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Simon Rae is a playwright , novelist and broadcaster he presented Radio 4's 'Poetry Please' for several years. He lives in Banbury, Oxfordshire. For the latest books, recommendations, offers and more. By signing up, I confirm that I'm over View all newsletter.
Modernist poetry in English
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20th Century Poets
About the Author. Sign up to the Penguin newsletter For the latest books, recommendations, offers and more. Please enter an email. Retired novelist Thomas Hardy greeted the twentieth century with characteristic pessimism, and indeed there might seem 'little cause for carolings' to anyone taking a dispassionate view. Britain was embroiled in an increasingly frustrating war in South Africa, in which its professional army was regularly outwitted and humiliated by the Afrikaaners' resourceful guerrilla forces, and public impatience was growing at military incompetence and the mounting death toll with its 'hourly posted sheets of scheduled slaughter', as Hardy put it in another poem.
Twentieth-Century American Poetry - Twentieth-Century American Poetry
The Boer War produced a plethora of patriotic verse, notably A. Benson's 'Land of Hope and Glory', to many even now the unofficial national anthem of England. But less strident voices could be heard through the bellicose din, as William Watson gently reminded his readers of uncomfortable parallels in 'Rome and Another', and Rudyard Kipling, who controversially canonised the imperialist project as 'the White man's burden', confronted the costs, especially those borne by the empire's humblest servants. The war ended in , with might winning, though many remained unconvinced that it was right.
From 1900 to 1945
The year before, Queen Victoria had died after a reign of sixty-four years , bringing to an end the age to which she gave her name. The sense of loss was genuine, but as the more than middle-aged Prince of Wales mounted the throne after his marathon wait to succeed, his subjects hoped for a breath of fresh air.
The great glacier of Victorian social attitudes had been showing cracks for some years. The Labour Party, struggling into existence, had won its first two seats in the general election, and, while the Conservatives doggedly held on to age-old privileges, the Liberals fought to introduce the rudiments of a welfare system. Though Thomas Hardy had given up fiction after the outraged response to the emotional and sexual honesty of Jude the Obscure , the s had in fact seen a mounting challenge to stultifying conventions, especially in regard to relations between the sexes.
Frances Cornford's 'Autumn Morning at Cambridge' captures the mood of optimism that assumed superiorities and ingrained inequalities could be challenged. The road to equality for women was of course a long one. Dorothy Sayers, later famous as a crime writer, won a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford, in , but in spite of achieving a first class result in could not yet be awarded a degree at the time, and had to wait.