The Origins of a Poethood

  • Dominic Hibberd


In the decade before the First World War the country town of Shrewsbury was remote from centres of culture, too far for a lower-middle-class schoolboy there to discover much about new developments in literature. It was still important to be earnest, at any rate in a piously Evangelical household. In school, poetry was still Romantic poetry (the respectable sort), its theory laid down by Wordsworth, its emotions and language exemplified in Tennyson and (rather to excess) in Keats. Wilfred Owen worked hard, writing neat essays on the standard authors. He later took pleasure in believing that his poetic vocation came from his native landscape, where he was a worshipper among the hills in Wordsworthian fashion as well as a properly Ruskinian botanist, geologist and archaeologist, but the beginnings of what he later called his ‘poethood’ had as much to do with books and religion as with nature. In his early years he was very bookish and devout, belonging entirely to the nineteenth century. His seriousness was as typical of that age as it is alien to ours; it is easy to laugh at him, but not very useful.


Country Town Rive Ground Modern Poetry Romantic Poetry Shakespeare Play 
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  1. 24.
    See DH, ‘Images’ (1974).Google Scholar

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© Dominic Hibberd 1986

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  • Dominic Hibberd

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