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This article is taken from PN Review 16, Volume 7 Number 2, November - December 1980.

John Paul Russo

I. A. Richards rounded out his career in criticism and poetry with a study of the relation between man and the divine lifeimages of good and evil that he creates. This theme is central in Beyond (1974) and in such poems as 'Nosce Teipsum: in Honour of Allen Tate', 'The Eddying Ford', 'On the Prospect of Man Becoming Human', and 'The Proper Study'. In the latter, Richards would reconcile the quests for the 'variant' and 'volatile' soul of Thyself and the 'presences/Divined as variously' of Godhead. He wonders whether the pursuit of this knowledge (of the self, of its control over evil and suffering) could be a 'single search misguided/By a double name.'


The desolate aims
Through which the soul is sought
Are mirror-imaged
In the selves they've wrought.


The aims are desolate because any search of this scope only partially realizes its ends, and because some of the failures and successes of these aims have had catastrophic consequences. Yet, aims are necessary and they are our proper study-the alignment of a study of the self with the study of our highest self-image. In 'The Eddying Ford' we have a symbol of the trial involved as Jacob wrestles with the Angel or the El. His struggle signifies both his courage and intellectual penetration, matching wits:


Jacob: And what art thou?
The El: Thyself.
Jacob: Wrestle thou then with me!
The El: ...


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