Guest poem submitted by Carolyn and Frank:
(Poem #457) The End of the World
Quite unexpectedly, as Vasserot The armless ambidextrian was lighting A match between his great and second toe, And Ralph the lion was engaged in biting The neck of Madame Sossman while the drum Pointed, and Teeny was about to cough In waltz-time swinging Jocko by the thumb Quite unexpectedly the top blew off: And there, there overhead, there, there hung over Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes, There in the starless dark, the poise, the hover, There with vast wings across the cancelled skies, There in the sudden blackness the black pall Of nothing, nothing, nothing -- nothing at all.
It is much easier to recognize a great poem (you just wait for the hair on the back of your neck to rise) than it is to explain why you think it is a great poem, but here goes. To begin with, MacLeish pulls you in with the first two words -- "Quite unexpectedly" -- and you rush ahead to the details of a circus performance. Vivid details pointing up a series of events as they are about to happen. You can visualize it all. Then those two words again, followed by "the top blew off" The next line is amazing. With repetition and pauses he builds suspense until you feel that you are one of those "white faces" with "dazed eyes" looking up. Again a series of marvelous images but in direct contrast to the specific ones in the first eight lines. Phrases such as starless dark, sudden blackness and vast wings across the cancelled skies prepare you for that completely satisfying last line. I have always thought that MacLeish was one of our great 20th century poets. This poem I like almost as much as my all-time favorite, 'You', by Andrew Marvell.. He gives to the reader comforting little lines you can repeat to yourself when you need assurance of the beautiful in life. And he is never trite or sentimental - what more could you ask for? Carolyn Bunch. --- Carolyn (in comments added to poem 188) just happened to be looking for the poem that I'd like to submit for the Minstrels collection. It's more about the end of the world as experienced at a circus than a poem about circus performers and their audience. I never really analyzed this poem beyond recognizing the extreme contrast between the light-heartedness of a circus performance and the seriousness of the world's end. A juxtapose of comedy and tragedy -- Enjoy! Frank.