Thursday, April 22, 2010

Things Fall Apart

Taking a cue from Yeats' "The Second Coming", the poems we have read for this week all seem to deal with the theme of "things fall[ing] apart." It seems evident that we have entered the 20th century and are dealing with the time period around World War I. There is a sense of hopelessness behind these poems, whether it is Yeats ("And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?") or Hardy ("That night your great guns, unawares, / Shook all our coffins as we lay...") or Kipling ("I have slain none except my Mother. She / (Blessing her slayer) died of grief for me"), they all speak of war and its negative effects, most prominently, death. The worlds in these poems are bleak and falling apart. They all offer social commentary--mostly anti-war (even though they would not agree on the rightness or wrongness of imperialism, since Kipling was one of imperialism's biggest fans)--and in this way they connect with most of the authors we have read throughout the course. They are all writing with greater meaning and a desire to effect thought/change. In these more modern poems, however, I detect a greater bleakness than existed in earlier writings. Perhaps, they reflect the (what I believe is) more modern idea of nihilism--things fall apart, and that's all there is to life.


  1. I completely agree with your opinion about the bleakness of these poems and how they are even more severe than previous poems. Even the poems written before WWI reflect the unrest in the world and almost foreshadow the horrific war that comes in a few years. I think the ending makes them even more depressing because they don't offer a sense of hope and no one knew when the war would end. Also, these poems are much closer to us, in the sense that they are in our century, and the hopelessness in them affects us as the reader.

  2. These poems are definitely very bleak. I think what they begin to show is fatigue of writers after this period of long war and strife. Such a sentiment makes sense particularly for British writers like these guys. Britain's resources and men had been so thoroughly demolished by war that it makes sense for them more so than a lot of folks to be weary. Another thing that adds to this weight of the hopelessness projected in the poems is the beginning of the end for the British Empire.

  3. I agree especially with what Nathaniel said about the ending of the British empire. In understanding the bleak tone of these poems and their pessimistic outlook towards the future we must remember that these men were a part of the British empire. They lived in a time when not only the empire but also the basic sovereignty of their nation itself became threatened. Furthermore, the loss of the empire probably hit very close to home even for those poets who were anti-imperialistic, considering that regardless of their political feelings they still would lose friends and family in the horrific wars. So I think the fact that these men were British contributes a ton to the poems' bleakness, and I doubt that you would find sentiments nearly as negative in American poetry or prose of the time.