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Home » , » What are the main trends of Modern poetry? How has T.S. Eliot influenced Modern poetry?

Main trends of modern poetry

Much that is traditional and Victorian still persists in modern poetry. Twentieth century poetry is a curious mixture of the traditional and the experimental. It is a curious mixture of the old and the new. It is complex and many-sided. Complexity, abundance of output, revolt against tradition, love of nature,pity for the poor and the suffering, disillusionment, loss of faith in religion, the metaphysical note, the romantic strain, the influence of music and other fine arts and new techniques are main trends of modern poetry. In the poetry of Thomas Stearns Eliot, we see several of these trends. In a sense, he has broken completely the bridge between romanticism and modernism. Moreover, he has influenced Modern poetry to a great extent and main trends of modern poetry. 

The Modern poetry is a poetry of revolt. It results largely from the impact of science. The poet turns away from the older romantic tradition. The tradition still persists in Georgian poetry of the early years of the new century. The revolt is best exemplified in the poetry of T.S. Eliot. The poet sees life in its naked realism. Even the most prosaic and commonplace subjects are considered suitable. The heavy thud of bus, creaking of tramcars, the rattling noise of railway trains, the drone of an aeroplane, all these find their echo in modern poetry. The squalor and dinginess of an industrial civilization are reflected everywhere in the works of T.S. Eliot. After the great war, poems appear in an ever increasing number on the destructive means of warfare. The imagery and vocabulary of the modern poet reflects the influence of science and scientific inventions. Realism in subject matter has led the modern poet to reject the highly, ornate and artificial poetic style of the romantics in favour of a language which resembles closely the language of everyday life.
main trends of modern poetry

The new poetry is realistic. The poet's consciousness of the grim realities of life has shattered all illusions and romantic dreams.  The tragedy of everyday life has induced in the poet a mood of disillusionment. So the poetry today is bitter and pessimistic. The pessimism of the modern poet is very poignant and heart-rending. It is even sharper than the pessimism of Hardy. Because it arises out of the contemplation of the stark realities of life. There is nothing sentimental  about it. The Great War was a nerve- shattering experience. Man lost faith in accepted values. As a consequence, this note of bitterness is even more pronounced after the war. The Waste Land of Eliot reflects the tragic gloom and despair of the post- war world. 

As a result of science and the spirit of rationalism, the poet is sceptical about God. Hardy laughs ironically at Him. Housman does not hesitate to call Him a brute or a black- guard. But this does not mean that religion is no longer a source of inspiration in poetry. In T.S. Eliot and Francis Thompson, we find a revival of Christian mysticism. "The Everlasting Mercy" of Masefield has a religious theme. There are many fine devotional lyrics scattered all over his work. Even today there are mystical poets in the tradition of Blake and Wordsworth. Besides, the influence of science, religion and mysticism many other influences are at work on the modern poet. There has been a revival of interest in the poetry of Donne and the other metaphysical poets of the 17th century. Grierson's edition of Donne's poems was published in 1912. Ever since English poetry has reflected more and more the intellectual qualities of Donne's poetry. Eliot has done much to bring about this metaphysical revival. Thus we find in his poetry the same use of startling, farfetched imagery, the same bringing together of opposites, the desire to startle and surprise. In this way, he is able to capture attention. 

Despite its stark realism in theme and treatment, there also runs a vein of romanticism in modern poetry. Much of Georgian and Edwardian poetry is in the romantic strain. We find this strain of romance in the poetry of Walter De La Mare, John Masefield and Yeats. In spite of all their earthliness, they have the romantic longing for a more perfect world. They would like to escape into a fairyland. Love is the dominant theme of the romantics. It has not altogether died out in their poetry. Robert Bridges has left behind him some fine love lyrics. W.B. Yeats has been called the greatest love-poet of the 20th century.

Modern poetry has been influenced by the techniques of music, sculpture, painting and other arts. The modern poet freely uses the vocabulary and techniques of the other arts.However, it is music which has exercised the profoundest influence. The variations  and repetitions in T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" are like the movements of a symphony. As a result, LA. Richards calls his poetry the music of ideas. Like a musician's phrases, his ideas are arranged. The technique of the cinematograph is also exploited by the poet of "The Waste Land".

The modern poet is constantly experimenting with new verse-forms and poetic techniques.The use of slang and colloquialism has become common. The language and rhythm of poetry approximate more and more to those of common speech. The bonds of metre have been loosened. Rules of rhyme or metre are not followed. Stresses vary according to emotion. Verse-rhythm is replaced by sense-rhythm. The influence of modern psychologists, Freud, Jung and Bergson has become a commonplace. Emphasis has shifted from the externals to the rendering of the soul or Psyche.

However, impressionism, imagism and surrealism are some other innovations in the 20th century. The impressionists seek to convey the vague and fleeting sensations passing through their minds by the use of a novel imagery and metaphor. The imagists are headed by Ezra Pound. They aim at clarity of expression through the use of hard, accurate and definite images to convey their ideas and emotions. The sur-realists try to express whatever passes in the subconscious, without any control or selection by the conscious. These innovations increase the complexity of modern poetry, and the bafflement of the reader. T.S. Eliot becomes an idol and the chief exponent of modernism in his poetry. He and Modern poetry go hand in hand. His influence in this respect is undenial.


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