Sanskrit and Sanitaria

In fact, Thomas Hardy aside, turn-of-the-20th-century ‘English’ poetry of quality tended to originate outside England. William Butler Yeats, for instance, was an Irishman and wrote verse with Celtic themes, especially at the beginning of his career (see The Wanderings of Oisin and other poems (1889) and The Wind Among the Reeds (1899). Signalling the movement away from nostalgic-revolutionary Pre-Raphaelite tendencies (in poetry this meant Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his circle) and towards what became known as Modernism. The most important (and certainly the most self-important) movement in 20th century poetry, Modernism in poetic form begins with American Thomas Stearns Eliot’s Prufrock and other Observations (1917) and the poetry of his fellow American and (later) collaborator Ezra Pound. It was a movement born of disillusionment and intellectual fury, and this is keenly felt in the Modernist novels of Polish Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness (1899) etc.) and Irishman James Joyce (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) especially). Much of the success of Eliot and Pound can be put down to the sheer newness of their writing, integrating foreign tongues and forms, rebelling in lonely intolerance against foolishness and the stagnant waters of post World War I Britain; but also to the fact that they took it upon themselves to become the major critics of the age (and in Eliot’s case a director of poetry publishers Faber). Pound severely but beneficially edited down his friend’s first masterpiece, The Waste Land (1922). It confirmed Eliot as the foremost voice of his generation with its free but often terrifyingly bleak and pessimistic images of a corrupt London. The complex and philosophical Four Quartets (published in complete form 1943) is now seen as Eliot’s crowning achievement and is less experimental than its predecessors. There is nothing in the way of Sanskrit phrases and impressionist verse to deal with. Instead, we are given of a sense of sympathy and humanity - qualities the Anglo- American Modernist movement tended to lack.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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