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Metaphor, world view and the continuity of Canadian poetry : a study of the major English Canadian poets with a computer concordance to metaphor Djwa, Sandra

Abstract

This dissertation differs from previous research in that it suggests the continuity of Canadian poetry within a hypothesized four stages of development in North American poetry. The study is supported by a supplementary computer concordance to the major works of Sir Charles G.D. Roberts, Isabella Valancy Crawford, Archibald Lampman, Duncan Campbell Scott, E.J. Pratt, Earle Birney and Margaret Avison. The continuity of Canadian poetry is indicated by a transference of poetic metaphor and world view from the works of Sir Charles G.D. Roberts (the 1880’s Group), to those of E.J. Pratt (the 1920's Group), and from Pratt to Earle Birney (the 1940’s Group). Stage One in the development of North American poetry emerges in relationship to the building up of community. Stage Two is characterized by a Romantic transcending of the land which overleaps evil; Stage Three by an acknowledgement of evil in man and nature and Stage Four by a concentrated inquiry into the evil of human nature in what might be described as the contemporary Black Romantic Movement. Chapter One, "The Forest and The Garden" chronicles the wilderness-garden antithesis in relationship to Oliver Goldsmith, Charles Heavysege and Isabella Valancy Crawford. The dominant world view of this group is that of "garden" as it relates to the cultivation of the forest, and the primary metaphors are from the vegetative world. Chapter Two, "The Dream World", describes the movement away from the dream as a metaphor of romantic transcendentalism in the works of Sir Charles G.D. Roberts, Archibald Lampman and Duncan Campbell Scott. The "dream" in Roberts' canon emerges as a vehicle for transcendence which fuses Christian Romanticism and Darwinian progress; in the later works of Duncan Campbell Scott this transcendence is denied and evil is admitted, and the dream emerges in relationship to the temporal world. Chapter Three, "From Steel To Stone", indicates the transference of metaphor and world view from Roberts to Pratt in which the earlier poet's aspiring Darwinism is transformed into an atavistical structure which stresses the possibility of human Retrogression to the cave ethic, the steel to stone reversal. It is suggested that this atavistic reversal and the dominant metaphor of "blood" which characterize poetry written from 1920 to 1945 were occasioned by the carnage of two world wars. In E.J. Pratt's early work, the blood metaphor is associated with the bloodshed of war, and the "taint" or toxin of evil in the bloodstream which precipitates war. But it is also associated with a structure similar to Eliot's fertility cycle and the possibility of Christ-like redemption. In Pratt's later works, the blood metaphor moves directly into the Aryan myth and this also characterizes the writings of A.M. Klein. In F.R. Scott, Pratt's "taint" or "toxin", although carrying all of its previous escatological structure, becomes a real virus. Chapter Four, "The Fallen World", suggests that the concept of the Fall dominates poetry written in Canada from 1950 to 1965. Earle Birney is introduced as a transitional poet and it is suggested that his earlier poetry, which shows the influence of E.J. Pratt, moves from an Auden-inspired humanism, not unlike that of Scott and Pratt, to an ethos verging on the contemporary Black Romantic, which stresses the inversion of traditional Romantic myth and morality. Faced with the fallen world, the contemporary poet may decide to set up demons and assign to them a positive value (as Leonard Cohen and Daryl Hine do) or he may prefer to assign reality to the traditional God in relationship to the making of his own poetic world (as Margaret Avison does). The works of Avison and Cohen are examined in relationship to a world view which stresses the fallen world and the primary metaphors of sun-destructive and sun-creative. The Conclusion reviews the dominant metaphors and world views which have characterized Canadian poetry. It suggests that the development of poetry in Canada has been similar to the development of poetry in the United States in broad general terms although specific aspects of historical and geographical structure have changed some of the details of this development. It concludes that there is a continuity of Canadian poetry.

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