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The following tape recorded program is a presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters. What is modern poetry. The University of Chicago radio office presents Alan Simpson in the second program of this series of discussions and readings entitled some influences on modern poetry. The text was originally written by C. Day Lewis for presentation by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Mr. Simpson. The perch must be tuned to receive the meanings of his own time. He must also be earthed in tradition this tradition to change the metaphor a little is a sort of compost to whose making has gone the poetry of many centuries and countries. English poetry today not only derives nourishment from Chaucer and Wordsworth from Virgil and bird Alair in this sense its growth has conditioned its form
modified however slightly or remotely by every good perm that has been written in English and by many other European influences as well. But the individual Purt need not be aware of this. At any given time when a poetic revolution is taking place he is consciously reacting in two directions. He reacts away from the poetic language of his immediate predecessors. He responds to the lead of some original contemporary or to the influence of some earlier poet or school of perjury. Very likely he does both. Just as the perjury of the Georgians was amongst other things a reaction against that of the 90s. So poetry after 1917 when Prufrock period began to react away from the poetic language of the Georgians. I do not mean that every good poet followed Mr Elliot's lead Hardy and Yates head
respectively. Another ten and twenty years of writing before them. Birds as diverse as Mr. de la Mer Mr. Frost Mrs. and Mr Blunden want to pursue their own paths. But upon the main stream of poetry Mr. Elliot both his verse and his criticism was to exercise a greater influence than any of these great oh even then Yates. Mr. Edward to work however was only one of the influences to which my own generations admitted through it. We made all renewed contact with the poetry which influenced him with the Lady Elizabeth and Jacobean dramatists with Dunn and the metaphysical with the French post symbolist perts with his repower and it has influences the sources of contemporary verse that I am considering here. What do we mean by influence
but are affected by three kinds of influence by the language of other poets by the climate and events of that time and by the events of their own private lives. The last of these therefore the individual Purt it may well be the most important. I cannot go into it because I'm discussing the general tendency is. As for the second amongst the events which have left deep impressions on contemporary English verse are the 1914 war the rise of communism the slump of nineteen twenty nine thousand thirty one Sigmund Freud and the air is the approach of the Second World War. The explosion of the first atom bomb the welfare state. Not so much the events themselves as the states of mind and the sensibility in which they produce or which lead to them. Other poets province I should be saying more about this in my next talk. For the present let us stick to the
first influence I mentioned. The language of other poets. It is closely linked with the question of sensibility in by the modern sensibility we mean the modes of thinking and feeling are responding to experience which are created or conditioned by the events and general climate of our time. These modes of thinking and feeling effect in turn the language of Birchip as Mr. W.H. Auden has said there can be no art without a convention which emphasizes certain aspects of experience as important and dismisses others to the background. A new convention is a revolution in sensibility and that is to set a new variant of the poetic language arrives adapted to a changed sensibility. The poet may even anticipate this change of sensibility and as Blake did for instance
and express it in his verse before the rest of us are aware of it. In which case we can fairly call his poetry prophetic. Let me try to illustrate what I mean. You are all familiar with the passage in one of Hamlet's soliloquy which runs. Who would be part of the bear to ground in sweat under a weary life but that the dread of something after death the undiscovered country from whose been no traveler returns puzzles the will and makes us rather bear those ales we have and flight of others that we know not of us. Conscience doth make cowards of us all. And what has been torn between the moral obligation to take revenge upon the king for his father's death and his fear that his father's ghost may have been a demon in disguise luring him on to kill a man who is in fact innocent.
As a renaissance man. He fears damnation after death. No less than he fears the designer of failing to fulfil the moral obligation of revenge. It is this conflict arising out of the Renaissance sensibility in which plots the play and points the meaning of conscience. Now here is a passage from Meredith's modern love. The hero whose wife is unfaithful to him that she has a conscience about it he is bitterly jealous has murderous feelings against her. Which nevertheless conflict with pity and love. Yet it was plain she struggled and that salt of righteous feeling made her a pitiful poet twisting words so queenly beautiful. Where came the cleft between us. Whose the fault. My tears around the that have rarely dropped as balm for any bitter wound of mine my
breast will open for the hottest sign. But now we are to read pipes coarsely stopped. The God once filled them with his mellow breath and they were music till he flung them down. Those lines illustrate a revolution in sensibility in. Renaissance men would have had no moral compunction about taking revenge upon a faithless wife. Even Victorian men thought this poem Modern Love extremely immoral. But Meredith was ahead of his time in refusing to champion the belief that there was one law for the man another for the woman his hero takes his wife's guilt unfairly upon his own conscience. There are two reed pipes coarsely stopped again compare this with the scene in Mr Elliot's the cocktail party where
Riley says to Edward who is being reconciled to his faithless wife but is tormented by the effect this may have upon his ex-mistress. Your business is not to clear your conscience but to learn how to bear the burdens on your conscience with the future of the others you are not concerned. Here is yet another complete change of attitude toward the problem of guilt Mr Elliot's human understanding of it. Unlike mere adults is ordered by Christian moral and theological doctrine in each of those three extracts. We get a different kind of poetic language and one fundamental reason why they differ is that each represents a different kind of sensibility and not merely in the author but in his age. What has all this got to do with influences. A pert faced with a revolution in sensibility and acquiring a new convention
a new variant of language to deal with it finds himself impelled toward certain perks of the past or present as mediators between himself and his experience. He feels you might say a special affinity with them. That is why in the 1930s we used to call such poets and sisters. The last thing I want to do is to generalize on behalf of my contemporaries. If we could plot each individual approach development we would get a different pattern of influences with each and we would see the pattern changing with his own preoccupations and as he learns to find his own true voice. We should notice Mr. Orton for example breaking suddenly aware from the influence of Thomas Hardy which was so strong in his juvenalia we could follow Mr Spender's struggles to assimilate the influence of real or the impression made upon Mr Elliot's work at different stages by life org and by don't
know two perverts minds temperament or personal experience are alike and therefore no two birds will have exactly the same needs at the same time. But insofar as every generation is subjected to certain events currents of thought systems of society and so on it's perch are bound to have certain experience and needs in common. To this extent we can generalize about influences. We can point out a group of pros turning to some predecessor for help in solving their own problems. For instance the past 30 years have seen a revival of interest in the metaphysical perverts of the 17th century. What specially attracted us to John Donne Herbert or Vaughan. They seemed to be speaking our language or rather speaking a language which could help us to find our own. They lived in an age not unlike ours. What is glibly called an age of transition one of
spiritual unrest and political disturbance. When familiar modes of life inherited values were being assailed by new scientific theories new social patterns so instinctively returned to them. John Donne was a revolutionary Purt because he extended the range of the lyric. He grafted onto it a dramatic element and he brought into it a great variety of subject matter using for metaphor and simile the discoveries scientific ideas and sense data of his time. His love poems are built up on a passionate dramatic argument. So are many of George Herbert religious burdens. The conventional stock properties of the lyric are discarded in favor of material sometimes much homely and sometimes very exotic and far fetched for these perverts as Mr Eliot has said. The intellect was at the tips of the
census their perch at its best seems to think and feel similar tenuously are an extension of range together with the concentration of language and intellectually enquiring poetry or a dramatic colloquial manner. These are some of the qualities which perverts of my generation admired in dun and the metaphysical cause and by which their own verse was influenced. I will illustrate this by standing beside each other. A Perm of George Herberts and an early poem of my own. They have a certain resemblance of theme. But what I want you to notice is the resemblance is in language and rhythm. Here is Herbert's poem life. I made a poor was a while the day ran by here will I smell my remnant out and tie my life within this band. But time did beckon to the flowers and they by noon most
cunningly did steal away. And with that in my hand my hand was next to them and then my heart I took without more thinking. In good part times gentle admonition. Who did so sweetly. Death that taste convey making my mind to smell my fatal day sugaring the suspicion. Farewell dear flowers sweetly you would tie me spend it while you live for smell or on the mend and after death for cure. I follow straight without complaint so grief since if my Send be good I care not if it be as short as yours. Now my own it is one of a number written before the birth of my first char ode. It saves her the two parents have to grow apart a little
to leave space. Living room as it were for the coming Charo the. Beauty's end is in sight. Terminus where all Feather joys of light wings that flew lightly forward and our own we see the thin end of mortality we must a little part and sprouting seed cracks our cemented heart. Who would get in their initial loss. Must bear a part of each will be elsewhere. What life may now decide as past the clutch of caution the range of pride speaking from the snow the Crocus lets me know that there is life to come and go. Another major influence on contemporary verse is Gerald Manley Hopkins.
He was a Jesuit priest. He died in 1889 but his poems were not published until 1918. He developed in them a remarkable intensity and come pick winners and don't dare city of language he used elaborate patterns of internal writing and essence producing an extremely complex verbal music. He systematized meters based upon what he called Spun rhythm the principle of sprung rhythm is that you have so many beats or stresses per line between the stressed syllables. You can have anything up to four stressed syllables or you may have two even three stresses immediately one after the other. Whereas most English poetry before Hopkins was in meters regulated by the number of syllables per line not recent. This is based on the number of stresses to follow the rhythms of contemporary verse.
You need to accustom your yeah to these strips meters. Here's a poem by Hopkins. The starlight night a sonnet with five beads to the line which will give you a good idea of his rhythm his adventurous use of language and his loaded text John. It is full of alliteration internal rhyme and essence. Look at the stars. Look look up at the skies. Oh oh look at all the fire folk sitting in the air. The bright Burrows the circle citadels their down and dim words that diamond delves of the elves eyes the gray lawns cold where gold where quick gold lines when bead white beam area a bell set on a flare flake doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare. Well it is all a
purchase. All is a prize. Buy them. Bid them. Want prayer. Patience vows. Look look I'm a mess like an orchard boughs look much bloom like on me old with yellow silos. These are indeed the bond within DAWs How's the shocks. This piece bright paling shuts the spouse Christ home. Christ and his mother and all his hellos. You notice though in one way that is a very elaborate artificial it's phrasing often has a colloquial turn. We get the same mixture of artifice and natural as in John Donne and the metaphysical Hopkins influence is potent and dangerous. He developed this style as the best way of saying certain things which were peculiar to himself to his
imagination and his religious faith. So there is a danger because the stylus are infectious but merely copying his idiosyncrasies his mannerisms without possessing a structure of thought or an imaginative tension capable of carrying them. He had two pieces of contemporary verse which would not have taken the form they have taken if Hopkins had not written yet show his influence. Sadly assimilated first a passage from Europe and the book by W. Rogers. But look the barrel in there but a play bow elbowing flow through the or basement heard blazing and the bellowing hears mathy head Laden like a dahlia dallied and swung and his vast isolated to and fro is sharpened to grok us as see hardly salting all their farts with suddenness.
They hardly knew what most to admire but most his hub of power and circumambient of gentleness delighted them arms curved and craved to stroke his milky sides insidiously veined with watery blues and the bloody i being about how describe him. Words can only add to lightning the thunder is a redundancy. He was most godlike and most temperate. Second George Baucus sent it to my mother. Most most they're most loved and the most under the window where I often found
sitting as huge as Asia. Seismic with laughter. Jan and chicken helpless in her Irish and irresistible as Robin lay. But most tend for the lame dogs and had to pay the dues that surround she was a procession no one can follow after but be like a little dog following a brass band. She will not glance up at the bomber or condescend to drop her gin and scuttle to the cellar. But laying on the mahogany table like a mountain room only faith can move. And so I send Oh all my faith and all my love to tell her that she will move from morning in to morning. In the yard Hopkins perms when first published Wilfred Ern was killed on the western front. Many of us consider him the best of the warbirds
and he might have developed into a major power had he survived. My own generation failed him as another of their ancestors. I will tell you why in a moment. First here is a parent of his futility. Move him into the sun gently its touch awoke him once at home whispering of fields unsung. Always it woke him even in France until this morning. And with snow if anything might rouse him now. The kind old son will know. Think how it wakes the seeds woke up once the clays of a cold star our limbs so dear achieved our sides full nerved still warm too hard to stir. Was it for this the clay grew tall. Oh what
made fatuous sunbeams toil to break Earth's sleep at all. The language is simple and direct. It clenches into a fist to hit one with that monosyllabic syllabic knockout line. Was it for this the Clegg route or a line which would stand out even a late play of Shakespeare's or a perm of John Donne's and reminds us of the idiom the grand men are unadorned. You would have noticed Owen's use of consonantal ripens star stir seeds Saeed's total toil a device much employed there are seldom so appointed by poets of the next generation. But it was the spirit of earns per train even more than its technique which was to prove so pervasive and acceptable to us. In the notes he wrote for a Preface to his war
Perkins we find these words. My subject is war and the pity of war. The purchase is in the pity. Yet these allergies are to this generation in no sense council later. They may be to the next. All a pervert can do today is warn. That is why the troops must be truthful to a generation which had to find its way about the wasteland and wish to build something on it. A generation faced with the slump and widespread unemployment at home with the rise of fascism and the shadow of another world war earns compassion and uncompromising strength offered an example. It is fair to say that the turn toward so-called social realism which protrude took in the 30s and its preoccupation with political themes well led by the spirit of Wilfred and saying all
a purge can do today is a warning. That is why the trooper must be truthful. But Dern represented something more widely important. The birds of the romantic movement had extended the range of man's sensibility Ed Owen more than any other pert of our century except Hardy broadened the field of human sympathy just as in the dentist Hardy's vision comprehend in equal air. Napoleon picked Nelson and the common soldier of the European armies the human race he wrote to be shown as one great network or tissue which quivers in every part when one point is shaken like a spider's web if touched. So one for her and who returned to the Western Front to live and die with his men who believed his duty was to share and speak for their sufferings became the pert of the Unknown Warrior. These then are some
of the influences upon contemporary verse but only son W.H. Auden for example who himself strongly influenced his own generation and the next learn from birds as diverse as Langland Byron Emily Dickinson and TS Eliot. Robert Graves's earlier work owed much to Skilton. Then in the past 20 years English verse has been modified by the theory and practice of to name only a few. The French bird to Paul Valery the Spanish Lorca contemporary Greek birds the American Ezra Pound. But on the whole the past 10 years have been a period of examining and consolidating the gains made by the poetic experiments and innovations of the 20s and 30s in the field of language. I should discuss these in more detail during my next two talks. There is one other major influence there who must be mentioned now are the German
pert real crap. Rebecca who died in 1926. First became known to those of us who cannot read German through the translations of J.B. like Stephen Spender. And Admiral Edward Sackville-West whose influence made itself felt most strongly at the point where English poets began to react away from the social preoccupations of the earlier thirties. When perjury was turning inwards again into itself or into a man's spiritual nature towards religion. As poetry offers guidance to any such movement for it is concerned at the deepest level with the process of creation. He imagined God truth spiritual reality it as an existence not finished or perfect but continuously being created by individual men in rather the same way that a perm is created through the transformation of the world of
phenomena and its absorption into themselves. After writing of the experiences a perk must have to make a he goes on. And still even to have memories is not sufficient. If there are many of them one must be able to forget them and one must have the great patience to wait till they return. Only if they become blood within us. Sight and gesture are nameless and no longer distinguishable from ourselves. Only then is it possible in some very rare for the first word of a verse to arise in their midst and proceed from them. You have heard some influences on modern poetry. The second programme in the series. What is modern poetry but text was read by Alan Simpson professor of history at the University of Chicago that operators were Marvan pioneer Mike Nichols and Richard Daley all of the University of Chicago
What is modern poetry
Some influences on modern poetry
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University of Chicago
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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This program discusses some influences on modern poetry, including 17th century poets like John Donne and George Herbert.
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This series presents lectures with readings of poems. It strives to discuss and define modern poetry in a non-technical way. Text is read by Professor Alan Simpson of the University of Chicago; poetry is read by members of University Radio Theatre.
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Performer: Simpson, Alan
Performer: Nichols, Mike
Performer: Peisner, Marvin
Producer: Parrish, Thomas (Thomas D.)
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-7-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:31
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Chicago: “What is modern poetry; Some influences on modern poetry,” 1955-02-27, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 23, 2021,
MLA: “What is modern poetry; Some influences on modern poetry.” 1955-02-27. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 23, 2021. <>.
APA: What is modern poetry; Some influences on modern poetry. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from