The coots and grebes seemnpainted therenThe alder boughs’ reflectionsnmakenNo ripple on the flood or airnRussell prefaces the poem with a linenfrom Luke’s Gospel, which he quotes innAnglo-Saxon, partly because he finds itnbeautiful and partly because he is contemptuousnof the pseudo-literary culturenof an England that has cut itself offnfrom its past in order to embrace televisionnand comic books.nRussell is no conservative—whatevernthat term means any more. Sometimesnhe sounds the mystical note ofncharity, and at other times he is thenembittered reactionary. In the nightmarishn”A Ballad” the wandering kingndescribes a kingdom that could be thenmodern West:nIn my old kingdom now theynsaynThe people rule, the noblesndead;nThe women whores, the mennall gay.nAnd the black flag changed fornred.nA race of lawyers rules the land,nThere’s no fresh fruit, no game;nThe milk is powdered, meat’snall cannedn’ And the sour wine’s allnthe same.nPeter Russell will probably bewildernreaders of poetry whose sensibilitiesnhave been formed on what ConradnAiken called the “vin Audenaire” ofnpostwar verse. Writing sometimes withnthe almost Mother Goose simplicity ofnBlake, he can proceed rapidly to thenhighest “hermeticism” (a term frequentlynapplied to the great modernnItalians). In this volume, however, hisnverse is never perplexing and rarely asnextravagant as Russell has been elsewhere.nThe hawk-moth sucks thenrosemarynWhose pale blue flowers are mynheart;nThe long scroll of his tongue isnme,nA glowing filament of art.nFinally, to appreciate Russell’s art, considernhis fine poem on old age.n”Anziano”:nI’m going deaf, I’m going blind.nScales forming on my eyes;nWhere delicate labyrinthsnwind—nA hammer, — in a vise . . .nAlmost insensitive to pain,nMy finger-tips mere bone —nStumps that must knock, tonfeignnThe well-tempered virginal’sntone;nThe perfume of the rose ornmusk.nDusky and vague likenmemories —nThe body’s house a dried-upnhusk.nAn old blanket ftjll of fleas;nTrout broiled on a fire of wood,nDelicious odours of the past!nSucculent meat!—surely ’twasngood? —nI’m “No Man” now—couldnfeed on mast!nDeprived then of the boon ofnsenses.nSay I’m a wretchednshell, — decrepit!nyoung limbs that vaultedntowering fences—nBlood watered down now barelyntepid:nYet in the brain-box there’s anfirenBums like a blood-red Junengeranium;nLet wrinkled skin get drier andndrier—nA world of wonders fillsnthis cranium!nThere is not that much great verse onnold age — Sophocles, Shakespeare,nW.S. Landor, Yeats; but Russell managesnto echo much of it. (The “toweringnfences,” for example, recall Landor’sn”five bar gate.”) The smell of troutncooking on an open fire leads into thengreat outdoorsman, Odysseus (NonMan), who fought the primitive Gyclops,nand an allusion to the GoldennAge stories of men who lived on acomnmast. But while these echoes and allusionsnadd layers of richness to the poem,nno one can escape either the detailednnnrealism of the opening lines or thendefiant passion of the conclusion, withnits brilliant image of a red summernflower inside an old man’s skull. (DoesnRussell, I wonder, intend a play onn”geranium”—as if derived from thenGreek word for old?) .nWhen I first began to be aware ofnPeter Russell, I wondered vaguely whynan English poet was living, cut off fromnhis language, in Italy. The more I read,nhowever, the more I realized that thenstate of Anglo-American culture, ournlanguage as well as our literature, wouldnmake Britain and America uncongenialnplaces for the last of great modernists.nThomas Fleming is the editor ofnGhronicles.nThe Singer andnthe SongnbyJ.O. TatenFernando de Lucia, Son of Naples:n1860-1925nby Michael E. HenstocknPortland: Amadeus Press;n555 pp., $45.00nMemory and testimony have keptnalive the reputation of Fernandonde Lucia, and so have the four hundrednrecordings that tenor made betweenn1902 and 1921. His old discs-nGramophone and Typewriters, Fonotipias,nand Phonotypes — are amongnthe most fascinating of historical recordings.nWhat they suggest about the mannand his context has inspired MichaelnHenstock to go after his subject with anmaximum of zeal. Though the performer’snart is evanescent, Henstock hasndone everything humanly possible tonrecreate the matrices of De Lucia’sncareer and even to impress his reconstructednsound upon the mind’s ear.nHenstock’s extensive researches—anlabor of love if I’ve ever seen one —nhave resulted in an elaborately documentednand even exhaustive account ofna singer’s life. The survey of criticalnreactions to De Lucia’s performancesncover three continents, three decades,nand comments in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese,nFrench, English, et cetera.nHenstock builds his case systematically.nNOVEMBER 1991/37n