GEORGE VOLCEANOV

ENGLISH POETRY UP TO 1830

© Editura Fundaţiei România de Mâine, 2007 Editură acreditată de Ministerul Educaţiei şi Cercetării prin Consiliul Naţional al Cercetării Ştiinţifice din Învăţământul Superior

Descrierea CIP a Bibliotecii Naţionale a României VOLCEANOV, GEORGE English poetry up to 1830 / George Volceanov. - Bucureşti, Editura Fundaţiei România de Mâine, 2007 Bibliogr. ISBN 978-973-725-894-6

821.111.09–I”…/1830”

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Redactor: Andreea DINU Tehnoredactor: Marcela OLARU Coperta: Cornelia PRODAN Bun de tipar: 11.07.2007; Coli tipar: 23 Format: 16/61×86 Editura Fundaţiei România de Mâine Bulevardul Timişoara nr.58, Bucureşti, Sector 6 Tel./Fax: 021/444.20.91; www.spiruharet.ro e-mail: contact@edituraromaniademaine.ro 2

UNIVERSITATEA SPIRU HARET
FACULTATEA DE LIMBI ŞI LITERATURI STRĂINE

Conf. univ. dr. GEORGE VOLCEANOV

ENGLISH POETRY UP TO 1830

EDITURA FUNDAŢIEI ROMÂNIA DE MÂINE Bucureşti, 2007
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CONTENTS

Preface….................................................................................................. PART ONE: INTERPRETING POETRY Introduction: Literary History and the Theory of Genres..........……….. What Is Poetry?………………………………………………………… The Language of Poetry ……………………………………………….. Types of Poetry ………………………………………………………... How to Analyze a Poem ………………………………………………. PART TWO: ENGLISH POETRY UP TO 1830 Anglo-Saxon Poetry.......................................................................…….. Middle English Literature...................................................................…. The Anonymous Poetry..........................................................….. The Fourteenth Century (Ricardian) Poetry......................................….. William Langland………………………………………………. John Gower…………………………………………………….. The Gawain Poet……………………………………………….. Geoffrey Chaucer...............................................................……... The Renaissance ...............................................................……………... Edmund Spenser...................................................................…… Philip Sidney.........................................................................…… Shakespeare’s (and Marlowe’s) Non-dramatic Poetry................. The Elizabethan World Picture.............................................….... The Seventeenth Century Poetry.............................................…………. John Donne...........................................................................….... Andrew Marvell....................................................................…… John Milton................................................................................... John Dryden..................................................................................

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11 21 25 51 57

79 88 89 94 94 97 100 105 117 118 122 126 143 144 145 157 164 180 5

The Eighteenth Century Poetry ............................................................... Alexander Pope………………………………………………… The “Pre-romantic” Poets………………………………………….. Edward Young………………………………………………….. James Thomson…………………………………………………. Thomas Gray……………………………………………………. William Collins…………………………………………………. Oliver Goldsmith……………………………………………….. William Cowper………………………………………………… James Macpherson……………………………………………… Thomas Chatterton……………………………………………… An Introduction to English Romanticism............................……………. William Blake…………………………………………………... William Wordsworth............................................................…… Samuel Taylor Coleridge.....................................................……. George Gordon Byron.........................................................……. Percy Bysshe Shelley............................................................…… John Keats............................................................................……. PART THREE: SURVEY SUPPORT TEXTS.......................……….. Bibliography..........................................................................…………..

184 185 190 191 192 195 198 200 203 207 208 210 215 219 224 230 237 248 259 365

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PREFACE

English Poetry up to 1830 is a textbook specially devised for the senior students majoring in English language and literature at the Spiru Haret University of Bucharest. It is one of the several textbooks aimed at teaching English literature by using a genre-based approach. As such, it is more than a traditional survey of English poetry. The survey proper represents just one third of the content of this book. The other two thirds are elements of literary theory and criticism, and a brief anthology of essential English poems. I use the word “essential” in a double sense: on the one hand they are essential as being great, important poems found in many anthologies of English literature; and, on the other hand, they are texts that the undergraduates must get well acquainted with in order to pass their examination in English poetry up to 1830. What I call the theoretical part of this book (the definition of poetry, the place of poetry among other types of literary writings, the language of poetry, methods of analyzing a poem, etc.) is usually appended by other authors to the end of their books as glossaries of literary terms. I have learnt from experience that young readers almost never have any interest in reading such glossaries. And twentyfirst century undergraduates rarely have a penchant for text analysis. It is much easier for them to download information from some Internet sites than waste their precious time trying to read, and produce their own interpretation of a text. As a teacher of English literature I have always been at war with the students who choose to regurgitate other people’s ideas instead of engaging in a dialogue with the literary text and producing an original response to the studied text. But I have also learnt from experience that well-guided undergraduates, persuaded to read the literary text and to follow some systematic steps, can achieve their
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provides a selection of information about major English poets. This book has been conceived with a view to enabling our undergraduates to cope with poetry. etc. critical opinions about important works. Things have evolved in literary history and criticism since then. Undergraduates should not memorize biographical data like. a courtly love tradition introduced by Petrarch. in particular. This section should not be viewed as the backbone. But the information in the survey is important insofar as it is worth knowing that the English Renaissance poets were acquainted with. biographical and historical data. or Shelley was an atheist. known as the Metaphysical poets. Seven years have passed since I last wrote a survey of English literature for didactic purposes. The mid-section of the book. It is easier to analyze a poem by Collins or Cowper if one already knows that melancholy is an essential feature of the eighteenth-century poetry. George Volceanov 8 . The bibliography of my textbook will clearly indicate my attempt to keep up with the latest developments in the field. and who will come to appreciate the truth and beauty of English poetry.own interpretations. I hope that this book will turn out to be a useful guide for those who have embarked upon the strenuous path that leads to knowledge and intellectual pleasure. the year when poet X wrote his first poem. of the book. rejected this tradition. that the later poets. I hereby acknowledge my huge indebtedness to all the authors whose books appeared after 1999 and whom I have copiously plundered for the benefit of my students. and with any poem. famous quotes. or main part. and it is certainly much easier to analyze any nature poem by Wordsworth as long as one knows his definition of poetry as given in the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads. and imitated. thus gaining a well-deserved intellectual independence. the survey. in general. say. that Milton and Blake were greatly interested in Christian mythology. Such information may provide useful clues to a student asked to perform the task of analyzing a text by a given poet.

PART ONE INTERPRETING POETRY 9 .

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While writing a book we either endorse or diverge from various arguments advanced by those we have read and are now using as points of reference. It may also consist of the rejection of someone else’s method or outlook on a given subject. We can no longer pretend we live in ivory towers writing texts that are solely our fancy’s children. and trends. and fellow-academics. In the Preface I have pointed out my indebtedness to several critics. Institutul European. However. schools. the act of writing a book is always preceded by the act of reading books. I shall outline the method underlying this book in contrast to other books that relate to its topic. but also a dialogue with various authors.INTRODUCTION LITERARY HISTORY AND THE THEORY OF GENRES Many university surveys and textbooks of English poetry have appeared in the past few years. Inevitably. a collage of inherited information. 2001 and 2003. Any new text is not just an inter-text. In a “first argument” included in two recent text-books for undergraduates who study English poetry (Narrative Poetry: The Mythical Mode and Dramatic Poetry: The Mythical Mode. Today it is impossible for anyone to claim that writing a book is the result of one’s solitary effort alone. Professor Pârvu somewhat overconfidently claims that “when history is the reference point the traditional areas into which English literature can be (sub-)divided are”: Old English or Anglo-Saxon Literature (before 1066) Middle English or Medieval Literature (1066-1500) Renaissance or Age of Humanism (1500-1660) 11 . The dialogue with other texts does not necessarily imply servile imitation. respectively) Professor Sorin Pârvu justly remarks that poetry can be approached from both a historical and a generic viewpoint. historians.

canons are prone to changes. I will have to skip Jonson.Elizabethan Age (1558-1603) Jacobean Age (1602-1625) Caroline Age (1625-1649) Commonwealth Period or Puritan Interregnum (1649-1660) Enlightenment or Age of Reason or Neo-classical Period (1660-1785) Restoration Literature (1660-1700) Augustan Literature (1700-1745) Age of Sensibility (1745-1785) Romanticism (1785-1830) Victorianism (1837-1901) Edwardian Literature (1901-1914) Georgian Period (1910-1936) Modernism (from 1914 onwards) Postmodernism (after World War II) In my opinion. as the first English literary dictator. In the Introduction to A Survey of English Literature from Beowulf to Jane Austen (2000. but also given my extreme subjectivity. poet. Today I still stick to these views. and last. That divisions and sub-divisions in literary history are not definitive. or important. theorist. namely. spans three of the historical divisions advanced by Professor Pârvu. the Elizabethan. and “teaching literary history implies a subjective attitude”. albeit he has an impressive stature in the history of English literature as a playwright. Which of these should best accommodate our poet? Given the small confines of this book. poets. Jacobean and Caroline ages. but not least. second edition 2006) I claimed that “literary history has a selective function”. The literary career of Ben Jonson. for that matter. conceived as a series of thirteen lectures on English poetry. And in skipping Jonson I will argue that thus I simply make room for equally deserving. in writing literary histories. The Oxford History of English Literature in fifteen volumes advances the following historical divisions: 12 . the first English Poet Laureate. one should not use such categorical statements. but rather flexible (even volatile) notions is proved by the Oxford school of literary history. or surveys.

and Miscellaneous Prose 1832-1890 Writers of the Early Twentieth Century: Hardy to Lawrence A few facts should be remarked upon as regards this periodization. and Pope The Age of Johnson 1740-1789 The Rise of the Romantics 1789-1815: Wordsworth. or of the decades. and Keats The Victorian Novel Victorian Poetry. it is obvious that the Oxford scholars did not lay emphasis on politics (on the rulers’ names) in labelling the various periods dealt with. H. taken as a temporal unit. and Pepys The Early Eighteenth Century 1700-1740: Swift. Defoe. Lawrence likewise supplant King Edward VII. Andrew Sanders has taken a rather neutral stance and applied the following temporal scheme. In his relatively recent Short Oxford History of English Literature. Byron. James and Charles. Bunyan. Coleridge. three. there is an obvious gap between the last period covered by the Oxford literary historians and the present day. Donne. or four ages or periods. a gap that. First. represents “work in progress”. We cannot know for sure whether the scholars appointed to fill out the missing decades will divide those decades into one. Secondly. two. and Jane Austen English Literature 1815-1832: Scott. probably. Drama. and Milton displace the Stuart monarchs. which elevates neither political rulers (Victoria and Edward are merely an exception to the 13 . Jonson.Middle English Literature 1100-1400 Chaucer and Fifteenth-Century Verse and Prose Malory and Fifteenth-Century Drama. Donne. and Milton Restoration Literature 1660-1700: Dryden. Such a view leads to the translation of the “Elizabethan Age” into “Shakespeare and his Age”. and Thomas Hardy and D. Lyrics and Ballads Poetry and Prose in the Sixteenth Century English Drama 1485-1585 English Drama 1586-1642: Shakespeare and his Age The Early Seventeenth Century 1600-1660: Jonson. but chose instead to single out the leading personalities of each century.

and the books’ ultimate end seems to remain occult. when interviewed about the historical.rule). nor writers. Sometimes different literary schools and trends partly overlap or occur simultaneously. a three-term picture: English Poetry – English Drama – English Prose. Professor Pârvu’s “second argument” in the aforementioned books reads: “When English Literature is overviewed with disrespect to chronological criteria or rather in terms of genres we have. All in all. in the initial stage.” His aforementioned books consist of long theoretical introductions. anthologized texts and lots of marginalia. decades. or chronological approach to English poetry. I do not find of much help these theoretical introductions insofar as the introduction to the volume of dramatic poetry is actually a survey of 14 . kindly suggested the following periodization of Modern English Poetry: The Renaissance or the Sixteenth Century The Metaphysical Poets and Milton (the Baroque) or the Seventeenth Century Neo-Classicism and New Pastoralism or the Eighteenth Century The Romanticism and Victorianism or the Nineteenth Century Modernism and Post-modernism or the Twentieth Century But Professor Stoenescu also draws our attention to the fact that temporal borders are not rigid. and centuries: Old English Literature Medieval Literature 1066-1510 Renaissance and Reformation: Literature 1510-1620 Revolution and Restoration: Literature 1620-1690 Eighteenth-Century Literature 1690-1780 The Literature of the Romantic Period 1780-1830 High Victorian Literature 1830-1880 Late Victorian and Edwardian Literature 1880-1920 Modernism and its Alternatives: Literature 1920-1945 Post-War and Post-Modern Literature My former teacher of English Literature. the vast critical apparatus is eclectic and sometimes esoteric rather than userfriendly. historical and theoretical data. Professor Ştefan Stoenescu. etc. but strictly sticks to a chronological scheme measured in years. footnotes and comments.

They provide students with excellent instruments that unfortunately do not fit the purpose of the respective text-books: it is like slicing cucumbers with a fork and eating soup with a knife made of excellent stainless steel..narratology. All of the Elizabethan drama may be discussed either as narrative structures. etc. Brecht. My impression is that. and so on (aspects pertaining to the novel and to fiction. It is also an imitation of action. Ever since Ronald S. notwithstanding their extraordinary coherence and range of information. in terms of plot. the Elizabethan drama poses a special question for students as it may be interpreted in two different ways. telling and showing. The author might have obviously presented things the other way round and chosen the survey of narratology as an introduction to epic poetry (it really would have made more sense) while reserving the theory of literary character to the dramatic poetry. not only an imitation of dialogue. as ample dramatic poems. action. So why should we discuss mainly about character when we speak about epic poetry? As for drama. and even Shakespeare (in the Henry VI trilogy) wrote epic theatre. The dramatic and the epic may co-exist in drama: Marlowe (in the two parts of Tamburlaine the Great). prosody. in terms of themes. and in the following pages I shall return to this idea. as Northrop Frye famously upheld in The Anatomy of Criticism. in Andrew Gurr’s opinion. depending on the generic approach one chooses. stream of consciousness. etc. indeed. while the introduction to the volume of epic poetry focuses on character as a literary / aesthetic category. in general) in a book about dramatic poetry? And. and thought. And they do this in space and time. character development. it is. I also find Professor Pârvu’s “either / or” presentation of the two approaches (historical versus generic) to be too trenchant. The generic approach cannot be drastically separated from history. symbols. and the characters act and think as well. Professor Pârvu’s two introductions are arbitrary and interchangeable. action. Crane’s famous essay on Fielding’s Tom Jones we have grown accustomed with the idea that the plot (the backbone of any epic structure) is a temporal synthesis among character. motifs. or. imagery. And a historical approach 15 . But should we really focus on narratology and the discussion of issues such as point of view.

Leviţchi. narrative level. symbols. Dragoş Protopopescu. telling.to literature is. Viorica Dobrovici. A marginal note to Sorin Pârvu’s aforementioned two arguments. in being more accessible and. implied author. hopefully. The practical side of the book resides in its introductory chapters. Andrei Bantaş. Here I revert the traditional order and choose to discuss first things first. While Professor Pârvu’s books are haute cuisine. play-within-a play. I myself was lucky to learn indeed “English Poetry – English Drama – English Prose” as taught by three giants of English studies. simply lists the names of Petre Grimm. All of the books on textual analysis I have read in recent years have glossaries appended at the end. Dan Duţescu. the language of poetry. Leon Leviţchi. I quote once again from my Survey of English Literature from Beowulf to Jane Austen: “When we come to speak about Elizabethan drama. Ana Cartianu. etc. subplot. and the cherry on the cake. elements of prosody. imagery. language. prologue. the components. etc. the parts that make up the whole before embarking on the historical survey of poetic forms. which tackle the very notion of poetry as a distinct literary type or genre. of these theoretical chapters. The logical conclusion. I really cannot grasp the use of this impressive roll of scholars listed without any further reference whatsoever. Professors Preda. poetic forms. Iancu Botez. 16 . bewildering from his targeted readership’s viewpoint. concerned with the evolution of literary genres and forms.” In that very same book I included a model of analyzing a poem. One cannot write literary history leaving aside the specificity of literary genres. this book purports to pursue more pedestrian ends. Ştefan Stoenescu. more practical. we shall discuss specific categories such as plot. I do appreciate the impressive range of information provided by Professor Pârvu in his text-books but I also find them baffling. and so on. and Adrian Nicolescu. will be a chapter dedicated to how students should analyze a poem. we shall make use of terms such as point of view. after all. All these are the bricks that contribute to the building of a poem. character. Speaking about the development of the eighteenthcentury novel. As an undergraduate. showing. It is as if one listed the ingredients of various dishes in a cookery book without allowing the readers to learn the secrets of an award-winning chef’s recipes. Ioan Aurel Preda. “Further arguments”.

all of them used the chronological or historical approach to literature without belittling or disregarding the importance of the generic approach. but as far as I remember none of them “overviewed English literature with disrespect to chronological criteria” (to use Professor Pârvu’s words). updated synthesis of the most important achievements in narratology. In a recent personal communication. etc. the ballad. I used both the generic and historical approach during my teaching career in Bucharest (1964-1987) and I daresay that both perspectives are fertile and may engender stimulating discussions when they come to collide. (he focused on Shakespeare. wherein these forms either held a central position. The generic approach focuses on the study of literary forms along the centuries. I remember that as a sophomore undergraduate I had to write an examination paper in 17 . who drew on them to write some of his own lectures while duly acknowledging their provenance. 2006. insisting on its generic roots. These theoretical lectures (never published by Professor Stoenescu himself) shared the fate of Ferdinand de Saussure’s lectures in that they were decades later reused by an enthusiastic graduate. or were quite neglected (due to historical causes). or in relation with the changes in various historical periods. the sonnet. the elegy. the ode. thus arming his undergraduates with the necessary theoretical equipment for a suitable approach to the novel “as a complex genre”.” That the chronological approach and the generic approach are not mutually incompatible has long been proved. can be studied autonomously via their most telling examples. the dramatic monologue etc. etc. they were genre-focused and still preserved the chronology of the authors discussed as exemplars of the given genre.and Stoenescu. The generic approach invites a comparative treatment across cultures. conversely. with introductory lectures consisting of an extraordinary. On the contrary. Professor Leviţchi taught English drama chronologically. dated July 30. while Professor Stoenescu taught a chronological course of lectures on the English and the American novel. Professor Stoenescu clearly stated his viewpoint as regards the generic approach: “The starting point of the generic approach is the poetics of the respective genre. of course) but at the same time he was alert to instilling the knowledge of textual analysis in his students.

and the main literary. we have a diachronic survey. So. To my colleagues’ surprise. There are two points at issue in the design and purpose of this book. as undergraduates. On the one hand. and political trends of various ages) and the generic approach (notions concerning the theory of genre.) as well as elements of literary criticism and textual interpretation. I might say that my experience as both an undergraduate and a teacher of English literature has persuaded me that literary history must not be separated from interpretation. That is why this book combines the diachronic approach (data about the poets’ lives. as a thirdyear undergraduate. too. on the one hand. Some of my colleagues got the shock of their life. but also at the interaction between the students and the texts (the poems) they are to be confronted with. the specific language and forms of poetry. the late Professor Ioan Aurel Preda. there is a corpus of poets and poems from different ages that the undergraduates are supposed to get familiar with. John Keats and Robert Browning. we also aim not only at the traditional interaction between teacher (and text-book) and students. demanded that we should analyze and interpret passages from poems by Alexander Pope. attempts to define poetry. but. The founder of the eighteenth century realistic novel and the modernist user of the stream of consciousness technique were divided by a huge gap in time and narrative techniques.English literature in which I had to draw a comparison between the ways in which Daniel Defoe and Virginia Woolf handled several narrative categories. on the other hand. and yet. we did survive this examination. I had to take my written examination in English poetry. I shall cherish forever the memory of the day when. after a two-semester course delivered in the form of a survey. etc. nothing was impossible for a student when the teacher in charge was Ştefan Stoenescu. 18 . and yet we managed to somehow survive that examination. On the other hand. cultural. there is yet another challenge they are faced with: the interpretation of these poems. History and genre obviously collided in such a topic and yet. the poets’ artistic output.

which are defined according to several different criteria including formal structure. the poem of community (patriotic verse. Speaking of poetry. epic. Speaking about poetry. dramatic). and the dramatic poem. simply. the riddle. genre is. Paul Van Tieghem defined genre as “a kind of pattern that shapes thought or fiction” and he regarded the evolution of the literary genres as a struggle between inherited forms and originality. or class of composition. This means that poetry. the didactic poem. or protest). the epitaph and the elegiac meditations. drama. species. or dramatic mode. In Northrop Frye’s theory of genres there are “four main genres”: epos or epic (supposing an oral address and an audience). the elegy. Chris Baldick justly warns us that in French it defines a type. the panegyrical ode to a human representative of deity. Frye discusses the following types of poetry: religious or sacred poetry (the psalm and the hymn). for the broadest categories of composition (poetry. fiction” (where the latter term refers to “works written in prose”). the parable. the mock heroic. the poem of paradox versus the poem of debate (“The Owl and the Nightingale” illustrates the latter type). the descriptive (or landscape) poem. work songs. the fable. battle songs – as lyrical contrasted with the ballad as epic). in turn. But Baldick points out that “much of the confusion surrounding the term arises from the fact that it is used simultaneously for the most basic modes of literary art (lyric. “A literary genre is a recognizable and established category of written work employing such common conventions as will prevent readers or audiences from mistaking it for another kind. drama. neglect. the panegyrical funeral ode (the elegy). and for more specialized sub-categories.” For Wilfred L. the dithyrambic and rhapsodic forms. between tradition and individual talent. the medieval love vision. prose fiction). lyric (in which the poet “turns his back on his audience”). the carpe diem poem. “a literary type: poetry.” We use the word genre in his book as signifying poetry as a basic type of genre. and fiction (prose). the eclogue.* The very term genre is in itself confusing. can be categorized according to its sub-categories or sub-divisions that belong to the lyric. Guerin. A detailed 19 . narrative. Van Tieghem listed as genres the epic. the complaint (expressing exile. the pastoral.

In his more recent Literary Theory. The following chapters will draw further distinction between epic.presentation of these poetic forms is the subject-matter of the chapter titled “Types of Poetry”. Jonathan Cullers lays emphasis on the readers’ horizon of expectations in defining the concept of genre. and drama as a form in which only the voice of the characters can be heard. and dramatic types within the boundaries of poetry. etc. lyric. and Horace. Aristotle. down to the twentieth century contributions signed Croce. I hope it is by now clear that this textbook uses the concept of genre so as to draw a line between poetry and other modes of writing. The Romanian scholar Silvian Iosifescu has produced one of the best approaches to the theory of genres in his acclaimed theoretical book titled Configuraţie şi rezonanţe. Iosifescu surveys the history of genre taxonomies from Plato. The lyric is defined in terms of a narrator who speaks in the first person. Frye. 20 . in the chapter simply titled “Genres”. Iosifescu’s book discusses interesting aspects such as the types of lyrical “I” that speak in poetry and the co-existence of epic and lyric elements in one and the same poetic texts. the epic – in terms of a narrator who likewise speaks in the first person but allows his characters to make themselves heard. via the Renaissance (Scaliger and Castelvetro) and the Neo-classicists (Boileau).

” (Gerald Manley Hopkins). literary work in metrical form.” (William Wordsworth) b. we will call musical thought.” (Leigh Hunt) d. Professor Pia Brînzeu enumerates several definitions by both lexicographers and poets. 1024). 4. 21 . poetry: the best words in the best order. intense beauty or emotional power” (The Penguin English Dictionary. therefore. Definitions given by writers are more subtle and complex: a. “Poetry is the utterance of a passion for truth. 541). “Poetry is the record of the best and the happiest moments of the best and happiest minds. the art of writing poems. quality of being poetic. 1969. “…speech framed… to be heard for its own sake and interest even over and above its interest of meaning.” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge) c. art of writing poems. usually rhythmical… the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in tranquillity. In Initiation in Poetry.” (Percy Bysshe Shelley) f. beauty. poetry means “1. Robert Frost made a famous statement: “Poetry is the kind of thing poets write. p. prose with poetic qualities.” (Thomas Carlyle) e. The lexicographers’ definitions read as follows: Poetry means “poems collectively. 1969. “Poetry is the imaginative expression of strong feeling. Or. “Prose: words in their best order. and power. verse. 5.” The evasive answer was meant to imply that the nature of poetry does elude simple definitions. poetic spirit or feeling” (The Random House Dictionary of the English Language. embodying and illustrating its conceptions by imagination and fancy. p. poetic qualities however manifested. 3. 2.WHAT IS POETRY? Asked to define poetry. and modulation its language on the principle of variety in uniformity. “Poetry.

g. All poetry. means “to condense”. The authors of the exquisite Longman Fields of Vision: Literature in the English Language have recently argued that Robert Frost’s seemingly paradoxical definition points out an essential feature that might help us define poetry: it has a “poetic” language of its own. represented “the most concentrated form of verbal expression”. I know that it is poetry. Robinson) i.” (Dylan Thomas) h. “Poetry is the language that tells us. for ironic statement. A poem is “a process of exploration. great or small. and ‘forms’ the total experience that is the poem.” (Emily Dickinson) And here are some other possible definitions given by poets and scholars. (…) the poet explores. The reader is his / her addressee. inevitably narrative movement from an over-clothed blindness to a naked vision. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off. meant “simply language charged with meaning to the utmost degree”. for he is reading a poet who comes at the end of a long tradition and who can hardly be expected to write honesty and with full integrity…” The poet is a maker and a communicator. A. “…the rhythmic. something that cannot be said. philosophical. does this.” The poem is “an organic thing” which communicates an experience and a message. Cleanth Brooks wrote an optimistic essay in which he argued in favour of the comprehensibility of poetry. in particular. which points to the very fact of concentration. through a more or less emotional reaction. I know that it is poetry. Poetry does communicate something. while poetry.” (E. For Ezra Pound. political. “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me. consolidates. the verb corresponding to the noun Dichtung meaning poetry”. In Brooks’s opinion the responsibility for understanding a poem must be split between poet and reader. in general. Pound drew his readers’ attention to the fact that in German “dichten. The contemporary American poet Kenneth Koch provides us with 22 . for suggestion rather than direct statement. He is further expected to be reasonably well acquainted with the general tradition – literary. “The reader must be on the alert for shifts of tone. great literature. In an age when “modern” poetry had become for some readers too difficult to understand.

Poets can use what they haven’t invented in order to invent what they want to invent. even feel as if riding on a horse. and no one knows. These statements should not be taken at face value. rhyme contribute to the poetic character of a text. but “in our time no one has been able to find her”. they are implicit questions that Koch deals with in due time. It is a language that has existed for centuries. which “is hard to locate”. Poetry. “Ode to the West Wind” is pure Shelley but without Dante’s terza rima it would be much less so. Keats wrote Endymion when he was twenty-two years old. poetry is often regarded as a mystery. but the Keats who wrote the poem is made up partly of Shakespeare. smell. phonetics. rhythm. which is the poet’s medium. Spenser. Koch quotes instead Paul Valéry’s definition of poetry. There is a “language of poetry” and a poet could be described as “someone who writes in the language of poetry”. Koch illustrates this idea using the word / note “horse”: “The word horse can make a reader see. It’s lighter and infinitely more transportable. really. The language of poetry must be learnt. and in some respects it is one. Repetitions. how anyone is able to write it. In Kenneth Koch’s metaphorical explanation.” Words can be handled this way and the material world they represent can’t be. In fact.” 23 .further clues to understanding poetry in his article “The Language of Poetry”. it can be taken anywhere and put with anything – ‘the horse is in the harbour’. Since it isn’t really a horse it can’t really be ridden or engaged to pull a cart. “Poetic language” can be defined as “a language in which the sound of the words is raised to an importance equal to that of their meaning. The Greeks thought that poetry came from the Muse. As Koch reminds us. and Milton. Endymion is all Keats. It has a music of its own. which is “a language within a language”. Koch likewise refutes the idea of poetry originating from the unconscious. and also equal to the importance of grammar and syntax”. is both a statement and a song. the ordinary everyday language we all speak is like an enormous keyboard. ‘the silence was breathing like a horse’. touch. No one is quite sure where poetry comes from. one must read poetry. according to Valéry. but it has advantages for the writer that its real-life counterpart lacks. as it would be without Miltonic phrasing – “Thou. In order to learn it. euphony. no one is quite sure exactly what it is. from whose unseen presence the leaves dead.

based on what he calls the anxiety of influence. specific language. which is always a distortion of the original.The new uses are sometimes not perceived. This theory represents the development of poetic tradition as a masculine battle of wills modelled on Freud’s concept of the Oedipus complex: the “belated” poet fears the emasculating dominance of the “precursor” poet and seeks to occupy his position of strength through a process of misreading or misprision of the parent-poem in the new poem. not poetry. Ben Jonson and John Donne were accused by contemporaries of writing prose. The American critic Harold Bloom has worked out an unusual view of literary history. the poetic language can be picked up starting anywhere. through which the younger poet seeks to free himself from the hold of his predecessor. and Robert Frost famously dismissed non-metrical poetry as playing tennis without a net. Like other languages. in which he claims that “the covert subject of most poetry for the last three centuries has been the anxiety of influence. The following chapters will dwell upon the specific constituents of the language of poetry. Bloom’s theory is expounded in The Anxiety of Influence (1973). Bloom has in mind particularly the mixed feelings of veneration and envy with which the English Romantic poets regarded Milton. He writes in a dense. or may be perceived as complete violation of poetry: for example. A tentative conclusion of this chapter may suggest that poetry is a writer’s attempt to communicate to others his emotional and intellectual response to his own experiences and to the world that surrounds him. thought to be “the same old thing”. as the “father” who had to be displaced by his “sons”. metaphors and symbols. Chris Baldick explains it as follows: All poets have a sense of the crushing weight of poetic tradition which they have to resist and challenge in order to make room for their own original vision. often in a phonological and syntactic pattern referred to as prosody. charged with imagery. each poet’s fear that no proper work remains for him to perform”. One can study it or just begin reading. Thus Shelley’s “Ode to West Wind” is a powerful misreading of Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”. 24 .

Symbol. only a conventional one: this is the case with words. the symbol tends to become more and more indefinite in its meanings in contrast to the fixed meaning of allegory. a symbol is a specially evocative kind of image. In the semiotics of Charles S. Many symbolic associations are widely recognised and accepted: the dawn with hope. is anything that stands for or represents something else beyond it – usually an idea conventionally associated with it. the colour white with innocence. the serpent with evil. In literary usage. however. and voyages have all been used as common literary symbols. birds. A symbol differs from a metaphor in that its application is left open as an unstated suggestion: thus in the sentence She was a tower 25 . the term denotes a kind of sign that has no natural or resembling connection with its referent. or action which also has some further significance associated with it: roses. A symbol can be defined as an example of what is called the transference of meaning. and words are also symbols. symbols are open-ended. In its most sophisticated forms. Although the term presents difficulty and perhaps should be used with caution and for relatively concrete objects. dark with ignorance. Writers often make use of these cultural or shared symbols. that is. It is an image or object or action which is charged with meaning beyond its denotative value. Objects like flags and crosses can function symbolically. in the simplest sense. mountains. Peirce. A given symbol will evoke different responses in different readers. a word or phrase referring to a concrete object.THE LANGUAGE OF POETRY We shall begin this chapter with the use of symbols in poetry. scene. it is not altogether inaccurate to speak of a character’s being a symbol. By definition. light with knowledge.

The Romanian readers may also consult Ivan Evseev’s excellent encyclopaedia of cultural signs and symbols listed in the bibliography. In more recent literature horses (and 26 . knights ride on steeds and do chivalrous deeds (“chivalry” is from Old French chevalerie. But the symbolic tower in Robert Browning’s poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” (1855). 1380). by Kenneth Koch).of strength. I shall quote from Michael Ferber’s Dictionary of Literary Symbols excerpts from the entries dedicated to horse ( a term also discussed. the metaphor ties a concrete image (the “vehicle”: tower) to an identifiable abstract quality (the “tenor”: strength). or to a set of related symbols. however. as in the poetry of Blake or Yeats. Similarly. A well-known early example of this is the albatross in Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798). or that in W. remains mysteriously indeterminate in its possible meanings. the tower seen by the dreamer is clearly identified with the quality of Truth. as we have already seen in the previous chapter. mirror and rose. around which further significances may gather according to differing interpretations. HORSE Horses are ubiquitous in literature until recent times. Yeats’s collection of poems The Tower (1928). The term symbolism refers to the use of symbols. the cavalry charges enemies or rescues friends (“cavalry” has a similar etymology). B. to Don Quixote’s “hack” Rosinante. and every hero’s horse has a name from Achilles’ horse Xanthos. sometimes involving obscure private codes of meaning. One of the important features of Romanticism and succeeding phases of Western literature was a much more pronounced reliance upon enigmatic symbolism in both poetry and prose fiction. horse). and it has no independent status apart from this function. Greek and Roman warriors fight from horse-drawn chariots. from cheval. it is also the name given to an important movement in late nineteenth century and early twentieth century poetry. who speaks (Iliad). in the systematically extended metaphoric parallels of allegory. the images represent specific meanings: at the beginning of Langland’s allegorical poem Piers Plowman (c. It is therefore usually a substantial image in its own right.

Jupiter assigns the winds to Aeolus. bestial. whom Hippolytus had scorned. the other base and disobedient (appetite or will) (Phaedrus). Shakespeare’s Claudio wonders whether …the body politic be A horse whereon the governor doth ride. Milton has the phrase “give the reins to grief. 625-29). (Hero and Leander. “That to affections does the bridle lend!” (Faerie Queene. the worse he fares. “Most wretched man.” Spenser writes.159-62) 27 . I. but breaks the reins.63). the charioteer must learn the difficult art of managing two different steeds (“manage” in its earliest English sense referred only to horses). etc.34). lets it straight feel the spur. The more he is restrained. ultimately the doing of Aphrodite. that it may know He can command. 1. proud horse highly disdains To have his head controlled. Who. Probably the most influential symbolic horses are those that Plato describes in his simile for the soul. (Measure for Measure. … so he that loves.2. the moon.unicorns) have been the heroes of their own stories: e. whose name means something like “horselooser. the reason could be disobeyed or overthrown by the wilful. Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty.53).12. II. Aeneid. Whether driving several or riding one. 1671). one of which is noble and obedient (honour or mettle). The most common metaphorical horses are those that draw the chariot of the sun. or irrational part of the soul. The soul is a union of three parts.” is killed when his horses bolt at the sight of a monster. as it were (Samson Agonistes.4. Guyon learns to resist temptation. a charioteer (judgment or reason) and two horses. “bridling his will” (II. newly in the seat. So Euripides’ Hippolytus. Marlowe’s enamoured Leander chaffs at the bit: For as a hot.” to let an emotion have its head. who knows “when to tighten and when to loosen their reins” (Virgil.g.

was beloved of the Muses because he created the spring Hippocrene on Mount Helicon by stamping the ground with his hooves. are typically horse-thieves. Dante addresses one of the Muses as Pegasea as he invokes her aid in Paradiso.1. VI. his enemies.When Richard II submits to Bolingbroke he invokes a mythical precedent of bad horsemanship: Down.5. the “wooden horse” by which the Greeks infiltrated and destroyed Troy (Odyssey).77-94). like a generous Horse. The hero of the “western” movies is typically a lone horseman who is at one with an extraordinary horse. I.84-87). after which he flew up to heaven. Aeschylus calls the Greeks the “young of the horse” (Agamemnon. Shows most true Mettle when you check his Course” (Essay on Criticism. In the Renaissance the horse became an emblem of the poet’s ambition.3-4). Wanting the manage of unruly jades. According to the myth.3. / Above the flight of Pegasean wing” (Paradise Lost. Pegasus the flying horse. VII. Alexander Pope recommends judgement as a balance to wit or imagination: ’Tis more to guide than spur the Muse’s steed. like glist’ring Phaeton. Dante varies the trope in saying that 28 . than provoke his speed. Restrain his Fury. though they also ride horses. (Richard II. Concerning poetry. a symbol common enough for the ambitious Milton to claim.178-79) It is a symbolically charged moment when Bolingbroke rides Richard’s favourite horse (V. 825) and Virgil says the horse “bore armed infantry in its heavy womb” (Aeneid. III. “above the Olympian hill I soar. down I come. Propertius calls the Muses the daughters of Pegasus (III.516) – or in Dryden’s translation. There is a striking recurrent trope about the Trojan horse.19). the horse was “pregnant with arms”. The winged Courser.

is the first great mirror tale. Certain people are models or ideals and serve as mirrors for everyone.842). “Mirror of X” had become a common phrase by Chaucer’s time. the ideal.4. III. God.36). 45). Jean de Meung says his Romance of the Rose might be called a Mirror of Lovers. II. told in full by Ovid (Metamorphoses.1. The myth of Narcissus.4. But we might profit from watching others as potential mirrors. and he warns her to remember Narcissus and his fate (Rime. By extension a book can be a mirror. the truth. In Chaucer one’s lover is the “mirour of goodlihed” (Troilus and Criseyde. “since they will see great benefits in it for them” (10620-22).339-510). II. now “you lay aside the mirror with sorrowful hand” (I.53). As early as Roman times real mirrors were instruments of vanity or “narcissism” and soon came to stand for it. Petrarch calls Laura’s mirror “my adversary” because it has driven him away. drama – but also on what one sees in them – oneself. / And in her self-lov’d semblance took delight” (Faerie Queene. Prologue to Act II. I. Waller calls Ben Jonson the “Mirror of Poets” (“Upon Ben Jonson”). 5).10-12). were titled Mirror of X or Mirror for Y. there have been mirrors of the world. indeed.74). “mirror of all martial men”” (1 Henry VI.the horse caused a breach through which “the noble seed of the Romans escaped” (Inferno).1. beginning with Augustine’s Speculum. Hundreds of books. 415-16). “mirror of all courtesy” (Henry VIII. illusion. Spenser’s proud Lucifera “held a mirror bright. in the next sonnet he blames his miserable state on “those murderous mirrors / which you have tired out by gazing fondly at yourself” (46). I. Shakespeare has “mirror of all Christian kings” (Henry V. while Ophelia calls Hamlet “The glass of fashion and the mould of form” (III. In the Amores Ovid reminds a vain girl that has ruined her hair by constantly curling it with irons. / Wherein her face she often viewed fain. MIRROR The symbolism of mirrors depends not only on what things cause the reflection – nature.14. A character in Terence tells a friend “to look at other men’s lives as in a mirror” (Adelphoe.153). of faith. 29 . in fact. a book.

he encounters the Knight of the Mirrors. d-e. the slime in the puddles along the road” (The Red and the Black).180). of fools.2. Shortly after Don Quixote likens a play to a mirror (II. and for magistrates. as in Plato. I.2. 596. The mirror became a common analogue in neoclassic aesthetic theory. of sin. Skelton refers to his own play Magnificence: “A myrrour incleryd [made clear] is this interlude.22).12). 7). but even after the Romantic analogue lamp or fountain took hold.21-24). according to which art imitates reality. sometimes. of alchemy. of drunkenness.15). Britomart’s adventure begins when she sees Artegall in “Venus’ looking glass” (III. Lewis Carroll’s Alice begins a tale by stepping Through the Looking-Glass.of astronomy. Marlowe invites his audience to “View but his picture in this tragic glass”(1 Tamburlaine the Great. Sometimes it reflects the azure heavens to your view. Hamlet’s speech on acting is justly famous: the end of playing is “to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature. The ancient idea that the arts imitate nature or the world led sometimes to an analogy with a mirror. III. With the advent of realism the mirror again assumed a central role: says Stendhal: “a novel is a mirror being carried down a highway. / This life inconstant for to behold and see” (2524-25). Spenser’s Merlin has a “looking glass. to show virtue her feature. Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray is about a portrait as “the most magical of mirrors” (Chapter 8): it reveals the inner degradation of its subject. and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure” (III. the mirror could still be invoked (with a difference).8). 30 . Republic. sent by his friends to defeat him and bring him home (II.” which could show everything in the world (Faerie Queene. all calculated to instruct and admonish. Prologue. scorn her won image.1. The mirror of Snow White’s stepmother is both a means of magic and a mundane tool of vanity. Donatus attributed to Cicero the opinion that comedy is a “mirror of custom” (Commentum Terenti. Many romances and fairy tales have magic mirrors. says Shelley: “A story of particular facts is as a mirror which obscures and distorts that which should be beautiful: poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted” (Defence of Poetry). right wondrously aguiz’d [fashioned].

cliché. The rose blooms in the spring. all in the course of a week or two. Sappho had called the Muses themselves “the roses of Pieria”. “Red as a rose” is the prime poetic cliché. the blush of the meadow… the agent of Aphrodite. their glory. It is vulnerable to the canker-worm. indeed. ROSE There were several varieties of rose in the ancient world. The most beautiful poems. Homer does not mention the rose (Greek rhodon). It is rich in perfume. (Sappho also liked “rose” compounds. their quintessence. a metaphor in keeping with the meaning of the word “anthology. unless otherwise described. were compared to the flower. the glory of plants. as when Meleager praises some of Sappho’s as roses (in “The Garland”).” Another Anacreontic poem (44) goes on in the 31 . Leucippe sings a song in praise of the rose: “If Zeus had wished to give the flowers a king. the eye of flowers. but his favourite epithet for Dawn is “rosy-fingered” (rhododaktylos). their queen. All these features have entered into its range of symbolic uses. The rose is “the graceful plant of the Muses. such as Shakespeare’s “deep vermilion” (Sonnet 98) or the “crimson joy” of Blake’s “Sick Rose”. but the rose in poetry has always been red (or “rose”) in colour.1).” which is gathering of poetic flowers. for it is the ornament of the world.” according to the Anacreontic Ode 55. which seems to emanate from its dense and delicate folds of petals. and again between both these phases and its final scattering of petals on the ground. the contrast is striking between its youth in the bud and its full-blown maturity.The mirror as a literary symbol. So it is only right that the rose has been the favourite flower of poets since antiquity. in fact. he would have named the rose. But thereafter the rose comes into its own: it is the flower of flowers. metaphor and theme is the subject of my recent book titled The Eye Sees Not Itself but by Reflection: A Study in Shakespeare’s “Catoptrics” And Other Essays.) The Greek tragedians do not mention the rose. as there are hundreds in the modern. and poets have used every other term for red to describe it. In Achilles Tatius’ novel (II. and does not bloom long. And it grows on a plant with thorns. calling the moon “rosy-fingered” and both Dawn and the Graces “rosy-armed”. either.

” is the traditional place of love. the white for virginity.21-22). on the verge of killing Desdemona. “Let us mix the rose of the Loves [plural of Eros] with Dionysus [wine]. / But one. in Walther von der Vogelweide’s medieval German poem “Under der Linden. Almost any flower can represent a girl. II. doth fall that very hour” (Twelfth Night. Cowper wrote: “Flowers by that name promiscuously we call.same vein: “Rose. vulnerable. The statue of Venus in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale wore “A rose garland. delight of the gods.176-77). Shelley. the rose. Goethe theorized that the rose was the highest form of flower. and virginal. The rose had been the flower of Aphrodite (Venus) and Dionysus (Bacchus).2.5.” or in Tennisyon’s Maud (I. or “bed of roses.5. The red rose can also represent Christian martyrdom. nonetheless preserves the image: “earth has seen / Love’s brightest roses on the scaffold bloom” (Queen Mab. best of flowers.38-39). but the rose has always stood for the most beautiful.” and a connection between wine and roses was established that has lasted in common phrases to this day. the most beloved – in many languages “Rose” remains a popular given name – and often for one who is notably young. as in the medieval French allegorical Romance of the Rose (where the lover’s goal is to pluck the rosebud).22). Shakespeare’s Laertes. V. The Anacreontic Ode 44 begins. IV. darling of the spring. The rose garden. / And that I always keep my head in venal roses” (III. the red stands for charity or Christian love. 723-24). red for the love martyrs showed and for the blood they shed.5. fresh and well smelling” on her head (1961). “women are as roses. the regent of them all” (“Retirement”. “I am glad that plenteous Bacchus enchains my mind. cries “O Rose of May!” (Hamlet. thinks of her as a rose which he is about to pluck (Othello.4. So the transformation of the rose into a symbol of Christian charity or chastity is a good example 32 . when he sees his sister Ophelia in her madness. bringing out not only her uniqueness but also the blighting of her brief life. Horace describes rose petals scattered about in a scene of love-making (I. / rose. Orsino tells Viola. Othello. / rose. IX. writing of atheist martyrs to Christian bigotry. whose fair flower / Being once displayed. and Propertius writes.” and so on.158).1).13-16). If red and white roses are distinguished.

Little rose on the heath.5. The rose is also renowned for its perfume – “And the rose herself has got / Perfume which on earth is not.” as Keats says (“Bards of Passion”) – which lingers on after the flower has blown and fallen. “I shall pick you. “when you have our roses.” Thomas Moore’s “Pretty Rose-Tree” is also about promised faithfulness. of course.353-54).772-73). God planted the rose in Paradise and then replanted it in earthly stock so women may wear it as symbol “Of chastity and virtue virginal” (Faerie Queene. “the flowery roof / Showered Roses.256). In Paradise. the thorns were omitted: Mary.” Ovid combines the carpe diem theme with a reminder of thorns: “While it flowers. is “Roses have thorns” (Shakespeare. Sonnet 35) or “never the rose without the thorn” (Herrick. Blake’s “My Pretty Rose Tree” tells how he forswears a beautiful flower to remain loyal to his rose tree. “I shall prick you. / The thorn is scorned when the rose has fallen” (Fasti.2.” Goethe presents a dialogue between a boy and a rose: The boy said. While Adam and Eve slept (before the Fall). V. according to Milton.of the cultural expropriation of pagan culture by the church. is a rose without thorns. / You barely leave our thorns to prick ourselves” (All’s Well That Ends Well 4. you may get pricked. IV. but nonetheless “my Rose turned away with jealousy: / And her thorns were my only delight. “The Rose”). cf. III. repeated in many poems. So you’ll always think of me. according to St. which the Morn repaired” (Paradise Lost. In his famous “Heidenröslein. perhaps that underlies its use as a symbol of martyrdom. gentlemen.17-18).52-53. As Spenser tells it. A familiar proverb.” In the Christian transfiguration of the rose. “fresh flowering Maidenhead” in the next stanza). Ambrose.” The little rose said. If you go about plucking roses. as Herrick’s “The Rose” tells us. was every sort of flower “and without Thorn the Rose” (Paradise Lost IV. use your life. for “the thorns of thy stem / Are not like them / With which mean wound each other. according to Milton. As 33 . Shakespeare’s Diana alters the image nicely when she tells Bertram.

The rose has two traditional enemies. The loss of Lycidas.734-35).” in Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s phrase (in Axël). / Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made. Dost spot the beauty of thy budding name! (“Canker” here means “cankerworm”).” Another form of rose immortality is oil or attar of rose. Milton writes. In the late nineteenth century was founded the mystical cult of Rosicrucianism. made red by the blood of Christ. known to the Greeks and Persians and probably earlier. whose central symbols were the rose of perfection or eternity and the cross of time. and disputes within the church to a worm (“Church-Rents and Schisms”). which is an extended rose simile. 45). Perhaps the most resonant use of the canker image is Blake’s “The Sick Rose”: O Rose thou art sick. That flies through the night In the howling storm: Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy: An his dark secret love Does thy life destroy. through suffering and renunciation in this world. as northern blasts do roses” (Endymion I. “Sweet roses do not so [die to themselves]. we may gain the “inconsolable rose. Which. Keats writes. As for howling storms. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 95 begins: How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame. Herbert likens the Church to a rose. “love doth scathe / The gentle heart. The invisible worm. like a canker in the fragrant rose. is “As killing as Canker to the Rose” (Lycidas. both of which are common in poetry: worms and winds. Yeats adopts this symbolism in the poems 34 .Shakespeare puts it in Sonnet 54.

I shall further list the meaning of other essential literary symbols in the chapter ‘How to Analyze a Poem” when I come to discuss the mythical and archetypal approaches to poetry. 159-60). It was supposed to be a practice in ancient Greece and Rome to swear a council to secrecy by placing a rose overhead during its deliberations. both rich in aroma. are emblems of the Virgin Mary.in The Rose and the stories in The Secret Rose: the first poem is addressed “To the Rose upon the Rood [Cross] of Time”. / My lily of truth and trust” (“The Ancient Sage”. both to express a contrast in colours and to symbolize two usually complementary virtues. as the rose / Blendeth its odour with the violet” (The Eve of St. not only words. means “in secret” or “silently”. appeals to the sense of sight. Images are equally important for a poet. Keats strikingly assigns the rose to Madeline and the violet to her lover. Porphyro (whose name means “purple”): “Into her dream he melted. Kinesthetic imagery makes its appeal to the sense of motion and therefore very often introduces a kind of muscular activity. The phrase “under the rose”. thus any object that can be seen can be a visual image. Visual imagery. The rose is often associated with the lily. * We shall now move on to another essential aspect of poetic language. namely the use of images that contribute to the building of a writer’s or literary work’s specific imagery. aural imagery is that which can be heard (“thunderous”). of course. but prose and verse rhythms can create this 35 . Tennyson has “My rose of love for ever gone. more often used in the Latin sub rosa. Agnes. Roses and violets are often joined as two flowers of love. Many council chambers in Europe for that reason have roses sculpted into their ceilings. the type most familiar to readers at large. Similarly. Images represent a stimulation of the imagination through sense experience (note that “image” and “imagination” are cognates). The appeal or stimulus need not come through nouns alone. 320-21). love and purity (or virginity): both flowers. Images are words or phrases that appeal to our senses.

and a writer’s choice and arrangement of images is often an important clue to the overall meaning of his work. these need not be mental “pictures”. to taste (“salty”). Imagery is a rather vague critical term covering those uses of language in a literary work that evoke sense-impressions by literal or figurative reference to perceptible or “concrete” objects. convention.effect (as in Browning’s “I sprang to the saddle. both in New Criticism and in some influential studies of Shakespeare. and so on. tended to glorify the supposed concreteness of literary works by ignoring matters of structure. The term has often been applied particularly to the figurative language used in a work.). We use the term imagery to refer to combinations or clusters of images that are used to create a dominant impression. olfactory and thermal. tactile. especially to its metaphors and similes. and Joris. smell (“stench”). actions. which make their appeals. Writers often develop meaningful patterns in their imagery. 36 . and he…”) Other types of imagery that may be perceived are gustatory. as distinct from the language of abstract argument or exposition. the various sense experiences may be associated or mingled in such a way as to produce the effect of synesthesia. and abstract argument: thus Shakespeare’s plays were read as clusters or patterns of “thematic imagery” according to the predominance of particular kinds of image (of animals. Images suggesting further meanings and association in ways that go beyond the fairly simple identifications of metaphor and simile are often called symbols. scenes. and sensitivity to temperature (“scorch”. without reference to the action or to the dramatic meaning of characters’ speeches. or states. of disease. for example. and what can be heard can also suggest motion. corruption and disease imagery. touch (“velvety smoothness”). In some writers (notably the French Symbolist poets of the nineteenth century). since what stimulates the taste often stimulates the sense of smell. The imagery of a literary work thus comprises the set of images that it uses. Death. respectively. etc. creates a powerful network in Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet. Some of these tend to overlap. “frigid”). but may appeal to senses other than sight. The critical emphasis on imagery in the mid-twentieth century.

Its most important form is the 10-syllable iambic pentameter. The trochee. The dactyl has one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. the reverse of the iamb is a two-syllable foot. sonnets etc. Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha (1855) being a celebrated example of their extended use: “Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple…” The iambic foot is made up of iambi (_ _/). All these are formal aspects pertaining to prosody. The dactylic foot is made up of dactyls ( _/_ _ ). as in the word “carefully”. as in the word “beyond”. and be my love” (Marlowe). the first of which is stressed. a foot of two syllables. is the most important unit of English poetry. The iamb has one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable. as in the word “tender”. Lines of poetry made up predominantly of iambs are referred to as iambics or as iambic verse. either rhymed (as in heroic couplets. The English iambic hexameter or six-stress line is usually referred to as the alexandrine.” One of the most beautiful illustrations of the dactylic foot is probably John Lennon’s celebrated “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. as does Thomas Hardy’s “The Voice”. call to me. and in the elegiac distich. Dactylic hexameters were used in Greek and Latin epic poetry. which begins “Woman much missed. The iamb. The dactyl is a metre associated with Latin poetry. types of rhymes and strophic patterns that contribute to the way in which a poet establishes the overall mood of his poem. how you call to me. but dactylic verse is rare in English: Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” uses it. Lines of verse made up predominantly of trochees are referred to as trochaic verse or trochaics. Regular trochaic lines are quite rare in English.* The next subchapter is dedicated to the types of metrical feet. The trochaic foot is made up of trochees (_/_). The eight-syllable iambic tetrameter is another common English line: “Come live with me. often anthologized in collections of English verse: 37 .) or unrhymed in blank verse: “Beyond the utmost bound of human thought” (Tennyson).

never changing our place. but may occur in English in combination with other feet. Someone is calling you answer quite slowly a girl with kaleidoscope eyes. O pale Galilean. Originally a Greek marching beat. allowing the 38 . in a poem. stride by stride. the rising rhythm of anapaestic verse has sometimes been used by poets in English to echo energetic movement. It was rarely used in classical verse. adopted by some Greek and Roman dramatists. without a pause or punctuation. Cellophane flowers of yellow and green towering over your head. notably in Robert Browning’s “How they Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix” (1845). The commonest anapaestic verse form in English.” Lines made up of anapaests alone are rare in English verse. Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes and she’s gone. The run-on line is. and fifth lines.Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade sky. The amphibrach is a metrical foot consisting of one stressed syllable between two unstressed syllables. as in the word “confession”. the limerick. The amphibrachic foot is made up of amphibrachs (_ _/ _). second. as in this famous line from Swinburne’s “Hymn to Proserpine” (1866): “Thou hast conquered. the world has grown grey from thy breath. here is a qualitative classification of lines. The anapaest is a foot with two short syllables before one long. we kept the great pace Neck by neck. though: more often they are used in combination with other feet. The anapaestic foot is made up of anapaests ( _ _ _/ ). usually omits the first syllable in its first. Other poets have used the anapaestic verse for tones of solemn complaint. a line that continues into the following line. as in the word “interrupt”. Next. Not a word to each other.

Stichomythia is a form of dramatic dialogue in which two disputing characters answer each other rapidly in alternating single lines. and a sleep Full of sweet dreams. gives verse lines an appearance of self-contained sense. but it appears in other verse-forms. but still will keep A bower quiet for us. and quiet breathing. with one character’s replies balancing (and often partially repeating) the other’s utterances. and by the classical French poets in their alexandrines. the opposite of run-on line. however brief. often indicated by a punctuation mark. It is used to create a sense of forward motion. In this case the end of a verse line coincides with the completion of a sentence. of which the first and fifth lines are end-stopped while the lines in between are run-on lines. End-stopping. The endstopped line was favoured especially by Alexander Pope and other eighteenth century poets in English in their heroic couplets. (“To a Skylark”) The run-on line is mostly used by English poets in blank verse. it will never Pass into nothingness. a single line is made up of two or three brief cues uttered by two or several characters. An end-stopped line ends with a pause. clause. A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases. too. or other independent unit of syntax. This kind of verbal duel or “cut and thrust” dialogue was practised more in ancient Greek and Roman 39 . even in heroic couplets: Keats rejected the eighteenth-century closed couplet by using frequent run-on lines in Endymion (1818). The amphibious broken lines occur in the plays written in verse. and health. as in the following quote from Shelley: Teach me half the gladness That thy brain must know.uninterrupted flow of meaning.

and Stevens – has been written in blank verse.1. but strong in will To strive. 40 . which has no regular metre. Made weak by time and fate. First used (c. Blank verse is a very flexible English verse form which can attain rhetorical grandeur while echoing the natural rhythms of speech and allowing smooth enjambment (that is. PETRUCHIO: Good Lord. Earl of Surrey. we can refer to lines with a feminine or masculine rhyme. We can define blank verse as unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter. Much of the finest verse in English – by Shakespeare.tragedy than in later drama. In the case of feminine rhyme the accented syllable is the penultimate or antepenultimate one: “handy” rhyming with “candy”. Milton. PETRUCHIO: I say it is the moon that shines so bright! KATHARINA: I know it is the sun that shines so bright! (V. and not to yield. although a notable English example occurs in the dialogues between Kate and Petruchio in Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew as well as in many other Shakespearean comedies and tragedies. to find.2-5) Poetry can be written either in blank verse or in rhyming lines. it soon became both the standard metre for dramatic poetry and a widely used form for narrative and meditative poems. 1540) by Henry Howard. as in these final lines of Tennyson’s “Ulysses” (1842): One equal temper of heroic hearts. Wordsworth. If we take into consideration the place of the final stress in a line. to seek. Tennyson. run-on lines). how bright and goodly shines the moon! KATHARINA: The moon? The sun: it is not moonlight now. Blank verse should not be confused with free verse. Rhymes can be classified according to different criteria.

and with how wane a face! What. And summer’s lease hath all too short a date. O Moon. as in Swinburne’s “Hymn to Proserpine” (1866): Will ye bridle the deep sea with reins. / This coyness. as in “Had we but world enough and time.In the masculine rhyme the final syllable of the line is accented. Here is the opening quatrain of Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May. though my Soul more bent… (John Milton. Lodged with me useless. And that one Talent which is death to hide. Sonnet 1) When I consider how my light is spent Ere half my days. The framing rhymes occur in a quatrain rhyming abba. in this dark world and wide. thou climbst the skies! How silently. The crossed rhyme has the effect of making the couplet sound like a quatrain rhyming abab. Sonnet 16) 41 . were no crime”. who is older than all ye Gods? The best example of crossed rhymes is provided by Shakespeare’s Sonnets. may it be that even in heavenly place That busy archer his sharp arrow tries? (Sir Philip Sidney. as in the sonnets of Sir Philip Sidney and John Milton: With how sad steps. will ye chasten the high sea with rods? Will ye take her to chain her with chains. Lady.

The three-line stanzas of terza rima and of the villanelle are known as tercets. written in blank verse. The quatrain is the most commonly used stanza in English and most modern European languages. Chaucer established the use of couplets in English. That is why Dryden’s plays are no longer played today. the rhyming couplet does not work well in drama. The tercet is a unit of three verse lines. or form part of a larger stanza. Alexander Pope followed Dryden’s use of heroic couplets in non-dramatic verse to become the master of the form. A couplet may also stand alone as an epigram. The couplet is a pair of rhyming verse lines. A suitable prosodic pattern in poetry. The octosyllabic couplet (of 8-syllable or 4-stress lines) is also commonly found in English verse. where it turns the speech of characters into artificial. or (as in Shakespeare) round off a sonnet or a dramatic scene. notably in his use of closed couplets. rhymed or (less often) unrhymed. are still widely staged. The lines. on the stage. The quatrain is a verse stanza of four lines. the “heroic quatrain” of iambic pentameters also rhymes abab. usually of the same length. while Shakespeare’s plays. We shall briefly refer to the most widely used types of strophes or stanzas. partly as the equivalent in heroic drama of the alexandrine couplets which were the standard verse-form of French drama in that century. A different rhyme scheme (abba) is 42 . The sestet of an Italian sonnet is composed of two tercets. are combined in strophic patterns. using rhymed iambic pentameters later known as heroic couplets: a form revived in the seventeenth century by Ben Jonson.The rhyming couplets (aabb) were the favourite rhyme throughout the Restoration (1660-1700) and the first half of the eighteenth century. it is one of the most frequent verse-forms in European poetry. Dryden and others. usually rhyming either with each other or with neighbouring lines. Most ballads and many hymns are composed in quatrains in which the second and fourth lines rhyme (abcb or abab). either rhyming or written as blank verse. Andrew Marvell and Alexander Pope (in poetry) and John Dryden (in drama) best illustrate this tendency. notably in the Canterbury Tales. which imitates colloquial speech. bombastic language.

William Morris’s The Earthly Paradise (1868-70) is a rare example of this use in later periods. The name of this stanza seems to come from its use in The Kingis Quair (c. A very common figure of speech in both prose and verse. is the epic simile. simile is more tentative and decorative than metaphor. Henryson. * The next subchapter deals with some of the most important figures of speech which contribute to the “poetic” quality of a text. it continued to be an important form of English verse in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. and Shelley for The Revolt of Islam (1818) and Adonais (1821). a poem uncertainly attributed to King James I of Scotland. 1424). The Spenserian stanza is an English poetic stanza of nine iambic lines. The rhyming four-line groups that make up the first eight or twelve lines of a sonnet are also known as quatrains. being used by Dunbar. The stanza is named after Edmund Spenser. first used by Chaucer and thus also known as the Chaucerian stanza. and some of the Canterbury Tales. for example “He fought like a tiger” or as in Wordsworth’s line: “I wondered lonely as a cloud”. 1816). 1594). The Parliament of Fowls. The rhyme-royal is a stanza form consisting of seven 5-stress lines (iambic pentameters) rhyming ababbcc. Following Chaucer’s use of rhyme-royal in his Troilus and Criseyde. who invented it – probably on the basis of the ottava rima stanza – for his long allegorical romance The Faerie Queene (1590-6). used as a digression in a narrative work. the first eight being pentameters while the ninth is a longer line known either as an iambic hexameter or as an alexandrine. 43 .used in the In Memoriam stanza and some other forms. The simile draws a comparison between two dissimilar elements using the word “like” or “as”. Spenser. A lengthy and more elaborate kind of simile. and Shakespeare (in his Rape of Lucrece. The rhyme scheme is ababbcbcc. It was revived successfully by the younger English Romantic poets of the early nineteenth century: Byron used it for Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812. Keats for “The Eve of St Agnes” (1820).

the fog is implicitly compared with a cat. Here is yet another definition: metaphor is. like the branch of an organization. specifically. “Life’s but a walking shadow” in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. and it consists of two concepts: – the tenor (the subject of the comparison). which compares two things using “like” or “as”. For example. In metaphor. The use of metaphor to create new combinations of ideas is a major feature of poetry. a comparison of things essentially unlike. the vehicle is usually absent: inT. or action. a metaphor states the comparison directly. Metaphors may also appear as verbs (a talent may blossom) or as adjectives (a novice may be green). Eliot’s “the yellow fog that rubs its back against the window-pane”. In the metaphor the road of life. this resemblance is assumed as an imaginary identity rather than directly stated as a comparison: referring to a man as that pig. Another dictionary definition describes metaphor as a figure of speech in which one thing is spoken of as though it were something else. “Denmark’s a prison”). e. (Metaphor occurs when one thing is directly called something else: “John Smith is a snake in the grass”. and the vehicle is the road. so as to suggest some common quality shared by the two. The tenor is always present. Much of our everyday language is also made up of metaphorical words and phrases that pass unnoticed as “dead” metaphors. although it is quite possible to write poems without metaphors. drawn without the use of words such as “like” and “as”. metaphor is a figure of speech in which one thing. – the vehicle (the image by which the idea is conveyed). to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Metaphor occurs as an implied analogy. or action is referred to by a word or expression normally denoting another thing. the tenor is life. Unlike a simile. or saying he is a pig is metaphorical. S. idea. whereas he is like a pig is a simile. usually as a result of trying to apply two metaphors to one thing: those vipers stabbed us in the back. 44 .g. According to a more elaborate definition.The metaphor is a comparison of things essentially unlike. idea. drawn without the use of words such as “like” and “as”. or in longer idiomatic phrases. A mixed metaphor is one in which the combination of qualities suggested is illogical or ridiculous.

usually employed for emotional emphasis. In the transferred epithet. as when Elizabeth in Richard III addresses the Tower of London: “Pity. those tender babes. “stock” epithets have been used in poetry since Homer. It is a type of figurative language in which a non-human subject is given human characteristics. or an abstraction or inanimate object. It is common in most ages of poetry. the term is sometimes applied to the impersonation of non-human things and ideas by human actors. and particularly in the eighteenth century. as in Wordsworth’s line “Spade! with which Wilkinson hath tilled his lands”. The apostrophe is a figure of speech in which a character or an abstract quality is directly addressed as if present. can become ridiculous when misapplied. / Whom envy hath immured within your walls. In classical rhetoric. It has a special function as the basis of allegory. It is a rhetorical figure in which the speaker addresses a dead or absent person. This figure or trope is known in Greek as prosopopoeia.The epithet is an adjective or adjectival phrase used to define a characteristic quality or attribute of some person or thing. Apostrophes are found frequently among the speeches of Shakespeare’s characters. the term could also denote a speaker’s turning to address a particular member or section of the audience. In drama. you ancient stones. as in Sir Philip Sidney’s line: “Invention. fled step-dame Study’s blows”. Nature’s child. object or idea. 45 . The personification implies giving the attribute of a human being to an animal. The Homeric epithet is an adjective (usually compound adjective) repeatedly used for the same thing or person: “the wine-dark sea” and “rosy-fingered Dawn” are famous examples. Common in historical titles (Catherine the Great. an adjective appropriate to one noun is attached to another by association: thus in the phrase “sick room” it is not strictly the room that is sick but the person in it. “My car has decided to quit on me” is an example of personification from everyday speech.” The figure. Ethelred the Unready).

The softness she and sweet attractive grace. the 46 . In a wider sense. The antithesis is a strong contrast between words. for example. It is also a familiar device in prose. in the Scriptures: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake. In Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667).” Wordsworth’s line “the Child is father of the Man” and Shakespeare’s “the truest poetry is the most feigning” are notable literary examples.The apostrophe is one of the conventions appropriate to the ode and to the elegy. remaining flatly self-contradictory.g. “Government and cooperation are in all things the laws of life. the same shall save it. but twentieth century critics have given it a higher importance as a mode of understanding by which poetry challenges our habits of thought. it is a statement that seems self-contradictory or absurd. usually by the balancing of connected clauses with parallel grammatical constructions. He for God only. often in the verbally compressed form of oxymoron. the characteristics of Adam and Eve are contrasted by antithesis: For contemplation he and valour formed. The poet’s invocation of a muse in epic poetry is a special form of apostrophe. It is also found in the prose epigram. ideas. as in John Ruskin’s sentence. she for God in him. Antithesis was cultivated especially by Pope and other eighteenth century poets. Ancient theorists of rhetoric described paradox as a figure of speech. anarchy and competition the laws of death. Paradox was cultivated especially by poets of the seventeenth century. Paradoxes abound. but that expresses a truth (although some paradoxes cannot be resolved into truths. clauses. The paradox is frequently used to express the complexities of life that do not easily lend themselves to simple statement. Everything I say is a lie).” The paradox is an apparent contradiction that is nevertheless somehow true. e. In rhetoric it is described as any disposition of words that serves to emphasize a contrast or opposition of ideas.

as in the lines “One short sleep past. clauses. or lines. as in Whitman’s Song of Myself (1855): The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place. thus linking the two units. A person who utters paradoxes is a paradoxer. or stanza.term may also be applied to a person or situation characterized by striking contradictions. water cools not love. thou shalt die!” in one of his “Holy Sonnets”. These lines by Emily Dickinson illustrate the device: Mine – by the Right of the White Election! Mine – by the Royal Seal! Mine – by the Sign in the Scarlet prison Bars – cannot conceal! – epistrophe (……x /……x) is a rhetorical figure by which the same word or phrase is repeated at the end of successive clauses. The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their place. sentences. / And Death shall be no more. we wake eternally. Found very often in both verse and prose. words”. it is a rhetorical figure of repetition in which the same word or phrase is repeated in (and usually at the beginning of) successive lines. 47 . – anadiplosis can be visually represented as (……x / x……).” – anaphora can be visualized as (x……/ x……). sentence. it was a device favoured by Dickens and used frequently in the free verse of Walt Whitman. Death. The figures of repetition are: – epizeuxis. as in the final line of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 154: “Love’s fire heats water. and at the beginning of the next. John Donne is the great master of paradoxes in English poetry. a rhetorical figure by which a word is repeated for emphasis. words. The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place. or sentences. with no other words intervening: “Words. it is a rhetorical figure of repetition in which a word or phrase appears both at the end of one clause.

Feather of lead. and sometimes sin’s a pleasure” – Byron). it is a figure of speech by which the order of the terms in the first of two parallel clauses is reversed in the second. like Milton’s “Darkness visible”. as in the word “bittersweet” or the phrase “living death”. O loving hate. betrayed. or just a reversed parallel between two corresponding pairs of ideas. indicating a “criss-cross” arrangement of terms. Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms. The oxymoron is the antithetic use of an epithet (e. O anything of nothing first create. to put it otherwise. or old words of which only one occurrence has been found. This may involve a repetition of the same words (“Pleasure’s a sin. cold fire. sick health. O brawling love. It is named after the Greek letter chi (χ). as in this line from Mary Leapor’s “Essay on Woman” (1751): “Despised. Shakespeare has his Romeo utter several such oxymoronic phrases in one speech: Why then. if she’s fair. serious vanity.– chiasmus combines repetition and inversion (……AB / BA……). Still-waking sleep that is not what it is! The nonce-words are lexical inventions by writers or poets such as James Joyce’s “galluph” (meaning “to gallop in triumph”) or “funferal” (“funeral and fun”). were especially cultivated in the sixteenth and seventeenth century poetry. The asyndeton is a form of verbal compression or the use of juxtaposition with the deliberate omission of connecting words 48 . g.” The figure is especially common in eighteenth century English poetry. Oxymoronic phrases. if ugly. “swiftly walk”). “deafening silence”. bright smoke. O heavy lightness. It is a figure of speech that combines two usually contradictory terms in a compressed paradox. they are words invented to be used for a single specific occasion. but it is also found in the prose of all periods.

leaving the sense unfinished. Here the relative pronoun “who” is omitted. e. or sentences. and sank. I saw. vidi. Examples are “bonehouse” for “body”. A famous Shakespearian example is “the beast with two backs” in Othello. or else…” is an example. clauses. heavy. The common threat “get out. as in John Keats’s Endymion (1818): “And soon it lightly dipped. leaving only a sequence of phrases linked by commas. or less usually. a businessman) entered the room”. warm. vici (“I came. an instance of broken syntax graphically represented by a dash or dots.g. and “sea-wood” for “ship”. used by Iago for “copulation”. I conquered”). similar metaphoric compounds that appear in colloquial speech. The aposiopesis is the sudden interruption of speech. Less common is the omission of pronouns. sluggish. It is a rhetorical device in which the speaker suddenly breaks off in the middle of a sentence. in which a whole is substituted for a part (as when a policeman is called “the law” or a manager is called 49 .e. Chris Baldick discusses. an impenetrable forest.” The most famous example is Julius Caesar’s boast: Veni. “fire-water” for “whisky”. “a suit (i. in his dictionary of literary terms. as in these sentences from Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness: “An empty stream. Auden’s early poem “The Watershed”: “two there were / Cleaned out a damaged shaft by hand”. here are some variants of metaphors: The kenning is a stereotypically repeated phrase used by the Anglo-Saxon poets as a standard metaphor or as a poetic circumlocution in place of a more familiar word. The polysyndeton is the serial use of prepositions and conjunctions in connecting parts of speech. The most common form is the omission of “and”. H. and rose. The air was thick. The device usually suggests strong emotion that makes the speaker unwilling or unable to continue his speech. The synecdoche is a form of metaphor in which a part is substituted for a whole. a great silence. / And dipped again…” Polysyndeton is the opposite of asyndeton. Next. for example. as in W.(usually conjunction) between clauses.

metrical feet.” The student’s mastering of the aforementioned aspects specific of poetry (symbols. Usually regarded as a special kind of metonymy. Mozart for Mozart’s music. but on the other it reflects the poet’s need to establish connections. Says Peck: “The conceit sums up the kind of double impulse that exists in Donne’s poetry. which is the subject of the last chapter of Part One.“the management”). e.g. Baldick quotes John Donne’s poem “The Flea” as a notable example. A word used in such metonymic expressions is sometimes called a metonym. 50 . The conceit is defined by Chris Baldick as “an unusually farfetched or elaborate metaphor or simile presenting a surprisingly apt parallel between two apparently dissimilar things or feelings”. images. the press for journalism. skirt for woman. The term means comparing two very dissimilar things from dissimilar areas of experience. “Moscow” for the Russian government) and sports commentary (e. A well-known metonymic saying is the pen is mightier than the sword (i.e. the bottle for alcoholic drink.” Interestingly. The metonymy is a figure of speech in which the name of one object is replaced by another which is closely associated with it.g. Peck likewise names Donne as the master of conceits: he mentions the lovers that are compared to candles and flies. On the one hand it acknowledges the complex variety of experience. John Peck provides a more elaborate definition according to which “the metaphors where comparisons are established between things which seem to have no obvious similarity or connection are called conceits. but also has literary uses like Dickens’s habitual play with bodily parts: the character of Mrs Merdle in Little Dorrit is referred to as “the Bosom”. the writing is more powerful than warfare). types of rhymes and strophic patterns. These aspects are the ABC of text analysis. synecdoche occurs frequently in political journalism (e. as well as the figures of speech) is instrumental in his / her approach to a given poetic text. “Liverpool” for one of that city’s football teams).g.

called Judas. was written down in a late thirteenth-century manuscript. Or. Allegorical thinking permeated the Christian literature of the Middle Ages. The oldest recorded ballad in the English language.TYPES OF POETRY This chapter is a glossary of types of poetry that came to be used by English poets along the centuries. flourishing in the morality plays and in the dream visions of Dante Alighieri and William Langland. Most of them are not “English” inventions but originate either from the Greek and Latin literatures or from other Western cultures. Many first appeared in written form with the introduction of the printing press in 1476. one a literal or surface meaning (the story itself) and one a metaphorical meaning (the characters or actions or even the objects of which have a one-toone equivalence with those of the literal narrative). Allegory An allegory is a narrative that has two meanings. The principal technique of allegory is personification. Ballad Ballads are short folk songs that tell stories. Ballads were very popular throughout the Middle Ages. it is a story or visual image with a second distinct meaning partially hidden behind its literal or visible meaning. An allegory may be conceived as a metaphor that is extended into a structured system. They flourished particularly strongly in Scotland from 51 . The Celts and AngloSaxon undoubtedly composed ballads but there is no record of these early works. whereby abstract qualities are given human shape – as in public statues of Liberty or Justice.

This tradition of the pastoral elegy. Since the eighteenth century. 52 . an elegy may be a poem of melancholy reflection upon life’s transience or its sorrows. Since then. an eighteenth-century example is Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray. the term referred to the metre of a poem alternating dactylic hexameters and pentameters in couplets known as elegiac distichs. educated poets outside the folksong tradition – notably Coleridge and Goethe – have written imitations of the popular ballad’s form and style. derived from Greek poems by Theocritus and other Sicilian poets in the third and second centuries BC. In a broader sense. John Donne. Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798) is a celebrated example. and the muses invoked by the elegist. Two important English elegies that follow Milton in using pastoral conventions are Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Adonais” (1821) on the death of Keats and Matthew Arnold’s “Thyrsis” (1867).the fifteenth century onward. Pedlars sold the ballads in the streets singing the songs so that anyone who did not know the melody could learn it. not to its mood or content: love poems were often included. But since Milton’s “Lycidas” (1637). In Greek and Latin verse. In this respect. The elegiac stanza is a quatrain of iambic pentameters rhyming ABAB. Elegy Until the seventeenth century the term “elegy” was used to refer to any poem whose theme was solemn meditation. for example. it has been applied to poems in which the speaker laments the death of a particular person (a friend or public figure) or the loss of something he valued. applied the term to his amorous and satirical poems in heroic couplets. the term in English has denoted a lament. while the adjective “elegiac” has come to refer to the mournful mood of such poems. They were printed on sheets of paper about the size of a banknote. evolved a very elaborate series of conventions by which the dead friend is represented as a shepherd mourned by the natural world: pastoral elegies usually include many mythological figures such as the nymphs who are supposed to have guarded the dead shepherd. named after its use in Gray’s “Elegy”.

The gods or supernatural beings take an interest or active part in the action. the epigram was developed into a literary form by the poets of the Hellenistic age and by the Roman poet Martial. dating from the eighth century BC. The works of Homer and Virgil provide the prototypes in classical literature. introduced in formal detail. It consists of a long narrative in elevated style that deals with a great and serious object. while Beowulf and Milton’s Paradise Lost are examples in English literature. The setting of the poem is ample in scale. Epigram An epigram (from the Greek for “inscription”) is a very short poem which is condensed in content and polished in style. The action involves superhuman deeds in battle or a long and difficult journey. i. whose epigrams were often obscenely insulting. whose Iliad and Odyssey.Epic The epic is one of the earliest literary forms. “in the middle of things”. Epigrams often have surprising or witty endings. There are catalogues of some of the principal characters.e. Virgil and Milton wrote about the founder of a nation and the human race itself (Aeneas and Adam) in “secondary” or literary epics in imitation of the earlier “primary” or traditional epics of Homer. are derived from an oral tradition of recitation. The narrator begins by stating his theme and invoking a muse. Originally a form of monumental inscription in ancient Greece. The narrative starts in medias res. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “On a Volunteer Singer” is an epigram: Swans sing before they die T’were no bad thing Should certain people Die before they sing! 53 . when the action is at a critical point. Epics generally have the following features: The hero is a figure of great importance.

Odes in which the same form of stanza is repeated regularly are called Horatian odes. as in Pope’s The Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad. or any such episode in a poem or prose work. usually exalted in style and varied or irregular in metre. A version of the ode which imitated the Pindaric ode in style and matter but simplified the stanza pattern became very popular in seventeenth-century England. The Romantic poets at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century wrote some of their finest verses in the form of odes. There are. The popularity of the ode continued while the classics formed the basis of English education. Abraham Cowley’s “Pindarique Odes” (1656) introduced the fashion of this type of looser irregular ode with varying lengths of strophes. battles. The inappropriateness of the grandiose epic style highlights the trivial and senseless nature of the writer’s target. The term is virtually synonymous with pastoral poem. in fact. Mock Epic A mock heroic (or mock epic) poem imitates the elevated style and conventions (invocations of the Gods. for example John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. By the middle of the Victorian period. hypocrisy. extended similes etc. descriptions of armour. The first odes were written by the Greek poet Pindar in the fifth century BC. often in the form of a lengthy ceremonious address to a person or an abstract entity. Ode An ode is an elaborately formal lyric poem. serious in subject.) of the epic genre in dealing with a frivolous or minor subject. In English these include the celebrated odes of John Keats “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Ode to a Nightingale”.Idyll An idyll is a short poem describing an incident of country life in terms of idealized innocence and contentment. and Horace’s more privately reflective odes in Latin. it was considered old-fashioned and had fallen out of use. however. 54 . superficiality. as in Theocritus’ Idylls. etc. two different classical models: Pindar’s Greek choral odes devoted to public praise of athletes. The mock heroic has been widely used to satirise social vices such as pretentiousness.

The Arthurian stories are typical illustrations of the romance. often idealistic treatment of subject matter. The plot of these poems usually centres on a single knight who fights at tournaments. Romances introduced and concentrated on the idea of courtly love according to which the lover idealizes and idolizes his beloved. Critics now use the term “pastoral” to refer to any work in which the main character withdraws from ordinary life to a place close to nature where he can gain a new perspective on life. It is. wrote eclogues set in the imagined tranquillity of Arcadia. or. characterized by the fanciful. usually in an idealized Golden Age of rustic innocence and idleness. Romance The romance is a form of narrative poetry which developed in the twelfth century in France. It relates improbable adventures of idealized characters in some remote or enchanted setting. The lover suffers agonies for his heroine but remains devoted to her and shows his love by adhering to a rigorous code of behaviour both in battles and in his courtly conduct.Pastoral Pastoral poetry is a highly conventional mode of writing. His most influential follower. In later centuries there was a reaction against the artificiality of the genre and it fell out of favour. who is usually another man’s wife (marriage among the medieval nobility was usually for economic or political reasons). The word “romance” refers to the French language which evolved from Latin or “Roman”. Edmund Spenser’s Shepherd’s Calendar (1579) introduced the pastoral into English literature and throughout the Renaissance it was a very popular poetic style. It is an elaborately artificial cult of simplicity and virtuous frugality. it shows a tendency in fiction opposite to that of realism. and the idyllic aspects of the rural life in general. He wrote for an urban readership in Alexandria about the shepherds in his native Sicily. hence. and typically draws a contrast between the innocence of a simple life and the corruption of city and especially court life. more generally. 55 . an ancient literary form which deals with the lives of shepherds. slays dragons and undergoes a series of adventures in order to win the heart of his heroine. the Roman poet Virgil. Pastorals were first written by the Greek poet Theocritus in the third century BC. Pastoral literature describes the loves and sorrows of shepherds.

The essential characteristic of most sonnets is the dynamic interrelationship of their parts – the octave with the sestet or the three quatrains with each other and the final couplet. The standard subject-matter of early sonnets was the torments of sexual love (usually within a courtly love convention). the aim of the satire is to reform. Shelley and Keats. the sonnet was revived in the nineteenth century by Wordsworth. As a major form of love poetry. The rhyming scheme is usually ABBA-ABBA-CDC-CDC. we see that the sonnet can be a good index to a formalistic reading of poems. The tone of the satire may vary from tolerant amusement (Horace) to bitter indignation (Juvenal). a feeling. where it was popularised by the fourteenth-century poet Petrarch. It cannot ridicule a state of mind. Sonnet The term sonnet comes from the Italian word “sonetto”. Chaucer and Byron are also worth mentioning among the greatest English satirists. such as one’s behaviour or deeds.Satire The satire is a mode of writing that exposes the failings of individuals. with this interrelationship in mind. 56 . The satirist has to exaggerate. to reduce to the absurd his demonstrations for proving in an irrefutable manner what he wants. palpable. The English sonnet (also called the Shakespearean sonnet after its most famous practitioner) comprises three quatrains and a final couplet rhyming ABAB-CDCD-EFEF-GG. the sonnet came to be adopted in Spain. Although largely neglected in the eighteenth century. to contribute to the elimination of a particular vice. The sonnet originated in Italy. but something that is obvious. According to the supporters of New Criticism. hence. France and England in the sixteenth century and in Germany in the seventeenth century. In the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet the first eight lines – the octave – introduce the subject while the last six lines – the sestet – provides a comment and express the personal feelings of the poet. and society to ridicule and scorn. institutions. It deals with external objects and facts. while Milton extended it to politics. to distort. especially the verse satires of Horace and Juvenal. The modes of Roman satire. In a sonnet a poet expresses his thoughts and feelings in fourteen lines. Pope. which means “little song or sound”. and Samuel Johnson. inspired some important imitations by Boileau. but in the seventeenth century John Donne extended the sonnet’s scope to religion.

and look for the main idea or feeling that the poet is trying to get across to you. 4. trying to see how the poet brings the theme to life. five-step method: 1. or approaches. Read the poem through slowly. Look at another section of the poem. Look for a central opposition in the poem (after reading it). John Peck advances a bit more sophisticated. Paul O’Flinn. Sum up your sense of the poem as whole. Sum up your impressions of the poem as a whole. Focus on the two or three lines which were conclusive in fixing your sense of the poem’s main idea or feeling. 3. Here are the steps a student should follow in approaching a poem: 1. 4. 3. 2. Look at how the poem concludes. Read the poem again and see how the main idea or feeling is given precise shape by the choices and combinations of words that express it.HOW TO ANALYZE A POEM There are numberless methods of analyzing poems and dozens of book on this topic have been issued both in Romania and in the English-speaking countries. 5. regardless of their author. and your sense of the writer so far. I shall list just a few possible methods. trying to see how the poem is progressing. Begin to look at the details of the poem as a whole. type or topic. advocates a four-step approach to the interpretation of poems. 57 . for instances. 2. at least twice. to encourage the “average girl / boy” to reach an interpretation of their own. The common denominator of the poems analyzed by O’Flinn is that they were all written by Romantic poets.

develop the sentence into a paragraph and a short essay. The most practical approach is to write down a few simple statements saying what you can now say about his writer that you could not have said before looking at this particular poem. be similarly constructed in terms of oppositions? Says John Peck: “A poem is built on an opposition. The most interesting of the five steps listed above is step one. d) Discover 58 .Peck dubs his approach “analytic method”. In all writers you will find that one group of images is set against opposing images. 1. b) State the subject of the poem (it is about…). develop and bring the theme to life in a forceful and memorable way. The Content of the Poem a) Understand the poem by taking out all the unknown words and looking them up in the dictionary (denotative level). this clash enabling the poet to fill out. I included it into my previous text-book. the entire universe seems to exist as an infinite number of binary oppositions.” Pia Brînzeu provides a more complex and. therefore. Why shouldn’t the fictional microcosm of a literary text. A Survey of English Literature from Beowulf to Jane Austen and I will include it here as well. and this opposition operates throughout and at every level in a poem. Your analysis of the poem will therefore come to life as you look at some of these ways in which the poet uses details to develop. John Peck’s advice reads as follows: “At the end of the poem. as the feedback from undergraduates on this method was generally positive. in my opinion. It is worth dwelling on the idea of central opposition not only in a poem but in any literary text: in fact. more reliable method of analyzing a poem than the aforementioned British scholars. or a poem. c) Summarize it in one sentence. in order to move towards a sense of unique qualities of a particular writer.” As for step five. we need to pull back and sum up what we have learnt about the way in which the poem and the poet strike a distinctive note. Next.

The Theme and Ideational Values of the Poem a) State the theme that is illustrated in the poem. d) If the poem is argumentative. etc. or contact with other arts). c) If the poem is expository. – the unfamiliar elements (the novelty) and analyze if they seem vivid or if they offer a lively imaginative experience. b) Comment if the theme is made explicit by the author or it is left implicit. etc.). The Structure of the Poem a) If the structure of the poem is narrative (epic). 59 . – the ethical and philosophical values suggested by the poet. c) See if there are passages in the poem that are irrelevant or superfluous. assonance. the reasons for their order. order of presentation. through reading.– the familiar elements in the poem and explain why they seem so (because of personal experience. etc. climax and denouement. discuss the basic pattern and the relationship of the details to the basic pattern. – mark the alliteration. Prosody and Style a) Identify the meter: – scan the poem. – mark the stressed and unstressed syllables. development. the reasons for this order and the persuasiveness with which the argument is conducted. b)If the poem is descriptive. b) Sound Pattern.) or the ideas presented (their number. 2. state the thesis and discuss the number and order of arguments. and indicate the feet and the meter of the poem. discuss the feelings and emotions presented (their number. musical effects. turning point. – the attitude of the speaker. 4. make an analysis of its exposition. 3. d) Describe: – the tone of the poem. the division between feet.

The previous chapters of this book have aimed at providing this modicum of knowledge. Explain why. c) If not. This book and. d) Figures of speech 5. Why are students so scared of interpreting a text freely. 1983) and Pia Brînzeu’s Initiation in Poetry (Tipografia Universităţii Timişoara.– see the rhyme and stanza pattern: Discuss whether the sound pattern of the poem has any effectiveness at all. In order to interpret a text one must be equipped with at least a modicum of theoretical knowledge. state the reasons why you reject the poet’s experience. Psychological Values of the Poem a) Follow the emotions and feelings you experience when reading the poem. 1992). sound. I will try to present some “user-friendly” (or student-friendly) methods of textual analysis that complement each other as well as the aforementioned methods. The imagery of the poem should be analyzed in terms that refer to colour. taste. particularly. Significant Romanian contributions to this topic are Jack Rathbun and Liviu Cotrău’s Two Approaches to Literature (Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică. unless because it is. movement. this chapter is dedicated to this breed of undergraduates. indeed. Bucureşti. But a literary text should not be forced into the Procustean bed of a single method of 60 . smell (all related to perceptions). b) See to what extent you can accept as your own the attitudes and ideas expressed in the poem. easier for them to regurgitate ready-made hunks of information taken from books and the Internet than to use their brains? However. c) Imagery. there will be always students still eager to voice their own opinions and to make their own value judgments. and at the end I will actually present a selection of “textual interpretations” by former undergraduates who attended an optional course in contemporary British poetry some years ago. touch. In the remaining part of this chapter. shape. size.

his education. I shall try to point out what methods Simic hints at in his definitions. “The poet and no one else writes the poem” takes us to the biographical approach articulated in the writings of the nineteenthcentury French critics Sainte-Beuve and Taine. all leave their mark on his literary creation. Biography cannot be taken outside the “spirit of the age”. according to which the poets are vessels for divine inspiration. a certain critical method or school underlies each of these ways: The poet and no one else writes the poem. angelic or demonic. Each and every poem should be interpreted by applying the critical method or approach that best suits it. As we shall see. “subversion”. “opposition” and “complicity” are some of the terms that make up the critical jargon of such approaches. function of poetry. In this case poetry is viewed as a source 61 . beliefs. “containment” and “consolidation”. hence the vatic. inevitably.interpretation. the product of the age in which he lives. religion. The spirit of the times writes the poem. or prophetic. writes the poem. aspirations. “power”. Simic’s first and sixth definitions nearly overlap. Some higher power. Man is. The unconscious of the poet writes the poem. Charles Simic’s definitions. Neo-Marxism and New Historicism view literary texts as “archival documents” of an age and aim at retrieving the history of social and political allegiances and tensions encoded in them. “centre” and “margin”. “Hegemony”. like all poetry. inviting the reader to decode their meaning. All of past poetry writes the poem. Language itself writes the poem. Simic’s fifth definition invites a Platonic approach. the American poet and critic Charles Simic has jokingly listed “just a few possible ways” of approaching poetry. “Self-expression” thus becomes the true function of art. The following pages speak about the multiplicity of choices one can have in interpreting a poem. This approach sees the literary work as a reflection of the author’s life. The social origin and context of an author’s life. In recent years. are formulated in an oblique way.

and the mythological and archetypal approaches. we already know that it is a poem. we know that we can interpret it in terms of narratology. or. or thousands. a basic step in the interpretation of a poem is the recognition of the symbols and images that underlie its theme. the action. of knowledge.of moral instruction. The person is a key factor in establishing the species (or genre) to which a poem belongs. aural. in Horace’s words. in turn. gustatory. the time scheme. When we read a poem. either a human being or some supernatural force). as well as poems that only depict either a slice of landscape/cityscape or just an object. simply. hints at the generic approach. This approach is interested in detecting the moral values encoded in a literary text. of years. In the latter case. on the one hand. or “mask” (not the poet himself). “The unconscious of the poet writes the poem” takes us to the psychoanalytical approach. But there are poems that confine themselves to the presentation of some moral or philosophical ideas. and we witness a confession that may take the form of a dramatic monologue or an apostrophe (the invocation of a missing character. the sensorial level. But a poem may also be written in the second person. Unlike science. Visual. He can hardly escape the confines and impositions of genres that have been productive for hundreds. referring to the narrator. the characters. and thermal images may often constitute a point of departure in a text analysis. In the case of a lyrical poem conceived in the first person. disputation or. the narrative speed. we know that we are faced with a lyrical persona. tactile. olfactory. “All of past poetry writes the poem”. combining delight and instruction. the plot. They. the setting. on the other hand. and other constitutive elements. in the form of debate. it is dulce et utile. of descriptive poetry. If we read an epic poem written in the third person. require a suitable approach. The psychological approach 62 . poetry explores and reaches truth by relying very much on the first level. The division of literary works into genres triggers the readers’ specific horizon of expectations. The presence / absence and the prevalence of certain types of imagery are telling clues in reading a poem. The best guide for the theory of genres remains Northrop Frye’s classical Anatomy of Criticism. Any present-day writer is generically conditioned. dialogue.

In Jung’s opinion. unfavourable as well as favourable. notwithstanding the fact that the abuses of Freudian theory have contributed to its decline. especially as Carl Gustav Jung’s theory of racial memory and archetypes have gained ground in applications to literary texts. the process of discovering those aspects of one’s self that make one an individual different from other members of the species. or “archetypes. or opinions based on false reasoning. Myths are “visions of reality” embodied in “an articulated structure of symbol or narrative” (George Whaley). forms of behaviour”. One of Jung’s major contributions to archetypal criticism is the theory of individuation as related to those archetypes designated as the shadow. namely. collective and communal: they bind a tribe or a nation together in that people’s common psychological and spiritual activities. illusions. The pleasure principle. the persona. collective unconscious. Philip Wheelwright has defined myth as “the expression of a profound sense of togetherness”. it has its pre-established individual definiteness. asserting that beneath this there is a primeval.is not Freud’s invention. which govern the three aforementioned psychic zones. the Ego. “primordial images”. a “racial memory”. Jung expanded Freud’s theories of the personal unconscious. Mythical criticism insists that myths are more than just primitive fictions. of his total self.” According to Jung. and the Super-Ego has been applied to many authors and literary texts. can be applied to the reading of many poems. the archetypes are not just inherited ideas or patterns of thought. but inherited forms of psychic behaviour. and the morality principle. Jung opposed the Lockean idea that mind is born tabula rasa and claimed that. Aristotle set forth his definition of tragedy as combining the emotions of pity and terror to produce catharsis. Individuation is a psychological “growing up”. Jung calls the manifestations of these elements “motifs”. and the anima. “like the body. neuroses are the results of the person’s failure to confront and to accept some archetypal component of his 63 . the individual must consciously recognize the various aspects. in the fourth century BC. the reality principle. It is a process of recognition: as he matures. Human beings inherit psychic predispositions. The mythforming structural elements are ever-present in the unconscious psyche. Freud’s theory of the Id. Myths are. by nature. Long before him.

and the villain. The shadow. that which lives of itself and causes life”. creation. COLOURS: black (darkness) stands for chaos (mystery. melancholy. fertility and growth. wisdom. Rising Sun: birth. persona. the anima. death. enlightenment. hope. incarnations of deities.” It is “the dangerous aspect of the unrecognized half of the personality”. the unconscious. To conclude. the image of the opposite sex that he carries in both his personal and his collective unconscious. SUN (standing for fire and sky): creative energy. the 64 . It is “the living thing in man. transitional phases of the life cycle. Here is a list of archetypes and the symbolic meanings with which they tend to be universally associated: WATER: the mystery of creation. Rivers: also death and rebirth (baptism). Instead of assimilating this unconscious element to his consciousness. law in nature. spiritual mystery and infinity. evil. The persona is the obverse of the anima: it mediates between our ego and the external world. birth-death-resurrection. father principle (moon and earth tend to be associated with female or mother principle). the unconscious. Setting Sun: death. the persona. consciousness (thinking. the unknown). death and rebirth. CIRCLE (sphere. Anima is the contrasexual part of man’s psyche. violent passion. the flowing of time into eternity.unconscious. the shadow is the invisible saurian tail that man still drags behind him. and anima are inherited structural components of the psyche. sacrifice. the heroine. Anima is a kind of mediator between the ego (the conscious will or thinking self) and the unconscious or inner world of the individual. union of consciousness and the unconscious. it is our social personality. The common variant of this archetype is the Devil. unity. Red: blood. Green: growth. life in primordial form. The anima is the most complex of Jung’s archetypes. God as Infinite. enlightenment. The persona is the actor’s mask that we show to the world. in soap operas. and the shadow are projected in the characters of the hero. “Taking it in its deepest sense. the unconscious. The Sea: the Mother of Life. sensation. disorder. spiritual vision). the neurotic individual persists in projecting it upon some other person or object. passage of time and life. purification and redemption. timelessness and eternity. egg): wholeness.

Mystical Submersion into Cyclical Time: the theme of endless death and regeneration – man achieves a kind of immortality by submitting to the vast. virtually every mythology is built on some account of how the Cosmos. darkness and cold). conception. death. Escape from Time: the “Return to Paradise”. light and heat with the female element. Earth Mother: birth. DESERT: spiritual aridity. GARDEN: paradise. WIND (and breath): inspiration. nihilism or hopelessness. Nature. b. 65 . danger. life. they should be wary before deciding whether a certain image functions as archetype every time it appears in a poem.yang-yin of Chinese art and philosophy (combining the male element – consciousness. and death. mankind’s voyage through space and time. death. fertility. the state of perfect. IMMORTALITY is another fundamental archetype and generally takes one of two basic narrative forms: a. unspoiled beauty (especially feminine). soul or spirit. growth. solve unanswerable riddles. protection. standing for the unconscious. and Man were brought into existence by some supernatural Being or Beings. b. However. THE ARCHETYPAL WOMAN (including the Jungian anima): a. innocence. and overcome insurmountable obstacles in order to save the kingdom and perhaps marry the princess. sorceress. c. Students are likely to meet such images in the poems they stumble upon. HERO ARCHETYPES: The Quest: the Hero (Saviour or Deliverer) undertakes some long journey during which he must perform impossible tasks. Here is a list of archetypal motifs or patterns: CREATION: this is perhaps the most fundamental of all archetypal motifs. Archetypes can also appear as motifs. The Soul-Mate: the princess or ‘beautiful lady’ – incarnation of inspiration and spiritual fulfilment. abundance. The Great Mother. particularly the cycle of the seasons. The Terrible Mother: the witch. fight monsters. SHIP: microcosm. warmth. fertility. siren – associated with fear. Good Mother. the unconscious. mysterious rhythm of Nature’s eternal cycle. timeless bliss enjoyed by man before his tragic Fall into corruption and mortality.

sentences. The object of this type of criticism is to find a key to the structure and meaning of the literary work. For them. The initiation consists of three stages or phases: 1. Allen Tate. John Crowe Ransome. stanzas).Initiation: the Hero undergoes a series of excruciating ordeals in passing from ignorance and immaturity to social and spiritual adulthood. Robert Penn Warren. Northrop Frye has worked out a sophisticated theory of archetypes: in addition to appearing as images and motifs. In an analysis of the work’s text. they advocated the idea that a literary work is an autonomous. The meaning must be sought in the poem. and Cleanth Brooks are some of the leading figures of this critical school. A logical first step in explaining the literary work is to see what the words actually mean in their full denotative (literal. It takes as granted the fact that such a work is an art form. it proposes that we should narrow our attention to what the literary work says. The Sacrificial Scapegoat: the Hero. sociological phenomena. archetypes may be found in even more complex combinations as genres or types of literature which conform with the major phases of the seasonal cycle. The formalistic approach is usually associated with the rise of the New Criticism in the 1930s and 1940s. dictionary meaning) and connotative (suggestive) value. whose meaning can be reached without external data. As such. 2. “Language itself writes literature” takes us to the formalistic and structuralist approach to literature. a poem is. this is a variation of the Death-and-Rebirth archetype. we should move from the smaller to the larger elements that make it up (the words. They all insisted upon a work’s containing everything necessary for its interpretation. separation. must die in order to atone for the people’s sins and restore the land to fruitfulness. 3. return. with whom the welfare of the tribe or nation is identified. not outside it. Like the Quest. Those willing to learn more about the mythological approach to literary analysis should consult Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism and Fables of Identity. This is a very important 66 . etc. In other words. phrases. it leaves aside extra-literary considerations such as biographical and historical facts. by first considering how it is said. first of all. transformation. selfsufficient microcosm. a structure of words.

but a general. or fatigue. coherence. expressing hesitation. or future-oriented. or they may suggest mental disturbance. and so on. of aposiopesis. We can thus decide whether the poem we analyze is a recollection of past events (anamnesis).aspect. or lack of sophistication. If we succeed in identifying the key words in a poem. or a vivid. Another important step is to pinpoint. The theme is by no means a paraphrase or summary. abstract idea. preciseness. I have often warned my students about the dangers of confusing the theme with the summary of a literary work. Complex sentences may point to a penchant for sophistication. we can try to detect the theme of the poem. Verbal tenses can help us to decide whether a poem is past-oriented. or the anticipation of events to come (promnesis). as many students tent to start “analyzing” a poem without having a clear idea about the literal meaning(s) of each and every word on the page. unfinished thoughts. Elliptical clauses construct a “world” (a form) that is different from that made up of. Another useful step. kinesthetic chain of rapid events. Coordination and subordination are also telling clues. to the semantics of the text. lively. a presentation of immediate feelings and emotions. say. we can 67 . to identify the words or phrases that we take as a starting point for a further analysis. The semantics of the key words will point to the main theme(s). The neo-classical poets prefer the nearly syllogistic. or dullness. and so on. I shall next insist on the importance of verbs and verbal categories. or philosophical thinking. which helps us better understand the psyche of his characters in his famous “dramatic monologues”. present-oriented. They can construct a static. and from morphology to syntax) is to consider the structure of clauses and sentences. wavering. frozen microcosm. They may suggest an immediacy of perception. The verbs can provide us with precious interpretive clues: they can express stasis or motion. complex sentences. logical syntax of coordinated clauses. Robert Browning is the master of broken syntax. a state of excitement. as we move from one level to another (from vocabulary to morphology. I have already insisted of the importance of the grammatical person in which a poem is composed. Back to where we have started from. Simple sentences may point out an ordered way of thinking. while the Romantics opt for a more complex texture.

68 . a universal truth. The former fallacy refers to what a gross error it is to assume that “my” interpretation and the author’s intention(s) overlap. we should rather be cautious and insist on the ambiguity of certain words and phrases that may point to an author’s ambivalent attitude. loss (at several levels. The latter fallacy refers to the fact that the emotions arising in the reader of a literary work are not necessarily the emotions the author intended to arise. This definition fits past-oriented poems that abound in sensorial imagery. K.decide whether the poem is made up of abstract or concrete terms. defined one way or another. The New Critics claimed that the formalistic approach is a democratic act in that it enables any single reader to work out a personal interpretation of a given literary text. However. Hence. is a means of expressing. we must not take at face value every word in a text. loss of the dear and the near)”. And it also may give students a further hope that poetry can be. after all. Wimsatt termed the intentional fallacy and the emotional fallacy. loss of hope. could be “the recollection of an important event usually retrieved in terms of sensorial experience”. or “it was the poet’s intention to…. It is a terrible mistake to start an interpretation by stating “the poet wants to…”. This definition. it is better to use introductory statements like “I think”. we can decide whether a certain type of imagery is prevalent.” hence. one I came to work out with my students during classes. Another empiric definition of poetry produced by me and my students during a seminar reads: “Poetry. whether the adjectives can be linked to the various types of images listed in a previous chapter. they also insisted that the empiric reader should avoid being trapped by what Monroe Beardsley and W. An empiric definition of poetry. or “in my opinion”. like science. like loss of identity. loss of youth. unwittingly and ironically echoes William Wordsworth’s famous definition of poetry as “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” originating from “emotion recollected in tranquillity”. The main truth that concerns humanity is the human condition: life and death. reached empirically. after several textual analyses. Sometimes the author can be suspected of irony as he can disguise his real feelings while manipulating the emotions of his readership.

Some authors emphasize the meaning of their text by introducing certain markers. The English word “space shuttle” is defined by dictionaries as a vehicle designed to carry humans to the outer space and transport them on an orbit around planet Earth. and disaster in the aftermath of the ill-fated end of the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia.It is generally acknowledged that a literary translator must be a good interpreter in so far as all the subsequent commentaries of a work rendered from a source language into a target language depend on the translator’s interpretive efforts. Accentuation is another important aspect that a translator / interpreter should treat with due attention. as in the New Critics’ guidelines. say. Interpretation without literal translation is impossible. as an instrument. But any student knows that the same word suggests anxiety when one is faced with a difficult task. The late Professor Leon Leviţchi produced an impressive Handbook for the Translators of English Literature (Îndrumar pentru traducătorii de literatură engleză) some thirty years ago. as if to draw our attention. Linguistic repetitions are. Phonological repetitions (in the form of rhyme 69 . They choose to use the emphatic “it”. the translator’s first step in evaluating a text to be translated should be. I shall briefly discuss Leon Leviţchi’s contribution to the question of textual interpretation in this very chapter as Professor Leviţchi drew on some of the ideas advanced by the New Critics. the strongest means of accentuation. with an examination. death. etc. exclamation marks. it is what words suggest either to an individual or to a community. the word contains the suggestion of hazard. For instance. especially for Americans. This book is still in print and. “Morcov” in Romanian is described by dictionaries as an edible plant with certain distinctive features of its own. Denotation refers to the meanings that the dictionaries ascribe to words. This is the denotative level of the word. Connotation is whatever is not mentioned about words in dictionaries. or series of antonyms. it is as useful as it was at the time of its first edition. series of negations. the assessment of denotation and connotation. But for very many people. probably. The importance of dictionaries must be emphasized over and over again. Conversely. translation without interpretation is either an impossible task or a poorly done job. the emphatic “do”. inversions.

I shall try to stimulate our students’ individual. although “to walk” does not contain the idea of speed in itself. lexical repetitions (which can be classified in various subtypes). a set of signs originally produced by a missing author) and the reader. we can refer to it as the stylistic dominant of the respective text. It is the result of the way in which all previously discussed layers of language combine to produce a meaningful text. personal approach to literary texts by reminding them. etc. and coherence) prevails. Shelley coins the phrase “swiftly walks”.or alliteration). A text with no reader is a dead text. It is the reader that 70 . Stubbs). and syntactic repetitions do not occur accidentally. in passing. we should bear in mind the New Critics’ warning about the intentional and emotional fallacy. emotions. they are part of what the New Critics label as how a form transmits its meaning. to announce that you can see a “silver forest”. Style is thus essential in discussing the form of the literary work. * Next. a person with his / her own psyche. which has been defined as “the speaker’s / writer’s attitude toward his utterance / the conveyed information” (Bally. is yet another important factor. and Eminescu uses a noun in the genitive instead of a noun in the accusative. outlook. Modality. Coherence is another aspect that ought to be taken into consideration. it is no longer the author that matters but the reader. connotation. We can try to detect whether the prevalent modality in a text is volitive. or emotive. and his survival depends solely on his readership. experience of life. Is an author’s style consistent throughout a text or not? Does it succeed in conveying any meaning at all? How do we cope with oxymoronic phrases? Are they stylistic lapses or deliberate tricks? Shakespeare’s Bottom roars “like a nightingale” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. modality. Literature has been perceived more and more as the result of interaction between the text (a set of signs waiting to be decoded.) Hence. intellective. how fashionable the reader-response approach has become in the past few decades. When any of the aforementioned aspects (denotation. The author is dead or absent. However. accentuation.

the reader preserves his anonymity. also rewrite it. is also an anonymous person. these interpretations were given during a written examination.resuscitates the text. or what his readers will think of the respective work. As Selima Hill is a present-day contemporary British poet who has not yet become canonical and is not included in any syllabus. who. I shall quote below the full text of Selima Hill’s poem “My First Bra” and the way in which several former undergraduates responded to it. The author. perhaps. who writes for unknown readers. Every new generation enriches an old text with new meanings: the text becomes the product of the interaction between the initial author and the successive generations of readers. brings it back to life and ascribes it a meaning. 71 . the best way to stimulate my future undergraduates attending the course on English poetry up to 1830 is to provide some examples of textual interpretation by graduates who once were in their shoes. In the process of re-reading the text. more often than not. The author of the text he interprets is not likely to learn about his interpretation. The smell of lilac smothers me like wool. beyond the lawns I hear my naked sister crying in the nettles where I threw her: nobody else is having my first bra. Moreover. And. He cannot know or predict who will read his work. while re-reading it. it is clear that the interpretations below were not downloaded from the Internet. as a first-hand response to a previously unknown text. Here is the text of the poem: A big brown bear is knocking at the door: he wants to borrow a dress and matching knickers.

Here the word ‘matching’ has a strong value because it represents a sort of boundary between childhood and adolescence.Student A wrote the following commentary: “I think that the first poem breathes an overwhelming personal need of possession coming from a sense of frustration. and the bra becomes the symbol of a feeling of comfort. which the adolescent back then must have experienced. the moment when the transformation from childhood to adolescence took place. the smell of lilac. on how determined she is. The woman is not willing to respond to the others’ requests anymore. she finally understands that her past belongs to her alone. Here is a subtle comparison between the blooming of nature in spring and a girl’s becoming a woman. The lilac blooms in spring. the poem takes the form of a confession made in a metaphorical manner. transformed in memories. The next line is very suggestive because it probably represents the feelings. are the expression of her self-confidence. those she stands up against are men ready to grab whatever she has agreed to give to only one of them. and the image of that bra that she used to wear is the starting point of her awareness. symbolized by the bear asking to borrow a dress and matching knickers. Written in the first person. She stops being indifferent about the way in which she dresses. Therefore. without any guilty feeling. and certainty. and on how confident in her actions she can be. having the function of a conclusion. In fact. The way in which the woman remembers that period is filled with images of a lost childhood. self-confidence. like the big brown bear. The third stanza clears the mystery of the first two and it gives a clue about the time. She has already reached a point in which she can freely cry out her self-determination. The present depends on her very attitude. The smell of lilac (an olfactory image) brings back memories connected with her first experience as an adult woman. These images are mixed with the woman’s discovery of sex. or to share personal experiences. She may have not felt 72 . material or moral values. The fact that the bear is her own impersonation as a child comes to sustain that same idea.” Compare the previous commentary with student B’s interpretation: “The poem is about a woman’s first encounter with her sexuality and about this period in her life presented as a memory. The last two lines. ‘The smell of the lilac’ is the key to unravelling the mystery.

In fact. and the comparison with wool and the sensation of smothering are very eloquent in this respect.comfortable or proud of her sexuality. The fourth stanza takes us to the present. The ‘lawns’ represent the vastness of her memories. I think the girl wants to turn into a lady. The girl is trying to find her identity. while the nettles are the feelings she experienced at that time. while the dress and the matching knickers are the symbols of her becoming a woman that is interested in fashion. She is now somewhere in between. The fact that she cries is a proof that she did not accept that part of herself. They wear their mothers’ clothes and shoes. The smell of lilac is the smell of a perfume with lilac fragrance. The last two lines are a return and kind of waking up after recollecting the unpleasant memories. who thinks there’s no problem in wearing a dress and knickers at the same time. neither a girl.” Student C wrote in a similar vein: “In my opinion. indeed. The adult woman is now thinking about her childhood years. The big brown bear knocking at the door represents her childhood. to discover her sexuality. This is a regular game played by little girls. the girl uses perfume. The woman no longer looks into the past as a child but already as a grown-up frustrated by her memories. The fourth and fifth stanzas give us more clues about that period in the girl’s life. In order to be a real lady. The woman states her uniqueness and her pride of having passed over the most difficult period of a woman’s life. so that she feels it smothers her. but she is not used to the fragrance. The poem impressed me. her being a little girl. and her ‘naked sister’ is herself as she stood and watched her naked body only to discover her first signs of sexuality. in being smart. My First Bra is a poem about passing from childhood to adolescence and puberty. and use their perfumes. It is a recollection of those years when she was 73 . nor yet a woman. But matching the dress with the knickers proves that she lacks the skill of a lady in matching clothes. because it is very vivid and intense with feeling. I think that ‘I hear my naked sister / crying in the nettles where I threw her’ refers to the girl she used to be. at a second reading I draw the conclusion that she is playing and the bear is her playmate: she wants the bear to wear those clothes. She is still a little girl. I would say she is becoming a woman.

The ‘door’ is the door opening to adulthood. and this aspect can be deduced not only from the meaning of the lines.” Student D wrote: “The first four lines illustrate a sort of fairy-tale.” And here is student E’s interpretation: “The central idea of this poem is the process in which a girl becomes a woman. The bra is a new episode in her life. adulthood appears to be very attractive and promising (‘lawns’).” Student F voices a similar interpretation of the poem as a metaphor for the transition from one phase of life to another in a female character’s biography: 74 . while the latter is an element that strongly suggests winter. the little sister (maybe an infant. Childhood is seen as a hard period (‘the nettles’) and. ‘the lawns’. as she is naked) is seen as a menace to her. and visual images reflect the strong feelings which disturb her to the point of making her throw her little sister outdoors. However. the adult woman is jealous of this past moment of her first bra. but also from the fact that the poet marked this distinction by inserting a full stop. the poet associates it with the suffocating wool. The olfactory. tactile. The lines are epic. the poet underlines the importance it has for her heroine. in contrast with it. showing the desire of a bear ‘to borrow a dress / and matching knickers’. the first step in her sexual development (…). In these lines the speaking ‘I’ is included. with its variants ‘me’ and ‘my’. The other four stanzas are lyrical. The girl’s sister has to pay for having taken away her ‘first bra’. fashion-conscious woman). because the former is a spring flower. as a future rival for capturing the boys’ attention. in which the main character is a ‘big brown bear’. which still reminds her of her childhood. ‘the nettles’. ‘the lilac’ and ‘the wool’ have an opposite meaning. These two elements. Even if the lilac is the symbol of purity and beauty. Using the negative pronoun at the beginning of the last stanza. The elements used here are taken from nature: ‘the lilac’. The personification of the bear makes me think that she has already started to have some interest in love and the opposite sex.searching for sexual identity. The girl is coming out of the tomboy stage (she is playing with the bear) and seems to be anxious to become a woman (she dresses her bear with matching clothes as an elegant.

decoded their denotative and connotative values. finally. and. with different relationships among the participants in that story. These examples of interpretation prove the validity of the New Critics’ axiom according to which a structure of words can convey meaning in a rather precise way. ‘borrowing a dress and matching knickers’ (probably from her elder sister) is another symbol for this period in a girl’s life. each new reader of a work enriches its meaning with his / her personal interpretive contribution. referred to them as symbols or metaphors. and yet all these students managed to detect. The girl is thrown into the unknown but she is protected by her elder sister even if she does not know it. We can easily notice that there are obvious variations in the symbolic meanings ascribed to some of the key words. to reach his / her personal conclusion by taking a different path. in fact. The ‘big brown bear’ is a symbol for adolescence. These variable results substantiate the validity of Umberto Eco’s theory of opera aperta: a literary work is an open structure liable to numberless interpretations. As we have seen there are many variations in the ways in which the students identified the key words. The verbs are in the present tense. as in Shakespearean criticism. first person pronouns). Interpretations can even contradict one another. each student re-constructed a different story. even entitled. negative pronouns. “Rather” leaves room for differences.” These specimens of first-hand response are partly immature. To put it bluntly. but each reader is allowed.“The poem is about adolescence. the same theme: the transition from girlhood to womanhood. The overall result of interpretation may be identical with several readers. where all of the Bard’s texts are sites of struggle among 75 . So. The ‘nettles’ may express the unknown world of womanhood. on the grammatical function of words (verbal tenses. on the types of images used by the author. They express an action that is taking place at present – the transformation of the girl is continuous. Some students chose to capitalize on the prosodic structure of the poem (the function of stanzas). Adolescence is the age when the little girl becomes aware of the way she looks and is conscious that she must look pretty. sometimes they betray their authors’ incoherence or imperfect command of the English language. It describes the transformation of one’s ‘little sister’ into a young woman. basically.

and I am grateful to them for their unwitting contribution to this course in English poetry. 76 . She is desperately trying to look older and more beautiful. F. She wants to hide the hair under ‘a dress and matching knickers’. B. Daniela Zariosu-Voinea. She starts to use perfume that smells like lilac. Angry with her sister. my graduate students Tatiana Blaj. by student G. C. Andreea Ioana Racariu. like Freud. and the results of their approach turned out to be quite satisfactory. But each student had the opportunity to interact with the text in the absence of the author. She has bought her first bra and her little sister wants to try it on.competing literary and ideological interpretations. her first bra will take her out of childhood and introduce her to adolescence. on the importance of sexuality in an individual’s life: “My First Bra is the poem of a girl entering the adolescence years. D. Ioana Alexandra Vasile. above all. common sense.” A. she associates the hair with a bear because in the beginning. insisting. personal experience. there wasn’t any kind of hair. relying just on their theoretical instruments. Suzana Dumitrescu. and Tatiana Nicoleta Gratie. and now the place is invaded by it. The ‘big brown bear’ is the pubic hair. she throws her in the nettles. and G are. E. because now she is a teenager and she can look more attractive in the boys’ eyes. I shall quote one more interpretation. in real life. in that area. She thinks that the bra. and. who chose a nearly Freudian approach. Selima Hill’s poem did not produce opposite interpretations among my students as regards the identification of its theme. and she uses a lot of it to make herself remarked. Valentina Dumitru-Iacono.

PART TWO ENGLISH POETRY UP TO 1830 77 .

78 .

It is somebody else’s poetry. some of its literary repository managed to survive in the later English poetry. although much of the Anglo-Saxon poetic tradition gave way to continental forms. the literature produced within that specific area should still be regarded as the cultural heritage of the nation. And anyway. inhabiting the respective area at present. say. which has to be learnt like any foreign language. even if languages are prone to rapid changes in a given geographical area.ANGLO-SAXON POETRY Most literary historians claim that the history of English literature (and poetry) begins with the Anglo-Saxon literature. Anglo-Saxon is a different language. Why so? First of all. Thirdly. Professor Mihail Diaconescu provides us with the extraordinary scholarly example of an academic devoted to the idea of retrieving the Latin (and even Dacian) layer of Romanian literature written at a time when there was no Romanian people or nation in sight. Shakespeare. Says Fenton: “I can’t accept that there is any continuity between the traditions of Anglo-Saxon poetry and those established in English poetry by the time of. styles and techniques after 1066. so-called Gawain-poet. before their fall in the aftermath of the Norman invasion of 1066. For instance. the Anglo-Saxons had managed to reach cultural standards that were much above those of other European countries throughout the centuries of the so-called Dark Ages. literary historians speak about a revival of the alliterative tradition (specific of Anglo-Saxon poetry) in the fourteenth-century poems of the anonymous. James Fenton goes against the grain and upholds a different viewpoint. or ethnic groups. Like most English literary historians I share the view 79 . Secondly.” I shall dismiss Fenton’s harsh judgement and begin the diachronical section of this book with the Anglo-Saxons.

They all considered themselves part of “Germania” and they had a common set of heroes. They had been initially asked by the Britons to come and help them in their fight against the invading Scots and Picts who kept attacking them from the North. D. and on loyalty.according to which the study of English literature should begin with Anglo-Saxon poetry. Anglian and Jutish small kingdoms. according to which English literature started with the Celtic mythology which preceded the AngloSaxon culture and was transmitted orally. If the English are stoic. it was the Anglo-Saxons who turned England into a land of little villages. or nostalgic and disposed to melancholy. which contended that the Stonehenge megalithic monument is not a Celtic sanctuary but the work of a native British population that had lived there long before the Celtic invasion. presented in a documentary film broadcast on Discovery Channel. * In 410 A. is the year in which the first Germanic warriors led by the hero Hengest settled down in England.D. Half of the words used in spoken English are Anglo-Saxon in origin. I should mention here the late Professor Leon Leviţchi’s opinion. the Saxons and the Jutes founded Saxon. on the blood feud (corresponding to the Greek and Latin lex talionis). these are characteristics inherited from the Anglo-Saxons. The migrating Germanic tribesmen brought with them a code of values typical of a heroic society. the Romans finally withdrew from England. Its axis was the bond between a lord and his retainers and its stress was on the importance of physical and moral courage. Their language was essentially the same. moreover. 449 A. The Angles. They were also possessed of an acute sense of fate. or have a love of ritual implying a strong conservatism. if we were to consider the recent findings of scientists. The most sophisticated European culture during the nine centuries separating the decline and fall of the Roman Empire from the birth of the Renaissance was that of the Anglo-Saxons. And we might go back in time to an even more remote age. 80 .

Religious poetry consisted mainly of translations of Books from the Bible. Nature is generally perceived as a hostile force. nor did they compose on parchment. ecclesiastical. he was its living 81 . in some instances for hours at a time. not for the page. The audience responded or lost interest at different points and thus collaborated in the unique experience of recitation. They had memory and accompaniment and they unfolded poems. dates from the late seventh or early eighth century.” The heroic poems present a pagan world of superstitions. On the other hand. The poems were infinitely reusable. It belonged to a largely oral culture. of a “far wanderer”. it was recited by the scop. paper or keyboard. irregular lines. very few scarcely preserved manuscripts of heroic poems have survived. the itinerant minstrel. The scop was revising every time he re-opened his mouth. while the stones. the biro. Michael Schmidt provides us with an excellent explanation of how the scop fulfilled his artistic mission: “Poets of the seventh and even of the eleventh century composed for recitation. and has been carefully preserved is due to the flourishing Northumbrian monasteries of Lindisfarne. consisting of 143 lines. The Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry is close in mood and purpose to its old Germanic and Scandinavian origin. the pen. never quite the same twice. They strove for clarity and vividness of sense. The fact that most of it is religious. the trees and the wells are held in veneration. It was poetry’s purest ecology. each with at least four stressed syllables and at least three alliterative syllables. Their job was to charm the ear and to keep it charmed.000 lines of Anglo-Saxon poetry have survived. fears. They accompanied themselves on musical instruments of various levels of sophistication. the very hub of the Christian world (before the Danish invasions). This is proved by the use of stress and alliteration. It is the story of a scop. The tools of their trade were not the quill. The blank verses were made up of long. It is “a man’s world” in which only the strongest and the fittest survive. by means of voice. a world allowing no room for women. The scop was a crucial member of a tribe or a society. in which the runes have magic powers.* About 30. beliefs and ignorance. Jarrow and Whitby. on the attentive air. Widsith. because memory added and removed decoration.

Some heroes mentioned in this poem also appear in Beowulf. Goths. Burgundians. Although composed in England. episodes in Germanic history and legend (Beowulf is compared to the dragon-slayer Siegemund). Certain similarities with Homer’s Odyssey reside in the delineation of human characters. This is another proof that the heroes of the Anglo-Saxon poetry were not regional or national. The main theme of the poem is the celebration of a great warrior’s deeds. They are Huns. Danes. It is an epic poem concerned with a main plot to which several digressions and allusions are added. Swedes.memory. they repeatedly express a belief in the importance of generosity of spirit and a self-awareness that makes them responsible members of 82 . * Beowulf was composed by an anonymous poet sometime between 680 and 800. They are stories of murder and vengeance supposedly known by the scop’s auditors. “given the cryptic. The old king Hrothgar. In their actions and words. Angles. but common to all the Germanic world. the young hero Wiglaf and Beowulf himself are the three protagonists and the three representatives of different generations who embody and proclaim a pronounced and coherent set of values. a catalogue of rulers comparable with Homer’s catalogue in the Iliad. Saxons. the poem refers to the period of Germanic history long before the Anglo-Saxon invasion.182 lines about the rise and fall of a hero. His visits from one ruler to the other cover the whole Germanic world and a list of rulers whose lifetimes extend over two hundred years (hence their fictional character). The kernel of it may be a fourth century poem by a minstrel who visited the Gothic court of Eomenric. Franks. giving the poem the shape that was passes down to us. The poem includes elements of epic and elegy. his mother and a dragon). To this a subsequent poet or poets added later journeys and genealogies. it is tempting to suggest that the poem represents a kind of prompt-text and that the scop would have filled out the rather skeletal story as he performed”. According to Michael Schmidt. Widsith is a primitive combination of historical memories and heroic traditions. The reader is told in 3. abbreviated quality of certain passages. about the three fights against supernatural enemies (a man-eating monster. Langobards etc. who died in 375.

Although not very faithful to the original. Underlying the poet’s appetite for life is his acute sense of the transitoriness of life: man’s days are numbered and it is a good name that constitutes immortality on earth. Another extant heroic poem. perhaps from a wounded survivor. Then. Heaney’s version has rekindled the British and American students’ interest in one of the ever greatest European epic poems. There are several excellent translations of Beowulf into modern English and a remarkable translation into Romanian by Leon Leviţchi and Dan Duţescu. 83 . The mood and the atmosphere of the poem is varied. battle action. after his death. combining moments of slow terror and suspense with elegy. the solemn boasting of the warriors. the pride in noble heredity. tells the story of Byrhtnoth. bravery and cowardice – Beowulf mingles dramatic speeches. an Anglo-Saxon nobleman who fought an army of Danish invaders on the bank of the river Blackwater in 991. the poet’s eye fastens on Byrhtnoth and. The generosity of the rulers and the loyalty of the retainers. the poet offers a generalized view of the two armies. The most recent modern English translation is by the Noble Prize laureate Seamus Heaney. unified by striking contrasts – youth and old age. Cyclical in movement. while others seek to avenge their dead lord or die in the attempt. Few Christian elements such as God’s creation or Cain’s murder of Abel seem to have been added later to a genuinely pagan text. the final lines approve of Beowulf’s desire for worldly fame.the society to which they belong. This narrow concentration of heroic tragedy has been often compared with the twelfth book of the Iliad. The poet successfully achieves the detailed description of the words and efforts of single protagonists. Before the battle begins. Some of them take flight. on a succession of individual Anglo-Saxon warriors. The Battle of Maldon. success and failure. the thirst for fame through the achievement of deeds of courage make up the world of the heroic age. The poem appears to be the work of a man who had firsthand information about the battle. elegiac evocation of place and aphoristic comment in the greatest surviving masterpiece of the Old English Literature.

This is the only surviving Old English poem composed in stanzas with a variable number of lines and with a refrain (“That passed away. the loss of fine buildings fallen into decay. and his brother Eadmund. loss of a loved one. it is hard to infer whether the author was a pagan or a Christian poet. has lost his position. the brilliant use of direct speech all point to a quite exceptional poet. • “The Wanderer” is the lament of a solitary man. * The lyric mood in the Anglo-Saxon poetry is almost always the elegiac. it is one of the first AngloSaxon texts imbued with vigorous nationalism. • “Deor (‘s Lament)” presents in 42 lines the complaint of a scop who. the energetic use of conventional motifs.The contrast between the muted landscape and the violent action. a “for and against” debate between an old sailor and an eager young man willing to take to the sea. this poem is concerned from first to last with king and country. has lost his place in society and has become an outcast in exile. once happy in the service of a loved lord. “The Battle of Brunanburh” describes the defeat of Anlaf. by Athelstan. the interplay between the cowardice of those who fled and those who stayed. and Constantine. who now. Allusions to four legendary events precede the description of his own misfortunes. The six surviving so-called elegies are poems where the topic itself is loss – loss of a lord. after years of service to his lord. the Norse king of Dublin. this also may”). after the death of his lord. Conservative in both vocabulary and imagery. Others consider it to be the monologue of an old sailor who mingles regret and self-pity while speaking about the loneliness and 84 . The main theme of the poem might be related to the Latin ubi sunt or the favourite medieval “mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?” to be later produced by Villon. King of the Picts and Scots. The wanderer’s best source of comfort lies within himself. across the icy sea. being replaced by a rival. Some critics consider it to be a dialogue. Some elements may suggest Christian consolation. • “The Seafarer” was translated into modern English by Ezra Pound. King of England. such as the need for men to take their boasts and stick to them (a tradition that is also found in Beowulf).

the ship’s road. The transience of life is visible on the land. The art of building in stone was unknown in early Anglo-Saxon England and the ruins of Roman towns and roads are referred to as “the work of giants”. “The Deserted Village”. the captive of her husband’s relatives. the exiled husband has become a retainer in a foreign country and he hopes to get reunited with his wife. but rather of admiration and celebrations. there is no sense of loss. The main stylistic devices of Old English poetry are: – the lexical repetition. One of the very few female characters and speakers in an Anglo-Saxon poem. The poet is aware that everything man-made will perish. on the other hand. The religious poetry produced by Northumbrian monks during the seventh and eighth centuries consists of retellings of books and episodes from the Old Testament and it often has a heroic emphasis. the world = moonlight. on the one hand. 85 . the sea = the swan-track. Life at sea is equated with the renunciation of worldly pleasures and with the life dedicated to God. she is constrained to a single place. • “The Wife’s Lament” and “The Husband’s Message” are devoid of sufficient frame of reference.g. – the syntactic parallelism. and the fascination and rewards of such a life. the warrior = helm-bearer. the stereotypical concentrated metaphors: e. The second poem has a more optimistic tone. And yet. the ship = the sea-steed. – the kennings.hardships of a life at sea. but like him her life and identity depend upon a lord whose absence leaves her purposeless and friendless. the whale’s path. of self-imposed exile. – the alliteration. They are among the very few love poems which survived an age of severe religious censorship. • “The Ruin” is the eighth-century poem describing the stone buildings of a ruined city – the Roman Bath. but the seafarer – on his symbolic journey – is sailing to eternal bliss. It is tempting to read “The Ruin” as anticipating Oliver Goldsmith’s masterpiece. the wife of an outlawed man complains about her being kept in an earth-cave. life = a sea travel. Unlike “TheWanderer”.

better known as the Venerable Bede. 86 . It reads as follows: Before he leaves on his fated journey No man will be so wise that he need not Reflect while time still remains Whether his soul will win delight Or darkness after his death-day. in fact. a cowherd at the monastery of Whitby. style. who wrote religious songs in Anglo-Saxon. it is no wonder that Satan was portrayed as an arrogant and faithless retainer. Bede (673-735). the Cross is one of His followers and the dreamer.e. in order to be loyal to its Lord. At the end the dreamer speaks of his own life and aspiration. so much favoured by medieval poets. Thus. studied. which contains the Latin version of Caedmon’s first work. taught and wrote at the monastery of Jarrow. The second phase of Old English Christian poetry is the product of early ninth-century Mercia. He wrote himself in Latin. but one epigrammatic poem in the vernacular. a hymn. The anonymous author of “The Dream of the Rood” presents Christ in Germanic heroic terms as the leader of a warrior band. Caedmon was the very first to apply the Germanic heroic poetic discipline of vocabulary. “Bede’s Death Song”. and general technique to Christian matter and story.Monks used these poems in the course of their missionary work: therefore. putting words into the mouth of an inanimate object) it stands alone in Old English poetry. the Cross has to be disloyal and. is also attributed to him. to crucify Christ. The tone of the second part of the poem is homiletic. but they are described by Bede in his Ecclesiastical History. as a work of great originality and passion. None are extant. The whole poem is a remarkable fusion of old and new. and in its prosopopeia (i. In its use of the dream vision. This period of the Old English Poetry is called “Caedmonian” after Caedmon. he preserved for Christian art the great verbal inheritance of Germanic culture. Much of the drama of the first part of the poem derives from the paradox that.

are not aspects either of the Germanic heroic world or of the Christian faith but simply the everyday life of the working man. they describe household objects. Arnold.” Even if these assertions are seemingly far-fetched. in spite of periods of decadence. the value of Anglo-Saxon poetry is hard to deny. A. of apparent death.* Although much the most charming poems in the canon of Old English literature. animal life. Waller still considered the year 657 (when Caedmon is thought to have composed his mystic poem known as “Caedmon’s Hymn”) the beginning of English poetry: “And from those days to our own. In the early twentieth century. a certain carelessness of ‘art’. What the riddles reflect above all. A few of the riddles are witty and obscene double entendres. natural phenomena. Here is an example of a riddle displaying all the subtlety of a Japanese haiku: On the way a miracle: water become bone.g. consolation. their sense of humour is something not to be found anywhere else in Old English literature. though. ubi sunt. and Milton. continued unaltered.” Waller’s view was endorsed by Stanley Greenfield in the second half of the twentieth century: “Microcosm and macrocosm. Trinitarianism – these are but some of the ideas and motifs that Old English literature shares with the works of later writers like Donne. the condensed metaphors known as kennings and already referred to earlier in this lecture. R. * The importance of Anglo-Saxon poetry in the history of English literature has been emphasized over and over again. Tennyson. man’s artefacts. love of home and country and an ever-present consciousness that there are things worth more than death – these have. such as sword and shield and bow and helmet. the chief constituents of English literature – a reflective spirit. 87 . in the main. Some are concerned with instruments of war. of great superficial change. the ninety-six riddles preserved in the Exeter Book are rarely mentioned by literary historians. The riddles vary enormously in subject matter and tone. attachment to nature. Others describe ideas and objects associated with the Christian faith (e. Creation and Soul and Body). The whole body of Old English literature is packed out with mini-riddles.

in his Anatomy of Criticism. though slower. and the dawn of the so-called Middle-English literature. Chrétien de Troyes (the twelfth century) offered the most remarkable model. which almost collapse under the successive impact of the Scandinavian and the Norman invasions. 1500) is closely connected to the evolution of French medieval literature both in form and content. Bateson. “the change from Old to Middle English was rapid and drastic. It is an aristocratic 88 . defines romance as a projection of the ideals of the ruling classes. the medieval literature is no longer a “man’s world”. Italian and Spanish. Northrop Frye. and verb conjugations almost as elaborate and inflexible as those of classical Latin.MIDDLE ENGLISH LITERATURE The Norman Conquest put an end to the evolution of AngloSaxon literature. At one end of the process there is what is now a dead language. The Anglo-Saxon heroic and lyrical poems are replaced by different species such as: • the romance – a chivalrous tale concerned with the psychology of courtly love. possessed a system of genders. transitions on the Continent from Latin into French. which gradually supersedes the Anglo-Saxon literary forms and styles. as standardized in the West-Saxon of Alfred and his successors. with Erec et Enide. the woman acquires an equal status. W. The Norman conquerors bring to England a distinctive cultural heritage. with adventures and female characters raised to the status of worshipped idols. A gap appears between the Old English linguistic and cultural ties. The age of Middle English literature (1066 – approx. Fact is that Old English. a linguistic revolution”. A proper historical parallel can be drawn with the similar. caseendings. According to F. he deals with the concept of honour and the relationship between man and woman as a married couple.

the romance is concerned with psychological archetypes. only appear after the Norman Conquest. This fable consisting of 1. A realistic poet. (No French influences have been traced in this respect). It reflects the mentality of the rising bourgeoisie. although anonymous and collective. He usually embarks upon a journey of adventures in which archetypes such as the dragon or the sea-monster recur. Centuries older than the realistic novel. It is a lively dialogue between the two birds. social and religious problems of his age. He proved to be clumsy in handling allegory but he had a keen insight into the political. The so-called “dream allegory” is a story told in the form of a dream. • the fabliau is an obscene kind of poetry.800 lines imitating the French octosyllabic couplet has been preserved in two manuscripts.genre in which the hero is superior in degree to other men. • the ballads. The most influential model was provided by Roman de la Rose. the qualities of the heroine are personified in his work. It combines the features of the French débat (debate) and the bestiary. an exchange of mutual insults and recriminations. written by two authors in two distinct stages: 1) Guillaume de Lorris (1227) wrote over 4. 89 . The author assumes the role of a neutral spectator: each opponent defends its own views. Its realism and humour contrast with the artificial language and atmosphere of the romance.000 short couplets dealing with true courtly love. overtly dealing with sex and immorality.000 lines. 2)Jean de Meung (1268-1277) added a sequel of over 22. The poem was translated all over Europe. • the allegory becomes the most often employed device in poetry and drama: the personification of vices versus virtues becomes the most frequent topic. THE ANONYMOUS POETRY In the thirteenth century the anonymous poetry is best illustrated by The Owl and the Nightingale. while the novel deals with social masks. he turned his sequel into a satire.

the Italian poetry of the twelfth century brought forth the “ballata” and the French borrowed it as “balade”. but the extant texts were preserved in manuscripts or printed texts dating from the sixteenth century. working to a lord (“minstrel” meaning “a dependent”). and for the first time. but made and sung by the people (i. The poem actually mirrors the conflict between the traditional Anglo-Saxon religious poetry and the modern French lay literature. Two facts cannot be established for sure: a) one is the “original” version of a ballad.The OWL represents a poet of the religious type. Welsh abbeys occasionally sustained a Welsh-language bard and were repositories for the poetry of the Britons. for a fee. whereas the NIGHTINGALE is a poet busy with writing love poetry. But as the times grew harder minstrels were fired by employers. In Piers Plowman one monk knows the ballads and rhymes better than his pater noster. or grew bored with the court or 90 . and themselves used them for holy days. i. Monasteries. collective authorship is implied). “to dance”. the words naturally follow the train of thought. The language of the poem is not artificial. originally. provided minstrels with fresh or reheated songs and stories. the metaphor as a main device is replaced by unexpected similes such as: “you chatter like an Irish priest” (the owl about the nightingale) or “you sing like a hen in the snow” (the nightingale about the owl). b) the other is the date when a ballad was composed. The ballads flourish in the fourteenth century England. The word “ballad” seems to be derived from the Latin “ballare”. The ballads are orally transmitted narrative poems which are not made and sung for the people. Michael Schmidt explains that ballads were originally a minstrel’s job.e. * The popular ballads are another kind of anonymous poetry which was to have a great effect on English writing centuries later. being a representative of the cloister. Some abbeys and monasteries supported a resident minstrel.e. these poems had a lyrical character. Towards the end of the Roman Empire the songs known as “ballistes” were in fashion.

it belongs to a settled group and it deals with the affairs of that group. – the events described in the ballads have a local character. As a rule. Strolling minstrels disappear in Elizabeth’s reign. – the early ballads have a refrain (burden). Here are the characteristic features of the English popular ballads: – they have a narrative kernel. or (b) leaping. broadsheet ballads were a profitable venture for printers. Oscar Wilde. 91 .monastery. – nature is only mentioned as an external background (unlike in the Romanian popular ballads). i. Rudyard Kipling. – they are written in iambic meter. For two centuries after Shakespeare’s death. – the narrative is impersonal – the narrator tells the story without expressing his personal attitudes or feelings. hence we know little of the events leading up to the climax. – they display simplicity of vocabulary and grammar. – description is brief and conventional and very little information is given about the characters. insisting on significant details and resorting to repetitions. a repeated line or half-line. – the rhythm of the narrative is either (a) lingering. The dissemination of printing dealt them a final blow. and the motives behind their actions are largely unexplained.e. the popular ballad appeared after the end of the great migrations on the European continent. – they rarely tell a story from beginning to end – they take us immediately into the story and often open when narrative has turned towards its catastrophe or resolution. – they present a dramatic story. i. arrested as vagabonds or displaced by the circulation of “town literature”. which means that there is no moral comment on the characters’ behaviour. or were set loose by military defeat (especially in Scotland and the North). – their “ideal” pattern is the 8/6/8/6 quatrain later employed by Sir Walter Scott.e. Dante Gabriel Rossetti.e. avoiding details and resorting to an abrupt manner of story-telling. John Keats. i. John Lennon and many more. slow.

d) domestic tragedy. Here is Furnivall’s classification: a) ballads of domestic relations. recurrent in Romanian. hoeing. “occupational ballads”. e) themes common to international folk song (such a theme closer to our culture is the theme of immuring. c) humorous ballads. interior rhyme and syntactic parallelism are specific devices. One 92 . etc. David Daiches proposes the following taxonomy: a) themes derived from romances. weaving. are refined to legend. c) sea shanties (songs sung by sailors in the past). d) ballads of love and death. b)popular class heroes. b) songs to lighten repetitive tasks: spinning. and the savage and satirical ballads that avenge an ill or pillory a wrong-doer. Later satirists and libellers managed to “publish” their poems to advantage. Scurrilous poems and satirical ballads may have led to the first law against libels in 1275. or tales to cause discord betwixt king and people”.– repetitions. under the title: “Against slanderous reports. in an epic poem such as The Gest of Robin Hood. Robert Graves stresses the pagan witchiness of surviving ballads. “although they did not enjoy the many conveniences which modern improvements have afforded for the circulation of public abuse”. with the passage of time. grinding corn. Hungarian. Bulgarian. Literary historians have produced several possible classifications of the popular ballads. b) ballads of superstition. f) ballads of outlawry. – sometimes several ballads were turned into a coherent whole. Michael Schmidt has advanced two more categories of ballads: the ballads meant to keep in memory historical events which. d) entertainments to pass an evening. e) historical ballads. c) historical events. Greek and Serbo-Croatian folklore). and he classifies them under four heads: a) festival songs. Most recently.

bewitched. was stuck on the palace gates while the King and his counsellors were sitting in Parliament. when Henry V returned after Agincourt. 1247) was the real Robin. Wordsworth’s “Solitary Reaper” is doing nothing less than warbling a ballad when the poet beholds her single in the field. ballads celebrating his deeds were pinned to the gates. Robert. but he discouraged this cult of personality. • Thirty-six ballads were dedicated to the legendary figure of Robin Hood. Earl of Huntingdon (d. 1). following his instructions. the dead body is discovered by a miller who takes it to the king’s harper. • Tam Lin is a ballad of metamorphoses and witchcraft. • King John and the Bishop is one of the few humorous ballads. in the time of Henry IV. according to others. • Chevy Chase presents the border fight between Henry Percy of Northumberland and Douglas the Scot. • The Two Sisters is the story of a jealous girl who murders her sister by drowning.poem. The ballad-minstrel tradition thrived most and survived longest in Scotland and the Borders. the latter strings his harp with the dead girl’s hair and the song played in front of an audience reveals the murder. and he is redeemed when the heroine. Similar changes occur during a fight between Menelaus and Proteus in Homer’s Odyssey. holds him tight while he undergoes a series of terrifying transformations. • Sweet William’s Ghost narrates the return of a dead lover who forces his fiancée to follow him to the Realm of the Dead. A few years earlier. According to some sources he was a contemporary of King Richard the Lion-Heart. This episode was centuries later described by Shakespeare in 1 Henry IV (I. The hero is carried away. 93 .

Chaucer and ”the Pearl poet”. He was 94 . Gower. Oxfordshire. it cannot be a coincidence that this literature belongs to the generation immediately succeeding the repeated waves of Black Death (1348. Shropshire. English literature suddenly came of age. 1361 and 1369): in a way. Troilus and Criseyde (1385). the Canterbury Tales (1387-94) and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1390). WILLIAM LANGLAND William Langland – called Long Will because he was so tall – is almost anonymous. Chaucer and the Gawain-poet (also known as the Pearl-poet) was the response to the challenge of the Black Death.THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY (RICARDIAN) POETRY The second half of the fourteenth century is also known as Chaucer’s age. And they all wrote in an age in which English finally replaced French and Latin. With Piers Plowman (1377). Dorset or Devon. According to some historians. or in Somerset. These four superb poems. and they were all written within twenty years of each other. in Cleobury Mortimer. or in Shipton-under-Wychwood. He may have been born about 1331. Long Will may have received a clerical education at Malvern Priory. where Langland connections exist. the poetry written by the generation of Langland. are among the classics of world literature. Four major names essentially contributed to the development of English poetry during the troublesome reign of Richard II: Langland. and became the official language. where he was perhaps made a clerk or scholar. each of epic length and achievement.

The author fights against corruption in the Church. not to throw the hierarchies down. he is visionary but not revolutionary.certainly a poeta doctus. with his wife Kitte and his daughter Calote. criticizes the evils of his age. The poem reveals his knowledge of courts. overlong and over-embellished. and indicts those who fail to follow him. a rather young man’s poem. representing the common laity. Shortly afterwards Langland settled in London. He is exemplary. William Langland is the author of Piers Plowman. His “I” is strong and affirmative – one might say “modern” in the way of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis – as compared with Gower’s and Chaucer’s reticences. ladies and other social superiors unless he feels they merit deference. against false religion. He wants people to understand the causes of their suffering and put things right. The third (C) text. was composed between 1392 and 1398. as a ploughman. he exposes corruptions in church. looking for solutions that might lead to improvement. Piers Plowman was one of the most popular poems of its time. Piers first appears. In Piers there is a poet – Lange Wille. Calmly. in Cornhill. and his poem is littered with scholastic digressions and embellishments. then metamorphosing into a priest. It is generally held to be poetically the best. If he took minor orders. because he married. the poem was the work of a lifetime. If all three texts are by the same man. He was poor. his developing model of morality inspires love and respect. The work as a whole belongs to a religious idealist genuinely distressed by the social and moral condition of England. 95 . A proud man. he failed to ascend in the church hierarchy. The first reformer poet. an impressive “dream allegory” dealing with the religious. In 1376 the second (B) text was begun. using allegory. state and society. he is reluctant to defer to lords. earning his keep by “saying prayers for people richer than himself” and copying legal documents. lawyers and legal procedures. It survives in over forty manuscripts from the fifteenth century. well into the poem. social and economic problems of his time. The first (A) text of Piers Plowman seems to date from 1362. and finally into a Bishop with Saint Peter and his papal successors.

The poem resolves not in triumph but in a determination to seek the exalted Piers. Though he uses a rich vocabulary drawn from every current and archaic source. Piers. John Trueman alias John Ball. Langland has homilies. So does his direct teaching. more than for Chaucer. It is all a question of audience. explaining the unfamiliar through the familiar. Chaucer has tales. Crucifixion and descent into Hell. among others. proverbial wisdom and cryptic references to Piers Plowman in a letter to his followers. the poet wakes up. Langland does not avail himself of the “improvements” of English. supported by lesser allegorical figures.Piers Plowman has four parts. and our triumph through Him and his authority vested in Peter (now Piers). used a combination of Christian Utopianism. he deliberately makes it old. gradually and imperceptibly grows into Do-well. Piers returns in the third part. The first part of the poem ends with a general decision to make a pilgrimage to Saint Truth. Rather than advance the language. Piers the Plowman offers to serve as guide provided the pilgrims first help him to finish harrowing his field. he becomes the symbol both of mankind and of Christ. Langland’s public tone belongs in the sermon tradition. especially the Seven Deadly Sins. In the second part of the poem he reflects on his vision. Dobetter and Do-best. The final part tells of Christ’s triumph over sin and death. Verse form sets Langland apart from Chaucer and Gower. after Holy Church has been besieged by Anti-Christ. and the poem builds beyond its theological to its spiritual climax. Gower has legends. For him. who are exploring the nature of reality simultaneously and together. not characters. using the unrhymed alliterative verse of a 96 . evoking God as man in the Incarnation. The poet-reader relationship is not that of preacher and congregation so much as a conspiracy of author and audience. He draws on the everyday world but writes of types. After a few further complications. First we witness the world of human transactions and meet Piers. Holy Church and Lady Meed. executed in 1381 for his part in the Peasants’ Revolt. social conduct is spiritual. Piers Plowman is an enlarged or extended proverb. Debates and trials are enacted involving. the honest yokel.

Yet he gives the impression of being often closer to the daily speech of the people and popular priests of his time than Gower is. JOHN GOWER John Gower was a man of substance. poor clerks – were paid to copy his works and any that his noble or church patrons required. employing a team of scribes to copy books and documents for friends and clients. failed students from University.dying tradition. Having written 43. He had his own scriptorium. certainly not an assembled court. from snatches of the cries of street-vendors and exclamations of the poor to the honeyed words of Lady Meed and the eloquence of moral lawyers. He had set up his copying house at St Mary’s. Some prepared the parchments. He addresses a congregation of like-minded souls. but the truth. The scribes – French. The verse accommodates numerous voices. He pursues general moral truth. Like Gower. pinning and lining them. Other copies were for lesser patrons who needed books to read aloud to provincial courts and convocations. There were probably several scribes in 1380. The scribes themselves worked from a master copy or from the poet’s dictation. readying the inks. And unlike Chaucer or Gower he does not write in the first person. The first and best copy was reserved for the King. he could hardly have been expected to copy it all out a second time whenever a customer or a patron required. in which case several copies could be made at the same time. not a single reader. He seeks to portray not only the world. he is a man speaking not to students and professors but to men. His poetic constituency is the people at large. pageantry and religious festivals. Despite its seeming rusticity.000 lines of verse. which is to say that he was a fourteenth-century publisher. not his manner. 97 . Langland is a moralist who asks us to attend to his matter. certainly not the “bourgeois individualism” that begins in Chaucer. There was an illuminator who decorated the parchments with colour and – if the final work was intended for a noble patron – gilt. Piers Plowman is in no sense crude. Langland creates an everyman for the men and women who warmed to the Miracle and Mystery plays. not psychology. English. or privately on long winter nights.

it depicts the general corruption of the age. Gower used Greek and Latin sources to make up a collection of tales about illustrious lovers. Gower mentions Henry Bolingbroke. which finally led to the deposition and murder of King Richard II.” English was not foreign to poetry. still “the boy king” but nearing his majority. the poet promised to oblige “for King Richard’s sake”. but the purpose is to instruct. Henry IV. and it is the learned poets whose works survived. and the third version of 1393 is dedicated to the future King. Duke of Lancaster. In the revised version. but when Richard II proved unworthy. The aim is to delight. he dictated to his scribes. Gower wrote his Confessio for King Richard. Delight without precept is pointless. he added allegorical record of royal errors. he has to add it. If he learns something new. he turned to English almost by chance. which he worked on in 1391. Sir John was rewarded with an ornamental collar and when Henry was in due course crowned Henry IV. Gower was different: he wrote feverishly. Sir John was thus his laureate and praised him sincerely. under compulsion. but few were talented. He had bumped into King Richard II.John Gower is the author of three poems. not to get patronage – he was a man of means and didn’t need charity or 98 . on the river Thames. and as the work grew in his mind to enormous proportions. to provide “wisdom to the wise. he allowed him two pipes of Gascony wine a year. • Confessio Amantis is a 33. But it was foreign to the great poetae docti. a gloomy picture of violence and disorder. and of the church (Latin). Latin and English). Poems can die / be killed or neglected – unless the poet refashions and refreshes them.000 line “dream allegory” in which the time of the action is the usual May morning. All the early poets were learned. • Mirour de l’ Omme or Speculum Meditantis was lost for centuries and found only in 1895. • Vox Clamantis is a “dream allegory”. After writing so much in the language of the court (French). The King invited his poet aboard the royal barge and asked him to write “some newe thing” in English. each written in a different language (French. Despite ill-health. This proves the coexistence of various medieval traditions.

Gower’s perfect rhythm and rhyme turn his work into monotonous reading. Gower lacks Chaucer’s vivacity and humour. Gower’s success was unprecedented in English. Confessio Amantis was the first English poem to be translated into the languages of the Continent. In 1390 – the year after Richard declared he had come of age and took the reins of power in his own hands – Gower completed his book in its first version. around 1399. as in Chaucer’s early poems. He deserted Richard. Long before Caxton printed it in English.wages – but because he admired his strength. Philip Sidney praised him in the sixteenth century and in Ben Jonson’s English Grammar of the seventeenth century. A skilled poet with a perfect handling of style and an innovator of the English literary language. It is not resonant or inventive like Chaucer’s. where he plays the part of the chorus. Gower was quoted as an authority more often than any other writer. 99 . for Henry IV. along with almost all the French and Latin verse of the first six centuries of English poetry. His English was accessible rather than ambitious. He was. But if his work illuminates the mind and temper of his age. He shares and mirrors the conventional views of his age. a virtue in a moral writer. He only wrote one further poem in English. The lines are for the most part tetrameter couplets. who was weak and impressionable. Gower is not inventive but efficient. but he is preposterous in moralizing all the time and analyzing sin in its various aspects. He had learned to handle the form skilfully in French. it casts only a dim light on the social world that lent them substance: the world he lived in. Gower is dull. nevertheless. Shakespeare uses Gower as a stage character in the prologues to Pericles. Gower is a European although his French and Latin poems are forgotten. Spanish and Portuguese versions existed. praised by his contemporaries. It was called “In Praise of Peace”. In the end it isn’t Gower’s timeless Latin or fashionable French but his English poem that lives. Gower’s narrative is fluent. It was a traditional French measure. Chaucer called him the “moral Gower” in his dedication to Troilus and Criseyde. His love stories are intermingled with digressions on a great variety of subjects.

retaining much from the alliterative tradition and northern diction. yet so closely analogous in plot structure and verse form to the French Arthurian romances of the age that the poem has sometimes been thought a translation from a lost French original. He read in French The Romance of the Rose and other fashionable literature and may have been familiar with the medieval version of the Latin classics with their 100 .THE GAWAIN POET The anonymous fourteenth century poet known as the GAWAIN or the PEARL poet is Geoffrey Chaucer’s equal in literary art and talent. and that way was towards English legend and French poetic antecedents. by the same anonymous poet. older English in language and feeling than Chaucer’s and Gower’s and Langland’s. a work comparable with any of Chaucer’s best poems. Decades of literary history and criticism have accepted the fact that the anonymous poem Pearl is a gem of English poetry. or a remarkable translation or transposition? Could so accomplished a poem stand quite alone in English. His radical originality has no followers. with only Gawain and Pearl by miracle surviving? Could a provincial English poet. to a similar canonical status. This unknown poet is in some ways the most old-fashioned of Middle English poets. Which is it to be: profoundly native. His father may have had aristocratic connections. with no distinctive sustaining culture. belonging (after the ascendancy of Yorkshire) uniquely to the North West (Cheshire and South Lancashire). His only surviving texts are Pearl and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Today. have achieved such work? It is Michael Schmidt who has recently voiced this series of disturbing questions. The Gawain poet went his own way. He embarked upon what some critics call “the alliterative revival” and produced in Gawain a work intensely English. historians and critics tend to elevate Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. or has a whole tradition been almost lost. without antecedent or heir. the poet understands the large house and courtly arrangements and romanticizes the grand architecture of the day. The poet was born around 1330. probably in Lancashire or Cheshire.

From there she teaches him the lessons of faith and patience. Falling asleep. probably not a full member of the clergy. The clarity of purpose and the innocence 101 . There is no mention about the mother. The poet also employs the catchword (i. It is much closer in sound and texture (though insistently alliterative) to early Chaucer.moralizing embroideries. He was learned. recumbent on her grave. Within this allegorical figuration is another – real – story. The lost daughter appears in the poet’s dream as a shining maiden dressed in white with ornaments of pearl. it combines rhyme and alliteration. the first word in the first line of each new stanza is the last word of the previous stanza).200 lines arranged in twelve-line stanzas. the equivalent of the Romanian mărgăritar) gives the title of the poem. he throws himself into the stream to swim across – and wakes. this made certain critics wonder whether the lost daughter was a love-child. and more compelling in the feelings it evokes. He knew the Bible. too. She is in New Jerusalem. because the river can only be crossed in death. The girl preaches salvation. derived from the Latin margarita. a matter of personal grief is turned into a religious poem. Pearl is an elegy of 1. He falls asleep on the spot where it vanished into a mound of earth. transformed into a queen of Heaven. but she warns him that the time has not yet come for him to do this. more complex in prosody and form than anything in Gower. The poem is at once rooted in the Book of Revelation and in The Romance of the Rose. eager to be with her. the man has a vision of her. it is a unique and uniquely beautiful work. possibly a clerk. The poet laments the loss of a little girl who died before she was two years old.e. The fact that the beloved is a child rather than a woman removes the vexed element of courtly eroticism. an allegory and a genuine lament. divided from her father by a river. but while Gawain tends to epic and romance. “My head upon that hill was laid…” Thus. The central image is of a man who has lost a priceless pearl in a garden. in a land of great beauty. Her name (the Middle French Margarite. i. pearl. Pearl is elegy and consoled lament. She is one of many maidens and. Like Gawain. The language of Pearl is easier to understand than that of Gawain.e. He wants to cross the river. and she lets him glimpse the Holy City. but plainer and more assured in its faith and its allusions.

Divisions within the poem are signalled by large blue initial letters. with red decorations. In the original manuscript.530 lines arranged in variable stanzas. and in the unfolding theology a sense of deep and consoling belief. the usual mix of heroism.e. Like many medieval romances. The general structure of a romance contains three moments in the evolution of the plot: the quest (i. magic and daftness that characterizes the romances. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a romance in verse dedicated to King Arthur’s nephew. The poet’s tone and intention are hard to determine. There is a sense of true feeling. might suggest a closer affinity with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. a major change in his life or status).of the voice are unprecedented in English poetry. The poem has 2. 102 . But Pearl is more ambitious and perfect than any work that Wordsworth produced. It is misleading to call these irregular components “stanzas”. the poem combines complex alliterative unrhymed lines with a little coda consisting of a short line (two to four syllables) and a rhymed quatrain. In form. combining long alliterative lines and short rhyming ones. Gawain is the only hero of the Arthurian romances to become the hero of a whole cycle of romances. Its complexities. the embodiment of chivalrous ideals. it is hard not to assume that the writer was sophisticated and good humoured and perhaps gently parodic in his intentions. It has been named the jewel of English romance and of medieval literature. the test and the rite of passage (i. the paragraphs are not numbered. eleven in all. “verse paragraphs” is closer to the form. Gawain survives in one manuscript only. followed by works they call Purity or Cleanness and Patience). and Gawain’s. preserved in the British Museum and dating from the late fourteenth century. the initiation of the hero). Sir Israel Gollancz a little but not entirely implausibly likens the Gawain poet’s sensibility to Wordsworth’s. tracing its narrative back to Troy. Gawain begins by establishing its legitimacy as a history. It is the last of four untitled poems (the first three being the luminous romance which editors have dubbed Pearl. The story draws on Arthurian legend and folklore.e.

and eventually in Brutus’ line come Arthur and his knights. Gawain honours his pledge and sets out on his journey to the Green Knight’s domain. Here is an extended recount of the plot. lavishly described in the detail of his richly wrought costume and his features. and the legends of the diaspora of the heroes. Time passes. The king calls for a high. The poem’s action begins in the British King’s court. while Bertilak goes hunting. a genuine adventure begins: into the party bursts a Green Knight on a green horse. instead of a tale. subjecting himself to a counter blow. Arthur’s nephew. begins to accept the challenge. here the season is not winter. the knight who accepts the challenge will seek out the Green Knight for a return match. hideous axe in the other. the son of Loth. weary and depressed. and his beard which “as a bush over his breast hangs”. using Bertilak’s castle as his pied à terre. curiously. A moated castle appears out of nowhere. It is New Year. Gawain will pursue his own interest at the castle. On Christmas Eve. heroic tale to be told before he will break bread. and Gawain is invited to stay for Christmas. after which Gawain plans to seek his foe. on each of the three days. twelve months later. collects his head. This is Bertilak de Hautdesert’s castle.A two-paragraph preface reminds us of Troy’s fall. out of a sense of honour. The Green Knight gets to his feet. he prays for guidance from the Virgin and crosses himself three times. Suddenly. When 103 . The Green Knight does not flinch: Gawain chops off his head which rolls away from the block. He and Bertilak agree that. But Gawain. including his hair that falls to his shoulders. He challenges the knights: one of them must deal the first blow to him. The parkland is green. among the trees. The celebrations last for three days. The Green Knight wears no helmet or halberd. the youngest knight and a popular Arthurian hero. tucks it under his arm and rides off. proposes himself. but bears a bunch of holly in one hand and a huge. no armour or shield. reiterating the conditions of the challenge as he goes. He meets the host’s beautiful young wife and the crone who is her chaperone. Arthur’s knights are understandably shocked. There is dancing and mirth richly brought alive in a feast of descriptive language. on condition that. so the elderly Arthur.

but the wound is neither deep nor threatening. and in return Gawain will give him whatever he has managed to gather at home. That evening Gawain fails to keep his part of the bargain with Bertilak. as pearls are than white peas of price much more. a green lace or garter. and Gawain gives Bertilak a kiss. who tries to seduce him. He tells his story and the delighted court of the Round Table undertake to wear a green garter in honour of his adventure and success. Gawain is lured by the lady of the house. a kind of cave. On the third day Bertilak pursues a wily fox. A second time he is steadfast as a rock. he will give Gawain the day’s catch. She at last persuades him at least to accept a token of her esteem. Arthur’s crafty half-sister. Gawain gets two kisses and gives them to his host in the evening. Bertilak hunts for wild boar. On the third attempt the Green Knight nicks him. He knows all that has occurred beneath his roof – he planned it all – and chides Gawain for withholding the lace or garter (his punishment was the little wound).Bertilak returns. but he praises him for having resisted the advances of the lady in paraphrase: “I sent her to assay you.” Morgan le Fay. They exchange a kiss and compliments. The next morning he rides off to his rendezvous with magic in the wilderness of the Cheshire Wirral. which will help protect him from the Green Knight’s powers. Gawain prepares to take his blow and kneels down. but now it is the Green Knight who misses his mark. than other gay knights. Bertilak goes on a wonderful hunt. Gawain stays abed and is visited by the beautiful lady of the house. In the evening Bertilak presents Gawain with deer. and truly I think you the faultlessest fellow that ever walked upright. Gawain goes home wearing what he regards as the badge of his dishonour. Gawain has had enough. The Green Knight materializes with his familiar blade. to the Green Chapel. 104 . They repeat the process the next day. but as the blade falls he flinches and the Green Knight scorns his cowardice. in good faith. Then the Knight reveals himself as Bertilak in fancy dress. contrived the trial to test the hero’s nerve. She kisses him thrice but he remains chaste. the green girdle. He gives his host the three kisses but keeps the garter for himself. he has honoured his part of he bargain with the Green Knight. so is Gawain.

a little beard. and wily fox) parallel the symbolic hunts (the Lady’s attempts on Gawain’s virtue) which parallel the three attempts with the axe. He died as the century turned. The historian Froissart praised him as a diplomat. Here is a somewhat abridged and adapted version of Chaucer’s biography reconstructed by Michael Schmidt.” Kind and generous to his younger contemporaries. He was born around 1340 and survived for sixty years. they remained a merchant family. As the poet Basil Bunting says. He was a man of affairs first and a poet after. Chaucer knew the ups and downs of life. outlived John and in 1367 married again. one might say. In his poetry Chaucer draws a funny figure of himself. As a man. Chaucer belonged to the wider world. Chaucer’s mother. Compared with Gower. hooded. was citizen and vintner in London. wild and angry boar. GEOFFREY CHAUCER Chaucer is the greatest English poet of medieval times and one of the greatest English poets of all times. Despite patronage. the eminent Italian humanist. in 1400. too. Agnes. he had foreign admirers. Its originality of form is superior to Langland’s and its language richer than Gower’s. Eustache Deschamps wrote a laudatory ballad to him as a translator.The three literal hunts (timid deer. Geoffrey was never assimilated into courtly life. He led an active life. son of Edward III. Chaucer’s colourful life is as captivating as his poetry. John Chaucer served Lionel. 105 . His father. the Gawain poet is writing an English poem while the followers of Chaucer and Gower were trying to write French poems in English. he experienced both the joys and disappointments of human existence. John Chaucer. nor did he – as Gower did – stand aloof from the world. a small man. Lydgate celebrates him in his Life of the Virgin Mary as one who used to “ammend and correct the wrong traces of my rude pen. Chaucer was born in London. Well placed as the Chaucers were with regard to the court. himself son of Robert le Chaucer who was collector of customs on wine. recognized his accomplishments. later Duke of Clarence. eyes used to gazing to the side – the portrait of an innocuous spy. In the mid-sixteenth century Lilius Giraldus.

He was in France once more when Edward III died and Richard came to the throne in 1378. at the wedding of Violante. where around 1386 he began 106 . How did he conduct his duties and manage to write as well? In 1377 he was back on diplomatic business in Flanders and France. Back home. In his late teens – it was 1359 – he entered military service. She was born Roet. and two years later he sat in Parliament as a knight of the shire of Kent. Philippa Chaucer. He rejoined the army. he was fined two shillings for beating a Franciscan friar in Fleet Street. but it has been suggested that Chaucer was introduced to him in Italy. if virtue is not enough. He must have been successful because other commissions followed. daughter of the Duke of Milan. some report. with the Duke of Clarence and that it is not impossible that Boccaccio was also at the party. arranging the selection of an English port for the Genoese trade. Six years later he was granted a pitcher of wine per day (commuted to a money gift). whom Gaunt (fatefully) patronized as well. a Hainault knight. The controllership of petty customs was added to his duties in 1384. daughter of Sir Payn Roet. with an extra £10 pension from John of Gaunt. was awarded an annuity of 10 marks for life in 1366. and in 1370 went abroad on public duty of some kind. The King gave Chaucer an annuity of 20 marks in 1367 as dilectus valettus noster [our beloved valet] and by the end of 1368 he was an esquire. and then went to Italy. He went to Florence and perhaps to Padua. In 1357 he received a suit of livery as a member of Lionel’s household.It is unlikely that he attended university. was sent to France and taken prisoner near Rennes or Reims. on a mission to Bernabo Visconti. As a young man. Later in the year he was made controller of customs for wools. He lived for a time in Kent. Petrarch died in 1374. though he was a member of the Inns of Court. and sister of the third wife of John of Gaunt. Some believe that during his captivity he translated part of The Romance of the Rose. part of it in Genoa. Chaucer leased Aldgate gatehouse. In 1372 he spent a year away. Gaunt’s long patronage of the poet and Chaucer’s familiarity with Wycliffe. he was prospering. This helps explain. his wife. skins and hides in the Port of London. By March 1360 he was freed on payment of a ransom.

and in 1394 his pension was refreshed by Richard II. During his missions in Italy. The next year he assigned his pensions and property to someone else. The French period includes the years in which the young poet writes love poems imitating French models. Chaucer may have met Petrarch and Boccaccio. a sign of financial distress. • The House of Fame was written under the influence of Divina Commedia. Henry gave him a purple robe trimmed with fur. Philippa died. From Dante. Chaucer learnt (a) the real vigour of poetical genius. and Chaucer became clerk of works to the King for two years. close by the palace. Gaunt was eclipsed and Chaucer lost his controllership. the latter laments the death of his beautiful lady. But he remained needy. Then the wheel of fortune began to turn: during Gaunt’s absence in Spain the Duke of Gloucester rose. He was rising again but it was hard. (b) an exquisite sense of form and (c) the art of story-telling. added forty marks to the pension Richard had restored. Gaunt was reinstated. Petrarch and Boccaccio. Somerset. In 1390 he fell among the same thieves twice in a day and was robbed of public money. The Italian period marked a great step forward in the poet’s career. Chaucer’s literary career has been conventionally divided into three periods: 1. which is left unfinished. He was also a commissioner responsible for maintaining the banks of the Thames. He also endeavours to produce an “augmented” translation of Roman de la Rose. and he felt secure enough to lease a house in the garden of St Mary’s. In 1387. in the chapel of St Benedict. The Book of the Duchess or The Death of Blanche (1369) is a narrative poem written in the dream allegory convention. In that year and the next he held the forestership of North Petherton Park. Poets’ Corner came into being. the poem tells about the vision of the poet who meets a black knight in the wood. Composed in octosyllables. Then in 1389 the Duke of Gloucester fell. but excused from repaying it. On 25 October 1400 he died and was buried in the Abbey. Westminster. He enjoyed it briefly. 2.planning The Canterbury Tales. His third royal patron. with Chaucer as cornerstone and first tenant. Henry IV. 107 .

and Chaucer is often compared with Shakespeare as a great explorer of man’s psyche. while the falcon embodies the proud courtier. • The Parliament of Fowls is a dream allegory written in a seven-line stanza rhyming ababbcc known as rhyme royal. but psychological entities. The poet is a dull man who must learn what love is and the self-important bird has a didactic tone. The Prologue explains the punishment inflicted on the poet by Venus for his having written about a faithless woman in Troilus and Criseyde.Book I is a discussion on dreams. “Then I saw” is the leitmotiv of Book I. The stories are borrowed from Ovid and Boccaccio. • Troilus and Criseyde is not the last in chronological order but the most important work of Chaucer’s “Italian period”. Valentine’s Day. The poem is written in celebration of St. That is why Troilus and Criseyde is considered to be the first English psychological novel. The characters are no longer abstract concepts with allegorical function. Book III presents the House of Fame which is located on a rock of clear ice. Virgil and Ovid. The Goddess of Fame grants her favour on a crowd of petitioners begging for fame. 108 . reminiscent of Dante’s cliché. • The Legend of Good Women is a collection of nine stories about famous and unhappy ladies. the poet finds himself in a temple of glass. It deals with an episode taken from the Greek mythology via Boccaccio’s Il Filostrato. their desires. Statius. on its walls the story of Aeneas is engraved. The conclusion of the poem is that Fame is as important as Love. the poet is taken to the house of Rumours. Book II tells how a golden eagle seizes the poet and bears him to the House of Fame. Chaucer’s novelty in handling the conventional pattern of allegory is his irony and self-irony. Elements of social satire appear in the parallel between various kinds of birds and the representatives of various social strata: the goose embodies the practical bourgeois. The place is furnished with the statues of Homer. The birds gather at Venus’s temple to choose their mates in accordance with Nature’s rule. The actions and the plot evolve according to their reasons. Then.

Criseyde is a faithless lover and yet she is aware of her weakness; Troilus evolves from carelessness to fervent love and then to disappointment and self-destruction. The poem was later used by Shakespeare as a source for his Troilus and Cressida. Woman betrayed, woman betraying – are the alternative images of woman Chaucer deals with in The Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde. The image of woman betrayed was associated with the examples that make up Ovid’s Heroides, the collection of fictional letters supposedly addressed by women of classical story and legend to communicate their anguish and despair to the men who had deceived, deserted or simply neglected them. The Heroides, like other works of Ovid, was read and commented on as a school-text throughout the Middle Ages. (Jonathan Bate justly claims that throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Ovid was the most popular writer in the Western cultures.) The names of Ovid’s heroines became symbols of unhappy love in the writings of the period. But in uneasy contrast to this picture of woman as pathetic victim of male carelessness and duplicity stands the picture of woman as temptress and destroyer of men. The contradictory images of woman betrayed and woman betraying are likewise inherited from Ovid. The first two books of the Latin poet’s Ars Amatoria teach men how to seduce women, and how to hold their affections once won. In the third book, however, Ovid announces his intention to give parallel instruction to women, so that they may go into battle on equal terms with men. To those who might object to his intention, Ovid replies that not all women are bad, citing Penelope, Laodamis, Alcestis, and Evadne as examples of selfless devotion to their husbands. What is more, men deceive women more often than women deceive men. Like Ovid, Chaucer constructs a two-fold type of woman in his works, and The Legend of Good Women, which follows the Heroides’ model in presenting women as betrayed victims, answers the picture of woman as betrayer in Troilus and Criseyde. 3. The English period: The Canterbury Tales Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales follows a pattern known as “frame-story” which had already been used by Boccaccio in his Decameron and which was later used by Margaret of Navarre in her Heptameron, too. At a time when the plot had not yet been discovered
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as a literary device, the “frame” was a pretext for grouping together several stories. The work is made up of a “general prologue”, in which the characters are introduced to the readers, and of the tales of the pilgrims, preceded by their own prologues, called “lesser prologues”. The English custom of organizing yearly pilgrimages to the tomb of Thomas-a-Beckett (murdered in 1170) in Canterbury suggested to Chaucer a broad plan for his tales. The pilgrims were twenty-nine in number, Chaucer himself being the thirtieth. They met at Tabbard Inn at Southwark quite accidentally. The inn-keeper proposed that each pilgrim should tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and another two stories on the way back; the best one was to receive a square dinner at the expense of the others. Out of the 120 tales planned only twenty-four were written. ▪ In a way, Chaucer is the first modern English creator: he has a special way of handling IRONY, which is definitely a modern feature. His characters are described one by one; the details are those that would strike the eye of a fellow-traveller. The deliberately contrived disorder, giving an air of naturalness and spontaneity, is another proof of Chaucer’s originality. The author as a fellow-pilgrim naively notes what he sees or learns about the others in casual order. It is Chaucer’s assumed naivety as an observer that turns him into a great ironist. Ironic storytelling whose subject is storytelling is, according to Harold Bloom, pretty much Boccaccio’s invention, and the purpose of this breakthrough was to free stories from didacticism and moralism, so that the listener or reader, not the storyteller, became responsible for their use, for good or for ill. Since Chaucer was a greater ironist and even a stronger writer than Boccaccio, his transformation of the Decameron into the Canterbury Tales was a radical one. The image of life as a pilgrimage, not so much to Jerusalem but to judgment, fuses with Chaucer’s organizing principle of the pilgrimage to Canterbury, with 30 pilgrims telling stories as they go. Yet the poem is immensely secular, almost unfailingly ironic. Its narrator is Chaucer himself reduced to a total simplicity: he has zest, endless good nature, believes everything he hears, and has an amazing capacity for admiring even the dreadful qualities displayed by some of his 29 companions.
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Chaucer revises Boccaccio by seeing that the tale each pilgrim told could tell a tale about its teller. The tales thus fill in some of the gaps left by Chaucer the pilgrim. Chaucer is indeed a great feminist and ironist at the same time. Jill Mann argues that in assigning the tale of Melibee to himself, Chaucer identifies himself with the values it embodies, and with the centrality of woman’s role: Melibee learns from his wife Prudence what “great patience” means: he submits himself to his wife and to patience in one and the same process; his patience must match hers. But Chaucer also allots himself the romance of Sir Thopas, which is interrupted by the Host’s violent protests that he can bear no more of it. Chaucer mildly excuses himself by saying that it is the best poem he knows. This sublimely comic scene is a brilliantly conceived articulation of Chaucer’s relationship to his own poetic creation. “The Poet is the Maker; he is the creator of a cosmos; and Chaucer is the creator of the whole world of his creatures”, wrote G. K. Chesterton back in 1932. But Chaucer does not remain external to his creation, the hidden puppet-master pulling its strings. Instead, he enters it, placing himself on the same fictional level as the other pilgrims: he enters it only to be hooted off the stage by his own literary creations. Chaucer had already experimented two different tones of voice in The Parliament of Fowls. His two voices (i.e. the anonymous voice, the conventional literary man’s voice, on the one hand, and the voice of a vividly present persona calling itself Chaucer, on the other hand) exploit the dramatic effects of the most serious technical limitation of Middle English literature: its dependence on oral recitation. The frontispiece to the Cambridge manuscript of Troilus and Cryseyde shows Chaucer reading the poem to Richard II, the royal family and other members of the English court. Some of the younger courtiers are chatting or flirting, and they do not seem to be paying much attention to what Chaucer is saying. A public reading of any length tends to be monotonous at any time. Chaucer’s brilliant solution of the problem was to include his audience in the narrative by direct appeals to them to confirm or assist his own interpretations. Next, Chaucer complemented his pseudo-chorus of an oral audience by gradually evolving his own pseudo-narrator – well meaning, a little
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thick in the head, without any personal experience of sexual love, who was and was not Chaucer himself. (Langland, in Piers Plowman, had also exploited the literary convention of the pseudo-narrator that originated in the practice of oral delivery). ▪ Chaucer’s characters belong to almost all the social strata and classes: – the Knight and the Squire represent the nobility; – the Prioress, the Monk, the Friar, the Parson and the Nuns represent the clergy; – the Merchant, the Clerk of Oxford, the Doctor of Physics, the Wife of Bath, the Cook, the Sailor, the Dyer, the Weaver and the Miller represent the middle-class and the townsfolk; – the Sergeant of Law and the Summoner represent the law. All these individuals representing every class from Plowman to Knight recreate the social scene of Chaucer’s age. They are more than a framework: the poet minutely presents their habits of thinking, prejudices, professional bias, familiar ideas, personal idiosyncrasies. Chaucer also gives us a vivid description of the chromatic elements in the garments of various characters: – the Knight is dressed in black and white; – the Squire is dressed in red and white; – the Yeoman is dressed in green and white. The embroideries on the Squire’s shirt resemble a “meadow bright”. Each and every character is a coherent entity: the outer appearance of the characters is in accordance with their inner disposition and with their stories. The characters are portrayed by means of physical details, the language they speak and the content or type of the tale they tell. The Summoner, for instance, has both a very ugly character and a repulsive outer appearance; the Miller has a wart on his nose and on top of that wart he has a tuft of hair. He has a reddish skin and hair and, at his sight, the children usually run away. The Knight is a wise and distinguished man. He praises truth, honour, courtesy, generosity. His romance about Palamon and Arcite was later used as a source by Shakespeare and John Fletcher in their collaborative play The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613).
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The Monk is fat, he likes worldly pleasures, he likes to eat much; he is a man of fashion, his coat is trimmed with fine grey fur, and he has greyhounds swift as birds. Speaking about Chaucer’s characters, Harold Bloom claims that his men and women begin to develop a sense of self-consciousness. The Canterbury Tales anticipates depth psychology in contrast to the moral psychology of the literature written throughout the entire Middle Ages. Bloom goes as far as to claim that without characters like the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner “there would be less life in literature and less literature in life”. The Wife of Bath, Alison is one of Chaucer’s most original contributions to the portraits of the pilgrims. Married five times, she is still exuberant, healthy, enjoying life to the maximum. William Blake considered her the Female Will incarnate. The Wife’s prologue to her tale is a kind of confession, but even more a triumphant defence or apologia. The first word of her prologue is “experience”, which she cites as her authority. To be the widow of five successive husbands, whether six hundred years ago or now, gives a woman a certain aura, as the Wife is well aware. What is awesome about the wife is her endless zest and vitality: sexual, verbal, polemical. Despite her five late husbands she appears to be childless and says nothing about the matter. Her sheer exuberance of being has no literary antecedent and could not be matched until Shakespeare created Falstaff. Both the Wife and Falstaff mockingly echo the learning of Saint Paul from the First Epistle to the Corinthians, in which he called on Christianity to persist in their vocation. Both Falstaff and the Wife are perseverant characters. The Pardoner who sells indulgences is Chaucer’s greatest masterpiece of character drawing, implying a whole world of moral hypocrisy. Harold Bloom claims that the Pardoner is the prototype of the villain from whom Shakespeare’s Iago (in Othello) and Edmund (in King Lear) descend. Like Iago, the Pardoner combines the gifts of dramatist and storyteller, actor and director; and, again like Iago, the Pardoner is a supreme moral psychologist. The Pardoner, Iago and Edmund cast a spell over their victims. All of them openly proclaim their deceptiveness, but only to us (in the case of Shakespeare’s
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dramatic characters) or, in the Pardoner’s case, to the Canterbury pilgrims as our surrogates. Chaucer’s irony is best expressed in the portrait of the Prioress. Her portrait is built in sentences going in pairs and the second sentence is always introduced by the conjunction but in a dichotomy of appearance versus essence: – she had a perfect command of French, but not the French of Paris; – she was well-bred, but her good breeding meant that she let no morsel fall from her lips; – she was very piteous, but her pity concerned mice and dogs (not men); – she had a small mouth, but a large forehead; – she was a nun, but her brooch was engraved with the Latin proverb Amor vincit omnia (instead of Labor vincit omnia). Only three characters are treated without any touch of irony, namely: – the Knight, who embodies the highest ideals of chivalry and courtesy; – the Poor Parson, who displays genuine Christian behaviour; – the Plowman, who is an honest, good-hearted, hard-working fellow. According to Jill Mann, in Chaucer’s poetical works woman is at the centre instead of at the periphery and she becomes the norm against which all human behaviour is to be measured. The Canterbury Tales, for all its variety of mode and genre, contains not a single example of the story-type that embodies its ideals in the central figure of a male hero. Instead, the tales that mediate serious ideals are focused on a series of women: Constance, Griselda, Prudence, Cecilia. The male hero enters only in the burlesque form of Sir Thopas, to be unceremoniously dismissed in favour of the tale that celebrates the idealized wisdom of a woman, Chaucer’s tale of Melibee. The twentieth century interest in women as a serious subject makes it possible to acknowledge that they were an equally serious subject for Chaucer throughout his career. The tales go in pairs. The Friar, for instance, tells a story in connection with the corrupt character of the Summoner. Taking the
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Friar’s story as an offence, the Summoner tells a story about a corrupt Friar. ▪ In the twenty-four tales, Chaucer employed several literary species such as: – the courtly romance (in the Knight’s tale); – the fabliau (in the Miller’s tale and in the Reeve’s tale); – the hagiographic legend of saints’ lives (the Second Nun’s tale and the Prioress’s tale); – the fable (the Nun’s Tale); – the sermon (the Parson’s tale). Jill Mann has recently argued that the “dialogue between text and reader” means that a writer’s work is realized in different forms, not only by each century, but almost by each individual reader and that “this is the relation between text and audience that Chaucer represents in the Canterbury Tales, where the pilgrims react to each story in terms of their personal experience and interests – the Reeve feels personally affronted by a story about a carpenter, the Host wishes his wife was like Griselda or Prudence, the Franklin wishes his son resembled the Squire. The Friar and the Summoner use their stories in the service of mutual aggression; the Pardoner thinks he can use his one to make a fast buck.” Chaucer seems to anticipate the socalled reader-response criticism which lay emphasis on the reader in the triangle author – text – reader. According to Bateson, in a country that suddenly finds itself depopulated, procreation becomes one of the essentials of the society’s survival. That is why the topic to which the pilgrims keep on returning is love and marriage. That is why the General Prologue includes a hymn to the regenerative power of sun and the rebirth of the dead year. Human love thus carries with it remnants of the half-buried pre-Christian fertility cults. As for Chaucer’s characters, William Blake rightly noticed that they “remain forever unaltered”, i.e. prototypes or archetypes. ▪ In The Canterbury Tales Chaucer established the prosodic pattern of decasyllabic couplets, i.e. rhyming iambic pentameters, which was later used by Marlowe in Hero and Leander. ▪ Chaucer’s style can be described as simple, natural, direct, ironic. Chaucer’s self-irony is obvious when the author himself is
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116 .hushed by the other pilgrims when he wants to tell a story in the form of an epic romance. and Elaine Tuttle Hansen’s Chaucer and the Fiction of Gender (1992) set a new trend in Chaucer criticism. ▪ Chaucer’s language is extremely rich. therefore. no exaggeration to say that Chaucer “found the English language brick and left it marble”. popular poet is proved by the numerous recent critical studies dedicated to him. The fact that Chaucer is an evergreen. And Blackwell. It is. Jill Mann’s Feminizing Chaucer (1991. And the fact that Chaucer’s text can produce never ending meanings is yet another proof of his greatness and immortality. Carolyn Dinshaw’s Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics (1989). And I shall emphasize that these studies keep adding endless interpretations to the poet’s medieval texts. 2002). Edmund Spenser called him “the English Tityrus” and “the well of English undefiled”. Feminist critics have been extremely busy in reshaping Chaucer’s interest in woman. the reputed publishing house in Oxford. Chaucer (2001) and A Concise Companion to Chaucer (2006) edited by Corinne Saunders. Priscilla Martin’s Chaucer’s Women (1991). This mingling of the two languages led to the birth of modern English. issued no less than three major reference books dedicated to Chaucer in a short space of time: Companion to Chaucer edited by Peter Brown (2000). He used words from both Norman-French and Anglo-Saxon. Chaucer made a great step ahead in combining conventional medieval literary patterns and traditions with a profound interest in the men and women of the society of his time.

uprisings. and dynastic changes. represented by poetry. by the activity of William Caxton – the first English printer. prose and drama. during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The gap between the age of the Ricardian poetry and the golden generation of Elizabethan sonneteers and dramatists is filled in by one hundred and fifty years of almost continuous wars against France and Scotland. The reformation of the church during the reign of Henry VIII. anarchy. Several of Wyatt’s sonnets are actually translations of Petrarch’s sonnets. of civil wars. It gave rise to 117 . Petrarch’s sonnets concern themselves with the poet’s devotion to the virtuous and beautiful woman Laura and gave rise to collections of sonnets by other poets all over Europe dedicated to other women or other subjects than love. by the vogue of the popular ballads. the economic growth and the political stability of the country were followed by military victories against Spain abroad and sheer dictatorship at home. The first English poet to write a sonnet was Thomas Wyatt in the first half of the sixteenth century. still in fashion at the end of the 16th century). by the development of the medieval drama. Political stability is achieved only during the reign of successive Tudor rulers. This is the general background of the flourishing Elizabethan literature. The first collection of English sonnets dedicated to a single woman was John Soowthern’s Pandora of 1584. from a literary viewpoint. is dominated by Chaucer’s imitators (such as John Lydgate. he introduced the Petrarchan sonnet (two abba quatrains and two tercets rhyming cdc cdc or cde cde). by Thomas Malory’s prose romance Morte Darthur.THE RENAISSANCE The fifteenth century. But it was Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella (1591) which really became the model to be followed.

and sometimes clouding. His work has. Spenser proved to be a great innovator. but as a creature reflecting. excited a wider and more enduring interest. a poem written in celebration of his own wedding. Joachim du Bellay and Pierre de Ronsard. as a man. 79). We know Edmund Spenser as a man less well than we know Sidney. but that of his French imitators such as Clément Marot. The sonnet cycle is concluded with Epithalamion. sixteen sequences were published. which was to be later used by Shakespeare. Wyatt’s great admirer. the glory of her Divine 118 . Spenser started as a poet by rendering du Bellay’s sonnets literally. using 13 verse patterns in his twelve poems. His first important work. nevertheless. in imitation of Petrarch’s “dolce guerrierra”. EDMUND SPENSER Spenser accomplished the synthesis of all Latinist Renaissance and of the French and Italian developments of the last few centuries. Amoretti is Spenser’s collection of 88 love sonnets. Henry Howard. Its origin is the Sicilian folk song. 5 of which (patterns) were his own inventions. the Greek poet Theocritus – who lived in the third century BC – was later imitated by Virgil in his Georgics). Edmund Spenser.sequences of sonnets by Samuel Daniel. His love is called “sweet warrior”. he was less worth knowing. Michael Drayton and many others. He was regarded as the New Poet of a revolutionary age. The Shepherd’s Calendar (1579) is a collection of twelve eclogues corresponding to the twelve months of the year. and probably. soon changed the Petrarchan pattern into three quatrains plus a couplet. Earl of Surrey. The strongest influence exerted on the English sonnet was not Petrarch’s influence. Spenser’s sonnets also deal with the conceit of immortality through art (Sonnets 27. without rhyme. 75. Between Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella and 1600. (The eclogue is a poem in the form of a pastoral dialogue. combining beautiful imagery and spiritual joy. In two sonnets he identifies his heroine with the Petrarchan or NeoPlatonic idea of beauty. The latter was the leader of the so-called “La Pléiade” and claimed the Vlach origin of his ancestors. The sonnets substantially readjust the Patriarchal model by seeing the mistress not as an unattainable image of perfection.

but. Spenser’s other nuptial ode. A. It says that one ascends from a specific embodiment 119 . that Cynthia hight” (a virginal stand-in for Queen Elizabeth) and although he admires Cynthia’s beauty. it also sees fit to introduce a personal complaint about “old woes”. The sonnets chart the passage of time from the spring of one year to the Lent and Easter of the next (Sonnet 68 opens with a direct address to the risen Christ and ends with a pious reminder to the beloved that “love is the lesson which the Lord us taught”). is both more formal and more public in tone. (The Platonic doctrine had been revived during the Renaissance by Giordano Bruno and Marsilio Ficino. Himself to raise: and he doth soonest rise That best can handle his deceitful wit. J. power. It commemorates the journey of the noble brides along a nymph-lined rural Thames to “merry London”. Beauty. In E. In some senses Epithalamion can be seen as the climactic celebration of the courtship pursued in the sonnets. who had come to be considered the leading Elizabethan poet after the printing of Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece in the previous years. In subtle shifts. when he is asked why he has abandoned the court of this paragon he is forced to admit that he has witnessed “enormities” during his stay: Where each one seeks with malice and with strife. Prothalamion (1596). To thrust down other into foul disgrace. adulates the “presence faultless” of the great “shepherdess. mercy. Colin. on observing certain of the sights of the capital. and finest slights devise. Either by slandering his well deemed named. and fained forgery. In Colin Clout’s Come Home Again (1595) although the poetic swain. written in honour of the marriage of the two daughters of the Earl of Worcester. Heavenly Love and Heavenly Beauty. and divinity. Through leasing lewd. Honigmann’s opinion the “pleasant Willy” in “The tears of the Muses” and “Aetion” in Colin Clout’s Come Home Again” are allusions to Shakespeare. In 1596 Spenser wrote Four Hymns in honour of Love.Creator.

The Faerie Queene.) Spenser speaks in a specifically Christian manner of divine love made manifest by the career on Earth of Christ and of the beauty and wisdom of God which transcends anything visible on Earth. or possibly. despite the deliberate vagueness of time and place in his own poem. his allegory and his language suggest a more immediate response to native literary traditions. Spenser’s immediate model was Lodovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso. – Plato’s and the Italian Neo-Platonic doctrines. but the poet also imitated phrases. verbal patterns. – Malory’s Morte Darthur. digressive poems are belated monuments to the revival. the reinvention of chivalry in Italy. composed between 1589 and 1596. but. Ariosto’s and Tasso’s lengthy. the idea is divine and its contemplation is religious. the masterpiece of knight–errantry. and landscapes of medieval chivalric romance. – Renaissance Humanism. but only six were completed. – Protestant idealism. and knightly images from Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata (which he knew in Italian). It was an attempt to bring together in one rich pattern a vast set of cultural traditions such as: – medieval allegorical tradition. Though Spenser looked back on the past from an essentially Renaissance perspective. remained an unfinished project. The seventh book contains only the first two “Mutability Cantos”. In the “Mutability Cantos” Spenser declared that the gods 120 . absorptions which would have been taken as laudable examples of intertextuality by a Renaissance audience. – Elizabethan patriotism and political thought. codes. Spenser may have dispensed with Ariosto’s specific references to Charlemagne’s campaigns against the Saracens and with the setting of Tasso’s epic at the time of the First Crusade. and folklore. and he directly borrowed characters. – medieval romance. encounters. and incidents. Twenty-four books were planned. – English history.of beauty to a contemplation of beauty as an end in itself. he was to prove himself equally responsive to the themes. and with modern Italian models in mind. geography.

the Virgin Goddess of the Spring. of the Goddess of Nature.themselves are subject to change. Book I is an allegory of the relationship between Man and God. with Cynthia or Diana. The latter identification echoes the 1588 episode in which Elizabeth appeared clad in armour in front of the English troops gathered at Tilbury during the battle against the Spanish armada. Book III – an allegory of the relationship between Man and mankind. with a plot slowly moving. The queen herself is identified with Gloriana. barren philosophy into what his fellow-poet Fulke Greville called “pregnant images of Life”. The allegory is interwoven on several levels – moral. To the Elizabethans. and subject to the rule. The Faerie Queene is a story of chivalrous adventure in a world of marvels. thus paying a tribute to the motto of Queen Elizabeth semper eadem (‘always the same’). “The whole poem forms an intricate code that can be deciphered only by turning back to the Platonic mysticism and to religious dogma. religious and political. Spenser himself called The Faerie Queene a “continued allegory or dark conceit”. his aim was to transform abstract. A reading of The Faerie Queene demands a response both to a literal meaning and to a series of allegorical constructions (historical. Spenser aspired to create a philosophy of life that could be revealed by truthful and persistent participation in the more or less cryptic universe of writing. the epitome of virtue and wisdom. with stanzas which are both pictorial and musical. In his subtle combination of the Ovidian theme of protean change. The unfinished seventh book was to deal with Constancy. Although Spenser had modelled Britomart on a parallel figure in Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and adapted her name from that of a character in a poem by Virgil. the gods of the pagan world became great natural forces – forces indeed greater than human – but yet within the jurisdiction. In other words. Spenser further identifies Elizabeth with Astraea. the martial maiden. Book II – an allegory of the relationship between Man and himself. Spenser drew on the Pythagorean part of the Metamorphoses and on the fifth book of Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura to embody a vision which could belong only to his own age. moral. and with Britomart. he was also anxious to suggest to his 121 . the Goddess of chastity. socio-political). However. mystical.

according to some historians. the Spenserian stanza. “consecrated”). he spoke French. however. Byron. above all. one that was to influence so deeply the romantic generation starting with Blake and Wordsworth and ending with Byron and Shelley. lifted English from linguistic anarchy. Spenser is one of the most learned of all English poets who lived in a time when Cambridge was a hot bed of religious controversies.readers that here was a truly British heroine who had actively assumed the port of Mars. Its content has never had imitators. He wrote both prose and poetry. who is the fount of chivalry. It is no wonder that recent Neo-Marxist critics have termed Spenser “the Queen’s arse-kissing poet”. he knew the Ancients. she is the chaste Belphoebe who puts Braggadocchio to flight in Book II and who rescues Amoret from Corflambo in Book IV. The Faerie Queene is considered by David Daiches a “blind alley” of English literature. “that greatest Glorious Queene of Faerie land”. Keats. 122 . Wordsworth and others. Shelley. Spenser is a unique “moment” in English literature. Although a remarkable synthesis of Elizabethan culture. almost obsessed by the idea of a golden past. Sidney was the embodiment of the perfect knight and lettered courtier. He created English poetic diction. and. recreated English prosody. and Spanish. and the ultimate focus of each of the knightly quests that Spenser sets out to describe. PHILIP SIDNEY Though Spenser was two years older than Sidney. Elizabeth is effectively present in each of the six massive books of The Faerie Queene. Spenser is the poet of melancholy and joy. she is Gloriana. more complex than Chaucer’s “rhyme royal” (eight iambic pentameters and an alexandrine rhyming ababbcbcc) was later used by Milton. Sidney’s work was done before Spenser had published anything of comparable value. Italian. rather. the “flower of grace and chastity”. her qualities are to be recognized as informing and inspiring the complex expositions of “moral virtue” pursued as the poem develops towards its intended (but unrealized) climax. She is the “Magnificent Empress” to whom the poem is dedicated (or.

topiary and trellis. dancing and the like. i. but left off in the middle of a sentence in Book III. endlessly and symbolically varied with floral knots and mazes.) Arcadia is a prose romance simply intended to amuse the poet’s younger sister. He became the embodiment of decorum. The most interesting was Castiglione’s Il Cortegiano (translated into English in 1561). (Greville later wrote and published Sidney’s first biography. along with horsemanship. Puttenham’s object was “to make of a rude rimer. Some time between 1577 and 1580 Sidney wrote for his sister a prose romance. fencing. like that of the musician or an accomplishment like that of horsemanship. as we know from a letter of Fulke Greville’s. 123 . the English sonneteers of the court both adopted and mocked at the clichés of Petrarchan descriptions. “the image of man”. hence. was the ability to write a love song. a learned and a Courtly Poet”.In order to better understand the poetry both of Spenser and of Sidney. an “idle work”. the familiar and the rare. “Style is a garment”. Among the qualities required of a courtier. partly written in her presence and partly sent to her sheet by sheet. poetry was a craft.e. Sidney was clearly influenced by Castiglione and Puttenham. but the very intensity and scale of its artifice have tended to dispirit those modern readers predisposed to prefer the kinship of the wilder touches of nature to the arts of formal cultivation. the conscious cultivation by the individual of a behaviour appropriate to the nuances of each social occasion. only as the body is the garment of the soul. In Puttenham’s opinion. It swerves as a vital key to the dense interweaving of novelty and tradition in English culture in the late sixteenth century. one should not overlook the impact of dozens of “courtesy books” teaching young people the way to success in life. George Puttenham’s The Art of English Poesie (1589) is the most elaborate English textbook of this aspect of courtliness. In 1581 or 1582. the future Countess of Pembroke. said Puttenham: the apparel proclaims the man and does not disguise him. he began to re-write it in a more serious spirit and on a much larger scale. The Arcadia resembles nothing so much as an elaborate Renaissance pleasure-garden. lodges an bowers.

a parting. This very difference between the two classical languages from which the names of the lovers are derived suggests the irreconcilable nature of their relationship (comparable with the situation of Ion Barbu’s characters in Riga Crypto şi Lapona Enigel). “astrophil” means star-lover and in Latin “stella” means star. S. the sister of Robert Devereux. the object of the poem and the provoker of 124 . Astrophil and Stella is a collection of 108 sonnets plus various songs dedicated to Penelope Devereux. the historical) passion is supposed to begin. literary criticism. External events – a quarrel. Although Spenser was an incomparably greater poet. Sidney acknowledges that he is working in a well-tried Petrarchan tradition. Lewis draws our attention to the fact that the first thing to grasp about the sonnet sequence is that it is not a way of telling a story. It speaks about a hopeless love. or what you will. Sidney was the one who wrote better sonnets. by means of a constantly changing viewpoint. considers the developing conflict between private and public obligation. compliment. a living part of the life he celebrated. Sidney’s Astrophil somehow still holds to the hope that his Stella might still favour him. It is a form which exists for the sake of prolonged lyrical meditation. unlike Petrarch who. but sometimes he is ironic. chiefly on love but relieved from time to time by excursions into public affairs. an illness. while Spenser described it from the outside. because Sidney was a court poet in the full sense. Scholars draw a distinction between the first thirty-two sonnets and the rest. C. In Greek. While Petrarch’s Laura remains coolly unresponsive. Sidney is aware of his failure. Earl of Essex. In Sonnet 33 the “real” (that is. at the end of the cycle.Sidney’s Arcadia exhibits the sophistication to which much courtly Elizabethan prose fiction aspired. feels as if he has passed through a purifying spiritual experience. Astrophil and Stella is both an extended dialogue with the conventions of the Italian sonneteers and a varied Elizabethan narrative which. The change coincides with the marriage of Penelope Devereux to Lord Rich. Stella is from the first the un-giving beloved and the generous inspirer of poetry. a stolen kiss – are every now and then mentioned to provide themes for the meditation.

He is not a man following a “Movement”. for it is the companion of camps. Throughout the sequence. Epic is the “best and most accomplished” (i. seems to have been a happy one. The Defence of Poesie answers the Puritan objections to imaginative literature. is scarcely coincidental”. Although Stella is portrayed as the enabler of poetry.it. He is the man in whom the “Golden” poetics. which plays over the surface of his despair. become most fully articulate. who in Sonnet 68 seeks to quench the star-lover’s “noble fire”. The opening sonnet proclaims the ambiguities of the sequence as a whole. he also frequently quotes Aristotle and Horace. giving an impression both of sincerity and control. before the Astrophil cycle of sonnets had even been completed. of whose enigmatic political behaviour Sidney complained in his letters. The nineteenth century critics wrongly thought that all these poets had to be really in love and addressing to a real mistress. everything was a mere illusion or convention: Sidney’s marriage to Frances Walsingham in 1583. claims C. She who elevates by virtue of her heavenly nature also degrades. S. He thinks “high flying liberty of conceit” proper to a poet. “the only Planet of my light”. “That Stella’s star-like authority seems at times to parallel that of the Queen. and romantic person. In Sonnet 34 the potential confusions and conflicts between public statement and private silence are expressed in the form of an internal dialogue. the “noble” concerns of a soldier and courtier intrude only to be frustrated by a woman who commands chivalric service and who exercises a sometime whimsical authority over those who willingly give her service. He thinks peace may be hostile to poetry. c)the possibilities. most perfect) of the kinds.e. and the colloquial phrase. Lewis. d) the future of poetry. It is the first attempt in English to build a coherent system of arguments about a) the nature. In fact. Sidney draws his arguments from the Italian Humanist critics. she is also the star. as by right. Sidney’s own taste is that of a chivalrous. heroic. 125 . Sidney’s sonnets mingle natural tenderness and humour. b) the function. the dumbfounder and the giver of eloquence. Sidney explicitly dissents from the popular Platonic doctrine of Inspiration.

his royal entertainment The Lady of May. and self-fashioning which inter-relate affairs of state with affairs of the heart.Sidney’s defence of poetry contends that where there is no pretence in truth. Sidney is as much a statesman and military man as he is a poet. there can be no imposture: “now for the poet. The choice of subject was however the poet’s first step towards presenting his central. poetry was inspired. “the first heir of my invention”.” The chosen subject was the first and principal means towards his end. persuasion. it combines the influence of the classics. with Venus and Adonis. and his sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella all suggest processes of negotiation. Various forms and styles attain variable degrees of persuasion and “moving”. The poet is the maker of a better. self-projection. and therefore never lies”. middle and low – which the Renaissance inherited from the Middle Ages would be appropriate not so much to given subjects as to given intentions. The problem of finding fitting means was however chiefly a problem of style. of Italian and of recent French literature. Written in sixain stanzas (ab ab cc). he nothing affirms. Sidney’s long prose romance interspersed with poems and pastoral elegies. these skills must serve to bring that forth that have a most just title to be princes over all the rest. is a key concept in Sidney’s poetics. According to Sidney’s theory of form and style. Poetry is a better moral teacher than philosophy or history. 126 . The lively image created by the poet is contrasted with the dullness of historians and philosophers. which was the conversion of the readers’ whole mind. dedicated to the young Earl of Southampton. Put in highest terms. SHAKESPEARE’S (AND MARLOWE’S) NON-DRAMATIC POETRY Shakespeare’s career as a poet starts in 1593. The three style or modes of writing – high. Decorum. or the right adaptation of means to ends. representing eternal truths which might be breathed into the poet by supernatural powers. the poet’s purpose is not to create a “golden world” but to “move” his readers. ideal world. idea. or governing. The Arcadia. “The end of all earthly learning being virtuous action.

Written by a professed mocker and scorner. in which Rosalind. Marlowe avoids the presentation of the denouement. Ben Jonson wrote about Marlowe’s “mighty line”. and a secret agent of the English crown. Marlowe (1564-1593). but Ovid in Heroides also skips the tragical conclusion. of the transience of love and earthly happiness and Ovid’s answer to Mutability. often compared with Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis (exit Marlowe.Marlowe and Spenser precede Shakespeare in the handling of classical themes. the blank verse inherited from Henry Howard. they anticipate the lovers of Shakespeare’s comedy. Marlowe’s Ovidian romance. He lived an adventurous life: he was a soldier in the Netherlands. and Shakespeare’s debut poem is apparently written as a response to. as in their battle of wits. which was Metamorphosis. at the order of the Privy Council (the Queen’s secret police). He was murdered for his would-be heretical or atheistic views. He transformed it from a stiff and monotonous into a flexible and varied meter. Spenser borrows Lucretius’s idea of Mutability. he reduced the number of endstopped lines in favour of the run-on lines. The two lovers are human in a way unknown to the earlier writers: they are real-life human beings engaged in the warring of love and discord. The Ovidian theme of protean change is also tackled by Christopher Marlowe in Hero and Leander. and in imitation of. but he also repeatedly referred to it in As You Like It. in Cambridge. Marlowe’s vigorous verse is the iambic pentameter. In this. sympathetic yet also ridiculous. the son of a Canterbury shoemaker. enter Shakespeare!) and John Keats’s Endymion. took his M. Not only did Shakespeare imitate Marlowe’s poem in Venus and Adonis. this Ovidian romance may be regarded as an anti-Spenserian manifesto. A. The gods themselves are subject to change in Spenser’s Mutability Cantos: the ancient gods of the pagan world become to the Elizabethans great natural forces. Hero and Leander. he mingled iambic feet 127 . Orlando and Phoebe all quote Hero and Leander. The lovers are included in the circle of comedy: they are both beautiful and absurd. Marlowe’s non-dramatic poetry is best represented by his last work.

Shakespeare and Milton further contributed to the flexibility of the blank verse. in fact. We may wonder whether Shakespeare’s anxiety of imitating Ovid actually stemmed from his tacit competition with Marlowe. the death of the rose. Jonathan Bate first advanced his historicized view on “certain symptoms of anxiety in Renaissance imitation theory”. Marlowe himself had translated Ovid’s Amores and Metamorphoses. the transience of love and earthly happiness. Both Venus and Adonis and Hero and Leander were conceived as fashionable exercises in re-writing Ovidian topoi. the expert on Ovid. there was no Shakespeare for schoolchildren to study. the answer to the medieval anxieties about Mutability. Bate claimed that “in fact. Shakespeare’s prime precursor was Ovid”. prevented him from finishing his poem. The world was peopled with transformed heroes and heroines of Ovidian story. in May 1593. Was Ovid the presiding authority above the siblings’ wouldbe rivalry? Bate’s claim dovetails with Eric Sams’ remark. that “the dramatist drew nine-tenth of his classical mythology from Ovid”. every tree. Ovid’s Metamorphoses depicted an antropomorphic nature where there was a story behind every flower. as well. the “Harold Bloom”. In 1990. it is quite natural to wonder which writers that writer admired”. Francis Meres. At the time. Metamorphosis was. whether it is just another indicator of Marlowe’s strong influence on Shakespeare’s early writings and readings.) Shakespeare wrote Venus and Adonis precisely when Christopher Marlowe was composing his poem Hero and Leander. etc.with various other feet. Shakespeare himself had Ovid. As a learned University Wit. The poem is made up of two 128 . Many historians have interpreted the two poems as a friendly literary competition. or “Elizabethan Yale critic” of Shakespeare’s times had pointed out that “the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare’. Their common denominator is Ovid’s influence on both of them. almost every stone and stream. In 1993. Bate took this argument a step further and argued that for the sixteenth century Western literature Ovid was the equivalent of our days’ Shakespeare: “If you admire a writer. Marlowe’s premature death. Book X. or. The subject-matter of Venus and Adonis is borrowed from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Venus is compared with an eagle. The pace of Shakespeare’s poem is slower than Marlowe’s. the ornament more elaborate and the comedy not so sustained. The lily. senseless horror of purely physical outrage. Though a goddess. a hunted roe: he is the hunted quarry. just a few years before his death. Like Venus and Lucrece. Adonis is compared with a snared bird. She is not even responsible for his metamorphosis into a hyacinth.C. but still an exercise.” According to Hughes’ myth of the Equation. The combat between Lucrece and Tarquin represents the combat between saint and devil. formal rhetorical exercises. Bradbrook. but not the spontaneous work of a genius. are. but not a person. the ravished heroine of Titus Andronicus. But in 1992. (The complaint was a late medieval form). As a literary species. Written in Chaucer’s “rhyme royal”. the 129 . one on a mythological. a wild bird. Venus has no supernatural powers: she is as helpless as any country lass to save Adonis or even reach him quickly. It is a carefully worked out poem. are used as symbols of Adonis’s chastity. a dabchick. a falcon: the love-hungry goddess appears as a bird of prey. the snow. According to M. seemingly. The subject is more serious. while Lucrece anticipates Lavinia. The poem clearly shows the idea of tragedy in Shakespeare’s early period: the blind. the other on an ancient historical theme. The final part is brought to an abrupt end. Shakespeare’s heroines from those plays perform the role of either huntress or game: “The female figure who is the heroine is a constant as Venus / Lucrece. The long poems. England’s then Poet Laureate Ted Hughes worked out an extraordinary mythical interpretation of these two longer poems in his bulky Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being.contrasted halves: the wooing and the hunt. all suggesting chilly whiteness. a vulture. a deer. The Rape of Lucrece is a complaint. briefly summing up the contents presented in the poet’s dedication to the same Earl of Southampton. starting with All’s Well That Ends Well (1601) are rewritings of the two poems which contain an underlying mythic structure. Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. the ivory and the alabaster. the soliloquies of Tarquin are like a first cartoon for the study of Macbeth. it is a better exercise. Lucrece herself is pathetic and beautiful. Hughes claimed that Shakespeare’s last fourteen plays. The Rape of Lucrece deals with a stock-theme.

Says Ted Hughes: “All the plays of the tragic sequence are a ‘proof’. within the first poem. The rational being is usurped by the irrational. The myth is obvious in Macbeth and Hamlet. but your device in love. the unrolling of all the thunders. remains the same. and Leonatus Posthumus. where former friends and allies become each other’s foes. in Cymbeline. that is. When this act of surrender to lust in an act of rape is eventually translated into the suppression of lust in an act of murder. obviously. kills. In that sense. in Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. with their usurpation stories. wiping her from the universe. though the expression of it. Shakespeare is focusing his stubborn investigation into the nature of that rejection. from every angle. The tragedies then follow as a consequence of these words. usurpation. This means that everything happened. In the end (…) he brings to court this specific act – the rejection – and calls down the God of Truth to judge it in his words. Venus and Adonis. or fratricide) complements this mythic pattern of the Equation.man appears either as the Puritan Adonis. who likewise has Hermione die of sorrow. The theme of the Rival Brothers (triggering betrayal. the sexual charge. guilty gratification of an appetite 130 . with their regicides. Tarquin rapes Lucrece. the dead voice of the superhuman madness that is cancelling the Goddess. as Adonis speaks. King Lear. or destroys the innocent heroine. and The Tempest. Othello. That lends embracements unto every stranger. where Adonis rejected Venus: I hate not love. In play after play. who is intent on killing his wife. the sexual nature of the act. Leontes. From Adonis’s universe. Those words are the expressionless face. in a sense. changes from the blind. who murders Desdemona. of the criminality of that rejection [of love]. in As You Like It. released internally. who rejects the heroine’s love or as a Tarquin figure that rapes. Examples of the latter case are Hamlet. so to speak. by the silent flash of those words. in The Winter’s Tale. (789-90) What the tragedies dramatize is the inside story of that rejection. and the arrival on heads and chimneys of all the thunderbolts. in Heaven. They are an unfolding into action. who drives Ophelia to madness and suicide.

however vague: “To unassisted readers it 131 . Although his demonstration may sometimes appear to be far-fetched. Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis set the standards for what came to be called erotic literature. Richards described it. as “the most mysterious poem in English”. To shelter thee from tempest and from rain: Then be my deer. during a TV conference given in the United States in 1957. where the pleasant fountains lie. Sweet bottom-grass and high delightful plain. it is ultimately convincing as yet another possible approach to. No dog shall rouse thee. The murder of the Goddess is the murder of the source of life: the destruction of mankind. Within this limit is relief enough. on mountain or in dale: Graze on my lips. Shakespeare’s plays and poems.” Ted Hughes’s argument is developed on more than six hundred pages of erudite excursions into the mythology of several ancient civilizations. was among the first to attempt an interpretation. brakes obscure and rough. and interpretation of. Round rising hillocks. Richards was aware that “so strange a poem (…) has engendered curiosity and praise only in recent times”. I.A. And Shakespeare locates the tragedy of this madness in the logical conclusion of the mythic situation. and if those be hills be dry. since I am such a park. Stray lower. In an age of excessive Puritanism. The great Shakespeare scholar and editor Stanley Wells has recently called Venus and Adonis “Shakespeare’s succès de scandale” and the sexual allusions in Venus’s elaborate metaphor of the park and the deer explain the poem’s constant success in the seventeenth century: “I’ll be a park. Its sixteen editions between 1593 and 1640 stand proof for its extraordinary popularity.” (231-40) As for Shakespeare’s superb poem “The Phoenix and the Turtle”.to a true madness (and the extinction of that appetite). Ralph Waldo Emerson. Feed where thou wilt. and thou shalt be my deer. though a thousand bark. the great American transcendental philosopher.

which proves that biographical criticism armed with the more sophisticated methods of New Historicism is still worth applying to literary texts. the poem is not about John Salisbury. and her bridegroom John Salisbury. the illegitimate but acknowledged daughter of the fourth Earl of Derby. and of his poetic mistress. The eagle in the poem is the Earl of Derby. She was the first of those 132 . J.” Curiously. in the Babbington conspiracy of 1586.” My italics point to Richards’ guess that serious issues were indeed at stake in the poem. On April 18. This mysterious poem has recently triggered several biographical interpretations. as we lightly say. But. as certainly. foreshadowing the recent opinions of New Historicist critics. In 1985 E. I. is so handled that it seems as easy and as natural and as necessary as breathing. This Phoenix and this Turtle have a mythic scale to them. but about Ann Line. 2003. no doubt about it. A. there is a religious quality in its movement. “a gentlewoman. Richards seems to have had an extraordinary intuition in his interpretation of “The Phoenix and the Turtle”. For each new generation of critics the poem appears to be an enigma that is hard to decode. John Finnis and Patrick Martin published their groundbreaking essay “Another Turn for the Turtle?” In their opinion. one may well think. an idea suggested by the Derby crest.would appear to be a lament on the death of a poet. Honigmann claimed in Shakespeare: The “Lost Years” that “The Phoenix and the Turtle” is not an obscure poem. That is how the poem feels. though they are spoken of in the poem as two birds. Martin Dodsworth has more recently called “The Phoenix and the Turtle” a “weird and wonderful poem”. the only Catholic woman executed in London for religion under Elizabeth”. A. as though through them we were to become participants in something ultimate. of beauty and truth. which represents an eagle carrying a child. is not about (…) remote abstractions but about two people. All this. It is about Ursula Stanley. the dedicatee. as a traitor. the very embodiments’. a feeling in it as though we were being related through it to something far beyond any individuals. wherein the Turtle’s sadness was due to the execution of his brother. when he wrote: “This poem. who married her in 1586. however. two people who may be thought to have been ‘the very personifications. Honigmann gave the poem a Catholic reading.

executed at Tyburn on February 27. and confiscated her popish ‘frippery’. which distracts them from their conspiracy to assassinate him. His crest was a wyvern. 1. On the night of her death. corpses. had been on close terms with Roger Line (whom he had supported until his untimely death in Flanders) and with his widow Ann. and ‘Mistress Line’. “Twas not their infirmity” has been decoded as a “willed celibacy within marriage”. for having a priest bless candles in her house. 1601. towards the end of The Tempest (V. Wilson contends that Ann Line’s martyrdom continued to haunt Shakespeare long after her death. Shakespeare was 133 . a “renunciation. as he was the only Catholic in high office at Court. 25-8). Finnis and Martin identify Worcester as “the Eagle”. winged) and (on its legs at least) “Eagle feather’d”. […] These tragicomic regicides could equally well be the 1605 Plotters who stole relics from Ann’s hanging tree at Tyburn as the priest-hunters who burst in on the Mass she organized. by the time of The Tempest. All that we can be certain of is that. down to his last works: “The brilliant decoding of ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’ by John Finnis and Patrick Martin (…) as an elegy for the Catholic martyr Ann Line gains inter-textual support from Shakespeare’s apparent return to her martyrdom as one of those ‘high wrongs’ for which he has Prospero forgive his enemies when he struggles with his ‘nobler reason’ against his ‘fury’ and decides that ‘The rarer action is / In virtue than in vengeance’. baffles the editors. so that they make gallows humour out of their chance to ‘steal by line and level’. Thanks to the sensational new reading of Shakespeare’s poem. this bizarre antimasque now has a historical context. Later clandestine obsequies must have been held in a Worcester chapel: Edward. For immediately before this turning point. fourth Earl of Worcester. penitentially”. The entire episode. Finnis and Martin’s theory has already been corroborated by several scholars including Richard Wilson and Thomas Rist. but her husband Roger had died in 1594 or 1595. both is a “fowl” (two-legged. a heraldic creature that though no eagle. with its jokes about hangmen. Stephano and Trinculo raid the Duke’s ‘wardrobe’ and discover the ‘frippery’ hanging on a ‘tree’. Ann Line was disinterred from the charnel pit by Catholics and reburied. Ann Line was judged a traitor. laundry. a classical basilisk but with a dragon head.

each critical method. death is figured as ‘that fell arrest / Without all bail’ which. They may also encourage students to refuse any definitive interpretation of any poem. possibly Henry Wriothesley. even each reader may produce endless and refreshing interpretations of one and the same text. first published in 1608. The narrator of the sonnet confides to its implied recipient that ‘My life hath in this line some interest’ but the sonnet’s theme is – as in ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’ – death and its posterity.dissociating from the violence which still flamed around ‘Mistress Line’ and her ‘phoenix’ memory. Specifically.” Thomas Rist follows another path in investigating Shakespeare’s connection with Ann Line. however. And we are given a further picture of that law-enforcer: the speaker calls his own dead body ‘The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife’. * The Sonnets. Sonnets 1-17 are intended to persuade a young man of good birth and good looks to marry. the speaker says. while Sonnets 18-126 celebrate the varying fortunes of the poet’s friendship with the aforementioned young man. Each age. “which recent editors argue Shakespeare continued to revise until 1609. The speaker – whether Shakespeare or a fictional selfpresentation of him – seems thus to anticipate what Catholics such as Line or indeed the younger Southampton considered martyrdom. may suggest how the search might proceed. ‘shall carry me away’: it thus assumes the character of an unforgiving law-enforcer considered to threaten the speaker’s life. That death is a law-enforcer who uses a ‘knife’ – particularly in a poem interested in Line – suggests the quarterings at Tyburn. Close consideration of Sonnet 74. 134 . Earl of Southampton. Sonnet 126 is actually a douzaine (a twelve-line poem). The lines of the Sonnets contain so many puns on ‘lines’. proposing a re-reading of the Sonnets. The 154 sonnets fall into three distinct groups: a) Sonnets 1-126 are addressed to a fair youth. were written in the 1590s as a fashionable literary exercise.” All these recent re-readings of “The Phoenix and the Turtle” indicate that Shakespearean texts are sites of oblivion or dormant memory that can still produce unexpected meanings.

to pin him down biographically in the shadows of four hundred years ago. was the mother of Sir William Davenant. “Who was the Dark Lady?”. the story of Cupid and the loss of his brand. Shaw made her the heroine of his Dark Lady of the Sonnets. there have been several attempts to establish the identity of the mysterious Dark Lady and of the fair youth in the Sonnets. “Who was the fair youth?” In 1889 Sidney Lee identified Mary Fitton as the Dark Lady. here are some possible answers to the excruciating questions. One of Queen Elizabeth’s maids of honour. Davenant’s claim is reinforced by a curious work called Willobie his Avisa. Jane Davenant. Mary Fitton had soft and fair curls. The sonnets have been read time and again for clues about Shakespeare’s life. For those readers who have a penchant for historicist speculations. Davenant was known to be Shakespeare’s godson. And here are some examples of biographical speculations attached to the sonnets. which re-constructs an author’s life from hints and allusions provided by his texts. and grey eyes. a strange mixture of prose and verse 135 . England’s second Poet Laureate after Ben Jonson. but in his later years he boasted that he was actually Shakespeare’s illegitimate son.b) Sonnets 127-152 are addressed to a mysterious Dark Lady. one understands this tendency to turn the sonnets into data for biography. and. today her candidature is dismissed by most Shakespeare biographers. seeing the nature of Shakespeare’s achievement elsewhere. or The True Picture of a Modest Maid. attempts to link him with this man and that.B. she fell pregnant by William Herbert. Although G. In the light of this method. even though the Queen sent him to the Fleet Prison. hence she does not fit Shakespeare’s physical description of the Dark Lady in Sonnet 130. the Earl of Pembroke (the late Sir Philip Sidney’s nephew). the wife of an Oxford innkeeper who became the Mayor of that city. Her infant died soon after her birth and Pembroke refused to marry her. Martin Dodsworth’s contention that the stories in the Sonnets are pure fiction has been refuted by Shakespearean biographers for centuries. August Wilhelm von Schlegel was the inventor of the socalled conjectural biography. c) Sonnets 153 and 154 are adaptations of a well-known Greek epigram.

136 . a nobleman. having fallen pregnant by him. made it clear that Emilia Lanier favoured sodomy to satisfy men’s lusts. who drew to her inn a lot of importunate gallants only to drive them all away. based mostly on textual conjectures. Rowse made the case for Emilia Lanier. WS is described as “the old player”. it is nonsense. a Court musician. “first fell in love with the lady out of pity for the situation she was in”. A. rather than permit him to stain her honour. a connection by marriage of Shakespeare’s Warwickshire friend Thomas Russel. are highly inconsistent. Some two or three decades ago. inasmuch as he repeatedly insists that Shakespeare was a “normal”. the astrologer. Robert Nye contends that had she been Shakespeare’s mistress. Shakespeare. claims Rowse. so it was banned and burned before 1600. and signed with the pseudonym Hadrian Dorrell. and Florio was actually Henry Wriothesley’s tutor. while contemporary witnesses like Simon Forman.published in 1594. while the events in the sonnets point to the early 1590s. heterosexual person. the patron of Shakespeare’s acting company.L. After all. announcing that anyone who disagreed with him was talking “complete rubbish”. The pamphlet gave serious offence to somebody with influence. Rowse’s speculations. from Eve to Virgin Mary. while Henrico Willobego quotes proverbs from John Florio’s collection of proverbs. had been married off to Alphonse Lanier. and a beautiful and apparently virtuous woman. The tavern kept by the Davenants had the red-cross shield of St George hanging outside its front door. so… Avisa’s nest is clearly indicated: “See yonder house where hangs the badge of England’s saint”. she would have written as a poetess about the love of her life. and. even threatening to murder one of them. She reformed during the latter part of her life and turned poetess. and in 1611 she published a long religious poem called Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum. his friend WS. This is less than mere guesswork. Rowse’s Shakespeare has an irreproachable character even when he turns out to cuckold a cheated husband. The only piece that does not fit in the puzzle is William Davenant’s birth date: he was born in 1606. The obscure allegory enacted in it featured Henrico Willobego. Peter Levi vigorously approved this discovery. Emilia Lanier had been the mistress of Lord Hunsdon. a sort of vindication of the principal female characters in the Bible. The true identity of the pamphlet’s author was Henry Willoughby.

This “woman colour’d ill” was a mulatto from the West Indies. she was sentenced to serve a term in the Bridewell. then. which came to be labelled as “dark comedies” or “problem plays”. Suppose that the agent is married.” The agent in Southampton’s household was John Florio. who wishes to marry him off his will.Both Anthony Burgess and Robert Nye have singled out Lucy Negro. though very patchy. In his opinion. She died in 1610 – of the pox. or with “keeping a house of ill repute”. whose presence there accounts for much of Shakespeare’s broad. while still very young. Biographical and textual data support Bate’s theory. head of the infamous sisterhood of the Black Nuns. From March 1579 to January 1582. Jonathan Bate has recently put forward a new contender to the title of Dark Lady. hence she was known as the Abbess of Clerkenwell. as the most plausible candidate to the title of Dark Lady. Bate thinks that an Elizabethan earl of possibly homosexual orientation would be more likely to sleep with a married woman of lower social status because he wanted to score off her husband than because he desired her in herself. “Suppose that the young Earl’s guardian. alias Lucy Morgan. To sleep with his wife would be the most delicious revenge for the man’s presumption in reporting intimate matters back to Burghley (Queen Elizabeth’s Lord Treasurer). she had been one of Queen Elisabeth’s most favoured attendants. She was then expelled from Court after the usual fall from grace. Bate’s Dark Lady. her “profile”. explain the disillusionment and scepticism that are so manifest in most of Shakespeare’s late comedies. a woman whom both Southampton and Shakespeare slept with. though even then she was spared the usual carting through the streets of London. She kept a brothel in St John Street. Her friends in high places kept her out of jail on this occasion. Florio wrote that in 137 . In the 1590s she was charged with prostitution. is John Florio’s wife. who happens to have been the sister of Samuel Daniel. places an agent in his household in order to report back on the progress of the marriage suit and related affairs. then. Later. Clerkenwell. as a criminal investigator would put it. in January 1600. the sonneteer. seems to be that of a married woman in or close to the household of the Earl of Southampton. acquaintance with Italian literature and his slight knowledge of the Italian language. This disturbing detail may.

Fairness was regarded as synonymous with aristocratic and courtly elevation. because the sonnets are interested not so much in who lies with whom as in paradoxes of eyeing and lying. Not only was she a talented sonneteer. black brows. alongside Southampton). The flip side of all these theories is that we shall probably never know whether the Dark Lady was not actually just a synecdoche in the private life of a man fond of all brunettes living in the London of his times. actually the best poetess of the Elizabethan age.” The latest biographical speculations belong to Jonathan Gibson. and the future will certainly present us with further candidates as well as with reassessments of the current biographical theories. She gave birth to four children. the last three of which were born in 1585. darkness with low origins. and 1589. She bore two illegitimate children to William Herbert and her cycle of sonnets might have been written in response to Shakespeare’s Sonnets. She was a sonneteer herself. the man who has come to identify the Dark Lady as Mary Wroth. Bate is the first critic to view it with objective detachment: “We will never know whether Shakespeare and / or Southampton really slept with Florio’s wife and the sonnets knowingly allude to actual events. Her poems are included in the academic syllabus of most universities in the USA and forty-six pages of web sites stand proof for the high regard she enjoys these days. 1588. at least two biographical details corroborate Mary Wroth’s identity as the Dark Lady. 138 . Florio is the only candidate to have given birth to children at that time. or whether the sonnets are knowing imaginings of possible intrigue… we must be denied knowledge of the original bed deeds. but she is also known to have been the mistress of the Earl of Pembroke (one of the two most probable candidates to the “fair youth” figure in the Sonnets. black hairs”.order to be “accounted most fair” a woman should have “black eyes. According to Gibson. Shakespeare’s harem of Dark Ladies gets more and more populous with the passing of time. A dark woman meant a country wench and Miss Daniel was a low-born Somerset lass. In sonnet 143 “Will” compares himself to his mistress’ “neglected child” and Mrs. After carefully constructing his theory. something not very unusual among sonneteers.

Shakespeare’s sequence of sonnets may be regarded as a drama with four characters and a plot. the serially issued DNB reached the letter S and.2) TROILUS: Injurious time. while Bate claims that. with a robber’s haste Crams his rich thievery up. furthermore. Lee shifted his allegiance to the other leading candidate for fair youth: the sonnets clearly affirm that the youth is Shakespeare’s patron. a young man. (IV. one of the key words in the sonnets dedicated to the fair youth. that Shakespeare’s young friend “was doubtless Pembroke himself”. in the nineteenth century. The dramatis personae are a man (who is the first-person narrator). Henry Wriothesley. In 1897.4) 139 . Time and mortality are as old as the first recorded pieces of world literature (from Gilgamesh to Spenser’s “mutability cantos” in the unfinished Book VII of The Faerie Queene). Robert Nye repeatedly insists that it should be pronounced “Rizley”. Henry Wriothesley’s descendants said that their name was pronounced “Rosely”. in the early 1890s Sir Sidney Lee contributed entries to the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) in which he stated categorically that the dedication to the 1609 Quarto “is addressed to Pembroke. Time as a major theme in Shakespeare’s sonnets is not necessarily an original one.As for the identity of the young man in the sonnets. third Earl of Southampton. Time is ubiquitous in the Sonnets as it is in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida: CRESSIDA: When time is old and hath forgot itself When water drops have worn the stones of Troy And blind oblivion swallowed cities up… (III. disguised under the initials of his family name – William Herbert” and. a woman and Time. * According to Jan Kott. The latter pronunciation would thus explain the symbolism of the “rose”. At this point the reader is invited to choose the suitable pronunciation of the Earl’s name. while writing his article on Shakespeare.

Procreation is viewed as the only defence against death. each comprised in a line beginning with “and”. It abounds in mutability imagery of a “vile world. Sonnet 66. the repetition. in an accumulation. This single line is the proof of an artist’s frustration in an age of horrible censorship (and dictatorship). The Sonnet is made up of successive images of the wrong way of the world. In Sonnet 63 and Sonnet 107. Similar thoughts and images coincidentally occur in the writings of Leonardo da Vinci. a copy annihilating time: Thou art thy mother’s glass and she in thee Calls back the lovely April of her prime. immortality is bestowed upon the beloved: His beauty shall in these black lines be seen And they shall live. each quatrain begins with “When I have seen”. Andrew Sanders also comments on two thematic subgroups: one encouraging the youth to marry and to procreate (1-17) and one about the threat represented by a rival poet. is nowadays considered crucial for understanding the historical circumstances in which Shakespeare lived and wrote his theatrical masterpieces. life can be perpetuated by means of progenies. (63) I’ll live in this poor rhyme (…) And thou in this shalt find thy monument…(107) 140 . Sonnet 3 describes the youth as a son who is the mirror. once a favourite text of vulgar Marxist criticism in the East-European countries. written by Janet Clare. followed by the misdeeds of Time and the obsessive image of Death. The line “Art made tongue-tied by the authority” has become the title of a well-documented study into Elizabethan and Jacobean censorship. with vilest worms”. “No longer mourn for me when I am dead” introduces an increasingly overwhelming atmosphere. and he in them still green.In Sonnet 64. the copy of his parents. In Sonnet 71.

previously employed by Edmund Spenser. Verrocchio and Michelangelo. two faces and two sexes. the master-mistress of my passion. The Merchant of Venice) and in his later socalled romantic comedies (Twelfth Night and As You Like It). The Humanistic Academy of Florence (represented by Pico della Mirandolla and Marsilio Ficino) had proclaimed that eros socraticus. oneness. The gods punished them by separating them into two distinct entities. the pure love felt by a male for a male youth. echoes the Platonic myth of the androgyn. for completion. dilemma in choosing between a male and a female occurs in Michelangelo’s sonnets. The young boy is a type of a female beauty. Shakespeare’s sonnets also display the influence of the Renaissance painting. the nymphs have boyish features. Andrew Sanders refers to the ambiguous relationship between the narrator. which takes the nature of an emotional triangle. a blending of male and female characteristics. the human beings were originally endowed with four arms. longing for each other. while David has a girlish pose and girlish gestures in sculptures by Donatello. According to this myth. The same ambiguity is detected by Jan Kott in Shakespeare’s early comedies (The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Here is the description of the youth in Sonnet 20: A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted Hast thou. the young man and the Dark Lady. 141 . four legs.This conceit of immortality. It is the ambiguity of the line drawn between friendship and love. cf. The same hesitation. “thy mother’s glass” (Sonnet 3). Sonnet 39. The ambiguity consists in choosing either a male or a female partner as a lover. A woman’s gentle heart…(/…) And for a woman were thou first created. that is. reunion. in which the angels have androgynous features. first recorded in Plato’s Banquet. Speaking about the sexuality of the sonnets. represented the highest form of spiritual affinity. with “let us divided live /And that thou teachest how to make one twain”. is also known as exegi monumentum. Jan Kott has developed an entire theory of the erotic ambiguity of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets became the object of serious criticism only in the twentieth century. in which Duke Orsino loves Countess Olivia. the “metaphysical” poet John Donne. obscure and worthless”. yet another Romantic poet. “he has left nothing to say about nothing or anything…” 142 . Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as alter-egos of the Dark Lady. Jan Kott regards Rosaline in Love’s Labour’s Lost. The dramatic situation in the Sonnets resembles that in Twelfth Night. and John Keats. Wordsworth thought Sonnet 116 to be the best but he objected to the sonnets to the Dark Lady.In Sonnet 53 the youth is compared with Helen of Troy. the Sonnets should not be necessarily read as an autobiographical confession. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the editors’ and critics’ opinions were not always favourable. Coleridge was more enthusiastic about them. Female characters in disguise were actually young actors disguised as women who. Most biographers. In the Dark Lady sequence. were disguised as boys. wrote about Shakespeare as sonneteer. Shakespeare is no longer concerned with the conventions of courtly love. Shakespeare’s originality is not to be looked up in the themes and imagery of his sonnets. the oscillation between idealizing and rejecting love. However. hyperboles and metaphors. advises his beloved not to travel in disguise for fear the Italians might take her for a page and make a pass at her. In Shakespeare’s age. in turn. Shakespeare questions the use of conventional similes. which he found “abominably harsh. the narrator is betrayed by both lovers. In a famous elegy. interested in the exploration of the psychological inner self. hence the danger of lesbianism). His originality resides in the exploration of a new emotional range: the idea of being torn between two lovers. in Sonnet 130. one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. Olivia loves Cesario (i. Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. a comedy of erotic ambiguities. Orsino is also attracted by Cesario. however. and Viola herself loves Orsino. he is rather. Within this triangle. Viola disguised as a boy. Worst of all. as Andrew Sanders warns us. have chosen the faithless Cressida as the dramatic counterpart of the mysterious sonnet-heroine.e. female parts were performed by actors.

the whole world was one vast allegory of God’s writing. Lovejoy was the first to theorize this universal concept which survived from Plato up to the eighteenth century: “no element can be understood or. And William Empson.” In the twentieth century. air. in Some Versions of Pastoral (1935). The links in the chain are displayed on the vertical.The Victorian poet Alfred Tennyson produced the following paradoxical remark: “Sometimes I think Shakespeare’s Sonnets finer than his Plays – which is of course absurd. were regarded as the inhabitants of the heavens as opposed to the sublunary regions. According to this concept. The stars conditioned man’s fortune. THE ELIZABETHAN WORLD PICTURE The main idea underlying the Elizabethan world picture is that of order or “degree”. Plato and Genesis stated that man could hear the music of the celestial spheres before the Fall. water and ground (earth). 3) The four elements: fire. In his study The Great Chain of Being Arthur O. They had a hierarchy of their own. Fortune was perceived as a wheel. 4) Man as the result of the four humours corresponding to the four elements: 143 . it was conceived as “the Great Chain of Being”. Robert Graves and Laura Riding were the first editors to expound in detail the wealth of meanings and nuance that the sonnets contain. Shakespeare and his fellow-dramatists view order as opposed to chaos. For it is knowledge of the Plays that makes the Sonnets so fine. interlocking and coherent. despite Copernicus’s revolutionary theories. Order was perceived in three different ways. 2) The stars and fortunes. Edmund Spenser views order as opposed to mutability. emphasizing the countless interpretive possibilities of Sonnet 94. which had been discussed by Dante. This concept derives from Plato’s Timaeus via Aristotle and the Neo-Platonists. in the following order: 1) The angels. indeed. counted no less than “4096 movements of thought” in the poem (and as many interpretations). First. be what it is apart from its relation to all the other components of the system to which it belongs”.

it is also referred to by Alexander Pope in his Essay on Man. In Orchestra. memory. creation was viewed as a dance. – reason (the combination of wit. another poem by Davies. displayed on the horizontal. while Hamlet and Macbeth lack will. Tillyard’s view. 5) Animals. the corresponding planes. promoted the image of Shakespeare as an entirely conventional thinker. Secondly. Shakespeare’s Lear and Othello lack wit. much discredited nowadays. Tillyard’s book The Elizabethan World Picture. – body politic to microcosm (as in Macbeth). It was minutely depicted in E. plants and minerals. According to this pattern. Thirdly. moral and philosophical outlook of those who ruled his world. THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY POETRY At the beginning of the seventeenth century the sonnet is still in flourish due to sonneteers such as Michael Drayton. the cosmic dance. fancy.W. – macrocosm to body politic (as in Shakespeare’s chronicle plays). the dance is the principle of order and pattern in the universe. – common sense. The Great Chain of Being is discussed by Ulysses in his famous speech on “degree” in Troilus and Cressida by Shakespeare. whose plays necessarily express the political. and will).e. connected: – celestial powers to other creations. i. – macrocosm to microcosm (as in King Lear).M. another metaphor for cosmic order and cosmic harmony.melancholy – earthly phlegm – water choler – fire blood – air Man’s brain contained: – the five senses. 144 . Sir John Davies illustrates the didactic poem with his famous poem Nosce Teipsum. (Later. understanding. Milton will write on divine harmony and the music of the spheres).

two poems written during a military expedition against Spain. as such. The Cavalier poets defended the monarchy against the Puritans during the reign of Charles I. JOHN DONNE John Donne (1573-1631) is the poet who challenged and broke the supremacy of the Petrarchan tradition. John Donne is considered the father of English satire. marriages. and Sir John Suckling. The first half of the seventeenth century is clearly dominated by the poetry of John Donne and Ben Jonson: their followers came to be labelled as metaphysical versus Cavalier poets.The satire resorts to Horace and Juvenal as models. after studies completed in Oxford and Cambridge. In 1592. the most famous dramatist of Queen Mary’s reign (1553-1558) – hence Donne’s Catholic heritage. The “songs” or mellifluous poems. poems written as lyrics were extremely popular. His ancestors included the famous Thomas More (the author of Utopia) and John Heywood. or great parties. In 1596 he makes his début as a poet with “The Storm” and “The Calm”. Thomas Campion. and their poetry reflects their rather light-hearted approach to life. Hard times follow as a consequence of his runaway marriage. Persecuted. he has to earn his living by writing epitaphs. the lord’s niece. Then he becomes the secretary of the Lord Keeper of the great seal and elopes with Anne More. a musician and a poet. are the forerunners of an important tradition in English literature. a wit. Their ranks included Robert Herrick. Donne becomes a lawyer in London. 145 . a soldier. They are remembered primarily as the first poets to celebrate the events of everyday life and. They saw the ideal gentleman as being a lover. Robert Lovelace. Their poems embodied the spirit of the upper classes before the Puritan Commonwealth. They wrote poetry for occasions such as births. Donne is the first important English satirist whose influence was acknowledged by Dryden and Pope decades later. Thomas Lodge and Thomas Nashe among others produced such songs. Thomas Carew. Shakespeare’s plays also contain songs which were in vogue at the time.

He died in 1576. a successful doctor in London. Her father. 250 died for their Catholicism (some from imprisonment rather that execution). she took a third husband. His poems are first collected and published in a volume in 1633. In 1615 his friends finally persuade him to enter the Anglican Church and he becomes famous for his sermons delivered at St. his marriage cast him out of the world into which he had managed to find an entry. Elizabeth Donne was grandniece of the Catholic martyr. Two of her brothers. in 1590 or 1591. was a prosperous London merchant. became Jesuits. “Did Donne grow up under a reign of terror?” wonders David Reid. who led a Jesuit mission to England in the early 1580s. After the death of Dr. Donne’s childhood and youth were certainly marked by a Catholicism that set itself against the religion of the Elizabethan state. continuously looking for patrons. For this we have Donne’s own accounting in the Preface to his Pseudo-Martyr. was imprisoned in the Tower and narrowly escaped a hideous martyrdom. Donne’s mother came from the heroic wing of English Catholicism. John Heywood. Elizabeth Donne became known as a recusant. After he died in 1588. Richard Rainsford. 146 . He was born a Catholic when Catholics were persecuted as enemies of the state. a writer of interludes and epigrams. than about any other poet before Milton. Syminges.eulogies and letters. when Donne was four. he was ordained in the Church of England and there certainly became at last a pillar of the establishment. the man. In thirty-three years of Elizabeth’s reign after 1570. His father. went into exile in 1564 rather than make his peace with Queen Elizabeth’s Protestant settlement of the English Church. Soon after. and soon after her third marriage she settled with her husband in Antwerp to escape the penalties imposed on Catholics in England. More is known about Donne. Donne was set apart from the world he later tried to join by his Catholic upbringing. Paul’s Cathedral and abroad. Donne’s mother married John Syminges. John Donne. A more detailed biography of the poet poses unexpected and disturbing questions. Sir Thomas More. an iron-monger with claims to descent from Welsh gentry. Ellis and Jasper. two years after his death. Jasper. after thirteen years of “exile” from the world.

he was naturally much occupied with the Catholicism that kept him out of it. This too was to evade the legislation meant to keep Catholics out of higher education: university statutes required that those matriculating at sixteen or older should subscribe not only to the Oath of Supremacy but also to the Thirty-Nine Articles of belief imposed but the Church of England. his power to impress and astonish in words. he was educated privately by a tutor.I had longer work to do than many other men. His literary talents went chiefly into preaching and he took care to have his sermons published. He was an enormously fashionable preacher at court. He went to Oxford young and made out that he was even younger than he was by a year. with 147 . He had gone up to Oxford with Donne and followed him to the Inns of Court. While Donne was finding himself as an entertaining companion and fine spirit among those who expected to play a part in the world. one that combined his wit. both by Persons who by nature had a power and superiority over my will. Paul’s. and to wrestle both against the examples and against the reasons. eleven not twelve. though it goes without saying that he created his own fashion. By entering young and lying about his age. if not a degree. A dreadful reminder of that was the death in prison of his younger brother. Donne might gain a university education. for I was at first to blot out. Paul’s in 1621. and others who by their learning and good life. Henry. and some anticipations early laid upon my conscience. the priest was executed in the usual vile manner. certain impressions of the Roman religion. Donne was transplanted from Oxford to Cambridge at fourteen. in 1593. Preferments followed. at the Inns of Court and at St. by which some hold was taken. Before Donne went to university. his theatrical talents. Donne was ordained in the Church of England. and then at seventeen went up to Lincoln’s Inn to study law. Henry had been caught harbouring a priest. seemed to me justly to claim an interest for the guiding. without renouncing his Catholicism. while Henry died in prison before he was sentenced. He was elected Dean of St. He took the royal supremacy as a maxim of sound divinity. According to his seventeenth-century biographer Izaak Walton. In January 1615. and rectifying of mine understanding in these matters.

sometimes even contradictory. it came to define “subtle means of expression” and “complex cosmic vision”. Cowley and the metaphysical poets. which requires an openness to change. The Satires express an overwhelming sense of the degeneracy of late-sixteenth-century English society. 148 . upholding old truths and values in a world that seems to be crumbling. but feels helpless to “cure these worn maladies” (Satire 3). a life of prayers and meditation. Donne’s genius is manifest in various poetic patterns. The term “metaphysical” was coined by the Scottish poet Michael Drummond of Hawthornden. have a colloquial vigour combined with a strain of logical reasoning. who criticized the sinfulness and idolatry of Israel. above all on the themes of death and resurrection. written in deliberately rough couplets. The latter complained that with Donne. and Horace. morality and the divine. Donne is here quite conservative. There is a sense of frustration. the process of examining emotional experience inevitably produces poetry of contradictions. • His five satires. Donne recalls Roman satirists Juvenal. logic. but he also emulates the biblical prophets moved by religious zeal. for the satirist is compelled to expose what is wrong. They give some vivid glimpses of the London of his age. Donne’s metaphysical side is best perceived in his sonnets. Later on. For Donne. The “truths” Donne’s poetry discovers in its exploration of human experience will be various. line 35). “the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together”. In attacking this “Age of rusty iron” (Satire 5. Donne’s persistent concern with change – as both subject and process in hi poems – is not only part of his commitment to the ongoing discovery of truth. It was used pejoratively by Dryden and Samuel Johnson. Wit. equivocation. because experience is always in flux. it also embodies his personal sense that the universe is profoundly mutable and unstable. who similarly exposed the corruption of Rome. Persius. Almost everything is in the process of changing. and dramatic immediacy all contribute to the central concern of Donne’s poetry – the exploration of the individual’s experience of love.inwardness. For all his independent spirit.

he turns to the example of the Roman poet Ovid. I). humorously defines the “right true end” (line 2) and means of love in terms that reject the conventional postures of courtly lovers. written in iambic pentameter couplets. rather than imitating the Petrarchan. for example. and are moved by practicalities. He criticizes not only the vices of his society but also the corruption of its institutions and systems. In Donne’s Elegies. with their public and political focus. and the best way to attain it is to take the path of least resistance. courtly love poetry popular during this period. some are simply exercises in wit. as in Ovid. In his Elegies. for all the Ovidian emphasis on the naturalness of sex. preferring the “mean” to either extreme (2). He presents himself as virtually alone in condemning the vices of his time – as if he were the last good man in a totally corrupt society. the court and courtiers (4. The Elegies take place less inside Donne’s head than the Songs and Sonnets do.Coming under scrutiny are the frivolous. “Love’s Progress”. the Elegies are concerned with the supposedly private sphere of love. while some celebrate a clandestine love with an uncomfortable realism. materialistic values of his society (1). and the accompanying feeling of isolation is seen in much of Donne’s poetry. 149 . not ideals. love is very much of the body. This opposition to the political establishment reappears in the Elegies and Songs and Sonnets. The speaker of the Satires embodies qualities that oppose the viciousness of society: he is constant and scholarly (1). religious institutions (3). and the judicial system and structure of rewards in late Elizabethan England (5). Some elegies present women as objects of revulsion and nausea and. In contrast to the Satires. devoted to God and spiritual values. 5). The male speakers in these poems often frankly admit their interest in money and sex. filled with hatred for vice (2) and vicious people in power (5) but moved by pity for humanity (3. where there is little sense of fitting into a community. They are more involved in the social world. The goal is sexual intercourse. • Donne’s 20 elegies are poems about love. the legal system (2). reveal a distaste for the activity. earnest and searching rather than complacent (3). Some are cynical.

. O my America! My new-found-land My kingdom. safeliest when with one man man’d My Mine of precious stones. but political.the saint to be worshipped.the divinity to be appeased. however. above. and medical conventions and conditions defined woman as inferior and subordinate. In other elegies. and land. even “grace” (line 42). but that of the lady had not been developed. Thus it expresses contradictory views of woman that were part of Renaissance culture in England. below. economic. between. . where the vogue of courtly love and the presence of a female monarch could glorify a woman as the source of all riches. to man 150 . favour. water. as . a description of his going to bed with his mistress. in Petrarchan poetry the role of the wooer was defined by convention. Elegy XIX. joys.In some poems. The witty seduction poem “Going to Bed” celebrates sexual love and is less cynical than many of the other elegies. America is a big country and the imperializing claim to possess her singly. behind. legal. line 27) the poem moves between praising the mistress as a source of all riches. and identifying her with land to be explored and possessed by man. and let them go Before. It was masculine poetry. My Emperie. How blest I am in this discovering thee. also known as “Going to Bed”. The woman’s part was seen from outside. is a clever and lively piece of bawdry. women and women’s bodies are treated as immensely desirable. As the male speaker urges his mistress to remove her clothes and inhibition and asks her (like a monarch) to “Licence” his “roaving hands” (line 25) so he can explore her body (his “America! My newfound-land”. women are debased by comparison with animals.the relenting mistress to be hymned. Before Donne. . But even here we find conflicting valuations of woman and contrary impulses in love: License my roaving hands.the fair warrior who inflicted cruel wounds. and grace.

and of one another”. This elegy’s celebration of the private experience of sexual love as a supreme source of value marks what is one of the most important concerns of the Songs and Sonnets. In contrast to this philosophy of love. Sexual love itself. the despairing sinner fearing damnation. a fervent supporter of feminist studies. In insisting on the importance of sexual love. like in disposition.her with one man. in which the woman is viewed as a partner and companion to her husband. with its emphasis on the unattainable woman and unconsummated love. which the speaker claims possesses spiritual significance: the unclothing of their bodies is analogous to the soul’s divesting itself on the body in order to enjoy “whole joys” (line 35). the cynic who feels cheated by his experience in love. “Going to Bed’ not only counters Petrarchan poetry but also challenges Renaissance neo-Platonic ideas of love. defined in this poem from the man’s point of view as a process of seduction and conquest. obscures – that the end of courtship is sexual intercourse. “not always like in complexion. According to neo-Platonism. The poem’s clever ending asserts the speaker’s superiority as the master in love (“To teach thee I am naked first. the devoted and constant lover. has pointed out Donne’s contribution to the refashioning of the relation between man and wife. engages and expresses his contrary desires for control and intimacy. nor like in birth. The poet adopts different roles and postures – the libertine rake. is mocked by the vastness the roving hands discover. why then / What needst thou have more covering then a man?” lines 47-8) and insists on what Petrarchan love. like in the love of God. but like in mind. Donne shares the opinion that the affective family involves marriage based on romantic love and co-operation. Achsah Guibbory underlines the variety of Donne’s lyrical masks. nor like in fortunes. The much quoted Elegy XVI humorously comments on the sexual ambiguity of lovers. and the body and senses must be left behind as the lover ascends to the spiritual in the process of loving. while Elegy XVII likewise celebrates variety in love. the 151 . the object of love is properly the soul. Donne’s glorifies the body and sexual love. nor like in years. Catherine Belsey.

often in the form of a question. The complex development of thought. Helen Gardner made an ambitious attempt to order the poems in a roughly developmental scheme. which would be an English equivalent for Ovid’s elegiac couplets. Love in the Songs and Sonnets eliminates the world. the body. very loosely related to his life. The character of the speaker in many of the Elegies is unattractive and the situations in which he is involved are ugly and shameful. For her. These poems display the perfect union of passion and logical thinking. which is twisted this way and that way. but forbear To teach the sea what it may do too soon. serves to embody rather than to cool the passion. whereas in the Elegies social ties make us see love from the outside and usually contribute a rank flavour of Jonsonian comedy as well. Weep me not dead in thine arms. Donne’s conceit turns astronomy and geophysics into pure poetry. then the ingenuous development of the thought. Most commentators think that the Elegies were written before Donne’s marriage. and love. • Donne’s Songs and Sonnets are by far his most interesting works. David Daiches has pointed out that the opening of these poems captures the reader’s attention.bold suitor claiming his right to salvation. All are written in pentameter couplets (apart from “The Dream”). “A Valediction: of Weeping” combines protective tenderness with intellectual cunning: O more than moon Draw not up seas to drown me in thy sphere. Donne’s characteristic method is first the shock. The poetry expresses radically contradictory views – of women. they are not about actual loves but are essays in love. In the absence of strong evidence for dating or clear distinctions between the Elegies and Songs and Sonnets. There is a strong Ovidian flavour to the collection. Helen Gardner thinks that they circulated in manuscript as a book of elegies. What fascinates most people in Donne’s poetry is its flair for unstable and contradictory expression (see the definition of conceit as 152 .

obliquely run.” In “The Ecstasy”. simply by the incredible claim they make of one day’s total immobility. invite us to contrast it with what must have preceded it as well as with what is to come next. “All day the same our postures were. David Reid contends that “A Valediction: forbidding Mourning” was certainly written out of an experience of love. some of the suspicious or mock flippant poems might have been written out of that love too. but he cannot say whether it was written to his wife or another woman. More soberly than in “The Canonization” (see below). after a marriage that was disastrous from a worldly point of view. 153 . as they do for instance in “The Canonization”. Donne talks of the lovers in “A Valediction: forbidding Mourning” as if they were a priesthood in charge of religious secrets: “’T were profanation of our joys / To tell the laity our love. Given the pressures on their relationship before marriage. And the themes of the world well lost and of the lovers’ being a whole world to each other would come very forcibly to mind. specific type of metaphor given in the chapter “The Language of Poetry”). Geometry provides him with another famous conceit in “A Valediction: forbidding Mourning”: Such wilt thou to be me who must Like the other foot. The firmness makes my circle just And makes me end where I begun. it is hard to think Donne could work “A Valediction: forbidding Mourning” and other Songs and Sonnets celebrating love. In this uncertainty there are still some minimal points that can be made. It is most unlikely that none of the celebrations of love in the Songs and Sonnets came out of his love for Ann More.a complex. / And we said nothing all the day…”: the lovers. Most of the Elegies were almost certainly written before Donne’s marriage. up from nothing or as an imaginary alternative to a marriage he found disappointing. It is also hard to think that a poem of bitter resentment like “Love’s Alchemy” was merely a literary exercise. according to David Reid. But.

We see. (We said) and tell us what we love. Like the comparison of lovers to princes. we saw not what doth move. it was not sex. would himself undergo an alchemical spiritualizing and “part far purer than he came” (28). Donne seems to claim that desire is always driven by something else: This ecstasy doth unperplex. Donne’s analogies between love and spiritual things assert that the exchange of love between the lovers is something to be adored. these walls thy sphere. At the beginning love is in competition with the sun. Why dost thou thus. The sun might traditionally suggest warmth. “The Sun Rising” begins with the lines Busy old fool. security and order. but with Donne things are different. In what might be the first use of the word “sex” in its modern sense of carnal desire. that’s done in warming us. the love religion is at the very least a hyperbolical way of talking about love as a sovereign thing.In “The Ecstasy” the lovers are adepts in an alchemical or neo-Platonic mystery rather than a Christian one. Shine here to us. Donne may also in his high moments of desire or defiance have entertained the idea that in love he had approached the source of religion. and since thy duties be To warm the world. and through curtains call on us? and ends with the lines Thine age asks ease. This bed thy centre is. Through windows. The poet makes us aware of a kind of chaos in existence. who looked on their mutual trance and listened to its rapturous monologue. both by themselves and by the world. unruly Sun. We see by this. A voyeur. and throughout the poem there is a tension between the 154 . and thou art everywhere.

The selfconscious artifice of the closing lines of this poem serves to draw attention to the questionable nature of any ordered certainties that mankind might try to create in a bewildering world. The poem is a proof of Donne’s sense of the complex and bewildering nature of existence. running through its parallelisms and surging over its syntactic suspensions. the lovers are an ideal pattern. At the end of the poem we are left not so much with a sense of love as triumphant. as Donne would have it. comes to ring a last change on “love” sounds too splendidly assertive for parody. The religious significance given by Donne to sexual love is corroborated by yet another critical interpretation. In David Reid’s reading of “The Canonization” the Phoenix becomes more packed with riddling significance (or wit) if. like the saints and martyrs who suffered on earth for the old one. The poet puts forward himself and his lover and the love they make together as inspirational types of a new and true religion of love and. Love is the last word of every stanza and the way the prayer. a scheme of things which is summed up in the last line when their bed becomes the centre of an ordered universe. “The Canonization” defends the private world of mutual 155 . he just wants to be left alone.two. the sun is made part of the lovers’ scheme of things. The surprising juxtapositions in “The Flea”. The suggestion is that the Christian mystery of the resurrection is more truly and substantially apprehended in the lovers’ acts of love. complex nature of experience. were a faithful reflection of a society in which the traditional hierarchies of church and state were in fact in dissolution and in which people were not afraid to believe in the ultimate beneficence of a reversal of values. it is made into an emblem of the union of two lovers who together make the perfectly hermaphroditic creature the Phoenix was supposed to be and rise from death in orgasm as the Phoenix from its ashes. to devote himself to love. In “The Canonization” love is central and all the concerns of the world are dismissed. but at the end the original opposition is resolved or seen in a new light. this says that as far as love and its religion go. For Achsah Guibbory. Under the cavorting. The poet does not care for ambition. they mediate between the heaven of love and its worshippers below. as with a sense of the confusing. one of Donne’s most popular poems.

Grierson has characterized Donne’s “wit” as a corrective to the lazy thinking of the Elizabethan sonneteers. among others. H. The poem shows clear Catholic sympathies. In drawing an extended analogy between religious experience and sexual love. In the poetry as a whole.. The speaker in the poem wittily argues (with a sense of the outrageousness of some of his arguments) that he and his mistress deserve to be canonized as saints. after his wife’s death. They oppose worldly greed. 156 . a poem of 52 stanzas.love against the public world. i. whose values are represented by the ambitious. they have miraculously died and risen “the same” (line 26. in which metempsychosis allows the soul of the apple in Eden to get reincarnated in Mahomet. and yet the poem’s arguments expose the failure or inadequacy of reason either to penetrate the mysteries of faith or to assure Donne of his personal salvation. and finally their love will provide a “pattern” (line 45) for others. J. wit.e. orgasm has not diminished their vigour). and wordplay is crossed by a profound distrust of reason. as Donne examines the potential of human love to provide a redeeming grace. aware both of his own unworthiness and of God’s infinite greatness. a complex. The question as to which is the true Church is still present. Calvin and. materialistic person addressed in the opening lines. Donne’s form is the expression of a unique and intense individuality. is Donne being humorous? blasphemous? serious? Conflicting possibilities are all suggested in this poem. Queen Elizabeth. Religious tensions are conspicuous in The Progress of the Soul. to their fashioning and refashioning of the same outworn conceits. It is a symbolical history of heresy. The poet searches the right relation with eternity. they will die as martyrs in a hostile world. an obvious delight with the exercise of reason. The nineteen Holy Sonnets show the mixture of hope and anguish that characterizes the religious man searching for the right relationship with God. In so many of the holy sonnets. reason and intellect are as essential to the poem’s very existence as Donne believed they were to human nature. Donne’s Divine Poems were written mostly in the last phase of his life. each of ten lines.

pastorals. It was at this time that Marvell wrote some of his greatest poems. and did so in strikingly various literary manners. Switzerland. has an ambivalent tone. his first poem. He was a Puritan oscillating between Cromwell and the Stuarts. Equally. “An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland”. science and jurisprudence. a swift and subtle intellect. Marvell wrote devotional and love poems. He started writing poetry. In 1659 Marvell was elected member of the parliament for his home town of Hull. a post he secured in 1657. Marvell succeeded in combining true metaphysical wit with perfect classical grace to a greater degree than any other poet of the century. One effect of the classical colouring of the Ode is to open up English history. “An Horatian Ode” has been praised for civilized detachment from the passions of its time. primarily in Greek and Latin. to a possible view 157 . Spain and Italy. in 1681. a mind stored with theology. Holland. His poems were published posthumously. praising the victor and the defeated alike. satires. and the volume appealed to a taste that was already out of fashion. He wrote all of his poetry in rhyming couplets.imaginative temperament. elegies. it has been blamed for a balance that is really political inconsequence or a mask for resignation to the rule of force and willingness to accept as ruler whoever could impose order. ANDREW MARVELL Marvell (1621-1678) belongs to a different generation. and complimentary verse. during his life as a student at Cambridge University. from which he graduated in 1638. He remained in politics for over twenty years. taking part in diplomatic missions to Holland and Russia. When he returned to England he became the the tutor of the twelveyear old Mary Fairfax at her Yorkshire home. He is actually the last metaphysical poet. from 1642 to 1646 he travelled abroad to France. His friend John Milton recommended him for the position of Assistant Latin Secretary to the Council of State. with a disturbing defamiliarizing.

and. whether that was Marvell’s intention or not. but an intensely vivid account of the beheading of Charles occupies the moment “which first assur’d the forced Pow’r” and blights the triumph.of its events as governed by force or necessity. The other is Cromwell. there is a Republic insurgent. not founder of the new. In the “Horatian Ode”. In the early seventeenth century. and neither can be like Augustus. Marvell emphasizes King Charles’ dignity on the scaffold. The poem opens by characterizing the times in which Cromwell has appeared so momentously with a glance at “the forward Youth”. in which Cromwell had made himself the heroic but disturbing contemporary example. kingship is a matter of show and theatre. Marvell makes of Charles on the scaffold an image of true majesty: He nothing common did or mean Upon that memorable Scene. The poem as a whole is concerned with Cromwell’s rise. who would have to turn from love poetry and pastorals and the agreeable recreations of peace to action and war. conventional wisdom split a higher 158 . head of the old order. One is Charles. whom Cromwell’s lightning has blasted. “An Horatian Ode” calls on Roman analogies in a very confusing way. A number of Marvell’s poems are dialogues. But with his keener Eye The Axe’s edge did try. the division between body and mind. Ambition is a theme that recurs in Marvell’s poetry with surprising insistence. not one. However. It collapses in the face of the solid facts of Cromwell’s power and political craft. suggests an extraordinarily discordant state of affairs. But Roman and English Civil Wars were in fact very unlike. Cromwell fascinates Marvell’s imagination because he is a figure of towering ambition. Marvell is thinking of the ambitious young men of his generation. Instead of a Republic defeated. And there are two Caesars. that for Charles. But Marvell suggests that royalty for Charles is a matter of gesture and image. two treat the arch-division in our civilization.

an immortal part of divine origin from an animal part. Decidedly. are not particularly playful but do express the serious complaint of the Body against the Soul: What but a Soul could have the wit To build me up for Sin so fit? So Architects do square and hew. The last lines of the poem.from a lower nature. What is remarkable about Marvell’s “Dialogue between the Soul and Body” is that he does not turn the conventional hierarchy of Soul and Body upside down and take the part of the lower against the higher. for instance. Marvell’s affinity for green corresponds with his feeling for vegetation. Taking the stock metaphor of the Body as the prison of the Soul. and the Body’s resentment at the designs of the Soul imposed upon its natural flourishing comes out particularly in the word “green”. he cannot resist describing the bough on which he perches as green (“An Horatian Ode”.94). Altogether “green” occurs twenty-five times in the 1681 volume. the paradox suggests the inadequacy of the senses to take things in as they really are. Both the cruelty of the metaphor and the witty violence of the paradox that the ear drum itself deafens convey the Soul’s exasperation. 1. as drummer employed to keep the prisoner from sleep. Marvell develops the Body’s parts as tortures: the ear. Green Trees that in the forest grew. Sin is a grief of the higher consciousness troubling the Body. A thought is green in “The Garden”. the Body has not defeated the Soul and their debate is without conclusion. and that leaves out derivatives like “freeness” and synonyms like “verdant”. physical and decaying. It is not just that the Soul is distracted from spiritual things by the senses. however. green is Marvell’s favourite colour and he brings it in wherever he can. and sided overwhelmingly with the spirit. There is a green night in “Bermudas”. 159 . When he compares Cromwell to a falcon. Although Marvell’s Body has the last word and more words than the Soul.

It was first composed in Latin and then rendered into English. saying that the garden is a retreat for wearied lovers of women. that even those who disturb peace with their “industrious valour” do so to be at peace at last. Green once again is Marvell’s favourite visual image. The lovely complexion for Marvell is green. It is a poem full of imaginative intensity. describes the experience of Puritan friends in exile. 160 . The dew drop “Shuns the… blossoms green”. The trees themselves wear crowns of oak. Lovers of women adore a lovely complexion – “red and white”. The joke is not just a poetic triumph over successful men of the world. The first stage is sensual love. The poem begins in its first two stanzas mildly enough with jokes that establish garden retreat as the truly successful and civilized life. in the exotic New World. In Marvell’s view. “The Garden” has often been compared with Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind”. Stanzas III-IV more extravagantly turn the way of the world into the ways of the garden. “On a Drop of Dew” begins with the most accurate description of a dew drop on a rose and turns this picture into a symbol of the soul’s relation to earth and to Heaven. Marvell rather lets slip the pretence of dendrophilia at the beginning of stanza IV. Ordinary lovers cut their sweet-hearts’ names in the bark of the trees Marvell loves. bay and palm. Marvell makes up a tree-lover’s version of the Platonic ladder of love. It plays on the notion that the end of action is rest. a wilfully mismatching word-choice. even if Marvell meant simply to convey the flourishing of a flower he has already described as purple. which were given to victors in the ancient world. a parody of Platonic love. but he will cut only the names of the trees themselves.“Bermudas”. another poem in which Marvell’s political sympathies are obvious. to support his unsociable tastes. But he is showing what he wants to say behind his game: the green world is a solace after the disturbance of sexual passion. for there Marvell makes out that his real passion is for plants not women and invents a mock love theology. There are perhaps gentle hints of death in the “short and narrow verged Shade”. Fair Quiet and Innocence are to be found among the birds and the flowers.

“Upon Appleton House” treats divided feelings about retirement at great length. Marvell enters upon an erotically rampant garden. The second stage of Marvell’s spiritual love of the plants comes with the retreat from pleasures of physical love (“pleasures less”) to an ideal love of plants’ beauty. when country houses were the only centres left where Royalists might imagine that the feudal order held. though not without design. The poem takes on a very singular shape for its genre. “Upon Appleton House” is generally classified as a country house poem.And then in the seventh stanza. and finally by the river. “a Green thought in a green Shade”. running through an extraordinary series of Marvellesque caprices and freaks of mind. which in true Marvellesque fashion tries to enclose the world by walling it out. of a kind that became very popular in the Civil War period. Marvell descends from his ecstasy to make a misogynistic joke about the superiority of the paradisal love of plants to the love of women. a joke that at once passes the matter off lightly and points to the heart of the matter – that his feeling for the garden is a refuge from sexual love. Abstracting the essence of vegetable loveliness by “annihilating” all particulars. which excludes the Civil War and yet is drawn up in regiments of flowers. touch and entanglings imitate sexual play. grove and river and finally returns to the house. The walk around the estate takes up the theme of retreat first in its opening complimentary salute to General Fairfax and his retiring ways. combining reverie with celebration of a great house in apparently free form in a way that looks forward to Thomson’s Seasons. where fruit-bearing plants make love to him and in their taste. But Fairfax was not a Royalist. in the grove. “The Garden” ends by declaring that its amusements have been innocent: “How could such sweet and wholesome Hours / Be reckon’d but with herbs and flow’rs!” Marvell’s playfulness in “The Garden” is self-mocking and self-aware. It rambles. where he fishes. 161 . where Marvell turns to green shade again. and then in a minor ecstasy slips out of his body into the tree above. In the eighth stanza. from Appleton House to its garden. then in the episode treating the nunnery. its meadows. Marvell arrives at the idea of what moves him so. in the garden.

which is to happen just before the end of the world. death and physical extinction. the lovers will have passed “through the iron gates of life”. in Greek mythology. The suggestion is not coarse. Time. imagination and subjectivity. bizarre images. and the Bible (Noah’s Flood. Love transcends the inexorable laws of nature. the laws of decay. in mingling love and religion. It is supported by allusions to Greek mythology (Chronos). The ideal is a love that cannot be consummated. 162 . strange and high. It is a poem of emotion. Sensuality is a way of spitting in the face of his grand tormentor and foe. The poem is metaphysical in its use of shocking.Marvell is also the author of memorable love poems such as “The Definition of Love” and “To His Coy Mistress”. its consummation would mean the end of the world in a “new Convulsion”. Once the coy lady’s virginity is torn away. also bids the sun to stand still in order to lengthen his night of love with Alcmene). It cannot find a place in the world because it is too good for the world. Marvell begins with a proud account of its pedigree: My Love is of a birth as rare As ’tis. The birth canal of life and procreation is preferable to the empty vault and to the “deserts of vast eternity”. “The Definition of Love” defines love by the ideal type. it is also a poem about time. the archetype of primal wholeness and fulfilment. the conversion of the Jews. A love poem on the surface. It was begotten by despair. Upon Impossibility. for object. The poem is a proposition suggesting sexual intercourse. but sophisticated and even philosophical. “Devouring Time” can be conquered by the intensity of present passion: “Let us roll all our strength and all / Our sweetness up into one ball” is the image of the sphere. Carpe diem was a common theme with Marvell’s contemporaries. and Joshua’s order that the sun should stand still – Zeus. “To His Coy Mistress” is a masterpiece of the seventeenth century English poetry.

and more slow.” is David Reid’s rather gloomy interpretation of “To His Coy Mistress”. She is beautiful. Marvell’s coy mistress. his lifetime and all its agreeable imaginings shrink to a handful of dust in the prospect of death and deserts and vast eternity. this carpe diem poem is not really about a love relation. but about his feeling for his life in time. And in the last. almost hallucinatorily vivid fantasy about life in time than as a seduction poem. Marvell’s relation to his lovers is distant. 163 . he imagines that copulation will somehow break out of the time limits of life by violence when. In the second section. Marvell’s love poem is certainly not unusual in ignoring the fact that she has every reason to be coy in an age before reliable contraception. nor even about Marvell’s lust. The readers of the poem may. We would sit down and think which way To walk. or his coy mistress is addressed as “Lady”. however. a lady and difficult to get into bed. The tone in which the woman is addressed is unpleasant. He writes out of deprivation of contact. perhaps like a cannonball. …. choose whichever interpretation better suits their taste. is not more vaguely represented than Donne’s mistresses. My vegetable love should grow Vaster than empires. The woman is not loved or wooed. and pass our long Love’s Day. he and his love tear their “Pleasures with rough strife / Through the iron gates of life. where Donne assumes a history of intimacy and a distinct love predicament and situation of utterance. he entertains the counterfactual hypothesis that his life. like Jack’s bean-stalk. In his opinion. temperament or intellect.According to David Reid. luxuriating grossly in vegetable love. Reid has recently proposed an entirely new interpretation of “To His Coy Mistress”. In the first section. only fear of the grave. might expand to fill most of the world and its history.” “The poem works better as an anxious. His love object is “strange and high”. (…) And the violent love-making he proposes has no fondness behind it.

picture galleries. Greek and Hebrew between 1615 and 1625. Paul’s school he studied Latin. the court painter Lely. His acquaintance with the microscope and mathematics is not inelegant. mosaics. and a gentleman’s knowledge of the countryside. In order to make things strange. marble tombs and so on. He has a discerning feeling for music. domestic and foreign. architecture. of gardens and statues. to study at Christ’s College. He also wrote an oratorical essay in 164 . the geometry is genuinely analogical. JOHN MILTON Milton (1608-1674) was given a Christian humanist education from the start. Like Donne’s compasses. In his essays he attacked the scholastic philosophy and the barren disputes to which it gave rise. the theatre and masque. The other device is mathematical description. Although Marvell achieves very extravagant effects and enjoys turning the world upside-down as much as Donne. Marvell uses two analytic devices. the squint and parallel lines in “The Definition of Love” are similes not descriptions (“As Lines so Loves oblique may well / Themselves in every Angle greet”). In 1625 he moved to Cambridge.What one might call the Metaphysical urge to transcend the time limits and space limits of life in the body is certainly present in Marvell. always rendered ironically. Here he was taught to apply the classical rhetoric to the analysis of Latin and Greek prose and verse. he does not generally do so by means of far-fetched comparisons. “Had we but World enough and Time” allows him those dilations by which he can stand outside and arrive at the shortness of life. Marvell’s range of sensibility is narrow. which allows him to suppose absurdities that reflect on things he is considering. but. His poetry brings in a world of upper-class caroline culture. His classical education is obvious. at St. In “The Definition of Love” and “Eyes and Tears”. but not pedantically. The first is the fantastic hypothesis. except in “A Dialogue between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure” and “On a Drop of Dew”. so that it comes over as a psychological extravagance rather than a metaphysical passion.

The pure light of God and the music of heaven are indescribable because they are part of the state from which man.Latin on the music of the spheres. cut himself off. which is characterised by a reduction of light and sound to a bare minimum – the natural world seems respectfully to have suspended its activities. Stanzas 9 to 17 are principally concerned with the angelic choir whose celestial music symbolises the harmony and order which briefly descends upon the world with the birth of Christ. Structurally the poem is made up of three sections. a combination of brilliant colouring and mingling of realistic and symbolic details comparable with a fifteenth century Italian painting of the Nativity. influenced by Plato and Pythagoras. Other major influences include Bacon’s philosophy and the English translation of La Semaine by Guillaume du Bartas (and epic dealing with the Genesis). He began his poetic career with verse paraphrases of Psalms and Ovidian Latin elegies. It has a remarkably pictorial quality. His first original poem written in English was “Ode on the Death of a Fair Infant Dying of a Cough”. Milton does not alter the details of the Biblical account. L’Allegro describes a day in the life of a 165 . 1629 is the date of his first really important English poem. but the feature of the poem which has maintained its accredited significance is its tendency to cause the reader to think closely about the very notion of God’s incarnation. the intersection of the timeless and ineffable with the transient and fragile state of mortality. the music “was never by mortal finger struck” (stanza 9). of roughly equal length. In 1628 Milton composed a number of Petrarchan sonnets dedicated to a foreign lady named Emilia. language. Stanzas 1 to 8 describe the setting of the Nativity. The music and light which accompany the birth are described in terms of their absence and inaccessibility. The most important poems of Milton’s early phase are L’Allegro and Il Penseroso. our means of description. is about the effect of the birth upon the false deities of the pre-Christian world. They are those things which “Before was never made”. when he fell. stanzas 18 to 26. The third section. The infant was his little niece. incorporates our fallen condition. the poem was a mere literary exercise. “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”.

etc. who transports her to a partly imagined “palace”. a masque staged at the court. with detectable echoes from Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. which first appeared. the midnight lamp of a lonely student in the tower etc. It is a world of ploughmen. it is full of light and movement. After the years spent in Cambridge. near Windsor. lost in a wild wood is virtually kidnapped by Comus. mowers. It is an aristocratic entertainment composed in the Elizabethan tradition. The epigram involves an extended conceit in which Shakespeare’s writings are praised as a far more fitting and enduring tribute to his greatness than a traditional monument “in piled stones”. shepherds. The dawn is announced by the skylark’s song.cheerful man. eleven-line epigram in heroic couplets. Milton at one point suggests that his artistry was more inspired and natural than the consequence of intellectual endeavour. with the assistance of her 166 . The fact that Milton had been asked to contribute it testifies to his own growing reputation in literary London. She resists his lecherous designs and. (This intellectual atmosphere has its Romanian counterpart in Eminescu’s Scrisoarea I . This device is something of a literary commonplace. dating back to Horace’s “Exegi monumentum aere perennius” (“I have built a monument more lasting than bronze”). from Jonson. anonymously. a spirit of not-quite demonic but less than creditable status. “On Shakespeare” is a brief. describing a gloomy room. milkmaids. Fletcher. Milton settled down at Horton.) Both L’Allegro and Il Penseroso are written in the octosyllabic couplets which were first used in The Owl and the Nightingale. among the prefatory poems to Shakespeare’s Second Folio of 1632. The plot is relatively simple in that the Lady. Il Penseroso deals with a different mood. While never questioning Shakespeare’s eminence. mythological and pastoral images build up a mood of contented living. In 1634 Milton wrote Comus. agricultural labourers. the mood of contemplation and grave intellectual activity. a tribute to the memory and reputation of Shakespeare. George Peele’s The Old Wives’ Tale.

Samuel Johnson. freedom of choice and the influence of gender upon both.brothers. Lycidas concerns Milton himself. Lycidas is about Milton’s anxieties concerning the possibility of his own premature death. Lycidas is an elegy dedicated to a priest drowned in the Irish Sea. the evil is defeated by the good. Virgil’s “Eclogue X” and Theocritus’s “Idyll I”. it is deliberately impersonal in nature. Fundamentally. At its deepest level. akin perhaps to those expressed by John Keats in his sonnet “When I have fears that I may cease to be / Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain”. The dialogue is often accelerated by the use of stichomythia. According to the great eighteenth-century critic Dr. It has attained significance as one of Milton’s major. setting the scene for the audience and withdrawing to allow the principal characters and their exchanges centre stage. one of Milton’s former fellow-students at Cambridge. the poem is insincere. formative works because it subtly engages with issues that are central both to his status as poet and to more recent critical controversies. After consigning his sheep to the care of another shepherd and invoking the assistance of the muses of pastoral poetry. The theme of Comus is transparent and uncomplicated: Godgiven virtue can resist evil and corruption. escapes. then. Lycidas is a pastoral elegy. It belongs to a long-established generic tradition characterized by a number of stylistic and structural conventions which enable the reader to recognize it as an heir to such works as Spenser’s “Astrophel”. At last. In poems written within this tradition the poet typically represents himself as a shepherd mourning the death of a beloved companion whose departure has afflicted the entire natural world with grief. Moschus’s “Lament for Bion”. 167 . Milton’s reference to Orpheus’s death is meant to emphasize that only the good die young. The Attendant Spirit functions rather like the narrator in fiction. he proceeds to sing a dirge to his deceased friend in which he recalls the idyllic days they spent together in the countryside. King is but the excuse for one of Milton’s more personal poems”. Edward King is turned into the symbol of the young man of promise in any context. principally the Fall.

and the poem finally turns it into a fictional character whose values and attitudes Milton no longer necessarily shares. the first person voice is replaced by a third person narrator. is about to undergo a drastic change. 168 . The concluding stanza of Lycidas thus carries with it a set of values diametrically opposed to those associated with the pastoral as a genre or with Edward King as a character. The course of Milton’s life. With eager thought warbling his Doric lay: And now the sun had stretched out all the hills. and we are left with the sense that we have witnessed a rebirth. or vice versa. it suggests. Whereas the first 185 lines have been written in irregular stanzas modelled on the Italian canzone. and twitched his mantle blue: Tomorrow to fresh woods. While the still morn went out with sandals grey. For Milton’s unexpected introduction of a third-person narrator at the end of a first-person poem violates one of the oldest and most fundamental conventions governing a writer’s relationship with his reader: the implicit understanding that the genre of the work will remain constant. This is one of the most extraordinary moments in English poetry. and pastures new. Thus sang the uncouth swain to the oaks and rills. that a play will not turn into an epic half-way through. the concluding eight lines are in ottava rima. It is as if the self of a dream had suddenly awakened into the self of everyday reality. He touched the tender stops of various quills. The elegy and the swain who sang it recede into the distance. the major vehicle of the sixteenth-century romantic epic. the ottava rima naturally invokes the turbulent world of heroic action and romantic love. At last he rose.As the poem proceeds. And now was dropped into the western bay. As the verse form in which the amorous and military conquests of Roland and Godfrey had been celebrated. the stanza of Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata and Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso.

In 1638 Milton started on his fifteen-month travel to Europe. dictated!) soon after the Great Plague had forced him to leave London. it did. And rather than fulfilling his poetic ambitions. the last of which was titled Adam Unparadized. he devoted the next twenty years of his life to establishing himself as one of the principal public champions of the Puritan and Parliamentarian cause. Not until the dying days of the Commonwealth when he was almost sixty would Milton reassume that part of his identity which he had discarded at the end of Lycidas. It was first conceived as a drama. a moment of contact between cultures comparable with the Italian journeys of Erasmus and Goethe. she came back to her husband in 1645.e. For the fact is that. he soon married Mary Powell. His own experience made him write some essays defending the idea of divorce. His travel to Italy is considered to be one of the great Wanderjahre of literary history. Milton travelled extensively in France and Italy and shortly afterwards plunged into public life in London. His successor in office was Andrew Marvell. “Methought I saw my late espoused saint”. of course. to put her royalist family under his protection. Paradise Lost is a poetic rendering of the story of the Fall in such a way as to illuminate some of the central paradoxes of the 169 . Milton’s blind years were to be the years of his greatest literary achievements. Milton completely lost his sight while working as Latin secretary to the parliamentary committee for foreign affairs. The poem was published in 1667. treatises and essays. Lycidas is the last poem Milton wrote in English for the next twenty years. Rather than remaining in the cloistered calm of Horton. was written (i. Between 1642 and 1652 Milton wrote mainly pamphlets. designed between 1663 and 1665. a crucial year in his biography. Rather than remaining chaste. In 1652. • Paradise Lost. During the next ten years Milton produced no important literary piece of work except his memorable Sonnet 23 (1658) dedicated to his dead second wife. In 1642 Milton got married only to be left by his wife three weeks later. it had four successive drafts.And so. Lycidas is thus a pivotal work in Milton’s career. then as an epic. with the exception of a few sonnets.

classical. and Our familiar world. speaking of the genres illustrated by Paradise Lost. The plot develops on four great theatres of action: Heaven. and epithalamium (wedding song). stories of all kinds. and scenes of light georgic gardening activity. love lyrics (aubade. medieval romance. Renaissance. psalmic hymns of praise and thanks-giving. pastoral scenes and eclogue-like passages presenting the otium (ease. Paradise Lost shows Milton as a Christian Humanist using all the sources of the European literary tradition that had come down to him – biblical. Milton’s synthesis is more successful than Spenser’s because he places his different kinds of knowledge in a logical hierarchy. geographical imagery deriving from Milton’s own fascination with the books of travel. Milton’s subject was the failure of humankind to live according to divine order and its slow but providential deliverance from the consequences of the Fall. Also. Jewish and Christian learning make up this great synthesis of Western culture. and never mingles.) Barbara Kiefer Lewalski. sonnet). contentment) of heaven and unfallen Eden.human situation and to illustrate the tragic ambiguity of man as a moral being. biblical history and doctrine. The myth with which he chose to deal. was. allusions to myths. Imagery from classical fable. The cosmic scenery of the epic and the world of ordinary men in their dayto-day activities are linked by means of epic similes. it is also an encyclopaedia of literary forms. as Spenser often does. like many other parallel myths and folk-tales. and in which he believed literally. The panoply of forms includes pastoral: landscape descriptions of Arcadian vistas. Hell. medieval. classical myth and biblical story on equal terms. (The description of Eden in Book IV is a fine example of Milton’s use of pagan classical imagery for a clearly defined Christian purpose. an exploration of the 170 . nocturne. Milton uses the blank verse and the verse paragraph. laments and complaints. considers it to be an epic whose closest structural affinities are to Virgil’s Aeneid. Eden. In Andrews Sanders’s interpretation. several kinds of lyrics embedded in the epic have received some critical attention: celebratory odes. submerged sonnets. legends.

Paradise Lost insistently attempts to assert to a reader the ultimate justness of a loving God’s “Eternal Providence”. We can almost sympathise with the rebels. The central “character”. forlorn and wild”.moral consequences of disobedience. the spiritual struggle to regain Paradisal equity and equability extends through each generation of their descendants. Despite the temptation presented by the poem itself to see the rebellion of Satan as a heroic gesture of liberation and the Fall of Adam as a species of gallantry towards his wife. and Eve’s corruption all humankind is corrupted and. Book I shows us the fallen angels in Hell beginning to recover from their defeat. Adam. as both are finally obliged to understand. how Satan evolved and perfected his scheme to mar Creation. Through his. but none the less this is someone who leads. of course. Satan’s speeches are magnificent and they prove that Milton had grown suspicious of rhetoric as the art of persuasion. Milton describes ideal nature. In a profound sense Adam and Eve fall from the ideal into the human condition. 171 . The will of God is imprinted in the harmony of nature. These speeches represent the attractiveness of plausible evil. He is. and how God’s promise of redemption will be realized. In vastly elaborating the bald account of Adam’s Fall in the Book of Genesis. speaks to and inspires his forces in terms we can understand. A fairly favourable image of Satan comes across from the lines. Satan rallies the fallen angels after their defeat by God and declares that he will fight against God in every possible way. and there is not only energy but also a kind of bravery in Satan’s words as he refuses to accept defeat. The opening sentence of the poem is sixteen lines long. the incarnation of evil and entirely motivated by hate. and in a way his words graphically reveal such shortcomings. which is neither purely decorative. The discovery of the knowledge of good and evil is neither accidental nor happy. has no heroic destiny. nor solidly grounded in reality. who have been flung into a “dreary plain. Milton extends his viewpoint beyond the acts of Creation and Eden to an imaginative history of how the peccant angels fell from Heaven. and the disaster of the Fall is as much ecological as it is moral. The great theme of the poem is obedience to the behests implicit in the creative order of an omnipotent God.

Macbeth’s toward his won Oedipal ambition. dignified and heroic. like the Freudian account of primal ambivalence. Mingled and equal affects of love and hatred simultaneously flow back and forth drowning the unhappy ego. that which is above the “I”. In another sense of the tragic. though we behold Adam and Eve before. His most impressive heroic terms are just meaningless language. Paradise Lost is the tragedy of Eve and Adam. is the essence of all relationships between the superego. and after the fall. who is granted more of a Shakespearian inner self. though it declines to show us Lucifer. but by making his words specious. who. 172 . himself most of all. have their inevitably Shakespearian qualities and yet seem somewhat less persuasive representations than Satan. chief of the stars that will fall. Satan can appear as heroic. and obviously prefers freedom in hell to servitude in heaven. In Book II Satan displays traces of true heroism. but within these few lines has shifted from this general concern for all his followers and is merely concerned with his own position as the leader who will “reign in hell”. lightbearer and son of the morning. below the “I”. at the very moment of. In Harold Bloom’s opinion. Bloom contends that the Miltonic representation of Satan’s ambivalence toward God. it is the tragedy of the fall of Lucifer into Satan. We see only the fallen Satan. and Hamlet’s toward everything and everyone. like Satan. As William Blake shrewdly said. “Milton was of the devil’s party without knowing it”. Paradise Lost is magnificent because it is persuasively tragic as well as epic. but they can also be judged as empty bombast. The same double-sided quality is also apparent in the very sound and texture of his words: his words can appear elevated. is wholly Shakespearian. and yet a self frustrating spite is his dominant emotion.In his speech Satan talks of freedom. in its Freudian definition. and the id or “it”. Yet his words can also be viewed from another perspective: he begins by talking about how “We shall be free”. At times the manner of his speech almost resembles a salesman’s clever play with words. founded upon Iago’s ambivalence toward Othello. Ambivalence. Milton can simultaneously show the hollowness of everything Satan represents.

The a priori idea of justice to be done. Books V and VI present Raphael’s account of the war in Heaven. In Book VIII Adam tells Raphael of his own experience after his creation. He opposes this attitude to perpetual celibacy and the courtly love tradition. In Book IX Milton lingers on the final moment before the temptation scene. the Psalms. but also credulity. Book IV presents Satan’s arrival in Eden. Defaced. while conventional attitudes to sex are Puritan. good. Book of Job. divine. how hast thou yielded to transgress The strict forbiddance. we see Adam deciding what to do. especially Eve’s. and hence the episode of the temptation. Holy. how to violate The sacred fruit forbidden! Some cursed fraud 173 . Book VII presents Raphael’s account of the creation (with imagery borrowed from Genesis. a paradox reminding us of Othello’s trusting Iago. She then tells Adam the truth. and Plato). is inconsistent. With Milton. The Garden of Eden is opposed to the Garden of the Rose tradition. last and best Of all God’s works. and now to death devote! Rather. In this following extract. of a scapegoat. till thus at length First to himself he inward silence broke: “O fairest of Creation. deflowered. whose effort is compared to the speech “of some orator renowned / In Athens or free Rome”. Eve tastes the forbidden fruit. In Book V Milton emphasizes the beauty of prelapsarian simplicity. Eve is fooled by the cunning serpent. the conventional notions of heroism turn out to be diabolical. Eve’s sin is disobedience. whether to be loyal to God or whether to stay with and support Eve: Speechless he stood and pale. Creature in whom excelled Whatever can to sight or thought be formed. amiable. he is fascinated by innocent nakedness. or sweet! How art thou lost! how on a sudden lost.Book III is the least effective part of the poem because of God’s continuous need of logically justifying the necessity of punishment.

or says he feels. for with thee Certain my resolution is to die: How can I live without thee! how forego Thy sweet converse. no! I feel The link of Nature draw me: flesh of flesh. and love so dearly joined. disillusion. yet “little inferior” to heavenly spirits – and feels. prayer and repentance. To live again in these wild woods forlorn! Should God create another Eve. bitterness and. The heroes’ fall is followed by shame. this particular moment in the poem justifies the ways of men to God as it shows that. and could love. so lively shines In them Divine resemblance. an inclination to love them. for Adam.” In a poem that is so often cosmic in its range of reference and so often convoluted in its sentences. insists on Satan’s depth psychology and points out that he. in a poem that sets out to justify the ways of God to men. When Satan first sets eyes on Adam and Eve in Eden he is stricken with wonder at the human pair – not spirits. finally. there is something strikingly beautiful in the plain simplicity of a line such as “How can I live without thee…” It could even be argued that. And me with thee hath ruined. They are creatures whom my thoughts pursue With wonder. Bone of my bone thou art. bliss or woe. and from thy state Mine never shall be parted. he perceives. too. yet unknown. and I Another rib afford. (IV.Of enemy hath beguiled thee. is capable of human emotions. human love is more important than divine love.362-4) 174 . In recent times. guilt. yet loss of thee Would never from my heart: no. John Carey. for instance. critics have reinterpreted the traditionally negative character of Satan.

how could they have been expected to avoid evil? If God knew they were going to be tempted. was Adam’s fall inevitable? If they were ignorant of good and evil. Of guile. This could be seen as making him either more. Beauty and delight are his natural element. is to love. Hatred is an effort of his will. could he not have forewarned them? Why would the serpent have wanted to have Adam and Eve disobey God anyhow? These and many other questions which Genesis leaves in the background are brought by Milton’s detailed narrative into the 175 . He is deprived of his “fierce intent” as he watches her. Satan is so enraptured by her beauty that he becomes momentarily good (9. Cain’s murder is mentioned. Dennis Danielson draws the readers’ attention to the way in which Milton focuses on a whole series of questions about the Fall story: how can we talk about the Fall when there really were two falls. of envy. “abstracted” from his own evil: and for the time remained Stupidly good. Among others things.Satan’s reason for feeling he could love Adam and Eve – that they look so like God – naturally surprises the reader. Book X shows Michael narrating the future history of the world to Adam. sympathetic. as we have been led to suppose it is God Satan hates. to face a world of work and endeavour. (IX. of revenge. of hate. and mutual help.460-79). Adam and Eve leave their former Paradise with quiet confidence. The newly established procession of the seasons and the idea of labour give meaning and dignity to human life. or less. when caught unawares. Adam’s and Eve’s? How can we talk about Adam being tempted by Satan when Satan tempted only Eve? What motivations operated in each of their falls? How did it come about that they were tempted separately? Was Eve’s fall inevitable? Once Eve had fallen.464-6) The passage seems to indicate that Satan’s natural tendency. of enmity disarmed. When he sees Eve in Eden.

political combativeness as well as sweet compliance. presents the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. Virgilian epic. sensuous. moral searching as well as artistic creativity. honour as well as charm. and fitness for “all rational delight” and in his celebration of erotic bliss in the morning of Creation. more careful of their resonances. certainly not incapacity. not excusing her sin on any grounds. and he talks about “elephants endorsed with towers” instead of “elephants with towers on their back”. a poem in four books. and Biblical prophecy. Anthony Burgess contends that Milton created a highly artificial language and blank verse. a passionate. a participant in numerous kinds of conversation including political debate. Jesus has 176 . and pure erotic partner. He was radical in his insistence on women’s spiritual completeness. Milton would be very unhappy that Paradise Lost now reads like the most powerful science-fiction (…) what makes Paradise Lost unique is its startling blend of Shakespearian tragedy. and a capacity for repentance and forgiveness as well as rash default. Unlike Eve. he inverts the order of words. like a Latin author. raises her immeasurably above other Eves of art and story. He was probably more serious about the relations of the sexes. as Diane K. sanctitude as well as radiant looks and graceful gestures. indeed the Protestant poet. a spontaneous composer of exquisite lyric and narrative poetry. Paradise Regained (1671). In Book I. asperity as well as gentleness. McColley has put it. Says Harold Bloom: “As a Protestant prophet. like Latin sentences. but portraying her as a person of delightful mind as well as beautiful form. His loving portrait of Eve. responsibility.” The “woman question” in Milton will never be decided. good poems never end. However. Perhaps no one else has depicted sexual happiness at once so lavishly and so purely. the subject of the poem obviously justifies such a poetic diction. Milton was radical in making Eve an ardent caretaker of the natural world. Satan first appears in the likeness of an “aged man in rural weeds”. His sentences are long. and more hopeful of their happiness and holiness than any other poet of his or perhaps any other time. and the leader in peacemaking after the Fall.foreground where their answers can be inspected for both literary and doctrinal coherence.

while Christ’s language is quiet. When Satan comes to the contest with him.the advantage of knowing who Satan is. Jesus. after forty days in the wilderness. he enunciates the true meaning of messiahship by his truer hermeneutic. to oratory. he comes straight from a council of the fallen angels called after the baptism. glory and power. What he knows of himself is what has been revealed in the Old Testament. who apparently has read through the Hebrew Bible with an inquiring but cold eye. In Book IV Satan evokes the civilization of Greece and Rome. Satan. 177 . The banquet scene is a Miltonic invention. precise. makes an adversarial or ironic use of scriptural quotations. Satan resorts to rhetoric. riches and sensuality. Jesus replies with an inspired reading of scriptural quotations to defeat Satan’s strategy. newly baptized in the Jordan. Jesus rejects public life. Jesus for the first time is conscious of hunger as he prepares to sleep.85). Milton constructs a dramatic conflict by opposing to Satan’s literal but worldly reading of the biblical theme of messiahship an evolving higher reading of the theme by the Son. seeking to persuade the Son that they define the Messiah as an earthly king. Satan takes advantage of Jesus’s drama to bring on the banquet that concludes the temptation to appetite. after Mary has told him how at his birth the angels proclaimed him Messiah. “This is my son beloved. at which he reported that when Jesus rose out of the Jordan a voice from heaven was heard to say. Private life is identified with virtue. he not only eludes entrapment. walks out into the desert in deep thought. in Book II of Paradise regained. At the beginning of the poem. not suggested by any of the Gospels. reviewing the course of his life. Book II deals with temptation through luxury. In Paradise Regained Satan quotes Scripture in his own cause and the Son responds with interpretations that wrest Scripture back from him again. for on that basis Jesus might betray the spiritual values in Holy Writ. in him am pleased” (I. Book III presents temptation through fame. He recollects his first delighted boyhood reading in Scripture and then a further reading. Having rejected the first temptation to turn stones into bread.

He was betrayed by his wife Delilah. Samson Agonistes (1671). The opening 330 lines are an exchange between Samson and the “Chorus of Danites” which inform us of his past and current state. the story of Samson is located principally in the Old Testament. In the Bible. a military hero of the Jewish people (the Chorus is comprised of lamenting Jews). Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound and Sophocles’s Oedipus at Colonus both have tragic-heroic figures respectively imprisoned and blinded. Manoa (332). monologues. next he was blinded and cast into imprisonment and slavery. The exchange between Samson and the Chorus is interrupted by the arrival of his father. as a result. all those details make up a dramatic poem. Dialogues. was. Manoa proposes that a ransom be paid to secure his release (483) (this is Milton’s invention and not the part of the biblical account). Milton makes her his wife. Samson responds that. his condition and his future. He betrayed the secret of his strength to his wife. The myth. He feels that he deserves his humiliating plight. specifically Judges XII-XVI. the final reported account of the hero’s death in pulling down the temple. Milton’s last great poem. Along with the biblical legend. etc. 178 . the biblical Samson is presented as a folklorish giant with no special claim to intellect while Milton’s figure continually reflects upon and scrutinises his past. the Philistines. not because of love but because he responded vainly to her flattery and was willingly entrapped by her physical charms (521-40). Its psychological conflict is reminiscent of the “psychomachia” tradition (see the morality plays.The poem is dramatic rather than epic. presumably to emphasise the intensity of their relationship. Delilah is Samson’s mistress. with a number of changes. while the suggestion is tempting. he is aware that his punishment is just. or rather. They. Milton’s dramatic poem generally follows the biblical account. Also. Marlowe’s Faustus. He is. comments by the chorus.). dramatizes a biblical episode taking Aeschylus’s Prometheus Unbound and Oedipus at Colonus as models. captured him and cut off the hair upon which his God-given strength depended. who belonged to the tribe with whom the Jews were at war.

928-50). of the purest individual freedom within the confines of history. Milton again attacks the courtly love tradition. Milton’s work stands as one of the ever greatest achievements of English poetry. lover. He departs with the Officer (1426) and the poem ends with the Chorus and Manoa being informed by a Messenger from the court of what has happened (1596-1660): Samson has rooted up the two pillars which supported the building in which he was supposed to perform. paradise. who supports his father’s proposal. The third visitor is Harapha (1076). The blind Milton has been identified with the blind Samson. the drama shows us a familiar world: of family (parent.His next visitor is Delilah herself (724). her crime is still more unpardonable (819-42. Samson replies that. according to which the man was regarded as “love’s prisoner”. bringing down the roof and killing himself and the assembled dignitaries. political). and seeks his forgiveness in return for the alleviation of his sufferings (733-818). who comes to mock and taunt him. societal. Finally. of friendship (colleagues. while he cannot pardon himself. Samuel Johnson. of betrayal and abandonment. It is the world of personal discovery and of commitment to an individual life’s meaning. Samson is not constructed nor held up as an exemplar for reader to emulate. of exhilaration in the achievement of goals against the odds. an Officer from the Philistine court arrives (1308) and summons Samson to perform feats of strength before them. Samson resists Harapha’s verbal assaults with discourses that emphasise his own sense of tragic certainty. wife). of personal failure and despair. of conventional beliefs and values (religious. of liberation. such as Voltaire or Dr. Bennett argues. Despite the voices of several famous detractors. In place of heaven. as a tragic hero. of the struggle for religious faith. countrymen). or even the wilderness. As Joan S. 871-902. 179 . of deep guilt. of glimpses of human intersection with the divine. hell. Strengthened by his exchanges with his father and Delilah. and Harapha departs “somewhat crestfallen”. the Philistine giant.

a prosodic pattern previously employed by William Davenant and George Etheredge. imparting to dialogue a didactic rather than dramatic colouring. Neander being one of the three characters participating in the debate. Later on he started writing tragicomedies in heroic couplets. Elizabethan and Restoration plays. Racine and. theorist. • Dryden the Dramatist is the author of about 30 plays. It is written in the form of a debate on the nature of poetic drama and the respective merits of classical. Their plot has an exotic setting and they are written in heroic couplets because they follow and imitate Ariosto’s heroic romance with its supermen and superwomen. if well ordered”. He wrote his early comedies in prose mingled with rare instances of blank verse. modern French. Dryden’s own views are expressed via Neander’s cues. Samuel Johnson. They are characterized by an exaggerated fancy in the realm of certain emotions and an exuberant use of 180 . It ended up in conventionalism and artificiality. He was a prose writer. being much praised by Dr.JOHN DRYDEN After Ben Jonson and William Davenant. dramatist and poet. especially. a play is “a just and lively image of human nature. Dryden (1631-1700) was the third poet laureate of English letters. translator. essayist. he was deeply influenced by the French theatre. Although the least original of all great English poets. In Dryden’s opinion. shutting up the sense within fixed limits. for the delight and instruction of mankind”. representing its passions and humours and the changes of fortunes to which it is subject. As a playwright. he praises the “variety and copiousness” of the English plays as opposed to the “barrenness of the French plots” and defends “variety. Dryden became an influential model for the eighteenth century. This did not prove to be a very happy idea. Hardy. Dryden defends the English plays against the French ones: liveliness is better than cold formality. because it tended to operate against rather than in favour of theatrical illusion. Dryden then started writing his so-called heroic plays. by Corneille. • Dryden the Theorist is mostly remembered for his Essay of Dramatic Poesie (1668).

honour. amid incidents which are as extravagant as their emotions. Dryden’s work as a dramatist purified and clarified his own style by teaching him precision in the use of words. combining Jonsonian humours. Dryden also refashioned and rewrote Shakespeare’s plays The Tempest (with Davenant). today regarded as a fact of literary history. Dryden’s Troilus and Cressida is subtitled Truth Found Too Late. The Indian Queen. wit and immorality. The Indian Emperor or The Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards best illustrate Dryden’s ludicrous heroic tragedies. marriage. Aureng Zebe. Dryden was bitterly attacked and mocked in Buckingham’s famous burlesque The Rehearsal (1670). a lack of any notion of verisimilitude. a comedy of manners modelled on the Spanish comedies of intrigue. In and by drama he learnt the art of political oratory and debate. Dryden as a dramatist is mostly remembered for his Marriage à la Mode. Troilus and Cressida and Antony and Cleopatra. The heroic play is designed to celebrate heroic virtues such as valour and love. Dryden’s lack of originality made him borrow subjects from Madeleine de Scudéry (famous for her Le Grand Cyrus) and her brother Georges. The Conquest of Granada. virtue and society in a situation in which A’s wife is B’s mistress and B’s fiancée is A’s mistress. thus simplifying the heroes’ psychology. It presents the implications of the Restoration attitude to sex. The epilogue to The Conquest of Granada declares Dryden superior to all his predecessors in wit and power of diction. Cressida remains faithful to Troilus and she prefers rather to commit suicide than to betray her love. and later he was to make superb use of the heroic couplet in his satirical poems. Dryden’s version of the latter is titled All for Love. Their characters are placed in almost impossible situations. all these conventions and the monotonous use of rhyme result in what we call rant. They are brilliant baroque artefacts. The theme of Shakespeare’s play is narrowed down to and concentrated on the conflict between love and honour.language. 181 . The didactic tone of the play is enhanced by Dryden’s royalist sympathies and Ulysses closes the play with a less than subtle advice: “Let subjects learn obedience to their kings”.

In the poem it is the King’s policies that serve to defeat the Dutch in war and the King’s prayers that persuade Heaven to quell the flames. one designed to please friends by advancing their cause and to provoke enemies by ridiculing theirs. The political satire is veiled under the transparent guise of one of the most familiar episodes of the Old Testament. It is made up of 304 quatrains in alternate rhymes. part a defence of royal prerogative. part a regretful denunciation. Shaftesbury / Achitophel is cast as the Satanic tempter of the honourably gullible Monmouth / Absalom. a disease affecting the body politic. is structured around a series of vivid arguments and apologies. It is presented as a second Restoration with the 182 . David stands for Charles II and Achitophel is Shaftesbury. in the vein of Lucian’s Dialogues or Erasmus’s Encomium Moriae. It is a party poem. he wrote in his preliminary declaration to his reader. It is the account of the “wonderful year” which came to know a four-day naval battle with the Dutch and the Great Fire of London. Absalom and Achitophel. he holds out the prospect of personal glory and public salvation. In Dryden’s satire Absalom points to Monmouth. It is a satire mixing serious intent with pleasant manner. the satirist himself is a physician prescribing “harsh Remedies to an inveterate Disease”. “is the amendment of Vices by correction”. Monmouth’s supporter and adviser.• Dryden the Poet was appointed poet laureate (in succession to Davenant) in 1668. The poem. The mood of the poem is patriotic and encomiastic. It closes with a reasoned affirmation of intent from the “Godlike” David. the king’s natural son. he was also appointed historiographer royal after he had published Annus Mirabilis (1667). has relatively little “plot” in the strict sense of the term. namely Absalom’s rebellion against David at Achitophel’s urge. and he flatters the young man with perverted biblical images pregnant with a sense of a divine mission. “The true end of Satyre”. In 1681 Dryden wrote his best work. part a restatement of an ideal of constitutional balance. as Andrew Sanders observes. In 1679 Dryden was brutally assaulted by the Earl of Rochester’s hirelings for supposedly being involved in the composition of an anti-Rochester pamphlet.

In 1686 he became a Roman Catholic. written at the King’s suggestion. In the preface of Religio Laici Dryden describes himself as one who is “naturally inclin’d to Scepticism in Philosophy” though one inclined to submit his theological opinions “to my Mother Church”. Presbyterians as wolves. Dryden’s enemies (Buckingham among others) are ridiculed with sarcasm. It is a fable. is a short satirical poem against Thomas Shadwell. Its striking opening image of human reason as a dim moon lighting the benighted soul is developed into an attack on those Deists who reject the Scripturally based teachings of Christianity. written after his reception into the Roman Catholic Church in 1685. Romans as hinds. was another attack directed against Shaftesbury’s hypocrisy. It is a wordy and unworthy tribute to his new-found religious security. who wanted to know where in the matter of religion he stood. The Hind and the Panther is Dryden’s longest production in verse. and Papists and it blends within the form of a verse-epistle theological proposition with satirical exposition. the poem was to lead up to the trial and conviction of the rebel. an allegorical defence of James II’s attempts to achieve official toleration for Catholics in a predominantly Anglican culture and an attempt to prove the validity of Catholic claims to universal authority. One of history’s many ironies is that in 1688. The poem sees the Church of England as serenely fostering “Common quiet” in the face of attacks from Deists. and 183 . but it ultimately begs the vital question of religious authority. The Medal (1682). The satirical narrative is not complete. As it proceeds. the poem also attempts to demolish both Roman Catholic claims to infallible omniscience and the Puritan faith in individual inspiration. King William and Queen Mary appointed Shadwell poet laureate long before Dryden’s death. Religio Laici (1683) is a poem summing up Dryden’s views. written in the same year. by an assenting God and a thundering firmament. in late baroque pictorial fashion. Dissenters. It takes the form of a beast fable in which Quakers appear as hares. It is a purely personal satire in motive and design. anticipating Pope’s personal attacks in The Dunciad. Mac Flecknoe.King’s position approved. on their accession to the throne of England. Shaftesbury’s literary supporter.

This period was characterized by neoclassical attitudes in poetry and prose. with the animals indulging in theological controversy and Biblical criticism. It is obliged to resort to the absurdity of a good natured conversation about the mysteries of religion in which a hind actually attempts to persuade a panther. Dryden published the complete translation of Persius and Juvenal as well as Vergil’s Georgics and Aeneis. Allegorical only in its mise en scéne and list of characters. conversational ease. urbanity. An Ode. represented by aristocratic courtliness. in an attempt to placate the king. and Alexander’s Feast. two late lyric poems – A Song for St Cecilia’s Day. THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY POETRY Literary historians usually divide the span of the eighteenth century into three major periods: 1) The early eighteenth century or the age of Swift and Pope. or The British Worthy (1691). restraint and dignity. • Dryden the Translator was a hard-working man who had to earn his living by translating classical poets. No longer a favourite court-poet. gentility. critical spirit and rationalism. the year of Dryden’s death. in Honour of St Cecilia’s Day (1697) – proved of particularly fruitful impact on the eighteenth century. Pan. and to the incongruity of casting the Christian God as the nature god. or the Power fo Musique. the poem lacks verisimilitude. The Trojan hero on the title-page of the latter volume resembled King William’s face with his hooked nose. to 1744-1745. 184 . Both poems contributed to the fashion for the irregular stanzas and verse paragraphs of the “Cowleyan” Ode. Dryden could not go beyond the limits of being an imitator himself. symmetry. a taste for general effects. Apart from his translations and his libretto for Henry Purcell’s extravagant “Dramatick Opera” King Arthur. lasting from 1700. the years when Pope and Swift died. Dryden also translated Ovid’s Metamorphoses and fragments from Homer’s Iliad (without Chapman’s excellence). A critic of imitators and plagiaries (see his opinion on Jonson).Anglicans as panthers. 1687. artifice.

between 1789 and 1800. Because his family was Catholic he could not attend public schools or go to university. like Longinus. More recent approaches no longer tackle the eighteenth century poetry as two distinct. The meaning of Nature differs from one author to another. It was characterized by both a survival of classicism and a romantic revolt against old traditions. the only son of a cloth merchant. the year of the French Revolution. The Augustan neo-classicists were adepts of the principle according to which Art mirrors Nature. lasting from 1744-1745 to 1789. Therefore. which left him deformed and sickly for the rest of his life. imitating Nature means revealing the eternal truth residing in various individual manifestations of man. From a very early age he showed a gift for writing. There is also a tendency of reassessing the classical poets’ indebtedness to ancient models. opposing neoclassical rationalism to pre-romantic sentimentalism. 3) The late eighteenth century or the beginnings of Romanticism. ALEXANDER POPE Alexander Pope (1688-1744) was born in London. so he was largely self-educated. It also implies a constant quest for harmony in life and art. Longinus. Pope believed that order must be accompanied by creative genius. the famous author of On the Sublime. the latter was the most fashionable. a period characterized by an accentuation of sentimental and melodramatic elements. separate trends.2) The mid-eighteenth century or the age of Samuel Johnson. that their works abound in references to Homer and Horace. wherein the microcosm of this mechanical order is represented by man. but it is generally interpreted as the Universe governed by laws. At the age of twelve he suffered from tuberculosis of the bone. It is true. 185 . was frequently referred to as well: he was one of Alexander Pope’s favourite authors. most translated and retranslated ancient author of the Augustan age. indeed. hence Nature must be followed and imitated in their works.

186 . that Nature is the best guide of the judgement. thus. Pope was writing in the aftermath of a long period of war.” The whole poem remains similarly accessible even as it explores complex issues. The poem is not important for its originality. the doctrine of mimesis. in which he tries to explain the history of literary criticism. Pope wrote Windsor-Forest (1713) shortly before The Peace Treaty was signed in the wake of the seven-year War of Spanish Succession. The poem opens in a casual way: “’Tis hard to say. The line too labours. the reason why English poetry has developed the way it has. The poem’s optimistic vision of a new Pax Britannicum is qualified by a sense of the unending nature of human aggression. some rock’s vast weight to throw. less worth reading for its general ideas than for its illustrations of them. It summarizes the literary doctrines accepted by the best. practical rural advance and solitary meditation. Pope tells us that to read poetry for the sound not for the sense is like going to church not for the doctrine but for the music. patriotic emotion. in an age of intense nationalism.Alexander Pope. which can be redirected. but never eradicated. and the relationship between writing and reading. Part of the poem’s accomplishment is in the very ease and friendliness with which it approaches complexity. It partly echoes Virgil’s Georgics in the fluidity of its structure: it moves between passages of natural description. One of Pope’s most demanding poems is Essay on Criticism (1711). The sound must seem an echo to the sense (…) When Ajax strives. The poem is written in celebration of peace. It is. if greater Want or Skill / Appear in Writing or in Judging ill. Like Virgil. the most cultivated minds of the age. every thought in it is a commonplace. that the poet must be skilful in his choice of words: ’Tis not enough no harshness gives offence. the most important English neoclassicist poet of the eighteenth century started his literary career by imitating Chaucer and the ancients. and the words move slow. The poem soberly acknowledges that the achievements of civilization are founded in past bloodshed. the importance of the classics.

James’s Palace and Westminster. is represented as a struggle over cultural territory. The Dunciad is finally as much a celebration of metropolitan energy as it is a critique of it”. In The Dunciad of 1728-29. The structure of the poem presents a picture of man in relation to his universe. to the God created chain of being. The opening lines of The Dunciad and the footnote through which Pope satirizes the scholarly endeavours of journeymaneditors might illustrate. Hammond draws the paradoxical conclusion that “however powerful Pope’s indictment of popular culture. hacks.Christine Gerrard argues that in writing this poem. Pope developed a dark vision of the literary marketplace as a barbarian invasion of the precincts of elite culture. 187 . Colley Cibber. Pope’s famous line “The proper study of mankind is man” sums up this view. up to Hockley in the Hole and Bedlam in the north and northeast. and those who wish to prevent their infiltration into respectable vicinities. however successful his representation of Colley Cibber the playwright. Pope creates a fiction according to which London has developed a mad. and irrational culture such as the Dunciad’s new “hero”. James’s Park and John Denham’s Cooper’s Hill. It expresses the rationalistic and deistic trends of an age in which man was placed in the centre of the Universe. actor. and back down to Billingsgate on the eastern Thames”. and theatrical impresario as a symbol of marketed. popular. in Brean Hammond’s opinion. Pope also drew heavily on the seventeenth-century royalist topographic poem – Edmund Waller’s On St. as the “Smithfield muses” migrate westward toward St. An Essay on Man (1733-1734) summarizes philosophical speculations of the age. the struggle between the purveyors of lowbrow. militant and mercenary publishing industry whose collective endeavours will put out the lights of civilization. and with greater intensity in the revised and enlarged work of 1742-43. and dunces in a rectangle of London bounded by Covent Garden and St. In maturity. ‘a mighty maze! but not without a plan’. Mary le Strand in the west. One part of the city of London is set against another. degraded entertainment. “Pope’s creation of a geographical myth that locates an army of scribblers.

emotions and his nature. His conclusion is that virtue alone can lead to happiness. (II) his individuality and (III) society. and the faculty by which he can understand his true position in Nature. It mimics and parodies the title of Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece. Pope is mostly remembered for his mock-heroic poem The Rape of the Lock (1712). The very title of the poem establishes the opposition between the trivial subject-matter and the elevated language. George S. Parody may be defined as a clash between form and content. weaknesses. In Epistle IV. Fraser has pointed out that An Essay on Man is a theodicy.The poem is made up of four epistles. Epistle II is concerned with Man’s abilities. only parodies of what is either highly regarded or highly popular can ever work. Satire is made up of two elements: wit or humour and object of attack. The aim of a satire is to ridicule and to criticize contemptible persons or facts. The poem combines the features of satire with those of parody. Today. Pope also distinguished himself as a capable translator of Homer’s epics and as a less competent editor of Shakespeare’s work. Parody as a mixture of “reverence and irreverence” depends on recognition and 188 . between Pope’s poem and Dryden’s Religio Laici). (A parallel might be drawn. the “high” style to be employed. a work that takes it for granted that there is a God. having considered Man in relation to (I) the Universe. It brings into focus a grotesque incident: it tells the story of Lord Petre. Pope’s reply was The Dunciad. the poet turns to a study of Man in terms of happiness. Man is depicted as involved in a moral conflict between Reason and Passion. who stole away a lock from the hair of the beautiful Arabella Fermor. When Lewis Theobald promptly attacked him in his Shakespeare Restored. at once powerful and benevolent. Epistle I praises Reason as the particular attribute that separates Man from other animals. a satire on literary hacks which established Pope as one of the most venomously witty writers in literature. According to Linda Hutcheon. in this respect. Epistle III presents Man integrated in the chain that binds all things to one another in an interdependent society.

builds an altar of French novels. with the “heroine” sitting in front of her dressing-table mirror parodies the scenes in which Homer’s heroes arm themselves for battle. In the second half of the century he fell out of favour. silk dresses and corsetwhalebones. Pope’s “Amazons” fight with their peculiar weapons. In Pope. the value of Pope’s poem resides in its satirical genius. Belinda’s description. but scriptural allusions also occur now and then (Belinda is compared to creative divinity during her game of cards: “Let spades be trumps!”) Besides the comic effects derived from parody. The poem reconstructs the world of fashion in the eighteenth century. Juxtaposing the conventional with the colloquial is the main stylistic device in any parody. He did not appeal to readers again until the 189 . Alexander Pope was the most celebrated poet of the early part of the eighteenth century. Pope parodies the works of great poets such as Homer. The use of the heroic couplet emphasizes the majestic tone superimposed on the trivial topic. A fervent supporter of the neo-classic principles defined by Boileau (clarity. the ladies’ sophisticated fashion. Vergil. lights it with torches made of love-letters. the favourite sources of entertainment.repetition of approved cultural definitions and traditions introduced into a new context. The Rape of the Lock is ultimately a social satire. order. the atmosphere of the coffee-houses. their fans. A fashionable drawing-room is turned into a battlefield. The language of the poem recalls the epic models continuously. The poem takes the form of a point-by-point miniature version of the Iliad. Lord Petre prays to Love. A trivial social quarrel becomes a second Trojan War. and sacrifices upon it the souvenirs of previous love-affairs. The feasting and ritual libations made to the gods in Homer reappear in The Rape of the Lock as ritual chocolate-and coffee-drinking. Milton and Dryden. reason. it discloses the falsehood of social conventions and exposes the false values of an age in which female beauty is used as a weapon. wit and balance). as tastes began to change and his sophisticated poetry was considered to lack feeling. the walks along the banks of the Thames. Pope endeavoured to attain perfection throughout his life. while reputation is a fortress worth defending.

As Jennifer Keith has justly pointed out.beginning of the twentieth century. Keith emphasizes the idea that the label “pre-Romanticism” is seriously misleading to characterize the poems and objectives of late-eighteenth-century poetry. failed with him. B. poetry reaches the aesthetic heights of pure poetry with the Romantics after a miniature dark ages.” Collins explained Smith that “The Tree was the Tree of Poetry. a dream that had left the poet “particularly depressed and melancholy. by calling it “preRomantic”. In the evolutionary narrative that favours the “pre-Romantic” label. “a great branch upon which he had got. to “doomed poets. To see later-eighteenth-century poetry as “pre-Romantic” has often meant to see it as not Romantic enough. Macaulay called the “most deplorable part” of English literary history – the decades that precede the Romantics. in Harold Bloom’s words. and let him fall to the ground. while the label “Poetry of Sensibility” has gained some currency among specialists. victims of circumstance of their own false dawn of sensibility.” Anxieties about the place and capacity of the poet after Pope’s death appear in the dream the mid-century poet William Collins reportedly told his schoolmate William Smith. when once more his wit and technical ability found an appreciative public. THE “PRE-ROMANTIC” POETS Poetry from Pope’s death in 1744 to the early publications of the first generation of Romantic poets in the 1790s has occasionally been defined according to its immediate past. Many critics of the term “pre-Romanticism” have found the label absurd in that it anticipates a future that the “pre-Romantic” writers could not have known.” According to Smith. but more often according to the future. especially by non-specialists. Such an age gave birth. by calling it “postAugustan”.” This dream serves as a paradigm of several 190 . Northrop Frye labelled this period as the “Age of Sensibility” rather than define transitionally “as a period of reaction against Pope and anticipation of Wordsworth”. “pre-Romanticism” continues to be used for this poetry. what T. Collins dreamt he had climbed a “lofty tree” and nearing the top.

features of mid. The eighteenth century descriptive poetry seems to have evolved from Milton’s Il Penseroso. they are written on impulse and reveal the poet’s inner life. the poetic faculty would consist in imitation of Nature. (2) the poetic faculty has been compromised by its loss of connection with Nature. His novelty resides in intensity of feeling. Death and Immortality (1742-1745). and (4) the Tree of Poetry reflects anxieties that the poet himself will vanish from a place in literary history. wounded or debilitated. order. or Night Thoughts on Life. as Louis Cazamian points out. Young does not innovate the form of his poems. thus denying rationality. objectivity. This somber and melancholy poem made him a leading figure in the socalled “graveyard school” of English poets and exerted a serious influence on the more morbid aspects of Romanticism. seen as an ordering system). In Night Thoughts he speaks at the outset 191 . the shadows of the night sliding among the rocks and cliffs) precedes the romantic treatment of landscape. 000 lines that build up an atmosphere of profound sadness. Young employs the metaphysical rather than the social as corollary for depression. Still. Young’s poems present the poet’s sensibility as it is. his cosmic vision echoes Milton’s epic. The dramatic scenery of Young’s poems (the pervading darkness enveloping the moors. his subjective thoughts and feelings. (3) the poet’s fall from near the top of the tree suggests a failure at sublimity. the leafy bushes. generally known as Night Thoughts. too: he closely sticks to the strict rules of composition established by his classical predecessors. it is made up of 10.and later-eighteenth century poetry. at least psychologically. seen here to no longer provide a system or place for the poet (in earlier eighteenth century poetry. one of the dominant aesthetic values in mid. EDWARD YOUNG Edward Young (1683-1765) is famous for his long didactic poem The Complaint. It was inspired by the death of his wife.and late-eighteenth century poetry: (1) the poet is isolated and. Written in blank verse.

James Thomson happily associated himself with Milton. surprise. In his Preface to Winter (1726). he urges. only to move promptly to the nature of God and of man: How poor. including similar potential for the restoration of poetry from its fallen state. Morris what seems absent in the Age of Pope. and then of the necessity the most ignorance and prejudice shall be struck dumb. author of the famous ode “Rule. For Thomson. whom he considered his direct forerunner. “Let poetry once more be restored to her ancient truth and purity. announces a major change in English poetry. 10). how abject. how rich. The desire for a new poetry of nature feeds upon the lack Thomson perceives in contemporary writing. His most popular poetic work. and in return her incense ascend thither. useful. and magnificent. trifling subjects for such as are fair. instruct. Thomson relies on his senses in perceiving the beauty of the surrounding universe. Britannia”. how August. Thomson learned from Milton how words or phrasal units can be reordered and juxtaposed so 192 .about his “wrecked desponding thought” (I. venal. How complicate. In 1730 The Seasons first appeared in its full (although not yet final) four-book form. JAMES THOMSON The Scottish poet James Thomson (1700-1748). how wonderful is man! (I. and let her execute these so as to please. and poets yet become the delight and wonder of mankind. according to David B. and astonish. preludes the Romantic Movement. Nature holds the same innate grandeur as the mysteries of Christian revelation held for Milton. let her exchange her low. The Seasons. In achieving impressive descriptive passages. Its subscribers were rewarded with a lavish. 67-68) His poem constitutes an extended argument against suicide and an exploration of metaphysical possibilities.” This Miltonic vision of poetry as centred on inspiration and sublimity is. let her be inspired from heaven. illustrated quarto edition that embodies its claims to Miltonic stature.

” and made it to bless man. and prosperity. to be providentially ordered to produce peace. plenty. Tim Fulford contends that it is no accident that Thomson shows Lyttelton patriotic politics to emerge from his feelings for a view. and awe. disclosed a rational.as to elicit their full significance. In Hagley Park. prospects seen from hilltops show the land laid out before its lord. he will be naturally inclined to protect his land and those who live in it. and in the characters of those shaped by that landscape. that of confirming the landowner’s right to political power. Nature fosters his paternalistic view: seeing “villages embosom’d soft in Trees” (Spring. Thomson gives his patrons commanding views of their estates to emphasize – to them and to his other readers – the extent of their authority and responsibility. in Spring. Thomson “observed” the English estates of his politician-patrons. a poem which finds nature. so that the desire for nature is often inseparable from the desire for God. Nature in the eighteenth century holds an inseparable connection with religion and religious feeling. For Thomson. God is ubiquitous for Thomson. Landowners were supposedly free of self193 . Lyttelon is nurtured in a natural and political nursery. episodes of disorder subsumed within the larger order of the poem as a whole. These views. viewing them as places in which God’s designing order was reflected in landscape. reflected in Miltonic blank verse. Yet they remain vignettes. who. as well as Cowper. admiration. Thomson depicted nature even in its most violent moods as the handiwork of God. to every purer eye / The informing Author in his works appear” (859-60). and a patriotic concern for the country as a whole (rather than any one faction) were shown to grow naturally from the land. ultimately. impersonal. designer God. discovered by empirical observation and the exercise of reason. endurance. In The Seasons (which were finally completed in 1740). natural order. Lord Lyttelton to be a statesman. writes how “though concealed. Propriety. however. For Thomson. Thomson’s exercises in the sublime restage the power of nature so as to leave the reader in terror. Sheltered by the “solemn Oaks”. have a symbolic function as well. They have the moral purpose of reminding us of our vulnerability. “God made the country. 953) from his own hilltop. nature prepared Thomson’s Whig patron. Throughout The Seasons.

but it also showed how easily national freedom could be lost and civilization decline. many are now increasingly uneasy with it”. If the first canto recognizes how Spenser’s imagination can create a world of alluring artifice. but grew into a two-canto exploration of poetry’s delights and responsibilities. In 1740. In the first canto all the richness of Spenserian description is lavished on the castle and its pampered guests.interest. “Thomson made from the landscape a nationalist and imperialist ideology with which the Britons are still living. Thomson’s five-book Liberty (1735-36) traced the course of liberty from Greece and Rome down to her “excellent establishment in Great Britain”. giving prejudices about British resilience and naval power that resemble the strength of the native tree. The Bard declares that a literary tradition can play a part in building a civilized 194 . Thomson’s The Castle of Indolence (1748) best exploited Edmund Spenser’s poetic tradition. Liberty failed to win the same audience as Thomson’s earlier The Seasons. It became wildly popular: Nelson’s sailors sang it before the Battle of Trafalgar and it was still being taught to schoolboys in the 1930s. disguising its arguments as facts of British nature. Thomson introduces the “Knight of Arts and Industry”. 77). The Seasons turns the viewing of landscape into a confirmation of the landed classes’ right to power. The poem naturalizes patriotism. even if. The symbol of “the native oak” works directly on the emotion. It began as a few stanza “in the way of raillery” on himself and his friends. The knight is determined to destroy the castle with its “soul-enfeebling” corruptions and is helped by a Bard who sings a rousing song on the importance of public virtue and “Godlike Reason” accompanied by his “British Harp”. But Thomson leaves direct imitation and creates a spell of his own. and so were free to consider the nation’s interests with detachment. a venerable figure who combines in himself “all the Powers of Head and Heart” (II. then the second canto challenges that world by turning toward Spenser the moralist (the “sage and serious” poet whom Milton admired). It was a rapid success because it made the correspondence between English nature and character. with empire lost and loyalties in question. Thomson’s “Rule Britannia” was first performed. With a sudden change of mood. According to Tim Fulford. Thus.

The Castle of Indolence combines the world of Spenser’s Bower of Bliss with that of its destroyer. In his two-part poem Thomson draws out of The Faerie Queene both its pleasurable magic and its spiritual and moral dimension – its poison and its power to heal. he went on to Cambridge. He was a meticulous craftsman and left a few poems. where he became friends with Horace Walpole. That same year his father and his friend Richard West died. In its beginning it makes reference to the characteristic description of evening and in its conclusion it introduces the imagined figure of the autobiographical poet. The final poem. though called an “Elegy”. Thomson’s message is that a thriving and morally healthy country needs a national poetry and must cultivate the conditions for its encouragement. foreshadows the Romantic Movement. Educated first at Eton. Elegy Written in Country Churchyard (1751) was in an earlier state called “Stanza’s [sic] Wrote in a Country Churchyard”. 195 . THOMAS GRAY Thomas Gray (1716-1771) was born in London to a prosperous middle-class family. and the famous “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (1751). As David Fairer points out. the son of the Prime Minister. From 1739 to 1741 he travelled around Europe with Walpole. Gray’s work. After this period of reclusion he returned to Cambridge. the two quarrelled and Gray returned home alone.society. and Gray returned to live for a time with his mother in the small village of Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire. though classical in form. Sir Guyon (Temperance). Shakespeare. mostly odes. but while in Italy. where he graduated in Law in 1743 and was reconciled with Walpole. and Spenser. creates a world that characterizes the construction of sublime odes. Both need energy and ambition to save the tradition established by Milton. where he died in 1771. While there he wrote several poems. Thomson understands the complexity of his source and employs Spenser the moralist to challenge Spenser the enchanter. He was then appointed Professor of Modern History at Cambridge. But Spenser’s position is more ambiguous than the aforementioned list suggests.

in fact. what remains is an impression of the fallibility of all human endeavours in face of a Nature that seems. who also notices that the poet has no position of security. They leave tokens for others to imagine what their world was. and his detachment from the deeds of others does not shield him from his own insights. without the men who invested them with meaning. the Elegy “envisions the imagined world as uncontroversial. After this. which grimly mock the finality of the grave. The contemplative poet learns of a double loss: death severs human connection and the link that man creates for himself with nature. Although it seems at first to memorialize the dead in its “darkness” and “solemn stillness”. Gray is not concerned with the way in which members of the hamlet actually lived. For Ralph Cohen. He sees that nature is too indifferent to human concerns to leave the viewer feeling powerful. to have become Death incarnate. but stands in. only to the merit of their sustained inconsequence. swallows will twitter. can only be the fragile subjective texts of human memory. unsupported by the world beyond the writer. but about the need for memorialization. as different from the actual world. its own rhythms of renewal. in its indifference. the landscape. but with the way the poet imagines them. The poem is about the poet who not only memorializes the unhonoured dead. The poem is not about the lives lived or unlived.” As opposed to the eighteenth-century landscape poetry. but who in his own death urges the reader not to inquire about his life. suffered. Morning will break. the hope of the dead poet is to lie in ‘the bosom of his Father and his God’. the only reliable elegist who is himself beyond nature – God: 196 . This observation belongs to Tim Fulford. In this most profound of poems. nature has.The Elegy begins at the time when day turns into night and thus describes the changes in nature and in the rural work tasks. The poet knows none of the buried dead and makes no reference to the particularities of their activities. But the dying need memorials in order to become part of a future imagination. woods will grow. The sight of the churchyard cemetery leads to the poet’s imaginary vision of the lives no longer lived. which remember the dead. the reader should ponder the peace of the future world. or succeeded. “Annals” and elegies as this one. in his Elegy the poet does not sit above. Rather.

Detectable echoes can still be traced in present-day English poems such as Charles Tomlinson’s “The Churchyard Wall”. (143-44) Gray’s poem is. his inescapable end. Gray as a representative of the eighteenth century poetry of melancholy sometimes has a depressive tone of internal grievance. Standing on a “haughty” rock. At the poem’s end the bard commits suicide. according to Tim Fulford. Or draw his frailties from their dread abode. The 197 . (125-28) The idea of Time inevitably passing and of the transience of life is not Gray’s invention. He carefully avoids a melodramatic tone. Gray leaves no room for grandiloquence. his words are musical. like the Welsh landscape by which he is inspired and which sponsors his visionary verse.” he mourns the conquest of his culture and its warrior poets. Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Melancholy Jaques have already tackled the image of man facing his cruel fate. colonized by the English as it is now. Thomas Gray’s “The Bard” (1757) was a medieval prophet for his Welsh people. “elegiac rather than confrontational”. and headlong from the mountain’s height Deep in the roaring tide he plung’d to endless night. He has the same classical concern with perfection of form as Pope. The line “The ploughman homeward plods his weary way” is said to have caused Gray hours of trouble in polishing it. Gray’s repetitive “No more” became “Nevermore” in Poe’s famous “The Raven”. casting himself into his sublime landscape: He spoke. Yet ultimately the landscape offers him no place to stand. Gray’s persona suffers from a sense of isolation and alienation. invoking the “mountains. his syntax often most unusual. (There they alike in trembling hope repose) The bosom of his Father and his God. He is wild. Unlike the many poets who claim their tender feelings for others. Gray’s poem inaugurated a long series of “graveyard” poems in the European literature. by the English.No farther seek his merits to disclose.

the speaker weeps in vain at its end: community is a fantasy for happier men. Ralph Cohen explains the popularity of odes in the eighteenth centuries as an outcome of several factors. The ode writers included in their odes references and quotes from and allusions to the poetry of earlier writers. the range of themes in his poems (the medieval past. The ode as a poetic kind was marked by radical shifts of persons. the popular superstitions. writing eclogues and Pindaric odes. But the ode writers 198 . This was not a new procedure. His poems mingle neoclassical vocabulary with a modern subtlety of feeling. but mine” (7). the supernatural. And yet. the exotic scenery) anticipates the world and sensibility of the romantic poets. capacity for love” are. “Feeling for others. WILLIAM COLLINS William Collins (1721-1759) achieved a remarkable synthesis between traditional and original elements. in Patricia Meyer Spacks’s opinion. the main qualities of Gray’s poems. as the insects label the speaker in “Ode on the Spring” (44). articulating the sentiments of “a solitary fly”. The ode included innumerable among incidents and subjects. But Gray figures the sense of community also as an obligation he cannot fulfil. William Collins’s descriptive and allegoric odes were experiments in creating a kind of poetry that moved from natural description – too often rooted in the clichés derived from classical poetry – to a poetry that dealt with changes in nature and human passions. and Pope and Thomson continued the procedure. Like Gray and Young. of subjects. Collins remained faithful to neo-classical patterns. In one respect it arose as an answer to the satirical poetry and its moralizing conclusions. The morning smiles in vain at the sonnet’s opening. Dryden had noted the practice of Ben Jonson in including quotations from the ancients in his works. of passions.thematic statement epitomizing the note of his personal verse comes from the painful “Sonnet on the Death of Richard West”: “My lonely Anguish melts no Heart. In another the turn to the ode was to produce a poetry that while dealing with the association of ideas and feelings nevertheless possessed a unity.

the poet celebrated the gentle influence of evening in its gradual transformation into night. in the cycle of the seasons. in forceful sound and colours bold The native legends of thy land rehearse.” Collins made his ode into a poem about the soothing power of poetry. if not with light regard I read aright that gifted bard. 199 . In his “Ode to Evening” Collins took a subject often handled by his predecessors in descriptive poems about night or landscape and converted it to a poem about the contesting forces within nature. In his “Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland. this “rag-bag of a poem remains a fascinating experiment in opening up the range. In Andrew Sanders’s opinion. The aspect of “chaste Eve” endures even through the violence of winter. “Fancy” or “imagination” creates a poetry that derives from the very sources of language and religious devotion. (Him whose school above the rest His loveliest Elfin Queen has blessed)… (1-4) Collins connects the creation of poetry with God’s creation of the world (23-40). and reference of contemporary poetry”.used it to demonstrate their learning and to establish a fictive British poetic tradition and progress. the enduring stability of evening during the ever changing cycle of the seasons. The significance of this claim was to restore the ode as the highest and most original poetic kind. In wind or rain. To such adapt thy lyre and suit thy powerful verse. Collins’s “Ode on the Poetical Character” begins with a reference to Spenser. “chaste Eve. style. who is viewed as the founder of a poetic school: As once. Considered as the Subject of Poetry” he writes of the need to preserve the poetic legends of the highlands: Proceed. Converting evening into a muse. The odes of the 1740s are often poems about poetry and the poet.

OLIVER GOLDSMITH Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774) was born in the west of Ireland. He entered Trinity College in Dublin as a scholarship student and had to accept a series of menial jobs. The novel displays a mixture of optimism and faith in man’s intrinsic goodness on the one hand and humour. sarcasm on the other hand. Pickwick (The Pickwick Papers). Sterne’s Uncle Toby (Tristram Shandy) and Dickens’s Mr. in this respect. In 1756 he arrived destitute in London. and then spent a few months at the Dutch university of Leyden before setting off on a journey which took him to France. irony. the son of a poor clergyman. idealistic day-dreamer. Goldsmith brought major contributions to several literary genres. Goldsmith’s essays. naive. Switzerland and Italy. His humour and criticism have often been compared with Voltaire’s. a device previously employed by Swift in Gulliver’s Travels and Montesquieu in Léttres persannes. kindhearted. is just a pretext for satirizing the English manners of his age. Oliver Goldsmith was a many-sided talent. where he unsuccessfully attempted a career in medicine. he is a so-called Quixotic character. Although he wrote most of his works under pressure. the opposite of Dryden. originally published as Chinese Letters. being. The “myth of the foreigner”. but his request for ordination was refused. reviewer and translator and worked for several periodicals. Primrose. He made a meagre living playing Irish tunes on the flute. a domestic novel combining sentimentalism and realism. She Stoops to Conquer (1773). including selling street ballads and waiting tables. He found work as a hack writer. resembling Fielding’s Parson Adams (Joseph Andrews). the vicar is a gentle. were later collected in a volume entitled The Citizen of the World (1762). one of the most important eighteenth-century English novels. and often depended on food distributed at convent gates to survive. In 1750 he tried to enter the church. to finance his studies. Goldsmith is also remembered as the author of The Vicar of Wakefield. Goldsmith’s most important play. He went to Edinburgh to study medicine. in perpetual need of money. It is a first person narrative. is an extremely complex comedy based on qui pro quo and 200 .

As a poet. Both poems describe existing social realities. Contracting regal power to stretch their own. In The Traveller. Goldsmith is an honest moralist and the play is one of the evergreens of the English comedy of manners. but. Goldsmith is mostly remembered for The Deserted Village (1770). It is an obvious attack against the sentimental literature and against the French “comédie larmoyante” of the age. the speaker explicitly calls attention to his own rage: Calm is my soul. justice. indignation start. And both openly express intense anger at what the speaker sees. all in all. It is a protest against the effects of the industrial revolution and the policy of enclosures. (379-82.. a melancholy poem dedicated to rural England. 389-90) The fact of “indignation” itself provides evidence for the extremity of the political situation here deplored. The wit of the dialogue reminds us of Congreve. and bare my swelling heart. Patricia Meyer Spacks describes his poetry as “often verging on sentimental excess yet energized by an anger that directs itself explicitly toward actualities of contemporary social organization”. Except when fast approaching danger warms: But when contending chiefs blockade the throne. ………………………………………………. Fear. And sympathy is imagined as reciprocal. Sympathy and sensibility provide the impetus for the traveller’s observations: he wanders around Europe thinking about the situation of the people he meets and judging governments by their effects on the populace. The speaker fancies the 201 . In her discussion of Oliver Goldsmith’s two longest poems. nor apt to rise in arms.imbroglio. Tear off reserve. pity. The Traveller and The Deserted Village as typical examples of the eighteenth century poetry of sensibility. The timid lover cured of his shyness by a “stooping” girl disguised as a maid takes us back to Ben Jonson’s comedy of humours. but dealing with serious social aspects.

the poem conveys anger through fierce imagery: the nation as prostitute. in harmony with nature being destroyed by avarice. Thus he pictures the village parson impressing his congregation: Words of learned length. Socially radical in one respect. in the sense that self-aggression is reduced to self-expression. Goldsmith is nostalgically conservative in another. he experiences the horror of what has happened. grown to “sickly greatness” (389) and converted by intemperance into “A bloated mass of rank unwieldy woe” (392). melancholic sense of loss. That one small head could carry all he knew. the kingdom inflated by luxury.consequences of depopulation. is himself a victim of this decline. The presence of anger in the account of political realities reminds the reader that the potential energies of sensibility include the aggressive. The community whose destruction is mourned is an idealized idyll. He perceives political actuality in concrete and specific terms and relates the fates of individual people to the situation of the country at large. decked out “In all the glaring impotence of dress” (294). As a man of feeling. and thundering sounds. Such images convey the disgust and outrage appropriate in a patriot’s response to his country’s decline. he describes a country girl in a situation of sexual degradation. quite independently of governments. But exile and traveller alike find themselves alike unable to improve on a destructive political situation. The poem concludes by rejecting the final relevance of the political and insisting that “Our own felicity we make or find” (432). The Deserted Village combines the attack on “luxury” with a more personal. a utopia in which rural innocence equals bucolic ignorance. after all. Goldsmith portrays an organic rural community. (215-18) Despite its repeated references to the narrator’s emotional state. and still the wonder grew. The “pensive exile” (419) presumably sympathizes with the poet’s anger at the decline of British freedom and justice: he. Instead. the poem does not make his anger a personal matter. a city-dweller’s fantasy. huddling in cold and 202 . Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around. And still they gazed. Thus a few lines after elaborating the metaphor of the nation as prostitute.

He consolidates his right to his fancies by making sympathetic feeling the substance of poetry. are everlasting and metaphysical. Her sexual corruption appears a direct consequence of the country’s decline. Believing himself damned after an earlier suicide attempt. When the speaker of The Deserted Village claims. Critics often associate the sufferings of one of the better-known poets of this period. Cowper makes nature a pathetic drama. to “see the rural virtues leave the land” (398). A Calvinist. convinced that he was the unique case of a creature whom God at first elected for salvation and subsequently doomed to perdition. Writing for Cowper was. a temporary therapy for driving away this crushing consciousness of irrevocable damnation. in Jennifer Keith’s opinion. God works in the lives of men through nature. In Olney Hymns (1779). and hospitable care. he can now imagine them in overtly fanciful ways. 203 . thou loveliest maid” (407). in which the reprobate yearns for signs of a love that he does not believe will intervene to save him. His wounds. Such specificity details the objects of his sensitivity and the mode of his sensitivity’s operation. but this failure ought not to be interpreted as the failure of the poems themselves. specifying a list of personal domestic traits and adding to the list “sweet Poetry. toward the end of the poem. Cowper repeats his allegiance to a God that has forsaken him. / And kind connubial tenderness” (403-4) and dramatized his response to them. WILLIAM COWPER The poet’s failure and suffering are common thematic features of late-eighteenth-century poetry. the harsh reality that lies beneath apparent prosperity and luxury. which often reappear in even his most light-hearted poetry.rain at her betrayer’s gate. with his particular burden of self. painfully. which displays his love in its beauty and his wrath in its sublimity. he earns his visionary extravagance by the loving specificity with which he has portrayed domestic virtue in action. William Cowper (1731-1800). Cowper believed he faced eternal damnation. Because he has demonstrated the nature of “Contended toil. in his nostalgic evocation.

108-16) The poet’s wounds lead him to Christ’s. an epic-length meditation on themes including the merits of the sofa. 204 . the cultivation of cucumbers. a Poem. blank verse. the poet’s withdrawal from the world. with many an arrow deep infixt My panting side was charged when I withdrew To seek a tranquil death in distant shades. Great Britain’s avaricious imperialism. The vault is blue Without a cloud. Cowper’s humility seems imitated by his seamless. and the beauty of nature: The night was winter in his roughest mood. The morning sharp and clear.New in Cowper’s blank verse is a simplicity of diction designed to render observed details as plainly as possible. (III.57-64) Some of his best and most striking lines show the poet as a wounded deer: I was a stricken deer that left the herd Long since. the poet is healed only to retreat in a posture of submission. and heal’d and bade me live. Diction of this kind illuminates his most influential poem The Task. man’s place in society. in Six Books (1785). And has the warmth of May. (VI. But now at noon. unobtrusive. And where the woods fence off the northern blast. With gentle force soliciting the darts He drew them forth. but instead of attaining a joyful salvation. Upon the southern side of the slant hills. In his side he bore And in his hands and feet the cruel scars. resigning all its rage. The season smiles. and white without a speck The dazzling splendour of the scene below. There was I found by one who had himself Been hurt by th’ archers.

or subordinated to. the meditative and conversational poetic forms above the declamatory and satirical forms. which destroys the moral fibre of those who inhabit it. for. The sense of isolation and alienation he conveys in his image of himself as wounded deer receives fuller expression in his explicit criticism of his country – for the specific nature of its capitalism as well as of its military exploits. Cowper’s wounds are keen because of his sensibility. remains extra-textual. treading “the secret path of life” (VI. it is a path of self-discovery. If nature keeps a path for Cowper.956). in his footsteps. even though a poet of sensibility. not to be justified.” And yet. VI. Cowper’s “pacing out of time and space allowed the Romantic self to be articulated. the private above the public. however. Cowper’s Christian humility and wounds do not correspond to either Augustan or Romantic notions of poetic competence. as Tim Fulford argues. Cowper stands up against social triviality.For Cowper a relation to Nature is always subsumed by a relation to God: he instructs the reader to acquaint himself with God. and political corruption. with the speaker describing himself as a quiet man. the poet of sensibility fails to master himself. Wordsworth and Coleridge were to tread. as the Romantics would do. attracting no 205 .676. As foundations for poetic values and authority. Cowper values solitude above society. It remains contemporary. Valuing the associations of human beings based on feeling. Cowper’s verse sums up a powerful strand of eighteenth-century thinking that represents the town as the locus of luxury. he deplores alliances of self-interest. Thus he criticizes the “merchants” that “build factories with blood / Conducting trade at sword’s point” (The Task. Cowper frequently returns to public concerns. the Romantic poets had sensibility contained by. public degradation. through representing transcendence. Unlike Cowper. such as the imagination or the sublime. who remained at the mercy of external forces. In The Task Cowper gave the most striking and forceful expression to the later eighteenth-century orthodoxy that rural living was ethically superior to urban living. 682-83). Such an acquaintance. quite deliberately. other values. The poem ends in a rare utterance of self-satisfaction. alive to wounds that never heal. the country above the city.

991-93) Cowper’s God is an angry God. copses and sunken lanes. Unlike Gray. from which he could both satirize the activity of the city and ponder the ambiguities of his own position. he turned retirement into a moral stance. Gradually he develops a tone of contempt toward the “sensual world” (978) that surrounds him. Cowper criticized the rage for landscape-gardening and mocked the ambitions of the aristocracy. Cowper found in the landscape an emotional home. He also traversed the landscape on foot. and finally his God. The poet is a generous being ready to soothe sorrows.963-66). Is but a garnish’d nuisance. to comfort and help through his “works” (VI. When the speaker imagines himself metaphorically as drowning or literally as damned. neither a “peasant: nor a squire”. Like Gray. directed at objects of which God would disapprove. complaining about the superficiality of that world.notice. according to Patricia Meyer Spacks. however. William Cowper powerfully articulated the gentlemanly reaction against poetry that presented nature as the property of the great. Cowper as a poet of sensibility reflects about his own anger as well as his own benevolence and claims to consider both forms of service – to his country. he asserts metaphysical rather than only social isolation. which judges by the eye instead of conscience and heart. (VI. His rage increases as he suggests the prevalence of vice throughout society: Though well perfum’d and elegantly dress’d. a place of reassurance capable of holding his depressive and suicidal tendencies at bay. Yet the fundamental definition of suffering remains. Cowper’s poetry of personal suffering claimed more intense and more permanent misery than Gray ever professed. The man formed in His image can explain an emotion that may make him uncomfortable by imagining it as a pale reflection of divine wrath. exchanging the commanding height of the hilltop for the secure retreats of valleys. Like an unburied carcase trick’d with flow’rs. the same: “Anguish consists in separation from one’s 206 . First he claims the conventional virtues of “sympathy”. his fellow human beings. yet doing good to others.

ascribed to Ossian. a third-century legendary Gaelic bard. (61-66) Cowper’s cry of anguish is as powerful as any in English poetry. in which he finds not a saviour across the sea. The poet. But I. of the Romantic hero’s superiority to his kind. It is all the more so because it remains unspoken.kind. each alone. containing the epic poems in prose – Fingal (1761) and Temora (1763). The mystery of a remote world. drowns alone and unredeemed: No voice divine the storm allay’d. In “The Castaway” (1799) he pictures his own death. Insistence on this point marks much of the poetry of sensibility and differentiates it from the Byronic stance that would become familiar in the next century.” At the end of his life Cowper was to imagine himself at sea. It is a lonely death. these works stimulated the imaginations of two generations of romantic writers throughout Europe. encouraged him to publish two further volumes. the atmosphere of misty shores and windy forests and stormy nights exerted a major influence not on literature alone. Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands (1760). No light propitious shone. like the man lost overboard. Influenced by Gray. beneath a rougher sea. The success of his first volume. but on painting as well. snatch’d from all effectual aid. but as a poetic topic or stance solitude came to function more importantly as a sign of specialness. Macpherson tried to reconstruct the Scottish past. implicit in the imagined events occurring in an unforgiving nature. Although exposed as a hoax. When. JAMES MACPHERSON The Scottish poet James Macpherson (1736-1796) gained much attention due to his alleged translations of ancient Gaelic epic poems. And whelm’d in deeper gulfs than he. 207 . but the depths of despair. We perish’d. The Romantic version of isolation might allege the pain it entails.

their would-be author was the imaginary monk Thomas Rowley. was no radical. a university scholar like Gray. Chatterton claimed to have transcribed the works of Rowley which he found in a room of the old Bristol cathedral. honour. the more original they were. In fact. he was not “endorsing a revival of clan politics but was searching for an escape from English nature and from the nature of Englishness” (Tim Fulford). and heroism could be articulated. Chatterton’s language is singularly isolated and isolating. he had added to and improved upon the oral poetry had collected. Thomas Rowley. Chatterton expected a better reception of his work posing as a modern-day copyist of a fifteenth century manuscript than as a patronless. New in their primitiveness. In bringing his antiquarian research to poetic life. which uses a 208 . A massive success across Europe and America until well into the nineteenth century. it made the Highlands fashionable. To sing of nature like a bard was to be the desirable opposite to the polite and urban man-of-letters. THOMAS CHATTERTON Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770) produced poems in a pseudomedieval style that were supposedly written in the fifteenth century. or a forger. Macpherson’s Scots warriors are primitive poets: they endow their lives with greatness by comparing themselves with the sublime nature in which they live. the more these works were forgeries. His contemporaries debated whether Chatterton was an antiquarian recovering lost texts from a fifteenth century secular priest. he forged the manuscripts. where he had spent much time as a child. His Fingal was more a creation of the new vogue for Celtic primitivism than a remnant of the ancient past. Macpherson. Paradoxically. preferring to mask his role as poet with that of a transcriber of the past. as the landscape through which valour.In fact. Thomas Gray soon exposed this hoax. Macpherson’s ancient poets made rural imagery the sign of authenticity. poor teenager distributing these antique visions under his own name. Unlike conventional eighteenth-century poetic diction.

richly coloured worlds. Wordsworth. – love of the wild and picturesque nature. but by the entire Europe. – the return to mythology and folklore. The specific elements of both trends did coexist for a while in the works of major eighteenth century poets. Coleridge. 2) The eighteenth century “pre-Romantic” poets established poetic patterns to be later followed not only by the English Romantic poets.vocabulary shared by a readership. Shelley and Keats in England. Chatterton committed suicide before he was eighteen of age and he became a hero to the later generation of Romantic poets. – the attraction exerted by exotic. CONCLUSIONS: 1) The shift from rationalism to sentimentalism. Chatterton’s Rowleyan diction has no existing community that shares its language. 209 . from neoclassicism to pre-Romanticism and Romanticism is not an abrupt but a gradual process. even if an elite one. 3) Certain dominant features of the Romantic attitude can be already traced in the eighteenth-century poetry: – the rediscovery and exploration of historical past. and Alfred de Vigny in France regarded the defeated poet as an idealist at odds with the society of his age.

but it is a revival with a difference. 210 . The interpretation of Romanticism as a fictional mode or a forma mentis takes us to the earlier conclusion drawn by René Wellek: “In a sense. It is in the light of these assertions that we can better understand the meaning of Shakespeare’s “romantic” comedies or the “Romanticism” of literary works belonging to even more remote ages.AN INTRODUCTION TO ENGLISH ROMANTICISM Traditionally. It seems that English Romanticism has been the subject of far more extensive and theoretical critical strife than any other national Romanticism. Drummond Bone is just one of the many critics who have raised the question: “is Romanticism the name of a historical entity. a trans-historical forma mentis (a creative prototype. literary histories used to define Romanticism as a historical period starting in 1790 and ending about 1830 or 1840. these ideas were translated into terms acceptable to men who had undergone the experience of the Enlightenment”. As a perennial mode. and archetypal pattern)”. Romanticism “haunts the history of Western culture long after its alleged death in the 1850s” (to quote Bogdan Ştefănescu). Romanticism is the revival of something old. while for Harold Bloom Romanticism never ends reverberating through history to the present day. This assumption is no longer accepted by academics nowadays. or merely a word that became an idea and has now outlived its usefulness?” The Romanian critic Bogdan Ştefănescu has recently answered this question in a brilliant doctoral thesis dedicated to the problem of “the critics’ vacillation between understanding Romanticism as a historically (and geographically) bound phenomenon or as a perennial mode.

the younger generation also had different likes and dislikes: while Byron started his career by imitating Pope. then. The first is that you need to think of Romantic literature not as escapist in the way the term ‘Romantic’ sometimes suggests. English Romanticism consisted in fact of several “romanticisms”. For him.e. there seems to be no one feature shared by all Romanticists. even Coleridge ended up by contradicting the theoretical ideas promoted by Wordsworth. O’Flinn has also colourfully shown that Romanticism is a notion that covers a complex and heterogeneous reality: “There are two ideas that it is essential to hold on to from the start.Arthur O. Lovejoy declared that the word “romantic” has come “to mean so many things that. what we get in the literature of the period is a range of competing. ‘Romantic’. contending voices rather than a series of common assumptions that all share and that can be neatly summarised. And secondly you have to be aware that. working class and middle class. in “On the Discrimination of Romanticism” (1924) upheld the idea that the movement in Germany alone “has the indisputable right to be called Romanticism. Shelley attacked Wordsworth and Coleridge. since it invented the term for its own use”. Keats rejected Wordsworth. but as literature that tries passionately to come to terms with the modern world as it emerges through a series of wrenching changes. Lovejoy was challenging the very ontological status of Romanticism. Let us look at these two claims in a bit more detail. Say the word and what do you think of? Something dreamy and remote – impossibly idealised versions of 211 . Byron). First. Lovejoy. Southey denounced the “Satanic School” of poetry (i. because those changes affected men and women. Paul O’Flinn has recently argued that the term Romanticism should not be conflated with the so-called commercial pink literature or with excessive sentimentalism. he called the other similar European movements a “plurality of romanticisms”. often mixing essentially antithetic ideas. by itself. it means nothing”. north and south and so on in different ways. arguing. Keats clearly condemned the neoclassical school of the eighteenth century. Byron attacked the Lake Poets in his English Bards and Scotch Reviewers and Canto I of Don Juan.

Byron was a Cambridge graduate. What those incidents (and the list could be considerably extended) suggest is a group of men and women who were certainly not ‘Romantic’ in any escapist or trivial sense but who on the contrary challenged dominant contemporary values and chose to use their pens not to doodle prettily in the margins of life but to probe and dissect at the heart of things. In 1824 Byron died in exile in Missolonghi while fighting for Greek independence. It is this brave thinking and writing that makes Romantic literature still exciting reading. not to mention most contemporary reviewers and readers of poetry. In 1804 Blake was put on trial for sedition and avoided a long prison sentence because of the common sense of an English jury rather than the compassion of the English judiciary. and it is reading that is all the more powerful because it speaks about a world that we not only recognise but also still inhabit. Against these superficial images we need to place some facts. Warnham. Or. whereas Blake never went to school.love. if you move a bit closer to easily available notions of Romantic literature. In 1798 Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy were driven out of Alfoxden because of the neighbours’ suspicions of their radical politics. Coleridge was a life-long Christian. Shelley flits past with too much hair but not much practical skill when it comes to paying the bills. in north London. Byron was an aristocrat. while in the corner Blake is talking to the fairies. in Sussex. 212 . over there lies Coleridge. stoned out of his mind. whereas Keats was an atheist. In 1795 Coleridge lectured against the Government’s war policy and was the target of Government spying. perhaps. In 1813 it seems that a Government spy tried to murder Shelley. vaguely glimpsed through Barbara Cartland’s veils while violins scrape somewhere in the background. whereas Shelley was born on the family estate at Field Place. the term still carries much the same connotations: the first thing that comes to mind maybe is an unfortunate picture of Keats looking a wistful wimp or Wordsworth maundering on about daffodils. Keats was born over a livery stable. the Swan and Hoop. And they did it to the profound annoyance of the authorities. The major Romantic poets were a diverse group of individuals.

with its stories of knights and damsels in distress. Blake was in lodgings in Soho at a time when Shelley was lodging at a palace in Pisa. Poetry should rely on “a selection of language really used by men” and its preferable subject matter should be “the humble and rustic life”. The historical novel was one of the most appreciated forms of fiction of the period. the attraction exerted by the Orient with its exotic and richly coloured world rather than the wisdom assigned to it by the eighteenth century. others. with their magical atmosphere and haunting settings. 213 .” There is no coherent Romantic “programme”. brings about interesting critical ideas.whereas Keats was sometimes sneered at as a Cockney. Some poets took refuge in a supposedly glorious past. became popular. even a savage condition. rhythm and poetic diction. Old literary forms such as ballads. the rediscovery and exploration of the historical past (either the glamorous Middle Ages or ancient Greece). They also rejected the purely selfish. nor a conscious sense of belonging to a “movement” and yet the poets writing between 1790 and 1840 share a great number of common features making up a peculiar unity of mode and feeling in a diversity of individual attitudes and biases. The “Preface” to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads. The government that tried Blake for sedition was the same government that appointed Wordsworth Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland. but subjective feelings emerging from one’s experience. the Middle Ages. The authors rejected the notion of “poetic diction”. Poetry was not necessarily metre. rational and unimaginative way of looking at life displayed by their forerunners. a joint-venture collection of poetry produced by Wordsworth and Coleridge. 3. poetry was defined as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”. the conviction that a less advanced stage of culture. had a special appeal. An attempt to define the Romantic attitude might include the following features and themes: 1. breeds greater happiness than modern society. The primary purpose of the authors was to reform poetry by rejecting the “artificial” literature of the previous century. like Byron and Shelley tried to extract from it human potentials able to change their world. 2.

The Romantics. They believed that children were close to God. confessionalism: verse. a deep feeling of Nature associated with the exaltation of the simplicity of everyday life. the love of beauty and its relation to truth. diaries. notes. the loss of cultural centrality. 6. diversitarianism. the deep longing for wholeness and a painful search for answers concerning ontological problems. the striving for the infinite and the preference for cosmic visions. in Biographia Literaria. the neo-classicists believed that children had savage instincts that needed to be civilised: children were important because. love of the wild and the picturesque in external and human nature. they could become sophisticated adults who contributed to society. 15. The doctrine of diversity had Romantic roots: its twentieth century counterpart is the concept of multi-culturalism. 14. correspondence stand proof for the poets’ interest in self-analysis. had powerful and creative imagination and could be “the father of the Man” (Wordsworth).4. 16. claims: “the most of what I have written concerns myself personally” (Wordsworth and Shelley also share this concern). 214 . on the contrary.e. the belief in a more glorious tomorrow. 13. i. a discontented type. 9. the cultivation of solitude etc. 12. 7. in continuous improvement (suggested by the social revolutions). originality definitely replaces the fashion of imitations and original compositions are considered to be the only valuable works. humanitarianism and democracy are supported by the belief in the equality and inherent worth of every man as well as the hostility to monarchical authority and established institutions. 5. through social training. fundamental antipathy of the artist to his times: the Romantic writer goes his own way against the conventions of his time – he is a protester. saw the children as pure and uncorrupted. Coleridge. the cult of childhood. The wild inner and outer nature were opposite sides of the same coin. 11. 10. the devastating spectacles of Nature corresponding to the poet’s tormented soul. the idea of progress. 8.

215 . The year 1783 marked the beginning of a period of great creativity in Blake’s life. In 1789 he engraved and published his first great literary work. where he worked and learned the craft for seven years. However. which he left uncompleted at his death in 1827. This gloomy period lasted seven years. Songs of Innocence. from 1810 to 1817. (Nature and Imagination are key words in any approach to Romanticism).The birth of English Romanticism is considered to be the publication of the Lyrical Ballads (1798) by Wordsworth and Coleridge. Wordsworth was to treat subjects of common homely life so imaginatively as to give them the charm of romance. prophets and devils were inspiring his work. This dual purpose was to be illustrated in two ways: Coleridge was to deal with fantastic themes of legend and romances in such a way as to produce upon the reader the impression of detailed reality. After 1818 Blake stopped writing poetry but continued to produce engravings. Poetical Sketches. He showed early signs of artistic talent and. his books were not printed and circulated in sufficient numbers to make his work profitable. He published his first volume of poetry. and invented a new method of printing. a mixture of engraving and painting which he claimed his dead brother Robert had revealed to him in a dream. including the illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy. WILLIAM BLAKE William Blake was born in London in 1757. His output was outstanding: he made hand-coloured engravings for both his own poems and other authors. His disappointment and this lack of recognition led Blake to depression which verged on insanity. which he called “illuminated printing”. where he was raised in a state of economic hardship and received very little formal education. He was buried in a common grave in relative obscurity. at the age of fourteen. followed in 1794 by The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Songs of Experience. spirits. He lived in a dirty studio. Their ideal was to form a Naturalistic and Imaginative School of Poetry. completely alienated from the material world and claiming that visions of angels. became an apprentice in an engraver’s shop.

both demand interpretative and speculative readings. the bearded representative of a negative God of “thou shalt nots”. The fragmentary The Book of Los (1795) traces the indignant rebellion against Urizen by the energetic Los. pleasure gardens. brute beasts threaten lambs. nor does a picture solely represent a text. edge. Blake’s proclamation of liberty takes many forms in his later mythological work.000. by 1801. even sarcastic. poems with a far greater satirical. Enitharmon. The text does not simply follow a picture. interrelate image and text. but it is Orc. Blake’s city suggests the effects of industrialization and the drift of people into the cramped concentrations of the urban ghetto. of the clubs. nurses. but the excruciating misery of being poor in a city the population of which. In “London” the very shape of the city. the lawless embodiment of revolution. generally known as the Prophetic Books. had grown to 900. Orc’s mother. priests. The figure of Urizen. slavery imprisons the negro and a vile trade the little chimney-sweep. in its sequel. both breeds revolution and checks it as a queenly repressor and stagnator who is ultimately dismayed by her son’s descent into “the vineyards of red France”.As Andrew Sanders points out. coffee houses. Blake’s works. The Songs of Innocence frequently suggest challenges to and corruptions of the innocent state. and the calculating force of human reason serve to limit and confine what once was innocent. polite periodicals. children are afraid of the dark. Blake’s “prophecies” have been subject to much critical 216 . who is seen as both rebel and oppressor. with its “charter’d” streets and river. and places of public display. Its focus is not merely the discomfort. Parents. if studied in their original configurations. marks its inhabitants with signs of weakness and woe and the “mindforg’d manacles” tyrannize and terrorize its poor. The “wisdom” of the old is generally equated with oppression in the Songs of Experience. Europe: A Prophecy. In America: A Prophecy (1793) Orc precipitates the action as the incarnate spirit of the revolutions in America and France. Dreams have turned to nightmare. No longer the London of the massive church-building program commenced in the 1670 and supervised by Sir Christopher Wren. functions as the prime oppressor in The First Book of Urizen (1794).

existence precedes creation. the first Light. which is mainly a fall from eternity. fascinating.e. 6). 42). Los – Enitharmon. The last Zoa is Urthona. singular. Blake’s cosmological system is defined in The Four Zoas mainly. “the keeper of heav’n’s gates”(FZ. According to Blake. to Whom be Glory Evermore. and he is in the East. he will steal Urizen’s “Horses of Light”. i. / The Universal Man. and distortion. the “Starry Eternals”. the one who rules over the Waters. they remain. however. Tharmas is God of the Waters. the Perfect Unity. IV. he is also the most enigmatic of them all. as a result of which Michael took the torch of Light that Lucifer was holding. contortion. the second one is Urizen.” The basis of Blake’s cosmogonical theories is the conception about the four Zoas. who is in the South and shall want to become God. as if reiterating Michael’s fight with Lucifer. the most esoteric poem from the long cycle of epic poetry widely known today as The Prophetic Books. which also makes human experience possible. Existence is identified in Blake with the supreme principle. The third Zoa is Luvah. and he still remains “the Watchman of Eternity”. Urizen – Ahania. thus his world or sphere becoming a ruin. Luvah – Vala. hence the name “Angel of the Presence”. John in his Revelation. this idea might originate from Ezekiel’s vision or that experienced by St. The beings of the Earth are in the middle of the Earth-Vortex. which “Cannot Exist but from the Universal Brotherhood of Eden. time. the macro-. and he is in the North. it refers to all the levels of conscience and the corresponding ontological planes through which the voyage of the traveller through eternity goes. elusive. I. “the living beings”. “the Parent power”. After the Fall Urthona becomes Los. and at times infuriating works. 217 . “the Prince of Love”. as Blake himself explains in Milton. The infinite in Milton is the creational whole and not only the visible infinite universe. the most troubling revelation of God’s Face. Amen.interpretation. “Prince of Light”. In Blake. the first Zoa is Tharmas. who is in the West. These “Four Mighty Ones are in every Man”(The Four Zoas. Each Zoa has an emanation or feminine counterpart as a result of the progressive division from within Creation: Tharmas – Enion. they live at a constant level of conscience.

so that the journey through the universe of inward conscience. the four Zoas are reflections of the divine aspects: Tharmas is the Voice of the Father who speaks to the Son. interfused. 18-19) The external creation is the mirror-the symbol-the trace of man’s within. Luvah – the Nostrils. earth. Blake actually says that Jesus is the image and likeness of Los (Jerusalem. and he is related to a golden age of mankind. of which this World of Mortality is but a Shadow. the peak of reality.micro-universe relationship is always complete. Urthona is the Son who hears the Father and fulfils the Father’s Will. In the human body the four Zoas are the four main physical eternal senses which have become the four elements (Jerusalem. Luvah is the Ghost of life of all beings. Urthona – the Ears (Jerusalem. 98. they are the gates of the soul opening towards manifestation. he is a corner stone. thus making the Voice of the Father heard in the temporal manifestation (Los). Luvah is represented as being invisible. interrelated. it is Within. tho’ it appears Without. and the consequence thereof is that here we have the idea of a patibilis deus – a God who suffers with his Creation the whole drama of Creation. they are “the four Rivers of the Water of Life”.”(Jerusalem. Urizen stands in front of the Trinity (Tharmas-Urthona-Luvah). By falling. Blake always explores the universe of consciousness and its relativity as opposed to the absoluteness of the world of eternity. 71. thus becoming the master of the physical world. 7). the Logos of the Father. 31-32): Tharmas – the Tongue. the name resembles phonologically the Hebrew ruah (ghost of life). 96. which explains the romantic poet’s notorious formula: ”all you behold. it is actually the key by means of which a conscience can enter other universesplanes of conscience./In your Imagination. This fact explains why Urthona is in the North and is described as being solid. as man is created in the image and after the likeness of God. 218 . he loses his divine attribute (holding the uncreated light). and so he enters the world of time. of the stars. is also a journey through the macro-universe. the Word-the Logos. Thus. through the vortices-planes of conscience. Urthona is therefore the Son. 16-18). everything is interdependent. 36. Urizen – the Eyes.

where he went to live with his sister Dorothy in a small village in Dorset. who figure in Milton’s narrative. in the early naturalistic method of the Lyrical Ballads. which received little notice from either the critics or the public but the Lyrical Ballads. In 1787 Wordsworth entered Cambridge. and he also lost his father five years later. In 1793 he published his first two books of verse.Those eager to learn more about Blake’s esoteric cosmogony may find further information in Mihai Stroe’s critical works listed in the bibliography. When he finished his degree he returned to France for a year and became a passionate supporter of the democratic ideals of the French Revolution. 219 . chiefly narrative poems. While still a university student he went on a three-month walking tour of France. turned out to be a milestone not only in his literary career alone but in the history of English poetry. Financial problems. shorter narrative poems. Wordsworth’s poems have been traditionally considered to fall into four groups: 1. but he was not particularly interested in his studies. the great imaginative Odes. forced him to return to England. 2. both fallen and unfallen. It is Blake who.000 lines) and The Excursion. The children were separated and raised by guardians. his long reflective and descriptive poems in blank verse: The Prelude (9. declares in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3) that Milton was “a true poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it”. When he was just eight years old his mother died. however. first issued in 1798. the Sonnets. Blake identifies himself both with the author of Paradise Lost and with the angels. 3. WILLIAM WORDSWORTH William Wordsworth was born in 1770 in a little town in the Lake District in the north-west of England. the Swiss Alps and Italy. and was greatly impressed by the beauty of the landscape. assuming a diabolic voice. As the poem Milton (1804) suggests.

the poems of his later period. The immanence of the divine in Nature confers it a sacramental dimension as God is perceived to be present everywhere in the world. originating “from emotion recollected in tranquillity”. according to Wordsworth.” 220 . Although made up mostly of simple words. The first is that of 1800 (the 1798 edition of the poems had been prefaced simply by an Advertisement) and the second that of 1802. and the Romantic poet’s conviction that the book of Nature could serve as man’s best teacher.4. Wordsworth is neither Christian. Hence. In Wordsworth’s opinion. to bring his language “near to the language of men”. in which the poet recreates the splendour of a crowd of daffodils beside a lake. Wordsworth insisted that he wished to adopt the very language of men. which is the basis of Wordsworth’s final version of 1805. marked by classic austerity of style. The principal object of Poetry is. Wordsworth defined poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”. the Romantic communion between man and Nature. to make the incidents of common life interesting. inspired by Vergil and Milton and dedicated to National Independence and Liberty. Wordsworth’s theory of poetic language derives from his deeper nature-philosophy. poetry is no longer mimesis but the representation of the world filtered through the eyes and the soul of the poet. The main difference between the two versions is the addition in the 1802 text of the passage which discusses the question “What is a Poet?”. deist. The purpose of Poetry is “to follow the fluxes and refluxes of the mind when agitated by the great and simple affections of our nature”. some of the most interesting parts of the best poems will be found to be “strictly the language of prose when prose is well written. He is best described as a Pantheist. For Wordsworth. one who identifies the natural universe with God. and thus denies that God is over everything or possesses a distinct “personality”. In the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads. The universe is no longer perceived as a mechanical but as an organic entity. nor rationalist. There are two main versions of the Preface to Lyrical Ballads. Such a recollection of emotions is “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”. Wordsworth’s poetry is rich in emotions and epiphanies (those sudden revelations significant for the human being).

not individual and local. “Tintern Abbey” moves from a process of telling or listening implied by a poem such as “The Thorn” (with its insistent interplay of personal experience.Wordsworth also tried to answer “what is meant by the word Poet? What is a Poet? To whom does he address himself? And what language is to be expected from him?” The Poet is. and hearsay) into introspection and meditation.” The Poet has added a disposition to be affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present. the poet records the sudden perception of a thunder signalling to the world that the “mighty being” is awake. speculation. when the approach is passionate (Nature being perceived as a “presence”. it is true. For Wordsworth. The Poet describes and imitates passions. and a more comprehensive soul. poetry is “the most philosophic of all writing: it is so: its object is truth. The Poet is a kind of translator. Poets do not write for Poets alone. more enthusiasm and tenderness. endowed with more lively sensibility. “Tintern Abbey” records the movement of the poet’s mind in time. the poetic narrator is emotionally stirred by his return after five years to the banks of the river Wye. in Wordsworth’s phrasing. of organic life. The poet considers the three important stages in the development of his mind. but general. an ability of conjuring up in himself passions.” Wordsworth’s conclusion is that the end of Poetry is to produce excitement in coexistence with an overbalance of pleasure. In “Tintern Abbey”. from childhood. In the sonnet “It Is a Beauteous Evening Calm and Free”. but for men. when nature is approached through senses (Nature being presented in terms of growth. The Poet is different from other men not in kind but in degree. The Poet thinks and feels in the spirit of the passions of men. a “motion and a spirit”) and to maturity (when the 221 . Both a nature poem and a poem on man’s mind. which are indeed far from being the same as those produced by real events. Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge: it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all Science. than are supposed to be common among mankind. all “colours” and “greenness”) to adolescence. who has a greater knowledge of human nature. Nature is ubiquitous in most of Wordsworth’s poems. “a man speaking to men: a man.

The intensity of his expressed love of nature and its teachings seems to preclude other perceptions. all isolated and intensified by the reduction of the boy to a mere existence. “felt in the blood. the vividness and splendour associated with natural objects during childhood. In “Tintern Abbey”.poet transcends the human. most pressingly. of “what man has made of man”. after picking hazelnuts. when Nature becomes a moral guide. and felt along the heart”. when. and the recall of the “still. “The child is father of the man” has been a favourite line of several generations of psychoanalysts but in “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” children are regarded as repositories of virtue and even wisdom. the transient. and the loss of capacity to see all these things when you 222 . and has the privilege of experiencing Nature’s eternal principles of kindness and joy. In “The Idiot Boy” the human feelings are simple: neighbourliness. he expresses the particular feelings or emotional experiences. In this poem. that bring “tranquil restoration” to a once troubled soul. anxiety. In “Nutting”. he suddenly realized he had plundered the place and sinned against Nature. Wordsworth recollects a boyhood episode. and the owls calling. Wordsworth’s fundamental feeling is the joy stirred by Nature and the deep sadness caused by the human condition. Here it is the sensations of remembered natural scenery. and relief. The circumstances are slight. The poet touches the Romantic obsessive theme of Nature’s eternity and man’s transience. and the pleasure of it is the imaginative solution of natural solution of natural emotions in natural surroundings – the “music of humanity” and the music of nature in one strain. or. sad music of humanity” that makes for a chastening and subduing of restlessness. the boy’s elation. and have no consequences. the evil. Wordsworth offers a self-justifying explanation of his partial retreat from politics. mother-love. in the related depopulation of the countryside. The whole occurs within a setting which is pure delight – to be alone on the hills. impressing with beauty and feeding with lofty thoughts). particularly those related to the acute class division inherent in urban industrialization. in the explosion of social questioning presented by the French Revolution. moonlight.

Wordsworth the pupil. His language is his own. He used less symbols than the other Romantic poets. he is a poet of the particular scene. his natural descriptions are fresh and immediate. And yet he is unequal in his works. Shelley accused him of being a deserter from the Cause of Humanity. Wordsworth wanted poetry to stay on the ground and extract thrills from the commonplace. not the general abstract image. a vast poem written in blank verse. The child is the “mighty prophet” who retains a feeling of Nature’s wholeness. Wordsworth the student at Cambridge. as a competent and complete artist. is perhaps the most convincing illustration of the idea that with Wordsworth a journey in space is the cause for a deeply felt journey through life. 223 . it is the poet’s philosophy. As Coleridge said. his vision concerning the relationship between man and the infinite that makes up the bulk of The Prelude: the incidents are mere illustrations of his philosophy. He is one of the greatest formative and inspiring influences of modern English poetry. The distinctive feature of his innovation remains simplicity. The Prelude is made up of fourteen books in which the author traced the psychology of his mind and heart. He showed the beauty of common things and humble lives and opened men’s eyes to a new and unsuspected world of beauty lying round them. a “prison-house”. Wordsworth enriched the language of poetry by bringing into use many words regarded as too humble for such an honour. some of his early poems were regarded as silly etc. he has all his faculties and experiences converge in one creative act. it was when he forgot his theories that Wordsworth wrote best – when. The Prelude.grow up. marking the “spots” of time and the dearest spaces which registered his poetic growth. Wordsworth the tourist in the Alps are recollected via various autobiographical incidents and yet. Wordsworth the adult living in London. Browning later renewed this charge. while adulthood suggests a “palsied age”. or the Growth of a Poet’s Mind. The Prelude might be best defined as a psychological study of childhood’s perceptions and a poetic quest for creative powers. a “thought of grief”.

and critical disciplines learned in a strict school and based on classical precedent. wide reading in philosophies. which produced four children. Later he was re-admitted into Cambridge. and to explore unfamiliar intellectual territory (including a rejection of Godwinism). Renwick has drawn the following comparison between the two great poets: “Coleridge has the erudition. W. The Fall of Robespierre. Wordsworth the brooding insight. Coleridge met Wordsworth at some point between August and late September 1795 when the former’s political commitment was at its height and his denunciation of monarchy and aristocracy at its most fiery. In the period of their closest association. When his father died he was sent away to a London charity school for children of the clergy. from the midsummer of 1797 to the end of 1798. including the conversation poems “This Limetree bower my Prison” and “Frost at Midnight” and his two great visionary poems.SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in 1772. but he suddenly interrupted his education to enlist in a regiment of light dragoons. whose sympathetic views on the French Revolution he shared. He was an avid reader and a bright student. Whereas Coleridge helped Wordsworth to articulate his ideas. The project was abandoned but the two friends collaborated on a verse drama. to examine their implications. Together they planned the foundation of an egalitarian utopian community in New England. where he met the radical poet Robert Southey. the youngest of ten children. was a failure: the couple lived apart for most of their lives. almost on impulse. married Southey’s fiancée’s sister. the direct approach. The marriage. Coleridge composed much of his best work. Coleridge left Cambridge without a degree and. “The Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan”. the 224 . For the next ten years the opinion of both worked cooperatively. coinciding initially in a revolutionary enthusiasm for change in society and literature and later in a compensatingly ready response to a nature charged with the glory and power of God. L. Wordsworth seems to have exhilarated Coleridge. In 1791 he went to Cambridge.

firm grasp of basic realities that supported his independence. Power was in each, mutually recognized, and equal power, so that neither could dominate and neither sink into discipleship. Together, their power was multiplied like that of opposed blocks in a tackle; when they separated, each was incomplete.” Coleridge, the confirmed opium eater, is regarded nowadays not only as the poet of illusion and mysticism or the poet of the supernatural, but also as one of the greatest English literary critics of all times, due to works such as Lectures on Shakespeare and Biographia Literaria. In Chapter XIII of the latter work he explains his viewpoint regarding imagination (the creative force of mind) versus fancy (which depends mostly on memory). “The Eolian Harp”, written in August 1795, traces a speculative transition from a pantheistic awareness of “Life within us and abroad / Which meets all motion and becomes its soul” to an expression of a firmer Christian faith that inwardly feels the presence of the “Incomprehensible”. “Frost at Midnight” radically leaps backwards from present contentment to painful schoolboy memories of displacement and loneliness. The contrast of town and country, of rural companionship and urban isolation, is reinforced by a further leap, this time forward to the prospect of the poet’s growing son blessed by Nature’s benevolence. However, Coleridge’s essential contribution to the Romantic movement lies in a return to the magical and mysterious. Unlike Wordsworth, Coleridge wanted poetry to fly into the regions of the marvellous and choose themes that, though fantastic, should be acceptable through “willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith”. Coleridge’s three great poems – “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, “Kubla Khan” and “Christabel” – are coloured with the mysterious and the supernatural. Coleridge is considered the first Romantic who transformed the reader into a traveller journeying in an unknown space. His poems haunt the reader because of their rich connotations which make the decoding more complex and more varied. Each poem offers a crux, a text constructed on several layers of meaning.
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“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was conceived as a joint enterprise, but once the unimaginable motion began only one wit could continue it. Wordsworth supplied a suggestion and a few lines: his main contribution was his habitual assumption that a piece of a work once begun would be carried through. When Coleridge was alone or disturbed by unhappy relations with other men, his endurance was unequal to his wit, and “Christabel” and “Kubla Khan” remained unfinished. However, the greatness of these poems lies in their being free exercises of the imagination working in a medium of clear concrete images. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is summarized by Anthony Burgess as follows: “The Ancient Mariner kills an albatross and is forthwith tormented with the most frightening visions and visitations, all of which are presented in the style and metre of the old ballads, but with far greater imagination and astonishing imagery”. Despite its metrical and verbal debts to the simplicity of the traditional ballad form, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is distinctly in Coleridge’s manner. A more complex reading of the poem might decode it as a voyage leading to self-knowledge and self-discovery, both literally and figuratively, but it is also a psychodrama concerned with the guilt and expiation of a Cain-like figure, the arbitrary “murderer” of an albatross which, we are told, appears trough the fog “as if it had been a Christian soul”. The curse and the haunted ship suggest that redemption can only be attained through deep suffering. (The same motif will be later employed by the German composer Richard Wagner in The Flying Dutchman). The poem defeats precise definition. The Mariner’s experience is tangled and often bewildering; he is not a pilgrim who measures himself by definable spiritual milestones or who encounters and progressively overcomes obstacles; he is, rather, an outcast who witnesses an invisible action which interpenetrates the physical world. Despite its framework of Catholic Christian faith and ritual, the Mariner appears to discover a series of meanings concerning the interdependency of life, not merely the consequences of breaking taboos. It would be possible to argue, according to John Peck, that the purpose of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is moral. There is a positive idea of turning to God and putting one’s faith in God. The
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problem with such a coherent reading of the poem, however, is that it seems to sweep out of existence all the possibly disturbing elements in the poem. They offer a strong sense of the dark mystery of existence; the simple concept of Christian prayer does not, in the overall context of this poem, outweigh and banish those disturbing forces. Coleridge uses symbols: the way in which he uses the sea, the sun and all the surrounding references creates a sense of unfathomable mysteries. A more detailed analysis of the same poem might reveal the fact that it is a complex metaphor of the poet’s fate. The poem abounds in metaphors which all seem to focus towards one great image: that of the inner pain of choosing or of having been chosen by the creative powers. It is a kind of misological metaphor, as Kant called it, of hatred against intellect. Thus, the poem turns out to be a cry against the self-pain-inducing loneliness considered as a primordial sin which must be punished. “Kubla Khan”, written in the summer of 1797, derives much of its exotic imagery from Coleridge’s wide reading of mythology, history, and comparative religion. The poem famously remains “a fragment”, because, as the poet explains in his prefatory note, he wrote it down immediately after waking from “a profound sleep, at least of the external senses” in which he had composed “two to three hundred lines” but was interrupted by a caller,” “a person on business from Porlock”. This “Vision in a Dream” remains a riddle, a pattern of vivid definitions amid a general lack of definition, expressed with a rhythmic forward drive which suggests a mind taken over by a process of semi-automatic composition. Like “Christabel”, it is a dream-poem written in trance. It goes to the fabulous Orient for its theme (the creative, strange power of imagination) and presents the vision of an exotic, unearthly world which is, actually, the lost paradise. “Kubla Khan” is a fantastic invocation of a “sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice”: a microcosm where both body and spirit may coexist in happiness. What makes “Kubla Khan” so exciting is the way in which it deploys its symbols and the way in which it uses poetic structure. The symbols suggest a dark and mysterious world: they seem to plunge into a concealed world, including the world of the unconscious mind. It is all a step further on from the Romantic poets’ use of imagery:
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imagery can suggest the diffuseness and diversity of experience but it all seems within the sphere of a knowable world. Symbolism suggests the unfathomable, the unmappable, and the unconscious. Yet at times Coleridge seems to be getting possession of that world, as if his poetic structure can contain and explain it. This is most evident when the poem becomes most incantatory or musical, as if Coleridge were finding an answer in the shape and sound and movement of poetry. Coleridge’s third visionary “Gothic” poem, “Christabel”, was originally intended to be included in the second edition of Lyrical Ballads but was excluded partly because of Wordsworth’s distaste for its strangeness and partly because of Coleridge’s own “indolence” in leaving the poem yet another substantial fragment. In Andrew Sanders’s opinion it is in many ways a complement to “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, not simply because it too echoes the style of old ballads, but because it appears to link the nature of Christabel’s experience of the powers of life and death to that of the Mariner. “Christabel”, with its flexible metre anticipating Gerard Manley Hopkins, but also reminding us of pre-Chaucerian rhythms, is a Gothic ballad full of the mystery of evil. The poem is concerned with the attempted penetration of Christabel’s psyche by the daemonic force represented by Geraldine (Geraldine, the beautiful daughter of Roland, has her body inhabited by an evil spirit), but it also allows for a balancing contrast of two powerful aspects of nature, the sympathetic and the energetic, and for a symbolic investigation of what Coleridge later called “the terra incognita of our nature”. Christabel meets Geraldine in the forest and although the latter discloses her evil qualities in subtle ways, Christabel cannot bring herself to tell the truth. Geraldine’s eyes betray the presence of the devil within her: it is a nightmare situation and a nightmare poem, touched with the glamour of old castles and medieval remoteness. The poem might be interpreted as a journey leading to knowledge (see Christabel’s route: the castle yard – the stairs – the room – the bed) and as the metamorphosis of the self into the “other”. “Dejection: An Ode”, written in April 1802, opens with an epigraph from, and a reference to, the ballad of Sir Patrick Spence. It is the last and most despondent of Coleridge’s conversation poems, marked as it is by an acknowledged failure of response to the
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phenomena of nature and by an expression of the decay of an imaginative joy fed by “outward forms”. The poet’s former “shaping spirit of Imagination”, suspended by various “afflictions”, seems to be no longer subject to external stimuli: the alternative inspiration, a recognition of inward vision, remains as yet a dim positive to set against a series of negatives. The “shaping spirit” of “Dejection” manifests itself throughout Biographia Literaria as the unifying power of imagination. Biographia Literaria (1817) is a loosely shaped, digressive series of meditations on poetry, poets and, above all, the nature of the poetic imagination. Its complex philosophy draws both from Coleridge’s fruitful relationship with Wordsworth and from a wide range of European thinkers; it is both original and plagiaristic, prophetic an profoundly indebted to tradition, at once a personal apologia and a public discourse on metaphysics. Coleridge’s statements do not always agree to Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads, but Coleridge writes much late, in 1817, at a time when his main interest lies in philosophy. The most influential attempts at definition concern the distinction which Coleridge carefully draws in the thirteenth chapter between “Fancy”, which merely assembles and juxtaposes images and impressions without fusing them, and “Imagination”, which actively moulds, transforms, and strives to bring into unity what it perceives. What Coleridge sees as the “primary Imagination” is, moreover, nothing less than “a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM”, a reflection of the working mind of the Creator himself. It is, however, through a discussion of the “vital” “secondary Imagination” that he most develops the contrast with Fancy for here he describes the mind creatively perceiving, growing, selecting, and shaping the stimuli of nature into new wholes. Coleridge’s Gothic elements strongly influenced the poetry of later poets, most notably that of Edgar Allan Poe (The Raven, Annabel Lee). Leon Leviţchi upheld the idea of Eminescu’s indebtedness to Coleridge (according to him, Eminescu must have read Coleridge during his stay in Berlin); this opinion was rejected by Ştefan Avădanei in Eminescu şi poezia engleză.
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Coleridge remains the author of vast unfinished projects in poetry, philosophy and criticism. Thomas Carlyle characterized Coleridge as “a hundred horse-power steam-engine stuck in the mud and with the boiler burst”. Charles Lamb considered Coleridge “a damaged archangel”. He inaugurated the habit of writing under the influence of opium (later pursued by Rimbaud, Huxley, etc.) and had he lived in the twentieth century, he might have become a cultural hero of the underground artistic movement illustrated by Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, etc. GEORGE GORDON BYRON George Gordon Lord Byron was born in London in 1788. His parents had been living in France while hiding from their creditors, but just before Byron’s birth his mother returned to England. His father stayed on in France, where he died three years later, possibly committing suicide. Byron was born lame and limped all of his life. He was educated at Harrow and then at Cambridge. If William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were in revolt against the poetical conventions of the eighteenth century, Byron and his followers, called by Robert Southey the Satanic School, went much further. They were in revolt against English society, against English religion and against the English monarchical system of government. An avid reader of the classics, especially poetry, Byron wrote and published in 1807 his first work, Hours of Idleness, a collection of sentimental poems. The critics were not impressed and Byron replied to his detractors with a famous satire, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, a verse satire written in somewhat old-fashioned rhyming couplets, suggests a poet at odds with the present, with its literary innovators (such as “turgid” Coleridge and “simple” Wordsworth) as much as with the conservative literary establishment, which he identified with the dogmatic Edinburgh reviewers. Irony is a key word in reading Byron: if man’s stern struggle to achieve immortality is marked by metaphors or symbols, it seems
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that the other side of the coin is mocked at through irony and all its accessories: “Fools are my theme, let satire be my song”, proclaims the young Byron in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. Byron was regarded as the Weltschmertz poet. He gained his reputation after extended travels to Eastern Europe and Asia Minor, when he published in quick succession a number of dazzling but hastily written verse romances with their plot located in the Levant. The poems have plenty of variety of scenery; their weakness lies in their lack of variety in characters. Two rather theatrical personages are, under different names, repeated over and over again: a hero and a heroine. The typical Byronic hero is a man “of one virtue but a thousand crimes”; he has a melancholy look, a pale brow, an irresistible charm for ladies, and generally has no friend, but a dog. In each tale there is a Byronic heroine, too – a woman – sensual, devoted, loving, faithful unto death. Byron’s least effective poetry may be “modern”, theatrical, and extravagant, but his best work is generally rooted in an established satiric tradition in which, as he himself acknowledges, it was better to err with Pope than to shine in the company of the contemporary writers that he despised and often deliberately undervalued. His poetry is not bent on the description or contemplation of nature, but it rather has its roots in public life and recent history, in British politics and in the feverish European nationalisms stirred by the French Revolution. It ranges in its geographical settings from Russia to the Mediterranean, from Portugal to the Levant, and it moves easily between different modes of telling and feeling, from the self-explorative to the polemic, from the melancholic to the comic, from the mock-heroic to the passionately amorous, from the song to the epic. Byron the libertarian and Byron the libertine readily assumed the public role of a commentator on his times because he both relished his fame and enjoyed the later Romantic pose of being at odds with established society. His role-playing, both in his convoluted private life and in his poetry, had a profound impact on his fellow-artists throughout Europe, and the sullen, restless “Byronic” hero took on an international currency as if all societies had universally conspired to complicate his destiny.
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whom he has passionately loved. Childe Harold. He is haunted by the sense of having destroyed his sister Astarte. and he considered it “not a drama properly – but a dialogue”. which speak choral verse which reminds us of Shelley. “Sick at heart” and suffering strange pangs “as if the memory of some deadly feud / Or disappointed passion lurk’d below”. but rather seem to be concerned with himself. Manfred. the Corsair. That is why his poems do not deal with mankind’s future. Manfred himself is the only important human character. as disintegrating into small pieces which could not cohere into a whole. but it also introduces as a central observer and participant a splenetic aristocratic exile.Unlike Shelley. the Giaour. for the Spirits of the Earth and Air. who sincerely believed in the perfectibility of the mankind. while the Italian sojourn and Pulci’s influence account for Don Juan. it is still considered the greatest English satire in verse. which was begun while he was working on the third canto of Childe Harold. “I awoke one morning and found myself famous”. The appearance of the first two cantos of Childe Harold in 1812 gave Byron an immediate celebrity. as a work “of a very wild. as he famously remarked. Byron’s meeting Shelley in Switzerland and reading Goethe’s Faustus led to the creation of a Faustian dramatic poem. Byron was the only English Romantic poet who presented his contemporary world as “falling apart”. and inexplicable kind”. Although he dies unrepentant. He himself described Manfred (1817). Mazeppa and Don Juan would all be facets of one and the same personality: Byron’s personality. The subject of the drama is the last days in the life of a man who has discovered by his own experience that “the Tree of knowledge is not that of life”. he is not dragged off to Hell: instead he proclaims that it 232 . If this contention were true. Childe Harold offers a view of the western Mediterranean scarred by war and of the “sad relic” of Greece decaying under Ottoman misrule. Byron’s neo-classical sympathies may be examined in certain of his dramas. The memories of feuds and passions in the poem were as much historical and public as they were present and private. Cain. Manfred. the long comic narrative poem mocking at everything the English held sacred. have much more important roles than the Hunter or the Abbot. metaphysical. or.

Manfred realizes that there is no room for him and his higher aspirations. “If Beppo pleases. Byron’s hero is daring. but infinitely better”. While Manfred owes a good deal to the story of Faust. and when Shelley heard a reading of part of Don Juan later in the year he described it as “a thing in the style of Beppo. His fierce passions and actions destroy both the human being he loves and himself. static frame of mind: it is filled with the tragic tension rooted in his awareness of the clash between his infinite spiritual powers and their mortal frame. And yet. It is difficult to decide what Byron’s object was as he wrote the poem. after all. With a fine impartiality he satirizes England for being different from Italy and Italy for having something. However. other typical Byronic heroes. and is meant to be / Divided in twelve books” it is clear that he started without any definite idea of how he would finish. Byron seems to have realized that he had made an important discovery. he prefers death to nothingness. who find relief in passion or fight. is endowed with a profound thirst for knowledge and a certain philosophical and psychological depth. Manfred. proud and selfish. Manfred rejects any compromises. Tired and vanquished. The fact that Beppo is “A Venetian Story” does not prevent Byron from glancing satirically at English life. 233 . In Beppo we find satire as well as joking. and this makes him so isolated in the gallery of Byron’s heroes. Manfred’s isolation is not a melancholy. Manfred is doomed to die of too much loneliness and corrosive inner anxiety. In spite of his references to “the regularity of my design” and his claim that “My poem’s epic. its deepest sources of inspiration were Byron’s love for his half-sister Augusta and the profound impression made on him by the Alps. in common with England. less clear whether he had any further objective. he does not try to struggle against social injustice but lets himself be tortured by human nothingness. particularly the acceptance of his mortality.is “not so difficult to die”. you shall have more in a year or two in the same mood”. It is clear that he wished épater les bourgeois. Unlike the Giaour or the Corsair. Manfred sees heaven and hell as purely internal states. like Cain. he wrote in April 1818.

/ I rattle on exactly as I’d talk / With anybody in a ride or walk” (Canto XV. circuitous wandering across the Mediterranean world ending in a movement northwards to the Russia of Catherine the Great and finally westwards to the amorously frivolous world of aristocratic London society from which Byron had attempted to distance himself. longing and satiety. which results in some of the most pointed satire in the poem. His power of generalizing originates in his experience. The ease of telling is matched by the hero’s indeterminate peripateticism (the term is proposed by Andrew Sanders).” 234 . and the narrator’s worldly-wise commentary on them. but always what you see. He has been not just once compared to the wise Fool in King Lear. 19). be / Not what you seem. ignorance and knowingness. fostering nature. Don Juan’s visit to England. be cautious. the Romantic idea of a splendidly benevolent. The scheme of Don Juan allows for colloquy and polyphony.. Don Juan wanders in space through years and centuries. between extremes of suffering and luxury. shifting appearance and an equally shifting reality. Byron is also undermining the myth of a picturesque and educative journey across Europe. Both the art and the artfulness of the narrator are frequently concealed under a pretence of purposelessness and self-deprecation. digressive and discursive – “never straining hard to versify.Don Juan is an exception among Byron’s heroes. one who is at once more passive and more vivacious. in his life lived among his fellows.. Byron’s narrator casts himself as relaxed and speculative. an often disrupted. He opposes the ruin and disorder of England to the beauty and glory of Greece. the voice of the often cynically droll narrator being the dominant one. hunger and excess. and often comically. Don Juan introduces a new kind of central character. judging everything with an ironical detachment. The poem veers easily. and the Rousseauistic faith in basic human goodness. Juan’s adventures and misadventures. serve to debunk a series of received ideas and perceptions ranging from the supposed glory of war and heroism to fidelity in love and oriental exoticism. gives Byron a chance to commend hypocrisy: “Be hypocritical.

in the confidential tone in which he discusses his book with the reader. but at times we are reminded even more unmistakably of Sterne. Falsehood. Although the digressions sometimes swamp the main narrative. / Without the aid of too sincere a poet. smallness are bitterly attacked. the truth is always concealed behind an ironical veil.He addresses the English public directly. cowardice. and all his angels are mercilessly mocked. poets and their works. and you know it. The use of “the language of every day” in Beppo and Don Juan has nothing to do with the theories of Wordsworth: Byron’s use of familiar diction is that of an aristocratic writer conversant with classical literature and the English poets of the early eighteenth century. women and marriage. who was clearly in Byron’s mind as he wrote his “comic epic poem in verse”. Byron presents himself as a broad-minded philosopher who has seen farther than the common run of mankind. wars. 235 . a poem unfinished and unfinishable. debating points of literary criticism and morality.” The most audacious parts of the poem are its digressions. as in Canto III. Don Juan is perhaps “not strictly a Romantic poem at all: there is too much laughter in it. God himself. He is aware of the different “levels of style”. religion. and is deliberately choosing to “wander with pedestrian Muses”. in the apparent shapelessness of his plot. too much of the sharp edge of social criticism”. In Don Juan’s speeches. Byron reminds us of Sterne in his alternations between gaiety and gravity. all contemporary evils are cynically distorted under this ironical guise. Like Sterne. in these words: “You are not a moral people. they are so essential to Byron’s intention that the beginnings of the cantos are bound to remind us of Fielding. which make up all the cantos of the poem. great military men. and in the mischievous way in which he stands things on their heads and is determined to cheat the reader of the expected “stock response”. says Anthony Burgess. governments and politicians. Juanism has something in common with Shandyism and in many ways Don Juan. stands to the tradition of English poetry as Tristram Shandy stands to that of the English novel.

And yet. In Byron’s self-centred poetry. Whole passages in Hebrew Melodies and whole cantos in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage or Don Juan are concerned with this feeling in its multifarious aspects: love for a woman. “rosy ocean. with Byron the richest study was on love.Byron’s irony is different from that of his neoclassical predecessors Dryden and Pope. The gamut of emotions. The Haidée episode in Don Juan is the most touching presentation of two youthful beings falling in love with each other. genuine descriptions. Leila. the idyllic atmosphere of a scene is often brought to an abrupt end by some unexpected intrusion. Byron’s heroines in Oriental Tales (Gulnare. love for liberty (freedom and independence). with “the silent ocean. love for friends. imagination. and the starlight bay. in images such as “loud roar of torrents”. Nature’s beauty appears in highly emotional.. Zuleika) belong to the same pattern as Haidée. fears and stirrings was subtly presented. in a “continuous wrestling with words”. The gradual stages leading to the moment “where heart. is the only ecstatic union in Byron’s whole creation. 236 . love of nature etc. vast and bright” and “glittering sea”. one topic is suddenly dropped and replaced by another. “lofty fountains” and “transparent lakes”. in concert move” are depicted with candour and this “first love” prolonged in Nature. It appears closely knit with love and Time. and soul. If with the other Romantics the interest fell more on ideas such as the creative process. the poet and his creations etc. / The twilight glow” attending on the lovers. Nature is no longer a distinct topic as in Wordsworth’s poems. and sense. The bathos or anticlimax is one of Byron’s favourite figures of speech: highly philosophical reflections are immediately followed by personal reflections. “black pines”. pretty. Byron seems to have studied two intense moments of erotic experience: the void left in one’s soul following a passionate experience and the painful realization of the deeper solitude in two. They are kind-hearted. Byron takes an eighteenth century artistic device and revolutionizes it: his witty spirit permanently vacillates between the denotative and the connotative level of words. Byron did not try to create a deformed image of erotic love.

but Shelley refused and instead eloped to Scotland with the sixteen237 . He was educated at Oxford where his political and philosophical readings led him to co-write a dissertation. PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY Shelley. Although some details in Don Juan’s life may be paralleled in Byron’s own. like Byron. apart from the hero himself.” Byron is not a great Nature poet. Percy Bysshe Shelley was born in 1792 into a prosperous aristocratic family. while it might be said that there are in Childe Harold no other people. spent his short life in revolt. and many more acknowledged Byron’s strong influence. and this is closely related to the style in which the two poems are written. in discussing the similarities between Byron’s biographical person and the Byronic heroes. for which the Oxford authorities expelled him in 1811. Heinrich Heine. but a great satirist. Goethe. his anti-social attitude made himself become a comic figure.loving. Ian Jack. The fundamental difference between the two poems is that Byron has moved from a world in which the passions are presented ‘straight’ to one in which the predominant spirit is that of satiric comedy. The Necessity of Atheism. he was not a deep thinker. dutiful to their beloved man. Shelley’s father demanded a public retraction of the pamphlet. Byronism became the fashionable pose throughout the nineteenth century: Alfred de Musset. and yet – his influence on the continent was second to none. he was a rebel and also a would-be reformer (he refused to take sugar in his tea on the ground that “sugar was produced by slave labour”). As a consequence. Lermontov. has reached the following conclusion: “Of all the differences between Don Juan and Childe Harold perhaps the most important lies in the presentation of their heroes. Lenau. the first open profession of atheism to be printed in England. They are the women who can “restore” and “soothe” the men’s tortured souls. Don Juan is almost as full of human beings as the Canterbury Tales. he is not a self-projection in the sense in which Childe Harold is: as a consequence he is presented with a detachment and irony which are not to be found in the earlier poem.

a vegetarian. meat-eating and religion. The couple spent some time in Ireland. so that their love is incestuous. he wrote in the original preface. royalty. Hellas). Christianity and Marriage should be abolished. an opponent of existing marriage laws. where Shelley got involved in promoting political rights for Catholics. radically different (as Shelley acknowledged) from the remaining cantos. among other things. Shelley’s political thought. he published his first major poem Queen Mab. She reveals to him the past and the present with all their wicked forms of government. where he tried to set up a commune of “like spirits”.year-old daughter of a coffee house owner. an advocate of universal love. The poem opens with a canto of perplexed and obscure allegory. Shelley upheld that Monarchy. During this period he wrote pamphlets promoting “free love” and condemning. at twenty-one. informed as it is with experimental scientific theory and with the social ideas of his father-in-law Godwin. and she sympathized with his radical ideas. Shelley’s second wife was the daughter of William Godwin. But at the same time she forecasts a future full of hope and happiness. who are the main characters. In the poem as he originally wrote it (as Laon and Cythna) the lovers. Shelley advocates women’s rights and the emancipation of women. leads the soul of the poet through the world. the Fairy Queen. are brother and sister. His aim was to “accustom men to that charity and toleration which the exhibition of a practice widely differing from their own has a tendency to promote”. “to break through the crust of those outworn opinions on which established institutions depend”. This caused a permanent break with his family. Rousseau’s apostle in England. Queen Mab (originally mentioned by Mercutio in a famous cue of Romeo and Juliet). while in Hellas he hymns the Greek rising against the Turkish rule. a republican. He returned to Wales. religion and social tyranny. “It was my object”. elucidates more than simply an opposition of liberty and tyranny. a long philosophical poem in which he professes himself an atheist. In 1813. Prometheus Unbound. The influence of Rousseau and Godwin is obvious here as well as in his longer narrative poems which also take up the theme of revolt (The Revolt of Islam. In The Revolt of Islam (1818). it 238 .

a lyrical drama in four acts.explores future possibilities and not past defeats and. is not a drama properly. Alastor. in attempting to adduce the nature of egalitarianism. it was at once the root and the fruit of his intellectual idealism. Shelley’s encounter with Byron led to the composition of Hymn to Intellectual Beauty. being rather a series of 239 . where he wrote the deeply melancholic Stanzas Written in Dejection and Prometheus Unbound. He goes on: “My purpose has… been… to familiarise the highly refined imagination of the more select classes of poetical readers with beautiful idealisms of moral excellence. in debt and suffering from illhealth. was more than simply a reaction against the conservative triumphalism which marked post-Napoleonic Europe and more than an instinctive rejection of the restrictive political. Shelley moved with his family to Italy. But notwithstanding his melancholy Shelley also presented his positive philosophy of the indestructibility of beauty (The Sensitive Plant) and of the power of love (Epipsychidion). Shelley acknowledges “a passion for reforming the world” but denies that he dedicates his poems “solely to the direct enforcement of reform” or considers them “as containing a reasoned system on the theory of human life. it moves beyond the general disillusion resultant from the defeat of the ideals of the French Revolution. or the Spirit of Solitude again presented the poet’s self-portrait. According to Andrew Sanders. During his final years spent in Italy (he died at the age of 30).” Prometheus Unbound. Alastor is a meditation on the grandeur and misery of the life of a man of genius and on the grandeur and misery of solitude. he got acquainted with the works of Tasso. Prometheus Unbound (1820). In the preface to a much greater work than The Revolt of Islam. a drama inspired by Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound. religious. Disillusioned with Britain. and moral formulae of his aristocratic English background. Ariosto and Petrarch. the radicalism. a youth seeking and seeking in vain an ideal embodiment of earthly love. which led Shelley with an almost adolescent enthusiasm to espouse a whole range of worthy causes from Irish nationalism to vegetarianism.

whom Shelley. Prometheus is involved in a drama which is rather metaphysical than political. and his achievement is presented as a liberation of both body and spirit and as a heightened state of consciousness which implies a wider liberation from enemies which are both internal and external.817). in a sense. “The saviour and the strength of suffering man” (I. Prometheus brings Freedom in the deepest and most comprehensive sense to the whole of mankind. Just as Laon is separated from his lover Cythna for most of the action. The past history of the struggle is narrated in retrospective speeches. In Act II. Prometheus Unbound is “a more idealized image of the same subject” as The Revolt of Islam. his spiritual victory occurs before the play opens. They are Aeschylean figures far transcending mere humanity: while Laon is concerned in the highest sense with politics. To some extent the characterization of Prometheus derives from the figure of Milton’s Satan. As Mary Shelley pointed out. To Shelley. Her conversation with 240 . Prometheus and Asia are more ethereal than Laon and Cythna because they are not human beings but Titans. so Prometheus is separated from the more passive Asia. or at the very beginning. Jupiter and Prometheus are reconciled. and Peace” is on the way. in a distant Eastern valley.splendid chants in praise of democracy than a picture of action and passion. Whereas Laon strives to bring freedom (primarily political and social freedom) to one particular State. Prometheus meant very much what Christ means for Christians. but his is essentially a heroic struggle concerned with more than self-vindication. and they end (fittingly) in a more ethereal form of paradise. Although it is often said that the action takes place in the mind of Prometheus. The drama ends with the triumph of Prometheus over Jupiter. like Blake. Prometheus represents Humanity freed at last by the Revolution from the rule of tyrants. Asia awaits his coming. Love. saw as “a moral being… far superior to his God”. Justice. the latter buying his release from torment by disclosing the secret that is essential to Jupiter’s safety. In Aeschylus. Prometheus is seen battling against despair and arbitrary tyranny. Act I closes with the promise that the Hour of “Wisdom.

And the blue sea and shadowy hills were seen.4.201). He has gained all that he wished. though one may use the words “Fate. and the azure aether shone. Prometheus Unbound was originally written in three acts. and through their snow-like columns flowed The warm winds. Tyrant-like. IV. the triumph of the revolution is marked by the triumph of song.4. with one law only. Some months later Shelley thought that a fourth act should be added. and death. Time. At the beginning of Act III Jupiter is rejoicing.Demogorgon (who stands for Eternity: “Demand no direr name”. Prometheus responds by awakening “the legioned hopes” and sending Love to mankind. he warns her) fills in the metaphysical background of the myth as Shelley interprets it. It is true that mankind is not exempt “From chance.94-97) Jupiter then chains Prometheus to the rock in the Caucasus where we see him. Saturn’s child Jupiter succeeds him. and Light and Love. except that “The soul of man. the final act of the drama is given over to lyrical celebration. to whom Prometheus gives wisdom “which is strength”. speech. “Let man be free”. and mutability” (III. while a Spirit of Earth describes the change that has come over everything. The downfall of Jupiter is the downfall of tyranny of every kind. “a sort of hymn of rejoicing in the fulfilment of the prophecies with 241 . Demogorgon tells him that no tyrant like himself will ever arise again. and man becomes the victim of tyranny. Jupiter is evil. civilization: … Cities then Were built. In the beginning there were Heaven and Earth. (II.4-5). and Change” (II. and all the other good and beautiful things – thought. like unextinguished fire. At this point Jupiter himself is overthrown. / Yet burns towards heaven with fierce reproach” (III. the arts. Occasion.1. but he is not the origin of evil: that is inexpressible. Then Saturn came to reign. and the reunion of the unchained Prometheus with Asia. Jupiter violates this law.119). With the summary overthrow of Jupiter at the beginning of Act III. Chance.

to the evil of a religion that takes as a central article of its creed the notion of damnation. a realistic tragedy based on an Italian crime committed in Rome in 1599.regard to Prometheus”. Peter Bell the Third is critical of Wordsworth but not without admiration and not without generosity. Peter Bell the Third and The Mask of Anarchy are Shelleyan variations on the satirical and each makes its own treaty with the satirical impulse. to paper money. and it is by no means evident that it forms a fitting conclusion to the first three acts. and its indignation is good-tempered and based on genuine respect for Wordsworth and his achievements: 242 . to conspire with her stepmother and brothers for the murder of their common tyrant. Old Count Cenci. is The Cenci. When Wordsworth is represented as comically reverent in his dealings with Nature. on the whole. it is written more in sorrow than in anger. that is a male embodiment of an unpleasant and female type. to Peterloo. Burns makes an appearance as a sort of poetic Tom Jones next to whom Wordsworth is revealed as a Blifil. Shelley altered the real story to suit his own prejudices against the Papal Church. The fourth act. a quotation from Boccaccio flamboyantly transforms the moon from an emblem of virginity into an emblem of sexual promise endlessly renewed and at the last. as a poet who had once found his deepest imaginative sympathies with the poor and dispossessed and now grounded his self-esteem on his occupation of a house with a “genteel drive” neatly laid with “sifted gravel”. Its concerns range from Wordsworth and Coleridge. but it is more obscure than the rest of the drama. Shelley clung to the still conventional view of Wordsworth as a poet who had sold his principles for a pension. “Tempt not again my deepest bliss”. The plot tells how the beautiful and noble-minded Beatrice Cenci is driven by the monstrous cruelty and diabolical wickedness of her father. to London. contains some magnificent verse. still actable nowadays. as “a male prude”. Wordsworth is categorised with schoolboy relish. which is much the most lyrical part of the whole work. and to the proper relationship between the sexes. daring to do no more than touch “the hem of Nature’s shift”. says Nature. Shelley’s best drama. his timidity is laughed at with the kind of hearty masculinity that one associates with Fielding.

Small justice shown. For Shelley hope was a solemn duty which we owe alike to ourselves and to the world. (11. a set Of thieves who by themselves are sent Similar thieves to represent.Yet his was individual mind. and combined Them. An army. 243 . Shelley’s laughter in Peter Bell is more generous and less personally vindictive than that of Byron in Don Juan. (303-7) There is much in Peter Bell the Third which is amusing. There are all sorts of people undone. 162-6) Shelley may be amused by some of the most ridiculous aspects of Wordsworth’s behaviour but he is more pained than amused by the older poet’s acceptance of a Government post (or a situation in the Devil’s employment. And there is little or no fun done. For Richard Cronin. as he translates it in Peter Bell the Third). It was a moral commitment as well as a psychological and religious intimation. And new created all he saw In a new manner. colloquially vigorous and sharply to the point. and still less pity… There is a Chancery Court. and a public debt. For example: Hell is a city much like London – A populous and a smoky city. and refined Those new creations. A manufacturing mob. a King. by a master-spirit’s law.147-51. This commitment may help to explain both the function of the satirical elements in The Mask of Anarchy and its moral and narrative structure. but Byron’s laughter can still be accepted so long as its final effect is not to blot out our faith in human nature.

In this poem. obscene ravens. Adonais does not tell us much about Keats as an individual. if he can. In “A Satire on Satire” he rejects a satire which is purely negative. Shelley’s over-luxurious imagery. almost suicidally. The play Hellas (1821) begins with a chorus of Greek Captive Women singing ambiguous lullabies to the sleeping Sultan in Istanbul. for a part in the same lifetranscending immortality. “the great genius whom envy and ingratitude scourged out of the world”. Adonais is essentially a passionate cry of protest against the oppressors of mankind. how beautiful an order can spring from the dust and blood of this fierce chaos. It is one of the most carefully written of Shelley’s poems. Hypocrisy and their allies and substitutes another movement. man can perpetuate it and confirm its reality: by questioning it. By accepting the hell which is imposed on him. he can discover that the apparent hell is only the product of a certain mode of perception and not an inalienable reality of the human condition. Keats is a type and a symbol. In The Mask of Anarchy the poet stands up against the apparently inexorable progress of Murder. Shelley was particularly anxious to do him honour after his death. is kept in check by the subject. Fraud. Shelley exaggerates the importance of the unfavourable reviews. Since Keats had been treated with injustice during his lifetime. to imagine. and vultures who have hunted down a wounded deer. a serene philosophy of life which denies death and affirms the immortality of the human soul. For Shelley. just as in the sonnet “To Laughter” he rejects a laughter which is purely cynical. portraying the reviewers as wolves. and what it does tell us is misleading. Shelley’s elegiac tribute to the dead Keats. If Keats / Adonais is “one with Nature” and has become “transmitted effluence” which cannot die “so long as fire outlives the parent spark”. 244 . The poem pursues the idea of the poet as a hero. endeavours to find a structure for hope even from so unpromising a beginning. reveals a mature mysticism. here triumphant even in the face of death and “awakened from the dream of life”.Shelley’s concern is to see how the fallen world can be redeemed. the earth-bound survivor yearns. generally his greatest fault. Adonais (1821).

whose character is described to Mahmud by Hassan in a memorable passage. impetuous one!” In his Odes Shelley endeavours to look beyond the visible. Switzerland”. as before. it is as the lyrical poet of Nature that Shelley makes the greatest appeal. in the book of Esther turns out to be fairly enlightened despot. by the return of evil. as the ghost of Darius to Xerxes. and as one who has perhaps been Xerxes (what has Ahasuerus not been?) offering advice to one who is. “Death’s scroll” (1079) in the final chorus. escaping from these hateful contraries. but Shelley desired to be made one with Nature. The next striking idea is provided by the description of Ahasuerus. as he feels attracted by the various processes hidden within the 245 .After the lullabies comes a rousing though relatively uncomplicated chorus about the progress of Freedom from Greece. and perhaps a far greater melodic power. freedom and slavery. of course. which is the only hope of achieving another Hellas. so Mahmud to the modern. In “Ode to the West Wind” the poet cries “Be thou me. a writing of fixed oppositions. to modern protestant nations (“Florence. a second Xerxes. love and hate”. He held comedy in poetry to be a crime. As Xerxes to the ancient Greeks. Albion. through the Italian city-states. which is. with the disseminations of selfdelighting thought. And the rest of this chorus explains how the fixity is constituted: by the alternation of good and evil. Edward Larrissy conjectures that the identity of Ahasuerus in Book of Esther makes him that Xerxes who figures in Aeschylus’s Persae. in effect. the ancient Jewish visionary. given the name of a Persian ruler of the Jews who. is only black and white. He has the same sensitivity as Wordsworth. he possesses that affinity with process. 63). Shelley’s Ahasuerus thus comprises the opposites of master and slave: as a Jew. he has been slave. and so back to Greece: a geographical as well as temporal cycle. To Wordsworth Nature was the voice of God. Like Wordsworth. and now. so the Phantom of Mahomet II to Mahmud. which is summed up in the movement from a renewed Golden Age (1090) to the possibility that this will be followed. the chief model for Hellas. However. Shelley had no humour. Ahasuerus contains the whole history of the world hitherto: he has been master. and thence to America and the rest of Europe.

the “Chorus of Spirits” provides a threefold definition of Heaven: the embodiment of eternity and constancy. “the mind’s first chamber” and the evanescence of a dew drop. the natural effects caused by the wind underlie a cyclical process of death and rebirth: what is lasting and durable wells up again in spring.frame of the One. about cosmic immortality versus human evanescence. and sneer of cold command. too. But the cloud also has a symbolic value.. boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away”. Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive. “If Winter comes. whose frown. stamped on these lifeless things. The wind becomes a symbol. a shattered visage lies. the carrier of knowledge (“the seeds and the leaves”) from one generation to another. And on the pedestal these words appear: ‘My name is Ozymandias. The hand that mocked them.. And wrinkled lip. Shelley’s sonnet “Ozymandias” is undoubtedly amongst the best-known of all his poems. The cloud’s various transformations. In “Ode to the West Wind”. Half sunk. with the cloud speaking. The temporal transformations and progress are measured not by the clock but by the natural phenomena of days and years. and the heart that fed. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck. it stands for Shelley’s conception about eternity versus transience. on the sand. and despair!’ Nothing beside remains. are presented in a materialistic way: “I bring fresh showers… / I sift the snow… / I rest…”. king of kings: Look on my Works. near them. I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. can Spring be far behind?”. 246 . ye Mighty. of anxiety into the serene space of the poem. the final line brings a note of fear. The same idea of perpetual metamorphosis is evident in “The Cloud”. In “Ode to Heaven”.

the 247 . and proceeds to dissolve divisions between poets. from Ariel’s point of view. Ozymandias’s message to posterity has ended up articulating just exactly the opposite to what was intended. her husband Edward Williams is Ferdinand. and Shelley himself. To Jane”. Essentially. “Look on my Works ye Mighty. Culture is created by enslaving nature. Jane is Miranda. you can’t have poetry without paper. is a kind of second epilogue to Shakespeare’s romance play. but his examination of the idea of political improvement as a criterion of literary value and his idea of poetry as a liberator of the individual moral sense carry considerable intellectual force. Herodotus and Plutarch are placed amongst the poets. The poem lightly and touchingly mediates Shelley’s admiration for Jane through the fantasy of Ariel being silently and unrequitedly in love with Miranda. are large. even at times outrageous.It is a simple moral. written in the same tetrameter as Prospero’s epilogue in The Tempest. and Milton emerge as “philosophers of the very loftiest power” and Plato and Bacon. sneeringly arrogant and contemptuous of its human cost. and philosophic historians. has been ironized by time. Dante. moreover. His assertions. Jonathan Bate suggests that Shelley’s poem foreshadows the late-twentieth-century eco-criticism. like Sir Philip Sidney’s before him. “With a Guitar. the scene most tellingly inverts the claims of the legend. That the tree died in sleep and felt no pain implies that a tree might be killed while awake and feel pain. with the imagination seen as the synthesizer and the unifier which finds its highest expression in poetry. Shelley dismisses as “a vulgar error” the distinction between poets and prose writers. The scene reported by the traveller gives the lie unanswerably to the boast on the pedestal. The tyrant’s affirmation of his omnipotence. and despair!”. Art – the music of the guitar which is metonymic of the poem itself – offers the ideal or intellectual form of nature. Thus Shakespeare. The price of art is the destruction of a living tree. You can’t have music without dead wood. Ariel. The argument of the Defence opens with the development of a distinction between the workings of the reason and the imagination. In his essay A Defence of Poetry (written in 1821 and published only posthumously in 1840) Shelley confidently proclaims the essentially social function of poetry and the prophetic role of the poet. philosophers.

essay seeks to demonstrate that poetry prefigures other modes of thought and anticipates the formulation of a social morality. as the leader and representative society. Beauty is necessarily Truth and Truth is Beauty. he is an “unacknowledged legislator” for a future society which will learn to live without the restrictions of law. humanitarianism. is more than veiled self-aggrandizement. For Keats. couplets. Shelley is best in his briefer and simpler lyrics. the liberator and the explorer. Matthew Arnold characterized Shelley the man and his work as a “beautiful and ineffectual angel beating in the void his luminous wings in vain”. His work seems. his eloquence and music stand unmatched among the English poets of the time. blank verse (in Alastor). above all. Throughout Shelley’s work we find a technical mastery of both traditional forms such as the Spenserian stanza (in Adonais).” The poet is priest and prophet to a world which can move beyond religion and magic. To enjoy such a blissful mood means to know. Beauty’s truth lies in love. faith in man. he is. love is true only when imagination is at work and then it is equated with a blissful mood which is the attribute of “poesy”. it transmutes all it touches. it exalts beauty. Dante’s terza rima and innovative prosodic patterns. Poetry enhances life. and it tells the truth by stripping “the veil of familiarity from the world” and laying bare “the naked and sleeping beauty which is the spirit of its forms. JOHN KEATS John Keats was the most talented English Romantic poet. In one of his letters he confessed: “Imagination is my Monastery and I am its Monk”. his longing for ideal beauty. it is a reasonable assertion of the irrational power of the imagination against a purely utilitarian view of art. richer and more colourful than that of his predecessors’. Shelley’s projection of the poet as hero. Key words in the approach to his works are the democratic dreams inspired by “the sacred name of Rousseau” and the Revolution. 248 . at least at first sight.

He received relatively little formal education and at age sixteen he became an apprentice to an apothecary-surgeon. and individual and it was articulated in the bursts of energetic self-critical analysis in his letters.When one contemplates Keats’s life one is struck not only by its sad brevity but by the extraordinary and triumphant fullness of its achievement. Agnes and Other Poems. The Eve of St. his mother died when he was fourteen and one of his younger brothers died in infancy. Isabella. In 1820 he settled in Rome. particular. but abandoned the profession for poetry. John Keats was born in London. Keats’s health was now in a critical state and Shelley asked him to join him in Pisa. he managed to publish a third volume of poems. ever sensitive to criticism and ever open to the influence of other poets. Keats dedicated himself to writing. His early life was marked by a series of personal tragedies: his father was killed in an accident when he was eight years old. Scott. and Shelley. Lamia. He did not accept Shelley’s invitation but did decide to move to Italy. where he hoped the warmer climate would improve his condition. Keats’s background and education denied him both the social advantages and the ready recourse to classical models shared by those contemporaries to whose work he most readily turned (though not always favourably) – Wordsworth and Coleridge. Despite frequent and persistent periods of illness. was also extraordinarily able to assimilate and then to transform both criticism and influence. Before leaving. both living and dead. 249 . and in what is often referred to as the Great Year (1819) he produced some of his finest works. He became friends with Shelley and in March 1817 his first book of poems was published. where his father was the manager of a large livery stable. Byron. John Keats. including his five great odes. where he died in February 1821 at the age of twenty-five. His development as a poet was rapid. In 1816 Keats obtained a licence to practise apothecary. His first attempts at writing poetry date from the years of his apprenticeship and include “Imitation of Spenser”. a homage to the Elizabethan poet he greatly admired.

The poem abounds in architectural and visual imagery. or the Polish patriot Tadeusz Kosciusko. excited. of Chaucer. The poem is elusive in its return to suggestions of sickness. Robin Hood. It is also the tale of a shepherd on Mount Latmos. Endymion becomes the poet’s alter-ego in his search for Beauty in life. all. Keats’s heroes were patriot champions of popular freedom: King Alfred. Endymion is. doubts. William Tell. living. Boccaccio. Spenser. It is to the example of Shakespeare that he habitually refers in his letters when he seeks to demonstrate a sudden insight into the nature of poetic creation.He was extremely well read and his letters record a series of new. in animal and vegetal imagery. under Zeus’ spell. which underlie the hero’s quest aiming at self-knowledge and harmonious integration into Nature. and Dryden. Night registers all the changes by means of which the young man is spiritualized. The beginning of Book III of Endymion was considered a “Jacobinical apostrophe” by the Tory government. 250 . and Tasso (whose Italian he was beginning to master towards the end of his life) and. notably in 1817 in his definition of what he styles “Negative Capability” (“when a man is capable of being in uncertainties. of Dante. b) from Endymion’s self to his deeper self. and penitence. without any irritable reaching after fact and reason”). more than that. mysteries. above. The hero embarks upon a journey and pursuit metaphorically rendered by the image of net and labyrinth. but it is an experiment with which he had evidently become restless before he had completed it. however. The first pangs of love make Endymion wonder about life and true happiness. the poem records the stages of a descent from a) the external life to the inner world of Endymion’s soul. Ariosto. In Endymion Keats’s consistent ambition to move beyond the lyrical to the narrative and the epic finds its first significant expression. an everlasting youth. The strengths of the poem are most often occasional and lie chiefly in the introduction of the lyrical hymns and songs which enhance the meandering narrative line. and critical impressions formed by his explorations of English seventeenth-century drama. Milton. Robert Burns. of Shakespeare. death.

Lamia. When Keats refers to the limping hare. absolute knowledge makes a god of the poet: “Knowledge enormous makes a god of me”. In demonology a ‘lamia’ was a monster in a woman’s shape. his family and Madeline’s are enemies and it is therefore dangerous for him to be there. a poetic romance in two parts. persuades Apollo to transform her back into a woman. but his unnamed bride turns out to be just an illusion. in more general terms. he prepares us for seeing Madeline as a vulnerable young woman in a harsh world. The hare limped trembling through the frozen grass. Lamia. and also. may stand as the symbol of imagination contrasted to reason. touches on the frailty of any concept of happiness or love in such a world. Lycius abandons cold rationalism in order to reach ‘blissful mood’.Hyperion. St Agnes’ Eve – ah. Madeline is preparing to go to bed when Porphyro arrives at her house. she lures the young Lycius and dares him to happiness through love. Angela. bitter chill it was! The owl. The action takes place on St Agnes’ Eve. In “The Eve of St Agnes” erotic love associated with storm results in unexpected effects. for all his feathers. when maidens have visions of their lovers or future husbands. (In a wonderful example of twentieth century 251 . The story is very similar to that in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. and early next morning they leave together. Next. and she conceals him in Madeline’s bedroom. an old nurse. is his friend. If Endymion has become immortal through spiritualized love. was a-cold. And silent was the flock in woolly fold. The poem is not just the story of Madeline and Porphyro but a broader consideration of the concept of love in a world where death and consideration of the concept of love in a world where death and killing exist. an unfinished romance in three books is. Here Keats tells the story of Madeline and her lover Porphyro. through the images it uses. a cold symbol who finally has to die. In the middle of the night he joins Madeline. However. the serpent. complementary to Endymion.

this pious morn? And.) Many critics consider Keats’s odes to be the best poetic pieces of his brief career. O mysterious priest. little town. thy streets forevermore Will silent be. Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel. And all her silken flanks with garlands dressed? What little town by river or sea shore. and not a soul to tell Why thou art desolate.intertextuality. Is emptied of this folk. can e’er return. images taken out of time and rendered eternal only by the intervention of art. 252 . the urn seems to represent a world of pastoral innocence. Keats sets the real world against an imagined other world. in particular. The image of the sacrifice. one showing bucolic lovers. Both scenes are frozen and silent. the other a pagan sacrifice. The perception of the transience of beauty triggers the speculations derived from the contemplation of the two scenes which decorate the imagined Attic vase. something of the sculptural patterning and spatial imagination of Poussin: Who are these coming to the sacrifice? To what green altar. There is just a nod towards the more uncomfortable side of experience in the word “unravish’d” in the first line: it provides a reminder that in the real world things change whereas on the vase nothing changes. an alternative world where everything seems happy and uncomplicated. Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies. In “Ode on a Grecian Urn”. The more succinct “Ode on Melancholy” opens with a rejection of traditional and gloomy aids to reflection and moves to an exploration of the interrelationship of the sensations of joy and sorrow. As in “Ode to a Nightingale”. has. where the brute force of the ordinary world has been eliminated. the English novelist David Lodge took over the episode of Porphyro’s secret entrance to Madeline’s bedroom in one of the funniest scenes of his celebrated campus novel Small World. according to Andrew Sanders.

4. so that we are presented with a dream world but never lose sight of the real world. “Ode to a Nightingale” takes as its subject the local presence of a nightingale. Death here is not extinction but the eager wish to make a transient state of happiness become eternal. In “Ode to Psyche” the poet creates a delightful “sanctuary” (the world of imagination) in honour of Psyche the goddess (the 253 . even the desolation. And yet. 3. Poetry is equated in stanzas IV and V with the poet’s imaginary participation in the nightingale’s song. some depressed. 2.The poem allows for the high compensations offered by art. John Peck arrives at the following conclusions: 1. the rapt and meditative poet. entailed in the “teasing” process of contemplating eternity. In “Ode on a Grecian Urn” Keats again asserts his creed: “Beauty is truth. and the contrast of the “full-throated ease” of its singing with the aching “numbness” of the human observer.What is so attractive about Keats’s poetry is the vivid way in which he can create a picture of a world of the senses. The ode progresses through a series of precisely delicate evocations of opposed moods and ways of seeing. immortality – mortality. some elated. for man the only way to achieve a similar ecstatic mood and to render it eternal is to die. but its vocabulary steadily suggests the loss. There is a clear way in which reality in his verse intermingles with and disrupts the perfect vision. The nightingale in “Ode to a Nightingale” undergoes a dramatic change in its gradual transformation from a bird alive in the sky to a symbol of imaginative art. but each serving to return the narrator to his “sole self” and to his awareness of the temporary nature of the release from the unrelieved contemplation of temporal suffering which the bird’s song has offered.Keats’s poem is not escapist. however.Keats deals with the pain of reality and how desirable it would be to escape to a happier world. and all ye need to know.This makes for an interesting instability in the poem.” Permanence – transience. urn – scenes are the antitheses the poem is built on. truth beauty – that is all / Ye know on Earth. In his analysis of “Ode to a Nightingale”.

“To Autumn”. He does nothing of the kind. One of the secrets of the remarkable success of his ode “To Autumn” is perhaps that the poet himself makes no appearance. the Grecian Urn. and rises to hope only by contemplating the resurgence of spring that lies beyond. to quote Keats) and the rich variety of details conceal the signs of an on-going process. Whereas Shelley. One would have expected him to have made some reference to the parallel between the season and the corresponding period in a man’s life. and conflicting emotions are diminished amid a series of dense impressions of a season whose bounty contains both fulfilment and incipient decay. regards autumn as the forerunner of death. but natural. Keats was not only an explicit supporter of humanitarian principles. It is a paradox of genius that the ode “To Autumn”. and Melancholy. as if there were no winter to follow. No melancholy throws its shadow over this poem of fruition and acceptance. as may be seen by tracing the earlier allusions in his poems. It is not to be found in the last and most triumphant of them all. in the “Ode to the West Wind”. “To Autumn” is only on the surface a descriptive poem. process of ageing and dying. Nor does he explicitly contrast the recurrence and therefore. The obsession with Time is characteristic of the three central Odes. oppositions. who will be forever worshipped by her priest (the poet). as he does with the song of the nightingale. He was a great admirer of Milton. and it was always the achievement of autumn that appealed to him. the immortality of the season and its sights and occupations with the transitoriness of human life. is written in a peaceable and healthy spirit. Autumn had always been a season that had meant a great deal to Keats. The latest of the odes. Keats remains wholly in the present. was written in September 1819. dedicated to the Nightingale. “To Autumn”. the stillness (“stationing”. almost the last poem that he was ever to write. Like a painter he loses himself in the contemplation of what he is describing. Shakespeare and 254 . in a sense. Here the tensions. both an intensification of life and an inevitable. rather than the fact that it heralds winter and death.human soul in love).

Agnes” is written in Spenserian stanzas. Nature was a mirror in which the Imagination saw itself reflected. The symbolical language was a device for asking questions and not one for recording answers. the rules. * GENERAL CONCLUSION: After this brief survey of the works of the greatest English Romantic poets one may find the definition of Romanticism to be as elusive as it appeared in the general introduction to this chapter. The most frequent word in Blake’s “The Tiger” is the interrogative what. W.e. the middle-class intelligentsia. Finally. 255 . Since the Imagination was private and asocial if not antisocial. The images of wild nature and their relationship to the poet carried with them obscure symbolic significances of universal interest. in the process of discovering its identity. and Spenserian influences are also detectable in his romance tale-poems. the student in English literature might opt as well for Wellek’s definition of Romanticism: a loose conceptual congeries (i. the limits. And since the Imagination cannot formulate logical propositions. Symbol (or Myth). “The Eve of St. in Romanticism Reconsidered (1962) provides us with a synthetic and conclusive definition of Romanticism as “the tendency to break the confines. Herbert M. its message to the Romantic reader had to be oblique. to go beyond that which has been crystallized”. The medium of discovery was linguistic”.Chapman. while both Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” and Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” end on a question. F. the Nature it found itself looking at was necessarily wild nature. Bateson defines Romanticism in social terms. However. Schueller. The Creative Imagination of the poet supplied the Romantic reader with material out of which he could elaborate or explore his own inner subjective world. mass) organized around three dominant terms: Imagination. as “a new class. Nature.

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PART THREE SURVEY SUPPORT TEXT 257 .

258 .

Still three things twist man’s mind until the day his doom is sealed age. God’s visions are to me more vivid than this dead life loaned out on land I know its leasehold will not last. no kings gold givers such as once there were when lordly feats would garner fame and each man lived for utmost laud. bleak of face 259 . The days of glory have decayed the earth has spilled its splendour there are no captains now.ANGLO-SAXON POETRY THE SEAFARER (fragments) The lone call wails above on wing it steels the unarmed soul to start across the waters where the whale sways. illness or some stroke of hate will seize sense from him. So any noble spirit will aspire to earn an everlasting epitaph of praise for good deeds done on earth. visions are faded the weak are left to hold this world worn low. Virtue is fallen. bold blows dealt at the Devil and against fell foes before his passing. The flower of the field is old the leaf is withered and the laurel sere Throughout this middle isthmus man meets age hoar-headed. that posterity delights enjoyed for ever by the brave among the angels may perpetuate.

Nor can his sinful soul. how our travail here will lead us to the living well-head and heaven haven of our Lord’s love. Translated into Modern English by Charles Harrison Wallace 260 . clean and just in judgement a man should curb his love or loathing though flame consume his comrade and fire the funeral pyre for fate is set more surely. the Ancient of Days for all time. Amen. Come. Thus let us thank His hallowed name that He has granted us His grace Dominion enduring. the flesh feels less and fails to savour sweet or sour is frail of hand. God more great. Dull is the man who does not dread the Lord on him will death’s descent be sudden blissful the man that meekly lives on him will heaven benisons bestow. grieving over scions of lineage long since gone. feeble of mind Though men may bury treasured pelf beside their brother’s born remains and sow his grave with golden goods he goes where gold is worthless. consider where we have a home. A man should steer a steadfast course be constant.by former friends forsaken. A mind was given man by God to glory in his might. Life ebbs. quaking before his God call hoarded gold or mortal glory to his aid that Architect is awesome Whose might moves the world Whose hand has fixed the firmament earth’s vaults and vapours. than any man surmise. how we can travel to it.

So also may this! Many have heard of the rape of Hild. That evil ended. Wintry exile and anguish of soul. When she knew the weight of the child in her womb. So also may this! We have heard of Eormanric’s wolf-like ways. the better man. So also may this! For thirty winters Theodoric held. So also may this! He who knows sorrow. Had for companionship heart-break and longing. and many a man. But little could know what her lot might be. Yet well may he think how oft in this world The wise Lord varies His ways to men. 261 . despoiled of joys. When Nithad bound him. Hero unflinching enduring distress. Wished that the end of his kingdom were come. That evil ended. As many have known. Grim was his menace. to his heart it seemeth His measure of misery meeteth no end. Widely ruling the realm of the Goths. Sits heavy of mood. That evil ended. Constrained him with sinewy bonds. Granting wealth and honour to many an earl. dear to my lord. Weighted with sorrow and presage of woe. To others awarding a burden of woe. Of her father’s affection and infinite love. That evil ended. So also may this! Nor was brother's death to Beadohild A sorrow as deep as her own sad plight. That evil ended. Whose nights were sleepless with sorrow and grief. the Maering’s stronghold. And so I can sing of my own sad plight Who long stood high as the Heodenings’ bard. Deor my name.DEOR’S LAMENT Weland knew fully affliction and woe.

Found Heorot defended so firmly. That evil ended. W. hoping to kill Anyone he could trap on his trip to high Heorot. his reception So harsh. seeing the hall Crowded with sleeping warriors. bearing God’s hatred. snarling and fierce: his eyes Gleamed in the darkness. Kindly my king till Heorrenda came Skilful in song and usurping the land-right Which once my gracious lord granted to me. then snapped it open. sliding silently Toward that gold-shining hall. He moved quickly through the cloudy night. forever joyless. from the foot of misty Hills and bogs. he relished the sight. Intended to tear the life from those bodies 262 . Kennedy BEOWULF (fragments) BEOWULF’S STRUGGLE WITH GRENDEL Out from the marsh. stuffed With rows of young soldiers resting together. He strode quickly across the inlaid Floor. before nor after that night. knew the way – But never. He journeyed. Straight to the door. Up from his swampland.Mild was my service for many a winter. He had visited Hrothgar’s Home before. Then he stopped. burned with a gruesome Light. Tore its iron fasteners with a touch And rushed angrily over the threshold. And his heart laughed. So also may this! Translated by C. Grendel came.

clutched Grendel Closer. That shepherd of evil. Waiting to see his swift hard claws. flee back to his marsh and hide there: This was a different Heorot than the hall he had emptied. that night. intended Grendel to gnaw the broken bones Of his last human supper. the monster’s mind was hot With the thought of food and the feasting his belly Would soon know. But Hygelac’s follower remembered his final Boast and. death And Grendel’s great teeth came together. fastened those claws In his fists till they cracked. Grendel snatched at the first Geat He came to. claws Bent back as Beowulf leaned up on one arm. And Danes shook with terror. stopped The monster’s flight. Human Eyes were watching his evil steps. hands and feet. His mind was flooded with fear – but nothing Could take his talons and himself from that tight Hard grip. he was trapped. wanting no flesh but retreat. his claws Had been caught. Knew at once that nowhere on earth Had he met a man whose hands were harder. guardian of crime.By morning. clutched at Beowulf with his claws. The infamous killer fought For his freedom. Then he stepped to another Still body. Grendel’s one thought was to run From Beowulf. ripped him apart. Desiring nothing but escape. Drank the blood from his veins and bolted Him down. That trip to Heorot Was a miserable journey for the writhing monster! The high hall rang. Grasped at a strong-hearted wakeful sleeper – And was instantly seized himself. cut His body to bits with powerful jaws. Snapping life shut. Down 263 . standing erect. its roof boards swayed. But fate.

the struggling Great bodies beating at its beautiful walls. The Battle was over. fell To the floor. Hygelac’s brave follower tearing at His hands. gold-covered boards grating As Grendel and Beowulf battled across them. Its benches rattled. artfully worked. Only to die. His miserable hole at the bottom of the marsh. to wait for the end Of all his days. only fire.The aisles the battle swept. Suddenly The sounds changed. cowering in their beds as the terrible Screams of the Almighty’s enemy sang In the darkness. his claws Bound fast. the tears torn out of Grendel’s Taut throat. the horrible shrieks of pain And defeat. wonderfully Built to withstand the blows. They had planned. inside And out. Now he discovered – once the afflicter Of men. But wounded as he was could flee to his den. angry And wild. Beowulf Had been granted new glory: Grendel escaped. tormentor of their days – what it meant To feud with Almighty God: Grendel Saw that his strength was deserting him. Shaped and fastened with iron. Hrothgar’s wise men had fashioned Heorot To stand forever. hell’s captive caught in the arms Of him who of all the men on earth Was the strongest. could shatter what such skill had put Together. the Danes started In new terror. And the bleeding sinews deep in his shoulder Snapped. Heorot trembled. And after that bloody 264 . But his power had gone. muscle and bone split And broke. the building Stood firm. The monster’s hatred rose higher. swallow in hot flames such splendour Of ivory and iron and wood. He twisted in pain.

Combat the Danes laughed with delight. this gold. my time is gone. to bring him The treasure they’d won together. Have The brave Geats build me a tomb. was the monster’s Arm. Bold and strong-minded. 265 . haltingly: “For this. Then he brought their treasure to Beowulf. had killed Grendel. But Wiglaf sprinkled water Over his lord. had driven affliction Off. Wiglaf. these jewels. Help them. I thank Our Father in Heaven. Beholding the treasure he spoke. I sold my life For this treasure. anxious To return while Beowulf was alive. Take What I leave. He was happy. claw and shoulder and all. He ran. the sorrow. the Danes Had been served as he’d boasted he’d serve them. Beowulf. until the words Deep in his breast broke through and were heard. A prince of the Geats. Ruler of the Earth – For all of this. hanging high From the rafters where Beowulf had hung it. Hoping his wounded king. weak And dying. No Dane doubted The victory. that His grace has given me. gasping For breath. Now with that night’s fierce work. He who had come to them from across the sea. BEOWULF'S FINAL SPEECH Then Wiglaf went back. lead my people. had not left the world too soon. the suffering Forced on Hrothgar’s helpless people By a bloodthirsty fiend. for the proof. and I sold it well. purged Heorot clean. Ended the grief. Allowed me to bring to my people while breath Still came to my lips. and found His famous king bloody.

Saying the worst of every feature That she could mock in the other creature. His soul Left his flesh. He would sleep in the fire. And each against the other swelled. had said as much as it could. and remember my name. and boats in the darkness And mist. Each her spleen and ire expelled. 266 . Now gentle. high On this spit of land. Taken warriors in their strength and led them To the death that was waiting. flew to glory.” Then that brave king gave the golden Necklace from around his throat to Wiglaf. so sailors can see This tower.” The old man’s mouth was silent. Most keen and strenuous the debate. Translated by Burton Raffel MIDDLE ENGLISH LITERATURE THE OWL AND THE NIGHTINGALE (fragments) It happened in the summery heart Of a secret vale’s most hidden part. now in furious spate. will know it. and call it Beowulf’s tower. crossing the sea. soon. and build it Here. And now I follow them. and ordered him to use them well: “You’re the last of all our far-flung family. at the water’s edge. Fate has swept our race away. spoke No more. and his rings. I heard an Owl and Nightingale Disputing on a mighty scale. Gave him his gold-covered helmet. And his mail shirt.When the funeral flames have burned me.

her rage to grate. fast entwined with reeds and sedge. Because your filthy clamouring Makes me rather spit than sing. The first to speak. not living throat. “Away! Fly off! Simply to see you’s quite enough To make me lose the urge to sing. That pipe or harp. Decayed. In a corner of the vale Was perched upon a pretty twig Where blossom showed on every sprig And. my spirit dies. There grew a thick and lovely hedge. And here sang out her “hours” to men. You’re such an ugly. She felt she could no longer wait. When you thrust out before my eyes. It seemed the melody she made Was on a pipe or harpstring played. loathsome sight. the Nightingale. “Monster!” she cried. “How Does this my singing strike you now? D’you think I have no singing skill 267 . Her breath to catch. Delighting in that flowering spray. evil thing. And reckoned her opponent foul.” The Owl held back till evening fell: Then. My tongue is tied. The Nightingale surveyed the Owl. Was shooting forth each pleasant note. And here the Owl had made her den. She sang her varying tuneful lay.Contention was especially strong When each abused the other’s song. And straight away exploded. with ivy overgrown. as her heart began to swell. Indeed all men declare with right That she’s a hideous. Nearby there stood a stump alone.

You colour every single word To sound like truth. so all should strive 268 . Girding at me with mock and shame. And I could get you in my claws (And would I could is all my boon). Hold bard! you shall be countered yet! Your mighty falsehoods shall be met When they’re exposed. and clearly seen. There’s not a single man alive Who’s free of sin. They’ll surely find that long And contrite weeping and a plea For pardon for their sins will be The only way to enter in.Merely because I cannot trill? You’re always loading me with blame. specious way That all who turn an car to you Suppose your utterance to be true. You say you sing to all mankind Of blisses they should strive to find. And of the everlasting choir – How strange that such a barefaced liar As you should bluff so openly! D’you think they’ll come so easily To God’s high kingdom? By a song? No. I therefore say men should begin To weep much rather than to sing If they yearn for heaven’s king. And all know what a liar you’ve been. you lying bird! You round and polish all you say In such an unctuous. You’d sing a different kind of tune. If you were off that twig of yours.” ………………………………………… “Hold bard! hold hard!” exclaimed the Owl. “Your style in all is fake and foul. no.

by what I sing. Though saved themselves. I help the bad no less. My tears are better than your song. All your songs of wantonness. If right takes precedence over wrong. For when upon your twig you sit. I help this process on. From me a two-fold grace is had. on earth they see Nothing but pain and misery. But teach the listening Man to yearn And make lament his chief concern. My song helps virtuous men to yearn. If you dispute this. With further blame your plea I twit. Some men there are. I sing when they with longing burn. You lure to fleshly lust and wrong All those who listen to your song. for I In song instruct where sufferings lie. Who notwithstanding yearn to go Because they find this life all woe. The bass of heaven you quite ignore. They shed harsh tears for others’ woes And pray Christ’s mercy come to those. Your squeaks no man alive would grant 269 .With tears and weeping to atone Till all sweet things to sour are grown. In you is found no hotness. And thus I help both good and bad. To wail his guilty trespassing. You have no voice for such a lore. God knows: My songs no idiot course propose. I reply You sing less well than I can cry. For thus he heeds his mortal state And groans because his sins are great I goad him on. both good and true And pure in spirit through and through.

To be a mass priest’s holy chant! But still another charge I lay. Why can’t the Norsemen hear your lay. But north and south I make my stand And am well known in every land. Because the Owl in her harangue Had mocked the place in which she sang – Behind the house among the weed Where men relieve their bodies’ need. Advising men with instant clamour To shun your songs alluring glamour. Or even men of Galloway? Of singing skill those men have none For any song beneath the sun. Why don’t you sing to priests up there And teach them how to trill the air. Why don’t you sing in foreign parts? That’s where they need the Lively arm You never sing in Irish lands Nor ever visit Scottish lands. Ashamed and rather at a loss. My song most clearly tells mankind To leave the life of sin behind. For it is better and more sweet On earth to weep with woe and care Than be the Devil’s friend elsewhere. and far and near I sing my duty loud and clear. But leaves the neighbouring lowland dry. east and West. I bid them cease from self-deceit. And gushes off downhill to die. Yes. Which you must try and talk away.” By now the Nightingale was cross. 270 . And show them by your chirruping How the heavenly angels sing? Just like a useless spring you seem That jets out by a flowing stream.

feeling quiet Than wrangling in a mood of riot. As Alfred says. let him come here quickly and claim his weapon! 271 . And waited for a calmer mood. If I were strapped on steel on a sturdy horse no man here has might to match me. the bird well understood. has bold blood and a brash head. that learned king: “The hated man can’t intercede. The angry man’s not fit to plead.But yet she sat and thought it through.” For wrath stirs up the spirit’s blood With raging surges like a flood. All this. Who here in this house thinks he has what it takes. She’d speak much better. and I shall stand here bare of armour. and dares to stand his ground. giving stroke for stroke? Here! I shall give him this gilded blade as my gift. SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT (fragments) (13) “Never fear. I have come to this court for a bit of Christmas fun fitting for Yuletide and New Years with such a fine crowd. “I’m not fishing for a fight with the beardless children on the benches all about. If anyone’s tough enough to try out my game. this heavy ax shall be his. Perceiving neither truth nor right. The spirit thus loses all its light. And overpowers the beating mind Until with passion it is blind.” he said. to handle as he likes. and brave the first blow. For in her heart of hearts she knew That rage destroys wise counselling. No.

(15) 272 . a full year and a day. now they sat stone-still: the whole hall. he will get it for keeps. He coughed loudly. your big words? The glories and triumphs of the Round Table have toppled at the touch of one man’s words! What? Fainting with fear. let’s see what you dare to say!” (14) If at first he had stunned them. to call or came forward. “Hah! They call this King Arthur’s house. if you’ll grant me the right to give as good as I get in play. All king in face and form. he reached that rider.I give up all rights. the blood shot to his flushed face and churned with rage and raised a storm until their hearts all burned. if you think you’re rough. both high and low. a living legend in land after land? Where have your pride and your power gone. I’ll stand like a tree trunk – he can strike at me once. his beard waving as he waited for one man to rise. stretched slowly. Get up. arched his bushy brows. your bragging boasts. turned. all brilliant and green. glared a red glance grimly about. But later is soon enough. when no fight is offered?” He let out a laugh so loud that Arthur winced with shame. The mounted man moved in his saddle. and straightened to speak.

that you rushed from the royal court? Must you now ride alone when holiday feasts are not wholly done?” “Sir. Then the man dismounted. considered his stroke. so help me God! Hand me that ax – I will grant you the gift you beg me to give!” He leaped lightly up and lifted it from his hand. moving proudly. “you have spoken truly: I had to depart on a high and a hasty matter. Gawain.” that good man graciously asked. He stood there hard-faced. hear well what I mean. and let this match be mine. 273 . though I wonder where in the world to find it. by heaven! Have you lost your mind? If you want to be mad. both hands on the haft. That burly man bulked big and tall. For I myself am summoned to seek out a place. while Arthur held the ax. hefted it sternly. no more moved or dismayed by his mighty swings than anybody would be if somebody brought him a bottle of wine. or on what ground it stands. could tell the king his mind: “Lord.” he responded. sitting by the queen. “Look here.and said.” (43) “But Gawain. a head higher than anyone in the house. I will make you welcome! Nobody I know is bowled over by your big words. “Has some dark deed driven you forth. impassively watching as he pulled off his coat. I’d not fail to near it by New Year’s morning for all the land in Britain – by the love of God! I have come with questions that require answers – so tell me the truth: has any tale reached you of the Green Chapel. stroking his beard.

let’s delight in the ladies’ presence!” Thus they made a pleasant party apart by themselves. “You have sworn to serve me however seems best. and can give up guessing on what ground it lies. We’ll guide you there with ease – it’s not two miles away. “While your walls ward me your will is supreme. to meet this man. Therefore sir. and can lie abed as late as you wish. and he gladly laughed. laughing. then rise and ride that way. by most solemn pledge. and if the Lord allows it. as you see. and finally set forth the first of the year.” (44) Then gaiety filled Gawain. I must set out now for I doubt that three days will do for this business and I’d far rather die than be doomed to fail. sir. He called to his company.” 274 . I can grant your wish. “You must linger now! You will get to your goal in good enough time. and do as you bid me. maybe. “Come. a green-skinned knight? For I have set myself.” Then the lord answered.” “Sit down.” said his host. will you act to honour this oath here and now?” “Certainly. dwell here a while. The lord let out laughs as loud and as merry as a madman. though it may go hard.or about its guardian. yet make it there with morning still mostly left that day – spend till New Years as you please.” he said in reply. I’ll look upon him more gladly – by God’s Son! – than on any good thing. whose mind was far gone. crying aloud. seizing his arm. “I must earnestly offer my uttermost thanks! With my goal at hand. But now the New Year is nearly complete.

But he said to himself. A long while she lingered there to look at him waking. which suddenly opened. nor are you well-rested. who closed the door carefully and quietly behind her and bent toward the bed. looking asleep. We all have been wakeful. You must lie in late. nor fed quite as fully. Blushing the fellow lay down and lurked there. The man lay unmoving for more than a while. and have travelled far. “It would suit far better if I let the lady enlighten me herself. Taking step after step. warily wondering what it might be. When he heard this he heaved his head from the sheets and pulled a corner of the curtain carefully aside.” 275 . she stole to the bed.He returned: “You are tired. and lounge at your ease past morning mass. such a lovely sight. but I myself will ride hunting at break of day.” Then Gawain bowed with pride and promised to obey. caught up the curtain and crawling inside sat down beside him with silent motions. You stay. and make it to breakfast whenever you wish. for his mind was bemused what to make of this strange situation. It was the lady herself. (48) While the lord found delight in the linden-wood. that good man Gawain had a grand bed where he dozed while daylight dappled the walls and crept through the counterpanes and curtains about him. It seemed most amazing. I fear. As he drifted half-dreaming. My wife will eat with you and keep you company till I come again. a delicate noise sounded softly at the door. as should be.

her voice a pleasant treat where small lips smiled delight. I have closed the door. please let him rise. so I had better take it!” (So he teased her in turn.” “Certainly not. and we’ll finish chatting in far greater comfort. and plead for your mercy.Then he straightened and stretched and stirring toward her he opened his eyes and acted astounded. lovely lady. “Just decide on my sentence.) “But at least. I know enough after all. I shall hold you here – and – that other half also – and get to know the knight I’ve so neatly trapped. “You’ll not budge from your bed: I have better plans.” Delighted the lady laughed as she teased him. I’m your prisoner completely. Then he crossed himself as if he claimed protection from that sight – her chin and cheeks were sweet. let me be out of bed. every way you ride your courteous character is acclaimed most nobly by lords and by ladies and all living people. (49) “Good morning. blending red and white. the servants are sleeping. returning her laughter. Sir Gawain!” she gaily exclaimed. it’s securely locked. “You’re a sound sleeper! I slipped in unnoticed and you are quite my captive! Unless we come to terms I shall bind you in your bed – of that be quite certain. good sir. And now you are here. in better apparel. and here we’re alone – my lord and his men will be long afield. so are my maidens. to know of Sir Gawain whom all the world worships. “Good morning.” that sweet lady said. It’s my best bet. allow me one wish: pardon your prisoner. it will suit me nicely. 276 . gay lady!” answered Gawain blithely.

“I would gain too much! Though I am hardly he of whom you are speaking – the honour you outline is obviously more than what I am worth – and how well I know it! By God! I’d be glad if it seemed good to you to assign some other service I might do to value and revere you.” “In good faith. to see you take your pleasure. Translated into Modern English by Paul Deane 277 . I shall spend my time in speech I am sure to treasure. I’d be less than gracious! There is no lack of ladies who’d love so very much to have one so handsome held as I have you. of course. but he with spotless care answered every case.” (50) “In good faith.” said Gawain. I am obliged. I’d be very glad. perforce. My person’s yours. “If I prized the prowess that pleases all others so little or so lightly.and since I have in this house he whom all admire. to serve you at your leisure. Sir Gawain!” she gaily replied. who’d be so glad to listen as your gracious speech softened their sorrows and soothed all their cares that they would gladly give all the gold they have! But I praise the Prince whose place is in heaven that I have right here what others hope to see by grace!” She’d such a cheerful air who seemed so sweet of face.

in every holt and heath. with his sweet breath. Befell that. and pilgrims were they all 278 . And many little birds make melody That sleep through all the night with open eye (So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage) – Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage.GEOFFREY CHAUCER THE CANTERBURY TALES The General Prologue (fragments) Here begins the Book of the Tales of Canterbury When April with his showers sweet with fruit The drought of March has pierced unto the root And bathed each vein with liquor that has power To generate therein and sire the flower. full of devout homage. The holy blessed martyr there to seek Who helped them when they lay so ill and weal. There came at nightfall to that hostelry Some nine and twenty in a company Of sundry persons who had chanced to fall In fellowship. And palmers to go seeking out strange strands. and the young sun Into the Ram one half his course has run. To distant shrines well known in sundry lands. in that season. as I lay Ready to start upon my pilgrimage To Canterbury. Quickened again. at the Tabard. The tender shoots and buds. When Zephyr also has. And specially from every shire’s end Of England they to Canterbury wend. on a day In Southwark.

And with a knight thus will I first begin. In courtesy she had delight and zest. as it appeared to me. After the school of Stratford-at-the-Bow. And who they were. modest was and coy. And well we there were eased. And fair she spoke her French. but ate With so much care the food upon her plate That never driblet fell upon her breast. And never from her lips let morsels fall. ………………………………………… THE PRIORESS There was also a nun. every one. But none the less. So had I spoken with them. Her upper lip was always wiped so clean That in her cup was no iota seen 279 .That toward Canterbury town would ride. becomingly. Nor dipped her fingers deep in sauce. whilst I have time and space. as you I will apprise. And briefly. and what was their degree. At table she had been well taught withal. Who. It seems to me accordant with reason To inform you of the state of every one Of all of these. and of the best. Intoning through her nose. The rooms and stables spacious were and wide. when the sun had gone to rest. and fluently. Before yet farther in this tale I pace. For French of Paris was not hers to know. That I was of their fellowship anon. in her smiling. And even how arrayed there at the inn. And made agreement that we’d early rise To take the road. Her greatest oath was but “By Saint Eloy!” And she was known as Madam Eglantine. Full well she sang the services divine. a prioress.

Or if men smote it with a rod to smart: For pity ruled her. For. 280 . love. amiable – in short.. or milk and fine white bread. too. his friend and his compeer. Amor vincit omnia. she was not undergrown. that she fed On roasted flesh. She was at pains to counterfeit the look Of courtliness.” The summoner joining with a burden round. Becomingly she reached for meat to dine. to say something of her moral sense. Right decorous her pleated wimple was. And certainly delighting in good sport. Of coral small about her arm she’d bear A string of beads and gauded all with green. to me. She was so charitable and piteous That she would weep if she but saw a mouse Caught in a trap.” And under. But. And would be held worthy of reverence. She had some little dogs. truth to tell. She was right pleasant. Loudly he sang “Come hither. though it were dead or bled. THE PARDONER With him there rode a gentle pardoner Of Rouncival. Her nose was fine. when she had drunk her draught of wine. But certainly she had a fair forehead. Her mouth was small and therewith soft and red. ……………………………………….Of grease. Neat was her cloak. And therefrom hung a brooch of golden sheen Whereon there was first written a crowned “A. It was almost a full span broad. But sore she’d weep if one of them were dead. Straight from the court of Rome had journeyed he. and her tender heart. I own. as I was well aware. her eyes were blue as glass. and stately manners took.

from Berwick unto Ware. But as to hood. For in his bag he had a pillowcase The which. But lank it hung as does a strike of flax. Well could he read a lesson or a story. his head all bare. I think he was a gelding or a mare. then this paragon In that one day more money stood to gain Than the poor dupe in two months could attain. Was no such pardoner in any place. A voice he had that bleated like a goat. It seemed to him he went in latest style. with flattery and suchlike japes. save for cap. in church. And with them he his shoulders overspread. And thus. As shiny eyes he had as has a hare. and stringy. His wallet lay before him in his lap. In wisps hung down such locks as he’d on head. This pardoner had hair as yellow as wax. He had a fine veronica sewed to cap. was Our True Lady’s veil: He said he had a piece of the very sail That good Saint Peter had. But best of all he sang an offertory. for sport of it. he said. nor ever should he have. till Jesus changed his bent.Was never horn of half so great a sound. Though it was packed in wallet all the while. Stuffed full of pardons brought from Rome all hot. 281 . He was. And in a bottle had he some pig’s bones. But in his craft. one by one. He had a latten cross set full of stones. a fine ecclesiast. what time he went Upon the sea. when he came upon Some simple parson. Dishevelled. He made the parson and the rest his apes. he’d none. But with these relics. But thin they dropped. No beard had he. But yet. to tell the whole truth at the last. For smooth his face as he’d just had a shave.

Embellishing and fictionizing too. And afterward the story I engage To tell you of our common pilgrimage. Or else he may be telling what’s untrue. in their degree 282 . PROLOGUE Now have I told you briefly. For this thing do you know as well as I: When one repeats a tale told by a man. in a clause. And. Then might he preach. hard by the Bell.” Also. in holy writ. at this noble hostelry Known as the Tabard Inn. as nearly as he can. the array. Retailing you their words and means of cheer. He may not spare. of your courtesy. although it were his brother. if he remember it. Christ spoke right broadly out.For well he knew that when that song was sung. you know well. And Plato says. But now the time is come wherein to tell How all we bore ourselves that very night When at the hostelry we did alight. there’s nothing low in it. and all with polished tongue To win some silver. to those able to read: “The word should be the cousin to the deed. Therefore he sang so merrily and so loud. The state. However rude it be. nor lie. or how unfit. You’ll not ascribe it to vulgarity Though I speak plainly of this matter here. I pray that you’ll forgive it me If I have not set folk. But first. I pray you. He must report. the number. Every least word. He must as well say one word as another. Nor though I use their very terms. and the cause Of the assembling of this company In Southwark. as he right well could.

by rank as they should stand. who is dead. You go to Canterbury. And will be ruled by me. you’ll understand. And of a game have I this moment thought To give you joy. when you ride upon your way. Speaking of mirth among some other things. Also. to give you some comfort. and heartily: For by my truth. And to the supper set us all anon. by my father’s spirit. And will so do as I’ll proceed to say. And as to manhood. Riding the roads as dumb as is a stone. at playing he began. My wits are not the best.Here in this tale. As fine a burgher as in Cheapside lies. knew I how. lacking there in naught. And served us then with victuals of the best. You’ll tell good tales and shape yourselves to play. When all of us had paid our reckonings. as you go on your way. Strong was the wine and pleasant to each guest. 283 . and wise. Fit to have been a marshal in some hall. As I just said. And therefore will I furnish you a sport. a company Here in this inn. He was a large man. and right well taught. withal. by one assent. And if you like it. of my judgment. every one. Tomorrow. he was a very merry man. verily You are all welcome here. with protruding eyes. and it shall cost you naught. And after meat. Bold in his speech. And well I know. Then. Fain would I make you happy. all. none. A seemly man our good host was. this year. I have not seen. and telling you no lie. may God speed And the blest martyr soon requite your meed. For truly there’s no mirth nor comfort. Great cheer our host gave to us. fitter for sport than now. And saying thus: “Now masters.

And if you are agreed that it be so. by his advice In things both great and small. to put it short and plain. With right glad hearts. “Masters. nor forgo The place of governor of all of us.If you’re not gay. the more to warrant you’ll be merry. This is the point. by one assent. Tell me at once. We thought there was no reason to think twice. each one. No more. But take it not. 284 . nor more about it speak. in most amusing mode. All of adventures he has known befall. And granted him his way without advice. or if not. That each of you. tell me no. And bade him tell his verdict just and wise. I pray you. Shall have a supper at the others’ cost Here in this room and sitting by this post. We stood committed to his government.” This thing was granted. and I will be your guide. Shall tell two stories as you wend your way To Canterbury town. Judging our tales. Hold up your hands. and gladly. and our oaths we swore. shall tell another two. But whosoever shall my rule gainsay Shall pay for all that’s bought along the way. in disdain. beguiling the long day.” quoth he. We to be ruled. also. and by his wisdom thus Arrange that supper at a certain price. and each of you On coming home. “here now is my advice. with you ride At my own cost.” Our full assenting was not far to seek. who tells upon the road Tales of best sense. And now. That is to say. I will myself. and prayed of him. And he who plays his part the best of all. When we come back again from Canterbury. I’ll give you up my head. And I will act accordingly. That he would take the office.

And as I hope to drink more wine and ale. a jog-trot being the pace. As you have heard. Nor ponder more.” said he. We drank. masters. He slid: “Since I must then begin the game. that the cut fell to the knight. Sir knight. Let’s here decide who first shall tell a tale. given by free assent. And he that draws the shortest shall begin. Come near.” 285 . Whether by chance or whatsoever cause. And. the wine was fetched anon. “my lady prioress: And you. it befell. draw cuts. listen while I talk. and then to rest went every one. You know what you agreed at set of sun. “my master and my lord. when the day began to spring. flow. and hearken what I say. out hands. to make short the matter. put by your bashfulness. Up rose our host. sir clerk. welcome be the cut. Why. Whoso proves rebel to my government Shall pay for all that by the way is spent. before we farther win. The truth is. Next morning. and in God’s name! Now let us ride. At which right happy then was every wight. Until we reached Saint Thomas’ watering-place. And there our host pulled horse up to a walk. as it was. And forth we rode. You shall draw first as you have pledged your word. And said: “Now. And that without a longer tarrying.And thereupon. Thus that his story first of all he’d tell. If even-song and morning-song are one. According to the compact.” quoth he. Come now. Why argue to and fro? And when this good man saw that it was so. and acting as our cock. He gathered us together in a flock. every man!” At once to draw a cut each one began. Being a wise man and obedient To plighted word.

Each of which did her with their gifts adorn. SONNET 69 The famous warriors of the antick world. Of their great deeds and valorous emprize. And he began to speak.And at that word we rode forth on our way. Used trophies to erect in stately wise: In which they would the records have enrolled. The beam of light. Here ends the prologue of this book and here begins the first tale. My sovereign saint. EDMUND SPENSER AMORETTI SONNET 61 The glorious image of the maker’s beauty. What trophy then shall I most fit devise. For being as she is divinely wrought. The bud of joy. Dare not henceforth above the bounds of duty T’ accuse of pride. the blossom of the morn. His tale anon. which is the knight’s tale. In which I may record the memory 286 . the idol of my thought. Than dare be lov’d by men of mean degree. as it is written here. And of the brood of angels heavenly born. And with the crew of blessed saints upbrought. with right good cheer. that to her love too bold aspire? Such heavenly forms ought rather worshipped be. or rashly blame for aught. whom mortal eyes admire: What reason is it then but she should scorn Base things.

whenas death shall all the world subdue. And eke my name be wiped out likewise. Gotten at last with labour and long toil. The happy purchase of my glorious spoil.” “Not so. For I myself shall like to this decay. That may admire such world’s rare wonderment. Even this verse vowed to eternity. But came the waves and washed it away. SONNET 75 One day I wrote her name upon the strand. and later life renew. peerless beauty’s prize. “Vain man. Adorn’d with honour. “thou dost in vain assay A mortal thing so to immortalize. And in the heavens write your glorious name.” said she. Where. love. Again I wrote it with a second hand. Our love shall live. But came the tide and made my pains his prey.” quoth I. and chastity. “let baser things devise To die in dust. Shall be thereof immortal monument: And tell her praise to all posterity. but you shall live by fame: My verse your virtues rare shall eternize.” SIR PHILIP SIDNEY 287 .Of my love’s conquest.

and fain in verse my love to show. That whereas black seems Beauty’s contrary. They sun-like should more dazzle than delight? Or would she her miraculous power show. To honor all their deaths. Studying inventions fine. SONNET 22 288 . And others’ feet still seem’d but strangers in my way. Invention. “look in thy heart and write. I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe. reading might make her know. like painter wise. mix’d of shades and light? Or did she else that sober hue devise.” SONNET 7 When Nature made her chief work. who for her bleed. Knowledge might pity win. In colour black why wrapp’d she beams so bright? Would she in beamy black. She even if black doth make all beauties flow? Both so and thus.ASTROPHIL AND STELLA SONNET 1 Loving in truth. and pity grace obtain. great with child to speak. Frame daintiest lustre. gave him this mourning weed. Biting my truant pen. That she (dear She) might take some pleasure of my pain: Pleasure might cause her read. wanting Invention’s stay. to see if thence would flow Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sun-burn’d brain. But words came halting forth. Stella’s eyes. fled step-dame Study’s blows. beating myself for spite – “Fool. Nature’s child. and helpless in my throes. she minding Love shoud be Placed ever there. her wits to entertain: Oft turning others’ leaves. Thus. Lest if no veil those brave gleams did disguise. In object best to knit and strength our sight.” said my Muse to me.

Either to do like him which open shone. Thither resorted many a wandering guest To meet their loves. did her but kiss. The Sun. 289 . For every street like to a firmament Glistered with breathing stars who. So was her beauty to the standers by. Her daintiest bare went free. For like sea nymphs’ enveigling Harmony. As if another Phaeton had got The guidance of the sun’s rich chariot. (For his sake whom their goddess held so dear. Or careless of the wealth because her own: Yet where the hid and meaner beauties parch’d. where they went. CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE HERO AND LEANDER (fragments) The men of wealthy Sestos every year. the cause was this. But far above the loveliest Hero shined And stole away th’ enchanted gazer’s mind. Progressing then from fair twins’ golden place: Having no scarf of clouds before his face. Stella alone with face unarmed march’d. When some fair ladies by hard promise tied.In highest way of heav’n the Sun did ride. Such as had none at all. On horseback met him in his furious race. But shining forth of heat in his chief pride. Rose-cheeked Adonis) kept a solemn feast. Came lovers home from this great festival. for so it seemed. which others burn’d. Frighted the melancholy earth which deemed Eternal heaven to burn. Yet each prepar’d with fan’s well-shading grace From that foe’s wounds their tender skins to hide.

On this feast day. where unhappily As after chanced. Went Hero thorough Sestos from her tower To Venus’ temple. Await the sentence of her scornful eyes. So at her presence all surprised and tooken. Poor soldiers stand with fear of death dead strooken. And. For faithful love will never turn to hate. Where by one hand lightheaded Bacchus hung. but alas too late. gallop amain From steep pine-bearing mountains to the plain. He whom she favours lives. when gaudy nymphs pursue the chase. There might you see the gods in sundry shapes 290 . and o’erhead A lively vine of green sea agate spread. they did each other spy. and wat’ry star (When yawning dragons draw her thirling car From Latmus’ mount up to the gloomy sky Where. with the other. the other dies. another rage. wine from grapes out wrung. crowned with blazing light and majesty. So ran the people forth to gaze upon her. The walls were of discoloured jasper stone Wherein was Proteus carved. The town of Sestos called it Venus’ glass. Even as. Their fellows being slain or put to flight. Wretched Ixion’s shaggy footed race. There might you see one sigh. (their violent passions to assuage) Compile sharp satires. O cursed day and hour. Of crystal shining fair the pavement was.Nor that night-wandering. And all that viewed her were enamoured on her. pale. And some. And as in fury of a dreadful fight. and thinking on her died. And many seeing great princes were denied Pin’d as they went. She proudly sits) more overrules the flood Than she the hearts of those that near her stood. So fair a church as this had Venus none. Incensed with savage heat.

When two are stripped. For will in us is overruled by fate. The reason no man knows. as she spake those words. Chaste Hero to herself thus softly said. “Were I the saint he worships. And in the midst a silver altar stood. Jove slyly stealing from his sister’s bed. 291 . And thus Leander was enamoured. that underneath this radiant floor Was Danae’s statue in a brazen tower. Thence flew Love’s arrow with the golden head. There Hero. For know. long ere the course begin We wish that one should lose. rapes. And tumbling with the Rainbow in a cloud. And for his love Europa bellowing loud. Blood quaffing Mars heaving the iron net Which limping Vulcan and his Cyclops set. Stone still he stood. And modestly they opened as she rose. the other win. Vailed to the ground. let it suffice What we behold is censured by our eyes. Sylvanus weeping for the lovely boy That now is turned into a cypress tree. sacrificing turtle’s blood. And one especially do we affect Of two gold ingots like in each respect. I would hear him. came somewhat near him. but unto her devoutly prayed. vailing her eyelids close. It lies not in our power to love or hate. Under whose shade the wood gods love to be. and evermore he gazed Till with the fire that from his countenance blazed Relenting Hero’s gentle heart was strook. To dally with Idalian Ganymede. incest. Such force and virtue hath an amorous look. Love kindling fire to burn such towns as Troy. that loved not at first sight? He kneeled.” And.Committing heady riots. the love is slight: Who ever loved. Where both deliberate.

When in eternal lines to time thou growest: 292 . Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade. These lovers parleyed by the touch of hands. and oft amazed stands. with words. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE SONNETS SONNET 18 Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May. deep drenched in misty Acheron.He started up. And always cut him off as he replied. with sighs. Heaved up her head. With cheerful hope thus he accosted her. Which like sweet music entered Hero’s ears. and half the world upon Breathed darkness forth (dark night is Cupid’s day). Thus while dumb signs their yielding hearts entangled. like to a bold sharp sophister. Love deeply grounded. And often is his gold complexion dimm’d. The air with sparks of living fire was spangled. At last. she blushed as one ashamed. And summer’s lease hath all too short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines. He touched her hand. and tears. By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d. And yet at every word she turned aside. True love is mute. And every fair from fair sometime declines. Wherewith Leander much more was inflamed. And now begins Leander to display Love’s holy fire. And night. hardly is dissembled. in touching it she trembled. But thy eternal summer shall not fade Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest.

from these would I be gone. Richer than wealth. Some in their wealth. And strength by limping sway disabled. And art made tongue-tied by authority. of all men’s pride I boast: Wretched in this alone. to behold desert a beggar born. And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted. Of more delight than hawks or horses be. And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity. 293 . SONNET 66 Tired with all these. for restful death I cry.So long as men can breathe or eyes can see. All these I better in one general best. to die. Some in their hawks and hounds. some in their horse. some in their skill. prouder than garments’ cost. And captive good attending captain ill: Tired with all these. And right perfection wrongfully disgraced. And every humour hath his adjunct pleasure. I leave my love alone. So long lives this and this gives life to thee. Some in their garments. though new-fangled ill. And folly doctor-like controlling skill. Wherein it finds a joy above the rest: But these particulars are not my measure. some in their bodies’ force. And having thee. And simple truth miscall’d simplicity. Thy love is better than high birth to me. that thou mayst take All this away and me most wretched make. Save that. And guilded honour shamefully misplaced. As. And purest faith unhappily forsworn. 91 Some glory in their birth.

I grant I never saw a goddess go. But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved. treads on the ground: And yet. yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound. And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds. Love’s not Time’s fool. red and white. But no such roses see I in her cheeks. I have seen roses damask’d. My mistress. 130 My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun. If snow be white. Or bends with the remover to remove: O no! it is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken. I never writ. nor no man ever loved. Coral is far more red than her lips’ red. It is the star to every wandering bark. by heaven. although his height be taken. 294 .116 Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle’s compass come: Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks. I love to hear her speak. why then her breasts are dun. Whose worth’s unknown. black wires grow on her head. If hairs be wires. I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare. when she walks.

295 . 12 “Vouchsafe. Earth’s sovereign salve to do a goddess good:28 Being so enrag’d. Nature that made thee. If thou wilt deign this favour. More white and red than doves or roses are. for thy meed A thousand honey secrets shalt thou know:16 Here come and sit. but love he laugh’d to scorn. sweet above compare. where never serpent hisses. The precedent of pith and livelihood. Being wasted in such time-beguiling sport. And like a bold-fac’d suitor ’gins to woo him. to alight thy steed. one long as twenty: A summer’s day will seem an hour but short. I’ll smother thee with kisses: “And yet not cloy thy lips with loath’d satiety. desire doth lend her force Courageously to pluck him from his horse.20 Making them red and pale with fresh variety.4 Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him. Hunting he lov’d. thou wonder. trembling in her passion. And. Ten kisses short as one. “The field’s chief flower. more lovely than a man. with herself at strife. calls it balm. And being set.VENUS AND ADONIS (fragments) Even as the sun with purple-colour’d face Had ta’en his last leave of the weeping morn. Saith that the world hath ending with thy life. And rein his proud head to the saddle-bow.8 Stain to all nymphs. But rather famish them amid their plenty. “Thrice fairer than myself.” thus she began. Rose-cheek’d Adonis tried him to the chase.”24 With this she seizeth on his sweating palm.

that hath copies by. my heaven dissolvèd so. can lay An Europe. when on a divers shore. by that impression grow. For thus they be Pregnant of thee. O! more than moon. She red and hot as coals of glowing fire He red for shame. all. whilst I stay here. and an Asia. but forbear To teach the sea. JOHN DONNE A VALEDICTION: OF WEEPING Let me pour forth My tears before thy face. So doth each tear. Draw not up seas to drown me in thy sphere. unapt to toy. which was nothing. Fruits of much grief they are. When a tear falls. And quickly make that. what it may do too soon. that thou fall’st which it bore. Which thee doth wear. by waters sent from thee. For thy face coins them. So thou and I are nothing then. With leaden appetite. A globe.32 Who blush’d and pouted in a dull disdain. in thine arms. but frosty in desire. Weep me not dead. yea world. Till thy tears mix’d with mine do overflow This world. emblems of more. Afric. On a round ball A workman.Over one arm the lusty courser’s rein Under her other was the tender boy. And by this mintage they are something worth. and thy stamp they bear. Let not the wind 296 .

Care less. A VALEDICTION: FORBIDDING MOURNING As virtuous men pass mildly away. “No. That ourselves know not what it is. which are one.” So let us melt. and hastes the other’s death.Example find To do me more harm than it purposeth: Since thou and I sigh one another’s breath. 297 . lips and hands to miss. Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears. And whisper to their souls to go. eyes. ’cause it doth remove The thing which elemented it. ’Twere profanation of our joys To tell the laity our love. is innocent. But trepidation of the spheres. Men reckon what it did. But we by a love so much refined. No tear-floods. but an expansion. Though I must go. “Now his breath goes. Like gold to aery thinness beat. and make no noise. Dull sublunary lovers’ love – Whose soul is sense – cannot admit Of absence.” and some say. Our two souls therefore. Whilst some of their sad friends do say. Whoe’er sighs most is cruellest. and meant. nor sigh-tempests move. Inter-assurèd of the mind. Though greater far. endure not yet A breach.

If they be two, they are two so As stiff twin compasses are two; Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show To move, but doth, if th’ other do. And though it in the centre sit, Yet, when the other far doth roam, It leans, and hearkens after it, And grows erect, as that comes home. Such wilt thou be to me, who must, Like th’ other foot, obliquely run; Thy firmness makes my circle just, And makes me end where I begun. THE FLEA Mark but this flea, and mark in this, How little that which thou deniest me is; It suck’d me first, and now sucks thee, And in this flea our two bloods mingled be. Thou know’st that this cannot be said A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead; Yet this enjoys before it woo, And pamper’d swells with one blood made of two; And this, alas! is more than we would do. O stay, three lives in one flea spare, Where we almost, yea, more than married are. This flea is you and I, and this Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is. Though parents grudge, and you, we’re met, And cloister’d in these living walls of jet. Though use make you apt to kill me, Let not to that self-murder added be, And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.
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Cruel and sudden, hast thou since Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence? Wherein could this flea guilty be, Except in that drop which it suck’d from thee? Yet thou triumph’st, and say’st that thou Find’st not thyself nor me the weaker now. ’Tis true; then learn how false fears be; Just so much honour, when thou yield’st to me, Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee. THE SUN RISING Busy old fool, unruly Sun, Why dost thou thus, Through windows, and through curtains, call on us? Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run? Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide Late school-boys and sour prentices, Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride, Call country ants to harvest offices; Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime, Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time. Thy beams so reverend, and strong Why shouldst thou think? I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink, But that I would not lose her sight so long. If her eyes have not blinded thine, Look, and to-morrow late tell me, Whether both th’ Indias of spice and mine Be where thou left’st them, or lie here with me. Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday, And thou shalt hear, “All here in one bed lay.”

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She’s all states, and all princes I; Nothing else is; Princes do but play us; compared to this, All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy. Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we, In that the world’s contracted thus; Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be To warm the world, that’s done in warming us. Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere; This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere. THE GOOD-MORROW I wonder by my troth, what thou and I Did, till we loved? were we not wean’d till then? But suck’d on country pleasures, childishly? Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den? ’Twas so ; but this, all pleasures fancies be; If ever any beauty I did see, Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee. And now good-morrow to our waking souls, Which watch not one another out of fear; For love all love of other sights controls, And makes one little room an everywhere. Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone; Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown; Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one. My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears, And true plain hearts do in the faces rest; Where can we find two better hemispheres Without sharp north, without declining west? Whatever dies, was not mix’d equally;
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If our two loves be one, or thou and I Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die. LOVE’S ALCHEMY Some that have deeper digg’d love’s mine than I, Say, where his centric happiness doth lie. I have loved, and got, and told, But should I love, get, tell, till I were old, I should not find that hidden mystery. O ! ’tis imposture all; And as no chemic yet th’ elixir got, But glorifies his pregnant pot, If by the way to him befall Some odoriferous thing, or medicinal, So, lovers dream a rich and long delight, But get a winter-seeming summer’s night. Our ease, our thrift, our honour, and our day, Shall we for this vain bubble’s shadow pay? Ends love in this, that my man Can be as happy as I can, if he can Endure the short scorn of a bridegroom’s play? That loving wretch that swears, ’Tis not the bodies marry, but the minds, Which he in her angelic finds, Would swear as justly, that he hears, In that day’s rude hoarse minstrelsy, the spheres. Hope not for mind in women; at their best, Sweetness and wit they are, but mummy, possess’d. SONNET 10 Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
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Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new. I, like an usurp’d town to’another due, Labor to’admit you, but oh, to no end; Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend, But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue. Yet dearly’I love you, and would be lov’d fain, But am betroth’d unto your enemy; Divorce me,’untie or break that knot again, Take me to you, imprison me, for I, Except you’enthrall me, never shall be free, Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. ANDREW MARVELL THE GARDEN How vainly men themselves amaze To win the palm, the oak, or bays, And their uncessant labours see Crown’d from some single herb or tree, Whose short and narrow verged shade Does prudently their toils upbraid; While all flow’rs and all trees do close To weave the garlands of repose. Fair Quiet, have I found thee here, And Innocence, thy sister dear! Mistaken long, I sought you then In busy companies of men; Your sacred plants, if here below, Only among the plants will grow. Society is all but rude, To this delicious solitude. No white nor red was ever seen So am’rous as this lovely green. Fond lovers, cruel as their flame, Cut in these trees their mistress’ name;
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Little, alas, they know or heed How far these beauties hers exceed! Fair trees! Wheres’e’er your barks I wound, No name shall but your own be found. When we have run our passion’s heat, Love hither makes his best retreat. The gods, that mortal beauty chase, Still in a tree did end their race: Apollo hunted Daphne so, Only that she might laurel grow; And Pan did after Syrinx speed, Not as a nymph, but for a reed. What wond’rous life in this I lead! Ripe apples drop about my head; The luscious clusters of the vine Upon my mouth do crush their wine; The nectarine and curious peach Into my hands themselves do reach; Stumbling on melons as I pass, Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass. Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less, Withdraws into its happiness; The mind, that ocean where each kind Does straight its own resemblance find, Yet it creates, transcending these, Far other worlds, and other seas; Annihilating all that’s made To a green thought in a green shade. Here at the fountain’s sliding foot, Or at some fruit tree’s mossy root, Casting the body’s vest aside, My soul into the boughs does glide; There like a bird it sits and sings, Then whets, and combs its silver wings; And, till prepar’d for longer flight, Waves in its plumes the various light. Such was that happy garden-state,
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While man there walk’d without a mate; After a place so pure and sweet, What other help could yet be meet! But ’twas beyond a mortal’s share To wander solitary there: Two paradises ’twere in one To live in paradise alone. How well the skillful gard’ner drew Of flow’rs and herbs this dial new, Where from above the milder sun Does through a fragrant zodiac run; And as it works, th’ industrious bee Computes its time as well as we. How could such sweet and wholesome hours Be reckon’d but with herbs and flow’rs! TO HIS COY MISTRESS Had we but world enough, and time, This coyness Lady were no crime. We would sit down and think which way To walk, and pass our long love’s day. Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide Of Humber would complain. I would Love you ten years before the flood, And you should, if you please, refuse Till the conversion of the Jews. My vegetable love should grow Vaster than empires and more slow; An hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze; Two hundred to adore each breast, But thirty thousand to the rest; An age at least to every part, And the last age should show your heart. For, lady, you deserve this state,
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in thy marble vault shall sound My echoing song. yet we will make him run. do there embrace. then worms shall try That long preserved virginity. like amorous birds of prey. Let us roll all our strength and all Our sweetness up into one ball. And while thy willing soul transpires At every pore with instant fires. though we cannot make our sun Stand still. But none. Nor. 305 . And into ashes all my lust: The grave’s a fine and private place. And yonder all before us lie Deserts of vast eternity. I think. And tear our pleasures with rough strife Thorough the iron gates of life: Thus. And now. And your quaint honour turn to dust.Nor would I love at lower rate. Now therefore while the youthful hue Sits on thy skin like morning dew. But at my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near. Rather at once our time devour Than languish in his slow-chapped power. Now let us sport us while we may. Thy beauty shall no more be found.

and another kind of creature. undertakes alone the voyage. others dissuade. and who sat there to guard them. mentioned before by Satan – to search the truth of that prophecy or tradition in Heaven concerning another world. The council thus ended. by success untaught. Their doubt who shall be sent on this difficult search: Satan. and discover to him the great gulf between Hell and Heaven.JOHN MILTON PARADISE LOST Book II (fragments) The Argument The consultation begun. Satan debates whether another battle is to be hazarded for the recovery of Heaven: some advise it. He passes on his journey to Hell-gates. Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold. which far Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind. since no deep within her gulf can hold 306 . the Power of that place. Satan exalted sat. High on a throne of royal state. Deities of Heaven! For. finds them shut. or not much inferior. to themselves. to the sight of this new World which he sought. from despair Thus high uplifted beyond hope. to entertain the time till Satan’s return. is honoured and applauded. their chief. A third proposal is preferred. by whom at length they are opened. about this time to be created. His proud imaginations thus displayed: “Powers and Dominions. and. aspires Beyond thus high. and. as their inclinations lead them. equal. insatiate to pursue Vain war with Heaven. directed by Chaos. the rest betake them several ways and to several imployments. by merit raised To that bad eminence. With what difficulty he passes through.

and rather than be less Cared not to be at all. now fiercer by despair. Who can advise may speak. free choice. which follows dignity. and firm accord. Did first create your leader – next. with that care lost 307 . I give not Heaven for lost: from this descent Celestial Virtues rising will appear More glorious and more dread than from no fall. then. sceptred king.Immortal vigour.” He ceased. Whether of open war or covert guile. we now return To claim our just inheritance of old. With what besides in council or in fight Hath been achieved of merit – yet this loss. none whose portion is so small Of present pain that with ambitious mind Will covet more! With this advantage. and firm faith. and by what best way. Surer to prosper than prosperity Could have assured us. unenvied throne. Yielded with full consent. We now debate. then. and the fixed laws of Heaven. no good For which to strive. Thus far at least recovered. hath much more Established in a safe. though oppressed and fallen. More than can be in Heaven. And trust themselves to fear no second fate! Me though just right. Stood up – the strongest and the fiercest Spirit That fought in Heaven. His trust was with the Eternal to be deemed Equal in strength. and condemns to greatest share Of endless pain? Where there is. might draw Envy from each inferior. and next him Moloch. no strife can grow up there From faction: for none sure will claim in Hell Precedence. To union. The happier state In Heaven. but who here Will envy whom the highest place exposes Foremost to stand against the Thunderer’s aim Your bulwark.

and longing wait The signal to ascend – sit lingering here. or Hell. if the sleepy drench Of that forgetful lake benumb not still. Of wiles. His own invented torments. Heaven’s fugitives. for lightning. The event is feared! Should we again provoke Our stronger. see Black fire and horror shot with equal rage Among his Angels and his throne itself Mixed with Tartarean sulphur and strange fire. and these words thereafter spake: “My sentence is for open war. Turning our tortures into horrid arms Against the torturer. When the fierce foe hung on our broken rear Insulting. or when they need. if there be in Hell 308 . Armed with Hell-flames and fury. some worse way his wrath may find To our destruction. then. and for their dwelling-place Accept this dark opprobrious den of shame. to meet the noise Of his almighty engine. or worse. and steep to scale With upright wing against a higher foe! Let such bethink them. descent and fall To us is adverse. That in our proper motion we ascend Up to our native seat. I boast not: them let those Contrive who need. while they sit contriving. he shall hear Infernal thunder. The prison of His tyranny who reigns By our delay? No! let us rather choose. More unexpert.Went all his fear: of God. and. not now. With what compulsion and laborious flight We sunk thus low? The ascent is easy. For. Who but felt of late. and pursued us through the Deep. But perhaps The way seems difficult. He recked not. when. shall the rest – Millions that stand in arms. all at once O’er Heaven’s high towers to force resistless way.

condemned In this abhorred deep to utter woe. Will either quite consume us. When Nature underneath a heap Of jarring Atoms lay. his fatal Throne: Which. 309 . and expire. driven out from bliss. The tuneful Voice was heard from high. Though inaccessible.” JOHN DRYDEN A SONG FOR ST. and dry. Where pain of unextinguishable fire Must exercise us without hope of end The vassals of his anger. and moist. Then cold. Arise ye more than dead. and the torturing hour. to the highth enraged. when the scourge Inexorably. if not victory. 1687 I From Harmony. And with perpetual inroads to alarm. And could not heave her Head. from heav’nly Harmony This universal Frame began. if our substance be indeed Divine. we are at worst On this side nothing. Calls us to penance? More destroyed than thus. We should be quite abolished. and hot. is yet revenge. CECILIA’S DAY. And cannot cease to be. and by proof we feel Our power sufficient to disturb his Heaven.Fear to be worse destroyed! What can be worse Than to dwell here. What fear we then? what doubt we to incense His utmost ire? which. and reduce To nothing this essential – happier far Than miserable to have eternal being! – Or.

From Harmony to Harmony Through all the compass of the Notes it ran.In order to their stations leap. And MUSICK’s pow’r obey. The Diapason closing full in Man. 310 . What Passion cannot MUSICK raise and quell! III The TRUMPET’s loud Clangor Excites us to Arms With shrill Notes of Anger And mortal Alarms. Charge. Whose Dirge is whisper’d by the warbling LUTE. from heav’nly Harmony This universal Frame began. His list’ning Brethren stood around And wond’ring. Less than a God they thought there could not dwell Within the hollow of that Shell That spoke so sweetly and so well. Charge. II What Passion cannot MUSICK raise and quell! When Jubal struck the corded Shell. ’tis too late to retreat. IV The soft complaining FLUTE In dying notes discovers The Woes of hopeless Lovers. on their Faces fell To worship that Celestial Sound. The double double double beat Of the thund’ring DRUM Cries. From Harmony. hark the Foes come.

Notes that wing their heav’nly ways To mend the Choires above. and height of Passion. vocal Breath was giv’n An Angel heard. And sung the great Creator’s praise To all the bless’d above. Fury. frantick Indignation. VII Orpheus could lead the savage race. The Dead shall live.V Sharp VIOLINS proclaim Their jealous Pangs. VI But oh! what Art can teach What human Voice can reach The sacred ORGAN’s praise? Notes inspiring holy Love. and straight appear’d Mistaking Earth for Heaven. 311 . disdainful Dame. Depth of Pains. Grand CHORUS As from the pow’r of sacred Lays The Spheres began to move. Sequacious of the Lyre: But bright CECILIA rais’d the wonder high’r. the Living die. And MUSICK shall untune the Sky. So when the last and dreadful hour This crumbling Pageant shall devour. For the fair. When to her ORGAN. And Trees unrooted left their place. The TRUMPET shall be heard on high. and Desperation.

And list’ning and silent. HENRY PURCELL Late Servant to his Majesty. To welcome in the Spring. Drink in her Music with delight. He long e’er this had Tun’d their jarring Sphere. or only Sung his Fame. And all the way He taught. who heard his Notes from high. and silent and list’ning. Let down the Scale of Music from the Sky: They handed him along. With rival Notes They strain their warbling Throats. We beg not Hell. As He too late began. and all the way they Sung. Struck dumb they all admir’d the God-like Man. Had He been there. and tuneful Voice. The pow’r of Harmony too well they know. They Sung no more. Peter’s Westminster I MARK how the Lark and Linnet Sing. Their Sovereign’s fear Had sent Him back before. When Philomel begins her Heav’nly lay. and of St. too soon retir’d. The God-like Man. They cease their mutual spite. 312 . II So ceas’d the rival Crew when Purcell came. And list’ning and silent obey. Ye Brethren of the Lyre. our Orpheus to restore. And left no Hell below. and Organist of the Chapel Royal. ON THE DEATH OF MR. III The Heav’nly Choir. But in the close of Night. Alas.AN ODE.

So much they scorn the crowd. But always think the last opinion right. What woeful stuff this madrigal would be In some starv’d hackney sonneteer or me! But let a lord once own the happy lines. A Muse by these is like a mistress used. Now live secure and linger out your days. As oft the learn’d by being singular. Nor know to mend their Choice. And each exalted stanza teems with thought! The vulgar thus thro’ imitation err. Some praise at morning what they blame at night. This hour she’s idolized. 313 . but the men. they purposely go wrong. To fetch and carry nonsense for my lord. But catch the spreading notion of the town. Of all this servile herd. the next abused. The Gods are pleas’d alone with Purcell’s Lays. that if the throng By chance go right. And are but damn’d for having too much wit. Some judge of authors’ names. and then Nor praise nor blame the writings. ALEXANDER POPE AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM ( Fragments) Some ne’er advance a judgment of their own. They reason and conclude by precedent. not works. So schismatics the plain believers quit. the worst is he That in proud dulness joins with quality. A constant critic at the great man’s board.Lament his Lot: but at your own rejoice. How the Wit brightens! how the Style refines! Before his sacred name flies every fault. And own stale nonsense which they ne’er invent.

makes known Th’opposing body’s grossness. Who knew most sentences was deepest read. Malice. Pride. so wise we grow. Scotists and Thomists now in peace remain Amidst their kindred cobwebs in Ducklane. beaux: But sense survived when merry jests were past. Our wiser sons no doubt will think us so. ’Twixt sense and nonsense daily change their side. valuing those of their own side or mind. should great Homer lift his awful head. What wonder modes in Wit should take their turn? Oft. Still make themselves the measure of mankind: Fondly we think we honour merit then. And authors think their reputation safe. Zoilus again would start up from the dead. And public faction doubles private hate. Once shool-divines this zealous isle o’erspread. But like a shadow proves the substance true. And still to-morrow’s wiser than to-day. like towns unfortified. Gospel. In various shapes of parsons. Faith. they’re wiser still they say. all seem’d made to be disputed. leaving what is natural and fit. against Dryden rose. Folly. critics. Nay. For rising merit will buoy up at last. like Sol eclips’d. 314 . When we but praise ourselves in other men. Which lives as long as fools are pleas’d to laugh. Some. New Blackmores and new Milbournes must arise. We think our fathers fools. not its own. Parties in wit attend on those of state. And none has sense enough to be confuted. Ask them the cause.While their weak heads. Envy will Merit as its shade pursue. If Faith itself has diff’rent dresses worn. Might he return and bless once more our eyes. For envied Wit. The current Folly proves the ready Wit.

Reflect new glories. Expatiate free o’er all this scene of man. It draws up vapours which obscure its rays. What other planets circle other suns. A wild. A mighty maze! but not without a plan. Let us. where weeds and flowers promiscuous shoot. the giddy heights. what the covert yield. Together let us beat this ample field. shoot folly as it flies. ’Tis ours to trace him only in our own. and augment the day. I Say first. And catch the manners living as they rise. tempting with forbidden fruit. of God above or Man below What can we reason but from what we know? Of man what see we but his station here. Laugh where we must. explore Of all who blindly creep or sightless soar. But ev’n those clouds at last adorn its way. See worlds on worlds compose one universe. since life can little more supply Than just to look about us and to die. He who thro’ vast immensity can pierce. or to which refer? Thro’ worlds unnumber’d tho’ the God be known. 315 . my St. Try what the open. From which to reason. John! leave all meaner things To low ambition and the pride of Kings. be candid where we can.When first that sun too powerful beams displays. Eye Nature’s walks. The latent tracts. ESSAY ON MAN (Fragments) EPISTLE I Awake. Or garden. Observe how system into system runs. But vindicate the ways of God to man.

spin out eternal schemes As we the Fatal Sisters could out-spin. How dreadful that deliberate surprise! Be wise to-day. Next day the fatal precedent will plead. though for years admonish’d home. Thus on. Nor had he cause. a warning was deny’d: How many fall as sudden. or can a part contains the whole? Is the great chain that draws all to agree. expire. has thy pervading soul Look’d thro’. nice dependencies. And drawn supports. In human hearts what bolder thought can rise. Than man’s presumption on to-morrow’s dawn? Where is to-morrow? In another world. a slow-sudden death. ’tis madness to defer. May tell why Heav’n has made us as we are: But of this frame. And big with life’s futurities. The strong connexions.What varied being peoples every star. may be now. For numbers this is certain. Not ev’n Philander had bespoke his shroud. Gradations just. infamous for lies. Of human ills the last extreme beware. 316 . Lorenzo. This peradventure. the bearings and the ties. the reverse Is sure to none. There’s no prerogative in human hours. Beware. not as safe! As sudden. what may be. upheld by God or thee? EDWARD YOUNG THE COMPLAINT: OR NIGHT THOUGHTS (fragments) By Nature’s law. till wisdom is push’d out of life. and yet on this perhaps. As on a rock of adamant we build Our mountain hopes.

If not so frequent. As duteous sons our fathers were more wise. At least.” For ever on the brink of being born. then dies the same. indeed. and re-resolves. when young. 317 . would not this be strange? That ’tis so frequent. “That all men are about to live. their own. they postpone. All pay themselves the compliment to think They. The thing they can’t but purpose. this is stranger still. In all the magnanimity of thought Resolves. Knows it at forty. till all are fled. And to the mercies of a moment leaves The vast concerns of an eternal scene. one day. All promise is poor dilatory man. And scarce in human wisdom to do more. shall not drivel: and their pride On this reversion takes up ready praise. At fifty chides his infamous delay. How excellent that life they ne’er will lead! Time lodg’d in their own hands is Folly’s vails. That lodg’d in Fate’s to Wisdom they consign. and reforms his plan. Unanxious for ourselves.Procrastination is the thief of time. Year after year it steals. and only wish. Of man’s miraculous mistakes this bears The palm. In full content we sometimes nobly rest. At thirty man suspects himself a fool. And that through every stage. their future selves applauds. ’Tis not in folly not to scorn a fool. Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve.

Britons never will be slaves.” 318 . This was the charter of the land. Britons never will be slaves. Britannia.” The nations. at Heaven’s command. Britons never will be slaves. As the loud blast that tears the skies Serves but to root thy native oak. The dread and envy of them all.JAMES THOMSON RULE. BRITANNIA! When Britain first. “Rule.” To thee belongs the rural reign. rule the waves. rule the waves. While thou shalt flourish great and free. Thy cities shall with commerce shine. More dreadful from each foreign stroke. All their attempts to bend thee down Will but arouse thy generous flame.” Thee haughty tyrants ne’er shall tame. Must in their turns to tyrants fall. Britannia. not so blessed as thee. But work their woe and thy renown. Britons never will be slaves. Arose from out the azure main. All thine shall be the subject main. And guardian angels sung this strain – “Rule. rule the waves. Britons never will be slaves. And every shore it circles thine. “Rule. “Rule. rule the waves. Britannia.” Still more majestic shalt thou rise. rule the waves. Britannia. “Rule. Britannia.

" HYMN ON SOLITUDE Hail. A lover now. she (Her Musidora fond of thee) Amid the long-withdrawing vale Awakes the rivalled nightingale. 319 . Just as the dew-bent rose is born. And now you sweep the vaulted sky. But from whose holy piercing eye The herd of fools and villains fly. A shepherd next. Which innocence and truth imparts. rule the waves. And warble forth your oaten strain. And still in every shape you please. Britannia. you assume The gentle looking Hertford’s bloom. with her Musidora. A thousand shapes you wear with ease. mildly pleasing Solitude. with all the grace Of that sweet passion in your face. And listen to thy whispered talk. Now wrapt in some mysterious dream. A lone philosopher you seem. Shall to thy happy coast repair: Blessed isle! with matchless beauty crowned. calmed to friendship. Then.The Muses. you haunt the plain. still with freedom found. Companion of the wise and good. And melts the most obdurate hearts. "Rule. Now quick from hill to vale you fly. As. Britons never will be slaves. And manly hearts to guard the fair. Thine is the balmy breath of morn. Oh! how I love with thee to walk.

And that best hour of musing thine. Think of its crimes. The plowman homeward plods his weary way. I just may cast my careless eyes Where London’s spiry turrets rise. But chief. Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight.And. Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r The moping owl does to the moon complain 320 . Now fades the glimm’ring landscape on the sight. And all the air a solemn stillness holds. its cares. when evening scenes decay And the faint landscape swims away. while meridian fervours beat. When Meditation has her fill. Descending angels bless thy train. Thine is the doubtful soft decline. in white arrayed. THOMAS GRAY ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD The curfew tolls the knell of parting day. let me pierce thy secret cell. Oh. And in thy deep recesses dwell! Perhaps from Norwood’s oak-clad hill. Before thee lifts her fearless head. its pain. And rapt Urania sings to thee. Religion’s beams around thee shine And cheer thy glooms with light divine. Thy virtues of the sage and swain – Plain Innocence. About thee sports sweet Liberty. And leaves the world to darkness and to me. And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds. The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea. Then shield me in the woods again. Thine is the woodland dumb retreat.

that yew-tree’s shade. Or busy housewife ply her evening care: No children run to lisp their sire’s return. 321 . No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed. ye proud.Of such. Where thro’ the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault The pealing anthem swells the note of praise. Each in his narrow cell for ever laid. The swallow twitt’ring from the straw-built shed. Nor you. For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn. all that wealth e’er gave. Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share. The paths of glory lead but to the grave. that the rod of empire might have sway’d. the pomp of pow’r. Beneath those rugged elms. Hands. Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield. The boast of heraldry. Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap. and destiny obscure. Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour. Their homely joys. If Mem’ry o’er their tomb no trophies raise. Can storied urn or animated bust Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath? Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust. or the echoing horn. And all that beauty. impute to these the fault. Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile The short and simple annals of the poor. Molest her ancient solitary reign. Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke. The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn. The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. How jocund did they drive their team afield! How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke! Let not Ambition mock their useful toil. The cock’s shrill clarion. Or Flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death? Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire. as wand’ring near her secret bow’r.

Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib’d alone Their growing virtues. Implores the passing tribute of a sigh. Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame. And shut the gates of mercy on mankind. Along the cool sequester’d vale of life They kept the noiseless tenor of their way. To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame. Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command. The threats of pain and ruin to despise. Their name. Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest. And waste its sweetness on the desert air. Some village-Hampden. Yet ev’n these bones from insult to protect. Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage. Full many a gem of purest ray serene. but their crimes confin’d. Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife. Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre. that with dauntless breast The little tyrant of his fields withstood. The place of fame and elegy supply: And many a holy text around she strews. Some frail memorial still erected nigh. 322 . And read their hist’ry in a nation’s eyes. Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne. But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er unroll. their years. That teach the rustic moralist to die. And froze the genial current of the soul. To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land. The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide. With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d. spelt by th’ unletter’d muse. The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear: Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen. Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray.

Or craz’d with care. Ev’n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries. Mutt’ring his wayward fancies he would rove. 323 . Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate. This pleasing anxious being e’er resign’d. or cross’d in hopeless love.” The Epitaph Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown. woeful wan. Grav’d on the stone beneath yon aged thorn. Another came. like one forlorn. Along the heath and near his fav’rite tree. Fair Science frown’d not on his humble birth. nor yet beside the rill. ling’ring look behind? On some fond breast the parting soul relies. Ev’n in our ashes live their wonted fires. “Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn Brushing with hasty steps the dews away To meet the sun upon the upland lawn. Haply some hoary-headed swain may say. Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day. who mindful of th’ unhonour’d Dead Dost in these lines their artless tale relate. “Hard by yon wood. For thee. Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay. His listless length at noontide would he stretch. now smiling as in scorn. Now drooping. “The next with dirges due in sad array Slow thro’ the church-way path we saw him borne.For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey. If chance. And pore upon the brook that babbles by. “One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill. by lonely contemplation led. Nor up the lawn. Some pious drops the closing eye requires. nor at the wood was he. “There at the foot of yonder nodding beech That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high. Nor cast one longing.

And Melancholy mark’d him for her own. Large was his bounty. chaste Eve. May hope. He gain’d from Heav’n (’twas all he wish’d) a friend. while now the bright-hair’d Sun Sits in yon western Tent. (There they alike in trembling hope repose) The bosom of his Father and his God. Or where the Beetle winds His small but sullen Horn. With short shrill Shriek flits by on leathern Wing. Against the Pilgrim born in heedless Hum: Now teach me. at his warning Lamp 324 . O’erhang his wavy Bed: Now Air is hush’d. save where the weak-ey’d Bat. O Nymph reserv’d. Whose Numbers stealing thro’ thy darkning Vale. and dying Gales. or Pastoral Song. whose cloudy Skirts. Or draw his frailties from their dread abode. Heav’n did a recompense as largely send: He gave to Mis’ry all he had. As musing slow. With Brede ethereal wove. To breathe some soften’d Strain. I hail Thy genial lov’d Return! For when thy folding Star arising shews His paly Circlet. and his soul sincere. Like thy own solemn Springs. As oft he rises ’midst the twilight Path. Thy Springs. May not unseemly with its Stillness suit. WILLIAM COLLINS ODE TO EVENING If ought of Oaten Stop. a tear. Maid compos’d. No farther seek his merits to disclose. to soothe thy modest ear.

That from the Mountain’s Side.The fragrant Hours. Then lead. And rudely rends thy Robes. Or Winter yelling thro’ the troublous Air. and swelling Floods. or driving Rain. rose-lip’d Health. as oft he wont. Thy gentlest Influence own. And Hymn thy fav’rite Name! 325 . Or up-land fallows grey Reflect its last cool gleam. and dim-discover’d Spires. Affrights thy shrinking Train. meekest Eve! While Summer loves to sport. And bathe thy breathing Tresses. Friendship. So long. and marks o’er all Thy Dewy Fingers draw The gradual dusky Veil. where some sheety lake Cheers the lone heath. Science. Forbid my willing Feet. and Elves Who slept in flow’rs the day. Shall Fancy. calm vot’ress. But when chill blustring Winds. Views Wilds. and lovelier still. And Hamlets brown. or some time-hallow’d pile. While Spring shall pour his Show’rs. The Pensive Pleasures sweet Prepare thy shadowy Car. Beneath thy ling’ring Light: While sallow Autumn fills thy Lap with Leaves. And many a Nymph who wreaths her Brows with Sedge. sure-found beneath the Sylvan shed. And hears their simple Bell. be mine the Hut. And sheds the fresh’ning Dew.

But when a pique began. Still importunate and vain. A kind and gentle heart he had. whelp. Give ear unto my song. The naked every day he clad. When he put on his clothes. thou fond deceiver. That still a godly race he ran. And in that town a dog was found. And turning all the past to pain: Thou. Whene’er he went to pray. And if you find it wondrous short. Of whom the world might say. This dog and man at first were friends. To former joys recurring ever. And curs of low degree. Thy smiles increase the wretch’s woe: And he who wants each other blessing In thee must ever find a foe. In Islington there was a man. Around from all the neighboring streets The wond’ring neighbors ran. to gain his private ends. 326 . and bit the man. Both mongrel. The dog. of every sort. As many dogs there be. To comfort friends and foes. It cannot hold you long. like the world. AN ELEGY ON THE DEATH OF A MAD DOG Good people all. th’ oppress’d oppressing. and hound.OLIVER GOLDSMITH MEMORY O Memory. puppy. Went mad.

Nor ever ship left Albion’s coast. nor her again. They swore the man would die. That show’d the rogues they lied: The man recover’d of the bite – The dog it was that died. No braver chief could Albion boast Than he with whom he went. Expert to swim. of all bereft. But wag’d with death a lasting strife. Of friends. WILLIAM COWPER THE CASTAWAY Obscurest night involv’d the sky. When such a destin’d wretch as I. His floating home forever left. 327 . The Atlantic billows roared. To bite so good a man. He lov’d them both. But soon a wonder came to light. With warmer wishes sent. he lay. The wound it seem’d both sore and sad To every Christian eye. Nor soon he felt his strength decline. Supported by despair of life. Or courage die away. Not long beneath the whelming brine. Washing headlong from on board. And while they swore the dog was mad.And swore the dog had lost his wits. of hope. but both in vain. Nor him beheld.

He shouted: nor his friends had fail’d To check the vessel’s course, But so the furious blast prevail’d, That, pitiless perforce, They left their outcast mate behind, And scudded still before the wind. Some succour yet they could afford; And, as such storms allow, The cask, the coop, the floated cord, Delay’d not to bestow. But he (they knew) nor ship, nor shore, Whate’er they gave, should visit more. Nor, cruel as it seem’d, could he Their haste himself condemn, Aware that flight, in such a sea, Alone could rescue them; Yet bitter felt it still to die Deserted, and his friends so nigh. He long survives, who lives an hour In ocean, self-upheld; And so long he, with unspent power, His destiny repell’d; And ever, as the minutes flew, Entreated help, or cried, “Adieu!” At length, his transient respite past, His comrades, who before Had heard his voice in every blast, Could catch the sound no more. For then, by toil subdued, he drank The stifling wave, and then he sank.

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No poet wept him, but the page Of narrative sincere, That tells his name, his worth, his age, Is wet with Anson’s tear. And tears by bards or heroes shed Alike immortalize the dead. I therefore purpose not, or dream, Descanting on his fate, To give the melancholy theme A more enduring date; But misery still delights to trace Its semblance in another’s case. No voice divine the storm allay’d, No light propitious shone, When, snatch’d from all effectual aid, We perish’d, each alone; But I beneath a rougher sea, And whelm’d in deeper gulfs than he. WILLIAM BLAKE LONDON I wander thro’ each charter’d street, Near where the charter’d Thames does flow, And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every Man, In every Infant’s cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.

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How the Chimney-sweepers cry Every black’ning Church appalls; And the hapless Soldier’s sigh Runs in blood down Palace walls. But most thro’ midnight streets I hear How the youthful Harlot’s curse Blasts the new born Infant’s tear, And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse. THE TIGER Tyger! Tyger! burning bright, In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare sieze the fire? And what shoulder, & what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp? When the stars threw down their spears, And water’d heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
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Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? THE SICK ROSE O Rose, thou art sick! The invisible worm That flies in the night, In the howling storm, Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy, And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy. THE CHIMNEY SWEEPER A little black thing among the snow, Crying “weep! ‘weep!” in notes of woe! “Where are thy father & mother? say?” “They are both gone up to the church to pray. “Because I was happy upon the heath, And smil’d among the winter’s snow, They clothed me in the clothes of death, And taught me to sing the notes of woe. “And because I am happy & dance & sing, They think they have done me no injury, And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King, Who make up a heaven of our misery.”

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THE LAMB Little Lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? Gave thee life, & bid thee feed By the stream & o’er the mead; Gave thee clothing of delight, Softest clothing, wooly, bright; Gave thee such a tender voice, Making all the vales rejoice? Little Lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee, Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee, He is called by thy name, For he calls himself a Lamb. He is meek, & he is mild; He became a little child. I a child, & thou a lamb, We are called by his name. Little Lamb, God bless thee! Little Lamb, God bless thee! THE LITTLE BOY LOST “Father! father! where are you going? O do not walk so fast. Speak, father, speak to your little boy, Or else I shall be lost.” The night was dark, no father was there; The child was wet with dew; The mire was deep, & the child did weep, And away the vapour flew.

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THE LITTLE BOY FOUND The little boy lost in the lonely fen, Led by the wand’ring light, Began to cry; but God, ever nigh, Appear’d like his father in white. He kissed the child & by the hand led And to his mother brought, Who in sorrow pale, thro’ the lonely dale, Her little boy weeping sought. WILLIAM WORDSWORTH LINES COMPOSED A FEW MILES ABOVE TINTERN ABBEY Five years have past; five summers, with the length Of five long winters! and again I hear These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs With a soft inland murmur. – Once again Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, That on a wild secluded scene impress Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect The landscape with the quiet of the sky. The day is come when I again repose Here, under this dark sycamore, and view These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts, Which at this season, with their unripe fruits, Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves ’Mid groves and copses. Once again I see These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms, Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke Sent up, in silence, from among the trees! With some uncertain notice, as might seem Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods, Or of some Hermit’s cave, where by his fire
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The Hermit sits alone. These beauteous forms, Through a long absence, have not been to me As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye: But oft, in lonely rooms, and ’mid the din Of towns and cities, I have owed to them In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart; And passing even into my purer mind, With tranquil restoration: – feelings too Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps, As have no slight or trivial influence On that best portion of a good man’s life, His little, nameless, unremembered, acts Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust, To them I may have owed another gift, Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood, In which the burthen of the mystery, In which the heavy and the weary weight Of all this unintelligible world, Is lightened: – that serene and blessed mood, In which the affections gently lead us on, – Until, the breath of this corporeal frame And even the motion of our human blood Almost suspended, we are laid asleep In body, and become a living soul: While with an eye made quiet by the power Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, We see into the life of things. If this Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft – In darkness and amid the many shapes Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir Unprofitable, and the fever of the world, Have hung upon the beatings of my heart –
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The mountain. Their colours and their forms. I would believe. have I turned to thee. O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro’ the woods. but with pleasing thoughts That in this moment there is life and food For future years. For nature then (The coarser pleasures of my boyish days. That had no need of a remoter charm. 335 . and the lonely streams. by the sides Of the deep rivers. for such loss. and the deep and gloomy wood. And somewhat of a sad perplexity. The sounding cataract Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock. And their glad animal movements all gone by) To me was all in all.How oft. And all its aching joys are now no more. And so I dare to hope. from what I was when first I came among these hills. Wherever nature led: more like a man Flying from something that he dreads. but hearing oftentimes The still. – That time is past. With many recognitions dim and faint. nor any interest Unborrowed from the eye. than one Who sought the thing he loved. when like a roe I bounded o’er the mountains. – I cannot paint What then I was. not as in the hour Of thoughtless youth. Not for this Faint I. not only with the sense Of present pleasure. And all its dizzy raptures. By thought supplied. Though changed. For I have learned To look on nature. Abundant recompence. How often has my spirit turned to thee! And now. in spirit. The picture of the mind revives again: While here I stand. no doubt. nor mourn nor murmur. other gifts Have followed. sad music of humanity. were then to me An appetite. with gleams of half-extinguished thought. a feeling and a love.

If I were not thus taught. the guardian of my heart. and read My former pleasures in the shooting lights Of thy wild eyes. thou my dearest Friend. Through all the years of this our life. to lead From joy to joy: for she can so inform The mind that is within us. of all the mighty world Of eye. Nor perchance. and in thy voice I catch The language of my former heart. a sense sublime Of something far more deeply interfused. all objects of all thought. My dear. And the blue sky. ’tis her privilege. and so feed 336 . and of all that we behold From this green earth. The anchor of my purest thoughts. – both what they half create. and in the mind of man. The guide. dear Sister! and this prayer I make. and soul Of all my moral being. dear Friend. Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns.Nor harsh nor grating. Knowing that Nature never did betray The heart that loved her. And the round ocean and the living air. And I have felt A presence that disturbs me with the joy Of elevated thoughts. so impress With quietness and beauty. Oh! yet a little while May I behold in thee what I was once. though of ample power To chasten and subdue. My dear. And what perceive. Therefore am I still A lover of the meadows and the woods. well pleased to recognise In nature and the language of the sense. And mountains. And rolls through all things. the nurse. that impels All thinking things. A motion and a spirit. should I the more Suffer my genial spirits to decay: For thou art with me here upon the banks Of this fair river. and ear.

With lofty thoughts. When these wild ecstasies shall be matured Into a sober pleasure. That after many wanderings. Nor greetings where no kindness is. many years Of absence. or pain. these steep woods and lofty cliffs. Rash judgments. And these my exhortations! Nor. when thy mind Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms. or fear. nor all The dreary intercourse of daily life. hither came Unwearied in that service: rather say With warmer love – oh! with far deeper zeal Of holier love. with what healing thoughts Of tender joy wilt thou remember me. nor the sneers of selfish men. And this green pastoral landscape. Nor wilt thou then forget. If solitude. Shall e’er prevail against us. that neither evil tongues. or grief. or disturb Our cheerful faith. were to me More dear. nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams Of past existence – wilt thou then forget That on the banks of this delightful stream We stood together. Thy memory be as a dwelling-place For all sweet sounds and harmonies. oh! then. both for themselves and for thy sake! 337 . Therefore let the moon Shine on thee in thy solitary walk. perchance – If I should be where I no more can hear Thy voice. And let the misty mountain-winds be free To blow against thee: and. and that I. Should be thy portion. so long A worshipper of Nature. that all which we behold Is full of blessings. in after years.

beneath the trees. 338 . but they Outdid the sparkling waves in glee. They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance. A poet could not but be gay. when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood. A host. Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way. In such a jocund company. Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. When all at once I saw a crowd. I gazed – and gazed – but little thought What wealth to me the show had brought: For oft. And dances with the daffodils. The waves beside them danced.I WANDERED LONELY AS A CLOUD I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills. Beside the lake. of golden daffodils. And then my heart with pleasure fills. Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude.

and few could know When Lucy ceased to be. So is it now I am a man. The difference to me! THE RAINBOW My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky: So was it when my life began. oh.SHE DWELT AMONG THE UNTRODDEN WAYS She dwelt among the untrodden ways Beside the springs of Dove. But she is in her grave. A Maid whom there were none to praise And very few to love: A violet by a mossy stone Half hidden from the eye! Fair as a star. She lived unknown. 339 . So be it when I shall grow old. and. And I could wish my day to be Bound each to each by natural piety. when only one Is shining in the sky. Or let me die! The Child is father of the Man.

Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree. So twice five miles of fertile ground With walls and towers were girdled round: And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills.SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE KUBLA KHAN In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree: Where Alph. with ceaseless turmoil seething. Then reached the caverns measureless to man. And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean: And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far Ancestral voices prophesying war! The shadow of the dome of pleasure 340 . But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover! A savage place! as holy and enchanted As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted By woman wailing for her demon-lover! And from this chasm. As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing. Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea. And here were forests ancient as the hills. Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail: And ’mid these dancing rocks at once and ever It flung up momently the sacred river. Five miles meandering with a mazy motion Through wood and dale the sacred river ran. A mighty fountain momently was forced: Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail. the sacred river.

our Cot o’ergrown With white-flower’d Jasmin. A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice! A damsel with a dulcimer In a vision once I saw: It was an Abyssinian maid. Where was heard the mingled measure From the fountain and the caves. And on her dulcimer she played. Slow saddening round.Floated midway on the waves. And close your eyes with holy dread. That with music loud and long. Beware! Beware! His flashing eyes. and the broad-leav’d Myrtle. Somersetshire My pensive Sara! thy soft cheek reclined Thus on my arm. And all should cry. and mark the star of eve Serenely brilliant (such should Wisdom be) Shine opposite! How exquisite the scents Snatch’d from yon bean-field! and the world so hush’d! 341 . Singing of Mount Abora. That sunny dome! those caves of ice! And all who heard should see them there. It was a miracle of rare device. Could I revive within me Her symphony and song. THE EOLIAN HARP Composed at Clevedon. (Meet emblems they of Innocence and Love!) And watch the clouds. that late were rich with light. For he on honey-dew hath fed. To such a deep delight ’twould win me. most soothing sweet it is To sit beside our Cot. his floating hair! Weave a circle round him thrice. And drunk the milk of Paradise. I would build that dome in air.

342 . Where the breeze warbles. hark! How by the desultory breeze caress’d. And many idle flitting phantasies. Where Melodies round honey-dropping flowers. And thus. And that simplest Lute. as must needs Tempt to repeat the wrong! And now. Placed length-ways in the clasping casement. It pours such sweet upbraiding.The stilly murmur of the distant Sea Tells us of silence. like diamonds. and joyance every where – Methinks. my Love! as on the midway slope Of yonder hill I stretch my limbs at noon. hovering on untam’d wing! O! the one Life within us and abroad. And tranquil muse upon tranquility. the long sequacious notes Over delicious surges sink and rise. A light in sound. Whilst through my half-clos’d eye-lids I behold The sunbeams dance. As wild and various as the random gales That swell and flutter on the subject Lute! And what if all of animated nature Be but organic Harps diversely fram’d. and the mute still air Is Music slumbering on her instrument. when they at eve Voyage on gentle gales from Fairy-Land. it should have been impossible Not to love all things in a world so fill’d. Rhythm in all thought. Which meets all motion and becomes its soul. Nor pause. Footless and wild. like birds of Paradise. Such a soft floating witchery of sound As twilight Elfins make. nor perch. a sound-like power in light. on the main. its strings Boldlier swept. Full many a thought uncall’d and undetain’d. Traverse my indolent and passive brain. Like some coy maid half yielding to her lover.

and this Cot. With all the numberless goings-on of life. Who with his saving mercies healed me. O beloved Woman! nor such thoughts Dim and unhallow’d dost thou not reject. Have left me to that solitude. and wood. which suits Abstruser musings: save that at my side My cradled infant slumbers peacefully. Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame Lies on my low-burnt fire. and wood. Unhelped by any wind. one intelletual breeze. and thee. The owlet’s cry Came loud – and hark. Only that film. and hill. Bubbles that glitter as they rise and break On vain Philosophy’s aye-babbling spring. again! loud as before. And biddest me walk humbly with my God. 343 . and quivers not. ’Tis calm indeed! so calm. Wilder’d and dark. Meek Daughter in the family of Christ! Well hast thou said and holily disprais’d These shapings of the unregenerate mind. as o’er them sweeps Plastic and vast. and with Faith that only feels. Sea. For never guiltless may I speak of him. all at rest. At once the Soul of each. heart-honour’d Maid! FROST AT MIDNIGHT The Frost performs its secret ministry. and gave me to possess Peace. A sinful and most miserable man. This populous village! Sea. The Incomprehensible! save when with awe I praise him.That tremble into thought. The inmates of my cottage. which fluttered on the grate. hill. that it disturbs And vexes meditation with its strange And extreme silentness. and God of all? But thy more serious eye a mild reproof Darts.

Whose bells. the poor man’s only music. Whose gentle breathings. every where Echo or mirror seeking of itself. all the hot Fair-day. My play-mate when we both were clothed alike! Dear Babe. falling on mine ear Most like articulate sounds of things to come! So gazed I. thus to look at thee. And makes a toy of Thought. or sister more beloved.Still flutters there. the sole unquiet thing. till the soothing things. Fill up the interspersed vacancies And momentary pauses of the thought! My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart With tender gladness. already had I dreamt Of my sweet birth-place. with most believing mind. mine eye Fixed with mick study on my swimming book: Save if the door half opened. have I gazed upon the bars. at school. and I snatched A hasty glance. heard in this deep calm. that they stirred and haunted me With a wild pleasure. I dreamt. Methinks. Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit By its own moods interprets. and still my heart leaped up. Townsman. For still I hoped to see the stranger’s face. 344 . Lulled me to sleep. Presageful. And think that thou shalt learn far other lore. But O! how oft. or aunt. How oft. So sweetly. and the old church-tower. Making it a companionable form. To watch that fluttering stranger! and as oft With unclosed lids. its motion in this hush of nature Gives it dim sympathies with me who live. Awed by the stern preceptor’s face. that sleepest cradled by my side. rang From morn to evening. and sleep prolonged my dreams! And so I brooded all the following morn.

Great universal Teacher! he shall mould Thy spirit. which thy God Utters. Quietly shining to the quiet Moon. 345 . beneath the clouds. doth teach Himself in all. And all that’s best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes. Or if the secret ministry of frost Shall hang them up in silent icicles. Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible Of that eternal language. Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee. while the nigh thatch Smokes in the sun-thaw. Thus mellowed to the tender light Which heaven to gaudy day denies. whether the eave-drops fall Heard only in the trances of the blast. and all things in himself. Whether summer clothe the general earth With greenness. who from eternity. GEORGE GORDON BYRON SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY She walks in beauty like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies. and by giving make it ask. my babe! shalt wander like a breeze By lakes and sandy shores. But thou. pent ’mid cloisters dim. or the redbreast sit and sing Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch Of mossy apple-tree. And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.And in far other scenes! For I was reared In the great city.

so calm. A heart whose love is innocent. And on that cheek and o’er that brow So soft. as if its sound were causing The charmed ocean’s pausing. one shade the less Had half impaired the nameless grace Which waves in every raven tress Or softly lightens o’er her face. And the lull’d winds seem dreaming. Whose breast is gently heaving As an infant’s asleep: So the spirit bows before thee. The smiles that win. With a full but soft emotion. how dear their dwelling place.One ray the more. And like music on the waters Is thy sweet voice to me: When. Where thoughts serenely sweet express How pure. And the midnight moon is weaving Her bright chain o’er the deep. the tints that glow But tell of days in goodness spent A mind at peace with all below. STANZAS FOR MUSIC There be none of Beauty’s daughters With a magic like thee. yet eloquent. The waves lie still and gleaming. 346 . Like the swell of Summer’s ocean.

to ask him where he had been bred. This poem will become a moral model. But could not for the muse of me put less in ’t: And now delay the progress of Don Juan. to stab herself. As Ovid’s verse may give to understand. The greater their success the worse it proves. * Her first thought was to cut off Juan’s head. to cut only his – acquaintance. I’m sensible redundancy is wrong. Plain – simple – short. if judged with due severity. They little think what mischief is in hand. howe’er unpleasant (Because this Canto has become too long). Her fifth. Her sixth. Form’d rather for instructing than delighting. if my Pegasus should not be shod ill. Must be postponed discreetly for the present. And with all passions in their turn attack’d. Except in such a way as not to attract.DON JUAN (fragments) Canto IV All this must be reserved for further song. But with a moral to each error tack’d. Her third. to sentence 347 . to rally him into repentance. and by no means inviting. Her second. Even Petrarch’s self. Now. Till what is call’d in Ossian the fifth Juan. her seventh. to call her maids and go to bed. Is the Platonic pimp of all posterity. And pair their rhymes as Venus yokes her doves. I therefore do denounce all amorous writing. Her fourth. Also our hero’s lot. Canto V When amatory poets sing their loves In liquid lines mellifluously bland.

and cry. Snatch’d from a prison to preside at court. or made baits for fish. or to be slain with pangs refined. For being the last wife of the Emperour. or even a Dandy’s dandiest chatter. And then his Highness’ eunuchs. The train might reach a quarter of a mile: His majesty was always so polite As to announce his visits a long while Before he came. but before he ventured Further. Or thrown to lions. Shawl’d to the nose. * First came her damsels. old Baba rather briskly enter’d. His Highness was a man of solemn port. or quarter’d as a dish For dogs. a decorous file. black and white. His lately bowstrung brother caused his rise. And thus heroically stood resign’d. * So he began to stammer some excuses.The lash to Baba: – but her grand resource Was to sit down again. Rather than sin – except to his own wish: But all his great preparatives for dying Dissolved like snow before a woman crying. especially at night. But words are not enough in such a matter. Just as a languid smile began to flatter His peace was making. * Juan was moved. Or all the figures Castlereagh abuses. She was of course the favorite of the four. and bearded to the eyes. of course. he had made up his mind To be impaled. He was as good a sovereign of the sort 348 . Although you borrow’d all that e’er the muses Have sung.

But etiquette forbade them all to giggle. and found No sign that it was circular anywhere. His empire also was without a bound: ’T is true. and now we pause. perceived Juan amongst the damsels in disguise. At which he seem’d no whit surprised nor grieved. a little troubled here and there. made her blush and shake. Her comrades. Was also certain that the earth was square. But just remark’d with air sedate and wise. And looking. also. * Thus far our chronicle. Though not for want of matter. or Knolles. and wriggle. By rebel pachas. where few shine Save Solyman. While still a fluttering sigh Gulbeyaz heaved. “I see you’ve bought another girl. while scarce to one Of them his lips imperial ever spake! There was a general whisper.” This compliment. as he always look’d. toss. and encroaching giaours. but ’t is time According to the ancient epic laws. thought themselves undone: Oh! Mahomet! that his majesty should take Such notice of a giaour. Because he had journey’d fifty miles.” * His Highness cast around his great black eyes. ’t is pity That a mere Christian should be half so pretty. But then they never came to the “Seven Towers. 349 . the glory of their line.As any mention’d in the histories Of Cantemir. * He saw with his own eyes the moon was round. which drew all eyes upon The new-bought virgin.

350 .To slacken sail. hear! II Thou on whose stream. and hectic red. Each like a corpse within its grave. Meanwhile. perhaps You’ll pardon to my muse a few short naps. thou breath of Autumn’s being. even from the dim verge Of the horizon to the zenith’s height. as Homer sometimes sleeps. The sixth shall have a touch of the sublime. hear. until Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth. and anchor with our rhyme. and fill (Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) With living hues and odors plain and hill: Wild Spirit. PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY ODE TO THE WEST WIND I O wild West Wind. where they lie cold and low. from whose unseen presence the leaves dead Are driven. Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread On the blue surface of thine aery surge. oh. Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou. ’mid the steep sky’s commotion. Yellow. Thou. Let this fifth canto meet with due applause. Destroyer and preserver. Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed. and pale. and black. Like the bright hair uplifted from the head Of some fierce Maenad. Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean. like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing. Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed The wingéd seeds. which art moving everywhere.

and proud. And saw in sleep old palaces and towers Quivering within the wave’s intenser day. As then. only less free Than thou. Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay.The locks of the approaching storm. And tremble and despoil themselves: oh. know Thy voice. to which this closing night Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre. 351 . and hail will burst: oh. the sense faints picturing them! Thou For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers Cleave themselves into chasms. and swift. lift me as a wave. Thou dirge Of the dying year. All overgrown with azure moss and flowers So sweet. and fire. hear! IV If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear. from whose solid atmosphere Black rain. I would ne’er have striven As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need. and could be The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven. Oh. hear! III Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams The blue Mediterranean. Vaulted with all thy congregated might Of vapors. If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee. Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams. where he lay. when to outstrip thy skiey speed Scarce seemed a vision. and suddenly grow gray with fear. a leaf. while far below The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear The sapless foliage of the ocean. and share The impulse of thy strength. A wave to pant beneath thy power. O uncontrollable! If even I were as in my boyhood. a cloud! I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed One too like thee: tameless.

I wield the flail of the lashing hail. While I sleep in the arms of the blast. impetuous one! Drive my dead thoughts over the universe Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth! And. Sweet though in sadness. Lightning my pilot sits. autumnal tone. Be thou. even as the forest is: What if my leaves are falling like its own! The tumult of thy mighty harmonies Will take from both a deep. And then again I dissolve it in rain. my words among mankind! Be through my lips to unawakened earth The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind. As she dances about the sun. And whiten the green plains under. Scatter. as from an unextinguished hearth Ashes and sparks. From my wings are shaken the dews that waken The sweet buds every one. 352 . by the incantation of this verse.V Make me thy lyre. From the seas and the streams. And their great pines groan aghast. can Spring be far behind? THE CLOUD I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers. If Winter comes. And laugh as I pass in thunder. My spirit! Be thou me. Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers. I bear light shade for the leaves when laid In their noonday dreams. Spirit fierce. When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast. And all the night ’tis my pillow white. I sift the snow on the mountains below.

As still as a brooding dove. Over earth and ocean. Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor. And the crimson pall of eve may fall From the depth of Heaven above. Whilst he is dissolving in rains. Leaps on the back of my sailing rack. And wherever the beat of her unseen feet. This pilot is guiding me. Over the rills. It struggles and howls at fits. and the crags. By the midnight breezes strewn. Which only the angels hear. And I all the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile. 353 . That orbed maiden with white fire laden. The stars peep behind her and peer. Its ardours of rest and of love. With wings folded I rest. Wherever he dream. from the lit sea beneath. and the hills. with gentle motion. Over the lakes and the plains. And I laugh to see them whirl and flee. under mountain or stream.In a cavern under is fettered the thunder. The sanguine Sunrise. An eagle alit one moment may sit In the light of its golden wings. When the morning star shines dead. Which an earthquake rocks and swings. with his meteor eyes. Lured by the love of the genii that move In the depths of the purple sea. And when Sunset may breathe. And his burning plumes outspread. May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof. Whom mortals call the Moon. As on the jag of a mountain crag. The Spirit he loves remains. on mine aery nest.

The triumphal arch through which I march With hurricane. When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair. The volcanoes are dim. Like a child from the womb. like a ghost from the tomb. And the nursling of the Sky. Is the million-coloured bow. with a bridge-like shape. I change. The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove. When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent. Sunbeam-proof. I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores. fire. And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams Build up the blue dome of air. Over a torrent sea. Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high. For after the rain when with never a stain The pavilion of Heaven is bare. I hang like a roof. Are each paved with the moon and these. And the Moon’s with a girdle of pearl. While the moist Earth was laughing below. and seas. From cape to cape. I silently laugh at my own cenotaph. I arise and unbuild it again. and snow. – The mountains its columns be. but I cannot die. I bind the Sun’s throne with a burning zone. 354 .Like a swarm of golden bees. lakes. and the stars reel and swim When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl. I am the daughter of Earth and Water. Till the calm rivers. And out of the caverns of rain.

who From life to life must still pursue Your happiness. WITH A GUITAR Ariel to Miranda: – Take This slave of music. Poor Ariel sends this silent token Of more than ever can be spoken. Ariel. and Ariel still Has tracked your steps and served your will. Now in humbler. is turned to pain. 355 . happier lot. Your guardian spirit. When you live again on earth. For by permission and command Of thine own Prince Ferdinand. Make the delighted spirit glow. for thus alone Can Ariel ever find his own.TO JANE. To the throne of Naples he Lit you o’er the trackless sea. Like an unseen Star of birth Ariel guides you o’er the sea Of life from your nativity. When you die. for the sake Of him who is the slave of thee. your prow before. Many changes have been run Since Ferdinand and you begun Your course of love. and only thou. As the mighty verses tell. Flitting on. Till joy denies itself again And. too intense. And teach it all the harmony In which thou canst. From Prospero’s enchanted cell. the silent Moon In her interlunar swoon Is not sadder in her cell Than deserted Ariel. Like a living meteor.

The artist wrought this loved Guitar. – For it had learnt all harmonies Of the plains and of the skies. Of the forests and the mountains. And summer winds in sylvan cells. The melodies of birds and bees. For his service and his sorrow. And dreaming.This is all remembered not. – O that such our death may be! – Died in sleep. A smile today. And some of April buds and showers. and so this tree. The clearest echoes of the hills. Whispering in enamoured tone Sweet oracles of woods and dells. 356 . And the many-voiced fountains. beneath Heaven’s fairest star. and felt no pain. Rocked in that repose divine On the wind-swept Apennine. The artist who this idol wrought To echo all harmonious thought. The softest notes of falling rills. And taught it justly to reply To all who question skilfully In language gentle as thine own. some of Autumn past. And some of songs in July bowers. And all of love. And some of Spring approaching fast. To live in happier form again: From which. a song tomorrow. alas! the poor sprite is Imprisoned for some fault of his In a body like a grave – From you he only dares to crave. Felled a tree. while on the steep The woods were in their winter sleep. And now.

The murmuring of summer seas. and breathing dew. JOHN KEATS ODE ON A GRECIAN URN Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness. who canst thus express A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape Of deities or mortals. And airs of evening. In Tempe or the dales of Arcady? What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 357 . It keeps its highest holiest tone For our beloved Jane alone. Our world enkindles on its way: – All this it knows. and it knew That seldom-heard mysterious sound Which. but will not tell To those who cannot question well The Spirit that inhabits it. and no more Is heard than has been felt before By those who tempt it to betray These secrets of an elder day. driven on its diurnal round. But. As it floats through boundless day. And pattering rain. sweetly as its answers will Flatter hands of perfect skill. Sylvan historian. Thou foster-child of silence and slow time. or of both. It talks according to the wit Of its companions.

A burning forehead. more endear’d. Not to the sensual ear. Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies. unwearied. Is emptied of this folk. but. thy streets for evermore Will silent be. With forest branches and the trodden weed. O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede Of marble men and maidens overwrought. play on. For ever piping songs for ever new. nor ever can those trees be bare. She cannot fade. 358 . happy boughs! that cannot shed Your leaves. but those unheard Are sweeter. Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel. do not grieve. And. never. nor ever bid the Spring adieu. Bold Lover. happy. and not a soul to tell Why thou art desolate. though thou hast not thy bliss. That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d. Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: Fair youth. For ever wilt thou love. ye soft pipes. never canst thou kiss. and she be fair! Ah. this pious morn? And. Though winning near the goal yet.Heard melodies are sweet. More happy love! more happy. happy melodist. can e’er return. And all her silken flanks with garlands drest? What little town by river or sea shore. All breathing human passion far above. Who are these coming to the sacrifice? To what green altar. and a parching tongue. little town. For ever panting. O mysterious priest. thou canst not leave Thy song. therefore. and for ever young. beneath the trees. happy love! For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d.

– that is all Ye know on earth. To swell the gourd. For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cell. Thou watchest the last oozings. to set budding more.Thou. silent form. while thy hook Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers. Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run. to whom thou say’st. Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind. and all ye need to know. in midst of other woe Than ours. and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel. Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find Thee sitting careless on a granary floor. truth beauty. a friend to man. “Beauty is truth. hours by hours. dost tease us out of thought As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! When old age shall this generation waste. Thou shalt remain. Drowsed with the fume of poppies. To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees. Until they think warm days will never cease.” ODE TO AUTUMN Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Or by a cider-press. Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep. later flowers for the bees. 359 . with patient look. And still more. And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core. Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun. And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep Steady thy laden head across a brook.

the small gnats mourn Among the river sallows. Emprison her soft hand. And hides the green hill in an April shroud. – While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day. Nor let the beetle nor the death-moth be Your mournful Psyche. Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows. Then in a wailful choir. And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn. That fosters the droop-headed flowers all. ruby grape of Proserpine. for its poisonous wine. nor the downy owl A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries. And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul. Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose. But when the melancholy fit shall fall Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud. ODE ON MELANCHOLY No. 360 . and now with treble soft The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft. For shade to shade will come too drowsily. And feed deep. where are they? Think not of them. neither twist Wolf's-bane. thou hast thy music too. no! go not to Lethe. and let her rave. borne aloft Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies. deep upon her peerless eyes. Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kissed By nightshade. tight-rooted.Where are the songs of Spring? Ay. Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave. Hedge-crickets sing. And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue. And gathering swallows twitter in the skies. Make not your rosary of yew-berries. Or on the wealth of globed peonies.

And made sweet moan. her foot was light. Alone and palely loitering? The sedge is withered from the lake. Full beautiful. And bracelets too. She looked at me as she did love. in the very temple of delight Veiled Melancholy has her sovran shrine. Ay. Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips. and fragrant zone. And on thy cheek a fading rose Fast withereth too. LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI O.She dwells with Beauty – Beauty that must die. And the harvest’s done. And be among her cloudy trophies hung. And her eyes were wild. So haggard and so woe-begone The squirrel’s granary is full. whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu. 361 . Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine. And Joy. And no birds sing. His soul shall taste the sadness of her might. I see a lily on thy brow With anguish moist and fever dew. I met a lady in the meads. knight-at arms. O. I made a garland for her head. what can ail thee. a faery’s child: Her hair was long. what can ail thee. knight-at-arms. and aching Pleasure nigh.

And no birds sing. And this is why I sojourn here.I set her on my pacing steed. And there I dreamed. 362 . ah! woe betide. Who cried – “La Belle Dame sans Merci Thee hath in thrall!” I saw their starved lips in the gloam. Alone and palely loitering. On the cold hill’s side. and manna-dew. wild eyes – With kisses four. And honey wild. She found me roots of relish sweet. And nothing else saw all day long. death-pale were they all.” She took me to her elfin grot. And there she wept and sighed full sore. And there she lulled me asleep. With horrid warning gaped wide. And I awoke and found me here. Pale warriors. For sideways would she lean. And sure in language strange she said – “I love thee true. And there I shut her wild. and sing A faery’s song. I saw pale kings and princes too. The latest dream I ever dreamed On the cold hill side. Though the sedge is withered from the lake.

Shut up thine olden pages. once more humbly assay The bitter-sweet of this Shakespearian fruit. Begetters of our deep eternal theme. upon a peak in Darien. Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes He star’d at the Pacific – and all his men Look’d at each other with a wild surmise – Silent. And many goodly states and kingdoms seen. Give me new Phoenix wings to fly at my desire.ON SITTING DOWN TO READ KING LEAR ONCE AGAIN O golden-tongued Romance with serene lute! Fair plumed Syren! Queen of far away! Leave melodizing on this wintry day. and be mute: Adieu! for once again the fierce dispute. When through the old oak forest I am gone. ON FIRST LOOKING INTO CHAPMAN’S HOMER Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold. But when I am consumed in the fire. Betwixt damnation and impassion’d clay Must I burn through. Chief Poet! and ye clouds of Albion. 363 . Round many western islands have I been Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. Oft of one wide expanse had I been told That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne. Yet did I never breathe its pure serene Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold: Then felt I like some watcher of the skies When a new planet swims into his ken. Let me not wander in a barren dream.

364 .

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