American Writers And The SaccoVanzetti Case — страница 6

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"today many poets are driven to inventing private languages, or very narrow ones, because public speech has become heavily tainted with mass feeling," he is blaming democracy, not capitalism, for the decline of the aesthetic. "Mass" is his code word, which he sets in explicit opposition to the "language of the people which interested the late W.B. Yeats." In this context "people" is a counterpart of Volk, Yeats having taken as his ideal a hierarchical, agricultural society ruled by a hereditary aristocracy. [21] And Tate`s opposition people/mass is, of course, gendered. As Andreas Huyssen observes, "The fear of the masses in this age of declining liberalism is always also a fear of woman." [22] As a poet`s critique, Tate`s attack

on "Justice Denied" is rather peculiar. He writes: From this stanza by Miss Millay we infer that her splendid ancestors made the earth a good place that has somehow gone bad — and you get the reason from the title: "Justice Denied in Massachusetts." How Massachusetts could cause a general dessication, why (as we are told in a footnote to the poem) the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti should have anything to do with the rotting of the crops, it is never made clear. These lines are mass language: they arouse an affective state in one set of terms, and suddenly an object quite unrelated to those terms gets the benefit of it; and this effect, which is usually achieved, as I think it is here, without conscious effort, is sentimentality. Apparently metaphor itself

is for Tate a violation of good taste or poetic "tension." His misunderstanding of the metaphor seems willful; clearly, it is not "Massachusetts" but "the denial of justice" that has caused "a general dessication." Adopting Tate`s logic, one might make a similar objection to the impotence of the Fisher King and the drought of The Waste Land. Tate finally dismisses "Justice Denied" as follows: "the lines and even the entire poem are impossibly obscure. I am attacking here the fallacy of communication in poetry. (I am not attacking social justice.)" He seems to endorse a Mallarm?an retreat from communication while simultaneously condemning poetic obscurity. An avowed reactionary himself (one 1936 book is entitled

Reactionary Essays on Poetry and Ideas) Tate does not accuse Millay of reactionary poetics. The implication that the poem merely cedes political terrain to the victor is problematic in view of Millay`s passionate opposition to the injustice that inspired the poem. She did not, after all, sit in her room and read the newspapers; still less did she approve of the trial. In fact, she first read "Justice Denied in Massachusetts" at a public rally on Salem Street, perhaps on August 11, 1927, about two weeks before the execution, or (which seems more likely ) hours before on August 22.[23] Communication was clearly her intent. The context suggests that the poem was written for an act of public mourning. On the picket line Millay had carried a sign that read: "If these

men are executed, justice is dead in Massachusetts." [24] The similarity to the poem`s title is obvious, but whereas the placard is unequivocal, the poem is elusive. The blunt "dead" is replaced by the judicial "denied" (as in "the appeal was denied"). The message of the placard having failed, the poem replaces it. Read in public, it instantiates the private. The public "we" of the crowd dissolves after the execution into the private "we" of the poem. Malcolm Cowley described that night in Exile`s Return: "Afterward I talked with some of the people who had joined in that strange nocturnal march…[After the execution] suddenly they wept or fell silent, they separated, and many of them walked the streets alone, all night.

Just as the fight for a common cause had brought the intellectuals together, so the defeat drove them apart, each into his personal isolation." [25] The sad, defeated quality of "Justice Denied in Massachusetts" finds an echo in Katherine Anne Porter`s 1977 memoir The Never-Ending Wrong, written, from notes made during the protests, three years before the author`s death at age 90 and published on the fiftieth anniversary of the execution. Like "Justice Denied," the memoir is about an "incurable wound" to the protestor`s sense of justice and humanity ( The Never-Ending Wrong, 50, 62). Explaining her own participation, Porter specifies the role of sentiment: "I still had my reasons for being there to protest the terrible penalty they were