A Sort of English Georgics: Vita Sackville-West’s The Land

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Abstract

This article begins with an account of the publication of, and contemporaneous widespread public acclaim for, Sackville-West's long poem of 1926, The Land, one of the most popular and successful English poems of the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Sackville-West's poem is then described and compared to its literary predecessors in the Classical and eighteenth-century georgic traditions (notably Virgil's Georgics and Thomson's The Seasons), before the author's own protracted process of composition is examined. The many archaic, dialect and local words and expressions that appear in Sackville-West's poem are considered in great detail: it is argued that her use of such so-called “odd words” is central to the portrait given in The Land of Kent in particular, and England in general. Likewise, her accounts of agricultural methods and traditions are considered in terms of their supposed “accuracy” and long-term historical and sociological interest: it is claimed that The Land provides an important and valuable record of certain “threatened” and “passing” English rural voices and ways of life in the years between the wars.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-31
Number of pages13
JournalForum for Modern Language Studies
Volume45
Issue number1
Early online date30 Oct 2008
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2009

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