The Airmen

By Selden RodmanRANDOM HOUSE
THE courage and enterprise of anyone who attempts a long poem in the present day are so admirable that one wishes to be able to give unstinted praise to any such effort. The aspirations of earth-bound man to dominate the air, and the struggles and dreams of those who failed and succeeded in the attempt, present a theme worthy of epic treatment. ‘The world is now waiting to learn whether the conquest of the air will be the means of destruction or a new instrument of liberation for the human spirit,’ says the publisher’s announcement of the book. Unfortunately it seems clear at the moment which side mankind has chosen, and the actuality of this is so overwhelming that the tenuous idealism of the poem collapses under it. The figure of the young Italian Lauro de Bosis is too weak a symbol to sustain our hopes in the future victory of spirit over matter. The section on Leonardo is the most successful both as poetry and as drama. When Mr. Rodman tells the story of the Wrights, though he leans heavily on Ezra Pound for his narrative method, the recalcitrant material defeats him, as it so often defeats his master:-
And in that year Mr. Howard of Alabama (by request) introduced the following Bill:
1 Be it hereby authorized and directed that the Secretary of the Navy pay
The sum of $3o,ooo to Mr. Cowden of Virginia who shall construct
For the exclusive use of the Navy Department a complete air navigating machine. . . .
The epic of the air remains to be written.