Brewster Ghiselin Samuel French Morse - Essay

Samuel French Morse

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The tone of Country of the Minotaur is serious, at times almost grave, although not solemn; and if the poems lack the superficial brilliance and sophisticated mannerisms that have become almost a cultural commodity, they are impressively solid, compassionate, and beautifully sustained.

The title poem draws a leading analogy between the story of Minos and modern man, and sets the theme of the book…. Man is not, however, unredeemably monstrous, nor is the universe simply indifferent or malign. In the poems that follow, especially the extraordinary group devoted to birds and beast of prey, and to the great scavengers, Ghiselin suggests the enormous gap between man's pretensions and his ability to understand his limitations, the loss of awe and the sense of mortality as well as humility. (p. 294)

[The] quiet irony with which he characterizes our "triumph" over the natural world … never interferes with or weakens the grasp of salient detail. He is less concerned with insisting upon the uniqueness of his sensibility than with seeing and understanding human experience—his own experience, quite naturally, in the more personal poems—in a context larger than that of the self….

"We wrestle in the sea," he says; but we "look to the land," inescapably. And in the two long poems that form the center of his book, "The Wheel" and "Sea," Ghiselin makes of that tension poetry of rare quality. The...

(The entire section is 418 words.)