Basil Bunting: The Spoils

(486 words)
  • Glyn Pursglove (University of Wales, Swansea)

The Spoils, as published, is a poem in three parts; Bunting originally designed it as a “sonata” in four parts but in response to comments by Louis Zukofsky on a draft of the poem, Bunting somewhat hurriedly conflated parts three and four of his original design. The result is, as Bunting himself was later to feel, a certain “lopsidedness”. A central theme of the poem is stated in its first four lines:

Man's life so little worth,
do we fear to take or lose it?
No ill companion on a journey, Death
lays his purse on the table and opens the wine.

In the symmetrically constructed Part I, four speakers (their speeches as neatly ordered as a fugue) offer their variations on this …

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Pursglove, Glyn. "The Spoils". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 21 March 2002
[, accessed 26 September 2016.]