The title of Daryl Hine's The Carnal and the Crane … comes from a ballad in which two birds (carnal in this context means corneille, crow) discuss the Incarnation. The double entendre in the word "carnal" suggests the theme of the dialogue of soul and body as well, and in connection with "crane" one very astute critic, Mr. Milton Wilson, has murmured the name of Hart Crane. Abandoning speculation, we find The Carnal and the Crane also a carefully planned book, leading up to and moving away from a central poem called "The Return from Unlikeness," a group of three dialogues on the Nativity. I take it that "unlikeness" is here used in its Augustinian sense of remoteness from God, by way of the conclusion of Auden's For the Time Being, so that a return from it, which the Incarnation makes possible, would be the achieving of a total identity, a universal homecoming in which everyone, including Judas Iscariot, goes to his own place. (p. 76)
Mr. Hine's fallen world is an underworld of death and rebirth, many of its features derived from the sixth book of the Aeneid. It is associated with autumn and winter, the hunting season and "The air grown perilous with falconry," when Orion, the hunter and the winter constellation, lover of Aurora and type of cyclical rebirth opposed to the dialectic of resurrection, presides over both love and death. It is the world of "Avernus," where Aeneas, in one of the most eloquent poems in the book, wanders talking to the shadow of the silent Dido, and where sex is represented by the wound of Adonis. It is a world full of ferocious birds and beasts of prey, a "flood of animals" like those Dante fled from, including the wolf who "is time," and which in the aggregate are Cerberus, the watchdog of death, whom the friends of the fat boy assume to have swallowed him. We reach this world by being ferried over the Styx by Charon, who also haunted Mr. Hine's earlier Five Poems. But a more concentrated look shows that Avernus is really a water-world under the Styx, the world that has...
(The entire section is 854 words.)