Clough: Selected Poems.
This is in the Longman Annotated Texts series, which now has a handful of titles. The density of apparatus is similar to the Longman Annotated English Poets series, but the poems are selected rather than complete. Phelan's selection is excellent, and he offers a well-argued rationale for it in the introduction, but it is unfortunate that although Amours de Voyage and Dipsychus are there in their entirety (always bearing in mind that the latter is not complete) there is nothing from The Bothie.
Phelan is an extremely sympathetic and expert reader of Clough, and the introduction is a most elegant and informative essay. He places Clough in the tradition of English poetry by employing and elucidating a phrase from Clough's 'Lecture on the Development of English Literature from Chaucer to Wordsworth': 'the garden of infinite choices'. There is a fine section on Clough and the legacy of Romanticism. The approach is to place the poet as much as possible in the context of his time. This means, among other things, explicating Clough's special language, and there is a very good section on the precise meaning of 'juxtaposition' and 'affinity' in love, which is of considerable use in understanding Amours de Voyage. The footnotes also highlight the particular language Clough uses, and there are interesting parallels indicated between his correspondence, with its rapidly varying registers from slang to the quasi-biblical, and the poetry. I wonder whether 'shilly-shally' (116) needs a gloss, and 'poop' (119), but generally the reader's intelligence is not insulted. Since the editor is so good at cross-referencing it is a pity that the 'fusing' in Amours 1.229 is not compared with the fusing in line 41 of 'Natura naturans'. It is quite likely that Keats's newly edited letters had an impact on Clough's poetry, and with this in mind it is probably the case that lines III.160-72 in Amours de Voyage owe something to Keats's theory of negative capability.
These lines are also astonishingly like Whitman, but they pre-date Leaves of Grass:
I am the ox in the dray, the ass with the garden-stuff panniers; I am the dog in the doorway, the kitten that plays in the window, On the sunny slab of the ruin the furtive and fugitive lizard, etc.
Clough was eventually shown Leaves of Grass by Charles Eliot Norton in October 1856, but thought it 'rather a Waste of power and observation'. The envoy to Amours de Voyage contains the phrase 'Go, little book!', which is compared by Phelan to Southey's The Lay of the Laureate, but surely its primary debt is to the envoy of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. I disagree with Phelan's explanation that the 'car' in 'Natura naturans' is a railway carriage. The poet's and the young woman's situation is like a youth and a maid's 'in casual second-class', but that's not to say that they are also on a train. Four years after this poem was published Clough wrote to Blanche Smith from the United States: 'Only, in omnibusses and the cars (as they call railway trains) they [the women passengers] expect you to give your place up and are very impudent about that'. The fact that he is glossing it for his fiancee shows that it is a strange Americanism, and he would never have used the word in this sense for an English audience - which is what the collection Ambarvalia was aimed at. Clough has in mind something like an Irish jaunting car. OED supports what I am saying. It is probably right though that the tunnel in V.ix of Amours is a railway-tunnel, providing a kind of mock-heroic agnostic version of Plato's cave. There is a misreading of 'Adam and Eve' on page 51 where Adam's observation 'Because I plucked an apple from a twig' is glossed: 'Notice that Adam suggests it is he rather than Eve, who plucked the apple from the tree.' No such thing. Eve plucked one apple, and Adam plucked another. In Scene 4 line 34 Adam says that they both touched the apples.
There are interesting textual variants recorded. The most interesting demonstrate that Clough felt the chilly breath of Mrs Grundy, and had to tone down certain religious, political, and sexual sentiments that were likely to be too strong for his audiences. So that at some point the racy couplet in Scene 6 of Dipsychus was lost: 'Kick a cad's bottom; mild and meek/He'll turn we trust the other cheek.' We also lost from Amours 'I who despise the Masses,/Think that the Pharaoh was right to build the Great Pyramid let them/Die by the million or billion in misery, etc.' Sounds like something from John Carey's chamber of horrors.
BERNARD RICHARDS Brasenose College, Oxford
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|Publication:||Notes and Queries|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1998|
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