Scott, F(rancis) R(eginald)
F(rancis) R(eginald) Scott 1899–
Canadian poet, editor, and nonfiction writer.
Although Desmond Pacey predicted in 1958 that Scott, an ardent socialist, "will be remembered … primarily for his social satire," Scott's poetry has deepened in later years; his evaluation of technology's impact on nature is thoughtfully conceived.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vol. 101.)
As [F. R.] Scott pointed out in the preface to New Provinces, the onset of the economic depression of 1929–1936 provided the young experimental writers of the twenties with a subject matter. This was certainly true in Scott's own case. He quickly arrived at the conclusion that the depression marked the breakdown of the capitalist system and that capitalism must be replaced by socialism. (p. 230)
It was not long before these socialist convictions began to appear in Scott's poetry. For the first few years they appeared negatively, in the form of satire at the expense of the waste, inhumanity, and humbug of a decadent capitalist society…. [The] full force of Scott's satiric attack on capitalism vented itself in a group of sixteen poems published in the Forum of May, 1932, under the joint title "An Anthology of Up-to-date Canadian Poetry."… Sympathy for the unemployed, the poor, and the sick had led Scott to repudiate the respectable tradition out of which he himself had sprung…. (pp. 231-32)
[In his article "The Revival of Poetry," Scott gives his version of the literary revolution against predominant poetic practices and pays] his tribute to its leaders. The revolution involved the following changes: the assertion of poetry's inherent value, of the fact that it is mistress in its own house rather than the handmaiden of patriotism and morality; the extension of the range of poetry's interests beyond...
(The entire section is 1907 words.)
The sardonic, sceptical habit—itself entirely salutary—has won Frank Scott many satirical victories but they've always struck me as rather easy ones. There are a few more such victories in [Signature]…. Good Bye to All That, while not exactly a case of easy temptation-easy victory, would perhaps do better as a … gap-filler in the bulletin of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. I am making a literary, not a moral objection. Cheap victories have soured all attempts of Canadian poets at satire. In The Blasted Pine, for instance, not even Scott's contributions managed to get the old Canadian pine really blasted; it was left a bit charred, but still flourishing in its inimitable, betundra'd fashion. The object of a satiric blast must be either obliterated or transfigured; you have to be left either with a smoking crater open to the chancey seed and fall of rain or with a burning bush. Neither Scott nor any Canadian satirist else has brought this off. Poems like General Election and Audacity seem to me to discharge the tension between soloist and urbanized, politic man far too inexpensively in favor of the former.
More successful than Signature's inexpensive satires is its series of world-tour poems and those poems celebrating the temporal, evolutionary process of the whole cosmos. In such poems as The Seed Thrower, Journey, Polynesian, and Time as Now attention is shifted...
(The entire section is 351 words.)
[F. R. Scott's] Selected Poems present an opportunity to reassess his literary contribution. The book makes little claim as great poetry; its value almost assumes a more gigantic role…. The poems are a dynamic expression of … an ambiguous existence. When Scott says he is like a leaf,… he's not only seeing his own discouragement reflected in nature but a vision enriching his awareness of the totality of Canadian existence…. The landscape so vivid in his poetry is no hypnotic daydream for Scott: to him the common fir trees speak "familiar dialect". (pp. 38, 40)
James King, "Poets' Canada," in Saturday Night (copyright © 1966 by Saturday Night), Vol. 80, No. 5, May, 1966, pp. 38, 40.∗
(The entire section is 107 words.)
"He bears history,/the lakes/he dives under …" These lines will take us into the first poem in Scott's [Selected Poems,] "Lakeshore," one of the finest and most characteristic pieces in the collection…. [Its theme is] Man's history, which extends back into pre-history and before man. Its unifying symbol is water as the source of life. The poem establishes through a specific concrete personal experience a contact in awareness with biological history, stretching back to the primordial beginnings of life and all around to the earthbound mechanical now of "a crowded street."
By the edge of a lake, the poet—or, better, the sensuous mind that is the protagonist of so many of Scott's metaphysical lyrics—contemplates water, earth, and sky….
Floating upon their broken sky
All netted by the prism wave
And rippled where the currents are….
This is exact, clear, and elegant. There is a seventeenth-century grace about these opening lines…. It is a style that admits, indeed invites, Wit…. (pp. 26, 27)
"Lakeshore" is an excellent starting point for a consideration of Scott's non-satirical poetry. The themes and the motives of many of his most completely articulated poems are seen in it at their clearest and most direct. The fascination with water, as an...
(The entire section is 1751 words.)
[F. R. Scott's Selected Poems,] often regional or topical, are appealing for the personality they define: intelligent, compassionate, skeptical but hopeful. Many speak, with only slight indirection, about justice, charity or change…. (p. 323)
Others chide or lampoon…. The targets of his wit are writers, censors, teachers, tourists, businessmen, the socially prominent, and (particularly) politicians…. (pp. 323-24)
Mr. Scott's angry and satirical poems, variously ingenuous, seem so "right-thinking" as a group as to be above aesthetic criticism. His sense of place and time, of social error and justice, of his own portion of responsibility for what is good and what is not, and of the enormity of impending change make attractive the large amount of advice which these poems contain. (p. 324)
Marvin Bell, "Nine Canadian Poets," in Poetry (© 1968 by The Modern Poetry Association; reprinted by permission of the Editor of Poetry), Vol. CXI, No. 5, February, 1968, pp. 323-28.∗
(The entire section is 146 words.)
Stephen A. C. Scobie
F. R. Scott is best known, as a poet, for his social and literary satire…. The virtues of Scott's light verse are immediately obvious: clarity, wit, economy, lightness of touch, and brilliant wordplay. It has also been widely recognized that many of these qualities have been carried over into his more serious poetry…. [But] Scott's outlook, in some of his most serious poems, is a profoundly ambiguous one. His clarity is often used to define an ambivalence, and his wordplay (especially the punning) to embody contrasting meanings in their most concise forms.
This ambiguity is concerned with what such critics as D. G. Jones see as a central Canadian theme: a doubt about the nature and validity of the human civilizing or technologizing process as it impinges upon human relationships and upon the natural environment…. That Scott's attitudes towards such a theme might indeed be ambiguous could perhaps be deduced from certain aspects of his public career. Scott has devoted the greater part of his life to the cause of social reform, and to the belief that the institutions of civilization—law, politics, and poetry—can be made to work for the betterment of the world. On the other hand, much of his support has been given to losing causes; he has not seen Canadian society develop politically in the directions he has urged, and the predominance of social satire in his writings indicates his dissatisfaction with the workings of the...
(The entire section is 1462 words.)
The Dance is One is Frank Scott's eighth book of verse but the first one to turn up on my plate, so forgive my salute if it doesn't match the authority of the tributes on the flap…. Rhythmic control is evident right away, and he can rhyme or half-rhyme when he chooses …; when he doesn't, the verse is free without becoming capricious or wispy. But what strikes home is not his poetic craft so much as the play of reflections, each poem framing an attitude to some item in the passing show: memory, or airports, matadors (whose heroism he despises), changing styles in the dance and their consequences (the title poem, deserving that prominence). He is witty about evolution's byways or about inspiration in a restaurant …, sombre on the big campus and overbreeding, mournful about the finback savaged at Burgeo …, and neatly satirical with a twist of sorrow in his 'Metric Blues'…. Later sections are less to my taste, including letters from the Mackenzie River and a batch of translations from French. For me Scott's chief appeal … rests in the fact that his poems are distinctively personal without being self-centred; he reflects the world instead of searching it for his image. (pp. 352-53)
Michael Hornyansky, "Poetry: 'The Dance Is One'," in University of Toronto Quarterly (© University of Toronto Press 1974; reprinted by permission of University of Toronto Press), Vol. XLIII, No. 4, Summer, 1974,...
(The entire section is 233 words.)
[F. R. Scott] has published verse—eight volumes—distilling in his poetry a profound and moving vision of the world and his place in it. As we read through the early periodical verse, the subsequent books of poetry and the Selected Poems, it becomes increasingly clear that Scott's subject is man in the generic sense and human relationships. Although many of the poems begin with the individual experience, the movement is always from the personal to the universal. (p. 2)
Scott is a strongly visual poet whose shaping "I" is closely associated with the "eye" that perceives…. [He] sees poetry as a communication, as a signalling from one isolation to another…. Fingers scratching on the dividing pane, like a pen on paper, suddenly open up an "eye." And because scratching at a window is a metaphor for the creative process, the "eye" becomes the vision of the poem that plays on the "I" of the persona: the image is that of a poem opening up a world, of a microcosm generating a macrocosm.
His characteristic metaphors develop from the exploration of man's relationships to nature and society: they involve time and infinity, world and universe, love and spirit, terms that emerge as twentieth-century humanist substitutes for the Christian vocabulary. A typical Scott poem moves from specific image (the great Asian moth of "A Grain of Rice" for example) or from the natural landscape … to a consideration of the...
(The entire section is 1576 words.)
When [Frank] Scott issued his Selected Poems in 1966, "Lakeshore" was placed at the beginning, as if to constitute a signal itself, a definition of the poet's vision and a statement of his art which provides a necessary prelude to confrontation with the whole man.
What kind of signal does "Lakeshore" constitute? What event does it record, and to what observer is the message sent? We need to know, in order to resolve the problem … of the meaning of the poem's ending. Is the figure of the poet musing alone on Ararat an image of contemporary disillusion, or is the fact that he has survived his Flood the expression of some kind of blessing? One route to an answer is through an exploration of the richness of the poem itself, not merely the complex interweaving of its biological and Biblical themes, but its intricate and beautiful texture. Such an exploration leads us not only to a new view of the poem, but to several other perceptions as well: a sense of "Lakeshore"'s original literary context, its meaning for Scott's art, and particularly a recognition of the extent to which it articulates a solution to the problem of man in nature which has been tested out by other Canadian poets before and since, though rarely with such mastery. (p. 42)
"Lakeshore" began with the poet observing the natural world of the lake at his feet: active, organic, and shimmering with prismatic visions. It ends with him looking upon...
(The entire section is 792 words.)