OPINIONSnProdigal Sonnby Fred Chappelln’Children begin by loving their parents. After a time they judge them. Rarely, ifnever, do they forgive them.”n— Oscar WildenCollected Poemsnby Louis SimpsonnNew York: Paragon House;n416 pp., $24.95nLouis Simpson stands as an easynexample of the poet divided,nwhose best talents and strongest predilectionsnare at odds with one another.nHe takes Walt Whitman as spiritualnfather and his relationship with thenfigure of Whitman is as troubled andnambiguous as any son’s might be with anblood father. He names W.H. Audennas his bete noire, although his own bestnwit and stylishness are closer tonFred Chappell is professor of Englishnat the University of North Carolina innGreensboro. His most recent book ofnpoetry is Source, published bynLouisiana State University Press.n26/CHRONICLESnAuden’s nice effects than to Whitman’snwoolly dithyrambs.nBut perhaps it is not the contrastnbetween the two poets that so exercisesnhim. Simpson struggles with a problemnof cultural identity; he has for a longntime been trying to define what annAmerican is and then to become one.nWhitman represents America, AudennEurope. Louis Simpson’s father wasnBritish, his mother a Russian Jew, andnthe lad spent his early years in Jamaica,nseparated from his parents. In his autobiography,nNorth of Jamaica, he identifiesnAmerica as the place where Mummynwas, “a place with tall buildingsncalled skyscrapers” where the inhabitantsn”ate sugar and bananas.”nAlready in his miniature verse dramanof 1949, “The Arrivistes,” a characternobserves: “This European scene /nIs like a comedy, each age an act / Innone old plot the public know / Bynnnheart.” Already in the poem “West”nhe dreams of “Ranching in Bolinas,nthat’s the life,” and in “Mississippi” ofnrafting down the river with Huck andnJim, “Where old St. Joe slid on thenwater lights / And on into the dark,ndiminishing.” Already in “Orpheus innAmerica” a sweaty Americanization ofnEuropean tradition is attempted;n”Goodbye to Arcady! / Another worldnis here, a greener Thrace!”nYet now when we read the poems ofnhis early period the more Europeannones seem superior. “The Flight tonCytherea,” a homage to Watteau, Baudelaire,nand Laforgue, is more successfulnthan “A Farm in Minnesota” orn”American Preludes.” A straightforwardnpastiche of Laforgue, “Laertes innParis,” has good moments; the clumsilynYeatsian “The Goodnight” has interestingnrhymes, at least; and “ThenBird” is as good as most of the balladsn