When Eliot arrived in England from Europe in 1914, to study Greek philosophy at Oxford, he brought with him a profound admiration for some of the nineteenth-century French poets he had read as a student in Paris during 1910–11. The works of Charles Baudelaire, Tristan Corbiere and Jules Laforgue, amongst others, exercised a powerful influence on the young Eliot, who was irresistibly drawn towards poetic effects in some French poetry of which most English writers at the turn of the century seemed blithely ignorant. In Baudelaire, Eliot found a poet whose verses, particularly in Les Fleurs du Mal (1857), expressed the more sordid aspects of life in the modern metropolis. From Corbière and Laforgue, Eliot adopted a particular tone of mocking irony and grim despair filtered through abrupt changes of tone and imagery. What he found was a poetry which truly registered the modern consciousness: fragmented, unstable and profoundly sceptical. By contrast, what Eliot found in England was, for the most part, a poetry of emotional looseness, of nostalgia and escapism still striving for a vanished world of pastoral contentment. In bringing into English certain French techniques, Eliot was striving to restore to English poetry the sinewy muscularity, the emotional exactness and intellectual intensity of some of the seventeenth-century English poets and dramatists he most admired. To recover a vital tradition in English poetry Eliot had to effect a revolution.
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