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This article is taken from PN Review 9, Volume 6 Number 1, September - October 1979.

'The Happy New Year' Gabriel Pearson

Rickword's masque 'The Happy New Year' at first glance calls for an enumeration of satiric and parodistic attitudes rather than any account of what it is about and for. Very much an end product of Eliot's decade-another version of the Unreal City-it is part-parody of Eliot with its Frazer Eight and Lebanon Girls, the parodic thrust somewhat inturned and retrospective, while anticipating the specialized political satires of the 1930s. The Choruses of Dexters and Sinisters have an Expressionist air. Perhaps expressionist methods were simply what the age threw up: apocalyptic intimations and anxieties in search of ideology or cause. Anticipations of Auden and Isherwood too;; though Rickword, who had actually been at war, naturally avoids public school high spirits and upper middle class innocence. My fumbling attempts at location in terms of what the poem resembles, but is not, are of course heinously unjust. 'The Happy New Year' is undeniably idiosyncratic, but like much of Rickword's poetry has its own kinds of decorum and decency. It is not to denigrate the masque to notice how much it participates in a kind of generalized High Modernist manner, reminding one equally of certain qualities of late Yeats and uncannily imitating lyrics that Eliot had not yet written in Four Quartets. Where have we heard this choral lyric before?


Wounds got in many wars,
(time heals all hurts, they say)
but Mars' and Venus' scars
still sign our flesh today,
got under those bright ...


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