An Essay on Georgian Poetry Origin, Popularity, Features and Significance

The term ‘Georgian Poetry’ is found to have a curious origin in the enterprise to popularise the reading of poetry and to increase the sales of the books of English poetry. After the end of the reign of the grand Victorian masters, English poetry, though written, had little recognition and hardly any reception from the general public. In fact, in the first decade of the twentieth century, there was a decadent trend of the public neglect of poetry and new poetical works had seldom any market or commercial prospect. Poetry seemed to have actually very little hope of survival against the growing popularity of fiction and drama.

In such a dark perspective, a group of young poets planned to revitalize contemporary English poetry and to secure for it a wider audience and increased sales. They thought seriously of the need for the public appreciation of poetry outside their own intellectual coterie. Accordingly, a scheme was devised to publish an anthology of poems, written by different contemporary poets. The result was the publication of a volume, under the title Georgian Poetry, 1911 12, in December 1912, less than two years before the beginning of the First World War. The volume was edited by E. M. (Edward Marsh) and published from the Poetry Book Shop of Harold Monro.

The scheme proved much more successful than the planners had expected. The new volume found immense popularity and tremendous sales, and several new impressions were quickly called for. Both the popularity and the sales of English poetry were established.

The first volume of Georgian Poetry was followed by the publication of four other volumes at intervals up to 1922. There was a revival of the glory of English poetry, no doubt for a short phase, with the sure indication that there was yet hope for poetry. Of course, after 1922, Georgian poetry lost its old luster, and the fervor of 1912 seemed to have died down in most of the poets, contributing to it. The reign of the Georgians was over, and the flame of English poetry was seen burning in other spheres and in other hands.

This is how Georgian poetry originated in course of a process of the revival of English poetry in the present age. The contributors to the volumes of Georgian Poetry have come to be known as the Georgian poets or simply the Georgians, although their poetic traits and tendencies are not all identical. In fact, their grouping together, as the Georgian poets, is more anthological than temperamental or literary, and their individual poetical qualities, views, and patterns are clearly recognizable in their poems, included in the volumes of Georgian Poetry.

The five volumes of Georgian Poetry represent some forty modern English poets whose poems are found included in different collections. Rupert Brooke, Edmund Blunden, W, H. Davies, Walter De La Mare, Lascelles Abercrombie, and Harold Monro, the chief architect of the entire literary design, are the prominent names among the contributors. In addition to their poems, the volumes also include contributions from John Masefield, G. K. Chesterton, Gordon Bottomley, John Drinkwater, James Elroy Flecker, John Freeman, W. W. Gibson, Ralph Hodgson, Edward Shanks, and Sir John Squire, and several-others.

The poets, lumped together as the Georgian poets, despite their distinctly individual literary characteristics, are found to bear certain common interests and tendencies. They appear somewhat alike in their rejection of the ideas of the decadents, in their quest for beauty, in their love for natural elements, such as moonlight, rivers, hills, flowers, buds, birds, and so on, in their attachment to the English landscape in particular, in their realistic sense, in their simplicity in poetic technique and in their adherence to the main tradition of English poetry. Of course, their poetry shows little awareness of the problem of the industrial world or of the global unrest around them. This exhibits no specific interest in the political or economic or social state of the land. Some Georgians reveal an intense passion for dreams and fancies and mystic visions. Here they seem to be escapists, of course, in their own way. Nevertheless, human sufferings and helplessness are found to have drawn them here and there and brought out occasionally an agonized feeling, a sense of desperation, in their poetic expressions.

In fact, the Georgian poets have much significance in the history of the English poetry of the last century. They have released English poetry from decadence and restored it to health and growth. What is more, some of them have displayed poetic gifts in rare measures in the balance of thought and diction, fancy and realism. Those poets, indeed, have done much for the march of modern English poetry, sustained hope for this, and won for themselves a permanent place in the English poetic tradition.

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