Tuesday, March 11, 2008

John Clarke, daring to be sentimental

"Tortoise Jelly-Mould" by John Clarke is in Smiths Knoll 41. Some things are only hinted at in the poem ... "while nanny read and re-read the telegram" ... the central lines read:

The last one was eaten long ago
by a girl who could run like a hare

and who so loved tortoises
she ate a pink one every night

There's the pathos and sentimentality here of the adult perspective on childhood. I am reminded of Coventry Patmore's 'The Toys' ... the father goes up to check on the child scolded and sent to bed ...

For, on a table drawn beside his head,
He had put, within his reach,
A box of counters and a red-vein'd stone,
A piece of glass abraded by the beach
And six or seven shells,
A bottle with bluebells
And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art,
To comfort his sad heart.

Lowell said of Laforgue: "If he hadn't dared to be sentimental he wouldn't have been a poet. There's some way of distinguishing between false sentimentality, which is blowing up a subject and giving emotions that you don't feel, and using whimsical, minute, tender, small emotions which most people don't feel but which Laforgue and Snodgrass do. So that I'd say he had pathos and fragility - but then that's a large subject too."

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