Blood for a Stranger

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By Randall JarrellHARCOURT, BRACE
Along the advertisements the blisses flicker,
Partial as morphine, the terminal moraine
Of sheeted continents, a calendar of woe.
THESE lines are typical of Air. Jarrell’s vision. In verse full of careful phrasing, startling and evocative images, and complex pattern, lie pictures a world of pain and evil, shadowed by “mortality distending like a flower.” Dying individuals, dying cultures, dying worlds haunt his poems, all crying for life but trapped in death: “I stand here among the graves.” It is not that he does not see magnificence in man’s willingness to die for a faith, but he sees a world in which it is man’s choice to create circumstances in which he is forced to this sacrifice; nor does he think that those “heroic endings” in any way influence the designs of those who have power over man’s earthly destinies. In a poem called “Not There,” Mr. Jarrell states very clearly that salvation is not to be found in material things, but there is little in his poems to suggest that he has himself much hope in any solution of any sort for man’s predicament, and in spite of their frequent brilliance of technique they make gloomy reading.
E. D.