To D.S. Savage.
Over the hills and fields to Derek Savage's thatched clay Cottage in a narrow moist Valley by a ruined mill. Three days of hospitality And passionate talk. How good To meet someone in this world With his own convictions and Careless of gossip and fashion. The only young English poet Of working class extraction-- Barker is Irish, Thomas, Welsh-- But certainly by far the most Distinguished both in appearance And opinions.
31 January 1946
692 Wisconsin St.
San Francisco, CA
Dear Derek Savage,
Your letter is fine. It is very good of you to send all those addresses. It isn't at all easy to find one's way around London when one is on the other side of the world.
You should know by now, I have a very flip manner of expressing myself in correspondence. I don't actually plan to include anybody or include anybody out on the basis of their ideology. I am not an utter idiot. I do think that wartime British verse shows a very definite tendency. A return to the person--the I-you communication--both philosophically and stylistically. I can remember when all the girls would shiver when somebody said--"A poem that uses the personal pronoun is ipso facto a bad poem." A return to simplicity--no longer the frantic effort to get at least the leading Seven and if possible an Eighth Ambiguity into every line--the "made-up" (D.H.L.) Cambridge don sort of exercises popularized over here by the Partisan Review. A political reorientation since the Spanish war. Why did the British boys seem to have seen the Spanish war more clearly than the Americans? Possibly it is due to the enormous strength of Stalinism over here. Plenty came back disillusioned enough, but in a few months they were back at their units--there was no place else for them to go. Liston Oak--head of the Stalinist press bureau in Spain, came back calling himself an anarchist--wrote a few articles for the Vanguard before it folded, and ended up as editor of the New Leader--a social-democratic-white guard sheet if there ever was one. Of course he gets a good salary. Whether Eric Gill, or Kropotkin, or Berdyaev, or Tolstoy, or Lawrence, or whoever--the British intelligentsia seems to be picking up a new set of ancestors. And they do all have one thing in common--belief in the integrality of man, and disbelief in the pretensions of the state. (Politico-religiously speaking, I guess my "ancestors" are Schweitzer, Fr. Tyrrell, Berdyaev, Lawrence, Berkman, Gorter, Luxembourg. Make of that what you will. (Maybe a bit of Arthur Avalon, too.) I guess I read too much. I grew up in the "revolutionary movement," once made a detour and studied for Anglican Orders.) I think there is another thing--a sort of dreamy, moody way of writing--not just Neoromanticism--everybody seems to be affected with it--an elegiac temper--ruminative--pensive. I suppose it is a reflection of the complete uncontrollableness of the situation. There is another thing--at least amongst the girls--they seem to have been awful lonesome while their men were away, and put forth with some very hot poetry--and Sex had been at a discount in the British Isles since Ernest Dowson mussed it all up. What do you think of this Alison Boodson kid that Tambi turned up in Poetry X? She has a small select circle of admirers in San Francisco who I am sure would gladly take up a collection for her fare out here. Incidentally--I don't want to write to Tambi until I get somewhere. The accomplished fact. I am afraid much about him, he may be a perfect lamb, but people in his position have a terrible habit of unconsciously throwing their weight around.
Now as for the Auden-Spender-MacNeice-Lewis-Warner-etc.-etc. outfit. They have the ear of the most influential publisher in the USA. They can publish anything they write--anything. As far as most people over here are concerned they ARE British poetry. (I have never been able to get Macdiarmid published over here. Laughlin shillyshallies. Macmillan was going to do it once, but did Barker instead. Rukeyser and Gregory are fans of his--which I am not--but they--with all their influence--got nowhere. That is just an example of how hard it is and how little is known about what is important and what isn't.) You have got to start somewhere and I prefer to start at the Spanish war, which I feel was a real climacteric. Also, I have only so much space, and I don't want a whole lot of a poet to a page stuff.
As for Allott et al. I don't suppose you know anything about me--but, said he with typical self-deprecation, I am the Objectivist. Did you ever see the Objectivists' Anthology? Ezra later expelled me, because I wouldn't take his sass--especially his antisemitism--as "I will print nothing by that Kike Bolchevic swine, Rexroth." I was the only nonstalinist, and the only Gentile in the movement--unless Basil Bunting was a goy. (I always wondered if he existed, as a matter of fact. What ever happened to him? And what ever happened to the other Gentile, also expelled by Ezra--MacLeod--author of Ecliptic? He wasn't a bad poet. I thought most of the others lamentable enough.) I am all for printing plenty of British objectivism--if for nothing else, as contrast to the later, anti-objectivist romantic movement--I would just as soon the whole book didn't give the impression of a drowsy cow in a twilit landscape full of Hardy weather. I do want to get the dates straight. I always liked Symons, he used to write me when he ran his magazine--what was it? Where was it? All I can recall is "Come over the Bourne, Bessie" what in hell has that to do with it? His article in NOW is good. I think he is right--the qualitative deterioration is incredible. Somebody gave a file of Criterions to Lamantia the other day. He called up to say that he felt as though he had spent the weekend on Mars. Lots of the stuff was nonsense--but at least it was nonsense by scholars and gentlemen who had read the 100 Best Books and one or two others, and could write English prose. I used to wonder about some of my older brothers and younger aunts in letters, just where they fitted into a judiciously arranged scale of values. If things keeps up like they're a going, Dick Aldington is going to emerge from history a major poet. I guess I forgot Scarfe. I thought I mentioned Ruthven Todd, I think he is fine. Do you really like Rodgers? Was it Lehmann who said he sounded like a conversation between Barker and Auden in a dense Dublin fog? I never read him en masse--maybe I've missed something. Read Comfort's "Love Poems." I am for Gascoyne, Thomas, even Barker--though I don't like him much--vacant--windy stuff, in my opinion.
Speaking of Alex. You know what is wrong with a lot of these kids is those damn Spender-Leishman Rilke books. Wherever Rilke used a concrete word--they substituted an abstract one. In fact, they deliberately reversed the symbolic process that is characteristic of Rilke and makes him a great poet. And then all the unhappy youngsters in England read their translations--and listened to Read read Wordsworth--and, Lo, neoromanticism. What British poetry needs is a good stiff dose of William Carlos Williams. What it got, unfortunately, via Barker, was one of those Oscar Williams soap enemas.
Curious, you "cannot personally recommend" pretty much the same ones as me. I am glad you distinguish between Ridler and Roberts this Whroo Whroo to the hounds with one red ear and have at me honey in the cup is nice work, but tedious. I think much of Ridler is pretty corny. I suppose I should include some of Lynette's Eisteddfod performances, but I think she is better when she tears herself loose from Cambria's snowy crags. I do want to give a pretty good picture of gaelicism--it is important--and it sure as hell isn't anywhere near as silly as the Preraphaelitism (out of Spencer & Gillen) that flourishes down under--are you familiar with the Jindywarabook school, by any chance? After all, it fooled Rudolph Hess.
Don't get me wrong. These groupings are only significant because they are groupings around one or two significant poets. Incidentally--such things do not exist over here. There are just a few large, poorly defined groups--the college professors around Partisan Review and all the other reviews--the window dressers and aging beauties around View--the respectable poets around Poetry and the commercial magazines (I haven't read a copy of Poetry USA in ten years)--the Stalinists around their own organs, of which they have many--and a small handful of very small magazines--Illiterati (put out in a co concentration camp), Retort, Direct Action, Pacifica Views, Why, Politics--which are more or less libertarian. Oh yes--The Catholic Worker. (The poor Whoor of Babylon! The Catholic Worker seems to exist in a permanent state of tension due to the struggles of stalinoid papists and anarchoid gallicans to "seize control.") I think Norman MacLeod honestly tried to be eclectic. George Leite calls himself an anarchist, but he teaches at the local Stalinist labor college. He too, however, is genuinely eclectic. I think he is just young, easily misled politically, and has a false notion that if you can't understand it, it must be Art.
Most of the magazines publish little or no poetry. That is why, really, what you-all have been doing over there is so important. You could raise your voices, however faint they might be, and get printed. The "voluntary censorship" over here was shameful past belief. Partly it was just vulgar prostitution--partly it was the CP. Just at random--The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, The Saturday Review of Literature, Poetry (until recently), and so on--are edited by very energetic Stalinists--and these are the most influential highbrow magazines in the USA. So--nobody spoke up, not in print, unless, like the Illiterati bunch--they printed themselves.
I would say that as of 1946, the USA intellectuals are in a state of utter moral bankruptcy, almost to a man--and they know it.
If only somebody would just get up on his hind legs and yell real loud--they would all fall down. (Friends of mine are starting a magazine out here--definitely libertarian-cum-Berdyaev-cum-Wilhelm Reich-cum-Lawrence--with all sorts of other things--down with surrealism! down with Richardsism! They are young and eager. The first issue will be mimeographed and by the next they should have paid for a cooperative press. They are very rambunctious. The business manageress Helen Degenhart will write you for contribs. soon--prose or poetry. Do you have a paper on Berdyaev kicking around? I am not an editor, sort of a faculty advisor. (I am even growing to look like Pound!) Do you know who could do a good one on Schweitzer? Seems I read something in the Adelphi. Kind of weak, as I remember, And I despise M. Murry, naturally.)
I have been running paragraphs together to cut down on that $0.30 tariff--I can't stand it anymore--and I imagine you can't either. This letter looks like a J. Joyce manuscript.
Did I tell you--since that note to Vivienne MacLeod--I read The Personal Principle. Now look, comrade, I am with you 100% but--one--I think you are all wet about Lawrence. I will send you my introduction to his Selected Poems soon. Read St. Bernard on the Love of God, betimes. Or if you ever see a book--Mystical Poems of Nuptial Love by Coventry Patmore, edited by Father Connolly? I am not so hot about Patmore as a poet--though there are worse--and Connolly is a jevvy--and has their typical mixture of wisdom, vanity, knowledge, vacuity, culture, parvenuism. But he has the right bear by the tail, no doubt about it. Connolly is quite a guy on erotic mysticism. He also edited the St. Bernard, above, and Norris's Amoris Effigies. Maybe as an SJ he is making up for that evil remark of the well known compulsion neurotic, Hopkins. Hopkins was Patmore's spiritual advisor, and when he brought him his "life works," a book on erotic mysticism and sacramental marriage--Hopkins--suppressed homosexual--said--"Burn it. You are giving away secrets." Have you ever read S. Mechtild of Magdeburg? O, my. Somebody who is good at German should do a real good translation of her--(I have some scattered around in a play I just finished--used her for Iphegenia speaking to Achilles--who speaks back as Augustine. Subtle, huh? and deep, too.) But not Spender and Leishman!
Two--you almost make me like Auden, whom I consider a frivolous and fundamentally dishonest writer. I just can't get this here mysticism that includes running a CP bagnio with Gypsy Rose Lee and other such capers. Maybe I have not taken enough Degrees--been thoroughly initiated. It lacks all conviction, somehow. I suspect W.H.A. will go home someday and end up Senior Warden for Percy Dearmer, if Father Dearmer is still alive.
Three--of course you know what that is--Monro may have been a very nice guy and gave all for Poetry, but he was a sheep in sheep's clothing if ever there was one. I get the point--why you picked him--but look--the primary prerequisite for practicing poetry is a modicum of gimmick in the pintle. Why not Sturge Moore? He is the same sort--but more pretentious. And I have heard that he was the proud possessor of at least one, partially descended, testicle.
I think what English poetry needs is some sort of definite break with the 1900s. We have found, over here, Carl Sandburg a very handy man to have had. D.H.L. was such a break--but the sheer physical tradition--those goddamn Roman Roads, and Flooded Weirs, and Starlit Hedges, and all the rest ... it must be awful--like living in a picture postcard--or being Japanese. One thing about the USA, its landscape is pretty near indigestible ... and no end inhuman. You know--according to du Chaillu--the bands of gorillas only stay in one locality a while--after they have thoroughly messed the bed, they move on. I think the Earth will stand only just so much night--soil, and then it gets to be a problem. From this remote corner, it is really hard to keep all those people clear--Sackville-West, Blunden, Francis Cornford, Monro, it all blurs and merges into one tweedy fog with well shined shoes. I think Yeats was right. He knew what he was looking for, the nasty old man--and there is more of it in Dorothy Wellesley, Edith Sitwell, Turner, maybe even in poor Gogarty.
Edith Sitwell, by the way, is generally considered in the USA to have written the best poetry in England during the war. I think I concur. Has Sacheverell done a new book? I think he is a good poet--ruined by the typography of his books. They are like this letter--small type--no leading--solid on the page, the galleys cut like toilet paper. Did you read Wellesley's Lost Planet? Patriotic, but really so, and some nifty numbers--one about a gravestone with Cupid with a scythe and Time with a bow and arrow or something.
Four--I don't agree with your Yeats paper either. "I will never forget how you walked across the room in the moonlight like a boy," says he, aet. 73 or so. "And they talk of Swinburne's women, and the shepherdesses meeting with Guido, and the harlots of Baudelaire." Also--I think his Vision not at all what a generation of two-bit atheists think it--on the whole it does a better job of personality analysis than Jung, for instance. The trouble is, Savage, I agree with Lawrence, Yeats, Blake, I'll be switched if I can find anything in Harold Monro to agree with.
Incidentally--I am not sure whether I agree with your article in NOW or not--I certainly think that the modern notion that the work of art is its own motive is what is wrong with modern art. When poetry ceases to be motivated, purposive--it slowly degenerates--feeding on other people's motives, into tinkering, and/or vapid rhetoric. All those stuffed hares started by T.S.E. and Ivor Richards are just hay--poetry is best when it is something you just gotta get off your chest--like Homer and Dante and Isaiah and Yeats and Lawrence (and even T.S.E.). I personally only write when I absolutely have to--when it gets so it hurts too much if I don't. That's why I am all for the epigram--Pound's or Martial's or Palladas's or whoever. It is great fun to write a little poem and get up and clap your hands and say--"Well, that had ought to hold you for a while, you bastards." I know that isn't the modern theory. So much the worse for the moderns. Or, should my wife get mad, I can guarantee to have her all softened up after not more than three distiches.
Last night I went to the first circle. I had Woodcock's book in my pocket, and one of my own. They were all pretty simple working stiffs and old timers from the Yiddish federation. Well? I really intended to read some of George's stuff, too. So I had to compromise on passages from the one to Emma. All about how the youth of Europe and England are Rising and Casting Off Their Shackles. It was very touching. I almost wept. But I suspect Herby is full of marmalade. Let's hope it is true.
I am currently annoying Laughlin about you. Did he send you my Phoenix and the Tortoise?
Dear Derek Savage,
I was ill for a couple months--a mild, "subclinical" bile duct infection--so--called intestinal flu--which seems to be epidemic this winter. It makes you feel really nasty. So my correspondence, especially the transatlantic, got behind, and I neglected work on the Young British Poets.
Haven't I written you since A Time to Mourn came? This is certainly bad manners if nothing else--but I was sure I had. I must have been sick! Maybe a letter is crossing yours of March 12. Anyway--at the risk of repeating myself (maybe I will say something new) I am very impressed--and impressed by what I think is most essential--your ability to keep, pretty much all the time, a real, always convincing, integrality. "Who touches this book touches a man" may sound silly--but it is the touchstone. And it is so damn refreshing contrasted with USA professors' verse--the god awful synthetic rhetoricians exercisers that fill our high--toned reviews. I think the prime fault of modern verse is its complete lack of motivation--as I read it, I just can't figure out what kept the poet's fingers going from key to typewriter key. I think your work is part of the whole contemporary English picture--all the better young men write pretty much alike, underneath--and the subject is always the same "disorder and early sorrow"--but your stuff is head and shoulders above the tidemarsh of "literary" writing which is still to dry off from the last inundation. We have a boy over here, in a co camp--Bill Everson--who has that same mythical Abe Lincoln quality of always searching for responsibility of utterance--but he is less skilled than you. In fact, in the USA such poets tend to gravitate towards the simple, rugged, free--verse tradition--or a Greek Anthology "total simplicity." Of the first class--Wallace Gould and Marsden Hartley, now both dead. Of the second, Bill Williams, probably--for the ages--our greatest poet. The nature of the speech really must have something to do with it--Englishmen think all this stuff is just prose. Williams, actually is our most accomplished "metrist." I sometimes wonder what you are up to--your article in NOW says, in substance, that "Art Is Its Own Motivation" which may be a nice stick to beat the proletarian dog with--but which you very conclusively demonstrate is not true, in your own work. Poetry is written to get women to go to bed, to get the masses to revolt, to teach philosophy, to justify the words of God to man, to flatter Augustus--I know there exists something printed in things like the Partisan Review and View which seems to be written as Art (to hold down a job as an underpaid teaching assistant in a provincial college, to advertise your wares as a homosexual), but it ain't poetry. I don't know if Art Is A Weapon, certainly not all the time, but it isn't a toy. And all great art is purposive--it is the purposiveness that lights it up and makes it great. Another thing--you have what Eliot, and Pope, and Shakespeare, and (for the USA) Ezra, and others have--one of the rare, but very essential qualities that make for "survival"--idiom. The inevitability of phrasing that ends you up in Bartlett's. And this comes through, even in those poems that most distinctly echo Hardy, or the Lawrence of the Hardyish poems. Things like the fowles in the frith, fisses in the flod number--"Confession"--or turns of phrase like "I wait for wonder," all of "Separation"--I don't think you've got all the way there yet--but you surely have what Eliot had that made his phrases the catchwords of a generation of velleities and carefully caught regrets. Idiom. More than anything else though, it is the personalism--which of course wouldn't be real if it were an Ism. One of my favorite poets is Ausonius--another is Venantius Fortunatus. The Latinists and the scholars think Ausonius dreadful, as he certainly was silly. But somehow, out of his puzzle poems, conundrums, acrostics, bad jokes, pastiches of Vergil etc. rises a terribly human, real man, living in a world of Indian summer--what is it over there--St. Martin's Summer, ruin ... his poem to his wife ... the mangled series to his Russian mistress, the grape tendril quivering to its image in the evening water of the Moselle--it all makes you cry mortality and the world's waste. The poets have always liked him. I think England today is in such a period--living at the sufferance of the Goth--and so, my wife, reading over the mss. for the anthology that are accumulating, said--these all sound like they were written by the same man--and they sound like late Sung and late Roman poetry. This can become a very depersonalized convention, "The wrinkled catalpa leaves blow over the broken sill. In the distance someone runs breaks on a Tatar flute. The air is full of dry, sweet smoke, like the paper money of the opulent dead. Fullers's mallets sound by the cold river. I will tie a sorrowful distich to the leg of a goose and wait through the idle years." I just made that up--but you know how it goes. (I wish I had known about that Translations business of the Papist boys--I have a lot of Chinese numbers I would like them to have seen and a lot of classical ones too. O well.) Certain people--Tu Fu--who of course lived in a healthier time really, just a bad break in the Tang dynasty, Su Tung P'o, Prince whatshisname? I forget, the last S. Sung prince, carry an air of conviction--of person--of purpose--that rides over and beyond the convention of disorder and early sorrow and so much civilization. I discover I talk about everything but your poetry to you. Fact is--an old Sinn Feiner and Anglophobe--I am "frightfully English." I am embarrassed. Myself when young used to write whole Meanings of Meaning together on friends' verse, but I grow less barbarous down the years. Anyway, I want to use ten pages of it for the anthology. That is the maximum I will allow per poet. Have you any opinions? I think it is NOT true that the poet is his own worst judge. And I think he should be consulted. Would you also list credits at least the USA ones. Poetry (Chicago) for instance are very nasty if they are ignored. Send me some biographical notes--the usual nonsense--born on the Titanic, worked as navvy, female impersonator, Archdeacon--you know. People expect it.
As for poets--I have asked to date, you, Comfort, Woodcock, Adeane, Gardiner, Symons, Rhys-Roberts, Litvinov, Greece, Ridler, Nicholson, Durrell, Barker, Gascoyne, Moore, Raine, Todd, Watkins, Thomas, Rodgers, Allott, Tiller, Scarfe, which makes a full book. Then to go, I have--Soutar's executor, whoever he is, F.T. Prince, Madge, B. Spencer, Hendry, Rook, Bayliss, Waller, Bate (a fine boy I have enjoyed writing to him), Brenda Chamberlain, Alison Boodson (I have some stuff of hers--pretty bad--Laurence Hope--cum--Dylan Thomas--but anybody that young and that hot should be encouraged, I think I'll just use the first poem in Poetry X) Denise Levertov (who in hell is that? A character in a Yeats biographical fantasy? Gardiner recommended her), W.S. Graham--who I think is dreadful--pure studio argot--belongs in Circle and/or View, Sean Jennet, who impresses me the more I see of him, Sydney Keyes (who is that?), Alun Lewis, Glyn Jones, and Rayner Heppenstall, and this makes another book. Now what am I going to do? There are just too damn many Young British Poets. I don't believe in getting together a heap of "gems." I would like to use between 5-10 pages per each, so's a body could get an idea. And I discover, in my first string, I have all the elegists--and none of the people who have come up since the war--the very lucid simple soldiers, and the terribly hot girls who stayed home, or wallowed about Cairo, sore and satiated. I really think, in a way, they may be more important--it is possible that Keith Douglas and Miss Boodson are a sort of hope for poetry. It is remarkable how well you all agree about who's important--and how well you agree with me. I have been writing people for a list of 20, and not mentioning my ideas. The lists are unanimous for the first ten--and then dwindle off into the chooser's personal circle--even as you and I would do, if asked of the 20 Leading Young Poets of our respective countries.
It is funny about those Objectivists--they are all commies except me--George Oppen, the angel of the deal, is the heir of the Parafine Company of America (PACO). His income goes straight to Party Headquarters and he lives on what is known in the radical movement in the USA as a piecard--certainly no more than $35 a week. Zukofsky is, Rakosi, all of them, except Williams who is incorruptible because he is as politically naive as a chorus girl. (Strip teasers over here though, are all Stalinists, honest. Sally Rand, an old Chicago bohemienne, was in the YCL in 1930.) I think it is asking a lot of the old fashioned Poets' Poet, of a past generation to behave in a politically responsible fashion--they don't know what it is all about--as Helen Hoyt once said in a League of American Writers Congress "I went through one revolution in my lifetime, I mean the sexual, and that is enough." I can't make Read but--he has been literally everything fashionable for forty years--I bet you 2:6, he comes back from the USA an existentialiste. But I think he always means it. He's just a girl that can't say no. Sometimes it is a little funny. I would just as soon he had left anarchism alone. And the funny thing about him is--he is a Public School Boy to the core. All he ever talks about, whatever ism he is riding at the moment--is the idealized Public School, that supernatural Eton--Plato's Republic. Years ago, I panned hell out of his Art and Society, in a nice, intercomradely way, I guess he never forgave me, because he won't answer letters. One of the things I said in it was "Comrade Read had better read Kropotkin and find out what this is all about." I think Murry unquestionably the most utter swine ever produced in the British Isles. As for my ancestors, I have a bad habit of making unexplained ironic remarks, God know what I told you.
The trouble with Auden is personal irresponsibility. You cannot be a mystic and at the same time cruise the Brooklyn Navy Yards for rough trade for you and Gypsy Rose Lee, and get away with it, aut Caesar aut nullus--you just end up being an arrested schizophrenic. I think there is a kind of mysticism that permits that--a pagan--gnostic, tantric--"world embracing" mysticism, maybe, if one is careful in the confessional, the Roman Church will suffer it--but that isn't W.H.A.'s religion--he is a Vedantist--catastrophically dualistic in practice, from the most vulgar Christian Scientist, who "looks away from evil" to the Zenist monks--Admirals in the Japanese Navy. And that is schizophrenia. And you are corrupted, and rhetorized, at the source--you turn into a spell--binder--what we call a pitch artist--one who sells cheapjack merchandise on street corners--because, ultimately, you are always trying to convince yourself--the most mendacious form of argumentation.
As for my own mysticism--and sex, and all that--I am afraid I am pretty "Catholic" about that. I say, to hell with all these Port Royalists and Kierkegaardian masochists--they're a bunch of heretics. I'll take the St. Bernard, Bonaventura, Rabelais, I would rather my parish priest buggered the young than read Solovyev, Shestov, Kierkegaard, Buber, Scheler, Heidegger, etc. (Though the first is susceptible of a "catholic interpretation.") What these people--these plungers into oblivion--the hold your nose and jump school of mysticism--are talking about, is the blocked orgasm. And as Reich says--you either come or you want to bust--and that is masochism, and that is the pandemic killing modern man. I am afraid I agree more with Marie--Louise Berneri and George Woodcock than I do with you--it's nothing new with me, I have been saying this for years and years. And I think you are totally wrong about D.H.L., and it distresses me to see you repeat the old canard of the sexually frightened when confronted with him--Look, Did you ever see Frieda? As far as that goes, I never heard of anybody with tuberculosis who was undersexed. Also--a girl of mine was a friend of his--one Meta Lehman--who was herself dying of tuberculosis. I assure you--he was quite adequate to all demands. I am tempted to ask--what is getting into you D.S.? You be careful--or you'll find yourself on a hobby. And that would be a disaster, because you are certainly the "most promising young critical intelligence" of your old island. As for me (personally) and eroticism--central to my "world view" is the heirosgamos--I am not a dualist--I don't know anything about this "spirit and matter must not be confused" I am a "polarist," a sacramentalist if you will. The Canticle of the Sun, or the Benedicte. I think Yeats knew love--but a strange, ritualized love--he never could get out of the Graal Castle and back into life. But don't forget--there is one very simple explanation of the change from the young to the later Yeats--and in the Vision he says so--(who had the visions?) George Yeats. As for keeping it down or stoking it up--I just don't look at things that way. I just do it, whenever I want it and can get it. All of which sounds silly--BUT the reason it is important, is that the world is going crazy in the balls. Really. Really crazy--en masse. Belsen, Hiroshima, etc. are just what they call "a freakish trick" in a whorehouse, on a monstrous scale. I think you are wrong about Sturge Moore. Some of it is kinda pretty. And there are banked fires there, too. Sorry you don't like Sacheverell S.--his poetry is turgid and longwinded--but some of it is very fine--the Angkor Vat one in Canons of Giant Art for instance--"The Little Ghost that Died For Love" various others. I am afraid a great many Americans would say that Edith was the greatest English poet left with the death of Yeats. I wish you would read William Carlos Williams and tell me what you think--I am endlessly fascinated by the difference between "our" taste and "your" taste in other respective writers. Malcolm Cowley, literary editor of the New Republic, is a very old friend ci-devant of mine. We not longer write. He is a Stalinist, and an incurable bufflehead. I think he feels bad because the boys who were boys when he was a boy avoided him like he had the Chinese dripping crud. This local paper won't be able to pay contributors. I just called up about your Berdyaev review, and I don't know if you want to waste a possible payment from one of the "reviews" with the Two Prophetic Poems--and then too--it is not to my taste--I do not share your fondness for Owen--to me he is just "Rupert Brooke with a mad on"--I am afraid I agree with Yeats.
Honestly, Savage, what are you up to? All this beating down of the great revolte's and pioneers etc. in favor of these incredibly vulgar Georgians. And a completely barbarous writer like Owen! All this self-evident metrical meretriciousness--like a naughty schoolboy. I have nothing against your very sympathetic exposition of Owen's ideas--and his poetry is just plain bad. Junk. While Yeats's is amongst the very greatest ever written in English. As for his poem's message--I think it is true--(incidentally, you misinterpret lines 3-4 from bottom. He means the "Babylonian Darkness" the pre-Christian 2000 years, were "vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle" see the Vision)--I think as a piece of poetry it is simply hair-raising in its effectiveness. And it isn't sentimental. "Strange Meeting" is one of Owen's few good poems, and even it suffers from his vice of self-evident metrical inventiveness. It is thick--hard to follow--and its general comeuppance, except on a very low level--ah let's kiss and make up--is unclear. It isn't fair to compare the boy Owen with the mature man Yeats--but there is all the difference in the world between the abilities of the two men. It is strange--you get terribly caught up about this program of critical revaluation you are carrying through--in re Yeats you sound like Trotsky after Stalin. Yeats certainly didn't do anything like "affirming the Beast, blood and war." He was always talking about the dehumanization of war--what irked him was that the modern world had made Burnt Njal or the Niebelungen Not impossible. I am afraid I agree with him--it is more pleasant to think of oneself dying heroically in Atli's Hall than sitting in a church vestry, drawing up a resolution "against war" with a lot of etiolated vegetarians. And Yeats is right, and Lawrence--war, this modern beastly war, is a reflex of this modern beastly humanitarianism. I bet you everybody who bossed the A-Bomb contributes to the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Beyond Owen lies the Oxford Pledge--and beyond the Oxford Pledge lies thousands of Owen fans--who signed the Oxford Pledge and made practically ideal officers--so considerate of their men--just like Owen. D.H.L. saw them--these Owens--in "England, my England." God save us from a humanitarianistic savior! That silly sentimental German phyzz that you see in all the Broad Church parsonages. I think your antithesis-only these two religions--is false--and is thoroughly Protestant. That is why I have always said T.S.E. is NOT an Anglocatholic but a High Churchman. There is no "antithesis" between the Carmina Burana and the great sequences of the Victorines, between Louise Labe and Juan de la Cruz (though the Protestant guilt has touched both of them--the Baroque "trouble"), between Rabelais and St. Bonaventura. It is all so obviously one in people like St. Francis. I say--Catholicism IS paganism. In the sense in which you use the word pagan. And I further say that "Frightfulness" and humanitarianism, Goering and Canon Raven are two sides of the same coin. By the way--have you read Toynbee? He has lots of stuff about Pacifism-Militarism as a symptom of decadence, and so, of course does Spengler and Petrie. An apocalyptic ethic--the religion of Schweitzer's "Historical Jesus" is a heroic--world transforming--violent ethic, Schweitzer reaches "reverence for life" through the end of the world and the last judgment. He has trouble explaining how he does that--but that is why his ethic is not sentimental. As it certainly is sentimental to "consider" the bacteria you are going to kill when you give a life-saving injection--just "consider" them as such--like Shaw "considers" his uneaten herrings. Jesus did not say--Sell all thou hast and distribute it amongst the worthy poor. He said--get rid of it--it is meaningless--and follow me. I am afraid this is an aristocratic religion. More like Yeats. Not much like what you read into Owen. As for Owen's message--I think he was just a good guy in a tough spot--I don't think "he had a brain in his head" in terms of highbrow issues, all decent boys who become officers talk the same way--my brother-in-law who ran a landing barge in all the invasions, talks just the same way. And I am afraid I really respect that humaneness more than all the mawkish resolution passing it has been my bad fortune to have witnessed in a life of "radicalism." The Quakers (the 19th- and 20th-century Lansbury type--Fox was no such rabbit) are more responsible for the past 200 years of mounting beastliness in war than all the officers that ever lived.
As for the W & R article. Again--it is the experience of transcendence--the eruption of eternity into time--the vision--the permanent apocalypse--that counts in my religious life. I would never quarrel with Powys--whom I don't read--I think him a very vulgar writer--but if he wants to call it the Inanimate--OK by me. As far as I am concerned "life after death" is something they fret about in Sunday School--it is just a Great Big Treat or a Great Big Spanking. I have no interest in it whatever--I never think of it. The heart of the religious life is the Beatific Vision--and that is always here and now. As far as I am concerned, the "official" religion of Catholicism is just a huge facade of lies put up by various power combines to "keep the masses in subjection" just as in classical times there was the official religion of the State--the well-dressed gods of Olympus and the living religion of the religious--the mysteries, Orphism, Pythagoreanism, the Dionysiac and Artemis cults, etc. so, in the Church--there is the sterile creed of Thomism and Diocesan politics and "Easter duties" and all the rest of it--in which nobody but a few British intellectuals really believes--people are just afraid of it--the common people--I suppose that is what Jung was all about--trying to cure modern man of the sequelae of a terrible pandemic of Monotheism.
Did I tell you? Laughlin loosened up and sent me his library's contents of Young British Poets. The house is full! And I am depressed! There are dilemmas like--I suppose I have to print something by this W.S. Graham! But, my, how I like that pretty book by Kathleen Raine. She too is great on God & Nature. That "When I was a tadpole and you were a fish" number of hers--"On Leaving Ullswater"--is so pretty. Sometimes she collapses into Poetess Poetry that is simply awful--like the preceding poem, on the same theme--"Returning Autumn." What do you think of Somhairle Macghilleathain? It is my devout hope that when the Stalintern takes over the world, these crazy Scots will be the tail that wags the bear. Otherwise the world is lost. Macdiarmid, Soutar, Maclean, move me as almost no Sasenach poets do. However--I think it shameful of MadMacD and his friends to claim that Soutar was "coming around" to "Marxism" towards his death. I really thought they were beyond such things. It was so much nicer when they were all for a King of the House of Lulach on the throne of a Soviet Scotland--you can take things like that seriously--it is impossible to take Stalinism "seriously." Macdiarmid has had a go at the God & Nature question several times--"O wha's been here afore me, Lass," maybe it is the only subject of all poetry--petals fall from the rose--if J.L. ever sends you my Phoenix and Tortoise--that is what the title and most of the other poems too, for that matter, are about.
Naturally, I agree with that Berdyaev article completely, being a decided eschatologist myself. BUT DON'T FORGET, B'S ULTIMATE DECISION IN RE THE STATE IS RENDER UNTO CAESAR THE PERFECTLY ORTHODOX, INSTITUTIONAL INTERPRETATION OF THAT MUCH DISPUTED THRACE. The "Destiny of Man" justifies complete capitulation to the Church of Constantine.
I will do what I can to flush a typewriter.
It is all in the Canticle of Canticles.
And in Job.
Whether commented on in the Zohar, or by the medieval doctors of the Church.
22 February 1947
692 Wisconsin St.
San Francisco, CA
Your letter seems to be written on a Corona keyboard, so I presume that you got your typewriter. I have been worried about it--and, as a matter of fact, was about to put through a tracer. Also--I have been dreading to hear from you about it, because it was such a shabby one. However, it is worth about 25% more now than I had to pay for it. (Prices for them are very high.) You are damned right--they will never put it back together. The USA, by the way, is rolling in decaying surplus potatoes. The government was afraid to destroy them because of the political repercussions, but at last has been forced to do so. All due to "planned agriculture," via subsidies figured out by bureaucrats in Washington, who probably think potatoes grow on potato bushes. It really is extraordinary though--the British breakdown--it is hard to understand how it ever got that bad. It certainly doesn't seem to be the dirty capitalists sabotaging the Labour Government. Quite the contrary, the LP is their receivership of a busted country--a thing I have trouble convincing George Woodcock--who knows too many MPS "with anarchist sympathies." As far as I can make out, Britain is stepping in the staggering slippersteps of France--a beer belly and a champagne appetite--the desire to continue with a vast empire and all of "Our Commitments" of pre-Boer War England, and with nothing to back it up except a few antiquated coal mines. (Did you ever read Trotsky's Whither France? His only sensible book.) This of course costs money--mostly USA dollars--which will bring in real returns in complete vassalage--but also may lead to a sudden collapse when the Red Army moves. I suppose you know that in the USA and Germany, coal mining is almost entirely a machine-tending operation, and in the USA, relatively clean and comfortable as jobs go, and extremely highly paid. The only thing wrong with it is the horrible places the miners live in some districts--but that is their own fault--they can all buy, and most do, very nice dwellings with Frigidaire and central heating and hundreds of gadgets, the sort of homes that few people in England have.
Buddhism--you ride a hobby. I am not bothered by the Flesh and Spirit conflict--which is not only a distinctive Christian conflict--but a Pauline-Augustinian one. Which is what is wrong with Christianity and which is what has driven it over the Earth to slaughter, debauch, and infect the rest of the human race. (I call myself a Catholic sometimes largely because Rabelais did, I think.) It is hard to say what is attractive about Buddhism. (I am not Buddhist.) Perhaps above all its urbanity, it is the only world religion founded by a gentleman. In comparison with the Sakyamuni of the Pali Canon, Christ seems a terribly distraught and barbarous personality. Second, its religious empiricism. Buddha dismissed all questions of God, immortality, good and evil as ultimate problems, as unfruitful, and concentrated on the integrity of the mystical experience. Third, its basic evaluation, which does not differ much except in affect from Christ's apocalypticism, "The world is going to burn up and the Son of Man will come on a cloud of fire." That is--"the confections of the world are unstable by nature, hold fast to the only reality which is self-determined." "And that reality," says Buddha, "cannot be described. It can only be known. I cannot explain it to you, but I can show you how to make your self available to the experiencing of it." Buddha is certainly a good deal less wrought up about it--it is quite possible that the rather manic imagery of the Gospels, and the Judaic-Pauline schizophrenia are what have driven Western Man insane and made him the filthy beast he is. And he certainly is the gravest historical mistake the human race has ever committed. Incidentally, I see no real conflict between Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism. Even in the most "decadent" sects--in the eyes of the British Protestant Liberal Higher Critics of the Pali Text Society--e.g. Shingon Tantrism and Nichiren--the living personality of the historic Buddha asserts itself and colors the practical ethic--and of course the end product--for the monk at least, remains the same as it was under the Bo tree. On the whole, I myself prefer Shingon to other sects--because of its emphasis on the Flesh--like the Roman Church at its, in British eyes, most decadent. I really have no use for Protestantism, under any guise--Vedanta, Zen, Berdyaev, Kierkegaard, Buber--it is all one psychopathic mistake to me. Wine, woman and song are essential to a well rounded religious life. Look at S.K. with his nasty picking at sex like a scabby sore. In my opinion a really filthy mind. And then--these two wars and all the ruin of the world in so short a time, has taught me to despise humanitarianism as the most horrible evil ever to afflict mankind--which is the reason for bloody tirades about Broad Bishops and earnest Quakers. (You see Derek I know these swine--I don't just read Fox and Aquinas and Hooker.) Just think--while the atom bombs fall, and the majority of the human race starves to death in heaps of rubble, the ribbon clerks and stevedores and idle housewives of the USA get injections of novocaine when the dentists clean their teeth! And the country is covered with K9 nurseries for the pups of, not the rich, but the working classes. I wager that every single person connected with the top bureau of the A-Bomb contributes liberally to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I agree with what I consider the fundamental message of Christ besides the preaching of the End of the World--that is--the good people are the bad people and the bad people are the good people. As an ethic--I will take the humane disinterestedness of the Bodhisattva, a sort of benevolence I, like Jesus, have found in the Western world only amongst hustlers--whores, thieves, saloon keepers, and bums--I have never found it amongst squares. On the whole, I prefer the world of Burnt Njal or the Iliad--nobody came around in those days mouthing filth about Charity to Your Neighbor to get you to burn people alive. The only thoroughly evil people, the sort that make you think maybe man is fundamentally bad, I have ever met, have been ministers of Jesus Christ, if one includes active Friends as ministers.
I just called up for the Dostoyevsky. The fine old uniform edition of his work is out-of-print in the USA, too. My god what a price for Slavery and Freedom--it isn't a big book. We have always read Berdyaev from the Public Library--now my wife wants to own him--and I should have him anyway. I think most religious speculation silly when it isn't vicious, which is most often, but the Religion section of my library keeps on getting bigger and bigger. Marie and I were talking about that the other night--we decided that just as murder mysteries sound important--so does religion--you delude yourself with a sentimental fancy you are really getting somewhere. Ultimately, the things that stand up are the sweet people, Walton of the Lives--Baron von Hugel--etc. By the way--if you ever run across von Hugel, I wish you'd get it for me--anything--but especially a volume of selections. Incidentally--I am looking for a good cheap set of the Sacred Books of the East--also the Ante-Nicean and Post-Nicean Fathers--the Anglo-Catholic Library--the Library of Ante-Nicean Fathers (Theology? Literature? I forget the title, but it is mostly Origen and Clement). Also--McTaggart's more popular book--the name of which I can never remember. Did you ever read "profound McTaggart?" He was a sort of Jain--an extraordinary thing for a British Professor to be--but they are extraordinary people. I have always found his philosophy thrilling--it is so ingenious, and it would be so nice if it were true.
The Russell Street dealer never answered my note. Connolly was just loafing and preparing a USA double number of Horizon--in which I shall NOT be. Do you need clothing, etc.? How about baby things? Tell your wife we can give her a "shower"--I bet she could use diapers. I seem to be getting into a very thick correspondence with the Young British Poetesses. It's the Adolphe Menjou in me. However I do like Chamberlain, Boodson, and Levertov, and they write fine letters. In fact this anthology has made me a letter writer for fair--the nicest thing about it! I love people!