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LETTERS IN CANADA~ 1943 Edited by A. S. P. WooDHOUSE THIS year, as sometimes in the past, we have found it necessary to divide the survey, presenting English-Canadian Letters in the April issue, and reserving the French- and New-Canadian sections till July. As a result of the war, Canadian drama, save that written for the radio, has virtually disappeared. Accordingly, Mr Milne's annual essay has been suspended, probably for the duration; but. he has supplied us with a brief note for inclusion in Remaining Material. Since the appearance of "Letters in Canada: 1942," death has taken a heavy toll among leading figures in Canadian literature: Sir Robert Falconer, who was a constant friend and frequent contributor to the QuARTERLY, Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, who appeared in its first issue, Mr John W. Dafoe, the dean of Canadian journalists, also· a contributor, and Mr Frederick Niven and Mr Stephen Leacock, whose work has been reviewed year by year since this survey commenced. On Sir Charles Roberts, a review article by Professor Pelham Edgar recently appeared in the· QuARTERLY (October, 1943), and on Sir Robert Falconer, a set of articles, "In Memoriam Sir Robert Alexander Falconer, K.C.M.G." (January, 1944), to both of which we refer the reader. As usual our grateful acknowledgments are due to the University Library and the Toronto Public Libraries for aid cordially gtven. PART I. ENGLISH-CANADIAN LETTERS I. POETRY .E. K. BROWN Since these surveys began in 1936 I have counted as fat years those which brought ~ew works by E. J. Pratt, and as lean those in which he was silent. It was to be feared that 1943 would be among the lean years; but in its last month came Still Life and Other l/erse, a little collection of fifteen lyrics and brief narratives. Mr Pratt has never been happier as a lyrist than he is in two, at least, of the poems in this latest collection, "Come Away, Death" and ((The Invaded Field," the pieces by which he chose to be. 306 LETTERS .IN CANADA: 1943 307 represented in the Canadian issue of Poetry. With them must be set the title poem, in which he makes powerful and beautiful use of a device somewhat new to his practice, the framing of famous lines and images in ironic contexts. Indeed "Still Life" is his most sustained study in irony, an assault dangerously polite upon the dwellers. in ivory towers, those who need stillness about them if their hearts are to flow into verse. Underneath the surface courtesy, but not far enough underneath for the surface to be unruffled, is a grim stress upon the intensity and the·significance of the times, the multitude of great themes calling imperiously for a poetic treatment adequate to their burden of splendour and pain. Once the surface cracks wide open to let horror loose: To-day the autumn tints are on The trampled grass at Marathon. Here are the tales to be retold, Here are the songs to be resung. Go, find .a cadence for that field-gray mould Otltcropping on the Parthenon. This is a new note for Mr Pratt; with his strength he allies a new softness of touch, a radiance quite different from that play of lightning and the aurora borealis which in their more spectacular ways have coruscated through so much of his greatest work. In some of the narratives the old note of uThe Cachalot" sounds· again; it can never sound too often for a reader of that incomparable piece. Nowhere else in this ~ollection is it so strong and clear as in "The Submarine," in .lines such as: No forebear of the whale or shark, No saurian of the Pleiocene, Piercing the sub-aquatic dark Could rival this new submarine. It is fascinating to compare Mr Pratt's treatment of this mechanical monster of the sea with his earlier treatment of cachalot and squid, iceberg and storm. The opening lines are so masterly in their ease that their technical distinction will be missed; after them come a full hundred in which Mr Pratt's unique texture is constant. The longest and perhaps the most impressive poem...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 306-316
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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