All Our Lives: Alice Duer Miller

By Henry Wise Miller | Go to book overview

VI

AFTER Forsaking All Others was finished--to me the best thing that she ever wrote--Alice began to show less and less interest in the type of stories she had been writing for so long. Her whole attitude toward her work changed. As her contracts to the magazines expired she made no fresh ones.

She wrote love stories no longer but expressed emotion on a higher plane, one as far removed from fiction as was her prose from the flowing verse in which she was henceforth to express herself.

Alice had remained unaffected by the changing styles in modern poetry. The classic forms were those she kept before her. Her inspiration goes back to the Elizabethans and the great traditions of English poetry. She spoke only of the simple and essential in life, and escaped the inquietude and dubiety of mood that lie like a pall over so many poets of the last hundred years.

She considered "The Revenge" one of the finest poems in the English language, and its influence is to be seen throughout her own poetry, particularly in the use of prolonged, heroic stanzas broken by almost colloquial verse.

She carried the use of varying meters to express changes in mood and thought further than did Tennyson; further, I think, than anyone has ever before attempted in English poetry. There is hardly a metrical form known to English composition, from the triolet to the sonnet, that she did not make use of.

These alternating forms are employed with great consistency. Her verse has a defined ebb and flow. A peculiar individuality--characteristic of all her later poems--is imparted by this technique.

The method is essential. It is the only way possible to produce a decisive change of mood in dramatic poetry. If a single verse form is used, no matter how varied the context, a certain monotony is inevitable. On the other hand, so powerful

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