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This article is taken from PN Review 35, Volume 10 Number 3, January - February 1984.

On C. M. Doughty Laura (Riding) Jackson

1

NOT very long ago, Charles M. Doughty was, for the general reading public, almost unknown, and, where known, known for his single non-poetic work, Travels In Arabia Deserta. Not very long ago, he was known to those having a special acquaintance with modern poetry as a poet who posed a difficult problem in being not otherwise classifiable than as a 'modern' poet. His poetic writing was characteristically modern in temper in the management of its diction. He wrote, that is, with an insistent personal hold on his words: 'modern' poets have the mark on them of a will, or of a recognition of a spirit of the times pressing upon them the adoption of a will, to put themselves in direct charge of their writing, be their own masters. (However, a good deal of free borrowing has gone on among them from the poetic mastery of past poets, as a prerogative of authorial independence-Pound, Eliot, master examples of this.)

Doughty looked to a few figures in the broad human scene of poetry - Homer, Chaucer, Spenser, among the most prized - as master-poets, models of service of poetry's highest ends. But these admirations had in them no element of literarily strategical appropriation. Chaucer, Doughty praised for 'a justness and directness . . . which touches men's hearts'. Spenser was the dearest to him of all. His mode of word-use has much in common with Spenser's. Yet Doughty was his own master in his every ...


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