Fall 1988 • Vol. X No. 4 NonfictionOctober 1, 1988 |

‘The Body of This Death’ in Robert Penn Warren’s Later Poems

Many varieties of religious experience are everywhere present in the characters, the meditations, and the fiction and poetry of Robert Penn Warren. No novel is more permeated by the subject, perhaps, than All the King's Men. Jack Burden alone ranges from an unalleviated determinism which views God Himself as the Great Twitch (derived from the image of a hitchhiker's uncontrollable tic in his face) to some kind of belief which accepts in its own way the Scholarly Attorney's statement about the glory of God. It would be impossible to determine for long whether Warren's meditations search more for a belief in the self or for a belief in God. Once I put the question as bluntly as I could to Warren and asked, "Red, what is your belief about God?" He replied directly that he cannot believe but that he has a great yearning. It is almost as if he wears a collar tugged at with as much power as that in George Herbert's poem but with no definable source of the pull and no destination toward wh

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