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For English readers, however, the stark pictures of Eliot’s poem were startling: “Let us go then, you and I,/ When the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherized upon a table.” When appeared in 1917, readers knew that a new and powerful poetic movement was beginning to make itself felt.Eliot and Pound knew that they were creating a literary revolution: Both poets actively furthered the revolution through their essays, articles, and reviews. The volume included “Gerontion,” a monologue spoken by an old man and cast in blank verse.Once again, the setting was bleakly urban and the sensibility of the speaker was distinctly modern, which meant that the speaker’s viewpoint was ironic, detached, and resigned. Scholars still debate the impact on subsequent literature of these relatively short prose articles, most of which were written for literary magazines or newspapers.
Eliot as a thinker was profoundly interested in the role of literary tradition—the impact of earlier great writers on later ones. Eliot, Pound wrote, “has actually trained himself and modernized himself on his own.” Sometime in the period from 1908 through 1910, Eliot managed to create a new poetic style in English.
However, he himself in a sense started from scratch. During this time, he had been reading the French Symbolist poets, who had flourished in the last half of the nineteenth century. The kind of poetry that I needed, to teach me the use of my own voice, did not exist in English at all; it was only found in French.” The immediate result of this new style was “The Love Song of J. Modernism was an artistic movement that lasted, in American and English literature, from about 1900 to 1940, although most literature since that time continues to be heavily influenced by modernist techiques.
Easily as important, however, is the fact that Eliot’s theories go a long way toward explaining what he was trying to do in his poetry.
In his next major poem, and his most famous, these ideas were given full play.
Although Eliot said that he always wrote with his mind firmly on tradition, broke with the look, the sound, and the subject of most poetry written since the early nineteenth century.
In the poem, allusions to myth, religion, Western and Eastern literature, and popular culture are almost constant; in fact, many stretches of the poem are direct, and unacknowledged, quotations from other sources.Eliot was especially drawn to Laforgue, whose dramatic monologues contained a mixture of highly sophisticated irony and an original, difficult style. These techniques, first developed largely by Pound and Eliot, involved the use of free verse (poetry without regular meter and rhyme), multiple speakers (or personas) within one poem, and a disjointed, nonlinear style.“The form in which I began to write,” Eliot later commented, “was directly drawn from the study of Laforgue. Another clear influence of French Symbolist poetry on “The Love Song of J.Because no one narrator appears to be speaking the poem, the work seems as impersonal as a crowded London street.The five sections of also constitute Eliot’s “objective correlative,” a chain of events that sparks a particular emotional mood.Writing about the poetry of Eliot is difficult for a number of reasons.One major difficulty is that Eliot himself helped dictate the rules for how critics interpret poetry.He did this through his many influential essays on poetry, beginning with those in , and through the way he transformed the style of modern poetry.Every young poet writing in English after Eliot has had either to imitate or to reject him (often both).Poets were no longer able to join the intellect and the emotions to produce true masterworks.These three ideas—the impersonal theory of poetry, the objective correlative, and the dissociation of sensibility—certainly changed the way American and British scholars studied poetry: Innovative critical schools, such as the American New Criticism of the late 1920’s and 1930’s, were the result, and university training in literature was also changed by these principles.