From Michael Billington: The Life and Work
of Harold Pinter
When Ten Early Poems - work rediscovered by chance - was
published by Greville Press Pamphlets in 1992, David Vilmure rightly
pointed out that these early poems were not Pinter1s plays in
seed but ╬fruit from a different vine altogether1. They are, in
fact mostly strenuous, word-drunk, alliterative stuff suggesting
a writer passionately in love with language but not yet fully
in control of it. Just occasionally, however, a line will leap
out that arrests one by its resonant simplicity. In 'A the Palace
of the Emperor at Dawn1, for instance, a cluster of dense and
often impenetrable images (╬At Martinmas November stoat/ In nightmare
claws lover1s thighs./ Eyes gnaw the hedge's coat) is followed
by a last line (╬An now we hear the distress of silence1) this
is both prophetic and eloquent. But mostly these early poems have
a knotty verbal virtuosity as if designed to impress the reader
rather than to include her or him in the experience.
| A clear exception to this are the
two poems with which Pinter first got into print in the August 1950
issue of Poetry London, the leading poetry magazine of the period
founded in 1939 by Dylan Thomas, Anthony Dickins, Keirdric Rhys
and, its first editor, the Ceylonese writer Tambimuttu. The poems
were published under the name of Harold Pinta largely because one
of his aunts was convinced - against all the evidence - that the
family came from distinguished Portuguese ancestors, the da Pintas.
Pinter's delight at recognition was mitigated only by the fact that,
because of a printer's error, stanzas from the two published poems
were interchanged: agony for any writer, but living hell for one
of Pinter's innate fastidiousness. But the two poems show a great
advance on the work of the previous year. 'New Year in the Midlands'
- inspired by a brief Christmas engagement at Chesterfield rep in
pantomime - is a vivid, racy evocation of a crushed camp pub at
the height of festivities and filled with the phosphorescent lust
of an Edward Burra painting. The alliterative exuberance is still
there, but it is now controlled and used to create a series of memorable
The black little crab women with the long
Eyes, lisp and claw in a can of chockfull stuff.
And in this gaudy, bawd-filled Midlands pub one
even wonders if there is a glimpse of Pinter himself in 'the clamping/
Red shirted boy, ragefull, thudding his cage.' What is certain
is that Pinter's literary debut pleased his parents, who decided
it should be made known to their most affluent relation.
'There was only one member of my family,' recalls
Pinter, 'who appeared to be at all well-off, my great-uncle Uncle
Coleman who was "in business." He always wore felt carpet
slippers and skull-cap at home, and was a very courteous man.
My father proposed that I show Uncle Coleman my poem in Poetry
London when we next went to tea. I agreed, with some misgivings.
My poem was called "New Year in the Midlands" and was
to do with a young actor's vagabond life in rep. It was heavily
influenced by Dylan Thomas. It contained the following lines:
This is the shine, the powder and blood and
here am I
Straddled, exile always in one Whitbread Ale town,
My father and I sat in the room in silence while
Uncle Coleman read this poem. When he reached those lines he stopped,
looked over the magazine at us and said, "Whitbread shares
are doing very well at the moment. Take my tip."'
Also published in ths same edition of Poetry
London was 'Chandeliers and Shadows' that comes prefaced with
a tag from The Duchess of Malfi ('I'le goe hunt the badger
by owle-light: 'tis a deed of darknesse') and shows a pre-occupation
with Jacobean decadence, a gift for pictorial compression and
a delight in archaisms (words like 'deliberate' and 'stomacher'),
which suggests Pinter has swallowed the plays of John Webster
and the dictionary of Noah Webster. Still, the poem has an undeniable
haunting, crepuscular power:
Enwrapped in this crust, this crumpled mosaic,
Camphor and rosefall stifle the years,
Yet I, lunatic from lunatic spheres,
Shall run crazy with lepers,
And bring God down the chimney,
A tardy locust,
To plunder and verminate man's pastures, entirely.
These two published poems indicate a writer with,
in the first example, a mercilessly observant eye and, in the
second, a baroque imagination and in both cases a capacity for
verbal mimicry; what they don1t reveal, unlike the remarkable,
as-yet-unseen Kullus, is someone who also has a distinctive voice
of his own.
For futher discussion by Michael Billington, on
Kullus and other poems, Click
from David T. Thompson, Pinter: The Player's Playwright The Macmillan
Press Ltd, London 1985
Harold Pinter was often, especially early on in
his career, out of work as an actor and spent some time in casual
temporary work as a caretaker, a waiter, a street hawker, a doorman
at a dance hall, a door-to-door book salesman, a dishwasher and
a snow-shoveller. Some aspects of this experience have been used
in plays such as The Caretaker, in which the titular role is painstakingly
defined by the leading characters, and The Homecoming which contains
Lennie's snow-shovelling story. In some of his early poetry Pinter
hints at the low quality of life he experienced as a repertory
Now here again she blows, landlady of lumping
Fellows between the boards,
Singing "O Celestial Light" while
Like a T-square on the Flood swings her wooden leg.
This is the shine, the powder and blood, and here am I
Straddled, exile always in one Whitbread Ale town, or such.
Of his experience of the various kinds of repertory
he writes, in a somber vein,
So March has become a museum,
And the April curtains move.
I travel the vacant gallery
To the last seat...
The actors pitch tents..
Their cries in the powdered dark
Assemble in mourning over
Ambassadors from the wings....
I move to the interval,
Done with this repertory.
In another poem, "The Second Visit", Pinter compares
a childhood recollection of a seaside place with the more painful
adult experience of it:
My childhood vampire wallows in those days,
Where panting sea threatened and surf was flint,
And consummate doves flanked the eyes.
Now an actor in this nocturnal sink,
The stray of lip is toothed away,
And flats and curtains canter down.
The latent violence that is somehow implicit in
the life of the struggling actor was to manifest itself in an
outburst of violence when Inter was in London working as a repertory
actor. Pinter has described a fight he has in a Chelsea pub after
being racially insulted:
"I laid into him, forgetting who he was and
what the whole thing was about entirely. I just kept on and on.
Afterwards I thought one has a lot of physical energy...I wasn't
insulted personally but I was insulted on behalf of someone or
Pinter's excessive display of violence was recalled
later by a witness, the playwright Alun Owen, who at the time
of the incident - 1957-8 was in a similar situation: "We were
both acting and writing when we first met." Owen retells the incident
as Pinter remembered it and adds, "When things calmed down, this
bloke said to Harold: "Are you a Jew?" He said yes and the other
fellow said curiously "In that case I can understand why you hit
me. But why did you go on hitting me?" Pinter, however has recently
affirmed that the man actually said,"But why did you hit me so
hard?" and has suggested that the incident has little to do with
himself as an actor but more with himself as a man. Nevertheless,
from these reminiscences and recollections, poetic and otherwise,
one receives a picture of the tensions and frustrations Pinter
felt, and the tough, rather squalid conditions he often endured
as a repertory actor. It might be fairly assumed that generally
Pinter was not at his happiest in this period of his life, although
he is not prepared to state anything unequivocal on the matter."When
I was a failure I wasn't a failure to me. When I'm a success,
I'm not a success tome, I'm not gloomy about it. I'm not a gloomy
person...but in some ways I am."
From Pinter: The
Player's Playwright" by David T. Thompson
Esslin Pinter - a study of his plays by , Methuen, London 1970
When he emerged as a dramatist in 1957 Pinter
was twenty-seven years old. But he had published poems since before
he was twenty. Two poems, 'New Year in the Midlands' and "Chandeliers
and Shadows', appeared in the August 1950 number of Poetry
London . Unfortunately the ends of the two poems got confused
in the printing. Poetry London tried to make amends by
publishing 'New Year in the Midlands' again in the following number
(November 195o), while "Chandeliers and Shadows' had to wait till
1968 to appear in its correct form in the slim volume of Poems
published by the Enitharmon Press. 'New Year in the Midlands',
although couched in a Dylan Thomas-like idiom of concentrated
exuberance, already contains Pinter's sharp eye for the dreamlike
quality of the world in all its sordid reality:
... and here am I,
Straddled, exile always in one Whitbread Ale town,
Where we went to the yellow pub, cramped in an alley bin,
A shoot from the market,
And found the thin Luke of a queer, whose pale
Deliberate eyes, raincoat, Victorian,
,Sap the answer in the palm. . . .
The thin, pale queer in the raincoat is already
a Pinter character in embryo.'Chandeliers and Shadows'on the other
hand with its motto from The Duchess of Malfi (I'le goe
hunt the badger by owle-light: 'tis a deed of darknesse")- omitted
in the 1968 reprint - contains its intimation of the baroque,
fantastic Pinter of plays to come:
... Yet I lunatic from lunatic spheres,
Shall run crazy with lepers,
And bring God down the chimney,
A tardy locust
To plunder and verminate man's pastures, entirely
("You verminate the sheet of your birth") is one
of Goldberg's accusations against Stanley in The Birthday Party").
There is much adolescent love of unusual and archaic words in
this and others of Pinter's early poems ('floodlit empires' Palsied
stomacher', a 'necromantic cauldron of crosses' in this one poem
alone), but the imagery is strong and haunting; it betrays the
author's grasp of the poetic quality of the situations his imagination
thrusts upon him. For these poems are clearly written in a state
of obsession with words, under the spell of an irresistible impulse.
Hence some of them are so private in their surrealist automatic
writing that they scarcely yield a meaning to the outsider. 'One
a Story, Two a Death!, for example, a longish narrative poem which
appeared in the Summer 1951 issue of Poetry London, and was not
reprinted in the collected volume of 1968, starts with the cryptic
Brought in a bowl of flaming crocuses
In an ebon mirrorless age,
Let fall to her face
Till her cheeks lit in tongues.
Who would laugh and call Zello,
See how scorched is the boy,
;Who would laugh
at the arrow should plunge in her eyeSé
There is a dead girl in the poem who is visited
by the poet; but little more can be discerned in the darkness
of its whirling images.
Yet here too some of the images of the plays already appear -
The giant Negro tones in ether his flute -
foreshadowing the symbolic death figure of the
Negro in The Room
Where in his cape the Negro,
Growing flowers on his groin.'
In another poem from Poetry London, not
reprinted in the collected edition, 'European Revels', we meet
one of the destructive females of the later Pinter as well as
violent men, reminiscent of the killers in The Dumb Waiter,
the terrorists in The Birthday Party-
Her men lovers plasterlads,
who Felled rich women in the moon1s Zodiac.
There is in these poems, as indeed in the early
and hitherto unpublished novel The Dwarfs, the recurring
character of a young man, who like Len in The Dwarfs, like
Aston in The Caretaker, has a tendency to talk too much
and too intensely and rears the moment when society ,the outside
world, or his growing up, will put a stop to this stream of exuberant,
Only the deaf can hear and the blind can understand
The miles I gabble.
Through these my dances of dunce and devil,
It1s only the dumb can speak through the rubble.
Time shall drop his spit in my cup,
With this vicious cut he shall close my trap.
And gob me up in a drunkard's lap
All spirits shall haunt me and all devils drink me;
O despite theu dark drugs and the digs that they rib me,
I1ll tear off my terrible cap.'
(Note the use of assonant rhymes, alternating
between a and u sounds: gabble/rubble; cup/trap.) The parallels,
particularly to Aston's situation, seem difficult to overlook.
The same is surely true of the short poem 'The Anaesthetist's
Pin, (1952) which introduces that instrument linked to "the amputator1s
saw' and ends:
At that incision sound
The lout is at the throat
And the dislocated word
Which seems to indicate that the operation is
- as in the case of Aston in The Caretaker concerned with
curing an excess of speech (the dislocated word'), hence the 'amputation'
and the anaesthetist's pin, may well stand for a lobotomy or electric
shock treatment. The earliest text in the volume of Poems is dated
1949 and had remained unpublished until that volume appeared almost
twenty years later. This is the dialogue prose poem 'Kullus' which
has already been discussed in the previous chapter and contains
the motif of the room and the intruder which pervades Pinter's
work from The Room to The Basement. Kullus, a character
who dearly played a considerable part in the young Pinter's imagination
also makes an appearance in the poem 'The Task' (1954). And again
he is linked to the image of the room:
The last time Kullus, seen
Within a distant call,
Arrived at the house of bells.
The leaf obeyed the bud,
I closed the open night
And tailormade the room.
The three following stanzas are variations on
the key words - house, night, leaf, bud, open, night, and room:
the house of bells, for example, becomes the house of night; the
leaf, which obeyed the bud, now alarmed the bud, etc. Thus the
poem anticipates the kaleidoscopic effect of the changes in the
furniture and situation in the room which is the scene of The
Basement. The character of Kullus makes a third appearance
in the short story 'The Examination', feat published in the review
Prospect in the summer of 1959. Here the narrator is engaged
in a contest of wills with Kullus which takes the form of some
sort of examination. As one or the other of the contestants attains
a position of dominance over the other, the room in which the
contest takes place becomes his property.
There is nothing surprising in the re-emergence of early preoccupations
and imagery in the mature work of a writer. Yet the presence of
these basic motifs helps to show us some of the genesis of the
author's world and its particular, highly personal atmosphere
after 'the dislocated word' had become articulate.
Baker and Stephen Ely Tabachnik Harold Pinter, Oliver and Boyd,
|A Pulse in the Dark:
Early Poems and Plays
|Like his plays, the poems' of Harold
Pinter drive the mind down unknown labyrinths to face a reality
it would rather avoid. His characteristic themes-the relativity
of truth, mortality, dreams, memory, the past, the intruder, dominance
and subservience, and the sexual condition of man and woman-find
a technically orthodox but wholly unique expression in the poetry.
His best poems fuse literal and metaphorical meanings, forcing mundane
reality to assume the deepest overtones, a technique which stems
from Joyce and which is illustrative of Pinter's procedure in the
plays as well. He loves rich, swirling metaphors which-although
rooted in the reality of everyday life-force the mind to make new
connections between familiar words and unusual, disturbing thoughts.
Even when his metaphors become too private to convey a clear picture,
a framework into which the reader can place himself, he manages
to convey his peculiar vision of a bullying, nagging, threatening
condition of life which will not let human beings off its sharp
The poems which lend themselves most readily to
concrete interpretations, which allow the reader to visualise
clearly a given situation, afford the clearest proof of Pinter's
technical skill and capacity for projecting a new view of ordinary
life, of universalising the essentially local. 'New Year in the
Midlands' published in 1950, is much more mature than his earlier
school poems and remains his best single poem. On the localised
surface, we have a raucous, brawling pub in the Midlands on New
Year's Eve, dominated by one of those landladies who lump 'Fellows
between the boards' in the typical poor lodging house with
which provincial actors ('on the boards') are very familiar. We
have the usual homosexual, the 'crawing brass whores',
and the 'clamping/ Red shirted boy' who has sexual relations
with the women. As 'well-rolled' sailors, having been robbed
while drunk, curl up to sleep on the sidelines, the speaker of
the poem himself becomes progressively drunk to the point of entering
into conversation with Freda, the 'wansome' landlady. All
the sordid life of the place comes through to us in a scene very
familiar to anyone who has been in such a spot at such a time.
Pinter misses no detail in this surface picture, be it the hands
that grip beer cans of sensual pleasure with the force of claws,
the simple brand-name 'Whitbread Ale', or the fumbling, impatient
hands ('luminous' with spilled ale) of the townspeople,
preparing for sexual pleasures or urination.
But the poet takes us beyond this description of rollicking public
madness which grows more and more lively and lascivious as the
poem progresses, straight into the hands of Death. In a universalist
interpretation, Freda, this 'landlady of lumping/Fellows between
the boards', whose own 'luminous hands/Unpin the town's
genitals', represents Time, her hands the hands of a clock
that defeats sexuality and exposes the naked heart of man, 'the
clamping/Red shirted boy, ragefull, thudding his cage'. When seen
in this light, 'boards' become coffins. At the start of
the New Year, the Christ story, alluded to in this poem in lines
which echo the Book of Luke in the New Testament, should assume
a new and awesome significance for mankind, but is not heeded.
Instead of 'the power and the glory' that heralds the coming of
Christ's chariot, we find the Christ-like 'spluttered'
speaker, 'Blessed with ambrosial bitter weed' drunkenly
returning from exile into 'the shine, the powder and blood'
of the cheap pub. Luke appears as the homosexual with 'pale/
Deliberate eyes' whose repulsive answer to inquiries is 'sap'
in the palm of the seeker. The 'glassy bawd' of a landlady
sings 'O Celestial Light', ironically referring to the
return of Christ, while the bar fills with 'crush, camp, burble,
and beer'. Yet her leg appears over the edge of her stool
like a 'T-square on the/ Flood', implying a judgement near at
hand for sinning mankind, which will be stripped naked and measured
by Time. Like Epstein's 'Christ', this poem reveals a Jew's powerful
vision of the failure of Christianity to control and heal the
suffering that man inflicts upon himself. In an interview with
the Paris Review, Pinter stated that 'For me everything has to
do with shape, structure, and overall unity,' and we find this
concern in his orthodox technical approach to this poem. His use
of run-on lines, alliteration, and internal rhyme forces the mind
of the reader into the mad dance in this pub in a 'Whitbread Ale
town', another echo of the Christ story (Whit Sunday) which illustrates
again the way in which Pinter can infuse, a tangible and mundane
reality with more than ordinary meaning. In the first two lines
and throughout the entire poem, we find a profusion of 'l' sounds,
which prepare for and continually chime the echo of 'Luke' in
our mental ears and hold the poem together. The poet carefully
controls the rhythm of our journey through the growing hilarity.
In the first long sentence of five lines, an unaccented syllable
at the end of nearly every line forces the reader on to the heavily-accented
syllable beginning the next line:
Now here again she blows, landlady of lumping
Fellows between the boards,
Singing 'O Celestial Light', while
Like a T-square on the
Flood swings her wooden leg.
The trochaic rhythm of 'Straddled, exile always
in one Whitbread Ale town' enforces the sad echo, the feeling
of loneliness and isolation of the Christ figure, of the ordinary
man in the Midlands, of Pinter himself in exile from London.
The speaker feels strongly the need to define precisely the location
of this 'yellow pub, cramped in an alley bin, /A shoot from
the market', to set the background for the equally sordid
and estranged figure of the queer Luke, who is likewise pinpointed
in a typically Pinteresque description of the internal and external
being: 'the thin Luke of a queer, whose pale/ Deliberate eyes,
raincoat, Victorian, / Sap the answer in the palm.' The long
word 'Deliberate' conveys its meaning through the slow movement
of its sounds. By breaking the lines of description with caesuras-a
technique which in his plays results in 'pauses' and silences'-Pinter
conveys a sense of sharp movement, a catalogue of the action and
ornament which fill the pub, as well as the quick, heavy breathing
of the speaker. Our attention is constantly directed to sharp,
tawdry details: 'black little crab women', the 'beetle glance'
of young and old men interested in the 'crawing brass whores'.
In this vicious, verminous world of naked sexuality, perceived
in the fragmented (sprinkled and diced') loneliness of the indirect
lighting, the drunken Christ stirs Time in the form of the landlady
to call men to a reckoning. In 'New Year in the Midlands we have
an intimation of the possibility of moral judgement usually totally
absent from Pinter's vision. Another of his early poems, 'Stranger'
(I953), express" his more usual sense of the impossibility of
such judgements as well as the themes of the intruder and memory
reflected in the early one-acters such as The Room and
A Slight Ache. A careful reading also reveals the same
concern with technique. Once the reader manages to construct a
situation to fit the poem, it snaps clearly into focus, and the
full force of the mood it conveys becomes evident. In this way,
much of Pinter's poetry is characteristic of modern works which
present realistic situations which are, however, dissociated from
any immediately recognisable by the reader, because these situations
are seen from a unique angle. As in Wallace Stevens' 'The Emperor
of Ice Cream', which appears meaningless until the reader realises
that Stevens is describing the funeral of a prostitute, much of
Pinter's poetry appears obscure until one manages to adjust one's
own view of it, to realise just which situation the poet is describing
or analysing. Pinter's ability to project a mood and to infuse
a sharp realistic detail with meaning remains constant throughout
his production, both in the poetry and in the plays.
In 'Stranger', the situation involves a dead speaker who is using
his wife's or mistress's new lover. The intruder is accused is,
of starting a relationship with her; of entering where the speaker
was 'unechoed', or into the mind and perhaps body of the woman
who had almost forgotten him; and, most obviously, of conditioning
'Her widowhood on'. 'That you did cajole/ When the pendulum hung',
refers to the idea that the stranger triumphantly assumed the
dominant role with the woman when the speaker's time had stopped,
that is, when he died. 'That you interposed in her curious dram'
accuses the intruder of coming between the dead one and his former
lover's 'curious dream' or half-erased memory of him. 'That you
did instruct/From your alphabet home' implies that the newcomer
is verbally slick and thus controls the mistress. 'That you did
confusion/Her eyelid to stone' refers to the moment of sexual
climax in which the fluttering eyelids of' the woman closed in
pleasure, or to a simple, steadfast look of' love. The reader
should notice that the entire poem is written its the past tense-like
much of Pinter's work-and that the use of' feminine rhyme and
the repeated 'That you' refrain work to emphasise the echoing
of this threatening memory in the mind of the speaker. Most important
is the one-foot last line, ╬no case1 which reveals in an abrupt
and absolute manner the speaker1s knowledge that he has 'no case'
against the intruder in spite of' his many accusations, that the
intrusion must be as a normal part of life which allows no moral
judgement or outrage.
Two other poems which describe inescapable conditions that must
be accepted and cannot be judged in a moral sense are 'The Error
of' Alarm' (1956) and ╬Afternoon1 (1957). Though published one
year apart, these poems appear to be companion pieces, describing
the sexual condition of woman and man respectively. In 'The Error
of Alarm', a woman explains her predicament with relation to men.
She is described only as ca woman', indicating a general application.
In the first stanza, it appears that she has confronted irresistible
sexual feelings ('A pulse in the dark/I could not arrest'), felt
a misgiving about this, but was unable to appeal to any social
institution for help. ('A witness to that bargain/I could not
summon'). No matter what she does, the man in the situation will
accuse her of' weakening or castrating him during the sexual act.
If she only looks at him or kisses him, he takes possession of
her; if she puts him off sexually, he stops caring about her;
and of she tries in her turn to possess him, he grows cold. He
does not share her need for some feeling beyond the purely sexual,
'alarm' at loveless love. 'Thus, even the act, in which she acquiesces
finally, this 'dear ritual', becomes a funeral for her. (Here
the seventeenth-century meaning of the word 'die' to describe
the consummation of the sexual act receives a fresh application).
Alarm at loveless love is a 'fault' or an terror' because it leaves
her vulnerable to male coldness and lack of understanding. The
first, longest stanza sets forth the situation, the predicament.
Now the first line of each group of two lines in succeeding stanzas
contains her reaction to this predicament, and the second line
a clipped condemnation of her reaction. The last, shortest stanza
appears to contain a final capitulation; there is no argument
against and no exit from her situation except compliance with
the wishes of the male. The simple rhymes (blood/dread, made/bride,
care/bare, share/bier, occur in the second and fourth lines of
the last four stanzas, those lines she attributes to the male,
and indicate a cold and pat response to her situation, which becomes
more cold and insistent as the poem draws to a conclusion. 'M'
sounds throughout provide a soft, murmuring undercurrent. The
other side of the coin, the condition of the male, is rendered
in 'Afternoon'. Men are brought from 'stews', or houses of prostitution,
without genitals, castrated. Like dogs, they nose about, burrowing
'for their loss' of their 'articles of faith' as the speaker sardonically
puts it, deaf to the 'smell of heat', or women's voiced or unvoiced
sexual needs. One of these 'blind men' (a simple Freudian symbol
for castration which Pinter employs throughout his work) has thrust
upon him a seeing-eye dog, a 'bitch that had eaten the loot',
or devoured his genitals. The dog 'became his mastiff at night',
that is, his wife who arouses him sexually. Paradoxically, this
wife, his closest partner, upon whom he is dependent, is the one
who castrates him-'His guardian the thief of his blood' . Thus
in these poems the situations of both men and women appear a matter
of sexual struggle in which both are dispossessed by one another's
needs. Men and women are locked in a mad dance which they are
doomed to carry out until death, as expressed in the poem 'Jig'
Women and men
together, All in a seaquick temper, Tick the cabin clock.
|The barrenness of the sexual dance
in a world in has dwindled to the stature of a terrifying 'tardy
locust plundering and 'verminating' the pastures of man (a is echoed
in Goldberg's accusation of Stanley in The Birthday Party,
as Martin Esslin points out) appears also in the early 'Chandeliers
and Shadows' (1950). Here a scene of decay recalls Miss Havisham's
desolate house in Dickens' Great Expectations, in which all
order has fled ('Worlds dying, suns in delirium) is ruled over by
a lunatic and the locust God. The world shrinks to the circumscribed
area of a decayed stage setting, an allusion made more concrete
by the final reference to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Here,
as in 'New Year in the Midlands', Christianity's December has become
'trite', and the world a 'necromantic cauldron of crosses' or the
vessel of a ruined Christianity, in which the image of the brothel
dominates. The 'room' itself, no longer place of refuge, is destroyed
with all its 'gilded gondolas' of illusions by God, 'the long betrayed
monster'. The first stanza, a particularly rich and magnificent
picture of rotting, decayed glory, achieves rhythm through the balanced
halves of lines: 'In this brothel, in this room ╬the horsefly, the
palsied stomacher.' The use of alliteration (╬Shall gobble their
gilded gondolas') throughout the second stanza emphasises words
of decay-crust, crumpled, camphor; stifle, strip, split, splintered.
The recurrence of 'r' sounds at the ends of lines through the poem
sets up a subtle impression ripping and tearing that holds the poem
together in an almost subliminal manner. In these poems and the
early one-act plays, Pinter himself as a master of the veiled threat
that lurks in the normal-as well as the most extraordinary-situations,
and the most mundane conversations. He translates his Jewish lack-of-ease
into a universalised appreciation of the tenuous nature of mental