2 of "Freedom and Order in Poetry"
Very different from
H.D., is "Sunrise on Rydal Water" by John Drinkwater, one of the writers
of the Georgian literary movement of England, author of an important play
about Abraham Lincoln. Said Mr. Siegel "In this poem we have that
polite rapture at what nature can do...[that] vagueness that the
Georgians are somewhat justly noted for."
The second stanza: begins:
in America and England, Mr. Siegel commented "would prefer the well-made
and ornate stanza we have here to H.D. but I think they would be wrong."
For instance, a reader Mr. Siegel pointed out, could look for "something
he didn't wholly understand but which made him think of agreeable things."
Of the phrase "Moveless the water and the mist," he explained, "[It's]
lovely but there's something hollow about it." And he said of the
poem as a whole, "The things written about have not been seen by a specific
mind with music just to the whole world." [It is] "a dealing with
the world in a well-fashioned, breathless, and tame way."
Moveless the water and
Moveless the secret air above,
Hushed, as upon some happy tryst
The poised expectancy of love;
As we continued
to learn how freedom and order have been in the history of poetry, Mr.
Siegel read from the work of the American poet, Vachel Lindsey, including
the poems "General William Booth Enters into Heaven," which he said was
grand, about the founder of The Salvation Army, and "The Eagle That Is
Forgotten," about the courageous governor of Illinois, John Altgeld.
"Vachel Lindsay," Mr. Siegel said "is one of the important persons of poetry
of the whole world of any time. He did something with sound and with
things that can be seen and touched, the likes of which hadn't been done
before." Though Vachel Lindsay is famous for what the Reader's
Encylopedia describes as "the dramatic and auditory effects of his
poetry," it is Eli Siegel, who saw the value of his poetry as art and its
meaning for our lives. I was stirred to my depths as was the entire
class to hear Mr. Siegel read Lindsay's poem "The Congo," which he said
"is one of the great works of art of the world." Before reading this
poem, which has not been understood, Mr. Siegel explained:
As Mr. Siegel read "The Congo" he himself exemplified
beautifully a oneness of freedom and order, wild abandon and precision
about reality, its qualities--loud and soft, low and shrill, delicate and
bold. It begins with a description of wild frenzy--people "in a wine-barrel
room." Then there are these lines:
[Vachel Lindsay] is presenting a
quality that a waterfall has, a troop of frightened elephants have, a traffic
jam, lightening--a quality of abandon and force....These effects are what
art looks for. This is notably just to reality as frenzy and man
as frenzy. It is not about the negro; it is about the desire of man
to let go and still feel he knows what he's doing.
Barrel-house kings, with feet unstable,
Sagged and reeled and pounded on the
Pounded on the table,
Beat an empty barrel with the handle
of a broom,
Hard as they were able,
Boom, boom, Boom,
With a silk umbrella and the handle
of a broom,
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, Boom.
Then I had religion, Then I had a vision.
I could not turn from their revel in
Then I saw the CONGO, CREEPING THROUGH
CUTTING THROUGH THE JUNGLE WITH A GOLDEN
Then along that riverbank
A thousand miles
Tattooed cannibals danced in files;
Then I heard the boom of the blood-lust
And a thigh-bone beating on a tin-pan
And "Blood!" screamed the whistles
and the fifes
of the warriors,
"This Congo is not in the Geography books"
Mr. Siegel explained. It is a Congo Lindsay felt he needed.
With all the frenzy, there is a desire for control."
We had the
thrilling experience of learning what this poem is about as he discussed
each of the 51 lines in the first section, and pointed to what they showed
about freedom and order. As Mr. Siegel commented on "Beat an empty
barrel with the handle of a broom," we saw how this line which is wild,
and really lets go, has too, a strong orderly rhythm. He said "These
can be called explosive spondees ['Beat an empty barrel']." There
is frenzy there," Mr. Siegel continued. And referring to what can
be in primitive religious rituals, he explained "There's a feeling that
in this way you will get to your enemies....you have anger changing into
something of release. Once you can 'Beat an empty barrel with the
handle of a broom,' God is with you." And he added "Try it sometime."
Showing how order and freedom are in "Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, Boom,"
Mr. Siegel said "'M' is sound that has repose and 'L" is moving again and
'oo' has space in it. The commotion of the world has changed into
3 of "Freedom and Order in Poetry"