Conrad Aiken was fascinated throughout his early work with the image of a tempestuous, romantic young man who tears himself away from his wife, his first love, and from a pastoral, peaceful life in a rural setting, to pursue what he hopes will be a richer, fuller, more rewarding life in a great city. In this book, Aiken explores this theme in full, especially in the final long poem, "Dust in Starlight", which also forms Part III of his trilogy, Earth Triumphant. However, that story is not the only concern in this collection. He also provides us with a stunningly dry-eyed study of existence in the trenches of World War I, an environment as far from the urban heart-searchings of his primary poems as one could imagine.
Throughout the book, Aiken's work is deeply embedded in his vivid perceptions of the natural world, the qualities of light and shadow, the mysteries of night and darkness, the strangely mixed peace and fury of rain and wind and storm. He expresses himself in deeply musical fashion, using repetition, theme, and rhythm much as a composer would do, providiing a hypnotic experience of the power of musical language. Enjoy!
(P)2011 Robert Bethune
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