Breathing of First Things

Breathing of First Things

Breathing of First Things

Breathing of First Things

Excerpt

James Russell Lowell remarked, with half-concealed disapproval, that Thoreau described everything as if he had been the very first human being ever to lay eyes on it; and that this peculiarity gave his writings their most characteristic charm, although the same peculiarity betrayed a weakness in Thoreau's character as a man. But a man who possesses the miraculous gift of seeing things in themselves, in their irreducible miraculousness, does not thereby possess weakness. He is possessed by a power, and if the man is a poet searching for the meaning of his life, the power that may come to possess him is a moral one. It is the strength of his character, and it may well prove to be the source of his growth. Matthew Arnold discovers such a moral power in Wordsworth:

The question, how to live, is itself a moral idea; and it is the question which must interest every man, and with which, in some way or other, he is perpetually occupied. A large sense is of course to be given to the term moral. Whatever bears upon the question, "how to live," comes under it.

Now Mr. Sobiloff, like Thoreau, retains the freshness of his vision, and he is still able -- I had almost said he is still compelled -- to see particular objects and persons and places as if no human eye had ever looked on them before. But something even more complex is taking place in his new collection. A poet's peculiar gift -- which always has something accidental about it, something lucky, something for which any writer in his senses will offer up hushed thanks -- here becomes the theme of whole sequences of poems. I am not referring to the book as one more among the endless imitations of Wallace Stevens, one more dreary analysis of a poet's own vanity, one more sterile series of nit-pickings on the theme of the . . .

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