Nancy Gish wrote:
> Why this continual assumption that "drowning"--even in a poem that calls
> it "fear" and originally made it a voyage into terror--is something we
> must translate into the comfort of conversion or salvation?

Rat's Alley would be deliquescent with mud such as never known before*,
rotting bodies (human and animal), shit. In Parade's End a soldier dies
by drowning in the mud. (Pure speculation I won't stick to against
rebuttal: Perhaps part of the freedom of the mountains is the clarity,
hardness of snow and ice, absence of the liquid & sticky. There is a
sort of release in the very metric of those lines.) 

And the threat in "Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as
you" is not the threat of dying but the threat of dying unexpectedly, I
would think, in the prime of life.

The poem is, among other things, a heap of broken images, and it is
_not_ a negative critique but just an observation to say that everything
in it doesn't fit everything else. Whether one wants to go as far as
Kinkaid or not, there is something to the claim in his CI article,
"Coherent Readers, Incoherent Texts." That is, a text (a) is not apt to
be fully coherent and (b) that is not particularly a defect except in
the dreams of New Critics.