March 7, 2017

American War Literature 1914 to Vietnam by Jeffrey Walsh (auth.)

By Jeffrey Walsh (auth.)

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The vocabulary, lacking the radical dissonance occasionally employed in similar circumstances by such modernists as Eliot (say in The Waste Land), is somehow inappropriate to denote wider cultural fragmentation. Without a vocabulary to dramatise his sense of collapse and cultural chaos, Cowley's narrator undergoes only mild culture shock. His gentle bewilderment is expressed in commensurately conventional language, as he witnesses such comically inappropriate forms of destruction as Silenus, patron of these lawns, lies riddled like a pepper box.

The ambivalence of Cowley's 36 A merican War Literature simile here typifies an intellectual uncertainty engendered by the poem. The vocabulary, lacking the radical dissonance occasionally employed in similar circumstances by such modernists as Eliot (say in The Waste Land), is somehow inappropriate to denote wider cultural fragmentation. Without a vocabulary to dramatise his sense of collapse and cultural chaos, Cowley's narrator undergoes only mild culture shock. His gentle bewilderment is expressed in commensurately conventional language, as he witnesses such comically inappropriate forms of destruction as Silenus, patron of these lawns, lies riddled like a pepper box.

In this context the chateau has resonant metaphorical associations, later explored by William Eastlake in his novel Castle Keep (1966). Cowley in 'Chateau de Soupir, 1917' identifies and affirms the splendour of the castle which houses 'genuine Flemish tapestries', 'gilded doors' and other associated irreplaceable works of art. The narrator ofthe poem, slightly bewildered by what he sees, responds ambivalently to the mixture of fact and legend which forms the accessible history of the chateau: this opaqueness is shown in the way constant reference is made for reassurance to the conduit of 'Jean's' opinions.

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