Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824-1840

By Richard Cronin | Go to book overview

7
Christening Romanticism

I

Elizabeth Barrett's Poems of 1844 ends with a long, lyric celebration of the death of the pagan Gods, ‘The Dead Pan’. Explicitly, her rebuke is aimed at Schiller:

Let no Schiller from the portals Of that Hades call you back, Or instruct us to weep all At your antique funeral. Pan, Pan is dead.

(220–4)

But the reprimand spreads outwards to include Keats, whose hymn to Pan (Endymion, 1, 232–306) was gruffly acknowledged by Wordsworth as ‘a pretty piece of paganism’, Shelley whose ‘Song of Pan’ was published by Mary in 1824, and the whole of that attempt by the second generation Romantics to locate in Greek mythology a life-affirming alternative to Christian spirituality that Marilyn Butler has called ‘the cult of the south’. Barrett fondles the pagan gods, with their resonant epithets and appurtenances, but only as a way of bidding them farewell. They are ‘grey old gods’, and poets ‘grow colder if they name you’ (153), because Aphrodite and Cybele and Pan himself can have in the mid-nineteenth century only an artificial, fictional life:

Earth outgrows the mythic fancies Sung beside her in her youth, And those debonair romances Sound but dull beside the truth.

(232–5)

-214-

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Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824-1840
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Memorializing Romanticism 15
  • 2 - Historicizing Romanticism 45
  • 3 - Feminizing Romanticism 67
  • 4 - Fashioning Romanticism 109
  • 5 - Civilizing Romanticism 143
  • 6 - Realizing Romanticism 194
  • 7 - Christening Romanticism 214
  • 8 - Domesticating Romanticism 237
  • Conclusion 251
  • Notes 261
  • Index 289
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