Journal Article

Rationality in the Poetry of Yvor Winters

David Reid

in The Cambridge Quarterly

Published on behalf of Cambridge Quarterly

Volume 34, issue 1, pages 1-21
Published in print January 2005 | ISSN: 0008-199X
Published online January 2005 | e-ISSN: 1471-6836 | DOI:
Rationality in the Poetry of Yvor Winters

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The clarity, elegance and power of Winters’ best poems come out of resistance to irrational forces in himself or his world. Those on the trial of David Lamson are defences of public reason, memorable because of the acuteness of their attack on the corruption of power or of the academic mind. Others, like ‘On a View of Pasadena from the Hills’, win ‘the firm mind’ from contemplating our dark estate – death, the recessive allure of the natural world and the dehumanising New World city. But admiration for Winters’ grand achievement should not spill over to poems like ‘Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight’, where the hero who makes a human clearing in the unbounded does so with insufficient attention to the life which he lives with others and consequently exemplifies an ethic of self-regard and violence upon himself.

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