The Poetry of Italicization: Acts of Perception in Louis MacNeices Snow and Train to Dublin

Nao Igarashi


The poetical achievement of Louis MacNeice is generally associated with the social and political context of the thirties. Many of his poems indeed show his exceptional insight into contemporary issues. At the same time, MacNeices sensitivity about acts of perception underlies his poetry and poetics. Snow and Train to Dublin present the process by which the poets perception in his experience is fused with his thoughts. Since these poems develop the poets view of the world and of life, they can be called philosophical or meditative. However, his interest does not lie in abstraction for its own sake but to the degree that it fuses with his response to the concrete objects. In Snow, the speaker, who finds a vivid contrast between snow and roses, conveys his sense impressions through the seemingly realistic descriptions. This adherence to his perception generates rich poetical expressions. The poem itself proves the poets verbal and imaginative power to reconstruct the scene, but the last line seems to implicitly demythologise this notion. It accords with MacNeices view that a poet is an ordinary man, who has a slightly more acute sensibility to things than others. In Train to Dublin, the interaction of experience and thoughts is seen in that of the rhyme created between the poets perception of the trains rhythm or sound and the act of thinking itself. The difference from Snow is that the speaker has a particular addressee. The conversational mode of speaking is parallel with poetic devices such as the use of enjambments. The celebration of incidental things in the poem indicates the speakers recognition of the momentariness of the perceived objects and the act of perceiving and writing. These two poems represent MacNeices attempt to present the poets acts of poetic perception as both individual and available to others.


Louis MacNeice; Poetry; 1930s; Modernism; Perception

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