Louis MacNeice (1907-1963) was a contradictory figure. He was an Irishman educated in England, where he spent most of his adult life; a rector’s son who became a skeptic; a poet, a travel writer, a dramatist for the BBC, a critic and a memorialist. He lectured in Classics and had a penchant for modernism; he was friends with W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis, yet remained unorthodox within the ‘Auden group’; a ‘Thirties poet,’ he leaned left but never joined the Communist Party; he fed on W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot, the better to come into his own. The Burning Perch, MacNeice’s last and posthumous collection, combines the poet’s various influences and concerns into a remarkably consistent, however paradoxical, personal project: a quest for poetic renewal and a perennial past. Embers or ashes, nightmare visions or ironic pictures, dramatic parables or simple limericks, these and many other varieties of dissonance come together in a ceaseless weave of archaized novelty and modernized memories. Through minute analysis of precise poems, this study shows how MacNeice’s music of disharmony succeeds in finding its own voice, which not to be false, must achieve a muted singing.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
I. Horn and Ivory
II. Pyres and Parables
INDEX OF POEMS FROM THE BURNING PERCH
Autour de l'auteur
Xavier Kalck is a lecturer in American literature at Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris 4).