The True Voice of Feeling: Studies in English Romantic Poetry

By Herbert Read | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
A Point of Intensity: T. S. Eliot

If I now turn to the work of T. S. Eliot, it is merely to adorn the tale. Again I shall confine myself to technique, to poetic diction. Eliot, as he has freely admitted, owes much to the example and practical criticism of his brother- poet. And yet there is a distinction to be made, the general sense of which has been indicated by Eliot himself in his Introduction to the Selected Poems of Ezra Pound. 'My own verse', he wrote, 'is, as far as I can judge, nearer to the original meaning of vers libre than is any of the other types [the other types being "that of Pound, and that of the disciples of Whitman"]: at least, the form in which I began to write, in 1908 or 1909, was directly drawn from the study of Laforgue together with the later Elizabethan drama; and I do not know anyone who started from exactly that point.'

We will examine this confession presently, but there is first another, more general, text to cite. It comes from a lecture given by Mr Eliot in Glasgow in 1942 on "'The Music of Poetry'":

'As for "free verse", I expressed my view twenty-five years ago by saying that no verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job. No one has better cause to know than I, that a great deal of bad prose has been written under the name of free verse: though whether its authors wrote bad prose or bad verse, or bad verse in one style or another, seems to me a matter of indifference. But only a bad poet could welcome free verse as a liberation from form. It was a revolt against

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