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By Henri Godard

« Céline est un grand écrivain, mais ce n'est pas un écrivain comme les autres. Il m'arrive aujourd'hui encore, en lisant un des "contre-Céline" qui se publient périodiquement, de me demander remark j'ai pu consacrer tant d'années à éditer et à explorer l'œuvre d'un auteur aussi controversé et, en effet, aussi problématique... »

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In examining three characteristic, but also significantly different, poems of reprise—“Sparkles from the Wheel,” “A Noiseless Patient Spider,” and “Come Up from the Fields Father”—I want to deduce from the surface of each lyric the kind of poetic thinking that the construction of reprise, in that instance, has required. 5 Other poems, such as “These I Singing in Spring” (1860) and “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life” (1860), use reprise for closure, without being fundamentally structured by it. Although Whitman’s major sequences are of course too long to be structured by reprise alone, the closing section (9) of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (1856) is an opulent reprise of the scenes earlier summoned; and “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” (1865) is unified by its intermittent reprise of lilac and star and bird.

Each of these strategies represents an act of thought about the art of caricature, and how it may be accomplished: or, to put it more truly, each draws, instinctually, on Pope’s huge and learned reservoir of strategic diminution. In responding afresh to each line of satiric jeering, the reader—“ravished with the whistling of ” the names of Lord Umbra, Sir Billy, Gripus, Bacon, and Cromwell—has forgotten that he is receiving a lesson in the discordance of external riches and internal virtue. The idea has been sidelined by the poet’s delight in his exempla.

In the interesting line “A Being darkly wise, and rudely great,” Pope allows us, twice, to see man’s nature in its original oxymoronic chaos of opposites before the elements have begun to “choose sides,” analytically speaking. ” For a moment, however, in this formulation by adverbial paradox (“darkly wise”), we are permitted to see man’s opposing qualities physiologically in situ, before the analytic intellect portions them out into permanent antitheses. Each of Pope’s syntactic formulas in these lines shows a mind thinking how it might frame a particular question: here, should the mixed nature of man be formulated mixedly (adverbially) or laid out in categorical antitheses?

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