In the first half of the twentieth century, a literary revolution occurred. Pound, Eliot, and their associates overpowered the previous genteel Victorian style of polite verse. To the advocates of this modernist revolution, the lyric poems of Robert Bridges seemed to represent everything corrupt in art: Bridges was traditional, a craftsman, controlled, impersonal, polished, moral, and optimistic. Although he had served as poet laureate from 1913 until 1930 and was a very influential and respected writer for the last forty years of his life, the use of modernism obliterated his fame within a few years after his death, so that he is virtually unknown by modern readers. This fall from favor is not justified, and probably Bridges will one day be restored to his rightful position as a counterweight to Eliot in the 1920’s, a worthy opponent of the new wave.
Bridges wrote only a few significant poems as a schoolboy. His serious inspiration came rather late, so that the poems collected in his first book, Poems, appear to have been written mainly in the preceding year. The 1873 collection is uneven, sometimes unsophisticated, and Bridges later tried to buy and destroy all the copies printed. He rewrote, added some poems, and deleted others entirely for his second series (1879) and his third series (1880). The Shorter Poems in four books published in 1890 grew out of the earlier volumes and established him as one of the leading poets of his...
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