In this chapter we have seen how modernism, despite its insistence on its own modernity and originality, was deeply indebted to nineteenth-century aestheticism and, in particular, French symbolism. Aesthetes and symbolists reacted against the utilitarian belief that art should be moral by developing the doctrine of 'art for art's sake' and their poetry focussed on the evocation of emotions rather than the description of ideas or moral narratives. The modernists inherited the desire to create poetry that would exceed the limitations of language, and their early writing aims to achieve this through the use of vivid images and experiments in rhythm enabled by the use of free verse.

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