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Introduction 1

Types of Poetry 2

Rhyme 3

Rhythm 5

The Critical Plan: Part I 10

The Critical Plan: Part II 13

The Critical Plan: Part III 17

The Critical Plan: Part VI 29

Selected Poems 37

Glossary of Literary Terms 63

1. Poetry

1. What is poetry?

According to Douglas Bush“ Poetry is the distillation of man’s experience in society and solitude, of his joys and visions, his suffering and despair, his wisdom and fortitude, his efforts to grasp the ‘burthen of mystery’. It is because poetry is all these things in every age some people must write and read it and that while its spirit is always changing with changing experience in changing world, great poetry always remains alive and always true”. Poetry communicates feelings not facts, emotions not information; the poet conveys to us some feelings or ideas which we, at once, recognize either actually or potentially as part of our experience. It’s the quality of the experience, its strength and its vitality from which good poetry comes.

Poetry as a literary genre can be distinguished from other works of art by shape (form) and intensity of meaning, a concentration of literal meaning i.e. dictionary meaning and other contextual meanings. The language of poetry is different from ordinary language; it has a spell, which holds the reader from all walks of life. Accordingly, form, concentration and intensity of meaning are the three qualities that distinguish the poetic treatment of a subject from its treatment in other genres. Definition of poetry would remain incomplete without quoting Wordsworth: “poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in tranquility”.

1.2. Poetic language

Poetic language has its specificity. Poets usually use language in a very measured way. Poetic language is patterned in a certain manner in order arouse the feelings of the reader. Poets use few words but meanings incurred are dense. Consider the following example:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd

Petals on a wet black bough

Ezra Pound

It is clear that the poet has intensely transformed a personal moment into an impersonal and communicable image which does not merely suggests the transient beauty of the faces Pound saw at the La Concorde, a metro station in Paris, but it might have more complex ramifications of meanings. Poetry makes use of certain poetic rules such as rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, assonance, etc. This, however, does not mean that there is no poetry breaking rules.

2. Types of poetry

2.1 Lyric poetry

According to (Oxford Dictionary), lyric is the common name given for a short poem, usually divided into stanzas and directly expressing the poet’s own thoughts and emotions. In ordinary language, the word often means a song: the sort of song which was sung in ancient Greece to the music of the lyre and which was sung in the modern world to the music of guitar, but there are many lyrical poems which would be unsuitable for singing. The typical subject matter of lyrical poetry is love for a mistress or deity. The mood of the speaker is usually related to this love. However, lyric in its widest sense encompasses a large number of more specialized kinds of poetry including the sonnet, elegy, ode and the hymn.

A. The Sonnet

It was Sir Thomas Wyatt who first introduced the sonnet to English literature. The sonnet is a lyrical poem of fixed form consisting of fourteen lines that can be divided into two parts: an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines) or three quatrains of four lines each and a couplet. In English poetry there are three patterns of sonnets:

1- The Petrarchan sonnet

The Petrarchan sonnet consists of an octave and a sestet rhyming abba abba cdecde (or cdcdcd).

2- The Spenserian sonnet:

It consists of three quatrains and a couplet rhyming abab, bcbc, and ee.

3-The Shakespearean sonnet

It is like the Spenserian sonnet, which falls into three quatrains and a couplet but has a different rhyme scheme abab, cdcd, efef, and gg

B. Ode

It was Ben Johnson who established the Pindaric ode in English literature. Pindar was a Greek poet of the fifth century BC who wrote poetic form called the “Ode,” i.e. a long lyrical poem having a serious subject and is elevated in style; Ben Johnson modeled this form on the songs sung by the chorus in drama. So, the chorus moved in a dance rhythm to the left and sang the strophe, then moved to the right singing the antistrophe and finally stood still – the epode. Pindar’s odes were encomiastic, i.e. they were poetry of praise. Pindar wrote them in praise of the winners of the Olympic games. Cowley and Dryden liked to write odes in the Pindaric manner. Cowley introduced the irregular ode in 1656.

Some examples of the ode include Thomas Gray’s “The Progress of Poesy”, Wordsworth’s Intimations of immortality of Early Childhood” and “ode to Duty”, Collins’ Ode to Evening”, and Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind.

C. Elegy

Elegy is a poem written to commemorate somebody who is dead. An example of this is Milton’s “lycidas”. The term is often extended to include any poem written in a melancholic, meditative strain, such as Gray’s “Elegy written in a Country Churchyard”.

D. Hymn

A hymn is a religious song praising God. Poets and ecclesiastics have written many examples in Latin and from the sixteenth Century onwards in English. John Donne, a seventeenth English Metaphysical poet wrote many hymns including “Hymn to My God on My Sickness”.

2.2 Pastoral Poetry:

Pastoral Poetry deals with an imaginary world of simple countryside life in which shepherds and shepherdesses fall in love with each other. In this ideal word the lovers sing songs and enjoy the uncorrupted world. The greatest example of this kind is Spenser’s”Shepherd’s Calendar” and a famous poem written by Marlowe, “The Passionate Shepherd.”

2.3 Narrative Poetry

Narrative poetry is a type of poetry which tells a story. The epic and ballad are two narrative poetry genres. Coleridge’s ballad, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Milton’s Paradise Lost are two examples


An epic is a long poem dealing with great events or heroic adventures. It is often written in a lofty style. Milton’s “Paradise Lost” is the one of great epic in Modern English literature. It is written in blank verse.

2. Ballad

A ballad is a popular poem, which tells a story and is handed down by tradition: accordingly, it is often modified in the course of time. When printed books became comparatively cheap, the true ballad ceased to be composed, but imitations were written at the end of 15th century and later.

The true ballads have a complete anonymity and a kind of impersonality. They have a story and a lyrical feeling. They are also full of dialogue and drama. They are generally marked by naivety of expression and sentiment, by conventional epithets, e.g. “red gold”, and by certain repetition and parallelism in structure, as in:

He had not been a way a week.

A week but barely three.

The most well known ballads are “Sir Patrick Spens”, “Edward, Edward”, and “Binnorie”. The ballad meter, which embodies most ballad themes, is a quatrain (4-line stanza) of alternate iambic tetrameters and trimeters, rhyming only in the trimeters.

“Sir Patrick Spens” is the most famous example of the ballad:

The king sits in Dunfermline town,

Drinking the blood-red wine.

O where will I get a good sailor,

To sail this ship o’ mine?

O up and spake an elder knight,

Sat at the king’s right knee:

‘Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor

That ever sailed the sea’.

2.4 Didactic Poetry

Poetry that is written with the deliberate purpose of instructing, such as Pope’s “Essay on Criticism”. It flourished during the 18th century, and the heroic couplet was generally used as its medium. It does not include narrative poems from which a moral can be drawn.

2.5. Dramatic Poetry

Dramatic poetry which is intended for acting upon the stage. An example of this kind of poetry is Shakespeare’s plays, which are written in blank verse, i.e., unrhymed iambic pentameter.


Rhyme is one of the poetic devices used by poets in order to secure a poetic effect. It is the repetition of the same sound or sounds at the end of a line in a poem. Rhyme was not used in classical poetry; it was unknown to the Greeks. It was first used in the Latin Church of North Africa around 200 AD. By the fourth century, rhymed poetry had been written, and the churches had come to use it. Fourteenth century Europe used rhyme. Spain was the only country which did not use it. Rhyme has a poetic function. Besides the fact that it delights the ear with the music it produces, it creates an emotional connection that intensifies the logical connection of the poem.

There are different kinds of rhyme:

Perfect rhyme.

Imperfect rhyme.

Masculine rhyme (or single rhyme).

Feminine rhyme (or double rhyme).

Eye rhyme.


(1) Perfect rhyme: When the poet ends the lines of his poem with words which perfectly accord with each other in sound, the rhyme is called perfect rhyme. Spenser for example writes:

Help me to blaze

Her worthy praise

And also:

I saw Phoebus thrust out his golden head,

Upon her to gaze

But when he saw, how broad her beams did spread

In "Epithalamion", Spenser writes:

To help to deck her and to help to sing,

That all the woods may answer and your echo ring

In the lines above the words blaze and praise rhyme perfectly and so do the words “head” and “spread”, “gaze” and “amaze,” “sing” and “sing”.

(2) In “like as a ship” Spenser provides an example of the imperfect rhyme. The word “placed” with which line No. 8 ends does not rhyme perfectly with the word “overcast” in line 6 or with “past” in line 9”

So I whose star, that wont with her bright ray

Me to direct, with clouds is overcast,

Do wander now in darkness and dismay,

Through hidden perils round about me placed

Yet hope I well that when this storm is past

(3) Masculine rhyme

If the line of a poem ends with words having one stressed syllable, the rhyme is masculine rhyme. The words: hatch, catch, patch and scratch consist of stressed syllables; so do the words: damp, lamp, and stamp. When Wordsworth says:

I listened, motionless and still;

And as I mounted up the hill;

The music in my heart I bore,

Long after it was heard no more

The words still and hill rhyme perfectly, and so do the words bore and more. Because these underlined words are monosyllables, they are called masculine rhyme.

(4) Feminine rhyme:

Feminine rhyme is the use of words having two syllables, the first of which is stressed and the second is unstressed: Ibsen, Gibson, pitchy, stitchy, prickly, trickly sickly. Wordsworth writes:

As if her song could have no ending

I saw her singing at her work

And over the sickle bending

Each of these two words “ending” and “bending” consists of two syllables, the first of which is stressed and the second is unstressed. This is called feminine rhyme.

5 Eye – rhyme

Eye – rhyme is the use of words whose endings are spelled alike, but the pronunciation of which is different such as: daughter and laughter; prove and love. Pope says:

Some ne’er advance a judgment of their own,

But catch the spreading notion of the town

The words ‘own’ and ‘town’ are eye rhyme.

(6) Pararhyme

Pararhyme is the use of words the consonants of which are the same, but the interior vowels are different, e.g. escaped and scooped. The consonants

in these two words are: s c p d but the vowel a in ‘escaped’ is different from the vowels in ‘scooped’.

‘Great and ‘groat’ constitute another example of Pararhyme.

Wilfred Owen is the most famous practitioner of Pararhyme. In “strange meeting’ he says:

It seemed that out of battle I escaped

Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped

Through granits which titanic wars had groined

Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned.

In these four lines ‘escaped’ and ‘scooped, groined and groaned’ are pararhymes.

4 Rhythm

In English poetry, rhythm is the regular variation of weak and strong syllables in a stretch of language. Poetry is distinguished from prose because it contains some element which is repeated, creating a sense of pattern, however, rhythm can be found in prose.In English, every word of more than one syllable has an accent on one of its syllables. Strong stresses only exist in relation to the unaccented syllables according to their value in the meaning of the sentence. The rhythm of any sentence in English could be explained in terms of the variation in stress from one syllable to another.

Scansion is the analysis of the rhythm or meter of individual poems. In scanning, a line is divided into small units of rhythm called feet. A week stress followed by a strong stress (VI) is called and iamb.

Iambic maters are the most common in English verse. The other most common meter in lyric poems is the trochiac meter which consists of a stressed syllable followed by unstressed one (IV).

In scanning verse, it is rarely necessary to use more than the following feet. The stressed syllable is generally marked by a sign (I), and is called the ictus, whereas the unstressed syllable is marked (v) and is called the remiss.

Iamb (VI) as in repeat.

Trochee (IV) as in never.

Anapaest (VVI) as in interrupt.

Dactyl (IVV) as in possible or Washington.

Spondee (II) as heartbreak.

Pyrrhic (VV) as in the top / of the / morning.

A single poetic line is called a verse, and different verse lengths are defined in terms of the number and type of poetic feet they contain:

Monometer: One foot. Pentameter : five feet

Dimeter : two feet Hexameter : six feet

Trimeter : three feet heptameter : seven feet

Tetrameter : four feet

Here are examples of different metrical lines:

Iambic pentameter:

From fair / est creat / ures we / desire / increase.

That their / beau/ ties Rose / might ne / ver die.

ii) Iambic trimeter:

It is / the eve / ning hour,

How si / lent all / doth lie.

iii) Trochaic tetrameter:

Come my / Celia / let us / prove.

While we / may the / sports of / love.

iv) Dactylic tetrameter:

Woman much / missed how you / call t o me / call to me.

Saying that / now you are / not as you / were.

v) Anapestic tetrameter:

The assyr / ian came down / like the wolf / on the fold.

And his co / horts were burn / ing in pur / ple and gold.

5. The Critical Plan

Part I

A- Questions to ask

When judging a poem, a critic works to a plan. The aim of part of this course is to enable you to see that plan and its purpose, and to clearly work according to it. Once you have mastered this basic approach you can adapt it to your own ideas and needs. Before criticism, however, the critic asks several questions about the poem. He attempts to answer the following questions.

1- What is the setting of the poem in time?

2- What is the setting of the poem in place?

3- Who is the speaker? What kind of person is he?

4- To whom is the speaker speaking? What kind of person is


5- What is the poem about?

It is necessary to answer these questions before critically looking at any given poem. We begin here with a summary of the critical plan, and then in successive lessons we will investigate each stage of the critical process. Each stage in the plan involves different types of analysis, such as examination of imagery symbol, metaphor, etc. Our investigation will culminate in the complete criticism of several poems. The stages of the critical plan are:

1. The critic begins with a general statement of the theme and

the tone of the poem as a whole. Here the critic first

examines the language of the poet. He is conscious of

connotative and denotative use of the language.

2. Then the critic follows a detailed account of the meaning of

the poem and of the development of the poet’s thoughts

from the beginning to the end.

3. The critic looks at the kind of theme and the poet’s purpose

in writing about it.

4. The critic looks at the style of the poem.

5. Finally, the critic expresses a final judgment on the poem

based on the evidence collected. In the process, this final

judgment should leave the reader with a clear picture of

the critics reactions to the poem as a whole.

We will begin to work with the first stage here. Notice that

so far we have concentrated upon the use of language in the

poems. It is essential to look at this in order to form a clear

idea of the tone and theme of the poem as a whole. In this

first stage of criticism, the critic asks himself questions such


1. What is the central purpose of the poem?

2. What is the tone of the poem?

3. How is the tone achieved?

4. How does the poem use words to find an effect?

5. What kinds of imagery are used?

6. How does the poem use sound?

B- Language, Prejudice, Impressions and Judgment.

As you read a poem for the first time, impressions and reactions are constantly forming in your mind. A word stands out from its context by reason of the associations that are pleasant or otherwise, and of differing degrees of intensity which it has for the individual reader. A color adjective appeals to the reader or repels the reader according to the reader’s feelings. The reader’s tongue may stop at a phrase, or stumble over a line; and so on. By the time the first reading is complete, these transitory and often half-conscious thoughts and emotions have come together to from a first impression of the poem as a whole. The hasty and uncritical reader then gives his judgment. “I like this,” exclaims one. “This is poor stuff.” says another. However first impressions differ widely and are very unreliable. The word with pleasant associations for reader ‘A’ may have unpleasant associations for reader ‘B’; reader ‘C’ may not like the color which reader ‘D’ enjoys. Here, of course, you might say “then there is nothing to be done about it, is there? They will never agree about the poem. One person doesn’t like it, the other does. So, it’s all a matter of taste, “but, that is precisely what it is, a matter of good taste, and it should be possible for ‘A’ and ‘B’ to find a common standard on which they can base their judgment. Thus, there is a large need to understand the language and use of language, which the poet has used. Otherwise, it is impossible to move beyond the first stage in the critical plan. There can be no appreciation unless the language of the poem is understood. It does little good for the critic to know about the life of the poet or about poetic terms if the language of the poem and the poet are not understood. First impressions of the poem will be used incorrectly.

To begin with, readers who make a first judgment are falling into the normal mistake of forming their opinion on details, considered separately, and not on the poem as a whole. A piece of detail is of enormous importance to the critic as later lessons will show, but it must always be subordinated to the whole of the poem. No one detail can make or mark a poem, which is the sum of the details that compose it.

Secondly, they are all judging too hastily. They have not even begun to understand the poem or its language as a whole, but are expressing hasty and purely personal reactions to the one outstanding detail or recognized word that they have been struck by in a first reading. A judgment that rests itself on an instinctive or emotional at all, sound judgment can never precede full understanding; so the next step to take after the first reading of a poem is to read and read the poem again and again. It should be read aloud and read silently.

While these first readings are taking place, the mind should, as far as possible, be kept open to the influence of the poet. The critic should be on the poet’s side, not against him, and should thus be sure that any negative

comments that he has are only made after he has done his best to enter sympathetically and completely into what the poet has said. The critic has to understand the use of language that the poet has used.

Repeated reading accompanied, of course by sympathy and imagination, will prevent the critical mistake of allowing his enjoyment to blind him to faults in the poem or of concentrating solely on any fault which is in the poem.

There are two main aspects of the critic’s function: First, to make clear to his reader the theme of a poem and the poet’s attitude toward it. Second, to give the reader clearly the opinion that he, the critic, has formed of the value of that theme, and of the poet’s treatment of it. After several readings, he should be able to begin the first task.

Part 11

Meaning, Intention and Idea

The general theme of the poem is only a first step in criticism. The critic must also strive to understand the poet’s meaning, intention and idea. We will now examine four problem areas for the critic in gaining such an understanding. The four areas are:

Gaining a balanced development of the theme;

Maintaining the total experience of the poem; and

Judging the poem on the basis of the poet’s intention.

First, after writing the general statement of the theme of the poem, and the poet’s attitude to it, the critic is ready to begin a careful line-by-line examination of the development of the theme. This is vital stage in appreciation, for it gives the reader of the criticism that close and intimate contact with the poet’s mind and thought which is necessary for understanding. Thus, the critic here has two tasks. First, he must understand the poem. Second, he must be able to convey that understanding to the reader.

It is at this point that the critic must guard against his prejudice, and haste. He tests his own first statement of the theme against each verse. As he follows the development of the poet’s thought he reconsiders his own judgment both of the whole poem and of each part. He must keep a keen sense of proportion in this process. That is, he must look closely at what is fundamental and vital to the poem and treat a small detail with just as much and as little emphasis as a small detail deserves. He revises his first statement if it is necessary. Let us look at an example of this process.

The Leveler

Near Martinpuisch that night of hell

Two men were struck by the same shell

Together tumbling in one heap Senseless

And limp like slaughtered sheep.

One was a pale eighteen-year-old,

Blue eyed and thin and not too bold,

Pressed for the war ten years too soon,

The shame and pity of his platoon.

The other came from far-off lands

With bristling chin and whiskered hands.

He had known death and hell before

In Mexico and Ecuador.

Yet in his death this cut-throat wild Groaned

“Mother; mother;” like a child,

While that poor innocent in man’s clothes

Died cursing God with brutal oaths

Old Sergeant Smith, kindest of man wrote

Out two copies there and then

Of his accustomed Funeral speech

To cheer the women folk of each; -

‘He died a hero’s death;

And we his comrades of “A” company

Deeply regret his death; we shall

All deeply miss so true a pal.’

Robert Graves

This poem was given to a poetry class which was asked to write a general statement of the theme. Many of the students made the same mistake in dealing with the question, and their statement read something like this:

“This poem describes the death of two soldiers in battle; one was

just and innocent inexperienced and afraid boy; the other was a

hardened veteran who was fearless and rough. The poet

ironically tells how their positions were reversed in death.”

This statement is true, but it does not go far enough; and when the students checked their original statement by a thorough examination of each line of the poem, they realized that they had been over emphasizing the fourth verse and not looking at the significance of the sixth verse. Thus, each verse and each line of a poem must be judged not alone, but in relation to its context and to the whole poem. It is essential to look at the whole poem when judging it. A single important word or recognized phrase or verse should not be over emphasized.

The second problem area for the critic deals with the need for the critic to understand the poet’s thoughts and emotions. In the previous discussion of the critical plan, we referred to this necessity of sympathetic and imaginative reading. Regardless of how careful the critic’s approach to a poem is, he will never gain a true understanding unless he brings these two qualities to his task. It has been said, “ … be sure you go to the author to get his meaning, not to find yours.” The words and language of a poem are the means whereby a poet tries to arouse in the reader thoughts and emotions identical to these that filled him as he wrote. They are the symbols of things and ideas. There is a double responsibility here: the poet must choose the right words; the reader must open his mind to the influence of those words and work with the poet. He must look at the

poet’s language itself and try to feel it just as the poet felt it. He must not be content with a dictionary definition or a synonym.

The meaning of a poem is the experience it expresses, and it is nothing less. But, the reader who is confused by a particular poem and asks, “What does it mean?” is usually after something more specific than this experience. He wants something that he can grasp entirely in his mind. Critics often make this demand and make the mistake of believing that their criticism is the meaning of the poem. Thus, it may be useful here to make a distinction between the Total Meaning of a poem and the Prose Meaning of a poem. Total Meaning is that which the poem communicates and which cannot be communicated in any other way and the Prose Meaning is that ingredient which can be separated out in the form of a paraphrase. The critic, however, must be careful not to confuse the two kinds of meaning. The prose meaning is no more the poem than a plum in a pie. Further, the prose meaning will not necessarily be an idea. It may be a story, a description, a statement of emotion, a presentation of human character, or it may be a combination. For instance, the following poem is primarily descriptive.

The Eagle

He clasps he crag with crooked hands;

Close to the sun in lonely lands,

Ringed with the azure world, he stands

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;

He watches from his mountain walls,

And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Alfred Tennyson

This poem is not directly concerned with ideas. The person who believes a poem must have an idea will be confused and disappointed by poetry of this kind, and he may attempt to read some idea into the poem that is really not there. However, ideas are also part of human experience, and therefore many poems are concerned with presenting ideas. But the critic must realize that the poem does not exit for the idea. The poem is something important beyond the idea. If he is not sympathetic to the poem and the poet, he will not understand poems that are descriptive when he wants to find a message.

A third problem area for the critic is related to the above problem, yet is specifically a problem of judgment. The idea in a poem is only part of the total experience. The value and worth of the poem are determined by the value of this total experience, not by the truth or the importance of idea. A good idea will not make a good poem, nor will an idea the critic does not like rain a poem. The good reader and critic will be receptive to all kinds of experience.

The primary value of a poem does not depend as much on the truth of the idea as it does on the power and skill with which the idea is presented.

We must feel that the idea has been truly felt by the poet and that he is doing something more than merely preaching. This is especially true when we are reading contemporary poetry in which there is frequent use of words and themes, which, because of their personal associations for the reader, arouse strong and often automatic responses. Obviously, the critic must be on his guard when judging poems, which contain such words and themes. He must not allow prejudice to interfere with his perception of the meaning as a whole, and he must attempt to discover why the poet wrote about such things, and why no other method would have served his purpose. The fact that we may disagree with what the poet is saying should not affect our appreciation of the poem as a work of art.

The fourth problem area for the critic is one of the most difficult to deal with. According to the theme and to the poet’s attitude and intention towards the theme, a poem may be classed into one of two groups. One group may be called “universal” and the other may be called “restricted”. These are essential to an understanding of the meaning of the poem.

Themes either have a universal application and have meaning to all men across time, or they are restricted in their appeal to an age group, a mood, a temperament or a time. Within these terms there are degrees. Though we tend to look to universal poetry for the greatest satisfaction, charm and delight can also be found in good restricted poetry. In deciding to which of these classes a poem belongs, the subject matter is often a guide. However, the subject is not the only guide, because the poet’s attitude to his theme is also important. Thus, a poem dealing with love or hate, fear or courage, or any other human emotion may or may not be universal, depending upon whether the poet has been successful in achieving a vivid generalization of ideas and emotions which ensure an appeal to imaginative readers across time. It is also important to determine whether the poet wants such an appeal. So, a theme which at first seems merely egotistic and personal may be enlarged by the poet’s vision and have relevance and meaning for all men. Thus, whether a poem is universal or restricted often depends upon the author’s intention. Before he can judge the artistic merit of any poem, the critic must decide whether the theme and the poet’s attitude to the theme are universal or restricted.

Also, the critic must decide whether the poem is ironic or satirical or humorous or descriptive. If the poet intended to write a simple humorous restricted poem, the critic must judge it on that basis, and cannot judge the poem on the fact that it is not universal. This must be determined before the critic can proceed with his criticism. It must be stressed that you can only judge a poet on the basis of what he is trying to do. We can now see that the meaning of the whole and of the parts must be decided. Once this is done the critic is ready to proceed. However, criticism cannot proceed


until this has been done, because we cannot judge any work of art until we understand clearly what the artist is trying to do.





Directions: This discussion consists of a series of paragraphs headed by a question.

Put an ‘X’ through the letter that best answers the question. If the answer is contained in more than one sentence, put an ‘X’ through the letters of the sentence needed to answer the question.

2.1Review and preview:

1- What will we now begin to examine more closely?

A. Until now, we have spent most of our time on discovering the theme and the meaning of the poems, which we have studied.

B. This has been a necessary beginning.

C. We have tried to get a feel for how the language of the poem is used.

D. We have tried to discover the “story” within the poems.

E. Also, we have tried to gain an understanding of how we should begin to

approach a poem in order to understand and appreciate it.

F.This has been necessary just as it is necessary to know how o approach

anything new, such as a horse, before learning how to work with it.

G.Now that we understand how to approach a poem, we will begin to look

more closely at the style and component of the poem.

H.It is very important to examine how style contributes to the meaning

development and experience of the poem.

How will this section approach the discussion of style?

Style in poetry consists of many areas.

There are many components to a poet’s style.

The style consists of imagery, figurative language, tone and diction, as well as rhyme and meter.

All of these are important in appreciating a poem.

In this section we will begin our discussion of style by considering and concentrating on the use of imagery.

In later sections we will discuss the other components.

What stages have been used until now?

A. Let us briefly re-examine the stages of criticism and appreciation we have used until now.

B. We can see that they lead to a format for a true appreciation and judgment of a poem.

C. For instance, first we need to know what the poet is saying.

D. That is, we need to understand the theme and its development.

E. Second, we need to understand why the poet says what he says in any poem.

F. That is, we need to know the poet’s meaning and intention.

G. Now, we add a stage in this approach.

H. We now need to examine whether or not the poet’s method of saying it, his use of style, helps or hinders his intention.

I. Here again we will be concerned with the development of the poem through the poet’s use of imagery.

3. How must style and use of imagery be evaluated?

A. The three stages above bring us to our current concern with an analysis of style.

B. In this section we will specifically ask ourselves the question, “Does the poet’s writing style help his intention?’

C. After all, the poet might use imagery in a way, which does not help this poem.

D. First, we must recognize that function.

E.That is, we must ask ourselves, “Why does the poet use the style he does? What does his imagery do?”

F. Here we will look at the imagery used by the poet.

G. We will try to feel how the images are used, what they are supposed to do, and what they do for us.

H. That is, are they successful with us?

2.2 Imagery:

How does the poet appeal to our senses?

a. Imagery in poetry is an appeal to the senses through words.

b. Our experience of the world comes to us largely through our senses.

c. My experience of a hot summer day, for instance, may consist partly of emotions I feel and partly of thoughts I think.

d. However, it will primarily consist of a cluster of sense impressions.

e. It will consist of seeing a clear blue sky which joins a flat desert horizon.

f. It will consist of seeing heat waves rise from the hot earth around me.

g. It will consist of hearing insects buzz around my ears.

h. It will consist of the smell of dry earth and dust, of feeling a dry wind against the sweat on my neck.

i. The poet, therefore, who wants to express his experience of a summer day must provide a selection of the sense impressions he has.

j. He tries to link his sense impressions with those of mine.

k. His language must be more sensuous than ordinary language.

l. Without doing this, he will probably fail to bring the emotions that accompanied his sensations.

m. His language must be full of imagery.

n. However, his imagery must strive to identify with my imagery of the same or a similar situation.

Why may poetic imagery be a particular problem for non-native speakers of a language?

a. Here we must stop and remember our earlier discussions of connotation and denotation in the poet’s choice of words.

b. The same is true of imagery in a poem.

c. Just as a word in English may evoke different emotions and feelings for readers from other languages and cultures, imagery is even more open to this problem.

d. Often, an image is bound to a culture and is difficult for readers from other cultures to understand.

e. The reader of a poem which has been written in a language other than his own native language must continually try to determine whether his problem in understanding comes form the language or the image and meaning.

6. What is the general classification of the senses?

a. Imagery may be generally defined as the representation through language of a sense experience.

b. It is an attempt to have the reader experience the sensation of the poet.

c. Poetry appeals to our senses through imagery, the representation to the imagination of sense experience.

d. In general, the word image often suggests a picture, something in the mental eye.

e. It is true that visual imagery is the most frequently occurring kind of imagery, however, it is not the only king.

f. An image may also represent a sound; a smell; a taste; a feel such as hardness, wetness or cold; an internal sensation such as hunger or thirst; or movement or tension in the muscles and joints.

g. Thus, images can generally be classified according to the sense to which the poet directs them.

h. They can be classified as:

Sound; sight (color or shape); taste; smell; touch (thermal or tactile)

or movement (kinetic images).

i. There are others and there are combinations of the above, but for purposes of this discussion in poetry, the above should be sufficient.

7. What does this poem literally describe?

a. Read the following poem, paying particular attention to he images the poet uses.

b. Notice how the images affect the poem.

c. First, note that lethe in Greek mythology was the river of oblivion following out of Hades.

d. Also, Persophone was the queen of death and the underworld.

e. These are clear references and images in the poem.

f. Some imagery in the poem combines different senses and appeals to many different senses.

g. Literally this poem simply describes the stopping of a train at a small station.

h. However, the combination of images and the senses to which they appeal carry a more distant meaning.


1. In grimy winter dusk

2. We slowed for a concrete

3. The pillars passed more slowly;

4. A paper bag leapt up.

5. The train banged to a standstill

6. Brake-steam rose and parted.

7. Three chipped – at blocks of ice.

8. Sprawled on a baggage-truck.

9. Out in that glum, cold air

10. The broken ice lay glintless.

11.Abu the truck was painted blue.

12.On side, wheels, and tongue.

13.A purple, glowering blue

14.Like the phosphorus of lethe

15.Or Queen Persephone's gaze.

16.In the numb fields of the dark.

Richard Wilbur

9. How does the poet show and communicate his experience?

a. What do the title, the action, the images, and the comparisons in this poem suggest?

b. What senses are the images of the poem addressed to?

c. What is their overall combined effect?

d. These are questions we must ask ourselves when attempting to discover the effect of the imagery a poet chooses to use.

e. In this poem, every line contains some image, some appeal to the senses.

f. In many ways it is not a mention death at any point.

g. It is also a poem about death.

h. Yet, it does not mention death at any point.

i. The poet’s business here is not to give information about train or about death.

j. It is to communicate experience.

k. Here, the poet first presents us with the slowing train, a specific situation.

l. Then he describes the jolting and stopping.

m. He gives interplay of what happens inside and outside the train.

n. He brings the reader into the experience and to the symbolic stopping.

10. Is it necessary for something to be completely described in

order to be a good image?

a. The sharpness and vividness of any image will ordinarily depend upon how specific the image is, and upon how effective the detail of the image is.

b. The word “date-palm”, for instance, is more vivid than the word “tree”.

c. “Tall green heavy burdened date-palm” is sharper and still more specific.

d. It is not necessary, however, that for a vivid representation

something must be completely described.

e. One or two especially sharp and representative details will usually serve the alert reader, allowing his imagination to fill in the rest.

f. For instance, Tennyson in “The Eagle” gives only one detail about the eagle itself –that it clasps the crag with “crooked hands” – but this detail is an effective and memorable one.

11. What is the trade-off between explicit and direct details with incomplete images?

a. There is a trade-off for the poet in using imagery.

b. That is, direct and explicit detail are often less forceful than images which the reader fills out.

c. Notice in the following poem that the direct details that Richard Cory was “clean favored”, “slim”, and “quietly arrayed”, are important, but are less forceful images than that he “glittered when he walked”.


1) Whenever Richard Cory went own town;

2) We people on the pavement looked at him;

3) He was a gentleman from sole to crown;

4) Clean favored and imperially slim.

5. And he was always quietly arrayed;

6. And he was always human when he talked;

7. But still he fluttered pulses when he said;

8.“Good-morning and glittered when he walked.

9.And he was rich –yes, richer than a king –

10.And admirably schooled in every grace;

11. In fine, we thought that he was everything;

12.To make us wish that we were in his place.

13.So on worked, and waited for the light,

14.And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;

15.And Richard Cory, one calm summer night;

16.Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Edward Arlington Robinson

12. How does the interplay of images affect “Richard Cory”?

a. Notice that imagery works as interplay.

b. Here we have a contrast in line 15 and line 16.

c. In line 15 we have the image of a calm summer night.

d. In line 16 we have the image of Richard Cory putting a bullet through his head.

e. Thus, we have a contrast and interplay in the image of the outside being calm, but the reader fills in the image with the inside of Richard Cory not being calm.

f. There is also the contrast of the images, which other people have of Richard Cory versus the image we assume he must have had of himself.

g. Thus, note that there is an interplay and contrast of perceptions of images.

h. This contrast and interplay of images is essential in an understanding and appreciation of this poem.

What kinds of imagery will the poet try to use?

a. Since imagery is a particularly effective way of evoking vivid experience and since it may be used by the poet or convey emotion and suggest ideas as well as to cause a mental

b. reproduction of sensations, it is an invaluable resource for the poet.

c. In general, he will seek concrete or image –bearing words.

d. For instance, some poems are based almost entirely on imagery and upon associations of that imagery.

e. In this instance, the images themselves are the “story”.


Sticks – in – a – drowse droop over sugary loam.

Their intricate stem-fur dries;

But still the delicate slips keep coaxing up water;

The small cells bulge;

One nub of growth.

Nudges a sand-crumb loose.

Pokes through a musty sheath.

It’s pale tendrilous horn.



This urge, wrestle, resurrection of dry sticks,

Cut stems struggling to put down feet,

What saint strained so much,

Rose on such looped limbs to a new life?

I can hear, underground, that sucking and sobbing,

In my veins, in my bones I feel it,

These small waters seeping upward,

The tight grains parting at last,

When sprouts break out,

Slippery as fish,

I quail, lean to beginnings, sheath what.

– Theodore Roethke

How must we judge each element of a poem?

a. However, in the final evaluation, we cannot evaluate a poem by the amount or quality of imagery alone.

b. Sense impression is only one of the elements of experience.

c. A poet may attain his ends by other means.

d. We must never judge any single element of a poem except in reference to the total intention of that poem.

e. We must not judge merely on the basis of our own preference.

2.3 Practical exercises on imagery

Practical Exercise I:

Explain the following words and phrases. Use short complete sentences. Answer according to the usage in the passage, also, gives an example of each using the poems we have studied.




Interplay of images.

Concrete imagery.

Abstract imagery.

Sensuous Language.

Practical Exercise II:

Answer each of the following questions from the reading. If the answer is true put an X through T. If the answer is false put an X through F.

T F 1. It is unimportant to examine the relationship between style and meaning.

T F 2. A third stage in appreciation and criticism of poetry is a need to examine whether the poet’s style helps or hinders his intention.

T F 3. There is a need for the poet to use sensuous language in order to provide sense impressions.

T F 4. Direct and explicit details are more forceful than images the reader fills in.

T F 5. In a final evaluation, we must evaluate a poem by the amount and quality of the imagery it contains.

Practical Exercise III :

From your reading of this lesson, try to provide the words or phrases that best fit the following blank spaces. Synonyms are acceptable.

1.Until now, we have spent most of our time on discovering the

______ and ___________ of the poems, which we have studied. Also, we have tried to gain an understanding of how we should _____________ a poem in order to understand and appreciate it.

Style in poetry consists of many components. It consists of ________ figurative language, tone, diction as well as rhyme and meter. In this section we will begin our discussion of style by concentrating on the use of _____________.

3.Imagery in poetry is an __________ to the senses through _________.

4. Imagery may be generally defined as the representation through language of a______________ experience. It is an attempt to have the reader _____________ the sensation of the poet.

5. The sharpness and ___________ of any image will ordinarily depend on how ___________________ the image is and how effective the _________________ is.

Practical Exercise IV:

Answer the following questions in short complete sentences. Write the answers in your own words.

How should we approach the style and use of imagery by a poet?

What is the general classification for the senses?

Is it necessary for something to be completely described in order to be a good image? Explain.

Why will a poet try to use concrete or image-bearing words in preference to abstract or non-image-bearing words?

What is meant by the statement that there is a “trade-off” for the poet in using imagery?

Practical Exercise V:

Go back to the poem “Stop” on page 21 At the side of the poem, identify the remaining types of imagery and the type of sense appeal it has.

Practical Exercise VI:

Remember our discussion previously, which dealt with the development of the structure of the poem. For instance, we discussed the inadequacies of the student analysis of “Leveller” by Robert Graves. Often there is a development of a poem through the use of imagery. In judging a poem, we should look at the interplay of the images. We should look at any alterations in the image patterns or emphasis, which may be seen as the theme develops. For example, examine the following poem by Dylan Thomas. Discuss and describe the interplay between kinetic and visual imagery. What effect does it have?


Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old ago should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage; rage against the dying of the light.

4.Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

5.Because their words had forked no lightening they

6.Do not go gentle into that good night,

7.Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright,

8.Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

9.Rage; rage against the dying of the light.

10.Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

11.And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

12.Do not go gentle into that good night.

13.Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight,

14.Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

15.Rage; rage against the dying of the light.

16.And you, my father, there on the sad height,

17.Curse; bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

18.Do not go gentle into that good night.

19.Rage; rage against the dying of the light.

Practical Exercise VII:

Compare the use of imagery in “cutting” on page 23 with the imagery in the following poem. How does it affect the theme and development?



The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees,

Is my destroyer.

And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose

My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks

Drives my red blood that dries the mouthing streams.

Turns mine to wax.

And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins

How at the mountain springs the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool

Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind

Hauls my shroud sail

And I am dumb to tell the hanging man,

How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountainhead;

Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood,

Shall calm her sores.

And I am dumb to tell the hanging man,

How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech the fountainhead;

Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood,

Shall calm her sores.

And I am dumb to tell the weather’s wind

How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb.

How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

Dylan Thomas

Practical Exercise VIII:

Compare the following two poems. Compare their themes, and note the types of imagery used by each.


My parents kept me from children who were rough

Who threw words like stones and who wore torn clothes.

Their thighs showed through rage. They ran in the street

And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams

I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron

Their jerking hands and their knees tight on my arms.

I feared the salt coarse pointing of these boys

Who copied my lisp behind me on the road.

They were lithe, they sprang out behind hedges

Like dogs to bark at my world. They threw mud

While I Looked the other way, pretending to smile.

I longed to forgive them, but they never smiled.

- Stephen Spender


Well, son, I’ll tell you

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpets on the floor,


But all the time

I’ve been climbin’ on

And reachin ‘ landin’s

And turning corners

And sometimes ging’ on in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.

So, Boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps

‘Cause you find it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now---

For I’ve still goin’, Honey,

I’ve still climbin’

And life for me ain’t been

no crystal stair.



A Look at Figurative Language

Metaphor, Personification, Symbol

Review and Preview:

1. What will we now begin to examine more closely?

a. In the last section we examined the different types and uses of imagery.

b. We examined several poems, and we tried to discover how the poems appealed to our senses by using images.

c. We have seen that the use of imagery is an attempt to make us directly experience the image.

d. The use of imagery is an attempt to move our emotions and to appeal to our senses.

e. Now, however, we will begin to look at how a poet uses comparison and representation to produce an effect.

f. That is, we will look at the use of figures.

2.What is figurative language?

a. If we are to understand a poem, we need to examine the types of figurative language, which are used.

b. We need to understand exactly what a poet means by the figurative language he uses.

c. Descriptive imagery works by simple representation of the thing which is described.

d. However, we need to see that figurative language is a way of saying one thing but meaning another.

e. We need to learn to look for that other meaning.

Figurative Language: An Overview:

3. What have the people here been using in their conversation?

a. Figurative language is not used just in poetry.

b. Just as the vocabulary and grammar of poetry come from everyday speech and language, so too does figurative language come from everyday speech and language.

c. For instance, suppose you are at a friend’s house and another friend comes over to visit.

d. Suppose that it is a very hot day, and the second friend is sweating heavily.

e. The first friend might say, “ well you look nice and refreshed.

f. The sweat is rolling off of you in buckets; “ It is an oven outside.

g. Sit down and take a load off of your feet”.

h. The second friends might reply, “ It is an oven outside”

i. “I am baked all the way through”

j. My throat is dry as a bone.

k. You and your two friends have probably all understood each other.

l. However, if we look at their conversation literally, they seem to have been speaking nonsense.

m. Actually, they have been speaking figuratively.

n. They have been saying less than what they mean, the opposite of what they mean, or something other than what they mean.

o. They have been using figurative language in their conversation.

4. What is a broad definition of “figurative language”?

a. At first thought is might seem crazy to say one thing when we mean another thing.

b. However, everyone does it, and they do it for a very good reason.

c. We do it in order to be more forceful and vivid in our communication.

d. We have learned that we can do this by using figures of speech.

e. Also, we can say more by a figuration statement than by a literal statement.

f. In a broad definition, a figure of speech is any way of communicating something in other than the literal statement.

g. Figures of speech are a way of adding new meaning to our language without adding a lot of new language to the meaning.

h. As we have seen, in many ways that is what poetry is all about.

i. It is economy of language.

j. It is an attempt to make very much communication out of a few well-chosen words, expressions, or images.

k. Figurative language, language that cannot be taken literally, is a way of saying one thing and meaning another.

4. What forms of figurative language will we examine in the rest of this


a. Many of the figures of speech have names or labels.

b. The names identify the kind of figurative language.

c. We may find these names useful in our examination of poetry, because the different kinds of figurative language work differently.

d. In the remainder of this section, we will look at three of these forms of figurative language.

e. We will examine metaphor and simile, personification, and symbol.

3.1Figurative Language: Metaphor and Simile:

What is a simile?

a. Metaphor and simile are both comparisons between two things which are essentially different, but which share common characteristics.

b. In the conversation between your friends in paragraph 3, you saw a simile when the second friend said his throat was as “dry as a bone”, and you saw a metaphor when he said, “It is an oven outside”.

c. You have also seen a simile in Tennyson’s “The Eagle”.

d. In this poem Tennyson says that the eagle “falls like a thunderbolt”.

e. Just as throats and bones are unalike, eagles and thunderbolts are two things that are unalike.

f. However, we can see that an eagle and a thunderbolt both have a few common characteristics: speed and downward movement.

g. This kind of comparison in which words such as: like, as, than similar to, or resembles are used, are usually called similes.

h. When we use words like this in an expression, we know that the writer has made a comparison.

7. How do we know that a metaphor is a comparison?

a. Suppose for a moment, however, that Tennyson had said, “the eagle is a thunderbolt,”

b. This too, is a comparison, which we call a metaphor.

c. You may say, “how do we know that it is a comparison”?

We know it is a comparison because we know that eagles and

thunderbolts are not really like one another, really the same thing, so

we know that the expression is not really true.

d. Thus, if a writer says something that is literally not true we know that in order to makes a comparison between eagles and thunderbolts.

e. If we think about eagles and thunderbolts, we will again see that they have common characteristics: speed and downward movement.

f. The two expressions “the eagle falls like a thunderbolt” and “the eagle is a thunderbolt” express the same idea.

g. However, in the second one the writer does not let us know that he makes a comparison.

h. He only implies that he is making it.

i. That is, the figurative term is substitutes for or identified with the literal term.

What are the similes and metaphors in the first stanza of this


The Egyptian Beggar

Old as a coat on a chair; and his crushed hand,

As unexpressive as a bird’s face, held


Out like an offering, symbol of the blind,

He gropes our noise for charity. You could build

His long-deserted face up out of sand,

Or gear his weakness as a child.

Shuffling the seconds of a drugged watch, he

Attends no answer to his rote; for soul’s

And body’s terrible humility,

Stripped year by a little barer, wills

.Nothing: he claims no selfhood in his cry:

His body is an age that feels.

As if a mask, a tattered blanket, should

Live for a little before falling, when

The body leaves it : so briefly in this dead

Feathers of rags, and rags of body, and in

His crumpled mind, the awful and afraid

Stirs and pretends to be a man.

Earth’s degradation and the voice of earth;

Colour of earth and clothed in it, his eyes;

White pebbles blind with deserts; the long growth.

Of landscape in his body: as if these

Or these dead acres horribly gave birth :

Here will fall from him like disguise.

Only a sad and humble motion keeps

The little space he is, himself: to row

His mindless caves with ritual hand and lips,

And wonder dimly that his guilt: with no

Memory of it now: it was perhaps.

Too fearful, or too long ago

Terence Tiller

3.2 Figurative Language: Personification:

What is personification?

a. Another figure of speech similar to the metaphor is personification.

b. Personification consists of giving the characteristics of a human being to an animal, an object, or an idea.

c. This representation is really another kind of metaphor.

d. That is, it is an implied comparison in which the figurative term is always compared to a human being.

e. This is often a striking way of presenting an idea.

Why do some poets use personification?

a. Personification attempts to make us provide motivation to objects, ideas, or animals.

b. We usually do not think that an object “wants” or “tries” anything.

c. Yet, personification uses such verbs and provides this idea of motivation.

d. For instance, when a poet ways that the moon “looks” or that the night “cries”, he is using personification.

e. Thus, in trying to make their meaning clearer, some poets give their ideas or representations as though they were living people with human characteristics.

What object, animal, or idea is personified in the following poem?


Rough wind, that moanest loud

Grief too sad for song;

Wild wind, when sullen cloud

Knells all the night long;

Sad storm, whose tears are vain,

Bare woods, whose branches strain,

Deep caves and dreary main,

Wail, for the world’s wrong.


3.3 Figurative Language: Symbol:

What is symbolism?

a. Another way to say one thing and mean another is described as the use of symbolism.

b. A symbol may be roughly defined as something other than what it is.

c. At times, when we read a poem, we suddenly realize that what the poet actually wants to present is not what he has been describing.

d. That is, there may be a larger or deeper meaning that we are expected to find.

e. We often only slowly come to understand that a symbol is being used.

Which road did the traveler take?

In order to help us understand symbolism, let’s read the following poem.


The Road Not Taken

The roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black,

Oh, I kept the first for another day;

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood and I …..

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference,

Robert Frost

What might make us think that Mr. Frost is using a symbol?

a. On first reading this poem tells a simple story of a person who is walking in the forest and is forced to decide between two roads.

b. He would like to explore both roads, but can only choose one of them.

c. He thinks that he will save the other road for another day, but he actually knows that other concerns will begin to take his time and he will probably never come back to the path.

d. However, by the end of the poem we begin to think that he is talking about more than just this choice.

e. In the last stanza he seems to put a great deal of importance on this one small incident.

f. He is using this choice as a larger symbol.

g. Thus, we can see that symbols differ in the degree to which the poet makes them explicit.

Why is the symbol both interesting and difficult?

a. The symbol is both the most interesting and the most difficult type of figurative language.


b. Both of these factors come from the amount of interpreting-figurative language.

c. Every symbol may have different meanings and associations.

d. However, the fact that a symbol can be interpreted in so many different ways makes it important for us to be careful.

d. In our interpretation we must stick to the facts within the poem.

e. That is, we cannot say that Frost’s poem is about the choice between good and evil, because the facts of the poem do not show this.

f. Also, we must be careful not to see symbols everywhere, even through there may not be any.

g. To see too many symbols or to see the wrong symbols can only keep us distant from the meaning and experience of the poem.

Figurative Language: Summary

14. What is more important than being able to give the literary classification of a figure of speech?

a. In this section we have looked at various types of figurative language.

b. We have also seen that the different figures of speech can blend into each other.

c. It is sometimes impossible to classify them strictly as either an image, a metaphor, personifications or a symbol.

d. Often a particular example may be two or more figures of speech at the same time.

e. When a poet writes of “the weakening eye of the day”, there is metaphor and at the same time a personification of day.

f. When a poet writes of “the red rose whispers passion” we see a personified rose which “whispers” and is at same time a symbol of passionate love.

g. More important than being able to give the literary classification of a poem is the ability to interpret them correctly.


Practical Exercises

Practical Exercise I

Explain the following words and phrases. Use short complete sentences. Answer according to the usage in the passage. Also, give an example from the poems we have studied.



Figure of speech





Practical Exercise II

Answer each of the following questions from the reading. If the answer is true, put an X through T. If the answer is false, put an X through F.

T F 1. The metaphor is less of a comparison than the simile.

T F 2. Figures of speech help with an economy of language.

T F 3. Personification attempts to compare objects to ideas.

T F 4. Symbolism is less important than metaphor.

T F 5. It is necessary to be able to identify metaphors,

personification and symbolism in order to appreciate


Practical Exercise III

From your reading of this lesson, try to provide the words or phrases that best fit the following blank spaces. Synonyms are acceptable.

Figurative language is not used just in _____________. Just as the vocabulary and grammar of poetry come from __________________ and ______________. so too does figurative ______________ come from everyday speech and language.

Figures of speech are a way of adding new ____________ to our language without adding a lot of new ______________ to our ______

Metaphor and simile are both _______ between two things which are essentially _______________, but which share __________________

Thus, if a writer says something that is literally _______________ we know hat he is either __________________ to us or that he is trying to use ______________ in a _________________ way.


A symbol may be roughly defined as _______ other than ______ it is.

Practical Exercise IV :

Answer the following questions in short complete sentences. Write the answer in your own words.

What is the origin of the vocabulary, grammar and figurative language of poetry?

What is the difference between a metaphor and a simile?

How is personification similar to a metaphor ?

Why does a poet use figurative language?

What is the major problem in interpreting the symbols of a poem?

Practical Exercise V :

Go back to the poem “Egyptian Beggar” on page 31 Identify the similes and metaphors. Discuss the comparisons which are made in these figures of speech.

For example, what common characteristics are there between:

Old __________________ coat on a chair

Crushed hand ____________________ bird’s face

“ “ __________________ an offering

Continue with the remaining figures of speech.

Practical exercise VI:

Go back to “Dirge” on page 32. Discuss the personification.

Practical Exercise VII:

Read the following poem. Identify and discuss each instance of personification.


I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host of golden daffodils :


Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continue as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milkey way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Alone the margin of a bay :

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparking waves in glee.

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company :

I gazed –and gazed- but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought :

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils,


Practical Exercise VIII :

Re-read the poem “The Road Not Taken” on page 33. Discuss the symbolism in the poem. In your discussion, use the steps you have studied thus far.

A. Statement of the general theme

B. Line –by-line analysis

C. The poet’s purpose / intention

D.The effect of style

Practical Exercise IX :

Discuss the figurative language in this poem.


Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes made of ticky tacky little boxes

Little boxes,

Little boxes all the same.

There’s green one and a pink one and a blue one

And a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.


And the people in the houses all went to the University

Where they were put in boxes, little boxes, all the same,

And there’re doctors and there’re lawyers and there’re

business executives

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course

And drink their martini dry

And they all have pretty children and

The children go to school

And the children go to summer camp

And then to the University

Where they all got put in boxes and

They all come out the same.

And the boys go into business and

Marry and raise a family

In boxes, little boxes, little boxes

Blue one and a yellow one

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

Malvina Roynolds

6. Selected Poems


(C.1503 – 1542)


Thomas Wyatt was born to Henry and Anne Wyatt at Allington Castle, near Maidstone, Kent, in 1503.  Little is known of his childhood education.  His first court appearance was in 1516 as Sewer Extraordinary to Henry VIII.  In 1516 he also entered St. John's College, University of Cambridge. Around 1520, when he was only seventeen years old, he married Lord Cobham's daughter Elizabeth Brooke.  She bore him a son, Thomas Wyatt, the Younger, in 1521.  He became popular at court, and carried out several foreign missions for King Henry VIII, and also served various offices at home.

Around 1525, Wyatt separated from his wife, charging her with adultery; it is also the year from which his interest in Anne Boleyn probably dates.1 He accompanied Sir Thomas Cheney on a diplomatic mission to France in 1526 and Sir John Russell to Venice and the papal court in Rome in 1527. He was made High Marshal of Calais (1528-1530) and Commissioner of the Peace of Essex in 1532. Also in 1532, Wyatt accompanied King Henry and Anne Boleyn, who was by then the King's mistress, on their visit to Calais. Anne Boleyn married the King in January 1533, and Wyatt served in her coronation in June.

Wyatt was knighted in 1535, but in 1536 he was imprisoned in the Tower for quarreling with the Duke of Suffolk, and possibly also because he was suspected of being one of Anne Boleyn's lovers. During this imprisonment Wyatt witnessed the execution of Anne Boleyn on May 19, 1536 from the Bell Tower, and wrote V. Innocentia Veritas Viat Fides Circumdederunt me inimici mei.  He was released later that year.  Henry, Wyatt's father died in November 1536.

Wyatt was returned to favor and made ambassador to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, in Spain. He returned to England in June 1539, and later that year was again ambassador to Charles until May 1540. Wyatt's praise of country life, and the cynical comments about foreign courts, in his verse epistle Mine Own John Poins derive from his own experience.

In 1541 Wyatt was charged with treason on a revival of charges originally levelled against him in 1538 by Edmund Bonner, now Bishop of London.   Bonner claimed that while ambassador, Wyatt had been rude about the King's person, and had dealings with Cardinal Pole, a papal legate and Henry's kinsman, with whom Henry was much angered over Pole's siding with papal authority in the matter of Henry's divorce proceedings from Katharine of Aragón. Wyatt was again confined to the Tower, where he wrote an impassioned 'Defence'. He received a royal pardon, perhaps at the request of then queen, Catharine Howard, and was fully restored to favor in 1542. Wyatt was given various royal offices after his pardon, but he became ill after welcoming Charles V's envoy at Falmouth and died at Sherborne on 11 October 1542.

None of Wyatt's poems had been published in his lifetime, with the exception of a few poems in a miscellany entitled The Court of Venus. His first published work was Certain Psalms (1549), metrical translations of the penitential psalms. It wasn't until 1557, 15 years after Wyatt's death, that a number of his poetry appeared alongside the poetry of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey in printer Richard Tottel's Songs and Sonnets written by the Right Honorable Lord Henry Howard late Earl of Surrey and other. Until modern times it was called simply Songs and Sonnets, but now it is generally known as Tottel's Miscellany. The rest of Wyatt's poetry, lyrics, and satires remained in manuscript until the 19th and 20th centuries "rediscovered" them.

Wyatt, along with Surrey, was the first to introduce the sonnet into English, with its characteristic final rhyming couplet. He wrote extraordinarily accomplished imitations of Petrarch's sonnets, including 'I find no peace' ('Pace non trovo') and 'Whoso List to Hunt'—the latter, quite different in tone from Petrarch's 'Una candida cerva', has often been seen to refer to Anne Boleyn as the deer with a jewelled collar. Wyatt was also adept at other new forms in English, such as the terza rima and the rondaeu.  Wyatt and Surrey often share the title "father of the English sonnet."

Whoso list to hunt ……………

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,

But as for me – alas, I may no more.

The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,

I am of them that farthest cometh behind.

Yet may I, by no means, my wearied mind

Draw from the dear; but as she fleeth afore

Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore

Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.

Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,

AS well as I, may spend his time in vain.

And graven with diamonds in letters plain

There is written her fair neck round about;

Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,

And wild for to hold, though I seem tame

My Galley Charged with Forgetfulness 

My galley chargèd with forgetfulness 

Through sharp seas in winter nights doth pass 

'Twene rock and rock; and eke mine enemy, alas, 

That is my lord, steereth with cruelness. 

And every oar a thought in readiness 

As though that death were light in such a case; 

An endless wind doth tear the sail apace 

Of forcèd sighs and trusty fearfulness. 

A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain 

Hath done the wearied cords great hindrance, 

Wreathèd with error and eke with ignorance. 

The stars be hid that led me to this pain, 

Drownèd is reason that should me comfort, 

And I remain despairing of the port


What should I say?

Since faith is dead,

And truth a way

From you is fled,

Should I be led?

With doubleness?

Nay, Nay, mistress!

I promised you,

And you promised me,

To be as true

As I would be.

But since I see

Your double heart,

Farewell my part!

Though for to take

It is not my mind

But to forsake.

(I am not blind),

And as I find

So will I trust.

Farewell, unjust!

But you said

That I always

Should be obeyed,

And thus betrayed

Or that I wist?

Farewell, unkist!

Additional Ms. 17492 (British Museum);

songs and Sonnets, Tottel, 1557.

Egerton MS. 2711 ( British Museum ); Ibi

An article to read

Petrarchan Love and the English Sonnet

and the English Sonnet

The writer who exerted the greatest influence over sixteenth-century English poetry was a fourteenth-century Italian, Francesco Petrarca—usually known in English as Francis Petrarch. The first major English poet to translate Petrarch's Rime sparse (Scattered Rhymes) was Sir Thomas Wyatt the elder, followed by his younger contemporary Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Wyatt's sonnet, "The long love that in my thought doth harbor" (1.527) and Surrey's "Love, that doth reign and live within my thought" (1.571) are both based on the same Petrarchan original.

A comparison between these two sonnets reveals much about the differences between Wyatt and Surrey as English poets, and also much about the essentials of Petrarchism. Wyatt, in his knotty and vigorous style, and Surrey, with his smoother and more regular verses, portray the lover as the victim of both intemperate Love and an ideal but cruelly indifferent mistress. The lover is exalted and suffers by turns, is tossed between hope and despair. (In Wyatt's work as a whole, despair and bitterness tend to predominate, while in later English sonnets, as in Petrarch, the emphasis is on the hope for transcendence.)

In the works of some of Petrarch's Renaissance imitators, such as Sir Philip Sidney, the idealization of woman is taken as far as it can go, to the point that woman becomes the embodiment of virtue and intellectual beauty. Even when a sonnet sequence is addressed to a real woman, as Sidney's Astrophil and Stella is to his cousin Penelope Devereaux Rich, she is almost always given the same attributes as every other ethereal sonnet mistress. Sidney and his fellow Petrarchan sonneteers play more or less seriously with the notion, derived from Plato, that physical beauty, which we experience through the senses, is only a limited manifestation of a higher spiritual or divine beauty, which exists in the soul and which we experience in the mind. This idea is derived not only from Petrarch but from Castiglione's The Courtier (1.578–93), an enormously influential Italian work, translated into English by Sir Thomas Hoby. According to the theory of the "Ladder of Love," expounded in the last book of The Courtier, a man's falling in love with a woman through the senses ought to be a step on a stair ascending to the higher spiritual love, which no longer seeks sexual gratification.

The typical sonnet lover, like Sidney's Astrophil, finds it exceedingly difficult to rise above the level of physical desire. Although professing to celebrate a feminine ideal, Petrarchan poetry is preoccupied with the psychological status of male lovers. These are poems about sublimation instead of fulfillment. The ideal woman often plays the role of a personified superego, checking the male libido, which sometimes retires humbly (as in the Wyatt and Surrey translations), sometimes breaks into bitter reproach (as in Sidney's Sonnet 31; 1.922). In contrast the woman is calm and remote and never seems to experience the emotional turmoil of her lover—except, as in the case of the early-seventeenth-century poet Lady Mary Wroth, when the woman herself is the speaker.


(1517 – 1547)


Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Sir Henry Howard, 3rd Earl of Surrey KG, Earl Marshal (1517 – 19 January 1547) was an English aristocrat, and one of the founders of English Renaissance poetry.


He was born in Hunsdon, Hertfordshire, England, the eldest son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and his second wife, Lady Elizabeth Stafford (daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham), so he was descended from kings on both sides of his family tree. He was reared at Windsor with Henry VIII's illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy Duke of Richmond, and they became close friends and, later, brothers-in-law. He became Earl of Surrey in 1524 when his grandfather died and his father became Duke of Norfolk.

In 1532 he accompanied his first cousin Anne Boleyn, the King, and the Duke of Richmond to France, staying there for more than a year as a member of the entourage of Francis I of France. In 1536 his first son, Thomas (later 4th Duke of Norfolk), was born, Anne Boleyn was executed on charges of adultery and treason, and Henry Fitzroy died at the age of 17 and was buried at one of the Howard homes, Thetford Abbey. That was also the year Henry — who took after his father and grandfather in military prowess — served with his father against the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion protesting the dissolution of the monasteries

Literary activity and legacy

He and his friend Sir Thomas Wyatt were the first English poets to write in the sonnet form that Shakespeare later used, and Henry was the first English poet to publish blank verse in his translation of the second and fourth books of Virgil's Aeneid. Together, Wyatt and Surrey, due to their excellent translations of Petrarch's sonnets, are known as "Fathers of the English Sonnet." While Wyatt introduced the sonnet into English, it was Surrey who gave them the rhyming meter and the division into quatrains that now characterizes the sonnets variously named English, Elizabethan or Shakespearean sonnets.[

Death and burial

He was imprisoned with his father by Henry VIII, who, consumed by paranoia, was convinced that Henry Howard had planned to usurp the crown from his son Edward. He was sentenced to death on 13 January 1547, and beheaded for treason on 19 January 1547 (his father was saved from execution only by it being set for the day after Henry happened to die). His son Thomas became heir to the Dukedom of Norfolk instead, inheriting it on the 3rd Duke's death in 1554.

He is buried in a spectacular painted alabaster tomb at St Michael the Archangel, Framlingham


Description of spring wherein each thing renews

Save only the lover

The soote season that bud and bloom forth brings

With green hath clad the hill and eke the vale,

The nightingale with feathers new she sings,

The turtle to her make hath told her tale.

Summer is come, for every spray now springs,

The hart hath hung his old head on the pale,

The buck in brake his winter coat he flings,

The fishes float with new repaired scale.

The adder all her slough away she slings,

The swift swallow pursueth the flyes smale,

The busy bee her honey now she mings, _

Winter is worn, that was the flowers’ bale;

And thus I see, among these pleasant things

Each care decays – and yet my sorrow springs

Songs and Sonnets, Tottel, 1557

The exact relation of Surrey to Wyatt has been a matter of dispute. The accident of birth, no doubt, led to Surrey’s poems being placed before those of Wyatt in Tottel’s Miscellany, and this accident may have induced commentators to regard Surrey as the master of Wyatt, rather than to take the probably more truthful view, that each influenced the other, but that Wyatt was the pioneer. He was, at any rate, an older man than Surrey, who was born in 1516(?). Henry Howard was the eldest son of lord Thomas Howard, son of Thomas, earl of Surrey and duke of Norfolk, and himself became, by courtesy, earl of Surrey in 1524, on his father’s succeeding to the dukedom. From a poem to which reference will be made later it seems possible that he was educated with the duke of Richmond, Henry VII’s natural son, who, later, married his sister. At any rate, he was brought up in all the virtues and practices of chivalry, which find a large place in his poems. He visited the Field of the Cloth of Gold with the duke of Richmond, possibly accompanied him thence to Paris to study and lived with him, later, at Windsor. In 1536, the duke died, and the same year saw the execution of Surrey’s cousin, Anne Boleyn. In 1540, we find him a leader in the tournament held at the marriage of Anne of Cleves, and, after a mission to Guisnes, he was appointed, in 1541, steward of Cambridge university. Part of the next year he spent in the Fleet prison, on a charge of having sent a challenge; but, being soon released on payment of a heavy fine, he began his military career by joining his father in an expedition against the Scots. The next episode in his life is difficult of explanation: he was brought before the privy council on a charge of eating meat in Lent and of breaking windows in the city with a cross-bow. His own explanation was (cf. London! hast thou accusèd me) that it was an access of protestant fervour: he regarded himself as “a figure of the Lord’s behest,” sent to warn the sinful city of her doom. In this connection, it is fair to remember that, later, he was accused of being inimical to the new religion. The obvious explanation was that the proceeding was a piece of Mohockism on the part of a (possibly intoxicated) man of twenty-seven. At any rate, Surrey had to suffer for the excess. He was again shut up in the Fleet, where, probably, he paraphrased one or more of the psalms. On his release, he was sent, in October, 1543, to join the English troops then assisting the emperor in the siege of Landrecy; and, in 1544, he won further military honour by his defence of Boulogne. On his return, he was thrown into prison at Windsor, owing to the intrigues of his father’s enemy, Jane Seymour’s brother, the earl of Hertford; was released, again imprisoned, and beheaded in January, 1546/7.

In his military prowess, his scholarship, his position at court, his poetry and his mastery in chivalric exercises, Surrey is almost as perfect a knight as Sidney himself. And what strikes the reader most forcibly in the love poems which form the bulk of his work is their adherence to the code of the chivalric courts of love. There is not to be found in Surrey the independence, the manliness or the sincerity of Wyatt. In his love poems, he is an accomplished gentleman playing a graceful game, with what good effect on English poetry will be seen shortly. Surrey was formally married at 16; but the subject of many of his poems was not his wife, but his “lady” in the chivalric sense, the mistress whose “man” he had become by a vow of fealty. Setting aside the legends that have grown up about this fair Geraldine, from their root in Nashe’s fiction, The Unfortunate Traveller (1594), to the sober “biography” of Anthony à Wood and others, the pertinent facts that may be regarded as true are no more than these: that Elizabeth Fitz-Gerald was a daughter of the ninth earl of Kildare, and, on her father’s death in the Tower, was brought up in the houehold of princess Mary, becoming one of her ladies of the chamber. That she was a mere child when Surrey first began to address poems to her confirms the impression received by the candid reader: these poems, in fact, are the result, not of a sincere passion, but of the rules of the game of chivalry as played in its decrepitude and Surrey’s youth. Like Wyatt, he takes his ideas from Petrarch, of whose sonnets he translates four completely, while Ariosto provides another; and his whole body of poetry contains innumerable ideas and images drawn from Petrarch, but assimilated and used in fresh settings. The frailtie and hurtfulnesse of beautie; Vow to love faithfully howsoever he be rewarded; Complaint that his ladie after she knew of his love kept her face alway hidden from him; Description of Spring, wherin eche thing renewes, save onelie the lover; Complaint of a lover, that defied love, and was by love after the more tormented; Complaint of a diyng lover refused upon his ladies injust mistaking of his writyng—such are the stock subjects, as they may almost be called, of the Petrarchists which Surrey reproduces. But he reproduces them in every case with an ease and finish that prove him to have mastered his material, and his graceful fancies are admirably expressed. Earlier in the chapter we quoted Wyatt’s translation of a sonnet by Petrarch. Let us compare with it Surrey’s version of the same:

Love that liveth, and reigneth in my thought,

That built his seat within my captive brest,

She, that me taught to love, and suffer payne,

With shamefast cloke to shadowe and refraine,

Her smilyng grace converteth straight to yre

And cowarde Love then to the hart apace

Taketh his flight, whereas he lurkes, and plaines

His purpose lost, and dare not shewe his face.

For my lordes gilt thus faultlesse byde I paynes

Yet from my lorde shall not my foote remove

The advance in workmanship is obvious at a glance. There is no need to count Surrey’s syllables on the fingers, and the caesuras are arranged with variety and skill. The first line contains one of the very few examples in Surrey’s poems of an accented weak syllable (livèth), and there, as in nearly all the other cases, in the first two feet of the line. It will be noticed, however, that, whereas Wyatt was content with two rimes for his octave, in Petrarchian fashion, Surrey frankly makes up his sonnet of three quatrains and a couplet, which was the form the sonnet mainly took in the hands of his Elizabethan followers. Once or twice, Surrey runs the same pair of rimes right through his first twelve lines; but gains, on the whole, little advantage thus. Whichever plan he follows, the result is the same: that, improving on Wyatt’s efforts, he makes of the sonnet—what had never existed before in English poetry—a single symphonic effect. It is worth nothing, too, that, though his references to Chaucer are even more frequent than Wyatt’s, Surrey polishes and refines, never leaving unaltered the archaisms which Wyatt sometimes incorporated with his own language.

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(C. 1552 – 1599)


Edmund Spenser (c. 1552 – 13 January 1599) was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognized as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English language.

Edmund Spenser was born in London around 1552. As a young boy, he was educated in London at the Merchant Taylors' School and matriculated as a sizar at Pembroke College, Cambridge.[1][2]

In July 1580 Spenser went to Ireland, in the service of the newly appointed lord deputy, Arthur Lord Grey de Wilton. Then he served with the English forces during the Second Desmond Rebellion. After the defeat of the native Irish he was awarded lands in County Cork that had been confiscated in the Munster Plantation during the Elizabethan reconquest of Ireland. Among his acquaintances in the area was Walter Raleigh, a fellow colonist.

Through his poetry Spenser hoped to secure a place at court, which he visited in Raleigh's company to deliver his most famous work, the Faerie Queene. However, he boldly antagonized the queen's principal secretary, Lord Burghley, and all he received in recognition of his work was a pension in 1591. When it was proposed that he receive payment of 100 pounds for his epic poem, Burghley remarked, "What, all this for a song!"

In the early 1590s, Spenser wrote a prose pamphlet titled, A View of the Present State of Ireland. This piece remained in manuscript until its publication and print in the mid-seventeenth century. It is probable that it was kept out of print during the author's lifetime because of its inflammatory content. The pamphlet argued that Ireland would never be totally 'pacified' by the English until its indigenous language and customs had been destroyed, if necessary by violence. Spenser recommended scorched earth tactics, such as he had seen used in the Desmond Rebellions, to create famine. Although it has been highly regarded as a polemical piece of prose and valued as a historical source on 16th century Ireland, the View is seen today as genocidal in intent. Spenser did express some praise for the Gaelic poetic tradition, but also used much tendentious and bogus analysis to demonstrate that the Irish were descended from barbarian Scythian stock.

of Ireland's leading historians of the early modern period, Ciaran Brady and Nicholas Canny, have differed in their view of Spenser's View of the State of Ireland. Brady’s essential proposition is that Spenser wished the English government to undertake the extermination of most of the Irish population. He writes that Spenser preferred to write in dialogue form so that the crudity of his proposals would be masked. Canny undermines Brady's conclusion that Spenser opted for “a holocaust or a “blood-bath”, because despite Brady's claims Spenser did not choose the sword as his preferred instrument of policy. Canny argues that Spenser instead chose not the extermination of the Irish race but rather a policy of ‘social reform pursued by drastic means’. Canny's ultimate assertion was that Brady was over-reacting and that Spenser did not propose a policy to exterminate the Irish race. However, within one page he moves on to argue that no ‘English writer of the early modern period ever proposed such a drastic programme in social engineering for England, and it was even more dramatic than Brady allows for because all elements of the Irish population including the Old English of the towns, whom Brady seems to think were exempt were subject to some element of this scheme of dispersal, reintegration and re-education’[14]. Here, Canny argues that this policy was more ‘dramatic than Brady allows’, in that Brady’s description was one of ‘bloodshed’, ‘extermination’ and ‘holocaust’ only of the native Irish but Canny’s was one of dispersal, reintegration and re-education of both the native Irish and the settler English. Even though Canny writes that ‘substantial loss of life, including loss of civilian life, was considered by Spenser', he considers that that falls short of Brady's conclusion. For more details on this debate, read Brady's "Spenser’s Irish Crisis: Humanism and Experience in the 1590s" and Canny, Nicholas, "Spenser's Irish Crisis: Humanism and Experience in the 1590s, a response to the claims of Brady".

Later on, during the Nine Years War in 1598, Spenser was driven from his home by the native Irish forces of Aodh Ó Néill. His castle at Kilcolman, near Doneraile in North Cork was burned, and it is thought one of his infant children died in the blaze - though local legend has it that his wife also died. He possessed a second holding to the south, at Rennie, on a rock overlooking the river Blackwater in North Cork. The ruins of it are still visible today. A short distance away grew a tree, locally known as "Spenser's Oak" until it was destroyed in a lightning strike in the 1960s. Local legend has it that he penned some or all of The Faerie Queene under this tree. Queen Victoria is said to have visited the tree while staying in nearby Convamore House during her state visit to Ireland.

In the year after being driven from his home, Spenser travelled to London, where he died in distressed circumstances, aged forty-six. It was arranged for his coffin to be carried by other poets, upon which they threw many pens and pieces of poetry into his grave with many tears.

Spenser was called a Poet's Poet and was admired by William Wordsworth, John Keats, Lord Byron and Alfred Lord Tennyson, among others.[3] The language of his poetry is purposely archaic, reminiscent of earlier works such as The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer, whom Spenser greatly admired.

Spenser's Epithalamion is the most admired of its type in the English language. It was written for his wedding to his young bride, Elizabeth Boyle. The poem consists of 365 long lines, corresponding to the days of the year; 68 short lines, representing the sum of the 52 weeks, 12 months, and 4 seasons of the annual cycle; and 24 stanzas, corresponding to the diurnal and sidereal hours

Spenser's masterpiece is the huge epic poem The Faerie Queene. The first three books of The Faerie Queene were published in 1590, and a second set of three books were published in 1596. This extended epic poem deals with the adventures of knights, dragons, ladies in distress, etc. yet it is also an extended allegory about the moral life and what makes for a life of virtue. Spenser originally indicated that he intended the poem to be twelve books long, so there is some argument about whether the version we have is in any real sense complete

Structure of the Spenserian stanza and sonnet

Spenser used a distinctive verse form, called the Spenserian stanza, in several works, including The Faerie Queene. The stanza's main meter is iambic pentameter with a final line in iambic hexameter (having six feet or stresses, known as an Alexandrine), and the rhyme scheme is ababbcbcc.

The Spenserian Sonnet is based on a fusion of elements of both the Petrarchan sonnet and the Shakespearean sonnet. It is similar to the Shakespearan sonnet in the sense that its set up is based more on the 3 quatrains and a couplet,a system set up by Shakespeare; however it is more like the Petrarchan tradition in the fact that the conclusion follows from the argument or issue set up in the earlier quatrains. There is also a great use of the parody of the blason and the idealization or praise of the mistress, a literary device used by many poets. It is a way to look at a woman through the appraisal of her features in comparison to other things. In this description, the mistress's body is described part by part, i.e., much more of a scientific way of seeing one. As William Johnson states in his article "Gender Fashioning and Dynamics of Mutuality in Spenser's Amoretti," the poet-love in the scenes of Spenser's sonnets in Amoretti, is able to see his lover in an objectified manner by moving her to another, or more clearly, an item. The purpose of Spenser doing this is to bring the woman from the "transcendental ideal" to a woman in everyday life. "Through his use of metonymy and metaphor, by describing the lady not as a whole being but as bodily parts, by alluding to centuries of topoi which remove her in time as well as space, the poet transforms the woman into a text, the living 'other' into an inanimate object" (503). The opposite of this also occurs in The Faerie Queen. The counter-blason, or the opposition of appraisal, is used to describe Duessa. She is not objectified, but instead all of her flaws are highlighted.

Without A Rhyme or Reason

Spenser is also the man believed to have crafted the phrase "without reason or a rhyme". He was promised payment from the Queen of one hundred pounds, a so called, "reason for the rhyme". The Lord High Treasurer William Cecil, however, considered the sum too much. After a long while without receiving his payment, he sent her this quatrain:

I was promis'd on a time,

To have a reason for my rhyme:

But from that time unto this season,

I had neither rhyme or reason.

To his Love

One day I wrote her name upon the strand,

But came the waves and washed it away;

Again I wrote it with a second hand,

But came the tide, and made my pains his prey,

“Vain man”, said she, that doest in vain assay

A mortal thing so to immortalize

For I myself shall like to this decay,

And eek my name be wiped out likewise.

Not so (quoth I), let baser things devise

To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:

My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,

And in the heavens write your glorious name.

Where when death shall all the world subdue,

Our love shall live, and later life renew.

(From Amoretti. Sonnet LXXV)


(1554 – 1586)


Sir Philip Sidney was born on November 30, 1554, at Penshurst, Kent. He was the eldest son of Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Deputy of Ireland, and nephew of  Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.  He was named after his godfather,  King Philip II of Spain.

After private tutelage, Philip Sidney entered Shrewsbury School at the age of ten in 1564, on the same day as Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, who became his fast friend and, later, his biographer. After attending Christ Church, Oxford, (1568-1571) he left without taking a degree in order to complete his education by travelling the continent. Among the places he visited were Paris, Frankfurt, Venice, and Vienna.

Sidney returned to England in 1575, living the life of a popular and eminent courtier. In 1577, he was sent as ambassador to the German Emperor and the Prince of Orange. Officially, he had been sent to condole the princes on the deaths of their fathers. His real mission was to feel out the chances for the creation of a Protestant league. Yet, the budding diplomatic career was cut short because Queen Elizabeth I found Sidney to be perhaps too ardent in his Protestantism, the Queen preferring a more cautious approach.

Upon his return, Sidney attended the court of Elizabeth I, and was considered "the flower of chivalry."  He was also a patron of the arts, actively encouraging such authors as Edward Dyer, Greville, and most importantly, the young poet Edmund Spenser, who dedicated The Shepheardes Calender to him. In 1580, he incurred the Queen Elizabeth's displeasure by opposing her projected marriage to the Duke of Anjou, Roman Catholic heir to the French throne, and was dismissed from court for a time. He left the court for the estate of his cherished sister Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke.  During his stay, he wrote the long pastoral romance Arcadia.

At some uncertain date, he composed a major piece of critical prose that was published after his death under the two titles, The Defence of Poesy and An Apology for Poetry. Sidney's Astrophil and Stella ("Starlover and Star") was begun probably around 1576, during his courtship with Penelope Devereux.  Astrophil and Stella, which includes 108 sonnets and 11 songs, is the first in the long line of Elizabethan sonnet cycles.  Most of the sonnets are influenced by Petrarchan conventions — the abject lover laments the coldness of his beloved lady towards him, even though he is so true of love and her neglect causes him so much anguish. Lady Penelope was married to Lord Rich in 1581; Sidney married Frances Walsingham, daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, in 1583. The Sidneys had one daughter, Elizabeth, later Countess of Rutland.

While Sidney's career as courtier ran smoothly, he was growing restless with lack of appointments. In 1585, he made a covert attempt to join Sir Francis Drake's expedition to Cadiz without Queen Elizabeth's permission. Elizabeth instead summoned Sidney to court, and appointed him governor of Flushing in the Netherlands. In 1586 Sidney, along with his younger brother Robert Sidney, another poet in this family of poets, took part in a skirmish against the Spanish at Zutphen, and was wounded of a musket shot that shattered his thigh-bone. Some twenty-two days later Sidney died of the unhealed wound at not yet thirty-two years of age. His death occasioned much mourning in England as the Queen and her subjects grieved for the man who had come to exemplify the ideal courtier. It is said that Londoners, come out to see the funeral progression, cried out "Farewell, the worthiest knight that lived." 1

A litany

Ring out your bells; let mourning shows be spread;

For love is dead.

All love is dead, infected

With plague of deep disdain;

Worth, as naught worth, rejected,

And Faith fair scorn doth gain.

From so ungrateful fancy.

From such a female franzy.

From them that use men thus.

Good lord, deliver us!

Weep, neighbors, Weep! Do you not hear it said

That love is dead?

His death-bed, peacock’s folly;

His winding sheet is shame;

His will, false-seeming holy:

His sole executor, blame;

From so ungrateful fancy,

From such a female franzy,

From them that use men thus.

Good lord, deliver us!

Let dirge be sung and trentals rightly read,

For love is dead.

Sir Wrong his tomb ordaineth

My mistress Marble-heart,

Which epitaph containeth,

‘Her eyes were once his dart’.

From so ungrateful fancy,

From such a female franzy,

From them that use men thus,

Good lord, deliver us

Alas! I lie, rage, hath this error bred;

Love is not dead.

Love is not dead, but sleepth

In her unmatched mind,

Where she his counsel keepth,

Till due desert she find.

Therefore from so vile fancy.

To call such wit franzy.

Who love can temper thus.

Good lord, deliver us!

The countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, 1598

Sir Phillip Sidney charmed earlier generations of readers, not least through his personal qualities: his courtesy and soldierly valour. He was also among the most highly esteemed English poets. In the 17th century his collected works ran into nine editions (Shakespeare mustered only four). Relegated to second division these days, Sidney deserves more attention. His poetry is not mere charm, but richly varied and highly original.

Sidney was an innovator, little influenced by the poets of his day. In his rigorously argued Defence of Poetry he claimed that the only works with "poeticall sinewes" were those of Chaucer and Surrey. He said of himself that he was "no pick-purse of another's wit": perhaps, like all the best poets, he picked numerous purses, assimilating a range of techniques both from his wide reading of the classics, and from the Italian and Spanish poets with whom he became acquainted during his travels.

His major works are Arcadia and the sonnet sequence, Astrophil and Stella. Certain Sonnets, the collection containing this week's poem, Ring Out Your Belles … , is less well-known, but it contains much to remind us that the young Sidney was full of new ideas.

It includes, in fact, the first examples of regular accentual trochaic meter in English: "This you heare is not my tongue/ Which once said what I conceaved,/ For it was of use bereaved,/ With a cruel answer strong."

There are translations in the traditional sense of the word, and also poems which are, in a sense, translations from music into poetry, and headed "To the tune of … " The song in question is usually Spanish or Neapolitan. Of course, the term "sonnet" is used loosely, to denote any song-like poem.

I've chosen Ring Out Your Belles … for its fire and originality. Although the meter is conventionally iambic, the variation of line-length is refreshing: pentameter in line one, dimeter for the little refrain of line two, followed by eight trimeters that sustain the energy by alternating patterns of feminine and masculine endings, and an ABAB, AABB rhyme scheme.

The last four lines of each stanza form the chief refrain, and an angry and misogynistic one it seems, with that "femall franzie" ("female frenzy"). The concluding line, "Good Lord deliver us," is hardly prayer-like. It might recall, rather, the exasperated, mock-comic curses of young men getting together to have a grumble about the unfair sex. But the thought develops into something subtler than that. Deliverance is sought not only from "them that use men thus" but from Love itself. It's the fantasies and disappointment aroused in him which the speaker ultimately curses - and feminises. Love, he seems to suggest, has made a woman of him.

The first three stanzas present a complete and chronological torrent of funerary images: chiming "belles"; weeping neighbours; Trentalls (prayers for souls in Purgatory); the mistress's "hart" itself transformed into a tomb. What's original here is the lavishness and gusto the poet brings to a conventional trope. The tone is invigorating in its lack of self-pity.

And then comes the startling volte-face: "Alas, I lie: rage hath this errour bred,/ Love is not dead." Now the marble-hearted mistress is praised for her "unmatched mind" and her discretion in keeping Love's counsel. The refrain needs only a little alteration to suit its new context.

What could have been merely a clever rhetorical device delivers a poetic charge, thanks to the consistent pace and flow of the rhythms, and the frankness of the tone. We trust the transformation to joy as much as the earlier rage, because of the absolute conviction the poem brings to both, epitomising the "all-or-nothing" moods of love. The logic has been revised, and the poet's attitude to his mistress reversed, by some off-stage flourish of erotic magic. How could he ever have called "such wit a franzie" – and only moments ago? It was evidently all just a lovers' tiff.

From Certain Sonnets, No 30, Ring Out Your Belles …

Ring out your belles, let mourning shewes be spread,

For love is dead:

All Love is dead, infected

With plague of deepe disdaine:

Worth as naught worth rejected,

And Faith faire scorne doth gaine.

From so ungratefull fancie,

From such a femall franzie,

From them that use men thus

Good Lord deliver us.

Weepe neighbours, weepe, do you not heare it said,

That Love is dead?

His death-bed peacock's folly,

His winding-sheet is shame,

His will false-seeming holie,

His sole exec'tour blame.

From so ungratefull fancie,

From such a femall franzie,

From them that use men thus

Good Lord deliver us.

Let Dirge be sung, and Trentalls rightly read,

For Love is dead:

Sir wrong his tomb ordaineth,

My mistresse Marble hart,

Which Epitaph containeth,

'Her eyes were once his dart'.

From so ungratefull fancie,

From such a femall franzie,

From them that use men thus

Good Lord deliver us.

Alas, I lie: rage hath this errour bred,

Love is not dead.

Love is not dead, but sleepeth

In her unmatched mind:

Where she his counsell keepeth,

Till due desert she find.

Therefore from so vile fancie,

To call such wit a franzie,

Who love can temper thus,

Good Lord deliver us.


(1564 - 1593)


CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE, English dramatist, the father of English tragedy, and instaurator of dramatic blank verse, the eldest son of a shoemaker at Canterbury, was born in that city on the 6th of February 1564. He was christened at St George's Church, Canterbury, on the 26th of February, 1563/4, some two months before Shakespeare's baptism at Stratford-on-Avon. His father, John Marlowe, is said to have been the grandson of John Morley or Marlowe, a substantial tanner of Canterbury. The father, who survived by a dozen years or so his illustrious son, married on the 22nd of May 1561 Catherine, daughter of Christopher Arthur, at one time rector of St Peter's, Canterbury, who had been ejected by Queen Mary as a married minister. The dramatist received the rudiments of his education at the King's School, Canterbury, which he entered at Michaelmas 1578, and where he had as his fellow-pupils Richard Boyle, afterwards known as the great Earl of Cork, and Will Lyly, the brother of [John Lyly] the dramatist. Stephen Gosson entered the same school a little before, and William Harvey, the famous physician, a little after Marlowe. He went to Cambridge as one of Archbishop Parker's scholars from the King's School, and matriculated at Benet (Corpus Christi) College, on the 17th of March 1571, taking his B.A. degree in 1584, and that of M.A. three or four years later.

Francis Kett, the mystic, burnt in 1589 for heresy, was a fellow and tutor of his college, and may have had some share in developing Marlowe's opinions in religious matters. Marlowe's classical acquirements were of a kind which was then extremely common, being based for the most part upon a minute acquaintance with Roman mythology, as revealed in Ovid's Metamorphoses. His spirited translation of Ovid's Amores (printed 1596), which was at any rate commenced at Cambridge, does not seem to point to any very intimate acquaintance with the grammar and syntax of the Latin tongue. Before 1587 he seems to have quitted Cambridge for London, where he attached himself to the Lord Admiral's Company of Players, under the leadership of the famed actor Edward Alleyn, and almost at once began writing for the stage.

Of Marlowe's career in London, apart from his four great theatrical successes, we know hardly anything; but he evidently knew Thomas Kyd, who shared his unorthodox opinions. Nash criticized his verse, Greene affected to shudder at his atheism; Gabriel Harvey maligned his memory. On the other hand Marlowe was intimate with the Walsinghams of Scadbury, Chiselhurst, kinsmen of Sir Francis Walsingham: he was also the personal friend of Sir Walter Raleigh, and perhaps of the poetical Earl of Oxford, with both of whom, and with such men as Walter Warner and Robert Hughes the mathematicians, Thomas Harriott the notable astronomer, and Matthew Royden, the dramatist is said to have met in free converse. Either this free converse or the licentious character of some of the young dramatist's tirades seems to have sown a suspicion among the strait-laced that his morals left everything to be desired. It is probable enough that this attitude of reprobation drove a man of so exalted a disposition as Marlowe into a more insurgent attitude than he would have otherwise adopted. He seems at any rate to have been associated with what was denounced as Sir Walter Raleigh's school of atheism, and to have dallied with opinions which were then regarded as putting a man outside the pale of civilized humanity.

As the result of some depositions made by Thomas Kyd under the influence of torture, the Privy Council were upon the eve of investigating some serious charges against Marlowe when his career was abruptly and somewhat scandalously terminated. The order had already been issued for his arrest, when he was slain in a quarrel by a man variously named (Archer and Ingram) at Deptford, at the end of May 1593, and he was buried on the 1st of June in the churchyard of St Nicholas at Deptford. The following September Gabriel Harvey referred to him as "dead of the plague." The disgraceful particulars attached to the tragedy of Marlowe in the popular mind would not seem to have appeared until four years later (1597) when Thomas Beard, the Puritan author of The Theatre of God's Judgements, used the death of this playmaker and atheist as one of his warning examples of the vengeance of God. Upon the embellishments of this story, such as that of Francis Meres the critic, in 1598, that Marlowe came to be "stabbed to death by a bawdy servingman, a rival of his in his lewde love," or that of William Vaughan in the Golden Grove of 1600, in which the unfortunate poet's dagger is thrust into his own eye in prevention of his felonious assault upon an innocent man, his guest, it is impossible now to pronounce.

We really do not know the circumstances of Marlowe's death. The probability is he was killed in a brawl, and his atheism must be interpreted not according to the ex parte accusation of one Richard Baines, a professional informer (among the Privy Council records), but as a species of rationalistic antinomianism, dialectic in character, and closely related to the deflection from conventional orthodoxy for which Kett was burnt at Norwich in 1589. A few months before the end of his life there is reason to believe that he transferred his services from the Lord Admiral's to Lord Strange's Company, and may have thus been brought into communication with Shakespeare, who in such plays as Richard II and Richard III owed not a little to the influence of his romantic predecessor.

Marlowe's career as a dramatist lies between the years 1587 and 1593, and the four great plays to which reference has been made were Tamburlaine the Great, an heroic epic in dramatic form divided into two parts of five acts each (1587, printed in 1590); Dr Faustus (1588, entered at Stationers' Hall 1601); The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta (dating perhaps from 1589, acted in 1592, printed in 1633); and Edward the Second (printed 1594). The very first words of Tamburlaine sound the trumpet note of attack in the older order of things dramatic:

From jigging veins of riming mother wits

 And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay

 We'll lead you to the stately tent of war,

 Where you shall hear the Scythian Tamburlaine

 Threatening the world with high astounding terms

 And scourging kingdoms with his conquering sword."

It leapt with a bound to a place beside Kyd's Spanish Tragedy, and few plays have been more imitated by rivals (Greene's Alphonsus of Aragon, Peele's Battle of Alcazar) or more keenly satirized by the jealousy and prejudice of out-distanced competitors. With many and heavy faults, there is something of genuine greatness in Tamburlaine the Great; and for two grave reasons it must always be remembered with distinction and mentioned with honour. It is the first play ever written in English blank verse, as distinguished from mere rhymeless decasyllabics; and it contains one of the noblest passages, perhaps indeed the noblest, in the literature of the world, ever written by one of the greatest masters of poetry in loving praise of the glorious delights and sublime submission to the everlasting limits of his art. In its highest and most distinctive qualities, in unfaltering and infallible command of the right note of music and the proper tone of colour for the finest touches of poetic execution, no poet of the most elaborate modern school, working at ease upon every consummate resource of luxurious learning and leisurely refinement, has ever excelled the best and most representative work of a man who had literally no models before him and probably or evidently was often if not always compelled to write against time for his living.

The just and generous judgment passed by Goethe on the Faustus of his English predecessor in tragic treatment of the same subject is somewhat more than sufficient to counterbalance the slighting or the sneering references to that magnificent poem which might have been expected from the ignorance of Byron or the incompetence of Hallam. Of all great poems in dramatic form it is perhaps the most remarkable for absolute singleness of aim and simplicity of construction; yet is it wholly free from all possible imputation of monotony or aridity. Tamburlaine is monotonous in the general roll and flow of its stately and sonorous verse through a noisy wilderness of perpetual bluster and slaughter; but the unity of tone and purpose in Doctor Faustus is not unrelieved by change of manner and variety of incident. The comic scenes, written evidently with as little of labour as of relish, are for the most part scarcely more than transcripts, thrown into the form of dialogue, from a popular prose History of Dr Faustus, and therefore should be set down as little to the discredit as to the credit of the poet. Few masterpieces of any age in any language can stand beside this tragic poem — it has hardly the structure of a play — for the qualities of terror and splendour, for intensity of purpose and sublimity of note. In the vision of Helen, for example, the intense perception of loveliness gives actual sublimity to the sweetness and radiance of mere beauty in the passionate and spontaneous selection of words the most choice and perfect; and in like manner the sublimity of simplicity in Marlowe's conception and expression of the agonies endured by Faustus under the immediate imminence of his doom gives the highest note of beauty, the quality of absolute fitness and propriety, to the sheer straightforwardness of speech in which his agonizing horror finds vent ever more and more terrible from the first to the last equally beautiful and fearful verse of that tremendous monologue which has no parallel in all the range of tragedy.

It is now a commonplace of criticism to observe and regret the decline of power and interest after the opening acts of The Jew of Malta. This decline is undeniable, though even the latter part of the play (the text of which is very corrupt) is not wanting in rough energy; but the first two acts would be sufficient foundation for the durable fame of a dramatic poet. In the blank verse of Milton alone — who perhaps was hardly less indebted than Shakespeare was before him to Marlowe as the first English master of word-music in its grander forms — has the glory or the melody of passages in the opening soliloquy of Barabbas been possibly surpassed. The figure of the hero before it degenerates into caricature is as finely touched as the poetic execution is excellent; and the rude and rapid sketches of the minor characters show at least some vigour and vivacity of touch.

In Edward the Second the interest rises and the execution improves as visibly and as greatly with the course of the advancing story as they decline in The Jew of Malta. The scene of the king's deposition at Kenilworth is almost as much finer in tragic effect and poetic quality as it is shorter and less elaborate than the corresponding scene in Shakespeare's King Richard II. The terror of the death-scene undoubtedly rises into horror; but this horror is with skilful simplicity of treatment preserved from passing into disgust. In pure poetry, in sublime and splendid imagination, this tragedy is excelled by Doctor Faustus; in dramatic power and positive impression of natural effect it is certainly the masterpiece of Marlowe. It was almost inevitable, in the hands of any poet but Shakespeare, that none of the characters represented should be capable of securing or even exciting any finer sympathy or more serious interest than attends on the mere evolution of successive events or the mere display of emotions (except always in the great scene of the deposition) rather animal than spiritual in their expression of rage or tenderness or suffering. The exact balance of mutual effect, the final note of scenic harmony, between ideal conception and realistic execution is not yet struck with perfect accuracy of touch and security of hand; but on this point also Marlowe has here come nearer by many degrees to Shakespeare than any of his other predecessors have ever come near to Marlowe.

Of The Massacre at Paris (acted in 1593, printed 1600?) it is impossible to judge fairly from the garbled fragment of its genuine text which is all that has come down to us. To Mr. Collier, among numberless other obligations, we owe the discovery of a noble passage excised in the piratical edition which gives us the only version extant of this unlucky play, and which, it must be allowed, contains nothing of quite equal value. This is obviously an occasional and polemical work, and being as it is overcharged with the anti-Catholic passion of the time has a typical quality which gives it some empirical significance and interest. That antipapal ardour is indeed the only note of unity in a rough and ragged chronicle which shambles and stumbles onward from the death of Queen Jeanne of Navarre to the murder of the last Valois. It is possible to conjecture, what it would be fruitless to affirm, that it gave a hint in the next century to Nathaniel Lee for his far superior and really admirable tragedy on the same subject, issued ninety-seven years after the death of Marlowe.

In the tragedy of Dido Queen of Carthage (completed by Thomas Nash, produced and printed 1594), a servile fidelity to the text of Virgil's narrative has naturally resulted in the failure which might have been expected from an attempt at once to transcribe what is essentially inimitable and to reproduce it under the hopelessly alien conditions of dramatic adaptation. The one really noble passage in a generally feeble and incomposite piece of work is, however, uninspired by the unattainable model to which the dramatists have been only too obsequious in their subservience. It is as nearly certain as anything can be which depends chiefly upon cumulative and collateral evidence that the better part of what is best in the serious scenes of King Henry VI is mainly the work of Marlowe. That he is at any rate the principal author of the second and third plays passing under that name among the works of Shakespeare, but first and imperfectly printed as The Contention between the two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster, can hardly be now a matter of debate among competent judges. The crucial difficulty of criticism in this matter is to determine, if indeed we should not rather say to conjecture, the authorship of the humorous scenes in prose, showing as they generally do a power of comparatively high and pure comic realism to which nothing in the acknowledged works of any pre-Shakespearian dramatist is even remotely comparable. Yet, especially in the original text of these scenes as they stand unpurified by the ultimate revision of Shakespeare or his editors, there are tones and touches which recall rather the clownish horseplay and homely ribaldry of his predecessors than anything in the lighter interludes of his very earliest plays. We find the same sort of thing which we find in their writings, only better done than they usually do it, rather than such work as Shakespeare's a little worse done than usual. And even in the final text of the tragic or metrical scenes the highest note struck is always, with one magnificent and unquestionable exception, rather in the key of Marlowe at his best than of Shakespeare while yet in great measure his disciple.

A Taming of a Shrew, the play on which Shakespeare's comedy was founded, has been attributed, without good reason, to Marlowe. The passages in the play borrowed from Marlowe's works provide an argument against, rather than for his authorship; while the humorous character of the play is not in keeping with his other work. He may have had a share in The Troublesome Raigne of King John (1591), and Fleay conjectured that the plays Edward III and Richard III usually included in editions of Shakespeare are at least based on plays by Marlowe. Lust's Dominion, printed in 1657, was incorrectly ascribed to him, and a play no longer extant, The True History of George Scanderbage, was assumed by Fleay on the authority of an obscure passage of Gabriel Harvey to be his work. The Maiden's Holiday, assigned to Day and Marlowe, was destroyed by Warburton's cook. Day was considerably Marlowe's junior, and collaboration between the two is not probable.

Had every copy of Marlowe's boyish version or perversion of Ovid's Elegies (P. Ovidii Nasonis Amorum compressed into three books) deservedly perished in the flames to which it was judicially condemned by the sentence of a brace of prelates, it is possible that an occasional bookworm, it is certain that no poetical student, would have deplored its destruction, if its demerits could in that case have been imagined. His translation of the first book of Lucan alternately rises above the original and falls short of it,— often inferior to the Latin in point and weight of expressive rhetoric, now and then brightened by a clearer note of poetry and lifted into a higher mood of verse. Its terseness, vigour and purity of style would in any case have been praiseworthy, but are nothing less than admirable, if not wonderful, when we consider how close the translator has on the whole (in spite of occasional slips into inaccuracy) kept himself to the most rigid limit of literal representation, phrase by phrase and often line by line. The really startling force and felicity of occasional verses are worthier of remark than the inevitable stiffness and heaviness of others, when the technical difficulty of such a task is duly taken into account.

One of the most faultless lyrics and one of the loveliest fragments in the whole range of descriptive and fanciful poetry would have secured a place for Marlowe among the memorable men of his epoch, even if his plays had perished with himself. His Passionate Shepherd remains ever since unrivalled in its way — a way of pure fancy and radiant melody without break or lapse. Marlowe's poem of Hero and Leander (entered at Stationers' Hall in September 1593; completed and brought out by George Chapman, who divided Marlowe's work into two sestiads and added four of his own, 1598), closing with the sunrise which closes the night of the lovers' union, stands alone in its age, and far ahead of the work of any possible competitor between the death of Spenser and the dawn of Milton. In clear mastery of narrative and presentation, in melodious ease and simplicity of strength, it is not less pre-eminent than in the adorable beauty and impeccable perfection of separate lines or passages. It is doubtful whether the heroic couplet has ever been more finely handled.

The place and the value of Christopher Marlowe as a leader among English poets it would be almost impossible for historical criticism to over-estimate. To none of them all, perhaps, have so many of the greatest among them been so deeply and so directly indebted. Nor was ever any great writer's influence upon his fellows more utterly and unmixedly an influence for good. He first, and he alone, guided Shakespeare into the right way of work; his music, in which there is no echo of any man's before him, found its own echo in the more prolonged but hardly more exalted harmony of Milton's. He is the greatest discoverer, the most daring and inspired pioneer, in all our poetic literature. Before him there was neither genuine blank verse nor a genuine tragedy in our language. After his arrival the way was prepared, the paths were made straight, for Shakespeare.

(Algernon Charles Swinburne)


      Excerpted from:

      Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Ed. Vol XVII.

      Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910. 744.


Come live with me and be my love,

And we will all the pleasures prove

That hills and valleys, dale and field

And all the craggy mountains yields.

There will we sit upon the rocks,

Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,

By shallow rivers, to whose falls

Melodious birds sing madrigals.

There will I make the beds of roses

And a thousand fragrant posies;

A cap of flowers, and a krill

Embroider ‘d all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool,

Which from our pretty lambs we pull;

Fair-lined slippers for the cold,

With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds

With coral clasps and amber studs:

And if these pleasures may they move

Come live with me and be my love.

Thy silver dishes for thy meat

As precious as the gods do eat,

Shall on an ivory table be?

Prepared each day for they and me.


The shepherd swains shall dance and sing

For they delight each May-morning.

If these delights thy mind may move.

Then live with me and be my love.


(1552? – 1618)


Raleigh was an adventurer, courtier to Elizabeth I, navigator, author and poet.M

Walter Raleigh (also spelled Ralegh) was born into a well-connected gentry family at Hayes Barton in Devon in around 1552. He attended Oxford University for a time, fought with the Huguenots in France and later studied law in London.

In 1578, Raleigh sailed to America with explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert, his half brother. This expedition may have stimulated his plan to found a colony there. In 1585, he sponsored the first English colony in America on Roanoke Island (now North Carolina). The colony failed and another attempt at colonisation also failed in 1587. Raleigh has been credited with bringing potatoes and tobacco back to Britain, although both of these were already known via the Spanish. Raleigh did help to make smoking popular at court.

Raleigh first came to the attention of Elizabeth I in 1580, when he went to Ireland to help suppress an uprising in Munster. He soon became a favourite of the queen, and was knighted and appointed captain of the Queen's Guard (1587). He became a member of parliament in 1584 and received extensive estates in Ireland.

In 1592, the queen discovered Raleigh's secret marriage to one of her maids of honour, Elizabeth Throckmorton. This discovery threw Elizabeth into a jealous rage and Raleigh and his wife were imprisoned in the Tower. On his release, in an attempt to find favour with the queen, he set off on an unsuccessful expedition to find El Dorado, the fabled 'Golden Land', rumoured to be situated somewhere beyond the mouth of the Orinoco river in Guiana (now Venezuela).

Elizabeth's successor, James I of England and VI of Scotland, disliked Raleigh, and in 1603 he was accused of plotting against the king and sentenced to death. This was reduced to life imprisonment and Raleigh spent the next 12 years in the Tower of London, where he wrote the first volume of his 'History of the World' (1614).

In 1616, Raleigh was released to lead a second expedition to search for El Dorado. The expedition was a failure, and Raleigh also defied the king's instructions by attacking the Spanish. On his return to England, the death sentence was reinstated and Raleigh's execution took place on 29 October 1618.

Answer to Marlowe

If all the world and love were enough,

And truth in every shepherd’s tongue,

These pretty pleasure might me move

To live with thee and be my love.

Time drives the flock from field to fold,

When rivers rage and rocks grow old,

And Philomel becometh dumb;

The rest complain of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields

To wayward Winter reckoning yields:

A honey tongue, a heart of gall,

Is Fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,

Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy poises

Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten:

In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,

Thy coral clasps and amber studs,

All those in me no means can move

To come to thee and be my love.

But could youth last and love still breed,

Had joys no date nor age no need,

Then these delights my mind might move

To live with thee and be thy love.

The Poetry Contest: Sir Walter Ralegh, Christopher Marlowe and John Donne

Traditional and New Historicists have remarked on the fact that social connections among courtiers seem to have had an influence on Renaissance verse. Even though many scholars believe that verses were copied by individuals or groups according to theme, careful consideration of one particular exchange among Sir Walter Ralegh, Christopher Marlowe and John Donne indicates that Ralegh did not write verse in isolation, but instead, that he was influenced and inspired to write by the verse of his fellow courtiers. Marlowe's poem, commonly titled "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love," or "The Milke Maids Songe" which begins "Come liue with mee and bee my loue" created the topical arena for Ralegh's "Nimphs Reply to the Shepherd"/ "Milk Maids Mothers Answer" beginning "If all the world and loue were young." Versions of these two verses were printed together in England's Helcion between 1618 and 1629 (Boas 221). Finally, Donne's "The Bait," beginning "Come liue with mee and bee my loue," echoes Marlowe's first line, but in some manuscripts differs greatly in the second line. This set of verses illustrates the way that poets reacted to, rewrote and responded to each others' poetry and represents a light-hearted exchange which then travelled in manuscripts as a set comprised of two or three verses. In addition to the physical juxtaposition of the reply in the Folger MS Ze 28 and many manuscripts, several key elements connect these two poems. Ralegh's verse answers Marlowe's request: "Come liue with mee and bee my loue/And we wil all the pleasures proue" (3-4) in the last lines of his first stanza, answering the following request: "Then pretty pleasures might mee moue/To liue with mee and be thy loue" (3-4). Ralegh's answer suggests that the pleasures that Marlowe uses to entice his nymph will fade when time passes, and only if they were everlasting could the nymph be persuaded to join him. Ralegh echoes these lines again in the last lines of the final two stanzas which are almost the same: "All these in me noe means can moue/To come to thee and be thy loue" (19-20), and the final stanza reads "Then those delights my mind might moue/To liue wth thee, & be thy Loue" (23-24). This reply, echoing Marlowe's request as well as his opening line, reminds the reader that this is an answer to another poem--indicating that Ralegh knew Marlowe's poem.

For Ralegh the themes of the "Nimph's Reply to the Shepherd"-- perhaps more cleverly titled the "Milke Maids Mothers Answer"-- are familiar Renaissance tropes. He laments the passage of time and its ill effects on beauty, a lament is a clever response to the seductive claims of Marlowe's poem. In the second stanza that parallels Marlowe's second stanza, Ralegh asserts that the passage of time brings a change of seasons less romantic than the ones Marlowe describes: "But time driues flocks from field to fold/When rivers rage, and rocks grow cold" (5-6). In the fourth stanza, the reply also contests the value of the gifts in Marlowe's third and fourth stanza by showing how time transforms those gifts as well: "Thy gowns thy shooes, thy beds of roses,/Thy cap thy Kirtle, and thy Posies/Soone breake, Soon wither, soone forgotten" (13-15). Ralegh mentions the rest of Marlowe's images in the fifth stanza, where he denies the value of the "Thy Gift of straw and Ivir buds,/Thy Coral clasps & Amber studs," (17-18). Ralegh not only echoes Marlowe's lines, but he also uses the images and specific examples from Marlowe's poem cleverly to denounce the shepherd. Ralegh further scorns the shepherd for an offering-- the verse-- that is "In follie ripe, in reason rotten" (16). This line suggests the basis for the entire poem. He takes all of Marlowe's images and shows how none are as valuable as the shepherd claims. Ralegh's poem also highlights one of the ways that a poet might respond to another. While it is true that a poet might choose to write topically, the poet might examine a poem for a way to improve the logic or make the image more appropriate to his situation. When Ralegh concludes his poem, he acknowledges Marlowe's verse once more, for "could youth last, and loue still breed/Had ioyes no date, nor age no neede" (21-22), then those delights might move him, at least to rewrite the image or the poem better than the poet before him.

Also beginning his poem with the echo line "Come liue with mee and bee my loue" (1), Donne, rather than responding to the requests of the shepherd, takes some of the same pastoral images and creates a different scenario. He creates a more complicated poem. Donne does not try to hide the manipulative nature of the shepherd or milk maid. He takes the image of the conniving shepherd and applies it to the milk maid as well. The new pleasures that Donne promises are fraught "wth silken lines and silver hookes" (4), indicating a game of mutual manipulation. The final stanza asserts that the milk maid is also trying to seduce the shepherd; Donne, however, creates a shepherd who acknowledges that his milk maid will not be wooed with empty promises, and he also characterizes the milk maid differently: "For thy selfe are thine own bait" (26). In contrast to Ralegh's cataloguing of Marlowe's images, Donne does not use any of Marlowe's examples. Instead, he attempts to write a poem that is both more persuasive to the milk maid and more complimentary to her than Marlowe's attempt. Donne's reply seems to challenge Marlowe in a different way than Ralegh's did. Rather than attacking the false promises of Marlowe's shepherd in the voice of the milk maid, Donne creates a wiser, more persuasive shepherd. This poem seems to create an intertextual conversation about the romance between the shepherd and milk maid.


(1564 - 1616)


Shakespeare's reputation as dramatist and poet actor is unique and he is considered by many to be the greatest playwright of all time, although many of the facts of his life remain mysterious.

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire and was baptised on 26 April 1564. His father was a glovemaker and wool merchant and his mother, Mary Arden, the daughter of a well-to-do local landowner. Shakespeare was probably educated in Stratford's grammar school. The next documented event in Shakespeare's life is his marriage in 1582 to Anne Hathaway, daughter of a farmer. The couple had a daughter the following year and twins in 1585. There is now another gap, referred to by some scholars as 'the lost years', with Shakespeare only reappearing in London in 1592, when he was already working in the theatre

Shakespeare's acting career was spent with the Lord Chamberlain's Company, which was renamed the King's Company in 1603 when James succeeded to the throne. Among the actors in the group was the famous Richard Burbage. The partnership acquired interests in two theatres in the Southwark area of London, near the banks of the Thames - the Globe and the Blackfriars.

Shakespeare's poetry was published before his plays, with two poems appearing in 1593 and 1594, dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. Most of Shakespeare's sonnets were probably written at this time as well. Records of Shakespeare's plays begin to appear in 1594, and he produced roughly two a year until around 1611. His earliest plays include 'Henry VI' and 'Titus Andronicus'. 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', 'The Merchant of Venice' and 'Richard II' all date from the mid to late 1590s. Some of his most famous tragedies were written in the early 1600s including 'Hamlet', 'Othello', 'King Lear' and 'Macbeth'. His late plays, often known as the Romances, date from 1608 onwards and include 'The Tempest'.

Shakespeare spent the last five years of his life in Stratford, by now a wealthy man. He died on 23 April 1616 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. The first collected edition of his works was published in 1623 and is known as 'the First Folio

Shakespeare's sonnets are 154 poems in sonnet form written by William Shakespeare that deal with such themes as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality. All but two of the poems were first published in a 1609 quarto entitled SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS.: Never before imprinted. Sonnets 138 and 144 had previously been published in a 1599 miscellany entitled The Passionate Pilgrim. The quarto ends with "A Lover's Complaint", a narrative poem of 47 seven-line stanzas written in rhyme royal.

The first 17 sonnets, traditionally called the procreation sonnets, are ostensibly written to a young man urging him to marry and have children in order to immortalise his beauty by passing it to the next generation.[1] Other sonnets express the speaker's love for a young man; brood upon loneliness, death, and the transience of life; seem to criticise the young man for preferring a rival poet; express ambiguous feelings for the speaker's mistress; and pun on the poet's name. The final two sonnets are allegorical treatments of Greek epigrams referring to the "little Love-god" Cupid.

The publisher, Thomas Thorpe, entered the book in the Stationers' Register on 20 May 1609:

Tho. Thorpe. Entred for his copie under the handes of master Wilson and master Lownes Wardenes a booke called Shakespeares sonnettes vjd.

Whether Thorpe used an authorized manuscript from Shakespeare or an unauthorized copy is unknown. George Eld printed the quarto, and the run was divided between the booksellers William Aspley and John Wright.














Given its obliquity, since the 19th century the dedication has become, in Colin Burrow's words, a 'dank pit in which speculation wallows and founders'. Don Foster concludes that the result of all the speculation has yielded only two "facts," which themselves have been the object of much debate: First, that the form of address (Mr.) suggests that W.H. was an untitled gentleman, and second, that W.H., whoever he was, is identified as "the only begetter" of Shakespeare's Sonnets (whatever the word "begetter" is taken to mean)

The initials 'T.T.' are taken to refer to the publisher, Thomas Thorpe, though Thorpe usually signed prefatory matter only if the author was out of the country or dead.[3] Foster points out, however, that Thorpe's entire corpus of such consists of only four dedications and three stationer's prefaces.[4]. That Thorpe signed the dedication rather than the author is seen as evidence that he published the work without obtaining Shakespeare's permission.[5]

The capital letters and periods following each word were probably intended to resemble an ancient Roman lapidary inscription or monumental brass, thereby accentuating Shakespeare's declaration in Sonnet 55 that the work will confer immortality to the subjects of the work:[6]

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments

Of princes shall outlive this pow'rful rhyme,

126 of Shakespeare's sonnets are addressed to a young man (often called the "Fair Youth"). Broadly speaking, there are two branches of theories concerning the identity of Mr. W.H.[citation needed]: those that take him to be identical to the youth, and those that assert him to be a separate person.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of contenders:

William Herbert (the Earl of Pembroke). Herbert is seen by many as the most likely candidate, since he was also the dedicatee of the First Folio of Shakespeare's works. However the "obsequious" Thorpe would be unlikely to have addressed a lord as "Mr".[7]

• Henry Wriothesley (the Earl of Southampton). Many have argued that 'W.H.' is Southampton's initials reversed, and that he is a likely candidate as he was the dedicatee of Shakespeare's poems Venus & Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Southampton was also known for his good looks, and has often been argued to be the 'fair youth' of the sonnets. The reservations about "Mr." also apply here.

• A simple printing error for Shakespeare's initials, 'W.S.' or 'W. Sh'. This was suggested by Bertrand Russell in his memoirs, and also by Foster[8] and by Jonathan Bate[9]. Bate supports his point by reading 'onlie' as something like 'peerless', 'singular' and 'begetter' as 'maker', ie. 'writer'. Foster takes "onlie" to mean only one, which he argues eliminates any particular subject of the poems, since they are addressed to more than one person. The phrase 'Our Ever-Living Poet', according to Foster, refers to God, not Shakespeare. 'Poet' comes from the Greek 'poetes' which means 'maker', a fact remarked upon in various contemporary texts; also, in Elizabethan English the word 'maker' was used to mean 'poet'. These researcher believe the phrase 'our ever-living poet' might easily have been taken to mean 'our immortal maker' (God). The 'eternity' promised us by our immortal maker would then be the eternal life that is promised us by God, and the dedication would conform with the standard formula of the time, according to which one person wished another 'happiness [in this life] and eternal bliss [in heaven]'. Shakespeare himself, on this reading, is 'Mr. W. [S]H.' the 'onlie begetter', i.e., the sole author, of the sonnets, and the dedication is advertising the authenticity of the poems.

William Hall, a printer who had worked with Thorpe on other publications. According to this theory, the dedication is simply Thorpe's tribute to his colleague and has nothing to do with Shakespeare. This theory, originated by Sir Sidney Lee in his A Life of William Shakespeare (1898), was continued by Colonel B.R. Ward in his The Mystery of Mr. W.H. (1923), and has been endorsed recently by Brian Vickers, who notes Thorpe uses such 'visual puns' elsewhere.[10] Supporters of this theory point out that "ALL" following "MR. W. H." spells "MR. W. HALL" with the deletion of a period. Using his initials W.H., Hall had edited a collection of the poems of Robert Southwell that was printed by George Eld, the same printer for the 1609 Sonnets.[11] There is also documentary evidence of one William Hall of Hackney who signed himself 'WH' three years earlier, but it is uncertain if this was the printer.

Sir William Harvey, Southampton's stepfather. This theory assumes that the fair youth and Mr. W.H. are separate people, and that Southampton is the fair youth. Harvey would be the "begetter" of the Sonnets in the sense that it would be he who provided them to the publisher, after the death of Southampton's mother removed a obstacle to publication. The reservations about the use of "Mr" did not apply in the case of a knight.[7][12]

William Himself (i.e. Shakespeare). This theory was proposed by the German scholar D. Barnstorff, but has not found much support.[7]

William Haughton, a contemporary dramatist.[13][14]

William Hart, Shakespeare's nephew and male heir. Proposed by Richard Farmer, but Hart was nine years of age at the time of publication, and this suggestion is regarded as unlikely.[15]

Who He. In his 2002 Oxford Shakespeare edition of the sonnets, Colin Burrow argues that the dedication is deliberately mysterious and ambiguous, possibly standing for "Who He", a conceit also used in a contemporary pamphlet. He suggests that it might have been created by Thorpe simply to encourage speculation and discussion (and hence, sales of the text).[16]

Willie Hughes. The 18th century scholar Thomas Tyrwhitt first proposed the theory that the Mr. W.H. (and the Fair Youth) was one "William Hughes", based on presumed puns on the name in the sonnets. The argument was repeated in Edmund Malone's 1790 edition of the sonnets. The most famous exposition of the theory is in Oscar Wilde's short story "The Portrait of Mr. W.H.", in which Wilde, or rather the story's narrator, describes the puns on "will" and "hues" in the sonnets, (notably Sonnet 20 among others), and argues that they were written to a seductive young actor named Willie Hughes who played female roles in Shakespeare's plays. There is no evidence for the existence of any such person


The sonnets are almost all constructed from three four-line stanzas (called quatrains) and a final couplet composed in iambic pentameter[17] (a meter used extensively in Shakespeare's plays) with the rhyme scheme abab cdcd efef gg (this form is now known as the Shakespearean sonnet). The only exceptions are Sonnets 99, 126, and 145. Number 99 has fifteen lines. Number 126 consists of six couplets, and two blank lines marked with italic brackets; 145 is in iambic tetrameters, not pentameters. Often, the beginning of the third quatrain marks the volta ("turn"), or the line in which the mood of the poem shifts, and the poet expresses a revelation or epiphany.

There is another variation on the standard English structure, found for example in sonnet 29. The normal rhyme scheme is changed by repeating the b of quatrain one in quatrain three where the f should be. This leaves the sonnet distinct between both Shakespearean and Spenserian styles.

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself, and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,

Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee,—and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;

For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Whether the author intended to step over the boundaries of the standard rhyme scheme will always be in question. Some, like Sir Denis Bray, find the repetition of the words and rhymes to be a "serious technical blemish",[18] while others, like Kenneth Muir, think "the double use of 'state' as a rhyme may be justified, in order to bring out the stark contrast between the Poet's apparently outcast state and the state of joy described in the third quatrain."[19] Given that this is the only sonnet in the collection that follows this pattern, its hard to say if it was purposely done. But most of the poets at the time were well educated; "schooled to be sensitive to variations in sounds and word order that strike us today as remarkably, perhaps even excessively, subtle." [20] Shakespeare must have been well aware of this subtle change to the firm structure of the English sonnets.


Some scholars of the sonnets refer to these characters as the Fair Youth, the Rival Poet, and the Dark Lady, and claim that the speaker expresses admiration for the Fair Youth's beauty, and later has an affair with the Dark Lady.[citation needed] It is not known whether the poems and their characters are fiction or autobiographical. If they are autobiographical, the identities of the characters are open to debate. Various scholars, most notably A. L. Rowse, have attempted to identify the characters with historical individuals.

Fair Youth

The 'Fair Youth' is an unnamed young man to whom sonnets 1-126 are addressed. The poet writes of the young man in romantic and loving language, a fact which has led several commentators to suggest a homosexual relationship between them, while others read it as platonic love, or even as the love of a father for his son.

The earliest poems in the collection do not imply a close personal relationship; instead, they recommend the benefits of marriage and children. With the famous sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day") the tone changes dramatically towards romantic intimacy. Sonnet 20 explicitly laments that the young man is not a woman. Most of the subsequent sonnets describe the ups and downs of the relationship, culminating with an affair between the poet and the Dark Lady. The relationship seems to end when the Fair Youth succumbs to the Lady's charms.

There have been many attempts to identify the Friend. Shakespeare's one-time patron, the Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton is the most commonly suggested candidate,[citation needed] although Shakespeare's later patron, William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, has recently become popular [1]. Both claims have much to do with the dedication of the sonnets to 'Mr. W.H.', "the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets": the initials could apply to either Earl. However, while Shakespeare's language often seems to imply that the 'friend' is of higher social status than himself, this may not be the case. The apparent references to the poet's inferiority may simply be part of the rhetoric of romantic submission. An alternative theory, most famously espoused by Oscar Wilde's short story 'The Portrait of Mr. W.H.' notes a series of puns that may suggest the sonnets are written to a boy actor called William Hughes; however, Wilde's story acknowledges that there is no evidence for such a person's existence. Samuel Butler believed that the friend was a seaman, and recently Joseph Pequigney ('Such Is My love') an unknown commoner.

The Dark Lady

She is also described as dark-haired.

William Wordsworth was unimpressed by these sonnets. He wrote that:

These sonnets, beginning at 127, to his Mistress, are worse than a puzzle-peg. They are abominably harsh, obscure & worthless. The others are for the most part much better, have many fine lines, very fine lines & passages. They are also in many places warm with passion. Their chief faults, and heavy ones they are, are sameness, tediousness, quaintness, & elaborate obscurity.

The Rival Poet

Main article: Rival Poet

The Rival Poet's identity has always remained a mystery, though there is a general consensus that the two most likely candidates are Christopher Marlowe and George Chapman. However, there is no hard evidence that the character had a real-life counterpart. The Poet sees the Rival as competition for fame and patronage. The sonnets most commonly identified as The Rival Poet group exist within the Fair Youth series in sonnets 78–86.[21]


One interpretation is that Shakespeare's Sonnets are in part a pastiche or parody of the three centuries-long tradition of Petrarchan love sonnets; in them, Shakespeare consciously inverts conventional gender roles as delineated in Petrarchan sonnets to create a more complex and potentially troubling depiction of human love.[22] Shakespeare also violated many sonnet rules which had been strictly obeyed by his fellow poets: he plays with gender roles (20), he speaks on human evils that do not have to do with love (66), he comments on political events (124), he makes fun of love (128), he speaks openly about sex (129), he parodies beauty (130), and even introduces witty pornography (151)

Legacy .

Coming as they do at the end of conventional Petrarchan sonneteering, Shakespeare's sonnets can also be seen as a prototype, or even the beginning, of a new kind of 'modern' love poetry. During the eighteenth century, their reputation in England was relatively low; as late as 1805, The Critical Review could still credit John Milton with the perfection of the English sonnet. As part of the renewed interest in Shakespeare's original work that accompanied Romanticism, the sonnets rose steadily in reputation during the nineteenth century.[23]

The outstanding cross-cultural importance and influence of the sonnets is demonstrated by the large number of translations that have been made of them. To date in the German-speaking countries alone, there have been 70 complete translations since 1784. There is no major written language into which the sonnets have not been translated, including Latin,[24] Turkish, Japanese, Esperanto,[25] and even Klingon.[26]

The sonnets are often referenced in popular culture. For example in a 2007 episode of Doctor Who, entitled The Shakespeare Code, Shakespeare began a good-bye to Martha Jones in the form of Sonnet 18, referring to her as his dark lady. This is intended to indicate that Martha is the famed Dark Lady from these sonnets.

(Sonnet 18)

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

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,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Some time too hot the eye of haven shines

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometime declines.

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;

Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long live this, and this gives life to thee.

(Sonnet 65)

Since brass, nor stone, nor boundless sea

Since brass, nor stone, nor boundless sea,

But sad mortality o’ersways their power

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea

Whose action is no stronger than a flower?

O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out

Against the wreckful siege of battering days,

When rocks impregnable are not so stout,

Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?

O fearful meditation! Where, alack,

Shall Time’s best jewel from Time’s chest lie hid?

Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?

Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?

O, none, unless this miracle have might,

That in black ink my love may still shine bright.


(1591 - 1674)


Born in Cheapside, London, he was the seventh child and fourth son of Nicholas Herrick, a prosperous goldsmith, who fell out of a window when Robert was a year old (whether this was suicide remains unclear). The tradition that Herrick received his education at Westminster is groundless. It is more likely that (like his uncle's children) he attended The Merchant Taylors' School. In 1607 he became apprenticed to his uncle, Sir William Herrick, who was a goldsmith and jeweler to the king. The apprenticeship ended after only six years when Herrick, at age twenty-two, matriculated at St John's College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1617.[2] Robert Herrick became a member of the Sons of Ben, a group centered upon an admiration for the works of Ben Jonson. Herrick took holy orders in 1623, and became vicar of Dean Prior in Devonshire, but lost his position because of his Royalist bent.

Civil War

In the wake of the English Civil War, his position was revoked on account of his refusal to make pledge to the Solemn League and Covenant. He then returned to London. During this time, he lived in Westminster, in London, depending on the charity of his friends and family. He spent some time preparing his lyric poems for publication, and had them printed in 1648 under the title Hesperides; or the Works both Human and Divine of Robert Herrick, with a dedication to the Prince of Wales.

Restoration and later life

When King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, Herrick petitioned for his own restoration to his living. Perhaps King Charles felt kindly towards this genial man, who had written verses celebrating the births of both Charles II and his brother James before the Civil War. Herrick became the vicar of Dean Prior again in the summer of 1662 and lived there until his death in October 1674, at the ripe age of 83. His date of death is not known, but he was buried on 15 October. Herrick was a bachelor all his life, and many of the women he names in his poems are thought to be fictional.

Herrick sets out his subject-matter in the poem he printed at the beginning of his collection, The Argument of his Book. He dealt with English country life and its seasons, village customs, complimentary poems to various ladies and his friends, themes taken from classical writings and a solid bedrock of Christian faith, not intellectualized but underpinning the rest.

Herrick never married, and none of his love-poems seem to connect directly with any one beloved woman. He loved the richness of sensuality and the variety of life, and this is shown vividly in such poems as Cherry-ripe, Delight in Disorder and Upon Julia’s Clothes

The over-riding message of Herrick’s work is that life is short, the world is beautiful, love is splendid, and we must use the short time we have to make the most of it. This message can be seen clearly in To the Virgins, to make much of Time, To Daffodils, To Blossoms and Corinna going a-Maying, where the warmth and exuberance of what seems to have been a kindly and jovial personality comes over strongly.

The opening stanza in one of his more famous poems, "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time", is as follows:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,

Old Time is still a-flying;

And this same flower that smiles today,

Tomorrow will be dying.

(In Elizabethan slang, "dying" referred both to mortality and to orgasm.) [4]This poem is an example of the carpe diem genre; the popularity of Herrick's poems of this kind helped revive the genre.

. His poems were not widely popular at the time they were published. His style was strongly influenced by Ben Jonson, by the classical Roman writers, and by the poems of the late Elizabethan age. This must have seemed quite old-fashioned to an audience whose tastes were tuned to the complexities of the metaphysical poets such as John Donne and Andrew Marvell. His works were rediscovered in the early nineteenth century, and have been regularly printed ever since.

The Victorian poet Swinburne described Herrick as the greatest song writer...ever born of English race. It is certainly true that despite his use of classical allusions and names, his poems are easier for modern readers to understand than those of many of his contemporaries.

To Daffodils

Fair Daffodils, we weep to see

You haste away so soon;

As yet the early rising sun

Has not attained his noon.

Stay, Stay,

Until the hasting day

Has run

But to the even - song;

And, having prayed together, we

Will go with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you.

We have as short a spring;

As quick a growth to meet decay,

As you, or anything.

We die

As your hours do, and dry


Like to the summer’s rain;

Or as the pearls of morning’s dew,

Never to be found again.




John Donne was born in London, England, into a Roman Catholic family at a time when open practice of that religion was illegal in England.[3] Donne was the third of six children. His father, also named John Donne, was of Welsh descent, and a warden of the Ironmongers Company in the City of London. Donne's father was a respected Catholic who avoided unwelcome government attention out of fear of being persecuted for his religious faith.[4][5]

Donne's father died in 1576, leaving his wife, Elizabeth Heywood, the responsibility of raising their children.[5] Elizabeth Heywood was also from a recusant Catholic family, the daughter of John Heywood, the playwright, and sister of Rev. Jasper Heywood, a Jesuit priest and translator. She was a great-niece of the Catholic martyr Thomas More.[6] This tradition of martyrdom would continue among Donne’s closer relatives, many of whom were executed or exiled for religious reasons.[7] Donne was educated privately; however there is no evidence to support the popular claim that he was taught by Jesuits.[8] Donne's mother married Dr. John Syminges, a wealthy widower with three children, a few months after Donne's father died. In 1577, his mother died, followed by two more of his sisters, Mary and Katherine, in 1581.

Donne was a student at Hart Hall, now Hertford College, Oxford, from the age of 11. After three years at Oxford he was admitted to the University of Cambridge, where he studied for another three years.[9] He was unable to obtain a degree from either institution because of his Catholicism, since he could not take the Oath of Supremacy required of graduates.[6]

In 1591 he was accepted as a student at the Thavies Inn legal school, one of the Inns of Chancery in London. In 1592 he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court.[6] His brother Henry was also a university student prior to his arrest in 1593

harbouring a Catholic priest, William Harrington (priest), whom Henry betrayed under torture.[3] Harrington was drawn and quartered, i.e. tortured on the rack, hanged until not quite dead, then was subjected to disembowelment.[3] Henry Donne died in Newgate prison of bubonic plague, leading John Donne to begin questioning his Catholic faith.[5]

During and after his education, Donne spent much of his considerable inheritance on women, literature, pastimes and travel.[4][6] Although there is no record detailing precisely where he traveled, it is known that he traveled across Europe and later fought with the Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh against the Spanish at Cádiz (1596) and the Azores (1597) and witnessed the loss of the Spanish flagship, the San Felipe.[1][5][10] According to Izaak Walton, who wrote a biography of Donne in he returned not back into England till he had stayed some years, first in Italy, and then in Spain, where he made many useful observations of those countries, their laws and manner of government, and returned perfect in their languages 1640:

By the age of 25 he was well prepared for the diplomatic career he appeared to be seeking.[10] He was appointed chief secretary to the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, Sir Thomas Egerton, and was established at Egerton’s London home, York House, Strand close to the Palace of Whitehall, then the most influential social centre in England

Marriage to Anne More

During the next four years he fell in love with Egerton's niece Anne More, and they were married just before Christmas[3] in 1601 against the wishes of both Egerton and her father, George More, Lieutenant of the Tower. This ruined his career and earned him a short stay in Fleet Prison, along with the priest who married them and the man who acted as a witness to the wedding. Donne was released when the marriage was proven valid, and soon secured the release of the other two. Walton tells us that when he wrote to his wife to tell her about losing his post, he wrote after his name: John Donne, Anne Donne, Un-done. It was not until 1609 that Donne was reconciled with his father-in-law and received his wife's dowry.

Following his release, Donne had to accept a retired country life in Pyrford, Surrey.[6] Over the next few years he scraped a meagre living as a lawyer, depending on his wife’s cousin Sir Francis Wolly to house him, his wife, and their children. Since Anne Donne had a baby almost every year, this was a very generous gesture. Though he practiced law and worked as an assistant pamphleteer to Thomas Morton, he was in a constant state of financial insecurity, with a growing family to provide for.[6]

Anne bore him 12 children in 16 years of marriage (including two stillbirths—their eighth and then in 1617 their last child); indeed, she spent most of her married life either pregnant or nursing. The 10 surviving children were named Constance, John, George, Francis, Lucy (after Donne's patroness Lucy, Countess of Bedford, her godmother), Bridget, Mary, Nicholas, Margaret and Elizabeth. Francis, Nicholas and Mary died before they were ten. In a state of despair, Donne noted that the death of a child would mean one less mouth to feed, but he could not afford the burial expenses. During this time Donne wrote, but did not publish, Biathanatos, his defence of suicide.[7] His wife died on 15 August 1617, five days after giving birth to their twelfth child, a still-born baby. Donne mourned her deeply, including writing the 17th Holy Sonnet.[6] He never remarried; this was quite unusual for the time, especially as he had a large family to bring up.

Early poetry

Donne's earliest poems showed a developed knowledge of English society coupled with sharp criticism of its problems. His satires dealt with common Elizabethan topics, such as corruption in the legal system, mediocre poets, and pompous courtiers. His images of sickness, vomit, manure, and plague assisted in the creation of a strongly satiric world populated by all the fools and knaves of England. His third satire, however, deals with the problem of true religion, a matter of great importance to Donne. He argued that it was better to examine carefully one's religious convictions than blindly to follow any established tradition, for none would be saved at the Final Judgment, by claiming "A Harry, or a Martin taught [them] this."[7]

Donne's early career was also notable for his erotic poetry, especially his elegies, in which he employed unconventional metaphors, such as a flea biting two lovers being compared to sex.[10] In Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going to Bed, he poetically undressed his mistress and compared the act of fondling to the exploration of America. In Elegy XVIII, he compared the gap between his lover's breasts (the intermammary sulcus) to the Hellespont.[10] Donne did not publish these poems, although did allow them to circulate widely in manuscript form.[10

Career and later life

Donne was elected as Member of Parliament for the constituency of Brackley in 1602, but this was not a paid position and Donne struggled to provide for his family, relying heavily upon rich friends.[6] The fashion for coterie poetry of the period gave him a means to seek patronage and many of his poems were written for wealthy friends or patrons, especially Sir Robert Drury, who came to be Donne's chief patron in 1610.[10] Donne wrote the two Anniversaries, An Anatomy of the World (1611) and Of the Progress of the Soul, (1612), for Drury. While historians are not certain as to the precise reasons for which Donne left the Catholic Church, he was certainly in communication with the King, James I of England, and in 1610 and 1611 he wrote two anti-Catholic polemics: Pseudo-Martyr and Ignatius his Conclave.[6] Although James was pleased with Donne's work, he refused to reinstate him at court and instead urged him to take holy orders.[5] At length, Donne acceded to the King's wishes and in 1615 was ordained into the Church of England

Donne became a Royal Chaplain in late 1615, Reader of Divinity at Lincoln's Inn in 1616, and received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Cambridge University in 1618.[6] Later in 1618 he became chaplain to Viscount Doncaster, who was on an embassy to the princes of Germany. Donne did not return to England until 1620.[6] In 1621 Donne was made Dean of St Paul's, a leading (and well-paid) position in the Church of England and one he held until his death in 1631. During his period as Dean his daughter Lucy died, aged eighteen. It was in late November and early December 1623 that he suffered a nearly fatal illness, thought to be either typhus or a combination of a cold followed by the seven-day relapsing fever. During his convalescence he wrote a series of meditations and prayers on health, pain, and sickness that were published as a book in 1624 under the title of Devotions upon Emergent Occasions.[12] later became well known for its phrase "for whom the bell tolls" and the statement that "no man is an island". In 1624 he became vicar of St Dunstan-in-the-West, and 1625 a Royal Chaplain to Charles I.[6] He earned a reputation as an eloquent preacher and 160 of his sermons have survived, including the famous Death’s Duel sermon delivered at the Palace of Whitehall before King Charles I in February 1631

Some have speculated that Donne's numerous illnesses, financial strain, and the deaths of his friends all contributed to the development of a more somber and pious tone in his later poems.[10] The change can be clearly seen in "An Anatomy of the World" (1611), a poem that Donne wrote in memory of Elizabeth Drury, daughter of his patron, Sir Robert Drury. This poem treats Elizabeth's demise with extreme gloominess, using it as a symbol for the Fall of Man and the destruction of the universe.[10]

The poem "A Nocturnal upon S. Lucy's Day, Being the Shortest Day",, concerns the poet's despair at the death of a loved one. In it Donne expresses a feeling of utter negation and hopelessness, saying that "I am every dead / Of absence, darkness, death." This famous work was probably written in 1627 when both Donne's friend Lucy, Countess of Bedford, and his daughter Lucy Donne died. Three years later, in 1630, Donne wrote his will on Saint Lucy's day (13 December), the date the poem describes as "Both the year's, and the day's deep midnight."

The increasing gloominess of Donne's tone may also be observed in the religious works that he began writing during the same period. His early belief in the value of skepticism now gave way to a firm faith in the traditional teachings of the Bible. Having converted to the Anglican Church, Donne focused his literary career on religious literature. He quickly became noted for his sermons and religious poems. The lines of these sermons would come to influence future works of English literature, such as Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, which took its title from a passage in Meditation XVII of Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, and Thomas Merton’s No Man is an Island, which took its title from the same source.

Towards the end of his life Donne wrote works that challenged death, and the fear that it inspired in many men, on the grounds of his belief that those who die are sent to Heaven to live eternally. One example of this challenge is his Holy Sonnet X, from which come the famous lines “Death, be not proud, though some have called thee / Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.” Even as he lay dying during Lent in 1631, he rose from his sickbed and delivered the Death's Duel sermon, which was later described as his own funeral sermon. Death’s Duel portrays life as a steady descent to suffering and death, yet sees hope in salvation and immortality through an embrace of God, Christ and the Resurrection.[7][10][13]


It is thought that his final illness was stomach cancer, although this has not been proved. He died on 31 March 1631 having written many poems, most only in manuscript. Donne is buried in St Paul's Cathedral, where a memorial statue of him was erected (carved from a drawing of him in his shroud), with a Latin epigraph probably composed by himself.


John Donne was famous for his metaphysical poetry in the 17th century. His work suggests a healthy appetite for life and its pleasures, while also expressing deep emotion. He did this through the use of conceits, wit and intellect—as seen in the poems "The Sun Rising" and "Batter My Heart".

Donne is considered a master of the metaphysical conceit, an extended metaphor that combines two vastly different ideas into a single idea, often using imagery.[7] An example of this is his equation of lovers with saints in "The Canonization". Unlike the conceits found in other Elizabethan poetry, most notably Petrarchan conceits, which formed clichéd comparisons between more closely related objects (such as a rose and love), metaphysical conceits go to a greater depth in comparing two completely unlike objects, although sometimes in the mode of Shakespeare's radical paradoxes and imploded contraries. One of the most famous of Donne's conceits is found in "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" where he compares two lovers who are separated to the two legs of a compass.

Donne's works are also witty, employing paradoxes, puns, and subtle yet remarkable analogies. His pieces are often ironic and cynical, especially regarding love and human motives. Common subjects of Donne's poems are love (especially in his early life), death (especially after his wife's death), and religion.[7]

John Donne's poetry represented a shift from classical forms to more personal poetry.[14] Donne is noted for his poetic metre, which was structured with changing and jagged rhythms that closely resemble casual speech (it was for this that the more classical-minded Ben Jonson commented that "Donne, for not keeping of accent, deserved hanging").[7]

Some scholars believe that Donne's literary works reflect the changing trends of his life, with love poetry and satires from his youth and religious sermons during his later years. Other scholars, such as Helen Gardner, question the validity of this dating—most of his poems were published posthumously (1633). The exception to these is his Anniversaries which were published in 1612 and Devotions upon Emergent Occasions published in 1624. His sermons are also dated, sometimes specifically by date and year.

His work has received much criticism over the years, especially concerning his metaphysical form.[7] Donne's immediate successors in poetry tended to regard his works with ambivalence, while the Neoclassical poets regarded his conceits as abuse of the metaphor. He was revived by Romantic poets such as Coleridge and Browning, though his more recent revival in the early twentieth century by poets such as T. S. Eliot tended to portray him as an anti-Romantic.[15]


John Donne is commemorated as a priest in the calendar of the Church of England and in the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on 31 March.[16]

Sylvia Plath, interviewed on BBC Radio in late 1962, said the following about a book review of her collection of poems titled The Colossus that had been published in the United Kingdom two years earlier: "I remember being appalled when someone criticized me for beginning just like John Donne but not quite managing to finish like John Donne, and I felt the weight of English literature on me at that point."[17]

The memorial to John Donne, modelled after the engraving pictured above, was one of the few such memorials to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666 and now appears in St Paul's Cathedral, where Donne is buried.

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, overthrow me and bend.

Your force, to break, blow, burn and make me new.

I, like an usurped town, to another due,

Labor to admit you, but O, to no end,

Reason your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captive ‘d, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved 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.


(1908 - 1674)


On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent,

Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,

And that one talent which is death to hide,

Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent,

To serve there with my maker, and present.

My true account, lest He returning chide,

Dot god exact day - labor, light denied,

If only ask; but patience to prevent.

That murmur, soon replies, god dot not need

Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best

Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best, his state

Is kingly, Thousands at his bidding speed.

And post over land and ocean without rest;

They also serve who only stand and wait.

One of the greatest poets of the English language, best-known for his epic poem PARADISE LOST (1667). Milton's powerful, rhetoric prose and the eloquence of his poetry had an immense influence especially on the 18th-century verse. Besides poems, Milton published pamphlets defending civil and religious rights.

"Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden."

(from Paradise Lost)

John Milton was born in London. His mother, Sarah Jeffrey, a very religious person, was the daughter of a merchant sailor. Milton's father, named John, too, had risen to prosperity as a scrivener or law writer − he also composed madrigasl and psalm settings. The family was wealthy enough to afford a second house in the country. Milton's first teachers were his father, from whom he inherited love for art and music, and the writer Thomas Young, a graduate of St Andrews University. Milton took part in small domestic consorts, he played often a small organ and he had "delicate, tuneable voice". At the age of twelve Milton was admitted to St Paul's School near his home. Five years later he entered Christ's College, Cambridge. While considering himself destined for the ministry, he began to write poetry in Latin, Italian, and English. One of Milton'e earliest works, 'On the Death of a Fair Infant' (1626), was written after his sister Anne Phillips had suffered from a miscarriage. 'In inventorem bombardae' (On the inventor of gunpowder), a piece in a series on the occasion of the Gunpowder Plot, contains Milton's first portrayal of Satan.

Milton did not adjust to university life. He was called, half in scorn, "The Lady of Christ's", and after starting a fist fight with his tutor, he was expelled for a term. On leaving Cambridge Milton had given up his original plan to become a priest. He adopted no profession but spent six years at leisure in his father's home, writing during that time L'ALLEGRO, IL PENSEROSO (1632), COMUS (1634), and LYCIDAS (1637), about the meaning of death, which was composed after the death of his friend Edward King. Milton wrote in Latin as was usual for the time. His first published poem was the sonnet 'An Epitaph on the Admirable Dramatic Poet, W. Shakespeare', which was printed anonymously in the Second Folio of Shakespeare's works (1632).

In 1635 the Miltons moved to Horton, Buckinghamshire, where John pursued his studies in Greek, Latin, and Italian. He traveled in France and Italy in the late 1630s, meeting in Paris the jurist and theologian Hugo Grotius and the astronomer Galileo Galilei in Florence − there are references to Galileo's telescope in Paradise Lost. His conversation with the famous scientist Milton recorded in his celebrated plea for a free speech and free discussion, AREOPAGITICA (1644), in which he stated that books "preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect bred in them." Milton returned to London in 1639, and set up a school with his nephews and a few others as pupils. He had planned to write an epic based on the Arthurian legends, but then gave up his literary pursuits, partly due to the Civil War, which divided the country as Oliver Cromwell fought against the king, Charles I.

Concerned with the Puritan cause, Milton published a series of pamphlets against episcopacy (1642), on divorce (1643), in defense of the liberty of the press (1644), and in support of the regicides (1649). He also served as the secretary for foreign languages in Cromwell's government. After the death of Charles I, Milton expressed in THE TENURE OF KINGS AND MAGISTRATES (1649) the view that the people have the right to depose and punish tyrants.

In 1651 Milton became blind, but like Jorge Luis Borges centuries later, blindness helped him to stimulate his verbal richness. "He sacrificed his sight, and then he remembered his first desire, that of being a poet," Borges wrote in one of his lectures. One of his assistants was the poet and satirist Andew Marvell (1621-78), who spoke for him in Parliament, when his political opinions stirred much controversy. After the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, Milton was arrested as a noted defender of the Commonwealth, but was soon released. However, for his opposition Milton was forced to pay a massive fine. Besides public burning of EIKONKLASTES (1649) and the first DEFENSIO (1651) in Paris and Toulouse, Milton escaped from more punishment, but he became a relatively poor man. The manuscript of Paradise Lost he sold for £5 to Samuel Simmons, and was promised another £5 if the first edition of 1,300 copies sold out. This was done in 18 months.

Milton was married three times. His first marriage started unhappily; this experience promted the poet to write his famous essays on divorce. He had married in 1642 Mary Powell, seventeen at that time. She grew soon bored with her busy husbandand went back home where she stayed for three years. Their first child, Anne, was born in 1646. Mary died in 1652 and four years later Milton married Katherine Woodcock; she died in 1658. For her memory Milton devoted the sonnet 'To His Late Wife'. In the 1660s Milton moved with his third wife, Elizabeth Minshull, again a much younger woman, to what is now Bunhill Row. The marriage was happy, in spite of the great difference of their ages. Milton spent in Bunhill Row the remaining years of his life, apart from a brief visit to Chalfont St Giles in 1665 during a period of plague. His late poems Milton dictated to his daughter, nephews, friends, disciples, and paid amanuenses.

In THE DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE OF DIVORCE (1643), composed after Mary had deserter him, Milton argued that a true marriage was of mind as well as of body, and that the chaste and modest were more likely to find themselves "chained unnaturally together" in unsuitable unions than those who had in youth lived loosely and enjoyed more varied experience. Though Milton morally austere and conscientious, some of his religious beliefs were very unconventional, and came in conflict with the official Puritan stand. Milton who did not believe in the divine birth, "believed perhaps nothing", as Ford Madox Ford says in The March of Literature (1938).

Milton died on November 8, 1674. He was buried beside his father in the church of St Giles, Cripplegate. It has been claimed that Milton's grave was desecrated when the church was undergoing repairs. All the teeth and "a large quantity of the hair" were taken as souvenirs by grave robbers.

Milton's achievement in the field of poetry was recognized after the appearance of Paradise Lost. Before it the writer himself had showed some doubt of the worth of his work: "By labor and intent study (which I take to be my portion in this life), joined with the strong propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave something so written to after-times, as they should not willingly let it die." (from The Reason of Church Government, 1641) Milton's cosmic vision has occasionally provoked critical discussion. Even T.S. Eliot has attacked the author and described him as one whose sensuousness had been "withered by book-learning." Eliot claimed that Milton's poetry '"could only be an influence for the worse."

The theme of Fall and expulsion from Eden had been in Milton's mind from the 1640s. His ambition was to compose an epic poem to rival the ancient poets, such as Homer and Virgil, whose grand vision in Aeneid left traces in his work. Originally it was issued in 10 books in 1667, and in 12 books in the second edition of 1674. Milton, who wanted to be a great poet, had also cope with the towering figure of Shakespeare, who had died in 1616 − Milton was seven at that time. In his own hierarchy, Milton placed highest in the scale the epic, below it was the drama.

Paradise Lost is not easy to read with its odd syntax, difficult vocabulary, and complex, but noble style. Moreover, its cosmic vision is not actually based on the Copernican system, but more in the traditional Christian cosmology of its day, where the Earth (and man) is the center of the universe, not the sun. The poem tells a biblical story of Adam and Eve, with God, and Lucifer (Satan), who is thrown out of Heaven to corrupt humankind. Satan, the most beautiful of the angels, is at his most impressive: he wakes up, on a burning lake in Hell, to find himself surrounded by his stunned followers. He has been defeated in the War of Heaven. "All is not lost; th' unconquerable Will, / And study of revenge, immortal hate, / And courage never to submit or yield... /" Milton created a powerful and sympathetic portrait of Lucifer. His character bears similarities with Shakespeare's hero-villains Iago and Macbeth, whose personal ambition is transformed into metaphysical nihilism.

Milton's view influenced deeply such Romantic poets as William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley, who regarded Satan as the real hero of the poem − a rebel against the tyranny of Heaven. The troubled times, in which Milton lived, is also seen on his theme of religious conflict. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Blake stated that Milton is "a true Poet, and of the Devil's party without knowing it." Many other works of art have been inspired by Paradise Lost, among them Joseph Haydn's oratorio The Creation, Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad, John Keat's poem Endymion, Lord Byron's The Vision of Judgment, the satanic Sauron in J.R.R. Tolkien's saga The Lord of the Rings. Noteworthy, Nietzsche's Zarathustra has more superficial than real connections with Milton's Lucifer, although Nietzsche knew Milton's work.


(1621 - 1678)


Andrew Marvell was born at Winestead-in-Holderness, Yorkshire, on March 31, 1621 to the Rev. Andrew Marvell, and his wife Anne. When Marvell was but three years of age, the family moved to Hull, where Rev. Marvell became lecturer in Holy Trinity Church. He was educated at the Hull Grammar School, and in 1633 he matriculated as a Sizar of Trinity College, Cambridge. Two poems by Marvell, one in Greek, one in Latin, were printed in the “Musa Cantabrigiensis” in 1637. In 1638 Marvell was admitted a Scholar of Trinity College, and took his B.A. degree in the same year. A few days after receiving his scholarship, Marvell's mother died. He remained a few more years in residence, leaving Cambridge only after his father's death, by drowning, in 1640.

        It is uncertain what Marvell did in the years that followed. It is possible that he held a clerkship in his brother-in-law Edmund Popple's tradinghouse from 1640-1642. He travelled abroad in France, Holland, Switzerland, Spain, and Italy from 1642-46. In 1650, Marvell became the tutor of twelve-year-old Mary Fairfax (later Duchess of Buckingham), daughter of Sir Thomas Fairfax, retired Lord General of the parliamentary forces. At the Yorkshire seat of the Fairfax family, Nun Appleton House, Marvell seems to have written, over a period of about three years, most of his non-satiric English poems. The sojourn provided material for Marvell's most profound poem, "Upon Appleton House," a poem crucial to his development both as man and as poet. Here he examines the competing claims of public service and the search for personal insight. To the same period probably belong Marvell's "To his Coy Mistress" and "The Definition of Love."

        Marvell had befriended John Milton by 1653, when Milton wrote a glowing recommendation for Marvell for the post of Assistant Latin Secretary to the Council of State, a post he eventually secured in 1657. Marvell, who had been a supporter of the King, under the Commonwealth, became an adherent of Cromwell. In the summer of 1657, Marvell tutored Cromwell's nephew and ward, William Dutton, living at Eton.

        In September, 1657, Marvell was appointed assistant to John Milton, Latin Secretary for the Commonwealth. Marvell was paid a salary of £200, the same as Milton, although his was not a life pension. In his quiet way he seems to have been helpful after the Restoration (1660) in saving Milton from an extended jail term and possible execution. Starting in 1659, Marvell was elected M. P. for his hometown of Hull, and he continued to represent it until his death During his last twenty years of life, Marvell was engaged in political activities, taking part in embassies to Holland and Russia and writing political pamphlets and satires. Marvell's Miscellaneous Poems were printed posthumously in 1681. Marvell died on 16 August, 1678 of tertian ague, and the malpractice of the attending physician. He was buried in the church of St. Giles-in-the-Fields.

        "The life and work of Andrew Marvell are both marked by extraordinary variety and range. Gifted with a most subtle and introspective imagination, he turned his talents in mid-career from incomparable lyric explorations of the inner life to panegyric and satiric poems on the men and issues involved in one of England's most crucial political epochs. The century which followed Marvell's death remembered him almost exclusively as a politician and pamphleteer. Succeeding periods, on the other hand, have all but lost the public figure in the haunting recesses of his lyric poems."1

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.

Shouldn’t 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,

Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear

Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;

And yonder all before us lie

Deserts of vast eternity.

Thy beauty shall no more be found,

Nor, in thy marble vault shall sound

My echoing song; then worms shall try

That long preserved virginity,

And your quaint honor turn to dust,

And into ashes all my lust:

The grave’s fine and private place,

But none, I think, do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue

Sits on they skin like morning dew,

And while they willing soul transpires

At every pore with instant fires,

Now let us sport us while we may,

And now, like amorous birds of prey,

Rather at once our time devour

Than languish in his slow - chapt power.

Let us roll all our strength and all

Our sweetness up into one ball,

And tear our pleasures with rough strife

Thus, though we cannot make our sun

Stand still, yet we will make him run.



(1688 - 1744)

Nature And Art

First follow Nature, and your judgment frame

By her just standard, which is still the same:

Unerring Nature, still divinely bright,

One clear, unnchang’d and universal light,

Life, force, and beauty must to all impart,

At once the source, and end, and test of Art.

Art from that fund each just supply provides,

Works without show, and without pomp presides:

In some fair body thus th’ informing soul

With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole,

Each motion guides and ev’ry nerve sustains;

Itself unseen, but in th’ effects, remains.

Some, to whom Heaven in wit has been profuse,

Want as much more to turn it to its use;

For wit and judgment often are at strife,

Those meant each other’s aid, like man and wife.

‘Tis more to guide, than spur the muse’s steed;

Restrain his fury, than provoke his speed,

The winged courser, like a gen’rous horse,

Shows most true mettle when you check his course.

Those Rules of old discover ‘d, not devise‘d;

Are Nature still, but Nature methodize’d

Nature like Liberty, is but restraine’d

By the same laws which first herself ordain’d


(1716 - 1771)


Early life and education

Thomas Gray was born in Cornhill, London, the son of an exchange broker and a milliner. He was the fifth of 12 children and the only child in his family to survive infancy. He lived with his mother after she left his abusive father. He was educated at Eton College where his uncle was one of the masters. He recalled his schooldays as a time of great happiness, as is evident in his Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College. Gray was a delicate and naturally scholarly boy who spent his time reading great literature and avoiding athletics. It was probably fortunate for the young and sensitive Gray that he was able to live in his uncle’s household rather than at college. He made three close friends at Eton: Horace Walpole, son of Prime Minister Robert Walpole, Thomas Ashton, and Richard West. The four of them prided themselves on their sense of style, their sense of humour, and their appreciation of beauty.

In 1734 Gray went up to Peterhouse, Cambridge.[1] He found the curriculum dull. He wrote letters to his friends listing all the things he disliked: the masters ("mad with Pride") and the Fellows ("sleepy, drunken, dull, illiterate Things.") Supposedly he was intended for the law, but in fact he spent his time as an undergraduate reading classical and modern literature and playing Vivaldi and Scarlatti on the harpsichord for relaxation. In 1738 he accompanied his old school-friend Walpole on his Grand Tour, probably at Walpole's expense. They fell out and parted in Tuscany because Walpole wanted to attend fashionable parties and Gray wanted to visit all the antiquities. However, they were reconciled a few years later. Then, he wished his poems would become more popular.

He began seriously writing poems in 1742, mainly after his close friend Richard West died. He moved to Cambridge and began a self-imposed programme of literary study, becoming one of the most learned men of his time, though he claimed to be lazy by inclination. He became a Fellow first of Peterhouse, and later of Pembroke College, Cambridge. It is said that the change of college was the result of a practical joke. Terrified of fire, he had installed a metal bar by his window on the top floor of the Burrough’s building at Peterhouse, so that in the event of a fire he could tie his sheets to it and climb to safety.

Gray spent most of his life as a scholar in Cambridge, and only later in his life did he begin travelling again. Although he was one of the least productive poets (his collected works published during his lifetime amount to fewer than 1,000 lines), he is regarded as the predominant poetic figure of the mid-18th century. In 1757, he was offered the post of Poet Laureate, which he refused.

In 1762, the Regius chair of Modern History at Cambridge, a sinecure which carried a salary of £400, fell vacant after the death of Shallet Turner, and Gray's friends lobbied the government unsuccessfully to secure the position for him. In the event, Gray lost out to Lawrence Brockett, but he secured the position in 1768 after Brockett's death.[2]

Gray was so self critical and fearful of failure that he only published thirteen poems during his lifetime and once wrote that he feared his collected works would be "mistaken for the works of a flea". Walpole said that "He never wrote anything easily but things of Humour."

Gray was also known as one of the "Graveyard poets" of the late 18th century, along with Oliver Goldsmith, William Cowper, and Christopher Smart. Gray most likely knew these men, sharing ideas about death, mortality, and the finality and sublimity of death.

Elegy" masterpiece

It is believed that Gray wrote his masterpiece, the Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, in the graveyard of the church in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire in 1750. The poem was a literary sensation when published by Robert Dodsley in February 1751 (see 1751 in poetry) and has made a lasting contribution to English literature. Its reflective, calm and stoic tone was greatly admired, and it was pirated, imitated, quoted and translated into Latin and Greek. It is still one of the most popular and most frequently quoted poems in the English language. In 1759 during the Seven Years War, before the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, British General James Wolfe is said to have recited it to his officers, adding: "Gentlemen, I would rather have written that poem than take Quebec tomorrow". The poem's famous depiction of an "ivy-mantled tow'r" could be a reference to the early-mideval St. Laurence's Church in Upton, Slough.

The Elegy was recognised immediately for its beauty and skill. It contains many outstanding phrases which have entered the common English lexicon, either on their own or as referenced in other works. A few of these include:

• "The paths of glory"

• "Celestial fire"

• "Some mute inglorious Milton"

• "Far from the madding crowd"

• "The unlettered muse"

• "Kindred spirit"

Gray also wrote light verse, such as Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes, a mock elegy concerning Horace Walpole's cat. After setting the scene with the couplet "What female heart can gold despise? What cat's averse to fish?", the poem moves to its multiple proverbial conclusion: "a fav'rite has no friend", "[k]now one false step is ne'er retrieved" and "nor all that glisters, gold". (Walpole later displayed the fatal china vase on a pedestal at his house in Strawberry Hill.) Gray’s surviving letters also show his sharp observation and playful sense of humour. He is also well known for his phrase,

• "where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise,"

This is from his 1742 (see 1742 in poetry) Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.

[edit] Forms



The Hours by Maria Cosway, an illustration to Gray's poem Ode on the Spring, referring to the lines "Lo! where the rosy-bosomed Hours, Fair Venus' train, appear"

Gray himself considered his two Pindaric odes, The Progress of Poesy and The Bard, his best works. Pindaric odes are written with great fire and passion, unlike the calmer and more reflective Horatian odes such as Ode on a distant Prospect of Eton College. The Bard tells of a wild Welsh poet cursing Edward I after the conquest of Wales and prophesying in detail the downfall of the House of Plantagenet. It is very melodramatic, and ends with the bard hurling himself to his death from the top of a mountain.

When his duties allowed, Gray travelled widely throughout Britain to places like Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Scotland in search of picturesque scenery and ancient monuments. These things were not generally valued in the early 18th century, when the popular taste ran to classical styles in architecture and literature and people liked their scenery tame and well-tended. Some people have seen Gray’s writings on this topic, and the Gothic details that appear in his Elegy and The Bard as the first foreshadowing of the Romantic movement that dominated the early 19th century, when William Wordsworth and the other Lake poets had taught people to value the picturesque, the sublime, and the Gothic. Gray combined traditional forms and poetic diction with new topics and modes of expression and may be considered as a classically focussed precursor of the romantic revival.

Gray's connection to the Romantic poets is vexed. In the prefaces to the 1800 and 1802 editions of Wordsworths' and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth singled out Gray's "Sonnet on the Death of Richard West" to exemplify what he found most objectionable in poetry, declaring it was "Gray, who was at the head of those who, by their reasonings, have attempted to widen the space of separation betwixt prose and metrical composition, and was more than any other man curiously elaborate in the structure of his own poetic diction."[3] Indeed, it was Gray who had written, in a letter to West, that "the language of the age is never the language of poe


Gray died on 30 July 1771 in Cambridge and was buried beside his mother in the churchyard of Stoke Poges, the setting for his famous Elegy. His grave can still be s there. There is a plaque in Cornhill, marking his birthplace.

Elegy written in a country Churchyard

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,

The lowing herd winds slowly over the lea,

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,

And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,

And all the air a solemn stillness holds,

Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,

And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower

The moping owl does to the moon complain

Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,

Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew - tree’s shade

Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap.

Each in his narrow cell forever laid,

The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense - breathing morn,

The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed

The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,

No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,

Or busy housewife play her evening care:

Nor children run to lisp their sir’s return,

Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,

Their furrow oft the stubborn globe has broke;

How jocund did they drive their team afield!

How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke !

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,

Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;

Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile

The short and simple annals of the poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,

And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,

Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour- :

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault

If memory o’er their tomb no trophies raise,

Where through the long - drawn aisle and fretted vault

The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust

Backs to its mansion call the fleeting breath?

Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,

Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid

Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire:

Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,

Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:


(1757 -1827)


William Blake (28 November 1757–12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His prophetic poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language".[1] His visual artistry has led one contemporary art critic to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced".[2] Although he lived in London his entire life except for three years spent in Felpham[3] he produced a diverse and symbolically rich corpus, which embraced the imagination as "the body of God",[4] or "Human existence itself".[5]

Considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, Blake is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterised as part of both the Romantic movement and "Pre-Romantic",[6] for its large appearance in the 18th century. Reverent of the Bible but hostile to the Church of England, Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions,[7] as well as by such thinkers as Jakob Böhme and Emanuel Swedenborg.[8]

Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake's work makes him difficult to classify. The 19th century scholar William Rossetti characterised Blake as a "glorious luminary,"[9] and as "a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors."[10]

Historian Peter Marshall has classified Blake as one of the forerunners of modern anarchism, along with Blake's contemporary William Godwin.[11]

Early life

William Blake was born in 28 Broad Street, London, England on 28 November 1757, to a middle-class family. He was the third of seven children,[12][13] two of whom died in infancy. Blake's father, James, was a hosier.[13] William did not attend school, and was educated at home by his mother Catherine Wright Armitage Blake.[14] The Blakes were Dissenters, and are believed to have belonged to the Moravian Church. The Bible was an early and profound influence on Blake, and would remain a source of inspiration throughout his life.

Blake started engraving copies of drawings of Greek antiquities purchased for him by his father, a practice that was then preferred to actual drawing. Within these drawings Blake found his first exposure to classical forms through the work of Raphael, Michelangelo, Marten Heemskerk and Albrecht Dürer. His parents knew enough of his headstrong temperament that he was not sent to school but was instead enrolled in drawing classes. He read avidly on subjects of his own choosing. During this period, Blake was also making explorations into poetry; his early work displays knowledge of Ben Jonson and Edmund Spenser.

Apprenticeship to Basire

On 4 August 1772, Blake became apprenticed to engraver James Basire of Great Queen Street, for the term of seven years.[13] At the end of this period, at the age of 21, he was to become a professional engraver. No record survives of any serious disagreement or conflict between the two during the period of Blake's apprenticeship. However, Peter Ackroyd's biography notes that Blake was later to add Basire's name to a list of artistic adversaries—and then cross it out.[15] This aside, Basire's style of engraving was of a kind held to be old-fashioned at the time,[16] and Blake's instruction in this outmoded form may have been detrimental to his acquiring of work or recognition in later life.

After two years, Basire sent his apprentice to copy images from the Gothic churches in London (perhaps to settle a quarrel between Blake and James Parker, his fellow apprentice). His experiences in Westminster Abbey helped form his artistic style and ideas. The Abbey of his day was decorated with suits of armour, painted funeral effigies, and varicoloured waxworks. Ackroyd notes that "...the most immediate [impression] would have been of faded brightness and colour".[17] In the long afternoons Blake spent sketching in the Abbey, he was occasionally interrupted by the boys of Westminster School, one of whom "tormented" Blake so much one afternoon that he knocked the boy off a scaffold to the ground, "upon which he fell with terrific Violence".[18] Blake beheld more visions in the Abbey, of a great procession of monks and priests, while he heard "the chant of plain-song and chorale."

The Royal Academy

On 8 October 1779, Blake became a student at the Royal Academy in Old Somerset House, near the Strand. While the terms of his study required no payment, he was expected to supply his own materials throughout the six-year period. There, he rebelled against what he regarded as the unfinished style of fashionable painters such as Rubens, championed by the school's first president, Joshua Reynolds. Over time, Blake came to detest Reynolds' attitude towards art, especially his pursuit of "general truth" and "general beauty". Reynolds wrote in his Discourses that the "disposition to abstractions, to generalising and classification, is the great glory of the human mind"; Blake responded, in marginalia to his personal copy, that "To Generalize is to be an Idiot; To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit".[19] Blake also disliked Reynolds' apparent humility, which he held to be a form of hypocrisy. Against Reynolds' fashionable oil painting, Blake preferred the Classical precision of his early influences, Michelangelo and Raphael.

David Bindman suggests that Blake's antagonism towards Reynolds arose not so much from the president's opinions (like Blake, Reynolds held history painting to be of greater value than landscape and portraiture), but rather "against his hypocrisy in not putting his ideals into practice."[20] Certainly Blake was not averse to exhibiting at the Royal Academy, submitting works on six occasions between 1780 and 1808

Gordon Riots

Blake's first biographer, Alexander Gilchrist, records that in June 1780 Blake was walking towards Basire's shop in Great Queen Street when he was swept up by a rampaging mob that stormed Newgate Prison in London.[21] They attacked the prison gates with shovels and pickaxes, set the building ablaze, and released the prisoners inside. Blake was reportedly in the front rank of the mob during this attack. These riots, in response to a parliamentary bill revoking sanctions against Roman Catholicism, later came to be known as the Gordon Riots. They provoked a flurry of legislation from the government of George III, as well as the creation of the first police force.

Despite Gilchrist's insistence that Blake was "forced" to accompany the crowd, some biographers have argued that he accompanied it impulsively, or supported it as a revolutionary act.[22] In contrast, Jerome McGann argues that the riots were reactionary, and that events would have provoked "disgust" in Blake.[23]

Marriage and early career

In 1782, Blake met John Flaxman, who was to become his patron, and Catherine Boucher, who was to become his wife. At the time, Blake was recovering from a relationship that had culminated in a refusal of his marriage proposal. He recounted the story of his heartbreak for Catherine and her parents, after which he asked Catherine, "Do you pity me?" When she responded affirmatively, he declared, "Then I love you." Blake married Catherine – who was five years his junior – on 18 August 1782 in St. Mary's Church, Battersea. Illiterate, Catherine signed her wedding contract with an 'X'. The original wedding certificate may still be viewed at the church, where a commemorative stained-glass window was installed between 1976 and 1982.[24] Later, in addition to teaching Catherine to read and write, Blake trained her as an engraver. Throughout his life she would prove an invaluable aid to him, helping to print his illuminated works and maintaining his spirits throughout numerous misfortunes.

At this time George Cumberland, one of the founders of the National Gallery, became an admirer of Blake's work. Blake's first collection of poems, Poetical Sketches, was published circa 1783.[25] After his father's death, William and former fellow apprentice James Parker opened a print shop in 1784, and began working with radical publisher Joseph Johnson.[26] Johnson's house was a meeting-place for some of the leading English intellectual dissidents of the time: theologian and scientist Joseph Priestley, philosopher Richard Price, artist John Henry Fuseli[27] early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and American revolutionary Thomas Paine. Along with William Wordsworth and William Godwin, Blake had great hopes for the French revolution and American revolutions and wore a Phrygian cap in solidarity with the French revolutionaries, but despaired with the rise of Robespierre and the Reign of Terror in France. In 1784 Blake also composed his unfinished manuscript An Island in the Moon.

Blake illustrated Original Stories from Real Life (1788; 1791) by Mary Wollstonecraft. They seem to have shared some views on sexual equality and the institution of marriage, but there is no evidence proving without doubt that they actually met. In 1793's Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Blake condemned the cruel absurdity of enforced chastity and marriage without love and defended the right of women to complete self-fulfillment.

Relief etching

In 1788, at the age of 31, Blake began to experiment with relief etching, a method he would use to produce most of his books, paintings, pamphlets and poems. The process is also referred to as illuminated printing, and final products as illuminated books or prints. Illuminated printing involved writing the text of the poems on copper plates with pens and brushes, using an acid-resistant medium. Illustrations could appear alongside words in the manner of earlier illuminated manuscripts. He then etched the plates in acid to dissolve the untreated copper and leave the design standing in relief (hence the name).

This is a reversal of the normal method of etching, where the lines of the design are exposed to the acid, and the plate printed by the intaglio method. Relief etching (which Blake also referred to as "stereotype" in The Ghost of Abel) was intended as a means for producing his illuminated books more quickly than via intaglio. Stereotype, a process invented in 1725, consisted of making a metal cast from a wood engraving, but Blake’s innovation was, as described above, very different. The pages printed from these plates then had to be hand-coloured in water colours and stitched together to make up a volume. Blake used illuminated printing for most of his well-known works, including Songs of Innocence and Experience, The Book of Thel, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and Jerusalem.[28]


Although Blake has become most famous for his relief etching, his commercial work largely consisted of intaglio engraving, the standard process of engraving in the eighteenth century in which the artist would incise an image into the copper plate. This was a complex and laborious process, with plates taking months or years to complete, but as Blake's contemporary, John Boydell, realised, such engraving offered a "missing link with commerce", enabling artists to connect with a mass audience and so becoming an immensely important activity by the end of the eighteenth century.[29]

Blake also employed intaglio engraving in his own work, most notably for the illustrations of the Book of Job, completed just before his death. Most critical work has tended to concentrate on Blake's relief etching as a technique because it is the most innovative aspect of his art, but a 2009 study draws attention to Blake's surviving plates, including those for the Book of Job: these demonstrate that he made frequent use of a technique known as "repoussage", a means of obliterating mistakes by hammering them out by hitting the back of the plate. Such techniques, typical of engraving work of the time, are very different to the much faster and fluid way of drawing on a plate that Blake employed for his relief etching, and indicates why the engravings took so long to complete.[30]

Later life and career

Blake's marriage to Catherine remained a close and devoted one until his death. Blake taught Catherine to write, and she helped him to colour his printed poems.[31] Gilchrist refers to "stormy times" in the early years of the marriage.[32] Some biographers have suggested that Blake tried to bring a concubine into the marriage bed in accordance with the beliefs of the more radical branches of the Swedenborgian Society,[33] but other scholars have dismissed these theories as conjecture.[34] William and Catherine's first daughter and last child might be Thel described in The Book of Thel who was conceived as dead.[35]


In 1800, Blake moved to a cottage at Felpham in Sussex (now West Sussex) to take up a job illustrating the works of William Hayley, a minor poet. It was in this cottage that Blake began Milton: a Poem (the title page is dated 1804 but Blake continued to work on it until 1808). The preface to this work includes a poem beginning "And did those feet in ancient time," which became the words for the anthem, "Jerusalem". Over time, Blake came to resent his new patron, coming to believe that Hayley was uninterested in true artistry, and preoccupied with "the meer drudgery of business" (E724). Blake's disenchantment with Hayley has been speculated to have influenced Milton: a Poem, in which Blake wrote that "Corporeal Friends are Spiritual Enemies." (4:26, E98)

Blake's trouble with authority came to a head in August 1803, when he was involved in a physical altercation with a soldier called John Schofield.[36] Blake was charged not only with assault, but also with uttering seditious and treasonable expressions against the King. Schofield claimed that Blake had exclaimed, "Damn the king. The soldiers are all slaves."[37] Blake would be cleared in the Chichester assizes of the charges. According to a report in the Sussex county paper, "The invented character of [the evidence] was ... so obvious that an acquittal resulted."[38] Schofield was later depicted wearing "mind forged manacles" in an illustration to Jerusalem.

Return to London

Blake returned to London in 1804 and began to write and illustrate Jerusalem (1804–1820), his most ambitious work. Having conceived the idea of portraying the characters in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Blake approached the dealer Robert Cromek, with a view to marketing an engraving. Knowing that Blake was too eccentric to produce a popular work, Cromek promptly commissioned Thomas Stothard, a friend of Blake's, to execute the concept. When Blake learned that he had been cheated, he broke off contact with Stothard. He also set up an independent exhibition in his brother's haberdashery shop at 27 Broad Street in the Soho district of London. The exhibition was designed to market his own version of the Canterbury illustration (titled The Canterbury Pilgrims), along with other works. As a result he wrote his Descriptive Catalogue (1809), which contains what Anthony Blunt has called a "brilliant analysis" of Chaucer. It is regularly anthologised as a classic of Chaucer criticism.[40] It also contained detailed explanations of his other paintings.

The exhibition itself, however, was very poorly attended, selling none of the temperas or watercolours. Its only review, in The Examiner, was hostile.[41]

He was introduced by George Cumberland to a young artist named John Linnell. Through Linnell he met Samuel Palmer, who belonged to a group of artists who called themselves the Shoreham Ancients. This group shared Blake's rejection of modern trends and his belief in a spiritual and artistic New Age. At the age of 65 Blake began work on illustrations for the Book of Job. These works were later admired by Ruskin, who compared Blake favourably to Rembrandt, and by Vaughan Williams, who based his ballet Job: A Masque for Dancing on a selection of the illustrations.

Later in his life Blake began to sell a great number of his works, particularly his Bible illustrations, to Thomas Butts, a patron who saw Blake more as a friend than a man whose work held artistic merit; this was typical of the opinions held of Blake throughout his life.

Dante's Divine Comedy

The commission for Dante's Divine Comedy came to Blake in 1826 through Linnell, with the ultimate aim of producing a series of engravings. Blake's death in 1827 would cut short the enterprise, and only a handful of the watercolours were completed, with only seven of the engravings arriving at proof form. Even so, they have evoked praise:

'[T]he Dante watercolours are among Blake's richest achievements, engaging fully with the problem of illustrating a poem of this complexity. The mastery of watercolour has reached an even higher level than before, and is used to extraordinary effect in differentiating the atmosphere of the three states of being in the poem'.[42]

Blake's illustrations of the poem are not merely accompanying works, but rather seem to critically revise, or furnish commentary on, certain spiritual or moral aspects of the text.

Because the project was never completed, Blake's intent may itself be obscured. Some indicators, however, bolster the impression that Blake's illustrations in their totality would themselves take issue with the text they accompany: In the margin of Homer Bearing the Sword and His Companions, Blake notes, "Every thing in Dantes Comedia shews That for Tyrannical Purposes he has made This World the Foundation of All & the Goddess Nature & not the Holy Ghost." Blake seems to dissent from Dante's admiration of the poetic works of ancient Greece, and from the apparent glee with which Dante allots punishments in Hell (as evidenced by the grim humour of the cantos).

At the same time, Blake shared Dante's distrust of materialism and the corruptive nature of power, and clearly relished the opportunity to represent the atmosphere and imagery of Dante's work pictorially. Even as he seemed to near death, Blake's central preoccupation was his feverish work on the illustrations to Dante's Inferno; he is said to have spent one of the very last shillings he possessed on a pencil to continue sketching.[43]


the day of his death, Blake worked relentlessly on his Dante series. Eventually, it is reported, he ceased working and turned to his wife, who was in tears by his bedside. Beholding her, Blake is said to have cried, "Stay Kate! Keep just as you are – I will draw your portrait – for you have ever been an angel to me." Having completed this portrait (now lost), Blake laid down his tools and began to sing hymns and verses.[44] At six that evening, after promising his wife that he would be with her always, Blake died. Gilchrist reports that a female lodger in the same house, present at his expiration, said, "I have been at the death, not of a man, but of a blessed angel."[45]

George Richmond gives the following account of Blake's death in a letter to Samuel Palmer:

Catherine paid for Blake's funeral with money lent to her by Linnell. He was buried five days after his death – on the eve of his forty-fifth wedding anniversary – at the Dissenter's burial ground in Bunhill Fields, where his parents were also interred. Present at the ceremonies were Catherine, Edward Calvert, George Richmond, Frederick Tatham and John Linnell. Following Blake's death, Catherine moved into Tatham's house as a housekeeper. During this period, she believed she was regularly visited by Blake's spirit. She continued selling his illuminated works and paintings, but would entertain no business transaction without first "consulting Mr. Blake".[47] On the day of her own death, in October 1831, she was as calm and cheerful as her husband, and called out to him "as if he were only in the next room, to say she was coming to him, and it would not be long now".[48]

On her death, Blake's manuscripts were inherited by Frederick Tatham, who burned several he deemed heretical or politically radical. Tatham was an Irvingite, one of the many fundamentalist movements of the 19th century, and was severely opposed to any work that smacked of blasphemy.[49] Also, John Linnell erased sexual imagery from a number of Blake's drawings.[50]

Since 1965, the exact location of William Blake's grave had been lost and forgotten, while gravestones were taken away to create a new lawn. Nowadays, Blake’s grave is commemorated by a stone that reads "Near by lie the remains of the poet-painter William Blake 1757-1827 and his wife Catherine Sophia 1762-1831". This memorial stone is situated approximately 20 metres away from the actual spot of Blake’s grave, which is not marked. However, members of the group Friends of William Blake have rediscovered the location of Blake's grave and intend to place a permanent memorial at the site.[51][52]

Blake is now recognised as a saint in the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. The Blake Prize for Religious Art was established in his honour in Australia in 1949. In 1957 a memorial was erected in Westminster Abbey, in memory of him and his wife.[53]

Development of Blake's Views

Because Blake's later poetry contains a private mythology with complex symbolism, his late work has been less published than his earlier more accessible work. The recent Vintage anthology of Blake edited by Patti Smith focuses heavily on the earlier work, as do many critical studies such as William Blake by D. G. Gillham.

The earlier work is primarily rebellious in character, and can be seen as a protestation against dogmatic religion. This is especially notable in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in which Satan is virtually the hero rebelling against an imposter authoritarian deity. In the later works such as Milton and Jerusalem, Blake carves a distinctive vision of a humanity redeemed by self-sacrifice and forgiveness, while retaining his earlier negative attitude towards the rigid and morbid authoritarianism of traditional religion. Not all readers of Blake agree upon how much continuity exists between Blake's earlier and later works.

Psychoanalyst June Singer has written that Blake's late work displayed a development of the ideas that were first introduced in his earlier works, namely, the humanitarian goal of achieving personal wholeness of body and spirit. The final section of the expanded edition of her Blake study The Unholy Bible suggests that the later works are in fact the "Bible of Hell" promised in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Regarding Blake's final poem "Jerusalem", she writes:

[T]he promise of the divine in man, made in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, is at last fulfilled.[54]

However, John Middleton Murry notes discontinuity between Marriage and the late works, in that while the early Blake focused on a "sheer negative opposition between Energy and Reason", the later Blake emphasised the notions of self-sacrifice and forgiveness as the road to interior wholeness. This renunciation of the sharper dualism of Marriage of Heaven and Hell is evidenced in particular by the humanisation of the character of Urizen in the later works. Middleton characterises the later Blake as having found "mutual understanding" and "mutual forgiveness".[55]

Blake and sexuality

The 19th century "free love" movement

Since his death, William Blake has been claimed by various movements who apply his complex and often elusive use of symbolism and allegory to the issues that concern them.[56]

In particular, Blake is sometimes considered (along with Mary Wollstonecraft and her husband William Godwin) a forerunner of the subsequent 19th century "free love" movement, a broad reform tradition starting in the 1820s that held that marriage is slavery, and advocated for removal of all state restrictions on sexual activity such as homosexuality, prostitution, and even adultery, culminating in the birth control movement of the early 20th century. Blake scholarship was more focused on this theme in the earlier 20th century than today, although it is still mentioned today notably by the Blake scholar Magnus Ankarsjö who moderately challenges this interpretation. The 19th century "free love" movement was not particularly focused on the idea of multiple partners, but did agree with Wollstonecraft that state-sanctioned marriage was "legal prostitution" and was monopolistic in character. It has somewhat more in common with early feminist movements[57] (particularly with regard to the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft whom Blake admired).

Blake was critical of the marriage laws of his day, and generally railed against traditional Christian notions of chastity as a virtue. At a time of tremendous strain in his marriage, in part due to Catherine's apparent inability to bear children, he directly advocated bringing a second wife into the house. His poetry suggests that external demands for marital fidelity reduce love to mere duty rather than authentic affection, and decries jealousy and egotism as a motive for marriage laws. Poems such as "Why should I be bound to thee, O my lovely Myrtle-tree?" and "Earth's Answer" seem to advocate multiple sexual partners. His poem "London" speaks of "the Marriage-Hearse". Visions of the Daughters of Albion is widely (though not universally) read as a tribute to free love since the relationship between Bromion and Oothoon is held together only by laws and not by love. For Blake, law and love are opposed, and he castigates the "frozen marriage-bed". In Visions, Blake writes

Till she who burns with youth, and knows no fixed lot, is bound

In spells of law to one she loathes? and must she drag the chain

Of life in weary lust? (5.21-3, E49)

In the 19th century famed poet and free love advocate Algernon Charles Swinburne wrote a full-length book on Blake drawing attention to the above motifs in which Blake praises "sacred natural love" that is not bound by another's possessive jealousy, the latter characterised by Blake as a "creeping skeleton".[58] Swinburne also notes how Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell condemns the hypocrisy of the "pale religious letchery" of advocates of traditional norms.[59] Another 19th century free love advocate, Edward Carpenter (1844–1929), was also influenced by Blake's mystical emphasis on energy free from external restrictions.[60]

In the early 20th century Pierre Berger described how Blake's views echo that of Mary Wollstonecraft celebrating joyful authentic love rather than love born of duty,[61] the former being the true measure of purity.[62] Irene Langridge notes that "in Blake's mysterious and unorthodox creed the doctrine of free love was something Blake wanted for the edification of 'the soul'."[63] Michael Davis' 1977 book William Blake a New Kind of Man suggests that Blake thought jealousy separates man from the divine unity, condemning him to a frozen death.[64]

As a theological writer, Blake has a sense of human “fallenness”. S. Foster Damon has noted that for Blake the major impediments to a free love society were corrupt human nature, not merely the intolerance of society and the jealousy of men, but the inauthentic hypocritical nature of human communication.[65] Thomas Wright's 1928 book Life of William Blake (entirely devoted to Blake's doctrine of free love) notes that Blake thinks marriage should in practice afford the joy of love, but notes that in reality it often does not,[66] as a couple's knowledge of being chained often diminishes their joy. Pierre Berger also analyses Blake's early mythological poems such as Ahania as declaring marriage laws to be a consequence of the fallenness of humanity, as these are born from pride and jealousy.[67]

Some scholars have noted both that Blake's views on “free love” are both qualified and may have undergone shifts and modifications in his late years. Some poems from this period warn of dangers of predatory sexuality such as The Sick Rose. Magnus Ankarsjö notes that while the hero of Visions of the Daughters of Albion is a strong advocate of free love, by the end of the poem she has become more circumspect as her awareness of the dark side of sexuality has grown, crying "Can this be love which drinks another as a sponge drinks water?"[68] Ankarsjö also notes that a major inspiration to Blake, Mary Wollstonecraft, similarly developed more circumspect views of sexual freedom late in life. In light of Blake's aforementioned sense of human 'fallenness' Ankarsjö thinks Blake does not fully approve of sensual indulgence merely in defiance of law as exemplified by the female character of Leutha,[69] since in the fallen world of experience all love is enchained.[70] Ankarsjö records Blake as having supported a commune with some sharing of partners, though David Worrall has recently read The Book of Thel as a rejection of the proposal to take concubines espoused by some members of the Swedenborgian church.[71]

Blake's later writings show a renewed interest in Christianity, and although he radically reinterprets Christian morality in a way that embraces sensual pleasure, there is little of the emphasis on sexual libertarianism found in several of his early poems, and there is advocacy of "self-denial", though such abnegation must be inspired by love rather than through authoritarian compulsion.[72] Berger (moreso than Swinburne) is especially sensitive to a shift in sensibility between the early Blake and the later Blake. Berger believes the young Blake placed too much emphasis on following impulses,[73] and that the older Blake had a better formed ideal of a true love that sacrifices for self. Some celebration of mystical sensuality remains in the late poems (most notably in Blake's denial of the virginity of Jesus' mother). However, the late poems also place a greater emphasis on forgiveness, redemption, and emotional authenticity as a foundation for relationships.

Although Blake's attacks on conventional religion were shocking in his own day, his rejection of religiosity was not a rejection of religion per se. His view of orthodoxy is evident in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, a series of texts written in imitation of Biblical prophecy. Therein, Blake lists several Proverbs of Hell, amongst which are the following:

Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.

As the catterpillar [sic] chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys. (8.21, 9.55, E36)

In The Everlasting Gospel, Blake does not present Jesus as a philosopher or traditional messianic figure but as a supremely creative being, above dogma, logic and even morality:

If he had been Antichrist Creeping Jesus,

He'd have done anything to please us:

Gone sneaking into Synagogues

And not usd the Elders & Priests like Dogs,

But humble as a Lamb or Ass,

Obey'd himself to Caiaphas.

God wants not Man to Humble himself (55-61, E519-20)

Jesus, for Blake, symbolises the vital relationship and unity between divinity and humanity: "All had originally one language, and one religion: this was the religion of Jesus, the everlasting Gospel. Antiquity preaches the Gospel of Jesus." (Descriptive Catalogue, Plate 39, E543)

Blake designed his own mythology, which appears largely in his prophetic books. Within these Blake describes a number of characters, including 'Urizen', 'Enitharmon', 'Bromion' and 'Luvah'. This mythology seems to have a basis in the Bible and in Greek mythology,[74] and it accompanies his ideas about the everlasting Gospel

One of Blake's strongest objections to orthodox Christianity is that he felt it encouraged the suppression of natural desires and discouraged earthly joy. In A Vision of the Last Judgement, Blake says that:

Men are admitted into Heaven not because they have governd their Passions or have No Passions but because they have Cultivated their Understandings. The Treasures of Heaven are not Negations of Passion but Realities of Intellect from which All the Passions Emanate in their Eternal Glory. (E564)

One may also note his words concerning religion in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:

All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors.

1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul.

2. That Energy, calld Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, calld Good, is alone from the Soul.

3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.

But the following Contraries to these are True

1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that calld Body is a portion of Soul discernd by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.

2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.

3. Energy is Eternal Delight.(Plate 4, E34

Blake does not subscribe to the notion of a body distinct from the soul that must submit to the rule of the soul, but sees the body as an extension of the soul, derived from the 'discernment' of the senses. Thus, the emphasis orthodoxy places upon the denial of bodily urges is a dualistic error born of misapprehension of the relationship between body and soul. Elsewhere, he describes Satan as the 'state of error', and as beyond salvation.[75]

Blake opposed the sophistry of theological thought that excuses pain, admits evil and apologises for injustice. He abhorred self-denial,[76] which he associated with religious repression and particularly sexual repression:[77] "Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity. / He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence." (7.4-5, E35) He saw the concept of 'sin' as a trap to bind men’s desires (the briars of Garden of Love), and believed that restraint in obedience to a moral code imposed from the outside was against the spirit of life:

Abstinence sows sand all over

The ruddy limbs & flaming hair

But Desire Gratified

Plants fruits & beauty there. (E474)

He did not hold with the doctrine of God as Lord, an entity separate from and superior to mankind;[78] this is shown clearly in his words about Jesus Christ: "He is the only God ... and so am I, and so are you." A telling phrase in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is "men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast". This is very much in line with his belief in liberty and social equality in society and between the sexes.

Blake and Enlightenment philosophy

Blake had a complex relationship with Enlightenment philosophy. Due to his visionary religious beliefs, Blake opposed the Newtonian view of the universe. This mindset is reflected in an excerpt from Blake's JerusI turn my eyes to the Schools & Universities of Europe

And there behold the Loom of Locke whose Woof rages dire

Washd by the Water-wheels of Newton. black the cloth

In heavy wreathes folds over every Nation; cruel Works

Of many Wheels I view, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic

Moving by compulsion each other: not as those in Eden: which

Wheel within Wheel in freedom revolve in harmony & peace.(15.14-20, E159)

Blake also believed that the paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds, which depict the naturalistic fall of light upon objects, were products entirely of the "vegetative eye", and he saw Locke and Newton as "the true progenitors of Sir Joshua Reynolds' aesthetic".[81] The popular taste in the England of that time for such paintings was satisfied with mezzotints, prints produced by a process that created an image from thousands of tiny dots upon the page. Blake saw an analogy between this and Newton's particle theory of light.[82] Accordingly, Blake never used the technique, opting rather to develop a method of engraving purely in fluid line, insisting that:

a Line or Lineament is not formed by Chance a Line is a Line in its Minutest Subdivision[s] Strait or Crooked It is Itself & Not Intermeasurable with or by any Thing Else Such is Job. (E784)

Despite his opposition to Enlightenment principles, Blake thus arrived at a linear aesthetic that was in many ways more similar to the Neoclassical engravings of John Flaxman than to the works of the Romantics, with whom he is often classified.

Therefore Blake has also been viewed as an enlightenment poet and artist, in the sense that he was in accord with that movement's rejection of received ideas, systems, authorities and traditions. On the other hand, he was critical of what he perceived as the elevation of reason to the status of an oppressive authority. In his criticism of reason, law and uniformity Blake has been taken to be opposed to the enlightenment, but it has also been argued that, in a dialectical sense, he used the enlightenment spirit of rejection of external authority to criticise narrow conceptions of the enlightenment.[83]



Northrop Frye, commenting on Blake's consistency in strongly held views, notes that Blake "himself says that his notes on [Joshua] Reynolds, written at fifty, are 'exactly Similar' to those on Locke and Bacon, written when he was 'very Young'. Even phrases and lines of verse will reappear as much as forty years later. Consistency in maintaining what he believed to be true was itself one of his leading principles ... Consistency, then, foolish or otherwise, is one of Blake's chief preoccupations, just as 'self-contradiction' is always one of his most contemptuous comments".[

Blake abhorred slavery and believed in racial and sexual equality. Several of his poems and paintings express a notion of universal humanity: "As all men are alike (tho' infinitely various)". In one poem, narrated by a black child, white and black bodies alike are described as shaded groves or clouds, which exist only until one learns "to bear the beams of love":

When I from black and he from white cloud free,

And round the tent of God like lambs we joy:

Ill shade him from the heat till he can bear,

To lean in joy upon our fathers knee.

And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,

And be like him and he will then love me. (23-8, E9)

Blake retained an active interest in social and political events for all his life, and social and political statements are often present in his mystical symbolism. His views on what he saw as oppression and restriction of rightful freedom extended to the Church. His spiritual beliefs are evidenced in Songs of Experience (1794), in which he distinguishes between the Old Testament God, whose restrictions he rejected, and the New Testament God whom he saw as a positive influence.


From a young age, William Blake claimed to have seen visions. The first of these visions may have occurred as early as the age of four when, according to one anecdote, the young artist "saw God" when God "put his head to the window", causing Blake to break into screaming.[85] At the age of eight or ten in Peckham Rye, London, Blake claimed to have seen "a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars."[85] According to Blake's Victorian biographer Gilchrist, he returned home and reported this vision, and he only escaped being thrashed by his father for telling a lie through the intervention of his mother. Though all evidence suggests that his parents were largely supportive, his mother seems to have been especially so, and several of Blake's early drawings and poems decorated the walls of her chamber. On another occasion, Blake watched haymakers at work, and thought he saw angelic figures walking among them.[85]

Blake claimed to experience visions throughout his life. They were often associated with beautiful religious themes and imagery, and therefore may have inspired him further with spiritual works and pursuits. Certainly, religious concepts and imagery figure centrally in Blake's works. God and Christianity constituted the intellectual centre of his writings, from which he drew inspiration. In addition, Blake believed that he was personally instructed and encouraged by Archangels to create his artistic works, which he claimed were actively read and enjoyed by those same Archangels. In a letter to William Hayley, dated 6 May 1800, Blake writes:

I know that our deceased friends are more really with us than when they were apparent to our mortal part. Thirteen years ago I lost a brother, and with his spirit I converse daily and hourly in the spirit, and see him in my remembrance, in the region of my imagination. I hear his advice, and even now write from his dictate.

In a letter to John Flaxman, dated 21 September 1800, Blake writes:

[The town of] Felpham is a sweet place for Study, because it is more spiritual than London. Heaven opens here on all sides her golden Gates; her windows are not obstructed by vapours; voices of Celestial inhabitants are more distinctly heard, & their forms more distinctly seen; & my Cottage is also a Shadow of their houses. My Wife & Sister are both well, courting Neptune for an embrace... I am more famed in Heaven for my works than I could well conceive. In my Brain are studies & Chambers filled with books & pictures of old, which I wrote & painted in ages of Eternity before my mortal life; & those works are the delight & Study of Archangels. (E710)

In a letter to Thomas Butts, dated 25 April 1803, Blake writes:

Now I may say to you, what perhaps I should not dare to say to anyone else: That I can alone carry on my visionary studies in London unannoy'd, & that I may converse with my friends in Eternity, See Visions, Dream Dreams & prophecy & speak Parables unobserv'd & at liberty from the Doubts of other Mortals; perhaps Doubts proceeding from Kindness, but Doubts are always pernicious, Especially when we Doubt our Friends.

In A Vision of the Last Judgement Blake writes:

Error is Created Truth is Eternal Error or Creation will be Burned Up & then & not till then Truth or Eternity will appear It is Burnt up the Moment Men cease to behold it I assert for My self that I do not behold the Outward Creation & that to me it is hindrance & not Action it is as the Dirt upon my feet No part of Me. What it will be Questiond When the Sun rises do you not see a round Disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea O no no I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty I question not my Corporeal or Vegetative Eye any more than I would Question a Window concerning a Sight I look thro it & not with it. (E565-6)

William Wordsworth remarked, "There was no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott."[87]

D.C.Williams (1899–1983) said that Blake was a romantic with a critical view on the world, he maintained that Blake's Songs of Innocence were made as a view of an ideal, somewhat Utopian view whereas he used the Songs of Experience to show the suffering and loss posed by the nature of society and the world of his time.

General cultural influence

Main article: William Blake in popular culture

Blake's work was neglected for a generation after his death and was almost forgotten when Alexander Gilchrist began work on his biography in the 1860s. The publication of the Life of William Blake rapidly transformed Blake's reputation, in particular as he was taken up by Pre-Raphaelites and associated figures, in particular Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne. It was in the twentieth century, however, that Blake's work was fully appreciated and his influence increased. Important early and mid twentieth-century scholars involved in enhancing Blake's standing in literary and artistic circles included S. Foster Damon, Geoffrey Keynes, Northrop Frye, David V. Erdman and G. E. Bentley, Jr.

While Blake had a significant role to play in the art and poetry of figures such as Rossetti, it was during the Modernist period that this work began to influence a wider set of writers and artists. William Butler Yeats, who edited an edition of Blake's collected works in 1893, drew on him for poetic and philosophical ideas,[88] while British surrealist art in particular drew on Blake's conceptions of non-mimetic, visionary practice in the painting of artists such as Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland.[89] His poetry also came into use by a number of British classical composers such as Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams, who set his works.

Many such as June Singer have argued that Blake's thoughts on human nature greatly anticipate and parallel the thinking of the psychoanalyst Carl Jung, although Jung dismissed Blake's works as "an artistic production rather than an authentic representation of unconscious processes."[90] Similarly, although less popularly, Diana Hume George has claimed that Blake can be seen as a precursor to the ideas of Sigmund Freud.[91]

Blake had an enormous influence on the beat poets of the 1950s and the counterculture of the 1960s, frequently being cited by such seminal figures as beat poet Allen Ginsberg and songwriters Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, and Van Morrison. Much of the central conceit of Phillip Pullman's fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials is rooted in the world of Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Indeed, it is during the period after World War II that Blake's role in popular culture has come to the fore, in a variety of areas such as popular music, film and the graphic novel, leading Edward Larrissy to assert that "Blake is the Romantic writer who has exerted the most powerful influence on the twentieth century."[92]


Illuminated books

|c.1788: All Religions are One |

|There is No Natural Religion |

|1789: Songs of Innocence |

|The Book of Thel |

|1790–1793: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell |

|1793-1795: Continental prophecies |

|1793: Visions of the Daughters of Albion |

|America a Prophecy |

|1794: Europe a Prophecy |

|The First Book of Urizen |

|Songs of Experience |

|1795: The Book of Los |

|The Song of Los |

|The Book of Ahania |

|c.1804–c.1811: Milton a Poem |

|1804–1820: Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion |

|Non-Illuminated |

|1783: Poetical Sketches |

|1784-5: An Island in the Moon |

|1789: Tiriel |

|1791: The French Revolution |

|1797: The Four Zoas |

|Illustrated by Blake |

|1791: Mary Wollstonecraft, Original Stories from Real Life |

|1797: Edward Young, Night Thoughts |

|1805-1808: Robert Blair, The Grave |

|1808: John Milton, Paradise Lost |

|1819-1820: John Varley, Visionary Heads |

|1821: R.J. Thornton, Virgil |

|1823-1826: The Book of Job |

|1825-1827: Dante, The Divine Comedy (Blake died in 1827 with work on these illustrations still unfinished. Of the 102 |

|watercolours, 7 had been selected for engraving) |

On Blake

|Peter Ackroyd (1995). Blake. Sinclair-Stevenson. ISBN |Jean H. Hagstrom, William Blake. Poet and Painter. An |

|1-85619-278-4. |introduction to the illuminated verse, University of |

|Donald Ault (1974). Visionary Physics: Blake's Response to |Chicago, 1964. |

|Newton. University of Chicago. ISBN 0-226-03225-6. |James King (1991). William Blake: His Life. St. Martin's |

|----- (1987). Narrative Unbound: Re-Visioning William |Press. ISBN 0-312-07572-3. |

|Blake's The Four Zoas. Station Hill Press. ISBN |Saree Makdisi, William Blake and the Impossible History of |

|1-886449-75-9. |the 1790s. University of Chicago Press 2003. |

|Stephen C. Behrendt (1992). Reading William Blake. London: |Benjamin Heath Malkin (1806). A Father's Memoirs of his |

|Macmillan Press. ISBN 0-312-06835-2 . |Child Longsmans, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, Paternoster Row, |

|G.E. Bentley (2001). The Stranger From Paradise: A |London. {See Arthur Symons, William Blake (1907, 1970) at |

|Biography of William Blake. Yale University Press. ISBN |307-329.} |

|0-300-08939-2. |Peter Marshall (1988). William Blake: Visionary Anarchist. |

|----- (2006). Blake Records. Second edition. Yale |Freedom Press. ISBN 0-900384-77-8 |

|University Press. ISBN 0-300-09685-2. |W.J.T. Mitchell (1978). Blake's Composite Art: A Study of |

|----- (1977). Blake Books. Clarendon Press. ISBN |the Illuminated Poetry. Yale University Press. ISBN |

|0-19-818151-5. |0-691-01402-7. |

|----- (1995). Blake Books Supplement. Clarendon Press. |Victor N. Paananen (1996). William Blake. Twayne |

|Harold Bloom (1963). Blake’s Apocalypse. Doubleday. |Publishers, New York. ISBN 0-8057-7053-4. |

|Jacob Bronowski (1972). William Blake and the Age of |Laura Quinney (2010). William Blake on Self and Soul. |

|Revolution. Routledge & K. Paul. ISBN 0-7100-7277-5 |Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-03524-9. |

|(hardback), ISBN 0-7100-7278-3 (pbk.) |Kathleen Raine, William Blake. Oxford University 1970. |

|----- (1944). William Blake, 1757–1827. A man without a |George Anthony Rosso Jr. (1993). Blake's Prophetic |

|mask. Secker and Warburg, London. Reprints: Penguin 1954; |Workshop: A Study of The Four Zoas. Associated University |

|Haskell House 1967. |Presses. ISBN 0-8387-5240-3. |

|Helen P. Bruder (1997). William Blake and the Daughters of |Gholam Reza Sabri-Tabrizi (1973). The ‘Heaven’ and ‘Hell’ |

|Albion. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, and New York: St. |of William Blake (New York, International Publishers). |

|Martin’s Press. ISBN 0-333-64036-5. |Basil de Sélincourt, William Blake (London, 1909). |

|G. K. Chesterton, William Blake. Duckworth, London, n.d. |June Singer, The Unholy Bible: Blake, Jung, and the |

|[1910]. Reprint: House of Stratus, Cornwall, 2008. ISBN |Collective Unconscious (New York: Putnam 1970). Reprinted |

|0-7551-0032-8. |as: Blake, Jung, and the Collective Unconscious |

|Steve Clark and David Worrall, eds (2006). Blake, Nation |(Nicolas-Hays 1986). |

|and Empire. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, and New York: St.|Sheila A. Spector (2001). "Wonders Divine": the development|

|Martin’s Press. |of Blake's Kabbalistic myth, Bucknell UP. |

|Tristanne J. Connolly (2002). William Blake and the Body. |Algernon Charles Swinburne, William Blake: A Critical |

|New York: Palgrave Macmillan. |Essay. John Camden Hotten, Piccadilly, London, 2d. ed., |

|S. Foster Damon (1979). A Blake Dictionary. Revised |1868. |

|edition. University of New England. ISBN 0-87451-436-3. |Arthur Symons, William Blake. A. Constable, London 1907. |

|Michael Davis (1977) William Blake. A new kind of man. |Reprint: Cooper Square, New York 1970. {Includes documents |

|University of California, Berkeley. |of contemporaries about Wm. Blake, at 249-433.} |

|Morris Eaves (1992). The Counter-Arts Conspiracy: Art and |E.P. Thompson (1993). Witness Against the Beast. Cambridge |

|Industry in the Age of Blake. Cornell University Press. |University Press. ISBN 0-521-22515-9. |

|ISBN 0-8014-2489-5. |Joseph Viscomi (1993). Blake and the Idea of the Book |

|David V. Erdman (1977). Blake: Prophet Against Empire: A |(Princeton University Press). ISBN 0-691-06962-X. |

|Poet's Interpretation of the History of His Own Times. |David Weir (2003). Brahma in the West: William Blake and |

|Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-486-26719-9. |the Oriental Renaissance (SUNY Press). |

|---- (1988). The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake. |Jason Whittaker (1999). William Blake and the Myths of |

|Anchor. ISBN 0-385-15213-2. |Britain (London: Macmillan). |

|R. N. Essick (1980). William Blake: Printmaker. Princeton |W. B. Yeats (1903). Ideas of Good and Evil (London and |

|University Press. ISBN 0-691-03954-2. |Dublin: A. H. Bullen). {Two essays on Blake at 168-175, |

|---- (1989). William Blake and the Language of Adam. |176-225}. |

|Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-812985-8. | |

|R. N. Essick & D. Pearce, eds. (1978). Blake in his time. |ALSO: |

|Indiana University Press. |W. M. Rossetti, ed., Poetical Works of William Blake, |

|Michael Ferber, The Social Vision of William Blake. |(London, 1874) |

|Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1985. |A. G. B. Russell (1912). Engravings of William Blake. |

|Irving Fiske (1951). Bernard Shaw's Debt to William Blake. |Blake, William, William Blake's Works in Conventional |

|London: The Shaw Society [19-page phamphlet]. |Typography, edited by G. E. Bentley, Jr., 1984. Facsimile |

|Northrop Frye (1947). Fearful Symmetry. Princeton |ed., Scholars' Facsimiles & |

|University Press. ISBN 0-691-06165-3. | |

|---- ed. (1966). Blake. A collection of critical essays. | |

|Prentice-Hall. | |

|Alexander Gilchrist, Life and Works of William Blake, (2d | |

|ed., London, 1880). Reissued by Cambridge Univ., 2009. ISBN| |

|978-1-108-01369-7. | |

The Sick Ros

0 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

Dose thy life destroy


The Tyger

`Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forest 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 seize the fire?

And what shoulders, & what art,

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And when thy hear began to beat,

What dread hand? And 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 watere'd heaven with their tears.

Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forest of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry




William Wordsworth (7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850) was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads.

Wordsworth's magnum opus is generally considered to be The Prelude, a semiautobiographical poem of his early years which he revised and expanded a number of times. It was posthumously titled and published, prior to which it was generally known as the poem "to Coleridge." Wordsworth was Britain's Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death in 1850.

Early life

The second of five children born to John Wordsworth and Ann Cookson, William Wordsworth was born on 7 April 1770 in Wordsworth House in Cockermouth, Cumberland[1]—part of the scenic region in northwest England, the Lake District. His sister, the poet and diarist Dorothy Wordsworth, to whom he was close all his life, was born the following year, and the two were baptised together. They had three other siblings: Richard, the eldest, who became a lawyer; John, born after Dorothy, who went to sea and died in 1805 when the ship of which he was Master, Earl of Abergavenny was wrecked off the south coast of England; and Christopher, the youngest, who entered the Church and rose to be Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.[2] Their father was a legal representative of James Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale and, through his connections, lived in a large mansion in the small town. Wordsworth, as with his siblings, had little involvement with their father, and they would be distant with him until his death in 1783.[3]

Wordsworth's father, although rarely present, did teach him poetry, including that of Milton, Shakespeare and Spenser, in addition to allowing his son to rely on his own father's library. Along with spending time reading in Cockermouth, Wordsworth would also stay at his mother's parents house in Penrith, Cumberland. At Penrith, Wordsworth was exposed to the moors. Wordsworth could not get along with his grandparents and his uncle, and his hostile interactions with them distressed him to the point of contemplating suicide.[4]

After the death of their mother, in 1778, John Wordsworth sent William to Hawkshead Grammar School in Lancashire and Dorothy to live with relatives in Yorkshire; she and William would not meet again for another nine years. Although Hawkshead was Wordsworth's first serious experience with education, he had been taught to read by his mother and had attended a tiny school of low quality in Cockermouth. After the Cockermouth school, he was sent to a school in Penrith for the children of upper-class families and taught by Ann Birkett, a woman who insisted on instilling in her students traditions that included pursuing both scholarly and local activities, especially the festivals around Easter, May Day, and Shrove Tuesday. Wordsworth was taught both the Bible and the Spectator, but little else. It was at the school that Wordsworth was to meet the Hutchinsons, including Mary, who would be his future wife.[5]

Wordsworth made his debut as a writer in 1787 when he published a sonnet in The European Magazine. That same year he began attending St John's College, Cambridge, and received his B.A. degree in 1791.[6] He returned to Hawkshead for his first two summer holidays, and often spent later holidays on walking tours, visiting places famous for the beauty of their landscape. In 1790, he took a walking tour of Europe, during which he toured the Alps extensively, and visited nearby areas of France, Switzerland, and Italy.

Relationship with Annette Vallon

In November 1791, Wordsworth visited Revolutionary France and became enthralled with the Republican movement. He fell in love with a French woman, Annette Vallon, who in 1792 gave birth to their child, Caroline. Because of lack of money and Britain's tensions with France, he returned alone to England the next year.[7] The circumstances of his return and his subsequent behaviour raise doubts as to his declared wish to marry Annette, but he supported her and his daughter as best he could in later life. In 1802, he visited Calais with his sister Dorothy and met Annette and his daughter Caroline. The purpose of the visit was to pave the way for his forthcoming marriage to Mary Hutchinson. Afterwards he wrote the poem "It is a beauteous evening, calm and free," recalling his seaside walk with his daughter, whom he had not seen for ten years. At the conception of this poem, he had never seen his daughter before. The occurring lines reveal his deep love for both child and mother. The Reign of Terror estranged him from the Republican movement, and war between France and Britain prevented him from seeing Annette and Caroline again for several years. There are strong suggestions that Wordsworth may have been depressed and emotionally unsettled in the mid-1790s.[citation needed]

With the Peace of Amiens again allowing travel to France, in 1802 Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, visited Annette and Caroline in France and arrived at a mutually agreeable settlement regarding Wordsworth's obligations.[7]

First publication and Lyrical Ballads

In his "Preface to Lyrical Ballads", which is called the "manifesto" of English Romantic criticism, Wordsworth calls his poems "experimental." The year 1793 saw Wordsworth's first published poetry with the collections An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches. He received a legacy of £900 from Raisley Calvert in 1795 so that he could pursue writing poetry. That year, he met Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Somerset. The two poets quickly developed a close friendship. In 1797, Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy moved to Alfoxton House, Somerset, just a few miles away from Coleridge's home in Nether Stowey. Together, Wordsworth and Coleridge (with insights from Dorothy) produced Lyrical Ballads (1798), an important work in the English Romantic movement. The volume gave neither Wordsworth's nor Coleridge's name as author. One of Wordsworth's most famous poems, "Tintern Abbey", was published in the work, along with Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". The second edition, published in 1800, had only Wordsworth listed as the author, and included a preface to the poems, which was augmented significantly in the 1802 edition. This Preface to Lyrical Ballads is considered a central work of Romantic literary theory. In it, Wordsworth discusses what he sees as the elements of a new type of poetry, one based on the "real language of men" and which avoids the poetic diction of much eighteenth-century poetry. Here, Wordsworth gives his famous definition of poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility." A fourth and final edition of Lyrical Ballads was published in 1805.

Germany and move to the Lake District

Wordsworth, Dorothy and Coleridge traveled to Germany in the autumn of 1798. While Coleridge was intellectually stimulated by the trip, its main effect on Wordsworth was to produce homesickness.[7] During the harsh winter of 1798–99, Wordsworth lived with Dorothy in Goslar, and, despite extreme stress and loneliness, he began work on an autobiographical piece later titled The Prelude. He wrote a number of famous poems, including "The Lucy poems". He and his sister moved back to England, now to Dove Cottage in Grasmere in the Lake District, and this time with fellow poet Robert Southey nearby. Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey came to be known as the "Lake Poets".[9] Through this period, many of his poems revolve around themes of death, endurance, separation and grief.

Marriage and Children

In 1802, after Wordsworth's return from his trip to France with Dorothy to visit Annette and Caroline, Lowther's heir, William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale, paid the ₤4,000 debt owed to Wordsworth's father incurred through Lowther's failure to pay his aide.[10] Later that year, Wordsworth married a childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson.[7] Dorothy continued to live with the couple and grew close to Mary. The following year, Mary gave birth to the first of five children, three of whom predeceased William and Mary:

• John Wordsworth (18 June 1803–1875). Married four times:

1. Isabella Curwen (d. 1848) had six children: Jane, Henry, William, John, Charles and Edward.

2. Helen Ross (d. 1854). No issue.

3. Mary Ann Dolan (d. after 1858) had one daughter Dora (b.1858).

4. Mary Gamble. No issue.

• Dora Wordsworth (16 August 1804 – 9 July 1847). Married Edward Quillinan

• Thomas Wordsworth (15 June 1806 – 1 December 1812).

• Catherine Wordsworth (6 September 1808 – 4 June 1812).

• William "Willy" Wordsworth (12 May 1810–1883). Married Fanny Graham and had four children: Mary Louisa, William, Reginald, Gordon.

Autobiographical work and Poems in Two Volumes

Wordsworth had for years been making plans to write a long philosophical poem in three parts, which he intended to call The Recluse. He had in 1798–99 started an autobiographical poem, which he never named but called the "poem to Coleridge", which would serve as an appendix to The Recluse. In 1804, he began expanding this autobiographical work, having decided to make it a prologue rather than an appendix to the larger work he planned. By 1805, he had completed it, but refused to publish such a personal work until he had completed the whole of The Recluse. The death of his brother, John, in 1805 affected him strongly.

The source of Wordsworth's philosophical allegiances as articulated in The Prelude and in such shorter works as "Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey" has been the source of much critical debate. While it had long been supposed that Wordsworth relied chiefly on Coleridge for philosophical guidance, more recent scholarship has suggested that Wordsworth's ideas may have been formed years before he and Coleridge became friends in the mid 1790s. While in Revolutionary Paris in 1792, the twenty-two year old Wordsworth made the acquaintance of the mysterious traveller John "Walking" Stewart (1747–1822),[11] who was nearing the end of a thirty-years' peregrination from Madras, India, through Persia and Arabia, across Africa and all of Europe, and up through the fledgling United States. By the time of their association, Stewart had published an ambitious work of original materialist philosophy entitled The Apocalypse of Nature (London, 1791), to which many of Wordsworth's philosophical sentiments are likely indebted.

In 1807, his Poems in Two Volumes were published, including "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood". Up to this point Wordsworth was known publicly only for Lyrical Ballads, and he hoped this collection would cement his reputation. Its reception was lukewarm, however. For a time (starting in 1810), Wordsworth and Coleridge were estranged over the latter's opium addiction.[7] Two of his children, Thomas and Catherine, died in 1812. The following year, he received an appointment as Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, and the £400 per year income from the post made him financially secure. His family, including Dorothy, moved to Rydal Mount, Ambleside (between Grasmere and Rydal Water) in 1813, where he spent the rest of his life.[7]

In 1814 he published The Excursion as the second part of the three-part The Recluse. He had not completed the first and third parts, and never would. He did, however, write a poetic Prospectus to "The Recluse" in which he lays out the structure and intent of the poem. The Prospectus contains some of Wordsworth's most famous lines on the relation between the human mind and nature:

My voice proclaims

How exquisitely the individual Mind

(And the progressive powers perhaps no less

Of the whole species) to the external World

Is fitted:--and how exquisitely, too,

Theme this but little heard of among Men,

The external World is fitted to the Mind.

Some modern critics[who?] recognize a decline in his works beginning around the mid-1810s. But this decline was perhaps more a change in his lifestyle and beliefs, since most of the issues that characterize his early poetry (loss, death, endurance, separation and abandonment) were resolved in his writings. But, by 1820, he enjoyed the success accompanying a reversal in the contemporary critical opinion of his earlier works. Following the death of his friend the painter William Green in 1823, Wordsworth mended relations with Coleridge.[12] The two were fully reconciled by 1828, when they toured the Rhineland together.[7] Dorothy suffered from a severe illness in 1829 that rendered her an invalid for the remainder of her life. In 1835, Wordsworth gave Annette and Caroline the money they needed for support.

The Poet Laureate and other honors

Wordsworth received an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree in 1838 from Durham University, and the same honor from Oxford University the next year.[7] In 1842 the government awarded him a civil list pension amounting to £300 a year. With the death in 1843 of Robert Southey, Wordsworth became the Poet Laureate. He initially refused the honour, saying he was too old, but accepted when Prime Minister Robert Peel assured him "you shall have nothing required of you" (he became the only laureate to write no official poetry). When his daughter, Dora, died in 1847, his production of poetry came to a standstill.



Gravestone of William Wordsworth, Grasmere, Cumbria

William Wordsworth died by re-aggravating a case of pleurisy on 23 April 1850, and was buried at St. Oswald's church in Grasmere. His widow Mary published his lengthy autobiographical "poem to Coleridge" as The Prelude several months after his death. Though this failed to arouse great interest in 1850, it has since come to be recognized as his masterpiece.

Major works

• Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems (1798)

o "Simon Lee"

o "We are Seven"

o "Lines Written in Early Spring"

o "Expostulation and Reply"

o "The Tables Turned"

o "The Thorn"

o "Lines Composed A Few Miles above Tintern Abbey"

• Lyrical Ballads, with Other Poems (1800)

o Preface to the Lyrical Ballads

o "Strange fits of passion have I known"[13]

o "She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways"[13]

o "Three years she grew"[13]

o "A Slumber Did my Spirit Seal"[13]

o "I travelled among unknown men"[13]

o "Lucy Gray"

o "The Two April Mornings"

o "Nutting"

o "The Ruined Cottage"

o "Michael"

o "The Kitten At Play"

• Poems, in Two Volumes (1807)

o "Resolution and Independence"

o "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" Also known as "Daffodils"

o "My Heart Leaps Up"

o "Ode: Intimations of Immortality"

o "Ode to Duty"

o "The Solitary Reaper"

o "Elegiac Stanzas"

o "Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802"

o "London, 1802"

o "The World Is Too Much with Us"

• The Excursion (1814)

• The Prelude (1850)

o Guide to the Lakes (1810)

o Upon Westminster bridge


I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high over vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never -ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance.

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they,

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed – and gazed – but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude,

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.




Matthew Arnold (24 December 1822 – 15 April 1888) was an English poet and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools. He was the son of Thomas Arnold, the famed headmaster of Rugby School, and brother to both Tom Arnold, literary professor, and William Delafield Arnold, novelist and colonial administrator. Matthew Arnold has been characterized as a sage writer, a type of writer who chastises and instructs the reader on contemporary social issues

Early years

The Reverend John Keble, who would become one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, stood as godfather to Matthew. "Thomas Arnold admired Keble's 'hymns' in The Christian Year, only reversing himself with exasperation when this old friend became a Romeward-tending 'High Church' reactionary in the 1830s."[2] In 1828, Arnold's father was appointed Headmaster of Rugby School and his young family took up residence, that year, in the Headmaster's house. In 1831, Arnold was tutored by his uncle, the Reverend John Buckland, at Laleham, Middlesex. In 1834, the Arnolds occupied a holiday home, Fox How, in the Lake District. William Wordsworth was a neighbor and close friend. Fox How then became the family home after Dr. Arnold's untimely death in 1842.

In 1836, Arnold was sent to Winchester College, but in 1837 he returned to Rugby School where he was enrolled in the fifth form. He moved to the sixth form in 1838 and thus came under the direct tutelage of his father. He wrote verse for the manuscript Fox How Magazine produced by Matthew and his brother Tom for the family's enjoyment from 1838 to 1843. During his years as a Rugby student, he won school prizes for English essay writing, and Latin and English poetry. His prize poem, "Alaric at Rome," was printed at Rugby.

In 1841, he won an open scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. During his residence at Oxford, his friendship ripened with Arthur Hugh Clough, another graduate of Rugby who had been one of his father's favourites. Arnold attended John Henry Newman's sermons at St. Mary's, but did not join the Oxford Movement. His father died suddenly of heart disease in 1842. Arnold's poem "Cromwell" won the 1843 Newdigate prize. He graduated in the following year with a 2nd Class Honours degree in "Greats."

In 1845, after a short interlude of teaching at Rugby, he was elected Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. In 1847, he became Private Secretary to Lord Lansdowne, Lord President of the Council. In 1849, he published his first book of poetry, The Strayed Reveller. In 1850 Wordsworth died; Arnold published his "Memorial Verses" on the older poet in Fraser's Magazine.

Marriage and a career

Wishing to marry, but unable to support a family on the wages of a private secretary, Arnold sought the position of, and was appointed, in April 1851, one of Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools. Two months later, he married Frances Lucy, daughter of Sir William Wightman, Justice of the Queen's Bench. The Arnolds had six children: Thomas (1852–1868); Trevenen William (1853–1872); Richard Penrose (1855–1908), an inspector of factories;[3] Lucy Charlotte (1858–1934) who married Frederick W. Whitridge of New York, whom she had met during Arnold's American lecture tour; Eleanore Mary Caroline (1861–1936) married (1) Hon. Armine Wodehouse in 1889, (2) William Masefield, Baron Sandhurst, in 1909; Basil Francis (1866–1868).

Arnold often described his duties as a school inspector as "drudgery," although "at other times he acknowledged the benefit of regular work."[4] The inspectorship required him, at least at first, to travel constantly and across much of England. "Initially, Arnold was responsible for inspecting Nonconformist schools across a broad swath of central England. He spent many dreary hours during the 1850s in railway waiting-rooms and small-town hotels, and longer hours still in listening to children reciting their lessons and parents reciting their grievances. But that also meant that he, among the first generation of the railway age, travelled across more of England than any man of letters had ever done. Although his duties were later confined to a smaller area, Arnold knew the society of provincial England better than most of the metropolitan authors and politicians of the day."[5]

Literary career

In 1852, Arnold published his second volume of poems, Empedocles on Etna, and Other Poems. In 1853, he published Poems: A New Edition, a selection from the two earlier volumes famously excluding Empedocles on Etna, but adding new poems, Sohrab and Rustum and The Scholar Gipsy. In 1854, Poems: Second Series appeared; also a selection, it included the new poem, Balder Dead.

Arnold was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1857. He was the first to deliver his lectures in English rather than Latin. He was re-elected in 1862. On Translating Homer (1861) and the initial thoughts that Arnold would transform into Culture and Anarchy were among the fruits of the Oxford lectures. In 1859, he conducted the first of three trips to the continent at the behest of parliament to study European educational practices. He self-published The Popular Education of France (1861), the introduction to which was later published under the title Democracy (1879).[6]

In 1865, Arnold published Essays in Criticism: First Series. Essays in Criticism: Second Series would not appear until November 1888, shortly after his untimely death. In 1866, he published Thyrsis, his elegy to Clough who had died in 1861. Culture and Anarchy, Arnold's major work in social criticism (and one of the few pieces of his prose work currently in print) was published in 1869. Literature and Dogma, Arnold's major work in religious criticism appeared in 1873. In 1883 and 1884, Arnold toured the United States delivering lectures on education, democracy and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In 1886, he retired from school inspection and made another trip to America. Arnold died suddenly in 1888 of heart failure, when running to meet a tram that would have taken him to the Liverpool Landing Stage to see his daughter, who was visiting from the United States where she had moved after marrying an American.

Arnold's character

Matthew Arnold "was indeed the most delightful of companions," wrote G. W. E. Russell in Portraits of the Seventies; "a man of the world entirely free from worldliness and a man of letters without the faintest trace of pedantry."[7] A familiar figure at the Athenaeum Club, a frequent diner-out and guest at great country houses, fond of fishing and shooting, a lively conversationalist, affecting a combination of foppishness and Olympian grandeur, he read constantly, widely, and deeply, and in the intervals of supporting himself and his family by the quiet drudgery of school inspecting, filled notebook after notebook with meditations of an almost monastic tone. In his writings, he often baffled and sometimes annoyed his contemporaries by the apparent contradiction between his urbane, even frivolous manner in controversy, and the "high seriousness" of his critical views and the melancholy, almost plaintive note of much of his poetry. "A voice poking fun in the wilderness" was T. H. Warren's description of him.


Arnold is sometimes called the third great Victorian poet, along with Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson and Robert Browning.[8] Arnold was keenly aware of his place in poetry. In an 1869 letter to his mother, he wrote:

|My poems represent, on the whole, the main movement of mind of the last quarter of a century, and thus |

|they will probably have their day as people become conscious to themselves of what that movement of mind |

|is, and interested in the literary productions which reflect it. It might be fairly urged that I have less|

|poetical sentiment than Tennyson and less intellectual vigour and abundance than Browning; yet because I |

|have perhaps more of a fusion of the two than either of them, and have more regularly applied that fusion |

|to the main line of modern development, I am likely enough to have my turn as they have had theirs."[9] |

Stefan Collini regards this as "an exceptionally frank, but not unjust, self-assessment." "Arnold's poetry continues to have scholarly attention lavished upon it, in part because it seems to furnish such striking evidence for several central aspects of the intellectual history of the nineteenth century, especially the corrosion of 'Faith' by 'Doubt'. No poet, presumably, would wish to be summoned by later ages merely as an historical witness, but the sheer intellectual grasp of Arnold's verse renders it peculiarly liable to this treatment."[10]

Harold Bloom echoes Arnold's self reference in his introduction (as series editor) to the Modern Critical Views volume on Arnold: "Arnold got into his poetry what Tennyson and Browning scarcely needed (but absorbed anyway), the main march of mind of his time." Of his poetry, Bloom says, "Whatever his achievement as a critic of literature, society, or religion, his work as a poet may not merit the reputation it has continued to hold in the twentieth century. Arnold is, at his best, a very good but highly derivative poet.... As with Tennyson, Hopkins, and Rossetti, Arnold's dominant precursor was Keats, but this is an unhappy puzzle, since Arnold (unlike the others) professed not to admire Keats greatly, while writing his own elegiac poems in a diction, meter, imagistic procedure, that are embarrassingly close to Keats."[11]

Sir Edmund Chambers noted, however, that "in a comparison between the best works of Matthew Arnold and that of his six greatest contemporaries... the proportion of work which endures is greater in the case of Matthew Arnold than in any one of them."[12] Chambers judged Arnold's poetic vision by "its simplicity, lucidity, and straightforwardness; its literalness...; the sparing use of aureate words, or of far-fetched words, which are all the more effective when they come; the avoidance of inversions, and the general directness of syntax, which gives full value to the delicacies of a varied rhythm, and makes it, of all verse that I know, the easiest to read aloud."[13]

He has a primary school named after him in Liverpool, where he died, and secondary schools named after him in Oxford and Staines.

His literary career — leaving out the two prize poems — had begun in 1849 with the publication of The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems by A., which attracted little notice — although it contained perhaps Arnold's most purely poetical poem "The Forsaken Merman" — and was soon withdrawn. Empedocles on Etna and Other Poems (among them "Tristram and Iseult"), published in 1852, had a similar fate. In 1858 he brought out his tragedy of "Merope," calculated, he wrote to a friend, "rather to inaugurate my Professorship with dignity than to move deeply the present race of humans," and chiefly remarkable for some experiments in unusual — and unsuccessful — metres.

His 1867 poem "Dover Beach" depicted a nightmarish world from which the old religious verities have receded. It is sometimes held up as an early, if not the first, example of the modern sensibility. In a famous preface to a selection of the poems of William Wordsworth, Arnold identified himself, a little ironically, as a "Wordsworthian." The influence of Wordsworth, both in ideas and in diction, is unmistakable in Arnold's best poetry. Arnold's poem, "Dover Beach" appears in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and is also featured prominently in Saturday by Ian McEwan. It has also been quoted or alluded to in a variety of other contexts (see Dover Beach).

Some consider Arnold to be the bridge between Romanticism and Modernism. His use of symbolic landscapes was typical of the Romantic era, while his skeptical and pessimistic perspective was typical of the Modern era. The rationalistic tendency of certain of his writings gave offence to many readers, and the sufficiency of his equipment in scholarship for dealing with some of the subjects which he handled was called in question, but he undoubtedly exercised a stimulating influence on his time. His writings are characterised by the finest culture, high purpose, sincerity, and a style of great distinction, and much of his poetry has an exquisite and subtle beauty, though here also it has been doubted whether high culture and wide knowledge of poetry did not sometimes take the place of true poetic fire. Henry James wrote that Matthew Arnold's poetry will appeal to those who "like their pleasures rare" and who like to hear the poet "taking breath."

The mood of Arnold’s poetry tends to be of plaintive reflection, and he is restrained in expressing emotion. He felt that poetry should be the ‘criticism of life’ and express a philosophy. Arnold’s philosophy is that true happiness comes from within, and that people should seek within themselves for good, while being resigned in acceptance of outward things and avoiding the pointless turmoil of the world. However, he argues that we should not live in the belief that we shall one day inherit eternal bliss. If we are not happy on earth, we should moderate our desires rather than live in dreams of something that may never be attained. This philosophy is clearly expressed in such poems as "Dover Beach" and in these lines from "Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse":

Wandering between two worlds, one dead

The other powerless to be born,

With nowhere yet to rest my head

Like these, on earth I wait forlorn.

Arnold valued natural scenery for its peace and permanence in contrast with the ceaseless change of human things. His descriptions are often picturesque, and marked by striking similes. However, at the same time he liked subdued colours, mist and moonlight. He seems to prefer the ‘spent lights’ of the sea-depths in "The Forsaken Merman" to the village life preferred by the merman’s lost wife.

In his poetry he derived not only the subject matter of his narrative poems from various traditional or literary sources but even much of the romantic melancholy of his earlier poems from Senancour's "Obermann". His greatest defects as a poet stem from his lack of ear and his frequent failure to distinguish between poetry and prose.

The Poetical Works of Matthew Arnold[14]


Assessing the importance of Arnold's prose work in 1988, Stefan Collini stated, "for reasons to do with our own cultural preoccupations as much as with the merits of his writing, the best of his prose has a claim on us today that cannot be matched by his poetry."[15] "Certainly there may still be some readers who, vaguely recalling 'Dover Beach' or 'The Scholar Gipsy' from school anthologies, are surprised to find he 'also' wrote prose."[16]

George Watson follows George Saintsbury in dividing Arnold's career as a prose writer into three phases: 1) early literary criticism that begins with his preface to the 1853 edition of his poems and ends with the first series of Essays in Criticism (1865); 2) a prolonged middle period (overlapping the first and third phases) characterized by social, political and religious writing (roughly 1860-1875); 3) a return to literary criticism with the selecting and editing of collections of Wordsworth's and Byron's poetry and the second series of Essays in Criticism.[17] Both Watson and Saintsbury declare their preference for Arnold's literary criticism over his social or religious criticism. More recent writers, such as Collini, have shown a greater interest in his social writing,[18] while over the years a significant second tier of criticism has focused on Arnold's religious writing.[19] His writing on education has not drawn a significant critical endeavor separable from the criticism of his social writings.[20]

Selections from the Prose Work of Matthew Arnold[21]

Literary criticism

Arnold's work as a literary critic began with the 1853 "Preface to the Poems". In it, he attempted to explain his extreme act of self-censorship in excluding the dramatic poem "Empedocles on Etna". With its emphasis on the importance of subject in poetry, on "clearness of arrangement, rigor of development, simplicity of style" learned from the Greeks, and in the strong imprint of Goethe and Wordsworth, may be observed nearly all the essential elements in his critical theory. George Watson described the preface, written by the thirty-one year old Arnold, as "oddly stiff and graceless when we think of the elegance of his later prose."[22]

Criticism began to take first place in Arnold's writing with his appointment in 1857 to the professorship of poetry at Oxford, which he held for two successive terms of five years. In 1861 his lectures On Translating Homer were published, to be followed in 1862 by Last Words on Translating Homer, both volumes admirable in style and full of striking judgments and suggestive remarks, but built on rather arbitrary assumptions and reaching no well-established conclusions. Especially characteristic, both of his defects and his qualities, are on the one hand, Arnold's unconvincing advocacy of English hexameters and his creation of a kind of literary absolute in the "grand style," and, on the other, his keen feeling of the need for a disinterested and intelligent criticism in England.

Although Arnold's poetry received only mixed reviews and attention during his lifetime, his forays into literary criticism were more successful. Arnold is famous for introducing a methodology of literary criticism somewhere between the historicist approach common to many critics at the time and the personal essay; he often moved quickly and easily from literary subjects to political and social issues. His Essays in Criticism (1865, 1888), remains a significant influence on critics to this day. In one of his most famous essays on the topic, “The Study of Poetry”, Arnold wrote that, “Without poetry, our science will appear incomplete; and most of what now passes with us for religion and philosophy will be replaced by poetry”. He considered the most important criteria used to judge the value of a poem were “high truth” and “high seriousness”. By this standard, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales did not merit Arnold’s approval. Further, Arnold thought the works that had been proven to possess both “high truth” and “high seriousness”, such as those of Shakespeare and Milton, could be used as a basis of comparison to determine the merit of other works of poetry. He also sought for literary criticism to remain disinterested, and said that the appreciation should be of “the object as in itself it really is."

Social criticism

He was led on from literary criticism to a more general critique of the spirit of his age. Between 1867 and 1869 he wrote Culture and Anarchy, famous for the term he popularised for the middle class of the English Victorian era population: "Philistines", a word which derives its modern cultural meaning (in English - the German-language usage was well established) from him. Culture and Anarchy is also famous for its popularization of the phrase "sweetness and light," first coined by Jonathan Swift.[23]

Arnold's "want of logic and thoroughness of thought" as noted by John M. Robertson in Modern Humanists was an aspect of the inconsistency of which Arnold was accused.[24] Few of his ideas were his own, and he failed to reconcile the conflicting influences which moved him so strongly. "There are four people, in especial," he once wrote to Cardinal Newman, "from whom I am conscious of having learnt — a very different thing from merely receiving a strong impression — learnt habits, methods, ruling ideas, which are constantly with me; and the four are — Goethe, Wordsworth, Sainte-Beuve, and yourself." Dr. Arnold must be added; the son's fundamental likeness to the father was early pointed out by Swinburne, and was later attested by Matthew Arnold's grandson, Mr. Arnold Whitridge. Brought up in the tenets of the Philistinism which, as a professed cosmopolitan and the Apostle of Culture he attacked, he remained something of a Philistine to the end.

Journalistic criticism

In 1887, Arnold was credited with coining the phrase "New Journalism", a term that went on to define an entire genre of newspaper history, particularly Lord Northcliffe's turn-of-the-century press empire. However, at the time, the target of Arnold's irritation was not Northcliffe, but the sensational journalism of Pall Mall Gazette editor, W.T. Stead.[25] Arnold had enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial association with the Pall Mall Gazette since its inception in 1865. As an occasional contributor, he had formed a particular friendship with its first editor, Frederick Greenwood and a close acquaintance with its second, John Morley. But he strongly disapproved of the muck-raking Stead, and declared that, under Stead, "the P.M.G., whatever may be its merits, is fast ceasing to be literature."[26]

Religious criticism

His religious views were unusual for his time. Scholars of Arnold's works disagree on the nature of Arnold's personal religious beliefs. Under the influence of Baruch Spinoza and his father, Dr. Thomas Arnold, he rejected the superstitious elements in religion, even while retaining a fascination for church rituals. Arnold seems to belong to a pragmatic middle ground that is more concerned with the poetry of religion and its virtues and values for society than with the existence of God.

He wrote in the preface of God and the Bible in 1875 “The personages of the Christian heaven and their conversations are no more matter of fact than the personages of the Greek Olympus and their conversations.”[27] He also wrote in Literature and Dogma: "The word 'God' is used in most cases as by no means a term of science or exact knowledge, but a term of poetry and eloquence, a term thrown out, so to speak, as a not fully grasped object of the speaker's consciousness — a literary term, in short; and mankind mean different things by it as their consciousness differs."[28] He defined religion as "morality touched with emotion".[29]

However, he also wrote in the same book, "to pass from a Christianity relying on its miracles to a Christianity relying on its natural truth is a great change. It can only be brought about by those whose attachment to Christianity is such, that they cannot part with it, and yet cannot but deal with it sincerely."[30]

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to night.

The tide is full, the moon lies fair,

Upon the straits; -- on the French coast, the light,

Gleams, and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,

Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

Come to the window, sweet is the night air!

Only, from the long line of spray

Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,

Listen! you hear the grating roar

Of pebbles which the waves draw, back, and fling,

At their return, up the high strand,

Begin, and cease, and then again begin,

With tremulous cadence slow, and bring

The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago

Heard it on the Ægǽan, and it brought

Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow

Of human misery; we

Find also in the sound a thought,

Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith

Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore

Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled;

But now I only hear

Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,

Retreating to the breath,

Of the night-wind down the vest edges drear

And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! for the world , which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Poem lyrics of Easter, 1916 by William Butler Yeats.

Easter, 1916

I have met them at close of day

Coming with vivid faces

From counter or desk among grey

Eighteenth-century houses.

I have passed with a nod of the head

Or polite meaningless words,

Or have lingered awhile and said

Polite meaningless words,

And thought before I had done

Of a mocking tale or a gibe

To please a companion

Around the fire at the club,

Being certain that they and I

But lived where motley is worn:

All changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent

In ignorant good-will,

Her nights in argument

Until her voice grew shrill.

What voice more sweet than hers

When, young and beautiful,

She rode to harriers?

This man had kept a school

And rode our winged horse;

This other his helper and friend

Was coming into his force;

He might have won fame in the end,

So sensitive his nature seemed,

So daring and sweet his thought.

This other man I had dreamed

A drunken, vainglorious lout.

He had done most bitter wrong

To some who are near my heart,

Yet I number him in the song;

He, too, has resigned his part

In the casual comedy;

He, too, has been changed in his turn,

Transformed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone

Through summer and winter seem

Enchanted to a stone

To trouble the living stream.

The horse that comes from the road.

The rider, the birds that range

From cloud to tumbling cloud,

Minute by minute they change;

A shadow of cloud on the stream

Changes minute by minute;

A horse-hoof slides on the brim,

And a horse plashes within it;

The long-legged moor-hens dive,

And hens to moor-cocks call;

Minute by minute they live:

The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice

Can make a stone of the heart.

O when may it suffice?

That is Heaven's part, our part

To murmur name upon name,

As a mother names her child

When sleep at last has come

On limbs that had run wild.

What is it but nightfall?

No, no, not night but death;

Was it needless death after all?

For England may keep faith

For all that is done and said.

We know their dream; enough

To know they dreamed and are dead;

And what if excess of love

Bewildered them till they died?

I write it out in a verse --

MacDonagh and MacBride

And Connolly and pearse

Now and in time to be,

Wherever green is worn,

Are changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.


(1840- 1928)


Thomas Hardy, OM (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the naturalist movement, several poems display elements of the previous romantic and enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.

While he regarded himself primarily as a poet who composed novels mainly for financial gain, during his lifetime he was much better known for his novels, such as Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd, which earned him a reputation as a great novelist. The bulk of his fictional works, initially published as serials in magazines, were set in the semi-fictional land of Wessex (based on the Dorchester region where he grew up) and explored tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances.

Hardy's poetry, first published in his fifties, has come to be as well-regarded as his novels and has had a significant influence over modern English poetry, especially after The Movement poets of the 1950s and 1960s cited Hardy as a major figure


Thomas Hardy was born at Higher Bockhampton, a hamlet in the parish of Stinsford to the east of Dorchester in Dorset, England. His father (Thomas) worked as a stonemason and local builder. His mother Jemima was well-read and educated Thomas until he went to his first school at Bockhampton at age eight. For several years he attended a school run by a Mr Last. Here he learned Latin and demonstrated academic potential.[1] However, a family of Hardy's social position lacked the means for a university education, and his formal education ended at the age of 16 when he became apprenticed to John Hicks, a local architect. Hardy trained as an architect in Dorchester before moving to London in 1862; there he enrolled as a student at King's College, London. He won prizes from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architectural Association. Hardy never felt at home in London. He was acutely conscious of class divisions and his social inferiority. However, he was interested in social reform and was familiar with the works of John Stuart Mill. He was also introduced to the works of Charles Fourier and Auguste Comte during this period by his Dorset friend Horace Moule. Five years later, concerned about his health, he returned to Dorset and decided to dedicate himself to writing

In 1870, while on an architectural mission to restore the parish church of St Juliot in Cornwall,[2] Hardy met and fell in love with Emma Lavinia Gifford, whom he married in 1874.[3][4] Although he later became estranged from his wife, who died in 1912, her death had a traumatic effect on him. After her death, Hardy made a trip to Cornwall to revisit places linked with their courtship, and his Poems 1912–13 reflect upon her passing. In 1914, Hardy married his secretary Florence Emily Dugdale, who was 39 years his junior. However, he remained preoccupied with his first wife's death and tried to overcome his remorse by writing poetry.[5]

Hardy became ill with pleurisy in December 1927 and died at Max Gate just after 9 p.m. on 11 January 1928, having dictated his final poem to his wife on his deathbed; the cause of death was cited, on his death certificate, as "cardiac syncope", with "old age" given as a contributory factor. His funeral was on 16 January at Westminster Abbey, and it proved a controversial occasion because Hardy and his family and friends had wished for his body to be interred at Stinsford in the same grave as his first wife, Emma. However, his executor, Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell, insisted that he be placed in the abbey's famous Poets' Corner. A compromise was reached whereby his heart was buried at Stinsford with Emma, and his ashes in Poets' Corner.

Shortly after Hardy's death, the executors of his estate burnt his letters and notebooks. Twelve records survived, one of them containing notes and extracts of newspaper stories from the 1820s. Research into these provided insight into how Hardy kept track of them and how he used them in his later work.[6] In the year of his death Mrs Hardy published The Early Life of Thomas Hardy, 1841–1891: compiled largely from contemporary notes, letters, diaries, and biographical memoranda, as well as from oral information in conversations extending over many years

Hardy's work was admired by many authors including D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. In his autobiography Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves recalls meeting Hardy in Dorset in the early 1920s. Hardy received him and his new wife warmly, and was encouraging about his work.

In 1910, Hardy was awarded the Order of Merit.

Hardy's cottage at Bockhampton and Max Gate in Dorchester are owned by the National Trust.

Religious beliefs

Hardy's family was Anglican, but not especially devout. He was baptised at the age of five weeks and attended church, where his father and uncle contributed to music. However, he did not attend the local Church of England school, instead being sent to Mr Last's school, three miles away. As a young adult, he befriended Henry R. Bastow (a Plymouth Brethren man), who also worked as a pupil architect, and who was preparing for adult baptism in the Baptist Church. Hardy flirted with conversion, but decided against it.[7] Bastow went to Australia and maintained a long correspondence with Hardy, but eventually Hardy tired of these exchanges and the correspondence ceased. This concluded Hardy's links with the Baptists.

Hardy’s idea of fate in life gave way to his philosophical struggle with God. Although Hardy’s faith remained intact, the irony and struggles of life led him to question the traditional Christian view of God:

The Christian god — the external personality — has been replaced by the intelligence of the First Cause…the replacement of the old concept of God as all-powerful by a new concept of universal consciousness. The 'tribal god, man-shaped, fiery-faced and tyrannous' is replaced by the 'unconscious will of the Universe' which

Hardy's religious life seems to have mixed agnosticism, deism, and spiritism. Once, when asked in correspondence by a clergyman about the question of reconciling the horrors of pain with the goodness of a loving God, Hardy replied,

Nevertheless, Hardy frequently conceived of and wrote about supernatural forces that control the universe, more through indifference or caprice than any firm will. Also, Hardy showed in his writing some degree of fascination with ghosts and spirits.[9] Despite these sentiments, Hardy retained a strong emotional attachment to the Christian liturgy and church rituals, particularly as manifested in rural communities, that had been such a formative influence in his early years, and Biblical references can be found woven throughout many of Hardy's novels.

Hardy's friends during his apprenticeship to John Hicks included Horace Moule (one of the eight sons of Henry Moule) and the poet William Barnes, both ministers of religion. Moule remained a close friend of Hardy's for the rest of his life, and introduced him to new scientific findings that cast doubt on literal interpretations of the Bible,[10] such as those of Gideon Mantell. Moule gave Hardy a copy of Mantell's book The Wonders of Geology (1848) in 1858, and Adelene Buckland has suggested that there are "compelling similarities" between the "cliffhanger" section from A Pair of Blue Eyes and Mantell's geological descriptions. It has also been suggested that the character of Henry Knight in A Pair of Blue Eyes was based on Horace Moule.[11]

Hardy's first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady, finished by 1867, failed to find a publisher and Hardy destroyed the manuscript so only parts of the novel remain. He was encouraged to try again by his mentor and friend, Victorian poet and novelist George Meredith. Desperate Remedies (1871) and Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) were published anonymously. In 1873 A Pair of Blue Eyes, a novel drawing on Hardy's courtship of his first wife, was published under his own name. The term "cliffhanger" is considered to have originated with the serialized version of this story (which was published in Tinsley's Magazine between September 1872 and July 1873) in which Henry Knight, one of the protagonists, is left literally hanging off a cliff.

Hardy said that he first introduced Wessex in Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), his next novel. It was successful enough for Hardy to give up architectural work and pursue a literary career. Over the next twenty-five years Hardy produced ten more novels.

The Hardys moved from London to Yeovil and then to Sturminster Newton, where he wrote The Return of the Native (1878). In 1885, they moved for a last time, to Max Gate, a house outside Dorchester designed by Hardy and built by his brother. There he wrote The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887), and Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), the last of which attracted criticism for its sympathetic portrayal of a "fallen woman" and was initially refused publication. Its subtitle, A Pure Woman: Faithfully Presented, was intended to raise the eyebrows of the Victorian middle-classes.

Jude the Obscure, published in 1895, met with even stronger negative outcries from the Victorian public for its frank treatment of sex, and was often referred to as "Jude the Obscene". Heavily criticised for its apparent attack on the institution of marriage through the presentation of such concepts as erotolepsy, the book caused further strain on Hardy's already difficult marriage because Emma Hardy was concerned that Jude the Obscure would be read as autobiographical. Some booksellers sold the novel in brown paper bags, and the Bishop of Wakefield is reputed to have burnt his copy.[6] In his postscript of 1912, Hardy humorously referred to this incident as part of the career of the book: "After these [hostile] verdicts from the press its next misfortune was to be burnt by a bishop — probably in his despair at not being able to burn me".[12

Despite this criticism, Hardy had become a celebrity in English literature by the 1900s, with several highly successful novels behind him, yet he felt disgust at the public reception of two of his greatest works and gave up writing fiction altogether. Other novels written by Hardy include Two on a Tower a romance story set in the world of Astronomy

Literary themes

Although he wrote a great deal of poetry, most of it went unpublished until after 1898, thus Hardy is best remembered for the series of novels and short stories he wrote between 1871 and 1895. His novels are set in the imaginary world of Wessex, a large area of south and south-west England, using the name of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom that covered the area. Hardy was part of two worlds. He had a deep emotional bond with the rural way of life which he had known as a child, but he was also aware of the changes which were under way and the current social problems, from the innovations in agriculture — he captured the epoch just before the Industrial Revolution changed the English countryside — to the unfairness and hypocrisy of Victorian sexual behaviour.

Hardy critiques certain social constraints that hindered the lives of those living in the 19th century. Considered a Victorian Realist writer, Hardy examines the social constraints that are part of the Victorian status quo, suggesting these rules hinder the lives of all involved and ultimately lead to unhappiness. In Two on a Tower, Hardy seeks to take a stand against these rules and sets up a story against the backdrop of social structure by creating a story of love that crosses the boundaries of class. The reader is forced to consider disposing of the conventions set up for love. Nineteenth-century society enforces these conventions, and societal pressure ensures conformity. Swithin St Cleeve's idealism pits him against contemporary social constraints. He is a self-willed individual set up against the coercive strictures of social rules and mores.

Hardy’s stories take into consideration the events of life and their effects. Fate plays a significant role as the thematic basis for many of his novels. Characters are constantly encountering crossroads, which are symbolic of a point of opportunity and transition. Far From the Madding Crowd tells a tale of lives that are constructed by chance. “Had Bathsheba not sent the valentine, had Fanny not missed her wedding, for example, the story would have taken an entirely different path.”[13] Once things have been put into motion, they will play out. Hardy's characters are in the grips of an overwhelming fate.

Hardy paints a vivid picture of rural life in the 19th century, with all its joys and suffering, as a fatalistic world full of superstition and injustice. His heroes and heroines are often alienated from society and are rarely readmitted. He tends to emphasise the impersonal and, generally, negative powers of fate over the mainly working class people he represents in his novels. Hardy exhibits in his books elemental passion, deep instinct, and the human will struggling against fatal and ill-comprehended laws, a victim also of unforeseeable change. Tess of the d'Urbervilles, for example, ends with:

In particular, Hardy's novel Jude the Obscure is full of the sense of crisis of the later Victorian period (as witnessed in Matthew Arnold's 'Dover Beach'). It describes the tragedy of two new social types, Jude Fawley, a working man who attempts to educate himself, and his lover and cousin, Sue Bridehead, who represents the 'new woman' of the 1890s.[14]

His mastery, as both an author and poet, lies in the creation of natural surroundings making discoveries through close observation and acute sensitiveness. He notices the smallest and most delicate details, yet he can also paint vast landscapes of his own Wessex in melancholy or noble moods.[15] (His eye for poignant detail — such as the spreading bloodstain on the ceiling at the end of Tess of the d'Urbervilles and little Jude's suicide note — often came from clippings from newspaper reports of real events).


For the full text of several poems, see the External links section

In 1898 Hardy published his first volume of poetry, Wessex Poems, a collection of poems written over 30 years. Hardy claimed poetry as his first love, and published collections until his death in 1928. Although his poems were not as well received by his contemporaries as his novels, Hardy is now recognized as one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. His verse had a profound influence on later writers, notably Philip Larkin, who included many of Hardy's poems in the edition of the Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse that Larkin edited in 1973.

In a recent biography on Hardy, Claire Tomalin argues that Hardy became a truly great English poet after the death of his first wife, Emma, beginning with the elegies he wrote in her memory, calling these poems, "one of the finest and strangest celebrations of the dead in English poetry."[16]

Most of his poems such as "Neutral Tones'", deal with themes of disappointment in love and life, and mankind's long struggle against indifference to human suffering. Some, like "The Darkling Thrush" and "An August Midnight", appear as poems about writing poetry, because the nature mentioned in them gives Hardy the inspiration to write those. A vein of regret tinges his often seemingly banal themes. His compositions range in style from the three-volume epic closet drama The Dynasts to smaller, and often hopeful or even cheerful ballads of the moment such as the little-known "The Children and Sir Nameless", a comic poem inspired by the tombs of the Martyns, builders of Athelhampton. A particularly strong theme in the Wessex Poems is the long shadow that the Napoleonic Wars cast over the nineteenth century, for example, in "The Sergeant's Song" and "Leipzig", and the way those memories wind through the English landscape and its inhabitants.

A few of Hardy's poems, such as "The Blinded Bird" (a melancholy polemic against the sport of vinkenzetting), display his love of the natural world and his firm stance against animal cruelty, exhibited in his antivivisectionist views and his membership in the RSPCA.[17]

Composers who have set Hardy's text to music include Gerald Finzi, who produced six song-cycles for poems by Hardy, Benjamin Britten, who based his song-cycle Winter Words on Hardy's poetry, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst. Holst also based one of his last orchestral works, Egdon Heath, on Hardy's work. Composer Lee Hoiby's setting of "The Darkling Thrush" became the basis of the multimedia opera Darkling and Timothy C. Takach, a Minneapolis-based composer, has also set "The Darkling Thrush" as an original composition for four-part a cappella mixed choir.



Hardy divided his novels and collected short stories into three classes:

Novels of Character and Environment

• The Poor Man and the Lady (1867, unpublished and lost)

• Under the Greenwood Tree (1872)

• Far from the Madding Crowd (1874)

• The Return of the Native (1878)

• The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)

• The Woodlanders (1887)

• Wessex Tales (1888, a collection of short stories)

• Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891)

• Life's Little Ironies (1894, a collection of short stories)

• Jude the Obscure (1895)

Romances and Fantasies

• A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873)

• The Trumpet-Major (1880)

• Two on a Tower (1882)

• A Group of Noble Dames (1891, a collection of short stories)

• The Well-Beloved (1897) (first published as a serial from 1892)

Novels of Ingenuity

• Desperate Remedies (1871)

• The Hand of Ethelberta (1876)

• A Laodicean (1881)

Hardy also produced a number of minor tales and a collaborative novel, The Spectre of the Real (1894). An additional short-story collection, beyond the ones mentioned above, is A Changed Man and Other Tales (1913). His works have been collected as the 24-volume Wessex Edition (1912–13) and the 37-volume Mellstock Edition (1919–20). His largely self-written biography appears under his second wife's name in two volumes from 1928–30, as The Early Life of Thomas Hardy, 1840–91 and The Later Years of Thomas Hardy, 1892–1928, now published in a critical one-volume edition as The Life and Work of Thomas Hardy, edited by Michael Millgate (1984).

Short Story Collections

Life's Little Ironies

Short stories (with date of first publication)

|"How I Built Myself A House" (1865) |"The Winters And The Palmleys" (1891) |

|"Destiny and a Blue Cloak" (1874) |"For Conscience' Sake" (1891) |

|"The Thieves Who Couldn't Stop Sneezing" (1877) |"Incident in Mr. Crookhill's Life"(1891) |

|"The Duchess of Hamptonshire" (1878) |"The Doctor's Legend" (1891) |

|"The Distracted Preacher" (1879) |"Andrey Satchel and the Parson and Clerk" (1891) |

|"Fellow-Townsmen" (1880) |"The History of the Hardcomes" (1891) |

|"The Honourable Laura" (1881) |"Netty Sargent's Copyhold" (1891) |

|"What The Shepherd Saw" (1881) |"On The Western Circuit" (1891) |

|"A Tradition of Eighteen Hundred and Four" (1882) |"A Few Crusted Characters: Introduction" (1891) |

|"The Three Strangers" (1883) |"The Superstitious Man's Story" (1891) |

|"The Romantic Adventures Of A Milkmaid" (1883) |"Tony Kytes, the Arch-Deceiver" (1891) |

|"Interlopers At The Knap" (1884) |"To Please His Wife" (1891) |

|"A Mere Interlude" (1885) (republished in Penguin Great Loves |"The Son's Veto" (1891) |

|series) |"Old Andrey's Experience as a Musician" (1891) |

|"A Tryst At An Ancient Earthwork" (1885) |"Our Exploits At West Poley" (1892–93) |

|"Alicia's Diary" (1887) |"Master John Horseleigh, Knight" (1893) |

|"The Waiting Supper" (1887–88) |"The Fiddler of the Reels" (1893) |

|"The Withered Arm" (1888) |"An Imaginative Woman" (1894) |

|"A Tragedy Of Two Ambitions" (1888) |"The Spectre of the Real" (1894) |

|"The First Countess of Wessex" (1889) |"A Committee-Man of 'The Terror'" (1896) |

|"Anna, Lady Baxby" (1890) |"The Duke's Reappearance" (1896) |

|"The Lady Icenway" (1890) |"The Grave By The Handpost" (1897) |

|"Lady Mottisfont" (1890) |"A Changed Man" (1900) |

|"The Lady Penelope" (1890) |"Enter a Dragoon" (1900) |

|"The Marchioness of Stonehenge" (1890) |"Blue Jimmy: The Horse Stealer" (1911) |

|"Squire Petrick's Lady" (1890) |"Old Mrs. Chundle" (1929) |

|"Barbara Of The House Of Grebe" (1890) |"The Unconquerable"(1992) |

|"The Melancholy Hussar of The German Legion" (1890) | |

|"Absent-Mindedness in a Parish Choir" (1891) | |

Poetry collections

• The Photograph (1890)

• Wessex Poems and Other Verses (1898)

• Poems of the Past and Present (1901)

• The Man He Killed (1902)

• Time's Laughingstocks and Other Verses (1909)

• The Voice (1912)

• Satires of Circumstance (1914)

• Moments of Vision (1917)

• Collected Poems (1919)

• Late Lyrics and Earlier with Many Other Verses (1922)

• Human Shows, Far Phantasies, Songs and Trifles (1925)

• Winter Words in Various Moods and Metres (1928)

• The Complete Poems (Macmillan, 1976)

• Selected Poems (Edited by Harry Thomas, Penguin, 1993)

• Hardy: Poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets, 1995)

• Thomas Hardy: Selected Poetry and Nonfictional Prose (St. Martin's Press, 1996)

• Selected Poems (Edited by Robert Mezey, Penguin, 1998)

• Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems (Edited by James Gibson, Palgrave, 2001)


• The Dynasts (verse drama)

o The Dynasts, Part 1 (1904)

o The Dynasts, Part 2 (1906)

o The Dynasts, Part 3 (1908)

• The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall at Tintagel in Lyonnesse (1923) (one-act play)

The oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock,

‘ Now they are all on their knees

An elder said as we sat in a flock

By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where

They dwelt in their strawy pen,

Nor did it occur to one of us there

To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave

In these years! Yet, I feel,

If someone said on Christmas Eve,

Come; see the oxen Kneel

In the lonely barton by yonder coomb

Our childhood used to know,

I should go with him in the gloom.

Hoping it might be so.


(1887- 1915)


Rupert Chawner Brooke (middle name sometimes given as Chaucer)[1] (3 August 1887 – 23 April 1915[2]) was an English poet known for his idealistic war sonnets written during the First World War (especially The Soldier). He was also known for his boyish good looks, which prompted the Irish poet William Butler Yeats to describe him as "the handsomest young man in England".

Early life and education

Brooke was born at 5 Hillmorton Road in Rugby, Warwickshire,[3] the second of the three sons of William Parker Brooke, a Rugby schoolmaster, and Ruth Mary Brooke, née Cotterill. He was educated at two independent schools in the market town of Rugby, Warwickshire; Hillbrow School and Rugby School.

While travelling in Europe he prepared a thesis entitled "John Webster and the Elizabethan Drama", which won him a scholarship to King's College, Cambridge where he became a member of the Cambridge Apostles, helped found the Marlowe Society drama club and acted in plays including the Cambridge Greek Play.

Life and career

Brooke made friends among the Bloomsbury group of writers, some of whom admired his talent while others were more impressed by his good looks. Virginia Woolf boasted to Vita Sackville-West of once going skinny-dipping with Brooke in a moonlit pool when they were at Cambridge together.[4]

Brooke belonged to another literary group known as the Georgian Poets and was one of the most important of the Dymock poets, associated with the Gloucestershire village of Dymock where he spent some time before the war. He also lived in the Old Vicarage, Grantchester (a house now occupied by Cambridge chemist Mary Archer and her husband, the novelist Jeffrey Archer).

Brooke suffered from a severe emotional crisis in 1913, caused by sexual confusion and jealousy, resulting in the breakdown of his long relationship with Ka Cox (Katherine Laird Cox).[5] Intrigue by both Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey is said[citation needed] to have played a part in Brooke's nervous collapse and subsequent rehabilitation trips to Germany.

As part of his recuperation Brooke toured the United States and Canada to write travel diaries for the Westminster Gazette. He took the long way home, sailing across the Pacific and staying some months in the South Seas. Much later it was revealed that he may have fathered a daughter with a Tahitian woman named Taatamata with whom he seems to have enjoyed his most complete emotional relationship.[6] Brooke fell heavily in love several times with both men and women, although his bisexuality was edited out of his life by his first literary executor. Many more people were in love with him.[7] Brooke was romantically involved with the actress Cathleen Nesbitt and was once engaged to Noel Olivier, whom he met while she was a 15-year-old at the progressive Bedales School.

Brooke was an inspiration to poet John Gillespie Magee, Jr., author of the poem "High Flight". Magee idolised Brooke and wrote a poem about him ("Sonnet to Rupert Brooke"). Magee also won the same poetry prize at Rugby School that Brooke had won 34 years prior.

Brooke's most famous collection of poetry, "1914 & Other Poems" was first published in May 1915, and in testament to his popularity ran through 11 further impressions that year, and by June 1918 had reached its 24th impression[8]; a process undoubtedly fuelled through posthumous interest

Corner of a Foreign Field.

Brooke's accomplished poetry gained many enthusiasts and followers and he was taken up by Edward Marsh who brought him to the attention of Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty. He was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a temporary Sub-Lieutenant[9] shortly after his 27th birthday and took part in the Royal Naval Division's Antwerp expedition in October 1914. He sailed with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 28 February 1915 but developed sepsis from an infected mosquito bite. He died at 4:46 pm on 23 April 1915 in a French hospital ship moored in a bay off the island of Skyros in the Aegean on his way to battle at Gallipoli. As the expeditionary force had orders to depart immediately, he was buried at 11 pm in an olive grove on Skyros, Greece.[1][2][10] The site was chosen by his close friend, William Denis Browne, who wrote of Brooke's death:[11]

...I sat with Rupert. At 4 o’clock he became weaker, and at 4.46 he died, with the sun shining all round his cabin, and the cool sea-breeze blowing through the door and the shaded windows. No one could have wished for a quieter or a calmer end than in that lovely bay, shielded by the mountains and fragrant with sage and thyme.

Grave of Rupert Brooke on Skyros Island, Greece

His grave remains there today.[12] Another friend—and war poet—Patrick Shaw-Stewart, also played a prominent role in Brooke's funeral.[13] On 11 November 1985, Brooke was among 16 First World War poets commemorated on a slate monument unveiled in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.[14] The inscription on the stone was written by a fellow war poet, Wilfred Owen. It reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."[15]

Brooke's brother, 2nd Lt. William Alfred Cotterill Brooke, was a member of the 8th Battalion London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) and was killed in action near Le Rutoire Farm on 14 June 1915 aged 24. He is buried in Fosse 7 Military Cemetery (Quality Street), Mazingarbe, Pas de Calais, France. He had only joined the battalion on 25 May.[16]

In popular culture

The beginning of This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald opens with the quote "... Well this side of Paradise!... There's little comfort in the wise. -Rupert Brooke" This Side of Paradise from Brooke's poem Tiare Tahiti final line. Brooke's poem "A Channel Passage," with its vivid description of seasickness, is used for comic effect in a third season episode, "Springtime", of the television series M*A*S*H. Corporal Radar O'Reilly reads the poem to a nurse he hopes to impress, with surprising results. Radar pronounces the poet's name as "Ruptured Brooke". Part of Brooke's poem "Dust" is used as the lyric for a song by the same title, composed by Danny Kirwan and recorded by Fleetwood Mac on their 1972 album Bare Trees. Brooke is not credited on the album. On Pink Floyd's war-themed album The Final Cut, the song "The Gunner's Dream" contains the lyrics "in the space between the heavens and the Corner of Some Foreign Field." Portions of Brooke's poem "The Hill" appear at the beginning of the video for the Pet Shop Boys song "Se a vida é (That's the way life is)".

Brooke's poetry is used as character and plot device in the 1981 movie Making Love and the child ultimately born to Kate Jackson's character "Claire" is named after him.

In the 1970s television series Upstairs, Downstairs, the character of Lawrence Kirbridge is based largely on Rupert Brooke.

In the 1989 television series Blackadder Goes Forth, in the episode "Major Star", the protagonist Blackadder tells his Lieutenant, George, "If I should die, think only this of me, I'll be back to get you!". This is a parody of the first three lines of Brooke's poem "The Soldier"; "If I should die, think only this of me: / That there's some corner of a foreign field / That is forever England."

He is mentioned briefly in The Catcher in the Rye when Allie and D.B. discuss war poets.

The 2009 novel, The Great Lover by Jill Dawson is based on the life of Rupert Brooke, which mixes fact with fiction. The title is taken from one of Brooke's poems of the same name. [17]

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is forever England. There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;

A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,

Gave once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,

A body of England’s, breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blessed by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,

A pulse in the Eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given,

Her sights and sounds, dreams happy as their day;

And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,

In heart at peace, under an English heaven.


( 1893- 1918 )


Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC (18 March 1893 – 4 November 1918) was a British poet and soldier in the first world war, and one of the leading poets of the First World War. His shocking, realistic war poetry on the horrors of trenches and gas warfare was heavily influenced by his friend Siegfried Sassoon and sat in stark contrast to both the public perception of war at the time, and to the confidently patriotic verse written earlier by war poets such as Rupert Brooke. Some of his best-known works—most of which were published posthumously—include "Dulce et Decorum Est", "Insensibility", "Anthem for Doomed Youth", "Futility" and "Strange Meeting". His preface intended for a book of poems to be published in 1919 contains numerous well-known phrases, especially "War, and the pity of War", and "the Poetry is in the pity".[1]

He was killed in action at the Battle of the Sambre a week before the war ended. In a moment of ghastly irony, the telegram from the War Office announcing his death was delivered to his mother's home as her town's church bells were ringing in celebration of the Armistice

Early life

Wilfred Owen was born the eldest of four children in Plas Wilmot; a house near Oswestry in Shropshire on 18 March 1893, of mixed English and Welsh ancestry. At that time, his parents, Thomas and Susan Owen, lived in a comfortable house owned by his grandfather, but, on his death in 1897, the family was forced to move to lodgings in the back streets of Birkenhead. He was educated at the Birkenhead Institute and at Shrewsbury Technical School (now The Wakeman School), and discovered his vocation in 1903 or 1904 during a holiday spent in Cheshire. Owen was raised as an Anglican of the evangelical school, and in his youth was a devout believer, in part due to his strong relationship with his mother, which was to last throughout his life. His early influences included the 'big six' of romantic poetry, particularly John Keats, and, as with many other writers of the time, the Bible.

Shortly after leaving school in 1911, Owen passed the matriculation exam for the University of London, but not with the first-class honours needed for a scholarship (his studies suffered as Owen mourned the loss of his uncle and role model, Edgar Hilton, to a hunting accident) which in his family's circumstances were the only way he could afford to attend.

In return for free lodging, and some tuition for the entrance exam, Owen worked as lay assistant to the Vicar of Dunsden near Reading and as a pupil-teacher at Wyle Cop School. He then attended classes at University College, Reading (now the University of Reading), in botany and later, at the urging of the head of the English Department free lessons in Old English. His time spent at Dunsden parish led him to disillusionment with the church, both in its ceremony and its lack of aid for those in need.

Prior to the outbreak of World War I, he worked as a private tutor teaching English and French at the Berlitz School of Languages in Bordeaux, France. There he met the older French poet Laurent Tailhade, with whom he later corresponded in French.[2]

War service

On 21 October 1915, he enlisted in the Artists' Rifles Officers' Training Corps. For the next seven months, he trained at Hare Hall Camp in Essex. On 4 June 1916 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant (on probation) in The Manchester Regiment.[3] Owen started the war as a cheerful and optimistic man, but he soon changed forever. Initially, he held his troops in contempt for their loutish behaviour, and wrote to his mother calling his company "expressionless lumps".[4] However, Owen's outlook on the war was to be changed dramatically after two traumatic experiences. Firstly, he was blown high into the air by a trench mortar, landing in the remains of a fellow officer. Soon after, he became trapped for days in an old German dugout. After these two events, Owen was diagnosed as suffering from shell shock and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment. It was whilst recuperating at Craiglockhart that he was to meet fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon, an encounter which was to transform Owen's life.

After a period of convalescence in Scotland, then a short spell working as a teacher in nearby Tynecastle High School, he returned to light regimental duties. In March 1918, he was posted to the Northern Command Depot at Ripon.[5] A number of poems were composed in Ripon, including "Futility" and "Strange Meeting". His 25th birthday was spent quietly in Ripon Cathedral.

After returning to the front, Owen led units of the Second Manchesters on 1 October 1918 to storm a number of enemy strong points near the village of Joncourt. However, only one week before the end of the war, whilst attempting to traverse a canal, he was shot in the head by an enemy rifle and was killed. The news of his death, on 4 November 1918, was to be given to his mother on Armistice Day. For his courage and leadership in the Joncourt action, he was awarded the Military Cross, an award which he had always sought in order to justify himself as a war poet, but the award was not gazetted until 15 February 1919.[6] The citation followed on 30 July 1919:

2nd Lt, Wilfred Edward Salter Owen, 5th Bn. Manch. R., T.F., attd. 2nd Bn.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in the attack on the Fonsomme Line on October lst/2nd, 1918. On the company commander becoming a casualty, he assumed command and showed fine leadership and resisted a heavy counter-attack. He personally manipulated a captured enemy machine gun from an isolated position and inflicted considerable losses on the enemy. Throughout he behaved most gallantly.[7]


Owen is regarded by historians as the leading poet of the First World War, known for his war poetry on the horrors of trench and gas warfare. He had been writing poetry for some years before the war, himself dating his poetic beginnings to a stay at Broxton by the Hill, when he was ten years old.[8] The Romantic poets Keats and P.B. Shelley influenced much of Owen's early writing and poetry. His great friend, the poet Siegfried Sassoon later had a profound effect on Owen's poetic voice, and Owen's most famous poems ("Dulce et Decorum Est" and "Anthem for Doomed Youth") show direct results of Sassoon's influence. The novel Regeneration by Pat Barker shows this relationship closely. Manuscript copies of the poems survive, annotated in Sassoon's handwriting. Owen's poetry would eventually be more widely acclaimed than that of his mentor. While his use of pararhyme, with its heavy reliance on consonance, was innovative, he was not the only poet at the time to use these particular techniques. He was, however, one of the first to experiment with it extensively.

As for his poetry itself, it underwent significant changes in 1917. As a part of his therapy at Craiglockhart, Owen's doctor, Arthur Brock, encouraged Owen to translate his experiences, specifically the experiences he relived in his dreams, into poetry. Sassoon, who was becoming influenced by Freudian psychoanalysis, aided him here, showing Owen through example what poetry could do. Sassoon's use of satire influenced Owen, who tried his hand at writing "in Sassoon's style". Further, the content of Owen's verse was undeniably changed by his work with Sassoon. Sassoon's emphasis on realism and 'writing from experience' was contrary to Owen's hitherto romantic-influenced style, as seen in his earlier sonnets. Owen was to take both Sassoon's gritty realism and his own romantic notions and create a poetic synthesis that was both potent and sympathetic, as summarised by his famous phrase 'the pity of war'. In this way, Owen's poetry is quite distinctive, and he is, by many, considered a greater poet than Sassoon. Nonetheless, Sassoon contributed to Owen's popularity by his strong promotion of his poetry, both before and after Owen's death, and his editing was instrumental in the making of Owen as a poet.

Thousands of poems were published during the war, but very few of them had the benefit of such strong patronage, and it is as a result of Sassoon's influence, as well as support from Edith Sitwell and the editing of his poems into a new anthology in 1931 by Edmund Blunden that ensured his popularity, coupled with a revival of interest in his poetry in the 1960s which plucked him out of a relatively exclusive readership into the public eye.

Though he had plans for a volume of verse, for which he had written a "Preface", he never saw his own work published apart from those poems he included in The Hydra, the magazine he edited at the Craiglockhart War Hospital and 'Miners' which was published in "The Nation".

Owen had many other influences on his poetry, including his mother, with whom he remained close throughout his life. His letters to her provide us with insight into Owen's life at the front, as well as the development of his philosophy regarding the war. Graphic details of the horror Owen witnessed were never spared.

Owen's experiences with religion also heavily influenced his poetry, notably in poems such as Anthem for Doomed Youth, in which the ceremony of a funeral is reenacted not in a church, but on the battlefield itself. Owen's experiences in war led him to further challenge his religious beliefs, claiming in his poem Exposure that 'love of God seems dying'.

These influences built on his pre-war interest in Romantic poetry, and especially that of John Keats.

Relationship with Sassoon

Owen held Sassoon in an esteem not far from hero-worship, remarking to his mother that he was "not worthy to light [Sassoon's] pipe." On being discharged from Craiglockhart, Owen was stationed on home-duty in Scarborough for several months, during which time he associated with members of the artistic circle into which Sassoon had introduced him, which included Robert Ross and Robert Graves. He also met H. G. Wells and Arnold Bennett, and it was during this period he developed the stylistic voice for which he is now recognised. Many of his early poems were penned while stationed at the Clarence Garden Hotel, now the Clifton Hotel in Scarborough's North Bay. A blue tourist plaque on the hotel marks its association with Owen.

Robert Graves[9] and Sacheverell Sitwell[10] (who also personally knew him) have stated Owen was homosexual, and homoeroticism is a central element in much of Owen's poetry.[11][12][13][14] Through Sassoon, Owen was introduced to a sophisticated homosexual literary circle which included Oscar Wilde's friend Robbie Ross, writer and poet Osbert Sitwell, and Scottish writer C. K. Scott-Moncrieff, the translator of Proust. This contact broadened Owen's outlook, and increased his confidence in incorporating homoerotic elements into his work.[15][16] Historians have debated whether Owen had an affair with Scott-Moncrieff in May 1918; Scott-Moncrieff had dedicated various works to a "Mr W.O.",[17] but Owen never responded.[18]

The account of Owen's sexual development has been somewhat obscured because his brother, Harold Owen, removed what he considered discreditable passages in Owen's letters and diaries after the death of their mother.[19] Owen also requested that his mother burn a sack of his personal papers in the event of his death, which she did.

Andrew Motion wrote of Owen's relationship with Sassoon

On the one hand, Sassoon's wealth, posh connections and aristocratic manner appealed to the snob in Owen: on the other, Sassoon's homosexuality admitted Owen to a style of living and thinking that he found naturally sympathetic. [20]



Owen's grave (centre), in Ors communal cemetery

In July 1918, Owen returned to active service in France, although he might have stayed on home-duty indefinitely. His decision was almost wholly the result of Sassoon's being sent back to England. Sassoon, who had been shot in the head in a so-called friendly fire incident, was put on sick-leave for the remaining duration of the war. Owen saw it as his patriotic duty to take Sassoon's place at the front, that the horrific realities of the war might continue to be told. Sassoon was violently opposed to the idea of Owen returning to the trenches, threatening to "stab [him] in the leg" if he tried it. Aware of his attitude, Owen did not inform him of his action until he was once again in France.

Owen was killed in action on 4 November 1918 during the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal, exactly one week (almost to the hour) before the signing of the Armistice and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant the day after his death. His mother received the telegram informing her of his death on Armistice Day, as the church bells were ringing out in celebration. He is buried at Ors Communal Cemetery.[21] There are memorials to Wilfred Owen at Gailly,[22] Ors,[23] Oswestry,[24] Birkenhead (Central Library) and Shrewsbury.[25]

On 11 November 1985, Owen was one of the 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner.[26] The inscription on the stone is taken from Owen's "Preface" to his poems; "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."[1] There is also a small museum dedicated to Owen and Sassoon at the Craiglockhart War Hospital, now a Napier University building.

Literary output

Only five of Owen's poems had been published before his death, one of which was in fragmentary form. His best known poems include "Anthem for Doomed Youth", "Futility", "Dulce Et Decorum Est", "The Parable of the Old Man and the Young" and "Strange Meeting". Some of his poems feature in Benjamin Britten's War Requiem.

Owen's full unexpurgated opus is in the academic two-volume work The Complete Poems and Fragments (1994) by Jon Stallworthy. Many of his poems have never been published in popular form.

In 1975 Mrs. Harold Owen, Wilfred's sister-in-law, donated all of the manuscripts, photographs and letters which her late husband had owned to the University of Oxford's English Faculty Library. As well as the personal artifacts this also includes all of Wilfred's personal library and an almost complete set of The Hydra—the magazine of Craiglockhart War Hospital. These can be accessed by any member of the public on application in advance to the English Faculty librarian.

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin holds a large collection of Wilfred Owen's family correspondence

Depictions in popular culture

Owen's stature as an archetypal war poet has meant references to him and his work are commonplace in popular culture.

Pat Barker's 1991 historical novel Regeneration describes the meeting and relationship between Sassoon and Owen,[27] acknowledging that, from Sassoon's perspective, the meeting had a profoundly significant effect on Owen. Owen's treatment with his own doctor, Arthur Brock, is also touched upon briefly. Owen's death is described in the third book of Barker's Regeneration trilogy, The Ghost Road.[28] In the 1997 film he was played by Stuart Bunce.[29] The play Not About Heroes by Stephen MacDonald also takes as its subject matter the friendship between Owen and Sassoon, and begins with their meeting at Craiglockhart during World War I.[30] Owen was mentioned as a source of inspiration for one of the correspondents in the epistolary novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.[31]

Owen himself is the subject of the 2007 BBC docudrama Wilfred Owen: A Remembrance Tale, in which he is played by Samuel Barnett.[32] His poetry has been reworked into various formats, such as The Ravishing Beauties' recording of Owen's poem Futility in an April 1982 John Peel session.[33] Benjamin Britten incorporated nine Owen poems into his War Requiem, opus 66, along with words from the Latin Mass for the Dead (Missa pro Defunctis). The Requiem was commissioned for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral, and first performed there on 30 May 1962.[34] A screen adaptation was made by Derek Jarman in 1988, with the 1963 recording as the soundtrack.[35]

In 1982, Anthem for Doomed Youth was set to music and recorded by the 10,000 Maniacs in Fredonia, New York. The recording appeared on their first EP release Human Conflict Number Five and later on the compilation Hope Chest. The song is unique in the oeuvre of the group as the poem is sung by guitarist John Lombardo, not lead singer Natalie Merchant (who sings back-up vocals on the track).


Move him into the sun-

Gently its touch awoke him once,

At home, whispering of fields unsown.

Always it woke him, even in France,

Until this morning and this snow.

If anything might rouse him now

The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds-

Woke once the clays of a cold star.

Are limbs, so dear achieved, are sides

Full-nerved- still warm- too hard to stir?

Was it for this the clay grew tall?

-O what made fatuous sunbeams toil?

To break earth’s sleep at all?


Philip Larkin

1922 - 1985


Philip Arthur Larkin, CH, CBE, FRSL (9 August 1922 – 2 December 1985) is widely regarded as one of the great English poets of the latter half of the twentieth century. His first book of poetry, The North Ship, was published in 1945, followed by two novels, Jill (1946) and A Girl in Winter (1947), but he came to prominence in 1955 with the publication of his second collection of poems, The Less Deceived, followed by The Whitsun Weddings (1964) and High Windows (1974). He contributed to The Daily Telegraph as its jazz critic from 1961 to 1971, articles gathered together in All What Jazz: A Record Diary 1961–71 (1985), and he edited the Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century English Verse (1973).[1] He was offered, but declined, the position of poet laureate in 1984, following the death of John Betjeman.

After graduating from Oxford in 1943 with a first in English language and literature, Larkin became a librarian. It was during the thirty years he served as university librarian at the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull that he produced the greater part of his published work. His poems are marked by what Andrew Motion calls a very English, glum accuracy about emotions, places, and relationships, and what Donald Davie described as lowered sights and diminished expectations. Eric Homberger called him "the saddest heart in the post-war supermarket"—Larkin himself said that deprivation for him was what daffodils were for Wordsworth.[2] Influenced by W. H. Auden, W. B. Yeats, and Thomas Hardy, his poems are highly-structured but flexible verse forms. They were described by Jean Hartley, the ex-wife of Larkin's publisher George Hartley (The Marvell Press), as a "piquant mixture of lyricism and discontent,"[3] though anthologist Keith Tuma writes that there is more to Larkin's work than its reputation for dour pessimism suggests.[4]

Larkin's public persona was that of the no-nonsense, solitary Englishman who disliked fame and had no patience for the trappings of the public literary life.[5] The posthumous publication by Anthony Thwaite in 1992 of his letters triggered controversy about his personal life and reactionary political views, described by John Banville as hair-raising, but also in places hilarious.[5] Lisa Jardine called him a "casual, habitual racist, and an easy misogynist," though the academic John Osborne argued in 2008 that "the worst that anyone has discovered about Larkin are some crass letters and a taste for porn softer than what passes for mainstream entertainment".[6] Despite the controversy, Larkin was chosen in a 2003 Poetry Book Society survey, almost two decades after his death, as Britain's best-loved poet of the previous 50 years, and in 2008 The Times named him Britain's greatest post-war writer.[7]

In 2010, a number of cultural events marked the quarter century since Larkin's death in 1985. Larkin's adopted home City of Kingston upon Hull is marking the anniversary with the Larkin 25 Festival including the public art event Larkin with Toads.[8] The festival will culminate with the unveiling of a statue to Larkin inspired by the poem, 'The Whitsun Weddings'. Larkin's poems are appearing on Hull buses and a bus has been named 'Philip Larkin' in his honour by his biographer Sir Andrew Motion, a former English Lecturer at Larkin's workplace, the University of Hull.[9][10] A compilation of Larkin's favourite jazz recordings has been released to mark the 25th anniversary of his death.[11

Early life and education

Philip Larkin was born on 9 August 1922 in Coventry, the only son and younger child of Sydney Larkin (1884–1948), who came from Lichfield, and his wife, Eva Emily Day (1886–1977) of Epping. The family lived in Radford, Coventry until Larkin was five years old,[12] and then moved to a large three-storey middle-class house, complete with servants quarters in Manor Road, near to Coventry railway station and King Henry VIII School. Having survived the bombings of the Second World War their former house in Manor Road was demolished in the 1960s to make way for a road modernisation programme,[13] the construction of an inner ring road. His sister Catherine, known as Kitty, was 10 years older than him.[14] His father, a self-made man who had risen to be Coventry City Treasurer,[14] was a singular individual who combined a love of literature with an enthusiasm for Nazism, and had attended two Nuremberg rallies during the mid-'30s.[15] He introduced his son to the works of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce and above all D. H. Lawrence.[16] His mother was a nervous and passive woman, dominated by her husband.[17]

Larkin's early childhood was in some respects unusual: he was educated at home until the age of eight by his mother and sister, neither friends nor relatives ever visited the family home, and he developed a stammer.[18] Nonetheless, when he joined Coventry's King Henry VIII Junior School he fitted in immediately and made close, long-standing friendships, such as those with James "Jim" Sutton, Colin Gunner and Noel "Josh" Hughes. Although home life was relatively cold, Larkin enjoyed support from his parents. For example, his deep passion for jazz was supported by the purchase of a drum kit and a saxophone, supplemented by a subscription to Down Beat. From the junior school he progressed to King Henry VIII Senior School. He fared quite poorly when he sat his School Certificate exam at the age of 16. Despite his results, however, he was allowed to stay on at school; two years later he earned distinctions in English and History, and passed the entrance exams for St John's College, Oxford, to read English.[19]

Larkin began at Oxford University in October 1940, a year after the outbreak of World War II. The old upper class traditions of university life had, at least for the time being, faded, and most of the male students were studying for highly truncated degrees.[20] Due to his poor eyesight, Larkin failed his military medical examination and was able to study for the usual three years. Through his tutorial partner, Norman Iles, he met Kingsley Amis, who encouraged his taste for ridicule and irreverence and who remained a close friend throughout Larkin's life. Amis, Larkin and other university friends formed a group they dubbed "The Seven", meeting to discuss each other's poetry, listen to jazz, and drink enthusiastically. During this time he had his first real social interaction with the opposite sex, but made no romantic headway.[21] In 1943 he sat his finals, and, having dedicated much of his time to his own writing, was greatly surprised at being awarded a first-class honours degr Early career and relationships


In autumn 1943 Larkin was appointed librarian of the public library in Wellington, Shropshire. It was while working there that in the spring of 1944 he met his first girlfriend, Ruth Bowman, an academically ambitious 16-year-old schoolgirl.[23] In autumn 1945, Ruth went to continue her studies at King's College London; during one of his visits their friendship developed into a sexual relationship. By June 1946, Larkin was halfway through qualifying for membership of the Library Association and was appointed assistant librarian at University College, Leicester. It was visiting Larkin in Leicester and witnessing the university's Senior Common Room that gave Kingsley Amis the inspiration to write Lucky Jim (1954), the novel that made Amis famous and to whose long gestation Larkin contributed considerably.[24] Six weeks after his father's death from cancer in March 1948, Larkin proposed to Ruth, and that summer the couple spent their annual holiday touring Hardy country.[25]

In June 1950 Larkin was appointed sub-librarian at Queen's University Belfast, a post he took up that September. Prior to his departure he and Ruth split up. At some stage between the appointment to the position at Queen's and the end of the engagement to Ruth, Larkin's friendship with Monica Jones, a lecturer in English at Leicester, also developed into a sexual relationship. He spent five years in Belfast, which appear to have been the most contented of his life. While his relationship with Jones developed, he also had "the most satisfyingly erotic [affair] of his life" with Patsy Strang, who at the time was in an open marriage with one of his colleagues.[26] At one stage she offered to leave her husband to marry Larkin. From summer 1951 onwards Larkin would holiday with Jones in various locations around the British Isles. While in Belfast he also had a significant though sexually undeveloped friendship with Winifred Arnott, the subject of "Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album", which came to an end when she married in 1954.


This second-floor flat overlooking Pearson Park in Hull was Larkin's rented accommodation from 1956 to 1974

In 1955 Larkin became University Librarian at the University of Hull, a post he would hold until his death.[27] For his first year he lodged in bedsits. In 1956, at the age of 34, he rented a self-contained flat on the top-floor of 32 Pearson Park, a three-storey red-brick house overlooking the park, previously the American Consulate.[28] This, it seems, was the vantage point later commemorated in the poem "High Windows".[29] In the post-war years, Hull University underwent significant expansion, as was typical of British universities during that period. When Larkin took up his appointment there, the plans for a new university library were already far advanced. He made a great effort in just a few months to familiarize himself with them before they were placed before the University Grants Committee; he suggested a number of emendations, some major and structural, all of which were adopted. It was built in two stages, and in 1967 it was named the Brynmor Jones Library after the university's vice-chancellor.

One of Larkin's colleagues at Hull said he became a great figure in post-war British librarianship.[30] Ten years after the new library's completion, Larkin computerized records for the entire library stock, making it the first library in Europe to install a GEAC system, an automated online circulation system. Richard Goodman wrote that Larkin excelled as an administrator, committee man and arbitrator. "He treated his staff decently, and he motivated them," Goodman said. "He did this with a combination of efficiency, high standards, humour and compassion."[31] From 1957 until his death, Larkin's secretary was Betty Mackereth. All access to him by his colleagues was through her, and she came to know as much about Larkin's compartmentalized life as anyone.[32] During his 30 years there, the library's stock sextupled, and the budget expanded from £4,500 to £448,500, in real terms a twelvefold increase.[33]

Later life

In February 1961 Larkin's friendship with his colleague Maeve Brennan became romantic, despite her strong Roman Catholic beliefs.[34] In spring 1963 Brennan persuaded him to go with her to a dance for university staff, despite his preference for smaller gatherings. This seems to have been a pivotal moment in their relationship, and he memorialised it in his longest (and unfinished) poem "The Dance".[35] Around this time, also at her prompting, Larkin learnt to drive and bought a car. Meanwhile Monica Jones, whose parents had died in autumn 1959, bought a holiday cottage in Haydon Bridge, near Hexham,[36] which she and Larkin visited regularly.[37][38] His poem "Show Saturday" is a description of the 1973 Bellingham show in the North Tyne valley.[39]

In 1964, in the wake of the publication of The Whitsun Weddings, Larkin was the subject of an episode of the arts programme Monitor, directed by Patrick Garland.[40] The programme, which shows him being interviewed by fellow poet John Betjeman in a series of locations in and around Hull, allowed Larkin to play a significant part in the creation of his own public persona; one he would prefer his readers to imagine.[41]

Larkin's role in the creation of Hull University's new Brynmor Jones Library had been important and demanding. Soon after the completion of the second and larger phase of construction in 1969,[42] he was able to redirect his energies. In October 1970 he started work on compiling a new anthology, The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse (1973). He was awarded a Visiting Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford for two academic terms, allowing him to consult Oxford's Bodleian Library, a copyright library. Larkin was a major contributor to the re-evaluation of the poetry of Thomas Hardy, which, in comparison to his novels, had been overlooked; in Larkin's "idiosyncratic" and "controversial" anthology,[43][44] Hardy was the poet most generously represented. There were twenty-seven poems by Hardy, compared with only nine by T. S. Eliot; the other poets most extensively represented were W. B. Yeats, W. H. Auden and Rudyard Kipling. Larkin included six of his own poems—the same number as for Rupert Brooke. In the process of compiling the volume he had been disappointed not to find more and better poems as evidence that the clamour over the Modernists had stifled the voices of traditionalists.[44] The most favourable responses to the anthology were those of Auden and John Betjeman, while the most hostile was that of Donald Davie, who accused Larkin of "positive cynicism" and of encouraging "the perverse triumph of philistinism, the cult of the amateur ... [and] the weakest kind of Englishry". After an initial period of anxiety about the anthology's reception, Larkin enjoyed the clamour.[45]


105 Newland Park, Hull was Larkin's home from 1974 to his death in 1985

In 1971 Larkin regained contact with his schoolfriend Colin Gunner, who had led a picaresque life. Their subsequent correspondence has gained notoriety as in these letters "Larkin was particularly frank about political and personal opinions", expressing right-wing opinions and using racist language.[46] In the period from 1973 to 1974 Larkin became an Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Oxford and was awarded honorary degrees by Warwick, St Andrews and Sussex universities. In January 1974 Hull University informed Larkin that they were going to dispose of the building on Pearson Park in which he lived. Shortly afterwards he bought a detached two-storey 1950s house in a street called Newland Park which was described by his university colleague John Kenyon as "an entirely middle-class backwater". Larkin, who moved into the house in June of that year, thought the four-bedroom property "utterly undistinguished" and reflected, "I can't say it's the kind of dwelling that is eloquent of the nobility of the human spirit".[47]

Shortly after splitting up with Maeve Brennan in August 1973, Larkin attended W. H. Auden's memorial service at Christ Church, Oxford, with Monica Jones as his official partner.[48] However, in March 1975 the relationship with Maeve restarted, and three weeks after this he initiated a secret affair with his secretary Betty Mackereth, writing the long-undiscovered poem "We met at the end of the party" for her.[49] Despite the logistical difficulties of having three relationships simultaneously, the situation continued until March 1978. From then on he and Jones were a monogamous couple

Final years and death

In February 1982 Larkin turned sixty. This was marked most significantly by a collection of essays entitled Larkin at Sixty, edited by Anthony Thwaite and published by Faber and Faber.[51] There were also two television programmes: an episode of The South Bank Show presented by Melvyn Bragg in which Larkin made off-camera contributions, and a half-hour special on the BBC that was devised and presented by the Labour Shadow Cabinet Minister Roy Hattersley.[52]

In 1983 Jones was hospitalised with shingles. The severity of her symptoms, including its effects on her eyes, distressed Larkin. As her health declined, regular care became necessary: within a month she moved into his Newland Park home and remained there for the rest of her life.[53]

At the memorial service for John Betjeman, who died in July 1984, Larkin was asked if he would accept the post of Poet Laureate. He declined, not least because he felt he had long since ceased to be a writer of poetry in a meaningful sense.[54] The following year Larkin began to suffer from oesophageal cancer. On 11 June 1985 he underwent surgery, but his cancer was found to have spread and was inoperable. On 28 November he collapsed and was readmitted to hospital. He died four days later, on 2 December 1985, at the age of 63, and was buried at the Cottingham municipal cemetery near Hull.[55] His gravestone reads "Philip Larkin 1922–1985 Writer".[56]

Larkin had asked on his deathbed that his diaries be destroyed. The request was granted by Jones, the main beneficiary of his will, and Betty Mackereth; the latter shredded the unread diaries page by page, then had them burned.[57] His will was found to be contradictory regarding his other private papers and unpublished work; legal advice left the issue to the discretion of his literary executors, who decided the material should not be destroyed.[58] When she died on 15 February 2001, Jones, in turn, left one million pounds to St Paul's Cathedral, Hexham Abbey, and Durham Cathedral.[59]

Juvenilia and early works

From his mid-teens Larkin "wrote ceaselessly", producing both poetry, initially modelled on Eliot and W. H. Auden, and fiction: he wrote five full-length novels, each of which he destroyed shortly after completion.[60] While he was at Oxford University he had a poem published for the first time: "Ultimatum" in The Listener. Around this time he developed a pseudonymous alter ego for his prose, Brunette Coleman. Under this name he wrote two novellas, Trouble at Willow Gables and Michaelmas Term at St Brides (2002), as well as a supposed autobiography and an equally fictitious creative manifesto called "What we are writing for". Richard Bradford has written that these curious works show "three registers: cautious indifference, archly overwritten symbolism with a hint of Lawrence and prose that appears to disclose its writer's involuntary feelings of sexual excitement".[61]

After these works Larkin started his first published novel Jill (1946). This was published by Reginald A. Caton, a publisher of barely legal pornography, who also issued serious fiction as a cover for his core activities.[62] Around the time that Jill was being prepared for publication, Caton inquired of Larkin if he also wrote poetry. This resulted in the publication, three months before Jill, of The North Ship (1945), a collection of poems written between 1942 and 1944 which showed the increasing influence of Yeats. Immediately after completing Jill, Larkin started work on the novel A Girl in Winter (1947), completing it in 1945. This was published by Faber and Faber and was well received, The Sunday Times calling it "an exquisite performance and nearly faultless".[63] Subsequently he made at least three concerted attempts at writing a third novel, but none went further than a solid start.[64]

Mature works

It was during Larkin's five years in Belfast that he reached maturity as a poet.[65] The bulk of his next published collection of poems The Less Deceived (1955) was written there, though eight of the twenty-nine poems included were from the late 1940s. This period also saw Larkin make his final attempts at writing prose fiction, and he gave extensive help to Kingsley Amis with Lucky Jim, which was Amis's first published novel. In October 1954 an article in The Spectator made the first use of the title The Movement to describe the dominant trend in British post-war literature.[66] Various poems by Larkin were included in a 1953 PEN Anthology that also included poems by Amis and Robert Conquest, and Larkin was seen to be a part of this grouping.[67] In 1951 Larkin compiled a collection called XX Poems which he had privately printed in a run of just 100 copies. Many of the poems in it subsequently appeared in his next published volume.[14]

In November 1955 The Less Deceived was published by The Marvell Press, an independent company in Hessle near Hull. At first the volume attracted little attention, but in December it was included in The Times' list of Books of the Year.[68] From this point the book's reputation spread and sales blossomed throughout 1956 and 1957. During his first five years in Hull the pressures of work slowed Larkin's output to an average of just two-and-a-half poems a year, but this period saw the writing of some of his best-known poems, such as "An Arundel Tomb", "The Whitsun Weddings" and "Here".[69]

In 1963 Faber and Faber reissued Jill, with the addition of a long introduction by Larkin that included much information about his time at Oxford University and his friendship with Kingsley Amis. This acted as a prelude to the release the following year of The Whitsun Weddings, the volume which cemented his reputation; almost immediately after its publication he was granted a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Literature. In the years that followed Larkin wrote several of his most famous poems, followed in the 1970s by a series of longer and more sober poems, including "The Building" and "The Old Fools".[70] All of these appeared in Larkin's final collection, High Windows, which was published in June 1974. Its more direct use of language meant that it did not meet with uniform praise; nonetheless it sold over twenty thousand copies in its first year alone. For some critics it represents a falling-off from his previous two books,[71] yet it contains a number of his much-loved pieces, including "This Be The Verse" and "The Explosion", as well as the title poem. "Annus Mirabilis" (Year of Wonder), also from that volume, contains the frequently quoted observation that sexual intercourse began in 1963, which the narrator claims was "rather late for me": this despite Larkin having started his own sexual career in 1945. Bradford, prompted by comments in Maeve Brennan's memoir, suggests that the poem commemorates Larkin's relationship with Brennan moving from the romantic to the sexual.[72]

Later in 1974 he started work on his final major published poem, "Aubade". It was completed in 1977 and published in the 23 December issue of The Times Literary Supplement.[73] After "Aubade" Larkin wrote only one poem that has attracted close critical attention, the posthumously-published and intensely personal "Love Again".[74]

Poetic style

Larkin's poetry has been characterized as combining "an ordinary, colloquial style", "clarity", a "quiet, reflective tone", "ironic understatement" and a "direct" engagement with "commonplace experiences",[75] while Jean Hartley summed his style up as a "piquant mixture of lyricism and discontent".[3]

Larkin's earliest work showed the influence of Eliot, Auden and Yeats, and the development of his mature poetic identity in the early 1950s coincided with the growing influence on him of Thomas Hardy.[25] The "mature" Larkin style, first evident in The Less Deceived, is "that of the detached, sometimes lugubrious, sometimes tender observer", who, in Hartley's phrase, looks at "ordinary people doing ordinary things". Larkin's mature poetic persona is notable for its "plainness and scepticism". Other recurrent features of his mature work are sudden openings and "highly-structured but flexible verse forms".[3]

Terence Hawkes has argued that while most of the poems in The North Ship are "metaphoric in nature, heavily indebted to Yeats's symbolist lyrics", the subsequent development of Larkin's mature style is "not ... a movement from Yeats to Hardy, but rather a surrounding of the Yeatsian moment (the metaphor) within a Hardyesque frame". In Hawkes's view, "Larkin's poetry ... revolves around two losses": the "loss of modernism", which manifests itself as "the desire to find a moment of epiphany", and "the loss of England, or rather the loss of the British Empire, which requires England to define itself in its own terms when previously it could define 'Englishness' in opposition to something else."[76]

In 1972 Larkin wrote the oft-quoted "Going, Going", a poem which expresses a romantic fatalism in its view of England that was typical of his later years. In it he prophesies a complete destruction of the countryside, and expresses an idealised sense of national togetherness and identity: "And that will be England gone ... it will linger on in galleries; but all that remains for us will be concrete and tyres". The poem ends with the blunt statement, "I just think it will happen, soon."[77]

Larkin's style is bound up with his recurring themes and subjects, which include death and fatalism, as in his final major poem "Aubade".[78] Poet Andrew Motion observes of Larkin's poems that "their rage or contempt is always checked by the ... energy of their language and the satisfactions of their articulate formal control", and contrasts two aspects of his poetic personality—on the one hand an enthusiasm for "symbolist moments" and "freely imaginative narratives", and on the other a "remorseless factuality" and "crudity of language". Motion defines this as a "life-enhancing struggle between opposites", and concludes that his poetry is typically "ambivalent": "His three mature collections have developed attitudes and styles of ... imaginative daring: in their prolonged debates with despair, they testify to wide sympathies, contain passages of frequently transcendent beauty, and demonstrate a poetic inclusiveness which is of immense consequence for his literary heirs."[79]

Prose non-fiction

Larkin was a notable critic of modernism in contemporary art and literature. His scepticism is at its most nuanced and illuminating in Required Writing, a collection of his book reviews and essays,[80] and at its most inflamed and polemical in his introduction to his collected jazz reviews, All What Jazz, drawn from the 126 record-review columns he wrote for The Daily Telegraph between 1961 and 1971, which contains an attack on modern jazz that widens into a wholesale critique of modernism in the arts.[81] Despite the reputation Larkin not unwillingly acquired as an enemy of modernism, recent critical assessments of Larkin's writings have identified them as possessing some modernist characteristics.[82]


Reception history

When first published in 1945, The North Ship received just one review, in the Coventry Evening Telegraph, which concluded "Mr Larkin has an inner vision that must be sought for with care. His recondite imagery is couched in phrases that make up in a kind of wistful hinted beauty what they lack in lucidity. Mr Larkin's readers must at present be confined to a small circle. Perhaps his work will gain wider appeal as his genius becomes more mature?"[83] A few years later, though, the poet and critic Charles Madge came across the book and wrote to Larkin with his compliments.[84] When the collection was reissued in 1966 it was presented as a work of juvenilia, and the reviews were gentle and respectful; the most forthright praise came from Elizabeth Jennings in The Spectator: "few will question the intrinsic value of The North Ship or the importance of its being reprinted now. It is good to know that Larkin could write so well when still so young."[85]

The Less Deceived was first noticed by The Times, who included it in its List of Books of 1955. In its wake many other reviews followed; "most of them concentrated ... on the book's emotional impact and its sophisticated, witty language."[68] The Spectator felt the collection was "in the running for the best published in this country since the war"; G. S. Fraser, referring to Larkin's perceived association with The Movement felt that Larkin exemplified "everything that is good in this 'new movement' and none of its faults".[86] The TLS called him "a poet of quite exceptional importance",[86] and in June 1956 the Times Educational Supplement was fulsome: "As native as a Whitstable oyster, as sharp an expression of contemporary thought and experience as anything written in our time, as immediate in its appeal as the lyric poetry of an earlier day, it may well be regarded by posterity as a poetic monument that marks the triumph over the formless mystifications of the last twenty years. With Larkin poetry is on its way back to the middlebrow public."[87] Reviewing the book in America the poet Robert Lowell wrote, "No post-war poetry has so caught the moment, and caught it without straining after its ephemera. It's a hesitant, groping mumble, resolutely experienced, resolutely perfect in its artistic methods."[88]

However, in time, there was a counter-reaction: David Wright wrote in Encounter that The Less Deceived suffered from the "palsy of playing safe";[86] in April 1957 Charles Tomlinson wrote a piece for the journal Essays in Criticism, "The Middlebrow Muse", attacking The Movement's poets for their "middle-cum-lowbrowism", "suburban mental ratio" and "parochialism"—Larkin had a "tenderly nursed sense of defeat".[89] In 1962 A. Alvarez, the compiler of an anthology entitled The New Poetry, famously accused Larkin of "gentility, neo-Georgian pastoralism, and a failure to deal with the violent extremes of contemporary life".[88]

When The Whitsun Weddings was released Alvarez continued his attacks in a review in The Observer, complaining of the "drab circumspection" of Larkin's "commonplace" subject-matter. However, praise outweighed criticism. John Betjeman felt Larkin had "closed the gap between poetry and the public which the experiments and obscurity of the last fifty years have done so much to widen." In The New York Review of Books Christopher Ricks wrote of the "refinement of self-consciousness, usually flawless in its execution" and Larkin's summoning up of "the world of all of us, the place where, in the end, we find our happiness, or not at all." He felt Larkin to be "the best poet England now has."[90][91]

In his biography Richard Bradford writes that the reviews for High Windows showed "genuine admiration" but notes that they typically encountered problems describing "the individual genius at work" in poems such as "Annus Mirabilis", "The Explosion" and "The Building" while also explaining why each were "so radically different" from one another. Robert Nye in The Times overcame this problem "by treating the differences as ineffective masks for a consistently nasty presence".[92]

In Larkin at Sixty,[51] amongst the portraits by friends and colleagues such as Kingsley Amis, Noel Hughes and Charles Monteith and dedicatory poems by John Betjeman, Peter Porter and Gavin Ewart, the various strands of Larkin's output were analysed by critics and fellow poets: Andrew Motion, Christopher Ricks and Seamus Heaney looked at the poems, Alan Brownjohn wrote on the novels, and Donald Mitchell and Clive James looked at his jazz criticism.

Critical opinion

In 1980 Neil Powell could write that "It is probably fair to say that Philip Larkin is less highly regarded in academic circles than either Thom Gunn or Donald Davie".[93] But more recently Larkin's standing has increased. "Philip Larkin is an excellent example of the plain style in modern times," writes Tijana Stojkovic.[94] Robert Sheppard asserts that "It is by general consent that the work of Philip Larkin is taken to be exemplary".[95] "Larkin is the most widely celebrated and arguably the finest poet of the Movement," states Keith Tuma, and his poetry is "more various than its reputation for dour pessimism and anecdotes of a disappointed middle class suggests".[4]

Stephen Cooper's book Philip Larkin: Subversive Writer suggests the changing temper of Larkin studies. Cooper argues that "The interplay of signs and motifs in the early work orchestrates a subversion of conventional attitudes towards class, gender, authority and sexual relations".[96] Cooper identifies Larkin as a progressive writer, and perceives in the letters a "plea for alternative constructs of masculinity, femininity and social and political organisation".[97] Cooper draws on the entire canon of Larkin's works, as well as on unpublished correspondence, to counter the image of Larkin as merely a racist, misogynist reactionary. Instead he identifies in Larkin what he calls a "subversive imagination".[98] He highlights in particular "Larkin's objections to the hypocrisies of conventional sexual politics that hamper the lives of both sexes in equal measure".[99]

In similar vein to Cooper, Stephen Regan notes in an essay entitled "Philip Larkin: a late modern poet" that Larkin frequently embraces devices associated with the experimental practices of Modernism, such as "linguistic strangeness, self-conscious literariness, radical self-questioning, sudden shifts of voice and register, complex viewpoints and perspectives, and symbolist intensity".[100]

A further indication of a new direction in the critical valuation of Larkin is S. K. Chatterjee's statement that "Larkin is no longer just a name but an institution, a modern British national cultural monument".[101]

Chatterjee's view of Larkin is grounded in a detailed analysis of his poetic style. He notes a development from Larkin's early works to his later ones, which sees his style change from "verbal opulence through a recognition of the self-ironising and self-negating potentiality of language to a linguistic domain where the conventionally held conceptual incompatibles – which are traditional binary oppositions between absolutes and relatives, between abstracts and concretes, between fallings and risings and between singleness and multiplicity – are found to be the last stumbling-block for an artist aspiring to rise above the impasse of worldliness".[102] This contrasts with an older view that Larkin's style barely changed over the course of his poetic career. Chatterjee identifies this view as being typified by Bernard Bergonzi's comment that "Larkin's poetry did not ... develop between 1955 and 1974".[103] However, for Chatterjee, Larkin's poetry responds strongly to changing "economic, socio-political, literary and cultural factors".[104]

Chatterjee argues that "It is under the defeatist veneer of his poetry that the positive side of Larkin's vision of life is hidden".[105] This positivity, suggests Chatterjee, is most apparent in his later works. Over the course of Larkin's poetic career, "The most notable attitudinal development lay in the zone of his view of life, which from being almost irredeemably bleak and pessimistic in The North Ship, became more and more positive with the passage of time".[106]

The view that Larkin is not a nihilist or pessimist, but actually displays optimism in his works, is certainly not universally endorsed, but Chatterjee's lengthy study suggests the degree to which old stereotypes of Larkin are now being transcended. Representative of these stereotypes is Bryan Appleyard's judgement (quoted by Maeve Brennan) that of the writers who "have adopted a personal pose of extreme pessimism and loathing of the world ... none has done so with quite such a grinding focus on littleness and triviality as Larkin the man".[107] Recent criticism of Larkin demonstrates a more complex set of values at work in his poetry and across the totality of his writings.[108]

The debate about Larkin is summed up by Matthew Johnson, who observes that in most evaluations of Larkin "one is not really discussing the man, but actually reading a coded and implicit discussion of the supposed values of 'Englishness' that he is held to represent".[109] Changing attitudes to Englishness are reflected in changing attitudes to Larkin, and the more sustained intellectual interest in the English national character, as embodied in the works of Peter Mandler for instance, pinpoint one key reason why there is an increased scholarly interest in Larkin.[110]

A summative view similar to those of Johnson and Regan is that of Robert Crawford, who argues that "In various ways, Larkin's work depends on, and develops from, Modernism." Furthermore, he "demonstrates just how slippery the word 'English' is".[111]

Despite these recent developments, Larkin and his circle are nonetheless still firmly rejected by modernist critics and poets. For example, the poet Andrew Duncan, writing of The Movement on his website,[112] notes that "there now seems to be a very wide consensus that it was a bad thing, and that Movement poems are tedious, shallow, smug, sententious, emotionally dead, etc. Their successors in the mainstream retain most of these characteristics. Wolfgang Gortschacher's book on Little Magazine Profiles ... shows ... that there was a terrific dearth of magazines during the 50s—an impoverishment of openings which correlates with rigid and conservative poetry, and with the hegemony of a few people determined to exclude dissidents."[113] Peter Riley, a key player in the British Poetry Revival, which was a reaction against The Movement's poets, has also criticised Larkin for his uncritical and ideologically narrow position: "What after all were Larkin and The Movement but a denial of the effusive ethics of poetry from 1795 onwards, in favour of 'This is what life is really like' as if anyone thought for a second of representing observable 'life'. W.S. Graham and Dylan Thomas knew perfectly well that 'life' was like that, if you nominated it thus, which is why they went elsewhere."[114]

Posthumous reputation

Larkin's posthumous reputation was deeply affected by the publication in 1992 of Anthony Thwaite's edition of his letters and, the following year, his official biography, Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life by Andrew Motion.[115] These revealed his obsession with pornography, his racism, his increasing shift to the political right wing, and his habitual expressions of venom and spleen. In 1990, even before the publication of these two books, Tom Paulin wrote that Larkin's "obscenity is informed by prejudices that are not by any means as ordinary, commonplace, or acceptable as the poetic language in which they are so plainly spelled out."[116] The letters and Motion's biography fueled further assessments of this kind, such as Lisa Jardine's comment in The Guardian that "The Britishness of Larkin's poetry carries a baggage of attitudes which the Selected Letters now make explicit".[107] On the other hand, the revelations were dismissed by the novelist, Martin Amis, in The War Against Cliché, arguing that the letters in particular show nothing more than a tendency for Larkin to tailor his words according to the recipient. This idea is developed in Richard Bradford's biography: he compares the style Larkin used in his correspondence with the author Barbara Pym with that he adopted with his old schoolfriend Colin Gunner.[117][118]

Trying to resolve Larkin's contradictory opinions on race in his book Such Deliberate Disguises: The Art of Philip Larkin, the writer Richard Palmer quotes a letter Larkin wrote to Betjeman, as if it exposes "all the post-Motion and post-Letters furore about Larkin’s 'racism' as the nonsense it is":

"The American Negro is trying to take a step forward that can be compared only to the ending of slavery in the nineteenth century. And despite the dogs, the hosepipes and the burnings, advances have already been made towards giving the Negro his civil rights that would have been inconceivable when Louis Armstrong was a young man. These advances will doubtless continue. They will end only when the Negro is as well-housed, educated and medically cared for as the white man."

Reviewing Palmer's book, John G. Rodwan, Jr. wonders "if this does not qualify as the thought of a true racist: 'I find the state of the nation quite terrifying. In 10 years’ time we shall all be cowering under our beds as hordes of blacks steal anything they can lay their hands on.' Or this: 'We don’t go to [cricket] Test matches now, too many fucking niggers about.'"[119]

Despite controversy about his personal life and opinions, Larkin remains one of Britain's most popular poets. In 2003, almost two decades after his death, Larkin was chosen as "the nation's best-loved poet" in a survey by the Poetry Book Society,[120] and in 2008 The Times named Larkin as the greatest British post-war writer.[121] Three of his poems, "This Be The Verse", "The Whitsun Weddings" and "An Arundel Tomb", featured in the Nation's Top 100 Poems as voted for by viewers of the BBC's Bookworm in 1995.[122] Media interest in Larkin has increased in the twenty-first century. Larkin's collection The Whitsun Weddings is one of the available poetry texts in the AQA English Literature A Level syllabus,[123] while High Windows is offered by the OCR board.[124] The Philip Larkin Society was formed in 1995, ten years after the poet's death.[125] Buses in Hull displayed extracts from his poems in 2010.[126]


In 1959, The Marvell Press published Listen presents Philip Larkin reading The Less Deceived (Listen LPV1), an LP record on which Larkin recites all the poems from The Less Deceived in the order they appear in the printed volume.[127] This was followed, in 1965, by Philip Larkin reads and comments on The Whitsun Weddings (Listen LPV6), again on The Marvell Press's record label (though the printed volume was published by Faber and Faber). Once again the poems are read in the order in which they appear in the printed volume, but with Larkin including introductory remarks to many of the poems.[128] A recording of Larkin reading the poems from his final collection, High Windows, was published in 1975 as British poets of our time. Philip Larkin; High Windows: poems read by the author (edited by Peter Orr) on the Argo record label (Argo PLP 1202).[129] As with the two previous recordings, the sequencing of the poems is the same as in the printed volume.

Larkin also appears on several audio poetry anthologies: The Jupiter Anthology of 20th Century English Poetry – Part III (JUR 00A8), issued in 1963 and featuring "An Arundel Tomb" and "Mr Bleaney" (this same recording was issued in the United States in 1967 on the Folkways record label as Anthology of 20th Century English Poetry – Part III (FL9870));[128] The Poet Speaks record 8 (Argo PLP 1088), issued in 1967 and featuring "Wants", "Coming", "Nothing to be Said", "Days" and "Dockery and Son";[128] On Record (YA3), issued in 1974 by Yorkshire Arts Association and featuring "Here", "Days", "Next, Please", "Wedding-Wind", "The Whitsun Weddings", "XXX", "XIII" (these last two poems from The North Ship);[128] and Douglas Dunn and Philip Larkin, issued in 1984 by Faber and Faber (A Faber Poetry cassette), featuring Larkin reading 13 poems including, for the first time on a recording, "Aubade".[129]

Despite the fact that Larkin made audio recordings (in studio conditions) of each of his three mature collections, and separate recordings of groups of poems for a number of audio anthologies, he somehow gained a reputation as a poet who was reluctant to make recordings in which he read his own work.[130] While Larkin did express a dislike of the sound of his own voice ("I come from Coventry, between the sloppiness of Leicester and the whine of Birmingham, you know—and sometimes it comes out"),[131] the evidence indicates that this influenced more his preference not to give public readings of his own work, than his willingness to make audio recordings of his poems.

In 1980, Larkin was invited by the Poets' Audio Center, Washington, to record a selection of poems from the full range of his poetic output for publication on a Watershed Foundation cassette tape.[132] The recording was made in February 1980[132] (at Larkin's own expense)[133] by John Weeks, a sound engineer colleague from the University of Hull.[134] Although negotiations between Larkin, his publishers and the Watershed Foundation collapsed,[135] the recording (of Larkin reading 26 poems selected from his four canonical volumes of poetry) was sold – by Larkin – to Harvard University's Poetry Room in 1981.[133] In 2004, a copy of this recording was uncovered in the Hornsea garage studio of the engineer who had made the recording for Larkin.[133] (Subsequently, Larkin's own copy of the recording was found in the Larkin Archive at the University of Hull)[136] News of the “newly discovered” recording made the headlines in 2006, with extracts being broadcast in a Sky News report.[137] A programme examining the discovery in more depth, The Larkin Tapes, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in March 2008.[130] The recordings were issued on CD by Faber and Faber in January 2009 as The Sunday Sessions.

In contrast to the number of audio recordings of Larkin reading his own work, there are very few appearances by Larkin on television. The only programme in which he agreed to be filmed taking part is Down Cemetery Road (1964), from the BBC Monitor series, in which Larkin was interviewed by John Betjeman.[138] The filming took place in and around Hull (with some filming in North Lincolnshire), and showed Larkin in his natural surroundings: his flat in Pearson Park, the Brynmor Jones Library; and visiting churches and cemeteries. The film was more recently broadcast on BBC Four.[139]

In 1982, as part of celebrations for his sixtieth birthday, Larkin was the subject of The South Bank Show.[140] Although Larkin declined the invitation to appear in the programme, he recorded (on audio tape) "a lot of poems"[141] specifically for it. Melvyn Bragg commented, in his introduction to the programme, that the poet had given his full cooperation. The programme, broadcast on 30 May, featured contributions from Kingsley Amis, Andrew Motion and Alan Bennett. Bennett was also filmed reading several Larkin poems a few years later, in an edition of Poetry in Motion, broadcast by Channel 4 in 1990.[142]

Fiction based on Larkin's life

In 1999, Oliver Ford Davies starred in Ben Brown's play Larkin With Women at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, reprising his role at the Orange Tree Theatre, London in 2006. The play was published by Larkin's usual publishers, Faber and Faber. Set in the three decades after Larkin's arrival in Hull, it explores his long relationships with Monica Jones, Maeve Brennan and Betty Mackereth.[143] Another Larkin inspired entertainment, devised and starring Sir Tom Courtenay, was given a pre-production performance on the afternoon of Saturday 29 June 2002 at Hull University's Middleton Hall.[144] Courtenay performed his one-man play Pretending to Be Me as part of the Second Hull International Conference on the Work of Philip Larkin. In November that year, Courtenay debuted the play at the West Yorkshire Playhouse,[145][146] later transferring the production to the Comedy Theatre in London's West End. An audio recording of the play, which is based on Larkin's letters, interviews, diaries and verse, was released in 2005.[147] In June 2010, Courtenay returned to the University of Hull to give a performance of a newly revised version of Pretending to Be Me called Larkin Revisited in aid of the Larkin statue appeal as part of the Larkin 25 festival.[148]

In July 2003, BBC Two broadcast a play entitled Love Again—its title also that of one of Larkin's most painfully personal poems—dealing with the last thirty years of Larkin's life (though not shot anywhere near Hull). The lead role was played by Hugh Bonneville,[149] and in the same year Channel 4 broadcast the documentary Philip Larkin, Love and Death in Hull.[150]

In April 2008, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a play by Chris Harrald entitled Mr Larkin's Awkward Day, recounting the practical joke played on him in 1957 by his friend Robert Conquest, a fellow poet.[151]

List of works


Main article: List of poems by Philip Larkin

• The North Ship, The Fortune Press, 1945, ISBN 9780571105038 

• XX Poems, Privately Printed, 1951 

• The Less Deceived, The Marvell Press, 1955, ISBN 978-0900533068 

o "Church Going"

o "Toads"

o "Maiden Name"

o "Born Yesterday" (written for the birth of Sally Amis)

o "Lines on a Young Lady's Autograph Album"

• The Whitsun Weddings, Faber and Faber, 1964, ISBN 9780571097104 

o "The Whitsun Weddings"

o "An Arundel Tomb"

o "A Study of Reading Habits"

o "Home is So Sad"

o "Mr Bleaney"

• High Windows, Faber and Faber, 1974, ISBN 9780571114511 

o "This Be The Verse"

o "Annus Mirabilis"

o "The Explosion"

o "The Building"

o "High Windows"

• Thwaite, Anthony, ed. (1988), Collected Poems, Faber and Faber, ISBN 0-571-15386-0 

o "Aubade" (first published 1977)

o "Party Politics" (last published poem)

o "The Dance" (unfinished & unpublished)

o "Love Again" (unpublished)

• Thwaite, Anthony, ed. (2003), Collected Poems, Faber and Faber, ISBN 9780571216543 

o The North Ship

o The Less Deceived

o The Whitsun Weddings

o High Windows

o Two appendices of all other published poems, including XX Poems


• Jill, The Fortune Press, 1946, ISBN 9780571225828 

• A Girl in Winter, Faber and Faber, 1947, ISBN 9780571225811 

• James Booth, ed. (2002), "Trouble at Willow Gables" and Other Fiction 1943–1953, Faber and Faber, ISBN 0-571-20347-7 


• All What Jazz: A Record Diary 1961–1971, Faber and Faber, ISBN 9780571134762 

• Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955–1982, Faber and Faber, 1983, ISBN 9780571131204 

• Further Requirements: Interviews, Broadcasts, Statements and Book Reviews 1952–1985, Faber and Faber, ISBN 9780571216147 

• Larkin, Philip (1979), "The Brynmor Jones Library 1929–1979", in Brennan, Maeve, 'A Lifted Study-Storehouse': The Brynmor Jones Library 1929–1979, updated to 1985, Hull University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-85958-561-1 

• Larkin, Philip, ed. (1973), The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0198121374 

• Thwaite, Anthony, ed. (1992), Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, 1940–1985, Faber and Faber, ISBN 0-571-17048-X 

List of works


Main article: List of poems by Philip Larkin

• The North Ship, The Fortune Press, 1945, ISBN 9780571105038 

• XX Poems, Privately Printed, 1951 

• The Less Deceived, The Marvell Press, 1955, ISBN 978-0900533068 

o "Church Going"

o "Toads"

o "Maiden Name"

o "Born Yesterday" (written for the birth of Sally Amis)

o "Lines on a Young Lady's Autograph Album"

• The Whitsun Weddings, Faber and Faber, 1964, ISBN 9780571097104 

o "The Whitsun Weddings"

o "An Arundel Tomb"

o "A Study of Reading Habits"

o "Home is So Sad"

o "Mr Bleaney"

• High Windows, Faber and Faber, 1974, ISBN 9780571114511 

o "This Be The Verse"

o "Annus Mirabilis"

o "The Explosion"

o "The Building"

o "High Windows"

• Thwaite, Anthony, ed. (1988), Collected Poems, Faber and Faber, ISBN 0-571-15386-0 

o "Aubade" (first published 1977)

o "Party Politics" (last published poem)

o "The Dance" (unfinished & unpublished)

o "Love Again" (unpublished)

• Thwaite, Anthony, ed. (2003), Collected Poems, Faber and Faber, ISBN 9780571216543 

o The North Ship

o The Less Deceived

o The Whitsun Weddings

o High Windows

o Two appendices of all other published poems, including XX Poems


• Jill, The Fortune Press, 1946, ISBN 9780571225828 

• A Girl in Winter, Faber and Faber, 1947, ISBN 9780571225811 

• James Booth, ed. (2002), "Trouble at Willow Gables" and Other Fiction 1943–1953, Faber and Faber, ISBN 0-571-20347-7 


• All What Jazz: A Record Diary 1961–1971, Faber and Faber, ISBN 9780571134762 

• Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955–1982, Faber and Faber, 1983, ISBN 9780571131204 

• Further Requirements: Interviews, Broadcasts, Statements and Book Reviews 1952–1985, Faber and Faber, ISBN 9780571216147 

• Larkin, Philip (1979), "The Brynmor Jones Library 1929–1979", in Brennan, Maeve, 'A Lifted Study-Storehouse': The Brynmor Jones Library 1929–1979, updated to 1985, Hull University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-85958-561-1 

• Larkin, Philip, ed. (1973), The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0198121374 

• Thwaite, Anthony, ed. (1992), Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, 1940–1985, Faber and Faber, ISBN 0-571-17048-X 

Home is Sad

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,

Shaped to the comfort of the last to go

As if to win them back. Instead, bereft

Of anyone to please, it withers so,

Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,

A joyous shot at how things ought to be,

Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:

Look at the pictures and the cutlery.

The music in the piano stool. That vase

Wallace Stephen



Wallace Stevens (October 2, 1879 – August 2, 1955) was an American Modernist poet. He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, educated at Harvard and then New York Law School, and spent most of his life working as a lawyer for the Hartford insurance company in Connecticut.

His best-known poems include "Anecdote of the Jar", "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock", "The Emperor of Ice-Cream", "The Idea of Order at Key West", "Sunday Morning", "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird".

Life and career

The son of a prosperous lawyer, Stevens attended Harvard as a non-degree special student, after which he moved to New York City and briefly worked as a journalist. He then attended New York Law School, graduating in 1903. On a trip back to Reading in 1904 Stevens met Elsie Viola Kachel (1886-1963, aka Elsie Moll), a young woman who had worked as a saleswoman, milliner, and stenographer.[1] After a long courtship, he married her in 1909 over the objections of his parents, who considered her lower-class. As The New York Times reported in an article in 2009, "Nobody from his family attended the wedding, and Stevens never again visited or spoke to his parents during his father’s lifetime".[2] A daughter, Holly, was born in 1924. She later edited her father's letters and a collection of his poems.[3]

In 1913, the Stevenses rented a New York City apartment from sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, who made a bust of Elsie. Her striking profile was later used on Weinman's 1916-1945 Mercury dime design and possibly for the head of the Walking Liberty Half Dollar. In later years Elsie Stevens began to exhibit symptoms of mental illness and the marriage suffered as a result, but the Stevenses never divorced.[4]

After working for several New York law firms from 1904 to 1907, he was hired on January 13, 1908, as a lawyer for the American Bonding Company.[5] By 1914 he had become the vice-president of the New York office of the Equitable Surety Company of St. Louis, Missouri[6]. When this job was abolished as a result of mergers in 1916, he joined the home office of Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company[7] and left New York City to live in Hartford, where he would remain the rest of his life. By 1934, he had been named vice-president of the company.[8] After he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1955, he was offered a faculty position at Harvard but declined since it would have required him to give up his vice-presidency of The Hartford.[9]

From 1922 to 1940, Stevens made numerous visits to Key West, Florida, where he generally lodged at the Casa Marina, a hotel on the Atlantic Ocean. He first visited in January 1922, while on a business trip. "The place is a paradise," he wrote to Elsie, "midsummer weather, the sky brilliantly clear and intensely blue, the sea blue and green beyond what you have ever seen."[10] The influence of Key West upon Stevens's poetry is evident in many of the poems published in his first two collections, Harmonium and Ideas of Order.[11] In February 1935, Stevens encountered the poet Robert Frost at the Casa Marina. The two men argued, and Frost reported that Stevens had been drunk and acted inappropriately. The following year, Stevens allegedly assaulted Ernest Hemingway at a party at the Waddell Street home of a mutual acquaintance. Stevens broke his hand, apparently from hitting Hemingway's jaw, and was repeatedly knocked to the street by Hemingway. Stevens later apologized.[12] In 1940, Stevens made his final trip to Key West. Frost was at the Casa Marina again, and again the two men argued.[13]

In the 1930s and 1940s, he was welcomed as a member of the exclusive set centered on the artistic and literary devotees Barbara and Henry Church.

Stevens may have been baptized a Catholic in April 1955 by Fr. Arthur Hanley, chaplain of St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, where Stevens spent his last days suffering from stomach cancer.[14] This purported deathbed conversion is disputed, particularly by Stevens's daughter, Holly.[15] There is also no record of Stevens' "baptism," although all Roman Catholic priests are required to record the baptisms that they perform.[16] After a brief release from the hospital, Stevens was readmitted and died on August 2, 1955, at the age of 75. He is buried in Hartford's Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Political Views

Stevens was politically conservative[17][18] described by critic William York Tindall as a Republican in the mold of Robert Taft.[19]


Stevens is a rare example of a poet whose main output came at a fairly advanced age. His first major publication (four poems from a sequence entitled "Phases" in the November 1914 edition of Poetry Magazine)[20] was written at the age of thirty-five, although as an undergraduate at Harvard, Stevens had written poetry and exchanged sonnets with George Santayana, with whom he was close through much of his life. Many of his canonical works were written well after he turned fifty. According to the literary critic Harold Bloom, who called Stevens the "best and most representative" American poet of the time[21], no Western writer since Sophocles has had such a late flowering of artistic genius.

Stevens's first book of poetry, a volume of rococo inventiveness titled Harmonium, was published in 1923. He produced two more major books of poetry during the 1920s and 1930s and three more in the 1940s. He received the National Book Award in 1951[22] and 1955.[23]

Imagination and reality

Stevens, whose work was meditative and philosophical, is very much a poet of ideas.[21] “The poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully,”[24] he wrote. Concerning the relation between consciousness and the world, in Stevens's work "imagination" is not equivalent to consciousness nor is "reality" equivalent to the world as it exists outside our minds. Reality is the product of the imagination as it shapes the world. Because it is constantly changing as we attempt to find imaginatively satisfying ways to perceive the world, reality is an activity, not a static object. We approach reality with a piecemeal understanding, putting together parts of the world in an attempt to make it seem coherent. To make sense of the world is to construct a worldview through an active exercise of the imagination. This is no dry, philosophical activity, but a passionate engagement in finding order and meaning. Thus Stevens would write in The Idea of Order at Key West,

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,

The maker's rage to order words of the sea,

Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,

And of ourselves and of our origins,

In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.[25]

In his book Opus Posthumous, Stevens writes, “After one has abandoned a belief in god, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption." [26] But as the poet attempts to find a fiction to replace the lost gods, he immediately encounters a problem: a direct knowledge of reality is not possible.

Stevens suggests that we live in the tension between the shapes we take as the world acts upon us and the ideas of order that our imagination imposes upon the world. The world influences us in our most normal activities: "The dress of a woman of Lhassa, / In its place, / Is an invisible element of that place / Made visible."[27] Likewise, were we to place a jar on a hill in Tennessee, we would impose an order onto the landscape.

As Stevens says in his essay "Imagination as Value", “The truth seems to be that we live in concepts of the imagination before the reason has established them."[28] The imagination is the mechanism by which we unconsciously conceptualize the normal patterns of life, while reason is the way we consciously conceptualize these patterns.

The jar is a striking example of an order that does not feel a part of the land, and so seems to violate the existing order: “It did not give of bird or bush, / Like nothing else in Tennessee”.[29] Contrast this to the feeling one gets while looking over the water where boats are anchored in darkness, with lanterns hanging on poles, “Arranging, deepening, enchanting night”.[30] When the imagination is available to reality and does not try to force itself, reality becomes like a bar of sand onto which the imagination naturally washes and recedes.

The imagination can only conceive of a world for a moment—a particular time, place and culture—and so must continually revise its conception to align with the changing world. And as these worldviews come and go, each person is pulled in his or her normal life between the influence the world has on imagination and the influence imagination has on the way we view the world.

For this reason, the best we can hope for is a well-conceived fiction, satisfying for the moment, but sure to lapse into obsolescence as new imaginings wash over the world.

Supreme fiction

The imagination loses vitality as it ceases to adhere to what is real. When it adheres to the unreal and intensifies what is unreal, while its first effect may be extraordinary, that effect is the maximum effect that it will ever have.[31]

Throughout his poetic career, Stevens was concerned with the question of what to think about the world now that our old notions of religion no longer suffice. His solution might be summarized by the notion of a “Supreme Fiction.” In this example from the satirical "A High-Toned Old Christian Woman," Stevens plays with the notions of immediately accessible, but ultimately unsatisfying, notions of reality:

Poetry is the supreme Fiction, madame.

Take the moral law and make a nave of it

And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,

The conscience is converted into palms

Like windy citherns, hankering for hymns.

We agree in principle. That’s clear. But take

The opposing law and make a peristyle,

And from the peristyle project a masque

Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,

Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,

Is equally converted into palms,

Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,

Madame, we are where we began.[32]

The saxophones squiggle because, as J. Hillis Miller says of Stevens in his book, Poets of Reality, the theme of universal fluctuation is a constant theme throughout Stevens poetry: "A great many of Stevens’ poems show an object or group of objects in aimless oscillation or circling movement.”[33] In the end, reality remains.

The supreme fiction is that conceptualization of reality that seems to resonate in its rightness, so much so that it seems to have captured, if only for a moment, something actual and real.

I am the angel of reality,

seen for a moment standing in the door.


I am the necessary angel of earth,

Since, in my sight, you see the earth again,

Cleared of its stiff and stubborn, man-locked set,

And, in my hearing, you hear its tragic drone

Rise liquidly in liquid lingerings,

Like watery words awash;


an apparition appareled in

Apparels of such lightest look that a turn

Of my shoulder and quickly, too quickly, I am gone?[34]

In one of his last poems, "Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour", Stevens describes the experience of an idea which satisfies the imagination, “This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous. / It is in that thought that we collect ourselves, / Out of all the indifferences, into one thing.” This one thing is “a light, a power, the miraculous influence” wherein we can forget ourselves, sensing a comforting order, “A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous, / within its vital boundary, in the mind.”[35]

This knowledge necessarily exists within the mind, since it is an aspect of the imagination which can never attain a direct experience of reality.

We say God and the imagination are one . . .

How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind

We make a dwelling in the evening air,

In which being there together is enough.[35]

Stevens concludes that God is a human creation, but that feeling of rightness which for so long a time existed with the idea of God may be accessed again. This supreme fiction will be something equally central to our being, but contemporary to our lives, in a way that God can never again be. But with the right idea, we may again find the same sort of solace that we once found in divinity. "[Stevens] finds, too, a definite value in the complete contact with reality. Only, in fact, by this stark knowledge can he attain his own spiritual self that can resist the disintegrating forces of life . . . . Powerful force though the mind is . . . it cannot find the absolutes. Heaven lies about the seeing man in his sensuous apprehension of the world . . .; everything about him is part of the truth." [36]

. . . Poetry

Exceeding music must take the place

Of empty heaven and its hymns,

Ourselves in poetry must take their place[37]

In this way, Stevens’s poems adopt attitudes that are corollaries to those earlier spiritual longings that persist in the unconscious currents of the imagination. “The poem refreshes life so that we share, / For a moment, the first idea . . . It satisfies / Belief in an immaculate beginning / And sends us, winged by an unconscious will, / To an immaculate end."[38] The "first idea" is that essential reality that stands before all others, that essential truth; but since all knowledge is contingent on its time and place, that supreme fiction will surely be transitory. This is the necessary angel of subjective reality—a reality that must always be qualified—and as such, always misses the mark to some degree—always contains elements of unreality.

Miller summarizes Stevens's position: "Though this dissolving of the self is in one way the end of everything, in another way it is the happy liberation. There are only two entities left now that the gods are dead: man and nature, subject and object. Nature is the physical world, visible, audible, tangible, present to all the senses, and man is consciousness, the nothing which receives nature and transforms it into something unreal . . . ."[39]

The role of poetry

Stevens often writes directly about poetry and its human function. The poet “tries by a peculiar speech to speak / The peculiar potency of the general, / To compound the imagination’s Latin with / The lingua franca et jocundissima.”[40] Moreover, “The whole race is a poet that writes down / The eccentric propositions of its fate.”[41] In a manner reminiscent of Wordsworth, Stevens saw the poet as one with heightened powers, but one who like all ordinary people continually creates and discards cognitive depictions of the world, not in solitude but in solidarity with other men and women.

These cognitive depictions find their outlet and their best and final form as words; and thus Stevens can say, "It is a world of words to the end of it, / In which nothing solid is its solid self."[42] In a poem called "Men Made out of Words," he says: "Life / Consists of propositions about life.”[41] Poetry is not about life, it is intimately a part of life. As Stevens wrote elsewhere, “The poem is the cry of its occasion, / Part of the res itself and not about it. / The poet speaks the poem as it is, // Not as it was.”[43] Modern poetry is “the poem of the mind in the act of finding / What will suffice.”[44]

It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place.

It has to face the men of the time and to meet

The women of the time. It has to think about war

And it has to find what will suffice. It has

To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage,

And, like an insatiable actor, slowly and

With meditation, speak words that in the ear,

In the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat,

Exactly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound

Of which, an invisible audience listens,

Not to the play, but to itself, expressed

In an emotion as of two people, as of two

Emotions becoming one. [45]

His poem An Ordinary Evening in New Haven is a self-conscious digression about the creation of poetry.[21]

We keep coming back and coming back

To the real: to the hotel instead of the hymns

That fall upon it out of the wind. We seek

The poem of pure reality, untouched

By trope or deviation, straight to the word,

Straight to the transfixing object, to the object

At the exactest point at which it is itself,

Transfixing by being purely what it is

A view of New Haven, say, through the certain eye,

The eye made clear of uncertainty, with the sight

Of simple seeing, without reflection. We seek

Nothing beyond reality.

To create a stage is, for Stevens, a metaphor for the need of modern poetry to make its own new arena or realm in which it should be presented and in which it can be understood. Modern poetry is like "an insatiable actor" because it continually must be in "the act of finding what will suffice." Stevens puns on the meaning of "act." In one sense, poetry is an act, learning the speech, meeting the women, facing the men, etc. In another sense, it is a dramatic performance meant to be heard by an audience, as it speaks words that echo in the mind of the listener. The audience is "invisible" in the sense that a poet rarely meets his or her readers. The typical reader picks up a book of poems and reads a poem or two, and the author never sees this happening. The reading of poetry is often a conversation between strangers. In this poem the two people are the actor that is the poem and the audience that is the listener, and their emotions should become "one." The poet should find the words that will speak to the delicatest ear of its modern listeners, echoing what it wants to hear but cannot articulate for itself. The poet, in the act of the poem, finds the sufficing words and for the audience and they allow the listeners to hear what is in their ear, their mind. As a result, the emotions of speaking and listening, of poet as actor and listeners as audience, should become one.

Reputation and influence

From the first, critics and fellow poets praised Stevens. Hart Crane wrote to a friend in 1919, after reading some of the poems that would make up Harmonium, "There is a man whose work makes most of the rest of us quail."[46] In the 1930s, the critic Yvor Winters criticized Stevens as a decadent hedonist but acknowledged his great talent. Beginning in the 1940s, critics such as Randall Jarrell spoke of Stevens as one of the major living American poets, even if they did so (as Jarrell did) with certain reservations about Stevens’s work. Stevens’s work became even better known after his death. Harold Bloom, Helen Vendler, and Frank Kermode are among the critics who have cemented Stevens’s position in the canon as a great poet. Many poets—James Merrill and Donald Justice most explicitly—have acknowledged Stevens as a major influence on their work, and his impact may also be seen in John Ashbery, Mark Strand, Jorie Graham, John Hollander, and others.

In 1977 David Hockney authored a book of etchings called "The Blue Guitar: Etchings By David Hockney Who Was Inspired By Wallace Stevens Who Was Inspired By Pablo Picasso". The book included the poetry of Wallace Stevens. The etchings were inspired by and were meant to represent the themes of Stevens's poem, "The Man With The Blue Guitar", which was inspired by a 1903 painting by Pablo Picasso titled "The Old Guitarist". It was published as a portfolio and as a book in spring 1997 by Petersburg Press.



• The Snowman (1921)

• Harmonium (1923)

• Ideas of Order (1936)

• Owl's Clover (1936)

• The Man with the Blue Guitar (1937)

• Parts of a World (1942)

• Transport to Summer (1947)

• The Auroras of Autumn (1950)

• Collected Poems (1954)

• Opus Posthumous (1957)

• The Palm at the End of the Mind (1972)

• Collected Poetry and Prose (New York: The Library of America, 1997)

• Selected Poems (John N. Serio, ed.) (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009)


• The Necessary Angel (essays) (1951)

• Letters of Wallace James Stevens, edited by Holly Stevens (1966)

• Secretaries of the Moon: The Letters of Wallace Stevens & Jose Rodriguez Feo, edited by Beverly Coyle and Alan Filreis (1986)

• Sur plusieurs beaux sujects: Wallace Stevens's Commonplace Book, edited by Milton J. Bates (1989)

• The Contemplated Spouse: The Letter of Wallace Stevens to Elsie, edited by D.J. Bluont (2006


Now grapes are plush upon the vines.

A soldier walks before my door.

The hives are heavy with the combs.

Before, before, before my door.

And seraphs cluster on the domes,

And saints are brilliant in fresh cloaks.

Before, before, before my door.

The shadows lessen on the walls.

The bareness of the house returns.

And acid sunlight fills the halls.

Before, before. Blood smears the oaks.

A soldier stalks before my door.

Emily Dickinson



Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a successful family with strong community ties, she lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life. After she studied at the Amherst Academy for seven years in her youth, she spent a short time at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before returning to her family's house in Amherst. Thought of as an eccentric by the locals, she became known for her penchant for white clothing and her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, even leave her room. Most of her friendships were therefore carried out by correspondence.

Although Dickinson was a prolific private poet, fewer than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems were published during her lifetime.[2] The work that was published during her lifetime was usually altered significantly by the publishers to fit the conventional poetic rules of the time. Dickinson's poems are unique for the era in which she wrote; they contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation.[3] Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends.

Although most of her acquaintances were probably aware of Dickinson's writing, it was not until after her death in 1886—when Lavinia, Emily's younger sister, discovered her cache of poems—that the breadth of Dickinson's work became apparent. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1890 by personal acquaintances Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd, both of whom heavily edited the content. A complete and mostly unaltered collection of her poetry became available for the first time in 1955 when The Poems of Emily Dickinson was published by scholar Thomas H. Johnson. Despite unfavorable reviews and skepticism of her literary prowess during the late 19th and early 20th century, critics now consider Dickinson to be a major American poet.[4]


Family and early childhood

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born at the family's homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts, on December 10, 1830, into a prominent, but not wealthy, family.[5] Two hundred years earlier, the Dickinsons had arrived in the New World—in the Puritan Great Migration—where they prospered.[6] Emily Dickinson's paternal grandfather, Samuel Dickinson, had almost single-handedly founded Amherst College.[7] In 1813 he built the homestead, a large mansion on the town's Main Street, that became the focus of Dickinson family life for the better part of a century.[8] Samuel Dickinson's eldest son, Edward, was treasurer of Amherst College for nearly forty years, served numerous terms as a State Legislator, and represented the Hampshire district in the United States Congress. On May 6, 1828, he married Emily Norcross from Monson. They had three children:

• William Austin (1829–1895), known as Austin, Aust or Awe;

• Emily Elizabeth; and

• Lavinia Norcross (1833–1899), known as Lavinia or Vinnie.[9]

By all accounts, young Emily was a well-behaved girl. On an extended visit to Monson when she was two, Emily's Aunt Lavinia described Emily as "perfectly well & contented—She is a very good child & but little trouble."[10] Emily's aunt also noted the girl's affinity for music and her particular talent for the piano, which she called "the moosic".[11]

Dickinson attended primary school in a two-story building on Pleasant Street.[12] Her education was "ambitiously classical for a Victorian girl".[13] Her father wanted his children well-educated and he followed their progress even while away on business. When Emily was seven, he wrote home, reminding his children to "keep school, and learn, so as to tell me, when I come home, how many new things you have learned".[14] While Emily consistently described her father in a warm manner, her correspondence suggests that her mother was regularly cold and aloof. In a letter to a confidante, Emily wrote she "always ran Home to Awe [Austin] when a child, if anything befell me. He was an awful Mother, but I liked him better than none."[15]

On September 7, 1840, Dickinson and her sister Lavinia started together at Amherst Academy, a former boys' school that had opened to female students just two years earlier.[12] At about the same time, her father purchased a house on North Pleasant Street.[16] Emily's brother Austin later described this large new home as the "mansion" over which he and Emily presided as "lord and lady" while their parents were absent.[17] The house overlooked Amherst's burial ground, described by one local minister as treeless and "forbidding".[16]

Teenage years

Dickinson spent seven years at the Academy, taking classes in English and classical literature, Latin, botany, geology, history, "mental philosophy," and arithmetic.[19] She had a few terms off due to illness: the longest absence was in 1845–1846, when she was only enrolled for eleven weeks.[20]

Dickinson was troubled from a young age by the "deepening menace" of death, especially the deaths of those who were close to her. When Sophia Holland, her second cousin and a close friend, grew ill from typhus and died in April, 1844, Emily was traumatized.[21] Recalling the incident two years later, Emily wrote that "it seemed to me I should die too if I could not be permitted to watch over her or even look at her face."[22] She became so melancholic that her parents sent her to stay with family in Boston to recover.[23] With her health and spirits restored, she soon returned to Amherst Academy to continue her studies.[24] During this period, she first met people who were to become lifelong friends and correspondents, such as Abiah Root, Abby Wood, Jane Humphrey, and Susan Huntington Gilbert (who later married Emily's brother Austin).

In 1845, a religious revival took place in Amherst, resulting in 46 confessions of faith among Dickinson's peers.[25] Dickinson wrote to a friend the following year: "I never enjoyed such perfect peace and happiness as the short time in which I felt I had found my savior."[26] She went on to say that it was her "greatest pleasure to commune alone with the great God & to feel that he would listen to my prayers."[26] The experience did not last: Dickinson never made a formal declaration of faith and attended services regularly for only a few years.[27] After her church-going ended, about 1852, she wrote a poem opening: "Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – / I keep it, staying at Home".[28]

During the last year of her stay at the Academy, Emily became friendly with Leonard Humphrey, its popular new young principal. After finishing her final term at the Academy on August 10, 1847, Dickinson began attending Mary Lyon's Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (which later became Mount Holyoke College) in South Hadley, about ten miles (16 km) from Amherst.[29] She was at the seminary for only ten months. Although she liked the girls at Holyoke, Dickinson made no lasting friendships there.[30] The explanations for her brief stay at Holyoke differ considerably: either she was in poor health, her father wanted to have her at home, she rebelled against the evangelical fervor present at the school, she disliked the discipline-minded teachers, or she was simply homesick.[31] Whatever the specific reason for leaving Holyoke, her brother Austin appeared on March 25, 1848, to "bring [her] home at all events".[32] Back in Amherst, Dickinson occupied her time with household activities.[33] She took up baking for the family and enjoyed attending local events and activities in the budding college town.[34]

Early influences and writing

When she was eighteen, Dickinson's family befriended a young attorney by the name of Benjamin Franklin Newton. According to a letter written by Dickinson after Newton's death, he had been "with my Father two years, before going to Worcester – in pursuing his studies, and was much in our family."[35] Although their relationship was probably not romantic, Newton was a formative influence and would become the second in a series of older men (after Humphrey) that Dickinson referred to, variously, as her tutor, preceptor or master.[36]

Newton likely introduced her to the writings of William Wordsworth, and his gift to her of Ralph Waldo Emerson's first book of collected poems had a liberating effect. She wrote later that he, "whose name my Father's Law Student taught me, has touched the secret Spring".[37] Newton held her in high regard, believing in and recognizing her as a poet. When he was dying of tuberculosis, he wrote to her, saying that he would like to live until she achieved the greatness he foresaw.[37] Biographers believe that Dickinson's statement of 1862—"When a little Girl, I had a friend, who taught me Immortality – but venturing too near, himself – he never returned"—refers to Newton.[38]

Dickinson was familiar not only with the Bible but also with contemporary popular literature.[39] She was probably influenced by Lydia Maria Child's Letters from New York, another gift from Newton[21] (after reading it, she enthused "This then is a book! And there are more of them!"[21]). Her brother smuggled a copy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Kavanagh into the house for her (because her father might disapprove)[40] and a friend lent her Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre in late 1849.[41] Jane Eyre's influence cannot be measured, but when Dickinson acquired her first and only dog, a Newfoundland, she named him "Carlo" after the character St. John Rivers' dog.[41] William Shakespeare was also a potent influence in her life. Referring to his plays, she wrote to one friend "Why clasp any hand but this?" and to another, "Why is any other book needed?"[42]

Adulthood and seclusion

In early 1850 Dickinson wrote that "Amherst is alive with fun this winter ... Oh, a very great town this is!"[33] Her high spirits soon turned to melancholy after another death. The Amherst Academy principal, Leonard Humphrey, died suddenly of "brain congestion" at age 25.[43] Two years after his death, she revealed to her friend Abiah Root the extent of her depression: "... some of my friends are gone, and some of my friends are sleeping – sleeping the churchyard sleep – the hour of evening is sad – it was once my study hour – my master has gone to rest, and the open leaf of the book, and the scholar at school alone, make the tears come, and I cannot brush them away; I would not if I could, for they are the only tribute I can pay the departed Humphrey".[44]

During the 1850s, Emily's strongest and most affectionate relationship was with Susan Gilbert. Emily eventually sent her over three hundred letters, more than to any other correspondent, over the course of their friendship. Sue was supportive of the poet, playing the role of "most beloved friend, influence, muse, and adviser whose editorial suggestions Dickinson sometimes followed, Susan played a primary role in Emily's creative processes."[45] Sue married Austin in 1856 after a four-year courtship, although their marriage was not a happy one. Edward Dickinson built a house for him and Sue called the Evergreens, which stood on the west side of the Homestead.[46] There is controversy over how to view Emily's friendship with Sue; according to a point of view first promoted by Mabel Loomis Todd, Austin's longtime mistress, Emily's missives typically dealt with demands for Sue's affection and the fear of unrequited admiration. Todd believed that because Sue was often aloof and disagreeable, Emily was continually hurt by what was mostly a tempestuous friendship.[47] However, the notion of a "cruel" Sue—as promoted by her romantic rival—has been questioned, most especially by Sue and Austin's surviving children, with whom Emily was close.[48]

Until 1855, Dickinson had not strayed far from Amherst. That spring, accompanied by her mother and sister, she took one of her longest and farthest trips away from home.[50] First, they spent three weeks in Washington, where her father was representing Massachusetts in Congress. Then they went to Philadelphia for two weeks to visit family. In Philadelphia, she met Charles Wadsworth, a famous minister of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church, with whom she forged a strong friendship which lasted until his death in 1882.[51] Despite only seeing him twice after 1855 (he moved to San Francisco in 1862), she variously referred to him as "my Philadelphia", "my Clergyman", "my dearest earthly friend" and "my Shepherd from 'Little Girl'hood".[52]

From the mid-1850s, Emily's mother became effectively bedridden with various chronic illnesses until her death in 1882.[53] Writing to a friend in summer 1858, Emily said that she would visit if she could leave "home, or mother. I do not go out at all, lest father will come and miss me, or miss some little act, which I might forget, should I run away – Mother is much as usual. I Know not what to hope of her".[54] As her mother continued to decline, Dickinson's domestic responsibilities weighed more heavily upon her and she confined herself within the Homestead. Forty years later, Lavinia stated that because their mother was chronically ill, one of the daughters had to remain always with her.[54] Emily took this role as her own, and "finding the life with her books and nature so congenial, continued to live it".[54]

Withdrawing more and more from the outside world, Emily began in the summer of 1858 what would be her lasting legacy. Reviewing poems she had written previously, she began making clean copies of her work, assembling carefully pieced-together manuscript books.[55] The forty fascicles she created from 1858 through 1865 eventually held nearly eight hundred poems.[55] No one was aware of the existence of these books until after her death.

In the late 1850s, the Dickinsons befriended Samuel Bowles, the owner and editor-in-chief of the Springfield Republican, and his wife, Mary.[56] They visited the Dickinsons regularly for years to come. During this time Emily sent him over three dozen letters and nearly fifty poems.[57] Their friendship brought out some of her most intense writing and Bowles published a few of her poems in his journal.[58] It was from 1858 to 1861 that Dickinson is believed to have written a trio of letters that have been called "The Master Letters". These three letters, drafted to an unknown man simply referred to as "Master", continue to be the subject of speculation and contention amongst scholars.[59]

The first half of the 1860s, after she had largely withdrawn from social life,[60] proved to be Dickinson's most productive writing period.[61] Modern scholars and researchers are divided as to the cause for Dickinson's withdrawal and extreme seclusion. While she was diagnosed as having "nervous prostration" by a physician during her lifetime,[62] some today believe she may have suffered from diseases as various as agoraphobia[63] and epilepsy.[64]

Is "my Verse ... alive?"

In April 1862, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a literary critic, radical abolitionist, and ex-minister, wrote a lead piece for The Atlantic Monthly entitled, "Letter to a Young Contributor". Higginson's essay, in which he urged aspiring writers to "charge your style with life", contained practical advice for those wishing to break into print.[65] Seeking literary guidance that no one close to her could provide, Dickinson sent him a letter which read in full:[66]

Mr Higginson,

Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?

The Mind is so near itself – it cannot see, distinctly – and I have none to ask –

Should you think it breathed – and had you the leisure to tell me, I should feel quick gratitude –

If I make the mistake – that you dared to tell me – would give me sincerer honor – toward you –

I enclose my name – asking you, if you please – Sir – to tell me what is true?

That you will not betray me – it is needless to ask – since Honor is it's [sic] own pawn –

The letter was unsigned, but she had included her name on a card and enclosed it in an envelope, along with four of her poems.[67] He praised her work but suggested that she delay publishing until she had written longer, being unaware that she had already appeared in print. She assured him that publishing was as foreign to her "as Firmament to Fin", but also proposed that "If fame belonged to me, I could not escape her".[68]

Dickinson delighted in dramatic self-characterization and mystery in her letters to Higginson.[69] She said of herself, "I am small, like the wren, and my hair is bold, like the chestnut bur, and my eyes like the sherry in the glass that the guest leaves."[70] She stressed her solitary nature, stating that her only real companions were the hills, the sundown, and her dog, Carlo. She also mentioned that whereas her mother did not "care for Thought", her father bought her books, but begged her "not to read them – because he fears they joggle the Mind".[71] Dickinson valued his advice, going from calling him "Mr. Higginson" to "Dear friend" as well as signing her letters, "Your Gnome" and "Your Scholar".[72] His interest in her work certainly provided great moral support; many years later, Dickinson told Higginson that he had saved her life in 1862.[73] They corresponded until her death.[74]

The woman in white

In direct opposition to the immense productivity that she displayed in the early 1860s, Dickinson wrote fewer poems in 1866.[75] Beset with personal loss as well as loss of domestic help, it is possible that Dickinson was too overcome to keep up her previous level of writing.[76] Carlo died during this time after providing sixteen years of companionship; Dickinson never owned another dog. Although the household servant of nine years had married and left the Homestead that same year, it was not until 1869 that her family brought in a permanent household servant to replace the old one.[77] Emily once again was responsible for chores, including the baking, at which she excelled

Around this time, Dickinson's behavior began to change. She did not leave the Homestead unless it was absolutely necessary and as early as 1867, she began to talk to visitors from the other side of a door rather than speaking to them face to face.[79] She acquired local notoriety; she was rarely seen, and when she was, she was usually clothed in white. Dickinson's one surviving article of clothing is a white cotton dress, possibly sewn circa 1878–1882.[80] Few of the locals who exchanged messages with Dickinson during her last fifteen years ever saw her in person.[81] Austin and his family began to protect Emily's privacy, deciding that she was not to be a subject of discussion with outsiders.[82] Despite her physical seclusion, however, Dickinson was socially active and expressive through what makes up two-thirds of her surviving notes and letters. When visitors came to either the Homestead or the Evergreens, she would often leave or send over small gifts of poems or flowers.[83] Dickinson also had a good rapport with the children in her life. Mattie Dickinson, the second child of Austin and Sue, later said that "Aunt Emily stood for indulgence."[84] MacGregor (Mac) Jenkins, the son of family friends who later wrote a short article in 1891 called "A Child's Recollection of Emily Dickinson", thought of her as always offering support to the neighborhood children.[84]

When Higginson urged her to come to Boston in 1868 so that they could formally meet for the first time, she declined, writing: "Could it please your convenience to come so far as Amherst I should be very glad, but I do not cross my Father's ground to any House or town".[85] It was not until he came to Amherst in 1870 that they met. Later he referred to her, in the most detailed and vivid physical account of her on record, as "a little plain woman with two smooth bands of reddish hair ... in a very plain & exquisitely clean white pique & a blue net worsted shawl."[86] He also felt that he never was "with any one who drained my nerve power so much. Without touching her, she drew from me. I am glad not to live near her."[87]

Posies and poesies

Scholar Judith Farr notes that Dickinson, during her lifetime, "was known more widely as a gardener, perhaps, than as a poet".[88] Dickinson studied botany from the age of nine and, along with her sister, tended the garden at Homestead.[88] During her lifetime, she assembled a collection of pressed plants in a sixty-six page leather-bound herbarium. It contained 424 pressed flower specimens that she collected, classified, and labeled using the Linnaean system.[89] The Homestead garden was well-known and admired locally in its time. It has not survived, and Dickinson kept no garden notebooks or plant lists, but a clear impression can be formed from the letters and recollections of friends and family. Her niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, remembered "carpets of lily-of-the-valley and pansies, platoons of sweetpeas, hyacinths, enough in May to give all the bees of summer dyspepsia. There were ribbons of peony hedges and drifts of daffodils in season, marigolds to distraction—-a butterfly utopia".[90] In particular, Dickinson cultivated scented exotic flowers, writing that she "could inhabit the Spice Isles merely by crossing the dining room to the conservatory, where the plants hang in baskets". Dickinson would often send her friends bunches of flowers with verses attached, but "they valued the posy more than the poetry".[90]

Later life

On June 16, 1874, while in Boston, Edward Dickinson suffered a stroke and died. When the simple funeral was held in the Homestead's entrance hall, Emily stayed in her room with the door cracked open. Neither did she attend the memorial service on June 28.[91] She wrote to Higginson that her father's "Heart was pure and terrible and I think no other like it exists."[92] A year later, on June 15, 1875, Emily's mother also suffered a stroke, which produced a partial lateral paralysis and impaired memory. Lamenting her mother's increasing physical as well as mental demands, Emily wrote that "Home is so far from Home".[93]

Otis Phillips Lord, an elderly judge on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court from Salem, in 1872 or 1873 became an acquaintance of Dickinson's. After the death of Lord's wife in 1877, his friendship with Dickinson probably became a late-life romance, though as their letters were destroyed, this is surmise.[95] Dickinson found a kindred soul in Lord, especially in terms of shared literary interests; the few letters which survived contain multiple quotations of Shakespeare's work, including the plays Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet and King Lear. In 1880 he gave her Cowden Clarke's Complete Concordance to Shakespeare (1877).[96] Dickinson wrote that "While others go to Church, I go to mine, for are you not my Church, and have we not a Hymn that no one knows but us?"[97] She referred to him as "My lovely Salem"[98] and they wrote to each other religiously every Sunday. Dickinson looked forward to this day greatly; a surviving fragment of a letter written by her states that "Tuesday is a deeply depressed Day".[99]

After being critically ill for several years, Judge Lord died in March 1884. Dickinson referred to him as "our latest Lost".[100] Two years before this, on April 1, 1882, Dickinson's "Shepherd from 'Little Girl'hood", Charles Wadsworth, also had died after a long illness.

Decline and death

Although she continued to write in her last years, Dickinson stopped editing and organizing her poems. She also exacted a promise from her sister Lavinia to burn her papers.[101] Lavinia, who also never married, remained at the Homestead until her own death in 1899.

The 1880s were a difficult time for the remaining Dickinsons. Irreconcilably alienated from his wife, Austin fell in love in 1882 with Mabel Loomis Todd, an Amherst College faculty wife who had recently moved to the area. Todd never met Dickinson but was intrigued by her, referring to her as "a lady whom the people call the Myth".[102] Austin distanced himself from his family as his affair continued and his wife became sick with grief.[103] Dickinson's mother died on November 14, 1882. Five weeks later, Dickinson wrote "We were never intimate ... while she was our Mother – but Mines in the same Ground meet by tunneling and when she became our Child, the Affection came."[104] The next year, Austin and Sue's third and youngest child, Gilbert—Emily's favorite—died of typhoid fever.[105]

As death succeeded death, Dickinson found her world upended. In the fall of 1884, she wrote that "The Dyings have been too deep for me, and before I could raise my Heart from one, another has come."[106] That summer she had seen "a great darkness coming" and fainted while baking in the kitchen. She remained unconscious late into the night and weeks of ill health followed. On November 30, 1885, her feebleness and other symptoms were so worrying that Austin canceled a trip to Boston.[107] She was confined to her bed for a few months, but managed to send a final burst of letters in the spring. What is thought to be her last letter was sent to her cousins, Louise and Frances Norcross, and simply read: "Little Cousins, Called Back. Emily".[108] On May 15, 1886, after several days of worsening symptoms, Emily Dickinson died at the age of 55. Austin wrote in his diary that "the day was awful ... she ceased to breathe that terrible breathing just before the [afternoon] whistle sounded for six."[109] Dickinson's chief physician gave the cause of death as Bright's disease and its duration as two and a half years.[110]

Dickinson was buried, laid in a white coffin with vanilla-scented heliotrope, a Lady's Slipper orchid, and a "knot of blue field violets" placed about it.[90][111] The funeral service, held in the Homestead's library, was simple and short; Higginson, who had only met her twice, read "No Coward Soul Is Mine", a poem by Emily Brontë that had been a favorite of Dickinson's.[109] At Dickinson's request, her "coffin [was] not driven but carried through fields of buttercups" for burial in the family plot at West Cemetery on Triangle Street.[88]


Despite Dickinson's prolific writing, fewer than a dozen of her poems were published during her lifetime. After her younger sister Lavinia discovered the collection of nearly eighteen hundred poems, Dickinson's first volume was published four years after her death. Until the 1955 publication of Dickinson's Complete Poems by Thomas H. Johnson, her poems were considerably edited and altered from their manuscript versions. Since 1890 Dickinson has remained continuously in print.


A few of Dickinson's poems appeared in Samuel Bowles' Springfield Republican between 1858 and 1868. They were published anonymously and heavily edited, with conventionalized punctuation and formal titles.[112] The first poem, "Nobody knows this little rose", may have been published without Dickinson's permission.[113] The Republican also published "A narrow Fellow in the Grass" as "The Snake"; "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers –" as "The Sleeping"; and "Blazing in the Gold and quenching in Purple" as "Sunset".[114][115] The poem "I taste a liquor never brewed –" is an example of the edited versions; the last two lines in the first stanza were completely rewritten for the sake of conventional rhyme.

|Original wording |Republican version[114] | |

|I taste a liquor never brewed – |I taste a liquor never brewed – | |

|From Tankards scooped in Pearl – |From Tankards scooped in Pearl – | |

|Not all the Frankfort Berries |Not Frankfort Berries yield the | |

|Yield such an Alcohol! |sense | |

| |Such a delirious whirl! | |

In 1864, several poems were altered and published in Drum Beat, to raise funds for medical care for Union soldiers in the war.[116] Another appeared in April 1864 in the Brooklyn Daily Union. [117]

In the 1870s, Higginson showed Dickinson's poems to Helen Hunt Jackson, who had coincidentally been at the Academy with Dickinson when they were girls.[118] Jackson was deeply involved in the publishing world, and managed to convince Dickinson to publish her poem "Success is counted sweetest" anonymously in a volume called A Masque of Poets.[118] The poem, however, was altered to agree with contemporary taste. It was the last poem published during Dickinson's lifetime.


After Dickinson's death, Lavinia Dickinson kept her promise and burned most of the poet's correspondence. Significantly though, Dickinson had left no instructions about the forty notebooks and loose sheets gathered in a locked chest.[119] Lavinia recognized the poems' worth and became obsessed with seeing them published.[120] She turned first to her brother's wife and then to Mabel Loomis Todd, her brother's mistress, for assistance.[111] A feud ensued, with the manuscripts divided between the Todd and Dickinson houses, preventing complete publication of Dickinson's po The first volume of Dickinson's Poems, edited jointly by Mabel Loomis Todd and T. W. Higginson, appeared in November 1890.[122] Although Todd claimed that only essential changes were made, the poems were extensively edited to match punctuation and capitalization to late 19th-century standards, with occasional rewordings to reduce Dickinson's obliquity.[123] The first 115-poem volume was a critical and financial success, going through eleven printings in two years.[122] Poems: Second Series followed in 1891, running to five editions by 1893; a third series appeared in 1896. One reviewer, in 1892, wrote: "The world will not rest satisfied till every scrap of her writings, letters as well as literature, has been published".[124] Two years later, two volumes of Dickinson's letters, heavily edited, appeared. In parallel, Susan Dickinson placed a few of Dickinson's poems in literary magazines such as Scribner's Magazine and The Independent.

Between 1914 and 1929, Dickinson's niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, published a new series of collections, including many previously unpublished poems, with similarly normalized punctuation and capitalization. Other volumes edited by Todd and Bianchi followed through the 1930s, gradually making more previously unpublished poems available.

The first scholarly publication came in 1955 with a complete new three-volume set edited by Thomas H. Johnson. It formed the basis of all later Dickinson scholarship. For the first time, the poems were printed very nearly as Dickinson had left them in her manuscripts.[125] They were untitled, only numbered in an approximate chronological sequence, strewn with dashes and irregularly capitalized, and often extremely elliptical in their language.[126] Three years later, Johnson edited and published, along with Theodora Ward, a complete collection of Dickinson's letters.


See: Emily Dickinson at Wikisource for complete poetic works

Dickinson's poems generally fall into three distinct periods, the works in each period having certain general characters in common.

• Pre-1861. These are often conventional and sentimental in nature.[127] Thomas H. Johnson, who later published The Poems of Emily Dickinson, was able to date only five of Dickinson's poems before 1858.[128] Two of these are mock valentines done in an ornate and humorous style, and two others are conventional lyrics, one of which is about missing her brother Austin. The fifth poem, which begins "I have a Bird in spring", conveys her grief over the feared loss of friendship and was sent to her friend Sue Gilbert.[128]

• 1861–1865. This was her most creative period—these poems are more vigorous and emotional. Johnson estimated that she composed 86 poems in 1861, 366 in 1862, 141 in 1863, and 174 in 1864. He also believed that this is when she fully developed her themes of life and death.[129]

• Post-1866. It is estimated that two-thirds of the entire body of her poetry was written before this year.[129]

etry for more than half a century.[121]

Structure and syntax

The extensive use of dashes and unconventional capitalization in Dickinson's manuscripts, and the idiosyncratic vocabulary and imagery, combine to create a body of work that is "far more various in its styles and forms than is commonly supposed".[3][130] Dickinson avoids pentameter, opting more generally for trimeter, tetrameter and, less often, dimeter. Sometimes her use of these meters is regular, but oftentimes it is irregular. The regular form that she most often employs is the ballad stanza, a traditional form that is divided into quatrains, using tetrameter for the first and third lines and trimeter for the second and fourth, while rhyming the second and fourth lines (ABCB). Though Dickinson often uses perfect rhymes for lines two and four, she also makes frequent use of slant rhyme.[131] In some of her poems, she varies the meter from the traditional ballad stanza by using trimeter for lines one, two and four, while only using tetrameter for line three.

Since many of her poems were written in traditional ballad stanzas with ABCB rhyme schemes, some of these poems can be sung to fit the melodies of popular folk songs and hymns that also use the common meter, employing alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter.[132] Familiar examples of such songs are "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Amazing Grace'".

Dickinson scholar and poet Anthony Hecht finds resonances in Dickinson's poetry not only with hymns and song-forms but also with psalms and riddles, citing the following example: "Who is the East? / The Yellow Man / Who may be Purple if he can / That carries the Sun. / Who is the West? / The Purple Man / Who may be Yellow if He can / That lets Him out again."[130]

Late 20th-century scholars are "deeply interested" by Dickinson's highly individual use of punctuation and lineation (line lengths and line breaks).[119] Following the publication of one of the few poems that appeared in her lifetime – "A narrow Fellow in the Grass", published as "The Snake" in the Republican – Dickinson complained that the edited punctuation (an added comma and a full stop substitution for the original dash) altered the meaning of the entire poem.[114]

|Original wording |Republican version[114] | |

|A narrow Fellow in the Grass |A narrow Fellow in the Grass | |

|Occasionally rides – |Occasionally rides – | |

|You may have met Him – did you not |You may have met Him – did you not, | |

|His notice sudden is – |His notice sudden is. | |

As Farr points out, "snakes instantly notice you"; Dickinson's version captures the "breathless immediacy" of the encounter; and The Republican's punctuation renders "her lines more commonplace".[119] With the increasingly close focus on Dickinson's structures and syntax has come a growing appreciation that they are "aesthetically based".[119] Although Johnson's landmark 1955 edition of poems was relatively unaltered from the original, later scholars critiqued it for deviating from the style and layout of Dickinson's manuscripts. Meaningful distinctions, these scholars assert, can be drawn from varying lengths and angles of dash, and differing arrangements of text on the page.[133] Several volumes have attempted to render Dickinson's handwritten dashes using many typographic symbols of varying length and angle. R. W. Franklin's 1998 variorum edition of the poems provided alternate wordings to those chosen by Johnson, in a more limited editorial intervention. Franklin also used typeset dashes of varying length to approximate the manuscripts' dashes more closely.[125]

Title divine- is mine!

The Wife- without the sign!

Acute Degree- conferred on me-

Empress of Calvary!

Royal- all but the Crown!

Betrothed- without the swoon

God sends us Women-

When you- hold- Garnet to Garnet-

Gold- to Gold-

Born- Bridalled- Shrouded-

In a Day-

“ My Husband”- Women say-

Stroking the Melody-

Is this- the way?

I heard a Fly buzz- when I died-

The Stillness in the Room

Was like the Stillness in the Air-

Between the Heaves of Storm-


The Eyes around- had wrung them dry-

And Breaths were gathering firm

For the last Onset- when the King

Be witnessed- in the Room-

I willed my keepsakes- signed away

What portion of me be

Assignable- and then it was

There interposed a Fly-

With Blue- Blue- uncertain- stumbling Buzz-

Between the light – and me-

And then the Windows failed- and then

I could not see to see-


I felt a Funeral ,in my brain ,

And Mourners to and fro

Kept treading—treading—till it seemed

That Sense was breaking through—

And when they all were seated ,

A Service ,like a Drum—

Kept beating—beating—till I thought

My Mind was going numb—

And then I heard them lift a Box

And creak across my Soul

With those same Boots of Lead ,again ,

Then Space—began to toll ,

As all the Heavens were a Bell ,

And Being ,but an Ear ,

And I ,and Silence ,some strange Race

Wrecked ,solitary ,here—

And then a Plank in Reason ,broke ,

And I dropped down ,and down—

And hit a World ,at every plunge ,

And Finished knowing—then—


I am not the wheatfield

nor the virgin forest

I never chose this place

yet I am of it now

In my decent collar, in the daguerreotype

I pierce its legend with my look

My hands wring the necks of prairie chickens

I am used to blood

When the men hit the hobo track

I stay on with the children

My power is brief and local

but I know my power.

Appendix I

Glossary of Literary & Critical Terms

Alexandrine : Is the term given to the iambic hexameter ( twelve

syllables beginning with an unstressed syllable, then a stressed one ).

Allegory: a kind of narrative which attempts to convey a moral concept in a convincing way.

Alliteration : may be defined as the initial rhyme in contrast to the ordinary rhyme which comes at the end of the line. It occurs when two or more words close to each other begin their accented syllable with the same consonant. E.g.

The fair breeze blew, the white form flew,

The furrow free.

The following line is often taken as an example of alliteration:

An Austrian army awfully arrayed.

But, though all the words begin with the same vowel (a), yet the only words which form the alliteration are “ Austrian” and “ awfully as they begin with the same vowel sound as well as the same vowel. They are in an accented position.

Antithesis : is the bringing of word or ideas into contrast by being

balanced one against the other. E.g.

In power unpleased, impatient of disgrace:

A fiery soul, which, working out its way,

Fretted the pigmy body to decay,

And over-informed the tenement of clay.

A daring pilot in extremity;

Pleased with danger, when the waves went high.

He sought the storm; but for a calm unfit

Would steer too nigh the sands to boats his wit.

Great wits are sure to madness near allied,

And thin partitions do their bounds divide;

Else why should he, with wealth and honor blest,

Refuse his age the needful hours of rest?

Punish a body which he could not please;

Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of ease


Apostrophe: is the addressing of inanimate objects or abstract things as if they were people, or an absent person as if he were present.

E.g. O moon ! in the night I have seen you sailing

And shining so round and low;

You were bright! all bright ! but your light is failing

You are nothing now but a bow.(I. Inglow)

Archaism : is the use of words, spelling, constructions … etc. that

are out of date. It may be used when an old-fashioned

atmosphere is relevant and deliberately aimed.

E.g. : Tennyson’s “ Ulysses “,

Spencer’s “ Faerie Queen “,

Shelley’s “ Eve of St. Mark” ,

Scott’s “ Ivanhoe “,

Thackeray’s “ Edmond”

Assonance: is the sound, which is heard when two, or more in

corresponding metrical positions contain the same

accented vowel, but have different consonants following

it, as in “ late … sane “.

Blank Verse : is unrhymed verse written in iambic pentameters.

Broken Rhyme : is the breaking of a word at the end of a verse so as to

produce a rhyme.

Cacophony: is a term used to characterize harsh, unpleasant

combination of sound.

Caesura: is the pause in the metrical line which is not due to metrics

but rather to the natural rhythm of the language.

Caricature: is a descriptive representation in which the beautiful is

perverted and the defects exaggerated.

Closed couplet: is the term given to two successive verses rhyming

“aa” and containing a complete independent idea.

Conceit : is a term used to designate a fanciful idea or conception

usually expressed through an elaborate analogy, and

showing a striking parallelism between two seemingly

different things.

Epigram : is a brief and pointed saying, one which conveys much

meaning in few words. Terseness is the natural

characteristic of epigram. Verbal contradiction may be

used to command attention and urge the reader to

consider for himself the important truth as disguised.

Epitaph: is the group of words usually in verse, inscribed on a

tombstone or monument. It is used in literature to convey a

similar meaning . It was used by Gray at the end of his “

Elegy written in a country churchyard “.A. E. Housman and

Ben Johnson, as well as many others , wrote whole poems

in the form of epitaphs.

Euphemism : is a substitution of a less harsh or disagreeable word

or phrase for a more accurate but less offensive one; it

is pleasantness of speech.

E.g: He that’s coming

Must be provided for. (meaning killed )



Fleance, his son …

Must embrace the fate

Of that dark hour. (meaning killed )


Fable: Is a brief tale, in poetry or prose, conveying a certain moral

value. It is often derived from folklore, and so appears

childish. The characters are often animals who speak and act

like human being.

Figures of Speech : are used, whether in prose or verse, to secure

variety. They may be used consciously, and are

called “ ornamental “; and they may used

unconsciously , and are then, called “ organic “.

In any literary work , the organic use of the

figure of speech is better as it is more natural

and appears to form part of the given

experience; but the ornamental use of the figures

of speech given the impression that it is artificial

and superimposed. The difference between the

organic and ornamental uses of the figures of

speech is quite vividly seen in Shakespeare’s

plays. In his early plays , Shakespeare

introduced the different figures of speech to

ornament his style; but later, he become a great

master of the organic use of these figures of


Foot : is a group of syllables forming a metrical unit.

Free Verse: is the verse which discards traditional rhyme , metro and

form in favor of cadence; this poetry rests upon the

substance rather than the form. The free verse poet seeks

to isolate the essential, and convey it to the reader stripped

and absolute. The result will be differentiated from prose

not so much by is quality of song as by reality capture in a

lightning flash. Free verse become widely known after

world war I. It gained more strength when a new school,

the imagists, adopted this way of versification.

Heroic Couplet: Is the term given to the stanza which consists of two

lines consisting of five iambic feet (iambic

pentameters) and rhyming together.

Heroic Poem: is a kind of epic, but it is not so serious in intention

and it employs a looser metro and a more varied style,.

Though it usually has a single hero, it may bring in

number of other characters allowing them to pass

through a number of adventures Edmund Spenser’s

“ The Faire Queen “ is the most important in

English literature. It is written in the Spenserian

stanza .

Heroic Quatrain : ( Elegiac Stanza ) : consists of four decasyllabic

iambic lines rhyming alternately . Gray used this

stanza in his well-known “ Elegy in a Country

Churchyard “, the first stanza of which runs as

follows :

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,

The lowing herd winds slowly over the lea,

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,

And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

There are many other forms of quatrain, which are fairly common in English verse; they differ only in the length of the line and in the measures.

Tenyson in his “In Memoriam” uses an example of these. It consists of four octosyllabic lines rhyming “babe”. Shakespeare used it as in the following:

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools.

The way to dusty death. out, out brief candle !

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage.

And then is heard no more; it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing. ( Shakespeare )

Metrical Auxiliaries : (Assonance, Alliteration, Rhyme ). Assonance, Alliteration and rhyme are not so essential to English verse, but they are at the same time of great importance in indicating the structure and defining the rhythm of successive verses, and in linking them together.

Assonance plays a very unimportant role in English verse. Alliteration which was once the essential part in versification survives only as an element in the harmony of verse, As for rhyme, it is quite important now in the writing of verse, and it seems that it will remain so for quite a long time in spite of the criticism it has been subject to.

Mock – Heroic : is the treatment of a trivial incident with mock gravity with all the conventional machinery of the epic.

Eg : Pope’s “The Rape of the lock “.

Gray’s “ Ode on the death of a Favorite Cat “.

Hexameter : (See Verse Measures)

Hyperbole : is an exaggerated metaphor in which the bounds of strict veracity are overshot, not for the sake of deceit but on account of emotion and for the sake of emphasis or number.

E.g.: Belinda smiled, and all the world was gay. (Pope)


If those part of mountains, let them throw

Millions of acres on us, till our ground,

Singing his pate against the burning zone,


Lyric Poetry : includes all fairly short poems which express the emotions or mood (real or imagined ) of the poet or the person for whom he speaks. It may include the ode, the sonnet, the triplet, the Rondeau and the Villanelle.

Masculine Rhyme : (see Rhyme).

Metaphor : is the application of a name or a descriptive term to an object to which it is not literally applicable, It is the transference of a word from its original word to other offices, It identifies one thing with another.

E.g. The camel is the ship of the desert.

This figure has been much used in literature:

E.g. The sun’s rim dips; the dark. (Coleridge)


I charge you by the law

Where of you are a well-deserving pillar.


The use of metaphors as a figure which produces picturesque effect can be seen in the following example from Macbath:

To morrow, and to – morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this pretty pace from day to day,

Onomatopoeia : is the accordance of sound with sense, it is seen in such words as “ bang “, “ cuckoo “, “ whisper “, “ hush “, “ ping pong “ , “ slap “, “ hiss “, “ buzz “, “ whistle “, … etc, which suggest their sound.

In verse it is a device used for effect, often associated with alliteration.

Sometime, onomatopoeia is a natural element in the rhyme and style of the passage in which it occurs, and sometimes it is wrought with more deliberate art.

E.g The moan of doves in immemorial elms

And murmur of innumerable bees. (Tennyson)


I heart the water lapping on the crag,

And the long ripple washing through the reed.


Onomatopoeia may even be found in stanzas in Kate’s “ La Belle Dame Sans Merci”, a short line, gives the effect of a thing which is kept off and thus gives a feeling of mystery.

Ottava Rime : Consists of eight iambic pentameter lines. It was introduced by Sir Thomas Wyatt who imported it from the Italian. The rhyme is Ababa bcc.

Longfellow used it in his “ Birds Kellingworht”

It was the season when through all the land.

The merle and the mavis build, and building sing Those lovely lyrics, written by his hand.

Whom Saxon Caedmon calls the blitheheart king

When on the boughs the purple buds expand,

The banners of the vanguard of the spring,

And rivulets, rejoicing, rush and leap,

And wave their fluttering signals from the steep.

Byron used it in his “Don Juan” and “The Vision of Judgment”, and Keats in his “Isabella”.

Oxymoron: is the setting together of two words or phrases of opposite significance to produce a certain effect.

E .g His honour rooted in dishonour stood

And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true



Do that good mischief which may make this Island

Thin for ever


Paradox: is a seemingly absurd though perhaps really well founded statement; it has been described as “ a truth doing a somersault”.

Ex.: HE who goes against the fashion is himself its slave;


Parody: is a consciously exaggerated imitation of another literary work with the purpose of producing a ridiculous effect and making fun of the writer of the original by turning his work to ridicule. This may be done by imitating the metre, the sentiment or the style.

E.g. I loiter down by horp and town,

For any job I’m willing;

Take here and there a dusty brown,

And here and there a dusty brown,

And here and there a shilling.

The things I’ve done neath moon and stars

Have got me into messes:

I’ve torn up prison dresses:

I’ve sat, I’ve gloom’d, I’ve glanced

With envy at the swallows

That through the window slid, and danced.

Quite happy round the gallows;

But out again I come, and show

My face nor care a stave,

For trades are brisk and trades are slow,

But mine goes on for ever.

(Charles start Calvary’s “ Wanderers”: a parody of Tennyson’s


Pastoral Elegy : is a kind of poem using conventional imagery and written in a lofty style. It deals like the conventional elegy with grief at the loss of an intimate or important person.

Pathetic Fallacy: is the personification of Nature so strongly that it may be regarded as taking a definite interest in human action.

E.g. Earth flat the Wound, and Nature from her seat.

Sighing through all her works, gave sings of woe,

That all was lost. (Ruskin)

Personification: is a kind of metaphor in which an inanimate object or abstract thing is personified and looked at as a human being.

E .g. But lo! the morn in russet mantle clad,

Walks over the brow of yon high eastern hill



Hopes rule a land ever green;


The powers that serve the bright - hared Queen

Are confident and gray:

Clouds at her bidding disappear;

Points she to ought, the bliss draws near

And fancy smoothes the way.. (Wordsworth)


Next, Anger rushed, his eyes on fire,

In lightning’s owned his secret strings;

In one rude crash he struck the lyre

And swept with hurried hand the strings.



Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much,

Wisdom is humble that he known no more.



An article to read

The Sonnet, Subjectivity, and Gender

Diana E. Henderson

Works Cited

Beer Patricia.   An Introduction to the Metaphysical Poets.

London: Macmillan, 1972.

Dawood Marie. From Wyatt to Milton: A critical survey. Cairo:

Anglo Egyptian 1972

Gill, Richard. Mastering English Literature. New York: Plgrave, 1995.

Main, C.F.,and peter Seng. Poems California: Wadsworth, 1978

Reeves ,James. The Critical Sense: Practical Criticism of Prose and Poetry. London: Heinemann, 1982

English Poetry". Anti Essays. 3 Sep. 2012

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