Monday, July 22, 2019

Richard ("Dick") Mount

Dick Mount, who was mentioned in this blog's previous entry about Leonard Cline's son, was a friend and fellow newspaperman in Detroit.  He was more properly Charles Richard Mount (1883-1971), though he didn't use his first name, and signed his work as by "Richard Mount."  Around the time Cline knew him, he was married to the former Gretchen Crockett Mosshart (1882-1931), whose first husband had died in the influenza epidemic in 1918. Gretchen Mount also worked in newspapers, and many of her book reviews appeared in The Detroit Free Press.  Like Cline, Richard Mount published poetry in The Detroit News and fiction in The Smart Set.

At the publication of After-Walker: The Poems of Leonard Cline, a year and a half after Cline's death, Mount published the following review/memoir.

Posthumous Work of Leonard Cline Inspires Host of Tender Memories

Outside the moon is shining serenely in the sky and remote constellations creep slowly into the east. Inside there is a thin book of poems—rather surprisingly bound in lavender—and the ghost of a friend talking to me as he used to talk. And as I turn the leaves of the lavender book I hear, on some pages, only a waif of his voice, and on others, full-bodied, the old tones come back for me and for a moment my friend is alive again in the room.

For After-Walker is that posthumous books of his poems Leonard Cline’s friends never expected to see. It was rumored, yes: but what are rumors of the dead in this skeptical world? Books of poems aren’t published for profit—they are published for love, and it is generally assumed that poets who have not made a great reputation carry the verses they made and loved with them into their graves. So, now that he is dead, one may ask: for what love are these verses published? The answer to that is, of course, that they are published for love of Leonard. The poems are not, if the truth must be told, universal enough to be tremendously important. But the man was an original, a playboy with whom (as he laments in his “Bacchanale Solo”) nobody would play; a minor poet, a lover of faded musics, a master of truly important prose style, a gentle, lovable stray from the age of the trouveres, who lived feverishly as if with some tragic foreknowledge that his life was to be brief.

And with what authentic accents you come back to haunt me, charming hellion!
“I held my bottle firmly between my knees
And deplored the passing of Dionysus.
And I lamented that all the night
Was empty of flute music . . .”
Wine, women, song, Arcturus and Bach and street cars, hillsides and automobiles honking on the roads!

But I must take up the heavy business of reporting on your poems. How does one begin to do that for friends whose ears are clogged with dust, stopped alike to praise or blame?

It is hard, of course, for me to judge these poems objectively—to me, at least, they are not the echoant verses of a dead minor poet, embalmed in lavender. They are too personal to their author for that, which is both their strength and their weakness. They were his escape from a reality frequently too distressing to him and his interpretations of the events that had overwhelmed him. The title poem, “After-Walker,” comes straight from that Connecticut prison where he spent a year (though it seems a sort of atrocious myth now to think that gentle soul in prison) and he was his own “Mad Jacob.”

Indeed, rereading these verses tonight recalls Plato’s splendid figure of the man in chains who, unable to turn his head, faces the conjuror’s curtain, while behind him, on a raised roadway between the sun and the curtain, the activities of the world pass, throwing their shadows on the screen. Like that man in chains, I see the reflection of Leonard’s life, fantastic and distorted, thrown on the screen of his words. I see the reflection of events that were preposterous and sad, rational and embarrassing and gay—the varied chances of a life lived insecurely but, somehow, lived completely.

But will these be as significant to one not his familiar? It is not for me to say. They have the slightness of poetry that arises solely from the emotional moments of the poet’s own life; but beauty is its own importance and they are beautiful. The realities behind them are merely hinted in a paradox of evasion; but if they are not “strong” they have the strength of expressing entirely how one man reacted to his prison, the universe. They are neither philosophical nor metaphysical, but Leonard Cline was a fine poet for all that. He had a fancy that contracted space: Vega was his sun and Abydos was just around the corner. He had an imagination that negated time: Babylon was a teeming city to him still and Louhi, “that old crone,” whined in his chimney. Words were things to him and intuitions more actual than facts: nature was his reality and our civilization was his only myth.

Insofar as After-Walker represents the poet’s own selection, it is at his best. Of those added by other hands only “Snake” (a superb narrative bit) and “Tenebrae” justify inclusion. The occasional verse they have included is just occasional verse and the sonnet on St. Francis is more than indifferent. After all, Leonard pious was Pan in gaiters, Dionysus at a masquerade with the ends of his collar buttoned back. One misses, moreover, in this collection, two of his very finest pieces—one in its lightness and the other in its masterly narrative—to perish uncaptured fugitives, fled into faded ink and forgotten. But, alas, we shall probably never see them again. For both his here and now are timeless today and he himself is one with “yesterday’s sev’n thousand years.” So if none of these rescued verses quite equals the poetry of his prose Godhead (and which of his contemporaries has written a more beautiful novel?) what does it matter? We can only bid him adieu. But if he cried no “Vale!” back to us, we cannot let him go in silence. Let us repeat for him words his lips formed in happier days:
“I have strung stars upon my nubbin horns,
My little hooves are washed in moonlight,
My face is rinsed in roses;
And I call to them
And they do not answer. . . .”

From The Detroit Free Press, 29 June 1930.

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