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Lord Weary's Castle (Harvest/HBJ Book) Paperback – Oct 1983


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Product details

  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Publishers Ltd Trade Division (Oct. 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156535009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156535007
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 0.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 938,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

A collection of short poems and a long narrative poem explores the feelings and experiences of the author.

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Format: Paperback
Though admittedly he had an intermittent connection with the academic world, for me Robert Lowell is perhaps the last recognized major American poet outside of the Beats who was really a poet rather than a verse-writing professor. This collection is excellent both in itself and as an introduction to Lowell's poetry. Anyone who is seriously interested in modern American poetry will know about Lowell and probably has this book; I'd recommend it especially to readers looking to expand their acquaintance with modern poetry but who have been discouraged by how stale, flat, and unprofitable almost all verse being cranked out by the academic poetry establishment is nowadays. Lowell's work is not free of modernist obscurity, but it's always rich and meaty, with strong imagery and a mastery of traditional sound technique which makes his poems attractive on first reading even if you can't always immediately see what's going on. Try looking at the amazon.com preview (easier if you have an account) of poems like Falling Asleep Over the Aeneid, The Ghost, or As A Plane Tree By The Water to see Lowell at his most immediately attractive. If you like those pieces, you'll enjoy the rest of the book. (Note: there may be other editions of this same book available new or used.)
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Amazon.com: 5 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Lord Weary's Castle: Challenging and obscure. The Mills of the Kavanaughs: Less complex. 22 April 2006
By Michael Wischmeyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Lord Weary's Castle (awarded Pulitzer Prize of Poetry in 1947) and The Mills of the Kavanaughs established Robert Lowell's early fame. Literary critics widely praised Lowell for his technical brilliance, metrical complexity, and verbal ambiguity - perhaps explaining why Lowell's work is so often challenging, even obscure. I found reading Lord Weary's Castle is not unalike from studying mathematics, slightly too advanced mathematics. Sometimes I would see my way forward after returning again and again to a difficult point, but not infrequently Lowell's meaning remained elusive, just out of reach.

Disaffection, mistrust, anger, and savage criticism (one critic calls it apocalyptic rage) are often tightly linked to personal elements. For example, Lowell, in opposition to his family's New England Protestantism tradition, converted to Catholicism in 1940, and his deep religiosity - combined with his disillusion with mankind - dominate much of this poetry. He specifically targets modern civilization, materialism, and US war policy, particularly the bombing of German cities. (During World War II Lowell served a jail sentence as a conscientious objector.)

Lord Weary's Castle consists of 42 shorter poems. As a tentative guide, I mention that At the Indian Killer's Grave and Christmas Eve Under Hooker's Statue are examples of his disaffected critique of American history; The Exile's Return, War, and The Dead in Europe illustrate Lowell's anti-war sentiments; and The Holy Innocents, Christmas in Black Rock, and Mr. Edwards and the Spider combine moral passion with disillusion.

The second collection The Mills of the Kavanaughs (1951), is comprised of six longer poems, dramatic monologues that are structurally less complex, and more readily comprehended. This is mathematics that I have studied earlier and only need a review.

The title poem, The Mills of the Kavanaughs, is a New England widow's lament for her recently deceased husband. A short introductory paragraph clarifies the setting for this long poem. Falling Asleep over the Aeneid is an old man's dream that muddles his reading of Virgil with his childhood memories of the death of his uncle, a young officer in the Civil War. The third poem, Her Dead Brother, is an unsettling memory of incest.

Mother Marie Therese - death by drowning in 1912 is a poignant, mournful memory of a past now nearly forgotten. Thanksgiving's Over is another dream, this one recalling a wife that committed suicide while living in a sanatorium. The Fat Man in the Mirror is a short, sadly humorous questioning of just how a young, playful boy became the man in the mirror.

The poem David and Bathsheba in the Public Gardens somewhat obscurely contrasts the thoughts of two lovers. (Years later Lowell published a new version in his collection titled For The Union Dead. He wrote: "The Public Garden is a recasting and clarification of an old confusing poem of mine called David and Bathsheba in the Public Garden.")
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"The Lord survives the rainbow of His will." 14 July 2012
By Lazar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone opening Lord Weary's Castle will be struck first by the sheer force of Lowell's formalistic power, and the rhetorical muscle of the lines. I realize the previous "rhetorical muscle" may sound ridiculous, but how else to explain the strength of propulsion by which one is nearly forced to move through the lines of a poem like "Colloquy in Black Rock?" Lowell mastered the elements of his precursors and Lord Weary's Castle is the testament to that mastery. Nearly all of the poems in this selection are powerful, including "Quaker Graveyard" and "Where the Rainbow Ends." Mills of the Kavanaugh is less accomplished perhaps, though still contains some of the fire of the original. Probably my favorite from Kavanaugh is "Her Dead Brother":

"My mind holds you as I would have you live,
A wintering dragon. Summer was too short
When we went picnicking with telescopes
And crocking leather handbooks to that fort
Above the lank and heroned Sheepscot, where its slopes
Are clutched by hemlocks--spotting birds. I give
You back that idyll, Brother."

These poems are challenging, and may require some digging to understand the nuances of what Lowell has accomplished. However, any scholarly digging can probably be reserved for later, and the poems enjoyed as they are. Certain pieces will of course benefit from familiarity with Lowell's sources (such as Moby Dick for "Quaker Graveyard" and the Aeneid for "Falling Asleep over the Aeneid") Anyone who refers to these poems as "clunky" has no understanding of the mechanics of poetry, and needs to become acquainted with literary elements such as rhyme, meter, and allusion. I would urge any student of poetry to pick up this title in order to see (and hear) what T.S. Eliot meant when he called them "first-rate." They were first-rate then, and they continue to be so.
One of the best modern American poetry books 22 Nov. 2012
By Jon Corelis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Though admittedly he had an intermittent connection with the academic world, for me Robert Lowell is perhaps the last recognized major American poet outside of the Beats who was really a poet rather than a verse-writing professor. This collection is excellent both in itself and as an introduction to Lowell's poetry. Anyone who is seriously interested in modern American poetry will know about Lowell and probably has this book; I'd recommend it especially to readers looking to expand their acquaintance with modern poetry but who have been discouraged by how stale, flat, and unprofitable almost all verse being cranked out by the academic poetry establishment is nowadays. Lowell's work is not free of modernist obscurity, but it's always rich and meaty, with strong imagery and a mastery of traditional sound technique which makes his poems attractive on first reading even if you can't always immediately see what's going on. Try looking at the amazon.com preview (easier if you have an account) of poems like Falling Asleep Over the Aeneid, The Ghost, or As A Plane Tree By The Water to see Lowell at his most immediately attractive. If you like those pieces, you'll enjoy the rest of the book. (Note: there may be other editions of this same book available new or used.)
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Not a book to be read quickly 4 April 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Even for a book of poetry, this one is very dense and requires a lot of mental activity. Lowell was a very cerebral, academic poet, and it's hard to find two lines in a row in this book that don't contain some allusion to classical mythology, religion, or European culture. Nevertheless, Lowell's work somehow manages to avoid conventionality. Just be prepared to do some thinking when reading this book.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Bit Clunky by Today's standards 6 Nov. 2008
By Eric Maroney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
but what does today really know? Robert Lowell's first book of poems, Lord Weary's Castel, is dense with allusion and firmly situated in time, place, and even space. The collection is full of references to the American New England tradition, especially in its Puritan and Maritime manifestations. As such many of the poems have an arcane, lurching sensibility, perhaps an attempt on Lowell's behalf to recreate the laconic moral world view of Old New England. This is a challenging set of poems to read. They are not sparkling or new in there use of language and/or of aesthetic viewpoint; readers should approach these poems with sleeves rolled up and get ready to work at giving them meaning.
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