Old Fashioned Forms Are Fashionable

As we discussed in class, Fin de Siecle poetry was often lamented and described with frustration as heard by T.S. Elliot and other critics. These ideas surrounding the late century’s poetry stemmed within its consistency of feeling contested by existing within traditional forms yet wanting to be more modern. Many questioned why these poets did not fully embrace modernity since that was what many of them expressed, yet worked through a means of the traditional. As exemplified in Fin de Sielce poet John Symonds,’From Friend to Friend’ represents exactly what many critics dislike about the poetry of the turn of the century. Symonds writes a poem within the neat and organized formal structure of the Octavian Sestet while following its rhyme scheme to a tee. However, while the form is of traditional its content is not. Symond’s utilizes consistent contradiction by pairing words such as, “know not”, “sweet strange”, “unspeakable delights”, and “twin minds”. He also includes insistent repetition with the words “or” and “our” which purposefully causes the reader to confuse whether or not the speaker and the friend are both being described as one or as separate individuals. His prose creates a kind of unusual disruption for the reader and further gets at what Symond’s is expressing within his poem, that of a homosexual relationship that can’t safely exist within the reality of the era, “That sway both breasts in harmony, have wrought/ Our spirits to communion: but I swear/That neither chance or change nor time nor aught/That makes the future of our lives less fair,/”. The two cannot be together as desired, “sway both breasts in harmony” because there is an anxiety revolving around it as suggested in the words, “That makes the future of our lives less fair,”. Therefore, Symond is creating as well as expressing a new ideology and desire that is not allowed within the Victorian society. However, Symond is expressing these ideas through traditional form which suggests his undoing of the conventionalities.

Despite, many critics who lament this poetry of the fin de siecle I would like to argue that they purposefully wrote within modes of the traditional in order to express new ideology because they had too in order to be published. Had these poems been completely void of the traditional framework and express atypical ideas then they wouldn’t have been able to be published. Additionally the forms of the traditional are undoubtedly beautiful and using them was just as much of a desire to write within them as it was necessary. However, through using the traditional to express the unconventional poets, as well as other authors, were able to play the system by working within the system to achieve their repressed desires that couldn’t be otherwise expressed without the use of the traditional forms.