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LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation
mount st. mary's college : 1956
MOUNT ST. MARY'S COLLEGE
COVER DESIGN BY SISTER MARY IGNATIA, C.S.J., M.F.A
ANDERSON, RITCHIE & SIMON : LOS ANGELES
This book is dedicated to
Sister Marie de Lourdes, C.S.J.,
teacher of creative writing
at Mount St. Mary's College since 1932.
early rain would not be.
"The farmer waits for the precious
fruit of the earth, being patient until
it receives the early and the late rainV
ST. JAMES v, 7
Foreword: Paul Hackett
Christmas Card: Lillian Pereyra
Abuelita: Margaret Cain
A Critical Analysis of Hopkins' "That Nature is a
Heraclitean Fire": Claude tte Drennan
Target: Patricia Fitzgerald
Alii: Pat Ching
. . . Ere I had Told Ten Birthdays: Theresa Hatsumi
Spectrum: Beverly Turmell
Paul Claudel: Prison and the Satin Slipper: Barbara Selna
Three Cinquains: Pamela Brink
"A Wedge-blade inserted" : Milania Austin
Tight-rope: Carron Vincent
Taus and Triads: Joan Carey
Spring: Bruna Bernasconi
Stevens' u Peter Quince at the Clavier": Mary Joan Storm
Daydream: Carron Vincent
Tender Years: Kathleen Burke
Poinsettia: Mary Jo Rennison
Trees: Danuta Krotoska
Looking at Cezanne's Still Life: Claudette Drennan
Please, Ben: Patricia Fitzgerald
The Waters Between: Pat Ching
A Lover Scorns His Love: Shirley Burke
Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood": Sally Snow
For Calming Ruffled Spirits: Milania Austin
Study in Black and White: Carron Vincent
List of Awards
The education of young talent is a delicate art.
The talent is there, brittle as the first ice of winter on a
pond, lonely as a single seagull circling a lost shore. It must
be led forth gently. Then it must be left alone; the teacher's
hand disengaged as a parent unfolds a sleeping child's hand.
For the talent can only live in the deep solitude of aloneness.
For a teacher then, one volume of her students' work is
a tribute to a lifetime of effort. All of the poems, short
stories, essays and criticism in this book have been written
by students of Mount St. Mary's College under the direction
of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. The selections have
been printed elsewhere and have been written during the
last five years.
We are witnessing in America an emergence of a Catholic
culture to match the faith. Literature must reflect the nature
of this culture. Early Rain is a tribute to Mount St. Mary's
College, to the mature talent of its students, and a slight but
important creative contribution to the emergence of an
American Catholic literature.
«[ CHRISTMAS CARD
He's always pictured lying in a manger
While mother arms above Him
Are empty crossed upon her breast.
Lying on cold stiff straw,
Splintered wood surrounds Him
And dust is haloed over His head.
Why couldn't she have snatched Him
From straw and wood and dust,
And pressed His living body
Against her living breast?
— What others would be quick to do-
But even then, she knew . . .
LILLIAN A. PEREYRA
First Prize $100 — Atlantic Monthly Contest — 1952
Hot, brilliant light poured into the little kitchen, blazoning
gourd into scarlet life, stirring a few frenzied particles of
dust, fingering the dried peppers hung in rows above the
little stove, and stripping the shadows from the tired table.
Old Maria shaded her eyes against the glare.
"Caramba" she muttered. "It makes another hot day!'
She pulled the curtains against the brightness and moved
slowly to the cupboard, her shriveled body straight and
small in the faded dress that hung from her shoulders. The
cupboard door sighed open and Maria reached up, taking
two cups, two plates. "Dios mio" she whispered, hastily
shoving back one of each. "It is hard to eat alone. But old
women must learn to eat alone. It is the way of life!' Once
she was never alone. . . . Sometimes in the evening she
would remember the old songs and try to hum them, but
old voices should not sing young songs. Sometimes Manuel
sang for her. Ah, he was so funny, with his jokes and his
songs — Manuel! The old hand trembled with the silver.
I must hurry, Maria thought. I must not be late.
There was time to do the few dishes, straighten the little
house, roll the tortillas for the evening meal — round and
thin as a leaf. She slipped into the good dress and lifted the
lace mantilla from the drawer where it lay folded, smooth-
ing a wrinkled finger over it with a dry old laugh of pleasure.
Manuel hated to see her wear it. "Abuelita" he would tease,
"wear a hat and look civilized!' No, Manuelito. Not today,
Then the bundle with Manuel's things that she had packed
last night, and Maria was ready to step out the door.
The world seemed naked this morning in the malicious
white light. Houses, peeling gray, cringed under slumped
pepper trees. Everything is too bright, thought Maria, too
blue and orange and white and green. It was days like this
that Manuel loved, and his skin burned dark from the sun
each summer. Would it grow pale now?
She walked along in the gnashing heat. Dun-colored
mongrels rooted around fences tipping drunkenly toward
the street. Dusty children dashed past her in long black
braids and faded blue jeans, with runny noses and skinned
elbows. When I was young, children were gay, thought old
Maria. Now they are just noisy. Her cracked shoes made a
noise on the pavement like a whisper.
A horn rasped suddenly, sharply, grating the lining of her
thoughts, and an old car, painted violent red, grumbled by.
Maria winced when she saw the moon-face of Pancho Lopez
hanging from its window. Oh, that silly grin, and not a
thought in his head except food and girls. So much more
stupid than Manuel.
"Mrs. Peralta!' he called, and the car swooped danger-
ously close to the curb, jerking to a stop that shook all its
parts. Maria looked at him warily. What did the child of an
idiot have to say now?
"Sefiora, how is Manuel?" he began eagerly, then stopped.
"Manuel is fine" she answered shortly, with dignity.
"I meant — we're all ... I mean . . . hope everything . . .
uh, well ... I mean . . . It's a dirty shame anyway" he finally
Al Rosas sat at the other side of the car, his face turned,
dusky and secret, ignoring his friend's embarrassment. He
flicked the tip of his cigarette with his fingernail.
"Well, uh, like a ride, Mrs. Peralta?"
His face was very close to hers. She noticed that his eye-
brows straggled across the bridge of his nose. But he's only
stupid, she thought. Not bad, not cold and dangerous like
Al Rosas is the smart one, the one who never gets caught.
But Pancho does not get caught either. And Manuel is much
more smart than Pancho.
"No, gracias, I am not going far!'
The car shot off with a great noise and much smoke. Man-
uel had helped Pancho to fix it so that it would make the
noise. But the smoke had defeated both of them. Maria did
not understand why it was necessary to have the noise. Per-
haps it is to prove that the car really goes.
A boy swooped by on a bicycle, and plump, dark women
came out of sad-eyed houses to sit on front steps and fan their
moist faces. Old Maria shuffled on.
Now she approached Rosa's Cafe, on the edge of Mexican
town, a squat, square building with faded advertisements for
beer and cola on its windows and greasy booths inside hiero-
glyphed with carvings. Here the boys and girls gathered —
taut, withdrawn youth with hair a little too long at the backs
of their necks, and knives in their levis; girls with too many
curls and too much make-up.
Eddie Aguilar was standing outside the cafe in the shade
under its awning. Even in the heat he wore his leather jacket,
dark and bulky. He was alone, and his hulking body seemed
suddenly bent and distorted in the heat waves. Maria won-
dered why he was alone and why he stood in the heat, still
and bent. He began tossing a coin in the air, catching it in
one cupped palm and returning it to the other. It dropped,
glinting to the ground, and he stooped to pick it up. As he
straightened, his eyes met those of old Maria. He looked
away and she passed him silently. She did not look back to
see if he was still standing dark and alone under the awning,
or if he had gone into the cafe.
Perhaps soon Pancho and Al would come by in their car
and he would climb in, still silent, and they would go off
somewhere. She had never known where they went in that
car. She used to ask Manuel, but he would say, "Oh, just out"
and make a gesture with his hand suggesting some great
shadowy world beyond her vision.
She passed the very ends of the town, the old deserted
streetcars, rusty, and curtained now with limp scraps of mate-
rial, discouraged flowers growing around their wheels. Very-
poor people lived in these, like Mrs. Rios, who was waving to
her from the clothesline — Mrs. Rios, with a sick husband and
so many children. The children wore the same dirty gar-
ments, day after day — even slept in them, Maria supposed.
They were thin, and whined. Too, people like Big Tomas
lived here simply because there was no rent to pay and no
utility bills. Here he could cheaply fill his few needs — a bed
to sleep in, and an old wood stove to keep him warm.
The air smelled of refuse from the dump across the road,
but Maria was past it now and into the American neighbor-
hood — a poorer one, almost as poor as her own neighborhood,
but not quite. There were sidewalks here.
A car passed her, and the woman driving it waved to
Maria. It was Mrs. Cramer, and the car was the new one with
the dent in the fender she had made parking too hastily; Mrs.
Cramer was so funny a lady, with her rushing here and rush-
ing there. Maria, so slow in her ways, often watched her with
wonder; and Mrs. Cramer, looking at Maria trace carefully
with her iron the sleeve of a ruffled blouse, would exclaim,
"I declare, Maria, you amaze me, you're so patient!" Truly
though, Mrs. Cramer was a good lady, and Maria liked her.
After Jacinto was hurt in the legs and could not work any
longer, it had made him angry that his wife must support
him, but who could help it? So Maria went to work for the
American ladies, cleaning and washing, and a little cooking
perhaps. Jacinto was dead now, but she still worked for them,
for there was Manuel. The American ladies were good, most
of them, though a little foolish. Well, the ladies would not
see old Maria today.
Almost to town now, almost. The streets were a little wider
in this section of town, a little neater, and street lights
sprouted every hundred steps. Now she had come to the shop-
ping district, rows of old brick buildings lately modernized
with big windows to show all the wares inside and the reflec-
tion of her own figure passing over them, dim as a ghost. It
must be the Dollar Day, she thought, looking nervously at
the crowds swarming the sidewalks — the orange ranchers in
for the day, the children darting and screaming, the window
shoppers and bargain hunters. They pushed past her small
figure, drab and faintly smelling with an odor of garlic fixed
in her body through the years.
The police station was on a side street, green and tree-
shaded, away from the shopping center. It was a small build-
ing and a little shabby. Maria slowly climbed its steps, grunt-
ing a little under her breath at the arthritic pains shooting
through her back. She stopped at the door and looked around,
wondering if anyone was watching, saying to himself, "What
shameful thing has happened to Maria Peralta? Why is she
going in the door of the police station?"
She shuddered in spite of herself as she pushed open the
heavy front doors and walked down the soiled corridor,
brightened only by an occasional light-bulb hanging from its
ceiling, the smell of smoke clinging to the cracked walls. At
the end of the corridor was the desk of the sergeant. He was
looking at her. She was not quite so afraid of him this time,
even though his uniform was big and blue, and his manner
stern and professional.
"Mrs. Peralta" he said, rather than asked. "Down the hall
and to your right!'
She turned, feeling as she did the cold grow inside her.
"Wait" somebody called. She stopped and looked around,
casually, in case the voice were addressed to someone else. But
there was no one else in the hall, so she waited until the young
man to whom the voice belonged ran up to her.
She had seen him here before, with Manuel.
"May I talk to you a moment, Mrs. Peralta?" he asked, still
trying to catch his breath.
"Come into this room, please" he said, and opened a door.
It was an ordinary sort of room with a desk and some
chairs. The young man offered her a seat and started to sit
down at the desk, then looked at her quickly and drew a chair
to her side.
He was very thin. His pale face was shiny and damp and
his large eyes blinked nervously behind horn-rimmed glasses.
"I won't keep you, Mrs. Peralta. I know you want to see
"Yes'.' She looked at him questioningly.
"I am Henry Gonzales, from the Juvenile Office. I would
like first to apologize. There has been no room in Juvenile
Hall, and that is why we have been forced to keep your
He seemed to feel very bad about it. Maria made a depre-
"Really, facilities are very bad — so crowded — " He paused.
Did he have to keep apologizing?
"Now, I have been assigned by the juvenile authorities to
help you and Manuel. I am a social worker!'
"We would like to know something of Manuel's back-
ground. His parents are dead?"
"Automobile accident, I understand!'
"Now, you have raised your grandson, and you are respon-
sible for him?"
"Yes. I — have raised him!'
"Now, has Manuel ever been in any trouble before?"
She stiffened and felt her heart tighten. "My grandson is
a good boy. He has always been a good boy!'
The eyes blinked mournfully at her as if trying to read her
"Manuel is quite bright, we've found from his intelligence
"A priest" the sisters said when he graduated from the
Catholic grammar school.
"That didn't do it, though}' he murmured. "What about
"Manuel had the — how do you say it — rheumatic fever
when he was small, and so — " she shrugged her shoulders.
His damp gaze bothered her.
"I'm very interested in boys like Manuel!' He leaned
toward her. "Very interested!'
Maria nodded, still waiting.
"There's something about teenagers — an urge to be aver-
age, to fit the norm. They think that's the only way to be
accepted. Boys like Manuel — Mexican-American — they're
different to begin with. They can make it maybe by sports —
the average, I mean. It gives them a reason for trying. If
they're good at schoolwork, that's an incentive. The unusual
boy makes it on the strength of his own personality. But most
of them don't make that — average. So they fall back to one
they can get — sometimes the wrong one!'
His forehead looked moister.
"It's a case of adjusting psychologically. Some of them
don't know how. Like Manuel!'
Manuel is supposed to adjust then? That is the word for
why he has done this sin? That is why he is in this place?
"I am sorry, sefior. I do not understand all these words
about adjusting. I have tried to teach Manuel to be a good
boy, but I guess I did not do so well. I think if I had taught
him right to be a good boy, there would be no talk of adjust-
ing!' She continued politely, "I am glad to know that you are
interested in my grandson!'
Should I ask him?
She felt herself running her hand over the scar on her
cheek. She drew it away quickly. Manuel had wanted so
much to play with the kite. But it was raining, and she had
told him that he must wait until he could go outside. He had
taken it when she was not looking and run through the house
with it. It had brushed against the flame of the stove. She had
been frightened and snatched it from him quickly. Now she
felt foolish to be fingering the ugly place where the burn
As long as I do not ask him I can still think maybe. . . .
How could he know anyway? I will not ask him. Do I dare?
"Senor Gonzales, what — what will happen to Manuel?"
A door slammed somewhere down the hall, and a fly buzzed
against the window.
"Manuel stole a car, Mrs. Peralta. He resisted arrest. Now,
it will depend — on a great number of things. The report of
the Juvenile Office. The decision of the judge — I'm afraid
Manuel will be sent to an institution for the correction and
rehabilitation of delinquent boys!'
"It is not the reform school, then? I have heard of that. It
He looked unhappy.
"It is not a reform school. I wish people would get that
through their heads!'
Is he trying to fool me? It is so hot, I cannot think.
"There will be good teachers. Manuel will learn a trade!'
Shall I be proud, that my grandson will learn a trade — in
the reform school?
"Thank you, senor" she said almost absentmindedly.
There were some papers then to sign, and at last she was
finished. She must find Manuel.
There was a thought about him that had slid by her back
there. She must take time to find it, but not now. Ah, but
here was the door.
Inside was a dusty, bare room with a policeman standing
fierce and blue at the other door. Manuel was sitting on a
chair in the middle of the room between her and the police-
man, looking so small, so young. There was a girl with him.
Maria had never seen her before. Manuel's eyes were warm
and bright and angry a little as he talked to the girl. Then he
looked up and saw old Maria.
"Grandmother" Manuel said awkwardly, stiffly. "I would
like to present to you Dolores Garcia!'
Was this that one Manuel called his "girl-friend"? She
seemed to Maria just like the rest of the girls who walked by
the little house in the mornings on their way to school — a
cheap gabardine skirt tight on her narrow hips and a flimsy
nylon blouse tucked at the waist into a wide elastic belt, black
hair streaked blonde, lips smeared wide and red.
Hmph, thought Maria. Manuel can do better than this.
"Mucho gusto. If you will excuse us, my grandson and I
must talk together!' With a flick of her head, Maria dismissed
this Dolores Garcia.
"A moment, if you please, Mrs. Peralta. I must tell you
something!' The girl's speech was harsh and slovenly, but she
seemed in earnest.
"You must not blame Manuel for this — "
"Dolores!' Manuel half shouted, his face dark with anger.
"Be quiet, Manuel!'
She turned to the old woman. "For a long time I have
teased Manuel that he does not have a car like Tony Gomez.
That he has to ride in the old one of Pancho. And I have told
him that Tony has invited me to go for a ride in his car with
him, and that I would like to go. Manuel has become very
angry. And the idea has come to him that if he had a car, then
I could ride in it, and that would make me happy and I would
like him better than Tony Gomez. But he did not steal this
car, he just borrowed it, so that he could take me for a ride
in it!' The girl's voice trailed off as she became aware of
"You are a bad girl, Dolores Garcia, already to be taunting
The girl's face crumpled as if for tears, and she turned and
ran from the room.
"You, Manuel Peralta. Are you not ashamed of yourself?
To be so foolish and so bad!' Maria knew inside herself that
these were not good things to say. "And now you are in the
jail — because of a car" she added reflectively. "It is cars that
cause all the trouble in this family. Your parents — " She
crossed herself hastily.
Manuel turned away with a jerking movement.
"How else can I get a car of my own but steal it? I know
boys who drive to school in their own cars — new, shiny cars.
I will never have a car. I don't have a father who is rich,
who will give me money to buy a car. I have only an old
grandmother who works as a scrubwoman in other people's
It hurt, that.
"I have never been afraid to work for what I wanted. You
could have earned money to buy a car!'
"I couldn't even do that, I bet. I can't get a good job — I
can only work in the packing house. I couldn't go to college
if I wanted — I might as well go to jail!'
"Manuel, you have never talked this way before!'
"I have thought it!'
"It is those bad boys you have for your friends. They
have put these ideas in your head!'
"They aren't bad. How do you know if they're bad? You're
just — "
"Ha — I know. That Al Rosas and Eddie — they have mean-
ness in them. Oh — I have told you this before!'
Manuel was silent. His face had washed dusty yellow these
days, and his upper lip bore a shadow of dark fuzz. Then
he said in a weary tone:
"It doesn't make any difference anyway!'
"If it made no difference, maybe you would not be here"
she said cruelly.
There was the thought now, the new sharp one.
"Manuel, you are going to the reform school. The police,
they are sending you to the reform school!'
Manuel was shaking, and his eyes were bleak.
"Don't you think I know it? Why don't you go home and
leave me alone?"
"I am sorry, Manuelito!'
The thoughts were coming too fast. I am just an old
woman. Maybe that is why I cannot think what to tell
Henry Gonzales had known the answer partly, but not
all. And she could not find the rest of it.
There were the policemen in it, and the shame of the
stolen car. And there was Rosa's Cafe in it, she knew, and
the young people, and the darkness of their ways and their
streets. And the Dollar Day and the big new windows, and
the rusty streetcars, and the face of Dolores Garcia.
And it has something to do with this, too, Maria thought
to herself, touching the mantilla, with pride — and with
And love — that was in it — having someone to love and to
The old ways, her old ways, they were in it, and the new
ways too, and Manuel somewhere in between.
The answer was almost there, but suddenly it slipped
away, and she stood staring dully at the boy. Then she held
out to him the bundle she had been holding in her hand
since she left the house.
"Here are your clothes. And the toothbrush. I bought you
a new toothbrush. And your jacket — " The bright shiny one,
out of red and yellow satin, because we could not afford a
black leather one like the jacket of Eddie Aguilar, and you
begged for it so.
"I do not think you will need it for a while!' It was a poor
little joke, but then she was not very good at making jokes.
Manuel smiled a little. "Gracias, abuelita!'
"I would have brought your good suit, but there was a
spot on it, and I did not have time to get it out!'
"That's all right, grandmother. I don't need it!'
"I will bring it tomorrow!'
"Don't bother!' His voice strained. But he kept it low.
"I will bring it!'
"It is warm now, but later on you will need it and . . !'
The words trailed off. Because Maria suddenly realized
why it was that she could not think what to tell Manuel.
It was that the answer to this was different for everyone.
That Manuel would have to find his answer for himself. May-
be it was that this was the place he must come to find it.
Then it was time for Manuel to go. He walked out the door
with his head bent, and the jacket over his arm, like a
Old Maria turned, and walked down the dark hall. In the
bright street a hint of a breeze was stirring, and she shifted
the mantilla closer beneath her chin. "Dios mio" she thought.
"Maybe it is the end of the hot spell!'
First Prize $100 — Southern California Woman's Press Contest — 1955
•J A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF HOPKINS' "THAT
NATURE IS A HERACLITEAN FIRE, AND OF
THE COMFORT OF THE RESURRECTION"
Gerard Manley Hopkins, the priest-poet whose works proved
too "advanced" for his own Victorian period, dedicated his
whole life to the search for spiritual reality. Reflecting this
search, his poem "That Nature Is a Heraclitean Fire and of
the Comfort of the Resurrection" is a meditation on Christ
and fallen man. This meditation develops in three distinct
phases. Phase one compares Nature, beautiful in all her shift-
ing patterns, to a great bonfire where old patterns yield to
new by the destructive energy of fire. Phase two introduces
a new thought which nature's panorama has suggested: Man
is also subject to the laws of nature — he is swallowed up in
nature's bonfire almost as soon as he emerges as an individ-
ual. Phase three resolves the problem implicit in phase one
and stated in phase two: Christ has promised that whoever
believes in Him shall live; therefore, man's body, as part of
His Mystical Body, is not ultimately subject to nature's flux.
Because this meditation unfolds in the mind of a speaker
who expresses his thought in dramatic monologue, intense
emotion accompanies the development of each phase. In
phase one, the speaker joys in the interworked patterns of
nature, saying, "Delightfully the bright wind boisterous
ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare/ Of yestertempest's creases!'
Today's wind is rubbing out the pattern of yesterday's rain to
create new patterns. In phase two, the first resolution or coda
of the sonnet, the speaker expresses his distress as he considers
the corruptibility of man, in the phrase, "O pity and indigna-
tion!' In phase three, a second coda or reconsidered resolution
to the sonnet, the speaker exults at the thought of final resur-
rection in, "A heart's clarion! Away grief's gasping, joyless
A pattern of mental association is clearly the basis of this
development by phases. The scene at which the speaker is
looking takes form gradually as clouds suggest the wind
which lashes the earth; this earth, muddy from yesterday's
rain, has footprints in it, suggesting man; finally, the knowl-
edge that these footprints are easily erased leads to the reali-
zation that man, no less than his footprint, is quickly
swallowed up in nature's flux.
This over-all progression of meditation by means of
thought-image suggesting thought-image is, however, a
reflection of a complex network of implication inherent in
all the words and phrases of the poem. The poem thus com-
ments on reality in three distinct ways: the natural dimen-
sion and quality of physical reality, the ontological structure
of reality, and the theological implications of reality.
To begin with the poem's level of statement, the words of
the poem's first phase embody in their own image structure
and their grouping with other words, phase one's emphasis
on nature's flux. This flux is essentially a drama of pattern
and movement. "Chevy" and "roysterers" are hunting images
from Chevy Chase and Roysterer Falcon, implying that the
clouds race in the sky like hunters. Primarily words of move-
ment, they link with "flaunt forth" "torn tufts" "throng"' and
"marches!' "Throng" and "marches" as words of pattern, how-
ever, call up pictures of hunters moving in groups. These
hunters mesh in the sky, to form patterns of "cloud-puff ball"
"tossed pillows" and "gay-gangs'.'
In associating sky patterns with patterns of clouds cut out
by elm branches, the speaker's observations begin to move
earthward. "Shivelights" are slashes of light patterned by elm
branches, but restricted by their framework. "Shadowtackle"
is both a pattern of tangled ship's tackle seen in the shadow
of the hanging elm, and a suggestion that this tackle attaches
the flying sails of the clouds above to the earth below. "Lash"
combines the pattern of slash with the movement of slice.
"Lace" combines the figures of lace with a down-reaching
"(to) lace!' "Lance" is pure movement, but "pair" associated
with it emphasizes the pattern in the actual thrust.
The "bright wind" however, is the direct force which turns
the speaker's attention to earth. This "boisterous" wind which
"ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare" reminds the speaker that
flux is the product of strife. Old patterns must be forced to give
way to new. Only under pressure of stress does ooze give way
to dough, dough to crust, crust to dust.
Among the earth-images which reflect the pattern and
movement of flux, "squadroned masks" and "foot fret" de-
serve special study; for in Hopkins' time they connoted double
meanings unfamiliar to the modern reader. On one level a
"squad" is a pattern of bunched mud formed by the "masks"
or starched outer coats of mud ridges. On another level, how-
ever, taken from words of the same sound but different roots,
"squad" means a slimy mud, and "mask" a mesh. Similarly,
"fret" means both stress of erosion and an ornamental pattern.
Space does not permit detailed analysis of phase two and
three for the full picture of Hopkins' manipulation of imagery
in describing the stuff of physical reality. Major images
which characterize the poem as a whole, however, can be
traced through the various phases to show the poem's basic
image structure. The permeating presence of earth, air, fire,
and water so evident in phase one persists throughout the
poem. The air in clouds, the airbuilt thoroughfare, the spaces
between the arch of elm branches, the wind of yestertem-
pest's creases and the wind that beats earth bare, returns in
phase two as the enormous dark, the night sky in which the
man-star shines, and the vastness that blurs. Water in the
clouds, the yestertempest, the pool, and in mud, now quenches
man's spark and drowns him in the unfathomable sea. Wind-
beaten earth and the various patterns of mud become first the
flesh that fades, mortal trash, ash, the residuary worm and
potsherd, then the carbon of immortal diamond. Fire in the
sun that parches peel and dries pool repeats itself in nature's
bonfire, in man's firedint, his spark, his star, the beacon, the
beam, world's wildfire, the ash, the matchwood, and the dia-
mond. To trace another major image, man's image through-
out the poem is that of a bit of carbon lighted by a spark, and
continually under stress of flux. He is a dint in the flame of
nature's bonfire, a shining spark or star that combats dark-
ness (as in "Manshape, that shone/Sheer off" — "sheer" here
means both clear, translucent, and standing free of obstruc-
tion), the mark which vastness blurs (implying that the light
of his spark is blurred by the "enormous dark"), and the dia-
mond which won its spark by withstanding pressure and heat.
All images in the poem move to and are resolved in the
reconsidered solution of the second coda. The fire of flux be-
comes the eternal beam, the stress of flux the finality of ash
which can no longer be changed by burning. Man's carbon
spark becomes the immortal diamond. Even the minor images
which built these themes echo in this final section. The hunt-
ers appear in the trumpets and heart's clarion; the shadow-
tackle and the unfathomable sea in the foundering deck. Old
patterns return in the broken pieces of pottery, or potsherd,
suggesting mud in pattern, and the patch suggesting lashes
of lace. (Lash in Hopkins' time carried the connotation of a
patch, coming from a mistranslation of the French "to fit a
gusset!') The bonfire is implied in the matchwood.
The full significance of these patterns of imagery, however,
can be understood and appreciated only on the two other
levels of the poem's comment on reality: the ontological and
theological levels. Some insight into the poem's ontological
comment can be gained in studying its title, "That Nature Is
a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection!'
Heraclitus was a Greek philosopher of the early Ionian school,
who believed that all things are ultimately reducible to fire.
Other elements were to Heraclitus mere differentiations of
fire produced by stress and discord. The apparent permanence
of water and earth was maintained by a continual upward
and downward transformation of earth, to water, to fire —
fire, to water, to earth. For the one source element of Hera-
clitus and his contemporaries, Empedocles later substituted
four specifically different elements: air, water, earth, and
fire. Hopkins adapted the first three as symbols of becoming,
and Heraclitus' fire as the symbol of being.
After finishing the poem, Hopkins wrote to Bridges that he
had just completed a sonnet in which a great deal of early
Greek philosophy had been "distilled" but that the liquor of
distillation did not taste very Greek. He spoke truly, for he
not only adapted Empedocles to Heraclitus, but Heraclitus
to Parmenides, evolving an essentially Christian philosophy.
His Heraclitean fire has the permanence of Parmenides' con-
ception of being in which "Being draws home to Being"
(Hopkins' translation). Parmenides sees no flux, but only
absolutes; Heraclitus sees no absolutes, but only flux. In
Hopkins' distillation, being is the causal force of becoming.
On one level of comment, then, Hopkins discusses the con-
flict of being and becoming in man. Fire is the symbol of
being. Air, earth, and water, as symbols of becoming, possess
fires of being, but are subject to flux. Man is nature's "clearest-
selved spark" or that composite of air, earth, and water fired
by the most perfect order of being. The problem which Hop-
kins solves in the poem is whether or not this more perfect
order of being is also subject to becoming or flux. Hopkins'
solution is that fire, as the cause of becoming, can also resolve
becoming. In the poem fire causes becoming, since the sun
draws water out of mud peel, forcing a new cycle of cloud,
rain, and mud patterns; it resolves becoming by uniting
man-spark with the "eternal beam" to produce "immortal
On a third level of comment, however, Hopkins draws a
Christian synthesis of Greek being and becoming which en-
riches his meditation on Christ and fallen man with a theo-
logical analysis of man's ontological relationship to God. The
fire of being is God. The carbon of man's spark is his body
made of earth and subject to change; and the spark itself is
man's intellect and will made to the image and likeness of
God. The problems posed by the hasty solution of phase two
are first, how can the soul achieve its immortal destiny now
that man has lost his physical integrity; and second, how can
the soul achieve its beatified destiny now that man has lost
his spiritual integrity? ("Integrity" here, for the purpose of
this essay, is delimited to mean that thing which, because of
its wholeness, is not subject to corruption. "Integrity" of the
body in this context, therefore, means a preternatural whole-
ness which was originally meant to preserve the body from
physical corruption; "integrity" of the soul means that super-
natural unity of will and intellect preserved by grace from
the discordance of will to intellect characteristic of sin.)
Man's loss of physical and spiritual integrity is most clear-
ly expressed in Hopkins' line, "nor mark/Is any of him at all
so stark/But vastness blurs and time beats level!' "Stark"
means that which stands out clearly by reason of its hardness,
and, by transference, one who stands out by reason of his
authority, dominion, power, or might. The body of man, then,
should be impervious to corruption by reason of his soul's
dominion over the forces of nature. Both "firedint" and
"mark" or soul and body, were, however, plunged into the
"enormous dark" of sin when the soul first lost the light of
sanctifying grace. When this "vastness blurs" the image and
likeness of God in man, time beats level his physical body as
the "wind . . . beats earth bare/ Of yestertempest's creases!'
Man's recapture of his physical integrity through the res-
toration of his spiritual integrity is especially clear in the
resolving lines of the poem, "This Jack, joke, poor potsherd,
patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,/Is immortal dia-
mond!' In the "potsherd" of the poem, man's body, created
from the slime of the earth, takes a more symbolic form than
his likeness to the mud creases that time and wind beat level.
St. Paul says that man carries his treasure in earthen vessels.
A potsherd cannot hold any treasure because it is no longer
part of a whole vessel. Moreover, pottery is usually breakable
by a fall. The body of man lost its integrity by man's spiritual
fall from the supernatural state to which sanctifying grace
had lifted him. The "patch" however, is the clay vessel
mended and restored to wholeness by a new infusion of sanc-
tifying grace, or the fruit of Christ's redemption. Though man
no longer possesses integrity of soul or body, he is at least able
to hold his treasure.
Both "potsherd" and "patch" however, are only part of a
symbolic sequence which leads to the climax of the poem. As
"Jack" man is seen as a common fellow, a common object,
made of mud and one with nature's flux. As "joke" man is
common but laughable, for he presumes to a supremacy of
being which nature does not recognize. As "poor potsherd"
he is less laughable, for once he did possess supremacy. As
"patch" he regains supremacy over his soul, and as "match-
wood" he has a potency of being or fire in him that can, if
ignited, convert his "matched" pieces of potsherd into a
glorified body indifferent to nature's flux.
The culmination of this sequence, "immortal diamond" is
a final and fitting symbol of man's body as it will be when he
rises glorified. First of all, it has integrity. The smallest par-
ticle of diamond is an integral whole, possessing a spark of its
own. This risen body is not, however, the one man would have
had if he had never fallen through sin. The diamond is carbon
given immutability by pressure and heat. Symbolically,
man's carbon is subject to pressure in the stress of flux, and
to heat in the fire of Divine grace reorganizing his scattered
faculties. Only by a painful melting process, or complete gift
of free will back to God, can the pieces of the "patch" be fused.
The "immortal diamond" of this fusion, however, is still
made of earthly carbon. Man will retain his physical body,
but it will be glorified by an eternal spark.
This particular synthesis of theology and the Greek phi-
losophy of being and becoming is entirely characteristic of
Christian thinkers. Hopkins, however, has made the process
graphic, showing by means of imagery that the problems
posed in the becoming of flux and the immutability of being
are solved through the new insight gained by revelation. Man
can achieve both his immortal and his beatified destiny be-
cause Christ, the "eternal beam" shines across man's "foun-
dering deck" and by the lighthouse "beacon" of sanctifying
grace guides him through the darkness of sin. If man so wills,
death of soul can no longer "blot black out" the image and
likeness of God in him. In and through Christ, man regains
first the integrity of his soul, and eventually, at the General
Resurrection, the integrity of his body.
Critics sometimes evaluate poems for their fresh insight
into familiar experience. This criterion is valid, but it may
tend toward mere enumeration of new insights. Familiar and
unfamiliar elements in "Heraclitean Fire" have already
revealed themselves through explication of the poem's three
levels of comment. What of this poem's value as a work of art?
St. Thomas Aquinas defines beauty as "That which on be-
ing seen, gives pleasure!' This pleasure is an intuitive joy we
have in knowledge — not the joy peculiar to knowing, but a
joy superabounding and overflowing because of the excellence
of the object known. This object is excellent because it con-
forms in some way to an ideal of perfection which man pat-
terns after the perfection of his own mind. A beautiful thing
possesses integrity because the mind likes being, order because
the mind likes unity, and lightness or clarity because the
mind delights in light and intelligibility.
"That Nature Is a Heraclitean Fire" has the essential integ-
rity, order, and clarity which makes it beautiful. Its essential
integrity is found in the relationship of each word to all other
words in the poem. The permeation of major themes into
every sequence of thought, and the development of images
on literal and symbolic levels, are other aspects of the poem's
integrity. Hopkins' perception of the essential unity of appar-
ently disparate things constitutes the essential order of the
poem. Themes and images are a study in the organization of
unrelated objects. The lightness and clarity of the poem are
brought about by Hopkins' ability to make integrity and order
come to life. Nothing is forced in the poem. In fact, every
word seems the right word, the inevitable word.
This integrity, order, and lightness make Hopkins' poem a
thing of beauty. Because it is beauty seen and interpreted by
man, it is an art object. Whether or not it is a great work of
art now depends on the nature of the truth it embodies. Beau-
ty is truthful, and truth beautiful, but grades of truth corre-
spond to grades of reality. I see the poem as a great work of
art because it deals with the highest type of reality, spiritual
truth. The problem of being and becoming is the most impor-
tant question that man as man has to face. When man ponders
this question, he is placing the highest act of which he is
capable. When he ponders it in a work of art, he is creating
a great work of art: for he interprets creatively the most
perfect act of man.
First Prize $100 — Atlantic Monthly Contest — 1954
The supermarket was shining with aluminum tipped shelves.
I stared at the canned beans
Red beans, green beans, navy, kidney, string.
Two aisles down, the fattish schoolteacher
With thick glasses insisted to the attendant
That cane sugar was inferior in this state
As someone somewhere dropped two milk bottles
And I could smell fresh liver and hear cash register bells.
Below us the earth began to quake with bombs;
My market basket rolled past the corn into canned peaches,
And a huge man's glasses fell off as he tried to prove
Cane sugar's universal quality.
I knew I wouldn't need the groceries,
But I wondered why the sirens hadn't warned us.
Honorable Mention — Atlantic Contest — ^955
O my father,
Wake to the silences of our love.
There were many, in our bell-days,
When pink hands opened for the tinkling mobile
Blossoming in the banyan.
At that time, the sweetness of one, though not of you,
Was such that set your love quietly spilling;
Under these skies, my father, the white peace of Hauula*
Was ours. You taught me
The dance of the one-eyed crab,
The dance of iliko,* flashing between sun and sea,
The pose of he'e,* hanging spider-like in the depths.
Mostly you taught me the call of the conch —
Voice of our sea, sea of our love.
Smilingly, you followed the dancing daughter;
The sun shone warmly on you, my father,
With shoulders of mahogany and head like glistening lava
Now no longer you, my warrior-alii,*
But warped like driftwood on the bay of Hauula,
A remnant — twisted, stark.
Then came the silences of shame, sting of young blood.
The bells are ringing loudly and grandly
Down to the sea. That scurrying figure . . .
No dancing, no flashing mermaid. She fears
Your slow, uneven hobble, father,
And unseeingly hurries on.
Oh, the bells echoed grandly, of a Sunday morning,
For the old man of the hill . . .
The dances are long gone; the melody dies.
Hauula — a white-sanded bay on the windward side of Oahu
Iliko — small silvery fish
He'e — octopus
Alii — king, nobility
Too long, you have witnessed the fading figure.
Oh, my father, shall I forget too the rain sweeping seaward,
The night whisper of palms?
Sleep now, my father, with the kiss of the mermaid.
Sleep, warrior-alii, with the shoulders of mahogany
And hair like the white sands of Hauula.
Prize Poem — Atlantic Monthly Contest — 1955
«J . . . ERE I HAD TOLD TEN BIRTHDAYS
Today it is raining, the room is quiet, and from the window
I can see the distant mountains softly breathing in the fog.
Tomorrow will bring the blue California sky back again, and
the wind will play with the high sparkling waves. But now,
between these passing moments of quietness, solitude, and
the undying melody of sadness in the rain, I sit and think of
my home far away in the Orient.
Why is it, I wonder, that when my thoughts roam to the
land where I was born, it is not to the Japan which I left half
a year ago, but to the days that are long since gone, and in
my reveries I am a child again.
Oh, to be lying again upon the velvet green, listening to
the gentle breeze sigh among the boughs, to the doves cooing,
to cherry blossoms in spring, with their clouds of pale pink
showering at the slightest touch of wind. And to feel the last
ray of sunshine in the pale blue above; to listen to the chil-
dren sing on their way home the songs of evening and the
To awake in June when day after day dawns on the silver
gray sky, and to the quiet whisper of raindrops upon the roof;
to see the willows wreathed in drizzling rain, the lotus flow-
ers swaying in the stream; to see once again the bright days
of summer — the season of the lantern festival, and folk dance
under the moon, of the scent of incense floating in the dusk,
bonfires burning to greet the ancestral spirit, and the monot-
onous melody of chants wavering up into the evening sky.
Autumn hills are covered with brocade of crimson maples
now and with yellow maiden-hair trees beneath the deep
azure of the sky and the dazzling white clouds sailing high
above. In our garden chrysanthemums begin to bloom, and
crickets sing, "Mend you cloaks, winter is coming!'
Slowly the year grows old, and the trees become bare. Char-
coal begins to glow in the braziers, and the bent figures of old
ladies gather around the fire to warm their wrinkled hands.
To my early years belonged the wind and the rain, sun-
shine, blue sky, mist of June and the falling leaves of autumn.
It was a life of peace and tranquillity, a life of grace and slow
moving time. There in our garden with its green stretch of
lawn, cool dark groves, tiny teahouse and the sparkling cas-
cade running over the rocks, life flowed on.
Cut off almost completely from the outside world, the only
playmates I had were my brothers and sisters. Together we
made the camellia leis in spring, or sat beside the pond and
watched the golden carp flash through the green depth below
... or waited under the persimmon tree for my brothers to
throw down the shining fruits until our baskets were full.
The echoes of laughter ring in my ears as I run through
the long corridor of my ancestral home, under the high dark
ceiling to the small tea-house over the stream. Once again I
am playing with the dolls on the matted floor of my mother's
room, beside her ebony writing desk, gold-lacquered callig-
raphy set, and the three-stringed lyre hanging on the wall.
Long reaching fingers of the afternoon sun play upon the
painted slide roors; old cloisonne vases and carved ivory
statues shine dimly on the dais. The air is quiet while my
mother sits at her embroidery rack, working on black satin
with gold and silver threads, and I watch the shapes of peonies
and crane slowly appear under her dexterous fingers. Then
again I see the graceful movements of my mother as she goes
about the room, arranging irises in a celadon porcelain, or
leafing through the volumes of ancient poems and philoso-
phy. I can hear her low melodious voice pondering over a half-
formed verse, and see her beautiful calligraphy upon the
opaque Chinese papers.
Together with my sister I helped her adorn the tables on
the dolls' festival day — all our antique dolls have come out
from their paulawnia confinements to line in state upon the
crimson carpet. Emperor on his throne, lords and ladies in
court dresses, their tiny gold fans and silver swords shining
in the flickering candle light; warriors in scarlet armor with
bows and arrows on their back; musicians playing their flutes,
lyres, drums; white horses, paper framed lamps and tiny
mandarin trees. It is the feast for the girls — an occasion for
dressing up, parties, cakes and white wine.
In July comes the celebration of the stars: the only night
in the year when the Herdsman crosses the Celestial River to
meet the fair Weaving Maid. How we used to decorate the
bamboo tree, with multicolored papers, straw balls and tiny
New Year's festival — seven days of gaiety and merrymak-
ing. Tables were laden with food and sweet wine; pine trees
and tangerines bedecked house-gates; streets swept clean, and
servants going home in their fineries.
Thus the years came and went, each one bringing a little
more wisdom and a little less dream. One by one my brothers
went away to school, and my sisters left our home to join those
of their husbands. The old house became even more vacant
and spacious, with the scent of age and antiquity clinging in
the dark corners.
I remember my father's study, austere and cold, with no
sound but the quiet rustle of pen, stacks of old manuscripts
reaching the high ceiling; his immovable profile as he delved
into ancient philosophy. We seldom dined together, and it was
rare that he spoke to us. Every once in a while I would see his
little stooped figure sauntering in the garden, now and then
stopping to finger a dwarfed pine tree, or to gaze at the wis-
teria hanging from the arbour. Or he would stop me in the
hall and say, "Are you studying hard, my child?" and then
"Good, good" to my invariable "Yes, father!'
Indeed my education began to take up more and more of
my time. Every morning I sat in my mother's room, with a
book of Confucius on the desk, my voice faltering after each
word, as she pointed them out one by one with a long ivory-
stick. And those afternoons spent in quiet warfare with my
tutors — how I hated the long, tedious hours of brush writing,
flower arrangement and tea-ceremony. I remember sitting
demurely in the small tea-room with my teacher — a vener-
able old lady, listening to the water sizzling in the engraved
iron pot, smelling the incense, and the bitter fragrance of
thick green tea, all the time worrying that my feet would go
"What is 97 times 143? In what dynasty was the land
reform law established? Who were the three greatest poets in
the Heian Period?" What did I care? It was more fun to run
outside and sit in the flower-bed, and listen to our old gar-
dener's stories of Tongue-cut Sparrow and the Princess who
was born in a bamboo tree, or watch him make a miniature
garden with tiny shrines, red round bridge and a stream of
white shining sand.
Or to slip into the cellar, that was even more fun. I could
spend hours playing with the time-honored costumes, covered
with embroideries. History came alive — while I watched the
ancient swords shine cold and blue in the semi-darkness, or
fondled the lacy combs and hairpins made of tortoise shell.
"Wait till we send you to school" my father would say,
slyly winking. "Then you will learn something"
Oh how I dreaded the day of horrible doom — to live with
hundreds of children whom I had never seen, away from
home, rooming with others, dining in community.
However much I feared and protested, the day came when
my tutors were dismissed, and my education at home was
over. One spring afternoon, I said goodbye to my father, and
left our home. After an hour's drive our car glided through
the white stone gate with its carving of the Sacred Heart, and
wound its way under the flowering cherry blossoms, to the
bronze dome towering above the woods.
A veiled figure came forward to greet us from the mys-
terious gloom of the convent parlour: "So this is the baby of
your home. Don't worry, she will be happy here!'
Gazing at the disappearing car, I felt homesickness grip my
heart. I felt as if a part of myself was going away from me.
And, in a way, it was true. It was my childhood that ended,
'"Ere I had told ten birthdays!'
First Prize $250 — Cabrini Literary Guild Contest — 1950
I watch your face, your baby ways:
Feel regret in seeing you
Grasp the sides of the
Crib which restrains you.
I watch you
Growing up, little boy.
My regret is growing:
You've tested your footing, try to
Walk in the
Fields wavering in the breeze, and tumble,
Yet I know you're
Growing up, little boy.
My regret grows stronger:
I watch you intent on your
Coloring book and break a crayon of
Not unlike yourself in color:
I hate to see you
Growing up, little boy.
Second Prize — Redlands University Robert Browning Contest
«J PAUL CLAUDEL: PRISON AND THE
Paul Claudel challenges the readers and spectators of his
Satin Slipper to understand the picture he paints — a picture
"whose subject is everything!' In his preface to the readers of
the English translation (Sheed and Ward) he says that the
whole drama is unified in one vital point, "That vital punc-
tum which centres everything'' But Claudel seems skeptical
that anyone will find the punctum. However, he challenges
every reader to "look out for it and please don't be angry if it
slips between your fingers like a flea!'
I should like to suggest that the "vital punctum which
centres everything" — the symbol which unifies in large meas-
ure the exuberant variety of the drama — is the prison. This
prison symbolism is not a new idea with Claudel. In his plays
men are captives in many kinds of prisons. His general pre-
occupation with the paradox of freedom in following out
one's own will which issues in slavery, and imprisonment in
God's will which brings freedom, has long been recognized.
In the Satin Slipper and elsewhere the prison symbol is used
to objectify the truth that "He who secures his own life will
lose it; it is the man that loses his life for my sake that will
secure it" (Matt. 10:39, Knox tr.).
In the Satin Slipper, action, poetry, character, theme, scen-
ery, all are related to this central symbol. The basic theme
underlying the action of the play is the ransoming of prison-
ers: prisoners of passion, selfishness, ignorance; prisoners of
imperial tyrants, and even of actual walled dungeons. The
poetry of the play employs the prison image about twenty
times. This is at least as often as any other single image
occurs, except for the sea (called the "chief actor in the
whole drama"), which occurs more than thirty times.
This article first appeared in Renascence, Vol. VII, no. 4, Summer 1955, lead
article. Permission to reprint has been given.
The play, moreover, is framed structurally by the prison
symbol, since the opening and closing lines speak of prisons.
Also, the changes of atmosphere within the play depend upon
the progress made in the general ransoming of prisoners. See,
as just one example, the lightened atmosphere at the begin-
ning of the Fourth Day, after Prouheze's ransom from all
finite prisons by death. More important, however, than these
functions of the prison symbol, are its uses as it focuses some
of the meanings of the drama.
Not only the action and poetry of the Satin Slipper are cen-
tralized in the prison symbol, but the important characters
exemplify types of prisons. These characters may be classified
in two sets as we shall show, according to their two kinds of
The themes of the drama also refer to a type of prison.
These themes are stated in the two parts of the epigraph:
"God writes straight with crooked lines" (a Portuguese prov-
erb) and "Even sins" (St. Augustine). Both sins and crooked
lines refer to the prison of created goods when sought as ends
in themselves. This notion will be clarified when we examine
the realities symbolized by the prison — the meanings behind
Finally, even the physical scenery, especially of the crucial
scenes uses prisons. Only a few of these scenes can be men-
tioned here. First, the Jesuit priest, Rodrigo's brother, is fet-
tered to the mast of a sinking ship — this loss of freedom is a
kind of imprisonment. Then, Dona Isabel, Prouheze, and
Musica are all behind bars or under strict guard, on the First
Day. On the Second Day, Honoria and Pelagio speak of Prou-
heze's imprisonment: "Time was when my lady would have
been provided for (in) a very good strong prison!' And Prou-
heze's struggles to be free are described as being like those of
"a crazy creature who escapes from prison on all fours like a
beast across the ditch!' On the Second and Third Day, Prou-
heze is Camillo's prisoner in the fortress of Mogador. The
double shadow and the moon are stamped upon walls, and con-
fined there. Finally, in the last scene, Rodrigo is imprisoned
The prison symbol is relevant, then, to action, poetry, char-
acters, theme, and scenery of the Satin Slipper. But more
important than the presence of the symbols are their mean-
ings. These meanings are many and paradoxical and require
some knowledge of Claudel's philosophy in order to be
First, the prison symbolizes a threefold dependence: a) de-
pendence upon the Creator; b) dependence upon other crea-
tures; c) dependence of the human spirit upon matter. The
first dependence is necessary and unchanging, for creatures
by their natures are not self-sufficient. In Claudel's terms,
dependence upon God, when fully accepted brings freedom.
The prison of the interdependence of creatures is shown in
the play by man's need for human companionship, and by his
reliance upon angelic guidance. Finally, flesh is a prison for
man's spirit, since matter limits spirit; that is, it confines man
to space and time.
The prison, in the second place, symbolizes spiritual priva-
tion of freedom — the walls of sin. Unruly passions bar man
from the freedom of orderly submission to God. This submis-
sion to God, which appears to be a prison, is the sole source of
true freedom. Hence the privation of freedom because of sin,
is the second and chief meaning of the prison symbol.
With these ideas as a basis of understanding, we can now
examine the system of symbols in the Satin Slipper. The
notion of prison underlies the symbolism of persons, things
(of earth and beyond earth), and plot.
The persons symbolize the two ways in which men seek
freedom. Since all men are imprisoned by the walls of depend-
ence and of sin, all men seek to be free from these shackles.
Claudel divides his characters into those who seek freedom
directly and those who seek it indirectly. He indicates this
division in the second scene:
. . . there are two roads going away from this house.
The one . . . like a neglected skein — bears from here
straight to the sea. . . .
(The other is a) road among the broom and climbing
among the scattered rocks. . . .
The "house" is the place where Dona Prouheze has been
confined while her husband was away. From this prison she
makes her first attempt to escape. She has a choice of roads.
She chooses the indirect road to freedom, and following this
pattern her life will go along the winding way (the "crooked
lines"). The direct road would have been that of obedience
to her husband, but she chooses the other way of elopement
with Rodrigo. This road does not lead to God, but scatters
her among the broom and rocks of evil.
Men who choose the direct road which bears "straight to
the sea" are those for whom "the understanding is enough.
'Tis the spirit that speaks purely to the spirit" (p. 175). But
most men choose the indirect road, climbing among the
scattered rocks. In them "the flesh . . . must be gradually
evangelized and converted!' The play itself, then, justilies
the following division of characters:
Those who choose the direct road
1 . The Jesuit Priest
2. Dona Musica, the Neopolitan
3. Don Juan, Dona Sevenswords
4. Don Rodriguez, Dona Austergesila
Those who climb the rocks of indirection
1 . Dona Rodrigo
2. Dona Prouheze
3. Don Camillo
Both sets of characters are prisoners, but those who choose
the direct road find that, paradoxically, their prisons give
them freedom, not misery. For example, the play opens with
the thanksgiving of the Jesuit priest who rejoices at his being
fastened to the cross of his sinking ship's mast. Although he
is physically in fetters, he knows he is spiritually free:
. . . now the day of rest and relaxation is come, and I can yield my-
self to these bonds which fasten me (to) my cross, floating ... on
the free sea. . . .
Dona Musica is never shown except as a prisoner. Prouheze
keeps her captive in the inn; she is imprisoned in the forest
after her shipwreck since she has not the necessary passport
papers. Although she escapes with her lover, the Viceroy, she
says she is still imprisoned, for she calls him her prison: "I
have a prison, and no one can get me out of it. . . . The arms
of the man I love; she is caught, wild Musica!" In the end,
then, Musica, though always a prisoner, finds freedom
through love. This love is the recognition of dependence upon
another being. Hence it is a prison, but not a confinement to
misery; Musica therefore, by joyful acceptance of her prison
of love, finds happiness, God, and Freedom.
Each of these direct travelers finds freedom from man-
kind's many prisons through joyful acceptance of God's will.
By imprisoning themselves in God, as it were, they attain
The second group of characters are those who go to God
indirectly — by following their own wills at first and only
later turning to Him. They are the "climbers among the
scattered rocks!' The clue to understanding their way to God
is given in the prayer of the dying Jesuit, Rodrigo's brother:
My God, I entreat You for my brother Rodrigo! . . .
And if he desire evil, let it be such as shall be
compatible only with good
And if he desire disorder, such disorder as shall
involve the . . . overthrow of those walls which
bar him from salvation,
I mean him and that multitude with him which he is
darkly implicating. (Italics mine)
The walls of Rodrigo's prison are chiefly ambition, sensuality,
and inordinate attachment to Prouheze. The overthrowing
of these walls involves multitudes of people; it also involves
all the realities and complex symbols of the things of earth
and of the wider universe, the other characters who travel
the indirect road, and the whole plot itself.
First the plot: Rodrigo early tries to avoid the governor-
ship of the Spanish royal colonies in America. While con-
fessing his love for Prouheze, his words are interrupted by
the battle in defense of St. James in which he is wounded.
Prouheze will not come to him, and he later follows her to
Africa and invites her to come with him to America; she
refuses. His love for her rises and falls like waves on the
ocean. Finally, Rodrigo accepts the bond of "that great law
which sunders us"; only then does he truly love Prouheze
as God's creature. The resulting union of their wills is so
complete that the Double Shadow scene (p. 126) shows them
as spiritually married through their mutual acceptance of
God's law, although this same law and half the distance
around the world prevent their physical union.
What is the universal significance of this rambling plot?
How are its themes illustrated by the Portuguese proverb
and St. Augustine's words? How is the action of the drama the
ransoming of prisoners? These questions are only answerable
through analysis of the themes (sun, stars, moon; wind, seas,
shadows, walls, lands of the earth) and characters which are
"darkly implicated" in Rodrigo's actions.
The sun stands for the light of God which is in us as
natural reason and in Him as justice and objective law. The
sun is natural reason in such phrases as "this accustomed
leaden flame" (p. 34), "little peering suns" (p. 255), and
the "dim little sun going off and on" in Manchiavelle.
In other places the sun is God's justice, for example, where
the Moon says of Prouheze: "Poor plant! Has she not had
enough to do all day to defend herself against the sun?"
(p. 128). Here she is defenseless against the objective law
which forbids her to marry Rodrigo. This same meaning for
the sun is in such phrases as: "A man cannot go wrong who
takes the sun for guide" (p. 28), and, the map of life is the
"way of the sun" (p. 179).
In conjunction with the sun, the stars symbolize the per-
fection of creatures who participate in God's light, therefore
they refer to the angels and saints. Prouheze's Guardian
Angel is a star over Japan (p. 167); St. James is a constella-
tion (p. 97). The stars are the "peopled heavens" (p. 36).
When Prouheze dies she becomes a guiding star to Rodrigo
and others — a star "flaming in the breath of the Holy Spirit"
(p. 174). Finally, since every person is potentially a saint,
there is in every person, "that star in the deeps of her which
she is without knowing" (p. 37).
The last symbol in this class is the moon. It is a symbol
and also the explicit voice of the light of God's mercy. In the
moonlight, "all creatures together, all beings . . . are drowned
in the compassion of Adonai" (p. 128). The sun shines upon
surfaces, but the moon illumines the inner being of creatures,
even as mercy penetrates to man's true motives. Thus while
Rodrigo and Prouheze are forbidden to marry by the sun of
God's just law, nonetheless, they are spiritually wedded in
the moonlight of God's mercy. As the Moon says:
There is no question of her body! But this sacred throbbing by
which the commingling souls know each other without go-between
— that is what I serve to manifest (p. 129).
The basis in physical reality of this symbolism is clear. The
sun and stars revolve in the sky as independent entities. The
moon revolves around the earth — serves the earth. Likewise,
justice, law, reason have an independent splendor, whereas
mercy is revealed only when it serves a creature needing
The first in the next set of symbols — things on the earth —
is the wind. It is implicitly and explicitly referred to as the
will of God: "The will of God will blow upon us" (p. 105) ;
"There is another wind, I mean the Spirit, which is sweep-
ing the nations!' (p. vi) . The sea refers to God as the Alpha
and Omega of all creation, and to the spirits of lovers who
are separated in the flesh. Its reference to God is pointed in
various places: for example, "The sea comes first and the
land is in it . . . the infinite water on every side" (267), and
"everything hangs together at sea" (269). The sea is the
source of music and beauty, of harmony and creativity
(Fourth Day). It relates to the separated spirits of lovers
most explicitly in Prouheze's mental conversation with
Rodrigo across the ocean (p. 166). Here she speaks of their
souls as "the two seas which seek to mingle their waters"
(p. 166). Through her penance she wants to be "the drop of
water uniting the seas!'
Another symbol which refers to separated lovers is the
Shadow. When, for example, Prouheze and Rodrigo are truly
united in will with God, Claudel depicts their love in the
Double Shadow scene. The Shadow on the wall speaks:
I charge this man and this woman with leaving me masterless
. . . whose shadow can they say I am? Not of this man or of
this woman singly,
But of both of them. (p. 126)
Moreover, the monks, one in spirit, are only physically sep-
arate, and therefore their shadows are united (267).
Wind, sea, and shadow, therefore, refer either to God as
sources of freedom or to spirits imprisoned only by physical
obstacles — not by their own recalcitrant wills. Moreover, the
sun, moon, and stars refer either to God as source of freedom
or to man as free. There remain two last symbols: the walls
and the lands of earth. These show man imprisoned not only
by physical obstacles (space, time, mass) but also and pri-
marily by rebellious will. This rebellion, or disorder, is shown
in human respect, pride, selfishness, despair.
All the things of earth and wide universe, therefore, refer
symbolically to God, source and end of freedom, or to prisons
which keep men from God. The seeming prisons of space,
time, law, matter, are not prisons when used rightly. Every
creature limit, joyfully accepted and reasonably used, is
paradoxically not a prison but a means to freedom.
For all these reasons, the prison is the central and unifying
symbol in the Satin Slipper and all of the chief aspects of the
play refer to some kind of ransoming of prisoners. The wills
of all the persons in the drama are the crooked lines with
which God writes straight. The double paradox of the drama
is reiterated throughout: namely, that matter, reasonably
used, leads to God; and that only total imprisonment of men
in the will of God can bring true freedom. Moreover, the play
states that the purpose of Providence is to bring "deliverance
to souls in prison!' The prison symbol is then "that vital
puncturn which centres everything!'
Reprinted from Renascence, Summer, 1955
«J THREE CINQUAINS
I gave my life
A gift so small, so crude
So little a thing it was to give,
Grow high until
They crash on sand. The sea
In torment shows the angry face
The bird will fly
So far that speed and might
Are hard to catch. So free it flies
! J "A WEDGE-BLADE INSERTED . . !
July is a month for dreaming, not study. The aura of the
heat haze and the hum of insect life spell-bind Angela into
a world transcending the summer activity of the University.
The new world, damp and pungent with the smell of just-
sprinkled grass, lies still in the motionless air of midsummer.
Even the noises of cars on a nearby boulevard are muffled
by the heat. She wishes to sit on the lawn, to come close to
the earth, but a nagging feminine fear of ruining her starched
blue cotton skirt leads her to a white bench under a euca-
lyptus tree. She is vaguely conscious of forming an attractive
picture as she opens the text of her English literature class
and skips over the essays of Thomas Carlyle, her assignment,
to the sonnets of Dante Rossetti. Then, as she sits in repose,
a voice above her says, "My dear, you have the soul of a poet!'
Angela is not startled. Her "Oh — " is matter-of-fact.
A man's voice continues. "Only a poet would place a lovely
princess in blue on a white bench beneath a eucalyptus tree"
then, taking her book, he exclaims with delight, "and reading
Rossetti, too! What a wonderful line this is: 'Your hands lie
open in the long fresh grass — ' and further down, 'Tis visible
silence, still as the hour-glass! He too felt the summer spell!'
He smiles and she sees that his eyes do not smile.
"Who are you?" she asks gently.
"My name is Matthew Grossman — !' She remembers him
now. "Mr. Grossman" who sits several rows behind her in
sociology class, who daily challenges the instructor with his
unorthodox ideas on human society. How often she had
wanted to turn around and stare at him, to watch the face
that must match the intensity of the foreign voice. And here
he is, tall and very dark from the sun, with eyes that do not
smile and lips that caress every word they speak.
"You recognize me now" he says, still smiling. "Of course,
you want to know where I am from; my accent is non-com-
mittal. That is because I belong to no country. I speak French
and German, English and Italian. I am a Hebrew who has
lost touch with sacrifice, a Jew who has suffered persecution
without faith!' There is no bitterness in his voice, only a
note of necessary introduction. "You are Angela, which
means 'angel'; you work in a small bookstore and attend
summer school; and you have the soul of a poet!' He sits
beside her, and she smiles a welcome.
"You talk a great deal" she says, "but I like it. I like to hear
your ideas, although I disagree with you constantly!'
He laughs. "Oh, you mean my theory on the causes of
criminal behavior! Well, not too many agree with that any-
way, but few challenge me. You are honest, I knew you
would be. There is nothing so challenging as an intelligent,
lovely woman who disagrees with you!' He leans toward her
and touches the medal at her throat. "The suffering face of
your Christ. So you are Catholic?"
"This explains why you are such a woman. Catholicism,
if it does nothing else, produces real women!' He laughs
again and his eyes are very blue.
The books when they are opened smell like an old basement,
and it is so tiring to climb to the high shelves for Parasitology
or other unknown and uninteresting volumes. If she could
only sit and read through the poetry or look at the old prints
of Michelangelo and Da Vinci. But instead it's always,
"Alphabetize this file" or "Run and find me that September
issue of Ladies' Home Journal" and sometimes, "Take care
of that customer!'
So Angela dreams.
Matthew reminds me of a Greek athlete, but an athlete
who can think like his philosophical grandfather. He can be
so exasperating with his vehement ideas, but I can under-
stand why he has them. After all, it's not easy to come
through his experience without learning vehemence. I won-
der if he really saw the Germans take his mother and sister
to be burned in the furnaces. He only mentioned it that once,
and then so briefly, and with such pain. I never thought I'd
meet anyone who has suffered as he has.
And then she dreams in pictures — an intelligent Apollo —
no a Mercury, swift, graceful and masculine.
He would come late at night; he'd bring a volume of
Rossetti and choose the sonnets very deliberately; each line
would have a special meaning for them. Then they would
go down to the ocean. And they would laugh and run down
the beach holding hands, and as they came breathless to the
cliff, he would kiss her.
A touch on her arm startles her from her dream.
"Why, Matthew" she says, "how did you find your way
"I only followed the radiance and I found you!' His hand
is still on her arm, keeping the excitement of her dream in
her eyes. "And what are you doing, little angel?"
"Oh, just putting away some books. Nothing interesting!'
"Let me see. This looks quite interesting!' He reaches for
one of the volumes in the box. "Freud's book on dream inter-
pretation! And you call this uninteresting! Well — must be
the influence of your suffering Christ!'
She feels a vague resentment, but dismisses it with the
thought, "Oh, how can you expect a Jew to understand
Christ's suffering — after all . . !'
He is thumbing through the book. "Tell me, do you have
any recurring dreams? Let me psychoanalyze you, my little
angel ... or do angels dream?"
Angela blushes, but says nothing. Something about Mat-
thew does not demand an answer, just attention.
"I imagine you dream lovely, whimsical fantasies. If you
don't in your sleeping hours, you must in your waking hours.
You are a poet, Angela. Yesterday in class I watched you
rebel when I made that statement about Christianity's effect
on Western civilization — remember, I said it had only soft-
ened and disguised the Anglo-Saxons from their potential-
ities, that without Christianity, the West would now be the
complete master of the world. I could see you stiffen from
my place four rows back, and even the color of your lovely
neck changed'.' He laughs, "I only said it to see you react —
I love to see you react!'
"But what has sociology to do with poetry?"
Again the laugh. "It is the poet who has the greatest desire
for truth and who is most easily offended when his idea of
truth is shaken. The poet is sensitive to the unity of truth
and resents any flaw in it. You are offended, not because I
deny your faith; but because you desire beauty, and truth
with a flaw is not beautiful!'
"Truth with a flaw is not truth. Oh, I know what you're
trying to say. Actually, you're accusing me of being a coward,
because you think I can't face life without the security of a
flawless set of beliefs. If only you knew how wrong you are,
how many mysteries there are, how many mysteries I
recognize and accept!'
"Ah! You always have an answer. But then, that is why I
like Catholics better than other Christians. They always have
a mystery and what is life but a mystery?" Again the laugh,
this time sardonic.
"I suppose you have a theory about how all this fits in
with my having the soul of a poet . . '.'
"Of course. Again I say, you have the soul of a poet because
you do see the mystery of life, because you are sensitive to
it. This is the truth of which I spoke — that life is a mystery!'
"Oh Matthew, you don't know at all what I mean . . !'
As she wanders up the walk that night after work, she sees
a figure sitting on the steps, sees a glow which can only be
"How did you know where I live?"
"A man in love finds out such things without much
She stops breathing a second. Then she whispers, "A man
in love . . V
Matthew stands and puts his arm around her shoulders.
"Yes, I am a man in love. I am in love with you, my pure
little angel!' His hand turns her face to his and he looks at
her for a long time. The look is more intimate than a kiss.
She holds him to her and weeps — "Oh, Matthew. . . !'
Angela sits in the sociology classroom waiting for Matthew
to come. She thinks of their last meeting. She had begged
him to take her to the ocean; the day was so hot and the
thought of the water so inviting. . . .
"Oh, Matthew, come on, let's go down to the beach! It's
really not far on the bus. I can't wait to plunge into the ocean
and dive into the breakers!"
Matthew had stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and
said, "Why, Angela, who would have thought you could love
the ocean so! You always seem so reserved. I am amazed that
you should desire the sea so intensely!'
"It's like the wild part of me that hates to be restrained,
that detests convention" she said with a lilt in her voice.
"So, you have violence in your soul, my love!' His voice was
half-tender and half-musing, and his face was questioning.
"But then, I should have realized this! The lines of your face
may show repose, but your eyes reflect excitement!" She
remembers now how he had taken her hand and held it very
"Hello, Matthew" she smiles.
He sits next to her and shows her a folder. "See! It's fin-
ished. I will read it to the class today!'
"I didn't know you were working on it, Matthew. And it's
not due for another week. Why did you finish it so soon?"
"I want to get the class reaction. I may have to change
some parts if it is too startling. I'm anxious for you to hear it
too, my dear!'
Class begins. Matthew goes to the front of the class. "Thank
you, Professor, for giving me this time" and turning to the
class he reads his paper titled, "Christianity: The Death of
After class Matthew and Angela walk in silence to the
white bench beneath the eucalyptus tree. As they sit down,
Matthew says, "Of course, you don't like it, my love. I
couldn't expect you to. These ideas are big ones for you to
cope with after studying in a Catholic college. You saw how
easily the class accepted what I had to say. Certainly, many
disagreed with my premise, but nearly all of them accepted
my reasons, which is more important. Sooner or later you will
agree that dogma chains the intellect from any growth!'
Angela is still silent. Her hands are folded in her lap. She
becomes newly aware of the summer smell and the summer
sounds, of the spell of midsummer, of the hypnosis of the
deep voice and the blue eyes. And somehow she can say only,
"Oh Matthew, why talk about it? We have discussed this so
much. You have told me you respect Catholicism, and now
you turn and slap it in the face. And you've slapped me too,
but what can I say?"
Matthew unfolds her hands gently and holds them in his
own. Then he stands and helps her up. "Shall we have
After work that night Angela waits in front of the bookstore
for Matthew to come and take her home. He had said he
would bring some new poetry for them to read together. She
hopes it will be Rossetti, because his poetry somehow sym-
bolizes their love. Rossetti himself reminds her of Matthew,
paradoxically sensuous and chaste, restrained and violent.
She feels the need of love poetry to lull her back into her
acceptance of Matthew's non-Catholicism, of his loss of his
own religion, and of his strange political ideas. She thinks of
his eyes and his body. She smiles, remembering how he had
today compared her to Diana the Huntress, saying that only
a goddess who loved nature and imitated its whimsicality
and seductive violence could do justice to her kind of beauty.
And when Matthew walks up and takes her arm, she smiles
easily and says, "Oh, I thought you never would come!"
She sees the volume under his arms and exclaims, "You
"Yes, my dear, something new tonight. I know you will
like it. Here, let me read to you while we wait for the bus!'
They sit on the bench under the streetlight, and Matthew
takes his pipe, knocks out the tobacco, and puts the pipe in
his pocket. Sitting very close to her, he opens the volume and
"Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the
chaos of the world
Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted!'
"Wait, Matthew—" she cries, putting her hand on his arm.
"What does he mean?" She is angry at something, but does
not know what, and resentful that Matthew would talk over
her head. "Who is the poet?"
Matthew laughs, starts to speak, then, still chuckling,
closes the book, takes her hand, saying, "D. IT. Lawrence, my
angel, and you wouldn't understand what he speaks of. I
didn't realize myself till now what he means!' Suddenly he
stands up and says, "Why don't we walk down to the ocean.
We haven't been there together yet, and it's not late!'
Angela forgets the poem and laughs delightedly. They
walk toward the path which leads to the ocean.
As their feet touch the sand, Angela twirls and cries out,
"Oh how I love it! Come on, Matthew, take off your shoes,
and I'll race you to the cliffs!" As she slips out of her sandals,
she begins to run, leaping and racing to the cliffs. Her skirts
fly around her legs and she gathers them up. She arrives
breathless at the foot of the cliffs and she turns, expecting to
see Matthew close behind her. But he is far behind, walking
slowly, pausing often to look at the sea. Angela is disappointed
that he has not accepted her challenge, but laughs at herself,
"I forget he's already twenty-seven!' She stands and faces out
to sea, and soon its sound and movement lull her thoughts.
The sea reverie is broken by hands on her shoulder, hands
that wait a moment for a sign of yielding, that turn her
around roughly, and a mouth that finds hers boldly, a kiss
that is more than an end in itself. Angela is stunned for a
moment, and Matthew mistakes her passivity for surrender;
his hands are no longer still. Angela moves quickly and
instinctively, shoving him away and finding his strength
more than her own, cries, "Stop it, Matthew, stop it!"
He lets her go, recognizing in her voice a genuine com-
mand. She tries to turn from him, but he stops her, and his
hands tightly grip her arms. He turns her to him and exults,
"You are a devil, my angel!" as if her refusals had been
coquetry, and tries to pull her to him again. She strains in
his arms and stares into his face. She speaks calmly. "I under-
stand you now, Matthew. I guess you think I have led you on
by continuing to see you, even though I should have known
that it could only lead to this. Now let me go. I hope you real-
ize that I understand fully what you think of me!' She walks
swiftly, and when she reaches her sandals, turns, and sees
Matthew following close behind her. Feeling something she
calls compassion, she decides to wait, and sits in the sand with
her skirt spread around her.
Matthew seats himself beside her. "We might as well be
civilized about this" he says. "I can explain what happened.
I am not a man to merely admire a woman's beauty. Because
I waited so long to taste your beauty, I have made you think
I am a beast. But I must tell you that I would not be satisfied
any longer to sit and admire only!' Angela knows that he is
waiting for an answer.
She is silent for a long time. Then, "I don't really know
how to say this, but I suppose I can only say, it's impossible.
You know my beliefs, and although I have somehow let you
think I can be dissuaded, I do not intend to give in to you!'
"And I have too much pride to compete with a dead God
for a woman's affections. We might as well part now. You go
to your little apartment and contemplate the suffering face
of your Christ. I shall go home and contemplate the suffering
face in my mirror!' He stands, helps her up, and they walk
in silence to the bus stop.
Today is the last day of summer school, and Angela has just
finished her last class. She sits alone on the bench looking at
her text to see if she answered the exam questions correctly.
The spell of July has turned into a smothering August, and
the heat is no longer magic, but torture. As she dries the per-
spiration from her forehead with her handkerchief, she looks
up and sees Matthew walk by. He glances at her and nods.
She stares after him and fingers the medal at her throat.
First Prize $250 — Cabrini Literary Guild Contest — 1954
Merit Paper — Altantic Monthly Contest — 1955
"The acrobats of Picasso epitomize the
frailty of our age and the spiritual hope
in something as yet unrealized!'
feet feel secure, know where they're due.
the eye is the mischief, always
turning, searching upward:
would ruin the
the toes; ignore
the dust and gravity's pull.
(eye travels faster to safety than limb.)
rope walk is over a jealous lion,
the trick is to keep the eye fixed:
feet will provide for themselves.
First Prize $30 — Redlands University Robert Browning Contest — 1955
«J TAUS AND TRIADS
The buildings of knowledge stood unnoticed on either side of
David as he walked to Chemistry. This walk from the Stu-
dent Union to chem was the most impressive on campus. He
usually took his time to button-hole a new freshman: "Do
you realize this building is one of 23 which house 35,000 stu-
dents in one of the largest universities in the United States?"
He relished that startled — "Are you crazy? No, you're Dave
Ensign!' — look.
Nothing in the world more pleasant than that freshman
hero-worship. Dave Ensign, big man on campus, president of
Reps Board. No pride in admitting your own position. Best
frat; and now, President! Casually, on campus, it would be
Dave, Student Body President. After three years at the U.,
he could really represent it.
"Josie, how are you?"
"The worst! Just had an econ test. It was bad. Hope I pull
"Don't worry; you will. McGregor gives tough tests, but
he's a softie for effort. Gave me a 'B' for goodwill!'
"That's encouraging. How are you, Mr. Man of the Hour?
Is it true the Taus are running you for the big deal?"
"Wow, I've heard of ye old grapevine, but this beats all.
This morning someone in the frat mentioned that I should
consider running. So I'm considering. I don't even know yet!'
"Personal clue, Dave. It's not the grapevine; it's the
machine. I hope you're careful how you run!'
"Josie, wait, what do you mean?"
"Consult your psychiatrist, Dave. I'm late for class!'
Dave stood looking after the swinging form of Josie; he
started into the building, rubbing his hand over the inscrip-
tion in the wall — "Knowledge is truth, and truth, good!' He
went into the lecture hall disturbing only the last two rows
and took his seat beside Tom Allarde, frat brother. They gave
mumbled hellos and Dave turned to watch the professor's
"Well, studious one, extensive notes, I see!'
A paper of doodles belied Dave's attention during class.
Squares, circles, and women's hats were mixed in with notes
on infinite series, Taylor's formula, and the remainder after
"Huh? Oh, I guess I wasn't paying attention; I was
"Oh, blow on society. What a mistake!"
"Can it, Tom; I'm not in the mood!'
"O.K. Thinking about the presidency by chance? Guess
the Taus want you!'
"You, too? Am I the last one around here to know what's
going on? Josie came up before class. Not only did she kow-
tow, but I got the straight voodoo about the 'machine! What's
"I'm out of it, Dave. Let's go eat. One hour of calculus
flakes me. Bet we're having dog food on toast again!'
"Did I ever tell you what a cheerful chap you are,
"Accept all honor with humility. Coming to the frat party
"Maybe. Peg's got a term paper due. We might work on it
"Touching, Prince Valiant. Lost in the seclusion of poli
sci, the two lovers work side by side, oblivious to all, only the
tip-tap of keys breaking the scholarly silence!'
"Tom, one question. Who brought the booze to the House?"
"Slim and I!'
Candle wax, smoke, and perfume gave the room a stale
taste even before the party had progressed very far. The
liquor completed the stagnation, giving the room more of a
New Orleans atmosphere than the intended Italian. By ten
o'clock, you had to inhale to fit on the dance floor. Then Dave
and Peg walked in. Dave had to bend to fit under the decora-
tions so that the first anyone saw of him was a bristley-blond
crew cut. His head eased up and his expressive blue eyes
explored the room. He turned, and helped Peg in.
Tom, much tighter than earlier, raised his glass and sput-
tered to the silent group, "Hail to the Chief!'
The silence burst as the boys crowded around Dave.
"What's the scoop? Gonna run?"
"Hey, I heard you were declining'.'
"Dave, gonna let the Taus sponsor you?"
"First time Taus ever had a president!'
"Be great publicity. Fill the scrapbook fast!'
"C'mon you guys. Cut it out. It's a long way to elections.
I'm not sure I'll run and Peggy wants to dance; don't you,
Dave took Peggy's hand and worked his way to the dance
floor answering questions as he went. "When We Come of
Age" started a slow movement of dancing couples. Dave slid
his arm loosely around Peg and they fell into the easy
"They're all excited about the election, aren't they? Im-
Peg dropped her hand to his lapel as she answered, "Yes,
you. You beamed all over when Dick asked you to run!'
"Sure, I'm impressed, Hon. Who wouldn't be with a frat
asking you to run for student body president!'
"Oh, oh, here come Janie and Bill. Do you want to bet he
rushes over, slaps your back, and grins, 'How are you and
the little woman?'"
"Bill's really a card. He fractures me with those jokes of
"Well, don't look now; you're about to be fractured!'
The thumping whack startled nearby dancers as Bill
boomed into Dave's ear, "How are you and the little woman
tonight?" Dave winced, as much from Peg's laughing wink
as from the blow.
"Fine, finished up a term paper earlier and we're really
"Good, bet your little bid for the big office helped, huh?
Think it's real cool. You'll be the most as president. That's if
you run. Don'tcha think he'd be good, Janie?"
"Sure do, Bill!'
"Janie was just saying how great you'd be as president;
weren't you, Janie?"
"Yes, I just was'.'
"Say, Dave, are you busy right now? I thought I might
talk to you'.'
"As a matter of fact, I am. We have to leave early and I
wanted to spend the evening with Peg!'
"Just take a minute. Besides, Janie came over to see if Peg
wanted to go to the powder room with her. Right, Janie?"
"Could you come, Peg?"
Peg looked at Dave. She found the answer in his eyes and
answered, "Of course, I'll go; be right back, Dave'.'
Dave turned to Bill as the two girls walked off. "Well?"
"C'mon into the other room; it's too noisy here!'
"O.K., but I don't quite understand this huddle!'
The boys walked to the porch and Bill continued. "I want
to level with you, Dave. I think you can win the presidency.
You've got the experience, the personality, the ability and all
you need is support!'
"This is quite a pitch from 'laughing boy! I've never seen
you so serious. I'm waiting for the pitcher of water, or is
someone ready to shove me into the pool?"
Bill's eyes narrowed as he answered, "This is serious, Dave.
You're going to be running for president within a week.
You're the man for the job. This means you have to have the
right backing and I can give it!'
"Slow down; you left me out in right field. First of all, if
I run, it will naturally be on the Tau ticket; isn't that back-
ing enough? Second of all, it's a big deal, but you're being too
"It's up to you, Dave. Taus will back you; but have you
ever noticed that Taus have never had a president? Or didn't
it occur to you anywhere along your career at the U. that
there was someone stronger than fraternities backing exec
Dave stared over the railing. The fog obscured his vision
so that it was only darkness that he watched. He suddenly
turned to Bill.
"Now I'll level with you. Ever since someone first men-
tioned it, I've liked the idea. Sure, I want to be president; but
I thought that my own personality was going to be my sup-
port and that I'd win or lose on that basis. I'm not completely
naive; I know you need to belong to a fraternity and know
some of the right people to get nominated. With Taus run-
ning me and a good platform, I stand a chance. So there I
am; pick it apart!'
"Boy, you is more naive than you ever thunk. I wouldn't
have believed that you could have gone through all these
years in our fair community without realizing what was go-
ing on. Have you ever heard of the Triads?"
"Name's familiar. Is it a campus organization?"
Bill leaned over close to Dave and spurted into his ear.
"Listen, boy, and I kid you not. The Triads control all elec-
tions for exec board on this campus. If you want to win,
Davey, you'd better start thinking straight. See me tomorrow
at ten-twenty, if you're interested!'
"Am I hearing right? Control an election? Sounds like
Tammany Hall or the Pendergast machine. Machine? So
that's what Josie meant. Now it's projecting!'
"Don't project any more; here come the girls!' Bill's face
reverted to his original smile, "Hiya, girls" he beamed.
"Wanna hear a hysterical joke? Why'd the moron fill the
gym with water? Cause he heard the coach was making him
a sub. Dig it, Peggy?"
Peggy forced laughter into her voice. "Dig it the most, Bill.
Have you two finished your business? The evening is fleeing!'
"We're finished till tomorrow, huh, Dave? See you at ten-
twenty. Been ripping, right, Janie?"
"Yes, it's been fun seeing you again!'
When the couple on the other side of the room put on a
mambo record, Dave motioned Peg to a table and went for a
drink. He set the glasses on the checkered cloth and an-
nounced, "Bill was talking about the election. He said I didn't
have enough support to win without his help. Sounds pretty
fishy to me!'
"So, that's what he wanted. I tried to find out from Janie,
but Bill never tells her what he's doing. What does he mean?"
"I wish I knew. He claims some group controls elections,
that he can get them to back me. Wouldn't tell me any more
"All that from Bill? I didn't think he ever had a sensible
"That's what I thought too. But believe me, he was dead
"What are you going to do?"
"Right now, dance with you. Tomorrow, I'm not sure!'
Dave came out of physics lab on his way to the "caf" when
he saw Bill Sanders coming toward him. You couldn't mis-
take Bill — his shoulders jutting out over his body like yokes,
and his practical- joker grin visible for miles. Dave started
"Hi, Davey, ole boy. How's physics lab, today? Split any
"On today, aren't you, Bill?"
"I'm always on. Just see the funny things in life, that's all.
How's about our appointment? Want to go down to the
Square for coffee?"
"O.K., Bill. I have class at 11:45; can't stay too long. Want
to know what all this is about, though!'
"Supposin' I talk as we slush down. I'll take up where I
left off. There's an unofficial org on campus, the Triads, who
form a political party. They figure it's a good idea to have a
group interested in politics around here since most of the kids
vote for looks or personality or their best friend's choice!'
"You're exaggerating. Most of the kids I know vote con-
"Listen! 35,000 undergrads enrolled. No more than 60%
of them vote. That's about 21,000. Say three guys run for
president. Even if each of them know different people, to-
gether they couldn't have even speaking acquaintance with
more than 2100 of them. That's only 10% of the total vote.
What do the other 90% base their vote on?"
"You're surely convincing. I never thought of it that way
"Exactly. Very few people do. Take your office. Only one
section of the school voted you in as rep— the juniors. Then
the twelve reps on the board gave you the chairmanship. The
people who voted for you, know you; there was no need for
control. Now you're thinking about the big race. The Triads
want to preserve the tradition of the U. in getting the best
man. We do it as a business, and avoid the guess work in the
Dave watched the worms on the sidewalk, stranded by the
morning rain. They wriggled in vain efforts to return to
their earthen safety.
"Well, Dave, what now?"
"Huh? Oh, I don't know, Bill. Sounds like a good idea, but
how do you do it? Why did you pick me? What about the
"Look, Dave, you decide to run; we'll take care of the de-
tails. All you have to concentrate on, once we get you in, is
being a good president. As far as the dean goes, we've never
had any trouble. How about it?"
"I can't promise you anything until I know more about
it, Bill. Last night I decided to run, but I'm running for Taus
unless you can give me better reasons for switching sponsors!'
Bill's eyes opened wide as he beamed, "Greetings, Cat;
what brings you to the lower level of society?"
Dave looked up and saw a sandy-haired boy of medium
build walking lazily toward them. "Hi, Dick, did I tell you
the rubber crop in southeast Indonesia dropped by 75% this
year? They say it's because the sun came between Venus and
Mars and left a shadow on Capricorn!'
"Gee, thanks for the tip. I was just about to sink my last
million on rubber. Now I'll go into dried oranges. Great for
people who don't like juice in the morning; non-squirt, too.
Just came over to ask you if you'd registered yet for the
"Not yet, Dick!'
"Taus sponsoring you?"
"Who else, Little One? Think Davey's gonna let anyone
else run the big campaign?" Bill blasted.
"I want you to know I'm with you. If I can help, just let
me know. Gotta get on to class. By, Bill, Dave!'
"Bill, I thought you wanted me to run for the Triads!'
"Then why the big Tau bit with Dick?"
"Oh, that. You'll be officially running for Taus. No one
will know the Triads are backing you except us. Works better
"What do the Triads want from me?"
"What'd you mean?"
"I got to thinking while Dick was here; you didn't just all
of a sudden pick me. There must be some method in your
madness. What do the Triads want from me as president?"
"What I've been telling you all along; good government, a
strong exec board, one picked for ability and not for
"Things don't add up!'
"Now what do you mean?"
"Let's review. You ask me to run for president on the Triad
ballot; only the Triads can get me in. The methods are fool-
proof, yet you won't tell me what they are. I've never heard
of them and you claim they run all elections. Strangest of
all, you want nothing in return and no mention of Triads!'
"C'mon, let's go in and talk over the drinks!'
Bill and Dave walked into a store overflowing with the col-
lege crowd, but they found a vacant table in the corner.
"All the Triads want is justice, Dave. If we get you elected,
we know you'll respect our suggestions. As president, you're
responsible for appointments and have pull with both the
administration and the exec board. We elect you; you listen
to us; it's as simple as that!'
"Who are the Triads?"
"I told you before. We're just a group interested in preserv-
ing good government on this campus. It would defeat our
purpose if people knew who we were. This means that even
if you run on Triad support, your name will still have Taus
"Do you have a cigarette?"
"Sure!' Bill leaned over the booth and gave Dave a ciga-
rette. He called a waitress. "Two coffee, please!'
Dave pulled an ashtray over. "Bill, one more question.
How can you guarantee that I'll win?"
"I told you we'd take care of the details!'
"I have to know how you'll do it before I'll run for the
"O.K. We're composed of people with know-how. There's
a word of mouth campaign by students, more effective be-
cause no one knows we're tied up with you. It only takes one
strong talker in every frat. Our boys are on this year's exec
board and control all the balloting. I promise you can win
with us; but if you decide not to hitch up, you're through on
"That's pretty strong stuff you're dishing out. If you're so
hot on my being the best man, why would you switch to
someone else because I wouldn't play ball?"
"The best man in office is the one who does the most good.
We've made a study of the most good, and it includes some-
one who'll listen to our suggestions. We want a good campus!'
"I don't know; it sounds like a good deal. I'm not running
to lose. Can I tell you tomorrow?"
"Sure. I'll see you before breakfast. We'll get you a cam-
paign manager, so your only worry will be making yourself
a good president!'
Dave took the cup from the waitress, measured sugar onto
his spoon and stirred the coffee. "Bill, I have to know how!'
"I told you. There are wheels in every campus group who'll
plug you. We have people at the stalls ready to give the voters
"And that's all?"
"You're so positive we'll win; it's hard to believe you're
basing it on this word of mouth deal!'
"O.K., Sam Spade. You asked for it. I mentioned earlier
that only 60% of the school votes. We take advantage of the
40% who don't!'
"So it is fishy!'
"Come off it, Dave. Sometimes you have to use fishy stuff
to get what's best. We're smart enough to take advantage of
another's stupidity. Tell me what's wrong with that? Does
it matter how you get to be president as long as you're a good
one? Supposing you should lose? Supposing the 'public' elects
someone else? What have you proved? That you're a good
egg and an honest Joe, even if the government goes to pot!'
"We'll still keep it till tomorrow!'
"Great. Remember, we're doing this for the school. It's our
way of insuring a worthwhile student government. It's
"I guess you're right, Bill. Hard to take all in one dose.
Like I've been under a rock all my life!'
"You have. Let's go; you'll be late for class!'
"Holy smoke! I didn't realize how late it was!'
"Go on, Dave. I'll take care of the bill!'
He pushed open the door and rushed into the numbing air.
Dave looked across the room at Peg bundled in a chair.
"Sounds like a T.V. spectacular" she said. "Have you
thought of calling yourself, 'The HunterJ or anything more
original than just plain Dave?"
He tried to find her eyes to see if she was teasing, but Peg
was looking at a picture of last year's prom.
"I thought maybe Rajah of the East Coast would do; like
"Suits your personality and blond hair beautifully. Just
think I can be Madame Rajah!'
"It does sound schmaltzy sitting here talking it over with
you, Peg. Seemed like big business while Bill was talking.
What do you think?"
"What do you want me to think?"
He pushed his long legs across the carpet and slumped in
the chair. "What do you mean, Hon?"
"You know what I mean. You've decided and all you want
"You're wrong. I can't decide!'
"It's a phony setup all the way; we both know that. It's a
matter of whether you're running to win or just to run!'
"Check. I can't win unless I go along with them. I don't
like the principle, but I've been thinking that if I don't 'play
ball' I'll be out in right field all alone!'
"So you're going to be Mr. Rajah and run for the Triads?"
"I'm not sure. I know I won't be able to do anyone any
good if I lose, and I might be able to do some good as
"I don't know if it helps, but I'll be out in right field with
you if you lose; you won't be all alone!'
"I don't know what to do, Peg. What do you think?"
"Here's where I came in. I think of my father, Dave, and
the best advice he ever gave me, 'It's better to fail and know
you should have succeeded than to succeed and realize you
should have failed! Sounds a little corny, I know; but this
whole business is corny!'
"I agree; that's what I've always thought!'
"But now it's different!'
"No, Honey, but here's the situation. If I win, no matter
how, I'm the same person. I can do as much as president
either way. Nobody would be hurt. I'd have the office; the
school would be just as well off as if someone else won; prob-
ably better since I'd be using the Triads as they're trying to
use me; the Triads'd be happy because they engineered an-
other president even if I don't follow their 'party line' after
I'm in. Taus'll be happy because they've got a president, and
no one on campus knows the difference!'
"And the world's one big rosy place!'
"I don't see how we could lose!'
"Except that we would know we should have!'
"That's not true, Peg. I deserve the presidency!'
"I don't think anyone in the school deserves it more; you'd
be a wonderful president. But I want you to be proud of your
election, to feel that the school wanted you. Don't you see,
"Does it really matter if I pull a few strings?"
"Dear, it doesn't matter to me what you do. You asked me
what I thought; I told you. You had your mind made up when
you came in. Now you're trying to convince yourself, not me!'
"That isn't so. I'm not trying to convince anyone. I'm
trying to decide!'
"Are you sure you'll lose if you don't run under the Triads?
If you won alone, you'd really have a victory; and if you lost,
at least you'd have the satisfaction of knowing you should
"Not a chance of winning. With the ballots controlled, no
one could beat them!'
"Discouraging for any up and coming politician on this
"I wonder if your opponents know about his conspiracy?
They have courage running if they do!'
"They probably don't. Probably wouldn't run if they did.
Too hopeless!' Dave tapped a cigarette on the arm of his chair.
"It seems undemocratic when you say hopeless. Why vote
if it won't count?"
"Don't you see that's why I want to win. Only the Triads'
candidate can; if someone else takes my place, he's likely to
be their tool. If I win, I might be able to change things!'
"Nothing, Dave. I noticed how late it is. Mrs. Graves will
be here in two minutes. 10:00 on school nights, you know!'
"Sorry, Hon, I wasn't watching the time. You're not peeved
are you? I mean about the election?"
"Of course not. I told you: I've nothing to do with you
politically. I'm not your wife yet; wait till then and I'll really
start running your life!'
"You do and I'll beat you!'
"You'll have to catch me first!'
"I'll just call and you'll float into my arms!'
"Is that a threat or a promise?"
"Right now, a promise!'
"Here she comes and away you go!'
"Just when I was about to catch you. I'm telling them
tomorrow morning, Peg!'
"I think it's the only sensible way!'
Dave closed the door before the watchful glance of Mrs.
As Dave's feet hit the cold floor the next morning, he heard
Bill barge in.
"Bon jour, Monsieur. You're looking tres gai. I can tell you
have the joyful news for me — that happy now-I've-decided-
good-luck's-ahead gleam reveals all to Swami'.'
"You're right, Bill. I've made up my mind!'
"Bon. Sign on the dotted line. I took the liberty of getting
a form for you, knowing what you'd say!'
"I'm not signing, Bill. Tom Allarde took out my form; I'm
running for Taus and myself and the school!'
"You're crazy! You're sure you mean what I think I
"You heard right, Bill. I appreciate all the trouble you
went to, but I'm sure you won't have any difficulty finding
"You're darn right we won't. And he'll beat you. You don't
stand a chance now, Mr. Righteous!'
"But at least I'll know I should have won!'
"Nothing, Bill. I have to go to class. Goodby; thanks again!'
Second Prize — Southern California Woman's Press Contest — 1955
And purple velvet
One quivering jewel tarries,
One tear of winter, holding in thraldom
«J STEVENS' "PETER QUINCE AT THE CLAVIER"
Notes on Wallace Stevens' "Peter Quince at the Clavier" in
terms of the tension felt in the poem between art and nature
appeared in an article by Fred H. Stocking in The Explicator,
May, 1947, v. 47. The art which the poem uses to make con-
crete the "art" side of the dichotomy is, of course, music.
Music plays a double role in the composition of the poem.
First, it furnishes the material to carry the conceptual mean-
ing; music and things associated with it are the chief sources
of the imagery. Secondly, although all poetry is musical to
some degree, "Peter Quince . . !' brings the attention of the
reader to the meter and rhyme by constant and subtle varia-
tions, always motivated by some change in the characters or
twist in the plot of the story.
The meaning of the poem may best be discovered by an
examination of the close relation between structure of mean-
ing and structure of sound. Both of these structures are close-
ly affiliated with music. The first uses music as the material
out of which it makes figures of speech. To the second struc-
ture it is the formal principle, itself. The form of the poem
closely follows that of a musical composition. Because music
dominates both structures, meaning and sound reinforce one
another and the poem emerges a coherent, carefully formed
work of art.
The musical form can be seen most clearly by an exami-
nation of the pattern of the stanzas. The poem opens with
the statement of theme. The second part is a melodious ampli-
fication of one aspect of it. Part III is andante, to borrow a
musical term, and bears some relation to Part II. The final
movement is a recapitulation of the theme in a way parallel
to the presentation, yet varied.
The poem's theme is first stated in terms of the voice's
experience: "Just as my fingers on these keys Make music,
Reprinted with permission from The Explicator, November 1955. Miss Storm has
also received honors from Atlantic Monthly, and Cabrini Literary Guild.
so the selfsame sounds On my spirit make a music, too!' A
generalization of the theme follows: "Music is feeling then,
not sound!' And lastly a historical example of the theme is
given in the Biblical account of Susanna and the elders.
Stating explicitly that music is feeling, the voice proceeds
in the story of Susanna, to describe the feelings of characters
in terms of music.
The feeling of the voice is "like the strain Waked in the
elders by Susanna!' The emotion of the "red-eyed elders" is
described in musical terms: they "felt The basses of their
beings throb In witching chords, and their thin blood Pulse
pizzicati of Hosanna!'
The structure of the verse in Part I parallels the meaning.
It is describing feelings which are the same — those of the
voice and the elders — and therefore has the same general
metrical structure throughout.
Part II, describing Susanna, whose feelings are much dif-
ferent, has an entirely different stanzaic pattern although
the setting is the same. The elders are in "a green evening,
clear and warm" and Susanna lies "In the green water, clear
and warm!' Stevens is not using setting as the Romantics did
to symbolize the internal state of a character; he is using
music to do this. Susanna's music is not in "witching chords"
nor is it "pizzicati" but melodious. Her concealed imaginings
are melody ("She searched The touch of springs, And found
Concealed imaginings. She sighed, For so much melody!').
The flowing verse which describes her, changes suddenly
with "A cymbal crashed And roaring horns!' This introduces
a note of discord into the harmony of the woman and the gar-
den. The discord is caused by the elders and it is their music
which becomes dominant as the Byzantines (who are related
to the elders rather than to Susanna) enter. Her attendant
Byzantines scamper in with their appropriate music, the tam-
bourines. Here is presented an entirely different type of per-
son whose characteristics are shown by the mincing, iambic
Part IV parallels the statement of the theme in Part I. It
opens with the general statement followed by a group of
images drawn from the preceding stanzas.
The voice then particularizes this general statement by
using the historical figure of Susanna. Her "music touched
the bawdy strings . . V but escaped, leaving the elders de-
prived of their "witching chords!' They have no music now,
only "scraping" while Susanna's music is immortal. "It plays
On the clear viol of her memory, And makes a constant
sacrament of praise'.'
MARY JOAN STORM
Reprinted from The Explicator, November 1955
Sun patterns through the glass
strike floor and disperse.
"Darkness sang its death
When I came to you; root
of the world bore its firstborn song.
Wet, new grass received
my self, sprung from
the still of the moving sphere.
Fireflame thrives on my wet,
fresh full, renews the
dust-blind, spinning earth.
Patterns of sun sprinkle the floor;
focus and blindness slowly return.
■J TENDER YEARS
Morning light greyed the large courtroom. The Court called
the case "Farrell vs. Farrell!' Both counsels rose and stated
they were ready to proceed. The Judge turned to the attorney
for the plaintiff. The question came in a strong voice, "Do
you desire to make an opening statement?"
The lawyer began, "Briefly, your Honor, what we intend
to prove is as follows . . !' The ears of justice listened to a
squat little man mouth the adjectives that were born, raised
and fattened in divorce courts; the eyes of justice measured
the new participants in this old game.
They sat at the counsel table directly in front of and below
Judge Michael's bench — the two people who had promised
to "love, honor, and obey till death do us part!' The adjec-
tives grew louder and longer — "inconsiderate, inattentive,
The accuser, Susan Farrell, turned sharply without a
blonde hair of her sleek cap daring to misbehave. Frosty blue
eyes were directed at the one for whom the adjectives tolled.
Benjamin Farrell had difficulty in finding something for his
nervous hands to do. He searched for a cigarette, found one,
put it between his lips, when a heavy frown from the hover-
ing bailiff made it disappear as quickly as it had appeared.
The little man's monotone stopped as he sank into his too-
The judge nodded to the counsel for the defendant. A bald-
ish man stood and answered hurriedly, "We will reserve our
opening statement, your Honor, until plaintiff has completed
"Very well. Call your first witness, Sir!'
The little man slurred his announcement, "We will call
the plaintiff, Mrs. Susan Farrell!'
She arose, aware that all eyes were upon her. Straight and
small steps taken in blue pumps led her to the witness box.
She mounted the three steps. After being sworn in she cast a
composed smile at the judge. That smile had aided Susan
Farrell in winning an outstanding position with an advertis-
ing firm. She must use it today. She crossed gloved hands,
waited expectantly for her lawyer to begin. The little man
by asking terse questions then brought forth the date of mar-
riage and separation. Susan's answering voice was cool. The
lawyer asked the next question, "Are there any children the
issue of this marriage?" The cool voice betrayed a small
tremor, "One!' "Name and age?" "Cynthia Farrell, age
The rubber band tangled in stray strands of her braid. Cindy
jerked it, wrinkling her face in pain. "Ouch, one, two, three,
four. . . '.' She started the count. Daddy had said to count five
and then cuss if you must. A tear fell on her hand, and she
brushed it off quickly with a woman's precision. Silver scis-
sors snipped at the rubber. It fell to the white rug accom-
panied by a hunk of amber hair. She brushed the loose hair
furiously. Susan had told her long ago that a lady's hair must
shine. The beauty parlor polished Susan's twice a week. Cindy
stared past the tidy image in the blue-framed mirror. If only
she might step into her looking-glass the way Alice had. Then
she would live in a topsy-turvy world. One where grownups
smiled at each other, and ladies never screamed "I hate you"
— an upside-down-land that didn't need judges.
She looked at the tiny clock on her dresser. When the big
hand pointed to twelve, and the little hand pointed to eleven,
she would be talking to the judge. What did people call
judges? She wished she could ask Jamie. The bare branches
of his maple tree were silhouetted through organdy curtains.
Two uneven braids swung out the window. Twisting her
head, Cindy whispered, "Jamie!' Pursing her lips she chirped
a tweet that would have charmed the most reluctant robin.
There was no answer. Jamie was gone. Daddy said that he
took his family South to keep their feathers warm. Then he
had told her he might go "some place warmer" too. Cindy
had asked if some place warmer meant South. "A good idea,
Cinderella!' And he had smiled his sideways grin.
"Jamie" she cried. The crisp air was still. Cindy had told
him everything the way some girls talk to their brothers.
Once Susan had told her brothers "weren't necessary!' Daddy
had said, "A luxury, Sue?" She had answered, "Ben, they're
not easy on your bank account!'
Cindy drew the organdy curtain back. She didn't need a
brother. She opened her blue jewel box, carefully placing
aside a grey feather as she untangled the "happy locket!'
Engraved on the round gold piece was a clown's face. This
morning Cindy did not look at the two pictures inside. She
rubbed the surface on her skirt, as if to remove the wide smile
the clown wore. Then her small fingers clasped it around her
neck. "Mr. Clown, you always smile, even when Susan and
Daddy are in court!' Then her lips slid up at the corners.
"'Cept maybe you smile because they have to always live in
my locket — together!' Then Cindy laughed and skipped to
the window. "Jamie, Jamie — I am going to see the judge
A figure paused, scanning the black letters on the window.
They read "Judge Robert L. Michaels" and in smaller print,
"Domestic Relations'.' The clerk knocked on the heavy door.
Judge Michaels looked up from the paper he had been
studying, "Yes, Jim?"
"Your Honor, you were to see Cynthia Farrell at eleven
o'clock!' The clerk knew it was customary to interview the
child involved in such a case out of the presence of the attor-
neys and of the parties concerned.
"Just show her in when she comes, Jim!'
He dreaded these interviews with nail-biting neurotic chil-
dren who sobbed out coached lines about "an alcohol seeking
father" or a "company keeping mother!'
A shadow passed the heavy glass. This glass was his key to
personalities. For years he had watched his "customers" step
up to this door for their conference in chambers. An angry
woman might put out an anxious hand to turn the gold knob
quickly, while an outraged man would knock heavily. A
frightened woman would straighten her hat, while a disil-
lusioned man might pull at his tie. However, the window
gave no insight into what type of child would open his door.
That was it, he thought, they seemed suddenly to appear in
the room. The judge was never completely prepared for those
"of tender years!' He glanced again at the paper's title, "Far-
rell vs. Farrell!' Then he pondered the words "All other
things being equal, the custody of children of tender years
shall be with the mother" thus read the law.
The clock placed with his wife's picture on the top of his desk
told Judge Michaels it was eleven. Suddenly, she was in the
room. The judge smiled a non- judicial smile, preparing to
tell her to take a chair. Before his thoughts were in words,
the small visitor moved lightly to his desk. Grey eyes fringed
with gold-tipped lashes stared solemnly into his own. A hand
stretched up waiting to be taken.
The big man cleared his voice and shook the hand gently.
He accepted her "How do you do" with surprise. A soft voice
said, "I'm Cindy Farrell — your . . . a . . . your . . . a . . !'
"Your Honor, Cindy?" he kindly questioned and informed.
"Yes — your Honor!'
She said the two words reverently, then slid up into the
chair opposite his desk, lowered her eyes, and murmured,
She had thwarted all his preliminary questions. The ones
adults use to put children at ease; the things the paper work
already told him about name and age. He felt uneasy and
shifted his big frame in the leather chair. The grey eyes
watched him. Then a question came, but not from the judge.
"Is the lady in the picture your wife?"
"Yes " he answered.
"She's pretty — do you sleep in the same room?"
He cleared his throat again. The soft voice continued,
"Susan sleeps upstairs and Daddy sleeps downstairs in the
den — now!'
He slowly formed a question, "Do you know why, Cindy?"
"Yes" she answered, and her eyes were wide. "People who
don't love each other never sleep in the same room. It's too
bad, though, because daddy's legs are way too long for the
bed in the den!'
"Well" Judge Michaels began, "your father and mother
love you, you know that, Cindy!'
"Yes, I do, your . . . your Honor!'
He went on, "Both of them want you!'
A smile like the clown's on her locket came to the oval face.
"Did they tell you that, sir — your Honor?"
"Yes, Cindy" — he noticed there were spots of green in the
grey eyes. "It is the court's responsibility to decide what is
best for you'.'
"That means you, doesn't it?" she said.
"Yes. I suppose if you had your way you would want your
mother and father to stop fighting so that the family could
be happy together again?"
She wound a small fist around the gold locket. She repeated
his two last words, "Together again!'
She began to swing a patent leather shoe back and forth,
and her teeth were biting on her lower lip. "Not after she
screamed, your Honor!'
The Judge leaned forward. "Who screamed?"
"Susan did. T hate you! That's what she kept yelling. I
think she frightened Jamie away early!'
"Jamie?" he questioned. The papers had said nothing
about Jamie. They contained endless facts about the inade-
quate salary that an easy-going man offered to an ambitious
woman, the details that spell different ideas and interests.
The judge imagined Benjamin Farrell lounging in a chair
reading insurance journals, lulled by a background of hi-fi
music, while his wife perched on the edge of her chair, long-
ing for the combo music from her favorite dining spot. But
Jamie — there had been no mention of a Jamie.
The child clarified with a guarded statement, "He's my
very best friend — almost a brother!'
The Judge asked, "You have no real brothers or sisters?"
He knew the answer but was surprised at her words.
"We don't need them — I guess'.' She began to swing the
other foot. Then added as an afterthought, "You know they're
hard on bank accounts!'
"Not always, youngster — " he glanced quickly at the pic-
ture on his desk. "Will you tell me who this fellow Jamie is?"
"Can it be a secret?" she asked as she raised a finger to her
lips. "Susan says people shouldn't care so much for robins!'
Wrinkling his forehead, the Judge repeated, "Robins?"
"Yes, he's the smartest, most wonderful robin you ever
saw!' Her eyes glistened with pride.
"Oh, I see" said the Judge. The look of pride vanished, and
the grey eyes turned unconvinced. Perhaps Susan had been
"Jamie's playmate lives in a world all her own" thought
the jurist. He cleared his throat, "Cindy do you love both
your mother and father?"
"Oh yes, I do, I do!' Even the pigtails nodded. It amused
him to see one was longer than the other. The answer was
standard, he thought. It was always that way. The heart of
a child is large enough to love them all — the warring tribes
eyeing each other across the court room center aisle. The
difficulty of the decision ahead deepened the lines in his face.
Something of his expression reminded Cindy of her school's
picture of Mr. Lincoln.
"Could I tell you something" she asked.
He nodded, but half-listened, as he had trained himself
to do when the lawyers were arguing something he had
"I wish — do you suppose you could give me to Daddy?"
she said in a half-whisper.
This was a surprise. "And why do you say that, Cindy?"
"Because — well, you know Daddy has to have some one
to take care of him if he goes South, and Susan doesn't need
even one child. She always has herself!' The grey eyes were
Out of a child's mouth, he mused, comes the summation for
the failure of this marriage. Benjamin Farrell, a gentle man,
has a great need for affection, understanding and love. Susan
Farrell, an intelligent woman, is self-centered and sufficient
to herself. Here are two people each unable to sense and
supply the needs of the other.
The judge smiled, "I thought little girls needed mothers
to fix dresses, button buttons and braid hair?"
"Oh, no sir, ever since I've had these" a small hand ges-
tured toward a braid, "I've fixed them myself. Ladies should.
They used to be the same size until this morning; the scissors
made a mistake'.'
The judge's smile broadened. "Well, I imagine the shorter
pigtail will soon catch up with the other!'
Cindy laughed and brightened the room. The decision was
made. "I think you have it, your father does need you and
I'm sure you will take special care of him. And I know, too,
you will have love left over to give your mother each time
you visit her!' This statement was met with a look of warm
Yes, thought the Judge, and with love to spare for that
robin, and all the other little people he knew made her own
world. Little Miss Sobersides is a strange combination, he
thought. A child who is forced to bear the burdens of her
parents, but who has learned to supply her own need for a
brother by resorting to a fantasy-land. He rose, "Thank you,
Cindy, and I hope an early spring brings Jamie safely back
Cindy suddenly smiled and stretched up her hand to say
goodbye. So people could care for Jamie after all.
Again the Judge mused — "The custody of children of ten-
der years shall go to the mother — all things being equal!'
The pigtails were gone, but bobbed back into the room as
Cindy's head peeked around the door. She had forgotten.
"Thank you, and pleased to meet you, your Honor!' She dis-
appeared, missing his shake of the head and his answer which
was really a sign, "Tender years, yes, but all things equal, no!'
Second Prize — Southern California Woman's Press Contest — 1956
In fading golden lacework of the sycamore
From southern warmth spring new, green leaves
Hesitant, afraid, they lean to sodden earth,
Begging to emit the triumph of their seed.
Tips tinged with scarlet, they fold back, hold back,
Until at last, Nativity — the bloom.
MARY JO RENNISON
Merit Paper — Atlantic Monthly Contest — 1953
I remember the willow
The weeping willow by the Loddon
Its limp loose strands
Melt into rippling gurgles of shaded water
Brief golden rays scatter the shaded coolness
of tear-shaped leaves
Light strands seek the airy breeze
A cloak envelops the life-giving stem
I remember the poplar
The poplar tree by the gravelled roadside
Its long straight mast reaches for purer air above
Slim and supple branches rustle in the joyful breeze
Arms stretch upward in glee, catch the laughing leaves
Scattered patches of silver and green chase sunlight beams
The curve of a candle flame bends in the wind
I remember the majestic oak
The king of trees in a field
Gnarled and battered trunk enclosed in the earth
Boughs of strength and hardness adamant to the wind
Stately coverage of brown and green
Reflects glossy lights of the filtering sun
A ram steadfast in its watchfulness
I remember a rootless tree
Whose members glory in a thorn-crowned Head
Binding visibly each to each
Rays of life weave in the darkness
Outstretched arms engulf the world
Yielding fruits forever fresh
Redeeming cross on a sorrowful hill
Second Prize — Cabrini Literary Guild Contest — 1956
«J LOOKING AT CEZANNE'S STILL LIFE
Why did you leave artful Paris? To frame
Yourself in quietly falling apples seems
Strangely narrow of your many-seasoned heart. For
After a time, is the eternal fruit that beams
From orchard and drawing-room walls. An instant's delight
Tongue-ties my flight over the flowers — then away to the
Of a first green furl somewhere else. I can no more quite
Immerse myself in still life than in a non- weekending
(And more same) still-living. But I know that you liked it
from the treat
You spread out for my pleasure — the invisible wine of a
Bottle, finger-sweets, and apples enough to eat
Forever. Only look: these TOO had to be set aside for painting
It's an exquisite art to take perishable apples and plan
To keep and give them away with the same hand.
Third Prize — University of California at Los Angeles
Poetry Contest — 1956
«J PLEASE, BEN
The room was dim in the afternoon, one slim beam slid now
through the front curtains, casting a pattern on the staircase.
Marguerite glanced toward it, "Do you see there, Ben" she
said turning back to him, pushing the fine blond hair back
on his forehead, her hands damp against his soft skin. He had
such blue eyes, they looked like marbles to her, transparent
in their endlessness. "My baby" she told him, hugging his
waist. "My own baby, my baby'.' She thought of her own
eyes, yellow brown, colorless yellow brown, and whispered,
"You are the family beauty, Ben, do you know how blue your
eyes are? I'd give you a pony for your blue eyes, marble eyes,
a pony with a black tail" Marguerite drew a black tailed pony
in the air, the air clung to it large and splendid. "Pony, pony"
she said, drawling the word with tongue movements, "pony,
"Pony" said Ben, slipping from Marguerite's grasp to
crawl away on the rug. He said it — Ben had said "pony" — it
wasn't an easy word.
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, pony" Marguerite inhaled rapidly and
unclasped her hands; she looked at Ben, his yellow sweater
outlined against the patterned rug, "Pony!' Carefully she
adjusted the falling straps of her brother's blue jeans, caress-
ing the sweater's huge knit bands of yellow. She lifted Ben
slowly and sat beside him on the couch, he was comfortable
here, he was quiet, his rounded legs close against her. She was
thinking, "I'll find pictures to show Ben!'
"Pony, pony" Marguerite said, beginning to rub his ears.
Ben liked that, he made low cooing noises for her. She thought
about a story. "Some ponies have black and white spots" she
began her story slowly spinning it for Ben, uniting them in
the world her story would create, quickly bringing her
thoughts together. "They, they had a black stallion father,
I suppose, and a white mare mother" Marguerite laughed,
"and, and sisters and brothers and — oh, Ben, isn't it funny,
a black and white pony, pony, pony, Ben!' She watched him
Marguerite stopped laughing, in the middle of a smile she
stopped. Her legs tangled beneath her as she tried to stand;
clumsily she knelt before her brother, she tugged at his san-
daled feet, holding them against her blouse. But if "pony"
was too much to learn, if even he should forget how to say,
"Marguerite"? His first word — "Marguerite" the first one,
the only one, oh, that first time. What if he should forget. She
laid her face on his legs, her cheeks moved against his blue
jeans. Of course he would say it. Ben had said his sister's
name a hundred, a million times — in the morning, when she
woke him, while he dreamily focused the waking eyes on
her, when she fed him, as she left for school — last night she
had heard him saying "Marguerite" while she was studying.
The day crawled on with the word. He had said it a million
times. She rocked him in her arms this morning, repeating
"Be-en, Ben" she breathed softly, "Ben!' She slowly un-
twined her brother's fingers from the entangled couch fringe,
"Sissy's name, Ben, sissy's name!'
Ben's eyes darted from Marguerite to the maroon fringe.
She put her hand on his shoulder, folding the yellow collar
back. "Look, look, Ben, sissy, look, Marguerite, Ben, Mar-
guer-ite. Here!' She pulled his head toward her.
"Two years" she thought, "Two years — since he was four!'
Her hands were getting cold on his cheeks. The only word he
had ever said until he said "pony!' Her name. He had only
said one word, her name, Mar-guer-ite. She had said it so
often, patiently repeating to him, "Mar-guer-ite" since Ben
was four. She had formed his lips gently with her fingers,
sung it to him, whispered, "Marguerite" for two years. Then
he had begun to say it haltingly, or swallowing the word in
a thrust of sound, for the last two months she had listened to
him call her name in screeched tones or in jerks. Sometimes
she thought it was the only sound she had ever known, the
only real thing.
Two years wasn't such a long time, not really, not at all.
Marguerite was a long name; it was hard to pronounce,
' 'Mar" wasn't too difficult, but "guer" had sounds so twisted,
so hard to form, and then "ite!' Sometimes Ben said "Mar-
GUEPi-ite" sometimes "MAR-guerite" Whenever he accented
the syllables, his sister listened, surprised with a flow of warm
pleasure to know that he was saying her name. Her heart
beating deeply she listened, picturing the future Ben, twenty-
five, or thirty, yes, thirty — tall, slender, his blond hair
combed carefully, his expressive hands gesturing — Ben, wear-
ing a black, black tuxedo and a stiff, white shirt, Ben, saying
tenderly, clearly, "Marguerite" his blue eyes gleaming. It
would be a dedication. A concert. He stood, poised, the slender
silhouette before his audience. She imagined this often, now
it was stronger than ever in her, she felt the excitement, the
heat of the stage lights, the mystery of the black piano, and
Ben saying, u To MAR-guerite" Just as he would say it now.
No, no, she would wait, she would wait. He would form the
syllables any minute.
She deliberately relaxed her legs and sat back on her
hands, fingering the carpet. Her eyes sought the book titles
on the shelves above her. Tom Sawyer. "Tom Sawyer" Mar-
guerite pictured the book flap: "Popular with young Ameri-
cans for many years, this classic. . . V Yes, it was popular with
Ben, too, she read it to him. "To Ben, 1954, Aunt Ann. Merry,
Merry Christmas" Aunt Ann thought everyone should have
story books, fairy tales, children's encyclopedias. She liked
Bible stories best; Marguerite got a Bible last Christmas from
her. Funny, Aunt Ann never read any of these books to Ben,
but then Ben doesn't like her at all. Aunt Ann probably knew.
She didn't know about putting your arm around Ben and
reading each story with an accent or about acting it out,
tracing the pictures with Ben's finger, spelling the words,
watching the words in the deep eyes.
"How was it when I began to teach him" Marguerite won-
dered. She leaned against the couch, examining her crossed
legs, the bent-in toes looked far away. "I think I said it five
times, slowly!' She reached up for Ben's ears. "Marguerite,
Mar-guer-ite, Mar-guer-ite, Marguer-ite" Her stomach was
tight now. Her hands paralyzed, immobile, on Ben's ears.
Marguer-ITE. Marguerite's teeth clenched. "I can't say it, I
can't think it, he'll say it, he's thinking it now!'
Why wasn't he saying it? What was happening? Why had
she done this? He said it all day, some days. She had only
been teaching him. Three times in a minute sometimes. Last
month Mother took him for an admittance physical at the
Home. Mother told her, it was true, Ben said "Marguerite"
distinctly, repeating it after the doctor at least four times.
Then he was quiet and they didn't ask him any more, Mother
explained it over and over; that was what happened.
Marguerite thought about it — he said her name to other
people, everyone in the family, to the doctor. She thought
about the doctor, "I hope he wears a clean white coat — !' She
thought about her mother's dirty green checked apron, the
tie pinned on and the pocket torn. "I wonder how many white
shirts doctors have!' Then, "Sissy is Marguerite" she said
aloud. "Sissy, Sissy!'
.The home was nice, all those trees. The driveway so long,
the lilac bushes lining it all the way, and swings there for
him, slides; all the kids played out there, teachers, all that.
The nurse wore all white and she'd bent down to Ben with
patience. Marguerite wondered though, would she under-
Ben was on his stomach. His feet were kicking the couch.
Marguerite stared at them. The white sandals were moving
very fast, the anklets were twisted. "Game" she thought,
clasping a couch pillow to her.
She began the game, "Da da da da" she beat Indian
rhythms on the maroon pillow "Play, Ben, Indian chiefs
around a fire, the teepees, black night, stars, see them? Great
feast, war dance. Ben beats the music. Ben beats the Indian
drums. Indian boom boom boom boom. Marguerite, Mar-
guerite, Mar-guer-er-ite" she chanted the rhythm, moving
rapidly back and forward on her heels. He watched her;
he liked the game; little circles of perspiration lighted his
forehead; she smiled at them and blew quickly, teasingly
on his ear. "Ben wears feathers and war paint, boom boom
boom, boom!' His feet were beating fierce, slicing beats, a
sandal slipped off. Marguerite's eyes glowed, she clapped her
hands. "Marguerite, Marguerite, Marguerite, Marguerite!'
Ben began to screech, his chest caved in and out with each
Marguerite started to the couch and clutched Ben. Her
movements were slow now, commanding, calm. "Only a
game, Ben, silly game, silly, silly. Funny Indians. Ben, Ben"
she held him in her arms, patting his hands, moving his
twitching body to hers. "Blue eyes, Ben, blue eyes!' He was
still now. "Ben, good, good, Ben, baby" she rubbed slowly,
carefully soothing the pulsing legs. Her heart felt every
breath Ben exhaled, slow, even, slow, none too fast now,
slow, even. Marguerite rubbed, her arms ached, Ben was
heavy, his head so heavy. She would hold him forever. She
would rub Ben's ears, yes, Ben liked that, she pushed the
fine strands of hair from his face. She held her breath. He
was quiet. "So good, Ben, he is so good, never fusses" whisper-
ing, humming, she began, "loves Marguerite!'
Ben jerked, his nails driving sharply into Marguerite's
leg. The pink flesh paled at his fingertips. "So short nails,
can't feel them, Ben, doesn't hurt Marguerite, not even a bit!'
The color flushed in her cheeks. She wouldn't start teaching
him again. He could say it if he wanted to — he would. He
liked to say it, he wanted to say it, his favorite word. "I bet
he says it just any time" she thought, "Ben, Ben, Ben, Ben!'
She could wait. They would play and talk now, play, talk.
Marguerite wondered if her Mother heard Ben's screams
upstairs. Her eyes examined the stair case. Mother knows I
have Ben. Mother didn't hear, she is asleep, lying in the bed
upstairs in the print robe torn in the back, the short one. I
know how to take care of Ben. I'll take care of Ben this whole
week. "Ben, school's out now, did I tell you that? No books,
no leaving in the morning. This week, all week, I have you.
Next week — for a year, for fifty years, Ben, I'm here. Right
here, baby Ben!' She rocked her body, aching, stiff. Her blouse
clung uncomfortably to her back. "I know you'll say it, Ben,
I'll wait, baby. Just think, no school this week!'
Marguerite's stomach knotted. "Why doesn't he say, it?
Here I am, baby. Please say it, Ben, please, please, please,
once, say sissy's name. I love you, Ben, Ben. Why did I try
a new word? I should have known. Wouldn't he say it? Was
he thinking it? Please, wouldn't he say it?" Her feet itched,
her cheeks were dry, she reached down and tugged at her
shoelaces. He had called her this morning during breakfast,
crying for her to come. "Oh, please, Ben, I love you, so much,
I love you. Say it, Ben, you do so well, it sounds so . . . my
baby, say my name" she thought. She knew he wasn't going
to say "Marguerite!'
She dropped Ben's hands. He would never say it. He
couldn't. He'd forgotten. He hated her. He didn't even know
her. He'd never say her name. He couldn't think it. "mar-
guer-ite" she wanted to shout. It was all she cared about in
the world, it was more and he wouldn't say it. She hated him,
hated him, he'd never say it, she knew it now, she was posi-
tive. He could go tomorrow, she'd let him. Mother explained
it all so well. She didn't even care. She detested that sweater.
Hate yellow. They could take him anywhere. She'd never
come to see him. She'd taught him for two years. She'd loved
him. He'd said it a million times. She'd never think of him.
She stared at Ben. "He's so quiet, he's so good" she sneered.
"Stupid" she gasped, "stupid, idiot, stupid. Ugly!' The word
pierced her ears. Sobs began tearing at her ribs, pulling her
lips, hurting, hurting. "Say it, say it, Mar — say it — guer —
say it — it — ite — Ben, I love you, I love you, baby brother
baby, I love you" she clutched the maroon fringes, "Mar-
guerite loves you!'
Ben turned on his back. "Pony" he said clearly.
Merit Paper — Atlantic Monthly Contest — 1955
€ J THE WATERS BETWEEN
The time of beauty comes at six o'clock
In Kalaupapa; green and grey the line
That etches yellow sky with seaward cliffs;
A thousand glimmers on a calm Pacific
Sparkling, dying, catching once again
The brilliant eye of morning sun. It comes
At six o'clock, the time of charity,
Around a jutting bend, the blackened hull
Like insect lost in yards of moire silk,
Molopa, faithful little island ship —
Cargo rich with pipes for mountain rains,
With letters, trinkets, unreal gaiety —
For bodies rotting on an Eden's hell.
"Monsigneur!" The surly Portuguese
Spat yellow where the waters danced.
"Ay, friend?" Grey eyes, undimmed though aging,
Where knotted fingers indicate the shore.
"Kalaupapa — lepers all, poor devils . . !'
"Would that I could be there, mon ami!'
"What use, Monsigneur?" They have Damien!'
Below the ship a mellow voice rings out
Where silently a skiff had crept unnoticed
Through the dawn: "But who shrives Damien?"
Through varied toil his cassock stained and thin,
His forehead grooved by other than his years,
The Belgian Martyr kneels, intent and humble.
Seven feet and no more can his shell
Approach the anchored ship; more deep,
More wide than sea — the fear of rotting flesh.
"A year, mon pere, since I have been absolved . . !'
"Ego te absolve . . " Lifted hand
Imparts a blessing carried by the breeze.
And back with soul revivified, he rows
In silence through the bay of Molokai.
First Prize $250 — Cabrini Literary Guild — 1953
«J A LOVER SCORNS HIS LOVE YET IN REALITY
SHE HATH HIM IN CAPTIVITY
How can I love the stubble-beard and nose
So red, the smell of musty pipe and lotion,
Unruly hair that matches garish clothes,
(The shirts of purple-pink that strike his notion) ?
How can I bear the teasing jokes and taunts
Of manly power, disdainful looks of scorn
That mock my fragile strength and female wants,
Forgetting he was once a mother's thorn?
And yet I know how helpless is his glance
When I am crying, how he soothes my care,
How I enjoy the jealous, fretting try
To disregard another, because a simple stare
Betrays the tender words I want to know.
Another brawny male is now in tow.
Merit Paper — Atlantic Monthly Contest
«J DYLAN THOMAS' UNDER MILK WOOD
Under Milk Wood would be deserving of careful reading and
study if only for the fact that it is the last work of Dylan
Thomas, but it is more than that. Under Milk Wood is a
beautifully written expressionistic fantasy, expertly con-
structed and highly symbolic. The purpose of this article is
to discuss the aspects of expressionism in Under Milk Wood
showing how they occur and develop in the play. Necessary
to such discussion is an understanding of the aims and char-
acteristics of expressionism, and from this basis I will proceed
to an analysis of the play itself in terms of structure and
The aim of expressionism is to objectify inner experience
— to reveal the inner reality lying beneath the surface of
things; external verisimilitude is unimportant, for expres-
sionism finds only the truth of inner reality worthy of con-
sideration. The characters found in expressionistic works are
types rather than individuals. Often objects and people are
dreamlike, shadowy, and distorted to grotesque proportions;
the scenes which center around a dream or reverie may be
partially or purely realistic, and suddenly the literal repre-
sentation of external reality will shift to the super-reality of
the character's inner self. The action in an expressionistic
play is abrupt, fantastic, and multi-leveled, and it is usually
accompanied by music or symbolic actions. Many theatrical
techniques are used: masks, tricky lighting, choral groupings,
rhythmical movements, fade-ins and outs, and transforma-
tion of scenery. Finally, expressionistic drama is strongly
influenced by modern psychology and makes great use of it,
especially that of Freud.
Miss Snow won second place in Atlantic Monthly National Contest with her
"Aspects of Voice and Address in Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country" Because of
its length and the difficulty of condensing this article, we have substituted her
study of Under Milk Wood.
Under Milk Wood is expressionistic in both matter and
form since its structure is based upon the relationship of
dream and reality, of day and night, and its theme is the
super-reality of the ego. Within his play Dylan Thomas
establishes an almost perfect balance between the type char-
acterizations required by expressionistic drama and the liv-
ing individuals which genuine creativity produces. Under
Milk Wood presents in a capsule both the exterior and interior
life of the small Welsh village of Llareggub. Llareggub is a
coastal village, fishing boats ride at anchor on its shores, and
it is edged on one side by a wood — Milk Wood. A main street,
Coronation Street, divides the village; and the local pub, the
Sailor's Arms, plays a large part in village life.
The characters of Llareggub are made highly individual
because of the detailed description given to them, but at the
same time, their actions make them symbolic of a universal
type. Every Welsh fishing village has its retired sea captain,
but only Llareggub has blind Captain Cat; there is a prude-
and-prism in every town, but only Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard
could possibly have the ghosts of both husbands in the same
house; and even while they are symbols of ineffectual love,
only Myfanwny Price and Mog Edwards could exchange
their particular correspondence.
.This balance which Thomas creates between individual
and type is established chiefly by means of a subtle humor
which permeates the play. Thomas also uses comic fantasy
to great effect and succeeds in establishing many of his char-
acters by means of it. Dai Bread with his two wives, one for
duty and one for pleasure; Mr. Pugh, the arch poisoner; and
Polly Garter (the only purely stock character in the play) all
are vivified by an illuminating humorous touch.
Since there is no definite break for act or scene in Under
Milk Wood, there seems to be a problem in presentation.
Actually the play falls into two equal parts: the time of night
and its fantastic dreams is equal to the daytime and its real
actions. The play begins at night, and it is opened by two
voices which act as chorus throughout. This chorus links the
two parts together. It functions chiefly during the night; day
finds its importance declining.
The two chorus-voices alternate. During night and dream-
time the voices describe, introduce and comment. During day
and action they describe and introduce, but do not comment.
In this way Thomas observes the expressionistic device of
weaving the different scenes around a dream of reverie which
may be partially or purely realistic; and on the other hand,
breaking the fantasy of the night with the commonplace
happenings of the day.
Another characteristic of expressionistic drama is the use
of the mask. In Under Milk Wood the night acts as a mask.
It reveals only thoughts, not faces. "Only you can hear and
hear behind the eyes of the sleepers, movement, and coun-
tries, and mazes and colors, and dismays, and rainbows and
tunes and wishes and flight and fall and despairs and big seas
of their dreams!' Such use of dreams is a feature of expres-
sionistic drama; and in this use of dream-imagery, expres-
sionism was strongly influenced by the theories of Freud.
Characters in the play are introduced and described as they
lie sleeping; then their voices float out of the darkness in their
dream monologues. "From where you are" says the First
Voice, "you can hear their dreams!'
The transition from night to day is accomplished by an
exceptionally poetic interlude. The chorus introduces Lord
Cut Glass, a villager who is obsessed with clocks, and this
obsession brings in the note of time. Just as sleeping people
have no concept of time, so there has been no awareness of
time passing in the darkness of the dreamers until Lord Cut
Glass is mentioned and the clocks go "tick tock tick tock tick
tock tick tock!' Then the chorus resumes the narrative and
brings the dawn and day to Llareggub.
First Voice-. Time passes. Listen. Time passes. An owl flies home
past Bethesda, to a chapel in an oak. And the dawn inches up.
Second Voice: Stand on this hill. This is Llareggub Hill, old as the
hills, high, cool and green. From it you can see all the town below
you sleeping in the first of the dawn.
You can hear the lovesick woodpigeons moaning in bed. A dog
barks in his sleep, farmyards away. The town ripples like a lake
in the waking haze.
A guide-book voice interrupts and gives a flat prosaic descrip-
tion of Llareggub: "Less than five hundred souls inhabit the
three quaint streets, the few narrow bylanes and scattered
farmsteads that constitute this small decaying watering-place
which may, indeed, be called a backwater of life" without
disrespect to its natives who possess, to this day, a salty indi-
viduality of their own. Following a particularly poetic pas-
sage, this flat prose of the guide book creates a break in the
action of the play. With this break Llareggub passes from
night to day.
The chorus then returns with its narration, but not so
freely or poetically as in the dream. Beyond this point the
voices of the chorus decrease in importance; they serve mere-
ly to introduce and provide a small amount of description.
The technique used here is that of a chorus within a chorus;
after the two voices introduce one character, that character
introduces others in turn through his commentary.
•While the characters are being introduced, the morning
action of Llareggub begins to unfold. Captain Cat, always the
first one awake, pulls the townhall bellrope, and Reverend Eli
Jenkins says his morning prayer. His prayers always take the
form of poems and always he mentions Milkwood, the tiny
dingle he has loved all his life.
The day then passes in kaleidoscopic flashes. It begins with
Willy Nilly, the mailman, as he goes through the village. His
letters have already been steamed open by Mrs. Willy Nilly,
and in the best small town mailman tradition he tells the
village news to one and all.
As he goes his rounds and meets the villagers, other char-
acters are introduced and developed. Mrs. Pugh demands
that Mr. Pugh bring her glasses, and she sees Lily Smalls
scrubbing the Beynon's front step, and Sheriff Jack Black on
his way to arrest Polly Garter for having babies and lum-
bering down to the strand to see that the sea is still there.
Blind Captain Cat hears the varied sounds of village life;
Organ Morgan at his organ, Ocky Milkman, and the house-
wives at the village pump. Here the chorus of voices breaks
in, and the speed and quick consonant pattern of their words
help to create the impression of time and passing.
The women meet at Mrs. Organ Morgan's general store;
their gossip widens the reader's knowledge of Llareggub and
brings in more character description. Captain Cat hears the
school children come from morning session; and Gwennie, a
miniature Polly Garter, tries to entice the boys into Milk
Reverend Eli Jenkins works on the history of Llareggub
he is writing: "he tells only the truth in his life work: the
population, main industry, shipping, history, and topogra-
phy!' Of course, Reverend Jenkins tells only half the truth,
and Dylan Thomas is never interested in this half.
The day of Under Milk Wood ends in a partial return to
the night of the first part, and this partial return is accom-
plished by an evening which seems suspended in time: "Now
the town is dusk. Each cobble, donkey, goose and gooseberry
street is a thoroughfare of dusk; and dusk and ceremonial
dust, and night's first darkening snow, and the sleep of birds,
drift under and through the live dusk of this place of love.
Llareggub is the capital of dusk!'
At the doorway of his house, Reverend Jenkins prays his
sunset poem, and in this poem is contained the whole theme
of the play, and the meaning of the Milk Wood which bounds
the small village of Llareggub.
We are not wholly bad or good
Who live our Lives under Milk Wood,
And Thou, I know, wilt be the first
To see our best side, not our worst.
Now the evening activities begin, and once more the chorus
assumes paramount importance. Babies and grandpas are
tucked into bed. "Unmarried gals, alone in their privately
bridal bedrooms, powder and curl for the Dance of the World'.'
The men in the Sailors' Arms have their drinks; Organ Mor-
gan goes to chapel to play the organ; blind Captain Cat climbs
into his bunk; Myfanwy Price and Mog Edwards write their
every-night love letter, and Mog hugs his lovely money; and
in Milk Wood Mr. Waldo hugs his lovely Polly Garter.
Under Milk Wood is in a continual flux, not so much in
time (since there is a definitely established progression from
night to day to evening) as in point of view and focus. There
is an endless criss-cross of characters and statements, and a
constantly shifting view of the Milk Wood itself. The flux
and contrast of youth and age is especially important. Old
men and babies are mentioned together. Captain Cat, one of
the most important characters, seems to stand for age. The
theme of procreation and growth, moreover recurs constantly.
It is seen in people and animals. This theme is related to and
modulates into that of birth and death. The chorus states
these ideas directly: "The town is as full as a love bird's eggl'
The importance of the Milk Wood which bounds the Vil-
lage is established by the title of the play. Milk Wood seems
to stand for either human nature or human life in the world.
There is, of course, the real wood outside Llareggub which
naturally plays a part in the lives of the villagers. But since
the people are types and symbols (as well as highly individ-
ualized characters, as has been seen), Milk Wood means
many other things and is seen under various aspects. It is the
sensuality of Polly Garter and of little Gwennie who want
to be kissed in Milk Wood. It is a "God-built garden" to Mary
Ann and the Sailors, and to Reverend Jenkins it is a "green-
leaved sermon on the innocence of man!'
This, then, is Dylan Thomas' expressionistic drama Under
Milk Wood. It is a play of external and internal character
rather than of action — a play filled with subtle and beautiful
sound and lighted by Welsh humor. It is a play where, per-
haps, Dylan Thomas' whole creative philosophy is expressed
in Reverend Jenkins' poem (sunset) : "We are not wholly
bad or good Who live our lives under Milk Wood!'
Merit Paper — Atlantic Monthly Contest — 1955
«J FOR CALMING RUFFLED SPIRITS
One walk on a misty night
With a warm brown coat
Buttoned up tight,
And hair flying
Wet and free,
And then a fire,
And a cup of tea.
And if possible:
Have someone close and dear
Sittting very, very near,
Talking very tenderly,
Or just there, silently.
And if your spirit's ruffled still,
The trouble's only with your will.
«J STUDY IN BLACK AND WHITE
The struggle lasted
all year and when
I awoke it was still
The secret was there
behind the night,
but the key slipped
from my tired mind.
(01 could be a
porter, singer or
shoeshine boy, or a
gentleman's gent and
wear a vest. Too bad
I hear street cleaners are
all white this season.)
I have always
on my tolerance.
have been terribly wrong.
The monotony of
superiority has smothered
but I'm sure that
break the spell.
(0 they're all right
in their proper place;
but they just don't seern
to see the line
between the races,
if you know what I mean
We really must sell,
they're right next door,
and Jenny's so young.)
Accepted for publication in Beginnings, Sheed and Ward anthology — 1956
f PHI BETA KAPPA ESSAY AWARDS
Helen V Shubert
Elizabeth Anne Joyce
(Scholarship to Mills College)
Elizabeth Anne Joyce
Teresa Mary Milligan
Mary Elizabeth Pansini
«[ FIRST THE BLADE— COLLEGE POETRY ANTHOLOGY
Anna Jane Marshall
Teresa Mary Milligan
Wanda Mae Corlett
Mary Helen Emerson
Mary Helen Emerson
First Prize Sonnet
«[ ATLANTIC AWARDS
1942 Monica Fitzgerald
1943 Mary Elizabeth Pansini
Peggy Jean Kieffer
Mary Joan Storm
1953 Mary Jo Rennison
1 954 Claudette Drennan
Mary Joan Storm
1955 Sally Snow
Patricia L. G. Ching
Patricia Ann Fitzgerald
1956 Carron Vincent
Honorable Mention Short Story
Honorable Mention Short Story
Top Paper Essay
Top Paper Essay
Top Paper Essay
Top Paper Short Story
Top Paper Short Story
Top Paper Short Story
Top Paper Short Story
First Prize Poetry
Merit Paper Poetry
Honorable Mention Essay
Top Paper Essay
Top Paper Essay
Merit Paper Short Story
First Prize Essay
Honorable Mention Essay
Honorable Mention Essay
Honorable Mention Essay
Honorable Mention Story and Poem
Second Place Essay
Merit Paper Essay
Merit Paper Essay
Merit Paper Essay
Fourth Place Poetr}^
Honorable Mention Poetry
Merit Paper Story
Honorable Mention Essay
Honorable Mention Essay
«[ CABRINI LITERARY GUILD CREATIVE WRITING
1950 Teresa Hatsumi
1952 Shirley Burke
1953 Patricia Ching
1954 Milania Austin
Mary Lou Crede
Betty Mae Cabral
1955 Enedina Marcia Garcia
Sharon Elizabeth Fay
Margaret Mary Sprigg
Patricia L.G. Ching
Sue Carol Edwards
Lillian Eileen Scott
1956 Bruna Bernasconi
Mary C. O'Connor
Yvonne J. Zornes
Dianne Lucille Smith
First Prize Story
Second Prize Essay
First Prize Story
First Prize Poem
First Prize Story
Fourth Prize Story
Honorable Mention Essay
Honorable Mention Essay
First Prize Story
Second Prize Story
Third Prize Story
Second Prize Poem
Third Prize Poem
Honorable Mention Essay
Honorable Mention Poem
Second Prize Story
Second Prize Poem
Third Prize Essay
Third Prize Poem
Honorable Mention Essay
Honorable Mention Poem
Honorable Mention Poem
Honorable Mention Poem
«[ SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WOMEN'S PRESS
ASSOCIATION SHORT STORY CONTEST
1955 Margaret Cain
Joan Martha Carey
1956 Kathleen Burke
«[ UNIVERSITY OF REDLANDS: ROBERT BROWNING
1955 Carron Margaret Vincent First Prize
Beverly Jean Turmell Second Prize
Marie Louisa Zeuthen Honorable Mention
«[ NATIONAL FEDERATION OF CATHOLIC COLLEGE
STUDENTS— NATIONAL WRITING CONTEST ON
1 947 Betty Jean Elmore
1948 Regina De Coursey
First Prize Essay
First Prize Essay
Second Prize Poem
«[ THE QUEEN'S WORK— NATIONAL SHORT STORY
1942 Joan Patrick Second Prize
J TED OLSON POETRY CONTEST
1940 Margaret O'Connell First Prize
1941 Beata Bowman Charter First Prize
«[ NATIONAL PUBLICATIONS
1955 Barbara Selna
Essay (Published in Renascence
in summer of 1955)
Story in Today; November, 1955
Story in Today; January, 1955
Poem in Sheed and Ward
book — Beginnings