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T. S. Eliot Optimistic About Future of English Language In View of New Forms--"Free Verse" Not Replacing Old Type


"I do not worry about the future of English literature," said T. S. Eliot in an interview given to the CRIMSON yesterday. "People of today," he continued, "seem to me to worry too much about the future, I mean that part of the future which is beyond the scope of our own activity. Such worrying is neither good reason nor good Christianity, nor is it a good exercise for literary criticism.

"Literature should be vital in relation to its own period, not that there is no difference of value between lasting and ephemeral works. If the literature of the future is indifferent to the past, then we must be indifferent to the future.

"With the immediate future of literature, however, we may justly concern ourselves, but of this we need not despair. We should not demand a Shakespeare every ten years; we should be grateful to have one Shakespeare. The present is, undoubtedly, a period of change, and the forms of literature are changing with everything else. There is a rapid replacement of literary generations, every one of which brings something new to the standards and styles which we have already.

"I do not expect to see either a return to classicism or a departure into symbolism. In fact, I should be very sorry to see an 'ism' become the style. Symbolism is very indefinite and is useful only to denote a group of French writers. Classicism cannot be returned to, for one does not return to classics or to anything else. It is for posterity to discover that we are 'classical.'

"Such terms as classicism, romanticism, symbolism, and the like should be discouraged. They are useful only for classifications of the past and have no utility in the present except to declare what one is not. It would be rediculous for a man to set out, now, to become a classicist or a romanticist. All can do is to try to think clearly to know one's feelings, and to use the right words in the right order.

"It cannot be said that 'free verse' is replacing conventional verse or that prose is undergoing radical changes. All verse must have some freedom and some discipline, and what is now called 'freedom' in verse is not positive but negative and so is unable to replace anything. We shall have new forms but freedom, I hope we shall not have. Prose, too, seems, to some, to be on the point of great changes. Joyce is pointed out as a writer who is opening new fields of expression. On the other hand, I feel that, in regard to Joyce, we can be sure of nothing except the fact that he is the greatest writer of the age. Now he seems the beginner of a revolution. Seen in the light of history he may appear as the final product of one age rather than the initiator of another. We cannot predict, but we can always quote Byron:

'I say the future is a serious matter. And so, for God's sake, heck and save water.'"

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