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By Helen Vendler

Poetry has frequently been thought of an irrational style, extra expressive than logical, extra meditative than given to coherent argument. And but, in all of the 4 very diverse poets she considers right here, Helen Vendler finds a mode of considering in operation; even supposing they could want assorted ability, she argues, all poets of any price are thinkers.

The 4 poets taken up during this volume--Alexander Pope, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and William Butler Yeats--come from 3 centuries and 3 international locations, and their kinds of pondering are usually idiosyncratic. Vendler indicates us Pope acting as a satiric miniaturizer, remaking in verse the shape of the essay, Whitman writing as a poet of repetitive insistence for whom pondering has to be by way of rethinking, Dickinson experimenting with plot to represent life's unfolding, and Yeats pondering in photos, utilizing montage in lieu of argument.

With standard lucidity and spirit, Vendler strains via those poets' strains to discover proof of proposal in lyric, the silent stylistic measures representing adjustments of brain, the condensed energy of poetic considering. Her paintings argues opposed to the relief of poetry to its (frequently well-worn) issues and demonstrates, in its place, that there's constantly in admirable poetry a strenuous strategy of pondering, glaring in an evolving style--however historical the theme--that is strong and unique.

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The antitheses are crudely uncovered: at the left, we see an all-promising youthfulness or adulthood of physique or brain; at the correct, disillusioned, gruesome, and risible age. allow me in short current the diptychs as we come upon them, italicizing the great and undesirable: at the left: at the correct: “the children’s eyes / In non permanent ask yourself gaze at” the self as “A sixty-year-old smiling public guy. ” at the left: at the correct: “She stands earlier than me as a dwelling child”; her emaciated old-age “present picture floats into the brain. ” at the left: at the correct: “I notwithstanding by no means of Ledaean type / Had beautiful plumage once”; the current self-image as a “comfortable form of outdated scarecrow. ” at the left: at the correct: a “youthful mom” with “a form” (her child) on her lap; a similar “shape” “with sixty or extra winters on its head”; at the left: at the correct: the 3 philosophers of their second of highbrow genius; a moment view of them as “Old outfits upon outdated sticks to scare a fowl. ” at the left: at the correct: the once-adored “Presences”; a similar via their current identify, “mockers. ” eventually, within the speedy harsh combined conceptual and imagistic diptychs of the remaining stanza we see a bruised physique opposed to a pleasured soul; good looks opposed to depression; and knowledge opposed to ravaged eyes. The poet’s considering has devised this devastating series of dip- Thinking in photos, pondering in Assertions a hundred and one tychs with a purpose to current existence as he now perceives it in unsparing hindsight—as promising adolescence constantly undone through catastrophic age. As Walt Whitman says, having a look in a hand reflect at his physique and soul in wreck, “Such a consequence so soon—and from the sort of starting! ” (“The Hand-Mirror”). the unique life-aim implied through Whitman’s notice “beginning” was once certainly one of valuable creation, however the notice “result” implies causation finishing in decay. by means of Whitman’s standard—which has additionally been that of Yeats to this point—life has to be accounted tragic: the body’s decline is inevitable, and the desuetude into which all cultural varieties needs to fall—since none folks at the moment are ghostly Platonists, or solider Aristotelians, or aesthetic Pythagoreans—means that just like the physique, the brain can't provide any snapshot of innovative development or perhaps persevered balance. Whitman’s “so quickly” is conveyed in Yeats through the quick cave in of minor into smash, diptych after diptych. Yeats’s sour diptychs, although offered serially, are contrived with a view to gather themselves finally right into a densely overwritten palimpsest. as a result of their similarities in snapshot or diction, each one turns into overlaid at the subsequent. The poet is sixty; the mum is imagined as seeing her son while he's sixty. The gruesome Duckling of Andersen’s tale grows up right into a swan; Maud, because the Ledaean daughter of Zeus, is usually a daughter of the swan. The poet (though no longer a swan) had lovely plumage as soon as (aligning his early life with Maud’s and the gruesome Duckling’s); the poet is a scarecrow, and so are the philosophers. the sweetheart and the nuns and the mother—so various in obvious number of life—become exact whilst aligned as layers within the palimpsest of worshippers of heartbreaking Presences.

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