Walter de la Mare : a study of his poetry
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This thesis attempts to fill a gap in the evaluation of Walter de la Mare's poetry caused by the fact that the critical works available are either early or slight in scope, or not in English. The study is based on the adult poetry, although the critical prose, stories, novels and poetry for children have been referred to where relevant. PART I deals with the Man and his ideas; PART II with his poetry, with special reference to his imagery and technique. CHAPTER 1 gives a brief biographical sketch and touches on the Georgian background and what the term Georgian means. Because de la Mare left no memoirs or autobiography, CHAPTERS 2 and 3 set forth his views on literature and life, illustrated by quotations from his prose writings, particularly his articles in the Times Literary Supplement from 1908 to 1938. His love of the English language, his belief in the connection between sound and meaning, his emphasis on inspiration, imagination and the seeing eye, on simplicity and clarity, and on the necessity for hard work in the making of poetry are noted, as well as the importance to him of the themes of childhood, dream, solitude, time and death. In CHAPTERS 4 and 5, his general philosophy of life, as deduced from his poetry, is also analyzed, with some references to the Bible, Wordsworth, Hardy and Housman. His belief in the importance of love, his appreciation of nature and his ambivalent views on the existence of a God and on the nature of life and death are discussed. CHAPTERS 6 and 7 examine the generally romantic and 'literary' character of his imagery and also his use of 'natural', concrete imagery from the material world, these points being illustrated by his handling of the image of the house, and by discussion of two contrasting poems. His development of the romantic theme of the Traveller and the Quest is shown chronologically. In CHAPTER 8, his use of the image of the Goal — Eden and the Ideal Vision — is discussed with other favourite images, and illustrated by analyses of selected poems. His connections with Traherne, Vaughan, Blake, Wordsworth, Edwin Muir and Dylan Thomas, and the Platonic concept of the innocent child are noted, and it is suggested that his thought is often modern though set in a romantic background — some links with Clough, Hardy and T. S. Eliot being postulated. In CHAPTER 9, the diversity of his themes, method and techniques are illustrated by analyses of some poems, and his exceptional technical ability, particularly in the exploitation of the sound of words, is revealed. Walter de la Mare's critical reputation has been uneven, and he has, on the whole, been neglected by academic studies. In this thesis the view that he has nothing to say to the modern world is questioned. He is located in the main stream of English romantic poetry, which runs from Blake and Wordsworth to Hardy and twentieth century romantics like Edwin Muir and Dylan Thomas, and his work is shown to be more varied, interesting and accomplished than is at present generally realized.