Version classiqueVersion mobile

Studies on Louis MacNeice

Jacqueline Genet
Wynne Hellegouarc’h

The falling castle

MacNeice’s Poetry 1936-1939

Peter McDonald

Texte intégral

  • 1 Samuel Hynes, The Auden Generation: Literature and Politics in England in the 1930s, 1976, 205, 20 (...)

1Louis MacNeice’s reputation as a "thirties poet", which, if it in one sense secured him a certain standing in the literary world of his time, also dogged him for much of his subsequent career, has been understood insufficiently by his critics and tends now either to be written-off as mere "context" of little ultimate significance for the poetry or, in the hands of less well-disposed literary historians, to be used, as it was so often in MacNeice’s own lifetime, as a stick with which to beat the poet. In fact, the literary context of the 1930s had a crucial influence on MacNeice’s writing, both at the time and long afterwards; indeed, much of his writing turns on the very issue of how far the self is able to marginalize the other into mere "context" and how far it is the context, the other, which gives meaning to the self. MacNeice’s poetry in the decade is found in three collections: Poems of 1935, the volume which established him, rather later than Auden, Spender and Day-Lewis, as an important contemporary poet in Britain, The Earth Compels of 1938, and the long poem Autumn Journal published in 1939. I will deal here principally with MacNeice’s work in the later thirties, the years when the ideological enthusiasms and high hopes of the earlier part of the decade were most tempered by events, and when historical and political "context" moved most decisively into the "text" of individual writers’ imaginations. However inconvenient for literary historians, MacNeice’s relation to the rest of the poets of the 1930s was hardly straightforward: Poems, written during the years when the drive towards "committed" poetry was at its strongest, seemed in 1935 something of an aggressively neutral book; MacNeice’s writing of 1936-1939, and in particular Autumn Journal, was his most obviously "political" work of the decade, at a time when Auden, Spender and even Day-Lewis were edging away from the public contexts of their poetry. Samuel Hynes has shown that, by 1931, "the tide of political literature was ebbing", even going so far as to claim that by then "a return to the main stream of modernism had begun"1. It is as though MacNeice, in both the first and the second halves of the decade, was moving decidedly against the tide. Of course, the term "political" begs a number of questions: that MacNeice’s work in The Earth Compels and Autumn Journal is not propaganda, or even card-carrying New Country writing, is clear enough in terms of actual political "commitment", MacNeice was no nearer Marxist orthodoxy in 1931 than he had been before (indeed, he was possibly even further away). Yet his poetry in the late thirties was more committed than ever to the exploration of and engagement with its public contexts, to the programme made explicit in Modem Poetry:

  • 2 MacNeice, Modern Poetry: a Personal Essay, Oxford, 1938, 198.

The poet does not give you a full and accurate picture of the world nor a full and accurate picture of himself, but he gives you an amalgam which, if successful, represents truthfully his own relation to the world2.

  • 3 MacNeice, The Poetry of W.B. Yeats, 1941, repr. 1967, 15.
  • 4 Stephen Spender, The Still Centre, 1939, 10.

2It is clear that neither world nor self can be discarded here, though at the same time the exclusive claims of both are resisted. Autumn Journal represents MacNeice’s most successful, and ambitious, "amalgam" along these lines, and because of this it is, in thirties terms, the most "political" of his works. Certainly the poet could go no further in this particular direction, and his aesthetics after 1939 were to change significantly, but his poetry of the late thirties represents a pushing to the extreme of the idea (or, as he later called it, the "half truth") that "poetry is about something, is communication" against a background of mounting international crisis3. The differences between Auden’s "September 1st, 1939" or "In Memory of W. B. Yeats" and Autumn Journal are principally those between a retreat from and an engagement with the volatile stuff of "history. Instead of consigning contemporary events to "the desert of the dark" where "All the dogs of Europe bark" or admitting with Spender that "Even while he is writing about the little portion of reality which is part of his experience the poet may be conscious of a different reality outside"4. MacNeice’s long poem refuses to distinguish clearly between inside and outside, private and public, just as it avoids the status of the fixed and settled statement. "It is in the nature of this poem to be neither final nor balanced" (Introductory note). MacNeice’s poetry of 1936-1939 tackles issues that are constantly present in his work — the relation between self and other, coherence and flux, expression and time — but in ways that reflect particularly the concerns of the time, poetic or otherwise. Questions of individuality, responsibility, history and time are to the fore in this poetry. I will attempt here to set MacNeice in the context of such issues, and to place them within the larger context of his work as a whole.

  • 5 W. B. Yeats (ed.), The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 1936, XXXVII.

3In Poems, MacNeice had used the idea of the present tense as a manifestation of uncontrollable temporal flux in ways that undermined familiar New Country patterns of "historical" coherence. The poet’s preoccupation with time may be traced back to some of his very early work, and in the late thirties this concern became absolutely central to MacNeice’s work, the present tense growing more urgent and subversive than before. Yeats’s shrewd estimate of the thirties poets in his 1936 Oxford Book of Modem Verse is relevant: there, Yeats observed that "the contemplation of suffering has compelled them to seek beyond the flux something unchanging, inviolate, that country where no ghost haunts, no beloved lures because it has neither past nor future5. "Actually finding such a country, as Yeats knew, was a different matter. Auden’s "Spain" of 1937 sets present crisis between clear perspectives of past and future — "History", in fact — but with less than complete success:

  • 6 W. H. Auden, "Spain", 1937, repr. The English Auden: Poems, Essays and Dramatic Wrritings 1927-193 (...)

The stars are dead; the animals will not look:
We are left alone with our day and the time is short and
History to the defeated
May say alas but cannot help or pardon6.

  • 7 Stan Smith, Inviolable Voice: History And Twentieth-Century Poetry, Dublin, 1982,133.

4What presses down upon Auden’s poem here at its close is not History but time, working against the concluding statement of a logically-constructed argument. The audible hurrying of "and the time is short and" jars with the confident poise of the final two lines; one effect of this is to seal off the lines as an ending, the point at which the poem stops and the form of History has to be imposed on the formlessness of time. Insofar as "Spain" says one thing and does another, Auden’s disquiet is akin to the anxiety noted by Stan Smith, that "To enter history is to be recruited from volatile freedom to the defined and finished, quite literally conscripted from speech to print"7. This kind of difficulty is tackled directly by MacNeice, but whereas, in Poems and before, his work emphasised the volatility of "flux" his writing later in the thirties acknowledges more openly the desire for coherence, for the cold comforts of history as well as the hectic rush of time. Even then, MacNeice realised that "History" would still be trumped by time, in the same way as the self s coherence could be disrupted by the other ouside it. In Autumn Journal II, the poet admits that "I must leave my bed and face the music":

As all the others do who with a grin
Shake off sleep like a dog and hurry to desk or engine
And the fear of life goes out as they clock in
And history is reasserted. Spider, spider, your irony is true;
Who am I — or I — to demand oblivion?
I must go out tomorrow as the others do
And build the falling castle;
Which has never fallen, thanks
Not to any formula, red tape or institution,
Not to any creeds or banks,
But to the human animal’s endless courage.

5MacNeice’s question, "Who am I — or I — to demand oblivion?" — so far removed from the somewhat cavalier manifestos of flux to be found in Poems — brings to the surface the disruption in the self that had been forced by events in the late thirties, where self and other, private and public concerns were drawn into the conflict between coherence and chaos, history and time. Building the falling castle was, for MacNeice, part of the refusal to retreat into individualism or take refuge in a present tense "where no ghost haunts".

  • 8 MacNeice, "Subject in Modern Poetry", Essays and Studies, 1936, [1937], 149, repr. Selected Litera (...)
  • 9 Ibid., 150 (quoting Yeats, Essays and Introductions, p. 163).
  • 10 See Auden, "Psychology and Art To-Day", 1935: "There must always be two kinds of art, escape-art, (...)
  • 11 Hynes, op. cit., 370.

6In this respect, MacNeice was not so orthodox a thirties poet as some critics have supposed: in 1937, he insisted that Auden and Spender "are themselves escaping at the same time as they are preaching parables"8 and praised the later Yeats’s apparent renunciation of "the imagination that neither desires nor hates, because it has done with time"9. It may seem odd that MacNeice should be the least concerned with parable of the thirties poets, in view of his later preoccupations, but his distancing himself from the forms of parable-art proposed by Auden can be explained by the "escape-art" with which he insisted on linking it, despite Auden’s apparent separation of the two forms10. The need to confront the material of writing directly and with what MacNeice called "honesty" to the condition of the observing self, effectively precluded the possibility of "parable-art"’ of the kind seen by Samuel Hynes as central to the writing of the decade. However, this does not leave MacNeice as simply the "charming Irish classicist with upper-class tastes and a gift for making melancholy poems" that Hynes calls him11: on the contrary, MacNeice’s directness, although it entailed a great degree of autobiographical reference (as in Modern Poetry) also allowed the poet to work within an aesthetic of the unfinished analogous to the inconclusions of personal history. It will be for MacNeice’s biographers to decide whether his fragments of autobiography are any more factually accurate than Yeats’s, but the personal content of his thirties work in fact fulfils rather a similar purpose to that of the older poet: that is, it brings the finalities of poems into the context of the unfinished and changing patterns of coherence of the individual life. This should be distinguished from Auden’s jealous guarding of personal elements on the one hand, and on the other Spender’s increasingly confessional autobiographical openness. MacNeice’s idea of the "honest" voice was one in which any coherence was consciously provisional, whether in terms of the personal or the broadly political life. In Modern Poetry he went so far as to reinterpret the old concept of the Concrete Universal of his University years in these terms, announcing that "The poet is once again to make his response as a whole":

  • 12 MacNeice, Modern Poetry, 29-30.

On the one side is concrete living — not just a conglomeration of animals or machines, mere flux, a dissolving hail of data, but a system of individuals determined by their circumstances, a concrete, therefore, of sensuous fact and what we may call "universals"; on the other side is a concrete poet — not just an eye or a heart or a brain or a solar plexus, but the whole man reacting with both intelligence and emotion (which is how we react to anything in ordinary life) to experiences, and on this basis presenting something which is (a) communication, a record, but is also (b) a creation — having a new unity of its own, something in its shape which makes it poetry12.

7This new Concrete Universal effects a conjunction between "communication" — of its nature open, discourse dependent partly on its audience and the movement of time — and the form at the heart of poetry. Implicitly, the passage denies distinctions between poetics, politics and metaphysics, and MacNeice’s writing of the late thirties constitutes an attempt to put such a conjunction into practice, so that finished poems exist in the unsettling context of unfinished histories, both "private" and "public".

  • 13 Letters from Iceland, 119.

81936 was the year of MacNeice’s first trip to Spain, then on the edge of the Civil War, as well as his journey to Iceland and travels there with Auden, resulting in the jointly-written Letters From Iceland of 1937. One important point of contact between MacNeice and Iceland was in the Sagas with which the poet had been familiar since childhood, and in particular the figure of Grettir, "the doomed tough" who, unable to bear the dark, finds himself unable to live in the solitude of outlawry. The Icelandic past, as represented by the Sagas, offered a suggestive parallel to contemporary Europe, "a rotten society "with only the gangster values", according to Auden13. Grettir makes his appearance in MacNeice’s "Eclogue from Iceland" a poem which is in fact quite different in both form and effect from the eclogues of Poems, being much closer now to dramatic dialogue. Here, questions of "escape", "home" and solitariness are to the fore, with Grettir presenting a clear analogue with their own times to the travellers, Ryan and Craven, projections of aspects of MacNeice and Auden themselves. In the original published version of the Eclogue, the travellers begin by congratulating themselves upon their escape from Europe:

  • 14 Ibid., 124.

C. I like this place. My personal choice
Is always to avoid the public voice.
R. You are quite right, Craven. For people like us
This is an enviable terminus.
[...] And beside this cold and silicate stream
To sleep in sheepskin, never dream,
C. Never dream of the empty church,
R. Nor of waiting in a familiar porch
With the broken bellpull, but the name
Above the door is not the same14.

9In fact, the escape to Iceland, away from the pressures of the "public voice", is an escape from the dream of home (compare MacNeice’s later "Order to View", with its return to a house where "The bell-pull would not pull/And the whole place, one might/Have supposed was deadly ill"). The travellers are interrupted by Grettir’s ghost, who shows them that what they have taken for escape is in fact exile. Again, "home" is a point which, even if access to it is difficult or impossible, acts as a kind of centre of gravity for MacNeice’s imagination. Interestingly, Grettir makes much of the possibilities offered by an "island" home, and brings Ryan to a direct confrontation with his own place of origin:

Is your land also an island?
There is only hope for people who live upon islands
Where the lowest common labels will not stick
And the unpolluted hills will hold your echo.

10The apparent rejection of Ireland which this provokes is an admission of exile rather than a declaration of escape; in effect, Ryan counters Grettir’s "unpolluted hills" with his own description of a "gangster society" close to that of the Sagas, offering another perspective on the same "history". Myth is undercut by reality here, but reality is in its turn undercut by the perspectives of myth. Thus Ryan and Craven in the poem are schooled by Grettir in the meaning of "exile", in how to confront with integrity the challenge posed by the "Voice from Europe"; the advice given is in the imperative:

Argument will frustrate you till you die
But go your own way, give the voice the lie,
Outstare the inhuman eyes. That is the way.
Go back to where you came from and do not keep
Crossing the road to escape them, do not avoid the ambush,
Take sly detours, but ride the pass direct.

11As far as MacNeice’s contributions to Letters From Iceland are concerned, the imperative of "Go back to where you came from" is important, pushing towards "home", (however hostile "home" may be) as opposed to being "an addict to oblivion/Running away from the gods of my own hearth/With no intention of finding gods elsewhere."

  • 15 Quoted in Robyn Marsack, The Cave Of Making: The Poetry of Louis Macneice, Oxford, 1980, 32.

12Although "home" is a vital pole in MacNeice’s work, it does not exist at the expense of "fact". In the Eclogue, oppositions between "fact" and desire, contemporary reality and myth are set up by the poet in order to suggest a submerged line of coherence. As in an early draft, "Subjective and objective memory" are "closer connected/Than is commonly thought"15, so there is an implicit concern in the Eclogue with the degree to which personal and extra-personal worlds overlap. Whether or not the "public voice" can be avoided, Europe intrudes as more than "surface," or "mere copy"; in some sense, the "Voice from Europe" speaks for a contemporary manifestation of the flux so pervasive in Poems, a glamorous hail of consumer data that "Will smooth the puckered minutes of your lives". The glitter of flux alone is not enough now, and its radical undermining of the coherences of history is more clearly realised as a distinct threat:

The nightmare noise of the scythe upon the hone,
Time sharpening his blade among high rocks alone.

  • 16 Cf. The numerous scenes of desert imagery in MacNeice’s poetry of the early 1940s, e.g. "Jehu" or" (...)

13It is against this background that the Eclogue’s humanist climax, the "hatred of hatred, assertion of human values" is set. For MacNeice, Iceland provides a tentative glimpse of some of the implications of "home" that suggest resistance to the forces of time and flux. In effect, the Northern vantage-point orientates the poet more strongly than before towards the thirties concern for historical coherence, the construction of form out of chaos. His "Epilogue" to Letters, addressed to Auden, is pitched in an uncertain and threatened present tense, spoken from a domestic interior that is also a "desert in disguise"16 and mutates to a sinister scene of isolation and danger. MacNeice effectively destroys a conventionally secure "home" scene at the end of the "holiday" putting in its place another crisis:

For the litany of doubt
From these walls comes breathing out
Till the room becomes a pit
Humming with the fear of it

With the fear of loneliness
And uncommunicableness;
All the wires are cut, my friends
Live beyond the severed ends.

14The poem’s tense, the present on the very edge of a deferred future ("Still I drink your health before/The gun-butt raps upon the door") is in miniature that of Autumn Journal’s 1938. The self is completely isolated in time, its stability undermined by "the litany of doubt", the antiphonal voices it pitches against itself.

  • 17 Tom Paulin, "Thinking of Iceland", A State of Justice, 1977, 13.
  • 18 Paulin, "Letters from Iceland: Going North", Renaissance and Modem Studies, XX, 1976, 74.

15The difficulty posed by Iceland for MacNeice was partly that identified by Tom Paulin, "Was this coming full circle not the question they asked?"17: as Paulin has pointed out elsewhere, MacNeice saw in the landscape of Iceland aspects of the spiritual desolation of Ireland, just as Auden was brought sharply back to the problems of totalitarianism, both of them travelling in "a democratic community which works under the physical shadow of its landscape and the spiritual shadow of its heroic past"18. Certainly, MacNeice’s work after Iceland is "political" in ways that seemed impossible before, reaching a peak in Modern Poetry and Autumn Journal. The poems that make up The Earth Compels show MacNeice coming to terms with a burden of responsibility which is, broadly, "political" in its terms of reference while sustaining also the concerns already central to his poetry. One preoccupation is of particular importance here, that of time and its relation to history. That the present was in some sense a crucial period was already a truism; one of the most vivid statements of this conviction had been made by Day-Lewis in 1934:

  • 19 Cecil Day-Lewis, A Hope for Poetry, Oxford, 1934, 48.

To-day the foreground is a number of fluid, confused and contradictory patterns. Standing at the end of an epoch, the poet’s arms are stretched out to opposite poles, the old life and the new; that is his power and his crucifixion"19.

  • 20 Auden, Letter to R. H. S. Crossman, Esq., "Letters from Iceland, 93.
  • 21 John Cornford, "Full Moon At Tierz: Before The Storming Of Huesca", repr. Understand The Weapon Un (...)

16In Poems, MacNeice made it his business to confuse such patterns even further; after Iceland, the difficulties in the present tense became those of past and future also. Paulin argues convincingly for the burden of the past in Letters: there is also, however, the question of the future pressing on MacNeice’s present after 1936. The predicament of the figure in "Hidden Ice" "who sat between the clock and the sun" could perhaps be taken as an analogy for the difficulty faced by the poet going beyond the strategies of Poems in order to write more openly "responsible" poetry. The "hidden ice" which intrudes fatally into the world of habit, disrupting "Our mild bravado in the face of time", anticipates Auden’s description of the Icelandic glaciers as "no glacial flood/But history, hostile, Time the destroyer"20 or John Cornford’s "The past, a glacier" in "Full Moon at Tierz"21. "Hidden Ice" written, at the beginning of 1936, questions the sufficiency of surface while maintaining the value of "A twitter of inconsequent vitality": the self in the poem is usurped by elements it had ignored. This represents a questioning of the habitual divisions between self and other, and a recognition that the values of surface, of flux, are in this sense incomplete — the self s boundaries are not to be drawn so easily. Coming "home", for MacNeice, entails discovering the limits of the self as well as affirming patterns of history against the canvas of time.

17The first recognition to be made in this process is that flux cannot be entertained by poetry as an end in itself. Like other metaphysical cruces, this has implications on many levels for MacNeice. In "Sonnet" (a poem printed first in 1937 and later dropped), addressed to a wife who has now gone for good, MacNeice admits that "The creed I built upon your charm and sex/ And laissez faire I find no longer tenable". Here laissez faire (later to echo through Autumn Journal) sums up a past nonchalance and openness that is now abandoned. As in "Epilogue", the poet ends up sitting alone in his own room:

  • 22 MacNeice, "Sonnet", The Listener, June 30 1937,1306 (repr. Poems, New-York, 1937, 90).

Settling now to a grey and reasoned gloom
Where I shall neither recant the minutes gone
Nor fumble for the past with backward hands22.

  • 23 Cf. Spender’s poem "What I expected" in which stucturat symmetry, and the final image of "the dazz (...)

18The "reasoned gloom" that settles on MacNeice’s post-1936 works (as opposed to the glitter of his earlier writing) is one consequence of his allowing the future as well as the present to become an important imaginative co-ordinate. Here it is the very gloominess of MacNeice’s vision that contrasts most strongly with what might be considered thirties orthodoxies on the subject. In the minds of a good many poets, "history had come to mean the future as much as the past, with the present time being essentially symptomatic of historical change. MacNeice, for whom patterns of history were compromised by time, also framed the present between past and future, but tended to depict the contemporary crisis as one on the edge of catastrophe rather than historic illumination. This is the setting for "The Sunlight on the Garden" of course, in which "the church bells/And every evil iron/Siren" press in upon the individual’s occupation of time and space. It is noteworthy that both here and in "The Brandy Glass", MacNeice freezes the present moment rather than following its movement as "flux"; just as "The moment cradled like a brandy glass" is forced away from simile into the near-surreal image of snow falling in a dining room, so the garden is finally held in one stable focus of "sunlight". The intricate construction of the poem is in fact a way of trying to "cage the minute" by acknowledging the dangers posed by the minutes to come. MacNeice’s development of the final words of lines assonantally towards a more threatening form ("garden/Hardens", "flying,/ Defying" "pardon/Hardened") builds change into the fabric of the poem, while the full rhymes of the first and last lines of each stanza serve to contain each phase of this change, in the final stanza reversing the emphasis (so that it is "pardon" which now rhymes with "garden", rather than vice versa). Effectively, MacNeice uses the structure of his poem to supply the closure against which, in fact, the argument runs23. "The Brandy Glass" also has a circular structure, ending at the point it began, with everything changed. The snow that falls in the poem carries MacNeice’s habitual fear of "snow’s unity’.

From the chandeliers the snow begins to fall
Piling around carafes and table legs
And chokes the passage of the revolving door.
The last diner, like a ventriloquist’s doll
Left by his master, gazes before him, begs:
"Only let it form within my hands once more."

19There appears to be present here a wariness of the caged minute as leading to repetition and absurd isolation. Perhaps even "The Sunlight on the Garden" contains in its very form the same wariness, an acknowledgement of the inadequacy of the isolation which the poem’s structure, its firm and obvious closure, enacts. The future tense, missing in the last stanza, still tends to work against finalities for MacNeice.

  • 24 MacNeice, Modem Poetry.
  • 25 25. Ibid., 63.
  • 26 The Listener, Jan. 22, 1937.

20Clearly, difficulties such as these are parts of Modern Poetry’s tension between "communication, a record" and "creation — having a new unity of its own". At the same time, they are related to the need felt by MacNeice for a stable self within poetry to facilitate its function as "communication", as well as to the idea of "impure" poetry, "conditioned by the poet’s life and the world around him"24. In some ways, all of this is at odds with MacNeice’s conception of the "lyric" voice in poetry: "The Sunlight on the Garden" forces a division between the two aspects of form identified in Modem poetry, where "the form of poetry includes far more than the surface patterns of rhythm or sentence-structure; it is also the juxtaposition of images and the balance of idea against idea"25: its images go in one direction and its packed and complete internal design in another. A number of the shorter poems in The Earth Compels are written in intricate forms that suggest music ("The Sunlight on the Garden" was itself first simply "Song")26 while their images are premonitions of impending catastrophe, of an ending more final than that of a poem. Often it is the present tense that is the focus of attention, and the world of personal relationships its principal value. In "The Heated Minutes", for example:

I should not feel the dull
The taut and ticking fear
That hides in all the clocks
And creeps inside the skull
If you were here, my dear.

21It is important that MacNeice tends to switch his focus to the personal at the end of poems, so that the closure which the continuing present tense might otherwise deny seems to be made a little more rooted and secure. The formally intricate Sapphics of "June Thunder", for example, contain the worsening elements beyond individual control that culminate in "lightning’s lavish/Annunciation, the sword of the mad archangel/Flashed from the scabbard". The poem’s final stanza reclaims the present tense for the personal ("If only now you would come I should be happy/Now if now only"), but this, as an ending, sets one present tense against another, the personal against the threatening impersonal. Another poem in Sapphics, "Christmas Shopping", is more uncompromising; written entirely in the present tense, its form holds it back from being a "hailstorm of data" but its present is that of "The eleventh hour"" and the future presses dangerously:

Out there lies the future gathering quickly
Its blank momentum; through the tubes of London
The dead winds blow the crowds like beasts in flight from
Fire in the forest.

22Anticipating an image from Autumn Journal, the presentation of "blank momentum" here abolishes individual distinctions, and the poem’s ending swings towards the completely inhuman, a lighthouse "like a giant at Swedish drill whose/Mind is a vacuum".

  • 27 MacNeice, "Salute", In Letters Of Red, ed. Osborne, 1938, 163.

23Measuring MacNeice’s "political" content in the climate of the late thirties is in some ways prone to be misleading, since it often amounts to accepting various contemporary definitions of political "commitment" in the light of which the poets tended to be seen. Like Auden, MacNeice is remarkably difficult to pin down in such terms: certainly, the "sceptical liberal" tag has been used too easily in MacNeice criticism, as though it did away with the need to consider the pressure of "political" forces upon the poet’s imagination. If the events of the late thirties, such as the Spanish Civil War and the Munich Crisis, affected the poet, they did not do so in terms of his "position", Marxist or otherwise, but rather by forcing his imagination outwards, making, as it were, the self encounter the other without preconditions. When, in a poem like "Bagpipe Music", the momentum of horror forces the poetic self into the entrenchment of the satiric voice, the verse is clearly "political" over and above any specific "position". The same is true of a less successful poem, "Salute" which attacks fascism using the voice of world-weary cynicism ("The world is going under — /Don’t we know it?/[...]/Rotten-ripe for plunder/Years fermented")27. Like "Bagpipe Music", the poem can hardly be covered by the "sceptical liberal," designation:

Call the carcase
To its last reveille,
Hail and be damned,
Trapped in khaki,
Drilled to kill and toady,
Hail and be damned,
Cheers on the lips
And ulcers in the belly,
Hail and be damned,

24Again like "Bagpipe Music", the poem is a phantasmagoria, in the form of a Yeatsian marching-song rather than a reel, with the imagery of fascism sending the world "under" ("The Kingdom Comes/With castanets and truncheons"). This recollection of the "personal" "Intimations of Mortality" is applied to a larger and equally threatening frame of reference; the ironic command to "Frame the moment"/Kiss the passing harlot", similarly recalling aspects of MacNeice’s earlier writing, suggests the need to renounce the "private" isolated relation to external reality. In terms of political "position", the poem is simply "anti-fascist"; yet it places itself within the context of MacNeice’s poetry as well, where its "political" aspect is more complex, pushing the attitude of cynical resignation, which is sometimes present in Poems, to an extreme. At this extreme, there is a recognition that isolation, the self s complete and moment-framing integrity, is perhaps a kind of complicity with the forces of death and decay which it affects to spurn. MacNeice cannot retreat behind the cover of "sceptical liberalism" and leave "politics" there; for him, poetry itself is a scene on which "political" issues are fought out with greater seriousness than issues of "position" or "commitment".

  • 28 MacNeice, "A Statement", New Verse, 31-32, Autumn 1938, 7.

25At the time of composing Autumn Journal, MacNeice answered New Verse’s request to commit himself "about" poetry by writing that "I have committed myself so much already in poetry that this seems almost superfluous"28. This encapsulates the difference in his work between the politics of "position" and those of poetry. Although in the late thirties he tended to avoid the parable-art favoured by Auden, MacNeice did write poetry to be regarded as in some sense exemplary, if only in its linguistic wariness and its lack of finality. In "Homage to Cliches", written late in 1935, cliché and repetition function as signals of an isolation of the self from the other, whether through ignorance or habit; but this isolation is under threat. The poem’s wariness of "the same again" becomes a wariness also of the very habits of mind that make absolutes, finalities, out of aspects of experience. Repeated images, of fish coming into the net or "eight bells hanging alone" suggest a reckoning to come; the bells are "silences", but only at present:

On the outer shell of which our fingers via hammers
Rapping with an impertinent precision
Have made believe that this was the final music.
Final as if finality were the trend of fish
That always seek the net

26Finality and repetition are not enough; the poem repeats its own images to bring them closer together along with a denial of the absolute "Never" ("Next year is this year, sometime is next time, never is sometime") that sets time against the idea of finality. The ending, therefore, is a challenge to finality; in terms of the running bar-images, it is something of a startling way of calling time. While glasses "Make two new rings of wet upon this counter":

Somewhere behind us stands a man, a counter
A timekeeper with a watch and pistol
Ready to shoot and with his shot destroy
This whole delightful world of cliché and refrain
What will you have, my dear? The same again?

27The "counter" semantically transformed in its repetition from the mundane to the ominous undermines the static nature of "cliché and refrain": nothing in the poem is fixed, and the impulse towards "the same again" is part of the blindness of fish swimming into a net. MacNeice commits himself in poetry here in the sense that, in "Letter to Graham and Anna", "we must keep moving to keep pace/Or else drop into Limbo, the dead place", or in the final couplet of "Chess", one must "Choose your gambit, vary the tactics of your game/You move in a closed ambit that always ends the same". The whole poem enacts a wariness of repetition that is intended as exemplary.

  • 29 MacNeice," Subject in Modern Poetry" 156, (Heuser, 73).

28By the second half of the thirties, MacNeice had complicated considerably the rationale of the optimistic "school" of New Country. Building on the critique of deterministic history implicit in Poems, he returned increasingly to the individual, compromised by time and his surroundings, as the centre of attention, but he understood this individual in neither Marxist nor bourgeois individualist terms. In "Subject In Modern Poetry", MacNeice uses Yeatsian co-ordinates of Self and Soul to place contemporary writers, claiming that "Auden and Spender follow Yeats rather than Eliot in being more concerned with the Self than the Soul"29, and enlarges on this perceptively with regard to Auden:

  • 30 Ibid., 157.

Auden’s admiration for the objective world is founded in that cosmic pride which is distinct from personal pride and which is at the base of Christianity. This explains his belief that "Pelmanism" is an important factor both in art and in the good life. The Epicurean, like the Artist for Art’s sake, will have no use for pelmanism. Why burden his mind with facts which cannot affect his own life? The Epicurean does not appreciate Otherness as such30.

29If MacNeice did not have quite this "cosmic pride" as an imaginative pole, he certainly did use and need the fascination with "Otherness as such". It is interesting that he finds this in accord with the Yeatsian Self, which he understands as something entirely distinct from egocentricity. Furthermore, this Self is defined dialectically, or by difference, being in itself meaningless without its opposed value of Soul. MacNeice’s conception of the individual, then, is similarly unstable, part of a whole system of differing values and attitudes. In I Crossed The Minch, MacNeice sets down clearly a prescription for this kind of "individual":

  • 31 MacNeice, I Crossed The Minch, 1938, 12.

A world society must be a federation of differentiated communities, not a long line of robots doing the goose step. In the same way the community itself must be a community of individuals. Only they must not be fake individuals — archaizers and dilettantes — any more than the community must be a fake community, a totalitarian state strutting in the museum robes of Caesardom31.

  • 32 MacNeice, Letter to W. H. Auden", New Verse, 26-27, Nov. 1937,12, (Heuser, 85).

30MacNeice’s Utopias, here as in Autumn Journal, can be revealing; the political good here resides in individuals rather than in the individual. This is a crucial distinction, for it rules out the "pure," individual, who is defined simply in relation to what the self can control, the archaizer and the dilettante, rather than being defined by the fluctuating world, the other. MacNeice’s individual, then, exists by virtue of difference as well as by his own integrity to the self. The self is again Yeatsian, accepting, or relying upon, otherness, and the blueprint for a just society is an enlargement of this openness, a socialized dialogue of Self and Soul in which one individual is incomplete without others. In his "Letter to W. H. Auden" of 1937, MacNeice praised Auden’s realisation that "one must write about what one knows", adding that "One may not hold the bourgeois creed, but if one knows only bourgeois one must write about them." This apparently liberal programme has a sting in its tail, however: "They all after all contain the germ of their opposite"32. Writing, even writing with the honesty of MacNeice’s "reportage" or "communication" is conceived of as part of a larger system of differences in which the individual participates by being fully a self rather than merely an observing ego. Instability is therefore built in as part of a larger, ultimately perhaps Utopian, strategy far removed from both the determinist history of Marxism and the detachment of the sceptical liberal minding his own business.

  • 33 Julian Symons, The Artist as Everyman", Poetry, Chicago, vol. LVI, n° 11, May 1940, 92. Cf. Symon’ (...)
  • 34 MacNeice, rev. of Journal and Letters of Stephen MacKenna, ed. Dodds, The Morning Post, Dec. 4,193 (...)
  • 35 Mackenna, Journal, 99, quoted by MacNeice, ibid.
  • 36 Mackenna, ibid.

31For MacNeice, the idea of the "bourgeois", seen in this light, was of central importance, though its poetic implications were not followed through completely until Autumn Journal. Obviously, the term served as a left-wing taunt for most of the thirties, as did the accusation of "individualism" — Julian Symons summed up Autumn Journal itself as "The Bourgeois’ Progress"33. MacNeice’s movement towards identification with both the bourgeois and a species of individualism was in some ways a deliberate affront to leftist pieties" and Autumn Journal is itself a kind of refutation of the need to apologise for ideological "impurity" (as Spender, for instance, spent much of his time doing). If MacNeice’s ideas of the self in poetry were becoming more Yeatsian, increasingly parts of an attitude governed by dialectic and difference, the acceptance of the bourgeois as such goes completely against the Yeatsian bias. However, MacNeice’s Ireland in the thirties contained more figures than Yeats, one important Irishman for him being Stephen MacKenna, whose Journal and letters had been edited by Dodds in 1936. In a review of these, MacNeice praised MacKenna (the "Eclogue from Iceland"’s "brilliant talker who left/The salon for the solo flight of mind") for having "the courage of his instincts", being "a subtle introspecter, a perhaps quixotic adventurer, a master of whimsy, a hundred per cent. Irish Republican, an enemy of clap-trap and banality." MacKenna’s two loves, according to MacNeice, "were Ireland and Greece", the love of Ireland, "possibly fanatical", being "tempered by the good sense of his Hellenism" (these were also to be crucial co-ordinates in Autumn Journal)34. One of MacKenna’s remarks, quoted with approval by MacNeice, is of particular importance: "I always saw, however, that bourgeoisism is a hardened mysticism: nearly all the virtues of the bourgeois are the true virtues of the poet too"35. This could be seen as a confrontation of Yeats’s elitism without conceding imaginative ground to him or giving in to deterministic "mysticism"; as MacKenna goes on to say, "The thing is to be bourgeois in act with a free soul"36. MacKenna’s defence of the bourgeois is very close to MacNeice’s use of the idea in his later thirties work, and offers important hints for Autumn Journal: on one hand it is a democratization of Yeats, but on the other it makes large claims for the capacity of the "ordinary man" referred to so often in Modern Poetry and elsewhere. If the bourgeois can embody "hardened mysticism", the mystic might also be seen as a bourgeois gone soft.

  • 37 Alick West, Crisis And Criticism, 1937, 53.

32Of course, there was no shortage of dogma against which to measure these ideas, and the weight of such dogma arguably crushed poets like Spender and forced Auden further away from the "commitment" foisted upon his earlier work. Critical analyses of the late thirties have tended to concentrate on issues such as "propaganda" in their treatment of ideological tensions between the poets and the British left, but this is perhaps the wrong emphasis — "propaganda" was a red-herring term thrown about by Spender (and sometimes MacNeice) against the left. The question asked was not often whether or not poets should be writing "propaganda" (the term was seldom, if ever, defined by those who indignantly refuted it) but how far the "individualism" inevitable in poetry ought to extend. Alick West, writing in 1937, is representative, claiming that "The social order which individualism unconsciously asserts, the kind of we of which its I is the fetish, is the social order of capitalism, with its freedom of the individual, capitalist and worker"37. The heart of the quarrel was the nature of the I in a poem: MacNeice met directly the ideological challenge of the I’s corollary in the we by extending the scope of the self in poetry: "Who am I — or I — to demand oblivion?" In the late thirties MacNeice was willing to grant priority to this question of the self in its context of society, but with certain reservations. In a review of Hopkins in 1937, he acknowledged the return of "beliefs" in poetry with their consequences for "subject":

  • 38 MacNeice, rev. of The Note-Books and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. House, The Criterion, vo (...)

Perhaps this ruthless puritanism is necessary at the moment. I wholeheartedly admit that the human subject is of supreme importance; if, therefore, the painting of still lives injures the human subject, let still lives go to the scrap-heap. We might remember, however, that man is a zoon as well as politikon and that quite a number of people have an organic sympathy with trees, mountains, flowers, or with a painting by Chardin. Does this sympathy lessen our sympathy with our human fellows? If so, it is a pity38.

33The mysticism is thoroughly hardened here, but the assertion of a connection between social and individual integrities is emphatic. The I, MacNeice implies, is responsible both to itself and its surrounding element in equal measure; private and public are not to be dissociated, and are in fact organically linked.

34At the same time, it is important to recognise that Autumn Journal is conceived as inherently unstable "It is in the nature of this poem to be neither final nor balanced", as MacNeice put it in his Introduction. Designedly incomplete in itself, it works according to what might be seen in one light as a strategy of failure; by 1940, MacNeice himself was approaching it in this way:

  • 39 MacNeice, Poems 1925-1940, New-York, 1941, XIII.

Autumn Journal, the long topical poem I wrote in the Fall of 1938, is in a sense a failure; it fails in depth. I had foreseen that failure. We shall not be capable of depth — of tragedy or great poetry — until we have made sense of our world. Autumn Journal remains a journal topical, personal, rambling, but, failing other things, honest39.

  • 40 MacNeice, Letter to T. S. Eliot, quoted in Marsack, op. cit., 43.
  • 41 MacNeice, MS note among John Hilton papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford.

35Of course "honest" here does not conflict with what MacNeice called elsewhere "a dramatic quality, as different parts of myself (e.g. the anarchist, the defeatist, the sensual man, the philosopher, the would-be good citizen) can be given their say in turn"40: indeed, the design of Autumn Journal is in some ways a structural elaboration of the poet’s flexible "lyric" voice into its component parts (compare his 1934 note to John Hilton, with its claim that the lyric expresses only "a particular moment, or else a particular facet in a man’s outlook" when "Different parts of him want or believe different, or even opposite, things")41. As a large structural expression of MacNeice’s particular kind of "honesty", Autumn Journal’s openness and instability, its form’s capacity to expand and contract, loosen and tighten, are all obvious assets; they are also parts of an engagement with time on MacNeice’s part that becomes one of the poem’s major preoccupations. The thirties clichés of past and future, the symptomatic present and the design of history all enter MacNeice’s poem to be transformed there, subjected to the test of an open, unfinishable poetic form. The failure "in depth" is not a consequence but a part of the incoherence of contemporary history for MacNeice, and the instability of the poem is in that sense foreseen. A feeling that Autumn Journal does not fully cohere, that the equation does not, in fact, "come out at last", is also perhaps foreseen in MacNeice’s design.

36Of course, Autumn Journal has its highlights, vividly evocative sections that have never gone short of praise. However, these cannot really be divorced from the larger structure of the poem without losing a certain amount of weight; without the "hardened mysticism" of MacNeice’s more abstract passages, the charges of "nostalgia" which Hynes makes against the poem have slightly more justification. It should be noticed, however, that for MacNeice abstraction follows experience rather than going in advance of it, so that his philosophizing, if it is that, is drawn from vividly concrete bases. The crucial section, in terms of its "abstract" content, is XVII, directly after MacNeice’s engagement with the Irish version of "home"; the questions posed here go deeply into the poem itself:

Why not admit that other people are always
Organic to the self, that a monologue
Is the death of language and that a single lion
Is less himself, or alive, than a dog and another dog?
Virtue going out of us always; the eyes grow weary
With vision but it is vision builds the eye;
And in a sense the children kill their parents
But do the parents die?

37After section XVI’s pouring of scorn on both Irish houses, this has perhaps the force of a qualification, or at least of a change in perspective. If "other people are always/Organic to the self’, the self cannot renounce its past so readily simply by putting that past outside the pale of its approval. While XVI is a kind of killing of the present", XVII recognises that the murder is finally impossible, since the self is broader than its "personal" disgust alone, and cannot answer exclusion with exclusion. By analogy, what the self communicates is more than a precis of its rhetorical performance: XVII contrasts with the preceding section in order to prove that "a monologue/ Is the death of language" (XVI could be seen as presenting two mutually-uncomprehending "monologues"). More explicitly:

if you are going to read the testaments of cynics
You must read between the lines.
A point here and a point there: the current
Jumps the gaps, the ego cannot live
Without becoming other for the Other
Has got yourself to give.

38This formulation (presumably part of what MacNeice meant by the "didactic" in his Introduction) serves also as a commentary on Autumn Journal’s more concretely-located episodes which are all, in some sense, examples of the self being realised in the other, the other in the self.

39The major scenes in Autumn Journal are symbols shadowed by failure, compromise and defeat; in the poem they are acts of salvage rather than just imaginative retrieval. The poem has three principal imaginative compass-points, past, present and future, which overlap throughout. The symbolic elasticity exploits these temporal directions, past events remembered in the present influencing the future. Time, as it affects the individual, is thus rendered less straightforward, and the disruption of the usual limits of the self seems to go together with this bending of temporal divisions. But time, as the element in which the poem is written and read, is still all too simple, going in one direction, forwards, and resisting the frames offered by historical pattern. In this sense, the individual has to settle for the gesture of action only in order to encounter the future:

a future of action, the will and fist
Of those who abjure the luxury of self-pity
And prefer to risk a movement without being sure
If movement would be better or worse in a hundred
Years or a thousand when their heart is pure.

  • 42 Christopher Isherwood, Christopher And His Kind, 1977,241.

40Autumn Journal is almost a manifesto for impurity, but is still a working-out of the difficulty MacNeice had encountered at least since 1935, of how to reconcile "communication" and "honesty" with the "unity" of form, the complication of temporal sequence that takes place in the mind of the individual with the stubbornly sequential nature of the time that continues around him. If "history", for example, is always trumped by time, that does not necessarily absolve the poet from the responsibility to give some kind of coherence to the "Other" as he finds it in his experience. Autumn Journal’s symbolic elasticity is a way of negotiating a path between these extremes: London itself, a finished love-affair, the felling of trees on Primrose Hill, the Munich crisis, Spain festering before civil war and Barcelona on the verge of collapse, all mark points where the "public" and the "private", external and internal, begin to overlap and lose any semblance of independence. The antiphonal voice to the desires of the self, always present in MacNeice’s work, is expressing itself here on the level of events. Munich, for example, becomes an emblem of the unwillingness to "essay good through evil" (VII). Isherwood’s recollection of his own "dead-secret, basic reaction" at the time of the crisis is comparable: "What do I care for the Czechs? What does it matter if we are traitors? A war has been postponed — and a war postponed is a war which may never happen"42. MacNeice brings the "dead-secret" to the surface, by having the voice attempt to plunge it under:

We are safe though others have crashed the railings
Over the river ravine; their wheel-tracks carve the bank

But after the event all we can do is argue
And count the widening ripples where they sank. (IX)

41Straightforward irony is at one end of the scale" where "we" is not a development of the poem’s "I" but at the other there is a recognition of helplessness in which "we" or "I" tend to be implicated, unable to realise a "future of action" or to shape what happens in time into the desired endings belonging to history. The problem for this "I", the self open, expanded but also frustrated by events, is in fact time as flux, one of MacNeice’s oldest and most persistent nightmares. Where the self traces its coherences between past, present and future, this aspect of time undermines them by denying finalities of any kind.

42MacNeice’s loneliness in the poem, whether or not "surrounded by everything", is important, and the absence of any wedded bliss with the future is one of the problems that Autumn Journal has to face. The poet with "No wife, no ivory tower, no funk-hole" is in fact in a more privileged position as far as the opening up of the poetic self to be "no longer squandered/In self-assertion" (XXIV) is concerned. The farewell to the two women in the poem is also a farewell to the values of "flux":

And you with whom I shared an idyll
Five years long,
Sleep beyond the Atlantic
And wake to a glitter of dew and to bird-song.
And you whose eyes are blue, whose ways are foam,
Sleep quiet and smiling
And do not hanker
For a perfection which can never come. (XVII)

  • 43 Edna Longley, Poetry In The Wars, Newcastle-Upon Tyne, 1986, 88.

43Though MacNeice himself does not quite load his poem with aspirations to "a perfection which can never come", he does propose a dénouement for the problems of self and other in society which, as Edna Longley points out, "may seem impossibly poetic"43. The poem’s method forces MacNeice to go further in the way of self-criticism than he had gone before, in poetry at least: the "archaizer and dilettante", the "fake individuals", of I Crossed the Minch, come through as aspects of the voices of Autumn Journal, whether as "impresario of the ancient Greeks" or the hedonistic connoisseur of "Shelley and jazz and lieder and love and hymn-tunes". The analysis of Irish violence and atrophy, too, carries the liabilities of being both part of the problem and disowning it. The prayers that compensate for the poem’s negative, or at least self-lacerating aspects, are necessary if only to even the balance. In Barcelona, for instance:

May God, if there is one,
send As much courage again and greater vision

And resolve the antinomies in which we live
Where man must be either safe because he is negative

Or free on the edge of a razor. (XXIII)

44This is as vital a component of Autumn Journal’s matrix of voices as any used in the more widely-quoted sections of reminiscence or reportage. What it is not, however, is a précis of the poem’s "meaning" or "moral" for Autumn Journal as a whole embodies "the antinomies in which we live" as, in their contrast and interaction, the instruments with which the self is to be redefined. The system, if not its emphatically humanist co-ordinates, is one of Yeatsian antinomies. The poem as a whole absorbs MacKenna’s formula, "bourgeois in act with a free soul" in combining an acceptance of particular social conditioning and habit with the instinct for non-exclusive imaginative scope. This is, inevitably, to be "free on the edge of a razor", to build a castle that is also "falling", or to try to keep a woman who cannot finally be possessed. The "meaning" of all this is not in conclusion but in process, and Autumn Journal’s ending is thus pitched into the future, a wish rather than a statement, and is itself part of the drama of conflicting impulse that the poem embodies. As MacNeice recognised in 1940, any absolute coherence or direction in the poem is linked to the events in the midst of which it exists, and any finalities are therefore provisional.

  • 44 W. B. Yeats, A Vision, 1937, repr.1962, 25.
  • 45 Margot Heinemann, "Louis MacNeice, John Cornford and Clive Branson: Three Left-Wing Poets", Cultur (...)

45The achievement of Autumn Journal’s was essentially to bring to maturity an "aesthetic sense" implicit in a good deal of thirties poetry rather than to inscribe the headstone over its grave. The tensions between completion and inconclusion, history and time, were all too often found by poets to be disabling. Since Iceland, Auden had moved closer to finding his proper home with "the Just", while MacNeice had provided a triumphant example of the rationale of homelessness without allowing the idea of "home", to lose any of its strength. As the thirties ended, the tension between "communication" and "unity was undiminished for MacNeice, and in this he is true to the most basic of difficulties haunting thirties poets, that of responsibility towards society and responsibility towards form. Whatever its prescription for the individual, Autumn Journal creates a poetic self wide enough to hold these responsibilities in equilibrium, even though the condition of such a balance is that it shall be provisional, subject to time. MacNeice’s late thirties’ work has as one of its poles the Yeatsian need "to hold in a single thought reality and justice"44, but at the other pole is time’s subtle undercutting of poetry itself. Autumn Journal is the culmination of a way of writing that is, at its best, open to everything around it, part of the larger drama of events from which art cannot be finally distinct; as such, it is perhaps the most representative of all thirties texts. MacNeice as well as his audience had to move on from this exemplary "failure"; as Margot Heinemann has remembered, "the moment of unity passed with 1939"45. Yet 1939 was also the year in which the time for unity arrived, officially at least, presenting MacNeice with new difficulties and different equations to be solved.

46Unless footnoted, all quotations from MacNeice’s poetry are drawn from The Collected Poems of Louis MacNeice, ed. E. R. Dodds, 1966.


1 Samuel Hynes, The Auden Generation: Literature and Politics in England in the 1930s, 1976, 205, 206.

2 MacNeice, Modern Poetry: a Personal Essay, Oxford, 1938, 198.

3 MacNeice, The Poetry of W.B. Yeats, 1941, repr. 1967, 15.

4 Stephen Spender, The Still Centre, 1939, 10.

5 W. B. Yeats (ed.), The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 1936, XXXVII.

6 W. H. Auden, "Spain", 1937, repr. The English Auden: Poems, Essays and Dramatic Wrritings 1927-1939, ed. Edward Mendelson, 1977, 212.

7 Stan Smith, Inviolable Voice: History And Twentieth-Century Poetry, Dublin, 1982,133.

8 MacNeice, "Subject in Modern Poetry", Essays and Studies, 1936, [1937], 149, repr. Selected Literary Criticism of Louis MacNeice, ed. A. Heuser, Oxford, 1987, 65, [cited hereafter as Heuser].

9 Ibid., 150 (quoting Yeats, Essays and Introductions, p. 163).

10 See Auden, "Psychology and Art To-Day", 1935: "There must always be two kinds of art, escape-art, for man needs escape as he needs food and deep sleep, and parable-art, that art which shall teach man to unlearn hatred and learn love "(repr. The English Auden, 341-342.

11 Hynes, op. cit., 370.

12 MacNeice, Modern Poetry, 29-30.

13 Letters from Iceland, 119.

14 Ibid., 124.

15 Quoted in Robyn Marsack, The Cave Of Making: The Poetry of Louis Macneice, Oxford, 1980, 32.

16 Cf. The numerous scenes of desert imagery in MacNeice’s poetry of the early 1940s, e.g. "Jehu" or" Stylite".

17 Tom Paulin, "Thinking of Iceland", A State of Justice, 1977, 13.

18 Paulin, "Letters from Iceland: Going North", Renaissance and Modem Studies, XX, 1976, 74.

19 Cecil Day-Lewis, A Hope for Poetry, Oxford, 1934, 48.

20 Auden, Letter to R. H. S. Crossman, Esq., "Letters from Iceland, 93.

21 John Cornford, "Full Moon At Tierz: Before The Storming Of Huesca", repr. Understand The Weapon Understand The Wound: selected writings of John Cornford, ed. Galassi, Manchester, 1976, 38.

22 MacNeice, "Sonnet", The Listener, June 30 1937,1306 (repr. Poems, New-York, 1937, 90).

23 Cf. Spender’s poem "What I expected" in which stucturat symmetry, and the final image of "the dazzling crystal", seem to work against the apparent argument. Extended analyses of "The sunlight on the garden" are to be found in Robin Skelton, "Celt And Classicist: The Versecraft of Louis MacNeice", Time Was away: The World Of Louis MacNeice, eds. Brown & Reid, Dublin, 1974, and Adolphe Haberer, Louis MacNeice 1907-1963: L’Homme et la Poésie, Bordeaux, 1986, 218-231.

24 MacNeice, Modem Poetry.

25 25. Ibid., 63.

26 The Listener, Jan. 22, 1937.

27 MacNeice, "Salute", In Letters Of Red, ed. Osborne, 1938, 163.

28 MacNeice, "A Statement", New Verse, 31-32, Autumn 1938, 7.

29 MacNeice," Subject in Modern Poetry" 156, (Heuser, 73).

30 Ibid., 157.

31 MacNeice, I Crossed The Minch, 1938, 12.

32 MacNeice, Letter to W. H. Auden", New Verse, 26-27, Nov. 1937,12, (Heuser, 85).

33 Julian Symons, The Artist as Everyman", Poetry, Chicago, vol. LVI, n° 11, May 1940, 92. Cf. Symon’s later expressions of admiration (or Autumn Journal in The Thirties:A Dream Revolved, 1960,154-161.

34 MacNeice, rev. of Journal and Letters of Stephen MacKenna, ed. Dodds, The Morning Post, Dec. 4,1936, 19.

35 Mackenna, Journal, 99, quoted by MacNeice, ibid.

36 Mackenna, ibid.

37 Alick West, Crisis And Criticism, 1937, 53.

38 MacNeice, rev. of The Note-Books and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ed. House, The Criterion, vol. XVI, n° 65, July 1937, p. 699, (Heuser, 81-82).

39 MacNeice, Poems 1925-1940, New-York, 1941, XIII.

40 MacNeice, Letter to T. S. Eliot, quoted in Marsack, op. cit., 43.

41 MacNeice, MS note among John Hilton papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford.

42 Christopher Isherwood, Christopher And His Kind, 1977,241.

43 Edna Longley, Poetry In The Wars, Newcastle-Upon Tyne, 1986, 88.

44 W. B. Yeats, A Vision, 1937, repr.1962, 25.

45 Margot Heinemann, "Louis MacNeice, John Cornford and Clive Branson: Three Left-Wing Poets", Culture and Crisis in Britain in the Thirties eds. Clark et al., 1979, 115.

© Presses universitaires de Caen, 1988

Conditions d’utilisation :

Cette publication numérique est issue d’un traitement automatique par reconnaissance optique de caractères.
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search