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Darwin's BardsBritish and American Poetry in the Age of Evolution$
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John Holmes

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780748639403

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748639403.001.0001

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(p.102) 4 Death
Darwin's Bards

John Holmes

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter explores how poets have responded to the related question of immortality. It specifically investigates poems by three of the major poets of the Darwinian world view, George Meredith, Robinson Jeffers, and Thomas Hardy. Meredith shows that it is possible to love life and accept death. Jeffers shares Meredith's equanimity in the face of death. In ‘Vulture’, Jeffers turns Meredith's abstract idea of death as part of the cycle of life into a vivid material reality. The role poetry plays in facing death after Charles Darwin differs from poet to poet. For Meredith and Jeffers, it is a vehicle for speaking the truth, a lens through which one can examine death honestly and see it clearly. For Hardy, it is almost exactly the opposite, an imaginative space into which one can escape, knowingly, from death's grim finality.

Keywords:   death, George Meredith, Robinson Jeffers, Thomas Hardy, Vulture, Charles Darwin

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