Majority of the modern poets are tend to express things with a negative tint, just differ from the traditional style of writing poetry. The modern poet T.S Eliot is notable for using the same and his great epic, ‘The Waste Land’ exemplifies it. The very opening line of the poem has begun with the controversial line “April is the cruelest month,” which is contradictory to the concept of spring season as the sweetest and pleasant by most poets. Traditional poets has always been regarded spring as the season of ‘rebirth’ and as the bringer of lot of hopes and dreams. But the April brings only dejection to Eliot because of various reasons.
T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” is considered as the expressions of his disillusionment with the moral decay of post World War I in Europe. Eliot pictures the barrenness of life from which faith has fled. It is a wilderness of the spirit viewed mostly against the background of neglected London life. Through a heap of broken images Eliot presents a forceful vision of post-war degeneration of European Civilization. The poem begins with an epigraph which reveals the sign of a pessimistic approach by the poet.
The scattered vision of spiritual disruption is presented in one of the most conquering openings in English poetry. It says:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain. (lines 1-4, Eliot)
It begins with a reference to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Here poet says April is the cruelest month. Generally the spring is presents the symbol of regeneration and rebirth both in literature and life, It is the time when nature should be regenerating after a long dreadful winter. Regeneration is something painful and it brings back reminders of a rich and happier past. In ‘The Waste Land,’ memory creates a disagreement of the past with the present, a coincidence that points out how badly the things have collapsed. The light of the implications of world war, disintegration of European civilization, barrenness of human life, spiritual disruption , social discontent most of the poets of modern world present sheer pessimism in their works. The great economic destruction of the late 1920 s and early 1930 s had a significant impact on the modern poetry. Modern poets like W. H. Auden, Wilfred Owen, and Stephan Spender have discussed the futility of war and the barrenness of human lie in the earth in their poetry. The new poetry is realistic and the poet’s consciousness of the harsh realities of life has shattered all positive illusions and dreams the Great War was a negative experience, man lost his faith and values. Pessimism and disillusionment were the major features in the works of Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housemans, and W.B. Yeats. According to T.S. Eliot the modern world is filled with conflicts, doubts, and frustration. So the regeneration becomes a waste. The poet finds nothing in the past, more memorable and hopeful.
From the analysis of the modern and the traditional concept of the poetry , it is understood that modern poets like Eliot focused on the conflicts, doubts, and frustration. These poets are felt with the problem of existence of modern man who cannot find satisfaction in anything around him and are wandering and fighting in the darkness. The true state of the modern man is expressed in these lines when Arnold rightly puts it as “we are here as on a darkling plain/ Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,/ Where ignorant armies clash by night.” (Dover Beach).
Naturally it forces them to view life through the negative eye. But the traditional poets were free enough to enjoy nature and his surroundings which enabled them in composing very good poems with the positive aspect of life. Modern poetry becomes negative because of its realistic approach they are forced to be supportive with real life situations.
Dover Beach. Sue Hutton. (2009). Web.