To the Editors:

There is an odd misreading of one of Richard Wilbur’s poems in Daniel Mark Epstein’s otherwise interesting essay on Wilbur and metaphysics (“The metaphysics of Wilbur,” April 2005). In the poem about George Berkeley, “A Chronic Condition,” the reference to “Hylas” is not to the Argonaut, but rather to one of the characters in Berkeley’s “Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous,” in which Hylas defends the existence of a material world and Philonous, Berkeley’s mouthpiece, espouses Idealism, denying the existence of matter. Similarly, “Hylas’ tree” does not refer to Wilbur, but rather to the famous “tree in the quad” whose existence when not being perceived Berkeley has to struggle to account for (finally maintaining that when not perceived by a human mind it continues to exist as an idea in God’s mind).

John Koethe

 

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