Apocalyptic Vision Modernism by Fraser, H M

By Fraser, H M

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The symbolist sense of crisis was influentially explored by Stéphane Mallarmé in his essay ‘Crisis in Poetry’ (1886), which argues that language’s inability to capture what Mallarmé variously refers to as ‘the soul’, ‘the essence’ of things, or ‘Truth’, has produced ‘a fundamental and fascinating crisis in literature’ (1956: 34, 37–38, 40). He explains that it is in order to resolve this crisis that symbolists have rejected Free verse (also often referred to using the French term, vers libre). Term used to describe verse that departs from regular patterns of rhythm and rhyme.

When it came to expressing the experience, however, he could imagine no verbal equivalent, only ‘little splotches of colour’. But, just as Hulme felt able to express the experience of the Canadian steppes only when he encountered the free verse form of the French symbolists, Pound’s breakthrough occurred when he turned from his usual poetic models to Japanese haiku. It was the example of this form, Pound wrote, that helped him to create this archetypal imagist poem, a poem which records ‘the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward and subjective’ (1970a: 89).

A poem presented as a speech by a fictional figure to an (unspeaking) listener, often at a moment of crisis. As in a theatrical monologue, the speaker’s character is revealed not only directly (through what the speaker says), but also indirectly (through how it is said, and what is not said). Much rests, therefore, on the reader’s interpretation. The form is associated particularly with the Victorian poet, Robert Browning. 911 ORIGINS OF MODERNISM 29 30 KEY IDEAS of the poems lends itself to simple summary of content, there is no ‘story’ to tell; yet they all convey a mood, a tone, through the combination of experiments in rhythm and striking images.

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