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"Cassandra" is . . . an impassioned outburst by the woman who feels the terrible burden of her gift of poetic speech. The mode is emblematic or quasi-allegorical, as it had been in "Stanza" ("No longer burn the hands that seized"), as if the poem were inscribed or engraved as a motto underneath a picture of the doomed Trojan prophetess. Warning those who pursue their own destruction, Cassandra can speak only in the accents of madness, the speech of truth but not of persuasion or belief. She is cursed by clairvoyance, cut off from the ordinary lot of her sex:

[. . . .]

She is the voice of fury itself, "The shrieking heaven lifted over men, / Not the dumb earth, wherein they set their graves." Her knowledge is apocalyptic, her urgency daemonic, the symbol of that part of the psyche which drives the conscious mind to recognize truths it is reluctant to accept. For Cassandra, poetry assaults and afflicts her, setting her off from humankind and rendering her the doomed and solitary witness of "the shambling tricks of lust and pride." Thus the poem serves as evidence for what Harold Bloom was the first to say--that Louise Bogan, while "usually categorized as a poet in the metaphysical tradition or meditative mode ... is a Romantic in her rhetoric and attitudes." From its hidden source, poetry creates speech which is profoundly other and opposed to the received notions of men.


From Louise Bogan. Copyright © 1985 by Elizabeth Frank