Virgil’s Aeneas, weeping over the frescoes that depict the fall of Troy, voices the tragic sense of life that animates all poets: “Tears in the nature of things, hearts touched by human transience.” In “Resolution and Independence,” Wordsworth describes the wrenching extremes of a poet’s moods:
But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the might
Of joy in minds that can no further go,
As high as we have mounted in delight
In our dejection do we sink as low.
James Dickey (1923–97), handsome, blond and blue-eyed, formidably energetic, large, and larger than life, scaled the heights. College athlete, air force navigator, advertising executive, guitarist, archer, hunter, teacher, performer and poet laureate, winner of a Guggenheim fellowship and a National Book Award, he covered the Apollo launching for Life and read his...