Poetry Reading with Archibald MacLeish at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio (Part A)
Mr. MacLeish was here as most of you know last night we had a absolutely thrilling discussion after the play. Many people turning up who were not even there for the presentation of it who had apparently seen it before and come back to our cap off the entire experience. This morning Mr. MacLeish will reach in Portree and make some comments on it. So with no further ado I'll turn it over to him. It was it was. Thank you and thank you for being here. Those of you who waited last night and came in after the. Play and sat until way after midnight my time. Interested in movement and the fact that some of you at least wanted to come back here to
hear me read is also moving. And I was saying to Mr. Barrow that I don't know what the ordinances laws or requirements of Antioch College are as regards discussions and reactions and so forth. I'd like to suggest that you relax and let me read you some poems and just let it go at that. I'd like to. Read you a few I'd like to begin with one which. Has something to do with with J.B. has specifically to do with the poem of job as you will see. I have to say a word about it. There were two. Very great federal judges as some of you will doubtless remember named hand B and and A and A and B they were both judges of the federal district court they
both ended up on the Circuit Court of Appeals of the 1st Circuit. They were two of the most admirable human beings of their time. Very different. My particular friend was and learned a man with a large ish granite handsome even beautiful face the expression of a tragic actor which indeed he was more nearly than a judge. A marvelous voice a marvelous with great personal qualities. His cousin was a different man but in his way also a very great man. And after they both had served on the federal court for quite a long period of time some friends of theirs gave them a dinner in Boston and asked me if I would speak and I said I wouldn't speak but that I would like to write some lines that might have something to do with the two hands and
the feeling that people had about them and what I had particularly in mind was this something that I think I will be familiar to most of you. With a tendency in our time. You can see it in our literature you can see it on the stage. You can see it in our lives in the way we dress our attitudes toward each other. The tendency to regard our time as a catastrophic corrupted decaying time in which man is a victim not hero incapable of heroic action. A An attitude of mind which is partly bitter hard ironic and partly soft swishy and full of self pity. A conception a conception based on an attitude which as I say I think most of you know. This is the poem written for the hands. And this metaphor
is a metaphor which comes from a scene which you have seen so much of Europe particularly will recognize those fallen cities which turn into sheep pastures cities where once there was human grandeur human greatness. And now there are only the herds of the anonymous bleating sheep. You my friends and you strangers all of you. Stand with me a little but the walls are where there was once where. The bridge was here the city further. Now there is neither bridge or town. Or doorway where the roof is down opens on a foot worn stair that climbs by three steps into empty air. What foot went there. Nothing in this town that had a thousand steeples lives now but these flocks of
sheep grazing the yellow grasses where the bricks lie dead beneath dogs drive them with their brutal teeth. Can none but sheep live where the walls go under is man's day over in the sheep's begun. And shall we sit here like the mourners on a dung hill shrilling with melodious tongue disfiguring our faces with the nails of our despair. What dust is this. We sift upon our hair. Because the world is taken from us as the camels from the man of as show we sit weeping for the world that was and cursed God and so perish shall monuments be grass and sheep inherit them shall Dogs rule in the rubble of the arches. Consider 0 0 0 consider what we are. Consider what
it is to be a man. He who makes his journey but the glimmer of a candle who discovers in his mouth between his teeth a word whose heart can bear the silence of the stars. That burden. Who comes upon his meaning in the blindness of a stone a girl's shoulder perfectly harmonious. Even the talk of it would take us days together. Marvelous men have made marvels and breath as it is our death waiting marvels upon marvels works of state the imagination of the shape of order works of beauty. The cedar door perfectly fitted to the sill of base salt works of grace. The ceremony at the entering of houses at the entering of lives. The bride among the torches in the shrill carouse.
Works of soul pilgrimages through the desert to the sacred boulder through the midnight to the stroke of one. Works of grace works of wonder. All this if we had done and more and seen. What have we not seen. A man beneath the sunlight in his meaning a man one and a man alone. In the sinks of the earth. The Wanderer has gone down the shadow of his mind is on the mountain. The word he has said is kept in the place beyond as the seed is kept and the earth ponders it. Stones even the stones remember him. Even the leaves is images in them. And now because the city has a ruin and a waste of air we sit here in despair because the sheep graze in the dying Grove. Our day is over. We must end because the talk around the table in the dusk has ended because the
fingers of the goddesses are found like marble pebbles on the gravel of the ground and nothing answers but the Jackal in the desert because the cloud proposes the wind says. Because the sheep are pastured where the staring statues lie we set upon the sand in silence watching the sun go down and the shadows change. Listen my friends and. All of you strangers listen to the work of man. The work of splendor never has been ended or will end even where the sheep defile the ruins stare and dogs are masters even there. One man's finger in the dust shall trace the circle. Even among the ruins shall begin the work large in the level morning of the light and beautiful with cisterns where the water whitens rippling up in the lip of stone and spills by Cedars sluices into pools. And the
young builders stringing their plumb lines and the well laid course Blanche as its mortar in the sun and all the morning smells of wood smoke robed hoarse with pitch pine. Men. And the trampled mint leaves in the ditch. One man in the sun alone walks between the silence and the stone. The city rises from his flesh his bone. I think if somebody would open that other door over there some of those people standing on this one could come around there. If you want to go around that way that door will open. I don't know why I should be my own janitor but I. Thank. You.
I'm only going to keep you for half an hour a few minutes or so I'm going to read you various different poems and then I want to end with one that takes a little time. This is a poem called what and a lover learns. I think it's appropriate to this audience. I'd like to give you the assurance of an old and much travelled man that it is true literally and precisely true. If you don't see it when I read it the first time I read it again. What any lover learns. Water is heavy silver over stone. Water is heavy silver over stones refusal. It does not fall. It fills it flows every crevice every fault of the stone every hollow. River does not run
river presses its heavy silver self down into Stone and Stone refuses what runs swirling and leaping into Sun is Stones refusal of the river not the river. Where you will see at once what it means so I won't read it again. This is a poem called Calypso's Island. I don't need to tell you in this place of Calypso's Island is a reference to the island on which you live the loveliest of all the creatures of the Odyssey. You remember that Odysseus at the end of or almost the end of his troubles after he's lost everyone and the ship lands in a rough to the shore of the island. I love this girl and Goddess goddess and girl who.
Entertains him. For a year. I suppose the most delic year in all literature. At the end of which although she being a goddess as well as girl can give him everything I can give him immortality and give him peace and happiness and delight as poetry as art can give peace happiness delight and a kind of immortality to the man who practices it. Nevertheless Odysseus driven by that old passion which has driven him now for 20 years asks or at the end of the year to let him build his raft. And trust himself to the sea and go back to Ithaca. To a wife who is also 20 years older and who can give him no immortality. And not even the kind of love that Calypso could give him.
Now disuse is speaking in this poem. I know very well God is she is not beautiful as you are could not be. She is a woman mortal subject to the chances duty of Child bed sorrow that changes cheeks the tomb. For unlike you she will grow grey grow older grey and older. Sleep in that small room. She is not beautiful as you grow old and you were immortal and will never change and can make me immortal also. Fold your garment around me make me whole and strange as those who live forever not that why oh and that we live. Keep me from those dogging dangers ships and the wars in the green far off Ireland's silent over seas eternal sound or sea Pine's when the love of surf is
silent. Goddess I know how excellent this ground. What charm contentment of the removed heart the bees make in the lavender where pounding serve sounds far off. And the bird that darts darts through its own eternity of light motionless in motion and the startled hare is startled into stone. The fly forever golden in the flickering glance of leafy sunlight that still holds it. I know you are goddess and you are caves that answered oceans confused voices with a voice. Your poplars where the storms are turned to dances. Arms where the heart is turned. You give the choice to hold for ever what for never a passes to hide from what will pass for ever. Maurice the more you store your wells stones God is cool your grasses. And she
she is a woman with that fold of change that will be death in her at last. Nevertheless I long for the cold salt restless contending sea and for the island where the grass dies and the seasons alter. Where that one wears the sunlight for a while. And this is a literary poem sort of literary. It's about a subject which has become literary at least Paris in the 20s. When I lived there for about six years I didn't realize it was a literary literary I didn't realize I was even an expatriate. I was just living in Paris.
One or two things have to be said about this. There are two figures in it James Joyce who is named. There's talk about lying on the floor rolling on the floor with the pain in his eyes. At that time in the late twenties his eyes which were later blinded him and really killed him had begun to hurt him dreadfully and his wife used to describe him. Late at night. He used to write on great sheets of paper in huge letters that he could read. She described him late at night and on the floor with the pain in his eyes. She also used to twit him a good deal. This was just when Ulysses would come out and of course it created no stir whatever and no sales. Not until the censors got after it had become popular and profitable. And she used to look at him down the table and say after she'd had the better half of a bottle of house sation white wine which she favored particularly James Joyce the
writer. He could have signed on the platform with McCormick but McCormick was an Irish tenor with a light clear voice and Joyce had exactly the same kind of like clear voice and he could undoubtedly have sung on the platform of McCormick. The other figure in this. Roy was not named. And this is Hemingway. So at the time of this poem I did look as I described and not at all as he looked in the pictures you have seen of his later life. Well this really is a problem for a young generation. Years of the dog. Before though. Paris was wonderful Wanderers talking in old tongues from every country fame was what they wanted in that town. Fame could be found there to flush like quail in the cool Dawn struck among statues naked in Hawthorn in the silver light. James Joyce founded Dublin boredom. I could
have sung with McCormick Gordy he could Diddy. He didn't. He walked by the winding sane and what did he eat. He ate or oddities or he was poor obscure. No one had heard of him. Rolled on the floor on the floor with a pain in his eyes and found fame. He did. Ulysses your book published to every people even in her Smiley Miley why did you say so mommy. Or the lad in the Rue des not a Don't day show at the carpenter's loft on the left hand side going down the lad with a supple look like a sleepy panther. And what became of him. Fame became of him. Veteran out of the wars before he was 20 famous at 25 30 a master whittled a style over his time from a walnut stick in a carpenter's loft in a street in that April city. Where do they hang out now the young ones the Wanderers following fame by the rumor of praise in a
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- Archibald MacLeish (July 5, 1892-April 20, 1982) gave a poetry reading at Antioch College in Yellow Springs on July 8, 1966. He earned a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1919 and was the editor of for Fortune Magazine from 1930 to 1938. MacLeish was the Librarian of Congress from 1939 to 1944. He retired in 1962, as the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University a position he held for 13 years. A member of the League of American Writers, he associated with Modernist school of poetry and the leftist writers of the day. He read the following poems: A Hand & B Hand What Any Lover Learns Calypsos Island Years of the Dog This audio recording DL 9 A is continued on audio recording DL 9 B.
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- Chicago: “ Poetry Reading with Archibald MacLeish at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio (Part A) ,” WYSO, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-27-kd1qf8jz44.
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- APA: Poetry Reading with Archibald MacLeish at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio (Part A) . Boston, MA: WYSO, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-27-kd1qf8jz44