An Introduction To Twentieth-Century Poetry in English by R. P. Draper

By R. P. Draper

This severe survey of recent poetry from Thomas Hardy to Seamus Heaney considers either the self-consciously innovative techniques of Modernism and extra conventional advancements, considering the level to which "English" can not be equat

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O never I turned, but let, alack, These less things hold my gaze! The very faithfulness with which the details of the scene are recorded has the effect of intensifying their importance for the poetry - to see them so exactly, and translate them into such images, is implicitly to heighten the value placed on the imaginative process of defamiliarising the actual. When, therefore, such 'things' are downgraded in the last stanza, the effect is to endow the unspecified (and perhaps sinister, because unspecified) human concerns with still greater emotional intensity.

And he elaborates a defence of his poetry which argues that it has a function comparable to the gradual doses of arsenic which Mithridates took to inoculate himself against poison. As B. J. Leggett suggests, this 'mithridatic function' of Housman's own poetry 'requires that we experience a controlled amount of pain as defence against the much greater pain inherent in the nature of the world outside the poem'? The poetry is not escapist, but fundamentally realist - a means of coming to terms with that underlying 'unhappiness' which Larkin finds so emphatically there.

In this respect he has more in common with Thomas Hardy, who in the opening chapter of The Return of the Native suggests that 'haggard' Egdon Heath appeals 'to a subtler and scarcer instinct, to a more 22 Twentieth-Century Poetry in English recently learnt emotion, than that which responds to the sort of beauty called charming and fair'. His newness and modernity involve a newness of vision. However, Williams's 'visionary' poetry is the result, not of millennial transformation, but of defamiliarisation of the commonplacethough there are occasional pieces, like 'Overture to a Dance of Locomotives' (1921), which suggest a somewhat willed attempt, in the manner of the Italian Futurists and subsequent 'pylon' poets of the Thirties, to glorify modern technology.

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