American Writers And The SaccoVanzetti Case — страница 5

  • Просмотров 994
  • Скачиваний 10
  • Размер файла 41

hysterical if they support or defend political dissidents. Because of her loyalty to traditional poetic forms, particularly the sonnet, many critics have not assigned Edna St. Vincent Millay to the modernist canon. Her poem, "Justice Denied in Massachusetts,” is marked by rhymes and archaic inversions of word order, both contrary to the dominant critical accounts of modernist poetic practice—free verse rather than rhyme and meter, urban concerns, characters, and cityscapes as in Baudelaire’s poetry and, later, Eliot’s “Prufrock,” rather than the natural landscapes of the Romantics. In his book Axel’s Castle (1931) , Wilson helped formulate the criteria by which modernist texts were recognized as such. Modernist poets who met these criteria tended to be formally

radical and innovative, but politically reactionary. Millay’s way of life was bohemian and her politics progressive, but her poetry formally conservative. Only the title of "Justice Denied" suggests a specific event; it does not refer to executions, courthouses, picket lines. In its lack of referential directness and its oblique imagery, the poem might at first reading be interpreted as a flight from the political, but it is a poem about the failure of agency and opposition. Displacing its subject from the city of Boston to the countryside, “Jutice Denied” is a lament, mourning both the executed men and a generation`s fruitless efforts to save them, couched in imagery instantly recognizable as "poetic" — natural, autumnal – making an extended analogy

between the event of the title and a blight upon nature. The two displacements — from society to nature and from city to country — might seem in accordance with familiar Marxist critiques as they suggest a naturalizing, even a depoliticizing, of the subject. The poem`s inclusive gesture toward the reader ( "Let us abandon then our gardens" ) presumably refers to the protestors or to their generation and therefore possesses a certain resonance, since it takes the place of the solitary, lyrical subjectivity, and suggests some form of comradeship, even in defeat. It is, however, apparently a private "we" — hence the retreat to domestic space– and not the public, political "we" of, for example, "We the People." The poem in its entirety

reads as follows: JUSTICE DENIED IN MASSACHUSETTS Let us abandon then our gardens and go home And sit in the sitting room. Shall the larkspur blossom or the corn grow under this cloud? Sour to the fruitful seed Is the cold earth under this cloud, Fostering quack and weed, we have marched upon but cannot conquer; We have bent the blades of our hoes against the stalks of them. Let us go home, and sit in the sitting room. Not in our day Shall the cloud go over and the sun rise as before, Beneficent upon us Out of the glittering bay, And the warm winds be blown inward from the sea Moving the blades of corn With a peaceful sound. Forlorn, forlorn, Stands the blue hay-rack by the empty mow. And the petals drop to the ground, Leaving the tree unfruited. The sun that warmed our stooping

backs and withered the weed uprooted We shall not feel it again. We shall die in darkness, and be buried in the rain. What from the splendid dead We have inherited – Furrows sweet to the grain, and the weed subdued – See now the slug and the mildew plunder. Evil does overwhelm The larkspur and the corn; We have seen them go under. Let us sit here, sit still, Here is the sitting-room until we die; At the step of Death on the walk, rise and go; Leaving to our children`s children this beautiful doorway, And this elm, And a blighted earth to till With a broken hoe. In the essay "Tension in Poetry" the conservative poet and critic Allen Tate (1899-1972) uses "Justice Denied" as an example of "the poetry of mass language" which he finds present

"equally in a ladylike lyric and in much of the political poetry of our time." [20] Mass language, he explains, is "the medium of `communication,` and its users are less interested in bringing to formal order what is sometimes called the `affective state` than in arousing that state." ( Tate`s valorization of "formal order" is in opposition to an implicit anarchy.) In expressing this view Tate might seem to be in accord with Adorno`s condemnation of "non-radical forms." But while both Tate and Adorno seem to champion some formal departure from familiar conventions, their motives differ. Adorno understands modernist "negative aesthetics" as subversive of the culture industry and the commodity form. But when Tate writes that