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126 LETTERS IN CANADA 1980 are evanescent as 'Rain, rain, and sun! a rainbow on the leal,' for 'truth is this to me, and that to thee' ('The Coming of Arthur: lines 405- 6). Such emblems are not true mirrors of analogy like Spenser's icons, but mirrors in which each observer sees reflected an image of himself. I suspect that the reputation of Tennyson's Idylls has never quite recovered from Christopher Ricks's well-documented and damaging charge that the 'failure ofstyle' in the poem 'renders vacant oracademic or wishful the larger claims which the Idylls precipitate' (Tennyson [New York 1972], p 269). Gray often comments perceptively on language: he notes, for example, that 'Tennyson's imaginative use of conjunctions is one of the secrets of his style' (p 25). But any refutation of Ricks is weakened by the fact that Gray cites him on only one passage in the poem (p 90), and that single citation prejudges the case because it chooses those lines from 'Merlin and Vivien' (lines 228- 31) which Ricks himself calls 'the finest' in the Idylls (Tennyson, p 276). A full-scale defence of the language of the poem may have to await the publication of Walter Nash's dissertation, which Gray quotes approvingly throughout his study. Until we possess such a defence, Gray's claim that the Idylls is 'one of the most successfully sustained long poems in English' (p 137) is likely to seem a triumph of faith over demonstration, a conviction that is incapable of winning widespread assent. (w. DAVID SHAW) Patricia Clements and Juliet Grindle, editors. The Poetry of Thomas Hardy Vision Press. ix, 194. £10.95 This volume of critical essays on Hardy's poetry is a companion to the previously issued Vision collection of essays on his novels. Like its predecessor, it exemplifies a variety of approaches, attempting to reevaluate the poems in the light of Hardy's prosody, imagery, and diction; new aspects of his 'poetry of perception'; his uses of literary tradition; and interrelationships between the fiction and verse. More striking than the diversity of topics, however, is the consistency of basic concerns throughout nearly all the essays. Hardy's 'harshness' and incongruity, fondness for double meanings, use of moral and aesthetic perspectivism, and related interest in the limits of vision are all repeatedly alluded to and treated in the papers. These recurrent themes remind one how long a time has passed since Donald Davie asserted confidently in Thomas Hardy and British Poetry that no consensus existed as to what was centrally significant in Hardy's poetry. The first three papers, considering Hardy's vocabulary, syntax, and verse form, are among the most satisfying in the volume. Isabel Grundy argues convincingly that Hardy's placement of language 'under strain' (p 7) through punsand multiple allusions, tongue-twisting rhymes, elliptical syntax, and related deformations of style reinforces his message of the unexpectedness and dissatisfactions of life. S.c. Neuman provides a detailed, and ultimately persuasive, case for the way in which Hardy frequently undercuts the semantic and imagistic content of a poem's cheerful surface by employing an incongruously gloomy prosody. In a complementarypaperRonaldMarkenincisivelydemonstrates themanner in which a number of Hardy poems chime inexorably, through subtly graduated premonitory rhymes and irregular'cadences ofregret' (p 23), to their tragic conclusions. Almost as rewarding is Cornelia Cook's comparison of the different attempts in the poetry of Hardy and Meredith to 'read' aworld despite the lack of received scriptural, scientific, or philosophic text. More properly a monograph compressed into the format of an essay, Cook's paper suffers somewhat from being too extensive in scope and too restricted in space. In a more manageable treatment of inconsistency in The Dynasts Glen Wickens argues cogently that the truth of the poem resides neither in the sceptical Spirit of the Years nor in the more optimistic Spirit of the Pities, but in a philosophy of multiple perspectives, an acceptance of several contradictory, incompletely resolved points of view. Employing a similar form of aesthetic perspectivism Jeremy Steel accounts for Hardy's shift from prose to poetry as his way of recording freely the diversity of his moods and memories without the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 126-128
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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