From 1937 to 1956, Edwin Muir published six collections of poetry, culminating in the Collected Poems, 1921-1958 in 1960. Muir’s poetry exists on a rather abstract and mythological level. Despite his lack of formal education, his work builds on allusions to biblical, epic, and literary traditions, and his technique is fairly traditional. The recurring themes in his poetry are the relationship of time to eternity, the role of memory in shaping and consolidating experience, and the challenges of inhabiting liminal spaces when moving from life to death, from past to present to future, from dream to waking, and from the personal, individual experience to the world of universal human truth. Muir draws especially on Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious, the idea that certain ideas and archetypes inhabit the collective human mind. He also used his early experience of undergoing Freud’s new technique of psychoanalysis to explore the significance of dreams. Although Muir never embraced institutionalized religion and was hostile to his early Calvinist upbringing and ideas, in his later life, he moved increasingly toward a Christian worldview, as evidenced by poems in his later collections, The Labyrinth and One Foot in Eden. Working outside the prevailing modernist and experimental mainstream in poetry at the beginning of the twentieth century, Muir was not as critically heralded as his compatriot Eliot. However, his work contributes a...
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