Winter 1961 • Vol. XXIII No. 1 Nonfiction |

The Poetry of Praise

Often we think of the main tradition in American poetry as that of the intense and cryptic metaphors of Emerson, Dickinson, Frost, and Eberhart, and we think of the very opposite style of Whitman, as almost alien, unexplainable. Under the scrutiny of the metaphysical critics for whom irony and paradox are major criteria of value, the loose clusterings of Leaves of Grass seem to become almost an historical anomaly. What I should like to try is to describe briefly the historical nature of the high style which we see not only in Whitman but also in Anne Bradstreet, in Whittier, in Pound and Hart Crane, especially in many Californians from Charles Erskine Scott Wood on to the active present, to suggest its essential differences in structure and vocabulary from other basic American styles, and to suggest what are its powers for our future. While it is a style that many of us cannot write in, it is one we may become increasingly aware of. In the past year, a number of books have been c

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