American Writers, Volume III by Leonard Unger

By Leonard Unger

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It can hardly be termed panoramic; it is kaleidoscopic, a fantasia of emotions. Though not primarily a narrative at all but a series of tableaux with subjective coloring, it would perhaps remind one of Dante's Divine Comedy even if, typographically, its verse did not resemble terza rima. Like the Divine Comedy it presents a psychological, if not quite a spiritual, quest. This quest, outlined in fifteen books, has the usual temporal and spatial dimensions—temporal into the past buried within the speaker's self, spatial into the Mexican interior and the death of the Aztec culture.

That, too, is a Keatsian thought. "Einstein" in theme recalls Nobodaddy; the resemblance proves useful in the unraveling of its complexities. Not only is the subject difficult (like most subjects) unless one already understands it, but also the rhetoric lumbers in obscurity. Nevertheless the poem operates compellingly upon the emotions, and it ought to be one of the best-known philosophical poems of the period. ), who has inherited the problem and the mission of MacLeish's Cain, the mission of rationality.

Sun-flower" is analogous; in MacLeish's "Thunderhead" the physics of lightning symbolizes an aspect of conjugal behavior; in; "Starved Lovers" chrysanthemums symbolize sensuality; in "The Linden Branch" a green bough is metaphorically a musical instrument playing silent music. The newness of this effect consists in the way whole poems are now built round it, as Emily Dickinson's or (using symbol rather than metaphor) Yeats's often are.

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