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Ridler, Anne (Barbara)

RIDLER, Anne (Barbara)


Nationality: British. Born: Anne Barbara Bradby, Rugby, Warwickshire, 30 July 1912. Education: Downe House School; King's College, London, diploma in journalism 1932. Family: Married Vivian Ridler in 1938; two sons and two daughters. Career: Member of editorial department, Faber and Faber publishers, London, 1935–40. Awards: Oscar Blumenthal prize, 1954; Union League Civic and Arts Foundation prize, 1955 (Poetry, Chicago). Address: 14 Stanley Road, Oxford OX4 IQZ, England.

Publications

Poetry

Poems. London, Oxford University Press, 1939.

A Dream Observed and Other Poems. London, Editions Poetry London, 1941.

The Nine Bright Shiners. London, Faber, 1943.

The Golden Bird and Other Poems. London, Faber, 1951.

A Matter of Life and Death. London, Faber, 1959.

Selected Poems. New York, Macmillan, 1961.

Some Time After and Other Poems. London, Faber, 1972.

Italian Prospect: Six Poems. Oxford, Perpetua Press, 1976.

Dies Natalist: Poems of Birth and Infancy. Oxford, Perpetua Press, 1980.

Ten Poems, with E.J. Scovell. Leamington, Other Branch Readings, 1984.

New and Selected Poems. London, Faber, 1988.

Collected Poems. Manchester, Carcanet, 1994.

Plays

Cain (produced Letchworth, Hertfordshire, 1943; London, 1944).

London, Editions Poetry London, 1943.

The Shadow Factory: A Nativity Play (produced London, 1945).London, Faber, 1946.

Henry Bly (produced London, 1947). Included in Henry Bly and Other Plays, 1950.

Henry Bly and Other Plays. London, Faber, 1950.

The Mask, and The Missing Bridegroom (produced London, 1951).Included in Henry Bly and Other Plays, 1950.

The Trial of Thomas Cranmer, music by Bryan Kelly (produced Oxford, 1956). London, Faber, 1956.

The Departure, music by Elizabeth Maconchy (produced London, 1961). Included in Some Time After and Other Poems, 1972.

Who Is My Neighbour? (produced Leeds, 1961). With How Bitter the Bread, London, Faber, 1963.

The Jesse Tree: A Masque in Verse, music by Elizabeth Maconchy(produced Dorchester, Oxfordshire, 1970). London, Lyrebird Press, 1972.

Rosinda, translation of the libretto by Faustini, music by Cavalli(produced Oxford, 1973; London, 1975).

Orfeo, translation of the libretto by Striggio, music by Monteverdi(produced Oxford, 1975; London, 1981). London, Faber Music, 1975; revised edition, 1981.

Eritrea, translation of the libretto by Faustini, music by Cavalli(produced Wexford, Ireland, 1975). London, Oxford University Press, 1975.

The King of the Golden River, music by Elizabeth Maconchy (produced Oxford, 1975).

The Return of Ulysses, translation of the libretto by Badoaro, music by Monteverdi (produced London, 1978).

The Lambton Worm, music by Robert Sherlaw Johnson (produced Oxford, 1978). London, Oxford University Press, 1979.

Orontea, translation of the libretto by Cicognini, music by Cesti(produced London, 1979).

Agrippina, translation of the libretto by Grimani, music by Handel(produced London, 1982).

La Calisto, translation of the libretto by Faustini, music by Cavalli(produced London, 1984).

Così fan Tutte, translation of the libretto by da Ponte, music by Mozart(produced London, 1986; broadcast, 1988). Oxford, Perpetua Press, 1987.

The Marriage of Figaro, translation of the libretto. Oxford, Perpetua Press, 1991.

Other

Olive Willis and Downe House: An Adventure in Education. London, Murray, 1967.

A Victorian Family Postbag. Oxford, Perpetua Press, 1988.

Profitable Wonders: Aspects of Thomas Traherne, with A.M. Allchin and Julia Smith. Oxford, Amate Press, 1989.

A Measure of English Poetry. Oxford, Perpetua Press, 1991.

Editor, Shakespeare Criticism 1919–1935. London and New York, Oxford University Press, 1936.

Editor, A Little Book of Modern Verse. London, Faber, 1941.

Editor, Time Passes and Other Poems, by Walter de la Mare. London, Faber, 1942.

Editor, Best Ghost Stories. London, Faber, 1945.

Editor, The Faber Book of Modern Verse, revised edition. London, Faber, 1951.

Editor, The Image of the City and Other Essays, by Charles Williams. London, Oxford University Press, 1958.

Editor, Selected Writings, by Charles Williams. London, Oxford University Press, 1961.

Editor, Shakespeare Criticism 1935–1960. London and New York, Oxford University Press, 1963.

Editor, Poems and Some Letters, by James Thomson. London, Centaur Press, and Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1963.

Editor, Thomas Traherne: Poems, Centuries, and Three Thanksgivings. London, Oxford University Press, 1966.

Editor, with Christopher Bradby, Best Stories of Church and Clergy. London, Faber, 1966.

Editor, Selected Poems of George Darley. London, Merrion Press, 1979.

Editor, The Poems of William Austin. Oxford, Perpetua Press, 1983.

*

Manuscript Collection: Eton College Library, Buckinghamshire.

Critical Studies: The Christian Tradition in Modern British Verse Drama by William V. Spanos, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 1967; "Anne Ridler at Seventy" by Tracey Warr, in Poetry Review (London), 73(1), March 1983.

*  *  *

In "News of the World," a poem included in A Matter of Life and Death, Anne Ridler's collection of 1959, there is to be found the following line:

Love is our interest, love our capital theme.

Love in its various senses (the differences are perceived, but that which unifies them is felt and insisted upon) is indeed the recurrent theme of much of Ridler's best work. Love of individual, love of God, love of family, love of place, love of humanity—these, and the threat to them in separation and isolation, are the subjects that repeatedly lie at the heart of her most successful poems.

The early, World War II poems of The Nine Bright Shiners include several moving poems of lovers separated (e.g., "At Parting" and "Bring Back"). "Leaving Ringshall," in A Matter of Life and Death, addresses the complex relationships of persons and places loved:

...a place is loved for what we felt there,
Not for itself alone. Yet in a portrait
The setting holds the key: met out of context
A face is nameless, or if daily seen,
Confused in memory by its many frames.
 
So, though we treat the landscape as a background,
Without it we are—nowhere.

"On Changing Places," from the same volume, makes a related affirmation (in opposition to that which reason "affirms") in its opening lines and conveniently illustrates Ridler's skill in the interweaving of image and idea:

And is there such a word as parting?
Reason affirms it, but the heart
Denies, and risks a deal of pain
By debts of joy received and given;
While time spins on like a spider, weaves
With years for thread, with hour and season,
Twisting the figure of daily lives,
And warps it fast to the place it loves.

The metaphysical note is quite a common one in Ridler (and the adjective is used both in its philosophical-religious sense and as a term from the history of English poetry). One poem, "Risinghall Summer," is subtitled "Remembering Marvell's "Appleton House,'" and there are quite a number of other poems in which either Donne or Herbert seems to be "remembered." Elsewhere, the presences of Eliot, Auden, or Charles Williams are easily discerned. Yet to say this is not to dismiss Ridler as slavishly derivative; like many another member of what Geoffrey Grigson has called "the long roll of good minor poets," she has been able to evolve her own distinctive voice out of the influences of intrinsically greater or more individual poets. She has been able to write poems that, while they exhibit such influences, could not be mistaken for the work of any one of these other poets. The minor poet can create a new synthesis and can breathe a personal life into it, as in "Anniversary":

This fig-tree spreads all hands toward the light,
  Five broad fingers to each, solid and still
  As those that are chiselled on pulpit or stall.
And yet the light pervades those carven leaves,
Not as my dark hands divert the sun
  If I hold them before my face—
  These invert it, let it pass,
A green effulgence that the trunk receives.
 
These fifteen years I have spread my hands to the light of your
  love.
Its rays should long ago have made me strong:
  Did my remorse for wrong
Or fears filter its power from the light,
Or did my darkness divert it from my heart,
  That I am still so callow and unsure,
  And cannot think to endure
Even the shortest winter out of your sight?

It would probably be a largely meaningless exercise to attempt to subdivide Ridler's poems into religious and secular. There are, of course, some specifically Christian poems, such as "Prayer in a Pestilent Time" (The Nine Bright Shiners) or the very beautiful "Carol to Be Set to Music" (A Matter of Life and Death). More often, subjects not inherently religious in nature are considered within discursive meditations in which faith and doubt exist in repeated counterpoint, e.g., in "Lyme Regis—Golden Cap" (A Matter of Life and Death) and "Corneal Graft" (Some Time After). Her poems of place and of family are at their best when they apprehend the divine in the ordinary, as in the azalea taken indoors that "speaks in a blaze, like a prophet returned from the wilderness" ("Azalea in the House" from Some Time After). Perhaps Ridler's best single poem is "A Matter of Life and Death," a sonata-like contemplation upon her son's development from embryo to manhood that, characteristically, explores larger themes of mutability, of the impermanence that is the pleasure and the pain of all human experience.

In 1988 there appeared Ridler's New and Selected Poems, her previous major collection having appeared some sixteen years earlier. The volume closes with "The Halcyons," the story of Ceyx and Alcyone from Ovid via the Book of the Duchesse. It is a superbly crafted poem in a variety of verse forms and ends with an affirmation of the tale's significance that is, fittingly, a recapitulation of much that is central to the work of this rewarding poet:

...something more is meant
    By those myths of bird-changes.
That love continues blest
    In different guises;
That immortality
    Is not mere repetition:
It is a blue flash,
    A kingfisher vision.
It is a new-feathered
    And procreant love,
Seen where the halcyon
    Nests on the wave.

—Glyn Pursglove

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