Monday, March 23, 2009

moody Moody & the coming of the modern

At right: William Vaughn Moody.

When I teach my students (in English 88) the literary-historical context for the rise of poetic modernism in the U.S., I know I don't have a lot of time and I know I don't want them to be reading more than a few poems from that pre-modern interregnum after Victorianism and before modernism. So I have them read--among a few others--some poems by William Vaughn Moody, he whose verse has tons of modern sentiment and mood but whose form is facile and traditional. Some years back I created an audio mini-lecture on this topic, in which I consider Moody's "Gloucester Moors" and its context in the final demise of Victorianism and the coming rise of the modern. It's pretty basic stuff, but some readers of this blog might enjoy it at least as a pedagogical exercise: MP3.

This is the final stanza of Moody's poem:

But thou, vast outbound ship of souls,
What harbor town for thee?
What shapes, when thy arriving tolls,
Shall crowd the banks to see?
Shall all the happy shipmates then
Stand singing brotherly?
Or shall a haggard ruthless few
Warp her over and bring her to,
While the many broken souls of men
Fester down in the slaver's pen,
And nothing to say or do?

Here's a longer excerpt from the poem.