From Burke, Castellano turns to Wordsworth, locating a similar concern with individuals' habitation in landscapes bequeathed to them by the dead in Wordsworth's epitaphic
As a book-event, Mahon's New Collected Poems is immediately impressive, riskily ignoring the arrangements of Mahon's earlier books in favor of making something new; this does not generate the epitaphic
aura of a deathbed edition, therefore, but rather promotes the poet as the most effective moderator of his own work, at least as long as he lives.
As Paul De Man reminds, such elegiac acts of self-commemoration are as much about effacing the subject of epitaphic
inscription as they are about enshrining that subject in an ossified representation of living speech.
Although at first much of this verse may strike the modern reader as merely plaintive in tone and trite in expression, the thematic particulars deserve analysis because they constitute a kind of epitaphic writing that can involve considerably more than sentimentalized gestures of personal bereavement and conventional pathos.
Kneale's remark on Wordsworth's use of the trope seems applicable to Harpur's as well: "The voice of nature is like an epitaphic voice; nature itself is like one giant epitaph, one complex memorial text to be conned by human beings" (p.
Douglas Kneale, and Mary Jacobus all connect the epitaphic mode in this way with the project of autobiography generally: what Kneale calls "Wordsworth's master trope, the epitaph, in which the (absent) autobiographical self attempts to give itself textual form" but can never fully incarnate itself within the text.
Critics in recent decades have tended to read these epitaphic poems either deconstructively, as a general trope for the textuality of writing and its inevitable gap of absence and loss; or as creating an imagined form of community, through shared sympathy with the deceased.
Soelve Curdts's "Dying into Prose" not dissimilarly reads Wordsworth's epitaphic
writing as "'re-marking' the indeterminacy between language and semantics, between word and referent, between tropes and meaning" (105).
This conjunction of writing and death, repeated across the body of work, produces in both the poetry and correspondence epitaphic
instants of speech that appear to issue from a place so far along the asymptote of the limit between the living and the dead as to be indistinguishable from an impossible but ever real and ever diminishing space in-between.
We might say that Wordsworth's epitaphic
postscript, "This Boy was taken from his mates, and died / In childhood," represents an adult effort to give the episode a plangent narrative surprise--the device of many Lucy poems, which the poet pointedly resists in "She Was a Phantom of Delight.
The suggestion is most mesmerically evoked perhaps in the epitaphic
lyric "A slumber did my spirit seal," in which the most immaterial of all elements ("spirit") is (de)compositionally envisioned as communing eternally with the most emphatically material of substances: "rocks and stones.
A muted epitaphic
sense hovers over Wordsworth's use of apostrophe and prosopopoeia, and rhetoric may be the best intimation of immortality that we have.
Andrew Bennett's lucid analysis of the romantic habitus of placing one's "Hope and Pride" in the epitaphic
inscription the "I" hopes to become in Romantic Poets and the Culture of Posterity (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999) neglects to relate the mattering "madness of words" (i.
motif of the first line highlights both the inscription's disguise and its interruptive effect.
The note is also epitaphic
, and uncommonly disturbing for Wordsworth, considering his fondness for graves and tombs.