(William) Daryl Hine Richard Howard - Essay

Richard Howard

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Hine's poetry is always a struggle with narcissism, whose outcome or issue (but never whose solution) may be either love or death; intricate, mean and crystalline…. Yet it would be a lapse to read this poet without realizing—upon reflection, as Hine would say, in these fervent surfaces—that the convention is not working against the freedom, against the emotior, but has released the emotion—it would be a lapse of sympathy with the poet's actual enterprise, for if we are at a loss in all these bonds and baffles, we must be simply happy there until we see what being out of them would mean. When Coleridge said that in poetry you have more than the usual emotion and more than usual order he surely meant—and this is Hine's case, even his casuistry—that the order was necessary to accommodate the emotions. Given, then, these hard conditions for reality's survival, that it must fool or charm—others? oneself? the gift does not specify—Hine's earlier books fail to meet them. Or meet them too easily (invulnerability is the true failure). Particularly in that teratoid toybox of virtuosity The Devil's Picture-Book (1960), the deception and the enchantment are too readily imposed on the shapes of natural life to gain much credit for the survival, and the leap of likeness we are told poetry shares with and derives from magic here takes its spring … from a ground that is all fuller's earth. We are not aware, in Daryl Hine's first poems, of the nagging presence of anything so extraneous or so impure as "the real world"—the poet never appeals to it as a means of settling or solving the difficulties of art; for him, the poem is always the statement of itself, a piece of language with which no more can be done and which, if it fails in its own terms, cannot be ransomed or relieved…. (p. 175)

Such a determination to write, always, poems rather than versified thoughts, philosophical rhapsodies, poetical equivalents for something else that came before and perhaps compelled the poem into being in the poet's mind, accounts, I think, both for the evident limitations of these poems (sometimes they do afford

not the green tree but the urinal,
instead of magic, glandular hocus-pocus—

but that is the defect of their quality, not their quality), and for a certain kind of acceptance they have gained, even a certain kind of success. Though I am concerned with what Coleridge, again, called the profession of literature rather than the trade of authorship, I cannot forbear emphasizing Hine's victorious precocity, his special status as a Wunderkind, for it is the sort that prepares, rather than pre-empts, a vocation…. [In The Carnal and the Crane] the brilliancy and fervor of the diction, and the real danger of being easily intelligible, generate those impressive lines [of his early poetry], but the "beauties" rarely unite with the poems in which they appear, and get little authority from them. Two...

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