The Arts And Death A Fugue For Sidney Cox William Bronk

(1956) In 1956 William bronk's book Light and Dark, published by Cid corman's Origin Press, contained an elegy to Bronk's mentor at Dartmouth, who died in 1952. "The Arts and Death: A Fugue for Sidney Cox" presents three thematic ideas that Bronk continued to develop throughout his career. These ideas were that the real world is beyond our knowing, that life is a force that defines us (rather than us defining our lives), and that we make up the stories of our lives and then believe the fictions we have created.

The first idea is stated in the first stanza: "we always miss it. Not / anything is ever entirely true." What we miss is the truth, reality. Bronk was concerned about the nature of reality and what could be said and known of it. "The Arts and Death" explains, "we live in a world we never understand." At the end of his life, Bronk was still writing on this subject. Unlike the 19th-century transcendentalists, whose work he admired, Bronk was unable to experience an innate transcendent order. He believed that the nature of the real world could never be known. Bronk originally saw this transcendental ignorance as a source of despair, but he eventually embraced it.

The second idea Bronk presents is that life lives us, instead of the other way around: "[L]ife has always required / to be stated again, which is not ever stated." Life is the active agent here; the statement of it is ourselves. We are objects acted upon. Years later in the poem "Life Supports" (1981), Bronk writes, "Life keeps me alive." Indeed, the poetic persona is not the decisive actor in much of Bronk's poetry. It is this technique that causes some scholars to see Bronk as an objec-tivist, since his use of the language disturbs an English speaker's basic assumptions about subject and object. It is the poem's subject that becomes objectified by this use of theme.

The third dominant idea in "The Arts and Death" is that what we can say of our lives are self-created fictions. In the third stanza human lives are likened to toy soldiers. By the fifth stanza Bronk says we take consciousness and, with it, "make things and persons . . . make forms," although, "the forms / are never real."

In "The Arts and Death," the reader finds three of Bronk's great themes sounded for the first time together. The persistence of these ideas in Bronk's life work reveals this early poem as a seminal one.

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