Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Yeats #3 on Wilfrid Owen and Hopkins


Yeats on Wilfrid Owen

‘My anthology continues to sell & the critics get more & more angry. When I excluded Wilfred Owen, whom I consider unworthy of the poets' corner of a country newspaper, I did not know I was excluding a revered sandwich-board Man of the revolution & that some body has put his worst & most famous poem in a glass-case in the British Museum-however if I had known it I would have excluded him just the same. He is all blood, dirt & sucked sugar stick (look at the selection in Faber's Anthology-- he calls poets 'bards,' a girl a 'maid,' & talks about 'Titanic wars'). There is every excuse for him but none for those who like him. . . .’ (from a letter to Dorothy Wellesley of December 21, 1936)

From The Oxford Book of Modern Poetry.

I read Gerald Hopkins with great difficulty. I cannot keep my attention fixed for more than a few minutes; I suspect a bias born when I began to think. He is typical of his generation where most opposed to mine. His meaning is like some faint sound that strains the ear, comes out of words, passes to and fro between them, goes back into words, his manner a last development of poetic diction. My generation began that search for hard positive subject matter, still a predominant purpose.(pxxxix)

(And the end of the 1890s)
"Then in 1900 everybody got down of his stilts; henceforth nobody drank absinthe with his black coffee; nobody went mad; nobody committed suicide; nobody joined the Catholic church; or if they did I have forgotten. (pxi)

1 comment:

David X. Novak said...

I always considered that to be a mark against Yeats - I mean his easy dismissal of Owen, who, ultimately, I would consider the greater poet (and put in a class with Keats although perhaps later-ripening or ripened by circumstance instead of by nature) - but now I think it is too much to expect that. Would Blake have approved of Dickinson's verse? Probably not.

I believe that Yeats and Hopkins met (when Yeats was fairly young) and he (GMH) recorded it in his notebook, but I can't recall the occasion and probably couldn't find it if I tried.