The Dust Which Is God

By William Rose Benét
IN a foreword, which purports to be an extract from The Burninge Glasse by Sylvester Bonchurch, circa 167(though the author and title are not in any history of literature I can discover!), the poet declares: —
This hath no purpose
Save to set forch the actions of a heart
In the shadow of experience,
which is a good description of the contents of this autobiographical verse novel. The poet sees his life in a perspective glass of memory as he moves through home and school, ‘the golden stupor’ of adolescence, the awakenings of college years, ‘the wild and crying first innocence of love,’ the stirrings of social and political consciousness, the joys and sorrows of parenthood, the literary circles of New York. But the larger portion of the book is the account of his relationships with the women who have influenced his life, in and out of marriage. Mr. Benét is exceptionally honest, intelligent, and sensitive. The poem is full of descriptive beauties, of emotional insights, of just and pointed criticism of society and letters. It also contains a good deal of unconscious revelation of the distressing smallness of the world inhabited by the literary intelligentsia of today. Literature, indeed, is like a great country which has lost its prestige; it no longer has any power, only a great tradition.
The main narrative is written in an impressionistic, staccato notation which is often very effective, interspersed with a variety of skillful and moving lyrics. Its weakness is a lack of intensity, of dramatic pressure and explosive force.
E. D.