Published version that appeared in A Book of Resemblances
Asia. In wave after wave, peoples flooded out from the disturbd heartland of Asia.
In the pre-literate world the sea of languages was protean, an unreformed elemental source.
The legendary Gate of Alexander stands like a door upon the chaos of the potential, of all that has not been recorded.
Just where the hero on the verge of his given godhead would invade and conquer the source - there, not only the orgies of
megalomaniac splendour and the new wisdom of naked masters of a Yoga that would enter into and change now the course of Greek civilization, but also the fortress - a household - and, beyond,
the desolation of a continent swept by spectral storms in which the sound of perishing armies rang.
The rage of Love appeard to me to be a convulsion of the sea, diven by storm winds or shaken by upheavals of the under earth, itself an ocean of molten rock and fire. War, love, and the poem, shaped history as expressions of the deepst forces and cleavings (adherences and divisions) of Man''s hidden nature In 1950, America had become possesst by a demonic necessity, the hidden content of her victory in the Second World War, that now appeard in the phantasm of a blinding fear of communism, of the primal peoples of the world, and of the depths of Asia. And from China, in the inspired poetry of Mao Tse-tung, there were signs of the ancient empire of the Mongols reawakening. Working in sections from an essay by Robert Payne on Mao's poetry which had appeard in Horizon and quoting from his translations of Mao, in counterpoint to the ritualistic consultation of a fifth of Cutty Sark, in An Imaginary War Elegy, I began to compose in terms of this obsessional war that today, sixteen years later, has taken over the soul and spirit of America. But this phantom empire of Asia was for me the extension of being, held, as it came to me in 1960 with Apprehensions, "so that there is a continent of feeling beyond our feeling."
After the inspiration of William Carlos William's Paterson in 1946, 1948, 1949, had opend the way with its great thematic images of the roaring waters, the divorce, the geologic strata of a history, and the consuming and welding flames, in which extensions of content were generated, I tried in An Essay at War to incorporate the gains I saw in his work towards a poetry that would be Heraclitean form, a form in process, to draw from and in the same act set into motion the elements of my own life-experience -- the death of Jamie de Angulo from cancer in 1950 and the rock crystal pitcher seen in the Hapsburg collection which tourd America that year, and the household kept (the work of art as hearth of feeling) in the midst of catastrophe.