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13916Re: Wasp

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  • mikeindex2001
    Mar 1, 2008
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      > >The more convinced you are that it's genuine the more anxious you
      > >should be to have the tests done in order to prove yourself right.
      > What an odd assumption to make.

      For me it's always seemed fundamental to the scientific method that any
      hypothesis should be tested in so far as this is possible. It also
      seems pure common sense that if one is confident of the accuracy of
      one's hypothesis one should be quite willing to see it tested, and 'my
      hypothesis is too right to need testing' to me bespeaks outrageous
      arrogance and/or underlying insecurity.

      I'm well aware that many others, Matt Demakos and Martin Gardner to
      name but two, share your opposing view.

      > >2) The abysmal quality of the writing. I find it hard to believe
      > >that CLD, then at the height of his powers, could not only have
      > >written this garbage but considered it fit for publication.
      > I find it a charming episode. I think the character of the Wasp has a
      > real personality.
      I guess literary tastes differ just as approaches to research do.

      However, since I have been asked for a more detailed commentary on the
      literary qualities of the piece and don't have time to write anything
      new just now, here's an extract from a posting of mine back in 2002
      (specifically about the Wasp's verses):

      [Replying to: 'Actually I'd like to ask John Tufail and Mike or anyone
      who has studied his verse what they think about this. Does even CLD's
      worst poetry fit with the terrible stuff in the Wasp? Is it as bad? Or
      is it bad in the same way?]

      I'd say, no, it is most definitely not as bad - but that's just a
      subjective view. I think your second question penetrates to the real
      heart of the matter - is it bad in the same way?

      Take 'Beatrice'. A lot of you will already know that I find many of
      CLD's serious poems full of interest and artistic value. 'Beatrice' is
      not among them. It is, frankly, pretty dire. But what makes it so are
      its saccharine sentiments and the at times overblown language in which
      they're expressed. These are glaring and indeed fatal flaws. But they
      don't affect the rhythmic or syntactical structure, both of which
      remain strong and elegant throughout. The vocabulary is never prosaic -
      if anything it's too poetic for its own good. It's never trite (I'm
      talking strictly about the means of expression, not the content, at
      this point). And trite is pretty well all that the Wasp's poem is.

      'Beatrice' is a bad poem, but - I hope I've made the distinction clear -
      it's not bad poetry. The Wasp's verses are barely poetry at all.
      They jingle along in the most pedestrian of rhymed prose like the worst
      of Wilhelm Muller (undeservedly immortalised by Schubert). The
      rhymes and stresses turn up in more or less the right places but
      there's no rhythmic momentum - something CLD's verse almost always
      possesses whatever its defects.

      A couple of specific points have occurred to me as I've been writing
      this. One of the things which make the Wasp's verses such desperately
      dull reading is the monotony of every line having the same rhythmic
      pattern. The only other instance of this in a CLD poem of comparable
      verse structure is 'The Sailor's Wife', comfortably the worst
      (with 'Beatrice') of his serious poems, and one written many years
      earlier in what might be termed his apprenticeship. (The published
      version is dated 1857, but is apparently a recasting of a much earlier
      original.) In the intervening years CLD had produced such rhythmically
      interesting pieces as 'Stolen Waters', 'Only a Woman's Hair' and 'After
      Three Days'. It's possible, of course, but doesn't seem very likely,
      that he would at the height of his creativity return to an unsuccessful
      and discarded method.

      Also in the Wasp's piece both the sense and the syntax ramble on from
      one line to the next in a thoroughly undisciplined way. This is of
      interest because CLD's poetry has been rightly criticised for precisely
      the opposite fault, straitjacketing his poetic expression by an over-
      insistence on the end-stopped line. (See Lennon - one of the few
      sensible things she says about the serious poems. 'The Path of Roses'
      provides a string of particularly good examples.)

      So the Wasp doesn't just miss out on the good points of CLD's best
      poetry, it has quite different, and in some ways almost precisely the
      opposite, faults to those of his mediocre poetry - a much less likely
      result of an off-day.

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