English Bards and Grecian Marbles: The Relationship between Sculpture and Poetry Especially in the Romantic Period

By Stephen A. Larrabee | Go to book overview

II. THE EARLY POETS

THE TWELFTH CENTURY: DALLIANCE WITH A DEMON THING

WHEN GREGORY THE GREAT beheld the white bodies and the fair complexions of the young Britons brought to Rome about 587 to be sold in the slave market in the Forum, the Venerable Bede reports him as having exclaimed, "'Alas! alas! that brings with such bright faces should be slaves of the prince of darkness! that with outward form so lovely the mind should be sick and void of inward grace.'"1 For one of exceeding piety his response was strangely aesthetic, and his remark suggests the language which many an English poet has used in describing the beauty of statues and images like the figures Gregory himself so avidly destroyed. Deciding that the attractive young pagans with angelic faces "should be co-heirs with the angels in heaven," the churchman, shortly sent missionaries to England, where many Angles and Saxons accepted the Christian beliefs.

Today one would give much to know the other side of the story. What, for example, were the thoughts of the lovely but benighted Angles in the Roman city? With what feelings did they behold monuments surviving from classical antiquity? As the years passed, other Northerners went to Italy; and the picture of the visitors from the Gothic North discovering classical remains in Mediterranean countries gives ample scope to the play of the imagination. Among the Northern migrants were chieftains with barbarian tribes, Irish monks on missionary tasks, crusading knights and pilgrims marching to shrines throughout Christendom, kings and churchmen on business of church and state. What, indeed, did these medieval people feel

____________________
1
Ecclesiastical History of England, ed. Dudden, Book II, chap. i.

-18-

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English Bards and Grecian Marbles: The Relationship between Sculpture and Poetry Especially in the Romantic Period
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vi
  • Contents xi
  • Contents xiii
  • I. Poets and Sculpture 1
  • Ii. the Early Poets 18
  • III- the Seventeenth Century Pre-Restoration: the Uses Of Statue-Craft 43
  • Iv. the Eighteenth Century 66
  • V. Blake 99
  • VI- Wordsworth And Coleridge 120
  • VII- Byron Byron and Art 149
  • VIII- Shelley Greece: "The Crystalline Sea Of Thought" 175
  • IX- Keats Keats, the "Greek" 204
  • X. Landor and Hunt 233
  • Xi. the Lesser Poets 257
  • Xii. Conclusion 277
  • List of Critical Terms 289
  • A Selective Bibliography 293
  • Index 299
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