At Home in Time

At Home in Time: Forms of Neo-Augustanism in Modern English Poetry

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    At Home in Time
    Book Description:

    The presence of these values, Deane contends, is not a curiosity but part of a vital and discernible tradition of modern neo-Augustanism that has been previously overlooked. By tracing these writers' common interest in Horace, John Dryden, and Samuel Johnson, he uncovers important links between seemingly diverse modern poets. Deane challenges the whole interpretation of literary modernism, which has traditionally linked the modern poets to the Romantics and seen both as anti-Augustan.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6484-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. INTRODUCATON: Forms of Neoclassicism: Modern Continuities and Discontinuities
    (pp. 3-30)

    “For us classicism is a paradise lost”: thus the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz in his 1981 Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard. In a remarkable argument, Milosz manages first to define classicism as implying “a community of beliefs and feelings which unite poet and audience,” then to concede that such “communities” have been historically very rare and also undesirable in their exclusivity, and finally to define “the poet of today” as someone nevertheless nostalgic for a classical sense of “belonging” (65). In its inner contradictoriness, its sense of a close interdependence between literature and society, and its striking detachment of...

  5. 1 Eliot’s Classicism, Pound’s Symbolism, and the Drafts of The Waste Land
    (pp. 31-55)

    “Classicist in literature, royalist in politics, and anglo-catholic in religion”: thus T.S. Eliot’s now famous characterization of his own “general point of view” in the 1928 preface toFor Lancelot Andrewes(ix). In the Eliotic lexicon, “royalist” and “anglo-catholic” are prominent but relatively unproblematic. However, “classicist” and the related word, “classic,” are in the league of “tradition” and “culture” – central terms in almost all of Eliot’s writings about art and society, and fraught with difficulty. No sooner has Eliot labelled himself “classicist in literature” than he makes the confession that the term itself “is completely vague, and easily lends itself...

  6. 2 The Reader in W.H. Auden’s “New Year Letter”
    (pp. 56-77)

    In October, 1941, the pages ofScrutinyregistered the appearance of W.H. Auden’sNew Year Letterwith characteristic acerbity. The long poem from which the volume as a whole took its title came in for particular excoriation, Auden’s “wit” being described, somewhat condescendingly, as the sort of thing one might expect from “a theological student at a Scottish university” (Haffenden ed 324). The conclusion of the reviewer, Raymond Winkler, was that “another edition of this book omitting the ‘Letter’ and the notes [to it] would detract less from Mr. Auden’s deserved reputation” (327). But even that last concession to the...

  7. 3 Louis MacNeice and the Lesson of Autumn Journal
    (pp. 78-120)

    Auden, we know, was inspired and invigorated by his first reading ofThe Waste Land.Towards the end of his life, however, he chose to omit Eliot’s name from a list of literary figures to whom he owed a significant debt.¹ No doubt some of his classical assumptions were derived from – or at least sustained by – aspects of Eliot’s poetry and criticism, but Carpenter asserts that such influence was ultimately “limited” (59). In this regard Louis MacNeice – whose debt to Auden himself has been consistently exaggerated² – provides a striking contrast. MacNeice’s contribution to a 1948 symposium on Eliot was called...

  8. 4 A.D. Hope: A Poetics and Poetry of “Counter-Revolution”
    (pp. 121-160)

    “I was never seduced, as so many of my poetic generation were, by the modish but essentially trivial fame of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound”: thus one of the more rebarbativeobiter dictato be found inThe New Cratylus(1979), “notes on the craft of poetry” by Australia’s senior poet, A.D. Hope (11). It would be difficult to find an attitude to Eliot further removed than this from MacNeice’s generous confession of debt. “Trivial” is for Hope a favoured term of opprobrium, applied in the same work to the free verse movement (58); and, significantly for my argument here,...

  9. 5 Donald Davie’s Quarrel with Modernism in Six Epistles to Eva Hesse
    (pp. 161-202)

    On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary ofThe Waste Land,we find Donald Davie remarking that T.S. Eliot “has been a presence in my life more insistently influential than any other writer whatever” (“Eliot in One Poet’s Life” 230). The bow to Eliot reminds us of MacNeice’s in “Poetry To-Day” and “Eliot and the Adolescent,” and in fact the two poets are very similar in the details of their assessments of Eliot: both balance admiration with criticism, and both see him as instigating a classical revival of which they acknowledge themselves to be – deludedly or not – a part. Thus...

  10. CONCLUSION: World Enough, and Time: Recent Negotiations between Poetry and History
    (pp. 203-224)

    At Cambridge in 1947 Davie became tutor to Charles Tomlinson, who seems even as an undergraduate to have shared both his temperamental affinity for the English Augustans and his intellectual interest in the American avant-garde.¹ This unlikely combination of influences has been no less enduring in Tomlinson’s poetry than in Davie’s, and almost certainly has contributed to that “underrating and misunderstanding” of the former’s work which Davie twenty years ago pronounced “scandals of such long standing that, when I think of them, I despair”(Thomas Hardy and British Poetryviii). Tomlinson has seemed too “American” a poet for the English,...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 225-230)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 231-248)
  13. Index
    (pp. 249-256)