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Universitatea Dunrea de Jos Galai Facultatea de Litere

ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY. SIGNPOSTS FOR A POETICS

Conf. univ. dr. Ruxanda Bontil

Galai

2012

Contents
Foreword (Objectives; Design) 1. Introduction: The Spirit of the Age
Preparatory readings Further readings

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10 11

2. William Wordsworth and self-consciousness


Preparatory readings Stop and think Further readings

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13 13 16

3. Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the symbolic


Preparatory readings Stop and think Further readings

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20 20 25

4. George Gordon Byron and the question of sincerity


Preparatory readings Stop and think Further Readings

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27 27 31

5. Percy Bysshe Shelley and self-discovery


Preparatory readings Stop and think Further readings

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35 36 40

6. John Keats and analogous thinking


Preparatory readings Stop and think Further readings

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44 45 52

7. Alfred Tennyson or the secular poet of the margins


Preparatory readings Stop and think Further readings

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56 56 61

8. Robert Browning and the art of indirectness


Preparatory readings Stop and think Further readings

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65 67 71

9. Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the genuine feminine


Preparatory readings Stop and think Further readings

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74 75 76

10.

Christina Rossetti and the precarious self


Preparatory readings Stop and think Further readings

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78 78 79

11.

G. M. Hopkins and the ever return to God


Preparatory readings Stop and think Further readings

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83 83 88

Self-evaluation questions Bibliography

89 90

FOREWORD (Objectives; Design)


The present course, Romantic and Victorian Poetry. Signposts for a Poetics, is dedicated to second year students and is part of the core literature syllabus for BA students. Since the study of literature we propose is diachronic, students will have to: get acquainted with British Romantic and Victorian poetry so as to better understand and subsequently evaluate literary phenomena in a larger context develop their textual practice by making informed reading decisions enlarge their perception of literature as a dialogue between sociology, philosophy, psychology with most profitable outcomes. To this purpose we have structured each chapter as follows: We start with literary views of and achievements by each poet; next we recommend some texts to be read so as to prepare the exercises in inferring meaning from the next section Stop and think where students are invited to read the texts mind and offer their own well grounded interpretation. Further readings refer students to essential texts for an understanding in depth of the literary phenomena under observation. The self-evaluation questions further problematize the core issues discussed in the previous sections. An extended bibliography is offered at the end of the present course with a view to helping students with future research work in the field. The author

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Introduction

1. Introduction: The Spirit of the Age The French Revolution, marked by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the storming of the Bastille to release imprisoned political offenders, stimulated differing reactions from both English liberals and radicals. Thus, Thomas Paine, in his Rights of Man (1791-92), declared himself in favour of the French Revolution and against Edmund Burkes attack in his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). Peter Priestly, in his Letters to Burke, also advocated the cause of the French Revolution in its exuberant embodiment of defender of liberty and democracy. Even more influential in the epoch was William Godwin (1756-1836), an atheist and philosopher of utopian views, who, in his Inquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793), foretold an inevitable and peaceful evolution of society to a final stage in which all property would be equally distributed and all government would dissolve. Godwins philosophical radicalism will inform W. Wordsworths objective naturalism and mostly P. B. Shelleys rational thinking. Then, there is Mary Wollstonecraft, a feminist avant la lettre, who wrote an early defense of the French Revolution, A Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790), to be followed in 1792 by A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, a founding classic of the feminist movement. However, the cause of womens rights was still to wait until the Victorian era, or even better, until twentieth century when it consistently fueled the minds of effective spokeswomen. I. A. Preda in English Romantic Poetics (1995) argues that Romanticism resists being defined as a period or a set of qualities that can be comfortably ascribed to others and assigned to the historical past. M. H. Abrams and Jack Stillinger (1986) also endorse this view when they remind us that the qualifier Romantic was not used to designate writers belonging to the period until half a century later by English historians. Contemporary critics and reviewers treated them as independent writers, or else grouped into separate schools, such as: The Lake School of W. Wordsworth, S. T. Coleridge, and Robert Southey; the Cockney School, a derogatory term for the Londoners Leigh Hunt, W. Hazlitt, and associated writers, including John Keats; and the Satanic School of G. G. Byron, P. B. Shelley, and their followers. Nevertheless, the majority of the great writers felt as partaking of some pervasive intellectual and imaginative climate which constituted what they have termed the spirit of the age. For instance, Shelley, in A Defence of Poetry, claimed that the literature of the age has arisen as it were from a new birth, and that an electric life burns within the words of its best writers, which is less their spirit than the spirit of the age (1821/1986: 798). Shelley explained this literary spirit as an accompaniment of political and social revolution. W. Hazlitt too, in his essay Mr. Wordsworth from a collection of essays entitled The Spirit of the Age, described how, in his early youth, the French Revolution seemed the dawn of a new era, a new impulse had been given to mens minds. The new poetry of the school of Wordsworth, he sustained, had its origin in the French Revolution. It was a time of ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 4

Introduction promise, a renewal of the world and of letters. So, it is correct to say that the imagination of the periods writers was preoccupied with both the fact and idea of revolution, not only in the political and social realm but in intellectual and literary enterprises too. And this is to be borne out by the publication in 1798 of W. Wordsworths and S. T. Coleridges Lyrical Ballads, to be necessarily foreworded in 1800 by Wordsworths programmatic Preface. Still, however hazardous through incompleteness the enterprise of defining Romanticism might be, we shall single out some synthesizing formulations that can contribute to understanding the movement better. Raymond Williams, a Marxist critic, presents Romantic thought (1958) as initially a compensatory reaction to historically new social ills of a society which was coming to think of man as merely a specialized instrument of production and of art as one of a number of specialized kinds of production. Ren Wellek in Comparative Literature (1949), in his attempt at defining Romanticism, focuses on three main concepts: (1) imagination for the view of poetry; (2) organic concept of nature for the view of the world; (3) symbol and myth for poetic style. His ensuing underlying metaphor for Romanticism is dynamic organicism based on a philosophy of Becoming not of Being. This translates the theorists belief that the positive values of change, diversity and acceptance of imperfection are inherent in the process of creation. Paul de Man in The Rhetoric of Romanticism (1986) speaks about the main tenet of all critical philosophies and Romantic literatures as being the continuity of perception with cognition, of aesthetic with rational judgment. This might well imply the power of imagination to effect an unmediated (that is, an aesthetic) contact with noumenal (i.e. an unknown and unknowable substance or thing as it is in itself) levels of reality. I. A. Predas way of revealing the web of interconnections in the Romantic poets views on man and the universe concerns three pivotal concepts: (1) the poet seen as an exceptional being whom his genius sets apart from and above other men; (2) creative power whose organ is imagination, closely connected to the poets power of intellection or mind, very similar to eighteenth century associanist psychology on which some poets founded their theory of poetry; (3) nature of poetry which, while retaining the concept of mimesis for the central place given to nature and human nature (man), is turned inwardly as well as towards a supersensible reality. These major categories can further generate a whole paratactic list of features easily detectable in the works of those poets we shall designate as Romantic. As for the main documents of the period, these have become classical contributions to the understanding, and even shaping of Romantic thought and theory. They all certify to their authors eagerness to philosophize, theorize and detail upon their poetic principles. W. Wordsworths 1800 Preface to Lyrical Ballads, referred to as the birth certificate of British Romanticism (to be enlarged even further in the third edition of 1802), sets itself the task to organize isolated ideas into a coherent theory based on explicit critical principles, such as: the concept of poetry and the poet; poetic spontaneity and freedom; Romantic nature poetry; glorification of the commonplace; the supernatural and the Strangeness in Beauty. S. T. Coleridges Biographia Literaria (1817) purports to correct some of the pronouncements made by Coleridges friend, companion and coROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 5

Introduction creator, while further insisting on the necessity of delimiting the period from the previous tradition. In here, the poet-philosopher also pioneered the organic theory of the imaginative process and the poetic product, based on the model of the growth of a plant. That is, he conceived a great work of literature to be a self-originating and self-organizing process that begins with a seedlike idea in the poets imagination, grows by assimilating both the poets feelings and the diverse materials of sense-experience, and evolves into an organic whole in which the parts are integrally related to each other and to the whole. P. B. Shelleys Defence of Poetry (1821/1840) constitutes itself as a plea for the necessity of poetry in an age where aggressive individualism and primarily economic relationships dominate the new society. In so being, Shelley poignantly extends the term poet to comprehend all the creative minds that break out of the limitations of their age and place to approximate what he regards as enduring and general forms of value including not only writers in verse and prose, but artists, legislators, and prophets, as well as the founders of a new organization of society, morality, or religion. We shall further detail on the main elements in the theory and poetry of the Romantic period so as to bring some light about how much consistency there is between what these poets proffered and how they put these concepts into practice. 1. The Concept of Poetry and the Poet Paradoxically, the Romantic poet locates the source of a poem not in the outer world, but in the individual poet, thus the origin of the poem is to be found in the mind, emotions and imagination of the poet rather than the outer world. This certifies to the prominence of the Romantic lyric as a genre, wherein the I is no longer a conventionally typical lyric speaker but has recognizable characteristics of the poet in his own person and circumstances, those we can have access to through the poets confessional writings - letters, journals. Then, there is the perception of the Romantic poet as assuming the persona and voice of a poet-prophet, modeled on Milton and the prophets in the Bible, and offering himself as a herald of traditional Western civilization at a time of profound crisis. Thus, major Romantic productions, such as, Wordsworths Prelude, Shelleys Prometheus Unbound, or Keatss Endymion and The Fall of Hyperion are mainly concerned with the formation of the self, often centering on a crisis, and are presented in the radical metaphor of an interior journey in quest of ones true identity and destined spiritual home. The Romantic essayists, the Romantic poets counterparts, will also insist on extreme subjectivity whether in their highly personal essays (Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, and Leigh Hunt) or spiritual autobiography (Thomas de Quincey). Elena Brteanu (2000) is right when asserting that the romantic, an artist par-excellence the one whose center is within himself (Fr. Schlegel), is searching, first and foremost, for his own self, slides down the inner abysses of subjectivity, analyses himself, in a strenuous search of his own density. The extrapolation of the Romantic ego sublimates itself in the poetic reverie, whose lyrical rhythms will inevitably take him to his sources: both personal and collective, attempting some reconciliation between the individual myth and those of humanity, while lending them modern adornments (1955/2000: 8). To this very purpose, romantic discourse besides assuming the epistemological, ethical, metaphysical functions of communication, also rejoices certain messianic, didactic, and sacrificial dimensions. ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 6

Introduction 2. Poetic Spontaneity and Freedom Poets and essayists alike seem to agree on the necessity of the act of composition to be spontaneous inasmuch as it must arise from impulse, and it must be free from all rules and the artful manipulation of means to foreseen ends. Consequently, Wordsworths conviction that good poetry should be a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings finds a correlative in reflection (emotion recollected in tranquillity) rather than a counterargument. Keats, through his axioms, also supports this view, concurring with Shelleys and Hazlitts beliefs. S. T. Coleridge, who believed that truth lies in a union of opposites, came closer to the principles of Romantic practice when he claimed that the act of creation involves the psychological contraries of passion and of will, of spontaneous impulse and voluntary purpose. It is obvious that the poets insistence on the free activity of the imagination is related to an insistence on the essential role of instinct, intuition, and the feelings of the heart to supplement the judgments of the purely logical faculty, as Coleridge will let us know in his Biographia Literaria 3. Romantic Nature Poetry It is important to stress that, despite the Romantic poets apparent devotion towards the exterior landscape, they all consented that the natural scene represented just the stimulus to the most characteristic human activity, that of thinking. Thus, Romantic nature poems are, in fact, meditative poems, in which the presented scene usually serves to raise an emotional problem or personal crisis whose development and resolution constitute the organizing principle of the poem. This is in close connection, on the one hand, to the metaphysical concept of nature which had developed in clear revolt against the world views of the scientific philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries; and, on the other hand, to the poets views of the created universe as giving direct access to God, and even as itself possessing the attributes of divinity. This further correlates to the symbolist poets tendency to present an object from nature as an object invested with significance beyond itself, or as Shelley put it: I always seek in what I see the likeliness of something beyond the present and tangible object. This certainly relates to how the romantic and the sublime seek each other and in so doing they unravel one more paradox: how mans spiritual grandeur does stem from his very insignificance or as B. Pascal put it: through its materiality, the universe surrounds and engulfs me; through thinking I can surround and engulf the universe. Or as Nicolae Rmbu put it: we call romantic the spiritual force capable of imposing laws upon the ignoble material world through art creation (2001: 12). 4. The Glorification of the Commonplace W. Wordsworth, while elevating humble and rustic life and the plain style into the main subject and medium for poetry in general, was very insistent that his aim in Lyrical Ballads was not to represent the actual world, but, as he announced in the Preface, to throw over situations from common life. a certain coloring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual aspect (1802/1986: 159). M. H. Abrams considers that Wordsworths aim throughout is to shake us out of the lethargy of custom so as to refresh our sense of wonder in the everyday, the commonplace, the trivial, and the lowly. Shelley, too, in his Defence of Poetry, instructs us about how we should understand the defamiliarization of the common/usual as performed within poetry

ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY

Introduction 5. The Supernatural and Strangeness in Beauty Coleridge, in Biographia Literaria, divulged the role he would mostly play in his poems to the purpose of achieving a sense of wonder by a frank violation of natural laws and the ordinary course of events, in poems of which the incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural. Thus, in The Ancient Mariner, Christabel, and Kubla Khan, the poet would open up to poetry the realm of mystery and magic, in which materials from ancient folklore, superstition, and demonology are used to impress upon the reader the sense of the working of occult powers and unknown modes of being. Keats also contrived to violate our sense of realism and the natural law in his medieval romances La Belle Dame sans Merci and The Eve of St. Agnes. Hence the term medieval revival, frequently related to the Romantic period due to the celebrated ballad imitations in the epoch by the Romantic poets. Furthermore, there is what W. Pater later called the addition of strangeness to beauty through such experiences of the occult and esoteric like those courted by Coleridge, Blake and Shelley. Then, there is a common concern for dreams, nightmares, forbidden experiences not disconnected from some writers confessed addiction to opium, or just a taste for lifes terrifying extravagancies. All this will certainly pave the way to the morbid state induced in poetry by such respectable decadents as Charles Baudelaire and Algernon Charles Swinburne, later in the century. The Romantic poets striving for the infinite, for creating anew the universe by the power of the mind, their constant pursuit of the infinite through the finite led the Romantic artists to continuously experiment with poetic language, versification, and design. They contributed to enriching the forms and style of poetry by daringly playing upon the potential of old forms and style. Thus, Wordsworth tempted to isolate the subject in order to better foray it; Coleridge, Shelley, and Byron defiantly courted solitary protagonists rejecting society or being rejected by it. It is admitted that the solitary Romantic nonconformist was very frequently a sinner too. Writers of that period were fascinated by the outlaws of myth, legend, or history, such as Cain, Satan, Faust, the Wandering Jew, or the great, flawed figure of Napoleon about whom they wrote and on whom they modeled a number of their villains or their heroes. Consequently, Emil Ciorans synthetic formulation of what English Romanticism is about a fortunate mixture of laudanum, exile and phthisis (1980/1992: 7) may well epitomize the Romantics aspirations of an apocalyptic vision of the mind. Whatever their means, they all seem to insist on a new way of seeing, capable of achieving that much longed-for Revelation, made possible by our visionary transcendence of our senses and sensebound understanding. To this same conclusion Carlyles essay Sartor Resartus (1833) leads us when we discover that his heros wild spiritual crisis and conversion turns out to be the achievement of an individual apocalypse. George Ford and Carol Christ (1986: 928) consider that the connections between the Romantic and Victorian ages are quite close. They see R. Browning and A. Swinburne related to B. P. Shelley, Tennyson to Keats, and Arnold to Wordsworth. They also consider that most Victorian poets address the same religious issues that had been a central concern for Wordsworth, Blake, and Shelley. To us, the Victorians are rather deviant challengers than followers of the Romantic poets. They differ from the Romantic poets in the way they understand to build their public image, significantly less strongly contoured than the Romantics. They feel more cautious about going public, since they are suspicious about turning ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 8

Introduction subjective, and thus their poems be less a work than an effluence (Browning, 1852/1968: 336-7). So, they may stand for the anxious and uneasy final stage in what is variously termed traditionalism or premodernism. There is insightful knowledge to derive from Carlyles advice to his contemporaries in 1834: Close thy Byron; open thy Goethe. This may translate as a warning against formal literary excess (fact which contributed to considering Keats the Romantic poet most influential in the Victorian age), and aristocratic life-style excess (the happy-go-lucky enjoyment of the physical pleasures of life Byrons contemporaries were so engulfed in). Then, there was the burden of the puritan code of Victorian England that the poets had to comply with, although they seemed less affected by the narrowness of the puritan middle-class mind than their counterparts - the Victorian novelists were. Consequently, when R. Browning was writing The Ring and the Book (1868-69), a poem about domestic tyranny put on trial, he was obviously unworried about the prudish reactions of a prudish society; in there, as well as in the majority of his dramatic monologues, he, indirectly, would rather concern himself with raising the status of woman from selflessness to selfconsciousness. In similar terms, Swinburnes Poems and Ballads (1866) were meant to flout the taboos of the period, in close harmonization with the spirit of the symbolist French poets, whom he not only admired, but also translated. However, despite the Victorian poets concern with alienation, dreams, and madness, they are miles from embodying the image of the pote maudit. The most obvious truth is that Victorian poetry has borrowed from the epoch its directionlessness, which reflects in the multiplicity of styles and formal innovation enabling the status of multiple identities for the poet. This correlates to how the persona of poetry, the poetic I, becomes a speaker subjected to language, and thus, most apt to ensure forays into the unconscious motivation of the speaker. The Victorian poets impulse to comply with their readers hegemony translates in a more oblique stratagem which has often conferred poetry, at its best, its aura of superficial aloofness, or studied optimism. The lucky turn of such deviant manifestations incurs poetic inventiveness both in content and form. Thus, the poets strenuous effort to search for appropriate modes of expression which both preserve and usurp old forms of poetry (i.e. Tennysons self-renewing techniques; Hopkinss adaptation of sprung rhythm to sonnet form, etc.) is a different way of catching the readers eye and ear. This certifies to Matthew Arnolds functional recommendation that poetry should be a magister vitae inasmuch as it [poetry] partook of the best self, deriving inspiration not only from mysterious and prophetic sources but from intellectual and critical activities too. The role of the poet and function of poetry are amply dealt with by all poets in different degrees of accessibility (e.g. Brownings Sordello, Tennysons In Memoriam, Arnolds Scholar Gypsy, and Tyrsis). In line with the poets metrical experiments are their experiments in the art of narrative poetry to be illustrated by Tennysons Maud, Elizabeth Barrett Brownings Aurora Leigh, Robert Brownings The Ring and the Book, or Arthur Hugh Cloughs The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich (1848). Thus, we cannot but agree with critics who contend that what can be isolated is just the temper of Victorian literature, a state of mind and emotion mindful of the expanding horizons of nineteenth-century life. This gives scope to frequently recurring subjects in Victorian literature, including a preoccupation with humanitys relationship to God, and also an acute ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 9

Introduction awareness of time, past, present, and future. Love, an appealing theme with the Victorian poets too, is explored in its more unexpected appearances, such as the timeless equilibrium of lovers pictured by D. G. Rossetti, or the distressing experience of isolation by M. Arnold and Christina Rossetti, unrequited love relationships by R. Browning, or overwhelming love relationships by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The emergence of the poetess, anthologized and critically evaluated, can also pass for a new coordinate brought forth by the process of adaptation poets and poetry went through. It is worth mentioning that in the 1860s, poetry (Swinburnes, Hopkinss) became the focus of scandal due to the fleshliness of discourse as well as the themes accommodating the poets proliferating identities (homicide, eroticism, religion, irreligion) that shocked the Victorian reading public. This is certainly in compliance with Hopkinss view that legend and mythology are fully displaced in their age: Believe me, the Greek gods are a totally unworkable material; the merest frigidity, which must chill and kill every living work of art they are brought into. (Letter to Robert Bridges, May 1885, 1985: 203). Lionel Trilling and Harold Bloom (1973) argue for considering Victorian poetry a diluted replica of Romantic poetry in spite of its conclusive contribution to the development of modern poetic consciousness. This connects to what the critics call the existence of a curious effect created by every Victorian poet except Swinburne, a sense that they never delivered the whole of their Word (Kermode, 1973: 1178). We say that the Victorians sense of restrain translates a more genuine belief in a hopeful Christian humanism towards a broader cultural, and implicitly, poetic understanding of the universe. Richard Bradford (1993) assesses that the unifying features of Victorian verse derive from the compromise between the Romantic affiliation to poetry as the supremely subjective medium for expression, and poetry as a particular system of prescribed devices. Hence the tension within tradition, post-Romantic exuberance, and pre-modernist innovation the Victorians are so weary to display.

Preparatory Readings: P. B. Shelley (1821/ 1986) A Defence of Poetry; Elena Brteanu (2000) Preface to Franois Furet (coordinator) (1955/ 2000) Omul romantic; W. Wordsworth (1802/1986) Preface to Lyrical Ballads; G. M. Hopkins, Letter To Robert Bridges (1885/ 1985), p. 203, in Poems and Prose; W. Pater (1876/ 1889/ 1973) Romanticism; S. T. Coleridge (1817/ 1986) Biographia Literaria; Thomas Carlyle (1833/ 1986) Sartor Resartus; W. Hazlitt (1825/ 1986) My First Acquaintance with Poets; Thomas Carlyle (1851/ 1986) Life of John Sterling; Thomas Carlyle (1831/ 1986) Characteristics; John Stuart Mill (1833/ 1986) What Is Poetry? J. S. Mill (1873/ 1986) Autobiography; Matthew Arnold (1864/ 1986) The Function of Criticism; Matthew Arnold (1879/ 1986) Wordsworth; M. Arnold (1880/ 1986) The Study of Poetry.

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10

Introduction

Further Readings: N. Rmbu (2001) Romantismul filozofic german; R. Williams (1958) The Romantic Artist; G. Hartman (1970/ 1993) Romanticism and Anti-SelfConsciousness; Eagleton, T. (2007) How to Read a Poem; Paul de Man, (1984) The Rhetoric of Romanticism; F. Kermode (1957/2007) from Romantic Image;

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11

William Wordsworth

2.

William Wordsworth and self-consciousness

William Wordsworth, a genuine Lake District Poet, born and gained back by this District, is the first poet to realize that self-consciousness, however tormenting it proves, is the very substance modern poetry could be carved in. So, when H. Bloom and L. Trilling admit that Lyrical Ballads, With a Few Other Poems, published anonymously in 1798, remains the most important volume of verse in English since the Renaissance, they, in fact, point out the decisive role this volume played in inaugurating modern poetry, the poetry of the growing inner self. William Hazlitt, in reviewing The Excursion in 1814, most justly asserts that [Wordsworth] sees all things in himself since his mind was conversant only with itself and nature, which might well become suspicious of egotism. Lyrical Ballads, with A few Other Poems (1798), Wordsworths and Coleridges joint effort, marked the beginning of the Romantic Revolution as is made evident by the comments of trustworthy critics of the time, such as Francis Jeffrey of the Edinburgh Review who wrote in 1802 that Wordsworths poems were a positive and bona fide rejection of art altogether; Thomas De Quincey for whom Wordsworths early poems were an absolute revelation of untrodden worlds; and W. Hazlitt, who stated that: in the Thorn, the Mad Mother, and the Complaint of a Poor Indian Woman, I feltthe sense of a new style and a new spirit in poetry that overcame me (qtd. Fruman in TLS, 1997, 4717: 4). The idea that Lyrical Ballads revolutionized poetic language is sustained by F. W. Bateson too, when the critic emphasized the rebelliousness in Wordsworths whole approach to poetry: Poems like The Idiot Boy, We are Seven and Peter Bell are not merely outside the literary tradition Blakes poems are outside it too they are written in a deliberate defiance of it. The gross, offensive non-literariness is an important part of their meaning (qtd. Fruman in TLS, 1997, 4717: 5). The Preface to the 1800 Edition of Lyrical Ballads is also considered by critics unique in its theoretical originality and, especially, the expanded conception of the mission of the artist. They all agree that the challenge as to the proper language of poetry is the next important contribution of this seminal essay. So, ultimately, the modern poetic revolution consists in the use of natural, conversational language, and the focus on the artists vision that makes the ordinary uncommon. The artist is no longer content to reflect reality, his mind illuminates and transforms it; or as Meyer Abrams (1953) put it, the mirror has become the lamp (1953). The mission of the poet is another cornerstone of his poetics surpassing by far the dual mission (prodesse aut delectare) all writers have always been concerned with. Except for Tintern Abbey and his Intimations Ode, Wordsworths other poems of Lyrical Ballads are populated by men, women, children from ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 12

William Wordsworth the lower classes, who are presented without patronization, always with respect, and sometimes with love. It is the talent of direct address, avoidance of paradox, ambiguities and reconciled opposites that forms the strength of Wordsworths early poems. By using language which was non-literary to the point of bathos, Wordsworth chose subjects that would reveal the workings of the human heart in all their elemental simplicity. But, this quality will soon turn into a wanting, a lack since recent critics were more likely to suffer with the Wordsworth of that intense, self-regarding inward gaze so characteristic of the 1798-9 two-part autobiographical Prelude and of modern poetry in general. Keats calls Wordsworths sustained and unified vision the egotistical sublime due to its bearing on the strong autobiographical element (his life or his sisters Dorothy) as well as the permanent interconnection of his vision of Nature and that of the human nature, especially simple, solitary people. This also relates to his Pantheistic philosophy based on the conviction that Nature in her sublime as well as her most lowly states radiates a power that meets and inter-operates with a corresponding spirit from the observing man which is given various names: soul or simply power. The inner contribution is not simply a wise passiveness but heightened awareness and response, the leap of the heart at a rainbow, as he confesses in the Orphic poem My Heart Leaps Up. Thus, Wordsworths influence is mainly in two directions: (1) he did away with the conventional phraseology of 18th century and claimed for poetry the right to use concrete, picturesque, familiar terms and expressions; (2) he taught men to look at nature with the eyes of imagination and discern in its glory the unseen presence of a Spirit of Beauty and Goodness.

Preparatory Readings: W. Wordsworth (1802/1986) Preface to Lyrical Ballads; S. T. Coleridge (1817/ 1986) Biographia Literaria; W. Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, 1981.

Stop and Think Ode. Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood (Stanzas 1; 10; 11, 1802-4/ 1986). Considering the fact that W. Wordsworth saw the poets mission in terms of restoring the equilibrium in which pleasure consists (Preface), discuss the poets solution to the essence of identity as it comes out from the quoted stanzas. Consider the following co-ordinates of Wordsworths poetics: (a) the (non)conflicting constituents of the principal themes; (b) the poets awareness of the rhetorical level of language (dichotomies: form/content; thought/feeling; dream/reality); (c) the relationship to history; (d) genre affiliation. 13

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William Wordsworth The Child is father of the Man; And I could wish my days to be Bound Each to each by natural piety. 1 There was a time when meadow, grove and stream, The earth, and every common sight, To me did seem Apparelled in celestial light, The glory and the freshness of a dream, It is not now as it hath been of yore; Turn wheresoever I may, By night or day, The things which I have seen I now can see no more 5

10 Then sing, ye Birds, sing a joyous song! And let the young Lambs bound As to the tabors sound! We in thought will join your throng, Ye that pipe and ye that play, Ye that through your hearts to-day Feel the gladness of the May! What though the radiance which was once so bright Be now for ever taken from my sight, Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind; In the primal sympathy Which having been must ever be; In the soothing thoughts that spring Out of human suffering; In the faith that looks through death, In years that bring the philosophic mind. 11 And O, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves, Forebode not any severing of our loves! Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might; I only have relinquished one delight To live beneath your more habitual sway. I love the Brooks which down their channels fret, Even more than when I tripped lightly as they; The innocent brightness of a new-born Day Is lovely yet; The Clouds that gather round the setting sun Do take a sober colouring from an eye That hath kept watch oer mans mortality; Another race hath been, and other palms are won. Thanks to the human heart by which we live, ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY

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William Wordsworth Thanks to its tenderness, its joy, and fears, To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears The Prelude (Book VI, ll. 525-548). When Wordsworth finds himself in the presence of Nature, it is also the occasion for seeing his imaginations own spaciousness and sublimity. This is never truer than in the famous crossing of the Alps in Book VI when Wordsworth offers a paean of praise to the Imagination. L. Anderson remarks that: The attempt to meet sublimity on its own terms, even if such an attempt is doomed to failure, is also a way of trying to guarantee the existence of subject beyond the text (2001: 57). Does the poets writing down his own subjectivity compensate for that loss of self that the grandeur of Nature seems to induce to the poet? Find textual evidence accounting for Mary Jacobuss insistence that the Divine signs are a privileged and compensatory writing, protecting against the even anticlimax of the literal text: writing comes in aid of writing, reanimating the dead page with intimations of meaning that always exceeds it (qtd. in Anderson, 1989/2001: 58). Imagination! Lifting up itself Before the eye and progress of my song Like an unfathered vapour here that Power, In all the might of its endowments, came Athwart me; I was lost as in a cloud, Halted without a struggle to break through; A new recovering, to my soul I say I recognize thy glory; in such strength Of usurpation, in such visitings Of awful promise, when the light of sense Goes out in flashes that have shown to us The invisible world, doeth greatness make abode, There harbours, whether we be young or old. Our destiny, our nature, and our home Is with infinitude, and only there; With hope it is, hope that can never die, Effort, and expectation, and desire, And sometimes evermore about to be, The mind beneath such banners militant Thinks not of spoils or trophies, nor of aught That may attest its prowess, blest in thoughts That are their own perfection and reward, Strong in itself, and in the access of joy Which hides it like the overwhelming Nile. 525

530

535

540

545

Ted Hughes (b 1930), River (1983): The poets equally delicate and vigorous response to the natural world. Compare and contrast this poem to Wordsworths Tintern Abbey. See how indeterminacy of affect is constructed within each poem. Fallen from heaven, lies across/ The lap of his mother, broken by world. // But water will go on/ Issuing from ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 15

William Wordsworth heaven// In dumbness uttering spirit brightness/ Through its broken mouth.// Scattered in a million pieces and buried/ Its dry tombs will split, at a sign in the sky,// At a rending of veils,/ It will rise, in a time after times,// After swallowing death and pit/ It will return stainless// For the delivery of this world./ So the river is a god// Knee-deep among reeds, watching men,/ Or hung by the heels down the door of a dam// It is a god, and inviolable./ Immortal. And will wash itself of all deaths.

Further Readings: M. H. Abrams (1953) The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic theory and the Critical Tradition; Duncan Wu (2002) Wordsworth. An Inner Life; M. Riffaterre, (1990) Undecidability as Hermeneutic Constraint; Ligia Constantinescu (2000) English Romanticism: Samples of Approach and Analysis;

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge

3. Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the symbolic


Poet, philosopher, critic, journalist, playwright, Coleridge is perceived by his best critics like an eccentric, even peripheral, his texts a circle whose centre is nowhere and whose circumference is everywhere. Josie Dixon (2002) admits his gratitude to Coleridges Notebooks for his better understanding of the man and man of culture. For The Notebooks seem to form a rare space of secrecy and discovery which offers refuge from the anxieties and failures of the public sphere (2002: 75). Partaking of a composite genre (journal, travelogue, sketchbook and commonplace book), they succeed in contouring not only a more humane Coleridge, but also a view of his work in progress, in confessional, tentative or experimental mode. They bear witness of that legendary myriad-mindedness Coleridge is a vivid symbol of. His massive contribution in all spheres of knowledge available to nineteenth century enquiry was often perceived as occult, frustrating or even baffling by his contemporaries and not only. Paradoxically, Coleridge, the great talker, the dialogic monologuizer, so to say, or intellectual chameleon (J. Keats) was the victim of his vacillating personality which caused him to dependent on narcotics. He seemed to have suffered from what a modern behaviourist would call obsessive-compulsive disorders, fact which made him unusually selfconscious and dependent on the approval of others simultaneously. Twenty first century reappraisal of Coleridges work engages several directions: the poet, the literary critic, and the philosophical/ religious/political thinker. The poet for a restricted number of poems (The Ancient Mariner being still most honored); the critic for his production of Biographia Literaria (1817) and his lectures on Shakespeare (both instances lending him the status of the founding father of modern literary criticism); the other preoccupations (philosophy, religion, politics) for his magic powers of, if not converting, at least, buttonholing an audience captive. His activity as a journalist and political thinker (The Watchman (1796) and the Friend (1809-10)), in the same interventionist style, is meant to reform public taste out of his dissatisfaction with the luxuriant misgrowth of our activity a reading-public. As a religious thinker, Coleridge has been portrayed as a composite of: radical Unitarian, mystic, theosophist, Anglican, and metaphysician who tried to fuse the questioning spirit of philosophy with religious faith. The concept of Logos is most important in his thinking and religious system inasmuch as he identified the principles of Being, of Intellect, and of Action with the Trinity, i.e., the Father, the Word, and the Spirit. Logos, as an intellectual principle making possible the coexistence between dynamic polarity and its reconciliation, provided the foundation for his belief in the animating power of language, seen as the poetic and the symbolic. He insisted on delimiting symbol from allegory, always favouring the former since it allowed the union between the human word and the divine spirit. Nature is seen as a symbolic language too, in perfect agreement with poetic imagination, the vital & idea-creating force standing for his own inner ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 17

Samuel Taylor Coleridge nature. This is how Coleridge intimates us to his idea of nature as a symbolic language in Anima Ptae: In Biographia Literaria, Coleridge will detail on the doctrine he calls negative faith, according to which poetic language is constituted (as aesthetic) by its difference from the thing represented, and in so being it foregrounds its own verbal texture. This correlates to another dichotomy he formulated: imitation vs. copy, the poets task aiming at the former not the latter. Coleridge will test his theory of linguistic and psychological underpinnings of the literary symbol in his Shakespearean criticism. In here, he works out his own version of the organic philosophy originating in Germany, in the context of trying to define the nature of the poetic or imaginative mind which Shakespeare supremely modelled. In The Statesmans Manual; or the Bible the Best Guide to Political Skill and Foresight (1816), besides discussing the implications of biblical studies in life, politics, etc. (to be further enlarged upon in Confessions of An Inquiring Spirit, 1840), he makes a memorable distinction between symbol and allegory as modes of narrative discourse: For Coleridge symbols are the concrete evidence of communication between self and the internal deities who inhabit the realm of ideas (the realm of Reason), which are co-extensive with imagination a further realm which can nevertheless operate through imagination. However, symbols carry within them the ideas which are the pre-requisite for a condition of continuing growth. Every living principle is actuated by an idea; and every idea is living, productive, partaketh of infinity, and (as Bacon has sublimely observed) containth an endless power of semination (The Statesmans Manual. Lay Sermons). Coleridges conception of a symbol is therefore inseparable from his view of mental growth which translates the poets fascination with the conditions which had to prevail for the mind to be able to explore its own mystery and resistance. Consequently, Coleridge emphasized symbolization (the imaginative containment of a living idea) rather than verbalization (the manipulation of fixed counters), which was certainly consistent with his method of observing the mind, that of focusing on the relations of things and not on things only (The Friend). In Aids to Reflection (1825), (a meditative study on spiritual growth and the role of religion in everyday life), Coleridge makes effective use of the concept of symbol, considering the biblical text at once Symbol and History. This book was extremely influential among the American Transcendentalists (Emerson, Whitman) who acclaimed its reconciliation of German philosophy with traditional religious faith. Biographia Literaria (1817) continues to be read as the greatest book of criticism in English and the most annoying book in any language as Arthur Symons claimed in 1906. Meant as a short preface to his poems, it finally evolved into a genuine treatise, investigating into its authors philosophical queries into language, the language of poetry, and the proper distinction between fancy and imagination. It was also born out of its authors impulse to question Wordsworths theories on poetry and the language of poetry. As a structural whole, this work contains a series of interlocking autobiographical, philosophical, religious, and critical stories told almost simultaneously. Chapters 12 and 13 re-engage a philosophical discussion leading to the short, suggestive distinctions between fancy, primary and, secondary imagination. Beginning with chapters 17-20 and 22, Coleridge gives a virtuoso reading of W. Wordsworths poetry. It is unanimously agreed ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 18

Samuel Taylor Coleridge that Coleridge anticipated the New Criticism, structuralism, and even postrstructuralism in its indecisiveness about the logocentric. One conspicuous difference between Wordsworth and Coleridge consists in the way the two finally positioned themselves toward empiricism, associationism, and materialism (Hartley, Priestley, Hobbes, Locke, Condillac). In his 1815 Preface, Wordsworth defines imagination as a heightened form of associationism. Coleridge disregards associationism as inadequate to explain human powers of perception, creativity, idealization, creative, organic processes of nature and the cosmos, as well as the power of the will, our absolute self. Thus, chapters 5-13 postulate a philosophy where the mind in its dynamic relation to the world has primacy; where imagination is perceived as the living Power and prime Agent of all human Perception allowing us to partake of the work of the creator of nature, God (the infinite I AM); which, in its secondary agency, dissolves, dissipates, in order to re-create it struggles to idealize and to unify, thus, producing fine arts and poetry; Fancy, a mode of memory must receive all its materials ready made from the law of association, being, thus, confined to the reorganization and recombination of already existing, separate sense impressions (Ch. 13). Coleridges views on the negative faith of the imagination certainly inform Keatss concept of negative capability and Shelleys distinction between a materialistic reason and a spiritual, sympathetic imagination. This is not unconnected to the principle of likenessin-difference of Coleridges theory of dramatic illusion. The poet insists on the spectators or readers active involvement in this state through an exercise of will more exactly, through a willing suspension of judgement, the mental faculty that normally determines whether or not a thing really exists, or as the poet, most memorably expressed himself: that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. (Biographia Literaria, Ch. 14). Interestingly and characteristically too, Coleridges distinction between poetry and science, a much vaunted Romantic issue, echoes Wordsworths discussion of the Man of Science and the Poet in the 1800 Preface, anticipating Th. Love Peacocks and Shelleys argumentation too. Coleridge parts way with Wordsworth again when he states that the best part of language is derived from reflection on the acts of the mind itself. It is formed by a voluntary appropriation of fixed symbols to internal acts, to processes and results of imagination, the greater part of which have no place in the consciousness of the uneducated man (Ch. 17). Still, his early style is much indebted to William Lisle Bowless (1762-1850) technique from his sentimental sonnets (exploring an arrested moment of emotion spatially and cultivation of auditory powers). In the Conversation Poems1, as P. Magnuson posits, Coleridge adopts a natural symbolism in which the perceiving, remembering, imagining mind searches for images of itself and God in nature. In these crisis lyrics, the poet confronts a loss, overcomes that loss through an excursion in imagination to nature and to sympathy with other minds, often uttering a blessing on the person addressed. Critics agree that Coleridges claim to be a great poet lies in the continued pursuit of the consequences of The Ancient Mariner, Christabel, and Kubla Khan in his later poetry. They also agree that Coleridges later
The term was coined by McLean Harper in 1928 borrowing the subtitle of The Nightingale. A Conversation Poem. They are: The Eolian Harp; This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison; Frost at Midnight; The Nightingale; Fears in Solitude; Dejection: An Ode; To William Shakespeare..
1

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge poems are disturbing because they are self-absorbed and introspective, thus positioning Coleridge between eighteenth-century sensibility and nineteenth-century censoriousness. These poems continue to tell the story of a writers failure in love and a blocked emotional situation. It is much owing to Coleridge that since Poe and Baudelaire, poetry and fiction have largely employed the pattern of the spiritual and intellectual quest rather than that of realistic narrative. It also anticipates the illogical order of symbolist art which coincides with the order of learning and insight. So, it is right to say that Coleridge has developed from a poet of rhetorical statement to a master of symbolic ritual, prophetically enacting the history of art and poetry of the century which followed him. This may well justify his famous contemporaries opinions that have set and maintained the stage of opinion on Coleridge: William Hazlitt considered him the only person I ever knew that answered to the idea of a man of genius; and De Quincey called him the largest and most spacious intellectthe subtlest and most comprehensive, that has yet existed among men (Beer, 2002: 231).

Preparatory Readings: S. T. Coleridge (1817/ 1986) Biographia Literaria; W. Hazlitt (1825/ 1986) My First Acquaintance with Poets; John Stuart Mill (1833/ 1986) What Is Poetry? S. T. Coleridge, The Watchman (1796); he Friend (1809-10); S. T. Coleridge The Statesmans Manuel; or the Bible the Best Guide to Political Skill and Foresight (1816); Confessions of An Inquiring Spirit, 1840;

Stop and Think Read the following extracts from Wordsworths Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800/1802) and Coleridges Lectures and Biographia Literaria (1817) and see to what extent the latter echo or differ from the former. They comprise the poets celebrated definitions of poetry.
I have said that Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility: the emotion is contemplated till by a species of reaction the tranquility gradually disappears, and an emotion, similar to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. (Wordsworth, The Preface) [Poetry] is the artof representing external nature and human Thoughts & Affections, both relatively to human Affections; to the production of as great immediate pleasure in each part, as is compatible with the larger possible Sum of Pleasure in the whole. (Coleridge, Lectures)

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge


What is poetry? is so nearly the same question with, what is a poet? That the answer to the one is involved in the solution of the other. For it is a distinction resulting from the poetic genius itself, which sustains and modifies the images, thoughts, and emotions of the poets own mind. (Biographia Literaria).

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Part IV, ll. 224-291). All along the poem the argument follows the processes of human experience. It is interesting to notice the effect brought about by juxtaposition of the old ballad rituals and verbal simplicities with the lyric impulse generated by their study of aesthetic moment and its attendant landscape. It is also worth discovering the way the confessional and digressive character of the Ancient Mariner contours itself through metre and method (directness; simplicity; swift movement of event; supernatural features and atmosphere; repetition for effect; abrupt transitions from narrative to dialogue and brilliant visual images). Read Part 4 of the poem and see how it proceeds with the process of the readers illumination about the central problem in the poem: the crime capriciously committed beginning the drama of estrangement from mankind. Describe how ambiguity and ultimate mysteriousness of motive are rendered. Identify the symbols in this part. Detect peculiarities of form/ genre. Describe atmosphere through imagery, always providing evidence. Search for religious connotations in the poetic discourse. Comment upon the effect brought about by the creation of a persona glossing the poem. Remember that Coleridge of all people would be aware of those dimensions of darkness in the human self that can so easily swallow up the brightness of intention however bright.
The Wedding-Guest Feareth that a Spirit Is talking to him; I fear thee, ancient Mariner! I fear thy skinny hand! 225 And thou art long, and lank, and brown, As is the ribbed sea-sand. I fear thee and thy glittering eye, And thy skinny hand, so brown.Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest! 230 This body dropped not down. Alone, alone, all, all, alone, Alone on a wide wide sea! And never a saint took pity on My soul in agony. The many men, so beautiful! And they all dead they lie: And a thousand thousand slimy things Lived on; and so did I. I looked upon the rotting sea, And drew my eyes away; I looked upon the rotting deck, And there the dead men lay. I looked to heaven, and tried to pray; But or ever a prayer had gushed, A wicked whisper came, and made My heart as dry as dust. 240

But the ancient Mariner assureth Him of his bodily Life, and proceedeth To relate his horrible Penance.

235

He despiseth the Creatures of the calm,

And envieth that They should live, And so many lie dead.

245

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge


I closed my lids, and kept them close, And the balls like pulses beat; For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky250 Lay like a load on my weary eye, And the dead were at my feet. But the curse liveth For him in the eye Of the dead men. The cold sweat melted from their limbs, Nor rot nor reek did they: The look with which they looked on me 255 Had never passed away. An orphans curse would drag to hell A spirit from on high; But oh! More horrible than that Is the curse in a dead mans eye! 260 Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse, And yet I could not die.

In his loneliness and The moving Moon went up the sky, Fixedness he yearneth And nowhere did abide: Towards the Softly she was going up, 265 Journeying Moon, And a star or two besideAnd the stars that still sojourn, yet still Her beams bemocked the sultry main, move onwards; and Like April hoar-frost spread; everywhere the blue But where the ships huge shadow lay, sky belongs to them, The charmed water burned always 270 and is their A still and awful red. appointed rest, and their native country and their own natural homes, which they enter unannounced, as lords that are certainly expected and yet there is a silent joy at their arrival.

By the light of the Moon he beholdeth Gods creatures of the great calm.

Beyond the shadow of the ship, I watched the water snakes: They moved in tracks of shining white, And when they reared, the elfish light 275 Fell off in hoary flakes. Within the shadow of the ship I watched their rich attire: Blue, glossy green, and velvet black, They coiled and swam; and every track 280 Was a flash of golden fire. O happy living things! No tongue Their beauty might declare: A spring of love gushed from my heart, And I blessed them unaware: 285 Sure my kind saint took pity on me, And I blessed them unaware. The self-same moment I could pray; And from my neck so free The Albatross fell off, and sank 290 Like lead into the sea.

Their beauty and Their happiness,

He blesseth them in his heart. The spell begins to Break.

Use the following extracts from the Conversation Poems to test Bradfords thesis, that which he calls the Romantic paradox (1993: 128) according to which Romantic poetry opens a fissure between the poetic function, the elements that combine to produce complex textual patterns, and its referential counterpart, the inferred ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 22

Samuel Taylor Coleridge pre-linguistic situation or the intention of utterance. Ask such questions like: Who is speaking to whom? What do the syntactic and deictic elements tell us about the situation of the utterance? How does the conventional element of the double pattern (metre, rhyme) relate to its cognitive counterpart (the paraphrasible message)?
My pensive Sara! Thy soft cheek reclined Thus on mine arm, most soothing sweet it is To sit beside our Cot, our Cot oergrown With white-flowered Jasmin, and the broad-leaved Myrtle, (Meet emblems they of Innocence and Love! 5 And watch the clouds, that late were rich with light, Slow saddening round, and mark the star of eve Serenely brilliant (such should Wisdom be) Shine opposite! How exquisite the scents Snatched from yon bean-field! And the world so hushed! 10 The stilly murmur of the distant Sea Tells us of silence. (The Eolian Harp. Composed at Clevedon, Somersetshire, 1796/ 1817) Well, they are gone, and here must I remain, This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost Beauties and feelings, such as would have been Most sweet to my remembrance even when age Had dimmed mine eyes to blindness! They, meanwhile, 5 Friends, whom I never more may meet again, On springy heath, along the hill-top edge, Wander in gladness, and wind down, perchance, To that still roaring dell, oerwooded, narrow, deep, 10 And only speckled by the mid-day sun; Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rock Flings arching like a bridge; - that branchless ash, Unsunned and damp, whose few poor yellow leaves Neer tremble in the gale, yet tremble still, 15 Fanned by the waterfall! And there my friends Behold the dark green file of long lank weeds, That all at once (a most fantastic sight!) Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge Of the blue clay-stone. (This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison. Addressed to Charles Lamb, of
the India House, London)

A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear, A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief, Which finds no natural outlet, no relief, In word, or sigh, or tear O Lady!, in this wan and heartless mood, To other thoughts by yonder throstle wooed, All this long eve, so balmy and serene, Have I been gazing on the western sky. And its peculiar tint of yellow green: Ans still I gaze and with how blank an eye! And those thin clouds, in flakes and bars, That give away their motion to the stars; Those stars, that glide behind them or between, Now sparkling, now bedimmed, but always seen: Yon crescent Moon, as fixed as if it grew

25

30

35

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge


In its own cloudless, starless lake of blue; I see them all so excellently fair, I see, not feel, how beautiful they are! (Dejection: An Ode, 1802/ 1817) Friend of the wise! And teacher of the good! Into my heart have I received that lay More than historic, that prophetic lay Wherein (high theme by thee first sung aright) Of the foundations and the building up 5 Of a Human Spirit thou hast dared to tell What may be told, to the understanding mind Revealable; and what within the mind By vital breathings secret as soul Of vernal growth, oft quickens in the heart 10 Thoughts all too deep for words! (To William Wordsworth. Composed on the Night after His Recitation of a Poem on the Growth of an Individual Mind)

In a letter to William Sotheby (1802), Coleridge explained:


Nature has her proper interest; & he will know what it is, who believes & feels, that every Thing has a Life of its own, & that we are all one Life. A Poets Heart & Intellect should be combined, intimately combined & unified with the great appearances in Nature - & not merely held in solution & loose mixture with them, in the shape of formal Similes. Coleridges Conversation Poems, first and foremost, present a creative universe, sustained by Gods purposes working through a plastic, shaping nature, and expressed in a symbolic way. The Language as bond between mind and nature is of divine origin and seeks recognition from both the mind and the heart.

Read through the Romanian translation of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Part II, ll. 115-130) by Procopie P. Clonea (2005, pp. 40-43) and discuss how Romanian has become a historical home to such exemplary stylistic and linguistic performance as Coleridges text. Agree or disagree to the idea that translation constitutes itself as a form of reading and writing, i.e., interpretation as visible action; or as M. Wood put it, the best translation is the one that allows the best guesses, or causes the least impoverishment. (1995: 152)
Day after day, day after day, We stuck, nor breath nor motion; As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean. Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink, Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink. The very deep did rot: O Christ! That ever this should be! Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs Upon the slimy sea. Zi dup zi, zi dup zi, 115 Nu ne-am clintit, nici vntul c-a suflat. Jurai c vasu-i o pictur Pe un ocean pictat. Ap, ap, cer de ap, Se strnge lemnu-ncheietur 120 Ap, ap, cer de ap, Dar de but, nu-i pictur. Doamne! scrbavnic strv i marea toat! Blestem cumplit acum ne-apas! Slinoase trturi proase 125 Crruiesc prin apa urduroas.

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge


About, about, in reel and rout The death-fires danced at night; The water, like a witchs oils, Burnt green, and blue and white. n jur dnd roat, ca la hor, Lumini de mort jucau prin noapte Iar apa, ca n cazan de vrjitoare, Ardea-n culori ce-curcubeu s apte. 130

Further Readings:
Paul de Man, The Rhetoric of Romanticism (1984); Josie Dixon (2002) The Notebooks, in Lucy Newlyn (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Coleridge; K. M. Wheeler (1995) Kubla Khan and the Art of Thingifying in Duncan Wu (ed.) Romanticism. A Critical Reader; G. W. F. Hegel, Division of the Subject, Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics, 1993; F. Schlegel, from Dialogue on Poetry, 1800/1969; Kermode, F. Romantic Image (1957/2007); T. E. Hulme (1924) Speculations.

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George Gordon Byron

4. George Gordon Byron and the question of sincerity


George Gordon Byron, the sixth Lord Byron, taking his inherited seat in the House of Lords when he came of age, has found himself the bone of contention of critics/ criticism ever since he published his first collection of lyric verse Hours of Idleness in 1807. He then could easily retort to the supercilious reviewers of the Edinburgh Review, by publishing the poem English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, a satire in Popes style, which, somehow, foreshadowed his rebellious tone and attitude in both life and poetry. The over excessive ridicule he then poked at his contemporaries, established Byrons stand as nonconformist, even libertine, despite the Calvinist morality of Scottish Presbyterianism he was indoctrinated with. So, we here advocate the existence of a poet whose life and work was a battlefield of contraries perplexing his adulators and detractors alike. If the former caused Byron to assume the status of dandy/ sex-symbol, the latter forced him into permanent exile, which was no less than a death sentence. What is important is the poets faithfulness to his true self, and his love of freedom and hatred of hypocrisy that has specified his bearing in the world of men and art. Byrons is the exceptional case of a poet who, despite his many inconsistencies, was considered, in the epoch, the greatest and most English, from whom one could learn more truths of his country and of his age than from all the rest together. That was the French critic Hippolyte Taines perception of the poet in 1850. The same critic explains that Byrons claim to be considered an arch-Romantic owes to his having provided the age with its ruling personage, the model that contemporaries invest with their admiration and sympathy. The personage came to be called the Byronic hero, and the general mood he impersonated, Byronism. The Byronic hero, in his various guises (Chile Harold, Manfred, Beppo, Don Juan), displays, in different doses, the character of a gloomy, passionate, and remorse-torn but unrepentant wanderer/ ruler. In his most characteristic form, as we find it in Manfred, he is an alien, mysterious, depressed spirit, immensely superior in his passions and powers to the common run of humanity, whom he regards with disdain. Emblematically, he carries the burden of a diffuse guilt that drives him toward an inevitable doom, which doesnt make him less self-reliant and adamant about the value of his selfgenerated moral code - his beginning and his end. Critics admit that this figure, infusing the arch-rebel in a nonpolitical form with a strong erotic interest, embodied the implicit drives of Byrons time; but mostly contributed to shaping the figure of the intellectual as rebel throughout. Bertrand Russell, in his History of Western Philosophy (1945), dedicates a whole chapter to Byron, on the grounds of the phenomenon he caused into being, Byronism, he describes as the attitude of Titanic cosmic self-assertion. The philosopher considers that Byronism established a certain outlook toward humanity and the world that entered nineteenth-century philosophy and eventually helped form Nietzsches concept of the Superman, the hero who stands outside the jurisdiction of ordinary criteria of good or evil. However, M. ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 26

George Gordon Byron H. Abrams, rightfully points out that, although Byronism was largely a fiction, produced by a collaboration between Byrons imagination and that of his public, the fiction was historically more important than the poet in his actual person (1962/ 1986: 503). Byron came to be considered the master of colloquial tone in verse, the inventor of a species of discursive narrative poetry loose enough to contain an intermittent ironic commentary on contemporary life and manners as well as himself. The colloquial and narrative technique was established by the use of ottava rima stanza, (appropriated from Italian Renaissance poetry Luigi Pulci; Francesco Berni), which was appropriate for a style of mock-heroic impudence, so characteristic of the poets thematics and style. It is important to understand that Byron, unlike the other Romanticists, was concerned with unmasking the logic of the internal contradictions of the creative act. Byron, through his lyric poetry, made it clear that sincerity for the poet has to be a convention, an artifice of language. Byrons lyric style is a satire upon the normative mode of romantic writing, thus calling into question Coleridges definition of poetic faith as willing suspension of disbelief. His is the faith in contradiction rather than balance and reconciliation, as he has Manfred postulate about the illusion of synthesis, he calls The last infirmity of evil (Manfred, I. ii. 29). Consequently, Byrons stylistic idiosyncrasy consists in turning satire into self-criticism, which means, placing himself at the centre of his work and thus problematizing the relationship between the romantic display of self and the question of sincerity. Byrons contribution lies in the range of ironizing and critical techniques that he brought to the new lyrical forms of romantic sincerity. These techniques extend from the most sentimental kinds of romantic irony to explosive self-imploding forms, the latter becoming a crucial point of artistic departure for such Ascendentalists as Poe, Pushkin, and Baudelaire. The connection between Byron and Baudelaire is most easily traceable through the cultural history of dandyism; still there is a clear difference of perception of later criticism on the two dandies. If Baudelaires dandyism could be read as sheer linguistic reactionary liberalism, Byrons lyrical dandyism was perceived as a twofold entity: factual/psychological and linguistic, since, In Byronic masquerade we have difficulty distinguishing figure from ground because the presumptive ground, the real Lord Byron, becomes a figural form in the poetry.

Preparatory Readings:
Thomas Carlyle (1831/ 1986) Characteristics; John Stuart Mill (1833/ 1986) What Is Poetry?

Stop and Think Fare Thee Well! (1816): a poem Byron addresses to his wife, Annabella Milbanke, and in perfect agreement with his anti-romantic ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 27

George Gordon Byron poetics. In this poem, Byron adopts the conventions of romanticism in order to break them apart. Hence, the sincerity of the poem is a pose, a mask that at once covers and reveals a deeper sincerity. Thus the poem can read as a cruel and pathetic piece of hypocrisy; it is a dramatic presentation of the illusion resting at the heart of the romantic lyric, with its commitment to a willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the poet and the reader alike. There is in this poem, although critics generally disregard it as bad poetry, the poets critical exploration of the conventions of romanticism and its sentimentality. Hence, it appears that Byrons anti-aesthetic design is the very way of manipulating the mask of romantic sincerity. This is the last part of the poem, where the poet, hypocritically, assumes all the sins his wife accused him of (the worst of them all, in real life, being the incestuous relationship with his half sister Augusta Leigh, which brought along his ostracization and exile).
All my faults perchance thou knowest, All my madness none can know; All my hopes, whereer thou goest, Wither, yet with thee they go. Every feeling hath been shaken; Pride, which not a world could blow, Bows to thee by thee forsaken, Even my soul forsakes me now; But tis done all words are idle Words from me are vainer still; But the thoughts we cannot bridle Force their way without the will. Fare thee well! Thus disunited, Torn from every nearer tie, Seard in heart, and lone, and blighted, More than this I scarce can die. 45

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Byrons stance, in this poem as elsewhere, appears cynical, desperate, or worst of all, indifferent. There is a distinct non-benevolent sympathy informing his verse which stems from Byrons deliberate shuttle between sentimental conventions and the critical examination of this inheritance. Subjecting Byrons work to a programmatic hope for some social accommodation, Carlyle would later call it The Everlasting Nay, which, somehow, translates his understanding of Hegels negation of the negation. By the same token, Baudelaire will prize Byrons Satanism out of a deep understanding of the poets politics of making a theatrical display of himself/ his self. The Prophecy of Dante (1819, i. 143-55): a dramatic soliloquy, written in the city of Ravenna, where Dante lies buried. This piece of historic/histrionic prowess was dedicated to the countess Guiccioli, his mistress, who apparently suggested the theme.
I am not of this people, nor this age, And yet harpings will unfold a tale Which shall preserve these times when not a page Of their perturbed annals could attract An eye to gaze upon their civil rage

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George Gordon Byron


Did not my verse embalm full many an act Worthless as they who wrought it: tis the doom Of spirits of my order to be rackd In life, to wear their hearts out, and consume Their days in endless strife, and die alone; Then future thousands crowd around their tomb, And pilgrims come from climes where they have known The name of him who now is but a name

155

This extract is a good example of how Byrons work is engulfed in that disillusioning ambiguity an ambiguity which it deliberately embraces. Thus, Dantes address turns into Byrons speak in favour of political liberty in a country that lay under the Austrian yoke. What is ever more unsettling is the structure of convertibility of the poem which turns everything into its opposite. It can be argued that the bicepital figure Byron puts up, testifies to his tactic of interrelating apparitional forms with his various fictional and historical selves. In so doing, the poet manages to create an overwhelming/ universal darkness which carries word, but out of the word/world. When Byron/Dante declares I am not of this people, nor this age, he, in fact, admits sharing Cassandras gloomy gift of prophecy. In the preface to the poem, Byron associates his prophecy with the vision of Cassandra, whose prophetic truth shares the doom of Troy. His is the darkened vision of an immensely sad prophecy due to its indeterminacy. In the fragment, the word embalm (l. 148) performs the function of connecting the poets work with corpsed forms as if he (Dante/ Byron) were a literal figure of the nightmare life-in-death that he perceives all around him. To consult such a poet one has to visit his tomb, where one encounters merely his name. This is to say, that the tombstones engraved letters signify not only the existence of the poet beyond his tomb, but they also anticipate his postmortem existence before his actual death. Read the poem When We Two Parted (1813/ 1816) and see if Baudelaires view that Byron is a poet of masks and poses, the manipulator of his own subjectivities holds true. See how the romantic style of personal delivery is annihilated by the poets deliberate theatricality.
When we two parted/ In silence and tears, / Half broken-hearted/ To sever for years, / Pale grew thy cheek and cold, / Colder thy kiss; / Truly that hour foretold/ Sorrow to this.// The dew of the morning/ Sunk chill on my brow -/ It felt like the warning/ Of what I feel now. / Thy vows are all broken, / And light is thy fame; / I hear thy name spoken, / And share in its shame. // They name thee before me, / A knell to mine year; / A shudder comes oer me - / Why wert thou so dear? / They know not I knew thee, / Who knew thee too well -/ Long, long shall I rue thee, / Too deeply to tell. // In secret we met -/ In silence I grieve./ That thy heart could forget,/ Thy spirit deceive./ If I should meet thee/ After years,/ How should greet thee? -/ With silence and tears.

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George Gordon Byron Don Juan (Canto 4, 1819). Canto IV is mainly a sustained moral due to the insistence on the purity and freshness of Juan and Haides love, meant as a striking contrast to the fastidiousness, shallowness and falsehood of Canto I (Juan and Julia). In fact, the story revolves around the characters love affairs which are never coldly calculated seductions. In contrast to the original Don Juan, Byrons Don Juan is never the seducer but the great seduced. Read through the stanzas from Canto 4 (Juan and Haide) and explore the sources which might have contributed to its being an intertext. Express your thoughts on how tone and atmosphere are achieved. If you agree that Don Juan is a comic satire (due to the many kinds of register shifts), then try to detect the strategies for achieving the comic in the quoted stanzas.
3
As boy, I thought myself a clever fellow, And wished that others held the same opinion; They took it up when my days grew more mellow, And other minds acknowledge my dominion; Now my sere fancy falls into the yellow Leaf, and Imagination droops her pinion, And the sad truth which hovers over my desk Turns what was once romantic to burlesque. 4 And if I laugh at any mortal thing, Tis that I may not weep; and if I weep, Tis that our nature cannot always bring Itself to apathy, for we must steep Our hearts first into the depths of Lethes spring, Ere what we least wish to behold will sleep: Thetis baptized her mortal son in Styx; A mortal mother would on Lethe fix. 6 To the kind reader of our sober clime This way of writing will appear exotic; Pulci was sire of half-serious rhyme; Who sang when chivalry was more Quixotic, And reveled in the fancies of the time, True knights, chaste dames, huge giants, kings despotic; But all these, save the last, being obsolete, I chose a more modern subject as more meet. 7 How I have treated it, I do not know; Perhaps no better than they have treated me Who have imputed such designs as show Not what they saw, but what they wished to see: But if it gives them pleasure, be it so; This is a liberal age, and thoughts are free: Meantime Apollo plucks me by the ear, And tells me to resume my story here. 26 Juan and Haide gazed at each other With swimming looks of speechless tenderness, Which mixed all feelings, friend, child, lover, brother, All that the best can mingle and express When two pure hearts are poured in one another, And love too much, and yet cannot love less; But almost sanctify the sweet excess By the immortal wish and power to bless.

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George Gordon Byron


28 They should have lived together deep in woods, Unseen as sings the nightingale; they were Unfit to mix in these thick solitudes Called social, haunts of Hate, and Vice, and Care: How lonely every freeborn creature broods! The sweetest songbirds nestle in a pair; The eagle soars alone; the gull and crow Flock oer their carrion, just like men below. 29 Now pillowed cheek to cheek, in loving sleep, Haide and Juan their siesta took, A gentle slumber, but it was not deep, Forever and anon a something shook Juan, and shuddering oer his frame would creep; And Haidees sweet lips murmured like a brook A wordless music, and her face so fair Stirred with her dream, as rose-leaves with the air.

Here is an excerpt from J. M. Coetzees novel Disgrace (Booker Prize, 1999; the Nobel for literature, 2003). The novel presents the story of David Lurie, a middle-aged ex-Romantic poetry professor, who has an impulsive affair with a student, which brings along his disgrace, and calls into question the fragility of human relationships. It is interesting to notice how the process of subjectivation of the character and the reader interoperates with such instances of poetic discourse, especially when the hero describes his indulging in composing the music of his chamber opera in progress Byron in Italy, a meditation on Byrons shortlived love for Teresa Guiccioli, the girl of nineteen with the blonde ringlets who gave herself up with such joy to the imperious Englishman (pp. 182-3). Can the note of falsity piercing the heros enterprise lead the way to truth, however provisional, on art, life, even history?
Seated on his own desk looking on the overgrown garden, he marvels at what the little banjo is teaching him. Six months ago he had thought his own ghostly place in Byron in Italy would be somewhere between Teresas and Byrons: between a yearning to prolong the summer of the passionate body and a reluctant recall from the long sleep of oblivion. But he was wrong. It is not the erotic that is calling to him after all, nor the elegiac, but the comic. He is in the opera neither as Teresa nor as Byron nor even as some blending of the two: he is held in the music itself, in the flat, tinny slap of the banjo strings, the voice that strains to soar away from the ludicrous instrument but is continually reined back, like a fish on the line. So this is art, he thinks, and this is how it does its work! How strange! How fascinating! (Disgrace, pp. 184-185)

Further Readings:
T. S. Eliot (1943) On Poetry and Poets, London, pp. 232-3; Peter J. Manning (1995) Don Juan and Byrons Imperceptiveness to the English Word in D. Wu (ed) Romanticism: A Critical Reader; J. McGann (1995) Byron and the Anonymous Lyric, in D. Wu (ed.);

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Percy Bysshe Shelley

5. Percy Bysshe Shelley and self-discovery


P. B. Shelley, Il buon tempo verr prophet, lived and died by the rules of the Romantic game. Still, as Mary Shelley, his widow, could say afterwards, there was a sublime fitness in his fate. Very much like in Byrons case, there have been taken strenuous efforts to make a heroic tale out of the poets life. As usual, the type of hero has varied: tyrant-hater, atheistical seducer, ineffectual angel (Matthew Arnold), herd-abandoned deer (Shelley himself). There were aspects of his life accounting for all these conflicting views. But, the more aggravating labeling always comes from major critics whose reading of the poet has stuck with more ordinary readers for generations. It is T. S. Eliot and F. R. Leavis who nearly dismissed Shelley as they considered him almost a blackguard with a passionate apprehension of abstract ideas of little substance. That Shelleys distinguishing feature is his passion for abstract ideas cannot be denied. What still needs to be amended is that Shelleys abstract ideas engage in a laborious battle of self-discovery, on the premise that oppressors and tyrants are not only of this world but of us too. He therefore thought that what we call evil (like what we call creativity or power) is part of a primitive, irresistible energy that links man with the wild and terrible in nature. And he refused to submit to such power as he refused to admit to conventional religion and conventional marriage. So, we may say that Shelleys constant preoccupation is to strike a balance between the assertion of the self and the need to lose ones self in someone else, or in an idea or activity. Hence, his works are incessant explorations in the historys/ philosophys mind, starting with Plato through David Hume and William Godwin. Shelley was a skeptical idealist as he was holding provisionally to the ideas envisaged by an imagination that transcends experience, and he was refusing to assert that these ideas are anything more than high possibilities. Hence, his major poems express his sense of the limits of certain knowledge and his refusal to let his intuitions and hopes fossilize in some philosophical or religious creed. However, Shelleys is the province of hope rather than despair, as he believed in its power to relieve the creative and the imaginative that are its only available means. Shelleys poems yield a seriousness of purpose even didacticism mindful of the writings of the radical philosopher William Godwin (The Inquiry concerning Political Justice and its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness, 1793). Godwins insistence on individual liberties had a great impact on the young poet who was soon to become one of those poets who are unacknowledged legislators of the world. Queen Mab (1813) carries in seed Shelleys later revolutionary ideas, testifying to subsequent underlying unity of purpose in his poetry and the growing flexibility in attitude dictated by his desire for social regeneration. The poet considers Queen Mab a philosophical poem, with notes, as in there, he put forward his views of mans past, and its legacy, the present evils that prevented man from reaching a state of peace and happiness. Based on Godwins rationalistic ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 32

Percy Bysshe Shelley principles, the poem seems to detail on Shelleys deterministic philosophy about the existence of a prevailing law of necessity throughout the Universe. Shelleys next poem, Alastor (1815), deals with the self, and in so doing it becomes a mixture of abstraction and passion, of mythopoeia and narcissism, of moralizing and emotional self-indulgence. The poem, writes Shelley, represents a youth of uncorrupted feelings and adventurous genius led forth by an imagination inflamed and purified through familiarity with all that is excellent and majestic, to the contemplation of the universe. [] The poet is represented as uniting these requisitions, and attaching them to a single image. He seeks in vain for a prototype of his conception. Blasted by his disappointment, he descends to an untimely grave (1815/ 1986: 667). Shelleys characters are embodiments of characteristics or ideas and his subject is the eternal struggle between freedom and tyranny in the political, religious, domestic spheres. In so being, Shelley prefers to give the feeling of a scene rather than the individual elements that constitute it. By the same token, he prefers to generalize nature and idealize, universalize the human nature or the mythological personages. His lyrical drama Prometheus Unbound (1819) is illustrative of Shelleys concern with the ineffable and mostly his hope in political and social regeneration. Here again, Shelley deals with abstractions, the cosmic, the timelessness, the eternal, so as to give his own vision of the Promethean myth, in proclaiming the victory of love over hatred. Shelleys creed, synthesized in the myth of Prometheus, draws on Godwins rationalistic philosophy and tackles the problem of evil which to him is not inherent in the system of creation but an accident that might be expelled. That is why his Prometheus is the type of the highest perfection of moral and intellectual nature, impelled by the purest and truest motives to the best and noblest ends (Preface, p. 700). Shelleys Prometheus resembles both Miltons Satan (in point of courage but not envy, revenge and pride) and Christ (in point of willingness to suffer for the sake of mankind). However, this poem, so admired by Yeats and Lewis, shouldnt be read as a philosophical essay or moral allegory, but as a large and intricate imaginative construction that involves premises about human nature and the sources of morality and creativity. Seeing through the final remarks belonging to Demogorgon, Jupiters son, we can understand what the function of the text is: to create an effect of the beauty and rightness of a different world, where the best human experience can feel at home. Most rewarding in point of imagery and form are his shorter poems (To a Skylark, The Cloud, Ode to the West Wind) which reveal a poet attracted both by the eternal goal of happiness and hope and the idea of fluctuation or process. They all seem prompted by death-like drives, but they eventually celebrate life and revival. So, it is better not to consider them escapist poems, but to view them as circumscribed to a larger pattern of life. In their basic attitude as well as in the way they share the same fascination with the sky, they are largely allied to Prometheus Unbound. Shelley, the sad optimist, while looking beyond the visible, is striving towards some sort of equilibrium between contraries. This is observable in his political writings too (Ode to Liberty; The Mask of Anarchy; Peter Bell the Third; Song to the Men of England; England in 1819), especially since poetry and politics were intimately related to Shelley. This takes us back to a point on which Shelley is always insistent, viz. political freedom isnt something that can be engineered, hence the danger of revolution. It can come only from within individual men. As he says in his sonnet Political Greatness, Man who man ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 33

Percy Bysshe Shelley would be/ Must rule the empire of himself. Without this Napoleon is no more than Ozymandias, who became his greatest statement on the vanity of human greatness, Shelleys longer poems are also lyrical in nature. So is Adonais (1821), an elegy on Keatss death, written in Spenserian stanzas. What is indeed revealing about this poem is how Shelley, by inventing the strange story of Keatss death, in fact, consumes as well as recreates the personality of Keats. Thus, Earl Wassermans observation, that the skeletal form of the Adonis legend provided a nearly exact means of translating Keatss biography into a conceptual pattern (Heffernan, 1971/1995: 462-3), makes sense. That means that the story of a promising poet slain by the malice of the critics from the Quarterly Review (April, 1818) could be easily convertible into the story of the youthful Adonis slain by an evil beast. Still, there is much to explain as to the validity of Shelleys version of the story on Keatss death as validated by this poem. and can successfully preface all his political poems. Epipsychidion (1821), a love story inspired by and dedicated to Emily Viviani reads like a Platonic love poem combined with accesses of self-pity. It may also stand proof for Shelleys conflict between sympathetic and creative aspects of imagination: the latter molds the epipsyche and expresses it in poetry; the former moves towards union with the epipsyche and produces a consequent transcendence of the world of the poem. It also addresses the problem of the inadequacy of language as it was earlier expressed in Demogorgons statement the deep truth is imageless, thus unmasking the error of identifying logos with ratio in the Western tradition as opposed to the Oriental one. Shelleys way of writing is naturally symbolical, thus proving Yeats right when he said that his symbolism has an air of rootless fantasy because it has never lived in the mind of a people. The poets views about the social part of the poet and poetry (a way towards spiritual education of man) are substantiated in his Necessity of Atheism (1811) and A Defence of Poetry (1821/ 1840). A Defence of Poetry is the third major contribution to the theoretical legacy of British Romanticism. Born as a reaction to his friend Thomas Love Peacocks essay The Four Ages of Poetry (an ironic essay stating that poetry has become a useless anachronism in an age of science and technology), Shelleys Defence is close to William Blakes stand on poetry, and similar to that of archetypal criticism in our time. Shelleys emphasis is on the universal and permanent forms, qualities and values that all great poems as products of imagination, possess in common in which time, person, place are convertible with respect to the highest poetry without injuring it as poetry. Shelleys poet stands for all the creative minds that break out the limitations of their age and place, thus including legislators and prophets, as well as founders of new organizations. Subsequently, poetrys function is to reform the world by the power of imagination, as beautys power extends to laying the foundations of society through the spiritual education of man. Shelleys role as one of the unacknowledged legislators of the world can be seen in the way some of his major poems can be read as documents of the break-down of the atemporal, Cartesian, anthropomorphic and ego-centric Renaissance tradition (Bor, 1984: 64).

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Percy Bysshe Shelley

Preparatory Readings:
P. B. Shelley, The Works of P. B. Shelley, 1994; A Defence of Poetry (1821).

Stop and Think Epipsychidion (1821, ll. 1-40), Shelleys Italian Platonics (Mary Shelley), was addressed to the nineteen-year-old Emilia Viviani. Although a victim of oppression (she was immured in a convent until a profitable marriage appeared), this beautiful and intelligent young lady can also victimize, as is made obvious in the poem. In the advertisement to the poem, Shelley builds a persona for him (inspiringly, a dead person) so as to create a safe distance between its autobiographical content and the possibility of libelling him; but also in view of voicing that It is a production of a portion of me already dead. Shelley also admitted that this poem is a mystery, as the very title anticipates (possible analogy with epicycle <a small circle revolving on the circumference of a larger one>; or allusion to the complementariness of two souls or psyches). Still, the pre-eminence of Emilia can hardly be dissimulated or dismissed. From being a pitiable captive bird in l.5, she sprouts seraphic wings by l. 21, to become light itself: moon at l. 26, star, a mirror of the sun, a lamp drawing Shelleys moth-like soul. Shelleys genius consists in the in-built indeterminacy which allows turning the eye/ I inward. The constant hesitation between life-giving emotions and death-bringing drives represents the very epicycle within the poem. Shelleys hesitation translates in a game of opposites which absorbs both outpouring ecstasy and devastating sadness. The poem is remindful of Keatss Ode to Psyche and Ode to a Nightingale, which can figure as hypotexts and interpretants at once. All constitutive elements (prosody, syntax, semantics, rhetoric/ figurative language) concur to building the harassing effect of inner conflict, first the speakers, next, the listeners/ readers.
SWEET Spirit! Sister of that orphan one, Whose empire is the name thou weepest on In my hearts temple I suspect to thee These votive wreaths of withered memory. Poor captive bird! Who, from thy narrow cage, Pourest such music, that it might assuage The rugged hearts of those who prisoned thee, Were they not deaf to all sweet melody; This song shall be thy rose: its petals pale Are dead, indeed, my adored Nightingale! But soft and fragrant is the faded blossom, And it has no thorn left to wound thy bosom. 1

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Percy Bysshe Shelley


High, spirit-winged Heart! Who dost for ever Beat thine unfeeling bars with vain endeavour, Till those plumes of thought, in which arrayed It over-soared this low and wordly shade, Lie shattered; and thy panting wounded breast Stains with dear blood its unmaternal nest! I weep vain tears: blood would less bitter be, Yet poured forth gladlier, could it profit thee. Seraph of heaven! Too gentle to be human, Veiling beneath that radiant form of Woman All that is insupportable in thee Of light, and love, and immortality! Sweet Benediction in the eternal Curse! Veiled Glory of this lampless Universe! Thou Moon beyond the clouds! Though living Form Among the dead! Thou Star above the Storm! Thou Wonder, and thou Beauty, and thou Terror, Thou Harmony of natures art! Thou Mirror In whom, as in the splendour of the Sun, All shapes look glorious which thou gazest on! Ay, even the dim words which obscure thee now Flash, lightning-like, with unaccustomed glow; I pray thee that thou blot from the sad song All of its much mortality and wrong, With those clear drops, which start like sacred dew From the twin lights thy sweet soul darkens through, Weeping, till sorrow becomes ecstasy Then smile on it, so that it may not die.

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Ode to the West Wind (1820, St. 1-2): Shelleys signature in terms of his dedication to make words sound and suffer simultaneously. Significantly, the poems wroughtness feels so natural, that it seems to surprise even the poet-intruder of stanza 4. In a note by the poet, we learn that Ode to the West Wind was inspired by the tempestuous wind at once wild and animating which was collecting the vapours which pour down the autumnal rain the Shelleys encountered while wandering in a wood skirting the Arno, near Florence. The wind, Destroyer and Preserver, a favourite, much consumed metaphor in Shelleys poetry, is iconically inscribed in the poetic structure (4 tercets plus final couplet rhyming with the middle line of the preceding tercet). By combining features of the ode (apostrophe, loftiness, solemnity, personal involvement) with ritualistic incantations (rhythmic control), the poet manages to find a structure in which difference and similarity are acceptable. Like the force of the prevailing wind, the poem sweeps cumulatively through long fourteen-line rhythms. All through, the vehicle engulfs the tenor: the invocation, in its different guises, inevitably leads the way to the gasped appeal oh hear. If one tries to read the poem aloud, they will see that they almost need the lung-power of the wind itself to do it. Paradoxically, the eschatological pronouncements in these two stanzas have a built-in dimension of hope, promissory of rebirth and regeneration. Here the poet is revealing an immediate reaction to a particular situation and an underlying habit of thought. So the west wind is both a symbol and not a symbol: a symbol for the life-giving thoughts that one generation passes on to the next, even after death, but also simply the west wind blowing through the Florentine woods or ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 36

Percy Bysshe Shelley wherever the reader happens to be. Gillian Carey opinions that satisfaction for the self in being one with nature is not the end, but rather the beginning of moral usefulness to his fellow human beings (1975: 104).
1
O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumns being, Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou, Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low, Each like a corpse within its grave, until Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow Her clarion oer the dreaming earth, and fill (Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) With living hues and odours plain and hill: Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere; Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O, hear! 2 Thou on whose streams, mid the steep skys commotion, Loose clouds like Earths decaying leaves are shed, Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean, Angels of rain and lightning there are spread On the blue surface of thine aery surge, Like the bright hair uplifted from the head Of some fierce Mnad, even from the dim verge Of the horizon to the zeniths height, The locks of the approaching storm. Thou Dirge Of the dying year, to which this closing night Will be dome of a vast sepulchre, Vaulted with all thy congregated might Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere Black rain and fire and hail will burst: O hear!

Lift not the Painted Veil (1818). Account for the idea that this poem can figure as a document certifying to the way the Romantic Movement equates to a desperate struggle to save modern man from the abyss of nihilism; fact which makes the romantics the first to articulate the existentialist crisis. Thus, Shelley among them, will voice the fear that not only the traditional language is sadly limited or corrupted by actuality, but that the Platonic dream that behind the actuality there is a realm of permanence is an illusory fixation of mind. In his sonnet, Shelley will poignantly disclose that behind the painted veil, behind the subtle veil woven by the witch of Atlas, the wizard lady of the creative imagination, there is only the vacuum, the void. Read the poem through and see how elements of Shelleys poetics combine to the purpose of synthesizing the two aspects of the minds search for the truth of Being.
SONNET Lift not the painted veil which those who live Call Life; though unreal shapes be pictured there,

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Percy Bysshe Shelley


And it but mimic all we would believe With colours idly spread, - behind, lurk Fear And Hope, twin destinies; who ever weave Their shadows, oer the chasm, sightless and drear. I know one who lifted it he sought, For his lost heart was tender, things to love, But found them not, alas! nor was there aught The world contains, the which he could approve, Through the unheeding many he did move, A splendour among shadows, a bright blot Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.

Lines (1822): one poem of love and friendship spelling out Shelleys tremendous availability to love and suffer from love, to be generous and unrequited. It is important to see how form and stanzaic verse, in this poem, help or fail to achieve that drift movement Shelley is most famous for: from heavy syntactic patterning to loose syntagmatic associations. See how expectation is at odds with achievement, on the one hand, and possible intertextuality (Coleridge, Miltons Lycidas) contributes to the illusion of transience and mutability, on the other hand. Demonstrate that the poem can read as an expression of the play with signification inasmuch as the poet seems tempted to develop such complex drifting in both logic and figurative language.
When the lamp is shattered, The light in the dust lies dead When the cloud is scattered, The rainbows glory is shed, When the lute is broken, Sweet tones are remembered not; When the lips have spoken, Loved accents are soon forgot. As music and splendour Survive not the lamp and the lute, The hearts echoes render No song when the spirit is mute:No song but sad dirges, Like the wind through a ruined cell, Or the mournful surges That ring the dead seamans knell. When hearts have once mingled, Love first leaves the well-built nest; The weak one is singled To endure what it once possessed. O, Love! Who bewailest The frailty of all things here, Why choose you the frailest For your cradle, your home, and your bier? Its passions will rock thee, As the storms rock the ravens on high Bright reason will mock thee, 1

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Percy Bysshe Shelley


Like the sun from a wintry sky, From thy nest every rafter Will rot and thine eagle home Leave thee naked to laughter, When leaves fall and cold winds come. 30

Read through the following stanzas from Ode to the West Wind (1820, St. 4-5) and comment on how the language of transience and mutability works at achieving effectiveness: a momentary stable equilibrium among ideas and attitudes that usually conflict or alternate. Check how such rhetorical figures (repetition, stair case, full circle, metalepsis remote metonymy -, personification, amplificatory frameworks) build in a surprise movement of the line to express illumination. Form and prosodic elements also contribute to building that streaming movement of illumination the poem is famous for.
4 If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear; If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee; A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share The impulse of thy strength, only less free Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even I were as in my boyhood, and could be The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed Scarce seemed a vision; I would neer have striven As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need, Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud. 5 Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is: What if my leaves are falling like its own! The tumult of thy mighty harmonies Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone, Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce, My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! Drive my dead thoughts over the universe Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth! And, by the incantation of this verse, Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! Be through my lips to unawakened Earth The trumpet of a prophecy! O, Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

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Percy Bysshe Shelley

Further Readings:
Tilottama Rajan (1995) Deconstruction or Reconstruction: Reading Shelleys Prometheus Unbound; Paul A. Bor (1984) Deconstructive Poetics, Heidegger and Modern American Poetry;

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John Keats

6. John Keats and analogous thinking


John Keats, Shelleys Adonais and, soon, the critics Adonis, may very well epitomize British Romanticism, as its expression of supreme achievement. The much abused comparison with Shakespeares genius holds true inasmuch as Keatss aesthetics reveal the dramatists aesthetics of impersonality, his extraordinary inventiveness doubled by rare mastery of emotive word-arrangement. The Romantic legacy, we have already contoured, is of primary importance in understanding both intention and achievement with the last Romantic, who, like his predecessors, was anything but a faultless poet. Thus, Keats came to represent a freshening of those poetic resources which depend upon lively sensuous appreciations, upon strong and suggestible emotions, and upon the stimulus which these faculties can give to both imaginative and intellectual activity. Beside the elder romantics heritage of renewed poetic life, Keats owed a lot to graphic and sculptural arts, Greek mythology and the Renaissance poetic genius. Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton are the abiding external agencies making for the strengthening and humanizing of his powers and for the correction of his early uncertainties of taste. Equally important to the shaping of his poetic spirit are his literary acquaintances who soon became his intimate friends: Leigh Hunt, William Hazlitt, Ch. Lamb, P. B. Shelley, the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon, John H. Reynolds, Charles W. Dilke and Charles Brown. They all provided him an essential circumstance for a fledgling poet and philosophic mind. The most appealing characteristics of his work which explain the on-going interest for his poetry are: (1) the ability to appeal to the senses, which are usually presented by using synaesthetic effects; (2) empathy, which, in Keatss understanding, represents the sense of being, for the time, part of the other, to better communicate with the audience (e. g. Ode to the Nightingale); (3) negative capability with reference to mans capacity of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, a concept Keats has developed in a letter to his brothers George and Thomas (Dec, 1817); (4) devotion to the interior landscape as a consequence of the poets deep understanding of the holiness of Hearts affections and the truth of imagination (Letter to Benjamin Bailey, Nov, 1817), and his troubling perception of truth as beauty; (5) a marvellous gift of expression, which was his mark of distinction. The central concept in Keatss poetics is the poet as man of genius, who is endowed with Negative capability. Keatss theory is based on an egocentric vision of the poetic self and goes as back as Platos theory of the Daimon, a good spirit holding a middle place between gods and men. His poet is expected to disclose the hidden truth of the world by reading the Book of Symbols which is Nature, but mostly by his lack of personal feelings which allows a more generous reconfiguration of reality. Hence the Keatsian pattern for creative thought is one of being assimilated into the world of the aesthetic object and then restored to a changed self whose identity has new boundaries. This means that Keatss ultimate concern is the internal relations and his determination to see the beauty of truth (e.g. Ode to a Nightingale, ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 41

John Keats Ode on a Grecian Urn). This connotes with Keatss idea that learning poetry is synonymous with making the soul. Specifically, Keatss analogous thinking allows his poetry to be allusive, programme-free, not naming things but suggesting them. This recommends Keats as a modern poet partaking of the modern French poetical aesthetics, wherein the readers contribution is essential. Keatss Letters (to his brothers and friends) can be considered an aesthetic commentary on a system and each poem, an illustration of one aspect of the system. Keatss mythopoetics is directed towards the achievement of the two eternal concepts, beauty and truth, particularized by his determination to see the beauty of truth. Keats expressed his poetic ideals in the poem Sleep and Poetry (1817), where the poet tries to reconcile the transitoriousness of the world (Realm of Flora/Pan = sensuous contemplation of Nature) with the eternal (the realm of nobler life = knowledge of the Human Heart). His programme is suggestively introduced by the words: O for ten years that I may overwhelm/ Myself in poesy; so I may do the deed/ That my own soul has to itself decreed. And the deed, the poet is so anxious to accomplish will be, first, to range through the world of sensuous attractions: First the realm Ill pass/ Of Flora and old Pan: sleep in the grass,/ Feed upon apples red, and strawberries,/ And choose each pleasure that my fancy sees. To finally reach the troubling world of the human heart/ consciousness, which is both infinitely fascinating and tormenting: And can I ever bid these joys farewell?/ Yes, I must pass them for a nobler life,/ Where I may find the agonies, the strife/ Of human hearts. This ultimately means that Keatss programme aims towards comprehensive sympathy and serene detachment. In another Letter (to Benjamin Haydon, 8 April 1818), Keats speaks about his triad perspective on things. He perceives in Nature: (1) real things, such as: the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, Shakespeare; (2) semi-real things, such as: Love, the Clouds, which need an impulse from a spiritual force to exist; (3) un-real things, such as: the Nothingness which becomes Big and respected due to some careful Attendance. Keatss meteoric life, moving with feverish speed from the bucolic to the tragic, exhibits its continuities in accelerated development. Two of the continuities are significantly characterized by Morris Dickstein in his most lucid book on Keats (1971). There, the critic introduces two interesting concepts characterizing Keatss work: (1) the Bower principle which is synonymous with the embodiment of a nave rather than a decadent state of Oneness with nature; and (2) the Buildung principle whose objective is coexistence with its own self-formation and not quite the principle of the quest. The latter is connected with a poetics of transcendence (e.g. Endymion) or a poetics of historicity (e.g. the Two Hyperions). According to Morris Dickstein, J. Keats turned not to the dark Wordsworthbut to the poet of consolation who in Tintern Abbey had found tranquil restoration. But Wordsworths consolation is only possible through a willed creation of a retrospective fiction, which has its origins in the absence of half-extinguished thought and sad perplexity (1971: 58-60). This certainly connects to the leading theme in his work, viz. the theme of transience and permanence. The above formulated principles find a correlative in another metaphor the poet elaborates on in a Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (May 3, 1818), namely, the Mansion of Many Apartments. ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 42

John Keats The Chamber of Maiden Thought is at the heart of the minds mansion, and all doors open from it. From its original infant or thoughtless Chamber, the soul is imperceptibly impelled to the next chamber by innate forces beyond its control, by forces which have strangely awakened, on the lines of Coleridges recognition that at times we should awake and step forward. We see not the balance of good and evil. We are in a Mist We are now in that state We feel the burden of Mystery. (Letter to J. H. Reynolds, 1818) Keats considers that the innate thinking principle motivates us. Such is the nature of the poetic principle of self-development, activated by internal forces beyond the selfs volition, despite the selfs reluctance. Thus, the Grecian Urn, the Nightingales tree, the bower of Psyche, the Vale of Saturn in Hyperion, are all symbols of potential new worlds leading outwards from the Chamber of Maiden Thought, each with their governing deities; and in exploring them, the poet each time feels his own boundaries dissolve by means of outward and inward- moving communication, and then re-form. Though the muse has flown, an aspect of knowledge has been incorporated within the very structure of his mind. For him, writing poetry was the necessary response to reading it: writing constituted the process of digestion of the riches bequeathed by great men such as Shakespeare and Milton. I have asked myself so often why I should be a Poet more than other Men seeing how great a thing it is. (Letter to Hunt, 1818) The selfs function is to sense and watch the internal manifestations of the Genius of Poetry the thinking principle, motivated by the eternal Being, the Principle of Beauty- and the Memory of Great Men. (Notebooks) They are very shallow people who take everything literal A Mans life of any worth is a continual allegory _ and very few eyes can see the Mystery of his life a life like the scriptures, figurative (Shakespeares Criticism). This explains why Keats considered that Shakespeare led a life of Allegory; his works are the comments on it. The principle he calls the Vale of Soul- Making (Letter to George and Georgiana Keats, February 14/ May 3, 1819) relates to his determination to follow Solomons directions, Get learning get understanding.The road lies through application, study and thought. So, when Keats says, Difficulties nerve the Spirit of a Man they, make our Prime Objects a Refuge as well as a Passion (The Friend), his purpose is to make us understand and value his poems differently. Like for instance in the case of Endymion, we need to see that the soul of Endymion achieves grows through sympathy with sorrow and suffering, and to his final conviction that ideals are rightly valued only when they are applied closely to human actualities. Like in Lamia, where the tragic end of Lycius comes to be the failing to maintain the right balance between the pleasures of sensation and the discipline of philosophy, represented too abstractly by Lamia and Appolonius respectively. Or like in Hyperion, where Keatss plea is for old values being superseded in view of the principle of growth and evolution whereby the scope of beauty is ever to be increased as the range of knowledge is enlarged. This justifies us to consider Keats no mere dreamer, and his poetry no mere poetry of escape. Even when this is the case (Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on a Grecian Urn), Keatss object is not so much to escape from life as to bring out, with reference to the starting-point of his meditations, the potential of delight and significance that actually exists in the world, in nature, and in art. ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 43

John Keats Beside Shakespeare, Milton was one of Keatss supreme guides to the terra incognita of things invisible to mortal sight capable of modelling the process of awakening the thinking principle: A poet can seldom have justice done to his imagination it can scarcely be conceived how Milton might here aid the magnitude of his conceptions as a bat in a large gothic vault. (Marginal note to Paradise Lost in The Students Manual, Lay Sermons, ed. R. J. White, 1972) Keats internalized the model for expanding the mind, taken from Milton, in his own process of metabolizing emotional obstacles by etherealizing, alchemizing or digesting, (frequent metaphors of his ), such that they become developmental aids in the Vale of Soul- making, nerving the spirit. This is significantly connected to the poets idea of Beauty as being both the quarry and the food which produces in the poet essential verse. (This translates Keatss sense of a fellowship with essence). Keats called the search for the principle of beauty in all things, or the Beautiful, the poetical in all things. This, to him, is the principle that underlies superficial ugliness or fearsomeness and makes disagreeablesevaporate. (Letter to Charles Clarke, 1816) Consequently, Keats always regarded a sense of beauty as the first step in recognizing the richness of any potential mind-forming experience; and by beauty, Keats included a range of complex sensations such as pain, ugliness, blindness, etc. I have the same idea of all our Passions as of Love they are all in their sublime, creative of essential Beauty. The idea of Beauty assimilates all the other critical criteria the poet proffered: intensity, negative capability, disinteredness, wise passiveness, abstraction, fellowship with essence - each and every one radiating outward from it. Or, as Keats so aptly put it in the context of another characteristic soul-making metaphor, that of the spider spinning its web: essential beauty the beauty that is truth is something which has to be created in the eye of the beholder from his own inwards. Very much like Blake and Coleridge, Keats saw the collective mind of humanity as modelled on the individual creative mind, both seen in relation to some infinite spiritual source, he called, etherealized earth, essential substance, abstracted sensousness. It is all important for understanding Keatss poetics and poetry to see through Keatss eyes how the imagining-into faculty is secondary to (or consequent on) the being-imagined-into faculty which (in Coleridges terms) reflects the mystery of being.

Preparatory Readings:
John Keats, Letter to J. H. Reynolds, 1818; Letter to John Taylor, February 27, 1818; Letter to Hunt, 1818; Letter to George and Georgiana Keats, February 14/ May 3, 1819.

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John Keats

Stop and Think On First Looking into Chapmans Homer (1816/1817): the first sonnet to allow a glimpse at his genius. It may easily read as his enthusiastic response to his having been introduced to Homer via Chapman by his former school teacher Charles Cowden Clarke.
Much have I travelld in the realm of gold, And many goodly sates and kingdoms seen; Round many western islands have I bee Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. Oft of one wide expanse had I been told That deep-browd Homer ruled as his demesne; Yet did I never breathe its pure serene Till I heard Chapman speak out and bold: Then felt I like some watcher of the skies When a new planet swims into his ken; Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes He stard at the Pacific and all his men Lookd at each other with a wild surmise Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

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Vincent Newey (1992: 145) revisits Marjorie Levinsons reading of the poem and restates its paradigmatic value for Keatss creation of himself as a strong supplement to the norms of literary tradition and the virile humanistic ideology they encode. The critics thesis reiterates the argument that the poems force comes from how Keats, the lower middle-class parvenu who was pilloried by the Tory reviewers for his radical politics and humble origin, by claiming access, even acquaintance with Homer, dares to aspire to a place in the domain of Apollo. However, consciously, or unconsciously, Keats allows a glimpse at that display of ease, a contradiction in terms, which will become a characteristic of his whole poetry. There issues a rather deviant stance of poetic identity. The poet accepts that he does not read Homer but looks into it in translation, and not by Popes accepted version, but Chapmans unofficial translation (ll. 6-10). Newey argues that travelled (Much have I travelld in the realm of gold, l.1) suggests travailed with a view to showing Keatss labouring and working his passage where others have made a privileged tour. In other words, Keats exists on the periphery, but the poem makes that periphery an idiosyncratic centre, a space of insecure yet aggressive (and to some contemporaries, including Byron, offensive) differentness, from which he projects the authority of an anti-nature in a series of effects ranging from fetishistic absorption of fine phrases (as in breathe its pure serene, voluptuously taken in from Dante and/or Coleridge to the final end-stopped feel of Silent, upon a peak in Darien, a climax of lingering pleasure (less virile certainly, less carried through, than Wordsworths struck, and struck again). Irrespective of class/ caste clashes, Keatss marvellous achievement, in this poem, is the construal of the stance of a selfROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 45

John Keats reflexive watcher, gazing upon the energeticcalmness of his own animated suspension, Silent, upon a peak. Ode to Psyche (1819): Keatss Cinderella of the great odes (Kenneth Allott, 1956). Although difficult to relate to the other odes which sing of creativity, this ode springs directly from his myth of soul-making, and represents the breakthrough heralded by La Belle Dame Sans Mercy: thus it establishes the mental orientation for all the other odes. The poem can be read as an expression of Keatss concern with the mutability of an immortal: Psyche could be immortal, yet also fading, and therefore an object of mourning. Keats makes the inspired recognition that a heathen goddess had been neglected and that he is the knight come to rescue her. Consequently, the poet takes on him the task of the restoration of Psyches presence which is almost accomplished by the end of the 2nd stanza. He will interpose himself between Psyche and the fate imagined for her in a surprising way: by proposing a self-rescue, a rescue of the Keats whose concern with transience and mutability urges him to try to prevent any fading of the goddess by making her an inner certainty (I see, and sing by my own eyes inspired, l. 43). This is to say that the Goddess of the mind is discovered, not through becoming her lover but through singing her secrets. So, the poem becomes a paradoxical expression of Keatss concern with the limited, mortal nature of man, inasmuch as it concerns itself with the uncertain status of a goddess, which appears to him both appealing and confiscated.
O Goddess! Hear these numbers, wrung By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear, And pardon that thy secrets should be sung Even into thine own soft-conched ear: Surely I dreamt to-day, or did I see The winged Psyche with awakend eyes? I wanderd in a forest thoughtlessly, And, on the sudden, fainting with surprise, Saw two fair creatures, couched side by side In deepest grass, beneath the whispring roof Of leaves and trembled blossoms, where there ran A brooklet, scarce espied: Mid hushd, cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed, Blue, silver-white, and budded Tyrian, They lay calm-breathing on the bedded grass; Their arms embraced, and their pinions too; Their lips touchd not, but had not bade adieu, As if disjoined by soft-handed slumber, And ready still past kisses to outnumber At tender eye-dawn of aurorean love: The winged boy I knew; But who was thou, O happy, happy dove? Hiss Psyche true! O latest born and loveliest vision far Of all Olympians faded hierarchy! Fairer than Phoebes sapphire-regiond star, Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky; Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none, Nor altar heapd with flowers; Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan 1

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John Keats
Upon the midnight hours; No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet From chain-swung censer teeming; No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat Of pale-mouthd prophet dreaming. O brightest! Though too late for antique vows, Too, too late for the fond believing lyre, When holy were the haunted forest boughs, Holy the air, the water, and the fire; Yet even in these days so far retird From happy pieties, thy lucent fans, Fluttering among the faint Olympians, I see, and sing, by my own eyes inspired. So let me be thy choir, and make a moan Upon the midnight hours; Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet From swinged censer teeming; Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat Of pale-mouthd prophet dreaming. Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane In some untrodden region of my mind, Where branched thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain, Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind: Far, far around shall those dark-clusterd trees Fledge the wild-ridged mountains steep by steep; And there by zephyrs, streams, and birds, and bees, And moss-lain Dryads shall be lulld to sleep; And in the midst of this wide quietness A rosy sanctuary will I dress With the wreathd trellis of a working brain, With buds, and bells, and stars without a name, With all the gardener fancy eer could feign, Who breeding flowers, will never breed the same: And there shall be for thee all soft delight That shadowy thought can win, A bright torch, and a casement ope at night, To let the warm Love in! April 1819

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The threat of mutability is addressed from the very beginning through the unanswered question, the blunt and disbelieving Surely I dreamed to-day (l. 4), which is countered by the longer, more descriptive, and more evocative or did I see/ The winged Psyche with awakend eyes? (ll. 4-5). The bridging between fantasy and reality functions as the beginning of the restoration process, to be continued in the remaining stanzas. The palpable sensuality of the scene together with its dramatic immediacy subtly displaces doubts about Psyches existence (ll. 6-20). When Keats answers his question about her existence: But who wast thou? with the short, confident His Psyche true! it is clear that she is almost a fully restored, believed-in presence. What the poet next envisages is his own interpolation between Psyche and the fate imagined for her, despite the frequent allusions to Cupid (ll. 9; 21; 67). The poets unpredictable but graceful solution resides in the way he conceives of internalization (Yes, I will build a fane/ In some untrodden region of my mind, ll. 50-51) as a defence against the fear of any possible recurrence of the loss. This will allow Keats to present his solution as a way of shifting the focus from loss to growth. It is obvious that with the final image in the poem, ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 47

John Keats a casement ope at night/ To let the warm love in!, the lovers story is not only recapitulated as desire and fulfilment, but perpetuated in the poets mind as a model for his own anticipated growth and fulfilment. Richard Bradford (1993: 121-2) aptly demonstrates that within this poem, like in many other Romantic odes, the situation of the utterance is the speakers consciousness resembling the technique of interior monologue or stream of consciousness. What follows is that the addresser-addressee relationship is focused less upon the imagined situation of the speech act and far more upon the internalized patterns of cultural and referential codes and poetic devices (irregular accentual-syllabic pattern, the rhyme scheme and a complication of the syntax by the foregrounding of aspirates and fricatives, all founded upon the consonant s at least two in each line -). R. Bradford opinions that, hearing the poem we are left with the impression that it gives much attention to echoes of the signifier Psyche within the enclosed sphere of linguistic materiality as it does to the function of the signified goddess in the mind and the cultural experience of the speaker. It is revelatory how Keats, at the end of the ode, reverts to a point in the myth when Psyche was still a mortal, wailing expectantly the arrival of Love, which strikes a note of uncertain anticipation appropriate to the larger theme of mutability and growth. Still, Keatss unfailing authenticity in terms of its dramatic circumstances stems from the total surrender to mythology and the success of the various strategies employed of: denial and restoration, rescue and internalization. Ode to a Nightingale (1819): the poets renewal of his exploration of old uncertainties in search of his own self. The deeper mood of dejection set in by the beginning (ll. 1-4) establishes the regressive movement that will dominate the poem through stanzas 5 and most of 6 culminating in the wish To cease upon the midnight with no pain (St. 6, l. 56). The greater freedom offered by the bird as a symbolic object taken from nature results primarily in a bolder, more thoughtful and deeper response to the problem of loss. The sense of loss is forcefully evoked in the second stanza by the use of apostrophe, the breathless O, with its mixture of sadness and longing inaugurating the Shakespearean quatrain (O, for a draft of vintage! l. 11), to be repeated in the second unit, the Petrarchean sestet (O for a beaker full of the warm South l. 15). The longing for a lost world also finds expression in two mythological allusions (one to the goddess Flora and the other to Hippocrene) as well as in a surprising evocation of twelfthcentury romance and pageantry in the remarkable line Dance, and Provenal song, and sunburnt mirth! (l. 14). Wasserman interpreted stanza 2 as presenting the first of three proposals by which the poet seeks release from mortal pains of this world: the progress [is] from wine to poesy to death the absorption of the sensuous, the imaginative, and finally the total spiritual self (1953: 156). Thus, not unlike in Ode to Psyche, the sensuous world described in stanza 2 becomes an inner territory through which the poet passes on his journey, as if he were flying back through literary- historical and mythological regions of the mind (Provence and Mount Helicon) toward ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 48

John Keats the midnight dark and timeless region presided over by the Nightingale. Stanza 3, standing in sharp contrast to the whole poem, represents Keatss most painful enactment of reality:
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget What thou among the leaves hast never known, The weariness, the fever, and the fret Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs, Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; Where but to think is full of sorrow And leaden-eyed despairs, Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow. 21

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The painful enactment is come to through the mesmeric use of a series of where clauses (ll. 25, 26, 27, 29) meant to condense a survey of the darkest aspects of human experience. And so, Keats will get the aura of the miserable and mighty Poet of the human heart. The where clauses iconically project the poets thoughts still further into the world of the nightingale, as it becomes apparent through the artificial exclamation Away! away! (l. 31) at the beginning of stanza 4, the climactic moment of the first section of the poem. The exquisite synaesthetic imagery throughout stanzas 4 and 5 (tender is the night l. 35; lightis with the breezes blown ll. 38-9; soft incense hangs upon boughs l. 42; and embalmed darkness l. 43) is suggestive of the poets longing for death, only hinted at now, to be fully expressed in stanza 6. The dark world of the nightingale is evocative of the sublime through its proximity to infinity, but mostly through its mysteriousness an anticipation of the pleasantly sensuous domain death turns to be: Darkling, I listen; and, for many a time/ I have been half in love with easeful Death, / Calld him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath; / Now more than ever seems it rich to die (ll. 51-55). L. Waldoff (1995: 311) insightfully explains the metaphor of death in this stanza: Death here is a metaphor for merger with a symbolic object that the poet has restored imaginatively on the model of an inner object felt to be irrecoverably lost but forever sought nonetheless. The poet attributes to symbolic object the power to dissolve his anxiety and achieve for him a completion of self in a single, climactic moment of union. His almost irresistible longing is for total resolution and unity; it is a virtually instinctual desire for certainty that had earlier made the counter-conception of Negative capability [] not only possible but necessary. Symptomatically, the romance with death ends when the poet envisions a world continuing beyond his own mortality: Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain -/ To thy high requiem become a sod (ll. 59-60). The futility of his gesture is made evident by how the mourned cannot hear the mourner. This may justify the shift in attitude stanza 7 brings. The immortal bird is placed beyond reach, the poet feeling the pull of hungry generations and the others who have heard her song. Hence, the focus changes from the midnight garden to scenes from history and literature (emperor and clown, l. 64; sad Ruth, l. 66).

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John Keats With stanza 8, the poet snaps us out of the enchanted world of nonBeing he had created, referring us to the literal bird, the nightingale nesting in Browns house who had pleasantly and richly tortured his imagination:
Forlorn! The very word is like a bell To toll me back from thee to my sole self! Adieu the fancy cannot cheat so well As she is famd to do, deceiving elf. Adieu! Adieu! Thy plaintive anthem fades Past near meadows, over the still stream, Up the hill-side; and now tis buried deep In the next valley-glades: Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music Do I wake or sleep? 71

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L. Waldoff suggests that by splitting the image of the bird in two, the poet can retain an image of the symbolic bird, internalize it, and then allow the real bird to fly away. The word Forlorn (l. 71) reinstills the sense of loss on which the poem opened, that sense which is an essential part of the poets sole self (l. 72). Despite the inconclusive ending, (Was it a vision, or a waking dream? / Fled is that music Do I wake or sleep? ll. 79-80), the birds song remains both with the poet and mostly the reader, as the symbolic bird had long been integrated into a sharable cultural imagination. Read Keatss Axioms in Poetry (Letter to John Taylor, February 27, 1818) and see how they apply to his ode To Autumn (1819, Stanzas 1; 3) and Ode on a Grecian Urn (1819, Stanzas 1; 5). Consider the deep existential and temporal consciousness gained through both sensousness and the minds earning for fact and reason. Pay also attention to how negation and alterity (G. Princes concept of disnarrated) produce negation by referring to what is not or cannot be narrated, and, by asserting an alternative to its own narrative, producing what could be termed alterity or the other of narrative. (See Sorin Prvu, op. cit., pp. 226-. 239).
1st I think poetry should surprise by a fine excess and not by Singularity it should strike the Reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a Remembrance. -2nd Its touches of Beauty should never be half way therby making the reader breathless instead of content: the rise, the progress, the setting of imagery should like the Sun come natural natural too (sic) him shine over him and soberly although in magnificence leaving him in the Luxury of twilight but it is easier to think what Poetry should be than to write it and this leads me on to another axiom. That if Poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all. Ode on a Grecian Urn 1
Thou still unravishd bride of guietness, Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, Sylvan historian, who canst thus express A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: What leaf-fringd legend haunts about thy shape Of deities or mortals, or of both, In Tempe or the dales of Arcady? What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?

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What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 5 O Attic shape! Fair attitude! With brede Of marble men and maidens overwrought, With forest branches and trodden weed; Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! When old age shall this generation waste, Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou sayst, Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. To Autumn 1 Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; To bend with apples the mossd cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease, For summer has oer-brimmd their clammy cells. 3 Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they? Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn Among the river sallows, borne aloft Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft; And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Read two exquisite statements of Keatss love for Fanny Brawne: one in verse (sonnet), the other one in prose. Establish points of juncture and disjuncture at all levels of expression.
To Fanny I cry your mercy pity-love!-aye, love! Merciful love that tantalizes not, One-thoughted, never-wandering, guileless love, Unmaskd, and being seen without a blot! O! let me have thee whole, -all-all-be mine! That shape, that fairness, that sweet minor zest Of love, your kiss, -those hands, those eyes divine, That warm, white, lucent, million-pleasured breast,Yourself your soul-in pity give me all, Withhold no atoms atom or I die, Or living on perhaps, your wretched thrall, Forget, in the mist of idle misery, Lifes purposes, - the palate of my mind Losing its gust, and my ambition blind!

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John Keats
My dear love, I cannot believe there ever was or ever could be anything to admire in me especially as far as sight goes I cannot be admired, I am not a thing to be admired. You are, I love you; all I can bring you is a swooning admiration of your Beauty. I hold that place among Men which snub-nosd brunettes with meeting eyebrows do among women they are trash to me unless I should find one among them with a fire in her heart like the one that burns in mine. You absorb me in spite of myself you alone: for I look not forward with ay pleasure to what is calld being settled in the world; I tremble at domestic cares yet for you I would meet them, though if it would leave you the happier I would rather die than do so. I have two luxuries to brood over in my walks, your Loveliness and the hour of my death. O that I could have possession of them both in the same minute. I hate the world: it batters too much the wings of my self-will, and would I could take a sweet poison from your lips to send me out of it. From no others would I take it. (Letter to Fanny Brawne, July 25, 1819)

Since we have concluded the section on the Romantic poets, try to think back of all the problems engaged with by the Romantics and solve the following conundrum as formulated by R. Bradford (1993: 128-9):
The Romantics foregrounded a perennial and so far unresolved linguistic problem: they sought to close the gap between what occurs outside language and the means by which we address, mediate and communicate these phenomena. But to do so they drew almost entirely upon the linguistic genre which both intensifies and encloses languages function as a differential, self-determining sign system: poetry. Poetry inscribes and effectively validates the specificity of literature. Unlike other forms of discourse it encloses, animates, and sometimes creates the situation of the utterance. Yet poets, particularly the Romantics, argue that it is the only form of language that can disclose the purity of pre-linguistic experience.

Further Readings:
Sorin Prvu (2001) Narrative Poetry. The Mythical Mode; W. Pater (1873/ 1986) Praface, The Renaissance; M. Heidegger (1971/2000) The Origin of the Work of Art, Poetry, Language, Thought.

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Alfred Tennyson

7. Alfred Tennyson or the secular poet of the margins


He is considered the main exponent of the secular poet of the margin as theorized by J. S. Mill and G. Lewes. This image very well transpires from his early manifesto The Poets Mind (1830), where Tennysons poet is the poet divorced from politics, the one whose duty is towards aesthetics, pleasure, and beauty, rather than prophecy, instruction and devotion. Tennysons early poet is a reclusive, highly sensitive figure who cannot endure challenges from lesser mortals: Vex not the poets mind/ With thy shallow wit: / Vex not thou the poets mind; / For thou canst not fathom it. / Clear and bright it should be ever, / Flowing like a crystal river; /Bright as light, and clear as wind. Tennysons poet had the quality to give pleasure to his readers only if he was left to sing in solitude, which was not unattainable if we only think of O. Wildes historically accurate, albeit ironical, observation: we have been able to have fine poetry in England because the public do not read it, and consequently do not influence it (The Soul of Man under Socialism: 109, London: Collins, 1890/ 1969). Alfred Tennysons uncertainty with meter in his early practice of poetry is compensated by his capacity for linking scenery to states of mind. J. S. Mill was among the first to notice the power of creating scenery, in keeping with some state of human feeling so fitted to it as to be the embodied symbol of it, and to summon up the state of feeling itself, with a force not to be surpassed by anything but reality. This same asset is described by Tennyson himself in a commentary to Tears, Idle Tears (1847), where he says: it is the distance that charms me in the landscape, the picture and the past, and not the immediate today in which I move. The escapist mood Tennysons poetry suffered from was the consequence of the gloomy isolation in which he grew up as son of a talented but depressive village parson with a grudge against the world and a weakness for alcohol. Tennysons need to escape into subjectivity inspired such solipsistic poetry about sleep (My Sisters Sleep; The Lady of Shalott; The Lotos-Eaters); dream/ vision (The Lady of Shalott, Mariana); madness (Maud or the Madness, a little Hamlet); and medieval chivalry (The Epic [Morte dArtur]; Idylls of the King). Still, Tennyson would pursue to strike a balance between his duty to aesthetics and to society by constantly adapting techniques evolved from an almost solipsistic state of mind to themes and purposes that concerned society at large (The Princess: A Medley, 1847). This well explains Tennysons early concern with the euphonious aspect of words building in the entrapping images of introversion from his Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (The Owl; The Sleeping Beauty; The Kraken, 1830) as well as his later poetrys predisposition towards a massive, self-absorbed calm in search of ever selfrenewing devices. This movement from noninvolvement to involvement is voiced by Stopford Brookes (Victorian critic, 1894) re-assessment of Tennysons relation to modern life, when he asserts that Tennysons age was vividly with him as he wrote of patriotism, the proper conception of freedom, the sad condition of the poor, the position of women in the onward ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 53

Alfred Tennyson movement of the world, the role of commerce and science in that movement; the future of the race, the noble elements of English character, their long descent and the sacred reverence we owed to them. However, Tennyson was hardly the poet to self-indulge in reverence of himself or others; on the contrary, he took trouble to calm admirers down, to tell them that his poetry was, though wonderful, nothing to be relied on. There was in him not only some dark undercurrent woe (Maud), but also some dark undercurrent mirth, as E. Griffiths points out. This is made possible by a constant change of meaning of language and metaphor. One good example of Tennysons constant renewing techniques is The Princess: A Medley (1847) since the poem is structured to present two simultaneous views of the woman question: (1) a contemporary perspective in the Prologue occasioned by the presentation of the annual festival of a Mechanics Institute in the grounds of a country house, including elements of modernity, such as scientific and political-social allusions to the working-class movement, railways, paddle-steamers, fire-balloons, telegraphic apparatus; (2) the long-term perspective suggested by the house itself, its contents and setting: Greek and Gothic architecture, geological, archeological and anthropological specimens, familys ancestral armour and medieval chronicle. Tennyson meant by this double perspective that he himself is a medley as 19th century was a medley of past and present a possible answer to those critics who felt that Tennyson was too removed from the intellectual question of his day. In Memoriam A. H. H. (1850) is by far the poets best expression of his tendency towards the serious, reflective and melancholic, voicing his thoughts about death, loss, regret for the vanished past, lament for the transience of life. This most appreciated elegy (Next to the Bible, In Memoriam is my comfort, Queen Victoria) was occasioned by the sudden death of his dear friend, would-be brother-in-law, trustful councilor Arthur Hallam at the age of twenty two. This terrifyingly overwhelming experience called into doubt the whole stability and reliability of human existence, which had further been shattered by his readings from geology and other sciences. The poem is composed of 131 short poems, structured upon 3 sections, separated from one another by Christmas Odes that mark the gradual rise of spirit and also the passing of time. Written over a period of seventeen years, these short swallow-flights of song, as the poet calls them, recorded: (1) the psychological recovery from despair as a result of trauma produced by the loss of an intimate friend and a great source of moral support; (2) the poets religious recovery from scientific atheism to an intuitive faith in Providence and the immortality of the soul. All along, the poet traces his own progressive development from despair to some sort of hope, as in section 95, when the poet makes mystical contact with the dead man after reading his letters, and also with that which is, at the heat of the whole creation: Perplexed in faith, but pure in deeds, / At last he beat his music out. / There lives more faith in honest doubt, / Believe me, than in half the creeds (ll. 9-12). This section, as the whole poem, contains reiterated images of silence, semi-darkness, solitude and immobility, suggestive of the poets state of visionary trance, and even distrust of language: I sometimes hold it half a sin/ To put in words the grief I feel; / For words, like Nature, half reveal/ And half conceal the Soul within (5, ll. 1-4). The central event, the death of Hallam, was the radiating centre from which other events and states of mind gathered like myriads of concentric circles. All individual episodes retain the freshness of discrete and ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 54

Alfred Tennyson spontaneous units of experience, meant to turn grief into a central source of power in the imaginative life. Thus, the poet seeks consolation not in comforting orthodox assertions of immortality (although these are sometimes made) but in the operations of memory, perception, creativity, and speculation. Bernard Richards (1988: 154) opinions that the poets skeptical and agnostic speculations should not be read as inferior stages on the route to higher and more enlightened knowledge, but part of the final scheme of things. So should be read the wide spectrum of moods the poets many perspectives on life and death ensure. Then, nature is viewed both as a destructive force of time and decay and a reassuring, consolatory power in its cyclical renewal. This outlook connects to how specificity relates to different generic features, since Tennyson seems to be speaking not only about his own grief but that of others too: It is rather the cry of the whole human race than mine. In the poem altogether private grief swells into thought of, hope for, the whole world. This may well explain why the poem was so popular with everyone from Queen Victoria downwards: it seemed to be speaking not merely to them but for them. Another outcome of this tendency towards the universal is that the poet eventually , by way of meditation of the loved and the lost person, catches a glimpse of God: Whereof the man that with me trod/ This planet was a noble type/ Appearing ere the times were ripe, / That friend of mine who lives in God, // That God, which ever lives and loves, / One God, one law, one element, / And one far-off divine event, / To which the whole creation moves (Epilogue, ll. 137-144). The literary sources identifiable as pre-texts in the poem are: Horaces Odes; the tradition of pastoral elegy from Theocritus to Shelley, where the poets grief is turned into joy at the deification of the dead person; love sonnets of Petrarch and Shakespeare; Dantes Vita Nuova and Divina Commediae, remindful of the poets love for Beatrice and sorrow at her death, as well as the poets slow ascent from hell culminating in a reunion with Beatrice, and a vision of Divine Love, that governs the Universe. Then, there is the effect of the subjective feeling at the basis of the religious thought of the poem drawing upon two hardly compatible theories of evolution: (1) Charles Lyells scientific theory from his Principles of Geology, 1830-33; (2) Goethes spiritual theory hinted at in Robert Chamberss popular book, Vestiges of Creation, 1843-46. As for Tennysons own views of language, we must place them in the context of the two early nineteenth-century theories of language with which the poet was familiar. First, there was the empiricist perspective deriving from Locke, which was part of the official curriculum at Cambridge when Tennyson was an undergraduate in the late 1820s. This view held that sensations are the source of all knowledge and that a word is merely a sound which is arbitrarily attached to a sensation. Secondly, there was the idealist perspective, deriving from Kant, that was current among the Apostles, the Cambridge society which during the 1820s was strongly GermanoColeridgian in character, and with which Tennyson was closely associated. Donald Hair (TLS, 1992, 4670: 7) posits that Tennyson was more influenced by the idealist than the empiricist view as Tennysons poetry is acutely selfaware about the nature of language itself. This same idea may have prompted Penelope Fitzgeralds contention that Tennyson was someone who could hear the authentic voice of the English language, the sound of the language talking to itself. At times Tennyson seems to me to be listening, rather as Pavarotti does, in apparent amazement simply to the ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 55

Alfred Tennyson beauty of the sounds that he is inexplicably able, as a great professional, to produce(T L S /Oct. 1992, A Hundred Years After, p. 8). Tennyson remains, as Isobel Armstrong rightly remarks, a baffling poet because the writing often seems to long for a simplicity which is betrayed by the complexity of its language (T L S /Oct. 1992, A Hundred Years After, p. 9).

Preparatory Readings:
Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam A. H. H.; Seamus Perry (2007) Elegy in Cronin, R., A. Chapman and A. Harrison (eds.) A Companion to Victorian Poetry, London: Blackwell.

Stop and Think The Lady of Shalott (1832): the talismanic Tennyson poem since it provides the governing metaphor of his poetry: the image of weaving. The poem sings of the curse of death which is to fall on the Lady of Shalott once she turns to gaze at the world, rather than merely observing it in a mirror and recording the reactions in a tapestry she is weaving. The central image of weaving allows of several readings which may well repeat the stages of Tennysons poetic evolution. First, the poem may read as an allegory of the artist who must remain detached from the world in order to create (the ivory-tower syndrome). Secondly, from a post-structuralist perspective, it may read as a poem about the impossibility for human beings of gaining pure, unmediated access to reality. The latter reading associates with the idea of an allpervasive textuality in which the artist, as indeed any human individual, is written into being by the representational systems of the culture to which he or she belongs. The immediate source of the poem seems to be the Italian romance of Donna di Scalotta, an Arthurian variant telling how a damsel dies for love of Lancelot. The poem revivifies the interest in the emblematic, enclosed lady, locked in contemplation, who first appears in Romantic poetry to be subsequently enthralling the imagination of Pre-Raphaelite painters (Holman Hunt, Millais, and D. G. Rossetti). While subtly touching upon the woman question (position and rights of women), it makes a more general statement about the nature and dangers of creative imagination (Coleridge). The verse movement resolves into a dramatic polarity between Shalott and Camelot which will be enhanced in the poem. Tense maneuvering (present in Parts I and II; past in Parts III and IV) contributes to increasing the sense of disruption and disturbance to the pleasant order of the castle:

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Alfred Tennyson
And moving through a mirror clear That hangs before her all the year, Shadows of the world appear. There she sees the highway near Winding down the Camelot; There the river eddy whirls, And there the surly village churls, And the red cloaks of market girls, Pass onward from Shalott. (Part 2) His broad clear brow in sunlight glowed; On burnished hooves his war horse trode; From underneath his helmet flowed His coal-black curls as on he rode, As he rode down to Camelot From the bank and from the river He flashed into the crystal mirror, Tirra lirra, by the river Sang Sir Lancelot. She left the web, she left the loom, She made three paces through the room, She saw the water lily bloom, She saw the helmet and the plume, She looked down to Camelot. Out flew the web and floated wide; The mirror cracked from side to side; The curse is come upon me, cried The Lady of Shalott. (Part 3)

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Interestingly, each part ends on direct speech which may voice the cumulative tension as implicit dialogism within the poem. G. Hartman (Saving the Text: Literature/ Derrida/ Philosophy, 1981) argues that there is a sense of an ultimate reality which is faced within the aesthetic object poem, embroidery -itself. Art, according to Hartman, is a mirror language which burns out the desire of self-definition, fullness of grace, presence; simply to expose the desire to own ones name, to inhabit it numinously in the form of proper noun, or the signatory act each poem aspires to be. In search of identity/ death, the Ladys first act of affirmation is to inscribe her name on the boats prow: Down she came and found a boat/ Beneath a willow left afloat, / And round about the prow she wrote/ The Lady of Shalott (4, ll. 123-126). Eventually, poem and Lady remain immaculate though web, mirror, or spell may break: But Lancelot mused a little space; / He said, She has lovely face; / God in his mercy lend her grace, / The Lady of Shalott (4, ll. 168-171). Whether Lancelot be all culture and the Lady all nature, the undecidability enhances the indeterminacy of an unresolved narcissism of festering lily or psyche (Hartman, 1981). In Memoriam A. H. H. (Section 5, 1850): an assemblage of lyrical fragments rehearsing, as Terry Eagleton says, the set themes of Victorian society in which private experience is running too deep for public articulation. 5
I sometimes hold it half a sin To put in words the grief I feel;

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Alfred Tennyson
For words, like Nature, half reveal And half conceal the Soul within. But, for the unquiet heart and brain, A use in measured language lies; The sad mechanic exercise, Like dull narcotics, numbing pain. In words, like weeds, Ill wrap me oer, Like coarsest clothes against the cold; But that large grief which these enfold Is given in outline and no more. 5

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R. Bradford (1993: 134ff) posits that the poets consistent thematic and structural motif is that of unrealized possibility in the way the poets efforts are concentrated on mediating in language the true essence of life, death, love, art and all manner of permutations on the relationship between subjective existence and the events that control and determine this condition. Tennysons poem is comprised of heroic quatrains (iambic octosyllables, rhyming a bb a seldom before used in English poetry). The rhyme scheme (ending where it began) obsessively reiterates the idea of progress by revolution around a fixed point (image of the turning wheel: going forward against the backward pull of the past). Section 5 is considered the metatextual manifesto for the poems uneasy sense of division. Despite the emphatic use of the pronoun I in the opening lines of stanzas 1 and 3, the real subject of the poem is poetry since each stanza gradually encloses the specific referential image of a speaker within the poetic function: In words, like weeds, Ill wrap me oer, / Like coarsest clothes against the cold; / But that large grief which these enfold/ Is given in outline and no more (ll. 9-12). We take the poet in line 1 as the controlling presence, which gradually drifts into a more speculative, uncertain pattern: clothes/ words both protect the user against the cold (pre-linguistic facts/ maybe death), to finally enfold the feeling of pain. According to R. Bradford this paradox acquires a self-consciously mimetic edge in the way the referential function, in the first two lines, becomes literally enfolded in an alliterative pattern: In words, like weeds, Ill wrap me oer. This statement of large grief (l. 11) is preceded by another statement of the post-Romantic condition, in stanza 2, considered an equally major failure: But, for the unquiet heart and brain/ A use in measured language lies; / The sad mechanic exercise, / Like dull narcotics, numbing pain (ll. 4-7). The Section may read as an elegy upon the death of poetry, not as an art form but as a discourse whose relationship with non-poetic and prelinguistic continua could be direct and influential. R. Bradford considers that the addresser of In Memoriam is both the self-consciously ineffectual poet lamenting the very real departure of his friend, and the linguistic craftsman able to construct worlds of metrical and metaphoric self-reference safely detached from this other reality (1993: 137-8). We conclude with A. S. Byatts thoughts about In Memoriam: It appears to move along so simply and lyrically and at random, and is in fact a wide-ranging meditation on life and death, in the shockingly particular and the movingly general. It can be savage and baffled and ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 58

Alfred Tennyson wise and limp within one lyric quite deliberately, reflecting the way human beings are, in grief. Eliot said that Tennyson did not feel his thoughts as immediately as the odour of arose, but I think increasingly that that is what he most precisely did do more than any English poet. He thought with images, and they act on the blood and the mind together (TLS, 1992/ Oct, 8). Read through Part 1 of Tennysons poem The Lady of Shalott and detect elements characteristic of his poetics. Prove that theme melts into form and rhetoric. Comment on how the poets need to escape into subjectivity might have been imprinted on both subject and form (use of incantatory rhyme-scheme and incremental repetitions characteristic of the ballad form, suggestive of the dream-like monotony of the Lady of Shalotts existence). D. H. Lawrence makes good use of the poem as an intertext in Women in Love (1916/1921), when he has Birkin complain to Ursula: Its all that Lady of Shalott business, he said, Youve got that mirror, your own fixed will, your immortal understanding, your own tight conscious world, and there is nothing beyond it. There, in the mirror, you must have everything. Reflect on how Lawrences hypertext may or may not support the idea that intertextuality is both a reflecting and refracting mirror in its game of constantly excluding what it tries to grasp.
On either side the river lie Long fields of barley and of rye, That clothe the wold and meet the sky; And through the field the road runs by To many-towered Camelot; And up and down the people go, Gazing where the lilies blow Round an island there below, The island of Shalott. Willows whiten, aspens quiver, Little breezes dusk and shiver Through the wave that runs forever By the island in the river Flowing down to Camelot. Four gray walls, and four gray towers, Overlook a space of flowers, And the silent isle imbowers The Lady of Shalott. By the margin, willow-veiled, Slide the heavy barges trailed By slow horses; and unhailed The shallop flitteth silken-sailed Skimming down to Camelot: But who hath seen her wave her hand? Or at the casement seen her stand? Or is she known in all the land, The Lady of Shalott?

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Alfred Tennyson
Only reapers, reaping early In among the bearded barley, Hear a song that echoes cheerly From the river winding clearly, Down to towered Camelot; And by the moon the reaper weary, Piling sheaves in uplands airy, Listening, whispers Tis the fairy Lady of Shalott. 30

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In Memoriam. Section 54. In this section, the poet marvellously exemplifies how a poem addressing the question of Doubt generates a self-deconstructing discourse. This is in consonance with Tennysons idealistic view of the language he derived from the Apostles, the Cambridge society he was a member of. Read through Section 54 and account for the idea that the chain of opposing pairs, identifiable in the poem as irrefutable signs of Doubt (good/ill; faith/knowledge; light/darkness; language/cry), are turned in on themselves by means of an elaborate self-destructive discourse. Check how the lexico-grammar of the text yields uncertainty to the point of selfannihilation.
O, yet we trust that somehow good Will be the final goal of ill, To pangs of nature, sins of will, Defects of doubt, and taints of blood; That nothing walks with aimless feet; That not one life shall be destroyed, Or cast as rubbish to the void, When God hath made the pile complete; That not a worm is cloven in vain; That not a moth with vain desire Is shriveled in a fruitless fire, Or but subserves anothers gain. Behold, we know not anything; I can but trust that good shall fall At last far off at last, to all. And every winter change to spring. So runs my dream; but what am I? An infant crying in the night; An infant crying for the light, And with no language but a cry. 1

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Read through In Memoriam (Section 7, 1850), Break, Break, Break (1934/ 1842), and Tears, Idle Tears. Compare and contrast the poems in point of achievement (rhetoric, meaning) with a view to showing how material reality and doubt are changed into a desolate faith. Notice how in the first poem, the abrupt caesural semi-colon, (He is not here; but far away, l. 9) seems to take it all away, so that two very opposite points of view the materialistic and the religious come together in a kind of visionary contradiction. Tom Paulin (TLS, Oct/ ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 60

Alfred Tennyson 1992, p. 8) considers that such poems have prepared the ground for Christina Rossetti and for Hopkins, who wrote to an undergraduate friend in 1864: a horrible thing has happened to me. I have begun to doubt Tennyson. 7
Dark house, by which once more I stand Here in the long unlovely street, Doors, where my heart was used to beat So quickly, waiting for a hand, A hand that can be clasped no more Behold me, for I cannot sleep, And like a guilty thing I creep At earliest morning to the door. He is not here; but far away The noise of life begins again, And ghastly through the drizzling rain On the bald street breaks the blank day. 5

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Break, Break, Break


Break, break, break, On thy cold gray stones, O Sea! And I would that my tongue could utter The thoughts that arise in me. O, well for the fishermans boy, That he shouts with his sister at play! O, well for the sailor lad, That he sings in his boat on the bay! And the stately ships go on To their haven under the hill; But O for the touch of a vanished hand, And the sound of a voice that is still! Break, break, break, At the foot of thy crags, O Sea! But the tender grace of a day that is dead Will never come back to me. 5

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Further Readings:
Aidan Day (1992) Textual Tapestries on Gerhard Josephs Tennyson and the Text (1992); Donald S. Hair, Tennysons Language (1992) in TLS, October 2, No. 4670, p. 7.

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Robert Browning

8. Robert Browning and the art of indirectness


R. Browning, the great poet of otherness (Richard Howard, 1969), has remained, as Thomas Hardy once said, the literary puzzle of the nineteenth century. R. Browning cant be but a complex figure as befits a poet too much preoccupied with masks. It is recounted that, on the occasion of his burial in Westminster Abbey, his friend Henry James reflected that many oddities and many great writers have been buried there, but none of the odd ones have been so great and none of the great ones been so odd (qtd. by G. Ford and C. Christ, 1986: 1232). So, Browning is either considered a wise philosopher and religious teacher or a technician of style in search of a suitable speaking voice. The former admirers were more concerned with Browning, the victor, who wrote as he lived, with courage, uncompromisingly addressing the centurys doubts and incongruities; the latter admirers were more interested in Browning, the artist, who energetically opened the road to modernism. Such famous poets as Ezra Pound and Robert Lowell regarded R. Brownings suggestive indirectness and functional language incongruities as a counter poetics most appropriate to an imperfect world. Browning will insightfully sense the difference in method between Tennyson and himself, as well as his friends inability or refusal to come to terms with the psychology of his characters when he wrote in Mc Aleer, Dearest Isa about A. Tennysons Pelleas and Ettare (1869): Here is an Idyll about a knight being untrue to his friend and yielding to the temptation of that friends mistress after having engaged to assist him in his suit. I should judge the conflict in the knights soul the proper subject to describe: Tennyson thinks he should describe the castle and the effect of the moon on its towers, and anything but the soul. Within the same line of thinking, he declared in the Preface to Sordello, My stress lay on incidents in the development of a human soul; little else is worth study. His poems are described always dramatic in principle, and so many utterances of so many imagery persons, not mine. As early as 1953, Randall Jarrell pointed out, in Poetry and the Age, that R. Browning had made the dramatic monologue a genre in its own right: the dramatic monologue, which once had depended for its effect upon being a departure from the norm of poetry, now became in one form or another the norm. Later poets such as Edward Lucie-Smith in England and Richard Howard in America would consider the genre for their own use. In 1969, Howard dedicated a volume of monologues to Browning: to the great poet of otherness, who said, as I should like to say, Ill tell my state as though twere none of mine.It is important to understand Brownings stand about the subjective poet vs. the objective poet as expressed in his Essay on Shelley. According to him, the subjective poet comes closer to Carlyles prophetic or vatic poet. Browning will proclaim that the subjective poets soul is the nearest reflex of the absolute Mind, which somehow corresponds to Th. Carlyles, J. S. Mills and Arthur Hallams views endorsing the myth of the poet in an Age ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 62

Robert Browning which was turning more hostile to poesy and poets. Browning had already considered the role of the poet in Paracelsus (1835). Paracelsus is a 16th century scientist who can stand for the poet, since, to Browning, the pursuit of knowledge is as grand as the pursuit of poetry. In Sordello (1840), this unreadable, unperformable, unassimilable poem (G. Ford and C. Christ, 1986: 1232), we can have a glimpse of Brownings poet standing between a dreamer and a man of action, undecidedly vacillating between the ivory tower type (Eglamour) and the entertainer type (Salinguerra), in his hope to be a complete man. Hence the feeling that problems are being grappled with rather than solved, which says a lot about Browning himself. So, Brownings Sordello, who ambitiously declares that the key to greatness lies in the ability to create a fit language, welding words into the crude/ Mass from the new speech round him, till rude/ Armour was hammered out (ll. 575-77) may be a mask for the poet himself who was tempted to experiment not only with genre but also with language and syntax. The grotesque rhymes and jaw-breaking diction which Browning employs have also contributed to the aura of inaccessibility his poetry had built. Ezra Pounds tribute to Old Hippety-Hop o the accents, as he addresses Browning, is both affectionate and memorable: Heart that was big as the bowels of Vesuvius/ Words that were winged as her sparks in eruption, / Eagled and thundered as Jupiter Pluvius/ Sound in your wind past all signs o corruption. Brownings most important contribution to the poetic langue is the dramatic monologue, which, as a literary sub-genre in its own right, comes to embody the uneasy relation between two competing discourses of the novel and the poem. The dramatic monologue, as Browning uses it, enables the reader, speaker, and poet to come together on the battle field of language, in the sense that readers must work through the words of the speaker toward the meaning of the poet. Thus, we can distinguish three major advantages of using the genre: (1) it is a way of lying while seeming to tell the truth or vice versa; (2) each speaker of the dramatic monologue provides a mask for the poet; (3) the triad reader / speaker / poet is brought together in a very unpredictable but productive way. For example, in the well-known early monologue My Last Duchess, the Duke of Ferraras monologue, while flouting, in turn, the laws of cooperation, can provide an approximation of truth, both fictional and referential. Fictionally, we can infer what kind of persons the duke and duchess really were; referentially we can, once more, sense Brownings own stance on domestic tyranny, in the poem and outside it. His own father-in-law seems to have provided the prototype of domestic tyrant as illustrated by the Duke of Ferrara and later, Count Guido Francheschini of The Ring and the Book (1868). Browning must have chosen the dramatic monologue as his favourite literary device as he was convinced together with Oscar Wilde that truth is rarely pure and never simple, which may explain Brownings cherished imagistic representation, the inseparability of black and white, used to sum up the essential ambiguities of religious belief, of human happiness or of moral character. There is a quality of aspiration mixed with worldliness detectable in Brownings works and life. In life, he plays the role of the romantic rescuer who truly believed that love can sweep aside all obstacles: Good people both; I heartily wish them as happy a pilgrimage as can be had; he resembled a girl in boys clothes the sort of dotage which a woman sometimes has for a man when she marries after the usual time these comments by Thomas Carlyle and Mary Russell Mitford on the marriage of ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 63

Robert Browning Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett are the opposite extremes in the excited reaction in the English and American literary worlds to the news that the two poets had secretly married and escaped to Italy. It appears that their friends attitudes ranged from delight through astonishment to foreboding. His family and her sisters were supportive; her brothers and father were violently hostile, convinced that Browning had seduced an invalid of forty, six years older than he was, for the sake of her 350 pounds a year, and that the secrecy of their marriage was inexcusable. The exceptional romance the two lived in Italy can be inferred not only from their correspondence but also from the two poets memorable poems, Men and Women (R. Browning, 1855), Sonnets from the Portuguese (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1847/1850). I certainly never believed such a creature to be possible, and am full of thankfulness to God for blessing me with such a priceless gift, wrote Browning. I have married a manwho is superior to me in all things, yet not too high for the completest sympathy, wrote Mrs. Browning. It is not often today that the reader is allowed to know that historical figures were actually happily married: as happy as two owls in a hole, as Browning jubilantly described their isolated bliss (TLS, July 3/ 1998, p. 10). The most outstanding principle of Brownings poetry is vitality, voicing his belief that life is a constant challenge which needs to be met with positive effort, even if the contest seems desperate and pointless. Still, Brownings apparent optimism is consistently being tested by his bringing to light the evils of human nature. This is made explicit through character, action, but mostly, language, versification and poetic texture. At first sight, Brownings characters are a gallery of talking portraits: bishops and painters of the Renaissance: Andrea del Sarto; Fra Lippo Lippi; Sordello; The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxeds Church; Paracelsus. Yet, this impression is misleading since many of his characters explore problems that confronted Brownings contemporaries, especially problems of faith and doubt, good and evil, and problems of the function of the artist in modern life. Caliban upon Setebos, for example, may read as a critique of Darwinism and of natural religions. The readers difficulty in grasping Brownings own stance is part and parcel of his poetics which is more concerned with creating uncertainties than certainties. That is why a fair assessment of Brownings cheerful religious position is to be made against the background of either despairing, humiliating poverty or sadistic brutality, which reverts the utopian connotation attached to such lines: Gods in his heaven -/ Alls right with the world! (Pippa Passes, 1841), to some dystopian connotation. In Pippas case, if Gods in his Heaven protecting the innocent girl, Alls right with the world is Pippas projection of her innocence upon the world, constantly undermined by the sordidness of the tales she unwillingly becomes entangled with. Brownings characters, far from being pure, are people with a privileged sense of consciousness, highly aware of themselves and the surroundings. They are: villains with evil designs (Guido Franceschini); egocentrical persons (Paracelsus); senseless experimenters with life/ art (Sordello). They are always surprised in moments of crisis, which reclaims a tactics of defense putting in jeopardy such dychotomies: feeling/ thought (Sordello); soul/ body (Fra Lippos Lippi); real/ ideal (Andrea de Sarto). In point of style, Browning draws from a tradition more colloquial and discordant including J. Donne, Shakespeare, Th. Hood, and G. Chaucer. He also shares common features with prose writers (Th. Carlyle, J. Ruskin), fiction writers in his penchant for the grotesque (Ch. Dickens) and ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 64

Robert Browning psychological insight (G. Eliot, G. Meredith, H. James). Although Brownings poems are speaking monologues and not inner monologues, yet the insight into the workings of the mind is similarly acute. This asks for continuing readjustment to the rapid shifts of the speakers mental processes, as jumps are made from one cluster of association to another. A new challenge for the reader of Browning is to identify what has been left out; or, as poet Ernest Dowson remarked in a letter (1890), Brownings masterpieces in verse demonstrate both subtlety and the tact of omission. My Last Duchess is pure Henry James (qtd. G. Ford and C. Christ, 1986: 1234). R. Brownings confidence in the enormous prospects of human capability to overcome suffering is not essentially at odds with his sceptical predisposition towards revealing conflict within his characters minds and souls. The two moods account for Brownings ongoing concern for man; his deep down faith that God is revealed to Man through Love, as the infinite becomes the finite through Christ. Brownings Language has an emotional basis: the more emotional it becomes the greater the chance to contain approximations of truth personal, existential truth. To this purpose, he adopted syntax and wordorder to simulate the way people actually talked. He used aggressively nonliterary and non-poetic diction, which made it denotative to the extreme: words became virtually physical objects (it took a physical effort to pronounce them) through: bunching accented syllables together and juxtaposing consonants as only Old Hippety-Hop o the accents knew to do it. Browning also used comic rhymes as to be found in real-life conversation. Brownings imagination was historical and therefore novelistic: e.g. The Ring and the Book (1868/9) where he dealt more with Facts than Fancies. As a historicist, he had a dialecticians mind inasmuch as he realized that the only way to truth is not introspection only, but through others too: he enters other selves and indulges into the illusion that truth has been attained. This is best illustrated by his poem The Ring and the Book where repetitive frequency is the method used for approximating truth. In twelve books, we are told and retold, from the contrasting points of view of participants and spectators, the murder of the wife by her husband, Count Guido Franceschini. Thus, The Book is a collection of legal documents that Browning had found on a Florence Bookstall in 1860. They related to the trial in 1698 Rome of Count Guido Franceschini for the brutal murder of his wife Pompilia on the pretext of her alleged adultery with a priest called Caponsacchi. The Ring was a metaphor for the poem itself, suggested by the golden ring Mrs. Browning had worn, inscribed with the word aei (for ever). But, it mostly signifies the artistry of the poems structure which also suggested a series of circles, all centred on truth and ringed by the poets personality (Books I, XII). We conclude by saying that Brownings poetry is a poetry of inclusion and tension, of the unexpectedness of experience, and of psychic flow. This is ever more troubling since Brownings monologues are attempts to rescue the poetic function from the distancing effects of high Romanticism form, to maintain the devices of poetry while reconciling these to the naturalistic contexture of prose, both fictional and non-fictional (Bradford, 1993: 146). His poetry first and foremost provides understanding.

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Robert Browning

Preparatory Readings:
R. Browning, Poems; E. Warwick Slinn (2007) Dramatic Monologue in Cronin, R., A. Chapman and A. Harrison (eds.) A Companion to Victorian Poetry, pp. 80-99; Linda Paterson (2007) Domestic and Idyllic in Cronin, R., A. Chapman and A. Harrison (eds.) A Companion to Victorian Poetry, pp. 42-59;

Stop and Think My Last Duchess (1842): an early dramatic monologue which purports to demonstrate how the reader is drawn into the spatiotemporal conditions of the speakers speech act. All throughout the poem, the poet orchestrates an implicit tension between the poetictextual function and the imagined situation of the utterance. At the prosodic level, the poem consists of enjambed couplets, fact which induces a controlled tension between the metrical pattern of each pentameter, the syntax as well as rhythm of the poem. The syntax reproduces a pattern of unforced, coordinated speech whose point of reference is the painting of the duchess towards which is oriented the entire grammatical structure of shifts in tense, pronouns and verbal inflections. This is not far from the free indirect speech style of the modern novel, except that, in the poem, the poet diligently interweaves the cohesive deictic references that allow us to identify a real extratextual relationship between the she and the I.
My Last Duchess FERRARA Thats my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as she were alive. I call That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolfs hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands, Will t please you sit and look at her? I said Fra Pandolf by design, for never read Strangers like you that pictured countenance, The depth and passion of its earnest glance, But to myself they turned (since none puts by The curtain I have drawn for you, but I) And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, How such a glance came there; so, not the first Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, twas not Her husbands presence only, called that spot Of joy into the Duchess cheek; perhaps Fra Pandolf chanced to say, Her mantle laps Over my ladys wrist too much, or Paint Must never hope to reproduce the faint Half-flush that dies along her throat: such staff Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough

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Robert Browning
For calling up that spot of joy. She had A heart how shall I say? too soon made glad, Too easily impressed: she liked whater She looked on, and her looks went everywhere. Sir, twas all one! My favour at her breast, The dropping of the daylight in the West, The bough of cherries some officious fool Broke in the orchard for her, her white mule She rode with round the terrace all and each Would draw from her alike the approving speech, Or blush, at least. She thanked man, - good! but thanked Somehow I know not how as if she ranked My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name With anybodys gift. Whod stoop to blame This sort of trifling? Even had you skill In speech (which I have not) to make your will Quite clear to such an one, and say, Just this Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, Or there exceed the mark and if she let Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set Her wits to yours, forsooth, and make excuse, -Een then would be some stooping; and I choose Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, Wheneer I passed her; but who passed without Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands As if alive. Willt please you rise? Well meet The company below, then. I repeat, The Count your masters known munificence Is ample warrant that no just pretence Of mine for dowry will be disallowed; Though his fair daughters self, as I avowed At starting, is my object. Nay, well go Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though, Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

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The theme of the poem, order versus disorder, to reiterate in many of Brownings monologues, is carefully built in the Dukes construal of his wifes portrait as an object to be possessed/ admired/ hidden (ll. 3; 8; 9; 10; 46; 47) and an actual being escaping/ eluding his clutch (ll. 24-35). Both instances speak out the dukes utter distaste for his wifes freedom of expression. We say that the poem can function as an extended aporia, creating that intended gap between what the text means to show (the dukes re-enactment of past experiences occasioned by the presentation of the duchesss painting to the envoy of the Count) and what the text is constrained to mean (through rhyming scheme, asides ll. 22; 32-; parenthetical discourse l. 36; explanatory metaphor ll. 5455). Thus, the text involuntarily betrays the tension between rhetoric civilization pull- (which is life-giving) and logic (which is life-denial); between Thats my last Duchess painted on the wall, / Looking as if alive. I call / That piece a wonder, now (ll. 1-3, my italics) and Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands/ As if alive/ (ll. 46-48, my italics). This unsophisticated monologue certainly demonstrates Brownings tact of omission flaunting everything but understanding. ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 67

Robert Browning Andrea del Sarto (1855): another dramatic monologue wherein the poet makes good use of the strategy of withholding while revealing crucial information, and, thus, manages to prevaricate the speakers, the addressees, his own stance on the subject. The poet drew from Vasaris Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects (1550/1568), information on the Florentine painter Andrea del Sarto (son of a tailor) who seems to have been plagued by life as he died of the plague in 1531. He is described as a failure both as an artist and a husband, as he was deserted by his unloving wife. Lionel Trilling and H. Bloom make an exceptional point when they say that, In this study of a deliberate artistic self-crippling, Browning gives us a dramatic speaker who has arranged cunningly his own ruin. Andrea has chosen a wife who he knows will betray him, and an existence which must compromise his own vision as a painter. Fearing to fail by attempting greatness, Andrea is content to have been his own knowing parody of what he might have been (Kermode, 1973: 1329). Browning again and again impersonates other selves so as to free the expressive mind from the oppression of judgmental gaze. So, he aptly chooses artistic ways of exposing the minds deviance in the way he builds Andreas pathetic plea under the form of a lament for artistic failure caused by uxoriousness (excessive and submissive fondness of a wife). Not unlike the Duke of Ferrara, Andrea, the painter, is everything but a lover of beauty, freedom, spontaneity as it befits a man of distinction and lover of art. On the contrary, his imagination is regulative, betraying a meanspirited, egocentric personality. The tactic of making believe vs. seeming and believing turns the reader into an accomplice who is cast in the duplicitous position of sympathizer and judge, being thus forced into acts of attention, if he [the reader] were not to be a failure himself/herself. Andrea del Sarto (Called The Faultless Painter)
But do not let us quarrel any more, No, my Lucrezia; bear with me for once: Sit down and all shall happen as you wish. You turn your face, but does it bring your heart? Ill work then for your friends friend, never fear, Treat his own subject after his own way, Fix his own time, accept too his own price, And shut the money into this small hand When next it takes mine. Will it? Tenderly? Oh, Ill content him but tomorrow, Love! I often am much wearier than you think, This evening more than usual, and it seems As if forgive now should you let sit Here by the window with your hand in mine And look a half-hour forth on Fiesole, Both of one mind, as married people use, Quietly, quietly the evening through, I might get up tomorrow to my work Cheerful and fresh as ever. Let us try. Tomorrow, how you shall be glad for this! Your soft hand is a woman of itself,

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And mine the mans bared breast she curls inside. Dont count the time lost, neither; you must serve For each of the five pictures we require: It saves a model. So! Keep looking so My serpentining beauty, rounds on rounds! -How could you ever prick those perfect ears, Even to put the pearl there! Oh, so sweetMy face, my moon, my everybodys moon, Which everybody looks on and calls his, And, I suppose, is looked on by in turn, While she looks no ones: very dear, no less. You smile? Why, theres my picture ready made, Theres what we painters call our harmony! A common grayness silvers everything All in twilight, you and I alike -You, at the point of your first pride in me (Thats gone you know), but I, at every point; My youth, my hope, my art, being all toned down To yonder sober pleasant Fiesole.

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Andreas proleptic tactic of defence may not excuse him as a failed husband or artist but it surely creates occasions of beautiful verse uxoriously enthralling the reader into his web of discourse: your soft hand is a woman of itself (l. 21). Read the poem My Last Duchess again and discuss how an understanding of denial (instinct of destruction) and displacement (regarding the Dukes negative feelings for popular culture play, socializing, mondainity- his wife - the such an one (l. 37) - stood for) helps us analyse the poets stance towards the speaker, listener and reader. The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxeds Church (ll. 36-62, 1845). A highly incongruent monologue due to the diverse range of registers within the poem, associated with one speaker only. The satiric touch in the poem derives from the double point of view, that of the Bishop and that of the poet which invites judgment of the speaker. See how the intermingling of colloquialisms and archaic language contributes to building that overlapping of the sacred and the profane in such a way as to suggest that for the speaker, all representations are empty signs, mainly because of the bishops carnal incomprehension of anything beyond the material. Compare and contrast the bishops unChristian behaviour, in the quoted extract, to the students discourse in defence of the dead grammarians idealistic dedication to knowledge and faith from the monologue A Grammarians Funeral. Shortly after the Revival of Learning in Europe (ll. 101-126, 1855).
My sons, ye would not be my death? Go dig The white-grape vineyard where the oil-press stood, Drop water gently till the surface sinks, And if ye find Ah, God I knew not, I!... Bedded in store of rotten fig leaves soft, And corded up in a tight olive-frail, Some lump, ah God, of lapis lazuli,

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Robert Browning
Big as a Jews head cut off at the nape, Blue as a vein oer the Madonnas breast Sons, all have I bequeathed you, villas, all, That brave Frascati villa with its bath, So, let the blue lump poise between my knees, Like God the Fathers globe on both his hands Ye worship in the Jesu Church so gay, For Gandolf shall not choose but see and burst! Swift as a weavers shuttle fleet our years: Man goeth to the grave, and where is he? Did I say basalt for my slab, sons? BlackTwas ever antique-black I meant! How else Shall ye contrast my frieze to corne beneath? The bas-relief in bronze ye promised me, Those Pans and Nymphs ye wot of, and perchance Those tripod, thyrsus, with a vase or so, The Saviour at his sermon, on the mount, Saint Praxed in a glory, and one Pan Ready to twitch the Nymphs last garment off, And Moses with the tables (The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxeds Church) Was it not great? Did he throw on God (He loves the burthen)Gods task to make the heavenly period Perfect the earthen? Did he not magnify the mind, show clear Just what it all meant? He would not discount life, as fools do here, Paid by installment. He ventured neck or nothing heavens success Found, or earths failure: wilt thou death or not? He answered Yes: Hence with lifes pale lure! That low man seeks a little thing to do, Sees it and does it. That high man, with a great thing to pursue, Dies ere he knows it. That low man goes on adding one to one, His hundreds soon hit: The high man, aiming at a million, Misses an union. That, has the world here should he need the next, Let the world mind him! This, throws himself on God, and unperplexed Seeking shall find him. So, with the throttling hands of death at strife, Ground he at grammar; (A Grammarians Funeral) 45

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Two in the Campagna (ll. 41-60, 1855). Discuss the poem in the light of Brownings poetics. 9
I would I could adopt your will, See with your eyes, and set my heart Beating by yours, and drink my fill At your souls springs your part my part

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Robert Browning
In life, for good and ill. 10 No. I yearn upward, touch you close, Then stand away. I kiss your cheek, Catch your souls warmth I pluck the rose And love it more than tongue can speak Then the good minute goes. 11 Already how am I so far Out of that minute? Must I go Still like the thistle-ball, no bar, Onward, whenever light winds blow, Fixed by no friendly star? 12 Just when I seemed about to learn! Where is the thread now? Off again! The old trick! Only I discern Infinite passion, and the pain Of finite hearts that yearn. 45

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Further Readings:
Adrienne Scullion (2007) Verse Drama in Cronin, R., A. Chapman and A. Harrison (eds.) A Companion to Victorian Poetry, 187-204; Julia Saville (2007) Marriage and gender in Cronin, R., A. Chapman and A. Harrison (eds.) A Companion to Victorian Poetry, 526-543; J. Maynard (2007) Sexuality and Love in Cronin, R., A. Chapman and A. Harrison (eds.) A Companion to Victorian Poetry, 543-567.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

9. Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the genuine feminine


Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) was more famous as a poet in her life-time than her husband, the poet Robert Browning. She was appreciated mainly for her moral and emotional pathos and eager involvement with the issues of her time that her poetry revealed. She inspired respect and admiration to a great variety of personalities (Ruskin, Swinburne, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf) for the same reasons, i.e. her dedication to and engagement with the problems of the age, including art, womens and childrens rights. Well read in Latin, Greek, contemporary literature, history and philosophy, she was good company on the rare occasions when that was possible because of a tyrannically protective father. After her marriage to Robert Browning and their elopement to Italy in 1846, aged forty, she turned a different personality, vivaciously enjoying good health and inspiration both as a mother and a writer. The letters Mrs. Browning kept sending from Italy to her sisters and her brother George cry out her happiness. They repeat a beautiful story of love between a trustful and cherishing husband and a fledgling wife and caring mother. In spite of the joyful tone all throughout the letters, there is a ring of sadness about them because of her fathers implacable hostility to her marriage. There is a particular event recounted by Elizabeth in one letter we enjoyed reading about, as it says a lot about her attitude to life. It is about an adventurous trip the newly married made to Florence into the mountains to the monastery of Vallombrosa, Browning riding and his wife drawn in a sledge. Since the abbot did not allow them to stay in the house of strangers for five days, Mrs. Browning, in an outburst of feminist protest tells us, when nobody was looking[I] put my foot through the gateway and stamped on the gravel of their courtyard where women were forbidden to enter. The high-spirited escapade is typical of the sparkling amusement and cheerfulness of her letters, as Alethea Hayter tells us (TLS, 1998, 4970: 10). But, Elizabeths best letter to the world is her poetry which is deeply ethical and Romantic at once. If in her early work she wrote more in the visionary mode of Romantic poetry, in her later poetry, she became attracted to more topical issues, such as the exploitation of children in factories and coal mines to be addressed in The Cry of the Children, where the children are given a voice to cry out their sorrow with: If we cared for any meadows, it were merely/ To drop down in them and sleep. / Our knees tremble sorely in the stooping, / We fall upon our faces, trying to go; / And, underneath, our heavy eyelids drooping, / The reddest flower would look as pale as snow. In later poetry, she became engaged with the cause of Italy for liberty, (remindful of her famous predecessor Lord Byron), which, as one critic remarked, might enact her own struggle for poetic identity. Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850), a strange, heavy crown, as R. Browning called them, is a sequence of forty-four sonnets recording the stages of her love for Robert Browning. In delicate, contrived form, the poems were telling the story of Elizabeths feelings toward R. Browning. They ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 72

Elizabeth Barrett Browning start in shyness and end in wonder, delight and gratitude, not infrequently charged with doubts and anxieties. The opening sonnet announced the theme: a movement from suicidal gloom to new life, and the two sonnets that framed the implied narrative, reinforced the idea allegorically, as a triumph of love over death. The general tone of the sequence is light and happy despite the almost tragic intensity of its realistic moments. For instance, Sonnet 32 may well read as a reversal of Shakespeares sonnet 130, My mistress eyes are nothing like the sun. In Shakespeares sonnet, the sonneteer refuses to deploy the stock clichs for female beauty, and in so doing, he ultimately establishes the addressees beauty through the very act of refusing to employ stereotypical figures. Elizabeth Barretts sonnet might be said to perform a figurative reversal of Shakespeares sonnet by rhetorically humbling the poetic addresser rather than the addressee. The first time that the sun rose on thine oath/ To love me, I looked forward to the moon/ To slacken all those bonds which seemed too soon/ And quickly tied to make a lasting troth. / Quick-loving hearts, I thought, may quickly loathe; / And, looking on myself, I seemed not one/ For such mans love! more like an out-of-tune/ Worn viol, a good singer would be wroth/ To spoil his song with, and which, snatched in haste, / Is laid down at the first illsounding note. / I did not wrong myself so, but I placed / A wrong on thee. For perfect strains may float/ Neath master-hands, from instruments defaced -/ And great souls, at one stroke, may do and dote. The mood of near-idolatry Robert Browning spoke about when referring to The Sonnets is well illustrated by this sonnet, where the addressee is figured as a master-hand and the addresser calls herself a Worn viol. The addressee seems to exist in a world of perfection and to be perfect (a great soul); the addresser figures herself as a damaged person (an instrument defaced). The addressee is beautiful, while the addresser is outside of beauty. Elizabeth Barretts sonnet is used by Graham Allen (2000: 142-3) as evidence in his apt demonstration that Blooms theory of the anxiety of influence and the model of misreading he builds upon it is, in fact, his own act of misreading. Allens argument goes that Elizabeth Barretts act of self-humbling in her sonnet is carrier of a deeper signification, in the sense that it testifies to the poetesss critique of the traditional style of amorous verse through a plea for a more realistic mode of love poetry, more conscious of previous literary codes engraved on cultural codes of love poetry. According to G. Allen, the poem stages a poetic conflict, in which romanticized love poetry, through a process of realistic self-assessment, appearing like self-humbling, is overturned in favour of a new, modern, realistic mode of love poetry. That is to say that the real reversal of power and authority in this sonnet might well concern what happens when women write love poetry instead of having love poetry written for them. Since all the sonnets are written by a female poet, as addresser, to a male poet, as addressee, this means that the reversal suggested in her sonnet is, in fact, a reversal of the various intertextual codes, we got used to in love poetry. Aurora Leigh (1857) is the next important work by the poetess. It is a novel in blank verse with improbable plot and touches of autobiography. When Elizabeth Barrett first envisaged the poem, she wrote, My chief intention just now is the writing of a sort of novel-poem running into the mist of our conventions, and rushing into the drawing-rooms and the like where angels fear to tread; and so, meeting face to face and without mask ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 73

Elizabeth Barrett Browning the Humanity of the age, and speaking the truth as I conceive of it out plainly (qtd. Ford, and Christ, 1986: 1075). Critics consider the verse novel a portrait of the artist as a young woman committed to socially realist art. It is evocative of feminist issues concerning the fate of the woman writer and of women in general. Although heavily intertextual (Dickens, Madame de Stal, J. Austen), this verse novel may read as a challenge regarding the substance of poetry as illustrated by M. Arnold, A. Tennyson and others. Elizabeth Barrett Browning felt that the present age contained the materials for epic poetry. Virginia Woolf writes that Elizabeth Barrett was inspired by a flash of true genius when she rushed into the drawing-room and said that here, where we live and work, is the true place for the poet. Despite its didacticism and poetic pedantry, Aurora Leigh manages to give us what V. Woolf describes as a sense of life in general, of people who are unmistakably Victorian, wrestling with the problems of their own time, all brightened, intensified, and compacted by the fire of poetry . Aurora Leigh, with her passionate interest in social questions, her conflict as artist and woman, her longing for knowledge and freedom, is the true daughter of her age (qtd. Ford and Christ, 1986: 1076). This is how Elizabeth Barrett understands and describes the mission of the poet: But poets should/ Exert a double vision; should have eyes/ To see near things as comprehensively/ As if afar they took their point of sight., / And distant things as intimately deep/ As if they touched them. Let us strive for this. / I do distrust the poet who discerns/ No character or glory in his times, / And trundles back his soul five hundred years, / Past moat and drawbridge, into a castle-court (ll. 183-192). The woman-poet, both in the text and outside it, strongly believes in the missionary poet whose sole work is to represent the age, / Their age, not Charlemagnes, - this live, throbbing age, That brawls, cheats, maddens, calculates, more heroic heat, / Betwixt the mirrors of its drawing-rooms, / Than Roland with his knights at Roncesvalles. / To flinch from modern varnish, coat or flounce, / Cry out for togas and the picturesque, / Is fatal, - foolish too. King Arthurs self/ was commonplace to Lady Guenever; / And Camelot to minstrels seemed as flat/ As Fleet Street to our poets (ll. 202-213). The dialogue, in blank-verse, between educated people sounds impressively authentic. Faithful to the principle of letting the spirit make the form, the poem is often allowed to ramble, especially when convictions interrupt the narrative flow. Nevertheless, it has a fairly firm thematic structure, beginning and ending with motherhood in Florence, overarched by the theme of ineptitude, both physical and mental. Of her poetic art-novel she commented: If it is a failure. There will be the comfort of having done it as well as I could (qtd. Sanders, 1990: 360). Casa Guidi Windows (1851) suggests her acute sense of Italian nationalism she developed as a resident in Italy.

Preparatory Readings: E. B. Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850); Aurora Leigh (1857).

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Stop and Think Read sonnets 22 and 43 from Elizabeth Barrett Brownings Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850). Discuss how the author challenges tradition by freeing up romantic passion from the shackles of female anxiety, fact which licenses her to experiment with different roles, moving easily from that of poet-lover to that of beloved.
When our two souls stand up erect and strong, Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and higher, Until the lengthening wings break into fire At either curved point what bitter wrong Can the earth do to us, that we should not long Be here contended? Think. In mounting higher, The angels would press on us and aspire To drop some golden orb of perfect song Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay Rather on earth, Beloved, -where the unfit Contrarious moods of men recoil away And isolate pure spirits, and permit A place to stand and love in for a day, With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.

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How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace. I love thee to the level of everydays Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight. I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise. I love thee with the passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhoods faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.

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Read the following extract from Book 5, Poets and the Present Age, (ll. 155-166) from Aurora Leigh. The poem tells the tale of an Italian orphans pursuit of poetic vocation. Aurora refuses a marriage proposal to dedicate herself to what she considers is her calling in art and society. Demonstrate that Virginia Woolf is right to call Aurora the true daughter of her age, and state how redeeming this reading can be in regard to artistic achievement, or whether wrong thoughts make poor poems, indeed.
Ay, but every age Appears to souls who live in t (ask Carlyle) Most unheroic. Ours, for instance, ours: 155

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning


The thinkers scout it, and the poets abound Who scorn to touch it with a finger-tip; A pewter age, - mixed metal, silver-washed; An age of scum, spooned off the richer past, An age of patches for old gabardines, An age of mere transition, meaning nought Except that what succeeds must shame it quite If God please. Thats wrong thinking, to my mind, And wrong thought make poor poems. 160

165

Further Readings: Eagleton, T. (2007) How to Read a Poem; Alison Chapman (2007) Sonnet and Sonnet Sequence in Cronin, R., A. Chapman and A. Harrison (eds.) A Companion to Victorian Poetry, pp. 99-115.

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Christina Rossetti

10. Christina Rossetti and the precarious self


Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), one of nineteenth-century Englands greatest Odd Women (qtd. McGann, 1986: 1501), a devout Anglo-Catholic, occupied herself with charitable work, with caring for her family and writing poetry. Her favourite sources were Tennyson, Coleridge, Shelley, and the Bible, especially Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Most of the short poems written between 1847 and 1859 were concerned with the desolation of disappointed love, in the spirit of Proverbs 13: 12, Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. The sonnet Remember is impressive by its generous tone of unconditional caring which carries conviction: Remember me when I am gone away, / Gone far away into the silent land; / When you can no more hold me by the hand, / Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. / remember me when no more day by day/ You tell me of our future that you planned: / Only remember me; you understand/ It will be late to counsel then or pray. / Yet if you should forget me for a while/ And afterwards remember, do not grieve: / For if the darkness and corruption leave/ A vestige of the thoughts that once I had, / Better by far you should forget and smile/ Than that you should remember and be sad. Christina Rossettis performance in poetry is most often associated with her strangely innocent treatment of sexuality in Goblin Market (1862), which expresses her joie de vivre. This moral fable for children contains religious themes of temptation and redemption through vicarious suffering. The fruit that tempts Laura is not from the Tree of Knowledge but from an orchard of sensual delights. The ostensible moral, there is no friend like a sister, and the dedication to Christinas sister Maria, who later became a nun, is equally suggestive of the theme of the poem: a growing out of the obsession with unsatisfactory love-affairs to family affection, which may offer a release from sexual love: For there is no friend like a sister/ In calm or stormy weather; / To cheer one on the tedious way, / To fetch one if one goes astray (ll. 562-65). The spontaneous rhythm of nursery rhymes, while running counter its obscure sensuality, spells out the ambivalent attitude towards instinctive feeling which is symbolically rendered by a subtle change in the character of the goblins. If at first they are nice, cuddle, rather funny little animals, by the end, they are frighteningly evil. The Princes Progress (1866), discloses a woman poet in despair replete with the spirit of self-postponement her brother William Michael identified in her. Remindful of Bunyans poem, the poem is centered on the too-late motif, so different in tone from some of her earlier poems. Monna Innominata (1866-1881) voices Christinas protest against the anonymous part women come to play in poetry, only as muse, and not agents, although they may be equally endowed with poetic talent as men are. The sequence of fourteen sonnets, in imitation of the structure of The House of Art, suggests that the whole work is meant to parallel the sonnet-structure. Thus, the first eight sonnets are concerned with the poets human feelings, while the last six are concerned with the poets relationship to God, and the acceptance of Sua Volontade: Youth gone and beauty gone, what doth ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 77

Christina Rossetti remain? / The longing of a heart pent up forlorn, / A silent heart whose silence loves and longs; / The silence of a heart which sang its songs/ While youth and beauty made a summer morn, / Silence of love that cannot sing again. Christina Rossetti is a poet who created, according to Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, an aesthetics of renunciation, in the way the poetic self creates an unstable relationship to the other by a poetics of deferral, deflection and negation. But, what remains stable is the music of her poetry like a melody by Mozart or an air by Gluck (Virginia Woolf).

Preparatory Readings: C. Rossetti, Poems; Goblin Market.

Stop and Think Read the following extract from Goblin Market (ll. 32-63) and discuss how simple, unadorned style may induce that ambivalent feeling of innocence and guilt children suck out from their mothers. How does Empsons say that, the women writers were of higher average discernment than the men include the Cristina Rossetti of these lines? Can the rhyme-scheme be suggestive of a new sense of freedom Laura/ Lizzie/ Christina have discovered?
Evening by evening Among the brookside rushes, Laura bowed her head to hear, Lizzie veiled her blushes: Crouches close together In the cooling weather, With clasping arms and cautioning lips, With tingling cheeks and finger tips. Lie close, Laura said, Pricking up her golden head: We must not look at goblin men, We must not buy their fruits: Who knows upon what soil they fed Their hungry thirsty roots? Come buy, call goblins Hobbling down the glen Oh, cried Lizzie, Laura, Laura, You should not peep at goblin men. Lizzie covered up her eyes, Covered close lest they should look; Laura reared her glossy head, And whispered like the restless brook: Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie, Down the glen tramp little men. One hauls a basket, One bears a plate,

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Christina Rossetti
One lugs a golden dish Of many pounds weight. How fair the vine must grow Whose grapes are so luscious; How warm the wind must blow Thro those fruit bushes. 60

Read Christina Rossettis poem A Birthday (1857/1862) and account for the idea that her exuberant imagery is consistent with her favourite Proverb: Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
My heart is like a singing bird Whose nest is in a watered shoot; My heart is like an apple tree Whose boughs are bent with thickest fruit; My heart is like a rainbow shell That paddles in a halcyon sea; My heart is gladder than all these Because my love is come to me. Raise me a dais of silk and down; Hang it with vair and purple dyes; Gave it in doves and pomegranates, And peacocks with a hundred eyes; Work it in gold and silver grapes, In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys; Because the birthday of my life Is come, my love is come to me.

Further Readings: David Shaw (2007) Poetry and Religion in Cronin, R., A. Chapman and A. Harrison (eds.) A Companion to Victorian Poetry, pp. 457-75; David Riede (2007) The Pre-Raphaelite School in Cronin, R., A. Chapman and A. Harrison (eds.) A Companion to Victorian Poetry, pp. 291-305.

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Gerard Manley Hopkins

11. G. M. Hopkins and the ever return to God


G. M. Hopkins is an intimidating, recherch figure in the gallery of poets designated Victorian or early modern. The fact that his poetry was published only in 1918, nearly thirty years after his death, makes it easy to consider it a product of twentieth century. However, its philological and rhetorical passion and concentration on the inner workings of the soul recommends it as a product of the nineteenth. He is essentially a visionary writer, his concept of inscape referring to the interior perception into the being of the object. Unlike some of the Romantics, Hopkins is insistently religious in his understanding: God is the inscape of the created world. This confers his poetic universe the aura of divine presence. But, this divine presence is miraculously and iconically contained in Hopkinss material world, however imperfect and transient; as he says in Gods Grandeur, the world is charged with divine presence, which will flame out, like shining from shook foil. It is this shining of the presence of God in the material world that most of Hopkinss poems strive to depict; it is this same shining that Hopkinss famous coinages, inscape and instress, were created to describe. The difficulty and grandeur of Hopkinss poetic world comes out from the various ways the poet understands to inscribe the transcendent within the poetic representation of the material, which is referred to by Dennis Sobolev as the rhetoric of the immanent (2003: 99-115). This is ever more important in Hopkinss case since Hopkins is the case of a poet-priest for whom the religious vision of the world and human experience is both cause and effect of poetic writing. By consequence, Hopkins will use a variety of rhetorical strategies meant to blur, if not efface the boundary between the physical and the transcendent, between the singular and the universal. On the basic linguistic level, the inscription of divine presence is achieved by means of different phonetic and syntactic techniques, whose function is, at once, to dramatize the self-revelation of God in the material world, and to create a web of formal, semantic relations between apparently disconnected elements of nature, spiritual universe and human experience. But, what is indeed the achieve of, the mastery of his rhetoric is the metaphor, either in its bipartide structure, or as macro-metaphor together with other rhetorical strategies, all purporting to weave a tissue of interrelations suggestive of the unifying presence of God in the world. It is important to remember the diverse influences contributing to Hopkinss artistic formation and religious conversion: M. Arnolds liberal humanism; Ruskins ethical aesthetic in his insistence on moral transformation through art; Walter Paters more radical aesthetic in his insistence on the priority of the aesthetic over the ethical; The PreRaphaelites preoccupation with the pictorial descriptions and religious concerns; E. Puseys role as leader of The High Church Movement; J. H. Newmans activity as leader of the Oxford Movement (Tractarian

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Gerard Manley Hopkins Movement).2 But, all along he has remained a specialist and outstanding searcher in the science of poetic language for whom the sound and spirit of words are identical with being, existing in the world. As a Professor of Greek and Latin literature, he was well conversant with verse-rhetoric he lectured on at Roehampton. So, its only natural that his views on poetry, poetics, and poetic language should inform his poetic practices. Hopkins defined poetry: speech formed for contemplation of the mind by the way of hearing or speech framed to be heard for its own sake and interest even over and above its interest of meaning. This is remindful of earlier poetic practices (e.g. A. Ch. Swinburne) and anticipatory of Derridas theory of the supplement (phonocentrism, privileging speech over writing as early as Platos Dialogues). This justifies Hopkins in his insistence that his verse should be read with the ears, not slovenly with the eyes (qtd. in Turner, 1989: 140), given the abundance of rhetorical devices which accumulate in it. This further relates to Hopkinss acute sense of individuality which should singularize the poet, who is like a species in nature (not an individuum genericum or specificum) and can never recur. So it seems that the sound of words and the concept of identity would together form the nucleus of his mature poetry. Or, as Hopkins put it in some notes on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (1880): Nothing else in nature comes near this unspeakable stress of pitch, distinctiveness and selving, this self being of my own, searching nature I taste self but at one tankard, that of my own being (1880/1985: 146). To express this uniqueness of things seen and said, Hopkins coined two original terms whose concepts had been anticipated by Ruskin and Pater. These are inscape and instress; the former relates to what Shelley called the One Spirits plastic stress; the latter refers to a kind of mystical illumination or insight, as it provides the sensation, the spirit of the former one. So, inscape stands for the outward signs by which a creatures inner identity could be grasped; and instress for (1) the emotional force with which inscape impressed itself on ones consciousness; (2) the power of the eye to communicate with the noneye; (3) the power of man to reveal his inscape to the inscape of the objects; (4) the power of the object to reveal its own inscape; (5) the power to secure the unity of the world; (6) the impulse towards its own proper function, inherent in everything. Running instress is used to convey the modification of one instress by the relics of a previous one in the mind of the observer, and was inspired by Ruskins discussion on the difference between a painting and a simple topography, in his essay Modern Painters (1843). To Hopkins, what really matters is the divine origin of the design of the object. This translates in his interest in catching himself catching an inscape rather than simply catching the inscape; such a daring enterprise forces the language to be appropriate both to the inscape and his own self-being. The themes of his early poems (A Vision of Mermaids; HeavenHaven; The Habit of Perfection) are intensely religious as reflective of his deep faith in the work/word of God: renunciation, martyrdom, crucifixion, selfflagellation, spiritual drought and self-condemnation. They are revelatory of
2

They were concerned with the strengthening of the traditional Church of England by emphasizing the importance of ritual and ceremony in religious life and, mainly, by encouraging devotional experience. Both influences (Puseys and Newmans) contributed to Hopkinss conversion to Roman Catholicism and subsequent ordination as Jesuit priest in 1877.

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Gerard Manley Hopkins God Almighty in both His Strength and Mercy. Hopkinss striking originality derives from his condensed style, always forcing words into multiple semantic relations between heterogeneous elements of his poetic space to the purpose of imitating and enacting Gods unifying presence in the world. Hopkinss ongoing interest in linking aesthetics and religion finds support in Duns Scotus3s learning about the interrelationship between the specificity of things and Gods ubiquitous presence in the whole creation. Thus, Scotuss theory of haecceitas (<thisness>, the distinctiveness of each thing), becomes Hopkinss springboard in developing his views on the process of selving each object, which thus, partakes of the inscape of God. In 1875, Hopkins wrote his longest poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland, occasioned by the tragic accident of a German ship, The Deutschland, which was wrecked at the mouth of the Thames. The poet dedicated it To the/ happy memory of five Franciscan nuns/ exiles by the Falck Laws/ drowned between midnight and morning of/ Dec. 7th, 1875. After a poetic absence he imposed on himself during his novitiate, he resumed his writing at the request of his superiors, but also as an outburst of the repository of rhetorical devices he accumulated from different sources, mainly Welsh poetry. But, as he admits, it is sense that inspired the poem, not sound. Thus, the poem comes to reflect Hopkinss aesthetic and religious ideas while demonstrating a new rhythm he called sprung rhythm and extensively explained in letters and his Preface to Poems. This rhythm differs from common rhythm in that the metrical feet are not determined by a fixed number of syllables, but may even consist in a single stressed syllable. What counts in a line is the number of stresses and not the number of syllables, which renders it closer to natural speech in its potential of meaningfulness and feeling, and expressiveness, in preference to tunefulness (Lees, 1982: 376). The poem is an elaborate deployment4 of the poets distress at a catastrophe taking on the significance of martyrdom, especially in the depiction of the sacrificial scenes of the nuns praying for Gods mercy and the terrifying scenes of individual deaths. The poems fluctuating crescendo through markedness of rhythm ensures that organic growth of meaning out of form. And this meaning is that the wreck as harvest was an Act of God who thus demonstrated His irresistible power to master Man for his own good. This most troubling message is being inscribed throughout the poem which begins and ends with this sense of Gods mastery of the poet, and of us all. What is perennially relevant about this poem, like all other poems by the poet, is his mastery of form and style. Hopkins adopted the principles of sprung rhythm to the sonnet form, but most importantly, he reproduces the structure of metaphor on the level of poetic forms in the way many sonnets are written as macro-metaphors (e.g. Spring; The Starlight Night; The Windhover), fact which facilitates the exchange between the major parts of the double referential field of Hopkinss poetry: the sensuous and the spiritual one. It has also been argued that Hopkinss nature sonnets repeatedly juxtapose, in the clear-cut boundary
John Duns Scotus, a 13th century Scottish scholastic theologian and Franciscan priest who wrote Scriptum Oxoniense super Sententiis and developed a theory of individuality whose principle was called haecceitas (thisness). 4 It consists of thirty-five eight-line stanzas, rhyming ababcbca, whose rhythm scheme (number of stress-feet in the line), is 23435546 in Part I and 33435546 in Part II.
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Gerard Manley Hopkins between the octave and the sestet, the detailed descriptions of nature with different components of religious life: with the invocations of God and iconographic descriptions in The Windhover; benediction and communion in Pied Beauty; half-mystical ecstasy in Hurrahing in Harvest. Such juxtaposition of contexts (also termed diaphora) causes the transference of meaning, in the sense that the least significant details of the descriptions of nature become charged with the grandeur of God, thus making possible His explicit revelation. In point of style, Hopkins uses rhetorical strategies (such as parallelism and repetition) for establishing explicit relationships; and more indirect strategies (like ambiguity, ellipsis, aposiopesis, inversions, substitutions, paradigmatic violations, etc.) to force the reader into making connections in order to make the text intelligible. Hopkinss recourse to the rhetoric of a-temporality (Sobolov, 2003: 100) (describing the flux of events from the vantage point of non-existential nowness) effectively aims at bridging the temporal and the eternal towards inscribing the transcendent through the material. This a-temporality is also sustained by the illusion of colloquialism Hopkinss musical rhythms produce. Hopkinss poetical language, due to its variation in pitch, stress and rhythmic emphasis sounds like the verbal equivalent of a musical piece. Although strikingly original, his language is rooted in speech, or as he admitted: the poetical language of an age should be the current language heightened, to any degree heightened and unlike itself (Hopkins, 1879). This is to say that his poetic language forces the signifier engulf the signified in the very way the transcendent is literally inscribed in the material. Or as D. Sobolev ably demonstrates, Hopkinss poetry is situated halfway between the singular and the universal, between the temporal and the eternal, between the material and the transcendent, between the created and the Creator (2003: 113).

Preparatory Readings:
G. M. Hopkins (1880/ 1985) Comments on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyala. On Principium sive Fundamentum, in Poems and Prose, pp. 145150; G. M. Hopkins, Letter to R. W. Dixon, (Oct. 5, 1878); G. M. Hopkins, Letter to Robert Bridges (14 August 1879).

Stop and Think The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord (1877), which Hopkins thought the best thing he had ever written, may read as a happy fusion of the literal and figural images of the Redemption. The poem opens on the minute description of the flight of a kestrel (small falcon). The verbal description in the octave is at once literal (in the way of rendering the perceptual experience of the flight) and metaphorical (in the way the representational function closes upon itself). ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 83

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I caught this mornings minion, kingdom of daylights dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing In his ecstasy! Then off, off forth on swing, 5 As a skates heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bent: the hurl and gliding Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding Stirred for a bird, - the achieve of, the mastery of the thing! Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion 10 Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier! No wonder of it: sher pld makes plough down sillion Shine, and blue-break embers, ah my dear, Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

The sonnet may read as a progression from the concrete beauty of nature described in the octave to its spiritual analogue or counterpart in the sestet. It moves from an instress of half-envious wonder at the beauty of the birds movements, emphatically enacted in words (My heart in hiding/ Stirred for a bird, - the achieve of, the mastery of the thing! ll. 7-8) to an affirmation that the humility and self-sacrifice of Christ are infinitely more beautiful: a billion/ Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier! (ll.10-11). Despite their vagueness, the octave and the sestet establish two referential contexts: that of the sensuous experience of the kestrels flight and that of Christs selfsacrifice. In other words, a religious meaning is inscribed within Hopkinss presentation of perceptual experience. That is to say the transition from nature to divine presence is not experienced as the metaphorization of nature, but as the articulation of the meaning which is immanent in sensuous experience itself (Sobolov, 2003: 104). While Empson (1930: 284-6) considers the poem the most stubborn type of ambiguity evocative of a fundamental division in the writers mind, Arakelian (1980) considers ambiguities the inscape, the soul of Hopkinss poetry. And we consider that, in this poem, ambiguity tightens the invisible semantic texture, in the same way the poems rhetorical potential derives from an on-the-wing multiplication of the sound of the word in the text. The Wreck of the Deutschland (stanzas 1; 2; 28, 1875): A long poem with a double structure meant to foreground the similarity between the speaker and the perished German nun. Behind both stories of sacrifice, the Christian paradigm of self-sacrifice becomes gradually visible until it buckles in stanza 22: Five! The finding and sake/ And cipher of suffering Christ. / Mark, the mark is of mans make/ And the word of it Sacrificed (ll. 169-172). Sobolev argues that the tripartide parallelism causes incessant semantic exchange between the story of Christ, the death of the nun and Hopkinss own experience of spiritual crisis; this exchange between layers of signification makes the poem more than Rhyme in a wide sense.
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Thou mastering me God! Giver of breath and bread; Worlds strand, sway of the sea; Lord of living and dead; Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh, And after it almost unmade, what with dread, Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh? Over again I feel thy finger and find thee. 2 I did say yes O at lightning and lashed rod; Thou heardst me truer than tongue confess Thy terror, O Christ, O God; Thou knowest the walls, alter and hour and night: The swoon of a heart that the sweep and the hurl of thee trod Hard down with a horror of height: And the midriff astrain with learning of, laced with fire of stress.

10

15

The opening stanza in its dignified, powerful address to God sets the coordinates of the tense, conflicting, even ambiguous relationship between the addresser and the addressee. The much vaunted virtues of sprung rhythm (nearest to the rhythm of prose; most natural rhythm of speech; most rhetorical and emphatic of all possible rhythms; the rhythms self), multiply the initial ambiguity built in the game of metaphorical exchange. The poets personal anguish prefiguring his spiritual crisis is woven in the metaphoric use of finger (l. 8): Over again I feel thy finger and find thee, which is to reiterate in stanza 31 when the cry of the drowning nun addresses the passengers of the ship to prepare themselves for death: lovely felicitous Providence/ Finger of a tender of, O of a feathery delicacy (ll. 245-6). The tension between the contingent experience of individual experience and eternal/ objective meaning is inscribed in the allegorical structure of temporality set up in the first stanza. In order to rule out the tension, the poet must create a world of symbol in which meaning is simultaneous with the event, and thus contingency is no longer a matter of individual existence. This world of symbol is delineated in the first stanza as the space of nowness: Thou mastering me/ God, says the first line. Importantly, this nowness is the time of Hopkinss poetic space only, wherein events happen simultaneously: Over again I feel thy finger and find thee (l. 8); I kiss my hand/ To the stars (ll. 33-4); or as when proffering his spiritual progress: I greet him the days I meet him, and bless when I understand (l. 40); Make mercy in all of us, out of us all/ Mastery (ll. 79-80). The present tense contributes to the illusion of nowness in creating the feeling that the time of the events and the time of speaking coincide, which eventually contributes to building the illusion of the non-existential time of spiritual simultaneity ((Sobolov, 2003: 111). At the metaphorical level, this translates, for one thing, in the way the reader is involved into participation in the spiritual crisis/ conversion of the speaker, for another, in the way Hopkins creates a symbolic poetic space, in which the revelation of the meaning of the events is simultaneous with the events themselves. With the second stanza the poet further problematizes the relationship between himself and God, to the purpose of revealing the different stages of his spiritual evolution. This is deictically enacted in tense again: I did say yes (l. ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 85

Gerard Manley Hopkins 10); Thou hearst me (l. 11). This interplay of tenses allows the revelation of the interplay between the poets own spiritual history and the eternal spiritual meaning to be inscribed in the poem. In other words: Instead of the nowness of the poem being contaminated by personal historicity, this non-existential nowness absorbs, moulds and redeems temporality itself (Sobolov, 2003: 112). In stanza 28, Hopkins inscribes his confusion and impatience by means of elliptical discourse or a series of aposiopeses.
28 But how shall Imake me room there: Reach me aFancy, come faster Strike you the sight of it? Look at it loom there, Thing that sheThere then! The Master, 220 Ipse, the only one, Christ, King, Head: He was to cure the extremity where he had cast her; Do, deal, lord it with living and dead; Let him ride, her pride, in his triumph, despatch and have done with his doom there.

The role of the fractured, jagged speech is not only to create that urgency and emphasis of search, the inability to articulate his insight into the meaning of the nuns words, but mainly to show/ enact the potential of silence whenever the meaning one has understood transcends the possibilities of expression. This might point to a poetics of mystery whose aim is to inscribe the transcendent in the material. Read the sonnets The Starlight Night (1) and Spring (2). Demonstrate that the allegorization in the sestet has been prefigured by the development of Hopkinss argument in the octave. That is, metaphorical exchange negotiates between sensory experience and divine presence in the way words, in the octave, literally add to the effect of inscribing immanence, in the sestet (e.g. gold; skies, bright boroughs, elves, flake-doves (1); lambs, descending blue, echoing timber (2)). Notice how the poet, by inscribing conventional (iconographic, 2) details within the physical space of the poems, in fact, facilitates its subsequent allegorization as the vision of an Edenic world. See how the absorption and elimination of temporality is being achieved in each poem (i.e. the experience and verbal articulation coincide). See how each poem is made into a unique design that captures the initial inspiration of the poet caught by his subject. Identify elements characteristic of Hopkinss disruptive semantics, syntax, punctuation, and see how they testify to the poets travail of representing the stress and action of the brain in moments of inspiration.
The Starlight Night
Look at the stars! Look, look up at the skies! O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air! The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there! Down in dim woods the diamond delves! The elves-eyes! The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies! Wind-beat whitebeam! Airy abeles set on a flare! Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!Ah well! It is all a purchase, all is a prize. Buy then! Bid then! What? Prayer, patience alms, woes.

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Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs! Look! March-bloom, like on mealed-with yellow sallows! These are indeed the barn; withindoors house The shocks. This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows. 10

Spring
Nothing is as beautiful as SpringWhen weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush; Thrushs eggs look little low heavens, and thrush Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring The ear, it strikes like lightings to hear him sing; The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling. What is all this juice and all this joy? A strain of the earths sweet being in the beginning In Eden garden Have, get, before it cloy, Before it clout, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning, Innocent mind and mayday in girl and boy, Most, O maids child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

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Read the poem Pied Beauty and detail on how its diaphoric structure explains the transition from the sensuous to the metaphysical. See into how the tightening of the semantic structure by means of metaphorical knots is ensured. Also reflect on how the dialectics of the being of nature, the intuition of Gods presence in it and the instressing of this intuition by men is being inscribed in the poem by use of tense. Comment on how Hopkinss theological convictions inform both poetic structure and substance. Decide on what has priority (sense, colloquy, structure) in making possible the explicit revelation of an implicit state.
Glory be to God for dappled thingsFor skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls, finches wings; Landscape plotted and pieced fold, fallow, and plough; And ll trades, their gear and tackle and trim. All things counter, original, spare, strange; Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise him.

Read the following extracts from Hopkinss letter to R. W. Dixon and his Preface to poems. In both texts, Hopkins details on the theory of sprung rhythm, a metrical system he re-discovered and effectively explored in his poems.
You ask, do I write verse myself. What I had written I burnt before I became a Jesuit and resolved to write no more, as not belonging to my profession, unless it were by the wish of my superiors; so for seven years I wrote nothing but two or three little presentation pieces which occasion called for. But when in the winter of 75 the Deutschland was wrecked in the mouth of the Thames and five Franciscan nuns, exiles from Germany by the Falck laws, aboard of

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Gerard Manley Hopkins


her were drowned I was affected by the account and happening to say so to my rector he said that he wished someone would write a poem on the subject. On this hint I set to work and, though my hand was out at first, produced one. I had long had haunting my ear the echo of a new rhythm which now I realized on paper. To speak shortly, it consists in scanning by accents or stresses alone, without ant account of the number of syllables, so that a foot may be one strong syllable or it may be many light and one strong. I do not say the idea is altogether new; there are hints of it in music, in nursery rhymes and popular jingles, in the poets themselves, and, since then, I have seen it talked about as a thing possible in critics. (Letter to R. W. Dixon, Oct. 5, 1878) [It] is measured by feet of from one to four syllables, regularly, and for particular effects any number of weak or slack syllables may be used. It has one stress, which falls on the only syllable, if there is only one, or, if there are more, then scanning as above, on the first, and so given rise to four sorts of feet, a monosyllable and the so-called accentual Trochee, Dactyl, and the First Paeon. And there will be four corresponding natural rhythms; but nominally the feet are mixed and any one may follow any other. And hence Sprung Rhythm differs from Running Rhythm in having or being only one nominal rhythm, a mixed or logaoedic one, instead of three, but on the other hand in having twice the flexibility of foot, so that any two stresses may either follow one another running or be divided by one, two, or three slack syllables. (Preface to Poems, 1918)

Further Readings: Chris Snodgrass (2007) The Poetry of 1890s in Cronin, R., A. Chapman and A. Harrison (eds.) A Companion to Victorian Poetry, pp. 32143; Marjorie Perloff (2007) Pound/Stevens: Whose Era? in Whitworth, M. (ed.) (2007) Modernism, pp. 81-99; Georg Lukacs (2007) The Ideology of Modernism in Whitworth, M. (ed.) Modernism, pp. 102-114; Theodor Adorno (2007) Reconciliation Under Duress in Whitworth, M. (ed.) Modernism, 114122.

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Self-evaluation

Self-Evaluation Questions
1. According to the romantics notion of selfhood, each individual possesses a unified, unique selfhood which is also the expression of a universal human nature. Explain the above assertion providing examples from the studied authors. 2. How does the Romantic poets striving for the infinite translate in their use of poetic language, versification, and design? 3. Detail upon the Romantic tenets which are being addressed by N. Rmbu when he says we call romantic the spiritual force capable of imposing laws upon the ignoble material world through art creation. 4. Considering that autobiography represents an unmediated and yet stabilizing wholeness for the self, what Romantic poet can be best legitimized by the law of genre as writing in the autobiographical mode? Support your assertion with revelatory examples of poems. 5. Expound on Wordsworths and Shelleys ideas on poetry and the poet. Strictly refer to their contribution to the poetics of Romanticism. 6. Why is G. G. Byron considered an arch-Romantic? 7. See to how Keatss poetics combine to the purpose of presenting the minds search for the truth of Being. 8. Develop on the idea of Keats and the poetic principle of selfdevelopment. 9. Account for Coleridges definition of his poetry as rationalized dream. 10. Account for S. T. Coleridges views of poetry and nature. 11. S. T. Coleridges philosophical system vs. J. Keatss thinking system. 12. Assess R. Brownings poetics as a herald of modernism. 13. Explain why G. M. Hopkins is considered an outstanding searcher in the science of poetic language. 14. Assess Tennysons contribution to Victorian poetry. 15. A. Tennysons self-renewing techniques and his conception of language. 16. R. Brownings method in poetry vs. Alfred Tennysons method. 17. Aspects separating Browning from the Victorian Age. 18. Discuss Hopkinss aesthetic and religious views. 19. Explain what Richard Bradford means when he says: For the Victorians the relationship between the conventional and the cognitive elements of the double pattern was comparable to the public relationship between men and women. The marriage was necessary. 20. See to ways the poets specific poetics is illustrated in J. Keatss poem Ode to Psyche. 21. See to ways the poets specific poetics is illustrated in A. Tennysons poem Section 54. 22. See to ways the poets specific poetics is illustrated in G. M. Hopkinss poem Spring. ROMANTIC AND VICTORIAN POETRY 89

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