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In Memoriam

William Rose Benét
"Lola Ridge: 1883-1941"

American poetry has had of late years among its major figures a number of greatly gifted women--the late Elinor Wylie, Amy Lowell, and Anna Hempstead Branch, the living Edna St. Vincent Millay, Léonie Adams, and others.  Lola Ridge stood a little apart from the rest, with what it is not too much to characterize as her own genius.  Though a rebel who was of the lineage of Spartacus, and who entitled one of her books "Red Flag," she chose no party but espoused the cause of the downtrodden everywhere in the world.  Her struggle became an intensely spiritual one. Harassed by bodily infirmity, which she scorned to have mentioned because she despised the thought that it might win suffrages for her work on extraneous grounds (which, of course, was far from the case!) she came to live almost the life of a recluse, devoting herself with white passion to the search for the fiery core of life.  She absorbed and pondered philosophies, and her interest in the vast and tragic upheaval of the times was prophetically intense.  As the loud bandwagon parade of modern literature went down the street of the world, few were aware of a watcher whose eye's "extortion" (her own word for that of another) pierced to vital essentials.  To other writers known to her, she was a constant and scrupulous aid.  Many have testified to the valuable criticism she gladly gave them, without compromise but without affront.

. .

Her art deepened and greatened.  Never did she lose contact with events or the world outside, but inevitably, as is true of all true artists, her vision turned inward.  She became the new sibyl--not that she ever adopted that attitude.   Attitudes were abhorrent to her.  No one was more simple and direct; no one less the mere aesthete or the drawlingly superior intellectual.  When her smile came, it was pure and kind.  Her committed diligence to her chosen work was of such a nature as the loud and ranting betrayers of the multitude could never in an aeon understand.

Now the work is cut off, the last poem remains unfinished; but the noble message is no less delivered.  Lola Ridge died on the nineteenth of May in her home in Brooklyn, valiant to the end.  We who loved her and revered her work believe she was a great artist. . . .

From William Rose Benét, "Lola Ridge, 1883-1941."   The Saturday Review of Literature 31 May 1941: 8.

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