Literary Shelf

Autumn by T.E. Hulme

 A touch of cold in the Autumn night
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded;
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

T.E. Hulme, how to admire and appreciate a poet who is credited with the introduction of imagism into the realms of modern English poetry, how to assess and analyze a poet so imagistic in his approach and style? How to discuss his poetry who died in the prime of his youth just like Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen and others, got killed in the War while serving in Belgium?

Hulme is a poet from whom Pound and Eliot have derived it poetic materials and think him fit to be called so. To read him is to know poetry is imagery, a study in imagism and imagistic elements. There must be poetic inspiration as well as the storing of new poetic images. Poetry is in images, poetry is the imagery of life, the poet means to say it.

A Lecture on Poetry reminds us of Eliot’s essays, Arnold’s criticism and if poetry is criticism of life to Arnold, poetry is imagism and imagery, coming down to as a trail of images to Hulme and his explanation of romanticism and classicism too is splendid. Had he been alive for more, he would have surpassed and trespassed many great poets and masters of criticism, would have many laurels and awards and would have definitely changed the course of literature. One who has read Henri Bergson and Georges Sorel, translated them and has applauded the modern sculptors, what sort of poetry can we expect from him? He will definitely be introducing modern things, modern thoughts and ideas into the realms of poesy. How to pattern thoughts and ideas in the form of images and the trail of imagery?

Before we take to the criticism of this poem, we need to know something with regard to it. When was the poem composed? Had he been abroad? How his origin and upbringing? All these can allude to poetic anecdote and the inspiration behind creativity. It is difficult to say what comes from where and what occasions which. Poetic meaning is exceedingly difficult to reach at.

Even after being touched by the cold of autumn, he steps outside and takes to the stroll of abroad, into the country with the ruddy moon hanging over a hedge and marking it just like a red-faced farmer. He does not pause it there, just nods his head in reply to the ruddy moon lurking over a hedge just like a red-faced farmer and sees the stars blinking like the white-faced town children. Just with the images given under the wrap of a few lines, the poet hints towards the cold of autumn, the walks taken and strayed far into the country, the red moon lurking over the hedge and the white stars blinking like the white town children.

With a handful of words, he crams the poem with ideas and images and condenses the poetic thought lying inherent within the poetic texture of the poem. How beautiful the images are, how musical the lines rhyming with and so the phrases and idiomatic expressions! The ruddy moon, wistful stars, red-faced farmer, a touch of cold, autumn night, etc. add beauty, depth and meaning to the poem. All the lines are quotable.

The first two lines tell of the autumnal cold night which he could sense it but instead of his straying into the cold country during the night time,

A touch of cold in the Autumn night
I walked abroad.

Again he says,

And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.

The poet hides in meaning and the poem too defies it:

I did not stop to speak, but nodded;
And round about the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

We do not the meanings hidden under the coating of words. Why has he used the word abroad? What does the ruddy moon? Why the words a red-faced farmer? Why the comparison with town children and wistful stars with white faces? When the poet talks of the ruddy moon, it reminds us of Ode to Autumn by John Keats and when he talks of the red-faced farmer, it reminds us of Gray’s village forefathers and when he talks of stars and town children, it of E.V. Lucas’ The Town Week, Lamb’s The Praise of  Chimney-Sweepers and Dream Children: A Reverie and Robert Burns’ A Red, Red Rose. There is also something of William Blake’s The Little Black Boy and P.B. Shelley’s To the Moon. There is something in it when he uses the words wistful stars.


More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey

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