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Donald Davie (Donald Alfred Davie) Biography

(1922–95), (Donald Alfred Davie), These the Companions, Purity of Diction in English Verse, Brides of Reason

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British poet and critic, born in Barnsley, educated at St Catherine's College, Cambridge, where he absorbed the influence of F. R. Leavis, upon whom he reflected in his volume of memoirs These the Companions (1982). After holding a succession of academic posts in Britain and Ireland, he was appointed to a professorship at Stanford University, California, in 1968 and became Professor of Humanities at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, in 1978. Davie's first work of note was the influential Purity of Diction in English Verse (1952); his arguments for a poetry of rigour and precision accorded with the practices of the Movement, in which he achieved prominence with Brides of Reason (1955) and A Winter Talent (1957). The volumes are characterized by the accomplished use of rhyming forms in conventional metres to present neutrally toned statements on social, cultural, and personal themes. Subsequent collections include his version of Adam Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz in The Forests of Lithuania (1959); Essex Poems (1969); In the Stopping Train (1980); To Scorch or Freeze (1989); and Collected Poems (1990). From the early 1970s onward his verse became increasingly flexible; The Shires (1974), a series of descriptive meditations on English landscapes and regions, uses a remarkable range of forms, some conspicuously informal and relaxed. He was among the most highly regarded literary critics of the post-war era, much of his work being notable for its stimulating and provocative mediations between the claims of Modernism and traditional poetic values. His numerous critical publications include Ezra Pound: Poet as Sculptor (1964), Thomas Hardy and British Poetry (1973), Studies in Ezra Pound (1991), and The Eighteenth Century Hymn in England (1993). The Poet in the Imaginary Museum (1977), Under Briggflatts (1989), and Old Masters: Essays and Reflections on English and American Literature (1992) are collections of essays.

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