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That Day Lewis is a descendant of Oliver Goldsmith, and that he came to poetic prominence (along with Auden, Spender, MacNeice) during the iconoclastic Thirties, may have something to do with the pull between traditional sentiment and modernist irony evident in a number of subtle ways in this interesting sampling of forty years of work. The most obvious example would be Day Lewis' depression revamping of Marlowe's famous lyric: ""Come live with me and be my love....At evening by the sour canals/We'll hope to hear some madrigals."" This, of course, was the mordant note most characteristic of the poet's radical youth (for a short while he was a member of the Communist Party), and the early poems do indeed cultivate bourgeols decadence against a background of mysterious utopian upheaval. But, later in the Fifties, after Day Lewis had switched to a quasi- conservative Arcadian stance, we still find these meshings of historical juxtapositions, as in ""A Letter from Rome,"" where the ""posters of Betty Grable/Affront the ghost of Cato,"" and so forth. In the end, however, it seems quite likely that something as direct and tender as ""My Mother's Sister"" will prove the more lasting. Its style, alas, Day Lewis has only lately come by.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1967
ISBN: 1409791181
Publisher: Harper & Row