The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Repentance” is one of four poems which together constitute a longer work entitled “The Liar’s Psalm.” The epigraph that precedes “The Liar’s Psalm” states the subject and sets the tone for the entire work. It is a quotation from the beast-fable, “Reynard the Fox,” one of the many medieval versions of the adventures of an immoral predator who manages through cunning to avoid the punishment he deserves. The epigraph begins by pointing out that, while it takes neither “art nor cunning” to tell the truth, a skillful liar “may do wonders.” Motivated by the “hope of gain only,” he can rise high in the secular world or in the Church. Almost as an afterthought, the speaker adds that, though lying is indeed an “art,” it inevitably ends in “misery and affliction.”

With its emphasis on Reynard’s accomplishments rather than his downfall, this epigraph establishes the ambivalent tone that is evident throughout “The Liar’s Psalm.” Andrew Hudgins, the poet, cannot but admire a creature with the artistic talent of the fox; on the other hand, Andrew Hudgins, the moralist, knows that though truth may seem dull, lies are the devil’s instrument.

“Repentance” is the second segment in “The Liar’s Psalm.” It is preceded by “Homage to the Fox,” in which the fox’s gifts are praised and his worldly success emphasized, while the truth is characterized as both cowardly and unimaginative. The section that...

(The entire section is 537 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Though Hudgins often utilizes blank verse for his poetry, “Repentance” is written in a mixture of forms. Some of the lines are conventional blank verse—for instance, “and I repent logic, which has no god: it will do.” Other lines are either shorter or longer but still regular and iambic: “So I have made this vow” and “of apple pie, a black chrysanthemum, a job—I could go on.” Sometimes anapests dominate, as in “It is nothing against principalities, against powers.” Occasionally the meter becomes so uncertain as the line progresses that Hudgins seems to have forgotten metrics altogether, but when that happens, he soon returns to a regular pattern, if not necessarily to iambic pentameter. For example, after “or with their densities. They are not worth their flawed kingdoms,” is followed by a line which begins with three iambic feet, “And neither do I love” before veering away from regularity. However, Hudgins is a careful craftsman, and there is method in what might seem to be metrical madness. To emphasize a point, for example, he uses simple words and a simple, regular pattern, as in the first four words of the poem and in the later “So I have made this vow.”

Hudgins’s imagery is as varied as his metrics. Some of it is grand and abstract, such as the Miltonic “principalities” and “powers” and the references to “gods” and “kingdoms.” On the other hand, much of it is taken from the everyday world....

(The entire section is 451 words.)