gedichte. Cambridge. New York: Peter Lang. a novel. problems of lyric poetry). 1970 Gottfried Benn: The Unreconstructed Expressionist. Benn’s early work (until about 1920) was known only to a relatively small circle of readers. 1917 Schutt. novel of the phenotype). and his later influence is asserted. Doppelleben (1950. 1924 Betäubung. when he was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize in literature. 1886 Died: Berlin. Benn can be viewed as not only a remarkable poet but also an important figure of twentieth century German Geistesgeschichte. 1935. Germany. Double Life. and his “literary credo.” which is applicable to all his subsequent critical work. 1960 Gottfried Benn: Selected Poems. East Germany (now in Germany). Robb analyses Gli Ascolani as a Neoplatonic treatise on love in a courtly setting and a prototype of its genre. This is a short. 1912 Söhne. 1925 Gesammelte Gedichte. as it were. if briefly. 1974. in the last decade of his life.: Harvard University Press. 1955 Gesammelte Gedichte. Rev. 1953 Aprèslude. 1913 Fleisch. ed. Marsiglio Ficino. Jack Shreve Benn. it was only after World War II. Brains. 1936 Zweiundzwanzig Gedichte. His writings also include other prose and dramatic works. as a re107 Gottfried Benn Born: Mansfeld. Benn had been blacklisted. His achievements were acknowledged in 1951. Pietro Bembo. 1958 Primäre Tage. In the chapter on the trattato d’amore. Gottfried Statische Gedichte.

Morgue und andere Gedichte (morgue. Benn’s theory of art as a metaphysical act had considerable authority. and in the years before his death a generation of poets in search of a tradition flocked around him like disciples around a master. printed in Moscow. the historical events of the twentieth century. Gottfried sult of his short-lived infatuation with Nazism. based in large measure on the writings of Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre. and his first volume of poetry. he was drafted into the military medical corps. he gave a radio talk. intensified the general philosophical disorientation of the immediate postwar period. “Der neue Staat und die Intellektuellen” (“The New State and the Intellectuals”). 1886. he constantly drew for inspiration on his experiences in Biography Belgium. were extremely productive for Benn as a writer. Benn was reluctant to reenter public life. He greeted the political doctrines of the Nazis as a means for overcoming the stagnation and nihilism of Western civilization. In this context. It is true that Benn initially embraced National Socialism in 1933. In April of the same year. These years. section president of the Prusogy at the University of Marburg and later studied medsian Academy. contrary to what one might expect. Upon his return. He did publish again. who wrote from the south of France. In 1914. but he soon regretted his participation and withdrew into silence.Benn. Benn left Berlin and headed for Hannover. Benn also set up medical practice in Berlin. Benn worked as a pathologist and serologist in Berlin. on the whole relatively uneventful for him. the son of In 1933. Benn became director for the deicine at the University of Berlin. It was Benn’s early poetry that gave rise to the debate on expressionism carried in the émigré paper Das Wort. In 1935. clearly shows the influence of his scientific and medical training: The cold and unforgiving objectivity and precision of medical and surgical technique inform these poems. serving as an officer in Belgium before returning to Berlin in 1917. Marxism was no real alternative for the West. Later. He completed his medipartment of literature. existentialism prevailed instead. Critical Survey of Poetry cal degree in 1910 and was awarded first prize for his thesis on the etiology of epilepsy in puberty. with their shocking portrayal of brutality and morbidity. where he became friends with several expressionist poets. Gottfried Benn (Getty Images) 108 . Indeed. and other poems). Benn traveled briefly to the United States. clearly in response to a letter from Klaus Mann. and he later noted that during the following years. Benn provided a transition from the various offshoots of French Symbolism and German expressionism to contemporary modernism. however. the most important of whom was Else Lasker-Schüler. Gottfried Benn was born on May 2. Because of the public commentary to which he had been subjected. in particular as they affected Germany. In the ensuing years. Benn filled the position of which Heinrich a Protestant minister. the son of Thomas Mann. He studied philosophy and theolMann had been relieved. For postwar poets in search of a new way of writing. The years of Nazi control had yielded a vast wasteland in German literature.

It is necessary to see how Benn viewed the creative process to understand his poetry. and myth.Critical Survey of Poetry Benn had a run-in with W. the creative process required first “an inarticulate. as is the nest of young rats discovered beneath the diaphragm. Gottfried In Benn’s conceptual framework. Gottfried Benn resided at the crossroads of two significant traditions. The tension exemplified in the conflict between Benn’s scientific training and his early intoxication with expressionism came to play an important role in the development of his aesthetic theory and poetry. and prelogical experience. as the reader is intended to assume. precisely because it did not pose the right questions. In fact. and through his study of prehistory. Benn hoped to return (momentarily) to archetypal. a party loyalist who labeled Benn a “cultural Bolshevist” and tried to have Benn effectively “removed” from public life. and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.” and in so doing to give momentary vision to meaning within meaninglessness (form from chaos). Oswald Spengler. he developed his own notions of art. how their little snouts did squeal!” It becomes obvious that the “beautiful youth” to which the title refers is not that of the young girl. primal. the tension between the psychic substance and the “word. the most significant manifestation of this dissatisfaction with the scientific paradigm took place under the rubric of “expressionism.” This amalgam constitutes the basic creative situation for Benn. however.” or primal moments of poetic creativity. the inner space once occupied by the premodern sense of harmony and totality is now filled with a kind of nostalgic longing. and third. reality is divided past meaningful comprehension. Benn remained in the army medical service from 1935 until the end of the war. Ah. “Beautiful Youth” One of his first poems. an intensified state of perception (such as that induced by intoxication. and his poetry eventually achieved recognition throughout Europe. our consignment and our curse. “one little sister” of which lay dead while the others lived off the liver and kidneys— “drank the cold blood and had/ spent here a beautiful youth.” The modern consciousness fragments the totality of the world into its conceptual categories. whose decomposed mouth and esophagus are perfunctorily noted. which he then applied exponentially to derive his “hyperemic theory of the poetic. and the loss of humans’ capacity to perceive relationships points ineluctably in the direction of nihilistic resignation. second. perhaps best illustrates Benn’s early cynicism. the natural sciences exercised a substantial “claim to truth” and provided influential paradigms of thought. Willrich.” which in many respects carried on the tradition of German Romanticism. he enjoyed a new phase of poetic creativity. Carl Jung. which leads him with absolute certainty out of this bipolar tension”—that is. but rather of the rats.” A quick death awaits the rats: “They were thrown all together in the water. is his poem “Ein Wort” (“One Word”). A concept basic to Benn’s thought was his conviction that humankind necessarily “suffered consciousness. a “thread of Ariadne. “One Word” A good example of Benn’s preoccupation with the capacity of language to “fascinate. from 109 . In Germany. Analysis Both poetically and existentially. According to Benn. Friedrich Nietzsche. At the turn of the century. The poem describes the dissection of the body of a young (and possibly at one time “beautiful”) girl. creative nucleus. For many of Benn’s generation. and the self. scientific study had entered a rapid phase of entropy—it was seen no longer to answer questions meaningfully from the humanist point of view. Ernst Troeltsch. a psychic substance”. During the years from 1921 to 1932. Benn identified this act as “hyperemic metaphysics”—that is. This poem is about the fact that words and sentences can be transmuted into chiffres. Benn studied the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. words familiar to the poet that “stand at his disposal” and are “suited to him personally”. only the intervention of Heinrich Himmler himself stayed Willrich’s attempts. After 1948. or hallucinations). one could even say that the “scientific approach” was seen by many to “explain” the universe inadequately. dream visions. By somehow penetrating and deactivating the rational consciousness. Ironically.” He attributed this suffering to modern overintellectualization: “The brain is our fate. paleontology. reality. “Schöne Jugend” (“Beautiful Youth”). Benn.

with alternating feminine and masculine rhymes in an ababcdcd scheme. To explore this problem further. it is illuminating to consider a highly autobiographical poem by Benn. however. he finds. while the second strophe probes the cause of the schism and relates the sole recourse as perceived by the persona. The word. Formally. above all with the existential-poetic confrontation with Being. The strictly scientific explanation of the universe does not adequately explain the vicissitudes of human existence. is manifested in the intellectual and spiritual acts that human beings can perform. “is the only one who copes with things. as everything focuses for the moment on the primal catalyst. it describes a separation of the persona. Benn’s poem. To castigate Benn for an unconscionable aestheticism.” The You represents the part of the individual that belongs to a world of the past.” wrote Benn.” and initially it is the active subject.” The image of the wound operates on the physical plane to suggest impairment. Instead.” and that he expressly refuted the possibility of poetry having any public function. the schizophrenic existence of the persona and the acknowledged taking leave from the old Self. The link between past and present— memory—becomes the topic of the third strophe. one would not expect to find such an obsession with what constitutes the essence of humanity. The relationship is established via a metaphor: “You fill me as does blood the fresh wound. It communicates truth as a bolt of lightning momentarily illuminating the sky. disease. the poem is a classic example of artistic control: four strophes of eight lines each in iambic pentameter.Benn. contained originally in a cycle of poems Benn referred to as “Biographische Gedichte” (“Biographical Poems”) and first published in Zweiundzwanzig Gedichte (twenty-two poems). one may recall the significant example of Goethe’s “Willkommen und Abschied” (“Welcome and Farewell”)./ and run down its dark path. The first strophe outlines the relationship of the former to the present Self by employing a series of metaphors. The subject of each independent clause in the first strophe is the pronoun “you. while the “I” remains the passive object. “Abschied” (“Departure”). among these the creative act of giving form. “The artist. its unique ability to stand (and consequently place the reader/listener) outside the “normal” conceptual categories of time and space. Perhaps this paraphrase of Benn’s poem gives an idea of how Benn viewed the magic of the poetic word. even though he is often reproached for both. does not deal with the separation of two individuals—two lovers. is transitory. is his stance one of resignation or of art for art’s sake. Neither.” “Departure” It is true that Benn felt that all good poetry is “addressed to no one. positing God as the source of an otherwise incomprehensible universe. The topos of parting (Abschied) is itself an interesting one within German poetry. Gottfried which rise life and meaning. Benn does not envision a return to a previous form of existence since that is an impossibility. the poem constitutes a tightly organized unit: Its formal principles interact with its themes—namely. . “Lost Self” The radical dissolution of meaning with the evaporation of the word’s spellbinding aura aligns with Benn’s view of the disintegration of reality in general. Benn applies the terminology of modern science as an explanation of the radical alienation of the modern self. though. The effect can be such as to halt the sun and silence the spheres. brilliant but short-lived. decay. concluding with a note of sadness and melancholy typical of Benn. who decides their destiny. for example. however. alone in the dark. a division of the Self into a former “You” and a present “I. however. would not be accurate or just. Structurally. and already in the second and last strophe of this brief poem it is gone. his predicament always centers on the struggle for human meaning and significance. and finally the poem moves toward a further degree of estrangement. the single word. Nowhere are the consequences of this loss of reality for the individual given more poignant expression than in Benn’s poem “Verlorenes Ich” (“Lost Self”). nor does he seek refuge in a Christian answer. He does not cast 110 Critical Survey of Poetry aside the question of ethical responsibility. The solution to this existential dilemma. while the I attempts to grasp and develop within the poem the process of alienation to which it has been subjected. if he did. empty space surrounding them. Instead. leaving behind it the self and the world once again apart and distinct.

he deserves to be acknowledged as a great poet. The adjective describing the wound. which “plays its game. but only a few are content in themselves. however.” Benn wrote elsewhere. stating the crux of his aesthetic. Resistance against this disembodying centrifugal force is sustained within the act of composing the poem itself. however. The plague of consciousness is such. it is the second strophe which introduces the idea of alienation. or even scientific. then no tension or conflict would result. The dark trace of the blood is more than merely graphic realism. Significantly. the rose will be seen to bloom now only with difficulty. under the assumption that the You represents a former state of naïve harmony and quietude. “fresh. Die Stimme hinter dem Vorhang. language can yield. This is represented throughout the poem by frequent dashes. full of lasting fascination—and so. the You.” The night setting maintains the motif of darkness found in the “dark path” on the second line. although it retreats for the moment with the appearance of roses in the following line. The “deep self” evades all intellectualization. Gottfried speaks of “realities”). resulting in a kind of linguistic breakdown: The abstract nouns lack contact with reality and no longer illustrate the tendency toward analogous thought. Its opaqueness suggests obscurity and impregnability. punctuation replaces words and becomes itself a frustrated sign or symbol of the inexpressible. travel downward/ to night and sorrow and the roses late”) gives image to the inexpressibility of the “deep self. no finite verb appears from lines 6 to 8. it evokes an aura of mysterious origin. On one hand.Critical Survey of Poetry Later. in the creative act that circles around the “deep self” in an attempt to describe it with more accuracy than simple. Its cause is seen as the absence of a homogeneous reality. and struggle. The rest may be interesting from the point of view of biography and the author’s development. is (linguistically) impregnable. suffering.” The reader is thus made privy to the suffering of the persona as it takes place. On the other hand. as a craze of pluralities (Benn Benn. Had the persona no memory of itself. “fresh” can suggest “recent. [there are] thirty to fifty years of asceticism. in the third strophe. and silence represents the only alternative. Benn acknowledges that no word or sign can now reveal that for which he searches.” can be read two ways. the self-reflection intensifies.” Such a poetic stance is rooted in the modernist poetic tradition. Its dark hue contrasts with the “day of minutiae.” it is only this region that can satisfy the needs of the persona. In his epoch-making address. and its escape from the wound enacts the kind of exposure that the “deep self” of the persona endures. This part of the Self.” the “heavenly light” of the third strophe. this physical affliction is seen to be present on a psychological plane as well. The persona’s flight into silence at the end of the second strophe (“you must take your silence. The poem ends as “a last day” (Benn’s own advancing age). and question marks. for these six poems. In the second strophe. 1952 (The Voice Behind the Screen. 111 . Sentences and thoughts are left incomplete. While this imagery is initially perplexing (because it does not seem to cooperate with the earlier metaphor of the wound). they are but symbols of the essential thing. 1996). The metaphor of the wound encompasses the first two lines of the poem. as in the first five lines. The hour corresponds to dusk and evinces the twilight of the former self. “The form is the poem. illuminating from within themselves. and “a high light” in the third line of the last strophe. leaving the explication static and ineffective. Probleme der Lyrik. and feels its light and without/ memory goes down—everything is said. that it disrupts the fluidity of expression. In spite of the alienation from the “deep self. Other major works long fiction: Roman des Phänotyp. Benn postulated that not one of even the great poets of our time has left behind more than six or eight complete poems. indicating the suffering connected with the memory of the persona’s previous unified existence. 1944. fragmented. colons. Blood is the life-sustaining fluid. Even according to Benn’s own stringent definitions. The atmosphere of darkness surrounding the You continues to dominate. it accentuates the grotesque nature of the wound by showing it in its first moments when blood flows most freely.

Gesammelte Werke in vier Bänden. 1951. and Korrektur (1975. Bernhard’s memoirs. Columbia. Ein Fest für . A biography including the history of German politics and literature in Benn’s time. Dierick.: Camden House. novellas.: Camden House. Lang. 1930. ed. Martin. February 9 or 10. Lang. Benn. 1985). 1973). 1989 Principal poetry Auf der Erde und in der Hölle. 2005.Y. Gargoyles. Gottfried Benn and His Critics: Major Interpretations. and Döblin. Austria. Intellectual and historical interpretation of Benn’s poetry with bibliography and index. New York: P. 1985). Bern. Ausdruckswelt: Essays and Aphorismen. Essays. Provoziertes Leben: Eine Auswahl aus den Prosaschriften. Bibliography Alter. nonfiction: Fazit der Perspektiven. with attention to the role of nature. 1958-1960 (4 volumes). Critical interpretation and history by an expert in German expressionist literature. 1972). 2002). the Netherlands. 1985). 1985). Travers.Y. 1962 Contemporary German Poetry.C. Thomas short fiction: Gehirne. Gesammelte Prosa. and Wittgensteins Neffe: Eine Freundschaft (1982. Rainer Maria Rilke. 1986). Donahue. Rochester. N. 1928. Der neue Staat und die Intellektuellen. Wittgenstein’s Nephew: A Friendship. The Cellar: An Escape. Augustinus Petrus. Doppelleben. Powell. 1912-1992. Probleme der Lyrik. 2007. and his subsequent novels. Among Bernhard’s novels are Verstörung (1967. Das Kalkwerk (1970. The Technological Unconscious in German Modernist Literature: Nature in Rilke. Gottfried Benn: The Artist and Politics (1910-1934). Ray. The premiere of Bernhard’s first play. 2003. Ein Kind (1982. Mark William. 1955. Der Keller: Eine Entziehung (1976. 1916 (Brains. Goethe und die Naturwissenschaften. Richard Spuler Thomas Bernhard Born: Heerlen. Contains a chapter on Benn. Examines the question of self in Benn’s poetry. 1949. regarded by many critics as semifictional. Examines the works of Benn. 1950. 1922. This ongoing sequence includes Die Ursache: Eine Andeutung (1975. 1985). Ray analyzes Benn’s poetry. Includes an exhaustive bibliography. 1931 Died: Gmunden.Bernhard. Studies in Modern German Literature 106. miscellaneous: Die gesammelten Schriften. Breath: A Decision. The Lime Works. Der Atem: Eine Entscheidung (1978. Brecht. 1976. New York: P. 1970. An Indication of the Cause. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Correction. 1932. A Companion to the Literature of German Expressionism. and stories brought him most of the significant literary prizes awarded in the German-speaking world. won critical acclaim. 1933. 1957 In hora mortis. Kunst und Macht. Beyond Nihilism: Gottfried Benn’s Postmodernist Poetics. and Alfred Döblin. Roche. present autobiographical material in the monomaniacal voice of his fictional narrators. Chapter on expressionist poetry discusses Benn. 1958 Die Irren-die Häftlinge. In the Cold. Die Kälte: Eine Isolation (1981. The Poetry of Gottfried Benn: Text 112 Critical Survey of Poetry and Selfhood.: Camden House. Gottfried Benn’s Static. 2006) Unter dem Eisen des Mondes. 1991. 1964 (includes selections of his poetry in English translation) Other literary forms The reputation of Thomas Bernhard (BEHRN-hort) rests primarily on his fiction and his memoirs. 1950 (Double Life. 2006).. 1943. Nach dem Nihilismus. February 12. A Child. Frühe Prosa und Reden. 1957 (English translation. Reinhard. English translation. 1992. 1951. 1949. 2008. Susan. Switzerland: Herbert Lang. N. “derangement”). Frost (1963. 1979). placing him with the postmodern poets. S. Larson. literally translated. Neil H. His first novel. Bertolt Brecht. Rochester.

is of particular significance in Bernhard’s development. However. Other Baroque contributions to the Austrian tradition clearly visible in Bernhard’s work are the memento mori theme and the typically Austrian response to this reminder of the imminence of death. 1961). rooted in the Austrian literary tradition. including Peter Handke. nor could he be identified with any of the prevailing literary factions. the poet. created a small sensation.. and a frighteningly large number of Austrian artists and intellectuals were driven to suicide or into exile by this feeling of rejection and claustrophobia. Over All the Mountain Tops.” Bernhard shares this belief with many contemporary Austrian writers. and since then many of his plays have been produced. the foremost of which is a morbid preoccupation with death. and in particular with suicide. . to name only a few. if Bernhard was a nonconformist—in his personal life as well as in his writing—he was nevertheless a typical Austrian author. rejecting most involvement in the social life of the Austrian literary scene. Although Bernhard’s verse is not his most significant contribution to Austrian literature—four slim volumes containing some 150 poems are an insufficient basis for such a claim—it did provide Bernhard with an early testing ground for his literary talent. among them are Die Macht der Gewohnheit (pr. Thomas plaining about the conservative artistic attitudes of the Austrians and about the narrowness of the country’s intellectual life. 1981. and Arthur Schnitzler. some of them at the Salzburg Festival. the carpe diem motif. 1976) and Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh: Ein deutscher Dichterag um 1980 (pb. The Force of Habit. Bernhard expresses this notion with obsessive force in many of his works.Critical Survey of Poetry Boris (pr. pb. The influence of Wittgenstein. such as the Wiener Gruppe or the group at the Forum Stadtpark in Graz.” The locution “writing in German” is significant. Unlike most Austrian writers of recent fame. in which one of the characters is modeled after him. and Theodore Mauthner. which is surely not exclusively Austrian. But it is also no longer possible to be completely silent. appears in the works and in the private utterances of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Bernhard’s entire oeuvre is informed by a profound distrust of language as an efficacious artistic or communicative tool. At their best. most explicit in the novel Correction. Critics so far have not paid much attention to Bernhard. This complaint. they are lyrical precursors of Bernhard’s fiction. although this neglect is not justified. 2004). despite the fact that he rejected “Austria” as a political and ethnic abstraction and even blamed it for much of his existential anguish. Bernhard occupies a special position in contemporary Austrian literature. Franz Grillparzer. the poems are a youthful testimony to early poetic influences and to eclectic readings in nineteenth century European philosophy.. Achievements Critic George Steiner has described Thomas Bernhard as “the most original. At their worst. This distinctively Austrian tradition is characterized by several features. One of the key phrases in Gargoyles is an implicit response to the famous aphorism that concludes Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922. Austrian literature has a long tradition of com- Bernhard. he did not belong to a group. Sigmund Freud. 1990). Bernhard treats Wittgenstein with a mixture of reverence and savage irony. He did not grant interviews and lived in virtual isolation on a farm in a secluded valley. pb. Bernhard is firmly entrenched in an Austrian tradition of language skepticism associated with Hofmannsthal. 1970. Finally. Bernhard writes: “The words we use really do not exist any longer. and the philosopher’s ideas are implicit in all Bernhard’s works. Another Baroque ingredient is the recurring metaphor of the theatrum mundi—the notion that the world is a stage on which all humans must perform their roles. Another facet of this tradition can be traced to the Baroque period and manifests itself as an inclination to give form preference over substance—to value the way something is expressed more highly than what is said. A Party for Boris. foreshadowing the lin113 . It is no accident that Bernhard has increasingly devoted himself to the theater in the 1970’s and 1980’s and that critics have noted in his works affinities with Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Franz Kafka. for Bernhard’s achievements must be seen in the context of the Austrian literary tradition. 1974. . . concentrated novelist writing in German. and in the memoir Wittgenstein’s Nephew. Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Biography Biographical data. Music has played an important part in Bernhard’s life. and he also learned that his natural father had died in 1943 in the turmoil of the war. as many of these “facts” have been excerpted from the author’s autobiographical writings and from a letter to the editor of an anthology. During the following year. A Child. Bernhard’s mother was the daughter of an eccentric Austrian writer. In the strictly Catholic. Bavaria. 1931. the school was taken over by the Roman Catholic Church. It was at this time. Bernhard’s family was forced to leave Germany and moved to Salzburg. Much of Bernhard’s childhood was spent with his maternal grandparents near Salzburg. as described in Bernhard’s memoir. Zuckmayer later wrote encouraging and thoughtful reviews of the young man’s first volumes of poetry. a hellish period described in the memoirs Breath and In the Cold. the Netherlands. the young Bernhard met Ödön von Horvath and Carl Zuckmayer. such as death. rural Austrian environment. Bernhard’s poetry is sure to be given increased critical attention. both Bernhard’s grandfather and his mother died. he was forced to work as garbage collector. his move to the Mozarteum in Salzburg in 1952 was a welcome change. In 1946. Thomas guistic experiments of his early prose and introducing the themes of his mature work. the desertion of God. in 1949. He is convinced that this activity prevented him from succumbing to insanity or suicide and eventually cured him of his illness. and attendant to a seventy-year-old insane woman whom he cared for until her death. mainly for his novel Philomena Ellenhub (1937). who had received the highest Austrian literary award. His relationship with his stepfather deteriorated. Johannes Freumbichler. and finally the working conditions in the wet storage cellar of his employer (described in his memoir The Cellar) caused Bernhard to contract first pleurisy and then a severe lung disease. Bernhard quit school and apprenticed himself to a grocery merchant. impotence in the face of suffering. In his memoir An Indication of the Cause. and the impossibility of communication. published in 1954—a letter that Bernhard had not intended to make public. the world as prison and insane asylum. . Bernhard received a scholarship to attend the music academy in Vienna. He often slept in railroad cars and in abandoned air-raid shelters. where the boy had his first music lessons. much of his literary vocabulary is taken from musical terminology. mainly as a court reporter and an art critic. In 1951. while confined to the bed of a hospital for pulmonary diseases. At the Mozarteum. who became the dominating personal and intellectual influence of his early life. where his mother had to remain in service to defray the cost of the birth of her son. luggage porter. but Bernhard claims not to have noticed any difference. rural decay. the boy was sent to a Nazi-sympathizing boarding school in Salzburg. Bernhard’s grandfather was taken to the same hospital where the young man himself lay in a bathroom in the section for the terminally ill. he deals extensively with this depressing period in his life.Bernhard. In the period from 1952 to 1956. the illegitimate son of an Austrian carpenter. Bernhard’s grandfather. and so Bernhard was born in a convent near Maastrich. he did considerable acting and directing in addition to his musical studies and earned his way by working for a local newspaper. must be considered with some caution. After the war. He formed a strong attachment to his grandfather. that Bernhard began to write. an illegitimate birth would have created quite a stir. Bernhard’s family—his mother was then married to a man who was not Bernhard’s father— 114 Critical Survey of Poetry moved to Traunstein. and he speaks in terms of the theory of musical composition when he discusses the structure of some of his works. but since the stipend covered only his tuition. were spent being shuttled between hospitals and sanatoriums. particularly of Nicolaas Thomas Bernhard’s early life. In 1943. Bernhard claimed to have read Arthur Schopenhauer in Freumbichler’s study and to have discovered then for the first time “the impossibility of saying the truth and the inability of transcending human existence. Bernhard was born on February 9 or 10.” In 1938. In Freumbichler’s house. urban decadence. The next four years. Soon after that. was an avid reader of the German writers and philosophers of the later nineteenth century and was particularly fond of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne.

Bernhard himself claims to have been influenced mainly by Walt Whitman. many of these poems have since been included in anthologies of contemporary German and Austrian poetry. In 1955 and 1956. he tried to make his living as a freelance writer in Vienna and Carinthia. was published in 1957 in an edition of one thousand. and are responsible for the melancholy tone of his poems. and death that are all around him. Bernhard also published his first two volumes of poetry. Allegedly on the very day he was ready to embark from Venice. as well as of William Blake’s more hellish visions. Such a view is contradicted by the fact that Bernhard’s journalistic work. often a little sad. The articles and reviews of that time are full of praise for contemporary artists. the rootless life of his adolescence. In that year. Analysis Thomas Bernhard’s biography offers a temptation to the critical reader of his work. he received notice that his first novel. the most depressing years of his life. Auf der Erde und in der Hölle Bernhard’s first collection of poems. which is chronologically closest to the period from 1950 to 1952. Thomas Thomas Bernhard (Hulton Archive/Getty Images) lished and unpublished work of the years from 1950 to 1957 is needed to explain the struggling author’s change in outlook. but still full of joie de vivre compared with that of his early poems. Official recognition and prizes followed in rapid succession. “Der Tag der Gesichter” appears as a separate poem before the first section and sets the tone for the entire volume: The “Earth” and the “Hell” of the title are not to be understood as separate locations but as identical places. Austria.Critical Survey of Poetry Bernhard also submitted his first poems and short stories to various publishers and to literary contests. Georg Trakl. It contains seventy-one poems grouped into five thematic sections. It is easy to conclude—as many critics have—that his chaotic. The tone of these articles is low-key. He anticipates shudderingly the apocalyptic “day of visions” when he will be shown Hell. the loss of all those he loved. Further study of Bernhard’s life and his pub- Bernhard. The poet acknowledges his complicity in the decay. suffering. he interrupted his studies at the Mozarteum to travel around Europe. on February 12. most notably the Austrian State Prize in 1968. when he shocked the dignitaries with his polemical acceptance speech. Frost. During the next five years. reproduced for 115 . they speak of the regenerative beauty of the Salzburg region and comment favorably on the value of regional Austrian culture. and his own near-fatal illness are the direct causes of the grim worldview expressed in his novels and plays. Auf der Erde und in der Hölle (on Earth and in Hell). Discouraged by his continuous failure to gain recognition as a writer—again and again his submissions did not find favor with the judges of literary contests awarding prestigious and lucrative prizes—Bernhard decided to emigrate to South Africa. 1989. parentless childhood. he traveled frequently and also spent a short time as librarian at the Austrian Cultural Institute in London. had been accepted for publication. followed by his third collection in 1958. but with no success. He died in Gmunden. and CharlesPierre Péguy—the latter supplies the motto for the volume—but one also hears echoes of Paul Celan and Charles Baudelaire. which appeared in 1957. he graduated in 1957 after completing a thesis on Antonin Artaud and Bertolt Brecht. shows few traces of this pervasive pessimism.

1688) and his early acquaintance with the writings of Schopenhauer and Montaigne are responsible for the persistent religious stratum in his early work. Thomas the reader in the following seventy poems. Paris.” the rural region of Bernhard’s ancestors. In the last section. Christine Busta. he finds the “burnt-out cities” of the second section—Vienna. and blackbirds. also appeared in 1957. but Zuckmayer’s judgment. Bernhard always speaks in negative terms of the Roman Catholic Church and of religion.” This area has changed drastically since the time of the poet’s great-grandfather. and he crosses the river to find “another world. and no one offers him a bed and a jug with drink. and other harbingers of death in the form of frost. death. and disappointment in an elusive God dominates the early parts of the volume. is dedicated to “my only and true friend G.” represented by his rural village. “Rückkehr in eine Liebe.” the poet expresses the wish to be able to return to his “love. in this “other world behind the trees. cast out from this destroyed Eden into the night? The brave front he puts up at times—as in the great poem “Crows. crows. and Christine Lavant in its imperious appeals to a Dieu abscondit.” is almost certainly the young Austrian composer Gerhard Lampersberg.” indicates the mood of the poet. schnapps. Bernhard’s early verse depicts a desolate universe through which humankind is condemned to wander aimlessly. the tone changes to hopelessness and to the Schopenhauer-like recognition that redemption is only possible when the rebellious will to live has been subdued. is accurate. much slimmer than Auf der Erde und in der Hölle.” There. “Yeats war nicht dabei. The journey through Hell—the reluctant reader is led by the guilt-ridden poet—begins in the traditional “dark wood. L. In these poems. despair. S. It is even more likely that his selfconfessed interest in Blaise Pascal’s Pensées (1670. Now. who had apparently taken in the despondent writer for some time between 1957 and 1959.” indicates that he cannot go home again. there is decay. the trees withdraw their roots. The five sections of the volume systematically deny any relief from this view and reject any traditional redemptive imagery.” which ends with the line “But I am not afraid”—cannot be maintained for long. and nature. It can be assumed that the poetic experience in this slim volume closely parallels Bernhard’s wrestling for a spiritual and intellectual position during the time of his near-fatal illness. Clearly. L. 116 Critical Survey of Poetry In hora mortis Bernhard’s second collection of poems. fame. whom I met at the right moment. The title is taken from the Latin text of the “Hail Mary. Chioggia—cities that one can no longer shore against one’s ruins. outrage.Bernhard. Venice. It is Earth as Inferno that the poet sees. the memory of his parents. Attempts at cleansing through penitence on Ash Wednesday (Bernhard knows T. In hora mortis has the structure of a prayer—it is quite possible that Pascal’s “Prayer in Sickness” is the model—and employs frequent direct appeals to “my God” and “my Lord. English translation.” in which the Holy Virgin is asked to intercede for all sinners in the hour of death. incapable of bringing any relief to the universal suffering. and anterooms to Hell. that these poems show the mark of the great modern artists and originate from the same artistic background as the music of Béla Bartók. Eliot very well) are ineffectual. unable to stop the general de- . There is no pastoral tranquility. Auf der Erde und in der Hölle is a remarkable first collection of poems. later.” These appeals are not always submissive in tone. His poetry here approaches that of his contemporaries Ingeborg Bachmann. Rebellion. but even the first poem of the section.” “G. “Wild grows the flower of my anger. The volume. however. and love are insufficient anesthesia for loneliness and the sense of complicity in the sad state of the world. but it appears that the time he spent in a Catholic boarding school left him with the wish to come to terms with that facet of his childhood. The black farm soil prophesies a wintry death. What is the poet to do. the poet encounters night. the first line of the collection. Wherever the journey leads. The fields do not accept his name. there are literary debts. In hora mortis. Bernhard does not as closely identify himself with his literary models as in Auf der Erde und in der Hölle. unapproachable ghosts of his ancestors. Auf der Erde und in der Hölle offers a vision of Hell without any glimpses of Heaven. the pale.

The “sane” people live as animals. The language is emotional. clinical observer who presents the twitchings of his tortured madmen and prisoners in the manner of a painstakingly arranged medical report. This bloody moon casts a grim light. Madmen and prisoners (their prisons are often metaphorical) are the central characters of Bernhard’s novels and plays. deprived of their individuality by being addressed only by the symptoms of their condition. instead. Some of these sentences seem like remarks by a distant observer concerning the “madmen” and “prisoners” who are the subjects of these two long poems. but probably written before 1963. the imagery flowery. Most of his characters are trapped by the narrowness of their physical.” a poem of fifteen stanzas. cultural. The title is taken from Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck (1879. but also unable to resign itself completely to this condition. Bernhard anticipates the recurring themes of his prose. particularly of his first novel. Published in 1962 by a small Klagenfurt publisher in an edition of only 120 copies. nor the faint prospect of a “return to love. Bernhard reiterates his conviction that the human condition is best defined as incarceration. unthinking.Critical Survey of Poetry cay. In his later work. 117 . The left-hand pages of this collection contain “Die Irren. The madmen are anonymous. With this virtually forgotten volume. Bernhard published only one more. The symbolism of the four seasons that runs through the whole volume further serves this purpose. there is not even the elusive hope for redemption still expressed in In hora mortis. but no source is indicated. Their fate is not presented from their subjective standpoint as lyrical narrators. Unter dem Eisen des Mondes was the penultimate step in Bernhard’s development from lyric poet to novelist. The critic Manfred Mixner considers it the last and most important stage of Bernhard. “How red the moon rises!” He replies with the words “like a bloody blade” (Eisen). marked a transition from subjective lyrical expressionism to the maniacal “objectivity” of his prose. Frost. very small volume of poetry before abandoning verse after the success of his first novel. English translation. Die Irren-die Häftlinge (the madmen. he abandoned the emotive stance of the lyrical “I” and assumed the role of an omniscient. however. Both are interrupted by aphoristic prose sentences that appear to be quotations. Bernhard’s verse deserves to be read for its own considerable achievements rather than as a mere preface to his fiction. Unter dem Eisen des Mondes In Unter dem Eisen des Mondes (under the iron of the moon). tortured soul but must deal with an intellectual position. the prisoners) does not appear in many Bernhard bibliographies.” a poem of twenty-two stanzas. Bernhard broke completely with his poetic models. trapped in lies and clichés. Thomas Bernhard’s early creative period. and their indignation as if seen through the peephole of their cells and who punctuates his observations with aphorisms on rationality. published in 1958. The fifty-seven untitled poems in this volume severely reduce the use of the first person in an attempt to objectify the lyrical “I” of Auf der Erde und in der Hölle and In hora mortis. Bernhard’s next collection of poems. Bernhard found the logical transition from poetry to the novel. Only “insane” people are sensitive enough to recognize the inevitability of their fate as prisoners. Apart from some poems published in the magazine Akzente in 1968. neglecting his journalism and paying scant attention to his poetry. or geographical prisons. and his plays. their torture. and the tone still echoes the plaintive cries of the expressionists. 1927). from the scene in which the protagonist is about to stab his fiancé. The reader can no longer escape by rejecting Bernhard’s night visions as sentimental exaggerations of a paranoid. from which they try to find relief in interminable cascades of tautological ruminations. The small but growing number of Bernhard scholars have devoted themselves almost exclusively to his fiction. The symbolic code of these poems and their syntactic structure anticipates the forms of his early prose. Die Irren-die Häftlinge In Die Irren-die Häftlinge. they are viewed by an impersonal observer who registers their hate. to her observation. on the right-hand pages appears “Die Häftlinge.” Images are no longer used as objective correlatives of the poet’s subjective feelings but take on a physical and metaphysical reality of their own. his memoirs.

Dene. Ein Kind. 2003). 1989). Auslöschung: Ein Zerfall. pb. 1982). Elisabeth II. Dowden.. Der Theatermacher. 1976). 1972. Vor dem Ruhestand. Playing Watten. 1990. 2000. pb. including some on his poems. 1987. 1981. Charles W. 1981 (In the Cold. 1991). 1984 (Histrionics. Peter Handke. 1982 (Wittgenstein’s Nephew: A Friendship. Martin. and A Child). Explores the themes and approaches of Bernhard. pb. nonfiction: Die Ursache: Eine Andeutung. Ereignisse. no. 1979 (The World-Fixer. 1969 (Playing Watten. plays: Der Rosen der Einöde. 1986). 1995. pb. pb. 1995). In der Höhe: Rettungsversuch. 1963 (English translation. Although this work focuses on Bernhard’s novels. pr.. 1970 (The Lime Works.Y. Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh: Ein deutscher Dichtertag um 1980. 1984 (Woodcutters.. P. Contains essays on Bernhard’s writings. pr. 1980 (The Cheap-eaters. pb. 1970 (A Party for Boris. 1971 (Walking. 1983 (The Loser. pb. 1973). Conn. pb. Atlanta: Rodopi. pr. 1997). Thomas Other major works long fiction: Frost. pr. 1974. Prosa. pb. political. 1985). Examines how these writers expose and dismantle conventions of communal consensus that work to derail the development of multicultural awareness and identity. 1971. Der Präsident. Thomas J. Unsinn. 1969. Holzfällen: Eine Erregung. 1970).. Alte Meister. 1979 (Eve of Retirement. Gehen. 1985). Nonsense. pr.. Ein Fest für Boris. 1985 (Old Masters. 1987. 1976. The Rhetoric of National Dissent in Thomas Bernhard. 1985 (English translations of five works.Bernhard. Die Kälte: Eine Isolation. Immanuel Kant. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press. pr. A. Bibliography Cousineau. it examines the complex connections of Bernhard’s work with Austria’s twentieth century geographical. 1979). 1967 (Gargoyles. The first comprehensive biography of Bernhard in English. Die Billigesser. Hardin. Matthias. _______. 2003). 1974 (The Force of Habit. pb. 2008. New Haven. 2005). 2003). 1976. 1 (1979). 1991). ed. 1981 (Over All the Mountain Tops. Der Schein trügt. Bibliography and index. 1983 (Appearances Are Deceiving. Der Stimmenimitator. Thomas Bernhard: The Making of an Austrian. Understanding Thomas Bernhard. 1990). Der Keller: Eine Entziehung. 1971. 1976 (The Cellar: An Escape. pb.. 1984 (English translation. Part of the series Understanding Modern European and Latin American Literature. 2006). Stephen D.. 1975 (Correction. 1969. Midland in Stilfs: Drei Erzählungen.: Yale University Press. 2010). Beton. 1967 (Prose. Histrionics: Three Plays. 1986 (Extinction. Am Ziel. Minetti: Ein Porträt des Künstlers als alter Mann.. pb. Examines . or Expedient?” Modern Austrian Literature 12. and James N. pb. 1982). Rochester. Das Kalkwerk. 1990). pb.: Camden House. Die Jagdgesellschaft. An der Baumgrenze: Erzählungen. it does describe his development as a writer. 1988. Wittgensteins Neffe: Eine Freundschaft. The Nihilism of Thomas Bernhard: The Portrayal of Existential and Social Problems in His Prose Works. pb. 1990). 1978 (The Voice Imitator. 1982 (A Child. New York: Camden House. 1988). Heldenplatz. Verstörung. Honegger. Der Atem: Eine Entscheidung. 118 Critical Survey of Poetry 1985). Ritter. 1975 (The President. 1982 (Concrete. screenplay: Der Italiener. Gathering Evidence. 2003 (includes Amras. pb. 1978. and Elfriede Jelinek. 1985). 1991. 1989 (On the Mountain: Rescue Attempt. eds. Voss. Dierick. Explores the relationship of Bernhard’s works to the sociopolitical climate of Austria. 1983). 1985). 1978 (Breath: A Decision. 1975 (An Indication of the Cause. Der Ignorant und der Wahnsinnige. and cultural landscape. 1991). Symbol. 2001. Watten: Ein Nachlass.. 1978 (Yes. Newark: University of Delaware Press. also as Cutting Timber: An Imitation. pr.. “Thomas Bernhard’s Austria: Neurosis. and Walking). pr. 1968. Korrektur. Ungenach. An Indication of the Cause. pb. Der Untergeher. Konzett. 1990). 2004). 1959 (libretto). 1984). Der Weltverbesserer. Gitta. A Companion to the Works of Thomas Bernhard. N. pr. 1964 (English translation. Die Macht der Gewohnheit. In the Cold. Three-Part Inventions: The Novels of Thomas Bernhard. short fiction: Amras. pr. The Cellar. Die Berühmten. Three Novellas. Ja. 2002. Breath.

November 15. Franz G. themes. There is. 1977 Preussischer Ikarus: Lieder. although Biermann’s work was never to reach a large audience in the socialist East—depending as it did upon the circulation of underground manuscripts and tapes—his poetry and recordings were widely distributed and discussed in capitalist West Germany. his identification with opposition forces in East Germany served to increase his notoriety. 1991 Alle Gedichte. especially song. He is a people’s poet in every sense of the word. The play Der Dra-Dra: Die grosse Drachentöterschau in acht Akten mit Musik (1970. Prosa. Lieder. It is ironic that. university lectures on the writing of poetry and songs. Gedichte. 1972 Für meine Genossen: Hetzlieder. Prosa.und Engelszungen: Gedichte. 2006 Other literary forms Most of the published work of Wolf Biermann (BEER-mon) consists of poems and songs. Gedichte. Biermann has translated numerous poems and songs by other poets into German. and imagery of his poetry. Balladen. first. “Thomas Bernhard. Germany. The Dragon. 3 (Fall. and excerpts from several pieces. Another factor has played an even more central role in Biermann’s popularity as a poet. 1972 Nachlass I. 1995 Paradies uff Erden: Ein Berliner Bilderbogen. Biermann’s outspoken and often uncomfortable political views kept him in the public eye during much of his thirteen years of western “exile” and continued to do so after the reunification of Germany in 1990. such as the 119 Wolf Biermann Born: Hamburg. 1965 (The Wire Harp: Ballads. 1936 Principal poetry Die Drahtharfe: Balladen. In Biermann’s hands. Balladen. 2001): 1724. Balladen. Gedichte. the dra-dra: the great dragon-killer show in eight acts with music). While his problems with the party bureaucracy led very quickly to an absolute publication and performance ban in the East. it becomes a political parable about the specter of Stalinism in Eastern Europe. Balladen. 1999 Heimat: Neue Gedichte. Wolf play. Not surprisingly.Critical Survey of Poetry the nihilistic basis of Bernhard’s writing and traces developments in the author’s writing. Several factors have contributed to Biermann’s renown. Poems. 1977 Poems and Ballads. 1968 Deutschland: Ein Wintermärchen. The success of his books—The Wire Harp became a best-selling book of German poetry in the postwar era—and the popularity of his more than twenty recordings provide ample evidence of this. Gedichte. Bibliography and index. provides the most appropriate and effective means of conveying the intensely personal and political content of his work. is an adaptation of the fairy-tale comedy Drakon (1943. His preference for simple. a fact reflected in the everyday language. and a . Blaha Biermann. particularly in the West. Grosser Gesang vom ausgerotteten jüdischen Volk (1994. no. most notably the long Yiddish poem on the fate of the Jews of Eastern Europe by the Polish-Jewish writer Yitzak Katzenelson.” Artforum 8. Biermann’s other writings reinforce this strong political emphasis. great song of the exterminated Jewish people). Provides profile of Bernhard. children’s books. 1982 Alle Lieder. a reader’s guide to his work. traditional forms. Achievements Wolf Biermann is perhaps the best-known living German-language poet. 1963) by the Russian playwright Yevgeny Schwartz and concerns the fate of a city-state ruled by a dragon. 1978 Verdrehte Welt—das seh’ ich gerne: Lieder. In addition. This fact reflects his conviction that poetry. a time line of important events in his life. the political controversy which has surrounded him since he first fell into disfavor with cultural authorities in East Germany in the early 1960’s. 1968) Mit Marx. These writings include several collections of essays. Lieder. Songs.

the theater was closed by authorities. Biermann left his native Hamburg in 1953 to join in the socialist experiment under way in East Germany. whose musical influence is readily apparent in Biermann’s songs. Although Brecht had died the previous year. a love story set amid the political tensions of the newly divided city. and Biermann was placed under a performance ban. and he was placed under a second absolute publication and performance ban. the Jacques Offenbach Prize of the City of Cologne (for his achievement as a composer and performer of the contemporary political song) in 1974. with its greater emphasis on sophisticated aesthetic and literary values. a Jewish worker on the Hamburg docks. In the spirit of his father. Dagobert Biermann. Biermann lived as a “non- . There. his poetry was attacked for its “dangerous” subjectivity and its “antiCommunist” slant. in the spirit and image of the elder Biermann. too. In 1960. at the Eleventh Party Congress in 1965. He had returned to the university in 1959 to study philosophy and mathematics. Wolf German folk song and the ballad. Biermann began to make a name for himself as a writer and performer of political songs. the Berliner Ensemble. and his poems are clearly among the most provocative being written in Germany today. and the National Prize of the German National Foundation in 1998. Arrested in 1937 for his role in sabotaging arms shipments to Francisco Franco’s Spain. Although Biermann hardly knew his father. Nevertheless. he was reared by his mother and grandmother. but Biermann was excluded from the Socialist Unity Party. In 1957. he finished his high school education and. studied polit120 Critical Survey of Poetry ical economy at Humboldt University in East Berlin. was never performed. The songs written after the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 concentrated more and more upon the discrepancy between the promise and the reality of socialism in East Germany and quickly drew the attention of cultural authorities. During a brief period of relative cultural freedom in 1964. he met Brecht’s friend and collaborator. This brief cultural thaw. His unpublished play Berliner Brautgang. The years from 1960 to 1964 represent a particularly significant period in Biermann’s life. he began to write and compose his first songs. Biermann has been awarded numerous prizes including Germany’s most prestigious literary prize in the Georg Büchner Prize in 1991. working-class family tradition. at the relatively late age of twenty-three. but his studies were gradually replaced by an ever-greater emphasis upon his artistic interests. During this period. This legacy of political activism and Communism would have a profound effect upon Biermann’s life. issued by a leftist publishing house. this experience with his work was of great importance in Biermann’s development. in which he had been a candidate for membership. He was allowed to undertake a concert tour of West Germany. and his use of music as a vehicle for his texts have enhanced the strong populist appeal of his work. he was sent in 1942 to Auschwitz. Other major prizes include the Berlin Art Prize for Literature (the Theodor Fontane Prize) in 1969. the Friedrich Hölderlin Prize of the City of Homburg in 1989. the composer Hanns Eisler.Biermann. from 1955 to 1957. For the next eleven years. the strength and vitality of Biermann’s language and imagery effectively rebut the notion that the populist orientation of his work lessens its significance in any way. Biography Wolf Biermann (born Karl Wolf Biermann) comes from a Communist. both active Communists. Before its premiere. the Heinrich Heine Prize of the City of Düsseldorf in 1993. Biermann’s strong identification with the traditions of the German folk song and the political song places him somewhat outside the mainstream of contemporary German-language poetry. however. joined the Communist Party in 1921 and was active in the antifascist resistance of the early and mid-1930’s. the Eduard Mörike Prize in 1991. which established his reputation there as one of East Germany’s leading young poets and which led to the 1965 publication in the West of his first book of poems. Biermann helped to found the Berlin Worker and Student Theater and wrote his first dramatic effort for its scheduled opening. ended for Biermann as abruptly as it had begun. In 1961-1962. His father. where he was put to death in 1943. The ban was lifted again in 1963. he interrupted his studies to take a position as a dramatic assistant at Bertolt Brecht’s theater.

songs. Biermann’s expatriation served to solidify and unite their opposition to the East German regime. In keeping with the intensely personal nature of his work. From 1992 to 1995. Biermann chose to remain in Hamburg. This calculated move by the Communist Party resulted in an unprecedented protest among artists and intellectuals in the East and had far-reaching consequences for elements of the opposition there. Throughout the early 1990’s. Following his expatriation in 1976. the physicist and philosopher Robert Havemann. and Scandinavia. he began immediately to immerse himself in the political and social reality of his new home. the thirteen years of western “exile” (1977-1990) brought an increase in artistic productivity. aggressive wit. numerous East German writers and artists chose or were forced to emigrate to the West. Biermann was seen and heard from—especially in articles for newspapers—on a regular basis. Biermann was allowed in 1976 to accept an invitation from West German unionists for a concert tour of several major cities. Wolf personal crisis for Biermann. this personal crisis occupied a central place in the poetry. Indeed. Biermann’s essays reflect his return to a public involvement with political issues. Bierman steadfastly resisted the attempts in the West to cast him in the role of an anti-Communist dissident. the legacy of the former East Germany. became the focus and primary symbols of intellectual opposition in East Germany. Kurt Tucholsky. Heinrich Heine. and in 1997-1998. Unexpectedly. Surprisingly. Following the first concert. His return to East Germany in December of 1989 to give a concert in Leipzig was a media event. together with his second wife. and concerts of the mid-1980’s. Typically outspoken and unconventional. Western Europe. much less publication. the city of his father. he returned to Berlin for one year as a fellow at the prestigious Wissenschaftskolleg. Analysis Wolf Biermann is a political poet. For many of those who remained. they contain some of the most stimulating contributions to the public discussion of German unity. seemed to have little effect on Biermann. but he was adamant in his refusal to leave his chosen land. the early and mid-1980’s was a period of profound artistic and Biermann. in Cologne. as evidenced in several new volumes of poetry and songs. This period of artistic self-questioning was followed by the traumatic collapse of his marriage. Pamela Biermann. which often severely interrupted the work of other East German writers who later came to West Germany. he was notified that his East German citizenship had been revoked and that he would not be allowed to return home. In 1980.Critical Survey of Poetry person” in his homeland: There was no possibility for public discussion or performance of his work. together with his close friend. He follows in the tradition of François Villon. and a busy concert schedule throughout Germany. 121 . and his friends were subjected to various forms of official intimidation. Despite this public notoriety and success. and the concert was carried by both East and West German television. In 1983. Biermann also spent three months in the United States as a guest professor at Ohio State University. Biermann was offered the chance to emigrate to the West. Although free to resettle in Berlin after German reunification in 1990. new recordings. Over the next several years. From the distance of Paris. Biermann lectured on the writing of poetry and song as a guest professor at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf. As early as 1972. he struggled to understand better his new GermanGerman identity as a poet-singer who was at home in both the East and the West yet fully at home in neither. during this period he was allowed to continue to publish and record his work for release in the West. and Brecht. The dislocation of being “exiled” in the West. His reputation grew as he. While affirming his preference for socialism and the East German homeland now closed to him. and the issues raised by the Gulf War. As the poet who perhaps more than any other had come to personify divided Germany. he retreated from the demands of his public life and concert schedule and spent the majority of the next one and one-half years in relative isolation in Paris. with whom he shares both an acute political awareness and a biting. he now took up a prominent position in the public discussion of Germany and its future. he was under constant surveillance. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and German reunification the following year ushered in a new phase in Biermann’s biography.

Biermann presents his criticisms by means of a simple culinary metaphor: He complains that his comrades reject his rich and varied cuisine. These poems characteristically illustrate Biermann’s defiant subjectivity and his refusal to accept the party’s demand for artistic and political conformity. In a recurring image in his early poetry. He is torn as Germany itself is torn. from anger and bitterness to ecstatic cel122 Critical Survey of Poetry ebration. He is the prototypical “troublesome” poet.” The tone of the poem is as- . art. his poetry records with great feeling his own political struggle as a socialist poet and his personal political fate as a renegade and exile. Biermann addresses his ambivalent relationship to the Communist Party. between that which exists and that which remains to be done. a “Liedermacher und Sozialist. The Wire Harp Biermann’s first collection of poetry. He is both the victim and the uncompromising critic of this disparity. One cannot separate the poetry from the man and his experience. preferring instead their bland “singlecourse dinner of happiness.Biermann. life. but there remains in them always a determined optimism and a fundamental affirmation of life. In the poem “Tischrede des Dichters” (“The Poet’s Table Speech”). not between socialism and capitalism—for his political position as a socialist is clear—but torn by the disparity between Germany’s promise and its reality. his joys. like his “brother” Villon. and politics are virtually inseparable in Biermann’s work. This intense intermingling of the personal with the political is central to all of Biermann’s poetry and provides the key to its understanding. as well as the well-known “Ballade auf den Dichter François Villon” (“Ballad on the Poet François Villon”). or hope to understand it fully outside the political and historical context of his personal struggle. the poetry often exhibits an antithetical structure built upon the contradictions and antagonisms which Biermann perceives around him—antagonisms between the real and the possible. Here. and he never tires of ridiculing their petty fears. In the group of poems titled “Beschwichtigungen und Revisionen” (“Reassurances and Revisions”). These reactions are expressed in a broad range of tones. as the poet balanced precariously on the Wall—neither understood nor at home in either Germany. and death and those of life. Wolf As with these forerunners. and reunification. division. Moore” (“Ballad of the Letter-Carrier William L. Included under the heading “Portraits” are tributes to both Brecht and Eisler. and the poet’s celebration of life despite its many contradictions. Biermann’s connection with the tradition of Heine and Brecht is apparent. Moore”)—and to the more immediate personal world of his loves. stagnation. and ultimately between the forces of quiescence. Although his poems and songs display a rich variety of themes. the unfulfilled promise of socialism. He is. His preference for a simple lyrical style and for everyday rather than literary language is clearly demonstrated here. The Wire Harp. unwanted and rejected by his homeland— a homeland that he “loves” and “hates” in nearly equal degrees. and his sorrows. As these themes suggest. mocking tone of his great predecessor. Biermann’s poems are alternately sad and accusatory. as illustrated in the Berlin poems of this volume. In this poem. He reacts in these poems both to the broader world—as in his critically optimistic picture of socialism in the “Buckower Balladen” (“Buckow Ballads”) and in his indictment of American racism in “Ballade von dem Briefträger William L. Biermann portrays himself as the embattled but unrelenting poet caught in the no-man’s-land between East and West. as is his reliance upon traditional lyrical forms and rhymed verse. He alternately asserts his role as the critical outsider in “Rücksichtslose Schimpferei” (“Reckless Abuse”) and affirms his solidarity of purpose with his comrades in “An die alten Genossen” (“To the Old Comrades”). Biermann celebrates the rude and drunken Frenchman with whom he so obviously identifies. as one collection of critical essays refers to him in its title. and he revels in the impudent. Biermann’s central concerns may be summarized under three broad headings: Germany’s fascist legacy. Biermann is at his provocative best. He. introduces many of the central themes and formal hallmarks of his work. The conflict expressed in the major themes is mirrored in Biermann’s own mixed feelings regarding the world around him. aggressive and subdued. is always in trouble with the authorities.” both a “maker of songs” and a dedicated socialist. which is given concrete form in his poetry in the image of the Berlin Wall.

Wolf critical of Western capitalism.” but also of the “extenuating circumstances.” This doubly intense pain is the pain of hopes betrayed.” “slander. Deutschland The idea for Biermann’s long narrative poem Deutschland: Ein Wintermärchen (Germany. There is. Für meine Genossen The poetry of Biermann’s third collection. Biermann’s poem was written in 1965 shortly after a visit to his native Hamburg. a theme which comes to play an ever-greater role in his work. in Biermann’s view a proper instrument of “agitation.und Engelszungen (with the tongues of Marx and Engels—or angels). In the love songs included in this volume. but is complemented here by highly self-conscious and reflective poems that expand his range of expression. He concludes his poem “Es senkt das deutsche Dunkel” (“The German Darkness Falls”) with the paradoxical assertion that. as Heine had done more than one hundred years earlier. Though he views the “German question” from the perspective of a socialist. the poems are presented as evidence of his “misdemeanors. The poem illustrates a central paradox of Biermann’s work: the fact that he devastatingly criticizes that which he loves. The return to this “foreign” homeland evokes a mixed response in Biermann.” maintains its formal preeminence in his work. which appeared in 1844. The party is the object of simultaneously his love and his hate. He concludes his “winter’s tale” with the important programmatic poem “Gesang für meine Genossen” (“Song for My Comrades”). combining traditional images of spring and hope with good-humored earthiness. a work he characterizes here as “das Lied von der verratenen Revolution” (the song of the revolution betrayed). Biermann. Mit Marx. present to some extent in the earlier poetry.” Biermann defends his “crimes” by placing them in the context in which he prefers to view them: Each section of the collection begins with an appropriately “heretical” quotation from Karl Marx. documents the “crimes” of which he was accused in East Germany. and the songs have lost much of the playfulness of the early years. The poems and songs of Für meine Genossen continue in the vein of Biermann’s earlier collections. Biermann continues his attack upon the blandness of officially sanctioned literature. or Rosa Luxemburg that supports Biermann’s view of revolutionary art and its function in socialist society. The ballad. a winter’s tale) was taken from Heine’s verse satire of the same title. Although the poet’s voice is no less insistent here. Preussischer Ikarus Biermann’s experimentation with new forms and themes alongside the old is carried a step further in the 123 .” “agitation. though he lives in the “better half” of this divided land. he does not gloss over the heritage of Stalinism in Eastern Europe. Biermann uses the occasion of his trip. Organized under five headings corresponding to sections of the East German penal code. the tone has become more earnest and betrays some hint of the bitterness and frustration which have come of Biermann’s prolonged isolation. and he consciously imitates and parallels Heine’s masterpiece at every turn. a discernible difference in tone in these poems. for it represents both the future hope of socialism and its dogmatic inflexibility and bureaucratic stagnation. however. and they represent an attempt to counteract his growing sadness. and the betrayal of hope by the friends who have given up the fight—is especially prominent and is recorded in emotions ranging from impatience and anger to profound sorrow.Critical Survey of Poetry sertive and yet conciliatory as Biermann defends his role as critic and argues for greater artistic tolerance. In one of the last songs in the collection. to reflect satirically upon Germany’s current political “misery” as mirrored in the country’s political division. where he had stopped during his Western concert tour the year before. The theme of betrayal—the betrayal of the revolution by the party. Vladimir Ilich Lenin. Für meine Genossen (for my comrades). is more pronounced here. Mit Marx-und Engelszungen In the poems and songs of his second collection. Biermann finds the source of this sadness in the deep division of Germany itself. which summarizes the political focus of his entire work. He has retained both the tone and the simple folk-song verse (four-line stanzas rhyming abab) of the original.” and “irresponsibility. Biermann celebrates life and love. The melancholy undertone. The poems express the poet’s hope against the background of his personal political struggle. he feels “double the pain.

From the healing distance of Paris. Biermann’s most compelling poetry arises where personal experience and political reality intersect for him. reflects both the father’s joy at her birth and his consciousness of a threatening world. the apparently private. that imperils her future. Biermann projects himself into the role of a modern Icarus weighed down by the heavy iron wings of Prussian tradition—a tradition of authoritarianism and unquestioning obedience that continues to throttle the socialist revolution in the East. these poems and songs reveal an unsure and less assertive. he is able again to write from his life experience rather than merely in response to the issues of the day. Thus he sings that he is “living still”—well. Biermann offers a self-critical assessment of his first ten years in West Germany. inspired by human reason. poet. As in Preussischer Ikarus. which closes the first half of the book. which affects both the tone and the content of the poems and songs. Verdrehte Welt In Verdrehte Welt (world turned on its head). and ballads. The collection opens with the song “Pardon” (pardon me!). the poetry of Verdrehte Welt betrays a more complicated and less ideological view of the world. a collection of poems. Despite Biermann’s continuing political engagement. Biermann struggles to find his bearings in the West. Biermann learns to accept a dual German identity outside the confining pull of ideology. The West. however. The title of this mixed-genre collection contains Biermann’s ironic assessment of human life on the planet. specifically Western themes. He is no longer the socialist “dragon-slayer” of old. Together with the familiar East German motifs of the earlier collections. songs. a role that his western exile denies him. From this position. the poems that close the second half of the volume portray the ostensibly “free” and “democratic” West as merely the other side of the same German coin. to change and improve it— symbolized in the “Barrikade. Biermann responds here not only to the problem of his exile but also to the Western German political scene—to the misdirected terrorism of the Baader-Meinhof era and the disarray and ineffectiveness of the West German Left. but neither is he at home in the in124 Critical Survey of Poetry consequential leftist “ghetto” to which the western media would assign him. family poem “Willkommenslied für Marie” (song of welcome for Marie). one that admits to not having all the answers. he is “not yet dead”. with its “forest of weapons” and its ruined environment.Biermann. The long poem “À Paris” (in Paris) describes Biermann’s attempt to come to terms with his new western identity. who in the poem “Schuften” (scoundrels) dreams of wrestling with the ghost of his father over his public critique of Communism’s failure. In this manner. written at the birth of his daughter. In contrast to the earlier collections. he has everything he needs— well. It clearly carries the mark of the collapse of his marriage. His experience in this time. determined by human beings’ animal nature—captured in the image of the “Affenfels” (monkey rock) of human. Each of the poet’s claims to be doing fine in his new life in the West is immediately contradicted (Pardon!) by a qualifying addition. Affenfels und Barrikade Affenfels und Barrikade (1986) is Biermann’s most personal and least political book. there are a variety of new. he is actually in dire need. and the suppression of the Solidarity movement in Poland.” that is. relations—and by human attempts. especially sexual. offers Biermann no solace. The title for the collection is taken from the poem “Ballade vom preussischer Ikarus” (ballad of the Prussian Icarus). even at times a despairing. It is a difficult emotional step for the poet. In the long poem “Vom Lesen in den Innereien” (reading in my innards). the political barricades on which the battles for change are fought. Biermann announces a central theme of the collection: learning to live in this less-than-perfect and often contradictory world. The poetry dealing with Poland is significant in Biermann’s work for the clear break with Communism that it signals. political themes remain in the forefront and many of the poems address topical issues: labor unrest and the 1980 elections in West Germany. This volume was published after Biermann’s expatriation in 1976 and includes both poems written in the East and others written in and from the perspective of his Western exile. Wolf book Preussischer Ikarus (Prussian Icarus). he really meant to say. both personal and political. In the poem. come to think of it. Thus. has . environmental concerns. for example. a clever account of his contented discontent living in the West.

for the first time. he attacks the wrongheaded logic of a Lutheran pastor-politician’s proposal to destroy the files that the former East German state security agency kept on its citizens. the Germans have made progress in confronting their past. Instead. Thus the poem ends with the repeated refrain. for “the future will be decided/ in the struggle over the past. the eastern half of which had been his home from 1953 until 1976. even occasionally nostalgic tone of some of the poems. Biermann takes leave of the city in the poem “Adieu. “I’m on my way. He will continue to walk in the footsteps of his father and of the Jewish and Communist dead of his father’s generation who will not allow him to escape their grasp and the responsibility it holds for him. he portrays himself as the crowing cock-rooster who can make any “dung-heap. Biermann has created poems that deal with a theme that can be found in all his 125 . “Will it sell?” when in the East he used to ask. the book represents his retaking possession of his beloved second home. As suggested by its subtitle. In “Güterbahnh of Grunewald” (Grunewald freight yard). personal and political history intersect for him in Berlin. one that ushers in a more literary and less public phase in his poetry and writing. “Einem Hirten ins Gebetbuch” (into a shepherd’s prayer-book).” a “dragon-slayer armed with a lyre” who is astounded to find that the dragon (money and capitalism) has come to reside in him. This is not to say that the firebrand poet is absent here. In the song “Journaille” (yellow press). he. a claim that is reinforced by the many poems in which present and past. where he had planned to continue his work on the translation of William Shakespeare’s sonnets. however.” a way from which he cannot be deterred. This and other absurdities are to be found “Im Steinbruch der Zeit” (in the quarry of time) as this poem is titled. Wolf Partly because of the more reflective. he no longer places much hope in the ability of art and poetry to bring about change in the world. Communism in Eastern Europe is “dead.” the new collection consists almost entirely of poems and songs about Berlin. he argues.” incapable of the reform he had agitated for in his early work.” he derides his utopian optimism of earlier days and refers to his present-day role in the West as an “artist for hire. Biermann. As Biermann writes in the afterword. Relatively few new songs and poems appear in either of the two compilations of poetry that Biermann issued in the early and mid-1990’s. Rummaging through his “innards. he is struck now.” In an image reminiscent of his early poetry. Heimat In Heimat (homeland).” Biermann delivers more of his trademark attacks on the stupidity he finds around him.” His absence. by the absence of Jews in what before World War II had been the hub of Jewish life in Berlin. during a year that Biermann spent at Berlin’s Wissenschaftskolleg.” Paradies uff Erden Nearly fourteen years transpired between the publication of Affenfels und Barrikade and the release of Paradies uff Erden (paradise on Earth) in 1999. Almost all of them were written in 1997 and 1998.Critical Survey of Poetry freed him from many of the illusions with which he arrived ten years earlier.” The more reflective tone of the Berlin poems and songs may signal yet another transition in Biermann’s career. similarly. neither by the “applause of my enemies” nor by the “hate of my friends. finds himself asking of his poetry. to Berlin and the freight yard from which many of Berlin’s Jews began their journey to the Nazi death camps. will not keep him from getting involved in the affairs of the new “Berlin Republic. under the heading “Pasquille. “Will it be banned?” Despite this new tone of self-doubt.” Despite Berlin’s central place in his life and memory. however. In the West. the poet invites an aged Holocaust survivor and friend from Israel to return to the scene of the crime. he is on the offensive against the irresponsible German boulevard press and its smear tactics. Paradies uff Erden displays a literary quality somewhat at odds with Biermann’s rough-edged image as a political poet. like other poets. he found himself drawn out into the city. meaning “a Berlin picture album. a fact that reflects his highprofile participation in various public debates during these years. for example. a different tone emerges. Berlin. but in the reunified country. it is not perfect here. understanding them is crucial to Germany’s future.” regardless of its location. into the “center of this world. while in another. the poem ends with an affirmation of the path he has taken and must continue to follow. In other poems. Returning to his old neighborhood in East Berlin.

Mäusefest. Beck. 1966 Wetterzeichen. 1945-1970. Levin’s Mill: Thirty-four Statements About My Grandfather. Visions. and Provocations. 1970. Der Sturz des Dädalus: Oder. Stamp Miller. 1966 Im Windgesträuch. April 9. Balladen. critic Peter Thompson suggests that Biermann is more interested in defending the state of Israel than in defending Communism. und andere Erzählungen . New Haven. miscellaneous: Affenfels und Barrikade: Gedichte. and other stories). Communist. Rosellini. “Wolf Biermann. 2002. Grosser Gesang vom ausgerotteten jüdischen Volk. Jay. Thompson. Germany). children’s literature: Das Märchen vom kleinen Herrn Moritz. East Germany (now Berlin. which are collected in the following volumes: Boehlendorff. Lieder. Über Deutschland unter Deutschen: Essays. This theme is his search for a homeland. edited by David Robb. 1979. Christa Wolf. 2007. Fla. East Prussia (now Sovetsk. Eizes für die Eingeborenen der Fidschi-Inseln über den IM Judas Ischariot und den Kuddelmuddel in Deutschland seit dem Golfkrieg. despite the changes in his life and circumstances. pb. The Cultural Politics of the German Democratic Republic: The Voices of Wolf 126 Critical Survey of Poetry Biermann. G.: BrownWalker Press. Ann. He traces Biermann’s search for a homeland throughout his works. Bibliography Flores. H. 1972. 1990. John. An introduction to Biermann and his early poetry in English. focusing on the 2006 collection Heimat. Munich: C. and Heiner Müller had on the cultural politics of East Germany. Includes a detailed account of Biermann’s life and its relation to his poetry up to the end of 1991. 1970) and Litauische Klaviere (1966. Christa Wolf. Die Ausbürgerung: Anfang vom Ende der DDR. 1970 The White Mirror. Boehlendorff. September 2.Bobrowski. Thompson provides an extensive discussion of Biermann’s poetry. translations: Berichte aus dem sozialistischen Lager. N. includes several translations of Biermann’s poems and songs. 1965 Principal poetry Sarmatische Zeit. 1992. 1991. 1992. 1993 Other literary forms Although Johannes Bobrowski (bawd-ROW-skee) is remembered primarily for his poetry.” In Poetry in East Germany: Adjustments. Wie man Verse macht und Lieder: Eine Poetik in acht Gängen. 2004. 1971. In this work. and Heiner Müller. 1962 Shadow Land: Selected Poems. The journey of this Jew. 1961 Schattenland Ströme. 2001. Peter. Über das Geld und andere Herzensdinge: Prosaische Versuche über Deutschland. James Reece Updated by Reece Johannes Bobrowski Born: Tilsit. Russia). 1994 (of Yitzak Katzenelson’s poem). He also wrote several short stories. 1997. Boca Raton. 1986.Y. Das Märchen von dem Mädchen mit dem Holzhein.: Camden House. Conn. 1917 Died: East Berlin. Lithuanian pianos). Johannes works. and German from Hamburg and back represents both a geographical journey and a trip in search of himself. which seems always to elude him. Rochester. nonfiction: Klartexte im Getümmel: 13 Jahre im Westen. “Wolf Biermann: Die Heimat ist weit. Examines the influence that Biermann. he did publish two critically acclaimed experimental novels: Levins Mühle: 34 Sätze über meinen Grossvater (1964. und andere Erzählungen (1965. Wolf Biermann.” In Protest Song in East and West Germany Since the 1960’s. One of the most comprehensive studies of Biermann’s work. Other major works play: Der Dra-Dra: Die grosse Drachentöterschau in acht Akten mit Musik. 1972.: Yale University Press.

Together with Erich Arendt and Peter Huchel. Bobrowski is credited with giving a new direction and inspiration to East German poetry. employed a reduced and concentrated lexical inventory. About ten years later. Recordings of several of his poems are available. Poland. but he was also a member of the Bekennende Kirche (the Confessing Church). In 1937. He did not write much again until the 127 . In 1928. In 1939. It was at this time that he learned much about the culture and history of the Slavic peoples who lived across the border. and to the most recent developments in West German and foreign poetry. and in 1950. and his unique style. a prize given only to the most promising new authors in the Germanspeaking world. he later was given a place of honor in the literary canon there and is recognized as a humanitarian author who strove for socialist ideals. he was held in the regions of the Don and middle Volga Rivers and did forced labor as a coal miner. he served as a soldier in France. He was taken prisoner of war in 1945 and remained in Russian captivity until 1949. he was awarded the prestigious prize of the Group 47 in 1962. resulting from complications after an appendicitis operation. Johannes East Germany immediately after his death. he was particularly attracted to the disciplines of music and painting. not far from Lithuania. in 1965. Achievements Johannes Bobrowski belonged to that generation of East German poets who matured late artistically. He also called attention to the great classical German heritage. Although Bobrowski was notably absent from literary anthologies and histories in Bobrowski. where Bobrowski began to study art history. like Bobrowski. In West Germany. based in part on classical German modes yet stripped to the bare linguistic essentials. both in 1965. including collections of legends and poetry. the family moved again. and Der Mahner (1967. a Protestant resistance group. he had the opportunity to edit books by others. His thematic concerns were new and provocative. and a few of his poems were published in the “inner emigration” magazine Das innere Reich. where Bobrowski attended a college-preparatory high school. Bobrowski began writing poetry in 1941. Biography Johannes Bobrowski was born in a German town in East Prussia. Bobrowski was conscripted into military service. and other stories). to the point of being hermetic or even opaque. For his novel Levin’s Mill. he began working as a reader at the publishing house Union Verlag. in the early 1970’s. festival of the mice. Working as a reader at an East German publishing house. the family moved to Königsberg (later called Kaliningrad). C. In the same year. affiliated with the Lutheran Church. emerging poets that artistic integrity and genuine creativity and diversity were possible within the framework of a socialist state. which until his time was bogged down in the principles of Socialist Realism and the Brechtian tradition. they caused a great deal of excitement in both East and West Germany. He is often mentioned in connection with Günter Eich and Paul Celan.Critical Survey of Poetry (1965. During World War II. was rich in metaphor and allegory. and northern Russia. Bobrowski showed his own generation and younger. his name was again invoked by younger authors in East Germany who sought a new means of aesthetic expression. this time to Berlin. He remained there until his death. when he was stationed at Lake Ilmen. who. more emphasis is placed on an appreciation of his style. Bobrowski spent his childhood in the small village of Mozischken and frequently visited his grandparents on their farm in the country. He was posthumously granted the East German F. and who at the same time did not shy away from combining mythological elements with autobiographical and contemporary references. since their creative development was interrupted by the events of World War II and the founding of a new state. his father was a German railroad employee of Polish descent. Weiskopf Prize in 1967. he won the AlmaJohanna-Koenig Prize in Vienna. for he was recognized as a major talent. When Bobrowski finally published his first slender volumes in the early 1960’s. He returned to East Berlin in 1949. In school. which had been largely forgotten in the postwar years. I Taste Bitterness. he was awarded the Heinrich Mann Prize of the East Berlin Academy of the Arts and the international Charles Veillon Prize from Switzerland. For his poetic accomplishments. 1970). one of his teachers there was the writer Ernst Wiechert.

Im Windgesträuch (in the wind bushes). have as their central theme the relationship between the Germans and their neighbors to the East. Sarmatia poems To accomplish this goal. Bobrowski the poet recalls these atrocities. Thus. but it is not a well-defined mythology. the horrors of World War II. His poems contain five intertwined temporal layers: ancient times. Because he grew up along the river Memel. particularly when the reader finds many confusing temporal references within a single poem. yet this very ambiguity accounts for the richness of Bobrowski’s verse. Bobrowski was particularly sensitive to this issue. and a future era. where these two cultures merge. He populates his Sarmatia with a host of various personages: ancient gods. Bobrowski continued to write sporadically after this literary debut. which Bobrowski had personally experienced. these poems transcend their historical Johannes Bobrowski (©Lufti Özkök) early 1950’s. the Slavic peoples. lest contemporary Germans forget to atone for their past misdeeds. Johannes Critical Survey of Poetry sion. containing poems of lesser quality which were written between 1953 and 1964.” about the legendary sunken city of Kiteshgorod in “Erzählung” (“Story”). and the history of their relations is marred by war. appeared in 1970. the various layers illuminate one another and promote an understanding of historical and cultural processes. The reader must be willing to mingle and combine past and present. legendary figures. as he often stated. past centuries of conflict with the German invaders. Bobrowski thus creates a mythology of sorts to come to terms with the German past. when one reads about the ancient gods Perkun and Pikoll in “Pruzzische Elegie” (“Prussian Elegy”). in which one must rectify old wrongs. From the days of the Order of the Teutonic Knights in the Middle Ages. Moreover. Bobrowski uses the concept of Sarmatia. a vague term applied by ancient historians and geographers to the area that he has in mind— namely. His first poems after the war appeared in 1954 in the East German literary magazine Sinn und Form. or about Russian writer Isaac Babel in “Holunderblüte” (“Elderblossom”). which was edited by his friend Peter Huchel.Bobrowski. repres128 . but he did not feel that his style had matured sufficiently until the early 1960’s. one confronts only one aspect of Bobrowski’s poetic world. Layers of history This historical dimension of Bobrowski’s poetry offers a key to understanding his works. the present time. the real and the fictional. when he published his first two volumes of poetry. in which all men will live in communion with one another. and historical personalities. to form a coherent concept of the historical development Bobrowski has in mind. and murder. Analysis Many of Johannes Bobrowski’s poems. and one can discern its full richness only by studying his poems as a totality. the Germans had treated these people very badly. the territory between Finland and southern Russia from the Baltic to the Black Sea. He completed work on Wetterzeichen (signs of the weather). History is treated as myth and myth as history. but it did not appear until after his death. about the great Lithuanian ruler Wilna in “Anruf” (“Appeal”) or in “Wilna. It is often difficult to separate these layers. in which the Slavic or Sarmatian tribes were free to determine their own existence and live in close harmony with nature.

) In the poems “Else Lasker-Schüler” and “An Nelly Sachs” (“To Nelly Sachs”). These motifs. Bobrowski arrives at a discussion of the problems of contemporary Berlin. later poems include historical events and persons from the recent and distant past. offering profound general insights into man’s inhumanity to man on a global scale and forcefully arguing the need for reconciliation and the end of barbarism. In a manner similar to the historical process he was describing. Gertrud Kolmar. a suffering similar to that of the Jews living in Sarmatia. Bobrowski’s poetry underwent a noticeable thematic development or progression: His first poems are concerned primarily with the fantastic landscape of Sarmatia. Christian Domelaitis. take on a new significance: They become part of humans. It is true that Bobrowski does employ a great number of recurring nature motifs in his poetry. Bobrowski merely takes one aspect or feature of the artist and explains why he admires it or considers it important for his work. Bobrowski describes his concept of poetic language and poetic communication. Bobrowski points to the suffering these poets endured because they were Jewish. birds. must be discussed in greater detail. He had been collecting material for years for a monograph on Hamann but was unable to complete it because of his premature death. Johannes Hamann’s life’s goals were similar to his own. Bobrowski praises Klopstock’s notion that one must recall the past and atone for former transgressions. Bobrowski claims. (Bobrowski was greatly influenced by Hamann while still in school and felt that Bobrowski. stones. move the reader to bold political or social acts. Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock. as words and nature enable people to communicate with one another and prepare themselves for what is to come. He was seen as a seer or prophet who pointed out the errors of the past and the way to achieve the future brotherhood of all men—one of the proclaimed goals of the communist state. Bobrowski shared with all these artists a deep humanistic commitment to others and a concern for suffering in the world. and Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz. Else Lasker-Schüler. but in general philosophical terms. Thus. Marc Chagall. Johann Sebastian Bach. Here. which was somehow lost in the past. but rather impressions of the artists or their lives. not with any specificity. and because he believed that humanity’s harmony with nature. This idea plays an important role in Bobrowski’s mythology. particularly from nature. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Poetry does not. These “portrait poems” are not biographical or artistic summaries. most frequently rivers.” he praises the eighteenth century poet for collecting and preserving ancient tales and legends. Johann Georg Hamann.” both stylistically and thematically. part of their past and their relationships to others. Honor and remembrance Not all Bobrowski poems deal with Sarmatia. Thus. must be regained to save the human race. In these poems. though by no means large. The first contains poems written in honor or in memory of other artists with whom Bobrowski feels some affinity. Dylan Thomas. for objects. not only history but also words and nature are important. was able to survive and publish in East Germany. This description is valid only to a certain extent. as a Christian non-Marxist. This is for Bobrowski the highest sense of poetry—it speaks to readers on several levels and raises their degree of consciousness. wolves. in the poem “An Klopstock” (“To Klopstock”). to advance into the future.) In “Hamann. This rich philosophical content of the poems also explains how Bobrowski. “Always to Be Named” and “Language” Another significant category of Bobrowski’s poems. Two of these poems are especially paradigmatic: “Immer zu benennen” (“Always to Be Named”) and “Sprache” (“Language”). Nature as symbol Because of his emphasis on humanity’s relationship to nature through language. and darkness. could be termed metapoetry. A few treat the themes of love and death. and finally.Critical Survey of Poetry occasion. Joseph Conrad. however. Friedrich Hölderlin. They do not merely conjure up the beauty 129 . They can thus be read and appreciated by people from various cultural backgrounds and different eras. light. Bobrowski’s work has often been referred to as nature poetry. Bobrowski shows that he believes in an almost mystical relationship between the word and the thing named. trees. Two other categories. Nelly Sachs. fish. are not an evocation of nature per se. that the word somehow captures the spirit of the thing or the person to which it refers. however. such as François Villon. (Bobrowski considered Klopstock to be his “taskmaster.

lines consist of merely a word or two each. 1970). John Flores suggests a method by which this decoding can be performed. Bobrowski generally uses these motifs to connect human beings to nature and to show how humans are part of the natural historical process. he can be seen as part of the movement toward radical reduction of language that began around 1910 with the expressionists in Germany and that insisted on a language free of all Decadent cultural encrustations. The author unleashes his thoughts and ideas in a torrent of words. Structure In Poetry in East Germany (1971). short fiction: Boehlendorff. and so. the staccato mode is reintroduced. und andere Erzählungen. . If people can rid themselves of the barbarous acts of war and violence and return to their primeval natural state. he did not use language as a collection of building blocks devoid of meaning. their difficult construction mimics the deformed and incoherent structure of reality. Johannes of landscapes to be admired and enjoyed. part. a process similar to that through which one tries to remember events of the distant past. Bibliography Bridgwater. who must fill in the missing material and make the appropriate associations and connections. Such a purification of language became all the more necessary after the abuses of the Nazi years. Legacy The difficult and cryptic nature of many of Bobrowski’s poems raises the question of his place in literary history. does the human soul. Bobrowski went beyond this essentially negative program. A critical study of Bobrowski’s poetic works. interrupting the semantic flow. He is setting the mood for the poem by using the naming process described above. The most striking feature of his poetry is the reduction of the linguistic material to an extreme minimum. The reader is uncertain and somewhat confused. In the first. but here the verb prevails. Der Mahner. “The Poetry of Johannes Bobrowski. The breaking of the poem into small phrases gives primacy to the individual word and lends the poetic message an aspect far different from what it would possess were it written in prose or even conventional poetic style. staccato fashion. This strong concern for the human and communal element is what sets Bobrowski’s poems apart from traditional nature poetry. the poems can indeed be decoded with the help of published biographical and historical material. employed in an uncertain. but as Fritz Minde points out in an article on Bobrowski. and the length of the line is very irregular. Although they have varying connotations. Bobrowski’s concentrated and abbreviated style demands the active participation of the reader. He believes that most of Bobrowski’s poems 130 Critical Survey of Poetry have three parts or stages. The thematic thrust of the poem begins to take shape. says Bobrowski. a forerunner of or participant in the reductive “linguistic” movement of contemporary German poetry? No. At the same time. 1966. and nouns are linked with verbs. Bobrowski often employs sentence fragments consisting of a single word. offering in his verse substantive arguments in favor of a new and better world. they will have reached their ultimate goal. Poetic minimalism Bobrowski’s symbolic treatment of nature is only one aspect of his laconic style. The free rhythms are sometimes fairly regular. 1965. Mäusefest. In the second stage. Was he a true member of the avant-garde. or introductory. In the final stage. 1967 (I Taste Bitterness. Other major works long fiction: Levins Mühle: 34 Sätze über meinen Grossvater.” Forum for Modern Language Studies 2 (1966): 320-334. These thoughts have been building in intensity throughout the poem. 1970). Patrick. Frequently.Bobrowski. however. so that the reader is often reminded of the odes and elegies of previous centuries. and longer syntactic units are usually broken up into several lines. too. Litauische Klaviere. und andere Erzählungen. The style is more reflective and narrative. Such a difficult procedure tends at times to weaken the thematic impact of the poem. The objects of nature remain constant throughout historical change. the author relies chiefly on nouns. 1965. 1964 (Levin’s Mill: Thirty-four Statements About My Grandfather. spatial and temporal connections begin to appear. Instead. and they all come together in the end in a desperate cry for recognition. but rather they function as symbols within the overriding thematics of the poem.

A history and critical analysis of poetry in postwar East Germany including the works of Bobrowski during this period. 1597) Buccolicum carmen. 1431-1438) as well as De mulieribus claris (c. The Corbaccio. One of his most curious prose works. 1943) were influential in Geoffrey Chaucer’s composition of “The Monk’s Tale” in The Canterbury Tales (1387-1400). A brief critical assessment of Bobrowski’s poetic works. “An Introduction to the Poetry of Johannes Bobrowski. 1341-1342 Il ninfale d’Ameto. Jerry. The Decameron. 1971. including genealogies of the pagan Greek and Roman gods.” The Decameron. Giovanni Il filocolo. 1344-1346 (The Nymph of Fiesole. c. 1587. c. 1341-1342 (also known as Commedia delle ninfe) L’amorosa visione. The Portrayal of Jews in GDR Prose Fiction. 1975). Includes bibliographic references. 1343-1344 (Amorous Fiammetta. 1873) . 1974) Comedia delle ninfe fiorentine. O’Doherty. Contains a short section on Bobrowski’s depiction of Jews in his prose work. 1995. misogynistic in its theme. 1999. David. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press. John P. where they tell a hundred tales to amuse one another and pass the time. Understanding Johannes Bobrowski. Critical interpretation and brief biography by a specialist in German and Austrian art and literature. 1355. that parodies the conventions of the medieval dream-vision genre. 1913) Other literary forms Although Giovanni Boccaccio (boh-KOCH-ee-oh) was an excellent poet. Between Sarmatia and Socialism: The Life and Works of Johannes Bobrowski. Keith-Smith. Set during the Black Death. Introductory biography with selected poetry and prose in English translation. 1342-1343 (English translation. June or July. and legend. it does shed light on who Bobrowski was and the times in which he lived. London: Wolff. 1375 Principal poetry Rime. 1330-1340 La caccia di Diana. 1335 (The Filostrato. Johannes Bobrowski. this large prose work consists of an outer narrative frame describing the effects of the plague on the city of Florence and the subsequent flight of three young men and seven women to the countryside. 1986) Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta. is a long vernacular work. and Provocations. 131 Giovanni Boccaccio Born: Florence or Certaldo (now in Italy).Critical Survey of Poetry Flores. Prencipe Galeotto (1349-1351. Includes bibliography. Conn. Examines the chronological development of Bobrowski’s Sarmatian works and places them within the context of a biography of his career. Robert Acker Boccaccio. The Fall of Princes. It is Boccaccio’s Decameron: O. 1336 (Labor of Love. is decidedly Renaissance in its outlook and tone. Paul. 1313 Died: Certaldo (now in Italy).: Yale University Press. and biographies of famous men and women from history. 1361-1375. Often labeled the “mercantile epic. 1339-1341 (The Book of Theseus. While it does not discuss the poetry. c. Glenn. As a scholar and humanist.” Germanic Review 41 (1966): 4556. better known as The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta) Il ninfale fiesolano. 1334 Il filostrato. Includes bibliography. myth. c. Concerning Famous Women. Visions. December 21. 1970. 1997. 1351-1366 (Boccaccio’s Olympia. Corbaccio (c. Atlanta: Rodopi. with its focus on the vices and virtues of everyday life. Atlanta: Rodopi. 1566) Teseida delle nozze d’Emilia. 1620) that reveals his literary genius and narrative gift. Poetry in East Germany: Adjustments. he wrote long encyclopedic works. Brian. New Haven. geographies. Scrase. John. De casibus virorum illustrium (1355-1374. 1945-1970. Wieczorek. his long-lived literary reputation is founded on his prose works. c.

and intellectual center. His father. and Lombardy and even to the papal court of Urban V in Avignon. in particular that of Ovid and Vergil. would become the mainstay for epic poetry written in Italian for centuries. Boccaccio. Boccaccio was both a scholar and a poet. In 1341. this verse form. jurists. and his writings in Latin and Italian took inspiration and delight in the classical past and his contemporary world. Christine de Pizan. His father. and it fed the young Boccaccio’s passion for literature more than it incited any pecuniary interests. At the time. Giovanni Achievements Giovanni Boccaccio. It is during this time that he is supposed to have met and fallen in love with Fiammetta. Although there has been speculation over her true identity. Biography Giovanni Boccaccio was born in 1313. his works were instrumental in spreading Renaissance values and ideas throughout Europe. hoped for his son to follow him in his career as a merchant-banker. he was brought or sent to Naples to be apprenticed as a merchant in one of the banking houses operated by the Bardi family. Eventually. can be classified as one of the architects of the Italian Renaissance. Read in the original or translated into a variety of languages. By the age of seven. Petrarch. as the illegitimate son of Boccaccino di Chellino and an unknown mother. he also continued the tradition started by Dante of promoting vernacular Italian as a worthy vehicle for great poetry and prose. artists. made his home in the village of Certaldo some twenty miles southwest of Florence. While he was instrumental in encouraging the reading and translating of ancient Greek literature.Boccaccio. For much of his adult life. including the poetry of his future friend and fellow poet. Petrarch. Naples was a cultural. Boccaccio abandoned his father’s profession for a literary career and began composing his own poetry. They introduced him to the great poetic traditions of the ancient world and his own time. used in his long poetic narratives. Boccaccio had had his first taste of Latin verse. Boccaccio returned to Florence and immersed himself further in his study of the classics and poetic composition. This position would take him to the courts of Rome. 132 Critical Survey of Poetry Giovanni Boccaccio (Library of Congress) Boccaccio frequented the royal libraries in Naples and became acquainted with some of the age’s greatest Humanist scholars. in Florence or Certaldo. artistic. along with his friend and fellow humanist Petrarch. including Chaucer. and theologians. his literary pursuits were supported by his public role as ambassador for Florence. Boccaccio is also credited with popularizing the ottava rima. a fairly well-to-do merchant banker for the Bardi banking family. most scholars maintain she was a fictitious but convenient muse for the poet. and Miguel de Cervantes. however. His prose and poetry were foundational and inspirational for later poets and writers. Boccaccio. and Dante are the crown jewels of fourteenth century Italian poetry. Despite the circumstance of Boccaccio’s birth. Ludovico Ariosto. a woman whose beauty and charm would inspire his poetry throughout his life. along with the entire city of . His position within the banking industry allowed him access to a broad social and cultural spectrum. William Shakespeare. and by the time Boccaccio was fourteen. In 1348. his father recognized his son’s legitimacy by 1320 and sought an education for him.

in Latin in imitation of Vergil.” which emphasized personal introspection on matters of love and relied on a vocabulary of accepted metaphors and symbols to express the fruit of that introspection. whose works he admired tremendously. more than a third of his community. the poem presents how those who love deeply are subject to the whims of a fickle universe that brings lovers together and ultimately separates them. Boccaccio’s health began to deteriorate. and intrigue divided into eight cantos. love is an overwhelming emotion that afflicts the will. however. It would claim the lives of his father and stepmother and. Boccaccio fathered at least five children. Analysis Although Giovanni Boccaccio is a foundational figure in Renaissance Humanism and literature. He remained in Certaldo. and scholars. Sometime after the death of his friend Petrarch in 1374. 1375. at the age of sixty-two. Her cousin Pandaro. To this late medieval tradition. “the sweet new style. Boccaccio brought a burgeoning Renaissance way of thinking. he also wrote eclogues. none of whom survived beyond adolescence. literary models. experienced the Black Death. He suffered from gout and scabies. and the poetry and prose she inspired reflect the tendency of contemporary poets to spiritualize the older courtly love traditions that originated in the writings of the twelfth century writer Andreas Cappellanus and the poetry of the troubadours and medieval romance poets. Calchas. The proem to the text 133 . Boccaccio creates a complex poem of love. In his narrative poetry. has defected to the Greek side. a prince in the house of King Priam of Troy and a great warrior in the ongoing battle with the Greeks. Though Troilo and Criseida swear fidelity and plan for a swift reunion. Although he never married.Critical Survey of Poetry Florence. The vicissitudes of war interrupt their love. Fiammetta. The Filostrato Boccaccio based The Filostrato on the twelfth century Le Roman de Troie (the romance of Troy) by Benoît de Sainte-Maure. The Decameron. His subsequent death on the battlefield is the only thing that relieves him of his emotional pain. a friend of Troilo. Specifically. Troilo’s quick and complete surrender to an overwhelming and seemingly boundless love for Criseida is contrasted with her slow and deliberate yielding to the advances made on his behalf by Pandaro. Humanists. as seen in his passion for the ideals. The poem is set against the famed Trojan War. an outgrowth of the literary and cultural sensibilities of the late medieval period. and the main character Troilo. he died. For Troilo. For all of his work. his devotion to his muse. discovers his friend’s love and orchestrates a meeting and later romantic trysts. is smitten with love for Criseida. Criseida is soon courted by the Greek Diomede and abandons Troilo. but she is quite capable of leaving him behind when the circumstances of her life change. Boccaccio’s later life was fruitful both artistically and in terms of scholarship. Boccaccio frequently explores the conflict between love and fortune and how each tests the lovers involved. Shortly thereafter. he was held in high esteem by contemporary poets. his mind turned to more spiritual matters. he met Petrarch. however. nevertheless. Not so for Criseida. In addition. by some reports. Giovanni tive poems reflect a conscious imitation of epic and have for their subject matter classical myth and heroic tradition. Like Dante. he chose to write in the vernacular and employ the dolce stil nuovo. his life and work are. and he would meet with many of them when he could. both made worse by obesity. He wrote the satire The Corbaccio and spent much of his time studying ancient texts and writing his encyclopedic works. passion. At this stage in his life. he began his most ambitious work. In 1350. Throughout the poem. Ultimately. whose pain and sorrow at the loss of his love can find no solace. which uses the devastation of Florence by the plague as the starting point and narrative frame for the telling of his hundred prose tales. and on December 21. She chooses to love Troilo and does so fully. it possesses him and renders him completely helpless in either working to fulfill his desires or extricating himself from them. and their lifelong friendship began. Two of the most important in this genre are The Filostrato and The Book of Theseus. Boccaccio’s Olympia. as Calchas arranges to have his daughter returned to him. In this work. and he possibly took minor religious orders. as she rules the relationship and to a great degree her own heart. and narrative texts of the classical world. his long narra- Boccaccio. a young widow whose father.

Chaucer found the work to be intriguing enough to use its plot. England: Society for the Study of Mediaeval Languages and Literature. wisdom. c. the cousins Arcita and Palemone. Nevertheless. Giovanni suggests that the theme and events reflect Boccaccio’s own love affairs. and passages as the basis for “The Knight’s Tale” in The Canterbury Tales. Branca. on behalf of Arcita. 1976. c. which in turn would be the source for Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida (pr. Prencipe Galeotto.: Annali d’Italianistica. Bibliography Bergin. 1373 (Life of Dante. instead tends toward the melodramatic and that the plot is stretched to meet the required twelve cantos necessary for an epic. who wins the battle and Emilia for his bride. The plot of the narrative relates how Teseo (Theseus) conquers the Amazons. Eventually their freedom is gained. and F. Joseph Carroll . Teseo is the human counterpart of the gods. eds. Translated by Richard Monges and Dennis McAuliffe. Genealogia deorum gentilium. Over the years. 1977. 1975). Corbaccio. rather than achieving the lofty se134 Critical Survey of Poetry riousness of epic narrative. nonfiction: Il filocolo. silvis. This is a good introduction to the life of the poet and is a thorough critical study of all of his works. Like his The Filostrato. Other major works short fiction: Decameron: O. Shortly thereafter. Teseo takes two Thebans prisoner. 1360. 1350-1375. 1620). De mulieribus claris. The essays contained in this work examine both his poetry and his prose in regard to feminism. 1355-1374. characters. De montibus. N. Ippolita’s sister. The Filostrato would eventually serve as the source for Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde (1382). c. Most students of English literature will come to Boccaccio’s works through Geoffrey Chaucer. De casibus virorum illustrium. Boccaccio: The Man and His Works. virtue. Boccaccio. After defeating Thebes in battle. Thomas. stagnis seu paludibus. 1361-1375 (Concerning Famous Women. After Palemone’s funeral. critics have debated Boccaccio’s success in reviving the classical epic in The Book of Theseus. c. 14311438). Chaucer and Boccaccio. Thomas Goddard. 2006. such as loyalty. Emilia and Arcita are married.Boccaccio. the two catch sight of Emilia. 1351. 1338. fontibus lacubus. Venus. piety. New York: Viking Press. it fuses the subjects of classical heroic poetry with a courtly love tradition. The Book of Theseus Set in ancient Greece. 1898). All three pray to the gods for intervention to resolve the conflict and receive answers. Interestingly. In the end. 1355 (The Corbaccio. The most recent trend in Boccaccio scholarship has been to examine his depiction of women. Chapel Hill. fluminubus. and then returns to his homeland. Boccaccio balances the turmoil and strife that both war and love can bring to the world with the balance and order of the world as ordained and maintained by the gods. they compete in a tournament for Emilia’s hand in marriage. Mars intercedes on behalf of Palemone. 1373-1374. Vittore. a twelve-canto poem. and power. Regina Psaki. For some. Ippolita (Hippolyta). This English-language biography is a respected source and is frequently referenced by critics. Trattatello in laude di Dante.C. 1601-1602). the poem presents the matters of love and war as situations that paradoxically allow human beings to achieve the highest expressions of their virtues. This is an excellent critical study of the literary connection between the poets. 1943). 1981. They claim that the poem. bravery. although literary historians have long debated how much of the poem is infused with autobiographical details. Esposizioni sopra la Commedia di Dante. New York: New York University Press. and compassion. c. 1355-1374 (The Fall of Princes. and with Teseo’s approval. 1349-1351 (The Decameron. The Book of Theseus. as he too is a source of order. while at the same time engaging in acts of war and in brutal conflict. strikes down Palemone. his ambition and hopes for the work as epic were not matched by his poetic abilities. is Boccaccio’s attempt to write a poem in Italian that is consciously modeled on the classical epics of Vergil and Statius. Piero. et de nominbus maris. Stillinger. While imprisoned. marries their queen. Boccaccio and Feminist Criticism. Oxford. Boitani. and are immediately smitten with love for her.

would inspire a sequel early in the following century from a more accomplished poet: the Orlando furioso (1516. imaginary world wherein loyalty and betrayal. 1521. He translated such classical prose works as Xenophon’s EllTnika (date unknown. after Giovanni Boiardo’s death around 1451. c.Critical Survey of Poetry Boiardo. producing his only known play. c. 1566). Matteo Maria Boiardo (boh-YOR-doh) experimented freely with different forms of writing throughout his lively career. count of Scandiano. Boiardo’s unfinished masterpiece. Giulio Ascanio Boiardo. Late in life. 1464 (English translation. Orlando Innamorato. Boiardo duly became count of Scandiano during the reign of Duke 135 Matteo Maria Boiardo Born: Scandiano. History of the Affairs of Greece. 1996) Trionfi. In Ferrara. Achievements Matteo Maria Boiardo’s major accomplishment. 1685) and Lucius Apuleius’s Metamorphoses (second century. and romantic love and human lust are explored. which is considered inferior to his other work. introduced to scholars. the title passed first to Boiardo’s uncle. 1468 Carmina de laudibus Estensium. a Renaissance fantasy-thriller best seller. Il Timone (pb. Niccolò III d’Este. as a member of the nobility. 1993) Other literary forms Though poetry—primarily Petrarchan sonnets. also known as Helenica. 1532. Boiardo. May. and exposed to chivalric traditions. c. 1499 (English translation. Orlando innamorato gathers several subject threads. though he concentrated more on story than style or accuracy. 1499 (English translation. and ottava rima—was his forte. Papal States (now in Italy). A knight who had served the duke of Ferrara. A secondary but perhaps longer-lasting achievement is Boiardo’s invention of what became the modern Tarot. December 19. was privately tutored. When his uncle died in 1460. c. Boiardo attempted to write for the theater. providing him with the opportunity to receive an excellent education. Biography Matteo Maria Boiardo was born in 1440 or 1441 at the family castle in Scandiano. eclogues. Boiardo’s grandfather. composed over the last two decades of the author’s life. tercets. the work for which he is best remembered. 1823) Rime. 1494 Principal poetry Pastoralia. The legends of Charlemagne and King Arthur are intertwined with myths and Renaissance sensibilities to produce an . near Reggio in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy. Working off a fifty-six-card deck of playing cards introduced into Italy in the early fifteenth century. He was the eldest of five children and the only son of Giovanni Boiardo and Lucia Strozzi. Papal States (now in Italy). including jousting tournaments. Feltrino Boiardo. sister of poet Tito Vespasiano Strozzi. The Golden Ass. 1835) Amorum libri tres. Matteo Maria idealized. 1487). the poet added twenty-two trumps (later called the major arcana) and appended brief poetic descriptions to produce the seventy-eight-card deck that would in succeeding centuries be used to divine fortunes. in response to a renewed local interest in the comedies of Terence and Plautus. 1475 Orlando innamorato. is his massive— more than four-thousand-stanza-long—yet uncompleted epic. during the late Crusades. was a major influence on the young poet’s life. Boiardo’s grandfather was a well-educated courtier who had written poetry and executed translations from classical literature. English translation. allowed access to the well-stocked d’Este library. chivalry and dishonor. 1440 or 1441 Died: Reggio nell’ Emilia. arranged for his grandson to inherit his title. A complex poem with hundreds of named characters. When Boiardo’s grandfather died in 1456. Boiardo’s grandfather brought the young Boiardo into the d’Este court during the reign of Niccolò’s successor Leonello (ruled 1441-1450). Boiardo’s grandfather. 1591) of Ludovico Ariosto. Boiardo would follow in his grandfather’s footsteps with great success. 1463 Epigrammata. 1483-1495 (English translation.

for which he sometimes wrote celebratory verse. and made them his own. Like those more famous names. by whom Boiardo fathered a son. and enamored of drama. members of the Medici and Sforza families. reshaped and reinvented them. Boiardo fell into obscurity until the nineteenth century. Modena. As a member of one of the most trusted families during the intrigue-filled Renaissance in Italy. and revolt before leaving the post early in 1483 to protect Scandiano during a war with Venice. and Reggio to the mythological Hercules. a witty and learned individual. he contended with plague. Boiardo contributed to the milieu through his literary abilities. composing courtly love sonnets in the manner of Petrarch and translating excerpts from Greek and Latin classics for the entertainment of the dukes and their retinue. captivated by a popular card game. Early decks. and Niccolò Machiavelli—Matteo Maria Boiardo was also a Renaissance man. daughter of the count of Novellara. . Boiardo was successively caught up in the rediscovery of classical Greek and Latin thought and style. producing works to entertain the elite and discriminating court of Ferrara. who made Ferrara one of Europe’s most distinguished and fashionable centers of art and science during the late fifteenth century. an enclave bordered to the south by the powerful Republic of Florence and the Papal States. Once he had perfected the technique. famine. He began by imitating Petrarch. In the fullness of time. Though much of his written work was reprinted or anthologized posthumously in Italy throughout the following century. in the process becoming a consummate storyteller in verse. It is probable that gambling on the turns of cards took place from the outset. which originated in Florence about 1400 and swept through Italy and the rest of Europe. His Trionfi—tercets written on fifty-six playing cards and twenty-two trumps that were precursors to modern Tarot decks—were probably composed in advance of the reception that accompanied the marriage of Borso’s sister Bianca to Boiardo’s cousin Galeotta Pico della Mirandola in 1468. he drew on past works for inspiration. Boiardo. Trionfi Introduced into northern Italy around 1425. Boiardo was summoned to participate at important events. he took existing materials. or trumps) because higher-numbered cards triumphed over lesser cards— quickly became a favorite aristocratic pastime at court functions. consisting of four suits of either thirteen or fourteen cards. he too was a product of and a contributor to an age of discovery that dragged the world from the medieval into the modern age. During his three-year tenure. In 1480. compared that newly created duke of Ferrara. were produced for especially happy occasions such as weddings. Boiardo was granted a stipend in the mid-1470’s. when Boiardo was already engaged in writing Orlando Innamorato. His romantic Armorum libri tres was inspired by his unrequited love for Antonia Caprara before his marriage in the early 1470’s to Taddea Gonzaga. Ercole named Boiardo governor of Reggio. he was physically in the path of the first wave of scientific and intellectual inquiry called the Renaissance. and several daughters. the unofficial poet laureate of Ferrara. In 1487. and festivals. His Carmina de laudibus Estensium. Born just after the Gutenberg press was introduced. Boiardo’s relative obscurity is more a result of his operation within a smaller sphere of influence than of his talent. His venue was the duchy of Ferrara. Like authors from any epoch. Steeped in the available literature of his era. Matteo Maria Borso d’Este (ruled 1450-1471) and afterward divided his time between his home and Ferrara. military victories. Ercole d’Este (ruled 1471-1505). written for Ercole’s investiture. and to the north by the Republic of Venice and the territories of the Milanese and Genoese city-states. Boiardo was fortunately situated in both place and in time. Duke Ercole appointed Boiardo governor of Modena. and he remained at that post until his death in 1494.Boiardo. playing cards—called trionfi (triumphs. writing sonnets of unrequited love in the traditional octave/sestet form. he moved on to whatever attracted his eager mind. Camillo. when he was rediscovered. Christopher Columbus. 136 Critical Survey of Poetry Analysis As much as any of his better-known Italian contemporaries—Leonardo da Vinci. Boiardo began writing in his late teens. was a popular presence at the courts of both Borso and his successor. Some of his love poems may have been completed for the wedding of Ippolita Sforza. the year that Boiardo had the first two books of Orlando Innamorato privately published. Because of his charm and talent.

Boiardo significantly changed the concept of playing cards. Other major works play: Il Timone. examples of these five-hundred-year-old cards still exist. English translation. Orlando Innamorato The work with which Boiardo is most closely identified. twelfth century. plus twenty-two trump cards. 1464. enchanted groves. Matteo Maria legend and mythology.Critical Survey of Poetry In the 1460’s. 1485. griffins. 1802). and the Siege of Albracca. 1320. Boiardo also references current events. illustrating the particular quality with an example from Greek mythology. essentially inventing a new game that came to be known as the Tarot. Boiardo changed suits and symbols of minor cards to match the four passions of which he wrote: love (arrows). c. It is not known precisely when the original game of chance segued to a method of fortune-telling. At the core of the story is the love of the knight Orlando (the Italian version of Roland. poetic statement about the particular emotion in question. 1487. Boiardo’s seventyeight-card structure has been retained. Grace. Anger. Boiardo brings in a damsel on a palfrey with a new tale of woe and a quest to pursue. or confronts the hero with an antagonist to present a fresh challenge. As if that were not enough. and Perseverance). jealousy (eyes). from erotic love (for the ladies) to the mayhem of battle (for the lords). and seventyeight tercets (three-line poems) to accompany each card from a fifty-six-card deck. If all else fails. To these. Further complicating the issue are scores of secondary characters on all sides. a unique paean to an idealized chivalrous age when the concepts of loyalty and honor. the poet resorts to cliffhangers: He leaves a protagonist in peril and cuts to a previous scene where a different character is in jeopardy. The Decameron. nonfiction: Di viris illustribus. Thwarting that love are two major conflicts: the Siege of Paris. his friends. the king of Cathay. in the modern Tarot. working in compliments to the Este family and news about a war between Ferrara and Venice. However. The composite result is the colorful. A sprawling romantic epic in regular octaves of ababcc structure. 1620). c. Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1387-1400). and fear (batons). wistful Orlando Innamorato. from Chanson de Roland. translation: Istoria Imperiale. He composed eighty poems for Trionfi: introductory and concluding sonnets explaining the nature of the game. and rivals experience dozens of encounters with giants and dwarves. and many of the twenty-two trumps of the major arcana still bear the names or ideas he attached to them.. and Homer’s Odyssey (c. against marauding Tartars. matching Angelica’s father. Though his simplistic poetry has been eliminated to allow greater freedom of interpretation for card readers. The Song of Roland. Echoes of many earlier works are present in Orlando Innamorato. in serialized fashion like a medieval version of a modern soap opera. Orlando. Boiardo added twenty-two special cards (such as Reason. miscellaneous: Eclogues. Orlando Innamorato. magical swords. The epic presents an alternative universe: an imaginary age based partly on historical events and partly on Boiardo. much of the symbolism he initially alluded to remains. offered his audiences something for every taste. Prencipe Galeotto (1349-1351. hope (chalices). pb. the poem was probably read aloud at court functions as a particular section was finished. 1475 (of Ricobaldo of Ferrara’s Chronicon Imperatorum). pitting Orlando’s king. and a host of other fantastic dangers that keep tension and audience interest high. against the invading Saracens. all held together and enhanced by the poet’s skill. truth and the quest still mattered. The Divine Comedy. 1614) present intriguing subplots. Dante’s La divina commedia (c. the poet was the first to introduce the concept of the wild card by inserting the Fool (Joker) into his deck. Giovanni Boccacio’s Decameron: O. dragons. Whenever the plot drags. Elements from the Arthurian legends. love potions.c. Written late in Boiardo’s career—and a work still in progress at his death—Orlando Innamorato demonstrates both the author’s wide-ranging learning and his maturity as a poet. World. 725 b. c. the saga of El Cid. each card contained a pithy.e. whose allegiances shift back and forth. The first seventy-eight-card deck designed to Boiardo’s scheme was produced around the time of his death. 137 . Charlemagne. 1880) for the exotic Angelica of Cathay.

Orlando Innamorato. 2004. Reggio. Trevor. New York: Cambridge University Press. Ludovico Ariosto. Translated by Charles Stanley Ross. Boileau-Despréau. France. as well as Dialogue des héros de roman (1688. A newly revised and unabridged translation of the epic for a general audience. 2004. members of which would exert considerable political authority in and around the northern Italian cities of Ferrera. Matteo Maria. West Lafayette. Land and Power in Late Medieval Ferrara: The Rule of the Este. The Heroes of Romances. A compact but invaluable resource. His letters. probably the most powerful and authoritarian monarch Christian Europe had yet 138 . Jo Ann. Matteo Maria Boiardo: A Bibliography of Works and Criticism from 1487-1980. 17111713) Les Épîtres. Boileau also translated the ancient critic Longinus’s treatise on the sublime into French as Traité du sublime. who stood for the “modern” side. 2004. 1669-1698 (12 volumes. Nicolas Bibliography Boiardo. 1711 Also known as: N. Jack Ewing Critical Survey of Poetry Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux Born: Paris. Ont. March 13.: Parlor Press. 1683 (partial English translation.: Canadian Federation for the Humanities. 1682) Ode du sieur D*** sur la prise de Namur. Achievements Though Pierre Corneille produced greater imaginative work. Most interesting to the student of literature and criticism is his correspondence with Charles Perrault. complete with summaries of events to assist reader understanding and appreciation. Ottawa. 1984. This study compares and contrasts the political motivations and treatments of subject matter of the three major epic romance poets of the Italian Renaissance: Boiardo.: Destiny Books. 1350-1450. and Tasso: From Public Duty to Private Pleasure. Mystical Origins of the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usage. Molinaro. 2002. 1711-1713) L’Art poétique. 1683) Le Lutrin. Ariosto. for he was a favorite of King Louis XIV. Cavallo. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1693 Other literary forms Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (bwaw-LOH day-prayOH) published an extensive selection of his letters to both friends and antagonists. composed in a highly literary style and envisioned as published documents. as Boileau did for the “ancient. 1636 Died: Paris. and Torquato Tasso. 1674 (The Art of Poetry. 1713). of which Boileau disapproved. November 11.Boileau-Despréaux. Paul. Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux was the most commanding of the seventeenth century French neoclassical critics. Rochester. Satires. bringing it back into the mainstream of European literary tradition. English translation. are an important part of his oeuvre. Julius A.” in the famous Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns that preoccupied the French cultural scene in the latter half of the seventeenth century. Dean. This profusely illustrated volume traces the symbolical and metaphorical origins of Tarot cards from their purported beginning in ancient Persia through their introduction into Europe in the early fifteenth century to their use in modern times. His prescriptions on art were connected with the perceived good of the state. this book traces the history of the publication of Boiardo’s works in various languages and describes the literary reactions at the time. Monsieur Despréau Principal poetry Les Satires. encompassing Boiardo’s contributions to the lore of the cards. Provides a detailed study of the rise of the wealthy Este family. France. Huson. 1674. Vt. 1666-1711 (12 volumes. and Modena during the time Boiardo flourished at their courts. a highly critical assessment of the novel form. Ind. The Romance Epics of Boiardo.

. he had instead pursued the study of law. and the moral fervor of someone whose standard of taste would not permit him to sit silently while bad writing by others was overpraised. as well as beast-fable personas such as the donkey who narrates satire VII. English translation. but the solid middle class. Boileau. with the publication of part of his Satires.. The year 1674 was something of an annus mirabilis for Boileau. who saw a career at court as a way to rise in society. Increasing deafness and the lingering effects of a botched surgery performed on his back in his youth hindered him in his later years. with many small jokes and flourishes adding to their intricacy. but also published his translation of the ancient critic Longinus’s Peri hypsous (first century c. epitomized the base of the king’s support. 29-19 b.e. which was not the aristocracy. If Boileau at times seems like the mouthpiece of an authoritarian ruler. On the Sublime. they are among his most complex works. By 1666. then wrote georgics (poems dealing with agriculture). he had established himself as a bright young star in the French literary firmament. Analysis The satire at once seems an inevitable genre for someone of Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux’s opinions and temperament. In 1677. the Aeneid (c. and he increasingly put his life at court and his responsibilities to that social milieu ahead of his writing. as he not only produced Le Lutrin and The Art of Poetry. but by the age of twenty. his two major works of poetry. the abrasive newcomer whose elders both are shocked by and swoon over him. All these elements combined to render Boileau the epitome of the enfant terrible. became his greatest legacy to European literature. indeed. Structurally.c. involving personified allegorical figures such as Raison (reason) and Esprit (spirit). but Boileau Boileau-Despréaux. Nicolas had a combination of the confidence of the young.Critical Survey of Poetry seen. which. the moxie of someone not born to power and wealth and thus lacking culturally sown social inhibitions. The Satires of Boileau are not just monologic screeds but also little playlets. yet an interesting choice for a young poet starting off his literary career. or wheel of Vergil: Vergil had started off writing pastoral poems. although he remained revered by younger writers. Satire was a somewhat wayward choice. he was named historiographer to the king. Boileau was writing in an age when the development of a poet’s work was expected to conform to the rota vergilii. This satire of two Catholic clerics quarrel- Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (Hulton Archive/Getty Images) 139 . whose privileges the king curtailed. 1553). and finally his great epic. in the long term. 1652). it can also be said that he possessed the verve and sense of individual assurance to keep up with the demands of an often petulant monarch and an often capricious and intrigue-ridden court.e. Le Lutrin Le Lutrin (the lectern) was also an unusual choice for Boileau. Biography Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux was born and raised in Paris and was intended for the church.

The Art of Poetry. Boileau. however. had the contemporary scene on his mind a great deal. In The Art of Poetry. also disliked some writers for religious reasons. was published in the same year as the bulk of Le Lutrin. There is thus a tactical. the fairy-tale writer and wit Perrault). many of the writers he dislikes 140 Critical Survey of Poetry are clearly. However. The poem has another aim. He displays a striking sensitivity to language. He loved the classics because they were the best works he knew. however: It is a partisan document that seeks to position Boileau vis-à-vis older poets who were his rivals (and whom he hoped to dislodge) and who were less interested than Boileau in securing the good graces of the royal court. indeed.c. and put “the sublime” on the modern literary map. Nicolas ing over where to place a lectern in a church was not an attack on Catholicism as such. although liberal-leaning English commentators such as John Dennis mistakenly interpreted it as such. He merely wants to explore the poetic effect of taking the well-developed form of epic and training it on a trivial subject. he mimics them himself. or those he sees as such. opportunistic element in his work. However. demonstrating that he knows where of he speaks. His position in the Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns was determinedly on the ancient side (Boileau’s great rival in literary life was his opposite number in this quarrel. It is for this reason that most ancient and medieval treatises preoccupied themselves with writers who were safely in the past. One aim is to set abiding rules for the writing of literature. Boileau is repeating long-established critical precepts. It is a didactic poem in four books explicitly modeled on the work of the Latin poet Horace in the first century b. Most . Boileau imparts a wry lesson in incongruity that has a poetically self-conscious and experimental aspect. because it both satirizes people for quarreling over trifles and implies that the traditional contexts for epic antagonism are often little more than such trifles. though. Boileau’s taste has stood the test of time. Boileau did let his judgment at times be affected by partisanism. was too intellectually imposing and had too much good sense to be just a literary courtier. Traité du sublime Boileau was also influential in a very different way.Boileau-Despréaux. using the characteristic meter and diction of the mode. sieur de Saint-Amant. The mission of The Art of Poetry is twofold. seigneur du Bartas. or to reiterate those the tradition had already espoused. Boileau is not out to burlesque the entire idea of epic. for him. not just because of their literary standing. he no doubt felt that they needed to be displayed to each new generation. He disliked Marc-Antoine Girard. rescued him from obscurity. such as the Huguenot (Protestant) poet Guillaume de Salluste. For this firm critical stance. a pious Catholic. though that can most likely be said of anybody who writes about contemporaries because of the unavoidable jealousy or self-interest involved. The Art of Poetry Boileau’s major poem. What Boileau intended was to make fun of two serious men of responsibility quibbling over such a trivial matter. When he is critiquing inept poetic procedures. in which writers not studied in modern times are denigrated in favor of such still well-known figures as Jean Racine and Corneille. he spends time on recent and contemporary writers as well as the classics. Boileau both provides general rules for the art of poetry and exemplifies them. As in the Satires. people whom he could conceivably hope to dislodge and who in any event were probably in decline. given what he saw as the literary culture’s tendency toward mediocrity and complacency. Le Lutrin is a mock epic like Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock (1712. Boileau was known as “the legislator of Parnassus” (the mountain where the mythical Nine Muses were said to dwell). Boileau. seeing “Childebrand” as a name unfit to be honored by treatment in poetic meter. most of his criticisms of writers whom he finds inadequate or incompetent are of older contemporaries.e. diminished by their Protestantism or their insufficient royalism. Despite the dignity and serenity of both his prose and his imaginative outlook. whose biblical epic Moïse sauvé (1653) was at the time thought likely to become the major French contribution to the epic tradition. For example. His exacting standards proved beneficial in that they crystallized what neoclassical criticism actually aspired to do instead of simply ventilating its slogans. In many ways. Boileau has some of the “young conservatism” often seen in those who seek to rise in society against an entrenched elite and yet still affirm the society’s codified values. 1714). as he translated Longinus. Boileau.

“Boileau’s Nerve: Or. 2003): 26-36. Peters. Réflexions sur Longin. Delahanty. “Boileau and the Sound of Satirze. Ind. he probably was motivated by reasons different from those that inspired later followers of the sublime. Boileau introduced a new vocabulary into criticism that was eventually to upend the stranglehold of the very neoclassical prescriptions he so eloquently affirmed. Wygant. Rome vaincue (1654). Weinbrot mentions Boileau frequently as a key figure in the literary history of satire. Gordon. but his spirit was larger than the use they made of him. Boileau and the Nature of Neoclassicism. the levels of awe and vastness that Longinus evoked may have been thought the only truly adequate backdrop for the aura of the king. Pocock. Literary Satire and Theory: A Study of Horace. 2007): 233-253. Boileau. Épître IX. the third century political figure. politically and aesthetically. an identification that later scholars disproved. “Mapping the Aesthetic Mind: John Dennis and Nicolas Boileau. A specialized study of the Satires. Reading Boileau: An Integrative Study of the Early Satires. The majesty of Louis XIV aspired to dignity beyond the merely stately. Still the best standard account of Boileau in the context of the aesthetic theories of his age. 2 (1995): 128-139. no. “I sing the conqueror of the conquerors of the earth. Wood. this line would have been over the top by a wide margin and is somewhat so even here. Selected Criticism. 2 (April. 1674 (of Longinus’s On the Sublime). Delahanty. than Boileau. Amy. Ann. Allen G. going into great depth on their structure and meaning. Nicholas Birns 141 . no. Boileau discerns a sense of proportion in Longinus. Howard. Though Boileau’s satires were of the more traditional Horatian or Juvenalian kind rather than the more idea-oriented Menippean variety that Weinbrot considered. 1668. Boileau was revived by later classicists such as Ferdinand Brunetière. An innovative look at Boileau in the context of gender studies. though. 1980.” Journal of the History of Ideas 68. generally subscribing to the mainstream hierarchies and evaluations of his time. which is far more Aristotelian than the image usually presented of Longinus. Weinbrot. especially good on the connection with the theories of Longinus. West Lafayette. Longinus himself was no revolutionary. The sublime cannot be put simply anywhere and still operate as the sublime. Jeffrey N. Dialogue des héros de roman. 3 (Fall. 1683 (wr. Other major works nonfiction: Discours sur la satire. 2005. stresses the commonalities of outlook between the two writers. 1998. 1675). The most in-depth look at Boileau’s formal aspects. The best available study of Boileau within the tradition that he cherished and did so much to promulgate. 1688 (The Heroes of Romances. In reviving Longinus. translation: Traité du sublime. Menippean Satire Reconsidered: From Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century. 1965. no. commending the splendor-filled beginning of Georges de Scudéry’s epic Alaric: Ou.” Esprit Créateur 43. and Pope.” but also saying that.: Purdue University Press. 1713). in any other context. The greatest advocate of established truths was also the seventeenth century critic who most opened the way for their eventual overthrow. Boileau believed that Longinus was identifiable with Cassius Longinus. New York: Cambridge University Press. c. New York: Garland. Nicolas Bibliography Corum. 1985. 1701). 1694 (preface to Œuvres diverses. miscellaneous: The Works of Monsieur Boileau.Critical Survey of Poetry immediately. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.” Forum for Modern Language Studies 31. Boileau-Despréaux. Made English by Several Hands. 1711-1713 (3 volumes). Boileau’s classicism helps him understand the importance of tone and structure with regard to the sublime. Compares Boileau to an English critic of the same period who was much more liberal. it has to be deployed discerningly and with an awareness of proportion. Dissertation sur Jaconde. it is notable in seeing his satiric practice as more subversive than is usually the case. Robert. 1669. The Poetics of Masculinity.

some of his most moving prose writing is that which ties the experience of the artist to the interior experience of the imaginative writer. 1991 Early Poems. 1977 Poèmes. 1968 Dans le leurre du seuil. the background in a painting) allows for an extended meditation on the figures in the backgrounds of classic paintings and the feeling of well-being that Bonnefoy has experienced in his childhood and in his many travels. 1985 Ce qui fut sans lumière. 1958 Pierre écrite. Bonnefoy is not simply an academic critic. the existence of the loved one. His collection of lectures. 1947 Du mouvement et de l’immobilité de Douve. he combines insightful discussions of classical Renaissance paintings with meditations on the sources of inspiration he draws from his own childhood. Rimbaud. 1975 Rue traversière. 1985) L’Ordalie. In L’Arrière-pays 142 . 1981-1993 (1999) is a compilation of his poetics. 1975 (The Lure of the Threshold. the red cloud) and La Présence et l’image (1983. 2001 Les Planches courbes. the place of truth—his poetic language is highly imaged and moves equally in the realms of beauty and truth. France. 1976) Selected Poems. while in some sense unreal. His poetry has always maintained the quality of being highly meditated and serious in purpose. June 24. His essays on art span the entire range from Byzantine to contemporary. from the essays in L’Improbable et autres essais (1959. Yves Bonnefoy Born: Tours. This interior experience is Bonnefoy’s major focus in his literary criticism as well. Yves Critical Survey of Poetry (1972. 1978 Poems. The title (which brings to mind arrière-plan. The philosophical issues that the poet locates in his artistic and literary researches are. 1995 Le Cœur-espace. He is also renowned for his translations of William Shakespeare’s plays into French. 1991 New and Selected Poems. but it struck a chord with a whole generation of readers and poets. 2001 (The Curved Planks. 1977 Trois remarques sur la couleur. on the twentieth century Italian sculptor. 2006) Other literary forms Yves Bonnefoy (BAWN-foy) has distinguished himself in the fields of art criticism and literary criticism. 1980. with the result that the poetry and the critical works come to mirror each other’s concerns. 1959-1975. 1946 Anti-Platon. Thus the line “Ô Saisons. 1991) Début et fin de la neige. ô châteaux” (oh seasons. the back country). becomes for Bonnefoy both a utopian dream and a reality that can be reached through language. 1947-1959. Things Newborn: Selected Poems. 1923 Principal poetry Traité du pianiste. oh castles). fed back into his poetry. 1987 (In the Shadow’s Light. Lieux et destins de l’image: Un Cours de poétique au Collège de France. Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work. are able to lead the reader to what he calls the “true place” of poetry. from studies of the Renaissance and the Baroque to such works as Bonnefoy’s Alberto Giacometti: Biographie d’une œuvre (1991. While his preoccupations are philosophical—death. Bonnefoy returns again and again to the idea that the images a poet uses. and many would identify him as the most important French poet-intellectual at the turn of the twenty-first century. “The Improbable” and other essays) to the monograph Rimbaud par luimême (1961. 1968) Hier régnant désert. 1953 (On the Motion and Immobility of Douve. 1965 (Words in Stone. which begins the famous poem by Rimbaud. His early work had the character of being challenging and even hermetic. 1991). the presence of the image).Bonnefoy. Achievements Yves Bonnefoy is one of the most highly admired poets to reach maturity in France in the post-World War II period. 1973) to the collections Le Nuage rouge (1977. in turn. 1985 Things Dying. for example.

he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Chicago in 1988. in Tours. His writings on art are prized both for what they say about individual artists and for the high level of reflection they bring to the subject of creativity. His mother was a nurse and later a schoolteacher.Critical Survey of Poetry The close association Bonnefoy has always maintained with visual artists who are his contemporaries has given him a high prominence in the art world as well. Paris. the Prix Del Duca (1995). and in many ways. Yves awards include the Grand Prix de Poésie from the French Academy (1981). and the Franz Kafka Prize in 2007. Bonnefoy considered his grandparents’ home his own true home. the Grand Prix Société des Gens de Lettres (1987). A regular affiliation with Yale University and visiting professorships at other American universities ensured Bonnefoy’s prominence among American academic circles as well. the Bourse Goncourt (1991). the Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Grand Prize (2000). He was also honored. Yves Bonnefoy (©Sophie Bassouls/Sygma/CORBIS) 143 . the Bennett Award from Hudson Review (1988). France. Bonnefoy’s nomination to the chair of comparative studies of the poetic function at the Collège de France in 1981 confirmed his position as one of France’s leading poets and intellectual figures. Biography Yves Bonnefoy was born on June 24. His early life was divided between the working-class surroundings of Tours and the rural home of his maternal grandfather. with an exhibition of his manuscripts and other documents at the Bibliothèque Nationale. in 1992. he has tended more and more in his later career to pursue his interests in art and the theory of culture. Though he maintains a teaching position in literature. 1923. the Prix National de Poésie (1996). primarily chemistry and mathematics. He studied in Tours and at the University of Poitiers. His many other Bonnefoy. his father died when Bonnefoy was thirteen. a schoolteacher and natural intellectual who had a great influence on the boy. the Prix Balzac (1995).

poetic language. Bonnefoy has traveled widely. it is to restore the real dimension of experience. and having broken away from Breton’s influence. the speaker seeks to discover his own destiny based on an identification . As the sequence progresses. The path to those truths may of necessity be a difficult one. This combined interest in poetry and philosophy has remained with him during his entire career. but once there he found that his interests moved more toward poetry and philosophy. Bonnefoy is a highly original and engaging writer of criticism exploring these issues. he was reading the poetry of Paul Éluard. his highly publicized lecture “La Présence et l’image” (presence and the image) became a major statement for his particular style of intermixing philosophy and literature. is based on a young girl of his acquaintance who died a sudden and tragic death. He is recognized as one of the most important poets of his generation.Bonnefoy. During this time. Yves Bonnefoy’s work has sounded the note of a serious pursuit of the truths that language reveals. In 1981. la nuit. Perhaps paradoxically. he and friends edited a journal. especially in pursuing his growing interest in art. (He gives her name only in a later collection. allowed him to travel. He published his work on Francisco de 144 Critical Survey of Poetry Goya’s paintings Goya. and studied widely different subjects. he earned a living teaching at universities. and the theory of culture. His early divergence from the later figures of the Surrealist movement in France seems to have been provoked by what he perceived as a lack of purpose in their pursuits. both in France and in the United States. Throughout his working career. against any sort of Platonic ideal. at the inauguration ceremony of his being named a department chair at the Collège de France. For Bonnefoy. including Egyptian francophone Surrealist Georges Henin. the anchor’s long chain). whose influence. “tempered the influences of Baudelaire and [Paul] Valéry. in 2006. By extension. Anti-Platon The early works Anti-Platon (against Plato) and On the Motion and Immobility of Douve introduce his poetry of high seriousness and announce a break from Surrealist practice. On the Motion and Immobility of Douve The figure of Douve in Bonnefoy’s second collection. he formed many important friendships with young artists and poets. La Revolution. in turn. He sought out what remained of the Surrealist group— André Breton in particular—and although his formal association with it was brief. These. and a new collection of poetry. art history. so the investigation in the poems moves between the image of the dead young woman and death in general.” In politics. Bonnefoy married. edited a review. On the Motion and Immobility of Douve. the importance of life emerges fully only when one confronts the actual death of someone. Analysis From the beginning of his poetic career. Le Cœur-espace (heart space). but it has always been in his poetry that he has sought to discover their ground. which allowed him to attend lectures and apply for research grants. there can be no turning back. The poems in the second collection take up this theme. les peintures noires. Subsequently. The Curved Planks was included among the texts of the baccalauréat. Yves Bonnefoy moved to Paris in 1943 to continue his scientific studies. he published a collection of early Surrealist texts. eventually taking a degree by writing a thesis on Charles Baudelaire and Søren Kierkegaard. He was poor during these years and benefited from his sister’s influence as a secretary at the Sorbonne in that she found him a job there. here and now. they are also the poems that established Bonnefoy as one of the most important poets of his generation. The Curved Planks. the importance of this real object leads Bonnefoy to examine the importance of this real life. above all. escaping the draft for “compulsory labor” during World War II because the war ended before he was called. this object here and now. according to Bonnefoy. He began to publish his poems and art criticism as well. Bonnefoy accepted jobs in Paris as a mathematics and science teacher. If Bonnefoy declares early his stance.) As the form in the poems alternates between highly organized quatrains and looser prose-poem utterances. he was a Trotskyite. Bonnefoy examines the relationship between prose and poetry in La Longue Chaîne de l’ancre (2008. In 2001. is a place or a function that grants access to the truths of existence. In 2005. but once one is on that path. in its affective dimension. becoming a professor of comparative poetics and department chair at the Collège de France in 1981.

shut up”).” Over against the natural forces that are imaged here as present because of her death. an identification with her voice allows the poet to discover his own utterance. Si brûlant soit le gel de notre intimité. As he says in “À la voix de Kathleen Ferrier” (“to the voice of Kathleen Ferrier”): Je célèbre la voix mêlée de couleur grise Qui hésite aux lointains du chant qui s’est perdu Comme si au delà de toute forme pure Tremblât un autre chant et le seul absolu. Even so. She is troubling. which the figure of the woman makes to the speaker. she is named—Kathleen Ferrier. wind and cold. and I enshroud you In the act of knowing and of naming. However burning the frost of our intimacy Douve. The poet en- 145 . This progression reaches its completion in the injunction. then. The tone is serious and the subject matter highly philosophical. the act of naming and of knowing restores a certain presence to the lost loved one. saying simply. “ce cri sur moi vient de moi” (“this cry above me comes from me”). it is in the past tense. this is a first stage: Far from being consoling. The central part of the collection.) Bonnefoy. although here. there seems to emerge the injunction to silence as the most accurate means of representing death. to remain silent. where the poet not only recognizes himself in his own expression but also is faced with his own anguish. Paradoxically. death is present in the form of a person who is no longer there. of essence. In the following poems. Yves ters this region of contradiction when he says: “Je parle dans ton sang” (“I speak in your blood”). Words in Stone. at least in one poem. his authentic attitude toward death.” she finishes by saying: “Que le verbe s’éteigne” (“Let the verb be extinguished”). (I celebrate the voice mixed with grey color Which hesitates in the sung distances of what is lost As if beyond every pure form Trembled another song and the only absolute. because she poses the question of existence. (And though great cold rises in your being. The only way to overcome this separation is by the identification involved in speaking. Douve. je parle en toi. These collections continue to explore the areas mapped out by Bonnefoy’s earlier work. When she speaks in the first part of the collection. It is by means of this questioning that the poet discovers his own means of expression. voice. The poem that begins “Mais que se taise” (“but that one be silent”) requires silence above all of the one “Qui parle pour moi” (“who speaks for me”). The figure of the dead woman has led the speaker to a privileged place of being. however. in the poems of this collection as far as the identification of the poet with the figure of the dead woman by means of her speech. and she speaks of natural forces. Bonnefoy returns again to the Douve figure. More even than the torment of mourning. in the series of poems bearing the title “Douve speaks. will name Beatrice. the speaker says. The poet-speaker sees her. Changing to the present tense. and as a result there is a separation. Death is a constant presence and is confronted continually for what it tells about existence. Hier régnant désert The collected edition of Bonnefoy’s poetry Poèmes of 1978 added three important collections to the earlier work. In this work. That which one must recognize in oneself as death surpasses the function of speech. it leads the poet to the point of anguish. Hier régnant désert (yesterday the desert reigning). “Douve je parle en toi” (“Douve.Critical Survey of Poetry with the words of the young woman. during a time of anguish and of struggle: “Quand la lumière enfin s’est faite vent et nuit” (“When the light at last has become wind and night”).) This is one of the strong moments of identification and the beginning of poetic creation. There is a progression. she is even more direct. of being. Whereas to see an image of the dead young woman leads to separation. In Hier régnant désert. The same contradictions between a conflicted natural universe and a tragic sense of human destiny are confronted again in the elemental terms: face. I speak in you. et je t’enserre Dans l’acte de connaître et de nommer. and The Lure of the Threshold. begins with this identification in speaking. as Bonnefoy describes it in his essay “The Act and the Place of Poetry”: “So Dante who has lost her. however. I speak in you”): Et si grand soit le froid qui monte de ton être. “Tais-toi” (“remain silent. The speaker finds himself in a place of radical transformations. the separation of death. “Douve parle” (Douve speaks).

smoke. sans avoir.) Critical Survey of Poetry refigured in the form of the poem itself. of mystery. It is as though the silence that was so important thematically in the speech of Douve has been 146 . spread out. It may or may not carry direct reference to Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential philosophy. as in these lines from “Deux Barques” (two boats): “Étoiles. In all of Bonnefoy’s work. which affirmed the stone’s interiority and self-identity over time while denying these same inherent qualities to the human subject. As this example makes clear. The simplest language thus becomes a language of tragic dimensions. In like manner. Words in Stone Even the poems ostensibly concerned with inanimate objects bear their burden of existence. “L’Épars. a mood of high seriousness is the result. the heavens could be the content and the bed an image to describe the appearance of stars. une naissance. the indivisible). an anaphoric This deceptively simple poem about a stone carries a weight of thought and image balanced off in a skillful suspension. Bonnefoy’s long meditations on the power of language to investigate the central issues of existence remain as intense in his later work as in his earlier poetry. an extremely restricted vocabulary is used to describe the conflicts between nature and human existence. each statement offering but a hint of the overall movement in the poem. Infiniment II n’a étreint que sa mort. verse of his early career./ Le ciel. He is clearly uninterested in easy sentiment or pleasing verses. Bereft of the human qualities of knowing or having. as does this short poem from Words in Stone.” take on an elemental sense rather than being merely descriptive. without having. From the short. Words such as “stone” and “fire. with birth as an added metaphorical element. however. un lit défait. From the highly wrought. Bonnefoy places hard demands on the conceptual capabilities of his readers. Toutes lignes de vent et de déception Furent son gîte. hinting at what the speaker cannot say. Bonnefoy here moves to a more expanded utterance. Poèmes Bonnefoy’s later poems in Poèmes trace a dialectic between the tragic sense of human destiny. The voice that is celebrated seems to have lost all contact with the merely human as it moves toward the realms of pure being. and the introjected tragedy of nature examined in the poem from Words in Stone. fumées. Bonnefoy’s turn on the idea here is to introject the tragic sense into the simple being of the stone. (It desired. a dialogue between being and nonbeing—Bonnefoy brings a new element of disjunction and. His poetry presents a continual invitation to join in the struggle out of which the truths of existence emerge. without knowing It perished. All lines of wind and of deception Were its shelter Infinitely It only grasped its death. ultimately. Almost always. These word elements are placed in the context of laconic statements. II a péri. Into the atmosphere of charged philosophical speculation—in effect. a birth. often highly formal. sans connaître. Yves This poem is more insistently philosophical than any examined hereto.” “wind” and “star. The difference in the later works is in their form. an unmade bed. l’indivisible” (the sparse. This overall movement in turn is established through the cumulative force of these elemental images placed into disjunctive and often contradictory sequences.” (“Stars. Arbres.”) The traditional analysis of metaphor in terms of “tenor" and “vehicle” becomes very difficult with lines such as these.Bonnefoy. “Une Pierre” (a stone): Il désirait./ The sky. lapidary form of the early work has emerged a laconic style. The elemental forces at work in the poem’s image sequences reflect directly on the human dimension of existence. répandues. it was at one with nature and alone to face death. as presented in Douve’s words. Though the poems are longer. In the final poem of this collection. there is a greater degree of fragmentation. Trees. How is one to decide what is the content of the statement and what is the rhetorical trapping? Here the stars could be the vehicle for an image having as its content the beginning of human life.

and the terrible silence of the garden. almost staccato language. par même l’erreur. The passeur (ferryman) as the inevitable flow of time and change in a mortal’s life transfers his passenger from one shore of the river to the other. while the human being cannot actually physically return to the past./ Oui. the poetry’s imagery is harsh and unsettling.Critical Survey of Poetry repetition is utilized. however. Le Cœur-espace is a poetry dominated by images that in the Surrealist tradition hope to reveal that which is true. The highly wrought. Other images include pikes of wind. he discovered what he refers to as a rhythm in the images that played a greater role in revealing the true than the images themselves. and the sources of creativity in life history have always been motivated by a search for truth that can then find form and be expressed in his poetry. Bonnefoy has stated that Le Cœur-espace. they are timeless. Le Cœur-espace Surrealism has played an important role in Bonnefoy’s poetry. Under the general structuring principle of affirmation. the earth deforming a frozen face in mirrors. with its automatic writing and its lack of control of language in creation of images and its reliance on the imagined. Happiness that leads to a broken voice is happiness that carries with it a strong emotion and the force of personal history. When he speaks of happiness in the same breath with a broken voice. was the poetical writing that freed him from the confines of Surrealism. For Bonnefoy.// Oui. By posing the central questions of existence. These images contrast sharply with those found in Bonnefoy’s later poetry. soon began to lose its authenticity as poetical expression for him. Appearing is a poor woman with a Gorgon head and carrying a child. While writing the text. However. Yves unconscious and to make known the true reality. In this short tale. from childhood to adulthood. language moved beyond the function of merely a tool for expressing image to become the object of his poetical questioning and expression. His researches into art. the broken voice. initially as a guide to poetical expression and subsequently as a point of departure into a poetical expression that rejects much of Surrealism. the force of the image goes beyond the conceptual setting up of paradoxes. Two sections later. the reality they possess is one that adds to experience./ Qui va. la voix brisée. and that he (the ferryman) is not real. the events of the past can 147 . he cries out in pain as death’s branches claw his face. Surrealism. the seemingly most opposite elements are joined. the symbol or metaphor of passage. but again the cumulative effect of the contradictions is to lead to a synthesis of values. Affirming opposites in this manner runs the risk of affirming nothing.”) Bonnefoy does not seek easy resolution or unexamined pleasures./ Which passes. but only the ferryman. One section reads simply: “Oui. Written in 1945. with the first word of most stanzas being “Oui” (yes). These deceptively simple images are weighted with complex and achieved emotion. It relies on fantasy and imagination.” (“Yes./ Yes. through death. the speaker states: “Oui. His highly imaged poems show a consistent concern for poetic image and emotion. one must have a house. written in a repetitive. They are also of a pressing timeliness in that they recall the reader to being in the present. The Curved Planks The Curved Planks takes its name from the récit or short story “The Curved Planks” included in the collection. The figure of Bonnefoy the poet is closely allied to that of Bonnefoy the thinker. As a result. imaginatively charged poems of Bonnefoy reveal the common origins of thinking and of poetry. par le bonheur simple. through simple happiness. through life without end”). however. the reality beyond the reality of everyday life.// Yes. Surrealism fascinated Bonnefoy as a young poet because it proposed to dissolve the barrier between the conscious and Bonnefoy. The poet is in a garden. par la mort. This is not to say that reading Bonnefoy’s poetry is the equivalent of reading his essays and criticism or that the philosophical underpinnings of the works are presented in a predigested or easily digestible form. Bonnefoy also anchors human existence in the terrestrial. The gray stars of midday reign anguish on him. literature. The ferryman explains to the child that to be a father. par la vie sans fin” (“Yes. Bonnefoy recounts the passage of the child to adulthood and the void that develops as the individual moves from the presence of childhood to that of adulthood. even through error. while still Surrealist in its form and content. when Europe was in the middle of the destruction of World War II.

Yves be taken into the mind or subconscious and relived as memories or dreams. Un Rêve fait à Mantoue. It is that which makes poetry. 1981. Dessin. La Vie errante. It addresses Bonnefoy’s research and further development of his poetics after the publication of The Curved Planks. La Poésie française et le principe d’identité. the rhythm of the language plays an important role. the language of the texts is neither narrative nor explanatory in the traditional sense. 1988. 1995. Le Grand espace. The Act and the Place of Poetry: Selected Essays. 2005. Entretiens sur la poésie. 1977. 1980. Images of water predominate in the poems. of creativity remains in the subconscious. However. 1991). 2003. couleur. 1967. la Flagellation du Christ. L’Arrièrepays. He treats both the place and the act of poetry. 1981-1993. in being and being part of the earth. 1970. 1959. Shakespeare and the French Poet. 2007. Le Poète et le flot mouvant des multitudes: Paris pour Nerval et pour Baudelaire. of thought. Other major works nonfiction: Peintures murales de la France gothique. 1998. or any act of creativity more than merely descriptive. les peintures noires. Lieux et destins de l’image: Un Cours de poétique au Collège de France. . Bonnefoy’s language in both the “prose” writ148 Critical Survey of Poetry ings and the poems is carried along by a rhythm that makes it fluid and enlarges the concept of the poetic such that poetry and prose subconsciously become one language. L’Improbable et autres essais. writing. of his close ties to the earth. 2008. 1995. Le Nuage rouge. 1964 (English translation. et lumière. 1991 (Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work. 1993. The poetical strength of the images comes as much from their rhythm as from their portent. the language of poetry. Théâtre et poésie: Shakespeare et Yeats. La Présence et l’image. La Vérité de Parole. In his imagery of the anchor. 2006.” water in the form of rain refreshes human beings: it gives brilliance and translucence to objects. It is a language of images. 1983. The poems also reaffirm Bonnefoy’s beliefs in the mortality of the human being. However. and this reiterates the importance of presence. There life and thought meet. for Bonnefoy. Water and rain become transparent veils which alter sensory perception. 1961 (Rimbaud. both of which are prose writing. painting. 2004. 1961. Rome 1630: L’Horizon du premier baroque. “Jeter les pierres” (“Throwing Stones”). 1967). Goya. suivi de Une autre Époque de l’écriture. 1989. La Stratégie de l’éingme: Piero dela Francesca. The poems of “La Pluie d’eté” (“Summer Rain”) and “La Maison natale” (“The House Where I Was Born”) treat past experiences of the poet as memories recalled or awakened in dreams. Throughout the collection. The long anchor chain anchors the human spirit or consciousness in the subconscious. Rimbaud par luimême.” water invades and transforms the childhood home of the poems of “The House Where I was Born. the final group of texts of The Curved Planks is composed of three texts that have totally abandoned traditional poetic form for the prose form of the story or essay. The poems collected under the title “Que ce monde demeure!” (“Let This World Endure!”) both through their imagery and the rhythm of their verse witness the poet’s joy in the terrestrial. He examines the relationship of poetry to the language of the short story and to that of theater. 2000. 1954. This relationship between prose and poetry becomes one of the major areas of Bonnefoy’s further research into language as means and as object.Bonnefoy. the place of poetry.” In “Summer Rain. Bonnefoy continues to employ simple images drawn from that which surrounds the human being. two fields of investigation that have been of concern to him during his entire involvement with language and writing. Just as water carries the child from childhood to adulthood in “The Curved Planks. La Longue chaîne de l’ancre La Longue chaîne de l’ancre contains a mix of genres. Ce qui alarma Paul Celan. 1973). 1967. and the boat to which it is attached. he attests that the boat cannot anchor in the earth for it desires and seeks another space that is the realm of dream or subconscious. La Seconde Simplicité. Alberto Giacometti: Biographie d’une œuvre. 1999. 2006. its chain. The major theme of the collection is the relationship between poetry and prose. He uses an image of wheel tracks in wet earth that shine slightly to define the act of writing poetry. Miró. 1972. La Communauté des traducteurs. Le Secret de la pénultième. The Lure and the Truth of Painting: Selected Essays on Art.

Drums in the Night. Le Viol de Lucrèce. Chöre. 1929. In the Jungle of Cities. Greene. 1951 (Manual of Piety. 1951 (A Hundred Poems. 1976) Gedichte. “’La Neige Piétinée est la seule rose’: Poetry and Truth in Yves Bonnefoy. He first became known as a dramatist when he won the distinguished Kleist Prize in 1922 for his plays Baal (pb. John T. Gedichte. Emily. Grosholz. miscellaneous: La Longue Chaîne de l’ancre. Jacques Dupin. Macbeth. of William Shakespeare). Jules César. 1951 (of Leonora Carrington). Rain. Mary Ann. no. Christina J. 4 (Winter. Asian Mythologies. 1956 (Poems and Songs. pb. August 14. 1976) Svendborger Gedichte.” Hudson Review 61. Snow: Translating the Poetry of Yves Bonnefoy. 1997 (of Shakespeare). 2008 (includes poems and short stories). Lawler. James. 1922. 1934 (Songs. 1992): 43-53. no. 2 (Summer. Searching for Presence: Yves Bonnefoy’s Writing on Art. Le Roi Lear. Although focused on Bonnefoy’s art criticism. American. Greek and Egyptian Mythologies. Rise and Fall of 149 . 2009): 625-644. the text deals with the notion of presence. Analysis of Bonnefoy’s work. 1961). Vénus et Adonis. Poems. and Old European Mythologies. 1941) and his groundbreaking operas Die Dreigroschenoper (pr. Mother Courage and Her Children. Roméo et Juliette. and Im Dickicht der Städte (pr. of Shakespeare). Peter Baker. 1963). Germany). 1923. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Roman and European Mythologies. Naughton’s notes provide detailed information. presenting translations of several of his poems as examples. One of the few book-length studies in English devoted to Bonnefoy’s poetics. 1913-1956. Hamlet. James. and he remains perhaps best known for plays such as Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (pr. 1984. Moose Updated by Shawncey Webb Bertolt Brecht Born: Augsburg. politics.Critical Survey of Poetry translations: Une Chemise de nuit de flanelle. 1965-1983 (5 volumes. 1928. A book-length work in English that introduces Bonnefoy’s life and works to students. 1941. and philosophy. 1949) and Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (pb. Yves Bonnefoy. 1922. 1995 Other literary forms A prolific writer. 1927. Louis-René de Forêts. Examines the process of translation. East Germany (now Berlin. 1961). Lewisburg. edited texts: Dictionnaire des mythologies et des religions des sociétés traditionnelles et du monde antique. 1960-1965 (9 volumes) Bertolt Brecht: Poems. 1992. 1898 Died: East Berlin. 1976) Selected Poems. African.: Bucknell University Press. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. La Tempête. Petterson. Postwar Figures of “L’Ephémère”: Yves Bonnefoy.. 1991). 1993. Bertolt and other postwar poets associated with the journal L’Ephémère (1966-1972) and looks at poetry’s ties to history. February 10. The Poetics of Yves Bonnefoy. 1993.” L’Esprit Créateur 32. 2000. 2004. Discusses Bonnefoy Brecht. 1957-1960 (6 volumes. Germany. 1984. Naughton. English translation. Bibliography Caws. Bertolt Brecht (brehkt) experimented with several literary forms and subjected nearly everything he wrote to painstaking revision. Includes a bibliography of works by and about the poet and an index of names and titles. Pa. Choruses. Gordon Walters. Bibliography. 1992. 1947 Hundert Gedichte. 1976 (includes Buckower Elegies) Bad Time for Poetry: 152 Poems and Songs. 1939 (Svendborg Poems. which is also one of the main concerns of his poetics. Le Conte d’hiver. 1966) Lieder. Boston: Twayne. 1 Henri IV. 1956 Principal poetry Hauspostille. 1981 (Mythologies. “Song. 1976) Gedichte und Lieder. The Threepenny Opera. Robert W. Trommeln in der Nacht (pr. André Du Bouchet.

One year before his death. but one thing is clear: Brecht belongs among the great writers of the twentieth century and certainly among the great modern poets. he became vice president of the East German Academy of Arts. (It was in this year that Brecht wrote the “Legend of the Dead . When Brecht died. He sought the intellectual rather than the emotional engagement of the audience. in the same local paper. Bertolt the City of Mahagonny. Before long. has called Brecht’s Manual of Piety “one of the best of all books of modern poems. 1956) and Die Geschäfte des Herrn Julius Caesar (1956. he traveled to Moscow to accept the Stalin Peace Prize. his politics. his mother. but he was always more interested in what people thought of his work than in what they thought of him. He completed a brief term of military service in 1918 as a medical orderly in a hospital for patients suffering from venereal disease. Brecht was reared in the Lutheran faith. His candid speech did not always win favor: Because of his antiwar poem “Legende vom toten Soldaten” (“Legend of the Dead Soldier”). and his biography spark disagreement. Bertolt Brecht Journals. and his nickel-rimmed glasses). but the language of Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible continued to influence Brecht throughout his life. 1957).” Brecht’s initial success on the stage in 1922. Brecht was high on the Nazis’ list of undesirables. His longer prose works include the novels Der Dreigroschenroman (1934. Brecht embraced Karl Marx’s thesis that “it is not a matter of interpreting the world. A local Augsburg newspaper carried his first poems and essays in 1914. in contrast. the manager of a paper factory. To do serious theater today without acknowledging Brecht in some way is nearly impossible. and he frequently chose the forms of parody or satire to make his readers aware of historical change and social contradictions. his proletarian cap. Biography Eugen Bertolt Friedrich Brecht was born into a comfortable middle-class home. Bertolt Brecht remains a controversial figure. no doubt). 1993). Achievements Just as he would have it. Brecht was a bit of a showman (he was immediately recognizable in Berlin with his leather jacket. Eric Bentley. with his pen. Brecht “borrowed” freely from his predecessors. Brecht is best known for his concept of the epic theater and his staging and acting technique of Verfremdung (alienation). he turned strongly against religion. for example. He received a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in 1948. the affairs of Mr. the year in which he won the Kleist Prize. Julius Caesar). because of the publication history of his poetry. and his propensity for didactic structure rather than sentimental discourse is evident in his poetry as well. it is only since Brecht’s death that the power and scope of his lyric voice have begun to be appreciated. Without a doubt. 1973. Brecht was awarded the East German National Prize (1951). The Threepenny Novel. the highest distinction conferred by the German Democratic Republic on one of its citizens. but of changing it.” His anti-Aristotelian theater concentrated on the factual and sober depiction of human and social 150 Critical Survey of Poetry conflicts. but with humorous alienation and alienating humor.Brecht. In 1954. Brecht enrolled in the University of Munich in 1917. was echoed in 1928 with the sensational premiere of The Threepenny Opera in Berlin. Toward the end of his life. 1937. Brecht also wrote about eighty short stories. His literary works. There. he claimed to study medicine (as his father wished) and learned to play the guitar (less to his father’s liking.” Brecht dropped the mask in 1916 with the publication of his poem “Das Lied der Eisenbahntruppe von Fort Donald” (“Song of the Fort Donald Railroad Gang”). A restless and arrogant student (“I did not succeed in being of any appreciable help to my teachers”). which was appended to his play Drums in the Night. he fought doggedly against the forces of evil and injustice that he saw embodied in the figure of Adolf Hitler and in the Nazi regime. It must be ranked among Brecht’s accomplishments that. as well as essays in his Arbeitsjournal (1938-1955. under the pen name “Berthold Eugen. The intensity and range of Brecht’s voice as an essayist and dramatist have long been recognized. was Catholic. Protestant. Lion Feuchtwanger praised him as the only originator of the German language in the twentieth century. His father. An assessment of Brecht’s achievements cannot overlook his relation to literary tradition.

“the grain market remained one impenetrable jungle. the day after the burning of the Reichstag. Brecht’s discovery of Marx could be compared to Friedrich Schiller’s reading of Immanuel Kant. anyway— relatively settled. What followed in its literary wake were the operas and several strongly didactic plays in the early 1930’s. however. he remained acutely sensitive toward “escape routes” (images of doors are frequent in the poetry of his exile). His planned drama was never completed. drew him in particular to the Chinese poet. along with Frank Wedekind. even though he finally settled in East Berlin in 1949. he never felt comfortable in the “tinsel town. 1947. became an important influence on Brecht’s literary development. Brecht was particularly conscious of his displacement.”) In Munich. Several years of exile ensued. In the short run. he spent his time in the capital and cultural center of Germany. though he collaborated with artists of the stature of Fritz Lang and Charles Laughton. In 1926. Brecht. in its profound impact on his work. New York) 151 . On October 30. and he wanted to understand how the exchange market worked. and it is most likely for this reason that Brecht acquired Austrian citizenship as well. Brecht was—for the time being. Still. He traveled to Moscow and New York in 1935. Brecht left Denmark for Sweden in 1939 and set- Brecht. He especially enjoyed the comedian Karl Valentin. wisely left Germany on February 28. coupled with his fascination for the exotic. the day after he appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee. his effort proved futile: “From every point of view. were far-reaching. Brecht’s life in exile.” as Brecht reflected once. appeared endangered by the Nazis. the city impressed him. the accomplished actress Helene Weigel. and to Paris in the next year. to London in 1936. after traveling through Prague. Brecht soon became more interested in the local cabarets than in the study of medicine. having settled in Santa Monica near Hollywood. There. Brecht flew to Paris and shortly thereafter moved to Switzerland. From then until 1933. Lugano. With the threat of Nazi invasion looming large.” he wrote. Bertolt tled near Stockholm. At the time. Brecht was to make one more trip to Berlin before finally moving there in 1924. who. Brecht Bertolt Brecht (The Granger Collection. the eminent political poet. Brecht fled to the United States in 1941. whose work he had come to know through the translation of Arthur Waley. Instead.” The consequences of his study. Brecht’s second wife. Brecht was working on the play “Wheat” (to be staged by Erwin Piscator). Bai Juyi (Po Chü-i).” His productivity slackened somewhat during his American years. 1933. In the United States. Before long.Critical Survey of Poetry Soldier. he first became acquainted with the writings of Marx. Zurich. Brecht traveled to Berlin in 1920. In Denmark.” Brecht’s conversion to the principles of communism had begun. too. this sanctuary. he began to read Marx intensely: “It was only then that my own jumbled practical experiences and impressions came clearly into focus. He turned increasingly to literature and began taking seminars at the university with Professor Arthur Kutscher in 1918. and Paris. he wrote the first version of Baal between March and June of the same year. but he returned to Munich after failing to make substantial literary contacts. was an Austrian citizen. “Changing countries more often than shoes. until his death in 1956. he eventually found his way to a place near Svendborg in Denmark.

is difficult to render adequately in English: John Willet identifies it with 152 Critical Survey of Poetry “gesture” and “gist. but the railroad gang forges on. Brecht rejuvenated a tired literary tradition by turning to the works of François Villon and Rudyard Kipling. “These poems [of Rilke and others] tell ordinary people nothing. Writing poetry was. The portrayal of nature as rugged and indifferent marks a distinct switch for Brecht from the mediocre war poems he had been writing earlier. As basic to Brecht’s poems as their consideration of the reader is his notion of functionality. Instead. Verse and melody often came about simultaneously. near the graves of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Johann Gottlieb Fichte. and his early poetry is characterized by its close links with song. indeed all his work. One of Brecht’s main objections to this style of poetry was that its sense of artistic order hid rather than disclosed the chaos he saw in modern life. “a kind of Basic German. may have intrigued the young iconoclast. Brecht’s ballads mark a decisive turning point in the history of that genre. and its documentary value. Form. sometimes comprehensibly. nature tolerates the intruders. and this fact. In tracing Brecht’s poetic development. the tolerance of nature becomes indifference.Brecht.” Brecht wrote his poems in. and Stefan George. Indeed. “forever soulless. “Song of the Fort Donald Railroad Gang” “Song of the Fort Donald Railroad Gang. Analysis It is important to note that Bertolt Brecht’s creativity as a poet resulted less from any inclination toward introspection than from his desire to communicate with others. As he wished. step by inevitable step.” His sensitivity for the “gestic” power of language was nurtured by his fondness for Luther’s Bible (the term Brecht uses. exhibits Brecht’s youthful keenness for the frontier spirit. It relates the struggle and demise of a railroad crew laying track in the wilderness of Ohio. It is not surprising that Brecht’s early poems acknowledge such traditional forms as legends. This poem leads. was the element of destructive force.” attitude and point). no “mere expression. its melodiousness. Against the prevailing tone of German poetry in the 1920’s. ballads. Striking up a song within a . and to the role of the heroic individual. are the notions of clarity (“The truth is concrete” was Brecht’s favorite maxim from Hegel) and functionality. Initially. Bertolt worked with the Berlin Ensemble. He was aware that no poet who considered himself important was composing ballads at that time.” as the title of an essay in 1939 reads. who can be seen as pilgrims of modern progress pitted against the dense forests. its engaging choice of topics. A common denominator. that being enlightenment. his Austrian citizenship allowed his work to remain accessible to all the German-speaking countries (Brecht was also shrewd about the business and politics of publication). sometimes incomprehensibly. conditioned by history and in turn conditioning it. One attribute of the term “gestic” is that of performance. The notion that “all great poems have the value of documents” was central to Brecht’s thought. too. At the root of Brecht’s poetry. through six strophes toward the culminating catastrophe. as he called it.” but a “social function of a wholly contradictory and alterable kind. appreciating its simplicity. Brecht’s death was noted with a quiet ceremony. He first articulated this concept in 1927 when asked to judge a poetry contest that had brought more than four hundred entries. and chronicles. Gestus. for Brecht. Hugo von Hofmannsthal. For this reason. Brecht read them all and awarded no prize. most of Brecht’s early poems were written to be accompanied by the guitar. He lies buried in an old cemetery not far from his apartment. of which Brecht was a master and not a slave. Brecht eventually came to see rhyme and rhythm as obstructive and to prefer “Rhymeless Verse with Irregular Rhythms.” he wrote in his youth. the rhythm of the words combining with the flow of the song. Meanwhile. was a means toward an end. one can see how the forms and motifs change against the backdrop of these guiding concepts. however. he acknowledged an unsubmitted poem from a littleknown writer. at least as it was represented by Rainer Maria Rilke. What drew Brecht to these older poetic forms was their attention to adventure. Brecht was always concerned with delivery (it is central to his theory of the epic theater). to nature.” With the onset of torrential rains. Brecht’s poetic voice startled and shocked his readers.” written in 1916.

the poem is about where one feels at home. What the speaker in the poem actually recalls is less his “love so pale and silent/ As if she were a dream that must not fade. Formally. or even those expected in the future. and found that it had gone. by means of the cloud. that September day long ago. the passage of time. Brecht answers—and this in the poetic form that traditionally extols them. “one” in this instance being no one but Brecht himself. those absent. they take to singing in the night to keep themselves awake and posted of the dangers posed by the downpour and the swelling waters.Critical Survey of Poetry song. leaving only the echo of their melody: “The trains scream rushing over them alongside Lake Erie/ And the wind at that spot sings a stupid melody. It treats an old theme originally. For one.” prepares the way for later poems. Bertolt Brecht. written in 1920 and later included in Manual of Piety. What Brecht does with the element of time in this poem is essential to its overall effect. The poem marks a turning point for Brecht. “In Dark Times” Brecht’s poems of the 1930’s reveal a heightened awareness of the function of the poet with regard to his 153 . Death simply comes. the making present. escape is not an option. The tension Brecht succeeds in creating between these different levels has ironic consequences. can be remembered. located in the past. but his mind was mostly in Berlin. his use of verb tenses renders as present what is actually narrated in the past tense. and he goes on to describe the daily routine of city dwellers. It was composed when Brecht’s feet were mostly in Augsburg and Munich. came out of the black forests. and “As for the kiss. The poet admits that he is undependable and remains convinced that all that will remain of the cities is what passed through them—that is. “Erinnerung an die Maria A.” So begins Brecht’s famous autobiographical poem. It is more lyrical than the balladesque forms Brecht had already mastered. the change of emphasis in “Of Poor B. Nature in the raw yields to the irrepressible life of the big city.” than it is “a cloud my eyes dwelt long upon/ It was quite white and very high above us/ Then I looked up. Brecht achieves a parody of the melancholy youth remembering an early love. Death and nature prevail./ I say: they are animals with a quite peculiar smell/ And I say: does it matter? I am too. and in its attitude it is quintessential Brecht. Brecht writes of the lover forgotten.” he admits. uses the ballad to put an end to the balladesque hero. where others write poems directed toward those lovers in the present. He was wont to treat these perennial subjects. B. “Of Poor B. I’d long ago forgot it/ But for the cloud that floated in the sky. He leaves behind the ballad form and takes up the theme of the city. B. second. “In the asphalt city I’m at home. the embodiment of everything transitory. those passed away. “Remembering Marie A. B. the forgetting that wastes all memory. B. He establishes an internal relationship on three levels: first.” The poem is full of cynicism and despair. are the elemental themes distinguishing Brecht’s early poems. Instead. only her kiss.” Death and nature. though. first written in 1922 and later revised when he was preparing Manual of Piety for publication. in nontraditional ways. it is a poem about the inconstancy of feeling and the mistrust between people that renders meaningful and lasting relationships problematic. Bertolt time. the delivery of the poem depends less on melody (song) and relies instead on the premise of conversation between poet and reader. and comes simply. situating himself in their midst: “I put on/ A hard hat because that’s what they do.” Thematically. although neither locus is ever idealized. the wind: “And after us there will come: nothing worth talking about.” “I.”). the relationship between the lovers—falls prey to bad memory.” A stupid melody? What has happened to these modern “heroes”? There are no modern heroes. He does this with great effect in what is ostensibly a love poem. while the grammatical past tense functions on the level of present Brecht. while the primary experience (or what convention dictates should be the primary experience)—namely. “Vom armen B.” (“Of Poor B. but it does not get lost in sentimentality. and third. Brecht debunks their melody. Written literally while under way (apparently on a train to Berlin).”). the love affair. Ultimately.” Not even the woman’s face remains present for Brecht’s persona. The hierarchy of experiences is also switched: the backdrop of nature.” The idyllic atmosphere of the first strophe turns out to be nothing but cliché.” (“Remembering Marie A. For them. along with murder and love.

” The customs official. His “Schlechte Zeit für Lyrik” (“Bad Time for Poetry”).” Still.” For Brecht. “we cannot get along without the concept of beauty.” In the face of this adversity. had functional value. though. Looking for the functional lyric caused Brecht to seek a new style and idiom.’” The official shouts to them before they are able to move on and requires them to dictate what it was the old man had to say about the water: “‘I’m not at all important/ Who wins or loses interests me.” “They won’t say: when the child skimmed a flat stone across the rapids/ But: when the great wars were being prepared for. as Brecht wrote in his essay on poetry and logic. and bread (note here the relation between knowledge and sensual pleasure). preferring to call him only “the house-painter.”) Laozi needs little for the journey: books. and he and the boy settle down for a week. that hardness must lose the day. written in 1939. After four days. in other words./ Eighty-one sayings. however.Brecht. What to do with knowledge and wisdom was another question that. in short./ If you’ve found out. “the boy handed over what they’d written. “Legend of the Origin of the Book TaoTê-Ching on Lao-tzû’s Road into Exile” To appreciate Brecht’s aesthetic sensitivities. Bertolt readership. there was no distinction between learning and pleasure./ For a wise man’s wisdom needs to Brecht seldom mentioned Hitler by name. but Brecht is quick to point out that “the honor should not be restricted/ To the sage whose name is clearly writ. The sensual pleasure derived from knowledge is an important aspect of the title figure of Brecht’s play Leben des Galilei (pr. The Life of Galileo. 1960). and the aesthetics of functional poetry. he and the boy accompanying him come across a customs official at the border: “‘What valuables have you to declare here?’/ And the boy leading the ox explained: ‘The old man taught’/ Nothing at all.” (One recalls Brecht’s line that he had “changed countries more often than shoes.” The poem “Bad Time for Poetry” thus concludes: Inside me contend Delight at the apple tree in blossom And horror at the house-painter’s speeches. He states simply. He had made this point quite polemically already in 1927 as the judge of the poetry contest noted above. “So he buckled his shoe. Brecht imagines what people will later say about these “dark times. too. by attrition/ Over the years will grind strong rocks away. and thus a didactic poem 154 . pipe. He answered it in his poem “Legende von der Entstehung des Buches Taoteking” (“Legend of the Origin of the Book TaoTê-Ching on Lao-tzû’s Road into Exile”) written in 1938 and included in the Svendborg Poems. When the dictation is finally done. But only the second Drives me to my desk.” History.” from his country. Brecht remarks with chagrin: “However.’” The old man obliges him (“‘Those who ask questions deserve answers’”). the balladesque narrative. is a personally revealing poem about his own internal struggle to reconcile aesthetic demands with demands of social responsibility: “In my poetry a rhyme/ Would seem to me almost insolent. attests his selfconscious task as responsible poet. This poem is a highly successful combination of Brecht’s earlier fascination with legends. “seventy and getting brittle. for which posterity has been grateful. is intrigued by the boy’s modest assertion that the old man “‘learned how quite soft water. for Brecht. The often-quoted poem “In finsteren Zeiten” (“In Dark Times”).” ridiculing Hitler’s artistic pretentions. where “goodness had been weakening a little/ And the wickedness was gaining ground anew” (a topic of immediate interest to the exile Brecht)./ In other words. followed inevitably. one must realize that he saw the felicitous poem as one in which “feeling and reason work together in total harmony. written in 1937 during Brecht’s exile in Denmark. will ride along on the backs of the little people—as Brecht makes clear in “Fragen eines lesenden Arbeiters” (“Questions from a Worker Who Reads”)—but what remain visible are only the “great powers. It relates the journey of Laozi (Lao Tzu). also from the 1930’s. it is not even an issue. say so. the customs man providing them with food. Critical Survey of Poetry was also cause for aesthetic pleasure. he claimed. Brecht does not puzzle over Laozi’s decision to leave. they won’t say: the times were dark/ Rather: why were their poets silent?” “Bad Time for Poetry” Brecht refused to be silent. The poem. 1943.” This is the wisdom of Laozi.

pr. 1929 (The Didactic Play of Baden: On Consent. 1966). This late style is best illustrated in his last group of poems. He had already used this style occasionally in the 1920’s but mastered it fully in the poetry of the 1930’s and 1940’s. 1998. 1922 (English translation. 1965 (5 volumes). Many of the poems mimic the open form of the riddle. 2001). In six brief lines. 1961). 1930. 1949). Buckower Elegies Brecht’s later poetry tends to be at once more intimate and more epigrammatic than his earlier work. 1934 (The Threepenny Novel. Die Ausnahme und die Regel. pb. 1938 (in French. pr. He Who Said Yes. 155 Other major works long fiction: Der Dreigroschenroman. English translation. 1947). Leben Eduards des Zweiten von England. pr. 1956). 1924 (with Lion Feuchtwanger. 1919-1920. The Measures Taken. Brecht. 1931 (He Who Said No. 1929 (libretto.Critical Survey of Poetry be extracted. 1933 (cantata. Die Massnahme. Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe. Collected Stories. springs from the deep emotion of a rational heart that sees all conditions in the world dialectically and that always sides with what is human against every inhumanity.” Brecht’s return to rhyme in this poem is consistent with its ballad form. Der gute Mensch von Sezuan. 1937 (Señora Carrar’s Rifles. pr. 1930. written in 1953.. The Horatians and the Curatians. 1931 (radio play. pr. 1926 (wr. 1937). every confession becomes an appeal to human activity. staged. pr. Der Jasager. and every appeal. Trommeln in der Nacht. Keuner.. based on John Gay’s play The Beggar’s Opera. Die Geschäfte des Herrn Julius Caesar. pb. 1926 (A Man’s a Man. Happy End. pr. pb. 1956). The poems are concise evidence of Brecht’s fascination with the fragmentary nature of the lyric.. pb. 1965. 1919. 1958 (Stories of Mr. short fiction: Geschichten vom Herrn Keuner. pr. 1963)./ It was he who called for it. 1956. Die Horatier und die Kuriatier. 1959. 1941 (based on Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen’s Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus. Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. 1945. 1932 (based on Maxim Gorky’s novel Mat. Bertolt Brecht Short Stories./ I do not like the place I am going to”). in English. pr. 1937 (wr. Die Gewehre der Frau Carrar. 1944). pr. pb. pr. Brecht’s poetry is neither exclusively subjective confession. The Mother. Der Neinsager. in German. the Buckower Elegien (Buckower Elegies). 1937. 1948 (Tales from the Calendar. . 1938). 1946)./ So the customs man deserves his bit. Drums in the Night. as in “Der Radwechsel” (“Changing the Wheel”). pr. pr. 1941). Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder. the form corresponded to Brecht’s perception of a society at odds with itself. 1929 (libretto. The Private Life of the Master Race. The Roundheads and the Peakheads. St. 1954). Edward II. pr. 1983 (translation of Geschichten. 1953 as Die Keinbürgerhochzeit. pr. 1934. pr. Bertolt Me-ti: Buch der Wendungen. Furcht und Elend des dritten Reiches. and it dominated his later lyrical writings. Die Hochzeit. 1960). 1970). which he viewed as an appeal to the reader. Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe. 1957). Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny. Brecht characteristically leaves this poem open toward the future: “Why with impatience do I/ Watch him changing the wheel?” The critic Joachim Müller has written that In all its phases and in all its forms. volume 11 of Gesammelte Werke). 1923 (In the Jungle of Cities.. Brecht observes how a driver changes a wheel. The Exception and the Rule. Die Sieben Todsünden der Kleinbürger. 1938 (wr. pr. 1960). plays: Baal. 1922 (wr. The Wedding. 1946). 1930 (libretto. pb. pb. 1928 (libretto. however it may alienate us by its satire or its polemics. with a strong central image. pb. Mother Courage and Her Children. Prosa. Das Badener Lehrstück vom Einverständnis. 1972). Mann ist Mann. Die Mutter. Kalendergeschichten. pb. 1921-1946. nor simply an agitator’s call to arms. The Threepenny Opera. pb. 1965). based on Christopher Marlowe’s play Edward II. Im Dickicht der Städte. Die Dreigroschenoper. 1930 (based on the Japanese Nf play Taniko. 1960). pr. 1961). pb. lyrics with Elisabeth Hauptmann. 1945. 1961). Joan of the Stockyards. 1961). pr. Where rhyme no longer sufficed for what was to be said. pb. 1935 (based on William Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure. He voices his own dissatisfaction with his course in life (“I do not like the place I have come from. Brecht applied his theory of rhymeless verse with irregular rhythms. The Seven Deadly Sins.

1431. Opens with a chronology and a list of performances. Kleines Organon für das Theater. 1943.Brecht. Matti. 1938-1939.: Greenwood Press. pr. in Polish. pr. The Good Woman of Setzuan. 1948 (wr. wr. 1978. with Feuchtwanger. 1941. German quotations are translated at the end of the book. Bibliography. 1971). Towards Utopia: A Study of Brecht. Indispensable reading for understanding the broader context of his works. 1949 in German. pr. The Days of the Commune. 1956 (wr. Die Gesichte der Simone Machard. 1954. 1943). 1952 (based on Anna Seghers’ radio play. 1957 (wr. Speirs. pb. Siegfried. based on Li Hsing-dao’s play The Circle of Chalk. and Rodney Livingstone. social. Der Hofmeister. Carol. based on Jaroslav Hašek’s novel Osudy dobrého vojáka Švejka za svetove války. 1431. Herr Puntila und sein Knecht. 1961). Brecht’s Poetry of Political Exile. The Visions of Simone Machard. The Flight of the Lindberghs. 1975). 1972). Turandot: Oder. Schriften zum Theater. Bertolt Brecht: Centenary Essays. An indispensable guide for the student of Brecht. the adoption of his ideas internationally. 1948 (Sophocles’ Antigone. philosophical. 1944-1945. 1947. 1950 (adaptation of Jacob Lenz’s Der Hofmeister. Giles. 1932 (English translation. Trumpets and Drums. 1957. The Trial of Jeanne d’Arc at Rouen. ed. 1993). eds. The Caucasian Chalk Circle. pb. 1972). Includes bibliographical references and an index. 1940 (radio play. Hayman skillfully integrates the facts of Brecht’s private life with the discussion of his works. Mr. Hangmen Also Die. revised pb. pb. 1920-1954. radio plays: Der Ozeanflug. 1953 (adaptation of Molière’s play. Der Kongress der Weisswäscher. 1982. 1998. 1941-1943. 1963-1964 (7 volumes). 1964. Hayman. 1972). A collection of essays on Brecht written one hundred years after his birth. pr. 1955. 1951). 1929 (radio play. Don Juan. dispassionately objective biography with many interesting details. Der Prozess der Jeanne d’Arc zu Rouen. pb.. 1938156 Critical Survey of Poetry 1955. 1959 (wr. England: Clarendon Press. 1948). Brecht: A Biography. pb. 1975 (partial translation Diaries. 1937-1951 (The Messingkauf Dialogues. 1920-1922. pr. third version. The Life of Galileo. The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Bertolt 1943 (wr. pr. adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play Coriolanus. Bibliography Bartram. 1948). Collection of protean essays in three sections: Brecht’s key theories. and political history. Schweyk im zweiten Weltkrieg. Dickson. Brecht Sourcebook. Steve. pr. Puntila and His Hired Man. 1973 (3 volumes. most successful. Das Lied der Ströme. 1930). . 1990. A lengthy. The Trial of Lucullus. Das Verhör des Lukullus. nonfiction: Der Messingkauf. in English. 1956 (adaptation of George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer. New York: Routledge. in German. Der kaukasische Kreidekreis. Matti. eds. pr. and. pb. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. 19501954). Matti. based on Nordahl Grieg’s Nederlaget. English translation. 1941-1943. 1990). Conn. Coriolanus.. Westport. and Anthony Waine. his theories in practice. 1938-1940. The Tutor. Mews. 1976). Pauken und Trompeten. Coriolan. 1948 (wr. 1972). 1997. pr. Autobiographische Aufzeichnungen. pb. Schweyk in the Second World War. 1972). 2000. Ronald. 1955. 1965). Oxford. in English. Thirteen excellent essays by highly qualified scholars. and Henry Bial. Letters. 1956 (wr. Arbeitsjournal. 1972). London: Longman. The topics range from German drama before Brecht through Brecht’s manifold innovations to Brecht’s legacy for German and English playwrights. A Bertolt Brecht Reference Companion. 1957 in German. miscellaneous: Gesammelte Werke. pb. 1952-1953. Atlanta: Rodopi. better known as Galileo). ed. second version. Martin. pr. 1983. 1967 (20 volumes). Places Brecht’s works in the context of literary. 1948 (A Little Organum for the Theater. 1945-1947. Leben des Galilei. Graham. 1933). Ronald.. pb. pr. screenplays: Kuhle Wampe. 1947. Brecht on Film and Radio. Die Antigone des Sophokles. 1948-1949. 2000. Keith A. 1979). Die Tage der Commune. 1957 (wr. Bertolt Brecht Journals. Herr Puntila und sein Knecht. pr. Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui. pr. Brecht in Perspective. 1940. Brecht on Theatre. pr. 1970 (wr. 1943 (first version wr.

1934 Fata Morgana. and Glendyr Sacks. L’Immaculée Conception (1930. and What Is Surrealism? Selected Writings (1978). Lane. 1985). Richard Spuler Breton. 1931 (Free Union. and Perspective cavalière (1970). This extensive reference work contains a wealth of information on Brecht. 1941 (English translation. Communicating Vessels. German expressionism. 1932 L’Air de l’eau. September 28. not only because of its relatively well developed underlying philosophy—which was both far-reaching and systematic in nature—but also because it eventually came to have 157 André Breton Born: Tinchebray. Convenient selections from Breton’s prose in English translation have appeared in Les Manifestes du surréalisme (1955. Among the basic Surrealist documents were several works by Breton alone. French and Spanish cubism. immaculate conception). André Breton will be remembered as the founder and leader of the Surrealist movement. Point du jour (1934. 1919 Clair de terre. Manifestoes of Surrealism. André were written in collaboration with friends. some of which . among other selected poems) Other literary forms André Breton (bruh-TOHN) published many experimental works during his career. Brecht in Context: Comparative Approaches. Surrealism. 1969). was written with Paul Éluard. soluble fish) and Les Vases communicants (1932. was done with Philippe Soupault. The Magnetic Fields. Surrealism has had perhaps the greatest and longest-lived impact. 1946 Ode à Charles Fourier. 1947 (Ode to Charles Fourier. 1943 Young Cherry Trees Secured Against Hares. Bibliography and index. Peter. New York: Cambridge University Press. Breton’s numerous essays were also collected in three volumes: Les Pas perdus (1924. the lost steps).” including Dadaism. 1969). 1982 (includes Free Union and Fata Morgana. 1982) Pleine marge. translated by Richard Seaver and Helen R. and Anglo-American Imagism and Vorticism. 1966 Principal poetry Mont de piété. Surrealism became the most mature expression of this developing sensibility. 1896 Died: Paris. Of all the avant-garde movements that rocked the foundations of the arts at the beginning of the twentieth century. ed. The Cambridge Companion to Brecht. 1982) Le Revolver à cheveux blancs. 1998. 1969) and Second Manifeste du surréalisme (1930. was the last inheritor of a long series of “isms. London: Methuen. Bibliography and index. A comparative analysis of the works of Brecht. Second Manifesto of Surrealism. Thomson. edited by Franklin Rosemont. created in Paris in 1924 by Breton and a small group of friends. Under the leadership of Breton. which mixed lyrical elements with philosophical speculations cast in the form of prose. 1948 Poésie et autre. A collection of essays that examine the poetry Brecht wrote while in exile from Germany during World War II. eds. the first Surrealist text to employ the technique of what came to be called automatic writing. February 19. such as Poisson soluble (1924. Les Champs magnétiques (1921. 1969 Poems of André Breton. Manifesto of Surrealism. France. as well as the numerous polemical manifestos such as Manifeste du surréalisme (1924. 1923 L’Union libre. 1990). 2000. Willett. Rev. Achievements Above all. 1960 Selected Poems. 1994. 1970) Poèmes. an attempt to simulate the thought processes of various types of insanity. Break of Day. which attempted to transform the conception of the world through artistic innovation. France.Critical Survey of Poetry New York: Cambridge University Press. Part of the Cambridge Companions to Literature series. John. 1999). Italian Futurism.

structure. He ince of Normandy. Biography Being the only child of a comfortably situated famAndré Breton was born on February 19. his highly imaginative lyriBreton’s diverse poetic vocabulary. in ily. André the greatest international scope of all these movements and because it stimulated the production of a vast body of work of great diversity in all the major artistic genres—poetry. must have also been responsible. and Tinchebray.Breton. seems almost a protoferred in 1917—introduced the young. These influences were reflected in three imAndré Breton (Roger Viollet/Getty Images) 158 . each of which contributed an important element to the formulation of Breton’s view of the operation. and harsh in her response to any suggestion of impropriety. chiatric center at Saint-Dizier. was the experience that resulted when ture and were often filled with images of sea life and Breton was sent to work at the neurological center of other details evoking the maritime setting of his youth— the hospital at Nantes during World War I instead of which contrasted sharply with his life in Paris. Among the most important of these theories were those of Jean-Martin Charcot. Sigmund Freud. for his later hatred of restraint and his provocative attitude toward anything he considered conventional. When Breton the later development of the poet and is reflected in first began to write in 1914. to which he was transHis father. and Pierre Janet. sculpture. however. From Janet’s work. who was a merchant. entering the Sorbonne in 1913 to study meditic coast of France. a small inland town in the old French provnaturally. Breton had much attention lavished on him. whom he described as straitlaced. attended school in Paris from 1907 until his graduation to the fishing port of Lorient. 1896. drama. Breton’s experiences as a medical assisBreton was an only child. Breton’s mother. fiction. painting. in Brittany. his parents had great ambitions for him. Even more imporcal poems expressed the wondrous abundance of natant. and purpose of the human mind. Breton learned of the unlocking of the will through the use of hypnosis and saw some of the dramatic cures it was able to effect. and film. Breton was exposed not only to the diverse forms of mental illness from which the soldiers suffered but also to the theories on which the practical measures used to treat them were based. however. to a large degree. he learned about the existence of the unconscious. and the method of dream interpretation by which one could reveal its secrets to the dreamer. and his parents seemingly tant during the war—first at Nantes and later at the psyhad an unusually strong influence on his personality. into combat. The family soon moved. Surrealists were later to attack as the epitome of the soDuring this period. From Charcot’s work. its role in determining mental health. From Freud’s work. self-satisfied bourgeois that the poet to the bizarre aberrations of mental illness. This seaside environment was parcine. he learned about the existence of “psychic automatism” and the means by which it might be evoked—which eventually resulted in his own experiments with automatic writing. philosophy. impressionable type of the complacent. on the Atlanin 1912. Critical Survey of Poetry cial conformity they rejected. puritanical. This contact with medicine was also important for ticularly important later in the poet’s life.

Breton was later to call the reasoning phase of Surrealism. in an explicit way. The second development was. Analysis André Breton’s poetry forms a relatively small though important part of his total literary output. lasting from January of 1920 until July of 1923. lasted until the outbreak of World War II. which began at that time and continued unabated until the appearance of the Second Manifesto of Surrealism in 1930. The third product of these influences was L’Immaculée Conception. sometimes violent shifting of context as the poet moves from one image to the next. with the purpose of simulating. to his last major poetic work. In the meantime. for it was also during this period that Breton. the thought processes of various types of insanity. in Paris. that give his poetic imagery the appearance of being spontaneous rather than deliberate. Surrealism was effectively dead. His poetry. The period following 1930. at its best. they resulted in the two important prose experiments in automatic writing that he produced: The Magnetic Fields. It is these three qualities. Following the war. The second product of his wartime experience was the novel Nadja (1928. André Surrealism was disseminated on a worldwide scale and gained adherents outside Western Europe in many places where it was seen as the artistic concomitant of Marxist revolutionary philosophy. Breton’s imagery is reinforced by other prominent aspects of his style. which Breton created alone. Breton came under the influence of Dadaism. at its worst. however. English translation. expresses the powerful ability of the imagination to reconcile basic human drives and desires with the material conditions of reality and. Breton lived on as the universally acknowledged magus of Surrealism until his death on September 28. These devices range 159 . Breton and some of his friends were forming a new group whose optimistic attitude toward life. this initial impression is a misleading one. experiments with new methods of literary composition. When he returned to Paris in 1946. although with those few friends of the original group who still remained. being dwarfed in quantity by his lengthy experiments in prose and his numerous polemical writings. The intense period of Surrealist creative activity. Breton left France and lived for five years in New York. which might be called. Breton is best known for his remarkable imagery— which. a series of writings undertaken with Paul Éluard. Ode to Charles Fourier. the dogmatic phase of Surrealism. and with the growing support of countless other self-acknowledged “Surrealists” in many other countries where their dream had been carried. Breton. in a direct sense. The publication of this first manifesto established. Breton later called this period the intuitive phase of Surrealism. was characterized by two developments. beginning in May of 1921. In 1941. 1960). As critics have shown. First.Critical Survey of Poetry portant ways in Breton’s later work. however. imaginative conception of the world which its author. which by then had moved its base of operation from Zurich to Paris. by the sudden. As a poet. fully developed form the central ideas of the Surrealist philosophy and aesthetic. named Surrealism. and Poisson soluble. when the first Manifesto of Surrealism was published. In general terms. in verbal form. the year of the second manifesto. which describes the encounter of an autobiographical persona with a mysterious woman who suffers a bizarre and debilitating psychosis. a series of lyrical philosophical discourses expressing in mature. 1966. one of which might be called devices of syntactic derangement. above all. Breton’s poetic imagery is characterized by comparisons that yoke together extremely disparate objects. with some small injustice. and increasingly systematic philosophical orientation was in marked contrast to Dada’s attitude of nihilistic despair. an outgrowth of the first. from the first published collection. a new aesthetic and a profoundly optimistic. This period culminated in the appearance of Communicating Vessels. much to Breton’s credit as a poet. written with Philippe Soupault. lapses into bizarre forms of irrationality that are incomprehensible to all but the poet himself. Mont de piété (mount of piety). and by an extremely indirect method of expressing comparisons between objects. shows a remarkable consistency of style. This period. One of these was the Surrealists’ increasing involvement with the Communist International movement. a phase that extended from May of 1921 until October of 1924. The heyday of Dada in Paris was brief.

or reservoir.Breton. The dark geyser that hurls fern-tips Towards the sky greet Greets you. throughout the course of his work and constitute the essence of his Surrealist vision. responsible for the great difficulty his readers and translators encounter searching for paraphrasable or translatable meaning in his work. the unconscious is not an enclosed inner space. The Surrealists recommended a number of different methods for attaining this experience. You need fear nothing of the blue. it was especially important for the artist. and technical contexts that are unfamiliar to most readers of poetry. to syntactic ambiguity involving multiple or imprecise grammatical modification. André from the use of simple paradoxes involving logical and semantic contradictions. is capable of transforming the life of the person. the transformation of the material world into a utopian state. which frequently includes the use of words from anatomical. such as the revolver as a synecdochic image for rebellion or revolt of any kind. and the evocation of the “primary processes” of the unconscious through such procedures as automatic writing. The spire of the village of melted colors Will be your landmark. The first of these methods is illustrated well in “Au regard des divinités” (“In the Eyes of the Gods”). There’ll be a tall blonde vase in a tree. Another element of Breton’s style is his use of recurring themes and symbolic motifs. which. It’s the blue. especially that of Freud on the operations of the unconscious. pay no attention. a set of instructions for encountering the marvelous through the technique of objective chance. with increasing elaboration. to much more unsettling contradictions of reference— where the referent of a speech act is left unidentified. or is made ambiguous. Take it easy. The poetry of Breton expresses three key ideas— the liberating power of the imagination. and in fact is intended to be. For Breton. The second important trait of his diction is the tendency to use words in specialized. . and the second is. and the exploration of human potentiality through love— which recur. This poem reads like. one of Breton’s early poems from Clair de terre (the light of Earth): Shortly before midnight near the landing-stage If a dishevelled woman follows you. Breton’s other primary technique for evoking the marvelous—using the unfettered association of ideas in the unconscious to produce automatic writing—is illustrated by “Au beau demi-jour” (“In the Lovely Halflight”). According to the Surrealists. this realm—where human reason and imagination no longer struggle against each other but function in harmony—is the ultimate reality. These recurring thematic and symbolic elements in Breton’s work can frequently be used as contextual clues for interpreting his most difficult works. are frequently used and referred to in Breton’s work: the surrendering of the person to the hasard objectif (“objective chance”) of the universe. atypical ways that emphasize (and often create) their figurative meanings over their denotations. when directly experienced. Power of imagination Breton’s faith in the liberating power of the human imagination. to a large degree. botanical. Remember. a poem from L’Air de l’eau (air of the water): In the lovely half-light of 1934 The air was a splendid rose the colour of red mullet And the forest when I made ready to enter it Began with a tree that had cigarette-paper leaves For I was waiting for you. is deliberately misidentified. rather. in particular. and each person’s goal in life is to seek out continually the signs of this reality. zoological. . although suggested and influenced by his contact with modern psychoanalytic thought. of trapped energy. the way out of the every160 Critical Survey of Poetry day world of material reality into the realm of the surreal. . One other important element of Breton’s style that helps support the dramatic effect of his poetic images on his readers is his diction. These qualities have two important effects on Breton’s work: The first helps make possible his imagery of violent contrasts. The first of these is the extremely wide range of his vocabulary. whose goal was to capture the fleeting traces of le merveilleux (the marvelous) in his writing. . Two. which is characterized by two principal traits. Although Breton envisioned the realm of the surreal as accessible to all men who seek it. goes far beyond the notion of simply releasing the bound or “repressed” energies that is the therapeutic basis of psychoanalytic practice. it is.

1930 (Second Manifesto of Surrealism. 1944 (Arcanum. 1965. Les Manifestes du surréalisme. 1985). Michael. the mere presence of the beloved is enough to evoke such a response. 1969). 3d ed. was an increasingly divisive force among the French Surrealists. and “Fata Morgana. 1936). 1987). 1945. Surrealism: The Road to the Absolute. its repressive disciplinary practices. The Poetry of Surrealism: An An161 . and some of Breton’s most moving poetry deals with this experience. and he came to believe that the Communist International movement was a means to that end. 1955 (Manifestoes of Surrealism. 1986. Breton’s association with the Communist Party. as the choice of subject for his last major poetic work. 1990). Although Breton died in 1966. A biography by an expert in Surrealist art and literature.” It was these three ideas—together with the support of countless writers. the beliefs that he helped to formulate and that he expressed so brilliantly in his own poetry continue to exist. 1942 (Prolegomena to a Third Surrealist Manifesto or Not. eternal world of surreality. 1934 (Break of Day. 1970. Qu’est-ce que le surréalisme?. Ode to Charles Fourier. Balakian. André Breton: Magus of Surrealism. Le Surréalisme et la peinture. Second Manifeste du surréalisme. 1969). 1921 (with Philippe Soupault. 1999). Point du jour.” This belief is clearly expressed in two of Breton’s best poems: the famous “catalog-poem” “Free Union. 1994). 1969). Légitime Défense. Manifeste du surréalisme. “all transformations are possible. Breton’s friend Paul Éluard (the greatest of the Surrealist love poets) wrote. 1928. Arcane 17. Benedikt. The Magnetic Fields. At times. 1924. nonfiction: Les Champs magnétiques.” which celebrates the magical connection between the poet’s beloved and the unspoiled world of nature. 1971. Prolégomènes à un troisième manifeste du surréalisme ou non. Les Pas perdus. A critical history of Surrealist literature. 1930 (with Paul Éluard). scattered across the world. 1960). New York: Oxford University Press. 1924. 1932 (Communicating Vessels. makes clear. and its hostility to artistic activity that did not directly further the interests of the party itself. 1978. who identified themselves with the Surrealist ideal—that sustained Breton throughout a career that lasted more than fifty years. 1934 (What Is Surrealism?. Breton never gave up this utopian faith. where. Anna. Many who were willing to accept Surrealism’s aesthetic and philosophical premises did not believe that this view of life could ever transform the material world of nations and societies. L’Immaculée Conception. Perspective cavalière. Les Vases communicants. Situation du surréalisme entre les deux guerres. 1926. Updated with a new introduction. Other major works long fiction: Nadja. was shared by many of the Surrealists: the belief that romantic love was the means by which humans might establish an enduring link between the mundane world of material reality and the limitless. Bibliography Aspley. The second form taken Breton. 1969). The idea is expressed in two principal forms in Breton’s love poetry. L’Amour fou. Breton saw this resistance against political involvement as an indication of insufficient commitment. 1928 (English translation. Poisson soluble. Regardless of the problems it created for him.” which celebrates the ecstatic elation of the poet at the advent of a new love. while those who resisted engagement countered by emphasizing the restrictive nature of the Communist Party. Keith. 1937 (Mad Love. 1945. like his belief in the liberating power of the imagination. which began about 1930.Critical Survey of Poetry Utopian ideal Breton believed not only in the power of the creative imagination to transform the life of individuals but also in the possibility of transforming society itself into a Socialist utopia. What Is Surrealism? Selected Writings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1924 (Manifesto of Surrealism. The first is the belief in woman as muse: The beloved becomes the source of contact with the realm of surreality. as in “Sur la route de San Romano” (“On the Road to San Romano”): “Poetry is made in a bed like love/ Its rumpled sheets are the dawn of things. André by this belief in the magical power of love is the equation of poetic creation itself with sexual love. Transformative power of love The third key idea that informs Breton’s poetry is one that.

Translated and with an introduction by Mark Polizzotti. elusive. A series of interrogations and confessions. James. his best-known work. Breton. and culture in France. Brown. 1977 And Death as White as Words: An Anthology of the Poetry of Breyten Breytenbach. 2001 Ysterkoei-blues: Versamelde gedigte. With an extensive bibliography and index. and translations. Steven E. Mark. Breyten Breytenbach (BRI-tuhn-bahk) has written the short stories Katastrofes (1964. 2007 Oorblyfsel: Op reis in gesprek met Magmoed Darwiesj = Voice Over: The Nomadic Conversation with Mahmoud Darwish. Carrouges. as might be anticipated. 2008. he devises a complex literary structure. New York: Farrar. 1996. 1974. André Breton and the Basic Concepts of Surrealism. 1964-1975. Pa. 1967 Kouevuur.Breytenbach. 1980) Voetskrif. September 16. The French is ably translated into readable English.: Bucknell University Press. 2002) Die toneelstuk: ’N belydenis in twee bedrywe. Examines the relationship among poetry. 1990 Nege landskappe van ons tye bemaak aan ’n beminde. Polizzotti. 1978 (A. New York: Paragon House. Mr. Interrogator. 1964-1977. ed. made to an impersonal. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. Poetry Proscribed: TwentiethCentury (Re)visions of the Trials of Poetry in France. André. 1976 (poetry and prose. 1973 ’N Seisoen in die Paradys. 1970 Oorblyfsels: Uit die pelgrim se verse na ’n tydelike. 1995. critical notes. 1964 Die huis van die dowe. Caws provides practical analysis of individual works. 1969 Lotus. Caws. Breyten thology. Conversations: The Autobiography of Surrealism. A Season in Paradise. Mary Ann. 2000 (Lady One: Of Love and Other Poems. Boston: Little. 1964-2006. 1939 Principal poetry Die ysterkoei moet sweet. A thorough biography of the artist and poet highlighting his lifelong adherence to Surrealist principles even at the expense of personal relationships. the tree behind the moon). catastrophes) and De boom achter de maan (1974. but threatening figure. J. 1983 Buffalo Bill: Panem et circenses. Biography and an introduction to Surrealism with bibliographic references. 1993 Lady One: 99 Liefdesgedigte. are interrupted by “inserts. 1975. 1993. Petterson. 1972 (Sinking Ship Blues. 2001 Windcatcher: New and Selected Poems. a record of his prison experiences. 1970 Skryt: Om ’n sinkende skip blou te verg. with a chapter on Breton. 1984 Soos die so. politics. describes his decision to return to South Africa with the intention of establishing a revolutionary organization. Collection of interviews with Breton. 1976 Blomskryf. The ideas are presented indirectly: Instead of the simple diary chronology. With introduction. Straus and Giroux. Lewisburg. 2009 Other literary forms In addition to his poetry. Rev. Colburn Critical Survey of Poetry Met ander woorde: Vrugte van die droomvan stilte. New York: Twayne. Coetzee. 1978 Eklips: Die Derde bundel van die ongedanste dans. Michel. André Breton.” which act as a kind of chorus providing lyrical Breyten Breytenbach Born: Bonnievale. editor) In Africa Even the Flies Are Happy: Selected Poems. 1984 YK. This last. 1977) 162 . South Africa. the biographical A Season in Paradise and The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist (1983). Revolution of the Mind: The Life of André Breton.

For the first time. conventional social attitudes made his work highly controversial. Breyten (1972) for Sinking Ship Blues. In Breyten Breytenbach (©Jerry Bauer) 163 . For every critic who denounced the blasphemy and radicalism of his work. He was part of the so-called Sestiger movement of the 1960’s. and often-censored writings being published in English. outspoken. Afrikaans was made to describe radical attitudes that horrified the Afrikaner establishment. the Alan Paton Award for literature (1996). the language of those who had traditionally sought to extirpate the culture of the Afrikaner “volk. the Rapport Prize for Literature from the Afrikaans newspaper Rapport (1986) for YK. the Jacobus van Looy Prize (1995). The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist. but he is far more renowned as a political figure. and the Afrikaans Press Corps Prize for Die ysterkoei moet sweet and Katastrofes. He won the South African Central News Agency prizes in 1967 for Die huis van die dowe. the Hertzog Prize from South African Academy of Science and Arts (1984. mixed with left-wing student groups. both in 1964. Breytenbach met Africans as equals. for him. He entered the then-unsegregated Cape Town University to study painting. Breytenbach makes his most defiant challenge to the regime with subtle literary technique rather than blatant accusation. For the first time. he left South Africa. on the western side of Cape Town to a distinguished Afrikaner family. Internationally. and in 1970 for Lotus. His prison memoirs. Achievements Breyten Breytenbach’s distinction occurs at two levels. Van der Hoogt prize from the Society of Netherlands Literature Breytenbach. His immense reputation within that country derives from the same fact. and the Max Jacob Prize (2009) for the French version of Voice Over. the Reina PrinsenGeerling Prize (1972) for Die huise van die dowe. Understandably. The old with anger. 1999.” All of his work has provoked bitter attack and equally violent counterattack. in 1969 for Kouevuur. In 1960. Bonnievale. his poetry is known in translation. the Pris des Sept (1977). The fact that he writes his poetry in Afrikaans has limited his audience outside South Africa. W. as a fighter against apartheid. Biography Breyten Breytenbach was born in a conservative small town. He received the Lucie B. He was awarded the APB Literary Prize for Die ysterkoei moet sweet. at the age of twenty-one.Critical Survey of Poetry speculation and philosophic debate among the evidence of the persecution he was suffering. the young with excitement. 2008). saw Breytenbach as a literary iconoclast who broke the controls that had traditionally restricted both form and subject of Afrikaans poetry and who linked Afrikaner concerns with the dangerously experimental. have been accepted as an important addition to the literary condemnations of the Pretoria regime. a prize from the Perskor newspaper group (1976) for Voetskrif. The opportunity. which revolutionized Afrikaans literature. others praised his originality that liberated the Afrikaans language from a narrow and bigoted orthodoxy. and C. whose puritanism and reactionary beliefs had until then controlled all literary expression. and delighted in his intellectual freedom and his escape from the narrowness and racism of his upbringing. was revolutionary. He became a member of the radical African National Congress. His literary honors are many.

rather than through a more open and formal stand. He was constantly antagonistic to apartheid. from his family and race. but he was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for terrorism. He returned to South Africa on a forged French passport to set up a revolutionary organization for whites called Okhela. as well as two memoirs. many of which explore the politics of the postapartheid era of South Africa. The paradox provokes a revealing duality of aims between poet as artist and poet as spokesperson. Given his wide fame. he settled in Paris. By exploring and confronting the anxieties he faced as a human being. the Netherlands. This divergence has preoccupied . apartheid began to be dismantled. Frequent international appeals effected his release in 1982. and New York City. he indicates that his responses are based on political conviction but have a deeper psychological origin than radical activism. Another way in which Breytenbach’s work may be considered personal is the close link it has with his actual experience. a French woman of Vietnamese descent. A brief visit was arranged in 1972. as much as by direct statement. there clearly remains an underlying political stance in Breytenbach’s poetry. dividing his time between France. but it affects only the poetic surface. which helps promote democratic unity on the African continent. By implication. The consequent dilemma may begin to explain the moods of near suicidal despair and depression that are found in his more intimate poems. Breyten 1962. Brought up among cosmic cruelties. yet he realized that he was inevitably a part of it. His unexpected apologies to the court allowed him to escape a potential death penalty. In 1990. Analysis The poetry of Breyten Breytenbach is both highly personal and highly public. There is still some confusion about Breytenbach’s true motives and expectations. In 1962. In the winter of his life. This discrimination and rejection fostered his resentment. where he continued his writing and involvement with movements opposed to apartheid. Breytenbach became a wanderer. during which his wife stayed across the border in independent and unsegregated Swaziland. In 1975. Breytenbach spent the 1990’s writing a number of fiction and nonfiction titles. His sensitivity to this relationship readily leads self-expression into public posture. The sequence of his poems follows the events that were occurring in his life as an exile and a political prisoner. Spain. He also cofounded the Gorée Foundation on the Gorée Islands off the coast of Senegal. which was forbidden by South African law. He had no choice but to remain in Paris. and in France. In 2000. The man is the poet and the poet is a political activist. This paradox is explained by his intense emotional involvement with the society in which he was born. he was appointed a visiting professor in the University of Cape Town’s School of Humanities. That admission contains within it one of the reasons for the constant emotional tension encountered in his revealing verse. serving in the Graduate School of Creative Writ164 Critical Survey of Poetry ing.Breytenbach. and he returned to Paris. he married Yolande Ngo Thi Hoang Lien. where he worked as an artist. it must have seemed to him that the opportunity for any individual to find separate solace was as delusive as it was reprehensible. Sweden. an appointment that lasted for three years. Breytenbach defies and rejects apartheid in his writing through introspective self-analysis. with a number of one-man exhibitions held at the South African Association of Arts in Cape Town and at the UNISA Art Gallery in Pretoria. Breytenbach’s work as a painter increased. Breytenbach denounces the South African regime with an anger that derives some of its intensity from his own sense of personal affront as well as his predetermined and principled political beliefs. completing his liberation. which would use sabotage and guerrilla action to overthrow the government. and Germany. He was arrested and charged under the Terrorism Act. Senegal. He also dedicated part of his time to his continuing work with the University of New York. There is an almost neurotic emotion that commands the efflorescence of extraordinarily violent language and metaphor. a society that was condemned universally for its racism and bigotry. he decided on active involvement and made plans almost as bizarre in practice as they were optimistic in intention. or revolt. his attempt at disguise was ludicrous. He was prevented from returning with his wife even to accept the national prizes that were being awarded his work.

” Even so intense an intimacy is laced with an insistent bitterness of spirit. Escape does not constitute solution “because other worlds and other possibilities exist you know. In this new context of liberation. There is fear. the second collection. “You are a butterfly of trembling light/ and inside you already your carcase is nibbling. the mood that Breytenbach’s brilliant language expresses is curiously negative. and what are you planning to do?” South Africa refuses to be wished away. there is also a gentle deprecatory irony: “Ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce you to Breyten Breytenbach. the dreams. which concludes with a comment so infinitely more poignant.” All is not gloom.” and “I’m happy here. these ideas have confirmed his development as a writer and signaled his commitent to revolution. For a South African. given our knowledge of his future: Breytenbach. Breytenbach must ask himself those unanswerable questions: “What were your grand resolutions?/ or is your existence only a matter of compromise?/ what are you looking for here/ without the excuse of being young . Quickly there is an awareness of disillusion. In spite of this verbal virility. In contrast to Paris.” Away from his country. which can never heal. gives immediate early evidence of his capacity for a striking vigor of imagery. Expressions such as “blood like peaches in syrup. . however. At the center of his use of language is a vividly confident assurance remarkable in so youthful a poet. .” He emphasizes death often enough to suggest that some psychological imbalance. What is the proper role of a poet who exists under an oppressive regime? Does the urge toward declamatory affirmation make poetry mere propaganda? Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous essay “What Is Literature?” explores this issue with typical acuity. albeit he proclaimed his satisfaction.” from a single poem./ Shattered/ Stoned/ Suspended/ Lashed. “somewhere the aloes are shining/ somewhere some are smelling fresh guavas. no one did. exhibit his evocative originality. Breyten “Look he is harmless. Across his career. “I can’t complain. as if he realized the conclusions of his combative attitudes. though intended to celebrate love.” “people are biting at each other’s gullets.” and “spiky Jesus stands out on a cross. exists within the poet even in his earlier years. however. It is precisely that luxury. occasioned partly by political constraints. “No restful eye/ and no rest or sur165 . but more by his desire to explore the cosmopolitan world beyond the margins of Cape Town.) The mood is sad and fretful. Die ysterkoei moet sweet Breytenbach’s earliest poetry. freed from its constant social tensions that rapidly became his own. the relief of exile is always attended by some guilt.” Perhaps he was not.Critical Survey of Poetry both writers and critics in the twentieth century and beyond.” The bitterness of the words suggests that the freedom that Breytenbach so eagerly sought by departure has proved geographic rather than spiritual. His language is extravagant and unexpected.” begins one poem. . expresses Breytenbach’s persistent self-doubt: “Pain bruises us all to a more intimate shade—/ . The decision can be interpreted as cowardly escape or as bold defiance. he has a new freedom of choice. also. His effusive self-confidence is particularly apparent in comparison to the formality and polished moderation of the poets of the Afrikaner establishment. Die huis van die dowe (the house of the deaf). collected in Die ysterkoei moet sweet (the iron cow must sweat). . The later poems in this volume are written from Paris after his departure from South Africa. The recognition of distance more acutely induces memory. There are hints of suicide. Does moral and political commitment minimize the expression of the more universal human truths which many believe constitute the ultimate reason for poetry? Breytenbach’s work both explores and exemplifies this dilemma.” Die huis van die dowe Similarly. that requires him to determine what he will do with such a dramatic opportunity. .” (Aloes are the floral symbol of South Africa. Certainly. The essential elements of the controversy have never been convincingly resolved. . . have mercy upon him. “But keep Pain far from Me o Lord/ That others may bear it/ Be taken away into custody. “I am not yet ready/ for I must still learn how to die. These are the issues that must be considered as one examines the volumes of poetry that have come from his pen. almost a neurosis.” Only in some of the later poems dedicated to his new wife does any happier note appear: “I press my nose in the bouquet of your neck/ how ripe how intoxicating its fragrance the smell of life/ you live.

Of his own city. “I love you/ you lead me through gardens/ through all the mansions of the sun . Sense of isolation Breytenbach soon began to achieve some international recognition. he deplores an introspective style. He yearns for love: “Give me a love/ like the love I want to give to you. its obligations tease him with the more shocking thought that writing may no longer be considered an adequate response to South African circumstances.” Perhaps he presents his own reflection in a poem he dedicated to Yousef Omar.” One might hope that Breytenbach’s disillusionment is not so comprehensive. “wearing a top hat/ a smart suit ./ my cape. capeheart . Old age is seen not as a conclusion but as a period of harmony and calm. “I’m a globe-trotter . He observes that “My fire has slaked/ I must stand to one side. The intention to escape from the constrictions of self was to determine his decision to play a public role as an activist. Fairest cape in all the world. and recognizes the same emotions and the same fate: “His heart is a clot of fear/ the man is not a hero/ he knows he’ll have to hang/ for he is stupid/ and wanted to believe. It provides comfort in allowing escape from the obligations of action that he and others had imposed.” He realizes that there are the outward changes. he finds 166 Critical Survey of Poetry himself giving others the advice he should have taken to his own heart: “Above all watch out for the slimy black paw paw/ of bitterness. Breyten render or cellars or the cool of sleep. . Cape Town.” His agitation is both personal and professional. lovecape. passionate lyric poems are matched by violent expressions of selfcondemnation.” No political condemnation of his country will drive away his exile’s longing. and yet at the same time. but that I now also know the rooms of loneliness/ the desecration of dreams. . He can only hope that “ma knows it’s me all the same.” . godcape. Some of these poems show the beginnings of disintegration in both form and statement. the remains of memories.” The “if” in the following line indicates both admission and anxiety: “I’ve been thinking if I ever come back.” Acceptance of destiny was gradually invading Breytenbach’s thoughts. my friend/ What can I say?/ that I’m too young for bitter protest/ and too old for wisdom and acceptance/ of my destiny. Return was legally forbidden with a “non-European” wife. but his doubts persist in his private life. though its effect seems constantly tainted even while he uses it to sustain his personal and ardent life.” More vulgarly. and therefore his marriage required that he express his gradual recognition of the permanence of exile (which he somewhat casually chose as a young man) and its painful results: “Yes. . . “My arsehole is full of myself. . rather than as a poet-spokesperson. . a naked/ treedweller.” Or even more tenderly.” garb that defines his new European citizenship. to be an old man. as thirsty as ever” and “from a lot of travelling/ the heart grows mute and waterlogged. “that’s how I love you/ as I have dreamed of you . He realizes that there has begun to be a separation between his life and his work. . but this publicity did not fulfill him. of the happiness that it has brought.” a crudely worded but significant condemnation since. His political work distracts him from poetry. There are insistent expressions of concern about his poetry.Breytenbach. Success only increased his sense of painful isolation. too old to climb down.” while suggesting that desire is equivocal.” He can still write lyrically of his love. but his unexpected reversal of the anticipated attitudes of youth and age display the convolutions of his present moods. inspiration seems to be weakening without the violent indignation that the daily experience of South Africa provided.” He might well have deliberated on this truth. “You ask me how it is living in exile. new Italian shoes for the occasion. black child—/ he that eats of it dies on bayonets. . “Give me a pen/ so that I can sing/ that life is not in vain. Burning with an inner bitterness.” His urge toward verse remains strong./ love is sweeter than figs.” Love is a pleasure that provides no resolution of his confusion. “sleep my little love/ sleep well sleep dark/ wet as sugar in coffee/ be happy in your dreams. . that he will appear. he writes. . unlike more circumspect poets. since it seemed totally remote from his indigenous commitment to South Africa. He is increasingly aware of how separated he has become from his country. and permits abdication from oppressive responsibility: “That’s the answer. In this collection. Kouevuur Breytenbach explores his anxieties further in his Kouevuur (coldfire-gangrene).

“Now that death/ begins to seek out the eyes/ a single burning purpose remains/ to grow stronger towards the end/ you feel you are bound to yourself/ by an underground movement. in color terms. His psychological dismay urges him toward greater political assertiveness. the person capable of carrying out such deliberate service? Can an intellectual become a functioning revolutionary? In a self-deprecatory way.” “The white man knows only the sun/ knows nothing of black or man. It is South Africa that Breytenbach has in mind when he describes.” He expresses his failure as a poet. It is a kind of litany of social condemnation in which.” Oorblyfsels In Oorblyfsels: Uit die pelgrim se verse na ’n tydelike. but I love you. Two things I have to say:/ I’m alone. “For my love travels along with you/ my love must stay with you like an angel.” He roundly condemns its people. and by the time you want to smash the day with your fist/ and say: look my people are rising up! .” He turns upon his entire race. He contemplates with increased awareness what Africa has suffered. a white African featherless fowl.” However. his determination to transmute his art and philosophy into action drove him to the deeds that resulted in arrest. trial. more compliant/ . he is one of them. equating whiteness with evil. There are lines of unusual exhilaration and intensity.” This judgment exacerbates his ferocious inner conflicts. Poetry can provide no adequate means of resolving the racial and social impasse of South Africa.Critical Survey of Poetry Lotus The Lotus collection is specifically addressed to his wife. Met ander woorde Ironically.” He also contemplates how Africa might survive: “Africa so often pillaged. It is this despairing admission that permeates the 1973 collection Met ander woorde (in other words). Sinking Ship Blues By the time the even more belligerent Sinking Ship Blues was written. . Breytenbach’s increasing emotional disgust spills over. the poet-artist. he more openly announces his intention for more explicit assaults on the system. No matter his protestations of racial neutrality. “I am German/ I am cruel/ I am white.” In spite of this warning. and as a revolutionary: “I fold the dead of that/ which we/ called love/ in chalk dark words/ bury it here/ within this paper/ that a God should fill the gaps. His admission of this is more angry than sad. South Africa’s liberation would not affect Breytenbach’s own. . . such elevated emotions are not entirely convincing. seeing them as villains “lugging an attache case with shares and gold in one hand/ and a sjambok [whip] in the other. In this book. Breytenbach offers himself some disguised advice in a wry and comic metaphor: “When the canopy of sky tears/ then all the stars fall out:/ you know you can’t let a drunk man work on the roof. He describes himself with shame as “I. and conviction.” It becomes an inverse communion with his soul. Gloomily he reports on his present state: “You grow less agile. but inevitably he incorporates the same scathing attitudes into his more intimate analyses. how “the ocean washes like blood against the land/ I stand on my knees where the hearts are laid down/ sand in my throat like grievances that cannot be stomached. comprehending that in his own country “to live black is a political crime.” His hatred for his country intensifies. the political accusations are more apparent than the introspective anxieties that provide their source.” However. from a different coast. burnt!/ Africa stands in the sign of fire and flame. . but from which he cannot free himself. . he must include himself. is he. . The fact that the regime survives increases his sense of incompetence and inadequacy. yet death walks in your body . The fact that he had so demonstrably and publicly suffered in the cause of revolution did not purge him of his association from Afrikaner history. you’ve forgotten the silences of the language. 167 . I steal. blaming whites for his own cursed Afrikaner inheritance: “whitedom. Breyten God. a lover. . .” His inspection is factual. More typical is the ambivalent self-flagellation of the following lines: “I’m in love with my loneliness/ because I’m alone/ . purified.” It would be far simpler if such denegration could remain purely political. but that action would not cure his heart’s malaise. It requires that he accept connection with the atrocity he perceives and condemns.” It is clear that only some defiant and unequivocal action will satisfy his needs. His incarceration did not free his spirit from his recognition of racial guilt. He excoriates it mercilessly as “this is hell with Breytenbach. his response has become pathological.

particularly the later ones.” This ordinary world becomes richer and more exotic when set against the one he inhabits where. is essentially a capstone collection of Breytenbach’s poems. . He tries to write but thinks little of his efforts: “A man has made himself a poem/ for his birthday the sixteenth of the ninth—/ o.” Then the return to the haven of Paris. We bring you the grammar of violence/ and the syntax of destruction./ Now—after how many months of solitary confinement?” The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist At the conclusion of The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist are thirteen poems that record his last days in jail and his liberation.” written in the early 1970’s. “For we are Christ’s executioners. so positive in contrast to his earlier anxieties. Breytenbach no longer possesses such optimism.Breytenbach. Part of this discovery is expressed in purely physical terms. serve as defense of the value of this art form.” He stresses his ordinariness and his sexuality as well as his acceptance of the passage of time. . Breyten Given what he was. Breytenbach writes of the assassination of Chile’s Salvador Allende. . though many were lost and stolen. In “Isla Negra.” He tells. “He will remember—/ mornings before daybreak. The wide span of time covered by the works makes it easy to see Breytenbach’s progression as a poet. He still speaks of death. The later poems do not focus as much on politics but instead explore the intimacy of everyday. no not a fancy affair with room and rhyme/ and rhythm and iambs and stuff. The poem represents Breytenbach’s belief that poetry in barbaric times can be classified into literal effect and into larger consciousness. “in the middle of the night/ the voice of those/ to be hanged within days/ rise up already sounding thin. “I fled to your letter. Paris. He writes of the dreamer who sobs in his sleep. . there were no acts he could perform that would satisfy him nor assuage his inner despair. . and Vancouver as well as the United States. “I arrive on this first day already glistening bright/ among angel choirs.” He can rejoice in the memories that fill the long hours of his confinement.” Breytenbach briefly notes that “Nelson Mandela does not count me/ among his close hangers-on. Breytenbach writes about living in Dar-es-Salaam. He writes about growing old. 2001. his imprisonment in South Africa. but his attitude is now devilmay-care: “Burn. They are sometimes recalled with irony: “Do you remember when we were dogs/ you and I?” Other moments are recollected more poignantly. “the rise and fall of a thousand years/ shall not wipe out the footsteps of those killed here. “I feel the apples of decay in my chest/ and in my wrists the jolt of trains. where he writes one of the few expressions of unalloyed delight 168 Critical Survey of Poetry to be found in his poetry: “Listen to that same wind calling/ through the old old Paris streets/ you’re the one I love and I’m feeling so good.” Finally. In “SelfPortrait. In his usual extravagant language.” Windcatcher Windcatcher. “word from outside.” A few poems survived his incarceration. while the later ones reflect a sad recognition that such horrors will persist. September 12. what he thought himself to be.” Memory is reinforced by the arrival of a letter. Even Afrikaans.” The final couplet has a fine ring. The earlier works reflect rage at the injustices of the world.” In “Pre-Word. or more accurately. for the painful imposition of extended solitary confinement necessitated an introspection that opened up vistas of self-awareness impossible during the cosmopolitan distractions of his Paris exile. burn with me love—to hell with decay to live is to live. and his life as an exile who wanders the globe.” By 2000. and about “dark remembrances./ . The works draw from his time in France. Some are personal.” Death is coming closer to Breytenbach and it is not a visitor that he fears. there is the bliss of release./ Our language is a grey reservist a hundred years old and more. which won the 2008 Hertzog Prize. and while alive to die anyway.” he wonders if poetry has enough power to help him rise above the horror of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11. about forgetting.” The Afrikaans language defines the racist system. In “New York. .” he declares that “the world is no longer about/ the long dance of life with wife. Amsterdam. the language that he had done so much to vivify. to read/ that the small orange tree is a mass of white blossoms. seems to be the vehicle in which the oppression is expressed: “We ourselves are aged. The poems.

The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist. “Tradurre e Tradire: The Treason and Translation of Breyten Breytenbach. Boek: Dryfpunt. and unexamined heterosexism in his works. Om te vlieg ’n opstel in vyf ledemate en ’n ode. 1982. Breyten. 1987. the relationship between his poetry and paintings. Brink. Jack. Introduction to A Season in Paradise. 2001): 435-452. A discussion of The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist. Discusses the imagery of violence and use of language in Breytenbach’s poetry. 1993 (Return to Paradise. 2001): 8499. Simon.K. 1988. Articles of Faith. John. turbulence and dignity. U. ideological complicity on the part of intellectuals is unavoidable. Breyten of Zen Buddhism and his writings. Argues that Breytenbach’s use of the English language to write his prison memoir. Provides a useful overview of Breytenbach’s early development. De boom achter de maan. New York: Persea Books. 1999. 1974. Dog Heart: A Memoir. and J. no. Jacobs. Hans-Georg. Includes a brief biography of Breytenbach. 1989. Lewis. eds. 2002. Golz. Translated by Rike Vaughn. Cope. The Memory of Birds in Times of Revolution. 1980. A literary and historical exploration of the role of intellectuals.J. Weschler. Terugkeer naar het paradijs: Een afrikaans dagboek. Lawrence. André. N. Mark. A historical and critical analysis of Afrikaans literature in the twentieth century.” Poetics Today 22. Memory of Snow and Dust. Intimate Stranger: A Writing Book.C. 1998. written during apartheid. in South African apartheid and argues that to some degree. Judith Lutge. Lang. Neumann 169 . A.” New York: P. 1983. nonfiction: The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist. 1993). Complicities: The Intellectual and Apartheid. 1986. 2 (June. Breyten Breytenbach: Critical Approaches to His Writings and Paintings. no. Also looks at Jacques Derrida.Critical Survey of Poetry Other major works long fiction: Mouroir: Bespieëlende notas van ’n roman. 1994). including Breytenbach. 1980. “Confession and Solidarity in the Prison Writing of Breyten Breytenbach and Jeremy Cronin. 1964. Sanders. Workbook Notes. John Povey Updated by Caryn E. miscellaneous: Judas Eye and Self-Portrait/ Deathwatch. All One Horse: Fiction and Images. Coullie. N. Die miernes swel op. Dog Heart: A Memoir. short fiction: Katastrofes. Letters. New York: Rodopi. by Breyten Breytenbach. Durham. Mateer. Bibliography Breytenbach. 1 (Spring. 1971. Calamities of Exile: Three Nonfiction Novellas. 1984). David. 2008.” Research in African Literatures 25. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.” Westerly 26 (Winter. Atlantic Highlands. 1996. and Frantz Fanon in analyzing political writings.A. Staring at Variations: The Concept of “Self” in Breyten Breytenbach’s “Mouroir: Mirrornotes of a Novel. Analyzes Mouroir at length. 1999. Explores the links between Breytenbach’s embrace Breytenbach. “Breyten Breytenbach: The Wise Fool and Ars Poetica. 2004. The Adversary Within: Dissident Writers in Afrikaans. Jean-Paul Sartre.: Humanities Press. 1995. Schalkwyk. A violent yet eloquent memoir of the African National Congress activist and author that explores the fusion of violence and gentleness. New York: Harcourt Brace.: Duke University Press. represented a kind of linguistic treason consistent with his treason against the apartheid state. End Papers: Essays. 2009. 1983 (Mouroir: Mirrornotes of a Novel.

1637. 1830). 1974 Other literary forms Pedro Calderón de la Barca (kol-day-ROHN day loBOR-ko) is known primarily as a verse dramatist. 1653. Part I 1831). Devotion to the Cross. amor (pr. and power). The Mayor of Zalamea. mala es de guardar (pr. 1832). His father. and there the boy learned his first letters. 1993). 1629. Indeed. January 17. 1737). Spain. most of which were published during his life or soon after his death. the Greatest Enchantment. including Life Is a Dream. The Daughter of the Air. 1635. 1653. Calderón continued to write lyric poetry. La dama duende (pr. La hija del aire. 1959).. The Phantom Lady. his family moved to Valladolid. 1635. He was awarded a prize in the second contest. he was the supreme master of the auto. The Surgeon of His Honor. y poder (1623. His first dated play. Part II. 1936. came from the valley of Carriedo. The Constant Prince. El mayor encanto. Ana María de Henao. Spain. El sitio de Breda (pr. an occupation to which he was dedicated during his entire life. Some of the better known include Amor. Calderón became the official court dramatist.Critical Survey of Poetry C Pedro Calderón de la Barca Born: Madrid. Los cabellos de Absalón (pb. and was a secretary to the treasury board under Philip II and Philip III. honor. and Lope de Vega Carpio. the siege of Breda). 1954 Poesías líricas en las obras dramáticas de Calderón. love. When the court re- . a dramatic form which he refined and improved progressively and to which he was dedicated almost exclusively during the last years of his life. Calderón’s mother. Parte II (pr. The Crown of Absalom. La vida es sueño (pr. He wrote more than one hundred plays. 1637. 1600 Died: Madrid. y poder is from 1623. pb. Love. is incorporated into his plays. one of the great works of Spain’s Golden Age. and La hija del aire. and subsequently he established himself so well in the theatrical scene that. in the mountains of Santander. El médico de su honra (pb. throughout his life. Calderón proved a worthy successor of Lope de Vega. Diego Calderón de la Barca. secreta venganza (pb. 1870). 1684. 1650. El mágico prodigioso (pr. and in his early twenties. following the transfer of the court. however. who was the organizer of the two events. El pintor de su deshonra 170 (pb. when Lope de Vega died in 1635. 1943 Sus mejores poesías. a position he held until his death. was from a noble family of the Low Countries that had moved to Spain long before. The Painter of His Dishonor. Secret Vengeance for Secret Insult.. Calderón was their third child. praised the young poet highly on both occasions. he took several poems to the poetic jousts held in 1620 and 1622 to commemorate the beatification and canonization of Saint Isidro. La devoción de la cruz (pb. 1845 Obra lírica. 1637. El alcalde de Zalamea (pr. the great bulk of which. Soon after Calderón was born. A secreto agravio. 1681 Principal poetry Psalle et sile. The Wonder-Working Magician. honor. 1936. Casa con dos puertas. Parte I (pr. 1853). A House with Two Doors Is Difficult to Guard. pb. Calderón produced several masterpieces. 1885). for he wrote more than two hundred dramatic pieces. The Daughter of the Air. or Eucharist play. honor. 1625. 1831). Biography Pedro Calderón de la Barca was born in Madrid into a family of some nobility. Achievements Pedro Calderón de la Barca lived during Spain’s Golden Age. a total second only to that of Lope de Vega. Amor. 1961). 1634. He was known as a poet and dramatist in his teens. 1643. In addition. 1741 Poesías. Life Is a Dream. 1853). 1664). May 25. 1964 Los sonetos de Calderón en sus obras dramáticas. his death marking the end of that most productive period of Spanish letters. 1853). El príncipe constante (pr.

he was enjoying an enviable reputation as a poet. He enlisted in the Spanish army and went to Northern Italy and to Flanders. planning to become a priest and take charge of a chaplaincy endowed by his maternal grandfather. Diego and José. Calderón. The father of Velasco demanded retribution. Calderón’s entries won the praise of Lope de Vega. and with it his family. In recognition of his services. and in pursuit of Villegas. the Retiro Gardens and Palaces were opened with great festivities. Calderón’s mother died in 1610. after his father’s death. but. Pedro Consequently. in Madrid. where he studied Latin and the humanities for five years.Critical Survey of Poetry turned permanently to Madrid. Calderón had entered the University of Alcalá de Henares in 1614. His popularity was already larger than the gravity of his actions. Calderón was reprimanded for his actions. About that time. and Calderón’s play. and returned to Madrid. then nine years old. but nothing more. including Lope de Vega. and he even made fun of the affair in The Constant Prince. only to die himself the following year. organized to celebrate the beatification and canonization of Saint Isidro. In Salamanca. and. and Calderón became officially attached to the court. He and his brothers. he studied canon law and theology. furnishing dramas for the exclusive entertainment of the Royal Palace. accompanied by some police officers. however. he came out of it unscathed. therefore. Calderón. an event that he dramatized so well in El sitio de Breda. judge of the contests and editor of its proceedings. Lope de Vega died that same year. violated the sanctity of the Trinitarians’ convent. The next few years took Calderón away from Spain. From that time on. was staged for the occasion. who protested violently because his daughter Marcela was in the convent. The works that Calderón presented to these jousts are of interest not only because they are his earliest extant poems but also because they are among his few surviving nondramatic poems. The entire court reacted negatively to this event. where for some time he led a turbulent life. and soon afterward he entered the service of Duke Frías. were engaged in a fight that resulted in the murder of Diego de Velasco. Calderón de la Barca. Calderón had written many dramas by 1632—all of which had been performed successfully—as well as a substantial body of lyric verse. Calderón had started writing poetry and drama. ending favorably for Juana. he entered the poetic competitions of 1620 and 1622. the Greatest Enchantment. the dramatist was involved in another unhappy event. where he probably witnessed the defeat that the Spaniards inflicted on the Flemish. he transferred to the University of Salamanca to be under the supervision of his uncle. Love. In 1635. Calderón fully committed himself to the theater. and his father married Juana Freyre four years later. and the Calderón brothers settled the case by paying six hundred ducats (a substantial sum in those days). was placed in the Colegio Imperial of the Jesuits. According to Pérez de Montalbán. The poet returned to Madrid around 1625. constantly writing new plays and staging them with all the available machinery and scenery. Calderón abandoned his studies in 1620. King Philip IV made Calderón a knight of the Order of Santiago in Pedro Calderón de la Barca (Library of Congress) 171 . Pedro de Villegas wounded one of Calderón’s brothers very seriously. His death was followed by a bitter and costly lawsuit between Juana and the Calderón children. While in Salamanca.

who put in his hands the arrangement of the festivities for the arrival of the new Queen. Mariana de Austria. supplying the court with new plays and autos on a regular basis. increasingly enjoying the favor of the king. the enumeratio of concepts and recopilación or recapitulation of them in the final line. and inspired by the inscription of the cathedral’s choir. given their occasional character. He was ordained in 1651. he went back to Madrid and continued his occupation as court dramatist. Calderón employed a variety of verse forms in his nondramatic poems. He led a quiet life during that time. The nondramatic sonnets are. added to the sonnets that he included in his dramatic works and the one inserted in the longer poem Psalle et sile. about whose intimate life little is known. Nevertheless. Calderón died on May 25. Among these are the sonnet dedicated to Saint Isidro. they make a total of eighty-six sonnets. The sonnet had been an important part of Spanish poetry since Juan Boscán and Garcilaso de la Vega assimilated the Italian poetic form into Castilian verse. but it was losing popularity during Calderón’s time. In general. the dramatist was buried during a simple ceremony. but some of them are well constructed and worthy of praise. evident in the parallel constructions. Antes que todo es mi dama (pb. and two years later. determined to become a priest. who had been contemplating the idea for some time. born around 1647. while his mother died soon after his birth. remaining in that position until his death. While in Toledo. collected plays) appeared during this period (two had been published in 1636 and 1637). The war of Catalonia made an impact on Calderón. composed for a particular occasion. Preparation was under way to publish his entire dramatic production. Following his desires. 1662. Later that year. During these years. an unusually self-revealing work. Use of sonnets As he did in his plays. fathered a son out of wedlock. with a preference for the latter. Calderón returned to Madrid in 1663 as the chaplain of honor to Philip IV. which shows a fervent respect for the reformer of the Carmelitans. his death marked 172 Critical Survey of Poetry the end of the Golden Age of Spanish literature. and he became head of the congregation afterward.Calderón de la Barca. beautiful in its simplicity. and his plays were staged frequently. less convincing than those found in the plays. Fifteen of Calderón’s nondramatic poems are sonnets. Pedro 1637. the one written in honor of Saint Teresa de Ávila. in general. although he disowned four dramas of the last volume and one of the Eucharist plays. but he kept in contact with Madrid. Calderón’s sonnets reveal the poet’s desire for a poetry of geometric perfection. Gongorism and conceptismo are both present. and with the army of Count Duke Olivares. They are also filled with the rich imagery that the poet uses in all his literary production. He still enjoyed an immense popularity. he participated in the liberation of Fuenterrabía that same year. as he observes in one of his plays. which hails the Cathedral of Toledo as a symbol of faith. collected in a single volume by Rafael Osuna in 1974. Most of them are short poems. Analysis There are extant only about thirty nondramatic poems by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. and the one praising . Philip IV appointed him to the chaplaincy of the New Kings in the Cathedral of Toledo. Calderón. 1681. but a gorgeous one took place a few days later to satisfy the many admirers who wanted to pay homage to the playwright for the last time. Three volumes of his Partes (16361684. Calderón’s sonnets reflect the main poetic currents of his times. serving loyally and courageously until 1642. aggravated by the fact that his brother José lost his life in the conflict. Calderón. This son. my lady comes before everything else). As such. who had created that position to ensure Calderón’s presence in the court. Calderón joined the Natural Priests of Madrid. died before reaching adulthood. a task that was undertaken by Juan de Vera Tassis after Calderón’s death. in recognition of which he was awarded a monthly pension of thirty gold crowns. he wrote the poem Psalle et sile (sing and be silent). in 1649. the one inserted in Psalle et sile. dedicated to his priestly duties and restricting his literary activity to the writing of Eucharist plays and an occasional drama for the court. he took part in the pacification of Catalonia. but the sonnet is the prevalent form. usually in praise of someone in whose collection they would appear. Calderón moved to that city. and other rhetorical techniques.

1823). although it is less impressive Calderón de la Barca. an ascetic composition. and his days as a soldier. when referring to his lack of responsibility. which. the poet observes that his peccadilloes are excused by everyone because he is a Salamanca graduate. In this meter. that “he who speaks with propriety does not break silence. The poem ends abruptly in an argument against Plato’s concept of love. on a pervasive lack of meaning. Pedro than that fifteenth century masterpiece. The tone of the poem is far from Calderón’s characteristic sobriety. He proceeds to tell the reader about his studies in Salamanca. The poem is an expression of love for Christ. utterly absorbed in spiritual communication with God. for he became very disappointed with the reality of war during the Catalonian uprising. referring to his mother’s desire that he become a priest. and a selfportrait in verse that reveals his comic genius. the poet is deeply pessimistic: “Everything resolves to nothingness. it is possible to sing and to be silent simultaneously. A similar attitude is expressed in another poem. always adapting it appropriately to the theme he is poeticizing. At the same time. the poem must have been written sometime between 1625 and 1637. 173 . Calderón tries to explain the meaning of the inscription. so strong in Manrique and present elsewhere in Calderón’s works. his dedication to the theater.Critical Survey of Poetry King Philip IV’s hunting skills. one needs to concentrate when conversing with God. The sarcastic tone of the opening lines informs the entire composition. "Lágrimas que vierte un alma arrepentida" (1672. Use of romance verse Another poetic form that Calderón used with great skill is the romance. “as a philosopher says. the best of all. tears of a repentant soul). Written in Calderón’s old age. however. Here. for he has learned that. one has to concentrate on the subject of the conversation. The emphasis is placed on the “end” of everything and the absurdity of life. which ends every man’s life equally.” Based on this thinking. yet the 173 lines of the fragment are rich in wit. which can be done only by meditating. The poet. for example. unfortunately. incomplete. then one is speaking the language of God— that is. If one is immersed in meditation. written in Toledo while the poet was in charge of the chaplaincy of the New Kings (1653-1663). he involves himself with two women because he prefers two ugly maids to a beautiful lady. Its themes include the brevity of life.” This sense of pessimism is heightened by the fact that there is only a vague reference to eternal life at the end of the poem. Ode. In them. Absent from it is the theme of fame./ all comes from dirt. according to Osuna. The poet presents himself with humility. declaring that he is a sinner. the justice of death. In the same manner. full of vices. Because of the reference to the time he spent in the army. because of its location. He gives a particular lightness to this traditional verse form. The 525-line poem was inspired by the words inscribed at the entrance of the cathedral’s choir. the tone of which is reminiscent of Jorge Manrique’s Coplas por la muerte de su padre (1492. adding jokingly that none of these occupations enabled him to find a decent woman who would marry him. The best poem of this type is “Décimas a la muerte” (“Decima”). as in some of his philosophical plays. it makes good sense to adapt to the times. however./ and thus it ends where it began. does not let this situation affect him. it recalls Saint Teresa of Ávila and the anonymous “Soneto a Cristo crucificado” (“Sonnet to Christ Crucified”). “Decima” It is in his serious compositions that Calderón shows his best abilities as a poet. Following this reasoning. although it is possible that he wrote other poems of this nature that have not survived.” To speak with propriety. Calderón first describes his physical appearance—not forgetting any part of his body—in a very unflattering manner. and asks God to forgive him. This last is. and dirt becomes. implies a request or command to those who enter the choir. Psalle et sile Calderón’s longest poem is Psalle et sile. and the ubi sunt topos. with whom one can communicate only in the silence of one’s soul. one is truly silent. making the poem flow with ease. “Lágrimas que vierte un alma arrepentida” reveals his strong religious sentiments. Calderón is preoccupied with the reality of death. How is it possible to sing and be silent at the same time? The poet praises silence as the greatest moderation and as the language of God. Calderón wrote his only two extant love poems. one could sing songs without interrupting the mental conversation with God. Calderón adds.

La Estatua de Prometeo. 1737). 1629. Calderón: The Imagery of Tragedy. pr. pb. La púrpura de la rosa. La hija del aire.. 1649 (wr. 1637 (The Surgeon of His Honor. Cravens. 1870). pr. 1688 (wr. Charlene E. Wendell M. The Baroque Vortex: Velázquez. Gives a sense of who the poet was. Eco y Narciso. Los cabellos de Absalón. El mágico prodigioso. 1832). The opening article. 1853). El médico de su honra. Hesse. by A. Mexican cleric characters. pb. 1856). Parte I. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. structure. 1643 (The Mayor of Zalamea. pb. Parte II. El gran teatro del mundo. A secreto agravio. New York: Cambridge University Press. Thomas S. pr. Valuable for the breadth and variety of its inquiry. and theoretical perspectives. The Great Theater of the World. 1680. The Phantom Lady. 1634. New York: Peter Lang. El laurel de Apolo. the structure of Calderón’s work. 1991. 1664). Although concerned with the plays. pb. House with Two Doors Is Difficult to Guard. 1650 (wr. 1684 (wr. 1660. such as German Idealist philosophy. ed. pr. El príncipe constante. 1637 (The Wonder-Working Magician. Aycock. pb. La vida es sueño. amor. characters. 1996. The Limits of Illusion: A Critical Study of Calderón. the works in which he excelled. Lubbock: Interdepartmental Committee on Comparative Literature. 1662. Calderón de la Barca. Calderón. the political and social arena. An important collection of papers on Critical Survey of Poetry the three-hundredth anniversary of Calderón’s death. 1961). El sitio de Breda. New York: Peter Lang. Antes que todo es mi dama. 1640-1642. 1635. Stresses Calderón’s sense of “order triumphant” and moves through the canon examing the plays. La dama duende. This comparative study places Calderón in both a literary and historical context. 1659. 1629 (The Constant Prince. 1653 (The Daughter of the Air. Critical Essays on the Theatre of Calderón. and Calderón’s critical reception. Rupp. 1993). 1629. La hija del aire. James E. Juan Fernández Jiménez 174 . pb. pr. El alcalde de Zalamea. Cascardi. La devoción de la cruz. 1853). An examination of Calderón’s portrayal of the monarchy in literature and of his political and social views. Parker. and Sydney P. Includes an index. pr. Maraniss. Bibliographical references. pr. and William Shakespeare. 1959). 1683 (wr. Treats the Spanish theater of the Golden Age. pb. Anthony J.. is a good summary of the justifications for ranking Calderón among the great writers of a great literary age. eds. and Gracián Under Philip IV. 1978. El mayor encanto. 1653 (The Daughter of the Air. pr. 1661). pr. pb.Calderón de la Barca. Casa con dos puertas. pr. Boston: Twayne. pb. New York: New York University Press. The Painter of His Dishonor. 1853). the Greatest Enchantment. 1625. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. Hado y divisa de Leonido y Marfisa. Bibliography and index.. Euripides. The essayists concentrate on comparing some of Calderón’s contributions with other artistic impulses. Calderón de la Barca at the Tercentenary: Comparative Views. Wardropper. Essays on Calderón’s themes. Contains bibliographical references. pr. 1831). On Calderón. Suscavage. Texas Tech University. honor y poder. focuses on Calderón’s language and figures of speech. 1636 (wr. 1967. c. 1634 (The Devotion to the Cross. 1637 (Secret Vengeance for Secret Insult. 1669). pr. 2000. 1830). Allegories of Kingship: Calderón and the Anti-Machiavellian Tradition. The Crown of Absalom. political viewpoint. pr. 1635 (Life Is a Dream.. El pintor de su deshonra. pr. 1982. 1831). A. 1635 (Love. 1965. Bibliography Acker. pr. secreta venganza. Part II. mala es de guardar. Everett W. Pedro Other major works plays: Amor. Stephen James. 1636 (wr. Part I. Selected bibliography and index. pr. 1853). Bruce W. 1623. 2005.

and he infused traditionally nonpersonal poetry with allusions to . n. and exclusive allusions. for example. n. (Iambi. technically skilled. renewed the Greek poetic tradition in two ways: He cultivated forms that had fallen into disuse (such as the hymnic). barbarian customs.c. Horace. from the poets writing during the reign of the Emperor Augustus. n. 1958) EkalT. however. Egypt. and Sextus Propertius. jettisons tedious narrative. Callimachus. n.Critical Survey of Poetry Callimachus his own time and condition. urbane manner.d. (Aetia. he alone among the poets whose work survives from this period crafted and refined throughout his career a poetic dogma. Unfortunately. ¸h c. who was also like Pound in being a scholar of poetry. Biography Callimachus was not a native Alexandrian. Instead. erudite content. although Pope added the mock-epic tone. n. 240 b. c. one could compare him to Ezra Pound among modern poets. 1793) Hymni. Callimachean aesthetic principles are so much a part of the European literary tradition that they may be taken for granted. his poetry in all genres usually attains the ideal he set: Lightness of tone is wedded to brevity. and the poetic stance that each assumes. 1958) Lock of Berenice. the English “Augustans” inherited the Callimachean poetic ideal. would be unthinkable without the example of Callimachus. a Greek city of North Africa. From a commentary on a lost portion of his long poem. perhaps because his verse challenged the reader as it simultaneously offered rare pleasures.c. including the very popular Euripides. this “exclusive” poet obtained a far-fromexclusive audience. a highly developed notion of what a poem should be. and prolific among the writers practicing their art in that Hellenized Egyptian city during the third century b. and marvelous occurrences throughout the world. In turn. a funerary epigram might be turned in the poet’s hands to serve as a sophisticated joke.e. continually urging his colleagues to “make it new” and exerting a powerful influence on subsequent generations of poets. unlike these two fellow Alexandrians.c. Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock (1712. the verse of the Roman poets Quintus Ennius. for example) challenges outworn canons of taste. and turns instead to highly crafted “small” verse forms. Ironically.d. Whenever a new poetic movement (Imagism. Libya). rare words. Indeed. learned. A hymn. he seems to have deliberately mined the widest variety of genres. Moreover. the Aetia. North Africa (now Shah¸ 3t. Died: Alexandria. In this. Like his contemporaries Theocritus and Apollonius Rhodius. 305 b. Catullus. 1755 Other literary forms Callimachus (kuh-LIHM-uh-kuhs) was a scholar and literary critic as well as a poet and wrote prose monographs on subjects as diverse as the names of tribes.d. 1755) Iamboi.e. (Hymns. 1958) Epigrammata. (Hecale. (Epigrams. could become a vehicle for praise of the patron monarch Ptolemy and for pronouncements on style. Also known as: Kallimachos Principal poetry Aitifn. It was Callimachus’s achievement to compose poetry that satisfied a discerning. the most daring. Callimachus wrote allusive. the creators of the new poetry are treading the path first cleared by the Alexandrian poet. Achievements Callimachus is the preeminent Alexandrian poet.d. none of the prose is extant. Vergil. he grew up and seems to have begun composing poetry in Cyrene. His influence extended even beyond the Greek-speaking lands. yet dramatic poetry. That these qualities were prized in poetry is evidenced by the many papyrus fragments later discovered to contain works by Callimachus—far more than those of any other author. while purporting to praise Zeus or Apollo. restricted audience— the royal court at Alexandria and other scholar-poets— without becoming hopelessly obscure or dated. 1714) echoes the Alexandrian poet’s Lock of Berenice.e.d. it ap175 Callimachus Born: Cyrene.

authors’ biographies. commemorates an actual event. a poet whom Callimachus admired and imitated. first. When. court happenings might be alluded to in that portion of the Hymns to Zeus that mentions Zeus’s rule over his older brothers. The seven-line poem builds on the poet’s exclusive tastes: . and the arrangement of sections within each work. .c. Epigram 30 M. English translation. Several of his epigrams that mention his poverty have been thought to date from this period (c. He thus alludes to an early initiation into his art.c. Although much of his poetry continues such artistic debates. Callimachus was initially a marginal figure.e. which was not a lucrative job. entailed far more than merely listing titles. but Callimachus’s family apparently prided itself on being descended from Battus.e. This social situation in its broader implications must be kept in mind: What appears to be Callimachean allusive indirection often might have resulted from politic discretion. Analysis Because the legacy of Callimachus lies so much in his theory of style. This extensive piece of literary history provided the poet with a wealth of material—often obscure— from which to fashion learned verse. it is best. the legendary eighth century b. Ptolemy III. now lost. The Lock of Berenice. several of Callimachus’s poems might best be understood in a different light—as responses to occasions at the royal court that demanded expression on the part of an “attached” poet. half-veiled praise of Callimachus’s patron. Callimachus’s preference for brevity and disdain for pseudo-Homeric epic apparently prevailed for a time: Apollonius is said to have left. At some later point. Ancient commentators mention a feud between Callimachus and Apollonius Rhodius. the words are most likely those of a persona rather than of the poet himself. but the details of his arguments with various contemporaries remain 176 Critical Survey of Poetry vague. Callimachus was never appointed head of the library. it may be deduced that his education was that of an aristocrat. however. In most cases. 700 b.e. nevertheless. the author of the epic Argonautica (third century b.c. founder of Cyrene. perhaps after an introduction to Ptolemy II Philadelphus. then his major works can be evaluated according to his own aesthetic standards. to live on the island of Rhodes. Callimachus received an appointment to the great library at Alexandria. it should be remembered that the topic of poverty (penia) was a convention in Greek literature as early as Hesiod (fl. Epigram 30 M. for example. Other personal enemies apparently were attacked through allusions in the revised prologue of the Aetia. . From this assumption.c.Callimachus pears that Callimachus represented himself as once dreaming that he was transported from his boyhood home in Libya to Mount Helicon. . Callimachus’s pronouncements about poetry are blended skillfully with other topics. 1780). which was one of the main cultural centers of Hellenistic Greek civilization.). the library’s royal patron (who ruled from 285 to 246 b. Neither his date of birth nor his parentage is known. the entire composition may be an elaborate. family connections did not help. may have hastened its victim’s departure from Alexandria.e. “You know that my hands are empty of wealth . authorship. (This is the only datable poem extant. to examine several of his extended metaphors describing the ideal style. involving him in decisions about genre.). the place on the mainland of Greece which was considered the traditional home of the Muses. Callimachus’s groundbreaking compilation of the 120volume Pinakes (tablets). the poet addresses a lover in Epigram 34 M. as he departed for war in 247 b.) Again. Despite his important contributions there.c. He held the position of schoolmaster in the suburb of Eleusis.). is a good example. a piece of darkly worded invective that Ovid later imitated. On moving to Alexandria.e. a catalog of the library’s hundred thousand or so papyrus scrolls of Greek literature. nothing is known of the poet’s relation with the royal family other than that their patronage extended until his death at an advanced age. Unfortunately.e. Callimachus’s Ibis.” and proceeds to beg affection. as literary infighting was surely a part of his life. therefore. Some controversy may have been involved. the dedication of a wife’s lock of hair to petition the gods for the safe return of her husband. 280-270 b.. It is surely not a real hymn meant for ritual recitation.c.. humbled.

are spoken by the god of poetry himself. Callimachus’s final prayer to become “the light one. for example. the poem in praise of the god is startlingly fresh and compresses details of geography.e. sprinkled allusively with obscure proper names. is here abandoning the one thing he does not hate. called cyclic because they complete the Trojan War myth cycle. Aetia How does Callimachus in his verse attain this cicadalike freedom of expression? The Aetia itself can show. . someone says “Another possesses him. What began as a literary manifesto ends abruptly as a bitter personal love poem: LysaniT. insectlike artisanship—these are metaphors for Callimachus’s light.” Callimachus again uses the dramatic mask of Apollo to defend his own application of techne (skill) rather than bulk and big noises: As a youth. history. your clan.” he says. you dog!” Such rituals are too holy to tell. vast epics). The final lines. so that her attempts to marry others are all divinely thwarted. He cites the filthiness of the “great stream” Euphrates. who instructed the poet to “nourish a slender Muse. After acknowledging the objection that he has not written “one long poem. Although nearly half the length of Homer’s Iliad (c. Even though his Hymn to Apollo uses the centuries-old Homeric meter and epic diction. I detest A lover that wanders. the Aetia has the dramatist’s voice behind its narrative. Purity of water. again—wide thoroughfares and water. in an oracular tone. relates the legendary beauty of this pair of lovers and tells how Acontius by means of an inscribed apple contrived to bind Cydippe on oath to love him. 1611) when extant in full. like the flitting of an industrious insect. using the images of Epigram 30 M. he begins to describe the history of the ritual prenuptial sleep that Cydippe and her husbandto-be must take.c. who set down once the entire island in a mythological his177 Then the poet dramatically changes tack. 750 b. Callimachus the winged.Critical Survey of Poetry I hate a cyclical poem. whispering in Apollo’s ear like a court sycophant about the hateful poet “who does not sing as many things as the sea” (that is. nor do I drink from a well. this was certainly not “one long poem” but rather an episodic meandering through every sort of Greek ritual lore.. . “having much knowledge is bad for one who does not control the tongue. beautiful . unencumbered verse. All held in common I abhor. . Finally. the poet makes his transition to another topic by a surprising bibliographical reference. The long. but the poet breaks off: “Hold back. dwell in honored numbers at Iulis still. But before Echo speaks this. however. Seeming to lose the narrative thread. he saw the god. . the aposiopesis (falling silent) technique is employed only to show off. The two images are combined once more in the combative prologue to the “collected poems” edition of the Aetia. he says that Demeter’s shrine is watered by “bees” (priestesses of the goddess) that carry water only from pure. for now he desires the insect’s levity to shake off burdensome old age. which express Callimachus’s aversion for the epic form. Then the poet focuses on one such attempt at marriage with another. represent for Callimachus all that one should avoid in verse. sacrifice without flute music. true to his lonely principle in life as in art. takes on a more personal note. English translation. ritual. Clearly. or why the Lindians honor Heracles with blasphemy. Here Callimachus’s novel narrative technique appears to be built on deliberate random changes of topic. one of the longer. illuminates the Callimachean method very well. To “Envy” (Callimachus’s unnamed detractors). yet he could eventually conclude that the poet. and myth into a dramatic framework. take no delight in the road That carries many to and fro. choosing exact details and often breaking into direct speech. completely separable stories within the Aetia.” living on dew. an unheardof device in serious epic poems: “Cean.” The reader is left in suspense. you are beautiful. Envy is thus defeated. a poem that explained (like the poet’s prose works) curious customs—why the Parians. undistinguished epic poems. undefiled streams. shameless soul. A scholar’s poem. . An introduction. This love-match we heard from old Xenomedes. and at the same time it is a technique that prevents the reader from being bored with the extraneous details of the digression. a vast erudition. in elegant manner. .” to imitate the cicada. the Acontiadae. the god replies with a kick. The story of Acontius and Cydippe.

He adapts it thereby to the changed social conditions of the third century b. the speaker. even writing tragedy and comedy (now lost). one sees this method as the prime virtue of Callimachean art. Attacks on personal enemies are replaced in these compositions by a mild correction of received opinion: The true story of a well-known proverb occupies Iambus 11 T. the innovation is tied to narrative methods of compressing. in Epigram 48 M. Hymns and Hecale The Hymns and Hecale. therefore. and similar antiquarian interests take up the description of statues.. Hymns. in which the cosmopolitan court. The light touch—of tone.” Such a technique. There were generic social precedents for these short poems: the inscription-verses on tombs and on dedicated shrine offerings. relates one of Aesop’s fables about the way in which animals lost their voices to men. These Iambi show Callimachus. Heraclitus. The levity of Callimachus can be appreciated in other ways. The poet subverts both. one other epigram might be mentioned to acknowledge the elegiac strain and the ability to evoke intense feeling also to be found in Callimachus. allow Callimachus’s light handling to be traced through two interrelated effects. Iambus 2 T. and put me In tears. rather than the tightly knit city-state. Callimachus wrote another poem that plays on the similarity in Greek between the word for sea and the word for salt. Today. Iambi The thirteen poems of the Iambi present a much modulated form of the invective traditionally associated with the genre of poetry written in this meter as practiced by Archilochus and Hipponax in Archaic Greece.” Callimachus in recalling him affirms the love of the art of poetry that the two friends shared: But your nightingales are still alive. distancing the original purpose of the iambic form. Lest it be thought that the poet only plays.c. and Hecale—show the advantages Callimachus derived from this stylistic tenet. is the intended audience. as in the Aetia—character178 . there is once again generic innovation. The hymn. finally. dedicates his saltcellar: Now he has become rich and no longer eats frugally and so is “saved from the salt. he sometimes employs old conventions for the sake of elaborate jokes. The last line is both traditional in its address to passersby. .e. it is not merely narrative flightiness. . will not put hand on them. and humorous: “O step-sons.Callimachus tory. Eudemus. the origin of a footrace on Aegina. as in many epigrams. . and ordering point of view. Epigram 2 M. the names in question are tangential to the poem. second. has a dog’s voice. Critical Survey of Poetry izes Callimachus’s approach to other genres as well. First. . Perhaps his most famous short poem. allows Callimachus to expand its range. . all of which are new. Indeed.. it was scorned as polyeideia (writing in many forms). A few of his epigrams have their origin in this technique. Doubtless this approach was criticized by his contemporaries as evidence of a lack of staying power. who snatches all.” Epigram 2 M. I remembered the many times we both By conversing put the sun to sleep. Philton a donkey’s. he seems to have intended to appropriate all. crossing prose genres of historiography and mythology with disused poetic forms to create something new. only at the end does the poet intrude: “Eudemus. Like a shipwrecked sailor who traditionally offered an oar or clothing to the gods who saved him from drowning. was a narrative Although his friend has been “ashes long since now. of allusiveness and narrative pace. the reason that sows are slaughtered in a certain Aphrodite cult. shun even a step-mother’s grave. the scholar-poet gives the aetion (cause) that he set out to tell—the origin of this clan— and turns his narrative to other Cean myths with a librarian’s remark. Thus. . since the time of Homer. Three other works—Iambi. Hades. as in the Aetia. arranging.” At one stroke.” In imitation of a dedicatory object.. In the few Iambi that mention contemporaries. Never satisfied with remaining at work in any single verse form. is that addressed to Heraclitus: Someone told me of your death. A four-line poem poses as a tombstone epitaph to commemorate a youth who allegedly was putting garlands on his stepmother’s tomb (“thinking now that she had changed life and her nature as well”) when the woman’s stTlT toppled and killed him.

the second director of the library. Callimachus may simply have perfected the use of this form. Dudley. Immediately noticeable. A. Fragmentary as the Hecale remains. near Athens. England: Clarendon Press. n. on the other hand. rather than on the deed itself. this work goes beyond that to look at the poetic convention of the epigram in the larger realm of classical literature. 1998. 1995. John. Kathryn. and perpetuate essential and lively poetry. Ferguson compares Callimachus with T. Harder. Berkeley: University of California Press. R.” The Hecale. Ann Arbor: Michigan Classical Press. it was framed by praises of the god. noting that his elaborate verbal precision has become his hallmark. Wellisch. is selected. 1991.. like the worshipers of Apollo. Theseus’s visit to the rustic hut of an old woman named Hecale. Contains an excellent bibliography. was the inventor of two essential scholarly tools: the library catalog and the biobibliographical reference work. too. Callimachus Bibliography Bing. the epyllion. Cameron shows how. The poem adopts a second-person narrator. rather than the more distant. Rudolph. It is not far from such poetry to the Roman lyricist Horace’s claim to be “priest of the Muses. Callimachus worked so diligently to achieve that literary effect.J. renew. Although most of the poem survives in fragments. eds. their conversation—all are described in painstakingly realistic detail. Eliot.: Princeton University Press. This general survey of Callimachus is interesting and thorough.Critical Survey of Poetry commemorating the deeds of a particular divinity. Rev. C. Ferguson. Blum argues that Callimachus. Callimachus’s retelling of the story of how the Athenian hero Theseus tamed the bull of Marathon. it is Theseus’s capture of a destructive bull that has been ravaging Marathon. and to some extent why. epic-sounding. and he includes the fragments of the poems. the simple supper she prepares for him. was the poet’s effort to show that he too was 179 . Introduction to Callimachus’ “Hecale. Theocritus wrote several. it is nevertheless a fitting testament to its author’s lifelong urge to distill. Other major work nonfiction: Pinakes. Gutzwiller. 1980. it was intact and widely imitated from Vergil’s time to the thirteenth century. ed. which arose in the Alexandrian period of Greek literature. In the case of the Hecale. Princeton. one must be an initiate. M. In his study of the Alexandrian Library. 1990. Callimachus. Callimachus. Mass. only one. A wideranging survey of Callimachus’s literary reputation over the centuries. in the Hymn to Apollo and other hymns re-creates dramatically the god’s epiphany at his shrine. Wakker. F. however.” “baking oven. one with plenty of local-color possibilities.” and other commonplace terms). The scale of the narrative is further reduced by the poet’s intense focus on the events of the night before the heroic feat. erudition (the origin of the Hecale-feasts is explained). There is pathos (the hero returns later to find the woman has died). Regtuit. rather than being a reworking of a very old genre. Poetic Garlands: Hellenistic Epigrams in Context. Ferguson pieces together fragments of gossip to make a coherent life of Callimachus. third-person narration. 2008. Alan. Cameron. The Hecale. The Well-Read Muse: Past and Present in Callimachus and the Hellenistic Poets. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.d. and G. Peter. Who invented this form is not known with certainty. is the way in which Callimachus allies poetry with secret and holy ritual: to hear the poem. Although it concentrates most of its attention on Callimachus’s Epigrammata. Kallimachos: The Alexandrian Library and the Origins of Bibliography.: Peeters. N. Callimachus’ social and cultural background is treated. is a completely new form. for that ambition would require the scope of the detested “cyclic” poem. Blum. The purpose of the “little epic” is not to tell all the deeds of a hero. Callimachus and His Critics. S. 2004. Translated by Hans H. S. Literary criticism and analysis of Callimachus that arose as part of the sixth Gröningen Workshop on Hellenistic poetry. Hollis. A. and a good deal of stylistic tour de force (into the “heroic” hexameter the poet fits the words “bread-box. often little-known episode in the life of a hero.” Oxford. An examination of Callimachus’s poetry and its themes along with the works of other Hellenistic poets. Callimachus II. Instead. Boston: Twayne.

perhaps on the occasion of a wedding. 2006.” Williams. 1540. based on Plutarch. most classical. 1884) Selected Sonnets. Achievements No Iberian lyric poet has been more successful than Luís de Camões in the expression of feeling. “Callimachus and the Supranormal. Lord Byron. was presented in Goa in 1555 to honor the newly appointed governor of India. the play of King Seleuco). this study provides an interesting and useful review of how the poet deploys the supranormal world and events in his works. who represented so well in his life and works the Renaissance man and the Portuguese Luís de Camões Born: Lisbon. an adaptation of Plautus’s comedy. New York: Oxford University Press. the longest. New York: Cambridge University Press. the dramatist Gil Vicente. Hunter. Francisco Barreto. Indeed. Examines the influence of Greek poetry on the Romans. Camões did write three short autos (short plays). but the Portuguese conquistadores as a whole—who. arguably one of the earliest surviving Greek “books of poetry. 1542. 1595 (The Lyrides. Finally. Richard. Arnd.Camões. 1655) Cancioneiro. 1572 (The Lusiads. Kerkhecker. whose inspiration introduced new emotion into literature. 2005 The Collected Lyric Poems of Luís de Camões. June 10. 2008 (Landeg White. Portugal. 1803. focusing on the works of Callimachus.” In Hellenistica Gronigana: Proceedings of the Gröningen Workshops on Hellenistic Poetry. The Lusiads. Biography Although he has had many biographers. he represents all Peninsular poetry at its peak. 1524 Died: Lisbon. Frederick. he recognized the weakness of the imperial structure for the future. in the tradition of their ancestors. 1580 Also known as: Luís de Camoëns Principal poetry Os Lusíadas. 1580 Rimas. Portugal. Richard Peter Martin Critical Survey of Poetry triot. Camões was able to combine native Portuguese traditions with the classical influences and with the vital spirit of the Renaissance. In all his work. set out to create the vast Portuguese Empire for themselves and posterity. one of the king’s officials. Although Camões wrote his propaganda to glorify the nation at its peak. edited by Annette Harder. Such objectivity regarding the empire—and the honesty to express his views to the king. was performed in the home of Estácio da Fonseca. translator) Other literary forms Although Luís de Camões (kuh-MOYNSH) does not seem to have tried to compete with his great compa180 . realistically characterized as the uncultivated captain that he was. very likely in 1542 during the poet’s sojourn in Lisbon and at court. Luís de capable of crafting epic verse. and most mature of Camões’s plays. Germany: Egbert Forster. An extended discussion of Callimachus’s collected Iambi. amphytrions). Because Callimachus can be as much noted for his works based on myths and legends as for his lyric poetry. c. was probably staged in 1540 as a scholar’s exercise or for an academic celebration at Coimbra University. helping to explain its importance and enduring achievements. Enfatriões (pr. 1999. Filodemo. Gröningen. admired the authenticity of Camões’s lyricism and understood the human truth in his verse. 1993. to whom he dedicated his poem— bespeak Camões’s faith in the best principles of the Renaissance and his confidence in himself as the poet most representative of his time. The focal point in this work is not Vasco da Gama. Camões is probably best known for his epic poem. little is known for certain of the adventuresome life of Luís Vaz de Camões. The Auto del-Rei Seleuco (pr. Hollis places this key work of Callimachus into both the poet’s canon and the Western poetic tradition. Callimachus’ Book of Iambi. The Shadow of Callimachus: Studies in the Reception of Hellenistic Poetry at Rome.

Camões was possibly related. then. left Camões. he injured his adversary so seriously that he was jailed. commanded by Fernão Alvares Cabral. the other plagiarized. the weary poet decided in 1568 to return to Portugal with Pero Barreto Camões. to frequent the court and enjoy the greater activity of the capital. Camões was a gentleman. Camões was in Ceuta. he was back in Lisbon. the poet was in Macao. winning his spurs as a proper young nobleman but losing an eye. Because of the quantity and quality of Camões’s learning. on the occasion of his installation in 1555. Camões swam to safety with his epic poem. Pensioned by the king. he was banished to Ribatejo because of his passion for a lady of the court whose parents did not approve. without resources. although always of scant financial resources. Luís de Luís de Camões (Library of Congress) Rolim. through his paternal grandmother. His enjoyment was short-lived. that he possessed a vast erudition. 1554. both during his day and posthumously. The Inquisition’s approval to publish The Lusiads was signed by King Sebastian on September 24.Critical Survey of Poetry conquistador. many others were printed in the collective cancioneiros (songbooks). Internal evidence does reveal that. it is likely that he studied at Coimbra University and therefore that he was born in Coimbra. With some reputation as well as noble birth. in a brawl. Dinamene. unfortunately. as he probably would have been too poor to move there from Lisbon. Francisco Barreto. which he did on March 7. appeared in 1572. perhaps composing portions of The Lusiads. perhaps in the capacity of the governor’s “officer for deceased and absentees. capsized at the Cape of Good Hope but arrived at Goa in September. presenting his short play Filodemo to the governor of India. It is known that during the years from 1547 to 1549. one authentic. he was imprisoned for debt. His ship. Luís de Camões never published his complete works. Despite his constant involvement in numerous military expeditions. in Mozambique. It is clear. after having been enlisted as a soldier for three years. when the well-known chronicler Diogo do Couto rescued him and took him back to Lisbon on the Santa Fé in 1569 or 1570. Camões wrote regularly. Analysis During his lifetime. as well as to other Portuguese notables dating as far back as 1370. who. for in 1546 or 1547. 181 . Back in Goa in 1559 or 1560. In 1549. although his Chinese sweetheart. Many of his lyric poems were circulated as separata from admirer to admirer. 1571. where he led a bohemian existence until 1553. There Camões remained until 1569. to Vasco da Gama. drowned. In 1556. too. for an unknown reason. probably in combat with the Moors.” perhaps in prison for embezzlement. and two editions. After sixteen difficult years in Asia. The son of Simão Vas de Camões and Ana de Macedo or Sá. 1553. Morocco. the splendid São Bento. Camões was released only on the condition that he depart for India. shipwrecked near the mouth of the Mecon River on his return to Goa. the greatest of Portuguese poets struggled to survive—but probably without the rumored need to beg—until his death in 1580. Camões had all but completed his great epic as his country was about to engage in the bloody Battle of Alcácer-Quibir (1578). Camões went to Lisbon between 1542 and 1545. when.

grave. almost inert poetics.Camões. tercets. whereas Camões’s convulsive passion and pain seem more genuinely felt. and sometimes paraphrased. another slave woman about whom little is known. Moreover. redondilhas. and decasyllables— identical to those of Petrarch. It is not surprising that such an unfortunate lyric poet should so ably and faithfully interpret the human heart. as were all the contemporary practitioners of the Italian style in Portugal.” the cousin whom he won in his youth in Coimbra. Doubtless first influenced by the graceful verse of Sá de Miranda. Written in despair when the poet was still in Goa or Mozambique. was conscious of having made Laura’s name famous through his work. dramatic. it is The Lusiads that made its author universally famous. which his destiny called him to express in his lyrics. or “Belisa. Constantly transformed and vibrant in his pain.” a lady of the court on whose account he was banished. Seldom capable of stirring the reader with their cold. Camões pours the wealth of his own varied experiences and tormented soul into each well-constructed stanza. The idea of creating an epic poem concerning Portuguese expansion had existed from the fifteenth century. and more human. The Italian Humanist Poliziano. whether in the expression of abstract thought. Sá de Miranda. concrete nature. or personal feeling. had offered his . Dinamene. no lyric poet in Portuguese before or since has achieved Camões’s transparency. and always harmonious. With very rare exceptions. Camões’s life was a continual via dolorosa. Camões’s lyrics center on love—as do those of the great Petrarch. moving. Further. the first critical edition. sestinas. Camões learned as well. prepared by José Maria Rodriques and Alfonso Lopes Vieira. this long poem quivers with his painful longing for home and inner peace: Suffering the evils of Babylon. Platonism transformed Camões’s emotion. It was a life that taught him the entire gamut of tragic emotions. He does not move the reader with sensuous images or brilliant technique alone. elegies. and taste in language. the Italian poet’s influence was keenly felt by virtually all European lyric poets in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries—in the Platonic transformation of erotic love. as may be seen in the redondilhas maiores beginning “Sobolos os rios que vão” (“Over the Rivers That Flow”). Not only does 182 Critical Survey of Poetry Camões represent the apotheosis of the angelic beloved—framing her in all the attributes of incorruptible grace and revering her with feelings of purest chastity—but also portrays all nature as sharing in the poet’s joy or anguish. harmony. filled with love but also with sorrow and disaster. Apart from Petrarch. whom he emulated. and Barbara. whose work later inspired Camões to a degree. Camões’s songs. Camões uses metric forms— sonnets. profound. and in the quality of his imagery and mellifluous rhythms. or “Natércia. Camões weeps and moans nostalgically for the joys of Zion and glimpses the Promised Land. plasticity. tenderly sublimating it. Camões rivaled Dante and Petrarch in the sonnet and song of Sicilian origin. Many were the women loved by Camões. odes. Catarina de Ataíde. songs. did not appear until 1932. António Ferreira. for he excelled in the traditional redondilha of the cancioneiros and in the inventions of the Renaissance alike. both in and out of Portugal. and other contemporary poets pale before Camões. cited. Although he treats other themes. beyond the grave as well as in life. however. Chief among them were Isabel Tavares. often combining those of Portuguese tradition and those of the Renaissance. the Chinese slave girl lost at sea. more dramatic. The latter. not only directly from Petrarch and Jacopo Sannazzaro (not to mention Vergil) but also from the Spanish Italianate poets Juan Boscán and Garcilaso de la Vega. whose language is clear. The Lusiads Although it is Camões’s lyric poetry that holds the greater interest for today’s reader. Indeed. It may be said that Camões was more comprehensive than Petrarch in the matter of form. Luís de Those that the poet had collected in his personal Parnaso (Parnassus) were stolen from him. Camões knew something of Plato’s idealism. Ultimately. and sonnets are composed of the passion and anguish caused him by his misadventures throughout a considerable part of the then vast Portuguese Empire and transmitted by him directly and sincerely to his sensitive readers of all times. The first complete collection of Camões’s lyrics appeared under the editorship of Fernão Rodrigues Lobo Soropita in Lisbon in 1595.

It is unknown precisely when the young Camões set about writing The Lusiads. 7. Imitating Vergil. Thus. 1614) and other ancient poems was indeed appropriate for the central theme of a Portuguese epic. derived from the nationalistic works of João de Barros. and 8) and the second. With this device. the first relat- Camões. patron of the Portuguese. comprises ten cantos of ottava rima. and dedicating the poem to King Sebastian. only a chronological sequence of events. Moreover. Camões’s title. a scholar famous throughout Europe and a consummate Humanist.e. ancient and modern. 4. 725 b. however. The poem concludes with a sorrowful. 1553) for the official ideology of the Portuguese expansion. The maritime setting of the Odyssey (c. however. Camões imagines Vasco and Paul da Gama telling different parts of their story to other characters. the convergence of the events in a dramatic situation and its denouement. too. provokes mistrust of the newcomers. English translation. poignant censure of the nation’s decadence and with the poet’s firm exhortation to the king to conquer Morocco. the voyages of the Portuguese could easily be compared to those of Ulysses and Aeneas. once more. This aspiration on the part of the Humanists was related to their ambition to revive the classical genres. the lengths of the cantos vary. The psychological interest. general songbook). Bacchus makes trouble for the protagonists. ranging from eighty-seven stanzas (canto 7) to 156 stanzas (canto 10). based on several written accounts as well as oral tradition.. with no interruption in the logical sequence of the action. English translation. for a work of art requires unity of action—that is. The remainder of the work is divided between two main story lines. in keeping with the rules of the genre and. The poet begins by explaining the subject. 29-19 b. invoking the Muses of the Tagus to grant him the proper sublime tone and flowing. who is their enemy. Camões. Garcia de Resende laments that the accomplishments of the Portuguese have not been properly glorified. failed to find these qualities in his historical figures—so much so that his characters more often resemble statues in a procession than human beings. 9.Critical Survey of Poetry services to João II to sing of his deeds in Latin verse. In the midst of wars between Protestants and Catholics—not to mention between rulers of the same religion. Da Gama’s voyage was insufficient to give artistic unity to the poem. Camões.. incorporated a term created and used in several works by André de Resende. into the description of the extraordinary voyage of Vasco da Gama. 2. although it was probably composed between 1545 and 1570.c. grandiloquent style. It is perhaps for these reasons that. 5. sought to meet the challenge of the Homeric model that so engaged other Humanists. and at the same time maintain the structural balance of the poem. On the other hand. Luís de ing the history of Portugal prior to King Manuel (cantos 3. a companion of Bacchus). who has Aeneas narrate the history of his people and his own nautical adventures to Dido. Ferreira encouraged his colleagues to write such an epic.c. including the epic. such as Charles V and Francis I—and above all in the face of the Turkish onslaught in the Mediterranean. according to legend. the history of past heroes seems related to that of current ones. This rivalry accounts for the obstacles that the fleet encounters on the eastern coast of Africa (the fictitious storm occurring at the end rather than the beginning of the trip) and for the intrigues that create enemies for the Portuguese. as was the nationalism of the Aeneid (c. Despite his repeated aversion to the military life on land and sea. The Lusiads. the Lusitanians accepted their sacred mission as had the Crusaders before them. signifying “the Portuguese” (descended. and Bacchus. and 10). it was possible for Camões to introduce the historical narratives of the Lusos. and stirs up the gods of the sea to unleash the storm against them. with Vergil as his chief model. the voyage of Vasco da Gama to India (cantos 1. Camões found no plot in the voyage. then. does not reside in the difficulties and complications of da Gama’s voyage but in the rivalry between Venus. from Luso. Venus intercedes on their behalf with 183 . Camões invented a mythological plot of impassioned gods. and he himself attempted the epic style in several odes.e. but there is evidence in his collection of lyric poetry of early intentions to glorify the great deeds of his people. Disguised. In the prologue to the Cancioneiro general (1516. first published in 1572. according to which the nation was fulfilling a divine mandate by extending both the empire and the faith. human characters and passions are indispensable in motivating the action of a narrative poem.

strives for a realistic interpretation. In general. the gods could be interpreted as angelic. Finally. demonic. sometimes to the aroused ardor of desire. Camões combined a reverence for the classical world with the passionate exploratory spirit characteristic of the Renaissance. At the same time. The noble warriors of The Lusiads faithfully reflect the ideology of the class to which Camões himself belonged. sometimes to the crystalline lyricism of Venus’s island paradise. sometimes to the tedious calm of the doldrums on the equator. Many of his concise formulas have become engraved in the collective memory of the 184 Critical Survey of Poetry Portuguese people. Biographies. enjoyed considerable favor. Certain episodes reveal his genius in the dramatic description of the concrete. which in some respects he foreshadowed. Editions of his lyric poetry began to appear immediately following his death. Francisco de Portugal. the gods are more human than the humans. at least within the realm of Christian miracle. each exploiting different aspects of Camões’s work and attempting to resolve the problems of the genre. however. commentaries. who herself declares the use of mythology allegorical. or astrological forces—all very acceptable to the poet’s contemporaries. was substantial. even immortality. weeping and cursing at da Gama’s departure (canto 6). and otherwise—much of which he acquired at first hand on his far-flung travels. Camões’s phrases are usually clear and precise. nautical. the sea nymphs grant the returning sailors every favor. is not borne out by the bloodthirsty tale of Portuguese history as told by the poet. more an imitator than a genuine poet. The contacts between the gods and humans take place in dreams or through incarnations. Coupled with a capacity for picturesque imagery. he expressed a way of life—aristocratic. and on the Isle of Love. the mythological fiction dissipates. are pathetic figures drawn with the realistic power of Dante. Luís de Jupiter. were his first disciples in the lyric as well. with much onomatopoeia. The term “poet” was said to be synonymous with his name. Da Gama replaces Adamastor and Neptune as the lover of Thetis. Camões’s first editors. threatening the Lusitanian heroes and sobbing at the disappearance of the beautiful nymph (canto 5). the Isle of Love (canto 9) is a typical scene of pagan sensuality that depicts most vividly the voluptuousness to which the men of the Renaissance were so susceptible. Thus. At the end of the poem. however. As for narrative or didactic epics in Portuguese. his epic is a compendium of lore—geographical. The notion of Portugal as a model for the disunited Christian nations of Europe. the vigor of the Renaissance is consistently reflected in Camões’s brilliant verse. The poet. and Adamastor.Camões. and criticism soon followed. Camões excelled in making his form follow his function. more than thirty were composed between 1572 and 1656 alone. as the Portuguese ideology of expansion . The furious waves and ominous winds (canto 6) and the “bloodsucking” waterspout (canto 5) are remarkable in their exact representational qualities. and highly individualistic. and the action depends on and revolves about them. Indeed. warlike. was perhaps advanced more eloquently and strikingly by Camões. His sword in one hand and his pen in the other. The explicit ideological content of The Lusiads is of much less interest today than its artistic realization. Despite transpositions and other syntactical liberties modeled on Latin and despite an excess of mythological allusions. Furthermore. and new editions of the lyrics and The Lusiads were published throughout the seventeenth century—so enthusiastically that many works were incorrectly attributed to Camões. His accounts of the Battle of Aljubarroto (canto 4) and of the tourney of the Twelve English Peers (canto 6) are extraordinarily vivid portrayals of war. already expressed by Gil Vicente and others. As a Humanist. André de Resende and Soropita. and because of Camões’s prestige at court. these devices make Camões the foremost exponent of the sensuous Renaissance. Camões’s influence on the Baroque period. The poignant assassination of Inês de Castro (canto 3) is a scene worthy of Euripides. who enlists the nymphs to weaken the efforts of the sea gods. while the Old Man of Restelo. That Portugal represented Western culture as opposed to the barbarism of the rest of the world. rivaling the naturalism of Albrecht Dürer or Michelangelo. The prodigious sense of rhythm characteristic of his verse is sometimes adapted to the movement and sounds of battle.

” University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. 1942) Terze odi barbare. Jack. History and Heroes in the “Lusiads”: A Commemorative Essay on Camoëns. Translation of Camões’s famous work. A short book examining the use Camões made of the history of Portugal in the creation of the heroes and kings in his poem. Richard A.: Salem Press. Pasadena. Lisbon: Executive Commission of the Fourth Centenary of the Publication of The Lusiads. 1857 Juvenilia. Other major works plays: Enfatriões. the Netherlands: Author. and Third Barbarian Odes) Selected Verse. The Traveling Eye: Retrospection. 1542. Dartmouth: University of Massachusetts Press. Mazzara Giosuè Carducci Born: Val di Castello. Includes bibliographic references and an index. Colin M. 1950 (includes Barbarian Odes. Translated by Landeg White. and Helder Macedo. pr. The Lusiads. A comprehensive plot summary and literary analysis of The Lusiads. 2000. Although the importance of The Lusiads remains great. pr. Camões’s influence as a lyric poet has been more fruitful. 1867 (also known as Giambi ed epodi. Duchy of Lucca (now in Italy). 1540. 1899 (The Lyrics and Rhythms. Discusses the poem as a record of Carducci. 4th ed. February 16. 1863 Giambi. 1883 Rime nouve. Filodemo. Maria Den. Bibliography Camões. Ouden. and Prophecy in the Portuguese Renaissance. 1887 (Rime nouve of Carducci.” In Masterplots. Examines the representation of women in Camões’s poem. 2009. Notions of Patriotism and Images of Women: A “New” Reading of the “Lusiads. 1868 Decennalia. 2008. George. 1994 185 . The New Lyrics. 1939) Nuove odi barbare. 1889 (Third Barbarian Odes. 1939) Ca ira. 1872 Odi barbare. 1907 Also known as: Enotrio Romano Principal poetry Rime. Monteiro. 1974. 1871 Poesie. 1882) Levia gravia. Mazzeno. Camões’s poem The Lusiads is interpreted. Fernando. 2002. 1916. Auto del-Rei Seleuco. 1996. 1913 A Selection from the Poems. Edited by Laurence W. Giosuè and tribute to Portugal’s national drive to conquer new lands and convert the people there. Luís de. It is interesting and accessible. An investigation of literary representations of sixteenth century Iberian colonialism and imperialism. 1835 Died: Bologna. 1921 The Barbarian Odes of Giosuè Carducci. Hart. 1939. New Barbarian Odes. 1882 (New Barbarian Odes. 1555. Nicolopulos. The Poetics of Empire in the Indies: Prophecy and Imitation in “La araucana” and “Os lusíadas. with an introduction that looks at his life and provides some analysis of the poem. New York: Oxford University Press. Italy. 1939) A Selection of His Poems. July 27. 1877 (Barbarian Odes. Discussion of the Portuguese Renaissance centers on The Lusiads. the epic became a historical novel in verse.Critical Survey of Poetry deteriorated. America. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. James.” Haamstede. Gil. 1871 Nuove poesie. O’Halloran. and Southern Africa. “The Lusiads. 1942) Rime e ritmi. Calif. Vision. pr. but all quotes from the poem are in Portuguese. The Presence of Camões: Influences on the Literature of England. An introduction to Camões and an investigation of his influence on a number of writers. 2011.

original body of work. Biography Giosuè Carducci was born to Michele Carducci and Ildegonda Celli in Val di Castello. then to Florence. Giovanni Marradi. Carducci is recognized as the major Italian poet of the late 1800’s. Lorenzo Stecchetti. he was confined for a year in Volterra because of his participation in the Revolution of 1831. He avidly read Roman history and anything dealing with the French Revolution. Maremma. with its Etruscan tombs. Carducci turned his attention toward ancient Rome and Greece. who looked nostalgically back to the Middle Ages. a physician. always an independent thinker. He took a position as a rhetoric teacher in a secondary school at the ginnasio in San Miniato al Tedesco. who had died two days previously: “Per la morte di Giuseppe Garibaldi” (on the death of Giuseppe Garibaldi). the Carduccis were obliged to move when the attempt at independence failed. who had translated into prose all the odes of Horace. satirical in nature. For his part. The boy became further impassioned in the cause of Italian reunification and discovered the works of Ugo Foscolo and Giuseppe Mazzini. Although he came to maturity in the Romantic era. He wrote many volumes of literary history and criticism and edited several editions of Italian authors. All his nonfiction. a small town near 186 Critical Survey of Poetry Viareggio. His greatest speech. Both for his influence and for his work. Father Geremia Barsottini. Carducci’s father. he published his first book. Carducci’s father attempted to impart to his son his own fervent enthusiasm for the writings of Manzoni. The threat of violence became too great for Carducci’s father. as well as his poetry. Carducci’s mother reared him on the tragedies of Vittorio Alfieri. his family moved to Bolgheri. a group that was essentially anti-Romantic and anti- . a writer in the French neoclassical style who had sought to revive the national spirit of Italy. was written in 1846. was his extemporaneous eulogy for Giuseppe Garibaldi. 1882. including Petrarch and Politian. but Carducci. is collected in his complete works. When Carducci was three. Carducci adhered to and helped maintain the values of the classical tradition. Achievements The first Italian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. delivered in Bologna on June 4. An active Carbonaro (a member of a secret society seeking the unification of Italy). His two volumes on Giuseppe Parini have been called “the most impressive monument of his indefatigable industry. His fusion of a classical aesthetic with essentially Romantic sentiments exerted a powerful influence. among them Giuseppe Chiarini. Carducci followed his wandering father to Celle on Mount Amiata but soon after won a scholarship to the Normal School of Pisa. Alessandro Manzoni. Carducci went to religious schools until 1852. and a year later he received his doctoral degree and a certification for teaching. as in his poetry. an anthology. Often asked to speak on public occasions. Giosuè Carducci synthesized two great literary traditions to create a distinctive. Giovanni Boccaccio. particularly in the last decades of the century. he became the outstanding exponent of the classicism which lay beneath the surface of Romanticism throughout the seventeenth century. and was influenced by his rhetoric teacher. Amici Pedanti. Carducci founded a literary society. in Tuscany. speaking on Vergil. though at his best he was the finest essayist of his time. Giosuè Other literary forms Giosuè Carducci (kor-DEWT-chee) had a long career as a scholarly critic as well as a poet and also combined the two activities. and the family relocated first to Laiatico. In 1855. appearing in such poems as “Idillio maremmano” (“Maremma Idyll”) and “Traversando la Maremma Toscano” (“Crossing the Tuscan Maremma”). in the wild and desolate Maremma region south of Pisa.Carducci. L’arpa del populo. Poets such as Enrico Panzacchi. which he received in 1906. became the emotional landscape of Carducci’s later poetry. and Giacomo Leopardi. After completing his education. Opere complete (1940). he displayed disciplined classical eloquence. In 1848. Dante. With several friends. was greatly affected by the patriotism which would lead to the Risorgimento. and Severino Ferrari were all part of Carducci’s circle. His first verse.” The major fault in his prose. indeed. The boy was also taught Latin by his father and delighted in the works of Vergil and other ancient authors. never acquired a taste for Manzoni. Petrarch. Unlike his contemporaries. is a tendency toward bombast.

appointed him to the chair of Italian Eloquence at the University of Bologna. where he remained for nearly a year. Matilde Serao. he returned to Florence and eked out a living by giving private lessons. both from Romantics and from those who favored the status quo. Carducci published his Giambi (iambics. and some of his finest poems. his depression became worse when his brother Dante killed himself for unknown reasons. he moved his mother and brother Walfredo into a very poor house in Florence. later collected in The New Lyrics. pagan spirit of the ancient world. who had founded Cronaca bizantina to encourage native Italian writing and gathered newcomers such as Marradi. a collection of polemical poems. appeared in July. Periodicals such as Fanfulla della Domenica. and Domenica letteraria helped spread his fame. Together with Barbèra. Carducci’s father died. he founded a short-lived periodical. though his work suffered in quality as he became more vituperative. the poems reveal Carducci’s affinities with Victor Hugo and Heinrich Heine. A year later. Although Carducci won a competition for the chair of Greek in a secondary school in Arezzo. Rime. Carducci was somewhat ambivalent toward his professorial role and its traditional philological orientation and fretted about its effect on his poetry. Carducci’s position as a leader of young Italian poets was the result of the efforts of Angelo Sommaruga. Edoardo Scarfoglio. under Carducci. “Inno a Satana” (“Hymn to Satan”) was in a similar vein and became one of his most famous poems. so in 1857.Critical Survey of Poetry Catholic. and Gabriele D’Annunzio for Giosuè Carducci (Library of Congress) 187 . His political views also changed. following the publication of the collection Barbarian Odes. In November. 1859. Cronaca bizantina. and Carducci became the head of his impoverished family. which was emphasized as still existing in the Italian land and blood. Carducci allied himself with the democratic republicans and became more pronouncedly Jacobin and anti-Catholic. the minister of education. became his most influential work. Under Victor Emmanuel II. Barbarian Odes. continuing his private lessons and editing the texts of the Bibliotechina Diamante of publisher Gaspare Barbèra. Indeed. begun in 1873. later Giambi ed epodi). They believed that Italy’s only hope for the future was in the revival of the classical. His first collection of poetry. he was offered the chair of Greek in the secondary school of Pistoia. Despite his financial situation. Il poliziano. were written in the 1870’s. Carducci’s fortunes turned for the better. By 1872. 1857. Carducci freely and ferociously responded in prose to the attacks many times. With the union of Tuscany and Italy. however. venting his intense feelings in aggressive poetry. but the position allowed him to deepen his acquaintance with the classics and with the literature of other nations. New Barbarian Odes solidified his reputation. he had begun to control his polemical instincts. Terenzio Mamiani. and he assumed the role of national poet. In part. Guido Magnoni. then. Giosuè the pseudonym Enotrio Romano. Such opinions naturally provoked violent objections. In 1858. Carducci had been an idealistic monarchist in support of the union of Italy. First. Carducci married Elvira Menicucci in March. Carducci became an object of adulation for younger poets throughout Italy. the granducal government did not approve his appointment. but after Garibaldi was wounded and captured by government troops at Aspromonte in 1862.

asserted that it was not a poem at all but an intellectual orgy.” He reminds Italy of the greatness of Rome and the heroic example of the French Revolution. but in 1899. it was always possible to restore 188 Critical Survey of Poetry those qualities. “Mother Rome. Carducci’s great learning gave him the ability to scrutinize his own work. and blood. In 1904. The critic Querico Filopanti. In these early poems. which were not dead but merely submerged. the poet would disavow the poem and call it “vulgar sing-song. seeking to shock Ital- . a stroke paralyzed his hand and nearly deprived him of speech. including that published in Rime) in Juvenilia.” Later in his life. Many of the poems are violently emotional: Carducci attacks those whom he perceives as the enemies of Italy and plunges into depression over the contemporary state of the country and its people. whatever the Romans had been in essence was still in the Italian landscape. The dead are infinitely more numerous than the living. but he had already adopted many of the values which inform his mature work. Sommaruga sought out Carducci to give credibility to the group. Five years later. he became ill. Juvenilia is highly patriotic in tone and often violently anti-Catholic because of the Church’s opposition to the reunification of Italy. he nevertheless viewed his work as part of a long historical tradition. freshness of style. he resigned himself to the monarchy and acquired a more religious attitude. Juvenilia Carducci collected his earliest poetry (that written between 1850 and 1860. soil. such as Garibaldi. Indeed. In 1885. though he remained fundamentally anticlerical.” and “free human genius. In it. Classicism thus became a way of restoring to the Italian nation and people their rightful identity and heritage. along with a natural humanism free of the sentimentality and egotistic aberrations of Romanticism. Juvenilia reveals a familiarity with Greek and Latin models as well as with Italian poetry. to evaluate and revise it with a living sense of literary history.” but he stood defiantly behind it when it was published. Carducci had too great a heart to let formal considerations neuter him and too much poetic skill not to exploit the opportunities of form. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature the year before he died. despite the setbacks. Carducci gives full vent to his anticlerical feelings. he praises ancient Greece. Carducci revives the memory of ancient poetry and pagan strength by saluting the ancient gods. but his passion and his agility with classical form kept his works free of the servility that mars much neoclassical poetry. Full of the passions of the Risorgimento and the nationalism of the new Italian state.” Carducci’s works are exceptional in their synthesis of literary qualities often seen as opposites. and lyrical force which characterize his poetic masterpieces. Analysis When granting Giosuè Carducci the 1906 Nobel Prize in Literature. the young Carducci was searching for his voice. astounding the public and causing great outrage at the University of Bologna and elsewhere.Carducci. He continued working. The last two decades of Carducci’s life were filled with misery. Though his life coincided with the height of Romanticism in Italy. Carducci’s political and philosophical views shifted. During this period. publishing his last volume of poetry in 1899 and collecting his works from 1850 to 1900. Mazzini. He salutes the heroes of Italian unity. the values that antedate Romanticism are stressed. and the spaces of time under the Triumph of Death are incomparably more immense and more tranquil than the brief moment agitated by the phenomenon of life. for example. and Sommaruga’s encouragement spurred Carducci to intense activity in verse and prose. he took the classical mode as his paradigm of artistic creation. the latter in a joyous celebration of the imminent war with Austria in 1859. One of Carducci’s most famous and controversial poems was “Hymn to Satan. Carducci himself wrote: Great poetry aspires ceaselessly to the past and proceeds from the past. and Victor Emmanuel II. with some appreciation of the Roman Catholic Church’s mission. the Swedish Academy stated that the award was given “not only in consideration of his deep learning and critical research. Giosuè its pages. but above all as a tribute to the creative energy. he was made a senator. he resigned from teaching. Though Italy had drifted from the unity and glory of its past. This might have made him a curious anachronism.

the musicality and facility of his verse were markedly enhanced. in which Carducci evokes the melancholy feeling of the autumn season. such as Eugenio Donadoni. One notable poem from the latter is “I poeti di parte bianca” (“Poets of the White Faction”). all commonly used by Horace. Carducci’s adaptations of classical meters are extraordinarily successful.” Carducci proclaimed. 1861. in which Carducci’s combative nature overcomes his sense of poetry. where the fortress of Paolina (a symbol of tyranny razed by the people in 1860) once stood. “Too much we hated. laws. the poet is filled with the beauty of spring and lifted above the level of ordinary human struggle. and industry. Carducci’s Satan has been likened to Charles Baudelaire’s in Les Fleurs du mal (1857. He hears a chant rising from the hills. and Carducci himself was drifting from his belief in the monarchy. B. The poet even invites his enemy the pope to drink a glass of wine to liberty with him. Looking from Perugia. Most of this collection simply attacks and satirizes Pope Pius IX and the problems of the newly formed Italian government. mother of crops. robust view of life. he returned to modern forms. four years later. Levia gravia and Giambi ed epodi Levia gravia (light and heavy) has a tone of somberness and bitter disappointment. would delay his “arrival” as a major poet to the more mature Nuove poesie. “I hate the outworn meters. Free thought. Curiously. B. pensive mood. New Barbarian Odes. New Barbarian Odes. 1909). and physical vitality are Satan’s promises. When. condemns the fanatic humility of medieval life. During this time. the conquest of Rome was delayed. “Presso l’urna di P. also conveys a tragic.” however. “Miramar. a protest against Christianity. The ancient Etruscans and Romans and foreign invaders of the Umbrian plain are evoked as symbolic of the ongoing cycles of nature. and Third Barbarian Odes At the center of Carducci’s oeuvre is the highly influential and original sequence comprising Barbarian Odes. “Alla fonti del Clitunno” (“At the Sources of the Clitumnus”). So love!/Holy and fair the world shall be always. and he began to adapt such classical forms as the Alcaic. however. provides a departure from this combativeness and reveals a depth greater than that of many of his earlier works. which makes reference to the factions in Dante’s Florence and evokes that moment in history as well as the poetry of the fourteenth century.” the title of which is derived from the name of the castle near Trieste from which Maximilian began his voyage to Mexico. the Asclepiadean. The largely political inspiration and the tendentiousness which characterize Levia gravia also mar Giambi ed epodi. Barbarian Odes. and hails the fecund vitality of Italy. The poet celebrates the peasants who live along the quiet river. “Francesco Petrarca” celebrates the great sonneteer and speaks of raising an altar to him in the deep. “Song of Love. Satan becomes the symbol of nature and reason: He is Lucifer. 1868. 1674) as a Romantic hero. the disaster at Aspromonte occurred. the last poem in Giambi ed epodi. The song of love fills him. Flowers of Evil.” Nuove poesie Some critics.Critical Survey of Poetry ians out of their spiritual apathy. using vivid natural imagery of the Adriatic Sea in the context of the story of the ill-fated Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. Shelley”) is one of 189 . the poem praises Girolamo Savonarola for his defiance. suffering. remark on the gracefulness of images and rhythms in Levia gravia Carducci. arts. lacks the sharp edge of Carducci’s earlier poems on the same topic. ignoring the religious reformer’s own asceticism. the demanding requirements of the ancient forms are satisfied gracefully and unobtrusively. Giosuè and date Carducci’s beginnings as a major poet from this volume. expresses a simple. the voice of people of the past saying. combining Carducci’s sense of landscape with his love for the tradition of Italian poetry. and Third Barbarian Odes. Carducci’s Satan is clearly more Promethean than Satanic. Others. progress. late in life. enemy of asceticism and of a Church which denies the natural rights of human beings. reflecting the events of the 1860’s. green woods. “Canto dell’amore” (“Song of Love”). and the Sapphic. Among the most successful poems of the Barbarian Odes is the pensive love poem “Alla stazione in una mattinata d’autunno” (“To the Station on an Autumn Morning”). carrier of light. but a more fruitful comparison can be drawn with the English Romantics’ interpretation of John Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost (1667. Shelley” (“Near the Urn of P.

The Cambridge History of Italian Literature. Written in elegiac distichs (a dactylic hexameter followed by a pentameter). Warminster. Mont. New York: S. his final book of poetry. The landscape is rich with associations from his memory. 2002. Includes bibliographic references. Spain. ed. 1889-1909 (includes prose and poetry). Orlo. Contains a short entry on Carducci. Standing on the “mount of centuries. Carducci abandoned the classical meters of Barbarian Odes and returned to modern forms. the poem portrays a faraway island where mythical and literary figures meet. Sherby. 1881-1932. 1863 Follas novas. Siegfried and Achilles walk along the sea. Spain. a prize recipient. 1863 Cantares gallegos. 1937) Obras completas. were contemplating his own end. broad expanses visible from the mountains. 1994. Scalia. Higgins. Carducci. as if written in imitation of the clear. living or dead. Shelley. 1991 Other literary forms Rosalía de Castro (KOS-troh) was a novelist as well as a poet. S. 1964 Poems. wide-ranging vision. 1901-2000.” Like many classicists. 2008. Many of the poems in this volume were composed in the Alps and have a clear. Westport. Lady Macbeth and Clytemnestra are paired. J. Williams. The Lyrics and Rhythms In The Lyrics and Rhythms. it but strikes and flees. Vanni. A short biography of Carducci.. February 24. from history. 1857 A mi madre. Bibliography Bailey. . and Lino Pertile. this last book of poems offers a fitting valediction. Giosuè. Giosuè Carducci. 1880 En las orillas del Sar. Opere complete. Roland and Hector sit together under a tree. Translated and edited by David H. England: Clarendon Press. 4th ed.: Kessinger. In the gravity of its tone and the sweep of its vision. The introduction and commentary to this collection of Carducci’s verse provide information on his life and poetic works. Other major works edited text: L’arpa del populo. Includes bibliographic references. ed. 1837 Died: Padrón. Ophelia and Iphigenia. F. miscellaneous: Opere. Cordelia and Antigone. Eugene. 1999. Louise S. July 15. New York: 190 Critical Survey of Poetry Cambridge University Press. Conn. 1855. The Who’s Who of Nobel Prize Winners. from ancient myth and legend. Rev. Lear tells his story to Oedipus. Reprint. only in death is truth.: Oryx Press. Contains a short discussion of Carducci and classicism. Carducci. Carducci: His Critics and Translators in England and America. 1909-1911 (4 volumes) Poems. Carducci believed that it is possible to cheat death only by the immortality of art. A history of the critical reception of Carducci’s work in England and America. A brief biographical and critical study of Carducci. the only modern poet present./ only in the past is beauty. 1926. as if Carducci. 1914. The tone of the collection is generally solemn.” the poet looks deeply into the past in order to see the future. 1884 (Beside the River Sar. Brand. 1885 Principal poetry La flor. Rosalía de Carducci’s many poems making reference to great persons. Peter. The narrator speaks: “The present hour is in vain. has been brought to the island by Sophocles. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1940 (30 volumes. Madison Davis Rosalía de Castro Born: Santiago de Compostela. Oxford. Helen and Iseult. Selected Verse. Whitefish. eds. Durendala and Andromache. includes all his prose and poetry).Castro. Her five novels—La hija del mar (1859. 1937. John Cann. who had been obsessed with death since his brother’s suicide and the death of his infant son. England: Aris & Phillips.

Some critics believe that she interacted with Bécquer—that in fact she lent him in 1857 a copy of Gérard de Nerval’s translation of Heinrich Heine’s Tragödien. T. morta” (“Lullaby for the Late Rosalía de Castro”). her formal education may not have been extensive. She read the foreign classics in translation and was fond of Lord Byron. Gerald Brenan has gone further. As a teenager.” including a “Canzón de cuna pra Rosalía Castro.” and Gerardo Diego used her name as a metaphor in his own poetry. Castro’s Galician and Spanish poetry has been accepted into English-language anthologies of world verse. asserting that if she had written more in Spanish than in her native Galician dialect. rev. Heinrich Heine. Although Castro herself put considerable stock in her novels. and could draw well and read French. he may have taken some interest in her welfare. Her unabashedly heart-throbbing lyrics are saved from mawkishness by her disciplined style. and there developed between them a deep bond. She led the way for subsequent poets to uti- Castro. Tragedies. Antonio Machado borrowed images from her poetry. By 1853. Rosalía was living with her real mother. Castro was taken from Padrón to Santiago. Using the folk songs of Galicia as her models. especially in those of women’s poetry (such as A Book of Women Poets: From Antiquity to Now. and her use of free verse heralded the boldness of contemporary poetry. ed. and who dedi191 . and E. Flavio (1861). and her work tolled the death knell for urban Romanticism. 1995). A precocious child. where she attended school and where she participated in the city’s cultural life. At a young people’s cultural society. With her contemporaries Manuel Curros Enríquez (who wrote an elegy for her) and Eduardo Pondal. El caballero de las botas azules (1867. is the most representative of Spanish poetry at the time of its transition from Romanticism to the modern lyric.. Judging from the spelling errors in hand-written manuscripts of her poetry. Jose Martínez Viojo. when Azorín (José Martínez Ruiz) and Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo recommended her to the public. Castro made up a triad of Galician poets who effected a renaissance of their provincial literature. had developed a fine contralto voice. 1905). Rosalía de lize folk tradition. A. Ruinas (1866. Biography Rosalía de Castro was born in Santiago de Compostela in 1837. was thirty-three when Rosalía was born. ruins). the child of María Teresa de la Cruz de Castro y Abadía. In Rosalía’s eyes. a man who was later to be the model of Flavio in her novel of the same name. It was not until the second decade of the twentieth century. the first madman)—span the transition from Romanticism to realism. recognized the rare timelessness of her observations. even poet Luis Cernuda. Rosalía was brought up by Francisca Martínez.Critical Survey of Poetry Daughter of the Sea. Hoffmann. Her Galician poetry inspired Federico García Lorca to write his own “poemas gallegos. Later. Although her father could not acknowledge Rosalía as his daughter. and by the age of sixteen she could play the guitar and the piano. Together with Lyric Intermezzo. a book said to have influenced Bécquer. Her mother. one of the most representative figures of the Romantic movement in Galicia. she bonded modern Spanish poetry to oral forms that would have otherwise been lost. despite her surname. Castro was writing verses by the age of eleven. nebst einem lyrischen Intermezzo (1823. Castro’s poetry. Achievements Rosalía de Castro has been called Spain’s foremost woman poet. that her reputation as a poet became assured. who. the knight with the blue boots). 1992). who found her work uneven and sentimental. however. she would be recognized as the greatest woman poet of modern times. Modernist poets availed themselves of the revolutionary meters used by Castro (her ennea-syllabic verse in La flor—the flower—predates the so-called innovations of Rubén Darío). Juan Ramón Jiménez referred to her as “our Rosalía. along with that of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer. To a remarkable extent. who came from a oncewealthy family. her mother sanctified whatever sin she may have committed by reaffirming her obligation to her daughter in defiance of a hypocritical society. she is remembered only for her poetry. her father. does not appear to have been the priest’s sister. was thirty-nine and a priest. she met Aurelio Aguirre. Edgar Allan Poe. and El primer loco (1881.

their second child. Castro’s beloved mother died. thus. a place whose enchant- . Having suffered from vague ill health all her life. In the 1870’s. damp. The couple had seven children. Among the poems not included in her own collections but included in Obras completas is an elegy for Aguirre. She loved the arts and took great pleasure from her endeavors in the fields of music. like Aguirre a Galician of Basque descent. was born in 1859. Despite the fulfillment of children and the security of family life. which she considered home. was a journalist and historian destined to be honored in Galicia for his role in promoting regionalist literature. written in Galician but given a Spanish title. and Castro spent much of her time at Padron. but it has been suggested that the lost love recalled in her poems and her fiction was Aurelio Aguirre. and her youngest daughter was stillborn in 1877. Castro and Murguía were married in Madrid on October 10. also a daughter. not to exaggerate the pathetic nature of Castro’s life. Exposed to the cultural life of the Spanish capital. To Castro. not only because some of his comments presuppose a direct knowledge of Castro’s personality. however. and Castro honored her with a privately printed collection of poems. where she stayed at the home of a relative. had recently come from Galicia and. She became so consumed with nostalgia for her native land that she began her Cantares gallegos (Galician songs). and for the greater part of her life she enjoyed exchanging ideas with her friends. prefers to see in Murguía—who survived his wife by thirty-eight years and wrote lovingly and abundantly about her—one of the few mainstays of Castro’s sad life. was an accomplished painter of Galician landscapes but died young. and in both her poetry and her fiction. and acting. One of the twins Castro bore in 1871. a daughter. Perhaps it is too facile to attribute the characteristic wistfulness of her poetry to a failed love affair. Her daughter Gala. mistreated her. Rosalía de cated to her a work called “Improvisation”—apparently an attempt to console her for the discrepancy between her enchanting poetry and her less than enchanting physical appearance. on the other 192 Critical Survey of Poetry hand. She was a great success when she acted in Antonio Gil y Zárate’s play Rosamunda (1839). too. and lush like her native Galicia was disappointing. but this is rather unlikely. people who are authentically sorrowful often develop a profound love of humankind and achieve a different kind of contentment. and after her death a legend grew concerning her generosity to others. With her last breath. In 1856. Their first child. she died of uterine cancer in 1885. A mi madre (to my mother) of limited literary value but elegiac and emotional. she devoted herself to writing and was able to meet other contemporary writers.Castro. she asked that the window be opened. Murguía held positions in Galicia. he was not acquainted with the young author. where Murguía had a position as a government historian. her first book of poetry La flor appeared and was favorably reviewed by Manuel Murguía in La Iberia. It remains unclear what kind of a marriage Castro had with Murguía. In the moments before her death. she withdrew completely from society in her last decade. she disliked most of the rest of Spain. 1858. Between 1859 and 1870. envious of his wife’s talents. and they traveled extensively throughout Spain. she received the Sacraments. any terrain that was not green. it is certain that Murguía destroyed his wife’s correspondence after her death.” but it is possible she left home with the idea of becoming an actress in Madrid. In 1857. was not born until ten years later. for she wished to see the ocean—which in fact was not visible from her home. Castro was buried near her mother in the peaceful cemetery of Adina in Padron. she mourned lost happiness. In 1862. This was especially true of Castro. Her youngest son died in his second year as the result of a fall. the couple lived in Madrid and Simancas. endowing her with a kind of saintliness. As Victoriano García Martí points out. It is important. in fact. but also because he. Castro went to Madrid. and begged her children to destroy her unpublished manuscripts. she was frequently bored. was Aguirre’s best friend. According to Murguía. was especially concerned that her mother not be remembered as morose. recited her favorite prayers. who lived until 1964. drawing. Gerald Brenan believes that Murguía. Murguía. Castro scholar Marina Mayoral. It is generally said that she went “on family business. Ovidio.

little breezes/ breezes of the land I come from”)—and contrast—as in “To them those frosts/ are the promise of early flowers. Her diction is almost colloquial. Galician. the northwest corner of the Iberian peninsula. “my. and Castro uses its humming nasals as a tool to craft more sharply the gloom she suffers on Earth. Galician became the language of lyrical poetry throughout the Iberian peninsula. and uses verbs such as anonadar (to destroy). her remains were moved in 1891 to a marble tomb in the Convent of Santo Domingo de Bonaval in Santiago. agostar (to wither up as in August). possesses the bones of Saint James the Apostle. pensive attitude./ than to go to you for bread. She was not fond of metaphors but rather relied heavily on repetition—in such lines as (“Breezes breezes. and especially of trees (such as the oaks sacred to the ancient Celts of Galicia. she sometimes used the leixa-pren. is a nasal language (for example. and in the thirteenth century. After the thirteenth century. In 1917. and it was not until the nineteenth century that an interest in the poetic potential of the Galician language was reawakened. The steady stream of pilgrims traveling to Galicia from all parts of Europe made Santiago a medieval cultural center./ To me they are silent workers/ weaving my winding sheet. Galician min.Critical Survey of Poetry ment she had evoked in Follas novas (new leaves). The Galician jograles (minstrels) sang characteristically of melancholy (designated in Spanish by its Galician and Portuguese name. The unpleasant memory of the savage reprisals undertaken by the government may help explain her strong hostility toward Castile and Castilians. this statue is faithful to portraits and descriptions of Castro. Castro felt lost. This painful nail. and the cedars of “our own” Lebanon). as in. There abound words for the lushness of Galicia. condense well into a single epithet or phrase.” In her earlier poems. either away at sea or fighting the Moors in Portugal. their cantigas de amigo.” as opposed to Spanish mí). On the very day of her death. she draws repeatedly on Spanish adjectives such as torvo (grim). giant chestnuts. as in the line “Pra min i-en min mesma moras” (for me and in myself you live). a special feature of the medieval cantigas de amigo. her compatriots. The figure is seated in a calm. Analysis As Frédéric Mistral is to Provence and Joan Maragall to Catalonia. and egida (aegis) to express the security and coziness of home in Galicia. weeping like Mary Magdalen. In her somber moods. “I Used to Have a Nail” One remarkable poem that reveals Castro’s attitude toward sorrow is “Una-ha vez tiven un cravo” (“I Used to Have a Nail”) in Follas novas. as in the lines. for which reason Galicia became in the Middle Ages the third most holy shrine in Christendom (after Jerusalem and Rome). When Castro was nine years old. iron. or love. whether made of gold. When at last she gathers the courage to pluck it out. in Follas novas. together with an organization of Galician emigrants in America. and as a result of the homage paid her in death. however. linked politically with Spain but tied ethnically. According to biographer Kathleen Kulp-Hill. Some critics have speculated that without an abundant supply of sorrow for her to sublimate into poetry. nido (nest). while she uses words such as guarida (lair). the songs of women whose lovers were absent. “May God grant./ Castilians whom I abhor. projecting an aura of strength and warmth. linguistically. rom “Cando penso que to fuche” (when I think that you have gone). there was an eclipse of Galician poetry. for example. organized a campaign to raise a statue to their poet in the Paseo de la Herradura in Santiago. Castilians.” Santiago de Compostela. to entreat God to effect a miracle for its removal. and temperamentally with Portugal. and her adjectives are always the least ornamental possible. names of animals and birds. whereby each new stanza begins with an echo from the last line of the previous stanza. This contradictory hunger for suffering cannot be reduced to the 193 . Rosalía de The poetry of Castro flows from line to line in a musical sequence and does not. her syntax uninverted (except in her earliest poetry and in some of her later poetry). looking toward Padron. there was an unsuccessful insurrection in Galicia against the Spanish government. the void it leaves is something like a longing for the old pain./ that rather the Galicians should die. hostigar (to scourge). accolades began to arrive. as Gerald Brenan observes. and triste (sad). more than Spanish. leads the poet. amargo (bitter). saudades). Castro. Castro’s birthplace. Rosalía de Castro is to Galicia.

Working without a grammar. Pass By”). The Romancero gitano. and prayers. In “Pasa rio. and by scouring from their personal slates offenses that might have incurred his wrath. as well as her marginally Christian sombras (“shades”). and elsewhere employs the same word to create a metaphor for sorrow: “N’ hay peor meiga que un-ha gran pena” (there is no worse demon than a great sorrow). warlocks (meigos). those “quitadoiriños de penas” (“takers-away of sorrow”) that enchant the woods and caress the land. published the previous year. In “Dios bendiga todo. avowedly preferred her destiny to a “bed of roses and feathers. mark the road to heaven.” from Beside the River Sar). 1951. Witches (meigas. airiños. and she fought herself for her faith. an old woman warns a young girl of the dangers of the world. as Unamuno did. Nor is the imagery of the supernatural always to be taken literally. Castro has the heroine address her lover affectionately as “warlock” while he prepares to leave her bed. playing upon the dual meaning of airiños as “little breezes” and “little songs. There are many poems of praise for Galicia. She dares to ask the Sun of Italy if it has seen “more green. and is reminded by a wandering cloud of the sad shade of her mother wandering lonely in the spheres before she goes to glory. River. pasa rio” (“Pass by. contractions. in which she describes Padrón. There are biblical references in her poetry. the pioneer of the realistic novel in Spain. and included a short glossary of Galician words for the sake of her Castilian readers. where he has had to emigrate. such as “Cómo chove mihudiño” (“How the Rain Is Falling Lightly”). she acknowledges the inspiration of El libro de los cantares by Antonio de Trueba. nena” (“God Blesses Everything. where a family frightened by a storm tries to placate God with candles. . 1924-1927 (1928. and elves (trasgos) inhabit her forests. aires” (“Breezes. olive leaves. She attempted to imitate modern Portuguese in her use of diacritical marks. and apologizes for her shortcomings as a poet. and reminisces about the great house owned by her humanitarian grandfather.” which have been known to “envenom and corrupt. holy medals. She also draws on Galician lore concerning the supernatural world. In the prologue to this volume. and she longs for the sweet breezes of home. and amulets to protect her from witches. people peer curiously at her. 1953) of Federico García Lorca. Rosalía de level of a personal neurosis. Similarly as Galician poetry inspired the Castilian lyric of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. and elisions. The fine line between religion and superstition is typified in “Soberba” (“Foolish Pride”) in Follas novas. owes much to this poem. the souls of persons no longer living whom Castro “invokes” from time to time and who respond by intervening in the lives of the living. and the safety of the unwary nocturnal traveler may be jeopardized by the Host of Souls in Torment. In an aubade. Child. a disconsolate lover weeps tears into the ocean in hope that they may reach her beloved in Brazil. whereupon the girl declares her intention never to leave her village without scapularies. The plight of the Galician emigrant forced to leave his homeland because of economic necessity troubled Castro deeply. Cantares gallegos Castro’s first important book of poems was Cantares gallegos.” from Cantares gallegos). Her masterpiece is perhaps “Airiños. more roses. and lexical and orthographic inconsistencies abound.” Religion and superstition Castro was conventionally religious. who won Castro’s appreciation with her unprejudiced portrayal of Galicians. Breezes. Castro apologizes for her Galician. Castro believed that thistles. this poem influenced the revival of Spanish poetry that began thirty years after Castro’s death.” Everywhere this unfortunate emigrant turns in the strange country of her destination.” The poems are dedicated to Fernan Caballero (Cecilia 194 Critical Survey of Poetry Böhl de Faber). lulled by the river where the trees are shady. and in “Yo en mi lecho de abrojos” (“I on My Bed of Thistles.Castro. it is not a pure dialect unaffected by Castilian influence. indeed. though harsh to the flesh. Little Breezes”) in which she portrays the nostalgia of a Galician emigrant. with its themes and repetitions derived from folk tradition. for example. The Gypsy Ballads of García Lorca. claiming that her only schooling was that of “our poor country folk. for it reflects the ideals of traditional Christianity. lurpias)./ bluer sky or softer colors/ where foam stripes your gulfs with whiteness”. Castro’s usual procedure was to begin her poems with a popular couplet and then to elaborate it into a ballad. she needed God and sought him everywhere.

proclaim the superiority of these poems. Many of the poems collected in Beside the River Sar were written between 1878 and 1884 and were published in periodicals. because without those dreams. but many of the poems in this collection were written as long as ten years before the publication date. Death is seen as a cure for the disease of life. Love is no longer hopeful but rather furtive and anxious. as opposed to the folk poems of Cantares gallegos with their marked oral quality. In her prologue. Castro asserts the importance that natural phenomena such as plants. and she also asserts her artistic independence as a woman. Beside the River Sar. These late poems reflect a greater concern with ideas. assuming instead the role of a backdrop. but is no longer decorative and is now interwoven with more complex emotions. Here. that she owes her prominence in Spanish literature. and birds have for her. Rosalía de de Aguilera. she would lack the wherewithal to admire the beauty that they themselves so generously display. she exhorts them not to poke fun at her. and the poet asks God why suicide must be deemed a crime. Although she occasionally dedicated her poems to worthy persons (such as her husband and Ventura Ruíz de Aguilera). Galicia is no longer a focal point. a contemporary poet who drew on the folk motifs of the Salamanca area. displaying in “Los robles” (“The Oaks”) a distinctly modern concern for ecology when she protests the wasteful destruction of trees in Galicia with an almost druidic reverence for arboreal vitality.” The landscape of Galicia is always in the background. Although it seems that these natural phenomena view her as a “madwoman” because of her outlandish dreams. is a symbol for the flowing of life toward its unknown and unknowable destination. the beloved river of her homeland. In “¿Que lle digo?” (“What Should I Tell Her?”) the emigrant may be plagued by saudades for his homeland but may wax cynical about love as well: “Antona is there. Castro expresses her concern for the suffering of Galicians in distant lands.Critical Survey of Poetry Follas novas The poems of Follas novas are meant to be read and reflected upon. and the folk element is even less in evidence. Castro’s poetry is no longer concerned with aubades but rather with the departures of lovers and their separation. Beside the River Sar As a result of complaints made by her Galician readers that some of her material was scandalous. which radiate innocence and hope. finds the aloofness of her Castilian poems chilling. In Beside the River Sar. by Ventura Ruíz Castro. and it is to this decision and the Spanish poems of her last collection. written in classical form. of poets 195 . but I have Rosa here. however. In her valorization of dreams (sueños or ensueños) and her refusal to accept the pathetic constraints by which humankind is necessarily bound. they are characterized by unusual combinations of lines and broken rhythms. and by a syntactical complexity not previously seen in Castro’s work. Castro did not often exalt either historical figures or living persons in her poetry. Not all the critics. The 139 poems of Follas novas are more subjective and personal and bleaker than those of the earlier book. the book was published simultaneously in Havana and Madrid in 1880. such as combinations of eight with ten or eleven syllables or eight with fourteen. they are also more innovative in form: Castro employed varying line lengths with metrical combinations then regarded as inappropriate for Spanish verse. the affable British general who led a retreat to Corunna that ended in the British victory over the Napoleonic forces there in 1809. Dedicated to the Society for the Welfare of Galicians in Havana. is her elegy on the tomb of Sir John Moore. but which cost Moore his life. Castro prefigures the concerns of the Generation of ’98. Gerald Brenan. In what is possibly her most frequently anthologized poem. with lines of as many as sixteen or eighteen syllables. who prefers the softer. Castro vowed never again to write in Galician. brooks. “Dicen que no hablan las plantas” (“They Say That Plants Do Not Speak”). more tender tone of her Galician verse. The River Sar of the title. Certainly the successive deaths of her two youngest children within three months of each other in 1876-1877 did much to intensify her tragic sense of life. One notable exception. some as distant as La nación española of Buenos Aires. Follas novas also includes a translation into Galician of the poem “Armonias d’a tarde” (harmonies of the afternoon). Castro continues to excel in nature poetry.

Machado. Madrid: Ediciones José Porrua Turanzas. Of interest to feminist critics is an interpretation of Castro’s literary vocation within a patriarchal society. . 1977. N. in which an old man. In the latter. In an age when poets declaimed. in fact. There must be a heaven. Suddenly. Rosalía de such as Unamuno. Silva.: McFarland. Flavio.” One of the most interesting poems in the collection is the questioning and subsequently epiphanic “Santa Escolástica” (“Saint Scholastica”). creating from 196 Critical Survey of Poetry their own forms and phrases a new poetry of rare beauty. as they do in the poignant “La canción que oyó en sueños el viejo” (“The Song Which the Old Man Heard in His Dreams”).: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. de Castro and J. A. Nevertheless. Includes bibliographical references and index.” In Beside the River Sar. designated crazy in the poem. Wilcox. the winter. “N’a catedral” (“In the Cathedral”). and the poet withdraws without consolation.” Even the desert of Castile. A comparison of Castro’s and Silva’s poetry. is friendly. Kulp-Hill. feels his blood pump and surge as his youthful passions return when in truth he should be reckoning with “infallible death” and “implacable old age. Michelle C. since there is God. Rosalía de Castro. A thorough critical study of Castro’s writing and a bibliography of her works. Jack Shreve . El caballero de las botas azules.” she exclaims.” New York: Edwin Mellen Press.C. 1861. Dever. Women Poets of Spain. 1995). the sun strikes the statue of Saint Scholastica and brings into sharper focus the saint’s ecstasy. Examines the symbolism of Castro’s poetry at length. As she explored her own hope and hopelessness and pondered the human condition in general. “Cemetery of the living. 1867. Discusses her relationship with Manuel Murguía. Aileen. she translated her findings into poetry that speaks to all people.Castro. This work on female poets in Spain in the second half of the nineteenth century contains a section on Castro. 1881. Geoffrion-Vinci. Their works have meaningful differences but share remarkable likenesses in theme. N. 1968. symbolic of despair and the end of life in Castro’s earlier work. though it is unlikely that they knew of each other’s work. “There is art! There is poetry! . Jefferson. the shadows return. “Why./ for there is God. Other major works long fiction: La hija del mar. and is “a thousand times welcome. Kathleen. Boston: Twayne. does Hell prevail?” She enters the Convent of San Martín Pinario in search of comfort. 2002.” Kulp-Hill contrasts this joyous poem from Beside the River Sar with a poem from Follas novas having the same setting. 1866. 1995. This leads to her own rephrasing of that tortured question. John C. The Poetics of Rosalía de Castro’s “Negra sombra. Her female soul begins to feel the sacred majesty of the temple as vividly as it has felt the satisfactions of motherhood. The Radical Insufficiency of Human Life: The Poetry of R. Manner and Mood in Rosalía de Castro: A Study of Themes and Style. Castro’s last volume was a testament to hope.J. and Azorín. . lit by “another light more vivid than that of the golden sun. Between the Maternal Aegis and the Abyss: Woman as Symbol in the Poetry of Rosalía de Castro. who exclaims exultantly. she must acknowledge that dreams can lead to folly. the poet allows herself to absorb the dismal atmosphere. as she contrasts the gloom she sees around her with the city’s medieval glory. 1997. She was unashamed to examine and interpret the feelings of the Galician peasantry. coming to represent the realm beyond carnal suffering. assumes a positive guise. 2000. anathema in her earlier poetry and so drastically opposed to the lushness of Galicia. Includes an index and bibliography of Castro’s writing. Joanna. El primer loco. a herald. of spring. Ruinas. tone. Madison. 1859 (Daughter of the Sea. As the contrast between the two poems suggests. 1860-1990: Toward a Gynocentric Vision. although the sun shines briefly into the dimly illuminated room. A close critical examination of one of Castro’s poems. Introductory biography and critical analysis of selected works. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Bibliography Courteau. which in turn produces an ecstasy in Castro. In Santiago on a drizzly April day. Castro had the courage to write honestly and realistically about issues that troubled her. _______. and style.

85 b.c. Achievements Catullus is one of the greatest lyric poets of all time. a series of traditional hypotheses about his life have evolved. and a particular situation in which these words might be spoken appropriately. the Catiline Conspiracy occurred. a conveyor of the Alexandrian formal tradition into Latin poetry. and Caesar’s subsequent rise to power. arguments.e.. It appears that he lived a life of ease and culture. Pompey. although he never mentions any family member except his brother. The late Greek poets developed complicated metrical patterns that Catullus translated into the Latin language. the manuscript contained 116 of his poems. Catullus was probably a younger son who went at an early age to Rome to make his way.c. editor) Gaius Valerius Catullus: The Complete Poetry. and Caesar was assassinated in 44 b. with a genius for intense.e. Catullus was the leading representative of a revolution in poetry created by the neoteroi or “new men” in Rome. The reader must envision many of Catullus’s poems as little one-act plays.e. and his love for his brother and for his Italian countryside. indecent behavior.Critical Survey of Poetry Catullus eryday. c. 1957 (Frank O. Catullus was in his early twenties when.-c. He writes about lovers’ quarrels. in 62 b. Copley.c.e. intense. In the fourteenth century. His language is that of the street: slang. Died: Probably Rome (now in Italy). Even in translation. Catullus had been dead only about five years when civil war broke out between Caesar and Pompey. probably for this reason.c.c.e. The poet lived to see the coalition of Julius Caesar. and Crassus form in 60 b.) Catullus was a precursor of the Augustan Age. Rather than writing about battles. Pompey. a New Translation with an Introduction. translator) Other literary forms Catullus (kuh-TUHL-uhs) is remembered only for his poetry.c. a manuscript of his works was discovered. personal poetry. topics. intensely personal life. References to Julius Caesar. immediately before the reign of Augustus (27 b. and language of Catullus’s poems were drawn from the seamy streets of Rome. he is funny and obscene. c. He owned a villa at Sirmio in the lake district of northern Italy and another in the Sabine Hills. The only documented fact about his career is that he traveled to the province of Bythinia on the staff of the governor Gaius Mem197 Catullus Born: Cisalpine Gaul (now in Italy). Catullus draws his subjects from ev- . passionate. he was called in ancient times the “learned” Catullus.e. with a persona speaking the lines.) and the Augustan poets. Whatever he writes is marked by a high level of passion. Pompey’s death at the Battle of Pharsalus occurred in 48 b.c. under the consulship of Cicero. 1893 (Elmer Truesdell Merrill. profanity. He lived in Rome when that city was the center of the known world and when it was rocked to its foundations by political and social revolution. His poetry is personal. Ancient sources indicate that he was born in Cisalpine Gaul.e.e. furious and touching. His poetry precedes the somewhat later literary wave of Vergil (70-19 b. His family must have been wealthy and powerful.c. a dramatic audience listening to the speech.e. heroes. 14). his poetic forms were not. varying from a short couplet to a long poem of more than four hundred lines. and the pagan gods. 54 b. Biography Very little biographical information about Gaius Valerius Catullus is known with certainty. Catullus studied and imitated the meters of late Greek literature of the Alexandrian school. He wrote during the stormy period when the Roman Empire was established. and Cicero appear in various poems of Catullus. Although the content. Catullus bitterly attacked Caesar and his favorites in early poems but eventually came to support the Caesarian party. Principal poetry Catullus. (This subject is discussed extensively in Merrill’s edition of Catullus. His poems are frequently dramatic monologues in which an aggrieved suitor addresses his mistress or an injured party pours malediction on his enemy. and excited. dialect. From references in his poetry and from legend. rather than by the Augustan ideal of calm detachment.

all in iambic or logaoedic rhythm. Modern scholars suggest that Lesbia is a pseudonym for a real woman. Clodia. Catullus eventually was reconciled with the Caesarian political group. The likely motive for such a trip would be to earn a fortune. This hypothesis seems to be supported by several references in the poems and suggests that Catullus really was involved in an affair that followed the outlines suggested in his poems. Gradually. The poet attacks his rivals viciously in words. who became an object of attack in several of Catullus’s later poems. the poems of Catullus fell out of favor. He died in his thirtieth year. the sister of Publius Clodius Pulcher and the wife of Q.c. like the sonnets of William Shakespeare: A lover sings the praises of his beloved or heaps scorn on a rival. but he is nevertheless enslaved by Lesbia’s charms. It is equally possible that Lesbia and her lover are both merely fictional inventions of a clever writer. and he became an unknown figure until the fourteenth century. and he celebrated in poetry his own return to Italy. Whether Catullus left Rome to forget his cruel beloved or to get rich. Although it is not accurate to consider such poems as directly autobiographical. will hesitate to accept such easy equations of art and reality. Sophisticated readers of poetry. until he flees from Rome on his venture to Bythinia to escape her treacheries. Catullus (Library of Congress) 198 . Although critical of Caesar. when Benvenuto Campesino rediscovered the texts. however. he apparently was unhappy with his experience as a follower of the governor Memmius. She toys with his affection and keeps him in torment. Caecillius Metellus Celer. but later unfavorable references in Catullus’s poems suggest that the undertaking was not completely successful. it has become customary to assume that they reflect to some degree real happenings Critical Survey of Poetry in the life of the poet. She is unfaithful to him with many men. probably in Verona. he wrote a tribute to his dead brother’s grave. who also proved unfaithful. The poems of Catullus are often dramatic. who was consul in the year 60 b. The first group includes sixty poems on various themes. It was probably an admirer who collected Catullus’s poems in a book after his death and divided it into three parts according to the verse forms of the poems. a married woman. The poet falls in love with Lesbia.e.e. The middle group includes longer poems and begins with three epithalamia. In Rome once again. Catullus viciously attacked a character whom he called Mentula (the word literally means “penis” in Latin) thought to be based on Caesar’s associate.Catullus mius around 57-56 b. While in Bythinia. From that original. If the reader considers the poems to be mainly nonfiction.c. the poet celebrated a new beloved. an emotional tale emerges about love and hate in Rome long ago. The third group consists of shorter poems in elegiac meter. Mamurra. the boy Juventius.

he cannot explain. in poem 38. Such an exaltation of love is basic to the courtly tradition that developed later in the Renaissance. he begs her to take him back again. the charm that can truly be called beautiful. Peleus and Thetis.” It is a poem of seduction in which the lover reminds the beloved that life is short. Catullus also celebrates his love for the boy Juventius. In praise of physical love Examples of his praise for sexual love include poems 5. the worse the beloved treats him. poem 85. The 116 poems of Catullus can be grouped into several categories: those celebrating sexual love. Only Lesbia has the inner spark. those that taunt and insult. “gather ye rosebuds while ye may. The poet’s addresses to the boy follow conventions of 199 . Poem 86 presents a comparison or combat between the beloved Lesbia and another woman called Quintia. fingers. but the lover systematically examines her nose. Poem 8 is the lover’s lament. others may seem “unnatural” or obscene. Catullus Poem 70 introduces the notion that the beloved is not to be trusted. 86. to a cross.” is particularly well chosen because the crossed feelings of love and hate catch the lover when they intersect and nail him. the lover elevates sexual union to a position of supreme importance. Analysis Catullus was a master of erotic poetry. as it were. concluding that only a country bumpkin would call such a girl pretty. the reader may fail to notice how contrary this erotic sentiment is to conventional morality. and she had better not delay too long in consenting to their union. 109. and tongue. Poem 109 expresses the lover’s fervent wish that his beloved speak the truth when she promises to love him. the lover’s lament at his unfaithful love. the abasement of the lover captivated by his unworthy beloved. the antiblazon or enumeration of the beloved’s defects. Modern attitudes toward sexual love derive from conventions of courtship that can be traced back to Catullus. he asks for a thousand or a hundred thousand kisses. sometimes called antiblazon. in poems 37 and 58. not to be a foolish slave to desire. almost all his verse fits into one or more of these categories. Strangely. justly called the best two lines of psychological analysis ever written. excrucior. size. 87. but Catullus was one of the first to invent and systematically explore them. He knows that Lesbia is merely toying with him. lips. The lover grants that Quintia is physically well made but argues that she lacks personality. and time is fleeting. Rather than directing his attention to loftier matters. Lesbia far surpasses his rival’s girl. Catullus encapsulates the lover’s lament in a couplet. for lovers’ promises are as fleeting as words written in dust or running water. the more the lover desires her. and he resolves not to run after her. 8. and others. Some of his sexual poems seem wholesome and agreeable to the modern “liberated” reader. To elevate the significance of physical love to that of a religion and to make the beloved a goddess of love turns the lover into a helpless supplicant at the mercy of an unpredictable deity. so that the works of Catullus were well known to the great writers of the Italian Renaissance. feet.Critical Survey of Poetry many copies were made. where he accuses her of becoming a common whore. The final word. The poem is in the form of a blazon and begins by enumerating all of Quintia’s outstanding physical features: her complexion. 51. 7. the vilification of the rival for the beloved’s affection. Carried away by the passion of these lines. In either case. and mythological material such as the stories of Theseus and Ariadne. If you ask him why. eyes. the comparison of married to adulterous love. He simply feels that he is crucified. literally “to be crucified. The lover rages at his unfaithful mistress—for example. travel and locodescriptive verse. A cruder but nevertheless amusing version of this kind of love poem. 70. Although these themes overlap. and Attis. however. The lover says that he hates and he loves her. The lover reminds the beloved that soon they will die and sleep one long eternal night. Catullus was one of the first writers to codify a set of conventions for courtship: the blazon or praise of the beloved. In every way. In addition to his passion for the woman Lesbia. is poem 43. The lover’s rival is called Mentula. These topics or themes have become commonplace in Western literature. Mentula has a girl whom some might call pretty. Poem 72 explains that Lesbia’s behavior breaks the lover’s heart but inflames his lust for her. Poem 5 is rightly famous as the prototype of the address of the lover to his beloved. and shape.

his worst insult is to accuse someone in Rome of being a hick or a . Catullus speculates obscenely about how Egnatius polishes his shining teeth. and it says that the poet does not care what the great man thinks. there is always pain close beneath the revelry. the poems numbered 88 and 91. There are too many poems of this sort to analyze them in detail. Poem 10 humorously explains that Catullus did not get rich on his trip to Bythinia. is a couplet addressed to Caesar by name. a country hick unworthy of him.Catullus romantic love similar to those that govern his speeches to Lesbia. It is an example of the pastoral convention. Not only is the barbarian province of Bythinia contrasted to the homely peace of Sirmio. and personal hygiene all come into question. Mentula’s virility. and song. Poem 29 names Mamurra. Catullus seems to have a contradictory set of attitudes in this regard. Poetic taunts and insults Catullus is also the master of poetic taunts and insults. as a pseudonym for a historical personage. Furius in poem 23 is the poor man who toadies to the rich and powerful. The poem accuses Mamurra of looting Gaul for his own profit and refers repeatedly and mockingly to Mamurra as the degenerate descendant of the founding fathers of Rome. Poem 31 celebrates his return from the barbarian province to his beautiful villa in Sirmio. which accuse Gellius of incest and other unusual practices. Usually. but the poem by Catullus is not merely a reflection of the real peace of such a landscape. the supposed rival for Lesbia’s favors. Sometimes. as the attack on Aemillius in poem 97. but he is also crucified by conflicting feelings about Rome. they show the poet’s ability to sketch a portrait of human deviance in a few biting lines. Unfaithfulness and lack of decency in small personal dealings also infuriate Catullus. Usually these attacks are framed in the most offensive language imaginable. No doubt this provided sport for the Roman audience as well. this lake-dotted area in northern Italy is a delightful place to visit. Poem 40 threatens a rival who has stolen the affection of the lover’s boy. the attack on Rufus in poem 69. however. In a court of law or a business deal. Catullus uses some common Roman name. libeled in Catullus’s lines. most delicate homosexual—and he steals personal belongings from the clothing of people at the public baths. In general. poetry. as readers whispered about the true identity of the characters ridiculed or. Poem 27. but. Not only does he both love and hate Lesbia. They are better understood as comic types. most cunning. Egnatius in poem 39 is the ingratiating man who always smiles. the betrayal lurking behind the hearty greeting of the politicians and lawyers of the capitol. the poem concludes that men like Mamurra have brought Rome to ruin. and death everywhere—the death of a pet sparrow. Seldom has a writer humiliated so many public figures so effectively. is a famous drinking song. so obscenely. Catullus endorses wine. wit. courage. not realizing that he is better off in poverty than he would be as a client. Poem 81 mocks the boy for having a new boyfriend. Modern scholars have spent much effort trying to discover who the characters attacked in the poems really are. Travel and rural life A number of the poems are about travel and celebrate the Italian rural life. the death of his beloved brother. a celebration of the virtues of the simple life. Poem 93. Scatology and references to personal uncleanliness abound in these verses—for example. who was Caesar’s prefect in Gaul. women (or boys). about all his acquaintances. he remains smiling. but who never rises above mediocrity. In some poems. heads the list of those in the poet’s disfavor. death pursuing golden boys and girls. Even in modern times. perhaps. Flavius in poem 6 has a new girl who is too spirited for him. As such. Sexual behavior is commonly ridiculed—for example. and about life in general. He sees the ugliness barely hidden beneath the fashionable woman’s makeup. Thallus in poem 25 is the softest. like caricatures. so inventively. he does not hesitate to name names. but the poem also implies that the country life has a simplicity and virtue lacking in the nasty city. as in poem 77. Poem 48 celebrates the boy’s kisses much as poem 5 does the woman’s. the equivalent of English names such as Jimmy or Wayne. Suffenus in poem 22 is the prolific poet who writes and writes. After maligning Mamurra’s sexual habits and his wasteful fi200 Critical Survey of Poetry nancial practices. for example. Mentula. Poem 99 tells how the oncesweet kisses of the boy turn bitter because he is unfaithful. It is not necessary to know the exact identity of the unfortunate people who suffered the scathing attacks of Catullus. for example.

the sexual rivalry and power struggles among greedy Romans seem to turn sour. The gods see to it that Theseus’s forgetfulness is total. how Theseus set out from Athens to slay the Minotaur on Crete and free his people from the annual tribute. Among the decorations of the wedding chamber. from this union was born the great Greek hero Achilles. sometimes called his “little epic. As the poet describes the scene of the consummation of the marriage of Peleus and Thetis. About half of the poem. the weeping of Ariadne inflames Bacchus. Peleus/Thetis and Theseus/Ariadne. the sails of his ship would be black. Moreover. the island of Crete had exacted a tribute of youths and maidens from Athens who were to be sacrificed to a monster. there is a wonderfully designed cloth depicting the abandonment of Ariadne on Naxos by her careless lover. he forgets her and sails away from Naxos. contrasting the unhappy love of Ariadne to the happy expectations of Peleus and Thetis on their wedding day. Although Ariadne had abandoned her family and friends to follow Theseus. According to the myth. Catullus rehearses a theme common to his Lesbia poems: faithless love. and he longs for the simplicity and honesty of the farm. he would carry new white sails on his return voyage so that his father could see from afar his success. and how Ariadne helped Theseus slay the Minotaur in its labyrinth and so left Crete with him. imply that love can elevate humans to superhuman states of being. poem 101. however. describes the embroidered scene. The outer story concerns the wedding of the man Peleus with the goddess Thetis. with the help of the Cretan princess Ariadne. Poem 64 The most important single poem by Catullus is poem 64. one embedded within the other. Catullus turns at times to recall the few moments in his life where decency and faithfulness have appeared—for example. thus juxtaposing and contrasting the two pairs of lovers. became enamored of Peleus. Theseus has cause to grieve for his forgetfulness exactly as Ariadne did. watching from the headland for the return. The wedding takes place in Thessaly. The opening lines of poem 64 tell how Thetis. so that his father. Both the legend of Peleus and Thetis and that of Ariadne on Naxos involve the mating of a human being with a divinity. In a long speech. with love for her. The inner and outer stories are linked together by a clever device. According to the myth. Ariadne cries out her complaint to the faithless Theseus in a brilliant and heart-wrenching dramatic scene. but if he died in the attempt. Her complaint echoes to heaven. Poem 44 is an example of this longing for the rural life. Both. the touching references to his brother’s death in poems 65 and 68. Ariadne is finally avenged. and especially the lovely elegy. therefore. Theseus. but she realizes that Theseus is so far away that he cannot even hear her. The poet then digresses to tell how Ariadne came to this sorry situation.” It celebrates the marriage of two sets of mythical characters. imagines his son to be dead and commits suicide in despair. He takes Ariadne with him back to Athens but stops along the way at the island of Naxos. from line 50 to line 266. slays the Minotaur. Prince Theseus of Athens goes to Crete and. and the poet describes the gathering of the guests and the decoration of the house. the mortal prince of Thessaly. Jupiter himself approves of the match. Theseus had promised his father that. a wedding song or epithalamium for Peleus and Thetis. and Jupiter ordains a terrible revenge.Critical Survey of Poetry country bumpkin. The poem actually consists of two legendary stories. The inner story concerns Theseus and Ariadne. 201 . there is a certain similarity in subject. the god of revelry. The epithalamium celebrates sexual union in extremely frank terms. The story begins with a lush description of the aggrieved Ariadne wading in the wake of her departing lover’s ship. The wedding bed of Peleus and Thetis is decked with an embroidered cloth that depicts the earlier legend of Theseus and Ariadne. Thus. he not only forgets Ariadne but also fails to hoist the new white sails. he digresses to describe the embroidery. the daughter of Jupiter and princess of the sea. the Minotaur. Thus. Catullus Both poems also recognize that the joy of eros is all the more keen because it is fleeting and subject to change. if he succeeded in slaying the Minotaur and returned alive from Crete. At other times. Ariadne’s grief on Naxos is the topic of the embedded story in poem 64. There he abandons her and sails to Athens alone. Although the language and situation of this poem is much more elegant than the rough “street talk” of the poems concerning Lesbia and of the taunts and insults.

humans have fallen on evil ways—greed. The story of Theseus and Ariadne is ancient and common in classical times. foretelling that a son will be born to the couple.Catullus With luxuriant pomp and procession. Prometheus. The Naiads. too. and modes of thinking that are still used in modern poetry. However. original. and one must imagine the dramatic circumstances under which these words might be uttered. It is no accident that readers tend to look at his poems as if they were autobiographical. Catullus invented. History tells readers the facts. He also reworked traditional stories from classical mythology and passed them on. personal involvement. One is forced to construct a persona speaking. Since those ancient times. themes. too. who gave humans fire. At the wedding party. Catullus was more than a merely traditional writer. is a guest. but the modern reader remembers it in the words of Catullus’s depiction of Ariadne on Naxos wading after her false lover’s departing ship and crying out her grief. His poems almost all turn inward on the speaker’s own feeling and attitudes. bring their greenery. the reader is interested in how Catullus feels. a son who will be the great Achilles. fratricide. On the other hand. Catullus concludes by observing that the gods were once friends and guests at human events. The poem thus implies that the wedding will benefit all of Greece. incest. In addition to this wonderful fabric. His poems externalize feelings. He translated these into Latin. Legacy Catullus is a major poet because he transmitted important features of the literary tradition that he received from earlier classical writers and also because he modified tradition and literally invented new styles. Such intense involvement in the poems is created in part by the use of a highly dramatized form of speaking. English translation. If Catullus had done nothing but purvey the poetic forms and stories of Greek culture to modern readers by way of Latin. personal experience: betrayed love. The speaker may be talking about X. inventive power in several aspects of his work. well understood by modern writers. to base poetry in language as it is really spoken by ordinary men rather than in some artificial “poetic” dialect was a remarkable achievement. the introverted concentration of his lyric poetry. but the poem’s real focus is on how the speaker feels about X and not on the ostensible subject of the work. lechery of all sorts—and the gods no longer consort familiarly with humankind. especially erotic feelings. and sentence fragments. This apotheosis of Ariadne through love is depicted on the veil that decks the wedding bed of Peleus and Thetis. like the dramatic monologues of Robert Browning. petty insult. and from his experiments. The heightened immediacy of the lines supports Catullus’s use of highly colloquial vocabulary and sentence structure.. not about what the Caesarians were or what they did. approaching Catullus for the first time. Many students of Latin. Catullus brought to his poetry an unusual sense of immediate. are baffled by his language—his use of profanity. 29-19 b. systematically developed the ideas and con- . slang. which is the epitome of epic poetry in Latin. This poem of 408 lines is not as massive an accomplishment as the Aeneid (c. When Catullus writes about the Caesarian party.c. making it a glory of the Latin language. He exhibited a major. They are written so that it seems certain that they express some lived. one is compelled to imagine the speaker of the lines as a character in a play. The “traditional” Catullus learned from Greek models a number of lyric meters and stanzaic forms. he naturally found himself talking mainly about love and hate. the three Fates sing. enriched and embroidered more elegantly than they were before passing through his hands. spirits of streams and springs. other gifts come to the lovers. long ago. His poetry.e. jewel-like perfection and economy characterize the little epic of Catullus. Catullus understood that poetry tells readers how human beings respond to history. however. deeply felt. the later vernacular poets of Europe were able to develop a formal richness in the short poem. however. he comes to Naxos and takes Ariadne for his own. for the first time in Western literature. such as this wedding. he 202 Critical Survey of Poetry would still deserve a major place in literary history. When one reads Catullus. neologisms. grief at the loss of a brother. Because Catullus turned inward and attempted to analyze human emotions. He used traditional forms of poetry to express attitudes seldom defined before. The centaur Chiron comes down from the mountains with woodland gifts. 1553) of Vergil.

P. along with advice on how to read his works. particularly his elegies and love poetry. Malden. Skinner. Lewiston. Lanham. Wilder. Fitzgerald interprets Catullus’s lyrics and emphasizes his manipulation of the reader’s point of view. Fitzgerald. first stated in Catullus. with eight pages of bibliography. Brian. Kenneth. Catullus: A Reader’s Guide to the Poems. 1995. New York: St. not of the poet’s life but of his poetic achievement. Dettmer. Stuart G.Y. Catullus: The Poems. This volume provides literary history and criticism on Catullus. 2007. Boston: Blackwell. A short bibliographical guide for further study of each of the poems is included. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2009. Bibliography Arkins.: WileyBlackwell. N. P. A highly readable reconstruction of the social and political context. A biography of Catullus that looks at his life and his works. Turn on the popular radio stations. Todd K. French. with sane judgments on matters of literary and scholarly controversy. T. Martin’s Press. 1987. Catullus. however. Catullus. Surveys Catullus’s life and literary influences and offers a reading of his poetry that emphasizes its modernity and accessibility to modern readers. Md. Divided by topic.: University Press of America. listen to a few songs. 1977. 1983. Marilyn B. he united a command of tradition with an individual talent that caused him to change and expand the possibilities he inherited. ed. New York: Peter Lang. Mass. Helena. Does not require Catullus knowledge of Latin. The classic historical novel on the Rome of Cicero. informative not only about Catullus but also about late republican Rome and its personalities. 1971. Catullus’s greatest accomplishment was to express intensely personal feelings in traditional poetic forms. and his sister— and Julius Caesar.Critical Survey of Poetry ventions of courtly love. Catullus and His World: A Reappraisal.e. Catullan Provocations: Lyric Poetry and the Drama of Position. When his poems were rediscovered in the Renaissance. Berkeley: University of California Press. Quinn. Gaisser. Offers a reading of Catullus’s entire corpus of poetry as a unified body of work organized along thematic. ed. Clodius. A Companion to Catullus. His influences and writing style are also discussed. the emperor whose life ended on the title day in 44 b. Contemporary attitudes toward the sexual relationship are so pervasive and powerful that one seldom stops to consider their origins. A running narrative. like a goddess giving her favors or denying them? Such modern attitudes toward erotic love were.. and ask where these ideas come from: Why is erotic love elevated to such a high place in the contemporary system of values? Why is faithless love lamented so extravagantly? Why is erotic rivalry the source of so much hostility and anxiety? Why is the woman given a dominant position in the relationship. Julia Haig. Includes bibliography. and metrical groupings. This scholarly commentary is somewhat idiosyncratic but suitable for college-level readers. in many cases. 1999. 2d ed. Richly documented. Thornton. Contains an introduction and 27 chapters by Cattullus scholars. Small. writers such as Petrarch saw there a prototype for the conventions of courtly love. transmitted through the courtly love-poets of Europe to emerge scarcely changed in lyrics today. structural. The Ides of March. Wiseman. Love by the Numbers: Form and Meaning in the Poetry of Catullus. New York: S.c. The Latin text of all poems is presented with introduction and commentary in English. Bender 203 . William.: Edwin Mellen Press. An Interpretation of the Poems of Catullus. Like all the greatest artists. 1997. Includes bibliographic references. Small supplements a reading of the poems by giving topical overviews.

the Alexandria that tantalizes the imagination of the modern Western reader is to no small degree the city as imagined by Cavafy. Eliot. editor) Passions and Ancient Days.” At the same time. the official language of Greece—the language employed by the government and taught in the schools—was Katharevousa or purist Greek. translator) PoiTmata. Although this linguistic controversy persists in Greece. Cavafy (ko-VO-fee) did not work in any literary form other than poetry. important characters in his masterwork The Alexandria Quartet (includes Justine. there were in Greece passionate advocates of the demotic or spoken tongue. Constantine P. 1935 (Alexander Singopoulos. P. Balthazar. S. Balthazar. translated by Rae Dalven) that Cavafy had influenced his writing for more than thirty years.Cavafy. The 1968 publication of seventy-five previously unpublished poems was the major literary event of the year in Athens. marooned two English novelists—E. . who believed that it alone should be the language of Greek literature and the Greek state. M. 2006 (Aliki Barnstone. but ‘corrected’ and ‘embellished’ on the model of the ancient. 1958.” Achievements Constantine P. Cavafy Konstantionos Petrou Kabaphes Born: Alexandria. T. and Arnold Toynbee. Constantine P. “I have tried to blend the spoken with the written language . editor) Before Time Could Change Them: The Complete Poems of Constantine P. however.” and paid tribute also to Cavafy’s rich evocation of Alexandria and of Hellenic culture. quotes Cavafy as having said. 1968 (Savidis. Forster and Lawrence Durrell—in Alexandria during World War I and World War II. Cavafy did not achieve public acclaim during his lifetime. Auden singled out for praise “the most original aspect of [Cavafy’s] style. Adding weight to Cavafy’s reputation was W. 1975 (Savidis. “I am a historical poet. Forster had one of Cavafy’s best poems. Durrell mod204 . translator) Other literary forms Except for a few essays on literary topics and short notes on language and metrics to be found in his papers. 1951 The Complete Poems of Cavafy. but I hear inside me a hundred and twenty-five voices telling me I could write history. Lawrence. 1961 (Rae Dalven. when Cavafy began to write. so that after Forster’s stay in Alexandria. near the end of his life. P. both in his vocabulary and his syntax. including both his poetry and volumes of previously unpublished prose and other prose. Critical Survey of Poetry eled aspects of Cavafy in the figures of the brooding old poet of the city and the homosexual physician. H. the mixture. and the other evolutionary forms of the language accounts in part for the remarkable vitality of modern Greek poetry—a development in which Cavafy played a significant role. 1971 Collected Poems. KabaphT: Anekdota poiemata. “The God Abandons Antony. respectively. of demotic and purist Greek. 1933 Principal poetry PoiTmata. In 1963. Greek poet George Seferis. Cavafy. Cavafy. Cavafy himself said. Clea. trembling over every word.” translated and printed in his Alexandria: A History and Guide (1922) and spread his name among such literary figures as T. 1957. Cavafy remained almost unknown in Greece until after his death. April 29. Egypt. The fortunes of war. Cavafy. the centenary of his birth was marked by the publication of a collected edition of his works. I could never write a novel or a play. editor) The Poems of C. Mountolive. The tension between a demotic base and borrowings from purist. .” in the words of Linos Politis in A History of Modern Greek Literature (1973). Auden’s statement in 1961 (in his introduction to The Complete Poems of Cavafy. Thus. classical.” The remarkable result was a poetic diction that not only draws on the traditions of Constantine P. Cavafy received many European visitors. In the early 1880’s. 1960). modern Greek writers have overwhelmingly adopted the demotic. E. April 17. Egypt. “a language. P. 1863 Died: Alexandria. editor) K. 1958. “based on popular speech. in On the Greek Style (1966). 2001 The Collected Poems of C. 1963 (George Savidis.

Cavafy’s mother. the youngest and most beloved son of a wealthy Alexandrian merchant. of a unique “tone of voice. Cavafy’s father saw to it that the children were tended by an English nurse. A generous man of European outlook who had lived for some time in England. Unfortunately. in Auden’s words. almost dry. the family fortune was severely reduced. though the family was always “respectable. Haricleia. the Hermes Lyceum.” Cavafy’s poetic voice represents a “style of deliberately prosaic quality. and Greek servants. simple. By the time of Cavafy’s birth. New York) dated in 1879. in the position he held for thirty years immediately under British superiors in the Irrigation Department of the Ministry of Public Works in Alexandria. Because of the economic crisis of 1876 and the three eldest sons’ inexperience and illadvised speculation. Cavafy spoke Greek with a slight English accent and often spoke or corresponded in English with his brothers. political and military disturbances by Egyptian nationalists seeking to end foreign rule and expel foreigners led to the bombardment of the city by 205 . where he acquired an excellent facility with the English language and a lifelong love for the works of William Shakespeare. unadorned. both Cavafy’s father and his mother came from prosperous families in Constantinople. immediately recognizable. Cavafy’s distinctive language can be appreciated only in the original Greek. In 1882.Critical Survey of Poetry Greek from its entire history but also. grain. a personal speech . but even a reader who knows Cavafy’s poems in translation can appreciate one of his principal achievements: the creation. . from the age of nine to the age of sixteen. Upon his return to Alexandria in 1879. he died in 1870 without leaving the family well provided for. In 1872. on occasion. Cavafy had thus spent seven formative years. divested of every element which would cause it to deviate from the strictest austerity—at its best inevitable. demotic language and yet remain entirely clear and understandable to any educated Greek reader. Constantine P. Robert Browning. he was valued for his ability to teach Egyptian employees the English language. Cavafy enrolled for three years in a business school. upper-class milieu. whereupon the Cavafys returned to Alexandria actually impoverished. and buffalo hides had benefited from the Crimean War and the family had settled in a luxurious house in the fashionable rue Cherif in Alexandria. Constantine P. his father’s business in cotton. It is above all Cavafy’s voice that. Cavafy (The Granger Collection. Biography Constantine Peter Cavafy was born Konstantionos Petrou Kabaphes. in England. in translation.” and though the Cavafy brothers retained the cachet of a wealthy. The poet’s first seven years were spent in a household accustomed to elaborate balls and parties and the company of wealthy businesspeople and professionals of various nationalities. and Oscar Wilde. has exercised a powerful influence on contemporary American poetry. concentrated. is able to combine phrases and whole lines of ancient Greek with the modern. . economical. a French tutor. For the rest of his life.” as Petroula Ruehlen puts it in Nine Essays in Modern Literature (1965). took the family to Liverpool. the family farm had to be liqui- Cavafy.

While still living with his mother. Cavafy died at the age of seventy from cancer of the larynx and was buried in the family plot in the Greek cemetery in Alexandria. He wrote both prose and poetry in French and English as well as in Greek. gradually deteriorated. Cavafy was extremely vain. from 8:30 in the morning until 1:30 in the afternoon. because work can’t be put off. but the work was tedious and paid minimally. where he had been working part time for three years. Then when I go home and recover a bit. Pericles Anastassiades (as of 1895) and Alexander Singopoulos (whom he met in 1915). Cavafy recognized the cost to his art. where friends and literary figures visited. but they’re gone. once visiting France and England and a number of times journeying across the Mediterranean to Athens. a “trifle overdeliberate” is the phrase cited in his record for 1913. and sudden ready-formed lines. From 1892. Cavafy’s life assumed the routine in which his poetry. work. occasionally with great success. when he was thirty-six. the old Greek quarter called Massalia. Along with many Europeans. His hours as a bureaucrat were not long. George Photiades. and brothels. more often than not. with its calculated air of mystery. then with his brother Paul. however. about both his looks (cultivating his boyish demeanor past middle age) and his literary reputation. Cavafy never published his most explicitly erotic poetry during his life. suggests the mixture of arrogance and reticence that characterized both his life and his work. Living alone after 1910. Cavafy had bribed the servants or persuaded his brothers to ruffle up his bed so that it looked as if he had spent the night at home. This apartment was to remain Cavafy’s residence until his death twenty-six years later. His method of distributing his poetry. Nevertheless. Cavafy came to work as much as an hour late. counting several among his closest friends. He was reasonably dutiful. he began a chronological listing of all his poems to date—a list that shows how many he wrote but did not publish. Then he had to cross from the respectable section of the city where he lived with his mother to the area of taverns. In 1885. A secretive and engaging poseur. to which he had moved. He also supplemented his income by speculation on the Egyptian Stock Exchange. Haricleia Cavafy moved the family back to Alexandria for the last time. taking in 1907 an apartment on the third floor of 10 rue Lepsius. his closest friends. and I’m obliged to leave them. He did not dislike or avoid women. I try to remember them. the Cavafy family left. Cavafy wrote his first poetry and had his first sexual experiences with men. he enjoyed greater freedom. How can I leave them?” He lived with his mother until her death in 1899. In 1891. which he often urged others to spread. Robert Liddell reports that Cavafy replied: “Mohammed Aly Square is my aunt. These two activities were to become the chief concerns of his life. the death of Cavafy’s second eldest brother led him to seek a permanent position in the Irrigation Department. When asked late in his life to move to Athens. a rare image. and on his nocturnal activities in the cafés and shady quarters of Alexandria. but he was also a lively and informed conversationalist. were both considerably younger. While living in Constantinople from 1882 to 1885. He took several trips at odd intervals. At the same time. if often too scrupulous about his responsibility for all European correspondence. It is clear that he suffered some guilt concerning his sexuality. so that at some point a brothel occupied the ground floor in his building. a wealthy diamond merchant. Cavafy did not have a single long-standing relationship during his entire life. Constantine P. British warships anchored in the harbor.” He never forgot that he was the son of a rich man. records show that regular increases in pay and annual leave (finally reaching twelve weeks) marked his path to the position of subdirector of his section. and personality took their characteristic form. but his attachment to Alexandria was profound. Rue Cherif Pacha is my first cousin and the Rue de Ramleh my second. It was also during this period in Constantinople that Cavafy first became familiar with demotic Greek. . Liddell quotes him from 1905: “How often during my 206 Critical Survey of Poetry work a fine idea comes to me. this time for Constantinople and the home of Haricleia Cavafy’s father. Away from his job. Cavafy’s life centered on his apartment at 10 rue Lepsius. Cavafy really never left the city again.Cavafy. perhaps in part because of his genteel background and his desire to maintain a certain social standing. and his subordinates complained that he was overly strict in requiring fastidiously correct records and translations. bars.

M. matter-of-fact to the point of testiness. reserve . Cavafy risks no stunning effects. Cavafy’s method of dramatizing history is marvelously economical. .” in which the speaker accepts the surface of political or historical events with the culpa207 George Seferis. “Exiles” The dialogue is not as common a form in Cavafy’s poetry as the dramatic monologue.” Because he is an “unpoetic” poet. is to compress the two thousand years between the two epochs and to share the experience of both periods simultaneously. who asks naïve questions. which offers him. . They wrote history dramatically. but the poem’s penetrating irony is that both are blind to the truth of their corruption—the first in refusing to see it. “Waiting for the Barbarians” In “Waiting for the Barbarians. simile. just as the Byzantine mosaic artist .c. . however. Bowra points out. explains how Cavafy’s poetic language makes this possible: “Cavafy stands at the boundary where poetry strips herself in order to become prose. transcending time and assuming eternal significance. “the possibilities of acting in every sense of the word . two-dimensional forms. His is a great poetry strictly truthful and circumstantial and realistic. no laws are being passed.” for example. Cavafy’s poetry is to embrace simultaneously the significance of historical. two imaginary citizens in an unspecified Roman city discuss events in the local senate on a day when the barbarians are coming to take power. to have his own emotions confirmed by another mouth. All the political leaders have adorned themselves in their finest attire. or metaphor. flat tone. they have prepared a scroll to give to the barbarians. one of Cavafy’s best-known poems. the second in accepting it so readily with a self-conscious air of world-weary sophistication. he rarely employs such devices as internal rhyme. to enter a world with an “atmosphere of refinement and passion . he need not draw explicit comparisons between the past and present. The sum of Cavafy’s experience. . The poem is in the form of a dialogue between the first speaker. Cavafy thus implies that the final truth of a historical situation can never be known.” These historians created a sense of the living presence of figures and events. His preference after 1900 for free verse reinforced the deliberately prosaic quality of his poetry. which looks so easy to maintain and must have in fact demanded the greatest self-control and critical judgment. for example. the poem merely records a simple conversation. as if speaking to a child. apparently as worldly-wise as the first is unknowing. today.” Two such dramatic monologues are “Exiles. the artistic or philosophical. drawn from the same historical period or incident. he employs unadorned. make the poet’s own classification illuminating. bedecked with jewels. and the second. . Lacking any description of events in the third person. This is possible because. .e. his poetry is both easy and difficult to translate—that is. on the surface. Constantine P. To read about the Alexandrians in 100 b. though it is essential to remember that these three kinds of experience often appear in the same poem. . and jewelry he asks about as the seemingly more knowing speaker is unimpressed. alliteration. garments. as his repeated “why” shows. This quiet air. and erotic experience. as C. using the same real or similar imaginary characters. an important younger contemporary of Cavafy. creating a double irony for the reader: The truth is that the truth cannot be known. and the erotic. Nevertheless. artistic. just perceptible pathos . factual description. Cavafy identified both one of the historical periods most important for his work and his own method of using history when he said that the Byzantine historians “cultivated a kind of history that has never been written before or since. concerned above all to present human nature as it is and to make its presentation entirely convincing not merely to the imagination but to the intelligence. the poem creates a sense of live observation with its dialogic form. No speeches are being given. represented life in timeless. Many other divisions are also possible: sequences of poems sharing similar themes. Cavafy himself classified his poetry thematically into three categories: the historical. as well as his own statement. in Yourcenar’s words. Cavafy. is Cavafy’s special triumph. who answers in a dry. mystery” in Marguerite Yourcenar’s memorable phrasing. The naïve questioner is as awed by the splendid throne. for he makes the past present by depicting people and events of universal human significance. . Instead.Critical Survey of Poetry Analysis To enter the world of Constantine P.

31 b. Learning that Octavius has de208 Critical Survey of Poetry feated Antony. “Phihellene” Quite different is the cutting. he suggests a depiction of a “good-looking” discus-thrower.” The central irony of the poem is the consuming desire of this petty monarch to be celebrated as a man of culture. ble naïveté of the questioner in “Waiting for the Barbarians. Although Cavafy cannot automatically be identified with the speakers of these poems.” he urges. ironic realism of the speaker of “Phihellene.” and “Phihellene. 31 b.c. . in Language and Imagination. “don’t let them forget”). he specifies. Poet in Kommagini.” in which the speaker is another self-deluded sophisticate. and much of the irony of the poem derives from the speaker’s complacency. rather. The Alexandrians. The need for craftsmanship and the relationship between art and reality are recurring themes in this group of poems. Their confidence that they will overthrow Basil is clearly unfounded.” Just as calmly. in the voice of the poet Jason Kleander.Cavafy. adding “It all fits brilliantly. who./ what empty words they really were.e. from his tone of voice. Cavafy further manipulates dramatic situation and point of view to present the unusual perspectives on historical figures for which his poetry is noted. the speaker merely instructs his amanuensis to substitute Octavius’s name for Antony’s. Michael III.” and art has known how “to shape forms of Beauty. Two poems concerning the relationship between art and life are “I’ve Brought to Art” and “Melancholy of Jason Kleander. and self-knowledge. Constantine P. he should “go firmly to the window/ and listen with deep emotion” to the city’s “exquisite music. Antony should not mourn his luck or “say/ it was a dream”.” Cavafy also shows the superficiality and triviality of politics. The activities of the exiles are a kind of game: Their use of fictitious names and their superficial enthusiasm in studying literature both suggest their immaturity./ blending impressions.” In the first poem. Exiled to Alexandria by political events in Constantinople in the ninth century. the poem consists of his instructions to a subordinate concerning a coin that is to be minted in his honor.c. in reality. who all receive important titles. he tells Antony right to his face to accept courageously his loss of Alexandria. The inscription that will accompany his image on the coin. in fact./ indistinct memories/ of unfulfilled love affairs. these kingships. “desires and sensations . Cavafy speaks in the poetic voice of an Alexandrian who has dignity.” which . “knew of course what all this was worth. a desire that has its counterpart in the cultural pretensions of many twentieth century dictators. should not be “excessive or pompous—/ we don’t want the proconsul to take it the wrong way. the poet says he has brought life to art.”).” Cavafy uses the second person to give Antony advice. faced with the parade of Cleopatra’s children. confidence.e./ he’s always smelling things out and reporting back to Rome—/ but of course giving me due honor. ruled for twenty-two years after killing his coemperor. c.. . In “The God Abandons Antony.” For the obverse of the coin.e. the speaker of “Exiles” is overly certain that he and his fellow exiles will be able to overthrow the Macedonian usurper Basil. he is concerned that the inscription testify to his appreciation of Hellenic culture—“that after ‘King’ and ‘Savior. he says that art has “a kind of knowledge about drugs:/ certain sedatives. they allow a peddler from a nearby village to sell his perfumes for the celebration of Antony’s triumph because “someone tosses him the huge palace lie:/ that Antony is winning in Greece” (“In Alexandria. but above all (“for God’s sake. here in the third person. The speaker of “In a Township of Asia Minor” has just dictated a lavishly flattering proclamation in honor of Antony’s anticipated victory at Actium. The speaker is the insignificant monarch of an unspecified territory on the eastern fringe of the Roman Empire. Historical and political perspectives In several poems on Marc Antony. Whether the speaker lives in Antony’s or Cavafy’s time does not matter. Artistic process as theme In the second major category of his poems./ almost imperceptibly completing life.’/ they add ‘Phihellene’ in elegant characters. express his attitude toward his art. blending day with day.” confirming the city’s delights and his pleasure in them. 595. it is clear that many of them do. Here.” In “Alexandrian Kings” and “In Alexandria. Cavafy shows artists at work and presents some of his ideas on the artistic process.” In the second.” who thinks he knows all the world’s tricks.

. “Craftsmen of Wine Bowls. In “Pictured. Constantine P./ . the speaker recounts a “totally erotic” half hour at a bar in which the sight of “your lips . Cavafy reveals the sense of secrecy and isolation underlying his art. erotic reverie is not justified as a stimulus to artistic creation but is rather celebrated for its own sake.” Though it could be argued that there is little art in the picture. the figure is of a “beautiful young man.” Magnesia was the battle that established Rome’s supremacy in the Hellenized East. the artist’s isolation from the “ordinary world” becomes a badge of pride.” have built walls around him: “But I never heard the builders./ someone else made just like me/ is certain to appear and act freely. and philosophical themes in a single poem.” Here. . In a dramatic monologue. another erotic poem. he speaks of the necessary difficulty of art: Theocritos rebukes a young poet who says that he has “been writing for two years/ and . half-hidden. instead. another early poem. which he begged to help him. In many of the poems in this group. The first-person speaker in “Hidden Things” says he will be understood only “From my most unnoticed actions./ my most veiled writing. The poet says that “When I went to that house of pleasure/ I didn’t stay in the front rooms where they celebrate. identified only as “they.” again justifies debauchery for the sake of art. .” In “The First Step./ with some decorum. the most explicit of which he never published himself. . . “we who serve Art. . your body near me” were all his imagination needed. “When They Come Alive” is addressed to an unidentified poet (perhaps Cavafy. Another poem unpublished during Cavafy’s lifetime. It was a consummate artistic touch to begin the title with “And. .” but that “Later. a member of the city of ideas.” written before them but never published in Cavafy’s lifetime. even the artist who has completed only one work is “above the ordinary world/ . in “the secret rooms./ recovering through art from the effort of creating it.” serves to show how Cavafy combined erotic.” however. the poem begins: “Try to keep them. thus. Addressed to a young man whose “strange beauty” and “decadent youthfulness” have aroused the speaker’s “mind and body./ those erotic visions of yours. gazes at a picture of “a handsome boy/ .” here deliberately ambiguous: It may suggest that much more took place than is explicitly described in the title.Critical Survey of Poetry relieve the pain of the “wound from a merciless knife” that age inflicts. “At the Theatre./ sometimes with the mind’s intensity/ can create pleasure that seems almost physical”—as strong a statement of the power of imagination as could be asked for. As the poet says. addressing himself?).” The picture revives the poet’s inspiration: “I sit and gaze like this for a long time. not a sound. [has] composed only one idyll”. The erotic poems The private world of Cavafy’s art is nowhere seen more clearly than in the third division of his work. a silversmith describes how his memory. Put them. In Cavafy’s poetry.” a writer./ naked. the accepted modes of love”.” written as early as 1896. all experience takes on the sacred value of ancient and mysterious temple rites. the erotic poems. “And I Lounged and Lay on Their Beds./ Imperceptibly they’ve closed me off from the outside world. the image of the youth has nevertheless inspired the very poem that describes it. poet.” he “lounged and lay on their beds”—a line more suggestive than any fuller description of the experience would be. in your lines. Cavafy perhaps believed that he could publish “Pictured” and “When They Come Alive” within three years of their composition because both justify imaginary erotic experience by the art that it helps to create and nurture.” another poem never published by Cavafy. It is interesting to compare these two poems with Cavafy. artistic. the trouble the silversmith takes to commemorate his fallen love seems justified by the nobility of the soldier’s cause. in a more perfect society.” In “Half an Hour.” The poem concludes by urging the conscious cultivation of such erotic fantasies. lying down close to a spring. erotic. . Here. .” “Walls. . discouraged by the slow progress of his work.” the poem concludes: “in my imagination I kept picturing you/ the way they’d talked about you that afternoon. indicates just how isolated Cavafy may have felt. His oppressors. one leg 209 . A final poem. enabled him to see “the young face I loved appear the way it was”—a difficult achievement. Carved on what is only a small bowl. because “some fifteen years have gone by since the day/ he died as a soldier in the defeat at Magnesia.

London: Duckbacks. Jusdanis. M. Discusses Cavafy’s early development and the creation of his own original poetic voice. P. and Cino da Pistoia. Although some critics question the existence of such a school in late thirteenth century Italy. Liddell. his life in Alexandria. Cavafy: A Biography.C.” an appropriate image for Cavafy’s delicate. Keeley. 1259 Died: Florence. Cavafy’s Alexandria.” While Pound’s enthusiasm for Cavalcanti was perhaps excessive. 2002. noting in 1929 that “Dante is less in advance of his time than Guido Cavalcanti. Suggests Cavafy’s image of Alexandria is a various one. a Metaphoric City. 1996. Guido still dangling/ in the water. Cavalcanti was the most outstanding member of the famous school of dolce stil nuovo (“sweet new style”). even exalted him above Dante. Numerous illustrations and bibliography.: Princeton University Press. Cavafy: Aesthetic Visions of Sensual Reality. however. Dino Frescobaldi. John P. including visions of Alexandria as a contemporary homoerotic Sensual City. N. Eroticism. except for Dante. c. and his language and textuality. The major themes of the dolce stil nuovo are outlined in Guinizzelli’s seminal canzone “Al cor gentil ripara sempre amore” (“To the Noble Heart Love Always Returns”). Eastern Questions: Hellenism and Orientalism in the Writings of E. Gracefully written and appreciative biography of Cavafy and an important resource for all Cavafy scholars. and several writers of love lyrics: Lapo Gianni.: Princeton University Press. 2005. N. especially within the context of the redemptive powers of art.: ELT Press. John M. the founder of the school. Robert. Hellenistic City. Important study of Cavafy’s deployment of the city of Alexandria in his poetry. M. Second is the identification of love with the noble heart. Gregory. and a Mythical. and passionate art. especially the role of the poet and the value of art. Discusses Cavafy’s conception of the poet. Forster in relation to Hellenism and Orientalism. Includes autobiographical elements and background of ancient Alexandria as a way to further the understanding of the poetry. In addition to Dante and Cavalcanti.J. 1527 The Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti. Princeton. 1987. and his last years. History. Cavafy. Achievements The extant poems of Guido Cavalcanti number fewer than threescore. August 27 or 28. meaning that love is reserved for the heart of a truly noble soul (as defined above) and that the noble heart is likewise re- . 1300 Principal poetry Le rime.J. his relationship with his mother. Discusses Cavafy’s family background. his formalistic concerns. this group included Guido Guinizzelli. N. Edmund. refined. his conception of his audience. when taken together. Jeffreys. Explores Cavafy’s affiliations with modernism and Romanticism. 1995.Cavalcanti. Forster and C. Bibliography Anton. his early years. Gianni degli Alfani.J. they are compelling evidence that he was one of the finest Italian poets of his age.: Gordon & Breach. translator) The Complete Poems. it is generally conceded that a number of poets of the period constituted an informal group defined by common linguistic and thematic concerns. there is little doubt that. A critical analysis of the works of Cavafy and E. Foremost is a new concept of nobility. Lee 210 Critical Survey of Poetry Guido Cavalcanti Born: Florence (now in Italy). which demonstrates that from 1911 to 1921 Cavafy developed his own imaginative version of his home city of Alexandria. Greensboro. Newark. N. his poetry. Cavalcanti’s translator into English. 1992 Other literary forms Guido Cavalcanti (ko-vol-KON-tee) is remembered only for his poetry. The Poetry and Poetics of Constantine P. 1912 (Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound. and his poetics and poetic concerns. Princeton. The Poetics of Cavafy: Textuality. which is no longer tied to birth or social rank but rather to spiritual perfection or moral worth. Peter. his homosexuality.

1300. he never recovered. Last is the theme of the spiritualization of woman. It was on that date that the priors of Florence. women may prove to be instruments of moral perfection. 1802). attempted to resolve the city’s political strife by banishing the leaders of both factions. and he died in his native city on August 27 or 28 of the same year. Every lady is a potential angelicata crïatura (angelic creature). Dante’s treatment of Cavalcanti’s father and father-in-law in this famous episode has led to much speculation about Cavalcanti’s own philosophical and religious beliefs and was in part responsible for the depiction of Cavalcanti as a heretic in various stories by Giovanni Boccaccio and others. Dante’s portrayal of his supposedly best friend as disdainful has led many to conclude that their friendship sharply diminished at some point during their later years. Cavalcanti’s careful depiction of the various states of his emotions. His allegiance to that faction led to his exile in Sarzana. Dante’s decision to follow his friend’s advice changed forever the course of Italian poetry. Since women inspire love. and love in turn is the cause and product of a noble heart. together with Compagni and Brunetto Latini. a descendant of Guelph merchants and the same figure who appears Cavalcanti. Although he was recalled to Florence soon thereafter. in the register of the dead in the Cathedral of Santa Reparata. better known as The New Life). he joined the opposing White Guelph faction. Perhaps because Dante attributes disdegno (disdain) to him in a verse of the previously cited episode in the Inferno. Some speculate that this happened because of conflicts over literary values. Cavalcanti was among the Guelph representatives at the peace negotiations held by Cardinal Latino in 1280. was the remarkable influence Cavalcanti exerted on his onetime friend Dante. like so many of the time. to put an end to the internecine wars between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. 1300. on June 24. to use Cavalcanti’s phrase and to employ terminology characteristic of the stilnovisti. What is known of Cavalcanti’s life comes in large part from the contemporary chronicles of Filippo Villani and Dino Compagni. such as self-pity and bewilderment. one designed. Because of his hatred for Donati. and solitary. Cavalcanti. It was Cavalcanti who encouraged Dante to write his poetry in the vernacular instead of in Latin. and the graciousness of the chosen poetic rhythms (implying an avoidance. who early in his career referred to Cavalcanti as his primo amico. and his friendship with Dante dates from this period. The exact year of Cavalcanti’s birth has never been established. other authors have also characterized Cavalcanti as haughty. emotional need to write verse as opposed to a purely intellectual decision to compose—and from the abundance of new expressions. aristocratic. Cavalcanti was betrothed by his father to Beatrice (Bice) degli Uberti. Natalino Sapegno and many others believe that the poet was born just before 1260. daughter of Farinata. of harsh rhymes). or “first friend. the purity of the language (vernacular Italian). An even more important achievement. respectively. he took part in the general council of the commune in 1284. is noteworthy for its innovative departure from timeworn clichés. Guido next to the Ghibelline Farinata degli Uberti in one of the burning tombs of the heretics in the Inferno. The “newness” derives from the originality of the poets’ inspiration—that is. He was a fierce adversary of Corso Donati. This was essentially a political marriage. with Dante 211 . leader of the Black Guelphs. The phrase “the sweet new style” derives from Purgatorio (Purgatory) in Dante’s La divina commedia (c. and several of their contemporaries. While banished. The Divine Comedy. however. an inner. While some have placed it as early as 1240. 1292.Critical Survey of Poetry served for love. His father was Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti. 1320. Italy. which is largely shrouded in legend. Cavalcanti contracted malaria. a few years prior to Dante’s birth. The “sweetness” of the new style refers primarily to the gentleness of the subject matter (love). for example. His death was recorded on August 29. of which Dante was one. who supported the papacy and the emperor. designed to communicate the psychological state of the poet. 1861. It is Bonagiunta Orbicciani da Lucca’s term for the poetics espoused by Dante. Vita Nuova. At an early age.” and to whom he dedicated La vita nuova (c. Biography Guido Cavalcanti was born in Florence. rather than stereotypical phrases. These meager facts about Cavalcanti’s life and death shed little light on the poet’s personality.

the other can be described only as profoundly lyrical. a helpless observer. because of their large number. metrical. Guinizzelli and his disciples focused almost entirely on love and its effects. Poets of “the sweet new style.” Villani writes that the poet was a “philosopher of antiquity. may be viewed. a solitary person destined to exile by his temperament if not by his politics. and they show the range of topics covered. however. This distancing technique leads to a highly dramatic tension and a beautiful lyric expression. Their flight results in humankind’s metaphorical death. and one motet. Alfani. The preoccupation with love and death. not a little esteemed and honored for his dignity. The sonnets. he was philosophically more sophisticated than all other stilnovisti except Dante. Cavalcanti always appears as intelligent but a man apart. Boccaccio. in his commentary on the Inferno. in part. The term 212 Critical Survey of Poetry “spirit” is a technical term of Scholasticism. Others argue that the differences in their perception of love formed the basis for the breakdown of their friendship. for example. it generates a deep-seated desire for release via death. are the most important in the collection from a historical perspective. In his concentration on love’s psychology. These sonnets were dedicated or written to other men. and a certain Bernardo da Bologna (about whom very little is known). He introduced. then. It allows the poet to observe and record the effects of love but does not permit him to intervene. Love causes both agony and ecstasy. Compagni describes Cavalcanti as a “noble knight” and as “courteous and bold” but also as “disdainful and solitary and devoted to study. eleven ballads. In addition. is not the only argument in the compositions. Love is always the culprit that renders the lover defenseless.” It is Villani also who outlines the rancor and bitterness that Cavalcanti felt toward Donati. Guittone’s mid-thirteenth century poetry was largely imitative of the Provençal tradition: Hermetic in nature. two isolated stanzas. Lyrical works If one facet of Cavalcanti’s poetry may be characterized as highly philosophical. and verbal complexities. Sonnets Cavalcanti’s known works include thirty-six sonnets. that closely related to the theme of spirits in Cavalcanti’s poems is the theme of death. including the poets Dante.Cavalcanti. Cavalcanti. for example. as a reaction to the poetry of Guittone d’Arezzo and his followers. Tears and sighs become appropriate symbols of the persona’s ever-changing state of being because they can stand either for joy or sorrow. The sonnets of correspondence. like that of other stilnovisti. The major theme of most of the sonnets relates. when love invades. Guido preeminently interested in ethical understanding and Cavalcanti in aristocratic expression. however. deemphasized technical elements so that aspects such as meter and rhyme were generally subservient to meaning. two ballads of questionable authenticity are occasionally attributed to him. A disagreement over political matters is yet another possible explanation. They are forced to flee. seem to represent the poet’s preferred form. it also emphasized rhetorical. Guido Orlandi. who evidently attempted to assassinate Cavalcanti as he made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Also. although both Dante and Cavalcanti were White Guelphs. . It is not surprising. for example. Love. results in a melancholy portrayal of the poet’s mercurial emotions: Happiness is poignantly juxtaposed to sadness. The poet’s sense of helplessness before such an all-powerful conqueror is reflected in the presentation of the lover as spectator. and Dante’s permanent exile followed Cavalcanti’s temporary exile by only a year or so. to the pain and weakness that love inflicts on the lover. whereas Guittonian poetry covered a wide range of subjects. not unexpectedly. according to Albertus Magnus. Analysis Guido Cavalcanti’s poetry.” Spirits represent the essence of life. two canzones. pleasure or pain. to the “instrument of the soul” or the “vehicle of life. They shine in the eyes of the beloved and console the heart of the lover. for Cavalcanti in turn distinguished himself from many of his own school. the concept of spiriti (spirits) into his poetry to dramatize the conflicting emotions and behaviors that love elicits. however. Guittone d’Arezzo. Whatever the case. it refers.” on the other hand.” Regardless of who paints the portrait. should not be seen as a mere conformist to Guinizzelli’s dicta. eventually. speaks of Cavalcanti as a “most well-bred man and wealthy and of a lofty intellect.

has been described by John Colaneri Cavalcanti. N. addressed to Guittone and entitled “Da più a uno face un sollegismo” (“From Many to One Makes a Syllogism”). a beautiful woman recalled in the ballad “Era in penser d’amor quand’io trovai” (“I Was Thinking of Love When I Found”). 2002. Another sonnet. “Novelle ti so dire. because of her beauty. On the other hand. This is seen in the ballad “Quando di morte mi conven trar vita” (“When I Must Take Life from Death”).Y. Translated and with an introduction by Marc A. The Complete Poems. New York: Italica Press. but it was principally with Cavalcanti that the systematization of the spirits took place. Dante. the theme of death often accompanies or weaves through the prevailing theme of love. All the stilnovisti made use of them for the purpose of artistic representation. in My Opinion. Nerone”). The poet transforms these actions into images of real beings.: University of Toronto Press. “My Lady Asks Me” The poet’s most famous poem. a poem of seventy-five lines. however. refers to her as Vanna. falls in the tradition of the harsh literary criticism of Guittone also found in Dante’s writings. Guido Cavalcanti: The Other Middle Ages. Guido as “an intellectual. Thus. 213 . onne valore” (“You Saw. along with biographical information. however. Nerone” (“News I Know to Tell You. in the Church of the Daurade. Cavalcanti raises the following questions: Where does love exist? Who creates it? What is its virtue. Cavalcanti has a great desire to render visible that within humans that is invisible. The young woman reminds him of his faraway lady. Cirigliano. short for Giovanna. Indeed. From a technical viewpoint. testifies to the fierce fight between the Cavalcanti and Buondelmonti families. and in the canzone’s opening stanza. one finds themes such as that of exile in “Perch’io non spero di tornar giammai” (“Because I Hope Not Ever to Return”) and of country delights in “In un boschetto trova’ pasturella” (“In a Woods I Found a Shepherdess”). In most of his poetry. to designate the vital faculties of humans) were introduced into love poetry. is neither a sonnet nor a ballad. On the poet’s pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. which is also his most difficult. Every Valor”) is a reply to Dante’s famous call to love’s faithful. constitutes a rather caustic personal attack. philosophical. he stops in Toulouse.” Most scholars would agree with this description. or Springtime. offering unequivocal proof of the poet’s exceptional rhyming ability. The beauty of Mandetta is also described in the sonnet “Una giovane donna di Tolosa” (“A Young Woman of Toulouse”). Features parallel texts in English and Italian of Cavalcanti’s poems. Ballads In the ballads. Ardizzone provides criticism and interpretation of the works of Cavalcanti. Maria Luisa. Arab-Christian Platonism. odi. “Vedeste. “A ciascun’ alma presa e gentil core” (“To Every Captured Soul and Noble Heart”). and its essence? The answers to these queries are contained in the remainder of the poem but in a rather complicated philosophical knot. al mio parere. Interpretations of the work differ widely. as Primavera. Guido. There. he imagines an encounter with Mandetta. The poem is meant to be a treatise on the philosophy of love as well as a highly lyrical composition. Cavalcanti. Bibliography Ardizzone. its power. “Di vil matera mi conven parlare” (“Of a Vile Matter I Must Speak”). “spirits” (as the term was used in Scholastic philosophy. Perhaps the most-discussed canzone in all Italian literature. such as the movements of the human soul. Bibliography and index. Introduction and notes contain discussions of his poetic works and life. especially the reference to the poem’s obscurity. As noted earlier. So Hear. and states in La vita nuova that she was also known. Thomist philosophy. one sonnet to Orlandi. “My Lady Asks Me” is a virtuoso performance. A sonnet to Nerone Cavalcanti.Critical Survey of Poetry The five sonnets addressed to Dante are either responses to rhymes on love by Dante or words of friendly encouragement. and neo-Aristotelianism. Averroist thought. it was primarily because of Cavalcanti that spirits became an integral part of the literary expression of the amorous theme and that they remained there for centuries. Buffalo. “Donna me prega” (“My Lady Asks Me”). 1992. and somewhat obscure exposition of the essence of love. drawing variously on Arab mysticism. whom Cavalcanti never mentions by name in his poetry.

Madison U. Dronke. ed. provide useful information on Cavalcanti’s works and life. Italian Poetry: A Selection from St. 1955 Gedichte: Eine Auswahl. 1976 Paul Celan: Poems. Chapter 4 details Cavalcanti’s influence on Dante and Dante’s reaction to Cavalcanti. 1972 Gedichte: In zwei Bänden. 1985 Last Poems. Dante and Pound: The Epic of Judgment. “Cavalcanti’s Centrality in Early Vernacular Poetry. 1971 Nineteen Poems. Dronke depicts the poet as a master of stilnovisti poets. discussing his poetic voice and his emphasis on the psychology of love. Ernest H. ed. 1980 (revised as Poems of Paul Celan. Translated by Ezra Pound. Peter. Mass. 2d ed. 1963 Gedichte. 1972 Selected Poems. Lowry. James J. 2000) Lichtzwang. 1968. 1971) Die Niemandsrose. Conn. 1989 Gesammelte Werke in sieben Bänden. 1970 (Lightduress. London: Faber and Faber. 1969. The introductory essays by Hugh Kenner and Lowry Nelson. 1952 Von Schwelle zu Schwelle. Ezra. Francis of Assisi to Salvatore Quasimodo. 2007) Speech-Grille. 1954. 1991. and Selected Poems. Medieval Latin and the Rise of European Love Lyric. for his analysis of “Donna mi prega” is thorough in both senses. easily accessible. 1959 (Speech-Grille. 1959 Sprachgitter. France. Pound’s classic essay “Cavalcanti” offers his view of the poet who influenced him deeply early in his career. New York: Oxford University Press. Sowell Paul Celan Paul Antschel Born: Czernowitz. Wilhelm. Paul _______. New York: Dover Books. 1967 (Breathturn. 1986 Das Frühwerk. 1995) Ausgewählte Gedichte: Zwei Reden. 1975 (2 volumes) Zeitgehöft: Späte Gedichte aus dem Nachlass. San Francisco: Arion Press. 1971 (Snow Part. Thirty-three Sonnets of Guido Cavalcanti. 2000 (7 volumes) Glottal Stop: 101 Poems. 1985 Sixty-five Poems. This short overview places Cavalcanti’s work in his own cultural and intellectual contexts and discusses his influence on poets from Dante to Ezra Pound. 1968 Fadensonnen. 1968 (Threadsuns..Celan. 214 Critical Survey of Poetry Cambridge. particularly on the dolce stil nuovo. 2000 . Eminently readable. 1954. 1970 Also known as: Paul Ancel Principal poetry Der Sand aus den Urnen. especially as registered in the Inferno. He briefly examines the canzone in the light of contemporary lyric poetry and Scholastic philosophy. the book is a good brief source of background material. this work is a standard assessment of Cavalcanti’s achievement. November 23. 1948 Mohn und Gedächtnis.: Harvard University Press.” In Poetic Configurations. Pound. Rebay. Literary Essays of Ezra Pound. 1954. A History of Italian Literature. Ukraine). 1988) Gedichte. 1974. including the famous translation by Ezra Pound of the canzone “Donna me prega. He has a scholar’s eye as well. 2005) Schneepart.: Yale University Press. Nelson. An anthology containing several of Cavalcanti’s poems. Lyric Poetry of the Italian Renaissance. Lind.” Presents a synthesis of Cavalcanti’s theory of love. April. L. In the chapter on Cavalcanti. Chapter 5 explores Pound’s critical attitude toward Cavalcanti and how this differed from his poetic use of him. 1992. Orono: University of Maine Press. 1966 Atemwende. New Haven. 1938-1944. Luciano.. Romania (now Chernivtsi. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. Besides containing several fresh translations of the poems. Wilkins. 1920 Died: Paris. Jr. R.

issue of Chicago Review. Stéphane Mallarmé.Critical Survey of Poetry Other literary forms The literary reputation of Paul Celan (TSEHL-on) rests exclusively on his poetry. following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Thus. and the German Surrealists. Such poems are accessible only to readers who share with the poet the basic premises of an essentially linguistic poetic theory. Paul point where they cease to be poems in the traditional sense. in Bukovina. its tradition and its relation to Christianity. sometimes as religiousphilosophical discussions of Judaism. but even in his early poems his position as an outsider is manifest. Arthur Rimbaud. Celan’s literary ancestors are Friedrich Hölderlin. much of Celan’s poetry can be made accessible to the reader through focus on the personal elements in some poems. but he appears to have had a very close relationship with his mother and a less satisfying relationship with his father. Many of his poems concern themselves with linguistic and poetic theory to the Celan. Celan was reared in a region of great cultural and linguistic diversity. a very short autobiographical story with a religious theme. (An English translation of this speech.) Achievements Paul Celan is considered an “inaccessible” poet by many critics and readers.” and not death itself. entitled Edgar Jené und der Traum vom Traume. the only child of Jewish parents. A Jew whose outlook was shaped by his early experiences in Nazi-occupied Romania. In 1940. This region had been under Austrian rule and thus contained a sizable German-speaking minority along with a mix of other nationalities and ethnic groups. but the war forced his return in the following year to Czernowitz. given on his acceptance of the prestigious Georg Büchner Prize. Celan’s poems. existing only for themselves. the young Celan went to study medicine in France in 1938. (1948. this essay. whereas his father is hardly mentioned. called Hermetic by some critics because of their resistance to traditional interpretation. statement of Celan’s poetic theory is contained in his famous speech. Romania (now Chernivtsi. the Judaic themes in others. his hometown was 215 . 1986). Ernst Meister. more oblique. is “Gespräch im Gebirg” (1959). or Antschel. Ukraine). Another. the word “death. can be viewed sometimes as intense and cryptic accounts of personal experience. as Harald Weinrich calls it. increasingly frequent in Celan’s later works. Little is known of Celan’s early childhood. “The Meridian. Here the reader is faced with having to leave the dimension of conventional language use. and by pointing out the biblical and literary references in yet another group. just two years before Celan’s birth. Bukovina became part of Romania. where the poet uses language to communicate with his audience about subjects such as death or nature. 1978. situated in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. in spite of his childhood experiences and his later residence in France. Edgar Jené and the Dream About the Dream. In spite of all this. In 1918.” was published in the Winter. Positive references to his mother abound in his poems. Celan also wrote an introductory essay for a book containing works by the painter Edgar Jené. the tensions of which energized his poetry. are largely responsible for the charge of inaccessibility that has been laid against him. losing all contact with the world of physical phenomena and turning into pure language. The horror of his realization that he was. if indeed it can be so described. Such “pure” poems. This judgment. where language is used to discuss only language—that is. Biography Paul Celan was born Paul Ancel. and the German expressionists. Celan grew up virtually trilingual. is an important early statement of Celan’s aesthetic theory. “Der Meridian” (1960). and is forced to enter the dimension of metalanguage. Sometimes aligned with Nelly Sachs. After receiving his high school diploma. is reinforced by the fact that Celan occupies an isolated position in modern German poetry. Celan’s work nevertheless stands apart from that of his contemporaries. His only piece of prose fiction. where he turned to the study of Romance languages and literature at the local university. a German poet was surely responsible in part for his almost obsessive concern with the possibilities and the limits of his poetic language. in Czernowitz. Rainer Maria Rilke. prompted by the difficulties Celan’s poetry poses for would-be interpreters seeking traditional exegesis.

Mohn und Gedächtnis (poppy and memory). containing many poems from his first collection. accused him of having plagiarized from her husband. with many of the leading poets and critics in France and Germany taking sides. Der Sand aus den Urnen. although many critics have seen in his collections Lightduress. After moving to Paris in the same year. Celan’s parents were taken to a concentration camp. where he remained until 1948. and Guillaume Apollinaire—as well as the poetry of William Shakespeare. Paul Critical Survey of Poetry 1950. where they both died. and critics. After Soviet troops reoccupied his hometown. and his friends agree that he became quarrelsome and felt persecuted by neoNazis. apparently jealous of Celan’s growing reputation as a poet. which he had withdrawn from circulation because of the large number of printing mistakes and editorial inaccuracies it contained. Emily Dickinson. and Osip Mandelstam from the Russian. Paul Valéry. the potential beginning of a new creative period. he appears to have undergone many crises both in his personal and in his creative life (his feud with Claire Goll is only one such incident). which was to be a major source of both income and poetic inspiration for the rest of his life. Celan began to frequent avant-garde circles and was received particularly well by the poet Yvan Goll and his wife. he moved to Vienna. Claire. Der Sand aus den Urnen. and Zeitgehöft. Close friends of the poet state that Celan was unable to forget anything and that trivial incidents and cataclysmic events of the past for Paul Celan (©A.Celan. Gisèle Lestrange. During this period. at a personal and artistic dead end. when Goll’s wife. Unfortunately. and Marianne Moore from the English and the works of Aleksandr Blok. infrequently traveling to Germany. when his first collection of poetry. Celan married a French graphic artist. where he found work as an editor and a translator. his first poems were published in a Romanian journal under the anagrammatic pen name Paul Celan. and it appears that he had strong feelings of guilt for having survived when his parents and so many of his friends and relatives were murdered. who began to persecute and deport the Jewish population. van Mangoldt) annexed by the Soviet Union but was soon occupied by the Germans and their allies. In the same year. Snow Part. Celan also began his work as a literary translator. hostile publishers. was published. Analysis Paul Celan’s poetry can be viewed as an expressive attempt to cope with the past—his personal past as well as that of the Jewish people. while the young man remained hidden for some time and finally ended up in a forced-labor camp. in his own judgment. Celan remained in Paris for the rest of his life. published posthumously. During his later years. apparently by suicide—he drowned in the Seine—was the consequence of his having arrived. Mohn und Gedächtnis established his reputation as a poet. He translated from the French—notably the writings of Rimbaud. Sergei Esenin. this friendship soured after Goll’s death in 216 . he returned there for a short time and then moved to Bucharest. and published his second volume of poetry. A bitter feud resulted. and most of his subsequent collections were awarded prestigious literary prizes. These events left a permanent scar on Celan’s memory. In 1947. In the following years. His death in April of 1970.

Celan’s first collection of poetry (discounting the withdrawn Der Sand aus den Urnen). and images that resist traditional interpretive sense. the first poem of the third part of the collection. “Todesfuge” (“Death Fugue”). and his painful inability to erase these experiences from his memory. was in many ways an attempt to break with the past. genitive metaphors. again indicates Celan’s wish to leave the past behind and to start all over again in his “house in Paris. neologisms. The title of the collection is an indication of the dominant theme of these poems. and particularly about. In the first part. Celan employs increasingly sparse poetic means. In his later collections.Critical Survey of Poetry him had the same order of importance. such as one-word lines.” In other poems he makes reference to his wife. the poppy of oblivion is not strong enough to erase the memory of his dead mother. however. responsible in no small part for establishing his reputation as one of the leading contemporary German poets. to his dead parents (particularly his mother). Paul of more recent atrocities committed by foreign conquerors. as indicated by the withdrawal of his first collection. references to the conquest of Judea by the Romans are meant to remind the reader Celan. evoking in vivid images the various atrocities associated with these camps. Living in Paris. “Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown . both his own personal past and that of the Jewish race. with a non-Jewish French wife.” Although most critics have praised the poem. these themes are shaped into traditional poetic form—long. a fact that has persuaded many critics and readers that Celan’s poems are nonsense. of his 217 . Auschwitz. notably Theodor Adorno. As the title of the collection suggests. sensuous images—and the individual poems are accessible to conventional methods of interpretation. and by a rejection of his past poetic efforts. and sets his pack of dogs on them. Celan establishes the central theme of the collection: The poet “fills the urns of the past in the moldy-green house of oblivion” and is reminded by the white foliage of an aspen tree that his mother’s hair was not allowed to turn white. “Death Fugue” is both a great poem and one of the most impressive and lasting documents of the plight of the Jews. their significance can often be intuited only by considering Celan’s complete poetic opus. . Others. by which Celan expresses his wish to forget the past. From the resignation of the first lines. A close reading of this long poem refutes the notion that Celan was inclined toward reconciliation with the Germans—his later work bears this out—and it is hard to imagine that any reader should feel anything but horror and pity for the anonymous speakers of the poem. have attacked “Death Fugue” on the basis that it is “barbaric” to write beautiful poetry after. “Der Sand aus den Urnen” (“Sand from the Urns”). Celan believed that only by forgetting could he begin a new life—in a new country. which stress the dichotomy of forgetting—one of the symbolic connotations of the poppy flower—and remembering. Mohn und Gedächtnis Mohn und Gedächtnis. and to his changing attitude toward the Jewish religion and toward God.”—one of the lines that Claire Goll suggested Celan had plagiarized from her husband—the poem passes on to descriptions of the cruel camp commander who plays with serpent-like whips. In his early collections. Many of his poems contain references to the death camps. makes the inmates shovel their own graves. some have condemned Celan for what they interpret as an attempt at reconciliation between Germans and Jews in the last two lines of the poem. pure games with language rather than codified expressions of thoughts and feelings that can be deciphered by applying the appropriate key. . Mohn und Gedächtnis is divided into four parts and contains a total of fifty-six poems. From the opening line. asking to be forgiven for having broken with his heritage and married a Gentile. The beautifully phrased images serve to increase the intensity of this horror rather than attempting to gloss it over. “Auf Reisen” (“Travel”). often rhymed lines. The second part of Mohn und Gedächtnis is a single poem. “Death Fugue” is a monologue by the victims of a concentration camp. Celan’s most widely anthologized poem. the poem builds to an emotional climax in the last stanza in which the horror of the cremation chambers is indicated by images such as “he grants us a grave in the air” and “death is a master from Germany. Mixed with these reflections on personal losses are memories of sorrows and defeats inflicted on the Jewish people.

instead.” in keeping with the central theme of these poems. benevolent God in the face of these atrocities. the optimistic view of “Travel” is retracted.” and “time. on the contrary.” “sleep. came. Images referring to his mother.” Rather than concentrating on the horrors of camp existence. leading in many cases to a reduction of poetry to the bare essentials. the poem discusses the possibility of believing in an omnipotent.” For Celan. which is taken from musical theory and refers to the final section of a fugue. innovative in form or imagery. came/ came through the night. this theme is picked up again in . as the title suggests.” The almonds (Mandeln) represent the Jewish people and are an indirect reference also to the Russian Jewish poet Osip Mandelstam. Indeed. wanted to shine/ Ash.” “autumn. po218 Critical Survey of Poetry etry that no longer deals with traditional materia poetica but only with poetry itself.” Die Niemandsrose Celan’s attempt to leave the past behind in SpeechGrille was not completely successful.” a poem referring to Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Herbsttag” (“Autumn Day”). a victim of Joseph Stalin’s persecutions in the 1930’s. Celan converts Rilke’s “Lord: it is time” into the rebellious “it is time that the stone condescended to bloom. “Engführung” (“Stretto”). The thirty-three poems in this volume are among Celan’s finest. Indeed./ wanted to shine. Von Schwelle zu Schwelle was the first step in the poet’s development toward “metapoetry”—that is. Von Schwelle zu Schwelle constituted a more radical attempt to start anew by no longer writing about—therefore no longer having to think about—experiences and memories that he had been unable to come to grips with in his earlier poems. exemplifies this tendency even by its title. predominantly concerned with language./ Ash.” “dream. if one follows most German critics. suggests—intended to cross over a threshold into a new realm. perhaps the finest poem in the collection and one of Celan’s best. several poems in this collection express sorrow at the poet’s detachment from his Jewish past and from his religion./ Night. Whereas the speaker of Rilke’s poem resigns himself to the approaching hardships of winter. while in the latter.” and “time. In poems such as “Der Reisekamerad” (“The Traveling Companion”) and “Zähle die Mandeln” (“Count the Almonds”). to his personal attitude toward God. it is possible to see these poems as leading in the direction of complete silence. Many German critics. ash. have remarked with some relief his turning away from this subject toward the problem of creativity. Celan abandoned his frequent references to the past. he acknowledges that he must always be counted among the “almonds. as the enthusiastic critical reception confirmed. replacing “dream. Von Schwelle zu Schwelle In Von Schwelle zu Schwelle (threshold to threshold). It is therefore not surprising that Celan’s next collection. experience is reduced to lines such as “Came. and/ they dug. reluctant to concentrate on Celan’s treatment of the Holocaust. to move his life and his poetry to new levels. They are characterized by a remarkable discipline of expression. in the former. for the most part.” “wine. such as the “grave in the air” and “the black milk of daybreak”. Speech-Grille Speech-Grille is./ Came a word. and the limits of language. taken from a poem in Mohn und Gedächtnis.” The poems in Mohn und Gedächtnis are not.Celan. Paul personal past. A long poem that alludes to “Death Fugue. Celan’s next collections show his continued attempts to break with the past. The irreconcilable tension between the wish to forget and the inability to do so completely is further shown in “Corona. it is as if the poet—as the title. There is a constant dialogue with a fictional “you” and repeated references to “night.” it is stripped of the descriptive metaphors that characterized that masterpiece. was dedicated to Mandelstam. the dead mother is evoked as the poet’s constant travel companion. and to his Jewish heritage are less frequent in this volume. One of the first poems in this collection makes mention of the victims of the concentration camps: “There was earth inside them. This new direction is demonstrated by the preponderance of terms such as “word” and “stone” (a symbol of speechlessness). Die Niemandsrose (the no-one’s rose). whose work Celan had translated. to the persecution of the Jews. although the long dactylic lines and the flowery images of the first half begin to give way to greater economy of scope and metaphor in the later poems. and of his racial heritage. the possibilities of communication.

Michael André. is used more frequently. There are still references to Judaism. no one. using private experiences and ideas. Bibliography Baer.” It appears that Celan finally despaired of ever being able to reach this new poetic dimension. I spoke/ against him. Ulrich. however. 1986). translations: Der goldene Vorhang. possibly remembered pieces of other poems. Collected Prose. 1986. Martin Heidegger. 2000. and his hopes. expressed in earlier poems. often grotesque. Robert Musil. Compared with Celan are four other German poets and philosophers: Rainer Maria Rilke. 1949 (of Jean Cocteau). to an absent or cruel God.” Later years Celan’s poetry after Die Niemandsrose became almost inaccessible to the average reader. both in terms of his poetic intentions and in his desire to come to terms with his personal and his Jewish past. miscellaneous: Prose Writings and Selected Poems. Die junge Parzel/La jeune Parque. Bateau ivre/Das trunkene Schiff. Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan. hitherto unimagined feats. Celan wanted to go in entirely new directions. is the almost obsessive attempt to make the language of poetry perform new. the Stork Inn”). Most of the poems in Celan’s last collections are very short. 1948 (Edgar Jené and the Dream About the Dream. the only escape he saw still open to him was to attempt to abandon completely the conventions of German lyric poetry and its language. Paul man language inevitably led him back to his past and made a new beginning impossible. to try to make his poetry express his innermost feelings and convictions without having to resort to traditional poetic diction and form. As the title Breathturn indicates. the “house in Paris” is mentioned again.Critical Survey of Poetry “Zürich.” gave way to silence in the face of the “obstructive tomorrow. which make it a certainty that his drowning in the Seine in 1970 was not simply the result of an accident. more than any police reports. and—in a cryptic form—to personal experiences. The tone of his last poems was increasingly pessimistic. and striking. Stanford. Desperate to leave behind everything which would remind him of his own and his people’s plight.: Northwestern University Press. portmanteau words and other neologisms mix with images from his earlier poems. Calif.” a poem that the poet creates only as a rough sketch and that the reader then completes. Several other poems express Celan’s renewed and final acceptance of his Jewish heritage but indicate his rejection of God. Remnants of Song: Trauma and the Experience of Modernity in Charles Baudelaire and Paul Celan. Finally. In the posthumously published Snow Part.” 1959. nonfiction: Edgar Jené und der Traum vom Traume. index. Celan must have ultimately considered his efforts a failure. Other major works short fiction: “Gespräch im Gebirg. If this is true.” It is the evidence of these last poems. and autumn imagery. of finding “that ounce of truth deep inside delusion. suggesting the memory of his mother. the reader can even detect allusions to the turbulent political events of 1968. The dominant feature of these last poems. Bibliographical references. was searching for the “absolute poem. zum Storchen” (“Zurich.” with its bitter tribute: “Praised be your name. Five Portraits: Modernity and the Imagination in Twentieth-Century German Writing. 1977. Baer sees a basis for comparison of the nineteenth and the twentieth century poets. Einundzwanzig Sonette. Bernstein. 2000. to coerce words to yield truth that traditional poetic diction could not previously force through its “speech-grille. Ill.” Other poems contain references to his earlier work. Celan’s poetry can be understood only by grasping his existential dilemma after World War II as a Jewish poet who had to create his poetry in the German language. in which Celan reports on his meeting with the Jewish poet Nelly Sachs: “the talk was of your God. like Mallarmé before him. references to language and writing become more frequent. and Walter 219 .: Stanford University Press. he nevertheless discovered that the very use of the Ger- Celan. Weinrich suggests that Celan. 1964 (of Paul Valéry). culminating in the blasphemous “Psalm. 1967 (of William Shakespeare). 2001. Evanston. 1958 (of Arthur Rimbaud). 1959 (of Osip Mandelstam). Gedichte.

1997. index. November 5. Mexico. Amy D. 1964 (prose poems. includes bibliographical references. 1963 Principal poetry Egloga. In his Estudios sobre poesía española contemporánea (1957. Franz G. 1940 Ocnos. Tobias. New York: Persea Books. illustrations. 2009. Rosenthal. Blaha Critical Survey of Poetry Luis Cernuda Born: Seville. elegía. Paul Celan: Holograms of Darkness. John. 1947 Variaciones sobre tema mexicano. Language and Mysticism: The Negative Way of Language in Eliot. he was also a prolific essayist and critic. A detailed treatment of the early volumes Mohn und Gedächtnis (1952) and Von Schwelle zu Schwelle (1955). 1929 Los placeres prohibidos. 1962 (Desolation of the Chimera: Last Poems. enigmatic verse. Jew. 1927 Un río. 1934 Invocaciones. Includes bibliographical references. Pa. index. 1971 Poesía completa. 1964 Las nubes. New Haven. Poetry as Individuality: The Discourse of Observation in Paul Celan. and he lauds Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo as the most important Spanish poet of the twentieth century. 1958. New York: Peter Lang. Pathways to Paul Celan. Calif. 1931 Donde habite el olvido. 2004) Poemas para un cuerpo. 1940. 1995. 2004) Como quien espera el alba. Cernuda’s Pensamiento poético en la 220 . September 21. Del Caro. oda. Includes bibliographical references. 1902 Died: Mexico City. three of which. Beckett. 1949. Cernuda analyzes the most important trends in Spanish poetry since the nineteenth century. Conn. 1998 Written in Water: The Prose Poems of Luis Cernuda. Felstiner. Luis Benjamin. Bibliographical references. English translation. Spain. Colin. A biography of Celan’s youth and early career. 1936. Illustrated. Derek. studies on contemporary Spanish poetry). map. devoted to criticism. Hillard. 2004 (includes Ocnos and Variations on a Mexican Theme) Other literary forms Although Luis Cernuda (sur-NEW-dah) is best known for his poetry. Variations on a Mexican Theme. He bestows upon Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer the distinction of having reawakened poetry after more than one hundred years of lethargy. un amor. 1991. Stanford. Israel. Rochelle.: Bucknell University Press. 2006. An overview of Celan’s cultural background as well as postmodernist textual analysis. Lewisburg. Adrian. 1942. index. 1957 Desolación de la quimera. Touches on philosophy and the psychology of knowledge. 2001. He published several works in prose. The Discourse of Nature in the Poetry of Paul Celan: The Unnatural World. and Celan. 1995.Cernuda. 1977 34 Poemas. index. 1973 Selected Poems of Luis Cernuda. Paul Celan: Poet. Provides critical analysis of Celan’s poetry in terms of its relationship to the natural world. 1952 (prose poems. Includes bibliographical references. An examination of individuality in the writings of Celan. The Early Poetry of Paul Celan: In the Beginning Was the Word.: Yale University Press. 1935 La realidad y el deseo. Survivor. Paul Celan. Reprint. Chalfen. 1995. A useful comparative study that helps to place Celan in context.: Stanford University Press. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. appeared during his lifetime. An overview of the varied and often contradictory critical responses to the poet. 1927 Perfil del aire. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Bianca. Illuminates the rich biographical meaning behind much of Celan’s spare. Shira. Wolosky. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. 2009) The Poetry of Luis Cernuda. 1991.

Achievements While Luis Cernuda is recognized as an important member of the Generation of ’27 (considered by some a second Spanish Golden Age). reveals Cernuda’s deep appreciation of and attachment to English verse of the Romantic and Victorian periods. In Cernuda’s poem “La familia” (“The Family”). poetic thought in English lyricism). He expressed them with increasing clarity and simplicity of language. and their climate. he did not receive during his lifetime the acclaim and recognition extended to some of his contemporaries. ensayos y evocaciones (1970. and he felt warmed by the Mexicans. William Wordsworth. Furthermore. after 1938—might explain his lack of popularity Cernuda. Octubre. In addition. 1964. even for brief periods. after some years in what he perceived to be alien environments. and Vicente Aleixandre. His parents. “El viento en la colina” (“The Wind on the Hill”). toward the end of his life. Cernuda displayed. and “El sarao” (the dancing party). poetry and literature) and in Crítica. “which everyone can break but no one bends. Litoral. it might still be premature to evaluate Cernuda’s impact and his role as an innovator in Spanish letters. a colonel of a regiment of engineers. a commitment to poetry and to the creative act. and a collection of many of his extant essays was issued in 1970—clear indications that Cernuda is being reappraised by a new generation of Spanish poets and critics. Through his writing.Critical Survey of Poetry lírica inglesa (siglo XIX) (1958. he was able to objectify his desire. Luis during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Mexico was the poet’s adopted homeland. his work began to acquire the quiet. all published in the collection Tres narraciones (1948. and Amparo Bidón y Cuellar.” The poet does not reveal any warmth or affection for his parents or his two sisters. and William Blake. After his death. will escape decay. as Carlos-Peregrín Otero has observed. and evocations). a study of the theory of poetry as practiced by nineteenth century British poets. and even the seemingly simple structure and language of his poetry were all factors that may have distanced him from an entire generation of readers. and rigid like glass. dark. their churches. a prose poem that becomes the lyrical confession of a poet writing about himself and his art. and Insula—have been collected in the two-volume Poesía y literatura (1960. their culture. Many of Cernuda’s essays and magazine and newspaper articles—which appeared originally in such publications as Caracola. his reticence. his open homosexuality. These were the principal themes of Cernuda’s works. His position as a selfexile—he never returned to Spain. meditative tone of a man who is confident in the knowledge that his art. and this understanding helped him endure the solitude and melancholy of his alienated and withdrawn existence. Cernuda also undertook the translation into Spanish of the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin. It was through his poetry that he came to understand himself and the world. leaving behind only three short pieces: “El indolente” (“The Indolent One”). Biography Born to a comfortable middle-class family of Seville. Cruz y raya. is an affectionate reflection by the poet on the people of Mexico. His work allowed him to express himself and served to sustain him. Ocnos is a meditation on time. three narratives). Cernuda’s audience has been growing: A number of important critical studies have appeared. their art. Heraldo de Madrid. his political sympathies (staunchly Republican). his passion. However. Cernuda never enjoyed financial or professional security. however. criticism. first and foremost. Rafael Alberti. essays. Luis Cernuda y Bidón was the youngest of the three children of Bernardo Cernuda Bousa. Variations on a Mexican Theme. he 221 . and their poverty and misery. yet. this volume is a useful companion to his poetry. Because it contains Cernuda’s analysis of his work. He also used his poetry to battle against his obsession with time and its relentless passage. as well as plays by William Shakespeare. their music. which appeared in Como quien espera el alba (like someone awaiting the dawn). Jorge Guillén. the domestic environment of his youth is portrayed as grave. so reminiscent of his native Andalusia. He did not devote much effort to fiction. and his love and to liberate himself in ways that his social persona never could. a complete edition of his poetry has been published. Paul Éluard. such as Federico García Lorca. often referred to as poetic prose. if nothing else.

while returning to Spain through France. as Salinas encouraged Cernuda and other students to pursue their poetic inclinations. Glasgow. whose daughter Concha was a friend of Cernuda. Cernuda spent the first summer of the Spanish Civil War. Upon the death of his mother in 1928—his father had died in 1920—Cernuda left Seville for good. After completing secondary school in a religious institution. presented to the audience in reproduction. Cernuda was a staunch supporter of the Spanish Republic and. Salinas recommended that Cernuda begin to read French authors. They gave him all: life. however. Vicente Aleixandre. Gide’s works helped Cernuda to confront and to reconcile himself to his homosexuality. Their association—at first formal. and Bernabé Fernández-Canivell (future director of the literary magazine Caracola. and even provided him with God and morality. and death. Cernuda was offered an appointment as Spanish lecturer at the École Normale de Toulouse. His most important experience during his university years was his contact with Pedro Salinas. From an early age. Cambridge. fed and clothed him. and meeting a number of the writers and poets who would be known as the Generation of ’27. among them Manuel Altolaguirre and Emilio Prados (the editors of Litoral). At the same time. . Cernuda displayed a timidity and reticence which were to characterize his social interaction throughout his life. which he had not asked for. impersonal. The New England climate and the isolation of the school. and London. In the winter of 1938. when he came across some poems by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer. a member of the Communist Party. He received his law degree in 1925 but never practiced. the eminent poet whose first year as a professor at the university coincided with Cernuda’s first year as a student. an 222 Critical Survey of Poetry outlet for Cernuda’s poetry). where he arrived in the fall of 1947. through Pedro Salinas. contributing several political articles to Octubre. Two years later. marked by increasing recognition of his gifts among other writers of his generation. for a brief period. and André Gide. and restricted to the classroom— developed in the course of the next few years. made Cernuda restless and caused him to explore the possibility of a teaching post at a university in Puerto Rico. the nineteenth century Romantic poet whose remains were transferred from Madrid to Seville for permanent interment in 1911. Cernuda enrolled at the University of Seville to study law in 1919. with one or two notable exceptions. Alvaro de Albornoz. In 1934. negotiated for Cernuda by Concha Albornoz. Cernuda decided to go into exile permanently. Stéphane Mallarmé. where he taught in Surrey. Cernuda first began to appreciate poetry at the age of nine. In the fall of 1928. During his year in France. traveling first to Málaga and then to Madrid. Upon his return to Spain. Through the influence of Salinas. a position that afforded the young poet the opportunity to spend some time in Paris. in Paris as a secretary to the Spanish ambassador to France. after several summers spent in the more hospitable Mexico. in 1927. In 1953. causing excitement among the residents of the city and renewed interest in the poet’s work. a magazine edited by Rafael Alberti. an educational program sponsored by the Republican government to bring culture to remote areas of the country. among them Charles Baudelaire. Cernuda was able to publish nine poems in the prestigious magazine Revista de occidente when he was only twenty-three. A few months later. In spite of the coolness with which it was received. initiated the most stable and financially untroubled period of the poet’s life. Cernuda joined the Republican popular militia and fought in the Guadarrama. Luis adds. Perfil del aire (air’s profile). He had met García Lorca in Seville in 1927. putting an end to any professional indecision he had felt earlier. for a short time. His appointment as professor of Spanish literature at Mount Holyoke College. its inextricable companion. and then to the United States. it was a period of political instability that forced writers to take sides. he immersed himself in the Surrealist movement and adopted a style and point of view to which he would adhere for the next four years. in 1936. around 1933. Cernuda’s job was to explain the great masterpieces of Spanish painting.Cernuda. Cernuda published his first collection. first to Great Britain. Cernuda had determined to devote his life to writing. he traveled to England to deliver a series of lectures arranged for him by the English writer Stanley Richardson. The 1930’s was a decade of steady productivity for Cernuda. he worked for Misiones Pedagógicas (pedagogic missions).

” He began work on a second collection. particularly the works of Garcilaso de la Vega. He offered readers a glimpse of his poetic world from one window only. provide him with a haven for his loneliness. for he was unable to find what he loved in what he wrote. Cernuda gravitated toward the Surrealists. “to wish to cultivate that which is criticized by others. much more than most of his contemporaries. André Breton. while this second work had permitted him to experiment with classical themes and strophes. un amor and Los placeres prohibidos Cernuda’s Surrealist stage began. retitled “Primeras poesías” and revised before reappearing in the first edition of La realidad y el deseo (reality and desire). Some years later. which was also being adopted during this period by other Spanish poets. reflecting on his development as a writer. ode). More recent criticism. oda. In this set of poems. The pursuit of pleasure replaces indifference as the antidote for solitude and sadness. un amor (a river. was not well received. Un río. Nevertheless. Desiring to express himself in a more daring fashion and to rebel against the constraints of bourgeois society. oda (eclogue. This first major effort. As a consequence. revealing a strong. the youthful poet presents an indifferent. he supported himself by his writing and by teaching several courses at the Universidad Autónoma in Mexico City. the poet was able to express more forcefully some of the feelings first introduced in Perfil del aire. as Jenaro Talens states. the poet’s need to satisfy his desires is confronted by the opposition of desire to such satisfaction. Cernuda was criticized sharply for imitating Jorge Guillén. Luis ated. dismisses these charges as exagger- Cernuda. he can savor his secret pleasures and his unfulfilled yearnings. whose meter and rhyme Cernuda imitated deliberately. elegía. Cernuda said that. Egloga. while acknowledging Cernuda’s debt to Guillén. a love) and Los placeres prohibidos (forbidden pleasures). whose poetry he translated into Spanish. in turn. he begins to remove his cloak of ennui. and that window is open to the main character. its style did not satisfy him. Cernuda’s verse nevertheless retained a strong sense of meter. elegía. which misunderstood him and his sexuality. Dreams and walls protect him. This. Un río. tends to focus most analyses of his work along closely chronological lines. elegy. by his own admission. in Egloga. and Paul Éluard. where he would remain—with only brief returns to the United States to teach at San Francisco State College and the University of California. In this first collection. there. his poetic production reflects his development as a man and his awareness of himself. sensuous nature. a series of four poems patterned after classical and neoclassical models. Perfil del aire—published as a supplement to the magazine Litoral and edited by Manuel Altolaguirre and Emilio Prados in 1927—Cernuda embarked upon a journey of self-discovery. Egloga. The most notable technical characteristic of Un río.Critical Survey of Poetry he resigned his tenure at Mount Holyoke and settled in Mexico. Analysis In the case of Luis Cernuda. at least personally. and his production was judged unoriginal. García Lorca. can be said to have revealed himself through his writing. not coincidentally. Vague yearnings have become a compelling attraction to beauty in all its forms. While in Mexico. he. and the rhythm of his lines was preserved through accentuation and ca223 . it is impossible to separate the poet from the man—his personality from his literary production. he is there. indolent attitude toward the world. but he dreams and is surrounded by emptiness. oda The negative reception of his first book encouraged Cernuda to withdraw. such as Aleixandre. as his poetry evolves from the vague and dreamy musings of youth to the bitter acceptance of the relentlessness of time and the inevitability of death. Freed of external constraints. As much as Cernuda himself protested that he loathed the intrusion of the person in the poem. who is frequently—if not always—Cernuda himself. praising this early work for its fine sensibility and for the musical quality of its language. elegía. He read the works of Louis Aragon. un amor is Cernuda’s use of free verse. with his year in France (1928-1929) and resulted in two important works. and Alberti. Los Angeles—until his death from a heart attack in 1963. from what he considered the literary mainstream and. Perfil del aire Beginning with the first book of poems.

” the protagonist. Cernuda intimates what is expressed openly in Los placeres prohibidos. as one critic has pointed out. the poet falls into darkness and is ultimately a living corpse./ Spain has died. the recurring topic of much of Cernuda’s work. The first part of the poem exudes optimism. however. Las nubes (the clouds). he warns. “Lázaro” (“Lazarus”). The light.” Toward the end of Un río. herein lies the source of the solitude and the impotence of man. and anastrophe.” “towers of fear. rendered no less glorious and pure because of its carnality. once it disappears. however. When that day comes. and anticipation. the motive behind all he does and feels: To give in to this love. yet to which the poet cannot return. Cernuda introduced two important new themes into his poetry: historical time. ‘A name. . In Los placeres prohibidos. this poem was prescient in its chronology. “Atardecer en la catedral” (“Dusk in the Cathedral”). Donde habite el olvido (where oblivion dwells). although they seldom exceeded eleven syllables. conveyed by the spring moon. alternating between verse and prose poems. As the last hope for renewal. . love ceases to be the object of dreams. in a voice filled with anguish. and “La adoración de los magos” (“The Adoration of the Magi”). before his land succumbed to the conquering Cains. Asserting his linguistic and stylistic freedom.” “tongue of darkness. God could be forgotten. In “Impresión de destierre” (“Impression of Exile”). as if it were a life already lived. Love. confronts God with the terrible wreckage of what is now the speaker’s country. From this period onward. the golden sea.’” Las nubes also contains the clearest expression of Cernuda’s views on traditional religion. without direction. the poet writes nostalgically of the happy days of the past. In the long poem “God’s Visit. he accepts his homosexuality and admits to being possessed by love. without these. Cernuda continued to discard technical conventions. The bitter days of the present find sustenance in the fond memories of years gone by. with its specific focus on Spain as the abandoned and beleaguered homeland. truth. and the harsh indictment of love. and his homeland is free. Man is like a phantom.” In the fourth poem of this collection. Cernuda devoted four poems in this collection to the broad question of the existence of God: “La visita de Dios” (“God’s Visit”). . Las nubes With his next major publication. the poet’s paradise of years gone by. . perhaps destroyed by the casual wave of his hand. “‘Spain?’ he said. he wrote of “night petrified by fists. the poet’s desire for death. his spiritual quest included attempts to find answers in more traditional Christian imagery by positing the existence of a God through whom humanity can achieve love.” “iron flowers resounding like the chest of man. This love takes the form of passionate physical desire.Cernuda. it becomes something real. In Un río. In Los placeres prohibidos. the primary goal of man’s desire. Luis dence. Thematically.” and “empty eyes. an idealized past that might someday be re-created. love produces an emptiness and a vacuum. Cernuda began to experiment with longer lines. closes out Cernuda’s Surrealist phase. While his poetic use of belief in the supernatural has been described as a type of pantheistic hedonism based on Mediterranean mythology. and justice. and humanity’s spirituality and religiosity. Cernuda retraces his personal history. he is indifferent to the world. only the outside world tarnishes this love with its opprobrium. turns 224 Critical Survey of Poetry into shadows. the protagonist begs God to restore to the world beauty. is man’s purpose. and adolescent desire. as if he were dead. It was written after a failed love affair. the dislocated narrator—then in London—overhears a fatigued voice announce the death of Spain. it will come looking for him—only to discover that death has come to call first. Its attainment is nevertheless elusive—except for some fleeting moments—and contains an element of pain. which. Surrealism provided Cernuda with the opportunity to liberate himself from social restrictions. un amor. plays virtually no role in this collection. In “Un español habla de su tierra” (“A Spaniard Speaks of His Homeland”). one that the author naïvely had believed would last forever. He also made use of reiteration. Ironically. anaphora. without reservation. This accounts for the bitterness of its tone. replete with regrets and unfulfilled expectations. expansiveness. un amor. leaves nothing behind but the “remembrance of an oblivion. Donde habite el olvido A third work published during this period.

his life will be eternal and his beauty everlasting. is told that he once found the truth but did not recognize it. . The need to fulfill a grand passion was discarded. He asserts that he has lived without God because he has not manifested himself to him and has not satisfied his incredulity. Passage of time as theme The publication of Las nubes marked a new beginning for Cernuda. wherein man. the war. assume all responsibility for failure. a world in which he cannot partake of paradise. the pilgrim searches for proof of the existence of God. . He anticipates. “Sobre el tiempo pasado” (“On Time Past”). In an apparent contradiction. but only for those sins which he has not had the opportunity or the strength to commit. “Los reyes” (“The Kings”). He had departed from Spain. no death without life. a life “just like our human one. as searcher. long past. a presence/ radiant and imperious. Eliot is clear. Cernuda created what Phillip Silver calls his “personal myth” and entered into the mature stage of his poetic production. The past. old age. for a man who associated beauty with youth and joy with youthfulness. the protagonist is the old shepherd (Father Time?) who remembers a period in his youth. a few lines later. too. In poems such as “Noche del hombre y su demonio” (“A Man’s Night and His Demon”) and “Río vespertino” (“Evening River”) from Como quien espera el alba. that which has been. “Epitafio” (“Epitaph”). even though he cannot be free from misery. and Balthasar the skeptic. S. The old man. without fear. as if recounting a life already lived. Cernuda responded to this situation by creating a protagonist with a distinct identity. His prospects for recognition in Spain had been shattered by political events. 1948. Thus. whose knowledge of man is so lacking. and the inevitable passage of time become the dominating theme of the remainder of Cernuda’s poetic output. has no recollection of a god. man must resign himself to a world that belongs to the gods. when three wise men came to look at a newborn child. is perhaps the most inventive. Splendor.” after expecting “a god. To reason the existence of God is not enough. In the long poem “Apología pro vita sua” from the same collection. when called upon. passion. for “Is passion not the measure of human greatness . The next section. The second part of the poem. might well exist. As in a confessional. In his mature verses.” in which Cernuda’s debt to T. and joy are juxtaposed to solitude. God. Poetry became a means to understand and preserve the past. as a body. people do not need God. ?” He then calls in his friends to help him renounce the light. each with a distinctive voice which expresses the conflicting visions of a single character: Melchior the idealist. beauty. God needs people in order to live. There is but one small consolation: There is no ash without flame. This knowledge does not fully satisfy Melchior. and his need and hope for a personal. rather. whose role it was to substitute as the main character for the author Cernuda. Gaspar the hedonist. he created the poet. If man can be made into a myth. however. however. the author expresses the disenchantment and disappointment felt by the Magi upon arriving in Bethlehem after a long journey and finding nothing but a poor child. “Palinodia de la esperanza divina” (“Palinode of Divine Hope”).” In the fourth part. The poem opens with a meditation by Melchior on the existence of God. he recounts his life and his loves with the pessimistic tone of one who knows that they will never come again. reaching the conclusion that if he himself is alive. intimate God. Through their intertwined monologues. The protagonist maintains that to die. how can a humble shepherd. From his bedside. Other major works short fiction: Tres narraciones. his agnosticism. the man and the poet. some more evocative proof is needed. must have created much anxiety. now he can console himself by living his life in this world.Critical Survey of Poetry “The Adoration of the Magi” More firmly rooted in Christianity is the five-part poem “The Adoration of the Magi. nonfiction: Estudios sobre poesía española con225 . he was approaching the age of forty—an age which. Cernuda expresses an attitude of acceptance. the inevitability of death. the protagonist summons first his lovers to help illuminate his world growing dim. have seen the gods? The poem closes with a short fifth part. the poet gathers up all the suffering of his existence: his obsessions as a poet. and death. he admits to regrets. he asks God to fill his soul with the light that comes with eternity. presents the Magi. whose sight is grace. Luis and who would. in it.

: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. Includes bibliographical references. Luis Cernuda. 1907 Died: Paris. 1958. René Char (shahr) wrote a great number of prose poems. Derek. and Aleixandre. 1989. 1965 (Returning Upland. 1964 (2 volumes).Char. 1953 Hypnos Waking. 1938 Le Visage nuptial. 1998. Prosa completa. Clara Estow Critical Sur