Robert Finch George Woodcock - Essay

George Woodcock

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Robert Finch is an urbane poet in a nation that is too often content merely with becoming urban. He writes with poise and self-consciousness. The Dionysic fury never leads him where his reason would not have him go, and his craftsmanship is controlled and accurate. Thus, one imagines, Flaubert might write if another incarnation made him a Canadian poet instead of a French novelist.

These qualities, which at once grace and limit his verse, were already evident in Dr. Finch's first volume, Poems, published in 1946. The present volume [Acis in Oxford and Other Poems], distilling the work of the decade and a half between then and now, can be taken as confirming the bounds of his possibilities as a poet. His gifts are neither epic nor dramatic; he is not a myth-creator of the kind one encounters frequently of late in Canada, unless one sees a mythological touch in his title sequence, "Acis in Oxford", in which he dwells with ironic tenderness on the echoes a performance of Handel's version of the ancient legend arouses in the minds of hearers and performers; finally, he is not a poet of the Canadian scene, among whose amplitudes his verse sounds with the silvery remoteness of rococo music.

Yet, such limitations defined and granted, Acis in Oxford is often true and sometimes very good poetry, its deliberation elaborating on accurate insight and translating, with a conciseness impossible to prose,...

(The entire section is 431 words.)