Elizabeth Daryush

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Daryush, Elizabeth 1887–1977

Daryush, an English poet, was championed by Yvor Winters, who in the thirties designated her as, "one of the few first-rate poets to appear in the British Isles since the generation which produced her father [Robert Bridges] and Thomas Hardy." Daryush disdained the technical innovations and solipsism of modern poets; instead, she used a disciplined syllabic meter to attain a subtle, socially conscious voice. (See also CLC, Vol. 6, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 49-52; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 3.)

The Times Literary Supplement

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Mrs. Daryush's [Verses] has poetry that gives her a place among those who have brought into verse the beauty that is of the English countryside and no other….

But the characteristics of Mrs. Daryush's new poems are nakedness and austerity, rather than the soft glow and comfort of the English landscape…. There is resignation, conscious that in life's battle defeat is the appointed end. There is also fierceness, of the spirit resolved to have its fill of fighting. Though there is sadness, it has a decorative quality, the gift of a mind courageous enough to look at time's passing and the dying generation to which it belongs. Mrs. Daryush's delight in the technical difficulties and possibilities of verse has an austere manner also. She eschews the bizarre and startling, and tends to give stress to all parts of a word alike, not always with a happy result…. Where she is not experimenting, but compelling her details all to serve subordinately to the whole, Mrs. Daryush can produce a picture perfect in its unemphatic fashion….

"A Book of Verses," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1931; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 1520, March 19, 1931, p. 223.

The Times Literary Supplement

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Readers of Mrs. Daryush's previous books know that she often feels cramped by traditional metres. [Verses: Fourth Book] contains an experimental element, marked as such by having the lines printed without capitals. These pieces follow the accent of "ordinary deliberate speech," and are written in "metres governed only by the number of syllables to the line."…

Her practice accepts such rhymes as "good" and "thewed," "ache" and "back," and she is so intimately occupied with the rhythm which reinforces her visualization that the actual rhyming is almost an irrelevance…. The writer remains one of the most patient and subtle of living poets, unresting in her resolution to explore and extend the borders of expression in verse. But she now reveals a new power to live with others, and to see into the hardness and narrowness of their lot….

Mrs. Daryush proves again her descriptive gift, and perhaps more richly than before. Sometimes it is seen in concentration…. Sometimes it works in a leisured unfolding, that hardly flowers more into one line than into any other…. But, after all, Mrs. Daryush's readers knew already that she could evoke memory and make it become vision again. We accept new examples of her power gratefully. But we shall miss the book's significance unless we draw attention to its quality of self-revelation. The writer not only enters into others' lives, she expresses her own, with a reticence that does not hide her passion of devotion to her art…. The book everywhere testifies to an exceptional sense of urgency and determination, present in scarcely any other contemporary poet…. [Throughout] this book speaks a mind which is aware of the chains imposed by mortality, but is set to achieve something which the immortal poets, if they saw it, would accept as in the canon.

"Mrs. Daryush's Poems," in The Times Literary Supplement © Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1935; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 1726, February 28, 1935, p. 120.

The Times Literary Supplement

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[In The Last Man. And Other Verses considerations of technique] perhaps insist on the reader's notice … a little more than they should. The experiments in "syllabic metre" which occur very frequently among the examples of normal versification, and are signalled by being printed without capital letters at the beginning of the lines, form a problem not to be avoided. Where they appear, the listening mind must change its rule and discover that "orchid" and "sighted," "engines" and "mines," include rhymes. The general effect is therefore that the attention is unduly distracted from the substance and essence of the poems to their outward aspect.

Nevertheless, in this as in her former volumes, Mrs. Daryush steadily impresses her reader as being one of the poets who "see yonder shining light." She writes in the spirit of a living morality, a progressive humanity. It is not an attitude, but a vitality; if it is not the kind of view which yields a splendid array of symbols of man and his world, yet it is apt to express itself on occasion in clear and striking terms….

"Poetry: 'The Last Man'," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1936; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 1802, August 15, 1936, p. 666.

Yvor Winters

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Mrs. Daryush has engaged in certain technical practices which perhaps need to be explained…. The principles of syllabic meter are simple in theory: the line is measured by syllable-count and must not be measurable by any other pattern. The poet is thus required to vary the number and pattern of stresses from line to line, and to do it in such a manner as to create a successful rhythm; he is at the same time free to rhyme unaccented with accented syllables, as heiress with bless. The poet is thus given more freedom, or at least more variety, potentially, than is easily managed, and unless both line and poem are short, the rhythm is likely to degenerate into shapelessness. Within proper limits, however, this meter can be used with extraordinary success, as Mrs. Daryush has demonstrated. (pp. ix-x)

Mrs. Daryush allows herself no elision; every syllable which is spoken is counted. And although she has used the twelve-syllable line with about as much success as it admits …, she confines her syllabic poems mainly to the five-syllable line, either alone or in combination with the line of four syllables, with results which are often remarkably beautiful…. (pp. x-xi)

As to the subject matter of [Selected Poems], the reader may at first examination feel that there is more similarity and less richness than is actually present. A good many of the poems are in some measure descriptive, although the descriptive element becomes less marked in the later poems. Within the poems which one might label as more or less descriptive, however, there is a good deal of diversity…. Underlying many of these poems is an acute sense, often hard to lay a finger on precisely, not only of the impermanence of life, but of its almost ironic precariousness in spite of its beauty, and similarly of the precariousness of personal integrity, and this sense increases in the later poems, which are less preoccupied with Nature and more with society, especially with the precariousness of the society of our century; a sense which becomes almost brutally harsh in XLVI, and which reaches its finest expression, I suspect, in the two-edged loveliness of Still-Life. On the other hand, Mrs. Daryush has shown a remarkable gift for dealing directly with experience, with little or no intervention by sensory material; some of her most beautiful poems are nearly free from description and imagery and display something of the plain purity of medieval and Renaissance poetry at its best…. (pp. xi-xiii)

I should like to call attention briefly to the outstanding qualities of the poet's diction: its quietness and its concentration…. [There] is no ambiguity and there is little potentiality: what she does is actual, it is realized. Unlike so many of the poets of our time, she never seems to say more than she means; she seems to say less, and one has to read her repeatedly to find it all, but when one really looks it is all there and in small space. She is not pretentious, she is not an exhibitionist; she is rather perfectly serious and perfectly honest—she has something on her mind, she knows it is worth saying, and she tries to say what she means, by employing all the subtlest resources of her art. Poetry as an art is an anomaly at present, an anachronism; poetry today is rather a debauch, a form of self-indulgence, or a form of self-advertisement. But it was once an art, and it will be again, and I believe that Mrs. Daryush will survive the interval. (p. xiii)

Yvor Winters, "A Foreword" (1947; reprinted by permission of Janet Lewis Winters, for the Estate of Yvor Winters), in Selected Poems by Elizabeth Daryush, edited by Yvor Winters, William Morrow, 1948, pp. ix-xiv.

David Daiches

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Though it is true that in some of [the poems in "Selected Poems"] there are traces of [Robert] Bridges' concern with syllabic meter, this is not what strikes the reader, nor can it be said to constitute the chief interest of the poems, which are characterized by fresh and clear descriptions of nature, supple but not over-loose rhythms, and an everpresent didacticism. This frank didacticism—all things in nature and in domestic life being seen as occasions for moralizing—is a somewhat disturbing feature of the collection, and sorts ill with the precise, clear-eyed descriptions and effective metrics. There is a delicacy of observation matched with metrical skill in the best of these poems, but for the moral to be put across effectively we need more than its statement in clean verse—it must flower from the poem more subtly and more cogently than it does in anything Mrs. Daryush seems able to achieve. The reader is further disturbed by echoes of an outmoded poetic diction—"would that I might," "for aye," "what time" for "when"—which do not fit with the unassuming, almost conversational tone of many of the poems.

There is a fine simplicity about the best of Mrs. Daryush's poems—though hardly "the plain purity of medieval Renaissance poetry as its best," as Mr. Winters claims in his introduction [see excerpt above]—and in them one catches glimpses of a most attractive sensibility. There are occasional suggestions of Herrick, and some even of George Herbert, but too often the delicacy of phrasing cannot conceal the triteness of the moral. Her sensibility, in fact, is more interesting than her ideas, and she has not developed a technique that can present the latter wholly through the former….

David Daiches, "Precise Poems," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation), April 3, 1949, p. 17.

Richard Ellmann

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Living in an age when the poet's first duty has been to find an appropriate language, [Mrs. Daryush] has avoided the problem by using a language that is dead. Her accomplishments have been chiefly technical, and these in themselves are not enough. (p. 306)

[In her Selected Poems] Mrs. Daryush has tacitly acknowledged the necessity of shifting to a more current idiom. Even here, however, her touch is not sure. So a poem like March 21 begins well:

               The wood's alive today—                     Warm power all round                Breathes like a beast of prey                     Ready to bound….

but ends with a warning

               Of bliss that will not bide,

and the mixture of live and dead words is its own reproach.

What one remembers from Mrs. Daryush's work are its compression and occasional images like "Eyes that queenly sit" and "Anger lay by me all night long." Many of the poems included in this selection have undergone thorough revision since their first appearance in her books, and always for the better. But she has not felt her way towards a confident idiom which would match the intricacy and originality of her metrics. (p. 307)

Richard Ellmann, "Atonic and Archaic Verse from England," in Poetry (© 1949 by The Modern Poetry Association; copyright renewed © 1977 by The Modern Poetry Association, Inc.; reprinted by permission of the Editor of Poetry), Vol. LXXIV, No. 5, August, 1949, pp. 304-07.∗

Alan Brownjohn

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As far as Mrs Daryush's technical example goes, the pity is that the lesson of it wasn't learnt a great deal sooner…. To read Mrs Daryush now [in her Collected Poems] is to feel how valuable some attention to her procedures might have been at the time Winters was pleading her cause some years earlier, in the late Thirties—but now remote these particular technical concerns seem today. The highly-wrought syllabics … not only require some finesse to distinguish from ordinary lambics, but serve the necessities of a diction that doesn't really offer much in the present. One derives from these poems a renewed respect for tenacity of purpose in poetry and a feeling at the same time that we now ought to be tenacious in some different way. (pp. 653-54)

[What her poems are about] is their most interesting feature, and certainly what will draw readers to them. They are studiedly impersonal, anonymous even, yet they are full of a barely-concealed pain and anguish, a pervading sense of the precariousness of human living and the failure of human aspirations. The agonising choice is between 'the brief hour of ease', and the 'age of struggle' that follows the realisation that the will to perfection may be impossible to ignore. Both the theme of the poems and the technical preoccupation represent a quest for fluency, clarity and meaning in life and art…. At her very best, the sombre and chastening message of these poems haunts and disturbs, and stays in the mind, in a way the prosodic fastidousness does not. (p. 654)

Alan Brownjohn, "Metre Maid," in New Statesman (© 1976 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), Vol. 91, No. 2356, May 14, 1976, pp. 653-54.∗

Donald Davie

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When an unprejudiced literary history of our century comes to be written, our failure to recognize Elizabeth Daryush will be one of the most telling and lamentable charges that can be laid at our door. The cold silence that has prevailed about her work, through one decade after another, is so total that there can be no question of fixing the blame here or there, finding scapegoats. We are all at fault, in a way that points therefore to some really deep-seated frivolity, superficiality, cynicism through several generations of readers of English poetry.

Certainly, I cannot absolve myself. For it happens that I had the good fortune to stumble, while I was still young, on the writings of the one critic who did recognize the achievement of this poet, who tried not once but many times to force his contemporaries to confront the challenge of her work. I mean, the late Yvor Winters. And why, I now angrily ask myself, did I, who knew that I had been instructed by Winters time and again about the poetry of our time and the past, flinch from the responsibility that his championing of Mrs. Daryush laid upon me…. (p. 13)

My excuse, a poor one, must be that Winters cited and discussed [her poetry] exclusively in relation to its metre, as a fine example of what could be achieved in English in a strictly syllabic metre, as distinct from the more orthodox accentual-syllabic. (p. 14)

[Winters also] goes on to relate this to a new element in … Verses, Fourth Book (1934) and The Last Man & Other Verses (1936). The new element Winters defines by saying: 'she appears to be increasingly conscious … of social injustice, of the mass of human suffering'. And this brings to our attention a matter of the first importance: Elizabeth Daryush, unlike her father Robert Bridges and unlike a greater poet of whom she sometimes reminds us, Thomas Hardy, is a poet in whom we can discern a development, not merely technical but thematic also, a deepening and changing attitude to the world she lives in. Quite simply, she has not lived through the first three quarters of the twentieth century in England without registering and responding to the profound changes that have transformed the world of the English gentry which, as the daughter of Robert Bridges, she was born to. (p. 15)

['Forbidden Love'] is remarkable as perhaps the last thoroughly accomplished poem in English to invoke, with pride and without qualification, the chivalric code for the ordering of sexual relations. (Its language is accordingly, and quite properly, stilted.)

But it is more important to recognize that the poet's experiments with syllabics never stopped her from writing in more orthodox metres, nor is she manifestly better in the one sort of metre than the other. (p. 18)

Readers who have not had the benefit of Winters's instruction will almost certainly be baffled by the high claims he makes for a poem like ['Anger lay by me'] so bare and seemingly so rigid. Such writing flies so directly in the face of current preconceptions about poetry that one does not come to love and admire it at all soon, or at all easily. A useful starting-point is Winters's confession: 'The quality which I personally admire most profoundly … is the ability to imbue a simple expository statement of a complex theme with a rich association of feeling, yet with an utterly pure and unmannered style.' Serviceable short cuts to what Winters is getting at might be afforded by some of the early poems of William Blake, and by (in Blake's background) the best of the congregational hymns of the English 18th century—by Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and Cowper. And another way to get at the austere virtures of [Mrs. Daryush's] style is to see them tightened into the fierce hostility of the epigram…. (pp. 19-20)

To have the poet-laureate for one's father is a grievous disadvantage for any poet to labour under. And there can be no doubt that the shadow which has eclipsed Elizabeth Daryush is the shadow of Robert Bridges. (p. 20)

Diction is what puts us off in reading Bridges, and it is also, though not to the same degree, the great difficulty that we are likely to have with Elizabeth Daryush. Here, Winters will not help us. For diction was one dimension of poetry which Winters, so splendidly alert to other dimensions like above all metre and cadence, was rather consistently deaf to, and obtuse about. (p. 21)

On the other hand, if Winters pays too little attention to diction, other readers of our time—especially British ones—have concentrated on it to the virtual exclusion of all else. And this is probably a worse fault. One may make the admittedly hazardous suggestion that in all poetry except the greatest there has to be a sort of 'trade off'—of cadence as against diction, of diction as against cadence. And in that case what needs to be said is that, whereas with other poets we agree to buy a racy or pungent turn of speech at the cost of an ugly cadence (a bargain we are disconcertingly too ready to strike), in the case of Mrs. Daryush the trade-off is usually the other way round: we are required to tolerate a 'timeless' or archaic or improperly marmoreal expression for the sake of the beautiful and meaningful cadence which it makes possible….

But there is a stronger and better case that can be made for the use of such 'poetical' diction as is customary with Mrs. Daryush. And this rests on linking her, not with Bridges, but with the greater poet, Thomas Hardy. (p. 22)

[Such phrases as 'its hard doomway' from 'The Waterfall'] are entirely in keeping with what we recognize as Hardy's characteristic idiom. And however bizarre we find that idiom when we first encounter it, however heterogeneous and unaccountable, we recognize it—as we go on reading Hardy's poems—as a universe of language which is self-consistent within its own self-chosen boundaries, allowing certain liberties and denying itself others. It is in this sense that every poet—except, once again, the very greatest—creates his own language within the language that we share with him, a distinctive language which is private only in the first place, which becomes steadily more public and available to us, the more we familiarize ourselves with it. To speak for myself, that process for good or ill works itself out in reading Elizabeth Daryush's poems as in reading Hardy's. And this, it will be observed, is an argument for not picking out the plums from the cake but on the contrary for presenting this poet's work in bulk and in toto. (p. 23)

Donald Davie, "The Poetry of Elizabeth Daryush" (copyright © 1976 Donald Davie; reprinted by permission), in Elizabeth Daryush: Collected Poems, Carcanet New Press, 1976, pp. 13-23.

Peter Scupham

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[In Elizabeth Daryush's Collected Poems her experiments in syllabic measures,] though fascinating, can unbalance a response which should be given to the total tone and effect of this enigmatic and rewarding writer.

Elizabeth Daryush compels the reader to accept a world conditioned by several qualities rarely found in contemporary poetry. The world is self-sufficient, persuading the reader of its validity by the stern insistence of a diction as apparently outmoded as that of de la Mare, a taut sense of cadence as timeless as that of Jonson or Herrick, a firm moral sense…. In the world Elizabeth Daryush creates, though the eye at first refuses the run of epithets, seemingly so locked into an obsolete tradition—beauteous, faery, dew-alchemy—the poems make the impossible probable. Not only is there a surface play and dazzle drawn from a full-blown romantic tradition, there is a further cluster of words from the world of Hardy: drear, lorn, doomful…. And the poetry does not merely survive this: it triumphs, and triumphs not in spite, but because, of this apparently synthetic usage.

The primal cause for this success is the complete integrity of tone, the absolute conviction that what Mrs Daryush says, she says from a bedrock of felt and pondered experience which her persistence in the craft has made into a true, unfashionable art…. Affectation, mannerism: these words are not to be used as pejoratives when one confronts the work of Emily Dickinson, Stevie Smith, Elizabeth Daryush. The quirks and turns of language are not additions and accretions, but a way of looking which has become second nature, both face and mask.

Felt, and pondered, experience. Yet Elizabeth Daryush is a singer, a poet of lyrical temperament, whose lines are perspicuous. A kind of lapidary clarity announces her themes, and over and again poems open with an exactitude where the words create spaces about themselves….

It is only after [one of her poems] … has drawn one through its own questions and decisions that one feels, rereading, the accurate force and balance of the epithets: the sense that words have been weighed and placed as bricks in a well-laid course. Her world is largely the world of nature, seasonal variation, the play of the elements: a world worked closely by human thought and passion. Into its deceptively bare landscapes come sudden poems of sharp and sober focus. The injunction to the "Children of wealth in your warm nursery" to test for themselves the meaning of deprivation, their security itself being only illusion, and the extraordinary "News-reel", where the reader is imprisoned with the poet in the intense verticals and horrified interiors of a blazing building, a "glare-lit wall-cliff": these are both sonnets of distinction.

It would be wrong, though tempting, to focus on such poems in isolation. One of the strengths of this collection is the way in which it can, possibly should be read as a controlled gathering of force, from the initial announcements of theme and task … to the final poem in the book, "The Birchwood", a meditation on a water-colour….

When these poems are read against each other it is apparent that the lyric graces are threads seaming a granite landscape. Underneath their cadences works a personality brooding on checked intensities, confronting us with a flint morality and a sense of heaven less securely based than a sense of hell. The underlying discourse is that late Victorian dialogue with a Creator more sinning than sinned against, felt in his absences. Arnold, Tennyson, Hardy, the Hopkins of the Carrion Comfort sonnets: these great voices go to the making of Mrs Daryush's world…. The firm moral sense is not found in the form of codicil or epigraph: it is always implicit in the structure of the poem itself…. Mrs Daryush tightens her own resolve, reserving her compassion for others, her strictures for herself. She forces the attendant ills of life into service, as in her consciousness of the necessity to make "sorrow and care" points of future growth….

This tone strengthens as the reader turns the pages; the poems wrestle and tug at their bonds, yet always admitting the leash, the muzzle, the tamer's hand of form which is the concomitant of their grave content….

Behind the case-histories is still the dialogue: the search adumbrated in one of the earliest poems in the collection:

         I prayed that on my mortal road             Endless truth would enlighten me;          The gloom said: 'What is this thy God,             To thus attend and answer thee?

Throughout the collection that question is posed and in part answered, and the Deity, though never brute and blackguard, rests inscrutably in purposes made apparent by frustration, pain, need, endurance….

This emotional struggle with a metaphysic of separation, bleak misgivings, reaches its climax in the long poem entitled Air and Variations, a poem bold enough to invite direct comparison in theme and structure with Hopkins's The Wreck of the Deutschland, and forceful enough to survive the comparison with some honour…. The poem is crabbed, dogged, lit by memorable lines, though Elizabeth Daryush cannot drive her search through with such a high sense of drama or so fierce a poetic voltage as Hopkins brings to his triumph of Christ the Victor.

It would be foolish to value this book as a curiosity, the work of a literary survivor. The poems do not speak readily to ears tuned by cruder musics…. But an obvious distinction of mind and heart has gone to the making of these poems, a fastidious, determined talent.

Peter Scupham, "Threads in a Granite Landscape," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1977; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3909, February 11, 1977, p. 146.

Donald E. Stanford

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[Although Elizabeth Daryush] wrote poetry that is in the mainstream of traditional English verse, she also engaged in occasional experimental writing in addition to her imitations of that forerunner of modernism Gerard Manley Hopkins. She is now credited with being one of the first poets of the twentieth century to write successful syllabic verse. She is, in fact, known today to readers of contemporary poetry chiefly for that reason…. [She] emphasizes the fact that her syllabic verse is disciplined and structurally patterned and not the "open form" used so often by today's poets, of whom she says, "Most modern poetic form, as I see it, is a kind of open prison, without the disciplines of either the cells or the workshop, or perhaps I should rather describe it as the weedy garden of instant verse!" Her best known and perhaps her loveliest syllabic poem, "Still-Life,"… presents an unforgettable picture of the life style of the wealthy and wellborn…. (pp. 642-43)

However, the major part of Mrs. Daryush's work is in conventional accentual syllabic meters as distinct from syllabic verse, and I am confident that a number of these poems will find a permanent place in future anthologies. (p. 643)

Donald E. Stanford, "Elizabeth Daryush (1887–1977) and Ezra Pound (1885–1972)" (copyright, 1977, by Donald E. Stanford), in The Southern Review, Vol. 13, No. 4, October, 1977, pp. 641-45.∗

John Finlay

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[After reading Collected Poems] one is struck above all by a sense of personal anguish underlying these hard poems that give so little comfort, and yet still are so intellectually and emotionally strengthening for the reader. The overwhelming majority of them are concerned with what she describes in one poem as the "stubborn fact" of tragedy, and she writes so effectively about it that the reader becomes aware at last of what she herself must have experienced to have done so. I do not mean to suggest she was confessional or autobiographical. Mrs. Daryush was both private and isolated, and had a sort of aristocratic disdain for the modern practice of revealing one's personal life in a medium she considered public and general. Her poetic method relied almost exclusively on traditional imagery and the dramatic use of personified abstractions, a method by and large in total disrepute among twentieth-century readers of poetry, the one fact, I think, which explains the neglect she suffered throughout all of her career. Yet the imagery and the abstractions never seem airtight or theoretical, nor does the emotional life they generate in the poems ever come off as pretentious or superficial. Before the writing of the poem she knew her subject thoroughly in terms of actual experience, experience that then was disciplined and made deeper by the limitations of form and meter. The poems themselves are evidence of this fact. (p. 404)

For her, as for Thomas Hardy whom she resembles in more ways than one, poetry always dealt with the "stubborn fact" of life as it is, and the only consolations it offered were those of understanding and a kind of half-Christian, half-stoical acceptance of the inevitable. She had a mind that insisted, almost at times to the point of bitterness, on disillusioning truth. Neither for her could poetry ever become merely an aesthetic experience centered around the cult of the beautiful that was so widespread and influential during the first decades of this century, the time she first began writing poetry…. Also she never fell victim to that last alternative of modern thought, a solipsism verging on a gnostic abandonment of the social, political, and moral realities of twentieth-century life, a philosophy that restricts the poet to his own ego and denies him the possibility of any contact with someone outside himself. Consequently the sense of anguish mentioned earlier is never just personal or purely psychological in her poetry; it extends outward and responds to, as Donald Davie says in his excellent introduction to the Collected Poems [see excerpt above], the profound changes that transformed, often painfully and tragically, English life in the first three decades of this century…. We find [a consciousness of social injustice], presented ironically and indirectly, in two of her best poems, "Still-Life" and the sonnet beginning "Children of wealth." The focus in both these poems is upon the privileged and the advantaged whose wealth and social position protect them from and keep them ignorant of the knowledge of "elemental wrong" existing outside their narrow world. Yet the awareness of that wrong on the part of the poet is everywhere evident, through irony and indirection, in the context of the poems. (One of her most persistent themes, and one related to the foregoing, is the pity, which actually sometimes is scorn, she feels for innocence and inexperience, and the awareness of how they not only keep one from intellectual growth but also from feeling and emotional commitment. Eden is always a symbol for her of a stunted, desiccated state of being.)

Yet to emphasize those subjects relating to the tragic and deficient would be doing an injustice to her full thematic range. Besides the elegies she wrote on the death of her father, Robert Bridges, the most beautiful of which is "Fresh Spring in whose deep woods I sought," there is a series of poems on strictly philosophical topics; these have to do with a sort of homespun religious, metaphysical system she half-borrowed, half-made-up for herself, and with which she increasingly became preoccupied in the later part of her life. These are, it seems to me, her least successful work, partly because the language is not clear, partly because in them she is too thematically ambitious to relax with her subject and let it have its own way…. In other poems, and they are earlier ones, written in the 1930s, which make up as a group her greatest work, she is less idiosyncratic and more certain of herself, primarily because of the traditional values which she appropriates in them and uses to her own advantage. They deal with the moral resources found within one's own being, a quiet stoicism mitigated by the Christian concept of charity, and a recognition of the beauties in the immediate, ordinary world around us. They are "classical" in the best sense of the word in that they possess "the sanity of self-restraint," to use Matthew Arnold's beautiful phrase, and they have the moral dignity of a person in conscious command of his own life. (pp. 405-06)

It is true that at times her style loses its unmannered purity and becomes too compact and strained, just as her diction often becomes stereotyped and unnecessarily archaic. These are her chief faults, along with a frequently melodramatic use of personification, but they should not blind us to her excellence, her sturdy thematic seriousness, the subtle rhythms she achieves in syllabic meter. In a certain sense she is the last of the Victorians who lingered on into a century unsympathetic to her aims and concerns…. The stylistic revolution of Pound and Eliot went unremarked by her; she kept away from it as she did from other modern currents and fashions, maintaining that there was something essentially conventional, in the best sense of the word, about poetry, and that style was subordinate to subject. She stayed home, was deliberately insular in that inimitable English way, and wrote poems about some very ancient issues that are to this day inescapable. (pp. 407-08)

John Finlay, "Elizabeth Daryush" (copyright, 1978, by John Finlay), in The Southern Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, Spring, 1978, pp. 404-08.


Daryush, Elizabeth (Vol. 6)