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Reset Password Enter the e-mail address associated with your account and we'll email you a link to reset your password. Burke may have been only able to diagnose Laforgue's "adolescence" because he had already worked through it in his own poetry. Much can be added to Selzer's account by examining Burke's English influences as well as the French. Timothy Crusius establishes bathos as the primary rhetorical figure of Burke's poetry, and praises Burke's "comic genius for inclusiveness and mediation between opposing viewpoints.
On October 9, , Burke wrote to Cowley, wondering whether some epigrams he planned to submit to the magazine Smart Set reflected more "the influence of Meredith or Mr. Hall's vaudeville shows. Consider the following sonnet, sent to Cowley on October 5, If I could view myself without a laugh, If I could flee the roaringly pathetic Self-introspectiveness my evil half Imposes on me, showing how bathetic It is for me to soar,— were not the staff Of self-acquaintanceship so energetic.
What proud Byronic sniveling songs I'd sing! But I would be less proud than I am now. Without the "self-acquaintanceship" which is really a self-chastisement, he would obey his own appeals, purr to his own caresses: in other words, retreat cynically like his image of Byron.
Meredith had written, "[Byron] had no strong comic sense, or he would not have taken an anti-social position, which is directly opposed to the comic" The "laugh" here is Burke's irony aimed at himself. Laughing is pride, self-acquaintanceship, and Burke's complex rebellion against what he considers "Byronic," self-satisfying and anti-social poetry. Another poem, sent to Cowley on October 9, , makes the Meredithian dialectic of the individual and society more blatant. But where Meredith's comedy can be described as a "calm, curious eye," and "an oblique light.
Burke in the letter calls this a "novelistic poem":. To A Sense of Humor Aroint thee, wicked plague to sighing swains. A pox on thee, thou blotter to our tears. Thou idle anti-climax to our pains, Leave us, and take with thee thy heartless jeers. Thou tellest us the music of our lute, Which we were pouring forth so soaringly, Is but the wheezy pibroch, and to boot, Thou addest that we played it roaringly. We settle, to enthuse in the divine, And hear a voice ring out from high Parnassus.
Thou tellest us, "Your ether is cheap wine. The voice you hear's the chanting of some asses. Thou snickerer, if we got rid of thee, Then every one could have a tragedy.
The use of "roaringly," as in the "Sonnet on Myself" quoted above, again shows Burke's contempt for loud profusions. His antagonism toward Byron in the previous poem expands to other "romantic" tropes: sighing, tears, pains, the divine Parnassus, and above all, the dignity of tragedy. Burke plays the cynic well before achieving success, as if defensively anticipating and warding off the possibility of failure.
The idle, heartless snickerer of Burke's comedy implied by antithesis to "tragedy" defensively misreads Meredith's "calm, curious eye. One explanation of the difference between Meredith's comedy and Burke's early poetry may be that Burke began with the final product the comic Muse of Meredith's dialectic which had passed through several stages: from the wilderness, to society, to comic poetry, to general chastisement by the comic spirit. Meredithian comedy can hardly be considered a "heartless" jeer, which implies the young Burke has not yet been properly softened by social irony.
On the following page of the same letter, October 9, , Burke includes a poem aimed at the idea of "love," with the comic spirit lying in wait:. I want to love. I want to build me a goddess once. I want to weep poetic rivers, too. Just let me love, And I'll see to the moons and the roses. Ah, Fatal Sisters, grant me one really ethereal love.
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I want to have a Beatrice. I want to have a noble, ecstatic love. Perhaps I could sell it to some magazine. One of the most revealing lines of this poem, to name Burke's implicit antagonist, is "I want to weep poetic rivers, too. The impulse to sell sets the young Burke apart; a mark of his self-acquaintanceship, not self-praise, but a kind of jealous anti-self which attempts to negate the British romantic tradition. Burke uses Meredith's concept of "comedy" as a lever to fight this battle against, say, "Byronism" , but Burke may fall into what Meredith calls "Satire": "If you detect the ridicule, and your kindliness is chilled by it, you are slipping into the grasp of Satire" Meredith One may have to seek encouragement in the precursor, Meredith, to better detect the kindliness of the comic spirit.