(The fantasia of a fallen gentleman on a cold, bitter night )
Once, in finesse of fiddles I found ecstasy,
In a flash of gold heels on the hard pavement.
Now see I
That warmth`s the very stuff of poesy.
Oh, God, make small
The old star – eaten blanket of the sky,
That I may fold it round me and in comfort lie.
~~ T.E. Hulme ~~
T.E. Hulme was born in 1883, and was one of those edgy bohemian types, along with, Ezra Pound, F.S. Flint and Edward Storer who changed the face of poetry for good. They were fledgling imagists who rebelled against set metres and rhyme, which had been established in English poetry since the 16th century; for them, Romanticism was sliding down the greasy pole of yesterday`s news, and they wanted something new, fresh and invigorating. And so “The School of Images” was founded in a cafe just off the Tottenham Court Road, London, called Cafe Tour d`Eiffel; a very romantic name, in a decidedly prosaic setting, for a group of anti-Romantics. All the members of this burgeoning society were interesting in their own way, but T.E. Hulme was a character of note: a big, mouthy, pro-war Tory, knuckle duster carrying bruiser, who enjoyed beating people up and shouting at actors on stage.
His poetry is on the whole, a small affair: not too much of it, and what there is, is on the short side for the most part; although he has been described as the greatest modernist thinker Britain has ever produced. When a chrestomathy of Hulme`s writing was assembled for publication in 1924, seven years after his death, T.S. Eliot praised the book and it`s author.
“…..a work of very great significance. In this volume ( Hulme) appears as the fore-runner of the twentieth century mind, if the twentieth century is to have a mind of it`s own. Hulme is classical, reactionary, and revolutionary; he is the antipodes of the eclectic, tolerant, and democratic mind of the end of the last century.”
How influential Hulme could have become is a moot point; his life was cut short by a mortar shell in 1917 at Nieuport, on the Western Front. The beast of war is blind to talent, birth, faith or wealth; it consumes all within it`s reach until there is nothing left to take. It took T.E. Hulme, as it took millions of others.