ABOUT fifty years ago, when the subject of English furniture first began to be studied and to be written about, it was divided conveniently into four distinct types. One writer called his books on the subject The Age of Oak, The Age of Walnut, The Age of Mahogany and The Age of Satinwood. It is not really quite as simple as that, for each of the so-called Ages overlaps the others and it is quite impossible to lagt down strict dates as to when any one timber was introduced or when it finally, if ever, went out of favour.
The style of the first half of the poem is gently mocking of the town and its inhabitants. There is the eccentric heiress who prefers Queen Victoria's century to the present now, in her dotage, she tries to resist the modern world by buying all the eyesores facing her shore, but then lets them fall. Below her on the social scale is the summer millionaire who represents the superficiality and lack oftaste among the town's newer inhabitants he seemed to leap from an L. L. Bean catalogue, but even he has now left the town and sold his nine-knot yawl to lobstermen. Finally, the town's fairy decorator has painted everything in his antique shop orange, perhaps attempting to promote his now useless objects (a cobbler's bench and awl) to tourists. Lowell's portrait of the town presents everything as somehow out of key or, as he more emphatically puts it, the season's ill. The town, which seems devoid of productive labor or ideas and in the process of social and physical decay, serves as an...