Frederick Morgan Hayden Carruth - Essay

Hayden Carruth

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Frederick Morgan's poems are gratifyingly miscellaneous and adventuresome, both in content and form, but they are almost all easy to read, open, clear. They themselves contain what information is needed to understand them, and they are not cluttered with metaphor. Yet at the same time, they are poems, not the versified prose we see so much of today. They are musical, rhythmic, inventive. In short they are well-written, in the sense once common among people who knew something about prosody—literate people—but now often ignored.

Beyond this, what kind of poet is he? I suppose if a label must be chosen, that of "religious poet" fits Morgan better than any other, though only if one makes immediate qualifications. He is not ideologically minded at all, for instance, not in the high-pressure convention of Newman, Hopkins and Eliot, and hence never speaks with their tone, unmistakable if unintentional, of condescension and assertiveness…. Instead Morgan's religious feeling, as nearly as I can make out, is undifferentiated Protestantism of the gentler sort, though he has his dark side too and at times can write in the voice of the avenger. Mostly my impression is of a man settled in his faith, and happy in it. He is a poet who can write good-humoredly about almost anything, even cataclysm…. Sometimes Morgan's willingness to account for cataclysm seems even complacent, at least to a reader whose religious orientation is different from his, until one sees that Morgan is working—and living—in an order of sensibility foreign to ours. Yet it is not unfamiliar. After all, the downfall of this world, soon or late, has been accepted as the inevitable and proper order of things by human beings of every time and place except our own….

Morgan accepts it, and he accepts much else as well. He can even contemplate good-naturedly the thing that has been anathema to other poets since the beginning, viz. the termination of his own poetry…....

(The entire section is 816 words.)