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The Early Poetry of Robert Graves

The Goddess Beckons

By Frank L. Kersnowski

Publication Year: 2002

Like many men of his generation, poet Robert Graves was indelibly marked by his experience of trench warfare in World War I. The horrific battles in which he fought and his guilt over surviving when so many perished left Graves shell-shocked and disoriented, desperately seeking a way to bridge the rupture between his conventional upbringing and the uncertainties of postwar British society. In this study of Graves’s early poetry, Frank Kersnowski explores how his war neurosis opened a door into the unconscious for Graves and led him to reject the essential components of the Western idea of reality—reason and predictability. In particular, Kersnowski traces the emergence in Graves’s early poems of a figure he later called "The White Goddess," a being at once terrifying and glorious, who sustains life and inspires poetry. Drawing on interviews with Graves’s family, as well as unpublished correspondence and drafts of poems, Kersnowski argues that Graves actually experienced the White Goddess as a real being and that his life as a poet was driven by the purpose of celebrating and explaining this deity and her matriarchy.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Frontmatter

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pp. i-viii

CONTENTS

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pp. ix-

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PREFACE

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pp. xi-xiii

Robert Graves lived an exciting life. Before he was twenty, he was an officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Before he was thirty, he had fought in the Great War with honor, was familiar with the most important political and literary figures of his time, and had written...

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. xv-xvi

Beryl Graves’s reading of an early draft of this book and her encouragement and comments have done much to give it shape; errors in judgment may well have occurred when I was not assiduous in following her advice. Catherine Nicholson Dalton has been...

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CHAPTER 1: THE LUNATIC, THE LOVER, AND THE POET

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pp. 1-27

My friendship with Robert Graves was actually interrupted by meeting him. When I first wrote to him in 1969, I had gone well beyond the obligatory reading of his most recent...

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CHAPTER 2: THE LUNATIC

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pp. 28-49

When I went to Deya de Mallorca in 1969 to visit Robert Graves, I stayed in a small pension run by his son William. I asked William if I should telephone his father before going to see him. William laughed and said, ‘‘You’ll have to go see him because Robert...

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CHAPTER 3: THE LUNATIC

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pp. 50-78

Graves would return to France a last time, posted to the Second Battalion again in January of 1917. As with Siegfried Sassoon, Graves was haunted by the dead and felt guilty for being alive and, since alive, for not being in combat. Clearly unfit for service, he was...

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CHAPTER 4: THE LOVER IN THE NURSERY

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pp. 79-99

In Whipperginny, Graves observed that ‘‘much trench poetry’’ was written by men not ‘‘poetically inclined,’’ often by officers to address the conflict between their unexpressed love for the men they commanded and the also repressed fear of ‘‘the horrible...

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CHAPTER 5: THE LOVER

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pp. 100-129

Robert Graves’s loves and love life have preoccupied his biographers often to the exclusion of his poems—the reason we all have for writing about his love life. The bare bones of this fabled love life are: the twig was bent by an overbearing mother; in a single-sex public school he fell in love (a sexless love, he claimed) with a younger...

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CHAPTER 6: THE POET

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pp. 130-157

Robert Graves was always a Romantic poet, shaped first by the language of Keats’s poems and then by the reality that haunted them. As is probably true for all of us, Graves first saw Keats through Victorian eyes. That good Victorian, his father, gave him the...

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AFTERWORD

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pp. 159-164

Graves and Hodge first published their social history of England between the wars in 1940, when the relationship between Graves and Riding was gone but not forgotten. Graves placed Riding and her views highly in this study: that it was important to strive...

WORKS CITED

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pp. 165-169

INDEX

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pp. 170-174


E-ISBN-13: 9780292796393
E-ISBN-10: 0292796390
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292743434
Print-ISBN-10: 0292743432

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 5 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: Literary Modernism Series

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Subject Headings

  • Graves, Robert, 1895-1985 -- Childhood and youth.
  • Authors, English -- 20th century -- Biography.
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Veterans -- Biography.
  • Modernism (Literature) -- Great Britain.
  • Soldiers -- Great Britain -- Biography.
  • War neuroses -- Patients -- Biography.
  • Graves, Robert, 1895-1985.
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