Perhaps the quintessential Yorkshireman as poet, Ralph Hodgson lived a quiet life that was remarkable for its seclusion and for its small but fine achievement. A newspaper draftsman and pressman, Hodgson did not publish any verse until The Last Blackbird, and Other Lines appeared in 1907, when he was thirty-six years old. This solid, mature work immediately moved him into the front rank of the Georgians, the school of poets most prominent in England just before World War I. Though they were without a formal program, all the poets commonly termed “Georgian” are alike in reacting against the trancelike rhythms and eccentric themes of Algernon Charles Swinburne and against the stuffy moralizing of much of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Poets as diverse as Hodgson, Lascelles Abercrombie, Gordon Bottomley, Rupert Brooke, W. H. Davies, Walter de la Mare, W. W. Gibson, John Masefield, James Stephen, Siegfried Sassoon, and (early in their careers) D. H. Lawrence and Robert Graves were alike in their efforts at this time to return to the roots of Romanticism, which they identified with the simplicities of such natural things as flowers, animals, and the rural scenes where these essentials could be experienced.
In all of his brief but firmly executed work, Hodgson shows a special affinity for animals, frequently using them so as to contrast their innocent integrity with the bestiality of those supposedly higher animals, humans. (Hodgson was a fancier and breeder of bull terriers, and he served frequently as a judge at dog shows.) Hodgson’s bird images in “Stupidity Street” became much...
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