Wednesday, March 26, 2014

`Form Has Gained Its End'

Wesley Trimpi, poet and scholar, died in Stanford Hospital on March 6 at the age of eighty-five. I learned of his death from his former wife, Helen Pinkerton, who wrote to me on Tuesday: “We met in a writing class of Yvor Winters in 1946, when he was a freshman. He published some pretty good poems, but chose, instead, to become a great scholar of Classical, Medieval and Renaissance literary criticism.” The fruit of Trimpi’s scholarship was published as Ben Jonson’s Poems: A Study of the Plain Style (Stanford University Press, 1962) and Muses of One Mind: The Literary Analysis of Experience and Its Continuity (Princeton University Press, 1983). The Jonson book (dedicated to J.V. Cunningham, “a master of the plain style”) I read a long time ago. Muses I struggled to finish, at the suggestion of Helen and with the encouragement of David Myers, almost two years ago. The struggle was the result of my threadbare education not Trimpi’s thinking and prose, which are admirably clean and orderly. Here is one of Trimpi’s “pretty good poems,” first published in Poetry in 1948 and collected in The Glass of Perseus (Alan Swallow, 1953). I choose “Adirondacks: Late Summer 1948” because it describes a place where I’ve spent a lot of time and miss very much: 

“The spruce are dense above the lake.
A thick, gray driftwood, sharp and bent,
Margins the shore with heavy lines.
The overhanging aspens shake
Their dry deciduous sentiment
Into the cool, reflected pines. 

“There is a limit here of tree
And water: form has gained its end,
Lost in continual reflection.
Through shades the glossy visions flee
And in a darker calm distend
Downward in shadowy perfection. 

“Across the lake at evening, wild
And distant, like unhallowed ghosts,
The loons converse. Rotten and dank,
The logs jut rudely: split and piled
They slant into the dusk like posts
Unearthed and cast against the bank.” 

The call of the loon is the most bereft sound I know in nature. I remember waking to it in the morning fog when camped on the shore of Pyramid Lake. It sounded like a lost, disconsolate soul. My condolences go to Helen and her family.

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