ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Symbolism: A Movement in Modern English Poetry

Updated on October 8, 2011
Source

Symbolism is one of the most important trends in modern english poetry.


Symbolism as a literary movement was first expressly announced and named by Jean Moreas in Le Figaro on 18 September 1886. Symbolism was a reaction against the rigidity imposed on French poetry by that neo-classic school, the Parnassians. This movement, contemporary with Impressionism in painting and in music and with the philosophy of the subconscious culminating in Bergson, coincides with the idealism of the late 19th century. The younger symbolists, following Veriaine, Laforgue, Rimbaud and Mallarme, abolished the separation between subject and object, the internal and external worlds. In their mode of expression words are used to suggest states of mind rather than for their objective, representational or intellectual content. Mallarme, for example, wished to make every term “a plastic image, the expression of thought, the stir of a feeling, and the symbol of a philosophy.”

To be more precise the symbolists were not primarily interested in the ideas of the mind, but in the expression of the whole personality- particularly in two ways. Firstly, in mingling the perceptions of one sense (a sight touch or smell) with those of another, it was a theory of the apprehension of reality through all the senses and its communication in an art which should mingle the perceptions of sight, sound, taste, perfume and dream. In English Edith Sitwell, from Façade onwards, is our most brilliant exponent. Secondly in releasing and giving symbolic expression to our subconscious impulses; at its extreme this leads to Surrealist poetry never very successful in England, but at its best in the early work of the David Gascoyne. When these subconscious impulses end the resultant images are organized and combined with ordinary, rationalized experience, we get a composite and very attractive type of poetry in which one moves without logical links from the realms of objectively shared common experience into the private domain of the poet’s mind and its arbitrary symbols, without being always certain, at any given moment, in which one is. This is the type of poetry which we find in Edith Sitwell, Dylan Thomas and most predominantly in T.S. Eliot. It was the appearance of Eliot’s The Wasteland in 1922 which signaled the emergence of symbolist poetry in England into the full light of the day.

A symbol has been defined by C.S. Fraser as the “expression of some otherwise inexpressible truth’. It is of the very nature of symbolist poetry that it cannot be tied down to any single and simple interpretation. It involves such a deep mysterious suggestiveness that the interpretation of these poems is almost as tricky, and full of traps, as the interpretation of dreams. This obscurity, however, is deliberate, since it leaves a freer play to the imagination of both reader and poet and makes possible the suggestion of associations and half shades which a more explicit technique could not render. The obscurity may be partial and relieved as in the Wasteland, by notes explaining the erudite allusions; or it may be a total eclipse, as in some of the poetry of E.E. Cummings or Gertrude Stein.

Symbolist poetry contains also a strong element of incantation, due partly to an attempt to imitate music, which of all the arts is least representational. Repetition is an ancient device, normally used either for emphasis or for the pleasure derived from the sound pattern. But the repetitive rhythms of the symbolists have in them a hypnotic quality as well, and they recall the texture of dreams and of subconscious states of mind and may be accompanied by patterns of onomatopoeic sound.

Symbolism is thus one of the strongest forces in art and literature today, having affected not only poetry and drama but also Expressionism, Surrealism and other subjective trends of the time.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      7 years ago from Canada

      This is great, thank you very much vansh121. Just a note, I think it's Verlaine (sp) you mentioned here? Maybe a typo?

    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)