Indian English Poetry in English Literature


The first Indian English poet, by common consent, is Henry Derozio, who published his collection of Poems in Calcutta in 1827. But, perhaps, even this was neither as sudden nor dramatic as it may seem today. Indians had begun to lean English in earnest at least twenty-five years prior to that and some had ever.

M. K. Naik in his extremely useful History of Indian English Literature (1982) refers to Cavelley Venlcata Boriah's "Account of the Jains" published in Asiatic Researches (London, 1809) as the first substantial published composition in English by an Indian. This essay was actually written even earlier, probably in 1803. Boriah's essay, twenty-eight pages in length, uses translation, yet it retains a historical importance as the first sizeable piece of writing in Indian English. The credit for the first original English composition by an Indian goes to Raja Rammohun Roy, for his essay, A Defense of Hindu Theism 1517. Indian English poetry did not emerge suddenly, without any prior preparation; a community of Indians who knew and used English was necessary before it could be born. Indeed, in my Introduction to Indian Poetry in English (1993)


Before Indians could write poetry in English, two related preconditions had to be met. First, the English language had to be sufficiently Indianized to be able to express the reality of the Indian situation; secondly, Indians had to be sufficiently Anglicized to use the English language to express themselves" (1). Perhaps, we should spend some time trying to examine and understand these two preconditions. After Vasco da Gama came to Kerala in 1498, the trade routes to India over the high seas opened up. With trade, several Indian words made their way into Portuguese, thence into English, especially after the charter of the East India Company in 1600. The British presence in India, however, remained marginal for another hundred or 150 years. But towards the end of the 18th century, after the East Indian Company transformed itself from a trading company into an incipient empire, a number of Englishmen and women began to use the English language to express Indian themes and subject matter. It was the Battle of Plassey of 1757 which was the turning point in early colonial history because it gave the British virtual control of one of the richest and most populous provinces of India, Bengal. Soon, the revenue administration also passed into the hands of the British. This forced them to undertake a systematic study of land records and other official documents so that they could rule more effectively. This, coupled with a curiosity to understand a culture as rich and ancient as India's, gave rise to a whole tradition of British Orientalist scholarship.
Indian English Literature
Many of these scholars who were high-ranking British officials, well-trained in British universities, were assisted by native pundits and scribes in their efforts to understand and interpret Indian texts and traditions. The Asiatic Society in 1784, translated Kalidasa's Shakuntala in 1789, and demonstrated the remarkable similarities between Indian and European languages. Jones may also be considered as the "pitamaha" if not "father" of Indian English poetry because he published a series of hymns to Hindu gods and goddesses in English, thereby showing that the English language was suitable to express even such traditional Indian themes. These hymns to Caindeo, Prakriti, Indra, Surya, Lakshmi, Narayana, Saraswathy, and Ganga, though they sound quaint, bookish, and artificial today, may be considered as the real precursors to Indian English poetry.
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The Anglicization of the Indians or, at any rate, of a certain section of the Indians which came into direct contact with the British, was an ongoing process, which grew in direct proportion to the rise of British power in India. In the beginning, the British tried to encourage traditional scholarship in India. Warren Hastings, the Governor General of Bengal, founded the Calcutta Madrasa for the teaching of Arabic and Persian in 1781. Similarly, Jonathan Duncan started the Sanskrit College in Benares in 1782. Those who favored the promotion of native education in the classical languages of India came to be called the Orientalists. But, by the turn of the century, the tide of public opinion had changed in England. The Conservatives lost power to the Liberals; utilitarian ideas were in the air. Ironically, Conservatives like Edmund Burke had a higher opinion of Indian civilization than Liberals like Macaulay. There was also a rise in Evangelical movements, which aimed at spreading Christianity in India Indian English Poetry.
The Liberals and the Evangelists, then, became unlikely allies in the mission Background of revamping Indian civilization. Both attacked Indian civilization and Hinduism, from secular and religious considerations respectively. Schools set up by the missionaries were already teaching English by the beginning of the 19th century; now the imperialists too began to champion the cause of English education in India. English was seen as an aid to establishing the empire. In the end, the tussle between the Orientalists and the Anglicizes resulted in the victory of the latter, signed, sealed and delivered, as it were, in the famous Minute of Macaulay of 1835. Let us look, briefly, at the background and the content of the Minute. In 18 13 the British Parliament passed an Act by which a sum of Rs. 1 lac was to be set aside "for the revival and promotion of literature and the encouragement of the learned natives of India, and for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the sciences among the residents of the British territories."

Indian English Poetry : Macaulay

 Thomas Babington Macaulay, as Member of the Council of India, headed the committee, which looked into the question of how this money was to be spent. His Minute of 2 February 1833 was decisive in tilting the scale in favour of English education. Macaulay shows his poor opinion of Eastern civilization by declaring that "a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia." Macaulay, quite truthfully, admitted that he had himself had no knowledge of Sanskrit or Arabic, but that he had formed this opinion, on the basis of the translations he had read and the learned experts he had consulted. At any rate, Macaulay's assertion reflects not only imperial arr6gance and self-assurance on an astonishing scale, but also his faith in the transformative role of English in India. He says that English can do for India what the revival of classical learning did for Europe during the renaissance or what the languages of Western Europe did for Russia. For him, English had civilizing and modernizing mission in India. Macaulay was already aware of the growing power and spread of the English language and almost anticipated its present eminence. He also observed that Indians seemed to have a special affinity for English, a language they mastered more easily than other Europeans themselves. He hoped that the new education system would "form a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, morals, and in intellect." Macaulay was also an extremely practical man, who noted how scholars of Arabic and Sanskrit had to be paid to study these languages, while the demand for English was actually increasing day by day.

Macaulay, despite his imperial agenda, in fact had a good deal of support from Indians themselves. Rammohun Roy, one of the leading intellectuals and social reformers, had helped establish an Association to promote European learning and science as far back as 1816. The next year, the Hindu College, the first modem institution of higher education in India, was founded. When the debate over the future of education in India was raging, Roy wrote a letter to Lord Amherst, the then governor-general. In this letter of 11 December 1823, Roy protested against the establishment of a Sanskrit College in Calcutta and pleaded instead for "a more liberal and enlightened system of instruction, embracing mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry and anatomy, with other useful sciences." Roy's letter, no doubt, had a profound and far-reaching effect because we find distorted echoes of his letter in Macaulay's minute itself. But a careful reading of Roy's submission shows that what he wanted was modem, technical education, and not necessarily English literary education. Roy, in fact, favoured primary and secondary education in the vernaculars, but also wanted Indians to learn English and progress in modem learning. What Macaulay delivered instead was a more textual and literary type of education, with very little emphasis on practical arts and technical subjects.
In 1857 the three universities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, one in each of the three presidencies of the Empire, were established. With that, English education became deeply entrenched in India. As Macaulay had desired, a new class was created who were perfectly at home both in the English language and English culture. Naturally, it was from this class that Indian English writers came.

Social and Political Changes

INDIAN ENGLISH POETRY, The Portuguese intervention in India was essentially different from the British because it was, informed by a different type of imperial ideology. Military conquest, conversion, and profit-in that order--were its motivations. In other words, it was a more traditional form of imperialism. In areas such as Goa where Portuguese rule was consolidated, the native culture was altered more radically than where British colonization thrived. The Portuguese conquest of Indian territories was accomplished with much more bloodshed and naked violence than the British. What the Portuguese sought to do was to impose their own religion and culture on the Indians, so as to create a new kind of society in the East. In the ultimate analysis, their impact was limited when compared with the astonishing success of the British Empire that followed it. Background One reason for this is that the conquest of India could not be effected merely through an assertion of cultural or military superiority. When Britain conquered India later, it was not just another country or culture defeating ours; that is, it was not just the triumph of Britain or Europe, but of modernity. Britain won because it was, powered. By a different kind of engine and a different kind of energy. Ascendant Europe had learned to capture the hidden powers of nature itself; the Industrial Revolution of the 1780s and the years of preparation which preceded it, gave Britain a technological, military, and therefore cultural, advantage over India which was, perhaps, unprecedented. Though Portuguese rule gave way to British rule, it did make a significant impact on the mind of India and Europe. For nearly a 100 years, things Eastern in general came to Europe mediated through the Portuguese language and people, most early Indian lexical borrowings in European languages, including English. That is, the first Indian words in English came via the Portuguese language. But on the Indian side too, Europe, especially Roman Catholicism, came to be nativised in a unique new community in Goa. This community of Indian Christians played an important role in the modernization of India. Our first Indian English poet himself.

Indian English Poetry Henry Derozio

Henry Derozio, belonged to this community. Derozio is probably a shortened version of Derozario, a common Portuguese surname, which several converted Hindus adopted. Francis Derozio, Henry's fither, is referred to as "a native Protestant" in Church records and also as a Portuguese merchant. Both these clues suggest that Derozio's father was a product of the Indo-Portuguese encounter. Other Indian English poets such as Dom Moraes, Eunice de Souza, and Charmayne D'Souza also belong to this community of Goan Christians.

Portuguese colonialism in India failed, or at any rate succeeded only partially. One reason for this was that it was very narrow-minded and limited in its approach and methods. In a sense, then, it a presented the conservative face of Europe. In Europe itself, the hegemony of the Roman Catholic Church, which had conspired to divide the vast territories of the New World, between two countries, Spain and Portugal, was being challenged. Both the Dutch and the English were challenging Spain, as the rising tide of Protestantism was challenging the Roman Catholic Church itself. The charter of the East India Company took place during the reign of one of Britain's greatest monarchs, Queen Elizabeth, as did the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 by Britain, which marked a decisive point in the rise of British power. Over the next 250 years, Britain would emerge as the greatest power not only in Europe, but also in the whole world. British imperialism backed as it was by a more modem and secular outlook, started by concentrating on trade. It had a policy of non-interference with the religious and cultural traditions of the people it conquered. Conquest itself was not the aim to begin with but was almost thrust upon the East India Company in its fight to protect its trade interests. The volatile political situation after the fall of the Mogul empire gave John Company (as the East India Company was popularly known) a unique opportunity to meddle in the affairs of the warring Indian princes. The Company Poetry used its leverage as a seemingly neutral outsider to its advantage. After its trading settlements in Surat and Hoogly were attacked, it began to fortify them and to arm itself. It raised an army mostly by recruiting local mercenaries and training them in modem, European methods of warfare.

The Battle of Plassey in 1757

The Battle of Plassey in 1757 in which a small but well-trained army of Indians, led by a small band of British officers under Robert Clive, defeated the huge but divided army of Siraj-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Bengal. The model of this battle can be seen in that uniquely Indian tribute to the Raj, the Victoria Memorial, in Calcutta. It has already mentioned how the Battle of Plassey inaugurated a series of military victories for the British, culminating in an almost unprecedented paramount over the whole of the Indian sub-continent. It was through this conquest that India bore the full brunt of Western or, more properly, modem culture.
This impact was as extensive and thoroughgoing as entirely to transform Indian society. Such an upheaval, perhaps, had no parallel in Indian history. Even the impact of Muslim rule in India had arguably been less farreaching. It is not for us to analyses or describe this impact in great detail. That would not only be outside the scope of such a course, but also somewhat tangential to our central concern, which is with Indian English poetry. After all, you may say that Indian English poetry does not really engage directly with British colonialism or with several of its effects, which we have been trying to understand just now. True, there may be few poems exclusively about racism, imperialism, nationalism or what we may call the "master narratives" of our times. But nearly every poem in our course will deal with these issues, either directly or indirectly. For instance, there are a great number of contemporary poems on poverty, violence, the urban condition, and so on. Well, these realities arise partly out of our colonial heritage. In fact, the condition of India, which was and remains a major preoccupation of our thinkers, scholars, intellectuals, and artists, was very much on the mind of our first Indian English poet, Derozio.
 He wrote sonnets lamenting the fall of India. It is precisely this fall, from which we have yet to recover fully and which was the major outcome of the colonial intervention. Let me clarify that to regard colonialism from such a standpoint is by no means innocent. It is informed by its own politics, which to some may seem outdated or even dangerous. For a variety of reasons, it has become difficult to espouse a simplistic nationalism in these days. Indeed, that is not my intent.
In those days, there were many who agreed with the British that colonialism was a civilizing and modernizing force and therefore, ultimately, beneficial. In fact, there were many that tended to see in it not just a blessing in disguise but an act of providence. Some Hindu nationalists, for instance, were of the view that British rule saved Hindus from the domination of Muslims, allowed them to recoup their strength, and eventually regain their lost nation. There were and are what we may term as modernizers who also believed that British rule ushered in liberal values and helped us reform a corrupt and decadent traditional order.

Indian English Poetry : Gandhi

Gandhi believed that traditional Indian civilization, at least in its basic orientation, was not just sound and therefore worth conserving, but, in many ways, superior to modem civilization. Gandhi argued that our traditional civilization was essentially moral, or to use a more apt term, Dharmic, as such it gave its adherents a coherent way of life. Modem civilization, on the other hand, is inherently violent and materialistic. According to Gandhi, it encourages vice and selfishness. Furthermore, it had the, capacity for renewal and regeneration. As opposed to this, Rammohun Roy, in his letter to Lord Amherst. 

INDIAN ENGLISH POETRY, India was badly in need for modem, especially technical know-how from the West. While Roy's and Gandhi's views are not necessarily antithetical or mutually exclusive, clearly they show a different emphasis. For Gandhi, the primary yardstick of measuring the success or the merit of a civilization was the extent to which its inhabitants had achieved a high moral stature. Roy was more concerned with economic and technological advancement of the modem sort, what came to be known as development in 20th century parlance. The members of "Young Bengal," a radical group, mostly composed of students of Hindu College, many of whom, incidentally, were also pupils of Derozio, advocated the destruction of the older order that is of Hinduism itself, before anything new could come up in India. They saw India as totally insufficient if she had to rely only on her native sources.
Rabindranath Tagore offers yet another perspective in this debate. He advocated a more liberal, even cosmopolitan or Universalist approach. His views are often thought of as an. Endorsement of a synthesis between the best of the East and the West. However, as Sri Aurobindo clearly shows in Foundations of Indian Culture, a half-baked or weak- ' kneed synthesis is tantamount to capitulation. Later, of course, as British imperialism became more and more repressive, Tagore revised his opinions somewhat. Though he supported the national struggle for independence led by Gandhi, he differed with the latter on key issues. Both often aired their differences in public but never lost their love and respect for one another. Whatever view we may take on the Indo-British encounter, it is important to bear in mind that British rule in India was not just oppressive, but highly exploitative. It was an iniquitous system in which India's surplus wealth was systematically extracted and expropriated by Britain. The enormous inflow of capital from the colonies, arguably, helped in Britain's own process of rapid industrialization and development. India, as we know from our own personal experience, was impoverished, became within the space of 200 years, one of the poorest and most backward countries in the world. Not too long ago, it was one of the richest and most advanced. There may have been a variety of other factors, which contributed to India's impoverishment, but colonialism was the chief of these.
Indian English Drama
INDIAN ENGLISH POETRY, A simple proof of the horrors of colonialism is the fact that throughout the history of British rule, famines struck the country with predictable regularity, almost once in ten years. The most devastating of these, of course, is the great Bengal famine of 1943 in which more than 3 million people died. Ironically, this famine was not caused by drought or crop failure, but was entirely man-made. It was caused by the British war policies. Amartya Sen, the Nobel-prize winning economist, was growing up at that time; what he saw and experienced then. Influenced his career choice and work later on. Apart from the drain of India's economic resources, which resulted in a number of ' other side effects, British imperialism almost destroyed India's belief in itself, its self-confidence. It was as if the backbone of this ancient civilization was broken; it began to see itself as a hopeless failure, a miserable wretch.

A good deal of this inferiority complex persists to this day. India's poverty and cultural "cringe" also encouraged some of the worst traditions and practices to gather strength. The best example, perhaps, is Sati, which reached epidemic proportions in Bengal, precisely during British rule. Now, it is often thought that the British took great pains to abolish this evil and that we must be grateful to them for this. That is, the abolition of Sati is seen as the triumph of benevolent modernity, with its notions of human rights and equality, exemplified by British rule, over the irrational and inhuman customs of the Hindus, who therefore are superstitious and barbaric. But such a view begs the more fundamental question of which the incidence of Sati rose to such unprecedented proportions during the benevolent rule of the British. Nowjere else in India did the numbers even remotely resemble those of British Bengal. Again, before British ascendancy, Sati was not so prevalent even in Bengal itself. 

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Victorian Age English Literature for UGC NET

Victorian Age
Victorian Age , So for the topic that we have in the Victorian poets will be going to read about the all type of poetry in this age
In the first generation poets of the Victorian age Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning was born in the beginning of the century like Tennyson was 1809 and Browning 1812.

Now between these two poets  Victorian poetry expresses itself into very different colors whereas Tennyson was more conservative more giving to looking to the past and so obviously there is lot of nostalgia in his poetry Nostalgia for what was and there is no longer end.

Victorian poetry it is a key for the poetry and it runs through entire log not nearly Tennyson Browning to Arnold also.

Victorian Age – Romantic Age
All the major poets reflect the mood of the time the reason for this mood almost despondence a mood which was sad and overburden with something preciously lost. 
Something lost forever and something lost forever something precious and at the same time last forever so it is this mood which is reflected of in the poetry of the Tennyson and Browning and two different faces of poets now behind all this.
In the Romantic Age early 19th century we had lot of radicalism enthusiasm and we had the spirit of the French Revolution so ideas of equality freedom democracy so and so forth but then in the later 19th century which is 1837 because romantic age was 1798 to 1837.
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Victorian age between 1837 and 1895

Victorian age between 1837 and 1895 end of the century that is the period of the Victorian age now during this age some very important have happened.
one was in 1837 the first reformed bill and in the 1865.
second Reform bill so both the Reform bill came up during this period of the Victorian age now these two bills change the entire scenario of the Victorian age 

1837 gave voting right to the common people 1865 to the workers of show the working class the lowermost section of the society they were given the voting right in the process of workers.

Right to Vote for Women
Show the workers extended to the grassroot but here one thing is important even until 65 no voting right for rights for women’s.
Even workers had the right but not women of the high class had no voting right and it took another 50 years to obtain that women had to struggle.
In 1922 after World War 1 the women got the voting right but male workers had got it in 1865 so this was the one important thing that happened during the Victorian age

Darwin Charles Darwin

The theory of evolution he gave the theory of evolution shocking common people particularly those who are committed to Christianity into religion overall show shock was the
 Darwin said "there is nothing special about man" because Christianity would say "the man was the special creation of God, and God creates the man in his own image".

Man as God
The Man as God in Victorian Age , But then there is shock at the mid-century when Darwin said it is all the evolution of the species and man is came from the monkey, album management all man is monkey now that was quite shock.
Because all those Noble ideas great ideas about God and Goddesses and man being descendant of the god now that was gone at the time it was shocked.

So they came about which is popularly known the Victorian compromise
The Victorians were not radical like this like the romantics they were not route to follow their own inspiration their own dream even at the at the cost of movies in the society losing the society and become and exile like Byron Shelley and Keats they left their own society and became exiles but the Victorians was not radical in that sense they were not ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of one thing so there was of acceptance whatever comes accepted so they have to compromise between Darwin and Christ on the 

One hand the Christian religion giving thoughts of ideas about how Christ sacrifice and how we are Children of God so on

Find the other we are came from the monkeys so between these two divisions had to strike a compromise and therefore the acceptance the solubility of "man is not God like".
Between science and the compromise between science and religion

Between the lofty ideals and the hard and unpalatable facts of life of evolution because those ideas which based upon an experiments and experiments were devoted to the lifetime.

Industrial there is nothing else with the dedication they come off with the approval facts about human life had not join to accept that all but at the same time they did not want to reject outright in their herited it's a really religion:  its values what is what is done what is not to be done what is good what is not good so here come soon Victorian compromise

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Lyrical Ballads Summary



The Lyrical Ballads was a volume of poems which was first issued anonymously by Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798. The two had met in 1795 and there was a mutual recognition of genius. Both poets believed that verse stripped of high literary contrivance and written in the language of the lower and middle classes could express the fundamentals of human nature. The first volume of 1798 was published with a short 'Foreword' in which Wordsworth stated very briefly the main points of his argument. The second edition was published in 1800 with many new poems added, and a much longer and more detailed Preface. It was revised and expanded in 1802 with significant additions about the definition of the poet and the universality and value of poetry.

The Preface is a revolutionary critical statement from a poet deeply imbued with the sense of a mission to free poetry from a hackneyed and artificial style of writing and take it nearer to life as it is actually lived and make it an authentic expression of sincere feeling and mode of experience. Without undoing the past or forsaking the healthy elements of his tradition, Wordsworth is effecting a break and inaugurating a new era in poetry.


To the question: 'What is poetry'? Wordsworth's answer is:

. . .all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: but though this be true, poems to which any value can be attached, were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man, who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply. For our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of all our past feelings; and, as by contemplating the relation of these general representatives to each other we discover. what is really important to men, so, by the repetition and continuance of this act, our feelings will be connected with important subjects, till at length, if we be originally possessed of much sensibility, such habits of mind will be produced, that, by obeying blindly and mechanically the impulses of those habits, we shall describe objects, and utter sentiments of such a nature and in such connection with each other, that the understanding of the being to whom we address ourselves, if he be in a healthful state of association, must necessarily be in some degree enlightened, and his affections ameliorated.
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Lyrical Ballads Summary, As is obvious, the emphasis in this statement is on spontaneous expression but the role of the rational mind, of premeditation, of getting accustomed to a particular mode of thinking and feeling, is duly recognized. Poetry is not the turning loose of emotions and feelings. Feelings are continuously directed by thoughts or, in Eliot's words, the poet thinks his feelings and feels his thoughts. Wordsworth's own practice, as a poet, of letting an emotion or a complex of feelings settle and mature gradually until they are ripe for delivery, and of revising his poetic compositions is an illustration of this idea. He himself modifies his definition of poetry in a later passage of the Preface:
I have said poetry 1s the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility. Hence two things arc to be observed: spontaneity and powerful feeling. The one ensures unhindered experience of the other an energy which conveys feeling 'spontaneously'.

Thus poetry is not lifeless artistry or mere craftsmanship as the imitative-rationalist aesthetic of the eighteenth century generally pre-supposed; it originates from and is sustained by a genuine and sincere personal feeling and, paradoxically, in this lies its universal appeal. As Wordsworth wrote in his 'Essay Supplementary to the Preface' I (of the 18 15 edition of his poems), -poetry is 'the reflection of the wisdom of the heart and the grandeur of the imagination.' Such a poetry touches the deepest chords in man and has a humanizing and sensitizing effect. Wordsworth elaborates:
Aristotle I have been told has said, that poetry is the most philosophic of all writing: it is so: its object is truth, not individual and local but general and operative; not standing upon external testimony, but carried alive into the heart by passion; truth which is its own testimony, which gives competence and confidence to the tribunal to which it appeals, and receives them from the same tribunal. Poetry is the image of man and nature, Lyrical Ballads Summary.


Wordsworth identifies three main characteristics of a poet. First, he is exceptionally sensitive 'endued with more than lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness.... And a more comprehensive soul than are supposed to be common among mankind.' This enables him not only to feel that which happens to him personally but also to experience vicariously that which may happen to others. Secondly, he is 'a man speaking to men,' that is to say, poetry is not mere self-indulgence and that the poet is a social being with a responsibility. A great poet ought to rectify men's feelings, to give them new compositions of feeling, to render their feelings more sane, pure and permanent. This was later on developed by Wordsworth into a doctrine:
 'Every great poet is a teacher. I wish either to be considered a teacher or as nothing.'
This is not crude didacticism but a way of describing the humanizing influence of poetry. Thirdly, the poet is endowed with an extraordinarily strong imagination so that he is affected by absent things as if they were present. Wordsworth himself possessed a very strong imagination so that the beauteous forms seen by him once were ever present to his mind's eye and could induce appropriate feelings and states of mind. Wordsworth sees the poet as a man who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility has also thought long and deeply. The good poet needs to weld the two qualities of thought and feeling. The one will not work without the other. The poet is different from other men not in the kind but in the degree of his qualities.


The 'Preface' to the Lyrical Ballads puts forward Wordsworth's theory of poetic diction which has occasioned a lot of controversy ever since it was first elaborated. The main thesis has never been questioned but Wordsworth's casual remarks around it and his practical application of the theory have been subjected to severe criticism. The crux of the theory is the seminal Romantic view that poetic style is organic and not prescriptive. There should be a correlation between the creative language and the form that is given to it. As Wordsworth wrote in his 'Essay on Epitaphs', language is not the dress of thought but its incarnation. Since every poet's mode of experience is peculiar to him, it will find expression in a style appropriate to it. Consequently no general poetic style can be prescribed for all poets to follow. This principle, Wordsworth found, was violated by those of his predecessors who stuck to a general poetic diction characterised by known stylistic devices and figures of speech. These devices and figures of speech, when used by the first poets, must have Seen quite natural. The earliest poets wrote naturally, feeling powerfully, in a figurative language. Their decadent successors, in the neo-classical age, however, took their style as an infallible model and imitated it artificially. Gray said that 'the language of the age is never the language of poetry' and Dryden asserted that the best language is that of the king and his courtiers. Wordsworth rejected the artificial and stagnant poetic diction both in theory and practice. He asserted that in place of the stereotyped poetic diction he will use the real language of men and that too of the rustics whose language, like their way of living, is most natural and not artificial.

 T.S. Eliot has pointed out in The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism that Wordsworth was motivated by the democratic impulse to reject the language of the king and the aristocrats. That may be partly true but essentially he was asserting his faith in the organic view of style. Metaphors and figures of speech were not, to him, bad in themselves; they were bad if they were not organic to a poem but added to it like ornaments from without: If the poet's subject be judiciously chosen, it will naturally, and upon fit occasion, lead him to passions the language of which, if selected truly and judiciously must necessarily; be dignified and variegated, and alive with metaphors and figures. Wordsworth here is not going the whole hog for rustic language, but qualifies his enthusiasm for it. Lyrical Ballads Summary, His own great poems were the product of a process like this but in his enthusiasm to dislodge the hackneyed poetic diction of his day, he made some indiscreet remarks. To say that he proposed 'to adopt the very language of men', that 'there neither is, nor can be any essential difference between the language of prose' and metrical composition' and that metre is a charm 'superadded' to poetry is not quite in conformity with the organic view of style. It amounts to prescribing one style in place of the other. In his creative output, Wordsworth obeyed his creative impulse so that, in Coleridge's words, his poetic triumphs were achieved in spite of the unbalanced remarks quoted above. It must be, however, borne in mind that Wordsworth takes care to use certain qualifiers while advocating the use of the real language of men. The word 'selection' is used again and again in this context. 'A colouring of imagination thrown over it' is what he finally recommends. In the end 'selection' is advanced as a principle for every practising poet to follow. Besides, it should be mentioned that his own practice is somewhat different.


An important subject of Coleridge's Biographia Literaria is an exposition and evaluation of Wordsworth's poetry. To him Wordsworth was the greatest poet of the age. He may not place him, as did Keats, only next to Shakespeare but after Shakespeare and Milton he considered him to be the third great poet of English and declared that their age will be known by Wordsworth. In a letter he wrote that Wordsworth was the only man 'to whom at all time and in all modes of excellence I feel myself inferior.' In yet another letter he wrote: '1-feel myself a little man by his side.' As a poet, he found W6rdsworth's greatness in 'the union of deep feeling with profound thought; the fine balance of truth in observing, with the, imaginative faculty in modifying the objects observed; and above all the original fight of spreading the tone, the atmosphere, and with it the depth and height of the ideal world around forms, incidents and situations.' This glowing admiration did not prevent him from pointing out the essential drawbacks in Wordsworth's theory of poetic diction.

According to Coleridge, words worth was fully justified in his criticism of the artificiality and unnaturalness of a poetic diction which had become stagnant and hindered rather than helped capture the exact curve of a creative writer's experience but he disagrees with Wordsworth's 'view that the language of poetry should be 'the language of natural conversation of men under the influence of natural feelings.'


One of the most significant aspects of Wordsworth's literary criticism in general and the 'Preface' to the Lyrical Ballads in particular is a healthy concern for strengthening and promoting a humane culture. Culture is a term of manifold connotations ranging from the cultivation of mind and spirit to denoting a whole way of life material, intellectual and spiritual. Some of the dictionary meanings of the word 'culture' are improvement or refinement by education and training; the thinkers with a dominant culture concern developed the figurative connotation of culture to mean, as Arnold put it, acquaintance with 'the best that has been thought and known in the world'.
Lyrical Ballads Summary, In 'On the Constitution of the Church and the State,' Coleridge defines culture as 'the harmonious development of those qualities and faculties that characterise our humanity.' This, Coleridge believed, is achieved by the substitution of life and intelligence for the philosophy of mechanism which strikes death everywhere. Culture critics like Arnold, Carlyle and Ruskin, developed this line of thinking into a definite approach to literature with a peculiar orientation of its own. The emphasis was always laid on the harmonious development of human personality. Taking its origin from inward growth. This is the quintessence of Arnold's argument in Culture and Anarchy. The role of culture, Arnold felt, had become particularly ' important in our modem world, of which the whole civilization is, to a much greater degree than the civilization of Greece and Rome, mechanical and external, and tends constantly to become so. Culture alone could till up this lifeless and dehumanized world with life and vitality, sweetness and light. Arnold also believed that this task of humanization, of infusing sweetness and light into life can be best performed by literature.

All this had been germinally anticipated by Wordsworth's 'Preface' and his subsequent critical writings. In all these writings Wordsworth shows a vital concern for culture which to him a continuing spirit represented by what he is termed 'the people' in contradiction to 'the public'. In the essay 'Supplementary to the Preface (1815)' he draws a clear distinction between the two: Still more lamentable is his error who can believe that there is anything of divine infallibility, in the clamour of that small though loud portion of the community, ever governed by factitious influence, which, under the name of the PUBLIC, passes itself upon the unthinking, for the PEOPLE. Towards the PUBLIC, the writer hopes that he feels as much deference as it is entitled to; but to the PEOPLE, philosophically characterised, and to the embodied spirit of their knowledge, so far as it exists and moves, at the present faithfully supported by its two wings, the past and the future, his devout respect is due.

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Modern British Poetry | English Literature


The origins of modern British poetry are not unexpectedly to be found in the poetic cross-currents and developments towards the end of the nineteenth century. Although the reigning Victorian poetic fashions and standards were challenged from diverse directions, many modern poets were indebted to Browning, Hopkins, Hardy and the late Victorian, poets. When modem poetry broke with the past, the rebellion became particularly visible in the rejection of conventionally bejewelled and smooth poetic diction which could no longer articulate the raw, disturbing experience already handled in the avant-garde novel of Lawrence and Joyce. The debt of Eliot's The Waste Land to Joyce's Ulysses is well known.

Origin of Modern British Poetry

The point of affinity between Browning and modern poetry is in his obscurity and irregularity of diction. While this initially may have sprung from a mind prone to rambling parentheses and therefore often became a vice, it carried Browning's imagination through a rapid succession of associations. For Eliot and the modems, he thus linked the past, the 'Metaphysical' poets, with a poet like Hopkins. Browning's ability to create the natural articulation of a voice, which necessitated syntactical obscurity, remains a, permanent legacy to modern poetry.
The contrast that the modern British poetry of Hardy and Hopkins offered to contemporary models lies in their use of ambiguity and shifting tonalities, their adoption of an ironic mode in short. At times, Hardy's poetry seems to be boldly experimental, characterized by frequent flashes of daring imagination. His experiments orchestrate the use of dialect words, abbreviations, archaisms, and 'kennings' (or verbal riddles in the style of Anglo-Saxon poetry), some of which would be found barbaric according to orthodox aesthetics. Nevertheless, Hardy functions largely within the traditional forms, presenting the drama of unresolved contradictions: he has himself described his poems as unadjusted impressions. If he tended to relate the local and individual to cosmic pessimism, he was characteristically tentative, holding his judgment in suspense. Ultimately his vision is ironic, involving the rapid and unsettling juxtaposition of images and counter-perceptions that anticipates modernist techniques. Both Robert Bridges and Hopkins experiment with prosody.

The former's attempts stem from Greek and Latin prosody, resulting in much charm and delicacy at the cost of poetic concentration and intensity. For these qualities we must go to Hopkins whose 'sprung rhythm,' borrowed from Anglo-Saxon prosody, was reinforced by fresh imagery and compact structure. By keeping the number of stressed syllables fixed and varying the number of unstressed syllables, Hopkins was able to revive the 'Metaphysical' mode linking it to modern poetry. This mode, submerged through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was characterized, as we all know, by ingenious analogy-the extended or cryptic 'conceit -the yoking of contraries and irregular rhythm and diction. Such a sensibility was sharply different from the Romantic and Victorian, banishing the bogey of 'high seriousness' from the concept of poetry and locating the poem's value not in ideas or autobiography but in the psychological process of creation in the poet's mind. In this sense, the modem movement amounts to a rejection of expressivist categories in favour of the Aristotelian theory of mimetic representation, although the former were never suppressed. The modem poet's unconscious was a storehouse of heterogeneity stirring him obscurely, prompting him, as it were, to get rid of excessively accumulated experience. The disparateness and breadth of the cultural tradition made for impersonality of expression. The 'metaphysical' poet brought together dissimilars-secular and divine love, for instance so that the discord plunged him deep into the theme, the greater awareness of the conflict demanding greater poetic technique.
Romanticism : Literary Theory
Such are the larger implications of Hopkins's achievement of forging a style capable of conveying the discords and conflicts in his mind. Apart from the contrapuntal play of regular metrical form and irregular speech rhythms, the intermeshing of 'inscape' and 'instress' anticipates the techniques adopted in much modem poetry. If 'inscape' is a variation on the principle of individuation (as defined by Coleridge), a focus on quidditas or haeccitas-the thisness and whatness of things-'instress' is the force and, energy holding together the 'inscape.' In Hopkins's concern with the outer reflection of a thing as a thing, we encounter the modem mind's awareness of objects in their essential particularity and its simultaneous search in and through artistic form, that is, the poem itself, of the universal. 
In the 1880s and 1890s the interrelated and overlapping tendencies of aestheticism, impressionism, and symbolism contributed to the rejection of Victorian priggish moralism and scientific materialism. Aestheticism or the movement known as I’art pour I’art (art for art's sake) stressed impersonal craftsmanship and a stylized rhetoric of passion. These new elements later became the basis for the ironic and somewhat cold detachment so distinctive of modernist poetry.

Stylization of Modern British Poetry

Stylization was closely related to decadence, that is, the desire to understand the deeper and darker resources of the psyche guided in turn by a sense of overwrought aestheticism. The symbolist movement often aimed at suggesting an inner richness and mystery, and was thus part of the pervasive reaction against the positivist attitudes bred by technological smugness: it fell back upon symbols in order to capture the life above or below pragmatic reality. In France, symbolist suggestiveness was contested by the The Modernists Parnassian School of poetry with its emphasis on precise and economical description, of clinical self-observation. The drive towards hard precision and clarity which represents perhaps the most decisive break with traditional poetic diction found expression above all in Imagism just before World War I. Accuracy, concreteness, and unadorned economy characterized the direct prgsentation of the objective world without discursive reflection. To this project an evocative dimension was added not only by symbolism but also by impressionism which loosened or dissolved an object into a group of impressions. The modern poet was thereby able to render the passage and dissolution of impressions so distinctive to the new, unsettling experience of the modem megalopolis, of rootless and heterogeneous cosmopolitan culture. Juxtaposing impressions or images apparently disconnected, the poet learnt from the arrangement of multiple planes in sculpture or movements in music the fundamental technique of discontinuous composition. This is how modernism held up a faithful mirror to fragmented reality and in doing so, produced an open gestalt or transformed, indeterminate structure of coherence. The Waste Land may be a mimesis of the heap of broken images that modem European civilization has been reduced to but the final effect, that is, the poem, remains a mastery of fragmentation

Modern British Poetry, English Literature Theory, Literary theory, My exam solution


In the modern British poetry, the colloquial accents and unsentimental economy of Eliot and the later Yeats were, as we have already seen, anticipated at the turn of the century. These features are discernible even along the more conservative Georgian poets at the time of the First World War, although the excesses and exoticisms of decadence as well as the discontinuities of impressionism are absent. These poets include Rupert Brooke and Edward Thomas. Brooke was the most popular and typically Georgian who, somewhat ironically, began as a rebel against Victorian gentility with its fondness for vapid sweetness. But like many of his contemporaries, he could not break out of the orderly bounds of liberal humanism. Edward Thomas's strength lay in nature poetry, which he started to write on the encouragement of Robert Frost. Somewhat like Frost, Thomas meditates on a natural scene and using a plain and direct idiom, creates the effect of a questioning honesty resisting all temptations to abstract conceptual finality. Such a modernity of temperament was reinforced by a certain casual and homely intonation. The American Robert Frost's public image of a Yankee farmer-poet is not entirely unjustified: he turned against the Romantic tradition by choosing the localized authenticity of rural New England.
Literary Theory: Deconstruction 
Although the reader may miss in his or Thomas's work the impact of modem psychology, science, and politics, their use of the spoken language has been rightly admired for its unmistakable modernity.' Frost in particular was eminently successful in creating and modulating a fictional speaking voice. The trauma of the First World War was first expressed by poets in the trenches challenging patriotic and military humbug; it then colored the sensibility of an entire age.
In Sassoon, war encouraged a direct, colloquial vigor to reinforce the gruesome imagery, anger, and ridicule. Both Sassoon and Owen used realism in order to shock readers out of their complacency and expose. The naked reality of dehumanized violence. After the war, Sassoon's poetry acquired an ironic quality through an unsettled juxtaposition of viewpoints. Owen, despite his unparalleled mastery of realistic detail, achieved a truly complex, sometimes visionary detachment and distancing. Isaac Rosenberg also attempted this imaginative distancing and often used a rapid succession=of images. Thus we can see that war poetry prepared the ground for the Modernist poetry of the 1920s.

IMAGISM in Modern British poetry

Modern American poetry was more innovative than British. While free verse did not last as a vogue, the technique of impressionistic juxtaposition without the links of smooth transition had a much longer life in Ezra Pound, and above all, in T.S. Eliot. Support came not only from the new insights of psychology and psychoanalysis but from the larger mood of a disintegrating civilization. The technique of discontinuous composition was highlighted in Imagism, particularly under the aegis of Pound who no doubt took his cue from T.E. Hulme and Ford Madox Ford. Hulme, in his Speculations, not only set out a philosophical basis for rejection of Romantic sentimental meliorism but appended some imagistic fragments as aesthetic equivalents of a new, austere classicism. A threefold Imagistic manifesto was announced in the magazine Poetry in March 191 3: (i) direct treatment of the 'thing' whether subjective or objective (ii) scrupulous avoidance of any word that did not contribute to the presentation  (iii) Rhythmical composition in order to the musical phrase, not of a metronome.

Among the poets originally grouped as Imagist were Pound himself, Amy Lowell, H.D. Richard Aldington, and John Gould Fletcher. Soon divisions surfaced, especially between Pound and Amy Lowell; in any case, the anthologies often included poets like D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce. In the ultimate analysis, Imagism had a historical importance; it survives, variously modified, in the bloodstream of modem poetry, in the search for a hard precision and economy. Lawrence never really fitted the Imagist bill, despite his animal and flower poems, because although he valued accuracy and rhythmic freedom, he rebelled against what he perceived as the cerebral, somewhat academic impersonality of Imagist poetry. His eroticism and intensity authenticated immediate experience-the unceasing fecundity of life unharnessed of teleology-in the tradition of Walt Whitman.


The Irish situation was different particularly because of the largely agrarian society and the complex history of Irish nationalism. The struggle against British colonialism not only produced political verse but extended to a search for identity through Irish history, mythology, folklore and peasant culture. The so-called 'Celtic Twilight' (actually the name of a collection of stories or sketches Yeats published in 1873) brought together poets like George Russell (AE) and Lionel Johnson along with Yeats. Its primitivism was, however, somewhat sentimental and nostalgic, and its opposition to scientific, rationalistic dogma was largely a Romantic survival. Although the poets turned away from the sunny, Southern European or Alpine landscape celebrated in Romantic poetry to authentically Celtic mists and overcast skies, the general mood was one of world-weariness and disillusionment prompting ultimately escapist journeys into a land of heart's desire, away from the joyless squalor of modem urban life. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, Irish literature consciously moved away from dreaminess to a genuine historical awareness, a passionate vigor and coarseness of experience. This reaction was the hall-mark of the Irish Dramatic Movement. Some Irish writers like John Millington Synge went to peasant life for fresh sources of poetry. George Russell's criticism of Yeats's shadowy insubstantiality was vigorously endorsed by the latter himself when he broke decisively with his earlier poetic style in The Green Helmet (1910) and Responsibilities’ (1914).
The poetic life of W.B. Yeats of modern British poetry, falls into two phases, earlier and later, opposed to each other and yet linked by the same longing for escape from this world. If in his early poetry, Yeats wishes to escape to a dreamy fairyland, in the later poetry the nostalgia is of the spirit, for a world of pure ideas. The poetic influence of the Pre-Raphaelites as well as his early interest in the occult fortified his opposition to mechanistic conceptions of the universe, an opposition that remains a common link among modem writers otherwise widely different from each other. Yeats's early poetry is characterized by somnolent rhythms, symbolist evocativeness and obscure mystic calls. What gave this mixture credibility was his peculiarly ambivalent Anglo-Irish identity: as a member of the Protestant Anglo-Norman Ascendancy, Yeats was passionately involved in Irish politics and yet distrustful of its nationalist zeal. He was no doubt drawn into politics by his unrequited love for Maud Gonne; at the same time, he remained aloof discovering a mythically resonant, tragic heroism in the futile Easter Rebellion.

The quest for identity led Yeats to resolve his own self into a dialectic, into the antithetical categories of self and soul. Socially he tried to locate himself the declining aristocracy among the big houses and estates, ideologically bound to the peasant, the servant or the tramp against the emerging threat of a bourgeoisie that was relatively new to Ireland. Failure in love, practical experience, especially of running the Abbey Theatre and contempt for the nouveau riche brought in a sturdier note into his poetry chastened by bitterness and disillusionment. The discovery in himself of double selves was aided by the knowledge received at seances supposedly through the 'medium' of his wife; this knowledge grew into Yeats's philosophical system A Vision. Here, as elsewhere, we encounter the central symbolism of interpenetrating gyres or cones aid the phases of the moon. Along with the doctrine of the Mask, these metaphors enabled Yeats to impose a certain pattern or order on the history of Western civilization somewhat in the manner of Spengler.

Yeats's Ideas

Yeats's pursuit of a world of pure ideas, a Byzantine abstraction-monuments of unageing intellect-was anchored in the concrete vitality of the imagination. Thus his poetry dramatizes the fundamental dichotomy of the flesh and the spirit on different levels: as a result, a dispassionately cold style unleashes passionate intensity by virtue of its magisterial control. From The Tower (1928) onwards, Yeats's system of opposed personae or split selves is largely unburdened of its occult trappings: it is as though in his last poems Yeats rises above his system to the existential conflict between affirmation and renunciation, art and nature, passion and conquest, old age and the disturbing promptings of the flesh.


The High Modernist mode popular in British and American poetry from the early 1920s to the 1950s was of course dominated by Pound and Eliot. Modernist poetry was characterized by a prodigious appetite for assimilating the disparate and fragmentary experiences of a complex and heterogeneous civilization. Fin-de-siecle formalism and aestheticism, impressionism, symbolism and imagism all combined to produce the modernist mode. While we have to wait till the thirties for the poetry of political commitment, the impact of discoveries in psychology and anthropology are clearly discernible. Poetry attempted to explore the new territory of the irrational and associative surge of consciousness, neurosis, dream, and the Collective Unconscious with its storehouse of myth and archetype. This is why the poets adopted what has been described above as the technique of discontinuous composition. Pound's wide and disparate reading extended the range of modem poetry, especially in his intertextual use of literary traditions. Poetry, as he believed, must be as well written as prose.
History of Literary Theory & Criticism
By 1911, Yeats’s poetic idiom was relatively stripped of 'poetic diction': his syntax became more direct and natural. Apart from compression and excision, Pound concentrated on images against the uninspired abstractness of language. His Vorticism, as a movement, was a continuation of Imagism and its dynamic interplay of images. He moved to a non-mimetic model of the Image, a form produced by an emotional energy, a cluster, an arrangement of planes as in sculpture. After the War and the economic difficulties he went through, in Homage to Sextus Propertius(1934) Pound uses, over and above the concentrated economy, an ironic persona whose mental ability and emotional variety introduced a shifting point of view.
There is even the pose of foppery and tone of self-deprecation associated with Jules Laforgue and Eliot. By the time of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920) and the first seven Cantos (1915-20), the extraordinarily compressed, oblique, learned, elliptical, and allusive style had been well established. In these two works Pound uses the masks of two poets in order to produce a critique of contemporary European civilization. In comparison to the pictorial and musical avant-garde, however, he remained a little backward-looking and modishly archaic. Pound's contributions to the modem movement derived more from his editorial and talent-scouting abilities. Real stylistic innovation came from T.S. Eliot even before he had come in contact with the former. In Eliot at last we encounter the fracturing and re-fashioning of received idiom that had been achieved in music and the visual arts. Largely on the basis of his reading of Baudelaire, Laforgue, and Jacobean drama, Eliot quite independently forged a style that not only surpassed Imagist practice but seamlessly incorporated the self-examining, self-deprecating persona timidly withdrawing from traditions of passionate immersion and confession. Such a persona or attitude was no doubt the legacy of Jules Laforgue. If discontinuous composition is the hall-mark of modernist poetry, then Eliot remains its finest practitioner. Moreover, what gives coherence to the so-called heap of broken images is an essentially musical structure of relationship between part and whole. Apart from music (or for that matter, sculpture), Eliot's use of an organized whole, a web of relationships, seems to have been inspired by the notion of gestalt in contemporary psychology. The gestalt psychologists believed that a random collection of marks or dots on a page would reveal a certain pattern or design to the observing spectator. If these marks were re-distributed continuously, the effect would never be that of disorder but of constantly renewed configurations. Thus Eliot's poetry the genesis of a form that is harmonious without being closed or rigid, characterized, rather, by its appetite for inclusiveness. Such a form is no doubt exemplified by The Waste Land (1922) But it is discernible even in the earliest poetry of Eliot as it was for him the aesthetic equivalent of fragmentation, rootlessness, and lack of belief in modem European civilization.


From this viewpoint of Modern British poetry, not only is The Waste Land anticipated by 'Gerontion' or 'The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' but even the germ of Four Quartets (1943) contained within the early verse. In 'Prufrock' or 'The Portrait of a Lady,' sardonic self-deprecating attitudes located within a context of drab boredom, timidity, seediness, and sexual unease are juxtaposed with glimpses of horror and glory. This sets the tone for Eliot's masterly use of squalor and beauty in the Sweeney poems. The need for unremitting self-observation, for introspective distrust found its proper outlet in a withdrawal from passion related to the loss of faith and certitude in modern civilization. Thus, in 'Gerontion' an accurate, authentic cosmopolitan setting dramatizes the shrivelled-up life of reminiscence produced by spiritual atrophy. We have in this poem a central pattern in Eliot's poetry: fear of the full-blooded, spontaneous urgency of life with its structure of desire, wish, and expectation leading to an astringent, ascetic renunciation prompted by the history of tainted, destructive ' passions that European civilization offers. Even as modernist British poet,  Eliot veered towards conservative values and preoccupation with religious dogma through Hollow Men (1925) and Ash Wednesday (1930), stylistically he remained as innovative as ever.

 After his fairly successful experiments in verse drama, Eliot moved to the more contemplative, somewhat philosophical Four . Quartets with its intertwined themes of time, experience, memory, communication and the possibilities of reconciliation. 'Burnt Norton,' the first quartet, seems to begin the polyphonic stricture with abstract speculation and memories in a rose-garden. 'East Coker' is the name of the Somerset village from which Eliot's ancestors had emigrated to America, and the-quartet thus takes us to the past. In 'The Dry Salvages' (a group of rocky islands off the coast of Massachusetts) Eliot's own lived past in America is recaptured. Finally, in 'Little Gidding,' war-time England is related to the past of the village which had held a religious community in the seventeenth century and had its church destroyed by Oliver Cromwell's troops. The poem Four Quartets continues effectively to use the technique of discontinuous composition, the structure of music, and a subtly permeated self-reflexivity, We recognize through the moving drama of faith the old dry, ironic, detached persona, the unremitting self-observation and preoccupation with language, communication, and poetic form.
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