Monday, May 3, 2010

“[S]omething carelessly solid”

From New Directions in Prose & Poetry, 1938, ed. James Laughlin (Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1938).

This brief passage (concerning lines from John Milton’s L’Allegro) closes the volume; there is no commentary, and no Exhibit B. Anyone tempted to moan about a decline in literary studies might do well to consider what passed for high criticism in 1938. (The Miltonic Setting, Past and Present was published by Cambridge University Press.) A rhythm that is “solidly based” in a cottage? A slight rise in rhythm? A rhythm that “has something carelessly solid in it”? Say what? Or more formally: Explain??

As for the oaks, I think they lost their dignity by appearing in this bit of exegesis. Tillyard’s bit, I mean; not mine.

English majors of a certain age might recall being exposed to Tillyard’s The Elizabethan World Picture (1943). I remember thinking that everyone was walking around with humours and spheres and angelic orders in their heads. Worldviews! Worldviews for sale!

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