Robert Finch L. A. MacKAY - Essay

L. A. MacKAY

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Robert Finch's verse at its best has a mannered dexterity, an ornate lucidity, and a studiously restrained tone that is capable alike of light grace and poignant though delicately phrased emotion. In his second volume, "Strength of the Hills", his work, it must be confessed, is less often at its best than in his previous collection. There are a couple of brilliant catalogues, several descriptive pieces with the clarity of outline and elegance of color that delighted his earlier readers, and a few vignettes of emotion that capture something of the sober penetration of his earlier work; but there are too many pieces that seem to be "exercises in the manner of Robert Finch". To have achieved a personal manner in these days is in itself no little distinction; but this is a manner that makes ruthless demands on its user. If it is not absolutely accurate, it is as cold as inferior Mozart, dexterous but hollow….

[His style,] admirably developed for a somewhat remote, fastidious, and intensely personal attitude serves but ill to render broader, deeper, and more general ideas. It is unfortunate that this accomplished artist seems on this occasion to have violated his own earlier practice by coming into print more rapidly and more copiously than one would have expected of the accurate and delicate critical taste that his best work displays.

L. A. MacKay, "Fundamentally Serious Poetry but Lightened by Urbanity" (copyright © 1949 by Saturday Night; reprinted by permission of the author), in Saturday Night, Vol. 64, No. 32, May, 1949, p. 22.∗