Works of Sri Aurobindo » English » CWSA » The Future Poetry » The Course of English Poetry ­ 1

The first definite starting-point of this long movement is the poetry of Chaucer. Then first the rough poverty of the Anglo-Saxon mind succeeded in assimilating the French influence and refined and clarified by it its own rude speech and crude aesthetic sense. It is characteristic of the difficulty of the movement that as in its beginning, so at each important turn, or at least on the three first occasions of a new orientation, it has had thus to go to school, to make almost a fresh start under the influences of a foreign culture and foreign poetic forms and motives. It has needed each time in spite of so much poetic originality and energy and genius a strong light of suggestion from outside to set it upon its way. All modern literatures have had indeed at one time or another to open out to this kind of external help and stimulus; but, once formed and in possession of themselves, they adopt these impresses more or less lightly and only as a secondary assistance. But here we have a remodelling of the whole plan under foreign teaching. Chaucer gives English poetry a first shape by the help of French romance models and the work of Italian masters; the Elizabethans start anew in dependence on Renaissance influences from France and Italy and a side wind from Spain; Milton goes direct to classical models; the Restoration and the eighteenth century take pliantly the pseudo-classical form from the contemporary French poets and critics. Still this dependence is only in externals; in the essential things of poetry some native character prevails, a new turn is rapidly given, an original power and method emerges; the dynamic vitality of the race was too great not to arrive at an immediate transmutation of the invading force....cont

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