Poets’ Club / School of Images 1909 TE Hulme, Edward Storer, FW Tancred, FS Flint 1912: Pound’s Ripostes – including complete works of Hulme 1913: Flint’s article in Poetry 1914: First anthology
The Egoist, May 1915 Flint’s History of Imagism Sense of disgust at 19 th c. poetry. Pound: “a rather blurry, messy sort of period, a rather sentimentalistic, mannerish sort of period.” Saw contemporary verse as affected by Victorian legacy
Baudelaire, Mallarmé: Concentration on immediate experience Free verse Convey impressions through suggestion
“The common verse in Britain from 1890 was a horrible agglomerate compost…a doughy mess of third-hand Keats, Wordsworth, Heaven knows what, fourth- hand Elizabethan sonority, blunted, half- melted, lumpy…” (Jones, Imagist Poetry, p.14)
Ask nothing more of me, sweet; All I can give you I give. Heart of my heart, were it more, More would be laid at your feet— Love that should help you to live, Song that should spur you to soar. All things were nothing to give, Once to have sense of you more, Touch you and taste of you, sweet, Think you and breathe you and live, Swept of your wings as they soar, Trodden by chance of your feet. I that have love and no more Give you but love of you, sweet. He that hath more, let him give; He that hath wings, let him soar; Mine is the heart at your feet Here, that must love you to live.
Hulme: "I object even to the best of the Romantics. I object still more to the receptive attitude. I object to the sloppiness which doesn't consider that a poem is a poem unless it is moaning or whining about something or other." “Romanticism and Classicism” in Faulkner, P., (ed.) The English Modernist Reader , (London: Batsford, 1986) p.47
“The great aim is accurate, precise and definite description.” “the concentrated state of mind, the grip over oneself which is necessary in the acrtual expression of what one sees. To prevent one falling into the conventional curves of ingrained technique…” key features: precision and concentration
1. Direct treatment of the ‘thing’, whether subjective or objective. 2. To use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation. 3. As regarding rhythm: To compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome. (presented by Flint as from an imagiste)
An ‘Image’ is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.... It is the presentation of such a ‘complex’ instantaneously which gives that sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art.
“Use no superfluous word, no adjective which does not reveal something.... go in fear of abstractions. Don't retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose. Don't think any intelligent person is going to be deceived when you try to shirk all the difficulties of the unspeakably difficult art of good prose by chopping your composition into line lengths.”
Intellectual origins of imagism lie in Hulme’s essays and Pound’s pronouncements Imagists aimed at clear, concentrated representation of experience For the concrete as opposed to the abstract
Crucial influence of Japanese ideas: haiku Eastern influence very prevalent: Japanese admirer had written to Amy Lowell of the pleasure he had taken in the ‘descriptive power’ of her verse evocations of Japan
Flint specifies “pure vers libre” and Japanese forms as the basis of the new concentration on the image. Aldington argues against the ‘intellectualist poetry of our time’ and cites in contrast ‘many Japanese poems’ that ‘are almost unalloyed sense impressions’.
Old houses were scaffolding once and workmen whistling
Above the quiet dock in midnight, Tangled in the tall mast's corded height, Hangs the moon. What seemed so far away Is but a child's balloon, forgotten after play.
One image - compare Pound’s “Station” But quite regular- rhymes, syllable count Moon - associations? Romantic? Reduction of “superfluous verbiage” Seeking out the “luminous detail” (Pound, in The New Age X (7 Dec 1911) p.130
Once, in finesse of fiddles found I ecstasy, In a flash of gold heels on the hard pavement. Now see I That warmth’s the very stuff of poesy. Oh, God, make small The old star-eaten blanket of the sky, That I may fold it round me and in comfort lie.
Attacks the usual Romantic tropes- think about the usual connotations of sky and heavens As in “Above the Dock”, the universe is brought back to earth Heavens are reduced to a blanket- this also discards the religious notions traditionally associated with the sky Ironic juxtaposition of physical need and the metaphysical Romantic associations of the stars
Brevity Concentration on the image, not as decoration, but as “the very essence of an intuitive language” (Hulme) Free verse form Haiku-like economy of language
For all poets, old and new, the poetic act is a sacramental act with its rubric and ritual. The Victorian poets are Protestant. For them the bread and wine are symbols of Reality, the body and blood. […] The Imagists are Catholic; they believe in Trans-subtantiation.For them the bread and wine are the body and the blood. They are given. The thing is done. ‘Two Notes’ in The Egoist II, 5.1 (1 June 1915, p.89)
Arguably, imagism: Established vitality of free verse Shifted the focus of English poetry Broadened the scope of the poetic subject Influenced the work of e.g. Eliot and Joyce
Flint: There are at least three stupid things about Imagisme: the word itself is stupid; the tables of the law of Imagisme laid down by Mr Pound…are stupid; and the crowning stupidity of all is Mr Pound’s belief…that his was the dynamism that created both the the law and the works exemplifying the law which he managed to publish, in 1914, in a book called ungrammatically, and with the silly title of “Des Imagistes”… (in Press, A Map of Modern English Verse, p.45)
“Imagism was a point on the curve of my development. Some people remained at that point. I moved on.” Hughes, G. (1931) Imagism and the Imagists p.38