Private and Public: Yeats and Lowell

To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.


The poem as a self-contained, independent work of art became one of the chief tenets of twentieth-century modernism. Emotional baring of the soul was rejected in favour of a posture of detachment and impersonality. According to T. S. Eliot in his influential essay ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ (1919): ‘Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality.’ For the ‘is’ of this quotation, however, it might be more appropriate to substitute ‘should be’. Eliot was not commenting objectively on a given state of affairs, but seeking to impose a doctrine favourable to his own agenda and that of the early modernists. Ezra Pound was doing the same, but with a franker acknowledgement of the manifesto-like nature of his assertion, when he claimed a year or two earlier that poetry in the twentieth century would be ‘harder and saner’ and ‘as much like granite as it can be’, adding, ‘At least for myself, I want it so, austere, direct, free from emotional slither.’1 What offended both Eliot and Pound was their sense that the poetry of the Romantics (and, more particularly, the Romantic tradition as developed by the Victorians) wore its heart too much on its sleeve, that it had become emotionally slack, and made the psychological state of the writer rather than the achieved substance of the poem too much the centre of attention.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
An Introduction to the Poetry
  • Mark Rudman
  • Robert Lowell
  • M Rudman
The Poetic Art of Robert Lowell
  • See Marjorie
  • G Perloff
  • MG Perloff
Yeats’s own comment on these figures: ‘I have used them in this book more as principles of the mind than as actual personages
  • Cf
  • Yeatss