Somewhat disappointing when considered as a whole, the poems in this collection are extremely varied in subject matter and treatment. Many of them vent scorching social criticism in both national and domestic situations. More philosophical in tone and sometimes laboured syntactically are Clardi's poems exploring and describing the destructive forces in human nature. Most vital and effective are the narrative poems included here. As an example, ""The Conqueror Speaks"" (one of several poems about men and battle) the poet's amazing skill with the American language and is alive with real movement and delicate shadings of intense feeling. Thoroughly delightful are the several shorter poems (""Beagles"", ""Dragons"", ""Peaks"", etc.) in which Ciardi shares his gentle but penetrating sense of humour.