What has characterised successive interpretations of modernist poetry is their gradual assimilation back into the mainstream of English literary history of modes of poetry that once seemed to represent a radical break in the continuity of our literary culture. The modems who had propagated a myth of the disruption of the tradition in order to justify their own break with their predecessors have been gradually but surely drawn back into the very tradition they were so resolute in denying. Early critics tended to take Eliot's self-confessed poetic beginnings as the starting point for modernist writings, and related the radical break either to the influence of the French symbolists - as Edmund Wilson did in his influential Axel's Castle - or back to the Jacobean dramatists and the metaphysicals - as Cleanth Brooks did in Modern Poetry and the Tradition. 1 The emphasis was either on the poetry as an excess of connotation over denotation, on its suggestiveness and its non-logical structure, or on its play of wit, its ability to be 'constantly amalgamating disparate experience', 'forming new wholes'. 2 With two books of the 1950s, however, Robert langbaum's The Poetry of Experience and Frank Kermode's Romantic lmage,3 the perspective shifted back to the immediate predecessors of modernism, to the Victorian dramatic monologue and to the romantic conception of a moment of perception in which an object is freed from time and space and becomes a gateway to 'radiant truth'.4 In both cases modernist writers are seen to be working directly within their inheritance from romanticism, an inheritance that makes the influence of French symbolism or of the metaphysicals a matter of rhetorical style, a disguise within which the true tradition can be concealed behind gestures of novelty.