The Metaphysical Passion: Seven Modern American Poets and the Seventeenth-Century Tradition

By Sona Raiziss | Go to book overview

12 MACLEISH-WYLIE-CRANE

The METAPHYSICAL period of Archibald MacLeish is interestingly represented by his collection, Poems, 1924-1933. Since the publication of that volume MacLeish's expression, like his subject matter, has altered. It is perhaps more than coincidence that the years covered by MacLeish's collection are also most conspicuous in the American metaphysical movement. They betray the poet's experience of World War I and portend the subsequent emotional crisis. The years of truce between two unspeakable wars aroused the restless intellectual activity and charged the social conscience of writers like MacLeish.

Since his metaphysical statement was heard chiefly in the decade between 1925 and 1935, it will answer our purpose to examine primarily the volume of collected poems, which includes the books The Pot of Earth, The Hamlet of A. MacLeish, Einstein, Conquistador, and many pieces from Streets in the Moon and New Found Land. Of the three early volumes excluded from this collection, Tower of Ivory is academic and negligible. But The Happy Marriage and Nobodaddy contain themes and exhibit a technique that indicate the poet's inclination developed more fully later. His work after 1935 showed an ebbing of this metaphysical tendency. When the financial storm, one of the several crises preliminary to World War II, broke over the United States and other nations, MacLeish was impelled to deal directly with immediate social problems. Such materials demanded a treatment appropriate to their satiric or expletive character, rather than the subtleties previously so effective for the analysis of spiritual unrest. MacLeish's subject matter in Panic, Public Speech, TheFall of the City

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