The Face of a Nation: Poetical Passages from the Writings of Thomas Wolfe

The Face of a Nation: Poetical Passages from the Writings of Thomas Wolfe

The Face of a Nation: Poetical Passages from the Writings of Thomas Wolfe

The Face of a Nation: Poetical Passages from the Writings of Thomas Wolfe

Excerpt

For all his huge frame, his great force, there was something childlike about Thomas Wolfe. He amazed his friends as often by his naïveté as by those sudden flashes of insight, of phenomenal awareness, that characterized his talk. We were accustomed to surprises from Tom, but of all the things I was to hear him say, none, I think, amazed me more than his remark, vehemently flung out one day and often repeated later: "I'd rather be a poet than anything else in the world. God, what wouldn't I give to be one!" And it was true. No man loved poetry with a deeper passion, or lived with it more constantly, than Tom. What was incredible was the fact that a born poet, the author of some of the most magnificent dithyrambic passages in literature, should not know himself as such, should seem to define poetry by the narrow conventions of verse, something that was a matter of form rather than of spirit.

Now, with the passage of time, it becomes clear that, whatever else he may have been or achieved, Thomas Wolfe was, first of all, a poet -- a lyric poet of extraordinary intensity, with a sensitivity to word-music, to rhythm and cadence, which can be likened only to that of Whitman, whose vision of America and of the American continent he shared. The American spirit and the American earth of our day as distinguished from the spirit and earth of any other land or time, these are the major . . .

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