On a View of Pasadena from the Hills Themes

Yvor Winters

Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In acknowledging the artifice of terraces as “bastions of our pastorals,” Winters affirms a tension. In one sense, the pastoral is readily associated with the natural, and bastions, the work of human hands, are restraints. To a certain kind of Romantic temperament, the imposition of restraints on nature is unnatural, and “unnatural” is the strongest possible term of condemnation. For Winters’s classical temperament, no such issue arises. The cultivation of nature, inevitably involving some measure of restraint, is simply one of the things that human beings do. The gardener arranges the garden in terraces supported by concrete, and the poet organizes the stuff of human emotion into the twenty syllables, regular stresses, and recurrent rhymes of the couplet. Moreover, in these activities poet and gardener imitate a quality of nature that Romantic temperaments sometimes overlook: the regularity suggested in the “metronomic” pulsing of fish’s mouths. This, says the poet, uttering what may be his strongest term of approbation, is “true.”

Winters, then, refuses to perceive life in the sentimental terms of a corrupt Romanticism. If what lies before the poet is not a vernal wood but a mowed lawn, the poet’s work is to observe that lawn so closely that he finds the life in it as Winters does here. “On a View of Pasadena from the Hills” implies a deep recognition and acceptance of limits as a part of life. The ultimately defining limit is...

(The entire section is 460 words.)