SIX PLAYS by Archibald MacLeish


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Five of these ""plays"" were written during an era of dread and hope--the Great Depression, the New Deal, the approach and aftermath of World War II--when MacLeish, with some fervor, combined what he called ""public speech"" in poetry with political duties in the Roosevelt administrations. Since radio drama as an art never developed in response to MacLeish's challenge, or to the inventions of Orson Welles, these selections are best read as poems in dramatic form. Including the apparently recent This Music Crept By Me Upon the Waters--an a-political, Epicurean exercise--they cover a period of 50 years and fairly represent the admirable, if obdurate, idealism of a poet who has consistently maintained his art as a form of belief. The financier, McGafferty, in Panic (which MacLeish has rewritten for this edition), speaks centrally for his author when he asserts: ""There's only will and weather in this world;/ once the will is lost the weather takes you."" The Fall of the City and Air Raid are stirring reminders of a rhetoric that was appropriate to the high-minded radicalism of the Thirties (there are analogies in the early Leftist poems of Auden, in the ""Elizabethan"" free verse of Maxwell Anderson). Yet it seems not to have weathered the changing moods of poetry or of politics in our time. This collection of plays long unavailable will not only stir memories, however, but augment the documentary record--for students of literature, history, and the links between the two.

Pub Date: June 16th, 1980
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin