By Gerald Lynch
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Extra resources for Bliss Carman: A Reappraisal
Yeats. He sometimes writes about, and signs, little Monkey Willy and Willy Truly. To his friends the Fickes he signs Felipe. And to the serious Margaret Lawrence, who thinks he is a Villon, he signs Francois. Earlier, joking about his fall from poet to prosateur, the need for even King Arthur's fool to have his cakes and ale, he signs himself Dagonet. This is, of course, a kind of epistolary game. In an early letter from England, following a walking tour, he signs himself Leggy. But it is a persistent game.
Visiting the Soviet Union in 1976, I came across a Russian edition of MacDonald in a Moscow bookstore—and expostulated mildly to my hosts. Still later, when they translated some of my own stuff there, I wondered if they'd compared me to MacDonald and Joe Wallace—the latter also Russianpublished. Reverting back to the mid-1930s, I was playing football at high school and enjoying the twin status of poet and athlete (I was a lousy football player, too), reading novels concealed inside textbook covers in class.
In "A White Cauldron," Carman's nature descriptions rely, like those of Thoreau and other American romantics, on metaphors of human pomposity and power: [The snow storm] came with tumult and the blare of victory. There was no hope of quarter in the sound of those trampling legions. 10 This rather overworked figurative language develops the situation of a lover who falls through a hole in the pack ice while braving the storm to visit his sweetheart. But if Carman relies on a rather stale plot, some of his descriptive language has a colloquial quality that indicates a concern for authenticity of observation and directness of presentation, unexpected in a writer who was impatient with the realist fiction of the time: When the ground grows as hard as stone and the brooks and ponds are already hushed, then the big rivers begin to freeze.