Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Dover Bitch: A Criticism of Life - Anthony Hecht

**STOP**  Read the poem "Dover Beach", which is below this one (posted Friday), FIRST.  These two poems, separated by a hundred years and an ocean in authorship, are linked, as today's is a reaction (of sorts) to yesterday's.  Seriously: you will NOT "get" the references in this one or appreciate it UNLESS you read Friday's....        OK.  Read it?  You're back?  Proceeding....  Anthony Hecht (2nd poet here, and one of my favorites) wrote "Dover Bitch", which serves as both back-story and commentary on Arnold's "Dover Beach".  It's a creative tour de force as he imagines, in "Dover Bitch", being a man commenting on the story in "Dover Beach" from the woman to whom that narrator is speaking (as the poem).  The woman is the "love" in "Ah, love...." in the last strophe of "Dover Beach".  In this poem, Hecht is making his own comment, through the narrator, on the same theme "Dover Beach"

So there stood MatthewArnold and this girl
With the cliffs of England crumbling away behind them,
And he said to her, "Try to be true to me,
And I'll do the same for you, for things are bad
All over, etc., etc."
Well now, I knew this girl. It's true she had read
Sophocles in a fairly good translation
And caught that bitter allusion to the sea,
But all the time he was talking she had in mind
The notion of what his whiskers would feel like
On the back of her neck. She told me later on
That after a while she got to looking out
At the lights across the channel, and really felt sad,
Thinking of all the wine and enormous beds
And blandishments in French and the perfumes.
And then she got really angry. To have been brought
All the way down from London, and then be addressed
As a sort of mournful cosmic last resort
Is really tough on a girl, and she was pretty.
Anyway, she watched him pace the room
And finger his watch-chain and seem to sweat a bit,
And then she said one or two unprintable things.
But you mustn't judge her by that. What I mean to say is,
She's really all right. I still see her once in a while
And she always treats me right.
We have a drink
And I give her a good time, and perhaps it's a year
Before I see her again, but there she is,
Running to fat, but dependable as they come,
And sometimes I bring her a bottle of Nuit d'Amour.

                                                                            Anthony Hecht - American 

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