ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Brief Overview of Four Modernist Poets

Updated on August 6, 2016
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

A Word about Modernism

The Modernist era holds sway from the end of World War I with the publication of T. S. Eliot's " The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" until it is replaced with Postmodernism during the late 1950s with Allen Ginsberg's Howl.

The chief Modernist poets are W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and W. H. Auden. Modernist poets sought to write a poetry that distinguishes itself from the traditional poetry of the past.

They began to eschew rime; they began to portray life as a vast spiritual desert. Many had drunk too deeply from the well of notions that led to lack of comprehension of the achievements of science in the modern era. They began to suspect that human beings had more in common with the animals than with children of God.

Thus, they began to question the value and purpose of religion. Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach" is often considered the prototypical melancholy that grasped the Modernists, who felt that religious faith had failed mankind and only art could take its place.

William Butler Yeats

Source

W. B. Yeats 1865-1939

Yeats' major claim to the Modernist label results from his attempt to create his own mythology; although he studied Irish mythology and fables, he followed his own idiosyncratic line of thinking that he attempted to outline in his tract called A Vision.

This work is a delicious dissonance of disingenuous drivel. Yeats' reputation was saved by the fact that he did condescend to write a substantial number of genuine poems.

Yeats reading his own verse

Ezra Pound

Source

Ezra Pound 1885-1972

Most credit for the founding of the movement known as Modernism is widely bestowed on Ezra Pound.

Pound's main Modernist offering, however, is imagism, which is in actuality a thoroughly traditional phenomenon, but his insistence that poets should "compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of the metronome," heralded the proliferation of "free verse," a thoroughly Modernist phenomenon.

Pound reading "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley

T. S. Eliot

Source

T. S. Eliot 1888-1965

T. S. Eliot's poetry reflects the spiritual dryness that gripped poets between the two World Wars. His pathetic yet comical character, J. Alfred Prufrock, demonstrates the paradox of contemporary man during this period.

And The Waste Land is a virtual manifesto of the Modernist creed of fragmentation accompanied with the usual spiritual degeneration; although, at the end, the speaker does leave open the possibility of hope.

Despite the usual emphasis on the agnosticism and atheism that seized many poets, T. S. Eliot did not lose religious faith. He became a devoted member of the Church of England.

T. S. Eliot reading THE WASTE LAND

W. H. Auden

Source

W. H. Auden 1907-1973

Of this group of so-called Modernists, Auden is the least Modernist. It may be noted that he is also the youngest: 42 years younger than Yeats, 22 years younger than Pound, and 19 years younger than Eliot. If there were a different classification between Modernism and Postmodernism, that is where Auden would possibly be.

Nevertheless, at least in some of his work, Auden does reveal a few peccadilloes in common with the Modernists—he often concentrates on negativity: "You shall love your crooked neighbour / With your crooked heart," from "As I Walked Out One Evening," "About suffering, they were never wrong, / The Old Masters," from "Museé des Beaux Arts," and "We cannot choose what we are free to love," from "Canzone."

However, notice at the same time, all three of those poems are rimed and/or patterned, and they do broach the subject of love. Auden's "Unknown Citizen" certainly offers a Modernist outlook, but again it is rimed, and it attempts to offer a call to action, instead of merely bemoaning events.

Auden reading "The Unknown Citizen"

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)