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LAURA, ELIZABETH, AND HELEN 77 Georgian, he comments: We are not worthy to deal with the work of a man who has heard a nightingale in Autumn.' But when popular taste seemed corrupt, he could be merciless - witness his classic deflation of the authoress of Poems of Optimism: What does Ella Wheeler Wilcox say about the war? She is 'the most widely-read poet of the day,' yet the numbers who do not read her being still considerable, the question is of some interest. It is easily answered. She says what is being said, as she always does. She says, for example, that women are knitting ... Were the best of these gathered together (I have had to extract these examples from William Cooke, R. George Thomas, and Eleanor Farjeon), there would surely emerge a very remarkable critical intelligence. Thomas's ability to go straight to the point, to record his impressions Iirmly and sincerely, constantly recalls the reviews of D.H. Lawrence. An edition of the surviving but not yet printed letters is also needed. Dr Cooke has conveniently listed the numbers and locations of letters to Jesse Berridge, Edward Garnett, Harold Munro, Holbrook Jackson, and Robert Frost (totalling over two hundred in all). In addition, his letters to Helen Thomas are presumably still in existence (Eckert mentions them though Dr Cooke does not), and there are obviously others available (including , I assume, some in the Eckert collection now in the Bodleian)' It would be helpful, too, if some of Thomas's prose-books were reprinted, despite the fact that most of them were commissioned work that Thomas himself knew to be below his true standard. (I should note at this point that R. George Thomas's objection to 'the use of the description "hack-writing" that has slipped increasingly into much uninformed posthumous comment on his prose writings' is overruled by the very letteIs that he prints). Above all, however, increased attention should be paid to the poems. Even in universities his name is better known than his work. Some of the more modish twentiethcentury anthologies still omit Thomas while reproducing turgid examples of the Georgian, the Beat, and the concrete, and this is all the more unfortunate since his subtle and individual transformation of traditional forms provides an excellent test of mature critical discrimination. A healthy culture needs Thomas's poems as a known part of its heritage. These two books will do much to draw attention to his achievement, but they should be recognised as only a beginning. (W.J. KBrm) LAURA, EUZABETH, AND HELEN" An essay written seven years ago on petrarchism and poetic diction was Dr Forster's initial study of the various modes and developments through which Petrarch's inBuence on European poetry may be traced. He contends that far from being hlamed for confining themselves to the surface stylistic devices - "'Leonard Forster, The Icy Fire: Five 8t1,dies in European Petrarchism. Cambridge: The University Press 1969. Pp. xvi, 204. $7.50. 78 BEATRICE CORRIGAN antithesis and hyperbole, for instance - of Petrarch and his Italian disciples, French, German, Dutch, and English poets were wise in reproducing what was 'eminently imitable' and, using the sonnet as a five-Snger exercise, creating as they did so their own poetic diction in the vernacular. An insufficiently studied manifestation of petrarchism, as he indicates, is the Renaissance Latin poetry written first in Italy by such figures as Jacopo Sannazaro and Julius Caesar Scaliger, then imitated, particularly in Germany and Holland, well into the seventeenth century. Petrarch had always written in perfect seriousness, Dr Forster believes (though this may be questioned, as Petrarch had a wider range of moods than is sometimes suspected), but as fashions changed, extravagance and wit gave a new savour to verses which had become insipid or sugary. An influence in this development which might have been noticed is the taste for literary riddles, often in sonnet form, which became an important sub-genre in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Marino's poem, 'Mentre la sua donna si petlina,' (quoted pp.31-32), describing a lady combing her hair in terms of an ivory ship cleaving its passage through stormy waves of gold, is unmistakably...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 77-79
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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