Richard Aldington Poetry: British Analysis

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Richard Aldington’s reputation as poet has been unduly shaped by the circumstances under which he published his early works. As one of the three original Imagists (along with Ezra Pound and H. D.), he at twenty was several years younger than his literary partners. Pound, already rather famous and something of a swashbuckler, aggressively cultivated the reputation of a trendsetter, and H. D.’s lyric gifts must have been enhanced in Aldington’s eyes by her beauty. Pound and H. D. had already been friends for years, so the young Aldington must have felt privileged to have been admitted to their circle and to have his work appreciated by them.


It is clear that the famous principles of Imagism—directness, economy, and musical phrasing—are as frequently absent from Imagist poetry as they are present, and one must suspect the dogmatic hand of Pound in their formulation. Aldington’s very early “Choricos” already suggests divergence from the movement’s program:

Brushing the fields with red-shod feet,With purple robeSearing the grass as with a sudden flame,Death,Thou hast come upon us.

Here there are colors (“red,” “purple”), powerful verbs (“Brushing,” “Searing”), alliteration, and assonance, but there is conspicuously no concrete image, and the absence of such an image works effectively to represent the mystery of death, whose certainty is more evident in inevitability than in visibility. However, some conscious efforts were made by Aldington to focus on clear, arresting images. In “Round-Pond,” he wrote:

Water ruffled and speckled by galloping windWhich puffs and spurts it into tiny pashing breakersDashed with lemon-yellow afternoon sunlight.The shining of the sun upon the waterIs like a scattering of gold crocus petalsIn a long wavering irregular flight.

As pleasant and as exuberant as these lines are, they prepare no modernist jolt, for some lines later the poem concludes, “Even the cold wind is seeking a new mistress.” This conclusion deflates the gentle pretensions of the preceding lines...

(The entire section is 1019 words.)