Hine, (William) Daryl
Hine, (William) Daryl 1936–
Hine is a Canadian poet, novelist, dramatist, editor, and travel writer. His early poems are generally formal and tightly constructed, while his more recent works are done in a variety of forms and exhibit a more open poetic style. Eroticism is a recurrent motif throughout his poetry, and the duality of art and life a pervading theme. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)
The title of Daryl Hine's The Carnal and the Crane … comes from a ballad in which two birds (carnal in this context means corneille, crow) discuss the Incarnation. The double entendre in the word "carnal" suggests the theme of the dialogue of soul and body as well, and in connection with "crane" one very astute critic, Mr. Milton Wilson, has murmured the name of Hart Crane. Abandoning speculation, we find The Carnal and the Crane also a carefully planned book, leading up to and moving away from a central poem called "The Return from Unlikeness," a group of three dialogues on the Nativity. I take it that "unlikeness" is here used in its Augustinian sense of remoteness from God, by way of the conclusion of Auden's For the Time Being, so that a return from it, which the Incarnation makes possible, would be the achieving of a total identity, a universal homecoming in which everyone, including Judas Iscariot, goes to his own place. (p. 76)
Mr. Hine's fallen world is an underworld of death and rebirth, many of its features derived from the sixth book of the Aeneid. It is associated with autumn and winter, the hunting season and "The air grown perilous with falconry," when Orion, the hunter and the winter constellation, lover of Aurora and type of cyclical rebirth opposed to the dialectic of resurrection, presides over both love and death. It is the world of "Avernus," where Aeneas, in one of the most eloquent poems in the book, wanders talking to the shadow of the silent Dido, and where sex is represented by the wound of Adonis. It is a world full of ferocious birds and beasts of prey, a "flood of animals" like those Dante fled from, including the wolf who "is time," and which in the aggregate are Cerberus, the watchdog of death, whom the friends of the fat boy assume to have swallowed him. We reach this world by being ferried over the Styx by Charon, who also haunted Mr. Hine's earlier Five Poems. But a more concentrated look shows that Avernus is really a water-world under the Styx, the world that has...
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Daryl Hine's The Devil's Picture Book … may or may not illustrate Northrop Frye's dictum: "Poetry can only be made out of other poems." It either proves that Professor Frye's nestlings are true eagles or that poetry made out of other poems is in fact no poetry at all.
I am impressed by the book, by how much it is a piece of ventriloquism in which seventeenth century corpses are made to speak again, or in which Auden in wax is made to babble for Hine, but I miss the fresh sensual delights of poetry. This is cold marble, the "Cold Pastoral" of Keats' Grecian Urn, romantic idealism carried to excess, to the very extinction of poetry.
In Daryl Hine we have an amazingly capable poet for whom poetry is not a mimetic art, whose eye is not in a fine frenzy rolling, who does not overflow with powerful emotion, who does not feed and water the passions, who is not an original, or a legislator, or a man speaking to men—in fact none of the things that poets and critics have always insisted is true poetry—not even an objective correlative—not even complex in an instant of time—but a poet for whom poetry is a series of extremely recherché, abstract, contrived word-forms, containing oblique and ambiguous philosophical essays and meditations. He loves villanelles, sestinas, and other formal metrical rhyme schemes that he can send spinning into the heights of philosophical outerspace. Like James Reaney's A Suit of...
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Hine's poetry is always a struggle with narcissism, whose outcome or issue (but never whose solution) may be either love or death; intricate, mean and crystalline…. Yet it would be a lapse to read this poet without realizing—upon reflection, as Hine would say, in these fervent surfaces—that the convention is not working against the freedom, against the emotior, but has released the emotion—it would be a lapse of sympathy with the poet's actual enterprise, for if we are at a loss in all these bonds and baffles, we must be simply happy there until we see what being out of them would mean. When Coleridge said that in poetry you have more than the usual emotion and more than usual order he surely meant—and this is Hine's case, even his casuistry—that the order was necessary to accommodate the emotions. Given, then, these hard conditions for reality's survival, that it must fool or charm—others? oneself? the gift does not specify—Hine's earlier books fail to meet them. Or meet them too easily (invulnerability is the true failure). Particularly in that teratoid toybox of virtuosity The Devil's Picture-Book (1960), the deception and the enchantment are too readily imposed on the shapes of natural life to gain much credit for the survival, and the leap of likeness we are told poetry shares with and derives from magic here takes its spring … from a ground that is all fuller's earth. We are not aware, in Daryl Hine's first poems, of the nagging presence of anything so extraneous or so impure as "the real world"—the poet never appeals to it as a means of settling or solving the difficulties of art; for him, the poem is always the statement of itself, a piece of language with which no more can be done and which, if it fails in its own terms, cannot be ransomed or relieved…. (p. 175)
Such a determination to write, always, poems rather than versified thoughts, philosophical rhapsodies, poetical equivalents for something else that came before and perhaps compelled the poem into being in the poet's mind, accounts, I think, both for the evident limitations of these poems (sometimes they do afford
not the green tree but the urinal,
instead of magic, glandular hocus-pocus—
but that is the defect of their quality, not their quality), and for a certain kind of acceptance they have gained, even a certain kind of success. Though I am concerned with what Coleridge, again, called the profession of literature rather than the trade of authorship, I cannot forbear emphasizing Hine's victorious precocity, his special status as a Wunderkind, for it is the sort that prepares, rather than pre-empts, a vocation…. [In The Carnal and the Crane] the brilliancy and fervor of the diction, and the real danger of being easily intelligible, generate those impressive lines [of his early poetry], but the "beauties" rarely unite with the poems in which they appear, and get little authority from them. Two...
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Daryl Hine's In & Out … cheerfully subtitles itself "A Confessional Poem," and goes beyond that entire and benighted school in confessing as much of this poet's early life as nearly 13,000 lines of amazingly good verse can carry. Hine, previously a classical lyrist with affinities to Merrill, reveals himself as a natural story-teller and humorist. In & Out is one of the few poems I've read that has everything fresh and original to say about the quasi-identity of sexual and religious experience, but I suspect it will survive—despite its length and complexity—because the reader, once embarked, needs to know what will happen next. (p. 23)
Harold Bloom, "The Year's Books: Harold Bloom on Poetry, Part I," in The New Republic (reprinted by permission of The New Republic; © 1976 The New Republic, Inc.), Vol. 1975, No. 21, November 20, 1976, pp. 20, 22-3, 26.∗
In no respect whatever is Daryl Hine's poetry "Canadian." His context is resolutely European, with particular devotion to Augustan Rome, seventeenth-century England in its pastoral-metaphysical phases, and late nineteenth-century France; his principal masters have been Virgil, Donne, Baudelaire, Swinburne, Stevens, and Auden. The reader is likely to be struck first by the remarkable charm of language and cadence that this poet can command. Then by an astonishing lack of "presence" in the poems—either of personality or of location. Nothing is there but words seductively put together, images, rhythm. Poetry could scarcely be more "pure." One result of the method (and most of the poems do seem to have been...
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