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Whitman? Or was it Whitman's English followers, Pater, Swinburne, and the young Oscar Wilde among them? Whatever, mention of Hopkins's apparently nascent homosexual proclivities even as late as 1973 could still raise hackles on some critics. I remember one former nun who confronted me in a barely controlled frenzy before she simply dismissed me as being too young to understand the angelic virtue, whatever that was. The piece on "The Wreck" was done as part of a collection of essays by acknowledged scholars of Hopkins in honor of the centenary of the writing of that extraordinary pindaric ode reshaped within the context of the late Romantic tradition.

In short, the pattern held. Writing my own biography of Williams, I think the moment of realization came when I saw how central the myth of success through repeated failures had been for Williams. In teaching In the American Grain, for example, it became clear to me that Williams was dividing his protagonists into parts of a cubist mural composed in binary fashion Page 24 of those who had "apparently" succeeded and those who had "apparently" failed. Among those who succeeded, Williams included Cortez and Jonathan Edwards and Ben Franklin, men whom Williams thought had failed to establish the intimacy necessary for genuine and lasting contact with their world.

In his early thirties he began to envision himself more and more as a revolutionary born into a time of revolutions: the revolution in American art signaled by John Reed and Big Bill Haywood and the Paterson strike of 1913, followed by Pancho Villa in Mexico andmost significantlythe Russian Revolution of 1917. Williams had only begun to come of age at that extraordinary period, and he knew he would need the next half century to work out the complex implications of his own revolution of the word.

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