Georgian Poetry of Modernism Literature

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      By 1900 a definite reaction from the Decadent poetry of the nineties had begun. The Decadent poets acting on Pater's doctrine of 'art for art's sake, had shut their eyes to the grim realities of life; had found what was worth-saying and dealt with trivial subjects in ornamental and highly musical verse. At this stage came the 'Georgian' poets with a new programme to stimulate and renovate poetry. They had one positive aim, namely to treat natural things in a natural and beautiful way that is neither too modern, nor an imitation of lofty strains of the Victorian poets. The first volume of Georgian Poetry came out in (1911-1912) and Edward Marsh in his preface to the volume claimed that "English poetry was once again putting on a new strength and beauty," Five such volumes followed at intervals up to 1922, when came the onslaught of the new rising generation who declared that the Georgians were writing nice poetry for nice people and called for a change.

At this stage came the 'Georgian' poets with a new programme to stimulate and renovate poetry.
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      Now, the term 'Georgians', as applied to this group of poets, is evidently a misnomer, for many of the contributors of these volumes of poetry were Edwardians. When the elders dies, new ones came in to fill the blank. The Georgians form no school of poetry. They no doubt broke new grounds by their rejection of the ideals of the 'Decadents', their quest for simplicity and reality, their love of natural beauty, as was found in the English landscape, and their adherence to the traditional forms and techniques of poetry. They found the countryside lovely and distant lands enchanting and wrote fine poetry on these. But they saw nature only in her gentler and more benign aspects. They found childhood innocence and a fit subject for poetic treatment. Thus thinking and feeling they were quite blind to the storm and stress of the times that finally broke out in a war in 1914. Little did they know of the tension of mind and spirit that troubled the new generation. Or if they felt it they escaped from it into the worship of Nature and Beauty. Nothing seemed to them to be complex, everything was as plain as broad daylight. Nearly all that they wrote came from the conscious level of their well-regulated minds. For these limitations they received a jolt from the imagists, who ousted them. Nevertheless, within their limits the Georgians produced much satisfying poetry. Prof. Bullough described this poetry as the "Indian summer of romance" but it had more light than heat.

      The 'Georgians', as we have already noted, formed no school of poetry. Many of the elder poets Hardy, Bridges and Yeats were still great names in the poetry of the period. Among the new poets who preferred to call themselves 'Georgians', many followed the older tradition. Thus Gibson harked back to Wordsworth and Gordon Bottomley followed the Pre-Raphaelite tradition. W. H. Davies and Walter de la Mare are unique figures in this poetry. The former felt the stress of the industrial life of the times which made it difficult to enjoy leisure, 'to stand and state'. With a kind of childlike innocence and simplicity he (W. H. Davies) looked at the lovely face of Nature and piped his joy in her like a bird. Yet it would be a mistake to think that he only sang sweet songs of the countryside. In his Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, which tells the story of his. life, he looked at the reverse side of life and his delight was balanced by a rage at the poverty, pain and evil passion of the times.

      Walter De La Mare is the poet of childhood and the dream-world and these two lie close by in his imagination. In his Songs of Childhood he sees the world with the wondering eye of a child ; here fairies and phantoms consort with bunnies, hares, etc. His psychological insight is in evidence in the treatment of the supernatural. It is the method of the old master Coleridge, namely dim suggestions and vividness of pictures that he employs in The Listeners poems. Rupert Brooke was the guiding spirit of this group and had the purest spirit of a poet like Keats His command of music and diction as displayed in his pre-war poems gave him the interest of a promising figure but his life was cut short.

      Two other poets of the group who deserve special mention are J.E. Flecker and John Drinkwater. Flecker had worked in the consular service in the Middle East and this gave him a knowledge of the exotic lands, which resulted in his oriental poems The Golden journey of Samarkand. He was a true poet and his singing voice marked him out from the other Georgians. John Drinkwater was a typical Georgian, who sustained the Georgian mood into and through the First World War, with nostalgic love of the peaceful English countryside in contrast to the horrors of the trenches. His cultured pastoralism untroubled by the tension of the times gave a distinction to his work and made him popular. His poems by their colour and easy rhythms evoke an agreeable impression of the quiet country scenes. He also wrote famous plays of which Abraham Lincoln is the most popular.

      Among other Georgian poets, John Masefield, Alfred Noyes, Lascelles Abercrombie, Harold Edward Monro are remarkable. John Masefield was the first English poet to be a genuine deep-water seaman. His best poems celebrate a sailor's life with an infectious lilt of the sea-chant. The sonnet Sea-Fever is a good example of Masefield's rhythm. The Everlasting Mercy (1911) created Masefield's first big sensation. Reynard the Fox (1919) is the climax of Masefield's works. In a vigorous four-beat line Masefield offers perhaps the best depiction in verse of the English countryside and countrymen centred about a fox-hunt. The poem is influenced by Chaucer and Masefield shows Chaucer's energy and humour.

      Alfred Noyes (1880-1958) wrote The Highwayman and The Barrel Organ which earned him a popularity beyond that of any of his contemporaries. His best work is the epic Drake (1908) in twelve books of rollicking verse upon the maritime England of the first Elizabeth.

      Lascelles Abercrombie (1881-1938) wrote The Sale of St. Thomas (1911 in part, 1930 in toto) which was much praised. Emblems of Love (1912) explores all manifestations of love. His critical work The Theory of Poetry and The Idea of Great Poetry established him as the most significant critic since Matthew Arnold.

      Harold Edward Monro (1879-1932) has been praised by T. S. Eliot for his Collected Poems (1933). He is at his best in his lyrics. He is however condemned as a poet by intention rather than intuition. The term 'Georgian Poetry' refers to the period of George V, and was given prominence in the five volumes, Georgian Poetry edited by Edward Marsh. Many of the poets in this group tended to portray the quiet countryside. The growing importance of the 'modernist' movement overpowered the Georgians. Recently interest in their work has been revived.

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