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Poetry written in English is uniquely powerful and suggestive in its capacity to surprise, unsettle, shock, console, and move. The Cambridge History of English Poetry offers sparklingly fresh and dynamic readings of an extraordinary range of poets and poems from Beowulf to Alice Oswald. An international team of experts explores how poets in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland use language and to what effect, examining questions of form, tone, and voice; they comment, too, on how formal choices are inflected by the poet's time and place. The Cambridge History of English Poetry is the most comprehensive and authoritative history of the field from early medieval times to the present. It traces patterns of continuity, transformation, transition, and development. Covering a remarkable array of poets and poems, and featuring an extensive bibliography, the scope and depth of this major work of reference make it required reading for anyone interested in poetry.


'This book provides an excellent introduction to English poetry but its most productive use will be as a catalyst for further reading.'

Source: Annotated Bibliography of English Studies

'… should prove to be an excellent resource for students and researchers of English poetry and English literary history.'

Source: English

'This is a well constructed and well balanced volume …'

Source: Contemporary Review

'… this is a volume to turn to for close and scholarly appreciations of poetic form.'

Source: The Year's Work in English Studies

'… provides easily excerpted chapters ready for use by teachers of literary survey courses. Rather than specialized or tendentious readings, this book offers concrete observations … Its publication may be taken as an affirmation of the relevance of a diverse, complex, and rich tradition.'

Source: Choice

'Michael O'Neill's The Cambridge History of English Poetry contains nine chapters relevant to the Romantic period. Each of them is written with intelligence and insight. The collection, by leading scholars, gives an important overview of the state of the field.'

Source: The Year's Work in English Studies

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Page 1 of 2

  • 1 - Old English poetry
    pp 7-25
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    Old English poetry is a somewhat improbable recent success story, in an era when formal study of classical literature and even the study of modern languages have been in decline in England. This chapter concentrates on what Auden might mean by 'influences', trying to describe what qualities in Old English poetry were found useful and expressive for writers in English of later periods. It describes the contents of Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, as an introduction to the subjects and themes of the poetry, and as a way of embracing the principal texts. The chapter summarises the texts and techniques which led modern writers like Hopkins and Auden to make such high claims for this poetry and its language. It also explains the poetic felicities of the contrastive echo of 'hleopor/hleahtor'. The chapter finally shows how the power of the half-stated in these poems was found so appealing to the early twentieth-century modernists, with their mystique of doubt and fragmentation.
  • 2 - The Gawain-poet and medieval romance
    pp 26-42
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    Romance, the most influential genre of imaginative writing in the Middle Ages, at once looks back to the tradition of epic poetry and forward to the genre of the novel. English romances, which began to be written in the late thirteenth century, occupied a rather different space. As might befit a clerical writer, three of the poems accompanying Sir Gawain are explicitly religious in subject: Cleanness, Patience and Pearl. Sir Gawainis much more obviously a romance, but it too insists on questioning ideals as the poet interweaves fantasy and reality, pagan and Christian, human and otherworld. Where Sir Gawain is witty and urbane in its ambiguity, Pearl is visionary and contemplative. The poem thus also situates itself within an ancient, more serious genre of dream-vision, employed in the Bible, Dante's Divina Commedia and Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy, as well as in the Old English Dream of the Rood and Langland's Piers Plowman.
  • 3 - Late fourteenth-century poetry (Chaucer, Gower, Langland and their legacy)
    pp 43-62
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    Dryden's description of Geoffrey Chaucer as the 'Father of English Poetry' and Puttenham's demarcation of late fourteenth-century English poetry as a 'first age' have had varied fortunes in recent histories of poetry. People have incontrovertible evidence that the poetry of Chaucer, John Gower and the author of Piers Plowman, all composed in the last three, perhaps four, decades of the fourteenth century, has never since fallen out of sight. Piers Plowman is suffused with the vocabulary and tropes of French love vision poetry, the metre of the poem is not in the tradition of rhymed syllabic verse. This chapter also outlines the opportunities and constraints that attended the making of poetry in English in the later fourteenth century. It explores the ways in which Chaucer, Gower and Langland responded to them. The chapter finally discusses the legacy of these poets and the story of how they first became recognised as founders of a tradition of English poetry.
  • 4 - Langland: Piers Plowman
    pp 63-80
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    In 1550 The Vision of Piers Plowman was published by the Protestant printer and controversialist Robert Crowley, and reprinted twice in the same year. Langland's great poem had previously been known only in manuscript copies, and as a product of a non-courtly tradition never interested William Caxton, who printed the works of Chaucer, Gower and Malory. In his famous description of divine love, heterogeneous conceits tumble forth, catching the light of semi-understanding before rolling into the shadow of semi-mystery. C. S. Lewis is right about Langland's 'intellectual imagination' but mistaken that this is attained 'by thought rather than by sense'. Religious poetry that is also satire is a potentially indigestible mix, since satire arises out of contempt, disgust and hatred of its object, while Christian writing leans towards love and forgiveness. In the soaring verses Langland's 'medled' macaronic high style generates deep theological resonances against which the high notes of the corporeal shrill out sharp.
  • 5 - Chaucer: Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales
    pp 81-95
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    In The Book of the Duchess and The Parliament of Fowls Geoffrey Chaucer's dreamers wander in the gardens and forests of medieval tradition. The stories which Chaucer takes as the basis for his greatest works, Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales, fare similarly. Chaucer's achievement in Troilus and Criseyde was to expand the significance of the narrative of Boccaccio's Il Filostrato by the introduction of more sophisticated characterisation and broader, more philosophical themes. Chaucer frequently uses rhyme to reveal Criseyde's two visages, including 'entente' and 'mente'. Whereas for Boccaccio the Trojan War was merely background material for the main plot, for Chaucer it provided both an additional poetic vocabulary and a contemporary political resonance. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer is the 'elvyssh' pilgrim at the edge of the picture who looks back to the Tabard Inn and forwards to Canterbury, the terrestrial Jerusalem. Chaucer's legacy to English poetry is one of linguistic curiosity and a refusal of generic categorization.
  • 6 - Late medieval literature in Scotland: Henryson, Dunbar and Douglas
    pp 96-114
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    The writing lives of the Scottish poets Robert Henryson, William Dunbar and Gavin Douglas overlapped during a period of fifty years or so, from around 1460 to 1513, coinciding with the reigns of James III and IV of Scotland. Henryson's collection is eclectic and unparalleled: seven fables have analogues in a Latin Aesopic collection which, with commentaries, was used in late medieval schools. The characters struggle to make sense of their world, using received wisdom, proverbs, sententiae, legal maxims. Dunbar's verse has a profligate verbal energy, channelled into a wider range of forms and modes than any of his predecessors, Scots or English. Dunbar's longest poem, The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo, seems to arise from the court's unofficial pastimes. Douglas is heir to a long Scottish tradition of heroic poetry. The account of the death of Priam in Book II exemplifies some of Douglas's characteristics.
  • 7 - Sixteenth-century poetry: Skelton, Wyatt and Surrey
    pp 115-135
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    The early Tudor poets John Skelton, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey span a period of dramatic historical, social and cultural change. To some extent the authors views all three poets through Elizabethan eyes. The verse of Wyatt and Surrey was printed for the Elizabethans in the highly influential Tottel's Miscellany. All three create, or import from Latin and Continental models, new genres and verse forms. An elevated, 'aureate' style and idealising themes dominated complimentary courtly verse at the end of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The 'Devonshire' and 'Blage' manuscripts, containing courtly verse of the 1530s and 1540s, make clear the role of verse such as Wyatt's balets and sonnets in social pastime. Skelton's pre-1520 anti-courtly satires, The Bowge of Court and Magnyfycence, treat plain-style speakers with considerable suspicion. Skelton, Wyatt and Surrey are, all three, serious and thoughtful about poetry and its role in articulating matters of the highest importance.
  • 8 - Spenser
    pp 136-153
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    Edmund Spenser may well have been the most influential and innovative poet who ever wrote in English. Spenser shared Sir Philip Sidney's analysis of English poetry and his career can be seen as a single-handed attempt to revitalise and rethink what could be done in English. In the Calender Spenser imitates Virgil by beginning his literary career with a pastoral poem, signalling his eventual move towards the epic. The book is produced as though it were a humanist edition of a major Latin writer, with commentary, woodcuts, dedications, and in a carefully chosen variety of fonts. The range and diversity of the Calender was followed, after a hiatus of eleven years, by the innovative stanza form of The Faerie Queene, although Spenser had been working on the poem for a long time. Geoffrey Chaucer's verse, also used in The Parliament of Fowls, which Spenser imitated in Two Cantos of Mutabilitie, had become the defining form for court poetry in English.
  • 9 - Sidney, Shakespeare and the Elizabethan sonnet and lyric
    pp 154-172
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    In Shakespeare's early comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Proteus offers Thurio, his rival for Silvia's favour, some advice on the art of seduction. The tensions Shakespeare sketches, between spontaneity and contrivance, between integrity and deceit, animate many Elizabethan sonnets and lyrics dealing with the subject of desire. The first English anthology of poetry, Songs and Sonnets, was published by Richard Tottel in 1557. Spiritual sonnet sequences began appearing in English in the 1560s, but the first sonnet sequence in the Italian and French tradition was Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella. Edmund Spenser put to one side his epic romance The Faerie Queene in order to write Amoretti, published in 1595. Like Spenser, Michael Drayton is better known for his verse histories and topographical writings. English song reached maturity in the works of Thomas Campion and his close contemporaries Robert Southwell and John Dowland, whose First Booke of Songes or Ayres may have inspired Campion's.
  • 10 - The narrative poetry of Marlowe and Shakespeare
    pp 173-191
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    1599 was an important year in the after-life of Christopher Marlowe, as well as in the life of William Shakespeare. 1599 also saw the anonymous publication of Marlowe's poem, 'Come live with me, and be my love' in an anthology called The Passionate Pilgrim. Marlowe's poetic energies were drawn from his deep knowledge of classical texts. Hero and Leander would have been impossible without Marlowe's translation of Ovid's Elegies, rooted as they are in an honest, yet ever playful eroticism. Leander, like Shakespeare's Biron in Love's Labour's Lost, finds love to be a Hercules in 'the orchard of the Hesperides'. Venus and Adonis is Shakespeare's reply to Hero and Leander, and a response to Marlowe hovers with heightened self-consciousness over the gateway into Shakespeare's poem. Shakespeare's account is much more driven than Ovid's by the erotics of male sexual fantasy.
  • 11 - Seventeenth-century poetry 1: poetry in the age of Donne and Jonson
    pp 192-210
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    This chapter discusses a simple set of related literary observations: that John Donne and Ben Jonson were the two most original and influential poets writing in the earlier seventeenth century. Jonson and Donne distanced themselves from their Elizabethan predecessors, 'Edmund Spenser, in affecting the ancients, writ no language', Jonson noted, the two poets differed significantly from each other in almost every way then imaginable in verse. In manuscript, Donne's verse escaped the pyre, but portions of his satires were later censored and several of the elegies were suppressed in the posthumous 1633 printing of his Poems. Jonson, by contrast, is pre-eminently a poet of the middle way, even, it seems, of middle age. Like Jonson, although for different reasons, Robert Herrick has been read sometimes with suspicion or embarrassment. Like Thomas Carew, Henry King had poems on both Donne and Jonson, eulogies, in fact, to each, although neither shows Carew's cool intelligence.
  • 12 - Seventeenth-century poetry 2: Herbert, Vaughan, Philips, Cowley, Crashaw, Marvell
    pp 211-230
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    This chapter considers the career of the first poet, George Herbert, has often been read as epitomising a retreat from public to private. Several of Vaughan's verses are suggested by, or rewritings of, those in The Temple; but if Vaughan's debt to Herbert is often explicit, it is never slavish. The highly charged verses which Katherine Philips addressed to various female confidantes, particularly her friend Anne Owen or 'Lucasia', are interpretable on a number of levels. The next two poets to be considered, Richard Crashaw and Abraham Cowley, also set a high value on poetic interchange. The unripeness of the apricots prompts Crashaw to reflect on productivity and precocity, and to compliment Cowley for a forwardness surpassing nature. As Andrew Marvell and his readers stroll around the estate, he takes them on a guided tour through pastoral, piscatory and prospective poem.
  • 13 - Milton’s shorter poems
    pp 231-254
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    The shorter poems of John Milton exhibit an extraordinary range of genres and topics. In 1645, he published Poems of Mr John Milton, collecting most of his poetry from the previous twenty years or so. The first original English poem Milton preserved was a funeral ode 'On the Death of a Fair Infant Dying of a Cough' about the two-year-old daughter of his sister Anne. During the years 1629-35, Milton wrote some brief lyrics on religious themes. In his entertainment Arcades and more completely in his Mask commonly called Comus Milton developed a stance towards art and recreation that repudiates both the court aesthetics and William Prynne's wholesale prohibitions. Lycidas is the chef d'oeuvre of Milton's early poetry, and one of the greatest lyrics in the language. When the Romantic poets revived the sonnet Milton was a major influence. In the years 1642-46 Milton wrote sonnets to or about friends.
  • 14 - Milton: Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes
    pp 255-280
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    The bardic speaker, Adam, Abdiel, Jesus in Paradise Regained and Samson all appeal to reason, experience and inspiration to interpret God's words and works. In Paradise Lost John Milton presents the Genesis creation account in terms that make place for contemporary and future science. As well, Milton's theology allowed him to portray God the Father as an epic character, a literary choice often thought impossible and probably sacrilegious. Tasso's prescriptions in two essays on the heroic poem and the model offered by his Gerusalemme Liberata had perhaps the largest influence on aspiring epic poets in the Renaissance. Milton's epic incorporates a wide range of other genres with their appropriate styles. Milton's 'Preface' to Samson Agonistes makes the contrast explicit, describing his tragedy as 'coming forth after the antient manner, much different from what among us passes for best'. Samson Agonistes has elicited a cacophony of interpretations.
  • 15 - Restoration poetry: Behn, Dryden and their contemporaries
    pp 281-298
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    This chapter places Dryden alongside his fellow writers, in particular Aphra Behn, in order to explore the nature of Restoration poetry. Literary tradition has sometimes oversimplified the work of both, contrasting Behn unfavourably with Philips or Finch, Dryden with Pope and Rochester, and underestimating the scope for complexity and ambiguity within their apparently transparent styles. Janet Todd suggests that a volume published in 1672, The Covent Garden Drolery, was probably compiled by Behn, and contained some of her earlier poems. Anne Killigrew is chiefly remembered on account of Dryden's ode on her death, containing such faint praise as 'Art she had none, yet wanted none'. Dryden's tribute to John Oldham points up the irony of youthful friendship, in which common goals and gifts 'To the same goal did both our studies drive', by invoking Virgil's episode of Nisus and Euryalus.
  • 16 - Dryden: major poems
    pp 299-317
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    John Dryden came into his own as a poet during the Exclusion Crisis and he maintained a superb pace of verse writing over the next several years. The preface to Absalom and Achitophel suggests Dryden's strong sense of the aesthetic. After the striking characters and caricatures, the intricate topicality, the aggressive baiting and of course and above all the wit of Absalom and Achitophel, Religio Laici seems surprisingly cool, indeed rather dismissive of wit itself. When Dryden published his conversion to Rome in The Hind and the Panther, the Anglicanism of Religio Laici was made an embarrassment. By the late seventeenth century, the Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter was proverbial for dullness, an object of Dryden's contempt at least from the time of his writing Mac Flecknoe. For nearly all his literary life Dryden had been engaged, willingly or not, in an effort to stabilise and control the meanings of his words.
  • 17 - Swift
    pp 318-332
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    Swift claimed, late in life, to have been 'only a Man of Rhimes, and that upon Trifles, never having written serious Couplets in my Life, yet never without a moral View'. In so far as the two manners were rivals, it was Pope's which established itself as the dominant voice of serious English poetry in the time Swift was writing. Swift's excellence was deemed to be in his prose, and Swift was willing to acknowledge Pope's supremacy in poetry. Swift's poems to Vanessa and Stella are more informal and more autobiographical than Pope's major poem about women, the epistle To a Lady. Pope's poem addressed to his friend Martha Blount and published two years after Swift's poem of the same title was subtitled Of the Characters of Women. The discountenanced awkwardness of Swift's fable in Cadenus and Vanessa contrasts revealingly with the cheeky aplomb which Swift admired in Pope and avoided himself.
  • 18 - Poetry of the first half of the eighteenth century: Pope, Johnson and the couplet
    pp 333-357
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    Pope 'translated' or 'versify'd' Geoffrey Chaucer or John Donne, almost in the spirit in which Voltaire translated William Shakespeare and John Milton into rhymed alexandrines. Boileau's Art Poetique was a highly respected model for Pope's Essay, and his Le Lutrin was a generic and metrical model for the Rape of the Lock, even helping to shape some of the cadences of Pope's couplets. The tension, even friction, between higher and lower uses of 'nature', is much exploited in the writing of Pope's day, notably in Gulliver's Travels. Pope's view of art as offering a higher reality than that of the visible world was generally taken for granted. In the Vanity of Human Wishes, Samuel Johnson's imitation of Juvenal's Tenth Satire, that the quest for an elevated style which is neither epic nor ironically dependent on the epic relationship finds an important new voice. Johnson's accounts even of battle tend to rise above the battle.
  • 19 - Eighteenth-century women poets
    pp 358-377
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    The rediscovery of women's poetry has transformed the literary landscape of the eighteenth century. Roger Lonsdale's ground-breaking Eighteenth-Century Women Poets helped place in the public domain unfamiliar women poets, some published and popular in their own time, who had since disappeared from view. The 1690s witnessed the emergence of the so-called 'advocacy' texts which raised, among other issues, women's rights to education and to divorce. Anne Finch echoes John Dryden's account of the Civil War in Astraea Redux and the Hobbesian language of Rochester's Satire against Reason to present man in a state of nature. Women's poetry of the early Hanoverian period lacks the same sense of imaginative political engagement. Edmund Curll saw their potential as marketable commodities and published a pirated edition, Court Poems. Even women writers like Mary Leapor, Mary Barber and Mary Chandler, who professed admiration for Pope and his circle, often took issue with their now notorious encapsulations of female character, female appearance and female vanity.
  • 20 - Longer eighteenth-century poems (Akenside, Thomson, Young, Cowper and others)
    pp 378-396
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    The opening of 'Summer' in James Thomson's The Seasons finds the narrator hastening into the umbrageous depths of 'the mid-wood Shade' in order to sing 'the Glories of the circling Year'. In all these poems, The Seasons and The Pleasures of Imagination as well as Edward Young's Night Thoughts and William Cowper's The Task, some tension is felt between engagement with the world and withdrawal from it. For Mark Akenside and Young, however, nature is characteristically seen as a harmonious volume inviting the perusal of the godly, a set text for those wishing to receive demonstration of God's purposes. Eighteenth-century long poems describe, reflect, digress, moralise and rhapsodise but do not, in any consistent way, narrate. In Sterne's Tristram Shandy, the arrangement of the novel into books and chapters only serves to highlight the narrator's unflappable indirectness. Thomson's The Seasons is also haunted by its own recurring intimations of mortality.
  • 21 - Lyric poetry: 1740–1790
    pp 397-417
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    The lyric poetry of the mid-eighteenth century has traditionally been hard to locate in literary history as anything other than transitional, as 'post-Augustan' or 'pre-Romantic', as decline or anticipation. The cause celebre for the accusation of artificial 'poetic diction' is Wordsworth's attack, in his preface to Lyrical Ballads, on Thomas Gray's 'Sonnet on the Death of Richard West'. An expressive lyricism is combined with something we can call a 'reflective' quality in various senses of that term. Gray uses a similar technique in his two best-known lyric poems, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College and Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Jubilate Agno remains baffling in its purpose, but perhaps Christopher Smart was intending no more than to 'make a joyful noise unto God', combining adoration and gratitude for life itself in all its variety. Robert Burns's love songs are especially effective in releasing the l.
  • 22 - Romantic poetry: an overview
    pp 418-439
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    The currency of 'Romantic' might imply a special interest in the relationship between modern literature and native antiquity; and such a relationship is indeed a key characteristic of much later eighteenth and early nineteenth-century writing. To modern readers, of course, it is the innovation of Christabel that seems more striking than any kinship with the old literature. Thomas Shaw's Outlines of English Literature nominates Scott as the 'romantic poet and novelist of Scotland' and as 'the type, sign, or measure of the first step in literature towards romanticism'. Byron appears as 'the greatest of the romanticists'. In a letter of 1881, Gerard Manley Hopkins improvised a dazzling piece of literary history. Henry A. Beers felt moved to self-defence because his understanding of the word 'Romantic', restricted and coherent, was coming to seem outmoded. As Susan Wolfson observed, 'transcendent idealism has been dubbed by McGann as "the Romantic Ideology"'.
  • 23 - Blake’s poetry and prophecies
    pp 440-455
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    From an early age William Blake showed a determination to make his mark in the contemporary scene, though it was not at first clear which field would claim his attention. The important work he produced, 'An Island in the Moon', the running together of words and music was still a major preoccupation, the Islanders entertaining themselves with songs, the words of which might be relevant to contemporary poetical debate. The differing voices of The Book of Thel are expressive of the varying states that continued to stir Blake's mind. Blake's fascination with the potentialities of compressed meaning was also driving another enterprise at this time: the urge to prophecy. One of the things Blake had increasingly realised was that, as he had shown in the two 'Songs' quoted above from Poetical Sketches, his own nature was divided, and even at times contradictory.
  • 24 - Wordsworth and Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads and other poems
    pp 456-469
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    It is widely believed that Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge was one of those rare books which was a significant publishing event in itself and which also changed the course of English poetry. Penguin Books have reinforced this general belief by issuing the 1798 edition in the same series as Burns's Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, Housman's A Shropshire Lad and Yeats's The Tower. Wordsworth's early critics and reminds one what forces he was combating when writing his contributions to Lyrical Ballads and the poems which appeared as late as 1807. Coleridge would have preferred the apparently random sequences of The Arabian Nights. Coleridge's other notable poem in Lyrical Ballads is 'The Nightingale'. A paradox can certainly be applied to much of Wordsworth's poetry, especially in Lyrical Ballads and Poems and even the earlier versions of The Prelude.
  • 25 - Wordsworth’s The Prelude and The Excursion
    pp 470-486
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    Wordsworth's autobiographical The Prelude traces 'the growth of the poet's mind' from infancy to adulthood. In the Preface to Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth connects passion to 'the pleasure which the mind derives from the perception of similitude in dissimilitude and dissimilitude in similitude'. The Prelude, which features spontaneous overflow, and The Excursion, which gravitates toward representative thoughts, are 'kindred' poems. The male-female dynamic is crucial at every stage of the mind's growth. Before the revolution books come the uprising of imagination in the Alps episode and the restoration of imagination and nature after the cognitive overload of London. The Prelude offers numerous instances of emotion recollected in tranquillity and contemplated until a new emotion, kindred to the original, is produced. The Excursion focuses on the flow of sympathies to the far reaches and recesses of the 'community of the living and the dead'.
  • 26 - Second-generation Romantic poetry 1: Hunt, Byron, Moore
    pp 487-505
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    In 1815, Byron proposed a trip to Italy and Greece with Moore and in 1817 suggested that they compose 'canticles' together. Byron dedicated The Corsair to Moore; Moore dedicated Fables for the Holy Alliance to Byron. This chapter assesses what was always an uneasy triumvirate in relation to the literary tradition. Moore's translations from Anacreon were dedicated to the Regent and suggest that Moore was aspiring to the connoisseurship exemplified by the Prince who commissioned Canova's Ninfa della fontana. Leigh Hunt's first publication was a verse translation of Horace and his translations of Anacreon feature in his Juvenilia. Except for The Feast of the Poets and Ultra-Crepidarius, which is a retaliatory strike at Gifford's career, Hunt avoided satiric couplets. Byron is the only canonical male romantic poet to imagine the numbing catalogue of a woman's existence when emptied of happiness in marriage.
  • 27 - Byron’s Don Juan
    pp 506-523
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    Byron's Don Juan begins with disarming directness. The relation between directness and indirectness, and between declared improvisation and declared planning, forms the art and life of the poem. Juan is to continue Horace's conducting of poetry as 'sermo' or discourse. Byron is wittily inviting to misunderstand the Latin whilst also telling us that Don Juan is to be about domestic life, public life and common things. Byron readily accepted Hobhouse's criticism of the phrase 'domestica facta'. The contrast with Wordsworth's The Prelude is instructive. The preface to the poem as a whole is, indeed, an elaborate guying of Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads and, in particular, Wordsworth's note on the speaker in 'The Thorn'. The first canto of Don Juan is self-contained, like Beppo. Jerome McGann in Don Juan in Context used 'Ordinary Language Philosophy' to ground a materialist reading of the poem.
  • 28 - Second-generation Romantic poetry 2: Shelley and Keats
    pp 524-541
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    The two poets treated in this chapter, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats, have entered the cultural imagination as a fused type of the inspired Romantic poet who burns with self-consuming lyric ardour and dies young. Time meant Shelley and Keats to be allied, poetic incarnations of the same second-generation British Romantic Zeitgeist. Shelley in his poem The Triumph of Life recasts Dante's Commedia for his own Romantic purposes. Keats's career as a poet effectively comes to a close in 1819 when he tinkers with a Dantescan poem, in his case The Fall of Hyperion, a reworking of his earlier Miltonic epic torso, Hyperion. 'Imagination's struggles', to borrow an already quoted phrase from Endymion, are sometimes explicitly dramatised in Keats's work, sometime implicitly. Of the major narrative poems, The Eve of St Agnes is an example of the latter, Isabella an example of the former.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

K. O’Brien O’Keeffe , Reading Old English Texts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Phillip Pulsiano and Elaine Treharne (eds.), A Companion to Anglo-Saxon Literature (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001).

Margaret Aston , ‘Lollardy and Sedition, 1381–1431’ (1960),reprinted in Lollards and Reformers: Images and Literacy in Late Medieval Religion (London: Hambledon, 1984).

Helen Cooper , The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Dryden ‘Fables Ancient and Modern’ (preface), in The Poems and Fables of John Dryden, ed. James Kinsley (London: Oxford University Press, 1958).

Michael Hanly , ‘Courtiers and Poets: An International Network of Literary Exchange in Late Fourteenth-Century Italy, France, and England’, Viator, 28 (1997).

Sarah A. Kelen , Langland’s Early Modern Identities (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

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