78. The End of the Poem: Oxford Lectures by Paul Muldoon
From "The End of the Poem" Oxford Lectures by Paul Muldoon
"The difference between Cambridge and Oxford is that the former makes you the equal of anybody alive; the latter leaves you in the invidious position of being his superior."
About Robert Lowell:
W. H. Auden to Charles Monteith about his reservations about Lowell's candidacy for the Oxford Professorship of Poetry:
"His supporters should be aware, if they aren't already, that Cal has times when he has to go into the bin. The warning signals are three: a) He announces that he is the only living poet b) a romantic and usually platonic attraction to a young girl and c) he gives a huge party."
....It was surely some version of this religious mania that had lain behind Lowell's presenting himself as a conscientious objector, and his subsequent refusal to serve in the U.S. Army..... Jim Peck, another C.O. would tell Ian Hamilton of Lowell's being held for a few days in West Street jail in New York:
"Lowell was in a cell next to Lepke, you know, Murder Incorporated, and Lepke says to him: "I'm in for killing. What are you in for?" "Oh, I'm in for refusing to kill."
It was, presumably, "because he was a Lowell" that he felt so spectacularly entitled, on September 7, 1943 to write directly to President Roosevelt:
Dear Mr. President:
I very much regret that I must refuse the opportunity you offer me in your communication of August 6, 1943, for service in the Armed Forces.
With the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, an event which he attended, Lowell might have found a president whom he could come close to admiring. After a May 1962 White House dinner in honour of André Malraux, however, Lowell wrote to Edmund Wilson with a perceptive sense of the true significance of the poet to the politician:
"Except for you, everyone there seemed addled with adulation at having been invited. It was all good fun but next morning you read the the President has sent the 7th fleet to Laos, or he might have invaded Cuba again––not that he will. But I feel we intellectuals play a very pompous and frivolous roll––we should be windows not window dressing. Then, now in our times, of all times, the sword hangs over us and our children, and not a voice is lifted."