By Robert Pack
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Extra info for Affirming limits: essays on mortality, choice, and poetic form
What happens, wonderfully, at this point in the poem is that the rhythm radically changes from a regular iambic to a more highly stressed, irregular rhythm. " Perhaps what prevents the father from being able to reply to his daughter's statement is that she has told him something for which there can be no fatherly reply: the reason she finds the man attractive is suggested by the hint of Page 29 cruelty in him, as in the cold March wind. The father recognizes the truth of this romantic attraction and knows that it is a force greater than parental persuasion.
The hidden assumption here, however, is that human life is fundamentally chaotic and without purpose. The order that the artist creates replaces the sorrow of chaos, even as chaos remains the theme. This paradox suggests that art is joyous simply by being art, no matter how gloomy its vision is of the human condition. The artist is thus the happy bringer of bad news. Art is joyous in that it transforms cruelty and chaos into order and meaning, but in so doing it places art above life and loses touch with the very evil that it purports to confront.
Such repressive thinking resembles the magical thinking of childhood and of dreams, for it places mind over nature, and it dwells in an unsustainable holiday from reality. On the other hand, to affirm the idea of having and nurturing children as Page 10 the true model for creation-woman and man together-reminds us that neither we nor our works are immortal, and we can then begin to seek what is good in our lives within this knowledge, free of the despair of longing to be other than what we are, of longing to become divine.