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Sea-Gulls -- E J Pratt

Wrapping up the rather desultory whirlwind tour through Canadian poetry...
(Poem #787) Sea-Gulls
 For one carved instant as they flew,
 The language had no simile --
 Silver, crystal, ivory
 Were tarnished. Etched upon the horizon blue,
 The frieze must go unchallenged, for the lift
 And carriage of the wings would stain the drift
 Of stars against a tropic indigo
 Or dull the parable of snow.

 Now settling one by one
 Within green hollows or where curled
 Crests caught the spectrum from the sun,
 A thousand wings are furled.
 No clay-born lilies of the world
 Could blow as free
 As those wild orchids of the sea.
-- E J Pratt
        From 'Many Moods' (Macmillan 1932, p. 9)

There isn't really a lot I want to say about today's poem - I just love the
images it evokes, the play of light, colour and motion against a backdrop of
sun, sea and above all, space. It also touches explicitly upon another of my
favourite topics, the connection between poetry and visual art.

Pratt has been criticized for being too impersonal, as if that in some way
diminshed the quality of his poetry (flying, as it does, in the face of the
'spontaneous overflow of emotion' theory). However, reading poems like
Sea-gulls leaves me in little doubt that Pratt was fully responsive to, and
appreciative of, the beauty of which he wrote, and that the care with which
he crafts and polishes his poetry detracts not at all from its merits. To
quote Froese in her essay on 'Pratt as Lyricist'

  Furthermore, though it may be necessary to coin a new term to describe
  Pratt's peculiar rendering of emotional intensity, I would agree with
  Robert Gibbs, who in "A True Voice:  Pratt as a Lyric Poet," pointed out
  that Pratt is not devoid of emotion, but masks that emotion behind irony
  and understatement.  It is precisely his impersonal, controlled prose
  together with the ambiguous, ironic reversals at the end of many of his
  shorter poems that create a sense of passion repressed, and it is his
  effacing of the individual specific viewpoint that allows him to evoke
  common agonies and dilemmas.


  Here's a reading of the poem by Pratt himself

  Pratt's daughter, the artist Claire Pratt, has a beautiful picture based on
  the poem:
    [broken link]

  An essay on 'Pratt as Lyricist'
    [broken link]

  A Pratt page:

  And what will be the Complete Poems of Pratt:

  A reminiscent poem is Teasdale's exquisite 'Morning': poem #113

On the Theme:

  This was a rather hard theme to put together - I was hampered slightly
  both by my relative unfamiliarity with Canadian poetry, and by the sheer
  volume and diversity of works from which to choose. The poems chosen for
  the theme represent, for the most part, those poets with whose works I was
  already acquainted [Pratt is actually the one exception]; I did discover a
  lot of new poets in the course of reading up on Canadian poetry, but
  decided to populate the theme with familiar faces. There are, unavoidably,
  several glaring omissions (Bliss Carman, for example); I'll definitely be
  running more Canadian poets in the future, particularly some of the later

More Links:

  Theme Summary:
   Poem #781 Robert Service, 'The Law of the Yukon'
   Poem #782 F.R. Scott, 'National Identity'
   Poem #783 Stan Rogers, 'Northwest Passage'
   Poem #784 Archibald Lampman, 'To a Millionaire'
   Poem #785 Margaret Atwood, 'Postcard'

  Some essays on Canadian poetry in general:
    'Canadian Poetry in its Relation to The Poetry of England and America'
      [broken link]

    'Wanted - Canadian criticism'
      [broken link]

  An extensive collection of Canadian poetry:
    [broken link]

  And finally, a fascinating work-in-progress, 'History of Canadian Poetry':
    [broken link]


33 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Sildenafil Citrate said...

beautiful poem indeed and the whole poem is a lovely description of the sea-gulls and the poet did a great job with imagery because when you read the two stanzas you picture beautiful gull images

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