‘Tara Uprooted’: In the Seven Woods in Relation to Modernism

  • Michael J. Sidnell


In The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy, his sequence of ten poems published in 1983, Geoffrey Hill pays homage to what he calls Péguy’s ‘triumph of… “defeat”’.1 Hill also commemorates the end of a phase of French civilization during the years preceding the Great War: the years of the Dreyfus affair and the assassination of Jaurès. The death of Péguy in 1914 completes the action of the sequence. Hill’s Péguy and his France are symbolically integral with Christendom itself and there is the odd allusion, in the poem, to contemporaneous events in Britain.2 For epigraph, Hill quotes Péguy: ‘Nous sommes les derniers. Presque les après derniers. Aussitôt après nous commence un autre âge, un tout autre monde, le monde de ceux qui ne croient plus à rien, qui s’en font gloire et orgueil’.3


Contemporaneous Event French Civilization Dialectical Method Lyrical Passage Young Poet 
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  1. 1.
    Geoffrey Hill, The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy (London: Deutsch, 1983) p. 36.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Virginia Woolf, The Captain’s Death Bed and Other Essays (London: Hogarth Press, 1950) p. 91.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    C. F. Masterman, The Condition of England (London: Methuen, 1909)Google Scholar
  4. Barbara Tuchmann in The Proud Tower: A Portrait of The World Before the War, 1890–1914 (New York: Macmillan, 1966) p. 382.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Hugh MacDiarmid, Complete Poems, 1920–1976, ed. Michael Grieve and W. R. Aitken (London: Martin Brian & O’Keeffe, 1978) I, 299.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Herbert Read, Art Now: An Introduction to the Theory of Modern Painting and Sculpture, 2nd edn (New York: Harcourt, Brace, n.d. [1936]) p. 59.Google Scholar
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    For examples of ‘pre-modernist’ versions, see Harold H. Williams, Modern English Writers: Being a Study of Imaginative Literature 1890–1914 (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1925) pp. 152–7Google Scholar
  8. J. Middleton Murry’s review of The Wild Swans at Coole, rpt. in W. B. Yeats: The Critical Heritage, ed. A. Norman Jeffares (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977) pp. 216–20.Google Scholar
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    For examples of ‘modernist’ versions, see ‘The Later Yeats’, in Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, ed. T. S. Eliot (London: Faber & Faber, 1954) pp. 378–81Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    See T. S. Eliot, Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley (London: Faber & Faber, 1964) p. 149Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    David Perkins, A History of Modern Poetry: From the 1890s to the High Modernist Mode (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976) pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    ‘Both are flat, faded, two-dimensional pieces,’ wrote Louis MacNeice in his The Poetry of W. B. Yeats (London: Faber & Faber, 1967) pp. 92–3.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    T. S. Eliot, Collected Poems 1909–1962 (London: Faber & Faber, 1963) p. 72.Google Scholar

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© Michael J. Sidnell 1996

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  • Michael J. Sidnell

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