The Continuity of Poetic Language: Studies in English Poetry from the 1540's to the 1940's

By Josephine Miles | Go to book overview
Save to active project

III. COMPARISONS AND CONCLUSIONS

NOW THAT we have come to the end of the 1940's, a backward look at the character of poetry in earlier centuries may tell us, by comparison, more about the character of what we have come to. There is inheritance in language and in poetic language, as well as innovation, and even the innovation may follow clear lines of development, as Eliot has emphasized.

To begin with the simple major vocabulary: the terms for the 1940's are, it will be remembered, the adjectives little,old,white, the nouns day,death,eye,God,hand,head,heart,life,light,love,man,mind, night,sun,thing,time,world, the verbs come,fall,give,go,hear, know,lie,make,see,take. If we look back to the 1540's, the decade of Wyatt and Surrey and their early century in general, we see an equal number of verbs and a majority of the same verbs; many fewer shared nouns, but a majority of those agreed on; and fewer and different adjectives.

Verbs are the most stable, the least changing. They persist through all centuries except the eighteenth, with about ten major terms, and of these come,give,go,know,make,see,take specifically, persist. Note the pairs of actions, come and go,give and take,know and make. The great change in the five centuries is the loss of find,tell,think, and the gain of hear,fall,lie, from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The verbs have become more passive and receptive.

Of major nouns of the 1540's, eight, all but king and lord, are primary still for the 1940's. Indeed these are primary terms for almost the whole range of the poetry: basic day, God, heart, life, love, man, time; the eighth noun, thing, is less steady, but is taken up from across the centuries by the 1940's in its renewed awareness of human construction. From the 1640's we take persistent eye, but have dropped its heaven and soul; from the 1740's, hand, but not air, friend, joy, nature, power, youth; from the 1840's, light, night, sun, world, but not spirit, thought, and word. Finally, on our own, we have added death, head, mind, and possibly sky. So, of our many agreed-on nouns in the 1940's,

-497-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Continuity of Poetic Language: Studies in English Poetry from the 1540's to the 1940's
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 542

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?