By Brian Trehearne
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Extra info for Aestheticism and the Canadian Modernists: Aspects of a Poetic Influence
7 Poems about poetic failure with such philosophical foundations were the specialty of the Decadence, especially when the failure was due to the loss of an original, ostensibly perfect vision. In such a context, with the speaker transfixed between his glimpses of intensity and the utter impossibility of extending them into his painful private life, or of realizing them at all successfully in his art, the resonance of "The Plowman," Knister's most famous poem, is much increased. The disheartening distance between vision and realization provides the tension of a brilliant poem with no immediately apparent relation to aesthetic difficulties.
When we quiet our clamour, and, awaiting the echo, Choke for the air, and it is not, and mocks us, And our head sinks down and we cannot raise it, Holding our hand behind us, hoping that life may come and take it yet; And the soul floats high, and will not see, Cannot even smile. E. Ross and Raymond Knister and beauty are entwined in a strange perpetual dance, so that the striking image often leads to thoughts of death, or fear of death to a regret for the loss of beauty. " (SS, 143). His wedding here of beauty, autumn, and death produces a poem with Modernistic formal qualities, yet with images that, in their conjunction, are very like those of Decadence.
2 Some injustice has been done to both poets, however, by the focus of critics and anthologists on these core poems; not because other poems that are clearly better have been ignored, but because other efforts they made, other successes that do not fit the Imagist mould, as well as other apparent failures which nevertheless reveal interesting tendencies in both poets, are not generally acknowledged. Both seem, as a result, simpler and more superficial than they truly were and more truly Imagistic even than they desired to be.
Aestheticism and the Canadian Modernists: Aspects of a Poetic Influence by Brian Trehearne