The Poetry of Hodgson Critical Essays

Ralph Hodgson

Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Ralph Hodgson wrote very little but remarkably fine poetry through a long life that was mostly removed, though conscious choice, from the bustle of the busy world. A self-educated pressman and draftsman from Yorkshire, he did not publish any collection of verse until he was thirty-six, when THE LAST BLACKBIRD appeared in 1907. The volume included such polished lyrics as “The Linnet” and the title poem, and Hodgson was immediately granted a place of prominence among lyricists of his generation. With his appearance in the second Georgian anthology in 1915, he was indelibly linked, for better or worse, with that group of pre-World War I British poets who have been termed “Georgian” because of King George V and because Edward Marsh, editor of the anthology prophesied another Georgian Age as a result of their talent.

The group with which Hodgson was thus associated consisted of poets as varied as Lascelles Abercrombie, Gordon Bottomley, Rupert Brooke, W. H. Davies, Walter de la Mare, W. W. Gibson, John Drinkwater, John Masefield, James Stephens, Siegfried Sassoon, and the early D. H. Lawrence and Robert Graves. They had no formal aesthetic—few British poetry groups have ever had—but they did have a number of poetic aims and attributes that linked them, although they themselves were not too much aware of this connection at the time. Though not as resolutely formal in technique as Ezra Pound, or as ready to plum the emotional limits of despair as T. S. Eliot, all the Georgians were like that more famous pair in moving away from late Victorian rhetoric and moralizing towards a more realistic depiction in poetry of the world in which they lived. Reacting against scenes of romantic and patriotic glamor in the poetry of Tennyson and against his obtrusive moralizing, they also avoided the hypnotic rhythms and eccentric themes of Swinburne. They deliberately endeavored to return to the roots of Romanticism associated by them, in scenes of rural simplicity, with the woods, birds, and animals of Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley.

This was not merely an attempt to imitate long-dead poets or to retreat from the complex disappointments of the industrial world, but also a genuine effort to re-create the original elements of the Romantic Movement. Poems, Hodgson’s second book, contains several lyrics which succeed in achieving these effects admirably. His short poem, “Stupidity Street,” reprinted...

(The entire section is 994 words.)