The fury and the grace: a study of the poetry and the poetic development of C. Day Lewis


Chapter I: A brief survey of the 'Twenties and 'Thirties is made; special emphasis is given to the prevailing pessimism and to the Auden Group’s reaction to it. This pessimism, reaction, and the personal background of Day Lewis are suggested to be important factors determining the nature of his poetry. -- Chapter II: Day Lewis's shift from private to public interests is shown to be part of his contribution to the 'Thirties myth of a ‘brave new world’. This early phase is a period of technical experimentation, of political enthusiasm and disillusion. Day Lewis's lyrical abilities are emphasized especially as they are evident in From Feathers to Iron. -- Chapter III: The 'Thirties myth is continued by Day Lewis's glorification of the Republican cause in Spain. The poems in Overtures to Death centre on two themes; first, the heroism of minority groups; second, warnings of imminent global conflict. Day Lewis’s style is now more direct, his tone more urgent, than in previous volumes. -- Chapter IV: Day Lewis finds long sought human contacts in a world at war. Word Over All is perhaps his best volume: its themes are: first, praise of humankind in time of crisis, and faith in human perfectibility; second, essentially romantic poems commemorating a lost heroic age. His approach is to use metaphor for the war-poems, and developed imagery for the reflective poems. -- Chapter V: The poetic impulse behind Poems 1943-47 is Day Lewis’s disintegrating marriage; and the best poems of this volume are on this topic. His affinities with Meredith are evident in both content and technique. -- Chapter VI: Day Lewis's last three volumes — An Italian Visit, Pegasus, and The Gate — are largely restatements of earlier themes. These volumes show increasing care in technique, but they lack the emotional base of much of his earlier work. Pegasus is the best volume of the three. -- Chapter VII: An attempt is made to account for Day Lewis's technical experimentation. His various styles are illustrated, and a final assessment of his poetic achievement is attempted. Day Lewis is a good poet in a minor poetic age: a poet whose reputation rests with his lyrics

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