You are on page 1of 23


The Tradition in English, 1500-2001



Carolyn Porche

Duncan Wu







Copyright © 2014 by Carolyn Forche and Duncan WU
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
First Edition
For information about special discounts for bulk purchases,
please contact W. W. Norton Special Sales
at or 800-233-483°

by Duncan Wu

Reading the Living Archives: The Witness

Manufacturing by Courier Westford
Book design by Brooke Koven
Production manager: Devon Zahn
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication



Lirerary Art by Carolyn Forche


Poetry of Witness : the Tradition in English, 150012001 / edited by
Carolyn Forche and Duncan Wu. - First edition.
pages cm
Includes index.
ISBN 978-0-393-34°4.-6 (pbk.)
I. Poetry-Translations
into English. 2. Witnesses-Poetry.
3· Political atrocities-Poetry.
4. Military history-Poetry.
I. Forche, Carolyn, editor of compilation.
II. Wu, Duncan, editor of compilation.

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. lana
W. W. Norton & Company Ltd.
Castle House, 75/76 Wells Street, London WIT 3QT

A Note on Texts







St.Thomas More (1478-1535)
Lewis the Lost Lover


Davy the Dicer


SirThomas Wyatt (c. 15°3-1542)
Sometime I fled the fire that me brent


In court to serve, decked with fresh array


The pillar perished


Who list his wealth and ease retain
is whereto I Ieant

The flaming sighs that boil within my breast


Sighs are my food, drink are my tears


ThomasSeymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley
(b. in or before 1509, d. 1549)
Forgetting God
John Harington (c. 151r1582)
A Sonnet Written Upon My Lord Admiral



Entreating of Sorrow St. first Baron Herbert of Cherbury firstBaron Herbert of Castle Island (1582?-1648) 7' 72 '4 October 1644 74 GeorgeWither ('588-. '564. three-personed 103 (1564-1616) Act I. Contents Henry Howard. 1612) Of the Wars in Ireland Of Treason Wrlliam Shakespeare Hamlet 104 Act I.63') To Mr. 108 Lord Monteagle 108 Inviting a Friend to Supper On Something IIO That Walks Somewhere IIO On Spies SirJohn Harington (bap. '560. Sir Walter Ralegh ('554-.667) 75 76 Britain's Remembrancer 77 Canto 4 (extract) 78 80 Canto 2 (extract) Campo-Musae (extracts) RobertHerrick (bap. 1674) Farewell the Frost. t59'. THE CIVIL WAR in Henry VIII's Time EdwardHerbert. d.Contents vtu > . Elizabeth I (1533-1603) Writ With Charcoal on a Shutter 53 51 at Woodstock Written With a Diamond on a Window at Woodstock 54 54 93 Then Falling From Favor 94 john Donne ('572-. Earl of Surrey (15161r5q-1547) So cruel a prison how could betide. Canto 12 (extract) TheAnniversary 99 Batter my heart. in peace with foul desire Psalm 55 The storms are passed.618) My body in the walls captived The End of the Books of the Ocean's Love to Cynthia. SJ (156'-'595) The Burning Babe Times Go by Turns Decease Release I Die Alive God Good Friday. d. alas Th'Assyrians' King. d. scene i (extract) Chidiock Tichborne (1558-1586) My prime of youth is but a frost of cares Desert 101 Volpone What Is Our Life? Even such is time. Robert Southwell. Riding Westward. more than kisses. Henry Wotton ("Sir. which takes in trust I Die Without 101 Benjonson ('572-. John Donne Anne Askew (c. Henry Wotton ("Here's no more news than virtue") To Mr. these clouds are overblown 44 45 47 48 Christopher Marlowe (bap. 1521-1546) Ballad Written in Newgate 50 Upon the Sudden Restraint of the Earl of Somerset. scene v (extract) Sonnet 107 7 On Sir john Roe 10 To William.637) Beginning of the aand Book. letters mingle souls") 55 Sir Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) 'Ibe Faerie Queene Book 5. 1593) Edward II (extract) Hero and Leander SirHenry Wotton (extract) ('568-t639) 92 49 To Mr. or Welcome the Spring His Cavalier III and II4 II4 "5 lI6 lI8 120 123 124 124 IX . and the A Groom of the Chamber's Religion 97 II. 16t3.

the Other. my brethren./13-1672) Sir Roger L'Estrange 1St 164 165 John Milton (1608-1674) On the Detraction and Venality of the Times ISO 125 His Loss (. William Lawes. Gerrard Winstanley {bap. third Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1612-1671) On the Fatal Day. 1676) The Diggers' Song past. heaven is clear 128 Mildmay Fane. the springtime 17J 1645 '76 180 Misery The Retreat now appears Thomas Fairfax. first Marquess of Montrose To the King Upon His Coming With His Army Into the West The Bad Season Makes the Poet Sad To the King.666) (1612-1650) On the Faithlessness 181 Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) 148 The Nymph Complaining 149 An Horatian 149 UponAppleton House (extracts) ISO The Garden for the Death Ode Upon Cromwell's of Her Fawn Return From Ireland 182 185 190 200 r . 1609. 144 Near Chester. RW. Slain in the 172 Late Unfortunate Differences at Rowton Heath. 1609.�_·J_--------IC Contents x : . d.617-1657) 160 To Althea From Prison 161 To Lucasta From Prison 162 IJJ To Lucasta. Going to the Wars Sing out. the Same Honorable Person Looking Through a Prison Grate and Leaning on a Bible '71 Henry Vaughan (1621-1695) An Elegy on the Death of Mr.644) Know then. d. lovely 128 rose! and New (extracts) 156 (1616-'704) Loyalty Confined 157 RichardLovelace (. Upon His Taking of Leicester Upon Mr.. XI Contents JamesGraham. a Gallant Man Dcessed up in Armor. sing cheerfully! 1]4 Sonnet 165 166 TheCivil War to the City Book III (extracts) Which Followed Upon Certain Treatises IJ7 IJ8 IJ9 To Sir Henry Vane the Younger 'J9 On the Late Massacre in Piedmont 140 SirJohn Suckling (bap. the Rare Musician 125 126 Can little beasts with lions roar 152 Upon the Death of Charles I 152 126 On Hearing What Was His Sentence 127 His Return to London 127 Francis Quarles ('592-. pent souls.602-. 164'?) Against Fruition 'Tis now since I sat down before 14J The Invocation LucyHutchinson (1620-1681) Epitaph on Colonel John Hutchinson Upon Two Pictures: One. JO January 1649 Upon the New Building at Appleton Shortness of Life 154 1]4 On the Lord General Fairfax at the Siege of Colchester To the Lord General Cromwell The winter's 15J A Dialogue Berween Old England Abraham Cowley (1618-1667) When the Assault Was Intended My Writing 152 Anne Bradstreet (16. second Earl of Westmorland IJI To Prince IJI Charles IJ2 To the People of England Edmund Waller (1606-r687) To Chloris Go.

8 A Ramble in St. XIII Contents MargaretCavendish. Countess ofWinchilsea The Change The Loss 247 John Newton ('725-1807) Part I TheAuthor's Apologyfor His Book (extract) On the Numerous 247 True Statesmen 205 John Bunyan (bap. in Answer to a Libelous Copy of Rhymes by Vavasor Powell The Rights of Woman Hannah More ('745-._----I!11111111111---------r Contents XII· . James's Park Upon Nothing 227 Charlotte Smith (1749-1806) TheEmigrants. 229 231 Daniel Defoe (1660?-1731) Anne Finch. r753-1784) On Being Brought From Africa to America To the Rr. To Ardelia. William. 218 On 3 September 1651 Upon the Double Murder of King Charles I.824) The Guinea Voyage. Principal 284 284 His Majesty's Secretary of State for North America 285 A Song on Grief A Nocturnal Reverie ______ J4 . 1628. 213 John Dryden (1631-'700) Absalom and Achitophel (extracts) 267 ('749-. second Earl of Rochester (1647-1680) The Disabled Debauchee 2.rmatian of Manners: A Satire (extract) A Hymn ta the Pillory (extracts) . d.833) Slavery: A Poem (extract) 264 265 Olaudah Equiano (c.Part II (extract) Apples were they with which we were beguiled 206 He that is down needs fear no fall 20 Who would true valour see 207 III • THEAGE OF UNCERTAINTY 7 209 IV • REVOLUTIONARY UPHEAVAL 249 254 Amazing Grace! 254 Joseph Mather (1737-1804) '55 256 258 God Save Great Thomas Paine The Norfolk Street Riots Anna Laetitia Barbauld ('743-1825) On the Expected General Rising of the French Nation in 1792 214 Katherine Philips (1632-1664) A Retired Friendship. Book 3 '71 Slaves in the Hold (extracts) 22' Aphra Behn (?1640-1689) 223 On a Juniper Tree. 202 Matthew Prior (1664-1721) 282 To Sir Toby Phillis Wheatley (c. Hon. 1745-1797) Miscellaneous Verses 266 James Field Stanfield 27' 7 21 219 220 Access of the English to Wait Upon the King in Flanders .60 261 26. Duchess of Newcastle Upon Tyne (1623?-1673) 204 A Description of Civil Wars 206 ThePilgrim's Progress. 1688) 7he Pilgrim's Progress. Cut Down to Make Busks Song to a New Scotch Tune 224 John Wilmot. Book 2 (extracts) 273 John Philpot Curran ('750-1817) The Deserter's Meditation 277 278 274 Cushla-Ma-Chree 279 Philip Freneau (1752-1832) '79 236 (r661-1720) I ~ TheBritish Prison-Ship 280 Canto III (extract) Reji. Earl of Dartmouth.

834) The Source of Slavery Stanzas on Hearing for Certainty That We Were to Be Tried 3°4 for High Treason Descriptive 3°5 3°5 306 The Cell William Wordsworth 3°1 3°2 ('770-1850) 307 308 3II Sketches (extract) September tst. to whose walks with fond repair") 344 345 To Hampstead ("As one who after long and far-spent years") 346 Children of July in Slavery The Slave Boy's Wish Helen Maria Williams ('759-'827) Lines by Roucher Lines by a Young Man to His Mistress 3°0 John Thelwall ('764-. xv Contents Robert Emmet ('778-1803) William Drennan (r754-. and Slaughter: A War Eclogue The Devi!'s Thoughts (co-authored 345 ("The baffled spell that bound me is undone") For the Fourth ('7581r759-'796) Slavery: An Essay in Verse (extract) 342 To Hampstead Eliza Lee Follen ('787-1860) John Marjoribanks 339 Arbour Hill with Robert Southey) Robin Hood 33° 332 336 V' CIVIL WARAND CIVIL LIBERTIES Eliza Hamilton Dunlop ('796-'880) The Aboriginal Mother (from Myall's Creek) 390 39' . r802 The Prelude Book 6 (extract) 31I Book 9 (extracts) Book 10 (extracts) 314 3'5 James Orr (r77o-.820) Erin The Wake of William Orr Ann Yearsley ('756-'806) A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave-Trade (extract) William Blake (1757-.82') Written on 29 May. the Anniversary of Charles'sRestoration.859) To Hampstead ("Sweet upland.816) Donegore Hill 323 324 Samuel Bamford ('788-1872) The Lancashire Hymn 346 347 348 349 35° The Song of the Slaughter 352 354 Percy Bysshe Shelley (r792-'822) 356 The Mask of Anarchy 357 Ode to the West Wind 37° England in . .Contents XIV.8'9 Song to the Men of England 373 373 John Clare (1793-'864) The Village Minstrel (extract) 375 376 The Moors I dreaded walking where there was no path 377 379 John Keats ('795-. on Hearing the Bells Ringing Written on the Day That Mr.834) Kubla Khan 329 Fire. Famine. Leigh Hunt Left Prison Lines on the Mermaid Tavern Samuel Taylor Coleridge ('772-.827) The Little Black Boy TheMarriage of Heaven and Hell (extract) 294 295 A Song of Liberty London 340 The Exile 34' Francis Scott Key (r779-'843) The Star-Spangled Banner 342 Leigh Hunt ('784-.

854-'900) TheBallad Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861) Amours de Voyage.XVI· Contents Contents Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880) The World That I Am Passing Through The Hero's Heart 394 395 396 The name-of it-is "Autumn" It feels a shame to be Alive- 471 472 They dropped 473 like Flakes- When I was small. Claude to Eustace Walt Whitman 473 397 Thomas Cooper (1805-1892) 1he Purgatory oj Suicides Book • XVII I ~ . B.892) 437 Drum-Taps (extracts) Come up from the fields. Canto 2 427 VI. Yeats (. father Vigil strange] kept on the field one night As toilsome I wandered Virginia's woods The Wound-Dresser Herman Melville (.8'9-.865-1939) On a Political Prisoner Ernest Jones (1819-1869) Our Destiny It dont sound so terrible-quite-as Gaol VI • THE AGE OF WORLD WAR 428 Emily Dickinson of Reading (extracts) V. a Woman died- Book I Ambrose Bierce (r842-?19'4) (extract) 10 (extract) Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) A Curse for a Nation Italy and the World 474 398 At a National Encampment 475 4°2 The Hesitating A Year's Casualties 476 478 The Passi ng Show 479 4°5 The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point 4°7 414 418 Veteran John Boyle O'Reilly (1844-189°) There is blood on the earth The Cry of the Dreamer Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) 423 424 A Parody QScaI Wilde (. Claude to Eustace Easter 1916 The Rose Tree 433 433 Prison Fancies 434 The Silent Cell 435 (.8r9-.89') 7he Scout Toward A/die 438 439 H' it did- My Boy Jack The Children Stephen Crane (.865-'936) 441 445 481 482 484 513 514 W. Claude to Eustace 43° 432 IX.87'-'900) Unwind my riddle There exists the eternal fact of conflict A gray and boiling street Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) 444 Sympathy The Haunted 469 470 47° Oak In Flanders 5°9 517 517 519 519 521 522 522 523 524 524 525 526 Fields 528 529 Dead 529 John McCrae (1872-1918) The Anxious 485 486 520 We Wear the Mask (1830-1886) Blazing in Gold and quenching in Purple Rudyard Kipling (. Claude to Eustace 430 VII.

We Hear the Larks Dead Man's Dump Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982) Memorial Rain The Silent Slain 546 546 547 548 551 552 553 Hugh MacDiarmid (C.XVIII • Contents Contents Patrick Pearse (1879-1916) Renunciation 530 53' 532 The Wayfarer D. 1916 57° 571 Premature Rejoicing 572 Edmund Blunden Claude McKay (1889-1948) To the White Fiends 539 540 Basil Bunting (t900-1985) 573 Briggflatts (extract) 574 If We Must Die 540 541 Karl Shapiro (1913-2000) 578 The Tropics in New York Subway Wind Ivor Gurney (r890-r937) To His Love The Silent One First Time In 541 Sunday: New Guinea 542 On Reading 543 The Conscientious 544 544 OnSomme 545 Isaac Rosenberg (r890-1918) Break of Day in the Trenches Returning. M.w . H. 1940 562 563 Recognition 564 DavidJones (1895-1974) In Parenthesis 565 SylviaTownsend Warner (1893-1978) 566 Part 3: Starlight Order (extract) (1896-r974) 569 Preparations for Victory Festuberr. Lawrence (1885-1930) Rondeau of a Conscientious Objector 533 534 Bombardment 535 Ruination 535 Edith Sitwell (r887-1964) The Dancers Still Falls the Rain 536 536 537 • XIX Road.. Grieve) (1892-1978) A Drunk Man Looks ot the Ihistle (extract) May Wedderburn Rouen Objector John Cornford (1913-1936) A Letter From Aragon Full Moon at Tierz: Before the Storming ofHuesca 583 584 585 To Margot Heinemann -588 William Stafford (19r4-1993) 589 At the Bomb Testing Site 59° Traveling Through the Dark At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border 59° 591 1940 591 William Meredith 593 555 Navy Field 593 For Air Heroes 594 Notes for an Elegy 595 559 561 I i ~ 592 (r919-2007) Airman's Virtue 559 i 581 582 Keats in Wartime 554 Cannan (1893-1973) When the Vision Dies 579 581 Troop Train Keith Douglas (1920-1944) 597 Vergissmeinnicht 598 How to Kill 599 ____ .

) At the Museum I See Chile in My Rearview Mirror The Floating Post Office Land Permissions Acknowledgments Index _______ tW . Snodgrass (1926-2009) 1he Fuhrer Bunker (extract) Magda Goebbels-c-jo April '945 Robert Creeley (1926-2005) Return Men Thorn Gunn (1929-2004) The Man With Night Sweats Henry Dumas (1934-1968) Son of Msippi Agha Shahid Ali ('949-200. D.xx : Contents Hayden Carruth (1921-2008) Three Sonnets on the Necessity of Narrowly Escaping Death Defense Restriction Escape Emergency Haying Samuel Menashe (1925-20n) Warrior Wisdom Winter Cargo All my friends are homeless POETRY OF WITNESS At a Standstill Beachhead W.

84-93. by poet and reader. can only be responded to militantly. with its perils and pitfalls. It contains poets whose lives were shaped by insurmountable forces."' These principles provide the basis for this book. 592). see p. see p. is a matter of conscience." that of the artist is to testify-one to which writers are compelled by their relation to words. 21. To William Meredith (see p. below. William Meredith. obliged him to act as dissident: it was." As he saw it. and there are appeals for a shared sense of humanityand collective resistance." If the function of the reader is to encounter "the literature of that-which-happened. ('98.) . the distinctive experienceoflife in the twentieth century. ]. all bear witness to historical event. and the irresistibility of its impact. as spilled blood." Quarterly]ournalofthe Library ojCongress39·3 . below. he said. thrown off course.Forche observes that "poetic language attempts a coming to terms with eviland its embodiments. "Reasons for Poetry. of readerly encounter with theliterature of that-which-happened. p. 2. I. in fact. and its mode is evidentiary rather than representational-as evidentiary. 24. Some of these poems were composed at an extremeof human endurance." Readers play their part in this process: Carolyn Forche argues for witnessas "a mode of reading rather than of writing.. 190.. "the most urgent role at a time like ours. even-at worst-destroyed. on the brink of breakdown or death. the poet's engagement with the world for "the imperfections of society .Introduction by Duncan Wu T HIS BOOK IS the work of those marked by history.

:~e2r~. W.. "The 1. The experiences that compel our poets are fre- quentlybeyond the containing power oflanguage.ea~::: ~ ~e as their successors. these clouds are overblown. 5')' conceived as their authors approached (however reluctantly)their final moments. sabers drawn. 4'.JW . Take for instance the poetry of Samuel Bamford. ~s ~e feared in its aftermath his wife to be among the injured-and conve~ed It Into a poem governed by the rules of meter. is peculiar to recent times. Such creative discipline is all the more remarkable in someone incarcerated at Lincoln Jail. Thomas More doing when he composed the shortverses that begin this volume (pp. St. and enslave- ment. we argue that. Yet pre romantic poets come as close to discuss- Indeed.. Lebanon. It might be argued there is little new in this-and that. go through horrible silences. Anna Akhrnarova. For poetry of witness as Forche defines it. there is no lack of it in the canon. thirteenth Earl of Arundel. r hi S • re enoo. Yannis Ritsos. and stanzaic form. R. Why should that be? In part. well as John Gardner. when the order was given for mounted cavalrymen to charge.We refer to its abiliry to accommodate the sublime.. He would have suspected he would be prevented fromwriting in confinement. as seems to have been the case. pp. indeed. It would be fascmatmg to know how Bamford took that experience-one that was deeply personal. and in "I Die Alive" (p. 49). Although the concept of witness is the product of the last century. despite its theoretical origins (which lie in the discourse of the twentieth and early twenty-firstcenturies). and Nazim Hikmet-to all of whom the rwentieth century delivered an abundance of unlocked-for encounters with force that shaped their lives. Peter's Field on August 16. 1989). Forche quotes Paul Celan: language "had to go through its own responselessness. and thatlanguage is inadequate to the task of articulating fully our reaction to the extremesof experience. out Forche's contention in her introduction to Against Forgetting." Past and Present 192 (AUguSlI996). almost to the point ing emotions beyond verbal formulation be his final imprisonment. into a crowd of sixty thousand including unarmed civilians. or Surrey's "The storms are of myopia. leaving '4 dead and 654 injured. eo ene ew York. women and children. 1969). of all genres. His surviving Marchto Peterloo: Politics and Festivity in Late Georgian England. Peter/oo Massacre (London. oppression. its application to poetry predating the French Revolution mightbe thought irrational. 42) and Askew's "Ballad Written in Newgate" (p. Suchfeelings remain beyond words. Robert Southwell seems in some poems to be anticipating his own demise and preparing for it: in "Decease Release" (p. POETRY Poetry of Introduction OF WITNESS Witness has its roots in Forche's experience of £1 Salvador. other than through the idealizing constructof verse. Their utterances raise the question of what mightbe the perspective of a writer who believes death to be minutes hence." Kindred spirits in that experi- ence include Joseph Brodsky. during the latter part of the last century: in those troubled places her sensibiliry was forged by whar she has termed "the impress of extremity." composed within days. poetry is best suited to the task. discussed experiencesshared by the larger community in which they lived. was St. The connection between the outside world and a work of art that testifies to its atrocities is unclear and. who waited in the Tower of London for an execution that would never come. it bean. below. perhapsforthat reason. 76)that of the imprisoned Philip Howard. Norton in '993.3 Celan's point is that the initial response of the imagination is silence. who was in St. 75) he writes in the persona of the executed Mary Queen of Scots. 1819. Paul Celan. 354). and Robert Poole. In acknowledgment of that kinship she collected their works in a single volume of twentieth-century poetry. below). that the concentration of contemporary poets on the realm of the personal. Thatimaginative construct-of a man meditating a spiritual exercise as any in this volume. published by W. Like Celan. and hitherto applied to writers of that time. . ala treet and the Qu een Caro'"me Controuersy (Basingstoke Hamp ) h Robert Walmsle~. as. perhaps hours. Federico Garda Lorca. and South Africa. What. to a large extent. 350-52. other than testifying to the emotionsthat accompanied his final days of imprisonment? Much the same might be said of Seymour's "Forgetting God" (p. is our view. unknowable." 4· For more on Bamford and Peterloo see Poetry and Pooular Prose t: nt' C' S pp. the ineffable. The Song of the Slaughter" (p.' . R(~id. his end-is as compelling It comes from someone who knew hehadlimited time in which to pursue a mission the soleconclusion of which wouldbe torture and death. that ofwhichwe cannot speak. rhyme. Prior to that. There is another reason.ober." written during what he had every reason to expect would of hisbeheading (pp. not least in the caseof Wyatt's "Sighs are my food. imprisonment. this volume argues it is found elsewhere. Against Forgetting. 34-35). poets commonly passed. rhe occupied West Bank. for that matter. 22. has always been the means by which the imagination has articulated its response to war. I09-53· _____ . This is admittedly a Romantic argument and. Those nonviolent protesto~swanted bet~er representation in a Parliament dominated by placemen a~d tlmeservers WIth no understanding of their sufferings.2.go through the thousand darknesses of death-bringing speech" (see p./.

second Earl of Rochester-an enigmatic figure when considered in the context purely of his poetry-we place emphasis on his service in the Royal Navy. In the case of John Wilmot." /0 Pleasure (Manchester. in the thick of a bombardment in Bergen Harbor on August 2. Earl of Rochester.p. Ibid. His famed apostro- phe finds "Nothing. in a small vessel." Perhaps. . moving from one hiding place to the next. have pointed direction. in time for the Four Days' Battle. said he "thought it necessaryto begin his life with these demonstrations of his courage in an element andway of fighting. (New York. while commitment to politically involvement in espionage.In its midst Rochester volunteered for a suicide mission-to carry a messagefrom his commander. nine English ships sunk.. ' e ebt 8. eighty miles away. (According to Burnet.and returned back to Sir Edward. Thismay explain why Rochester lived as if extinction was imminent. 37. I993). ro. As with all a ts of historical involved as much scrutiny of the bio- graphical facts as interpretation of them. colluded in murder. Rochester was.500 men wounded and r. ill according to Sandwich. while he erved the spiritual needs of those willing to take the ultimate risk for their beliefs. torture. 229." It underpins the poetry in this volume.. arduous. 46. per aps that was Rochester's reaction. see p. This was another hellish display of which the tollof injuries and deaths tells the tale: ten English captains killed and eight wounded. Forche defines extremity as "the producr of rhe drive ro expunge one category in the name of another. Gilbert Burnet.nonball. so he speaks for himself. to be the determining force in the universe. got into fights. gettmg: Twentieth-Century 6. Mountague s belly. ed. Earl R()(hester(Rochester. the projectile "carried away M.~oted by John Adlard 1h D 7. and "felt the devilinside him" upon arrival in London. Poetry of Wimess "withoutcommunicating . James's Park in Rochester's curse poem besidesa theater of casual encounters void of significance? Squeamishness aboutlanguage should not blind us to the truth-that his was the sensibility 9· Adlard. and (on occasion) themes. See TheLetters a/John Wilmot. and our first duty as editors has been to understand our authors' live and engage with the world in which they lived and breathed."") It was a bloody. p. Theeditor of Rochester's correspondence says the poet was" deeply affected" by the Bergen incident. 38.800 killed.) In his world the arbitrary. p. As he peaks for others. 1. lethal encounter in which the English suffered t ern ible Iasses-yet. p. our judgments have us in the right loaded causes. 34. Rochester "showed himself brave industrious and of useful parts.">:o Rochester's first biographer. imprisonment. (It canbe no accident that the debauchee of one of his late poems is like "some braveadmiral. A Profane Wit: '!heLife of John Wtlmot. are recurrent reconstruction. "Human Nature. Theroar of battle was audible to pleasure seekers in Hyde Park." and Rochester cannot have been less disturbed by the Four Days' Battle (a more intense encounter than Bergen. Karl Shapiro.. but the more noteworthy observation is that no one undergoes such escapades without being profoundly altered by them. At first Spragge could not find anyone crazy enough to navigatehis way through the blizzard of musket fire and cannonballs. I974). or slavery. 1666. Jeremy Treglown (Chicago." Karl Sha . the random. 85· n. which is acknowledged to be the greatest trial of clear andundaunted valour. I665. r e e possessed as brave and as resolute a courage as was possible. two friends standing immediately next to him being cut in half by a single can. suggest he found the transition to civilianlife difficult." traced to the monarch. nearly four centuries . exile. p. . to sacrifice rhe individual on the altar of the communal and vice versa. so that he died within an hour after. which was much commended by all that saw it.' .Introduction POETRY OF WITNESS 4· verse was composed during the six brief years in which he lived clande tindy in London. NY. and of which Rochesterwas among the few volunteers to survive)." while Burnet repo t d h .'> What Rochester thought of the king's reward of 0 75 Piloudndl s a~d a~pointment of Gentleman of the Bedchamber (a post that enta e seepIng In the kin ' b d ) '. but Rochester"went in a little boat through all the shot. Johnson. and delivered his message. which began on June rst off North Foreland. later:" h ' . War. Qyoted by James William . 2004). and the meaningless dictate one's existence.' piro was to wnre. to anothership in the fleet. in former war". expectation of imminent death. for he rejoined the British fleet 5· Carolyn Forche.5 his design to his closest relations"? (or indeed the king) on May JI. p·45· of 1980). And what else is St. g s e room we can only conjecture but his wartime expenences can hardly have eased the return to Court "I am homesick for war. That the outcome was one to which he could testify only in advance serves a partial apology for his sometimes cryptic mode of expression. when he fought with distinction in the Second Anglo-Dutch War under the command of rhe Earl of Sandwich. introduction toA ainsr For . g. Sir Edward Spragge. Stories that he was intoxicatedfor five years on end.

Iwas marked by death for At the end of a single day's engagement from Dickinson's murmured just 'My God!' and passed!" Poetry of Witness 12. the daily expectation ... Samuel ably direct terms: harbor the Menashe cast the problem in suit- North ball:" before recounting superiorofficer-lived Carolina. agitator The Gordon the residences Riots. Not witnessed listed alive and even those Creeley. and if the anguish It was not that Rochester was enslaved to fear.? His view ofhumaniry more clear than in his "Satyr Against Reason and Mankind is nowhere to alter a writer's sensibility. but I had no foresight for a a mere 29 out of the 190 men in Menashe's company remained context inhabited to the over the course of nearly a week." Her poetry. and profoundly moral. now datedto December 1862. at the Old Bailey. Ibid. 16.500 Americans unimaginable scale of destruction m t~e Second World War lends urgency as casualties. she of others helped one with one'sown. Southwark.m. Usually. Her writings Whilst wretched man is still in arms for fear. 15. and his dear-bought fame . was "[sung] off charnel steps" (a charnel containing shock dealt by the death is a building of Frazar Stearns. the bloodiest Single day in American military Base fear. so-called Lord George Gordon. to fear successively betrayed. at Newbern. and not the estate of a few His boasted honour." a time when people she knew For hunger or for love they fight and rear. I uncaptured-a letter of his death: "He fell by the side of Professor Clark. his Of course. More than a the mob took effective control of a number of roads (in the City.Earlof Rochester (Devon.]Oh1·MWtlmot. 1958). throws itself into the arms of chimeras: honor. Perhaps it is why I am still in the flat to which I moved when I was thirty-one years old. 2000). ten minutes in a soldier's arms. man. at the end of 1862.6. Later. and the Bank of England. House and Spitalfields). the Sessions Shoreditch. IS op er IC s . Emily Dickinson to Louise and FrancesNorcross. detained from the front line (such as Robert irrevocably by it. It is no accident that aresufficient permanently mote than half of Emily Dickinson's ": verse was written during the American Civil War. the Strand.· Chn t h R· k (~ Y its ue. p. as a survivor of an infantry company. of protestors stormed their instigator.Dickinson's editor. is evident after began with and Bavarian embas- of eminent Catholics.1 arset. and is of arms afraid. tens of thousands they would do next summer. 6:30 p.. Johnson (2 vols. XV. despised of all) a beneficent deity. the anti-Catholic future. Northumberland. ed. by those involved to their poetic testimony. on the evening of of rioters on their way to the had been committed in a methodical manner. :n'e hitherto small proportion of the 89. 2010). D . P. each day was the only day. . driven under fire dis- by recognition of cosmic so it was that. I thought each day vision. rhe source whence his best passions came: wrote:"Sorrow seems more general than it did. His argument is that humanity. MA. see 1he Letters of Emily Dickinson. In the first years after the war. Regardless late March 1862. asked twice for waterforegrounds the historical author. ii 436. We have pondered was the last day. fame. From fear. his conduct proves that.. having heard of the Battle of Antietam history. obliging us to consider the manner life when I was nineteen. Franklin. He watched toward Newgate at around he encountered a group several of their number as they proceeded. over the to demol- '4· R. now would be many medicines.7 tell us that loss. dates 937 poems to thewaryears. W. in which she describes "His big heart shot away by a 'minie ter'svision exemplifies of whether we agree. persons.. witness could give the day its due." The son of the president of Amherst nothingness. of catastrophe were burdens and carried by the civilian con- For fear he arms. Roches- the unease with which former combatants insights of war in times of peace. rorewor to New and Selected Poems ed. sciousnessat that period. chapterI. were slaughtered. suffering. I was amazed by the aplomb of those who spoke of what riots ofJune '780 when. chapels of the Sardinian hundred houses were destroyed. since the war began. and attacked London Bridge. live in the present. Rioters then besieged London.6r2) were changed alI our authors were combatants. Cambridge. Blake was walking TuesdayJune 6 when nearhy prison to which weekend. and (most College. ' in which it impinged on his or her sies. and the world she had known was under threat. introduction 13· amue enashe "Givingthe Da . bodies or bones). I) destruction of the Catholic through of the Bulge. during the Battle by the at length the case of William Blake. see for instance Germaine GreSer. ii 397. the trials of civilian life at times of war Some comx:nentatorsdoubtwhether he was a rakeat all. she added. POETRY Introduction OF WITNESS of a sensitive.

Alexander Gilchrist. manufacturers. Others caroused in the street. 128. observes that wealthy (merchants. tuderage furious" "in flames of red wrath burning". and to achieve some rough kind of social justice. Whatever his feelings about what he witnessed. perching precariously on window ledges that had yet to crumble. p. Some protesrors clambered onto the structure. White. Urged by John Wilkes to raise the posse comitatus.only authoritative account we have of Blake'sS IDVQ I Ivement erophaSIzes hIS disinclination to be there . ValaNight the Second. p." An additional motive was their opposition to the Amencan war. see David V. radical ish the building with pickaxes and sledgehammers. R. and the urrey House causeswere in temporary actions. Within an hour. which brought him as closeas he would ever get to full-scale revolution-a subject that recurs throughouthis writings.8. NJ. as well as the eventual reinstatement •9 (Cambridge. and was forced (for from such a great surging mob there ISno dIsentanglement) to go along in the very front rank and witness the storm and burning of the fortress-like prison."a mighty multi- . pp. err ~ oya istorical Societ th 6( ) . 'Ibe Strangerfrom Paradise: A BiographyojWilliam Blake (New Haven. King Mob t it hor- sailorsamong the crowds. Blake: Prophet AgainstEmpire (jrd ed . p. 36. and offices would be burned to the ground. the most obvious example being Lord Mansfield's house in Bloomsbury. the LordMayor declined. wait- of over one thou"a groping desire to settle accounts with the rich. but the jail was torched before all were out of their cells. In the first major . 87.llas the Fleet Prison. POETRY Introduction OF WITNESS dred inmates. and library of an ancient prison in the heart of London. and "rage" in his poetry and in his pictureof "Fire" are likely to be related to the scenes he saw during the Gordon riots. ?heMarriage of Heaven and Hell. "Albions mountains wave ~ ac~uardism. Publication. plate 8. fBI " ountere "all rushtogether in the night in wrath and raging fire". By the early 1860s. SeeArthur H. and Gilchrist'sis no exception. McCabe 17· See for instance George Rude "Ih G d . p. while blacksmiths removed fetters from the ankles of newly freed prisoners." Every biography is a product of its historical moment. McGann. if only for a day. schools. Bentley Jr. 57· 20. Howard Erskine-Hill and Richard A. and from them one may construct a description of the riots: The . imagesof "burning". he was not alone.. we can be sure Blake wouldneverforget the sights and sounds of that evening.• Princeton. . Expertsremain divided. J. E. 22. Blake. I. 36. having completed his own apprenticeshipless than a year before. While it is most unlikely Blake would ever have fought alongside an antiCatholicmob. As one historian observes.ts three hun- 19. Gilchrist could not allow it to be thought that Blakehad been party to the collapse of civil law in central London. 1995). Erdman. the Gordon Riots were motivated Ie s b religious bigotry than by inequalities of income and social class. When Gordon attempted to suppress the riots. 23. E. 5 ser. For conflicting views. the King's Bench. and the frantic screams of those inside were heard as they roasted to death. "Did BlakeBetray the French Revolution?. retreat. Alexander Gilchrist wrote· "Suddenly he enc d tbe ad vancmg .1. "fire". Reception: Essaysin Honour oflanJack. 8-10 and Jerome J. as quoted by G. and other professionals). Brothels with bricks of Rellgion/"" and declarefellow feeling for "the captive in chains & the poor in the prison." The protagonists were working people-small shopkeepdischarged soldiers sand books. Gloucestershire 200 a) no 1 ea w 0 he was. bilOgrap hy 0 f the poet.. 1977). Blake must have seen some of these events. Over the next rwo days. see Christopher Hibbert. as we. ers. now fiveyears old (which explains the large number of sailors among them). t John Wilkes: '!heScandalous Father of Civil Liberty (New Haven. public houses. III. it is conceivable he sympathized with at least some of their of Correction. and servants-whose having been crushed out of exis- rificthough it may have been. Bridewell. Bentley Jr. and release of. p. apprentices. 100. the riots manifested and sailors. aware of actions were directed against the property of the ers. craftsmen.~p. pedlars. p. G. Fragments of red-hot metal shot into the darkening sky as huge pieces of masonry collapsed to the ground. as they broke open wine and liquor found in cellars used by the prison governor. Blake. The destruction As historians have long argued. ' 4 . 2001). ances:if so." in Presenting Poetry: Composition. Chartism tenceas decisively as the campaign for Parliamentary reform four decades before. e or on RIO"·. A StudY 0 f th e Rioters and Tbei Viicttms. ar." "superb" furniture." The army refused to fire on them. 10." Blakewas of the same generation as many rioters. · • Transactions 01" theR I' H·.117-37. must have stirred the man who would write "Prisonsare built with stones of Law. 1956 93-14. '006).." Nor would the Court of Aldermen lift a finger to suppressthem. Sourhwark.Regardless of the evidence. torched along with his "rich wardrobe. Cash. "flames". when he was writing. and Blake was aware of that. 7heAge of George III (London (968) 8 y. more than three hundred inmates were free. ed. He must have understood their griev- of civil order on the Thursday. I (Stroud. many of those involved d ' . 8 R Ude1:.

and definitely not intel lectuals. Anna Laeriria Barbauld. and perhaps only a male reviewer would have ridiculed an author to the extentof making potential readers ashamed of being seen with a copy of her work. but could not save her. Deprived of an education women than one.. ut It IS surprising that it is done at all. "Yes. period in more senses we have surveyed. Literary London knew and followed the mob over successive with the ewgare in flames days. a deed. a blow struck for a cause-sufficient to turn itsauthor into a attack on (among ~." in response 1812 to Barbauld published verses in which the state of the nation was analyzed in terms that gave no comfort to Spencer Perceval's Tory administration. Worse still. poem contemptible. for example. Whether we speak of martyrs (Anne Askew). 1 I· own th t S IJ h . Women %4 figures in any context other than it was unacceptable. of denouncingher as a prostitute. those feelings pass into tbe mainstream of his work. watching as one institution after another was reduced to ashes. with the result that his art is rendered cerebral. It is hardly surprising. "In thunder smoke & sullen flames howlings & fury & blood". rise. Jane Austen published her novels anonymously for good reason. that many in the eighteenthcentury believed women had no business commenting on slav- orthward are incircled with flaming fires". the act of opposing personal experiences. torture. Those who did publish verse were expected to paraphrase pas- woman. S society s ow va uanon of women. B)entleyJr. from Westminster "Eastward & Southward & commemorations of. 27·Wollsronecraft's biography was described by one reviewer as a "manual of speculative (17g8). who would deliver witheringaccountsof other liberal writers including Keats) attests to the scale of the perceived threat. women Williams was might be guided into "the notoriousreceptacles of describedby one critic as "an intemperate advocate Locke." See Don Richard Polwhele. Blake's visions of apocalypse come partly from ery. A Fantasy of Reason (London. and when in thy right!. The ferocity of malereviewers(particularly John Wilson Croker." debauchery" by which young patrician prostitution". Blake was not the same after his encounter she wrote. as Bentley argues.4 . A heroic couplet may indeed comprise an act. one we . In recent decades. injured Gordon Rioters. Charlotte Smith. as happened to Mary Wollstonecraft and HelenMaria Williams. the cries of war & of tumult". The Stranger from Paradise: A Biography aven. therefore. 57. the plaything of intellectuals. Perhaps he reveled in the spectacle of Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman (see p. The allusion is to Lady Macbeth. He knew the terror and excitement that came from watching the world burn down-and. and that imprisonment.. but also to Richard Polwhele's 1he Unsexed Females others) Mary Wollstonecraft. 2001 . assert scantrestraint in its chauvinism. aware they were vulnerable to accusations Bentley's observation underlines the value of Forche's ideas to the way in which we think about writers and their work. all is tumult". she drew enough bad press to discourageher from ever uttering another word in print. at his most ruthless. but Society decreed that a woman who read books-other than romantic novels. and. or Communists (Sylvia Townsend Warner).of calling on publishers to boycott her. far less to analyze contemporary politics.. of William Blake (New 25· It was in acknowledgment of hi . turning it in a poets who contravened such taboos did so at risk. P' 19· __ . 1980). and "Around SainrJames's were not expected to discuss contemporary glow the fires".. the king's birthday. 1798). or warfare-his vision is altered irrevocably. writ- prior to the is a minor counterparts. beautiful.?" stripped of femininity. "in dungeons circled with ceaseless fires". and mothers. fit for display but not other purposes. a amue 0 nSOD 1S reported to h ld B 11 h "lik d h· d l ave to oswe t at a woman preacher was 1 e a og on In egs' it is not d 11 b . Second World War were so uncongenial miracle. and Ann Yearsley. .'? Anna Laetitia Barbauld was aware of the likely penalty when in '792 utterance into testimony. one who wrote poetry was a freak. 262). 26. Cautionbought her reprieve. Poetry of witness reminds us that Blake's art grew our of his life. at the point at which the artist confronts extremity-whether of criticizing that their engagement politics left them "unsexed. p. G. and (if she was lucky) marriageable. For this reason we regard those women courageous enough to haveengaged in political debate through poetry as activists. the Unsexed Females (London. "Above the rest the howl sagesof the Bible or address abstract deities such as Hope or Charity. It taught him what anarchy and destruction looked like. They was heard from Westminster louder Sc Iouder". "All is confusion. Throughout the chronological ers are exceptional. p. Cultural norms that their existence equal to that of male most females were considered suitable as housekeepers not writers. rather than his . It argues that. Blake has been appropriated by those who would encounter him as mythrnaker or cryptographer. that is-had abrogated her c~rrect purpose of being airheaded. with This was a male con- struct. bluestockings(Hannah More).IO· POETRY Introduction OF WITNESS • II run with blood. only that couldexplainwhy she decided not to publish her poem when it was written. Helen Maria Williams. 135 and for Gallic licentiousness.

Old friends cut her dead in the street. abolitionists were equally vulnerable.'':z8while the Critical Review found Yearsley's poem "rather turgid. while the "Clapham Sect" (the name given to founders of the antislavery society in England) was a term of ridicule applied by enemies. 1882). European Magazine 13(1788). nor of comprehending how dearly such utter17. The uprising in Pentrich in 1817. aware it mightbe interpreted as an attack on her homeland for failing to aid Italian revolutionaries.Later in the century Ernest Jones and Thomas Cooper."A Curse for a Nation: A Controversial Episode in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's PoliticalPoetry. were detained in conditions of considerable hardship (see PP' 433. inclines us to underrate risk. lost its subscribers and folded within the year. pp.397).and when Elizabeth Barrett Browning published"A Curse for a Nation" in London in 1860 (see p. JamesThomson. where the Appeal was banned. )2. March 3r. she was abandoned by Britishpublishers and criticized for her views after death even by obituarists. More and Yearsley exposed themselves to the ridicule not merely of peers but of those who sought to silence them: to the European Magazine. In late '700S and early !800s England they knew only that they faced a lucrative industry establi hed since the late fifteenth century." "hystericalantipathy to England" and "delirium of imbecile one-sidedness.":l9 In America. a wellinformed history of America's dependence on slaves." a condemnation of the Myall Creek Massacre. The outcome of the war. 1860). Blackwood's Edinburgh introduction to Letters condemned her "terrible assumption of vainglory. as when striking soldiers sought redress in Sheffieldin 1795and were fired on for their trouble (seep. of ultimate VIC- tory inclines us to rhink those on the Allied side in the econd World War confident of victory from rhe start. their wi~ingnes denounce religious or political injustice. as well as assassination attempts. and that the trade was patriotic. Richards). Frederick Douglass was permanently injured by mobs when he toured the country lecturing on the evils of slavery. Her library revoked her membership.12. p.. By the same token." The Juvenile Miscellany. J. the only poet to write a memorial poem about her. pp. Hindsight 1 always a .stein." Blackwood'sEdinburgh Magazine was outraged that women were allowed "to interferewith politics. '9· Griti. POETRY OF WITNESS Introduction many of the women in these pages were motivated by.833). is never certain. an act for which there price to be paid. enjoy success(though it might be admitted that contemporary Britain continues to lackthe full complement of rights for which they agitated). 414). had every reasonto compare her death with that of a soldier on a battlefield. as slave ships provided manpower for the Royal Navy during wartime (the Napoleonic Wars continued until 1815). A:rm. I am grateful to Leonid M. Thepoems in this book are acts of resistance. with the outcome not in an afterlife but in the here and now.she created enemies who would attack subsequent publicationson grounds of principle (p. resulted in its author's casting out by social and literary circles. our knowledge to . 1860. Blacklisting has often been the response to women resistant to preju- 3°· See John Greenleaf Whittier's biographical Child (Boston. Forthis detail and other insights into Browning. Magazine 87 (March 1860). Some of our authors defy injusticeto the extent of incurring the wrath of those willing to impose the ultimatesanction of death. or of any conflict. 3'4. . whether on the battlefield or in the forumof public debate. TheAthenaeum (March 28."" As if this were not enough. 494· .which posed no threat to the government. 371-Tz. dice and moral cowardice: when Eliza Hamilton Dunlop published "The AboriginalMother. The law being on the side of those inclined to resist change. 166. Lydia Maria Child's Appeal in Favor of that Class 0/Americans Called Africans (. 13 .Even to the enlightened. In the South. their liberty often conditional." Review of English Studies 20 (1969). 4°2-4. There were threats against the life of Thorn as Clarkson. arguing slaves were essential to commerce with Africa. and its organizers executed as traitors. of whom there were many. pp. Our reading of their workcarries its own responsibility-not solely that of understanding the worldfrom which it came. That could not be more wrong. By publishing poems in support of the abolitionist cause. p. ultimately. 256).p. there were burnings of her books. reviewers government above inciting of Lydia Maria riots with the assistance of agents provocateurs as a meansof discrediting peaceful demonstrators and their cause. in The Australian in 1838. we should consider those involved in the fight against slavery as in constant peril. such views commanded attention. 33-42. ix-x.1 Reuieus 6S ('788). was suppressed withthe help of "Oliver the spy" (W. More's poem was "feebly executed. Saturday Review." Thosefighting for their rights in late eighteenth. pp. For a long time the authorities met protestwith ruthless suppression. 391). which she edited. agitating forsimilarcauses . . campaigners were under scrutiny.and early nineteenthcenturyBritain were equally embattled. calling for their immediate emancipation and the abolition of aU racial discrimination. Plantation owners had a powerful lobby in Parliament.they cannot have known their cause would. some face risks. Nor was the 31. all testify to the impress of extremity. Physical force was used against dissidents.

dealingwith the rwentieth century. or who (being writers in another tongue) do not qualifYforinclusion. Burns. William Cullen Bryant. We do not include mental breakdown. but the fundamental argument of the volume is simply and clearlyarticulated: each poet earns his or her place in "dialectical opposition to the extremity that has made witness necessary." or any other Anglo-Saxon poem aboutwar. authors of Beowulf. and T. the depredations of the state. up to the conclusion on more than of our labors. 46. and Christopher Smart."> Such sensibilities are not the productonly of recent times. but a perennial feature of human historyfor the imagination has always been on trial. --_. as each case is argued from the writer's life. or fromcriticaldiscussion. risk. However. But it's more serious than hang-gliding. we refer the reader to Against Forgetting for those who.~ .» includedthere. Carolyn Forche. and political oppression of various kinds. Our decision to exclude was reached only after close scrutiny of the poetry and the biogr~phical facts. We therefore decided not to duplicate works or writers only staying ahve. and to select only poetry composed in English. For that rea- It was decided at an early stage of work that this volume complement son there are fewer women writers than we would have wished in the section VARIOUS CATEGORIES of poem and writer are not eligible for inclusion in this volume." 39·3 1981 184-93. Poets of witness alive at the time of publication are so numerous 33· Wi( l11ia)m Meredith. By "extreme. Poetry of Witness presents the finestworksto emerge from that tradition. compensa- tion maybe found in Forche's Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness(1993). Quarterly]oumalof/he Library as to of Congress 34. March 20IJ Alexander Brome. Poetry is [he safest known mode of human risk. imprisonment. you can't imagine not wanting the scare of it. physical illness on an epidemic scale constitutes a form of extremity borne collectively. 193. it requires our trust along with our consent to let it try to change our way of thinking and feeling. but also that of being receptive to irs burden. The decision to omit them wasmadein the hope that at some point in the future we can appoint them subjectsof a separate collection. making it impossible to argue for them. David Gascoyne. had battlefield experience. Eliot. 1993). It is not known. introduction to Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (New York." which follows this introduction. Works by anonymous authors are automatically excluded. The theoretical background to this study is outlined in detailby Carolyn Forche in "Reading the Living Archives. the case cannot be made. In the meantime. Southey. p. 15 as they deserve. Whatever a poem is up to. which includes poems in English and translation by authors still activeat the time of this writing (2013). "Reasons for Poetry. these include Georgetown University. You ri k Against Forgetting. Meredith puts it: renderfruitless attempts to do them justice here. regardless of affection for the writer and their work. Once you ge[ used to it. to name a few. Ben Jonson (witnesses to plague). or sins of omission-specifically war. where nothing (or ve[)' little) is known.14· POETRY OF WITNESS Introduction William ances are bought. arguing they rank alongside the greatestin the language. they are surroundedby figures sometimes omitted from profiles of their times. Not onlyare well-known writers represented by untypical works. Thomas Moore. "The Bartle of Malden. There are many writers whose work we have considered one occasion. Henry Reed." we refer to experiences that are the result of societal injustice. which explains our omission of Thomas Hoccleve (who would otherwise have been our earliest poet). would have been selectedin these pages. torture. Our aim has been to impose consistency on the contents of this book. and Thom Gunn (AIDS). but for their appearance there. S. Sidney Keyes. That the poet bear witness to extremity is the requirement by which we have measured our judgments. Again. for instance. Byron. I expect hang-gliding must be like poetry. William Cowper. othing without this .on which basiswe include George Wither. whether the These poems offer a perspective on the literary canon not previously seen. p.

philosophy. "I can. I read the followingpassage: HE LETTER ARRIVED Inthe terribleyears of the Yezhov terror I spent seventeen months waiting in line outside the prison in Leningrad." I __ c4 . Standing behind me was a woman. hehadanswered that the vocation came from God. well. Kneeling on the floor between the shelves. And on another card: "It is also a pity that you do not readRussian. never heard me called by name before."he wrote.Reading the Living Archives: The Witness of Literary Art by Carolyn Porche T on a series of plain postcards in Joseph Brodsky'spenciled cursive. Now shestartedout of the torpor common to us all and asked me in a whisper (everyone whispered there): "Canyou describe this?" And I said. condemning him to forcedlabor. two years earlier that I had read excerpts from the transcriptof Brodsky's trial in the former Soviet Union.who had. with lips blue from the cold." It was. of course. translated by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward. and so that winter I went into the stacks of the Library of Congressand found a volume of her poems.I believe. One day somebody in the crowd identifiedme.When asked on what authority he pronounced himself a poet. Michigan. very near the township of my childhood. "Youshould consider including in your poems more of your own.but I think you should try to read Anna Akhmatova. mailed separately from his newly imposed exile inAnnArbor. They containedhis advice to a young poet brash enough to send her youthful efforts to him. Now he was advising me to readAkhmatova.

I had not yet encountered this form. . where historical remains are strewn (of large events as well as those peripheral remainspresent. Marina Tsveraeva. and the one other whom the text addresses). in both senses. was only possible if one was convinced of the absolute importance and necessity of poetry.' Akhrnarova wrote it in the cry of a woman who had become In the poem's progression. For he has said "Here I am!" before the other one. In a present before her. legible in the line breaks. as one would visit the stations of Christ's passion.." composed were learned by heart by Lidiya Chukovskaya. Ethique et Injini: Dialogues avec Phtltppe Extract translated by Carolyn • Nemo (Pans. This "in the light of conscience. passing over what had once been herftce.18· POETRY Reading the Living Archives OF WITNESS Then something like a smile passed fleetingly over what had once been her face. it calls upon the reader. in silences and fissures of written speech. even abject and destitute. I hadn't evil in anything imagined the impress of so-if description in supplication were possible. hoping against hope to be able to see her son or at least pass over a parcel. Amanda Haight. 99. or rather something resembling it. Aftermath is a temporal debris field.' written duri~gthe years of her son Lev Gumilev's imprisonment. to a prison wall.forsakes the tribute of remembrance. States. According to the Haight: takes By turns survives. Nadezhda Mandelsram.' Thewitness witnesses to what is said by him (through him. once wrote} Sometimes Akhmatova showed them a poem on a piece of paper which she is the otherof this work. The poems of "Requiem. Akhmatova referred as Vmesto predisooiia ("Instead to this passage of a Pref- ace"). he finds himself having manifested what the face of the other one has meant for him. 4· Emmanuel Levinas." as another Russian them. 1973). to commit one's work to faithful friends who were prepared to learn poems by heart and thus preserve them. . "Requiem. extremity upon the poetic imagination. . and without need of response. him. remembers research of Amanda her subsisting h~r p:dvrg. spiritual accomplishment rienced within of "remembering herself and as collecrively kovskaya. marking the stages of suffering. p. She would ger up from bed to go her pain. including or lost). MA. Art in the Light of Conscience translated by Angela Livingston (Cam- bridge. Lidiya Chu- on black bread and tea. . Anna's friend. she accepts and disowns bear wounds. '(B'Poems of Akhmatova translated and introduced aston. An awakening signifying a responsibility for the other. p. __ . and consigns her monument I was as yet unaware that most prominent twentieth-century the English-speaking all women.4 . therefore. poet. what it holds open and begets time when a poem on a scrap of paper could mean a death sentence. and from the fact that before the one other he recognizes the responsibility As I was still in my early twenties thought of poetry resembling and educated in the United in these terms.. at this time.. '992). 1976). which is incumbent upon by Stanley Kunirz 2. p. several other friends who did not know who else was preserving and (and even some within them) had endured poetry not after such experiences but in their these sufferings. leave of herself and becomes Akhmatova vigilant beyond all wakefulness. countries and stand. If it were of the world and its sufferings. and those blessed to survive wrote their had also passed through ill. As such. the other 3·MarinaTsvetaeva. The glory of the Infinite reveals itself by what it is capable of doingin the witness.' nor conceived of our relation to oth- ers as one of infinite obligation: to stand with them in the hour of need. to be in turn marked burned as soon as she was sure it had been committed to memory . " me diirate d on the fate of Russia in her torment.. 1982). to con- poets beyond such experiences during their lives. adding it as prologue to her great poem. with Max Hayward This witness is a call to the other (perhaps the poet. her injustice and suffering as expeThe poem\vas borne. 99. as the other within . Anna Akhmatova: A Poetic Pilgrimage (Oxford. who Emmanuel by what such language makes in the reader. very much face-to-face encounter extended by Levinas of Martin Buber's as in the I and 'Ibou. "R equiern . and had not yet. to in rup- turesof utterance. then the response would be that smile. or as him). later elaborated and as: an awakening that is neither reflection upon oneself nor universaliza- tion. in the long lines of people waiting outside the prisons. aftermath-in languages languages that that also continued of imagery.. Levinas writes: tinue to write. 1°5· Forcbe. sometimes in freezing weather. where that-which-happened the consciousness is writing to be apprehended in which such events arose. in constellations She was extremely thin and frequently • '9 In his Ethics and Infinity.

where I was to work as a documenrer of human rights abuses in the period immediately preceding a twelve-yearcivil war (working closely with associates of Monsignor Oscar Romero. __ ." and in the mode of political confessionalism." or as political poetry by other means. This discourse deals with objects that are also spoken in the newspapers.20· POETRY Reading theLiving Archives OF WITNESS who must be fed and clorhed-e--my substitution for the other. and also an essay. linguistic. in which this returningpoet states: "It is my feeling that the twentieth-century human condition demands a poetry of witness.4l1li . . 6. a crossing through danger-and especially that we avoid associating it with what is "lived. "Poetsof witness" were considered by some to be engaged in writing It occurs. I havesaid March 16. or an echo preceding the sound of a voice. had not yet had its geneSIS. "poetry of witness. to being a "me without poem s . not registered in the first person 'precisely since it ruined this first perso~. is not mimetic narrative."'" So the is not political confesslOnah:m. to the person of the poet. in those years. much of the time. . CA. herself a poet in exile. between times-like the lines-in a footprint that would precede the step. instead of being alienated." provided understand the word in its strict sense-the that we both Latin ex-periri.In it I s WI nessmg. 18. The woman who did return wrote. arrses out of experience that is not perceived as law.Labarthe Poetr (Stanford CA) . but Levinas claims that a poetic work is at the same time a document. as Jacques Dernda suggests. and with my contact in the InternationalSecretariat of Amnesty International). e evmas. as spilled blood. A poem is lyric an. "poetry of witness" originatedin a very different constellation of thought. a week before the assassination of Monsignor Romero. publishedin the summer of 1981 in The American Poetry Review. ". and by which my uniqueness as myself." the stuff of anecdotes. engagie. and in January of 1978waswelcomed by one of her relatives to £1 Salvador. po ters. in fact. and no doubt for the wrongdoing of the other. and psycho5 Emmanu 1 L·· Pn I~96). IS documentaryliterature. 1999 . me. . Philippe Lacoue. It is of the essence of art to signify only between the intervals of time. I traveled to Spainto translate Claribel Alegria. xpenena translated by Andrea Tarnowsky analyticunderstandings of "witness. As compelling as many such "witness" poems are. It bears witness. and it is not simply an act of memory." remains to be set forth. Within months of meeting Des Pres in the summer of 1977. This voice is the saying of the witness." • 21 of witness." Two years later.' This awakening is also a readerly coming ro awareness before the sayillg of poetry that calls the reader to her irrevocable and inexhaustible responsibility for the other as present in the testamentary utterance. regarded skeptically by some as a euphemismfor "political poetry. Smith (Stanford." as a term of literary art. of teaderly encounter Withtheliterature of that-which-happened. in the manner of an ethical or political act. The Witness if Poetry.r~duced. p.but soon after learning of Brodsky and Akhmatova I began an epistolary friendshipwith the late Terrence Des Pres. 1980.p. Philippe Lacoue-Labarrhe. Czeslaw Milosz wouldpublish his monograph."entered the lexicon of literary terms. and letters of every passing age-though in the case of poetry's strictly poetic expression these objects merely furnish a favorable occasion and serve as pretexts. as E . If askedwhen I returned from El Salvador for the last time in those years.y . author of The Survivor: All Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps. or poetic reportage. sevenpoemsmarked by the El Salvador experience. in which it was not regardedas constituting a poet's identity. 6. proposes to call what [the poem] translates "experience. in which he cites Akhmatova's preface to "Requiem" as epigraph to a chapter on the survivor's will to bear witness. religious. . THE 'POETRY "Witness"would come to refer.then archbishop of San Salvador. and its mode is evidentiary rather thanrepresentational-as evidentiary. and a phrase. is intensified by my Irreplaceability." nor prescribing a new Iitterature a term descending from the literature of the Shoahand complicated by philosophical. oper Names translated by Michael B.wltn~ss IS not "arecounting. writing on the work of Celan. which is not a translation of experi- ence into poetry but is itself experience. An expiation assigned to me without any possible avoidance. "Poetry of witness. and the art that went into its making is at once a use of discourse. I now understand that I did not return on that date. In my sense of thisterm. much as it refers to a man or woman testifying under oath in a court of Butapoem' it . memoirs. my expiation for the suffering.After thirty years. that the woman who traveled to £1 Salvador-the young poet I had been-did not come is a mode of reading rather than of to a ghostlike status.

p.. 8. on the 0 . close and unlosr amid all the losses: lan- guage. I will forget it all. Oneafter the other. Common among them is an explicit will to bear witness.? There are inventories of losses. its two principal functions: the conveyance of humane orderwhich we call law. How much grass foreach one?" Write: I don't know.NY. "All. 59. p. not the lime trees' agitated shade. out of my life. Andeverything that did not. This idea of "damaged language" appears in George Steiner's Language and Silence. Anna Akhmatova. go through horrible silences. Use a lan- guage to conceive. use it to make out speci- Nothing I counted mine. 2001). Everything that happened. quite as well as it used to. is mine to take: fications for gas ovens. organize. C· ' ccasion a recelvmg the Literature Prize of the Free C ~nse(aNtlc ~ °kfBNryemen. 459." ibid.." Thedifficultiesof forgetting and remembering are marked.. PaulCelan 'Speech Literature. however. Carolyn ForchI (NewYork. n. In ordinary ink on ordinary paper: they were given no food. Vahan Tekeyan.22· POETRY WHILE THE Reading the Living Archives OF WITNESS solitude and tranquility thought to be rhe condition of literary production were absent for many twentietheven in the aftermath of their survival.' Forgetting. and the communication of the quick of t. Something will happen to it. illiteracy. go through the thousand darknesses of death-bringing speech. as in Akhmatova's "Requiem": Languages have great reserves of life. . But it had to go through its own response1essness. ed.. p. p. Imperceptibly at first. that I set out to find and gather in my anthology. 10. in spite of all that happened."ibid. as always irreparable.Yes. H ." in Against Forgetting. Language was not lost. Language and Silence: Essays on Language. Something of the lies and sadism will settle in the marrow of the language. f . Theroads I did not. History counts its skeletons in round numbers. (993). not the thin cricket-sound The damage need not be regarded. 106. Selected Poems and Prose of Paul to an ew rorx.The body of thought that informs the "poetry of witne s" sugge ts. and against all odds. "Requiem. GuillaumeApollinaire: 9.. getting the habits of hell into its syntax": Write it. and the Inhuman 101. Write. Vahan Tekeyan: One thing remained attainable. In the words of Paul Celan in his speech at Bremen: of consolation's parting word. this poetry that had passed through death-bringing speech. Against Forgetting 7(NGeo~gekSteiner. not my son's terrible eyes. like the poisons of radiation sifting silently into the bone. They can absorb masses of hysteria..'3 ([993)· 1 hoped to discover the trace of extremity that might remain legible in thesepoems. The language will no longer grow not the trial of the visiting hour. use it to dehumanize man during twelve years of calculated bestialiry. _____ . and justify Belsen. How many? It'sa big meadow.. But there comes a breaking point." translated by John Felstelner. 395.he human spirit which we call grace? not the dear coolness of his hands. will begin. "Forgetting. ew ror . Here isWislawaSzymborska: century poets. 1977). The roads I crossed."Hunger Camp arjaslo. urvived and written despite all that has happened. It will no longer perform. But the cancer ofgrief. p.. not the elaborate stone flower and freshen. Wislawa Szymborska. and cheapness .4 .not the day of the storm." It was this language. They have created exemplary literary art with language that has also passed through carastrophe. and the deep-set destruction. theyall died of hunger.. moreover. that language can itself be damaged. and rwenry-first writers have . when he considers the German language "being used to run hell.

excluded from what is written-unable even 8 I ' 1 1 . Theword "extremity" (extremus) is the superlative correlative of the word They dug and they dug.Consciousness Early in the twentieth century." also"outermost. knew all rhls.. and they dug" ibid This evidence continues The aftermath is a region of devastated consciousness of barbarism and the humancapacity for cruelty and complicity with evil. Poetic language attempts a coming to terms with evil and its embodiments and there are appeals for a shared sense of humanity and collective resistance. p. out of extremity writes his or her wound. "In Brief. " 1ibid 1 . his silent exile. questions." Forweare speaking the language • 25 Thatwill be spoken tomorrow. so they heard.24· POETRY Reading the Living Archives OF WITNESS Memories composing now a single memory Wespeakloudly but no one understands us. protectioncan be sought and no outcome intended. blaming me for his ostracism his solitary shadow.brief and lucid passages that mayor may not resemble what previouslyhad been written. humanistic hope that by writing. wanted all this. At the site of the wound. 14· Pa~l~elan.""farthest. As a hundred furs make only one coat Butwe are not surprised As those thousands of wounds make only one newspaper arricle. 67· 13·A nge1 Cuadra. in bomb craters '5 nessitself as fragmented and altered. in oral and written testimony and its extension in literaryart-the mark or trace of extremity. 12." we read this: "exceedingly great." ibid. according to Maurice Blancbot: is excludedfrom the facile. And they did not praise God.becomes tentative. 593. and cannot remove him or herself. 471.. and of Course to the world to come: . so they heard. so their day went by for them. and of belie fin the sacred. Ethical reading of such works " ."he would transform his dark experience GuillaumeApollinaire " "Shadow"ibid 1." Of the self's fragmentation. and may be comprised of fragments: dialogue. The form of this languagebears the trace of extremity. aphorisms. language breaks. Toward the middle of the century.. _ 100 IOI. and is also itself material evidence of Of a match on the face of the calculus. that-which-occurred. quotations. the witness is in relation. to death and evil. we are ableto read-in the scarred landscape of battlefields. struggle)."ibld. There are many poems of address: to war as figural. of writing out of extremity. And my thoughts are a picklock at work On a door.. I tell you. r6. p. and for the first time. pp. __ . In Velimir Khlebnikov's "Suppose I make a timepiece of humanity.. and this closenesssubjects the witness to the possibility of being wounded. the universe is the scratch but rather in recognizing their evidentiary nature: here language is a lifeform.cr41111 ."Resistance. p. Horst Bienek. 3 2.« Extremity suggests "utmost. 15 The witness who writes into greater consciousness. who. suffering. "Therewas earthinside them. or "creating. as if such writing were making an I] incision. There are many other shared qualities. memory and hunger as figural. "exterior"(exterus). uppose make a timepiece of humanity . On the contrary: dismissed. who..marked by human experience. andunreconstructed ruins. kaleidoscopic. there is a discernible shift toward alienation from the deity. "8 to mark human consciousness." and suffering and even world death. " does not inhere in assessing their truth value or e iiicacy as representation. we read in Angel Cuadra: The common man I might have been IN CONDITIONSof extremity (war. and behind it someone is dying . such as the experience of conscious- VehmlrKhlebnlk 01 ov. In the work of witness. the poem does not become a means to an extraliterary end: the poet. Relation is proximity. Celano itself is cut open. their night. broken passages of lyric prose or poetry. In this aftermath. p. interrogational. soldier poets wrire of the extremity of the battlefield explicirlv in terms of its horrors. No special reproaches me now." implying intense The temporal sense seems changed. a sufferingwithout knowledge of its own end. there is evidence of faith and prayer in poetry..

we begin with a heteronymous self and understand Descartes' construction as a two-century-old that T ExTs IN THIS volume are edited with the needs of the modern ago. "This will be about bearing witness. elliptical .. a call to the other. works composed from the latter part of the nine- presence. "and about poetics as bearing A witness . Texts the most authoritative Withminimal editorial intervention. but Blancher's reading of the poet's renunciation. an understanding In the aftermath relation. When we read the poem rather than a symbolic rep- as witness. " times been turned into commas. Capital letters are thus used only where there is some rationale for them. in the reference that carries it beyond itself toward the other or toward the world. is Orthography. The text we teenth century onward) are reproduced from to their labors. Orthography. Thomas Dutoir and OUt1 Pasanen (New York. In the cases of all writers.. works written prior to from early printed sources. We abandon in mind. as is punctuation. semicolons colons and the like so as to bring denial of the primacy of the other and of 1900 at all times on the evidence of of Auschwitz. and colons into semicolons-the We have modified apostrophes. which manifests that-which-happened. 135). we are marked by it and and standards. NY. "that. readbecomes a living archive. does not come between text. marks. With few exceptions. 17·Maurice Blanchot. texts closer to the kind of Semicolons have some- have occasionally been turned objective being to ensure that a manner of punctuation immediacy. It is not to the owning of ones infinite responsibility The confessional is the mode of that of the objective. poem can 'bear witness' to a poetics.ics of Levinas. pp. and also to the thought of A Note on Texts Derrida (after his ethical turn). is neither martyrdom nor the saying of a juridical be mistaken for politicized confessionalism. p. other features are brought into line with twenty-first thoughwe have based our editorial decisions rather than the author . the poem is the experience. we become ourselves witnesses to what it has made present before us. and overuse of pointing a modern reader might reasonably expect. Language haveobservedthe decisions of scholars with gratitude incises the page. as address to the other to whom it henceforth for me to formulations to the other." Derrida writes in an essay on Celan." Derrida imagines the poem as a singularity. it can be a response to it. In the poetry of witness. It can promise it. and date of first publication." of the poem belongs. the subjective. 18.two or more centuries rience of the other. punctuation.1995). marked in its date. At all events. but for the otherone (I'autri). 65-66. we are guided by the original resentation. Sovereignties in Question: the Poetics of Paul Celan ed. Nebraska. corresponds radiantly in the eth. Witness begets witness. such as personification. evenwherewe have toned down its pointing.wherewe are able to ascertain it. opens the verbal body to things itsel£~s What the poem lays open to the other is an unending other than address. 2005). normalized the propensityfor exclamation .. century reader are derived our copytext. 'Ibe Writing of the Disaster translated by Ann Smock (Lincoln. Jacqu~sDerrlda. Witness. source . (Levinas). and it is neces- sary to move beyond both and place ourselves under and beftre the other in an ethical relation that precedes ontology humans come into being through relation. Each text is followed by date of composition. seemed appropriate. wounding it with testimonial in section6 (that is to say. as to a testamentary promise. and the representational truth. then. the readerand the work. often the work of the printer subject/object this denial to enter an intersubjective sphere of lived capitalization.26· POETRY OF WITNESS to be present by virtue of the non-presence of his very death-he has to renounce all conceivable relations of a self (either living or dying) poem which henceforth belongs to Terrence Des Pres would not have relinquished the "humani the tic hope" of transformation. the poem makes present to us the expe- that. and the reader is marked by encounter with that presence.