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The Genius of Wordsworth

From the December 2020 Print Edition

“I wandered lonely as a cloud.” So begins a famous poem of William Wordsworth’s, one that was often taught to schoolchildren back when memorizing poetry was part of education. The poet comes upon “a crowd, / A host, of golden daffodils.” The flowers flutter and dance before him, their . . . . Continue Reading »

Russian Purgatory

From the June/July 2020 Print Edition

The Russian soul. The phrase serves as shorthand for Russia’s national character, after the manner of American innocence, French arrogance, Italian dolce far niente, and what used to be the English stiff upper lip. Russians are reputed to feel more than the rest of us do, think deep thoughts . . . . Continue Reading »

Ibsen's Soulcraft

From the December 2019 Print Edition

The Norwegian master Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906) is and will remain the most important modern playwright—which is not to say there are no flaws in his work. Of all artists, playwrights are the most beholden to the moralism of their time; they must love and hate what their audiences love and . . . . Continue Reading »

Starlight in Hell

From the June/July 2009 Print Edition

One cannot say with assurance that Russia has outdone all other modern nations in cruelty; the competition is just too stiff. Nevertheless, the memorabilia of inhumanity with a Russian face are indelible: the birch, the knout, the Cossack’s saber, the cattle car, the Arctic slave-labor camp, the . . . . Continue Reading »

What Hath God Wrought?

From the April 2006 Print Edition

“And having food and raiment let us be therewith content . . . . For the love of money is the root of all evil.” St. Paul’s admonition to Timothy rings with the hard ascetic fervor that one has come to think of as distinctively Christian. Of course, certain of Paul’s successors . . . . Continue Reading »

Spirit in the Abstract

From the January 2006 Print Edition

The last American painters of colossal spiritual ambition were such artists as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Clyfford Still, Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell—the Abstract Expressionists. It is chiefly the scale of this ambition that unites . . . . Continue Reading »