[see C.H.Sisson — English Poetry 1900-1950, An Assessment (1971)]
Rubbing cold shoulders here an argumentative trio
of fluent if awkward performers, rhyming con brio.
I met one of them, but remain glad to have read all three,
since they ranted their best on the page. So it seemed to me
high enough time to assess the criticism of Sisson,
waving ironic goodbye to all that was left unsaid.
Lost between bygone lines of fire, one is forced to listen
yet more objectively now, with most of the combatants dead.
Scorning tight-lipped restraint in favour of acres of verse
George Barker, autodidact, showed a certain loss of bite,
as C.H. Sisson, always the superior scholar, said.
Finding faint praise for his sort of "dogged independence",
Erudite Reactionary got Wild Bohemian right —
with the latter, "romanticism . . . raised her pretty head".
Each critic of the age demanded sterner stuff to curse:
Sisson liked tough, hard music — Hugh MacDiarmid's — instead.
That bard, then nudging eighty, would begrudge pats on the head
from those whose blinkered views were the English establishment's,
class-ridden lackeys with rules on how Art should be received.
MacDiarmid-Grieve, swift to respect most native commonsense,
eschewed the outdated lyric the intellectual
might cannily spew while sitting upon some English fence.
Unreasonably unpopular, no populist at all,
these foolish things a poet sings made him the more aggrieved.
Great Scot, if less than conscientious Stalinist, he still
clearly abhorred a fall down into Fascism's morass:
unlike Sisson, the civil-servant type, he didn't thrill
to all that false Gallic charm, elitism of Maurras.
Barker had doctrine purest — he groped young girls to the end,
reckless drunk driving everyone jovially round the bend.
The rabid dogma, a style wrongheaded, sheer insistence —
none will necessarily vitiate "news that stays news".
Encountering such extremes, keen sceptics mount resistance:
selfless wit in a skilled pursuit may serve to win the Muse.