Bliss Carman: A Reappraisal by Gerald Lynch

By Gerald Lynch

The tarnished attractiveness of this turn-of-the-century poet is persuasively burnished anew by way of fifteen students, editors, and poets.

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His texts are all oxymoron: what is permanent is change; what is delightful is ephemeral; what we fear is the fount of desire. 37 The intimate encounter is a marvel, but is never decisive or final. All is metamorphoses. There is no settlement. Carman hates partings, but he is always parting. The Janus-faced character of'' Low Tide on Grand Pre," its poignant alterity (communion/isolation, joy/grief), marks Carman's oeuvre. It modulates at times from a calm acceptance of mutability to an exuberant complicity to a boastful identification, an eerie, because both ominous and triumphant, ecstasy.

But Carman has his own distinct, recognizable voice, creates his own personality, has his own phrasing and imagery. This may not be a great poem, but it is a genuine one, movingly expressing those ambiguous feelings many of us have towards our own mortality and the mortality of other creatures in the universe. That ambivalence is often expressed by Carman, and is the source of some of his most felicitously expressed lyrical passages. I'll give Carman the last word by finishing with another such passage from the concluding stanzas of "Non Omnis Moriar: In Memory of Gleeson White": There is a part of me that knows, Beneath incertitude and fear, I shall not perish when I pass Beyond mortality's frontier; But greatly having joyed and grieved, Greatly content, shall hear the sigh Of the strange wind across the lone Bright lands of taciturnity.

I'll give Carman the last word by finishing with another such passage from the concluding stanzas of "Non Omnis Moriar: In Memory of Gleeson White": There is a part of me that knows, Beneath incertitude and fear, I shall not perish when I pass Beyond mortality's frontier; But greatly having joyed and grieved, Greatly content, shall hear the sigh Of the strange wind across the lone Bright lands of taciturnity. In patience therefore I await My friend's unchanged benign regard,— 32 Some April when I too shall be Spilt water from a broken shard.

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