Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Is it me, or are these poems elegies?  Not "For the Union Dead" so much as for the type of life they stood for.  Of Shaw he writes, " He is out of bounds now.  He rejoices in man's lovely/ peculiar power to choose life and die--"  It reminds me of Tennyson's "How dull it is to pause, to make an end,/ To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!/ As though to breathe were life."

The landscape described in both the Lowell poems we read for today is pervasively sad, as if its inhabitants had become so absorbed in stuff (finned cars, summer houses--as if these things were life) that they betrayed those who once stood against something, who at last embodied the American tradition of rebellion against tyranny, though that tyrant had become America itself.

What a different feel his poem has than Glory.  Against the backdrop of contemporary America, does the upright statue of Shaw mean in the way we expect?


  1. Tennyson reference: Ulysses! Love it! Remember how you told it how not it was NOT OK for (I am totally forgetting that shady guy's name now) quote Tennyson before his testimony to congress. That has stuck with me.

  2. It was Rod Blagojevich. What cracked me up was how unthinkingly he used the quotation--clearly, he saw Ulysses as a man to emulate. I see him as far less laudable indeed. After all, he's hunting for gold and adventure and ignoring the needs of his own people entirely.

    ....perhaps this makes it the perfect quotation for our legislature after all.