British Poetry in the Age of Modernism

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But it may be read equally as a momentary hesitation, an intake of breath to settle down to watching the ploughman, or run over quickly as if noting the elm and ploughman only in passing, so that the form is part of the interior orientation of the speaker. The turn of the verse works as a perpetual contingency, touching word and rhythm, interior and exterior together in a singular coincidence British Poetry in the Age of Modernism which is equally a dependent condition. We go to it as would-be poets, or as solitaries, vagabonds, lovers,. So vastly do we increase the circle of which we are the centre that we become as nothing.

The larger the circle the less seems our distance from other men each at his separate centre; and at last that distance is nothing at all in the mighty circle, and all have but one circumference. And thus we truly find ourselves. By identifying the author so completely with the work, de la Mare was not recommending author-centred reading: rather, his aim was to make biography entirely pointless, because learning about the author tells us nothing at all we did not already know from the book: A poem is so direct an entry into the secret mind of its writer that there is usually little reason or justification for any desire to explore the precincts.

If further knowledge of his history and personality is necessary to a true understanding, it means that he has left us the task of finishing the unfinished. That perhaps is why the beautiful work of the anonymous is so happily complete and so completely happy. It is as quiet and self-contained as a solitary green-crowned islet in the deep. In order for his audience to experience the uncanniness of this encounter, rather than simply read about it, however, de la Mare needed to cultivate a certain kind of reading, a way of dealing with words whose ideal practitioners were for him between two and six years old.

And its renowned masterpieces are apt to leave the British Philistine a good deal perplexed, if not aghast. Pound, when he forgets to pose and frees himself from a kind of superciliousness, is a poet as well as a curious experimenter. Anon — the poet who squandered a rare imagination and romance on that supreme doggerel, the Nursery Rhymes — a poet so artless that he never even breathed a word how artful he truly was, and so selfless as to leave himself utterly out of his work.

They nibble at the very foundations of life. Like the nursery rhymes he admired, everything in it is already familiar: its diction is archaic and its imagery of castles, witches, flowers and graves plainly hand-medown Romanticism. It has no eye on the object, and its verse-form is extraordinarily precise and regular. Anyone familiar with Romantic poetry and especially Christina G. Rossetti has heard it all before. Past and future blur, so that the thought of a death which is already here makes the old-fashionedness of the vocabulary quite sinister.

What de la Mare had found in the nursery rhymes were poems whose sounds seemed to come into being in and through people; what he could reproduce in his own verse instead was the reading context of the nursery rhyme, namely, the situation of the child learning to use language, who cannot drown those sounds in a sophisticated comprehension of the meaning, as experienced and prose-hardened readers will. It underlies his love of the Nursery Rhyme, whose sound-texture evokes the child-like state of absorption in and by language, and also his admiration of its anonymous, un-original authors who are the subjects of poetic language as well as its users.

And as such, it implies a poetry for which the exteriority of formal sound-pattern will prove to be entirely integral. But we learned those meanings from a mother, a nurse and perhaps sisters and brothers, not from a book. For the most part, we discovered what certain words — sounds — were for, that is, not by being taught them one by one, but from the frame in which they were set — looks and voices — tender, laughing, scolding, anxious, intent, sorrowful.

Such intimations hover on the edge of our everyday, adult experience of reading, but de la Mare felt that the sounds of poetry could bring them back, for in them a moment of our own childhood turns out to be still present: What laws of phonology and of harmony regulate these sequences [of poetic sound] may not yet have been discovered. We become acquainted with these laws in the nursery, with Rattle blue beads in a blue bottle.

Here he is really and indeed telling out his heart in a kind of trance that is life at its most intense. For grown-ups, though, this sort of dependency requires a readjustment of normal priorities, as Ezra Pound recognised in a sensitive and generous review: If you try to read De la Mare he simply declines to impress you. If you keep De la Mare on your shelf until the proper time, a time when all books disgust you and when you are feeling slightly pathetic, you may open him querulously.

And gradually, your over-modernised intellect being slightly in abeyance — if you are favoured of the gods — it may dawn on your more intelligent self that Mr. De la Mare is to be prized above many blustering egoists. The poem is a collection of tiny noises heard instead of a sound halfheard. The verse-form allows silence to press in upon its shortened middle lines, and the final, deliberate comma lets it seep in so that readers can hear that what they have been reading about is suddenly present, listening to them — and has been since the poem was begun. Sweet sounds, begone! The tension between both possibilities, though, is the space where the silence is making itself felt, just as the final line closes with a faintly missing stress so that the unheard insinuates itself into the very texture of the verse.

For the former, the uncanny feelings of the adult have their roots in familiar infantile complexes — primitive beliefs in doubles, narcissism, or the compulsion to repeat. It is long since he has experienced or heard of anything which has given him an uncanny impression, and he must start by translating himself into that state of feeling, by awakening in himself the possibility of experiencing it. What is it about the uncanny that requires a personal familiarity, where hysteria or melancholia do not? What was supposed to be an objective representation of the repetition compulsion turns out to have been motivated by the very compulsion it claims to discover — and this ungroundable repetition is the movement of the uncanny itself.

But the dictionaries that we consult tell us nothing new, perhaps only because we ourselves speak a language that is foreign. Indeed, we get an impression that many languages are without a word for this particular shade of what is frightening. But foreign to whom? So much for scientific objectivity, since the conclusion of his investigation can be seen to be structuring the method. At the end of his essay, Freud dismisses the uncanny effect of solitude, dark and silence as childhood anxieties, which he explains elsewhere are coded fears for losing a parent.

De la Mare, on the other hand, is more interested in the presence of an absence, the tentative experience of nothing, or silence itself. One of them, entitled Nothing, attracts his attention, though it is nothing but an abstract square of vivid blue. Yet when he comes close to it, he realises that this blue is made up of thousands of eyes.

Nothing is watching him; and the uncanny alternation between both senses of this sentence — is it? I have heard voices calling softly In the little green orchard. But there is no particular reason for the first line to be either three or four, and having two possibilities is crucial to it. The listeners have somehow communicated to him their presence, his strangeness, before he has even spoken. This is the uncanny moment; where one becomes a stranger to oneself, like Freud British Poetry in the Age of Modernism speaking his own foreign language, like thinking as a child again, like reading a poem.

For the uncanny predicament of understanding that the poem puts us into is, to an extent, one that literature itself puts all its readers in. Once, asked what it meant, de la Mare replied: Every poem, of course, to its last syllable is its meaning; to attempt any paraphrase of the poem is in some degree to change that meaning and its effect on the imagination. Davies, a one-legged tramp and professional beggar who had paid for the publication of his own poems from his hostel in Southwark in , and sent copies to leading reviewers.

One had found its way to Thomas, who was, at first, stunned: He can write commonplace or inaccurate English, but it is also natural to him to write, such as Wordsworth wrote, with the clearness, compactness and felicity which make a man think with shame how unworthily, through natural stupidity or uncertainty, he manages his native tongue.

In subtlety he abounds, and where else today shall we find simplicity like this? Davies accepted, and the arrangement worked for a while until Davies found simple living in the country a little dull and gradually went back to writing and, apparently, begging in London to make ends meet. This man is so right that all the dull, the ugly, the unnecessary things, the advertisements at the railway station and so on, disgusted me as so many obstacles to the life which those verses seem to propose for me.

A tacit but important shift of terms has taken place here. He delights and at the same time shames his reader, who never in all his born days, or at any rate since he was a tiny little boy, saw anything quite so sharply and only its beautiful self. Wordsworth, for instance, would have had a deal of trouble trying to better it. The subject matter takes complete possession of him; his heart does not lie like some cheap metal right beneath the surface, but rather wants to be sought, like gold, in the depths.

Like the divinity behind the structure of the world, he stands behind his work. You have to be unworthy of the work or not up to it or have already had your fill of it, to ask only about the poet. Setting his work in just that context, though, suggests a much closer involvement of modernist poetics with the Georgian and Wordsworthian ones they resisted so vigorously.

And it began its journey then, As I came forth to take the air; The timid Stars had vanished quite, The Moon was dying with a stare; Horses, and kine, and sheep were seen As still as pictures, in fields green. The simplicity of W. There are numerous poems about birdsong in the rain. If Davies is difficult to appreciate at first, perhaps this simply reveals how deeply embedded Romantic categories of heartfelt diction and authorial originality are, yet interwoven with convention are moments of freshness and surprise.

Davies, natural, simple poet. Fuelled by the problems of increasing homelessness amongst large numbers of returning Boer War veterans, Edwardian society held a dual attitude of official distaste and romantic yearning towards tramping. In Parliament instigated a Departmental Committee Report on the problem, which recommended labour camps and way-tickets a kind of internal passport as a solution. This is in marked contrast to the authors plunging into the urban tramp-world, who tend to dwell lovingly not only on every festering The simplicity of W.

Davies wound or sore, but on each corresponding wave of repulsion. You are conscious only of the revolt of your senses, of nausea, and of a wild impulse to kill. A longing springs up to wash those sores, to bind up those bruised and swollen feet. Because the writer feels so very ill-at-ease in these surroundings, description often slides into an implicitly self-referential running commentary, as when Everard Wyrall cast his trip to a doss-house into gothic horror.

Yet even Ensor was susceptible to taking heartless jobsworths personally. An uncharacteristic fervour also breaks out at the end: No words could tell the passionate longing that seized me to breathe free breaths. No such inward struggle may come to those inured to hard conditions. Yet for them, also, the summer life is free, and for freedom they sacrifice much. It is best to fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of man.

The vagrant life is sweetest. That is how tramps are made. His biographer tells us that on waking up he thrashed around in so violent a mental agony that he bruised the stump and caused it to begin to rot again, necessitating a second amputation at the knee.

Only two months had elapsed, and what a difference now! Two months ago, and it was winter, snow was on the earth, and the air was cold; but I was then full limbed, full of vitality and good spirits, for summerlike prospects golden and glorious possessed me night and day.


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It was summer now, the earth was dry and green, and the air warm, but winter was within me; for I felt crushed and staggered on crutches to the danger of myself and the people on my way. Seeing this man so merry, I knew that my sensitiveness would soon wear off. Davies And so it seems to have done. This is not to say that the book is without emotion, only that emotions are events that happen within it, and they occur with the same discreteness.

But Flanagan does not: the fact that he is introduced at this point is simply because it was at the same time that Davies met him. This lack of continuity is reinforced by the way that emotions often do not appear at the expected moment, either: when a kindly farmer offers to rescue him from tramping and adopt him as his son and heir, Davies refuses in one sentence and without reflection.

On the other hand, he spends two-and-ahalf pages detailing his humiliation about once being caught cooking a pancake in his lodging-house, although nothing appears to have happened to him or the pancake as a result. Everything that happened to him was significant. For example, the episodes in chapters 18 to 21 run as follows.

Bored at home, he decides to go to the Yukon. His companions on the boat reserve a table for themselves by fighting. He eats in a worthwhile Salvation Army restaurant. He meets an old companion and travels with him. He is under suspicion in jail for a crime he has not committed. He loses a leg. The Canadians are kind to him in hospital.

He returns home and determines to go to London and write.


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  • Typically, the last of these events is not the expected climax of his fame and literary triumph, but about a disagreement with a landlady a few months after his recognition by the press. Making no difference between the two means his life is described in the sequence in which it occurred, rather than shaped according to the principal features he feels have moulded his personality. This lack of balance, proportion or shaping — life-shaping, self-shaping — is quite the opposite of that of the tramp-enthusiasts.

    I was glad to talk with them and eat with them and get drunk with them and to fight with them. I was glad to listen to the throb of the engine as it pulled up the cage. Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing, Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, Strong and content I travel the open road. The snow of January, the sun of August, and the damp breezes of April, all are equally welcome. The moan of the wind at night, the noises of the wind over grass, the whispering of trees at dawn. Davies rejoice in bad weather because the roads are empty.

    Not for him are the cares of rates or taxes, coal bills, rent, and the hundred and one minor worries that the unfortunate householder is heir to. Because the journey is everything to the ideal reader of The Tramp, its hero is separated from origin and destination, and while suspended is given the chance to become someone else for a while, or to find some Romantic original self set apart from ordinary social life. Lady Margaret Sackville advises the tramp to take few books with him: They belong to the world of self-consciousness, and are too emphatically links with ordinary life.

    Even poetry books should be abandoned. Throughout, tramping is far more than walking; it is a kind of social or personal therapy, an updating and expansion of the Wordsworthian concordia discors between man and inner landscape, in the footsteps of Stevenson, Leslie Stephen and Belloc.

    Modernism & English Literature

    Its contiguous placing of emotionally non-consecutive material — rather as a doss-house unites essentially isolated men — makes it less concordia than discors. Given the opportunity to be popular, he took it: his bibliography reveals that twenty-five out of the fifty-seven Songs of Joy, twenty-four out of forty-four poems in Foliage and seventeen out of nineteen poems in Child Lovers had already appeared elsewhere.

    Davies knew his market lay more with the open-air market than the grim-reality one, and successive editions of his poems show the number of simple, happy nature-poems increasing as the poems about life in the doss-house decrease. If the public wanted simple poetry, then they got it, and the lack of structure in his Autobiography only helped him to appeal to the supposedly helpless simplicity of tramps, an explanation often expounded by Edwardian writers struggling to understand why vagrants carried on the way they did.

    Although she also noted his shrewdness, Helen Thomas remembered that Davies bought a velvet jacket when he became a published poet because that was what poets wore, and that he would carry his groceries home inside his coat lining because he did not want anyone to know he had to do his own shopping. The poem describes the homeless asleep on a dockside at night: That moment, on the waterside A lighted car came at a bound; I looked inside, and saw a score Of pale and weary men that frowned; British Poetry in the Age of Modernism Each man sat in a huddled heap, Carried to work while fast asleep.

    Ten cars rushed down the waterside Like lighted coffins in the dark; With twenty dead men in each car, That must be brought alive by work. Yet his poems provoke contrary responses, because it is not always clear what sort of person has written them. It is like the dilemma of dealing with a persuasive beggar, knowing whether to believe the destitution or the skill in telling the story of such destitution. What sort of poet can write the sharp, direct lines that Philip Larkin respected, and also such reams of formulated, often saccharine verse?

    One solution to this problem of incompatible material has been offered by Michael Cullup, who sees Davies as a poet of realism and irony submerged by the false nature-poems encouraged by Thomas and others. Like their parodies of patriotic songs, Davies can play delicately with his own folk-song and cheerful poverty image: When I had money, money, O! My many friends proved all untrue; But now I have no money, O!

    My friends are real, though very few. But leafing through the Collected Poems, these are exceptions to the rule of quaint jollity in nature: if Davies could be such an ironic realist about bureaucracy, why did he not turn the same eye on his nature-verse? For it is of the essence of simplicity that it is without fear. The improbable, the unusual, the hackneyed, the grotesque, are not known to it by their names. These are trifles. They are the very low price which he has to pay for his freedom of the world visible and invisible. In fact, he teases his audience for getting their nature from his books: Cuckoo!

    For if Davies can write with such irony, then in the next poem he is as likely to be embarrassingly unaware of what he has just written. We did not know him. Well, good-day. Homer is said to be base-born: so is Virgil. Turn to Ly[ri]cs for a form of express[io]n that has been used for a quite diff[eren]t situ[atio]n.

    Use it Same sit[uatio]n from experience may be sung in sev[era]l forms. In this respect, an admission made in passing to a critic who accused Hardy of mixing incompatible genres in The Dynasts is telling. Such an approach to poetry is heresy for any poet after Samuel Johnson, never mind Coleridge. Few saw things as honestly as D. Such helplessness was something Hardy was keen for his readers to experience for themselves, moreover, since it is not entirely coincidental that so many of his poems begin with a line which suggests a different rhythm to the one that actually turns out to structure the poem.

    A chastened re-reading gives the verse a rushed, uncertain feel appropriate to the subject of being only temporary sojourners here, but the poem has also deliberately set its reader off on the wrong foot. Once we learn that the poem is pentameter, it gives a further ominousness to the silent, sunless beginning: in retrospect, something turns out not to have been said, as indeed it proves not to be. But the reader only learns the meaning of all these metrical exceptions after the poem has been misconstrued first.

    But the trouble with such artful illustrations of helplessness is that they are evidently carefully planned, so that the invention and effort required to make them work belies the meaning. Michael Millgate has remarked that Hardy tended to see all criticism as implacably, personally hostile, an attack on his style from those pre-committed to maintaining what he saw as a culpable blitheness about Providence.

    By and around , though, Hardy had become a mentor to a younger generation of admirers such as Edward Thomas and Walter de la Mare, who found his verse inspirational, but who were nevertheless also compelled to wrestle with their mixed feelings about its style. De la Mare continues: The style is often crustacean. He makes our English so much his own that a single quoted line betrays his workmanship.

    He forces, hammers poetry into his words; not, like most poets, charms it out of them. Let the practised poet borrow but a score of Mr. For him you were the master of living poets and he your endless disciple. Seldom does anything creep in from Nature or the spirit of humanity to give his work a something not to be accounted for in what he actually says. If Hardy meant to write as he did, then he was laying himself open to the charge of writing with stunning insensitivity towards his topic. Or rather, he talks — in the quiet voice of a modern man or woman, who finds it difficult, as modern men and women do, to put into words exactly what is in the mind.

    He is incorrect; but then how unreal and artificial a thing is correctness! He fumbles; but it is that very fumbling that brings him so near to ourselves. What a relief such uncertainties and inexpressivenesses are after the delicate exactitudes of our more polished poets. Two years after he wrote the comment above about awkwardness, Thomas was forced to apologise.

    I am referring to an article by myself in Poetry and Drama, which I daresay you have forgotten and I hope you have. I cannot think that it would seem to misrepresent deliberately. The article in the New Statesman I have not seen. But the writer who reviews verse there is a clever man too often carried away by a power to score for the moment. I should not have expected him to make such a mistake in your case.

    Why does he not think of the art of concealing art? The usual meaning is that artistic skill is so unobtrusive as to make its organising principles invisible in the work. He had fortified himself in his opinion by thinking of the analogy of architecture, between which art and that of poetry he had discovered, to use his own words, that there existed a close and curious parallel, each art unlike some others, having to carry a rational content inside its artistic form.

    For the architect, the form of the building counts for everything, the actual substance nothing: It is easy to show that the essence and soul of an architectural monument does not lie in the particular blocks of stone or timber that compose it, but in the mere forms to which those materials have been shaped. We discern in a moment that it is in the boundary of a solid — its insubstantial superficies or mould — and not in the solid itself, that its right lies to exist as art. The whole quality of Gothic or other architecture — let it be a cathedral, a spire, a window, or what not — attached to this, and not to the substantial erection which it appears exclusively to consist in.

    Those limestones or sandstones have passed into its form; yet it is an idea independent of them — an aesthetic phantom without solidity, which British Poetry in the Age of Modernism might just as suitably have chosen millions of other stones from a quarry whereon to display its beauties. Its fundamental principle, under the name of Predestination, was preached by St. The will of a man is, according to it, neither wholly free or wholly unfree. They will continue to play the piece they were playing beforehand, or something known by heart, or even if we grant some improvisation, finger chords and runs long practised.

    Without the possibility of choice, their freedom is inseparable from automatism. Everything must happen because the Will makes it so, but since it has no forethought, everything happens without a reason either. If Law itself had consciousness, how the aspect of its creatures would terrify it, fill it with remorse!

    If human events are really entirely predestined from within, how could we ever know it?

    #10 Wallace Stevens

    The more Hardy knows about the cruelties of the Will, the less British Poetry in the Age of Modernism powerful or the less immanent its determination must be, for there must be something in his knowledge that lets him know why things might be otherwise. If his poetic form really represented total predestination, in other words, no reader would ever be able to tell, and hence Hardy had to insist that his work was in no way unconscious or unforeseen, for relinquishing active consciousness would imply the utter domination of the Will. But by the same token, such consciousness gains a sense of itself only by being thwarted, so the poem must display the coerciveness of the form manipulating its material, careless and self-consciously awkward at the same time.

    The Immanent Will is indifferent to human desires, and it is exactly because this is so that conscious creatures cannot but feel it cruel. Although Hardy was a believer in Fate long before he read either of them, their ideas are often transparent in his work; the notion that humans are puppets animated by a force within, for example, is taken directly from Schopenhauer: If we conceive the human race and its activities as a whole and universally, it does not present itself to us, as when we have in view individual actions, like a puppetshow, the dolls of which are pulled by strings in the ordinary way.

    On the contrary, from this point of view, it presents itself as puppets that are set in motion by an internal clockwork. For Schopenhauer, the will must always develop itself without regard to the supposed needs and desires of its conscious subjects, because it belongs to an essentially different order of being. Unlike Kant, though, Schopenhauer thought causality as much as space and time a category of bodily intuition, so that our logic of reasons why is also limited to the phenomenal British Poetry in the Age of Modernism world, and since the will lies beyond that world, it is groundless, timeless and purposeless, an endless desire without aim or satisfaction.

    Whatever the world we experience and represent to ourselves indicates, the reality is determined by the perpetually striving will, which animates the laws of physics, biology and human desire equally, so that physical and emotional stasis or satisfaction is impossible. For Schopenhauer, we are products of this restless, aimless will, and so our whole lives are spent hopelessly desiring new things.

    However, art can be a way to escape our jail-term. Thus at the same time, the person who is involved in this perception is no longer an individual, for in such perception the individual has lost himself; he is pure, will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge. I: —9 Losing our individuality and becoming will-less, in the experience of art we gain a release from the ground of being and prepare ourselves for what Schopenhauer thought the ultimate point of his philosophy, to renounce willing altogether. This is why tragedy was such an important art-form for his system, for by revealing the hopelessness of the human situation it would compel the audience to recognise the necessity of resignation.

    Hardy thought enough of this definition to copy the passage into his literary notebook: Tragedy. As commentators have asked, where would the self-consciousness necessary to grasp the self in renunciation come from? In the course of life, these two subjects, or in popular language, head and heart, grow more and more apart; men are always separating more and more their subjective feeling from their objective knowledge. In the child the two are fully blended; it hardly knows how to distinguish itself from its surroundings; it is merged into them.

    Whose is the child you are like to bear? But, O despair! I nodded — still to tease. Thirty stanzas of 4. Death took not me. For Hardy, we always know too late, and when Schopenhauer himself makes the parallel between poetic form and predestination, his difference with Hardy is clear: A happily rhymed verse, through its indescribably emphatic effect, excites the feeling as if the idea expressed in it already lay predestined, or even preformed, in the language, and the poet had only to discover it.

    For von Hartmann too, art is a unifying of elements which, for Hardy, should be kept separate. Of this unconscious clairvoyant intelligence we have come to perceive that in its infallible purposive activity, embracing out of time all ends and means in one, and always including all necessary data within its ken, it infinitely transcends the halting, stilted gait of the discursive reflection of consciousness, ever limited to a single point, dependent on sense-perception, memory, and inspirations of the Unconscious. We shall thus be compelled to designate this intelligence, which is superior to all consciousness, at once unconscious and super-conscious.

    In fact, Hardy himself made the comparison: It works unconsciously, as heretofore, Eternal artistries in Circumstance, Whose patterns, wrought by rapt aesthetic rote, Seem in themselves Its single listless aim, And not their consequence. For if his awkwardness indicates any kind of resistance to his all-encompassing Will, by the same token he cannot claim utter helplessness.

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    One might suspect that a situation in which the same style collapses heroic resistance to Fate and utter helplessness before it is obeying the logic of the psychoanalytic symptom, a compromise between two quite opposing wishes. Such conspicuous disharmony would allow the author simultaneously to satisfy unconscious sadistic urges towards the human content while consciously blaming them on the powers that be.

    Needless to say, it is an intensely dismal poem. Schopenhauer prohibited suicide for this very reason. I looked in the glass. Am conscious of the humiliating sorriness of my earthly tabernacle, and of the sad fact that the best of parents could do no better for me. But this ability to see in the minute a cosmic despair does not mean that the minute is actually important; its meaning lies rather in the weight of attention paid to it which it cannot bear.

    To think of life passing away is a sadness; to think of it as past is at least tolerable. There is a kind of desperation in the labour and attention of the language, a striving to memorialise which only reveals how the object is already missing. In a world inspired by fate, all styles must be extraneous, for there is no intrinsic content.

    The Will is something that is both unconscious of human misery and yet always guilty for exactly that lack of awareness. Everything is predestined, and yet at the same time everything is random because the Will is unconscious. Which I for one failed not to take, And hence could stem such strain and ache As each year might assign.

    That Hardy claims he was not disappointed only underscores the fact that he believes the world owed him anything in the first place. The pointed antagonism of neutrality is revealed in the last verse: Since then, keen lessons that love deceives And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree, And a pond edged with grayish leaves. The poem closes in the present day: Wheeling change has set me again standing where Once I heard the waves huzza at Lammas-tide; But they supplicate now — like a congregation there Who murmur the Confession — I outside, Prayer denied.

    Just as he and Emma froze one another out when alive, so in death her utter unresponsiveness to him cannot but be felt as another insult in their struggles, and so poems that are ostensibly about grief at the loss of the beloved actually become a continuation of domestic arguments. Exactly as the last stanza promises to give up the argument because it is pointless, it immediately flares up again: Well, well! It must go. I seem but a dead man held on end To sink down soon. O you could not know That such swift fleeing No soul foreseeing — Not even I — would undo me so! Pretending to accept loss faster than one actually can is common among those deeply hurt, but at the same time its impoliteness marks the way the poem turns to mourning himself as if she were still within earshot.

    Even as the final sentence alters the tenor of the whole poem by acknowledging that her unwitting participation in his tragedy may not have been intended, there is a sudden irruption of domestic antagonism. Could she not know that her death would hurt him so, because not even he could know how much it would hurt? Or could she not know this because she was too insensitive to imagine it? Rather, her heedlessness and lack of discernment parallels her heedlessness now, as if death had changed nothing for her.

    This sense of continuous unawareness between life and death is strengthened when it becomes the point of another argument. And I shall not care. In an ironic re-working of Christina G. And you will not mind. But shall I then slight you because of such? Yet abides the fact, indeed the same, — You are past love, praise, indifference, blame. If something like this thought spurs the resignation of the last lines, then just as he seems to acknowledge that his indifference has been motivated, the extra stresses of the last line say the opposite.

    If he did not think of her as left behind, the implication of the second stanza is that nothing has changed: I walked up there to-day Just in the former way: Surveyed around The familiar ground By myself again: What difference, then? Only that underlying sense Of the look of a room on returning thence. It stays as it was left, Shaped to the comfort of the last to go As if to win them back. Rooms look the same on returning to them, which is how we know that we have changed.

    Such an uninterrupted transition between the two smoothes over the shock of parting, but at the price of making her unresponsiveness in death always part of the life they shared. The formal extraneousness, in other words, registers not only the unresponsiveness of its object, but the uselessness of trying to settle scores: Trust me, I mind not, though Life lours, The bringing me here; nay, bring me here again! I am just the same as when Our days were a joy, and our paths through flowers. The rocks record the transitory moment as a microsecond of geological time, and equally make their passing something written in stone.

    It is a cleaving, in the sense of a simultaneous clinging and parting of form and material, or an inseparable separation of husband and wife. If this sounds like an easy question, the answer is not always as obvious as it might be: So the church Christ was hit and buried Under its rubbish and its rubble. In cellars, packed-up saints lie serried, Well out of hearing of our trouble.

    One Virgin still immaculate Smiles on for war to flatter her. Of course not: the war has buried Christ, the gates of Hell are prevailing, and in flattering then battering the immaculate Virgin, the war is linked with blasphemy, seduction and rape; Owen was attracted to Catholicism, despite or because of his Evangelical upbringing.

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    In other words, are their close ranks a point of sympathy with the soldiers or an ironic comment? Like the ruined church it describes, this poem is a site of conflict between opposing appropriations, and like most contested territory, it The passions of Wilfred Owen thereby gains a peculiar character of its own.

    As a soldier he was torn between hatred of the war and embroilment in it; as an artist, between telling the truth and dealing with the unbearable; and as a gay man, between his unlawfully tender feelings for his fellow soldiers and the officially sanctioned killing that always framed the possibility of such intimacy. In a situation that was the opposite of autonomous, no version of aesthetics derived from that principle would ever allow him to do that situation justice, or better, render its total lack of justice palpable.

    The very incompatibilities within his poems are less to be lamented, aesthetically or morally, than recognised as somehow necessary, since the force of his protest derives from their split. In a war, a soldier will win medals for actions which in peace-time would put him in prison. He is a guilty hero and an innocent murderer, committing terrible acts for which he is, and is not, responsible.


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    • The army is therefore what makes him break the most primary social laws, and gives him an alternative society of shared loyalties to substitute for the civilian ones that have been broken. Two months later, Poetry published an essay which discusses three points that the London group agreed upon. Direct treatment of the "thing," whether subjective or objective. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.

      In addition to the previously published works of Aldington and H. Flint, H. Lawrence, and Marianne Moore. World War I broke out soon after the height of Imagism. Some poets, like Aldington, were called to serve the country, and this made the spread of Imagism difficult—as did paper shortages as a result of the war. Eventually, war poets like Wilfred Owen grew in popularity as people shifted their attention to the state of the world. After the war ended, a sense of disillusionment grew, and poems like T.

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