Between War : development of Poetry

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      The first two decades of the new century, were rather Bleak in so far as poetry is concerned. The elder poets from the previous age were still the great masters in poetry and in spite of some new developments they wrote poetry in the old traditional manner. Thus Hardy, Masefield, Bridges, Walter De La Mare were still writing though in some ways their poetry felt the impact of the spirit of the new age.  The war-poets had produced some good work but when the war frenzy was over, most of them were regarded with a sceptical lifting of the eyebrow by the new generation.

The Modernism poetry in the hands of the new generation of poets who wrote in the post-war period struck a note of revolt against all the standards that had governed English poetry since the Romantic revival.
War Poetry

      The need for a new and living poetical tradition had been already expressed by Yeats and he had pointed the way. Thus poetry had once again come to its own, sharing of course, the place of supremacy with fiction which had once ousted it. Once again there was the outburst of the spring of poetry, with a rich flowering. As Albert has put it - "Poetry again became a vital literary form closely in touch with life and if it did not oust the novel from its primacy, it certainly outstripped the drama".

      The Modernism poetry in the hands of the new generation of poets who wrote in the post-war period struck a note of revolt against all the standards that had governed English poetry since the Romantic revival. Hulme, the founder of the imagist school condemned even the best of the romantic poets as 'sloppy'. This revolt was the taproot of modernism in English poetry but it drew its sustenance from several other sources. The first of these is the new science of psycho-analysis of Freud, who revealed the unsuspected extent to which the flow of thought (conscious mind) is determined by forgotten memories and repressed instincts, mostly sexual, residing in the subconscious mind.

      Thus Eliot in his early poems probed deep into the inner mind of his characters and brought to light the secret thought of the human character which found expression in his poetic descriptions, called by the new name of "internal monologue", The second was the political influence - Marxism, a doctrine that opened a new heaven to the mental horizon of the young poets of the thirties (Auden and his group). There were also literary influences. The French symbolism which sought to purge poetry of all foreign matter and stood for pure poetry was the first.

      There was also the influence of the English poets, notably Hopkins and Donne (the 'metaphysical'). Hopkins's view is that form and not matter is the principle of individualism. It is this inner form or uniqueness which he called 'inscape' that he made his chief aim to express. All his endeavours lead him to take strange liberties with the English language use of dialect, invented or coined words, long compound words, breaking of order, syntax construction, inversions, etc. His experiment with 'sprung rhythm' is a daring innovation. These were highly influential upon the new generation.

      John Donne was probably the greater influence than Hopkins. The new generation, grown sick of the smoothness and simplicity of the Georgians felt a great attraction to Donne's harshness, intellectual energy, wit, daring imagery and philosophical temper. This influence is clearly discernible in the works of Eliot and his followers. But then there was a difference. As Ward had humorously put it: "But whereas salvation through Christ and damnation through sin were the alpha and omega of John Donne and the Puritans, salvation through Marx and damnation through capitalism were favoured as substitutes in the nineteen thirties. The Communist Manifesto displaced the Thirty-Nine Articles" (Eliot being the exception).

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