On Lawrence’s short poem about childhood
The novelist, short-story writer, and poet D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) had a curious relationship with trees. He reportedly liked the climb mulberry trees in the nude to stimulate his imagination. And trees loom large in his work. In ‘Discord in Childhood’, an early poem which he began writing in 1909 when Lawrence was still only in his mid-twenties, Lawrence uses the ash-tree to suggest the discordant relationship between the tree’s supposed healing properties (it was supposed to play a valuable role in children’s health) and the suffering endured by a child listening to its parents arguing.
Discord in Childhood
Outside the house an ash-tree hung its terrible whips,
And at night when the wind arose, the lash of the tree
Shrieked and slashed the wind, as a ship’s
Weird rigging in a storm shrieks hideously.
Within the house two voices arose in anger, a slender lash
Whistling delirious rage, and the dreadful sound Read the rest of this entry
A commentary on one of Eliot’s classic quatrain poems
‘Sweeney among the Nightingales’ is one of a number of quatrain poems which T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) included in his second collection, Poems (1920). Eliot wrote several poems featuring ‘Sweeney’ – a fictional modern-day knuckle-dragger, a brutish but also smart and dapper man, the twentieth century’s answer to a Neanderthal (if that’s not being too hard on Neanderthals). In the other Sweeney poems, we’ve already seen him frequenting a brothel house and taking a bath. Now, he’s in another house of ill-repute, but it’s Sweeney ‘among the nightingales’. What nightingales? This poem takes even more unravelling and analysis than the other quatrain poems, so this is what we’re going to do now. You can read ‘Sweeney among the Nightingales’ here.
The figure of Sweeney features in several poems by T. S. Eliot: ‘Sweeney Erect’, ‘Sweeney among the Nightingales’, ‘Mr Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service’ (where we find Read the rest of this entry
In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reads the work of a forgotten war poet
The poetry of Wilfred Owen is the most widely-studied writing about the First World War, written by a man who experienced the fighting first-hand. Poets like T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound – who, unlike Owen, were part of modernism as well as being modern – didn’t experience the horrors of the trenches themselves, although they both wrote about the war afterwards. Eliot’s The Waste Land is full of war imagery, while Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley contains one of the most brilliantly angry and impassioned diatribes about the war’s sheer waste of life to be found anywhere in modern literature.
Owen is loosely associated with the Georgians, a group of poets writing in the years immediately preceding the outbreak of war, whose most famous member was probably Rupert Brooke, another soldier-poet who lost his life in the war. It’s easy to divide ‘war poets’ up into Read the rest of this entry