A.D. Hope’s ‘The Double Looking Glass’: A Reading
'The Double Looking Glass' is one of the most distinctive, original I and successful of A. D. Hope's longer poems. Although it began I partly as an imitation of Mallarmé's 'L'aprés-midi d'un Faune'—or rather as an attempt to provide something in English that would be truer to the spirit of Mallarmé than Aldous Huxley's translation—the poem, according to the author, almost immediately assumed a vigorously independent life and went its own way. And indeed it is an assured and confidently idiosyncratic work. The presences of other poets —Yeats, Baudelaire, the Parnassians — that brood over some even of Hope's finest pieces (for example 'Pyramis') are nowhere to be detected; the subject, though traditional (more so in painting than in poetry, despite Wallace Stevens's 'Peter Quince at the Clavier') is treated in a fresh and adventurous manner and is used as a vehicle for the exploration of a number of themes which the poet, in earlier work, has made peculiarly his own; and finally the whole poem exhibits an admirable combination of control and spontaneity. It is at once eloquent, easy, fluent—and a splendid example of poetic craftsmanship. The thematic material is complex (though not obscure), but its presentation is direct and clear. Visually it is brilliant and vivid; and the language is strong and simple: a convincing example of Hope's own claim that the language of poetry should be 'plain, lucid, coherent, logically connected, syntactically exact, and firmly based in current idiom and usage . . . [without sacrificing] all those resources . . . poetry has accumulated which lie outside the range of merely colloquial speech'.
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