Modern Verse in English, 1900-1950

By David Cecil; Allen Tate | Go to book overview

NOTES

As will be seen, the purpose of these notes is primarily to give biographical information about the various authors in the anthology. The sentences of appreciation which follow are intended not as critical estimates but only to call attention to those characteristics in each author's work which make it, in the editors' view, interesting and enjoyable.

D. C.

A. T.


NOTES ON THE BRITISH POETS

HILAIRE BELLOC ( 1870-1953). Educated at the Oratory School, Edgbaston, and Balliol College, Oxford. From 1906 to 1910 he was a Member of Parliament. Celebrated as a Roman Catholic apologist. Published many historical, biographical, and critical works, and various volumes of essays, poems, and humorous verses. Collected Verse ( 1954).

His poems are a small part of his output; and not all of them are equally good. But he wrote light verse, both satirical and nonsensical, of a classical force and finish, and he is the most accomplished English master of the verse epigram, whether grave or gay, since Landor.

JOHN BETJEMAN (b. 1906). Educated at Marlborough and Oxford. He has earned his living as a schoolmaster and journalist, and has made himself eminent not only as a poet but as an authority on English architecture, notably that of the nineteenth century. His poetic works are: Continual Dew ( 1937); Old Lights for New Chancels ( 1940); New Bats in Old Belfries ( 1944); Selected Poems ( 1948); and A Few Late Chrysanthemums ( 1954).

Mr. Betjeman is one of the most widely enjoyed of living poets; and also one of the most original. Not that he is a 'modernist'; on the contrary, he derives his style from poets of the last century, notably Tennyson and Hardy: but he employs it to convey a vision of reality at once individual and contemporary. In his verses, the heterogeneous confusion of present-day England, with its mixture of antique villages and Victorian suburbs and modern mechanized roads and petrol stations, are portrayed in a mingled mood of horror, affection, and amusement, so as to create a new country of the imagination, living and unique as Trollope's Barset. Nor is Mr. Betjeman's poetry without deeper overtones. It is given intensity and pathos by his poignant sense of the precariousness of things human, and by his Anglo-Catholic faith.

LAURENCE BINYON ( 1869-1943). Born at Lancaster; educated at St. Paul's School and Trinity College, Oxford. A great authority on Oriental art and in later life became Keeper of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. Was made a C.H. in 1932 for his services to literature. Was Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry, Harvard University, 1933-34. Published books on art, critical studies, plays, poems, and a distinguished translation of the Divine Comedy of Dante.

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