Beginning of modernist poetry (1901-1918)

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      Queen Victoria died in 1901 and her son Edward VII ascended the throne. New spirit, new leaven came in society with modernist poetry. Arnold in his prophetic vision described the main currents of change to as follows:

"All things begin again;
Life is their prize;
Earth with, their deeds they fill, it
Fill with their cries."

 

Towards the closer the century, a series of crises afflicted British trade and agriculture. The industrial supremacy of the country was seriously threatened by France, Germany and the United States.
Modernism

      Victorian age was one of optimism and solid self-satisfaction. It was an age of industrial progress, democratic, expansion, enterprise and the rise of dynamic middle class. The Jubilee of 1887 elicited Tennyson's enthusiastic admiration for:

"Fifty years of ever-broadening Commerce!
Fifty years of ever-brightening Science!
Fifty years of ever-widening Empire."

      Towards the closer the century, a series of crises afflicted British trade and agriculture. The industrial supremacy of the country was seriously threatened by France, Germany and the United States. The Boer war (1899-1902) marks the end of an epoch in the national life. The faith and complacency of the middle class were severely shaken, and its cherished ideals of economic progress and domestic life were subjected to severe critical scrutiny.

      The close of the century was characterised by an extra-ordinary social and intellectual ferment. The questioning spirit bred a sense of disillusionment and scepticism and destroyed the certainties of the Victorian faith and way of life. Thinkers like Shaw, Samuel Butler and H. G. Wells shocked the Victorian ideals of stability and satisfaction.

      Poetry took no heed of the growing crisis and withdrew from the national and political issues into a kind pastoralism and romantic worship of beauty and love. The new century inaugurated no revolution in poetry. The decadent strain in poetry weakened and died out. The imperialist strain of Kipling had been exhausted. The great names in poetry were Hardy, Bridges and Yeats who had begun work in the previous period. Kipling and Masefield though they introduced a new and racy vigour into poetry were still the traditionalists. The highly original works of Walter de la Mare caught faint echoes of the earlier dreams, particularly Coleridge. The catholic tradition was continued by Alice Meynell.

      The Pre-Raphaelite tradition survived in the poetry of Gordon Bottomley. Yet, there were eager searches for new forms, new imaginations, new style which made themselves felt in the poetry of imagists. Imagists, too, disappeared and new war poetry of Rupert Brooke, Owen, Sassoon came to dominate the literary scene. However, T. S. Eliot's Prufrock and other Observations (1917) with the Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1909-1911) already appeared. Hopkins's poetry with technical innovations was published by Robert Bridges by 1916 (The Spirit of Man) and 1918 (collected edition).

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