indulgence

Robert Lowell: On "Dream Song 29"

 

[Lowell’s review of 77 Dream Songs appeared in the prestigious (and newly-created) New York Review of Books. He concluded by quoting all of Dream Song 29 and adding these closing remarks:]

The voice of the man becomes one with the voice of the child here, as their combined rhythm sobs through remorse, wonder, and nightmare. It’s as if two widely separated parts of a man’s life had somehow fused. It goes through the slow words of "Henry could not make good," to the accusing solemnity of the Sienese face, to the frozen, automatic counting of the limbs, the counting of the bodies, to the terrible charm and widening meaning of the final line.

77 Dream Songs is a hazardous, imperfect book. One would need to see the unpublished parts to decide how well it fills out as a whole. As it stands, the main faults of this selection are the threat of mannerism, and worse—disintegration. How often one chafes at the relentless indulgence, and cannot tell the what or why of a passage. And yet one must give in. All is risk and variety here. This great Pierrot’s universe is more tearful and funny than we can easily bear.

From Robert Lowell, "John Berryman" in Robert Giroux, Ed., Collected Prose (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1987) 110-111.

 

From Robert Lowell, "John Berryman" in Robert Giroux, Ed., Collected Prose (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1987) 110-111.