How do I change the Romantic poem, "Darkness," into a Modernist poem?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is not entirely difficult to change Byron's "Darkness" into a Modernist work.  The vision that Byron renders has much in way of Modernism within it.  Byron's setting of an apocalyptic reality is Modernist in its scope. Byron includes lines that are already Modernist in  timbre.  One such example would be how Byron describes the world:

 The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—
A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths;
This description is reflective of the alienation that is intrinsic to Modernism.  The "void" as the world, as well as the "seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless" condition of being is a Modernist concept.  Another example of a Modernist sensibility would be Byron's line of dogs "assail'd their masters."  This concept evokes what Woolf described as the "shift" in Modernism:  "All human relations shifted... and when human relations change there is at the same time a change in religion, conduct, politics, and literature.” Byron's poem reflect this in the idea of dogs turning on their master, almost like Yeats' falcon no longer hearing the falconer.

One way in which the poem can be changed to enhance more of Modernism within it would be to bring out more the horrors of the world.  Byron's vision offers some aspects of potential redemption. There are moments in which creation is intimated to follow destruction. One such example would be the opening of the poem:  "I had a dream, which was not all a dream."  A Modernist revision would simply eliminate the "I" that opens the poem.  Instead of assigning primacy to the subjective voice, a Modernist revision to the poem would be to simply open with a vision of reality in which everything is swallowed, including subjectivity.  The subjective voice that Byron features is Romantic, as Romanticism placed such a strong emphasis on individual subjectivity.   A Modernist revision would simply be to remove that subjectivity as the "void" of being in the world is one that subsumes the subjective voice.  There can be no assigning primacy to the subjective in a world where everything has "shifted."  Another revision would be to address the notions of vipers that Byron invokes:

vipers crawl'd
And twin'd themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless
The Modernist approach would be to emphasize their sting, and inject the venom that is a part of the viper as something reflective of the world.  A Modernist recreation of this line could be something like "vipers crawl'd, and twin'd themselves among the multitude, Hissing, passing venom to all of the universe's creatures."  This would resonate in the ending which stresses "She was the universe." The Universe being filled with venom would be another example of the Modernist shift in consciousness.
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