The Spyglass, Views and Reviews, 1924-1930: Selected and Edited by John Tyree Fain

By Donald Davidson | Go to book overview

ness which emotionally occurs, and this association or likeness becomes the symbol which the poet uses. Therefore, if Blake can say "A sigh is a sword of an angel king," Crane can write of the "unmangled target smile" of Dionysus, for he is chiefly interested "in the so-called illogical impingements of connotations of words on the consciousness,"

This position is, I believe, quite unassailable, for it describes the typical procedure of all poets who have depended on intensive symbolism for their effects rather than on discursive declarations, rhythmically arranged, or purely epical devices. The only question we can raise, and it is a fundamental one, is: how far can the process of telescoping metaphors be carried? Or, how far can Mr. Crane favor his entirely personal verbal associations and still achieve a poetical effect? It is Mr. Crane's application of his theory that is assailable.

Addison, in one of the Spectator papers, pokes fun at Ned Softly, the poet, who exclaimed in self-adulation over a line he had written,

"For Ah! it wounds me like his dart. Pray how do you like that ah! Doth it not make a pretty figure in that place?" cried Ned Softly.

The "ah" meant something to poor Ned Softly; to him it signified passion, the grand passion for it carried with it all the associations of his amorous encounters. He made the mistake of all versifiers who impregnate their verses with a host of personal associations and read them into the lines without getting them across to the reader. I fear that Mr. Crane has often made the same mistake, though in no petty way; if he has erred, he has erred ambitiously.

I might say also that the "contemporary" parts of his poetry are often unabsorbed and jungle; that his meticulous striving for precision, together with his crowding of metaphors, makes his poetry stiff in texture; that his tone is too often sticky and sepulchral.

-108-

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