Thursday, January 01, 2009

The new year too

Over at One Poet’s Notes, Edward Byrne provides background and interpretation of “New Year’s Day,” one of the “cooked” poems in Lord Weary’s Castle. He concludes rather sadly that the poem is a relic of modernism and “Lowell’s fervor for religious allusion or symbolism. . . .” Read the whole thing, as the saying goes.

D. J. Enright may have written the following as a reply to Lowell. You will note that he addresses another relic of modernism in the opening line. It would not have surprised Enright, raised in working-class environs in the Midlands and trained at Cambridge by F. R. Leavis, that so many well-regarded poems of the last century have an odor of stale fervor. Here is the last poem from Daughter of Earth (1972), written when he was back in London, first as an editor of Encounter and then at Chatto & Windus, after nearly two decades in the Far East:

The new year too is cruel. How long
Lord Mayor, the dustmen of my soul
Have been on strike! The snow too soon
Dissolves, and now the street’s disgraces
Are released anew. What churlish
Beadles roll the carpet back?
The furthest suburb is not safe.

The snow’s untimely melting produces an out-of-season Lord Mayor’s Show. May the same not happen to readers of this Commonplace Blog.