Friday, 13 March 2020
John Masefield - Muriel Spark
I never realised Muriel Spark wrote literary criticism. In this case she basically wrote it twice - in 1952, long before she was famous, and a thorough revision in 1991, when she was a literary icon. We are regularly reminded of this duality throughout the text.
It is a short book in which she essentially focuses on three narrative poems of some length, The Everlasting Mercy (1911), Dauber (1913), and Reynard the Fox (1919), none of which I have read. It doesn't matter. Spark convinces me that I ought to and that these are significant of their type. She benefits, of course, from having met Masefield who gave amiable support throughout the first version in 1952. Equally, he benefits from having Spark to defend him, being everything he was not - modern (in the day), young and female.
We think of Masefield as the poet of the sea, and Dauber is indeed the story of an aspirant painter who goes to sea, but it was The Everlasting Mercy that made him famous (very famous, almost overnight), the story of a Victorian rustic hooligan who sees the light. I really must look it up.