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This report is taken from PN Review 104, Volume 21 Number 6, July - August 1995.

Letter from New York Rachel Hadas

The last poem I wanted to show Jimmy Merrill was a ballade written by Saint-Exupery at the age of eighteen or so, which had leaped out at me from a less memorable though usually interesting source, Stacy Schiffs recent biography of the aviator/Writer. The slightly aggrieved, wistful tone of the lines is perfectly captured in Mary McCarthy's 1986 description of Merrill's voice, both, one gathers, in life and in his work, as 'a very light voice… no organ tones; rather a boy's voice that has only just changed and keeps a slight hoarseness'. The speaker is a schoolboy's desk which has been cruelly confiscated:
 

Les souhaits que je pouvais faire
se bornaient taus au status quo.
La paix ne fut que passagère.
Et moi, vieux meuble rococo,
banni de cette quiétude,
je fus exilé, comme un roi
Je moisis dans un autre étude,
ô man vieux maître, loin de toi.


I prefer not to allegorize the desk and its master. But I know Jimmy would have enjoyed the rhyme of 'rococo' and 'status quo', and I would have enjoyed hearing him laugh. Besides, as far as I could remember, Le Petit Prince was one book we'd never talked about.

Last November, I flew to Saint Louis to participate in a cluster of events I then thought and still think of as a James Merrill Weekend. There were to be readings, lectures, ...


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