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Universal Elements of Poetry

raillery - Coarse, rough, form of satire. Characteristic of the Restoration period in answer to the refined, polite, but cynical age. Described by Dryden in A Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of Satire “How easy is it to call a rogue and villain, and that wittily! But how hard to make a man appear a fool, a blockhead, or a knave without using any of those opprobrious terms! To spare the grossness of the names, and to do the thing yet more severely, is to draw a full face, and to make the nose and cheeks stand out, and yet not to employ any depth of shadowing. This is the mystery of that noble trade, which yet no master can teach to his apprentice; he may give the rules, but the scholar is never the nearer in his practice. Neither is it true that this fineness of raillery is offensive. A witty man is tickled while he is hurt in this manner, and a fool feels it not." Note: fine railery.

pre Raphaelites - The term is more properly applied to the history of painting in Italy and a group of English painters: William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Rossetti, and one sculptor. Tomas Woolner. But there was also a group of Victorian poets working in London in 1848 who by there own initiative declared themselves supporters led by Dante Rossetti, “a painter by profession a poet for enjoyment.” Critics described them as led by some of sort of “wishy-washy” emotionalism. Nevertheless some rather excellent true-to-fact perceptive, soberly stated poetry was written by this group. Many of which were published in the short-lived Pre-Raphaelite journal The Germ. A journal established in 1850, edited by William Michael Rossetti, whose purpose was”to enforce and encourage an entire adherence to the simplicity of nature,” there was no mention of the mystical signs important to the group. Medieval in style and theme thus the name Pre Raphaelite. The group was strongly religious and moralizing but was viciously criticized especially by Charles Dickens. The most damaging article was titled The Fleshly School of Poetry. Published in the Contemporary Review, it was a scathing attack against the poetry especially that of Dante Rossetti. It was described as “morbidity, nastiness, perverted sensuality and indifference more exalted concerns of poetry.” Mostly attributed to parts of the text from The Bride’s Prelude:

That time we wandered out
All the sun's hours, but missed our way
When evening darkened, and so lay
The whole night covered up in hay.
“At last my face was hidden: so,
Having God's hint, I paused
Not long; but drew myself more near
Where thou wast laid, and shook off fear,
And whispered quick into thine ear
“Something of the whole tale. At first
I lay and bit my hair
For the sore silence thou didst keep:
Till, as thy breath came long and deep,
I knew that thou hadst been asleep.
“The moon was covered, but the stars
Lasted till morning broke.
Awake, thou told'st me that thy dream
Had been of me,—that all did seem
At jar,—but that it was a dream.
“I knew God's hand and might not speak.
After that night I kept
Silence and let the record swell:
Till now there is much more to tell
Which must be told out ill or well.”

Not much of his poetry appears in literature collections for the younger students probably because there is much to question when the poet engages in excessive artifice as this:

“the smooth black streak that makes thy whiteness fair” which should be understood as “the ink used in writing a love-letter”

For Rossetti “as dogma he cared not at all about it; for the beauty he cared intensely...that which is beautiful is right; what is not beautiful ought not to be.” They did find support from John Ruskin who was a strong proponent of their principles and who once declared Dante Rossetti as “the chief intellectual force in the establishment of the modern Romantic School in England.”. Still the movement lasted only four years with a small revival by William Morrris (1834-1896). Strictest adherence came from the work of Christina Rossetti 1830-1894 and Algernon Swinburne (1837-1909); and to a less extent, William Morris (1834-1896).

Pre-Raphaelite poetry differs little from other Victorian verse in terms of form, style, meter or rhythm. However tone is quite another matter. See for yourself. Here are three poems written by three different poets from the same literary era. One student described them as dark, darker, and darkest. The first is by Pre-Raphaelite Chiristina Rossetti (1830-1894) rhyming aaab;cccb; the second and third in rhymed couplets by Victorian Lewis Carroll (1832-1898); and American Renaissance Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849).


by Christina Rossetti

Where sunless rivers weep
Their waves into the deep,
She sleeps a charmed sleep:
Awake her not.

Led by a single star,
She came from very far
To seek where shadows are
Her pleasant lot.

She left the rosy morn,
She left the fields of corn,
For twilight cold and lorn
And water springs.

Through sleep, as through a veil,
She sees the sky look pale,
And hears the nightingale
That sadly sings.

Rest, rest, a perfect rest
Shed over brow and breast;
Her face is toward the west,
The purple land.

She cannot see the grain
Ripening on hill and plain;
She cannot feel the rain
Upon her hand.

Rest, rest, for evermore
Upon a mossy shore;
Rest, rest at the heart's core
Till time shall cease:

Sleep that no pain shall wake;
Night that no morn shall break
Till joy shall overtake
Her perfect peace.


By Lewis Carroll

When midnight mists are creeping,
And all the land is sleeping,
Around me tread the mighty dead
And slowly pass away.

Lo, warriors, saints, and sages,
From out the vanished ages,
With solemn pace and reverend face,
Appear and pass away.

The blaze of noonday splendour,
The twilight soft and tender,
May charm the eye, yet they shall die,
Shall die and pass away.

But here in Dreamlands’s centre
No spoiler’s hand may enter,
These visions fair, this radiance rare,
Shall never pass away.

I see the shadows falling,
The forms of old recalling;
Around me tread the mighty dead,
And slowly pass away.


By Edgar Allan Poe

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named Night,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim ThuleFrom a wild clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of space out of time

Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
With forms that no man can discover
For the tears that drip all over;
Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore;
Seas that restlessly aspire,
Surging, unto skies of fire;
Lakes that endlessly outspread
Their lone waters lone and dead,
Their still waters still and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily.

By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead,
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily,
By the mountains near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,
By the grey woods, by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp

By the dismal tarns and pools
Where dwell the Ghouls,
By each spot the most unholy
In each nook most melancholy
There the traveller meets aghast
Sheeted memories of the past
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by
White-robed forms of friends long given,
In agony, to the Earth and Heaven.

For the heart whose woes are legion
'Tis a peaceful, soothing region-
For the spirit that walks in shadow
'Tis oh, 'tis an Eldorado!
But the traveller, travelling through it,
May not dare not openly view it!
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills its King, who hath forbidThe uplifting of the fringed lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named Night,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have wandered home but newly
From this ultimate dim Thule.

repetend - a repeated sound, word, or phrase; also a refrain. From the Latin repetendus to be repeated. First use found in the Victorian era around 1874.

rhetoric - In poetry this refers to the emotional qualities that reflect extreme feeling of strength energy, pathos, humor, wit, beauty, or tranquility. From rhetoric we derive the tone or mood of a poem or passage. There is much “rhetoric” used in the criticism of poetry and poets. For example:

“It contains the highest flights of the author’s imagination, his mellowest music, his richest humour, and some of his most impressive passages.” written of Longfellow’s Golden Legend by John Nichol, critic and professor of English Literature, member of the Dialectic Society of Glasgow.

“His command of imagery is wide, easy, and luxuriant. He threw the sound of harmony into our verse, and made it more warmly, tenderly, and magnificently descriptive than it ever was before, or, with a few exceptions, that it has ever been since.” Campbell. Scottish poet editor of The New Monthly Magazine speaking of Spenser’s poetry. And of Tennyson “T... has formed himself a composite and richly-wrought style, into the elaborate texture of which many elements…have entered…pathetic cadences, epic tones, delicate grace…”

Rhetorical context - This term refers to the use of word clues in poetry or prose to reveal to the reader the circumstances, action, incident, or occasion. Implied or literal the clues may be


“Take my drum to England, hang it by the shore,
Strike it when your powder’s runnin’ low’
If the Dons sight Devon, I’ll quit the port o’Heaven,
An’ drum them up the channel as we drummed them long ago.” Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938) Drake’s Drum


“As it fell upon a day
In the merry month of May
Sitting in a pleasant shade
Which a grove of myrtles made...” Richard Barnfield (1574-1627) In the Merry Month of May

time of day:

“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.” Thomas Gray (1716-1771) Elegy in a Country Courtyard


...It is impossible to reduce civil society to one dead level. Socialists may in that intent do their utmost, but all striving against nature is in vain. There naturally exist among mankind manifold differences of the most important kind: people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength: unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition.” Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903)


“Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow...
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there: I did not die.” Mary Elizabeth Frye (1904-2004)

special place:

“Boston State-house is the hub of the solar system. You couldn’t pry that out of a Boston man if you had the tire of all creation straightened out for a crow-bar.” Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935) Autocrat of the Breakfast Table


“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay:
Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade;
A breath can make them, as a breath has made:
But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,
When once destroy’d, can never be supplied.” Oliver Goldsmith (1739-1774) The Deserted Village

“...I am no counterfeit; to die is to be a counterfeit, for he is but the counterfeit of a man, who hath not the life of a man; but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed. The better part of valour is discretion...” Shakespeare (1564-1616) King Henry the Fourth

The counterpart in drama is the scenery or stage set. Questions like: Where does this take place? What time of day? How do you know?

rhyme - The repetition of the same or similar sounds, whether vowels, consonants, or a combination of these in one or more syllables and occurring at prescribed intervals.

Rhyme was unknown to classical prosody. In its present understanding it first appeared around 200 AD. It became popular in medieval Latin poetry. It is from the Provencal word rim; originally spelled rime. This spelling is still present today in some literary circles and is certainly more accurate than the English spelling rhyme which is actually incorrect; having been mistranslated or misidentified with the Greek word rhythmos or rhythm.

rhyme counterpoint - A term for poems in which line length identifies rhyme and unrhymed. Thus rhymed lines and unrhymed lines are of similar or equal length. Closest example would be George Herbert's (1593-1633) Denial:

When my devotions could not pierce
Thy silent ears;
Then was my heart broken, as was my verse:
My breast was full of fears
And disorder:

My bent thoughts, like a brittle bow,
Did fly asunder:
Each took his way; some would to pleasures go,
Some to the wars and thunder
Of alarms.

As good go any where, they say,
As to benumb
Both knees and heart, in crying night and day,
Come, my God, O come,
But no hearing.

O that thou shouldst give dust a tongue
To cry to thee,
And then not hear it crying! all day long
My heart was in my knee,
But no hearing.

Therefore my soul lay out of sight,
Untuned, unstrung:
My feeble spirit, unable to look right,
Like a nipped blossom, hung

O cheer and tune my heartless breast,
Defer no time;
That so thy favors granting my request,
They and my mind may chime,
And mend my rime.

rhyme (rime) royal - A seven iambic pentameter lines rhyming a b a b b c c, taken from French. There are ten syllables per line. It was introduced into English prosody by Chaucer (1340-1400) and is frequently called a Chaucerian heptastich. It received its name after King James I borrowed it for use in his long, narrative love poem The King's Quhair (book). A poem about his future wife Joan Beaufort written while he was in captivity in England. It is considered one of the finest examples of love poetry. If you take the time to read it you will find it quite beautiful. The poem contains 1379 lines. Here is an excerpt beginning at line two hundred four:

Bewailing in my chamber thus allone,
Despeired of all joye and remedye,
For-tirit of my thoght, and wo begone,
Unto the wyndow gan I walk in hye,
To se the warld and folk that went forby;
As for the tyme, though I of mirthis fude
Myght have no more, to luke it did me gude.

Now was there maid fast by the touris wall
A gardyn faire, and in the corneris set
Ane herbere grene:--with wandis long and small
Railit about; and so with treis set
Was all the place, and hawthorn hegis knet,
That lyf was none walking there forby,
That myght within scarse ony wight aspye;

So thik the bewis and the leves grene
Beschadit all the aleyes that there were.
And myddis every herbere myght be sene
The scharpe grene suete jenepere,
Growing so faire with branchis here and there,
That, as it semyt to a lyf without,
The bewis spred the herbere all about;

And on the smalle grene twistis sat
The lytill suete nyghtingale, and song
So loud and clere, the ympnis consecrat
Off lufis use, now soft, now lowd among,
That all the gardyng and the wallis rong
Ryght of thaire song and of the copill next
Off thaire suete armony, and lo the text:

"Worschippe, ye that loveris bene, this May,
For of your blisse the kalendis are begonne,
And sing with us, 'Away, winter, away!
Cum, somer, cum, the suete sesoun and sonne!'
Awake for schame! that have your hevynnis wonne,
And amorously lift up your hedis all,
Thank lufe that list you to his merci call."

Quhen thai this song had song a lytill thrawe,
Thai stent a quhile, and therewith unaffraid,
As I beheld and kest myn eyne a-lawe,
From beugh to beugh thay hippit and thai plaid,
And freschly in thaire birdis kynd arraid
Thaire fetheris new, and fret thame in the sonne,
And thankit lufe, that had thaire makis wonne.

This was the plane ditee of thaire note,
And there-with-all unto my self I thoght,
"Quhat lyf is this that makis birdis dote?
Quhat may this be, how cummyth it of ought?
Quhat nedith it to be so dere ybought?
It is nothing, trowe I, bot feynit chere,
And that men list to counterfeten chere."

Eft wald I think; "O Lord, quhat may this be?
That Lufe is of so noble myght and kynde,
Lufing his folk, and suich prosperitee
Is it of him, as we in bukis fynd?
May he oure hertes setten and unbynd?
Hath he upon oure hertis suich maistrye?
Or all this is bot feynyt fantasye!

"For gif he be of so grete excellence,
That he of every wight hath cure and charge,
Quhat have I gilt to him or doon offense,
That I am thrall, and birdis gone at large,
Sen him to serve he myght set my corage?
And gif he be noght so, than may I seyne,
'Quhat makis folk to jangill of him in veyne?'

"Can I noght elles fynd, bot gif that he
Be lord, and as a god may lyve and regne,
To bynd and louse, and maken thrallis free,
Than wold I pray his blisfull grace benigne,
To hable me unto his service digne;
And evermore for to be one of tho
Him trewly for to serve in wele and wo."

And there-with kest I doun myn eye ageyne,
Quhare as I sawe, walking under the toure,
Full secretly, new cummyn hir to pleyne,
The fairest or the freschest yonge floure
That ever I sawe, me thoght, before that houre,
For quhich sodayn abate, anon astert
The blude of all my body to my hert.

And though I stude abaisit tho a lyte,
No wonder was; for-quhy my wittis all
Were so overcom with plesance and delyte,
Onely throu latting of myn eyen fall,
That sudaynly my hert became hir thrall
For ever, of free will; for of manace
There was no takyn in hir suete face.

And in my hede I drewe ryght hastily,
And eft-sones I lent it forth ageyne,
And sawe hir walk, that verray womanly,
With no wight mo, bot onely wommen tueyne.
Than gan I studye in my-self, and seyne,
"A! suete, ar ye a warldly creature,
Or hevinly thing in likenesse of nature?

"Or ar ye god Cupidis owin princesse,
And cummyn are to louse me out of band?
Or ar ye verray Nature the goddesse,
That have depaynted with your hevinly hand
This gardyn full of flouris, as they stand?
Quhat sall I think, allace! quhat reverence
Sall I minister to your excellence?

"Gif ye a goddesse be, and that ye like
To do me payne, I may it noght astert;
Gif ye be warldly wight, that dooth me sike,
Quhy lest God mak you so, my derrest hert,
To do a sely prisoner thus smert,
That lufis yow all, and wote of noght bot wo?
And therefor, merci, suete! sen it is so."

Quhen I a lytill thrawe had maid my moon,
Bewailling myn infortune and my chance,
Unknawing how or quhat was best to doon,
So ferre I fallen was in lufis dance,
That sodeynly my wit, my contenance,
My hert, my will, my nature, and my mynd,
Was changit clene ryght in an-othir kynd.

Off hir array the form gif I sall write
Toward, hir goldin haire and rich atyre
In fret-wise couchit were with perllis quhite
And grete balas lemyng as the fyre,
With mony ane emeraut and faire saphire;
And on hir hede a chaplet fresch of hewe,
Off plumys partit rede, and quhite, and blewe;

Full of quaking spangis bryght as gold,
Forgit of schap like to the amorettis,
So new, so fresch, so plesant to behold,
The plumys eke like to the floure-jonettis,
And othir of schap like to the round crokettis,
And, above all this, there was, wele I wote,
Beautee eneuch to mak a world to dote.

About hir nek, quhite as the fyre amaille,
A gudely cheyne of smale orfeverye,
Quhareby there hang a ruby, without faille,
Lyke to ane herte schapin verily,
That, as a sperk of lowe, so wantonly
Emyt birnyng upon hir quhyte throte;
Now gif there was gud partye, God it wote!

And forto walk that fresche Mayes morowe,
An huke sche had upon hir tissew quhite,
That gudeliare had noght bene sene toforowe,
As I suppose; and girt sche was a lyte.
Thus halflyng louse for haste, to suich delyte
It was to see hir youth in gudelihede,
That for rudenes to speke thereof I drede.

In hir was youth, beautee, with humble aport,
Bountee, richesse, and wommanly facture,
(God better wote than my pen can report)
Wisedome, largesse, estate, and connyng sure.
In every poynt so guydit hir mesure,
In word, in dede, in schap, in contenance,
That nature myght no more hir childe avance.

Throw quhich anon I knew and understude
Wele, that sche was a warldly creature;
On quhom to rest myn eye, so mich gude
It did my wofull hert, I yow assure,
That it was to me joye without mesure;
And, at the last, my luke unto the hevin
I threwe furthwith, and said thir versis sevin:

"O Venus clere! of goddis stellifyit!
To quhom I yelde homage and sacrifise,
Fro this day forth your grace be magnifyit,
That me ressavit have in suich a wise,
To lyve under your law and do servise;
Now help me furth, and for your merci lede
My herte to rest, that dëis nere for drede."

Here is an example from Chaucer titled Complaint To His Purse:

To yow, my purse, and to noon other wight
Complayne I, for ye be my lady dere!
I am so sory, now that ye been lyght;
For certes, but ye make me hevy chere,
Me were as leef be layd upon my bere;
For which unto your mercy thus I crye:
Beth hevy ageyn, or elles mot I dye!

Now voucheth sauf this day, or yt be nyght,
That I of yow the blisful soun may here,
Or see your colour lyk the sonne bryght,
That of yelownesse hadde never pere.
Ye be my lyf, ye be myn hertes stere,
Quene of comfort and of good companye:
Beth hevy ageyn, or elles moote I dye!

Now purse, that ben to me my lyves lyght
And saveour, as doun in this world here,
Out of this toune helpe me thurgh your myght,
Syn that ye wole nat ben my tresorere;
For I am shave as nye as any frere.
But yet I pray unto your curtesye:
Beth hevy agen, or elles moote I dye!

Lenvoy de Chaucer
O conquerour of Brutes Albyon,
Which that by lyne and free eleccion
Been verray kyng, this song to yow I sende;
And ye, that mowen alle oure harmes amende,
Have mynde upon my supplicacion!

For a much later example we offer William Morris' (1834-1896) The Earthly Paradise, a twenty-four poem narrative in the style Chaucer's Canterbury Tales:

Of Heaven or Hell I have no power to sing,
I cannot ease the burden of your fears,
Or make quick-coming death a little thing,
Or bring again the pleasure of past years,
Nor for my words shall ye forget your tears,
Or hope again for aught that I can say,
The idle singer of an empty day.

But rather, when aweary of your mirth,
From full hearts still unsatisfied ye sigh,
And, feeling kindly unto all the earth,
Grudge every minute as it passes by,
Made the more mindful that the sweet days die--
Remember me a little then I pray,
The idle singer of an empty day.

The heavy trouble, the bewildering care
That weighs us down who live and earn our bread,
These idle verses have no power to bear;
So let em sing of names remember{`e}d,
Because they, living not, can ne'er be dead,
Or long time take their memory quite away
From us poor singers of an empty day.

Dreamer of dreams, born out of my due time,
Why should I strive to set the crooked straight?
Let it suffice me that my murmuring rhyme
Beats with light wing against the ivory gate,
Telling a tale not too importunate
To those who in the sleepy region stay,
Lulled by the singer of an empty day.

Folk say, a wizard to a northern king
At Christmas-tide such wondrous things did show,
That through one window men beheld the spring,
And through another saw the summer glow,
And through a third the fruited vines a-row,
While still, unheard, but in its wonted way,
Piped the drear wind of that December day.

So with this Earthly Paradise it is,
If ye will read aright, and pardon me,
Who strive to build a shadowy isle of bliss
Midmost the beating of the steely sea,
Where tossed about all hearts of men must be;
Whose ravening monsters mighty men shall slay,
Not the poor singer of an empty day.

Note the characteristic ending with a rhyming couplet.

ricochet word - A single word that used for adding a throbbing pulse to the rhyme. pit-a-pat; fiddle-faddle; harum-scarum; ding-dong. For a poem example go to Robert Browning's Pied Piper of Hamelin Verse IV:

Just as he said this, what should hap
At the chamber door but a gentle tap?
Bless us, cried the Mayor, what's that?
(With the Corporation as he sate,
Looking little though wondrous fat);
Only a scraping of shoes on the mat?
Anything like the sound of a rat
Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!

pre-romantic movement - Major poets and writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century are considered Romantics. Although the majority wrote throughout the time period we generally recommend teachers subdivide it into two distinct periods: pre-romantic and romantic. The pre-romantic period extands from 1785-1812 with principal poets being:

James Thomson (1700-1748), wrote in blank verse sentimental messages of the virtues of a humble life, love of country and descriptions of nature in all seasons. Edward Young (1682-1765) began the "graveyard school" of melancholy. Mark Akenside (1683-1770) who believed that the "response to beauty and truth" must follow the natural impulse. Thomas Warton (1728-1790) wrote pentameter lines blending patriotism with love of nature.

The following are considered characteristics of the Pre Romantic Movement:

. belief in the instinctive goodness of human beings:
. belief in the high moral and religious value of benevolence (in writing referred to as School of Sensibility) . realistic description of nature; retirement and solitude (dropping the mysticism of the neo-classic period).
. interest in death, mourning, melancholy. (Graveyard School) . interest in humanitarian and social reforms.
. interest in the rights and dignity of man and individual freedoms.
. comments on political and governmental misuse.
. attacks of religious domination of the Pope.
. revival of old verse forms: ballads, sonnets, blank verse, Spenserian stanza.
. translation of Scandinavian, Oriental, and Celtic writing.
. reinterest and acclaim of Shakespeare, Spenser, and Milton.

The poems are characteristically long; well over one-hundred lines.

One early example is James Thomson's (1700-1748) The Seasons. A work written in blank verse and divided in four parts: Winter-Hardships and Benevolence (1726); Summer-Life's Meaning to the Generous Mind (1727); Spring-The Divine Force in Spring (1728); Autumn-The Pleasing sadness of the Declining Year (1730); and A Hymn-Concluding the Seasons (1748). Also exemplary are his The Castle of Indolence and The Complaint.


These, as they change. Almighty Father,
These are but the varied God. The rolling year
Is full of thee. Forth in the pleasing Spring
Thy beauty walks, Thy tenderness and love.
Wide flush the fields; the softening air is balm;
Echo the mountains round; the forest smiles,
And every sense, and every heart is joy.
Then comes Thy glory in the summer months,
With light and heart refulgent. Then Thy sun
Shoots full perfection thro' the swelling year;
And of Thy voice in dreadful thunder speaks-
And oft at dawn, deep noon, or falling eve,
By brooks and groves, in hollow-whisp'ring gales.
Thy bounty shines in autumn unconfin'd,
And spreads a common feast for all that lives.
In Winter, awful Thou! with clouds and storms
Around Thee thrown, tempest o'er tempest roll'd,
Majestic darkness! on the whirlwind's wing,
Riding sublime, Thou bidst the world adore;
And humblest Nature with Thy northern blast.

Mysterious round! what skill, what force divine,
Deep felt, in these appear! a simple train,
Yet so delightful mix'd, with such kind art,
Such beauty and beneficence combin'd;
Shade, unperceiv'd, so soft'ning into shade,
And all so forming an harmonious whole,
That they still succeed, they ravish still.
But wand'ring oft, with brute unconscious gaze,
Man marks not Thee, marks not the mighty hand,
That, ever busy, wheels the silent spheres;
Works in the secret deep; shoots, steaming, thence
The fair profusion that o'erspreads the spring;
Flings from the sun direct the flaming day;
Feeds every creature; hurls the tempest forth;
And, as on earth this grateful change revolves,
With transport touches all the springs of life.

Nature, attend! join every living soul,
Beneath the spacious temple of the sky,
In adoration join! and, ardent, raise
One geneThese, as they change, Almighty Father, these
Aral song! To Him, ye vocal gales,
Breathe soft, whose Spirit in your freshness breathes:
Oh talk of Him in solitary glooms!
Where, o'er the rock, the scarcely waving pine
Fills the brown shade with a religious awe.
And ye, whose bolder note is heard afar,
Who shake the astonished world, lift high to heaven
The impetuous song, and say from whom you rage.
His praise, ye brooks, attune, ye trembling rills;
And let me catch it as I muse along.
Ye headlong torrents, rapid, and profound;
Ye softer floods, that lead the humid maze
Along the vale; and thou, majestic main,
A secret world of wonders in thyself,
Sound His stupendous praise - whose greater voice
Or bids you roar, or bids your roarings fall.
Soft-roll your incense, herbs, and fruits, and flowers,
In mingled clouds to Him - whose sun exalts,
Whose breath perfumes you, and whose pencil paints.
Ye forests bend, ye harvests wave, to Him;
Breathe your still song into the reaper's heart,
As home he goes beneath the joyous moon.
Ye that keep watch in heaven, as earth asleep
Unconcious lies, effuse your mildest beams,
Ye constellations, while your angels strike,
Amid the spangled sky, the silver lyre.
Great source of day! best image here below
Of thy Creator, ever pouring wide,
From world to world, the vital ocean round,
On Nature write with every beam His praise.
The thunder rolls: be hushed the prostrate world;
While cloud to cloud returns the solemn hymn.
Bleat out afresh, ye hills; ye mossy rocks,
Retain the sound: the broad responsive low,
Ye valleys, raise; for the Great Shepherd reigns;
And His unsuffering kingdom yet will come.
Ye woodlands all, awake: a boundless song
Burst from the groves; and when the restless day,
Expiring, lays the warbling world asleep,
Sweetest of birds! sweet Philomela, charm
The listening shades, and teach the night His praise.
Ye, chief, for whom the whole creation smiles,
At once the head, the heart, and tongue of all,
Crown the great hymn! in swarming cities vast,
Assembled men, to the deep organ join
The long-resounding voice, oft-breaking clear,
At solemn pauses, through the swelling base;
And, as each mingling flame increases each,
In one united ardour rise to heaven.
Or if you rather choose the rural shade,
And find a fane in every sacred grove;
There let the shepherd's flute, the virgin's lay,
The prompting seraph, and the poet's lyre,
Still sing the God of Seasons, as they roll.
For me, when I forget the darling theme,
Whether the blossom blows, the Summer-ray
Russets the plain, inspiring Autumn gleams,
Or Winter rises in the blackening east,
Be my tongue mute - my fancy paint no more,
And, dead to joy, forget my heart to beat!

Should fate command me to the farthest verge
Of the green earth, to distant barb'rous climes,
Rivers unknown to song - where first the sun
Gilds Indian mountains, or his setting beam
Falmes on the Atlantic isles - 'tis nought to me:
Since God is ever present, ever felt,
In the void waste as in the city full;
And where He vital breathes there must be joy.
When even at last the solemn hour shall come,
And wing my mystic flight to future worlds,
I cheerful will obey; there, with new pow'rs,
Will rising wonders sing: I cannot go
Where Universal Love not smiles around,
Sustaining all yon orbs, and all their suns;
From seeming evil still educing good,
And better thence again, and better still,
In infinite progression.- But I lose
Myself in Him, in light ineffable!
Come then, expressive silence, muse His praise.

Another poet of this period was Edward Young (1683-1765). His The Complaint, or Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality contains nine nights in unrhymed verse published from 1742 - 1744. Here are excerpts:

The Complaint -

Night the First

By Nature's law, what may be, may be now;
There's no prerogative in human hours.
In human hearts what bolder thought can rise,
Than man's presumption on to-morrow's dawn?
Where is to-morrow? In another world.
For numbers this is certain; the reverse
Is sure to none; and yet on this perhaps,
This peradventure, infamous for lies,
As on a rock of adamant we build
Our mountain hopes, spin out eternal schemes
As we the Fatal Sisters could out-spin,
And big with life's futurities, expire.
Not ev'n Philander had bespoke his shroud,
Nor had he cause; a warning was deny'd:
How many fall as sudden, not as safe!
As sudden, though for years admonish'd home.
Of human ills the last extreme beware;
Beware, Lorenzo, a slow-sudden death.
How dreadful that deliberate surprise!
Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer;
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is push'd out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.
If not so frequent, would not this be strange?
That 'tis so frequent, this is stranger still.
Of man's miraculous mistakes this bears
The palm, "That all men are about to live,"
For ever on the brink of being born,
All pay themselves the compliment to think
They, one day, shall not drivel: and their pride
On this reversion takes up ready praise;
At least, their own; their future selves applauds;
How excellent that life they ne'er will lead!
Time lodg'd in their own hands is Folly's vails;
That lodg'd in Fate's to Wisdom they consign.
The thing they can't but purpose, they postpone.
'Tis not in folly not to scorn a fool,
And scarce in human wisdom to do more.
All promise is poor dilatory man,
And that through every stage; when young, indeed,
In full content we sometimes nobly rest,
Unanxious for ourselves; and only wish,
As duteous sons our fathers were more wise.
At thirty man suspects himself a fool,
Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan;
At fifty chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;
In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves, and re-resolves, then dies the same.

In the Darkness of Night

Tired nature’s sweet restorer, balmy Sleep!
He, like the world, his ready visit pays
Where fortune smiles pinion flies from woe,
Swift on his downy pinion flies from woe,
And lights on lids unsullied with a tear.
From short (as usual) and disturbed repose,
I wake: how happy they who wake no more!
Yet, that were vain, if dreams intest the grave.
I wake, emerging from a sea of dreams
Tumultuous where my wrecked, desponding thought
From wave to wave of fancied misery!
At Random drove, her helm of reason lost;
Though now restored, tis only change of pain,
A bitter change! Severer for severe.
The day too short for my distress: and Night,
E’en in the zenith of her dark domain,
In sunshine to the color of my fate,
Night, sable goddess! From her ebon throne,
In rayless majesty, now stretches forth
Her leaden scepter o’er a slumbering world.
Silence how dead! And darkness how profound!
Nor eye nor listening ear an object finds:
Creation sleeps. ‘Tis as the general pause,
An awful pause, prophetic of her end.
And let her prophecy be soon fulfilled!
Fate, drop the curtain! I can lose no more,
Silence and Darkness, solemn sisters, twins
From ancient Night, who nurse the tender thought
To reason, and on reason build resolve
(That column of true majesty in man),
Assist me! I will tank you in the grave,
The grave your kingdom; there ths frame shall fall
A victim sacred to your dreary shrine.

From Welcome Death! 1743

And feel I, death! No joy from thought of thee,
Death, the great counsellor, who man inspires
With every nobler thought and fairer deed!
Death, the deliverer, who rescues man!
Death, the rewarder, who the rescued crowns!
Death, that absolves my birth; a curse without it!
Rich death, that realizes all my cares.
Toils, virtues, hopes: without is a chimera!
Death, of all pain the period, not of joy:
Joy’s source, and subject, still subsist unhurt;
One, in my soul; and one, in her great sire;
Though the four winds were warring for my dust,
Yes, and from winds, and waves, and central night,
Though prisoned there, my dust too I reclaim,
(To dust when drop proud nature’s proudest spheres.)
And live entire. Death is the crown of life:
Were death denied, poor man would live in vain;
Were death denied, to live would not be life;
Were death denied e’en fools would wish to die.
Death wounds to cure: we fall; we rise; we reign!
Spring from our fetters; fasten in the skies;
Where blooming Eden withers in our sight:
Death gives us more than was in Eden lost.
This king of terrors is the prince of peace,
When shall I die to vanity, pain, death?
When shall I die? When shall I live for ever?

Mark Akenside (1721-1770) with The Pleasures of Imagination- The Aesthetic and Moral Influence of Nature, an imitation of Edmund Spenser written in blank verse in four books. Here is an excerpt:

What then is taste, but these internal powers Active, and strong and feelingly alive To each fine impulse? a discerning sense Of decent and aublime, with quick disgust From things deformed, or disarranged, or gross In species? This, not gems, nor stores of gold, Nor purple state, nor sulture can bestow; But God alone, when first his active hand Imprints and secret bias of the soul.
He, mighty parent wise and just in all,
Free as the vital breeze or light of heaven, Reveals the charms of nature. Ask the swain Who journeys homeward from a summer day's Long labor, why, forgetful of his toils And due repose, he loiters to behold The sunshine gleaming as through amber clouds O'er all the western sky; full soon, I ween.
His rude expression and untutored airs,
Beyond the power of language, will unfold The form of beauty smiling at his heart How Lively! how commanding? ...

Joseph Warton (1722-1800). Here is The Enthusiast or, The Lover of Nature written in pentameter lines and blank verse:

Ye green-rob'd Dryads, oft' at dusky Eve
By wondering Shepherds seen, to Forests brown,
To unfrequented Meads, and pathless Wilds,
Lead me from Gardens deckt with Art's vain Pomps.
Can gilt Alcoves, can Marble-mimic Gods,
Parterres embroider'd, Obelisks, and Urns
Of high Relief; can the long, spreading Lake,
Or Vista lessening to the Sight; can Stow
With all her Attic Fanes, such Raptures raise,
As the Thrush-haunted Copse, where lightly leaps
The fearful Fawn the rustling Leaves along,
And the brisk Squirrel sports from Bough to Bough,
While from an hollow Oak the busy Bees
Hum drowsy Lullabies? The Bards of old,
Fair Nature's Friends, sought such Retreats, to charm
Sweet Echo with their Songs; oft' too they met,
In Summer Evenings, near sequester'd Bow'rs,
Or Mountain-Nymph, or Muse, and eager learnt
The moral Strains she taught to mend Mankind.
As to a secret Grot Ægeria stole
With Patriot Numa, and in silent Night
Whisper'd him sacred Laws, he list'ning sat
Rapt with her virtuous Voice, old Tyber leant
Attentive on his Urn, and husht his Waves.
Rich in her weeping Country's Spoils Versailles
May boast a thousand Fountains, that can cast
The tortur'd Waters to the distant Heav'ns;
Yet let me choose some Pine-topt Precipice
Abrupt and shaggy, whence a foamy Stream,
Like Anio, tumbling roars; or some bleak Heath,
Where straggling stand the mournful Juniper,
Or Yew-tree scath'd; while in clear Prospect round,
From the Grove's Bosom Spires emerge, and Smoak
In bluish Wreaths ascends, ripe Harvests wave,
Herds low, and Straw-rooft Cotts appear, and Streams
Beneath the Sun-beams twinkle — The shrill Lark,
That wakes the Wood-man to his early Task,
Or love-sick Philomel, whose luscious Lays
Sooth lone Night-wanderers, the moaning Dove
Pitied by listening Milkmaid, far excell [40]
The deep-mouth'd Viol, the Soul-lulling Lute,
And Battle-breathing Trumpet. Artful Sounds!
That please not like the Choristers of Air,
When first they hail th' Approach of laughing May.
Creative Titian, can thy vivid strokes,
Or thine, O graceful Raphael, dare to vie
With the rich tints that paint the breathing mead?
The thousand-coloured tulip, Violet's bell
Snow-clad and meek, the vermil-tinctur'd rose,
And golden crocus? — Yet with these the Maid,
Phillis or Phoebe, at a feast or wake,
Her jetty locks enamels; fairer she,
In innocence and home-spun vestments dressed,
Than if cerulean sapphires at her ears
Shone pendant, or a precious diamond cross
Heaved gently on her panting bosom white.
Yon' shepherd idly stretched on the rude rock,
Listening to dashing waves, and sea-mews clang
High-hovering o'er his head, who views beneath
The dolphin dancing o'er the level brine,
Feels more true bliss than the proud admiral,
Amid his vessels bright with burnished gold
And silken streamers, tho' his lordly nod
Ten thousand war-worn mariners revere.
And great Aeneas gazed with more delight
On the rough mountain shagged with horrid shades,
(Where cloud-compelling Jove, as fancy dreamed,
Descending shook his direful aegis black)
Than if he entered the high capitol
On golden columns reared, a conquered world
Contributing to deck its stately head:
More pleased he slept in poor Evander's cot
On shaggy skins, lulled by sweet nightingales,
Than if a Nero, in an age refined,
Beneath a gorgeous canopy had placed
His royal guest, and bade his minstrels sound
Soft slumberous Lydian airs to sooth his rest.
Happy the first of men, ere yet confined
To smoky cities; who in sheltering groves,
Warm caves, and deep-sunk vallies lived and loved,
By cares unwounded; what the sun and showers,
And genial earth untillag'd could produce,
They gather'd grateful, or the acorn brown,
Or blushing berry; by the liquid lapse
Of murmuring waters called to slake their thirst,
Or with fair nymphs their sun-brown limbs to bathe;
With nymphs who fondly clasped their favorite youths,Unawed by shame, beneath the beechen shade,
Nor wiles, nor artificial coyness knew.
Then doors and walls were not; the melting maid
Nor frowns of parents feared, nor husband's threats;
Nor had cursed gold their tender hearts allured;
Then beauty was not venal. Injured love,
O whither, God of raptures, art thou fled?
While avarice waves his golden wand around,
Abhorred magician, and his costly cup
Prepares with baneful drugs, the enchant the souls
Of each low-thoughted fair to wed for gain.
What tho' unknown to those primeval sires,
The well-arched dome, peopled with breathing forms
By fair Italia's skillful hand, unknown
The shapely column, and the crumbling busts
Of awful ancestors in long descent?
Yet why should man mistaken deem it nobler
To dwell in palaces, and high-roofed halls,
Than in God's forests, architect supreme!
Say, is the Persian carpet, than the field's
Or meadow's mantle gay, more richly woven';
Or softer to the votaries of ease,
Than bladed grass, perfumed with dew-dropped flowers?
O taste corrupt! that luxury and pomp
In specious names of polished manners veiled,
Should proudly banish nature's simple charms.
Tho' the fierce north oft smote with iron whip
Their shivering limbs, tho' oft the bristly boar
Or hungry lion 'woke them with their howls,
And scared them from their moss-grown caves to rove,
Houseless and cold in dark, tempestuous nights;
Yet were not myriads in embattled fields
Swept off at once, nor had the raving seas
O'erwhelm'd the foundering bark, and helpless crew;
In vain the glassy ocean smiled to tempt
The jolly sailor, unsuspecting harm,
For commerce was unknown. Then want and pine
Sunk to the grave their fainting Limbs; but us
Excess and endless riot doom to die.
They crept unwittingly, the poisonous herb
But wiser we spontaneously provide
Rare powerful roots, to quench life's cheerful lamp.
What are the lays of artful Addison,
Coldly correct, to Shakespear's warblings wild?Whom on the winding Avon's willowed banks
Fair Fancy found, and bore the smiling Babe
To a close cavern: (still the shepherds show
The sacred place, whence with religious awe
They hear, returning from the field at eve,
Strange whisperings of sweet music through the air)
Here, as with honey gathered from the rock,
She fed the little prattler, and with songs
Oft' soothed his wondering ears, with deep delight
On her soft lap he sat, and caught the sounds.
Oft' near some crowded city would I walk,
Listening the far-off noises, rattling cars,
Loud shouts of joy, sad shrieks of sorrow, knells
Full slowly tolling, instruments of trade,
Striking mine ears with one deep-swelling hum.
Or wandering near the sea, attend the sounds
Of hollow winds, and ever-beating waves.
Even when wild tempests swallow up the plains,
And boreas' blasts, big hail, and rains combine
To shake the groves and mountains, would I sit,
Pensively musing on the outrageous crimes
That wake heaven’s vengeance: at such solemn hours,
Demons and goblins through the dark air shriek,
While hecat with her black-browed sisters nine,
Rides o'er the earth, and scatters woes and deaths.
Then too, they say, in drear Egyptian wilds
The lion and the tiger prowl for prey
With roarings loud! the listening traveller
Starts fear-struck, while the hollow-echoing vaults
Of pyramids increase the deathful sounds.
But let me never fail in cloudless nights,
When silent cynthia in her silver car
Thro' the blue concave slides, when shine the hills,
Twinkle the streams, and woods look tipped with gold,
To seek some level mead, and there invoke
Old midnight's sister contemplation sage,
(Queen of the rugged brow, and stern-fixed eye)
To lift my soul above this little earth,
This folly-fettered world; to purge my ears,
That I may hear the rolling planets song,
And tuneful-turning spheres: If this debarred,
The little ray that dance in neighboring dales,
Sipping the night-dew, while they laugh and love,
Shall charm me with arborial notes. — As thus I wander musing, lo, what awful forms
Yonder appear! sharp-eyed philosophy
Clad in dun robes, an eagle on his wrist,
First meets my eye; next, virgin solitude
Serene, who blushes at each gazer's sight;
Then wisdom's hoary head, with crutch in hand,
Trembling, and bent with age; last virtue's self
Smiling, in white arrayed, who with her leads
Fair innocence, that prattles by her side,
A naked boy! — Harrassed with fear I stop,
I gaze, when virtue thus — "Whoe'er thou art,
"Mortal, by whom I deign to be beheld,
"In these my midnight-walks; depart, and say
"That henceforth I and my immortal train
"Forsake Britannia's Isle; who fondly stoops
"To vice, her favorite paramour." — She spoke,
And as she turn'd, her round and rosy neck,
Her flowing train, and long, ambrosial hair,
Breathing rich odors, I enamoured view.
O who will bear me then to western climes,
(Since virtue leaves our wretched land) to shades
Yet unpolluted with Iberian swords;
With simple Indian swains, that I may hunt
The boar and tiger thro' Savannah's wild?
There fed on dates and herbs, would I despise
The far-fetched cates of luxury, and hoards
Of narrow-hearted avarice; nor heed
The distant din of the tumultuous world.
So when rude whirlwinds rouze the roaring main,
Beneath fair Thetis sits, in coral caves,
Serenely gay, nor sinking sailors cries
Disturb her sportive nymphs, who round her form
The light fantastic dance, or for her hair
Weave rosy crowns, or with according lutes
Grace the soft warbles of her honied voice.

Also William Collins (1721-1759) who wrote mostly odes. William Cowper whose only blank verse effort was The Task, a poem divided into six books, totalling 5,185 lines. There is a pseudo-Miltonic narrative of the evolution of the sofa, rural descriptions, pleasures of gardening, joys of domestic life, among the topics. In addition, the poem is filled with meditative, reflective, moral didactic passages. The last of Cowper's original poems, it is based on a passage of Lord George Anson (1697-1762), commander of an expedition against the Spanish ports in the Pacific, who sailed around the world in 1740 to 1744. Here is The Castaway in rhyme pattern ababcc:

Obscurest night involved the sky,
The Atlantic billows roared,
When such a destined wretch as I,
Washed headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
His floating home for ever left.

No braver chief could Albion boast
Than he with whom he went,
Nor ever ship left Albion’s coast
With warmer wishes sent.
He loved them both, but both in vain,
Nor him beheld, nor her again.

Not long beneath the whelming brine,
Expert to swim, he lay;
Nor soon he felt his strength decline,
Or courage die away;
But waged with death a lasting strife,
Supported by despair of life.

He shouted: nor his friends had failed
To check the vessel’s course,
But so the furious blast prevailed
That, pitiless perforce,
They left their outcast mate behind,
And scudded still before the wind.

Some succour yet they could afford;
And such as storms allow,
The cask, the coop, the floated cord,
Delayed not to bestow.
But he (they knew) nor ship nor shore,
Whate’er they gave, should visit more.

Nor, cruel as it seemed, could he
Their haste himself condemn,
Aware that flight, in such a sea,
Alone could rescue them;
Yet bitter felt it still to die
Deserted, and his friends so nigh.

He long survives, who lives an hour
In ocean, self-upheld;
And so long he, with unspent power,
His destiny repelled;
And ever, as the minutes flew,
Entreated help, or cried ‘Adieu!

At length, his transient respite past,
His comrades, who before
Had heard his voice in every blast,
Could catch the sound no more:
For then, by toil subdued, he drank
The stifling wave, and then he sank.

No poet wept him; but the page
Of narrative sincere,
That tells his name, his worth, his age
Is wet with Anson’s tear:
And tears by bards or heroes shed
Alike immortalize the dead.

I therefore purpose not, or dream,
Descanting on his fate,
To give the melancholy theme
A more enduring date:
But misery still delights to trace
Its semblance in another’s case.

No voice divine the storm allayed,
No light propitious shone,
When, snatched from all effectual aid,
We perished, each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelmed in deeper gulfs than he.

The Last of the pre-romantics and possibly the most famous is Robert Burns.

romantic - Sometimes described as the inner voice of the poet. Meaning an expression of personality, experience and emotion in contrast to the characteristics of the former mechanistic classical period. Some good examples would be Wordsworth’s The Prelude:

Wisdom and spirit of the universe
Thou Soul that art the eternity of thought,
That gavest to forms and images a breath
And everlasting motion, not in vain
By day or satrlight thus from my first dawn
Of childhood didst thou intertwine for me
The passions that build up our human soul...

Edgar Allan Poe’s To Helen

Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore
That gently, o’er a perfumed sea,
The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

And William Blake’s The Tiger

Tyger Tyger Burning bright
In the forest of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame they fearful symmetry?

Each of these is an attempt to make real an idealized image and escape from everyday reality, a mystery. In contrast these with the Cavalier poet Edmond Waller’s Song with its direct, predictable and logical expression:

Go lovely Rose
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.

to the last stanza

Then die, that she
The common fate of all things rare,
May read in thee;
How small a part of time they share,

That are so wondrous sweet and fair.

romantic revival movement, England - There are two opinions about the time period for the Romantic Movement. The first indicates 1790 to 1835, another places the time frame from 1780 to 1832. There is agreement that the period produced some of the best poetry of the English language. Whereas the two previous, Augustan (Classical) and Queen Anne, can be characterized as reason, imitation, moderation, satire, politics, and the heroic couplet; Romanticism is nature, idealism, spontaneity, humanity, imagination, and the ballad. Thus everything was personified: Justice, Liberty, Night, even vaccination for the small pox was invoked as a goddess in Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria:

“Innoculation, heavenly maid, descent!!”

The movement itself sprung forth in the midst of two revolutions that shook the world. The movement is considered a “revival” first, because of the renewed interest in the past especially the Middle Ages which was filled with rage, tumult and unrest in contrast to the well-ordered, prescribed life of the Classic Period. Second, because of a interest in the untamed, wild life of nature in contrast to the well-manicured pruned, controlled hand of man. And, third, a contempt for the aristocracy and the desire to recognize the value and dignity of every man.

Was “romanticism” new? Was not Beowulf a romantic tale, and what of Paradise Lost? We look at poets of the new movement and ask what was it that they returned to that was present in the Classic period? What events drew them to the Middle Ages; far-off lands; human problems? Is there a parallelism between this new movement and the Renaissance? Was there one single poet who introduced the study of nature? What does the statement “seeing nature with a modern eye, as a living thing full of sentiment and meaning” speak to? What special character did Blake have that labeled him a genius?

Goethe once wrote "Romanticism is disease, Classicism is health." what philosophical background prompted this criticism? This from Ferdinand Brunetiere, "Classicism is the regularity of good sense, perfection in moderation: Romanticism is disorder in the imagination, the rage of incorrectness. A blind wave of literary egotism". And from Irving Babitt (1865-1933) "In general a thing is romantic when, as Aristotle would say, it is wonderful rather than probable; when it violates the normal sequence of cause and effect in favor of adventure. The whole movement is filled with praise of ignorance, and of those who still enjoy it in appreciable advantages: the savage, the peasant, and above all the child."
Then, in complete reversal, Lascelles Abercombie (1881-1938) suggests of Romanticism "the opposite, not of Classicism, but of Realism, a withdrawal from outer experience to concentrate upon inner" is this a more accurate statement? How are we able to recognize the poetry of this period? Herford suggests: glory of lake and mountain, grace of childhood, dignity of the untaught peasant, wonder of fairy, mystery of the Gothic aisle, and radiance of Attic marble."
Concern for the illiterate population was another factor that that contributed to not only poetry but increase in all forms of writing, after all, if liberty, equality, fraternity was to survive, the population must educated. Thus, during the early 1800's there was a renewed interest in public education. Andrew Bell (1753-1832) and his follower, Joseph Lancaster developed schools for the poor (An Experiment in Education 1797). This literary expansion spread to the public in the form of journals like The Edinburgh Review (1802), the London Quarterly, Blackwood’s Magazine (1817), Westminster Review (1824), and Fraser’s Magazine (1830). These along with weekly newspapers like the Spectator and the Atheneum (1828) provided a venue for young, eager writers and critics to comment on them..

For our purposes we divide the movement into early and late. For the early period there is William Blake (1757-1827), Samuel Coleridge (1772-1834), William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Robert Southey (1774-1843), Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), Thomas Moore (1779-1852), Walter Scott (1776-1832), and Leigh Hunt (1784-1859). For the late period, 1783 to 1832, there is Charles Lamb (1775-1854), Lord Byron (1788-1824), John Keats (1705-1821), Percy Shelly (1792-1822), with Thomas Carlyle (1795-1840) entering the stage during the latter part of the century serving as a link between the Romantic Age and the Victorian.

They were not a homogenous group, these Romantics. In politics: both Tory and Liberal; in personality: Blake, Hazlitt, and Landor were loners while Byron, Shelly, and Wordsworth were groupies; others professing to be friends attacked each other regularly in verse and prose with accusations of "paganism" "maudlin sensibility" "third-rate" "apostasy". We begin with William Blake and this quote "'when the stars threw down their spears' upon a line like this and we seem to have heard a voice of other worlds." An artist by profession, he made a practice of illustrating his own work as well as that of other fellow poets. Somewhat over involved in mystical expressions of visions of faces, mysterious lights, and in his words "armies of angels that soar, legions of demons that lurk". His fame came as a result of Poetical Sketches (1783), Auguries of Innocence (1789), and Songs of Experience (1794). Auguries or Songs of Innocence was a collection filled with expression of love and tender feeling somewhat didactic dedicated to childhood with short, powerful poems like The Tiger, Hear the Voice of the Bard, and The Four Zoas. Blake’s favored mystical writing where the message is hidden and only divulged through hints. He confined himself to just a few themes: innocence of children, the pitifulness of their suffering, the wickedness of cruelty to animals, and the glory of forgiveness couched with sympathy, charity, and pity. He lived most of his life in poverty and when compensate did come to him, he gave it to charity. Poor, eccentric, arrogant, close-minded Blake, about his poverty he wrote:

“I've mental joy and mental health,
And mental friends and mental wealth,
I've a wife I love and what loves me;
I've all but riches bodily”

About his lack of formal schooling he wrote:

“Thank heaven, I never was sent to school
To be flogged into following the style of a fool!”

An influential force came from the family religion Swendenborganism.(For detail about this Protestant sect read Emerson's essay Representative Man.) All or most all of his poetry was written before the age of twenty; some when he was twelve years old. From his first anthology, Political Sketches, a collection of juvenile poetry, there is the prayer-like To the Evening Star, a faux sonnet, length and theme but without rhyme:

Thou fair-haired angel of the evening,
Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light
Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
Smile on our loves, and while thou drawest the
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash, the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And the lion glares through the dun forest:
The fleeces of our flocks are covered with
Thy sacred dew: protect them with thine influence.

And from this same collection To the Muses, in long hymnal measure written around the age of fourteen. Of these lines Arthur Symons (1863-1945) wrote “In these lines the eighteenth century dies to music.”

Whether on Ida’s shady brow,
Or in the chambers of the East,
The chambers of the sun, that now
From ancient melody have ceased;
Whether in Heaven ye wander fair,
Or the green corners of the earth,
Or, the blue regions of the air,
Where the melodious winds have birth;
Whether on crystal rocks ye rove,
Beneath the bosom of the sea
Wandering in many a coral grove,
fair Nine, forsaking Poetry!
How have you left the ancient love
That bards of old enjoyed in you!
The languid strings do scarcely move,
The sound is forced, the notes are few!

Other poems from Auguries of Innocence are the Introduction Piping Down the Valleys Wild, The Lamb, Holy Thursday, The Chimney Sweeper, and the often quoted poetic fragment from Auguries of Innocence in the style of the eighteenth century in couplets the didactic To See a World in a Grain of Sand. An interesting work that spawned many of today’s old saws like, “never hurt a fly”. It’s an array of disconnected aphorisms covering cruelty to animals, dangers of physical punishment, military aggression, and to some extent agnosticism.

To see a World in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
A Robin Redbreast in a Cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove house filled with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell through all its regions.
A dog starved at his masters gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fiber from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing,
The game-cock clipped and armed for fight
Does the rising sun affright.
Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raises from hell a human soul.
The wild deer, wandering here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misused breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher’s knife.
The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won’t believe,
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever’s fright,
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be beloved by men.
He who the ox to wrath has moved
Shall never be by woman loved.
The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider’s enmity,
He who torments the chafer’s sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.
The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother’s grief
Kill not the moth or butterfly,
For the Last Judgment draweth nigh.
He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar’s dog and widow’s cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.
The gnat that sings his summer song
Poison gets from slander’s tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of envy’s foot.
A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely .
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes revenge in realms of death.
The beggar’s rags, fluttering in air,
Does to rags the heavens tear.
The soldier armed with sword and gun
Palsied strikes the summer’s sun.
The poor man’s farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric’s shore.
One mite wrung from the laborer’s hands
Shall buy and sell the miser’s lands;
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.
He who mocks the infant’s faith
Shall be mocked in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne’er get out.
He who respects the infant’s faith
Triumphs over hell and death.

Of Blake’s short poems, The Lamb and The Tiger are worthy of study. The problem or theme is good and evil. The Lamb was to be the contrast representing good; the Tyger evil. One interpretation is that “both lamb and tiger are parts of eternity in material form, results of the act of creation by which Divine Mercy stopped the fall of Urizen (from Swedensborgen) and preserved the possibility of regeneration and return to divine unity” (The Explicator, Feb.1943).

The symbol of life is no longer the lamb by the tiger who “bears witness that not all creation is good.” Perhaps a more frequent interpretation would characterize the Tiger as the wrath of God. Blake wrote several versions of The Tyger before settling on the one already in the collection. An interesting classroom assignment would be to compare the final with this earlier version:

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
Burnt in distant deeps or skies
The cruel fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat
What dread hand and what dread feet
Could fetch it from the furnace deep
And in ths horrid ribs dare steep
In the well of sanguine woe?
In what clay and in what mould
Were thy eyes of fury rolled?
Where the hammer? Where the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand and eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

In Lines from Milton, a tale in two books, Blake presents the early Druids as the first men on Earth, symbolized in the character Albion of the British Isles. From him came all civilization and religion. Through magic and wonder they drifted into the Holy Land where they will one day return and build a new Jerusalem on “England’s green and pleasant land”. When first encountering this poem, students remarked it would make a great story line for a sci-fi movie. Here is an excerpt from Lines from Milton, rhyming abab or abcb:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds, unfold?
Bring me my chariot of fire.
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

Blake has two thematic periods one of songs of love, life, and social realty, and the second filled with classic symbolism and the bible. The Book of Thel was his first long allegorical poem with a theme of redemption written in unrhymed heptameter. It is regarded today as the simplest and loveliest of the symbolic works. When first published it was a commercial failure. It opens with Thel’s motto.

Does the Eagle know what is in the pit?
Or wilt thou go ask the Mole?
Can Wisdom be put in a silver rod?
Or Love in a golden bowl?

Meaning that we learn only from personal experience. The rest of the poem follows:

The daughters of the Seraphim led round their sunny flocks,
All but the youngest: she in paleness sought the secret air,
To fade away like morning beauty from her mortal day:
Down by the river of Adona her soft voice is heard,
And thus her gentle lamentation falls like morning dew:
O life of this our spring why fades the lotus of the water,
Why fade these children of the spring, born but to smile and fall?
Ah Thel is like a watery bow, and like a parting cloud;
Like a reflection in a glass; like shadows in the water;
Like dreams of infants, like a smile upon an infant's face;
Like the dove's voice; like transient day; like music in the air
Ah gentle may I lay me down, and gentle rest my head,
And gentle sleep the sleep of death, and gentle hear the voice
Of him that walketh in the garden in the evening time.

The Lily of the valley, breathing in the humble grass,
Answered the lovely maid and said: I am a watery weed,
And I am very small and love to dwell in lowly vales;
So weak, the gilded butterfly scarce perches on my head.
Yet I am visited from heaven, and he that smiles on all
Walks in the valley and each morn over me spreads his hand,
Saying, 'Rejoice, thou humble grass, thou new-born lily-flower,
Thou gentle maid of silent valleys and of modest brooks;
For thou shalt be clothed in light, and fed with morning manna,
Till summer's heat melts thee beside the fountains and the springs
To flourish in eternal vales.' Then why should Thel complain?
Why should the mistress of the vales of Har utter a sigh?

She ceased and smiled in tears, then sat down in her silver shrine.
Thel answered: O thou little virgin of the peaceful valley,
Giving to those that cannot crave, the voiceless, the overtired;
Thy breath doth nourish the innocent lamb, he smells thy milky garments,
He crops thy flowers while thou sittest smiling in his face,
Wiping his mild and meekin mouth from all contagious taints.
Thy wine doth purify the golden honey; thy perfume,
Which thou dost scatter on every little blade of grass that springs,
Revives the milked cow, and tames the fire-breathing steed.
But Thel is like a faint cloud kindled at the rising sun:
I vanish from my pearly throne, and who shall find my place?

Queen of the vales, the Lily answered, ask the tender cloud,
And it shall tell thee why it glitters in the morning sky,
And why it scatters its bright beauty thro' the humid air.
Descend, O little Cloud, and hover before the eyes of Thel.

The Cloud descended, and the Lily bowed her modest head
And went to mind her numerous charge among the verdant grass.

Comments: In all Blake’s work, Seraphim represents spirits of love and imagination; Cherubim, knowledge devoid of love thus, evil. Line 22 “gilded butterfly” reminiscent of classicism where Damon points out “revivifying of something killed by over use is the sign of genius.” Throughout Thel is the state of innocence.


O little Cloud, the virgin said, I charge thee tell to me
Why thou complainest not when in one hour thou fade away:
Then we shall seek thee, but not find. Ah Thel is like to thee:
I pass away: yet I complain, and no one hears my voice.
The Cloud then shew'd his golden head and his bright form emerg'd,
Hovering and glittering on the air before the face of Thel.
O virgin, knowest thou not our steeds drink of the golden springs
Where Luvah doth renew his horses? Lookest thou on my youth,
And fearest thou, because I vanish and am seen no more,
Nothing remains? O maid, I tell thee, when I pass away
It is to tenfold life, to love, to peace and raptures holy:
Unseen descending, weigh my light wings upon balmy flowers,
And court the fair-eyed dew to take me to her shining tent:
The weeping virgin trembling kneels before the risen sun,
Till we arise link'd in a golden band and never part,
But walk united, bearing food to all our tender flowers.

Dost thou, O little Cloud? I fear that I am not like thee,
For I walk through the vales of Har, and smell the sweetest flowers,
But I feed not the little flowers; I hear the warbling birds,
But I feed not the warbling birds; they fly and seek their food:
But Thel delights in these no more, because I fade away;
And all shall say, 'Without a use this shining woman lived,
Or did she only live to be at death the food of worms?'

The Cloud reclined upon his airy throne and answered thus:
Then if thou art the food of worms, O virgin of the skies,
How great thy use, how great thy blessing Every thing that lives
Lives not alone nor for itself. Fear not, and I will call
The weak worm from its lowly bed, and thou shalt hear its voice,
Come forth, worm of the silent valley, to thy pensive queen.
The helpless worm arose, and sat upon the Lily's leaf,
And the bright Cloud sail'd on, to find his partner in the vale.

Comments: Blake’s extremism states that anything “seen through, not with the eye” had a human form thus, the Cloud is able to sit on a throne. Luvah is the director of emotions. The “worm” is familiar as the symbol of flesh. Blake’s Gates of Paradise begins and ends with the worm.


Then Thel astonished viewed the Worm upon its dewy bed.
Art thou a Worm? Image of weakness, art thou but a Worm?
I see thee like an infant wrapped in the Lily's leaf
Ah weep not, little voice, thou canst not speak, but thou canst weep.
Is this a Worm? I see thee lay helpless and naked, weeping,
And none to answer, none to cherish thee with mother's smiles.
The Clod of Clay heard the Worm's voice and raised her pitying head:
She bowed over the weeping infant, and her life exhaled
In milky fondness: then on Thel she fixed her humble eyes.

O beauty of the vales of Har we live not for ourselves.
Thou seest me the meanest thing, and so I am indeed.
My bosom of itself is cold, and of itself is dark;
But he, that loves the lowly, pours his oil upon my head,
And kisses me, and binds his nuptial bands around my breast,
And says: 'Thou mother of my children, I have loved thee
And I have given thee a crown that none can take away.
'But how this is, sweet maid, I know not, and I cannot know;
I ponder, and I cannot ponder; yet I live and love.

The daughter of beauty wiped her pitying tears with her white veil,
And said: Alas I knew not this, and therefore did I weep.
That God would love a Worm I knew, and punish the evil foot
That wilful bruised its helpless form; but that he cherished it
With milk and oil I never knew, and therefore did I weep;
And I complained in the mild air, because I fade away,
And lay me down in thy cold bed, and leave my shining lot.

Queen of the vales, the matron Clay answer'd, I heard thy sighs,
And all thy moans flew o'er my roof, but I have called them down.
Wilt thou, O Queen, enter my house? Tis given thee to enter
And to return: fear nothing, enter with thy virgin feet.

Comments: Clod of Clay, identified by Pierre Berger in William Blake, Poet and Mystic p. 262 as the hymn, Magnificat “mother of men and of all things”.


The eternal gates' terrific porter lifted the northern bar:
Thel entered in and saw the secrets of the land unknown.
She saw the couches of the dead, and where the fibrous roots
Of every heart on earth infixes deep its restless twists:
A land of sorrows and of tears where never smile was seen.

She wandered in the land of clouds through valleys dark, listening
Dolours and lamentations; waiting oft beside a dewy grave
he stood in silence, listening to the voices of the ground,
Till to her own grave plot she came, and there she sat down,
And heard this voice of sorrow breathed from the hollow pit.

“Why cannot the Ear be closed to its own destruction?
Or the glistening Eye to the poison of a smile?
Why are Eyelids stored with arrows ready drawn,
Where a thousand fighting men in ambush lie?
Or an Eye of gifts and graces showering fruits and coined gold?

Why a Tongue impressed with honey from every wind?
Why an Ear, a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in?
Why a nostril wide inhaling terror, trembling, and affright?
Why a tender curb upon the youthful burning boy?
Why a little curtain of flesh on the bed of our desire?

The Virgin started from her seat, and with a shriek
Fled back unhindered till she came into the vales of Har.

Comments: “the terrific porter” is Los, the god of poetry. The “land of the unknown” is eternity. The last six lines list the senses. A fruitful supply of questions to pose for essay writing such as: Why are weapons of love, “more terrible than an army with banners?”

From the early period of short poems there is Infant Joy:

I have no name:
I am but two days old.
What shall I call thee?
I happy am,
Joy is my name.
Sweet joy befall thee.
Pretty joy
Sweet joy but two days old,Sweet joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while,
Sweet joy befall thee.

Samuel Coleridge had this to say “a babe two days old does not, cannot smile, truth and nature must go together” and suggested “For the last three lines I should write, ‘When wilt thou smile’ or ‘O smile, O smile, I’ll sing the while.’ Should “poetic license” be stretched to allow incorrectness? Are there other suggestions?

Spring is believed by most to be another winner, with one holdout: H. G. Hewlett (the Contemporary Review) found it to be “a swamp of namby-pamby.” Here is Spring written in unrhymed quatrains and in dimeter:

Thou with dewy locks, who lookest down
Through the clear windows of the morning, turn
Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring.
The hills tell one another, and the listening
Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turn'd
Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth
And let thy holy feet visit our clime.
Come o'er the eastern hills, and let our winds
Kiss thy perfumed garments; let us taste
Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
Upon our lovesick land that mourns for thee.
O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour
Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put
Thy golden crown upon her languished head,
Whose modest tresses are bound up for thee.

In The Clod and the Pebble Blake expresses two states: Innocence and Experience as unselfish and selfish love. The symbol of the “clod” suggests adaptability, lissomness, and formable while “pebble” means solid, immovable, without life. Here is The Clod and the Pebble in rhyming quatrains abab:

"Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell's despair."
So sung a little Clod of Clay
Trodden with the cattle's feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:
"Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind another to its delight,Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven's despite.

Eccentric and isolated, many questioned his mysticism and visions however, when other versifiers were printing nothing but heroic couplets and sentimental quatrains and calling them Eclogues, Epistles, and the like, Blake produced songs and lyrics; blank verse; ballads; a gothic story in verse; a historical drama; patriotic chants; rhythmic prose, children's verse and for most of these, extraordinarily, beautiful etchings.

Next there were the Lake poets, the triad linked together as they were throughout their writing careers: Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey. First let us look at Henry Wordsworth. After a brief love affair with the politics of the revolution Wordsworth turned entirely to the mountains, lakes, and streams of Yorkshire. While hiking among the mountains of Switzerland he came for the first time the full sense of his mission as a poet. In these words:

My heart was full; I made no vows, but vows
Were then made for me; bond unknown to me
Was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly,
A dedicated spirit.”
Of the French Revolution he wrote, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, and to be young was very heaven.” Edward Salmon writes: “He would have made the ideal laureate of a League of Nations for the Prevention of War.” Lest there be any doubt we look at Thanksgving Ode where Wordsworth attaches a note ‘Every man deserving the name of Briton adds his voice to the chorus which extols the exploits of his countrymen, with a consciousness, at times overpowering the effort, that they transcend all praise ‘.”

Wordsworth rushed to join in France against the advice of friends and family. Several sources suggest Coleridge as saving Wordsworth from his political frenzy but more likely when support funds were withdrawn and with no independent means of support, he was forced to return to England. For all three poets, the aftermath of the French Revolution frequently referred to as the “Reign of Terror” led to a conservative approach to life and a love of liberty.

The sonnet London was written on his return and warned of the “temptations of prosperity”. He wrote: “This was written immediately after my return from France to London, when I could not but be struck as here described, with the vanity and parade of our own country, especially in great towns and cities, as contrasted with the quiet and desolation, that the revolution had produced in France. This must be borne in mind, or else the reader may think that in this and the succeeding sonnets I have exaggerated the mischief engendered and fostered among us by undisturbed wealth.”

Once in England, along with his sister, Dorothy and a small legacy, he began his career of writing poetry. Wordsworth wrote of his sister:

She gave me eyes, she gave me ears;
And humble cares, and delicate fears;
A heart, the fountain of sweet tears,
And love, and thought, and joy”

Together they moved to a small cottage and were soon followed by Samuel Coleridge, Thomas DeQuincy the essayist, Sir Walter Scott, and even Ralph Emerson who came for a visit and later wrote “he offered to recite three sonnets he had just written...he recollected himself for a few moments and then stood forth and repeated, one after another the three entire sonnets with great animation.” It was once said that if Rousseau was the father of Romantic prose, Wordsworth was its truest poet. In the short poems To a Skylark, Nutting, and Yule Trees his first aim is met: the poetry of Nature.

The second aim Man in relation to Nature, is met by his narratives of humble people and their sensitivity of nature. The Solitary Reaper, Simon Lee, The Old Huntsman. Real people as Wordsworth once remarked to Justice Coleridge that “there was some foundation in fact to every poem he had ever written of a narrative kind”. The poem Michael (1800) was based on the son of an old couple and an old shepherd both living in a remote valley. The poet writes: “I have attempted to draw a picture of the domestic affections, as I know they exist amongst a class of men who are now almost confined in the north of England...the power which these men inconceivable by those who have only had the opportunity of observing hired laborers, farmers, and the manufacturing poor.” The pastoral poem The Brothers (1800) has a similar foundation. Read it under Pastoral: English. Another narrative is Ruth (1799-1800) which offers an all-too familiar tale.

When Ruth was left half desolate,
Her father took another mate:
And Ruth, not seven years old,
A slighted child, at her own will
Went wandering over dale and hill,
In thoughtless freedom, bold.
And she had made a pipe of straw,
And music from that pipe could draw
Like sounds of winds and floods;
Had built a bower upon the green,
As if she from her birth had been
An infant of the woods.
Beneath her father's roof, alone
She seemed to live; her thoughts her own;
Herself her own delight;
Pleased with herself, nor sad, nor gay;
And, passing thus the live-long day,
She grew to woman's height.
There came a Youth from Georgia's shore--
A military casque he wore,
With splendid feathers dressed;
He brought them from the Cherokees; The feathers nodded in the breeze,
And made a gallant crest. From Indian blood you deem him sprung:
But no! he spake the English tongue,
And bore a soldier's name;
And, when America was free
From battle and from jeopardy,
He 'cross the ocean came.
With hues of genius on his cheek
In finest tones the youth could speak
While he was yet a boy,
The moon, the glory of the sun,
And streams that murmur as they run,
Had been his dearest joy.
He was a lovely youth! I guess
The panther in the wilderness
Was not so fair as he;
And, when he chose to sport and play,
No dolphin ever was so gay
Upon the tropic sea.
Among the Indians he had fought,
And with him many tales he brought
Of pleasure and of fear;
Such tales as told to any maid
By such a Youth, in the green shade,
Were perilous to hear.
He told of girls--a happy rout!
Who quit their fold with dance and shout,
Their pleasant Indian town,
To gather strawberries all day long;
Returning with a choral song
When daylight is gone down.
He spake of plants that hourly change
Their blossoms, through a boundless range
Of intermingling hues;
With budding, fading, faded flowers
They stand the wonder of the bowers
From morn to evening dews.

He told of the magnolia, spread
High as a cloud, high overhead!
The cypress and her spire;
--Of flowers that with one scarlet gleam
Cover a hundred leagues, and seem
To set the hills on fire.

The Youth of green savannas spake, And many an endless, endless lake, With all its fairy crowds
Of islands, that together lie
As quietly as spots of sky
Among the evening clouds.

"How pleasant," then he said, "it were
A fisher or a hunter there, In sunshine or in shade
To wander with an easy mind;
And build a household fire, and find
A home in every glade!
"What days and what bright years! Ah me!
Our life were life indeed, with thee
So passed in quiet bliss,
And all the while," said he, "to know
That we were in a world of woe,
On such an earth as this!"

And then he sometimes interwove
Fond thoughts about a father's love
"For there," said he, "are spun
Around the heart such tender ties,
That our own children to our eyes
Are dearer than the sun.

"Sweet Ruth! and could you go with me
My helpmate in the woods to be,
Our shed at night to rear;
Or run, my own adopted bride,
A sylvan huntress at my side,
And drive the flying deer!
"Beloved Ruth!"--No more he said,
The wakeful Ruth at midnight shed
A solitary tear:
She thought again--and did agree
With him to sail across the sea,
And drive the flying deer.

"And now, as fitting is and right,
We in the church our faith will plight,
A husband and a wife."
Even so they did; and I may say
That to sweet Ruth that happy day
Was more than human life.
Through dream and vision did she sink,
Delighted all the while to think
And green savannas, she should share
His board with lawful joy, and bear
His name in the wild woods.

But, as you have before been told,
This stripling, sportive, gay, and bold,
And, with his dancing crest,
So beautiful, through savage lands
Had roamed about, with vagrant bands
Of Indians in the West.
The wind, the tempest roaring high,
The tumult of a tropic sky,
Might well be dangerous food
For him, a Youth to whom was given
So much of earth--so much of heaven,
And such impetuous blood.
Whatever in those climes he found
Irregular in sight or sound
Did to his mind impart
A kindred impulse, seemed allied
To his own powers, and justified
The workings of his heart.
Nor less, to feed voluptuous thought,
The beauteous forms of nature wrought,
Fair trees and gorgeous flowers;
The breezes their own languor lent;
The stars had feelings, which they sent
Into those favored bowers.
Yet, in his worst pursuits, I ween
That sometimes there did intervene
Pure hopes of high intent:
For passions linked to forms so fair
And stately, needs must have their share
Of noble sentiment.

But ill he lived, much evil saw,
With men to whom no better law
Nor better life was known;
Deliberately, and undeceived,
Those wild men's vices he received,
And gave them back his own.

His genius and his moral frame
Were thus impaired, and he became
The slave of low desires:
A man who without self-control
Would seek what the degraded soul
Unworthily admires.

And yet he with no feigned delight
Had wooed the maiden, day and night
Had loved her, night and morn:
What could he less than love a maid
Whose heart with so much nature played?
So kind and so forlorn!
Sometimes, most earnestly, he said,
"O Ruth! I have been worse than dead;
False thoughts, thoughts bold and vain,
Encompassed me on every side
When I, in confidence and pride,
Had crossed the Atlantic main.

“Before me shone a glorious world--
Fresh as a banner bright, unfurled
To music suddenly:
I looked upon those hills and plains,
And seemed as if let loose from chains,
To live at liberty.

“No more of this; for now, by thee
Dear Ruth! more happily set free
With nobler zeal I burn;
My soul from darkness is released,
Like the whole sky when to the east
The morning doth return."
Full soon that better mind was gone;
No hope, no wish remained, not one,
They stirred him now no more;
New objects did new pleasure give,
And once again he wished to live
As lawless as before.

Meanwhile, as thus with him it fared,
They for the voyage were prepared,
And went to the sea-shore,
But, when they thither came, the youth
Deserted his poor Bride, and Ruth
Could never find him more.

God help thee, Ruth! Such pains she had,
That she in half a year was mad,
And in a prison housed;
And there, with many a doleful song
Made of wild words, her cup of wrong
She fearfully caroused.

Yet sometimes milder hours she knew,
Nor wanted sun, nor rain, nor dew,
Nor pastimes of the May;
They all were with her in her cell;
And a clear brook with cheerful knell
Did o'er the pebbles play.
When Ruth three seasons thus had lain,
There came a respite to her pain;
She from her prison fled;
But of the vagrant none took thought;
And where it liked her best she sought
Her shelter and her bread.

Among the fields she breathed again:
The master-current of her brain
Ran permanent and free;
And, coming to the Banks of Tone,
There did she rest; and dwell alone
Under the greenwood tree.
The engines of her pain, the tools
That shaped her sorrow, rocks and pools,
And airs that gently stir
The vernal leaves--she loved them still;
Nor ever taxed them with the ill
Which had been done to her.

A Barn her winter bed supplies;
But, till the warmth of summer skies
And summer days is gone,
(And all do in this tale agree)
She sleeps beneath the greenwood tree,
And other home hath none.
An innocent life, yet far astray!
And Ruth will, long before her day,
Be broken down and old:
Sore aches she needs must have! but less
Of mind, than body's wretchedness,
From damp, and rain, and cold.

If she is pressed by want of food,
She from her dwelling in the wood
Repairs to a road-side;
And there she begs at one steep place
Where up and down with easy pace
The horsemen-travellers ride.

That oaten pipe of hers is mute,
Or thrown away; but with a flute
Her loneliness she cheers:
This flute, made of a hemlock stalk,
At evening in his homeward walk
The Quantock woodman hears.
I, too, have passed her on the hills
Setting her little water-mills
By spouts and fountains wild--
Such small machinery as she turned
Ere she had wept, ere she had mourned,
A young and happy child!

Farewell! and when thy days are told,
Ill-fated Ruth, in hallowed mould
Thy corpse shall buried be,
For thee a funeral bell shall ring,
And all the congregation sing
A Christian psalm for thee.

Comment: How does this refute Wordsworth’s notion that the influences of nature are always beneficial?

Our last example is Resolution and Independence, revised from The Leech Gatherer (1802), a thirteen stanza poem written in rime royal. In this narrative Wordsworth recalls a pleasant stroll near his home after long night of rain when suddenly he falls into dejection, overcome by sadness he writes:

But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the might
Of joy in minds that can no further go,
As high as we have mounted in delight
In our dejection do we sink as low;... “

He recovers as he recalls the encounter of a leech-gatherer who seems to accept his fate and the hardships of his life. And finishes with:

In that decrepit Man so firm a mind,
God,” said I, be my help and stay secure;
I’ll think of the Leech-gatherer on the lonely moor!

Comments: Actually Wordsworth is recalling poet friends who have succumbed to suicide (Thomas Chatterton, (1752-1770) who, starving in a Holborn garret and refusing food from friends, took a fatal dose of arsenic; and the death of the Robert Burns (1759-1796) of an illness. Burns had also written Tam o Shanter, a narrative poem written eight-syllable couplets in 1790. For a description of this event read Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journal of October 3, 1800.

Here is Resolution and Independence:

There was a roaring in the wind all night;
The rain came heavily and fell in floods;
But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
The birds are singing in the distant woods;
Over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods;
The Jay makes answer as the Magpie chatters;
And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.
All things that love the sun are out of doors;
The sky rejoices in the morning's birth;
The grass is bright with rain-drops;--on the moors
The hare is running races in her mirth;
And with her feet she from the splashy earth
Raises a mist, that, glittering in the sun,
Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run.
I was a Traveller then upon the moor;
I saw the hare that raced about with joy;
I heard the woods and distant waters roar;
Or heard them not, as happy as a boy:
The pleasant season did my heart employ:
My old remembrances went from me wholly;
And all the ways of men, so vain and melancholy.
But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the might
Of joys in minds that can no further go,
As high as we have mounted in delight
In our dejection do we sink as low;
To me that morning did it happen so;
And fears and fancies thick upon me came;
Dim sadness--and blind thoughts,
I knew not, nor could name.
I heard the sky-lark warbling in the sky;
And I bethought me of the playful hare:
Even such a happy Child of earth am I;
Even as these blissful creatures do I fare;
Far from the world I walk, and from all care;
But there may come another day to me--
Solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty.
My whole life I have lived in pleasant thought,
As if life's business were a summer mood;
As if all needful things would come unsought
To genial faith, still rich in genial good;
But how can He expect that others should
Build for him, sow for him, and at his call
Love him, who for himself will take no heed at all?
I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous Boy,
The sleepless Soul that perished in his pride;
Of Him who walked in glory and in joy
Following his plough, along the mountain-side:
By our own spirits are we deified:
We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;
But thereof come in the end despondency and madness.
Now, whether it were by peculiar grace,
A leading from above, a something given,
Yet it befell that, in this lonely place,
When I with these untoward thoughts had striven,
Beside a pool bare to the eye of heaven
I saw a Man before me unawares:
The oldest man he seemed that ever wore grey hairs.
As a huge stone is sometimes seen to lie
Couched on the bald top of an eminence;
Wonder to all who do the same espy,
By what means it could thither come, and whence;
So that it seems a thing endued with sense:
Like a sea-beast crawled forth, that on a shelf
Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself;
Such seemed this Man, not all alive nor dead,
Nor all asleep--in his extreme old age:
His body was bent double, feet and head
Coming together in life's pilgrimage;
As if some dire constraint of pain, or rage
Of sickness felt by him in times long past,
A more than human weight upon his frame had cast.
Himself he propped, limbs, body, and pale face,
Upon a long grey staff of shaven wood:
And, still as I drew near with gentle pace,
Upon the margin of that moorish flood
Motionless as a cloud the old Man stood,
That heareth not the loud winds when they call,
And moveth all together, if it move at all.
At length, himself unsettling, he the pond
Stirred with his staff, and fixedly did look
Upon the muddy water, which he conned,
As if he had been reading in a book:
And now a stranger's privilege I took;
And, drawing to his side, to him did say,
"This morning gives us promise of a glorious day."
A gentle answer did the old Man make,
In courteous speech which forth he slowly drew:
And him with further words I thus bespake,
"What occupation do you there pursue?
This is a lonesome place for one like you."
Ere he replied, a flash of mild surprise
Broke from the sable orbs of his yet-vivid eyes.
His words came feebly, from a feeble chest,
But each in solemn order followed each,
With something of a lofty utterance dressed--
Choice word and measured phrase, above the reach
Of ordinary men; a stately speech;
Such as grave Livers do in Scotland use,
Religious men, who give to God and man their dues.
He told, that to these waters he had come
To gather leeches, being old and poor:
Employment hazardous and wearisome!
And he had many hardships to endure:
From pond to pond he roamed, from moor to moor;
Housing, with God's good help, by choice or chance;
And in this way he gained an honest maintenance.
The old Man still stood talking by my side;
But now his voice to me was like a stream
Scarce heard; nor word from word could I divide;
And the whole body of the Man did seem
Like one whom I had met with in a dream;
Or like a man from some far region sent,
To give me human strength, by apt admonishment.
My former thoughts returned: the fear that kills;
And hope that is unwilling to be fed;
Cold, pain, and labour, and all fleshly ills;
And mighty Poets in their misery dead.
--Perplexed, and longing to be comforted,
My question eagerly did I renew,
"How is it that you live, and what is it you do?"
He with a smile did then his words repeat;
And said that, gathering leeches, far and wide
He travelled; stirring thus about his feet
The waters of the pools where they abide.
"Once I could meet with them on every side;
But they have dwindled long by slow decay;
Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may."
While he was talking thus, the lonely place,
The old Man's shape, and speech--all troubled me:
In my mind's eye I seemed to see him pace
About the weary moors continually,
Wandering about alone and silently.
While I these thoughts within myself pursued,
He, having made a pause, the same discourse renewed.
And soon with this he other matter blended,
Cheerfully uttered, with demeanor kind,
But stately in the main; and, when he ended,
I could have laughed myself to scorn to find
In that decrepit Man so firm a mind.
"God," said I, "be my help and stay secure;
I'll think of the Leech-gatherer on the lonely moor!"

The romantic movement concerned itself with man, nature, and society. For many years Wordsworth’s work was ignored; upstaged by the novels of Sir Walter Scott, then Byron, whose physical beauty coupled with a lamed foot helped to make him the darling of the parlor ladies, and later there was Tennyson who helped lift national pride. But Wordsworth prevailed and is declared Poet Laureate and premier romantic poet. Here is his long nature poem written in heroic couplets where he reflects upon a pedestrian tour among the Alps. The second of his aims; man in relation to nature. Wordsworth writes: “Much the greatest part of this poem was composed during my walks upon the banks of the Loire in the years 1791-1792. I will only notice that the description of the valley filled with mist, beginning..."In solemn shapes," was taken from that beautiful region of which the principal features are Lungarn and Sarnen. Nothing that I ever saw in nature left a more delightful impression on my mind than that which I have attempted, alas! how feebly, to convey to others in these lines. Those two lakes have always interested me especially, from bearing, in their size and other features, a resemblance to those of the North of England. It is much to be deplored that a district so beautiful should be so unhealthy as it is.

Descriptive Sketches

Were there, below, a spot of holy ground
Where from distress a refuge might be found,
And solitude prepare the soul for heaven; Sure, nature's
God that spot to man had given
Where falls the purple morning far and wide
In flakes of light upon the mountain side;
Where with loud voice the power of water shakes
The leafy wood, or sleeps in quiet lakes.
Yet not unrecompensed the man shall roam,
Who at the call of summer quits his home,
And plods through some wide realm o'er vale and height,
Though seeking only holiday delight;
At least, not owning to himself an aim
To which the sage would give a prouder name.
No gains too cheaply earned his fancy cloy,
Though every passing zephyr whispers joy;
Brisk toil, alternating with ready ease,
Feeds the clear current of his sympathies.
For him sod-seats the cottage-door adorn;
And peeps the far-off spire, his evening bourn!
Dear is the forest frowning o'er his head,
And dear the velvet green-sward to his tread:
Moves there a cloud o'er mid-day's flaming eye?
Upward he looks and calls it luxury:
"Kind Nature's charities his steps attend;
In every babbling brook he finds a friend;
While chastening thoughts of sweetest use, bestowed
By wisdom, moralize his pensive road.
Host of his welcome inn, the noon-tide bower,
To his spare meal he calls the passing poor;
He views the sun uplift his golden fire,
Or sink, with heart alive like Memnon's lyre;
Blesses the moon that comes with kindly ray,
To light him shaken by his rugged way.
Back from his sight no bashful children steal;
He sits a brother at the cottage-meal;
His humble looks no shy restraint impart;
Around him plays at will the virgin heart.
While unsuspended wheels the village dance,
The maidens eye him with enquiring glance,
Much wondering by what fit of crazing care,
Or desperate love, bewildered, he came there.
A hope, that prudence could not then approve,
That clung to Nature with a truant's love,
O'er Gallia's wastes of corn my footsteps led;
Her files of road-elms, high above my head
In long-drawn vista, rustling in the breeze;
Or where her pathways straggle as they please
By lonely farms and secret villages.
But lo! the Alps ascending white in air,
Toy with the sun and glitter from afar.
And now, emerging from the forest's gloom,
I greet thee, Chartreuse, while I mourn thy doom.
Whither is fled that Power whose frown severe
Awed sober Reason till she crouched in fear?
'That' Silence, once in deathlike fetters bound,
Chains that were loosened only by the sound
Of holy rites chanted in measured round?
The voice of blasphemy the fane alarms,
The cloister startles at the gleam of arms.
The thundering tube the aged angler hears,
Bent o'er the groaning flood that sweeps away his tears.
Cloud-piercing pine-trees nod their troubled heads,
Spires, rocks, and lawns a browner night overspreads;
Strong terror checks the female peasant's sighs,
And start the astonished shades at female eyes.
From Bruno's forest screams the affrighted jay,
And slow the insulted eagle wheels away.
A viewless flight of laughing Demons mock
The Cross, by angels planted on the aerial rock.
The "parting Genius" sighs with hollow breath
Along the mystic streams of Life and Death.
Swelling the outcry dull, that long resounds
Portentous through her old woods' trackless bounds,
Vallombre, 'mid her falling fanes, deplores,
For ever broke, the sabbath of her bowers.
More pleased, my foot the hidden margin roves
Of Como, bosomed deep in chestnut groves.
No meadows thrown between, the giddy steeps
Tower, bare or sylvan, from the narrow deeps.
To towns, whose shades of no rude noise complain,
From ringing team apart and grating wain
To flat-roofed towns, that touch the water's bound,
Or lurk in woody sunless glens profound,
Or, from the bending rocks, obtrusive cling,
And o'er the whitened wave their shadows fling
The pathway leads, as round the steeps it twines;
And Silence loves its purple roof of vines.
The loitering traveler hence, at evening, sees
From rock-hewn steps the sail between the trees;
Or marks, 'mid opening cliffs, fair dark-eyed maids
Tend the small harvest of their garden glades;
Or stops the solemn mountain-shades to view
Stretch o'er the pictured mirror broad and blue,
And track the yellow lights from steep to steep,
As up the opposing hills they slowly creep.
Aloft, here, half a village shines, arrayed
In golden light; half hides itself in shade:
While, from amid the darkened roofs, the spire,
Restlessly flashing, seems to mount like fire:
There, all unshaded, blazing forests throw
Rich golden verdure on the lake below.
Slow glides the sail along the illumined shore,
And steals into the shade the lazy oar;
Soft bosoms breathe around contagious sighs,
And amorous music on the water dies.
How blest, delicious scene the eye that greets
Thy open beauties, or thy lone retreats;
Beholds the unwearied sweep of wood that scales
Thy cliffs; the endless waters of thy vales;
Thy lowly cots that sprinkle all the shore,
Each with its household boat beside the door;
Thy torrents shooting from the clear-blue sky;
Thy towns, that cleave, like swallows' nests, on high;

That glimmer hoar in eve's last light, descried
Dim from the twilight water's shaggy side,
Whence lutes and voices down the enchanted woods
Steal, and compose the oar-forgotten floods;
Thy lake, that, streaked or dappled, blue or grey,
'Mid smoking woods gleams hid from morning's ray
Slow-traveling down the western hills, to enfold
Its green-tinged margin in a blaze of gold;
Thy glittering steeples, whence the matin bell
Calls forth the woodman from his desert cell,
And quickens the blithe sound of oars that pass
Along the steaming lake, to early mass
But now farewell to each and all adieu
To every charm, and last and chief to you,
Ye lovely maidens that in noontide shade
Rest near your little plots of wheaten glade;
To all that binds the soul in powerless trance,
Lip-dewing song, and ringlet-tossing dance;
Where sparkling eyes and breaking smiles illume
The sylvan cabin's lute-enlivened gloom.
Alas! the very murmur of the streams
Breathes over the failing soul voluptuous dreams,
While Slavery, forcing the sunk mind to dwell
On joys that might disgrace the captive's cell,
Her shameless timbrel shakes on Como's marge,
And lures from bay to bay the vocal barge.
Yet are thy softer arts with power indued
To soothe and cheer the poor man's solitude.
By silent cottage-doors, the peasant's home
Left vacant for the day, I loved to roam.
But once I pierced the mazes of a wood
In which a cabin undeserted stood;
There an old man an olden measure scanned
On a rude viol touched with withered hand.
As lambs or fawns in April clustering lie
Under a hoary oak's thin canopy,
Stretched at his feet, with stedfast upward eye,
His children's children listened to the sound;
A Hermit with his family around!
But let us hence; for fair Locarno smiles
Embowered in walnut slopes and citron isles:
Or seek at eve the banks of Tusa's stream,
Where, 'mid dim towers and woods, her waters gleam.
From the bright wave, in solemn gloom, retire
The dull-red steeps, and, darkening still, aspire
To where afar rich orange lustres glow
Round undistinguished clouds, and rocks, and snow:
Or, led where Via Mala's chasms confine
The indignant waters of the infant Rhine,
Hang o'er the abyss, whose else impervious gloom
His burning eyes with fearful light illume.
The mind condemned, without reprieve, to go
O'er life's long deserts with its charge of woe,
With sad congratulation joins the train
Where beasts and men together o'er the plain
Move on a mighty caravan of pain:
Hope, strength, and courage, social suffering brings,
Freshening the wilderness with shades and springs.
There be whose lot far otherwise is cast:
Sole human tenant of the piny waste,
By choice or doom a gipsy wanders here,
A nursling babe her only comforter;
Lo, where she sits beneath yon shaggy rock,
A cowering shape half hid in curling smoke!
When lightning among clouds and mountain-snows
Predominates, and darkness comes and goes,
And the fierce torrent, at the flashes broad
Starts, like a horse, beside the glaring road
She seeks a covert from the battering shower
In the roofed bridge; a the bridge, ill that dread hour,
Itself all trembling at the torrent's power
.Nor is she more at ease on some 'still' night,
When not a star supplies the comfort of its light;
Only the waning moon hangs dull and red
Above a melancholy mountain's head,
Then sets. In total gloom the Vagrant sighs,
Stoops her sick head, and shuts her weary eyes;
Or on her fingers counts the distant clock,
Or, to the drowsy crow of midnight cock,
Listens, or quakes while from the forest's gulf
Howls near and nearer yet the famished wolf.
From the green vale of Urseren smooth and wide
Descend we now, the maddened Reuss our guide;
By rocks that, shutting out the blessed day,
Cling tremblingly to rocks as loose as they;
By cells upon whose image, while he prays,
The kneeling peasant scarcely dares to gaze;
By many a votive death-cross planted near,
And watered duly with the pious tear,
That faded silent from the upward eye
Unmoved with each rude form of peril nigh;
Fixed on the anchor left by Him who saves
Alike in whelming snows, and roaring waves.
But soon a peopled region on the sight
Opens a little world of calm delight;
Where mists, suspended on the expiring gale,
Spread roof-like o'er the deep secluded vale,
And beams of evening slipping in between,
Gently illuminate a sober scene:

Here, on the brown wood-cottages they sleep,
There, over rock or sloping pasture creep.
On as we journey, in clear view displayed,
The still vale lengthens underneath its shade
Of low-hung vapour: on the freshened mead
The green light sparkles;the dim bowers recede.
While pastoral pipes and streams the landscape lull,
And bells of passing mules that tinkle dull,
In solemn shapes before the admiring eye
Dilated hang the misty pines on high,
Huge convent domes with pinnacles and towers,
And antique castles seen through gleamy showers.
From such romantic dreams, my soul, awake!
To sterner pleasure, where, by Uri's lake
In Nature's pristine majesty outspread,
Winds neither road nor path for foot to tread:
The rocks rise naked as a wall, or stretch
Far o'er the water, hung with groves of beech;
Aerial pines from loftier steeps ascend,
Nor stop but where creation seems to end.
Yet here and there, if mid the savage scene
Appears a scanty plot of smiling green,
Up from the lake a zigzag path will creep
To reach a small wood-hut hung boldly on the steep,
Before those thresholds (never can they know
The face of traveler passing to and fro,)
No peasant leans upon his pole, to tell
For whom at morning tolled the funeral bell;
Their watch-dog ne'er his angry bark foregoes,
Touched by the beggar's moan of human woes;
The shady porch ne'er offered a cool seat
To pilgrims overcome by summer's heat.
Yet thither the world's business finds its way
At times, and tales unsought beguile the day,
And 'there' are those fond thoughts which Solitude,
However stern, is powerless to exclude.
There doth the maiden watch her lover's sail
Approaching, and upbraid the tardy gale;
At midnight listens till his parting oar,
And its last echo, can be heard no more.
And what if ospreys, cormorants, herons, cry
Amid tempestuous vapors driving by,
Or hovering over wastes too bleak to rear
That common growth of earth, the foodful ear;
Where the green apple shrivels on the spray,
And pines the unripened pear in summer's kindliest ray;
Contentment shares the desolate domain
With Independence, child of high Disdain.
Exulting 'mid the winter of the skies,
Shy as the jealous chamois, Freedom flies,
And grasps by fits her sword, and often eyes;
And sometimes, as from rock to rock she bounds
The Patriot nymph starts at imagined sounds,
And, wildly pausing, oft she hangs aghast,
Whether some old Swiss air hath checked her haste
Or thrill of Spartan fife is caught between the blast.
Swollen with incessant rains from hour to hour,
All day the floods a deepening murmur pour:
The sky is veiled, and every cheerful sight:
Dark is the region as with coming night;
But what a sudden burst of overpowering light!
Triumphant on the bosom of the storm,
Glances the wheeling eagle's glorious form!
Eastward, in long perspective glittering, shine
The wood-crowned cliffs that o'er the lake recline;
Those lofty cliffs a hundred streams unfold,
At once to pillars turned that flame with gold:
Behind his sail the peasant shrinks, to shun
The 'west', that burns like one dilated sun,
A crucible of mighty compass, felt
By mountains, glowing till they seem to melt.
But, lo! the boatman, overawed, before
The pictured fane of Tell suspends his oar;
Confused the Marathonian tale appears,
While his eyes sparkle with heroic tears.
And who, that walks where men of ancient days
Have wrought with godlike arm the deeds of praise,
Feels not the spirit of the place control,
Or rouse and agitate his laboring soul?
Say, who, by thinking on Canadian hills,
Or wild Aosta lulled by Alpine rills,
On Zutphen's plain; or on that highland dell,
Through which rough Garry cleaves his way, can tell
What high resolves exalt the tenderest thought
Of him whom passion rivets to the spot,
Where breathed the gale that caught Wolfe's happiest sigh,
And the last sunbeam fell on Bayard's eye;
Where bleeding Sidney from the cup retired,
And glad Dundee in "faint huzzas" expired?
But now with other mind I stand alone
Upon the summit of this naked cone,
And watch the fearless chamois-hunter chase

His prey, through tracts abrupt of desolate space,
Through vacant worlds where Nature never gave
A brook to murmur or a bough to wave,
Which unsubstantial Phantoms sacred keep;
Through worlds where Life, and Voice, and Motion sleep;
Where silent Hours their deathlike sway extend,
Save when the avalanche breaks loose, to rend
Its way with uproar, till the ruin, drowned
In some dense wood or gulf of snow profound,
Mocks the dull ear of Time with deaf abortive sound.
'Tis his, while wandering on from height to height,
To see a planet's pomp and steady light
In the least star of scarce-appearing night;
While the pale moon moves near him, on the bound
Of ether, shining with diminished round,
And far and wide the icy summits blaze,
Rejoicing in the glory of her rays:
To him the day-star glitters small and bright,
Shorn of its beams, insufferably white,
And he can look beyond the sun, and view
Those fast-receding depths of sable blue
Flying till vision can no more pursue!
At once bewildering mists around him close,
And cold and hunger are his least of woes;
The Demon of the snow, with angry roar
Descending, shuts for aye his prison door.
Soon with despair's whole weight his spirits sink;
Bread has he none, the snow must be his drink;
And, ere his eyes can close upon the day,
The eagle of the Alps overshades her prey.
Now couch thyself where, heard with fear afar,
Thunders through echoing pines the headlong Aar;
Or rather stay to taste the mild delights
Of pensive Underwalden's pastoral heights.
Is there who 'mid these awful wilds has seen
The native Genii walk the mountain green?
Or heard, while other worlds their charms reveal,
Soft music o'er the aerial summit steal?
While o'er the desert, answering every close,
Rich steam of sweetest perfume comes and goes.
And sure there is a secret Power that reigns
Here, where no trace of man the spot profanes,
Nought but the 'chalets', flat and bare, on high
Suspended 'mid the quiet of the sky;
Or distant herds that pasturing upward creep,
And, not untended, climb the dangerous steep.
How still! no irreligious sound or sight
Rouses the soul from her severe delight.
An idle voice the sabbath region fills
Of Deep that calls to Deep across the hills,
And with that voice accords the soothing sound
Of drowsy bells, for ever tinkling round;
Faint wail of eagle melting into blue
Beneath the cliffs, and pine-woods' steady 'sugh';
The solitary heifer's deepened low;
Or rumbling, heard remote, of falling snow.
All motions, sounds, and voices, far and nigh,
Blend in a music of tranquillity;
Save when, a stranger seen below, the boy
Shouts from the echoing hills with savage joy.
When, from the sunny breast of open seas,
And bays with myrtle fringed, the southern breeze
Comes on to gladden April with the sight
Of green isles widening on each snow-clad height;
When shouts and lowing herds the valley fill,
And louder torrents stun the noon-tide hill,
The pastoral Swiss begin the cliffs to scale,
Leaving to silence the deserted vale;
And like the Patriarchs in their simple age
Move, as the verdure leads, from stage to stage:
High and more high in summer's heat they go,
And hear the rattling thunder far below;
Or steal beneath the mountains, half-deterred,
Where huge rocks tremble to the bellowing herd.
One I behold who, 'cross the foaming flood,
Leaps with a bound of graceful hardihood;
Another, high on that green ledge;he gained
The tempting spot with every sinew strained;
And downward thence a knot of grass he throws,
Food for his beasts in time of winter snows.
Far different life from what Tradition hoar
Transmits of happier lot in times of yore!
Then Summer lingered long; and honey flowed
From out the rocks, the wild bees' safe abode:
Continual waters welling cheered the waste,
And plants were wholesome, now of deadly taste:
Nor Winter yet his frozen stores had piled,
Usurping where the fairest herbage smiled:
Nor Hunger driven the herds from pastures bare,
To climb the treacherous cliffs for scanty fare.
Then the milk-thistle flourished through the land,
And forced the full-swollen udder to demand,
Thrice every day, the pail and welcome hand.
Thus does the father to his children tell
Of banished bliss, by fancy loved too well.
Alas! that human guilt provoked the rod
Of angry Nature to avenge her God.
Still, Nature, ever just, to him imparts
Joys only given to uncorrupted hearts.
'Tis morn: with gold the verdant mountain glows
More high, the snowy peaks with hues of rose.
Far-stretched beneath the many-tinted hills,
A mighty waste of mist the valley fills,
A solemn sea! whose billows wide around
Stand motionless, to awful silence bound:
Pines, on the coast, through mist their tops uprear,
That like to leaning masts of stranded ships appear.
A single chasm, a gulf of gloomy blue,
Gapes in the center of the sea and, through
That dark mysterious gulf ascending, sound
Innumerable streams with roar profound.
Mount through the nearer vapors notes of birds,
And merry flageolet; the low of herds,
The bark of dogs, the heifer's tinkling bell,
Talk, laughter, and perchance a church tower knell:
Think not, the peasant from aloft has gazed
And heard with heart unmoved, with soul unraised:
Nor is his spirit less enrapt, nor less
Alive to independent happiness,
Then, when he lies, out-stretched, at eventide
Upon the fragrant mountain's purple side:
For as the pleasures of his simple day
Beyond his native valley seldom stray,
Nought round its darling precincts can he find
But brings some past enjoyment to his mind;
While Hope, reclining upon Pleasure's urn,
Binds her wild wreaths, and whispers his return.
Once, Man entirely free, alone and wild,
Was blest as free, for he was Nature's child.
He, all superior but his God disdained,
Walked none restraining, and by none restrained

Confessed no law but what his reason taught,
Did all he wished, and wished but what he ought.
As man in his primeval dower arrayed
The image of his glorious Sire displayed,
Even so, by faithful Nature guarded, here
The traces of primeval Man appear;
The simple dignity no forms debase;
The eye sublime, and surly lion-grace:
The slave of none, of beasts alone the lord,
His book he prizes, nor neglects his sword;
Well taught by that to feel his rights, prepared
With this "the blessings he enjoys to guard."
And, as his native hills encircle ground
For many a marvellous victory renowned,
The work of Freedom daring to oppose,
With few in arms, innumerable foes,
When to those famous fields his steps are led,
An unknown power connects him with the dead:
For images of other worlds are there;
Awful the light, and holy is the air.
Fitfully, and in flashes, through his soul,
Like sun-lit tempests, troubled transports roll;
His bosom heaves, his Spirit towers amain,
Beyond the senses and their little reign.
And oft, when that dread vision hath past by,
He holds with God himself communion high,
There where the peal of swelling torrents fills
The sky-roofed temple of the eternal hills;
Or when, upon the mountain's silent brow
Reclined, he sees, above him and below,
Bright stars of ice and azure fields of snow;
While needle peaks of granite shooting bare
Tremble in ever-varying tints of air.
And when a gathering weight of shadows brown
Falls on the valleys as the sun goes down;
And Pikes, of darkness named and fear and storms,
Uplift in quiet their illumined forms,
In sea-like reach of prospect round him spread,
Tinged like an angel's smile all rosy red
Awe in his breast with holiest love unites,
And the near heavens impart their own delights.
When downward to his winter hut he goes,
Dear and more dear the lessening circle grows;
That hut which on the hills so oft employs
His thoughts, the central point of all his joys.
And as a swallow, at the hour of rest,
Peeps often ere she darts into her nest,
So to the homestead, where the grandsire tends
A little prattling child, he oft descends,
To glance a look upon the well-matched pair;
Till storm and driving ice blockade him there.
There, safely guarded by the woods behind,
He hears the chiding of the baffled wind,
Hears Winter calling all his terrors round,
And, blest within himself, he shrinks not from the sound.
Through Nature's vale his homely pleasures glide,
Unstained by envy, discontent, and pride;
The bound of all his vanity, to deck,
With one bright bell, a favorite heifer's neck;
Well pleased upon some simple annual feast,
Remembered half the year and hoped the rest,
If dairy-produce, from his inner hoard,
Of thrice ten summers dignify the board.
Alas! in every clime a flying ray
Is all we have to cheer our wintry way;
And here the unwilling mind may more than trace
The general sorrows of the human race;
The churlish gales of penury, that blow
Cold as the north-wind o'er a waste of snow,
To them the gentle groups of bliss deny
That on the noon-day bank of leisure lie.
Yet more compelled by Powers which only deign
That 'solitary' man disturb their reign,
Powers that support an unremitting strife
With all the tender charities of life,
Full oft the father, when his sons have grown
To manhood, seems their title to disown;
And from his nest amid the storms of heaven
Drives, eagle-like, those sons as he was driven;
With stern composure watches to the plain
And never, eagle-like, beholds again!
When long-familiar joys are all resigned,
Why does their sad remembrance haunt the mind?
Lo! where through flat Batavia's willowy groves,
Or by the lazy Seine, the exile roves;
O'er the curled waters Alpine measures swell,
And search the affections to their inmost cell;
Sweet poison spreads along the listener's veins,
Turning past pleasures into mortal pains;
Poison, which not a frame of steel can brave,
Bows his young head with sorrow to the grave.
Gay lark of hope, thy silent song resume!
Ye flattering eastern lights, once more the hills illume!
Fresh gales and dews of life's delicious morn,
And thou, lost fragrance of the heart, return!
Alas! the little joy to man allowed
Fades like the lustre of an evening cloud;
Or like the beauty in a flower installed,
Whose season was, and cannot be recalled.
Yet, when oppressed by sickness, grief, or care,
And taught that pain is pleasure's natural heir,
We still confide in more than we can know;
Death would be else the favorite friend of woe.
'Mid savage rocks, and seas of snow that shine,
Between interminable tracts of pine,
Within a temple stands an awful shrine,
By an uncertain light revealed, that falls
On the mute Image and the troubled walls.
Oh! give not me that eye of hard disdain
That views, undimmed, Einsiedlen's wretched fane.
While ghastly faces through the gloom appear,
Abortive joy, and hope that works in fear;
While prayer contends with silenced agony,
Surely in other thoughts contempt may die.
If the sad grave of human ignorance bear
One flower of hope, oh, pass and leave it there!
The tall sun, pausing on an Alpine spire,
Flings o'er the wilderness a stream of fire:
Now meet we other pilgrims ere the day
Close on the remnant of their weary way;
While they are drawing toward the sacred floor
Where, so they fondly think, the worm shall gnaw no more.
How gaily murmur and how sweetly taste
The fountains reared for them amid the waste!
Their thirst they slake: they wash their toil-worn feet
And some with tears of joy each other greet.
Yes, I must see you when ye first behold
Those holy turrets tipped with evening gold,
In that glad moment will for you a sigh
Be heaved, of charitable sympathy;
In that glad moment when your hands are pressed
In mute devotion on the thankful breast!
Last, let us turn to Chamounix that shields
With rocks and gloomy woods her fertile fields:
Five streams of ice amid her cots descend,
And with wild flowers and blooming orchards blend;
A scene more fair than what the Grecian feigns
Of purple lights and ever-vernal plains;
Here all the seasons revel hand in hand:
'Mid lawns and shades by breezy rivulets fanned,
They sport beneath that mountain's matchless height
That holds no commerce with the summer night.
From age to age, throughout his lonely bounds
The crash of ruin fitfully resounds;
Appalling havoc! but serene his brow,
Where daylight lingers on perpetual snow;
Glitter the stars above, and all is black below.
What marvel then if many a Wanderer sigh,
While roars the sullen Arve in anger by,
That not for thy reward, unrivalled Vale!
Waves the ripe harvest in the autumnal gale;
That thou, the slaves of slaves, art doomed to pine
And droop, while no Italian arts are thine,
To soothe or cheer, to soften or refine.
Hail Freedom! whether it was mine to stray,
With shrill winds whistling round my lonely way,
On the bleak sides of Cumbria's heath-clad moors,
Or where dank sea-weed lashes Scotland's shores;
To scent the sweets of Piedmont's breathing rose,
And orange gale that o'er Lugano blows;
Still have I found, where Tyranny prevails,
That virtue languishes and pleasure fails,
While the remotest hamlets blessings share
In thy loved presence known, and only there;
'Heart'-blessing southward treasures too which the eye
Of the sun peeping through the clouds can spy,
And every passing breeze will testify.
There, to the porch, be like with jasmine bound
Or woodbine wreaths, a smoother path is wound;
The housewife there a brighter garden sees,
Where hum on busier wing her happy bees;
On infant cheeks there fresher roses blow;
And grey-haired men look up with livelier brow,
To greet the traveler needing food and rest;
Housed for the night, or but a half-hour's guest.
And oh, fair France! though now the traveler sees
Thy three-striped banner fluctuate on the breeze;
Though martial songs have banished songs of love,
And nightingales desert the village grove,
Scared by the fife and rumbling drum's alarms,
And the short thunder, and the flash of arms;
That cease not till night falls, when far and nigh,
Sole sound, the Sourd prolongs his mournful cry!
Yet, hast thou found that Freedom spreads her power
Beyond the cottage-hearth, the cottage-door:
All nature smiles, and owns beneath her eyes
Her fields peculiar, and peculiar skies.
Yes, as I roamed where Loiret's waters glide
Through rustling aspens heard from side to side,
When from October clouds a milder light
Fell where the blue flood rippled into white;
Methought from every cot the watchful bird
Crowed with ear-piercing power till then unheard;
Each clacking mill, that broke the murmuring streams,
Rocked the charmed thought in more delightful dreams;
Chasing those pleasant dreams, the falling leaf
Awoke a fainter sense of moral grief;
The measured echo of the distant flail
Wound in more welcome cadence down the vale;
With more majestic course the water rolled,
And ripening foliage shone with richer gold.
But foes are gathering, Liberty must raise
Red on the hills her beacon's far-seen blaze;
Must bid the tocsin ring from tower to tower!
Nearer and nearer comes the trying hour!
Rejoice, brave Land, though pride's perverted ire
Rouse hell's own aid, and wrap thy fields in fire:
Lo, from the flames a great and glorious birth;
As if a new-made heaven were hailing a new earth!
All cannot be: the promise is too fair
For creatures doomed to breathe terrestrial air:
Yet not for this will sober reason frown
Upon that promise, nor the hope disown;
She knows that only from high aims ensue
Rich guerdons, and to them alone are due.
Great God! by whom the strifes of men are weighed
In an impartial balance, give thine aid
To the just cause; and, oh! do thou preside
Over the mighty stream now spreading wide:
So shall its waters, from the heavens supplied
In copious showers, from earth by wholesome springs,
Brood o'er the long-parched lands with Nile-like wings!
And grant that every sceptred child of clay
Who cries presumptuous, "Here the flood shall stay,
"May in its progress see thy guiding hand,
And cease the acknowledged purpose to withstand;
Or, swept in anger from the insulted shore,
Sink with his servile bands, to rise no more!
To-night, my Friend, within this humble cot
Be scorn and fear and hope alike forgot
In timely sleep; and when, at break of day,
On the tall peaks the glistening sunbeams play,
With a light heart our course we may renew,
The first whose footsteps print the mountain dew.

Other reflective for elegaic poems written much later are Lines Composed a Few Miles From Tintern Abbey, Picture of Peale Castle in a Storm, Laodamia, and Character of the Happy Warrior. The first two are are already in our collection. About Laodamia Wordsworth writes, after reading Pliny’s coments about Laodamia in his Natural History, “The incident of the trees growing and withering put the subject into my thoughts, and I wrote with the hope of giving it a loftier tone than, so far as I know, has been given to it by any of the Ancients who have treated of it. It cost me more trouble than almost anything of equal length I have ever written.” A question to ask is why did Wordsworth feel this way?

The last example is worthy of our attention: Here is Character of the Happy Warrior written in couplets and fulfilling the last of Wordsworth’s poetic aims, man in relation to man:

Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he
That every man in arms should wish to be?
It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought:
Whose high endeavors are an inward light
That makes the path before him always bright;
Who, with a natural instinct to discern
What knowledge can perform, is diligent to learn;
Abides by this resolve, and stops not there,
But makes his moral being his prime care;
Who, doomed to go in company with Pain,
And Fear, and Bloodshed, miserable train!
Turns his necessity to glorious gain;
In face of these doth exercise a power
Which is our human nature's highest dower:
Controls them and subdues, transmutes, bereaves
Of their bad influence, and their good receives:
By objects, which might force the soul to abate
Her feeling, rendered more compassionate;
Is placable--because occasions rise
So often that demand such sacrifice;
More skillful in self-knowledge, even more pure,
As tempted more; more able to endure,
As more exposed to suffering and distress;
Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.
'Tis he whose law is reason; who depends
Upon that law as on the best of friends;
Whence, in a state where men are tempted still
To evil for a guard against worse ill,
And what in quality or act is best
Doth seldom on a right foundation rest,
He labors good on good to fix, and owes
To virtue every triumph that he knows:
Who, if he rise to station of command,
Rises by open means; and there will stand
On honorable terms, or else retire,
And in himself possess his own desire;
Who comprehends his trust, and to the same
Keeps faithful with a singleness of aim;
And therefore does not stoop, nor lie in wait
For wealth, or honors, or for worldly state;
Whom they must follow; on whose head must fall,
Like showers of manna, if they come at all:
Whose powers shed round him in the common strife,
Or mild concerns of ordinary life,
A constant influence, a peculiar grace;
But who, if he be called upon to face
Some awful moment to which Heaven has joined
Great issues, good or bad for human kind,
Is happy as a Lover; and attired
With sudden brightness, like a Man inspired;
And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law
In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw;
Or if an unexpected call succeed,
Come when it will, is equal to the need:
He who, though thus endued as with a sense
And faculty for storm and turbulence,
Is yet a Soul whose master-bias leans
To homefelt pleasures and to gentle scenes;
Sweet images! which, wheresoe'er he be,
Are at his heart; and such fidelity
It is his darling passion to approve;
More brave for this, that he hath much to love:--
'Tis, finally, the Man, who, lifted high,
Conspicuous object in a Nation's eye,
Or left unthought-of in obscurity,--
Who, with a toward or untoward lot,
Prosperous or adverse, to his wish or not--
Plays, in the many games of life, that one
Where what he most doth value must be won:
Whom neither shape or danger can dismay,
Nor thought of tender happiness betray;
Who, not content that former worth stand fast,
Looks forward, persevering to the last,
From well to better, daily self-surpassed:
Who, whether praise of him must walk the earth
For ever, and to noble deeds give birth,
Or he must fall, to sleep without his fame,
And leave a dead unprofitable name--
Finds comfort in himself and in his cause;
And, while the mortal mist is gathering, draws
His breath in confidence of Heaven's applause:
This is the happy Warrior; this is he
That every man in arms should wish to be.

Comments: Wordsworth wrote in 1807: “The above verses were written soon after tidings had been received of the death of Lord Nelson. His respect for the memory of his great fellow countrymen induces him to mention this; though he is well aware that the verses must suffer from any connection in the reader’s mind with a name so illustrious.”

For an example of his nature poems we suggest To the Cuckoo, Wordsworth’s favorite of his short poems. Francis Turner Palgrave (ed. Golden Treasury of English Songs and Lyrics) wrote “This poem has an exultation and a glory, joined with an exquisiteness of expression, which place it in the highest rank among the masterpieces of this illustrious author.” Do you agree?

O blithe New-comer! I have heard,
I hear thee and rejoice.
O Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird,
Or but a wandering Voice?
While I am lying on the grass
Thy twofold shout I hear;
From hill to hill it seems to pass,
At once far off, and near.
Though babbling only to the Vale
Of sunshine and of flowers,
Thou bringest unto me a tale
Of visionary hours.
Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring!
Even yet thou art to me
No bird, but an invisible thing,
A voice, a mystery;
The same whom in my school-boy days
I listened to; that Cry
Which made me look a thousand ways
In bush, and tree, and sky.
To seek thee did I often rove
Through woods and on the green;
And thou wert still a hope, a love;
Still longed for, never seen.
And I can listen to thee yet;
Can lie upon the plain
And listen, till I do beget
That golden time again.
O blessed Bird! the earth we pace
Again appears to be
An unsubstantial, faery place;
That is fit home for Thee!

We close with The Prelude, considered to be the greatest English poem of the nineteenth century. (See D. H. Bishop, “The Origin of The Prelude“). It was to be the introduction to a long poem, The Recluse, which was never completed. From D. H. Bishop: “Several years ago, when the author retired to his native mountains with the hope of being enabled to construct a literary work that might live, it was a reasonable thing that he should take a review of his own mind, and examine how far nature and education had qualified him for such an employment. As subsidiary to this preparation, he undertook to record, in verse, the origin and progress of his own powers, as far as he was acquainted with them.” In these lines:

“O mystery of man, from what a depth
Proceed thy honors! I am lost, but see
In simple childhood something of the base
On which they greatness stands; but this I feel
That from thyself it comes, that thou must give,
Else never canst receive.”

The friend to whom the poem is addressed was Coleridge, who wrote his own poem To William Wordsworth on the night after hearing Wordsworth recite parts of The Prelude:

“A song divine of high and passionate thoughts
To their own music chanted!”

In speaking of Samuel Coleridge, Wordsworth writes that no one else except his sister ever brought him such intellectual stimulus as this learned, original, ill-ordered, and lovable fellow poet. Of Wordsworth, Coleridge writes “I feel myself a little man by his side.” Charles Lamb described Coleridge as “an archangel, a little damaged.” The damage was Coleridge’s use of dependence on opium. Yet another less complimentary description says Coleridge was “ill, penniless, and worse than homeless.” His only completed poem was Rime of the Ancient Mariner which without Wordsworth’s prodding would never have been brought to fruition.

Critics praised it as a “the renascence of wonder”. And Byron remarked of him: “His prose is perfect, The Life of Nelson is beautiful. In his poetry he has passages equal to anything.”

Coleridge had another less fruitful poetic experience with Robert Southey. After leaving Cambridge and Oxford and sharing an enthusiasm for social progress fueled by the French Revolution; they evolved a scheme for establishing a Utopian community to be called Pantisocracy . The failure of their project proved too much for the relationship and Southey fled. On its failure Coleridge wrote the poem Pantisocracy:

No more my visionary soul shall dwell
On joys that were; no more endure to weigh
Wisely forgetful? O’er the ocean swell
Sublime of hope. I seek the cottage dell
Where virtue calm with careless step may stray,
And dancing to the moonlight roundelay,
The wizard passions weave an holy spell.
Eyes that have ached with sorrow! Ye shall sweep
Tears of doubt-mingled joy, like theirs who start
From precipices of distempered sleep,
On which the fierce-eyed fiends their revels keep,
And see the rising sun, and feel it dart
New rays of pleasance trembling to the heart.

Coleridge poetic period was a scant more than one year, 1797-1798, having begun with The Ancient Mariner and culminating with the unfinished Christabel. Of characteristics of Coleridge’s poetry we would say; strange places, equally strange scenery, supernatural happenings, “illuminated by a light that never was on sea or land.” Our first example is The Ancient Mariner, in common English ballad stanza form old septenarian or “fourteener” arranged in four-lined stanzas of alternate eights and sixes. The Mariner is in seven parts. Said by one critic “to create an illusion of reality while dealing with images and events manifestly unreal.” In today’s language it would be described as a “pot-boiler” but it makes an excellent task for students to plot the story/verse line. We suggest the following:

The Mariner meets three gallants on their way to a wedding feast.
Spellbound by the eye of the seafaring man, they hear his tale.
The Mariner tells how the ship was driven from north to south.
The ship finds a land of ice and no living thing.
A giant albatross comes through the fog.
The great seabird proves a good omen.
Tragedy befalls the good deed of the seabird.
The Albatross is avenged.
A star appears in the sky.
The spell begins to break.
The ship is saved.
The lonesome Spirit returns.
Penance is required of the Mariner.
The curse is lifted.

Wordsworth has written this about the occasion that preceded the writing of the Mariner: “In the autumn of 1797 Mr. Coleridge, my sister, and myself started from Alfoxden pretty late in the afternoon with a view to visit Linton and the Valley of Stones near to it; and so our united funds were very small, we agreed to defray the expense of the tour by writing a poem, to be sent to the New Monthly Magazine, the course of ths walk was planned the poem...on the dream, as Mr. Coleridge said, of his friend Mr. Cruikshank A dream “of a skeleton ship, with figures in it.”.
It appeared with others under the title Lyrical Ballads as a cooperative venture with Wordsworth. An interesting activity for students would be to write out an understanding of the metaphor in lines 46 through 48:

“As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe.”

The poem itself went through many revisions and changes. One in particular for lines 185 through 189 the merits of each is a topic for discussion:

“Are those her ribs which flecked the Sun,
Like bars of a dungeon grate?
Are these two all, all of the crew,
That woman and her mate?”

Christabel, though never finished after reading the manuscript Scott remarked that it made such an impression on his mind that he adopted it for his The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Even in its fragmentary state it remains one of the most wonderful and beautiful poems of the Romantic Revival. These lines are Coleridge’s words “the best and sweetest lines I ever wrote.”

The first part of the poem:

“The one red leaf, the last of the clan,
Hanging so light and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.”


Alas! They had been friends in youth;
But whispering tongues can poison truth;
And constancy lives in realms above;
And life is thorny; and youth is vain;
And to be wroth with one we love
Doth work like madness in the brain.
And thus it chanced, as I divine,
With Roland and Sir Leoline,
Each spake words of high disdain
And insult to his heart’s best brother:
They parted never to meet again!
But never either found another
To free the hollow heart from paining
They stood aloof, the scars remaining,
Like cliffs which had been rent asunder;
A dreary sea now flows between.
But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder,
Shall wholly do away, I ween,
The marks of that which once hath been.

For Cristabel Coleridge received accusations of imitation of these he wrote:

“For there is among us a set of critics who seem to hold that every possible thought and image is traditional: who have no notion that there are such things as fountains in the world, small as well as great: and who would therefore charitably derive every till they behold flowing, from a perforation made in some other man’s tank. I am confident, however, that as far as the present poem is concerned, the celebrated poets whose writings I might be suspected of having imitated would be the first to vindicate me from the charge...Permit me to address them in this doggerel version of two monkish Latin hexameters"

Tis mine and it is likewise yours;
But and if this will not do;
Let it be mine, good friend! For I
Am the poorer of the two.

One more verse said to be part of Coleridge’s annus mirabilis (year of wonders) is Kubla Kahn. Here Coleridge attributes the writing upon waking up after falling into sleep while reading from an old book of travels known as Purchas, his Pilgrimage which, strangely enough, begins with similar words: “In Xanadu did Cublai Can build a stately palace...” Interrupted during writing, Coleridge’s dream memory failed to return and the poem never reached completeness

Of Frost At Midnight (verse is already on this site), with its apostrophe to the sleeping infant at his side. Mrs. Coleridge often complained to her friends that her husband “would walk up and down composing poetry instead of coming to bed at proper hours.” This poem was the outcome of one of those nights. The poem recounts his life at school of those days Coleridge wrote: “At school I enjoyed the inestimable advantage of a very sensible, though at the same time, a very severe master.” He speaks of the merits of this “severe master” Boyer: “I remember Boyer saying to me once when I was crying the first day of my return after the holidays. ‘Boy,! The school is your father! The school is your mother! The school is your brother! The school is your sister! ...your first cousin, ...your second cousin, and all the rest of your relations! Let’s have no more crying!’”

Also from lyrical ballads is the much admired Love in rhyming quatrains abab:

All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
Are all but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.

Oft in my waking dreams do I
Live o'er again that happy hour,
When midway on the mount I lay
Beside the ruined tower.

The moonshine stealing o'er the scene
Had blended with the lights of eve;
And she was there, my hope, my joy,
My own dear Genevieve!

She leant against the armed man,
The statue of the armed knight;
She stood and listened to my lay,
Amid the lingering light.

Few sorrows hath she of her own,
My hope! my joy! my Genevieve!
She loves me best, whenever I sing
The songs that make her grieve.

I played a soft and doleful air,
I sang an old and moving story
An old rude song, that suited well
That ruin wild and hoary.

She listened with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes and modest grace;
For well she knew I could not choose
But gaze upon her face.

I told her of the Knight that wore
Upon his shield a burning brand;
And that for ten long years he wooed
The Lady of the Land.
I told her how he pined: and ah!
The deep, the low, the pleading tone
With which I sang another's love
Interpreted my own.

She listened with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes and modest grace;
And she forgave me, that I gazed
Too fondly on her face!

But when I told the cruel scorn
That crazed that bold and lovely Knight,
And that he crossed the mountain-woods,
Nor rested day nor night;

That sometimes from the savage den,
And sometimes from the darksome shade,
And sometimes starting up at once
In green and sunny glade,

There came and looked him in the face
An angel beautiful and bright;
And that he knew it was a Fiend,
This miserable Knight!

And that, unknowing what he did,
He leaped amid a murderous band,
And saved from outrage worse than death
The Lady of the Land;

And how she wept, and clasped his knees;
And how she tended him in vain;
And ever strove to expiate
The scorn that crazed his brain

And that she nursed him in a cave;
And how his madness went away,
When on the yellow forest-leaves
A dying man he lay;

His dying words—but when I reached
That tenderest strain of all the ditty,
My faltering voice and pausing harp
Disturbed her soul with pity!
All impulses of soul and sense
Had thrilled my guileless Genevieve;
The music and the doleful tale,
The rich and balmy eve;

And hopes, and fears that kindle hope,
An undistinguishable throng,
And gentle wishes long subdued,
Subdued and cherished long!

She wept with pity and delight,
She blushed with love, and virgin shame;
And like the murmur of a dream,
I heard her breathe my name.

Her bosom heaved she stepped aside,
As conscious of my look she stepped
Then suddenly, with timorous eye,
She fled to me and wept.

She half enclosed me with her arms,
She pressed me with a meek embrace;
And bending back her head, looked up,
And gazed upon my face.

'Twas partly love, and partly fear,
And partly 'twas a bashful art,
That I might rather feel, than see,
The swelling of her heart.

I calmed her fears, and she was calm,
And told her love with virgin pride;
And so I won my Genevieve,
My bright and beauteous Bride.

Are those her ribs through which the Sun,
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a Death? And are there two?
Is Death that woman’s mate?”

There is some merit in reviewing Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria, Chapters Fourteen through Twenty-two, with criticism of the cooperative Lyrical Ballads and comments on the nature of poetry and the poetic language of Wordsworth.

The last of the Lake Poets is the well-ordered, conservative Robert Southey. His poetry never reached the lasting quality of Coleridge and Wordsworth but his historical prose ranks among the best of the era. In Poetical Works of Robert Southey he writes of his poetic efforts: “If these poems had been now for the first time to be made public, there are some among them which, instead of being committed to the press, would have be consigned to the flames; not for any disgrace which could be reflected upon me by the crude compositions of my youth, nor for any harm which they could possible do the reader, but merely that they might not cumber the collection.”

He remains a “Lake Poet” by residence and friendship only. Reading his epics of mystic supernaturalism and myth there we find no compatibility with either Coleridge or Wordsworth. His approach is historic; as an exploiter of incredible beliefs and achievements. He never really acknowledged the weaknesses of his poetry but a one point decided to become an essayist; the choice of which came to him in a dream. He writes:

There was a time when all my youthful thought
Was of the Muse; and of Poet’s fame,
How fair it flourisheth, and fadeth not
Alone enduring, when the Monarch’s name
Is but an empty sound, the Conqueror’s bust
Moulders and is forgotten in the dust.

How best to build the imperishable lay
Was then my daily care, my dream by night;
And early in adventurous essay
My spirit imported her wings for stronger flight.
Fair regions Fancy opened to my view,
“There lies thy path,” she said; “do then
That path pursue!

He became the twelfth Poet Laureate holding this honor from 1813 to 1843. Southey writes about this event: “I was on the way to London when the correspondence upon this subject (Sir Walter Scott had declined the office) reached me. My first impulse was to decline it; not from any fear of ridicule, still less of obloquy, but because I had ceased for several years to write occasional verses: the inclination had departed; and though willing as a bee to work from morn till night in collecting honey, I had a great dislike to spinning like a spider.” Southey seems to have some inclination toward spiders for this last reference “like a spider” is recalling his poem To a Spider, rhyming abab, and which aches for metaphoric analysis:

Spider! thou needs’t not run in fear about
to shun my curious eyes;
I won’t humanely crush thy bowels out
Lest thou shouldst eat the flies;
Nor will I roast thee with a damned delight
Thy strange instinctive fortitude to see,
For there is One who might
One day roast me.

Thou art welcome to a Rhymer sore perplexed,
The subject of his verse;
There’s many a one, on a better text,
Perhaps might comment worse.
Then shrink not, old Free-Mason, from my view,
But quietly like me spin out a line;
Do thou thy work pursue,
As I will mine.

Weaver of snares, thou emblemest the ways
Of Satan, Sire of lies
Hell’s huge black Spider for mankind he lays
His toils, as thou for flies
When Betty’s busy eye runs round the room,
Woe to that nice geometry, if seen;
But where is he whose broom
The earth shall clean?

Spider! Of old thy flimsy webs were thought,
And twas a likeness true,
To emblem laws in which the weak are caught,
But which the strong break through:
And if a victim in thy toils is taken
Like some poor client is that wretched fly,
I’ll warrant thee thou will drain
His life-blood dry.

And is not thy weak work like human schemes
And care on earth employed?
Such are young hopes and Love’s delightful dreams
So easily destroyed!
So does the Statesman, whilst the Avengers sleep,
Self-deemed secure, his wiles in secret lay;
Soon shall destruction sweep
His work away.

Thou busy laborer! One resemblance more
May yet the verse prolong,
For, Spider, thou art like the Poet poor,
Whom thou hast helped in song.
Both busily our needful find to win,
We work, as Nature taught, with ceaseless pains.
Thy bowels thou dost spin,
I spin my brain.

Southey was untiring in writing, producing more than one hundred volumes of poetry and prose. He compiled his entire collection of poetical works and notes thereof. It was published in 1853 by Appleton and Co.. Byron pronounced him “the only existing man of letters.”

Southey did achieve his first ambition, to become an epic poet. All were truly epic, that is extremely long; long meaning written in books. Tale of Paraguay, Madox in Aztlan, Curse of Kahama, Joan of Arc, and Thalaba, none of which were well-received. His second epic was Thalaba the Destroyer, written in 1801. Southey writes “But this poem was neither crudely conceived nor hastily undertaken (comparing it to the previous epic poem Joan of Arc). I had fixed upon the gound, four years before, for a Mahommedan tale; It was pursued with unabating ardor at Exeter.” ... I was in Portugal when Thalaba was published. ...It was treated worse.” He returned to Keswick and wrote: ”For more than twenty years from that time, every tyro in criticism who could smatter and sneer, tried his ‘prentice hand’ upon the Lake Poets, and every young sportsman, who carried a popgun in the field of satire, considered them as fair game.”

Thalaba is written in irregular and unrhymed measure. The opening lines are thought to be the best in the poem:

“How beautiful is night!
A dewy freshness fills the silent air’
No mist obscures, nor cloud, nor speck, nor stain
Breaks the serene of heaven:
In full-orbed glory yonder moon divine
Rolls through the dark blue depths.
Beneath her steady ray
The desert circle spreads,
Like the round ocean, girdled with the sky.
How beautiful is night!”

Of Southey “the poor pilloried laureate,” Byron remarked: "His prose is perfect, The Life of Nelson is beautiful. In his poetry he has passages equal to anything." And for children there is The Story of the Three Bears from The Doctor.”

In one of his better poetic efforts, The Battle of Blenheim, he uses a peasant, Kaspar, to tell the story of this bloody battle to his grandchildren and ends with these soporific words:

“And every body praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win.”
“But what good came of it at last?”
Quoth little Peterkin.
“Why, that I cannot tell,” said he
“But ‘twas a famous victory.”

We recommend students compose an essay comparing Southey’s version which is already on this site with Joseph Addison’s (1672-1719) poem on this same event, The Campaign (Addison was a poet, critic, and essayist of the Augustan Age and a prime contributor to both The Tatler and The Spectator). Here is The Campaign:

While crowds of princes your deserts proclaim,
Proud in their number to enrol your name;
While emperors to you commit their cause,
And Anna`s praises crown the vast applause;
Accept, great leader, what the Muse recites,
That in ambitious verse attempts your fights.
Fir`d and transported with a theme so new,
Ten thousand wonders opening to my view
Shine forth at once; sieges and storms appear,
And wars and conquests fill the` important year:

Rivers of blood I see, and hills of slain,
And Iliad rising out of one campaign.
The haughty Gaul beheld, with towering pride,
His ancient bounds enlarged on every side;
Pyrene`s lofty barriers were subdued,
And in the midst of his wide empire stood;
Ausonia`s states, the victor to restrain,
Opposed their Alps and Apennines in vain,
Nor found themselves, with strength of rocks immured,
Behind their everlasting hills secured;

The rising Danube its long race began,
And half its course through the new conquests ran;
Amazed and anxious for her sovereign`s fates,
Germania trembled through a hundred states;
Great Leopold himself was seiz`d with fear;
He gazed around, but saw no succor near;
He gazed, and half-abandon`d to despair.
His hopes on heaven, and confidence in prayer.
To Britain`s queen the nations turn their eyes,
On her resolves the western world relies,

Confiding still, amidst its dire alarms,
In Anna`s consuls, and in Churchill`s arms.
Thrice happy Britain, from the kingdoms rent,
To fit the guardian of the continent!
That sees her bravest son advanced so high,
And flourishing so near her prince`s eye;
Thy favourites grow not up by fortune`s sport,
Or from the crimes or follies of a court;
On the firm basis of desert they rise,
From long-try`d faith and friendship`s holy tyes:

Their sovereign`s well-distinguish`d smiles they share,
Her ornaments in peace, her strength in war;
The nation thanks them with a public voice,
By showers of blessings heaven approves their choice;
Envy itself is dumb, in wonder lost,
And factions strive who shall applaud them most.
Soon as soft vernal breezes warm the sky,
Britannia`s colors in the zephyrs fly;
Her chief already has his march begun,
Crossing the provinces himself had won,

Till the Moselle, appearing from afar,
Retards the progress of the moving war.
Delightful stream, had nature bid her fall
In distant climes far from the perjur`d Gaul;
But now a purchase to the sword she lies;
Her harvests for uncertain owners rise,
Each vineyard doubtful of its master grows,
And to the victor`s bowl each vintage flows.
The discontented shades of slaughter`d hosts,
That wander`d on her banks, her heroes ghosts

Hoped, when they saw Britannia`s arms appear,
The vengeance due to their great deaths was near.
Our godlike leader, ere the stream he past,
The mighty scheme of all his labors cast,
Forming the wondrous year within his thought;
His bosom glow`d with battles yet unfought.
The long laborious march he first surveys,
And joins the distant Danube to the Meuse,
Between whose floods such pathless forests grow,
Such mountains rise, so many rivers flow:

The toil looks lovely in the hero`s eyes,
And danger serves but to enhance the prize.
Big with the fate of Europe, he renews
His dreadful course, and the proud foe pursues!
Infected by the burning Scorpion`s heat,
The sultry gales round his chased temples beat,
Till on the borders of the Maine he finds
Defensive shadows, and refreshing winds.
Our British youth, with in-born freedom bold,
Unnumbered scenes of servitude behold,

Nations of slaves, with tyranny debased,
(Their maker`s image more than half defaced)
Hourly instructed, as they urge their toil,
To prize their queen, and love their native soil.
Still to the rising sun they take their way
Through clouds of dust, and gain upon the day.
When now the Neckar on its friendly coast
With cooling streams revives the fainting host,
That cheerfully his labors past forgets,
The mid-night watches, and the noon-day heats.

Over prostrate towns and palaces they pass
(Now covered over with woods, and hid in grass),
Breathing revenge; whilst anger and disdain
Fire every breast, and boil in every vein:
Here shatter`d walls, like broken rocks, from far
Rise up in hideous views, the guilt of war,
Whilst here the vine over hills of ruin climbs,
Industrious to conceal great Bourbon`s crimes.
At length the fame of England`s hero drew
Eugenio to the glorious interview.

Great souls by instinct to each other turn,
Demand alliance, and in friendship burn:
A sudden friendship, while with stretch`d-out rays
They meet each other, mingling blaze with blaze,
Polish`d in courts, and harden`d in the field,
Renown`d for conquest, and in council skill`d,
Their courage dwells not in a troubled flood
Of mounting spirits, and fermenting blood;
Lodged in the soul, with virtue over-rul`d,
Inflamed by reason, and by reason cool`d,

In hours of peace content to be unknown,
And only in the field of battle shown:
To souls like these, in mutual friendship joined,
Heaven dares intrust the cause of human-kind.
Britannia`s graceful sons appear in arms,
Her harassed troops the hero`s presence warms,
Whilst the high hills and rivers all around
With thundering peals of British shouts resound:
Doubling their speed, they march with fresh delight,
Eager for glory, and require the fight.

So the stanch hound the trembling deer pursues,
And smells his footsteps in the tainted dews,
The tedious track unraveling by degrees:
But when the scent comes warm in every breeze,
Fir`d at the near approach he shoots away
On his full stretch, and bears upon his prey.
The march concludes, the various realms are past;
The immortal Schellenberg appears at last:
Like hills the aspiring ramparts rise on high,
Like valley`s at their feet the trenches lie;
Batteries on batteries guard each fatal pass,
Threatening destruction; rows of hollow brass,
Tube behind tube, the dreadful entrance keep,
Whilst in their wombs ten thousand thunders sleep,
Great Churchill owns, charm`d with the glorious sight,
His march over-paid by such a promised fight.
The western sun now shot a feeble ray,
And faintly scatter`d the remains of day:
Evening approached; but oh what host of foes
Were never to behold that evening close!

Thickening their ranks, and wedged in firm array,
The close-compacted Britons win their way;
In vain the cannon their thronged war defaced
With tracts of death, and laid the battle waste;
Still pressing forward to the fight, they broke
Through flames of sulphur, and a night of smoke,
Till slaughter`d legions filled the trench below,
And bore their fierce avengers to the foe.
High on the works the mingling hosts engage;
The battle, kindled into tenfold rage,

With showers of bullets and with storms of fire
Burns in full fury; heaps on heaps expire,
Nations with nations mixed confusedly die,
And lost in one promiscuous carnage lie.
How many generous Britons meet their doom,
New to the field, and heroes in the bloom!
The illustrious youths, that left their native shore
To march where Britons never marched before
(O fatal love of fame! O glorious heat
Only destructive to the brave and great!)

After such toils overcome, such dangers past,
Stretched on Bavarian ramparts breathe their last.
But hold, my Muse, may no complaints appear
Nor blot the day with an ungrateful tear:
While Marlborough lives, Britannia`s stars dispense
A friendly light, and shine in innocence.
Plunging through seas of blood his fiery steed
Where-ever his friends retire, or foes succeed;
Those he supports, these drives to sudden flight,
And turns the various fortune of the fight.

Forbear, great man, renowned in arms, forbear
To Brave the thickest terrors of the war,
Nor hazard thus, confused in crowds of foes,
Britannia`s safety, and the world`s repose;
Let nations anxious for thy life abate
This scorn of danger, and contempt of fate:
Thou livest not for thyself; thy Queen demands
Conquest and peace from thy victorious hands;
Kingdoms and empires in thy fortunes join,
And Europe`s destiny depends on thine.

At length the long-disputed pass they gain
By crowded armies fortify`d in vain;
The war breaks in, the fierce Bavarians yield,
And see their camp with British legions filled.
So Belgian mounds bear on their shattered sides
The sea`s whole weight increased with swelling tides;
But if the rushing wave a passage finds,
Enraged by watery moons, and warring winds,
The trembling peasant sees his country round
Covered with tempests, and in oceans drowned.

The few surviving foes dispersed in flight,
(Refuse of swords, and gleanings of a fight)
In every rustling wind the victor hear,
And Marlborough`s form in every shadow fear,
Till the dark cope of night with kind embrace
Befriends the rout, and covers their disgrace.
To Donavert, with unresisted force,
The gay victorious army bends its course.
The growth of meadows, and the pride of fields,
Whatever spoils Bavaria`s summer yields

(The Danube`s great increase), Britannia shares,
The food of armies and support of wars:
With magazines of death, destructive balls,
And cannon doom`d to batter Landau`s walls,
The victor finds each hidden cavern stored,
And turns their fury on their guilty Lord.
Deluded prince! how is thy greatness crossed,
And all the gaudy dream of empire lost,
That proudly set thee on a fancied throne,
And made imaginary realms thy own!
Thy troops, that now behind the Danube join,
Shall shortly seek for shelter from the Rhine,
Nor find it there! Surrounded with alarms,
Thou hopes the assistance for the Gallic arms;
The Gallic arms in safety shall advance,
And crowd thy standards with the power of France,
While, to exalt thy doom, the aspiring Gaul
Shares thy destruction, and adorns thy fall.
Unbounded courage and compassion joined,
Tempering each other in the victor`s mind,

Alternately proclaim him good and great,
And make the Hero and the Man complete,
Long did he strive the obdurate foe to gain
By proffered grace, but long he strove in vain;
Till, fired at length, he thinks it vain to spare
His rising wrath, and gives a loose to war.
In vengeance roused, the soldier fills his hand
With sword and fire, and ravages the land,
A thousand villages to ashes turns,
In crackling flames a thousand harvests burns.

To the thick woods the wooly flocks retreat,
And mixed with bellowing herds confusedly bleat:
Their trembling lofts the common shade partake,
And cries of infants sound in every brake:
The listening soldier fixed in sorrow stands,
Loth to obey his leader`s just commands:
The leader grieves, by generous pity swayed,
To see his just commands so well obeyed.
But now the trumpet terrible from far
In shriller clangors animates the war;

Confederate drums in fuller concert beat,
And echoing hills the loud alarm repeat:
Gallia`s proud standards, to Bavaria`s joined,
Unfurl their gilded lilies in the wind;
the daring prince his blasted hopes renews,
And, while the thick embattled host he views
Stretched out in deep array, and dreadful length,
His hearts dilates, and glories in his strength.
The fatal day its mighty course began,
That the grieved world had long desired in vain;

States that their new captivity bemoaned,
Armies of martyrs that in exile groaned,
Sighs from the depth of gloomy dungeons heard,
And prayers in bitterness of soul preferred,
Europe`s loud cries, that Providence assailed,
And Anna`s ardent vows at length prevailed;
The day was come when heaven design`d to show
His care and conduct of the world below.
Behold in awful march and dread array
The long extended squadrons shape their way!

Death, in approaching terrible, imparts
An anxious horror to the bravest hearts;
Yet do their beating breasts demand the strife,
And thirst of glory quells the love of life.
No vulgar fears can British minds control:
Heat of revenge, and noble pride of soul,
Overlook the foe, advantaged by his post,
Lessen his numbers, and contract his host;
Though fens and floods possessed the middle space,
That unprovoked they would have fear`d to pass;

Nor fens nor floods can stop Britannia`s bands,
When her proud foe rang`d on their borders stands.
But O, my Muse, what numbers wilt thou find
To sing the furious troops in battle joined!
Methinks I hear the drums tumultuous sound
The victor`s shouts and dying groans confound,
The dreadful burst of cannon rend the skies,
And all the thunder of the battle rise.
`Twas then great Marlborough`s mighty soul was proved,
That, in the shock of charging hosts unmoved,

Amidst confusion, horror, and despair,
Examined all the dreadful scenes of war:
In peaceful thought the field of death surveyed,
To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid,
Inspired repulsed battalions to engage,
And taught the doubtful battle where to rage.
So when an angel by divine command
With rising tempests shake a guilty land,
Such as of late over pale Britannia past,

Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
And, pleased the Almighty`s orders to perform,
Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.
But see the haughty household troops advance!
The dread of Europe, and the pride of France.
The war`s whole art each private soldier knows,
And with a General`s love of conquest glows;
Proudly he marches on, and void of fear
Laughs at the shaking of the British spear:
Vain insolence! with native freedom brave,

The meanest Briton scorns the highest slave;
Contempt and fury fire their souls by turns,
Each nation`s glory in each warrior burns:
Each fights, as in his arm the important day
And all the fate of his great monarch lay:
A thousand glorious actions, that might claim
Triumphant laurels, and immortal fame,
Confused in crowds of glorious actions lie,
And troops of heroes undistinguished die.
O Dormer, how can I behold thy fate,

And not the wonders of thy youth relate!
How can I see the gay, the brave, the young,
Fall in the cloud of war, and lie unsung!
In joys of conquest he resigns his breath,
And, filled with England`s glory, smiles in death.
The rout begins, the Gallic squadrons run,
Compelled in crowds to meet the fate they shun;
Thousands of fiery steeds with wounds transfix`d,
Floating in gore, with their dead masters mixed,
`Midst heaps of spears and standards driven around,

Lie in the Danube`s bloody whirl-pools drown`d
Troops of bold youths, born on the distant Soane,
Or sounding borders of the rapid Rhone,
Or where the Seine her flowery fields divides,
Or where the Loire through winding vineyards glides,
In heaps the rolling billows sweep away,
And into Scythian seas their bloated corps convey.
From Blenheim`s towers the Gaul, with wild affright,
Beholds the various havoc of the fight;
His waving banners, that so oft had stood

Planted in fields of death and streams of blood,
So wont the guarded enemy to reach,
And rise triumphant in the fatal breach,
Or pierce the broken foe`s remotest lines,
The hardy veteran with tears resigns.
Unfortunate Tallard! Oh, who can name
The pangs of rage, of sorrow, and of shame,
That with mixed tumult in thy bosom swell`d,
When first thou sawest thy bravest troops repelled,
Thine only son pierced with a deadly wound,

Choked in his blood, and gasping on the ground,
Thyself in bondage by the victor kept!
The chief, the father, and the captive, wept.
An English Muse is touched with generous woe,
And in the unhappy man forgets the foe!
Greatly distressed! they loud complaints forbear,
Blame not the turns of fate, and chance of war;
Give thy brave foes their due, nor blush to own
The fatal field by such great leaders won,
The field whence famed Eugenio bore away

Only the second honors of the day.
With floods of gore that from the vanquish`d fell
The marshes stagnate, and the rivers swell.
Mountains of slain lie heaped upon the ground,
Or midst the roaring of the Danube drowned;
Whole captive hosts the conqueror detains
In painful bondage, and inglorious chains;
Even those who escape the fetters and the sword,
Nor seek the fortunes of a happier lord,
Their raging King dishonors, to complete
Marlborough`s great work, and finish the defeat.
From Memminghen`s high domes, and Augsburg`s walls,
The distant battle drives the insulting Gauls;
Freed by the terror of the victor`s name
The rescued States his great protection claim;
Whilst Ulmeth approach of her deliverer waits,
And longs to open her obsequious gates.
The hero`s breast still swells with great designs,
In every thought the towering genius shines;
If to the foe his dreadful course he bends,

Over the wide continent his march extends;
If sieges in his laboring thoughts are formed
Camps are assaulted, and an army stormed:
If to the sight of his active soul is bent
The fate of Europe turns on its event.
What distant land, what region, can afford
An action worthy his victorious sword?
Where will he next the flying Gaul defeat,
To make the series of his toils complete?
Where the swollen Rhine rushing with all its force
Divides the hostile nations in its course,
While each contracts its bounds, or wider grows,
Enlarged or straightened as the river flows,
On Gallia`s side a mighty bulwark stands,
That all the wide-extended plain commands;
Twice, since the war was kindled, has it tried
The victor`s rage, and twice has changed its side;
As oft whole armies, with the prize overjoyed,
Have the long summer on its walls employed.
Hither our mighty chief his arms directs,

Hence future triumphs from the war expects;
And though the dog-star had its course begun,
Carries his arms still nearer to the sun:
Fixed on the glorious action, he forgets
The change of seasons, and increase of heats;
No toils are painful that can danger show,
No climes unlovely, that contain a foe.
The roving Gaul, to his own bounds restrain`d,
Learns to encamp within his native land,
But soon as the victorious host he spies,

From hill to hill, from stream to stream he flies:
Such dire impressions in his heart remain
Of Marlborough`s sword, and Hochset`s fatal plain:
In vain Britannia`s mighty chief besets
Their shady coverts, and obscure retreats;
They fly the conqueror`s approaching fame,
That bears the force of armies in his name.
Austria`s young monarch, whose imperial sway
Scepters and thrones are destined to obey,
Whose boasted ancestry so high extends,

That in the pagan gods his lineage ends,
Comes from afar, in gratitude to own
The great supporter of his father`s throne:
What tides of glory to his bosom ran,
Clasped in the embrace of the godlike man!
How were his eyes with pleasing wonder fixed
To see such fire with so much sweetness mixed,
Such easy greatness, such a graceful port,
So turned and finished for the camp or court!
Achilles thus was form`d with every grace,

And Nireus shone but in the second place;
Thus the great father of almighty Rome
(Divinely flushed with an immortal bloom
That Cytherea`s fragrant breath bestowed)
In all the charms of his bright mother glowed.
The royal youth by Marlborough`s presence charmed,
Taught by his counsels, by his actions warmed,
On Landau with redoubled fury falls,
Discharges all his thunder on its walls,
Over mines and caves of death provokes the fight,

And leans to conquer in the hero`s fight.
The British chief, for mighty toils renowned,
Increased in titles, and with conquests crowned,
To Belgian coasts his tedious march renews,
And the long windings of the Rhine pursues,
Clearing its borders from usurping foes,
Aimd blest by rescued nations as he goes.
Treves fears no more, freed from its dire alarms;
And Traerbach feels the terror of his arms:
Seated on rocks her proud foundations shake,

While Marlborough presses to the bold attack,
Plants all his batteries, bids his cannon roar,
And shows how Landau might have fallen before.
Scared at his near approach, great Louis fears
Vengeance reserved for his declining years,
Forgets his thirst of universal sway,
And scarce can teach is subjects to obey;
His arms he finds on vain attempts employ`d,
Th` ambitious projects for his race destroy`d,
The works of ages sunk in one campaign,

And lives of millions sacrificed in vain.
Such are the effects of Anna`s royal cares:
By her, Britannia, great in foreign wars,
Ranges through nations, wheresoever disjoined,
Without the wonted aid of sea and wind,
By her the unfettered Sister`s states are free,
And taste the sweets of English liberty:
But who can tell the joys of those that lie
Beneath the constant influence of her eye!
Whilst in diffusive showers her bounties fall

Like heaven`s indulgence, and descend on all,
Secure the happy, succor the distressed,
Make every subject glad, and a whole people blest.
Thus would I fain Britannia`s wars rehearse,
In the smooth records of a faithful verse;
That, if such numbers can over time prevail,
May tell posterity the wondrous tale.
When actions, unadorned, are faint and weak,
Cities and countries must be taught to speak;
Gods may descend in factions from the skies,
And rivers from their oozy beds arise;
Fiction may deck the truth with spurious rays,
And round the hero cast a borrowed blaze.
Marlborough`s exploits appear divinely bright,
And proudly shine in their own native light;
Raised of themselves, their genuine charms they boast,
And those who paint them truest praise them most.

Southey barely merits a page or two from references of the Romantic period. Nevertheless there are several poems that bear studying. First there is The Inchcape Rock, written after reading this tale from John Stoddart’s Remarks on Scotland: “An old writer mentions a curious tradition. By east the Isle of May, says he, lies a great hidden rock, called Inchcape, very dangerous for navigators, because it is overflowed every tide. It is reported in old times, upon the rock there was a bell fixed upon a tree or timber, which rang continually, being moved by the sea, giving notice of the danger.” Two others would be You Are Old Father William and My Days Among the Dead Are Past.

Of himself he wrote Robert the Rhymer:

Robert the Rhymer, who lives at the Lakes,
Describes himself thus, to prevent mistakes;
Or rather, perhaps, be it said, to correct them,
There being plenty about for those who collect them.
He is lean of body, and lank of limb;
The man must walk fast who would overtake him.
His eye are not yet much the worse for the wear,
And time has not thinned nor straightened his hair,
Notwithstanding that now he is more than halfway
On the road from Grizzle to Gray.
He hath a long nose with a bending ridge;
It might be worthy of notice on Strausburg bridge,
He sings like a lark when at morn he arises,
And when evening comes he nightingalizes,
Warbling house-notes wild from throat and gizzard,
Which reach from A to G, and from G to Izzard.
His voice is as good as when he was young,
And he has teeth enough left to keep in his tongue,
A man he is by nature merry,
Somewhat tom-foolish, and comical, very;
Who has gone through the world, not mindful of pelf,
Upon easy terms, thank Heaven, with himself,
Along by-paths and in pleasant ways,
Caring as little for censure as praise;
Having some friends whom he loves dearly,
And no lack of foes, whom he laughs at sincerely,
And never for great, nor for little things,
Has he fretted his guts to fiddle-strings.
He might have made them by such folly
Most musical, most melancholy.

After reading this poem most students question Poet Laureate? Note: Southey wrote one parody, Surgeon’s Warning.

Sir Walter Scott was first a lawyer then a writer. He loved the country, and rode with the hounds with his beloved dog, Camp, at his heels. Just as Pope had his pastorals; Scott gave the public romance. Politically a Tory from start to finish. The high watermark of his poetry would be Marmion. He wrote a hit a year of lyric verse beginning with Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, a collection of Scottish ballads in two volumes. Its success prompted Thomas Carlyle to remark: “proved to a well from which flowed one of the broadest rivers. Metrical Romances flowed into Prose Romances; the old life of men resuscitated for us; it is a mighty word! Not as dead tradition , but as a palpable presence, the past stood before us. There they were, the rugged old fighting men; in their doughty simplicity and strength, with their heartiness, their healthiness, their stout self-help, in their iron basnets, leather jerkins, jack-boots in their quaintness of manner and costume; there as they looked and lived. It was like a new-discovered continent in literature.”

His next hit published two years later was The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Scott intended to write this as a short border ballad but it quickly transformed into his typical lyric romance. It sold thirty thousand copies and yielded Scott just short of one hundred pounds. Three years later his greatest narrative, Marmion, an half lyrical, half-epic, half historical romance written in eight-syllabled and four accents of war, heroism, patriotism, and romance. Here the opening lines describe the castle:

The warriors on the turrets high,
Moving athwart the evening sky,
Seemed forms of giant height;
Their armor as it caught the rays,
Flashed back again the western blaze,
In lines of dazzling light.

And these from the Battle of Flodden:

The English shafts in volleys hailed,
In headlong charge their horse assailed;
Front, flank, and rear, the squadrons sweep
To break the Scottish circle deep,
That fought around their king.
But yet, though thick the shafts as swno,
though charging knights like whirlwinds go,
Though bill-men ply the ghastly blow,
Unbroken was the ring.

Written from his country home in Ashestiel which he describes in the first canto:

November’s sky is chill and drear,
November’s leaf is red and sear;
Late, gazing down the steepy linn,
That hems our little garden in,
Low in its dark and narrow glen,
You scarce the rivulet might ken,
So thick the tangled greenwood grew,
So feeble trilled the streamlet through;
No, murmuring hoarse, and frequent seen,
Through bush and briar no longer green,
An angry brook, it sweeps the glade,
Brawls over rock and wild cascade,
And, foaming brown with double speed,
Hurries its waters to the Tweed.

The best of his poems would be The Lady of the Lake, a metrical romance (French from of the 16th century) a fictional account of the life of King James the fifth of Scotland.

A good question to ask: Why is this not a ballad? Why is this not an epic? Reminder: although it has the appearance of romantic ballad, it tells a long, continuous story and that a ballad cannot do. Likewise it cannot be an epic even though it has characteristics of the epic: history, legend and biography, because it lacks dignity by emphasizing romance and love.

Here is one of Ellen’s songs:

“Soldier rest! Thy warfare over,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking;
Dream of battle fields no more,
Days of danger, nights of waking.
In our isle’s enchanted hall
Hands unseen thy couch are strewing!
Fairy strains of music fall,
Every sense in slumber dewing.
Soldier rest! Thy warfare over,
Dream of fighting fields no more;
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking
Morn of toil, nor night of waking.

One learning task would be to compare two long narrative poems: Scott’s The Lady of the Lake with Wordsworth’s White Doe of Rylstone. Compare heroes, boats, messages.

Scott worked as a barrister for fourteen years but never earned more than two hundred pounds a year. He spent most his time roaming through the hills; speaking with anyone he came upon as one remarked “Sir Walter speaks to every man as if they were blood relations.” The congenial, popular Scott was first Sheriff of Selkirkshire: then Clerk of Session and a permanent officer of the Court of Edinburgh, loved by all animals, servants and the poor, regularly visited by literary figures from England and abroad.

Unlike other romantic poets, Scott never sought comfort in other countries or exotic cultures he preferred the legends of his own ancestors. He was a sickly child with a slight limp. At the age of fifteen he was stricken with an unidentified illness which confined him to bed. As luck would have it, that same year Alan Ramsay (1686-1786; editor and bookseller) established the first circulating library in today’s terms “the mobile library” or “library on wheels”. Scott describes his two years of confinement:

“I was plunged into this great ocean of reading without compass or pilot;...Accordingly , I believe I read almost all the romances, old plays, and epic poetry in that formidable collection, and no doubt was unconsciously amassing materials for the taste in which it has been my lot to be so much employed” Later in his first historical novel he revisits his long recovery through the character Waverly, the name of the hero, describing him as a “dreamer , a bookish youth who had not yet learned the true values and aims of life”. And in chapter three:

“Knowing much that is known, but to few, Edward Waverly might justify be considered as ignorant, since he knew little of what adds dignity to man, and qualifies him to support and adorn an elevated situation in society”.

Waverly was published anonymously in 1814 and instantaneously made his country famous throughout the civilized world. He embraces characteristics of the Romantic Movement with stories representative of all classes of life and naturalism. Poor Scott always falling in love and losing to another he writes what some regard as his most beautiful To a Violet after one those occasions:

The violet in her greenwood bower,
Where birchen boughs with hazels mingle,
May boast itself the fairest flower
In glen, or copse, or forest dingle.

Though fair her gems of azure hue,
Beneath the dewdrop’s weight reclining,
I’ve seen an eye of lovelier blue,
More sweet through watery luster shining.

The summer sun that dew shall dry,
Ere yet the day to past its morrow;
Nor longer is my false love’s eye
Remained the tear of parting sorrow.

As self-description is given in this motto attached to the opening of a chapter from Old Mortality:

Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife;
To all the sensual world proclaim
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth a world without a name!

When asked why he had relinquished poetry Scott replied “Because Byron beat me” and later in another letter “he beat me out of the field in the description of the strong passions, and in deep-seated knowledge of the human heart.” It is true that he lost the crown as England’s premier narrative poet but “from 1805 to 1813 Scott was the most widely read of all British poets” and upon switching to prose whatever he lost in poetry he gained through the greatness of his novels.

romantic revival movement: England: Byron:

The publication of the first two Cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage was the single event that catapulted both Scott and Byron into fame and posterity. Scott, because it forced him toward the romantic novel, and Byron, who could now occupy center stage as the premier narrative poet. Both titled and born lame, they shared little else in love or politics. Scott, steady and consistent in all areas of life; Byron, consistent only in politics and indiscretions but not in poetic form. Byron wrote in the heroic couplet of Pope; the ottava rima of Pulei; and the Spenserian stanza. What they shared is the preference for the historical narrative involving action, adventure, and romance. In their heroines there is resemblance in verse form but little else. Read for yourself:

Scott’s Marmion and the heroine Parisina and Byron’s Childe Harold and the heroine Constance:

Parisina on her fate

Her look composed, and steady eye,
Bespoke a matchless constancy;
And there she stood, so calm and pale,
That, but her breathing did not fail,
And motion slight of eye and head,
And of her bosom, warranted
That neither sense nor pulse she lacks,
You might have thought a form of wax
Wrought to the very life was there;
So still she was, so pale, so fair.

Constance on her trial

She stood, I said, all pale and still,
The living cause of Hugo's ill;
Her eyes unmoved, but full and wide,
Not once had turned to either side
Nor once did these sweet eyelids close,
Or shade the glance o'er which they rose,
But round their orbs of deepest blue
The circling white dilated grew
And there with glassy gaze she stood,
As ice were in her curdled blood.

“It is in the contrast between his August conceptions of man, and his contemptuous opinions of men, that much of the almost incomprehensible charm and power, and enchantment, of his poetry consists.” John Wilson, pen name Christopher North, referring to the previous Augustan age and the didactic writings of Pope couched in satire.

Byron’s Childe Harold met with instant acclaim. Byron, himself surprised by the instantaneous success announced “I awoke to find myself famous.” Having survived a scathing attack on his collection of poems Hours of Idleness, written in 1807 and containg no really remarkable verse except for one dedicated to his boyhood love Mary Chaworth. Here is To a Lady:

O! had my Fate been joinrd with thine,
As once this pledge appeared a token,
These follies had not, then, been mine,
For, then, my peace had not been broken.

To thee, these early faults I owe,
To thee, the wise and old reproving:
They know my sins, but do not know
‘Twas thine to break the bonds of loving.

For once my soul, like thine, was pure,
And all its rising fires could smother;
But, now, thy vows no more endure,
Bestowed by thee upon another.

Perhaps, his peace I could destroy,
And spoil the blisses that await him;
Yet let my Rival smile in joy,
For thy dear sake, I cannot hate him.

Ah! since thy angel form is gone,
My heart no more can rest with any;
But what it sought in thee alone,
Attempts, alas! to find in many.

Then, fare thee well, deceitful Maid!
’Twere vain and fruitless to regret thee;
Nor Hope, nor Memory yield their aid,
But Pride may teach me to forget thee.

Yet all this giddy waste of years,
This tiresome round of palling pleasures;
These varied loves, these matrons’ fears,
These thoughtless strains to Passion’s measures—

If thou wert mine, had all been hushed:
This cheek, now pale from early riot,
With Passion’s hectic ne’er had flushed,
But bloomed in calm domestic quiet.

Yes, once the rural Scene was sweet,
For Nature seem’d to smile before thee;
And once my Breast abhorred deceit,
For then it beat but to adore thee.

But, now, I seek for other joys
To think, would drive my soul to madness;
In thoughtless throngs, and empty noise,
I conquer half my Bosom’s sadness.

Yet, even in these, a thought will steal,
In spite of every vain endeavor;
And fiends might pity what I feel
To know that thou art lost for ever.

It was suggested that “Byron give up poetry and employ his gifts and his leisure hours better.” Byron called them “paper bullets of the brain” and responded “I well recollect the effect which the critique of the Edinburgh Reviewers on my first poem had upon me, it was rage and resistance, and redress; but not despondency nor despair. A savage review is hemlock to a sucking author, and the one on me knocked me down but I got up again bent on falsifying their raven predictions, and determined to show them, croak as they would, that it was not the last time they should hear from me.” Byron left England in 1809 remarking “if we see no nation but our own, we do not give manking a fair chance it is from experience, not books we ought to judge of them. There is nothing like inspection, and trusting to our own senses.”

Childe Harold was a running commentary on travels through Europe written in Spenserian Stanza. (the term “childe” is an archaic title of courtesy once given to a nobleman's eldest son.). Some speculate that this running travelog or poetic diorama was just what readers were looking for. However, it wasn’t long before “famous” turned into “infamous” and he was forced to flee England after accusations of indiscretion. (Byron had a reign of only four years as society’s idol) Despondent and disconnected, Byron went on a pilgrimage. From Canto I:

Adieu, adieu! my native shore
Fades o'er the waters blue;
The Night-winds sigh, the breakers roar,
And shrieks the wild sea-mew.
Yon Sun that sets upon the sea
We follow in his flight;
Farewell awhile to him and thee,
My native Land — Good Night!

On returning to England Byron wrote these lines for mother and his closest friend who had died while he was away:

What is the worst of woes that wait on age?
What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow?
To view each loved one blotted from life’s page,
And be alone on earth, as I am now.

In lines seventy-one and -two of Canto II we find Tambourgi! Tambourgi!, a song composed and sung by Byron when defending Greece. The Tampourgi are mountains in Northern and Central Greece. The first four lines are used by James Fenimore Cooper as the introduction to The Pioneers:

Selictar! unsheathe then our chief’s scimitar;
Tambourgi! thy 'larum gives promise of war;
Ye mountains! that see us descend to the shore,
Shall view us as victors, or view us no more."

He settled in Lake Geneva where Shelley was also living. Here, Canto III and IV were written. Nowhere in these two does the “hero” appear. Byron writes (in protest to those who were declaring Byron and Harold as one in the same) “It was in vain that I asserted, and imagined I had drawn, a distinction between the author and the pilgrim; and the very anxiety to preserve this difference, and disappointment at finding it unavailing, so far crushed my efforts in the composition, that I determined to abandon it altogether--and have done so" (Byron's "Preface" to Canto the Fourth).

Canto III is where Byron speaks of Rousseau as:

Here the self-torturing sophist, wild Rousseau,
The apostle of affliction, he who threw
Enchantment over passion, and from woe
Wrong overwhelming eloquence, first drew
The breath which made him wretched; yet he knew
How to make madness beautiful, and cast
Over erring deeds and thoughts a heavenly hue
Of words, like sunbeams, dazzling as they passed
The eyes which over them shed tears feelingly and fast.”

His second trip was also a disaster, for while in Pisa another altercation with the Italian government forced him into exile again; this time he fled to Greece. He died of a fever at Missolonghi at thirty-six. Perhaps his story would be different had he not been so comfortable in the company of women where he basked in adulation, affection and caress. In spite of his great popularity in the Western World and his contribution to the literary history of England, he was refused burial in Westminster Abbey. In the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen one can find a bust and statue of Byron. The sculptor writes “It was his fancy to be unhappy.” At one point Byron expressed the desire to be buried beside his dog “Boatswain”, “his only friend.” for whom he wrote this epitaph:

Near this spot
Are deposited the Remains of one
Who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the virtues of Man, without his Vices.
This Praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
If inscribed over human ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the
Memory of Boatswain, a dog.

A typical Romantic, Byron lived in exotic cultures and sensational encounters of romance while at the same time conscious of the social inequities of society. Of his poetry, simple narrative his method; history its nourishment; the story not the method is important; satire not pleasure its goal. There are no plots only stories For Childe Harold there were no progenitors, it paved the way for the romantic novel.

About Childe Harold Francis Jeffrey wrote for Edinburgh Review - February 1812: "The versification is in the stanza of Spencer; and none of all the imitators of that venerable bard have availed themselves more extensively of the great range of tones and manners in which his example entitles them to indulge. Lord Byron has accordingly given us descriptions in all their extremes; — sometimes compressing into one stanza the whole characteristic features of a country, and sometimes expanding into twenty the details of a familiar transaction; — condescending, for pages together, to expatiate in minute and ludicrous representations, — and mingling long apostrophes, execrations, and the expression of personal emotion, with the miscellaneous picture which it is his main business to trace on the imagination of his readers. Not satisfied even with the license of variety, he has passed at will, and entirely, from the style of Spencer, to that of his own age, — and intermingled various lyrical pieces with the solemn stanza of his general measure."

In this letter of Walter Scott to Joanna Baillie: "Have you seen the Pilgrimage of Childe Harold, by Lord Byron? It is, I think, a very clever poem, but gives no good symptom of the writer's heart or morals. His hero, notwithstanding the affected antiquity of the style in some parts, is a modern man of fashion and fortune, worn out and satiated with the pursuits of dissipation, and although there is a caution against it in the preface, you cannot for your soul avoid concluding that the author, as he gives an account of his own travels, is also doing so in his own character. Now really this is too bad.... Yet with all this conceit and assurance, there is much poetical merit in the book, and I wish you would read it". From Life of Scott; 1837-38; 1902
From a review in Literary Panorama: "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, is a poem in which narrative, feeling, description, sentiment, satire, tenderness and contemplation, are happily blended; it is adorned with beautiful imagery, expressed in animated and harmonious verse; and to this we may add, that the subjects of it are of the most interesting nature, and, if not themselves altogether new, they are treated in a manner combining novelty and exactness"
Thomas Denman: "we are disposed to think that no writer in our language has been so successful as Lord Byron in the management of this structure of verse, — perhaps not even Spenser himself. The fault most commonly imputed, viz. languor and tardiness, from which that great poet is seldom long exempt, and which most of his imitators seem to have deemed sufficient to constitute a resemblance to him, is not to be found in the pages before us...Against the present work, no charge of weakness or wearisomeness can fairly be made; and though bad lines do occur, and we can remark an occasional incorrectness of expression, the whole effect is powerful and elastic: the concluding line of Canto I:

Nor yet alas! the dreadful work is done;
Fresh legions pour adown the Pyrenees;
It deepens still, the work is scarce begun,
nor mortal eye the distant end foresees,
Fallen nations gaze on Spain; If freed, she frees
More than her fell Pizarros once enchained.

Definitely the first two Cantos show Byron’s contempt for England. Jeering the foreign policy and mocking the “great victory at Talavera” with “the loss of five thousand men” with nothing achieved. But later In Canto IV of this same work, bitterness set aside, he reverts typical Romantic style to write:

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
Here is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar;
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
from these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can never express, yet cannot all conceal.

Byron’s explains that his poetry was fueled by “my intense dreams” which he put into visionary lyrics, dramatic rather than meditative; emotional rather than objective. Byron wrote four Turkish tales: The Giaour, The Bride of Abydos, The Corsair, and Lara. This last is referred to as “the Byronic hero”. Byron also experimented various ways of telling his tales. For example the confusing use of more than one narrator, which in The Giaour became so convoluted that the reader comes away with the idea that the Greek feels remorse upon killing a Turk. In your dreams!

His poems from 1816 to 1819 are believed to be his best. One of these is The Prisoner of Chilon:

And thou art dead, as young and fair
As aught of mortal birth;
And form so soft, and charms so rare,
Too soon returned to Earth!
Though Earth received them in her bed,
And over the spot the crowd may tread
In carelessness or mirth,
There is an eye which could not brook
A moment on that grave to look.

I will not ask where thou liest low,
Nor gaze upon the spot;
There flowers or weeds at will may grow,
So I behold them not:
It is enough for me to prove
That what I loved, and long must love,
Like common earth can rot;
To me there needs no stone to tell,
Tis Nothing that I loved so well.

Yet did I love thee to the last
As fervently as thou,
Who didst not change through all the past,
And canst not alter now.
The love where Death has set his seal,
Nor age can chill, nor rival steal,
Nor falsehood disavow:
And, what were worse, thou canst not see
Or wrong, or change, or fault in me.
The better days of life were ours;
The worst can be but mine:
The sun that cheers, the storm that lowers,
Shall never more be thine.
The silence of that dreamless sleep
I envy now too much to weep;
Nor need I to repine that all those charms have passed away,
I might have watched through long decay.

The flower in ripened bloom unmatched
Must fall the earliest prey;
Though by no hand untimely snatched,
The leaves must drop away:
And yet it were a greater grief
To watch it withering, leaf by leaf,
Than see it plucked to-day;
Since earthly eye but ill can bear
To trace the change to foul from fair.

I know not if I could have borne
To see thy beauties fade;
The night that followed such a morn
Had worn a deeper shade:
Thy day without a cloud hath passed,
And thou wert lovely to the last,
Extinguished, not decayed;
As stars that shoot along the sky
Shine brightest as they fall from high.

As once I wept, if I could weep,
My tears might well be shed,
To think I was not near to keep
One vigil over thy bed;
To gaze, how fondly! on thy face,
To fold thee in a faint embrace,
Uphold thy drooping head;
And show that love, however vain,
Nor thou nor I can feel again.

Yet how much less it were to gain,
Though thou hast left me free,
The loveliest things that still remain,
Than thus remember thee!
The all of thine that cannot die
Through dark and dread Eternity
Returns again to me,
And more thy buried love endears
Than aught except its living years.

Byron’s satiric verses were written in heroic couplet until Beppo. Written, while in Italy, this was a Venetian serio-comic story in Italian ottava rima which in regular form would consist of eight eleven-syllabled lines, Byron reduced his to ten syllables and a rhyme scheme of a b a b a b c c. Don Juan was in this same form. Both of these long poems earned the description of “sarcastic, brilliant, flippant and profligate”.

In Don Juan Byron did find some noble characters although he held most in contempt. Here is Canto the First, Verse 1:

Leonidas and Washington,
Whose every battlefield is holy ground,
How sweetly on the ear such echoes sound!
While the mere victor’s may appal or stun
The servile and the vain, such names will be
A watchword till the future shall be free.

Don Juan absorbed the last five years of his life and it represents more than one-fourth of all his poetical words. He took the motto from Shakespeare’s “cakes and ale” taunt to Pharisees: “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale? Yes, by St. Anne, and ginger shall be hot in the mouth too! Sir Toby; Twelfth Night; Act 2, Scene 3.

Of Don Juan Byron states that “he must tell the truth in the hope of making men better”. He proposed to expose the “hypocrisy and the corruption of high society which he knew well, and in his hero to depict: “a vicious and unprincipled character, and lead him through these ranks of society, whose high external accomplishments cover and cloak internal and secret vices.” When critics responded in shock he wrote: “I maintain that it is the most moral of all poems; but if people won’t discover the moral, that is their fault, not mine.”

In Canto I of Don Juan he took on his literary colleagues:

I want a hero: an uncommon want,
When every year and month sends forth a new one,
Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
The age discovers he is not the true one;
Of such as these I should not care to vaunt,
I'll therefore take our ancient friend Don Juan,
We all have seen him, in the pantomime,
Sent to the Devil somewhat ere his time.

Vernon, the butcher Cumberland, Wolfe, Hawke,
Prince Ferdinand, Granby, Burgoyne, Keppel, Howe,
Evil and good, have had their tithe of talk,
And filled their sign-posts then, like Wellesley now;
Each in their turn like Banquo's monarchs stalk,
Followers of fame, "nine farrow" of that sow:
France, too, had Buonaparté and Dumourier
Recorded in the Moniteur and Courier.
Barnave, Brissot, Condorcet, Mirabeau,
Pétion, Clootz, Danton, Marat, La Fayette
Were French, and famous people, as we know;
And there were others, scarce forgotten yet,
Joubert, Hoche, Marceau, Lannes, Desaix, Moreau,
With many of the military set,
Exceedingly remarkable at times,
But not at all adapted to my rhymes.

Nelson was once Britannia's god of War,
And still should be so, but the tide is turn'd;
There's no more to be said of Trafalgar,
'Tis with our hero quietly inurned;
Because the army's grown more popular,
At which the naval people are concerned;
Besides, the Prince is all for the land-service,
Forgetting Duncan, Nelson, Howe, and Jervis.

Brave men were living before Agamemnon
And since, exceeding valorous and sage,
A good deal like him too, though quite the same none;
But then they shone not on the poet's page,
And so have been forgotten: I condemn none,
But can't find any in the present age
Fit for my poem (that is, for my new one);
So, as I said, I'll take my friend Don Juan.

Most epic poets plunge "in medias res"
(Horace makes this the heroic turnpike road),
And then your hero tells, whenever you please,
What went before--by way of episode,
While seated after dinner at his ease,
Beside his mistress in some soft abode,
Palace, or garden, paradise, or cavern,
Which serves the happy couple for a tavern.

That is the usual method, but not mine
My way is to begin with the beginning;
The regularity of my design
Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning,
And therefore I shall open with a line
(Although it cost me half an hour in spinning),
Narrating somewhat of Don Juan's father,
And also of his mother, if you'd rather.

My poem's epic, and is meant to be
Divided in twelve books; each book containing,
With love, and war, a heavy gale at sea,
A list of ships, and captains, and kings reigning,
New characters; the episodes are three:
A panoramic view of Hell's in training,
After the style of Virgil and of Homer,
So that my name of Epic's no misnomer.

All these things will be specified in time,
With strict regard to Aristotle's rules,
The Vade Mecum of the true sublime,
Which makes so many poets, and some fools:
Prose poets like blank-verse, I'm fond of rhyme,
Good workmen never quarrel with their tools;
I've got new mythological machinery,
And very handsome supernatural scenery.

There's only one slight difference between
Me and my epic brethren gone before,
And here the advantage is my own, I ween,
(Not that I have not several merits more,
But this will more peculiarly be seen);
They so embellish, that 'tis quite a bore
Their labyrinth of fables to thread through,
Whereas this story's actually true.

If any person doubt it, I appeal
To history, tradition, and to facts,
To newspapers, whose truth all know and feel,
To plays in five, and operas in three acts;
All these confirm my statement a good deal,
But that which more completely faith exacts
Is, that myself, and several now in Seville,
Saw Juan's last elopement with the Devil.

If ever I should condescend to prose,
'll write poetical commandments, which
Shall supersede beyond all doubt all those
That went before; in these I shall enrich
My text with many things that no one knows,
And carry precept to the highest pitch:
I'll call the work "Longinus o'er a Bottle,
Or, Every Poet his own Aristotle."
Thou shalt believe in Milton, Dryden, Pope;
Thou shalt not set up Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey;
Because the first is crazed beyond all hope,
The second drunk, the third so quaint and mouthy:
With Crabbe it may be difficult to cope,
And Campbell's Hippocrene is somewhat drouthy:
Thou shalt not steal from Samuel Rogers, nor
Commit--flirtation with the muse of Moore.

Thou shalt not covet Mr. Sotheby's Muse,
His Pegasus, nor anything that's his;
Thou shalt not bear false witness like "the Blues"
(There's one, at least, is very fond of this);
Thou shalt not write, in short, but what I choose:
This is true criticism, and you may kiss--
Exactly as you please, or not--the rod;
If you don't, I'll lay it on, by G{-}d!

He wrote two satires, the first was The Vision of Judgment in response to over anger by Robert Southey’s attempt to establish George III as a great monarch, where he tales a swipe at “pantisocracy” among other ideas:

Saint Peter sat by the celestial gate:
His keys were rusty, and the lock was dull,
So little trouble had been given of late;
Not that the place by any means was full,
But since the Gallic era "eighty-eight"
The devils had ta'en a longer, stronger pull,
And "a pull altogether," as they say
At sea--which drew most souls another way.
Then Angels all were singing out of tune,
And hoarse with having little else to do,
Excepting to wind up the sun and moon,
Or curb a runaway young star or two,
Wild colt of a comet, which too soon
Broke out of bonds o'er the ethereal blue,
Splitting some planet with its playful tail,
As boats are sometimes by a wanton whale.
The Guardian Seraphs had retired on high,
Finding their charges past all care below;
Terrestrial business filled nought in the sky
Save the Recording Angel's black bureau;
Who found, indeed, the facts to multiply
With such rapidity of vice and woe,
That he had stripped off both his wings in quills,
And yet was in arrear of human ills.
His business so augmented of late years,
That he was forced, against his will no doubt,
(Just like those cherubs, earthly ministers,)
For some resource to turn himself about,
And claim the help of his celestial peers,
To aid him ere he should be quite worn out
By the increased demand for his remarks:
Six Angels and twelve Saints were named his clerks.
This was a handsome board--at least for Heaven;
And yet they had even then enough to do,
So many Conquerors' cars were daily driven,
So many kingdoms fitted up anew;
Each day too slew its thousands six or seven,
Till at the crowning carnage, Waterloo,
They threw their pens down in divine disgust--
The page was so besmeared with blood and dust.
This by the way; 'tis not mine to record
What Angels shrink from; even the very Devil
On this occasion his own work abhorred,
So surfeited with the infernal revel:
Though he himself had sharpened every sword,
It almost quenched his innate thirst of evil.
(Here Satan's sole good work deserves insertion--
'Tis, that he has both Generals in reversion.)
Let's skip a few short years of hollow peace,
Which peopled earth no better, Hell as wont,
And heaven none--they form the tyrant's lease,
With nothing but new names subscribed upon 't;
'Twill one day finish: meantime they increase,
"With seven heads and ten horns," and all in front,
Like Saint John's foretold beast; but ours are born
Less formidable in the head than horn.
In the first year of Freedom's second dawn
Died George the Third; although no tyrant, one
Who shielded tyrants, till each sense withdrawn
Left him nor mental nor external sun;
A better farmer ne'er brush'd dew from lawn,
A worse king never left a realm undone
He died--but left his subjects still behind,
One half as mad--and the other no less blind.
He died! his death made no great stir on earth:
His burial made some pomp; there was profusion
velvet, gilding, brass, and no great dearth
Of aught but tears--save those shed by collusion.
or these things may be bought at their true worth;
Of elegy there was the due infusion
Bought also; and the torches, cloaks, and banners,
Heralds, and relics of old Gothic manners,
Formed a sepulchral melodrame. Of all
The fools who flocked to swell or see the show,
Who cared about the corpse? The funeral
Made the attraction, and the black the woe.
There throbbed not there a thought which pierced the pall;
And when the gorgeous coffin was laid low,
It seemed the mockery of hell to fold
The rottenness of eighty years in gold.
So mix his body with the dust! It might
Return to what it must far sooner, were
The natural compound left alone to fight
Its way back into earth, and fire, and air;
But the unnatural balsams merely blight
What Nature made him at his birth, as bare
As the mere million's base unmummied clay--
Yet all his spices but prolong decay.
He's dead--and upper earth with him has done;
He's buried; save the undertaker's bill,
Or lapidary scrawl, the world is gone
For him, unless he left a German will;
But where's the proctor who will ask his son?
In whom his qualities are reigning still,
Except that household virtue, most uncommon,
Of constancy to a bad, ugly woman.
"God save the king!" It is a large economy
In God to save the like; but if he will
Be saving, all the better; for not one am I
Of those who think damnation better still:
I hardly know too if not quite alone am I
In this small hope of bettering future ill
By circumscribing, with some slight restriction,
The eternity of Hell's hot jurisdiction.
At length with jostling, elbowing, and the aid
Of cherubim appointed to that post,
The devil Asmodeus to the circle made
His way, and look'd as if his journey cost
Some trouble. When his burden down he laid,
"What's this?" cried Michael; "why, 'tis not a ghost?--'
"I know it," quoth the Incubus; "but he
Shall be one, if you leave the affair to me.
"Confound the renegado! I have sprain'd
My left wing, he's so heavy; one would think
Some of his works about his neck were chain'd.
But to the point; while hovering o'er the brink
Of Skiddaw (where as usual it still rain'd)
I saw a taper, far below me, wink,
And stooping, caught this fellow at a libel--
No less on History than the Holy Bible.
"The former is the Devil's scripture, and
The latter yours, good Michael: so the affair
Belongs to all of us, you understand.
I snatched him up just as you see him there,
And brought him off for sentence out of hand:
I've scarcely been ten minutes in the air--
At least a quarter it can hardly be:
I dare say that his wife is still at tea."
Here Satan said, "I know this man of old,
And have expected him for some time here;
A sillier fellow you will scarce behold,
Or more conceited in his petty sphere:
But surely it was not worth while to fold
Such trash below your wing, Asmodeus dear:
We had the poor wretch safe (without being bored
With carriage) coming of his own accord.
"But since he's here, let's see what he has done."
"Done!" cried Asmodeus, "he anticipates
The very business you are now upon,
And scribbles as if head clerk to the Fates.
Who knows to what his ribaldry may run,
When such an ass as this, like Balaam's prates?"
"Let's hear," quoth Michael, "what he has to say:
You know we're bound to that in every way."
Now the bard, glad to get an audience, which
By no means often was his case below,
Began to cough, and hawk, and hem, and pitch
His voice into that awful note of woe
To all unhappy hearers within reach
Of poets when the tide of rhyme's in flow;
But stuck fast with his first hexameter,
Not one of all whose gouty feet would stir.
But ere the spavin'd dactyls could be spurr'd
Into recitative, in great dismay
Both Cherubim and Seraphim were heard
To murmur loudly through their long array;
And Michael rose ere he could get a word
Of all his founder'd verses under way,
And cried, "For God's sake stop, my friend! 'twere best--
Non Di, non homines--you know the rest."
A general bustle spread throughout the throng,
Which seem'd to hold all verse in detestation:
The Angels had of course enough of song
When upon service; and the generation
Of ghosts had heard too much in life, not long
Before, to profit by a new occasion:
The monarch, mute till then, exclaim'd, "What! what!
Pye come again? No more--no more of that!"
The tumult grew; an universal cough
Convulsed the skies, as during a debate,
When Castlereagh has been up long enough
(Before he was first minister of state,
I mean--the slaves hear now); some cried "Off, off!"
As at a farce; till, grown quite desperate,
The Bard Saint Peter pray'd to interpose
(Himself an author) only for his prose.
The varlet was not an ill-favour'd knave;
A good deal like a vulture in the face,
With a hook nose and a hawk's eye, which gave
A smart and sharper-looking sort of grace
To his whole aspect, which, though rather grave,
Was by no means so ugly as his case;
But that, indeed, was hopeless as can be,
Quite a poetic felony "de se."
Then Michael blew his trump, and stilled the noise
With one still greater, as is yet the mode
On earth besides; except some grumbling voice,
Which now and then will make a slight inroad
Upon decorous silence, few will twice
Lift up their lungs when fairly overcrowed;
And now the Bard could plead his own bad cause,
With all the attitudes of self-applause.
He said--(I only give the heads)--he said,
He meant no harm in scribbling; 'twas his way
Upon all topics; 'twas, besides, his bread,
Of which he buttered both sides; 'twould delay
Too long the assembly (he was pleased to dread),
And take up rather more time than a day,
To name his works--he would but cite a few--
"Wat Tyler"--"Rhymes on Blenheim"--"Waterloo."
He had written praises of a Regicide;
He had written praises of all kings whatever;
He had written for republics far and wide,
And then against them bitterer than ever;
For pantisocracy he once had cried
Aloud, a scheme less moral than 'twas clever;
Then grew a hearty anti-Jacobin--
Had turned his coat--and would have turned his skin.
He had sung against all battles, and again
In their high praise and glory; he had called
Reviewing "the ungentle craft," and then
Become as base a critic as e'er crawled--
Fed, paid, and pampered by the very men
By whom his muse and morals had been mauled:
He had written much blank verse, and blanker prose,
And more of both than anybody knows.
He had written Wesley's life: here turning round
To Satan, "Sir, I'm ready to write yours,
In two octavo volumes, nicely bound,
With notes and preface, all that most allures
The pious purchaser; and there's no ground
For fear, for I can choose my own reviewers:
So let me have the proper documents,
That I may add you to my other saints."
Satan bowed, and was silent. "Well, if you,
With amiable modesty, decline
My offer, what says Michael? There are few
Whose memoirs could be render'd more divine.
Mine is a pen of all work; not so new
As it was once, but I would make you shine
Like your own trumpet. By the way, my own
Has more of brass in it, and is as well blown.
"But talking about trumpets, here's my "Vision"!
Now you shall judge, all people; yes, you shall
Judge with my judgment, and by my decision
Be guided who shall enter heaven or fall.
I settle all these things by intuition,
Times present, past, to come, Heaven, Hell, and all,
Like King Alfonso. When I thus see double,
save the Deity some worlds of trouble."
He ceased, and drew forth an MS.; and no
Persuasion on the part of Devils, Saints,
Or Angels, now could stop the torrent;
So read the first three lines of the contents;
But at the fourth, the whole spiritual show
Had vanished, with variety of scents,
Ambrosial and sulphureous, as they sprang,
Like lightning, off from his "melodious twang."
Those grand heroics acted as a spell:
The Angels stopped their ears and plied their pinions;
The Devils ran howling, deafened, down to Hell;
The ghosts fled, gibbering, for their own dominions--
(For 'tis not yet decided where they dwell,
And I leave every man to his opinions);
Michael took refuge in his trump--but, lo!
His teeth were set on edge, he could not blow!
Saint Peter, who has hitherto been known
For an impetuous saint, upraised his keys,
And at the fifth line knocked the poet down;
Who fell like Phaëton, but more at ease,
Into his lake, for there he did not drown;
A different web being by the Destinies
Woven for the Laureate's final wreath, whenever
Reform shall happen either here or there.
He first sank to the bottom--like his works,
But soon rose to the surface--like himself:
For all corrupted things are buoy'd like corks,
By their own rottenness, like as an elf,
Or wisp that flits o'er a morass: he lurks
It may be, still, like dull books on a shelf,
In his own den, to scrawl some "Life" or "Vision,"
As Welborn says--"the Devil turned precision."
As for the rest, to come to the conclusion
Of this true dream, the telescope is gone
Which kept my optics free from all delusion,
And showed me what I in my turn have shown;
All I saw farther, in the last confusion,
Was, that King George slipped into Heaven for one;
And when the tumult dwindled to a calm,
I left him practising the hundredth psalm,

One aspect of Byron’s journeys has always puzzled me that is the encounter with Ali Pasha, known around the Mediterranean as “the Turkish Bonaparte.” How is it that this tyrant is more acceptable and admired than other Western leaders of the same ilk (Canto IV of Don Juan)? It is told that Ali Pasha received Byron standing, open arms, remarking that he recognized him as nobility “by his small ears, curling hair, and little white hands.” Was flattery all that Byron needed to abandon his ideals and self-absorption his folly?

His attempts at lyric were not well received but appear frequently in school anthologies of today. Especially When We Two Parted, She Walks in Beauty, Maid of Athens, and Lady of The Lake. There is an interesting story about this last poem. It goes like this: when one of Scott’s daughters was asked “How do you like The Lady of the Lake?” She replied: “I have not read it! Papa says there’s nothing so bad for young people as reading bad poetry.” from Hesketh Pearson in Walter Scott.

We close with this: “Lord Byron makes man after his own image, woman after his own heart; the one is a capricious tyrant, the other a yielding slave.” William Hazlitt, Lord Byron, The Spirit of the Age (1825).

London through the eyes of five poets. Has the vision really changed in a century from Augustan to Romantic? If so, what other influences mark the changes?

Wordsworth's London

Milton! thou should'st be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life's common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

Johnson's London lines 162-192

The sober trader at a tattered cloak,
Wakes from his dream and labours for a joke;
With brisker air the silken courtiers gaze,
And turn the varied taunto a thousand ways.
Of all the griefs that harass the distressed
Sue the most bitter is a scornfull jest;
Fate never wounds more deep the generous heart,
Than when a blackhead't insult points the dar.
"Has heaven reserved in pity to the poor,
No pathless waste, or undiscovered shore;

No secret island in the boundless main?
No peaceful desert yet unclaimed by Spain?
Quick let us rise, the happy seats explore,
And bear oppression's insolence no more.
"This mournful truth is everywhere confessed,
Slow rises worth, by poverty depressed:
But here more slow, where all are slaves to gold,
Where won by brides, by flatteries implored,
The groom retails the favours of his lord.
But hark! the affrighted crowd's tumultuous cries
Roll through the streets, and thunder to the skies;
Raised from some pleasing dream of wealth and power,
Some pompous palace, or some blissful bower,
Aghast you start, and scarce with aching sight
Sustain the approaching fire's tremendous light;
Swift from pursuing horrors take your way,
And leave you little all to flames a prey;
Then through the world a wretched vagrant roam,
For where can starving merit find a home?
In vain your mournful narrative disclose,

Byron's London from Don Juan

A mighty mass of brick, and smoke, and shipping,
Dirty and dusky, but as wide as eye
Could reach, with here and there a sail just skipping
In sight, then lost amidst the forestry
Of masts; a wilderness of steeples peeping
On tiptoe through their sea-coal canopy;
A huge, dun cupola, like a foolscap crown
On a fool's head - and there is London Town!

Blake’s London

I wander thro' each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear.
How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every blackening Church appalls;
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.
But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new born Infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

Robinson's London - summer morning

Who has not waked to list the busy sounds
Of summer's morning, in the sultry smoke
Of noisy London? On the pavement hot
The sooty chimney-boy, with dingy face
And tattered covering, shrilly bawls his trade,
Rousing the sleepy housemaid. At the door
The milk-pail rattles, and the tinkling bell
Proclaims the dustman's office; while the street
Is lost in clouds impervious. Now begins
The din of hackney-coaches, wagons, carts;
While tinmen's shops, and noisy trunk-makers,
Knife-grinders, coopers, squeaking cork-cutters,
Fruit barrows, and the hunger-giving cries
Of vegetable venders, fill the air.
Now every shop displays its varied trade,
And the fresh-sprinkled pavement cools the feet
Of early walkers. At the private door
The ruddy housemaid twirls the busy mop,
Annoying the smart 'prentice, or neat girl,
Tripping with band-box lightly. Now the sun
Darts burning splendor on the glittering pane,
Save where the canvas awning throws a shade
On the day merchandise. Now, spruce and trim,
In shops (where beauty smiles with industry),
Sits the smart damsel; while the passenger
Peeps through the window, watching every charm.
Now pastry dainties catch the eye minute
Of humming insects, while the limey snare
Waits to enthral them. Now the lamp-lighter
Mounts the tall ladder, nimbly venturous,
To trim the half-filled lamp; while at his feet
The pot-boy yells discordant! All along
The sultry pavement, the old-clothes man cries
In tone monotonous, while sidelong views
The area for his traffic; now the bag
Is slyly opened, and the half-worn suit
(Sometimes the pilfered treasure of the base
Domestic spoiler), for one half its worth,
Sinks in the green abyss. The porter now
Bears his huge load along the burning way;
And the poor poet wakes from busy dreams,
To paint a summer morning.

We introduce Shelley as England saw him: a monster at war with the world; banned for heresy by the fathers of the Church; deprived of his civil rights by the Lord Chancellor; rejected by his family; cursed by elected officials as “The Hermit of Marlow; and denounced by critics of the literary world. In this same time period there is Byron, cynic and lover of women and Shelley the optimist and lover of everything; a true pantheist. Both aristocrats, both Italian ex-patriots, and both disturbed by human suffering. For these and all other Romantics what is of most value in human nature is the will of the individual; the freedom to experience nature and pursue life with imagination. Not what you have been born into but what you may become free of. Nature is not fixed; Newtonian laws are not the guiding principal; man is not static; he is not confined to his state. Man is part of nature and as a part looks to nature for wisdom. So writes Hegel, born the same year as Wordsworth and victim of the post Napoleonic era of destruction; falling under the spell of Rousseau and “the peaceable kingdom” of nature. “In communion with nature is wisdom to be found” thus Wordsworth wrote:

One impluse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man
Of moral evil and of good
Than all the sages can.

A reminder that what drives the Romantic poet is passion against tyranny driven by an extraordinary imagination. The Romantic movement is about to come to a close: only Shelley and his friend Keats remain. All cut off at the prime of their lives: Byron at thirty-six, Shelley at age thirty, and Keats at twenty-five. Of the three there could be no more true Romantic than Shelley. He wrote “Those who love not their fellow-beings live unnatural lives and prepare for their old age a miserable grave.” He took his tea without sugar because sugar was the product of slave labor. He was a vegetarian, shunning meat because man had no right to kill and eat animals. All his short life he fostered a hatred for harshness and injustice. As a young student he rebelled against the practice of bullying and hazing in his Eton years and later referred to them in Verses III and IV from the narrative in Spenserian stanza. The Revolt of Islam was a blending of “passion for beauty and passion for freedom.” The hero Laon is said by some to be the poet himself. The poem is dedicated to his second wife, Mary Shelley, and includes these introductory lines from Courage by George Chapman (1559-1634):

There is no danger to a man that knows
What life and death is: there's not any law
Exceeds his knowledge; neither is it lawful
That he should stoop to any other law.

In this his introductory statement Shelley writes mostly of his philosophy but also defends his poetic style (ex. a sudden switch to the Alexandrine); the message is what is important, not the medium:

"The poem which I now present to the world is an attempt from which I scarcely dare to expect success, and in which a writer of established fame might fail without disgrace. It is an experiment on the temper of the public mind, as to how far a thirst for a happier condition of moral and political society survives, among the enlightened and refined, the tempests which have shaken the age in which we live. I have sought to enlist the harmony of metrical language, the ethereal combinations of the fancy, the rapid and subtle transitions of human passion, all those elements which essentially compose a Poem, in the cause of a liberal and comprehensive morality; and in the view of kindling within the bosoms of my readers a virtuous enthusiasm for those doctrines of liberty and justice, that faith and hope in something good, which neither violence nor misrepresentation nor prejudice can ever totally extinguish among mankind.

For this purpose I have chosen a story of human passion in its most universal character, diversified with moving and romantic adventures, and appealing, in contempt of all artificial opinions or institutions, to the common sympathies of every human breast. I have made no attempt to recommend the motives which I would substitute for those at present governing mankind, by methodical and systematic argument. I would only awaken the feelings, so that the reader should see the beauty of true virtue, and be incited to those inquiries which have led to my moral and political creed, and that of some of the sublimest intellects in the world. The Poem therefore (with the exception of the first canto, which is purely introductory) is narrative, not didactic. It is a succession of pictures illustrating the growth and progress of individual mind aspiring after excellence, and devoted to the love of mankind; its influence in refining and making pure the most daring and uncommon impulses of the imagination, the understanding, and the senses; its impatience at 'all the oppressions which are done under the sun;' its tendency to awaken public hope, and to enlighten and improve mankind; the rapid effects of the application of that tendency; the awakening of an immense nation from their slavery and degradation to a true sense of moral dignity and freedom; the bloodless dethronement of their oppressors, and the unveiling of the religious frauds by which they had been deluded into submission; the tranquillity of successful patriotism, and the universal toleration and benevolence of true philanthropy; the treachery and barbarity of hired soldiers; vice not the object of punishment and hatred, but kindness and pity; the faithlessness of tyrants; the confederacy of the Rulers of the World and the restoration of the expelled Dynasty by foreign arms; the massacre and extermination of the Patriots, and the victory of established power; the consequences of legitimate despotism,--civil war, famine, plague, superstition, and an utter extinction of the domestic affections; the judicial murder of the advocates of Liberty; the temporary triumph of oppression, that secure earnest of its final and inevitable fall; the transient nature of ignorance and error and the eternity of genius and virtue. Such is the series of delineations of which the Poem consists. And, if the lofty passions with which it has been my scope to distinguish this story shall not excite in the reader a generous impulse, an ardent thirst for excellence, an interest profound and strong such as belongs to no meaner desires, let not the failure be imputed to a natural unfitness for human sympathy in these sublime and animating themes. It is the business of the Poet to communicate to others the pleasure and the enthusiasm arising out of those images and feelings in the vivid presence of which within his own mind consists at once his inspiration and his reward. The panic which, like an epidemic transport, seized upon all classes of men during the excesses consequent upon the French Revolution, is gradually giving place to sanity. It has ceased to be believed that whole generations of mankind ought to consign themselves to a hopeless inheritance of ignorance and misery, because a nation of men who had been dupes and slaves for centuries were incapable of conducting themselves with the wisdom and tranquillity of freemen so soon as some of their fetters were partially loosened. That their conduct could not have been marked by any other characters than ferocity and thoughtlessness is the historical fact from which liberty derives all its recommendations, and falsehood the worst features of its deformity. There is a reflux in the tide of human things which bears the shipwrecked hopes of men into a secure haven after the storms are past. Methinks, those who now live have survived an age of despair. The French Revolution may be considered as one of those manifestations of a general state of feeling among civilized mankind produced by a defect of correspondence between the knowledge existing in society and the improvement or gradual abolition of political institutions. The year 1788 may be assumed as the epoch of one of the most important crises produced by this feeling. The sympathies connected with that event extended to every bosom. The most generous and amiable natures were those which participated the most extensively in these sympathies. But such a degree of unmingled good was expected as it was impossible to realize. If the Revolution had been in every respect prosperous, then misrule and superstition would lose half their claims to our abhorrence, as fetters which the captive can unlock with the slightest motion of his fingers, and which do not eat with poisonous rust into the soul. The revulsion occasioned by the atrocities of the demagogues, and the re-establishment of successive tyrannies in France, was terrible, and felt in the remotest corner of the civilized world. Could they listen to the plea of reason who had groaned under the calamities of a social state according to the provisions of which one man riots in luxury whilst another famishes for want of bread? Can he who the day before was a trampled slave suddenly become liberal-minded, forbearing, and independent? This is the consequence of the habits of a state of society to be produced by resolute perseverance and indefatigable hope, and long-suffering and long-believing courage, and the systematic efforts of generations of men of intellect and virtue. Such is the lesson which experience teaches now. But, on the first reverses of hope in the progress of French liberty, the sanguine eagerness for good overleaped the solution of these questions, and for a time extinguished itself in the unexpectedness of their result. Thus, many of the most ardent and tender-hearted of the worshippers of public good have been morally ruined by what a partial glimpse of the events they deplored appeared to show as the melancholy desolation of all their cherished hopes. Hence gloom and misanthropy have become the characteristics of the age in which we live, the solace of a disappointment that unconsciously finds relief only in the wilful exaggeration of its own despair. This influence has tainted the literature of the age with the hopelessness of the minds from which it flows. Metaphysics (I ought to except Sir W. Drummond's "Academical Questions"; a volume of very acute and powerful metaphysical criticism.), and inquiries into moral and political science, have become little else than vain attempts to revive exploded superstitions, or sophisms like those of Mr. Malthus (It is remarkable, as a symptom of the revival of public hope, that Mr. Malthus has assigned, in the later editions of his work, an indefinite dominion to moral restraint over the principle of population. This concession answers all the inferences from his doctrine unfavorable to human improvement, and reduces the "Essay on Population" to a commentary illustrative of the unanswerableness of "Political Justice".), calculated to lull the oppressors of mankind into a security of everlasting triumph. Our works of fiction and poetry have been overshadowed by the same infectious gloom. But mankind appear to me to be emerging from their trance. I am aware, methinks, of a slow, gradual, silent change. In that belief I have composed the following Poem.

I do not presume to enter into competition with our greatest contemporary Poets. Yet I am unwilling to tread in the footsteps of any who have preceded me. I have sought to avoid the imitation of any style of language or versification peculiar to the original minds of which it is the character; designing that, even if what I have produced be worthless, it should still be properly my own. Nor have I permitted any system relating to mere words to divert the attention of the reader, from whatever interest I may have succeeded in creating, to my own ingenuity in contriving to disgust them according to the rules of criticism. I have simply clothed my thoughts in what appeared to me the most obvious and appropriate language. A person familiar with nature, and with the most celebrated productions of the human mind, can scarcely err in following the instinct, with respect to selection of language, produced by that familiarity. There is an education peculiarly fitted for a Poet, without which genius and sensibility can hardly fill the circle of their capacities. No education, indeed, can entitle to this appellation a dull and unobservant mind, or one, though neither dull nor unobservant, in which the channels of communication between thought and expression have been obstructed or closed. How far it is my fortune to belong to either of the latter classes I cannot know. I aspire to be something better. The circumstances of my accidental education have been favorable to this ambition. I have been familiar from boyhood with mountains and lakes and the sea, and the solitude of forests: Danger, which sports upon the brink of precipices, has been my playmate. I have trodden the glaciers of the Alps, and lived under the eye of Mont Blanc. I have been a wanderer among distant fields. I have sailed down mighty rivers, and seen the sun rise and set, and the stars come forth, whilst I have sailed night and day down a rapid stream among mountains. I have seen populous cities, and have watched the passions which rise and spread, and sink and change, amongst assembled multitudes of men. I have seen the theater of the more visible ravages of tyranny and war, cities and villages reduced to scattered groups of black and roofless houses, and the naked inhabitants sitting famished upon their desolated thresholds. I have conversed with living men of genius. The poetry of ancient Greece and Rome, and modern Italy, and our own country, has been to me, like external nature, a passion and an enjoyment. Such are the sources from which the materials for the imagery of my Poem have been drawn. I have considered Poetry in its most comprehensive sense; and have read the Poets and the Historians and the Metaphysicians (In this sense there may be such a thing as perfectibility in works of fiction, notwithstanding the concession often made by the advocates of human improvement, that perfectibility is a term applicable only to science.) whose writings have been accessible to me, and have looked upon the beautiful and majestic scenery of the earth, as common sources of those elements which it is the province of the Poet to embody and combine. Yet the experience and the feelings to which I refer do not in themselves constitute men Poets, but only prepares them to be the auditors of those who are. How far I shall be found to possess that more essential attribute of Poetry, the power of awakening in others sensations like those which animate my own bosom, is that which, to speak sincerely, I know not; and which, with an acquiescent and contented spirit, I expect to be taught by the effect which I shall produce upon those whom I now address.

I have avoided, as I have said before, the imitation of any contemporary style. But there must be a resemblance, which does not depend upon their own will, between all the writers of any particular age. They cannot escape from subjection to a common influence which arises out of an infinite combination of circumstances belonging to the times in which they live; though each is in a degree the author of the very influence by which his being is thus pervaded. Thus, the tragic poets of the age of Pericles; the Italian revivers of ancient learning; those mighty intellects of our own country that succeeded the Reformation, the translators of the Bible, Shakespeare, Spenser, the Dramatists of the reign of Elizabeth, and Lord Bacon (Milton stands alone in the age which he illumined.); the colder spirits of the interval that succeeded;--all resemble each other, and differ from every other in their several classes. In this view of things, Ford can no more be called the imitator of Shakespeare than Shakespeare the imitator of Ford. There were perhaps few other points of resemblance between these two men than that which the universal and inevitable influence of their age produced. And this is an influence which neither the meanest scribbler nor the sublimest genius of any era can escape; and which I have not attempted to escape. I have adopted the stanza of Spenser (a measure inexpressibly beautiful), not because I consider it a finer model of poetical harmony than the blank verse of Shakespeare and Milton, but because in the latter there is no shelter for mediocrity; you must either succeed or fail. This perhaps an aspiring spirit should desire. But I was enticed also by the brilliancy and magnificence of sound which a mind that has been nourished upon musical thoughts can produce by a just and harmonious arrangement of the pauses of this measure. Yet there will be found some instances where I have completely failed in this attempt, and one, which I here request the reader to consider as an erratum, where there is left, most inadvertently, an alexandrine in the middle of a stanza. But in this, as in every other respect, I have written fearlessly. It is the misfortune of this age that its Writers, too thoughtless of immortality, are exquisitely sensible to temporary praise or blame. They write with the fear of Reviews before their eyes. This system of criticism sprang up in that torpid interval when Poetry was not. Poetry, and the art which professes to regulate and limit its powers, cannot subsist together. Longinus could not have been the contemporary of Homer, nor Boileau of Horace. Yet this species of criticism never presumed to assert an understanding of its own; it has always, unlike true science followed, not preceded, the opinion of mankind, and would even now bribe with worthless adulation some of our greatest Poets to impose gratuitous fetters on their own imaginations, and become unconscious accomplices in the daily murder of all genius either not so aspiring or not so fortunate as their own. I have sought therefore to write, as I believe that Homer, Shakespeare, and Milton wrote, with an utter disregard of anonymous censure. I am certain that calumny and misrepresentation, though it may move me to compassion, cannot disturb my peace. I shall understand the expressive silence of those sagacious enemies who dare not trust themselves to speak. I shall endeavor to extract, from the midst of insult and contempt and maledictions, those admonitions which may tend to correct whatever imperfections such censurers may discover in this my first serious appeal to the Public. If certain Critics were as clear-sighted as they are malignant, how great would be the benefit to be derived from their virulent writings! As it is, I fear I shall be malicious enough to be amused with their paltry tricks an d lame invectives. Should the Public judge that my composition is worthless, I shall indeed bow before the tribunal from which Milton received his crown of immortality, and shall seek to gather, if I live, strength from that defeat, which may nerve me to some new enterprise of thought which may not be worthless. I cannot conceive that Lucretius, when he meditated that poem whose doctrines are yet the basis of our metaphysical knowledge, and whose eloquence has been the wonder of mankind, wrote in awe of such censure as the hired sophists of the impure and superstitious noblemen of Rome might affix to what he should produce. It was at the period when Greece was led captive and Asia made tributary to the Republic, fast verging itself to slavery and ruin, that a multitude of Syrian captives, bigoted to the worship of their obscene Ashtaroth, and the unworthy successors of Socrates and Zeno, found there a precarious subsistence by administering, under the name of freedmen, to the vices and vanities of the great. These wretched men were skilled to plead, with a superficial but plausible set of sophisms, in favor of that contempt for virtue which is the portion of slaves, and that faith in portents, the most fatal substitute for benevolence in the imaginations of men, which, arising from the enslaved communities of the East, then first began to overwhelm the western nations in its stream. Were these the kind of men whose disapprobation the wise and lofty-minded Lucretius should have regarded with a salutary awe? The latest and perhaps the meanest of those who follow in his footsteps would disdain to hold life on such conditions. The Poem now presented to the Public occupied little more than six months in the composition. That period has been devoted to the task with unremitting ardor and enthusiasm. I have exercised a watchful and earnest criticism on my work as it grew under my hands. I would willingly have sent it forth to the world with that perfection which long labor and revision is said to bestow. But I found that, if I should gain something in exactness by this method, I might lose much of the newness and energy of imagery and language as it flowed fresh from my mind. And, although the mere composition occupied no more than six months, the thoughts thus arranged were slowly gathered in as many years. I trust that the reader will carefully distinguish between those opinions which have a dramatic propriety in reference to the characters which they are designed to elucidate, and such as are properly my own. The erroneous and degrading idea which men have conceived of a Supreme Being, for instance, is spoken against, but not the Supreme Being itself. The belief which some superstitious persons whom I have brought upon the stage entertain of the Deity, as injurious to the character of his benevolence, is widely different from my own. In recommending also a great and important change in the spirit which animates the social institutions of mankind, I have avoided all flattery to those violent and malignant passions of our nature which are ever on the watch to mingle with and to alloy the most beneficial innovations. There is no quarter given to Revenge, or Envy, or Prejudice. Love is celebrated everywhere as the sole law which should govern the moral world."

So now my summer-task is ended, Mary,
And I return to thee, mine own heart's home;
As to his Queen some victor knight of Faëry,
Earning bright spoils for her enchanted dome;
Nor thou disdain, that ere my fame become
A star among the stars of mortal night,
If it indeed may cleave its natal gloom,
Its doubtful promise thus I would unite
With thy beloved name, thou Child of love and light.

The toil which stole from thee so many an hour,
Is ended,--and the fruit is at thy feet!
No longer where the woods to frame a bower
With interlaced branches mix and meet,
Or where, with sound like many voices sweet,
Water-falls leap among wild islands green,
Which framed for my lone boat a lone retreat
Of moss-grown trees and weeds, shall I be seen;
But beside thee, where still my heart has ever been.

Thoughts of great deeds were mine, dear Friend, when first
The clouds which wrap this world from youth did pass.
I do remember well the hour which burst
My spirit's sleep. A fresh May-dawn it was,
When I walked forth upon the glittering grass,
And wept, I knew not why; until there rose
From the near school-room voices that, alas!
Were but one echo from a world of woes
The harsh and grating strife of tyrants and of foes.

And then I clasped my hands and looked around,
But none was near to mock my streaming eyes,
Which poured their warm drops on the sunny ground
So without shame I spake: 'I will be wise,
And just, and free, and mild, if in me lies
Such power, for I grow weary to behold
The selfish and the strong still tyrannize
Without reproach or check.' I then controlled
My tears, my heart grew calm, and I was meek and bold.

And from that hour did I with earnest thought
Heap knowledge from forbidden mines of lore;
Yet nothing that my tyrants knew or taught
I cared to learn, but from that secret store
Wrought linked armor for my soul, before
It might walk forth to war among mankind;
Thus power and hope were strengthened more and more
Within me, till there came upon my mind
A sense of loneliness, a thirst with which I pined.
Alas, that love should be a blight and snare
To those who seek all sympathies in one!
Such once I sought in vain; then black despair,
The shadow of a starless night, was thrown
Over the world in which I moved alone:--
Yet never found I one not false to me,
Hard hearts, and cold, like weights of icy stone
Which crushed and withered mine, that could not be
Aught but a lifeless clog, until revived by thee.

They say that thou wert lovely from thy birth,
Of glorious parents thou aspiring Child!
I wonder not--for One then left this earth
Whose life was like a setting planet mild,
Which clothed thee in the radiance undefiled
Of its departing glory; still her fame
Shines on thee, through the tempests dark and wild
Which shake these latter days; and thou canst claim
The shelter, from thy Sire, of an immortal name.

One voice came forth from many a mighty spirit,
Which was the echo of three thousand years;
And the tumultuous world stood mute to hear it,
As some lone man who in a desert hears
The music of his home: unwonted fears
Fell on the pale oppressors of our race,
And Faith, and Custom, and low-thoughted cares,
Like thunder-stricken dragons, for a space
Left the torn human heart, their food and dwelling-place.

Truth's deathless voice pauses among mankind!
If there must be no response to my cry--
If men must rise and stamp with fury blind
On his pure name who loves them,--thou and I,
Sweet Friend! can look from our tranquillity
Like lamps into the world's tempestuous night,--
Two tranquil stars, while clouds are passing by
Which wrap them from the foundering seaman's sight,
That burn from year to year with unextinguished light.

Lots of words but not a really great poetry and already obvious that the narrative style is not Shelley’s strength as it was Byron's. In the end he finds the epic. During one summer while voyaging around Lake Geneva that he wrote two poems: Hymn to Intellectual Beauty and Mont Blanc. The Hymn in convoluted wording translates into “beauty as opposed to mind and of the soul”. One could ask “Is he trying to say that “intellectual beauty arises from looking at the world through Platonic spectacles” or some other explanation? The poem begins in iambic meter then hexameter (line 5) with a last line in pentameter, The rhyme scheme is abba;accb;ddee. One scholar has counted over sixty abstract nouns in the eighty-four lines. Desmond King identified similarities with Coleridge’s Hymn Before Sunrise in the Vale of Camounis in these lines.

From this chasm with ceaseless turmoil seething
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran
Then reached the caverns measureless to man
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean.

Shelley’s poem

vast caves...
Shine in the rushing torrents restless gleam
Which from those secret chasms in tumult welling
Meet in the vale , and one majestic River...
Rolls its loud waters to the ocean waves.

What words or evidence is there that the poet is trying to establish the “Spirit of Intellectual Beauty” as a substitute for “God”. Here is the entire poem:

The awful shadow of some unseen Power
Floats through unseen among us, visiting
This various world with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower,
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,
It visits with inconstant glance
Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening,
Like clouds in starlight widely spread,
Like memory of music fled,
Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.

Spirit of Beauty, that dost consecrate
With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon
Of human thought or form,-where art thou gone?
Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,
This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?
Ask why the sunlight not for ever
Weaves rainbows o'er yon mountain-river,
Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown,
Why fear and dream and death and birth
Cast on the daylight of this earth
Such gloom,-why man has such a scope
For love and hate, despondency and hope?

No voice from some sublimer world hath ever
To sage or poet these responses given
Therefore the names of Demon, Ghost, and Heaven,
Remain the records of their vain endeavor,
Frail spells-whose uttered charm might not avail to sever,
From all we hear and all we see,
Doubt, chance, and mutability.
Thy light alone-like mist over the mountains driven,
Or music by the night-wind sent
Through strings of some still instrument,
Or moonlight on a midnight stream,
Gives grace and truth to life's unquiet dream.

Love, Hope, and Self-esteem, like clouds depart
And come, for some uncertain moments lent.
Man were immortal, and omnipotent,
Didst thou, unknown and awful as thou art,
Keep with thy glorious train firm state within his heart.
Thou messenger of sympathies,
That wax and wane in lovers' eyes-
Thou that to human thought art nourishment,
Like darkness to a dying flame!
Depart not as thy shadow came,
Depart not-lest the grave should be,
Like life and fear, a dark reality.

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
I called on poisonous names with which our youth is fed;
I was not heard I saw them not
When musing deeply on the lot
Of life, at that sweet time when winds are wooing
All vital things that wake to bring
News of birds and blossoming,-Sudden, thy shadow fell on me;
I shrieked, and clasped my hands in ecstasy!

I vowed that I would dedicate my powers
To thee and thine-have I not kept the vow?
With beating heart and streaming eyes, even now
I call the phantoms of a thousand hours
Each from his voiceless grave: they have in visioned bowers
Of studious zeal or love's delight
Outwatched with me the envious night
They know that never joy illummed my brow
Unlinked with hope that thou wouldst free
This world from its dark slavery,
That thou-O awful Loveliness,
Wouldst give whatever these words cannot express.

The day becomes more solemn and serene
When noon is past-there is a harmony
In autumn, and a luster in its sky,
Which through the summer is not heard or seen,
As if it could not be, as if it had not been!
Thus let thy power, which like the truth
Of nature on my passive youth
Descended, to my onward life supply
Its calm-to one who worships thee,
And every form containing thee,
Whom, Spirit fair, thy spells did bind
To fear himself, and love all human kind.

In the second poem, Mont Blanc deserves comparison with Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey. Shelley answer with a question and the other gives the answer?

In these words he graciously praises the late Wordsworth in this sonnet for his contribution to the Romantic cause.

Poet of Nature, thou hast wept to know
That things depart which never may return:
Childhood and youth, friendship and love’s first glow,
Have fled like sweet dreams, leaving thee to mourn.
These common woes I feel. One loss is mine
Which thou too feelest, yet I alone deplore;
Thou wert as a lonely star, whose light did shine
On some frail bark in Winter’s midnight roar;
Thou hast like to a rock built refuge stood
Above the blind and battling multitude;
In honored poverty thy voice did weave
Songs consecrate to truth and liberty;
Deserting these, thou bearest me to grieve,
Thus having been, that thou shouldest cease to be.

Like his fellow poet Keats, he endured a period of harsh rebuke; his poetry a source constant criticism. He could endure the rejection of his poetry but not his declamations for society’s moral reform. In 1818, lonely and unhappy, he left England for the last time. But rather than oblivion, in these last four years he composed his best poetry in "the paradise of exiles.” He thrived in the sun of the Mediterranean and roaming about the sea until one fateful stormy day he drowned.

His first poems were long, melodious, largely formless, steeped in allegory, not easily understood; railing against kings and priests. Of religion he said “people the earth with fiends, hell with men, and heaven with slaves.” He attacked the injustice of governments and the corruptness of administrators of law.

Here is Political Greatness:

Nor happiness, nor majesty, nor fame,
Nor peace, nor strength, nor skill in arms or arts,
Shepherd those herds whom tyranny makes tame;
Verse echoes not one beating of their hearts.
History is but the shadow of their shame
Art veils her glass, or from the pageant starts
As to oblivion their blind millions fleet,
Staining that Heaven with obscene imagery
Of their own likeness. w hat are numbers knit
By force of custom? Man who man would be.
Must rule the empire of himself, in it
Must be supreme, establishing his throne
On vanquished will, quelling the anarchy
Of hopes and fears, facing himself alone.

Again critics find similarities with Coleridge’s Ode to France? Are these valid?

Ye Clouds! that far above me float and pause,
Whose pathless march no mortal may control!
Ye Ocean-Waves! that, wheresoever ye roll,
Yield homage only to eternal laws!
Ye Woods! that listen to the night-birds' singing,
Midway the smooth and perilous slope reclined,
Save when your own imperious branches swinging,
Have made a solemn music of the wind!
Where, like a man beloved of God,
Through glooms, which never woodman trod,
How oft, pursuing fancies holy,
My moonlight way o'er flowering weeds I wound,
Inspired, beyond the guess of folly,
By each rude shape and wild unconquerable sound!
O ye loud Waves! and O ye Forests high!
And O ye Clouds that far above me soared!
Thou rising Sun! thou blue rejoicing Sky!
Yea, every thing that is and will be free!
Bear witness for me, wheresoever ye be,
With what deep worship I have still adored
The spirit of divinest Liberty.
When France in wrath her giant-limbs upreared,
And with that oath, which smote air, earth, and sea,
Stamped her strong foot and said she would be free,
Bear witness for me, how I hoped and feared!
With what a joy my lofty gratulation
Unawed I sang, amid a slavish band:
And when to whelm the disenchanted nation,
Like fiends embattled by a wizard's wand,
The Monarchs marched in evil day,
And Britain joined the dire array;
Though dear her shores and circling ocean,
Though many friendships, many youthful loves
Had swollen the patriot emotion
And flung a magic light o'er all her hills and groves;
Yet still my voice, unaltered, sang defeat
To all that braved the tyrant-quelling lance,
And shame too long delayed and vain retreat!
For ne'er, O Liberty! with partial aim
I dimmed thy light or damped thy holy flame;
But blessed the paeans of delivered France,
And hung my head and wept at Britain's name.

And what," I said, "though Blasphemy's loud scream
With that sweet music of deliverance strove!
Though all the fierce and drunken passions wove
A dance more wild than e'er was maniac's dream!
Ye storms, that round the dawning east assembled,
The Sun was rising, though ye hid his light!"
And when, to soothe my soul, that hoped and trembled,
The dissonance ceased, and all seemed calm and bright;
When France her front deep-scarred and gory
Concealed with clustering wreaths of glory;
When, insupportably advancing,
Her arm made mockery of the warrior's ramp;
While timid looks of fury glancing,
Domestic treason, crushed beneath her fatal stamp,
Writhed like a wounded dragon in his gore;
Then I reproached my fears that would not flee;
And soon," I said, "shall Wisdom teach her lore
In the low huts of them that toil and groan!
And, conquering by her happiness alone,
Shall France compel the nations to be free,
Till Love and Joy look round, and call the Earth their own."

Forgive me, Freedom!
O forgive those dreams!
I hear thy voice, I hear thy loud lament,
From bleak Helvetia's icy caverns sent--
I hear thy groans upon her blood-stained streams!
Heroes, that for your peaceful country perished,
And ye that, fleeing, spot your mountain-snows
With bleeding wounds; forgive me, that I cherished
One thought that ever blessed your cruel foes!
To scatter rage and traitorous guilt
Where Peace her jealous home had built;
A patriot-race to disinherit
Of all that made their stormy wilds so dear;
And with inexpiable spirit
To taint the bloodless freedom of the mountaineer--
O France, that mockest Heaven, adulterous, blind,
And patriot only in pernicious toils!
Are these thy boasts, Champion of human kind?
To mix with Kings in the low lust of sway,
Yell in the hunt, and share the murderous prey;
To insult the shrine of Liberty with spoils
From freemen torn; to tempt and to betray?
The Sensual and the Dark rebel in vain,
Slaves by their own compulsion! In mad game
They burst their manacles and wear the name
Of Freedom, graven on a heavier chain!
O Liberty! with profitless endeavour
Have I pursued thee, many a weary hour;
But thou nor swell'st the victor's strain, nor ever
Didst breathe thy soul in forms of human power.
Alike from all, however they praise thee,
(Nor prayer, nor boastful name delays thee)
Alike from Priestcraft's harpy minions,
And factious Blasphemy's obscener slaves,
Thou speedest on thy subtle pinions,
The guide of homeless winds, and playmate of the waves!
And there I felt thee!--on that sea-cliff's verge,
Whose pines, scarce travelled by the breeze above,
Had made one murmur with the distant surge!
Yes, while I stood and gazed, my temples bare,
And shot my being through earth, sea and air,
Possessing all things with intensest love,
O Liberty! my spirit felt thee there.

One of his longest poems is Queen Mab, published in 1813. In Shelley’s words: “the past, present, and future” are its themes. It’s based on a universal story in the context of a tour; well, a bit more than a tour since it covers the whole universe. Queen Mab is a fairy who comes down to earth and steals a mortal (Ianthe) as her victim, whom she plans to brainwash or convert to good. The first two Cantos tell of the abduction. Cantos three through seven we hear the poet in a tirade against tyrants, war, commerce, wealth and religion. Cantos eight and nine describes a utopian future and Ianthe is now indoctrinated and may reenter the world.

In his long allegorical poem of over seven hundred lines written in blank verse, Alastar or Spirit of Solitude tells of a struggle between good and evil and an compelling view of hope for the future. It is prefaced by this quote from the Confessions of St. Augustine: “Nondum amabam, et amare amabam, quaerebam quid amarem, amans amare.” in translation “I was not yet in love, and I loved to be in love, I sought what I might love, in love with loving. Alastar was written after Queen Mab.

In his Lament rhyming aabab:

O world! O life, O time!
On whose last steps I climb,
Trembling at that where I had stood before;
When will return the glory of your prime?
No more oh, never more.

Out of the day and night
A joy has taken flight!
Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hoar,
Move my faint heart with grief but with delight
No more oh, never more.

We can also explore differences between Shelley, Byron, and Southey on the reign of George III.
Southey in A Vision of Justice already presented in the glossary, Byron’s The Vision of Justice, and Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy.

Shelley sent this sonnet England in 1819 to the editor of The Examiner with these words "I don’t expect you to publish it but you may show it to whom you wish." Shelley rails against George III and the impact of three events. One, the downturn of textile industry as a result of Napoleonic Wars, where weavers saw wage reductions from 15 to 5 shillings. Two, the Corn Laws which imposed tariffs on foreign grain import, causing the cost of food to rise. And three, the use of the army against citizens (a reference to the Peterloo Massacre). The beginning of a system of spies “golden and sanguine laws” fueled by a letter to the radical orator Henry Hunt from The secretary of the union, Joseph Johnson. “Nothing but ruin and starvation stare one in the face, the state of this district (referring to Manchester and surrounds) is truly dreadful and I believe nothing but the greatest exertions can prevent an insurrection. Oh, that you in London were prepared for it.” This message was intercepted by internal spies and prompted over-reaction on the part of the government. Here is England in 1819:

An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king,
Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
Through public scorn--mud from a muddy spring,
Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know,
But leech-like to their fainting country cling,
Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow,
A people starved and stabbed in the untilled field,
An army, which liberticide and prey
Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield,
Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay,
Religion Christless, Godless a book sealed,
A Senate Time's worst statute unrepealed,
Are graves, from which a glorious Phantom may
Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.

And The Mask of Anarchy, rhyming aabb, is not one of his greatest poems from the critics view but it is interesting because it’s simple word usage is in contrast to his other writing, in other words it is easily understood. Most analysts believe it was a deliberate effort to ensure that there was no mistaking the message. Years ago, while working on my Master’s Thesis Satyagraha, I was surprised to read that Gandhi based his passive resistance movement on this Shelley poem as well as Thoreau’s essay Civil Disobedience, and would often quote from The Masque when speaking to his people all during the campaign to free India. One interesting project would be to compare the description of what happened at Peterloo to that of the Haymarket Riot of the United States.

The first twelve stanzas introduce the players. Castlereagh appears as a mask worn by Murder. The Home Secretary or Lord Sidmouth whose guise is taken by Hypocrisy, and the Lord Chancellor, Lord Eldon whose ermine gown is worn by Fraud. Anarchy is a skeleton with a crown. They extinguish Hope, and when they try to take over England, a mysterious armored figure kills them and Hope returns.

O’er fields and towns, from sea to sea,
Passed the Pageant swift and free,
Tearing up, and trampling down;
Till they came to London town.
And each dweller, panic-stricken,
Felt his heart with terror sicken
Hearing the tempestuous cry
Of the triumph of Anarchy.
For with pomp to meet him came,
Clothed in arms like blood and flame,
The hired murderers, who did sing
‘Thou art God, and Law, and King.
We have waited, weak and lone
For thy coming, Mighty One!
Our Purses are empty, our swords are cold,
Give us glory, and blood, and gold.’
Lawyers and priests, a motley crowd,
To the earth their pale brows bowed;
Like a bad prayer not over loud,
Whispering – ‘Thou art Law and God.’ -
Then all cried with one accord,
‘Thou art King, and God and Lord;
Anarchy, to thee we bow,
Be thy name made holy now!’
And Anarchy, the skeleton,
Bowed and grinned to every one,
As well as if his education
Had cost ten millions to the nation.

For he knew the Palaces
Of our Kings were rightly his;
His the sceptre, crown and globe,
And the gold-inwoven robe.
So he sent his slaves before
To seize upon the Bank and Tower,
And was proceeding with intent
To meet his pensioned Parliament
When one fled past, a maniac maid,
And her name was Hope, she said:
But she looked more like Despair,
And she cried out in the air:
‘My father Time is weak and gray
With waiting for a better day;
See how idiot-like he stands,
Fumbling with his palsied hands!
He has had child after child,
And the dust of death is piled
Over every one but me -
Misery, oh, Misery!’
Then she lay down in the street,
Right before the horses’ feet,
Expecting, with a patient eye,
Murder, Fraud, and Anarchy.
When between her and her foes
A mist, a light, an image rose,
Small at first, and weak, and frail
Like the vapour of a vale:
Till as clouds grow on the blast,
Like tower-crowned giants striding fast,
And glare with lightnings as they fly,
And speak in thunder to the sky,
It grew a Shape arrayed in mail
Brighter than the viper’s scale,
And upborne on wings whose grain
Was as the light of sunny rain.
On its helm, seen far away,
A planet, like the Morning’s, lay;
And those plumes its light rained through
Like a shower of crimson dew.
With step as soft as wind it passed
O’er the heads of men – so fast
That they knew the presence there,
And looked, but all was empty air.

As flowers beneath May’s footstep waken,
As stars from Night’s loose hair are shaken,
As waves arise when loud winds call,
Thoughts sprung where’er that step did fall.
And the prostrate multitude
Looked and ankle-deep in blood,
Hope, that maiden most serene,
Was walking with a quiet mien:
And Anarchy, the ghastly birth,
Lay dead earth upon the earth;
The Horse of Death tameless as wind
Fled, and with his hoofs did grind
To dust the murderers thronged behind.
A rushing light of clouds and splendour,
A sense awakening and yet tender
Was heard and felt and at its close
These words of joy and fear arose

As if their own indignant Earth
Which gave the sons of England birth
Had felt their blood upon her brow,
And shuddering with a mother’s throe
Had turned every drop of blood
By which her face had been bedewed
To an accent unwithstood, -
As if her heart had cried aloud:
Men of England, heirs of Glory,
Heroes of unwritten story,
Nurslings of one mighty Mother,
Hopes of her, and one another;
Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many – they are few.
What is Freedom? ye can tell
That which slavery is, too well
For its very name has grown
To an echo of your own.
‘Tis to work and have such pay
As just keeps life from day to day
In your limbs, as in a cell
For the tyrants’ use to dwell,

‘So that ye for them are made
Loom, and plough, and sword, and spade,
With or without your own will bent
To their defence and nourishment.
‘Tis to see your children weak
With their mothers pine and peak,
When the winter winds are bleak, -
They are dying whilst I speak.
‘Tis to hunger for such diet
As the rich man in his riot
Casts to the fat dogs that lie
Surfeiting beneath his eye;
‘Tis to let the Ghost of Gold
Take from Toil a thousandfold
More that e’er its substance could
In the tyrannies of old.
‘Paper coin that forgery
Of the title-deeds, which ye
Hold to something of the worth
Of the inheritance of Earth.
‘Tis to be a slave in soul
And to hold no strong control
Over your own wills, but be
All that others make of ye.
‘And at length when ye complain
With a murmur weak and vain
‘Tis to see the Tyrant’s crew
Ride over your wives and you -
Blood is on the grass like dew.
‘Then it is to feel revenge
Fiercely thirsting to exchange
Blood for blood – and wrong for wrong -
Do not thus when ye are strong.
‘Birds find rest, in narrow nest
When weary of their wingèd quest
Beasts find fare, in woody lair
When storm and snow are in the air.
‘Asses, swine, have litter spread
And with fitting food are fed;
All things have a home but one -
Thou, Oh, Englishman, hast none!
‘This is slavery – savage men
Or wild beasts within a den
Would endure not as ye do -
But such ills they never knew.

‘What art thou Freedom? O! could slaves
Answer from their living graves
This demand – tyrants would flee
Like a dream’s dim imagery:
‘Thou art not, as impostors say,
A shadow soon to pass away,
A superstition, and a name
Echoing from the cave of Fame.
‘For the labourer thou art bread,
And a comely table spread
From his daily labour come
In a neat and happy home.
‘Thou art clothes, and fire, and food
For the trampled multitude -
No – in countries that are free
Such starvation cannot be
As in England now we see.
‘To the rich thou art a check,
When his foot is on the neck
Of his victim, thou dost make
That he treads upon a snake.
‘Thou art Justice – ne’er for gold
May thy righteous laws be sold
As laws are in England – thou
Shield’st alike the high and low.
‘Thou art Wisdom – Freemen never
Dream that God will damn for ever
All who think those things untrue
Of which Priests make such ado.
‘Thou art Peace – never by thee
Would blood and treasure wasted be
As tyrants wasted them, when all
Leagued to quench thy flame in Gaul.
‘What if English toil and blood
Was poured forth, even as a flood?
It availed, Oh, Liberty,
To dim, but not extinguish thee.
‘Thou art Love – the rich have kissed
Thy feet, and like him following
Christ,Give their substance to the free
And through the rough world follow thee,

‘Or turn their wealth to arms, and make
War for thy beloved sake
On wealth, and war, and fraud – whence they
Drew the power which is their prey.
‘Science, Poetry, and Thought
Are thy lamps; they make the lot
Of the dwellers in a cot
So serene, they curse it not.
‘Spirit, Patience, Gentleness,
All that can adorn and bless
Art thou – let deeds, not words, express
Thine exceeding loveliness.
‘Let a great Assembly be
Of the fearless and the free
On some spot of English ground
Where the plains stretch wide around.
‘Let the blue sky overhead,
The green earth on which ye tread,
All that must eternal be
Witness the solemnity.
‘From the corners uttermost
Of the bounds of English coast;
From every hut, village, and town
Where those who live and suffer moan,
‘From the workhouse and the prison
Where pale as corpses newly risen,
Women, children, young and old
Groan for pain, and weep for cold -
‘From the haunts of daily life
Where is waged the daily strife
With common wants and common cares
Which sows the human heart with tares -
‘Lastly from the palaces
Where the murmur of distress
Echoes, like the distant sound
Of a wind alive around

‘Those prison halls of wealth and fashion,
Where some few feel such compassion
For those who groan, and toil, and wail
As must make their brethren pale -

‘Ye who suffer woes untold,
Or to feel, or to behold
Your lost country bought and sold
With a price of blood and gold -
‘Let a vast assembly be,
And with great solemnity
Declare with measured words that ye
Are, as God has made ye, free -
‘Be your strong and simple words
Keen to wound as sharpened swords,
And wide as targes let them be,
With their shade to cover ye.
‘Let the tyrants pour around
With a quick and startling sound,
Like the loosening of a sea,
Troops of armed emblazonry.
Let the charged artillery drive
Till the dead air seems alive
With the clash of clanging wheels,
And the tramp of horses’ heels.

‘Let the fixèd bayonet
Gleam with sharp desire to wet
Its bright point in English blood
Looking keen as one for food.
Let the horsemen’s scimitars
Wheel and flash, like sphereless stars
Thirsting to eclipse their burning
In a sea of death and mourning.
‘Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war,
‘And let Panic, who outspeeds
The career of armèd steedsPass, a disregarded shade
Through your phalanx undismayed.
‘Let the laws of your own land,
Good or ill, between ye standHand to hand, and foot to foot,
Arbiters of the dispute,
‘The old laws of England – they
Whose reverend heads with age are gray,
Children of a wiser day;
And whose solemn voice must be
Thine own echo – Liberty!
‘On those who first should violate
Such sacred heralds in their state
Rest the blood that must ensue,
And it will not rest on you.

‘And if then the tyrants dare
Let them ride among you there,
Slash, and stab, and maim, and hew, -
What they like, that let them do.

‘With folded arms and steady eyes,
And little fear, and less surprise,
Look upon them as they slay
Till their rage has died away.

‘Then they will return with shame
To the place from which they came,
And the blood thus shed will speak
In hot blushes on their cheek.

‘Every woman in the land
Will point at them as they stand -
They will hardly dare to greet
Their acquaintance in the street.

‘And the bold, true warriors
Who have hugged Danger in wars
Will turn to those who would be free,
Ashamed of such base company.

‘And that slaughter to the Nation
Shall steam up like inspiration,
Eloquent, oracular;
A volcano heard afar.

‘And these words shall then become
Like Oppression’s thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain,
Heard again – again – again -

‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many
They are few.

(Comment: the overwhelming stylistic criticism of Shelley is his indiscriminate use of the dash)

The Romantic narrative did not follow a single path but divided one that followed prose to the novel and the other the mythical epic. On visionary lyrics there are two schools of thought; One that a good poem should at first reading be mysterious and provocative in need of deeper study and the other that any good poems should be comprehensible at first reading. I leave it to the reader to place Shelley’s epic work A Vision of the Sea an allegory filled with symbolism.

As an example Julian and Maddalo, an epic of over six hundred lines, Shelley attempts a Paradise Lost imitation with the two characters engaged in a conversation. Shelley explains: “Julian is an Englishman of good family, passionately attached to those philosophical notions which assert the power of man over his own mind, and the immense improvements of which, by the extinction of certain moral superstitions, human society may yet be susceptible. Without concealing the evil in the world, he is forever speculating how good may be made superior.” Maddalo is Byron, a complete infidel who taunts against religion.

On hearing of the death of Keats Byron wrote Adonais. He writes of the epic “ the least perfect of my compositions. I shall be surprised if that poem were born to an immortality of oblivion. It is a highly wrought piece of art, and perhaps better in point of composition than anything I have written.” In reality its popularity has been sustained to this day. Later Shelly wrote: “I have dipped by pen in consuming fire for his destroyers, otherwise the style is calm and solemn.”

Shelley did write some lovely short lyric poems. The Cloud, Ode to the West Wind, The Sensitive Plant, and To a Skylark. All of these involve some type of metaphor relating to the nature’s cycle of renewal. The Cloud reflects Shelley’s pantheism and his idea of nature’s “eternal alteration, rebirth, and recurrence.” In the words “I arise and unbuild it again” the poet rekindles his knowledge of science the disappearance and reappearance of natural things. In the Ode to the West Wind the wind and leaves represent recurrence and these words “If winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”. To a Skylark was written in five-line stanzas, rhyming ababb. The first four lines are in trochaic trimeter and the fifth line is in iambic hexameter or the poet’s favorite, Alexandrine. This is one of Shelley’s most popular poems and appears quite often textbooks. However it is not to everyone’s taste: Aldous Huxley attacked it in his Point Counterpoint with these words: “Shelley? Don’t talk to me of Shelley...Blithe spirit! ...Just pretending, just lying to himself as usual...the lark couldn’t be allowed to be a mere bird...”

Here is Shelley’s To a Skylark:

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O'er which clouds are bright'ning,
Thou dost float and run;
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.

The pale purple even
Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of Heaven,
In the broad day-light
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight,
Keen as are the arrows
Of that silver sphere,
Whose intense lamp narrows
In the white dawn clear
Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there.

All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud,
As, when night is bare,
From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.
What thou art we know not;
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

Like a poet hidden
In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

Like a high-born maiden
In a palace-tower,
Soothing her love-laden
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Scattering unbeholden
Its aereal hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:

Like a rose embowered
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflowered,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves:

Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
Rain-awakened flowers,
All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.

Teach us, Sprite or Bird,
What sweet thoughts are thine:
I have never heard
Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.

Chorus Hymeneal,
Or triumphal chant,
Matched with thine would be all
But an empty vaunt,
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.

What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain?
What fields, or waves, or mountains?
What shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?

With thy clear keen joyance
Languor cannot be:
Shadow of annoyance
Never came near thee:
Thou lovest: but ne'er knew love's sad satiety.

Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Yet if we could scorn
Hate, and pride, and fear;
If we were things born
Not to shed a tear,
I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.

Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!

Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.

Here are four Skylark poems by Romantic poets: John Clare (1793-1864) a Romantic referred to as “the peasant poet” from a poor country family...Went mad and was committed in 1837. Wordsworth, James Hogg (1770-1835) Scottish poet and engraver called the “Ettrick Shepherd,” largely self-educated, and known for his satire. Then read the Victorian poet Gerard Manley
Hopkins (1844-1889) and his version of the Skylark. What are some of the characteristics of the Romantic poems - are they quite similar, different, or??? Then read the Hopkins poem. What strikes you as different?

To a Skylark

Ethereal minstrel! Pilgrim of the sky!
Dost thou despise the earth where cares abound?
Or, while the wings aspire, are heart and eye
Both with thy nest upon the dewy ground?
Thy nest which thou canst drop into at will,
Those quivering wings composed, that music still!
Leave to the nightingale her shady wood;
A privacy of glorious light is thine;
Whence thou dost pour upon the world a flood
Of harmony,, with instinct more divine;
Type of the wise who soar, but never roam
True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home!

John Clare (1793-1864)
The Skylark

The rolls and harrows lie at rest beside
The battered road; and spreading far and wide
Above the russet clods, the corn is seen
Sprouting its spiry points of tender green,
Where squats the hare, to terrors wide awake,
Like some brown clod the harrows failed to break.
Opening their golden caskets to the sun,
The buttercups make schoolboys eager run,
To see who shall be first to pluck the prize--
Up from their hurry, see, the skylark flies,
And o'er her half-formed nest, with happy wings
Winnows the air, till in the cloud she sings,
Then hangs a dust-spot in the sunny skies,
And drops, and drops, till in her nest she lies,
Which they unheeded passed--not dreaming then
That birds which flew so high would drop agen
To nests upon the ground, which anything
May come at to destroy. Had they the wing
Like such a bird, themselves would be too proud,
And build on nothing but a passing cloud!
As free from danger as the heavens are free
From pain and toil, there would they build and be,
And sail about the world to scenes unheard
Of and unseen--Oh, were they but a bird!
So think they, while they listen to its song,
And smile and fancy and so pass along;
While its low nest, moist with the dews of morn,
Lies safely, with the leveret, in the corn.

James Hogg (1770-1835)
To a Skylark

Bird of the wilderness,
Blithesome and cumberless,
Sweet be thy matin o’er moorland and lea!
Emblem of happiness,
Blest is thy dwelling-place
O to abide in the desert with thee?
Wild is thy lay and loud,
Far in the downy cloud,
Love gives it energy, love gave it birth.
Where, on they dewy wing,
Where art thou journeying?
Thy lay is in heaven, the love is on earth,

O’er fell and fountain sheen,
O’er moor and mountain green,
O’er the red streamer that heralds the day.
Over the cloudlet dim,
Over the rainbow’s rim,
Musical cherub, soar, singing, away!
They, when the gloaming comes,
Low in the heather glooms
Sweet will thy welcome and bed of love be!
Emblem of Happiness,
Blest is thy dwelling-place
O to abide in the desert with thee!

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
The Caged Skylark

As a dare-gale skylark scanted in a dull cage,
Man's mounting spirit in his bone-house, mean house, dwells --
That bird beyond the remembering hís free fells;
This in drudgery, day-labouring-out life's age.
Though aloft on turf or perch or poor low stage
Both sing sometimes the sweetest, sweetest spells,
Yet both droop deadly sometimes in their cells
Or wring their barriers in bursts of fear or rage.
Not that the sweet-fowl, song-fowl, needs no rest
Why, hear him, hear him babble & drop down to his nest,
But his own nest, wild nest, no prison.
Man's spirit will be flesh-bound, when found at best,
But uncumbered: meadow-down is nit distressed
For a rainbow footing it nor he for his bones risen.

Here is Thomas Hardy’s (1840-1928) satirical response to Shelley’s Skylark:

Somewhere afield here something lies
In Earth's oblivious eyeless trust
That moved a poet to prophecies
A pinch of unseen, unguarded dust

The dust of the lark that Shelley heard,
And made immortal through times to be; -
Though it only lived like another bird,
And knew not its immortality.

Lived its meek life; then, one day, fell -
A little ball of feather and bone;
And how it perished, when piped farewell,
And where it wastes, are alike unknown.
Maybe it rests in the loam I view,
Maybe it throbs in a myrtle's green,
Maybe it sleeps in the coming hue
Of a grape on the slopes of yon inland scene.
Go find it, faeries, go and find
That tiny pinch of priceless dust,
And bring a casket silver-lined,
And framed of gold that gems encrust;

And we will lay it safe therein,
And consecrate it to endless time;
For it inspired a bard to win
Ecstatic heights in thought and rhyme.

Shelley’s one outstanding play was Cenci, a tragedy in blank verse declared unstageable because of its unpopular political view. There is much of interest in this work, first there the absence of the Romantic characteristics: nature, political railing, etc. Even Keats offered this warning: “load every rift of your subject with ore.” It is based on a true story with reminders of Shakespeare. The first line brings the reader into a mystery with these words:

“That matter of the murder is hushed up.”

In closing we quote from Shelley’s last letter where he writes: "I think one is always in love with something or other; the error, and I confess it is not easy for spirits cased in flesh and blood to avoid it, insists in seeking in a mortal image the likeness of what is, perhaps, eternal."

rondeau – A 16th century French artificial form, artificial in that it required strict clear rules. It is a lyric poem of fifteen lines, in three stanzas of uneven length. The rhyme scheme is: aabba, aab-refrain, aabba-refrain. It was a favorite form of Austin Dobson (1840-1921). Here is In After Days:

In after days, when grasses high
O’ertop the stone where I shall lie,
Though ill or well the world adjust
My slender claim to honoured dust,
I shall not question or reply

I shall not see the morning sky;
I shall not hear the night wind sigh;
I shall be mute, as all men must
In after days.

But yet, now living, fain were I
That some one then should testify,
Saying-He held his pen in trust
To art, not serving shame or lust.
Will none? Then let my memory die
In after days!

Also this one called simply A Rondeau:

In ‘N & Q.’ we meet to weigh
The Hannibals of yesterday;
We trace, thro’ all its moss o’ergrown,
The script upon Time’s oldest stone,
Nor scorn his latest waif and stray.

Letters and Folk-lore, Art, the Play;
Whate’er, in short,
Men think or say,
We make our theme,
We make our own,

Stranger, whoe’er you be, who may
From China to Peru survey,
Aghast, the waste of things unknown,
Take heart of grace, you’re not alone;
And all (who will) may find their way. ‘N & Q’ stands for Notes and Queries published in 1882

From the same collection: With Pipe and Flute:

With pipe and flute the rustic Pan
Of old made music sweet for man;
And wonder hushed the warbling bird,
And closer drew the calm-eyed herd,
The rolling river slowlier ran.

Ah! Would, ah! Would, a little span,
Some air of Arcady could fan
This age of ours, too seldom stirred
With pipe and flute!

But not for gold we plot and plan;
And from Beersheba unto Dan
Apollos self might pass unheard,
Or find the night-jar’s note preferred;
Not so it fared, when time began,
With pipe and flute!

rondel or roundel - The rondel is a thirteen century fixed form probably from French Provence through the works of Jean Froissart (1333-1400?) and Eustache Deschamps also called Morel (1346-1406). The rondel consists of fourteen lines of eight to ten syllables divided into three stanzas (two quatrains and a sextet). The first two lines of the first stanza serve as the refrain for the second and third stanzas. the change attributed to Charles d'Orleans (1391-1465).

Here is a fourteen line example by d'Orleans:


My ghostly father, let me confess,
First to God and then to you,
That at a window - do you know how? -
I stole a kiss of great sweetness.
It was done without advisedness,
But it is done, not undone now.
My ghostly father, let me confess,
First to God and then to you.
But it shall be restored, doubtless,
For kisses one should rebestow,
And that to God I make this vow,
Otherwise, I ask forgiveness
My ghostly father, let me confess,
First to God and then to you.

An example of the modern rondel, this one by Charles Swinburne (1837-1909):

What have the gods done with us? what with me,
What with my love? they have shown me fates and fears,
Harsh springs, and fountains bitterer than the sea,
Grief a fixed star, and joy a vane that veers,
These many years.
With her, my love, with her have they done well?
But who shall answer for her? who shall tell
Sweet things or sad, such things as no man hears?
May no tears fall, if no tears ever fell,
From eyes more dear to me than starriest spheres
These many years!

But if tears ever touched, for any grief,
Those eyelids folded like a white-rose leaf,
Deep double shells wherethrough the eye-flower peers,
Let them weep once more only, sweet and brief,
Brief tears and bright, for one who gave her tears
These many years.

The Wanderer

Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,
The old, old Love that we knew of yore!
We see him stand by the open door,
With his great eyes sad, and his bosom swelling.

He makes as though in our arms repelling,
He fain would lie as he lay before;
Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,
The old, old Love that we knew of yore!

Ah, who shall help us from over-spelling
That sweet forgotten, forbidden lore!
E’en as we doubt I our heart once more,
With a rush of tears to our eyelids welling,
Love comes back to his vacant dwelling.

rondelet - A shorter version of the rondeau. This is seven-line fixed form of four eight-syllabled lines and three lines constituting the refrain having four syllables. The scheme is a,b,a,a,b,b,a. Still popular today, here is an example titled Goodbye by Lee Emmett of Australia:

you said goodbye
why does it hurt as much as this
you said goodbye
my heart is breaking at your lie
you made me promise with a kiss
that we would live in wedded bliss
you said goodbye

And another titled Uphill Struggle by Janet Psaila, Australia:

Uphill struggle
Rode my bike first time in ages
Uphill Struggle
Wahey! What fun! Ooh my poor bum!
Not sure I will do it again
Did we really do this for fun?
Uphill struggle

ruba'i - The word "ruba'i" is derived from the same Arabic root as "arba'a" meaning "four," the quatrain verse form in Persian. In Persian verse, a ruba'i is visually only two lines long, its rhyme falling at the middle and end of the lines. The plural form of the word, ruba'iyat, in English (pronunciation rubaiyat), it refers to a collection of such quatrains.

Although there are several rhyme schemes for the rubai. In English poetry the one we are most familiar with is the aaba. It was made famous by Edward Fitzgerald in his translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in 1859 and subsequently referrred to as the Rubaiyat Quatrain.

Fitzgerald's translation became so popular by the turn of the century that hundreds of American humorists wrote parodies using the form and, to varying degrees, the content of his stanzas. Here is one of them by Oliver Herford (1863-1904), The Rubaiyat of a Persian Cat:

Wake! for the Golden Cat has put to flight
The Mouse of Darkness with his Paw of Light:
Which means, in Plain and simple every-day
Unoriental Speech--The Dawn is bright.

They say the Early Bird the Worm shall taste.
Then rise, O Kitten! Wherefore, sleeping, waste
The Fruits of Virtue? Quick! the Early Bird
Will soon be on the Flutter--O make haste!

The Early Bird has gone, and with him ta'en
The Early Worm--Alas! the Moral's plain,
O Senseless Worm! Thus, thus we are repaid
For Early Rising--I shall doze again.

The Mouse makes merry 'mid the Larder Shelves,
The Bird for Dinner in the Garden delves.
I often wonder what the creatures eat
One half so toothsome as they are Themselves.

And that Inverted Bowl of Skyblue Delf
That helpless lies upon the Pantry Shelf--
Lift not your eyes to It for help, for It
Is quite as empty as you are yourself.

The Ball no question makes of Ayes or Noes,
But right or left, as strikes the Kitten, goes;
Yet why, altho' I toss it Far Afield,
It still returneth--Goodness only knows!

A Secret Presence that my likeness feigns,
And yet, quicksilver-like, eludes my pains--
In vain I look for Him behind the glass;
He is not there, and yet He still remains.

What out of airy Nothing to invoke
A senseless Something to resist the stroke
Of unpermitted Paw--upon the pain
Of Everlasting Penalties--if broke.

I sometimes think the Pussy-Willows grey
Are Angel Kittens who have lost their way,
And every Bulrush on the river bank
A Cat-Tail from some lovely Cat astray.

Sometimes I think perchance that Allah may,
When he created Cats, have thrown away
The Tails He marred in making, and they grew
To Cat-Tails and to Pussy-Willows grey.

And lately, when I was not Feeling Fit,
Bereft alike of Piety and Wit,
There came an Angel Shape and offered me
A Fragrant Plant and bid me taste of it.

'Twas that reviving Herb, that Spicy Weed,
The Cat-Nip. Tho' 'tis good in time of need,
Ah, feed upon it lightly, for who knows
To what unlovely antics it may lead.

Strange--is it not?--that of the numbers who
Before me passed this Door of Darkness thro',
Not one returns thro' it again, altho'
Ofttimes I've waited here an hour or two.

'Tis but a Tent where takes his one Night's Rest
A Rodent to the Realms of Death address'd,
When Cook, arising, looks for him and then--
Baits, and prepares it for another Guest.

They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep.
The Lion is my cousin; I don't know
Who Jamshyd is--nor shall it break my sleep.

Impotent glimpses of the Game displayed
Upon the Counter--temptingly arrayed;
Hither and thither moved or checked or weighed,
And one by one back in the Ice Chest laid.

What if the Sole could fling the Ice aside,
And with me to some Area's haven glide--
Were't not a Shame, were't not a shame for it
In this Cold Prison crippled to abide?

Some for the Glories of the Sole, and Some
Mew for the proper Bowl of Milk to come.
Ah, take the Fish and let your Credit go,
And plead the rumble of an empty Tum.

One thing is certain: tho' this Stolen Bite
Should be my last and Wrath consume me quite,
One taste of It within the Area caught
Better than at the Table lost outright.

Indeed, indeed Repentance oft before
I swore, but was I hungry when I swore?
And then and then came Cook--with Hose in hand--
And drowned my glory in a sorry pour.

What without asking hither harried whence,
And without asking whither harried hence--
O, many a taste of that forbidden Sole
Must down the memory of that Insolence.

Heaven, but the vision of a Flowing Bowl;
And Hell, the sizzle of a Frying Sole
Heard in the hungry Darkness, where Myself,
So rudely cast, must impotently roll.

The Vine has a tough Fibre which about
While clings my Being;--let the Canine Flout
Till his Bass Voice be pitched to such loud key
It shall unlock the door I mew without.

Up from the Basement to the Seventh Flat
I rose, and on the Crown of Fashion sat,
And many a Ball unravelled by the way--
But not the Master's angry Bawl of "Scat!"

Then to the Well of Wisdom I--and lo!
With my own Paw I wrought to make it flow,
And This was all the Harvest that I reaped:
We come like Kittens and like Cats we go.

Why be this Ink the Fount of Wit?--who dare
Blaspheme the glistening Pen-drink as a snare?
A Blessing?--I should spread it, should I not?
And if a Curse--why, then upset it!--there!

A moment's Halt, a momentary Taste
Of Bitter, and amid the Trickling Waste
I wrought strange shapes from Mah to Mahi, yet
I know not what I wrote, nor why they chased.

Now I beyond the Pale am safely past.
O, but the long, long time their Rage shall last,
Which, tho' they call to supper, I shall heed
As a Stone Cat should heed a Pebble cast.

And that perverted Soul beneath the Sky
They call the Dog--Heed not his angry Cry;
Not all his Threats can make me budge one bit,
Nor all his Empty Bluster terrify.

They are no other than a moving Show
Of whirling Shadow Shapes that come and go
Me-ward thro' Moon illumined Darkness hurled,
In midnight, by the Lodgers in the Row.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
The Backyard Fence and heard great Argument
About it, and About, yet evermore
Came out with Fewer Fur than in I went.

Ah, me! if you and I could but conspire
To grasp this Sorry Scheme of things entire,
Would we not shatter it to bits, and then
Enfold it nearer to our Heart's Desire?

Tho' Two and Two make Four by rule of line,
Or they make Twenty-two by Logic fine,
Of all the Figures one may fathom, I
Shall ne'er be floored by anything but Nine.

And fear not lest Existence shut the Door
On You and Me, to open it no more.
The Cream of Life from out your Bowl shall pour
Nine times--ere it lie broken on the Floor.

So, if the Fish you Steal--the Cream you drink--
Ends in what all begins and ends in, Think,
Unless the Stern Recorder points to Nine,
Tho' They would drown you--still you shall not sink.

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