Robert Nye GEORGE MacBETH - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The] specific tendency of Mr Nye's work can be seen as interesting. He is the only poet I know now writing who seems to be directly influenced by the attitudes and the diction of the later nineteenth century: his book breathes the spirit of a queer Frenchified pre-Raphaelitism crossed with early Pound and Wallace Stevens…. Mr Nye is perhaps more like an even more recherché writer, the half-French neo-jongleur Theodore Julius Marzials, whose ninetyish farrago of the Gallic and the listless came out as early as 1873. Mr Nye has a taste for archaic language which he deploys mellifluously. In a love poem called 'Of A Jar You Are' he catalogues what I take to be a list of vessels (my dictionary baulked more than once at his vocabulary):

                Sendaument goodwill,
                Jorum and noggin,
                Come-cruse and shellsnail.
                Eve-spect manchyn

Now the point about this is that the precise meaning of the terms doesn't much matter: they're used for their sound and their mediaeval associations…. [This] is a protozoic sort of pleasure in poetry and Mr Nye as yet offers us little more. In another love poem called 'Other Times' he writes well about a bonfire night:

    The gloam rains slowly; fireworks kick with green,
    Attach all marigoldal to the hand.

Here both 'gloam' and 'marigoldal' are nice in themselves but they also work for their keep in the verse. If Mr Nye has more lines like these in his next book and less like

          Espy and wink of the impossibly moon

I shall applaud his progress. (p. 92)

George MacBeth, in London Magazine (© London Magazine 1962), January, 1962.