IV. MARK TWAIN and ROBERT FROST
THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
- If our literature has produced a single work of universal appeal, popular, and elitist, it must be the story of Huck Finn. There are only a few dissenters … … I do not adhere to this school but agree in a limited way: Huck’s longed-for “freedom” is not natural. Freedom for both Mark Twain and his daemon Huck Finn is the freedom of the storyteller, partly alienated from society and from nature.
- With a Shakespearean detachment, Huck records much of what he sees and hears while saying little in response … … Defining Huck’s character is difficult, in part because he is not a quester striving to attain a goal. Cox sensibly emphasizes that Huck’s journey is “a flight from tyranny, not a flight toward freedom.”
- Twain’s one full-length masterwork is a comedy only because it concludes insouciantly. Of no genre, Twain’s book of the daemon has been creatively misread by Sherwood Anderson and Hemingway, Fitzgerald and J.D.Salinger. To different degrees, they interpreted it as a parable of their own inception and as nostalgia for a lost American dream.
- There is no American Shakespeare or Chaucer, though Whitman comes closest and Dickinson, Frost, Stevens, and Hart Crane approach Walt’s splendor. The scope of Henry James’s writing — fiction, travel, criticism, memoir — astonishes, and invariably his work is superb, yet Tolstoy, Dickens and Balzac have a Shakespearean immediacy that James lacks. Anna Karenina and Pierre, Uriah Heep and Fagin, Vautrin and Goriot, convey an illusion of actual existence so richly textured that even Isabel Archer seems insubstantial in their company. Mark Twain’s triumph in his one great book places him in the company of Dickens and Balzac, though not of Shakespeare and Tolstoy.
- Frost principal legacies from Emerson were the double consciousness and the incessant struggle between freedom and fate. For both Emerson and Frost, the pre-Socratic formula held: Ethos is the daemon, character is fate, so everything that happens to you is what you always were and are … … Richard Poirier … … argued with me that my preference for Stevens and Whitman showed a refusal to take choice as being overdetermined.
A WITNESS TREE
- Uneasiness at elegy is another quality Frost shares with Emerson. Both distrusted mourning for reasons both temperamental and imaginative, related to their shared faith in the double consciousness and in their Ananke, or amor fati.
- Frost’s largeness is not so much in the enigma of his reservations as in his full acceptance of contingencies so far within us as to hedge any drive toward freeing choice.
recalcitrance: 顽抗; contingency: 偶然性
NORTH OF BOSTON
- The marriage of two people whose surnames are White and Frost engendered in one of the strongest of American poets both awareness and wariness of the trope of blank whiteness he encountered in Emerson, Melville, Dickinson, and his Key West crony Wallace Stevens.
- The daemon dwells in Frost’s desert places and composes the poem for him; Frost knows, with Emerson, that the ruin or blank we see when look upon nature is in our own eyes.
- Frost was a profoundly pagan poet, and Directive invites its elite readers to a communion with fatal Ananke, the god of contingencies and overdeterminations. This is a cold and clean communion, promising only a Lucretian clarity, a difficult acceptance of the way things are.
monosyllabic: 单音; parataxis: 意合; saturnine: 阴沉的; libation: 奠; pagan: 异教徒