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Robert Lowell Unites a World Event


robert Lowell Unites a World Event

The cars are a means, not an end: they will take their passengers to any destination. A girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders braces the tingling Statehouse, shaking over the excavations, as it faces Colonel Shaw and his bell-cheeked Negro infantry. This landscape, because it is urban and man-made, contains objects that testify, by their very existence, to what the people who made them valueand fail to value. Yet the simple equation of animal images with brutality, instinct, and raw power that works in the tyrant passages is no longer viable here, although the yearning for a "dark downward and vegetating kingdom" suggesting a subrational unity of consciousness, even a return to the. He is out of bounds now. Later the fish reappear, in the angry final lines of the poem, having suffered metamorphosis into dynamic, mechanical monsters: Everywhere, giant finned cars nose forward like fish; a savage servility slides by on grease. In spite of his invalidism, the younger James went South during Reconstruction and attempted to run a communal, integrated plantation.

July in Washington by Robert Lowell Poetry Foundation



robert Lowell Unites a World Event

The Commanders of the first World War
The road to World War II

When Shaw's body is thrown (vindictively, by the Confederates) into a mass grave with his troops, Shaw's father recognizes the appropriateness of this end in the light of his son's principles, and the implicit racism of those Northerners who see in the act only. The poem's logic resembles the subtle, associational logic of dreams, with its many surrealistic images, its curious doublings and transformations. In "Where the Rainbow Ends" from Lord Weary's Castle, the speaker states: I saw my city in the Scales; the pans of judgment rising and descending. William James himself was prevented by poor eyesight from fighting in the Civil War. The fascination with the fish is linked both with a desire to escape from human consciousness into the lower phyla (cf. From "Robert Lowell's Monumental Vision: History, Poetic Form, and the Cultural Work of Postwar Lyric" American Literary History, forthcoming 2000. He finds his basic integrity not in his acts but in the amount of "pain and labor" in his life, the burden of responsibility and moral insight that he is able to bear. The story of a new style of artand a new way of lifein postwar America: confessionalism.


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