Thematic Guide to British Poetry

By Ruth Glancy | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Introduction

Over the centuries, the British Isles has contributed a remarkable catalog of inventions and discoveries to human progress, but perhaps its most highly valued and enduring gift has been seven centuries of poetry. As the years roll on and the legacy of poems grows, how can we hope to find our way through such a vast wealth of verse, much of it as fresh, relevant, and compelling as it was when it was first composed? The purpose of this book is to offer a guide to students, teachers, librarians, and general readers who are interested in reading and studying poetry from the point of view of its subject matter, the essential question of what it is “about.”

Collections of poetry are often referred to as “treasuries,” “garlands,” or “gardens,” attesting to the intrinsic value of a literary form that illuminates human activity in surprising and often unforgettable ways. When we speak of a poem having a “theme,” we are referring to a poem that brings a particular human perspective to the subject matter. A poet can write an objective description of an event such as a wedding, or a natural creature such as a nightingale, but unless the poem expresses— overtly or subtly—the poet's attitude to the subject, the poem does not have a theme. Compare, for example, John Clare's poem “Mouse's Nest” (1835) with Robert Burns's poem “To a Mouse” (1785). Although both poems are included in this survey in the Nature section, only Burns's poem has a “theme” that can be readily identified. Both poets describe the overturning of a mouse's nest and the small creature's discomfort. But while Clare's poem is simply descriptive of the nest and its owner (he finds the mother mouse “grotesque” and alien from him, thus hinting at the theme of man's relationship to nature), Burns goes further in pondering this relationship. His exposing of the nest with his plow is an example of “man's dominion,” trampling thoughtlessly over the neat,

-vii-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Thematic Guide to British Poetry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 306

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?