20th Century English Poetry Development

20th Century English Poetry: The 20th century was like no period before it. Einstein, Darwin, Freud, and Marx were some thinkers who profoundly changed Western Culture. These changes took a distinct shape in the literature of the 20th century. Modernism, a movement that was a radical break from 19th-century Victorianism, led to post-modernism, which emphasized self-consciousness and pop art. While 20th-century literature is a diverse field covering a variety of genres, there are common characteristics that changed literature forever.

20th Century English Poetry Development

The 20th century English poetry emerged in the early years of the 20th century through various schools, styles, and influences:

1st Phase

The first phase of the movement, the school of imagism, the style of French symbolist poetry influence of Dome, and the dominance of war poetry were all different manifestations of modernism in English poetry 1909-16A.D.

2nd Phase

The emergence of Modernist poetry from 1917 to 1929, the 2nd Phase in the Modernist movement, each of these early manifestations of modernism merged to create a full-nature poem by T.S. Eliot, Edith Sitwell, and later Yeats, among that is Eliot’s poem The Waste Land, Sitwell’s Gold Coast Customs and Yeats’s Michael Robartes and the Dances.

3rd Phase

The 3rd and final Phase of Modernist is the decade of the 30s, marked by the Marxed (Non-Marxist) poets such as Auden, Louis McNiece, C. Day-Lewis, and Stephen Spender.


Diverse Variety of Themes

Poetry today can be written on almost any subject. Modern poets find inspiration from railway trains, tramcars, telephones, and things of commonplace interest. Modern poets have yet to accept the theory of great subjects for poetic composition.

The whole universe is the modern poet’s composition. He writes on real-life themes, e.g., The Songs Train by John Davidson, Goods Train of Night by Ashley, Machine Guns by Richard Aldington, and Listeners by Walter.


The poetry of the 20th century is marked with a note of realism. Realism in modern poetry was the product of a reaction against the pseudo-romanticism of the last century over and above the influence of science.

The modern poet sees life and paints it as it is with all its weight and horror. He tears the veil that the romanticists had hugged between life and art. Robert Frost, Edmund Blunden, and Gibson are the poets of realism in modern poetry.


Love forms the subject of many modern lyrics. Robert Bridges has produced fine sonnets of love in The Growth of Love. E.g., I Will Not Let Thee Go. W.B. Yeats’ When You are Old etc.


There is a note of Pessimism and disillusionment in modern poetry. The modern poet has realized the pettiness of human life, and the tragedy and suffering of the poor have made him gloomy.

Poetry as the expression of feeling has become autumnal in tone T. Hardy, Huxley, and T.S. Eliot are the poets of Pessimism and disillusionment in modern poetry.

Romantic Elements

Despite the dominance of realism in modern poetry, the spirit of romance continues to rule the minds of certain poets like Yeats, E. Thomas, Masefield, etc. The works of these poets show that the spirit of romance is as old as life itself.

Walter De La Mare’s poetry is full of true romantic spirit bordering on supernaturalism. With him, the ghosts and fairies of the old world came into their own in the 20th century.


Nature attracts the modern poet no less than the poets of the earlier ages. But for the modern poet, nature is not a mystic. He does not find any spiritual meaning in nature. He feels jolly at the sight of nature’s loveliness.

His poetry clearly shows birds, clouds, landscapes, the sea, and the countryside. Masefield, Robert Bridges, Edmund Blunden, etc., are the great poets of nature in modern poetry.

Humanitarian and Democratic Note

Modern poetry is marked with a note of humanitarianism and democratic feeling. The modern poet, more than Wordsworth (read A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal), is interested in the life of laborers, workers, etc.

In the daily struggles of these people, he sees the same potentialities that the older poets found in those of high rank. Masefield, Gibson, and Goldsworthy are mainly interested in the ordinary person and his sufferings.

Religion and Mysticism

The modern age has become the age of scientific research, but in this modern age, we still have poems that deal with religion and mysticism. W.B. Yeats, Francis Thompson, Robert Graves, etc. These are poets of great stature who have held the flames of mysticism and religion alive in their poems.

Diction and Style

Modern poets tend to opt to express themselves. Modern poets prefer to go beyond the usage of the meter. They have chosen to break free from the trammels of verse. A sense rhythm replaces the rhythm of verseythm. There is freedom of movement in 20th-century English poetry.

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