at ~ ~
A NEW DlmeRslon:
Notes on the
Ecology of
Canadian Poetry

~ D.M.R. Bentley

I think success in verse is due large y to getting the root form for the right content, fitting them together to produce something with ~ new dimension, so to speak.

_W. W.E. Ross to A.J.M. Smith, April 14, 1944.~

When, towards the beginning of his topographical poem Quebec Hill; or Cana dian Scenery(1797), J. Mackay asks:

Ye who, in stanzas, celebrate the Po, Or teach the Tyber in your strains to Mow, ow would you toil for numbers to proclaim

;'-- _he liquid grandeur of St. Lawrence' Streamer


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he poses a questia~h, though it defies ultimate answer, raises issues that are of major importance for Canadian poetry. The implications of Mackay's question lie in the direction of the relation between imported poetic forms and vernacular Canada content, of the ontogeny of Canadian poetry. Not only does Mackay's imaginary conversation with the poets of the classical, Euro pean tradition give recognition to the difficulties that face the poet who would "celebrate" and "proclaim" features of the Canadian scene (and earlier in the poem he doubts also the adequacy of his "weak numbers [tol emulate the clime") but his question, in the terms of its asking, seems to recognize two op tions that are open to the would-be poet of Canada: either to employ forms and techniques ("stanzas," "numbers") which might be suitable or adaptable to the Canadian reality, or conversely, to shape or adapt ("teach") the Cana dian reality to conform to the stylistic contours of an imported poetic. The fact that Mackay's question excludes a third possibility, namely that forms and techniques either of indigenous or ex nihilo creation are, or will become, available in Canada, points, not to a colonial lack of perspicacity or originality, but towards a major characteristic of the Canadian poetic continuity from his day to the present_that its history as regards form and technique is a history of importation and adaptation, that where formalistic and technical innova

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tions have occurred they have been, in global terms, relatively minor. They have been, in truth, mutations of forms and techniques developed elsewhere, usually in Britain, France, and the United States. In The Educated Imagina tidn, and again in the "Conclusion" to the Literary History of Canada, Nor throp Frye writes:

... literature can only derive its forms from itself.... This principle is im portant for understanding what's happened in Canadian literature. When Canada was still a country for pioneers, it was assumed that a new country, a new society, new things to look at and new experiences would produce a new literature. So Canadian writers ever since, including me, have been saying that Canada was just about to get itself a brand new literature. But these new things provide only content; they don't provide new literary forms. Those can come one from the literature Canadians already know.3

The truth of which Frye speakers particularly on Canadian poetry, where the practice from the first to the last has been to import forms and techni ques_the heroic couplet, the sonnet, the eclogue, Keats's ode stanza, terra rime, free verse, concrete, projective verse (there is no need at this point to Aped ~ - list)_and to fit them to Canadian content, often transmuting one, or the other, or both in the adaptive process. It is thus possible that part of the distinctiveness of Canadian poetry resides in what may be called its ecology, in the reciprocal relations between its imported literary organisms and their uniquely Canadian environments and contents. If this is so, and the present discussion is of course predicated on the assumption that it is, then a

dy of the ecology of Canadian poetry promises to be extremely rewarding.

Before proceeding to set forth more fully the ecological model thus provi sionally proposed, two facts need to be squarely faced and their implications briefly examined. It has frequently been observed that literary developments in Canada lag behind those in the major literatures and that Canadian literature as a whole has had virtually no i Impact outside Canada. From these observations, which, needless to say, are of a descriptive not a prophetic nature, it follows that Canadian literature is derivative and relatively unin novative, that in world terms it is a minor literature, just as, say, British ar chitecture, Irish painting, and Swedish music are, in their own ways, minor. This is not to say that Canadian literature, any more than British architec ture, is lacking in distinctiveness or distinction. On the contrary, the forms and techniques that Canadian poets have imported, unlike the products of Detroit and Coventry, do not become obsolete and cannot be superseded, so long as there are gifted poets to transplant and to vernalize them with in telligence and creativity in physical and cultural environments as distinctive as those of Canada. Canadian poetry, though its forms and techniques are im ported and though it has not, so far, produced innovations of the major kind that effect the course of poetry elsewhere, is yet a distinctive body of literal by virtue of the talents of its authors and by virtue of its uni queness as, in A.J.M. Smith's words, the "record of life in the . . . cir cumatances of a northern plantation."4

As Smith's definition indicates, critics and poets in the past have on occa sion had recourse to biological metaphors in their efforts to describe Canadian poetry. In his "Preface" to the 1913 Oxford Book of Canadian Verse, for in

stance, Wilfred Campbell commented that "true British-Canadian verse, if it has any real root . . . must necessarily be but an offshoot of the great tree of British literature . . .," adding that "What is purely Canadian in this offshoot ~ e parent stock must be decided ...."5 And in his 1933 address on "Cana dian Poetry in its Relation to the Poetry of England and America" Charles G.D. Roberts referred to Canadian poetry in English as "but a branch of the one splendid parent stem ...."6 Not surprisingly, writers less Britannic and Imperialistic in their orientation, as well as more recent, than Campbell and Roberts, have tended to abandon the root-stem-branch metaphor in favour of a less dependent, and more ecological, formulation: in a letter to John Sutherland in Northern Review, Louis Dudek challenged his fellow Canadian poets "to create a native Canadian literature by transplanting the great com mon tradition to our own soil and keeping it alive...";7 in Julian Park's Culture of Contemporary Canada (1957), Roy Daniells describes Canadian writing as "a late germination in a cold northern climate . . ." and one of its forms (the novel) as an organism that "grows slowly, with all the contortion and tenacity of a pine on a rock slope . . .~;8 and in the Literary History of Canada (1965), the general heading given to the section on writing prior to 1880 is "The Transplanting of Traditions." Whatever considerable differences separate these various applications of biological metaphors to Canadian literature, taken in the aggregate they adumbrate the ecological model to be explored here. According to this model, however, the "transplanting of tradi tions" has neither been confined to the early period of Canadian poetry nor been achieved at any particular point in the more recent past. It has been a continual process; and it is a continuing one. From its beginnings to the pre sent the Canadian poetic continuity has involved the transplantation of organisms from elsewhere and, beyond this, their selection, importation, and adaptation in a manner which though_to use Huxley's terms_ethical or human as opposed to cosmic or natural is nevertheless consistent with the ecological process in being region-specific with regard to the various physical and cultural environments that go to make up Canada.

An ecological approach to Canadian poetry offers certain, distinct ad vantages. The most obvious of these is that it furnishes the critic with a metaphorical yet precise vocabulary ~ terms such as fitness, adaptation, mutation, hybrid, mongrel, entropy and syntropy. Corresponding, as they do, to phenomena in the world of Canadian poetry, these terms provide criticism with a suitable means, not just of describing, but of making distinctions be tween and connections among, the many varieties of that poetry. A less ob vious, but no less certain, advantage of the proposed ecological model as con ceived here is that it is not bound by the 'necessary and sufficient conditions' clause that applies to theoretical models in the so-called 'hard' physical and natural sciences. Nor is it blind, like the speculations of the pseudo-sciences (peych~analysis and astrology, for example), to the possibility of counter examples which may constitute unassimilatable exceptions to its formula tions. Rather, the present ecological approach is consistent with the methodology of what Quentin Gibson in The Logic of Social Enquiry (1960) calls a "factors theory."9 Such a theory provides a model of explanation that is rigorous yet flexible enough to allow a multiplicity of factors and tenden cies_in this instance such variables as the accrued associations of verse

forms, the metaphysical co-ordinates of individual writers, and cultural climates of different regions_to be taken into consideration and to be weighted according to the requirements of particular instances and cir cumstances. It may also be counted an advantage that an ecological approach to the importation and adaptation of forms and techniques in Canadian poetry, far from calling into question the distinctiveness of that poetry, prom ises to cast into a new relief its fabled 'mapleness' and 'mooseness,' to demonstrate that poetry written in Canada, like the flora and fauna (not to say the people) that have migrated, survived, and evolved here, displays mor phological qualities that are both distinctively regional and distinctively Canadian. ~ ~ -air- ~ - ~ n :~

One ramification of this ecological model is that the cognates of Louis Hartz's 'fragment' or 'lunar' theory of The Founding of New Societies, which has been given uneasy application to the "two-fragment" society of Canada by Kenneth D. McRae, must for the purposes of literary investigation be dis placed or modified by two factors: firstly, by the recognition that Canadian poetry, like Canadian culture, is more dependent on, and_to use Malcolm Ross's word_"opened to, other cultures than the American society which provides Hartz with his primary model and, hence, has not undergone the process of "escape from the past . . . closing down of the future [and] interior unfolding" of which Hartz speaks; and, secondly, by the realization that Canadian poetry exists, metaphorically speaking, not in a Ptolemaic universe but in a Copernican one_a universe in which the Canadian poet stands at the centre only in his own and his critics' illusions. (Margaret Atwood's "Progressive insanities"i2 of the pioneer who proclaimed "himself a centre" may well provide an unintentionally instructive parable concerning the dangers of failing to recognize this last aspect of the Canadian poet's and critic's predicament.) If Canada is a fragment, it is a fragment of the sun (or suns) which, for literary intents and purposes, has been continuously though erratically irradiated by energy sources_Morley Callaghan's contentious "sources of light"~3_outside itself. This 'solar' theory of Canadian poetry, though a more accurate metaphor than Hartz's for conceiving the relation be tween Canadian developments and the sources from which they derive at least part of their energy, is probably better applied to incoming ideas of the philosophical and scientific variety than to imported poetic forms, which are more in the nature of organisms than energizing forces. The attractive but fanciful idea now arises that if a unified, ecological field theory for Canadian poetry were to be constructed it would conceive imported forms as transplanted organisms, imported ideas as irradiating energy, Canadian en vironments as nurturing soils, and the synthesizing property which several writers, including Margaret Atwood, have seen as the outstanding characterutle of the Canadian mind, as among the major elements in its basic equation. Such a formulation might provide a means of describing the factors at work, say, in Archibald Lampman's "Among the Timothy," where the stan zaic form derives from Arnold's "Thyrsis" and "The Scholar-Gipsy," the philosophical energy from Emerson, and the local elements from the Ottawa Valley, or in Irving Layton's "A Tall Man Executes a Jig," which puts Nietz schian concepts to work in seven sonnets of Apollonian form and Dionysian energy. The primary focus here, however, is not on the process of (photo) syn

thesis but on the relation between imported forms and techniques and Canal dian content, with particular, though not exclusive, attention to the Canadian landscape which, as Northrop Frye amongst others has pointed out, is ineluc tabb bound up with that old bugbear, the Canadian identity. Frye's famous riddle of "'Where is here?"'~4 will not be solved by the present enquiry, but in evitably it lies in the background of an ecological approach to the importation and adaptation of forms and techniques in Canadian poetry.

The immigrant and pioneer poetry of the Pre-Confederation period affords ample instances of Canadian content being adapted_or, to recall Mackay's word, 'taught'_to conform to the demands of imported forms and techniques. In Canada: A Descriptive Poem (1806), published less than ten years after Mackay's Quebec Hill, Cornwall Bayley describes Canada as "Canadia,"~5 thus altering the very name of the place to conform to the demands of the decasyllabic couplet; clearly Bayley was one of those poets for whom the metrics of neo-classical verse were more important than, in R.E. Rashley's words, "the mere name of the country.... "~6 By way of illustrating his con tention that Canada's "earliest immigrants" tended to translate the "Cana dian scene" into "language and forms usually infelicitous because they reduce the new experience to . . . familiar European terms . . . ," Rashley notes that in The U.K._A Tale of Upper Canada (1859) by William Kirby the Indian's moccasin is made to scan moccasin because "the movement of the line re qmres it.nt7 Rashley's point is a valid one which could be corroborated by ex amples drawn from the work of many early immigrants. One such is Adam Allan, whose "Description of the Great Falls of the River Saint John in the Province of New Brunswick" (1798) in the terms of neo-classical architec ture_"Pilasters, arches, pyramids, and cones,/Turrets enrich'd with porticos and domes;/In artless order,_form'd by Ifrozen] surge and spray"_is a striking example of imagistic malapropism, a species of what, in the terms of our ecological approach, may be called mongrelism_i.e. the ludicrous mixing of incongruous imported and vernacular elements. Of course, mongrelism is most readily noticeable at the level of diction and imagery in very early Cana dian poetry. (Bayley's description of an Indian wearing "snow-sandals" and a "crown of Feathers"~9 [my italics! furnishes another piquant example of it.) This ~ so because the rhetorical and periphrastic eighteenth-century verse that served as the models for the "dear bad poets/Who wrote/Early in Canada"20 is itself poor in resources for the description of external nature and, hence, not easily adaptable to the Canadian scene. The difficulties with which the earliest poets writing in Canada were faced are, in fact, those which James Thomson also confronted and which Wordsworth and others solved for a later generation of Canadian poets.

Illustrative instances of formalistic mongrelism and of its opposite, syntropic hybridization are furnished by Canada's nineteenth-century im porters of ottava rime, a form which by the eighteen 'twenties was for North Americans indelibly imprinted with associations of Byronic wit and

Byronic hero. When intelligently imported and creatively hybridized by George Longmore in The Charivari; or Canadian Poetics (1824), ottava rime provides a fitting vehicle for a witty, satirical, and probably allegorical depic tion of matrimonial and literary affairs in the Montreal of the eighteen 'twen ties, when the Act of Union between Upper and Lower Canada was a major

political issue. But when, fog years later, Byronic ottava rime was used by John Richardson as the vehicle for his Tecumseh; or the Warrior of the West (1828) the result is a less successful hybrid. For while the form seems con gruent with what Richardson saw as the "wild [Byronicl poetry"2' of Tecumseh's character, the rhythm of "inflation and deflation" which is built into its abababcc rhyme scheme and which makes it appropriate for poems that are, in Byron's own words, "meant to be a little quietly facetious about everything,"22 serves to diminish, even to undercut, the stature of the hero of the War of 1812. And when, in 1848, ottava rime was famously put at the ser vice of the Temperance movement by Alexander Kent Archibald, the ludicrous result is, in Fred Cogswell's words, "an excellent example of in congruity"23_in ecological terms, a vintage instance of formalistic mongrelism.

It should be clear now that Canada's "earliest immigrants" and pioneer poets were on occasion capable of avoiding mongrelism and, indeed, were far from incapable of fitting adaptations. The Loyalist Joseph Stansbury, for in stance, quite effectively employed the Venus and Adonis stanza in his "To Cordelia," opting for the toughness of tetrameter lines and the repetitiveness of a couplet rhyme reiterated throughout the poem's seven stanzas, to ex press the bitterness of his response to Nova Scotia and the obsessiveness his desire to return home:

Believe me, Love, this vagrant life

O'er Nova Scotia s wilds to roam,

While far from children, friends, or wife,

Or place that I can call a home

Delights not me;_another way

My treasures, pleasures, wishes lay.

In piercing, wet, and wintry skies,

Where man would seem in vain to toe,

I see, where'er I turn my eyes,

Luxuriant pasture, trees, and soIh

Uncharm'd I see: another way
My fondest hopes and wishes lay.24

There are also instances when the pressure of emotions and events im aginatively experienced in Canada wrung passages from the early poets which, though conventional in form, are remarkable for their fitness and power. One such passage, as has been argued elsewhere,25 is Thomas Cary's description of Niagara Falls in Abram's Plains, where a triplet is used in a poem otherwise written entirely in heroic couplets to mark a moment when it is as if his subject_the size and sublimittof the Falls_were "stretching their container and almost bursting out of confinement."25 Another such passage is to be found among the heroic couplets of Joseph Howe's Acadia (1874) where the event described, an Indian attack on a settler family, calls forth devices such as enjambement, alliteration, and rhythmical variation which combine with vigorous verbs to animate the form in a manner reminiscent of the later Dryden:

But now, en masse, the shrieking fiends leap in,
Till wounded, faint, o'erpowered, the Father falls
And hears the shout of triumph shake his walls.
The wretched Mother from her babe is torn,
Which on a red right hand aloft is borne
Then dashed to earth before its Parents eyes,
And, as its form, deform'd and quivering lies,
Life from its fragile tenement is trod,
And the bruised, senseless, and unsightly clod,
Is flung into the soft but bleeding breast
To which so late in smiling peace 'twas press'd.27

Adumbrated here, it is tempting to suggest, is the possibility of "form, deform'd" under the pressure of Canadian experience. Howe's more well known tendency, of course, was towards mongrelism; in Acadia there is also to be found, not only an Indian wigwam described as a "proud . . . dome" in a "sylvan city" but also that notoriously "gay moose" which in "jocund gambol springs,/Cropping the foliage Nature round him flings." He could even, when the couplet form required it, "painfully twist his forest lore": to "lend every grove a charm," and the "charm" a rhyme, he has "The bending Sumach and the downy Palm.... "28 Thus it is that when Howe refers to an Indian canoe as a "bark" one is inclined to disallow the possibility that he perceived a felicitous congru~ty-between his imported poetic diction and the native Can adian content. There is a temptation to quote against Howe the editor of The Ganadidn Literary Magazine's threat, delivered in 1833, to "tomahawk every ignorant and conceited trespasser upon Parnassus, and hang up his scalp, as a trophy, in the Temple of Apollo."29 The temptation is especially seductive since the editor's threat, being a concatenation of classical and Indian references, is itself a fine example of mongrelism.

A temptation not to be resisted, however, is to quote two stanzas of Nathaniel A. Benson's "Canada" the poem which closes his anthology of Modern Canadian Poetry (1930). It is not to be resisted because Benson's poem, which marries the tune rhythm of the first three lines of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" to a personified Northland, sings aloud the fact that mongrelism did not cease to exist in Canadian poetry with Confederation. Here is the beginning of what Benson fondly calls "Canada":

I have seen her in the quiet of the evening in the fields, I have sensed her in the dusk-time that the star-decked prairie yields. She has poised on purple mountains when my lonely step drew near, And the North's green fires at midnight were her altar-lights austere.

Her voice is in the thunder of the raptured Falls of Bow,
In the memory of Daulac dying greatly long ago.
Her song is in the music of awakened April rills,
She whose spirit walked with Lampman on his silent wooded hills.30

Lampman should have been living at the hour when this poem was composed, for Canada certainly had need then of his ecological intelligence and creativi ty. There is a morbid amusement akin to that provided for our ancestors by the simple-minded to be derived from Benson's "Canada." It is quoted here, in

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the context of other more or less ecologically successful passages, not for amusement's sake, however, but in order to make the point that, since the process of importation and adaptation in Canadian poetry has been and still is a continuing one, discriminations and distinctions within it can be made only if the meaninglessly general use of terms like colonial and derivative is abandoned in favour of the attempt to arrive at individual judgements that are couched in more precise terms and based, in A.J.M. Smith's wordy "careful examination of every poem, line by line and stanza by stanza.'~3

Such instances as those anthologized in the last few paragraphs of the Canadian vernacular being infelicitously and, at times, ludicrously conjoined with imported poetic and stylistic conventions, of nature in a special Canadian way imitating art, Me not to be confused with the use made by many Pre Confederation,~and, indeed, more recent writers (including, for instance, the D.G' Scott of "A Scene on Lake Manitou" and the George Bowering of "A Sud


J" Measure"), of conventions such as or akin to the picturesque and the pastoral to order and to "celebrate" the Canadian scene, albeit in conformity with an a priori and idealized model. "Unstructured/space," to borrow another phrase from Atwood's "Progressive insanities of a pioneer," "is a deluge," and our ancestors in this space, contrary to the psychoanalytical myth of 'breakdown as breakthrough' which was promulgated in the 'fifties and 'sixties by Herbert Marcuse, R.D. Laing, Norman O. Brown and others and thereafter imported to Canadian literature by D.G. Jones, Atwood herself, and followers, were correct in perceiving the necessity to maintain control and establish order in their adopted landscape. Poets such as the Thomas Wry of Abram's Plains (1789) and the Oliver Goldsmith of The Rising Village tl825) must be recognized, not for failing to embrace chaos, but for us ing the heroic couplet, often in conjunction with such conventions as the 'Here/There'32 direction of the picturesque, to reinforce and reflect the order that, in their view, was being conferred on the landscapes of Quebec and the Maritimes by (British or Loyalist) civilization. Nor should the real Susanna Moodie (as opposed to the brilliant figment of Atwood's imagination) be cen -~ for raising "imaginary houses and bridges on every picturesque : ~~ . i . ~ Mrs. Gammon could almost be commenting on the connection be tween the pioneer's and the artist's urge to form when she describes the estate of Colonel Light on the Themes near Woodstock, Ontario: one bank of the river, she writes, is given over to a "lawn, tolerably cleared . . . " while the other has been "managed with great taste, and a feeling for the pictur esque . . . ," adding: "the Colonel being himself an accomplished Mist ac counts for thighs Robert Kroetsch almost certainly intends iron" Seed CaWogue (1977) when he offers as one of the answers to the question "How do you grow apoet?"the reply"We give form to this land by running/e series of poets and three strands/of barbed wire around a 1/4-section." Yet he allows Rudy Wiebe almost the last word, ostensibly quoting the prairie novelist to the effect that "'You must lay great black steel lines of/fiction, break up that space with huge design and . . . / . . . build a giant artifact. No song can do that . . . "'35 Wiebe probably underestimates the power of poetry to come to terms with the prairie. Be that as it may, however, it is to the hypotactic tendencies of our pioneers and artists, to their urge to organize the external world, whether with fences or rhymes, barbed, steel, or pentameter

lines, farms or forms of fictions, that we owe the beautiful (as opposed to sublime) landscapes of Canada, as well as the poems which "celebrate" and "proclaim" those landscapes.

The position has now been reached where it becomes possible to recognize that relatively enclosed and enclosing poetic forms, especially those whose traditional associations are societal, as is the case with the heroic couplet and the sonnet, have been during most of the history of writing in Canada, the forms most ecologically fitting for the 'patchwork' landscape which surrounds and includes the house, farm, village, and town. Just as the picturesque con vention provided the early settlers and artists with a means of emparking the Canadian landscape, so the heroic couplet, particularly when end-stopped to invest it with what Sidney Lanier calls "four-squareness"37 as in Cary's couplets describing meadows, cottages and a church in Abram's Plains,3# and the sonnet, particularly the Petrarchan sonnet, with its spatial division be tween a blocked octave and sestet, furnished Canadian poets of the 'Confederating' period and before with 'framing' or 'fencing' structures suitable to the features of the cultivated and civilized baselandscape. The ecologically fitting Petrarchan sonnets which surround the landscapes and structures of Charles G.D. Roberts' "The Pea-Fields" and "In an Old Barn" thus stand in a continuity which stretches back to the heroic couplets of Mackay's Quebec Hill and Goldsmith's The Rising Village and forward well in to the present century, to the vignettes of habitant life cast in sonnet form that comprise F.O. Call's Homespun volume of 1926 and to the rhymed couplets of Leo Cox's depiction of the village of "St. Pol", Quebec. Of course there is no tradition of Meat house poems in Canada (though the treatment of the Hotel Dieu in Ab~F~d8is have affinities with "Appleton House"); there is, however, a continuity of building poems which includes the demotic quatrains of Alexander MacLachlan's "We Live in a Rickety House" and the appropriately irregular quatrains of Phyllia Come Stratford's "Garden Shed.' -

A particularly interesting instance of this continuity is provided by the Earle Birney poem which is entitled "Smalltown Hotel" in David and Other Poems (1942) and "De-composition" in Selected Poems (1966). In its original version the poem is a firmly contoured, symmetrical octave stanza rhyming abbacedd, with the precarious unity of its two component quatrains pre aarmed syntactically and by enjambement:

Cornered by two sprawling streets
The yellowed stiff hotel is stuck
A golden tooth within the buck
Mouthed prairie town. Agape it greets
The evening's halfmoon sky. Within
The fly-loud dining-root ~ thin
Old waitress chants the Wil - Hero ~
To one bored traveller for kitchen-ware.40

In its revised form of 1966, the removal of such words as "Cornered#-and "dining-room," which in the first version had laid before us, like the octave stanza itself, the architectural structure of the hotel, is reinforced for malistically by a change to a weakened, and in one instance ("stuck") inter

nalized,rhyme scheme, a slightly deregularized rhythm, and the elimination of all punctuation. In its new form the poop is indeed a study in "De composition":

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A golden tooth within the buck mouthed prairie town the yellow stiff hotel is stuck and stuck within it like a deadened nerve a thin grey wai tre" drones the bill~f-fare to one pained salesman for enamelware.4

Two further things may be said of this poem: firstly, that its terminal, Eliotic rhymes are appropriate to its matter (less appropriate, perhaps, is the echo of Yeats's "Lake Isle of Innistree" in the first version), and, secondly, that, flying in face of the received view that Imagism is an appropriate poetic for the Canadian hinterland, it applies lessons learned from the imagists to what is, in fact, a suitable subject. For the laconic, impersonal, and implicitly picturesque imagist poem, as A.J.M. Smith's difficulties with "The Lonely Land," together with the successes of W.W.E. Ross and Raymond Knister, clearly show, i" fitting vehicle, not for wide open spaces, but for minute particulars and landscapes.

Birney's "Smalltown Hotel" and "De-composition" point up another factor tl~ must be taken into account in an ecological approach to the poetry of the baseland, namely that the architectural and agricultural features characteristic of baselandscapes are far from always in a static condition. Farms and villages, for instance, may be expanding_a fact which adds for Realistic resonance to The Rising Village, a poem in which each heroic couplet so to say, added to its predecessor like the timbers of a wooden building and the fields of an expanding farm_or they may be in a state of decadence_a fact which adds similar resonance to the relatively loose, open-ended form of Al Purdy's "The Country North of Belleville." There is not space here either to examine in detail the poems of Goldsmith and Purdy or to do more than mention the titles of some other important Canadian poems_Lampman's "A Niagara Landscape," Livesay's sonnets of farm life in "The Outrider," Klein's "Montreal," Birney's "Bushed," Bowering's "The Streets of Calgary," and Kroetsch's The Ledger_which call for detailed examination in terms of the baseland continuity of closed and fixed forms.

Some light may be cast on this continuity by the fact that the word stanza, which can be applied not only to such forms as the quatrain and ottava rime, but also to the couplet (particularly when blocked) and to the sonnet (and its component parts), originally meant_in the words of Johnson's Dic tionary_"a room of a house." For this fact may help towards an appreciation of the fitness of contoured, indeed, architectural, forms like the blocked couplet and the Petrarchan sonnet for landscapes consisting of formal shapes such as fields and houses which, particularly in the early period of highly visi ble "contrast between creation and chaos," were cast into striking relief by their unformed and aleatory background. In the Canadian context the parallel

"Poetry's suburbia") should be as well-known as Donne's famous likening of the sonnet to a "well-wrought urn." Yet Donne'snotion of the sonnet as a receptacle will remind some readers of the "cyanide jar" of Margaret Avison's "Butterfly Bones; a Sonnet Against Sonnets." Nor is this for the present dis cussion an irrelevant response. The tendency of the sonnet to "fix" its sub ject matter in a static and potentially deadening enclosure is well-understood by Avison, so well in fact that in "Snow" and "Butterfly Bones" she brilliantly uses formalistic strategies, including the burying of rhymes, and, especially, the playing of the Petrarchan against the Shakespearian structure, to subvert the fixing effect of the closed form, to render it a dynamic vehicle for the "jail break" and "recreation" of the "optic heart." The practice of numerous Cana dian poets, from the Thomas Cary of Abram s Plains to the Sid Marty of "In vitation and Covenant," and including particularly the Charles G.D. Roberts of "Ice," "The Brook in February," "The Stillness of the Frost" and, of course, "The Winter Fields" sonnet, indicates that in these "few acres of snow," as Voltai~alled Canada, poets have well understood the ecological fitness of closed I - ns and restricted rhymes for what Frances Broolpe'. Arabella terms ''frost pieces.''" ~ - ~ -if -- ~

It has very likely been preying on the reader's mindi-for:eemetime now that the religion Seen closed, geometrical, fixed forms and either (or_as in the case ~Rob~;ti'"The Winter Fields"_both) the shapes of the baseland or the shapes of winter cannot be the only criterion for judging the ecological fitness of an importation and adaptation. Unquestionably other considera tions need to be taken into account. One of these is the question, which may be examined briefly here through the work of Archibald Lampman, of whether an imported form and technique is ecologically fitting in terms of the metaphysic, cosmology, and developmental trajectory of the given poet.

Louis Dudek, seemingly oblivious to the sonnets of Avison and Layton and, understandingly, to the sonnetal structures that underlie Purdy's "Necropsy of Love" and Birney's "Alaska Passage," describes Lampman as "the last He exponent"44 of the sonnet in Canada. Certainly Lamp man, to ju ge y Is critical comments (in At the Mermaid Inn, for instance) and poetic practice, was aware of the ecological fitness of the sonnet in par ticular and closed forms in general for descriptions of certain subjects, in cluding those of the baseland, and of certain states, including those characterized by fixity, arrested movement, a" entrapment. In "The Frogs," for instance, the modified Petrarchan sonne~form and, within it, heavily rhymed couplets whose effect is delaying and arresting, serves to reinforce formalistically the dangerously langurous, solipsistic, and even narcotic state (two points of departure for the poem are Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale" and Tennyson's "The Lotos-Eaters") induced- by the murmurings of the "Breathers of wisdom won without a quest ...." ID the third and fourth (or 'noon' and 'night') sonnets, where the sextets, rhyming deedff and cddcee, each contain two couplet rhymes, matter and manner conspire insidiously to lead the listener "astray," to coerce him into the attractive delusion that "life" is not, as Lampman, like Keats and Tennyson, well knew it to be, full of "sor row landl upreared dismay," but "only sweet." Here is the third of the five "Frogs" sonnets:

1 1 .: - _ .

All the day long, wherever pools might be
Among the golden meadows, where the air
Stood in a dream, as it were moored there
For ever in a noon-tide reverie,
Or where the birds made riot of their glee
In the still woods, and the hot sun shone down,
Crossed with warm lucent shadows on the brown
Leaf-paved pools, that bubbled dreamily,

Or far away in whispering river meads
And watery marshes where the brooding noon,
Full with the wonder of its own sweet boon,
Nestled and slept among the noiseless reeds,
Ye sat and murmured, motionless
With eyes that dreamed beyond the night and

A far cry this from the "thoughts grow[n] keen and clear," the mind made sharp and lucid, by the noon light in "Heat." Together with such words as "Stood," "moored," "still," "brooding," and "motionless," the heavy double rhymes and hot-house form of the "Frogs" sonnet mirror the physical and psychological effect, the "drowsy numbness" induced by the seductive mur murings of the frogs, as does the absence of the Volta, an omission which, ap propriately, allows the listener no pause to gather his rational thoughts sgainat the delusive "noon-tide reverie." It is an understanding of Lampman's metaphysical orientation that enables us to see why "The Frogs" is a suc cessful insta ce of importation and adaptation, in ecological terms, a creative or ayntropie- hybrid.

Similarly, a knowledge of Lampman's attitude to the city enables us to see that the tight, cross-rhymed quatrains of such pieces as "The City," "The Im pression" and "The Poet's Song" serve to reinforce formalistically, not only the contoured shapes of the city, but also the fact that in these poems (as, in cidentally, in the rhymed quatrains of Alden Nowlan's "Warren Pryor"), the city is a realm of entrapment and oppression. Indeed - 'The Poet's Song" (a much underrated poem) closed quatrains give way Vigorous tetrameter couplets whose rhymes draw together a series of septains when the focus shifts from the stasis and sterility of the city to the violence and inspiration of a Storm in the countryside. In the final stanza of the poem, an eight-liner whose rhyme scheme, ababecdd, is that of the two central stanzas of Words worth's "The Solitary Reaper," the ab&b rhyme of the quatrains intrudes again briefly as the focus returns to the city to be finally replaced by the couplets of the romantic poet in and above he Datural environment:

That night, when the fierce hours grew long,
Once more the monarch, old and gray,
Called for the poet and his song,
And called in vain. But far away
By the wild mountain-gorges, stirred. :
The shepherds in their scratches heard ~ ; -~:
Above the torrent's charge and clang
The cleaving cleat of one that sang.

It might at first seem strange that in "The Poet's Song," or, for that matter, in "Heat" and "Among the Timothy," Lampman does not employ forms freer than rhyming couplets and fixed stanzas in his depiction of the external nature whose revitalizing energy his speakers flee the city to absorb. One reason for this, that the firm contours of such forms reflect at the descriptive level the cultivated landscape of Lampman's Ottawa Valley, does not provide the full explanation unless complemented by the more metaphysical con sider~tion that for Lampman and his fellow 'Confederation poets,' particularly Campbell, Roberts, and Carman, regular stanza forms were the embodiment of a balanced, ordered, and harmonious relationship between man and an ex ternal nature which, for them, was predictably recurrent in its cycles and ordered in its forms. Hence, the hexameter couplets of Lampman's "The Woodcutter's Hut" and the regular quatrains of Roberts' "The Solitary Woodsman," two poems which depict human figures who are "Fellow to the falling leaves,"47 who are attuned to the rhythms of nature, who are "rhyth med and matched in rhyme," as Duncan Campbell Scott says of the "Three ax~strokes" in "The Fragment of a Letter."48

In the last phase of his creative career, in the Alcyone volume and the other posthumously published poems, Lampman was more painstakingly than ever exploring the ramifications of design and order, or the lack of such, in poems like "The City of the End of Things," "The Land of Pallas," and "At the Long Sault: May, 1660." In the first of these, Lampman's dark and wintry vision of the dreadful consequences of urbanization and materialism, life rhythms that have become mechanical repetitions and natural cycles that have become hideouts tines are fittingly described in crosa-rhymed tetrameters whose energy is demonic and whose music is "inhuman.~9 (The fact that Lampman uses the same form for divergent pur poses in different places and at different times emphasizes the importance of the metaphysical and developmental dimensions of the ecological process and, in so doing, calls to mind the fact that different poets may import the same form and adapt it to their own special purposes. Such is the case with Layton'a use of a "three-line" stanza, with unmistakable echoes of Dante's Inferno. . . t'60 to describe a "cite . . . in flames . . . " in "The Improved Binoculars" and Klein's use of terra rime, the very embodiment of Dante's trinitarian Catholicism, as the vehicle for "The Cripples (Oratoire de St. Joseph)," his depiction of faith practiced and lost.) In the sister poem to "The City of the End of Things," "The Land of Pallas," Lampman fittingly embodies his utopian vision of a pastoral society where "order. . . divine beauty and peace. . . "51 (emphasis added), together with a measure of sex ual equality, reign supreme, in lines of weighty, classical hexameters which, while accommodating many, individual rhythmic variations, are arranged in cross-rhymed quatrains whose rhymes are, perhaps_but only perhaps_for tuitously, both masculine and feminine. And in the last poem mentioned above, "At the Long Sault: May, 1660" Lampman, consistent with another ecological continuity which will be examined in a moment, employs fractured lines and irregular rhythms_a form bordering on free verse_to present the workings of a non-teleological, Darwinian nature in an area of conflict far from the baseland, but returns aptly to regular quatrains for the poem's final, heraldic vision of a feudal and urban order that has been preserved at the cost

of the lives of Dollard des Ormeaux and his men. It should be clear from the sheer intelligence and creativity of Lampman's ecological practice that

stands in the first rank of Canadian poets. It should thus come as no surprise that in one poem, "The Dog," his understanding of the ecological decorum of poetry enabled him, in a spirit of play, to produce what is, in essence, a mongrel about a mongrel_an irregular sonnet describing a beast whose "queer feet [are]/Planted irregularly" and who chases a ball up to, but not beyond, a "broken-fence.... "62

To this point the emphasis of the discussion has fallen primarily on the ecology of imported poetics in the cultivated base landscapes of Eastern and Southern Canada. The broadly alternative landscapes, those of the non agricultural hinterland, are not to be ignored, however, for since the late nine teenth century the North and the West have been of growing importance both as a subject and locus for Canadian poetry and as an image and metaphor for the Canadian identity. Indeed, it is in The Canadian Identity that W.L. Morton, in affirming the "existence in Canadian art and literature of distinc tive qualities engendered by the experience of northern life," makes the observation that, while "the art of the baseland is the Iyric . . . ," there is in "the art of the hinterland" a "tendency to the heroic and the epic, to the art which deals with violence.... "53 Of course, it is the E.J. Pratt of a poem such as Brebouf and His Brethren, with its savage violence, its Christian heroism, and its epic devie~ho comes to Morton's mind as the chief practitioner of the art of the ~d. Now the baser instinct of the literary critic might be to dismiss an h~s~ortan's use of the term "epic" as too general and imprecise to be of practical value in a discussion of poetic form. The formalistic significance of Morton's perception is discovered, however, by Hegel's comment that "Epic poetry . . . maintains a regular progression through all its convolutions without compartmentalizing itself into stanzas."54 For it surely follows that if "compartmentalizing" stanzas of various kinds provide the fitting forms for the baselandscape then more open forms such as blank and free verse must be ecologically congruent with Canada's hinterlandscapes, with the terrains which writers as diverse as Anna Jameson, Susanna Moodie, Stephen Leacock, and Lionel Stevenson have described using words like "unmeasured," "interminable," "endless" and "illimitable."55 Both blank and free verse are, relative to such forms as the couplet and the sonnet, open, ex pansile, nongeometric and, if not strictly speaking "unmeasured," "inter minable," "endless," and "illimitable," then certainly lacking in what Barbara Herrnstein Smith calls "formal determination" and "closural resources."56

Two legitimate apprehensions might have been provoked by the preceding paragraph, one that there is a great difference between blank and free verse and the other that there is a vast difference between the hinterland terrains of the Prairie, the Rockies, the Shield and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Both can be allayed by remarks in Paul Fussell's Poetic Metre and Poetic form, the first by his endorsement of Theodore Roethke's view that "'there is, invariably, [behind free verse] the ghost of some other form, often blank verse . . . " and the second by his recognition of the affinity "in theme as well as theory [between! free verse and the sea.... "57 This second observa tion is particularly useful because it calls to consciousness the fact that all Canada's hinterlandscapes, ad mare usque ad mare, via that "ocean . . . of

grass,"58 the Prairie, and "that sea of mountains,"59 the Rockies, have been seen to exhibit similar affinities with the sea. It is these connections between blank verse, free verse, and the ocean that provide the cement in the ecological continuity of the hinterland. And that continuity is one which enables us to perceive the fitness, not merely of the relatively free verse of Lampman's "At the Long Sault . . . " and of Roberts' "The Iceberg," but also of the blank verse descriptions of the Prairie_"vast ocean's paraphrase"60 as it was termed by Charles Mair (who learned his ecological lesson, incidentally, from William Cullen Bryant's "The Prairies"6')_in Mair's own Tecumseh, in Part II of Isabella Valancy Crawford's Malcolm's Katie, in D.C. Scott's "Lines in Memory of Edmund Morris," and in the opening sections alike of Wilfred Campbell's "The D~rers" and Tom MacInnes' "Cactus." This is the con tinuity against which the blank verse of Pratt's long poems, particularly Towards the Last Spike, must be viewed. The more recent, free verse manifestations of the same continuum are too numerous to mention, let alone discuss in detail, though they would certainly include the Arthur Stringer of Open Water, /1914), the Anne Marriott of The Wind Our Enemy (1939), the Earle Birnsy of The Straight of Anian (1948), the Ralph Gustafson of Rocky Mountain Poems (1960), the John Newlove of Black Night Window (1968), the Eli Mandel of Stony Plain (1973) and the Al Purdy of The Cariboo Horses (1965) and North of Summer (1967). All these writers, and other still more re cent ones of the much-vaunted West Coast and Prairie renaissances, have written poems which bear out the observation of A.M. Stephen in the "Foreword" of his own Verendrye (1935) that "the rhythm of life peculiar to. . . the elemental vastness and beauty of our wide open spaces in Canada and the United States will often find its most fitting expression . . . in organic rhythms and the freedom of irregular verse. . . ," "forms differing greatly from the old familiar patterns."62 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ - ~ - ~ ~ ^ ~

Ecologically it should be clear why th o_ter~ of the hinterland is best fitted by relatively open forms. But what happens when closed stanzaic forms are imported and adapted to the wilderness and sub jected to the pressures implied by the question, asked anonymously in the "Foreword" of Gustafson's Rocky Mountain Poems of "How, in symbology or cartography, lto] put eleven-thousand foot peaks . . . into a;dozen or two lines?"63 or, indeed, the comment made by Purdy in the "Postscript" to North of Sun}mer that "you'd have a helluva time shoving vast lonely distance into poemsY~ Of course, Gustafson's own answer to a question that uncannily echoes Mackay's of nearly two centuries earlier was to use a muscular, short lined free verse (a form reminiscent, not fortuitously, of the young Indian woman's "Tramp" through the wilderness in the first part of Duncan Camp bell Scott's "The Forsaken") as a vehicle for descriptions of his hikers' ex periences in the Rockies. And Purdy's well-known response to the "vast lone ly" spaces of the Arctic was to use a short-lined, open-ended free verse and to concentrate, by his own admimion, on details and on people_a characteristic, needless to say, of hinterland poetry. which is, as a result, rich in flora and fauna, and rich, too, in anecdotes /full, in fact, of sloughs and ships, and arctic rhododendrons, and cactuses and Sam McGees). But, again, how are fixed and closed forms adapted by poetii u~der the pressures of the hinterland? The answer, as might be expected, is that they are expanded. One instance of tl~

is provided by MacInnes who wrote two of his early hinterland poems "The Chilcoot Pass" /1898) and "Lonesome Bar" (1907)65 in stanzas consisting of nine lines of iambic pentameter rhyming abbaccacd, followed by an alexan drine rhyming d. Clearly an expansion of the Spenserian stanza (the adequate medium, it should be remembered, for Sangster's trip down the picturesque St. Lawrence), the MacInnes ten-liner still functions well as a narrative vehi cle for hinterland anecdotes. But it also attempts, through its extra line and, occasionally, through an extension of the alexandrine as in "To mark the flight of Arctic hours gigantic shadows creep,"66 to accommodate and describe the terrain and characteristics of the Northwest. (The fact that MacInnes uses a pure Spenserian stanza in "On Beacon Hill," a poem of 1902 named for the area in Victoria, B.C., and which celebrates Imperialism among the city's "tangled gardens,"67 lends probability to the suggestion that he expanded the form in response to the hinterland). Another instance of expansion as a means of adapting a fixed form to the demands of the hinterland is provided by Birney's "David" (1940). There the already loosened term rime of Archibald MacLeish's Mexican epic, Conquistador,68 is expanded to a quatrain whose enlarged capacity, rising rhythms, and irregular rhymes serve at once to ac commodate the "frozen ocean of rock..."68 that is the Rockies and to underscore the human order and the humanity which the narrator imposes and discovers there. (The fact that the ghost rhyme scheme of "David" is ab ba, that of the In Memoriam stanza, is surely appropriate to the elegiac tone of the poem). The style of Bi~~vid" may not be wholly "indigenous and independent"70 as Desmond Pacey claims, but it is, within its own limita tions, an ecologically fitting mutation.

If there were world enough and time, as, by most accounts, there is in the hinterland but is not in an essay, it would be possible to ask, and to answer ecologically, the questions of when, where, by whom, and with what degree of fitness were various expanded, free, and open forms imported into Canada and adapted to the Canadian scene. In order to answer such questions com prehensively another factor, over and above a poem's particular subject matter and its author's particular metaphysic, must often be taken into ac count. This factor, alluded to in passing earlier, is the cultural and political climate of Canada and its regions. When notice is taken of the fact that four writers of the West, Tom MacInnes, Wilson MacDonald, Robert Service, and Emily Carr, together with four mavericks of the East, Dr. Bucke, J.H. Brown, Flora MacDonald and Lawren Harris, were amongst the first in Canada to ex perience the influence of Whitman, and when notice is taken of the preference by many established Eastern poets in the first half of the present century for Arnoldian as opposed to Whitmanian free verse, there begins to emerge a pattern which can only add to our understanding of such things as the Tish movement in Vancouver and the virulent reactions to it in certain quarters of Eastern Canada. A provocative and informative syllogism could be con structed from Edwin Fussell's remark that "free verse [wasl as inevitable as the Declaration of Independence"7t and Northrop Frye's contention that Canadian culture has its origins in a rejection of the American revolution72 to yield the deduction that free verse, particularly of the "radical" American tradition of Whitman, Pound, Williams, and Black Mountain, and Canadian culture, particularly of the Tory, Eastern, and European traditions, are in

compatible. And if there is in Canada, as F - e argues, "a traditional opposi tion to the two defects to which a revolutionary tradition is liable, a contempt for history and an impatience with law,"73 and if it is true, as Fussell says, that poetic "technique, sensibility, and culture are absolutely inextricable one from another,"74 then it should also follow syllogistically that Canadian poetry will incline towards the forms and rhythms which are sanctioned by tradition and obedient to laws. As far-fetched as these conclusions may seen, they do help to explain a number of things, including the persistence, even predominance, of fixed forms in Canadian poetry well into the present cen tury and the indifference, even hostility, towards 'Americant free verse in the politically-sensitive period prior to the Second World War.

In 1930 Nathaniel Benson, writing in the foreword to his Modern Canadian Poetry anthology, could distinguish between the "splendid free verse of the type written by Matthew Arnold and Charles G.D. Roberts" and "the other, fiercely modern distinctly American type of free verse" to which he was "not partial."75 Three years earlier, in his Pine and Palm volume of 1927, Hyman Edelstein had been less analytical and more succinct, simply dismissing all free verse as "Yankee."76 And sometime later W.W.E. Ross would recall, though his memory for dates was inaccurate, that it was a "reaction against the 'North American' style" that prompted him "after the Declaration of Westminster" to abandon the imagistic free verse of his Laconics volume of 1930 and to publish, in 1932, a book of Sonnets.77 As Ross's chronologically er roneous but politically telling remark indicates, fixed forms such as the son net_which Karl Shapiro describes interestingly enough, as an "un-American activity"73_have appealed to some Canadian poets, including the majority of the 'Confederation' end McGill groups, because their use implied an alignment and continuity with the English and European traditions. In 1947 John Sutherland truculently described as "Other Canadians" those poets who were following "American literary models rather than English ones" and accurate ly predicted that "the American example [wouldl become more and more at tractive to Canadian writers" resulting in the existence of "'schools' and 'movements" whose origin will be American."79 More recently, Dennis Lee has argued that, since the 'fifties, Canada has been to all intents and purposes an American corny and aligned himself with George Grant whom he sees as af fLaning a ch~ic, European tradition over a liberal, American one.30 It is the purpose of an ecological approach to study patterns rather than to lament for nations; nevertheless, the point may be made that if the choice of models for emulation and the selection of forms for importation is partly conditioned by, and, hence, revelatory of, cultural and political climates then an ecological ap proach to Canadian poetry may well supply some clues to the riddle of 444Wh~r4. it. h4~r - ~


I should like to thank Professors Malcolm Ross, A.G. Balby, WJ. Keith, and Carl Klinck who read and commented upon this paper. I should also like to thank the several col leagues and studenta at the University of Western Ontario who contributed to the develop ment of the paper or who discussed it with me after hearing it delivered as a colloquium in November, 1980.

1"0n Poetry and Poets: the Letters of W.W.E. Ross to A.J.M. Smith," ea., and with an In troduction, by Michael E. Darling, Essays on Canadian Writing, 16 (FalllWinter, 1979-80),82.

2 Three Early Poems from Lower Canada, ed. Michael Gnarowski (Montreal: Lawrence M. Lande Foundation, 1969), p. 47. Hereafter cited as Three Early Poems.

3 The Educated Imagination (Toronto: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1963), pp. 15-16. See also "Conclusion," Literary History of Canada, gen. ed. Carl F. Klinck (University of Toronto Press, 1965), p. 835. Hereafter cited as "Conclusion."

4 "Introduction," The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (Toronto: Oxford University Press 1960), p. xxiv.

5 The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (Toronto: Oxford University Press, [1913]), p. viii.

6 "Canadian Poetry in its Relation to the Poetry of England and America," ea., and with an Introduction, by D.M.R. Bentley, Canadisn Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews, 3 (Fall/Winter, 1978), 81.

7 Quoted by Milton Wilson in "Other Canadians and After," in Masks of Canadian Poetry, ea., and with an Introduction by A.J.M. Smith (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, NCL, 1962), p. 131.

8 "Literature: Poetry and the Novel," in The Culture of Contemporary Canada, ed. Julian Park (Cornell University Press, 1957), pp. 25 and 29. See W.H. Kesterton, A History of Journalism in Canada (McClelland and Stewart, Carleton Library, 1967) for an applica tion of the biological metaphor to another medium and Eli Mandel, Another Time (Erie Ontario: Press Porcepic, 1977) for a use of the term ecology in a manner that differs from the above.

9 See particularly "The Use of Tendency Statements," The Logic of Social Enquiry (Lon don: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1960), pp. 141-155.

10 "Introduction," Our Sense of Identity (Toronto: Ryerson, 1954), pp. xi-xii.

11 The Founding of New Societies (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1964), p. 15.

12 The Animals in That Country (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 36.

13 Quoted and attacked by Fraser Sutherland in "In Defense of Laura Secord," IVoFtheM Journey(Ottawa: ampersand press, 1971), p.8.

14 "Conclusion " p.826.

15 Three Earlj Poems, pp. 80 and 81 for example.

16 Poetry in Canada: the First Three Steps (Toronto: Ryerson, 1958), p. 44.

17 Ibid. Although Rashley does not specify the particular poem to which he is referring, and, in fact, is making a point regarding pioneer poetry in general, he probably had the second canto of Kirby's poem in mind.

18 Recently made readily accessible in Literature in Canada, ed. Douglas Daymond and Leslie Monkman (Toronto: Gage, 19781, pp. 62-63. Hereafter cited as Literature in Canada.

19 Three Early Poems, p. 78.

20 James Reaney, "To the Avon River Above Stratford, Canada," Twelve Letters to a Small Town (Toronto: Ryerson, 1962), p. 2.

21 "Preface," Tecumseh; or the Warrior of the West, ea., and with an Introduction, by William F.E. Morley (Ottawa: The Golden Dog, 1978), p. xi.

22 Quoted in Paul Fussell, Poetic Metre and Poetic Form (Rev. ed. New York: Random House, 1965), p. 146. Hereafter cited as Poetic Metre.

23 Literary History of Canada, p. 107.

24 Literature in Canada, p. 51.

25 See "Thomas Cary's Abram's Plains (1789) and Its 'Preface,"' Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews, 5 (Fall/Winter, 1979), 18-19.

26 F~etic Metre, p. 132.

27 Poems and Essays, ea., and with an Introduction, by M.G. Parks (University of Toronto Press, Literature of Canada, 1973), pp. 24-25.

28 Ibid See Parks' Introduction, pp. xxiii-xxv and pp. 9,11,12,13.

29 In volume I, number 1 (April, 1833), 2; quoted in W.H. New, "New Language, New World," in Awakened Conscience: Studies in Commonwealth Literature, ed. C.D. Narasimhaiah (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1978), pp. 361~362.

30 Modern Canadian Poetry, ed. Nathaniel A. Benson (Ottawa: Graphic, 1930), p. 226. Hereafter cited as Modern Canadian Poetry.

31 "Canadian Poetry_A Minority Report," University of Toronto Quarterly, 8 (January, 1939),128.

32 See note 25 and Gerald Lynch, "Oliver Goldsmith's The Rising Village: Controlling Nature," Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews, 6 (Spring/Summer, 19801, pp. 44-45.

33 RoughingIt in the Bush (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, NCL, 1962), p. 155.

34 In Search of Myself(Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, NCL, 1974), p. 230.

35 Winter Studies and Summer Ramblea~u' Canada, ed. Clara Thomas (Toronto: Mc Clelland and Stewart, NCL, 1965), p. 80.

36 SeedCatalogue(Winnipeg: Turnstone,1979),pp.2~Z7.

37 The Science of English Verse, in The Centennial Edition of the Works of Sidney Lanier (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1945), Il. 157.

38 See note 25.

39 Canadian Forum, October, 1929, p. 16. I am grateful to Peter Stevens, "The Develop ment of Canadian Poetry Between the Wars and Its Reflection of Social Awareness," Ph.D. Thesis, University of Saskatchewan, 1968, p. 24 for calling attention to this poem.

441 David and Other Poems (Toronto: Ryerson, 1942), p.21.

41 &~t Poems (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1966), p. 115. Frank Davey, Earle 1~' (Toronto: Copp Clark, 1971), pp. 58-59 places tho two v~s of Birney's poem side by side and comments briefly on them.

42 Klein Papers, Public Archives Canada. I am grateful to Noreen Golfman for this quota tion.

43 The HistoryofEmilyMontague (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1971), p.122.

44 Selected Essays and Criticism (Ottawa: Tecumseh, 1978), p.351.

45 The Poems of Archibald Lampmu, (Including A t the Long Sault) (University of Toronto Press, Literature of Canada, 1974), pp. 7-10. Hereafter cited as The Poems.

46 I'hePoe~, pp. 210-214.

47 Charles G.D. Roberts, Selected Poems (Toronto: P.yerson, 1930), p. 40. See also Kathy Mezei, "Lampman Among the Timothy," C&nadian Poetr~r: Studies, Documents, Reviews, 5 (Fall / Winter, 1979), p. 70, n. 26.

48 The Poems of Duncan Campbell Scott (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1926), p.122.

49 The Poems, p. 180.

50 Louis Dudek, Selected Essays and Criticism, pp. 245-246.

51 Archibald Lampman: ~heted Prose, ed. Barrie Davies. (Ottawa: Tecumseh, 1975), p. 103.

52 The Poems, p. 121.

53 Contexts of Canadian Criticism, ed. Eli Mandel (University of Chicago Press, 1971), p. 66.

54 Asthetik, ed. F. Bassenge (Frankfurt, 1955), II, 394. Translated by Gordon Tracy.

55 In respectively, Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada, p. 30, Roughing It in the Bush, p. 23, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, NCL, 1931), p. 30, and Appraisals of Canadian Literature (Toronto: Macmillan, 1926), p.

56 Poetic Closure; A Study of How Poems End (University of Chicago Press, 1968), pp. 78 and 84.

57 Poetic Metre, pp. 82 and 85.

58 See Sir William Butler, The Great Lone Land: A Narrative of Travel and Adventure in the North- West of America (London: Sampson Law, 1872), pp. 199-200.

59 The Collechd Poems of E.J. Pratt (Toronto: Macmillan, 1958), p.560.

60 Dreamland and Other Poems; Tecumseh: A Drama, ea., and with an Introduction, by
Norman Shrive (University of Toronto Press, Literature of Canada, 19741, p. 21.
See ibid. p. xxi.
62 Verendrje; A Poem of the New World(Toronto: J.M. Dent, 1905\, p. viii.
63 RockyMountainPoems(Vancouver: Klanak,1960),n.p.
64 North of Summer; Poems from Baffin Island
(Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1967),
pp. 82-83.
66 See Complete Poems of Tom MacInnes, with
an "Afterword" by F.P. (Toronto Ryer
wn, I9231I, pp. 99 and 2B2.
66 Ibid.,p.106.
67 Ibid., p. 120.
See Davey, Earle Birney, p. 91.

Ghost in the Wheels: Selected Poems
(Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1977), p. 21.
Ten Canadian Poets (Toronto: Ryerson, 1958), p. 296.
Lucifer in Harness; American Metre, Metaphor, and Diction (Princeton UDjX$~j~
Press, 1973), p.
11. .. .
72 See "Letters in Canada: Poetry, 1962-1960," in Masers of- Poetry, awn
Smith (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1962), p. 1Ol. ' ' ' '3~- ;

73 Ibid.

74 Lucifer, p.

76 JIodorn Canuiian Poetry, pp. 1~11.

76 See Esther Safer Fisher, "The Life and Poetry of Hyman Edelstein," Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents Peviews,6 (Spring/sutaP - r,1980), 9.

77 See "On Poetry and
Poets,' pp. 94-95 and Peter SteVens' "Development of Canadian Poetry," p. 115.

78 "Seed Catalogs," Collected Poems, 1940-1978(New York: Random House, 1978), p. 207.

"The New Poetry: A Manifesto," in The Making of Modern Poetry in Canada, ed. Louis Dudek and Michael Gnarowski (Toronto: Ryerson, 1967), p. 69. ~ go:

80 See "Cadence, Country, Silence: Writing in Colonial Space," Boundary Z. 3 tF.11, 1974\, 161-188.

sun/Son light/Light: Avison's elemental

by Ernest H. Redekop

W.-.. :~.

r ~ i ~ ~ ..

When it was published in 1978, Sunblue became the first collection of Margaret Avison's poetry to appear in twelve years. Although a handful of the poems in the volume has been published elsewhere, the rest are new to her readers. They continue to express some of the central themes of Winter Sun (1960) and The Dumbfounding (1966): the power of the creating imagina tion and the effect of the creating logos on the world.

A good example of Avison's continuing preoccupation with these themes in Sunblue is "Christmas: Becoming," in which she describes the logos, the "Word of power," as

creating that invisible City, and mountain, forest, sea, tundra, ore-vein, light.

.,4~. In'_(7,. ~ ~ .~ ~ . ~ it.

This brief catalogue of an elemental world gibes Hems of her paradoxical natured spiritual eeamoo, a multi-layered universe visible and invisible, outsidi~nd inside, created and becoming. Its natural elements are rock, earth, seed, water, sun, light, thing; its spiritual elements, bread, wine, water, 80n, Light, Word. The connections between the two universes are metaphorical and mystical, made by an imagination whose paradigm could be the fourtsenth~pry mimic, EL;chart Rode of Hi:

. .

For Richard Rolle, swift in the strength of stillocaa, flowed light, and the out there flooded his pulses leaping these six centuries_ love breathes him so alive. (63}

~ . -; ,,. L? ~ ~ ~

~: .:- ~.~: ::: 4 :.~-~

"Luf es a byrnand yerning in God, with a wonderful! delyte and sykernes," he writes in The Love of God. "God es Iyght and byrnyng. Lyght clarifies oure skyll; byrnyng kyndels oure covayties that we desyre noght hat him."2 Rolle's devotion expresses itself in images central to Avison's. In this stanza from "The Effortless Point," the images of light and water build on images in troduced in the first stanza, in which Avison describes long-distance runners "out for buoyancy," flowing into brightness, bearing "lungs all rinsed with morning," as weightless as fish in the sea or astronauts in space, reaching the "effortless point" which, in the second stanza, is the mystical flood of God's love.

~ .

Thus the "out there," anticipated in the images of the runners' road and ocean of air, becomes the source of love, the sky into which we move or under which we learn wisdom in stillness. It reappears in "Stone's Secret" (21) as the "out there" of stellar space, beyond words. In Sunblue,it is the highest, far thest level, the level far above the poet-groundhog of "End of a day," hugging the earth in a storeyed world: underfoot, streetlight, loftlights, branches, a roof of "cloud-thatch" and then "the disappearing clear," a storey too strange for comfort:

Indoors promises
such creatureliness as disinhabits
a cold layered beauty
flowing out there. ("SKETCH: End of a day: OR, I as a blurry" 19)

It may suddenly fill the poet's mind like the comet Kahoutek, directly, with

nothing bra m' lee. keening tear-washed seeing from earth-mound (here) to ocean-deep navy-blue out-there (there). (90)

On one level of awareness, the comet is that Kahoutek described by the astronomer Fred Whipple as "a celestial fountain spouting from a large dirty snowball floating through space.... activated and illuminated by the sun."3 So it shares her consciousness with the ice-lump thrown off by a passing car and spinning "meteor-black" toward her, the comet's parodic and dark earth bound surrogate. On another level, it symbolizes again the resistance of the "out there" to words: it is a "doom-sign," a "cryptic" communication "from somewhere else . . . from far unlanguaged precincts / soundlessly hollowing past us," like the "museum spectres" of "Butterfly Bones," which tell us cryp tically of the fierce life of butterflies.4 This phenomenon cannot be com prehended or even approached merely by naming it:

My tongue, palate, lips, teeth, life's breath, pronounce "comet", call off as told how many million miles away I with the naked eye still-standing see you, it_ of quite another orbit.

This moment is not, for the poet, at all like "the morning day / when Adam names the animals"5_that Edenic day in which thing and word, being and name, are one_but a dark night whose revelations are slipping from the mind and the tongue. `.~ -: ;~

The utterance of the word in 'ok" is as boulder in "Stone's Secret." The stone is "otter-smooth," offering no resistance to the water except itself, all excrescences, all hieroglyphs worn

off, cryptic under the river's ice. Like Thoreau, looking into the stream of Time and seeing its bottom pebbly with stars, Avison looks at the boulder in the water and sees the heavens starry with stones:

out there, inaccessible; to grammar's language the stones curve vastnesses, cold or candescent in the perceived processional of space. (21)

The four questions which she asks about the "stones out there" each express some perception or some truth, but the stone's secret remains hidden by the "dark river" of space.

In the last stanza, however, there is a radical shift from cosmic specula tion to divine restoration:

Word has arrived that
peace will brim up, will come
"like a river and the
glory . . . like a flowing stream."
Some of all people frill
wondering wait
until this very stone

There are two specific Biblical allusions in this stanza. The first is the quota tion from the apocalyptic prophecy in chapters 65 and 66 of Isaiah; the reference here is to the restored Jerusalem:

. . . Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her lily a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream .... (66:12)

The prophecy echoes Isaiah's earlier vision of the Peaceable Kingdom (chapter 11) and is part of another such vision in which the prophet celebrates the peace of a renewed earthly paradise.6 The allusion in the last two lines of the poem is to the entry of Christ into Jerusalem, accompanied by the praises of his followers: "Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest." Some of the Pharisees, attempting to persuade Christ to rebuke his followers for this blasphemy, are themselves rebuked by Christ: "I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out" (Luke 19:37-40). Peace is apocalyptic, the characteristic state of the Kingdom of God, of the New Jerusalem; but if it means silencing man's praise of God, it becomes an unnatural resistance to the communication of the Word itself/himself.

This and other ironies inform the poem. "Peace," in the first stanza, is the stasis of winter and stone: "black river-water / stilled," "frozen hills," "the still unbreathed / blizzards aloft." The "out there" holds a different kind of peace, certainly not static, replying in a kind of code to our "made

mathematics" but beyond words, a massive astronomical celebration of something_the secret of "the stones out there"_communicated only in the last stanza. The "Word" that has arrived is the prophecy of Isaiah and the logos of St. John. The restoration of Jerusalem begins again with Christ's Messianic appearance at the gates of the Holy City. The recognition of this is cause for hosannas; Avison's enigmatic "So" expresses the detection of the secret (so this is it_), a comment on the manner in which the Peaceable Kingdom will arrive, and a transition to her final observation on the doubters.

When will "this very stone" utter? and what? Like any hieroglyph, it communicates through its visual structure as well as its spatial context. The black water shapes the stone; but on a cosmic scale the stones/stars shape violet-black space, both part of a Heraclitean flux illegible and unheard until revelation comes. The winter river is as unmistakably local and Canadian as the otter or as ice, but when stone and stars are united in one image of the dark river (a negative of the Milky Way), this cosmic river becomes the Mes sianic Kingdom. As the hieroglyphic stone sounds, the transformation of world into Word may be heard in the shifts from "otter" to "out there" and, finally, "utters," so that the last sound in the poem echoes and transforms the first, affirming the close relation of created thing to creating word.

The apocalyptic truth is leca secretive in "Then," another in a series of seven poems on Christmas. The poem begins with a reference to the leopard and kid of Isaiah 11:6 and concludes with an allusion So Isaiah's prophecy of the coming of the Messiah (11:10). For Avison, the Peaceable Kingdom is a "wholely pure" and "unimaginable" conjunction of fierceness, gentleness, "storm and salt and largeness,'~f light, music and poignancy, caught up in an "all-things-upgathering bliss." lit this "Then" is a here and now of Incarna tion and release from captivity:

in the strange peace of the outcast on manger hay boa _ real "by:

alle neeri8M u - 'yew ~ ~, ;~

And "Then" is also the eschatological moment outside time when space eel to be the "dark river" of "Stone's Secret" and becomes a "fair blue"_both day and starlight_and the place outside space where

_ ,. ., ~;~__ .~t -A an -, = _: it,

fir. _ ~,~ ~ =;~- -K ~

when and where all prophesi~i~

These four poems express familiar aspects of Avison's thought: the "in here/out-there" polarity found in many of the poems of Winter Sun, and the Messianic, eschatological transformation of the world and the self found in The Dumbfounding. The latter idea pervades the many poems on Christian themes in this volume. Forty of the ninety poems of Sunblue are explicitly

devotional, including the Christmas poems and fourteen poems which are im aginative exegeses of Biblical texts. All express a profoundly personal response to Christ, often in images of Incarnation, Communion, Passion and Resurrection.

The other fifty poems, although not devotional in this sense, nevertheless portray implicitly an elemental cosmos created, perceived and expressed by the shaping word of the poet_a word which, for Avison, always imitates the original Word. The dynamic energy that drives her world, as the imaginative force of the Virgin of Chartres drove the medieval world recalled by Henry Adams, is the Word_with all its creative, redemptive, transforming, linguistic and literary overtones. For her, therefore, the single most impor tant chapter in the Bible is the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John:

. . . ..

.;! .

In tleo b~4 area the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light,
that all men through him might believe
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man
that cometh into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew
him not
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,
(and we beheld his glory the glory as of the only begotten
of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (1:1-7, 9-10,14)

The centrality of this passage, with its doctrines of creation, incarnation and redemption and its images Word, Light and darkness, becomes clear in the forty-fifth poem of Sunblue, "The Bible to be Believed," placed at the centre of the anthology:

The word read by the living Word sculptured its shaper's form. What happens, means....(56)

Like the relation of stone to water in "Stone's Beret," the relation of the word (Old Testament) to the Word (Christ, logos) is mutually creative: both are sculptor, both are sculpture. The word is prophetic: Moses, Isaiah, Samuel, Abraham and Isaac, Abel and also Cain, all figure prominently in Avison's im agination and, in one poem or another, as types of Christ. The word is emblematic: "Grapes, bread, and fragrant oil" are the elements of commu nion, devotion and anointing. Prophetic and emblematic, it is transformed in to the Word resisting the Temptation with Biblical texts incarnate in himself

~. .


(Matthew 4, Luke 4), resisting the "dry bone" of death (Ezekiel 37) and the final entombment in stone itself, so that out of "final silencing" arises "the liv ing Word."

A - on works here, as in many of her poems, through a paradoxical transformation of elemental images. Bible is word, becomes Word, which in turn shapes word; language becomes flesh and living stone, sculpted by "heart's sword" and "ritual knife," which also hew out of the entombing stone the one "crevice-gate" of hope. Prophecy is fulfilled always in the Now.

The reading of the New Testament and especially of Christ as the fulfil ment of the Old Testament is, of course, an ancient and orthodox approach to the Bible. Avison is in this typological tradition, but expresses the in terpenetration of Old and New, past and present, physical and spiritual, in some strikingly original language. Thus, in "For the Murderous: The Beginn ing of Time," both Cain and Abel prefigure the Last Supper and the Father's sacrifice of the Son: Cain by offering grain and grapes, Abel by offering the lamb:

In time the paschal lamb before the slaying did what has made new the wine and broken bread. (49)

Because the images are deceptively simple and familiar, we need to remind ourselves that the paschal lamb is slaughtered and eaten on the eve of the first day of the Passover, which in turn celebrates both the saving of the first born of Israel and the slaying of the first-born of Egypt. For Avison, redemp tion may arise even from the murder of one's brother, from the slaying of the innocent. Christ, embodying the lamb of Abel and the wine and bread of Cain, reconciles murderer and victim, but does not erase the origins of his sacrifice.

This complexity within simplicity is characteristic of another poem celebrating the Passion, "The Circuit (Phil. 2. 5-ll)." The fact that the title in cludes a specific reference to St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians may obscure the equally important reference to Psalm 19:

The heavens declare Me glory of G&}, and the firmament sheweth his handiwork .... Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them bath he set a tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. (19:1, 4~)

~ ~ - ~ .: .

T=Psalmist describes the signs of the glory of God; St. Paul, on the Odor hand, describes the degradation of Christ in the Incarnation, followed by his exaltation to lordship over heaven and earth, "to the glory of God the Father."8

The phrase connecting the letter to the psalm is "the glory of God." The title itself embodies both allusions and the connection between them; it is also the first example of word-play in a poem filled with puns and paradoxes. Note idle part of the poem:

The circuit of ~ Son in glory falling not short and without any clutching after His Being-in-Light, but stripping, putting on the altar-animal form and livery of Man (55)

~ . , ,

The Son/sun, declaring "the glory of God," falls in his arcing circuit to Me ends of heaven, but does not fall short of that glory, though he fall at birth, from the cross, in death and into hell. Nor is the circuit itself "short"; the divine plan cannot be short-circuited. The reduction of Christ at Incarnation is both a"stripping" and a "putting-on"; he becomes both lamb and slave, and lines 7~ suggest not only that man is in servitude, but that he is also a sacrificial animal. Christ, in turn, serves men "under orders"_the orders given to a slave by slaves, but also the orders of the Father. The image of clothing is completed near the end of the second section in Christ's putting on the cerements of the grave:

: - ~ ~

tthen all was silent
cloth~ased and clooed in a _~)_

. - , . ~

The most problematical word in the poem is the verb "to prise":

trusting the silent Glory


to prise, till touching with unflickering Breath He prises even us free . .

Ad;, it. ~: ~ ~:

I, j ~ ~* ~jig - _ ~

Its current sense, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is "to value or esteem highly, to think much of." It may mean "to seize, take, capture; to seize as forfeited, to confiscate"; it may also mean "to raise or move by force of leverage; to force up; esp. to force open in this way." Because the first two usages demand the transitive verb, the third is the most appropriate in this context: God "pays" us free of our bondage, our servitude. The spelling and sound, however, also suggest the other two connotations: God values us highly; God seizes us, and in this seizure, gives us our freedom_a concept as paradoxical as Donne's conclusion to Holy Sonnet XIV ("Batter my heart,

Take me to You, imprison me, for I,
Except You enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except You ravish me

Avison'a love for paradox informs "Sestina" (43-44), whose imagistic and linguistic density malses it one of her most complex poems. Like all sestinas, it has six six-line stanzas and a three-line envoy. Six end-words appear in each of the stanzas in a different order; three of these are used to end the lines of the envoy, and the other three appear within these lines.9

Lilts "Circuit," this poem is, in one sense, an exegesis of a passage from the Bible, in this case 1 Samuel 12-14. Israel, preferring a king (Saul) to a pro phet (Samuel) has been conquered by the Philistines, who, in trying to make rebellion impossible, have imposed a prohibition against the smithing of either tools or weapons. Saul, in an effort to gain divine aid, imposes an oath of fasting on the Israelites, with a penalty of death for any oath-breaker. His son Jonathan, absent from the camp at the time, makes an heroic sortie into the Philistine camp, together with his armour-bearer. Together they kill about twenty men, filling the enemy with a fear greatly augmented by an earthquake. The Philistines flee, and Jonathan, understandably hungry after the battle, picks up a honeycomb on a stick and eats it; his eyes shine as a result. The Israelites, accompanied on the battlefield by the Ark of the Cove nant, are victorious in the ensuing battle. Faint with hunger, they slaughter the sheep, oxen and calves of their enemies and eat them, together with the blood. Saul, hearing of this wholesale breaking of the oath, insists that he will put his son to death, despite Jonathan's innocence of the oath. The people pre vent him from carrying out his threat: "Shall Jonathan die, who bath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he bath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not" (1 Samuel 14:45).

Out of this story, Avison creates a complex and witty parable of sacrifice, resurrection and redemption, moving freely among three times and three stories: the Jonathan story, twentieth-century urban civilization, and the ap pearance of Christ to his disciples after the Resurrection (Luke 24:42). The paradoxes of the story are expressed by the metamorphoses of the images and especially by the permutations of the end-words: honey, fast, see, blood, hostile and arc. They form the following pattern:

end-words stanza 1







stanza 2


fast (noun)

see . . .

friends' feces hostile

blood (of

~ . I:

honey (and ~ howl_ . _y lWlover-)

the Law of God) metropolis

fast (adjective:


(Saul) not

blood (of cattle, of Philistines, d r~ty1

holy ark (of the Covenant)

fast / trlth a bock fact (adverb)

see (Jonathan's
_~H, ~

it: . . :: . .

holy . . . as i' hoagie

my carbon genera tion's blood

arc- t lamp

see (the ~our-beareg us all hostile

blood (of movie hero)

arc-t hItecture

eed-worda stan" 5 stanza 6

bong honey /of wor ~IDdhone ~honey

envoy: endefline/envoy: internal

fast fast ladjoetive ~ ~fast (verb) break hot
"watertight" ark; (noun)
"true" story)

see see see / their land see ("see" and
("understand") out ('remain with "understand")
to the end")

hostile hostile /


blood blood (of the

Fortune and Who . . . dares
time are hostile be not hostile?

:~-~.~ ~ ~ -I

blood (shed
in war)

arc (Noah's) ark for arc (nuclear dawning arc paired progenitors bomb/arc-lamp, (sunrise/Son of graph) rising)

Avison has not chosen these end-words at random. Each represents for her a critical image, action or concept in the story, significant to each of the three major contexts within the poem. Honey is the honey which Jonathan eats in unconscious defiance of the oath imposed by his father and which becomes, for |in and the people, a sign and precedent superior to the law of Saul; it is also Metaphor for the power of the Ark of the Covenant, recalling to mind Psalm ~:10 and 119:103; it metamorphoses into "honey-combing," defining the spatial nature of the modern city and, by implication, ourselves; it changes Main into a colloquial "honey" (lover), as part of a film scenario; it becomes a metaphor for the lies of politicians, generals and public-relations men; as "wild honey" it is a sign of John the Baptist and therefore of the prophetic an ticipation of the Messiah in the past and the present; finally, with the fish, it becomes a physical sign of the Resurrection of Christ.

In the same way the other end-words shift, change and slide into various

anings indicated in the chart above. The combining motif is the verb "to me," as the "astigmatic" I of the poem moves through levels of perception toward revelation at the end. "Eyes keen, because you licked sticky wood honey, / Jonathan?" ask the poet. The unarmed Israelites "quail to see" the Philistines. Jonathan's "wild breakfast" helps him to "see," to understand the true power of a people chosen and armed by God; the poet, looking at Jonathan, sees his name:

. . . in t~-~erod e~ii ~ uc- - lamp bright through my carbon generation's blood 1~ - ~: -

: . ~.r~ 6,-~,j~ j:,:

Thus Jonathan's eating of the honey (like the poet's reading of the Word) becomes a sacred conversion of food into energy, as carbon terminals are con verted into light in an arc-lamp; and the significance of his act sheds light through all the intervening generations of man. In the third stanza, we ourselves become Israelites and Philistines, ensconced on our honeycombed urban cliffs, afraid of "the holy" that "licks at us all as if hostile."

- ~ a. - - - - - ~

- -

In the fourth stanza, the light of the arc-lamp reduces heroism to maudlin sentimentalism in B-mo~e "arc-/hitecture," In the fifth, the poet describes our understanding, our Mung, as no better than that of the Israelites who re jected the prophet in favour of the king. Both stanzas describe blindness of a kind: in the fourth, the arc-lamp becomes a perversion of the sun's (later Son's) arc, seducing us with false visions; in the fifth, we refuse to hear or see the possibility of nuclear destruction or the possibilities of redemption in catastrophe:

We do not see
the mercy in the flood story about the ark
for paired progenitors, though it still hold fast.

The Flood, like the enslavement of the Israelites by the PhiNstines, is a story about divine justice, symbolized in the poem by the Ark of the Covenant, con taining the stone tables of the Law. But the Flood has its rainbow, emblem of a convenant of mercy, and in this poem Jonathan's breaking of a law is a figure for the triumph of Grace over Law in the Son's rising.

The sixth stanza presents the generation of the 'sixties, afraid, like the Israelites, of the enemy; sensing a light whose solar intensity could only come from nuclear fusion, threatening man with a modern fiery version of the Floods "Flame Deluge," in Walter M. Miller's wordsi__lighting up the sky or perfecting "the are / down, on tlut graph' of history, of fortune and time. Some, identifying themselves with John the Baptist (and with Jonathan), eating wild locusts and honey, face apocalypse alone; exiles, perhaps, and perhaps heroes. They may be one answer to the Question out by the envoy:

Who dares any longer break fast,JW~_ l~c7

Another answer, certainly, is implied in the lines:

The Son's blood clears a dawning Oh see Him with aghast disciples, sharing the fish, the honey.

.. . . -:, I....

The dawning of this Son/sun has been anticipated in the eyes of Jonathan, brightened by his eating of the honey, an act defying neither his father and king nor the Law of the Ark of the Covenant, but superseding both. As Jonathan's followers find their strength in meat and blood rather than in an arbitrary oath, so the disciples of Christ, sharing his fish and honey, see and understand the physical signs of resurrection, old astigmatism cleared, eyes made keen by the Son's blood arcing down and by his rising.

This is necessarily an incomplete reading of the poem, but it indicates a devotional act like that of the poet in Donne's "Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward." As Louis Martz has pointed out, this devotion is a meditative pro cess involving memory, understanding and will. In "Sestina," the meditation takes place in the poet-speaker, as she casts her astigmatic eye over "the printed Word," recalling and attempting to understand this complex story, transforming it, as Donne the Passion, from isolated historical incident to an act in the continuing present. The process ends in enlightenment and in a challenge to the will to transform the self, to be like Jonathan, like the Son.

Alj~gh the Pa - An is introduced only in the last two lines, the whole poem moves toward the setting and rising of the Son, from contemplation of the printed Word to communion with the living Word.

Despite its uniqueness among Avison's poems, "Sestina" exemplifies her method: the introduction of an apparently simple theme, followed by ling~tk and imagistic variations, sometimes pyrotechnical, which, in turn, resolve themselves into a simple, unified image_much as Donne, in "Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward," begins with the paradox of the body's dislocation from the soul and ends with the promise of penance and the reu nion of self and of self with Christ.

The three poems of "Light" (59-61), similarly, begin with elemental man and elemental light, then move on to the contemplation of shadow and darkness, the fallen world and the redemptive possibilities of the Light. In "Light (I)," the process of creation and resurrection, with its echoes of Ezekiel's valley of dry bones (chapter 37), is consummated only when we transcend our "own-shaped" shadows by looking "on Light." In the second poem, the poet contemplates various images of light and darkness: the shadow seen from the wing window of an airplane, the chiaroscuro of space, tree shadows, hill shadow, shadows of city buildings, and, most importantly, "self-shadow":

High up, between the last clouds and the airless light/dark, any shadow is _apart from facing sunlessness_ self, upon self.

The observer and the thing observed become one, as subject and ground, but the speaker, noting "self-shadow on / stone, cement, brick" looks beyond "to the sunblue."

That image expands in the third poem, where it becomes the "source of light . . . high /above the plane." In this poem, shadows disappear (except for the image of "the foxed spread snowy land") in the reflections from frozen lakes below. The shadows, however, remain in the mind, which recalls, but does not see, an impure, poisoned earth of "factory and fall-out and run-off ef fluvia." Despite this memory, there is hope:

Interpreters and spoilers since the four rivers flowed out of Eden, men have nonetheless learned that the Pure can bless on earth and from on high ineradicably.

From one point of view, "any shadow is . . . self, upon / self"; from a higher

-a point of view, one may begin to understand the beatitude: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8), relating this purity to the images of "impasse- /crumpled hope" in the first poem and "sunblue" in the second.

O .; :~ .

- it;; ~

Again, as in the other devotional poems, understanding for the poet comes slowly and with difficulty. The first datum is a landscape of toys; this metamorphoses into a landscape of breathing, speculating beings _ourselves_caught in our solipsistic shadows, but hearing "from elsewhere" the possibility of true life, moving beyond shadow to renewed Eden. In the last stanza of the third poem, however, there is a sudden (and characteristic) shift from the images of deceptive light and apparent purity to absolute Puri ty and, by implication, absolute Light, so that the final datum expresses neither uncertainty nor loss, but the ineradicabilityof hope.

The elemental light of these poems recurs throughout the anthology, in the devotional poems and in the others, often in images of the sun and of ter. In "Released Flow" (24), for example, light, sun and water are again uQlted in the single image sunblue. In this landscape of sugaring-time, "the Ed ~ ~o~-deep," the sun turns the melting waters one and off, "squir rels flip and play / through sunsplash ...." In the final lines of the poem_

Sunblue and bud and shoot wait to unlatch all lookings-forth, at the implicit touch

_the "blue" of the first image is clearly slay, but ado Am, ocosa, air, light and colour_thing ant quality_a much more complex image than either of its two elemental components.

Avison is continually yoking such images together. In "Thaws," for exam b, -

- ~ : ~:

Swepth of sunosursing sky steeps us in sahnon~troa~n.... (hi

The portmanteau word suggests "sweep" and "depth"; "steeps" suggests the quiet assimilation of tea leaves in water, as in the opening lines of "Thirst":

In the steeped evening dear stand, not yet beyond the Age

~y W~~-~) ~ '' At- - =. ?~ :

In "March," the elements of spring become sacramental:

Though all seems melt and rush earth-loaf, sky-wine,... all soaked in sunwash .... (26)

Light as sky and ocean appears again in "The Seven Birds (College Street at
Bathurst): SKETCH":
: ~ i: ~ ~ -I ~. .~-~.~
Storm-beaped west, waled with - -- ~- --hi: ~~'

daysp~l. Light's combers
broken, suds-streaming
darkwards and stormwards .... (18}

Sometimes earth becomes seafloor as in "SKETCH: Overcast Monday" (11), or sea surface broken by the "sea-wake of / fresh-turned loam" ("Into the Vineyard: a Vision" 67). It may hold a vast aquifer, "a whole underground sea J under the prairies," welling upward in the rains of April ("Highway in

il" 2 7).

This kind of imagistic interpenetration runs through "Let Be," in which an invisible mountain shoulders its way into a landscape defined by specific empirical perceptions:

Behind the rainmurk is, I persuade myself, a mountain shouldering near enough one might mark _but for the rain_the beeline from the implausible plateau of this Parisgreen cow pasture watered by a meander (old river now a ditch brimming over into trog-marsh), this side of the live room of lit, of r - , of mountain-range. (28)

The searching, creating imagination of the poet works hesitatingly, doubting ly, toward the mountain: past an impenetrable curtain of rain one "might" see the beeline, she persuades herself_but the cow pasture, itself an "implauai ble" locus for the optic heart, is watered by a river which has not seen moun tains for geological ages. The flat world is irresistibly here; but the true land scape ta}ea the form given to it by the imagination. The "rainmurk" does more for the freeing of this imagination than sfumato did for that of the eighteenth-century lover of sublime asacciati~s; it makes the invisible moun tain possible.

The flat world
is defined by random noise much more imprecise the invisible mountain:

bet there bay - ~ ~ . W-^ it

_pbahinp, dogs gnawing, oarlocks, or people'a random opinions - ~ a battery radio, or the precise other inevitable alternative_as will be plain_ to give ballast in daylight to the unseen mountain's no sounding aoundneu.

~_- {'

This is a night world, or at least a world dimly seen; the random sounds of this Bat landscape will act as ballast, keeping mountain upright and afloat in an ocean of air. Whatever the mountain, it is paradoxical: unseen, but present; silent and floating above a seafloor whose depth it does not know; yet it is both heard and solid.

But what is "the precise other inevitable / alternative"? Is it the alter native to random noise, perhaps the "all-creating stillness" of "Water and Worship"? or the brimming of the river of peace, as in "Stone's Secret"? Perhaps the alternative is as "precise" and "inevitable" as the "Apex Animal," the horse in "Strong Yellow," terribly clear to the imagination but edging beyond words:

. . . one you'd call Whitey, maybe, Though he was not, I say, white . . . . . . not a horse-shaped horse, or sized. It loomed. Only the narrow forehead part, the eyes starting loose and appled, and shoulder-streaming part.... (40)

Here the observer's problem is not so much the perception of a reality but its expression. Avison is portraying boundaries between states of mind, as in "On Goodbye":

Distance, through this time I listen to you, learning not-being, looking through for an analogous point in vacancy, *" walls of you and me, as boundaries, set, that that which is not may be. (68)

~i- - i.,

The poet lives in a physical world which she can see and hear, but which is strangely incomplete. It must be given substance by the poet, acting as creative logos:"Let there be ...." The imaginative landscape of mountain, like the "out there" of "Stone's Secret," seems inaccessible to language, but nevertheless demands the word. It is an extension of the poet herself, ex pres~g both desire and fulfilment_desire for the unattainable, the sublime, for life unbounded by the almost-closed river meander; fulfilment in the triumph of the imagination, of the impossible over the implausible.

There is a similar tension in "Speleologist" between two levels of ter restrial space and between the outside and inside of the man in the booth. The surface/cave dichotomy becomes the metaphor for person:

The seller of irrelevant sweets, souvenirs, and tickets to the caves,

is not a seller in a booth really, not a scientist, excavator, engineer, adventurer, enterpreneur 1sic1 amongst tourists, really_

he is the naked hiding poignant face of an earthwork, himself, of centuries .... (861

The seller is not a compendium of functions, not even an entrepreneur of

entering, but himself, being, one who spies out the caves below him and within him, who knows the emptiness of space within the earth:

. . . all rock-webbed vaults, arches, hollowness as if beyond the reach of light.

Like the "implausible plateau" of "Let Be," the visible landscape is far less im portant than the invisible. Bored in his "board booth," half-asleep, the man sells things irrelevant to the world he really inhabits_the cave "there," below and within. Avison creates this interior world as carefully as Robert Frost the desert places of the human heart. ~

The speleologist, then, is the man who does not seem to enter the caves, the man in the booth, himself both cave and explorer of caves. But the speleologist is also the poet, investigating levels of experience and language below the surface, and the reader, deciphering obscurity and discovering, ultimately, the cave within himself. ~ :

The "inevitability" of the man's role as "the one to / spy out a place" underground is related, it seems to me, to the "inevitability" of the "precise other . . . alternative" of "Let Be." The man in the booth is an alternative to the tourists, possibly as the discoverer of the caves, but certainly as the ex plorer of the imagination; he is also, in himself, the alternative to what he ap pears to be. Like the swimmer of "The Swimmer's Moment," who plunges in to the "black pit" and the "deadly rapids," he may possibly find "the silver reaches of the estuary," but not b' the September sunlight of his booth. Thus, in "Let Be," the "inevitable" alternative to the random noise of the flat landscape of the river may be the precise imagination itself, keeping a sound mountain upright, a mountain which, as Ararat might have appeared to Noah, seems to float on an unsoundable sea.

Avison, to me, is most compelling when, like this cave-man, she reveals "the naked hiding poignant face" of her own soul and imagination, with all their tentative but impassioned questionings. Seldom, even in the most ex plicitly devotional poems, does she fail to articulate the complexities of con temporary life by using words or phrases whose marrow has been sucked out by pulpit and hymnbook. There is a toughness in her mind analogous to that of Donne, a sense of worship like that of Herbert, and an image-making power which might have sprung from both. Like the seventeenth-century poets, she discovers unique images for spiritual and imaginative experience, mining all levels of life for hidden meanings, hidden identities.

The stranger whom she encounters in "Neighbours?", for example, is

~. i: ;..~-:

.+ . ~ i.

. . . like a found manganese nodule_concentrate of mortal meaning on the seafloor of the city's daytime din. (75)

a.;.... ,. .. .~..~.~. ~

The nodules to which she refers are currently the object of considerable scien tific inquiry which has not yet resolved itself into firm conclusions about their

origin. The simile is thus exact in suggesting the stranger's strangeness, a quality suggested also by the nodule as a kind of objet troupe, simply there, like the cave-man, the stone, the comet, the data given to the poet. But the "mortal meaning" of this particular datum makes mere observation of the stranger

. . . ~ indulgence, distandag a-self, an object.

~ ::

:- i .;

True d~eovery has to be a Samaritan ac4;~ Involvement with one's aci~bour

To mine the meaning of a found identity will be given only to recovered innocence.

Avison is always trying to pass the boundaries and break the barriers set by the Fall of Man, by the solipsism of individual preconceptions and percep tions, and by the treachery of language itself. So she begins with an awareness of elemental reality_the elemental images defining body and soul, nature and spirit, man and God_and proceeds to construct a variety of new molecules combining the physical world which she perceives and the spiritual world which she is trying to enter. The catalyst is the imagination. The tool, vehicle, matter, process and product is language. With infinite pains she moves toward the disciplined and effortless epiphany of a Richard Rolle, but for her the poetic process is less a mystical insight than an unceasing wrest ling with whatever angel she encounters. The making of a poem is a mining, hewing and sculpting of the word, for which the world will not sit still:

- Id_ .

'' Tat ~-
~ Chalks smear, all the paint spills,
-~~creation crumples and curls. ("Creative Hour" 99)


~. . .
~, ~: - ~
:. .

;-, -. .-~:,:

A.. ..

But the artist goes on, creating an intensely honest book. Avison works with recalcitrant materials. Landscapes, things, people, self resist the imagination. But she works with honed chisel on the basic matter of human ex perience_air, water, sun, light, seed, blood_and sculpts iconic meaning out of an infinitely complex world. These icons can be understood if, for a mo ment, we cease resisting and lay aside our clutter, as she counseb us to do in "The Engineer and the Asparagus":

Put down the dental floss, the number ten iron,
the Mar Leon, the wire-clippers, the periscope and fins.
Just put down, for a minute, the obsolete
nteneil-~tvill~ the ink-oad-stamD. the farmyard


'" ~ ~ '9.''."_ is' it':

- ^ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ -I :- - - ~ -: ~gaspump feed-line. (74)

The energy IOIFOS may then surprise even us:

Down tools. And in abashed intervals At w a asparagus-l ~ ~_~ '~-~

(straight UD through the driveway cold) - ~ ~ .

. ~ ~ ~- ~- - ~ .~

-: ~

1 Margaret Avison, Sunblue (Hanbport, N.8., 1978), p. 94. All further re~reneos to poems found in this volume are to this toot.

2 Richard Rolle of Hampole, We Love of God, in Hope Emily Allen, ea., English Writings of Richard Rolle Hermit of Hampole (Oxford, 1931), quoted in Fernand Mosse,A Handbook of Middle English (Baltimore, 1952l, p. 232.

3 Fred L. Whipple, "The Nature of Comets," in Readings from Scientific American: New Fto~t~ra D Astronomy, with introductions by Owen Gingerich ISan Francisco, 197~,~^ M. The comet Kohoutek (as the name is usually spelled) was visible from abott`Chrittmas, 1973 through early spring of 1974. Cf. p. 40.

4 Margaret Avison, Winter Sun (Toronto, 19ffO), p. 19.

5 "From Age to Age: Found Poem," in Sunblue, p. 102.

6 Cf. Isaiah ff5:25-66:2. Cf. also the Jerusalem Bible, note a to Isaiah ffff:l.

7 Note Isaiah 11:6-11, especially the following verses: The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard with the kid;

:: and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
~ and a little child shall lead them ....

Eland it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his
the second time to recover the remnant of his people .(emphasis

8 Note the Jerusalem translation of this passage.

9 The end-words appear in the following order: 123456 / 615243 / 364125 / 532614 /
4513ff2 / 24ff531 and 531, with the other three end-words appearing within the envoy
in the order 24ff.
10 Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz (New York, 1972} p. 51.
11 Cf. Louis L. Martz, The Poetry of Meditation (New Haven, 1964} pp. 48~.
12 Margaret Avison, The Dumbfounding (New York, 19661, p. 87.

i.- ~ .::.

Proofing the world: e Poems of

David McFadden

by George Bowering

One Saturday night, I sat with David McFadden in Maple Leaf Gardens, wat ching Toronto beat Wit 6-0. At game's end, when sixteen thousand people began to rise -am fib eta McFadden opened his book bag and shouted, "Wait, wait, I have some poems to read to you!" He was joking but he was not kid ding. All his writing life he has acted as if the poet has a real function in the social life of his country and world, as if poems are composed by a human be ing intent on taking his part in the building of a place to live in. The poet is perhaps not the unacknowledged legislator of the world, but if the citizens could have their ears unstopped they would at least recognize him as a func tionary. McFadden does not want to replace the famous athletes in the worka day dream machine; he just wants to take his turn with them.

David McFadden was born (1940) in Hamilton, Ont., and lived there until 1978. Canada's biggest steel-producing city, Hamilton, half-way between Buf falo and Toronto, is the country's emblem for postwar working-class life. Peo ple who live thdre, one fancies, participate without choice in the life of hourly wage, producing the element of national "growth," and accept with no ques tion of will the attendant despoliation of the ecosphere, and the avid leisure hour invasion of the American trash culture. Under cast-iron clouds, Hamilto nians in Dacron slacks go bowling, eat brown-coated chicken parts, and watch game shows on Buffalo TV stations.

But David McFadden's bungalow was on "Hamilton Mountain," a petion of the great Niagara Escarpment, a Precambrian survivor of God's gel that almost joins Fenimore Cooper country to the Canadian Shield, that huge rock backbone of Canada, a symbol vastly important to our literary mythologists. Hamilton Mountain does not rear itself above the smog, but it insists on its priority; it tells the imagination that this part of the continent was all this high once, that the Niagara Peninsula and the Great Lakes were not always a flat stage for coke furnaces and Pepsi shacks.

The Escarpment is an important symbol for McFadden, but no more im portant as a base for his poetic than as a foundation for his house. McFadden did not go to university, but neither did he choose the idle life of most Cana dian "working-class" poets. He was for a decade a proofreader for the Hamilton Spectator, and for several more years a reporter, chiefly on the police beat. Thus he was a wage-earner with words, and an artist raising a lower-middle-class family. Each night he drove down off the Escarpment into the dark of the mills, and in the daytime he wrote poems tl" took for their

subject the lives of regular human beings, divine in origin but compelled to enact their lives in the midst of the trash era. As Frank Davey put it in From There To Here: "the message of McFadden's poems is that individual man in evitably is forced to participate in both the lumpen culture and global political forces of his time."1 1 ~ :~- ~ ~

One does not have to read far in McFadden's verse to find out that he has chosen to be a romantic poet in the line or company of Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Whitman, and Kerouse. That choice implies a vision relentlessly con necting metaphysical belief and detailed concern for the quotidian fate of the least powerful people in his society. ~

You would see him bobbing proudly along Kenilworth Avenue dressed in ill-fitting pin-striped suit & flowery tie bought in a second-hand store, his right hand bent in a perpetual wave, two paper bags in his left hand.

McFadden's poems abound with the crippled and ill-used, but the word that shows up most often when desire or appreciation is signalled is "perfect."

The ancient poets believed that perfection existed far from their world. Their Romantic successors wrote about the aspiration to find it, feelings its shadow in the hearts of human fools. Later it became a metaphor in the poets' store of figurative speech. The Moderns have mocked the idea, or rued the loss of its allure. But McFadden sees its gleam still, ready to put the lie to the Modernists' despair. He often follows the word "perfect" with the word "lit tle," to be sure, but throughout his work one reads of perfection as a possibili ty, a hope, at least a wish_as the positive force that permits such a person as a working poet to seek a worthwhile alternative to the world of trash and murder.

McFadden quite agreeably adopts the Wordsworthian notion of human children arriving in the world as out of perfection, retaining the dream or memory of the divine state. Thus the maimed and oppressed are apt images for hag major theme, the dialectic between metaphysical beauty and the trash culture. We see the crippled form divine, and the poet's mercy, pity, peace and love as hope for the redemption of this awful life.

That hope is a very important theme for the lives we have to live after the realized despair of the Modernist era. Can divine hope, back-lit as it is by twentieth-century irony, serve to clean up our trashy world? For a time in the late 'seventies McFadden seemed to be trying to abandon his struggle by entering into a series of long metaphysical poems. But recent short works discover him among the interior mountains of British Columbia, attached again, by personal disruption, to the earth, whose letters he eagerly stuffs in to the nearest mailbox.

Children, his own two daughters especially, have always best focussed McFadden's rays of sadness and hope, as others did for Wordsworth and Blake during the smokiest days and nights of the Industrial Revolution. In fact, more than simply associating children with innocence, McFadden has often identified the poem as a child. His first back, The Poem Poem, presumably composed during his wafers first pregnancy, equates the

emergence of verse out of oblivion with the uterine flowering of a new human beauty. As every once-expectant parent knows, a developing pregnancy is a time for fantasy, for the struggle to shape a dream, as the fact comes closer to being. In the struggle (see especially McFadden's more fantastic poems) the shaping imagination is either an escape from trash or a saving grace, an action that must be taken in a world where they want to deliver pizzas to your door.

A writer who often places his hopes on his own folk will be called "sen timental," and McFadden has been called that by critics who do not like to see grand statements hinted at in little stories of family life, I like what Ted Ber rigan once said about Frank O'Hara's "personism":

Any attempt by you to sum up what you're like is of necessity going be a sentimentality, a piece of sentimentality. But to tell the world what Life is like, showing some life with an "a" in it, at the center and erefore the central character and therefore the hero, but a very funny nd of hero because not an epic hero, or not a tragic hero and not a mantic hero, not a proletarian hero, not an ordinary man hero, but not a put-down anti-non-hero, either. Rather a human being, an "I". . . W. writing, literally, plays. . . That's what's real about his poetry and - _ it be like the poetry of ourtimes.2 ~

Somebody with the contemporary sense once did create out of McFadden's vignettes a Hamilton stage production called, I think, "The Collected World of David McFadden." And McFadden has sometimes presented his printed poems as one-page plays. But they are plays, originally, acted for us every day, and the poet presents himself as audience, sometimes interlocutor. He is the twentieth-century artist who allows a lot of light into the poem. He does not, as the normal American or Canadian academic poet does, seize upon a European statue and build a meditation to fill the space. He goes where the true mind bids him. "The open-ended universe opens in the middle," he wrote once, and the play we are watching is the play of air and light and mind around the figures thus discovered. ~

~ ~ 8wh a mode of writing require subtlety, and~IcFadden, though sometimes he gives in to a base pun, has from earliest plays shown a subtlety we pick up nicely if we remain tensile of fancy. For one thing, he has always had a deft sonce of notation, as for instance in the poem "God, The," in which he makes the most cunning trace of the mind among the quotidian. His is Whitman's ear (though seldom Whitman's mouth; and let me not suggest that I am citing Whitman as a maker of subtle prosody), listening to the world's parts making exclamations in his head. In his best short poems he likes to pre sent narrations without obvious comment, in the faith that 0a reader also knows where poetry comes from. In fact he often seems to stop the poem before an expected punch line; Robert Frost with a witty pair of scissors. That is why academic Canadianists do not write about his works charactsristie early poem is "November Fly": i

Into the bedroom_

. ;,4~ ~ ~ Aims
w llte~urtamen window
blind drawn down

November in,

burring around the papers paper By hovering


at m' approach


. ~ A. i

but remaining
in my confusion

into the color looking at the

dahlias, 9 of them, getting

ready for the
mat - , to be

split in the
sprig, maybe

making or 46, but


I don't } - or

No~rambor By

of my motion ~ things I know

whicl~nakes use of a subject familiar to an readers of English poetry. But McFadden does not allow himself to make the relativistic conclusions poets traditionally offer on the subject. He stops between "things I know" and "I don't know." (A decade later he entitles a booklength poem I Don't Know_ the words of wisdom put out by Bodhidharma to the Emperor Wu.) Usually the poet musing on the fly is brought to make a remark on the fly-like life of a man, but in the language of an instructed and therefore wiser observer of life. McFadden takes the proposition further, and with the subtlety I spoke of, so that his reader has to begin to draw the conclusion about human life, and then draw back from that temptation.

Sometimes the reader will feel herself invited to make conclusions but unsure that she really knows what the "product" should be. The composi tional method that makes for such "confusion" or uncertainty is at the heart of

McFadden's poetic. Often he will seem to offer implied comparisons of bits of information or events, giving only the implication of the comparison, not the spark that one wants to see leaping across the space between the details, the impulse, say, to settle the order implied in coincidence. It is as if, being the proofreader of God's pages, the poet should proffer only the clarity of the text, not an exegesis of it, not an interpretation. gorges, who proposes just such an occupation, puts it this way: "All poetry consists in feeling things as belig~ringe, while all rhetoric consists in thinking of them as quite common, as very obvious."3 You will have noted the aptness of the present participles there.

Thus it is that one comes away from an encounter with McFadden as one toes from an encounter with his fellow artist, Greg Curnoe: unable, that is, to feel certain whether the man is determinedly innocent or guilefully parodic. McFadden acts as if fairies on tree-limbs are perfectly ordinary parts of the population, and as if a dog crossing a back yard is magic, as if universal world peace might be reported in tomorrow's paper, while a white hair in a mustache can arrest logic. "There is no difference between Grand Vistas and my everyday body." The world is filled with domestic numen. Thus it is im portant (see his poem on Thomas Hardy) to write every day, a little in a hurry or more on a long afternoon, to pay for, to use each day.


& to the mind eager for rhetorical instruction, the details seem to dastard of their own significantly a. in a painting, though in a syntax that we are trained to read for widening meaning. In one of McFadden's poems the colour red shows up all day, and it is with a little conditioned restlessness that the reader will find that the poet does not then make a generalization on the message carried by the colour, as countless university-journal poets would. In my favourite McFadden poem we find a (I almost said "perfect") sly instruc tion that reads both to and from the McFadden manner:

Barbara, put down your ~ i; awl pay attention

A motor= yes has been forced off the road and is falling. . .

Quick! Do something!


.. : Am: if: ~-

There is a relationship between the poet's decision not to draw conclu sions (unless they be transparently preposterous ones) and his interest in lit tle perfections. We cannot be familiar with the perfect, and interpretation makes for familiarity. We cannot be familiar with the perfect unless we are perfect ourselves, and being perfect we would be silent, being perfect we would be saints and therefore still wherever people are moving. In his poems McFadden is always seen as a regarder, moving. In his earliest poems he moves around Hamilton, its corner-stores and buses and bowling alleys. In his second phase he is seen travailing about Ontario, observing people at lake resorts or gas pumps. In more recent times he has taken the whole of Canada

(and the odd vacation in the U.S.) as his subject, purposefully making books that collect his little plays set in Nova Scotia or British Columbia:

To" a dart at the map of Canada, where it lands is where you'll find me.

That means that he is (a) the map of Canada, (b) pinned by a dart, or (c) a dart thrown at the map of Canada. I think that all three are more interesting than one of the more recent professor-critic ideas: Canadian poet as map-maker.

A name for McFadden's art, observation rather than interpretation, is collage, arguable (Donald Barthelme so argues) the main mode in our century. One critics has noted collage and its effect in the big-little novel, The Great Canadian Sonnet, withy pages by McFadden and right-hand draw ings by Curnoe, and in letters From the Earth to the Earth, through which the domestic poems share unnumbered pages with snaps from the McFadden family photo album. But the rest oth_books areidiage too. If one sets his lit tle plays in a twentieth-century Canadian city such as Hamilton, one has chosen a stage that is itself a collage, where in walking down a street one walks by a Greek pizza parlour, then a Chinese cafe, then a Korean martial arts gym.:

For that reason, because of his interest in disjunction and mind-scatter, McFadden does not employ much rime in his poems (except, again, the ob v~w ones made for parodic purposes), because they would seem to suggest orderliness that proclaims authorial control of a world. The collage of the visual out there coming in seems to provide a more true imitation of the world so surprising in its multiplicity. F'ragmenta of a city life, as they appear to eyes and ears_at first the poems seem unended or unworthy of beginning, and they do not bring the ease of repeated sounds. They are no more resolved than daily life. They are not a mesh but rather snapshots that form just a col lage from what time (tempo) permits. A longer poem, "Meaningless Midnight Musings" (from Intense Pleasure) brazenly records whatever comes to the poet's consciousness, and admits throughout that a poem is being collected:

A~pDem is a hex to prevent repetition. Freedom from the cycle of birth & rebirth. Her blouse was all undone. Her breasts smelled like butter.

From the poem emerges a poetic, not the other way round, emerges a belief t God edits your life and your job is typesetting, proofreading.

In the 'seventies we see in the poems more and more construction of scenes, fewer innocent snaps; the collages are synthesized of outside and in side. At the same time, the vision becomes darker, little lamb replaced by the hungry tiger. McFadden was reading Jung, and mining his dreams, presen ting the latter as concretely as possible, trying to pass them off as plain-faced reportage. "A Typical Canadian Family Visits Disney World" gives a sense of the new direction in its bipolar title, and throughout illustrates it with a core

of the mimetic wrapped in metaphorical exaggeration (elsewhere called a hyperbole) and irony:

The girl at the Detroit bridge asked if we had any oranges & it was snowing in the United States of America & the snow was much cleaner & fell more neatly than in Canada, & there was more of it, Ohio looked like a Bum Cam 91_ ~


"The Spoiled BE doe of my favourite poems, in which the poet narrator tricks the title character into a surprise decapitation, is presented as just the latest of many anecdotes about life in the McFadden house. It is delightfully and constrainedly an encasing of wicked emotional fantasy. Such comic malice reappears in "Houseplants" (Mrs. McFadden teaches their care), in which the poet tells of the nasty way that he took advantage of the discovery of the plants' sensitivity to human behaviour. In other poems a dream woman turns into a tanged monster, a selfish homeowner dies of shock beside his invaded swimming pool, a stone talks incessantly of its decapita tion, enough to make one yearn for ditties of no tone. Yet the sentences are simply declarative, so that we are convinced that their author is yet as he was, staying away from interpretation, quietly and candidly collaging the days. Collage is much more interesting than simile for just that reason, because the latter leads the reader to respond: well, everyone's entitled to his opinion. Opinion? says McFadden, "but I am fearful / of being in error."

It is right that we should still see the enthusiastic, encomiastic young poet, and the gathering of skill, never at the expense of early poetic, through the enclosure of darkness that makes itself appear more authentic on the out side edges of that early light. McFadden has grown to the stature that he disks because he began so openly; he was not just another youngster who end poetry with the ability to contemplate violence with smug horror.

Abut if McFadden's plays of experience show a pain that was only posited in his plays of innocence, it is not because he has changed his ideas on what is true. Blake's "Sonlp of Experience" do not cancel his "Songs of Innocence" an, more than the New Testament cancels Moses. We have to die, and we have to grow up, and growing up includes being able to read through newspaper stories instead of just from top to bottom. In his poems of the 'sevenths lldiadden does not so much speak of his dream of changing history through poems, but rather announces that he does not mind the trash inva sion because poetry's work goes on, "the work/ of simple people learning how to sing/ with the help of the Fairies," so "if you believe as I believe/ & have seen strange things you've feared to speak of/ please write me care of my publisher." Now that request is loaded with mockery, mainly because the publisher is there in between, but if one did not care, why bother?

Whereas the McFadden over twenty used to speak in Emersonian terms of "error," the McFadden over thirty holds his eves and mouth oDen to cruel

for there are mysterious people in the world who steal children & kill them & stuff them in holes in the ground

And he tells of it with his habituating comic syntax and structure. Now even children partake in what seems natural, inborn cruelty:

The crazy castrated cat ~1 Al sat crouched in front of a brick wall as if about to leap

through it while dowry a crowd of kids gathered to watch & jeer hoping to see him crack his skull

at McFadden is giving us by his simplicity of view is not a guileful picture an innocent abroad in a sometimes crummy world_in this later period he offers quite a number of poems that show the lyricist as poorly behaved, too. Bathe wants to stay away from the narrowed observation of the confessional poets, who tell their readers why they feel as if it is an unpleasant life. McFad den's aim, admittedly futile but gallant for all that, is to compose like the world, not its observer:

To write involuntarily as mountains are formed ~ ice grows on peaks

as forests clothe the slop"

instead of oDI' after hasty study of the proper methods of producing work merely Sortie of the involuntary mind

When he seems to do that his audiences at readings enjoy themselves. McFadden's public readings are more enjoyable than most because they pro vide relief. Even when he tells stories of murder, evisceration, childhood agonies, listeners smile at one another, laugh till they fall down, nod their sad heads in full agreement. They are hearing a total human person, a cynic who finds life pleasurable, an ascetic who fondly shares his appetites. They are listening to a man who reminds them how two horses stand together in a springtime field, but does not claim that his observation sets him apart. It is as if he is saying: look, the earth gives you all this and it is too easy to forget it. He acknowledges heroes, but no great heroes. He candidly revels in his ability to make poems but he does not ask anyone to interpret his little plays into works of high drama. In one of his earlier poems he said he was happy to recognize his poet-self as "a minor God, but nevertheless God."

Therefore of use. In the 'sixties he averred: "There's nothing for man but art and earth/ and no hope but in seeing." The first line echoes medieval divi sion of the world, and the second is a terse and handsome reason for making art in the post-existentialist age. Of his poems from that period the young McFadden advised, "Take them in loaves as for lunch." That is a good line, because it combines the humble with legitimate Christian pretension. It assembles the poet's convictions_bread and poetry are sacramental, but

bread is bread, after all, modest daytime fuel. ~ ~ - :~ -a ~

Thus the title of the book introduced by those three lines: Letters From the Earth to the Earth. Loaves, letters. The title refers not just to poems (or to Mark Twain's position), but to human lives as letters that are delivered to their original address. That early, and still today, McFadden is a comic metaphysician, but the working poet reminds us where we live, what our poor bodies are made of and the messages they carry in their transit. Of "poemology," a mystery to his ordinary wife, he wrote, "It grows under her feet/ & lines her stomach."

"Infinity needs you, son," he reminded himself then, but the statement is an echo of a line from a western movie, in which a frontier town is trying to recruit a marshal!. If John Clare had had a sense of humour he could have been a wonderful early David McFadden. Note the return in these two lines: "the vacuum at the end of the imagination/ the amazing ground of laughter." But it is essential to a reading of McFadden that one feel sadness and terror downstairs while one is laughing at one's face in the bathroom mirror. His great preoccupation, children, live in a world of beauty and love, and are closer to death than to poetry. Poetry is an activity derived from experience, ~ experience; it feeds on the innocence of children, keeping itself alive, like a man living on blood transfusions. See "A Jewel Box" or "To Elizabeth Ann Fraser," and try to keep laughing. All the poems are indeed love letters to the world, as natural as eating and peeing, but they carry the message of con scious care and the knowledge of probable destruction: "the flower of the world/ bullet-riddled."

But as the earth continues to make flowers and children, it does so without mawkishness or misgivings; so one continues to make poems, know ing them to be mortal from the beginning, not knowing how the world is going to use them. There is no market research save in the trash business. "Keep going God," wrote McFadden in the fate 'sixties. "You've/got the right idea." Despite the trashing of Vietnam and the shooting of Martin Luther King, sheer plod makes plow down sillion shine. Maybe.

In the context of this kind of place, the best way to read David McFad den's world is to read through it all. You will find "little perfections" from time to time, and they will accumulate, spots in time that happen so often that y~i~ill entertain the notion that we can be saved. You will see that McFad c~ten admits a desire to write the perfect poem, but fills his verses with the unavoidable signs of mortality under this earth's veil. Anticipating eterni ty, he is haunted by time, past and future, his own and the world's. The statue of a knight fashioned of dried plums is a criticism of marble statues, but it is also not food. Cats, dogs, turtles and budgies are invited into the poems to be with the people there. If the world is space, and living a life is time, then David McFadden is, like so many Canadians, a travel poet. But unlike the others, he does not wind up sitting back in his chair to look and see whether you got the point. In the later and longer poems especially, there is a word that becomes more important than "perfect." It is "and."

"And" is not a word that leads one to dance around a figure; it is, in terms of meaning, concerning the relationship of events in the world, a letter that will never get down to "yours truly," quite correct. It does not allow a "therefore." In the long poem, The Poet's Progress, McFadden, on entering

the second half of I, examines his process as a poet, as the formerly neglected arises, ants of his career, as Yeats might: "we/ can never know our warm, leafy/ surroundings but can only be them." Not imitators but cons tant creators of the world.5


1 Frank Davey, From There to Here (Erie: Press Porcepic, 1974), p.184.

2 Bill Berkson and Joe LeSueur, eds. Homage to Frank O'Hara, (Bolinas: Big Sky, 1978), p. 214.

3 Willis Barnstone, "Thirteen Questions: A Dialogue with Jorge Luis gorges, Chicago Review,31, no.3 (Winter 1980),12.

4 Ronald Kiverago, "'Local Poet Deserves Attention': The Poetics of David McFadden," Open Letter, Third Series, 5 (Summer, 1976),

5 A short bibliography of David McFadden:

The Saladmaker, Montreal, Beaver Kosmos, 1968. Letters From theEarth to the Earth, Toronto, Coach House 1989. The Great Canadian Sonnet, Part 1, Toronto, Coach House, i970. The Great Canadian Sonnet, Part 2, Toronto, Coach House, 1971. Poems Worth Knowing, Toronto, Coach House, 1971. The Ova Yogas, Toronto, Weed/Flower, 1972. Intense Pleasure, Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1972. A Knight in Dried Plums, Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1975. The Poet's Progress, Toronto, Coach House, 1977. The Saladmaker(rev. ed.), Montreal, Cross Country, 1977. On the Road Again, Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1978. IDon't Know, Montreal, Vehicule, 1978. A New Romance, Montreal, Cross Country, 1979. A Trip Around Lake Erie, Toronto, Coach House, 1980. A Trip Around Lake Huron, Toronto, Coach House, 1980.

Bome Other Writin - :

"Drapes," (a story), Quarry,l9, no. 3 (Spring 1970).
-"Here Are Some More Snaps," (a story), The Fiddlehead, 87 (Nov.-Dec.,1970~.
"Premature Notes on Some Biological Effects of Poetic Composition," "Open Letter,
Third Series, 5 (Summer, 1976).
"It's a Funny Thing," Interview by George Bowering, Copperfield, 3, (1971).
"The Twilight of Self-Consciousness" in The Human Elements, ed. David Helwig,
Ottawa. Oberon Press.1978.

~ " :..: -I Her ~`,'~ :.~
. ~ ~.~~ ~

The Rising Village the fEmigratlt and iMa~Icolm s Katie: The Vanity of Progress

by K.P. Stich

The sentiments and facts surrounding the War of 1812 led to a marked rise in British North American self-consciousness. By the 1830's the colonists' pride in their agricultural achievements and industrial potential had grown rapidly and was soon extended to expectations of analogous progress in literature. The resultant positivism which perceptive English writers like Moodie and Traill saw and encouraged in the Colonies was of course conventional at a time when the inevitability of progress was synonymous with life on this con tinent. In the light of Britain's grandeur and America's "Manifest Destiny," British North America's vision of progress appears solidly prefabricated. Despite the awesome Anglo-American strength of that vision its accompany ing cultural vanity did not, however, automatically turn poets into vain "na tional bards." In the following study I will show how the ironic views of pro gress in Oliver Goldsmith's The Rising Village (1825), Alexander McLachlan's The Emigrant (1861) and Isabella Valancy Crawford's Malcolm's Katie (1884) disturb the comfort of regarding cultural ambition as actual achievement.

In a recent article, K.J. Hughes considers Goldsmith's poem not only "a success story from the point of view of the ruling oligarchy in Halifax" but also a symbolic portrayal of Nova Scotian independence.' W.J. Keith, in turn, questions Hughes' reductions and sheds new light on The Rising Village as a response to The Deserted Village. Above all, Keith points out that "a reader sensitive to the political 'message of the earlier poem cannot help wondering whether commerce and luxury will not have the same baleful effect on the Nova Scotian village as they had on Auburn."2 While I share some of Keith's uneasiness about the extent to which Goldsmith was aware of his use of such irony in The Rising Village,3 I do feel that the poem itself not only forces the reader to reject its traditional interpretation as a eulogy of the United Em

pire Loyalists,4 but also encourages rigorous attention to the ironic conflicts within i" Darrative structure.

The poem does not deal with American Loyalists; it is explicitly about British emigrants who "Have sought a home beyond the Western main; / And braved the perils of the stormy seas, / In search of wealth, of freedom, and of ease!"5 Continued references to limitless wealth, even though "not fifty Sum mers yet have blessed Nova Scotia's clime" (RV, p. 13), imply that the order ing of "wealth" before "freedom" and "ease" is no accident. The pursuit of wealth is reinforced in the final apostrophe to "the land, luxuriant, rich and gay":

These are thy blessings, Scotia, and for these,
For wealth, for freedom, happiness, and ease,
Thy grateful thanks to Britain's care are due.
Her power protects, her smiles past hopes renew.
(RV, p.13)

Such prominence given to materialism in this quasi-declaration of maturity is at odds not only with the conspicuous absence of materialism in the American Declaration of Independence _ an event which would help explain Goldsmith's 1825 reference to not quite fifty years of Rising Village history_ but also with the need to have "past hopes renewed".

The appeal for supine renewal coincides with the transition from in dividual pioneer fume village full of the "arts of culture" (RV, p. 13= The ambiguity d ~ws Goldsmith to satirize the definition of social progress seen in terms of a tavern, a church, a store, a doctor, and a school. The tavern ferments "ceaseless, idle curiosity" (RV, p.5) which leads to vanity and self~glorification; the church is hardly more than a token to sanctify suc c~; and the "well amorted country store" (RV, p.6), with its secular comforts superseding the comforts of the church, belongs to a pedlar who has gained "a merchant's higher title" (RV, p.6).

"The half-bred Doctor next then settles down, / And hopes the village soon will prove a town" (RV, p.7). Because of his medical ignorance, the greedy quack blunos an, malpractice qua death's "envenomed dart / That strikes the suffering mortal to the heart. ~V, p.7). When, right after the "envenomed dart," "the country school-house next erects its head" (RV, p. 7), the implicit allusions to a snake in this pseudo-Edenic world accentuate the cultural desolation which is threatening the spiritual life of the village. The threat becomes acute through the semiliterate school master and his erosion of law and order among the young: "The rugged urchins spurn at all control, / Which cramps the movement of the free-born soul, / Till, in their own conceit so wise they've grown, / They think their knowledge far exceeds his own" tRV, p.7). They may well know more than he, as if to add a paradoxical twist to master-pupil relationships. Yet there is little doubt that, in British American Tory minds, they are "rugged individuals" bent on an irresponsible "pursuit of Liberty." Thus they crown the self-glorification and conceit begun in the tavern.

To round out the dubious village idyll, Goldsmith gives the reader a Now Scotian version of Massachusetts Bay's legendary Merry Mount where,

Beneath some spreading tree's expanded shade
. . . many a manly youth and gentle maid,
With festive damson or~with sprightly song
The summer's evening hours in joy prolong,
And as the young their simple sports renew
The aged witness, and approve them too. (RV, p.7)

Though Goldsmith's language lacks double-entendre, the ensuing digression of Albert's jilting of Flora on the eve of their wedding confirms that, "repress ed by no control" and "by no laws confined" (RV, p. 8), vice has entered the Village in the shadow of affluence, ignorance, and the concomitant pursuit of pleasure. What began as a courageous conquest of "a wilderness of trees" (RV, p.3) ends in a conflict between enterprising vigor, as exemplified in Albert who "was foremost in the village train" (RV, p.8), and carefree ex ploitation of a new land whose symbolic representation is Flora and her "unstudied grace" (RV, p.8).

The ominous rift between artificiality on one side and naturalness on the other side establishes an ironic complexity which, I feel, substantiates Goldsmith's indebtedness to his great-uncle's world of neo-classical and pre romantic tensions concerning nature and culture. The strength of the poem lies precisely in Goldsmith's not preaching for or against the impact of so called progress on the New World. Even the conduding apostrophes to Nova Scotia and Britain complement the ironic narrative progression. The pompous ending follows upon the juxtaposing of the village's affluence with its cemetery "where crude cut stones or painted tables tell, / In laboured verse, how youth and beauty fell; / How worth and hope were hurried to the grave" (RV, p. 12), and with "sweet" walks in the country to listen to "the hopeless sorrows of [the whip-poor-will's! mournful tale" (RV, p. 12).

Furthermore, the apostrophe to Nova Scotia lacks force:

How full of joy appear
The expectations of each future year!
Not fifty Summers yet have blessed thy clime,
How short a period in the page of time! (RV, pp.12~13}

The word "appear" seriously disturbs the future of the villagers' capitalist pastoralism, as the "fifty Summers" of their history suggest to the literary reader archetypal parallels between the warrior-like pioneers of the New World and such ancient warrior-kings as Hrothgar and Beowulf whose seasoned Kingdoms of fifty-year duration ended because of ill-used wealth, freedom and ease. (Even the monsters are present in the form of wild beasts and Indians who, quite similar to their medieval counterparts, attack only after the desolation of nature has begun. It would be presumptuous, though, to speak of possible literary influences here.) Although the Canadian Goldsmith was a literary dilettante, he nevertheless succeeded in giving us not a eulogy of British North America's "rising villages" but a somewhat un polished Nova Scotian version of the sort of place Hawthorne recreated a few years later in his tale of Merry Mount. Materialism and hedonism overshadow his deceptive "sunshine sketches of a little town" and hold but vain promises of future "Arcadian adventures with the idle rich" in Acadia.

As in The Rising Village, the ironic conflicts between social ideals and reality in The Emigrant rest largely on the authorial manipulation of thematic contrasts. Yet McLachlan's decided advantage over Goldsmith lies in his use of an emigrant's fifty years of reminiscences to dramatize the actuality of hope and disillusionment in the experiences of common people. K.J. Hughes has already shown the central irony of the narrator's awareness that the emigrants brought The history of the new land through a complete cycle by creating the problems in the new land that they sought to escape from in the old."6 It remains for me to show here that the nalTator's attitudes toward the emigrant's social ideals are equivocal and need closer scrutiny than Hughes give~r I introduces the poem's leitmotif of "strange mutations,'7 of

soci hange without necessarily progress. At a time when Darwin's discoveries first gained wide attention, this motif drew on the topicality of evolution only to question the moral, social evolution of mankind. The notion of "strange mutations" clearly conflicts with the facile optimism of the New World in Chapter II, an optimism triggered by relief from poverty and political corruption in the Old World. In Chapter III, solidarity among the emigrants as "Pioneers of civilization, / Founders of a mighty nation" ( TE, p. 126) is apparent in their joint singing of:

"O come to the greenwood shade,

Away from the city's din.

Prom the heartless strife of trade,

And the fumes of beer and gin;

Where Commerce spreads her fleets,

Where bloated luxury lies,

And Want as she prowls the streets,

Looks on with her wolfish eyed"
(TE, p. 127)

Yet in the last three stanzas of their song the cliches of the free life of an In dian and of freedom on the frontier already throw doubt on their future. The doubt increases in the lines immediately following their song, "Singing thus we circled round: / All beyond was gloom profound, / And the flame upon us threw / Something of a spectral hue," and in the narrator's awareness of be ing the last of the pioneers to "chronicle the past" of a land of liberty turned "busy mart" (TE, p.130) with little room for the communal and the individual integrity which the newcomers had envisioned.

Their initial "consciousness of might" (TE, p.132), as symbolized in the name of Chapter IV - "Cutting the First Tree" - brings into focus the two related visions of their future. John, the so-called orator among them, sees their frontier labours in images of "invaders" who "are God-commissioned here / That howling wilderness to clear" ( TE, p.133); theirs is an old-fashioned heroism with nineteenth-century adaptations stressing self-help and coopera tion:

He who'd be a patriot now,
Sweat, not blood, must bathe his brow;
Like a patriotic band

- ~ ~

" jab Aced }a each other's sueeess,

Winking at each other's weakness. (TE, p.134, ivies mine)

Although Orator John preaches success, Hughes_as my italics in dicate_overstates John's dedication to "the capitalist work ethic and the doc trine of individual success."8 Orator John, McLachlan's disciple of Franklin's Poor Richard, tempers his exhortation to "common sense", "industry" and "temperance" 1TE, p.134) with an appeal to solidarity in spirit and deed. Doubting Jolta, of course, warns of the competition and selfishness lurking in the Orator's vision. Yet his own appeal to revert to a Brook Farm-like com mune and "to redeem the world from gold" (TE, p.136) lacks practicality. It also threatens the common belief in self-reliance and social progress which the North American frontier has traditionally generated.

Feeling reassured as masters of their own the emigrants' choice is clear. As if to add symbolic stature to his victory speech they put the Orator on the stump of their first tree, that "tyrant laid low" (TE, p.132). Doubting John'a call for a communitarian lubberland goes unheeded. Indeed, it abruptly gives way at the outset of Chapter V to the opposite ideal of "the little log cabin far in the woods" amidst "the great solitudes, / Where the deer love to roam, and the wolf makes his lair" ( TE, p.136).

It is this frontier idyll which makes Little Mac sing: "'I ask not for for tune, / I ask not for wealth, / but give me the cabin with freedom and health; / With someone to love me_/ Joy's roses to wreathe"' (TE, p.139). It is in dividualism and romance rather than ideological schemes which rouse the emigrants to "cheer him loud and long / For the jolly hunter's song, / Who, while roving in the shade, / Wooed and won the Indian maid" ( TE, p.140).

The narrator's seasoned responses to such dreams come in Chapter VI, when he refutes Indian life as an anachronism, and in Chapter VII, when he foresees the end of common man's New World dreams as exemplified by Donald Ban's heroic struggle for survival. Yet Ban's appearance in the final chapter of this poem gives him a much more climactic purpose as a man who,

. . . had gazed on nature's face
Until his spirit caught

Some strange mysterious whispers from

The inner world of thought;

He loved the things far deepest which

He could not understand,

And had a strange wild worship of

The gloomy and the grand. (TE, p.149)

These echoes of Joseph Warton's The Enthusiast, eiB~ury melan choly and Byronic solitude intensify the narrator's initial apostrophe to this 'Sand of the mighty lake and forest" (TE, p.116) and his own transcendental musings about "A strange mysterious sympathy, / Between us and material things" (TE, pp.118-19). His musings-turned-night-thoughts initiate his misgivings about the land's future as a country. It is precisely the failure of the emigrants to acknowledge their tochthonous needs for a kind of "commu nion" (TE, p.l19) with the spirit of their new land which now reveals that the

primeval "desolation round" (TE, p.155) on the frontier had been only tl. overture to the growing cultural desolation:

Hush remans yet tom those men and time of the changes in our days From their simple, honest ways, Of the quad on spoil intent, That flocked to our settlement, Of the swarms of public robbers, Speculators and land jobbers, Of the sorry set of teachers, Of the bogus tribe of preachers, Of the host of herb physicians, And of cunning politicians. But the sun has hid his face, And the night draws on apace; Shadows gather in the west, Beast and bird are gone to rest, With tomorrow we'll not fail To resume our humble tale. (TE, p.l56)

The fact that the poem ends with such, almost literal, allusions to the vanity of progress in The Rising Village is, I feel, no accident. (There is no need to ponder McLachlan's alleged plans for a sequel.) As in Goldsmith's poem, a fifty-year reign of pioneer "kings" is over; the envisioned capitalist pastoralism for the common man has led only to "mutations" of Old World materialism. Despite McLachlan's one-time Chartist sympathies, it is misleading when Hughes singles out the communitarian values in The Emigrant in order to make McLachlan perhaps attractive as a quasi-socialist. The poem, as I have shown, rather affirms a nostalgic preference for responsi ble North American individualism; a preference which "The Man Who Rose from Nothing" anlisimilar poems by McLachlan underline.

Nostalgia for the pioneer past and disillusionment with the present dim the hope for the future that the open ending ("Much remains yet to be told") holds. The implied death of the narrator_last of the pioneers_precludes even such spurious apostrophes as in The Rising Village. Goldsmith's perfunc tory appeal to British guidance for Colonial greatness has given way to a far more disturbing vanity of progress: the impossibility of building a homeland without the help of organic growth and spiritual roots.

A renewal of past hopes of which Goldsmith speaks and a new look at the "simple, hardy race" (TE, p.117) that had died in The Emigrant let Crawford explore the vanity of progress in Malcolm's Katie. Like Goldsmith and McLachlan, she portrays pioneers as New World versions of heroes of old, "thew'd warriors of the Axe,"9 whose paramount example is Max. When Max slays the "king of Desolation" and sees himself as the new "king" (MK, p.165), he has paradoxically become a destroyer as much as a builder. This paradox is foreshadowed in the allegorical battle between, on the one side, the "White Moon of the Falling Leaves" of autumn and the "Pale Face" moon or "Moon of Evil Witches" of winter and, on the other side, the dying sun of the "mystic Indian Summer" (MK, p.164). Ultimately Max's "bright axe" cleaving "moon

like throt the airs (MK, p.165) represents culture's violation of the harmony of nature: " . . . and the sun / Wallced pale behind the resinous black smoke" (MK, p.165) of Max's brush fire, "And Max cared little for the blotted sun" (MK, p.165).

While Max's love for Katie sanctions his deeds and while environmental concern for the "axe-stirr'd waste" (MK, p.166) ought not to stop "the quick rush of panting human waves / Upheav'd by throbs of angry poverty, / And driven by keen blasts of hunger from / Their native strands" (MK, p.166), Crawford nevertheless forewarns of social change. She describes the growing exploitation of physical and human nature in aggressive metonymies:

Then came smooth~oated men with eager
And talk'd of steamers on the cliff-bound- - es,
And iron tracks across the prairie lands,
And mills to crush the quartz of wealthy hills,
And mills to saw the great wide-arm'd trees,
And mills to grind the singing stream of "run;
And with such busy clamour mingled still
The throbbing music of the bold, bright Axe_
The steel tongue of the press - ~..~, p.167)


Even Max falls prey to "smooth-coated self-glorification when his axe prom ises him that "a nation strong shall lift his head! / His crown the very heav'ns shall smite, / Aeons shall build him in his might!" The hubris of Max is doubly evident: the axe song occurs immediately after God, the "Great Worker" (MK, p. 175), is planning the rebirth of nature, and during Max's attempted murder of Alfred.

Despite its taste of 'soap', the ensuing interlude about Alfred's lust and greed effectively dramatizes the threats of the "steel tongue of the present" to Max's and Katie's dreams and to the larger vision of a new nation. Even the sentimental conclusion fails to be reassuring about the future. In fact, the end ing seems to encourage a status quo for frontier idylls, a world which Max regards as Edenic. Katie, who rejects his analogy as too self-centered and who appears to be a social-minded Mother Earth figure, is really afraid of the future: "I would not change these wild and rocking woods, / Dotted by little homes of unbark'd trees, / ... / For the smooth sward of selfish Eden Bowers, / Nor_Max for Adam, if I knew my mind!" (MK, p. 190). The conclu sion of the poem with her qualifying "if" and her subjunctive "knew" implies that she likes to speak not from her head but from her heart. Hers is the tochthonous voice that Flora so vainly personifies in The Rising Village and that remains blurred behind transcendental musing in The Emigrant. It is ultimately the cautiously creative voice of a mother country as opposed to the aggressive voice of that father land which, in the song of the axe, "shall lift his head" (MK, p.175), italics mine). Katie's wariness of progress amounts to fear of the archetypal "smooth-coated men with eager eyes" who ended the frost tier idyll in The Emigrant. Max's own love of power_as seen particularly in his image as a warrior-king in battle with nature_concedes a pending im balance between male and female forces. Indeed, Katie's cautious "if I knew my mind" has a further connotation: she may be tempted to follow her father and Max in their capitalist pastoralism which can so easily turn into lust and greed.

While I accept Robin Mathews's perceptive argument that the story of Max and Katie encompasses love of work, wealth, fellow man and nation, I find it difficult to accept his emphasis on the poem's social optimisms The conflict between mother country and fatherland in Malcolm's Katie plainly complements the disillusioned visions of Canada's future as a homeland in The Rising Village and The Emigrant. Crawford's manipulation of structure, theme and diction ultimately inverts the poem's optimism. She, too, gives the reader "strange mutations" concerning progress by individual man and by society ~ nineteenth-century Canada. Neither the relative order of the Cana d~an frontier within its North American context nor prefabricated domestic and national dreams can cultivate the "bush garden" turned under by wild forces of rapid commercialization and industrialization. Despite the political and economic changes from 1825 to 1884, all three poems reveal a surprising uniformity in the poets' approaches to the vanity of progress. Caught bet ween love of the new land and uncomfortable misgivings, Goldsmith, McLachlan and Crawford soften their disillusionments with backward glances to the good old pioneer days. Their sincerity and ironic detachment, even at times their satire, redeem them from being banal propagandists of the good life in Canada and encourage the modern reader to heed their complexities as makers of a national literature.


;. . , I: ~ a: :,
i ~ ~ ~: w: ~.~ -.- .

1 K.J. Hughes, "Oliver Goldsmith's 'The Rising Village'," Canadian Poetry. 1 /Fall/Winter 1977),27,41. ~ ~

2 W.J. Keith. " The Rising Village' Again," C_adieu Poetry, 3 UPilJ/WWter, lPTfN; 11.

3 Keith, 5, 1-13 passim.

4 Lorne Pierce, "Foreword," Oliver Goldsmith, Autobiography, ed. by W.E. Myatt (Toronto: Ryerson. 1943). p. viii; and Douglas Fetherling. "The Canadian Goldsmith," Canadian Literature, 68-69 (Spring/Summer 1976),121.

5 "The Rising Village," in Nineteenth-Century Narrative Poems, ed. by David Sinclair (Toronto: New Canadian Library, 1972), p.3. Hereafter abbrev. to RV in quotation references.

6 K.J. Hughes, "The Completeness of McLachlan's 'The Emigrant'," English Studies in Canada, 1 (Spring, 1975), 181.

7 "The Emigrant," in Nineteentb-Centur, Narrative Poems, p.117. Hereafter abbrev. to TEin quotation references.

8 Hughes, "The Completeness," 179.

9 "Malcolm's Katie," in Nineteenth-CenturyNarrative Poems, p.160. Hereafter abbrev. to MKin quotation references.

10 Robin Mathews, "'Malcolm's Katie': Love, Wealth and Nation Building," Studies in

Canadian Literature,2 (Winter, 1977), Go, 4940 passim. ~



(Edited and Introduced by Sue Mothersill)

At the Conference on Editorial Problems held at the University of Toronto in 1972, the reliability of Canadian texts was seriously questioned. Francess G. Halpenny, editor of the proceedings of the Conference, states in her introduc tion that "virtually nothing" had been done to ensure the quality of Canadian texts. This first edition of "Style," a critical essay by Archibald Lampmarr, is an attempt to produce a reliable text which the author would approve. Its primary aims have been accuracy of transcription and a faithful adherence to Lampman's own prose style.

"Style" is an undated, unsigned, holograph manuscript held by the Public Archives of Canada in Ottawa. It is clearly written, in ink, on 53 consecutively numbered sheets measuring 20 cm. x 26.5 cm. Although the~*ssay is in complete, Lampman's remarks in the final paragraphs indicat~hat he eras preparing to conclude his discussion. It is therefore very likely that little more than a page is missing.

The manuscript was transcribed by means of a computerized word processing system which facilitates editorial changes and eliminates ret typing. Nothing has been deleted from the essay. In order to retain the tone of Lampman's prose style, editorial changes have been kept to a minimum. Spelling has been corrected but not modernized, and abbreviations have been expanded. When punctuation (or lack of it) obscures the sense of the essay, appropriate alterations have been made. The rare omission of words or syllables has also been corrected. In addition, all quoted matter is presented exactly as Lampman transcribed it. He often omits quotation marks around the titles of poems or plays, and these have been added. The only other editorial emendations made are the obvious completion of brackets and quota tion marlm and the addition of apostrophes.

No editorial symbols have been used in this edition. The clear text presentation of Lampman's essay underscores the primacy of the text and facilitates the reading process by eliminating obtrusive signs of the editor's presence. A scholarly edition, however, should not only supply information on the state of the manuscript and the kind of alterations made in the edited text. It should also provide a list of all editorial emendations so that an in terested reader could reproduce the manuscript in all of its detail. Such a list has been prepared for "Style," but lack of space

publication here.

The list of emendations, textual notes and brief annotate mill som he available in this writer's forthcoming thesis, at present being prepared at Carleton University's Institute of Canadian Studies in Ottawa.

The essence of a writer's style is a very elusive thing. In the essay entitl ed "Poetic Interpretation," Lampman wrote: "The perfect poet, it may be said, would have no set style. He would have a different one for everything he should write, a manner exactly suited to the subject . . . tI2 Style is the result not only of a distinctive selection of words and phrases to express thought or feeling, but even of the manner in which the writer chooses to emphasize his thoughts through punctuation. In an unpublished section of the same essay, Archibald Lampman reveals that he was aware of this fact when he com mented on a portion of Keats's poem "Hyperion":

these lines might be changed or a single pause might be removed. The thought, the image, would perhaps be the same; but the harmony would no longer belong to the idea, and the beautiful truth would be destroyed or

Lampman's thoughts on a subject barely touched upon in "Poetic Interpreta tion" are here presented in an edition which attempts to reflect the "har

m~nv" `^rill;ar tin ~;Q And "rho" Ott

Style I suppose might be defined as the habit or manner given to expres sion by the prevalence of a certain mental attitude peculiar to any individual or class of individuals or any age. A style therefore is the exact opposite of an affectation, which is an assumed habit or manner of expression. Style as we know is not a quality peculiar to literature, but may be found in every sort of expression when carried to a certain point of culture, in action, in speech, in literature, and in all the arts. We know how noticeable the quality of style is in the conduct and bearing of many people who have a decided mental character and have mingled freely in the activities of the world. We observe in them a habitual manner of address, of speech, of bearing, a way they have of carrying off everything, which seems perfectly natural to them, but might seem quite unnatural in others. In its finest development this style or manner as we call it is a revelation of character, but often in those whose contact with the world has been too full, or has perhaps been attended with bitterness it comes to be in part a concealment. The most perfect development of style must be sought in those whose experience of the world has been full and at the same time in the main joyous and exhilarating. Have we not all of us known people of this kind_men and women whose almost invariable manner is the perfect expression of an exquisite indulgence and graciousness of disposition and who exercise at all times a magical influence upon others. Have we not seen them moving about in a crowded room, putting everyone at his ease, delighting everyone, and diffusing an atmosphere of joyousness and friendly sympathy over the whole company, yet remaining themselves perfectly calm, displaying not the slightest appearance of effort or embarrass

meet. This is the perfection of style as the expression of a certain poetic grace of nature, a happy attitude of mind, impulsive and yet controlled in the person possessing it. In others we notice a certain brusqueness of bearing which is the effect not of embarrassment, but of an inherent angularity of nature; in others whimsical and humorous or oddly deliberate and weighty forms of manner, which are all an unconscious expression of mental attitudes.

The distinction between a genuine style and a pure affectation is im mediately noticeable in the bearing of men and women as it is in literature and art. Yet as in every kind of distinction the two things merge into one another so that it is sometimes not easy to ascertain how much of a manner is style, and how much of it is affectation. We often meet with people possessing a manner, undoubtedly to a great extent an expression of character, but heightened and consciously adorned so as to produce an effect of insincerity. It is the same conscious heightening of style which has injured the character for genuineness of many distinguished artists and writers.

There is also another sort of manner very common, perhaps the most common among men and women of the world, which can hardly be called either a style or an affectation. It is that artificial and customary manner which people who have no very decided character of their own adopt in an un conscious spirit of self-defense in order that they may escape embarrassment in their contact with others. It is not a style, for it does not express any per sonal mental attitude; indeed it does not express anything unless it be the disposition to guard one's own dignity; and it is not an affectation exactly for it is not consciously adopted. Nothing can be more effective in its way than this artificial manner of society. In the hands of a well-practiced person it is an impenetrable shield, and to any straight-forward and simple-minded body who comes in contact with it, is utterly disconcerting. It is a valuable trick which, once learnt, enables a man to assert and maintain his own personal majesty with the least expense of intelligence. In some of the common forms of literature too the same defensive manner is found; in the columns of the newspapers for instance. We know how empty a newspaper editorial may sometimes be, and yet how majestically plausible in expression. In the more serious walks of literature this modus vivendi manner does not so often occur for people are not under the same necessity to write books as they are to associate with their neighbors or even to write newspaper paragraphs.

In fact true style in manners like true style in literature and the arts is exceedingly rare. For it is always in a certain sense the expression of genius Genius like the varieties of style to which it gives rise is not confined to art or politics, or literature or music. There have been many people with a touch of genius who have never taken any part in politics, having never written anything, or expressed themselves in any of the arts. That woman for in stance whose contact with life has resulted in the development of an exquisite manner peculiar to herself, which impresses one with the sense of the presence of something wonderfully gracious and noble; that woman has a touch of genius. We have sometimes met with men whose names have never become widely known to the world, but who possessed an unusual attrac tiveness of personality, who had the faculty of drawing people to them by reason of their extreme quickness of sympathy. Such men were touched with genius; for genius is simply the quickening of any mental faculty to the point

at which it begins to burn, so to speak, to the point at which it begins to find for itself passionate and stirring expression even though only in bearing and mode of 1~.

A style is liable to the same decay both in manners, literature and art. Its perfection is found in those whose gifts have been exercised freely and without compulsion and have not yet reached the period at which in so many expression has become incessant and too habitual. We know that many people who have acquired a very charming manner after long intercourse with the world get to exercise it, on occasion quite mechanically, although this may be only evident to observers of unusually acute penetration_just as some good writers to whom the practice of writing through long habit has become a necessity of life go on producing matter with exactly the old ring, but express ing little that the mind of the reader can apprehend as of any real moment.

It may be said that style, however honestly the peculiar development of the person possessing it, is a hindrance to absolute expression, and a conceal ment of actual truth. And this is of course true. Every mood of feeling and every attainment of thought may be imagined to be expressible in some ab solute way altogether independent of every peculiar bent of the human mind. But he who should be able to give to all movements of the mind their absolute expression would be a genius of more than mortal compass. Some of the meabrs of art have made approaches to this supreme excellence, but of course have never reached and can never reach it.

One of the great things to be said of Shakespeare is that he expressed many of the human passions, such as love, anger, pity, fear, remorse in a man ner which as far as those passions are concerned may be called the Universal style. That is to say he expressed them with such an impressiveness, such a glowing and overwhelming eloquence that nothing can be imagined nearer to the truth. Nevertheless some of the minor poets have carried expression into occult regions of feeling where their own peculiar gifts were better adapted to oaes than Shakespeare's more rapid hand and larger intelligence.

The formation of a style in fact is almost as necessary to the artist as the implements of his art. It is only by this means that he is enabled to proceed to each new undertaking with confidence and precision. Until he has developed some sealed style of his own he is obliged at every new attempt to grope in a confused and laborious manner for the appropriate form of expression. In the end it happens to every powerful and original artist that that peculiarity of thought or imagination which is uppermost in him obtains an absorbing mastery and gives the tone to his creations, and this tone working itself out through the implements of his art is style.

So in every age of the world's life, that peculiarity of thought or feeling which is uppermost in its aggregate of mind lends to the product of all its artists a broadly perceptible general character upon which the work of each individual is only a variation, the common tone of a picture with which the col our of each separate object is in harmony. In architecture as the art which ex presses the mind of each age on the vastest scale, one most easily realizes the great distinctions of style. He who should accompany the traveller from Salisbury Cathedral or the Munster of Strasburg to the old mosque at Cor dova, from the Parthenon or the Temple of Apollo at Phigalia to the monstrous ruins of Medinet Habu or Karnak, or to the Taj Mahal by the

stream of the Ganges would pass before five great attitudes of the human mind, and be overpowered by each in turn. If we turn to sculpture we find that the secrets of two ages of two civilizations and two almost antagonistic manifestations of mind and feeling inhabit the Aphrodite of Praxiteles, and the Moses of Michel Angelo_Greece with its happy sense of the beauty of this earthly life, its mind occupied with subtle and untroubled thought, its life full of joyous energy_and modern Europe, half Gothic half Latin with its melancholy, its restless searching after unattainable ideals, its vast imagin ings, its passionate subjectivity. When we pass to literature we find the style of the Aphrodite of Praxiteles and the Parthenon translated into the verse of the Oedipus Coloneus and the prose of Plato_the style of the Strasburg Punster and the Moses of Buonarroti into the verse of the "Song of Roland" and the prose of the Vita Nuava.

In like manner we know that the lesser divisions in the ages of art are distinguished from one another by minor adaptations of style. If we consider the history of English poetry_and to that I propose to limit myself in the present paper_how many and how marked have been the changes in the general habit of expression since the middle of the 16th century. If we should meet anywhere with a passage from any of those great dramatists who wrote under Elizabeth and James, even though it should be new to us and unnamed, would not the very manner of its utterance enable us immediateb to refer it to Its age? That was preeminently the age of the adventurous activity and sturdy manhood of England_an age of rough passions and rough enjoyments of violent contrasts. The culture of the nation, deep and solid as it wee among the learned, had not outgrown its rude animal vigor; consequently its art was characterized by immense force and magical tenderness. Such an age as that is the age of the dramatist. The strong ferment of its life is food and school and spur to his imagination. There were many dramatists then, more than there have ever been since. And in all of them_however Marlowe for in stance may differ in bent of genius from Shakespeare, or Ford from Jonson_the same general character of utterance is marked. In a greater or lesa degree they all possessed the same euphuistic richness and boyancy of diction, the same inexhaustible fancy, the same daring magnitude of imagina tion, the same free and full- blooded sympathy with the movement of a full and strongly contrasted life. Milton also belongs intellectually to this age although he lived at a later time_like one of the elder Titan Gods holding to he roclc~r fastness after all the lower lands about him had fallen under the dominion of deities of a meaner race.

In Shakespeare alcove have already observed we sometimes find what may be called a universal style. In him there is no peculiarity, no eccen tricity, no marked or special bias of thought or feeling. In his famous passages the method of expression is so spontaneous, so naturally forcible that it seems to be not the utterance of a single brain but the thought of all mankind. When we have read through for instance that most sweet and lofty passage in which King Henry IV apostrophises sleep, what can we say but that it is the very human heart that speaks. Again those terrible lines in which the Duchess of

York addresses and describes her son Richard DO

"Tetchy and wayward was thy infancy Thy school-days frightful, desperate, wild and furious Thy prime of manhood daring, bold and venturous Thy age confirmed, proud, subtle, sly and bloody, More mild, and yet more harmful, kind in hatred: What comfortable hour can'st thou name That ever graced me in thy company"

What other than the universal mind we think could have fitted an evil character with such an array of faithful and fearful words. Shakespeare is the highest development of the common healthy human intelligence, and that is why he is so great, so universally beloved, so full of pleasure and ex hilaration for every sound mind.

The one respect in which he deviates from this strong universal type of expression is in the humoring of an extraordinarily fertile fancy. He sometimes loads his phrases with an abundance of curious conceits which on the lips of another man would be the extinction of all force of thought. But even in such cases, so boyant and so vivacious is his movement, so touchingly apt is every part of that riotous flood of illustration that we hardly realize how far he has departed from the bound of actual simplicity. Let us instance that passage of "Richard II" in which the forlorn and vacillating king addresses his followers after their landing in Wales.

"Of comfort no asaa ~ Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs; Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth. Let's choose executors and talk of wills: And yet not so_for what can we bequeath Save our deposed bodies to the ground? Our lands, our lives and all are Bolinghroke's And nothing can we call our own but death And that small model of the barren earth Which serves as paste and cover to our bones. For God's sake let us sit upon the ground, And tell sad stories of the death of kings_ How some have been deposed, some slain in war;

"Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed; Some poisoned by their wives; some sleeping killed; All murdered_for within the hollow crown That rounds the mortal temples of a king Keeps death his court; and there the antic sits coffing his state and grinning at his pomp; Allowing him a breath, a little scene, To monarchize, be feared and kill with looks; Infusing him with self and vain conceit_ As if this flesh which walls about our life Were brass impregnable; and humoured thus Comes at the last and with a little pin Bores thro' his castle wall, and_farewell king!

Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood With solemn reverence; throw away respect, Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty; For you have but mistook me all this while; I live with bread like you, feel want, taste grief Need friends: _subjected thus, How can you say to me, I am a king?"

No poet perhaps would serve better than Milton as an illustration the manner in which diction or the mode of utterance is moulded by character. Milton was a scholar, serious, able, intellectual, pure. His mental attitude was that of a stern self-trust and a trust equally stern in the justice of the cause with which his life was linked. Every line in "Paradise Lost" bears the touch and impress of that proud, austere and potent nature.

"So spake the Son, and into terror changed

His countenance, too severe to be beheld
And full of wrath bent on his enemies.
At once the four spread out their starry wings
With dreadful shade contiguous, and the orbs
Of his fierce chariot rolled, as with the sound
Of torrent floods, or of a numerous host.
He on his impious foes right onward drove
Gloomy as night; under his burning wheels
The steadfast empyrean shook throughout
All but the throne itself of God. Full soon
Among them he arrived; in his right hand
Grasping ten thousand thunders, which he sent
Before him, such as in their souls infixed
Plagues. They astonished all resistance lost
All courage; down their idle weapons dropped;
O'er shields and helms and helmed heads he rode
Of throngs and mighty seraphim prostrate
That wished the mountains now might be again
Thrown on them as a shelter frown his ire"

That is what Matthew Arnold calls the grand manner. There is an austere pride in all the movement of the verse. Milton's isolation, his splendid power, his connection with great events and a strenuous cause combined to inure his soul to a severe and majestic attitude, and as we read him, in the very march and halt of his syllables we cannot but be reminded of his greatness.

How great a change do we find when we come to Dryden, Congreve, Pope_the sententious age_the age of the unvarying rounded verse_of neat sentiments, of the confinement of art to the portrayal of certain set artificial situations and the expression of a few set attitudes of mind. It was the age of the reaction, as we know, from the great Puritan rebellion, and the patronage of literature and art was in the hands of the leaders of that reaction, a set of people who wished to envelope everything in an atmosphere of artificial elegance, and to get as far away from the notions of the vulgar as possible. In their style we find a striving after a certain Latin gracefulness and epigram matic pointedness of expression, and an almost entire absence of the real

creative genius of those old Latin writers, who were the after fruit of the great deeds and the heroic mind of the republic. If we instance one specimen of the manner of this age we instance it all. The following lines from an "Epis tle to Miss Blount," accompanying a copy of the works of Voiture, are by Pope in whom the wit of that age reached its perfection.

"In these gay thoughts the loves and graces shine,
And all the writer lives in every line;
His easy art may happy nature seem,
Trifles themselves are elegant in him
Sure to charm all was his peculiar fate
Who without flattery pleased the fair and great
Still with esteem no less conversed than read
With wit well natured and with books well bred
His heart his mistress and his friend did share
His time the muse, the witty and the fair
Thus wisely careless, innocently gay
Cheerful he played the trifle, life, away
Even rival wits did Voiture's death deplore
And the gay mourned who never mourned before
The truest hearts for Voiture heaved with sighs
Voiture was wept by all the brightest eyes

Let the strict life of graver mortals be
A long exact and serioua comedy
In every scsoo solo moral lot it teach
And, if it can, at once both please and preach
Let mine, an innocent gay farce appear
And more diverting still than regular,
Have humour, wit, a native ease and grace
Though not too strictly bound to time and place;
Critics in wit or life are hard to please,
Few write to those and none can live to these"

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There is something pleasantly trim and natty a~ut~-th~.~There J8 nothing in them to touch any emotion or prompt to any intensity of thought_there is never anything of that sort in the work of the age of Queen Anne, but nevertheless they are very pleasant reading and have a sort of Warm. They are clever, witty, intelligent, perfectly poised, with a certain pointed grace. ~

Then we come to a transition age_the age of Johnson, Addison, Fielding and Sterne, of Thompson, Grey and Cowper. The pendulum was swinging back. People were wearying of the nick-nack drawing room literature of the Restoration. The old sturdy English seriousness and vitality were beginning to reassert themselves, and perhaps England was already affected by the first faint vibration of that movement of Rousseau and Voltaire which had dawned in France. In the style of these men there was still lingering the well bred sententious manner of the last generation, but there was also another note, indicating a determination toward a genuine criticism of life. They had begun to fasten upon nature as the only source of everything lasting in literature and art. In the prose of this transition age there was a good deal of

h_nity. It was esay, humourous, appreciative of character and toweled with geniality; but lacking in force and without the higher qualities of the im agination.

The vast stir of revolutionary thought and feeling, that terminated the eighteenth century, brought on that great and impressive age, the last before our own, to which we owe so much. It was an age in which some full and im mediate change in the destiny of mankind seemed so near and so possible, the dream of it so alluring that those among men who had anything of the pro phetic gift of tongues spoke out in a new and world-inspiring note. Theirs was the prophetic attitude, and in their style was the intonation of a high pas sionate earnestness and spiritual enthusiasm. Shelley was the representative of the time, and in him the note is strongest, but it is also clearly distinguishable in Byron, Coleridge, Southey and Wordsworth. Keats alone stands separated from his age, like a half-completed palace of the Italian Renaissance, planted in nineteenth century England, absorbed in its own reminiscent dream of beauty and unconscious of all the spiritual fervour and social stir around it.

In Shelley let us repeat we find thei''epresentative of this age. In him an intense interest in the prospective moral and political emancipation of mankind had become an absorbing passion, a glowing enthusiasm, in which all the intellectual and imaginative faculties of his mind were fused. He was for tified with an intense confidence in the truth and beauty of his own limitless aspirations, and it wee this attitude that lent to every wildest thing that he Garrote that tone of burning sincerity and romantic prophesy which is the l;eynote of his style. The following for example is a passage from "Alastor," purely descriptive but there is a voice in it of something wildly spiritual, the coloring of a certain habitual and irrepressible mood. In a word we find in it Shelley'a style.

"On every side now rose
Rocks which in unimaginable forms
Lifted their black and barren pinnacles
In the light of evening, and its pree~iee
Obscuring the ravine, disclosed above,
Mid toppling stones, black gulls, and yawning caves
Whose windings gave ten thousand various tongues
To the loud stream. Lo! Where the pass expands
Its stony jaws, the abrupt mountain breaks
And seems with its accumulated crags
To overhang the world: for wide expand
Beneath the wan stars and descending moon
Islanded seas, blue mountains, mighty streams
Dim tracts and vast, robed in the lustrous gloom
Of leaden-coloured even, and fiery hills
Mingling their flames with twilight on the verge
Of the remote horizon. The near scene
In naked and severe simplest,
Made eca~t with the universe. ~ p_,
Rile r~t-rl ~tret~heri athwart the vaeanev

Its swinging boughs, to each inconstant blast
Yielding one only response at each pause
In most familiar cadence, with the howl
The thunder and the hiss of homeless streams
Mingling its solemn song, whilst the broad river,
Foaming and hurrying o'er its rugged path,
Fell into that immeasurable void
Scattering its waters to the passing winders"

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: - :

I should say that Byron's distinctive att~ded_middi:~-he was at his best, disposed him to a tragic review of the changes and desolations of time, ~ a sad or scornful contemplation of the crimes, weaknesses and miseries of binnan life. This was the mood that wrought out his style. It is the mood of the IIIdCanto of "Childe Harold" in which some of his best work was done.

Wordsworth frequently touches the master note of his age. It is found in all the sonnets dedicated to liberty; as for instance in that most noble one on the "Extinction of the Venetian Republic"

"Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee;
And was the safe-guard of the West; the worth
Of Venice did not fall below her birth_
Venice, the eldest child of liberty!
She was a maiden city bright and free;
No guile seduced, no force could violate,
And when she took unto herself a mate
She must espouse the everlasting sea"

A - a ~ that on the aubjugation of Switzerland

"Two voices are there_one is of the sea,
One of the ~a~_Huh a mighty voice;
In each from age to age thou did'st rejoice,
They were thy chosen music, Liberty!
There came a tyrant and with how glee
Thou fought's" against him; but hast vainly strives
Thou from shine Alpine holds at length art driven
Where not a torrent murmurs heard by thee
- Of one deep bliss shine ear bath been bereft
Then cleave oh cleave to that which still is left
For high soured maid what sorrow would it be
That mountain floods should thunder as before
And ocean bellow from his rocky shore
And netter awful voice be heard by shoe"
:.~ ~ ~ ~ ~

,. . . :

But the personal and distinctive attitude of Wordsworth's mind was that of a lofty contemplation of external nature, and a reverent interest in all the hum lile and laborious occupations of life. And this like every true prevailing in stinct bred a peculiar manner in his verse, a manner exceedingly plain and simple and yet striking, musical, distinctive.


"It is the first mild day of March
Each minute sweeter than before
The red breast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door
There is a blessing in the air
Which seems a sense of joy to yield
To the bare trees and mountains bare

And grass in the green field."

How very simple and apparently without distinction are these lines yet who with a practiced ear, though hearing them for the first time, could doubt that they were Wordsworth's. The same peculiarity of touch is noticeable in many

phrases and passages that readily occur to one. ; ~

With the slow motion of a summer's cloud"

UAII thongs that love the sun are out of doors
The sky rejoices in the morning's birth;
The grass is bright with raindrops; on the moors
The hare is running races in her mirth"

" . . . bees that soar for bloom
High as the highest peaks of Furness Fells
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bolls"

"Calm is all nature as a resting whom
The kine are couched upon the dewy grass
The horse alone seen dimly as I pass
Is cropping audibly his later meal"

;: - ~ - ~ ~

"Resolution and Independence" sometimes called "The Leech-gatherer" i. the most beautiful and original poem that Wordsworth wrote. It is one of se miracles that a true poet will perform in some moment of intellectual awakening and extraordinary imaginative insight, never perhaps repeated in a lifetime. The following stanzas are the most curiously vivid in all Words worth's work, and are an excellent illustration of his prevailing attitude of mind, an acute apprehension of the actual picturesque value of the common every day manifestations of life.

"Now whether it were by a peculiar grace
A leading from above, a something given,
Yet it befell that in this lonely place
When up and down my fancy thus was driven
And I with these untoward thoughts had striven,
I saw a man before me unawares:
The oldest man he acemed~at ever wore grey hairs.

My course I stopped as soon as I espied TIke old man in that nalced wilderness: Oose by a pond upon the further side He stood alone: a minute's space I guess I watched him, he continued motionless: To the pool's further margin then I drew He being all the while before me in full view.

As a huge stone is sometimes seen to lie Couched on the bald top of an` - niacace, Wonder to all who do the same espy By what means it could thither come and ~vheneo So that it seems a thing endued with sense: Like a sea beast crawled forth, which on a shelf Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself.

Such seemed this man, not all alive, nor dead, Nor all asleep, in his extreme old age: His body was bent double, feet and head Coming together in their pilgrimage, As if some dire constraint of pain, or rage Of sickness felt by him in times long past, A more than human weight upon his frame had cast.

Himself he propped his body, limbs and face, Upon a long grey staff of shaven wood; And still, as I drew near with gentle pace, Beside the little pond or moorish flood, Motionless as a cloud the old man stood; That heareth not the loud winds when they call And moveth all together, if it move at all.

At length hh~df unsettling, The pond Btlrred with his staff, and fixedly did look Upon the muddy water, which he conned As if he had been reading in a book."

In our own age the study of style becomes more interesting than in any other; for individual developments become more common, and any general or common quality of manner is hardly noticeable. The nearest we get to it is the similarity of method in the followers of certain schools. In poetry this is a lyrical and meditative age. The drama is almost impossible. It was the un conscious sympathy with the strong rush of a life in which all were passionate ly involved that produced the generalities in style noticeable in former ages. In our own, art is self-conscious and self- absorbed. Each individual mind is bent upon realizing and fixing its own mental attitude, and this must natural ly result in the formation of many peculiar and dissimilar styles. Another natural result is that our poetry is characterized by great perfection of man ner, great force of expression, great subtlety of thought and feeling, but little real movement. A poem like Tennyson's "Revenge" for instance which is so picturesque and so stirring, if we examine into it, we find to have hardly any actual movement. It is after all just a piece of glorious rhetoric. But it is the perfection of style and a splendid expression of a heroic mood. ~;

.~ ' ~.~ ~ .- -::

OF IN rr ~ t11 l~il31i']


In the main Tennyson may be said to exemplify the English attitude of mind at its best. His attitude toward the problems of life is that of a brave and kindly common sense, warmed with all the fire and impulse of a most gifted poet. His painting of Nate is less exquisitely happy and natural than Words worth's but it is more sumptuous, and the salient points of his picture thrown out with a more apendid touch.

Browning's genius seems to have Red by an intense and busy curiosity in regard to the inner working of human emotion, and the effect of | imposing situations upon differing characters; this combined with an extraor- I dinary appreciativeness of all kinds of force. A great deal of his verse is utter- | ly wanting in that smoothness and rounded melody to which English ears had | become too accustomed in Tennyson easily to endure its absence. Force and I the truth of his presentment were what Browning aimed at, and melody had for the moat part to be sacrificed. Yet not always_even in the longer and subtler poems_for sometimes, out of the recklessly broken utterance of a discouraging page, the reader awakes to the power of some individual thought borne in upon him line upon line, a sudden tide of music irresistible I and incomparable. In some of his magical short pieces he seems to unfetter | the hands of the musician and set free the pure poetic sense in unequalled sw- If- I ing and splendor. Such a poem for instance is "Love among the Ruins". I dare l say you all know it.

Browning was, as we have said, an enquirer and prober into the springs of human action, of groat penetration, with the painter's sense largely developed and an intense vividness and inventiveness of imagination, but his mind seldom reached those solemn and austere attitudes of feeling from which a few of our greatest lyric poets sang. We do not find in him any single poems or passages to compare with the broadest and weightiest utterances of ~Iilton and Wordsworth or even of Keats, Shelley, Tennyson or Matthew Arnold. If we wish to instance a specimen of Browning's habitual style, we shall have to find it in such a passage as the following from a poem entitled "One Word More" addressed to Mrs. Browning.

.- i:. .

"Dante once prepared to paint an Angel
Whom to please? You whisper "Beatrice"
While he mused and traced it and retraced it,
(Peradventure with a pen corroded
Still by drops of that hot ink he dipped for
When, his left hand in the hair of the wicked,
Back he held the brow and pricked its stigma,
Bit into the live man's flesh for parchment,
Loosed him, laughed to see the writing rankle
Let the wretch go festering thro'Florencel
Dante who loved well because he hated
Hated wickedness that hinders loving

Dante standing, studying his angel, - -

In there broke the folk of his Inferno
Says he, "Certain people of importances
(Such he gave his daily dreadful line to)
Entered and would sieze, forsooth, the poet,
Says the poet "then I stopped my painting"

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- -

You and I would rather see *0ngel Painted bv the tenderness ~

flue mind of Matthew Arnold more than that of any other writer of these later times was impressed with a sense of the mystery of all life, the tragedy human thought and effort, the power and loveliness of nature_this great external world. Over his soul there hung a vast and sceptical melancholy which lends to his utt~ca a turn and modulation, strangely touching. He is the most modern of poets, and to men of our generation more interesting than a" Mar. The following lines which are the ending of "Sohrab and Rustum" are-exceedingly characteristic. Rustum, the aged Persian hero, has met his son Sohrab without knowing him in single combat between the assembled ar mies of the Tartars and Persians, and has wounded him to death. The armies draw off for the night to their camps by the Oxus and Rustum is left sitting 1~- - corpse of his son on the solitary sands; and then the poet turns from thereto tragic figures and finishes the poem

"But the majestic river floated on Out of the mist and hum of that low land Into the frosty star-light, and there moved Rejoicing, through the hushed Chorasmian waste Under the solitary moon,_he flowed Right for the polar star, past Orgunje, Brimming and bright and large; then sands begin To hem his watery march, and dam his streams, And split his currents; that for many a league The shorn and parcell'd Oxus strains along Through beds of sand and matted rushy isles_ Oxus, forgetting the bright speed he had In his high mountain cradle in Pamere, A foiled circuitous wanderer_till at last The longed-for dash of waves is heard, and wide His luminous home of waters likens, bright And tranquil, from whose fbo~ - fir b~.tan Emerge and shine upon the Aril sea."

What a
these lines; and there are many others in Matthew Arnold quite as fine.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Charles Algernon Swinburne are two poets who have exercised a large influence on the poetic style of the last fifteen or twenty years. They are usually classed together as forming with William Morris what is called the Preraphaelite school, though why nobody seems able satisfactorily to explain. They are writers of an extremely different genius, and nothing could be more different in many respects than their man ner of workmanship. Rossetti's attitude is that of a watcher for occult and subtle effects both in human emotions and in external nature, and these he siezes and realizes with a strange searching vividness of imagination.

Swinburne on the other hand may claim more justly than any other English man that has ever lived to be possessed by what in the old phrase was

breadth of vision and solemn simplicity of movement thieve are in

called the poetic frenzy. He is utterly governed and carried abbey by the surge and glory of a most daring imagination, and the force of an unexampled sense of music. Rossetti's movement is lingering, penetrating and bites into the im agination a most vivid conception of what he wishes to convey. Swinburne's movement is rushing, tumultuous, overpowering the imagination with a tide of chaotic splendor. The following stanzas are an excellent example of Rosset ti's far-reaching subtlety, and of the manner in which it has moulded his style. It is entitled

_The Sea Limits_

Consider the sea's listless chime:
~-~ Time's self it is, made audible,_
- The murmur of the earth's own shell.
Secret continuance sublime
Is the sea's end: our sight may pass
No furlong further. S4qee tine wee

This sound bath told the Apse of time.

No quiet, which is death's_it bath
The mournfulness of ancient life,
Enduring always at dull strife
As the world's heart of rest and wrath,
Its painful pulse is in the sands.
Last utterly the whole sky stands,

Grey and not known, along its path.

Listen alone beside the sea,
Listen alone among the woods;
Those voices of twin solitudes
Shall have one sound alike to thee:
Hark where the murmurs of thronged men
Surge and sink back and surge again,

Still the one voice of wave and tree.

Gather a shell from the strewn beach
And listen at its lips: they sigh
The same desire and mystery,

The echo of the whole sea's speech. And all mankind is thus at heart Not anything but what thou art:

And earth, sea, man are all in each.

~ ~.
. -,; - I:

~ : ~

- :- ~.


As an example of Swinburne's power of melody, the following lines, part of a chum the "Atalanta in Calydon," are often cited.

Before the beginning of years
There came to the making of man
Time with a gift of tears
Grief with a glow that ran
Pleasure with pain for leaven
. -a. ~ Mummer with flowers that fell

. :,: ~ ~ ~ ~ 4~-~

- .i. ~ ~ . ~, ,:

Remembrance fallen from heaven

And madness risen from hell

Strength without hands to smite

Love that endures for a breath

Night the shadow of light

And life the shadow of death

And the high gods took in hand

Fire and the falling of tears

And a measure of sliding sand

From under the feet of years

And froth and drift of the sea

And dust of the laboring earth

And bodies of things to be

In the houses of death and of birth

And wrought with weeping and laughter

And fashioned with loathing and love

With life before and after

And death beneath and above

For a day and a night ant ~ ~

T.ast his
strength might endure for a span

With travail and heavy sorrow

The holy spirit of man"

These writers are both of them habituated to a mood so much the result of cultivation and so far removed from the mental habits of the most of men that they are sometimes in danger of straining style till it becomes affecta tion. It requires a peculiar twist of the imagination to enable one to entireb enter into the feeling of a poem like Rossetti's "Woodspurge", which I have not time to quote here, but which I dare say many of you know.

Amid all these varieties of style one might begin to think that it would be difficult to find anything new, and yet writers are rising into notice every day in whose work there is a voice and touch of something never heard before. The formation of a style is a most unconscious process. He who should set about premeditatedly to form a style would end most certainly in forming nothing but an affectation. But he who finds himself haunted persistently by certain peculiar ideas, certain peculiar im ages, certain tones of sound, colour and feeling and sets about expressing these simply in the manner most outright and clear and satisfactory to himself, and continues to do so until his hand attains ease and certainty will discover, or rather his readers will discover that he has invented a style.

By way of concluding these re-ordered remarks I would like to call atten tion to the work of one of our own younger poets, Professor Charles G.D. Roberts of Windsor, N.S., who in the last ten years has done some very fine writing, distinguished by marked peculiarities of style. It is on account of its very characteristic quality in regard to style, that I par ticularly mention Mr. Roberts in this connection. Mr. Roberts' feeling for nature is that of sensuous physical delight, the rapturous pleasure of

:: ~

coatemplation, the joy of intellectual contact with life, and its manifold occupations. Sometimes his imagination, touching upon the very _ monest things, invests them with an almost human significance. Had there are passages of description in his poems which for genuineness of vision and passionate stress of expression have been rarely, if at all, squalled, certainly in their way not surpassed, in America.

The following lines from "Tantramar Revisited" are, it seems to me, unaurpesasbb thee.

A Saw for

Pratt's Truant?

bv Brian Tr`'h`~srn`' ~

E. J. Pratt's "The Truant" dramatizes the conflict between a mechanistic and immutable conception of the universe, and the "bucking" and indomitable human spirit. In a series of criminal charges, the man of free will is faced with the fact of his desertion from the "spiral festival of fire" presided over by the Panjandrum, an inherently stupid personification of physical and metaphysical conformism. Man's reply is a spirited and proud celebration of bravery and intelligence, in which he reduces the blinking Panjandrum to a series of synthetic concepts which have been abandoned by the simple turn ing of "a human page". Continuing with confidence from this initial over throw, he identifies man's early mythologies and his precious science as mere "baby symbols to explain / The sunlight in Apollo's eyes", and predicts the ultimate humiliation of all the Panjandrum's system and presence. His voice then lifts to a bardic recollection of all the horrors of human history, and set tles itself in a Christian roar.of ete;~fiance: "No! by the Rood, we will not join your ballet." ~ - - ~

This "little genus homer is PratPi~-Truant". From the text he is only a truant in the older sense of the word, as provided by the Oxford English Dic tionary:"a vagabond; an idle rogue or knave". It is important to realize that classroom imagery, which would give the word its more modern denotation, occurs only once in the poem ("our kindergarten show") and that so slight a reference, as to be overwhelmed by the constant allusions to systems of muds, mathematics and science. Put simply, the choice of the appellation "truant" makes little sense within the context of the poem. It borders on the intrusive, and may suggest an external inspiration.

"The Truant" from all appearances takes its dramatic situation from a brief episode in a British children's comic strip (published in its annual form in the 1933 edition) entitled "The Noah Family". The proof is circumstantial but highly convincing. In the 1920's a series of children's dolls gained such im mense popularity that they were given their own comic strip; this in turn did so well that colour annuals began to be published by the beginning of the 'thir ties. These were written and illustrated by James Francis Horrabin, who had gained a reputation previously as the illustrator of atlases of social and political history. The annuals were called the "Japhet and Happy Annuals" (News Chronicle Publications Ltd., London, yearly), Japhet being a mischievous little boy and the principal character, and Happy, a small bear, his frequent companion. Their adventures form the bulk of the "Nash F~qmilv" cartoons.

The Noah Family, prior to the 1933 edition, had acquired an affectionate relationship with the monarch of a fantastic third-world country named Andamalumbo. The name of this monarch is "the Panjandrum"; he is a portly

man, Negroid, flagrantly caricatured with thickening lips and bulging eyes. (awe term "Panjandrum", incidentally, originated in some nonsense rhymes by Samuel Foote, English playwright, circa 1777, without meaning; but it was used in the 19th century to describe officious dignitaries whose self-respect extended well beyond their merits_QED.) This potentate has already waiv ed all prerogatives of condescension and welcomes the Noah family as friends; indeed, the whole of the 1933 annual deals with one such visit to his kingdom.

Japhet, the eldest son, is discouraged by his father's announcement that an extended stay in Andamalumbo will mean his return to the classroom; he instantly makes up his mind to sneak away from school, and spend the day as he likes. His first and second attempts fail, but his third forage leads him suc cessfully into the jungle (Frames 1-4). His gay day of liberty backfires, however, and he undergoes some rather harrowing experiences, until at last he ends up hung upon a tree branch (Frames 5-6).

Fortunately for the boy, a sentry spots him and "fetches the sergeant" (Frames 7-8)_note Pratt's sudden and unusual reference to the Panjandrum's "sergeant-major Fate"_and by these two he is led, not "bucking" but "very depressed" (Frames 9-10) before the great monarch. It is at this point that the cartoon's influence ends and Pratt's intentions take over. Unlike Pratt's pro tagonist, Japhet accepts his fate meekly, and the episode ends with order re eatabL;shed in 0a attendance at school (Frames 11-12).

It is interesting that the Panjandrum of the cartoon is black, given Pratt's two references to his character's changes in facial colour: "And the great Panjandrum's face grew dark" and "The ALL HIGH swore until his face was black". Also, although the boy of the comic strip is transformed in the poem into a typical man of six feet, and turns from "six feet short" to "six feet high", he remains to the conclusion of the poem a "little fellow", a "little genus home". Can Pratt's truant be thought of as a mischievous boy?

Another episode useful to these suggestions appears later in the same an nual. Japhet and Happy have been indulging in a little cranial target practice with goloboshes (a prime Andamalumban fruit), and finally manage to re crown a surprised Panjandrum (Frames 13-15). Japhet is perhaps remember ing his earlier trial for truancy when he and Happy flee and hide themselves; but Andamalumban tongues begin to wag until Japhet and Happy are discovered and marched back into the Panjandral presence.

The introduction of a third figure, the Prime Minister (Frame 16-17) is of particular interest because of the curious figure of the "Master of the Revels" who leads Pratt's truant to Pratt's Panjandrum and describes his preliminary interrogations. Our cartoon Panjandrum is inclined to laugh the whole thing off; but his Prime Minister insists upon the letter of the law: note the paren thetical reference in the upper right hand of Frame 17: "And even Panjan drums have to obey the law."

This notion, of a Panjandrum unable to dispute the mechanics of his own system, chimes perfectly with the corresponding theme in Pratt's poem; might it not have led him to thoughts of free will in the face of an un changeable cosmic reality? Japhet is a non-conformist; despite his ultimate meekness in each case_these are, after all, children's books_he has broken the laws of the Andamalumban state, and has disputed the assumed authority in his fashion whenever faced with it.

Each cartoon - ge had a title. Given the evidence, we might now suggest that Pratt came across the title of Frames 1-4 - "The Truant"_before he wrote his elaborate defiance of unquestioned schemes and systems. The effect of such a conclusion is not earth-shaking; primarily it will remind us of those comic elements in his poem which may perhaps be glossed over or stripped of their delight if taken too seriously. When the "little genus home" calls the Panjandrum a "dumb insouciant invertebrate", he is not only making an in tellectualized statement based on observed fact, but is also taking a cheap shot. It is humourous, and should make us smile. Pratt's suggested delight in and reading of this "Japhet and Happy Annual"_and his subsequent develop ment of a dramatic situation from it_should perhaps be remembered, therefore, when reading "The Truant". Without this comic source in mind, his "high seriousness" could become "over-seriousness", and the burden of his idea overwhelm the delight of his Situation.

New sense is thus given to particular lines. Allusions such as "our Icindergarten show", "perambulated you through prisms", and "to pull our }iddy cars of inverse squares" stand out more boldly, and one is led to wonder what role childhood (as symbol) might play in the dispute. Ironically, Pratt's Truant, with these phrases, associates the Panjandrum with childhood, although little himself; perhaps some distinction ought to be made, then, be tween childhood and immaturity. These remarks, which a child-like sense may add to an interpretation of "The Truant", may be slight; but they at least bring to the work some of that- original pleasure which Pratt must have felt in the sheer, dumbfounding size of the question_and of the Panjandrum; and perhaps, too, a touch of his own thrill of pride at the beaten broken boy who will never perjure his beliefs.

Elizabeth Bishop

Land lies in water; it is shadowed green. Shadows, or are they shallows, at its edges showing the line of long sea-weeded ledges where weeds hang to the simple blue from green. Or does the land lean down to lift the sea from under' drawing it unperturbed around itself? Along the fine tan sandy shelf is the land tugging at the sea from under?

The shadow of Newfoundland lies flat and stat Labrador's yellow, where the moony Eskimo has owed it. We can stroke these lovely bays, under a ala" ~ if they were expected to bbasom, or as if to provide a clean cage for invisible fish. The names of seashore towns run out to sea, the names of cities cross the neighboring mountains _the printer here experiencing the same excitement as when emotion too far exceeds its cause. These peninsulas take the water between thumb and finger like women feeling for the smoothness of yard-goods.

'The Map" ( The Complete Poems)

i - it: ~:


If home is where one starts from, Elizabeth Bishop's home was Great Village, Nova Scotia. Her paternal grandfather left his birthplace of White Sands on the southeastern coast of Prince Edward Island at an early age for Pro vidence, Rhode Island and, later, Worcester, Massachusetts. His son John was thirty-seven years old when he married Gertrude Bulmer, ten years his junior, a girl of frail emotional health from the Acadian countryside of Nova Scotia. In the third year of their marriage, on February 8,1911, their only child Elizabeth was born in Worcester; eight months later John Bishop died suddenly. Unable to recover from the shock, his wife entered a sanitarium; she never did recover. Their daughter was taken from Worcester to live with her mother's family in Great Village. When she was less than a year old, she -lost, in effect, both her parents. She saw her mother only one more time before her death in 1936.

Located near the head of the Bay of F - dy, Great Village offered Elizabeth Bishop a first world of family affection, simple dignity, and life close to the soil and the sea At the age of six she returned to Worcester to live with her paternal grandparents. Poor health, the consequence of many and fre quent childhood diseases, prompted her grandfather to send her to Boston to

~^ ~ ^^ :~ : ~

live with her mother's married but childless sister. The young girl's health did improve, but, for a time, not enough to permit her to attend regular school, and she passed many hours writing poems and practicing the piano. The joyous times were the summers, some spent at a summer camp in Wellfleet on Cape Cod, others back in Great Village.

In 1930 Elizabeth entered Vassar College. New friends, including Mary McCarthy (with whom she helped found a literary magazine), presented her with a stimulating environment. After her sophomore year she returned with a college classmate to the Maritimes, this time to Newfoundland to take a walking tour of the island. When a senior she was introduced to Marianne I4Dore, destined to become a close friend and a formative influence on her career. Their friendship may well have been the cause of Elizabeth's decision to pursue writing rather than medicine. Upon graduation she moved to New York City and then, the following year, to Europe. Throughout her life she was passionately fond of the adventure of travelling, the education offered by naW settings. France and Florida, Mexico and Brazil, these were her homes for extended periods. "Continent, city, country, society: / the choice is never wide and never free. / And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home, / wherever that may be?" ("Questions of Travel"). Or later: "I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, / some realms I owned, two rivers, a conti nent. / I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster" ("One Art").

In 1970 she returned to the United States to settle in Boston and to ae. cept a teaching position at Harvard University, the kind of employment, she openly admitted, she had avoided until an inheritance from her father ran out. For seven years she taught creative writing and modern poetry, though she was never happy in an academic milieu. Her initial shyness, her natural reticence (Octavio Paz has written that "the power of reticence" is one of the features of her poetry), her impossibly high demands upon creative writing both her own and that of her students, all this did not make the classroom any kind of home for her private person and her lyric talent. After her retirement from Harvard she taught for one term at New York University. The award of a second Guggenheim Fellowship allowed her to leave the classroom again. "I hope with luck never to have to teach again," she wrote me. In the fall of 1979, however, she returned to the academic world, this time to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to teach a poetry-writing course.

During her lifetime she published five volumes of poetry, North and South (1946), A Cold Spring (1955), Questions of Travel (1965), The Complete Poems (1969), and Geography III (1977). These books are complemented by her translation of The Diary of Helena Morley (1957), a travel book entitled Brazil (1962), an Anthology of Twentieth-Century Brazilian Poetry (1972), and several short stories. Her writings do not offer any exhaustive philosophy or approach to life. Rather she shows the rich texture and variety of the world with all its joys and pains, injustices and confusions. Her poetry is deceptively simple. The seeming artlessness of its careful observation and extraordinary detail hides the continual reworkings and polishings that are the hallmark of her verse. "I work so slowly," she often told me, yet each poem became a

perfume pot em.

She was the last surviving member of the generation that included Robert Lowell and Theodore Roethke, John Berryman and Randall Jarrell The latter wrote of her:

She is morally so attractive . . . because she understands so well that the wickedness and confusion of the age can explain and extenuate other pee pie's wickedness and confusion, but not, for you, your own; that morality, for the individual, is usually a small, personal, statistical, but heartbreak ing or heartwarming affair of omissions and commissions the greatest oi which will seem infinitesimal, ludicrously beneath notice, to those who govern, rationalize, and deplore; that it is sometimes difficult and un" natural, but sometimes easy and natural, to "do well"; that beneath our lives "there is inescapable hope, the pivot," so that in the revolution of things even the heartsick Peter can someday find "his dreadful rooster come to mean forgivemsa" ~ ~ ~ ~ :~ :~ ~ ~ ~

No poet of our time has been more honoured than Elizabeth Bishop. Among her numerous awards are the Houghton Mifflin Award (1945), the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award (1951), the Shelley Memorial Award (1952), the Partisan Review Fellowship (1956), the Pulitzer Prize (1956), the Academy of American Poets Award (1964), the National Book Award (1970), the Order of Rio Bronco (1971), to name only a few. In 1976, the year she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she became the first woman and the first North American to receive the Books Abroad / Neustadt Award for Literature. In sponsoring her for the latter, Marie-Claire Blais pointed out: "The body of her work is relatively small, but one cannot read a single line either of her poetry or prose without feeling that a real poet is speaking . . . whose eye is both an inner and outer eye. The outer eye sees with marvellous, objective precision, the vision is translated into quite simple language, and this language with the illuminated sharpness of something under a microscope works an optical magic, slipping in and out of imagery, so that everything seen contains the vibrations of meaning on meaning."

I first met Elizabeth in the early seventies. Literature naturally formed the major topic of so many wonderful conversations, and she spoke often of her childhood, her Nova Scotia years, her explicitly Maritime writings, her recollection of the gentlemanly kindness of her grandfather in "Manners," the haunting evocation of a young child's first exposure to death in "First Death in Nova Scotia," the majestic descriptions of "Cape Breton," the poignant veil ed autobiography of "In the Village."

Often Elizabeth took me to a large granite warehouse, Lewis Wharf, on the Boston waterfront. Here she had bought a fourth-floor apartment in the gutted 1830 building and was designing her new home. Following her exam ple, I donned the required hardhat as she led me through the construction. With a balcony overlooking the harbour she had returned to the sea of her childhood. She reminded me, then and in subsequent years, that there had been regular boat service between Boston and Nova Scotia. For her and for so many Maritimers Nova Scotia and New England were part of the same long eastern coast. Distinctions between Canadian and American were

superfluous. I:

When Northrop Frye was Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard, he told me of hm eagerness to meet Elizabeth. And she too had men tioned her own desire to meet this visiting Canadian. Accordingly I arranged a small dinner for the Fryes and Elizabeth. The shyness of the guests made the initial conversation tentative and sparse, but when Elizabeth asked about the driving conditions during Frye's childhood ("Which side of the road did they drive on in New Brunswick?"), the critic with memories of his Moncton upbringing and the poet with memories of her rural Nova Scotia formed an in stant friendship. On other meetings we talked of Canadian literature, for Elizabeth was familiar with many writers and eager and willing to read more. She knew the work of many poets, among them E.J. Pratt, A.M. Klein, and P.K. Page, and even some of the younger writers, including Margaret At wood and Michael Ondaatje.

When I was teaching Canadian literature courses at Harvard, Elizabeth playfully threatened to audit some of my lectures. She never did attend, though we spoke often on the telephone and over lunch about Canadian writers. I gave her volumes of fiction and poetry, and she repaid me with in formed reflections on their quality. Her criticism was sometimes complimen tary, more often harsh though kind, for she applied to all writing, whether it was Canadian, her own, or that of her young students, the same demand for perfect clarity of thought and expression.

In her poetry Elizabeth often juxtaposes geographical locations that she knew from personal experience. And her earliest world was the sea and the soil of the Maritimes. In Questions of Travel she counterpoints Nova Scotia and Brazil; elsewhere she does the same with New England and Florida. She once said: "I think geography comes first in my work." Robert Fitzgerald would agree: "The large subject of Elizabeth Bishop's poetry is geography, that of the world and the human imagination. Places, lives, the sea, ships, animals, and works of art interested her; causes, fashions, movements, and programs did not. She had the stubborn individuality characteristic of writers whose own distinctive visions enable them to create original works of art."

In 1979 Dalhousie University conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws on Ellizabeth Bishop. Though many American universities and colleges had bestowed similar honours, Dalhousie was the only Canadian institution to pay such respect. In its presentation the University recognized "a distinguished poet and friend of Nova Scotia":

Elizabeth Bishop was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, of Maritime parentage (her father was from Prince Edward Island, her mother from Great Village, Nova Scotia). Because of her father's sudden death and her mother's illness, Miss Bishop spent her early years at the home of her mater nal grandparents in Great Village. She has travelled much and lived for many years in Brazil, but the mark of her Nova Scotia years is discernible in the setting, the imagery and the temper of some of her most memorable work.

Elizabeth Bishop's poetry is notable for its clarity of perception, its sculptured finish, its quiet but searching wit, its compassion, and its capacity to reveal the extraordinary in what had seemed to be the ordinary stuff of daily life.

On October 6, 1979 Elizabeth Bishop died. As she requested, her body wee cremate; there was no funeral. Her legacy is her writing, and it is ire. presaive.

At the beginning of herAnthology of Twentieth-Century Brazilian Poetry she placed a brief poem, "My last Poem," by Manuel Bandeira which she had translated. The lyric captures the beauty and the fragility of Elizabeth's own vision:

I would lily my At poem thus

Teat it be gentle saying the simplest and .
That it be ardent like a tearless sob
That it have the beauty of almost scentless flowers
The purity of the flame in which the most limpid dia~;i;~
The peon of suicides who kill themselves without explanation.

The~ng~e~ oft
Duncan Camobell Scott

l'he Duncan Campbell Scott ~i~ j~ Univer~ -, f; Ottawa Press, 1980. xiv + 157 pp.

Of all the so~ealled "Poets of Confederation," Duncan Campbell Scott has quietly (the word in this context is hackneyed but inevitable) established himself as the most congenial to contemporary taste_at least in judicious selections. For all his 'old-fashioned' attributes he gives evidence of a decidely 'modem' sensibility. As a poet he can at his best be traditional without becom ing merely derivative ("In the Country Churchyard," for example), yet another side of him seems, if not innovative, at least independent. As a writer of fiction, though less prolific_and ultimately, I think, less substantial_than Charles G.D. Roberts, he is more consistent in standard and brings to his short stories the same meditative detachment that is so prominent a quality in much of his verse.

H-;e is, then, a highly appropriate subject for one of the University of Ot

"Reappraisals" conferences, but he poses a distinct literary-critical allenge. Although his effects are often modest, the methods by which he achieves them are correspondingly subtle. Appropriate commentary needs to malce precise and delicate distinctions, appreciate slight nuances, be open to inconspicuous changes of tone and voice. And there should be firm but respectful scrutiny as well, leading to judgments on the man (the "Indian question" becomes pressing here), on his intellectual rigour, on his poetic technique. Scott himself was clearly both shrewd and sensitive; his commen tators need to display similar qualities. How do the Symposium critics measure up? Well, let me say at once that I consider this book one of the bet ter volumes in the series. There is much here that is new and important, that furthers the cause of sound scholarship and intelligent criticism. At the same time_inevitably, I suppose, given the collaborative nature of the exer cise_some contributors are decidedly more satisfactory than others. Since the differences in standard are revealing in ways that go beyond the im mediate area of concern, they are worth discussing in some detail.

Commentators on Scott are fortunate in that, years ago, A.J.M. Smith wrote two important essays on him that laid a firm foundation for subsequent literary-critical consideration and argument. The first, immediately after the poet's death, was originally published in the Dalhousie Review in 1948, while the second appeared a decade later in Our Living Tradition, edited by Robert L. McDougall, and in slightly different form in the first issue of Canadian Literature; both are available in S.L. Dragland's collection of Scott critioam (Tecumseb, 1974). Taken together, they represent a seminal critique recap

Matthew Arnold's essay on Wordsworth_pioneering work brilliantly discriminating in its identification of important poems but in need of qualifica tion and refinement. Their significance lies in the attempt to isolate Scott's major work and to offer a concise and cogent description of the kind of poet he is. Of the three essays that open the Symposium by presenting general ac counts of Scott's poetry, only one_Gordon Johnston's_usefully extends the discussion that Smith initiated.

John P. Matthews and Kathy Mezei are both concerned with that favourite Canadian literary-critical procedure, the erection of a neat intellec tual pattern into which the poetry can fit. Matthews isolates "two dominant concepts throughout Scott's poetry which mesh as an informing principle to his concept of synthesis" (I quote to illustrate the dry abstraction involved here). One is "sea change," the other "the moment of becoming," and as Milton Wilson has already treated the former Matthews concentrates on the latter. Certainly these are subjects about which Scott likes to write, and Mat thews discusses them quite intelligently. My dissatisfaction arises from the fact that he quotes Scott for the content only. I find myself retorting: yes, yes, all right, sea-change and becoming are important to Scott, but is he a good poet? does he make poems well? does he use words excitingly, creatively? Matthews has little to say explicitly on such questions_which are surely the questions.

Mezei (whose essay was not, incidentally, delivered at the conference itself) is preoccupied with planes, circles and what she ominously calls "spatial archetypes." She tends, I fear, towards the simplistic: "for Scott, the height of land is an ideal image because elevated places inspire elevated thoughts." She wants to schematize Scott's imagery and structures, and rests content when she has done so. Her central pattern is established as follows: "In Scott, the vertical motion assumes the form of an ascent to the ideal_mountain top or air and light_or a descent to the depths of the earth, pool or ocean." Now it so happens that Gordon Johnston beautifully undercuts this sort of approach in his essay entitled (not, I think, very happily) "The Significance of Scott's Minor Poems." He is, of course, well aware of the patterns; he tells us on his first page that "Scott's mind was dominated by the doubleness of rational thought, by the process of thinking in terms of twinned opposites," but unlike Mezei he does not assume that this is a good thing just because he has noticed it. On the contrary, he finds it a weakness rather than a strength: it can lead to a facile formula because a pat, balanced resolution is always available. Let me quote some isolated sentences:

Scott's easy poems, the ones in danger of being bad, are usually generated by this rational perception of relations, or by a sentimental submission to the "idealized" form of a conflict, its Reality so apparent in the pale personifica tions of his mental dramas: Pain and Passion, Wonder and Expectance, Grief and Pity, Love and Service.

. . . his interest in perfect poems leads him to write some of his worst poems, those which clear away obscurities and contradictions too easily, and those which settle for formal perfection at the expense of the thought.

The powerful poems by Scott are the ones which go beyond or above these distinctions, the simplifications of polar thinking.

The point to be made here is that Mezei stops thinking at the very point where Johnston (properly) begins. ~ ~

But there is more to be said than that. Johnston's thought is directed to Scott as a maker of poems, not just as a creator of patterns. He continues: "When Scott has sufficient control over the language, its meaning and sound levels, then even poems which are dominated in their thinking by the rational polarities can be successful; they can express genuine reactions to credible situations in a schematic but not the less powerful way." Precisely. Johnston, a true critic, now begins to show how the success (or otherwise) of the poetry depends not on the patterns but on how they are treated, on the quality of mind and language that manipulates them. This essay, I believe, is as seminal as Smith's. It is full of new insights, and raises Scott criticism to a new level. Naturally, it too can be qualified. His classification into "major," "minor" and "bad" is somewhat crude, but it represents the necessary kind of initiating process that can be refined later. Here is a critic who thinks about poetry in poetic terms; why are such critics so rare?

Johnston also contributes a short poem, a poetic "epilogue" to Scott at the end of the volume, and is so doing suggests a possible answer to this last question. Can it be accidental that the other successful paper on Scott's poetry is Fred Cogswell's "Symbol and Decoration: 'The Piper of Arll"'? This is a useful and original interpretation of an elusive but haunting multi-layered poem; he does not explain all the mystifying details (I cannot fit the three pines that turn into plundering warriors into his reading, and, although he comments helpfully on the legend of the Narrenschiff, he neglects to show how it blends into that of the demon-lover), but "The Piper of Arll" is larger than any single reading of it, and Cogswell offers an explication that is both sensitive and imaginative. He is, of course, an established poet himself, and this fact lends force to my suspicion that the most satisfactory critics of poetry are generally those who have some first-hand experience of the craft.

This points towards what I consider a missed opportunity in the Sym posium: its failure to provide a paper centred upon Scott's poetic technique. Surely this is an inescapable topic if Scott (any poet, of course, but especially Scott) is to be discussed adequately. Anyone who has responded to the rhythms of his verse at all must have been on the one hand impressed by the satisfying quality of many of Scott's cadences but on the other puzzled by in dividual lines which either read lamely or tend to stumble_which I find myself calling his metrical stutter. One example must suffice. What are we to do in "Lines in Memory of Edmund Morris" when, after a series of short ac centual rhyming lines, and a few that already vary uncertainly between ir regular pentameter and a hint of anapests and dactyls, we suddenly en counter the line:

~ I:

When you steal upon a land that man has not sullied with his intrusion

_which sounds to my ear like a particularly fumbling, bumpy, unsatisfactory prose? There are many, many similar examples in his work from single lines that seem for no apparent reason to break the flow of regular stanzas to puzzl ing shifts of metrical convention from one line to another. As literary critics we cannot just ignore the difficulties involved.

l~b-h a problem complicated by the well-known fact that Scott was highly musleal, Robert L. McDougall, indeed, describes him as "a musician whose love for music surpasses even his love for poetry." Johnston refers in his n~m.tribute to "Your excellent ear" and goes on to obey

The sounds we hear in the ~ and ham of war ~ are beautiful, "d hint at the ~-^ Frothed "d plod

Onel:an one that a poet with this kind of musical expertise hi - what he was doing_but how to account for it?

Personally, I have a poor musical ear and can make no useful contribution to this subject; on the contrary, I am desperately in need of help. But what troubles me is that most of the commentators here do not seem to recognize either that there is a problem or that it is one that must be faced. For in stance, Stan Dragland, in a useful discussion of "Spring on Mattagami," cor rectly distinguishes between Scott's verse-form and his model in George Meredith's "Love in the Valley" by noting that "Scott allows himself more metrical latitude than Meredith." True enough, but one of the results is that Scott's poem is much more difficult to read. Without the urgent and insistent beat of the Meredith (which for me tends towards vulgarity) Scott's lines can often be read metrically in a number of different ways and this becomes a bar rier to a continuing reading. Dragland skirts the edge of the problem but never addresses himself to it.

A more extreme case is provided by Catherine E. Kelly, who offers a detailed paper on "Lines in Memory of Edmund Morris" but confines herself to a rather pedestrian section-by-section discussion of the poem's structure. She never even mentions the way in which the line-lengths vary from section to section, never discusses the significance of the metrical variations, never seems to consider that Scott might suit his metric to his material and that this might therefore be an aspect of the poem not only worth considering but essential to a full discussion. She possibly made a conscious decision to devote herself to other matters, but in view of a revealing reference to metre in the course of her paper, I suspect an inadequacy here. I quote the relevant passage:

. . . this moon independently ventures out within the pattern given, uncer tain, but with the unreachable ideal firmly there, the star, not to direct overt ly, but, as the metre indicat - , to be with her:

. . . thy gash Ed {veVn a salver st/ar

Tom - h h/ "n thVe w/ y

I am not sure that I understand the logic of the prose ("out within" is clumsy, and I lose track of the syntactical flow of the rest) but I am mainly concerned with the way in which "the metre indicates." What good does this crude scan sion achieve? And how can metre indicate anything? No one in his senses reads the lines according to this rigid and primitive system of scansion, and any rhythmic substitution can alter not only the emphasis but the meaning.

Personally, though I could understand someone retaining a beat on "be," I find in my own reading that I instinctively lay the emphasis on "with." There is room for disagreement about the rhythm, but Sister Kelly's argument col lapses because the metrical norm proves nothing (what would she do with Lear's five never's?).

I stress the matter because I find it disturbing that a teacher of English, a literary critic, can display such vagueness about rhythm and metre, that she can give a paper at a well-attended conference, submit it to an editor and have it published_and in the whole process no one apparently points out the elementary objection. Criticism of Scott is not going to get very far unless his commentators can demonstrate a greater sensitivity to the basic mechanics of verse.

Apart from the questions arising directly out of details of rhythm and metre, however, there are a number of other aspects of poetic technique in Scott that seem crying out for attention. There are the effects in poems that lie intriguingly half-way between traditional blank verse and hers 1lbre, and what may well be a related effect of vocabulary in which emotionally charged "poetic" words appear side by side with prosaic matter-of-fact ones ("Golden and inappellable" is the best-known instance, but many others are to be found in Scott). Then there is the embarrassing prevalence of stale cliches ("Ode for the Keats Centenary" is full of them), which might be merely acknowledged as Scott's characteristic form of badness were it not for the fact that a number of his successful poems (I think "Compline" fits here) gain an effectiveness from the way in which they tremble on the verge of cliche yet manage to revivify the old forms and phrases. An effect that I can only describe as im pressive monotony, a seemingly willed flatness, lies at the heart of Scott's poetry and is part, I suspect, of what we find congenial in him. These matters remain undiscussed and unresolved in the Symposium, which is a pity. But they involve approaches to literature that Canadian criticism in general has not yet recognized as important to sophisticated literary discussion. It should.

Because of the dominant interest of this journal I have devoted most of my space to the poetic contributions, but the other papers must not be ig nored. Criticism of Scott's fiction is apparently even less advanced than that of his poetry. This may be because, though readable, his short stories (the Un titled Novel is now available, but Glenn Clever's discussion failed to arouse my interest in it) are rarely ambitious or distinguished enough to encourage probing critical comment. And I had better state bluntly at this point that John Flood's "Native People in Scott's Short Fiction" should never have been accepted for publication. First of all. it is badly written_sometimes to the point of incoherence. Two samples:

ories ~ Mat the b~i6~de talres _~ ~ ;:
~ Is c ] over the desire to be where the trade must, for the sake of profit, take

The reduction of characters to nameplates impinges on tll~ir potential to ac tualize the o~o~ca of tied fig.

g of sloppy word-usage settles over the whole emu On ~ ~_d ~ ~ possible to extract a comprehensible argument out of a paragraph. Small

wonder that the writer can say nothing that is likely to interest a serious reader of fiction. Scott seems (one can never be absolutely sure on account of the poor prose-style) to be criticized for portraying Indians as stereotypes in stories where the emphasis is on white traders, and Indians only appear as supernumerary servants and customers. That the white protagonists themselves are often also stereotypes is not discussed, but when a trader is made to describe Indians as "fools," Scott is interpreted as displaying pre judice.

I am not denying that a case might be made against Scott on the basis of certain stories. Some of the narrator's remarks in "Clute Boulay," for in stance, certainly grate on modern ears sensitive in such matters. But as Flood makes no distinction between this story and "Charcoal" where, as several commentators have noted, Scott goes out of his way (even to the extent of altering his source) to make the Indian protagonist sympathetic, he is not in a position to put the case cogently. Moreover, the problem in "Clute Boulay" may be primarily a literary one: Scott wants to evoke a scene of savagery (Stan Dragland notes in his introduction to his New Canadian Library collec tion of stories that the climax "is as northern as a Norse saga"), and words like "savage" and "primitive" may be introduced to strengthen the suggestion of harsh barbarity. If so, Scott's literary skills rather than his racial attitudes are at stake; but, judging by this performance, such necessary distinctions are beyond Flood's powers.

In startling (and reassuring) contrast stands Robert L. McDougall's polished and mature account of his forays into Scott biography and the loca tion of manuscript material. He succeeds in pinpointing the places where E.K. Brown's portrait in his "Memoir" introducing the Selected Poems needs to be expanded and to some extent revised, and a fuller and convincing picture of Scott_especially the older Scott_emerges in the process. Along with Johnston's essay, McDougall's marks the high point in the volume, and his projected full-scale biography is awaited with all the more expectation. His paper is proof (if proof were needed) that quality of writing_choice of word and image, control of rhythm, etc._can make all the difference between an adequate essay and an excellent one.

For the rest, the critical dialogue between Stan Dragland and Martin Ware over "Spring on Mattagami" was an experiment well worth making, though I found it rather too long. Glenn Clever's essay on the fiction is in formative but unexciting. Otherwise Sandra Campbell contributes a well written and soundly-researched report on the friendship between Scott and Pelham Edgar, James Doyle a harmless but inevitably low-key essay on the impact of American literature, and C.M. Armitage a very brief and not par ticularly helpful note on Scott's letters to Lionel Stevenson. Finally, Sister Kelly provides a selective but none the less ample bibliography which, so far as I know, is the best to date.

A few concluding words on editing and production. While reviewing some of the earlier volumes in this series, I have had occasion to complain of poor (I suspect, non-existent) proofreading. This resulted in a rash of typographical errors, spelling mistakes and faulty punctuation that was ir r~ing to encounter and provoked dark thoughts about the competence of


-~ ~

those in charge. While there is still a larger number of misprints here than one would expect to see in ideal conditions, this volume shows a considerable improvement. K.P. Stich, as editor, can be faulted for not insisting that Flood resubmit his paper in decent English, but otherwise this is an attractive book, well arranged and carefully balanced. The series has now established itself as an important on-going contribution to Canadian literary studies. Until now, however, it has tended to reflect the average level of critical commentary in the area, and the time has surely come for it to make a stand in the interests of higher standards. There is no point in reproducing mediocre papers just because they were delivered at a particular moment in time. The editors responsible for these "Symposium" volumes should take the lead and insist on a judicious selection-process to eliminate expendable dross. What we need are volumes that are full of essays as good as Johnston's and McDougall's; this would result in literary criticism of which we could all be proud.

W. J. Keith

~ ~ ' . ~ ' ', ' . , . 1 ~
Columns and
Controversies Among

At the Mermaid~ln: Wilfred Campbell, Archibald Lampman, Duncan Campbell Scott in The Globe 1892-93. Edited, and with an Introduction, by Barrie Davies. University of Toronto Press, 1979. xxiii + 353 pp.

The complete At the Mermaid Inn column, selections (and often confusing ex cerpts) of which were published in 1958 by Arthur Bourinot, makes easily ac cessible at last what is collectively one of the most sustained and controver sial forays into prose by the Confederation poets or, more strictly speaking, by the Ottawa group of Lampman, Scott, and Campbell.

Quantitatively, the volume is impressive. The columns number well over two hundred, and some of them cover several sides of the long pages of the University of Toronto's Literature of Canada: Poetry and Prose in Reprint volume. Professor Davies, and, with him, Patricia Kennedy must be thanked for undertaking the herculean and blinding task of transcribing the text from microfilms of The Globe. Their errors are few, though as W.J. Keith has Ted out ("Letters in Canada," University of Toronto Quarterly, 1980), one or two of them are significant and misleading. For the most part, however, the text presented by Davies is reliable; certainly it inspires more confidence than Bourinot's Selections or, indeed, than Davies' own Archibald Lampman: Selected Prose (Tecumseh, 1975).

Before turning to some of the issues raised by the At the Mermaid Inn column now that it can easily be seen steadily and seen whole, some attention must be given to the volume's Index. No compiler for the Index is listed in the Acknowledgements, so responsibility for its shortcomings must be taken as residing, in a general way, with the University of Toronto Press. These short comings are serious enough to render the Index a frustrating and unreliable means of access to the At the Mermaid Inn column, particularly to the many references by Lampman, Scott, and Campbell to various authors, artists, and eomposars. For instance, Dante Gabriel Rossetti is mentioned and quoted several times by the Canadian poets, but only one page reference appears in the Index. And while Pater, Mozart, and the painter Millet are mentioned in the text, they are not entered in the Index. There are other eccentricities too: Sidney Lanier the American poet appears as Sydney Lamer; Henri} Ibsen is not given a Christian name; and we are told that Arthur Hugh Clougl is an "English Poet" but not that The Youth's Companion is a Boston journal As this sampling of omissions, inaccuracies, and inconsistencies shows, the In dex to the At the Mermaid Inn volume functions less as a means of access to its contents than as a means of ensuring that the volume will be read in its en tirety by anyone interested in any of its facets. That may be a worthwhile end, b~the~means of achiest are of course unjustifiable.


- ~

In his lengthy and detailed "Introduction" to At the Mermaid Inn Pro" fessor Davies, himself one of Lampman's most skilled and sensitive critics, does a fine job of placing the column in a context that illuminates its genesis and demise, the central concerns and relative merits of its authors, and its im portance as a window on the literary and intellectual world of Canada in the 'nineties. No one would dispute Davies' claim that "At the Mermaid Inn is im portant because it reflects many of the issues, conflicts, and general temper of the age." But some might wonder whether in the squabbles between Camp bell on the one hand and Lampman and Scott on the other which brought the column to a rancorous conclusion in July, 1893 there really is present "in microcosm, the symptoms of national fragmentation which are a major con cern of these writers in the column as a whole." By his own admission Davies makes "no attempt to exhaust the rich diversity of the material" in At the Mermaid Inn; he does, however, offer a great many insights regarding the issues discussed in the column by Lampman, Scott, and Campbell and, moreover, offers provocative speculations regarding the relationship among the three poets and between them and their late-Victorian soeioty.

Each reader of At the Mermaid Inn will find items in the column that are f particular and special interest. As Davies says: "now that At the Mermaid nn is finally available, much more will be written about it." Of course, the col umn has always been accessible to those interested enough in Confederation poetry to read it in the original or on microfilm. Now that it is accessible in one volume, the issues, specific and general, that it raises come flooding for ward. On March 5, 1892 Lampman, in meditating on the appeal and limita tions of Shelley, mentions Roberts and Carman as being "of this poet's cult" while making no mention of his own earlier essay on The Revolt of Islam. "In Shelley,'' writes Campbell on August 20, 1892, "we have . . . the greatest lyric Met in the language." It would be interesting to see Shelley's influence on the Confederation writers examined in detail. Several of Lampman's col umns_for instance those of February 20, 1892, April 30, 1892, May 14, 1892, and July 9, 1892_seem to indicate an emblematic tendency in his reading of the Book of Canadian Nature, a possibility which has not, to my knowledge, been explored with reference to his poetry. On April 29, 1893, Scott calls at tention to Archibald Geikie's article on "Scenery and the Imagination" in that month's issue of The Fortnightly Review (vol. 53, pp. 547-573). Geikie's argu ment for the influence of "conditions of climate and variations of topography" on the imaginative response to landscape has resonances which wait to be ex plored, not only in Scott's poetry, but also in the work of other Canadian poets, notably Lampman. And surely the following, from Scott's column for February 4, 1893, has ramifications for "The Piper of Arll":

All art, as Walter Pater points out, is constants striving towards the con dition of music, and perhaps Flaubert was born with a musician's idea of -: :~ term and was constantly searching for the absolute fusion of form and con Twixt Isicl which is found in no other art. This implies that he might have been challenging the impossible.... And so Flaubert... takes his place as a type of the artist who will not be distracted by the intractableness of his material, but who works at his God~ves teak ~rilbout despair.

Whim there is a good deal of 'filter' in At the Mermaid Inn, there is aba much_very much more than can be even mentioned here_that illuminates the three contributing poets and suggests lines of investigation for the scholar and critic. ~

One such line of investigation is that which links the demise of Atop Mermaid Inn, after a series of what Davies calls "embittered entries" by Campbell, with the eruption, a little less than two years later, in the Summer of 1895, of what was variously called "The Battle of the Poets," "The Poets' Controversy," and "The War Among the Poets." Angered by the fact that he had been given shorter shrift than Carman, Lampman, Roberts, Scott and others in an article entitled "The Singers of Canada" by an American jour nalist, Joseph Dana Miller, in the May, 1895 issue of Munsey's Magazine, Campbell published a lengthy and anonymous article in the Toronto Sunday World accusing Carman of being "the most fragrant imitator"_i.e. plagiarist_"on this continent." In attempting to justify his charge by jux taposing excerpts from Carman's poems with excerpts from poems by Rosset ti (upon whom he "evidently made his first levies") and, amongst others, Whitman, Stevenson, Kipling, Lampman and himself, Campbell succeeds in shedding light on both his own paranoia and Carman's poetic practice. In his various responses, Carman, in addition to coining the word "Camp belligerent" and satirizing its referent as "little Willie" in The Chap Book, allowed that the reappearance of the line "With small innumerable sound" from Lampman's "Heat" in his own "The Eavesdropper" Are "due . . . to . . . unconscious (or, better, subconscious) appropriation." He also noted that the line had been excised and replaced in the second edition of Low Tide on Grand Pre. "The War Among the Poets" raged for several weeks in the correspondence, editorial, and gossip columns of newspapers in Toronto (including The Globe and The Week) and elsewhere; moreover, it found poetic expression, not just in Carman's lampoons in The Chap Book, but also in the Byronic stanzas of C.G. Rogers' "Bards of the Boiler-Plate" (1895), the Popean couplets of A.C. Stewart's The Poetical Review (1896), and in numerous other satirical verses by Campbell and others. When Campbell resumed the attack in an open letter to the Toronto Globe printed over his own name it was to ac cuse Carman and Roberts of literary log-rolling, of enhancing their own reputations at the expense of Scott's and his own. Needless to say, this salvo from Ottawa at the Fredericton cousins in New York was also the occasion for Public controversy and satirical verse. In his study of Wilfred Campbell, Carl Klinck characterizes "The War Among the Poets" as "a tempest in the Cana dian teapot." And so it was.

Yet it is an episode which, like the 'Fleshly-School' controversy and the Wilde trial, is curiously revelatory of a social and cultural milieu. For surely it is significant that "The War of the Poets" was occasioned, not by the issues of fleshliness and viciousness (manifestations of the aesthetic-decadent move ment which Glassco would subsequently import), but by a piqued Canadian poet taking exception to an American critic's characterization of his col le&gues as "not mere echoes" but authors of "strong unfettered verse . . . of no transplanted origin." The nature of originality, the place of imitation, the integrity of pastiche (Campbell's word is "mosaic"), the relation between 'sub

conscious appropriation and imaginative invention_these are issues which, willy-nilly, must contf~e to surface in discussions of a poetry which, like Canada itself, has drawn so much from outside itself. The ease of the transi tion from Campbell's embittered columns in At the Mermaid Inn (and Davies is certainly right when he says that Campbell "came to feel that literary pro minence in Canada had more to do with politics and cliques than talent") to the broad considerations raised here is surely one indication of the place of the Globe column, not just in the literary and intellectual history of its period, but also in the continuity of Canadian poetic and critical concerns. Profess. Davies is correct: much more will be written about At the Mermaid Inn near is available, 'filler,' squabbles, warts and all, in its entirety.


Jerusalem Here

The Arts in Canada: The Last Fifty Years, ed. W. J. Keith and B. -Z Shell. University of Toronto Press, 1980,157 pp.

~ .~.,4~ . _,

Nothing better reveals the ingrained regionalism of~anada than the Parliamentary determination not to permit the Prime Minister to bring the Constitution home. Canada, the implied argument goes, will not be forced unilaterally into nationhood. Viewed in the perspective of the recent political debate, Arthur Lower's 1946 account of Canada's growth from colony to na tion assumes a mythical shape and George Grant's 1965 lament for its collapse becomes a pastoral elegy. The fictions they unintentionally constructed helped to constellate a reality that is not otherwise there.

The social function of the arts is to give sufficient credence to illusion to allow it to function as real. The humanly inhabitable Canada that is only now beginning to emerge is largely the product of the regional imagination affirm ing its creative acts through a critical recognition of what it has produced. What now holds Canada together is far less a Constitution that has yet to find a home than a growing realization that works of the imagination are united by the creativity they share in common. The Biblical name for that creativity is Jerusalem, which is both a city and a bride. The recent Parliamentary debate reminds us that the bride has been left politically stranded at the altar. The bridegroom has refused to repeat the over-rehearsed marriage vows.

In the long run, this stubborn provincial refusal may accelerate the matur ing of the arts. Canada today is, as Northrop Frye points out, "a far more ex citing place to live in, culturally speaking, than its demoralized economy and demented political leadership would suggest." As its economy becomes even more demoralized and its political leadership even more demented (nat ionalism may attend to that) it is not altogether unlikely that the cultural ex citement may increase. A true Canadian identity, one suspects, may yet emerge from the acceptance of an imaginative life that transcends immediate economic or political ends. The lasting Canadian achievement may finally outstrip its American neighbor by forging in the furnace of the imagination a Canadian identity free of a pernicious nationalism.

Reviewing Canadian poetry for the decade of the 'fifties, Northrop Frye in the University of Toronto Quarterly recognized "the emergence of a curiously k~terconsistent language of symbolism and imagery among the poets who most obviously knew what they were doing." This language he Contrasts with the "subliterary rhetoric" of the Confederation poetry which was, he writes, "really inspired by a map and not by a country or a people." The real poetry inspired by a map was, of course, the engineering genius that produced the CPR. What may be evident in "the emergence of a curiously interconsistent language of symbolism" is a rebellion against the binding of Canadian life to the engineering feats of the nineteenth century. A culture grounded in the victory of engineering over geography (Matthew Arnold's "machinery") is not only unacceptable but inhuman and degrading. It assumes that its real

priorities are material ones an~t~ure and the other arts are essen tially frivolous activities to be turned to only when economic condition per mit.

The reverse, however, ma,, in fact he the case: economic conditions advanc ing to meet the requirements of the creative imagination. The victories of capitalism in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century America are, according to one school of thought, grounded in the Puritan vision of its poets. In Canada, that Puritan vision found one of its finest spokesmen in A. S. P. Woodhouse who took full charge of the University of Toronto Quarterly with the publica tion of volume five. Woodhouse's edition of the Puritan debates, Puritanism and Liberty, brought to this country, as no poet or artist thus far had, a vision of Jerusalem in its historical struggle to descend. Under Woodhouse, Milton studies at Toronto assumed an eminence shared by no other University. At the centre of those studies was Milton's doctrine of liberty which was essen tially unlike the populist doctrine shaping American democracy in a manner that never took root in Canada. The Puritan distinction between liberty and licence lies close to the heart of an English-Canadian culture, one of whose unacknowledged centres was the Honours English programme largely shaped by Woodhouse at the University of Toronto. When in 1936 the annual "Let tera in Canada" section first appeared (largely as a result of the joint influence of E. K. Brown and Woodhouse who, beginning with the third volume, became co-editors) the spirit informing the English programme began to make itself felt in an annual review of the Arts with, one suspects, in calculable results. Canada is probably unique in the degree to which the arts have operated within the shaping surveillance of the academic mind commit ted in the UTQ to demonstrating (as Woodhouse described it) "the vitality of the great tradition to the general humane reader."

That "great tradition," at least in Woodhouse's formulation, goes back to fit. Paul's assertion of "the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free" of the "bondage" of the law. In its secular form, this view of liberty grants to the in tellect a freedom of movement that affirms the integrity of its own disinterested endeavour. Applied to the arts, it averts the autonomy of the imagination. Perhaps the mod thorough-going examination of that autonomy ever undertaken by an academic mind is Frye's Anatomy of Criticism, a work that, via Milton and Bb}e, attests a description of the verbal universe of the liberated, which is to say educated, imagination. Frye's monumental work (now under considerable "populist" attack as a closed elitist system) is un thinkable outside of the Puritan vision of the liberated mind which at the University of Toronto was pursued with all the intellectual energy of a subliminal religious passion. That the pursuit still continues is perhaps evi dent in what George Woodcock describes as "the University of Toronto Press's two daunting ventures, the Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, under the editorship first of F. E. L. Priestley (who also did the definitive edi tion of Godwin's Political Justice for Canadian publication) and now of J. M. Robson, and the Collected Works of Erasmus."

It would, of course, be grossly inaccurate to suggest that the enlightened criticism of Woodhouse and Frye produced at the University of Toronto or in the annual review of "Letters in Canada" in the Quarterly anything as form

ulated or doctrinaire as the present Yale school of criticism. The difference between the Canadian mosaic and the American melting pot makes the phenomenon at Yale an impossibility at Toronto. Like America itself, Yale is sometimes overcome by its own powerful identity. Like Canada itself, Toron to stops shorts of rash commitments that would impose an identity that by its very nature evades some final recognition. The original goal of Puritan liberty was a life in the risen Christ where, in Paul's words, "there is neither Jew nor Greek . . . bond nor free . . . male nor female." If the Reformation path to this Kingdom is now irreparably damaged, it nevertheless may yet remain open to the disinterested intellect and the autonomous imagination. The impressive interplay between them as witnessed in the Quarterly's annual review of "Letters in Canada" suggests that the arts in this country are being granted, despite political and economic pressures, every encouragement to pursue their own disinterested ends, one offspring of which may yet be a Canadian identity the spiritual form of which rejects a national container, as perhaps now any truly human identity must. Needless to say, the editors of the Quarterly responsible for the fiftieth anniversary issue, W. J. Keith and B. -Z Shek, make no such elaborate claims. Nevertheless, I suggest that a certain amount of circumstantial evidence is there. Enough, perhaps, to stake this claim.

Ro" Woodman