Эссе: Allen Curnow's Poetry, Notes Towards a Criticism


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Английский язык
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Эссе
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6

... The victims of time are always beautiful, and not by chance. Those who are "chosen" (fortunate) in being beautiful, are also "chosen for their beauty", marked out to be destroyed. This is not the arbitrary concept it might seem. We are all, of course, the victims of time; but it is in the decay of exceptional beauty that the work of time most patently declares itself. Once again, however, the rich texture of the poem has already run ahead of its rational structure. For if the meeting of the girl and her fate is so "perfect", "purposeful" and "sure", how is her beauty to be distinguished from its destruction? How is "beauty" to be recognized as a separate quality in the total natural process of time and change? If this final paradox is to be met, it cannot be done simply in the ritual death of the youthful "actress", "chosen for her beauty". For this would be to isolate beauty from the process, and render the occasion at once more exceptional and less significant than it is. It is a measure of the extraordinary range of Mr Curnow's talent, and the cause of the poem's one major difficulty, that the poet takes the bold stride he does into the final stanza. There has been, in the first two stanzas, enough to indicate the poem's genesis in a personal occasion. An unidentified persona has spoken throughout ("I see her feet / Slip into the perfect fit & "). Now, while the girl remains present, that persona comes into view-an ageing man. It is (and here the difficult transition) his death we witness in the final stanza-though it is also the girl's. Wristiest slaughterman December smooths the temple bones and parts the grey-blown brows with humid fingers. It is an ageless wind that loves with knives, it knows our need, it flows justly, simply as water greets the blood, and woody tumours burst in scarlet spray. An old man's blood spills bright as a girl's On beaches where the knees of light crash down. These dying ejaculate their bloom.  Just as the girl has been made a single personification of Youthful Beauty, and is at the same time inseparable from the various manifestations of summer in the natural world, so the old man is generalized Age, while his particular lineaments identify him specifically with the pohutukawa tree. ...