By R. P. Draper
This severe survey of recent poetry from Thomas Hardy to Seamus Heaney considers either the self-consciously progressive suggestions of Modernism and extra conventional advancements, taking into consideration the level to which "English" can now not be equat
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Like The Waste Land and Ulysses it is made distinctively of its age by being focused on the modern industrial and commercial city. But unlike Eliot's London, Williams's Paterson is not an 'unreal city'; it has the energy and strength of a personified male figure. Moreover, the counterbalancing female is not merely an exploited and polluted victim of the male, but, as is Joyce's Molly Bloom, a source of abundant fertility. Although Williams is a traditionalist in his treatment of the relation between male and female in terms of active and passive, this is subsumed within a symbolic relationship between the poet and his subject-matter which has its roots in the belief in the creative powers of the imagination held by Romantic writers such as Wordsworth and Coleridge, modified by Jung's notion of the interdependence of the male and female principles in the human psyche as such.
A distinguished classical scholar, whose academic reputation rested on his textual work on the Latin poets Manilius and Juvenal, his fame none the less is as the poet of A Shropshire Lad (1896) and Last Poems (1922). The form of these is mainly, but not exclusively, that of the ballad, rhyming ABAB, and overtones of the Scottish border ballads, with their arbitrary loves and acts of violence, are constantly felt, especially in A Shropshire Lad. But there is another, hidden theme in many of these poems, the theme of homosexuality (unmentionable in the Victorian climate in which Housman was brought up), which also links them with The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde (1856-1900).
It may share with modernism a disturbing sense of irrational forces, perhaps welling up from the unconscious, which threaten to disrupt the vividly evoked scene, but actually the conscious mind is in control. It knows, at least retrospectively, what the source of the disturbance was, and it moves with its tacit argument towards seIt-criticism for neglect of the greater human and moral concern. 42 Twentieth-Century Poetry in English A. E. HOUSMAN (1859-1936) Lyric temper combined with discursive control is also the hallmark of A.
An Introduction to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English by R. P. Draper