Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In his early poetry, Tomlinson concentrated on a meticulous observation of the external world. The subjects of nature and of art were especially prominent. In poems such as “On the Hall at Stowey” and “Farewell to Van Gogh,” Tomlinson combined a gorgeously exact scenic vividness with a declared poetic goal. This goal was to take the lead from the masters of the Modernist movement, Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, who were prominent influences on Tomlinson, in rejecting a purely subjective view of experience. Tomlinson was far more sensitive to nature and to visual detail than the earlier poets, yet their influence combined with his own distinct personality to create an unusual and fascinating way of approaching the world. Instead of placing the self at the center of the universe, Tomlinson wished to direct his attention to objects whose appeal lay in the fact that they were external to the self. Tomlinson rejected what he saw as the Romantic self-indulgence of painters such as Vincent van Gogh. Instead of advertising himself, Tomlinson sought to enter into a proper relation with the world, one that would not simply subjugate all phenomena to an egoistic self-infatuation. This does not mean the self is renounced. For the poet to humble himself before the outside world is still a gesture of the poetic self. It is Tomlinson’s dedicated poetic mission to move readers closer to the world as it is.

In this poem, though, Tomlinson is not depicting tangible...

(The entire section is 474 words.)