(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Davidson, Donald 1893–1968

Davidson was an American poet, critic, historian, and rhetorician. One of the original founders of the Fugitive school of poetry, Davidson created a verse marked by an uncompromising loyalty to the precepts of the Southern Agrarian movement. He explicated his artistic vision in poetry whose syntax and diction is drawn from the classical and biblical tradition. Of focal concern for Davidson are the problems of religion, tradition, and the fundamental integrity of man in the modern world. (See also CLC, Vol. 2, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.; obituary, Vols. 25-28, rev. ed.)

Richmond C. Beatty

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The works of Mr. Davidson are of a piece and evoke a problem in every instance—the problem of belief. A man extremely fertile in ideas, he is rare among Southern authors in having been able to contemplate experience from a settled and definable point of view; he has kept his sensibility undissociated in this, perhaps the most distracted of all eras since the collapse of the Roman Empire. He has achieved this success at the cost of many repudiations, for value after value which the society of our own time has come to esteem or despairingly to accept he has submitted to searching examination. Always the examination has been made in the light of an attitude that is traditional to the author, who might be characterized...

(The entire section is 891 words.)

John Crowe Ransom

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Of all the Fugitive poets who were writing and publishing verse from Nashville forty years ago, it is Donald Davidson who seems to have maintained continuity and development most steadily in his art…. It is Davidson who is most loyal to the old Southern way of life to which four of them [Tate, Ransom, Warren, and Davidson] gave allegiance in their Agrarian phase. His devotion is uncompromising; it is dangerously close to exclusive….

The title of Davidson's book [The Long Street] seems to be a key phrase to denote the culture which he is fighting. The Long Street is his image of the Southern industrial development, which was not stayed by the Agrarian agitation. (p. 202)


(The entire section is 290 words.)

Allen Tate

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

What Mr. Davidson may want to restore, or not restore, or to destroy or create, is not the issue raised by a reading of [The Long Street]. What, in his poems, he is concerned with is the opposition of an heroic myth to the secularization of man in our age. Looked at from this point of view, his poetry is no more concerned with the restoration of the Old South than the Aeneid is with the restoration of Troy…. There is not one poem in the book to which I cannot give entire assent; I should merely like to see more to assent to. These poems say something important about man in our time, even though they may be about a country fiddler or Mr. Davidson's patronymic ancestor, or about the mystery of time and...

(The entire section is 302 words.)

M. E. Bradford

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Davidson's] poetic achievement has been continuous and considerable. Indeed it can reasonably be argued on the basis of his … collection of verse (1961), The Long Street (Davidson's favorite metaphor for his imaginative experience of life in this century), that his finest, most impressive poetry is coming at the end of his career; and what distinguishes and gives especial value to these productions of his artistic maturity is precisely what has set him off from his poetic contemporaries since the Fugitive days and the first publication of The Tall Men (1927)—a preference for and personal possession of a traditional idiom and sense of the metaphorical potential of the familiar. These he has drawn...

(The entire section is 702 words.)


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Davidson's first poems were about lovers and dragons, tigers and tiger-women. This choice of subject may reveal the poet's inclination to avoid some of the unpleasant aspects of the materialistic world in which he lived and to escape into an imaginative realm where lovers, singers, and others of acute sensibilities could be shielded from the harsh realities of an unsympathetic society. (pp. 42-3)

"The Valley of the Dragon" … is typical. Filled with images of "colored flies on honeyed errands," "golden sunsets," "silver moons," "thatch so kind … against the cold and rain," and "Love's low breathing," it is a romantic tale of an idyllic love that flourished in a land where the lovers are shielded...

(The entire section is 3657 words.)