From The Guardian: (Great poets: The first in our daily 20th-century poetry series includes a selection of TS Eliots’ best and lesser known poems, introduced by leading poet and Eliot scholar Craig Raine).
All contemporary poetry when it is contemporary is initially baffling to its readers. Browning’s poetry was once thought to be so difficult that a Browning Society was formed to annotate and explain it. Wordsworth’s simplicity in Lyrical Ballads had its own contemporary opacity. Why was this poetry at all? And when Eliot began, there were plenty of critics who thought his work too intellectual, insufficiently emotional, to be poetry. Where was the afflatus, the uplift and the separation from ordinary prosaic life?
It looks very different now, almost a century since Eliot’s early poems were published. We can see, for example, what a brilliant, if surprising, nature poet Eliot was, despite his justified reputation as a poet of the metropolis. Nightingales “let their liquid siftings fall / To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.”