Gerard Previn Meyer (review date 6 September 1947)
SOURCE: "Washed in Happy Air," in The Saturday Review of Literature, Vol. XXX, No. 36, September 6, 1947, pp. 23, 30.
[In the following review, Meyer notes Lee's focus on pastoral life and love in The Sun My Monument, as well as the volume's focus on metaphysical concerns.]
The war years saw in Britain (as they did in some of the Dominions, notably Australia) the rise of a number of "little magazines," among which Cyril Connolly's Horizon and John Lehmann's Penguin New Writing are best known on this side of the Atlantic. Laurie Lee has published poems in both these periodicals, as well as in the BBC magazine, The Listener, and in at least two anthologies of the newer verse; but The Sun My Monument is his first book publication. Mr. Lee is to be congratulated on the ready acceptance of his first book on these shores; and the American public for poetry now has another measure by which to appraise the new post-Auden generation of English poets.
Is there a greater freshness in the English air than here? At least, Mr. Lee dares to produce poetry that, by one of the standards now revered in local poetic circles, should be clearly "old hat." For example, he boldly packs his work with country, rather than urban, images. Is it that "England's green and pleasant land" provides greater justification for pastoral poetry than the less embraceable American countryside? Though, indeed, he has left his native Cotswolds:
O the wild trees of my home,
forests of blue dividing the pink moon,
the iron blue of those ancient branches
with their berries of vermilion stars,
With their fields ("that place of steep meadows"), he never really leaves them:
But here I have lost
the dialect of your hills,
my tongue has gone blind
far from their limestone roots.
When he writes of war, too, does he write more easily because his British audience, knowing the impact of war first hand, does not require the conscious strain of the poet's imagination to make the...
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