Deborah Baker: On "Helen's Burning"

In "Helen's Burning" such paradoxes [love as good and evil] are explored in ways that suggest how deeply imbued was Riding's "poetic sense" with the dialectical conjurings of metaphysical poetry. That such rhetorical gambits tended, time and time again, to steer all her arguments toward ultimately nihilistic and self-destructive ends is perfectly captured in this early poem.... In Riding's inexorable and self-embracing "logic," meaning searches for its purest expression not in the mythic ideal but in Helen's "whole fate," her ugliness and her beauty her life and her death "in one breath." ... The "gift of prophecy," the vatic power of Helen's transcendental and mythic beauty, was Riding's poetic inheritance. To forsake this mystery to unmask the whole fate" of woman risked the revelation that Helen's beauty might be no more than mortal, and the gift of prophecy, delusion. (pp. 177-178)


Title Deborah Baker: On "Helen's Burning" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Deborah Baker Criticism Target Laura (Riding) Jackson
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 10 Jun 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding
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