Anthony Hecht, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and educator, died on Oct. 20 after suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was 81.
His war poetry is hard to read without weeping. But also, see if you can find his 'Ghost in the Martini'.
The Dover Bitch
A Criticism of Life
for Andrews Wanning
So there stood Matthew Arnold and this girl
With the cliffs of England crumbling away behind them,
And he said to her, “Try to be true to me,
And I’ll do the same for you, for things are bad
All over, etc., etc.”
Well now, I knew this girl. It's true she had read
Sophocles in a fairly good translation
And caught that bitter allusion to the sea,
But all the time he was talking she had in mind
The notion of what his whiskers would feel like
On the back of her neck. She told me later on
That after a while she got to looking out
At the lights across the channel, and really felt sad,
Thinking of all the wine and enormous beds
And blandishments in French and the perfumes.
And then she got really angry. To have been brought
All the way down from London, and then be addressed
As a sort of mournful cosmic last resort
Is really tough on a girl, and she was pretty.
Anyway, she watched him pace the room
And finger his watch-chain and seem to sweat a bit,
And then she said one or two unprintable things.
But you mustn't judge her by that. What I mean to say is
She's really all right. I still see her once in a while
And she always treats me right. We have a drink
And I give her a good time, and perhaps it's a year
Before I see her again, but there she is,
Running to fat, but dependable as they come.
And sometimes I bring her a bottle of Nuit d'Amour.
In the hope that M. Arnold is rolling over in his grave. Check out Dover Beach, classic.
Hecht was still writing good poetry shortly before he died- there was a poem in the New York Review of Books a few weeks ago Google SARABANDE ON REACHING THE AGE OF SEVENTY SEVEN. too.
I have it in AH's 'Collected Earlier Poems' (OUP 1991). Light verse by his standards, but a tour de force of wit and imagination. Are you just recommending it, Stephen, or seeking to have it posted?!
Post Edited (10-30-04 05:43)
For an excellent story about Hecht and his work, go here:
And let's not forget the double dactyl:
Invented by Hecht (and Paul Pascal). First book of dd's - Jiggery Pokery by Hecht and John Hollander.
Here is one of his more haunting verses, apropos of Halloween:
"Inviting insolent shadows to her shirt." Nummy!
Ian: yes, I was recommending the poem. I have it in an anthology - incidentally, I recommend the anthology in its entirety - The Direction Of Poetry - An anthology of rhymed and metered verse written in the English language since 1975 - edited and with an introduction by Robert Richman (Houghton Mifflin 1988). His other poem in ther is The Deodand: not, in my view, as good but still most effective.
I haven't found a link to either of these poems on the web, so I can't hyperlink. I could type them out but I worry about copyright: chesil knows where I live!
It was Anthony Hecht
If I'm not incorrect
That along with Paul Pascal
Invented the dactyl.
I heard this poem on the radio and have been trying to find a copy of it. Haven't been able to find it on the web. Do you know where I can get it?
The poem I meant is Sarabande on Reaching the Age of Seventy Seven.