A Key to Modern British Poetry

By Lawrence Durrell | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 9
NEW SIGNATURES, NEW VOICES

THE characteristic movement of the thirties, it is said, derived much of its impetus from Marx, and more from Freud. It is still not clear, however, whether the poets of this decade actually read these two great men or, if they did, whether they assimilated them. One has the feeling in reading the poetry of this time, that the Marx-Freud influence was not a pure one--in the sense that the influence of Macchiavelli over the Elizabethans was not a pure one. In a sense the Elizabethans re-invented Macchiavelli to suit their own purposes. They did not study him closely. The general picture of what he was supposed to stand for was projected outwards into a troubled world, and the minor dramatists and writers snatched up the myth and turned it to their own uses without bothering overmuch about sources. The English Macchiavelli was by no means the same as the Italian one. Did something like this happen to Marx and Freud in the thirties?

I referred to Marxism earlier as the ugly duckling of all the philosophies which grew up under the direct influence of Scientific Materialism. Owing to its uncompromising attitude, and its cast-iron premises, it has never grown up, never to this day found an Einstein. It lags far behind physics in this respect. It is consequently more out of date than any other belief of this time looking at it from the contemporary standpoint: while its application in certain parts of the world has led to tyranny unexampled and a complete destruction of the kind of values upon which poetry can be constructed. But English

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