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November 17, 1957 - Image 16

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Page Sixteen


Sunday. November 17 197

Pa.eSixtee..THE.MICHIGAN DAILYvMAGAZINE Sundn, ,uvember 17 1+:

Emily Di
(Continued from Page 12)
sors, of the sovereign self-suf-
ficiency of the individual soul.j
Testing the validity of self-reli-a
ance by its application to the1
inner, rather than the social life,
she became convinced of the E
transcendental power and beauty
of rational perception. Her poems
are exercises in proportion; like
Emerson's "Compensation," they
were re-creations of the theolog-t
ical paradox of spiritual gain
springing from earthly loss. At
best, they reflected the moral'
stability as well as the intellectual
ferment of New England society,
mingling polished artfulness andj
accuracy with idiomatic roughness
and "the rugged power of sense." '
THE LAST PART of the book
deals extensively with the'
structural clothing of Emily Dick-
inson's thought. Her poems were
essentially simple in meter and
form, adopted mainly from the,
lyrics and hymns that she knew,
but like any artist, she struggled
to match her thoughts with her1
expression of them.
Caring little for the niceties of
perfect grammatical structure and
absolute rhyme, she nevertheless
discarded them only when neces-
sary for meaning or contextuala
consistency. The imagery is always
clear and often startling; usually
taken from nature, it becomes as
complex as the thought to which
it refers. Whicher follows the

ckinson JOHN AUB
shape of the metaphor through (Continued from Page 6)
several levels of Mias Dickinson's
intellectual poetry, from the mere down the last detail concerning
n o t i n g of mental phenomena someone's birth or death, and to
through similes, to the actual per- undersand the problems he would
sonification of the abstract gen- meet
eralizations derived from the dis-
tillation of this data.
DICK WRITES of Aubrey:
the confirmation of her poeti- Sometimes ,too, he asked so
cal truths through experience, many q u e s t i on s that his
Emily Dickinson shifted from ra- friends took pleasure in tdas-
tionalist to mystic to transcen- ing him: "Dr. John Newton--
dentalist to humorist with the -he told me he was borne in
speed of spilled mercury. Whicher Bedfordshire, but would not
sees her as an anticipation of the tell me where": while at other
future. Realizing in her loneliness, times his repeated queries
"the full implications of the in- seem to have exasperated
dividualist's defeat by circum- them: "The Earle of Carnar-
stance," she created for herself von does not remember Mr.
a dynamic existence, within the Brown, and I ask't his Lord-
static bonds of isolation, ship lately if any of his serv-
This Was a Poet is a pain- ants doe; he assures me NO."
stakingly complete treatment of There was also the problem of
Miss Dickinson's life and poetry. accuracy with which Aubrey had
Despite the author's claims to the aocuaywihwiceure'a
contrary, the critical part of the to cope:
book is more valuable to the aver- Tombstones were scanned
age reader than is the strictly for dates, and often proved
biographical section. W h i c h e r fallible, for though Aubrey
claims for Miss Dickinson a posi- noticed that there was some-
tion closer to that of the Meta- thing wrong about the follow-
physicals than to that of the ing: "Pray for the soul of
Romantics commonly associated Constantine Darrel Esq. who
with her century. Whether his died Anno Domini 1400 and
conclusions are entirely justified his wife, who died Anno
depends primarily upon the in- Domini 1495": he had no way
dividual reader's experience with of checking .
the poetry in question and his will-
ingness to accept the universal THIS, of course, raises problems
validity of the poet's work. in the reading of the Lives.

REY: The Determined Gossip

Some of the stories he tells can for additional facts, many of the
be easily discounted by the lay- Lives are short, incomplete, odd-
man's knowledge of medicine, as ly-constructed passages which -
can the incident in the life of Dr. only give hints of the real person
William Butler: and make no attempt at a com-
A Gent. with a red ugly, plete description. An example is
pumpled face came to him for the Life of Richard Lovelace, the
a cure. Said the Dr., I must cavalier poet:
hang you. So presently he Richard Lovelace, Esq., he
had a device made ready to was a most beautifull Gentle-
hang him from a Beame in man.
the roome, and when he was Obiit in a Cellar in Long
e'en almost dead, he cutt the Acre, a little before the Res-
veines that fed these pumples tauration of his Majestie. Mr.
and lett out the black ugley Edmun Wyld, etc., have
Blood, and cured him, made collections for him, and
But how is one to judge the sto- given him money. George Pet-
ries of Aubrey's which sound so ty, Haberdasher, in Fleet
reasonable and raise no questions Street, carried xxs. to him ev-
in the reader's mind? The infer- ery Monday morning from Sir
ence in Dick's prefatory essay is John Many and Charles Cot- -
that Aubrey, as well-intentioned ton, Esq., for many moneths,
as he may have been, believed but was never repayd.
what he recorded to be actual. One of the handsomest
When there was a doubt, Aubrey men in England. He was an
usually indicated it. extraordinary handsome Man,
Credible or not, however, Aub- but prowd. He wrote a Poem
rey'a writings have a vertimili- called "Lucasta."
tude that rises from the author's
apparent conviction-unless oth- ANOTHER of the shortest of the
erwise noted. And the author's be- . Lives is the two-paragraph
lief reflects on the nature of the story of Sir Everard Digby, a con-
seventeenth century, leaving his spirator:
writings to represent, if. not the Sir Everard Digby was a
truth, certainly the seventeenth most gallant Gentleman and
century viewpoint of life, one of the handsomest men of
his time.
ONE OF these viewpoints, or at- 'Twas his ill fate to suffer
titudes, is the concern for sci- in the Powder-plott. When
ence that was growing steadily in his heart was pluct out by the
that century. The persons Aubrey Executioner (who, secundum
writes the most about are the men formam, cyed, Here is the
of science - Francis Bacon and heart of a Traytor;) it is
his Advancement of Learning, credibly reported, he replied,
Halley and the comet, and Wil- Thou liest!
liam Harvey and his theory of Indeed, Aubrey seems most con-
the circulation of the blood. Aub- cerned with physical descriptions
rey says of the latter, when his and with deaths, the most-in-
book came out, cluded information in the Lives as
that he fell mightily in his a whole. But he is not above di-
Practize, and that 'twas be- gressing, something he often does.

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leeved by the vulgar that he
was crack-brained; and all
the Physitians were against
his Opinion, and envyed 'him;
many wrote against him.
The new science, the first re-
fusal, the old superstition -
Aubrey has caught them all in
this passage. Halley's life, how-
ever, a very short one, is primarily
superstition. Bacon's is science to
the end, where Bacon himself dies
of exposure in an experiment.
There are many other promin-
ent lives that Aubrey describes,
too. Of Shakespeare, he says, "His
Comoedies will remaine witt as
long as the English ou is un-
derstood ..." Of Sidney, "He was
a reviver of Poetry in those darke
times, which was then at a very
low ebbe: there is not three lines
but there is 'by God', or 'by God's
AUBREY'S faculty for descrip-
tion of features was well-
developed. Of Sir Walter Raleigh,
"an exceeding high forehead,
long-faced and sour eie-lidded, a
kind of pigge-eie. His beard turnd
up naturally."
Since Aubrey depended on in-
formation to come in his direc-
tion and only rarely went looking
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Half of the essay on Bacon is a
description of the country home
of Sir Francis. In the life of Sir
John Birkenhead, Aubrey relates
the circumstances of the gentle-
man's death the "pined away")
and then concludes the Life
with :
I remember at Bristow
(when I was a boy) it was a
common fashion for the woe-
men to get a Tooth out of a
Sckull in the Church yard;
which they wore as a preser-
vative against the Tooth-ach,
Under the Cathedral-church
at Hereford is the greatest
Charnel-house for bones, that
ever I saw in England .ha
poor old woman that, to help
out her fire, did use to mix
the deadmen's bones: this
was thrift and poverty: but
cunning alewives putt the
Ashes of these bones in their
Ale to make it intoxicateing.
BUT THESE extended com-
ments, often more than any
other part of the Lives, present a
candid view of England in the
1600s. The conflict, really just
starting, of science vs. superstition
and, eventually, religion, is one
whose beginnings are easy to
Aubi'ey's ability to create living
characters in a few words is com-
mendable although probably un-
conscious. But the most pleasant
moments of all in Aubrey's Brief
Lives come with the short, off-
hand comments of a contempor-
ary historian that today have a
different meaning and context for
the world. "He wrote a Poem
called 'Lucasta'," is one of these.
Another conc ides the life of
James Bovey, a merchant who
had seen most of Europe: "In all
his Travilts hr ais never robbed.
Another is the comment on the
person sought by a potential pa-
tron, but who had abait Ihung two
weeks earlier:o"He solucitly lost
a good opportunity of being pre-
The Dick edition of Aubrey's
urief Lves has ndeed many re-
wards for the rea'oa s ekin" ac-
tutyCiigland. Thecsolaloose-
evar, will wsto r etussnato ithe
origisnat editios, s00the ps(-es-t
one is intended for the general
reader, who should find it very
instructive gossip.

arOl lsd ih, sirr
frros CiapC' Th a/I

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