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T.S. Eliot, Langston Hughes And Modern Poetry

1031 words - 5 pages

In the early 20th century, many writers such as T.S. Eliot (Thomas Stearns Eliot) and Langston Hughes wrote what scholars of today consider, modern poetry. Writers in that time period had their own ideas of what modern poetry should be and many of them claimed that they wrote modern work. According to T.S. Eliot’s essay, “From Tradition”, modern poetry must consist of a “tradition[al] matter of much wider significance . . . if [one] want[s] it [he] must obtain it by great labour . . . no poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists’ (550). In another term, tradition only comes ...view middle of the document...

Many scholars believe that Langston Hughes read and admired T.S. Eliot’s work.
Langston Hughes begins with, “I’ve known rivers: / I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood of human veins” (1-2). The two lines suggest that the speaker is well armed with knowledge from the pastness of the past all the way to the beginning of the human race. The speaker has emanated away from the euro-centric sphere and relocated the reader to a more significant place in the world. Referring back to Eliot’s route on how one obtains tradition by great labour, suggests that an individual must recognize the work of the past; the speaker and Eliot’s argument are connected as the speaker recognizes his racial ancestry. Furthermore, the poem continues with, “My soul has grown deep like the rivers”(3), the speaker is suggesting that he apprehends the past civilization of his own people; he is trying to unify himself with a historical sense of the past.
Although Eliot’s essay claims that tradition comes within, however, “it involves, in the first place, [a] historical sense” (550). As we continue to analyze Hughes poem, the speaker takes the reader on a journey; “I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young” (4). The speaker provides insight on where the birthplace of humankind flourished. The speaker suggests that he too had lived in the past among the people. ”I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep”(5). The image of the mighty Congo River represents life for the first humans, as it was essential to live along side it. In another sense, humankind would have never advanced if the rivers were non-existent. “I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it” (6). As the speaker recognizes the ancient ruins, he too witnesses the creation of his ancestors. Another connection between Eliot’s ideas and Hughes’s poem is the past imagery in the text. For example, According to Eliot’s...

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